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Being involved in the industry for far too long, Jimin already knows the routine of casting day like the back of his hand, and he thinks that should’ve been enough to give him the head start in this situation.

In truth, though, it barely matters in the grand scheme of things. While Jimin is pretty familiar with the casting procedure he’d came here for, can listen to the studio intern—a woman seemingly in her mid-twenties, long hair tied into a neat ponytail, pen tap, tap, tapping against the clipboard in her hand—drone on and on about the things he already knows, anxiety still sits heavily in his stomach, just waiting to kick his ass like an old friend would.

Jimin doesn’t let it, however, focusing instead on giving the woman a sincere smile when she mentions a drink bar by the corner of the room. He immediately moves to make a steaming cup of coffee for himself, the whirr of the machine soothing Jimin like a white noise would at any other time.

Somehow, this helps Jimin calm his frazzled nerves, but the comfort doesn’t last long enough for him to settle down. Half an hour later and a cup too many of strong coffee, Jimin feels his hands begin to sweat again. He considers loosening his tie, but tamps down the urge at the very last second when Jimin realizes how telling it might be. He really can’t afford to have anyone see him nervous—not at this stage of his career, definitely not with so much at stake, no.

People have started steadily trickling in now, and it doesn’t take long before the buzzing around him grows in volume. Jimin glances furtively around the room. They’re a pretty diverse bunch but he’s not surprised to see most of them already making polite conversation—exchanging audition horror stories and running lines, making new acquaintances, just the usual networking stuff. And then there are others like him, too, a couple quiet ones who choose to avoid small talk entirely in favour of staring down at their wrinkled scripts, clutching their papers with white-knuckled fists.

Jimin is left undisturbed in his seat, feeling blissfully unaware of his surroundings as he pores over lines and pages of his own tattered copy. Completely engrossed, he almost misses his turn—until a gentle tap on his shoulder jolts Jimin back to the moment, back to the crowded waiting room and to the woman suddenly standing in front of him, an apologetic smile plastered on her face.

"Park Jimin?” At the sound of his name, Jimin nods and it has the quirk of the intern’s lips widening just a fraction in response. “It’s your turn now. They’re ready for you.”

Jimin quickly springs out of his chair, more out of the restless energy persistently thrumming through his veins than actual excitement. He clears his throat. "Okay. Thank you."

The woman looks back down at her clipboard again before eventually ushering him to move. "Follow me, please."

Several pairs of eyes track his movement as Jimin makes his way to the door. He’s done this enough times to know the feeding-ground air of waiting rooms: everybody a study in nonchalance but watching, always carefully watching. Jimin’s been guilty of doing the same thing himself—that guy in the corner, with the lovely cornflower eyes and a dancer’s body; that one sprawled near the door, not much to look at, maybe, but with a voice like clear water, a silvery laugh that can turn heads with ease.

Stiff competition today, Jimin muses, but, well, he’s nothing if not a vicious go-getter himself. He makes sure not to slouch, keeping his shoulders back as he walks tall with his head held high.

The door to a much smaller room suddenly opens then, and Jimin finds himself stepping inside purely by instinct now, like a puppet being pulled by a string. Since it’s a callback, everyone is randomly paired up to speed things along. This, Jimin realizes, as soon as he notices he’s not alone. There’s another guy waiting inside and, at the appearance of a new face, he rises out of his seat, quickly bows in Jimin’s direction for a greeting. Jimin can’t help but notice how this guy’s tall and fairly built, with a flawlessly sculpted face enough to grace a magazine spread more often than not.

Jimin hardly knows him personally, but he’s caught enough news about Kim Taehyung to recognize him, at least.

Taehyung made a huge buzz during the last Busan Film Award for his stellar performance in some indie film. From what Jimin had heard from the grapevine, he’s a rather infamous rookie with only a few dramas and minor portrayals in movies under his belt. The film Taehyung had starred in was actually his first major project and, as it turns out, his first real success as an up-and-coming actor, as well. Jimin hasn’t seen it yet, quite honestly, but he remembers getting intrigued by it’s supposed greatness after reading a couple of reviews that poured in the same week it was released.

The prospect of working with Taehyung sounds appealing, and Jimin takes pleasure in knowing that they’ll be partners for the casting. At least, if one of them doesn’t get the role, Jimin will have a firsthand idea of what Taehyung can do.

Jimin bows respectably when he eventually catches sight of the panel of casting committee. They’re all settled behind a long table, with MacBooks and Ipads and a bunch of papers and folders strewn around them. Jimin manages a small smile as he puts a name to some familiar faces he has worked with before. A few of them have gone way back when Jimin first started in the industry, when he was still a mere fledgling and didn’t have anything but perseverance and talent and high hopes to his name. Seeing them again today has Jimin suddenly feeling a sense of nostalgia—he’s come quite a long way, truly, but their presence still sends warmth to the tips of his fingers, slowly eases him out of his earlier discomfort.

Standing at the far corner of the room is someone he’s fairly familiar with, another face Jimin can’t forget even if he tries.

Jung Hoseok, the director, has acquired worldwide recognition for his genius works before. Jimin holds so much admiration for him; he knows for a fact that Hoseok isn’t much older than himself but, here he is, already directing another ambitious film that Jimin badly wants to be a part of. Jimin recalls the only time they had worked together in the past, how it had propelled him to where he is today, and how the experience had impacted him greatly as an actor. The idea of working under Hoseok’s supervision again fires a kind of determination in Jimin and it makes him want to give a 120% of himself and more.

Jimin isn’t sure how to approach him, though. He doesn’t want to appear too rude and barge in for a greeting when Hoseok’s obviously preoccupied with talking to someone else at the moment, but Jimin also knows how important it is to leave a good, lasting impression. Before he can even come up with a decision, however, Hoseok is already looking at him and waving, as though signalling that he’ll be with them soon. Jimin just smiles in return, can’t help but acknowledge the gesture with a slight nod.

Curious, his eyes flit over to Hoseok’s companion on their own accord. He looks familiar somehow but, for the life of him, Jimin can’t seem to recall meeting or seeing him on screen.

When the man suddenly shifts his attention towards him, Jimin feels a little like a deer caught in headlights. He goes ridiculously rigid in his spot, a reluctant shiver traveling along his spine as Jimin tries to hold his gaze without backing down.

It’s only when Hoseok’s ambling his way in Jimin’s direction, his companion now following pretty close behind, does Jimin finally remember his name. He frowns.

“Isn’t that Jeongguk? The idol?” Jimin whispers. He looks at Taehyung for confirmation then and, almost immediately, starts at their sudden proximity. Turns out Jimin’s been unconsciously leaning towards Taehyung all this time, too caught up in his own curiosity to be heedful of the concept of personal space.

Taehyung doesn’t seem to mind, though. If anything, he just moves a little closer, his eyebrows hiked in barely disguised interest. “You know him?”

“We shot a reality show together a long time ago,” is only Jimin’s simple response. “Why is he here?”

Taehyung shrugs. “I actually don’t know. He was already here when I came in and they made us do a scene together.” They’re still blatantly staring at Jeongguk, at the way he struts so confidently like he owns the goddamn place. Jimin hates it and, yet, he can’t seem to look away. “There was also someone else, but he was sent out and I was asked to stay. Then you arrived.”

Jimin purses his lips. He’s not too sure with what’s happening right now and apprehension only eats at him with each passing second. “Was he any good? Jeongguk, I mean...”

There’s a quiet hum of contemplation beside him and Jimin doesn’t really know what to make of it. At least, until—

“He’s...scary.” Taehyung winks. “You’ll know for yourself soon enough.”

 

 

Soon enough comes just a moment later, when Hoseok finally gathers all three of them in a corner of the room. Jimin has half a mind to frown and let the discomfort show on his face, still all too aware of Jeongguk’s unrelenting gaze on him.

“So here’s the deal,” Hoseok starts, mostly addressing Jimin, “As you might have known from your agency, I specifically asked for a shortlist of candidates I have screened myself beforehand to do the casting. And that includes you, Jimin.”

Jimin promptly feels a burst of gratitude flood his chest. It’s nowhere near an exaggeration when Jimin says he’s a huge fan of Hoseok, and knowing that he’s been handpicked for this movie by the man himself is a pretty big deal for Jimin. “I’m really, really flattered that you even considered me for this project.”

Hoseok smiles at him. “Let’s save that until later, yeah? I heard from your agent that you’re interested in playing the antagonist?”

“I am,” Jimin agrees. “I’ve read the script and felt drawn towards the character. I’ve never played a villain role before, and I feel like it’s going to be a good challenge for me.”

“Well, it is indeed a challenging role.” Hoseok nods at him empathically. “Shall we see how you’ll do? Please take a look at the second to the last scene and act it out with Taehyung.”

Jimin nods, feeling the anxiety that had coiled inside his stomach earlier quickly rousing back to life. He glances over the pages of his own script, lets himself immerse in the character he’s about to play as Hoseok settles back in his chair. From the corner of his eye, Jimin can see Jeongguk hovering in the corner, not quite looking so out of place despite the fact that he’s alone with a bunch of directors and producers and screenwriters in the room.

With a sudden start, Jimin realizes that Jeongguk will be observing him as well. It shouldn’t be any different from, say, having Hoseok watch him meticulously as he plays his assigned role and, yet, the idea alone still bothers Jimin as much as it does.

Jimin fervently shakes his head. He’s determined to knock everyone’s socks off with his performance and he’s not going to let the mere presence of Jeon Jeongguk distract him into doing just that.

After studying the scene one last time, he and Taehyung finally take their positions at the center. A brief peek at Hoseok tells Jimin that he’s ready for whatever they’ll show him, and that’s more than enough for Jimin to draw in a deep, calming breath.

“You know you’ll never get away with this, don’t you?”

“Do I? And who’s going to stop me? You?” Jimin says. He feels the corner of his mouth curl up into a sneer out of instinct.

“You have so little faith in police force. Even if you kill me today, there will be others who will come after you.”

“Are you sure?” Jimin asks and, this time, there’s just no mistaking the mockery in his voice. “The only one who managed to come closest to me is you, and you’re about to die soon—”

“Okay, cut!” Hoseok stands up, “Jimin, maybe try and use a different approach? I want to see a variety of expressions. This man is cunning, but he’s very articulate about himself.”

Jimin nods, but before they can have another go again, Hoseok’s phone suddenly rings. It seems to be important, if the concerned furrow that immediately appears between his eyebrows is any indication.

“I have to take this,” Hoseok ruefully says, already getting up from his seat to pick up the call. “Let’s have a quick break for now. We’ll continue when I get back.”

Jimin takes a swig from his water bottle as soon as Hoseok steps outside. More than a torrential wave of relief crashing over him, Jimin is regretful and embarrassed of himself. It was definitely his worst performance in casting throughout his entire career. It hasn’t been half an hour into the reading but he already feels drained and disconnected. His muscles don’t seem to cooperate with his will at all.

“Man, he sure is demanding.” Jimin hears Taehyung say. He glances up to see Taehyung smiling at him, looking every bit unapologetic for his brazen comment.

Jimin can’t help but laugh. “Wait until you meet him at the actual filming. This is nothing, really.” Hoseok’s a perfectionist—Jimin can remember that much despite the considerable number of years that had passed since they last worked together. He smiles back thankfully, though, knowing that Taehyung’s trying to make him feel better. “Anyway, I’m sorry. That was such an awful performance.”

“Eh, it’s not that bad.” Taehyung shrugs. He worries at his bottom lip then, seems to think for a moment, “Um, I hope you don’t mind but...you seem a little distracted?”

Jimin smiles, small and hesitant. “A bit, yeah.”

“Something on your mind?” Taehyung asks. He grins at Jimin, laying a hand across his chest in an attempt to look as sincere as he can. “If you need to let it out, you can tell me. I promise I’m a great listener.”

Jimin shakes his head, laughing. While Taehyung is nice and friendly, Jimin can’t possibly unload his burdens to someone he’d just met today, no matter how surprisingly fast they seemed to hit it off. Besides, Jimin’s not about to give Taehyung any weird ideas by letting him know that the reason he had been performing badly was actually Jeongguk.

Jimin chances a glance towards the said guy. Jeongguk is currently busy fiddling with his phone, so unlike the way he’d ogled and had his full attention on Jimin throughout his act earlier. Jimin can’t help but wonder why he’d been so perturbed by that stare. They’re practically rivals; it’s only natural that Jeongguk’s scouting him out, right? Also, it’s not like Jeongguk was the only one who had watched him all throughout.

And, yet, there’s just something about his sharp gaze that continues to unsettle Jimin.

“Jimin, Taehyung...can we start again?”

Jimin looks up and sees that Hoseok has returned into the room. He quickly nods, puts his bottle of water down, and moves back to their markings. Jimin takes another deep breath then, praying for the series of blunder to cease, and for Jeongguk to finally stop staring at him.

Unlike their first attempt, he and Taehyung manage to slip into their characters fluidly this time, the words on the pages falling from their mouths as easily as if they’d written the entire script themselves. Everything’s going well so far and Jimin thinks they’ve got a good groove and chemistry going on for this scene—

Which is why when Hoseok calls for another break out of nowhere, Jimin reasonably feels a little puzzled and concerned at the same time. Has he done something wrong again? Did Hoseok not like his own portrayal?

Jimin tries not to blatantly gape as Hoseok joins the casting team and talks to them in a hushed voice. He unconsciously wipes his hand over his trouser, sends a poorly attempted smile in Taehyung’s direction as a response to his sympathetic shrug.

“Alright,” Hoseok calls out as soon as he returns. “Taehyung, thank you for your performance today. I think we’ve had enough material of you to deliberate. You can expect a call from us sometime next week.”

Taehyung nods towards the director, and gives Jimin a friendly pat on his shoulder. A quick good luck is muttered into Jimin’s ear before Taehyung gives a respectful bow towards the entire casting panel and makes his leave.

Jimin raises his eyebrows. Just Taehyung? What about him?

“Jimin,” Hoseok starts, “I want you to act the same scene again. But, this time, you’re going to do it with Jeongguk as your partner. Oh, and please switch your roles.”

“Switch roles?” Jimin asks out of confusion. “You mean I should act the character that Taehyung played earlier?”

“Yes.” Hoseok smiles, and goes back to his seat again without saying anything else.

Jimin warily stares at Jeongguk as he moves closer with lazy, confident steps. His obvious sense of self-assurance is a little jarring—but so is the shiver that suddenly runs along Jimin’s spine as soon as he finds Jeongguk standing before him. There’s absolutely no reason for him to feel this anxious. Jeongguk is no one and he definitely doesn’t have the kind of acting experience that Jimin has under his belt.

This is what Jimin tells himself when he forcefully swallows the sudden surge of nerves and looks up to focus on Jeongguk’s unyielding gaze, reading off the first line of the script with what little amount of confidence he can muster at this point.

They do the scene, and it doesn’t take long for Jimin to understand what Taehyung had meant by scary earlier.

A second after Hoseok cues for them to start, Jimin sees Jeongguk’s eyes gleam in a way he’s never ever seen on someone else before. It catches Jimin by surprise, but he manages to pull himself together at the last minute and stay in character. When they start throwing lines at each other, however, Jimin can’t help but feel a strong pull into the whirlwind that is Jeongguk’s presence. He’s supposed to play the role of a detective under Jeongguk’s capture, his life hanging on the thin line of Jeongguk’s mercy and, halfway into the scene, Jimin gets sincerely afraid for his life.

Gone is the popular teen idol whose brightly smiling face has often graced the media, no matter which platform. The man standing in front of Jimin now is nothing but a cold-blooded killer who’s about to take his life.

Jimin finds himself just mere seconds away from actually tearing up. He’s about ready to plead for his goddamn life when someone startles him out of it with a call to stop. The voice is loud yet distant, and it takes Jimin quite a while to tear his eyes away from Jeongguk and come back to his senses, to the casting room where they are right at this moment.

That’s right. Casting room. They were only acting. Jeongguk wasn’t about to mercilessly kill him.

“Jimin, are you okay?”

At the sound of his name, Jimin lifts his head and realizes that Hoseok has left his station to check on him. Jimin takes in a gulpful of air and opens his mouth, only for words to fail him when he needs them the most. He tries to get up, too, but his knees only buckle at the mere idea, like he has no strength left to perform even the menial task.

“Here, let me help you,” Jeongguk offers. His friendly tone sounds strange and unbefitting in Jimin’s ears. Was this really the same voice that had promised him torturous death just minutes earlier?

When Jimin shyly reaches for Jeongguk’s hand, it’s only then that he finally notices their rather scandalous position: he’s still lying on his back, with Jeongguk on top of him, straddling him with his legs on either side of Jimin’s body. Jimin doesn’t really know how they ended up that way—just that they did, for some unknown reason, and he struggles to fight off the heat of mortification quickly crawling into his cheeks.

“Wow. I’m really not one to compliment my actors, especially during casting, but that was really extraordinary of you both,” Hoseok gushes. His approving gaze is roving slowly over them, his face set with an air of smug knowing. “I can safely say that you two can definitely expect some good news sometime soon.”

With some help, Jimin eventually gets on his feet, still feeling slightly dizzy and disoriented. Aside from Hoseok, the rest of the casting panel are also beaming at him like he’s the second coming, some even looking more pleased and relieved than others. It’s a good feeling, if Jimin is to be honest with himself. It’s enough for him to ignore the residual embarrassment still clinging under his skin for the meantime.

Hoseok doesn’t keep him for long; after Jimin bids goodbye and bows in the direction of the casting panel, he goes to retrieve his things in the far corner of the room. Jimin wants nothing more than to go home right now. His legs feel like jelly, still, and the sudden exhaustion from today’s events is starting to settle deep within his bones. Jimin’s already thinking of locking himself in his room once he gets to his apartment, maybe sleep for only God knows how long until they give him a call and—

“Jimin-sshi!”

Jimin spins around, his eyes going as wide as they can go at the image of Jeongguk rushing to catch up to him. He’s not exactly sure what Jeongguk can possibly want this time, but Jimin remains stockstill in his position nonetheless, waiting, curiosity getting the best of him despite everything.

He doesn’t have any idea what to expect, but it’s certainly not the next words coming out of Jeongguk’s mouth.

“I just wanna say that was really amazing. Your acting back there, I mean,” Jeongguk stammers. His cheeks are tinged a light pink and, for a second, Jimin wonders if his eyes are only playing tricks on him. “You’re a brilliant actor.”

“Uh—” Jimin starts, and then nods awkwardly when words fail to back him up for the umpteenth time today. “You too.”

They just stare at each other after that, the silence growing more stilted and awkward with each passing second. Jimin doesn’t really know what else to say. He’s never imagined getting caught in this exact situation with Jeongguk, considering they aren’t close enough to begin with to dish out compliments to each other that openly. Yet, here he is, and Jimin finds himself tongue-tied and so out of his element all of a sudden.

“Anyway, I...should go,” Jimin says, wincing when he barely manages to keep the uneasiness out of his voice.

Thankfully, that alone seems enough to snap Jeongguk out from whatever daze he’s in—he blinks, mouth then forming an “O” as Jimin’s words slowly sink in. “Ah, yes!” Jeongguk exclaims. “Yes, go ahead. I’m sorry for holding you up, Jimin-sshi.”

“It’s fine.” Jimin waves a dismissive hand, tries to put a reassuring smile on his face. “It was, uh, nice working with you today.”

“Same goes to you,” is Jeongguk’s reply.

It takes every ounce of effort for Jimin not to grimace. Considering how Jeongguk had easily swept him away with his acting and overall presence earlier, Jimin can’t truly say he’s satisfied with his own performance. It doesn’t matter all that much now, though—it’s already over, he’d done what he had to do and had gotten great responses from the people involved in the movie.

Jimin supposes he has to thank Jeongguk for that.

Immediately hating that train of thought, Jimin gives a hasty bow towards Jeongguk and takes off in the direction of the hallway right after.

It’s not supposed to end this way. Jeongguk’s not supposed to lurk inside his mind even after Jimin had stepped out of that room with every intention to leave and forget whatever transpired between them during their scene. He’s not supposed to feel the lingering effects of Jeongguk’s acting, as though the fear and vulnerability have dug so deep under his skin that it’d take quite a while for Jimin to feel like his own, normal person again.

This isn’t how Jimin had planned for things to go at all, and he hates the ridiculous idea that some rookie can affect him so effortlessly like this.

 

 ♠️

 

The call comes through when Jimin’s making himself a fresh pot of coffee to start his day.

He’s up pretty early, even after spending almost the entire night shooting for the finale of a mini series he’d been committed in. It’s not really a surprise that Jimin is deadbeat; there are dark crescents beneath his eyes and no one can possibly mistake the weary slump of his shoulders for anything else. As he reaches for his phone and sees the caller ID flashing on the screen, however, Jimin feels a rush of adrenaline that immediately overcomes his exhaustion.

Namjoon.

Jimin makes a quick calculation in his head. It’s been a week since the casting day—one whole week of worrying, overthinking. Of second-guessing whether he’d really done just enough to book the role he wanted. The agency must have contacted Namjoon with the result already, Jimin thinks, and he’s calling now to share the news.

Anxious, Jimin makes his way to the breakfast table. His coffee sloshes over the rim as he puts it down for a bit, spilling on both his hand and the hardwood surface. Jimin doesn’t even blink despite the scalding heat—the sting is definitely the least of his priorities.

“Hyung,” Jimin greets as soon as he picks the phone up.

“Jimin-ah, the casting agency called back.”

Jimin can’t help but notice the agitation in Namjoon’s voice. There can only be one reason why his manager sounds the way he does on the other line and Jimin’s heart immediately sinks. “Let me guess—I didn’t get it.”

“No, no!” Namjoon cries out, quickly rectifying his worst assumption. “It’s just that, uh, I think it’s better if we talk about this in person.”

Jimin swallows the lump in his throat. Namjoon is efficient and straightforward—Jimin can go so far as to say that he’s the best manager an artist can ever hope for and more—and it’s very unlike him to request Jimin to come, especially when he knows Jimin had spent the entire night awake and working. So to have Namjoon suddenly calling him at this time, sounding the least bit excited about whatever news he has, Jimin can’t help but worry unnecessarily.

There must have been some complication. Is he in trouble? Had Jimin unwittingly offended someone during the casting?

“I-I’ll be there in half an hour, hyung.”

“No need. I’m on my way to your apartment right now. I know you were up since the ass crack of dawn, Jimin-ah, it’s not safe for you to drive when you barely had a few hours of sleep.”

Jimin is at a loss with what to say. While he’s very much appreciative of Namjoon’s concern for his wellbeing, having to wait for him to arrive at his doorstep just gives Jimin a lot of free time to think about things, conjure up different speculations about the outcome that are most definitely not good for his sanity.

Still, Jimin knows Namjoon means well. Knows that Namjoon won’t let him drive, anyway, even if he persists so there’s really little point in arguing about it. “Okay,” Jimin, with a long, drawn out exhale, relents. “I’ll see you in a while, hyung.”

When the call eventually ends, Jimin tries his best not to panic. His mind is full of different possibilities and scenarios, each one getting progressively worse as they come. The mental torture is insufferable and all this waiting isn’t helping his case at all.

Jimin realizes he’s getting way ahead of himself. He’s not exactly a 100% certain that Namjoon’s bringing him some bad news, but the frantic way he wants to meet up with Jimin today sure says something else. Jimin can’t really remember wanting anything like this in his life. Sure, he’s already built quite a name for himself in this industry and he may have a lot of standing offers from different companies left and right—but, for some reason, Jimin badly wants to be a part of this project and he doesn’t really know what he would do if he doesn’t get the part he wants.

Jimin’s pretty much in the fringe of a breakdown when he finally catches himself. He’s acting like a total mental case and if he doesn’t get a grip, he might really wind up just punching somebody square on the face. Jimin takes a deep breath, then another, and keeps his eyes closed until he feels a little calmer, a little more centered.

It’s a moment too soon when, suddenly, there are muffled noises coming from right outside and then somebody knocks on his front door.

“Jimin? It’s me,” Namjoon says on the other side.

He quickly gets up from the couch to open the door and then moves aside to let Namjoon in. There’s a greasy brown bag of breakfast takeout in his hand, one that he’d bought straight from Jimin’s favorite hole-in-the-wall establishment. It abruptly reminds Jimin that he hasn’t eaten yet today, and his stomach loudly grumbles in response despite his anxiety.

“Don’t think I didn’t hear that,” Namjoon quips as he begins to unload containers. “Anyway, I figured you haven’t eaten yet, so I decided to buy your—”

“Hyung,” Jimin interrupts, none too nicely. He’s already tensed as it is and, even with his stomach growling, he’s not too sure if he can actually keep anything down long enough for their conversation. “You’re stalling. Please spare me the suspense and just drop the bomb already.”

Namjoon sighs. He can tell Namjoon’s a bit disappointed at his stubborn insistence but Jimin figures it’s much better this way. Like ripping a bandaid off, quick and painless—better to get it over with sooner rather than later.

“Alright.” Namjoon takes the empty seat beside Jimin. “I told you it’s nothing bad, Jimin-ah. Just—it’s a little different from our plans, I guess.”

Before Jimin can even open his mouth and ask, Namjoon hands him a sheet of paper to peruse. It’s an e-mail print out, with the signature of the casting agency director at the bottom of the page. Jimin pores over the content, his eyes immediately catching the words sorry, offer, and lead role. Together, they don’t really make any sense but Jimin has skimmed enough to at least get the general gist of it.

Still, Jimin lifts his head, a brow raised in question. “What does this mean?”

“They’re giving the role you want to somebody else,” Namjoon explains, a little too bluntly. Jimin frowns, can’t help the disappointment that floods through him at the news. “However, they still want you to participate in the movie, and they’re offering you to play the main lead.”

Jimin should be overjoyed, really. He should be nothing but thankful for the opportunity—it’s not a privilege given to just anybody in the business, after all.

And, yet, he’s not feeling any of those at the moment. If anything, Namjoon’s words just make Jimin frown even more with confusion. “Why? That’s...that’s not the part I originally auditioned for, though?”

Namjoon smiles at him and, this time, it’s soft and a little pleased at the edges. “I know, but they specifically contacted me with the role. They want you to take it, Jimin.”

It’s not because of shock and elation that Jimin remains speechless, though those do surely contribute to his current state. Quite frankly, Jimin’s a little disheartened to find that he won’t be playing the character he’d originally tried out for. He had went ahead and took a chance at this project with an intention to rebrand himself as a high caliber actor, knowing that taking on a new role, one that he’d never portrayed before in his entire career, would help in achieving just that.

Except now he’s apparently stuck with, yet, another cookie-cutter role and Jimin doesn’t really feel good about it.

“Hyung…” he starts. Jimin chews on his bottom lip, wonders how to properly phrase things so he won’t come off as rude and ungrateful in the face of a great opportunity. “Hyung, I’m sorry but I’m not sure I can accept their offer.”

Namjoon frowns. “Why not? I thought you were excited to take part in this movie?”

“I was—and I still am. I just...I don’t think the lead role is for me, is all.” Jimin shrugs, looking away. Namjoon’s never had any trouble reading him like an open book before, his thoughts splayed out so crystal clear on his face, and Jimin’s pretty sure this time won’t be any different, either.

Namjoon heaves a sigh. He shuffles a little closer to Jimin on the couch and when he speaks, his voice is the softest Jimin has ever heard it. “Jimin, we’ve talked about this before, haven’t we? You shouldn’t let your roles determine your capability as an actor. You’re more than that.”

“I know that, hyung.” God knows just how many fucking times Jimin had heard the same lecture from Namjoon before and, yet, he still finds himself caught up in the same toxic mindset over and over. “It’s just hard when this happens, I guess. I’ve been in this business for as long as I can remember, you know, but I don’t think I’ll ever get used to this feeling. Like, I’m not good enough—”

“Hey," Namjoon interrupts, his eyebrows almost fused into one angry straight line. "Don't say that. You are one hell of an amazing actor—I know that, everybody and their mothers know that. People would have to blind and deaf not to acknowledge how good you really are."

Jimin’s mouth tugs up, somewhat against his will. His chest feels lighter, as if a burden has been lifted away. Granted, Jimin’s pretty sure it’s in Namjoon’s job description to make him feel good about himself, lift up his morale whenever he deems necessary, but the sincerity in Namjoon’s words still gets to him, anyway.

“Look, we’ve been insanely ambitious since the beginning because it’s been your dream to have that breakthrough in the industry,” Namjoon reaches out to hold Jimin’s hand, cradling it so carefully in between his huge ones, “And I know you’re not exactly thrilled to be playing the same usual role again but every opportunity is a great opportunity, Jimin. You’re on an upwards trajectory right now and this movie will be a really good move for your career.”

Jimin stays mute, letting Namjoon’s words wash over him. He doesn’t want to admit it, but Namjoon is right. It’s not really the time for Jimin to be picky about the roles being offered to him, not when he’s hellbent on staying at the top of his game. Jimin catches himself contemplating the idea.

It’s a really good movie, produced and directed by the very best people in the industry.

Not only is the writing well done, but the characters are pretty fleshed out and developed thoroughly, too. Jimin thinks Hoseok has really outdone himself this time and, despite his earlier hesitance to accept the offer, a thrill of excitement sweeps through Jimin at the mere possibility of working with him.

There’s still a tiny, bitter part in Jimin that mourns over losing the part he wants to someone else, though, and curiosity takes hold of him as he asks, “Who’s gonna play the role of the villain? Is it someone I know?”

“You’ve worked with him once before. Remember that popular teen heartthrob? His name’s Jeon Jeongguk, I think—”

Jimin’s ears ring. Everything around him suddenly stills and he’s not quite sure if he really heard Namjoon correctly. “Wait, can you repeat that, hyung?”

“It’s Jeon Jeongguk?” It comes out as a question this time, mirrored by the puzzled expression written all over his face.

Jimin groans. Of course. Of course, Someone Up There thought it’d be really funny to have Jimin work alongside Jeongguk again and now it’s definitely cackling like the joker at Jimin’s mortified face.

What shitty luck.

“I changed my mind, hyung,” Jimin quickly decides, “I don’t care if this movie is the talk of the worldwide film community or whatever. I’m not doing it.”

Namjoon sighs, pinching his nose in exasperation. “Jimin—”

“I’m serious. I don’t wanna have anything to do with that Jeongguk guy ever again.”

Jimin knows he’s being awfully childish and petty as fuck, and Namjoon has no qualms letting him know how ridiculous he sounds right now.

“You’re being irrational,” Namjoon scolds, barely keeping his frustration at bay. “Are you really going to let this chance slip through your fingers because of a rookie?”

Jimin’s mouth forms into a straight line. When Namjoon puts it like that, it really does sound incredibly idiotic of him to let the opportunity go just because of Jeongguk. But, then again, Namjoon wasn’t there during his audition, was he? He wasn’t there to witness Jimin’s embarrassment, to see how he’d easily gotten so caught up in Jeongguk’s presence, even despite the wide disparity in their acting experience.

“Jimin-ah, listen to me,” Namjoon begins soothingly, “This is big. Bigger than any project we’ve ever come across before. I don’t really know what happened between you and Jeongguk and, trust me, I’ll be here to listen if you wanna talk about it. But don’t let your emotions cloud your professional judgment, alright?”

Jimin starts biting at his lip, shredding the skin. Namjoon can be pretty persuasive when he wants to be and, right now, he’s definitely pulling out all stops for this project. Jimin’s seriously tempted to respond to Namjoon with the affirmation that, yes, he’s willing to accept the role despite it not being the one he initially hoped for—and he had been pretty close to doing it, too, had Namjoon omitted the part that he’d be working with Jeongguk again.

Because, well, there’s actually nothing else holding Jimin back from agreeing aside from that little detail. Jimin may be stubborn as hell, but he can recognize a really good break when he sees one.

“How about it, Jimin-ah?” Namjoon gently prompts again. “Will you at least give it a try?”

Jimin sighs, resigned. He’ll have to stomach working with Jeongguk everyday for only God knows how long, see him and interact with him like Jimin doesn’t despise the guy with every fiber of his being, but the end result will be worth it. It should be. Jimin likes to think he’s not about to put his sanity and dignity on the line for nothing.

“Okay,” Jimin gives in, slumping over on the couch like a puppet whose strings has just been cut. He suddenly feels a lot more tired, like this mere conversation alone has drained all of his remaining energy and more. “Fine, I’ll do it. But only because I love and trust you, hyung.”

The smile Namjoon gives him is big and blinding and, for a second, the sight manages to convince Jimin that, maybe, he’s making the right decision after all. “I promise you won’t regret this, Jimin-ah.”

Maybe it’s a long shot, but Jimin hopes he really won’t.

 

♠️ 

 

Jimin immediately realizes just how small Korean film circle is when he walks into the meeting hall and sees nothing but familiar faces.

These people are the same ones he’d worked and socialized with during the near decade of his career, and their presence amidst his lack of conviction in the new role he’d just committed himself to makes Jimin a little calmer, somewhat. It’s the first table read with the official cast and Jimin makes sure to reply to greetings and congratulatory words left and right as he ambles along.

Eyes darting around for his designated seat, it doesn’t take Jimin long to see Taehyung frantically waving at him amidst the crowd. It’s an amusing sight and Jimin can’t help but chuckle under his breath. Taehyung continues to call him over and Jimin all but hurries, until he comes closer and realizes that Taehyung is actually pointing to an empty spot right between him and—

Jeongguk stands up as their eyes meet, and gives Jimin a bright smile that contradicts his perfunctory bow. Jimin falters for a bit, and then quickly attempts to force a smile of his own as he makes his way towards his assigned seat. He tries not to trip or stumble over his own two feet, hyper-aware of Jeongguk’s watchful gaze on him.

The closer Jimin gets to his spot, the more it feels like he’s submitting himself to a fate that isn’t his choice.

He isn’t given a second longer to dwell on the feeling, however, because the meeting commences as soon as Jimin slides into his seat. Hoseok summons everyone’s attention at the center of the room and then a series of introductions begins, starting from the director, the screenwriters, producers and a bunch of other people whose names and jobs they forget almost immediately.

The next two hours that follow pass by without much fanfare. Both Jimin and Jeongguk flip through their scripts for last checks, speaking to each other only through their characters. As though operating on a silent agreement, they barely look each other’s way, avoid any further interaction other than what’s strictly necessary. Jimin can’t imagine this kind of strained atmosphere working in their favor once filming starts, especially since their characters are expected to shoot so many scenes together, but he doesn’t really have it in himself to worry about that now. Jimin decides to just take each day as it comes.

When the meeting is finally done, the entire room applauds, and the whole cast exchanges tentative glances with varying combinations of relief and nervous excitement. Jimin, on the other hand, feels wiped and ready to pass out. His blood sugar is running low despite the sedentary activity, and Jimin feels justified in blaming everything on Jeongguk. Having him around for an extended period of time—with their shoulders brushing at every occasion due to the cramped space—has really taken a toll on Jimin, as ridiculous as it sounds.

Jimin hates himself for the newfound awareness he has for the rookie actor. Hates the fact that the clothes Jeongguk wears doesn’t seem enough to dull the warmth radiating off his skin. Hates how Jeongguk makes it so easy to breach his personal space, even going so far as to duck his head close to Jimin at some point during the table read.

Their proximity is getting a little too much for Jimin to cope up with and he’s itching to get away.

So when Jeongguk instantly disappears from the table the second they’re dismissed, darting across the room to catch hold of Hoseok for a quick question or two, Jimin can’t help sagging in relief. He forces himself not to watch Jeongguk go, instead putting all of his concentration into listening to Taehyung’s excited rambling about the film shooting, nodding at some point in their conversation to let Taehyung know he’s listening, albeit a little distracted.

“Jimin-sshi!” someone suddenly calls. Jimin swivels around and, before he can recognize who it is, the guy immediately bows ninety degrees before him. It’s very polite; sometimes, Jimin can't help but be bewildered at how these younger actors acknowledge him as their “senior” in this industry.

When the guy straightens, Jimin scours his mind for where he’s seen the other's face before. He comes up blank, however, and the sheepish smile on his lips gives him away. "I'm sorry, have we…?"

Jimin trails off, unsure. He really doesn’t want to come off rude, but he also doesn’t have the faintest clue about this person either. Thankfully, the guy doesn’t take Jimin’s unfamiliarity the wrong way. “Oh! I forgot to introduce myself,” he ruefully says, reaching up to scratch at his cheek. “My name’s Im Sejun! It’s nice to meet you, Jimin-sshi.”

The name, somehow, sparks a faraway memory in Jimin's mind, and he snaps his fingers once he remembers. “Ah! Were you in Dragon Quest? I think I’ve seen you before.” 

Jimin must’ve accidentally said the magic words or some shit because, suddenly, Sejun’s looking at him dazedly, cheeks flushed rosy pink. “Yep, I was! Wow, I can’t believe you recognized me. Working with you is like—a huge honor. Really, really huge, seriously.” Sejun gushes excitedly. “I’m a big fan of yours.”

Jimin can’t stop the upward quirk of his lips even if he tries to. Sejun’s adoration is just bouncing off him in waves and it makes Jimin’s heart a little lighter. “Thank you,” he says. “I enjoyed watching Dragon Quest a lot. It was a good show.”

Just then, a brown head bobs past the other boy and Jimin glances up automatically from his conversation with Sejun. He makes it a point not to follow Jeongguk's every movement, and blinks hard, focusing harder on Sejun’s moving lips instead.

For a second, Jimin succeeds in keeping his gaze where he needs it to be. But either his self-control has gone pretty shitty in a short amount of time or Jeongguk just has the kind of presence that commands everyone’s attention in the room, because Jimin still catches himself subtly observing Jeongguk, somehow, despite his earlier persistence not to.

He seems to be having the time of his life talking and exchanging jokes with another co-star, if the polite smile on his face is any indication. Jimin can’t quite remember her name or what kind of character she’ll be playing in the movie, and he briefly wonders if he’ll ever get to film a scene with her in the few weeks to come.

(Jimin hopes not, and then quickly chastises himself for even considering that thought.)

“—min-sshi?”

Jimin blinks, and then comes face-to-face with a hopeful Sejun staring at him. Warmth instantly rushes into Jimin’s cheeks at being caught so shamelessly distracted. “I’m sorry, what was that?”

There’s a split second where Sejun’s face falls but he recovers quickly enough before Jimin can even feel apologetic. “I just asked if you want to sit down for a minute and discuss the relationship of our characters in the movie.”

Jimin strives not to scowl at the idea. It’s not that he doesn’t want to spend any more time with Sejun, but Jimin’s just had enough work-related interactions for today. He’s a little tired and sleepy, having stayed up so late last night stressing over the table read today, and he just wants to go home. He’s also pretty sure their characters don’t get to interact at least until the latter half of the film, so Jimin can’t really see the point of that suggestion.

“Ah, I’m sorry but I don’t think I can stay long,” Jimin says, with as much regret as he can muster. “Maybe some other time?”

“Oh! You have another schedule to go to?”

Jimin shrugs. “Something like that.”

It’s a complete lie; Namjoon had made sure to keep the rest of today free for Jimin, just in case the meeting today fails to finish on time. But, well, Sejun obviously doesn’t need to know that. From the corner of his eye, he sees Jeongguk glance at his direction and smirk, all coy and knowing, as though he can see right through Jimin and his fib. It only irks Jimin even more.

“I see,” Sejun hums with understanding. “Well, don’t let me hold you up for too long! Let’s talk again soon, Jimin-sshi.”

After a weak nod and a hastily thrown smile, Jimin makes to leave. Taehyung had already excused himself sometime during his conversation with Sejun so Jimin quickens his pace towards the exit, grateful that he doesn’t have any more reason to lag behind.

“Jimin-sshi! Wait!”

Jimin closes his eyes but doesn’t falter in his stride. Hadn’t he bid Sejun goodbye just a few seconds ago? What can he possibly want now? Jimin sure as hell isn’t thrilled to find out. Maybe if he continues walking without looking back, Sejun will eventually get the hint and just leave him b—

A hand lands on his shoulder just then, stopping him from moving any further. Jimin grits his teeth in annoyance. He holds his anger in and turns around, just about ready to burst and tell Sejun off—

—when Jeongguk’s face unexpectedly comes into vision instead. Jimin frowns in confusion.

“Are you in a hurry?” Jeongguk asks. Jimin doesn’t answer, just pointedly stares at the hand still resting on his shoulder. Jeongguk draws it back a little too quickly, as if burned, and Jimin would’ve said something if he wasn’t a little taken aback by Jeongguk’s actions.

“I was hoping we can talk for a little bit,” Jeongguk says. Jimin’s silence is cold and intimidating—but Jeongguk continues, “Uh, I heard you primarily auditioned for my role.”

That has Jimin squinting at him in scrutiny. “You know I did, you were there,” he bluntly answers. “What about it?”

“Nothing,” Jeongguk squawks, sounding a little defensive and shocked at Jimin’s curt tone. “I just—I didn’t know I’d get it, honestly. I was only there to try out for a small role that day and then, before I knew it, they were making us act on a scene together. One thing just led to another and now I’m here, playing the character you wanted and I—”

“You don’t have to explain anything to me,” Jimin interrupts. It comes out a bit harsher than he’d intended, but Jimin can’t help it. Hearing how Jeongguk hadn’t even auditioned for a major role but had still gotten one nonetheless, has Jimin shaking in frustration. It makes him feel even more terrible, inadequate, his insecurities eating him out from the inside out.

“I know I don’t, but I just want to—”

“Don’t bother, Jeongguk,” he says, grimacing. The mere mention of Jeongguk’s name leaves a sour taste in Jimin’s mouth. “It’s done. Roles have been assigned and filming starts in a few weeks. There’s absolutely no use talking about this now.”

Jimin knows he’s shutting Jeongguk down rather harshly but, at this point in time, he doesn’t have it in himself to care. He’s been awfully reminded of his inferiority again, albeit inadvertently, and all Jimin wants is to get away.

Jeongguk’s face hardens at his words, and Jimin could’ve pinpointed the exact moment Jeongguk had closed off if only he looked a little harder. “You’re right. I’m sorry for wasting your time, Jimin-sshi.”

He turns back around and walks away even before Jimin can put another word in.

Once he’s alone, Jimin feels like dropping to the floor right then and there, a storm of emotions brewing inside his chest. Ultimately, he doesn’t; instead, Jimin forges on ahead and lets his feet carry him as fast as it can, never once stopping.

 

♠️

 

Stunt training starts the week after the table read, and things get even more awkward real quick.

Within the first few days of merciless cardio and weights, it becomes glaringly obvious to the entire cast that their main leads aren’t huge fans of…well, each other.

The physical trainers split the boys and girls up so that they can do most of their workouts separately, but both Jimin and Jeongguk adamantly refuse to work in the same group. They make sure to go out of their way to avoid any and all unnecessary physical contact as far as possible, giving each other as wide a berth as they can manage whenever they’re in the same room.

The awkward set up works for quite a while—at least, up until the stunt coordinators get involved. As the leads, both of them are expected to be in nearly all of each other’s scenes. Which also means that most of their stunt work involves each other’s presence and involvement to varying capacities.

Which is really the only reason why Jimin’s willingly out here with Jeongguk, breathing the same air and practically sweating into each other’s pores with every close contact they make.

Jimin catches a flicker of activity in the corner of his eye. When he turns his head, Jimin can’t help but hold his breath at the sight that welcomes him: Jeongguk bounces on the trampoline again and effortlessly soars into the air, his movement only made even more elegant by the wire contraptions that suspend him midair. Jimin’s admittedly a little awestruck and, against his will, he finds himself revelling on the way Jeongguk seems to gleam when the afternoon sun hits the sheen of sweat on his skin.

It’s maddening how Jeongguk demonstrates the ease of a professional despite his first time working around stunt equipment, especially so when Jimin struggles with coordinating his body while dealing with the cramp from the harness they all wear. It’s another ridiculous thing he keeps beating himself up for. Jimin himself is practically a newbie with stunts, and he can’t quite shake his own irrational jealousy over Jeongguk’s agility.

It’s pretty obvious that Jeongguk has the infinitely superior advantage over him in terms of physical capabilities but Jimin swears to hell and back that he won’t be left even an inch behind by this rookie. He’s a hardworker and he’s all but determined to overcome his shortcomings one way or another.

Jimin’s about to get back to his own training when the stunt coordinator suddenly decides to let them go early. Jeongguk immediately takes off his harness then and jumps down, his strong legs holding him up pretty steadily despite being on the trampoline for more than half a day now. Even from afar, it isn’t difficult to see that he’s sweating a lot and Jimin resolutely ignores the way Jeongguk pushes his dampened bangs out of his face. Or the way Jeongguk’s muscles ripple across his broad shoulders and defined abs when he peels off his drenched shirt and changes into a new one.

There’s absolutely no reason for Jimin to feel so flustered and yet, for some reason, he still finds himself trying to will down the unexpected heat climbing up his neck.

“What are you looking at?”

Jimin almost jumps in surprise, his heart kickstarting into a rapid beat down. He clutches at his chest as he turns to locate the owner of the voice, only to find Taehyung beside him, already smiling apologetically in his direction. “Oh my God, Tae, don’t sneak up on me like that!”

Taehyung laughs, amused. “Sorry, I thought you already saw me coming earlier,” his gaze quickly turns suggestive then, a smile appearing on his lips, “but I guess you were too preoccupied to even notice my presence, huh?”

Jimin strives hard not to blush at the implication and slaps Taehyung in a weak attempt to distract himself, hitting his bicep in the process. “Whatever, Tae. I don’t even know what you’re talking about.”

It’s a lie—and a poorly constructed one at that, even. Jimin would’ve come up with an even more convincing response if he wasn’t too ruffled by Taehyung’s subtle teasing to even bother. Thankfully, Taehyung doesn’t push the conversation any further; he just smiles conspiratorially at Jimin, his eyes still glinting in mischief. “Okay. If you say so, Jiminie.”

Jimin squints at him, and then sighs in relief when Taehyung drops the subject just like that. Taehyung may be a little too perceptive, a little too curious for himself sometimes, but he’s sensitive enough to know when to poke his nose into someone’s business or not. It’s not the main reason why he likes Taehyung very much but it does matter a lot to Jimin.

“You okay out here?” Taehyung asks. “Do you need my help?”

Jimin snorts, without any real intention to offend Taehyung. They’re both beginners at this, both having no real experience with stunts before, and he’s pretty sure Taehyung’s exposure to stunt equipments and anything related to them isn’t that much far off from Jimin’s own. Still, he’s not about to be that asshole who doesn’t know how to be grateful for any kind of help offered by a friend.

“Thank you, but I think I’m good for now, Taehyungie,” Jimin says, smiling.

“These stunts are my least favorite part of the movie. Not feeling excited at all to be doing them, if I’m gonna be honest,” Taehyung blurts out, scrunching his face in distress. “You? Will you be okay doing the stunts yourself?”

It’s a question borne out of genuine concern and Jimin is incredibly touched that Taehyung has the time to even worry about others when he’s just as anxious to do the stunts himself. Frankly, Jimin used to avoid saeguk gigs before because he wanted to avoid having to learn how to ride horse or roll on the ground. He’s always been doing actionless drama flicks throughout his whole career, so he’s feeling a little pressured to do well. Jimin wants nothing else but for this movie to be successful and for that possibility to even see the light of day, he needs to break out of his shell and take chances.

“I guess,” Jimin shrugs. “Never did any of these stuff before, though, so I know it’s gonna be difficult. But I’m already here and it’s only appropriate that I try my hardest, right?”

Taehyung nods empathically, something akin to wonderment adoring his face. “You’re so cool, Jiminie,” he enthuses and Jimin can’t help but blush.

Taehyung’s looking at him like he’s uttered something fairly impressive and Jimin doesn’t have the heart to shatter that illusion. How is Jimin supposed to tell Taehyung that the primary reason why he wanted to do his own stunts was due to the fact that Jeongguk wanted to do his, and not exactly because he wished to try out something new for the sake of this movie? Jimin definitely can’t tell Taehyung any of that now, so he decides to keep that to himself instead.

As if on cue, Namjoon’s voice rings in his ear, reminding him that putting his safety on the line is definitely not worthy of his pride. But Jimin will be damned if it isn’t.

An arm is suddenly slung around his shoulder and jostles Jimin out of his thoughts. “How about we hit the showers now?” Taehyung asks, already starting to drag Jimin away without even waiting for a response. “I feel disgusting and I can definitely eat my weight in meat with how hungry I am.”

Jimin giggles and lets Taehyung practically tug him into the changing room. Luckily, they’re in no actual hurry to clean up. The place has quite a lot of showers installed and more than half of the whole cast already left as soon as the stunt coordinators called it a day, so Jimin and Taehyung are free to take as much time as they need.

Which Jimin does, unapologetically so. He spends a good while standing under the shower’s spray, just letting himself relax under the warm stream of water. His muscles are sore and heavy, like he’s run a marathon or endured an extreme workout, and Jimin feels the tight coil of stress slowly unwind with every passing second.

Jimin’s hair is already soaked all the way through, and his body wash has swirled down the drain ages ago, but he doesn’t really feel like moving from his spot anytime soon. He closes his eyes then, the water cascading down his back lulling him into a peaceful stillness, and allows his thoughts to wander for a bit.

Actual filming for the movie will begin in a few days. Jimin had spent, quite possibly, every waking moment of his life just reading through his weathered copy of the script for the past few weeks, internalizing each scene and imagining himself acting them out. Sometimes, Jimin swallows his hesitance and even asks Hoseok for his input on discussions about his character, smiling warmly when Hoseok all but indulges his every question.

He gets along well with most of his co-stars, too, finding an unexpected sense of comfort in the company of Seokjin—one of his seniors and a good friend in the industry—and Taehyung, both of whom seem to be only capable of speaking exclusively in teasing jabs, terrible old man jokes and smirking comebacks.

And then, as if to rudely remind him, Jimin’s brain suddenly conjures up images of Jeongguk. Of him approaching Jimin to strike up a conversation or two, only for Jimin to wave his efforts off on both occasions. Of Jeongguk working so hard today, jumping on that trampoline and looking more ethereal than he has any right to be.

Jimin knows it’s stupid and wrong to get all worked up over his co-star but he can’t help it, not when it makes his stomach flip like it usually does when he's on drop-zone rides. Not when he finds himself swallowing several times because of the sudden dryness of his throat.

Jimin snaps his eyes open and shakes his head before his train of thought can get any more treacherous. Quickly, he secures a towel around his waist and steps out of the shower, praying to every deity out there that Taehyung won’t notice his abrupt change in demeanour.

As though fates have worked to conspire and thoroughly fuck with him today, it’s actually not Taehyung who Jimin sees first.

Jeongguk promptly stops dead in his tracks as soon as he comes face to face with Jimin, jaw going slack and eyes growing as wide as saucers. Any other time and Jimin would’ve probably laughed at the hilarious sight, but the situation itself is nowhere near comical and he’s pretty sure he’s mirroring the same stunned expression on Jeongguk’s face.

Jimin wants to run, but Jeongguk’s standing in his way, blocking the only possible way out. Nothing else is really stopping him from covering himself up either—except, maybe, the fact that Jeongguk’s eyes are now raking unashamedly over his bare form, the sinews of his neck, the hard ridges of his stomach that taper into a sharp vee at his hips. Jimin knows he looks good; he keeps his body fit and maintains a balanced diet as much as he can. But even if he doesn’t, even if he remains clueless for some reason or another, the sheer hunger reflected on Jeongguk’s face, his irises more black than brown, and positively irradiating lust, can definitely give Jimin an idea or two.

There’s something incredibly terrifying in Jeongguk’s heated gaze and Jimin is rendered helpless to look away.

“Jiminie! Are you planning to spend the whole day in the shower or—”

Taehyung halts as soon as he sees them. His voice rings loudly in the hollow of the room and Jimin can see the way Jeongguk immediately flinches at the sound, the heady silence surrounding them collapsing in on itself. Jimin can practically hear the question already dangling at the tip of Taehyung’s tongue, can sense his burning curiosity even from where he’s standing by the doorway, shocked and yet intrigued at the sight of his two co-stars staring quite heatedly at each other. Jimin would’ve said something to help diffuse the awkwardness, but he finds that he can’t quite get his mouth to open and produce words at the moment.

Thankfully, it’s Taehyung who eventually breaks up the stiff atmosphere. “Am I interrupting something?”

“N-no!” Jeongguk almost shrieks. He shakes his head, eyes still wide, as if the gesture alone is meant to convince himself more than anyone else. “I...I’m just about to leave, actually.”

And then, as if his pants are on fire, Jeongguk dashes out the door before Jimin and Taehyung can even blink. It’s certainly weird behavior, especially for someone as aloof and enigmatic as Jeongguk, but Jimin can’t exactly blame him given the situation.

If Jeongguk hurriedly leaves with a bright stain of crimson on his cheeks, none of them mentions it.

 

♠️

 

Filming is anything but a fucking cakewalk.

Granted, Jimin had already expected as much even before he’d decided to audition for this movie. This isn’t his first, after all, and considering the numerous indie projects he’d committed himself to in the past, Jimin likes to think he’d already gotten used to the pressure and exhaustion and overall stressful environment that almost always came with shooting a high-budgeted film.

Somewhere between shooting schedule briefings, getting rushed from one location to another and Hoseok’s unsurprising insistence on doing twenty takes of every line before letting everyone move on, however, Jimin realizes he can’t be any more wrong with his assumption.

“Cut!” Hoseok yells, rubbing at his temple wearily. It’s their seventh take and the obvious displeasure in Hoseok’s tone is enough to have Jimin and Jeongguk almost cowering in their place. “Both of you are really making this a little harder than it needs to be. We’ll take a break for now, and when we come back I expect you two to give me the scene that I need in one take, alright?”

Everyone disperses promptly after that, the hairstylists and makeup artists flitting back and forth between each actor with their powder brushes and hairspray cans in hand. Jimin ends up slumping onto the nearest couch he can see, and he takes the few minutes of reprieve to pull himself together.

It’s the most draining day he can remember ever having in his life. Hoseok’s been grousing on non-stop about how they’re not giving him ‘enough’, how he’s ‘just not seeing the right emotions portrayed in the moment’, and Jimin is honestly getting a little frustrated himself. By the umpteenth consecutive run-through of the same page of dialogue, he finds himself already teetering closer to the brink of insanity.

Jimin knows Hoseok is meticulous and obsessive. Knows about his perfectionist streak all too well. And with so much time and money being dished out for the production of this film, it’s only understandable that Hoseok won’t settle for anything but the absolute best.

Still, even with that thought in mind, Jimin can’t help but grimace at the memory of Hoseok making them do anywhere from twenty to thirty variations of each scene the past few days. On their own, Jimin and Jeongguk aren’t quite able to feign complete obliviousness to the tension between them—which definitely doesn’t help their situation, given that Hoseok sometimes makes it a point to have them locked up in a room for hours upon hours, face-to-face and left to the calculating mercies of his criticisms and scrutiny.

Sometimes, it does work like a goddamn miracle. Jimin’s still a professional, after all, and he knows letting his personal feelings get in the way of his acting won’t do him any good.

But other times, like today, where stress is at an all time high and everyone’s just dying to go home, Jimin’s hold on himself slips, causing a huge difference in his performance.

“Alright! Let’s have another go again,” Hoseok calls authoritatively. Both Jimin and Jeongguk scurry to take their places once more, not wanting to aggravate Hoseok any further. “Clear the set. And…action!

The deafening snap of the clapperboard echoes and he sees Jeongguk immediately slip into his character—his shoulders pull back, his lips press together, his face sets with something Jimin still can’t quite name, something Jeongguk has definitely made unique to his role.

Jimin takes a deep breath, and pulls his own character up.

In this preceding moment, they’re not Jimin and Jeongguk anymore. In their place are two entirely different people, and those people look at each other and open their mouths and yell bitterness, growl anger, bite frustration. Jimin meets Jeongguk’s unyielding gaze dead on, catching a definite edge of stubbornness to his voice as he delivers his line and, before Jimin knows it, he’s responding, huffing a rough, sardonic laugh and shaking his head, the hard set of his shoulders softening as their eyes lock together in a dramatic silent exchange.

In the brief stillness that follows, Jimin can feel his heart fiercely hammering against his ribcage.

“And cut!” Hoseok’s face shows a definite hint of a smile. “Print it. That’s a wrap for today.”

Everyone on set bursts into raucous applause at that and Jimin can’t help sagging in relief. Thank fucking God they finally got that take. Jimin wasn’t really sure he could go through this specific scene one more time without wanting to pop his eyes out of their sockets first.

Jimin’s about to get off the set when the script supervisor catches up to him and gives him a kind pat on the back. He immediately recovers, throwing out a polite smile and nod as a response. It feels good to know he’s still done well at the end despite everything.

It takes a good few minutes for the crew to get back to their work, starting on the arduous process of cleanup. Taehyung comes up to him with a bounce in his step and is almost successful in dragging him away when Hoseok suddenly speaks up again to catch their attention.

“As all of you know, we’ll be heading to Andorra the day after tomorrow to resume our shooting for the rest of the scenes. We'll be leaving at dawn, unless the weather changes dramatically, so have everything packed and ready, alright?” A chorus of agreement rumbles from the crowd and Hoseok smiles, weary but satisfied. “Anyway, today has been hard on all of you, so please do take a much needed rest. Good work, everyone!”

“I’m so excited! I’ve never been to Andorra before,” Taehyung babbles beside him. He’s reeking with too much eagerness—Jimin wonders just how Taehyung can even afford to stay this keyed up when most of the cast are practically already dead on their feet. “I heard it’s well-known in Europe for its ski hills and hiking trails. And, oh, I think you’ll love the mountain scenery too, Jiminie! It’s—”

Jimin tunes him out, too tired out of his mind to think about anything else. He glances around, catches sight of the crew still packing up and a few others from the cast busily tending to their own things. Jimin cranes his neck further in an attempt to catch that familiar mop of brown hair—

—and then inwardly kicks himself when he abruptly realizes what he’s doing.

Fuck. He must be really out of it if he’s actively seeking Jeongguk out. Jimin promptly pins his unusual behavior to extreme fatigue and makes an effort to keep himself in check all throughout Taehyung’s endless chatter.

 

♠️

 

To say that Jimin is surprised to find only Jeongguk and Hoseok present at the airport on the day of their flight to Andorra is an understatement.

He and the rest of the cast came up with a mutual decision to meet up here early in the morning to avoid any delays, and Jimin had been surprised and worried at the same time when no one else had arrived even after an hour or two of waiting. When Hoseok proceeds to steer them into their respective boarding area, their flight announcement clearly echoing overhead, it only concerns Jimin even more.

“Are the others not coming?”

Hoseok shakes his head, still pulling his baggage along. “It’s only us.” He gestures to the three of them and then to a few other people behind who tiredly drag their bodies towards the boarding gate. “Half the crew and cast will be out on a separate location to film a couple of minor scenes today, while the rest will be taking the next available flight the day after tomorrow. It’s imperative that we don’t waste any more time than we already did, so we’re heading to Andorra first.”

Hoseok’s tone is final, leaving Jimin no room for any arguments. Beside him, Jeongguk silently follows, his cap pulled all the way down to his nose that Jimin can’t even see half of his face. The downturned corners of his mouth are pretty telling, however; Jimin doesn’t need to see it twice to know that Jeongguk isn’t too happy at the thought of being on the same flight with Jimin.

Jimin grits his teeth in annoyance. That makes two of us, asshole.

Even so, he tries not to let it get to him too much despite every living cell in his body telling him to confront Jeongguk and ask what his problem is. It won’t do him any good, anyway. Letting Jeongguk know he’d successfully gotten under Jimin’s skin would only put Jimin at a clear disadvantage.

It's a long flight from Seoul to Barcelona and Jimin’s already thinking about taking the seat closest to the window the moment he steps inside the plane. He has the tendency to doze off at the most random moments and, considering he’d gotten up at the crack of dawn with barely any sleep the night before, Jimin’s pretty sure he’ll be out like a light as soon as they take off.

“I booked two business class seats for both you and Jeongguk, so go sit together,” Hoseok whispers, patting Jimin’s lower back.

Jimin whips his head around, surprised. “You’re not joining us here?”

Hoseok smiles while shaking his head. “There were only two available seats in the business class section for this flight so I’ll be flying coach with the rest of the guys,” he explains, already walking ahead before Jimin can even open his mouth to offer another alternative.

Jimin is rendered motionless for a second, his ears ringing at Hoseok’s words. They’re on a thirteen hour flight and Jimin’s going to be spending all of them with Jeongguk occupying the seat next to him, sitting so close and possibly brushing arms or legs in the tight space.

Suddenly, the sparse seats feel even more suffocating than the prospect of having to fold his legs for hours in the cramped space of economy class. Jimin sincerely thinks he’d jump at any chance of exchanging seats with any of the crew but, somehow, he senses that Hoseok will do everything in his power to prevent that from the happening.

Someone jostles him from behind and it’s the only thing that manages to make Jimin move. As if on autopilot, Jimin stows his baggage in the overhead compartment before sliding into the window seat as planned. Jimin strives not to chance a glimpse at Jeongguk as he does the same, his shirt riding up and revealing a sliver of smooth skin. When Jeongguk eventually slides into his own seat, adamantly looking everywhere but in Jimin’s direction, Jimin all but tamps down the urge to squeeze himself into the corner.

He curses Namjoon under his breath for not being here. His manager had to attend to something urgent all of a sudden and had promised to follow as soon as he could. Jimin knows it’s petty and ridiculous to feel as though he’s been fed to the sharks in Namjoon’s absence, but he probably wouldn’t even be in this position had his manager actually tagged along on this flight with him.

Heaving a frustrated sigh, Jimin begrudgingly settles into his seat. It’s not like he has any other option, anyway, so he might as well just suck it up and behave like the adult that he is.

In an effort to distract himself, Jimin takes out his phone and revisits the websites he’d checked out last night. He’d been curious about Andorra ever since Hoseok had mentioned it in passing during one of their cast meetings and decided it was worth looking into in advance after Taehyung all but talked his ears off the other day.

Apparently, Andorra is a tiny, independent principality situated between France and Spain. It doesn’t have an airport, mostly due to its location high up in the mountains, and so they’re set to reach the place either by bus, train, or car. Andorra also boasts plenty of attractive lures for visitors: dramatic, craggy mountains; lush forests and meadows; pristine lakes; wintery slopes ideal for snow sports.

It sounds like the perfect isolated location for the movie shooting and Jimin finds himself looking forward to seeing it with his own two eyes now more than ever.

 

♠️

 

It’s almost six in the evening when they finally touchdown in Barcelona and Jimin thinks he can, quite literally, fall asleep standing.

He’d spent the majority of his time dozing off, listening to music with his earphones jammed in his ears, reading magazines, or looking over the list of available inflight movies and television shows in the hopes of coming across something interesting to watch—just about doing everything to draw his attention away from the man situated next to him.

Jimin had mostly been successful in his attempts to ignore Jeongguk’s presence by his side, but there’s really only so much silence a man can take before he loses his mind and gives in. The few, short words they’ve managed to exchange were stiff and casual at best—none of the familiarity and comfort he’s used to share with the rest of the cast—and Jimin has to wonder just how long they can keep this up before this awkwardness really ruins them.

The bustling crowd is a little overwhelming, but Jimin does get out of the plane and walk through immigrations like a dead man on his feet. He regrets not taking the kind offer of refreshments from the flight attendant shortly before they landed. The prospect of sipping a freshly brewed coffee seems so tempting, yet so far away now. Just as the thought of stopping by at the nearest coffee shop for an emergency fix flashes in his mind, Hoseok quickly ushers the group towards what seems like a convoy of suburbans going their way.

“That’s your ride,” Hoseok points out. “Quick, I want you to reach La Cortinada before the lodging closes the restaurants, otherwise you’ll be stranded without any dinner tonight.”

“We can always order room service, or I can buy something from a convenient store nearby.” Jeongguk shrugs, unable to relate to Hoseok’s concern about their arrangement. It’s quite an expected reaction to which Hoseok laughs, patting Jeongguk’s back almost patronizingly.

“Kid, La Cortinada is probably one of the most beautiful places on Earth, but it’s definitely no Four Season out there.” He waves dismissively when Jeongguk only shows further curiosity. “Just—get going, okay?”

“I guess you’re not coming with us," Jimin says. It comes out more of a statement than a question and Jimin surprises even himself at the certainty in his voice. From the corner of his eye, Jimin notices the exchange of uneasy glances by some of the crews.

“That's right. Some of us will need to take care of certain things here.” Jimin is tempted to ask what he means exactly, but Hoseok only keeps going before Jimin can even open his mouth, “Don’t worry, you won’t be traveling by yourselves. You two will be leaving with the stunt coordinator and location director, so I’m almost positive you won’t get lost.”

It’s not the thought of getting stranded in an unfamiliar territory that has Jimin really worried, though.

Briefly, he casts a glance in Jeongguk’s direction, wondering just how he’s coping with everything thus far. He doesn’t look like he hates the idea of being stuck in another confined space with Jimin, at least. He doesn’t really understand why the thought relieves him for some reason—just that it does, and Jimin leaves it at that.

The car ride from the airport to La Cortinada, a small town in Andorra, is a serene affair. They're all exhausted, a little irritated, but Jimin supposes traveling for thirteen or so hours tends to do that to a person.

Jimin gets in almost an hour of naptime before he finds himself being woken up by a familiar pain in his ears, which he easily recognizes as the same discomfort he suffers through whenever he rides on a plane. Judging by the sign he catches outside the window, the same one that says they’ve just bypassed a town called Bellver de Cerdanya, Jimin’s pretty certain they’ve already reached Pyrenees by now.

He had previously looked up vital information about Pyrenees, and Jimin secretly wishes they could have landed in the morning, when the sun is up, so he can see the magnificent view of the slopes and valleys, and the small clusters of stone buildings that make up a village. There’s a different beauty to it in the darkness, though, where all he can see are the distant tiny lights from the stone houses, and the grey smoke that puffs out of the chimneys.

He’s a little entranced with everything. Unconsciously, Jimin reaches up and touches the glass, eyes widening a bit as he notices the thin frosting layer of ice. It must be freezing cold outside, and Jimin shudders just thinking about being out there in this harsh weather. He secretly feels grateful that Hoseok didn’t make them take the train. The jet lag has taken most of his stamina, and Jimin isn't sure just how fit he is to handle more transfers today.

Beside him, Jeongguk suddenly stirs awake. He’s been really quiet ever since their convoy left Barcelona and Jimin can’t curb his natural tendency to worry over a fellow co-star, no matter how much he hates the guy. Subtly, he watches as Jeongguk lazily fidgets in his seat, as he tries to stretch his muscles in the cramped space of the car. Jeongguk brushes closer to Jimin, unknowingly, and the proximity has Jimin immediately tensing in his place.

Thankfully, Jeongguk is still a little punch-drunk with exhaustion to even notice and he goes back to sleep just as fast as he’s woken up.

Small mercies, really.

Aside from that little incident, the rest of the ride continues without a hitch. It takes them close to two hours before they finally reach the place where they’re supposed to be staying at for the entire duration of their shooting, and Jimin hurries to leave his seat as soon as they arrive.

(It’s not because every second spent brushing arms with Jeongguk has Jimin’s skin erupting into goosebumps everytime. Nor is it because Jimin wants to get away from smell of Jeongguk’s shampoo, or the fresh sharpness of his cologne sweeping through his nose. No, definitely not.)

Rather than a hotel, Jimin is a bit surprised that they’ll be staying at a place that resembles a vacation chalet more than anything else. It's an old and typical Andorran construction, predominantly made from stones and woods and with thick walls built for insulation. It's located at the bend of a gentle slope just outside the village center of La Cortinada. The chalet is expansive, can probably house around thirty to fifty people if crammed, and Jimin can’t imagine Hoseok renting the entire property just for the shooting alone.

He can’t help but be skeptic upon seeing the chalet’s facade and reception area. It's so rustic and cozy, with fireplaces just about everywhere and, for a moment, Jimin's worried that there won’t be any central heating provided. To his great relief, however, he finds that the suite has all the necessary amenities, if not more, as soon as they step inside.

Apparently, their living arrangements have already been fixed in advance. Jimin is assigned to room with Jeongguk for the entirety of their stay, and he would’ve loudly voiced out his protest if it weren’t for the fact that the family suite had two separate bedrooms set up for the both of them.

Jimin can deal with this—it’s still different getting a single room of his own, but the cozy bed and the breakfast pantry, alongside the spacious seating room, are enough to eventually sway him into agreement.

Tired and sleepy from all the traveling they’ve done today, Jimin decides to lie down for a while, the bed immediately dipping with his weight. He’d been a little hungry on the way here, admittedly, but now that he’s discovered the comfort of his bed, Jimin’s not entirely sure if he still wants to get up.

Jeongguk doesn’t seem like he’s in the mood to eat tonight, too, anyway. Jimin had seen him amble straight to his own room as soon as they opened the door, looking a little pale and worn out than usual. If Jimin didn’t know any better, he’d think Jeongguk was just a few seconds away from actually keeling over.

Jimin shifts in a way that has his body facing the door, his eyes closing on their own accord. He makes an effort to keep his mind on track but memories of how close they’ve been back at the car keep prodding at his consciousness, insistent and desperate to be acknowledged, and Jimin finds that he’s too burned out to even resist.

He’d essentially caught a whiff of Jeongguk’s perfume back when they were still sitting next to each other on the plane, but it was much too different when they were practically squished together on the backseat of the convoy, with Jeongguk taking up more space than Jimin was comfortable with. Being so close, Jimin could drink in a lungful of Jeongguk’s scent even without actively attempting to do so. It’s a rather unique fragrance, almost reminiscent of fresh, clean laundry. Fruity but a little less juvenile, mixed with a hint of cashmere—it’s so refreshing and warm at the same time.

Jimin hates the fact that he can remember the smell so vividly up ‘til now. Hates it even more when he’s given no reprieve by his own unruly thoughts.

Sleep is a little hard to come by for Jimin later that night, but he manages, somewhat, after fervently shaking his head to clear out the image of Jeongguk drifting off so peacefully beside him.

 

♠️

 

Jimin almost jumps out of his skin the next morning when he finds Jeongguk already on his feet, lounging in front of the fireplace.

It’s a rather unusual sight and Jimin ends up double checking the time just to make sure he didn’t accidentally sleep in himself. The clock still reads 7:10 AM even after Jimin’s long, intent staring though, so he’s pretty convinced of either two things: 1) while he’s asleep, he’s suddenly thrown into an alternate universe where Jeongguk is the exact opposite of what he is—including being an early riser or; 2) Jeongguk is someone who has trouble sleeping in an unfamiliar place.

Between the two, the second option obviously sounds more plausible—and going with that idea, Jimin can only assume Jeongguk hasn’t had a blink of sleep yet since last night.

Jimin walks past him and steps into the shower with that thought still running in his head. He turns the knob, dials up a hot steamy spray with every intention to spend quite a bit of a time in the bathroom to clean himself. The stream of water falls on his skin like balm, beating against his back and driving energy into his sluggish system. Jimin closes his eyes and tries not to let the image of an unusually still Jeongguk linger too much behind his eyelids.

There’s just something alarming, frightening seeing him all slumped like that, quiet and unmoving, and before Jimin knows it, he’s hurrying to dry himself and put on new clothes.

When he finally steps out, his hair dripping wet and a towel slung around his neck, it’s a little more worrying than shocking to see Jeongguk still in the same position Jimin had left him. He doesn’t seem like he had moved even an inch from when Jimin last saw him either.

“Jeongguk,” he calls, albeit hesitantly. Jimin had only addressed Jeongguk by his name once or twice before, always opting to ignore him than vocally acknowledge his presence whenever they’re on set, and, somehow, it doesn’t feel right just suddenly, casually, calling him that now.

Even still, Jeongguk only remains motionless by the fireplace, as though he never even heard Jimin, and this has Jimin biting his bottom lip in concern even more.

Determined, he tries again. “Jeongguk!”

This time, his voice thankfully reaches Jeongguk’s ears, if the slight tilt of his head is any indication. Jimin’s about to call his attention once again when Jeongguk shifts to glance in his direction and the expression splayed all over his face has Jimin suddenly itching to scramble over and check on him.

Jeongguk looks so fucking miserable.

The dark purple crescents under his red-rimmed eyes stand out in sharp contrast to his dull, pale skin. His hair is unkempt, wild and standing every which way, as though Jeongguk had frustratingly combed his fingers through them a thousand times over. He’s still wearing the same clothes from yesterday, only now they’re rumpled and askew, even of questionable cleanliness.

“Hey, are you okay?” Jimin asks. It’s a stupid question, he knows it is, but Jimin doesn’t really know where to start. He doesn’t even have the slightest idea what happened overnight.

It takes a while for the words to settle in Jeongguk’s muddled brain, but when they finally do, he gives Jimin a slight shake of his head. A wry smile then pulls at the edges of his lips. “Been feeling really awful since last night,” Jeongguk says. His voice is rough, unused, words coming out like a slow drag. “I think I caught a bug or something.”

Jimin frowns. That doesn’t sound good. As far as he knows, they’re on a strict filming schedule and none of them can really afford to get sick at this point.

“You should try to eat and take a rest,” Jimin says, still lingering by the bathroom door. The urge to rush by Jeongguk’s side has dwindled quite a bit, but it’s still there. Still an itch he can’t quite ignore under his skin.

Jeongguk hums. “Will do. I just don’t feel like moving for a little while.”

Jimin just nods, not knowing what else to say.

Still, he ends up keeping an eye on Jeongguk throughout the day. As his co-star, Jimin feels like he has some kind of responsibility to look after Jeongguk’s welfare. It’s not for any reason other than his concern for their schedule, mind you. Jimin knows it would definitely affect everyone if the shooting has to be held up for a few days because of Jeongguk’s condition and he can’t really imagine anyone wanting that.

It’s midway through the afternoon when Jimin finds Jeongguk where he least expects him.

The sound of retching pervades through the bathroom’s half-closed door and it has Jimin immediately stopping in his tracks while on the way to his room. It’s obviously Jeongguk, considering no one else but them are residing in this suite, and just thinking about how worse he’s gotten over the span of a few hours is already making Jimin sick with worry.

Jimin hears the flush of a toilet soon after, and he waits for a bit more before deciding to knock on the door and check on Jeongguk.

“Jeongguk?”

Gently, Jimin pushes the door open, just enough to let Jeongguk know that he’s outside. The loud groan that abruptly reverberates off the walls of the bathroom is enough of an indication for Jimin to barge in unapologetically.

It’s the unpleasant smell of vomit that welcomes Jimin first, followed right after by the sight of Jeongguk’s body, limp and slumped on the tiled floor.

Jeongguk’s clutching onto the edges of the toilet seat, leaned over it and looking haggard and long-suffering. Jimin’s not sure how long he’s been in here, throwing up the entire contents of his stomach, but it must have been quite some time now judging by how pale and sweaty Jeongguk is.

Before he can even make sense of what he’s doing, Jimin catches himself already crouching beside Jeongguk, unmindful of the cramped space as he caresses Jeongguk’s back soothingly. He looks like the very picture of abject misery right now—with his sickly pale and drawn face, drool hanging off his lips, sweat beading his forehead.

The stark difference between this Jeongguk, so weak and helpless, and the confident Jeongguk he often acts with on set is honestly throwing Jimin off kilter. He can’t help but feel a little unsettled at the thought that he’s actually seeing just one person. One and the same.

“How are you feeling now?” Jimin asks, surprising even himself when the question suddenly tumbles out of his mouth. He was planning to stay silent while comforting Jeongguk but, obviously, his mouth had other plans.

“Even worse,” Jeongguk croaks, his voice ragged from the vomiting. “Like dying and shit.”

“Did you eat anything bad on the way here last night?”

Jeongguk gives a slight shake of his head, but even that seems to take a huge amount of effort on his part. “Haven’t...eaten anything yet since we arrived.”

Jimin scrunches his eyebrows in honest confusion. “What—”

Jeongguk quickly turns his face away from Jimin just as his stomach starts wringing itself out once more like a sponge into the toilet bowl, the smell of vomit heavy and acrid with bile. He groans and rests his cheek on the seat of the toilet once he’s done, weakly reaching his hand out to flush it down.

Seeing Jeongguk’s terrible state, it doesn’t really take Jimin more than a few seconds to come up with a decision.

“Okay, that’s it. We’re going to the doctor, Jeongguk.”

 

Jimin ends up bringing Jeongguk to a comprehensive clinic located within the village.

It’s not as expansive an establishment as Jimin had hoped but the nearest hospital is almost an hour drive away from La Cortinada and, with Jeongguk just getting increasingly nauseous with each movement, it’s more likely that he’ll puke his guts out all over the car seat anytime during their travel. Jimin just can’t take that chance.

Luckily, Jeongguk’s stomach had somehow settled during the quick ride and they're able to reach the clinic without any incidents.

Jimin steps out of the car and keeps Jeongguk close by with a hesitant hand on his back. The place is fairly empty when they walk inside, save from the woman sitting by the reception desk who gives them a warm smile as soon as they enter. Jimin immediately approaches her, asks if there’s a doctor around who can tend to Jeongguk today.

There is, and Jimin all but sighs in momentary relief.

They converse a little more after that, with Jimin trying his best to be eloquent and the woman nodding here and there with a patient smile. Jimin had learned how to speak a little Spanish when he was still shooting for a drama before, and he had never really imagined his knowledge on the said language would come in handy at some point. Admittedly, he used to grumble and complain under his breath when they made him attend all those vocabulary and grammar classes years ago. Now, though, Jimin can’t help but silently thank his former self for not throwing in the towel and pushing through.

They’re asked to sit in the waiting area after Jeongguk’s registration, with a promise that the doctor will be out to call them in a little while. Jeongguk slumps on his seat as soon as he settles down, his eyes scrunched closed in discomfort. He looks a tad bit better now compared to when Jimin saw him in the bathroom more than an hour ago, but there’s no mistaking the fact that he’s sick and needs to be checked by a health professional soon.

“Going to puke again?” Jimin asks, only half-joking. It’s meant to break the silence, lighten up the atmosphere maybe, but Jimin actually finds himself anticipating Jeongguk’s response with an anxious heart.

Jeongguk smiles wryly. “I hope not. I’m not sure I have enough stomach acid to throw up at this point, anyway.”

Jimin frowns at that, suddenly remembering Jeongguk’s confession about his lack of appetite ever since they arrived last night. His worry only proceeds to grow tenfold and Jimin hopes this doctor’s visit would eventually help clue them in on what’s happening.

“Didn’t know you can speak and understand Spanish,” Jeongguk blurts out. He squints one eye open, then regards Jimin with a small but genuine smile. “That’s really cool, hyung.”

Jimin tames the blush threatening to climb up his cheeks. He knows full well that the honorific is a slip up, but Jimin finds that he doesn’t really mind. He shrugs, hoping the casual gesture won’t give him away. “Had to learn for a drama before. I never thought it’d be useful at some point after that, honestly, but here we are.”

Jeongguk hums, agreeing. “Here we are.”

A bout of silence immediately follows after. Thankfully, it isn’t too long before Jeongguk’s name is called and they amble along the short hallway until they reach one of the rooms at the very end. Jimin almost half-expects a long-winding explanation about the sudden occurrence of Jeongguk’s illness but, surprisingly, the consultation that follows the moment they stride in is short but informative.

The doctor tells them all about altitude sickness, what it essentially means, and how it can occur when a person travels to a high altitude too quickly. Jeongguk’s symptoms all point out to the very same condition—dizziness, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, among many others. He’s prescribed to take ibuprofen for his headache and an anti-sickness medication for his nausea, along with a strict advice to drink enough water, avoid strenuous exercise for the preceding twenty four hours and basically just keep it easy for the next few days.

Jeongguk is expected to recover in two to three days’ time, as well, which is typically the normal time frame for one’s body to adjust to a sudden high altitude.

Jimin almost sags in relief upon hearing the doctor’s verdict. It seems like he can’t quite hide how glad he is even on the way home, a smile permanently stuck on his face after the good news.

The rest of the day passes by like a blur after that. Jimin is back to his usual habit of working with his meticulously colour-coded script during his downtime, the pages already crinkled after months of use. Sometimes, he watches shows on the living room TV too, eats when he feels like it, or takes out one of the books he’s brought on this trip to hopefully continue where he left off.

Amidst all of that, Jimin still takes a minute or two to check up on Jeongguk from time to time. He doesn’t hover too much, nor nag Jeongguk to eat or drink or rest, but Jimin makes himself available just in case Jeongguk needs him.

Later that night, Jimin finds Jeongguk lying down by the fireplace again. He looks oddly serene, with his eyes shut closed and his lips slightly parted, chest rising and falling in short, even breaths. Disturbing him feels like the biggest crime in the world right now, but there’s a pressing urge to keep the line of communication between them, and this moment just seems like the perfect opportunity to do that.

So Jimin squares his shoulders, tries not to allow the terrifying possibility of Jeongguk closing off on him again weaken his newfound resolve as he walks over.

“Do you mind if I sit next to you?” Jimin asks. He can’t help fidgeting in his spot, unsure. It’s definitely weird having to initiate a conversation with Jeongguk now, especially when Jimin had done everything in his power to avoid Jeongguk and his attempts to talk while they’re off cam.

Jeongguk slowly blinks his eyes open, his lashes fanning against the apple of his cheeks like butterfly wings. The silence proceeds to hang between them and it eerily feels like the pause before someone jumps off a roof. It’s only when Jeongguk finally nods and pats the empty space beside him does Jimin release the breath he didn’t even realize he was holding.

Gingerly, Jimin sits down, minding the distance between him and Jeongguk. The fire burns brightly and warmly in the hearth and, for a little while, the only sound they can hear is the crackling and snapping of the licking flames across the logs. Until—

“What’s up, hyung?” Jeongguk suddenly asks.

There’s the honorific again, and Jimin fervently ignores that familiar shiver down his spine. He swallows, strives hard to remember how his mouth is supposed to work. “I—I just wanted to know how you’re holding up. Are you feeling any better?”

“A bit, yeah. The meds helped a lot with my nausea. I can definitely benefit from an hour or two of sleep, though.”

“Oh!” Jimin makes to get up, inwardly kicking himself for bothering Jeongguk when he’s about to get some rest. “I guess I should leave you then—”

Jeongguk’s hand suddenly shoots out and, before Jimin knows it, there are already fingers wrapping around his wrist, stopping him from moving any further. “I didn’t mean now,” he says, amused. “You can stay here and keep me company for a while, hyung.”

Jeongguk’s touch is a bubbly mix of heat and electricity—Jimin suspects the warmth spreading through his body has less to do with the roaring fire and more to do with the way Jeongguk’s grip has him transfixed in his place.

“Okay,” he relents. Jimin thanks the high heavens for not stuttering through his response.

“You have something in mind you want to talk about?”

Jimin opens his mouth, only to close it shortly after, mind drawing a blank. He does want to talk to Jeongguk, but he’s also not sure if there’s something else they can discuss other than work. Jimin doesn’t exactly have the greatest relationship with Jeongguk before all this. “Not really,” he eventually admits, embarrassed.

Jeongguk hums. Just when Jimin thought their conversation’s over, Jeongguk suddenly goes, “Can I ask you a question, then?” At Jimin’s nod, he continues, “Is there any reason why you hate me so much, hyung?”

That certainly was not the kind of question Jimin had expected from Jeongguk, and the utter shock must be reflecting well on his face right now. “I mean...you might not have said that straight to my face, but you didn’t need to,” Jeongguk goes on, seemingly on a roll now that the dam is broken. “I know you don’t like me. The whole cast knows it, too. I just wanna know what I did for you to feel that way, hyung.”

Jeongguk looks so earnest and heartbroken that Jimin can’t help but feel guilty for his pettiness, words stuck helplessly down his throat. It’s not the thought of other people finding out that has Jimin wanting to crawl into himself and hide forever—he had been unapologetically obvious about his utter dislike for Jeongguk back then, after all—but it’s knowing that he had hurt Jeongguk and allowed his jealousy and insecurities to rule over his supposed maturity that really does it for Jimin.

Jimin pulls on his bottom lip. He doesn’t really know how to explain himself without reiterating the fact that he’d been nothing but a complete asshole to Jeongguk, but he still tries. “I don’t hate you, Jeongguk,” he starts, and then immediately flashes his palm at Jeongguk when he begins to open his mouth. “I guess it did seem like I didn’t like you at all before. But that’s entirely on me and not on you.”

Jeongguk’s brows furrow in confusion. “What do you mean?”

Jimin heaves a sigh. He doesn’t really like the idea of airing out his vulnerability to someone, especially when he’s involved in an industry where the slightest moment of self-doubt can cause his career. But Jeongguk is here, candid and sincere, baring his heart out to him in an attempt to clear things between them.

Jimin doesn’t really like the idea of airing out his vulnerability to someone—but he knows he owes Jeongguk that much, at least.

“You didn’t do anything bad, Jeongguk. I just...I guess you’re everything I wish I can be. Sometimes, having you around even reminds me of my failures and shortcomings.”

Jeongguk blinks, his mind instantly wiped blank. “What?”

Jimin makes another small sighing sound, pulling his knees up and wrapping his arms around them. “I knew about you before I even saw you at the audition, you know. You’re a teen idol who had only recently gone into acting and that knowledge made me feel like I’d be better at you on this movie thing, at least. But then—you remember the first day we met, right? When Hoseok hyung made us do a scene together?” Jeongguk nods, still intently listening. “I was completely blown away right there and then.”

Jimin shakes his head ruefully. It’s only been a few months since that happened, but the memory seems so far away now. “You do this thing where you make your character come alive every time you speak and somehow manage to pack about nine different emotions in two words, Jeongguk. It’s really fucking incredible to watch, and also incredibly frustrating for someone like me who has to—”

He breaks off suddenly, glancing sideways at Jeongguk like he’s accidentally dropped something and he’s hoping no one saw it. Jimin blinks and smiles, hasty and careless. “I mean. Well. It just doesn’t come to me the way it does to you, you know.”

Jeongguk only gapes at him. It’s unseemly of him to get so tongue-tied, and Jimin wonders if his admission had been too much for him to swallow in one go.

“Are you serious?” Jeongguk finally manages when his voice returns. “You’re—oh my God, Jimin hyung. You’re so unreal.

This time, it’s Jimin turn to be confused, brows crinkled dubiously. “What?”

Jeongguk shakes his head as he slows down, a little overcome with disbelief. “You’re good looking and talented and smart with a really good reputation in this industry. You work so hard on every scene, give your best and more without giving up even though Hoseok hyung always makes us do thirty fucking retakes of everything. You’re strong and flexible and you’re so quick on your feet. You see the good and the bad in things, and you accept it all the same, and it really shows when you finally let yourself go and become your character.” Jeongguk abruptly stops, sharply sucking in a breath. And then, as though he’s afraid and embarrassed at the same time, his next words only come out as a whisper, nothing but a gentle caress in the sudden stillness of the room. “Hyung, you’re the reason why I even got into acting, so please stop thinking so low of yourself.”

The atmosphere crackles with tension and something else—something palpable, indescribable, something real. They tear their gazes away from each other, mindful of the sudden shift in the air. It’s a little surreal; Jimin doesn’t know what to make of that heartfelt admission and Jeongguk doesn’t seem like he was prepared to let all of that out in one breath, as well.

The conversation obviously took a turn in the direction they both didn’t expect, and it left Jimin dizzy and slightly breathless from the sudden surge of emotion in his chest.

“I—thank you,” Jimin says after a long moment. Jeongguk doesn’t say anything in response, just throws a shy smile in his direction.

It’s not much but, somehow, Jimin thinks it’s enough for now.

 

♠️

 

It’s the combined sound of loud chatter and laughter downstairs that manages to rouse Jimin from his slumber.

He blinks awake, disoriented for a moment. Jimin carefully eases the crick out of his neck as he sits up and glances around, pointedly ignoring the small puddle of drool he’d made on the floor. There’s a stream of sunlight already bleeding through the thin curtains and Jimin realizes, with a start, that he actually fell asleep in the living room.

The fire has long gone out by now, as evidenced by the feathery ashes in the fireplace, but the room is still bathed in comfortable warmth. Jimin doesn’t want to get up yet, not really, and he’s just about considering lying down again when another body beside him catches his attention.

Jeongguk is lying on his side, sleeping peacefully with a hand tucked underneath his head as a makeshift pillow. His mouth is slack, lips parted, breaths coming in steady pulls. Jimin can’t recall ever seeing him like this up close, so relaxed and vulnerable, without a care in the world, and it’s a rather mesmerizing sight to behold.

Jimin can’t help but shake his head in incredulity. If someone had told him that he’d find himself staring at a sleeping Jeongguk in the near future, feeling anything but annoyance at seeing his face so early in the morning, Jimin would’ve probably snorted out loud and rolled his eyes at the sheer ridiculousness of the idea.

And yet, here he is, exactly in the same situation, and Jimin is a little lost with what to do.

“Park Jimin! What kind of betrayal—”

Someone lunges at Jimin before he can even whip his head in the direction of the booming voice, and he immediately falls back on the floor with a loud thud, heavy weight draped on top of him. It’s a bit of a struggle to move, especially when the aforementioned someone has made it a mission to cling to Jimin like a barnacle at the first chance he gets, tucking his face in the crook of Jimin’s neck. Jeongguk is still dead to the world beside him, and Jimin fervently prays all this ruckus won’t wake him up just yet.

When the person finally lifts his head, it’s the image of a pouting Taehyung that has Jimin wheezing out a laugh. “Good morning, Taehyungie.”

“I didn’t know you two left a lot earlier for Andorra,” Taehyung whines in lieu of a response, “I could’ve joined you on the trip!”

Jimin smiles and pats his head apologetically. “Sorry, but it was kind of a last minute thing, Tae. Hoseok hyung only told me about it when we were at the airport, too.”

Taehyung squints at him, still with a pout on his face, and he looks so silly that Jimin can’t help but giggle out loud. It doesn’t take long before Taehyung follows suit and, soon, they both find themselves laughing like little kids at each other.

When their laughter eventually trails off, Taehyung casts a meaningful glance at him and Jeongguk, a smirk playing on the edges of his lips. “So what have you two been up to while the rest of the cast are away?”

Jimin rolls his eyes heavenward. He swears he can almost hear Taehyung’s suggestive train of thought. “We’ve been resting since Jeongguk is sick. He feels a lot better now after we went to a clinic yesterday, though.”

“He’s sick? What happened?”

“Altitude sickness.” When Taehyung only gives him an even more confused look, Jimin just smiles, hoping it’ll placate Taehyung somehow. “It’s pretty common in high altitude places, I guess. The doctor said he’ll be fine in a few days so you don’t have to worry too much. Anyway, are the rest of the cast already here?”

Taehyung rolls off of Jimin and hums, arranging himself so he can lay his head on Jimin’s outstretched arm. “Everyone just arrived, like, an hour ago. I think Hoseok hyung’s planning to call for a meeting in a little while.”

Jimin closes his eyes, relishing the few moments of silence left before they have to jump back into the hustle and bustle of filming. Fleetingly, he wishes they can rest some more, have a few more days where they can just lounge around and worry about nothing. But Jimin knows they’re on a time crunch, and it’s just not practical for anyone if they’ll keep delaying the shooting.

Just as Taehyung had said, someone calls for them half an hour later, urging them to meet the rest of the crew downstairs for a quick meeting. Jeongguk has already woken up by this time, still groggy and bleary-eyed but definitely looking a lot better than yesterday. He also reassures Taehyung that he feels fine, that he’s not about to have another puking session again like last time, and that only mollifies Jimin’s apprehension even more.

Everyone is already waiting and settled in the living room when they show up. Namjoon immediately hikes a curious brow at the sight of them together, not at all used to seeing Jimin within breathing distance with Jeongguk, and Jimin just knows he’s going to be bombarded with questions as soon as his manager catches him alone. Still, the thought doesn’t deter Jimin from standing beside Jeongguk as soon as they find an available corner of the room to occupy, their shoulders bumping and elbows brushing at the proximity.

Hoseok spares their direction a fleeting glance. Jimin wonders if he’s only imagining Hoseok’s lips pulling up into a small smile.

“Now that everyone’s here, I’d like to make a little announcement,” Hoseok starts, his gaze flitting from person to person. He seems tired, stressed—but, at this point, Jimin thinks they all look the same. “It has come to my knowledge that Jeongguk hasn’t been feeling well since they arrived in Andorra, and that he was advised by the doctor to take it easy for a few days. Which is why I don’t think it’s wise for us to jump straight into filming tomorrow like I originally planned.”

Suddenly, there are murmurs all around, assumptions regarding a possible delay arising among the crowd, but they all die down as soon as they erupt. “We’ll put off filming for a day or two—not just for Jeongguk’s sake, but for everyone else’s as well. I know you're all tired from the travel, so use these next two days to recuperate and enjoy Andorra for a little bit.”

The announcement is quickly received with loud cheers, and it isn’t long before Jimin already hears plan after plan going around some of the members of the crew.

“When filming resumes, I hope everyone can do their parts seamlessly so we can avoid more schedule delays,” Hoseok adds, “And, anyway, I trust that you’re all professionals. I’m confident that our leads will both be ready to shoot by then, as well.”

At that, Hoseok peers at them again and, this time, Jimin’s pretty sure he’s not just imagining the significant look being thrown their way.

 

“So I know what we’re going to do,” is the first thing that comes out of Taehyung’s mouth the moment he bursts into Jimin’s room that afternoon. Jeongguk closely follows behind, with Taehyung’s arm practically locked around his neck to lug him in. He looks a little flustered and uncomfortable, obviously unprepared to have an overenthusiastic Taehyung bodily drag him into their plans.

Jimin’s brows knit in question. “We?

“Yeah!” Taehyung chirps, completely unaware of Jimin’s confusion. “Let’s go around and get dinner afterwards. I heard from Hoseok hyung that there’s a nice diner here somewhere. We should totally try it out before our schedule gets busier.”

“Taehyungie, I don’t think that’s—”

“It’s a good thing you’re already dressed to go out, too, so we can leave soon,” Taehyung interjects. He looks so thrilled and hopeful, his boxy grin taking up almost half of his face, and Jimin can’t really find it in himself to say no to a literal, physical embodiment of eagerness.

He surrenders with a loud sigh. “Alright. Just let me grab my things first, okay?”

Taehyung answers with nothing but a loud whoop and his excitement is so infectious that Jimin catches himself looking forward to the spontaneous trip as well, even though he originally didn’t have any plans tonight.

Jimin collects his keys, phone, and wallet, and soon ushers them all out of his room.

The walk downtown actually takes only fifteen minutes since they travel towards a lower terrain. However, they end up spending closer to an hour and a half instead since Taehyung can’t help but make plenty of stops on the way, poking around everything he sees. Every now and then, he whips out his camera—an old and antique looking one that still uses film rolls and manual setting—to take a picture or two, a smile immediately blooming on his face with each image he captures.

When they eventually reach Església de Sant Martí de la Cortinada, Taehyung makes an excited gurgle and prowls around, only returning to his friends after finding out that the church isn’t opened yet for visitors. He continues to sulk in the corner, looking at the place with wide, longing eyes, until Jimin promises that they can go back in their free time to check it out again.

The diner, as it turns out, is a rustic and warm establishment—pretty much like the rest of the village. It occupies a long and narrow nook between the small B&B that hosts it, and the bar that sells an extensive array of booze from all around Europe. There are less than ten tables inside, crammed closely together, leaving only impossible spaces between each one.

Jimin feels mortified but oddly proud at the same time when Jeongguk suddenly nudges at Taehyung, telling him to watch closely as Jimin converses with the waiter about their order. His ears feel hot, and the thought of Jeongguk staring at him with rapt attention has him stumbling on some of his words.

"Can you stop?" Jimin whines as soon as their waiter leaves. "It's really embarrassing."

"Why?" Jeongguk asks, almost challenging him in return. "It's rare that I get the chance to hear you talking fluently in Spanish."

"That was anything but fluent," Jimin quickly counters, rolling his eyes. "Anyway, I was actually having trouble with the waiter earlier. Most people in this area speaks Catalan and French, you know. I'd be in real trouble if I needed to do something more complicated than ordering food."

"Small details, hyung." Jeongguk shrugs him off.

Jimin shakes his head incredulously at Jeongguk, unaware that the corner of his mouth is already twitching into a tiny smile. The whole ordeal is interrupted when the waiter returns with a tray full of their dinner. Jimin is grateful for the intermission, and he begins to translate the waiter's explanation about their food.

“So, apparently, what we have here is something called Escudella. The base is a broth with cooked pasta, vegetables and a variety of meat…”

Unbeknown to him, Taehyung hasn't missed a single expression Jimin has made during his short banter with Jeongguk earlier.

 

The next two days are just spent as comfortably as they can within the four walls of the chalet, filled with slumping over each other on couches and snuggled under blankets with packets of Oreos and bags of Doritos.

Taehyung and Jeongguk spend most of the first day fighting sleep, slipping in and out of dozy bouts of slumber or retreating to their bedrooms every few hours, yawning as they go. On the second, Taehyung drags him, along with Seokjin and Sejun, and holes them all up in Jeongguk’s room with Overwatch and Mario Kart, alternating bursts of gunfire and lilting 16-bit jingles leaking out of the door left ajar.

Sometimes, they also play improv games when Namjoon and Yoongi—Jeongguk’s manager—are around, making the script writers give them random scenarios and turning them into long, extended scenes packed full of running jokes and gags. Jimin feigns exasperation at all their theatrics, ducking his head to hide the grin.

On their last free night, Taehyung’s insistence on karaoke has them all piled up in the living room, their TV hooked up on a portable mini player and a setlist of songs ready for their appraisal. Seokjin ends up laying claim to a popular drama OST without any external prompting, while Taehyung snatches the mic and performs his very soulful version of Sam Cooke’s ‘You Send Me’, resulting in clamorous cheers and applause from the entire room.

No one is surprised when Jeongguk calmly selects a Big Bang song from the list, and then proceeds to absolutely kill every second of it. In hindsight, Jimin should’ve probably expected this to happen—Jeongguk is an idol, first and foremost, someone who had steadily built up his career and fanbase with his talent for singing and dancing. But Jimin has only ever heard him sing on TV before and, somehow, it’s a lot more different listening to him belt out notes so effortlessly live.

Hours later, Jimin closes his bedroom door with a soft click, Jeongguk’s melodic voice still ringing in his ears.

 

♠️

 

They head back to work two days later and, suddenly, everything seems to fall into place. Neither of them can quite quantify the feeling, but it’s there, ever present and lingering between them.

There’s an undercurrent charging both their performances—the same one that they’ve both come to rely heavily on over the last few months of shooting. It’s familiar and reassuring but, at the same time, it feels like it’s been amped up to a level that’s even higher than they’ve ever reached before.

While the camera’s rolling, they are their characters. Everything they do, every word they say to each other, every look they exchange—they pour their all into every last bit of it, knowing that none of it belongs to them.

The scene they’re doing today requires a lot of touching and tension. If Jimin’s being honest with himself, he has very little confidence that they’ll get the shot easily. But then, at the end, Jeongguk steps so far into his personal space, looming over him, that Jimin steps back on instinct and knocks over his chair. He quickly recovers though, just as the script tells him to, delivering the final line while stepping even farther into Jeongguk’s personal space, grabbing the front of his shirt in his fist and roughly tugging Jeongguk down so they’re practically nose-to-nose.

Unconsciously, Jimin glances at his lips. He can’t help it.

There’s silence for a beat, and everything fades away except for Jeongguk’s heated gaze and their breaths mingling together and Jimin’s hand on his chest.

Hoseok breaks the ensuing stillness with a slow, theatrical clap, regarding them with that same smug, knowing look from their first audition together. Taehyung stares at them like they’re water in a drought, and Seokjin has his hand flat on his chest, his mouth hanging open in shock.

“Print it! That’s a wrap on the day,” Hoseok announces. “Amazing job, you two. Keep up the good work.”

Jimin preens at the praise, and he can’t help the grin threatening to split his face into two. It feels good to earn Hoseok’s validation, to hear him say those words just after a few takes. Beside him, Jeongguk bumps their shoulders together, obviously just as happy with the recognition, his bunny smile cutely showing.

He ends up on the couch in the guys’ trailer afterwards, Taehyung chattering a mile a minute as Jimin distractedly changes out of his costume.

“I mean, seriously,” Taehyung exclaims, waving his arms crazily around as if to emphasize his next statement, “I’ve never heard of Hoseok hyung doing anything less than like three thousand takes of everything. The great Jung Hoseok being happy with just five?” He snorts exaggeratedly, looking over at Jimin with amusement shining in his eyes. “I didn’t even think that was remotely possible in this universe.”

“That makes two of us,” Jimin says.

Three,” Jeongguk suddenly chimes in, holding three of his fingers up in the air. “Make that three.”

All of them abruptly burst into loud laughter after that. The scene is a little unusual; when they first started filming, Jimin had never imagined something like this could actually happen.

But, oh, how things have quickly changed in just a matter of days.

The past week had been a great witness to the evolving relationship between Jimin and Jeongguk. It’s strange, what mutual suffering inflicted by days of confinement in a foreign land could do to their dynamics. In his solitary time, Jimin tries to look for any remnant of hostility he once had for Jeongguk, only to find none, surprisingly—as if his former self had never harbored any kind of animosity towards him.

Where has it gone now? How?

Thinking back, Jimin can barely remember why he’d hated Jeongguk so much. He’d had his head shoved too far up his ass back then, too preoccupied with feeling angry at an unsuspecting Jeongguk to even consider the possibility of starting up a friendship. When Jimin had allowed his walls to break a little bit at a time, however, chipping away piece by piece, he’d eventually started to see Jeongguk for who he was—a human, a man (and an attractive one at that, Jimin might add) who had too big of a heart to contain all his unbridled passion and love for acting.

Maybe Jimin’s also starting to outgrow his old self. He feels it already, how the project has all but pushed him beyond every boundary he had set over himself. The film still makes Jimin see just how small he is but, at the same time, it bridges him to the realization that it’s perfectly fine. That it doesn’t make him less of an actor to acknowledge his weaknesses.

Jimin learns how to befriend his fears and anxiety, for which he is eternally grateful.

 

♠️

 

Jimin climbs down the suburban that transported them from the chalet to the ski station, and sighs towards the sight of the hiking trail that welcomes him. Their schedule for the day brings them even further into the plateau, beyond the village of El Serrat, to one of the famous three lakes at the basin of Tristaina mountain. He laces his snowshoes and buttons his parka, ice canes tightly gripped in his gloved hands.

They had visited the place once for orientation and stunt preparation, but the condition had been much better before. The snow hadn't been falling then, and they had arrived during daytime when the temperature was a little warmer and the sun was bright.

Now, the cold winter wind bites into Jimin’s thick coat, ices his fingers, stings his cheeks. The dull thud of gravel and snow crunching beneath his feet fills his ears with every step he makes and he wonders, quite anxiously, if they’ll be able to reach their destination before one of them turns frozen solid and keels over.

"It’s just thirty, forty minutes to the top." Jimin feels Hoseok pat his back in comfort, as though uncannily reading Jimin’s mind. "We have breakfast waiting for us by Estany del Mig. Let's get going."

Jimin nods quietly, and follows him one step behind. He takes a furtive glance at both Taehyung and Jeongguk behind him, can’t help but begrudge them a little bit for their cheerful mood. It's just thirty minutes, he repeats Hoseok's words like a litany, hoping they can, at least, miraculously push him to move faster.

Up ahead, the majority of the crew also soldiers on despite the harsh weather. Jimin can’t tell just how further they’ve gone on the trail—everything just looks white, white, white as far as he can see. The rapidly vanishing footprints in the falling snow are a little unnerving, and Jimin tries not to let the panic get to him too much.

In a rather desperate attempt not to get too far behind, Jimin scurries forward and miscalculates his step, his foot catching on a patch of ice under the snow. Jimin instinctively closes his eyes, waits for the inevitable strike of pain to come—only for him to feel nothing instead, as someone grabs him by the elbow and rights him on his feet.

Jimin takes a minute to calm his thundering heart before he turns around. It’s Jeongguk’s face scrunched up in fear and worry that he sees first. “S-sorry,” Jimin mumbles, his teeth chattering from both the piercing cold and the split-second panic of almost falling and getting his head cracked open.

“You don’t need to apologize,” Jeongguk quickly returns. His eyes thoroughly scan Jimin all over, checking him for any sign of serious injury. “Are you okay, hyung?”

“Yeah. Just took a bad step, I wasn’t watching where I was going.”

“Can you still walk, though? Do you need me to carry you on my back?”

This time, Jimin doesn’t even stop himself from rolling his eyes at Jeongguk. He knows Jeongguk means well with his question, but it’s a little over the top to ask him if he can piggyback Jimin the rest of the way when he can clearly walk still.

“I can walk just fine, you brat,” Jimin answers. And then proceeds to prove his statement otherwise when he stumbles yet again, on a piece of branch innocently lying in his path this time.

Jeongguk clucks his tongue in disapproval. “You’re not exactly doing your best to convince me, hyung.”

“Shut up, I don’t need to—”

“Jesus, you kids, stop flirting,” Seokjin interjects.

“We’re not flirting,” Jimin quickly rebuts. “We’re friends.”

“We are?” Jeongguk asks.

“I mean, yeah,” Jimin says, shyly. “I thought we were.”

“Cool.” Jeongguk just grins, big and boyish. Something inside of Jimin’s chest swoops hard at the sight—might be the air trying to escape his lungs, might be his heart acting up.

In any case, Jimin pointedly ignores that sudden feeling in favor of walking up ahead with quick but cautious steps. Taehyung’s starting to give him knowing looks, too, and Jimin’s not about to willingly let himself be caught up in that trap. At least, not if he can help it.

Seokjin just looks back and forth between them, getting more and more exasperated with each passing second. “Oh my God, you’re still flirting!”

They both erupt in denials simultaneously. The rest of the cast within hearing range just snicker, not even bothering to hide their amusement.

More than halfway into the hike, Jimin decides that, maybe, the whole thing isn’t actually as bad as he fears.

 

Estanys de Tristaina is probably as majestic as any place on Earth can be.

Jimin stops in his tracks at the intersection between two pathways, greedily drinking in the walls of mountains. The sun has just begun to climb above the peaks of Pyrenees, its feeble light yet to gain strength against the resilient morning fog. Jimin’s eyes slowly follow the ridges and slopes, the contrasting whiteness of the snow against the unconcealed dark earth.

The lake’s surface is covered by a thin frosting of ice that dulls its teal vibrance and his gaze continues down towards where the snow dissolves into the edge of Estany del Mig. Jimin is faintly aware of his fellow casts’ presence around him—he can hear their loud exclamations of marvel, can feel how they occasionally brush past him as they push each other about. And, yet, none can tear his attention away from the body of water. Jimin stares through the layer of ice, following the ripples of water that follow its course from Estany mes Amunt towards Estany Primer.

This is where they’re planning to shoot the film’s final act. The five-minute scene holds a lot of importance in the movie, and it basically carries the essence of both Jimin’s and Jeongguk’s characters. If they fail to deliver, they might as well fail their characters—along with everyone else in the production team who’s counting on them to get this exactly right.

This scene is also the exact reason why Hoseok had decided to come all the way to Europe. Hoseok had told them during one of their meetings in between shoots that Estany des Mig, with its wall of mountain and snow-whitewashed landscape, was where he’d planned Jeongguk’s character to die. It’s the perfect dramatic setting for an equally dramatic finale, and Hoseok had been nothing but psyched for this day to come.

Jimin, however, is feeling the exact opposite as he glances in distress towards Jeongguk. The scene they’re about to shoot is particularly stunt-heavy and, thus, needs his full concentration to make sure they get it right without any accidents. Jimin tries to catch Jeongguk’s attention, but he’s already deeply engrossed in the briefing with the stunt coordinator. Even so, it’s pretty clear that Jeongguk is fully ensconced in his character, posture ramrod straight, sharp brown eyes trained dead ahead, jaw clenching under a façade of impassioned determination. He has his parka off, as well, showing the safety harness tightly strapped around his body.

Jimin tries to recall how this exact scene is supposed to go. The finale, as written in the script, is going to be an action-packed confrontation between Jeongguk’s character with the police force. Jimin will shoot him then, and Jeongguk will fall into the lake, consequently choose to die rather than accept Jimin’s offered hand.

He wonders, fleetingly, just how frigid the water would be if the surface temperature up here is already as low as sub zero even at midday. Will Jeongguk be able to withstand the cold? Will he be able to do the scene without his body giving up on him first?

Jimin remembers their conversation the night before, during the last minute rehearsal they had in their suite where they ran their lines and pointed out things to help each other’s scenes. He had asked, almost casually, if Jeongguk won’t reconsider doing the scene all by himself. He’d recently suffered from high altitude sickness, after all, and Jimin had been adamant in his argument that Jeongguk has nothing else to prove anymore after doing such a good job in his first major film.

None of them worked, however; Jeongguk had all but easily snubbed his suggestion with a smile on his face.

“Trust me, hyung. I can do it.”

It’s not really an issue of trust, Jimin had wanted to argue. But then he would have to explain himself, admit to Jeongguk that he was only concerned for his safety, and it wasn’t something Jimin felt he was ready to do.

In the end, it’s Jimin’s cowardliness that had led him to relent. Because he couldn’t be brave where it mattered the most, lacked the courage to stay honest to himself and his feelings. All that is left for Jimin now is to do his job properly, to excel with his acting. Finish the scene in one take if necessary to avoid prolonging Jeongguk’s potential suffering.

Jimin sighs heavily, and prays to whatever superior being might exist in this universe that he won’t mess this up.

They wait while the remaining members of the crew scramble about for last-minute checks—every other non-essential has been sent back to their base camp at Estany Primer to minimize obstructions on the set. Which, Jimin thinks, is probably for the best, considering just how crucial this scene is, coupled with the awful weather they’re working in.

Hoseok stares at them both over the plastic-sheathed camera, levelling them with a long, weighted gaze. “This is our last scene in Andorra,” he reminds them, the significance in his voice easily carrying over despite the distance. “So I want you two to put it all out there. Don’t leave anything behind.”

Suddenly, it’s ‘clear the set, take one’ and the deafening snap of the clapperboard and Hoseok’s voice decreeing ‘action’ over and over again.

The first few takes are all NGs, despite Jimin’s earlier wish. For the fourth time, he watches on the side as they pull Jeongguk out from the water by a crane, his body hanging down on invisible piano strings tied to his harness. Despite his smile, Jimin can already see his lips trembling and quickly turning blue. The production assistant quickly wraps Jeongguk up in a thick blanket, ushers him to change into a dry set of clothes identical to the one he’s wearing, and redoes his makeup and hair.

Jimin tries to beat around the bush. He sips his drink carefully, asks for unnecessary fixing on his own hair—all to provide Jeongguk a little bit more time to recover. But, in the end, all his stalling comes to a vain end when Jeongguk suddenly calls for another take. Jimin drags himself over to the middle of the lake, his heart weighing as heavy as his steps.

“Are you sure you’re up for another round of drowning?”

Jeongguk sighs. “Hyung, we’ve talked about this—”

“I saw you shivering. I saw how you almost collapsed when they unhooked you, Jeongguk. What if this time—”

“Then let it happen!” Jeongguk hisses, trying to repress his voice. “I just need to do this scene. I’m gonna get it right this time, I can feel it. Can’t you believe in me just this once, hyung?”

Jeongguk’s voice softens at the end of his sentence, but Jimin is already seeing red due to his stubbornness. He can’t do anything other than respect Jeongguk’s decision, however. They both know they need to keep going because they have to while it’s still early, while the temperature hasn’t dropped any further. They need to keep going because Hoseok is relentlessly breathing down the cinematographer’s neck to make sure they get this one angle exactly right, and everyone is wet and cold and tired and expecting them to get it done.

“Fine,” Jimin spits out, “Do whatever the hell you want.”

The hustle and bustle of the crew becomes nothing but a buzz in Jimin’s ears as soon as he concentrates into his character. As he watches the crane lower Jeongguk down into the lake, sees more than hears Jeongguk groan upon the slightest contact with the water, Jimin lets go and decides to channel every worry, every frustration into his act.

Screw the script; he’s going to add his own adlib, and if Hoseok doesn’t like it, then he can just shoot his own goddamn scene.

Somewhere along the way, the lines between “action!” and “cut!” start to blur ever so slightly.

Jimin feels his character awaken in him, taking control over his body. He takes a step closer to the edge of the ice cracks where Jeongguk falls into, carefully squatting and keeping his balance on the slippery ice sheet. Ignoring the cold mountain wind that sweeps over him, Jimin keeps his eyes locked with Jeongguk and finds him genuinely looking like he’s struggling to stay afloat, his fingers grasping and clawing the nonexistent texture of the ice.

Jimin is supposed to offer his hand to Jeongguk. The exemplary detective character he’s playing won’t allow a criminal to escape from the law, even if it means saving him from imminent death. But instead of adhering to the script, Jimin smiles, and crouches even lower until his face and Jeongguk’s are only inches apart.

“Looks like this is where you’ll die,” he says, in a vengeful voice full of malice. “My only regret is getting my hands dirty just to put the bullet in your head.”

Jeongguk looks surprised by the sudden improvisation from Jimin. Amidst the cold and suffocating water that drowns him almost to his chin, Jeongguk can’t come up with anything suitable to respond to Jimin’s line. He opens his mouth, words coming out as hisses as he gnashes his teeth together to stop them from chattering.

“Doesn’t matter,” Jeongguk eventually gasps. “I still win. I’ll make sure you’ll never catch me.”

With his final line, Jeongguk releases his grip on the edge of the ice. His lips curve into a sinister smile as he slowly submerges into the water. Jimin can only continue to watch him; Jeongguk’s arrogant, shrewd eyes gradually close, the last bubble of breath escaping from him as he gets pulled deeper into the lake.

It feels like forever before Hoseok finally calls cut.

Jimin blinks and, for one fleeting moment, everything swims out of focus. It doesn’t really take him long to realize that he has actual tears in his eyes. Jimin quickly wipes them away, uncaring of the possibility that he might smear his make up. He quickly turns around and realizes that the place is dead quiet. The entire crew seems like they’re holding their breath and, suddenly, the anger rises back in him.

“What the hell are you waiting for?” Jimin shouts towards the crane operator, pointing toward the crack in the ice where Jeongguk’s body is barely seen. “Pull him up!”

All of a sudden, the set explodes into a jumble of noises and activity. Jimin gently pushes away a production assistant that tries to drape him with a blanket and usher him to warmth—because how can he even think about himself first when Jeongguk is still there? Still deep into the water, cold and unable to breathe?

“That was great, Jimin!” Hoseok comes rushing to his side, beaming widely. “You caught me by surprise with the ad-lib, but it worked really well with the scene.”

Jimin smiles weakly at him, unable to think of anything to say. The only thing running through his mind right now is Jeongguk, Jeongguk, Jeongguk. He badly needs to know if Jeongguk is okay. If Jeongguk is—

The sound of splattering when Jeongguk’s body is pulled out from the water alerts him. Jimin immediately turns around, hoping to see a triumphant smile on Jeongguk’s face at finally getting the scene done after so many takes.

What he isn’t expecting to see, however, is Jeongguk’s body lying on a heap on the cold, hard ground, limp and blue.

“Jeongguk…” Hoseok comes closer, and then signals the crew to work faster. “Oh my God, Jeongguk! Medic!”

Jimin freezes.

 

♠️ 

 

It hasn’t been that long since Jimin had tried to get a wink of sleep but, already, he can feel the pain on his back, sore along both of his legs, and a crick on his neck even before he opens his eyes.

It’s not the physical discomfort that snatches him from his slumber, though.

Instead, it's a rather pleasant feeling—of having a warm woven fabric drape over him, and the constant, gentle touches on his hair like how the cat he’d taken care of in his childhood used to wake him up for treats. Jimin stirs lazily, cringing as his already-spent body protests over the bad sleeping posture.

The first thing that he registers is that he's not in his room. The bedsheets are of a different color and the air carries a particular scent, not much like Jimin’s own but something warmer, more masculine. Like soap and sweat and clean aftershave.

Jimin’s breath catches.

"Jeongguk..." His name comes out as a whisper, thick with anxiety and fear.

"Yes, hyung?"

Jimin jerks up at the voice, straightening his back, and Jeongguk's hand consequently falls with a soft thud on the thick duvet. Jimin can’t help but stare at him, at his serene, smiling face. Jeongguk looks like he’s just woken up from a restful sleep, instead of recovering from a bout of unconsciousness. The color has returned to his cheeks, as well, and there are no more traces of pain or agony that had sent Jimin shaking with utmost worry.

For a second, Jimin feels a little lightheaded from relief. Jeongguk is here, warm and well. Jeongguk's heart is still beating and, maybe, Jimin can stop being afraid now because, yes, his co-star is okay and very much alive.

The thought doesn’t let Jimin relax for much longer, though; upon seeing the casual grin pulling on Jeongguk’s lips, a great portion of his earlier anger returns and drowns him like a tidal wave.

Jimin rises and shakes Jeongguk’s shoulder. "What were you thinking?" He tries not to cringe at the hysterical tone he heard in his own voice. "You could have died because of your recklessness! When they pulled you up from that lake, I thought you were dead!"

Silence swoops in once he’s finished, almost as if to cut him off.

He stares at Jeongguk, reeling from his own outburst. It takes Jimin a good five seconds to realise how heavily he’s breathing.

As soon as Jimin regains his composure, he registers the awkward position they’re in. His hands are still on Jeongguk's shoulder, pinning him down against the mattress. As if the close contact isn’t enough to make Jimin flustered, Jeongguk's face is merely inches away from his own, as well, his expression a mix of shock and genuine amusement.

Jimin quickly takes his hands off and retreats. Before he manages to stand up and leave, however, Jeongguk reaches out to catch his wrist. It's such a weak grip, nothing quite like the way he’d held Jimin during their most tense scenes before, and Jimin knows he can easily push Jeongguk off if he wants.

But Jimin learns that strange things happen at the most unfortunate moments.

He feels his knees weaken from the the touch of Jeongguk's skin, from the way his slender fingers ever so gently wrap around Jimin’s wrist.

Jimin finds himself slumping back on the side of the bed, suddenly exhausted and weak. He can't remember the last time he's felt so drained like this. He hasn’t eaten yet, hasn’t left Jeongguk’s room ever since they’d brought him in and kept him under close monitoring. He's tired and scared and stressed out of his damn mind—Jimin’s pretty sure all this worrying had just taken ten years off his life.

The sudden creaking sound of the old wooden bed snaps Jimin away from his thoughts, and he startles when he sees Jeongguk hoisting himself up.

Apprehension washes over him the moment Jeongguk shifts much closer to lean against his side, body heat radiating off his skin in waves, sparking something deep down inside Jimin. This close, Jimin thinks he can almost feel Jeongguk's heartbeat thundering steadily inside his chest. He doesn’t speak—doesn’t actually think he can with how parched his throat is and how dry his mouth feels from anticipation.

Jimin’s rational side is all but prepared to flee the scene if Jeongguk ever tries anything. But, at the same time, he’s forced to shamefully recognize the fact that there's an even greater part of him that’s throbbing, insistently, with joy of having Jeongguk so close like this. So very close.

"I'm sorry, hyung," Jeongguk whispers, his voice caressing Jimin like a gentle breeze. Jimin swallows the lump in his throat, feels the shiver that runs along his spine. "That was stupid of me."

“You jerk," Jimin whispers back, without any real bite. "Do you have any idea how worried I was?"

There's a different kind of stillness in the air, as though time is suspended into breaths, unmoving. As though everything else around them has fallen into a standstill.

"You were worried?" Jeongguk asks. There's naivety and genuine surprise in his voice, like the possibility of Jimin losing sleep over him is a foreign thought he can’t even comprehend. Jimin just stares at him in silence. "Sorry, I guess...I was trying too hard. I really wanted to impress you, hyung. I told you, haven't I? You're the reason—"

"The thing is—Jeongguk, you have nothing to prove to me," Jimin cuts mid-sentence. He hesitates for a moment, still unsure about the things he’s about to admit, but Jimin figures he’s already gone too far, anyway, past the point of no return. "I know...from that first time we were partnered up during the audition, I know just how good you are. And it scares me. I can tell right away that you’re willing to pay any price to achieve perfection. I've been watching the way you’ve exerted yourself during stunt trainings, Jeongguk-ah, or the nights you’ve spent hours rehearsing your lines. I’m just not sure if you know where to stop before you—"

Jimin is forced to swallow the end of his sentence. Because, the next second, all he knows is just how soft and warm Jeongguk's lips are against his, prying, teasing, coaxing for Jimin to relent. Jimin only makes a sound like he’s been punched hard in the gut—suitable, because that’s honestly what it feels like. And then, before he knows it, he’s whimpering into Jeongguk’s open mouth, letting his eyes flutter closed to the sensation of Jeongguk’s lips moving against his.

Jeongguk isn't playing fair; he sets an ambush and plays on Jimin's frailty. But instead of protecting himself from further assault, Jimin just easily succumbs to Jeongguk's intent.

Jimin soon finds out Jeongguk kisses like he acts in front of the camera—confident, demanding and a little rough—and Jimin might have whimpered a little bit when Jeongguk’s hand suddenly comes up to cradle his jaw, thumb brushing along the ridge of his cheekbone.

One kiss flows into two, then three, never once losing its intensity, never once losing its harshness and heat and ability to suck the air straight from his lungs. Jimin is about to surge forward for another chaste press of their mouths again before he can even second-guess himself when the door abruptly bursts open.

Taehyung’s sudden appearance startles them both and they lurch away from each other, as though burned. Thankfully, Taehyung doesn’t get to catch any liplocking action as soon as he steps inside; he shifts his glance from Jeongguk to Jimin and then back again, completely oblivious to the make out session happening behind closed doors a moment ago.

“Jeonggukie!” Taehyung exclaims in surprise. He skips inside, practically taking two steps at once to reach Jeongguk’s side in record time. “How long have you been awake? Does Hoseok hyung already know? Or your manager—”

“TaeTae,” Jimin gently interrupts. “Jeongguk just woke up a few minutes ago. I think it’s better if we give him more time to rest.”

Jimin hopes he doesn’t look as flustered as he feels, but with the way Taehyung is staring at him, eyes squinted suspiciously, the beginnings of a knowing smile already trying to pull the corners of his lips, he knows it’s a rather vain wish.

“Okay. I guess I’ll leave you two—”

“No!” Jimin all but shrieks. Taehyung looks at him quizzically and Jimin can’t help but cower a little from mortification. “I-I mean, it’d be better if we leave Jeongguk alone to rest, right? I’ll just come with you to let the others know about his condition.”

“Are you sure?”

From the corner of his eye, Jimin can sense Jeongguk’s gaze on him, intent and purposeful. He looks a little taken aback with Jimin’s abrupt decision to leave, maybe even a little heartbroken, but Jimin decides to ignore the gnawing urge to console and give him some attention in favor of coming up with a rather convincing response for Taehyung.

“Yeah,” Jimin says. His smile is small and hesitant, but it feels so wrong on his face. “I was about to leave before you showed up, anyway.”

Taehyung shrugs. “If you’re sure.”

Jimin really isn’t—and every step away from Jeongguk’s room only makes him feel like he’s committing the biggest mistake of his life.

It’s only once he’s out of sight—of Jeongguk, of Taehyung, and everything else—tucked away in a corridor that leads between their rooms, does Jimin lean against the wall, breathing shakily as he brushes the pads of his fingers across his lips, still tingling.

God, I’m so fucked,” he mutters, already feeling the migraine building at the base of his skull.

Jimin had been so adamant to accept the fact that he’s so fucking attracted to Jeongguk but every day he sees him, it’s like someone always takes a bat to his heart. It’s attraction and maybe even lust in its purest form and he cannot do a damn thing about it.

He doesn’t want to do anything about it—it’s better to just punch down the feeling into the deepest parts of himself.

 

♠️

 

The journey home is as uneventful as it can be, much to Jimin's relief.

As planned, they leave La Cortinada two days after their shoot in Estanys de Tristaina. Jeongguk is still a little unsteady on his feet when he walks and he passes out during the entire drive to Barcelona, but he’s obviously a lot more chipper now, his mood turning a little more playful whenever Taehyung or Seokjin is around.

The only time Jimin gets to see him be a little less of his usual upbeat self is on the plane. He can still remember how Jeongguk’s face had quickly fallen when he’d walked past him to settle on the opposite end of the aisle. Can remember how Jeongguk had tried to steal subtle, longing glances towards his direction, towards the empty seat next to him on the flight home.

Jimin feels guilty for staying away, for letting Jeongguk deal with things alone and never making a move to clear anything between them. But he can’t find it in himself to regret his choices, not when he’s entirely at a lost with what to do with himself. It’s a cowardly way out, maybe, but Jimin needs time to sort out the mess inside his head before he can even consider dragging Jeongguk with him.

So Jimin steers clear of any and every possibility of having that talk with Jeongguk, because it’s for the best. And because that’s what he’s good at, apparently.

Sleep doesn't come easy for Jimin on their flight back home. He’s physically and mentally tired after spending three whole weeks of constant shooting and moving around and, yet, there’s still a bone-deep exhaustion he can't seem to shake no matter what. Jimin stretches his limbs, feels and hears the little pops and cracks in his spine as he arches his back. It’s a good thing Hoseok has booked business class seats for all of them this time and Jimin can’t be any more thankful for that.

Still feeling a bit restless, he looks around the plane cabin and easily spots Jeongguk deeply asleep a few seats away. He’s slouched so low in his seat, head resting comfortably on Taehyung's shoulder as he dozes off. Taehyung, on the other hand, is sleeping pretty soundly as well with his head leaning against Jeongguk's, hair falling messily over his eyes.

It doesn't seem comfortable at all; Jimin himself has slept almost similarly in that position for a couple of times now to know that Jeongguk will surely have his neck hurting by the time he wakes up later. Half of Jimin wonders just how the two were even able to sleep like a log in an awkward position like that.

The other half, though, feels like he's just been suckerpunched in the gut with a sudden, intense pang in his chest. Out of nowhere, Jimin is reminded of the fact that they’ll be done with filming soon and the sudden realization has him contemplating if this is the last time he’ll ever be this close to Jeongguk.

Sure, they both work in the same industry, but Jeongguk is still so young. Not to mention, very famous and successful in his career as an idol as well. Jimin, on the other hand, still continues to be a struggling actor with a fervent hope to break out from his traditional roles.

It had been a complete stroke of luck when Hoseok had called both of them up to participate in this movie. Circumstances had brought them closer together, in a way Jimin had never thought possible before. He’d found himself enjoying Jeongguk’s company as days passed by, laughing at his terrible attempts at impersonations and listening to his recommended playlists during breaks. Just feeling strangely comfortable in Jeongguk’s presence, with or without their other co-stars around.

It hadn’t been easy for them to reach this point of their relationship, not at all, and Jimin wonders if everything will stay the same once they’re back in Seoul.

 

Jimin falls asleep sometime after their layover at Amsterdam, only waking up somewhere at Macau when the flight attendants begin to distribute food and a variety of available refreshments.

He’s midway into dropping a spoonful of rice and veggies into his mouth when an intense stare in his direction catches him off guard. Jimin instinctively turns towards Jeongguk and, true to his instinct, finds him watching Jimin rather intently. Jeongguk looks away as soon as he’s caught, ears quickly turning scarlet in mortification. Jimin can’t help the laughter tumbling out of his mouth. Cute.

Over the course of an hour, while Jimin’s enjoying his cup of coffee and fruit platters, he manages to catch Jeongguk staring at him again. It’s creepy and weirdly adorable at the same time. Jeongguk doesn’t seem to have any semblance of subtlety in his body and while the constant, intense gaze throws him off balance more often than not, Jimin still finds himself reveling in the warmth and reassurance it brings.

Arriving at Incheon sometime after midnight is a quiet affair. They pass through immigration and customs without any hitch, and Jimin feels immensely relieved that they don't have to put up with a throng of reporters and cameramen the way they did during departure.

As soon as they’re out of the airport, Hoseok, along with the whole crew, leave on a bus to head to the production office at downtown Seoul. It doesn’t take long before the rest of their co-actors start bidding them farewell one by one, too, leaving Jimin and Jeongguk behind.

Jimin glances at his watch; Namjoon had called him earlier to tell him to wait for a few more minutes. And, from the way Jeongguk is idly dragging his luggage around, Jimin can only assume he’s waiting for his own manager to pick him up as well.

There’s practically no one around at this time and Jimin takes this opportunity to study Jeongguk even from a distance.

Jeongguk looks oddly small standing beside his massive suitcase. The all-black attire he’s donned into only makes him look even paler. His eyes are sunken and dark-rimmed, cheeks a little hollow. Jimin would’ve noticed more telltale signs of physical fatigue wearing him paper-thin if not for the mask covering most of Jeongguk’s bare face.

"Jeongguk," he calls out all of a sudden, almost startling himself, "Come here and sit. You'll tire yourself out like that."

Jimin has to muster enough willpower not to break into giggles when Jeongguk immediately perks up and almost skips towards him. He parks his luggage by the side of the long bench where Jimin is settled into, and seems to deliberate, for a moment, where he can sit. Eventually, he occupies the empty space about an arm's length away from Jimin, obviously wary of their distance and Jimin’s discomfort.

The silence that follows is slightly awkward, but not uncomfortable. Jimin pretends not to notice Jeongguk’s seemingly unyielding gaze while he busies himself with messages he’s received during the flight.

"Hyung," Jeongguk calls the exact moment he puts his phone down.

"Hmm?" Jimin responds noncommittally, leaning back against the cold metal rest. He closes his eyes, feeling the lack of sleep slowly catch up to him.

"Can we talk?"

"I think my manager’s coming any minute now, Jeongguk-ah."

"I didn't say now. But, maybe, sometime soon? You—” Jeongguk pauses, sounding more frustrated with each passing second. "You haven't spoken to me ever since..."

Another bout of silence. “Ever since?” Jimin prompts.

It takes Jeongguk a while to continue and, even without looking at him, Jimin’s fairly certain of the blush rising high up on Jeongguk’s cheeks at the moment. “Ever since we kissed back in my room,” he says, with a certain tone of finality, “I would understand if you’re mad but—that really happened, right? You did kiss me back? It wasn’t just something I made up in my mind, right, hyung?”

The uncertainty in Jeongguk’s voice is a little surprising and, yet, endearing at the same time. As if the idea of having someone as plain as Jimin kiss him back is the most farfetched thought he’s ever had. As if something like that can only happen in Jeongguk’s dreams.

Ridiculous.

"I mean—" Jeongguk tries to fix his blunder, but before he manages to get to his point, Jimin signals him of someone's arrival behind his back.

Jeongguk turns around, and his shoulders immediately slump upon seeing his manager, Yoongi. Jimin feels sorry to see him so discouraged, so he takes Jeongguk's hand into his, squeezing it lightly to provide some sort of assurance. He pulls back a second later, however, just before Jeongguk can try and reach back to return the gesture.

"I promise we’ll talk soon," Jimin says softly. "Just...give me a bit more time."

Jeongguk nods imperceptibly. He gnaws on his bottom lip, worrying the skin a little, and Jimin forcefully ignores the itch to pull it between his teeth. “This won’t change anything between us, right?”

“Of course not, Jeongguk-ah.” Jimin tries to sound as reassuring as he can, and the small smile Jeongguk gives him as a response is definitely worth his every effort.

“Gguk-ah, ready to go?”

At the sound of his name, Jeongguk spins around, hand instinctively darting out to reach for his suitcase. “Yoongi hyung! Did you manage to find your luggage?”

Yoongi makes a face. “Yeah. Thankfully, the lock’s still intact so I didn’t lose any of my stuff.” He throws a cursory glance at Jimin, lips slightly parting in a suggestive smile. “Glad you found company while I was away, though.”

Jeongguk’s face turns beet red, and he’s just too cute Jimin can’t help but tease him more. “I found him. He was too busy mindlessly lugging his suitcase around to even notice me.”

“That’s not true,” Jeongguk mutters.

The childish indignance in his tone has Jimin and Yoongi chuckling under their breaths. Yoongi is infamous in the industry for being one hell of a hardass manager. Despite his small stature, he doesn’t take shit from anyone, especially when said shit is directed to Jeongguk. He’d made sure to let everyone know of his terrifying protective streak a few years back, just as newbie Jeongguk was still in the midst of finding his footing in the business.

It had been a daring move, but one that was undoubtedly worth all the trouble. No one had tried to mess with him or Jeongguk since then.

“Anyway, since we’re here, I guess I’ll take this opportunity to thank you.”

Jimin tilts his head in confusion. “Thank me for what?”

“I heard everything from Jeongguk,” he starts, “And I can't thank you enough for taking care of him in Andorra. I know he must’ve been a complete bitch to deal with—” In the background, Jeongguk just gurgles his protest. Both Jimin and Yoongi pointedly ignore him. “—but you still took time out of your day to look after him even though you have no obligation to. So...thank you. Gguk-ah is really lucky to have a co-star like you.”

This time, it’s Jimin’s turn to feel bashful, his face quickly turning hot and red from Yoongi’s words. When he had tended to Jeongguk before, on both occasions, he hadn’t been looking for any kind of reward or commendation from anyone. All he had wanted, back then, was for Jeongguk to quickly recover and be his normal self again. It had taken a few sleepless, worry-filled days of constantly keeping an eye on him, but it had been worth it to see Jeongguk slowly but surely get back on his feet.

“It was nothing,” Jimin says, shaking his head. “I’m sure anyone would do the same if they saw Jeongguk that day.”

Jimin’s not sure if he believes his own words, but it somehow helps to hear them out loud, anyway.

Yoongi hums thoughtfully, as though considering Jimin’s response. “If you say so. Anyway, I think Jeongguk and I will be heading out first. Will you be okay by yourself?”

“Oh, yeah, sure. My manager’s already on his way, so I won’t be alone for long.”

“Okay.” Yoongi turns to Jeongguk, who’s been nothing but quiet and attentive to their conversation all this time. “Should we go?”

Jeongguk just stares at him for good minute or so, to the point where Jimin’s struggling not to fidget in his spot, before eventually nodding. “I’ll...see you soon, hyung.”

It’s only when Jeongguk’s walking away, back turned to him, does Jimin slowly let out the breath he didn’t even realize he was holding.

 

♠️ 

 

As it turns out, there’s not much filming left to do now that they’re back in Seoul—a few minor scenes here and there, a handful of interviews and maybe just a couple of individual schedules as well.

In between shooting the rest of the scenes and shooting the shit with most of the cast, they get called up to do little interviews for promotional behind-the-scenes material that the studio plans to release closer to the movie premiere date.

Jimin sits down for his turn, and answers a few generic questions with the best smile he can muster up despite his persistent jetlag—I’m so honoured to be a part of this movie, and this all feels so surreal and amazing, and yes we do most of our own stunts, you bet it’s hard!

The only bit he falters at is when the interviewer asks him about what it’s like working with a popular idol like Jeon Jeongguk.

“Jeongguk is,” he starts slowly, “unlike any other person I’ve ever met in my life.” Jimin pauses to marshal his thoughts before clearing his throat. “Before this movie, we’ve only ever worked once in a variety show. I didn’t get the chance to really know him back then. But being a part of this production made me realize just how much I had missed out. Jeongguk is amazing at what he does, and I couldn’t think of anyone better to play this wonderful role. I—” he hesitates for a split second, and then barrels on, “I honestly wouldn’t be able to do any of this without him.”

The interviewer laughs then, giving a thumbs up to the camera guy to let him know they’ve got their needed clip. Jimin blinks in surprise as she swivels back to him, still chuckling. “Wow. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think you two planned that all out.”

Jimin frowns in confusion. “Um, sorry?”

She tilts her head, flashing a sunny grin at him. “That’s exactly what Jeongguk-sshi said about you.”

 

♠️

 

His new, made-to-measure Canali tux is resting innocently on his bed and Jimin continues to look at it in obvious distaste, like the fancy piece of clothing personally offends him in some way.

“You’re not magically going to clothe yourself if you just keep staring at that, you know.”

Jimin whips his head in the direction of the voice, and immediately sees Namjoon standing by the doorway with amusement dancing across his face. Jimin scowls. Honestly, it must have been pretty cute and hilarious ten minutes ago, but he’s been doing nothing but stare holes into the tux now, burning it with his intense gaze, and Jimin knows they nearly don't have enough time to waste for this.

“Do I really need to be there, hyung?”

It’s probably the stupidest question Jimin has asked today and, judging by the heavenward roll of his manager’s eyes, Namjoon clearly shares the same goddamn sentiment.

“It’s your movie’s press conference, of course you have to be there,” Namjoon says, exasperated, as though the answer to Jimin’s question is already obvious enough. Which, well, it really is.

The official release of the movie is in about a week, and they’re all scheduled to attend a press conference today as a kickstart to their lineup of activities. Hoseok had called them up weeks prior to this event to inform them of the date, have all the cast members work around their schedules so they can confirm their attendance.

“Can’t I just skip this event, hyung? Fake being sick or pretend to lose my voice, maybe?” Jimin asks, hopeful. He’s not one to do this kind of thing usually but the whole cast is going to be there—Jeongguk is definitely going to be there and the thought is enough to set a tiny spark of anxiety in Jimin’s stomach.

Desperate times call for desperate measures.

“No—” Jimin is a grown man, but he isn’t beyond pouting. Which is exactly what he’s doing as Namjoon continues to shake his head. “Jimin, you’re not easily getting out of this one so I suggest you get your ass off that couch and start putting yourself together,” he says, his tone taking on that of a teacher lecturing a child. “Don’t take too long, alright? We don’t have all day.”

Defeated, Jimin just nods his acquiescence. He knows a losing battle when he sees one, and he’s definitely not going to win Namjoon over when he’s already made up his mind.

When Namjoon steps out of his room to give him some privacy, Jimin only goes back to glaring at his tuxedo, trying to ignore the fact that the purchase had made quite a dent in his personal savings and it would definitely be a huge waste of money if he does end up bailing today.

“It’s fine,” Jimin whispers to himself, squaring his shoulders. He takes a deep breath to steady his racing heart. “What’s the worse that can happen?”

Jimin can probably list a few, but decides not to in the end.

 

An hour before the press conference is set to start, Jimin takes Namjoon’s advice and tries to meditate in an attempt to calm himself. It works, somehow; he’s not quite as jumpy as he could be, but he’s still definitely on edge, hands clenching and unclenching on his side.

The waiting room is mostly empty, with just a few of his other co-stars present inside, but that’s not what Jimin pays attention to. His eyes immediately land on Jeongguk, who's currently hunched over his phone in the corner.

His heart squeezes in his chest.

It’s not exactly a surprising revelation, but it still hits Jimin hard like a freight train nonetheless: he misses Jeongguk. Really, really misses him.

He hadn’t talked to Jeongguk properly again after their last day on set, after the whole cast had all gone out for drinks to celebrate the fact that they’re finally fucking done after months and months of filming. Jimin had willingly let the opportunity go then, and regretted it ever since.

Before Jimin is fully aware of what he’s doing, his feet are already taking him to Jeongguk, one step at a time. Jimin occupies the empty seat next to him on the couch, careful not to spook Jeongguk with his sudden presence.

Jeongguk doesn’t notice him until he clears his throat, to which Jimin stiffens, very slowly looking up, eyes guarded.

“Hi, Jeongguk,” he greets. Jeongguk’s name sounds so foreign on his tongue now; Jimin can’t help but miss how he’d used to call Jeongguk so familiarly before.

Jeongguk only blinks. For a while, he doesn’t say anything else, only opting to stare at Jimin like he’s going to poof into thin air if Jeongguk so much as close his eyes for a millisecond.

When he’s fairly certain Jimin won’t disappear anytime soon, however, Jeongguk eventually murmurs, “Hyung.”

It’s nothing but a single word of acknowledgment, but it’s more than enough to have Jimin’s breath catching in his throat. The attention is almost too much; Jimin can already feel the beginnings of a blush warming up his cheeks. “I, um—can we talk?”

“Right now?” Jimin quickly nods. “I-I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

Despite telling himself to keep it together, Jimin’s eyes still burn at the rejection. He stares at his hands, barely noticing how they’re clenched so tightly in his lap. Of course, Jeongguk wouldn’t want to talk to him. Jimin had done nothing but give Jeongguk a hard time, left him with so many questions and no answers. It’s only reasonable; Jimin thinks he wouldn’t want to talk to himself either if he was in Jeongguk’s position.

“I don’t think we can talk as much as we want before we both face the press,” Jeongguk explains, and Jimin can’t help looking up at the sound of his voice. “But...maybe later? We can, um, sort things out after the press conference.”

Jimin nods readily. He’ll take any chance Jeongguk would give him. “Okay.”

The next hour is the longest hour of his life. Jimin slips on his public persona mask easily enough, smiling and laughing, and answering his questions as coyly as he can. On the inside, however, he’s a complete mess. A shaking, confused mess.

He holds pieces of himself together until the very end—an accomplishment Jimin didn’t think he’d be able to do if it weren’t for Jeongguk’s lingering gazes on him, checking him up every now and then. The very thought of finally getting Jeongguk alone right after helped him focus, as well.

After the press conference is over and all requisite photos have been taken, Jeongguk grabs hold of his wrist and pulls him along. Jimin follows without a word, barely sparing a thought for the shutters he immediately hears going off as they weave their way through the crowd.

Only when they end up outside at the pick up area does Jeongguk let go of him and ask, “Where to, hyung?”

“My apartment?” Jimin suggests, hesitant. “It’s not far from here and a lot more private than a spare room in this place.”

For a fleeting second, Jeongguk doesn’t seem like he’s too fond of the idea, if the look of uncertainty that flashes across his face is anything to go by. So it’s a bit of a surprise when he eventually nods and says, “Okay. Let’s go.”

It’s a dangerous thought to consider but maybe, just maybe, Jeongguk wants this just as much as Jimin does. It’s the only thing Jimin clutches to with all his might while they’re on their way.

 

“Oh, wow. I guess being an actor does pay a whole lot better than being an idol, huh,” is the first thing Jeongguk says as soon as Jimin parks his car outside the garage. He doesn’t want to bring the car in just yet; there’s a chance that Jeongguk might want to leave early, and Jimin wants to be ready if—and when—that happens tonight.

Jimin only responds to Jeongguk’s statement with a shake of his head, before signaling him to follow close behind. He decides to take his guest to the parlour first—a spacious room with floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors leading to a balcony. It’s Jimin’s favorite spot in his huge apartment as it overlooks the dazzling view of downtown Seoul.

Jeongguk steps out on the balcony even without any prompting. The spring air is still a bit cold even with his tuxedo jacket on, but Jimin supposes he can withstand the chilly air for a little more while if Jeongguk would much rather stay here than be cooped up inside.

With a bottle of uncorked wine and two wine glasses in hand, Jimin joins Jeongguk a moment later. He pours some of the thin, garnet-colored liquid into both glasses, and proceeds to offer one to Jeongguk.

“I hope you don’t mind wine,” Jimin says. He then gestures at the faux rattan sofa, inviting Jeongguk to sit.

For a brief moment, Jeongguk looks like he’s two seconds away from bolting out of there. He stares at the empty spot next to Jimin, apprehensive, as though he’s expecting something to suddenly jump out at him any minute. Jimin, however, just gives Jeongguk all the time he needs, knowing just how much of it had been graciously given to him when he’d asked for the same thing before.

Jimin didn’t really need to wait long; in the end, Jeongguk gives in and joins him on the sofa, sitting with his back ramrod straight and clutching the neck of his glass like a lifeline.

“Are you going to drink that?” Jimin points at the pristine glass in Jeongguk’s hand, before raising his own. “Cause I’ve already finished mine.”

Jeongguk looks at him and shakes his head, sighing heavily. “Why are we really here, hyung?”

“I thought I already told you—”

“You did! You told me you wanted to talk, but you—” Jeongguk stands up, frustratedly runs his fingers through his hair as he paces around the narrow balcony in exasperation. “You’re doing everything but that, hyung.”

Jimin waits until Jeongguk calms down. Waits until he finally tames his restless nerves and returns to his seat. Feeling a little brazen, he outright stares at Jeongguk, traces his high cheekbones and the slope of his nose with his eyes.

It’s silly because it’s not like Jimin has never seen Jeongguk in the entire month they’ve been away from each other, preoccupied with fulfilling their individual projects left and right after the production of their movie. He has—because how can he not, when Jeongguk’s face is practically everywhere? Plastered on the walls, being shown on TV, flashed across a huge LED screen for every citizen to see and admire.

Still, it doesn’t mean Jimin’s less affected now, seeing Jeongguk so close like this, face to face.

If anything, it only renders Jimin absolutely speechless, every single word, every single sentiment he wants to say clogging up his throat.

“I’m sorry about before,” he eventually manages to say, but not without any difficulty, “I’m not going to come up with any excuses for myself because I know nothing can justify the way I treated you. But I just want you to know that it’s never been my intention to hurt you. A-and I promise I’ll make it up to you if you’ll let me, Jeongguk-ah.”

Jimin says all of it in one go, and by the time he’s through, he’s heaving. Still, when Jeongguk opens his mouth to speak, he holds a palm up and continues, voice wavering, “I just—I know I messed up and I’ve kept you in the dark for so long without a single word from me and I’m so, so sorry.”

The words only hang between them for a moment, just as heavy and uncomfortable as the air surrounding them. Jimin’s heart is roaring so loudly in his ears that he barely hears Jeongguk’s next words:

“You hurt me a lot, hyung.”

Jimin squeezes his eyes shut, as though doing so can save him from the images of Jeongguk’s grief-stricken face. “I know, Jeongguk.”

“You made me second guess myself everyday. I wasn’t sure what made you pull away from me again. And, for the longest time, I thought it was me. I thought I did something wrong again, hyung.”

“No—no, Jeongguk! That’s not—”

“I know that now,” Jeongguk interjects, smiling bitterly. “I just wished you had told me that earlier instead of keeping everything to yourself.”

Jimin wishes he had, too, as well. But, back then, Jimin didn’t think he was brave enough to tell Jeongguk that he’s starting to think he won’t be able to be his friend without tearing his clothes off sooner rather than later. He didn’t know how he could possibly explain that the scar on Jeongguk’s face fascinates him or that he melts a little when he thinks about how sweet Jeongguk is to his scary manager.

Jimin had been a lot of things during the entire production of their film—but he’d failed to be courageous, even to himself.

“I was scared,” Jimin simply admits. “You were everything I wanted to become and more—I told you that before, didn’t I? Even when I tried to hate you back then, every single thing you did just bewitched me, Jeongguk-ah, and I couldn’t get myself to look away.”

“When I finally gave myself the chance to get to know you properly, all of you, that was it for me,” Jimin smiles, small and brittle, “I honestly don’t know how, or when, but I just—I’m in love with you. And I’m so scared. You’re so important to me and I didn’t want to lose you.” Jimin doesn't care that he sounds so vulnerable at this point, so open, so damn scared like he needs to get the words out before he can’t. “I don’t want to lose you, Jeongguk.”

Jimin suddenly feels so hollow in the strangest way—as if he’s been ripped wide open, bones stripped bare.

“You’re such an idiot,” Jeongguk huffs after a beat. Before Jimin can even open his mouth, he’s being pulled into Jeongguk’s lap, one hand moving up to cup the back of his neck while the other pulls him into his chest—

And then they’re kissing.

Jeongguk is kissing him, a repetition of that stolen moment in the chalet a thousand miles away; softer but, at the same time, more aching, insistent, desperate. This time, Jimin loses the urge to resist, responding at once with equal fervor.

When they eventually pull away, it’s only to have Jeongguk rasping “I’m in love with you, too, hyung.” into his skin, their foreheads pressed so close together. And then he’s kissing Jimin again, slower this time, and deep, and Jimin just hugs him tighter, greedily licking the joy from his tongue.

“I missed you a lot, Jeongguk-ah.”

Jeongguk’s responding smile is achingly soft, and a little shy, and Jimin can’t help but slowly press himself against Jeongguk, eliminating what little distance still remains between them before kissing him sweet once more.

“I’m not going anywhere, hyung,” he kisses Jimin lightly, “Not even if you tell me to.”

Jimin’s pretty sure his heart is bursting at the seams at this point. “Good,” he sighs happily, trailing a hand down Jeongguk’s back, feeling vertebrae and the movement of his muscles as they tense and flex beneath his shirt. Jimin holds his face between two palms and looks Jeongguk dead in the eye when he says, with all the sincerity he can muster, “Cause I’m not going anywhere either.”

Jeongguk grins and, when he leans back down to press their mouths again, Jimin can practically feel the love bursting from every cell in his body, flooding him with warmth and sunshine from the inside out, making his toes curl.

Jeongguk's in love with him, and Jimin truly and irrevocably feels the same, and nothing on this earth could ever top that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Busan, the autumn of the same year

The entire hall is buzzing in excitement, the air heavy with suspense and anticipation. It’s time to announce the recipient of the Actor of the Year Award and the people gathered around Jimin’s table—Hoseok, Taehyung, Seokjin, and, of course, Jeongguk—simultaenously throw anxious glances at him.

Hoseok’s film had been the star of the year, grand slamming box office and raved with critical reviews both domestic and internationally. It had received several praises during the entirety of its screening—stupendous cinematic work, and magnum opus of Korean contemporary cinema, and deeply riveting central performances to name a few. Many critics and entertainment journalists have placed their bets on the movie as well, predicting that it’d sweep some of the most prestigious accolades in Korea’s most regarded film festival.

And, true to their prediction, Jimin had witnessed his co-stars’ names being called one by one with each category.

Taehyung had been the first one on stage to receive the best supporting actor role. And then Seokjin’s turn came next for his extraordinarily daring stunt act. Jeongguk had also received a trophy for his well-earned Best Newcomer Award while Hoseok had managed to bag two for himself—Citizen Critics’ and Vision-Director’s Award.

The grin on Jeongguk’s face as he went up the podium had been big and blinding, and Jimin couldn’t remember anything else aside from the pride blooming in his chest. It’s definitely a great step for Jeongguk’s career, and now it won’t be just frantic teenage girls mentioning him wherever he goes—it’ll be the middle-aged parents, too.

Throughout the night, Jimin remains as the only person in his table who’s yet to come up and receive his own award. And maybe, just maybe, it will be his turn this time. But, while his friends grow either nervous or excited as the presenters get closer to the stage, he feels none of those intense emotions for himself.

In fact, he feels strangely calm when he hears the announcement of nominees for the next award, his name being called right after Jeongguk’s. And maybe it’s not at all surprising for Jimin, not when he remembers the scene they acted together for the audition all too clearly. Remembers just how much he’d been carried away into the flow of Jeongguk’s acting, and understands that Jeongguk’s nomination in the category, together with his, is perfectly justified.

While winning an award for himself is something Jimin has dreamt for years, something that he needs for his career to catapult to the top of the ladder, Jimin finds that it’s almost insignificant for him at this very moment.

Jeongguk, however, seems to have the opposite reaction. Jimin glances at him, sees the way he frowns and bites his lower lip. At one point, Jeongguk even chances a quick glimpse in his direction, only to look away after finding Jimin already staring back at him. Jeongguk’s obviously anxious and it doesn’t take a genius for Jimin to figure out why.

Jeongguk understands very well just what the award means for Jimin, and the possibility that he might win it instead scares him more than anything.

In that exact moment, Jimin falls in love with Jeongguk—the hardworking, selfless, and compassionate, although a bit irrational at times, Jeongguk—all over again.

And so Jimin does the only possible gesture he can do in this situation—he sneaks his hand under the table and squeezes Jeongguk’s knee, leaning closer to him, just enough for his voice to carry over the almost thunderous beating of his heart.

“No matter what happens, I love you. And I’m happy.”

Jeongguk turns to him, his mouth curving into the warmest of smiles. It sends Jimin’s heartbeat skittering to the base of his throat.

“And the Actor of the Year Award goes to…”

Because Jimin doesn’t need any award to feel like he’s flying—he’s at the top of the world already.