The car ride to Busan is almost three hours long, and it's probably the longest three hours of his life as far as Jeongguk is concerned. He's not exactly the most patient person out there, even less so when there's so much riding on it and, right now, Jeongguk feels the heavy weight of a hundred different possibilities on his shoulders as the distance between Seoul and Busan grows shorter and shorter. Jeongguk has been nervous before—before countless auditions, before his official appearance as a BTS member, before making his debut, as a solo artist this time, all over again. But he doesn't remember being nervous like this ever.
"Can you please fucking relax?" Yoongi asks, with all the exasperation of someone who has asked the same question countless of times already in the span of an hour. He briefly glances at Jeongguk from the rearview mirror and sighs. "You're not doing anyone a favor by acting like you're about to piss your pants any second."
Jeongguk frowns. "I'm not going to piss my pants, hyung," he replies sourly. Well, his bladder doesn't feel like it's gonna burst anytime soon, at least. Jeongguk tries to relax in his seat, purposefully ignoring the niggling voice at the back of his head telling him that his heart just might end up bursting instead.
"That's reassuring," Yoongi comments drily. He keeps his eyes on the road, hands steady on the steering wheel. "Anyway, you should try to sleep a little before we get there. You've been up since 5 AM, I can't have you passing out on us in the middle of a conversation or something."
He hums but doesn't say anything else. Taking Yoongi's advice, Jeongguk closes his eyes, lets the soft beat of the music coming from the stereo lull him to a slumber. He's physically tired; the exhaustion and lack of sleep have definitely started to take a toll on his body. His mind, however, is just spinning in all directions, making it a lot more difficult for Jeongguk to succumb to his weariness.
It had been quite a while since he'd gone back to Busan. It wasn't exactly a conscious decision on his part, but climbing his way up the entertainment industry and keeping himself relevant to the public had left Jeongguk so little time for a proper break for the past few years. He'd worked hard, harder than when he'd been a part of the group and had six hyungs he could fall back on if things ever went astray, and the sacrifices he'd made back then just paled in comparison to the rewards he'd eventually reaped from his efforts.
Not everyone in Bangtan had taken the same career path as him. When the members went their separate ways and branched out into their own respective careers, Yoongi and Namjoon have decided to stay in Big Hit Entertainment as the company's main producers. Eventually, they've struck a deal with Bang Shi Hyuk to head an independent sub-label called DR(ea)M Entertainment, a portmanteau of Yoongi's Daegu origin and Namjoon's stage name initials, to give them an opportunity to raise their own artists. Jeongguk had chosen to stay with them, despite receiving so many love calls from different agencies, and was eventually managed by Yoongi as his first solo artist. He'd never regretted his decision then, and Jeongguk can't find any reason to regret it now, not when Yoongi's been nothing but good to him all these years.
Seokjin and Taehyung have both been signed under the same label that mostly handled rookie actors. Last Jeongguk had heard, they were both doing well and were even cast to star in one movie together. Hoseok, on the other hand, had taken the route of being an official choreographer for BigHit, following Yoongi's and Namjoon's footsteps who have decided to work mostly behind the camera. He'd always been passionate about dance, always had the knack for teaching other people, and Jeongguk had thought no other job in the world could have fit Hoseok better.
Jimin, though—Jimin had decided to stay out of the limelight for good after the group's disbandment. It was a little regretful, maybe, but not exactly a surprising decision if anyone ever asked. The repetitive lifestyle and constant pressure had worn him thin, fatigue clinging to his bones, and everyone had seen him struggle on and off stage during the last years of their receding fame.
Still, it didn't lessen the blow caused by the fact that Jimin had been considering this option without even telling a word about it to Jeongguk. When Jimin eventually broke the news to the group, Jeongguk had felt a lot like being betrayed by his best friend. Remembered stubbornly ignoring Jimin for days before all of them packed their bags and moved out of their dorm. He'd been so selfish then, childish and immature for letting his emotions get the better of him instead of dealing with things rationally like how a supportive friend would.
While the distance had sobered Jeongguk up considerably, it never really dulled the feeling of sadness and regret in his chest.
Now that they're on their way to his hometown, it would be a huge lie to say that Jeongguk hasn't been thinking about getting to meet Jimin again. He can't remember the last time he'd actually seen Jimin and Jeongguk, to be honest, feels like he's just about to jump out of his skin at the mere possibility. It's all kinds of ridiculous and he hates himself for it, but even so—he can't help but wonder about so many things, about what might or might not have changed in their time away from each other. Jeongguk himself hadn't changed much,
besides gaining a couple more inches maybe, but he keeps trying to imagine Jimin a few years older, more mature, happier now that he's free from the shackles of stress and never ending expectations of the industry. He doesn't know how Jimin feels about him anymore, or if Jimin actually ever felt something for him back—
"I can literally hear you thinking over here, Jeongguk. Stop that," Yoongi says, his tone more an order than a request. "You look stressed out and it's stressing me out. We're going to get away from your busy schedule for a while and have fun and see Jimin in Busan, okay? Just—take a goddamn breath, will you?"
"Yes, mom," Jeongguk grumbles, like a petulant child. But he still does what he's told—Jeongguk takes a deep breath and leans his head against the window, trying his hardest not to count down the minutes until they arrive.
It's almost anticlimactic.
Jeongguk didn't really know what he'd expected to happen when this day finally rolled around. He'd wondered, countless of times in the past, if there'd be dramatic music playing in the background once they got to meet again. If time would slow down and everything would come to a standstill as soon as their eyes met, like how he'd seen reunions come about in all those movies and dramas before.
When Jimin steps inside the restaurant where they agreed to meet for lunch, however, none of that takes place—there isn't a beat of music playing in Jeongguk's ears, nor is there a perceived notion of time dwindling to a stop.
Along with Jimin's appearance comes the awkward silence, though, and then the sudden, unexplainable ache deep in Jeongguk's chest. It hits him out of nowhere, fiercely so, that Jeongguk barely manages to concentrate and catch Yoongi's words.
"-order for us," he hears Yoongi say. There's a quick glance thrown Jeongguk's way right after, meaningful and supportive, before Yoongi finally gets up and ambles towards the counter.
Funnily enough, the first thing Jeongguk catches himself blurting out as soon as Jimin's within reach is, "You haven't changed, hyung."
That's a lie, of course.
Jimin definitely looks better now than he did the last time they'd seen each other (which was years ago, Jeongguk notes with a grimace). He'd still been a part of the group then, singing for a crowd until his voice turned hoarse and dancing until he dropped to his feet. Jimin had been beautiful then, too, Jeongguk vividly recalls, but he'd looked tired, and there had been a dullness in his eyes that had never really disappeared even as time passed by.
Now, though, he's a lot healthier, seems a lot more at ease than he did way back when. Jeongguk knows he'd gone and finished his enlistment months ago, and Jimin just looks fit as hell right now, somehow broader but still so small. Despite the obvious loss of the usual chubbiness in his face, Jimin's smile still remains the softest thing ever.
Jimin takes the seat opposite him and, as though no time and distance have passed between them, says, "Really?" He reaches up and Jeongguk tries to breathe normally as he feels Jimin's fingers grip at his chin, inspecting his face from left to right. "Cause you've definitely changed a lot, Jeonggukie."
Jeongguk refuses to believe that. He may have gotten a little taller, sure, lost some of the acne scars that marred his face during his teenage years, filled out a little. But those aren't exactly noteworthy, not really. They're nowhere near the kind of changes the years have left on Jimin.
Still, Jeongguk knows his Jimin hyung—the hyung he'd known and loved and cared for back then—is still in there.
He's still wearing his helix piercing, for one, and the sight of it makes Jeongguk really nostalgic. He remembers how Jimin once lost it during one of their music video shootings and had to get it done again because the previous hole grew over. He'd accompanied Jimin then despite his hyung's insistence that he could go by himself, had showered him with compliments after and watched him with fondness as Jimin turned redder and shyer with each one.
And then there's also the tuft of black hair atop his head. Last time Jeongguk had seen him, Jimin had been sporting a weird mix of blue and gray hair for their last album promotion, egged on by so many fans who had edited a picture of him with the same peculiar shade back then. It had been a while since the stylists had left Jimin's scalp alone so meeting him again, with his natural hair color this time, is a little bit of a pleasant surprise for Jeongguk. Jimin had gone through so many colors and hairstyles during their entire successful run as Bangtan Sonyeondan that Jeongguk couldn't even try and list them off his head in one go but, somehow, Jimin had easily rocked all of them one way or another. Jeongguk had found it unfair before how Jimin could make even the most terrible haircut in existence work in his favor.
And, even after so many years, Jeongguk can say he pretty much feels the same thing at this moment—really, how is it fair that Jimin can still effortlessly take away his breath like this?
"Are you sure?" Jeongguk asks as soon as he gets his mouth to work. His voice comes out as a croak—soft, weak, unsure. "Maybe you just forgot what I looked like, hyung."
Jeongguk knows he should pull away, maybe look elsewhere to break the trance Jimin has put him in again, but there's something in him that doesn't really want to. That still craves for what little contact Jimin will willingly give him. Jeongguk inwardly laughs at himself; turns out he really hasn't changed, not even after all these years.
Jimin smiles then, soft and heartbreaking. His touch is starting to sear through Jeongguk's skin, but Jeongguk firmly remains stockstill in his position, not wanting to move despite every living cell in his body telling him to. "Impossible," he simply says. "You know that will never happen."
The moment feels like it'll last for an eternity—an eternity too long that, Jeongguk realizes with utmost clarity, he will never, ever trade for anything else.
"Am I interrupting something?"
The sudden intrusion has Jimin hastily retracting his hand and Jeongguk tamps down the urge to frown at their loss of contact. He turns in the direction of the voice, more of a reflexive movement than anything else, and immediately sees Yoongi barely hiding a shit-eating grin behind his hand. Jeongguk just rolls his eyes, hiding his embarrassment. There's really no point in trying to deflect Yoongi's inevitable teasing when they've already been caught in the act.
"No, you weren't," Jeongguk answers, almost sulkily.
Yoongi drops onto the seat next to him and snorts, clearly finding his halfhearted response a shameless source of entertainment. "If you say so, Jeongguk-ah."
Jeongguk opens his mouth, already poised to say something sassy in hopes of wiping that smirk off Yoongi's face, but quickly stops short when he sees Jimin giggling at their interaction. He's clearly failing at his efforts to hold it in, if the hand covering his mouth and his shoulders valiantly shaking in mirth are any indication. Still, it's a rare sight, one that he's truly missed seeing ever since they've been apart, and Jeongguk finds that he doesn't have it in himself to feel even the least bit annoyed at being the center of their amusement.
Fucking whipped, Yoongi mouths at him, smirking, as though he knows exactly what thoughts are currently running amok inside Jeongguk's head.
Jeongguk blatantly ignores him in favor of tapping open his phone to play a game. Okay—so maybe he was, back in the past. Or still is. Whatever. But, damn it all, he's not about to give Yoongi the satisfaction of knowing that.
There are so many reasons why Jeongguk shouldn't feel uncomfortable about staying over at Jimin's house for a few days and his mental list includes but is not limited to:
- The Park household had practically adopted him as a part of their family ever since Jimin had brought Jeongguk home to introduce him the first time. It hadn't been the grandest affair because Jimin didn't exactly mention about bringing a friend when he went back to Busan for a quick break, but Jeongguk had been treated very warmly all the same.
- Whenever Jeongguk traveled alone, he would always make sure to stop by Jimin's house before he went back to Seoul. It wasn't an obligation, not really, but rather something that Jeongguk had ended up doing out of his own free will. Jeongguk thinks the number of times he'd gone to see his parents was practically equivalent to how often he'd also visited Jimin's family at this point.
- This isn't exactly the first time he's doing this and, as testament, Jeongguk had already claimed a space of his own in one of Jimin's many drawers because of how often he'd been roped for a sleepover before. (There's no saying if that space still exists, of course, but Jeongguk admits he'd like it a whole lot if it does.)
- Jimin was—and still continues to be—his favorite person. This shouldn't be so hard, right?
Truthfully, if Jeongguk had been confronted with the same situation before, the last one would have been more than enough to convince him to stop overthinking and just go with the flow, let things happen as they're meant to. But as it is, years have gone and bridged them apart, and Jeongguk stumbles upon the same unshakable idea that while Jimin may still be his favorite person, it doesn't necessarily ring true on Jimin's part. The possibility of this—whatever this is—just being a one sided thing is more than enough to have Jeongguk questioning himself all over again.
Still, he can't help but be a little nervous and excited as Yoongi navigates their way to reach Jimin's house. It'd been a while since he'd last dropped by and Jeongguk wonders just how much had changed over the past few years.
Busan, in general, is still as lively and populated as Jeongguk last remembers, however—maybe even more so now, considering how progressive the city had been even in the past. He looks out the window as the car speeds down the road and eyes all the new establishments they come across with subdued curiosity. Jeongguk mentally takes notes of each one—the interesting cafes and souvenir shops and restaurants that catch his attention—and silently vows to find time amidst his hectic work schedule to visit all of them. Maybe he can check out a couple of them before he's set to return to Seoul this week?
Before Jeongguk can even make further plans in his head, the car is already backing into an empty lot, slow and careful, before eventually coming to a stop. Jeongguk looks around and realizes, with a start, that they're already here. That the woman quickly approaching them with a ready smile on her face is Jimin's mother, the same one that had always treated Jeongguk like her own son.
Jeongguk tries not to make this a big deal, he really does, but if there's one other person who had always seen through his shyness and unconventional ways of showing affection aside from Jimin, it's definitely Jimin's mother and, well, they're both here.
Maybe it shouldn't take Jeongguk by surprise when he gets swept up in a hug as soon as he steps out of the car, but it still does, anyway, the initial worry of actually seeing her now quickly turning into warmth when Jeongguk realizes how much he's missed her. She's a lot thinner than Jeongguk remembers, and she fits a lot better in his arms now than when he'd clung to her as a mere teenager. She still holds him just as tight, however. Still makes him seem so small and vulnerable in her embrace even though Jeongguk has always stood much, much taller than her even before.
Suddenly, he feels safe, comfortable, loved. Suddenly, all Jeongguk can think about now is how thankful he is to see her again.
"Wow, thanks for the warm welcome, mom," Jimin suddenly says. There's a snort from Yoongi somewhere and Jeongguk's pretty sure they look just like those dramatic mother-son reunions on TV. Still, Jeongguk doesn't let go, just revels in her warmth as it continuously washes over him a litte longer.
Eventually, Jeongguk pulls away, and she quickly turns to Jimin just to loudly coo at her son's silly behavior even in front of his ex-bandmates. The banter effectively pulls a stream of laughter from Jeongguk's lips, loud and carefree. He'd missed this, too, Jeongguk realizes.
God, he'd missed a lot of things.
A gentle pat on his backside tears Jeongguk away from his thoughts. He blinks, only to find Jimin's mom already looking at him with nothing but contentment written all over his face. "Welcome back, Jeongguk-ah."
With Yoongi unexpectedly volunteering to help Jimin's mom in the kitchen, Jeongguk follows Jimin alone upstairs to deposit some of their things in the room where they'll be staying at. It's definitely weird—Yoongi almost always never steps into the kitchen willingly unless 1) he's really hungry and can't wait for food to be ready or; 2) he has an ulterior motive.
Jeongguk rolls his eyes; he can almost figure it out. It's too easy.
Jimin, completely oblivious of what's happening, continues to walk ahead of Jeongguk, his natural black hair bobbing with each step. Jeongguk catches himself wanting to reach out and touch it, already halfway into doing so, just to make sure it's real—to make sure Jimin is real, because this entire scenario is definitely just straight out of Jeongguk's wildest dreams.
He doesn't, though, because it'd be weird as hell. Because Jeongguk, as much as Yoongi likes to think otherwise, still has a surprising semblance of self-control left in his body. So Jeongguk just keeps his hands glued to his side, fingers clenching and unclenching in an attempt to keep them preoccupied.
"Jihyun's left for university already, so we have one spare room right now. You don't mind sharing with Yoongi hyung, right?" Jimin asks. It's the first thing that's ever been spoken out loud between them since they've left the restaurant—Jeongguk couldn't get himself to speak during the entire car ride, afraid that he'd trip over his words and say something ridiculous. "Or if you want, I can—"
Jeongguk quickly shakes his head, adamant. "It's fine, hyung. I don't mind rooming with Yoongi hyung. It's only for two nights, anyway." Jeongguk's already imposing so much by staying here when he has his own house in Busan. He can't possibly ask Jimin for more than this.
As though sensing what Jeongguk has in mind, Jimin suddenly turns around and regards him with a knowing look, a soft smile even pulling at the corners of his lips. "You know it's not a big deal, right?" he asks, rhetorical. "We've always welcomed you here, Jeongguk-ah, and that hasn't changed."
Even after you stopped visiting for unknown reasons, goes unsaid, but Jeongguk hears them all the same. There's no excuse for his behavior before and Jeongguk most certainly isn't going to come up with one now, out of the blue, just to redeem himself. For so long, Jeongguk had always felt like he'd wasted so much time and allowed so much distance to come between him and Jimin, that no amount of effort and remorse could help bring back the kind of familiarity they had with each other back then.
In this moment, however, with Jimin's gaze fixed on Jeongguk's face, he makes Jeongguk feel like it isn't too late. Makes Jeongguk want to try like he'd never done before. Jimin deserves that much from him, at least.
In an unwavering moment of clarity and decisiveness, Jeongguk brings his hands together and bows his head. "Please take care of me while I'm here, hyung."
It wasn't quite what Jeongguk wanted to say. What he really wanted to say was something along the lines of I don't deserve you, but you're still here or maybe even Please stay with me forever. But with their relationship as fragile as it was and Yoongi and Jimin's mother just around the corner, none of them just didn't seem all that approriate in the moment. So Jeongguk just decided to blurt out the safest thing in his mind.
Thankfully, Jimin doesn't find his weird response all that surprising. He reaches out then and affectionately ruffles Jeongguk's hair, like he's done so many times before. Jeongguk's pulse skyrockets at the simplest touch, blood rising to his skin, no doubt giving his face a nice flush.
"Come on," Jimin says, "I'll help you unpack your things upstairs."
In Jeongguk's relatively short life, he has admitted to seeing so many breathtaking things—pools after pools of autumn gold and rust coloured leaves during autumn, or the spread of downtown Seoul from the top of Namsan Tower at night. They're all awe-inspiring, beautiful in their own right. But as Jeongguk plunks himself down along the shore, the sand crunching in between his toes, he realizes nothing can ever really compare to the sight splayed before his very eyes.
Ddaepo beach is almost deserted at this time of the day. The dipping sun is a fiery orange and it licks and glitters channels of the sea red like a dragon’s tongue. The sand has been burnished into a long winding-sheet of copper, while the horizon is threaded with a thin line of silver. As the sun bows down further, the water gleaming in its dying rays, the slumbering heap of sea becomes a-glow like melted platinum.
Jeongguk takes his phone out to try and capture its beauty in pixels, knowing full well that the real thing is still in a class of its own. The continuous shutter noises sound bare and insignificant in the open air, in the soothing lullaby of the sea as it teems and hisses, the salty lips of the waves kissing the sand roughly.
Magnificent doesn't even begin to cover the picturesque grandeur before him and Jeongguk fleetingly thinks he can sit here all day without getting bored of its beauty.
Jeongguk whips his head to the side so fast he swears it almost pops and spins right off his shoulder. Beside him, Jimin is just about settling into a cross-legged position, his hands tucked in front of him to keep them warm. It's cold, the temperature just dipping a bit further, and Jimin is all bundled up with a thick jacket and a scarf wrapped securely around his neck.
Jimin continues to look at the setting sun, his eyes steady on the horizon, face aglow with the last orange rays before twilight beckons the stars. It's mesmerizing, how dawn casts infinite shadows across his rosy cheeks. How the wind whispers in his ear and plays with the locks of his hair, as though telling Jimin its deepest, darkest secrets.
He's mesmerizing, and Jeongguk finds that he can't look away.
It's, of course, at this precise moment that Jimin shifts, catching his gaze by accident, and heat immediately floods Jeongguk's cheeks. He ducks his head to hide his blush, but it proves to be nothing but a vain effort—Jimin still manages to catch sight of Jeongguk's reddening face and laughs. Mutters a quiet cute under his breath that Jeongguk fails to hear because of the squawking seagulls above.
Silence falls between them, nothing but the sound of waves lapping at the sandy shore and people laughing in the distance, and Jeongguk, for some reason, doesn't feel uncomfortable like before. Their proximity still makes his skin tingle, still renders his heart unable to do anything but hammer like a piston in his chest, but he's more at ease, more like himself now around Jimin.
"You get a glimpse of this every day, hyung," Jeongguk says, his voice almost swallowed up by the crashing surf.
Jimin hums, smiling. "I do. It doesn't really get any less beautiful even after seeing it a thousand times, though."
Jeongguk understands; because right here, at this moment, Jeongguk feels like he can live the rest of his life satisfyingly just by being in this spot, sitting on the sand and looking at a sight that will probably never
be paralleled in his life. Living his dreams in Seoul has almost made Jeongguk forget how nice it is to get away from everything once in a while.
Now that he remembers, though, Jeongguk feels the urge to never leave again. He turns to Jimin at his side, a halfhearted jest already formed at the tip of his tongue, only to stop short of what he's about to do. For what seems to be the umpteenth time today, Jeongguk's breath catches in his throat.
Jimin has his eyes closed, a serene expression overtaking his features as he listens to the roar of the waves. Jimin tended to do that even back then, as though doing so can help him focus, block out everything else in his surroundings that could potentially distract him from fully appreciating something, and Jeongguk feels oddly glad to know that that part of him still hasn't changed, at least. The tension has eased out of Jimin's spine, and some of the stress have melted away from his face. He also seems...content, in a way Jeongguk fails to remember ever seeing him be before.
"Are you happy here, hyung?"
The words are already out of his lips before Jeongguk can even dwell on them. Jeongguk can't get himself to move even after Jimin has opened his eyes in shock, even after he has regarded Jeongguk with a cock of his head, a thoughtful expression splayed on his face.
It takes a while for Jimin to answer and, for a brief second, Jeongguk gets worried that he might've crossed some kind of line with that question. Before Jeongguk can even try and take it back, though, diffuse the tensed atmosphere with an apology or a new topic of conversation, Jimin opens his mouth and says, "Yeah." It's more of a whisper than anything else, but Jeongguk swears he hasn't heard anything as loud as the certainty in Jimin's voice. "Yeah, I'm happy, Jeonggukie."
"That's," Jeongguk licks his lips, finding them suddenly dry and cracked, "that's good, hyung." Unsure of what to do with the weight of Jimin's gaze on him, Jeongguk just stares back, meeting his eyes without reservation.
"I know you didn't understand me back then—the choices I made, why I had to do the things I did. But," Jimin tucks his legs under his chin, hugging them to his chest, making himself look even smaller, frailer. Jeongguk knows he's anything but, though. Knows that he's brave and strong through and through. "I don't regret it. Bangtan has a special place in my heart, of course, but there were some sacrifices I had to do for myself even though they weren't the most reasonable for everyone at the time."
Jeongguk nods. He understands it now, better and clearer than he ever did before. Jeongguk somewhat knew he had been suffering, but certainly not to the extent that Jimin would choose to go back to Busan than continue reaching for greater heights with the rest of the members. More so than betrayal, Jeongguk had felt useless and pathetic then, angry at himself more than anyone else, for not noticing Jimin's situation soon enough. The thought of his hyungs hurting had always been his weakest point.
"It was tough, it hurt that you wanted to leave Seoul and stay away from the industry altogether. Just made me feel like I didn't do enough to take care of you," Jeongguk shyly mumbles. It's the knowledge that Jimin had probably silently suffered by himself for so long that still makes it hard for Jeongguk to openly talk about this stuff even to this day. "But...I'm really happy that you're happy here, hyung."
When Jimin reaches out to wrap an arm around his shoulders, Jeongguk doesn't even flinch. He just lets Jimin pull him closer, lets him sweep his fingers through Jeongguk's hair as a silent form of comfort.
The sky is beginning to turn a shade of purple as the sun slowly vanishes from the horizon. It's going to be the end of his first day in Busan soon and Jeongguk feels like he'd just spent every second in the best way that he could.
Jeongguk opens the camera application again on his phone and switches it to video mode, stretching his hand just enough so the screen can display both him and Jimin. They look really cozy together, Jeongguk realizes, with Jimin comfortably tucked so close to his side despite the wide stretch of the shore. Any closer and they might've been mistaken as a couple, if the few or so people passing by and catching them almost snuggled with each other haven't done so already.
Before Jeongguk can even have the chance to dwell on the ache in his chest, Jimin bumps his shoulders and giggles as soon as he notices their faces on display. "What are you doing?"
"Let's film a log, hyung," Jeongguk just says, smiling ridiculously wide at his phone camera.
"What, like the ones we've done before?"
"Yeah," Jeongguk nods. He waves with his free hand as soon as the video starts recording, prompting Jimin to flash the camera a bright and indulgent beam. "It's been a great day and I need to have it documented."
Jimin laughs. Jeongguk would've done so, too, if only because Jimin's laugh was always so goddamn infectious. "For what?"
"For remembrance," Jeongguk softly says.
He can see Jimin staring at him on the screen, then. There's something unidentifiable in the intensity of his gaze, in the purse of his lips, as though Jimin wants to speak up but can't do so for some reason. Jeongguk tries not to mull over it too much and just focuses on filming them properly, already torn between posting it publicly after or just keeping it for himself.
(The latter sounds really tempting, though. Jeongguk had always made sure to share everything to his fans, be as open to them as he could. But this is a little more private, a little more intimate, and there's nothing wrong with just wanting something for himself once in a while, right?)
Jeongguk doesn't say it out loud, but he knows he'll never forget this day even without the video proof to back it up.
"Stop that," Yoongi admonishes, barely sparing Jeongguk a glance as he puts his remaining clothes inside his bag. "You know that would've worked on me ten years ago, but you're a grown ass man now. That pout just looks so wrong and disturbing on your face."
"Rude," Jeongguk sniffs. He dolefully stares as Yoongi continues to pack his things, feeling ridiculously dejected and abandoned already. Jeongguk likes to think he isn't clingy but it's hard not to be when Yoongi never even told him about his plans of going to Daegu alone until today. "How can you leave me here, hyung? I thought we're going back to Seoul together!"
"We are," Yoongi agrees. "I just want to see my parents for a bit before we leave. I'll be back here first thing in the morning so you won't have to miss me too much."
Jeongguk snorts at the overt mocking in his tone. Cheeky asshole. "Who's gonna miss you?"
"Did I say you?" Yoongi asks, faux-innocent. "Sorry, I was talking about Jiminie."
Jeongguk immediately scowls. Which is so fucking ridiculous because Yoongi is definitely just baiting him for this exact reaction, and Jeongguk should've known better than to give it to him so easily. Besides, he and Jimin aren't exactly together like that and Jimin sure as hell can miss anyone he wants to, regardless if Jeongguk likes it or not.
"You're so fucking easy," Yoongi teases, chuckling under his breath. He zips his bag, checks how heavy it is before finally setting it aside on the bed. "Has Jiminie even noticed it yet?"
"That you're still shamelessly and undoubtedly in love with him," Yoongi says without even batting an eyelash, as though it's the most obvious thing in the world. "You have been for a long time now, haven't you?"
Jeongguk doesn't say anything, too shocked and hesitant to bother dignifying the accusation with a response. His silence is louder and more powerful than any verbal response he can give, however, and it's enough to give Jeongguk away.
Perhaps he shouldn't have been so surprised, though. Looking back, Jeongguk wonders if he'd really done enough to mask his feelings for Jimin. Sure, he'd expressed it a little differently than most people, acted on his feelings like a typical school boy with a crush, but Jeongguk's pretty sure every single one in Bangtan had known about his soft spot for his hyung since the beginning of time.
Everything about Jimin was easy to love. He's strong and steadfast and passionate, always have the time of day to care and worry about other people instead of just himself. He's confident on stage, gives off such a huge presence that can almost swallow up anyone and everyone, but Jeongguk also knows how Jimin can get so critical of himself sometimes, how mindful he is of how other people perceive and judge him. He's nice and pleasant, too, always carries a smile on his face, but Jimin can be the most temperamental person in the group, as well, easily roused and volcanic in nature.
Everything about Jimin was easy to love, the good and even the bad, and Jeongguk could pretty much attest to that.
Yoongi pats his knee consolingly. He knows Jeongguk, understands him just the same with or without words. "Your secret's safe with me, Jeongguk-ah," he says. Jeongguk finds himself releasing the breath he didn't even know he was holding. "You should really try and tell that to Jiminie, though. It'll be good for the both of you."
Before Jeongguk can even ask what he meant by that, Yoongi is already gripping his bag and clapping him on the shoulder, poised to leave. "I'll see you tomorrow."
Jeongguk ends up brooding over it despite making his best efforts not to.
Yoongi's words still ring in his ears and it's getting harder and harder for Jeongguk to ignore his advice with each second trickling by. Sure, he likes Jimin well enough to confess and, from what little knowledge Jeongguk has about the old Jimin, he's the type of person who would be considerate enough not to reject someone so harshly.
But is Jeongguk really willing to take that chance? It's definitely possible that Jimin only sees him as a younger brother, as an ex-member he used to endlessly tease and dote on and, while the idea is admittedly a little bitter pill to swallow, Jeongguk thinks he's okay with that. He'd rather have Jimin as a hyung, as a friend, than not have him in any way at all. Confessing his feelings for Jimin can change all of that, though—for better or for worse—and Jeongguk's not exactly sure if the end result would be worth it.
Jeongguk stares intently at the ceiling, as though it holds the answers to all of his questions. It doesn't, of course, and all Jeongguk gets is a blurry vision and a pregnant silence for all his efforts. Before Jeongguk can begin another spiral down into the muck and sticky mire of his mind, where nothing but repetitive thoughts of Jimin dwell, two sudden knocks on the door startle him back to the present.
"Jeonggukie, it's hyung," comes Jimin's voice from the other side. "Are you awake?"
He sits up too quickly and, for a second, Jeongguk feels all the blood rush to his head, causing a wave of nausea to hit him hard. It takes a moment for his eyes to regain their focus again and, when they finally do, Jeongguk directs his gaze towards the wooden door.
"You can come in, hyung," Jeongguk calls, but not before cautiously patting any unruly strands of his hair down and making sure he looks presentable in front of Jimin.
Jeongguk doesn't have ample time to feel silly about his behavior before the door slowly creaks open, just enough for Jimin to pop his head in. There's already a smile pulling at the corners of Jimin's mouth and Jeongguk can't help mirroring it with his own.
"Did I wake you up?" Jimin asks, bottom lip worried between his teeth. Jeongguk finds himself gripping the bedsheet all of a sudden, the urge to reach out and tug Jimin's lip free with his thumb quickly overwhelming him.
"N-no," Jeongguk stutters. The obvious quiver in his voice has Jimin raising a brow at him and Jeongguk inwardly chides himself for being so ridiculously affected by Jimin's presence he can't even get a handle on his own emotions. Get it the fuck together, Jeon. "I wasn't sleeping. Just...thinking about some things."
Jimin opens the door a little wider and steps in, finding the opening in the conversation a convenient opportunity to be in the same room with Jeongguk. He gingerly settles on the bed, leaving just enough space sitting between them. "You wanna talk about it?"
Jeongguk resists the urge to laugh at the absurdity of the situation. Does he want to talk to Jimin about confessing his feelings? Tell him how conflicted Jeongguk has been with himself ever since he saw Jimin again yesterday? Ask him how he'd felt about Jeongguk all those years ago?
Of course not.
Jeongguk shakes his head, remorse written all over his face. "It's fine, hyung. They're not important, anyway." He sees Jimin furrow his brow at his response, curl his lips down into a protesting frown. Jeongguk quickly speaks up again, knowing Jimin would probably start convincing him into doing anything if Jeongguk lets the silence linger, "Were you able to see Yoongi hyung before he left earlier?"
Jimin narrows his eyes at the sudden change of topic. He purses his lips, disapproving, but ultimately doesn't say anything else. Which Jeongguk is really thankful for, honestly, because he doesn't know what else to tell Jimin if he pushes Jeongguk to talk about whatever's bothering him.
Eventually, Jimin just sighs, making Jeongguk feel a little guilty about keeping things from him. It's for the best, Jeongguk tries to convince himself.
"Yeah, I saw him on his way out," Jimin answers. He still has that look on his face, the same one that tells Jeongguk their earlier conversation is far from over. Jeongguk turns a blind eye and purposefully ignores the compelling urge to just give in. "Told me I should try my best to drag you out of the house, too, or else you'll just lock yourself in this room all day."
Well, that had been the original plan. Jeongguk didn't feel like going anywhere after being confronted with the glaring truth that he'd been pretty obvious with his feelings for Jimin for sometime now. He'd wanted to be left alone, hope against hope that minimal interaction with Jimin for the rest of his stay could save him face and prevent Jimin from finding out.
With Jimin right here, though, looking more determined than ever, Jeongguk thinks he can practically kiss that plan goodbye now.
"So," Jimin starts, the expression on his face morphed into one of barely concealed excitement that Jeongguk just finds it even harder to say no to him, "what do you feel like doing today, Jeonggukie?"
Jeongguk stares at Jimin, at the way he has his hands clasped together in eagerness, at the way his eyes have widened almost dramatically, and thinks—well, this might not be so bad, after all.
Unsurprisingly, sleep is a little hard to come by for Jeongguk that night.
He can't quite count the number of times he's already tossed and turned in bed, fluffed up his pillow and arranged it this way and that in a desperate attempt to get some shut-eye. It had never been a problem for Jeongguk before yet, somehow, the mere idea of sleeping by himself tonight is enough to drive him up the fucking wall.
The room's too quiet without another person breathing beside him, the damn blanket suddenly too stifling, and the bed seems so much bigger, lonelier, with a lot more empty space to fill now that Yoongi's not around. Jeongguk can try and blame every single thing in sight for his restlessness but, deep down, he knows that none of them is the real reason why he can't seem to catch a break from his thoughts.
Unbidden, the images come flooding back in vivid detail, relentless and unforgiving: the distinct, almost child-like fascination in Jimin's eyes as they went through each display at the Busan Museum, as though he's seeing everything for the first time all over again; the way he'd ran along the sandy stretch of the Haeundae beach and let the wind caress his cheeks; the placid expression that slowly overcame his face as he looked over the Gwangan Bridge.
To have him here and have him there; to have Jimin everywhere and nowhere at the same time—it's the sweetest and, yet, also the most painful kind of torture for Jeongguk.
Before his body can even catch up to his mind, Jeongguk finds himself already getting out of his bed and tiptoeing into Jimin's room, slipping in through his door with slow and careful movements. Once inside, Jeongguk just stands there, unmoving for a second, silhouetted by the light coming from the window. There's a niggling voice at the back of Jeongguk's head telling him to turn tail, that he shouldn't be doing this at all, not when he's already set to leave for Seoul tomorrow and no exact plans in mind to come back again.
Jeongguk knows all of these—and yet, he's still here, still rooted to the same spot, eyes only set for Jimin.
"Hyung," Jeongguk says quietly, his pupils blown, straining to make out the expression on Jimin's face. "Jimin hyung, can I sleep here tonight?"
Jimin responds by slowly moving to the side and lifting the covers,giving just enough space for Jeongguk to slide in. It's not exactly a bed made for two and Jeongguk ends up almost squished against Jimin when he tries to move a little closer to prevent falling off, leaving him tense and hyper aware of the heat of their skin where their arms meet.
"Can't sleep?" Jimin suddenly asks, his soft voice almost deafening in the silence of the night.
Jeongguk shakes his head. He opts to stay flat on his back, stubborn and stiff like a damn board, despite the knowledge that they can probably fit better if he'll just turn on his side. It's safer this way, Jeongguk reasons to himself, more favorable for his sanity. He's not sure if he'll be able to breathe properly once he realizes just how close they really are.
From the corner of his eye, Jeongguk sees Jimin turn slightly towards his direction, brows pinched as he squints so hard in the dark to try and distinguish anything other than the Jeongguk-shaped lump beside him. "You alright?"
Jeongguk makes a noncommital noise at the back of his throat, hoping that Jimin can settle on that vague response, somewhat. He doesn't exactly trust himself to sound very convincing in the face of that question. "Were you already sleeping when I came in?"
"Just about to. This whole day really wore me out." There's not a hint of regret or annoyance in his words. If anything, Jeongguk thinks he can even hear the smile in Jimin's voice. Somehow, it makes Jeongguk happy to know that he wasn't the only one who enjoyed their little escapade today.
"You should sleep now, hyung."
Jimin hums. "You, too." It feels like a thousand heartbeats later when he finally turns to his side, back facing Jeongguk, and whispers, "Good night, Jeonggukie."
Jeongguk should've gone to sleep the moment they greeted each other good night. He should've closed his eyes, forced himself to physically relax and shut his brain off. He has another whole day ahead of him once he gets back to Seoul tomorrow and Jeongguk really can't afford to stay up tonight.
Yet, despite that thought, Jeongguk just ends up staring at Jimin's back, fascinated with the way the street lamps shine through the gap in the curtains and make his hair glow. Jeongguk can't see his face, but he can almost imagine how Jimin looks like right now: eyes closed, lips slightly parted, unnaturally long eyelashes fanning his cheeks. It's a relief to know Jimin's sleeping well, at least, if the rise and fall of his shoulders with each measured breath are any indication.
They lie next to each other, but the space between them feels never-ending. Jeongguk wants to get closer, to hold him—it's an itch underneath his skin that he can't quite ignore and Jeongguk feels like it'd be the biggest regret of his life if he lets another moment pass.
So he doesn't.
Jeongguk doesn't give himself the briefest second to overthink, doesn't let the fear and hesitance hinder him again from reaching out and grabbing what he truly wants. Steeling himself, Jeongguk throws all the fucks he can possibly give out the window and wraps his arms around Jimin's waist, effectively plastering his chest against Jimin's back.
Jeongguk can tell neither of them expected the cuddle session because Jimin immediately goes tense, the muscles under his skin jumping at the mere touch. "Jeongguk?"
"I'm sorry, I'm just—" Jeongguk trails off, his words not quite falling into place in his head. There are so many things he wants to say, but they're all stuck down his throat, refusing to slip past his lips. In the end, Jeongguk just settles with a heartfelt, "Missed you, hyung."
The sentiment is only whispered into the skin of Jimin's nape and, yet, it's almost loud enough to drown the mad rush of Jeongguk's beating heart in his ears. He holds onto Jimin a little tighter, a little more desperately, as though Jimin will quickly disappear into thin air if Jeongguk lets him go for just a second.
"I'm not going anywhere," Jimin comforts, like he knows exactly what's going through Jeongguk's mind. He rubs his thumb on the back of Jeongguk's knuckles and sighs when it does nothing to loosen Jeongguk's hold. "But can you let me look at you, please?"
Jeongguk honestly doesn't want to. He knows himself, knows that his thoughts are most probably displayed all over his face by now, all but ready for Jimin to see and understand. Jeongguk had never really figured out how to hide his emotions from Jimin back then, and he's not so sure time and distance have marginally helped him improve in that specific aspect. Which just gives Jeongguk all the more reason to stubbornly refuse Jimin's pleading. He doesn't want Jimin to see just how terrified he is—of himself, of his selfishness, of the possibility that he's already too many years too late.
Jeongguk likes to think he's a lot stronger than this. Sometimes, he even likes to convince himself that he'd already managed to build just enough immunity to resist Jimin over the years.
As his willpower slowly starts crumbling into nothingness with each passing second, however, Jeongguk can't help admitting that he's gotten almost everything wrong at this point. That, maybe, for all his supposed maturity and emotional development, he's still the same teenage boy who had managed to grow an embarrassingly soft spot for his hyung the size of Russia in such a short amount of time.
Hesitantly, Jeongguk eases his hold, giving Jimin just enough room to twist around in his arms. Jeongguk doesn't really know what he was expecting to see—the confusion in the crinkle of Jimin's brows, maybe, or the worry evident in the lines etching his kind eyes. Never, not even for a millisecond, did he consider being on the receiving end of Jimin's empathetic gaze, however.
Jimin's intently looking at him like he wants to imprint the image of Jeongguk's face in the back of his eyelids. The attention has Jeongguk feeling terribly self-conscious and hot under the collar, but he strives to meet Jimin's gaze head-on. There's a silent form of understanding there, and acceptance, and so much contentment that Jeongguk suddenly feels out of breath, like he'd just run a marathon ten times over. All of his thoughts choke in Jeongguk's throat, straining to get out all at once.
"I missed you, too, you know," Jimin confesses quietly, his eyes transfixed on Jeongguk's face. There's a laugh that follows then, soft and disparaging, almost as if he's laughing at himself more than anything else, and Jeongguk doesn't really like the sound of that. "I was afraid you'd forget about me, Jeonggukie."
Something about that quiet admission makes Jeongguk's stomach tight, the knot the size of his fist beginning to twist his gut. He'd hurt Jimin enough to make him second-guess his importance in Jeongguk's life. Made him think that he's forgettable, insignificant, when he's really anything but. How can Jeongguk ever make it up to him?
"You're an idiot," Jeongguk snaps back, though without any real bite in his words, "if you really, honestly think I could forget you that easily."
"I'm your hyung!" Jimin whines, pout already forming on his lips. "Where's your respect?"
Jeongguk just grins at him, amused and so ridiculously enamored. It's really hard to take Jimin seriously when he's being so cute like this. "My idiot hyung."
Jimin grumbles, muttering something along the lines of bratty dongsaengs and blatant disrespect under his breath. Jeongguk continues to watch him in amusement, the relief and happiness blooming in chest overpowering any other emotion he's feeling right now.
Their noses are just centimeters away from touching, allowing Jeongguk to see the pink tint staining Jimin's cheeks, glaringly obvious even in the barely lit room. He's so beautiful, Jeongguk thinks, with his black hair blending with the shadow as it frames his face and an expression so open and honest that Jeongguk feels the corners of his lips curve into a small, tentative smile. Jeongguk's definitely spellbound, captivated by Jimin's mere existence, by the simple fact that he's Jimin and no one else can probably come close to being half as breathtaking and amazing as him. It's silly, but Jeongguk just finds himself falling in love all over again just by staring at Jimin like this.
Jeongguk is all but content to stay in this position for a little more while, bask in the warmth and solidity of Jimin's body against his. But, then, Jimin's lips purse, a determined look glazing over his features and, as if on cue, a groan rumbles in Jeongguk's chest. Not for the first time, Jeongguk is assaulted with the overwhelming urge to kiss Jimin senseless. There have been moments, even in the past, just fleeting, barely notable moments where Jeongguk had wanted to grab Jimin and close the wide gap between their lips.
Like that time in the car after their very first show for the Red Bullet tour. They're on their way back to the hotel—Namjoon occupying the seat at the front like always, Seokjin, Yoongi and Hoseok squished in the middle and the three youngest at the back. Taehyung had been sleeping beside him, while Jimin had stayed mostly awake throughout the entire car ride. He had his face pressed against the window as he stared at nothing in particular outside, and maybe it's the way the soft light had played on Jimin's cheeks, or the post-show adrenalin rush settling in, but something had convinced Jeongguk to shuffle just that little bit closer, which had then prompted Jimin to turn his attention towards him. His eyes had shifted to Jimin's perfect lips for some reason, and Jeongguk couldn't help but imagine how they would taste for a wonderful second before he could even stop himself.
Or that other time after they've won their fourth consecutive daesang. Jeongguk remembers all of them riding that high, all the way to an after party. Remembers how Jimin's smile hadn't faded at all since they've held the trophy in their hands and how he couldn't seem to stop watching Jimin's every move. Of course, back then, Jeongguk had blamed his obsessive tendencies on the alcohol and Jimin's lack of it—because, maybe, if Jimin had drank, his eyes wouldn't be as bright as they had been, and maybe Jeongguk would've been able to stop staring like a goddamn creep and, consequently, save himself before thoughts of dragging Jimin away from the group to feel those lips on his could even creep into the forefront of his mind.
This feels exactly like all those times and more—except now, Jeongguk can't find a reason to back off anymore, and he's not exactly sure if he has the self-control left to do so, anyway.
"Hyung," Jeongguk whispers, low and careful not to ruin the moment between them. His eyes drift down on their own accord again, settling on the plush of Jimin's lips, on the tongue that shyly peeks out of the corner of his mouth, and Jeongguk finds himself mirroring the same action unconsciously. "Jimin, can I—"
Jeongguk belatedly realizes he shouldn't have called Jimin just by his name, but he supposes that barely matters in the grand scheme of things now because Jimin's kissing him before he can even mull over his mistake. There's a sound that crawls out of Jeongguk's throat, small and foreign, and Jimin smothers it with his eager mouth.
Jimin kisses like he's been starved for it—and maybe he has. Maybe they both have been. Maybe that's why Jeongguk feels like he's drowning in this one, why Jimin kisses him like he'd rather do this than anything else. Jimin's lips are a little chapped and unyielding and Jeongguk can't bear to tear himself away from them. That isn't to say he wants to, though, because if there's anything Jeongguk really wants to do at this point, it's to kiss Jimin deeper, longer, until he can't even think. Until all he can do is wonder who he was before he finally had Jimin's lips on his.
It's nearly effortless for Jeongguk to lose track of time, to lose track of everything that isn't the insistent press of their lips or the way Jimin's eyelashes flutter when Jeongguk starts licking his way into Jimin's mouth. It isn't the least bit surprising; Jeongguk has always had a bit of a problem focusing on other things whenever Jimin's involved, more so now that he has Jimin pressed so close against him, making these barely stifled noises Jeongguk's never heard before.
It's maddening, electrifying, like a fire has just been lit inside of Jeongguk and its flames are now licking his veins, sending sparks of heat right down to his fingertips and toes. If Jeongguk had thought he was warm before, he's burning hot now, and he can't seem to get enough.
When they eventually pull back with the need for oxygen clutching at their lungs, it takes every bit of Jeongguk's self-control not to dive in and meld his mouth against Jimin again. He probably looks just as exhilarated as he feels, heart roaring and blood rushing in his ears. Jimin, on the other hand, doesn't seem like he's doing any better in his state—he's panting hard, fingers tightly gripping Jeongguk's shirt for support. His cheeks are rosy and his lips are slick and kiss-swollen and, once again, Jeongguk is reminded that Jimin is the most beautiful thing he's ever seen.
"Been a long time coming, huh," Jimin whispers, his breath tickling Jeongguk's skin. Jeongguk catches a grin hinging on Jimin's lips and feels the heat ballooned around him pressing in from all sides.
And yeah—yeah, Jeongguk supposes it has. They've skirted around each other for so long, purposefully ignored the pull and attraction between them just to keep the whole group's career out of jeopardy. Jeongguk just finds it a little funny now that the only thing pushing them apart before had been themselves.
Jeongguk dips down, unable to control himself any longer, and gives Jimin a quick peck on the mouth, just because he wants to. Just because he's finally allowed to do this and more. Jimin only hums, pleased, and the little noise has Jeongguk kissing him again.
God. How, exactly, had Jeongguk survived all those years ago without this?
"You have a lot of making up to do," Jimin says. Jeongguk knows he's trying to sound stern, but inspite of his efforts, it's a little hard for Jeongguk to take him seriously when Jimin's nearly getting cross-eyed from the effort of looking at him from such close range. He curbs the urge to laugh, though, not wanting to offend Jimin.
"I'll make it up to you forever if you'll let me, hyung," Jeongguk answers instead, his cheeks immediately heating up at the promise. They're not the kind of words he'd usually catch himself saying to anyone but, then again, Jimin isn't anyone—he's just never been anyone even before. Jimin will always been more than that to Jeongguk.
Jimin laughs and Jeongguk would've probably felt insulted if it wasn't for the telltale sign of Jimin's heart suddenly picking up its pace at his words, erratic and excited under his skin. "Forever is a long time, though."
"Don't care," Jeongguk mumbles. He snuggles further into Jimin's chest, contentedly allowing his eyes to slip shut.
"Idiot," Jimin comments, but he's pulling Jeongguk even closer, tucking him under his chin. His fingers skim up Jeongguk's spine, tracing the muscles, hand splaying open and warm on his back, and Jeongguk can't help but sigh at how good it feels. "My idiot Jeonggukie."
Honestly, any other time and Jeongguk would've taken offense at being called an idiot. But, well, he's too busy trying to keep the huge grin from splitting his face into two right now to even bother.
There's a reason why Yoongi had advised Jeongguk not to bring too many clothes for this trip—mainly because they're only planning to stay here for three days and a short vacation doesn't really warranty lugging an entire wardrobe on his back.
For someone who'd followed Yoongi's suggestion, however, it's still taking Jeongguk quite a ridiculous amount of time just folding what little clothes he did manage to carry with him.
"You'll be leaving for Seoul in less than an hour and, yet, you're right there just obsessively folding your clothes over and over again like a madman," Jimin points out rather bluntly, clearly just as frustrated with Jeongguk's internal decision to keep his hands to himself. "Did you suddenly change your mind overnight?"
Jeongguk's eyes widen in shock, feeling almost appalled at Jimin's quick assumption. "It's not like that at all, hyung!" Jeongguk sputters. He flails his hand in every which way, as though doing so can help him get his point across better. All it does, however, is earn a very unamused stare from Jimin. "Your mom's just downstairs—I mean, she might—are you not worried at all, hyung—"
"She already saw us cuddling, Jeongguk."
Jeongguk suddenly pales at those words. "What," he blurts out, his voice almost drowned out by the loud thundering of his heart in his ears. Jeongguk anxiously racks his brain for any recollection of such incident, only to come up with nothing in the end. "When?"
Jimin raises an eyebrow. "Where did you think she found you when she saw your empty room this morning?"
Well. That kind of explains the knowing look Jeongguk had been constantly getting from Jimin's mom this morning whenever he and Jimin were within a foot away from each other. "She-she doesn't mind?"
"I've told them years ago, Jeonggukie," is the simple explanation Jeongguk gets. He's not too sure what, exactly, Jimin had admitted to his parents and how the conversation had gone between them in the past but Jeongguk silently vows to try and hear the story from Jimin himself when he's ready.
Jimin proceeds to fling himself carelessly on the bed, his hair fanning around his head like a dark halo and setting a lovely contrast against the white sheets. He pats the empty space to his right, beckons Jeongguk to come closer with a suggestive waggle of his brows, and if Jeongguk weren't feeling the strongest need to lie down next to him right now, he might've rolled his eyes and laughed at Jimin's poor attempt at seducing him.
Jeongguk's just about done pretending like he isn't dying to have Jimin in his arms again, however, so he quickly sets his clothes aside and lies down beside Jimin. As soon as his back hits the bed, Jimin wiggles his way and crowds into Jeongguk's space, his face immediately finding purchase in the crook of Jeongguk's neck. It's almost automatic now, how Jeongguk winds his arms around Jimin's waist as though they belong there, how he tugs Jimin impossibly closer until it's hard to tell where he ends and Jeongguk begins.
It sounds cheesy and disgusting even in his head, but Jeongguk knows he's found a second home in Jimin's arms, and he's determined to hold onto this as tightly as he can this time around.
They stay like that for a while, wrapped up in each other, just basking in the moment, in the warmth and the company and the calming silence around them. Jeongguk rubs Jimin's back soothingly, his heart growing ten times its usual size when Jimin only snuggles further into his chest and heaves a satisfied sigh.
Jeongguk's going to miss this. He'd spent most of his life denying himself of the things he really wanted, always putting others above his own selfishness. And now that he finally knows what it's like to have his happiness just within his reach, Jeongguk doesn't think he'd want to go another day without having Jimin this close to him.
For a moment, Jeongguk buries his face in Jimin's hair, breathing in his scent, and sighing almost longingly. He smells like the sea and the sand and everything Jeongguk loves about Busan. "How can I convince you to go back to Seoul with me, hyung?"
But either Jimin doesn’t hear the question, or chooses not to answer. Because the silence stretches between them in the tightknit space on the bed, in the almost nonexistent distance between their bodies. Just when Jeongguk's about to speak to fill the sudden void with anything, Jimin shifts and mumbles, the vibrations tickling Jeongguk's neck where Jimin's mouth is.
"You can't," Jimin simply says against the warmth of his skin. Jeongguk frowns; sure, he'd been unconsciously expecting that exact answer from Jimin because they were adults and there were so many things they had to consider before anything else. But, still, it doesn't really make it any less disappointing to hear the rejection straight from Jimin's lips.
Jimin, as though sensing Jeongguk's dismay, gently pulls back, only to look up at him with utter remorse in his eyes. "You know I can't just drop everything in my life right now just to stay with you in Seoul, Jeonggukie."
Jeongguk knows but, well, it doesn't cost too much to hope, really.
"And I don't want you to, hyung," Jeongguk says instead, pulling Jimin flush up against him again. While there's a small part of him that does long for Jimin's presence in Seoul, there's a bigger, more significant part that wants nothing more than to see Jimin happy, even if it means having Jimin stay in Busan for good. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to sound like a selfish asshole."
"Not a selfish asshole," Jimin mumbles.
Jeongguk grins, feeling so stupidly giddy and endeared at Jimin's cuteness. "We're gonna make an effort to visit each other often, right?"
"And call and text each other when we have the time?"
Jimin hums again, making an effort to nod this time as well.
"And Skype, too—"
Jimin finally looks up at that, giggling. His cheeks are a soft pink as they bunch under his eyes and his smile is so, so bright and something in Jeongguk just hurts. "Jeongguk-ah, Busan is literally just a few hours away from Seoul. It's not that—"
Jeongguk ducks down and steals the rest of his sentence right out of Jimin's mouth, slotting their lips together in one, quick kiss. He draws back before Jimin can even respond but doesn't really move too far from his reach. Jimin's eyes are wide and questioning as he watches Jeongguk underneath his dark bangs and the attention has Jeongguk suddenly feeling extremely self-conscious of what he's about to ask.
Steeling himself, Jeongguk just tightens his grip. Strives not to melt under the heat and intensity of Jimin's gaze. "We'll promise to make this work, right, hyung?"
Jeongguk wills the ground to open up and swallow him whole as soon as he says it out loud. He feels a little silly for even asking, really. Jimin's never been one to half-ass things, especially when it comes to relationships, and Jeongguk had waited long enough for this to just fuck it up so easily. But, for whatever reason, Jeongguk still finds himself waiting anxiously for Jimin's response nonetheless, his heart wildly going thump, thump, thump against his ribcage.
When Jimin eventually laughs, shoulders shaking in barely suppressed mirth, eyes crinkling into pretty crescents, Jeongguk can't help but feel the knot in his chest slowly unfurl. He should be offended, maybe, that Jimin finds his worries amusing, but Jeongguk knows this isn't anything like that. This isn't anything like that at all.
"Sorry, sorry," Jimin breathes out the moment his laughter dies down. "It's just—" he shifts and leans his forehead against Jeongguk's, tries his best to keep his eyes open and hold Jeongguk's gaze. "Why is that even a question, Jeonggukie?"
Jeongguk shrugs, unsure of the answer himself. He's trying his damndest not to pout but Jimin makes it so fucking difficult when he's looking at Jeongguk like that. "Just answer me, hyung," he sulks.
Jimin smiles this time, not one born from amusement but from genuine fondness. "Yeah," Jimin whispers, "Yes, of course, we'll make it work."
They're nothing but words, just verbal reassurances that may or may not hold anything in the long run, but they're still enough to tame Jeongguk's fears all the same.
An exaggeratingly loud cough suddenly comes from the doorway and Jeongguk doesn't even hold back the groan that slips past his lips.
"I hate to interrupt whatever melodramatic reunion shit you two are having but," Yoongi gestures with his thumb pointed over his shoulder, "Jeongguk-ah, we need to go. We have to be in Seoul before lunch time or Joonie will really kick my ass."
Jeongguk and Jimin both snort. Literally everyone and their mother knows just how impossible that is, but Jeongguk still follows dutifully, anyway. The minute Yoongi leaves—to say goodbye to Jimin's mother most probably—Jeongguk gets up, bringing Jimin with him into a sitting position. He doesn't leave, though, not yet, just stays where he is and spends another bout of comfortable silence with Jimin.
"So," Jeongguk starts, disrupting the almost somber atmosphere. He looks at Jimin, smiles, and waggles his eyebrows for no reason at all other than to make him laugh.
"So," Jimin parrots, smiling so wide. He then holds out his hand in front of Jeongguk, palms up, fingers playfully wriggling as an invitation. "Ready to go?"
Jeongguk honestly isn't, but he takes comfort in the fact that this separation isn't going to be a mere replica of what happened between them in the past. He's going to be in Seoul and Jimin's going to stay here in Busan and, yet, Jeongguk finds that the idea of them being physically apart doesn't bother him now as much as it did earlier.
Somehow, Jeongguk thinks as he finally takes Jimin's hand in his, fingers perfectly interlacing together like a lock to a key—somehow, he believes they'll be okay.