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Figuring It Out as We Go

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Jungkook is fucked.

He knows he is; knows it as soon as his throat goes dry. Jimin laughs loud and beautiful in front of him, his eyes bright and mischievous— always mischievous— and Jungkook leans into it like a plant reaching for the sun. It’s as if he’s grown closer towards the light with each passing year, learning to love the warmth Jimin gives, and wanting more of it with every second. He lets his hands linger a little too long, brushes their shoulders together, in a sad attempt to cling onto that warmth before he has to pretend like it doesn’t matter; like he doesn’t even notice it.

It wasn’t always like this. It wasn’t planned or expected. He grows up without a doubt in his mind that he’ll one day marry a pretty girl with pretty hair and eyes, that everything will be perfect and good and normal. But then he’s almost eighteen and his heart beats too fast, his stomach flipping at all the wrong times, like when Jimin presses a hand to his back or slings an arm around his waist. And there he is; palms sweaty, vulnerable, completely fucked.

He swears God is playing with him the moment confusion hits, seeing articles every day about LGBT rights in the West, and stumbling across songs and music videos about gay couples at night. He stays up late in his bed and watches them, curled in on himself with his phone tucked close to his chest, eyes glued to boys his age kissing, touching, looking at each other like only boys and girls are supposed to do.

It makes him want to crawl out of his body. It makes him want to scream into his mattress until his lungs ache. He does neither, only pushes himself further under the sheets, presses his eyes shut with his palms, and prays for sleep; prays for anything that will keep the thoughts away. Because this isn’t suppose to happen to him . It can’t happen to him— not in this country, not with this career. Nothing has ever made him feel so alone; so detached and different from the other six boys, like he’s been uprooted and torn from the dirt, away from everything that keeps him grounded.

He wakes up with red eyes and a desire to be dead, and it doesn’t go unnoticed. Taehyung lays off the jokes for the day, bumping shoulders with him every once in awhile and asking if he’s okay. Jin looks at him like a concerned parent at the far end of the room, but never says anything. It’s an entire day of the band tip-toeing around each other, trying to keep the mood quiet, but light-hearted, with confused glances towards Jungkook at least every thirty minutes.

It’s not until after practice, when they’ve showered and eaten, that Jimin approaches Jungkook with a tentative smile and outstretched arms, hands gently gripping at his waist.

“What’s wrong with you today, huh?”

Jungkook stills, feels the sweat starting form at the back of his neck like it does during dance practice. Except this isn’t dance practice. It’s just Jimin being friendly and too touchy like always. It’s nothing new. He shouldn’t be caught off guard.

“Nothing, hyung,” he says, instinctively pushing him away as Jimin frowns.

“You wanna talk about it?”

“I just said nothing’s wrong.”

Jimin studies him for a moment. He doesn’t buy it. He never does.

“You miss your family?”

No, it’s nothing like that,” he snaps impulsively, raking a hand through his hair.

Jimin purses his lips, and Jungkook feels his chest tighten.

“Sorry, I just need to sleep it off, okay?” He sighs as he makes his way past Jimin, trying not to notice how soft his hair looks today, or how good his arms look in that shirt.

“Okay,” Jimin responds quietly. “Okay.”

Jungkook can feel Jimin’s eyes on his back, but he doesn’t turn around, just stalks off towards his and Namjoon’s room like a child running away. He flops down on his bed with the expectations of another sleepless night, restlessly tossing and turning at every gay scenario his mind will put him through, and he huffs heavily at the thought. He pulls the covers up to his chin, tucks his phone in close, and plugs in his earphones before there’s another voice that’s suddenly jolting him out of his daze.

“Hey.” Namjoon turns over in his own mattress.

Jungkook stills. He hadn’t seen him when he walked in.

“You know you can tell me anything right?”

“Huh?”

“I mean, I know something’s up, and I’m the leader... I’m here for you. It’s my job to be here for you.”

“I— hyung…” Jungkook’s voice cracks a little at the end.

“Is there something you want to tell me?”

I’m gay, Jungkook thinks. I’m gay, I’m gay, I’m gay. I’m fucking gay.

But he swallows the words down before he can vomit them all up. Namjoon doesn’t need to hear the mess inside his head; about how everything feels wrong and different, how it makes his chest feel heavy. He hasn’t gotten a proper night’s sleep in a few weeks, dreaming of bright orange hair and a smile like Summer, and no doubt Namjoon can tell that he’s not exactly in top condition, but he doesn’t know if he can explain this. He’s not even sure he could explain it to himself.

All he knows is that when Jimin sings, his heart pulls like violin strings; and when he sees two men together (like really romantically together) his whole body aches.

He fiddles with the bedsheets, staying silent as Namjoon stares at him like he’s trying to read his mind, until finally he gives in. Jungkook breathes like it’s his last breath before saying, “Will you take a look at this music video? I want to cover the song.”

***

It goes well.

Namjoon agrees to do it, no questions asked. He doesn’t say anything when he watches the video, only nods his head and tells Jungkook it’s a beautiful song, and he’d love to help him. He even stays up late to work on his vocals until he’s exhausted his mind and body, and Jungkook can’t think of why Namjoon would do such a thing for a cover song , but he’s grateful.

For the next few days they find time to practice together in the late night and early morning when everyone else is asleep. The other members still give him nervous glances, and he knows he should make an effort to at least pretend to be normal, pretend to be okay, but this song keeps playing on repeat in his head and the only thing he can feel is detachment and guilt when sitting in a room full of boys with a secret held tightly to his chest.  They’re set to record it tomorrow, and all he can hope is that maybe he can sing the tightness away, even if just a little, because Taehyung is starting to look at him like he thinks he’s done something wrong, and Jimin— Jimin keeps looking at him, half-worried and half-suspicious, and it’s setting Jungkook on edge.

“It’s been three days,” Jimin says, easing himself down on the couch next to Jungkook. He pushes back his orange hair through his fingers and sighs. “The others are really worried about you, you know? They think they did something wrong.”

The “others” were currently out eating, something he thought Jimin had joined them for until now. Jungkook had excused himself, said he wasn’t hungry, which is retrospect probably wasn’t the best excuse since everyone had just stared back in shock. Namjoon was the only one who could convince everyone to leave without him, and Jungkook silently thanked him with a glance and nod of his head.

Except apparently not everyone had left, because now Jimin is sitting across from him on the other side of the couch, knees pulled to his chest, and gaze wavering towards him.

“No one did anything wrong,” Jungkook finally answers, not taking his eyes off the television. “It’s my fault.”

“What’s your fault?” Jimin prods.

Jungkook just shrugs. “It’s my own problem, hyung, I’ll deal with it.”

“You’ve never been good at dealing with things by yourself.”

“Neither have you,” Jungkook bites back.

“That’s why I ask people for help.” He rolls his eyes, sticking his feet out and resting them in Jungkook’s lap.

He places his hands on top of Jimin’s shins without thinking twice about it, and Jimin wiggles his sock-covered toes, and it’s cute , Jungkook thinks, it’s fucking cute and he hates himself.

“It’s not really something I can ask for help with.”

Jimin sinks lower into the couch cushions, yawning. “You’re so naive, Jungkookie.” He closes his eyes, his voice becoming quieter. “There’s seven billion people in this world, you’re not the only one who has to deal with whatever you’re dealing with.”

“It doesn’t matter if there’s seven billion people in the world, there’s only seven of us.” Jungkook huffs. “ Seven. And I never know when a camera is going to be thrown into my face or when I’m going to have to act a certain way, and we have to live here, and I love where we’re from, I do, but sometimes I’m just tired, Jimin, I don’t know— I don’t know how to be myself anymore. I don’t even know who I am or who I want to be, or—

Jimin smiles.

“Stop smiling, I’m having a crisis here, what the fuck.”

“Sorry,” he laughs under his breath, smile widening. “You just sound like me a couple years ago.” Jimin makes himself more comfortable against the couch pillows, eyes still closed. “You’ll be okay.”

Jimin’s breathing begins to even, and Jungkook watches his chest rise and fall, steady and slow, like how waves wash up on Busan beaches. He swallows and dances his fingertips on Jimin’s legs, his knee, the lower-half of his thigh, drawing words into the denim of his jeans.

“That tickles,” Jimin breathes, on the edge of sleep.

Jungkook smiles. “Go to sleep, hyung.”

“Mmm. Will you tell me what you’re hiding in the morning?”

“Yeah.”

“Liar,” Jimin mumbles into the pillows but he’s grinning and Jungkook bites his lip to keep himself from saying something stupid.

He watches Jimin drift off, guiltily drinking in his slightly parted lips and long eyelashes that fall against his cheeks, until his own eyes begin to feel heavy and he’s joining Jimin in his dreams.

***

The recording studio is hot and stuffy. Jungkook knows his face is in flames every time he sings his part, but Namjoon gets him through it with encouraging words and bottles of water. Relief courses through him when they finish in the afternoon; the entire process cathartic in a way that only singing is for him. And if hypothetically Jungkook sheds one manly tear during recording, well, Namjoon doesn’t say anything about it.

He does, however, stop him on the way out of the recording studio, hand coming down on his shoulder after they shrug on their coats to leave.

“You’re not alone, you know?”

“Huh?” Jungkook looks up from his phone, but Namjoon is already walking away and pushing through the door.

“You know what I mean,” he says.

Jungkook just stares at the swinging door.

***

Taehyung is the first to say anything about it as they’re winding down for the night. The song’s been posted and Jungkook’s spent the most of the last few hours locked away in his room feigning sleep. He’s walking into the kitchen for a snack when Taehyung grabs him from behind, fitting his chin onto his shoulder.

“Your cover came out nice,” he says, patting him on the back before pulling away. He takes a sports drink from the fridge and swallows down a few mouthfuls before continuing. “That was really cool of you to do that.”

Jungkook doesn’t look at him, only pauses a second before he’s digging through the pantry again. “What do you mean?”

“I don’t know, just being true to yourself, I guess. It’s cool.” He takes another sip, tapping his fingers on the bottle like he’s hesitating.

“Hey….” he starts, and Jungkook’s back stiffens. “Whenever you’re done eating, Jimin wants to talk to you.”

“About what?” He finally turns, holding a bag of chips and stuffing his mouth with them just to have something to do with his hands.

Taehyung shrugs. “Wouldn’t say.”

“Shut up, what’d he tell you?” He sticks more chips in his mouth, nervously crunching down and sending bits all over the floor.

“I told you, I don’t know.” Taehyung raises his hands in surrender as Jungkook glares. “I swear he didn’t tell me anything.”

The chips accidentally crumble in Jungkook’s fist before they can reach his mouth. “Fuck.” He leans his elbows on the counter, head coming down into his palms.

“Are you okay?”

“No?”

Taehyung cracks a small smile. “Why did that sound like a question?”

“I don’t know,” he mumbles into his palms. “Fuck, I’m pretty sure Jimin hates me.”

A moment passes and Taehyung’s small smile turns into a full-bodied laugh. “That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard you say.”

Jungkook looks up and Taehyung is prying his hands away from his face, still laughing.

“Stop looking like that, just go talk to him.”

“You’re being really unhelpful right now.” He rolls his eyes and pushes back from the counter.

He’s halfway out the the doorway of the kitchen when Taehyung calls out to him.

“Jungkook--” He turns. “We’re all here for you, okay?”

He waves him off with the side of his hand, the back of his neck warm. “Yeah, whatever,” he breathes.

Their dorm is too small and he’s in front of Jimin’s door before he can think twice about it. He swallows, looks down at his feet, then back at the door, and the only thing that’s running through Jungkook’s mind is that Jimin’s somehow found him out; that the song was too obvious, that he knows he likes him, knows he’s fucking gay for him, and he’s going to call him out on it as soon as he walks in the room.

“Jimin?” He says, knocking quietly before entering and shutting the door quickly behind him. If he was going to be rejected, he at least wanted it done fast and in private. He leans against the door, watching Jimin as he looks up from his phone, sitting cross-legged at the edge of his bed.

“Hey,” he says.

“Tae said you wanted to talk.”

Jimin picks at the bedsheets with his fingers, breaking eye contact in favor of looking at the mattress beneath him. “I heard your cover song.”

“Yeah?” His voice squeaks at the end and Jungkook can feel himself practically melting.

“Mmhm.” He bites his lip. “You’ve seen the video?”

Jungkook nods, no longer trusting his voice.

“It’s a nice video.”

He nods again.

“Jungkook…” Jimin finally catches his eye and Jungkook holds his breath. “Are you…” He breathes. “Are you gay?” He says the last three words quietly, a secret whispered between them, and Jungkook’s heart lurches.

Yes, yes, yes, I’m so sorry, he wants to say, but no words come out, just a soft intake of breath before his lips seal shut. He presses them together tightly, like everything will spill out if he isn’t paying attention, but then realizes belatedly that the silence itself has given him away. He feels like he’s deflating.

Jimin pats the space on the bed beside him, motioning him over, and Jungkook’s body moves without his mind really thinking about it. He sits carefully at the edge of the bed, putting distance between them, and making sure their thighs don’t touch.

A thumb comes up to swipe beneath his eyelashes, and he instinctively looks up at Jimin. He pulls away slowly, a sad smile on his lips. “Stop crying,” he says gently.

“I’m not crying,” Jungkook answers, wiping away another stray tear with his palm.

“Mhmm.” Jimin pulls the sheet from the bed and uses it as a tissue, dabbing Jungkook’s face softly at first, then a little excessively, and it’s all so ridiculous that Jungkook can’t help the laugh that bubbles up through his throat.

He’s still laughing when he realizes that his vision is blurry, that somehow the tears are falling even harder now, that he can barely breathe, and he isn’t sure if it’s because he’s laughing or crying, but somehow he’s found his way pressed to Jimin’s chest, shakily inhaling and exhaling as Jimin rubs circles onto his back.  

“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. Fuck.”

“What are you apologizing for?” Jimin asks calmly, hand sliding up Jungkook’s back to rest on his neck.

His fists are clenched, nails digging into his palms as he tries to get his body to just stop shaking, goddammit. He curls closer to Jimin, wonders when he’s going to be pushed away, and cries harder when he realizes Jimin is only holding onto him tighter. “I didn’t want to— I tried not to—” he chokes into his shirt.

“You can’t wish it away,” Jimin sighs into his hair, chin resting on his head. “I know, I tried, too.”

Jungkook stills, breathing still uneven, a few tears still escaping, but suddenly aware. He lets out a few more long breaths before trying to speak. “What?” He keeps his head down, staring at Jimin’s chest.

“I, uhm—” Jimin starts unsure, like Jungkook hadn’t just been sobbing into him for the last five minutes. “I don’t like women, Jungkook. Never have. The hyungs always tell me it’s obvious.”

“Oh,” Jungkook breathes like he’d been under water. “So you, too?”

Jimin doesn’t say anything, but Jungkook can feel him nodding against the top of his head.

“Does it get better?”

He shrugs. “Some things.”

Jungkook closes his eyes, lets his breathing finish evening out as the last few tears start to dry. He begins to feel too vulnerable for comfort, Jimin weaving his fingers gently in and out of Jungkook’s hair like he’s delicate to touch, and he begins to squirm in his hold, pushing himself up from Jimin’s chest but not moving away entirely.

Jimin looks at him wide-eyed, worried.

“I’m okay,” he says, smiling small and brief to convince Jimin or maybe himself, too.

“There’s snot all over your face, Jungkook,” he deadpans, then laughs, his eyes shining like maybe Jungkook hadn’t been the only one crying, and he pulls away with a smile on his face, reaching over to his nightstand to grab a tissue.

Jungkook takes them and wipes at his face, not even dwelling on how much of a wreck he must look because Jimin is still smiling up at him with big, flushed cheeks, his hand resting on Jungkook’s thigh, and it’s taking everything in his power not too physically sky rocket through the ceiling.

He puts the tissues aside, grimacing. “Ugh, don’t tell anyone I cried,” he says, his voice still a little thick.

Jimin laughs again. “I won’t.” He pushes back his hair, smile lighting up his face like how a sunset lights up an entire ocean, setting the waves on fire.

It sets a fire in Jungkook, too, wanting nothing except to reach out to Jimin; to tuck his hair behind his ear and see how their lips fit together. “Hyung…” His eyes waver across Jimin’s face, flickering from his eyes to his lips to his jaw. “Can I kiss you?”

He watches Jimin swallow, watches his tongue swipe against his lips before he exhales shakily between them. “Why?” he asks, and there’s a lilt to his voice like he’s unsure why Jungkook would ever ask him such a question, like it must be a joke or a prank and Jungkook will say “just kidding” at any moment now.

But of course Jungkook doesn’t, just fixes his gaze onto Jimin’s lips and prays. “Because I really want to,” he states plainly. “If that’s okay.”

“It’s probably a bad idea,” he cautions, his voice getting quieter, but his body moving closer.

“Probably,” Jungkook agrees.

Jimin bites his lip, his eyes falling onto Jungkook’s mouth. The air is suffocating around them as Jungkook waits for an okay or a rejection, stuck in a limbo that has Jungkook holding his breath.

And then Jimin nods the barest amount, leans in just a centimeter, and Jungkook is rushing forward like he’s starving.

He catches Jimin’s lips in his own and he’s warm, his mouth soft and inviting, and perfect, so perfect, Jungkook thinks, running his lips over his again and again. Jimin brings his hand to Jungkook’s face, stroking his thumb across his cheek as Jungkook crawls closer into Jimin’s lap. He kisses him harder until he feels like their bodies are mixing together and Jimin lets him lick into his mouth when he drags his tongue across his bottom lip. They stay like that for a few more minutes, getting to know each other in a different way, trying to understand all the ways they can fit themselves together. Jimin sighs into his mouth and nudges his nose against Jungkook’s.

“Jungkook?” he whispers between kisses; slower, gentler kisses.

“Yeah?” The nervousness he had abandoned earlier bubbles back up, flushing his face and neck.

“Do you like me or am I just convenient right now?”

Jungkook pauses. The look on Jimin’s face is serious, his eyebrows pulled together, and mouth pulled down slightly; it makes Jungkook’s chest hurt. He rests his forehead against Jimin’s, takes a breath like he’s about to dive into water, and says, “I really like you, Jimin. I really, really like you.”

“I was afraid you’d say that,” he whispers into his mouth, kissing him again.

Jungkook’s lips slide to Jimin’s jaw, messily kissing down his chin, his neck, sucking gently above his collarbone before Jimin is lightly pushing him away.

“We can’t do this.” He’s breathing hard and heavy, inhaling and exhaling to the same rapid beat of Jungkook’s heart pounding.

“Why not?” Jungkook almost whines, tucking his forehead into the space between Jimin’s neck and shoulder.

A hand comes up and rubs at his back. “You know why.”

“I don’t care.” He takes the hand that isn’t on his back into his own, squeezing Jimin’s fingers like he’s trying to prove something. “Let’s just be selfish about this one thing.”  He kisses his throat. “We’re good actors—” A kiss to the side of his mouth. “—we can hide it.”

Jimin laughs quietly. “We’re not good actors,” he reminds him, but then Jungkook bites Jimin’s bottom lip, drags out a moan from his laugh, and Jimin’s hands find their way back around Jungkook’s shoulders. “But we can try this.”

He leans back to look at Jimin fully. “What exactly is this ?”

His eyes move from Jungkook to the ceiling and back. “I don’t know,” Jimin admits, his thumb rubbing up and down at the back of Jungkook’s neck. It feels nice. It feels like something he could get used to. “I guess we’ll just figure it out as we go.”

Jungkook brings his hands around Jimin’s biceps, feels how big they are beneath his fingers, and squeezes reassuringly. “Okay,” he says, and Jimin cracks a small smile that has Jungkook’s mind reeling.

Okay.

They were doing this.

Jimin runs his fingers through Jungkook’s hair one last time, now smiling fully up his eyes, and Jungkook can’t help but mirror the same grin. “You should go to bed,” Jimin says.

“You mean I can’t stay here?” Jungkook teases, smirking and raising an eyebrow.

The playful slap that Jimin gives him to the chest is expected and deserved. Jungkook catches onto his hand and fits their fingers together, laughing as Jimin rolls his eyes. “No, get out of here, Jungkook.” He begins to use his feet to try and kick him off the bed.

“Okay, okay,” Jungkook finally complies, still giggling. He slides his hand out of Jimin’s as he gets up from the bed. “To be continued, then.”

Jimin doesn’t say anything, but he’s smiling, blush high on his cheeks as he watches Jungkook leave the room.

Jungkook closes the door softly behind him and the grin that breaks over his face makes his cheeks hurt. He gives a small fist pump into the air, thanking God for gay music videos and cover songs, and Park Jimin.

Jimin , he thinks, a laugh escaping involuntarily. Park Jimin; talented and radiant like a summer sun, warm and fucking beautiful. He wants to discover him all over again, map him out as someone other than a friend. Because now he knows the feeling of Jimin’s warmth directly on his skin, the gentle softness of his lips, the way his fingers never stop moving in patterns against his thighs and neck and jaw, and he wants to take note of it all, mark all the X’s on Jimin’s body that make him gasp.

He knows it’s stupid, that it’s a terrible idea waiting to blow up at the worst possible moment, but he’s young and Jimin’s young, and aren’t they allowed to be stupid once in awhile? Jungkook brings his fingers up to his swollen mouth and smiles; stupid, but worth it. So worth it, he thinks, as the unknown presents itself in front of him. It doesn’t matter what the future holds, they’ll worry about it when they get there.

They’ll figure everything out as they go.