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and i love you (with all my heart, with all my soul)

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He blinks, stares at the shifting shadows on the off-white ceiling and watches as the time blurs into repeating digits. The text messages come then, slowly then all at once—a flurry of tiny, hurried KaTalk! over the hushed silence of his bedroom. Blearily, he blinks and pushes himself up onto one elbow, turns to the blinking light of his phone and feels the softest traces of a smile slowly spread across his lips.

The first notification is from Seokjin, and he feels a small, disappointed lurch at the pit of his stomach; immediately guilt follows, because he can’t blame his hyung for being so enthusiastic to congratulate him on his birthday. Seokjin’s been dying to be the first anyway, has been desperately trying to have his message appear at the bottom of Jungkook’s notifications, pushed by the incessant whirlwind of heartfelt words. It’s been years since he’s managed that feat, and Jungkook laughs lightly, feeling the need to congratulate him right back.

 

Seokjin-hyung
Jungkook-ah
HBD
Hyung is first

ah hyung you finally did it
thank you

 

He doesn’t read Seokjin’s messages after—something of elated disbelief starts to flood the chat, and Jungkook promptly exits to leave half of them unread. There are more messages coming in, newer ones from friends and family and even from old barely-acquainted classmates, but Jungkook just scrolls past them until he reaches the very top where his messages with Seokjin are now waiting, the elder still screaming with excitement at his latest accomplishment.

Disappointment overwhelms him tenfold after that; he breathes deep into his lungs and exhales loudly through his mouth and works on replying to as many messages as he can instead. He argues that it makes sense that the one person whose message he was looking forward to hasn’t been able to send him a proper greeting yet. Even though it’s half-past midnight in Korea, it’s only half-past eight in the morning in California. Jimin’s most likely still asleep, dreaming until it’s almost too late to start the day.

It’s also still August there, Jungkook argues as he sends sticker after sticker to his parents, all of them containing various renditions of I love you. Jimin’s never been good with translating the time difference whenever he goes abroad for work, always relying on Taehyung who travels along.

So he sighs, convinces himself there’ll be a message when he wakes. Lets his head fall back onto the pillow and trickle into dreams.

 

 

 

 

Jungkook met Jimin on a Tuesday in the late fall, somewhere in the centre of the grand ballroom that was to be the set for the photoshoot Jungkook was the photographer of. He remembers the way their eyes met, the leap his heart took despite the ache at the realisation that this beautiful man fifteen feet away could never be his.

It came as a surprise when Jimin asked him out anyway, waving dismissively when Jungkook asked about his soulmate. And while Jungkook himself had been hesitant to accept a date from someone whose soulmate was obviously very much alive, he caved, met Jimin at the upscale restaurant somewhere in the heart of Gangnam and allowed himself to fall in love.

Loving Jimin proved to be the best decision he’s ever made, and there’s not a day Jungkook thinks his affections don’t grow.

Because before Jimin, Jungkook had never cared about birthdays—not since he outgrew the parties and the gifts that came in the various shapes of toy. Before Jimin, Jungkook had never known the deep, heart-flipping emotion that came with Jimin’s long, heartfelt midnight messages, a promise of I love you attached to the bottom of each one.

He still doesn’t care much about his birthday, but Jimin’s messages are always something he looks forward to, if not as a reminder that Jimin is his and he is deeply loved.

But this year—this year the message doesn’t come; Jungkook’s inbox stays void of any new texts from Jimin, the last conversation they had being two days ago. Jungkook feels the disappointment quiver in his stomach again, but he pushes it away, forces himself out of bed and into the shower to get started on his day.

The mantra repeats in his head: it’s still August in California, still too early for a Happy birthday, Jungkook! Still too early for Jimin to remember when he’s so used to looking at the local time.

He grabs his keys and settles into his car, driving slowly through the streets of Seoul as traffic begins to build. It takes him another hour or so before he can finally pull into the parking spot in the underground garage of the building that houses the office space of his humble studio; he leaps out of the car and shoulders his backpack and heads straight for the stairs.

Yoongi arches his brow when he emerges on the fifth floor, a cup of iced Americano in one hand and a camera hanging off one shoulder. The secretary he was speaking to also pauses in her chatter as she briefly glances up, lips pressed together in an attempt of faint laughter when she sees Jungkook’s disheveled state.

There’s a fond sort of snort, and Yoongi swipes a tissue from the secretary’s desk. He extends his arm, tissue dangling in his fingers in a silent offer, and Jungkook grins, bounding up to him. “Happy birthday, kid.”

“Ah, hyung, you shouldn’t have,” he teases, to which Yoongi just grins a little wider and pats his shoulder. His hyung is tiny like this, the top of his head just meeting Jungkook’s eyes—yet Jungkook still feels small when Yoongi reaches up to ruffle his hair, his gaze nothing short of endeared.

“You have such high expectations of me,” Yoongi jokes right back, and Jungkook barks out a laugh.

He wipes at his forehead with the tissue and chucks it into the bin to his left. “Only because you’re so short.”

“Hm,” is the only reply Yoongi produces, but there’s silent laughter in his eyes. Wordlessly, he wraps an arm around Jungkook’s shoulders and steers him into the office, pauses and nods at the secretary as they leave. The office bustles with activity as they weave their way through the desks, through long corridors until they reach the end where Jungkook’s name sits on a silver placard. A rush of pride runs through Jungkook whenever he sees it—a testament of his hard work, of the blood, sweat and tears he poured into his little humble studio.

It’s not so humble now, the space he has rented triple of what he had at the start. He has enough experience and an extensive enough résumé to take on interns and a larger clientele, half of which ends up on Yoongi’s plate after a business transaction turned into partnership (and now a deep-rooted friendship that Jungkook clings onto). It’s how he met Jimin at that five-star hotel in Gangnam, him dressed in Saint Laurent from head to toe while Jungkook fiddled with a day-old hoodie he accidentally forgot to wash.

He shakes the thought of Jimin from his mind, but his eyes betray him and searches for his phone. Still no new messages.

“Seokjin-hyung wants to meet up tonight,” Yoongi says as they enter Jungkook’s office; it’s quaint, smaller than what Jungkook probably deserves, but he finds that he likes it. The muted greys and blues wash serenity over him, and the smell lingering in the air just faintly carries traces of Jimin’s cologne. He shuffles over to the desk and settles in the leather seat and boots up his computer to start work. “Are you down for meat?”

“I’m always down for meat, hyung.”

“Hanwoo?” Yoongi asks, checking his phone. He types away at something before glancing at Jungkook inquisitively.

Jungkook just raises an eyebrow as though to say Is there really another answer to this, and Yoongi shrugs, another small smile tugging at the corners.

“Fair enough.” He types again, presumably hits send with a soft whoosh. Pockets the sleek, black Android and refocuses on Jungkook again. “How’s Jimin?”

The name immediately causes Jungkook to slump, a pout hanging from his lips. “I don’t know.”

There’s a pause, and Jungkook easily reads Yoongi’s mind. Yoongi doesn’t say anything, though, merely nodding a little slowly. The next words come out careful, calculated. Jungkook tilts his head. “You haven’t heard from him?”

“Not since Saturday morning,” Jungkook admits with a sigh. “He’s probably really busy, though; he’s dreamed of directing for Chanel since forever.”

Yoongi smiles. “Yeah. He’s scouting new models, right?”

“And meeting with a couple seasoned ones,” Jungkook elaborates. “Old talent for the upcoming show, and new ones for a small show a colleague is putting on next winter.”

“Taehyung’s with him, then?”

He licks his lips. “Yeah.”

Yoongi stares out the window, down at the busy streets of Seoul. Their studio isn’t located anywhere near Gangnam, instead lying across the Han River in the heart of Hongdae. Oftentimes, Jungkook’s street view consisted of buskers and vibrant college kids. Other times, he’d see couples linked arm in arm. He tries not to focus on the band circling their wrists—the identifier that they’re soulmates, meant to be.

He tries to ignore the red circlet around Yoongi’s wrist and bears holes into his computer instead.

“I’m going to head out now,” Yoongi says after a few moments have crept by, and Jungkook nods, barely lifting his eyes from the computer. There’s another beat of silence as Yoongi turns to open the door to Jungkook’s office; on the other side, Jungkook’s assistant photographer freezes mid-knock, a sheepish smile on his face. Yoongi smiles at him and slips past a little. “I’ll see you tonight?”

“Hm,” Jungkook affirms, and then Yoongi’s gone, wandering off to his own office just two doors down.

His assistant makes his way in then, followed by an intern they hired just two days ago. “Sunbaenim? We have a shoot at eleven; should we leave now?”

“Ah, right.” Jungkook stands, finds a camera in the cabinet to his right. Locks up the drawers and fiddles with the lenses before smiling up. “Okay, let’s go.”

The thought of Jimin slowly trickles into the back of his mind, buried for a later hour.

It’s okay.

 

 

 

 

Except it isn’t. It’s eight now, a little too early to be drunk yet here he is, tipsy and giggling, face squished in between Hoseok’s hands. Namjoon laughs at something Yoongi says while Seokjin promptly proceeds to complain and whine in incredulity at his best friend’s words. Another chorus of giggles erupt from Jungkook’s lungs, and he’s honestly having so much fun sitting here, in the corner of a hanwoo restaurant somewhere in Dongjak-gu, the thoughts plaguing his mind slowly ebbing away.

It’s nice, Jungkook thinks belatedly as Hoseok slips away into the back—probably to get the cake, something they’ve never been very good at bringing out as a surprise.

He’s right, of course; the cake is chocolate with layers of cheese beneath, a thin graham base and the perfect cookie crumble decorating the top. There’s a brightly lit 20 in the centre surrounded by four other individual candles. He laughs when he turns to Namjoon inquisitively, knowing he’d been in charge of fetching the right number.

“They ran out of fours,” Namjoon explains sheepishly. “We had to improvise.”

“It’s fine,” Jungkook dismisses with a grin. “Makes me feel younger.”

Seokjin snorts at this, leans against the table and bunches his cheeks together. He’s too drunk, having drank two bottles of soju alone. Jungkook watches in amusement as Seokjin blinks at him, a lazy smile on his lips. “You’re only twenty-four. Wait until you’re thirty.”

“You’re not even thirty yet, hyung,” Yoongi blatantly points out, but Seokjin waves a hand.

“I’m almost there, and if any of you start mocking me because of my age, you can say goodbye to home-cooked meals in the future.”

“Yoongi-hyung cooks for us, though,” Hoseok mumbles, then turns to look at Jungkook with proud eyes. “Okay! It’s the birthday boy’s time. Everybody better fucking sing or I’ll post that photo of you from last summer.”

They sing—or well, Namjoon attempts to, but he’s over-enthusiastic with his rendition and goes a little off-key. It’s cute, though, and Jungkook finds himself clapping loudly along; by the end of it, he’s closing his eyes and making a big wish, blowing the candles all in one go.

Hoseok applauds the loudest, snaps about a thousand pictures of Jungkook in his party hat, which Seokjin had insisted he kept on as soon as they sat down at their table. Yoongi’s grinning as he goes back to grilling the meat, while Seokjin and Namjoon have started a debate on whose birthday present will end up Jungkook’s favourite.

In the middle of the chaos, Jungkook leans back and swallows the scene with his eyes, the flashes of Hoseok’s camera ignored for the time being. A part of him whispers that it would’ve been better had Jimin been by his side, but he doesn’t mind. He’s accepted the lack of messages from Jimin’s end, waving it off as Jimin being too preoccupied with his own work and affairs to check Korea’s time.

And it’s okay—until Jungkook swipes on his phone, navigates to Instagram to add to his non-existent story and finds Jimin’s post sitting on the top of the feed. He’s standing underneath the Californian sun, his skin already developing that pretty golden tan, arm looped around Taehyung’s as they make peace signs at the camera. It’s a cute picture, and normally Jungkook would’ve tapped Like immediately, but then he spies the caption and his heart drops into his stomach, the ache he thought he buried three years ago in that restaurant in Gangnam resurfacing once again.

Because although Jimin is Jungkook’s now, he’ll always be Taehyung’s first—as colleagues, as friends, as soulmates.

He swallows the lump in his throat as he reads the caption again and again.

With the best soulmate in the world! Love you!

Jungkook closes his eyes and tries not to let the emotions build.

It suddenly feels like too much—the laughter, the food, the cake, his friends. Someone’s hands slip into Jungkook’s, and he opens them to find Hoseok linking their fingers together, concern written over his eyes.

But Jungkook doesn’t see that—doesn’t see beyond the red band that decorates Hoseok’s pretty wrist, doesn’t see past the band that signifies Hoseok has a soulmate who is well and alive and present. Can’t see anything beyond Yoongi’s band and Hoseok’s band and Namjoon’s and Seokjin’s, so he stands, heaves something about needing to go, and storms to his car with drying tears in his eyes.

It’s ten when he arrives home to the darkness of his apartment—his apartment, he thinks bitterly, because Jimin still lives with Taehyung in Cheongdam-dong, in a penthouse overlooking the Gangnam nightlife. Because Jimin continues to have a life separate from Jungkook, a life Jungkook will never be able to see.

Jimin continues to have a future while Jungkook is barely clinging onto his.

He hops into the showers as the bitterness starts to spread to his lungs; he grips the shower head and gulps, the air too thin down his throat; he almost slips, everything barely enough to anchor himself. Counts to ten and back again and up again until his head starts to clear. The ache in his chest doesn’t go away, though; it buries itself in his chest, settles somewhere a little too close to his lungs.

A silent voice whispers to him Jimin’s words of love. Rationality tells him they’re true—Jimin has poured out his heart for Jungkook time and time before. But Jungkook thinks of Jimin in Los Angeles, a city he’s only ever dreamed about. Thinks of his birthday, while well spent, was ultimately spent alone in the end. Thinks of his phone and the lack of messages and Jungkook excusing Jimin again and again when there was nothing to excuse him for in the beginning.

Because as Jungkook spirals, he realises this: Jimin’s been free all day, has been up since before Korea’s midnight, and even though there was a chance Jimin had forgotten about the date, Jungkook knows that isn’t the case. Because there, just three posts below his selfie with Taehyung at the Griffith Observatory with the Hollywood sign to their back, is another image of Jimin and Taehyung in bed, hair ruffled with sleepy smiles and breakfast in bed and a caption that reads Here’s to a new day—both here and at home.

He chucks the phone away, hears it bounce against the edge of his bed and onto the floor, and squeezes his eyes close.

He’s not going to cry today—not going to feel his heart break piece by piece on a day when he’s supposed to celebrate his life.

When he’s supposed to celebrate everything that he is, with or without Jimin.

A shaky breath comes out as he peeks above the covers at the sound of a small buzz; it’s his phone, ringing from the hardwood floor. Laziness clings to him and he ignores it, lets the tone build again and again until it melts somewhere in the background. Heavily, he rolls onto his back and traces the shadows on the ceiling and wonders when they became so bright.

He tosses, turns onto his side again. Thinks about the times Jimin held him and kissed him to sleep. The late nights they spent talking before pressing their bodies against each other, each movement slow and gentle and warm. The fingers weaving in and out of Jungkook’s hair as a thousand I love you’s were spoken into still air.

Like frozen time. Like an eternity left to unwind.

Except Jungkook does not have that—not with Jimin, at least. In a world where soulmates are the end-all, Jungkook is a factor to an equation that shouldn’t have existed.

The buzzing continues, reverberating against the silence, and Jungkook sighs, forces himself out of bed and crouches onto the ground. There’s a missed call from one of his hyungs, a text message from another. Then, at the very top: Jimin.

Jungkook blinks, rushes to unlock his phone and navigates to the designated chat; anger quickly builds then, swallowing the insecurity burning inside him.

Because of course the first words Jimin says to him on September first isn’t congratulatory at all; it’s a request followed by a simple, singular heart:

Jungkookie! Can you do me a favour? Please head to Taehyung’s studio—I need you to check something for me. Thanks! ♡

Something inside Jungkook burns then; he doesn’t know if it’s anger, disappointment or hurt but he knows that something blazes in him, and he chucks the phone even farther away, the sleek, black metal slamming against one corner of the wall before tumbling back down onto the dark wooden floor. Hot tears flood his eyes, and his fingers scramble for the cheap, loose sleeves of his battered up t-shirt, the one Jimin had given to him all those years ago as a gag gift but Jungkook ended up loving anyway.

The same way Jungkook always ends up loving Jimin despite all his flaws, all his dismissals and mistakes. Despite him asking Jungkook to suddenly leave the security of his apartment at near midnight, to head to his soulmate’s studio as his birthday draws to an end.

So he stands, finds his phone on the ground. The screen is properly cracked now, lines crawling all across the glass, but Jungkook still picks it up and cradles it as he searches through the darkness a pair of sweatpants to slip on and something warm to wear over. His fingers find the material of the hoodie from that day in the ballroom—the one he had forgotten to wash, the one Jimin saw him in the first time they met. He clings to it, slips it on; it still bears traces of Jimin’s cologne from when he wore it four nights ago as they cuddled on the sofa of Jungkook’s living room, the Notebook dancing across the TV.

He abandons his bedroom in favour of his living room, trades his living room for his car. The clock crawls even closer to midnight, and Jungkook pushes the key into the ignition. Discards the quiet parking garage and heads into the vibrant, vivacious Seoul nightlife.

It’s a thirty-three-minute drive; Jungkook spends all of it in silence, navigating through the streets by memory rather than GPS. His phone buzzes again in his pocket, but he ignores it, even as he stops at a lingering red light, shutting his eyes and breathing softly through his nose in an attempt to catch lost breath.

By the time he finds himself outside of Taehyung’s studio, his car parked nine floors below, it’s thirty to midnight. The key to the space hangs from Jungkook’s keychain like dead weight, glinting under the LED lights above. He pushes it into the door and twists and enters the room with bated breath.

He realises as he’s searching for the light that he doesn’t quite know what he’s here for; Jimin had been vague in his text, uninformative in context. Quiet annoyance simmers beneath his skin, but then his hand finds the switch along the walls, and he presses until there’s a soft click and the lights slowly begin to flicker on.

Except the overhanging, incandescent bulbs aren’t what brightens the room—thousands of fairy lights hang from their stead, trailing across the ceiling and dipping even lower. As Jungkook moves, his shadow trails after, awe clinging to the edges kissing the brightness; Jungkook stops in front of a drooping string and finds new tears spring to his eyes.

There, in front of him, is a polaroid taken from two years back, from the one birthday Jungkook found himself sick and stranded in bed. He’s sitting up in the picture, nose red and eyes watery, but the smile he wears is happy. And Jimin is right there with him, lips pressed against the crown of his head, hands softly playing with tufts of hair as encouragement for Jungkook to sleep.

His eyes shift to the left and find another polaroid—this one of a Christmas three years ago, spent wandering Busan. Behind that is Jungkook lying on a bed, hair tousled and face relaxed, his chest bare but covered completely in blooms.

Row after row Jungkook finds more frozen memories—pieces of himself and Jimin scattered across time. And then, at the very end, is the one film that had been playing over and over in his mind: it’s of Jungkook in that ballroom three years ago, a camera in one hand and a coffee in another. He’s laughing, eyes crinkling at something Jimin said off camera.

He feels his lungs collapse and his heart soar, emotions building, building, building until he’s nearly overflowing.

And when he turns again—this time to the wall where Taehyung’s prized painting usually hangs—he finds instead a white banner with words that makes Jungkook’s heart finally explode into a thousand suns, messy yet still so, so endearingly Jimin:

Jungkook-ah, happy birthday. Hyung loves you.

He cries. He cries hard and loud, the tornado of emotions collapsing onto his chest all once. The ache in his chest triples, and this time it isn’t because he feels hurt or neglected; this time, his heart aches for Jimin because he’s so far away and Jungkook misses him.

He doesn’t know how long he sits there beneath the twinkling lights, surrounded by various moments of his life. After looking at them closer, he realises there are some that feature their other friends—Hoseok and Yoongi and Namjoon and Seokjin and even Taehyung too—but Jimin is the supporting actor in it all, Jungkook obviously and pointedly the main star.

Jimin’s words echo in his ear with every snapshot, every captured moment. Hyung loves you.

His phone buzzes again; it’s now well past midnight, creeping past two and closer to three. He wipes the tears streaking down his face with the back of his hand and fumbles to answer the call without looking at the caller.

Jimin’s voice meets him on the other side, nervous yet warm. “Hi, baby. Did you—Are you—”

“Hyung,” Jungkook interrupts—sobs, because the emotions overwhelm him once again. Jimin is frantic on the other end, suddenly mumbling a thousand questions all at once, but Jungkook just laughs, hugs his knees tighter to his chest and stares up at the image hanging above him. It’s one of the rare photos where Jungkook acts as a supporting character rather than the protagonist—a selfie, with Jimin in the back struggling to open a bag of chips. Jungkook remembers that one, remembers how Jimin had whined when he realises Jungkook had captured his struggle on camera. It’s cute, endearing, a small moment that feels so big when it’s printed like this, hanging from a wooden pin surrounded by a million stars.

“Hyung,” Jungkook repeats, “I love you.”

Slow breaths echo from the other end; Jimin begins to chuckle after two heartbeats, and Jungkook easily sees the smile on his lips. “I take it you found my present, then.”

“Yeah. It’s—It’s—” Jungkook inhales, exhales. Licks his lips and closes his eyes. “Thank you, hyung.”

“Of course,” Jimin says immediately—softly, affectionately. Like Jungkook has his entire heart, and he doesn’t mind. Like he is entirely Jungkook’s, and there is no one he’d rather give himself up to. “I’m sorry I couldn’t give it to you sooner. I couldn’t finish it before I had to leave, so I’ve been coordinating with my secretary and staff on setting up the remaining pieces. They finished it a few hours ago, just a little before I texted you.”

“Oh,” Jungkook breathes, and suddenly there’s weighing guilt, shame clinging to his skin for doubting Jimin. His Jimin, the one who loves unconditionally, wholly, deeply. The one who whispers lullabies into his ears after they’ve made love in the late hours of the night. The one who laughs and cries and fumes with Jungkook, who navigates his emotions so they can understand them together.

The guilt sinks in further, and Jungkook finds himself crying again.

“Hyung,” he calls again, and the truth is heavy on his tongue but they slip past his lips anyway. “I—I thought you forgot.”

It’s silent for a moment, the room echoing of nothing but Jungkook’s sobs, and then Jimin’s exhaling loudly, his breath shaky, and Jungkook realises Jimin is crying, too. “Oh, Jungkook. I would never forget your birthday.”

“I mean, I wouldn’t blame you,” Jungkook reassures, picking at the string of his hoodie. “I know you’re shit with time difference.”

“Hey,” Jimin says warningly, offended, but there’s a playful lilt to his tone. “I’m not that bad.”

Jungkook laughs, giggles. Falls onto his back and watches the shadows dance across the ceiling. “You kinda are.”

“Okay, but I won’t ever forget your birthday. Remember that.”

He chews his lips. “Honestly, I wasn’t that upset about you forgetting. I wouldn’t mind if you had texted me tomorrow, when it’s September first where you’re at, but.” He pauses, wonders if he should admit this; he’s never told Jimin of his insecurities, not because of lack of trust, but because they’re based on emotions that don’t exist. Not within Jimin. Never within Jimin. 

It feels childish to admit it aloud, like he’s whining for Jimin’s attention when he has it every second since they became each other’s. Still, he inhales sharply and flicks his tongue across his lips. “You posted that picture with Taehyungie-hyung, and then I—I got upset.”

“Taehyung?” Jimin asks; Jungkook hears a door click and Jungkook realises Jimin must have exited the room he’s in. It’s only then does he realise that it’s crawling closer to lunchtime for Jimin. He feels terrible for withholding his boyfriend but he misses him much more. “Did you and Taehyung get into a fight?”

Jungkook shakes his head. “No. It’s just—it’s my birthday. Was my birthday, and I chalked it up to you forgetting the time or maybe being too busy to wish me a happy birthday, when in reality you were just—you were hanging out with your soulmate. And I—I don’t know. I felt hurt.”

“Hurt?”

He takes a shaky breath. “Because it felt like you cared more about Taehyungie-hyung than you do about me.”

Realisation dawns on Jimin then; there’s a sob on his end, and Jungkook finds himself sobbing back. “Oh. Oh.”

“It’s stupid,” he mumbles, but there’s a quick denial from Jimin, a firm No through the brief static of the telephone.

“No, it’s not. You have every reason to feel that way when Taehyung is in every sense my soulmate and you aren’t.”

The words sting but it’s the truth; Taehyung has Jimin in the one way Jungkook never will, the same way Jimin has Taehyung in the same way he will never have Jungkook.

“But Taehyung being my soulmate doesn’t dictate how I feel about you. I love you in so many more ways than I do him, even though how much I feel for Taehyung often seems to overflow.

“But it’s you, Jungkook, who I love, who I think about in the middle of the night, who I want to kiss silly and then kiss again because your laugh is oh so fucking cute that I end up falling in love all over again.” There’s a deep breath, a shaky breath, and Jungkook blinks at the ceiling, his heartbeat settled against his chest. “It’s you who I want to spend forever with. Maybe get married one day—I still don’t know, but I do know I want to spend forever knowing you, kissing you, loving you.”

And Jungkook really cries then—harder than when Jimin had started confessing, harder than when he had first found the surprise hidden inside Taehyung’s studio. The tears paint his skin and stains his cheeks, and he knows he’ll wake to swollen eyes and a hoarse throat but he doesn’t care. Doesn’t mind as he struggles to sit up and focus on the illuminated banner across the room.

“Hyung loves you, Jungkook-ah,” Jimin whispers, and Jungkook feels so, so full. “Hyung loves you more than you could ever know.”

“I love you,” he echoes back. “I love you so, so much, hyung-ah.”

He thinks Jimin is smiling; silence follows his confession as they listen to each other’s breathing, giving each other time to catch the breaths they lost. The clock reaches fifteen past three when Jungkook checks it two minutes later, his body giving into the exhaustion of a long, emotional day.

Jimin seems to read into his silence and laughs, voice twinkling and light. Jungkook closes his eyes and listens and wishes he was in bed; he could fall asleep to Jimin’s laughter, allow it to lead him into sweet dreams.

“Go home, Jungkook-ah,” he coaxes, gentle as always. “Hyung will stay on the line.”

“Don’t you have work?” Jungkook asks carefully, worryingly, but he’s already making his way to the door, dutifully turning off the lights and allowing darkness to consume the room once more. He locks the door behind him with a firm click and heads for the stairs; the elevators have stopped working, so it’s nine flights to the garage for him.

Jimin giggles, and Jungkook imagines him running a hand through his hair. “It’s fine, Taehyung got it.”

“Aren’t you the director for the show?” Jungkook teases.

“Yeah, but Taehyung’s the casting director, so technically this is his job.”

“Fair enough,” he relents. The car is cold when he steps in, but the heater warms it soon enough, and Jungkook thinks of Jimin underneath the Californian sun and wonders about his time there.

He ends up asking it aloud—follows it with small talk and inside jokes, the thirty-minute drive feeling more like five. Jimin has to leave right when Jungkook’s stripping off his joggers, leaving him in only his boxers and the age-old hoodie; he’s keeping that on, needs its comfort when Jimin’s so far from home.

“Want me to sing you to sleep?” Jimin asks.

Jungkook nods. “Please.”

“Okay,” he agrees, and Jungkook slowly drifts into dreams to Jimin’s melodies.

 

 

 

 

When Jimin returns home almost two weeks later, just shy of missing Namjoon’s birthday, Jungkook envelops him into a hug and douses him with a million kisses. Jimin kisses him right back, right there in the middle of a crowded airport, before pulling away and cradling Jungkook’s face in his hands.

“I have a present for you,” he says, and Jungkook’s eyebrows furrow.

He watches as Jimin reaches into the satchel he carries and pulls out a silver circlet—one that has his name and Jungkook’s name engraved on it and fits snugly around Jungkook’s wrist.

Jungkook stares at it in awe, wonders what the piece of jewelry is for until Jimin raises his arm to reveal his wrist, absent of red and only sparkling of silver. He blinks, drifts his eyes to Jimin then to his wrist and back again, and finds love blooming in his lungs.

Hyung,” he breathes, and Jimin smiles wide, proud.

“It felt wrong to wear the band when I’m yours, so,” Jimin begins, a pink blush to his cheeks. “I took it off and decided we should get our own.”

“But Taehyung,” Jungkook protests. “He’s your soulmate.”

“Taehyung doesn’t mind. He’s taken his off, too,” Jimin reassures. “And he’s not my soulmate—you are. I’m deciding that now, by myself, not by the universe or biology or whatever other science lies behind this bond thing. You are mine, and I am yours, today and forever, okay?”

Jungkook smiles—beams. Pulls Jimin closer until they’re nose to nose, forehead to forehead. “Okay.”

“I love you with all my heart and all my soul.” A soft press of Jimin’s lips against his, a thousand words shared in between. “Never forget that.”