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in the eye of the beholder

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It starts with a pair of tweezers.

Jungkook doesn’t remember what exactly spurred it on, but he remembers contemplating doing the deed for a while before finally gathering the courage to finally do it. Puberty started to kick in for him at the ripe age of thirteen, and it brought a whole slew of things with it that made him feel less than stellar about himself — acne that no amount of facial cleansing could cure, weird dreams that made him feel icky in the morning, and most of all, the hair.

He’s always had hair on his arms and legs, obviously, and it didn’t bother him until it started to get a little darker, a little thicker. It started to grow under his arms and down there, which he was still trying to get used to. But, the most frustrating place he’d suddenly sprouted more unwanted hair was his eyebrows. They were okay before, but now? They just looked bushy, like there were two big worms on his face. He didn’t know how Seokjin, his older half-brother, managed to pull them off because they looked great on him, but Jungkook — he couldn’t stand them.

So, he did the only logical thing he could think of; swiped some tweezers and a compact mirror from his mother’s make-up bag, shut himself in his room, and began to pluck away.

It hurts way more than he’d expected it to, but after the first few hairs, he starts to get used to the pain. He doesn’t really know anything about shaping them, but he vaguely recalls what some models’ eyebrows looked like in his mom’s magazines — clean, sharp, and even. He could manage that. Maybe.

But, just when he feels like he’s getting the hang of it, he suddenly hears a short knock on his door; the knob’s turning before Jungkook can even think to react, mirror clutched tightly in his hand and tweezer held right up to his eyebrow and shit, shit, shit —

“Hey, Jungkook, Mom wants you to come down and help with…” Seokjin trails off, surprise coloring his features, “…dinner, whoa. Are you—?”

Panic immediately rises up in Jungkook’s throat. “It’s not what it looks like!” he nearly shrieks, voice cracking with the force of it. He quickly hides his hands behind his back, heart pounding in his chest as he scrambles to press himself against his headboard, looking every bit like a spooked animal. “I - I swear, hyung! It was just — I was just —”

“Hey, hey! Relax, Kook, I didn’t even say anything,” Seokjin says, alarmed, hands held up. He awkwardly shifts his weight between his feet at the door threshold. “Can I at least come in? I’ll shut the door.”

Slowly, Jungkook nods. Seokjin shoots him a small smile as he steps inside and closes the door, carefully taking a few steps towards the bed. His eyes flit briefly to the nightstand, where Jungkook laid a tissue to put the plucked hairs on. They’re all over it, dark little specks that incriminate him before he can come up with a decent lie. It’s obvious what he was doing.

He shuts his eyes and braces himself for the worst.

He tenses up when he feels the dip of Seokjin’s weight on the bed, the tips of the tweezers digging painfully into his palm. He shouldn’t have done this. He should’ve just kept hiding his eyebrows behind his fringe and dealt with it, should’ve just learned to like them. Seokjin must think he’s a freak, that he’s so weird because only girls do things like this and — and —

— and all Seokjin does is place his hand on Jungkook’s knee, voice so achingly gentle as he asks, “Can I see, Kook? Will you let me do that? Just a peek.”

And just like that, all the tension wound-up in Jungkook’s body crumbles to dust.

Not trusting his voice enough to speak, he just peers up at Seokjin’s face, warm and encouraging, and nods. He averts his eyes back down to his bedsheets as he feels Seokjin’s hand brush his fringe away from his face, tears welling up in his eyes for reasons he doesn’t quite understand, but doesn’t try to suppress. He just lets them fall, lips quivering as he moves his hands back into his lap, fingers unfurled, mirror and tweezers in plain view.

“Don’t tell Mom,” he whispers, feeling so painfully small.

Seokjin sighs a little, thumb brushing against his forehead. “I won’t. I promise,” he says, then smiles. “It looks like you took off too much in the middle, though. Want hyung to fix it?”

For some reason, this makes Jungkook just cry harder. He wasn’t going to tell. He wasn’t going to tell. More importantly, it sounded like — like he didn’t think this was a big deal. Like it was okay for him to do this.

Like Jungkook himself was okay, just the way he was.

“Hey, I won’t be able to do anything if you keep crying,” Seokjin teases lightly, wiping at Jungkook’s face with his sleeve. “Ugh, gross. You’re getting snot all over my clothes!”

That manages to pull a little laugh out of Jungkook. He sniffles and bats Seokjin’s hands away, rubbing at his eyes. “Sorry,” he mumbles, moving like he’s going to wipe it off on Seokjin’s shirt and really laughs when he squawks in response, leaning so far away he almost falls off the bed.

“You’re disgusting,” Seokjin scoffs, snatching the tweezers from Jungkook’s hand. “Now, hold your hair back and let me see what I’m doing before I change my mind.”

Jungkook does what he’s told without another peep. It hurts a little bit more when Seokjin does it — he likes to grab a lot of hairs at once because it’s quicker, Jungkook, you’ll thank me later — but when he brings Jungkook to the bathroom mirror to get a good look at his work, he almost cries again.

“How’d I do?” Seokjin asks, resting his chin on top of Jungkook’s head.

“It’s good,” Jungkook croaks out, unable to look away. There were still plenty of things he didn’t like — there’s a pimple the size of a mountain on his forehead, his nose was still too big for his face, his skin was still a little dull and rough — but his eyebrows, for once, were perfect. Clean, shaped with a slight arch, and even. Just perfect.

Finally, it felt like the outside was starting to match the inside.

 

-x-

 

At fifteen, Jungkook walks into an Innisfree on his own for the first time.

He’s supposed to be picking up a specific eyeshadow palette as a gift for his mother’s birthday, but even after he finds it with the help of an employee that wouldn’t stop cooing that he’s a cutie, going shopping for your mom in a place like this, you must be so lost, let me help you — he can’t stop himself from lingering in the store, curiously eyeing all the different kinds of makeup lining the shelves. There’s just so much. Lipsticks, lip glosses, eyeshadows, eyeliners, blush palettes, highlighters, foundation, concealer; it just goes on and on. He has no idea what you’re supposed to do with most of these things, but — that’s what experimenting is for, right?

Did u die in there, Seokjin texts him as he’s peering at the lipstick display. I finished my bubble tea ages ago and now the owner’s starting to give me the stink eye!! Also word of the wise - don’t chew on plastic straws, they don’t taste very good :(

Jungkook rolls his eyes and stuffs the palette under his arm to text back, chill out i’m almost done. And then, after a moment of hesitation, discretely snaps a photo of the lipsticks and sends it to Seokjin, asking, what do you think of these?

He doesn’t reply right away. Jungkook just stares at the screen, anxiously nibbling on his thumbnail as he waits. Maybe it was too much, too soon? Tweezing his eyebrows is one thing, but delving into makeup is an entirely different kind of beast. He knows, on some level, that Seokjin won’t start cussing at him and telling him to cut it out with this girly shit, Jungkook, it’s time you manned up a little — but the fear’s still there, niggling at the back of his mind.

The screen lights back up again with a new text. The third one on the right would look good on you, Seokjin says. Maybe the fourth too. Try both?

Jungkook lets out a breath he hadn’t even known he’d been holding, smiling wide enough to make his cheeks ache. He swipes up the two colors Seokjin picked out, pays with the money he’d lent him, and practically skips his way to the café where his brother’s waiting.

Later on, when Jungkook’s alone in the bathroom with the door locked behind him, he tries on both lipstick shades. One’s a soft coral pink, and the other’s a rosy nude. He needs a little more practice staying within the lines of his lips, but — as he tilts his face to the side, fusses with his hair a bit, he feels a surge of giddiness bubble up from his belly and settle in his chest, making him feel lighter than air.

Rosy nude is definitely his color.

 

-x-

 

As his mini-collection of makeup continues to grow, it gets harder and harder to hide what he’s been doing.

His mother finds the hidden shoebox where he’s been keeping all of it one day, when she insists that they need to go through Jungkook’s closet and donate the clothes he doesn’t wear anymore. He really, really can’t describe the sheer panic that coursed through his body when she pulled it out of the darkest corner right in front of his eyes, all blood draining from his face; he’s been alone at home with her for a couple years now, since Seokjin’s up in Seoul for college. He’s not here to protect Jungkook like he always does. He has to do this entirely on his own.

“Jungkook,” his mother starts, frowning down at the lipsticks, concealers, cushion foundations and mascaras piled up in there. She picks up a well-used tube of concealer and squints at it, like it’s completely alien to her. “Is this — what is this doing in your closet? Is this yours?”

He feels like he’s going to vomit.

“Yeah,” he says in the smallest voice possible, too scared to look her in the eye. His own mother. “It’s — it’s mine.”

“When… how did you get all this?”

Jungkook swallows thickly, wringing his hands together so tightly his fingers leave red streaks all over his skin. “I, um — S-Seokjin-hyung got me some of it, and the rest I bought with the money I make at the restaurant,” he says to his feet. “I don’t… I don’t wear it outside of the house, so if you’re worried about that then you shouldn’t—”

He hears his mother sigh. “Jungkook, honey, please look at me.”

Heart in his throat, he obeys and lifts his head. His mother’s looking right back at him, kind eyes weighed down with something like sadness. Not disgust, not anger, not hate. “How long have you been hiding this, Jungkook?” she asks, reaching out to gently cup his cheek.

Tears, hot and stinging, well up in his eyes. “A year,” he admits, terribly quiet. “Maybe a little more.”

His mother’s expression softens. “Why didn’t you tell me?” She brushes away the first tear that falls. “Were you scared? Is that it?”

Ashamed, Jungkook nods.

“Oh, honey,” she sighs, reaching around to guide him into a hug by the back of his neck. Jungkook immediately buries his face into the crook of her neck, though he has to bend down a bit to do it; he’s gotten so much taller than her recently, so much bigger — but right now he wishes he wasn’t, wishes he was small enough again for her to wrap herself around him completely. Encase him in that little bubble of warmth and special kind of love that only his mother can provide. “You shouldn’t have been. It’s only a little makeup, yeah? Harmless stuff.”

Jungkook fists his hands into her sweater, hiccups his way through a quiet, “Do you really mean that?”

“Of course I do,” she murmurs, softly brushing her fingers through his hair. “You know, I noticed the eyebrow thing a long time ago.” Jungkook tenses. “I was confused at first, and when I asked Seokjin about it, he just told me it’s just something you wanted to do. That it made you happier.” She pauses. “Does makeup make you happy, too?”

Jungkook doesn’t even need to think about it. “Yeah, it really does.”

Gently, she guides Jungkook away from her shoulder to look him properly in the eye. “Then that’s all I care about,” she says with a smile, kind and true. “And that’s all you should care about, too. Okay? Don’t be afraid to be yourself.”

It’s truly a wonder, how lucky Jungkook is to have such a supportive, loving family. There’s a thousand different ways this could’ve gone, each increasingly worse than the last; and there’s people out there, just like him, that do suffer through them. He doesn’t know why he’s the exception, will probably never know, but — he’s endlessly grateful for it.

“Thank you,” he manages to say in a shaky breath, quells the fresh wave of tears that threaten to spill over, and tries for a smile. It comes out wobbly and a little lopsided, but when his mother beams back at him, he knows she understands — the things he wants to say and the things he’s not ready to say, the things tumbling around in his heart he doesn’t quite know how to voice. Things that don’t have a name. That he could spend his entire life trying to put into words, but won’t.

They aren’t needed.

 

-x-

 

 

“This is all I could get you over there,” Taehyung says, dumping the contents of the Sephora bag all over Jungkook’s bed. “Why is everything so expensive in America?”

“Capitalism,” Jungkook answers flatly, earning himself a slap on the shoulder. He doesn’t even flinch, entirely fixated on sorting through all the makeup he’d begged Taehyung to get him while he was visiting family in New York — an Anastasia eyeshadow palette, Urban Decay eyeliners, Nyx liquid lipsticks, Nars concealer, and a few more cheap drugstore items. It’d cost him almost three paychecks worth of cash, but when he feels how buttery the Anastasia eyeshadows are as he swatches them on his arm, he can’t even give a crap about the money anymore. It was well spent.

“You should wear some of this to noraebang tonight,” Taehyung says idly, watching Jungkook paint his arms every color of the rainbow with amusement. He jostles Jungkook’s shoulder lightly, waggling his eyebrows. “Bet it would catch Hyunwoo’s attention.”

Jungkook scoffs, though the tips of his ears turn red. “He barely knows I exist,” he mumbles, turning to peer into the vanity mirror sitting on his nightstand. He taps at the base to light it up, twists open the Nyx liquid lipstick, and tries not to move his lips too much as he adds, “Even if he did, I doubt he’d be into — this.”

He sees Taehyung frown deeply in the reflection. “Stop doing that.”

“Doing what?”

“Talking about yourself like that. I don’t like it.” Taehyung waves a flippant hand. “Wearing a little lipstick and mascara outside isn’t gonna send people running for the hills, so why do you keep acting like it will?”

Jungkook sighs, capping the lipstick and wiping at the excess with his thumb. “You don’t get it, Tae, ‘cause you’re not the one wearing it.”

It’s a half-truth. Taehyung’s never expressed any interest in wearing any of Jungkook’s makeup for the past year they’ve been friends, but it’s not like he doesn’t know anything about being other. People don’t say it outright to his face, but it’s not hard to tell they think he’s — difficult. Hard to understand, because Taehyung’s so outrageously smart and his brain thinks at a speed thousands of miles ahead of what his mouth can communicate. Not many people spare any patience for him. They don’t give him a chance.

Jungkook’s really glad he did, because Taehyung’s become such a bright light in his life — but no matter how close they get, there’s some things he’ll never understand.

The weird looks Taehyung gets aren’t because people think his eyebrows are too shapely, too perfect; the whispers circling around him don’t sound like doesn’t he look too girly for a dude? Bet he’d be willing to go down on you like one, too. He doesn’t apply tinted lip balms in the morning, determined to finally go through with wearing it to school, only to lose his nerve on the walk over and angrily wipe it off before he even sees the gates. He doesn’t look himself in the mirror and wonder why why why he can’t bring himself to be the person he wants to be.

Courage is such a fleeting, fickle thing.

“You could put some on me if it’ll help,” Taehyung suddenly offers.

Jungkook almost gives himself whiplash from how quickly he turns his head around. “What?” he asks, baffled.

Taehyung shrugs. He gestures vaguely around his face. “Do whatever you want. It comes off pretty easily, right?”

Jungkook just shakes his head. “I don’t get it. Is this a joke?”

“Why would I joke about this?”

“You — when have you ever wanted to wear makeup?”

“Never,” Taehyung says, simple and succinct. Jungkook’s head spins. “I still don’t, not really. But, if it’ll give you that extra push to be confident enough to wear it yourself outside of the confines of this room, I’ll do it.” He tilts his head, smiling a little. “So, what do you think?”

Jungkook blinks, glancing down at all the makeup piled on his bed. It’d be nice, he thinks, to not feel so alone. “Okay,” he says, returning Taehyung’s grin with one of his own.

He doesn’t do anything crazy on Taehyung — just applies a little concealer to cover up his acne scars, pencils in his eyebrows a bit, and adds the slightest hint of eyeliner to elongate his eyelids. He gives Jungkook a big thumbs up when he gets a look at himself in the mirror, ooh-ing and ah-ing and gasping wow, I haven’t looked this awake in months! like he doesn’t sleep in until one o’clock on the weekends like every other teenager.

He opts to do more or less the same on himself, but adds the slightest touch of mascara and a subtle, nude creamy lipstick. Natural, but enough to catch someone’s eye if they’re really looking.

Someone like Hyunwoo, Jungkook thinks — hopes — with a flush.

 

-x-

 

Their little noraebang party ends up being an odd, mismatched sort of group, all of which Taehyung met through joining the astronomy club. There’s Kyungsung, one of the more outspoken girls in Jungkook’s year, unafraid to put both students and teachers in their place; Haeun, a quieter third-year that’ll go off on tangents if you mention anything about politics; and Hyunwoo, all dimpled smiles and boy-next-door charm, who’s unknowingly been the object of Jungkook’s affection for the past two months.

They’re all huddled together in a tiny room, voices echoing obnoxiously loud off the walls; Taehyung pointedly shoves Jungkook in the seat next to Hyunwoo, who just smiles at him good-naturedly and asks if he’d be cool with helping him order food and drinks while the other three start searching through the song list. Jungkook barely stutters his way through a yes before Hyunwoo grins and leans closer into his space, menu in hand.

“I was thinking of ddeokbokki and taiyaki to start off with,” Hyunwoo murmurs, pointing them out with his finger; Jungkook numbly nods along, goosebumps prickling all over his arms when their shoulders accidentally brush; Hyunwoo looks up then, so achingly close, and it’s all Jungkook can do to keep his eyes from drifting to Hyunwoo’s lips when he asks, “Do you like cola? We could order a pitcher for everyone.”

“Yeah! Sure thing,” Jungkook says, hoping his voice doesn’t come out as shaky as he thinks it does. He juts a thumb over his shoulder towards Taehyung. “Hyung loves cola. Like, practically lives off the stuff. It’s amazing.”

Hyunwoo laughs lightly, and Jungkook’s heart sings. “Me too, actually. My mom’s always nagging me about how bad it is for you, but it’s just so good, y’know?” He sighs. “What else am I gonna drink instead? Milk?

Jungkook would happily drink his own weight in banana milk, but he’s not about to admit that. “God, no. Sounds terrible,” he says, smile bunching up his cheeks.

“Right?” Hyunwoo grins, leaning back a bit as he seems to consider Jungkook, like — like he’s finally seeing him for the first time. Jungkook’s pulse races beneath his skin. “Hey, aren’t you —”

“Hey, lovebirds!” Kyungsung suddenly yells, startling them apart. There’s a finger placed over her frowning lips. “Quiet in the peanut gallery, we’re gonna start!”

Jungkook clamps his mouth shut, wide eyes shifting over to Taehyung, who just winks at him and gives him a subtle thumbs up before he turns his attention back to the TV screen. Heat creeps up the back of Jungkook’s neck, burning like fire; Hyunwoo just throws him a sheepish smile when he looks over at him, lifting his shoulder in a half-shrug as if to say, what can you do?

Jungkook just blinks at him. He’s not trying to deny it. Why isn’t he denying it?

“I’m gonna go put the order in,” Hyunwoo says, low enough for only Jungkook to hear. He quickly slides out of the booth and slips out of the door, quiet as a ghost. Jungkook just watches him go, completely unbothered by Taehyung’s shrieking reverberating painfully in his eardrums.

He didn’t deny it.

Jungkook exhales sharply, hands reaching up to cover his reddened ears as he curls a bit into himself, heart galloping beneath his ribs. This is fine. Totally fine. He doesn’t want to get his hopes up — he and Hyunwoo are pretty much strangers, acquaintances at best — but he didn’t deny it.

There’s been rumors that, although Hyunwoo does receive confessions from girls here and there, he always turns them down. He doesn’t even take much time to think about it, but he isn’t cruel about it; just tells them he’s not interested, but hopes that they’ll find someone to return their feelings soon. People who take things at face-value just attribute it to Hyunwoo’s dedication to his studies, determined to do as much as he can to get into a good university — but people like Jungkook, who pay closer attention out of necessity, know better.

It’s still just a hunch, though. A hunch that feels like it’s getting closer and closer to an answer.

Taehyung, Kyungsung and Haeun are doing a riveting rendition of Growl when Hyunwoo comes back in, clutching the promised pitcher of cola in one hand and five stacked glasses with the other. He carefully sets them down on the table and plops back down next to Jungkook, amused smile pulling at his lips as he watches the chaos unfold. “Man, they’re really going at it. They should audition for an idol company.”

Jungkook snorts lightly, briefly squeezing his eyes shut when Haeun’s voice breaks on a high note. “You sure about that?”

Hyunwoo smirks and pulls out a cup to start pouring out the cola. “Why not? I like their dedication to the art. I bet they’d be pretty hard to forget.” He smiles when Jungkook laughs and slides the glass over. “Here, take the first one.”

“Oh.” Jungkook hurries to take a sip and bows his head slightly. “Thank you, hyung.”

Hyunwoo’s eyes linger on the rim of the glass, where there’s a slight smudge of lipstick left behind. Jungkook’s hands tighten around his knees, anxiety rippling through him in waves — but Hyunwoo just looks back at him, eyes bright as he says, “No problem, Kook.”

Oh, so now he’s earned himself a nickname. Wonderful! The room is absolutely not on fire and Jungkook is fine.

The rest of the night goes fine, too. Taehyung starts stealing the spotlight with his extensive knowledge of trot songs, but Kyungsung pulls Jungkook aside to sing a few duets with her, which leaves everyone a little slack-jawed because according to Hyunwoo, he’s been hiding the fact that he’s got the voice of an angel. That gets a bunch of obnoxious ooh’s that leave both of them flustered, flushing all the way up to their hairlines, and if Jungkook has to excuse himself to the bathroom just to scream into his hands, well. No one needs to know that.

The turning point comes when they’re all parting ways for the night, bidding each other goodbye. Kyungsung and Haeun head off to catch the train, and Taehyung, realizing that this is the perfect opportunity for him to be good wingman, announces that he’s walking back home with a wink and wide smirk to match.

Which leaves Jungkook and Hyunwoo to wait for the bus, all alone.

It’s a little awkward, honestly. They’re not talking, but the air between them is charged with something, sparking each time they accidentally catch each other’s eyes with every attempt at not-so-discreet glances. Jungkook’s palms sweat in his jacket pockets, throat bone-dry. He shouldn’t expect anything. This wasn’t — it was just a friendly get-together. It’s not like — like —

“I had a good time tonight,” Hyunwoo murmurs, breaking the silence. A car passes by then, headlights illuminating his smiling face and all its boyish beauty, and Jungkook feels his heart thump heavily with yearning. “Thanks for coming out, Kook. I’m glad Taehyung invited you.”

Jungkook grins, shyly averting his eyes to the ground. “Me, too.”

It’s quiet for a moment, and then Hyunwoo’s sneakers scrape against the concrete, the tips of his beat-up converse move into Jungkook’s field of vision. It prompts him to look up, and when he does — Hyunwoo’s eyes are zeroed in on his lips, hands reaching out to cup Jungkook’s face, and he doesn’t even have a second to think before Hyunwoo’s leaning in and he goes a little cross-eyed before he remembers people are supposed to close their eyes when they kiss.

It’s chaste, barely five seconds long, but it hardly matters. Jungkook’s head floats up to the clouds at the warm, gentle press of Hyunwoo’s lips against his, fingers gripped tightly around the front of his jacket, hesitant to pull him closer. He doesn’t get to because Hyunwoo’s pulling away a second later, just enough to look Jungkook in the eye.

There’s something so soft in his expression, something close to adoration that melts Jungkook’s bones to mush. “So pretty,” he whispers, thumb brushing against the apple of Jungkook’s cheek. “Just like a girl.”

Jungkook freezes.

Hyunwoo leans in for another kiss, but Jungkook pushes a hand against his chest and takes a step back. His voice sounds markedly cold, foreign to his own ears as he asks, “What did you just say?”

Hyunwoo blinks, confused. “You’re pretty. Y’know, like girls are,” he says, like he doesn’t understand what the problem is. He wipes at his own lips and holds up his finger for Jungkook to see. “You’re even wearing lipstick. Girls’ stuff.”

“I’m not a girl,” Jungkook says tersely, all of that previous warmth quickly leaving his body like it’s been sucked clean out of him. “Wearing lipstick doesn’t make me a fucking girl.”

“Okay, whoa, slow down a little. Why are you getting so upset? It’s a compliment —”

“No it’s not!” Jungkook shouts, shoving at Hyunwoo’s chest as hard as he can, making him stumble back into the glass of the bus shelter behind him. He’s looking at Jungkook like he’s gone crazy, but he hasn’t. Not in the slightest. “I don’t — I’m not wearing this stuff to be like a girl, I’m wearing it for me! Not for you or whatever stupid fucking ideas you have about boys in makeup —”

“I didn’t even say anything about that!”

Jungkook almost laughs. “Yes, you did,” he spits out, turns on his heel and promptly walks away.

His bottom lip begins to shake before he even makes it to the end of the block, vision blurring as the tears begin to well up. He’d been so stupid. So fucking stupid to believe someone would understand, that they’d actually like him for him and not the idea of him. This is what he gets for putting his faith in people, for thinking that they’d be just as good as his family and Taehyung, that he could feel safe being himself with them. So much for that.

So much for his first kiss, too.

He storms to his room as soon as he gets home, ignoring his mother’s worried calls of his name, and rips open his pack of makeup wipes to start scrubbing it all off. His skin is red and irritated by the time he throws the used wipes in the trash, tender to the touch and rubbed raw; in the mirror, he catches the sight of all his new makeup sitting innocently on his nightstand, the very same he worked an entire month to afford.

He gathers it all up in his arms, tosses it in the shoebox he used to keep all his makeup in, and kicks it underneath his bed.

 

-x-

 

It takes a long time before Jungkook can even look at makeup again. It takes an even longer time before he, against his better judgment, packs it all up and brings it with him to college up in Seoul. 

He keeps it shoved in the deepest, darkest corner of his tiny closet, safe from the prying eyes of his roommate. Namjoon’s a nice enough guy, and though he doesn’t strike Jungkook as the kind of person to be nosy and invasive, he doesn’t want to take any risks. He’d decided long ago that he’d be in complete control of who gets to know this part of him — nothing more, nothing less. Maybe one day he’ll eventually trust Namjoon enough to show him, but given that they’ve only known each other for a solid two weeks, it’s a hard pass for now.

Even so, Jungkook misses it. He misses the excitement he’d felt when he tried on new products, swiped swatches of brand-new eyeshadows on his arm, applied that first coat of cherry-red liquid lipstick — all things he hasn’t done in months. It feels like — a part of him is missing, somehow. Not something as big as a limb, maybe, but it’s the smaller things that hurt the most. The things you can’t even see.

The things that you do to yourself.

That’s probably what gets Jungkook to pull out his makeup bag, like a man possessed, the second Namjoon leaves for his afternoon classes. He slowly zips it open on his lap, pulls back the flap, and takes a second to just look over everything. It takes a little bit of digging, but he manages to pull out his first lipstick out of the mess — the Innisfree nude he’d bought ages ago and should’ve thrown out by now, but hasn’t. It’s a little beat up, chipped and used up almost down to the base, but Jungkook remembers how happy he’d felt when he put it on and saw his reflection in the mirror, and suddenly he can’t remember why he’s been denying himself this, anymore.

He’s tired of the small hurts.

Taking a deep breath, he moves to flick on his desk lamp and scoots himself closer to the mirror right beside it. He uses an old bandana to push his hair away from his face, unwraps his roll of brushes, and sets to work. It’s not full-glam, but something close; neutral shadows, a natural-ish set of lashes, sculpted brows and enough highlighter for a decent glow. The Innisfree lipstick is beyond expired, but he finds a similar shade from etude house and swipes it on before he lets his hair down, lets himself see the person he hasn’t allowed himself to be for months.

His cheeks hurt from how hard he’s smiling.

“You’re in a good mood,” Namjoon idly comments later that evening, when everything’s all washed off and safely tucked away. Jungkook just shrugs where he’s perched on his bed, softly humming under his breath while he does homework. “I didn’t know you could sing.”

Jungkook looks up then, lips quirked in an embarrassed smile. “Uh, yeah. Just a little bit, though. It’s nothing special.”

Namjoon just shakes his head and sits up straighter at his desk. “No, you’re good. Really good. You said you aren’t majoring in music?” Jungkook shakes his head. “Well, that’s a shame. You’re better than some of the people in my classes.”

“I seriously doubt that.”

“It’s true!” Namjoon insists. He tilts his head slightly. “Hey, d’you think you’d mind me sampling your voice for a couple tracks this semester? Only if you want to. It’s just — I have a few ideas for some songs and I think you’d be a good fit.”

Jungkook blinks. “Oh, I couldn’t — I’m just an amateur, I’ve never even —”

“That’s totally fine! I’ve had my boyfriend sing for some of my stuff before and trust me, he’s no Beyoncé either.”

Hold on a second. “Boyfriend?” Jungkook echoes, eyebrows shooting up to his hairline.

Namjoon’s smile turns a bit more hesitant. “Um, yeah. His name’s Hoseok. He’s in the dance program here. We’ve been together for three years,” he says, scratching at the side of his neck. “That’s… this isn’t going to be a problem, is it?”

Blaring alarms go off in Jungkook’s head. “No! Not at all!” he hurries to say, shaking his head furiously. He points to himself, flustered as he tries to explain, “I just, um — me, too.”

Surprise colors Namjoon’s expression. “You have a boyfriend, too?” he asks, smile returning full-force.

Jungkook’s face flushes. “No, but I’m — y’know. Not straight.”

“Oh!” Namjoon laughs. “Okay, cool!” His eyes seem to sparkle. “That’s a relief. Hoseok kept trying to convince me to move in with him and his friend in their apartment, but living on campus made a lot more sense for me, so I didn’t. And singles are crazy expensive, so I was really hoping they’d give me a good roommate.”

Jungkook smiles down at his hands, shy but pleased. Things were finally starting to look up. He’s not the best at making friends, and now that Seokjin’s busy with work and Taehyung’s still down in Busan, he’s just been — well, lonely. Lonesome, more like.

Maybe he doesn’t have to be, anymore.

“I don’t know, hyung. You still complain that I play my music too loud and my strawberry milk takes up most of the fridge,” Jungkook sighs, pouting a bit and feigning dejection.

Namjoon snorts. “Yeah, ‘cause who puts a bluetooth speaker right up to their ear to listen to music instead of, I don’t know, buying a pair of headphones?”

“The bass sounds way better!” Jungkook protests, indignant.

Namjoon just shakes his head, laughing to himself. “Listen, I’ll make a deal with you. Let me use your voice for a song and I’ll get you some earbuds with decent bass. Cool?”

Jungkook hums, scratching at his chin as he pretends to think it over. “Okay, fine,” he concedes, smiling at Namjoon’s little victory fist pump. “But the strawberry milk is non-negotiable. You’re just gonna have to find another spot for your tea or cram it in there.”

Namjoon just hangs his head in defeat.

 

-x-

 

Taehyung’s the one who first brings up the idea of YouTube.

“Have you ever head of Pony Makeup?” he asks one night over facetime while he’s stuffing his mouth full of ramen. Jungkook makes a face when he smacks his lips a little too close to the headphone mic. “Apparently she’s a super popular beauty guru on YouTube or something.”

“I’ve heard of her,” Jungkook says with a shrug, resting his phone on the small ledge next to his bed. “Never seen one of her videos, though.”

“You should check them out. Her tutorials seem pretty good, easy to follow,” Taehyung says before he slurps up some more noodles. He chews for a moment, and then — he slows down, eyes widening and chopsticks going slack in his hands like a lightbulb’s just gone off in his head. “Hey, why don’t you do something like that? It’d be so cool!”

Jungkook frowns. “Do what? Makeup tutorials?”

“No, film yourself watching paint dry.” Taehyung rolls his eyes. “Yes, dummy, makeup tutorials! You’re really good at that stuff and there’s like, barely any guys I’ve seen doing these videos. There’s definitely a spot in there for you.”

Jungkook stares at his pixelated form on the screen. “Uh, have you completely forgotten the Hyunwoo incident? There’s no way I’m putting myself out there to be fucking ridiculed and made out to be something that I’m not. Forget it.”

Taehyung purses his lips and holds up a finger. “First of all, Hyunwoo was a dick and he’s old-old news. Like, an amoeba on the big petri dish of your life. He doesn’t matter anymore, so I’m not sure why you’re still acting like he does.” He puts up a second finger. “Second of all, who the fuck cares what people think of you? As long as you know who you are and you’re happy with it, then nothing else matters. People’s opinions don’t matter. You gotta stop letting other people dictate how you live your life, Jungkook. Just be yourself.”

Easier said than done, like all things with Taehyung. Even though he has a point. Several points, in fact. “I don’t know, hyung,” Jungkook sighs, rubbing tiredly at his eyes.

“I know it’s scary, and I know you’re still afraid to wear it around people, but, like — this doesn’t have to be like that. This could be your safe space,” Taehyung says, insistent. “Just think about it. I want you to be happy again, Kook.”

Jungkook mouth twists, averting his eyes from the screen. He can feel that all-too-familiar lump forming in his throat. “I’m fine, hyung. Seriously. You don’t need to keep worrying about me so much.”

He hears Taehyung sigh. “But I didn’t say fine, Jungkook. I said happy.”

He knows that. He knows, but — he’s been okay with being fine for a long time. Fine is good. Fine doesn’t have any risks attached, doesn’t have him second-guessing himself at every turn. Fine is comfortable.

But fine isn’t what he really wants.

He lays in bed thinking about it all night, long after he’s hung up with Taehyung. There’s a lot of layers to peel back here, a lot of things he still needs to work through on his own, but — this is an opportunity, he realizes. It may be his only opportunity to express himself freely in a way he still isn’t quite ready for in his actual life. He could, eventually, decide that this is a mistake, that he’s way in over his head and that YouTube isn’t meant for him, but — he won’t know that until he actually gives it a try. And it’s worth a try, he thinks.

He owes that much to himself, at least.

Jungkook [23:16]

hey uh weird question

how crazy would u think i am if i said i wanted to start a youtube channel

for makeup

Big Doofus Seok [23:19]

just one question

do you want to borrow my DSLR or do i gotta cough up enough money to get one for you

shits not cheap!

 Jungkook [23:25]

um

havent thought that far

i was just gonna use my phone? 

Big Doofus Seok [23:26]

oh no no NO

you will not be putting 360p quality content on the internet

this is not periscope jungkook

we are men of taste 

Jungkook [23:29]

thats not what u said when u streamed taemin’s concerts on that thing

Big Doofus Seok [23:30]

i have no recollection of the hypothetical incident in question

do you want the big boy camera or nah 

Jungkook [23:30]

ok fine

but u have to help me idk what im doing

Big Doofus Seok [23:31]

say no more my son

i got you 

Jungkook [23:31]

im your brother

Big Doofus Seok [23:31]

its called a JOKE jungkook

god

mom and i failed you

Jungkook [23:31]

-__-

 

Jungkook [23:40]

thank u hyung

Big Doofus Seok [23:42]

<3

 

-x-

 

Filming his first video is absolutely nerve-wracking.

It helps that Seokjin’s there for moral support, talking with him and throwing in stupid jokes to lighten the mood, get Jungkook to loosen up a little on camera. He’s really stiff and awkward the first few takes for the intro, but it gets a little easier each time; eventually, his smile doesn’t feel as forced and his words start flowing together more naturally, tone shifting into something more casual, as if he’s just talking to a friend.

He goes with a simple fall-themed look, all mauve purples and pinks, winged liner and a nude lip. His natural hair’s looking a little broomstick-esque, so he whips out the blowdryer and curls it a bit at the ends, sweeps it away from his face. It kinda pulls everything together, and when he peers at himself in the mirror, he looks — good. Really good. Maybe. Probably?

“How’s it look, hyung?” Jungkook asks, fussing a bit with his part as he glances between the viewfinder and Seokjin lounging on his bed. “It’s not too much, right?”

Seokjin just smiles, wide and warm and tinged with something like pride. “Nope, not at all. You look beautiful, Jungkook.”

Relief washes over him like summer-rain soaking him down to the bone. “Thanks,” he mumbles, shooting a shy smile back at him.

He edits it that night and, with an excessive amount of encouragement from Seokjin and Taehyung, uploads it the next day. His heart almost beats right out of his chest when he hits the Publish button, nerves making his skin crawl — he exits the tab the second he sees the confirmation, throws his laptop shut and kicks it to the farthest end of his bed. Namjoon gives him a weird look from his desk, but doesn’t question it.

He doesn’t check his channel for the next two weeks. Instead, he focuses on splitting his time between schoolwork, hanging out with Seokjin at his apartment across the city, and helping Namjoon with his music at the studio on campus. It’s there that he finally gets to meet Hoseok, the ever-elusive boyfriend; he’s a little bit like magic, and somehow, he gets Jungkook to open up like daisies in bloom within minutes of knowing each other. It’s amazing to see how he and Namjoon revolve around each other so easily, so effortlessly in a way only years of love and patience can do.

Jungkook wonders if he’ll have that one day, too.

 

-x-

 

This isn’t real, Jungkook thinks when he finally gathers the courage to check his channel notifications after another week. There’s no way this is real.

But the numbers stand in front of him, tried and true: two-thousand views on his video and counting. Three hundred likes. Comment after comment complimenting him on his makeup, his skill, his bunny-like smile and moony eyes. The accent curving his words, the earnest air he gives off.

People actually liked it. Liked him.

There’s inevitably some nasty, unhappy people in the mix, but Jungkook deletes those comments before he gives them enough power to hurt him. He won’t allow that, not anymore. Not when he’s spent the better half of the year doing it to himself.

So, he decides to make another video. Then another, and another — and the support he receives just grows and grows, like dandelions popping up everywhere after a rainstorm, and Jungkook can’t remember a time when he’d ever felt this free. Untethered and weightless.

Happy.

 

-x-

 

“I don’t think that’s how you’re supposed to feed them, Jungkook.”

Jungkook barely spares Namjoon a glance, tears off another big chunk of bread from the loaf and tosses it towards the little family of ducks swimming around the pond they’re lounging at. “They’re gobbling it all up anyway, hyung. Look! That one just swallowed an entire piece whole!”

Namjoon scrunches up his face. “Uh, yeah, ‘cause it’s afraid all the other ones will steal it. Poor thing’s gonna choke.” He sighs when Jungkook throws another huge piece into the water. “You’re not even listening to me.”

“Not even a little bit,” Jungkook teases, snickering when Namjoon kicks lightly at his thigh.

They’re waiting outside the theatre building for Hoseok to get out of practice, which frankly is taking an offensively long time. The three of them are supposed to be grabbing an early dinner together, but Hoseok texted Namjoon an hour ago about bringing his roommate along last-minute, so now they’re waiting on him, too. Apparently he’s also in the dance program and his practices usually end around the same time as Hoseok’s, so why not? Namjoon assured Jungkook that he was cool, and Hoseok’s spoken of him pretty fondly before, so. He can’t be too bad.

At least, Jungkook hopes so.

“Oh, there he is,” Namjoon says, perking up suddenly. He strains his neck to peer over Jungkook’s head and waves with both arms, dimples flashing with his smile. “Hobi, Jiminie! Over here!”

Jungkook tosses the last chunk of bread as he glances over his shoulder, watching as a ruffled Hoseok jogs his way over to them with a huge smile on his face. He dumps his bag on the grass and bends down to engulf Namjoon in a tight backhug, pressing obnoxiously loud kisses to his cheek despite Namjoon’s complaints that it’s too wet, ‘Seok!

“‘Sup, Kook,” Hoseok chirps once he’s done accosting Namjoon. His eyes trail to empty paper bag in Jungkook’s hand to the ducks plucking at the floating bits of bread. “Uh… aren’t those pieces too big for them? They’re, like, all tiny little ducklings.”

“That’s what I said!” Namjoon laughs. Hoseok just makes an exaggerated look of awe, gesturing between their heads in amazement.

“They’re fine,” Jungkook groans, pushing his fringe out of his face. A pair of beat-up sneakers enters his peripheral vision then, prompting Jungkook to look up; Hoseok’s sweaty, disheveled, red-cheeked roommate stares back at him with an awkward smile on his lips. He’s fidgeting a little, shifting his weight back and forth between his feet, fingers clutched tightly around the strap of his duffel bag.

Jungkook just tilts his head, curious. Roommate coughs and glances away.

Hoseok, luckily, catches on and saves them before it gets too awkward. He lets go of Namjoon and stands back up, moving to throw an arm around Roommate’s shoulders. “Jungkook, this is my roommate, Jimin. He’s a fellow dancer and avid viewer of trashy reality TV.”

“It’s not trashy,” Jimin grumps, lips thinning when Hoseok just gives him a Look. “Okay, maybe it is, but it’s entertaining! You just get addicted, okay?” He turns back to Jungkook and shoots him another hesitant smile. “Nice to meet you.”

“Yeah, you too,” Jungkook says, frowning a bit in confusion.

That was weird. The whole dinner goes a little weird — Jimin gets along swimmingly with Namjoon and Hoseok, but when he tries to make small talk with Jungkook, the conversation just sort of… fizzles out. It doesn’t really get farther than asking him where he’s from, what he’s studying and how he’s adjusting to college life. There’s pregnant pauses and stilted sentences that end up going nowhere. Eventually, Jungkook turns his attention towards pushing his leftover food around on his plate, and Jimin just stops trying.

It’s okay, he tells himself. Some people just don’t click and that’s alright. It’s fine. Not the end of the world.

It doesn’t help the slight disappointment that still settles in his stomach, though. It’s just — it would’ve been nice, to have another friend.

“Hey, um,” Namjoon starts, pulling him aside when they’re stepping back outside at the end of the night. Jungkook internally sighs; he already knows what’s coming. “Would you mind maybe hanging out here for another hour or so? Hoseok wants to come over and possibly stay the night, if that’s cool with you.”

Jungkook gnaws at his bottom lip, glancing over his shoulder to where Hoseok and Jimin are joking around. “You really can’t just go over to his place?” he asks, figuring he’d just try his luck.

Namjoon has the decency to look apologetic, at least. “We would, but Jimin’s been taking the brunt of — well, you know,” he mumbles, cheeks reddening. “Hoseok feels really bad about it, so we’re switching it up. I promise we won’t be too long.”

Jungkook sighs, shoulders drooping in defeat. “Fine. You owe me though, hyung. Two bowls of jjajangmyeon the next time we order out.”

“Deal,” Namjoon grins, patting Jungkook on the shoulder before he turns to gather Hoseok and bid Jimin goodnight. They both laugh when Jimin does a happy little wiggle-dance upon hearing the news and, with one last smile and hair-ruffle from Hoseok, they’re off to the dorms hand-in-hand.

Which leaves Jungkook completely alone with Jimin.

“Sorry about this,” Jimin starts, smiling sheepishly as he scratches at the nape of his neck. “I might’ve complained to Hoseok last week about it — y’know, the lack of sleep and getting kicked out all the time — so you’re getting the short end of the stick now. My bad.”

Jungkook shrugs, shoving his hands into his pockets. He doesn’t know what to do with them. “It’s fine. It was bound to happen eventually, I guess.”

“Yeah, probably.”

Another awkward silence falls over them. Jungkook digs his nails into his thighs.

Jimin clears his throat. “So, are you just gonna hang out around here, or…?”

He was actually considering heading over to Myeongdong, maybe check out Lotte’s new line of lipsticks and pick some up to try on for his channel. His viewers have been asking for more first-impression kind of videos, but Jungkook hasn’t found much time for filming something more substantial than a few simple vlogs with Seokjin. Exams made sure of that.

He can’t tell Jimin this, though. Obviously.

“No, I was thinking of just grabbing some chicken and heading down to the river. Chill out there,” Jungkook mumbles. An innocent little white-lie.

Jimin just starts laughing. Genuine, throaty laughter. “You can still eat?” he asks, incredulous.

Jungkook blinks, can’t help himself from smiling a little at Jimin’s giggles. “Yes? There’s always room for chicken, Jimin-ssi.”

“Incredible. Your stomach is officially the eighth wonder of the world,” Jimin snickers. His eyes shine underneath the glow of the city lights, cheeks bunched up with the curve of his full-lipped smile. Beautiful. Jungkook wonders how he hadn’t noticed it before. “You can call me hyung, by the way. I - I know it’s been kind of weird between us and I’m usually a lot better with people, but I was just… I don’t know, kinda nervous earlier. Sorry.”

“Nervous?” Jungkook echoes, eyebrows lifting up. “Why?”

Jimin’s grin turns a little shy, eyes flitting away for a moment. “C’mon, Jungkook. Don’t make me spell it out for you.”

Tumbleweeds drift by in Jungkook’s brain. “Hyung, I’m really not following.”

Jimin huffs out a small laugh, running a hand through his dark hair. “Well, I mean, just — look at you,” he says through a sigh, gesturing his other hand towards Jungkook. And then, in a quieter, wistful sort of voice, “You’re gorgeous, Jungkook.”

Oh. Oh.

Heat, swift and unbidden, crawls up Jungkook’s neck to the tips of his ears. That’s — unexpected, to say the least, but it makes sense. The hesitancy, the tip-toeing, the awkwardness. Shyness mistaken for disinterest. It’d been so long since Jungkook’s had a crush that he’d forgotten, somehow, what one looks like reflected towards him.

“Oh, I — um, thank you,” he mumbles through a sheepish smile, scratching behind his flaming-hot ear. How is he supposed to respond? He doesn’t even remember. Shouldn’t he say something to compliment Jimin back? It’d be pretty rude not to. Maybe. It’s not like he owes Jimin anything, but he is extremely easy on the eyes, so, like —

“You’re thinking way too hard about this,” Jimin cuts in through a laugh. “Relax. I’m not expecting anything, I just… wanted to tell you, that’s all.”

“Oh,” Jungkook breathes out. He pauses for a moment, lets his eyes drift over Jimin’s open face. It’s just a small, vague feeling he has, but — he gets the sense that there’s still something to work with, here. That, maybe, they haven’t even begun to scratch the surface. “Hyung. Do you want to come with me? To the river. If — if you have time, obviously.”

Jimin lights up like a kid on Christmas morning. “Yeah, I’d love to. As long as you’re treating!”

He takes off down the street before Jungkook even has the chance to protest, laughter tinkling through the air when he turns back around at the end of the block. He almost walks backwards into a trash can, trips over his own heels when he avoids it at the last second, and barely catches himself before he face-plants into the sidewalk.

Jungkook just shakes his head, smiling to himself as he follows after him.

 

-x-

 

It’s slow-going, this… thing they have.

It’s mostly unspoken, but undeniably there. Jimin doesn’t make any moves, doesn’t treat him any differently than he does Namjoon or Hoseok, really — but Jungkook can feel the lingering stares. Catches him, sometimes, when they’re all hanging out at the studio with Namjoon to help him with his music or just to unwind; he’ll look up from his lyric sheet and find Jimin staring back at him across the room, open and unabashed. He doesn’t immediately duck his head, doesn’t pretend like he wasn’t looking — just meets his eyes evenly, offers him a secretive little smile, and nudges his chin towards him as if to say, don’t let me distract you.

It flusters him more than he’d like to admit.

There’s still a certain sense of distance, though. Jungkook likes Jimin well enough, and they’re getting along better than they did before, but… how are you supposed to act around someone that’s clearly interested in you, and you’re just — unsure? It’s not like he’s being pressured, and he’d be lying if he said he wasn’t attracted to Jimin, but he still feels the need to be — careful. With what he says, what he allows Jimin to know. Because while he might be over what happened in the past, there’s some things that were taken from him that he’s still fighting to get back. His trust, his vulnerability. Letting people get close enough to see all sides of him.

He’ll get there, one day.

“What’s that?” Jimin asks from somewhere above him; he’s pointing at the small canon g7x sitting beside him on the floor of the dance studio. He and Hoseok have been practicing for the past hour Jungkook’s been here, hanging in the back to kill time between classes. “Is that yours?”

Jungkook stares at him blankly for a moment, distracted by the gleam of sweat dripping down his neck as he bends down to pick up his water. “Uh, yeah, I — it was a birthday gift from my brother.”

Jimin nods as he takes a long swig of his water, wiping at his mouth with the back of his hand. He briefly glances over to where Hoseok’s fiddling with the music, then plops down beside him. “I didn’t take you for a photography kind of guy,” he muses.

“I’m not, really,” Jungkook says with a one-shoulder shrug, picking up the camera to run his thumb over the buttons next to the screen. He’d just taken the sim card out to export some vlog footage on his laptop. “I use this more for like, videos and stuff.”

Jimin’s eyebrows shoot up. “You make videos?”

Jungkook bites on his lip, mulling over how to phrase this properly. “Well, it’s just a hobby. Real amateur stuff. Small little things with my friends, y’know,” he says, trying for nonchalance.

It’s not a total lie. Seokjin might be his brother but he counts as a friend. Taehyung even made a brief, three-second appearance in a vlog when he visited home a couple weeks ago; his new boyfriend, Yoongi, made it in the shot too. He kind of counts by association.

Jimin just takes his word for it. “That’s really cool, Jungkookie,” he says, sounding a little awed; like he’s looking at Jungkook in an entirely new light. He nudges his head towards the laptop resting between Jungkook’s legs. “I have to get back to practice, but — show me something sometime? Maybe?”

He makes a little pleading gesture, squeezing his eyes shut and bowing his head like he’s a beggar. Jungkook smiles at his antics, heart picking up at the mere possibility — it’s scary just thinking about it, letting Jimin in, but he’s asking for something so small. Jungkook can do small.

“Okay,” he says, softly, reaching out to grip Jimin’s hands to grab his attention. “Sometime.”

His touch seems to surprise Jimin, eyes widened a bit when he looks back up at Jungkook — but he quickly recovers, pleased smile tugging at his lips and shining like starlight. “Sometime,” he repeats, sealed like a promise.

He pulls out a hand to wrap it over Jungkook’s, gives it a quick squeeze, and lets go. Hoseok’s already reeling him back in with talk of eight-counts and transitions and stage presence, but just before they’re about to go through the routine again, he catches Jungkook’s eye in the mirror. Holds it, just like all the times before. Gives him that smile, the one that’s only for him. Something for him to keep, if he wants.

More and more, Jungkook’s starting to feel like he does.

 

-x-

 

“So you just… film your life, basically?”

“Mhm,” Jungkook hums, pulling his hood further down over his face as he watches Jimin watch him on his laptop. It’s just them hanging out tonight in Jungkook’s tiny dorm; Namjoon’s out on a date with Hoseok and isn’t expected to return until at least noon tomorrow, so they’ve got the room to themselves.

Which Jimin thought was the perfect opportunity for Jungkook to finally show him some of his videos. Vlogs, more specifically — he’d purposefully moved his makeup videos into the deepest, darkest corner of his files before Jimin came over. Baby steps, he reminds himself.

Still, it’s kinda embarrassing to show Jimin videos of him and Seokjin messing around and being idiots, but he seems to really like them regardless. He almost chokes when he laughs too hard at a clip of them trying on ridiculous kid-sized sunglasses at the mall and modeling them for the camera.

“He looks like one of the mice from Shrek,” Jimin gasps out between giggles, wiping at the tears leaking out of his eyes.

Jungkook just bursts out into laughter himself, hitting Jimin on the shoulder. “Oh my god, I have to make an edit of them side-by-side and send it to him now. He’s gonna lose it.

Jimin grins. “In a good or bad way?”

“Both, maybe, I don’t know. He’s unpredictable. Very chaotic evil,” Jungkook snickers, squirming to sit up from his slouched position on his bed. “He could laugh it off or just refuse to speak to me for the next three months. He’s done it before.”

“Sounds like a character,” Jimin says, amused. “It’s nice though, that you guys are so close. I wish I had that.”

“No siblings?”

“Nah. I was a one-and-done,” Jimin sighs, lowering the volume of the video. “Closest thing I have are my cousins, but I only see them twice a year at Chuseok and Seollal. Kinda hard to bond with family when you barely see them. We’re like a step-up from strangers.”

Jungkook deflates a little, pulls lightly at the sleeve of Jimin’s sweatshirt. “I'm sorry, hyung. That sucks.”

Jimin shrugs. “It’s fine. I’m close with my parents, at least.” He lifts up his collar and tugs out a long, thin necklace, holding up the golden ring looped through the middle for Jungkook to see. “This was my mom’s promise ring that my dad gave to her when they were still dating. It might seem a little silly, but — I guess my mom was scared I’d forget about them when I moved out for college, so she gave me this to make sure I didn’t. So I’d remember I have a home to come back to.”

Jungkook shakes his head. “No, it’s… really sweet,” he murmurs, reaching out to run a finger over the smooth band. Jimin lets him take it and inspect the tiny ruby embedded there, watches carefully when Jungkook impulsively slips it around his pinky. It’s beautiful.

“Looks good on you,” Jimin mumbles, so quietly Jungkook almost doesn’t catch it.

Heart leaping into his throat, Jungkook just offers him a shy smile and gives it back.

For a moment, they just look at each other. Jimin doesn’t give him that special smile, doesn’t speak, doesn’t do anything that Jungkook’s come to expect from him — he just stares, unguarded and true, eyes drifting between each of Jungkook’s own as if searching for something. Yearning for something.

Jungkook swallows, stricken with the weight of it.

It lasts for only two, maybe three seconds — and then Jimin’s turning back to the screen, returning the volume of the video back to normal. Like it never happened at all.

Jungkook knows better, though. It’s faint in the dim lighting of his room, but he can see the light flush dusted across Jimin’s cheeks, the slight purse of his lips, the restless way he’s fiddling with the ring, now. He might’ve been blind to it before, but Jimin isn’t that hard to read when you know what you’re looking for.

Attraction. Clear as day, swelling in the air between them.

There’s not much space between them, maybe five inches or so, but — Jungkook scoots over to close the gap, tries not to overthink himself into an oblivion as he lays his head on Jimin’s shoulder. Goosebumps prickle all over his arms at the quiet, subtle inhale of breath he feels Jimin take; his pulse races under his skin as Jimin slowly relaxes and melts into him, eyes trained on the screen while he skips over to the next video. Jungkook watches himself and Seokjin bicker and play-fight over nothing as usual, and just as Seokjin’s throwing out random multiplication problems just to be an asshole — he feels the gentle weight of Jimin’s cheek against the crown of his head, soft breath tickling his fringe.

He doesn’t dare move. Just allows himself to bask in Jimin’s warmth, fingers curling into the fabric of his sweatshirt, eyes drifting closed.

What if? his mind wonders then, unbidden. What if you take the leap? What if he catches you?

What, then?

 

-x-

 

Hoseok’s the first one to bring it up to him on a chilly, sepia-colored winter afternoon.

“He’s planning to ask you to the winter banquet,” he says, casually, while they’re waiting in line at the coffee stand on the ground floor of the library. Jungkook chokes on the piece of chocolate he’s nibbling on. “Oh, c’mon, don’t look so surprised. You can’t tell me you haven’t noticed that Jimin’s been head over heels for you since day one.”

“Well, I mean — I guess,” Jungkook mumbles once he’s sure he’s not gonna hack up a lung. “I just — why are you telling me this? Shouldn’t you not be saying anything?”

Hoseok sighs. “I wouldn’t if I didn’t know Jimin’s been psyching himself out for the past couple of weeks. Kook, he’s been practicing his pitch to you in the bathroom. He turns on the shower so I won’t hear him — which is a major waste of water, by the way — and stays in there for like, ten minutes and comes out all frustrated and pouty. At this rate, he’s not gonna end up asking you at all.” He grips Jungkook by the shoulder, eyes desperate. “For the sake of my water bill, please put him out of his misery.”

“Isn’t it weird if I ask him to his banquet?”

“You don’t have to ask him, but just like — I don’t know, nudge him in the right direction,” Hoseok shrugs, pulling out his wallet when they’re up next. “I’m bringing Joon, so you could mention that or something. It’s just a fancy dinner the dance department throws together to send off graduating seniors. Free food for you!”

The barista’s waving them over before Jungkook can get another word in. He stands off to the side while Hoseok orders for the four of them — Jimin and Namjoon are already upstairs reserving one of the coveted study rooms. Finals are in a couple weeks, so it’s time to really crack down on the books.

It’s gonna be hard, though, now that Hoseok’s got him distracted with… well, a possible first date with Jimin. He’s probably exaggerating about the shower thing, but — it’s cute, the idea of Jimin driving himself crazy trying to figure out the best way to ask him out. Endearing, in a way.

He doesn’t need to try that hard, honestly.

“What’re you smiling about?” Hoseok asks, smirking as he carries the tray of drinks over. “Let me guess. Jimin and Jungkook sitting in a tree, k—

“Please don’t,” Jungkook groans, plucking his iced coffee from the tray as they start making their way to the elevators. He takes a sip, considers Hoseok’s snickering face for a moment. “Hyung. Can I ask you something?”

“Yes, I will be your wingman for the super low price of one pair of Yeezy’s.”

Jungkook just rolls his eyes and hits the up button. “How did you and Namjoon-hyung do it? Y’know, make the pieces fit?” he asks, as if Hoseok hadn’t said a word. “You guys seem like you have it all figured out. I don’t… really know how to do that.”

The with Jimin goes unspoken, but it hangs heavily in the air between them. Loud and clear.

Hoseok softens. “It takes work, Jungkook. Lots of communication, too. You think Namjoon and I are super happy-go-lucky all the time?” He laughs. “Trust me, we’re not. We fight, we get fed up with each other and need space and time apart. But, we know how to smooth things over because we talk about it. What he needs, what I need, and what we both want from our relationship. It wasn’t like that in the beginning, but — you grow together, with time. You learn from each other.”

Jungkook bites down on his lip, fiddling with his straw. “How did you know, then? That you loved him?”

Hoseok smiles as they get into the elevator. “I, uh, used to have problems sleeping at night. I still do, sometimes, but — when Namjoon and I started dating, he’d call me every night before bed and we’d just talk. About everything and anything that came to mind. Life, our families, shit that was bothering us or just fun, pointless stuff. There was a time he really liked to gab my ear off about how important bees are,” he laughs, expression overly fond. “But, I could fall asleep after I talked with him. That’s how I knew. He made me feel safe.”

Jungkook just nods, trying to soak in every word. The elevator dings! when they reach the fourth floor, and just as they step out, he grabs onto Hoseok’s sleeve to hold him back.

“I think,” he begins, hesitating for a moment, “Jimin makes me feel safe, too.”

There, he said it. His thoughts are out in the world, spoken into existence. Into something real.

Hoseok smiles, soft and knowing. “Hold onto him, then. We don’t get many chances in life to meet people like that.”

With one more pointed look, he slips out of Jungkook’s hold and starts making his way to the study rooms. Jungkook hurries to follow, mind running a hundred miles a minute, trying to make sense of the complicated web of emotion he’s feeling — but it all ebbs away into silence the moment he sees Jimin’s face light up when he enters the room, smiling bright enough to put all of andromeda’s stars to shame. The chair beside him is already pulled out, draped by the oversized knit-woven cardigan Jungkook loves regularly ‘borrowing’ from Jimin. When he sits down, Jimin’s already offering him one of his airpods; there's a gentle acoustic song playing, low and sweet. One of Jungkook’s favorites.

It occurs to Jungkook, then, that Jimin might already have him figured out more than he realized. He’s just been waiting for Jungkook to catch up.

 

-x-

 

He’s not sure what wakes him up that night. It’s quiet for once, Namjoon’s snoring abated for the time being, pitch-black with only one sliver of moonlight seeping through the slit of their curtain —  but when Jungkook rolls over in bed to check the time, he’s met with a text from Jimin. 

Jimin [02:31]

Hey are you awake  

Jungkook [02:38]

i am now  

Jimin [02:38]

Shit I didn’t wake you up did i

Sorry

 Jungkook [02:38]

you didn’t don’t worry

u ok?  

Jimin [02:39]

Debatable

Well since you’re up

You down for a ride?

 Jungkook [02:39]

define ride

Jimin [02:40]

you, me, and my sick 2010 hyundai

destination: anywhere but here

how’s that?  

Jungkook [02:40]

give me 5 mins  

He tip-toes around their room as quietly as possible, turning the brightness up all the way on his phone to get some kind of light without disturbing Namjoon. It takes a little bit of fumbling, but he pulls on the first sweater and pair of pants he sees in his drawers, tries to tame his fluffy mess of a bedhead as he feels around his backpack pockets for his keys. It becomes increasingly clear that he really needs to clean it out, finger closing around squashed papers and granola-bar wrappers before he finally finds his keys, shoves them in his pocket, and quietly slips out the door.

True to his word, there’s a black Hyundai idling just outside his dorm building. Jungkook closes his jacket tighter around himself and hurries over, knocking on the glass to get Jimin’s attention; he startles pretty badly with a loud yelp, and Jungkook bursts out laughing as the doors unlock and he plops inside.

“You scared the shit out of me,” Jimin breathes, hand over his chest as he looks over at Jungkook.

“Shouldn’t have been on your phone, then,” he teases, buckling himself in. He turns the heat vents closer to his side and leans back in his seat, basking in the warmth. Turns his head to meet Jimin’s eyes, voice soft when he asks, “What are we doing, hyung?”

Jimin shrugs and puts the gearshift in reverse. “Just driving,” he says, and something about his tone is just so tired. He looks like he’s still in his practice clothes, too. “Unless you want to go somewhere?”

Jungkook shakes his head, eyes still trained on Jimin’s sharp profile. “No, I’m okay,” he murmurs, waiting until they reach a stoplight to ask, “Are you?”

Jimin purses his lips, fingers drumming on the steering wheel. He doesn’t answer.

They drive through the city in silence, radio lowered to a barely audible volume; Jungkook just looks out the window and watches the buildings pass by, moving further and further away as they get on the freeway along the Han river. It’s alright, he tells himself. He can wait for Jimin to work things out in his head. Feels like he needs to, anyway.

It’s another ten minutes before Jimin finally speaks up. “I feel stuck, Jungkook,” he admits, jaw clenched tight.

Jungkook turns back to him. “Why?”

“Because I — I feel like I’m running a losing race with everyone else, and they’re so close to crossing the finish line and I’m still trying to catch up,” he says, voice strained. “I don’t think I told you, but I changed my major last year. I was doing math, figured out I didn’t want to spend my life doing that, and switched to dance. It set me back a year.” He sighs. “And it’s just — it’s frustrating, knowing that you’re so behind because I can see it, Jungkook. I can see the person I want to be, the studio I want to open, the classes I want to teach and I wish I could just hurry up and be him already, but I can’t. I can’t, not yet, and there’s still such a long way to go and it makes me want to scream sometimes, y’know?”

“Yeah, I do,” Jungkook murmurs, thinking back to high school and rubbed-off lip tint and people who just didn’t understand anything at all. It’s not quite the same, but — he gets it. That frustration, that longing. The knowledge that the happiest version of yourself isn’t just a dream, it’s right there in front of your eyes and you just — you can’t grasp it, no matter how hard you try.

Maybe they were more alike than Jungkook had thought.

“Sometimes I can’t even be around Hoseok,” Jimin whispers, shame coloring his voice. “’Cause he’s there. He’s almost done, and I know I shouldn’t feel anything but happy for him and I am, but —”

“It hurts, too,” Jungkook cuts in, tilting his head. “Right?”

Jimin lets out a long exhale. “Yeah, it really does.” He laughs, though there’s no humor in it. “I sound like such a whiny brat.”

“No, you just sound — human,” Jungkook says, frowning. “But hyung, you have to remember that your life is your own, and only yours. It’s okay to go at your own pace, and if anyone makes you feel bad about that, they’re idiots. This is your journey. Not Hoseok’s, not anyone else’s — so don’t compare yourself to them. It’s not a race. It never was.”

Jimin swallows. “I wish it was that easy,” he murmurs. 

“It’s not,” Jungkook mumbles. “It takes time. A lot of it. So just give yourself some slack, hyung. You’ll be better for it.” 

Jimin glances at him out of the corner of his eye. “Sure sounds like you know a lot about this.”

Jungkook smiles then, wry. “I do,” he admits, “But that’s a story for another time.”

They pull off the freeway and make their way back into the city, driving aimlessly until Jimin miraculously finds a spot to park near a convenience store. Consider it a thank-you for listening, Jimin says when he leads Jungkook inside and tells him to get anything he wants. As much as he’d love to scarf down a steaming-hot bowl of instant ramen, it’s nearing four in the morning and he’s not really keen on waking up with a stomachache. He settles on a roll of kimbap and honey butter chips instead, laughing when he meets Jimin at the register and sees he’s got the same bag of chips, too.

“Copycat,” Jungkook teases, nudging Jimin with his elbow as the cashier rings them up.

Jimin scoffs. “Excuse you, who was born first? Oh, that’s right, me!

“What does that have to do with anything?”

“It has to do with everything, Jungkook. Get with the program.”

Jungkook just rolls his eyes, huffing all the way back to the car.

They munch on their snacks and talk a little bit more about everything and nothing at all, jumping from topic to topic as it comes to them — complaining about finals, movies they really want to see, games they’re addicted to and weird talents they don’t ever show off. Jimin turns out to be freakishly good at catching food in his mouth, gobbling up every small chip Jungkook throws at him with ease, much to his delight. Jungkook shows him his clover-leaf tongue and Jimin’s eyes almost pop out of his head, yelling about how amazing it is and I can’t even tie a cherry knot with mine, not fair!

Jungkook can’t help but tease, “Does that mean you’re a bad kisser?”

Jimin snorts, cheeks flushing begonia-red. “Wouldn’t you like to know,” he grumbles, stealing one of the kimbap pieces.

“Yeah, maybe,” Jungkook blurts out. He’s only mildly surprised to realize that it’s true.

Jimin just smiles at him, coy, and moves to turn the ignition back on.

The ride back to his dorm is short. Dawn is quickly approaching — the sky slowly gets lighter and lighter as Jimin pulls back into the tiny parking lot and accompanies Jungkook back up to his room, arms brushing together in the elevator from how close they’re standing together. Jungkook just smiles down at his shoes, knocks the tip of his right against Jimin’s left while they wait. He giggles lightly into his collar when Jimin taps him right back.

“Well, this is me,” he sighs once they reach his door, digging into his pocket for his key.

Jimin leans on the wall beside him. “Thank you for being with me,” he whispers, eyes soft and sincere. “I really needed that. Feel bad that you lost sleep, though.”

Jungkook shrugs. “It’s fine. I think the time I lost was well spent,” he says, lips quirked up into a small smile.

Jimin bites down a grin, glancing away for a second. “I, um — I’ll see you later?” he asks, hopeful.

“Sure,” Jungkook nods. He looks at Jimin for a moment longer, eyes drifting over his gentle, open face — and before he can psych himself out, moves closer to wrap his arms tightly around Jimin’s shoulders in a hug. He feels Jimin tense a bit, then quickly relax, and then arms are winding around his waist just as tight and Jimin’s resting his cheek against his shoulder, breathing out a soft sigh through his nose.

“You’ll be okay, hyung,” he murmurs into Jimin’s ear, swaying them slightly. “I believe in you.”

Jimin doesn’t say anything, but when they pull apart a good thirty seconds later, his eyes are a little red and glassy. His hand trails down Jungkook’s arm to grasp onto his own. “You’re one of the good ones, Jungkook,” he whispers, voice shaking a bit. “Don’t ever forget that.”

He squeezes his hand once more, then lets go. Jungkook just watches his retreating back, heart heavy with yearning. Thinks, maybe, he just might be a safe haven for Jimin, too.

 

-x-

 

Despite Hoseok’s concerns, Jimin does end up gathering the courage to ask him out the following week.

He does it over the phone late at night, when he’s all sleepy and tired from practice and his voice is scratchy with drowsiness. It takes a bit of fumbling through his sentences, but with some coaxing from Jungkook, he manages to spit it out eventually — and when Jungkook says yes, he gets so excited that he accidentally hangs up on him.

Jungkook just patiently stares at his phone screen. It buzzes again within five seconds.

They smooth out the logistics after a bit more teasing on Jungkook’s end, and then that’s that. He officially has a date on Friday with Park Jimin.

Just the thought alone is enough to keep him distracted for the rest of the week, head in the clouds during the day, body buzzing with nerves at night. Jimin’s rigorous end-of-semester schedule keeps him busy until then, which is disappointing. He’d been hoping to see him before the day of the banquet, maybe hang out to take some of the edge off. Which is ridiculous. It’s just Jimin. He’ll be the same person in a suit that he is in ratty sweatpants.

Yet, Jungkook still finds himself anxiously watching the clock on Friday afternoon, suit and tie already laid out on his bed.

Namjoon spent the night at Hoseok’s, so he can’t help Jungkook calm down. Seokjin’s on vacation in China. Taehyung’s also neck-deep in finals stress and Jungkook would feel horrible about bothering him with something so trivial, so he’s an automatic no. There’s Yoongi, but they’d only met twice and Jungkook feels weird about reaching out to him.

Which leaves only one person.

Before he can think better of it, Jungkook dials Jimin’s number and sets his phone down on his desk. It rings and rings while he paces the floor, thinking of all the ways tonight could pan out. One: it could be an absolute disaster and ruin their friendship. Two: it could go just alright, and they could realize they don’t click romantically and leave it at that. Three: it could be the best date he’s ever been on, and end with himself falling further and faster than he’d thought possible.

He’s not sure which one’s most terrifying.

“Hello? Jungkook?”

Jungkook’s head whips around and zeroes in on his phone. He practically nose-dives for the thing. “Hyung! Hi. Are you busy?”

“Uh, a little,” Jimin says, smile evident in his voice. “Trying to get ready for tonight. Aren’t you?”

Jungkook glances down at his t-shirt and shorts. “Sure,” he squeaks, immediately putting him on speaker so he can start undressing. “I’m not freaking out or anything. Nope. I am totally, completely, one-hundred percent chill. Ice cold.”

“…Okay, you are definitely freaking out,” Jimin says, then pauses. Jungkook hears something like a door shutting in the background. “What’s going on? Talk to me.”

Jungkook slows down his frantic shirt-buttoning and sighs, slumping on his bed. “Nothing, I just —” He pauses, hesitating. “I don’t want this to be a mistake,” he admits.

Jimin’s quiet for a long moment, then asks, “Do you feel like it is?”

Yes. No. Maybe? “I don’t know,” he answers honestly, running a hand through his hair. “I just feel like — like things are really good right now, and I’m scared of messing all that up. What if it doesn’t work out, hyung? If we don’t work?”

“Then we don’t,” Jimin says, steady and strong. “It’s not the end of the world if we don’t end up together, Jungkook. Don’t get me wrong, I’d like that to happen, but — well, sometimes two people just aren’t meant to be together and that’s okay. We can still be friends.”

“Everyone always says that,” Jungkook mumbles. “It’s never that easy.”

“What if we make a promise?”

“Promises break.”

“Aish, c’mon, Jungkookie. What do I have to do to prove it to you? D’you want the moon? The stars? I’ll throw a lasso and pull one down for you!”

That cracks a smile out of him. “I don’t want any of that,” he murmurs. And then, without thinking: “Just you.”

Jimin laughs softly. “You already have me,” he replies, so easily, like it’s not even a question. “You’ll always have me.”

Somehow, out of everything, that quiet affirmation is enough for Jungkook to believe him.

They hang up soon after that, and Jungkook feels calm enough to stop panic-dressing and gets ready at a slower, more contained speed. His two-year-old suit’s a teensy-weensy bit too small on him and he has to watch a youtube video to remember how to tie a tie, but once he wrangles his hair into a style he’s happy with, he feels a bit more like himself.

Well, mostly. He eyes his makeup bag sitting in front of his mirror, left out and abandoned after filming last night, and considers. A little bit of foundation and concealer wouldn’t hurt. He could lightly fill in his brows, put on a lip-tint and a touch of bronzer just so he doesn’t look like a ghost. Maybe pat in a tiny bit of cream blush, too.

He could do that. Baby steps.

So, he does. Careful not to get anything on his suit, he applies his new favorite cushion foundation, something light with a dewy finish; covers up his Prada-worthy bags and acne scars; pencils in his brows to be defined but not overbearing; warms up his skin with an old bronzer he’s hit pan on and a dusty-rose blush from Benefit; coats his lips with a terracotta-pink tinted balm. Subtle, natural glam.

His smile comes naturally as he turns this way and that in the mirror. Much better.

Jimin’s already waiting outside the banquet hall when Jungkook makes his way up the cobblestone path, slowly pacing back and forth with his eyes focused on the ground. He looks sharp, sleek — unbearably handsome in his tailored suit and shiny shoes, hair combed back and dangling earrings sparkling in the fading sunlight. Plucked straight out of a fairytale.

Jungkook feels his heart swell up in chest and hurries his steps along just a little faster.

Jimin turns and catches sight of him just before Jungkook can sneak up and surprise him; his mouth quickly falls open, hands reaching up to cover it as light laughter bubbles out of his throat, eyes twinkling. “Wow,” he breathes out, shaking his head slightly as he takes Jungkook in. “God, Jungkook, you’re — I don’t even know what to say. Just… beautiful. You’re unbelievable.”

Jungkook grins, pleased and shy. “Thanks,” he mumbles, reaching out to brush a stray piece of hair out of Jimin’s eyes. “I guess you’re not so bad yourself.”

Jimin rolls his eyes, though it’s fond. “Always the sweet-talker,” he drawls, sarcasm dripping from every vowel. He holds out a hand. “Ready to go in?”

Jungkook easily takes it and threads their fingers together. “Yeah. I’m starving, hyung. I’ve been thinking about the buffet for hours.”

Jimin snorts. “Oh, right. I forgot that your heart lives in your stomach.”

The banquet’s already in full-swing when they walk in, weaving through the clusters of people and tables to get to the back where Hoseok and Namjoon have already reserved their seats. They’re already munching away on the food piled high on their plates, sharing side dishes and actually feeding each other. They’re gross. Absolutely disgusting. Jungkook is definitely not thinking of doing that with Jimin.

“Jungkook! You made it!” Hoseok calls out cheerily when they reach their table. He pats the seat next to him. “C’mon, sit, sit. I nabbed some seared lamb skewers for you before the vultures got to them.”

“He almost elbowed a professor in her eye for them,” Namjoon adds, witheringly.

“It was an accident,” Hoseok insists, waving a dismissive hand. He peers a little closer when Jungkook sits down. “Whoa, what did you do to your skin? You’re like, all glowy. Did you use that moisturizer all the idols are always promoting?”

Jungkook’s smile turns strained. He tries his hardest to ignore the instinct to move away. “Something like that,” is all he offers, then turns to the lamb skewers. “Did you try one of these yet? Are they any good?”

“Nope, but they sure smell like it. Here, take all of them.”

“Hyung, you want one?” Jungkook asks, turning to hold out one of the skewers towards Jimin while he tears off a couple pieces on his own. He chews for a moment — they’re a little on the oily side, but overall pretty decent.

Jimin shrugs, grabs onto Jungkook’s hand and guides the skewer towards his mouth. He bites off just one piece, and Jungkook can’t help the way his eyes fixate on his lips; it shouldn’t be attractive, the way they glisten with the grease, but it is. Makes him wonder how they might look when they’re kiss-swollen, red and puffy and smeared with gloss transferred from his own lips —

“Pretty good,” Jimin hums as he swallows; there’s a knowing glint in his eye when Jungkook drags his eyes back up. He can hear Hoseok and Namjoon snickering beside them. “Think I want something else, though. Wanna check out the buffet?”

“Sure,” Jungkook croaks out, nearly knocking his chair over with how quickly he stands up.

Honestly, Jungkook has no idea what he puts on his plate. He’s too flustered to actually pay attention to the options, randomly grabbing at things like he’s on autopilot, acutely aware of Jimin’s hand resting on his back as they move down the line. Jimin apparently thinks it’s hilarious, judging from how he can’t stop muffling giggles behind his hand as they walk back to their table; Jungkook kind of wants to smack him, but he settles for pinching him hard on the back of his arm. It gets a high-pitched yelp out of Jimin, which is just as satisfying.

A few of the attending faculty make their speeches and begin handing out honors while they eat, but Jungkook’s too absorbed in the childish hand games that Jimin’s sucked him into. They start off with arm wrestling and then slap jack, but Jimin quickly switches gears to challenge him in rock-paper-scissors after losing for the eighth consecutive time. He’s got better luck with that, but when Jungkook suggests dibidibidip, it’s game over for both of them. They’re terrible at it, moving their head in the same direction as the other’s hand almost every time until they’re both losing it and shushing each other from laughing too hard.

They’re like two giddy little kids on a playdate, competing at everything and giggling at their stupid jokes thrown in-between. Jungkook has to dab tears from his eyes when Jimin busts out a filter app on his phone that gives them receding hairlines and gross facial hair that ages them fifty years and absurd baby-faces that, really, isn’t much better. Dessert eventually rolls around, and Jungkook swipes up a little box of assorted chocolates for them to play a candy russian-roulette of sorts; Jimin absolutely cackles at Jungkook’s sour expression when he, unfortunately, gets the coconut and coffee ones.

Too refined for your baby tastebuds? he asks; Jungkook just shoves a chocolate in his mouth to shut him up.

“You guys sure have a weird way of flirting,” Hoseok comments idly, when they’re all getting ready to leave. “I feel like a chaperone on a school field trip.”

“Oh, I’m sorry. I guess I forgot my book on Confucianism at home, whoops! Or was it the text on Darwinism?” Jimin scratches his chin. “Weird. I can’t remember. Hyung, did you lose them in my huge stacks of Van Gogh autobiogra—”

“Okay, you’ve made your point,” Namjoon cuts in, rolling his eyes with a smile. He nudges Hoseok with an elbow. “Leave them alone, Hobi. We weren’t much better back in the day.”

“Back in the day? What are we, senior citizens gushing about the good ol’ days at our local bingo night?”

“I mean, I wouldn’t be opposed, you can win pretty good prizes at those things —”

Okay, you two can work that out on your own. Me and Jimin are just gonna — not be here,” Jungkook says, pulling Jimin out of his seat. He waves them goodbye before quickly dragging a snickering Jimin out of the building and into the cool, crisp air outside.

“They bicker just like a married couple,” Jimin chuckles, shaking his head. He blows into his hands, rubbing them together as they start walking down the stone path back to the main road. “They should just do it and get it over with.”

Jungkook raises a brow. “You think they will?”

“Sure. Hoseok’s talked about it before,” Jimin says, shrugging. “I don’t think it’ll happen anytime soon, though. Remember I said I wanted to open my own studio? Hoseok’s got big plans to do it with me after graduation, and with the crapload of work and money that’s gonna take, it’s just not realistic to throw an entire wedding in the mix. They still could surprise us, though. We’ll see.”

“That’d be pretty ambitious.”

“Yeah, well, anything’s possible, right?” Jimin looks over at him, tilting his head. “What about you? Have you thought about what you want to do? I know it’s still early, but…”

Jungkook lets out a breath, watches it plume into puffs of white wisps in the cold. “I like filming,” he says, a bit cautiously. Jimin nods, encouraging him to go on. “Not like on the scale of movies, but — well, you saw. Filming my life, my friends. My — my interests. Things like that.” He nibbles on his lip. “Sharing my story like that seems important. Feels important. I want to see it through.”

Jimin grins. “You should. Passion like that shouldn’t go to waste.” He brushes a hand against the back of Jungkook’s arm. “You’ll be great, Jungkook.”

He smiles and bumps his shoulder into Jimin’s, gently. “You sound pretty sure about that.”

“That’s ‘cause I am.”

“Why’s that?”

“Because I believe in you,” Jimin says simply, echoing Jungkook’s own words to him from two weeks ago on that cold, sleepless night. His smile, full and shining, feels kind and true. “And so should you.”

Jungkook swallows against the lump building in his throat and keeps quiet for the rest of the walk back to his dorm. Jimin doesn’t seem to mind; he just stays close, hums lightly under his breath, and when Jungkook eventually reaches out to grasp his hand, Jimin’s fingers instantly curl around his like he’d been waiting. Squeezes like he never wants to let go.

Jungkook doesn’t want to, either.

“Well, thanks for coming out with me tonight,” Jimin says once they reach his dorm building, turning to face him properly. His lips curve in a sweet little smile, dimpling one of the corners. “I had a lot of fun.”

“I did, too,” Jungkook murmurs, smiling down at their joined hands. “We should do it again, sometime.”

Jimin laughs. “Okay. Sometime.”

There’s a pause, a moment of weighted silence as they just smile at each other like fools — and then Jimin eyes fall down to his lips, pupils dilating, tongue flicking out to wet his own. Jungkook feels his mouth go dry, heart trembling in anticipation; he thinks about tugging Jimin’s hand and bringing him closer, close enough to feel his breath on his lips and the warmth of his chest against his own, for their noses to brush together as their eyes drift shut and —

and —

and the moment’s broken before it even has a chance to really begin; Jimin takes a step back, smile dimming into something more reserved. Resigned, in a way. He squeezes Jungkook’s hand once more before he slips out of his hold.

“Have a good night, Jungkook,” he whispers, and turns to leave.

Jungkook blinks. What just happened? Why didn’t he… was he just imagining the tension he’d felt? There’s no way. He knows Jimin well enough by now — knows just by the look in his eyes that he’d been hoping for it, too. Waiting for it.

Waiting, waiting. He’s always waiting for you to catch up.

The realization hits him like a ton of bricks.

“Hyung!” he blurts out, loud enough to startle Jimin into turning around. He looks a little surprised, but mostly confused — the latter of which only grows when Jungkook falters. This is it, he knows. This is the leap. This is the moment he hands all of his trust over to Jimin, all of himself, with the hope that he’ll catch him in the fall.

Jimin makes me feel safe, too,

Hold onto him then,  

Because I believe in you.  

 

“Hyung,” he calls again, quieter. His heart calms in his chest, beat steady and slow. “Could you come up with me? I want to show you something.”

 

-x-

 

Ten minutes. That’s all he asked Jimin for before he’d left him to wait in the lounge.

It’s enough time, Jungkook tells himself as he closes his door shut behind him and leans against it, taking in a deep breath. It’s more than enough time. He’s done more in his five-minute makeup challenges without the head start he’d given himself earlier in the day. He can do this.

He can do this.

“It’ll be okay,” he whispers under his breath, tossing his jacket and tie on the bed. He goes straight for his makeup bag tucked back in his closet, rifles through the overflow of products, and sets to work.

The majority of his lip-tint’s long since worn off, so he just wipes away the remnants with a tissue and quickly touches up his foundation, adds a generous amount of highlight over his cheeks and nose. Everything else he’d applied earlier is pretty much intact, so he focuses on his eyes — grabs an Anastasia palette and starts blending in a mix of matte earthy-browns and cinnamon-coppers in his crease and outer lash-line, wets his brush to stamp in a rose-gold foil shadow over the center of his lids, then gently dusts a light champagne shade along his inner corners. Not quite trusting his hands for liquid liner, he opts for gel instead to elongate the slope of his eyelid into a small wing, sharp enough to cut.

Three minutes. Falsies might be a stretch at this point, so he just plucks out his favored Lancôme doll-eye mascara and quickly coats his curled lashes, thanking his lucky stars none of it smudges on his skin. His hand hovers over his collection of lipsticks, finger tapping against his cupid’s bow while he considers. Nudes don’t feel right. Neither do any the few dark, berry shades he has. He wants something bold, something that pops — and when his eyes land on his ruby-red Mac bullet lipstick, he immediately snatches it up and smooths it over his lips, rubs them together and smiles, satisfied.

He can do this.

One minute. Jungkook doesn’t know what to do with himself, now. He stands and sits down again, paces the five feet of space between his and Namjoon’s beds. He feels like he’s just been told to act natural and now he has no fucking idea how to position himself anymore. Like his hands. What the fuck does he normally do with his hands? Putting them in his pockets feels weird because who does that when they’re indoors? Does he put them on his hips, maybe cross them? No, that’s too stand-offish. He’ll just — sit on them. Yeah. Still fucking weird but it’ll have to do.

U can come in, he texts Jimin and sits down on his bed, tucking his hands underneath his knees. His body tingles with nerves, but somehow, he doesn’t feel afraid. Not anymore.

Not with Jimin, ever.

He waits in silence for a few moments, and then there’s a soft knock at the door. Jimin’s voice carries through the door, muffled but clear: “Jungkook? I’m coming in now, okay?”

“Okay,” he calls back, fingers curling into the fabric of his slacks.

The knob turns. He watches, stomach fluttering like crazy, as the door slowly opens and Jimin’s head pokes in, glancing around the room first before his eyes land on Jungkook. He does a double-take. An actual, honest-to-god double take.

“Jungkook?” he says, more breath than whisper.

He tries for a smile as Jimin steps fully inside the room, resists the urge to bite at his lips when Jimin comes closer and crouches down in front of him, mystified. “Hey,” he murmurs, eyes flitting between each of Jimin’s own. Watching carefully.

Jimin doesn’t say anything back. Just stares openly at him, over all his features, slowly — like he’s soaking everything in, root to soil. Trying to commit it all to memory, like he never wants to forget.

Jungkook just lets him, fingers unfurling beneath his thighs.

“This isn’t new,” Jimin says finally, eyes still trailing maps all over his face.

Jungkook swallows, shakes his head. “No.”

“How long?”

“Years,” he admits with a half-smile. “Since I was a kid.”

“You don’t wear it often.”

“No, not anymore.” He glances down for a moment, then back up. Says in a strong, steady voice, “But I want to.” Thinks for a moment. “I’m going to.”

Those seem to be the magic words, because a wondrous, luminous smile blooms on Jimin’s face then — and it’s like the entire room’s suddenly bathed in sunlight, glittering in the air between them, pouring out of Jungkook’s veins and he can’t help but smile back just as big, just as happy.

“There he is,” Jimin whispers, reaching up to tuck some of Jungkook’s’ hair behind his ear. Eyes hopelessly fond. “Our strong, beautiful Jungkookie.”

I like you. I like you so much, Jungkook aches to say, heart filled to nearly bursting; his throat feels thick with the weight of it, eyes burning, hands shaking as they reach out to cup Jimin’s face. He leans down just enough for their foreheads to meet, runs his thumbs over the apples of Jimin’s cheeks gently, softly; exhales slowly as Jimin’s warm hands wrap around his wrists.

“Thank you,” he manages to breathe out, and tilts Jimin’s head up to bring their lips together.

It’s a tentative, delicate press of their lips at first — a tender greeting, a hello, I’m here, the feeling of collapsing into a long, tight hug after a difficult day. Jungkook sighs through his nose, tilts his head just a little bit more, moves his lips against Jimin’s languidly, easily and without thought; his fingers weave into Jimin’s hair, tugging lightly to pull a sweet, soft sound out of Jimin that makes him smile, makes Jimin smile too and then it becomes more teeth than lips but Jungkook doesn’t care, couldn’t care less.

He pulls away just enough to look at Jimin properly, laughing when he catches sight of the red stains his lipstick’s left behind. Jimin’s brow bunches up, confused, until Jungkook grabs a hand-held mirror for him to see and then he’s laughing, too.

“Looks good on you,” Jungkook grins, pressing his thumb lightly at the edge of Jimin’s bottom lip. “I think red’s your color, hyung.”

“Guess you should give me some more, then,” Jimin teases, letting Jungkook guide him up onto the bed and into another kiss.

It’s easy for them to lose track of time, kissing until their lips are swollen and puffy and slick with saliva. It doesn’t go any farther than that, though; Jimin lets Jungkook take the lead, lets him decide the pace, and he doesn’t want to do anything more. Not tonight. Doesn’t want to break their little bubble of serenity. He wants to remember this moment years from now, just as it was — Jimin’s honeyed smile against his, the soft flush of his cheeks, hand pressed against his heart like it’s a place to belong. Like he could build a home there.

“Stay the night?” Jungkook asks, after, as they’re just laying together, hands intertwined.

Jimin smiles, presses a gentle kiss to the back of his hand. “Of course.”

They help each out of their stuffy dress clothes, sleepily stumbling through leg-holes and buttons and giggling together at Jungkook’s spaceship-themed undies. He offers Jimin his comfiest sweatshirt and a pair of shorts, then grabs an old, worn tee for himself; he wipes the lipstick off of Jimin’s mouth with a cleansing wipe and lets Jimin take off most of his makeup, smiling when he huffs and puffs about how it’s such a shame, Jungkookie, you worked so hard on it.

It’s a tight fit with the two of them in Jungkook’s absurdly small twin bed, but they make it work. Jungkook wraps himself snug around Jimin’s waist, tucks his head under Jimin’s chin and buries his nose into the hollow of his collarbone. Breathes in the fading scent of his cologne, feels his heartbeat slow as Jimin cards his fingers through his hair, arms holding him just as tight.

They’re safe.

 

-x-

 

True to his word, he begins casually wearing his makeup again after that night.

Sometimes it’s simple, just some mascara and tinted chapstick, and other days it’s the whole nine-yards. Sometimes he doesn’t wear it at all, for no other reason than he simply doesn’t feel like it. Jimin tells him he’s beautiful either way, kisses him just the same, and doesn’t ever question him on it.

“It’s just another form of self-expression,” Jimin says one day, when Jungkook presses him on why he’s never asked. “I didn’t feel the need to ask something I already understood. I mean, it’s the same for me and dance. Why do we do it? Because we love it.” He shrugs. “Simple as that.”

To this day, Jungkook doesn’t think he’s ever kissed anyone that hard in his life.

Namjoon eventually takes note after the new semester starts, when he quite literally walks in on Jungkook applying liquid liner at a snail’s pace. He pauses, stands there blinking for long, long moment, then throws up an awkward thumbs-up and goes about unpacking his suitcase.

Hoseok gives him a more enthusiastic reaction, coos at him and ruffles his hair while he showers Jungkook with every compliment he can think of. Taehyung almost breaks his phone with his excited little dance when Jungkook tells him the news over facetime, rambling about how proud he is and how he’s gonna buy train tickets up to Seoul to give him the biggest hug ever and yelling Yoongi-hyung, come here, come here! You gotta check out Jungkook’s cool makeup!

The most important person to tell, though, is Seokjin. He’s been there from the very beginning, supporting and loving him unconditionally, the very first to encourage him and make him feel comfortable in his own skin. So, he decides to kill two birds with one stone by sending Seokjin a picture of him in full-glam with Jimin cuddling him from behind at the park, chin resting in the crook of his neck as he smiles at Jungkook, not the camera. Adds, got some news for u… dinner tmr night?

His message turns to read within the next two minutes, and then a few seconds later, his phone starts buzzing. Seokjin shrieks for a solid minute the moment Jungkook picks up, babbling a whole bunch of nonsense and firing off questions one after the other.

“Are you done?” Jungkook asks, amused, once Seokjin gets all the screaming out of his system.

Jeon Jungkook!” Seokjin yells, loud enough for him to wince. Evidently the screaming is not done. “Don’t give me that! I am very emotional right now and it’s all your goddamn fault! What the fuck is this water coming out of my eyes?” He sucks in a breath. “Who is that! How long has he been around? And since when do you wear a full face in public parks!”

“Okay, first thing’s first — please get yourself a tissue and stop screaming in my ear,” Jungkook says though a laugh. He waits until he hears Seokjin blow his nose, then continues, “That’s Jimin. My sort-of boyfriend? It’s not official but like, it’s mostly official. We’ve been friends for a while. And I started wearing makeup out again because I want to, hyung. That’s all.”

“Oh my god,” Seokjin sniffles. “I feel like I just watched my baby bird finally leave the nest.”

“Please never use that analogy again.”

“Uncultured,” he sighs with a tsk. Jungkook rolls his eyes. “Fine. I can’t do dinner tomorrow night, but I’m free all weekend. You can come over and I’ll grill something. But you better bring this Jimin guy with you!”

Jungkook sighs. “You’re not planning on interrogating him, are you? That’s embarrassing.”

“Ew, no, that’s Mom’s job. Also extremely old-fashioned and, quite frankly, patronizing.” Seokjin scoffs. “Please. I just want to meet him, Kook. Who knows, he might be in the family one day…"

Jungkook sputters. “Hyung! It’s way too early to even think about that!”

“What? You never know!” 

“Okay, we’re not having this conversation,” he mumbles, rubbing at his eyes. “Dinner this weekend at your place, got it. Bring Jimin. Anything else?”

“One more thing,” Seokjin chirps, then pauses. “I’m really happy for you, Jungkook. Seriously. You make me proud to be your hyung.”

Jungkook smiles down at his lap, soft and sweet. “Thank you,” he says, quietly, and he means it. He hopes Seokjin knows that. “I love you, hyung.”

“Love you too, little booger,” Seokjin coos. Jungkook almost hangs up on him.

 

-x-

 

Predictably, Jimin frets about the dinner the entire ride over to Seokjin’s apartment.

He worries about how he’s dressed, if the wine he’s bought will suit Seokjin’s tastes, what he can say to make a good impression. Jungkook tries to assure him that he’ll be fine, but there’s only so much he can do. Jimin just gets so in his head sometimes, and when he’s spiraling like that, it’s almost impossible to pull him out.

Still, it doesn’t stop him from pulling Jimin aside just before they reach Seokjin’s door. “Hyung,” he says, firmly grasping Jimin by the shoulders. “Just be yourself. That’s all we’re asking for. There’s no pressure here to impress, okay? It’s just dinner.”

“Right,” Jimin breathes, puffing out his cheeks. Jungkook pokes them with a smile. “Just dinner. Your brother won’t smite me for just existing. Got it.”

“He’s harmless,” Jungkook laughs, stepping forward to punch in Seokjin’s passcode on the keypad. “The most he’d do is just write you a bitchy email or something.”

“But I don’t want a bitchy email!” Jimin hisses in a frantic whisper.

“It was a joke,” Jungkook mutters back, tugging him into Seokjin’s tiny entrance hall. They slide off their shoes on the HOME IS WHERE THE PANTS AREN’T welcome mat as he calls out, “Hyung! We’re here!”

There’s some audible fumbling further into the apartment, and then Seokjin’s head pops around the corner. “Jungkook! Great timing. I’m having a bitch of a time opening this jar, could you…?”

Jungkook snorts and helps Jimin hang their coats up in the shoe closet. “Wow, hyung, it’s great to see you, too. I’m doing great. Super. Thanks for asking!”

“The meat is literally three seconds away from burning, you buffoon. Just help me!”

No more words are needed. Jungkook dives for the jar while Seokjin hurries back into the kitchen, Jimin awkwardly trailing behind with the wine. There’s a little more squabbling between them as Seokjin hands off dishes for Jungkook to put on the table, but once the final dish is out, Seokjin finally turns around and acknowledges Jimin.

“Okay, let’s try this again,” he says with a welcoming smile, cleaning his hand off with a towel before offering it to Jimin. “I’m Seokjin, this dweeb’s big brother. It’s great to meet you, Jimin.”

Jimin bows his head and takes his hand. “Likewise,” he says, easily returning the smile. He offers the wine to Seokjin. “I, um, brought you this. As a thank you for having me over and cooking for us.”

“Raspberry wine? I knew I would like you,” Seokjin grins, eyes sparkling as he makes wiggly-fingers at the bottle. “C’mon, sit down and eat before Jungkook inhales it all.”

“I take offense to that!” yells Jungkook, who’s already seated and reaching for the lettuce.

The dinner goes great, all things considered. Jimin relaxes after a little while, indulging Seokjin in his bad jokes and shyly recounting the story of how he and Jungkook met with some embarrassment. He talks about dance and his ambitions after school, how he’d also lived in Busan until his family moved to Seoul when he was five, asks about Seokjin’s career in radio production with genuine interest. They erupt into squeaky laughter more times than Jungkook can count, and it’s just — it’s so nice, watching them get along so well. Feels like Jimin fits right in. Like he was always meant to.

Maybe Seokjin had a point about the family thing.

“Has Jungkook shown you any of his videos?” Seokjin asks, when the conversation eventually turns to Jungkook’s interest in film. “They’re super good, if I do say so myself. I helped him film and edit the first few.”

“Wow, way to take credit,” Jungkook snorts.

“Hey, it’s my DSLR!”

“He showed me a few of them,” Jimin affirms, looking over to Jungkook with a proud little smile. “They’re amazing. The two of you together are way funnier than all the dumb comedy shows on cable combined.”

Seokjin tilts his head, frowning a bit. “The two of us…? Oh! No, not his vlogs. I was talking about the videos he does by himself.”

Jungkook almost chokes on his water. What the fuck is he doing? He stomps on Seokjin’s foot under the table in warning and deflects the smack he gets in return.

Jimin just looks confused. “What are you talking about?” He turns to Jungkook. “You make other kinds of videos, too?”

Christ. This was not how he’d wanted to tell Jimin. Now it looks like he’s been hiding something. “Yeah,” he admits, glaring daggers at an increasingly sheepish Seokjin. “I was planning on showing you them soon.

“Oh, wow! Would you look at that. It’s officially time for me to Not Be Here,” Seokjin chirps, plastering a smile on his face as he shoots up from his seat. “You two crazy kids can stay and work out this little tizzy I had absolutely no hand in creating.”

Jungkook purses his lips. “Hyung, you —”

“No time for chit-chat, Jungkook, I must be going,” Seokjin cuts in, picking up his plate and utensils. “That wine’s calling my name. See you!”

He high-tails it out of the room in record time, leaving the two of them to stew in the awkward silence he’d left behind. God, Jungkook’s going to kill him later.

Jimin clears his throat. “You wanna tell me what that was all about?” he asks, lifting a brow.

Jungkook sighs and pulls out his phone. “It’s better if I just show you,” he mumbles, gesturing for Jimin to come around to his side of the table.

His fingers shake a little as he clicks on the YouTube app, hyperaware of Jimin’s presence hovering just above his shoulder. He shouldn’t be this nervous. Jimin will understand once he explains his reasons for keeping this from him until now, but Seokjin just made it seem so much worse than it actually is.

“This is mine,” Jungkook says, clicking on his channel and holds up the screen for Jimin to see properly. He glances back and forth between Jimin’s look of mild surprise and his phone, pressing on the playlist containing all his makeup videos and scrolls slowly through them. “These are the videos hyung was talking about. I didn’t — I wasn’t trying to hide anything to intentionally hurt you, but I just… wasn’t ready to show you, back then.”

Jimin just nods, slowly, and presses on a random video. It’s an older one from a few months ago, where he’d talked about his favorite cushion foundations and showed ones he wouldn’t purchase again. It’s a little weird to watch this kind of video with Jimin, but it’s not uncomfortable. Just — different.

“And now?” Jimin finally speaks up after a minute, leaning back to look him in the eye.

Jungkook blinks up at him. “Now, what?”

“Do you trust me with this now?”

Oh. Oh. “Yeah, I do,” Jungkook answers easily, instinctively mirroring Jimin’s pleased little smile. “I just wasn’t really sure how to tell you. I mean, what was I supposed to say? Hey, Jimin, how do you feel about Thai for lunch? Oh, by the way, I run a beauty YouTube channel. Do you want green curry or pad see ew?”

Jimin laughs. “Okay, I see your point.” He runs his fingers through Jungkook’s hair, tilting his head back a bit. “It’s just — you know you can come to me for anything, right? Anything. I don’t want you to be afraid of doing that. I’ve always got your back.”

Jungkook’s smile softens. “I know, hyung,” he murmurs, and shuts his eyes to accept the kiss Jimin leans down to give him.

 

-x-

three years after

 

“Hey everyone! Today’s video is gonna be a quick Colourpop lipstick haul and try-on, and by very popular demand, I’ve decided to enlist Jimin’s help for some of it. Say hi, hyung!”

Jimin rolls into frame on his desk chair, gently bumping into Jungkook’s shoulder as he waves at the camera, smile a little bashful. “Hi, guys. Long time no see.”

“It has been a long time,” Jungkook hums, winding an arm around Jimin’s shoulders. He tilts his head as he looks over at him, grin teasing. “What’s up with that, Jimin-ssi? Getting sick of me?”

Jimin rolls his eyes and reaches out to flick the ring hanging from Jungkook’s necklace. “Hardly,” he almost scoffs, brushing a few stray wisps of Jungkook’s long fringe out of his lash extensions. “Just like watching you shine on your own.”

“Aish, this cheeseball,” Jungkook mumbles with a scrunch of his nose, but he doesn’t bother trying to hide his charmed smile. He presses a quick kiss to Jimin’s cheek and gestures to the handful of lipsticks neatly laid out on the table. “Okay, I’ve already exfoliated and everything, so — go ahead and pick the first one, hyung.”

Jimin considers them for a moment, then picks out a bright coral pink. “This one. I love when you wear this kind of color,” he says, smile soft, and holds it up to Jungkook’s bare lips.

Jungkook grins. “Okay. Put it on, then.”

It’s comical, really, how focused Jimin is when he applies the lipstick. He does a pretty decent job though, all things considered; he wasn’t always this great in the beginning, back when he’d finally relented and agreed to be in some of Jungkook’s videos. His viewers still get a kick out of the Pennywise-inspired look he’d given Jungkook in his first Boyfriend Does My Makeup video a while back.

So much has happened since then — Jimin and Hoseok’s dream studio is almost completely renovated and ready to open, Jungkook decided to put school on hold to focus on his YouTube career, and they’d finally taken the leap and moved in together last month. It’s nothing grandiose; a small one-bedroom with creaky doors and a bathroom that’s more appropriate for small dogs rather than two fully-grown humans, but it’s theirs. The first home they’ve built together.

And it won’t be the last.

“It’s a little sheer, but I like the color,” Jungkook mumbles as he peers into a handheld mirror, then turns for the camera to see. “It’s comfortable, though. Dried pretty quick, too.”

“Looks great on you,” Jimin comments, utterly smitten. “Pretty as always.”

Jungkook just smiles, cheeks flushed. “Ah, you,” he sighs, shifting closer. “C’mere. Pucker up, baby.”

He doesn’t even allow Jimin time to voice his confusion; just quickly brings him in to plant a firm, chaste kiss on his lips. Jimin just blinks, looking a little dazed when Jungkook pulls back just as fast.

“Transfer test,” he explains, laughing when Jimin’s face lights up with understanding.

Oh,” he exhales, then takes the mirror from Jungkook’s hand to take a look. “I don’t think it did anything?” He turns and moves excessively close to the camera so only his lips are visible in the viewfinder, lens struggling to auto-focus. “Can you guys tell? Am I too close?”

“Oh no,” Jungkook fake-sighs, giving Jimin a helpless little shrug when he leans back into his chair. “I can’t really tell, either. Guess we’ll just have to do it again?”

“Jungkookie, you didn’t even look —”

“What a shame! I’m so embarrassed.” He tugs at the hem of Jimin’s shirt, smirking when his boyfriend starts to catch on. “C’mon, hyung, we gotta give them what they paid for.”

Jimin laughs. “Your videos are free,” he reminds him, but allows Jungkook to pull him in for another kiss.

The rest of the video follows a similar pattern, and it’s only when Jungkook’s editing it that night that he notices how fidgety Jimin was at the beginning; he’d barely made eye-contact with the camera, his posture was a little stiff and he wouldn’t stop licking his lips — a nervous habit he’s never been able to kick. But, as Jungkook continues to go through the footage, he watches all of that gradually disappear — Jimin visibly relaxes with every touch Jungkook hadn’t even realized he’d given him, his smile comes more naturally as Jungkook jokes around with him, laughter tinkling like windchimes and eyes sparkling and —

he looks so hopelessly in love.

Upon watching it through again, Jungkook’s not surprised to find that he looks the exact same.

Feeling a little reminiscent, he takes a break from editing to go through some of his old footage, the things that never made it to his public videos — deeply personal things like Jimin’s graduation day. He watches, wistful, as Jimin jumps up into Jungkook’s waiting arms, robes billowing in the wind; he’d been so unbelievably proud that day, feels himself tearing up as they laugh and cry together in the clip, Jimin’s shaking voice somehow picked up by the microphone saying, I did it, Jungkook, I made it.

There’s more footage of him with Jimin’s family, accompanying them on the celebratory trip they’d taken to Jeju; the summer roadtrip he’d taken with Jimin, Taehyung and Yoongi down the eastern coastline of the country; Seokjin proudly showing off the first home he’s ever bought to their mother; even Hoseok’s surprise proposal to Namjoon over a year ago, after which they’d gathered their closest friends in their backyard and quietly married right then and there.

It’s been, by far, the best years of his life — and he’s excited for more to come in the future.

He’s just finished closing out the old files when strong arms wind around his neck, warm lips pressing a kiss just underneath his ear. “Stop working,” Jimin mumbles, vowels long and sleepy. “Come to bed.”

Jungkook smiles and gently rubs his palm over Jimin’s forearm. “In a second,” he whispers back, turning his head to kiss the side of his chin. “Just go in, I’ll be there soon.”

“‘mkay,” Jimin sighs, nuzzling a little bit closer before he lets go. Adds, “Love you,” and it sounds like a promise.

“Love you, too,” Jungkook says back, and it sounds like forever.

 

.

.

New voicemail. October 3rd, 2021 at 10:19 PM.

  “Hey, Jimin, it’s Seokjin. Just wanted to ask if we’re still on for this weekend to buy Jungkook’s ring? I printed out the ideas you sent me. Let me know.”

.

.

fin.