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They first meet in college, at one of Hoseok's infamous parties.

Jimin doesn't think much of the kid, at first. He's just there to blow off some steam, vibing along to the music on the kitchen counter, sipping on his lukewarm beer with barely-concealed disgust. Hoseok tries to coax him into the dance circle he's created in the middle of the cramped apartment, but Jimin just smiles and shakes his head; dance practice had sucked all his energy out of him, and he really can't do much more than sit and watch his friends make fools of themselves. Not that he minds, of course. It's one of his favorite past-times.

"Jiminie!" Taehyung shouts from somewhere to his right; Jimin turns to find him stumbling through a group of people crowding the hallway, a dazed grin lacing his lips as he finally grabs onto Jimin's sleeve. His breath smells like straight-up tequila. "What're you doin' here all by yourself? Be social, make new friends! C’mon!"

Jimin snorts at his friend's drunken antics. "I have friends, dummy. You're one of them, remember?" He boops Taehyung on the nose, laughing when he goes cross-eyed trying to focus on Jimin's finger. "I'm just tired, TaeTae."

Taehyung pouts a bit, leaning against Jimin's shoulder. "It's not as fun without you," he mutters. "Hoseokie-hyung is kickin' everyone's ass out there. We need you to keep him humble, y'know?"

"I don't know about that. I think you do a very convincing rendition of the single ladies choreography."

"You're just saying that so you can get blackmail material," Taehyung scoffs, shoving himself away from Jimin's shoulder. He points an unsteady finger in Jimin's face, right between the eyes. "I'm onto you, buddy."

"Sure," Jimin drawls, barely restraining himself from rolling his eyes when he catches sight of Namjoon weaving through the crowd, dragging some guy he doesn't recognize with him by the hand. He frowns, confused; Namjoon's never mentioned anything about bringing a date tonight. "Namjoon-hyung!"

Namjoon halts immediately, almost running straight into a girl carrying a handful of shots. She maneuvers her way around him at the last second, shooting him a dirty look as she joins her friends on one of the couches; Jimin almost loses it at the pure embarrassment written all across Namjoon's face.

"Hyung, your face," Jimin cackles when Namjoon finally reaches them, mysterious guy in tow. "You looked like you were about to fling yourself into another dimension."

"That's physically impossible," Taehyung pipes up, slurring a bit.

"Debatable," Namjoon sighs, pinching Jimin's arm when he tries (and fails) to stifle his giggles behind his sleeve. "Stop laughing, you brat! That was all your fault, anyway. What do you want?"

"Oh, testy," Jimin snickers. His eyes shift to Namjoon's friend, quietly watching them all interact with big, curious eyes. He looks a little young compared to Namjoon's other hook-ups. A little too innocent, too. "I can't say hello to my favorite hyung and his cute date?"

Namjoon's face scrunches up like he's eaten something sour. "Date? God, no. This is Jungkook, my little step-brother. He's a freshman. I'm just trying to get him out of the confines of his cell-block dorm room for once." He eyes Jimin suspiciously. "He's got a boyfriend back home, so don't even think about it."

Jimin holds his hands up in defense. "I wasn't!"

"Sure, Jimin."

"Wow, I'm hurt. You really have no faith in me."

"Of course not. I know exactly what those little shifty eyes mean."

"It's nice to finally meet you, Jungkook!" Taehyung cuts in, extending his hand with a huge smile. Jungkook stares at it for a moment before taking it in his own, shaking it firmly once, twice. "Namjoon-hyung talks about you a lot. Like, a lot a lot. He's real proud of you."

"Really?" Jungkook blurts out, eyebrows nearly hiking up to his hairline. He turns to Namjoon, who's turning tomato-red and slapping Taehyung in the thigh. "That's cute, hyung."

"Yeah, yeah," Namjoon sighs, bending down to grab a couple beers out of the cooler, and hands one to Jungkook. "Drink responsibly, alright? Don't overdo it like last time."

Jimin instantly perks up. "Last time?"

"He vomited all over my bathroom door while I was pissing," Namjoon says flatly. Jungkook shrinks into himself a little. "It was like a waterfall, Jimin. It just wouldn't stop dripping —”

"Alright!" Jungkook squeaks. "That's not fair, hyung! I was just, y'know, young and reckless —"

"This happened literally two months ago, Jungkook."

"Oh, c'mon, hyung. Let him be," Jimin laughs, patting a flustered Jungkook on the back. He can feel those big eyes boring into the side of his head, but Jimin wills himself not to look. "Everyone starts somewhere, right? I was practically married to my toilet in the beginning."

"At least you made it to the toilet," Namjoon mutters into his beer. Jungkook sputters beside Jimin, and Namjoon gives him the I'm watching you fingers. "I'm serious, Kook. Pace yourself, or I'm making you clean up your own mess next time."

"Yes, hyung.”

"Enough of that," Taehyung says airily, waving a dismissive hand. He slings an arm around Namjoon and starts dragging him to the dance floor against his will, if the expletives flying out of his mouth are any indication to go by. "Let's dance! Hoseokie-hyung, you've got a new challenger!"

Hoseok stops mid-spin, lighting up instantly when Taehyung unceremoniously shoves Namjoon into the circle, flopping tree-limb arms and all. Jimin almost falls off the counter with the force of his laughter, head knocking lightly into Jungkook's arm as he does. High-pitched giggles sound from beside him; Jimin straightens himself and finds Jungkook watching Namjoon, smiling so hard the corners of his eyes crinkle as he laughs. It's cute.

"I don't think I introduced myself before," Jimin says once he calms down enough to speak. He smiles when Jungkook turns to him, and offers his hand. "I'm Jimin, junior in the dance department. Namjoon and I met in my music elective my freshman year."

Jungkook nods and shakes his hand. Jeez, this kid's got a firm grip. "Yeah, I've seen you in pictures. Hyung says you're really good at ballet."

Jimin snorts. "I haven't done ballet in a long time. He just doesn't know the difference between that and contemporary, but I guess I can't blame him. They're really similar to anyone who's not familiar with dance."

“Really?” Jungkook asks, those big round-eyes turning curious. It’s insanely adorable, all childlike innocence. “How so?”

“Well, I like to explain it like this — ballet is like fine-dining, while contemporary is like an international buffet. It’s just more strict and technical than contemporary, and while it does lay the foundation for a lot of dancing styles, it’s definitely not the same.”

“Huh,” Jungkook hums, nodding to himself. His bottom lip juts out in a little pout as he scratches his chin. “Interesting. So it’s like the framework of a house, basically.”

“More or less,” Jimin agrees, shrugging. He watches Jungkook crack open his can of beer and take a small sip, mentally reminding himself to watch out for the kid, tonight. Namjoon’s a little… preoccupied, currently trying to imitate the shoot dance with Taehyung and Hoseok in the middle of the circle. Jimin really wishes his phone hadn’t died an hour ago — this was perfect insta-story material. “So, Jungkookie — tell me about you, hm? Namjoon’s told us how hard you work in school, but what about everything else? Besides that puke story, of course.”

Jungkook almost chokes on his beer, sputtering out more excuses with a reddened face. “He was exaggerating, I swear!”

Jimin just laughs, infinitely amused at how easily Jungkook gets flustered.

They stick together like glue for the rest of the night, just talking and making fun of everyone’s sloppy, drunken behavior. As it turns out, they have a lot more in common than Jimin would’ve thought — they easily lose themselves in conversations about their mutual love for music, the best books they’ve read, their endless fascination about the stars that line the skies and the creatures that may or may not exist in the planets among them. They’re both quite curious, Jimin realizes. Hungry for knowledge, for exploring the unknown, for — something more.

By the time the party’s finally winding down and everyone’s heading out the door, they’re still wrapped up in a paradoxically deep conversation about self-discovery and ambition on Hoseok’s tiny balcony. Jungkook’s words are slurring together a bit, three empty cans of beer sitting on the floor between them, shoulders snuggled up in Jimin’s jacket.

“ — it’s just, I think it’s weird how no one really acknowledges that nobody knows what they’re doing. We’re expected to know what we want from our lives when we’re — what, like eighteen? Seventeen? That’s some hot bullshit if you ask me.”

Jimin laughs, shifting to a more comfortable position in his chair. “We’re all kind of winging it, aren’t we? I can’t tell you the amount of people I’ve met that seem like they’re put-together, but in reality, they’re just like — I have no idea what I’m doing with my life, either. I guess it’s just like… you pick one thing that you’re good at, do that for another fifty years and try not to die.”

Jungkook snorts. “Good thing I have no idea what I’m good at, then.”

“Namjoon-hyung says you’re good at a lot of things.”

“That’s the thing though, isn’t it? Jack of all trades, master at none.” He sighs. “It’s why I’m still undecided. I just don’t know. Like, if I really think about it, I’m not sure if I want to spend my life doing just one thing I’m good at, or that I like doing. I wish there was enough time to do everything.”

“Careful, there. Don’t throw yourself into an existential crisis,” Jimin says through a teasing smile.

Jungkook smiles right back at him, rolling his eyes. “Kind of too late for that, don’t you th—”

“What the — you guys are still out here?”

They both turn around to find Hoseok leaning against the open door, bleary-eyed and looking like he’d just been assaulted by the spinning brushes at a car wash. Behind him, a similarly-disheveled Namjoon peers down at them over his shoulder.

“Yeah? What, is the party — oh,” Jimin mumbles, cutting himself off at the realization that the apartment is close to being completely empty. He hadn’t even noticed. “It is over.”

“Been over for like, thirty minutes,” Hoseok snorts, running his hands through the disaster that is his hair. “We’ve been looking everywhere for you. Taehyung already got a cab and left — he thought you were gone hours ago, Jimin.”

Crap. He’d probably texted Jimin but his phone’s been dead. He hadn’t brought any extra money with him, either — they were planning on leaving together, and he’d paid for ride over here. Their apartment was twenty minutes away. “Uh, anyone got any extra cash on them? I promise I’ll pay you back.”

“Just stay here for the night,” Hoseok says through a tired yawn, already turning to head back inside. “I’ll take you back in the morning.”

“C’mon, Kook. We’ve got to head out,” Namjoon says, nudging his head towards the door. He takes a brief glance at his watch, frowning as he does. “Shit, it’s almost two in the morning. Let’s go.”

“Okay,” Jungkook agrees easily, lowering his feet from where they’ve been propped up on the railing. He hefts himself up, yawning as he stretches all his limbs out lazily like a cat.

“Get home safe,” Jimin murmurs, patting Jungkook on the arm. He looks back at Namjoon. “See you on Monday for lunch?”

“Sure thing,” Namjoon says, bumping his fist with Jimin’s before he heads back inside.

“Night, hyung. I’ll see you around,” Jungkook mumbles, offering Jimin a sleepy smile as he turns towards the sliding door — but he stops halfway through, suddenly turning back with widened eyes like he’d just remembered something. “Oh, hold on — your jacket. Here —”

Jimin reaches out to grab his arm, stopping him from pulling it out of the sleeve. “Just keep it for now,” he says when Jungkook gives him a confused look. “I’m staying here, so you’ll need it more than me. Just give it back whenever, okay?”

“Are you sure? It’s fine, hyung’s car is warm —”

“Just take it, Kook. It’s not like I’m gonna die without it.”

Jungkook still looks unsure, but slips his arm back through the sleeve, regardless. “Okay, then. Thanks,” he mumbles with a sheepish grin, snuggling his face further into the soft leather collar. Jimin can’t help but smile at the action, something akin to affection blooming throughout his chest; the kid is just too damn cute. “I’m really gonna go, now. Goodnight, Jiminie-hyung.”

He steps back inside with a little wave thrown over his shoulder. Jimin just watches him go, laughing at the little hop in his step as he walks over to where Namjoon’s waiting by the front door. Just before the door shuts, Jungkook glances over his shoulder one last time — and when he catches Jimin’s eye, smiles and gives him a little peace sign over his eye before he’s gone.

This isn’t nearly close to how Jimin thought the night was going to pan out, but as he stares up at the pitch-black sky, warmth flooding his veins despite the chilled night air — he’s really glad it did.

 

-x-

 

“How long d’ya think until he explodes?”

“A solid forty seconds, I’d say.”

“That’s really specific.”

“Listen, Jungkookie, I’ve been watching him do this for far longer than you have. I have this down to a science.”

Jungkook snorts into his half-finished tea. “This has been going on for that long?”

“A whole four months’ worth,” Jimin sighs, eyes trailing back to where Taehyung’s been trying, once again, to chat up the absurdly hot barista working the counter of their favorite cafe. In fact, Hot Barista’s the only reason they come to this cafe as frequently as they do. The actual coffee’s nothing to write home about, but Taehyung’s determination knows no bounds. “It’s the same thing every single time. He gets through the greetings and ordering just fine, but when he tries to bring up something that isn’t caffeine-related, it’s like he forgets how to speak. Last time he tried to compliment the guy, he said his face reminded him of an alpaca. A fucking alpaca, Jungkook.”

“I guess he didn’t think alpacas are as cute as Taehyung does?” Jungkook guesses, an amused grin stretching on his lips.

Jimin points a finger-gun at him. “Bingo. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Taehyung that embarrassed, which is saying something.”

“True,” Jungkook snickers, giving the pair one last glance before he turns his attention back to his homework sprawled across their table.

Jimin, on the other hand, continues to watch Taehyung flounder for something to say as Hot Barista makes his drink. Honestly, he feels kind of bad for him. Taehyung isn’t normally so nervous around people — actually, he’s more outgoing and friendly than all of their friends combined. Things just change when you actually like someone, Jimin supposes. It must be hard, to be so eager to get to know someone you’re interested in and have nothing go the way you want it to because of stupid nerves. Jimin hasn’t really liked anyone like that in years, so he can’t really say much about it.

But, there’s definitely someone here who can.

“Hey, why don’t you give him some pointers?” he asks, poking Jungkook in the arm. When all he gets is a confused look in return, he adds, “About asking someone out, I mean. You’ve got a boyfriend, don’t you?”

A light flush spreads over Jungkook’s cheeks. “Um, yeah, but I wasn’t the one who asked him out.”

Jimin perks up at this, curiosity piqued. Jungkook doesn’t really talk about his boyfriend, Seungwon, that much — though, to be fair, none of them really ask. It honestly just slips their minds most of the time, considering that the guy’s not physically here to refresh their memory. “Oh, so he approached you first? That’s cute. How’d he do it?”

Jungkook lets out a small, shy sort of laugh, hands coming up to scratch the nape of his neck. “He, uh, asked me to one of our dance festivals in high school. Held up a boombox playing some cheesy love song right outside my window, just like in the movies. It was horribly cliché, but — I wouldn’t trade that memory for the world.”

There’s something fond in Jungkook’s expression, something soft and all marshmallow-gooey. It’s clear that he’s utterly smitten for his boyfriend, and Jimin barely resists the urge to coo at him. He rather likes Jungkook-in-love. It’s nice to see him so happy; somehow, it makes Jimin feel happy, too.

“You should invite him up sometime,” he suggests. An encouraging smile spreads on his lips when Jungkook snaps out of his little lovestruck daze and looks up at him, eyebrows raised in question. “Take him with us to a party or something, whatever you guys want. We’ll all be nice, I swear.”

“Sure you will,” Jungkook snorts, rolling his eyes. He lets out a little sigh, props up his cheek with one hand and taps at his chin with the end of his pencil with the other. “I’ll ask him. He’s always busy working, so it’s kind of hard to get him to even call me sometimes, let alone make the four hour trip here from Busan.”

Jimin frowns, tilting his head. “Jeez, really? What does he do?”

“He’s got two jobs — one’s helping out his parents with their restaurant, and the other’s cashiering at a convenience store.” Jungkook gives a half-shrug with his shoulder, eyes averted down towards the table, tracing the patterns in the wood. “His family doesn’t have a lot of money, so he decided to stay home and help them stay afloat instead of going off to college. It’s just… been hard.”

Jimin just nods, unsure of what to say. This is a complete one-eighty from the lighthearted mood they had going on earlier, teasing an unsuspecting Taehyung about his crush. The soft smile on Jungkook’s face has been completely wiped away, replaced with pursed lips that dimple one of his cheeks and a tiny furrow between his brows as he drifts off in his thoughts. It’s clear that there’s some baggage that’s weighing down on him, but Jimin doesn’t really know if he wants to unbox all of it. Not right now, at least — when they’re in public and surrounded by strangers that don’t really need to eavesdrop on Jungkook’s personal business.

So, he decides not to say anything. Jungkook begins to doodle in the margins of his notebook, mindless little swirls and triangles, thinking so hard Jimin can almost hear his thoughts from across the table. Feeling a little suffocated in the sudden silence, Jimin’s eyes automatically stray back to Taehyung — who’s actually seated by the counter now, smiling widely enough to split his face in two as he talks to Hot Barista. His eyes practically sparkle when Hot Barista laughs at something he says, cheeks glowing with a happy flush.

Jimin’s floored. “I think — I think Taehyung’s actually getting his mack on,” he says, incredulous. Jungkook’s head lifts up from the corner of his eye, but Jimin can’t stop staring at the way Hot Barista playfully smacks Taehyung’s shoulder from behind the counter. “Holy shit. We’re witnessing the miracle of the century here, Kook.”

“Good for him,” Jungkook mumbles, much quieter than before. Jimin glances at him; there’s something melancholy reflected in his dark, dark eyes — something that looks like longing, if he squints. A sinking feeling settles in the pit of his stomach. “He deserves someone who makes him happy. Everyone does — well, mostly. Except for like, serial killers and all that.”

“Serial killers,” Jimin echoes and snorts out a laugh, shaking his head. “Nice.”

Suddenly, Jungkook’s expression brightens a bit as his eyes settle on Jimin. “What about you, hyung? Don’t you have anyone you like?”

He blinks, caught a bit off guard, and shakes his head. “No, not really.”

“Really? Not even a little crush?”

Jimin stares at the mole underneath Jungkook’s lip for a moment. “No, I don’t think so? It’s been a while since I’ve, like, actually been interested in someone for more than hooking up, as stupidly asshole-ish as that sounds.” He shrugs, playing with his fingers in his lap. “It’s not like it’s on purpose. It’s just… I don’t get that feeling, anymore. The butterflies and racing heart and all that stuff. Sometimes I wonder if I’m broken, or something.”

Jungkook frowns a bit. “You’re not broken, Jimin-hyung. People just feel things differently, that’s all.” He gestures between the two of them with his finger. “You and I won’t react the same way if we get scared, or feel sad, or if we suddenly like someone. It doesn’t mean one of us is like, deficient or something if it’s different from how most people feel these things. It’s just — I don’t know, individuality? Something like that. It’s a part of who you are, so don’t feel bad about it.”

He looks so earnest by the end of his little speech, like he wholeheartedly believes in every word he’s said, and wishes nothing more than for Jimin to do the same — and for some inexplicable reason, Jimin feels that all-too-familiar knot begin to form in his throat at the sight. It’s strange. They haven’t known each other for that long, but with Jungkook, he just feels — understood. Without having to say anything aloud, Jungkook just gets Jimin in a way no one else ever has. Not even Taehyung, his self-proclaimed soulmate.

It occurs to Jimin then, that there are some people that you’re just destined to meet in your life. That were always meant to be there. That come into your life when you least expect it, but quite possibly, when you need them most.

Taehyung had been that person, once upon a time; now, it’s Jungkook.

“When did you get so wise? It’s unfair,” Jimin decides to say, voice sounding a bit hoarse. He clears his throat, ignoring the little smirk Jungkook gives him in response. “I’m supposed to the hyung, here. Quit making me look bad.”

Jungkook laughs, nose scrunching up as he smiles. “Get with the program then, hyung. You’ve got some serious catching up to do.”

“Why you little —”

“Guys, I think I just spent the last fifteen minutes in a fever dream,” comes Taehyung’s voice, suddenly; he plops back down in his seat next to Jimin’s, looking utterly dazed with something white clutched tightly in his hand. “I actually got his number. I got the Kim Seokjin’s number. Like, what? Can one of you pinch me, please?”

“Whipped,” Jungkook snickers, grinning when Taehyung lets out a sharp ow! and clutches his injured hand to his chest, pouting at Jimin.

“You didn’t have to do it that hard,” Taehyung mumbles, shoving Jimin lightly with his shoulder.

“You asked for it,” Jimin says with a smile, shrugging. “Now, spill. How in the hell did you manage that?”

Taehyung immediately launches into his story, mouth running a mile a minute with the most exhilarated grin on his face. Jungkook indulges him, attentively listening with a few teasing comments of his own that makes Taehyung swat his hands at him in embarrassment. It’s cute.

Jimin just watches them fool around with a fond smile, feeling that familiar warmth spread throughout his chest, again.

 

-x-

 

Jimin’s the only one who gets to meet Seungwon, two months later.

He and Jungkook decide to head down to Busan together for winter break. Namjoon was supposed to tag along, but he ended up hopping on a plane for a last-minute trip to America, where his old childhood friend Yoongi’s been living for the past five years. He’d offered another ticket to Jungkook, saying that it’d be a nice opportunity to escape the cold weather in Korea and bask in the warmth of Southern California — but Jungkook ultimately declined. Seungwon’s waiting for me at home, he’d explained with a sheepish smile.

Not that he’ll ever admit to it, but Jimin could tell Jungkook wanted to go. He’d been right beside him when Namjoon called; he’d seen the way Jungkook’s eyes lit up with excitement at the idea, only to have that light extinguished when he remembered just who he’d be leaving behind if he left.

Jimin can’t help but bad for him, because while it’s clear that Jungkook really loves and cherishes Seungwon, it’s just — he can see how difficult it is for him, to maintain his long-distance relationship. To miss out on fun things for himself because Seungwon can’t come along. There’s been plenty of times where Jungkook’s stayed home while they’ve all went out to parties so he can skype Seungwon. Times where he misses Seungwon so much that he doesn’t even want to get out of bed, dodging all of their worried texts and calls. Times where he and Seungwon have fought and Jungkook shut himself in his dorm room, refusing to see anybody so he can stew in his own anger in peace.

It’s taking a toll on him, clear as day. Love conquers all, people always say — but sometimes, Jimin wonders if it’s enough.

Jungkook, however, seems excited when they meet up at the train station that night. There’s a sparkle in his eye, a little extra bounce to his step as he runs up to Jimin at the platform, all bundled up in his puffy winter jacket. His leg won’t stop shaking while they wait for the train to arrive, gloved fingers pulling out his phone to show Jimin pictures of his cute little dog, Cloud, that he’ll finally be reunited with after four months.

“He’s a little brat, though,” Jungkook says through a laugh, swiping through his photos to a video of Cloud ripping apart a stuffed lion with a vigor Jimin can only describe as hostile. “He only listens to commands when he wants to, and when he actually does, he just whines the whole time. Like it physically pains him to listen to me. It’s crazy.”

“Reminds me of certain someone,” Jimin hums, mischief lacing his smile; Jungkook scoffs and shoves at his shoulder, mumbling complaints about him under his breath. Cute. “I’m kidding, you big baby. Keep insulting me like that and I’m not gonna share the hotteok I packed for the ride.”

Jungkook’s head immediately snaps up, eyes wide. “Hotteok?” he whispers, almost reverently. “Are they homemade?”

“Uh, duh. Should still be warm, too — I made them, like, an hour ago.”

“Hyung, have I ever mentioned how much I love and respect you? Because I do. You’re the best hyung I’ve ever had, way cooler than Namjoon-hyung —”

“Alright, alright, you don’t need to suck up that much,” Jimin snickers, reaching out to pinch Jungkook’s cheek when he makes little pleading gestures at him. “I’ll share, okay?”

“Yes!” Jungkook whisper-shouts, pumping his fist in the air. Jimin just rolls his eyes, smiling at his friend’s antics.

The train ride is, for the most part, pretty quiet. Jungkook puts himself in a food-coma after stuffing down six hotteok in record time, snuggled into the furry collar of his jacket as he rests his head against Jimin’s shoulder to doze off. His soft hair tickles the skin of Jimin’s neck, warm breath puffing gently across his collarbones; and all at once, Jimin’s suddenly hit with the urge to brush back Jungkook’s fringe and press a soft kiss to his forehead.

Hold on. What the fuck?

Before he can stop it, his own traitorous mind conjures up more images, unbidden — Jungkook, sleep-soft and warm, stirring at the feeling of Jimin’s lips on his skin. Jungkook, blinking up at him slowly, eyes still half-closed; Jungkook, when the realization dawns on him, smiling in the sweet way he always does, pink lips parting just so as he murmurs, you missed my mouth by a long shot, Jimin-hyung.

Fuck. Fuckity fucking fuck.

This can’t be happening. This cannot be happening. It has to be a fluke, like those invasive thoughts people have sometimes while they’re doing something routine and mundane like driving, and they suddenly think to themselves, I could crash into a pole and die right now. It’s got to be one of those, except way less rooted in the realization of his own mortality. Jungkook’s just his friend. He’s never seen Jungkook as anything but his friend, or his cute little dongsaeng that he has to look after. Nothing like — like that.

It’s just a fluke. He’s got a boyfriend, for fuck’s sake — and Jimin is literally meeting said boyfriend in a little under two hours. He can’t be thinking weird things like that.

“Get yourself together,” he mumbles to himself, focusing his attention back to his book and desperately tries to ignore the weight of Jungkook’s body pressed against his side, solid and warm.

 

-x-

 

They arrive in Busan around midnight. Jimin doesn’t feel any less weird by the time Jungkook’s up and pulling their bags out of the overhead compartments, completely oblivious to the inner turmoil going on in his mind.

He definitely doesn’t feel any better watching Jungkook’s entire body light up like a Christmas tree, grinning wildly like a madman as he abandons his bags by Jimin’s feet and breaks off into a run towards the crowd of people surrounding the platform. His head bobs and weaves through the crowd, and though it’s a little hard to see in the dark, Jimin quickly spots him jumping into another boy’s open arms with an excited shout.

It feels weirdly intrusive, like Jimin’s some kind of creepy voyeur as he watches their reunion unfold before him. Jungkook clings to (presumably, and hopefully) Seungwon tightly, letting himself be lifted up and twirled around in circles, tipping his head back in laughter while he yells, I’m getting dizzy, stop it! He shuffles awkwardly on his feet, eyes shifting between them and the ground when Seungwon eventually puts Jungkook back down on his feet, hands cupping Jungkook’s face as he says something to him that Jimin can’t hear. Jungkook nods quickly, toothy smile overtaking his entire face as he reaches up to cover Seungwon’s hands with his own — and then they’re kissing.

Right in the middle of a crowded parking lot without a care in the world.

Jimin averts his eyes, clearing his throat as he picks up Jungkook’s bags and hauls them onto his suitcase. He pulls his phone out of his coat pocket for a distraction, briefly checking for any new notifications — aside from a few about new instagram followers, he’s got only one text from Jihyun: got stuck in mad traffic but dont worry im omw!!!!

Typical Jihyun. Jimin might’ve been infamous among his friends for being perpetually late, but Jihyun’s even worse. Runs in the family, apparently.

“— really want you to meet him. Hey, Jiminie-hyung!”

Jimin jumps a bit in place, head snapping back up — Jungkook’s smiling right at him, slightly out of breath with flushed cheeks and lips a bit more red than they’d been before, dragging someone behind him by the hand. Seungwon.

He’s taller than Jimin thought he’d be, which is a bummer. He looks like he’s got a couple of centimeters on Jungkook, probably closer to Namjoon’s height; bulk-wise, he’s a little on the scrawny side. But more than anything, the first thing Jimin really notices that about him is how unconventionally attractive he is, in the way some high-fashion models are. The sort that have facial features that are just a little bit off, that make you stop and stare at them in the way people admire artwork in a museum. He’s a peculiar sort of angular, high cheekbones and sharp eyes with amber-brown irises, though there’s something very delicate about it all. Reminiscent of mosaic glass, if Jimin’s feeling poetic.

“I’m guessing this is the boyfriend?” Jimin asks, smiling politely and pocketing his phone when they come to a stop in front of him.

“That I am,” Seungwon replies easily, grinning as he extends one of his hands out to Jimin. His voice is deep, though not enough to rival Taehyung’s. “Lee Seungwon. It’s nice to finally meet you, Jimin-ssi. Jungkookie’s always talking my ear off about you.”

Jimin raises a brow as he takes Seungwon’s hand, eyeing Jungkook with suspicion. “Does he, now?”

“Hyung,” Jungkook whines.

“They’re all good things, don’t worry,” Seungwon says with a laugh, scratching the back of his neck. “I just, um, really wanted to thank you for being such a great friend to him. I was kind of worried that he wouldn’t really break out of his shell in Seoul, but I’m glad to see he did.”

“That’s an understatement,” Jimin snorts. “He’s a little too comfortable with me, now. Always mooching food off of me, making jokes about my height, never wants to listen to me…”

“He’s a little bratty, isn’t he?” Seungwon asks in a mock-whisper, eyes glinting with mischief. It reminds Jimin way too much of Jungkook.

“A big thorn in my side, really.”

“You guys know I’m literally standing right here, right?”

“We’re just teasing, babe,” Seungwon laughs, reaching for Jungkook’s hand to thread their fingers together. He glances at Jimin and winks. “Don’t worry, we still love you — even if you’re a handful to take care of sometimes.”

Jungkook squints, eyes flitting between the two of them. “Y’know, I was hoping you guys would get along, but I’m not really sure I like this,” He gestures vaguely between them with his free hand, “At all.”

“Really? That’s too bad,” Jimin sighs in mock-pity. He steps closer and slings an arm around Seungwon’s shoulders, which embarrassingly enough, isn’t all that easy for him to do. “Just when I was thinking Seungwon could be my new best friend. We’ve got so much to bond over, you know?”

Seungwon grins at him. “What a coincidence, I was just thinking the exact same thing. Isn’t that crazy? We’re already on the same wavelength, hyung.”

Jungkook only gives them a withering, flat sort of look. “I’m going to regret this."

 

-x-

 

The three of them end up driving over to a nearby 24-hour joint for a bite to eat while Jihyun takes his sweet time to pick Jimin up. He’d initially refused, insisting that he could take another few minutes waiting out in the cold, but Seungwon wouldn’t take no for an answer. He practically dragged Jimin with them back to his car, still warm and toasty inside from blasting the heat on the drive over. Jimin could almost hear the angels singing as he held up his frozen fingers to the vents, eternally grateful for Seungwon’s stubbornness.

They chat and bond a little over warm bowls of udon and a plate of tangsuyuk. Just as it was with Jungkook, Jimin finds it pretty easy to keep a conversation going with Seungwon; he’s more of a chatterbox than Jungkook, exuding a natural charisma Jimin’s only ever experienced with Taehyung before. He’s just one of those people that others gravitate towards, pulled in like a magnetic field.

Namjoon’s actually told Jimin that he’s one of those kinds of people, too, so. Like dissolves like, he supposes.

It’s also interesting to see how Seungwon and Jungkook interact. They’re not overly affectionate, which doesn’t come as a surprise to Jimin, but there’s little behaviors between them they’re probably not even conscious of that makes it obvious they know each other very well. Like — Jungkook picking out the mushrooms in his soup and transferring it into Seungwon’s bowl without even blinking. Seungwon pouring the sweet and sour sauce onto Jungkook’s portion of tangsuyuk while he’s telling Jimin a story, because apparently Jungkook’s one of those heathens that likes to soak his pork rather than dip it. A fond look exchanged here, a brush of their hands there. Things like that.

It makes Jimin a little sad, watching them. It just makes him almost want something like what they have.

“What’s with the long face?” Jungkook suddenly asks, pulling Jimin out of his reverie. He’s got a small frown on his pouty lips. “You look like you just finished watching one of those sad puppy commercials.”

“God, those are the worst,” Seungwon groans. “I always have to change the channel when they come on. I just can’t take it. It’s impossible.”

“Same,” Jimin quips, propping up his cheek with his knuckles. He sighs. “I don’t know what’s up with me. I guess… like, not to make you guys feel bad, but third-wheeling it with you two really makes me remember how offensively single I am.”

“Hyung, we talked about this,” Jungkook says, frown deepening. “You’ll find someone who’ll make you feel whatever you feel, one day. It just isn’t the right time yet.”

“And what if I don’t?”

“It’s okay if you don’t,” Seungwon says, shrugging. “Not everyone finds The One. Or wants to, for that matter. However you decide to live your life isn’t anyone’s business but your own. Just because something’s more common, doesn’t mean it’s always right.”

Jimin purses his lips, narrowing his eyes at him. “What’s with all you younger gremlins spouting age-old wisdom to your elders? It’s weird.”

“Elders? Are we in the stone age?” Jungkook snorts.

“You know what I mean, you brat.”

“I wouldn’t really call it wisdom,” Seungwon says, a strange sort of bitterness laced in his tight smile. It’s distinctly different from the lighthearted grins he’d been giving out like candy, earlier; something about it makes Jimin’s stomach churn. Makes the air feel just a little bit colder, somehow. “More like perspective. Life just works in funny ways, sometimes.”

“Yeah, I guess it does,” Jimin mumbles, feeling a bit put-out from the sudden shift in mood. Jungkook seems to detect it, too; he squirms a bit in his seat, peering over at Seungwon through his lashes. He doesn’t get much of a response when he reaches to tangle their fingers together on the table — Seungwon just nods mutely when he whispers something in his ear.

Feeling awkward, Jimin turns to stare out the window — only to find Jihyun’s beat-up Hyundai pulling into the parking lot, nearly an hour late. Saved by the bell.

He quickly pulls out a couple of bills and tucks them underneath his empty glass. “Well, my ride’s here. It was really nice meeting you, Seungwon. Maybe we could all hang out over break, sometime?”

Seungwon blinks, then smiles up at him. It feels forced, somehow. “Yeah, sure. Just let us know.”

“Cool.” Jimin turns to Jungkook, who’s staring up at him with something akin to regret. A pitiful feeling settles in his chest; he wishes he could stay, joke around enough to wipe the frown off of his face, but he can’t. Not tonight, but hopefully soon. “See you around, Kook.”

“Later, hyung,” Jungkook mumbles with a little wave. His eyes linger when Jimin gathers his stuff and turns away, walking out the door and into the freezing cold once more.

 

-x-

 

They don’t see each other again for the entire break.

Jimin tries, and tries, and tries. Texts Jungkook almost every single day, asking if he’d like to take a day trip down to the beach, or if he just wants to come over and play some video games by the fire — but each and every time, Jungkook turns him down.

It goes a little something like this:

Jimin 12/20/18, [13:45]:

hey kook :)

u free today?

my mom’s offering us free food if we drop by the restaurant later

 

Jungkook 12/20/18, [14:50]:

ah i really really want to but i cant :(

promised seungwon i’d have dinner at his place

rain check?

 

Jimin 12/20/18, [14:52]:

ofc no prob

just let me know when u can pencil me in lol

 

Jungkook 12/20/18, [14:53]:

lmao shut up

dw i will

 

Jimin 12/22/18, [16:27]:

jungkooooooooook

wanna help me pick out some last minute gifts at the mall

i need a second opinion

 

Jungkook 12/22/18, [16:33]:

[photo attached]

srry hyung kind of busy

 

Jimin 12/22/18, [16:35]:

ok i support ur relationship but dont send half naked pics of ur sleeping bf to me

i couldve gone my entire life without seeing that

or knowing what u were just up to

ttyl

 

Jungkook 12/22/18, [16:35]:

hehe <3

 

Jimin 12/25/18, [00:03]:

merry christmas kookoo!!!!!!!!!!!

ive got smth for u ;)

meet up w/ me later so i can give it to u <3

 

Jimin 12/25/18, [18:34]:

jungkook??

hellooooo

 

Jimin 12/26/18, [22:13]:

are u ok

answer me soon pls im getting worried

Jungkook 12/26/18, [23:20]:

im rlly sorry hyung i got caught up with some stuff :(

merry belated christmas!!! <33333333

its too late now but ill try to step out tmr

i got u something too :^)

 

Jimin 12/26/18, [23:22]:

jesus fuck jungkook u scared me

if ur too busy dw about it

we can exchange gifts on the train next weekend

 

Jungkook  12/26/18, [23:23]:

sorry :( i didnt mean to

are u sure tho?  im pretty sure i can meet tmr

 

Jimin 12/26/18, [23:25]:

‘pretty sure’ isn’t sure kook

its ok it can wait

see u soon, enjoy the rest of ur break

 

Jungkook 12/26/18, [23:37]:

:( ok im sorry

same to u, hyung

 

Which is how Jimin spends most of his break feeling lonely, upset, and a little hurt.

Logically, he knows that Jungkook’s probably got good reasons for bailing on him so much. He doesn’t normally do this, like, ever — in fact, he’s usually the one bugging Jimin to keep him company whenever he’s bored.

But, that was in Seoul.

Here in Busan, it isn’t just the two of them and their friends that are hanging around. Jungkook’s got his family to worry about, and obviously, Seungwon — and Jimin can understand the reluctance to spend time away from them during his first semester break at home. He was a homesick freshman once, too.

It’s just that — well, Jimin thought he’d become an important part of Jungkook’s life, too. At least, important enough for Jungkook to visit even once during the three weeks of freedom they’ve got. Out of all of Jungkook’s relationships with their friends, it’s really no secret among them that Jungkook’s the closest with him. They’ve all teased them about it a bunch of times; how Jungkook follows Jimin around like a lost puppy, always so insistent that he’s the one sitting next to Jimin at dinner, endlessly eager to have all of Jimin’s attention to himself.

And yet, he’s been pretty much ignored by him since they arrived in Busan. No matter how understanding Jimin tries to be, no matter how much logic he uses to soften the blow — it still fucking hurts.

It’s already started, Jimin realizes that night, as he’s staring up at the ceiling of his childhood bedroom. Warm tears trail down the sides of his face, burning like fire; a dreadful lump forms in his throat, thick and hot and miserable. He feels stupid. So, so fucking stupid

Falling for someone whose heart already belongs to someone else.

 

-x-

 

Things are a little… tense with Jungkook, after they return to Seoul for the new semester.

They don’t exchange gifts on the train. They barely even speak to each other, save for an awkward greeting and cringe-worthy small talk. Jungkook fidgets in his seat across from Jimin, not beside him like last time; his knee keeps bouncing up and down while he fiddles with his phone, eyes flickering back and forth between the screen and Jimin’s face. It’s hard to ignore. Anxiety is rippling off of Jungkook in waves, but Jimin resolutely keeps his eyes glued to the window.

Back in the city, they part with a few clipped words. In the week that follows, Jungkook tries reaching out through every avenue possible — texting, social media, even passing on messages through their friends. Jimin doesn’t respond to much of it.

He’d promised himself he wouldn’t be spiteful, but he just needs some time to figure things out. Jungkook doesn’t really understand, which isn’t surprising, because Jimin can’t tell him the reason why he’s suddenly distancing himself. All he sees is Jimin dodging his calls, avoiding him at their group’s usual hangouts, and generally just being a shitty friend.

And in typical Jungkook fashion, he’s blaming himself.

“He thinks you hate him,” Hoseok says one day, while he’s walking with Jimin back to his apartment. He looks tired; a bone-deep sort of exhausted. “For whatever happened between you guys over the break. He won’t tell me, but — it’s hurting him, Jimin. A lot. We can barely get him out of his room to do anything.”

Jimin squeezes his eyes shut for a moment. This isn’t what he wanted, but inevitably, it’s what happened. “I don’t hate him, hyung,” he says, quiet. “I could never hate him. I’m just — confused.”

Hoseok frowns. “Confused about what?”

Jimin purses his lips, glancing towards Hoseok as they move around a group of people idling in the middle of the icy sidewalks. “I don’t know, I just — if I tell you, can you please keep it a secret? Seriously. You can’t tell anyone, not even Namjoon.”

“I know what a secret is,” Hoseok says, rolling his eyes. He nudges Jimin with his elbow. “You can trust me, Jimin. You know that.”

Coming to a stop at a busy intersection, Jimin lets out a long breath, watching as it forms a thin, wispy cloud of white in front of him. He nods, more to himself than anything else. “Okay. I’m just… I feel weird, lately. About Jungkook.”

Hoseok squints at him behind his thick scarf. “Weird,” he repeats, flatly.

Don’t give me that look. It’s not — I don’t think it’s the good kind of weird,” Jimin admits, shrugging lightly. He toes at a few chunks of ice scattered near the stoplight. “I just feel… sad, mostly, when I think about him. Freakin’ cried myself to sleep over break because he was ignoring me the whole time for his boyfriend, and I don’t know if it’s just because I miss him as a friend, or if — if I’m —”

“If you like him?” Hoseok offers, raising a brow.

Jimin nods mutely, shame coloring his cheeks.

Hoseok sighs, smiling as he reaches out to pat Jimin’s arm. “Oh, Jiminie. Don’t look so sad — it’s not a bad thing, you know. If you do actually like Jungkook. Honestly, I can’t say that I’m really all that surprised, either.”

Jimin frowns, confused. “What?”

The pedestrian sign lights up in front of them. Hoseok gives him a knowing smile, prodding him forward to cross the street as he says, “I’ve seen the way you look at him, Jimin. We all have. It’s like — you just become so much brighter around him. You smile more and you laugh at like, everything he says even though he’s not that funny. You might’ve not realized it, but I know a crush when I see one. It’s pretty obvious.”

Jesus Christ. Was he really that transparent? “Why didn’t you guys ever say anything?” he asks, incredulous.

Hoseok shrugs. “Wasn’t really our business. Besides, Jungkook’s got a boyfriend. Crushes are all fine and dandy, but I’m not about messing up relationships.”

Something about the way he says this strikes a nerve in Jimin. “I’m not, either,” he snaps, deep frown marring his features. “I never said I wanted to act on whatever this is. I’ve met Seungwon, hyung. I’ve seen their relationship up close, and I’d never try to tear what they have apart. What kind of person do you think I am?”

“I didn’t mean it like that! It’s just… as your friend, I want you to be happy. And if you have a crush on Jungkook, I want you to be happy about that, too. But generally, people aren’t very happy about crushes if they’re not, like, reciprocated,” Hoseok tries to explain, hands moving wildly around his face. “It’s just weird, you know? I’m Jungkook’s friend too, and I want him to be happy in his relationship with Seungwon. It’s like a double-edged sword that I don’t really know how to handle.”

“Well, that makes two of us,” Jimin sighs, rubbing a hand over his face. He feels exhausted talking about this already, and they’ve barely scratched the surface.

Hoseok eyes him warily. “Listen, Jimin. I don’t want you to feel guilty about having a crush, because you shouldn’t. You can’t help what you feel, I get it. But — shutting Jungkook out as your way of dealing with it? That isn’t right. He’s still your friend, and he needs you. So, just… talk to him, Jimin. Please.”

Jimin gnaws on his chapped lips, legs slowing down as he hesitates. Hoseok’s right, and he knows it. He knows it, and yet — for some inexplicable reason, he just feels so fucking scared. Because this stupid, inconvenient little crush he’s got on Jungkook is the first time he’s had feelings for anyone in years, and he already knows how badly it’s going to end. He’s, quite literally, setting himself up for disaster. So, to try to embrace that wholeheartedly, knowing that he’s just going to get hurt in the end — it’s terrifying.

But, he wants to try. He does, because as much as he’s scared of getting hurt — he loves Jungkook even more. So, so much more.

“Hyung,” he says, suddenly halting in the middle of the sidewalk. Hoseok stops a few paces in front of him, frowning in confusion. “Go on without me, okay? I’m… I’m gonna head back and visit Jungkook at the dorms.”

He turns on his heel just as Hoseok begins to smile, brighter than the sun. “I’m proud of you, Jiminie!” he yells after him, absurdly loud enough to draw the attention of a few other people around them.

Jimin doesn’t pay them any mind, hurrying up the sloping road, adrenaline seeping into his veins. He doesn’t know why he feels such an urgency to get to Jungkook right now, but he does; he speed-walks across campus in record time, nearly plowing down a group of girls exiting Jungkook’s building at the same time he’s walking in, silently thankful that he didn’t have to wait in the cold for someone to swipe him in. He’s glad those days are over for him.

He takes the stairs two at a time, praying to every deity up there that he doesn’t fall flat on his face on the way up. His thighs are burning by the time he makes it to the fifth floor, heart racing in his chest and panting lightly, but he makes it in one piece. It’s relatively quiet, surprisingly; Jimin can only hear someone showering as he passes by the shared bathroom, and the low thrum of music from behind another person’s door. Pretty peaceful for a Friday afternoon.

When he finally makes it to Jungkook’s door at the end of the hall, Jimin takes a moment to collect himself. He can do this. It’s just Jungkook, despite everything; he’s always been Jimin’s friend above all else. They’ll talk things out, Jimin will apologize for being an ass, and everything will go back to normal. Hopefully.

Taking a steadying breath, Jimin knocks on Jungkook’s door. He waits one, two, three seconds — and then the knob begins to turn.

The sight he’s greeted with as the door opens makes his stomach drop to the floor like a pile of bricks.

Jungkook stares back at him, eyes glistening with tears, red-rimmed and puffy, cheeks flushed and irritated from how harshly he must’ve been rubbing at them. There’s the smallest bit of snot running from his reddened nose, messy hair covered by the hood of his baggy sweatshirt, lips bitten raw and bleeding in some spots. Behind him, a wasteland of tissues and empty bags of junk food lay all over his unmade bed.

He’s an absolute mess. Jimin has a terrible feeling this isn’t just about him. Not in the slightest.

“Jungkook?” he asks softly, instinctively reaching out towards him. “What’s wrong? What’s going on?”

Jungkook takes in a shuddering breath, bottom lip wobbling as fresh tears trail down his cheeks. His face crumples further, voice sounding horribly hoarse and so utterly broken as he croaks out the one thing Jimin thought he’d never, ever hear.

“Seungwon broke up with me.”

 

-x-

 

Jimin doesn’t really consider himself a violent person, but if someone asked him to, he’d gladly choke out Seungwon with his bare hands.

Jungkook’s sleeping fitfully on top of his chest, hand curled tightly into the fabric of Jimin’s sweater like a child, eyes swollen shut. It’d taken hours to get him to finally calm down enough to rest; he’d been inconsolable earlier, sobbing uncontrollably in Jimin’s arms as he held Jungkook gently on his bed, softly murmuring words of comfort into his ear. It’d taken a while, but eventually the tears just wouldn’t come out anymore — and that’s when Jungkook hiccuped his way through an explanation of what happened.

Basically, Seungwon was trying to be a noble idiot. He felt like he was holding Jungkook back, weighing him down like an anchor when he knew Jungkook was destined for greater things; and no matter what Jungkook said to convince him otherwise, Seungwon remained firm in his decision. Said it’d been a long time coming, too — they’d been having problems with this and the long distance for a while, now. Apparently, the fight they had on Christmas day was the final nail in the coffin.

Jimin felt like a terrible, selfish idiot for being so upset about Jungkook not answering his texts. Clearly, he was dealing with a lot more stressful shit at the time.

He’d admitted this to Jungkook once he’d calmed down a bit, who just shrugged in response; said he’d probably be upset too if their roles were reversed. Still, Jimin kept apologizing until Jungkook had to slap a hand over his mouth to get him to finally stop; I forgive you, so shut up already, he’d muttered before manhandling Jimin into their current position, snuggling against his chest while Jimin carded his fingers through his hair until he fell asleep.

Just as Jimin’s on the cusp of joining him in dreamland, the door suddenly swings wide open. He cracks open an eye, staring up at a startled Yugyeom, Jungkook’s roommate; he’s holding two take-out containers in one of his hands, and a bag of something that looks like bottles of soda in the other.

“Shit, hyung, you scared me,” Yugyeom whispers, shuffling awkwardly to his side of the room, dumping the food on his messy desk. He peers over at Jungkook, sighing as he removes his coat. “Oh, good, he’s asleep. How long has he been out?”

Trying his best not to disturb Jungkook, Jimin carefully pulls his phone out of his jeans to check the time. Christ, it’s nearly nine. He’s been here since two. “About an hour?” he murmurs back, discarding it elsewhere on the bed as he eyes Yugyeom. “I can leave, if you want. He sleeps like a rock.”

“Trust me, I know,” Yugyeom snorts, moving to place the take-out containers in the fridge. “I don’t care if you stay, hyung. Actually, you probably should. He’s been…” He smiles, tilting his head to the side as he looks down at them. “Lonely. He really missed you.”

Jimin swallows thickly, feeling a lump begin to form in his throat. “I should’ve been here earlier,” he whispers, miserable, voice tinged heavily with regret. “I should’ve never left him in the first place.”

Yugyeom shrugs, plopping down on his bed. “Friends fight, hyung. You couldn’t have known this would’ve happened either, so don’t beat yourself up over it. You’re here now. That’s what matters.”

He knows that. Jungkook’s told him as much, but — it’s one thing to know something to be true. It’s an entirely different thing to actually believe it.

“I guess so,” Jimin hums, just to hear himself say it. As if voicing it aloud will make it more real.

Jungkook shifts in his sleep, nuzzling his face right up against Jimin’s heart. He sighs a little, fist relaxing around his clothes, expression evening out into something more peaceful. Something that looks a little bit more like himself — like the gentle, mischievous, unbearably kind boy Jimin’s fallen for.

It relieves him, to see just a glimpse of that again. He lifts his hand to trace his thumb just underneath Jungkook’s eye, featherlight, a ghost of a touch along the puffiness there — and he makes a vow to himself, right then and there. A vow that he’ll do everything in his power to make sure Jungkook never, ever cries like this again. That he’ll never walk away when things get hard, and that he’ll cherish Jungkook’s love in whatever form he chooses to give it. That he won’t take it — won’t take him for granted.

Never again.

 

-x-

 

“I don’t want to go out.”

Jimin sighs, slightly exasperated, and tugs at the little blanket-burrito Jungkook’s rolled himself into. Predictably, he doesn’t budge an inch. Freakin’ heavy muscles. “C’mon, Kook. I swear we’re not gonna go anywhere crazy, okay? It’ll be just you and me. No pressure.”

Jungkook pops his head out just enough to glare at Jimin over his shoulder. “I said no. Can’t you just leave me alone?”

Jimin swears he feels a vein burst in his head. “No, I can’t. Wanna know why?” He lets go of the blankets, stomping over to the growing pile of dirty laundry on the floor that Jungkook’s been neglecting for way too long. Like, need-a-hazmat-suit kind of long. “Because of shit like this!

He throws a nasty-looking pair of shorts right at Jungkook’s head, who sputters when it hits him square in the nose. He immediately rips the shorts off of his face and flings it towards his desk, turning back to Jimin with a bewildered expression. “What the hell are you doing? That’s gross!”

Exactly! Look at yourself, Jungkook! You’re literally wasting away in this room, and for what?” Jimin shouts, gesturing wildly around Jungkook’s extremely disheveled appearance. “I’ve tried to be patient with you, tried not to push you too hard and gave you space when you needed it — but for fuck’s sake, Kook, it’s been almost two months. Is this how it’s gonna be, from now on? Holing yourself up in this room, refusing to do anything you liked before just because you’re — what? Scared of moving on with your life?”

Jungkook purses his lips, frowning down at his lap. “You don’t get it, hyung. You’re making it sound like it’s so easy — to just forget about him, say fuck it and move on. I gave him three years of my life, Jimin. Three entire years, and he just walked away from me like it was nothing. I feel gross. I feel stupid, like I’m fucking worthless and disposable —”

“You wanna know how to not feel like that?” Jimin cuts in, quieter this time; he squats down in front of Jungkook, gently uncurling his fingers from the death-grip he’s got on his blankets, and slides his own hands into his. “You get out of this room and do the things that make you happy. You see the people you love and let them love you back. You give yourself worth, and you take control of your life. Nobody else can do that for you.” He sighs. “I’m not telling you to forget him and all the memories you’ve made over the last three years. You shouldn’t. I’m just saying… take them with you and grow from this, from him, and move on to someone better.”

Jungkook remains quiet for a few moments, biting his lip as he stares down at their joined hands. For a second, Jimin wonders if he’d overstepped, if he’d been too harsh and accomplished the exact opposite of what he’s been trying to do — but then Jungkook looks up, dark eyes glassy, filled with something like yearning as they flit between Jimin’s own.

His voice trembles, leaves rustling in the wind, as he whispers, “What if I don’t? What if — if he was it, for me?”

Jimin softens, hands tightening around Jungkook’s as he tries for a smile. “It always feels like there’s only one person in this world to love, Jungkook, but… eventually, you find someone else,” he murmurs, heart aching as he watches a lone tear trail down Jungkook’s cheek. “Someone who’ll make you feel so loved and cherished, it’ll seem so silly that you were ever worried in the first place.”

Jungkook sniffles, removing his hand from Jimin’s to wipe at his eyes. “You know, for someone who hasn’t been in relationships for a while, you sure know a lot of stuff about love,” he mumbles, a little hoarse, but there’s a hint of a smile pulling at the corner of his lips. A genuine one.

Jimin just laughs. “Yeah, well, I’ve had a long time to think about it,” he says, reaching up to ruffle Jungkook’s hair. Warmth fills his chest at the way Jungkook scrunches his nose in response, swatting his hands away. “Now, go take a shower and get dressed. We’re going out, and I don’t want you stinking up the car. You kinda reek.”

Jungkook snorts and rolls his eyes. “Gee, thanks,” he mutters, a little petulant, but he’s already reaching for his towel. Jimin just smirks in victory.

By the time they’re finally on the road, the sky’s long since turned dark. Jungkook leans against the window, staring out at the bare, icy trees as the bright lights of the city slowly fade away to nothing; and although he can’t quite see his face in the dark, Jimin knows he’s sulking. It’s alright. He’s here, out in the world, and that’s all Jimin really wanted.

They don’t talk much during the ride, but the silence isn’t tense like it was on the train. It’s nice, comfortable; eventually, Jimin catches himself absentmindedly humming along quietly to the radio, and soon enough, he hears another voice in the mix. A breathy, dreamlike tenor — and when Jungkook glances over and catches his eye, playfulness laced in the curve of his smile, Jimin feels it. That lung-rattling thump of his heart all the romance novels talk about. That sharp, light feeling in his stomach that rises up his chest, so overbearingly warm that Jimin’s hands shake a bit on the wheel, anticipating the moment it’ll burst.

It’s not a crush anymore, Jimin knows. It’s — something more.

“Where are we?” Jungkook asks, frowning over at him when Jimin pulls into a residential neighborhood, all rolling hills and rural land. “You’re not taking to me to an empty field to murder me, are you?”

Jimin just gives him a flat look. “Why is that the first thing that comes to your mind?” he shoots back in lieu of a proper answer, rolling his eyes.

Jungkook just smiles, teasing. “It’s not. I just like messing with you.” 

“Thought so,” Jimin snorts, turning into an empty parking lot of a local park. He throws the gearshift into park and unbuckles his seatbelt, patting Jungkook’s thigh once before he turns off the car. He almost laughs at how absolutely baffled Jungkook looks. “We’re here, dummy. Come on, get out.”

Slowly, Jungkook follows him out of the car, tugging his coat tighter around himself as he squints towards the huge jungle-gym sitting just several feet away. “I can’t see shit, hyung. It’s so dark — what the hell are we doing out here?”

“Patience is a virtue, Kook,” Jimin tuts, hauling his backpack over his shoulder, reaching out to gently press his hand against Jungkook’s back, guiding him forward. The wood-chips crunch softly beneath their feet, chilly wind thankfully settling down as Jimin begins to climb the jungle-gym’s ladder. “It’s dark because we’re far from the city, and because it’s a new moon. Do you know what that means?”

Jungkook climbs up after him, brow knitted together as he thinks. “Are you looking for a Twilight reference or something?” he asks, clearly grasping for straws.

Jimin barks out a laugh, carefully crawling on top of the bright-blue plastic tunnel that connects the two sides of the jungle-gym together, and plops down right in the middle. He pats the empty space next to him, waiting for Jungkook to get settled before he points a finger towards the sky. “Look up, Jungkook.”

He watches as Jungkook’s eyes quickly trail upwards, infinitely curious; he can’t help the huge grin that overcomes his face when a muted gasp falls from Jungkook’s lips, eyes widening in wonder as the realization finally hits him.

“Oh,” he whispers, breath pluming like wispy-white smoke. “Oh.

Jimin laughs. “Pretty, isn’t it?”

“That’s an understatement,” Jungkook says, shaking his head in disbelief. A small chuckle escapes him then, the corners of his mouth lifting into a smile. “Hyung, this is — it’s gorgeous.”

The stars laid out before them, brighter and clearer than Jimin ever thought possible, twinkling brilliantly like magic. Out here, they aren’t washed out by the city’s endless light. Out here, where everything is quiet and still, almost like it’s suspended in time — all of Jimin’s worries and troubles feel inconsequential. It all falls away, fades into the background like white noise; all Jimin can hear is the sound of his own heart beating steadily within his chest, and the sound of Jungkook’s calm breathing beside him.

They’re untouchable.

“Makes you feel small, doesn’t it?” Jimin whispers, nearly inaudible if Jungkook weren’t sitting just a breath away. “Like nothing really matters that much.”

Jungkook hums softly. “Yeah,” he murmurs, eyes constantly flitting from star to star, like he’s trying to imprint the image of each one into his memory. “It really does.”

Jimin waits a few moments before he reaches into his backpack, pulling out a thick, yellow-covered book titled Astronomy for Dummies. He taps Jungkook lightly on the knee, smiling gently when Jungkook blinks and turns to look at him, slightly dazed. “Here, this is for you. My Christmas gift I didn’t get to give you, back then.”

Jungkook takes it gingerly, thumbing through the pages as he uses his phone’s light to get a proper glance at all the star-maps and nebulae and comets nestled inside; he stops when all the pages fall back and only the cover remains open. Jimin watches, heart in his throat, as Jungkook slowly peels off the purple sticky-note he’d stuck there, lifting it closer to read the message he’d scrawled on the tiny thing:

For my favorite little explorer — never stop chasing after the stars.

- JM

“You remembered,” Jungkook whispers after a long, long moment. His voice is thick, gritty.

Jimin smiles to himself, looking down at his hands nestled between his thighs. “‘Course I did. It was one of the first things we clicked over, when we first met. You wouldn’t stop talking about how much you loved space and the stars, so… it was a no-brainer.”

Even though the dark, Jimin can easily make out the touched smile Jungkook gives him when their eyes meet once more. For some reason, just the sight of it makes Jimin feel the strangest urge to cry.

“Thank you, Jimin-hyung,” he murmurs, closing the book to hold it tightly against his chest. With his free hand, he reaches for Jimin’s and threads their fingers together. “For everything. For bringing me out here, and for being there for me when I needed you the most. I… I don’t know how to say how grateful I am, to have you in my life. A simple thank you sounds pretty lame in comparison, but it’s all I’ve got. So, just — thank you.”

Jimin grins, heart as full as can be. “Wow, remind me to give you astronomy books more often.”

Jungkook shoves at him with his shoulder. “You know what? I take it back,” he mutters, exasperated.

“I’m kidding,” Jimin laughs, squeezing Jungkook’s hand once more before he takes it away. “You don’t need to thank me, Kook. All the things I’ve done for you, with you — I didn’t do any of it for praise or acknowledgment. I did it because I love you. That’s enough for me.”

Jungkook stares back at him, silent, something complicated reflected in his dark, dark eyes — but before Jimin can even begin to question it, he’s sniffling and leaning his head on Jimin’s shoulder, letting out a soft sigh when Jimin leans his cheek against the crown of his head. “I love you too, hyung. You know that, right?” he asks, almost hesitant.

“I know,” Jimin hums, closing his eyes and breathes in the sweet, familiar scent of Jungkook’s perfume.

 

-x-

 

“He looks better,” says Namjoon, smiling as he watches Jungkook laugh at Hoseok’s drunken attempt at playing all of me on Namjoon’s electronic keyboard. He turns to Jimin, eyes twinkling. “Doesn’t he?”

Jimin hums, taking another sip of his drink. “He does,” he agrees, feeling himself soften when Jungkook giggles as he tries to sing along to Hoseok’s horrendous playing. It’s true; Jungkook’s glowing, drunk on soju and happiness, smiling wider than Jimin’s seen in months. His eyes crinkle when he catches Jimin’s eye from across the room, holding his stare for a moment before he’s smiling down at his hands cradled in his lap.

Jimin can’t help the painful thump of his heart in response, and grins into his cup.

It’s the first time they’re hanging out together with Jungkook since the breakup, minus Taehyung — who probably would’ve sacrificed one of his own limbs to go on his date with Seokjin, tonight. Must be going well, judging by how Jimin’s phone has been silent for hours.

“I suppose I have you to thank for that,” Namjoon continues on, eyes still on him.

There’s something meaningful in the way he says this — like he’s just told an inside joke to Jimin, and he’s waiting for the punchline to hit. Like he knows something, a little secret that he’s letting Jimin in on.

Jimin just stares back at him, unsure of what reaction Namjoon’s hoping for. “I didn’t really do much,” he decides to say, shrugging a little. “Just gave him a small push, if anything. Jungkook did all the heavy-lifting himself.”

Namjoon tilts his head, thoughtful. He cringes a bit when Hoseok’s finger slips and hits the wrong key, way out of tune with the rest of the song. “I guess, but I don’t think it’s a coincidence that you’re the only one who could get through to him.”

Jimin blinks. “What?”

“Seungwon’s a good kid,” Namjoon says, as if that explains anything. He circles the tip of his finger around the bottle-mouth of his soju. “I’ve known him since he was that little snot-nosed teenager that came to me for advice on asking Jungkook out. He’s good, even if he’s an idiot.” He sighs. “He knew Jungkook outgrew our hometown in Busan, and he knew that Jungkook was outgrowing him. Cutting the cord was the right thing to do, even if it fucking sucks to see Jungkook suffer because he doesn’t understand.”

“Hyung,” Jimin begins, frowning slightly. He had no earthly clue what Namjoon was trying to get at, here. “Why are you telling me this?”

Namjoon hums, scratching at his chin. “You know how flowers grow, right? Start out as little seedlings in the soil, and then grow upwards into the world.”

“Uh, yeah. I passed elementary school level science, hyung.”

“My point is,” Namjoon continues, smacking Jimin on the arm lightly and rolls his eyes. “They do that because they’re growing toward something. For flowers, it’s the sun. For Jungkook, well — I think it’s you.”

All of Jimin’s thoughts come to a grinding halt. “What?”

“Don’t look so surprised,” Namjoon snorts. “You guys are pretty obvious.”

Jimin squints at him, completely lost. What the hell is he talking about? Maybe he might’ve been totally transparent about his feelings around the others, but — Jungkook? There’s no way. Absolutely no way. God, Namjoon’s really gone off his rocker. Jungkook’s always treated him as a friend, and no matter how close they’ve gotten, that hasn’t changed. Jimin definitely would’ve noticed if anything did change; he’s fine-tuned towards Jungkook, fluent in all his little quirks and body language. He would’ve noticed.

Wouldn’t he?

“I think you’ve got the wrong idea here, hyung,” Jimin sputters out, shaking his head. He places his beer on the floor beside him, feeling a little woozy. “Jungkook, he... he doesn’t see me like that. He’s never seen me like that.”

“I wouldn’t be so sure,” Namjoon says, all cryptic. He averts his eyes back towards Hoseok and Jungkook, and instinctively, Jimin follows his stare — only to startle a bit when he finds Jungkook already looking back at him over Hoseok’s hunched shoulders.

He watches, bewildered, as Jungkook’s eyes quickly widen and dart away, cheeks coloring with the realization that he’d been caught. He nudges Hoseok with his shoulder a little too roughly, guiding his hands to the correct keys, glancing back towards Jimin once more — and Jimin feels it, then. The small sparks of hope igniting in his heart, of maybe threading into his skin.

Something was starting.

“Take care of him,” Namjoon murmurs, a ghost of a whisper, before he hauls himself to his feet to drag Hoseok and Jungkook away from his precious, expensive keyboard.

Jimin just watches him do it, rooted to the ground. Feels his pulse skyrocket when Jungkook shoots him a sheepish smile, eyes sparkling with possibilities, and for the first time — allows himself the privilege of being in love.

 

-x-

 

The last thing Jimin expects to see the day before spring break is Jungkook shoving two plane tickets to California in his face.

“Come with me,” Jungkook says with a hopeful smile, breathless. Jimin just stares back at him, completely caught off-guard in the middle of his kitchen, clad only in his oversized sleep-shirt and boxers with a half-eaten apple raised to his mouth. Jungkook literally just barged in his apartment with the spare key he’d given him, waved briefly to a surprised Taehyung on the couch, and almost scared Jimin’s soul clean out of his body when he ran up to him and shoved the tickets in his face.

All before nine o’clock in the morning, which Jimin still considers an ungodly hour. Christ.

“I know it’s super last-minute and you probably booked your train ticket home already,” Jungkook continues rambling when Jimin doesn’t respond, “But, I just — my step-dad has all these extra miles he doesn’t need, Namjoon-hyung said Yoongi would let us crash at his place for the week, and I’ve never been out of the country and I’d really like to go. With you. If — if you want, obviously.”

Slowly, Jimin lowers his apple away from his face. He eyes the tickets with confusion, mouth opening and closing as a thousand different thoughts run through his mind, unsure which one to voice out first — so he just blurts out the most obvious one. “Why?”

Jungkook’s excitement deflates a little. “Because I want to spend time with you. Just you,” he says, pulling the tickets back a bit. “Isn’t that enough?”

Guilt settles heavily over Jimin, so he quickly tries to backtrack. “No, it is, but — this is just a lot,” Jimin explains, opting for honesty. “It’s so sudden, and — my English sucks, Jungkook. I don’t know Yoongi, so it’s weird to think about staying in a total stranger’s place, and — god, I don’t even know where my passport is.

“Namjoon’s been trying to teach me English since I was a kid,” Jungkook counters, eyes pleading. “I know enough to get us around, and even if I didn’t, Yoongi’s fluent. I know you don’t know him, but I do, and he’s a really nice guy. I mean, Namjoon wouldn’t be best friends with an asshole. And he’s not, like, a creep or anything. I actually had a crush on him in middle school before he moved —”

“Wait — he’s your old crush?

“Besides the point!” Jungkook nearly shrieks, growing frustrated. “I’m just trying to tell you he’s not a freakin’ axe murderer, for god’s sake. And we can always look for your passport, you know. It’s gotta be around here somewhere.”

“Second drawer to the right of the microwave,” Taehyung pipes up from the couch, watching them with fascination as he spoons cereal in his mouth.

“Thank you,” Jungkook huffs, turning back to Jimin. “C’mon, hyung. Come with me. I can go by myself, but I know it won’t be as fun if you’re not there with me. Please.”

Honestly, Jimin doesn’t have any reason to refuse. He wasn’t going to do anything exciting back in Busan, and going on a trip alone with Jungkook, as insanely spontaneous as it is, sounds like something pulled right out of his dreams. He’d be a fool to say no.

More than anything, something about this feels pivotal — that if Jimin gets on that plane with him, there’s no going back. Figuratively. The Jimin and Jungkook that exist in this moment, standing half-dressed in the middle of his shitty kitchen, won’t be the same Jimin and Jungkook that’ll return after the week’s over. Seven days. Such a fleeting amount of time, yet an eternity.

He’s staring out at the abyss, unsure if Jungkook’s waiting for him on the other side — but he wants to take the leap and find out where it takes him, regardless.

“Alright,” Jimin eventually says, feeling a smile creep its way onto his lips at the way Jungkook instantly lights up. “I’ll go with you.”

Jungkook pumps his fist into the air with a victorious shout, bouncing on his heels as he does an excited little dance, all flopping arms and giddy laughter. Jimin throws his head back and laughs along with him, crouching down and clutching at his stomach, heart singing when Jungkook follows and wraps him up in a bone-crushing bear hug. Distantly, he can hear Taehyung yell, take me with you in your suitcase!

Fat chance, Jimin thinks, and lets Jungkook pull him by the hand towards his room to start packing.

 

-x-

 

California’s pretty nice. Or, well — Jimin thinks it is. He’s not really sure. He’s spent the last four hours conked out on Yoongi’s sofa, easily succumbing to horrible jet-lag after the fourteen-hour flight over here.

Slowly, he feels himself start to come back to his body. His head feels like it’s packed full of cotton, and he’s uncomfortably warm — someone’s thrown a blanket on top of him while he’s been asleep. A nice gesture, but completely unnecessary; Yoongi’s tiny apartment doesn’t have air conditioning. Jimin can feel the fabric of his shirt sticking to his skin, groaning quietly as he shifts around on the cushions.

The low voices rumbling in the background suddenly quiet. Jimin can hear some shifting, something like a chair being pushed back — and then there’s a gentle hand brushing his hair away from his forehead, cool fingertips feeling heavenly against his heated skin.

“Wake up, sleepyhead,” a soft voice murmurs, smile evident in his tone; it’s Jungkook.

Jimin lets out a low whine and tries to bat his hand away. “Five more minutes,” he mumbles, moving to turn over on his side — but Jungkook quickly pulls him back. “Ugh, Kook, please —"

“Nope. You’re gonna be up all night if you sleep any longer,” Jungkook chastises, forcibly wrenching Jimin’s eyelids open like an asshole.

His swollen, dry eyes protest at the action, aching to be closed again. Jimin grumbles low in his throat, rubbing the sleep-crust out of his eyes and blinking up at Jungkook, slightly disoriented. He’d been right about the smile; the curve of Jungkook’s lips is sugar-sweet, dripping with fondness as he stares down at Jimin. It feels… strangely intimate, somehow. He’s hyperaware of Jungkook’s thumb lightly caressing his temple, the warmth of his thigh pressed against Jimin’s side, the way his pupils begin to dilate —

Yoongi clears his throat, obnoxiously loud. “Good to see you’re finally awake,” he says, peering down at him over Jungkook’s shoulder with a smug smile on his face. Jimin shrinks into himself a bit, cheeks burning. “Hungry? We went and got some In-N-Out for dinner if you’re interested.”

Jimin nods mutely, sitting up. Disappointment curls in his chest when Jungkook’s hand falls away, back into his lap. “Thanks, hyung. How much was it? I can pay you back —”

“Shut up,” Yoongi snorts, placing the bag on the coffee table in front of him. It’s riddled with grease stains and smells glorious. “You’re my guest, Jimin. You’re not supposed to be paying for stuff, so don’t sweat it.”

Jimin just smiles, ducking his head in gratitude. Honestly, he feels really ridiculous for ever being nervous about staying with Yoongi — the guy’s been more than welcoming to him, treating Jimin like an old friend ever since he’d stepped through his front door. He's like a small, cuddly bear even though he’s a little gruff sometimes. He’d complained when Jungkook lifted him up in a tight hug, but Jimin saw the delighted smile stretched across his lips, wide enough to make his gums show. He can easily understand why he’s Namjoon’s best friend.

“So,” Yoongi begins, idly flipping through the channels on his TV while Jimin scarfs down his food and Jungkook tries to steal some of his fries. “What’ve you guys got planned for the week? All the tourist-y shit’s in L.A., but Santa Monica’s nice enough on its own. It’s up to you.”

“What did you do with Namjoon-hyung when he was here?” Jungkook asks.

“Just shot the shit,” Yoongi shrugs, settling on a random cop show. “Went to the beach, helped him with his compositions, got drunk at the bars. He just wanted to hang out with me.”

Jungkook hums, picking another fry out of the bag. He turns to Jimin. “What do you think, hyung?”

Jimin swallows the last bite of his burger, wiping his mouth with a napkin. “Why not just see where the week takes us?” he suggests, shrugging. “I mean, we literally flew across the world with no plan in mind whatsoever. We’re on vacation. We’re not supposed to be responsible and plan shit.”

“Anarchy for all,” Yoongi drawls.

“Hyung, you’re the furthest thing from an anarchist,” Jungkook snorts.

“But I am an anti-capitalist.”

“God, same,” Jimin sighs. Yoongi smirks and slaps him on the shoulder.

Jungkook just laughs, leaning back on the couch and stretches his legs across Jimin’s lap. Instinctively, Jimin’s hands grab onto his calves, mindlessly poking and prodding at the muscle while he tries to follow along with Yoongi’s cop show. Out of the corner of his eye, he can see Jungkook practically melt into the cushions, body relaxing and eyes falling closed.

Unbeknownst to him, Yoongi’s watching the two of them and smiling to himself. He opens up kakao on his phone and sends a quick text to Namjoon: He’s good for him. I approve.

 

-x-

 

They spend the next couple of days down at the beach. It’s kind of crazy, how Jimin feels like he’s suddenly transported himself straight from winter into summer; bright sunlight burns against the back of his neck, hot sand squished between his toes, waves crashing in a familiar melody against the shore. It reminds him of home — of Busan.

Willing the homesickness away, Jimin shakes his head and directs his attention back towards Jungkook, who’s trying to make it across the infamous traveling rings in one go. Jimin only made it halfway before the burning in his arms forced him to give up, but Jungkook’s stubborn as a mule. Night will fall before he finally decides to call it quits.

“God, I almost had it!” Jungkook groans after he falls from the second-to-last ring, moping as he drags himself back over towards where Jimin’s standing. He’s shirtless, light tanned skin on full display for all to see; Jimin can’t seem to take his eyes off the defined cut of his pectorals, the divots of his abs moving with every breath he takes, the beautiful curve of his small waist. A fucking five-course meal, and Jimin’s dying for a taste. “Maybe I’m not using my legs enough? Everyone makes it look so easy, but my arms feel like noodles."

“Take a break, then,” Jimin says, eyes still shamelessly fixated on Jungkook’s waist. “We can try again tomorrow, you know.”

“But I want to do it now," Jungkook groans, petulant like a child. Jimin just rolls his eyes.

“You’re sweating buckets and panting like a dog, Kook. Sometimes, you gotta know when to stop.” He nudges his chin towards the pier, all lit-up and coming alive as the sun begins to set. “Let’s get something to eat, okay? My treat.”

That shuts Jungkook up. So predictable. Grinning like a madman, he swipes his shirt off Jimin’s shoulder and tugs it back on, already walking back towards the pier. “You should’ve said that earlier,” he snickers.

Jimin snorts. “You’re so easy, you know. You’ll listen to anyone when you’re promised treats, just like a puppy." 

“Okay, but what kind of puppy? I wanna be something cute.”

“Golden retriever?”

“That’s more like Hoseok-hyung.”

“Labrador.”

“Taehyung.”

“…Poodle?”

Jungkook tilts his head, scratching at his chin. “Poodles are cool, I guess. I was hoping for a pug or something.”

Jimin balks. “Jungkook, have you seen their faces? Pugs are so ugly.”

“Um, first of all, fuck you? Pugs are cute,” Jungkook scoffs, but there’s no real bite to it. “Their faces have history, hyung. They’ve seen some shit in their past lives. My aunt’s pug probably saw the fall of Goryeo.”

“Okay, fine. They’re adorably ugly,” Jimin corrects, bursting out into laughter when Jungkook just gives him the most betrayed look he’s ever seen in his life.

They end up at a Mexican bar and restaurant right off the boardwalk, ordering margaritas and sharing plates of carnitas and chicken enchiladas. Jungkook, sun-kissed and glowing with mirth, rambles on about his classes, childhood memories with Yoongi, all the cool things he’d learned from the astronomy book Jimin gave him a while ago — and just like that, Jimin’s pulled under his spell again. He can feel every muscle in his body relax, a sense of calm overcoming him with every word that leaves Jungkook’s mouth.

He knows he must look like a lovesick fool, but he doesn’t care. He feels warm, so light it’s like his lungs are filled with helium, floating upwards towards the sky; after denying himself this for so long, he wants to bask in it. Soak his entire body in it and let himself be pulled into Jungkook’s orbit without any resistance.

He’s in love. So, so deeply in love it’s maddening.

“You know what I realized, the other night?” Jungkook asks once their plates are cleared, leaning over the table on his elbows, eyes sparkling. “I’ve never seen you dance, hyung. Not even once. What’s up with that?”

Jimin blinks, stretching his legs out under the table. His bare ankle accidentally brushes lightly against Jungkook’s, just so — he can barely suppress his teasing smile when Jungkook jumps a little in his seat at the sudden contact, eyes flitting downwards for a second, but doesn’t move. “I don’t know, you never asked to come to rehearsal or any of my recitals. I just figured you were busy like everyone else.”

Jungkook shakes his head, dark hair shining under the lights. “I would’ve come,” he says, firmly. “No matter what, I would’ve made it. I’d drop everything I have going on to go. That’s how much I want to see you dance.”

The back of Jimin’s neck burns as he scratches at it, smiling down at the table. “Alright, fine. I’ll show you something later, okay?”

“Promise?” Jungkook asks, eager. His ankle rubs against Jimin’s, rounded-bone nudging into his arch, the softest hiss of skin-on-skin contact; an explosion of sensation zips right up Jimin’s spine, heat flooding his neck, breath quickening in his chest.

“Promise,” Jimin echoes, breathless; he laughs when Jungkook wiggles around in his seat, excited.

Surprisingly, Jungkook insists on splitting the bill when they’re finished. He’s got a twenty tucked in the plastic slip of the check before Jimin can even think to question him, looking quite pleased with himself. It’s a nice change of pace.

It’s long past dark when they step back out into the warm night air, full and happy and sated. Jimin revels in the feeling for a moment, then turns to Jungkook, ready to suggest going back to Yoongi’s place for the night — but Jungkook’s staring off into the distance, right where the beautifully-lit, glittering ferris wheel and amusement park reside on the pier.

Fuck.

“Hyung, let’s go check out the park!” Jungkook says, grinning widely, already reaching for Jimin’s hand to drag him over to that death trap. Shit. “I wanna ride that big rollercoaster by the ferris wheel—”

“Jungkook, wait — hold on a second, wait!” Jimin almost shrieks, planting his heels on the ground to get Jungkook to stop pulling him along. Cold fear drips down his neck when Jungkook looks back at him, confused. “I’m — I can’t go over there. No way in hell. Rollercoasters scare the fuck out of me.”

Jungkook blinks, eyebrows hiking high up his forehead. “Really?”

Jimin purses his lips. “Yes,” he mutters. “Don’t you dare make fun of me.”

“I wasn’t going to! I just — wasn’t expecting that,” Jungkook defends, sheepish. His hand tightens around Jimin’s. “I mean, you don’t have to go on with me, but… it’d be really fun if you did. I’ll be right here the whole time, I swear! You can crush my hand into tiny pieces if it helps. Please?”

He even pulls out the damned puppy-eyes, the fucker. “I don’t know,” Jimin sighs, feeling his stomach drop just looking up at the thing.

“We can work up to it,” Jungkook quickly suggests. “We’ll go to the game booths first, okay? I’ll even win you one of those huge teddy bears!”

This makes Jimin crack a smile. “You’re sure you can really do that?” he asks, lifting a brow in challenge.

Half an hour later, he really wishes he never asked.

Jungkook is relentless. He’s been going up to every booth they come across, throwing his money at all of them and winning at exactly zero of them. He’s a terrible shot, can’t seem to throw a whiffle ball into a basket without it bouncing right back out, and always comes up short when one of his rings just won’t catch around the bottlenecks of soda bottles. It’s actually really amusing, watching him slowly lose his sanity with every loss. Jimin thinks he’s finally found Jungkook’s kryptonite. Game booths. Who would’ve thought?

“You’re too tense,” Jimin says, deciding to step in when Jungkook tries his hand at another shooting range booth. He moves behind Jungkook, gently adjusting his posture and moving his arm down a bit. “You’re holding it too close to your body, too. Loosen up.”

He hears Jungkook let out a shaky breath. “Yeah, okay,” he mumbles, rolling his shoulders back and moves the gun a little further away from his chest. He tilts his head towards Jimin, eyes seeking approval. “Like that?”

Jimin hums, moving his hand to rest against the small of Jungkook’s back. He can feel the heat radiating off of Jungkook’s skin, heady and volatile; his own pulse races wildly in his ears, fingers tingling as he leans in to whisper against Jungkook’s ear, “Yeah, that’s good. Just like that.”

A thrill, unlike anything he'd ever felt before, rushes his spine when Jungkook shivers against him. The booth attendant gives them a weird look, but doesn't say a word.

“Keep both of your eyes open and go for it,” Jimin continues on, voice dipping lower; he’s so close he can almost taste the metal of Jungkook’s earring, dangling just centimeters from his lips. A negligible amount of space. Just a little closer, just —

Jungkook pulls the trigger with a quiet click and hits the target right in the middle. Bullseye.

Yes!” Jungkook shouts, breaking the spell. He throws the gun down and bounces on his toes, laughing and clapping excitedly. “Told you I could do it! In your face, hyung!”

“Congratulations,” the attendant drawls, tone bone-dry, and hands over a stuffed elephant to Jungkook.

“I thought you were trying to win that for me?” Jimin teases, laughing when Jungkook snuggles the thing close to his chest as they walk away from the booth. God, he’s just too damned cute.

“Uh, I just blew all my money on this thing. We’re gonna share it,” Jungkook declares, sticking his tongue out. “Like joint custody, y’know?”

“Oh, so now I’m parenting a stuffed animal with you?”

Sharing, hyung. Don’t make me into a father prematurely.”

Jimin snorts and rolls his eyes. “I don’t know,” he hums, shifting closer to Jungkook while they walk side-by-side, hands reaching up to hover over his sides. Fingers twitching and ready to strike. “I think I’m gonna keep him all to myself!

He pounces then, hands slipping under Jungkook’s shirt and tickling the warm skin of his waist, making him shout in surprise and dissolve into a giggling mess. Jungkook’s body squirms in Jimin’s hold, hands scrabbling to push Jimin’s away as high-pitched laugher leaves his mouth; it’s so loud that they’re drawing the attention of the people walking around them, but Jimin couldn’t care less. His cheeks hurt from smiling so hard, absolutely merciless as Jungkook begs him to stop between giggles.

“S-Stop it, please!” Jungkook wheezes out, tears gathering in his eyes. “C’mon, I can’t b-breathe — Seungwon, s-stop!

Jimin tenses immediately, fingers halting. Jungkook, realizing his own slip-up, freezes on the spot, chest heaving.

It’s like he’s just dumped a bucket of ice-cold water over Jimin’s head. He'd forgotten. Just for a minute, he’d forgotten that this wasn’t actually a date, despite all the maybe-flirting going on. That they were only here as friends. That Jungkook’s heart still belonged to someone else, even if he was starting to move on.

What a cruel reminder. 

“I’m — I’m sorry,” Jungkook pants out, turning to face Jimin properly. His eyes are wide, almost frightened. “I don’t know… it just came out. I’m sorry.”

Despite the ball of dread knotting his stomach, Jimin puts on an easy smile and shrugs. “Why are you apologizing? It’s not a big deal.” He reaches out to pinch Jungkook’s nose. “Don’t worry about it. C’mon, I think the line for the ferris wheel is finally moving up.”

Jungkook opens his mouth, likely ready to protest, but nothing comes out. Instead, he just nods mutely and follows Jimin further into the park, one step behind. 

They keep their distance, for the rest of the night. Jungkook sits across from him on the ferris wheel, silently looking out at the vast sea stretching out before them. Jimin doesn’t reach for his hand when he (reluctantly) goes on the rollercoasters with Jungkook, doesn’t lean against him when he feels like he’s gonna faint once they get off the largest one. When they get ice-cream just before the park closes, they don’t share one huge sundae like they normally would — just eat their own scoops, idly people-watching and making a few jokes here and there. 

By the time they get back to Yoongi’s, Jimin feels like he wants to scream. He’s tired, he’s frustrated, and he hates it because — there’s so much uncertainty surrounding his relationship with Jungkook, and just when he thought it was all starting to become clear, the mention of Seungwon’s name slammed it right back into the mud. Jimin just can’t escape him, and if he can’t — then what the hell does that mean for Jungkook?

“I guess Yoongi turned in for the night,” Jungkook murmurs, toeing off his sneakers by the door. The apartment’s dead silent and dark, save for the warm glowing emanating from the nightlight plugged in by the couch.

“Yeah,” Jimin mumbles, tugging the coffee table to the side to set up the futon Yoongi’s pulled out for them.

They get ready for bed in silence, moving around each other like repelling magnets. By the time Jungkook’s done with the bathroom, Jimin’s already sitting on the futon in his sleep clothes, glasses on and scrolling mindlessly through his twitter feed. He doesn’t even notice Jungkook’s presence until he sits down in front of Jimin, smelling of fresh mint and something more fruity, like pomegranates.

“Hyung,” Jungkook calls in a whisper, pulling Jimin’s attention to him. He looks just as tired as Jimin feels. “I think we need to talk.”

Jimin sinks his teeth into the inside of his mouth. “About what?”

Jungkook hesitates, fiddling with the hem of his shorts. “Things we should’ve been talking about a while ago,” he says, sighing a little when Jimin continues to stare down at his phone. “Hyung, look at me. Please.”

Resigning himself to his fate, Jimin wordlessly locks his phone and tosses it on the futon, looking up at Jungkook expectantly.

Jungkook takes this as his cue to continue. “I didn’t mean to blurt out his name, earlier. I wasn’t even thinking about him, but that was a thing he did to me pretty often — tickling me, that is. It was just a force of habit, I guess. It didn’t mean anything.”

Jimin smiles something rueful. “You don’t have to explain yourself to me, Jungkook." He shrugs. “It’s fine. Really.”

“No, I think I do,” Jungkook insists. He lets go of his shorts to take one of Jimin’s hands, smoothing his thumbs across the swell of Jimin’s knuckles. “Because I — well, maybe it’s just me, but I feel like there’s something here. Something I really, really don’t wanna mess up.”

He says this quietly, as if he’s scared that if he speaks any louder, he’d shatter the tepid calm between them. Jimin’s heart kicks into overdrive in his chest, breath catching in his throat, stomach swooping. He can’t believe this. After so long, after wishing and yearning and hoping for this to become real — it is. It’s not all in his head, anymore. It’s tangible. Palpable in the charged air between them, hot and thick and stifling.

This is it, Jimin thinks to himself, pulse pounding in his ears. The point of no return.

“It’s not just you,” he whispers, eyes flitting between Jungkook’s. “It’s never been just you.”

Jungkook lets out a sharp, relieved sort of breath, dimple forming in his cheek with his radiant smile. He’s so effortlessly beautiful, it's unbelievable. “Since when?”

“Oh, god,” Jimin breathes out, mouth twisting in thought. “It’s been a long time. Probably a little bit after I met you? Definitely before… you know.”

Jungkook’s eyebrows hike up his forehead. “Seriously? How did I never notice?”

“You’re a little dense,” Jimin teases, quietly laughing when Jungkook pinches his skin in retaliation. “No, I just didn’t let it show. I couldn’t. You were so happy with Seungwon, y’know? I couldn’t take that away from you.”

Jungkook nods, smile dimming a bit. “I’m sorry,” he mumbles. “For not paying attention.”

Jimin shakes his head, nudging Jungkook’s chin back up with his free hand. His voice is soft, but insistent: “Don’t apologize for your relationship. You’ve always been my friend before anything else, Jungkook. Just having you by my side was more than enough.”

Jungkook just stares back at him, quiet, eyes turning glassy in the low light emitted from the nightlight. “I still love him,” he admits, lower lip trembling. “I’ll always love him, I think. He owns a piece of my heart that I’ll never get back, but — I’m not in love with him. Not anymore.”

Jimin takes a steadying breath, willing his heart to calm. “Okay,” he says, nodding. “So where does that leave — this?”

Is there any room left in your heart for me? is what Jimin doesn’t say, but the words hang in the air between them, regardless.

Jungkook’s eyes soften, hand reaching up to brush Jimin’s dark fringe away from his eyes, lingering just behind his ear. Jimin’s heart leaps into his throat, frenzied. “I don’t have all the answers right now,” he murmurs, and shifts closer. Noses brushing together. “But I like you, Jimin. I like you, so — I want to try. That’s all I know for sure.”

Jimin can’t help himself; giddy laughter pushes past his lips, pulling another bright smile out of Jungkook. “God, I can’t believe this,” he whispers, mind floating to the stratosphere. “I’ve been waiting for so long to hear you say that.”

“Is that a yes?” Jungkook asks, more breath than whisper; his forehead presses lightly against Jimin’s, warm breath skating across his lips with every exhale. Slowly, his tongue flicks out to drag across his bottom lip and Jimin nearly goes cross-eyed following the motion, entranced by the shine left behind.

Jimin chases after it, closing the distance and presses their lips together in lieu of an answer.

Once, when Jimin was still a kid, he thought about quitting dance. It was painful, it was exhausting, and because he was a perfectionist even then, his slow-growing improvement was incredibly frustrating. He didn’t want to do it anymore. Marched right up to his mother and told her flat-out he was going to quit after his next recital. But, on the night before, she took him to a showcase hosted by one of the major universities in Busan — and right there, under the spotlight in a packed theater, Jimin witnessed magic for the first time.

He watched, enthralled, as a male dancer allowed the music to take over his body, let it thrash around his bones and glide over his skin, immersing himself completely in the story each piano chord was telling; he was untouchable. Passion personified. Jimin’s heart filled with emotion, so strong and all-encompassing and so huge that it almost felt like sadness. He left the theater that night, changed forever. Invigorated with the desire to dance with that kind of magic, fire blazing in his eyes.

That’s exactly what this kiss feels like.

He feels that same magic swelling in his chest with every slow, delicious slide of Jungkook’s lips against his own. Feels that all-consuming fire lick at his skin when Jungkook slips his tongue into Jimin’s mouth, long fingers tangling in his hair, teeth nipping lightly at his lip. It’s this — Jimin running his hands across Jungkook’s ribs, the soft noise Jungkook makes in the back of his throat when Jimin pulls him into his lap; it’s Jungkook having to catch his breath, pupils blown wide and cheeks flushed red, before he kisses Jimin again and again and again.

Passion personified.

 

-x-

 

“Please tell me you didn’t fuck and ruin my nice, expensive futon.”

Jimin stirs at the sound of Yoongi’s dry, unamused voice. His facial expression doesn’t look much better when Jimin opens his eyes, blearily taking in his surroundings; he’s sprawled across the futon on his back, Jungkook curled into his side and drooling on his chest. His naked chest.

Fuck, right. He’d lost his shirt sometime between Jungkook pushing him down to the pillows and Jimin reluctantly guiding him off his lap before they got too worked up, then promptly passed out after a little more pillowtalk. It was a good, old-fashioned high school make out session. Really good.

But, it does look incriminating. 

“We didn’t,” Jimin mumbles, voice still rough with sleep.  Jungkook whines when he sits up, hand blindly reaching out and catching on the waistband of his shorts; Jimin gently pulls it away and squints up at Yoongi, one eyebrow raised. “You really think we’d do that with you in the next room?”

Yoongi snorts, taking a sip of his coffee. “With the way you guys have been flirting the past few days, I wouldn’t put it past you.”

“You’re watching too much American TV,” Jungkook rasps out, face half-smushed into the futon.

“Like I have so many other options,” Yoongi shoots back, retreating into the kitchen. “You guys hungry? I think I’ve still got some fruit loops in this shithole.”

They eat breakfast in comfortable silence in the living room, hooking up Netflix to the TV because, in Yoongi’s words, no one should be subjected to watch boring talk shows with hosts that get drunk at nine o’clock in the morning. Jimin’s inclined to agree. It’s not like he can really understand the majority of what they’re saying, anyway.

He ends up getting distracted from the Korean show they’d decided on, though, because of Jungkook. He presses his cold toes into Jimin’s warm thighs, smiling deviously when Jimin shoots him a glare in response; he slowly shuffles his way across the couch to curl around Jimin's back, nosing into his neck and pressing a soft kiss to his mole. Jimin just closes his eyes and basks in the feeling, letting Jungkook do as he pleases — until Yoongi’s clearing his throat and pointedly raising the volume while looking them directly in the eye.

Jungkook keeps his hands to himself after that.

By the time the afternoon rolls around, all three of them pile up in Yoongi’s car and head down to the wretched 405 highway (again, Yoongi’s words) to spend the day in Los Angeles and do all the tourist-y shit — like take photos at the iconic pink wall on Melrose Ave, get a glimpse at the Hollywood sign nestled in the mountains, stare wistfully at all the high-end stores on Rodeo Drive and pose with Michael Jackson’s star on the Walk of Fame. It’s actually really fun, and all throughout the day, Jimin keeps Jungkook’s hand in his as they follow Yoongi around, squeezing it whenever Jungkook catches his eye and gives him a shy smile.

“Alright, I’ve got to head downtown,” Yoongi announces once the sun’s gone down, standing up with a groan from the café table they’d been lounging at for the past hour. “Told my co-workers I’d meet them at a bar tonight for some ‘team-building’ thing.” He scoffs. “They just want to get drunk.”

“Sounds terrible,” Jungkook teases, sipping at his iced tea.

“It is when you’re the DD,” Yoongi mutters, shrugging into his jacket. He pats down his pockets to check for his keys and wallet, tucking a few bills under the napkin dispenser while eyeing the two of them. “I don’t know when it’ll be over, so just take an Uber back to my place. If you need me, or if you want to save me from my misery — just give me a ring. Okay?”

“Sounds good, hyung. Good luck,” Jimin smirks, waving as Yoongi walks away.

It’s a little awkward when he’s gone, but not bad awkward. More like — the kind of awkward most first dates tend to be in the beginning. Weird, but open to possibility. The unspoken knowledge that they’re both obviously interested in each other so something’s supposed to be happening tonight, but it might take a little while to get there.

Jungkook clears his throat, looking a bit nervous as he plays with his straw. “So…” he trails off, puckering his lips around the o.

Jimin chuckles, burying his face into his hands and groaning. “God, we can’t be this awkward all the time now.”

“Sorry, it’s just — I don’t know! It’s kind of weird, isn’t it?”

He lets out a breath and straightens, uncovering his face. Jungkook stares back at him, cheeks flushed pink, slightly flustered. Gorgeous.

“I mean, sort of,” Jimin admits, shrugging. He pokes at the tomato slice he’d taken out of his sandwich with his fork. “But it doesn’t have to be. I’m still me and you’re still you, y’know? Why does it have to be weird?" 

Jungkook lets out a sigh, leaning back in his chair. “I know, but it’s just… I’m nervous,” he mumbles, eyes flitting down to the table. “I’ve never done this before.”

“What, been alone with your crush?”

“Kissed my best friend,” Jungkook says, pinning Jimin with a flat look. The tips of his ears turn red before he adds, “And, it’s not just a crush. I thought I made that pretty clear last night.”

Now, it’s Jimin’s turn to blush. Memories of Jungkook’s swollen lips, soft and slick against his own, come tumbling forth to the forefront of his mind. “Yeah, you did.”

Another beat of silence passes between them — and then Jungkook suddenly perks up in his seat, eyes alight and wide. Jimin can almost see the flashbulb lighting up above his head. “Hey, why don’t we go on a date? A real one, this time.”

Jimin blinks. “Right now?”

“Why not? The night’s still young,” Jungkook says with an eager smile. He pulls out his phone, fingers already flying across the screen as he asks, “How do you feel about dancing?”

A surprised laugh bubbles out of Jimin. “Is that a trick question?”

“You promised me you’d dance for me,” Jungkook tuts.

“I thought that meant you wanted to see, like, an actual choreographed piece.”

“I’m fine with anything you’d show me. Hoseok-hyung says you’re really good at street dance, too.” Jungkook turns his phone around, holding the screen up for Jimin to see; he’s pulled up directions to a dance club in K-town called Arena that apparently plays good R&B/hip-hop mixes. “Besides, it’d be more fun if we’re dancing together." 

Jimin doesn’t take more than two seconds to consider it. It does sound really fun, and Jungkook looks so excited at the idea — he’s practically bouncing in his seat, eyes sparkling with mirth under the café’s string lights, all signs of his previous nerves gone. Who is Jimin to refuse him? 

“Should I go and buy you flowers now, or would it be rude to wait until the morning after?” Jimin asks, smiling hard enough to obscure his vision. 

Jungkook just throws his head back and laughs, and Jimin’s heart flutters in his chest.

 

-x-

 

Jungkook’s truly a vision when he dances.

It’s like he becomes another person when the lights dim and the bass, loud enough to rattle Jimin’s teeth, reverberates throughout the crowded floor. He moves around Jimin with an air of confidence, so palpable it almost bleeds into arrogance — he gives out coy smiles like they’re candy, fully aware of how fucking good he looks as he tilts his head back as he sways his hips, sweat shining along the column of his neck, lips bitten raw.

It’s driving Jimin absolutely crazy.

He had no idea Jungkook could dance like this. He’d given Jimin his time to shine when they’d first walked in, looking awestruck as he watched every beat of the music ingrain itself into Jimin’s body, allowing it to take control of every muscle, every nerve — and he danced with magic, like he’s always aspired to do. There was elegance in his posture, passion in every hard hit in-sync with the music, love in every blissed-out smile that overcame his face with every transition to a new song.

“You’re fucking amazing,” Jungkook had breathed into his ear, once he’d collected his jaw off the floor and followed Jimin’s beckoning fingers.

Jimin had only laughed, gripped Jungkook by the waist and tugged him closer to say, “Time to show me what you’ve got, baby.”

Jungkook just flushed, bopped his head to the music as he detached himself from Jimin, closed his eyes to really start feeling it — and proceeded to blow all of Jimin’s expectations right out of the water.

Even now, as he slowly rolls his hips to the smooth bass of an R&B mix, Jimin can’t quite believe what he’s seeing. Jungkook’s just got a natural charisma, a kind of musicality that you either have or you don’t. All or none. It’s downright mesmerizing.

“You’re staring,” Jungkook laughs into his ear, looping an arm around Jimin’s neck. His body is so, so achingly close — if Jimin were to take a deep enough breath, their chests would touch. “Don’t. Dance with me, hyung.”

His voice, low and breathy, shoots tingles straight down Jimin’s spine. “Had to enjoy the view first,” Jimin says cheekily, hands pressing against the small of his back as Jungkook gifts him with a pleased smile.

They dance until Jimin’s feet are aching, sweat dripping between his shoulder blades, hair plastered to his forehead. Sometimes it’s goofy, getting into popping and waving competitions with each other until Jungkook threatens to do the worm on the dirty floor; other times, it’s Jungkook’s hands wandering up Jimin’s back, hips pressed flush together, Jimin pushing him against the wall in a corner of the club hidden in the shadows.

There’s some part of Jimin’s brain going haywire when Jungkook eventually pulls him in for a messy kiss, unable to withstand the push-and-pull any longer. He panics a bit as Jungkook licks into his mouth, hands settling over his belt just above the curve of his ass, pushing in to bring him closer yet — this is really fast, his mind screams, when he feels Jungkook’s arousal press against his thigh. Too fast.

Jungkook, however, doesn’t give him the chance to listen. “Let’s get out of here,” he murmurs into Jimin’s ear, lips brushing against his silver-diamond studs.

The car ride back to Yoongi’s apartment is uneventful, thankfully. Yet, Jimin can distinctly feel the space between them buzzing with electricity, unspoken but very tangible, if the suspicious glances their Uber driver keeps giving them through the rearview mirror is any indication. Jungkook doesn’t seem to notice, though; he just grabs Jimin’s hand and drags it over to his lap, resting his palm against the inside of his knee. Smiles when Jimin glances over at him, engulfs his smaller hand with his own and presses it under the edges of the rips there, until it's only skin against skin — and Jimin knows he's fucked.

“Please don’t be home,” Jungkook mutters under his breath when they get to Yoongi’s doorstep, reaching into his pocket for the spare key. Jimin hooks his chin over his shoulder, lips brushing against his neck while he fumbles to twist the key into the lock, and almost trips when Jungkook steps forward and practically slams the door open.

“Yoongi?” Jimin calls, opting to close the door much more gently while Jungkook storms off down the hall, presumably to peek into Yoongi’s bedroom. The apartment looks exactly the same as how they’d left it; dirty cereal bowls left on the coffee table, futon rolled-up in the corner, the lone lamp in the living room accidentally left on.

He doesn’t get an answer.

“He’s still out,” Jungkook says as he rushes back towards Jimin in the entryway, grinning ear-to-ear. He’s already tearing off his jacket and tossing it on the back of the couch, and Jimin feels the realization of what’s about to happen fall on top of him like a pile of bricks.

“Kook —” he starts, but Jungkook’s crossing the distance before he can even blink.

“No more talking,” he murmurs, and crushes his lips to Jimin’s to shut him up.

There’s nothing gentle about this, like last night. This is hunger. This is months’ worth of longing, of love filling up their chests to nearly bursting — the moon finally eclipsing the sun. Jimin had thought their orbits would never cross, never align; but when Jungkook lets out a small please as Jimin pulls him down to the couch with him, thighs fitting against curve of Jimin’s hips perfectly — he thinks that maybe, they were always meant to. 

“So beautiful,” Jimin breathes, taking a moment just to cup Jungkook’s face and look at him. Really look at him. To admire the pretty, soft bloom of pink across his cheeks; the warmth of his dark eyes, framed by long eyelashes; the slope of his strong nose, shining in the lamp-light. He’s absolutely breathtaking. Aphrodite and all her incarnations couldn’t even hope to compare.

Jungkook just smiles, a bit shy, and leans down to kiss him again.

Jimin loses himself in the wet, hot slide of Jungkook’s lips, fingers sinking into his hair — until Jungkook’s rolling his hips, slow but with intent, ass pressing flush against his raging boner and Jimin’s brain short-circuits. He freezes up, muscles tensing into rigidity, the panic from before quickly returning and rushing through him and screaming it’s too fast it’s too fast what are you doing

“Hey, hey — slow down,” Jimin rasps between kisses, moving to grip his face and pull him away when he immediately tries to kiss down Jimin’s neck, instead. “Stop, just — take a breath, will you?”

Jungkook’s brow furrows, eyes a little unfocused as he stares back at Jimin. “What, why? What’s wrong?” he pants out, licking his puffy lips.

Jimin desperately tries not to get distracted and look down. Think with your head, not your dick. “This is — this is a lot,” he attempts to explain, taking in steadying breaths. He shakes his head slightly. “You’re driving awfully fast, Jungkook.”

“Is that so bad?” Jungkook asks, breathless — and then he’s frowning, sitting up and dropping his hands back to his sides. “You don’t want this.”

He says it like it’s a cold, hard fact. Resigned and disappointed.

Jimin quickly tries to backtrack. “No, no, it’s not that! Not at all. I like you, Jungkook — of course I want you,” he amends, gripping Jungkook’s cheeks so tight his lips get smushed together like a fish. It’d be cute if Jimin weren’t fighting off the worst hard-on of his life. “But, I don’t want to dive head-first into this so quickly. We’ve got time, baby. We don’t have to do this tonight. On Yoongi’s lumpy couch, of all places.”

“Dun’ be a prude,” Jungkook mumbles through his fish-lips.

Jimin snorts. “I’m not. I just think… we’d regret it later,” he says, careful not to jostle Jungkook too much as he lifts himself into a sitting position. He feels like he can breathe a little easier, now. “Let’s just take this slow, okay? There’s no need to rush.”

Jungkook takes in a deep, steadying breath, and sighs. “My dick hates you right now,” he groans, rubbing a hand over his forehead. Jimin just laughs. “But, I guess you’re right. Fuck.”

“Cold shower will help,” Jimin teases, pressing a quick kiss to Jungkook’s cheek when he just glares at him.

“You can sleep on this thing tonight, then,” Jungkook says, patting the couch with a smug smile before he stands up, shuffling away awkwardly with a hand over his crotch. Before he disappears around the corner, he shouts over his shoulder, “Me and my sad, sad dick will take the futon you’ve been hogging!”

Jimin just stifles giggles into his palm and makes himself comfortable against the uneven cushions.

 

-x-

 

Their last night in California, Jungkook decides to take Jimin up to the roof of Yoongi’s building for reasons he won’t disclose.

Jimin just follows him wordlessly, feeling like he’s floating up among the clouds. They’d just gotten off a FaceTime call with Namjoon, Hoseok, Taehyung and, most surprisingly, Seokjin — who’d apparently made it official with Taehyung in the time they’ve been gone. The biggest smile crossed Jimin’s face at how happy Taehyung looked beside him, snuggled up against Seokjin’s arm as he peered into Hoseok’s laptop webcam, asking a million questions about how their trip was going. They all looked happy, albeit a little tired with the time difference — but it was so nice to talk to them all again. California’s amazing, and Jimin will treasure the memories he’s made here with Jungkook for the rest of his life, but he’s ready to go home.

“Gonna spill the beans yet?” Jimin asks when they push through the door, letting Jungkook lead him by the hand onto the roof. It’s a beautiful night; the warm breeze gently caresses his skin as they head over to the ledge, moon shining brightly down and casting long shadows all across the stained concrete.

“Good things come to those who wait,” Jungkook teases, hefting a leg over the ledge, straddling it. He pats the space in front of him. “C’mon, don’t leave me hanging.”

Jimin rolls his eyes, but complies. “Should I be worried?” he asks, sitting down cross-legged across from him, knees nudging against Jungkook’s. He tries really hard not to look down. The building’s only ten stories high, but that’s more than enough to make Jimin’s stomach turn with anxiety and fear.

So, he decides to focus on Jungkook instead; all his soft skin, the gentle curve of his eyes, the way the breeze ruffles his silky hair brushed back from his forehead. The city lights glow in small clusters of stars behind him, and more distantly, Jimin can see the ferris wheel lit-up in bright blues and purples. Picturesque.

He looks so young, like this. So — unsullied, in a sense. Jimin hopes he’ll never lose that.

“Nothing to worry about,” Jungkook says, and leans in to press a soft kiss to Jimin’s lips. He smiles, quiet and intimate, when he pulls back. “Just wanted to be with you for a little while.”

Jimin can’t help but feel a smile of his own tug at his lips. “We’ve been together every moment possible for the past week, Jungkook.”

“Getting tired of me already?”

“Hardly,” Jimin laughs, eyes twinkling. “Just suspicious.”

“Alright, fine. I might have an ulterior motive,” Jungkook grins, and proceeds to lift up the hem of his shirt — there’s a small yellow book tucked under the waistband of his jeans, curiously enough. The cover, written in Jungkook’s looping scrawl, reads: JM&JK.

“What is this?” Jimin asks, brow furrowed when Jungkook offers it to him. He flips open the cover, pausing when he sees more of Jungkook’s writing scribbled on the first page. It’s tiny, one simple sentence amidst all the plain white — for my person.

“My Christmas gift that I never got to give you,” Jungkook explains, guiding Jimin’s finger to flip to the next page and — oh. Oh.

It’s a scrapbook.

Photos of the two of them are pasted to each page, decorated with various cute stickers and little drawings in colored pencil, handwritten notes scrawled underneath and all around the pictures. The first page has a dark, grainy picture of Jimin looking up at the sky from what looks like Hoseok’s balcony, with part of Jungkook’s face and shoulder in the corner. It’s from the night they met, Jimin realizes. He hadn’t even known Jungkook snuck a picture of him when they were out there together, talking and laughing for hours.

“Kook…” Jimin breathes out, feeling himself start to get choked up with every flip of the page.

There’s pictures of him staring down at his phone at their café, of the two of them lazing on Jimin’s couch with the kitty Snow filter, of them smiling with the rest of their friends in one of their many group selfies. Every note that Jungkook’s written underneath describes each memory from his eyes. The things he’d felt in that moment. Things about Jimin he'd never had the courage to say. It’s so heartfelt, and Jimin can feel the love he’d poured into making this, the adoration and the devotion — and they were just friends, back then.

And yet, Jungkook still went through the effort to make this. Jimin doesn’t even need to ask why; it’s obvious enough. Without having to say anything, Jimin understands. Just like he always has.

When he gets to the last page, he finds it just as blank as the first, save for another small note Jungkook’s written: thank you for being you. i love you.

“Disgustingly cheesy, isn’t it?” Jungkook asks through a laugh after a moment, though his voice sounds oddly thick.

Jimin just traces his fingers over the note, feeling his face grow warm with the effort of trying not to cry. “It’s pretty up there,” he murmurs, a bit shaky, and finally looks up.

Jungkook’s smiling back at him, eyes glassy and shining in the light emanated from the streetlights below, sniffling a little bit — but despite all that, he looks happy. More than Jimin’s seen him in a long, long time.

Jimin knows then, that this relationship he has with Jungkook — it’s one that runs so deep, so true, it transcends lifetimes. No matter what kind of love they share, in the end. Even if they decide to break this off tomorrow, in two days’ time, in a week, it doesn’t change anything. Nothing will ever take this love from him. From them.

Jungkook is one of the brightest lights of his life, and Jimin could’ve died blind — but for some reason beyond his knowledge, beyond all the bounds of fate itself, he won’t have to.

I love you sits on the tip of his tongue, ready to leap right out of his mouth, but Jimin wants to keep that small treasure to himself for now. To nurture it properly, and allow it to blossom into full bloom when the time’s right.

So, he does the next best thing — he brushes his fingers against Jungkook’s cheek, heart bursting when Jungkook’s eyes flutter closed, and brings him close to kiss him with all the love he’s carried within him.

Jungkook sighs through his nose, sinking his fingers into Jimin’s hair, smiling against his lips. He tastes like the strawberry ice-cream they’d shared just an hour earlier, addictively sweet; Jimin feels tingles radiate down his neck when Jungkook’s nails scrape lightly against his scalp, feels his chest fill with warmth at the soft, surprised sound that lifts from the back of his throat as Jimin sinks his teeth into his bottom lip, gently.

It’s simple, playful; happiness building up like a never-ending crescendo. Jungkook glows with it when he pulls away, cheeks flushed, giddy smile lacing his kiss-swollen lips. Jimin can’t imagine that he looks any different.

“When we go back,” Jungkook begins, whisper-sweet, “I don’t want this to end. So, you probably shouldn’t kiss other people or anything.”

Jimin grins, light laughter bubbling out of his throat. “Are you asking me to be exclusive, Jungkook?”

“I’m just asking for us to be — something.” Jungkook looks sheepish. “Too soon?”

Jimin shrugs. “What do you think?”

“I think,” Jungkook murmurs, pausing only to peck Jimin’s lips once more, “That you make me really, really happy — and I’d be an idiot to let that go. ”

Jimin places the scrapbook carefully behind him and scoots closer, unfurling his legs and drapes his thighs over Jungkook’s. “It’s convenient, then, that I happen to feel the same way,” he says, laughing when Jungkook lightly tickles his sides. “So, I guess I won’t be kissing other people or anything.”

Jungkook beams and pulls Jimin into another kiss.

 

-x-

 

Spring bleeds into summer, and everything is different.

It’s insane, how quickly time flies. One minute, Jimin’s hugging Yoongi goodbye at the airport and returning home to find no one surprised at the sudden change in his relationship with Jungkook, and the next — Namjoon and Hoseok are graduating and moving across the city for their jobs, Taehyung’s about to head back to Daegu with Seokjin in tow to meet his family, and Jungkook’s moving into his apartment for the summer to take his classes. No sense in wasting money on the dorms when the guy he’s dating lives ten minutes from campus. It’s supposed to be temporary, but who knows? Maybe it’ll end up being permanent.

Still, even though Jimin’s the one who offered in the first place — it feels like an out-of-body experience, watching Jungkook haul all of his plastic bins and suitcases into his tiny, cramped bedroom. Seeing him sit on the bed they’ll be sharing every night, wiping his sweat away that’ll get cleaned up later in their shower.

It feels crazy, and maybe it seems kinda fast, but they’ve been friends far longer than anything else. It’s not weird, and neither of them have made it weird, so — Jimin’s really, really excited about it.

“What?” Jungkook asks, jolting Jimin out of his thoughts. He brushes his fringe away from his face and smiles up at Jimin, curious. “Why are you looking at me like that?”

Jimin lifts a brow. “Like what?”

“Like I just told you I secretly bought an entire pan of those sea-salt brownies you love so much.”

Did you?”

“No,” Jungkook snickers, giggling at the way Jimin’s face immediately falls. “Oh, stop. We can go buy some before we leave to catch the train tonight.”

“I’m holding you to that,” Jimin says, flopping down on the mattress beside Jungkook. He glances at the clock on his bedside table; it’s 4:03 PM. Four more hours until they’ve got to be at the train station to get back to Busan tonight, for the small two-week reprieve they get before Jungkook’s classes and Jimin’s internship at a local dance company starts.

Home. They’re finally going home. He’s been looking forward to it for months — probably ever since they got back from California, honestly.

“You never answered my question,” Jungkook says, laying down next to him, folding his hands together on his stomach. “Don’t get distracted by the brownies.”

Jimin just shrugs, easy smile lacing his lips. “I’m just glad you’re here,” he says, vaguely gesturing around the room. “That I get to come home to you, now. It’s kind of like an endless sleepover.”

Jungkook mirrors his grin, nose scrunching in the adorable way it always does. “You’re such a kid,” he mumbles, fond, and accepts the quick kiss Jimin presses to his lips. His eyes are soft, flitting all over Jimin’s face as he adds, “I’m happy, too. More than you know.”

“Maybe you should tell me, then,” Jimin says, cheeky, and props his head up with his elbow.

Jungkook shakes his head. “Later,” he murmurs, untangling his fingers to fist a hand in Jimin’s shirt, tugging him closer. Eyes focused on his lips. “For now, you should just kiss me.”

“You drive a hard bargain,” Jimin laughs softly, and gives in to the pull of Jungkook’s hand.

The gentle, wet smack of their lips sounds deafeningly loud in the silence of Jimin’s — no, their room; Jungkook’s hand slithers up his neck and tangles in his hair, mattress softly creaking underneath Jimin’s weight as he leans over Jungkook, hands already wandering up and down his waist —

“In case you’ve forgotten, I’m still in the apartment,” Taehyung’s voice calls from somewhere near the doorway, flat and unamused. “Not leaving until tomorrow, unlike you heathens.”

They quickly break apart, looking over Jimin’s shoulder; Taehyung’s leaning against the doorframe in his pj’s chewing noisily on an apple, expression drier than a mouthful of saltine crackers. He takes another loud bite, pointedly never breaking eye-contact as he does.

Jimin sighs and sits up, fixing Taehyung with an equally dry stare. “You have no right to complain when I’ve had to listen to you and Seokjin fucking at the ass o’ clock in the morning.”

Taehyung just shrugs. “I did give you that really cool pair of noise-canceling headphones, you know. It’s not my fault if you don’t take the hint and use them.”

“Is that what I have to look forward to when you come back from Daegu?” Jungkook groans, hauling himself up to his feet and pushes past Taehyung to get to the kitchen.

“Like you and Jiminie won’t be doing the same thing,” Taehyung snorts, following him after Jimin trails out of the room. “Maybe I should get a pair for myself, too. Or just steal yours.”

“We’ll just be extra loud to spite you,” Jimin grins, laughing when Jungkook slaps him on the arm, face beet-red. Taehyung looks like he wants to stuff his apple core straight down Jimin’s throat.

They spend their remaining time in Seoul trying to unpack some of Jungkook’s things. Well, sort of. Jungkook and Taehyung get into a really heated discussion about the new trailer for some game called the last of us, which leaves Jimin to do most of the heavy-lifting. Normally he’d complain about it, but there’s something really fun about going through Jungkook’s things — but like, not in a creepy way. Or a nasty, controlling-boyfriend sort of way.

It’s mostly just curiosity. It feels like he’s unfurling more details of Jungkook’s life with every new object he pulls out — like the mini-keyboard Jungkook uses sometimes to make music as a hobby, clearly influenced by Namjoon. There’s a huge pile of DVDs about every Marvel superhero in existence, old taekwondo trophies and his well-worn blackbelt, a framed photo of his family when Jungkook and Namjoon were still kids, and weirdly enough, a box of letters that are addressed to him from a Jeon Daejong that date back to 2002.

It’s his father, Jimin realizes with a start. He can’t imagine it’d be anyone else.

“Hyung, where are you? We should start loading up the car!”

Panicking like he’d just gotten caught with his hand in the cookie jar, Jimin scrambles to shove the box back into the bin he’d been sorting through — but because his life loves to work out in clichés, Jungkook appears in the doorway before he can even let go of the thing.

“I wasn’t snooping,” Jimin quickly says to defend himself when Jungkook’s eyes immediately land on the box in his hand. “I didn’t read any of them, I swear!”

Jungkook just gives him an odd look, stepping further into the room. “You mean my dad’s letters?” he asks, plopping down beside Jimin to take the box from his hands. He carelessly tosses aside the lid and thumbs through them, snorting when he catches Jimin’s confused expression. “You don’t have to look so shocked, Jimin. It’s not like you accidentally uncovered some dark family secret.”

Jimin blinks. “No?”

“My dad’s still in my life,” Jungkook explains, smiling as he opens one from 2003. There’s a small, old polaroid of Jungkook as a kid in his father’s arms, clad in a mickey mouse sweater and beaming at the camera with two of his front teeth missing. “My parents got divorced when I was a baby, but he was still around until he moved out to Tokyo with my step-mom when I was… seven-ish? Yeah. He visits for the holidays and my birthday every year. Usually more if he can help it. He used to write me these letters until FaceTime came around, so we just do that now.”

Jimin stares down at the photo, letting all that information sink in. He traces his finger along the curve of kid-Jungkook’s smile. “That’s… good to hear,” he eventually says, a little awkward. “You sound really chill about it all.”

Jungkook smirks. “Were you expecting a sob story?”

“Maybe? None of my friends with divorced parents were ever this nonchalant when they talked about it.”

Jungkook just shrugs. “I was really young when they split. I don’t even remember it happening — this is just how it’s always been,” he says, gesturing to the letters. “Namjoon-hyung and my step-dad came into the picture when I was three, so I just grew up with two families. It was normal, for me. Maybe I just lucked out with two sets of really great parents.”

“I guess so,” Jimin mumbles, and holds up the photo beside Jungkook’s face. Soft laughter bubbles out of his mouth — Jungkook’s eyes are still just as round and wide, and he’s still got the remnants of his baby-fat cheek pouches. Cute. “You really haven’t changed all that much, Jungkookie. Still such a baby face.”

“You’re one to talk,” Jungkook laughs, pinching at Jimin’s cheek lightly. He pats him on the thigh. “C’mon, we’ve gotta go. Taehyung’s already gone down to start the car.”

He places the letter back in the box, covers it, and leaves the room. Jimin stays there on the floor for a moment longer, smiling like an idiot at Jungkook’s picture — and when Jungkook yells for him to hurry up again, he quickly stuffs it under the slip of his phone case, grabs his suitcase, and runs out towards Jungkook’s voice.

 

-x-

 

Being back in Busan feels like bliss.

It’s probably because they don’t do anything but shoot the shit at each other’s houses, which is glorious after a stress-filled semester. Jungkook charms his parents without even trying, and unsurprisingly, bonds pretty quickly with Jihyun — they’re pretty similar people, with the same exact sense of humor. Jimin catches them almost crying over vine compilations after the first night Jungkook has dinner with them, loud laughter echoing throughout the house; they drag him down on the couch with them soon after, and Jimin feels his heart sing in happiness.

It’s pretty nerve-wracking to meet Jungkook’s mom and step-dad, but they easily welcome him into their home with open arms. His mom even pulls out an entire baby photo album when Jimin offhandedly mentions the picture he’s got in his phone case, much to Jungkook’s embarrassment.

The best part, though, is that Jungkook’s house is empty for a majority of the day, free of any nosy parents or siblings — which gives them the freedom to do anything they want with no interruptions.

It’s late in the afternoon, warm summer breeze drifting in quietly through the open window, when Jimin has Jungkook spread out beneath him on his bed. His eyes are dazed, pupils blown-out and so dark, breath catching in his chest as Jimin slowly pushes in. It’s hot, wet, and so fucking tight — Jungkook kisses him messily, almost desperately as he winds long legs around Jimin’s waist, beautiful moans lifting from his throat into the air; the sound winds into a melody with the cicadas buzzing outside, birds chirping in the trees, and the steady bang, bang, bang of the headboard against the wall.

He’s magnificent.

“You’re an animal,” Jungkook pants out in the aftermath, arm thrown over his sweaty forehead, and laughs breathlessly. “God, fuck. My ass is toast.

Jimin just grins beside him, discarding the towel he’d used to clean them up on the floor. “You asked for it.”

“Never said I didn’t,” Jungkook snorts, dropping his arm to look at Jimin properly. A confused little frown pulls at his swollen lips as he watches Jimin roll off the bed and stretch out his arms with a loud groan. “What’re you doing?”

“Gonna shower,” Jimin says, rounding the bed to pull on Jungkook’s arm. He rolls his eyes when Jungkook just whines and falls limp, unwilling to move. “C’mon, Kook. We’re both gross and it’s way too hot for this. Get up.”

“Don’t wanna,” Jungkook complains, trying to tug his arm back to his chest to no avail. Jimin’s grip is iron-tight. “Ugh, just let me stew in my own filth, I like it!”

Jimin almost laughs. “God, that’s the biggest lie you’ve ever told. Let’s go.”

It takes another couple minutes of tug of war with his arm, but Jungkook eventually gives in and allows himself to be dragged along to the bathroom. They fool around like kids underneath the warm water, giggling while they give each other soapy mohawks; there’s some adult fooling around too, sloppy kisses against the tiles and hands that linger long after the loofah’s been hung back up on its hook.

Jimin feels like a new person when they step out together, toweling each other off and dressing quickly so they can make a trip to the convenience store for Jungkook’s beloved snacks; there’s a Marvel marathon on cable tonight, and Jimin’s pretty sure Jungkook would rather eat an entire tube’s worth of wasabi than miss a single second of it — which is to say, there’s an actual negative-percent chance they’re skipping out.

So, snacks.

Jungkook whistles cheerfully as they walk down the street together, joined hands swinging in the space between them. Jimin lets him do as he pleases, eyes roaming over the colorful rooftops of Jungkook’s neighborhood; it’s a stark contrast to the relative monochrome of his own neighborhood closer to the mountains. Closer to the water, too — Nakdong river and all its beauty is just a stone’s throw away. He can even see the sunlight glittering off the river’s surface from here. It’s a view worthy of a postcard.

“Pretty, right?” comes Jungkook’s voice, suddenly. Jimin hadn’t even realized he stopped whistling.

“It is,” he hums, still facing the water. “Forgot all this existed, honestly.”

“Forgot?”

“One of my dance friends used to live around here,” Jimin explains, turning back to him. “She moved to Gwangju after middle school, though. After that… I just never had a reason to come back.”

Jungkook hums, sly smile pulling at his lips as he guides Jimin towards the door of the convenience store. “Well, now you do." 

The cool, crisp feeling of the air-conditioning hits them immediately as they step through the door. Jimin lets out a relieved sigh, closing his eyes for a moment to bask in it — and then proceeds to walk straight into Jungkook’s back with a quiet oof.

“What the —” Jimin starts, rubbing his nose as he steps around Jungkook, mouth already open to chastise him, but Jungkook’s eyes are already fixated elsewhere. Curious, Jimin follows his line of sight — and feels his insides instantly turn to ice.

This has to be some kind of stupid joke. He’s getting punk’d. He has to be. There’s no way Jimin’s luck is this bad, because — although he’s got some pretty shitty eyesight, there’s no mistaking the fact that he’s staring holes into Lee Seungwon’s head from where he’s sitting behind the counter, absorbed in the book nestled between his hands.

Jesus christ.

It feels like it happens in slow-motion. Jimin can only watch, completely powerless, as Seungwon’s head rises from his book with a welcoming smile already forming on his lips — but then it slips, freezing in place when his eyes land on Jungkook, then Jimin, and then down to their joined hands.

Jimin can actually see the moment the realization hits Seungwon; his eyes widen just a fraction, the grip on his book slackening a bit in his hand. Dread, thick and black and terribly cold, creeps up his throat and knots itself just behind his Adam’s apple — but Jimin tries not to let it show on his face. He squeezes Jungkook’s hand tighter to ground himself.

Because this is his worst fear — that Jungkook will eventually let go of his hand, turn to him with a sad, pitying smile, and whisper, I’m sorry.

And then, a little stronger: I can’t do this. I thought I could, that I could move on — but I can’t. It won't work.

In his nightmares, illogical as they are, that’s how it always goes. In reality, though —

“Hey,” Jungkook says, softly, and smiles. It’s a genuine one, Jimin knows; one that’s fond and vaguely laced with old affection. His eyes are focused on Seungwon, and never stray — but his hand, warm and always so comforting, squeezes Jimin’s back before he moves away to the small freezer sitting beside the candy shelves. “I didn’t know you still worked here." 

Seungwon blinks, coming out of his little trance. “Yeah, I do. Obviously,” he says, gesturing to the name-tag pinned to his shirt. Jungkook snorts out a tiny laugh, and that manages to coax a smile out of Seungwon.

Jimin feels very out of place.

“Glad to see they changed the uniform to black, at least,” Jungkook comments idly as he picks out two big popsicles. “The last one was so awful. What did you call it? Piss-yellow?”

“Puke-yellow, but close enough,” Seungwon laughs.

They continue to chat while Jungkook flits around the store, picking out snacks after briefly showing them to Jimin for approval. Honestly, Jungkook could ask him if he wanted mango-flavored yogurt and Jimin would probably say yes, and he hates mangoes. That’s how dazed he is, right now.

It’s just strange because it’s not awkward between Jungkook and Seungwon. Not really. They talk as if they’re old friends while Seungwon rings him up, residual fondness evident in their body language, in the quiet laughter and smiles exchanged between them. Something ugly worms its way into Jimin’s head as he watches them, and try as he might, he just can’t ignore it.

The Dwarf,” Jungkook mumbles, peering over the counter to read the title of Seungwon’s book while he bags all their snacks. He tilts his head. “Why’re you reading this? You were never into the classics." 

Seungwon chuckles. “Well, I’m still not, but — I’m taking classes at BNU of Education,” he says, eyes brightening. “Managed to get myself a pretty hefty scholarship, so...”

Jungkook blinks. “You want to be a teacher?”

“Yeah. Thought about it for a long time, and I think it’s the right direction for me,” Seungwon shrugs, pushing their bag across the counter. He smiles, looking Jungkook directly in the eye as he adds, “I’m doing well. Really.”

Jimin bites his lip, averting his eyes to read cup ramen labels as he hovers awkwardly off to the side. Once again, he feels like he’s intruding on something he really shouldn’t be seeing — but Jungkook just gathers up the bag in his hands, steps back from the counter, and says, “That’s good to hear, Seungwon. I’m relieved.”

“Same goes to you,” Seungwon hums. There’s silence for a moment, and then — “Hey, Jimin-hyung?”

Jimin’s head snaps up, eyes wide like a frightened deer catching a glimpse of headlights barreling down the road. “Yeah?”

Seungwon just smiles, kind and true. “I hope we’re still on the same wavelength,” is all he says, and nudges his head towards Jungkook when he isn’t looking.

Confusion floods Jimin’s mind for a moment, and then he remembers — a cold winter night, the rumble of a train leaving the station, his arm slung around Seungwon’s shoulders and Jungkook’s exasperated stare. It’s a message, unspoken yet undoubtedly loud: take care of him.

Jimin hears him, crystal-clear.

“We are,” he assures Seungwon, and offers up a small smile of his own in return. Seungwon nods and sits back in his chair, satisfied; Jungkook just frowns, eyes darting back and forth between the two of them, and gives Jimin a confused look when he just gestures for Jungkook to follow him out the door.

“What was that about?” Jungkook asks once they’re back outside, squinting at him.

Jimin just shrugs, reaching into the bag hanging from Jungkook’s hand to pull out their popsicles. “Nothing really,” he mumbles, unwrapping one and offers it to Jungkook as they round the corner. “I could ask you the same, you know. Wasn’t that — I don’t know, weird?”

“A little,” Jungkook admits, licking idly at his popsicle. He lets out a little sigh through his nose. “I thought about this a lot, you know. What I’d say to him if I ever ran into him again, what I’d do… and at first, I thought I’d just get so angry. Shout the worst shit at him for what he did to me, but — the more I kept going over the break-up in my head, the more I could understand why it happened.”

Jimin’s eyebrows raise. “Yeah?”

Jungkook nods. “We were just growing apart, going down different paths in life. He knew it, and maybe I did, too — but I just didn’t want to accept it, then.” He twists his lips, averting his eyes down to his shoes. “Who wants to believe their first love won’t work out?”

Jimin thinks back to how he’d felt as a fifteen-year-old, when failed love and ending relationships felt like the end of the world. He’d cried for days when his first girlfriend broke up with him over text, only to find out she'd entered a new relationship with some other dude the following week. It’s tough, in those years. When you’re so young and just discovering what that kind of love is even like, how relationships work and the whole nine yards.

“Yeah, I understand,” Jimin mumbles around his popsicle, feeling the knot in his throat begin to unravel.

Jungkook side-eyes him, nudging him with his elbow. “You don’t have to look so worried, hyung. This doesn’t change anything. You know that, right?”

“I know, but — sometimes, I just wonder if I’m the right decision for you,” Jimin confesses, staring at a drop of blue syrup trickling down the popsicle and onto his hand. “I want to be, and I try to be, but…”

Jungkook moves to stand in front of him, making them both stop in the middle of the sidewalk. There’s something fierce in his eyes when Jimin looks up, something determined and a little agitated; his heart leaps when Jungkook suddenly grabs onto his hand, grip a bit too tight.

You are the best decision I’ve ever made,” Jungkook asserts, strong and steady. An anchor in a turbulent sea. “As my friend, and as my boyfriend. Don’t ever doubt that, Jimin. He might’ve been my first love, but you — you're my love now. It’s different, yeah, but that doesn’t make it any less true. I promise. Okay?”

Emotion wells up in Jimin’s chest, so strongly and so full it feels like he's about to burst — a touched smile overcomes his lips, cheeks aching, and he tightens his hand around Jungkook’s. “Okay,” he echoes, quiet and light as air.

Jungkook grins, handsome and youthful. He presses a quick kiss to Jimin’s lips. “Cool. Now, let’s hurry up and get home. Ragnarok is up first and that’s my favorite Thor movie of all time.”

Jimin just laughs and follows without complaint.

At the end of the night when the last movie’s credits roll, snack wrappers shoved into the trash bin and Jungkook’s curled up on his side, fast asleep — Jimin presses a gentle kiss to the back of his neck, right against the bare curve of bone. His fingers brush against the warm skin of Jungkook’s stomach, tracing out words he doesn’t quite have the nerve to voice aloud, but one day —

You are my once in a lifetime love.