Jungkook has never believed in soulmates.
Not since he was a child, not since before he learned to read and Minho from preschool said that his wrist had a bunch of zeroes on it, not since he saw his parents go from being in love one day to splitting up the next, not since he was forced to sit through story after story of his college friends finding their soulmates in hyper-romanticized encounters on the quad, not since he turned twenty-three and found himself working ten hours a day, wearing the little 00:00:00 on his wrist like a battle scar, constantly feeling so, so tired.
Not since he met Hoseok.
It’s another one of their early Saturday mornings. As usual, Jungkook wakes to find himself wrapped around Hoseok like a koala, leg hitched up over the elder’s hip. As usual, Hoseok is out cold, all wrapped up like a little duvet burrito, his eyelids fluttering their way through REM occasionally and his mouth open-jawed and slack. And, as usual, Jungkook’s gaze is caught somewhere between the rays of sunlight pouring in through the shitty blinds and the gentle curve of Hoseok’s nose, beautiful in its geometric simplicity.
It’s not the first time that they have shared a bed, and it won’t be the last. They have a tendency to share everything. Even their timers, Hoseok’s perpetually counting upwards, Jungkook’s perpetually zero, are perfectly aligned in their anomalousness.
Jungkook can’t resist bringing up a hand to brush through Hoseok’s hair, gently dragging his nails across his scalp. Now there’s something else that’s intrinsically them. Hoseok finds a kind of comfort in Jungkook’s reassuring hand threading through his hair that he can’t find anywhere else. Whenever he’s especially tired, he’ll crawl right up into Jungkook’s lap, pressing kisses against his neck and trying to nudge Jungkook’s hand towards his head, wordlessly whining for the younger to play with his hair.
We go together, they always say when either one or both of them are afraid. Because they simply do, and they both know it. After all, Hoseok is comforting and firm where Jungkook is insecure and afraid, and Jungkook is fun and supportive where Hoseok is frustrated and stressed out. They complement each other. They always have.
They’re not dating. Not exactly. Everyone always asks, and Jungkook always stutters through a response, not knowing how to explain what he and Hoseok are through something as hollow and fickle as words.
“T’hy’la,” Namjoon tells him once, while Jungkook’s busy wiping down the espresso machine over an hour after closing. Fuck their boss for not hiring more staff to run this place. For a small little coffee shop tucked away in the back alleys of Seoul, they get a lot of foot traffic, enough to warrant hiring at least one more person per shift. But the two of them have managed to handle most of the chores together when they’re on shift, and can usually trust Mina and Chaeyoung to find time between their after-hours stolen kisses to do the same.
Normally Jungkook and Namjoon just switch off on their daily chores, and that night it’s no different: tonight it’s Jungkook’s responsibility to clean out all the various machines, while Namjoon gets to take a break between mopping the floor and wiping down the tables to just sit on the counter, tallying the change from the register. When Namjoon breaks their sleepy silence, though, the younger looks up at him only to find him staring.
“What’s that?” Jungkook asks, the damp cloth in his hand dirty enough to warrant grabbing a new one. He bends down to look in the cabinet, only to find it completely empty. Chaeyoung must have forgotten to get the load out of the dryer. He heads to the back to check, and lo and behold the clean batch of towels are sitting at the bottom of the machine.
“You and Hoseok,” Namjoon says simply, as though that explains everything, husky voice loud enough to reach the back room where Jungkook is scooping the towels out into a little wicker basket.
Jungkook finishes his task in silence before carrying the load back to the front. Namjoon has yet to offer anything more, so finally Jungkook bites.
“What do you mean, ‘me and Hoseok?’” Jungkook raises quietly, kneeling down to arrange the towels neatly in the cabinet. Secretly, he’s happy that Chaeyoung forgot to do this; he loves folding the towels into little symmetrical squares and stacking them perfectly in the cabinet. The order and neatness reminds him of his apartment, his flat that he shares with Hoseok, where everything is always neat and proper thanks to the two of them. In fact, he loves folding these little pieces of fabric so much that part of him suspects that maybe Chaeyoung, insightful as ever, hadn’t ‘forgotten’ to put them away at all, but instead had left them for him, a small little gesture of support.
Jungkook treasures each of the relationships in his life. He finds love in the little notes Namjoon leaves for him in his apron pockets, in the hot chocolate Chaeyoung has ready for him on the counter during the mornings when they open together, in the tinkle of Mina’s laugh when he tells her a dad joke he stole from Seokjin. It’s what makes him skeptical of the whole notion of soulmates.
What right does the universe have to tell him who to love, and how to love them? Who does the universe think it is that it can create some dumb hierarchy, automatically invalidating any relationships that aren’t ‘official soulmate relationships’ and kicking them to an unspoken second tier? Why does anyone or anything else get to tell him what the people in his life mean to him?
He hates the soulmate system. Fuck a system that tries to determine the value of the relationships in your life for you. He’s proud of the black 00:00:00 on his wrist, a marker reminding him that soulmates don’t always find you and they don’t have to. It’s better than having some rando insert themselves into your life whenever they please, not giving a shit about what you might be going through at the time.
He doesn’t care. His life, despite the struggles and the exhaustion and the fleeting moments of creeping loneliness, is full. He’s happy. That much he can say with confidence.
He’s happy he doesn’t have a soulmate.
(Nevermind the matching lavender timestamps he sees on Chaeyoung and Mina’s wrists when they return to the counter after their breaks, giggling and slightly flushed. Nevermind the smile that blooms across Namjoon’s face while he’s elbow-deep in murky dishwater, flushing due to something sweet Yoongi said to him over facetime. Nevermind the light blue numbers framing the intertwined perpetuity of Jimin’s tiny pinky with Taehyung’s more substantial one when they saunter into the store in the early afternoons, attached even when they are both lost in their own worlds behind their respective laptop screens.)
Namjoon is quiet for a while, and in the time it takes for him to formulate his thoughts, Jungkook manages to shake himself from his own and neatly place all the clean towels back where they belong. He grabs a fresh one, dampens it in the sink, and gets back to work on the espresso machine.
Somewhere between wiping down the second and third steam pipe, he hears Namjoon speak up again.
“Well, you’re not exactly dating,” Namjoon says matter-of-factly. The words make Jungkook feel defensively proud. Or perhaps proudly defensive. He’s not quite sure which. Yeah, they’re not ‘dating.’ So what?
“Yeah, I know,” Jungkook snaps, trying and failing to sound nonchalant, the slight irritation edging into his tone. Namjoon looks at him apologetically.
“That’s not what I meant. I mean like, you can’t possibly be just dating,” Namjoon tries again, only to be met with Jungkook’s death stare.
“You know, for a writer, you’re terrible with words,” Jungkook deadpans, returning his focus to the espresso machine, trying to rub away the weird feeling settling in his chest.
“Fuck, nothing is coming out the right way. What I mean is, the word ‘dating’ wouldn’t ever suffice to describe you guys’ relationship, no matter what it is or at what stage it’s at. Like, it’s more than that. Probably even more than like, ‘soulmates.’ I dunno, you guys are just so damn close that it just feels like it has to be more than any one type of relationship word that currently exists, right?” Namjoon says, words coming slow, thoughtful, so as to not box Jungkook into anything.
“...Sure, you could say that,” Jungkook says hesitantly, thinking about Hoseok’s smile and his strange indigo timer, constantly counting upward. He knows in his heart that their kisses mean something, but more importantly he knows that their hugs mean more. Mean everything.
“Well, there’s this thing in Star Trek called t’hy’la, which is, like, Vulcan for some amalgamation of the words ‘friends,’ ‘brothers,’ ‘lovers,’ and anything in between. It means that like, these two people know each other in every single way that one person can know another. I think it’s really sweet, and it reminds me of you and Hoseok,” Namjoon punctuates his words with the quiet click of the register shutting before hopping down and grabbing a washcloth and cleaning fluid. “It’s just something silly I was thinking about, forget it.”
“Huh. I guess. Hey, no, thanks, hyung,” Jungkook blinks, flashing Namjoon a smile before returning to the task at hand, but his heart latches onto the word and refuses to let go.
Now, looking down at the little moles on Hoseok’s forehead, cheekbone, and upper lip, Jungkook believes it. His sexuality has always been a struggle for him, even now, but looking at Hoseok asleep in the morning light, he can say that he knows this one thing for sure. It’s silly, a made-up science fiction word, but it fits for them, filling in all the clunky little corners that English words simply couldn’t.
“T’hy’la,” he whispers quietly, pulling his fingers back from amidst Hoseok’s strands to rub a gentle thumb across the elder’s cheekbone. Hoseok mumbles something in his sleep and moves to roll over. Jungkook laughs softly and brings his lips close to Hoseok’s ear.
“Hyung, it’s time to wake up,” he says, a little louder now. “Hobi-hyung, come on, get up,” his words convincingly punctuated with a loud yawn.
This is always how it begins. Sometimes it ends with sleepy cuddles or kisses, sometimes it ends with Jungkook on the floor, hair disheveled and eyes wild after a rousing pillow fight, and sometimes it ends like this:
“Guk, baby, hyung doesn’t wanna get up right now,” Hoseok says, voice saccharine sweet, tinged with sleepiness and something else innately Hoseok.
“Okay,” Jungkook acquiesces awfully quickly, tucking his face into the crook of Hoseok’s neck and falling back asleep, his grin warm and his heart even warmer.
It always ends like this:
Later, when they’re eating burnt pancakes that Hoseok refused to let him throw away (because they don’t waste food, not in his house they don’t), Hoseok grins at him so brilliantly that it causes Jungkook to knock over the maple syrup container. Only a few drops manage to escape thanks to his quick reflexes, and he only wishes that his heart had the same recoil rate.
“Namjoon said we’re t’hy’la,” Jungkook mumbles around the pancake in his mouth, making the already foreign word truly sound like gibberish.
“Damn, I didn’t know Namjoon could be so rude,” Hoseok banters, gaze playful and tone light. “I’ll give him a stern speaking-to next time we meet.” Jungkook tries to swallow properly before giggling (lest he choke), and at least Hoseok is kind enough to offer him some milk to wash it down before he tries once more to explain.
“No, oh my gosh it’s not a bad thing, hyung, it’s like.” Jungkook stops abruptly, his mind catching up to his words and causing him to flush. He finds himself covering his face with his sticky syrup hands — he hadn’t thought ahead when he first spoke. He hadn’t realized that he was essentially signing himself up to confess to Hoseok.
“Well? I’m waiting… I need to know what Namjoon said to know if we need to have words or not,” Hoseok says sarcastically, the grin dancing across his lips volumes louder than his words.
“It’s like, this dumb thing in Star Trek,” Jungkook begins, trying to brush off the whole thing and hoping that the mention of a ‘nerdy franchise’ would veer Hoseok away.
No such luck.
“Oh, yeah, Namjoon loves that series, what did he say? Are we some freaky alien species in his eyes?”
“No! Well, actually, I’m not exactly sure, but like, he said there’s this word, t’hy’la —”
“T’hy’la? Is that how it’s pronounced?”
“Y-yeah, it is... Y’know, I’m kind of surprised you’re not making more fun of this.”
“Well, you brought it up, so it must be important to you,” Hoseok says earnestly, and Jungkook’s heart melts a little.
“W-well, yeah, it kinda is. It’s supposed to be like, some fusion of the words “friends” and “lovers” and “brothers” and like, every other kind of relationship that exists. All fused into one word. And it means, like, more than soulmates. Instead of implying that the world created you for each other, it means that in spite of the world doing its best, and entropy messing everything up, and all that stuff, we still ended up meeting, ended up together. Being together,” Jungkook explains, and he realizes retrospectively that his voice had grown quieter and quieter until the last two words were nothing more than a breath escaping his lips.
Hoseok stares at him, frozen. Fuck, Jungkook panics, I fucked up. But before he can do something stupid, the elder is already up and moving towards him. Without a word Hoseok climbs into his lap, Jungkook hastily adjusting to allow him to fit, wrapping his arms around Hoseok’s skinny frame.
“I choose you,” Hoseok says quietly, eyes boring into Jungkook’s without being intimidating at all, despite the fact that they’re close enough to be sharing breaths.
“What?” Jungkook whispers back, because he guesses they’re whispering now for some reason.
Hoseok snorts, teeth biting his lower lip as his mouth stretches into a smile.
“I choose you,” he repeats, voice brighter now, full of wonder, and louder, confidence surging through it where confusion had been before.
“Um, I guess, uh, I choose you too?” Jungkook replies, still whispering and entirely confused about what's going on.
“Good,” Hoseok says, before leaning forward and pressing a kiss to Jungkook’s forehead that warms him to his core. Suddenly Jungkook feels a searing heat at his wrist, near his mark, and he wriggles his arm out to look and-
It looks exactly the same.
It looks exactly the same, except. The edges are slowly turning lighter, first into a deep brown and then slowly lighter and lighter and before he realizes it, all six zeroes are bright red.
He looks up at Hoseok, squinting at him in confusion, a plethora of questions on his lips.
Then he remembers.
I choose you.
The warmth twists in his gut and he can’t help but grab Hoseok’s wrist too, delighted to see a matching crimson 00:00:00 there too. Their eyes meet for a moment before the two of them are moving closer to press a kiss to the other’s lips, mouths moving in tandem.
“Soulmates are stupid,” Hoseok says when they part, his eyes bright and kind and focused on Jungkook, only on Jungkook. Though the feeling is familiar, it still makes something in Jungkook’s heart tremble.
“Soulmates are stupid, and I choose you to be mine, so that works out splendidly, doesn’t it,” he continues, breaking into a grin that matches Jungkook’s scowl.
“Is that all it was, then? You’ve just always had the power to choose who your soulmate was?” Jungkook asks, not meaning to sound accusatory but hearing it in his words despite himself.
“No, stupid,” Hoseok says, smile unwavering. “It means that I found you before they did,” he gestures vaguely around the room, glances up at the sky.
“It means that we’re t’hy’la, like you said. We existed before them, and we’ll continue existing after them. In spite of them,” Hoseok explains, each word more confusing than the last, but Jungkook finds himself nodding along, somehow understanding what Hoseok is trying to convey despite the confusing words themselves.
“Fuck them,” Jungkook says quietly. “Fuck soulmates.”
“Yeah, fuck them. They didn’t find you for me. I found you for me. And I’m so glad I did.”
“This-this doesn’t change anything about us, right? Doesn’t change what we have or anything?” Jungkook asks hesitantly. He loves Hoseok, he knows he does, but it’s more than that. He doesn’t need anything else apart from Hoseok. He doesn’t want anything more from Hoseok, only wants more Hoseok. He tries to explain in so many words, but before he even gets halfway through Hoseok already understands, cutting him off.
“Of course it doesn’t change anything. All I’m saying is that I’m yours and you’re mine. And not because anyone else said so, but because I chose you, and you chose me. We chose each other,” Hoseok replies, his gaze fond and intent and wrapping Jungkook up in a warmth better than a hundred hugs.
A hundred hugs still sounds nice, though.
“Okay,” Jungkook agrees with a small smile on his lips. “Does this mean we can go back to bed now and cuddle and watch shitty reruns of Boys Over Flowers for the rest of the day?”
When Hoseok grabs his hand and drags them there without even stopping to put the dishes in the sink, that’s when Jungkook knows that Hoseok really loves him.