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“Jungkook!”

The excited voice comes as they walk across campus later that evening, Jungkook trailing just a step behind Jimin, still reeling from the sudden decision. It’s Hyejin across the sidewalk, still dressed in her graduation cap and gown. She waves, a massive smile on her face, and speed-walks toward him.

Jungkook grins back. “Noona!”

He meets her halfway, and she pulls him into a hug.

“Congratulations on making it out of hell.”

“Don’t be dramatic,” she scoffs, and hits him on the head with her diploma. “I’m not gonna be here to yell at you anymore, so stay out of trouble, okay?”

“No promises. Good luck in the real world.”

“Yeah, whatever. See you around, Jeon.”

“Good knowing you, Ahn.”

She walks away with another wave. Jimin comes to a stop next to Jungkook, his bag hiked up on one shoulder. “You guys have come a long way from glares and passive-aggressive greetings.”

“We were kind of just doing it to do it after a while, you know? She’s actually pretty cool.”

They head to the edge of campus, where Jungkook tells Jimin to wait so he can fetch the car. Tony has chipped forest green paint and manual locks and windows. Two of the four windows don’t roll down, and the passenger seat doesn’t have a sun visor. One of the backseat doors doesn’t open, not even a little. It takes five minutes of whispered compliments for the engine to start before he pulls up to the curb in front of Jimin. Just for old time’s sake, he leans out of the window and jerks his head as the universal get in, baby. He’s half-afraid Jimin won’t laugh, but he does. He always does.

He can still remember the jealousy that stirred in him the day Jimin arrived at the daycare on the back of Bobby’s motorcycle. How he had loathed Stark, who could hold a driver and no one else. How he’d wanted to boast that he could take Jimin places if he wanted, how inadequate he felt that he couldn’t. Now he’s picking Jimin up in his car and he’s realized it doesn’t really matter all that much, after all.

Jimin tries to open the door that doesn’t work to put his bag in the back.

“Other side,” Jungkook says wearily.

“Nice car you got here, Jungkookie.” Jimin slips into the passenger seat with a cheeky smile. “As a mechanic, I can tell you with extreme confidence that it’s not going to last very long.”

“Hey, don’t insult Tony. He’s sensitive.” Jungkook rubs the steering wheel comfortingly. “You’re not even a mechanic.”

As they pull out of campus and into the city, Jimin fiddles with the radio, which only sometimes works. Jungkook tries to focus on driving and not on what Jimin might say to him after so long. Or on what he should say to Jimin. It feels surreal having him here, a few feet away, like he never went away at all. During the time they spent apart, Jungkook thought a lot about the bet. How it was a pretty shitty decision on his part that led him to Jimin in the first place, and how wrong it was to use Jimin like that. But at the same time, if it weren’t for that stupid bet, they never would have gotten close. And while maybe life would have been easier if he hadn’t met Jimin and had his heart broken, Jungkook doesn’t regret it. Even if at the end of this car ride Jimin turns around and never speaks to him again, he still wouldn’t change a thing.

But he wants to tell him. He owes it to him, at least, to be honest.

He’s working up the nerve to say something when Jimin settles on a radio station and says, “Hoseok hyung mentioned that you don’t really party much anymore.”

“Yeah, not really.”

“How come?”

“I kind of figured out that I was using partying and sex as a way to run away from myself. Once I figured that out, I tried to stop. So I could find out who I really was under all that hiding.” It’s hard to say it out loud, even now. He’s ruminated on these thoughts for months, but he doesn’t like talking about his feelings. Years of societal conditioning lead him to believe doing so makes him weak, and overcoming that is easier said than done. He tries to keep his voice steady, but the way Jimin glances at him tells him he doesn’t succeed. “I never really liked it much, anyway, all of that. I don’t really like being around crowds or people I’m not comfortable with. I was just forcing myself because I thought I had to.”

“Then I’m glad you’ve stopped.”

“Me too. I mean, it’s not like the partying or the sex were inherently the problem. Taehyung hyung got laid twice last weekend. Hoseok hyung went to, like, three ragers after finals last semester. They’re fine. They love it. It was just me that was the problem, you know?”

“It’s like Hoseok hyung always says.” Jimin throws out his arms and does a terrible impersonation of Hoseok. “It’s the feel of it, guys, the atmosphere! None of you assholes understand!”

Jungkook snorts.

“You never got the feel of it. You were doing it for the wrong reasons.”

“Yeah.”

“I used to get the feel of it.” Jimin sighs, leaning his cheek against the window. Jungkook slows down extra before going over a bump in the road so it doesn’t jostle him.

“You miss it.”

“I never would have stopped if I didn’t have to. But I guess we can’t have fun forever.”

They fall into a weighty silence. Jungkook thinks about growing up and a future that doesn’t involve his friends and feels a little of the old despondency. Jimin’s already there. He wonders if it’s lonely.

But then again, growing up doesn’t have to mean leaving everyone behind. It just means putting more effort into staying together.

As he pulls onto the expressway, Jungkook says, “I kept on volunteering at the daycare.”

“Oh, yeah?”

“And tutoring Chan. I’m an art major with an education track, now.”

Jimin turns to him in surprise. “Education? You want to be a teacher?”

“I realized I love art the most when I’m helping Chan. And Seokjin hyung, my studio professor from last semester, he really changed the way I view art. And life, too, really. It’d be really cool to have that kind of effect on someone one day.”

“You finally figured it out.” Jimin’s eyes crinkle with genuine happiness.

“I feel a lot better about myself. I actually want to work hard because I know where I’m going, you know?”

“You’re not so lost anymore.”

He nods, pride flaring in his chest. It’s nice to have Jimin look at him so fondly. And it’s nice to feel confident after spending so long conflicted about what he wanted out of life. He still doesn’t know, not entirely, because no one ever knows exactly what they want. But he’s on the right track, at least.

They drive for a while on the busy expressway before Jungkook summons up the courage. He clears his throat. His fingers tremble a little on the steering wheel. “Hyung. I have to tell you something.”

Jimin turns toward him, waiting.

“You might—” he falters, licks his lips. Gathers strength, eyes fixed resolutely on the road ahead of him. “You might hate me for this. And if you do, I understand. I deserve it. But I have to tell you.”

“What is it?”

“The first time I saw you, it was in the dining hall. You didn’t know I was there. You were a few tables away, reading this massive English book.”

“That’s creepy, Jungkook.”

He smiles a little. “And then this girl came up to you and asked you to coffee.”

He feels rather than sees Jimin shift.

“You said no, and you put your head down and looked so sad. I couldn’t figure out why you’d be so sad over turning someone down.” Jungkook’s hands tighten around the wheel. “Honestly, the first time I saw you all I could think was that you were the most beautiful boy on campus.”

Jimin makes a small noise, of discomfort or amusement or what, Jungkook doesn’t know.

“A few days later, you came to talk to Taehyung hyung when I was with him. So I asked him to set me up. He said you didn’t date. I didn’t want to date you. He said you didn’t fuck around, either. And he was so adamant on it. I saw you again at the auto shop and fuck, you were gorgeous and I couldn’t accept that I didn’t have a chance. So Taehyung and I made a bet.”

Jimin doesn’t say anything, doesn’t even move. Jungkook’s too terrified to look at him, so he looks forward, chewing on his lip, trying to control his shaking fingers.

“He said I couldn’t get you to sleep with me by the end of the semester. I said I could. If he won, I’d have to do his laundry for a whole semester. If I won, I got to use his Xbox whenever I wanted.”

Jimin laughs. It’s not an amused laugh, rather a harsh one, and Jungkook’s stomach constricts painfully.

“That’s why I kept trying to hit on you and find you everywhere. It’s the shittiest thing I’ve ever done, hyung, I know that. I called it off in the middle of the semester.”

“When?” Jimin’s voice is stiff. “I want to know exactly how long you kept it going.”

“A few weeks after Bobby left.”

“So when you started volunteering at the daycare. That was because you were trying to get in my pants?”

He swallows past the lump in his throat. “Yeah.”

“And when I told you everything. When I told you how people started to see me like a conquest. Even then?”

“Yeah.”

“When you got me chicken. All those times we studied together. The whole time?”

“Yeah.”

“So you could use Taehyung’s Xbox.”

“Yeah.”

“That’s fucked up, Jungkook. That’s really fucked up.” He says it hard and unyielding, and he’s right.

“I know. I know, it’s awful. I’m awful.”

“Why’d you do that? Even after I told you, didn’t you feel bad?”

“I felt bad all the time. I felt so—I felt so damn guilty all the time, sometimes it made me sick. That doesn’t change anything. But I did.”

“Then why’d you do it?”

The car rounds a bend in the expressway only to run into a jam; all the cars skid to a stop behind the stalled traffic. Jungkook brakes, throwing his arm out in front of Jimin to keep him from jerking forward. When the car stills, Jungkook finally looks at him. He’s staring down at Jungkook’s arm.

“Why’d you do it?”

He puts his hands back on the steering wheel. “I’m only explaining, not excusing myself, okay? It doesn’t make it any better. But when I was in high school I used to get beat up a lot for being kind of quiet and passive. I couldn’t stand up for myself. It was—it was pretty bad. And you know how things went with the guy I liked. When I got to university, it was a fresh start. I wanted to be someone different.”

The traffic starts to move, inching along at a snail’s pace.

“I didn’t want to be anything like the boy who couldn’t talk in class and had everyone throw around insults about him. I wanted to be confident. Someone who wouldn’t get rejected like I did. The bet just turned into something I could do to prove I really wasn’t that boy anymore. At first it might have been, but after a while it wasn’t even about you, really.”

“Stop the car.”

Jungkook glances at him sharply. Jimin’s looking out the window. “Hyung—”

“Stop the car.”

He waits until he can merge over the right. It takes a while in the traffic jam, but he pulls over onto the shoulder and drops his hands in his lap. Jimin yanks the door open and steps out. Jungkook’s hands are shaking so bad he doesn’t know what to do with them. Jimin must hate him.

“Get out,” Jimin says through the open door.

Jungkook slips out of the car and walks around to Jimin. He stands in front of him, thrumming with nervous energy. The drivers of nearby cars stalled in the jam stare at them.

Jimin socks him in the stomach so hard a whoosh of breath leaves him as a pained exhale.

He brushes off his knuckles and slips back into the car. Jungkook stands there, hand on his stomach, reeling. He doesn’t move until Jimin leans out and says, “Are we leaving or not?”

So he gets back into the driver’s side and starts the car, stomach aching with every movement. “Are you—you still want to go with me?”

“I gotta get home, don’t I?”

Jungkook nods. His face is hot with shame. He deserves it, after all. When he finds space, he merges back into the traffic jam. They sit there in silence, miles of stalled traffic ahead of them. Jungkook wonders if Jimin will ever talk to him again.

Then Jimin sighs. “Jungkook, look at me.”

He doesn’t want to. He’s burning with regret.

Jimin’s soft hand presses into his cheek, turning his head to face him. He doesn’t look angry. He looks tender, and maybe a little sad. It’s in the curve of his lips.

“I’m sorry,” Jungkook says.

“I know, and I accept it.”

He dares to breathe.

“What you did was shitty. And you’re right—you explained it but you can’t excuse it. It’s still shitty. But if the way you acted after that is any indication, I know you’ve learned from it. You did a bad thing but you’re not a bad person.”

He looks at Jimin in disbelief. “Really?”

“I wouldn’t say it if I didn’t mean it.”

“You’re not mad at me?”

“I mean, yeah, I’m kind of pissed. But it doesn’t change how I feel about you.”

Jungkook’s realizes his mouth is hanging open. He snaps it shut. “How you feel about me.”

Jimin stares back, a flush rising on his cheeks. He turns away and crosses his arms, sitting back with a huff. “Don’t you know by now?”

“I’ve never heard you say it.”

“Keep dreaming.”

Jungkook looks back at the road, and now he’s smiling, giddy. He hasn’t lost Jimin. He doesn’t hate him. The truth hasn’t changed anything except how unburdened he feels. Traffic inches forward two feet.

“Your turn,” Jungkook says.

“Huh?”

“I’ve told my story about figuring myself out. What about you?”

“Have I figured myself out?” Jimin scoffs, returns to looking out the window. “That’s not going to happen so fast.”

“I know. But you didn’t really answer me when I asked how you were doing.”

The cars move another two feet and Jimin fiddles with the hem of his shirt. “That’s because I don’t really know.”

Jungkook stretches up in his seat to try and see beyond the rows of traffic. There must be some kind of accident ahead.

“But I’m trying. So I guess that’s what matters, right?”

“Right.”

Jimin switches the radio station again, flipping through three without pausing on any for more than a second. He’s biting his lip.

“Why’d you change your mind about the bus ticket? You bought it and then said you didn’t.” When Jimin’s brow furrows like he’s going to deny it, Jungkook adds, “Come on, you were literally holding it.”

“After seeing you it was—it was hard to imagine leaving again. But I was going to. And then I got the ticket and came back and saw you and realized I couldn’t do it a second time. So I, uh, panicked.”

“Idiot,” Jungkook says fondly.

“I didn’t want to say goodbye again.”

“Me neither.” The unspoken truth hangs between them: it doesn’t matter if it has been delayed by four hours. Goodbye is still inevitable.

They move along with traffic at a snail’s pace for the next two hours. In that time they should be halfway to Busan; instead they’ve covered the distance they might have in just one hour. Jungkook’s not even sure how much longer Tony can last through the constant stopping and starting. The radio talks of a large accident that’s caused the expressway to be backed up for miles, worst of all right outside Seoul. It might take them double the amount of time to make it to Busan if this persists.

“We’re gonna be stuck here forever,” Jimin groans, slumping in the seat. He’s taken off his shoes and pulled his feet up.

“And it’s getting late.” It had already been dark out when they left. At this rate they’re going to make it to Busan well after midnight.

Jungkook toys with an idea and wonders how to put it to Jimin without sounding sleazy. He’s not doing it to be sleazy. He wants to delay the inevitable again, perhaps, like Jimin tried with the bus ticket. And anyway they have a pretty reasonable excuse. Of course, there’s always the chance that the traffic will clear up not much further down the expressway, and they’ll make it to Busan with only an hour or two of delay. But then again, there’s also the teensy tiny chance that it might take much longer than that.

“It’s, uh, probably gonna take ages to get to Busan,” Jungkook says, rubbing his nose nonchalantly. “And it’s, like, nighttime already.”

Jimin looks at him. The way his eyes narrow tell him he might have caught on. “And who knows how much more of this Tony can take.”

“Right. What if it’s blocked all the way to Busan?” he says, even though the radio was very clear that it wasn’t.

“Exactly.” Jimin nods very seriously. “You won’t be able to drive all night, that’s crazy.”

“I’ll be so tired.” Jungkook bites the inside of his cheek to keep the laughter from slipping out. “I guess we should, uh, stay somewhere.”

“That’s probably the smartest decision. Honestly, we don’t really even have a choice.”

He can’t help it. Jungkook snorts. Then Jimin splutters, and they’re both laughing, the all-out can’t-breathe kind of laughter. Jimin shifts to lean on him as he laughs. Jungkook can feel it all the way to his bones.

Jimin’s not mad—not unforgivably mad, anyway. He’s not mad and he’s here and they’re going to have one more night together. Goodbye is just a little bit further away.

He pulls onto the nearest exit as soon as they reach it, following signs to a small motel near a bus stop. It’s lit with bright neon lights and various gaudy signs. When they park and head toward it, Jimin starts laughing all over again.

“First the ticket, now this.”

“Why can’t we ever be honest?”

The lobby is nice and cozy and not nearly as sleazy as the motel’s exterior suggested. “I’m paying,” Jimin says immediately, shoving Jungkook out of the way so he can duck toward the window behind which the hotel manager sits. “A room for tonight, please.”

He passes money under the window. The hotel manager, an older man who looks like he’d much rather be asleep, glances at Jimin then back at Jungkook. His lip curls. He slides them the room key without saying anything else.

“Isn’t he supposed to show us the room first?” Jimin mutters as they head for the elevators.

Jungkook shrugs. “I don’t think he likes us.” Besides Jimin’s messenger bag, nothing about them suggests they are prepared to spend the night in a motel. The manager has clearly already made his assumptions. Jungkook’s just glad they didn’t get kicked out. If one of them were with a girl, the manager wouldn’t have batted even an eyelash.

“Yeah.” Jimin looks a little despondent.

Jungkook nudges him. “Hey, maybe if we’re really annoying we’ll scare off his other customers. That’ll show him.”

The room is nice, small but comfortable, with a little yellow armchair in the corner next to a large TV and stand. The bed faces the TV, covered in floral sheets that match the yellow curtains on the small window. A painting of a scenic forest hangs above the bed, and the tables flanking it hold lamps and magazines. They’ll have to share the bed unless someone wants to sleep on the floor. Jungkook doesn’t know why he didn’t think of that before. He flushes suddenly.

“I gotta, uh, use the bathroom.”

He locks the door behind him and leans on the counter, staring at his red face in the mirror. He’s not a kid, he shouldn’t be blushing, but it’s Jimin. It’s Jimin and they’re going to share a bed perfectly sober and Jungkook will get to see his face when he wakes up again, cheeks and lips puffy and eyes soft. With cold water he splashes his face twice before returning to the room.

Jimin has dropped his bag to the side, kicked off his shoes, and fallen back onto the bed, spread-eagled. He shifts to the side when he sees Jungkook, patting the empty space next to him. Jungkook sits down gingerly.

“I’m not going to bite,” Jimin says wryly.

He flushes again, but he’s not about to back down, so he gets up and steps out of his Timberlands. Then he steps out of his pants, too, because he’s not going to sleep with those on. He lies down next to Jimin on top of the covers.

Jimin scoffs. “Is this a competition?”

“It’s not my fault I don’t have pajamas.” Jungkook rubs his stomach, still aching from Jimin’s punch. He’ll probably wake up with bruises.

“Does it hurt?” Jimin asks.

“Yeah.” He tries to look sympathetic, pouting a little.

Jimin smacks him on the stomach, right on the sore spot. He winces, curling up with a groan. “Good.”

Jimin slips out of bed to shift through his bag for his change of clothes from last night. Right there, with his back to Jungkook, he strips off his shirt and pants. His back muscles shift as he pulls on shorts. He’s built so compact, small and strong, slender waist and narrow shoulders. Jungkook doesn’t realize he’s been staring until Jimin’s t-shirt comes on to cover every last sliver of skin, and he returns to his senses.

After rolling up the blinds and turning off the lamps so only the warm streetlights and a hint of moonlight filter into the room, Jimin returns to bed. They lie side-by-side, staring at the shadows that play across the ceiling. It’s quiet and warm and an almost foreign feeling creeps up on Jungkook: contentment. Even though he doesn’t know where they stand or what they’ll do at the end of their trip, he’s content.

“When did you figure out you liked me?” Jimin’s voice is soft, as if he doesn’t want to disturb the peace.

“That night we went to the river and you told me you were leaving in two weeks.” He remembers it too clearly. If he tries hard enough he can call up the exact feelings that washed over him when he finally understood exactly how much Jimin meant to him. “I went home and started crying on the kitchen floor.”

Jimin’s voice cracks. “You liked me that much?”

“I still do.” He remembers how difficult it was the first time he said to Taehyung, I like him, hyung. I like him. Now it’s easy. He could say it a thousand times, a million times. “I still like you that much.”

“That’s the night I realized it, too. When you told me about that guy you liked and how he hurt you and I realized I’d do anything to make you happy.”

Jungkook holds his breath. Jimin is unmoving beside him, warm. “You were never going to say anything.”

“No. I didn’t think you would, either, even though—even though I kind of suspected how you felt. I didn’t want you to say anything.”

“Because then you’d have to say no.”

“You don’t understand how much it hurts saying no when all you want to do is say yes. I wanted to slip out of your life, let distance come between us naturally. I wanted you to forget about me.”

“I could never do that.”

“I wanted you to find someone better.”

“You’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”

Jimin laughs, and it sounds a little choked. “Don’t say that.”

“It’s true.” He turns onto his side, propping himself up on his elbow so he’s facing Jimin.

“I’ve never liked anyone as much as I like you.”

To hear him say it is a breath of fresh air that cradles Jungkook’s skin. Relief turns him light and giddy. He’s never said it outright. Until now it’s been nothing more than hearsay and implication. But hearing him say it—Jungkook wonders if like is too weak a word to describe how he feels about Jimin.

Jimin’s looking at him, eyes gentle. The glow of outside light shines across his face until his eyes sparkle and his piercings glint. He reaches up and brushes his fingers along Jungkook’s cheek. Jungkook leans toward him, cupping his face in his hand. He stops when there’s just a sliver of air between them, his lips hovering in the space above Jimin’s, their breath mingling. He could count Jimin’s eyelashes if he wanted, lose himself in the warm brown of Jimin’s eyes.

“Can I kiss you?” he whispers, and they’re too close, so close that his lips brush Jimin’s when they move. Jungkook forgets how to breathe.

Jimin’s fingers run from Jungkook’s nape through his hair. He pulls him down.

His lips are softer than Jungkook has ever imagined, plush against his. He kisses his lower lip once, twice, three times, tugging it between his own. Hesitant, slow like he’s savoring it, memorizing the way Jimin feels. His free hand moves to Jimin’s hip, the other keeping him upright so he hovers over him. When he pulls away Jimin chases his lips for another kiss. His hands thread through Jungkook’s hair, tugging him closer. If Jungkook were poetic he’d compare the kiss to stars exploding from Jimin’s mouth to his; maybe he’d say kissing Jimin felt like going home after a long, hard day. Maybe he’d marvel that nothing has ever kindled him to flames with the ease that Jimin’s touch does. But all he thinks is that he’s really, really fucking happy.

“Jungkook,” Jimin breathes against his lips. The name sounds new and beautiful like Jimin’s never said it before—not like this, not so close Jungkook can feel him say it, so close they’re breathing the same air.

Jimin kisses him again and Jungkook melts into him. He kisses away the longing and the regret and all the doubt until there’s nothing but this, nothing but Jeon Jungkook and Park Jimin and the feelings that have gathered between them. And if Jungkook wasn’t sure before he’s sure now; Jimin’s all he wants.

They break away to breathe. Jimin’s cheeks are pink. Jungkook’s sure his own are, too, his hair mussed. He’s almost entirely positive that he’s never seen anything as beautiful as Jimin lying under him with a flushed face and soft eyes. He trails his fingers along Jimin’s cheek, down his neck, touch as light as can be.

He’s been waiting for this for a long time. Since the first time he saw Jimin, sitting in the dining hall with a pretty pout on his lips. An innumerable amount of missed chances have passed between then and now, but finally. Finally.

“I think,” he murmurs, “that maybe I more than like you.”

Jimin laughs, breathless. “Don’t move so fast, baby.”

Jungkook’s face heats up. He likes the way that sounds, likes it more than anything. He hides his face in Jimin’s neck, grinning. God, he’s had so many boys and girls call him ‘baby’ but nobody’s ever made him feel like Jimin. He doesn’t know if he’ll ever stop marveling at the way Jimin makes him feel.   

“What?” Jimin says, and now he’s really laughing. “Baby.”

“Shut up,” Jungkook mutters.

“Cute.” He kisses the top of Jungkook’s head.

Jungkook pulls back to look at him again. “Am I—you think we’re moving fast?”

“No.” Jimin strokes his thumb along Jungkook’s mouth. “But I’m not better, Jungkook. This—all of this still scares me.”

Jungkook can tell it’s difficult for him to admit it. He leans down to drop a kiss to the corner of Jimin’s mouth. “Then we’ll take it slow.”

“We should talk about this, yeah?”

“In the morning. We can worry about it in the morning.”

“Okay, baby.”

“Stop.” Jungkook lies back down, flushing. He can’t believe he’s fucking blushing at being called ‘baby.’

Jimin shifts closer to him, throwing his around Jungkook’s waist and curling into his chest. Jungkook wraps an arm around Jimin’s shoulders, tucking him close. “Goodnight, baby.”

Hyung.”

 

He wakes up to Jimin’s hand stroking his hair.

“Jungkook,” he hears Jimin murmur. “We gotta get going.”

He opens his eyes slowly, groggy from sleep. Jimin’s lying on his side at eye-level, face puffy and hair sticking up in various directions. Jungkook slings his arm around Jimin’s waist and tugs him close so he can plant a kiss on his lips. “Five more minutes.”

“I have a meeting today, idiot,” he says fondly before pulling away and slipping out of bed.

“Come back.”

Jimin snorts. Jungkook rolls onto his back, stretching, and watches Jimin slip out of his t-shirt and shorts and into yesterday’s clothes.

“So does this mean I get to see your ass tattoo?”

Jimin pauses in digging his toothbrush out of his bag and looks over. “Listen, we haven’t even figured out where we’re going with all this yet. I don’t fuck on the first date.”

“Liar.”

“You’re right,” Jimin smirks. “I fuck before the first date.”

The way he’s looking at him, eyes hooded, makes Jungkook shiver. “Is this our first date?”

“No.”

“Then I guess we better get that out of the way before we have one, right?”

Jimin wags his toothbrush at Jungkook, the sultry look replaced with an amused one. “Nice try, big boy.”

“Don’t underestimate me. This one time I got a straight guy to—”

A banging on the hotel room door interrupts him. “Checkout in one hour,” the manager shouts from the other side.

“Okay,” Jimin calls back. He tosses Jungkook’s pants at him. “Time to get up.”

By the time they make it to the car, Jungkook’s high has worn off. He’s remembered the purpose of their trip and what awaits them at the end of it. He tries starting Tony three times before the engine finally revs, but then he just sits there, shoulders slumping.

“Hyung,” he says. “Before we go. We should talk.”

From the corner of his eye, he sees Jimin nod. “Yeah.”

“I want to be with you.”

“We’ll take things slow, like you said.”

“I can come visit. Busan’s only four hours away.”

“You have a car. I can take the bus.”

“We can make it work.”

“And the distance will be good for me, maybe. Help me ease into things.”

“My grandparents always wanted me to move to Busan after graduating.”

Jimin’s startled into a laugh. “Don’t look so far ahead.”

“Sorry.”

“Look at right now. One day at a time.”

“We’ll make it work.”

They look over at each other at the same time, and they’re both smiling. “Yeah. We will.”

Jungkook shifts the gear to drive and pulls out of the parking lot.

The trip doesn’t feel so daunting anymore, knowing that goodbye no longer waits at the end of it. It wasn’t inevitable after all. It’ll be a see you later, this time, and maybe they won’t ever have to say goodbye again.

Jungkook has come a very long way from the boy who begged Taehyung for a phone number and ended up with a bet that changed his life. He’s come a very long way from the boy who hid from the others in high school bathrooms, from the boy who cried before graduation because his crush laughed at him when he confessed, from the boy who spent a year and a half of university trying to prove himself to no one but himself. Those experiences won’t ever go away; he’ll always be who he is because of them. But over the course of the past year he’s learned not to let to them control him, and that’s all that matters.

He thinks about the series of strange coincidences that led him to Jimin, and how they had almost made him believe in fate. Taehyung will tell him it was destiny that led them together, the universe moving in its infinite wisdom to bring them to this point in time, where they can look at each other and be honest instead of guarded. Maybe it was fate. Or maybe it was just a line of strange coincidences, happenstance, the universe’s accident.

Or maybe he’s just thinking too hard.

“Let’s go, baby,” Jimin says, and Jungkook smiles.