Jimin doesn’t know why it starts. Maybe it’s the eightieth post he’s seen today about him being rejected by Jungkook. Maybe it’s the ninetieth online comment that says he tries too hard to be funny. Maybe it’s the tenth video he’s seen of himself being pushed out of the camera. Maybe Jimin himself is just tired. But whatever the reason, Jimin starts to not care anymore.
There’s supposed to be a really annoying hyung all up in his space right now but there isn’t and Jungkook, for some weird reason, feels strangely alone. It’s not for lack of affection because Seokjin has petted his head probably ten times today and Taehyung has wrapped an arm around his shoulders a couple of times. The air around him feels cold and empty and it’s weird so, armed with the Bangtan Bomb camera (because Jungkook can’t just go seek Jimin out without an actual reason), Jungkook starts off to find Jimin.
He finds Jimin sitting in one of the chairs in the corner of their waiting room, sipping water, and seemingly staring off into space. It’s uncharacteristic of him; Jimin is usually hollering it up with Hoseok if not clinging to Jungkook.
“Wow look it’s Jiminnie,” Jungkook teases for the camera and Jimin smiles for the camera but it doesn’t reach his eyes.
“Wow, you brat,” Jimin laughs and he pushes the camera away. “I’m your hyung, you know.”
It’s their usual banter but Jimin isn’t jumping up to grab Jungkook in a headlock and ruffle his hair. Jimin just sits there, smiling weirdly, saying the usual platitudes to their fans, and Jungkook, unsettled, leaves to find another member to film.
Once Jimin’s clambered into their van, Jungkook pushes ahead of Hoseok and takes the spot next to Jimin. Usually, Jungkook doesn’t sit next to Jimin because Jungkook’s always irritable and sweaty and tired after performances and doesn’t feel like dealing with Jimin’s antics, but today Jimin has been all weird and quiet and Jungkook wants to know why (maybe he’s a little worried, a little sad and angry that whatever Jimin is thinking, he isn’t sharing it with Jungkook).
And Jimin usually would gush that Jungkook loves him enough to sit next to him and fall into Jungkook’s lap like a child whose birthday came early but Jimin just ignores Jungkook to stare out the window.
Taehyung nudges Jungkook from the side and furrows his eyebrows, nodding in Jimin’s direction. Jungkook shrugs and taps Jimin on the shoulder.
“Jimin-hyung?” Jimin starts at the rarely used term of respect and looks at Jungkook questioningly.
“You okay?” The other members are sort of staring at Jimin now.
Jimin blinks at Jungkook. “Of course. Just – kinda tired?”
The rest of the members relax and start engaging in easy conversation. They know the feeling; they’ve all had those days where they just want to be left alone but no matter how alone Jimin wants to be, he always let Jungkook near. But now Jimin’s shutting Jungkook out too and Jungkook feels hollow inside.
When they reach the dorm, Seokjin tells Jimin gently that he should shower first and Jimin shoots Seokjin a grateful smile before skipping into the bathroom, humming. Apparently it’s a good enough show for Seokjin who smiles at Jimin’s back before being called over by Hoseok for a Twitter selca. It’s not good enough for Jungkook who now knows for sure something’s up. Jimin doesn’t hum ever.
Jimin always sings.
When Jimin climbs into his bunk bed to start sleeping, Jungkook crawls in after him and buries his nose in Jimin’s neck. Jimin smells like body wash and Jimin and Jungkook breathes deeply. He hadn’t realized Jimin had a smell until Jimin’d been gone from Jungkook’s side all day.
“What are you doing?” Jimin’s voice is tired and scratchy and Jungkook snuggles closer to give him some comfort.
“You okay hyung? You seem kind of down.”
Jimin snorts and rolls away from Jungkook and Jungkook is stunned, having never been rejected by Jimin of all people.
“I’m fine. Go hang out with Taehyung or something, I’m tired.”
Jungkook blinks at Jimin’s back. He sits up and swings his legs out of the bed, mind still reeling. Maybe he should go talk to Taehyung about it.
He walks to the door and turns back. “Hyung,” he calls and Jimin’s sheets rustle but he doesn’t answer. “You know you can tell me anything right? Like I do you?”
There isn’t a reply and Jungkook leaves the room. Jimin must be really tired to have fallen asleep so quickly.
“Jimin-hyung is acting weird,” Jungkook tells Taehyung who only stares at him for a minute, brows furrowed. “He’s so quiet now and he doesn’t – like –you know--with me.”
“Like what?” Taehyung asks and Jungkook groans.
“You know! Like –“ He grabs Taehyung’s arm and shoves himself into Taehyung’s space.
“Ohhh,” Taehyung says. “So?”
Jungkook glares at him frustratedly. “So, he’s not doing it anymore. Don’t you think it’s weird?”
Taehyung shrugs. “Well, shouldn’t you be happy about it? Since you didn’t seem like you wanted him touching you anyways.”
Jungkook physically recoils. “No!” he says defensively, “I just – It wasn’t like I hated it or anything –“. Taehyung is giving him a look like he’s confused or something and it riles Jungkook up like nothing else. “I just – well – it’s never stopped him before?” Jungkook ends pathetically and then slumps when Taehyung can only offer bewilderment and no friendly advice like Jungkook had hoped.
“Maybe you should talk to him?” Namjoon says when Jungkook relates the same problems and Jungkook swears that none of his hyungs are even remotely helpful.
But that night, Jungkook slips into Jimin’s bed again and rests his head in the crook of Jimin’s neck. The other boy lets him but makes no move to reciprocate.
“Did…something happen at home or something?” Jungkook asks tentatively.
Jimin snorts. “Of course not.” He makes no move to elaborate and Jungkook bites his lip, unsure of how to deal with a Jimin that is so unlike the usual Jimin.
“Did…something happen?” Jungkook tries again and this time, Jimin laughs.
It’s not bright and clear like it used to be nor is it artificially cheerful like it’s been today and yesterday. It’s plain bitter. It hurts to hear.
“Maybe,” Jimin says. “Maybe something did. Maybe it’s been happening for a long time and nobody’s ever noticed. Funny how you only notice now, huh, Jungkookie?” The once happy nickname seems like a mockery.
Jungkook feels bewildered and a little stung. He knows he isn’t the most tactful or the most sensitive to others’ feelings but he's trying, isn’t he? “Hyung…” Jungkook says, sitting up.
Jimin rolls away from him. “Don’t pretend like you care. Just go.”
Jungkook recoils. “Hyung, I do care. Why do you think I keep asking you if something’s wrong?” And now maybe Jungkook’s a little angry because he’s trying and Jimin’s just being difficult.
“No, you really don’t,” Jimin says. “If you did, you’d know why, but the fact is, you don’t. And if you don’t figure it out now, you’ll never figure it out.”
There’s silence after that and Jungkook feels lost, unsure of what to do and what to say. Bitter feelings swirl in his chest but he doesn’t want to make Jimin feel worse.
Jimin sighs and sits up too. The bed is too small for the two of them together and their shoulders brush each other’s. Jungkook can only see Jimin’s profile but even that looks unbelievably tired. Maybe it’s a testament to all of Bangtan’s sensitivity that they’ve let Jimin get this far.
“I’m tired, Jungkook,” Jimin says and his voice is no longer bitter. It’s resigned. Jungkook doesn’t know which one’s worse. “I’m tired but I can’t be tired. There’s no time. There’s fans and practice and performances and I know I have to be Jimin again, whoever Jimin is now.”
Jimin looks at Jungkook. “And I know that’s what you want. For me to be back to normal and bouncing around everywhere and trying to kiss you and failing and I will.” It sounds more like Jimin is trying to convince himself than he is Jungkook. “I will. So just,” Jimin breaks off and looks at his hands. “So just, for this little bit of time, let me be tired, okay?”
Jungkook, not knowing what to say, not knowing how to lift how heavy the atmosphere has become, not knowing how to really meet Jimin’s eyes, leaves the room.
He’s so selfish, he realizes. He’s been selfish with Jimin’s smiles and Jimin’s hugs and Jimin’s affection and never really stopped to think about how Jimin felt.
Jungkook goes to bed feeling very, very small
The next day, Jimin doesn’t even try to hide how tired he is from the other members. He’s listless in the car, in the waiting room, on standby, anywhere where there isn’t a camera. On camera, he’s bubbly again but more reserved, no longer swiping his tongue everywhere, vitality brought down a notch.
Jungkook is looking over where Taehyung is trying in vain to get Jimin to cheer up. Jimin flashes small smiles every now and then but remains in his chair.
Taehyung only stops when he’s called over to fix his makeup and Jungkook sidles up to him. “Shouldn’t we leave him alone?” he asks Taehyung and Taehyung stares at Jungkook.
“Don’t you know? Jimin hates being alone or being ignored.” At Jungkook’s confused look, Taehyung clucks his tongue and playfully pokes Jungkook in the cheek. “Do you even know Jimin? If there’s anything Jimin likes best, it’s affection.”
Funny how you only notice now, huh, Jungkookie?
Jungkook looks back over at Jimin, his head resting in his hand, trying to catch some sleep.
He’ll try again tonight.
“Don’t you have your own bed?” Jimin sighs when he sees Jungkook standing there but he scoots over when Jungkook lifts the covers.
Jimin sighs again. “I really don’t want to have this conversation again.”
“I don’t want to talk,” Jungkook says. “I just want you to. I want you to confide in me.” When Jimin doesn’t say anything, Jungkook bites at his lip and focuses on the bedcovers, fingering a few loose threads. Jungkook’s not good at this, at confrontation, but it’s Jimin and Jungkook wants to fix this.
“That’s new,” Jimin says after a while and Jungkook turns his head to look. Jimin has his head turned and is looking straight at Jungkook, their faces inches apart. Jimin turns his head again so that he’s looking at the ceiling. “For once, you want me to talk.”
Jungkook frowns. “What do you mean?”
“For once, you want me to talk instead of shutting up and going away.”
“That’s…that’s just a joke, hyung. Fanservice. Something funny for the fans, that’s all.”
“That’s just it though, isn’t it? A joke,” Jimin says and this time there’s a tremor in his voice. “That’s what this is. What I am. A joke. The butt of practically every single one in this group.”
“Hyung, that’s –“
“I’m not as strong as you think I am, Jungkook,” and Jimin’s voice is shaking now. “I get offended and I get hurt but none of it’s supposed to even matter because it’s just a joke.”
Guilt crushes at Jungkook’s chest. “Hyung, I –“
“What do you think rejection feels like?” Jimin asks suddenly, tremor gone and now just a flat monotone, and Jungkook’s blood runs cold. Unbidden, memories of him pushing Jimin away float up to the surface and Jungkook –
“Get out,” Jimin says, turning away from Jungkook. “Just….get out.”
When Jungkook first sidles into the practice room he will eventually spend 16 hours in every day, he’s nervous. He’s indispensable, they tell him, he can sing and dance and rap and they were so happy he’d chosen them over the other companies so he shouldn’t worry. But Jungkook isn’t yet at puberty, he’s small and scrawny, and he’s got three pimples on his cheek. Not to mention Jungkook is painfully shy and awkward and isn’t really sure what to do as the youngest.
“Hi,” he mumbles at his fellow trainees who stare at him curiously. Jungkook fidgets uncomfortably.
“Welcome! I’m Jimin!” A boy with a snapback approaches him with a bright grin that bunches his cheeks up adorably.
“Jungkook,” Jungkook says shyly. “Nice to meet you.”
Jimin slings an arm around Jungkook. “Let’s be friends, yeah?”
“Yeah,” Jungkook says, feeling warm and tingly on the inside.
Jungkook’s not sure when Jimin’s arm changed from one of solidarity and support across his shoulders to one that brings flutters to Jungkook’s stomach and blood to Jungkook’s face. Jimin comes and slings an arm across his shoulder and Jungkook turns to look at Jimin.
It’d be nice to kiss Jimin, Jungkook thinks, his eyes lingering on Jimin’s full lips.
When the thought finally processes Jungkook ducks out from under Jimin’s arm as casually as he can. Jimin blinks at him and Jungkook forces a smile. “Let’s practice one more time, yeah?” he says, trying to ignore the racing of his heart, thumping against his ribcage like the bass Yoongi-hyung plugs into his music.
“Do you know why Jimin-hyung’s being weird?” Jungkook asks Hoseok. It’s their break and Jimin’s in the bathroom.
Hoseok looks at him for a moment. “He told me why,” Hoseok says finally. “But he doesn’t want help fixing it.” Hoseok shakes his head. “He said he didn’t want me to intervene. Wants to deal with it himself.”
Jungkook feels an irrational type of jealousy well up in him, that Jimin trusted Hoseok enough to confide in Hoseok but not in Jungkook.
Hoseok raises an eyebrow. “Why do you care so much? Don’t you hate Jimin?”
“I don’t. Why do you guys keep saying that?”
Hoseok shrugs. “I don’t know maknae, ranking him last every time, ignoring him when he calls for you, pushing him away when he hugs you, I could make you a whole list.”
“That’s on camera,” Jungkook defends. “I just, I’m just –“ Joking.
Jungkook falls silent and Hoseok looks at him. “Hey kiddo,” he says gently, standing up and sitting beside Jungkook. Jungkook looks at him. “You’re still growing,” Hoseok says, carding gentle fingers through Jungkook’s hair. “You’re unsure of what you want and you’re still trying to get comfortable. But just because you’re unsure doesn’t mean you should push him away.” There’s a feeling in Jungkook’s chest like he knows what Hoseok is talking about but he can’t voice it aloud. Hoseok’s fingers are soothing, almost rhythmically so. “And judging by how you’re so hung up over this, I think you probably know what you want.”
What Jungkook wants?
The friendly arm across his shoulder that Jungkook wishes was more than friendly. The lips that mouthed his name so cheekily that Jungkook had wanted to kiss since he was 14, more kid than teenager. The boy that Jungkook had hurt, and hurt, and hurt because he hadn’t had the courage to reach for what he wanted.
Jungkook takes a deep, shuddering breath and Hoseok smiles, patting Jungkook on the back.
“Atta boy, golden maknae.”
That night, Jungkook doesn’t slip into Jimin’s bed. He tugs Jimin up and out until they’re both tucked into Jungkook’s. Jimin doesn’t put up much of a fight, just lets Jungkook manhandle him around.
“You don’t have to be so nice,” Jimin mumbles into Jungkook’s neck from where Jungkook’s entangled them together. “I told you I’d go back to normal soon enough.”
“But that won’t fix things unless I figure out how to make it up to you right?” Jungkook says and Jimin is silent.
“I like you, hyung,” Jungkook says into the baby hairs at Jimin’s hairline. “I like you a lot.”
“Don’t lie, Jungkook,” Jimin says tiredly. “Aren’t I the one you hate most in this group?” He laughs again. “Funny how that is when everyone knows you’re my favorite.”
“You’re my favorite too,” Jungkook says. “Always have been. Ever since you approached me in the practice room all those years ago.”
Jimin lets out a breathless laugh. “Only because you were so small and awkward, looking like you didn’t even know where you were.”
Jungkook smiles. “That was me. I just…wasn’t really sure of what I wanted.”
Jimin’s silent for a moment. “You’re young, Jungkook-ah, you can achieve anything you want.”
“Even if what I want is you?”
There’s a minute and then Jimin starts shaking. “Jungkook, don’t.”
“Don’t…do this when you don’t mean it, you always say things and then you don’t mean them and then I always have to…to…”
“Jungkook,” Jimin says a little desperately. “You tell me I’m cute and then you rank me last and say I’m not your type, you back hug me during music shows and then push me away when I hug you, I can’t do this, Jungkook. I’m not strong enough to --”
Jimin’s voice is shaking harder than his body is and Jungkook feels terrible that he’s reduced Jimin, the brightest person he knows, to this. But this is his chance to make it better.
“Jimin-hyung,” he says, softly, slowly enveloping Jimin in his arms. “I really, really like you.” Jimin shudders but doesn’t make to run away and Jungkook presses his lips to Jimin’s forehead. “Did you know I’ve wanted to kiss you since I was 14?”
Jimin whimpers and Jungkook leans down and kisses Jimin full on the lips. The sound Jimin makes then sends tingles down Jungkook’s spine and when he pulls away, Jimin’s flushed, blinking slowly at him.
“This all feels like a dream.”
Jungkook laughs and interlaces their fingers, feeling bolder than ever. “One you’ll never have to wake up from.”
“Uh…if I was a girl, I’d date Jimin-hyung,” Jungkook says shyly and quickly passes the mic off to another member.
Just his luck that Jimin’s the one who takes it. “This is the first time I’ve heard this,” he laughs and Jungkook play frowns at him.
Later, Jungkook backhugs Jimin after dance practice and bites playfully on Jimin’s ear. “I’d date you if you were a guy too,” he teases and Jimin blushes and swats him away.