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Jungkook was hit in the face with the warm air from the coffeehouse the minute he stepped inside. His cheeks flushed from the contact, thankful for relief from the biting cold outside.

 

“Jungkook!” Immediately, he was wrapped in a tight embrace.

 

“Seokjin hyung,” he responded, unable to stop the small smile that stretched his lips.

 

“Yah, that’s Jin hyung to you,” Seokjin responded, pulling back to smack him gently in the chest. “When did you become so formal?”

 

Jungkook grinned. “Sorry, hyung.”

 

Seokjin rolled his eyes. “Yoongi is waiting for you,” he said, gesturing towards the couch in the center of the small cafe. He hesitated for a moment, as if he wanted to add something else.

 

“It’ll be okay, hyung,” Jungkook said quietly, reassuringly, sensing the apprehension in his friend’s suddenly tense posture. “We’ve talked. He’s not going to kill me.”

 

Seokjin nodded, biting his lip. “Of course he isn’t. I raised him better than that.” It was a halfhearted attempt at a joke, but Jungkook spared him a smile nonetheless. It seemed to ease his nerves a little.

 

“Go sit,” Seokjin said, nervous smile not quite reaching his eyes.. “I’ll bring something to drink over in a few.”

 

Jungkook nodded. With a final, reassuring squeeze of the shoulder, his friend disappeared behind the counter.

 

The coffee shop hadn’t changed much in the past few years. As Jungkook made his way towards his older brother, he smiled faintly at the same worn leather couches in the middle of the room, the same golden strings of Christmas lights hanging from the windows. Seokjin really was a stickler for consistency.

 

It was only when he was a few feet from the couch that Jungkook realized his brother wasn’t sitting alone.

 

A small man, much smaller than Jungkook but probably only an inch or two shorter than Yoongi, sat beside his brother on the couch. They were pressed together, knees touching. The man had black hair, but he was turned away from Jungkook, head bent as he murmured to Yoongi.

 

For a moment, Jungkook watched them. His brother’s eyes never wavered from the black-haired man’s face. His lips held the faintest trace of a smile, his eyes warm.

 

Yoongi looked...entranced.

 

Jungkook almost felt bad when he took notice of him and the spell shattered.

 

“Jungkook.”

 

Yoongi stood up immediately, lips parted as if to speak. Jungkook waited, but he didn’t say anything else.

 

“Hyung.”

 

His hands curled into fists by his side. The word felt strange but familiar leaving his mouth, and it made his chest tighten.

 

There was a beat of silence, in which they both simply stared at each other, almost as if they could make up for all the lost time simply with a glance. Yoongi’s eyes were damp.

 

“You fucking—get over here.” In two quick strides, he crossed the distance between them and grabbed Jungkook by the front of his shirt, yanking him into a rough hug.

 

The hug was nothing like Seokjin’s gentle embrace. Yoongi’s hand held the back of Jungkook’s head tightly against his shoulder, his fingers curling into his hair. Jungkook swallowed down the lump in his throat, feeling his own eyes dampen before he finally hugged him back.

 

And he felt it. He felt the tension in his brother’s shoulders. The coiled muscles, the stiffness of his joints. All the stress—the stress he had put there—he felt every bit of it.

 

“S-sorry,” he whispered, the word muffled against the leather of the elder’s jacket.

 

“Shut up,” Yoongi responded gruffly, his arms tightening. “Just...shut up.”

 

And Jungkook almost laughed. He felt a weight fall from his chest. These past few days, ever since he’d called to let the older male know he was coming back home, all he could think about was all the different ways it could go wrong. He knew the possibility of Yoongi hating him was very real.

 

As his brother pulled away, however, his expression full of relief and his eyes still warm with concern, Jungkook suddenly felt stupid for ever having worried at all.

 

“Come on, let’s sit,” Yoongi said, taking a step back as he dropped his arms.

 

Jungkook sat on the couch facing him, and it was then that he realized Yoongi wasn’t the only one looking at him.

 

The black-haired man was facing him now. He looked nervous, biting at his lower lip. Jungkook’s gaze swept over him, taking in the plumpness of his lips, the smoothness of his skin, his toned physique, the tilt of his head. He looked like he could be a model.

 

“Since I know you could never score someone this hot all by yourself, I’m assuming this is your soulmate?” Jungkook teased half-heartedly, leaning back into the couch. He hoped his tone didn’t sound as bitter as he thought it did.

 

The man blushed, but Yoongi only smirked.

 

“Brat,” he muttered. Jungkook didn’t miss the flicker of relief that had crossed his features at the teasing remark.

 

Of course Yoongi would be nervous to introduce his soulmate to Jungkook. Knowing his younger brother’s tendency to be an unpredictable asshole for no reason, Jungkook was surprised he had made an effort to introduce them at all.

 

“This is Jimin,” Yoongi said, squeezing one the black-haired man’s hands. He cast him a reassuring smile.

 

“Nice to meet you,” Jimin said, still looking extremely nervous.

 

“Jungkook,” he introduced himself, giving a tight smile. “Likewise.”

 

There was a moment of awkward silence that hung tensely in the air until Seokjin appeared moments later.

 

“Here we go.” The pink-haired man set a tray onto the table between them. “Black coffee for Yoongi, a cappuccino for Jimin, and a vanilla chai latte with extra foam for Jungkook.” His friend flashed him a cautious smile. “You still drink those, right?”

 

Jungkook’s smile turned strained. “Um, not exactly.”

 

Seokjin’s expression fell just a little, but he quickly recovered. Bending down to pick up the cup, he asked, “Okay, what can I get for you, then?”

 

Jungkook nearly lied, knowing the reaction his response would elicit from his brother and friend. But the cold from the chilly wind outside still lingered in his bones, and he could really use a warm drink.

 

With a sigh, he responded, “Decaf. Um, black.”

 

This time, Seokjin didn’t do a good job of hiding his shocked expression.

 

“Sure,” he muttered, looking worried once more. “Coming...right up.”

 

Once he’d left, Jungkook turned to see Seokjin’s shock mirrored on Yoongi’s face, just as he’d expected.

 

“Decaf?” Yoongi looked stunned. “Kook, you fucking downed caffeine like it was water.”

 

Jungkook hummed in agreement, crossing his legs at the ankle. “Ah, a specialist in Switzerland recommended cutting it from my diet.” He shrugged. “There’s some medical bullshit reasoning for it, I’m sure.”

 

His brother’s normally light skin noticeably paled, making him look even more sickly. “...Switzerland?”

 

Jungkook sighed, rubbing a temple with one hand. “Hm. Yup.”

 

Yoongi looked like he wanted to say something else, but then he snapped his mouth closed. The flames in his eyes Jungkook knew so well sparked to life, the set of his jaw revealing his anger despite his best efforts to keep it hidden.

 

Jungkook stared at him, daring him to speak.  

 

Jimin seemed to sense the mood. “So...Jungkook!” he interjected brightly.

 

Jungkook let his attention drift to the smaller man, who was smiling at him warmly now, looking much less nervous than he had moments before.

 

“I bet it must have been fun traveling the world,” Jimin said, smiling innocently.

 

Jungkook started, a little stunned. He looked at Yoongi, bewildered.

 

“Does he not know?” he asked, shocked.

 

Guilt and sadness warred out on Yoongi’s face. “I told Jimin you’ve been traveling. I never...really explained much else.” His brother rubbed his forehead, looking weary. “It’s not my place.”

 

Jungkook almost scoffed. “Not your place? Hyung, it would’ve been easier to tell the truth.”

 

Jimin placed a hand on Yoongi’s knee. “He tried, but I wanted him to be comfortable when he decided to tell me,” he explained softly, looking at Jungkook. “He told me you two were a bit, uh...estranged. I thought maybe it’d be best if you solved your issues before he explained, since things have been…” he trailed off, searching for the right word. “Complicated.”

 

This time, Jungkook did scoff.

 

“Estranged?” He looked at Yoongi with a mocking smile curling his lips. “Complicated? Is that what you call it?”

 

Yoongi pinched the bridge of his nose, a muscle in his jaw twitching as he clenched and unclenched it. “Jungkook, please don’t do this.”

 

“Do what?” Jungkook retorted, feigning innocence. “I’m just explaining our situation to your soulmate here.” He spat the word, the venom in his voice making Jimin wince.

 

“Jimin-sshi,” he began curtly, “I ran away from home a few years ago. Pretty much drained hyung’s bank account before I left.”

 

Jimin’s eyes widened a little. Clearly, Yoongi had phrased the story in a way that cast his little brother in a kinder light.

 

“I used the money to travel,” he continued, eyes flashing darkly. “Went to see every specialist, doctor, spiritual healer I could find—anyone that said they could help me, pretty much.”

 

Yoongi looked pained. “Jungkook,” he muttered. “For fuck’s sake—”

 

“They all kept telling me the same thing,” Jungkook continued, ignoring his brother as he plowed on. Jimin looked uncomfortable.

 

“That it was hopeless.” Jungkook gave a tiny smile at the end of the statement, mainly because Jimin’s reaction was so amusing. It was the same reaction he got every time. The wide-eyed, horror filled look of disbelief and pity.

 

Pity. So much fucking pity.

 

“Anyways, I kind of knew it was fucking pointless to keep traveling,” Jungkook continued. “But I figured I’d drop dead at pretty much any given moment, you know? And I wanted it to be somewhere pretty. So I kept moving around. Hyung kept calling, begging me to come home.” He swallowed, feeling his fingers flex as they curled into fists subconsciously. “He didn’t want me to die alone.”

 

Jimin flinched at the bluntness of the statement. Yoongi merely shook his head, jaw still tightly clenched.

 

“But I ignored him, because I’m an asshole,” Jungkook continued stiffly. “Anyways, the last doctor I went to see gave me a few months. I’m out of money, so I guess home is as good a place to die as any.” Jungkook finished the story by leaning back into the couch, folding his hands neatly in his lap. “And that is the story of my estranged, complicated relationship with hyung, as he so wonderfully put it.”

 

Once again, Seokjin broke the tension, not even realizing he was doing so as he appeared. “Here’s your drink, Jungkook.” He placed the mug in front of him.

 

“Thanks.” Jungkook took a sip, his gaze still trained on the shellshocked Jimin and silent Yoongi.

 

Finally, Yoongi cleared his throat.

 

“I see you’re just as dramatic as ever, kid,” he grunted, expression dark despite his light tone.

 

Jungkook smiled stiffly. “I try.”

 

“I’m sorry about your diagnosis,” Jimin suddenly piped up, his voice soft. “Yoongi never told me it was…”

 

“Fatal?” Jungkook filled in, taking another sip of his drink. Fuck, he hated the taste of decaf. “Yeah, hyung likes to pretend if he doesn’t talk about it then maybe it’ll go away. He’s cute like that.”

 

Yoongi gritted his teeth, flinching at the remark. “At least I don’t fucking laugh about it, like some kind of sadistic asshole, like it’s some joke —”

 

“—It’s not a joke. It’s reality, and it fucking sucks, but pretending it isn’t there isn’t going to make it go away,” Jungkook replied sharply. “You’ve always been that way, hyung. Always pretended if we didn’t talk about it, didn’t think about, I’d just fucking wake up one day perfectly fine. It’s not that simple. It’s not that fucking easy , okay?”

 

Silence.

 

His brother wasn’t looking at him anymore. Jungkook caught the way he reached for Jimin’s hand. Jimin was quick to respond, lacing their fingers together and inching closer until their knees touched.

 

Jungkook felt the familiar ache in his chest, the dull throb just below his ribcage that had long since made a home there.

 

“Anyway,” he said quietly, setting down his still full coffee cup. “This has been...good. Great catching up. It was nice meeting you, Jimin-sshi.”

 

Jimin looked away from Yoongi, biting at his lip again. It must have been a habit. “Are you leaving?”

 

“Yeah.” Jungkook stood up, and his brother followed suit right away, grabbing him by the arm.

 

“No, you’re not,” he snapped. “We’re not done here.”

 

I’m done,” Jungkook responded, voice curt. “And I’m going.”

 

“Where?”

 

“A hotel—”

 

“A hotel?” It was almost surprising how wounded his brother looked at the remark, at the way he dropped his hold on his wrist like he’d been burned. “You’re staying at a hotel?”

 

Jungkook stared at the ground, guilt coursing through him. “...Yeah.”

 

And Yoongi laughed, the sound short and devoid of any real amusement. “Of course you are. You’re fucking running. It’s all you fucking know how to do, isn’t it?”

 

Jungkook glared at him. “I’m not running. I’m staying in town, it’s down the street.”

 

His brother shook his head. He was angry, that much was obvious, but his eyes were sad. Jungkook found himself remembering why he’d always had trouble maintaining eye contact with him as they locked eyes for a moment. The depth of pain in Yoongi’s black irises made the ache in his chest sharpen.

 

“Go, then,” his brother said quietly. “Leave.”

 

He turned, and Jimin stood up silently to accept his outstretched hand.

 

Jungkook tried to pretend it didn’t hurt when they turned to leave and he heard Yoongi mutter, “It’s what you do best, anyways.”

 

***

 

They’d always been good at pretending nothing was wrong, he and his brother. So when Yoongi texted him to come over for breakfast the next morning, he responded like the meeting at Seokjin’s cafe hadn’t happened.

 

He stood outside the apartment building a little longer than he probably should have, especially in the dead of winter.

 

They’d grown up in a small town on the edge of Busan. The locals called it The Village, and with its tiny population and mass of houses and buildings crammed together, it really was. There was one coffee shop, one grocery store, one gas station. In the winter, it was at its most beautiful, with a blanket of soft snow draping the houses and Christmas lights twinkling in the streets.

 

When he’d been younger, Jungkook used to hate his tiny neighborhood and the fact that you could walk from one end to the other without really breaking a sweat.

 

But that morning it was quiet. There weren’t many people on the streets and the snow on the streets was still white and unmarked, not yet turned to grey slush by countless tires.

 

And Jungkook found it a little hard to remember why he’d ever hated it.

 

Eventually, he shook himself out of his reverie and turned to enter the apartment building, buzzing for his brother to let him in. When he made it up stairs, Jimin was the one to answer the door, and Jungkook was hit with the sudden realization that he probably lived with Yoongi now.

 

It probably shouldn’t have set him on edge as much as it did.

 

“Good morning, Jungkook!” The black-haired man smiled brightly, too brightly for ten in the morning. Jungkook gave a thin smile in response, stepping inside and shrugging off his coat.

 

He went to throw it over the back of the couch as he’d done for the past decade, then stopped. The couch had been moved. A quick sweep of the room revealed that everything had been moved, actually. It looked like along with Jimin had come new furniture and decorations.

 

He and Yoongi had always been pretty minimalistic, with nothing on the walls or floors other than the basic necessities. Now there was carpet. Brightly colored paintings decorated the walls. Jungkook’s gaze lingered on a framed picture of Yoongi and Jimin at an ice skating rink. It looked recent, and his brother was grinning wide, wider than Jungkook had known he was capable of.

 

Jimin followed his gaze, and his smile softened. “That was taken on my birthday a few months ago,” he said softly. “Yoongi surprised me.”

 

“Cute.” There was too much bite behind the word, badly-disguised and uncalled for. He could see Jimin’s smile waver.

 

But he kept up the cheerful facade. Turning, the man gestured for him to follow, brightly saying, “Come on, Yoongi’s in the kitchen.”

 

Jungkook trailed behind a little reluctantly. Sure enough, his brother was seated at the table, cup of coffee clutched in hand and bangs mussed from sleep.

 

He glanced briefly at Jungkook as they walked in. “Morning.”

 

“Morning.” Jungkook slid into the chair beside him, raising an eyebrow. “Since when do you get up before noon?”

 

“Since Jimin forces me to eat before leaving for work,” was the tired response. “Apparently coffee isn’t a meal.”

 

“Shocking, isn’t it?” Jimin appeared over their shoulders, sliding a plate in front of his boyfriend. “How you survived to the age you are now baffles me every day.”

 

Yoongi smiled faintly, eyes twinkling. Jimin was grinning, too, the remark teasing, and he paused to press a kiss to the elder’s temple before moving away.

 

It was all so domestic. Jungkook felt like an intruder, felt awkward—and for some reason, almost angry.

 

He shoved the irrational feeling down as Yoongi glanced at him. “What do you want to eat, kid?”

 

“Ah, whatever’s already made is fine.” He gave a strained smile in Jimin’s direction. “I don’t want to impose or...make more work for you, or anything.”

 

“It’s totally fine!” Jimin said quickly. His smile was a little wider at Jungkook’s halfhearted attempt to be civil, and Jungkook wanted to wince at how badly the man was trying to like him.

 

Then again, at least he was trying.

 

He ended up having the same as Yoongi, a plate of fresh waffles, and Jimin took a seat beside them as well. The conversation was light. He caught up on his brother’s latest songs. Yoongi was a music producer, and there was nothing Jungkook loved more than watching his face light up when he talked about a project he was working on.

 

“So, Jimin-sshi.” He leaned back in his chair. “What do you do?”

 

He could see Yoongi watching him out of the corner of his eye. He wondered if it was that shocking that he was making an attempt at being friendly. If he was really that much of an asshole.

 

Jimin looked a little surprised at the question himself, if not delighted.

 

“I’m a dance teacher!” The black-haired man’s smile was wide, eyes glittering as he leaned forward excitedly. “It’s actually how Yoongi and I met. My coworker is friends with him and he asked him to compose a song for one of our showcases, so Yoongi came to watch.”

 

“Hobi,” Yoongi supplied helpfully, gaze flickering towards Jungkook.

 

Jimin paused. “Oh, you know him?”

 

Jungkook’s hand curled around his fork a little tighter. “Yeah. Nearly my whole life, actually.”

 

It was sharp, too sharp.

 

He saw Yoongi glare at him as Jimin’s smile dimmed ever so slightly. “That’s great! Ah, you probably know all of Yoongi’s friends. It was dumb of me to assume you didn’t. I’m sorry.”

 

“Nothing to apologize for,” Yoongi said gruffly. He reached a hand out, laying it over his boyfriend’s atop the table. “But yeah, Kook knows everyone. Hobi actually taught him dance when he was little.”

 

“You dance?” Hope flickered in Jimin’s eyes. “Maybe you could come down to the studio sometime!”

 

Jungkook put the fork down hard, and Jimin flinched. “I don’t anymore.” He leveled the elder with a hard look, jaw clenched. “I can’t. Thanks for the offer, though, I guess.”

 

And the reminder . The sentiment went unsaid, but it rang loudly in the air, bleeding into the already suffocating tension.

 

He could see Jimin visibly shrinking back into his seat. His brother was starting to look tired, pinching the bridge of his nose with a sigh.

 

And it was taking a toll on him. This constant pretending, forcing himself to put on a air of cheerfulness and health and all the crap he wasn’t feeling. Wasn’t even close to feeling.

 

“I think I’m gonna go,” he said, pushing out his chair. “Thanks for breakfast.”

 

It wasn’t a coincidence that Jimin’s shoulders visibly relaxed a little, and he didn’t imagine the way his brother’s jaw unclenched. It was like a reminder of all the reasons he’d left, of the fact that his presence didn’t bring anything other than discomfort and sadness to other people.

 

That he didn’t bring anything other than discomfort and sadness.

 

He left the apartment quickly, an empty promise to meet up later in the day tumbling past his lips. It was cold enough to snow outside, but he found himself breathing a sigh relief at the biting air. It felt freer than the cramped apartment.

 

It was one of those moments where he didn’t really think about where he was going—he just walked. The Christmas lights were slowly coming to life in the shops as he crunched his way through the snow on the sidewalks. It was nice. He could feel some of the tension easing its way out of his body.

 

By the time he realized he was close to becoming a human popsicle, he’d reached the convenience store that doubled as a pharmacy. He debated going home, before remembering home was a dismal hotel room that smelled like mothballs and decided it was better to step inside and get something to drink.

 

As he stepped into the warmth of the store, he sighed in relief. It was relatively empty except for an employee behind the counter, playing a game on his phone, and another worker who was crouched in one of the aisles, humming quietly to himself while he stacked one of the shelves.

 

The coolers holding the drinks were on the far end of the store, right next to the coffee machines.

 

And yet, for some strange reason, Jungkook found himself walking towards the aisle where the worker was crouched.

 

The stranger’s back was turned as he worked, lining the shelves with cans from the box at his feet. Jungkook watched him for a moment, wondering why his fingers felt colder inside than they had when he’d been walking.

 

He took a few steps closer. It felt weird. A little creepy, to just stand there watching him. Jungkook turned after a moment to face the shelf right behind the man, pretending to scan the row of canned soups.

 

He stood there for a few minutes before he realized he wasn’t just humming, but singing quietly to himself.

 

“...you are my sunshine…my only sunshine...”

 

Jungkook’s toes curled, his cheeks growing warm.

 

The stranger’s voice was husky, deep. It didn’t match the sweet, gentle melody of the song at all, and yet...it sounded so perfect.

 

Jungkook would have been content to stand there and listen to him silently all day, even if he didn’t understand why it felt like his feet were rooted to the spot.

 

But, as if fate had other plans, the sound of the worker’s phone ringing suddenly pierced the air. He jumped, turning around quickly and fumbling to pull the device out of his pocket and silence it.

 

When he looked back up, his glittering brown eyes locked with Jungkook’s.

 

Jungkook couldn’t explain the sensation that followed. It was as if the air physically crackled between them, electric and leaving him short of breath. He felt a pulse of energy travel past his temples, tracing through his brain down his spinal cord to the tips of his fingers and back. Every single cell in his body shifted in response, clicking into place even though he hadn’t known they were out of line in the first place.

 

It was like something inside of him was singing .

 

People said it felt like this when you met, when you made eye contact with the person fate had destined you to be with, but Jungkook hadn’t quite believed it until now.

 

The worker’s mouth fell open, and Jungkook’s stomach plummeted to his knees.

 

“Fuck,” the stranger breathed. His voice was so, so deep. So perfect.

 

Jungkook’s heart clawed his way into his throat.

 

Fuck, fuck, shit, fuck .

 

“You’re—” The man’s eyes were wide, and he took a small step forward. The can in his hands slipped through his fingers and hit the ground with a heavy thud, and it was the sound that knocked Jungkook back to his senses.

 

“I-I don’t—I’m not—” Jungkook stared at him, seemingly unable to form a sentence. His head whirled with thoughts, blood roared in his ears. He was so, so beautiful.

 

“We’re soulmates,” the man whispered. He looked so beautiful, so stunned, so happy . A smile twitched his lips, his eyes glittering.

 

It was the word that did it. It shattered the air, sent the magic of the moment scattering. He was jerked back into reality. The reality where he was still standing there and he still felt like he couldn’t move and the beautiful stranger—his soulmate —was staring at him and he couldn’t move, couldn’t speak.

 

Without a word, Jungkook forced his feet to starting working.

 

And he turned around and bolted.

 

***

 

Kim Taehyung had never really been obsessed with the idea of soulmates growing up, but he hadn’t necessarily been opposed to it.

 

As he got older, however, he’d be lying if he said he didn’t think about it more and more often. His friends started to find their soulmates, and everyone around him was so happy, so loved. He wanted to experience the same thing. Longed for it.

 

So, needless to say, he was shocked when his soulmate turned on his heel and ran away from him seconds after meeting.

 

“Maybe he was just surprised,” Jimin tried consoling him. His friend had dutifully picked up the phone after Taehyung had texted him eleven times, in all caps, with several exclamation points, insisting it was urgent.

 

“He ran , Jiminie,” Taehyung moaned woefully. “He literally looked at me and ran away . How many soulmates have you heard of who have done that?”

 

“It happens all the time, Tae,” his friend insisted gently. “Some people are just so stunned that it’s their first instinct. Fight or flight, you know?”

 

“I wish he’d fought me instead,” Taehyung whimpered. “Then he would have touched me, at least.”

 

Jimin burst into laughter. “Tae.”

 

“Ugh, you don’t understand, Jiminie,” Taehyung sighed. His thoughts drifted to the attractive stranger, to the way the snow had been clinging to his black hair and his large, startled doe eyes. “He was so freaking pretty. I only saw him for like two seconds, and I can practically already guarantee he’s great in bed, I could tell just by looking at him—”

 

“My ears!” Jimin interrupted, whining. “You sound like a horny teenager.”

 

“I am one those of things, and it is not the teenager part,” Taehyung sighed, leaning against the counter as he pressed the phone closer to his ear. “Jimin, be honest. Do you think he’s gonna come back?”

 

“Of course,” his friend sighed. “Tae, he’s your soulmate . Even if it’s to tell you he’s not ready to pursue anything right now, he’s still going to come back to you. The pull is too strong. He couldn’t stay away even if he wanted.”

 

“That’s comforting,” Taehyung sighed. “Not. You suck at pep talks, Jiminie.”

 

“Jerk,” Jimin muttered. “I missed the end of practice for this.”

 

Taehyung smiled at that. “Sorry, Minnie. You know I love you.”

 

“Yeah, yeah,” his friend mumbled. “Listen, I have to go, but call me tonight, okay? Let me know what happens.”

 

“If anything even does,” Taehyung mumbled glumly. “Bye, Minnie.”

 

“Bye, Tae. Good luck. Be positive!”

 

He ended the call with a resigned sigh. His shift only lasted another half an hour, so even if his soulmate did return, he most likely wouldn’t be here. The thought made him feel like crying.

 

He just didn’t understand. This wasn’t how it was supposed to go.

 

***

 

“Jungkook, are you sure you’re alright?”

 

Jimin and Yoongi had been asking him the same question all night. Each time, he’d forced a (clearly fake) smile and responded with a (clearly bullshit) lie about the weather making him feel down or his stomach hurting.

 

He couldn’t get his soulmate out of his head.

 

Every part of him wanted to run out of the apartment and down the street to where the breathtaking stranger worked. He didn’t once think about what he might say, if he might be upset about the fact that Jungkook had run out on him. All he wanted to do was see him again.

 

But every time the urge got too strong, Jungkook forced himself back to reality.

 

It hurt, physically hurt, but he couldn’t go back. It was better this way.

 

They were all sitting in the living room watching a movie, with Jimin and Yoongi curled together on one end of the couch and Jungkook seated on the other. His brother and his soulmate kept glancing his way. Jungkook pretended not to notice, keeping his gaze focused on the tv.

 

After a few minutes, he spoke up.

 

“We should go to the cafe tomorrow,” he said suddenly.

 

Yoongi and Jimin exchanged glances. “Okay,” Yoongi said slowly. “Sure. Any reason you want to go there all of a sudden?”

 

Jungkook shrugged, sinking lower into the couch. The truth was, he didn’t trust himself to have idle time, at the hotel or in general. He was scared that he’d eventually give in to the temptation and go back to the convenience store.

 

He didn’t voice any of his concerns, of course. “I just miss Jin hyung, I guess.”

 

Yoongi sighed. Jungkook wondered if his older brother would ever call him out on his lies.

 

***

 

The next morning, Jungkook bundled himself up, feeling colder than usual. He met Yoongi and Jimin on the walk from the hotel, choosing to humor his brother’s weak attempt at claiming it was coincidence, and they walked the rest of the way to the cafe together.

 

They were greeted by an overjoyed Seokjin. “I haven’t seen you guys in forever!” he exclaimed, ushering them towards their usual seats. “Sit, sit! Let me get you guys drinks. Same as last time?” He didn’t wait for a response, instead shouting, “Namjoon!”

 

The tall, lanky man appeared from behind the counter. Jungkook couldn’t help but grin at the sight of the familiar dimpled face, flecked with flour and donning an apron.

 

“Did Namjoon hyung start doing cocaine?” Jungkook joked, raising an eyebrow. Jimin giggled.

 

Seokjin turned to look at his boyfriend and gasped. “Joon, tell me you didn’t spill the flour.”

 

“Okay.” Namjoon bit his lip, looking ashamed. “But please know that if I do tell you that, it will be a lie.”

 

Jungkook, Jimin and Yoongi burst into laughter as Seokjin darted away, moaning about the mess and scolding his soulmate for not being more careful. Yoongi shook his head as he watched the two disappear behind the counter.

 

“Those two,” he chuckled. “They’re fucking ridiculous.”

 

“I think they’re cute,” Jimin giggled, leaning his head against Yoongi’s shoulder. “It’s sweet that Jin hyung knows Namjoon hyung is so clumsy, but he still trusts him so much.”

 

“Trusts him?” Yoongi rolled his eyes. “Joon is going to be banished out here in five seconds. I’ll bet money on it.”

 

A few minutes passed before Namjoon suddenly plopped onto the couch beside Jungkook, looking glum. “Hey, guys.”

 

Jungkook and Jimin bit their lips, their faces nearly turning blue as they struggled to keep their laughter suppressed. Yoongi only smiled smugly.

 

“Get kicked out, Joon?” he asked his friend.

 

Namjoon pouted, crossing his arms. “Only for the rest of the day. I was just trying to move the flour, it’s not my fault Jin puts it on such a high shelf! How does that even make sense? Why put something everyone uses in such an unreachable place? I mean—”

 

Jungkook tuned him out as Jimin leaned forward, his eyes sparkling with laughter. “Care to join me in getting our drinks? I have a feeling this could take a while.”

 

Jungkook hesitated before nodding. “Sure.”

 

Seokjin had reappeared behind the front counter when they approached it. The elder looked flustered, and he grew more flushed upon the sight of them.

 

“Shit, your drinks!” He shook his head. “I’m sorry, give me a sec—”

 

“It’s okay, hyung,” Jimin said, smiling. “Take your time. We don’t have anywhere to be.”

 

The older man only mumbled something unintelligible before turning back around and disappearing.

 

Jungkook almost considered returning to his seat, figuring it would take a while, but Jimin was already leaning against the counter. He watched him glance towards the couches and followed his gaze, smiling at the sight of an unamused Yoongi listened to Namjoon rant about flour and its proper placement in the kitchen.

 

“Namjoon hyung hasn’t changed a bit,” Jungkook remarked fondly.

 

Jimin’s gaze flickered in his direction.

 

“I forget sometimes that you’ve known them all for such a long time,” he remarked quietly.

 

Jungkook turned to look at him, smiling despite himself. “Yeah. Jin, Namjoon, and Hobi hyung have all been friends with Yoongi hyung since I was in elementary school. They practically raised me just as much as hyung did.”

 

Something unreadable flashed in Jimin’s eyes as he smiled faintly. “You’re lucky. Growing up, I only really had one close friend. You have a lot of hyungs who really care about you.”

 

Jungkook shrugged, feeling a little uncomfortable at the sappy turn the conversation had taken. “Well, they’re your friends, too, now. I guess.”

 

There was a pause.

 

“Are they?”

 

He turned, surprised at how tiny the other man’s voice had suddenly gotten.

 

Jimin was watching Yoongi and Namjoon across the room, expression hard to decipher. “Sometimes...I don’t know. I feel like an intruder. You’re all so close, and you’ve only just met me.” He swallowed. “You’re like a family, and I’m...I don’t know. An in-law, almost.” He gave a dry chuckle. “The stepfather or something.”

 

And it was true. Jungkook almost said it, almost confirmed the man’s worst fears. Some sick part of him wanted to agree—wanted to tell him no matter what happened, it would always be them against the world. His hyungs. His brother.

 

Instead, he found himself shaking his head.

 

“I don’t think that’s true.” He said it quietly, but Jimin’s head turned sharply at the words. Swallowing, he forced himself to continue. “I’ve only been back a few days, but from what I’ve seen, you seem to fit into the group perfectly. They all like you, I can tell.” A thin smile. “Probably better than me,” he joked.

 

Jimin scoffed, but his cheeks were flushed. “I doubt it.”

 

There was a pause.

 

“Thank you, Jungkook,” he muttered. “You have no idea how much that means to me.”

 

Jungkook cleared his throat, suddenly feeling awkward. “Yeah, uh. No problem.”

 

And then their drinks were ready, and the subject was dropped.

 

Jimin was a little more energetic when they returned to the couches. He talked a little more, and his smile was just a little bit wider. Jungkook realized that the conversation they’d just had probably had something to do with it.

 

Watching him, he felt bad. It was sad that such a simple kind remark had entirely changed the other male’s demeanor. Jimin clearly wanted Jungkook to like him, had been nothing but kind to him since he’d come home. Jungkook had been so busy feeling replaced by his brother and friends he’d been taking it out on the other man, and it wasn’t fair. He wanted to do better.

 

Silently, he held his coffee in his hands, letting the warmth seep through to his skin. He watched Seokjin take a seat, saying something quietly to Namjoon with a small smile playing on his lips. The door opened, bringing in a blast of cold air with it, and Hobi collapsed onto the couch beside him, swinging an arm over his shoulder. His friends erupted into laughter at something Yoongi said.

 

Even though Jungkook was sitting in the middle of the group, he felt as if he was looking through a television screen at a happy family. He could easily have been frozen in time, standing still as everybody around him moved onwards in a blur.

 

Was this what it would be like when he died? They were doing well, laughter as bright as he remembered. It felt as if nothing had changed since he’d left. They’d moved on with their lives once, they could probably do it again, right?

 

He took another sip of his drink. The decaf tasted bitter on his tongue, and he realized somewhat dimly that the ache in his chest had returned.

 

***

 

A week passed before Jungkook gave in to his brother’s constant nagging to come stay stay at his apartment. He was reluctant, in part because he felt like he would be intruding on Yoongi and Jimin’s space, but Jimin was more than eager to spend more time with him. They’d been making progress the past few days, getting less awkward and more friendly. So he figured there was no reason not to go.

 

And if the apartment was a lot closer to the convenience store than his hotel, that was just something out of his control.

 

He walked by it every day. He’d taken to attending Jimin and Hobi’s dancing classes once in a while. He didn’t dance, but even standing at the back of the room was enough sometimes. He loved watching the dancers’ bodies move perfectly with the beat, longed to join them.

 

That same longing tugged at his chest when he walked by the convenience store.

 

But he never went in.

 

It was a cold Tuesday that he had his first relapse. It wasn’t anything horrible. He stepped outside the apartment building and knew the second his boot touched the concrete that it wasn’t going to be a good day.

 

So he spent the morning headfirst in the toilet, throwing up the nonexistent contents of his stomach.

 

Jungkook had an autoimmune disorder that affected a miniscule fraction of the population. One doctor had wittily coined it “zombie disease,” because some part of him seemed to be deteriorating, almost like a corpse. No one could figure out what in his body it was attacking specifically—all they knew was that it seemed to be a slow process. And a painful one.

 

It hurt some days more than others.

 

For the most part, he was used to it. The headaches, the muscle pains, the constant throbbing, the stomach aches, etc etc et-fucking-cetera. He usually just braced himself and threw up until his body was too exhausted to do so anymore, or curled up on the kitchen floor after blacking out. He tried to put on a brave face, because as cynical as everybody else had decided he was, there was no point in letting it control every single thing he did. He never let it get to him.

 

But that day, it got to him.

 

He was panting, clutching the side of the toilet bowl. His throat stung, the taste of bile still a bitter film that coated his tongue—when, without warning, he started crying.

 

His soulmate flooded his mind. His beautiful boxy smile and warm eyes and his singing, how excited he’d looked, and—

 

—and Jungkook couldn’t make him happy.

 

How could he? He was a dying man, a literal dead-man walking, zombie puns aside. His soulmate didn’t deserve to sign up for such heartache, to spend a few months with Jungkook before watching him die. Nobody deserved that.

 

He rested his cheek on the cold tile, letting the guilt and anger wash over him.

 

He was never going back to that convenience store. Never.

 

***

 

Two days later, Jimin pulled him into the convenience store on the way back from dance class.

 

“I just need some gum,” he hummed, pulling a weakly resisting Jungkook inside. “Hobi brought tuna sandwiches for lunch and my breath is suffering.”

 

“Isn’t gum cheaper at the newsstand?” he tried desperately.

 

“Mm, too long of a walk. Besides, we’re already here!”

 

Jungkook nodded mutely. His chest seemed to tighten as they made their way further into the aisles, and for once he knew it wasn’t a symptom of his sickness. He kept glancing at the counter, waiting for an employee to appear. Praying it wouldn’t be his soulmate.

 

Praying it would be.

 

Jimin paused by the hotpacks, looking thoughtfully at the array of brands. “Maybe I should get some of these. Yoongi’s hands are always freezing.”

 

Someone coughed behind them. Jungkook glanced at the neighboring aisle and caught a flash of brown hair. His heart leapt into his throat.

 

“What do you think, Jungkook?”

 

He bit the inside of his cheek, too hard. Metal tinged his tongue.

 

“Jungkook? Jungkook .”

 

“Huh?”

 

Jimin was giving him a strange look. “Are you okay?”

 

“I’m, um.” He shook his head, trying to clear it. “I’m good. I’m actually going to go to the front, if that’s okay with you.”

 

Jimin frowned. “Are you sure you’re feeling okay? Why don’t we just go home—”

 

He started to stand, but Jungkook stopped him quickly.

 

“No, no,” he said. “It’s okay. Take your time. I’m just—I’m going to get something to drink.”

 

His frantic response did nothing to quell the suspicious look on Jimin’s face, but the elder seemed to let it slide. He turned his focus back to the hotpacks, and Jungkook returned his attention to the head that had been bobbing in the next aisle.

 

It had disappeared. He let out a breath, shoulders relaxing visibly.

 

His feet did carry him to the counter, but not to look for something to drink. He couldn’t really pinpoint what led him there. He didn’t think about it, not until he was already standing there, and then it was too late.

 

“Hello, can I help—oh!”

 

His soulmate’s expression was an even mixture of shock and euphoria. He leaned forward immediately, eyes bright.

 

“It’s you,” the man breathed. That boxy smile that had been branded into Jungkook’s dreams was suddenly less than a few inches from his face, and the ache in his chest had made a reappearance. “Hello again!”

 

He nearly jumped at the cheerfulness of the man’s voice.

 

“...Um, hi.” His tongue still tasted like blood.

 

But his soulmate didn’t seem to register any of the anxiety bleeding from him, and his eyes positively sparkled . “Wah,” he whispered, grinning widely. “Such a sexy voice.”

 

Jungkook felt his cheeks darken. “I…”

 

“Sorry,” he giggled. Fucking giggled . Jungkook’s stomach was doing somersaults. “I didn’t mean to come on so strong. I’m Taehyung! Kim Taehyung!”

 

He stuck out a hand eagerly.

 

Jungkook stared at it.

 

There was an awkward stretch of silence, during which Taehyung raised an eyebrow. “Wow, you’re like, really shy, huh?”

 

His cheeks burned again, this time due to embarrassment. He still didn’t reach out, but Taehyung didn’t seem to mind, simply placing his own hand on the counter.

 

“I-I’m...Jungkook,” he said hesitantly.

 

Taehyung’s smile widened. “It’s so great to meet you.”

 

He was so kind and cheerful. His entire body radiated warmth, eyes glowing brown, skin smooth like honey, hair a shade of soft chocolate that fell into his eyes.

 

He was stunning.

 

Every thought Jungkook had ever had about pushing his soulmate away seemed to disappear. He realized briefly he was probably going to regret this later, but he closed the distance between the two of them anyways, stepping right up to the counter.

 

Taehyung seemed surprised, but pleased. He grinned that adorable boxy grin.

 

“I’m sorry for running away before,” Jungkook started, locking eyes with him as he explained himself, voice quiet and serious.

 

Taehyung tilted his head calculatingly, an amused smile playing his lips. “It’s okay,” he murmured softly. “Does that mean you’re done running?”

 

Jungkook swallowed, determination making him set his shoulders. “I am.”

 

No, you’re not. Don’t do this.

 

His throat was dry, and his mouth still tasted of iron, but he ignored it and barreled on. “Will you...would you, um—” A steadying breath. “Would you like to go out with me sometime?”

 

Taehyung’s blinding grin softened. Somehow, the small smile he gave him was even warmer.

 

“I’d love to,” he laughed softly, eyes crinkling. “When were you thinking?”

 

“Tae?”

 

Jungkook’s mouth snapped shut at the sound of Jimin’s voice, and his blood suddenly felt like ice in his veins.

 

Meanwhile, Taehyung looked as surprised as he felt.

 

“Jimin?”

 

Jimin appeared beside Jungkook, placing a few things onto the counter. “You never told me you were working here.”

 

“It’s just something to make a few bucks. You know, in between auditions,” Taehyung explained, falling into an easy smile as the surprise seemed to fade. “Besides, I only started a few weeks ago. What are you doing here?”

 

“Oh, just needed to grab a few things on the way back from practice.” Jimin glanced at Jungkook beside him, frozen in place. Concern flickered across his expression. “Jungkook, are you okay?”

 

Taehyung’s eyebrows rose until they disappeared behind his bangs. “You two know each other?”

 

It was Jimin’s turn to look confused. “Yeah, he’s Yoongi’s little brother. I told you he’s been staying with us. You know him?”

 

“He’s…” Taehyung trailed off, looking at Jungkook with question marks in his eyes.

 

Jungkook’s mind raced. If Jimin knew they were soulmates, he’d have to tell Taehyung the truth. All of the truth.

 

He’d have to tell him that he was sick.

 

He couldn’t. Not yet.

 

“I just, um—” His cheeks flamed, and he avoided Jimin’s quizzical gaze. “I asked him out.”

 

The elder’s jaw fell open. “You asked him out ?”

 

Taehyung’s responding smile was noticeably dimmer. Guilt coursed through Jungkook, and he clenched his hands inside his coat pockets.

 

“Yeah, he did.” Taehyung rested his chin on his hand, leaning forward. “So, when are you free?”

 

Jungkook swallowed. “Um. Tomorrow? If that’s not too soon.”

 

“No, it’s perfect. My shift ends at 3.” And just as easily as the words left his mouth, Taehyung leaned back and grabbed the items Jimin had placed on the counter. “Three hotpacks and a pack of gum. Four thirty-six, Minnie.”

 

Jungkook tuned out the small talk they made, his mind reeling.

 

They knew each other. They knew each other well , based off of how easily their conversation flowed, based on the affectionate nicknames they used with each other.

 

Things had just gotten a lot more complicated.

 

***

 

“You’re going on a date with him ?”

 

You’re going on a date with him!”

 

“You’re going on a date ?”

 

Jungkook sighed, sinking into the couch and rubbing his temples. “This is why I don’t tell you guys things.”

 

“I’m so happy for them!” Jimin squealed, clapping his hands. “My best friend and my soulmate’s little brother! So cute!”

 

Meanwhile, Yoongi’s expression remained unreadable. He watched Jungkook through guarded eyes, taking a sip of his coffee.

 

“So you just...asked him out? Just like that, huh?”

 

His brother’s expression was hard to decipher, but his eyes held everything his features didn’t. He knew Jungkook well, knew he was hiding something.

 

Jungkook found himself looking away, jaw clenched as he stared down at the floor of coffee house. “Yeah,” he muttered.

 

There was a pause. “Be safe,” was all Yoongi added.

 

Jungkook nodded, giving him a small smile of gratitude for not pushing the subject.

 

Namjoon still looked shocked as he gathered the empty cups on the table. “ I still can’t believe you’re going on a date. Wait until I tell Jin, he’s going to have a stroke.”

 

Jungkook snorted, standing up. “Please don’t kill Jin hyung. Where else will we all get free coffee?”

 

“Hey!” Namjoon sputtered. “You assholes use him!”

 

Jimin and Jungkook snickered, while Yoongi merely rolled his eyes and continued drinking his coffee.

 

“Well, Taehyung is gonna be here any minute,” Jungkook said, buttoning up his coat. “I’ll call you if it runs late, yeah?”

 

“Take your time,” Yoongi said. His expression flickered. “And...don’t do anything stupid, Kook.”

 

“He’s just going on a date , Yoongi,” Jimin scoffed. “Stop being so dramatic. I still can’t believe you two are going out! And I can’t believe Tae hasn’t called to tell me all the details yet,” he pouted. “He usually won’t leave me alone when he has plans he’s excited about.”

 

Jungkook stiffened. Yoongi noticed and frowned a little.

 

“Maybe he forgot,” he said to Jimin.

 

The black-haired man frowned. “Yoongi, he literally texts me the color of his poop every morning. He definitely did not forget something as big as this.”

 

Yoongi shrugged, and his expression had become a cross between sad and pained. Jungkook felt a twinge of guilt.

 

“I’ll see you tonight, hyung,” he muttered, trying to communicate how grateful he was through his gaze.

 

Yoongi smiled a little, and Jungkook almost felt like he understood. “See ya, kid.”

 

“Have fun, Jungkook!” Jimin squealed. “Take lots of pictures! Where are you going again?”

 

Jungkook rolled his eyes. “I don’t need you to spy on us, Jimin hyung.” He walked outside into the cold, the door of the coffee house jingling as he shut it. Taehyung was supposed to be here any minute.

 

Wait.

 

Where were they going?

 

Jungkook was suddenly hit with the heart-stopping realization that despite being the one to ask Taehyung out, he hadn’t actually planned anything for the two of them to do.

 

It was only seconds upon having the realization that a hand dropped onto his shoulders

 

Jungkook flinched, and the hand fell. Its owner laughed, the sound deep and melodic.

 

“Taehyung,” Jungkook muttered, putting a hand over his heart. “Fuck. You scared the shit out of me.”

 

Taehyung’s shoulders shook as he laughed at him. “Sorry. Jeez, you were really out of it, huh?”

 

“Yeah, I was...um, actually, I was thinking about what to do,” Jungkook admitted sheepishly. He rubbed the back of his neck. “I...I sort of got so nervous about seeing you that I didn’t even plan anything.”

 

Taehyung’s eyes sparkled as he laughed, and Jungkook couldn’t help but wonder if it was because of the reflection of the snow, or if that was just something they did.

 

Either way, he found himself unable to look away.

 

“It’s okay!” Taehyung giggled, a mittened hand rising to cover his mouth. “I know something we can do, if it’s cool with you.”

 

Relief washed over him. “Yeah, of course! Thanks so much.”

 

Taehyung dropped his hand, only to grab Jungkook’s own. “Come on, let’s go.”

 

As they walked, Jungkook couldn’t help but focus on the warmth of Taehyung’s fingers. He knew they were both wearing gloves, but it still felt so nice. Their palms fit so perfectly together.

 

Taehyung’s phone chimed. He fished it out of his pocket and glanced at the screen, a smile appearing on his face before he tucked it back away.

 

“That was Jiminie, wishing us luck on our date,” he explained, giggling. “He’s upset I haven’t told him all the juicy details yet.”

 

“I’m sorry you have to lie because of me,” Jungkook murmured sadly, the same rush of guilt he’d felt for Yoongi suddenly coming back. “I’m just not ready to tell them yet.”

 

“Hey, no worries,” Taehyung insisted, voice sweet. He squeezed Jungkook’s hand gently. “It’s only for a little while. Whenever you’re comfortable, we can tell them together, right?”

 

“Right.” Jungkook smiled weakly, hoping the action didn’t look as fake as it felt.

 

The truth was, once Jimin knew that Taehyung was his soulmate, he would demand Jungkook tell him the truth.

 

As in, all of the truth.

 

As in, the fact that he was dying.

 

And Jungkook didn’t know if he could do that. Not yet. He wasn’t ready.

 

“Ah, we’re here!”

 

He stopped as Taehyung gently tugged him to a halt. Taehyung laughed at the surprised expression on his face.  

 

“We’re at a...supermarket?” he confirmed, turning towards the giggling man with raised eyebrows.

 

Taehyung nodded enthusiastically. “Yep! I have so much grocery shopping to do, and this is pretty much my only day off this week. You don’t mind, do you?”

 

Jungkook was speechless for a moment.

 

Any protests he had died when he saw the innocent, eager smile on Taehyung’s face. Did it really matter what they did, as long he got to spend time with him?

 

“Alright. Lead the way.”

 

Ten minutes later, they were walking through the aisles as Taehyung scrolled through a list on his phone.

 

“Okie dokie, next is...almond milk!”

 

“Gross,” Jungkook commented, steering the cart into the next aisle. “Just like every other item on this list.”

 

Taehyung huffed indignantly beside him. “Just because your weird ass drinks regular milk does not mean all other types of milk are gross, Kookie. Don’t be racist against milk.”

 

Jungkook ignored the warmth that spread like a wildfire throughout him upon hearing the nickname Taehyung had so casually let slip.

 

“But it’s weird ,” he continued, coming to a stop as the dairy section came into view. “You can’t milk almonds. Where the fuck do they get the milk from?”

 

Taehyung paused, his hand outstretched the grab a carton.

 

“Oh my god,” he whispered. He turned to Jungkook, expression horrified. “Oh my god . You’re right! It’s a milk conspiracy !”

 

Jungkook burst out laughing at the seriousness of Taehyung’s voice. His soulmate ignored him, clearly distressed.

 

“What have I been drinking my whole life?” he wailed. “This is all my mother’s fault. Jungkook, stop laughing, this is serious!”

 

Jungkook straightened up, his shoulders still shaking with suppressed laughter. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I totally didn’t mean to ruin milk for you.”

 

Taehyung heaved a dramatic sigh. “I guess I’ll just drink regular milk. Like a heathen .”

 

He dropped the gallon into the cart with a grumble, Jungkook watching him with an amused smile.

 

Just as Taehyung was about to read the next item on his list, a mother walked past, rolling a cart with two kids standing at the front. Their arms were stretched wide to the side, giggling gleefully as their mother pushed them.

 

Jungkook watched Taehyung’s gaze trail them until they turned the corner and disappeared, and he groaned as he caught the mischievous glint in his eyes.

 

“Taehyung, if you’re thinking what I think you’re thinking—”

 

“Pleeease, Kook!” His soulmate turned to him with wide eyes, full of pleading, his lower lip jutted out in a pout. “Just for a few minutes?”

 

Jungkook pinched his forehead. It really wasn’t fair. One look and his resolve melted completely.

 

“Fine,” he sighed. “For a few minutes .”

 

Taehyung squealed with excitement, and Jungkook could almost laugh at how similar he and Jimin were. No wonder the two were such good friends.

 

Jungkook waited for him to climb onto the front of the cart, as the kids had been doing, but he surprised him by walking around to where Jungkook was standing, ready to push at the back of the cart.

 

“This way is safer,” he explained. Jungkook watched as Taehyung stood on the thin bar at the bottom of the cart, his broad torso covering most of the handle of the cart. He turned and grabbed Jungkook’s hands, placing them on either side of him onto the handle. Taehyung was now bridged in between his arms, Jungkook’s chest flush with his back. Jungkook was close enough to feel the heat radiating off of him, to feel the tickle of his soft hair if he moved his chin just tiniest bit.

 

“This way I won’t fall off,” Taehyung explained innocently,

 

“So you won’t fall off. Sure,” Jungkook muttered, shaking his head. He didn’t protest, though.  

 

He’d be an idiot to do that.

 

“Onwards, to the peaches!” Taehyung commanded, saluting overdramatically. Jungkook pushed the cart forward with a smile and a shake of the head.

 

They continued for a few minutes relatively uneventfully. It was when they pulled up to the coffee beans that Taehyung finally hopped off the cart, walking over to scan the selection.

 

“Ew, decaf,” he remarked, wrinkling his nose in disgust. “You know who drinks decaf? Satan. Satan drinks decaf.”

 

Jungkook bit back a smile, leaning against the car. “I’d say at least a few other people besides Satan probably drink decaf, Tae.”

 

“You’re right.” Taehyung nodded, standing with a bag of dark roast in each hand. “Satan’s granddaughters probably enjoy a cup or two once in a while.”

 

Jungkook laughed as Taehyung grinned at him, tossing the bags into the cart. “You really hate it that much?”

 

Taehyung sighed. “Jungkook, allow me to teach you a lesson. There are three types of people in this world. People who do evil,” Taehyung began, ticking off his fingers as he verbalized the list, “people who watch evil being done and do nothing to stop it, aaand people who drink decaf or black coffee. The third type of people are the worst.”

 

Jungkook raised an eyebrow. “Oh, so black coffee is evil, too?”

 

Taehyung paused. “Ok, maybe that one is just gross. But the decaf is definitely evil.” He grinned.

 

Jungkook smiled in response, but it didn’t reach his eyes.

 

“Okay, next on the list—”

 

“Where are you going?” Jungkook interrupted.

 

Taehyung froze midstep, a few feet from the cart. “I was...walking? To the next aisle?”

 

Jungkook hummed, pulsing the cart up beside him. “Hop on, loser.” He tapped the front handle.

 

Taehyung looked surprised. “But...you said only a few minutes.”

 

Jungkook shrugged. “Yeah, but I never said how many times. Maybe you ride it six times for a few minutes each, who knows? Math isn’t really my strong suit.”

 

A slow, wide grin crept over Taehyung's face. “Hell yeah!” He pumped a fist, jumping back onto the cart. “Fuck math! Onwards, to the toothpaste!”

 

And Jungkook pushed him, and he kept pushing him.

 

He didn’t stop smiling for the rest of the night.

 

***

 

Despite his protests, Taehyung insisted on walking Jungkook back to his apartment.

 

“Tae, it’s cold and it’s getting dark out. You should start heading home,” he tried for the fifth time. Taehyung merely swung their intertwined hands, ignoring him.

 

“Kookie, I am trying to be a gentleman ,” he sighed melodramatically. “I can’t kiss you goodnight unless I walk you to your door, you idiot. Let me be romantic , gosh.”

 

If it wasn’t so cold that his blood was practically frozen, Jungkook was sure he’d be blushing like an idiot.

 

They came to a stop in front of the apartments, Jungkook gently pulling Taehyung off the sidewalk and into the lobby.

 

“I’d ask you to come up, but…” Jungkook trailed off, biting his lip.

 

Taehyung smiled. “It’s alright. We’re still on for breakfast tomorrow, right?”

 

“Of course,” Jungkook replied, smiling back. Taehyung looked so pretty, so warm and angelic. A few stray snowflakes clung to strands of his soft brown hair, forming what almost looked like a halo around his face. He gazed at Jungkook with shining eyes, his mouth pulled into that signature boxy grin Jungkook was quickly growing fond of.

 

He couldn’t have stopped himself if he’d tried, and he didn’t try.

 

Without a second thought, Jungkook leaned forward and captured his lips in a kiss.

 

Taehyung made a small noise of surprise, but he leaned easily into the kiss. His lips molded perfectly against Jungkook’s, soft and gentle as he moved them slowly. When they pulled apart, Jungkook dropped another, short, sweet peck onto his mouth. And then another. And then another.

 

Taehyung was giggling by the end of it, his face practically glowing. “You’re such a loser,” he giggled.

 

Jungkook smiled into the last kiss, feeling Taehyung smile back. “Let me be romantic , gosh,” he teased.

 

“Using my own words against me,” Taehyung huffed, smacking him in the chest. “I’m hurt , Kookie. You wound me.”

 

Jungkook smiled, leaning forward and pressing his forehead against his. Taehyung smiled sweetly up at him.

 

“I’ll see you tomorrow?” he murmured. The way he gazed up at Jungkook, his eyes full of trust and adoration, made Jungkook’s heart clench.

 

“Yeah,” he muttered softly. “Tomorrow.”

 

It almost hurt, watching him leave. Even though Jungkook knew they’d be seeing each other in just a few hours, his chest ached at the sight of Tae waving goodbye.

 

What was he doing?

 

It hit him like a slap to the face. He was doing everything he’d said he would never do. He’d been on one date and he could feel himself falling, fast and hard. He couldn’t even let Taehyung leave his side for a few hours without it hurting, and yet he expected him to be able to watch Jungkook die ?

 

He closed his eyes briefly, his gut tightening painfully.

 

Tomorrow. He’d end this tomorrow.

 

...After breakfast.

 

***

 

That night, he dreamt of soft lips and warm hands, boxy smiles and sparkling eyes. His cheeks were wet when he woke up, and he blinked through his tears at the ceiling for a few minutes, sniffling.

 

He was sitting at the kitchen counter dressed in nothing but his boxers, staring into a cup of coffee and sniffling to himself, when his brother walked in. Jimin had already left for work, but for some reason Jungkook had forgotten about Yoongi.

 

Yoongi, to his credit, didn’t say anything right away. There was the sound of rustling as he sat beside him, his own cup of coffee in hand. For a few moments, they sat in silence.

 

“I’m not crying,” Jungkook finally muttered. “My eyes are just watering because it’s cold in here.”

 

Yoongi hummed. “Okay.”

 

Jungkook paused. “You guys should turn up the heat.”

 

“Alright.”

 

“...It’s really nothing else.”

 

Okay , Kook.”

 

Jungkook turned to look at his brother, who was sipping his coffee. His eyes were gentle, sad.

 

Jungkook’s chest tightened.

 

He sniffed, surprising the both of them. Yoongi didn’t say anything. He just watched as Jungkook slumped forward onto the counter, burying his head in his folded arms.

 

“I met my soulmate,” he whispered, voice breaking. “It’s...it’s Tae. And he’s— fuck , hyung. He’s perfect. Literally perfect .”

 

A few tears had started slipping down his cheeks again, and he scrubbed at them angrily. It was the type of angry, harsh crying that took all of a person’s energy. He felt drained. Exhausted.

 

He lifted his head, sniffling, and pulling his knees up onto the stool, resting his cheek on them as he stared at his brother with watery eyes.

 

“What do I do, hyung?” he whispered, voice hoarse. “Tell me what to do.”

 

Yoongi was silent, staring at the counter. The kitchen was quiet, the entire house was. The world felt still.

 

“You can’t keep running, Kook,” his brother finally responded gently.

 

Jungkook shuddered. “Hyung, I…” he closed his eyes, a few stray tears slipping out. “He doesn’t deserve this,” he whispered.

 

“Don’t you think that should be up for him to decide?” Yoongi asked softly.

 

Jungkook sniffed again. “What if he doesn’t love me?”

 

Yoongi pressed his lips together, his eyes soft. Warm. “Kook, come on. He’s your soulmate. Of course he’ll love you.”

 

Jungkook shuddered again, burying his face once more in his arms. “But that’s exactly what I’m afraid of. I’m not gonna be around for him to love, hyung. That’s...that’s not fair to him.”

 

Yoongi was quiet for a long time.

 

“Are you going to tell him?”

 

Something was dry in his throat. Jungkook swallowed hard, hit with the urge to cry again.

 

“I don’t know,” he finally whispered.

 

His head hurt, the pain in his chest sharp. It always was, lately.

 

Chapter Text

 

“—and I apologize in advance if Yoongi hyung is a little rude to you, he’s really protective of me. I told him to be nice, though—”

 

“Kook, it’s fine ,” Taehyung giggled, shaking his head as his soulmate continued rambling nervously. “You need to calm down.”

 

Jungkook nodded a little jerkily, biting his lower lip. “I know, I know. I’m just...shit, I feel like I’m coming out to my parents again or something. I have no clue why I’m so fucking nervous.”

 

“It’s cute,” Taehyung teased, flicking his nose, which was slowly turning red from the cold.

 

Jungkook blushed, and watched as Taehyung beamed at him. Without any warning, Taehyung leaned forward and pressed a sweet kiss against his lips. Jungkook immediately stopped talking, moving his mouth against Taehyung’s. The other pulled away after a moment, giggling at the bewildered look on his face.

 

“What was that for?” Jungkook asked, face suddenly very warm despite the cold air.

 

Taehyung grinned. “You’re cute when you’re nervous. Can we go inside now? It’s freezing.”

 

Jungkook nodded, grabbing his hand. His heart still skipped a beat at the contact, and he smiled softly to himself when Taehyung’s fingers tightened around his.

 

They stepped inside and made their way towards the couch, Jungkook pausing to wave at Seokjin behind the counter. Jimin and Yoongi were already sitting there, in the middle of a conversation. Jimin was the first to look up, a smile splitting his face.

 

“Tae!” He jumped up and wrapped his friend in a hug.

 

“Hey, Minnie,” Taehyung chuckled, briefly hugging him back.

 

Jimin took a step back and grinned at Jungkook. “Can’t hide forever, Kook,” he teased.

 

“Shut up, hyung,” Jungkook muttered, but he took a step forward nonetheless.

 

His brother was still seated on the couch, eyebrow raised expectantly as he drank his coffee. Jungkook tightened his grip on Taehyung’s hand. He watched Yoongi’s gaze flicker to their locked fingers, and something unreadable flashed across his expression.

 

“Hyung, this is Tae, my…” He hesitated, searching Taehyung’s eyes. His soulmate squeezed his hand reassuringly, smiling gently at him.

 

“...my new boyfriend,” he finished, voice quiet. He wondered if he imagined the way Taehyung’s expression fell just a little bit.

 

“Nice to meet you,” Taehyung said, smiling.

 

Yoongi made a noncommittal noise in the back of his throat. “Boyfriend, huh? Thought you;d only been on two dates.”

 

Jungkook’s face flushed, but Taehyung took the remark in stride. “This is our third,” he responded easily. “And we’ve kissed plenty of times, so in my book we’re boyfriends.”

 

“T-Tae!” Jungkook stammered, feeling his face turn beet red.

 

Yoongi merely rolled his eyes. “TMI. Take a seat, kid, you’re stressing me out standing there like that.”

 

Taehyung grinned brightly and plopped onto the couch across from Yoongi and Jimin. Jungkook sat next to him, keeping a little distance between them, which caused Taehyung to scoff.

 

He immediately scooted closer, pressing their knees together. Jungkook wondered if it was possible to blush any harder.

 

“So, Tae. I know I was there, but I want the full story of how Kook asked you out,” Jimin said eagerly, grinning brightly. “I’m still so surprised any of this is happening. My best friend and my soulmate’s little brother!”

 

Taehyung smiled, glancing at Jungkook. “There’s not much to tell. Kook came in while I was working, and we just kind of…hit it off, I guess.”

 

Jungkook smiled a little painfully. If hitting it off meant he’d run away from him upon first contact, then yeah. They’d hit it off.

 

“You two are cute together,” Jimin practically squealed. “You fit so well! Almost like soul—”

 

“What do you want to drink, Taehyung?” Yoongi interjected, grimacing. “Seokjin’s coming over now.” He ignored the pout Jimin was giving him at having been interrupted.

 

Sure enough, the pink-haired man appeared with a tray in his hands. He placed it on the table in front of Jimin and Yoongi before straightening up with a knowing smirk playing his lips.

 

Hello there,” he drawled, eyes glittering mischievously as he looked at Taehyung. “What can I get for you?”

 

Taehyung smiled, completely oblivious to the glare Jungkook was giving his oldest hyung.

 

“I’ll have a caramel macchiato, with two extra pumps of liquid sugar and a shot of espresso,” he chirped happily. Jungkook winced at the thought of such a sweet, caffeinated concoction.

 

Seokjin nodded, then turned to Jungkook. “Same as usual for you, Kook?”

 

Jungkook started to nod, then stopped himself. “Actually, um, I’ll have the same as Tae.”

 

Jimin, Yoongi, and Seokjin’s eyes all widened. Seokjin looked unsure, while Yoongi looked annoyed.

 

“Are you sure about that, Kook?” his brother asked, glaring at him.

 

Jungkook set his jaw. “Positive.”

 

Taehyung was watching their silent, heated exchange with a bewildered expression on his face. It was Seokjin who broke the tense silence. “I’ll have your drinks right out.”

 

“Thanks,” Jungkook responded curtly, leaning back into the couch.

 

Yoongi shook his head, looking a little sad. Jungkook felt anger flare in his stomach. He didn’t have to look at him like that, with so much pity. So he was drinking a little caffeine for his soulmate. So what . He wasn’t going to drop dead right there in the middle of the cafe. He might throw up a little later, but it would be fine.

 

“So, Tae!” As usual, Jimin tried desperately to steer the conversation back to lighter territory. “Do you guys have any plans for tonight?”

 

Taehyung shrugged, glancing expectantly at Jungkook. “Well, not really. But I was going to ask Kook to hang out later.”

 

Jungkook’s tension melted away a little. “Yeah, sure.” He laced his fingers with Taehyung’s, feeling the warmth of his soft skin press against his.

 

Taehyung smiled and leaned his head on his shoulder. Jungkook’s heart raced.

 

Fuck , they’re so cute , Yoongi! My heart can’t take it!” Jimin hit Yoongi in the arm, looking like he was going to burst from excitement.

 

Jungkook’s stomach clenched. His older brother looked so sad.

 

“Very cute,” Yoongi sighed, his voice soft.

 

Jungkook wondered if he’d imagined it breaking on the last syllable.

 

***

 

Jungkook had his good days, and he had his bad days.

 

The problem with Jungkook’s sickness was that nobody knew when those days would be, or what made them so much worse. Most days he was fine, because whatever was happening stayed beneath the surface.

 

There were a few rare occasions, however, where it really took a toll on him. It was as if his brain caught up to the fact that his body was slowly killing itself.

 

Those days hurt. A lot.

 

The walk home from the cafe was quiet, with Yoongi immediately shutting himself in his bedroom upon returning to the apartment. Jimin busied himself in the kitchen, which left Jungkook to sit on the couch in the living room, ready to waste a few hours until it was time to see Taehyung again.

 

It started with a headache.

 

“Fuck.” Jungkook swore softly, feeling the familiar dance his temples were doing.

 

Not now. Not here.

 

He gritted his teeth as his stomach began churning. It was aggressive, harsh. Like his organs were attempting to claw their way out of him.

 

Unable to stop it, a small groan slipped past his lips.

 

He heard the clink of ceramic dishes against the counter as Jimin’s voice floated out from the kitchen. “Jungkook?”

 

Jungkook screwed his eyes tightly shut, clutching his stomach and bending over. Fuck.

 

It hurt. It hurt so bad.

 

“Ngh, fuck ,” he swore. He’d been leaning forward to hold his stomach, and he lost his balance abruptly. He fell forward in slow motion, his head hitting the ground with a resounding crack even with the carpet cushioning his fall.

 

“Jungkook!” Jimin appeared by his side, voice laced with worry and fear. Jungkook curled into himself, his face hidden in the carpet. “Are you okay? I-is this…?”

 

All of a sudden, Jungkook was struck with the realization that Jimin had never seen him like this before. He’d never experienced the ugly side of this.

 

“Get...hyung,” Jungkook grunted, his forehead pressed against the carpet. He tried hard to even his breathing. At this point he was considering it a blessing that he remembered how to breathe at all.

 

“Yoongi!” Jimin practically flew out of the room, his voice full of urgency and terror. He faintly heard a door bang open, Jimin’s muffled voice, and then loud footsteps.

 

His brother was crouching beside him on the ground in seconds, hand placed gently on his back. “Kook? Hey, it’s alright. I’m here. You’re alright.”

 

Jungkook’s head was exploding . If he opened his eyes his vision clouded with tiny black dots, threatening unconsciousness. If he closed them, galaxies appeared behind his eyelids, maybe blood vessels, maybe the universe. He wasn’t quite sure.

 

Shit ,” he groaned, his voice breaking. A few tears slipped out, dripping onto the carpet. “Can’t...fuck.” He squeezed his eyes shut again.

 

In, out. In, out. Breathe.

 

His brother’s hand gently rubbed circles into his spine. Jungkook was still curled up in the fetal position, his face pressed against the carpet as he fought to breathe.  

 

“Hyung,” he cried, the sound full of pain. “H- hurts .”

 

“I know, Kook,” Yoongi whispered. His own voice was full of pain, a different type of pain. His voice shook when he spoke, clearly trying hard to keep it together for his little brother.

 

“Just stick with me, okay?” he said gently. “I’m right here. Hyung’s not going anywhere. You’re doing great. Just breathe, alright? Breathe for me.”

 

“Is he...should I call someone?” Jimin’s voice was so small, yet so full of fear.

 

“No, he’ll be fine,” Yoongi reassured him lowly, still rubbing his back. “He’ll pass out from the pain in a little while.”

 

Jimin gasped. “Yoongi, that’s—we should call someone . That’s horrible .”

 

“...’s fine,” Jungkook panted into the carpet, his voice muffled. “...’m fine.”

 

There was sniffling, and Jungkook knew that Jimin had started crying.

 

“Should I get him some water?” Jimin asked, his voice thick.

 

Yoongi ignored his soulmate, focused on his brother. “Just a few more minutes, yeah?” He whispered. “You’re doing great, Kookie.”

 

Jungkook whimpered. The familiar nickname ignited something within him.

 

Tae.

 

He needed Tae.

 

“T...Tae,” he groaned. A blinding flash of pain rang through his skull, and he bit his tongue harshly to keep from crying out. The metallic taste of pennies filled his mouth.

 

“You want me to call Tae?” Jimin asked, voice watery. Jungkook wasn’t sure who the question was directed towards, but Yoongi responded.

 

“He doesn’t know about any of this yet,” he sighed. “We can’t...I mean, what are we supposed to say?”

 

Jungkook’s heart tightened painfully and he whimpered, the sound full of pain. “P- please ,” he whispered. “Need...him.”

 

There was silence for a moment.

 

He thought Yoongi responded, giving in. Or Jimin had said something. It was impossible for him to tell, because the world suddenly darkened before disappearing altogether.

 

***

 

He woke up to a hand stroking his hair.

 

Jungkook opened his eyes groggily. His entire body ached, protesting at the smallest of movements. The place where he’d hit his head throbbed.

 

Slowly, he managed to turn his head.

 

He was met with the sight of a concerned Taehyung, his smile gentle but his eyes full of worry. He was laying beside Jungkook, head propped up one arm, his other hand stroking Jungkook’s hair.

 

“Hey,” he whispered softly. His gaze was full of so much concern as he looked at Jungkook. The familiar sparkle in his eyes were nowhere to be seen.

 

The ache in Jungkook’s chest reared its ugly head, guilt heavy in his stomach.

 

“Hey,” he whispered back. “When did you get here?”

 

Taehyung gave a halfhearted smile. “A few hours ago.”

 

Jungkook winced. “H...how long have I been out?”

 

Taehyung made a soft noise, his fingers stilling in Jungkook’s hair for a moment before continuing. “It’s been about eight hours. Your brother called me after you passed out.”

 

“Oh.” Jungkook’s voice was tiny. “What did...what did he tell you?”

 

Taehyung’s expression was sad. “He didn’t explain much. Said that was up to you. All he said was that you’re...sick.” His soulmate's eyes were watery as he looked at him, the corners of his mouth trembling. “He means like...like, sick, sick, doesn’t he? Not like, a cold.”

 

Jungkook almost laughed. “No. Not like a cold, Tae.”

 

And Taehyung. God , Taehyung. His soulmate who was so beautiful, so full of warmth and kindness, with eyes that sparkled and a grin that took over his entire face.

 

Taehyung was crying .

 

“Don’t…” Jungkook slowly lifted a hand, ignoring the screams of protests from his sore muscles, and shakily wiped a few tears away. “Tae, please don’t cry,” he whispered.

 

His soulmate laughed, the sound short and nothing like his usual cheerful giggle. “I’m just...why didn’t you tell me, Kook? What is it? Like, pneumonia?”

 

Jungkook’s breath caught in his throat. “It’s…” He stared at him, his Taehyung, who was looking back at him with such sad, hopeful eyes. Taehyung who bought almond milk and laughed with his eyes and always had warm hands no matter how cold it was and was just so soft, so soft and so perfect.

 

“...Yeah,” he finally whispered. “It’s pneumonia. Not, um—not the contagious type, though. So you don’t have to worry.” The lie tasted bitter in his mouth.

 

Taehyung’s chest shuddered as he let out a long exhale. “Jesus, I really thought it was something worse , the way you and Yoongi hyung were acting. And Jimin, he was fucking crying when I got here. A-and, you were so pale , Kookie, just lying there, you didn’t even look like you were breathing, I thought—”

 

“Ssh, it’s okay.” Jungkook scooted closer to Taehyung on the bed, tucking his face into the crook of his shoulder. Taehyung’s arm came up to wrap around Jungkook, holding him tightly against his chest.

 

“I feel stupid for crying now,” he laughed, a little embarrassed. “You’re gonna get better, right? Have you seen a doctor yet?”

 

Jungkook gritted his teeth, grateful Taehyung couldn’t see his expression. “I...I’ve seen plenty of doctors, Tae. Don’t worry, I’ll be fine. I just need to rest.”

 

Taehyung pressed his lips against the crown of Jungkook’s head. Warmth licked through him, spreading down to his toes.

 

“Go to sleep, Kookie,” he whispered. “I’ll be here when you wake up. I’m not going anywhere.”

 

Jungkook’s hands curled into fists.

 

He wished he could make the same promise in return.

 

***

 

Taehyung crept out of Jungkook’s bedroom, closing the door softly behind him and stepping into the living room.

 

He was greeted by the sight of Jimin and Yoongi on the couch. Jimin was draped across Yoongi’s lap, drying tear tracks tracing over the skin of his cheeks, sleeping peacefully. Yoongi was stroking his hair, looking deep in thought.

 

“He’s asleep again,” Taehyung said softly, trying not to wake Jimin.

 

Yoongi looked up. Taehyung was surprised to see his eyes were rimmed with red. Had he been crying, too?

 

“Good,” Yoongi muttered, clearing his throat. He stood slowly, carefully moving Jimin’s head off of his lap. “Let’s go to the kitchen. I don’t want to wake him.”

 

Taehyung followed the elder into the kitchen and stood there a little awkwardly, not knowing where to sit as Yoongi put on a pot of coffee.

 

Leaning against the counter, Yoongi fixed him with a somber expression. “What’d he tell you?”

 

Taehyung raised an eyebrow at the bluntness of the question, but he should have expected it. “Just...you know. About his pneumonia. I wish he’d told me sooner.”

 

Yoongi’s eyes flashed darkly. “His—” He cut himself off with a sigh, running a hand over his face.

 

Taehyung shifted uncomfortably, a little bewildered at his reaction. “Um...maybe you should get some sleep, hyung,” he suggested, words hesitant. “You look exhausted.”

 

Yoongi wouldn’t meet his gaze. “You’re right, kid. I’m pretty fucking exhausted.”

 

Taehyung stared at him, unable to decipher the obvious double meaning behind the words. Feeling awkward, he hesitated before saying, “Will you please tell Jungkook I went home to change if he wakes up? I’ll be back in a few minutes, if that’s okay.”

 

Yoongi still wasn’t looking at him. It was almost like he couldn’t meet Taehyung’s eyes, and it was driving him a little crazy.

 

“I’ll leave the door unlocked. Just let yourself in,” he responded shortly.

 

Taehyung nodded. As he turned to leave, Yoongi cleared his throat.

 

“Taehyung.”

 

He waited. “Yeah?”

 

Yoongi had turned to begin pouring himself a cup of coffee, and his gaze stayed trained on his mug as he poured the hot liquid from the coffee pot. He held the handle tightly, but he couldn’t disguise the tremble of his hand.

 

“Just…” His throat moved as he swallowed. “Be careful with him. Please.”

 

Taehyung’s eyebrows furrowed. “Of course, hyung. I’ll wait for him to get better before we do anything crazy. I promise.”

 

Yoongi’s shoulders tensed. “Until he gets better,” he echoed robotically.

 

Taehyung bit his lip, perplexed. “Is...um, is there anything else?”

 

He didn’t receive a response. Yoongi seemed to be lost in thought, staring into space, and Taehyung waited another few moments before deciding the elder was probably simply worried about his brother, nothing more.

 

As he left the apartment and stepped outside into the brisk wind, however, he just couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong.

 

***

 

Let’s do something today ^_^ i miss you!!

 

Jungkook smiled at his phone. In the two weeks since his illness had taken a turn for the worse, Taehyung had been a constant. His texts were as cheerful as his personality and they never failed to make Jungkook smile. He’d practically taken up residence as Yoongi’s house, visiting Jungkook as often as possible and only leaving when he had to sleep.

 

Jungkook leaned back against the mountain of pillows Jimin had forced onto his bed, quickly texting back a reply.

 

You literally just left my house a few hours ago

 

Taehyung’s response was almost instantaneous.

 

yes but i miss youuu *_* im going through Kookie withdrawal

 

Jungkook couldn’t keep the smile off of his face. He didn’t respond right away, though.

 

“Hey, hyung?” he called out.

 

Yoongi appeared in his doorway. “What’s up? Need some more soup?”

 

Jungkook rolled his eyes. “No, the four bowls Jimin brought in here are still full.” He cocked his head toward the dresser, where, sure enough, four bowls of soup were growing cold.

 

Yoongi chuckled as he came to stand beside his bed. “What do you need, then?”

 

Jungkook hesitated. “I… actually, I was wondering if I could go out with Tae today.”

 

Yoongi raised an eyebrow at him. “Are you asking for my permission?”

 

Jungkook grimaced. “I guess.”

 

Yoongi shrugged. “Go ahead if you’re feeling up to it.” There was a pause, a muscle in his jaw working. “If you pass out in front of him, though, I don’t think you can keep blaming it on pneumonia .”

 

Jungkook flinched at the coldness in his voice.

 

“It’s for the best this way, hyung,” he said softly. “Just… don’t. I can’t do that to Tae. Trust me, I tried.”

 

His brother had already turned to leave. “Do whatever you want, Jungkook.”  His voice was flat. “Go ahead and keep running,” he sighed as he disappeared around the frame of the door. “It’s what you’re best at.”

 

Jungkook tried to pretend the words didn’t feel like a slap in the face as his bedroom door closed.

 

He picked up his phone.

 

Meet outside the cafe in ten?

 

yayyyy! Bundle up /(>_<)/

 

***

 

Taehyung was already there when Jungkook arrived, and he was shocked to see his arms were full.

 

“What are you—Taehyung, what the fuck.” Jungkook’s jaw fell as Taehyung dropped everything he was holding. A brightly colored mess of scarves, coats, hats, and gloves landed on the snow-covered ground.

 

“You need to bundle up!” Taehyung scolded.“You’re literally wearing one coat, Kookie! This is why you have pneumonia, you dummy.”

 

Jungkook’s heart clenched. He remained silent as his adorable soulmate flitted around him, shoving his arms into another set of sleeves, wrapping him with scarf after scarf, and pulling another hat down over his ears.

 

“There!” Taehyung took a step back to admire his work and immediately dissolved into giggles.

 

“You look like a human marshmallow,” he laughed, shoulders shaking.

 

Jungkook stared at him, at that boxy grin and the sparkling that had returned to his warm brown eyes.

 

“Thanks,” he responded, smiling. “Can you please kiss me now?”

 

Taehyung nearly leapt into his arms. “Of course!” He paused a few inches from his face. “Wait, you’re not contagious are you? Oh, who am I kidding, I don’t care!”

 

He pressed his lips carefully against Jungkook’s. Jungkook brought his hands up to cup his face, cursing the gloves for keeping him from touching Taehyung’s soft skin. Their lips moved in sync, Taehyung’s somehow still soft and sweet despite the cold that had already chapped Jungkook’s. He tasted like sugar cookies and caramel macchiato.

 

He was the one to pull away, breathless. Taehyung giggled at his expression.

 

“Forget to breathe?” he teased, tapping his nose.

 

Jungkook smiled. “I always do around you.”

 

Taehyung’s hand fell away and Jungkook laughed as his face turned bright red. His soulmate huffed and smacked him in the chest, making a face.

 

“You’re so annoying,” he grumbled. “You’re lucky I put up with you. Come on, let’s go!”

 

He grabbed Jungkook’s hand and began swinging their intertwined fingers between them as he lead the way down the snow-covered sidewalk.

 

“Where are we going?” Jungkook asked. He realized he didn’t particularly care about the answer to his own question. As long as the starry-eyed boy beside him was there, Jungkook would go anywhere.

 

Taehyung threw a grin at him. “It’s a surprise!”

 

“Another supermarket?” Jungkook guessed.

 

“Nope! It’s much more romantic this time.”

 

Jungkook started a little in surprise. “Really? Did you plan something?”

 

Taehyung only shrugged, still grinning. His eyes practically glowed with excitement. “You’ll see when we get there!”

 

Jungkook sighed. “Why is nothing ever simple with you?”

 

Taehyung’s cheeks flushed, whether from the cold or from the compliment, he couldn’t tell. “It’s outside, though, and it’s still pretty cold,” he added. “Plus it’s a bit of a walk. Do you think you’ll be alright?”

 

Jungkook hummed, tugging gently on their swinging hands. “I think I’ll be just fine.”

 

If Taehyung smiled any harder, Jungkook’s heart felt like it might just pound straight out of his chest.

 

They walked for a while. Taehyung chatted animatedly the entire time, telling Jungkook about his life. He told him about his parents, about how supportive they’d been when he decided he didn’t want to go to college and instead wanted to pursue acting.

 

“They sound wonderful,” Jungkook said softly. “My parents died when I was thirteen. Hyung pretty much raised me.”

 

“I’m sorry,” Taehyung whispered, squeezing his hand comfortingly. “You and Yoongi do seem close, though.”

 

Jungkook felt his throat constrict, and there was that ache in his chest again. He swallowed. “We’re not as close as we used to be.”

 

“Well, he clearly cares about you a lot,” Taeyung continued softly, smiling a little at him. “He was really worried when you passed out.”

 

“Yeah, he’s a good brother,” Jungkook mumbled, trying to keep himself from choking up. “He’s so busy with work and Jimin, but he always tries to make time for me.”

 

“I know Yoongi hyung works at a music company, and Jiminie’s a dance teacher,” Taehyung said, eyes alight with curiosity. “But somehow I still don’t know what you do.”

 

Jungkook paused. He’d already lied so much to Taehyung. He couldn’t bear the thought of lying about a job. But, at the same time, there wasn’t exactly a way to explain that he simply sat around at home all day and waited to die.

 

He swallowed. “Actually, I’ve...kind of been traveling these past few years. I just came home a few weeks ago.”

 

There was a split second of silence before Taehyung suddenly smacked him in the arm, surprising him. “Woah, Jungkookie! That’s so cool! How could you not tell me that before?”

 

Jungkook smiled a little. “It was alright. I’m actually more happy to be home, honestly.”

 

“But it must have been so fun, traveling the world,” Taehyung said excitedly. “I wish I could do it. I’ve never even left town.”

 

The words left Jungkook’s mouth before he even realized what he’d said.

 

“I’ll take you someday.”

 

Taehyung’s eyes lit up like the Christmas lights that twinkled in the shop windows around them, and it only made the lie taste more bitter on his tongue.

 

He wouldn’t be around for someday .

 

“Yeah! We can go to Rome!” Taeyung added energetically. The excitement in his voice made Jungkook’s stomach twist. “I’ve always wanted to see Europe.”

 

He was saved from having to respond when Taehyung suddenly tugged him to a halt.

 

“We’re here!” Taehyung sang. Jungkook glanced around. They appeared to be at a park, but it was relatively dark. Jungkook couldn’t make out much, but it looked to be a normal park.

 

“A...park?” he asked tentatively, looking questioningly at Taehyung.

 

Taehyung grinned. “Wait for it.”

 

He turned, cupping a hand around his mouth, and yelled, “Jackson, now!”

 

As Jungkook watched, everything suddenly came to life before his eyes.

 

The entire park lit up.

 

“Taehyung…” His jaw slackened as he turned slowly, in completely awe. The trees encircling a small clearing of snow-covered grass were wrapped with twinkling golden lights, casting it in a shimmery glow. The snow on the branches and ground reflected the light like a million mirrors. It was breathtaking.

 

In the midst of the clearing was a picnic blanket, decorated with all types of foods. Taehyung led a dumbfounded Jungkook by the hand towards the picnic.

 

“I don’t—did you—is this all—” Jungkook stared at him, speechless.

 

Taehyung laughed. “Told you it’d be romantic.”

 

“Tae, this is…” He looked around again, stunned once more at the sight of the hundreds of twinkling lights. “This is amazing,” he somehow finished. “How did you do all this?”

 

“Oh, I paid Jackson and a few other friends to set it all up,” Taehyung laughed. “I know that’s not as romantic as me doing it all by myself, but I’m not the greatest at climbing trees. Plus, I needed someone to plug it in when we showed up for dramatic effect.”

 

Jungkook sputtered out a laugh. “You’re...I can’t believe you did all this. I literally don’t even know what to say.”

 

Taehyung smiled, and for the first since they’d arrived Jungkook managed to tear his eyes away from the park and look at his boyfriend.

 

And once he started, he couldn’t look away.

 

Taehyung was ethereal . His skin radiated energy and warmth despite the cold, cheeks and nose tinged a rosy red. The golden lights surrounding them casted a gentle glow on him, making his soft brown hair look lighter, almost blonde. His eyes twinkled with the reflection of the lights.

 

His eyes . Jungkook stared at them, entranced completely. Their normal chocolatey color appeared darker today, hotter . His gaze burned as he gazed at Jungkook, and he felt like it was setting him on fire.

 

“Tae—”

 

Jungkook didn’t finish his sentence, instead cutting himself off by leaning forward to kiss him. Taehyung moved his mouth against him with the same fire he’d seen in his eyes, eager and hungry.

 

Taehyung let out a small moan, and Jungkook’s toes curled at the sound. He swallowed it and tilted his head for better access, desperate to  draw more of the same beautiful noises out of the beautiful boy in front of him.

 

Jungkook felt gloved fingers curling in his hair as Taehyung pressed closer against him. He nipped at his lower lip and licked into his mouth. His beautiful, soft, warm Taehyung.

 

“Jungkook—” Taehyung’s voice was breathless. His lips were swollen, face flushed as Jungkook moved his lips down, tracing his lips down his jawline.

 

“Oh my god .” The words, half-moaned, left Taehyung’s mouth as Jungkook gently bit the skin of his neck. His teeth grazed the flesh, gently at first, before biting down with more force. More heat.

 

“Kook,” he panted. “W-we should stop.”

 

Jungkook pulled away from his neck, lifting his head to kiss him on the lips again. Then once more, then twice.

 

Jungkook .” Taehyung was obviously trying to sound angry, but the effort was futile considering the way one of his hands had slipped from Jungkook’s hair to his neck to hold him in place. “We’re going to get kicked out for public indecency.”

 

“No one’s here but us,” Jungkook murmured against his lips, pressing a third, softer kiss against his mouth. God , his mouth .

 

“Still,” Taehyung murmured back. Despite his protests, he reciprocated each kiss, lips so warm as he moved them against Jungkook’s. “We should really stop. Unless you want to strip me right here in the middle of a park.”

 

“Is that supposed to sound like something I don’t want?” Jungkook hummed. “Because I have to tell you, it sounds like the best idea I’ve heard all day.”

 

Taehyung blushed fiercely, smacking him in the chest. “I hate when you say stuff like that just to make me blush!” he whined. “You’re such a meanie!”

 

Jungkook just smiled. “Who said I say it to make you blush?”

 

His soulmate’s face was bright red. “J-Jungkook!” He pouted. “You’re so annoying , oh my god.”

 

Jungkook laughed softly, gently gripping his chin and pulling him in one last time. “Sorry,” he murmured against his lips. “I can’t help teasing you. You just look so pretty when you blush.”

 

And that was how Jungkook ended up with a foot full of snow kicked in his face.

 

He burst out laughing as Taehyung bent down, scooped up a handful of snow, and chucked it at him. “That’ll teach your ass to tease me, Jeon Jungkook!”

 

Jungkook ducked to avoid another badly aimed snowball as he quickly bent down to form one of his own. A third snowball hit him in the face as he straightened up.

 

He sputtered, snow clinging to his cheeks and eyelashes as Taehyung cackled. “Take that, loser!”

 

“Play fair, Kim!” he yelled back, winding up and hitting him square in the chest. “Ha! Suck it!”

 

Taehyung returned with a quick shot to his arm. “ Eat my dust , Jeon!”

 

A flurry of badly thrown, horribly misshapen snowballs were exchanged as the two shouted names at each other. It might have continued all night, their picnic laying forgotten in the midst of the fight, if Taehyung didn’t open his mouth to shout something at the same time Jungkook pitched a ball directly at his face.

 

Taehyung was hit smack in the middle of his nose, immediately toppling backwards into the snow.

 

“Taehyung!”

 

Jungkook frantically scrambled towards him. His carefully wiped the snow off of his face, searching his dazed expression.

 

“Are you okay? Did you get hurt? I’m so sorry, fuck,” he said frantically, eyebrows pulled together with worry.

 

“I’m fine,” Taehyung giggled. “Relax, Kookie.”

 

The words lifted a weight off of Jungkook’s chest. He exhaled, releasing a breath he hadn’t even realized he was holding.

 

“Are you sure?” Jungkook watched carefully for any sign of discomfort as Taehyung pushed himself up into a sitting position, brushing the stray snow from his chest.

 

“I’m sure ,” he insisted, still laughing. His eyes shined brightly as he gazed at Jungkook, boxy grin stretching his face. “Gosh, you’re such a worrywart. I just fell .”

 

Jungkook smiled weakly, his heart still pounding. He could feel it pulsing in his chest, hear the blood rushing through his ears. He felt dizzy, almost delirious with panic. Seeing Taehyung fall like that, like a statue toppling over, had been terrifying.

 

“Sorry,”  he whispered, locking eyes with his boyfriend. He reached up trail his fingers along Taehyung’s cheek, watching him smile sweetly. “I’m sorry. I...I just panicked. I really thought I hurt you.”

 

Taehyung turned his head to press a kiss into Jungkook’s palm. “I’m fine, Kookie. I promise,” he murmured. “You’re too sweet.”

 

Jungkook’s heart ached.

 

Was it too soon?

 

It was too soon.

 

But he didn’t have time . There was no telling if he had another week with Taehyung, or another month. Maybe it was just a few days.

 

It was so, so soon. It had barely been a month. And he’d probably scare him off, or ruin this magical moment, but it didn’t matter. He had to tell him.

 

“Tae, I…” He steadied his breath, heart pounding angrily. And then, quietly, so quietly it was almost a scream.

 

“I think I might love you,” he whispered.

 

Taehyung’s eyes widened.

 

Jungkook bit his lip, heart thumping wildly in his chest. “I know it’s probably way too soon to be saying that,” he whispered. “And...and I know you probably don’t even feel the same way yet. And that’s okay. But I just. I had to tell you.” There was no sound around them, no movement save for the gently swirling snowflakes that had started falling sometime when they’d been play fighting. It was like the entire world had stopped to listen. “I’m sorry.”

 

“...Oh my god.”

 

And Jungkook thought that was it. It was over. He’d ruined everything, the one good thing in his life..

 

And then Taehyung was tackling him.

 

They fell backwards into the snow, with Jungkook’s arms flying up on instinct to wrap around Taehyung, who was practically on top of him.

 

Taehyung peppered kisses all over his face, energy and happiness bursting out of him. “I love you, too, Kookie!” he giggled. “Of course I love you, you idiot! Why are you sorry ?”

 

Jungkook hugged him tightly, his eyes falling shut with relief. He loved him, too.

 

He loved him, too.

 

It should have been a happy moment, but Jungkook felt like crying at the unfairness of it all. That he was in the best moment of his life, and all he could think about was the fact that it was going to end. It was all going to end, and soon.

 

He hugged Taehyung even tighter, probably making it hard for him to breathe.

 

He was here now. He was alive now, and he could still hold him for a little longer.

 

Just a little longer was all he needed.

 

***

 

“Jimin, he’s perfect .” Taehyung was bouncing off the walls, eyes alight with excitement. “I’m literally so in love. Like, I’m going to marry this kid.”

 

Jimin smiled, but it was pained and didn’t reach his eyes. “Tae,” he said slowly, leaning against the counter. They were in Yoongi and Jimin’s apartment. Taehyung had wanted to come over and help Jimin cook tonight so that the two of them could surprise their boyfriend’s together.

 

“Yeah?” Taehyung grinned at him, chopping a carrot. Jimin glanced down at the cutting board and winced at the way he was carelessly gripping the knife.

 

He bit his lip. “I...I don’t want to ruin your mood or anything, but I just feel like I have to at least ask , you know?”

 

“Minnie, what is it?” Taehyung rolled his eyes, smile never budging. “Jeez, spit it out.”

 

Jimin took a deep breath. “...What about your soulmate, Tae?”

 

“My— ow, shit!”  

 

Taehyung’s eyes widened as his hand slipped and the knife he’d been using suddenly slashed his palm. Blood pooled onto the cutting board.

 

Jimin gasped and jumped forward, yanking a dishcloth off the counter and wrapping it around his friend’s wet palm. Taehyung’s face was ashen, bottom lip jutted out into a pout.

 

“Fuck, Tae,” he muttered. “Why are you still holding the knife, let go , dumbass—” He reached forward to pry the knife out of Taehyung’s grasp, peeling his fingers back one by one while still holding the bandage tight against his other hand. Blood had already started to seep through the thick cloth.  “Shit, this is deep.”

 

Taehyung seemed to snap out of the trance he’d been in, sniffling. “Sorry. Just—um, your question. I guess it sort of surprised me.”

 

Jimin’s expression softened. “Tae, baby. I know you really care about Jungkook. And for what it’s worth, Yoongi says he’s never seen him this happy, either.” His brow furrowed as he continued talking, words becoming faster like if he didn’t say them now he wouldn’t say them at all. “But what you guys are doing—dating like this, talking like this even though you’re not soulmates, it’s… not right . It was fine when it was nothing serious, but now you’re talking marriage . And I just—Tae, your soulmate is still out there. And so is his.”

 

Taehyung yanked his injured hand out of Jimin’s grasp, ignoring the blood that started dripping onto the floor almost immediately and the way his best friend’s face crumpled.

 

“I don’t wanna talk about this,” he muttered. “Can we just go back to making dinner?”

 

Jimin swallowed. “Tae, I know you care about him, but it’s not fair to you,” he whispered. “None of this is. You’re falling in love with him and there’s so much you don’t even know . Jungkook is sick. This entire situation—”

 

“Jimin, drop it ,” Taehyung snapped, turning back to the counter and reaching for a dishtowel of his own to press against his hand. His tone was harsh. “There’s a lot that you don’t know. I’m not falling in love with him, I am in love with him. And the whole soulmate thing doesn’t matter, okay? It’s more complicated than you’re making it out to be.”

 

Jimin’s eyes sparked in warning. “Soulmates are more complicated than that, Tae! I’d know better than you. I’m just trying to make sure you don’t get hurt when he—”

 

“Can’t you just let me be happy?” Taehyung interjected, whirling around to face him. His expression was drawn, tight. “I love him and he loves me! What’s so complicated about that? Why can’t you just be a good friend and be happy for me?”

 

Jimin’s mouth snapped shut. His eyes were sad. There were a few beats of silence in which the two friends simply stared at each other, the tension in the air nearly palpable.

 

“When he breaks your heart, just remember I fucking tried.”

 

Jimin turned on his heel and left, scrubbing angrily at the tears on his face. Taehyung heard a door slam down the hallway.

 

As tears of his own began to run down his cheeks, he snatched up his jacket and rushed from the apartment, bloody hand clutched to his chest. The wound stung, but it was nowhere near as painful as the words Jimin had just thrown at him.

 

***

 

Jungkook had spent the day with Yoongi at work at his brother’s insistence, because Yoongi hadn’t wanted to leave him alone after another episode he’d had last night. Jungkook had thrown up for almost an hour, and his head was still throbbing this morning. Yoongi took one look at him and declared he wasn’t leaving him alone at the apartment until Jimin got home from his job.

 

They walked home separately, however, Yoongi finishing up some last minute details on a project and promising he would be just a few minutes behind.

 

As Jungkook neared the apartment, he saw a small figure sitting on the bench outside of their building. Their posture was familiar even through the thick coat they were wearing, and Jungkook realized—

 

“Tae?” He called in surprise, breaking into a jog.

 

Taehyung turned his head and broke into a boxy grin. “Kookie!” his soulmate sang as Jungkook got closer, standing up and wrapping himself around the younger man. He kissed him on the lips, hard. “I’ve been waiting for you to come home forever .” His teeth chattered as he spoke.

 

“Why are you outside, baby?” Jungkook pulled back, eyebrows furrowing. “You’re shivering.”

 

“Ah, it’s stupid.” Taehyung looked sheepish. “Jimin and I just got into a dumb fight.”

 

Jungkook frowned slightly, brushing the hair out his boyfriend’s eyes. “Do you want to talk about it?”

 

Taehyung drew back. “No,” he said too quickly.

 

Jungkook decided not to press. “Come on, let’s go upstairs,” he said. “I’m sure whatever it is Jimin hyung will forgive you.”

 

***

 

Whatever it was, Jimin did not forgive Taehyung.

 

They sat down at the kitchen table, Jimin and Yoongi seated next to each other and across from Taehyung and Jungkook. Jimin was barely speaking, a stark contrast from the petite man’s usual bubbly demeanor.

 

“Thank you for making dinner. It smells delicious,” Jungkook ventured hesitantly.

 

“Of course, Kookie!” Taehyung smiled, avoiding eye contact with Jimin. “We did a good job, huh? Totally worth slaving over the stove.”

 

“He cut half a carrot and stirred the pot once,” Jimin muttered as he began making plates. Taehyung reached over him with a glare.


“I’ll make my boyfriend’s plate, Jimin.”

 

Jimin’s eyes narrowed and he clenched his jaw, but he didn’t say anything.

 

Taehyung hadn’t even scooped a spoonful of noodles out onto a plate before Jungkook grabbed his wrist, making him drop the spoon back into the bowl with surprise.

 

“What happened to your hand?” he gasped, his chair scraping the ground as he stood up.

 

Taehyung shrugged. “I cut myself in the kitchen earlier. It’s fine, th—”

 

“It’s not fine,” Jungkook snapped, eyebrows furrowed in worry. “It bled right through a dish towel, Tae. It’s probably deep. You might need stitches—”

 

“Kookie, really it’s—”

 

“You should have texted me the second you cut yourself.” Jungkook was already heading towards the front door, slipping his arms into the sleeves of his coat. “Come on, we should go to the emergency room.”

 

Taehyung was pouting hard now, slumped in his chair with his arms crossed childishly. “ Jungkookie , oh my god , it’s just a cut . I didn’t tell you because I knew you’d overreact!”

 

Jungkook opened his mouth to respond but was cut off by Jimin.

 

“It really sucks when your boyfriend hides something that’s hurting him from you. Doesn’t it, Jungkook?”

 

Jungkook’s eyes snapped towards the black-haired man, his gaze narrowing. Yoongi was at his side, looking like he’d rather be absolutely anywhere else.

 

“Not now, Jimin.”

 

“I’m just saying,” Jimin continued, his own eyes narrowed with determination, “it must really piss you off that Taehyung hid his injury, huh? Must make you feel like shit .”

 

“Jimin.” Yoongi rested a hand on his soulmate's arm, looking serious. “Enough It’s not our place.”

 

“Yeah, Jimin,” Jungkook gritted our through clenched teeth, his voice full of warning. “ Enough .”

 

Meanwhile, Taehyung was watching all three of them with a bewildered expression, looking utterly lost. “Jesus, you guys are all acting like I have cancer and I didn’t tell him,” he said, shaking his head and standing up. “If it’s that big a deal, I’ll just go to the damn emergency room. Yeesh.”

 

Jungkook clenched and unclenched his jaw, throwing open the front door. “Come on, Taehyung.”

 

***

 

Taehyung was being strangely quiet ever since they’d entered the emergency room. At first, Jungkook was worried that Jimin’s words had caught his attention and he was suspicious.

 

He was currently curled up in the chair next to Jungkook, pressed against his body, his head leaning on his shoulder, while Jungkook filled out a few forms.

 

“Kookie?” He finally spoke after a few minutes of silence. His voice was quiet, almost...afraid.

 

“Yeah, baby?” Jungkook glanced down, noting the slightly grey-ish tint Taehyung’s skin had taken on. “Is your hand okay?”

 

“It’s fine.” Taehyung swallowed. “I...I really don’t like hospitals, Kookie,” he whimpered quietly. His face was screwed up, as if he was trying hard to hold back tears.

 

“Oh, Tae.” Jungkook set the forms down and shifted in his seat so that he was facing his soulmate. He gently brushed his hair out of his eyes and cupped his face. Taehyung pouted up at him, eyes watery.

 

“It’ll be okay,” Jungkook murmured reassuringly, giving him a small smile. “Hospitals aren’t that bad, yeah? This is where people come to get fixed, to get better. That’s not bad, right?”

 

“This is where people come to die,” Taehyung corrected him, his nose wrinkling.

 

Jungkook ignored the jump in his heartbeat, praying his expression didn’t betray the shock and sadness he actually felt.

 

Jungkook ignored the way his heart leaped into his throat, praying his expression didn’t betray him. “And the place where they’re born,” he continued weakly, forcing the smile to stay on his face. “You like babies, right? Maybe we can look through the window of the nursery where they keep the newborns after they’re done checking your hand.”

 

It worked, Taehyung’s eyes lighting up at the suggestion. Jungkook smiled in relief and pressed a kiss to his forehead, turning back to finish filling out the forms.

 

As Taehyung his head against his shoulder again, his words rang on repeat in his head like a horrible mantra.

 

This is where people come to die .”

 

***

 

Taehyung’s hand was fine. He whined the entire car ride home about how Jungkook had overreacted, and they kissed each other goodbye outside of the apartment with a promise to see each other tomorrow.

 

When he got back to the apartment, the meal had been cleaned up and the lights in the kitchen had been turned off. It was almost midnight, he realized when he glanced at the clock. A peek inside the fridge revealed neatly packaged leftovers labelled with Jimin’s tidy handwriting.

 

He started down the hallway towards to get ready for bed, but found himself pausing at the sound of steadily climbing voice coming from Yoongi and Jimin’s room.

 

“He needs to tell Tae the truth , Yoongi,” Jimin shouted. “This isn’t fair to Tae. He’s falling in love with him and he doesn’t even know!”

 

His brother’s voice was far quieter, far calmer. “It’s not our place to interfere. We can’t make him tell Taehyung anything he doesn’t want to.”

 

Jimin’s voice suddenly increased in volume, the words sharp and bubbling with rage. “He’s my best friend, Yoongi! He deserves to know the person he’s falling in love with could be dead in a few weeks!”

 

Jungkook’s blood ran cold.

 

There was a long silence. He could imagine Yoongi’s face.

 

Jungkook had to strain to hear what Jimin said next. “I...I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it like that.”

 

Another pause.

 

“They’re soulmates, Jimin.”

 

It took everything in Jungkook not to make a sound. He was biting his lip now, so hard it hurt.

 

Yoongi’s voice sound so, so tired. “Jungkook and Taehyung. They’re soulmates.”

 

Jungkook didn’t hear Jimin’s response, which sounded muffled.

 

His brother’s voice becme angrier without warning, climbing in volume. “They’re fucking soulmates ,” Yoongi snapped. “What’s so fucking hard to understand about that?”

 

“Why didn’t I know?” The hurt in Jimin’s tone made Jungkook’s heart ache. He hadn’t meant for any of  this to happen.

 

“Because everyone’s been lying to you,” Yoongi explained hotly, increasing in volume every few seconds. “Jungkook didn’t want you to know because he knew you would force him to tell Taehyung the truth. And he can’t tell Taehyung the truth, because he doesn’t want to break his heart. Because it’s going to break his heart, to hear that his soulmate is going to be fucking dead in a few weeks , just like you said—”

 

Jungkook felt like he was going to throw up, but he couldn’t move, paralyzed by the words.

 

“He’s my brother ,” Yoongi finished brokenly. His voice was tiny, tinier than Jimin had ever heard it sound. “He’s my baby brother, Jimin. And he’s going to be gone soon.”

 

That was enough to shock Jungkook into motion. He tore down the hallway, skidding into the bathroom, heart racing wildly.

 

When he vomited, he missed the toilet by about a foot, his eyes blurred with tears. His head lolled sideways without his permission and banged against the side of the vanity, pain shooting up his skull.

 

A hand slid between his skull and the hard wood of the vanity. “Shh,” whispered a voice. “Shh, it’s okay. Jungkook, I’m so sorry, Yoongi and I didn’t realize you were listening.”

 

It was Jimin, absolutely the last person Jungkook wanted to see.

 

“Go ’way,” he croaked. His voice was scratchy from throwing up.

 

Jimin didn’t. He stayed there, tucking his knees against his chest and watching Jungkook slowly pull himself into a sitting position.

 

“I’m actually glad you were listening,” he finally said. His voice was quiet, eyes sad. “Jungkook, you need to know your actions have consequences.”

 

Jungkook sniffed. “You think I don’t know that?” he whispered. “You think I don’t know what I’m doing to him?”

 

Jimin’s eyes were full of such sadness. It was a sharp difference from the brightness that had been in them just a month ago, and it made Jungkook want to throw up again.

 

“Go to bed,” he finally said, voice soft. “We’ll talk in the morning. You, me, Yoongi, and Taehyung.”

 

Jungkook swallowed, tracing a design absentmindedly on the tile in an effort to avoid meeting his gaze. “You should apologize to him. I don’t know what you guys are fighting about, but it’s hurting him.”

 

“I already did,” Jimin replied quietly. “I sent him a text while you were at the hospital. He must not have seen it yet.”

 

Jungkook hummed in response. The world felt hazy. Everything was hazy.

 

“I’ll clean up in here, okay? Don’t worry about it. Go to bed.”

 

Jungkook stood and stumbled down the hall, past Yoongi standing just outside of the bathroom. He felt drunk, or maybe high. He didn’t know. He’d probably hit his head too hard when he banged it.

 

He just knew he felt disgusting as he wiped half heartedly at his face with his shirt sleeve before crawling into bed. His last thought before he fell asleep was that he wished he’d never walked into that convenience store and seen his beautiful Taehyung, because this was only going to end one way.

 

Chapter Text

 

Jimin wasn’t talking to him. 

 

It was Yoongi’s day off, and he’d decided to spend it at home with Jimin and Jungkook. But the three of them had been together all morning, and despite the fact that Jimin had spoken directly to Yoongi several times, he was very obviously ignoring Jungkook’s presence. 

 

“Hyung, this is so immature,” Jungkook finally said. He was seated at the kitchen counter, a stack of papers in front of him. Yoongi was sitting at the table a few feet away, drinking coffee and working on something on his laptop.

 

Yoongi glanced up at his little brother’s words, gaze flickering towards his soulmate. Jimin was busy preparing lunch and still pretending he hadn’t heard Jungkook speak. 

 

“Jimin, please ,” Jungkook tried again, allowing the tiniest bit of desperation to slip into his voice. “I’m sorry for lying to you about Tae. And for making hyung lie to you, too.”

 

Yoongi grunted, taking a sip of his coffee while shaking his head. “Give it up, kid,” he muttered, turning back to his laptop. “He’s a stubborn one when he’s pissed.”

 

Jungkook pouted aggressively, slumping onto the countertop. “How come he’s not mad at you ?”

 

“Soulmate perks,” Yoongi muttered absently, already reabsorbed in whatever he was working on. “Listen, can you go somewhere else if you’re going to talk? I really need to finish this assignment.”

 

Jungkook sighed and slipped off the chair, grabbing a jacket. “Well, since this isn’t getting me anywhere, can I go to the coffee shop with Tae?”

 

“Mm.” Yoongi barely nodded in his direction. Jungkook rolled his eyes, taking it as confirmation, and slipped out the front door.

 

The moment he left, the tension melted from Jimin’s posture. His shoulders slumped as he exhaled heavily. 

 

Yoongi glanced up. “It’s more work pretending to be mad than it would be to just forgive the kid, Min.”

 

“No, this is his punishment,” Jimin insisted stubbornly, washing a bowl of vegetables. “He needs to know his actions have consequences. If I just forgive him then he’ll think it’s okay to keep lying to people.”

 

Yoongi hummed. Jimin turned to look at him, smiling at the sight of him clearly concentrating on whatever task he was trying to complete. 

 

“Yoon, come eat. Then you can do your work, alright?”

 

Yoongi finally closed his laptop with a rue smile. He stood and walked over to the counter, which Jungkook had left his papers strewn all over the surface of. 

 

“Can you clear the counter off for me?” Jimin asked absently. “I’m almost done, I just have to finish the salad.”

 

“Sure.” Yoongi began gathering the papers, only to pause when something caught his eye.

 

The top of one of the papers had the name of a fast food place. Confused, he lifted the corner of the page, skimming the contents. 

 

His mouth fell open when he realized what he was looking at.

 

“Are you done?” Jimin turned to see Yoongi frozen, staring open mouthed down at the counter. “Yoongi?”

 

“These are—”

 

He trailed off, too shocked to finish.

 

Jimin cautiously approached him, tentatively lifting one of the papers off the mess atop the counter. 

 

“Job applications?” His eyebrows furrowed in confusion. “I don’t get it.”

 

“They’re Kook’s.” Yoongi shook his head in shock. 

 

Jimin’s expression didn’t change. “I still don’t get it.”

 

“He wants a job,” Yoongi muttered. “Jimin, he wants a fucking job . I thought he’d given up already. He always talks about how he’s gonna die soon, and nothing matters, but…but why would he want a job if he didn’t want to live?”

 

There was a beat of silence, and Jimin broke it with a sigh.

 

“It’s Tae,” he said softly. “He wants to live for Tae.”

 

Yoongi finally looked at him. His eyes were stormy, tears brimming the edges. “But he can’t . He’s still going to die, Jimin. Whether or not he wants to, that doesn’t fucking change anything—”

 

“I know that.” Jimin rubbed his soulmate’s shoulders, trying to settle the tremors that had settled into the muscles. “I’m sure even Jungkook knows that, deep down. Maybe he just wants to pretend everything is normal. Just...while he can.”

 

Yoongi swallowed past the lump in his throat, the action sending a pang of pain through his chest. He was silent. 

 

They remained that way for a moment, each stuck in their own dark thoughts. 

 

“Come on, we should put these away. Jungkook didn’t say anything, so he probably doesn’t want us to know,” Jimin finally muttered, gently tugging the paper out of Yoongi’s grip. He didn’t fight him. 

 

Jimin brushed a strand of hair out of his soulmate’s eyes. His chest ached at the sadness he saw there, the darkness. 

 

“Do you want to go to the coffee shop?” he guessed softly. “They’re probably still there.”

 

Mutely, Yoongi nodded. 

 

And so they did, leaving the food Jimin had prepared untouched on the table. 

 

***

 

When Jungkook arrived at the cafe, Taehyung wasn’t there yet, but Hobi and Namjoon were.

 

In more ways than one, they were just as much his older brothers as Yoongi. So when they cornered him, Jungkook couldn’t say he hadn’t seen it coming. They were excited about the fact that he was dating. Happy to see him happy about something—some one

 

Jungkook let them talk animatedly around him, keeping a small smile on his lips as he sipped his coffee. 

 

When he was done, instead of waiting for a worker to come around and pick up the empty cup, he stood up and walked over to the counter. 

 

Seokjin glanced up as he approached and raised an eyebrow. “Jungkook, you didn’t have to come up here. I would’ve gotten it for you.”

 

He handed the mug over. “It’s fine, hyung. Actually, I, uh—” His faze flickered towards Namjoon and Hobi, still seated and engrossed in their conversation. “I wanted to ask you something.”

 

Seokjin hummed, smiling pleasantly at a woman as she walked by. He was punching something into the cash register, periodically glancing down at the piece of paper he was holding as he mumbled to himself. “What is it?”

 

“I...um, are you hiring, by any chance?”

 

His friend froze. 

 

Jungkook shifted uncomfortably. “You don’t have to, like, feel obligated or anything. I know we’re practically family and it might be weird to work together. I just—um, I just thought it’d be nicer to work for you, instead of, like, a random place.”

 

Seokjin was still staring at him, a small crinkle in between his eyebrows. “You want a job?”

 

Jungkook nodded. 

 

“Here?”

 

“Yeah. Um, if it’s okay with you.”

 

Seokjin blinked, shaking his head slightly as if to lift himself out of a daze. “I don’t know why you think it wouldn’t be okay with me. Of course it is. I just—” He ran a hand up his face, pausing with his bangs held back, and let out a long breath. “I’m sorry, Kook, I’m just confused. Does...um, Yoongi know about this?”

 

Jungkook bit his lip. “No. I wasn’t going to tell him, hyung, and I know that’s not fair to you because you don’t like keeping secrets. But I just want to do this myself. Hyung’s already done so much for me, and I know if I told him about this he’d try to help.”

 

Seokjin nodded slowly. “I guess that makes sense. But, Kook, he comes here all the time. He’s going to find out, eventually—”

 

“That’s okay,” he said quietly. “We’ll figure that out when it happens. But this is fine, right? It’s okay with you?”

 

Across the room, Namjoon and Hobi were looking in their direction now. Jungkook shifted, clearing his throat. “Be right there!” he called. He turned to Seokjin again. “Can we talk about the details and stuff later?” 

 

Seokjin nodded silently, apparently still a little startled, and Jungkook smiled at him gratefully.

 

“Thank you, hyung,” Jungkook said quietly. His eyes shined, and Seokjin couldn’t remember the last time he’d seen him look that way. 

 

“You’re welcome, Kookie,” he said softly. 

 

He refilled his coffee for him before he returned to his seat.

 

Caramel macchiato, two extra pumps of liquid sugar and a shot of espresso. 

 

***

 

Jungkook woke up the next day feeling disgusting. He threw up twice before even leaving his bed. 

 

His entire body was aching. If he blinked too fast stars exploded behind his eyelids, and every small sound since he’d woken up had made him grit his teeth and ball his hands into fists. 

 

He didn’t know when he’d started getting this bad again, but he could see how it panicked Yoongi. His brother cocooned him into bed, eyes dark and lips pinched. 

 

“You’re not allowed to leave anymore,” he said, voice clipped. “No more fucking midnight adventures in the middle of the snow. No more taking a walk in the park without a coat on like you’re goddamn invincible, Jungkook.”

 

Jungkook winced, taking a moment to collect his breath before answering. 

 

“I have a date with Tae today,” he finally said, biting the inside of his cheek. 

 

Yoongi tucked in the edge of the blanket, and his jaw clenched at the words. “I don’t give a shit.”

 

“Hyung,” he whispered. “Please.”

 

His brother straightened up, eyes flashing. “ No , Jungkook. I’m calling the doctor and you’re staying put.”

 

“You can’t,” Jungkook said desperately, leaning forward. “I have to be at his place in ten minutes. He’ll think something’s wrong if I’m—”

 

“Something is wrong!”

 

Yoongi whirled on him, eyes flashing with such pure rage that it startled Jungkook into silence. 

 

“You’re fucking dying , that’s what wrong,” his brother continued, voice just barely above a livid hiss. “And you seem to have forgotten it, Jungkook. I’m happy you’re fucking happy, but you can’t keep pretending this doesn’t exist. You can’t keep going on dates like nothing is wrong with you, when it is . When it just keeps getting worse and fucking worse!”

 

Jungkook swallowed hard, shifting his gaze away. He was quiet for a moment. 

 

“It’s nice to forget,” he finally said, and his voice was soft. Sad. “I know that doesn’t make a difference. I know it still exists. I know it’s getting worse. But it’s nice to forget.” He closed his eyes briefly briefly. “I forget when I’m with him, hyung. He makes me forget.”

 

Yoongi was silent for a long time. Jungkook still couldn’t seem to meet his eyes, gazed trained on his bedroom door. 

 

His brother’s voice was quiet when he finally spoke. “I’m going to go call the doctor. I’ll be back to check on you in a little while.”

 

He left then, and Jungkook waited for the door to click shut before swinging his legs over the side of his bed and tugging his sneakers on.

 

He grabbed his cellphone, dialing a familiar number. 

 

“I’m going to be a little late, but I’ll be there soon.”

 

***

 

“Okay, your turn.”

 

Jungkook wrinkled his nose. “Um...shit, I can’t think of anything.”

 

“Oh, come on,” Taehyung giggled. “It’s twenty facts. It doesn’t have to be anything mind-blowing. Just tell me something basic about yourself!”

 

I’m dying.

 

The words had been dancing on the tip of his tongue ever since he had walked in the door, tried to leap from his mouth time and time again.

 

Like every instance before that one, Jungkook found himself swallowing them back down and smiling stiffly. “Um. My favorite food is lamb skewers.”

 

“Boring,” Taehyung huffed. “I just told you about my imaginary friend that I had until high school. You have to be a little more creative than that, Kookie. That turn doesn’t count.”

 

His eyes were bright as Jungkook fidgeted, shifting his position on the couch. “Something more interesting? Well, uh, I used to dance.”

 

Taehyung’s face lit up. “Seriously?”

 

“Just a little,” Jungkook muttered. “I wasn’t that great.”

 

“I find that hard to believe,” Taehyung teased. He was wrapped around him, the two of them on the couch with a movie playing quietly. Jungkook was trying hard to ignore the way his stomach fluttered everytime Taehyung snuggled closer. 

 

“It’s true,” he laughed quietly. “It was just a hobby. I wasn’t that great.”

 

“How come you don’t go to Jimin’s studio?” Taehyung asked, frowning slightly. 

 

A flash of panic gripped his chest. He swallowed, biting the inside of his cheek. “I do sometimes, but not really in a serious way. I’m not into it that much anymore.”

 

“How come?”

 

“I just—” He turned towards the tv, feeling a muscle in his jaw flex. “I’m just not, anymore.”

 

There was a small stretch of silence. A hand drifted over Jungkook’s face, fingers tilting his chin gently back to the side. Jungkook kept his gaze trained forward for a moment before giving in.

 

“Hey,” Taehyung said softly. His eyes were sad. “I’m sorry. I wasn’t trying to pry, Kookie.”

 

Guilt flared in his chest. “No, it’s not that,” he sighed. “I’m sorry. I just don’t really talk about it. I...um, I miss it.”

 

“Then you should start again,” Taehyung murmured. He nuzzled Jungkook’s jaw, lips soft against the skin as he trailed it. “I don’t think anyone should let go of something they love that easily.”

 

His arms were tight around Jungkook’s stomach, and it made his chest ache. 

 

I hope you never let go of me, then.

 

***

 

It didn’t really hit him how much he’d missed dancing until he was in the studio.

 

His muscles weren’t used to it. He did too much too fast, but it was the only way he knew how. It was a feeling he hadn’t felt in a long time. Adrenaline. Happiness. Energy. 

 

Euphoria. 

 

Taehyung jumped onto him the second he came to a stop. Jungkook stumbled back from the force of the hug, letting out a laugh.

 

“Tae, I’m all sweaty.”

 

“I don’t care!” His soulmate kissed him on the mouth, hard. “You were amazing , Kookie. When you said it was just a hobby, I wasn’t expecting you to be so fucking good!”

 

“Gee, thanks for the vote of confidence,” he teased. 

 

Taehyung eyes sparkled as he grinned. “Shut up, you know what I mean.” He squeezed his grip on him, pressing even closer. “I don’t know why you stopped, but you should really start again. You’re so talented.”

 

Jungkook had just opened his mouth to respond when a voice cut through the air. 

 

“Jungkook?”

 

He glanced up, and the blood drained out of his face. “Hobi hyung.”

 

His friend was looking at him strangely. He stood in the doorway as if unsure whether or not to enter, one hand gripping the strap of the duffel bag draped over his shoulder. 

 

“What are you doing here?” he asked cautiously. Jungkook saw the elder’s gaze flicker over Taehyung. 

 

“He was showing off his moves,” Taehyung sang. He turned back to Jungkook, smile never wavering. “He’s amazing.”

 

Hobi’s eyebrows furrowed. The concern in the set of his jaw was all too familiar, all too similar to the way Yoongi looked at him. 

 

“How long have you guys been here?” he finally asked. 

 

“We just got here a little while ago,” Taehyung replied brightly. 

 

Hobi’s eyes narrowed, and something in Jungkook’s stomach clenched. 

 

“Huh,” he said. 

 

Jungkook swallowed, his arms tightening around Taehyung just ever so slightly. 

 

“Yeah,” he muttered. “We were just about to leave, though.”

 

Taehyung cocked his head. “We were?”

 

“Uh huh,” he muttered. “Come on.”

 

Hobi pressed his lips together. “How have you been feeling, Kook?”

 

He clenched his teeth. “Good. Great. Tae, let’s—”

 

“Yeah?” Hobi stepped into the room. “Feeling up to dancing again? You sure?”

 

Taehyung glanced between the two of them, hesitation creeping into his expression. “Is he…talking about your pneumonia?” he asked softly. 

 

Jungkook clenched his teeth. “No, it’s nothing. I’m fine, Tae. Come on, let’s just go.”

 

They shouldered past Hobi. And maybe Jungkook was a little too rough, but his friend didn’t say anything. 

 

Taehyung was quiet as they walked out of the studio, hand in hand. Their boots crunched on the fallen snow softly for a few minutes, the only sound between them. 

 

“Are you still sick?” 

 

Jungkook glanced to the side. Taehyung wasn’t looking at him despite having asked the question. He was staring straight ahead, but his chin wobbled slightly. 

 

“Tae,” he said softly. “Hey.”

 

He tugged on their joined hands, pulling them to a stop, and lifted a gloved hand to swipe at the tears gathering in the corner of his soulmate’s eyes. 

 

Taehyung sniffed, nose tinted red in the cold. “I’m just confused. Hobi hyung was acting like you shouldn’t be dancing yet, and it makes me feel like you’re still sick, but you told me you were getting better. You haven’t been lying to me, Kookie. Have you?”

 

Jungkook’s heart ached. 

 

Yes. Yes, I have, so much, I’m so sorry.

 

“No, I haven’t—I-I’m fine,” he whispered. “I’m good, baby. I swear.”

 

He cupped Taehyung’s cheek. His soulmate was looking up at him with damp eyes, and it broke Jungkook’s heart. He didn’t want to be the reason he cried. 

 

Taehyung sniffed. “You promise?” he said softly. His voice broke on the last syllable, and he lifted his hands to fist the front of Jungkook’s shirt. “Swear you’re fine. Promise me, Jungkookie.”

 

Jungkook swallowed hard. “Tae, baby, I’m perfect,” he murmured. “I have you. How could I not be?”

 

Taehyung laughed at that, the sound a little watery. “I’m being serious.” He slapped his chest lightly. 

 

“So am I,” Jungkook said, smiling half heartedly. “Doesn’t matter what else happens, okay? You don’t have to worry about me. I promise.”

 

“That’s dumb,” Taehyung muttered. He’d dropped his hands but moved forward to tuck his head against Jungkook’s chest, sighing as he wrapped his arms around him. “Of course I’m gonna worry about you. I don’t know what I’d do without you, dummy.”

 

He held Taehyung in his arms in silence and tried not to cry. He’d come to a realization, and it hit him as hard as all his epiphanies usually did. 

 

He was being selfish. He was allowing Taehyung to love him, knowing full well he wouldn’t be here to console the warm, starry-eyed male when he inevitably wasn’t here anymore. 

 

He might be the one dying, but he would be killing Taehyung, too.

 

***

 

Yoongi came home to a living room full of people.

 

He faltered in the doorway, keys still dangling from his fingers. 

 

“Uh.”

 

Jimin turned to face him first. He was sitting on the couch, knees tucked to his chest, with Namjoon, Hobi, and Seokjin seated around him.

 

“Hi,” his soulmate said softly. “How was work?”

 

Yoongi swallowed, trying to ignore the way his heart had started beating faster. “It was fine. What’s going on?”

 

“Yoongi, we need to talk,” Seokjin said quietly. “Why don’t you take a seat?”

 

For just a split second, he felt as if the floor had fallen out from under him. He gripped the edge of the counter.

 

“Is Jungkook...?”

 

Jimin stood up right away, seeing the panic on his face. “No, no. He’s fine, baby. He’s fine.”

 

Fuck .” The air felt like it had been punched out of him. He sighed heavily, shoulders sagging with relief. 

 

Jimin crossed the room towards him, cupping his face gently. “I’m sorry,” he murmured. “We didn’t mean to scare you.”

 

“What’s going on?” Yoongi asked tensely. 

 

“Yoongi, Jungkook...asked me for a job in the cafe,” Seokjin said quietly. All the eyes in the room fell on him, the eldest male’s expression twisted with sadness. 

 

Yoongi’s lips parted. “What? When?”

 

“This morning.” Seokjin swallowed, licking his lips nervously. “I didn’t give him a real answer yet, but he seemed serious about it. He didn’t want me to mention it to you.”

 

“And he was at the dance studio a little while ago,” Hobi said softly. “I caught him on my way out.”

 

Jimin shook his head. “He waited until I left. So I wouldn’t see.”

 

Yoongi was looking at all of them as they spoke, eyebrows pinched. “I-I don’t…”

 

“Yoongi, this isn’t good,” Seokjin said softly. “He’s doing all this for Taehyung. He’s acting as if doing all this is ignoring the fact that—” He bit his lip. “That. You know.”

 

“And Tae doesn’t even know he’s sick,” Hobi said, shaking his head. “He thinks he has pneumonia . This is wrong , Yoongi. On so many levels.”

 

“Well, what the fuck do you expect me to do about it?” Yoongi hissed, feeling his temper flare. “Why are you all here telling me this shit? He’s an adult, this is his relationship, go fucking talk to him.”

 

“We’ve tried ,” Seokjin said desperately.

 

“He keeps saying he’ll tell Tae,” Namjoon sighed, “but I don’t even know if he knows who he’s lying to anymore—us or himself.”

 

Jimin sniffed. His face was flushed, and he looked like he was blinking back tears. “I’ve known Tae my whole life. He loves with his whole heart. Losing someone he cares about will break him.”

 

Yoongi’s eyes flashed darkly, expression growing stormy. “So does Jungkook,” he hissed. “That kid would climb a mountain ten times over for the people he loves. Why the fuck do you think this is so hard for him? He doesn’t want to hurt his soulmate.”

 

“But he’s going to,” Jimin whispered. “He’s going to, Yoongi. He’s going to hurt him so much, no matter what. And there’s nothing he can do about it, so he should just tell him the truth now . Spare the both of them at least some heartbreak. At least Taehyung will know, at least he—”

 

“You know what difference it’ll make if Taehyung knows?” Yoongi snapped. “None. It won’t make any difference. All he’ll do is start to treat Kook like he’s made of glass—like we all treat him. Why do you think he loves Taehyung so much?”

 

The room was silent. 

 

“It’s because he doesn’t treat him the way the rest of us do,” Yoongi barreled on, practically spitting the words. “Like he’s dying . Like he can’t fucking do anything. Taehyung fucking wants him to work, he wants him to dance, and be happy, and live his fucking life instead of spending the rest of it thinking about death .”

 

Seokjin looked pale, and Hobi’s expression had darkened. Namjoon’s eyes were damp. 

 

“We don’t mean to treat him like that,” Jimin finally said. His voice was hurt. 

 

Yoongi glared at the floor. “Well, we do. Whether we mean to or not.”

 

Hobi cleared his throat, and his eyes were rimmed with red when he glanced up. “I think it’s time we had a talk with everyone.” He locked eyes, one by one, with everyone in the room. “Jungkookie and Tae, too. There’s too many secrets going around. It’s time we all sat down and talked like actual fucking adults.”

 

Seokjin let out a long breath, running a hand over his face. “I agree.”

 

Namjoon nodded sagely. “Me, too.”

 

Jimin was quiet. It made Yoongi glance at him, having expected his soulmate to speak up and voice his agreement along with everyone else. 

 

But Jimin bit his lip instead, finding Yoongi’s hand and lacing their fingers together tightly. 

 

“I’ll support you,” he whispered, eyes still shining with unshed tears. “Whatever you’re comfortable with. Promise.”

 

Yoongi stared at him for a long time, throat too choked up to respond. 

 

“Fine,” he finally said. “We’ll talk to them. Both of them.”

 

***

 

Half an hour before the breakfast date Jungkook had  planned with Taehyung, he was head-first in the toilet bowl, vomiting so harshly that it was giving him a migraine. 

 

He groaned, lifting his head and wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. On the counter by the sink, his phone was vibrating insistently. 

 

Wincing, he slowly got up and walked over to it. His heart sank a little when he saw Taehyung’s smiling contact picture pop up. 

 

“Hey, Tae,” he greeted weakly.

 

“Kookie! I just realized we never decided if we were meeting up at the cafe or if I’m coming over to your place. Or do you want to come to mine? Yours is closer, though, so I guess that wouldn’t really make sense.”

 

His soulmate rambled cheerfully on. Jungkook listened silently, feeling dizzy from standing up too long.

 

Lowering himself onto the floor, he sat on the cold tile with a grimace. “Tae, I’m so sorry, but is there any way I can cancel today? I know this is really last minute. I’m really sorry.”

 

His soulmate’s voice was full of concern. “Why? Are you okay?”

 

Jungkook breathed shallowly, trying to steady himself before he passed out. “I’m not feeling the greatest today. It’s no big deal.”

 

“Kookie, you said you were getting better.” The panic was growing more evident in Taehyung’s voice. “Do you want me to call someone? Is anyone there with you right now?”

 

“Fuck,” Jungkook flinched at the loudness of his voice. His head was killing him. “No, Jimin and hyung are both at work, but they’ll be home soon. I’m fine, though, really—”

 

“I’ll be right over.” The line abruptly went dead. 

 

Jungkook blinked in shock down at his phone, and then let out a small huff of disbelief. Taehyung really was just something else. 

 

He waited a few minutes, trying to catch breath, before very slowly climbing to his feet. 

 

He stumbled on the way out of the bathroom, leaning against the doorway for support. Breathing heavily, he somehow made his way to the couch and collapsed onto it. 

 

His forehead was dotted with sweat, face flushed. He was sure he looked absolutely horrible and he cringed at the thought of Taehyung seeing him like this when the doorbell rang, interrupting his thoughts.

 

“It’s open,” he called out weakly. 

 

“I bring reinforcements.” Taehyung dropped an armful of miscellaneous objects onto the couch, making Jungkook laugh.

 

“Did you bring your entire house?” he asked weakly.

 

Taehyung came to sit beside him, his eyebrows pulled together in concern. “Kookie, you look so pale,” he breathed out, shocked. “Are you sure you’re alright?”

 

Jungkook kissed the palm of his hand, which had been caressing his cheek. “I feel better already now that you’re here.”

 

Taehyung made a face at him. “Loser. I hate your cheesy ass.”

 

Jungkook grinned. “You love it.”

 

Taehyung sighed, beginning to climb to his feet. “Alas, this is true. Okay. So I brought three types of soups. Which one do you want?”

 

Jungkook gagged involuntarily at the thought of eating any more soup. “Did you bring anything else?”

 

Taehyung glanced at the mountain of items he’d dumped onto the far end of the couch. “Rice cake, instant ramen. Ooh, eggs!”

 

“You brought eggs ?” Jungkook asked in disbelief.

 

Taehyung scoffed. “Eggs are a superfood, Jungkook. Eat one of these bad boys and you’ll be cured of practically anything. My mother swears by it.”

 

Wouldn’t that be nice.

 

Jungkook smiled thinly. “Alright, Tae. Bring me these magical eggs of yours, then.”

 

Taehyung pumped his fist and jumped up. “On the way!” He grabbed a fuzzy blue blanket that was hanging on the back of the couch and tucked it around Jungkook, all the way up to his chin. “You. Don’t move,” he added sternly. 

 

Jungkook pouted his lips dramatically. “Can I get a kiss?”

 

“Needy,” Taehyung tsked. He was smiling, though. He leaned forward and pecked him on the lips, his eyelashes brushing his forehead. “Love you.”

 

“Love you, too,” Jungkook murmured, swallowing past the lump in his throat. The sudden overwhelming urge to cry was making his head hurt.

 

As Taehyung went to the kitchen, Jungkook sat there, cocooned so tightly in a blanket he couldn’t even move his arms, and his thoughts began moving towards a darker place. 

 

Was this their future? Taehyung, destined to be a housewife while Jungkook sat like a cripple on the couch?

 

His fingers curled into fists.

 

Taehyung would be better off with him dead. 

 

The thought hurt, almost more than it should have. His chest felt funny. In fact, the entire left side of his body seemed to be experiencing the same shooting, sharp pains.

 

He didn’t even realize he’d been crying until Taehyung’s voice interrupted his thoughts.

 

“Kookie? Baby, why are you crying?”

 

Gentle hands wiped at his cheeks. He looked up and saw Taehyung staring back at him, eyes full of worry. 

 

“Are you alright?” he asked softly. His fingers felt soft on his cheeks, still wiping away the tears that wouldn’t seem to stop.

 

Jungkook sniffed. “Tae, i-it hurts.”

 

“What hurts?” Taehyung looked alarmed now, worry tightening his features. “Where does it hurt, Kookie?”

 

Jungkook winced as another sharp pain went up the length of his arm. His chest was killing him. “E-everywhere.”

 

“I’m calling an ambulance,” Taehyung said, his voice firm. One hand slipped into his pocket to pull out his cellphone, while the other moved to hold Jungkook’s hand. His expression darkened as he noticed how badly it was shaking. 

 

Another bolt of pain, this one so bad Jungkook blacked out for a second. He flinched, his expression twisted in agony. 

 

“Hyung,” he whimpered, the tears that had momentarily paused beginning to fall harder than before. “T-Tae, call Yoongi. Please.”

 

Taehyung was pale now, his hand holding Jungkook’s tightly. He ignored him for a moment, turning his head slightly as he began speaking. 

 

“Hello? Yes, I need an ambulance right away. My boyfriend is experiencing some pain...I don’t know, he’s really hurt. He’s been recovering from pneumonia recently, and—yeah. No, he doesn’t have a fever.” Taehyung pressed a hand to his forehead anyways. “Uh huh. Yeah. Please hurry. Okay. Thank you so much.”

 

Jungkook whimpered as his throat began to constrict. It was hard to breathe. Why was it hard to breathe?

 

“T- Tae ,” he sobbed quietly.

 

“I know, I know,” Taehyung whispered reassuringly, hugging him tightly. “It’s okay, baby. They’re on their way.”

 

Jungkook’s head was killing him. Where was Yoongi? He needed his brother. He couldn’t die without his brother. 

 

Hyung ,” he repeated weakly. “P-please, Tae. I need...Yoongi.”

 

“I’ll text him,” Taehyung responded calmly, unaware of the sudden panic that had begun to take ahold of his soulmate. “Don’t worry, Kook, he can always meet us at the hospi—”

 

No ,” Jungkook cried, pushing Taehyung off of him. It was weak, but he moved back anyways, looking stunned. 

 

“Y-you have to call him now ,” Jungkook whispered, barely able to talk. His chest hurt so badly. 

 

“I can’t die without him,” he continued, voice breaking as he began to cry. “T-Tae, you have to call him, I-I can’t die without h-him. H-he needs to be here, I-I’m— please —”

 

“Jungkook.” Taehyung was whiter than Jungkook had ever seen him. He looked like someone had drained all the blood out of his body as he stared at Jungkook, shocked. “You’re not going to die , baby. The ambulance is coming, you’ll be fine—”

 

Jungkook was sobbing, nearly hysterical at this point. “Y-you don’t get it,” he cried, shaking his head fervently. “C-call him, Tae. P-please, call him, I—please—”

 

“Okay,” Tae whispered, still looking shaken. “I’ll call him right now. Please stop crying, baby. I’m calling him, okay? Please just calm down.”

 

Jungkook took a shaky breath. His chest. God , his chest. Every time he closed his eyes he saw stars.

 

He didn’t want them. He wanted Taehyung’s stars.

 

“Hey, Yoongi hyung? Yeah, it’s Tae. Listen, I don’t want to freak you out or anything, but I think Kookie is having some sort of relapse or something. He’s in a lot of pain and he’s sort of freaking out—I called an ambulance, yeah. But he really wanted me to call you, too. What? Yeah, once sec.”

 

Taehyung covered the bottom of the phone, glancing at Jungkook. “Do you think you can talk to him, Kook?”

 

Jungkook shook his head, the action barely perceivable. “Just...tell him to come,” he whispered, barely audible.

 

Taehyung swallowed. “He says he wants you here. Yeah. Okay. I’ll see you there. Bye.”

 

“He’s going to meet us at the hospital,” he said quietly to Jungkook, pocketing his phone. 

 

Jungkook whimpered.

 

Taehyung looked like he was going to cry. “Jungkook, you’re not going to die in the ambulance. Please, stop acting like this. You’re freaking me out.”

 

Jungkook only closed his eyes. 

 

He was exhausted. 

 

Maybe this was for the better. 

 

“Love you, Tae,” he mumbled weakly, leaning into the other’s chest. Taehyung wrapped his arms around him automatically, but he looked shaken.

 

“I love you, too.” He almost phrased it like a question. “You’re gonna be fine, alright?”

 

Jungkook merely hummed, too weak to respond. His fingers curled against the fabric of Taehyung’s T-shirt. He smelled so sweet, so soft. He smelled just like Taehyung.

 

He’d be fine. As long as he had Taehyung, he’d be fine. 


He closed his eyes and let the darkness take him. 

 

Chapter Text

 

He woke up exhausted. 

 

The first thing his gaze focused on was the ceiling tile. It was all too familiar, the sickeningly white fluorescent lights a sight he’d grown used to seeing. 

 

He clenched the paper-like sheets he was stretched out across. He was in a hospital. 

 

“Hey.”

 

Jungkook glanced towards the source of the sound, gaze landing on his brother. Yoongi looked tired, under eyes dark from an obvious lack of sleep. 

 

“How are you feeling?” he asked quietly. 

 

Jungkook swallowed, mouth dry. “Where’s Tae?”

 

His brother’s eyes were sad. “Kook—”

 

“Hyung,” he interrupted. His voice was shaking. “Please.”

 

There was a small stretch of silence, before Yoongi let out a tired sigh. 

 

“He...said he needs some time,” he said softly. 

 

Jungkook’s heart fell into his stomach. “No,” he whispered. He could feel his throat clenching, the familiar urge to cry rearing its ugly head. 

 

“Jimin’s with him,” Yoongi continued. “He’ll come around, Kook. Just give him a little while to get his head around it all.”

 

“He hates me,” Jungkook said, sniffing. He turned to face the ceiling and blinked up at the lights, tears pricking his eyes. “Doesn’t he?”

 

Yoongi seemed to be wording his next sentence carefully. “He’s upset that you lied to him. And he just found out his soulmate’s dying. It’s not an easy pill to swallow.”

 

It was all the confirmation Jungkook needed. He didn’t respond, but tears started slipping down the sides of his face. He laid there long enough for them to dampen the pillow before sitting up abruptly. 

 

“Can I borrow your phone?”

 

Yoongi pressed his lips together. “Jungkook, you need to give him some time.”

 

“Hyung, I don’t have time,” he said desperately, voice breaking. “ Please . I need to talk to him. Please.”

 

His brother had never been good at saying no to him. It was probably part of the reason they were in this mess, but Jungkook tried not to think about that as he accepted the elder’s cell phone and dialed a familiar number. 

 

The line rang twice before going abruptly to voicemail. 

 

Jungkook’s mouth dried. He dialed again, blinking back tears. It went straight to voicemail. 

 

Teeth grit, he redialed. 

 

“Kook,” Yoongi sighed. 

 

He ignored him, holding the phone to his ear. Please, Tae. Please. 

 

It was Jimin who picked up.

 

“Yoongi?”

 

Jungkook swallowed. “No.”

 

There was a split second of silence.

 

“Jungkook.” Jimin sounded tired. “Why are you calling?”

 

“Jimin, please, give it to Tae,” he whispered. “I need to talk to him. I need to tell him—”

 

“He doesn’t want to talk to you right now,” Jimin interrupted, voice stiff. “You need to stop calling.”

 

The call ended. 

 

Jungkook stared in disbelief at the cell phone. A muscle in his jaw twitched, and he clenched it angrily before redialing yet again. 

 

He was ready to yell, ready to beg, whatever it took—but it wasn’t Jimin who answered. 

 

“Jungkook.”

 

His breath caught in his throat. “Tae,” he whispered. 

 

His soulmate’s voice was small, thick with tears. “Jungkook, please stop calling. I-I can’t—I can’t do this right now.”

 

“Tae,” Jungkook said desperately. “Please, you have to talk to me. I know you’re mad, I know , but just listen—”

 

“Mad?” Taehyung’s voice broke. “You think I’m mad? Jungkook, I—I don’t even know what I am.”

 

Jungkook sniffed, wiping a stray tear angrily. “I’m sorry,” he whispered. “I...I didn’t want to hurt you.”

 

Taehyung let out a laugh, the sound bitter. “Do you think I’m happy right now?”

 

Jungkook closed his eyes, tears slipping down his cheeks. “No.”

 

“No. I’m not. And after all this lying and hiding things—having everyone lie for you, to each other and to me—” His soulmate’s voice was steadily climbing as he spoke, until he had to pause and take a deep breath. “Just...all I’m asking is for some time,” he finally finished quietly. 

 

“Okay.” Jungkook sniffed, wiping his nose. “I can do that.”

 

He couldn’t. His chest hurt just thinking about, about not being able to hold him—but he had to. He knew he had to, if he ever wanted things to get better. 

 

Taehyung was quiet for a moment, listening to him sniffle.

 

“Are you crying?” he finally asked, and his voice had lost some of its bite.  

 

Jungkook let out a small laugh. “No.”

 

There was a pause. “Don’t cry. Just...just listen to the doctors, okay? Please. Promise me. I...I need you to get better.”

 

“I promise,” he whispered, blinking away another round of tears. “I’m so sorry, Tae.”

 

His soulmate sniffed. “Bye, Kookie.”

 

Jungkook ended the call, buried his face in his hands, and cried. 

 

***

 

There was a rotating cast of people in and out of his room, but Yoongi, Hobi, Seokjin and Namjoon were almost always there. Jimin stopped by a few times.

 

Taehyung never came. 

 

Every time the door opened, Jungkook straightened up a little. He couldn’t hide the way his expression fell when it ended up being hospital staff or one of his other friends. He knew everyone was worried for him. The nurses kept scolding him for not eating, saying it would affect his medication, but he couldn’t help it. He didn’t have an appetite. 

 

It was Thursday, a week since he’d been admitted into the hospital. Namjoon and Hobi were in his room, trying to cheer him up. It was working, sort of. 

 

“Any sevens?”

 

“Gold fish.”

 

Namjoon groaned. “Hobi, for the fifth time, it’s go fish. Go fish, not gold fish.”

 

Hobi stared incredulously at him. “And I’m telling you, that doesn’t make sense. Why would you go fishing for cards? Why are there cards in the ocean?”

 

Jungkook snickered. “How does gold fish make sense, though?”

 

“It doesn’t,” Hobi huffed. “But that’s the beauty of it. God, I’m playing with boring old men. And here I thought we left Yoongi and Seokjin at home.”

 

Namjoon sputtered, while Jungkook burst out laughing. 

 

He was so engrossed in the game that he didn’t even look up when the door opened. It was around the time a nurse usually came around to check on him, anyways. 

 

“Your turn, hyung,” he hummed. 

 

Hobi’s gaze flickered towards the doorway, and Jungkook watched him slowly lower his hands into his lap instead of pulling out a card. 

 

“Um.” Namjoon scratched the back of his head uncomfortably. “Kook?”

 

His eyebrows furrowed. “What?” He turned his head while asking the question, and when he saw who they were looking at, he froze. 

 

Taehyung looked out of place in the sickly hospital room. He was wearing an oversized yellow sweater, too bright for his gray surroundings, and the sleeves pooled around his wrists. He kept tugging on them, looking nervous. 

 

“Hi,” he said softly. 

 

Jungkook swallowed. “Hi.”

 

He didn’t miss the way Hobi and Namjoon nudged each other and quietly made their exit, but he couldn’t care less. 

 

“You came,” he whispered.

 

His soulmate was biting his lip, and he gave a small nod as he moved closer to his bed. “Thanks for being patient with me.”

 

Jungkook shook his head. “Too little too late.”

 

Taehyung gave him a small smile. “Not necessarily.”

 

He pulled up a stool, inching closer to the bed. Jungkook watched him silently. His chest ached to wrap him into a hug, to touch him—but he forced the feeling down. 

 

“You look like you’ve lost a lot of weight,” Taehyung remarked quietly. His eyebrows were pinched, gaze dark and sad as he appraised Jungkook’s sickly figure. 

 

Jungkook shifted the blankets around himself, shrugging. “Hospital food sucks ass.”

 

Taehyung frowned. “Seokjin hyung told me he brought you food from home and you didn’t eat that, either.”

 

He sighed. “I haven’t been hungry.”

 

Taehyung was quiet. He tugged on his sleeves again, looking down at them to avoid his gaze. 

 

“If I bring up something from the cafeteria, will you eat it?” he asked softly. 

 

Jungkook frowned. “You don’t have to—”

 

“Will you?” Taehyung pressed. 

 

He let out a breath. Nodded. 

 

Ten minutes later, Taehyung was sitting as close to him as possible, knees pressed up right against the bed. 

 

“Open up.”

 

Jungkook gave him a small smile, raising an eyebrow at the forkful of fruit raised to his face. “You don’t have to feed me.”

 

“Shut up. Open up,” Taehyung said firmly.

 

Silently, he obeyed.

 

Taehyung laughed at the face he pulled while chewing the fruit. “That bad?”

 

“It tastes like a shoe,” Jungkook muttered. 

 

“Too bad,” his soulmate tsked. “Say aah. Come on.”

 

Jungkook ate two more bites before whining, lip jut out in a pout. “Tae, no more.”

 

Taehyung looked like he was trying not to laugh. “You’re such a baby. You need food, Jungkookie. The nurses told me you haven’t been eating.”

 

“I thought Jin hyung told you,” Jungkook said accusingly. 

 

Taehyung huffed. “For your information, I have multiple sources. Now be quiet and eat this fruit or I’m leaving.”

 

His jaw snapped shut at that and he quickly leaned forwards, lips parting automatically. Something like amusement flickered in Taehyung’s eyes, and he smiled as he fed him another spoonful. 

 

“Wanna keep me here that bad, huh?” Taehyung said. His eyes had softened. 

 

Jungkook swallowed the bite in his mouth, hesitation creeping up his spine. Honesty, he decided, was the best choice. 

 

For once. 

 

“I’ve missed you,” he replied quietly. 

 

Taehyung was looking down now, aimlessly moving around a chunk of fruit with the spoon. “I’ve missed you, too,” he finally muttered. “I...I want you to tell me everything. From the beginning.” He glanced up then, and they locked gazes. “The way it should’ve been in the first place.”

 

Jungkook flinched. “Yeah, I deserved that,” he sighed. “Can we, um—”

 

He gestured at the tray of food on Taehyung’s lap. His soulmate’s eyebrows furrowed slightly in confusion as he watched him lean over, but he didn’t say anything. 

 

Carefully, Jungkook lifted the tray aside and placed it on the table next to his bed. 

 

“Can you come here?” he asked softly, looking Taehyung with as pleading an expression as he could manage. “Please. I know you’re still upset, but I just—I just wanna hold you.”

 

Taehyung’s throat moved as he swallowed, and he lifted one of his sweater paws to wipe at the corner of his eye. 

 

“Okay,” he finally mumbled, sniffling. 

 

He crawled onto the bed, Jungkook moving aside to make room for him. It made him feel warm the way Taehyung fit so perfectly against him, the way his hair tickled his chin as he tucked himself into his chest. 

 

“Start from when you found out you were sick,” Taehyung mumbled. 

 

Jungkook sighed. “I can’t even remember that far back.”

 

The other shifted in his arms, turning to look at him with wide eyes. “You were that young? This isn’t, like, a recent thing?”

 

Jungkook gave him a halfhearted smile. “That’d be nice, but no. I’ve lived my whole life sick.”

 

“Oh.” Taehyung’s voice was tiny. He shifted an inch closer, their chests pressed together on the cramped bed. “That must have been hard.”

 

“It was,” Jungkook said, biting his lip. “I’ve been in and out of hospitals since I can remember. About two years ago—” He took a deep breath. “—I got so sick of it. The fucking doctor’s trips and the constant worrying and just feeling like everyone was breathing down my neck.”

 

Taehyung’s eyes were gentle. “You left?”

 

“I ran away,” he corrected, voice heavy with regret. “Stole half of hyung’s savings and used it to travel.”

 

Taehyung let out a sharp breath. 

 

“I know. I’m an asshole.” There was a lump in his throat. “I...honestly, I’ve been such a shitty brother. I made him lie for me.” Tears pricked his eyes. “I made you lie for me. I wouldn’t let you tell Jimin we were soulmates because I was scared that he would make me tell you the truth, and I—I was so scared to tell you the truth, Tae,” he whispered. “I was so scared. I’m still so scared.”

 

“But why ?” Taehyung asked softly, looking like he was trying not to cry himself. “Did you think I’d leave you or something?”

 

“No.” Jungkook sniffed. “No, nothing like that. It’s scary , Tae. We’re supposed to be together forever, and I don’t have forever. That’s not fair to you. You shouldn’t have to be with someone who’s dying.”

 

“That’s not your decision to make,” Taehyung said quietly. “I’m an adult, Jungkook. This is a relationship involving two people. You’re not the only one who gets to make these decisions.”

 

He nodded, sniffing again. “I know. I know that now. I just...I think I figured it out too late.”

 

They were quiet for a moment. Taehyung was staring at his chest, chewing his lower lip. 

 

After a moment, he pulled back as if to move off the bed. Jungkook’s chest tightened, panic making his heart pick up speed. 

 

Without thinking, he grabbed Taehyung’s hand. “Are you leaving?” he asked desperately. 

 

Taehyung gave him a small smile. “No. I was getting the jello cup.”

 

Relief sagged his shoulders. 

 

He swallowed, before managing a small smile. “It tastes like a shoe.”

 

“I thought that was the fruit cup.”

 

“They all taste like shoes.”

 

His soulmate narrowed his eyes. “You’re gonna shut up and eat it or I’m actually gonna leave.”

 

Jungkook laughed. “Is that a threat?”

 

“Uh huh.” Taehyung stuck his tongue out at him. He’d grabbed the jello cup with his free hand, leaving the hand that Jungkook had grabbed still tightly gripped. 

 

And neither one of them let go. 

 

***

 

Yoongi cleared his throat. 

 

“Sorry for the, um…” There was a pause, followed by a sigh. “Overcrowding.”

 

Jungkook pressed his face into Taehyung’s neck to stifle his laughter. His small room was definitely close to brimming over. Yoongi sat on the chair closest to him with Jimin perched on his lap, Seokjin, Namjoon and Hobi all barely managed to squeeze onto the couch by the wall, and Taehyung was pressed up against him on the bed. 

 

The doctor adjusted his glasses, shaking his head with a small smile. “That’s quite alright. Although, the information I’ll be sharing is quite personal. I typically advise my patients only to have family present during such conversations.”

 

Jungkook found Taehyung’s hand underneath the blanket, lacing their fingers together. He caught Jimin’s gaze across the bed and gave him a smile. 

 

“They’re all family,” he said. 

 

Seokjin’s expression softened, and Namjoon and Hobi exchanged a grin. 

 

The doctor hummed, looking amused. “In that case, I’m glad you’re all here.”

 

“So, what’s wrong?” Yoongi asked. His expression was somber, gaze dark as he listened intently. “He was getting better, and then all of a sudden he passed out again. He’s been getting migraines, too. Worse than usual.”

 

“He’s been exerting himself too much,” the doctor said firmly. “All the tests we’ve conducted show signs of fatigue, exhaustion. Stress.”

 

Beneath the blankets, Taehyung’s grip tightened on his hand. Jungkook glanced at him. 

 

“His blood pressure has been abnormally high, as well,” the doctor continued with a sigh. “It’s yet another concern of ours. High blood pressure isn’t something to take lightly for the healthiest of people, so for Jungkook, it’s definitely not a good thing. We’ll be monitoring it closely from now on.”

 

Yoongi said something, but Jungkook wasn’t listening. He nudged Taehyung with his shoulder gently, eyebrows furrowed. 

 

“Hey,” he whispered. “Tae. Baby, hey.”

 

Taehyung had been staring blankly at the doctor, but he turned at the sound of his name. 

 

Jungkook felt his expression soften. “You look like you’re gonna be sick,” he murmured. 

 

“Huh? Oh.” Taehyung’s throat moved as he swallowed. “No, I just—I’m sorry. It’s, um. A lot.”

 

Jungkook’s heart ached, guilt piercing through him. “You don’t have to be here,” he said softly. “I know you don’t like hospitals.”

 

Taehyung shook his head. “No, I’m staying. I said I wanted to know everything. And I do , it’s just—just going to take some getting used to.”

 

The doctor said something about medication, Yoongi responded, and Jungkook continued to tune them out. 

 

“Are you sure?” he pressed. 

 

“Yes,” Taehyung insisted. He let out a long breath. “Now shut up. I have to listen to what the doctor’s saying so I can make sure you follow all his rules.”

 

Jungkook nodded. He continued to watch him, however, never taking his eyes off him as the people around them continued to talk. 

 

He watched Taehyung flinch when the doctor talked about injections for muscle pain. He watched him start to chew on the inside of his cheek when Yoongi brought up pills. He watched his bottom lip tremble when they talked about keeping Jungkook for a few more nights. 

 

“That’s enough,” Jungkook finally said. “If it’s alright with everyone, I think we should talk about the rest of this another time.”

 

Jimin glanced in their direction, and his eyebrows furrowed when he caught sight of his best friend. “Tae? Are you okay?”

 

“Huh?” Taehyung swallowed, looking at Jungkook instead. “Why’d you tell him to stop? I was listening—”

 

“It’s enough for today,” Jungkook said firmly. He squeezed their joined hands, trying to convey how much it meant to him that Taehyung was trying so hard. “Seriously.”

 

“What? No.” Taehyung looked annoyed, shaking his head. “I’m fine , seriously. Stop treating me like a child. I can handle this—”

 

“All due respect, Tae, but you look like you’re about to keel over,” Hobi said, raising an eyebrow. 

 

“It’s alright,” Seokjin said softly. “It takes a few times to get used to it. We’ve all had moments where we can get freaked out.”

 

“It’s overwhelming,” Namjoon agreed. 

 

“I’m fine ,” Taehyung snapped. “Jungkook, tell them I’m fine.”

 

Jungkook bit the inside of his cheek, lifting a hand to stroke at his hair. “Tae, it’s okay . You don’t have to take everything on at once. Baby steps.”

 

“I’ll walk you out,” Yoongi said quietly, speaking to the doctor. “I have a few more questions, if that’s okay.”

 

“We’ll go with you,” Jimin muttered. He looked pointedly at the rest of them, and Seokjin, Hobi and Namjoon all rose to their feet quickly. 

 

They left, and Taehyung turned to face Jungkook with a huff the moment the door closed. 

 

“Why did you do that?” he said, eyebrows furrowed. “I was fine , Jungkook.”

 

“Tae—”

 

“No, we agreed you would stop deciding things for me!” his soulmate snapped, eyes flashing. “I was fine . He was telling us important things! I need to know this stuff, Kookie. How else am I going to be able to take care of you so we can—”

 

“Woah, woah,” Jungkook interrupted. Something sharp flashed through his chest, and he found himself pulling back to look at Taehyung. “Take care of me?”

 

 Taehyung’s eyebrows furrowed. “Yes, take care of you. Why wouldn’t I—”

 

“Because you’re not my mom ,” he snapped. He could feel his voice growing hot, and he yanked his hand out of Taehyung’s, ignoring the hurt look on his face. “I don’t need you to—what, administer me my medicine? Offer me soup?”

 

His soulmate’s face fell. “What? What are you talking about? I just want to be able to help you. You—”

 

“I don’t need help,” Jungkook interjected coldly, something tight in his chest. “I don’t need a caretaker. Don’t—don’t do that. Don’t act like things are different now.”

 

“I’m not ,” Taehyung shot back, eyes sparking as any traces of sadness gave way to anger. “What the fuck is your problem? Jesus, Jungkook, you’re being a dick.”

 

Jungkook bit the inside of his cheek at the hurt in his voice, looking away. He swallowed, a little bit of guilt surfacing. 

 

Taehyung was quiet for a while.

 

Jungkook was just about to speak, an apology pursing his lips, when he heard a sniffle.

 

He turned his head so sharply it nearly broke his neck.

 

Taehyung was wiping the corner of his eye with his sleeve, head ducked in a way that made it clear he was trying to hide the fact that he was crying.

 

Jungkook’s shoulders slumped.

 

“Tae,” he said desperately. “I didn’t—don’t cry . I’m sorry, that’s not—”

 

“Just shut up,” his boyfriend mumbled. He shook his head, palms pressed to his eyes. “I’m not crying.”

 

Jungkook could have cried himself. “I’m sorry,” he repeated, voice barely above a whisper. “I didn’t mean it like that, baby. I just—I don’t want things to change now.”

 

“You keep saying that,” Taehyung said, finally looking up at him. His eyes were rimmed with red. “As if that even means anything. Things are different, and that's not a bad thing! I know better now. We both do. I shouldn’t have been taking you out at—at fucking one am, to a freezing park in the middle of winter—”

 

“But I loved that,” Jungkook said desperately. “I love that type of stupid stuff, Tae. That’s what you don’t get . You were the only one who would do dumb shit like that with me. It’s part of the reason I love you so much, baby.”

 

He tried reaching for him, and Taehyung brushed him off, swinging his legs over the side of the bed. 

 

“That dumb shit is exactly what landed you in here,” he said, blinking back tears. “You don’t get it, Jungkook. Think about how this feels for me. The doctor’s telling me you’re exhausted and drained and—and dying , and that you need to rest. And then there’s you , and you’re telling me to take you out and have fun and pretend like everything is normal. When really you could—just. Just fucking.” He took a deep breath, and his chin was trembling. “Fucking die ,” he finished in a whisper. “You could literally just drop dead whenever, and we could be—fucking ice skating . Because I’m a dumbass . And a horrible soulmate and a horrible boyfriend and I didn’t even know better than to not force you into all these stupid dates, and—”

 

“Hey, okay, hey. Ssh. Baby, ssh.”

 

Jungkook shushed him gently, moving off his bed. 

 

He pulled Taehyung to his chest gently, tucking the trembling elder’s head into his chest as he wrapped his arms around him. 

 

Taehyung was shaking. He clutched Jungkook’s shirt, pressing his face into his chest as he sobbed. 

 

“Just let me take care of you,” he hiccuped. “Please. I’m sorry. I know it’s selfish, and you hate it, b-but I feel so useless . You’re dying, and I can’t—I can’t do anything about it. So if I want to feed you fucking soup, I just—please, j-just—”

 

“Okay,” Jungkook whispered, fingers curled into the back of the elder’s hair. “Alright, baby. Okay. You can feed me soup, alright?”

 

Taehyung let out another small sob. “I’m s-sorry. This is all my fault.”

 

Jungkook could only close his eyes. “It’s not, Tae. None of this is your fault. The fact that you even think that is ridiculous. You’re so good, baby. So pure and kind, and nothing you did made me worse, Tae. You made me feel happy. Loved. That’s it. I promise you.”

 

Taehyung sniffed, nose pressed to Jungkook’s collarbone. He was quiet for a moment. 

 

“Yoongi hyung said you aren’t supposed to have a lot of sugar,” he whispered. “Or caffeine. And—and those caramel macchiatos you ordered, Kookie. I just don’t get it. Why?”

 

Jungkook had his eyes closed still, breathing in the scent of Taehyung’s hair. His shampoo smelled like strawberries. He smelled gentle and sweet. He smelled like Taehyung. 

 

“Because before that, I only drank black coffee,” he said softly. “Decaf, black. And it tasted bitter and gross, but everything around me felt bitter and gross, so I didn’t care.” He breathed deeply. “And then I met you. And you talked a mile a minute and you have stars in your fucking eyes, Tae. And your face lights up when you laugh, and you love the snow and you still believe in Santa and you’re so—so good . So kind and soft and good.” He swallowed. “And you drink caramel macchiatos. And you deserve someone who doesn’t like their coffee dark and bitter. You don’t deserve someone like me, Tae.”

 

Taehyung’s eyes were wet. “You’re so stupid if you think that,” he whispered. “I don’t care if you’re dark or bitter. I would’ve loved you no matter what. I do love you no matter what.”

 

He punctuated the statement by throwing his arms around Jungkook’s neck, pulling him into a tight hug and burying his face against his shoulder. 

 

“You’re so stupid, Kookie,” he whispered, voice shaking. “Just—just be honest with me. Please. I want to take care of you. I want you to trust me.”

 

Jungkook swallowed hard. “Tae,” he said softly. 

 

His soulmate looked at him, tears sparkling in the corners of his eyes. “ Please ,” he sniffed. “Just let me cuddle you and feed you soup. I know you hate bedrest. We are gonna go on two am dates to the park again, I promise. We’re going to do all of it. But—but we have to get through this part first, okay? We have to get through the medicine and the doctor’s visits, and I’m sorry , baby, I am. I wish I could make it so that you never have to see another doctor again. But I can’t. So just—just please.” He swallowed, eyes damp and voice shaking. “Meet me halfway.”

 

He lifted his hand, cupped Jungkook’s cheek. Jungkook closed his eyes. 

 

Taehyung sniffed again. “Promise me you’ll at least try,” he said quietly. 

 

Jungkook took a deep breath.

 

All at once, his mind flashed back to a few years ago. He remembered lying in bed, swaddled in a mass of blankets. He hadn’t been allowed to leave his room for weeks. There was an iv beside the bed that snaked into his wrist. A mass of uneaten meals decorated his dresser, and the entire room smelled like vomit and bile.

 

He opened his eyes, feeling all at once like he was going to throw up again. 

 

Taehyung was looking at him hopefully.

 

Jungkook swallowed, and he lifted a hand to brush at the elder’s bottom lip, trying to ignore the way his stomach was churning. 

 

“I promise,” he whispered.