jungkook encounters the man of his soul july, 2012. it’s scorching hot but humid. his white shirt has to be peeled away from his thin chest due to the sweat he’s building up, and he’s half considered asking his mom to just shave off all his hair - especially the fringe that’s curling into his eyes.
busan feels sticky and slow, melting words and hymns that buzz in the ear. jungkook pushes his white sneakers against the gravel and marvels at the tiniest things; glitters of shell and rock embedded in the pathway, sea salt, and wanting rain. his strongest impressions of oceanside cities compress into this.
he’s fifteen, school is out, and his friends are all on vacation. jungkook lives in a small, modest home, near the bottom of the road where all the traffic starts congesting. they live comfortably, but not enough to visit Jeju once a year, enough to go to seoul and feel wondrous at the bright neon lights that last forever and the deadened faces that are ephemeral.
yoongi is nineteen, then, and is in busan with his friend to meet a friend. they come at the worst time; when the weather rests at the precipice of rain and storm, when the streets are clear and everyone has taken their boisterous voices inside harried, tidy homes. but still, he comes, following on the heels of his best - and at this point, only friend - namjoon, hair a bleached mess and edging inconsistency in his gaze.
jungkook buys a popsicle from one of the vendors resting at the edge of the beach. he likes the beach, despite it being a bus ride and a walk away from his house. he likes how it’s far enough to be considered alone and alien, but close enough that he can always find his way home. the old man behind the cart moves slowly, too, like he’s trapped in amber. jungkook puts two coins in his weathered hand and starts walking down the boardwalk.
yoongi and namjoon are walking the other way. jungkook meets eyes with them briefly, just for a moment, having worked down his popsicle, before a sharp pain breaks through the haze.
he swears, pulling his hand to his mouth while his teeth catch on the edge of a splinter that gets stuck in his tongue. he quickly pulls it out with nimble feelings, the familiar taste of blood following right after.
across from him, yoongi coughs, flower petals choking down his throat.
jungkook is harried and rushed when he’s working on his essays last minute. he sprawls everything out around him like a halo, ready to push and pull each separate component to come together in one beautiful picture. yoongi doesn’t know how he does it, only that it’s more than just procrastination or last-minute writing - jungkook has it all down to an art form.
snorting, fond and affectionate, yoongi presses a kiss to the crown of jungkook’s head. “go to sleep when you can,” he murmurs, inhaling the scent of his shampoo.
jungkook makes a noncommittal sound, already lost. yoongi can already expect what’s coming in the future and grabs a bunch of tapes as well as the leather journal jungkook uses to bring with him to the studio. on the train there, he already prepares for what’s inevitable: jungkook got paper cuts while i was trying to record - again! leaving a bright, open space for the queen anne’s lace to come.
it’s a fun story they tell at parties, campfires, cooing old ladies on the street. it’s romantic, jungkook says, and yoongi nods his head in agreement, his arm resting loosely around jungkook’s waist. yes, so romantic - walking past each other one empty summer day, finding each other’s eyes - something out of a movie.
jungkook recalls the popsicle falling from his hands, two drops of blood on the rustic, wooden boardwalk, his eyes watering through the pain. a deep voice that he now knows as namjoon’s going, “shit, hyung, you alright?”
he and yoongi had met after, perhaps fifteen minutes later, when the implications had sunk in.
namjoon, to this day, still makes fun of it - how criminally cheesy it was, how yoongi always spoke of being smooth and suave if he ever met his soulmate (despite denying vigorously that he didn’t care about finding his soulmate no, but namjoon had been drunk with him enough times to know that yoongi still watched every passerby for color - red or green or blue or anything), how awfully awkward they had been with each other for the first few moments.
jungkook doesn’t understand at first; all three of them head to a nearby hole-in-the-wall place to sit down and comprehend what’s just happened. jungkook’s tongue throbs, his nose is sunburnt, and if he doesn’t go home soon his mom will chase him around the house with her shoe.
despite that, he sits and stares at yoongi.
unlike with his friends, or even with the boy next door - jimin - they don’t fall into easy conversation. jungkook actually shifts awkwardly, desperate to start heading home, to leave. he’s constrained, confined. it’s more of a cross-examination than a friendly meet-your-soulmate. namjoon, who has introduced himself earlier, leaves to grab drinks.
long, pale fingers twirl a simple stem of flowers. they’re slightly wet with saliva, coming from yoongi’s mouth. the proof is undeniable. jungkook doesn’t understand, because he has never felt so out of his depth as he does now - and isn’t the point of your soulmate to be someone who completes you? who is another part of your soul?
yoongi pauses and sets down the stem of flowers. it doesn’t occur to jungkook until later, when he’s older, that yoongi must have been just as nervous - if not more so. “want to keep in contact?”
“i’ve been living here for two years now, and i can tell you, gguk, that fucking cat is the worst,” yoongi insists. jungkook stops by the convenience store with a single-minded mission to buy cat food and maybe a small blanket, enough for a feline to lounge on. jungkook spins around to glare at him.
“it’s because you treat him like that! he would be nicer to you if you would just be nice to him!”
“it’s a demon,” yoongi swears, and jungkook mindfully doesn’t point it that like repels like, and maybe yoongi is too much like the cat - grumbly, hesitant to reach out, awfully cuddly if given a chance. jungkook just buys the food and hums in excitement, thinking about petting the cat, and drags yoongi behind him.
when jungkook leaves the food out for the orange tabby that resides in front of their neighboring apartment building, it hisses and reaches out to give jungkook a deep, clawed scratch. it’s sudden and hurts enough for tears to sprout at the corner of his eyes.
yoongi sighs, but plucks the flowers from his own arm to place in his back pocket. he reaches out and puts the blanket jungkook bought over the bleeding wound, wiping away tears from the corners of jungkook’s eyes with another hand. “hey,” he says, low and steady, “it’s okay, i got you, i’m here.”
“devil cat,” jungkook mumbles, but he feels better, even if he’s embarrassed for crying at something so stupid.
“devil cat,” yoongi agrees, but he’s smiling.
jungkook saves yoongi’s number and they chat through kakaotalk. fifteen, young and still blush-faced, jungkook doesn’t know what to do with the introduction of his soulmate in his life. he is nervous, nostalgic, and numb all at once. quickly, he learns that soulmates are not all about comfort - they are about fit. when jungkook texts yoongi for the first time, it’s like stepping into the deep ocean and losing his footing; he drowns quickly. it’s scary but intriguing.
they talk on the phone more than they text each other. one could never guess from their interactions - their chat room is so quiet, as if one stone could break the surface tension, but jungkook knows he has spent hours growing and listening to yoongi’s voice. jungkook does not have this relationship with anyone else: where he would rather listen to yoongi’s silences than to see it through a screen.
he begins to keep a record of yoongi’s existence. there are old flowers that he can recall from when he was twelve, thirteen, fourteen - dynamic ages, flowers sprouting from his elbows and his knees, sometimes - most worryingly - from the edge of his wrist where his veins are prominently displayed. those, he never shows his parents or friends. jungkook has always tried to keep them, but his efforts had never followed through to be anything concrete. now, after yoongi has gone to seoul and jungkook can’t help but recall the essences of him, he tries harder.
yoongi still gets hurt, of course. jungkook is helpless to that fact. he doesn’t know yoongi, not really, despite the strange melancholy that ties them together. they’re a train crash waiting to happen, but they’re also...good. he has a name to a face, a face to a flower, a phone call away for inquiries. what happened this morning? what happened last night?
papercuts, yoongi says, when dandelions bloom from jungkook’s fingertips. dropped a box on my foot while helping joon move to his new apartment, when jungkook drops over a moonflower wrapped around his ankle. no response, when white lilies sprout from his wrists to curl around his fingers.
jungkook tells his parents of yoongi’s existence eventually when they find the small journal jungkook keeps of yoongi’s flowers. each of them - dated, with scribbles of a novice’s experience toward flower type, definition, and meaning. his mother had found it while cleaning his room, seeing it stuffed underneath his mattress haphazardly. jungkook found her tracing white lilies with a strange heaviness to her brow.
dandelions, of faithfulness. lilies, of death.
that night, jungkook’s held his journal with precious, fragile fingers, seventeen and trapped in a sleepy oceanside city, wondering about wounds and loyalty to the man of his soul.
when jungkook moves to seoul for university, there’s no big shift of the world on its axis. he sometimes feels that way - as if someone, something, is tilting him sideways - but he moves in with yoongi right away. they don’t talk to each other the first night in. instead, jungkook goes to his room, closes the door, and calls yoongi. they share breaths, then incredulity, then laughter.
eventually, jungkook shares bare bones of his soul: the pieces of each little puzzle that yoongi gives him, pasted and pressed into a soft leather journal. every smudge of yoongi’s existence that has come from jungkook’s skin has been left between those pages, all the way down to the dates and where they had emerged. yoongi realizes, then, but he must have realized before too - the way his eyes rove over the dead flowers, gaze flickering to his own wrists, he must have known. he knows that jungkook knows.
“oh,” he says, and then yoongi shows him his soul: shows the flowers that he’s kept relentlessly for ages, all neatly preserved so well that their colors are still outrageously vibrant, in a vase of clear liquid. it’s stuffed to the brim. jungkook doesn’t doubt that there are more hidden away. it’s strange, he thinks, how they cling to death and life respectively.
“what are we,” yoongi whispers, and after three years of knowing each other, jungkook has no answers for him.
“hyung, i always thought that we were maybe friends.”
“yeah,” yoongi says, subdued. “i thought so, too.”
jungkook’s heart is beating hard and fast. “do you not want...?”
“no, i do,” yoongi says, but his eyes say something different, and jungkook doesn’t know if he’s quite ready for that yet.
they record their days, then. it’s a mess of bloody wounds and licking each other’s hurts, the way that only soulmates can. jungkook meets yoongi’s friends - namjoon and seokjin and hoseok - and jungkook introduces him to his own, taehyung and jimin. they’re all jagged edges trying to fit each other, but jungkook doesn’t mind the push.
despite the strange nostalgic twinge at the back of his throat, jungkook lives well. he has friends, good grades (as good as they can be) and he lives with his soulmate. yoongi is kind to him, and in turn, jungkook is kind in return.
“hyung, do you want dinner?” he asks lazily. yoongi is drinking from a beer can on their sofa, his legs stretched out in front of him. he’s been in the studio longer than usual. jungkook thinks about what he can possibly order out tonight. yoongi grunts, which jungkook takes as a yes, and places an order in for chicken.
he plops down on the sofa next to yoongi, feeling strange. he doesn’t like the way that yoongi drinks, never has, nor does yoongi like his other vices - the smoking, particularly, is not one of his favorites. he doesn’t like the way the smoke clings to yoongi like a second skin. sometimes it makes him angry, messes with his head. jungkook is strong, but he’s weak when it comes to yoongi’s ire.
yoongi turns from the tv screen to look at him, eyebrow cocked. it’s so typical of him, his own way of asking jungkook what’s up, that the younger can’t help but grin. he snickers, then, overcome with affection, and thinks this is what he didn’t understand before about soulmates: yes, they don’t have to immediately fit, but they will. he and yoongi don’t know everything about each other, but their movements come into sync more often than not. jungkook is pushed out of his comfort zone. yoongi is pushed into complacency. they make complications and comprises for each other.
jungkook pulls the beer can away from yoongi’s fingers, shuddering at how cold it is against his palm, and reaches up to press a warm, dry kiss to yoongi’s mouth. his eyes flutter closed, and yoongi stills for a moment before answering back.
jungkook has always known this about him: he’s unrefined in a way, awkward and unsure, translating into a bit of roughness. not mean-spirited, but with the ability to be so. jungkook thinks about it sometimes, how close they can be to fighting; how close he comes to seeing something violent blossoming.
after all, why else would soulmates find each other from flowers and bleeding wounds?
yoongi presses closer, reaching up to curl a hand into the fine hairs at the nape of jungkook’s neck, and jungkook’s breath catches. yoongi swallows it whole, pressing closer, deeper, starved. they cling to each other’s bodies, basking in the temporary warmth. yoongi pulls away, jungkook laughs - delighted, happy, giddy - and then kisses him again.
“ow, shit!” jungkook swears, pulling away. he stares balefully at the soup in front of him, cursing it silently. all he wanted was his mom’s stew, not this bullshit.
“jungkook?” yoongi’s deadpan voice comes from the opposing room, “why do i have a bunch of daisies sprouting from my palm?”
“i, um,” jungkook’s eyes flicker this way and that, the way they always do when he’s trying to hide something. yoongi walks into the room, prepared for the worst - there was one time jungkook had accidentally cut his pink real deep when experimenting with food - but stops short to see a regular spoon, bloodied at the side, and jungkook already hiding his palm underneath cold rushing water.
yoongi, for a moment, pauses. then, “did you cut yourself with a spoon?”
“no,” jungkook scoffs, but it’s too quick of an answer.
“a spoon? how the fuck do you - “
“hyung! don’t keep the damn flower!”
“ - with a spoon?”
despite jungkook’s insistence, the whole thing goes down on record. yoongi never lets him forget it.
despite their happy times, something in jungkook knew - perhaps from before they met, even - that yoongi rested at a precipice. jungkook always felt a yearning for something that he couldn’t quite name, not even ‘till now. the drinking, the smoking. yoongi’s gentle hands but the undercurrent of something desperate. something jungkook couldn’t soothe.
so when yoongi is at the motel room, and it’s lit up with flames and dreams, jungkook feels his heart in his throat. it takes him a second to realize it’s more than that - it’s flowers, choking him. aimlessly, he thinks: is this the way yoongi felt when they first met?
he drags yoongi out by the arm, desperately wiping the blood that is trickling out of the corner of his cheek, clinging to his body when the paramedics ask him to move aside. when jungkook chokes out flowers in between his sobs, they leave him alone.
at the hospital, days after when yoongi still hasn’t woken up, jungkook takes the flowers and numbly sets them inside that leather journal. his hands shake when he writes - the night i saved hyung from the fire at the motel - and wonders when the man of his soul has decided that jungkook is not enough. there are so many flowers they take up two whole pages. tears blur his vision. the ink runs as they fall, slowly, onto his journal filled with dead flowers.
“i’m so sorry, jungkook,” yoongi groans, the first thing he says when he wakes up. jungkook is by his side, smelling of days-old clothes, hair a mess, eyes red with shadows underneath gathering from sleepless nights. his lips are chapped and cracked from biting them so often. yoongi thinks he’s beautiful.
“don’t scare me like that again, please,” jungkook says, and it sounds a lot like i love you.
yoongi pauses, staring at the white, bright lights, then at jungkook. he opens his mouth once, then closes it. with something ineffable in his gaze, he reaches out to take jungkook’s hand. “i scared you, huh.”
he has been for years, jungkook realizes, but jungkook has been so used to the feeling that he doesn’t know how to distinguish it from anything else.
yoongi leaves the hospital better than before. something in him has shifted. jungkook thanks the doctor profusely and promises to take care of yoongi for the rest of the healing period. while he’s taking serious notes and hanging onto every word the doctor says about yoongi’s lungs, his wounds, his internal bleeding, the strange cuts on his wrists, the state of his mental health - aren’t you a little young to be worrying about this? there are professionals, even if he doesn’t want to see them -
yoongi goes to the gift store and buys a bouquet of flowers. they’re an assortment of yellow and white flowers, and he’ll probably have no more money after the hospital bills come in, but the look on jungkook’s face when yoongi brings them to him is worth it.
“what,” jungkook trails off as he takes the bouquet into his hands, blinking as their sweet floral smell tickles their nose.
“you’ve never gotten flowers from me,” yoongi starts, “that didn’t come from me hurting myself.”
jungkook’s fingers run over the petal tips. he doesn’t cry, but his lips press together tightly, and he doesn’t let go of yoongi’s hand until they’re home.
in their shared leather journal of weathered, entwined souls, jungkook keeps two flowers of the bouquet carefully pressed; on the side, in his careful writing, reads, the day yoongi-hyung told me he loved me too.