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Jungkook loved his family. He really did.
During the course of his last exams before winter break, the thought of being back in Busan was the only thing keeping him sane. More often than not he'd find himself looking up pictures of the coast during delusional all-nighters, dreaming of salt air and sand under his toes. He knew it would be cold and probably snowing — definitely not the weather for a beach stroll —, but he'd take it. Busan could punch him in the dick and he'd definitely take it.
(You know you've hit rock bottom when you have to explain to your roommate why he walked in on you pressing an empty can of Redbull against your ear, wishing you could hear the waves.)
Seriously, things were getting out of hand.
It was a week from hell and he barely survived. Jungkook almost cried when he boarded the train. He definitely cried when he spotted his father waiting for him at the station, not even two hours later.
Now he was home. The sound of the sea outside and the warmth of the fireplace soothing and familiar, hot cocoa helping melt away all the stress from his muscles. He was at peace. He was happy.
Except, his mom wouldn't shut up about fucking Park Jimin.
It started off harmless enough. The four Jeons were at the dining room table, and after bringing a cake for dessert, she asked Jungkook to be the first to try it. It was absolutely delicious, soft, and moist and the right amount of sweetness. He even closed his eyes because it tasted so good.
“This is from a bakery downtown,” commented Mrs. Jeon nonchalantly, as she served him his third piece. “One of the boys from my book club, Jimin, works there. You'd like him.”
Given all the cake Jungkook had melting inside his mouth, he was sure he’d like what's-his-name. His mind wasn't even forming coherent thoughts. He'd like a rusted bucket if it could bake that well.
The next one came just as subtly.
During breakfast the following morning, the subject of his upcoming degree was brought up when his father started asking about internships. Jungkook couldn't say he hated Computer Science, but he didn't love it either. Still, his complaints were mainly about having close to negative time for anything other than programming.
His brother gave him a salute from across the table, where he was pretending to read the morning paper. His mother gave him a sympathetic smile.
“You know, Jimin is studying to become a veterinary assistant,” she spoke softly, soothing hand rubbing circles on his shoulder. “Wasn't working with animals one of your childhood dream jobs?”
Jungkook shrugged. He saw no relevance to the matter at all. “I guess? Cool for him, though.”
She started growing bolder. At the market that afternoon, Jungkook pushed the cart through the aisles as Mrs. Jeon went on about how she had never met a young man so polite and sweet as Jimin. Then the next day, as he struggled to beat his dad on a chess match, she kept distracting him with stories about the cookies Jimin always brought with him to their book club meetings. During dinner, all he heard was how beautiful Jimin was and how much she admired his fashion sense.
Two days later, she tossed aside all subtlety she was pretending to have.
The four of them were out shopping for Christmas trees that afternoon and split into two teams. Mrs. Jeon looped her arm around his and dragged him the opposite way of the others, through the maze of pines. Once they were out of earshot, she slowed down their pace.
“You really should meet Jimin, honey,” she said, pretending to scan the trees. “The both of you have so much in common, I’m sure you’d get along great.”
Jungkook wasn’t sure how to respond. He really wasn’t looking to make friends, he had no idea why she kept bringing him up.
“If you say so.” He said finally, looking up to the fairy lights above them. They had so much to decorate back home still. The sooner they picked a tree, the sooner they’d be done. He walked them towards one that caught his eye. “How about this one? Looks promising.”
“I know so,” she insisted, grip tightening on his arm. “Jiminie is absolutely charming, and so handsome too! A great boy, indeed.”
He scoffed, browsing through the tree’s tag. Too old. “If you like him so much, why don’t you dump dad and date him, instead?”
Mrs. Jeon slapped him lightly on the arm, “Don’t be silly, Jungkook.” She bit down a smile, giving him a pointed look. “Besides, it just so happens that Jimin prefers the company of men.”
Jungkook lifted his head so fast he got whiplash.
Oh. My. God.
Of course, of fucking course. He just knew his mother had a reason to be just so persistent in introducing the two of them. It was all so fishy since the beginning, he cursed himself for not noticing it sooner. Fuck his life.
“Oh my God, Mom!” He whined before walking away from her. “How do you even know that?”
“He mentioned breaking up with his boyfriend a couple of months ago, that’s why I haven’t said anything to you before now!” She had to speed her pace a little to keep up, but she didn’t seem to mind, nor did she seemed self-conscious. “I don’t see what’s the issue! Jimin even said you sound wonderful!”
Jungkook stopped and turned around so suddenly she almost bumped into him. “Mom, mom please, tell me you haven’t been talking to him about me!”
“Of course I have!” Mrs. Jeon dusted her coat. “Is it wrong to brag about my own son?”
“I can’t believe you! Why?” He groaned, covering his face with his hands, heat rising all the way to his ears. This couldn’t be happening. This was a Christmas joke. Any minute now Junghyun would pop out of some pine tree with a whole TV crew and scream ‘Gotcha!’ at him. “Mom, why! Why would you do that!”
“Oh, don’t be so dramatic! You’re both single young men who are interested in meeting other men,” she said, rolling her eyes. “I don’t see why not.”
“I can see plenty of whys!” All Jungkook wanted now was for the ground could just open and the devil himself climbed to punch his face and put him out of his misery. His mother had absolutely no sign of shame on her face. “Do you just go around telling any random gay guys you meet about me?”
“Of course not!” His mother huffed, sounding offended. After a short pause, she gave him a small shrug. “Only the handsome ones.”
Jungkook decided that that was it. He picked a tag from the nearest tree and power-walked away, pulling his beanie down and wishing it could hide his entire face, maybe even suffocate him. He spotted his dad and dragged him to check out, so an employee could pack their tree and they could leave. He didn’t even let his family see it, he didn’t care as long as his mother couldn’t catch him alone.
Turned out he ended up paying the price a couple of hours later once they all got a good look at the tree he panic-chose.
Junghyun stepped back from it after setting it up on the stand. “Seriously little brother, I know you’re all gloomy and emo, but this is just sad.”
It really was. The pine was barely his own height and the branches were all uneven, pointing down instead of up, not enough leaves to stop them from seeing the wall on the other side. The shape reminded him of a pear, round at the bottom and getting thinner as it rose. The top was also leaning a little towards the right and he was almost sure it couldn’t hold a star.
“It’s not that bad,” Jungkook mumbled. “Looks aren’t everything.”
“That’s because you were born ugly. The shame of the family, really, and now you want to extend your suffering towards our merry holidays.”
“Shut up, your face is ugly.” Jungkook shoved his brother, trying to come up with an excuse. “It’s just…” What? “I… I felt bad for it.”
His dad raised an eyebrow at him. “You felt bad for it? How come?”
“These weird trees never get chosen, it would have just been destroyed.” Quick thinking, nice. “All trees should get a chance, right?”
His brother narrowed his eyes, but his parents looked like they were buying it. No turning back now.
“She doesn’t look so bad," he gave the tree a tiny tap and some needles fell down. He pretended not to notice. “I think it has a special charm, don’t you?”
His parents shared a look between each other, and his mother shrugged. “Of course we do, honey. You did a good job.” Mrs. Jeon turned to her other son. “Didn’t he, darling?”
Junghyun rolled his eyes dramatically. “Sure, let’s decorate the zombie tree. Very festive.”
Mr. Jeon laughed and took both of them along with him to get the decoration boxes from the attic. As they were leaving, Jungkook couldn’t help but smile triumphantly. Being the family baby had its perks every once in ever.
A cheerful holiday playlist played as they decorated the tree. Or at least tried to, since the frail branches weren’t strong enough for some of their ornaments. His mother made up for it with some extra bows and golden flowers, making it somewhat presentable. In the end, his prediction was right and the trunk wasn't strong enough to support the star, and the top bent to the right, making a small curve as the decoration hung from it. The tree didn’t fall, and that was good enough for them.
After declaring that that was nothing she could do for the zombie tree, Mrs. Jeon left to get them snacks as they decorated other spots of the house. They had a quick discussion if whether or not they should set up the lights on the outside, but decided to leave it to the next morning. It was dark and windy and none of them wanted a reprise of the Christmas Lights Disaster of 2009.
Many wreaths and garlands later, the four of them ended their night sitting with their hot chocolates by the fireplace, watching The Grinch (Jungkook’s movie, according to his brother. Pillows were thrown) and the twinkling lights of their ugly-ass tree. Jungkook even let himself forget his hot embarrassment from earlier.
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Of course, that didn’t last long. The next day was the first Monday of the month, and the first Mondays of the month meant book club nights, and book club nights meant…
“Jiminie will be there, are you sure you don’t want to come with?” Asked Mrs. Jeon hovering over his chair, for the hundredth time that day.
“Yeah, I’m pretty sure.” Jungkook didn’t bother to look away from his PC, focusing on finding that one asshole that tried to shoot him and kick their ass.
Through the screen reflection, he could see her moving slowly towards the door. “It’s your loss then, I won’t bring you leftover cookies.”
“I’ll live,” he mumbled, making his character bend behind a wall. There, there’s the fucker. They won’t know what hit them. “Don’t forget to take gloves, it’s pretty cold out there.”
“Oh, I won’t be needing them. The meeting will be here tonight.”
Jungkook’s hand spazzed with the mouse and ended up revealing his character location. A rain of gunshots surrounded him and he didn’t have time to heal or hide before the Game Over appeared on his screen, displaying different angles of his miserable death. He put his headphones down and rotated his chair around.
“The what is where, now?”
“Our meeting, I volunteered to be the host this month,” she had the evilest grin Jungkook had ever seen on her lips. “I thought I told you.”
He swallowed. “No, you did not.”
“Oh well, my mistake!”
Perfectly on cue, the doorbell rang. They both turned their heads to the window, Jungkook’s room being just above the front door. His mother leaned towards the glass and smiled innocently.
“My, would you look at that, they're just on time!” She stepped away as Jungkook watched, heading to the hallway. “I should welcome them. You go back to your game, honey.”
The moment the door closed, Jungkook jumped. His sock got stuck on the wheels of the chair and there was a loud bang right after his face hit the floor. He felt a sharp pain on his nose and elbows but that was nothing next to the lifetime of embarrassment that awaited if he didn’t get his ass out of the house right that second, so he sucked back on the whining and crawled around, looking for his shoes.
He should have changed from his pajamas but there were voices coming from downstairs, multiple ones, there was no time. His eyes roamed around for the essentials, his wallet, a beanie, a coat, maybe his toothbrush?
There were steps climbing up the stairs. Jungkook gulped and ran towards the window, turning the lights off and zipping the coat up to his chin. No teeth brushing for him tonight.
Years and years of sneaking out of his house to go to the arcade during his teen years finally paid off and he slid down the tree next to his window with relative ease. There was a thin layer of frost, which made everything slippery, but at least he didn’t fall again. A small, minuscule part of him wanted to sneak up to the living room window and well, see Jimin, but it was a microscopic part and Jungkook had a better sense of self-preservation than that. Or so he told himself.
He didn’t slow down from his power-walk until he was two blocks away. It was cold, but at least it wasn’t snowing, so Jungkook counted his blessings. What was left for him then was to find something to do for the next two to three hours (possibly four, knowing his mother.) Maybe one of his high school friends was free, he could hang out by their house or hit a bar until his place was safe. Jungkook tapped his pockets for his phone but it wasn’t there. He looked again, and again, but nothing. Damn it, he must have left it in his room.
Well, there was absolutely no chance he would go back for it now, so texting his friends was out of the table. At least he had his wallet. Maybe he could still catch a movie or something. Anything but going home.
He got to the closest cinema just in time to buy himself a ticket to the last show of the day, the newest remake of The Grinch. Jungkook wasn't one to be against the merry spirit, but on nights like these, he couldn't help but think someone up there was making fun of him. It was going to be the second time that week he was forced to watch the Grinch, I mean, come on. It still beats being inside his house right now, so he stopped sulking to go get some candy from a convenience store down the corner, and went in.
He ended up enjoying himself, the movie turned out actually surprisingly funnier and cuter than the live-action one, so at least he didn’t hate Christmas just yet. Another plus were the only other people inside the room, a handful of couples, all of them fare more interested in making out than movie-watching. Jungkook blocked their entire presence out and sat the furthest possible, for the sake of his childhood and sanity.
By the time it was over, it was a little past eleven. Late enough for his house to be empty of guests, but something inside told him to maybe stop by that one convenience store and have some instant ramyun, so he took a detour. To add to his meal, he also got some sausages and soda, choosing to sit inside. Some students were there too and they barely even acknowledged his presence so he repaid the gesture by doing the same. He wasn't going to be there for long, anyway.
When he finally walked up to his front porch, the streets were empty and most of the lights were out. He looked for his keys, then remembered he hadn’t picked them, and cursed himself again. Thankfully, due to his dad’s habit of forgetting his keys, there was a spare hidden somewhere under the garden gnome. He had to search around through a couple of them before eventually finding them.
His house was quiet except for some television noises coming from where he guessed was his brother’s room, so Jungkook took careful steps up, longing to bury himself under warm blankets.
He drifted off praying to live another day in peace but he wasn't getting very optimistic about it.
And with reason, too, because Junghyun started snickering at him as soon as he walked into the kitchen the next morning.
“Don't think I didn't hear you sneaking in last night, young man,” he said, pouring himself some coffee. “You should be ashamed of yourself.”
Jungkook sat down and reached for the cereal box. He started pouring it directly into his mouth. “Believe me, I am.”
“Why? For being stubborn?” His mother turned a page of her newest book much more dramatically than necessary. “Don't worry honey, we still love you even though you are kind of a dickhead.”
“I'm not being stubborn!” He whined, sinking lower into his chair. “You're sneaky, I couldn't risk it.”
“I understand your pain, son, but at least get a bowl.” Said Mr. Jeon, eyes still glued to his iPad. Jungkook scoffed but did as he was told.
“Well, you should know, Jiminie was really disappointed he couldn't meet you last night.” Mrs. Jeon passed him the milk. “He even left you some sugar cookies, but I'm not so sure you deserve them.”
The mention of cookies made Jungkook perk up. “Really? The soft kind?” His mother raised an eyebrow at him, so Jungkook cleared his throat. “I mean, that's nice of him. I'm not affected.”
“Sure about that?” She teased, pulling a plate to the center of the table. There were Christmas trees and heart heart-shaped cookies, decorated with green and pink icing and colorful sprinkles. They looked so good Jungkook felt an actual ache in his heart.
“I mean,” he mumbled, feeling his mouth start to water. “Wouldn't hurt to try one, right?”
“You're insufferable," she sighed, pushing the plate towards him.
Jungkook had absolutely no shame, so he fished three cookies from it and ate them right away. They were just the right amount of crunchy, soft inside, and not dry at all. The icing melt on his tongue and actual angels sang in the sky. His dad shook his head in good-natured disbelief.
“You should at least thank him, you know?” She added just as Jungkook got the fourth cookie from the plate. “Jiminie is far too kind.”
He was sure Jimin had magic hands. It's a shame his mother had ruined their nonexistent relationship. “I’ll write him a thank-you note.”
“Leave some for the rest of us, you rascal!” Junghyun poked him with his foot. “Where did you run off to, anyway?”
“I went to the movies, then ate some ramyun.”
“By yourself, huh?” Junghyun gave him a couple of condescending pats on the back. “I'm really sorry for your pathetic little life, dear brother.”
Jungkook shoved him away. “Fuck off, don't you have anywhere to be?”
“Not until lunch, which is a lot more than you have going on.”
“That's enough bickering. Let's just finish breakfast like a normal family, please?” Their mother pleaded, pouring more hot water on her teacup.
“This is normal.” Jungkook and his brother both said at the same time. She rolled her eyes.
“She does have a point, Jungkook,” Mr. Jeon added. “You should thank Jimin. He's such a sweet boy.”
Jungkook narrowed his eyes. “Even you, Brutus?”
“I'm just saying!” He raised his hands in surrender. “What’s the big deal?”
“Why are all of you so adamant in pairing me up with him?” He looked around. “Is it the baking? Can't we talk about Junghyun's girlfriend, instead? She can bake too, right?”
Junghyun took a sip of his coffee. “Not to save her life, no.”
“Shouldn't you give us a little bit more credit?” Mrs. Jeon said. “We love you, honey. We only want you to be happy.”
“I am happy!” He mumbled, squirming in his chair. From across the table, Junghyun scoffed. “I don't need to date anyone. And I especially don't need you to go around trying to set me up with strangers. How can you know I'll even like him?”
“He's polite, he's sweet, he's funny. What's not to like?” She waved her hand around. “He's also just your type, too, so I wished you'd stop acting so silly."
“What? No, he's not!” Jungkook’s eyes widened. “You don't even know what my type is!”
She rolled her eyes at him. “Sure I do. Cute, athletic. Strong, but not necessarily muscular.” She glanced at her nails. “Pretty eyes, nice lips. You also seem to have a thing about thighs.”
Jungkook choked on his cereal. “How do you know that!?” He coughed out, his dad tapping his back to help. “Wait. Did you read my journal?!”
Junghyun rested his chin on both his hands. “You mean your fanfiction diary? Yeah, we saw it.”
“What the fuck!” He felt heat rising from his chest to the tips of his ears. None of his relatives seemed the least bit sheepish. “That's an invasion of privacy! Mom, how could you?”
His dad was the one to reply. “I'm sorry, son. But in our defense,” he shrugged, “You did leave it open in the living room table. We thought you wanted us to read it.”
Jungkook face-planted into the table. This wasn’t happening, this couldn’t be happening. He hit his head against the wood a couple of times. Maybe if he wished hard enough, he’d put himself in a coma. He could still hear his brother laughing between thuds.
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The week progressed without surprises after that. Aside from a lot of teasing from his relatives, the mentions of the baker were kept to a minimum. He was just starting to recover.
He did manage to get in contact with his high school friends, and they all agreed to meet up for lunch over the weekend. It felt nice, hearing about everyone else and their own lives and achievements. There was a bittersweetness to it, in that sort of nostalgic way, but Jungkook enjoyed himself anyway. One of his friends even brought her newborn baby (which was still a mind-blowing concept, mind you), so Jungkook spent most of the time cooing and making faces at the little girl. Her tiny hands held his fingers and her giggles restored about ten years back to his lifespan and a smile on his face as he walked to the train station.
Since that morning, the weather had been getting gradually worse, heavy clouds gathering in the sky with a promise of a storm. A promise that was fulfilled, leaving Jungkook to curse himself as cold raindrops started to soak him as he ran through the streets, looking for somewhere to take shelter.
Through large windows he spotted a lit fireplace, comfy-looking chairs, and an ‘OPEN’ sign, so he headed that way, not bothering to find out what it was. Lots of other people seemed to have the same idea as him if the line in front of him was anything to go by. He took his coat off as he let his eyes study the place, looking for any indication of where he had just walked in.
The room was not that wide, but it extended a lot towards the back, making it still small and comfortable, but not enough to make you feel trapped. There were Christmas decorations on almost every surface, blinking lights around the windows and pretty garlands hanging from the walls and over the fireplace mantel. People of all ages were around, lounging in chairs with funky-looking mugs or sitting by round tables eating delicious pastries. Jungkook also noticed that the parts of the walls that weren't decorated had some aesthetically pleasing black and white photos of landscapes. The whole atmosphere was cozy and he could just hear the melody of a Christmas carol playing over the sound of the happy chatter of the patrons.
His eyes reached the counter, and he looked over the menu to see if anything piqued his interest. There was a decent amount of choices for warm drinks and an even bigger selection of cakes and pies. The sign at the top read Little Little - Baked Goods and Tearoom.
Jungkook frowned, taking another step in line. That was a bit of a weird name for a bakery, but something about it rang bells inside his head. Why did it sound familiar? He didn’t recognize his surroundings, so there was no way he had been here before. Maybe he read a recommendation somewhere, maybe his parents said something…
Oh. Oh no.
Little Little was Park Jimin's bakery.
He considered turning 180° and walking right out, noping out of there and into the pouring rain, but he decided against it. He was being paranoid, he didn’t even know if Jimin was there at the moment, they didn’t even know each other.
Besides, Jimin was a baker, he was probably in the back and he would remain there the entire time. Jungkook took a deep breath and told himself to relax as the woman in front of him finished her order and left.
Jungkook raised his head and sucked in that breath right back.
Behind the counter stood the most beautiful creature he had ever seen in his twenty-one years of life.
He had blond hair, fringe parted so it wouldn’t cover his pretty eyes. His lips were plump and his smile was bright and warm and everything about him was terribly cute. He wasn’t as tall as Jungkook and his cheeks looked soft and his Christmas apron was the ugliest thing on the planet — he was immediately enamored. He took a step forward, only one thought running through his head.
Please don't be Jimin, please don't be Jimin, please don't be Jimin, please don-.
“Hi, welcome to Little Little!” the man said as soon as they made eye contact. His voice sounded just as sweet as he looked. “I'm Jimin, what can I get you today?”
Damn it. Damn all, damn the sky and damn the land. Why did the Universe seem to hate him so much?
Jungkook tugged at his own sleeves, his mind completely blank. He couldn't for the life of him remember why he walked in there in the first place. He could only blink, mouth opening and closing without a sound coming out.
The seconds kept coming and the awkwardness kept building. Jimin had hints of an amused curl on the corner of his lips.
“Would you be open to suggestions?” He asked, warm voice contrasting the chorus of panicked screaming inside of Jungkook’s head.
“I'm sorry!” He blurted. By the sparkle in Jimin’s eyes, Jungkook just knew he had to be as red as a tomato. His ears were burning. “I'm, yes. I'll have that.”
The baker raised an eyebrow. “I haven't said anything yet.”
“No, I know,” Jungkook wants to meet his own clone so he can punch himself in the face. “Just. Whatever you were going to say, I'll take it.”
Jimin's smile grew, if only a millimeter. “I appreciate your trust, but I wouldn’t want to give you something you might be allergic to.”
“No allergies. Super healthy.” Jungkook nodded. “Not that like, having allergies makes you less healthy, that’s not what I mean.” He gestured around, wondering why he couldn’t just shut his damn mouth. “If you have allergies, that’s totally cool.”
The blond was trying really hard not to laugh out loud, which was polite of him. “Don’t worry, I believe you.” He pointed to the side of the corner, towards the glass display. “How about a matcha cake with strawberries? I made it myself.” He added, a hint of pride in his tone. “Not to be biased, but it’s absolutely delicious.”
“Yes, I’d love that! I have no doubt it is. I’ll take one.” He agreed in a second, then remembered his manners. “Please.”
A soft red spread across Jimin’s cheeks as he typed into the register. “Anything to drink?”
“A…” Jungkook looked up at the menu again. “A small cappuccino. Please.”
“And your name?”
“Your name,” Jimin smiled. “For the order.”
Jungkook felt his palms sweating. He couldn’t tell Jimin who he was, it was too dangerous. Come on brain, think of something clever for once.
“Errr, it’s Jung… Um, Jung… Woo.”
“Jungwoo?” Jimin asked, eyebrows raising just as the corner of his lips.
No turning back now. “Yep, that’s me. Friendly Jungwoo.”
He looked far too amused at Jungkook’s flustered existence. “Okay, Jungwoo, why don’t you take a seat? I’ll bring it to you once your drink is done.”
Jungkook accepted the tab and left, taking extra care not to let any other damned words out of his mouth. There weren't many empty tables, and his only choices were either sitting right there in front of the counter or sharing a couch with some chatty old ladies. He opted to suffer by himself, sitting alone and discreetly turning his back to the counter, so Jimin couldn't see him losing his shit.
A million bakeries and cafes in downtown Busan and it's just Jungkook’s twisted luck that he had to have walked into this one. He couldn't help but wonder if his mother had done some sort of offering, a prayer, voodoo, anything, because this was just ridiculous, and he wouldn't put it past her. But even so, the person he's the most annoyed with is himself. Why didn't look up Jimin sooner? I mean, Park Jimin is one of the most common names, but with the addition of ‘Little Little cake shop’ and his extraordinary stalking skills to the mix, maybe he wouldn't have ended up in this situation.
The worst thing of all? His mother was right. Jimin was totally his type. Of course, he didn’t get a good look at his body since the man was wearing an oversized blue sweater and an apron, but at this rate? He had no doubt in his heart Jimin was hiding a great physique under there. Not that it mattered anyway, he was already nursing a crush on the baker and they only spoke for three minutes. Oh, goodness he.
Jungkook whisked his phone from his pocket to check some texts and maybe even hire a hitman to put an end to his misery. His face was still hot, his hands were clammy and his heart was racing. This trip home was proving itself a hazard not only to his mental health but his physical one too. Next year he's staying back in Seoul, it's decided. Busan could wait until he graduated.
“Excuse me, matcha cake and cappuccino for Jungwoo?”
Jungkook followed the voice with his head and yep, there went his heart again. Somehow, Jimin was even more beautiful up close, colorful fairy lights from the bakery reflecting on his eyes. He gave Jungkook a soft smile before placing the cake and cappuccino delicately on the table.
The mug had little bunnies and easter eggs painted on it, and the art on the foam formed a little heart. Jungkook’s own heart was ready to launch itself to the moon and he still hadn't opened his mouth. Lord knew he wouldn't be able to hold back a marriage proposal if he did.
“I'm sorry the mug isn't very festive, all our other ones were taken,” Jimin said. “I thought you'd like this one, though.”
Jungkook was stuck between wanting to hide his blush under the table and never stop staring at Jimin ever again. “No, it's. Um, it's okay, I don't mind,” he stuttered. “Actually, my mom is always saying I look like a bunny,” he shrugged.
“Is that so?” Jimin's smile evolved into a grin. “She sounds like a wise woman.”
He scoffed. “Yeah, don't tell her that.”
“If I ever meet her, this secret will be safe.” Jimin raised his pinky to strengthen his promise. His hand was the cutest thing Jungkook had ever seen and he decided that he wanted to hold it. If Jimin noticed just how blatantly smitten Jungkook was, he hid it pretty well. “Well, I'm going to leave you to your cake. Call me if you need anything else.”
Jungkook nodded. The blond sent him one last smile before walking back to the counter where another guy had taken his place. He was just about Jimin's height, black hair, and an equally hideous Christmas apron. Jimin approached the guy and whispered something to him, giggling in the process. It seemed like Jimin was talking about Jungkook, because the black-haired guy glanced his way with his eyebrows raised.
Jungkook managed to turn his head just in time, ears burning. He focused his attention back on the cappuccino, which was likely cold by now, and brought it to his lips. He chugged the whole thing in one gulp and immediately regretted it because, surprise surprise, it wasn’t cold but scalding hot. Jungkook clicked his tongue a few times, trying to get used to the burnt surface but to no avail. Now he had to live with that for the next day, great.
He still had the cake, though, and his mouth salivated at the mere sight of it. It was a layered cake, two pieces of soft green batter and a pink filling with cut strawberries in the middle and a huge delicious-looking strawberry on top.
Jungkook wouldn’t consider himself a fan of green tea but he was a fan of Jimin’s baking, so he had no doubt in his heart that he was about to experience what heaven tastes like. If heaven had a taste, that is. The cake looked so pretty he almost didn’t want to eat and ruin it. But it was a tiny almost, no match for his watering mouth. He took a piece and brought it to his mouth.
He was sure that if there weren’t people chattering and music playing, everyone would have heard the sound he made. The taste was nothing like anything he’d ever had, soft, moist, and just the perfect amount of sweetness over the hint of sour of the strawberries. Jungkook had actual tears forming in his eyes and the sound of a full-on angel choir in his ears.
Even though he tried to savor it as much as he could, he finished it pretty fast. He dragged his fork around the plate to try and gather every last bit of frosting still there, but it wasn’t enough. He wanted another slice, or even buy the whole cake and just devour it but he talked himself out of it. He had already made enough of a fool of himself in front of Jimin for a day, better to play safe and not push fate too hard.
He was considering telling himself to fuck off and go back there to order some more when his plate was taken from under his nose, another one replacing it. It was a new slice, with even a bigger strawberry on it, and Jungkook blinked.
“You looked like you wanted another one,” a voice said from next to him. Jungkook looked up to find Jimin there again. “I took it as a compliment, so this one is on the house.”
Jungkook gaped his mouth like a fish. Jimin was just about to leave when he regained his speech skills. “No, wait!” He screamed, then slapped his own mouth shut. Jimin turned around, looking startled. “Sorry, thank you?” He said in a normal volume. “I mean, you didn’t have to. This is hands down the best cake I’ve ever had. I’ll gladly pay for it.”
“Oh, thank you,” he guessed he took Jimin off guard because for a moment the baker was flustered, a pink blush spreading through his cheeks. Still, Jimin gave him the biggest smile yet so Jungkook mentally high-fived himself. “That’s really sweet of you, but I insist.”
“I insist harder.”
Jimin giggled. “Tell you what,” he cocked his head to the side, the glint in his eyes changing from soft to something else. “You let me give you for free, and then you can come back some other time?"
At that point, Jungkook would have given him anything he asked, so he nodded. Jimin walked back to the counter and Jungkook went back to his cake, his only last brain cells shutting down one by one. He took his sweet time on that one, not even chewing but just letting nature do its job and melt the bites inside of his mouth. Somehow, the second slice tasted better than the first.
Jungkook had been so busy writing poems about cake inside of his head that he didn't even notice that the storm was over. It had also gotten pretty dark out, which was his cue to leave. He promised his dad he'd get a new anti-virus for his laptop, and he should be getting home soon. He walked towards the register, pretending his eyes weren't scanning the room for Jimin but unfortunately, the baker was nowhere in sight, a different dude altogether sitting there flipping through a magazine. Jungkook hadn't even seen him walk in.
He had just handed over his credit card to the guy when Jimin popped up behind the counter, scaring the shit out of him. He took the receipt from his coworker (the tag on his sweater had a drawing of a tiger instead of a name) and offered it to Jungkook with a smile.
“I’ll see you around, Jungwoo," he said, his touch lingering on Jungkook’s hand for just a second.
He nodded, and with his heart pounding on his ears, Jungkook stepped out of the door, vowing to never set foot inside Little Little again.
❆ ❅ ❉ ❆ ❅ ❉ ❆ ❅ ❉
He set foot inside Little Little again.
It took Jungkook the entire trip home and most of the night to convince himself that he was just fine before he met Jimin and that he could go on with his life as if nothing happened, and about twelve seconds alone in his room to toss that out of the window and take it to Google.
Much to his dismay, Jimin's personal account was private, but at least he found the bakery’s Instagram page (followed by his mother, his brother, and his brother's girlfriend, the traitors). Half of the feed were artsy shots of cakes, pies, and cookies, looking so impossibly delicious Jungkook had to clench his heart through his shirt not to press follow as well. Junghyun would see, and he'd never hear the end of that. He was scrolling through the saved stories when he saw the cat.
It was this tiny calico cat with tiny dumb legs and it was the cutest shit Jungkook had ever seen. It was napping soundly on an armchair by the fireplace in Little Little as someone whose voice he didn't recognize cooed at the scene. There was also a profile linked to the video, @softlily, and he knew before the page even loaded that it was the cat's Instagram.
Lily the Cat had over two-hundred thousand followers. The bio said she was a three-year-old munchkin, she liked cuddles, kisses, and lots of attention. Jimin's Instagram handle was also linked and he couldn’t help but wonder if his interests were the same as his cat's. Jungkook had no clue before then that munchkin was a real name for a real thing, let alone that it was so cute.
He spent a lot more time than he'd be proud to admit going through the feed (Lily was a busy lady! Lot's of updates and videos! She even had a Pomeranian friend she played with!), stopping every now and then to take an extra careful look at the pictures with a certain beautiful baker on them.
The thing was, Jimin's wasn't the only human featured in those photos. Tiger Dude from Little Little was there too. Through further stalking, Jungkook learned that the guy's name was Taehyung, his account was public, he was the owner of the tiny angry Pomeranian, and he posted a lot of pictures of Jimin.
And by a lot Jungkook really meant a lot. There were selfies with Jimin, artistic shots of Jimin in a flower field somewhere, photos of him holding hands with Jimin, candids of Jimin baking, pictures of Jimin with Lily, pictures of Jimin without Lily, just a lot of fucking Jimin.
By the fifth-seventh shot of the blond Jungkook felt the sting of jealousy heavy on his sides because, how dare this guy take so many pictures of the guy his mom wanted to set him up with, but the next one seemed to calm him down. It was a photo of the other guy from the bakery, the black-haired one. He was sitting alone at a comforter, holding a cup of coffee and smiling up at the person taking the picture. The title was “My One and Only”, followed by a purple heart.
His doubts were cleared the first time he went back to Little Little. His eyes scanned the room at lightning speed and stopped by the fireplace, where Jimin was crouched repairing some fallen Christmas decorations. Like the well-mannered boy that he was, Jungkook ran to his aid.
Jimin looked up upon seeing an extra pair of hands picking up fake golden flowers. “Oh, Jungwoo, hey,” he smiled. “Fancy seeing you back here so soon.”
“Yeah, hi.” Jungkook waved his hand around. “I had a dentist appointment in the area.”
He obviously hadn't. What he had done was previously google to see if there were, in fact, any dentists in the area. Jeon Jungkook was no amateur.
“Oh? Well, in that case,” Jimin fixed the last of the decoration and stood up. “I suppose I can't offer you some complimentary gingerbread cookies, to thank you for your help?”
“Um, no. I mean, yes!” Jungkook stood up as well, almost hitting his head on the mantel in the process. “It was just a check-up, I'm good to go. I'll accept the cookies.”
The baker let out the most beautiful giggle Jungkook had ever heard. God, he's so screwed. “That's good to hear.” Jimin placed his hand on Jungkook’s elbow softy to guide him towards the armchairs. “Go take a seat, I'll bring them to you in a minute.”
“Did you, um,” Jungkook let himself be led, offering no resistance whatsoever. “Did you bake those, too?”
Yet another heaven-sent giggle. “Yes, this morning.” Jimin sat him by the window, right next to the Christmas tree. He had his eyebrow raised when Jungkook looked up. “Why you ask?”
“No reason,” he felt the tips of his ears on fire. “I just think you're the best baker, that's all.”
Something sparkled in Jimin's eyes even if his smile was still warm and innocent. Jungkook didn’t know if he wanted to squish his cheeks really bad or shove him against the wall and kiss the soul out of him. Possibly both. Maybe in that order, maybe not. He’s not a picky guy.
Jimin leaned over, his hand resting on the armrest. “Don’t let Taetae hear you, he’s dating the owner.” He whispered next to his ears, sending a shiver that raised all the hairs on Jungkook’s neck. He’s made up his mind. Kissing first, squishing later. It’s decided. “You know, keep complimenting me like that, and I might give you something extra special.”
He was two seconds away from asking if Jimin was also on the menu but he had already walked away. Jungkook blinked at the empty space left in front of him, his eyes wide and his mind in crumbles. He took deep breaths, trying to calm down and not run away. But then what? He’s just going to ask Jimin out like that? He wanted to, bad, he here he wasn’t Jungkook. Jungwoo, bloody damned Jungwoo would have to ask Jimin out, and he wasn’t sure that would be a good idea. Jungkook sighed. When did his life turn into a cruel sitcom? This was all his mother’s fault.
(No, he had nothing to do with it. Nor did his stubbornness. He was played. Shut up.)
He collected himself because Jimin was walking back his way holding a plate filled with cookies. Jungkook smelled them before he saw them, and he was already on the verge of tears. He thanked the baker and ended up ordering another latte. This time, he watched Jimin leave and, sweet Lord in the Sky. He wasn’t wearing a huge sweater this time, but a well-fitted striped turtleneck and the tightest black jeans Jungkook had ever had the pleasure of seeing. His legs were gifts from the gods and the pants were a blessing. He walked slowly, not that anyone was complaining, and he walked with purpose. Like if he knew exactly what he looked like and what he was doing and honestly, Jungkook didn’t doubt it.
He bit into the cookie, eyes still glued to the door leading to the kitchen where the baker had disappeared off to, and bells played in his mind. He had to be dreaming, there was no other explanation. Jimin was just too good to be real. If Jungwoo didn’t ask him out then Jungkook would.
An hour went by and neither of them did. Turned out they were both too pathetic to do anything other than stare dumbly whenever Jimin appeared from the back holding a tray of something delicious and sweet smile on his face. At least Jungwoo got free cookies. He tried to force himself to do it one time but chickened out last second and ordered some cranberry pie instead. It was obviously the most delicious thing ever to grace his taste buds, which surprised no one.
His plate was clean in front of him and Jungkook was running out of excuses to stay and pretend he wasn't staring at Jimin from behind his phone. Or pretend he wasn't monitoring the bakery’s Instagram through said phone, just in case. He also had a few texts from his mother asking him to get some eggs on his way home. Jimin had been inside the kitchen for the past half-hour, no sign of coming out. Maybe it was time to leave. Maybe Jungwoo could try next time.
Tiger guy (or Taetae, how Jimin liked to call him) was behind the cashier again. He was wearing a hipster beret and some hipster glasses and a hipster sweater and he didn't notice Jungkook approach because he was cleaning his hipster camera. He didn't mind, because Taehyung was dating the owner, not Jimin, and anyone who was friends with his not-so-much-friend-possible-future-husband was his friend too.
Taehyung put his camera back on the counter and stared Jungkook up and down.
“Wait here.” He said, already halfway across the room.
A few seconds later, Jimin emerged from the Staff Only door, his apron covered in flour and his hair cutely secured under a hairnet. Jungkook's heart rate picked up. Sanitary work politics are always sexy.
“Medium latte and cranberry pie, right?” He smiled, dusting his hands on his apron. There were little specks of flour on his face. Jungkook nodded. “How did you find everything?”
His answer came automatically. “Absolutely delicious, not even a shred of a question.”
“Thank you, I'm glad it was of your liking.” Jimin tapped his beautiful fingers on the register. “Cash or card?”
Jungkook handed over his card, trying not to think about his absurd upcoming bill. “You're sure you're not going to charge for the cookies?” He asked. “I've had at least five.” More like ten.
“I’m sure, Jungwoo,” Jimin had his eyes on the computer screen, a small smile on his lips as he studied over his card. “I'm giving you a fidelity card. Consider it an early free gift.”
“That's nice of you.” He finished paying and got his card back, along with the brand new Little Little regular customer paper. “Doesn't this mean I have to keep coming back here?”
There was that look in Jimin’s eyes again when he leaned over the counter to rest his head on his hand. “Why don't you find out?”
He almost stumbled on his way out, Jimin's beautiful smirk still dizzying his mind. He had to go back there now. What was he supposed to do, say no? It's not like it was his choice.
At least that time the period of fooling himself didn't last long. He has dragged his pathetic ass back to Little Little two days later. It was lucky that none of his relatives seemed to care much for his whereabouts, otherwise, he'd have a big problem. No one even batted an eyelash when he grabbed his keys sometime after lunch saying he had to pick up some dry cleaning. Conveniently located across the street from the bakery.
Only that time, Jimin wasn’t there.
Instead it was the other guy — the owner. He wasn’t tagged in any of the Instagram pictures and his nametag had a drawing of a cat, so‘Taehyung’s boyfriend’ was all the information he had about the guy. Jungkook dragged himself slowly towards the counter, trying to look chill and pretend he was too immersed on the wall menu to notice Jimin’s absence. He hovered over the glass displays to try and peek through the kitchen door window but had no luck.
“He’s not here, genius.” The black-haired guy said, eyes still glued to his phone. Jungkook acted as if he had no idea what he was talking about, so the guy rolled his eyes at him. “Jimin. It’s his day off.”
Jungkook felt his face heat up with embarrassment. “Are you supposed to talk to the customers like that?”
“You didn’t come here for the food, did you?” He said, putting his phone down to give Jungkook a pointed look. He mumbled some nonsense as a response. “Yeah, that’s what I thought.”
He’s got you there, Jungkook’s mind told him. He replied with a fuck off.
“Actually, I was just deciding on what to order.” He said, dusting his coat nonchalantly.
“Really? And what would that be?”
If Jungkook was pouting, it wasn’t his fault. “I don’t know.”
The owner sighed. “There are some cupcakes. They’re from last night, but they’re the only thing in here that Jimin made.”
Good enough for Jungwoo. He nodded enthusiastically, hurting his neck in the process. “That’s perfect, I’ll take them.” The guy raised an eyebrow. “Because I just so happen to be in the mood for cupcakes. Obviously.”
He never specified just how cupcakes he wanted, so he ended up buying all five of them. They had little icing reindeer faces as toppings and tasted even better than they looked if such a thing was possible. Jungkook was in the process of convincing himself he wasn’t disappointed that it was Jimin’s day off (not successfully) when the owner gave him his card back.
“There you go, Jungwoo,” he had his eyes on the computer screen small smile on his lips. “Jimin works Fridays in the morning. If you were wondering.”
As it turned out, he was, so he thanked the guy and left, plotting an excuse to drag himself back next Friday. Also figuring out just how he was supposed to hide the remaining four cupcakes from the prying eyes of his family. Maybe he could eat all of them on the train home.
He did. He regretted none of it.
The third time Jungkook went back to Little Little, it was snowing.
The streets were covered in a thin layer of white and the trees were sparkling. He took it as a good sign from the universe as he opened the door of the cake shop, the bell above the door announcing his arrival. Jimin popped his head from behind the counter and welcomed him with the most breathtaking smile. Jungkook’s heart skipped about thirty beats in his chest and couldn’t be healthy.
“Hey, there,” he breathed. His sweet voice sent butterflies wild inside Jungkook’s stomach. “You came back.”
He didn’t bother to hide his smile as he walked towards the counter, “I promised, didn’t I?”
“You sure did.” Jimin leaned over his elbows. “Yoongi-hyung said you came here on my day off?”
Well shit. Thanks, Yoongi-hyung. “Um, yeah,” he coughed. “I got your cupcakes. They were delicious, by the way.”
Jimin’s eyes widened. “Wait, the reindeer ones? They were so old, Jungkook! I can’t believe you bought those!”
He really didn’t see the matter, honestly. “They were better than any other fresh cupcakes, so,” he shrugged. Jimin had a hand over his mouth now, looking almost mortified, which Jungkook couldn’t have. “It’s really okay, I don’t mind.”
“Are-, are you sure?”
“Absolutely. One-hundred percent.” He nodded. “No doubt.”
“Okay, if you say so,” a small smirk formed on Jimin’s lips once he lowered his hand from his face. “At least let me make it up for you. Vanilla cake, fresh out of the oven?”
“Perfect!” Jimin bounced slightly, sending another jolt of sparks through Jungkook’s heart. “Actually, I was just about to have my break. Would you mind if I joined you?”
“Yes!” Jungkook blurted. “I mean, no! I mean, that would be nice. Please do.”
That seemed to be good enough for Jimin. “All right, Jungwoo. Give me five minutes.”
If Jungkook wasn’t gone before, he surely was now.
Once Jimin joined him with two plates of cake and mugs of warm tea, the rest of the world shut down. Talking to him like this was a totally different experience, and Jungkook much preferred to see his beautiful smile from the chair next to him than from behind a counter all the way across the room.
They talked first about Little Little, about how his friendship with Taehyung connected him with Yoongi, and how the three of them had been running this business for almost two years. He explained that, while Yoongi was the official owner, all the paperwork for the building was signed under Jimin’s grandmother’s name, technically making the place half his.
“Taetae is my best friend,” he explained, nursing his tea. “When he and Yoongi moved to Busan, they had to start from the ground. Yoongi-hyung had some money saved and he wanted to open a bakery, but the only place they could afford had to be signed by someone local, with good credibility. My family knows the renters so they let us have the place, as long as my grandma vouched for us.”
“That was really nice of you.”
According to his mother, Jimin had just turned twenty-three. Yoongi couldn’t be much older. Jungkook was impressed.
Jimin shrugged. “It was the best decision I’ve ever made. I love this place.” He pushed his plate to the side to rest his face on his hands, elbows on the table. “What about you, what do you do?”
“I’m studying in Seoul. Computer science.” He said before he could stop himself. That was probably one of the things his mom might have told Jimin when she mentioned ‘bragging about her son’. But there was no way the baker would connect the dots, right? Just a coincidence. Plenty of young men going to study in Seoul. “I graduate next year.”
The thing about Computer Science, it’s a boring-ass subject so he knows Jimin is just pretending to be interested. He also didn’t want to drag it too much in case he ended up saying something he’d regret later so the best course of action would be to smoothly steer the conversation back to Jimin. He asked about other interests, and that topic went on.
Jungkook wasn’t the type to be all chatty happy but something about the blond just made it easy. Maybe it was his magic baking skills. Some sort of sorcery. It wasn’t long before Jimin’s break was over. He said he’d love to chat more but some company had ordered desserts from them to their Christmas party, which meant he had to go help Yoongi if they wanted to be done before the deadline.
Technically Jungkook had things to do as well, so they said their goodbyes at the register, Jimin charging him considerably less than he should have. Jungkook slid a bill inside the tip jar when the baker wasn’t looking and turned around, leaving Little Little for the fourth time that month.
❆ ❅ ❉ ❆ ❅ ❉ ❆ ❅ ❉
They had about a week before Christmas when Jungkook’s dad remembered he had yet to buy gifts for his relatives, and when he mentioned it over lunch, Jungkook remembered that he hadn’t either, and neither had Junghyun. Mrs. Jeon kicked all three of them from the kitchen with a rolled-up towel, threatening to cut their useless heads off and serve them as the main course at the Christmas feast if they weren’t dressed and ready to leave in precisely ten minutes. Jungkook had no doubt in his heart that she would, so he pushed his brother as both of them went to the stairs at the same time.
They all gathered by the living room in record time, messy hair, and wearing odd socks. His mother pursed her lips, but she didn’t pull out a knife, which was always a good sign. She handed the car keys to Mr. Jeon and grabbed her coat, which they all took as their cue to leave.
Before stepping out of the door, she stopped to adjust his shirt. “Did you brush your teeth?”
“Did I brush-, of course I brushed my teeth!” Jungkook huffed, waving his mother's hands away from his face. “Seriously mom, I'm an adult, you don't need to baby me anymore.”
He totally didn't, but what his mother (and his dentist) didn't know, couldn't hurt.
Junghyun was getting some of the snow out of the driveway when he walked outside so he pretended not to see and marched straight to the car. It was too cold to pretend he was a nice brother. Once they're all inside and fastened seat belts on (safety first, safety second, coolness third), began the discussion of where to go. Staying outdoors was out of the question, so were the department shops. The streets were freezing cold and the malls would be packed with late shoppers and tourists and neither of the Jeons were in the mood to be around people.
There was some more arguing, but they finally decide on this artsy district near downtown that his mom read about in a magazine. It has some different funky shops and it was hidden enough not to attract extensive crowds, so that is where they went.
Finding a decent parking spot took them around ten minutes but once they were all outside the car, Mrs. Jeon set out some rules:
They would take a stroll down the main street together, and if anyone saw something of interest they had permission to engage and then reunite with the group at the café near the car in precisely three hours, failing to do so would result in the person being left behind. Junghyun in return said they should make it a competition, who could buy all their presents first, which snowballed in who would have to pay for the dinner between them.
Jungkook wasn’t about to lose (especially now that all his money was going to Little Little) so he set out on a power walk as soon as his mother finished counting down, Junghyun elbowing him in the process.
The first half-hour was incredibly productive. Right from the start Jungkook accidentally walked into a sock shop and got one for each of his family members. He wanted to get his dad a new wallet and possibly some perfume for his mom, but if he didn’t find anything in the next hour, at least he had those back-ups to own Junghyun’s ass. He ran into his mother on the way out of the shop, Mrs. Jeon just across the street, looking at the flower arrangements. He was just about to walk over, thinking that some pretty flowers would be a nice addition to his gift when he spotted something from the corner of his eye. Not something. Someone. Jimin. Park Jimin. Standing right there, looking through the window of a bookstore. At the perfect spot for his mother to see if she turned around.
Shit. Shit, shit, shit, shit, crap, shit.
Jungkook turned and went towards Jimin instead, praying to god that his mom wouldn’t look their way and effectively immediately end his life. He was a few steps away when the blond noticed him. Jimin opened his mouth to greet him but Jungkook only smiled frantically, grabbing his hand and dragging him inside the store in the softest way he could manage. Luckily, Jimin let him.
“Hi to you too,” Jimin laughed. “What was that all about?”
“Hey, sorry for dragging you in here,” he said once the door of the store was safely closed behind them. “It’s just… So cold out there, right? Here is nice and warm.”
“Hmm, yes,” he gave his hand a tiny squeeze, reminding Jungkook that they were, in fact, still holding hands. “You’re freezing, your ears are red,” he pointed “Why aren’t you wearing gloves? Or a beanie?”
“I, um,” Jungkook swallowed, letting go of Jimin and taking a step back. Curse his body for betraying him. “I forgot them in the car.”
“You came here with someone?”
Fuck, fuck. “The uber, I mean. I forgot them in the uber.”
Jimin blinked a few times. “Oh, did you text the driver? We have to get your things back!”
“Yes, no, actually,” Jungkook waved around. “It was a taxi, so I can’t text the guy. It’s a shame.”
There was a brief moment of silence. Jimin didn’t look too convinced, but all he did was shrug. The two of them were still standing dangerously close to the window display and if his mother walked by she would definitely spot them. He had to do something and he had to do it quick.
Come on brain, stop failing me for once in our miserable existence.
“Oh hey, they have a greek mythology section, let’s check it out!”
In the few seconds that Jungkook took to absorb Jimin’s words, the baker was already disappearing between the shelves of the store. Well. That worked, too.
Jungkook followed him and watched from a safe distance as the blond browsed through the titles, picking up a book to read the summaries. Every now and then Jungkook would pick up a book with a weird title and make a bad innuendo or ridiculous pun with it and they’d both giggle like children. Jimin would look at him through his half-closed eyes, hiding his laugh under his wrist before he turned away. It was nice. Definitely not for Jungkook’s heart, but Jungwoo was scoring points like crazy.
“Look, I found your book,” he sing-sang, lifting up a book that was literally titled ‘The Golden Ass’. The second Jimin read the words he lost it, bending in half to stop himself from falling from laughing too hard. Jungkook was particularly proud of that one.
Jimin had tears in his eyes when he finally stopped laughing. “Shut up, silly,” he said, slapping Jungkook’s shoulder with no real force. “You’re not at all helpful.”
“Sorry, sorry,” he giggled the last of his dumb joke. He had to collect himself. “Are you looking for anything in specific?”
“Not really,” Jimin reached for a book on the top shelf, standing on his tiptoes to do it. His sweater went up with his arm, revealing a thin line of his skin. Jungkook’s eyes shoot up. Nothing to see down there. “One of my friends really likes reading about ancient Greece, so I think one of these would make a good gift.” He quickly scanned the back and handed it to Jungkook. “What about this one? Looks promising.”
The cover seemed awfully familiar. “I think my mom has that book,” Jungkook mused. “She’s into Greek mythology. Maybe your friend will like it, too.”
“Oh, she does?” Jimin hummed, giving the book one last look before putting it back on the shelf. “Maybe something different, then.”
They both turned back towards the shelf. “Let’s see this one,” Jungkook picked up one that had a pretty cover. “Cupid and Psyche. Sounds like a good time.”
The baker leaned his head over Jungkook’s shoulder so he could see it too. “Hmm, not bad. Do you know if your mom read this, too?”
“I don’t think so, no,” he said, using all of his strength not to melt into the floor. He could feel Jimin’s chest behind his back. “I can ask her, but it’s probably good.”
“No need,” Jimin shook his head, stepping away from Jungkook. “I like it, let’s take this one.”
He released the breath he was holding. Hopefully, Jimin hadn’t noticed the ultra-speed of his heartbeat. “Chill.”
They made their way towards the cashier. Jungkook used the opportunity to sneak furtive glances outside, looking for any of his relatives. None of them seemed to be around, but one can never be too safe. If his memory didn’t fail him, there was a Starbucks nearby, and his mother absolutely hated Starbucks, which made it the perfect hideout.
Asking Jimin if he could buy him some coffee and the smile he received in return felt way too natural. Leaving the store together, shoulders brushing and soft voices muffled by their scarves, getting a table for two on the furthest corner of the room and asking him to wait while he bought them drinks, all of it.
There was something about Jimin's company that made Jungkook feel like they had known each other for months, not days. It was a rush, too, and the good kind. Every time he thought his heart could finally calm down, Jimin would smile like that and it would send him spiraling right back up.
Jungkook waited for the orders, keeping watch of the front door and repeating a mantra of it will be okay to himself. Was this a date? He was pretty sure he could consider this a date. He paid for their drinks and for once Jimin isn’t the one preparing them. He can’t decide if he’s more excited or scared at this point. As long as he didn’t throw up or started crying, it would be alright.
Jimin wasn’t wearing his winter items when he finally got back to their table, holding a warm cup in each hand.
“Oh, those smell so good!” He helped Jungkook put the things on the table so he could sit down. “What’s in the bag?”
“Croissants. I wasn’t sure which one you wanted, so I got one of each.”
Jimin’s eyes widened slightly. “Oh, sweetie, you shouldn’t have!”
“It’s nothing, don’t worry.” It really was, actually. Starbucks wasn’t exactly the cheapest place in the land. Jimin didn’t need to know that, though. “I didn’t get anything sweet. I hope you don’t mind.”
“I don’t, this is perfect,” Jimin assured, looking through the croissants. “Why didn’t you?”
Jungkook chuckled. “Honestly? They didn’t look half as good as anything you do. It would be almost offensive.”
He wasn’t lying, either. Back in Seoul, Jungkook is a proud basic Starbucks regular, but after the pastries from Little Little? What a joke. He had no idea of how he could eat any cake from anywhere else, ever. His honesty took Jimin by surprise, the blond hiding his blush behind his paper cup.
“I’m really flattered, even if I think you only say those things so I’ll give you more free cookies.”
Jungkook fake gasped, bringing a hand to his heart. “I would never!”
Jimin laughed for real this time. It was a sound he could easily get used to. The conversation started easy, favorite shows and animes they watched as kids, what type of song they’re both into. They didn’t have that many things in common, but it didn’t bother Jungkook at all. He learned some things he already knew, like that Jimin was studying to become a veterinary assistant and some others that were new to him, like the contemporary dance classes he used to take when he was in high school. He asked if he had any videos, but Jimin swore there weren't any.
The look in his eyes said otherwise, though, so Jungkook made a mental note to stalk him some more when he got home.
“What about Lily?”
Jimin raised an eyebrow at him. “Lily?”
“Yeah, your cat.” He said, taking a sip of his Christmassy white mocha.
“How do you know I have a cat named Lily?”
Jungkook choked on his drink. “Um, you,” he stopped, focusing on getting the coughs out. Jimin gave his back some soft taps. “You. I think you mentioned her at some point?”
“Did I?” He hummed. Jungkook held his breath, but after a moment all the blond did was shrug. “Must have slipped my mind.”
Oh, thank god. Jungkook chuckled weakly and melted back into his chair. His dumb ass is going to be the death of him one of these days, he just knows it.
“How did you get her?”
“Back when I lived with my parents, our neighbor from across the street had this sweet little cat. I used to go over all the time to play with her.” Jimin reached for his phone, suspicion completely gone from his head. “She got pregnant, and the owner said I could have one of the kittens if I wanted!”
He had the biggest smile, turning the screen towards Jungkook so he could see a picture of the tiniest kitty he’s ever seen ever. He didn’t even try to hide his cooing, which Jimin appreciated.
Before he knew it, they were both scrolling through the enormous fold titled ‘soft kitty lily’ on Jimin’s phone. “She’s so cute,” he half-whined, feeling an ache in his heart. “Her legs are so tiny and her eyes are so big! Why are her legs so small!”
Jimin beamed like a proud dad. “I know! She’s my baby and she’s the cutest thing on the planet!”
They talked about Lily for what felt like hours. Jimin introduced him to her highly popular Instagram page (Jungkook pretended not to know anything about it) and from that, he started talking about Yeontan, the angry Pomeranian, and how their IG profiles were the reason Jimin and Taehyung met in the first place.
Jungkook’s phone kept buzzing inside his pocket and he effectively ignored it. The three hours were up and he was supposed to be meeting his family by the car right this second, but he had absolutely no intention of doing so. He glanced down at his screen, scrolling quickly through the dozens of texts from his brother claiming victory before typing a ‘see u at home’ and immediately setting the thing on airplane mode. With any luck, they’d get the hint and leave him behind.
“Anything important?” Jimin asked, nodding towards the phone.
Jungkook put it back into his pocket. “Nah, just my brother being annoying. Does your family go nuts on Christmas, too?”
“Oh, you bet.” He laughed. “I’m sure they’re causing a lot of headaches at their hotel.”
“What do you mean?”
“They went to New Zealand for the holidays. My mom said, and I quote, ‘I’m sick and tired of this cold, I want to spend Christmas with a hat and a popsicle’, so there they went. They’ve been there for a couple of days, I think. ”
That formed a very weird picture in Jungkook’s head. “Sounds like fun, why didn’t you go with them?”
“Taetae and Yoongi-hyung are going back to Daegu next week, to be with their families,” he explained. “I didn’t want to close Little Little over Christmas, you know? It’s our busiest time of the year!”
Jungkook felt a lump in his throat. “Are you going to spend the holidays alone?”
“I don’t mind,” Jimin relaxed back into the armchair. “Lily keeps me company.”
A feeling started growing inside of Jungkook, poking him with a sharp stick. He knew what he had to do, what he wanted to do. Just the thought of Jimin all alone on Christmas day, just him and his cat and some microwaved dinner made his chest feel heavy.
Every year his family hosted a small get-together on the twenty-fourth to celebrate and exchange gifts. Usually, it would be only the four of them, but the boys were always allowed to invite friends over if they wanted to. Junghyun’s girlfriend was going to join them for the second consecutive year too, another guest wouldn’t make a difference at all. The Jeons were the definition of the more the merrier. Jimin would be welcomed with open arms, all he had to do was ask.
Except, he couldn’t.
Inviting Jimin over to his house meant Jimin meeting his family, meant Jimin learning who he really was. He’d have to admit to lying and he was too much of a coward to do that, he couldn’t. Jimin would think he was just a pathetic excuse of a guy, probably would tell him to go fuck a cactus and never show himself to him again and Jungkook wouldn’t blame him for it. And on top of that, he’d have to tell his family and his mother would be so disappointed. It was the dick way to go, but Jungkook had dug himself too deep to crawl up by himself, so instead of coming clean, he did nothing.
They finished their drinks with small talk. The wind had picked up since they first walked inside the coffee shop, making them tie their scarves tighter around their necks. There was a split second as they were saying goodbyes Jungkook almost gave in, his stomach shrinking at his own cowardice, but then Jimin waved and turned around.
Jungkook stood there until he saw the blond turn a corner and disappear, and then some more time after that. He was stuck between wanting to cry and punch himself. He couldn’t do the latter by himself but he did a lot of the former in his room that night, just proving that he was, in fact, a pathetic mess and Jimin deserved better.
❆ ❅ ❉ ❆ ❅ ❉ ❆ ❅ ❉
Jungkook ended up spending the following days drowning in self-pity.
It was the twenty-third. The snowstorm had moved on from the city overnight, leaving the streets covered in fluffy pristine white sheets. The sky was gloomy and the world around him seemed to match his pathetic mood. He kicked some kid’s snowman out of spite on his way home from the gym. Happiness sucked.
(He regretted it twelve seconds later. He ran back to build an even bigger one to make up for it.)
“There you go, Mr. Snowman,” he mumbled under his breath, taking off his scarf and putting it around the doll’s neck. “I’m sorry I took my anger out on you. Not cool, man.”
Jungkook gave the snowman one last look before leaving, shoving his hands even further down his coat pockets and praying none of his neighbors had witnessed his piteous act.
His mood had improved a tiny bit by the time he reached his front porch. It was late in the morning and the windows were all open, which meant the rest of his family had woken up during his trip to the gym. Christmas was just around the corner and his mother kept finding new things to do, leading Jungkook and his brother to find new excuses. There were only so many impromptu caroling trips a man could join before he lost his mind. He was dreading whatever waited for him behind that door.
He noticed it as soon as got his keys. There was a mistletoe attached to their wreath that wasn’t there when he left. He furrowed his brows at it, wondering just what the purpose of that was since absolutely no one would be crouching under the door handle, but he only shrugged and walked in.
Two steps into his living room and he understood why there was a mistletoe on the wreath. There was mistletoe everywhere.
Above every door, at the top and bottom of the stairs, over the couch, over the tree, over the television, the windows, the picture frames. He couldn’t take a step without being within a radius of at least three different branches. Not even the other house-plants had escaped the attack.
Jungkook walked slowly towards the kitchen, where he found his mother tying another mistletoe to the chandelier lamp and his dad watering the row of succulents with a medicine dropper. Those, too, had tiny little bits of mistletoe.
“What in the good name of fuck,” he said, taking his coat off. “Is going on here?”
“Oh, honey, welcome home! I didn’t hear you come in,” she climbed down the small ladder and dusted her pants. “I was thinking we could make something easy for lunch today. How about some pasta?”
Jungkook blinked. “Fine by me.”
“Perfect. Your father and brother are going to pick Haeun from the train station after lunch. You and I can start getting the house tidy for tomorrow.”
“Sure, sounds good.” He stood in place as she looked through the cabinets and his dad gathered ingredients. “I’m sorry, is no one going to mention the fact that our family single-handedly purchased the entire Korean stock of mistletoes?”
“Oh, these old things!” She waved her hand around. “The market was having a sale. Do you like them?”
Jungkook looked up, to the one directly above his head. “I have a really bad feeling about this.”
“Don’t be silly, honey,” she walked over and he had to lean down so she could give him a little peck on the cheek. “You can never have too many kisses, right?”
He sucked in a breath. “Right.”
“Good boy,” Mrs. Jeon patted his head before turning around. “Now, you go upstairs to take a shower while I get started on the sauce.”
It wasn’t like he has much of a choice, so he did as he was told. He spotted at least fifteen separate mistletoes on his way to his room. There was one above the showerhead, but he took that one right off because that was a line he didn’t want to see any of his relatives cross, thank you very much.
He ran into his dad on his way back to the kitchen and got a forehead kiss. He tried not to squirm because he loved his dad, even if he wasn’t the biggest fan of smooches. They had their lunch together, mostly in quiet, save for occasional bickering between the boys. Junghyun would take any opportunity to throw himself over the table and drool all over Jungkook’s face, and then had the nerve to call it a brotherly kiss. It happened again while Jungkook was doing the dishes, and again before his dad could start the car.
“Will you stop being gross!” Jungkook snapped, shoving his hand on Junghyun’s face to push him away, “Get off of me!”
“What’s the matter, little brother?” His brother was anchored around his neck, trying to pull him down with him. “It’s a well-loved Christmas tradition!”
“You’re not even kissing me, you’re just licking my face!”
“That’s because I love you!” Junghyun smiled, fighting to pinch his cheeks. “This is how I show love for my family!”
“Oh, yeah? How are you going to like it if I drool all over your girlfriend when she gets here?”
Luckily, before Junghyun could say something that would surely scar them for life, Mrs. Jeon took pity on him. “Leave him be, darling. He’s been feeling down all week.”
Junghyun took a step back, wiping the spit from his mouth. “Yeah, why is that?”
“Absolutely none of your business.” He huffed. He felt gross and violated. “These mistletoes have to go, mom.”
They didn’t, obviously. If anything, even more mistletoes ended up being added to the household while his father and brother were out.
The trip to the train station and back lasted a little over two hours, giving Jungkook and his mom enough time to start with the cleaning. Mrs. Jeon was going all out, too. Dusting shelves and taking the fancy towels for the downstairs bathroom, which was highly suspicious. Haeun had been at the house multiple times, she knew what they were like, no need to go through so much trouble to pretend they were civilized. She was dating Junghyun, after all. It didn’t make sense to him, but his mother was happily humming along with the winter holiday playlist, and who was he to spoil her fun?
If he thought he would be free of kisses from Junghyun’s girlfriend, he was beyond mistaken. The first thing Haeun saw after walking inside the house was Jungkook. The second was the mistletoe above his head. Haeun greeted him with a tight hug and a cheek kiss, saying how much he’d grown (he hadn’t) and how much more handsome he looked (he did). Her hair was shorter than it was last year and her glasses made her eyes look more sparkly. She was sweet and kind and far too good for Junghyun. He said so, the same way he had been doing ever since he first met her all those years ago, but like always, she only laughed as if she thought he was joking (he wasn’t).
Mrs. Jeon sent the young couple upstairs, claiming that Haeun needed to rest because of her long trip, and they didn’t see the two of them until dinner. They went to a traditional place across the street from Jungkook’s old high school and thanks to some sort of Christmas miracle got a table without having to wait gingerly by the bar. The food tasted delicious enough to distract his mind from Jimin, but the thought kept lingering.
Between Haeun giving them life updates and Mr. Jeon’s funny anecdotes, his mother would send him concerned, questioning looks. He shook his head to let her know it wasn’t the time, so she left him be. She did, though, go into his room later that night to give him a cup of hot cocoa and tuck him in.
He tried really hard not to cry after he heard the door closing but wasn’t very successful.
His mood improved as the new day came. He was woken up by the unmistakable smell of pancakes and cheerful chatter coming from downstairs.
The morning of Christmas Eve brought a much bigger festive spirit into their home than Jungkook thought possible. He got more kisses from his parents and got tackled into a double hug by his brother and Haeun, which made him giggle. He didn’t want to ruin the happy mood with his glooming, so he played along to all the little Christmas things throughout the day. They had plenty of food to prepare and T.V. specials to watch, busy afternoon ahead of them.
The party officially started officially sometime after four p.m. His mother gathered them all in front of the Zombie Tree (as it was being called) and handed over small packages to each person. They all opened their wrappings to find absurdly hideous Christmas sweaters, all of them matched in pairs. Well, except Jungkook’s. He tried not to feel too sad to be the only person with a single sweater, but it was inevitable.
His parents had a set of Mr. and Mrs. Claus, Junghyun and Haeun each had a silly-looking reindeer, and all he had was a sock full of coal with ‘naughty’ written on it. Unsurprisingly, his brother made fun of him, forcing Mrs. Jeon to send them all upstairs to get ready before the two of them enrolled on their traditional Christmas wrestle.
It wasn’t long until Jungkook was comfortably sitting by the fireplace nursing a mug of eggnog, watching over as his dad and Haeun played a match of chess. She was good, better than Jungkook and Junghyun combined, and it was highly entertaining to watch his dad struggling each time his pieces got eaten. His mother was busy taking pictures of the gifts under the tree, directing Junghyun to move them to a more aesthetically position each shot she took. The atmosphere was cozy and happy and all Jungkook could think about was Jimin.
He wondered what he was doing right now. He knew for a fact that Little Little would close early on Christmas Eve, so Jimin was likely at home or with friends. He wanted to text him, check if he had company, if he had enough food, but he didn’t even have his number. Sure, he knew Jimin’s Instagram, but to contact him that way he would have to use his real handle that had his real name and that wouldn’t end up good for anybody.
All he could pray for was that Jimin had other friends who didn’t suck as bad as Jungkook and that he wasn’t going to be alone for the night. He sighed, sinking deeper into the couch, his Naughty sweater mocking him. He was the worst human alive. Maybe he should get coal from Santa this year. On his face. Thrown at high speed. He deserved it.
Jungkook was two seconds away from crying on his mother’s lap about how shitty of a person he was when the doorbell rang.
Well, that was weird. They weren’t expecting anyone, were they?
Mrs. Jeon got up from the ground and raced towards the door as if she had been expecting it to ring. Jungkook turned to his brother and sent him an inquisitive eyebrow raise, but Jungyun only shrugged. His dad seemed to be lost, too, although it could be because of the sudden capture of his king by the skilled hands of Haeun. He couldn’t see the entrance from the couch but he could hear hushed voices coming from the porch, one belonging to his mother, and one not. He didn’t know why but he had a bad feeling about this, the bad kind of bubbling in his stomach.
She walked back towards the living room carrying someone else’s coat and suddenly, it all made sense.
The neverending branches of mistletoe, the obsessive cleaning of the house, his odd half of a set of matching Christmas sweaters, the suspicious lack of mention of his name during the past days, it all made sense.
Right there at the entrance of his childhood home, holding a small suitcase and a cat carrier, was Park Jimin.
His blonde hair was hidden under a black knitted beanie and the tip of his nose and his cheeks were flushed red, probably from the cold wind outside. He had the snuggliest red sweater on and if Jungkook weren’t feeling like throwing up his eggnog, he’d probably be cooing at his cuteness. But instead, he was frozen in place.
Jimin, however, didn’t seem at all surprised to see him. He looked perfectly composed while his mother announced his arrival, bowing politely to his family as a greeting. Junghyun rushed to his side to shake his hand, saying that it was a pleasure to see him again and proceeding to relieve him of his suitcase and carrier, placing both carefully by the dining table. Haeun and his father got up as well, both greeting Jimin as if they were good acquaintances, Haeun going as far as giving him a hug.
Jungkook stood up abruptly.
Mrs. Jeon turned to him with the most innocent expression she could muster. “Oh, how could I forget!” She placed a hand on Jimin’s shoulder, lightly guiding him further into the living room. “This right here is my son! He’s been looking forward to meeting you!” She then looked at Jungkook, and the glint in her eyes was unmistakable. “Honey, this my dear friend from the book club I’ve been telling you about, Park Jimin.”
Jimin’s eyes were locked to his. He didn’t look mad, he didn’t look confused, and he sure as hell didn’t look like the mess Jungkook was certain he was at that moment. He felt like the ground had disappeared from under his feet. He was too shocked to react. His mouth was open, but no words were coming out.
“Jungkook, is it?” Jimin smiled, offering his hand for a handshake. “I’ve heard so much about you, I’m so glad we could finally meet.”
Jungkook stopped functioning. He blinked, several times, but even through his blurred vision he could still make up Jimin’s outlines, and he wasn’t disappearing. This wasn’t a dream, he wasn’t delusional. This was real life and Jimin was standing in front of him, in front of his family, calling him by his real name.
His hand moved automatically, his body working on reflex while his brain was stuck. Jimin’s hand was warm and strong, the squeeze at the end feeling rather familiar.
The words came out of his mouth without him willing them to. “Me too.”
Jimin raised an eyebrow at him, almost challenging. His smile was cunning but his stare was unreadable. The tension in the living room was almost palpable. Through his peripheral vision, he could see that his mother was watching them carefully, trying to read between the lines. If he didn’t know any better, he’d say she was holding her breath, too. He didn’t dare to break eye-contact with Jimin, looking for some sort of sign of how he was feeling, what he thought of all of this. He found nothing.
Jimin finally let go of his hand. Jungkook felt his soul being quickly pulled back to his body.
Mrs. Jeon got in between them to reclaim the baker’s attention, leaving Jungkook to take a few steps back. His head was spinning and he was sure it wasn’t because of the eggnog. He felt dizzy, letting his hand reach behind him until he found the armrest of the couch for leverage. From across the room, he noticed Haeun had her eyes trained on him. She mouthed ‘are you okay’, eyebrows furrowed in worry. Jungkook nodded slowly.
His mind wasn’t going fast enough to keep up with the events ahead of him. Jimin was happily conversing with his dad while he opened the carrier and pulled something — Lily — from it. She didn’t look happy from being trapped inside of the carrier for all that time, meowing annoyed at every stranger in the room. Jimin had her in his lap and he was petting behind her ears, humming soft words to calm her down. He said something about a ‘special Christmas outfit’ he had gotten her, but he wanted to give her time to get used to the new environment rather than subjecting her to more stress.
Junghyun returned to the living room (Jungkook hadn't even noticed he left) with more eggnog and a brand new mug for Jimin in one hand, and a bowl with water for Lily in the other. He gave the cat some space, reaching for his suitcase instead and pulling small wrapped packages from inside. He watched as his mother helped Jimin place them under their three from beside the fireplace, still unmoving.
“Careful with the zombie tree,” Junghyun said, his arm around Haeun’s waist. “It's ugly as hell and it will sting you.”
“Noted.” Jimin giggled. “Why do you have it if you think it's ugly?”
“Jungkook picked it, why don't you ask him?”
Jungkook turned to his brother with the speed of burning betrayal. Junghyun had a wicked grin and absolutely no regret but at least his girlfriend had the decency to hide her amusement. When he turned back to Jimin, the blond had made himself comfortable on the ground, legs crossed and knowing smirk.
“Um,” Jungkook gulped. He most certainly couldn't say that the real reason he bought the ugly tree was because he had gay panicked at the mention of Jimin. “These trees never get chosen, they just end up getting destroyed. I wanted to do something nice.”
Jimin’s smirk lifted slightly. “For the tree?”
“Yeah,” he sighed. Why not? There was no way Jimin could think he was more pathetic than he already did. “It looks like shit, you can say it.
“Actually,” he smiled fully. Jungkook's tummy felt heavy again. “I think it's endearing.”
He didn't have to look to know that his brother was mimicking throwing up behind him. His ears were burning and the pounding of his heart was deafening. Their staring deeply into each other's eyes was interrupted by Mrs. Jeon. She kneeled beside Jimin and pulled one of the packages from under the tree, placing it on his lap.
“I think you look very handsome, so don't take this personally,” she said, sounding a bit anxious. “It's a family tradition that we all must be wearing ugly sweaters together, so I got you one!”
Jimin opened the package carefully as the rest of them watched in silence. Jungkook had a wild guess of what would be coming out of there, but he still prayed he was wrong. The baker took one look at the sweater and laughed. He thanked Mrs. Jeon earnestly, declaring that he loved it and that he would put it on right away. He left to change in the bathroom and when he came back, Jungkook cursed himself for always being right.
His sweater looked exactly like Jungkook’s, only instead of coal his sock had gifts and instead of ‘'naughty’ it read ‘nice’.
Jungkook couldn’t hold it in anymore. He ignored the teasing sneers coming from his brother and turned around. He excused himself with a murmur and left the room the fastest he could without running.
His legs took him up the stairs and to his room. Jungkook was scared that he might trigger an anxiety attack, and he needed to calm down. He closed the door making as little noise as possible and leaned his back against it. He took a couple of deep breaths, giving his own brain time to reboot. Everything was happening too fast, his mother had absolutely no boundaries, he was an absolute dumbass. But those things he already knew. The thing that didn't add up was Jimin. Why was he acting as if everything was normal?
There was a knock on the door, startling him.
Jungkook rubbed his face with his hand. “I’ll be right down, mom.”
“It's not mom.”
The voice really wasn’t his mother's. It was Jimin's. Well, then. There was only one thing left to do, he couldn't hide inside his bedroom forever. He counted to ten and opened the door, taking one last deep breath for courage.
“Hi there,” Jimin smiled like he had many other times. “Mind if I interrupt your little meltdown?”
Jungkook swallowed, grip tightening on the handle. “I can explain.”
The blond took a step forward, “I think I figured it out by myself.” His tone was still playful, though. “Thanks, sweetie.”
He wasn't sure of how to react. Jimin was pacing around his childhood bedroom, looking around without paying much attention. His knuckles were starting to hurt from the force he was using to ground himself through the door. He closed it but didn't move from the corner. The more space between him and Jimin, the better. He even considered if he should turn the lights on, but he didn't. There was enough light coming from outside for him to make out the other’s features.
“I'm so, so sorry,” he blurted. The words made his chest feel constricted. “I'm so sorry I lied to you, I shouldn't have. You have every right to hate me, despise me, yell at me. I deserve it. I'm the scum of the Earth.”
Jimin stopped to watch him. “I'm not going to yell at you.”
“Throw things? You can totally throw things at me if you want.”
“Nope, not throwing anything either.”
His arms were flopping around his sides, so he hugged himself. God knew he needed it. Jungkook bit his lower lip. “Hit me?”
“No, I won't.” Jimin breathed down a laugh. He took a couple of steps towards him. “Jungkookie, it's okay. I’m not mad.”
Well. Add that to the list of never-ending surprises of the night. “You’re… not?”
Another step closer. “You know, I thought I’d be at least a little upset, but you make it really hard to hold a grudge.” He smiled softly. “You’re just so cute and stupid. No offense.”
Jungkook blinked. Several times. “None taken, I really am. I still don’t get it.”
“Sweetie, you were doing a horrible job.” Jimin cocked his head to the side. “Who uses a fake name and then pays with a credit card?”
“Oh, no,” he slid down to sit on the floor. Jimin joined him, their shoulders brushing.
“I called you Jungkook at least four times,” he laughed. “You didn’t even notice.”
He really hadn’t. Jungkook couldn't even remember when it happened. He pulled his knees to his chin and buried his face between them. “I can't believe this. I really am the dumbest person on Earth.”
“You see, I already knew what you looked like.” Jimin’s voice was very soft. “Your mom showed a lot of pictures. I recognized you the second you walked in.”
Jungkook felt the same old wave of embarrassment from when his mother first mentioned Jimin, but he had bigger issues than that right now. “Why didn't you say anything?”
“You were cute,” he shrugged. “I wanted to play along.”
He was cute, Jimin said. From all the things that happened to him today, that was what Jungkook decided to hold on to. He felt his cheeks warm and high-fived past Jungkook for not turning the lights on. Maybe it wasn't so bad after all. Jimin knew the truth, and he wasn’t mad, and he thought he was cute. He was getting optimistic, even, but then he remembered that they were wearing matching sweaters and why. A cold shiver ran through his bones.
“Listen, about my family,” he started, still refusing to face Jimin. “I'm sorry my mom kept trying to set us up, and I'm sorry about my brother. They can be a little overwhelming.”
“I mean, really overwhelming. They're horrible.”
“Hey, look at me.” Jimin placed his hand over his. Jungkook turned his head, heart stuck in his throat. “You don't have to worry about it. I like them.” Jungkook couldn't see much in the dark, but he could see the familiar curve of his lips. “And I like you.”
Jungkook stuttered through his words. “I like you, too.”
“That's good,” he squeezed his hand. “You ready to get back down there?”
He wasn't. He'd much rather just spend the rest of the night holding hands with Jimin in the dark. What he didn't want was his mother to come knocking and find them, so that was the only reason he agreed. Jimin stood first and used their still joined hands to pull him up with him. They let go of each other, much to Jungkook’s health and sanity, and headed downstairs.
It's better than expected. Aside from the very meaningful look his mother sent their way when both of them walked into the living room together, the teasing was rather tame. His dad seemed to be far too enamored with the cat to pay them any mind and Junghyun had a girlfriend to keep him distracted.
As for his nerves, Jimin's soothing closeness seemed to be doing wonders now that they were both on the same page. He still had some butterflies in his stomach, but he could live with those. He also kept careful watch of the places he would stop under, mindful of not catching himself under a mistletoe and signing his own death sentence.
After the thirtieth time he got brutally rejected by Lily, Mr. Jeon excused himself from the room, probably to take a nap upstairs. His mother, the goddess of timing, used the opportunity to summon Junghyun and Haeun to help her set the dining table, leaving him and Jimin alone together. They both tried to offer themselves to help too, but she insisted the guest shouldn't do any work, and Jungkook had to keep the guest entertained. She used those exact words, even.
“Yeah, but not too entertained,” said Junghyun as he was disappearing through the kitchen door. “This is a family event.”
Jungkook flipped his brother off but he couldn't be sure if he saw it. It's the thought that counts. He turned to check on Jimin only to find the baker had an amused smirk of his own. Honestly, at that point, Jungkook really had no business being embarrassed so he just made his peace with giving up worrying whether or not his face was burning red. Jimin didn't seem like he minded. He seemed like he enjoyed it, actually, so he might as well just leave it.
He was playing different options of what he might use to entertain Jimin. He considered turning on Netflix to use one of the many cringy Christmas romances they had put out that year as background noise, but the food channel was showing some really delicious-looking cupcakes and he didn't want to offend Jimin in case he wanted to watch that. He also didn't want to offend him by leaving it on, in case Jimin thought he was dropping hints that he could do better. Great, now he's going to learn that not only is Jeon Jungkook a wuss, he's also a lousy host.
The internal turmoil was resolved easily when Jimin found the stack of puzzles his mother had brought from upstairs. He got one of the most festive ones and asked Jungkook if he wanted to help. Truthfully, he had finished those puzzles at least fifty times each, making his help to be more like cheating, so he was more than happy just staying by the couch and watching. As it turned out, Jimin looked extra adorable with his concentration pout, cursing at a piece every now and then for not fitting it right and puffing his cheeks. Jungkook ended up entertained himself.
Jimin was about one-third of the way done with the puzzle when Jungkook felt something poking his side. Lily was her tiny paws on his thigh, moving them slowly to test what she’d do next. He held his breath, worrying that the slightest movement would disturb her and make her leave. He remained perfectly still as Lily used her tiny legs to climb on his thighs, turning around a couple of times to find the perfect spot to lie down. His hand was itching to reach for her and pet her but she looked so cute and soft he didn’t dare. She was purring, her little tummy slowly going up and down. Jungkook wanted to cry.
“You know, she usually doesn’t like strangers,” Jimin commented, reaching to scratch behind her ears. “But she seems to like you.”
Jungkook frowned. “She has questionable taste.”
“Hmmm, I disagree,” the blond smiled. “I think our tastes are quite similar.”
If he was drinking something he would surely have choked. He felt too hot for his sweater. Lily could probably feel how fast his heart was beating. It had been a minute since someone had flirted with him that directly like the baker did. Jimin was going to kill him before midnight, he was sure of it.
He stuttered a couple of nonsenses, making Jimin laugh before returning to his puzzle. Jungkook said nothing else because he couldn’t, and they waited for dinner to be served. Haeun came to collect them not long after, saying that Junghyun had gone to wake their dad up. Mrs. Jeon was waiting proudly by the dinner table, gesturing to them to pick a chair and sit down. Jimin had chosen the one next to her and Jungkook was on his way to get the empty one by his side, but his brother was faster. Junghyun waggled his eyebrows before turning to Jimin.
“Jimin, I couldn’t help but notice that you and I ended up underneath the mistletoe,” he said, pointing to the tiny branch attached to the ceiling light. “I’m afraid I must offer you a kiss.”
The baker looked at the mistletoe with a small smile on his lips, then at Haeun. “Are you sure your girlfriend won’t mind?”
“By all means, kiss away.” Haeun waved her hand, taking another sip of her wine. “Besides, I’m not the one you should be worried about, right Kookie?”
Jungkook narrowed his eyes. Traitors, all of them. “I don’t see how this is any of my concern.”
“Well then,” Jimin smiled. “Go ahead.”
His brother did a dramatic bow and took Jimin’s hand in his and placing a chaste kiss in it. He made a point to also keep eye contact with Jungkook from across the dining table, breaking it only to smile back at Jimin before sitting down. Fucking Junghyun. Jungkook adjusted himself quietly next to Haeun, waiting until everyone was set to kick his brother under the table.
“Moooooom, Jungkook just kicked me!”
Leave it to Junghyun to be a whiny bastard. “I was just stretching!”
“With that much strength?!”
“I work out!”
“Can the two of you behave, now?” Mrs. Jeon pleaded. “We have guests!”
The two of them apologized half-heartedly but agreed on a truce.
Dinner was absolutely delicious, and how it usually goes for Christmas meals, he ended up having too much. Jimin kept throwing compliments at his mom with the smoothness of a snake and she kept getting more and more flustered. Jungkook only sat back and watched in awe. So this is what it looked like to be under the aim of Park Jimin’s flattery. He had this glint in his eyes and his little giggle and it was impossible not to be affected by it. No wonder he was so gone.
Next, they bring dessert. He remembered wondering why his mother dismissed his pestering of where the hell was his flan, and now it all made sense. His dad had stopped at Little Little earlier that day and brought back a beautiful red velvet cake with fresh fruit on top. Jimin had also brought a batch of chocolate muffins carefully decorated with colorful sprinkles. To the surprise of no one, they taste like pieces of paradise. Jimin was more than happy to bask in every compliment sent his way, hiding his giggles with his hands. Jungkook was beyond smitten.
Haeun was the one to suggest they opened their gifts just after dinner. Jungkook, who was mid-taking a nap standing up, got up pretty fast, his brother not far behind. Neither of them heard Mrs. Jeon scold them for being childish, too busy fighting over who got to open their gift first. Calmly sitting around and opening presents in turns had never been the Jeon way. He got some funky socks from Haeun, a wristwatch from his dad, a toaster from his mom (bless her heart), and a Spanish dictionary from Junghyun.
Junghyun winked at him. “I think you mean gracias.”
The rest of the family did the unwrapping much more gracefully. Even Jimin had gotten a present of his own, Mrs. Jeon proudly presenting him with a brand new set of cute outfits for Lily and a nice bag. Jimin, in return, gave her the same book Jungkook helped him pick a few days prior. She loved it, and Jimin sent him a discrete salute.
After his mother was done thanking him for such a thoughtful gift, he started handing each person a glass jar with a bow around it and a few cookies inside it. Needless to say, they were all touched by the gesture.
As the rest of the family were occupied trying to set up Junghyun’s new record player, Haeun’s gift, Jimin softly tapped him on the shoulder, nodding towards the corridor. Once they were both out of everyone else’s view, Jimin pulled a package from behind his back. The wrapping was neat and the label on it said ‘To Jungwoo’. He blinked a few times.
“Is this… for me?”
“I did get it for Jungwoo, but I think he left town.” Jimin shrugged. “You can have it, though.”
Jungkook chuckled. He tried to conceal his excitement and tear the wrapping like a maniac. He had to pretend to be civil now that Jimin was watching him so intently. He pulled from the package a pair of knitted black gloves and a matching scarf. The scarf was long and fluffy and it felt amazingly soft under his touch. The gloves had the fancy finger touch bits on them. He remembered having given up his scarf to a snowman a couple of days ago and the thought made him smile. Maybe Jimin was psychic.
“Merry Christmas,” Jimin whispered.
“Thank you.” Jungkook was at a loss for words. He wasn’t expecting anything from him. “They’re really nice.”
“You have really cold hands. And I thought you were going to look extra cute with the scarf.”
He was pouting now. “I didn’t get you anything.”
“To be fair, you had no idea I was coming.” He smiled. “How about you make me some hot cocoa and we’ll call it even?”
Jungkook mumbked. “I can do that.”
“Okay,” Jimin picked the scarf and wrapped it around his own neck. He looked really snuggly. “Why don’t you go make us some and meet me outside when you’re done?” He turned around to give him a smile over his shoulder. “You can have this back, then.”
Jungkook shook his head, like an idiot.
He waited until Jimin was gone to turn around and stumble towards the kitchen. He was going to walk in there and make the best hot cocoa anyone had ever made in the history of sweet warm drinks. His hot cocoa was going to taste so good Jimin would be crying between sips. He closed the kitchen door behind him only to realize his mother was also there.
Jungkook nodded his head stiffly. “Mother.”
“So, you and Jimin,” she gave him a knowing grin.
Jungkook avoided her eyes and headed to the cabinets. “I have no idea what you're talking about.”
“What, I just meant you two seem to be hitting it off!” She shrugged, rising off some plates. “You're usually quite shy around strangers.”
He sighed. “I've met him before, mom. We've been talking for weeks.”
“Yes, I know.”
Jungkook froze, a mug in each hand. What. “What do you mean, you know? Did Jimin tell you?”
“He didn't have to.” Mrs. Jeon wiped her hands on her apron. “Honey, I know you. You're not at all subtle.”
She pretended to muse for a few moments. “Well, let's just say you pushing Jimin inside a bookstore while you thought I wasn't going to notice was the first clue.”
Damn. Maybe he was as dumb as everyone said he was.
“Don't look so upset, honey. You've finally met Jimin and you like him,” she placed her hand on his shoulder. “This is a good thing!”
“You're right, I do.” Jungkook took a deep breath. “Mom, listen. I'm sorry I was so stubborn and childish before, I should have trusted your judgment.” He knew this apology was a long time coming, but he also knew what he had to say. “I was being a brat, and I paid the price for it.” She was nodding along, rubbing soothing circles on his back and waiting for him to keep going. “But you need to understand something. I'm an adult and I'm perfectly capable of making my own decisions and finding out if I like someone or not. I love you, and I appreciate you looking out for me, but you have to stop meddling with my life. I like Jimin. A lot. I think he might like me, too.” Which was a wild concept, by the way. “I don't know how things are going to go, but I know it's just between Jimin and me, and I need you to respect that.”
Mrs. Jeon studied his face quietly. She never took her hand from him. “I can, honey. I will.” She said finally. “I'm sorry for making you uncomfortable. I'm sorry about Junghyun and your father, too. You're right, we need to learn to give you space and privacy. We love you, we only want you to be happy.”
Jungkook mumbled out a choked-up ‘I love you’ before buried his face on his mother's shoulder so she could hug him properly. He also really didn't want to start crying an hour before Christmas, so he made sure the hug didn't last long, clearing his throat and taking a couple of steps back to place some distance between them. He started gathering ingredients again, reaching first for the things he was certain he would need. Milk, surely. Also chocolate. Was that it? Just warm up some milk and add chocolate? Maybe they had some marshmallows somewhere.
Mrs. Jeon watched him from the sink. “What are the mugs for, honey?”
“Jimin asked if I could make him some hot cocoa.”
“Oh, well. That is certainly none of my business,” she started untying her apron. “I'll leave you to it.”
Jungkook stared at the two mugs filled with milk he had placed inside of the microwave. Something seemed terribly wrong, he could feel it.
“Mom, wait.” Mrs. Jeon stopped in her tracks, eyebrow raised. “Um. Should I heat this? Or do I use the oven? Do I have to melt actual chocolate, or-”
She interrupted his rambling. “You don't know how to make hot cocoa, do you?”
Jungkook pouted at her amused smile. “No,” he whined. “Mommy, please help me?”
Mrs. Jeon rolled her eyes, questioning how on Earth he managed to survive alone in college all year long. Truthfully, Jungkook had a hot chocolate mix he bought at the supermarket ready to go, but he kept that information to himself. He tried to help her as much as he tried to stay out of her way as she got all sorts of ingredients Jungkook wouldn't even have considered to put in a drink, like salt for one. He thought about questioning it but he knew she would not like that, so he said absolutely nothing.
She presented him with two mugs of her special recipe, both decorated with whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles (they were out of marshmallows.) Jungkook thanked her with a kiss on the top of her head and headed outside with the drinks.
The first thing he noticed when he opened the front door was that it was snowing again. Not a storm like the one they had a couple of nights back, only a few snowflakes falling down calmly. The second was Jimin, sitting down by the covered part of the porch and comfortably wrapped around a blanket Jungkook had no idea of where it came from.
He crouched down to join him and was welcomed by Jimin opening his arms and extend the blanket around Jungkook to shelter him from the cold weather. Their sides were touching, Jimin reached for one of the mugs and whispered a quiet thank you against his shoulder. Jungkook knew the wind was freezing, both his and Jimin’s breaths evaporating right before them, but he wasn't feeling cold at all.
Maybe it was just the hot chocolate.
“This tastes amazing,” Jimin said. They were so close Jungkook could feel him move with each word. “Did you make this?”
Jungkook took a long sip of his mug. “My mom helped.”
He hummed. “I'm going to have to ask her to teach me later.”
“I'm sure she won't mind.”
Jimin snuggled himself even closer to Jungkook’s side. His ears were starting to feel numb from the cold but his heart was so warm and beating so fast it was easy to ignore the cold. Jimin was resting his head on his shoulder and Jungkook leaned to rest on his. He never wanted to leave, no matter how many limbs he lost. They both kept drinking in silence.
“You know, I think I changed my mind,” Jimin said, after a while. He pulled himself from Jungkook, but just enough to look at him. “I know what you can give me for Christmas.”
Jungkook turned to face him. “What?”
Rather than answering, Jimin looked up. Jungkook followed his eyes and they lead to the same mistletoe hanging by the light he saw the day before. It looked a bit wrecked by the cold weather, but it was still there. He let his eyes wander back down and found himself facing Jimin again. He was so close he could feel the warm puffs of Jimin’s breath against his skin. Jungkook kept getting surprised at how beautiful he really was. From this proximity, he could see each detail, the shape of his eyes and the curve of his lips. They had come a long way since he first walked into Little Little. He didn't have to pretend anymore. All he had to do was give in.
He brushed the tip of their noses together. “Merry Christmas, Jimin,” he whispered.
“Merry Christmas, Jungkook.”
He had a split second to take in Jimin's eyes one last time before he closed them and leaned in.
At first, it was just like any other kiss. Just a peck, the type you give your partner when you have to leave in the morning when you're in a rush or when you had to kiss a stranger during truth or dare when you were fifteen. It's slow and it's chaste but at the same time it set off a bubbling inside of Jungkook’s stomach, like an ache that caused no pain at all. It made him happy, it made him giddy. He felt like a teenager all over again, hiding from his friends and kissing the first time. He couldn't help but smile.
Jimin must have noticed it because he sighed against Jungkook's lips and something changed.
He took the chance to deepen the kiss, turning his head slightly and let himself be consumed. Jimin brought his hand to his jaw, rubbing his thumb against it before bringing it to rest on his neck. Jimin tasted of chocolate and gingerbread, his lips were soft and his hand sent tiny tingles down his spine with each touch. He felt warm from his toes to the tips of his ears, chasing after Jimin every time he made those low sounds under his breath.
Jimin was real, he was pressed against him and he was real. Jungkook placed his half-empty mug blindingly behind him and turned to adjust into a better position. He wanted to pull Jimin closer, bring him into his lap wrap his legs around his waist. He wanted Jimin to pull on his hair and bite him. He wanted to slide his hands under Jimin’s sweater and let his fingers run through his skin and feel the muscles underneath. He wanted to hear how he sounded like when he was needy, he wanted to make Jimin want him the same way he wanted him.
He couldn't, though. It was almost midnight, they were sitting outside in the cold and his family was just behind that door. He'd have to tone things down for now, but that didn't mean he couldn't do something else.
“Would you,” he breathed between Jimin’s lower lip. “Would you like to go out on a date sometime?”
Jimin pressed their foreheads together. “I would love to.”
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