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Mono No Aware

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Mono no Aware - ‘The sadness or pathos of things. The bittersweet feeling of seeing things change.

**

(Mood: Harry Styles - Ever Since New York)

 

Staten Island at sunset is an opportunity for Jeongguk to escape, a fantasy idea of a safe haven.

He’s on the beach with his professional camera in tow, wrapped firmly around his neck in a sling. He sits cross-legged on the murky, damp sand as he watches the view intently before him. The sight is glorious. It’s sunset time, causing the sky to erupt in fiery colours—splashes of orange, red and pink that unite together. It’s a dream for a photographer.

Tomorrow, he’ll return back to his office. He’ll filter through different pictures of the Saint Laurent models he snaps, editing them and retouching them to fake perfection. But right now, it’s sincere.

These pictures are sincere.

His talent only emerges efficiently through the pictures he takes on his own accord, following his own guidelines with no restrictions. Right now, he has to chance to fulfil his own desires. He’s allowed to become one person with his inner creativity and create art for his own muse.

That’s the problem with turning your passion into your career: it becomes mundane, a dull routine somewhere down the line.

But sitting on South Beach and observing the happy families in the residential borough is enough for him.

It hurts to watch a happy family, a harrowing reminder of the life he lost the chance on. His lingering heartbreak feels deeper at times. But he can’t help but admire from afar. The couples that have managed to stick together through their tribulations, maintain a strong foundation and even raise up children together—it had been, once upon a time, all Jeongguk wanted.

It had been a burning desire of his.

It’s enough to cause him to sit on the beach and seethe in his own envy, unable to explain the welcomed bitterness.

He sighs as he pushes the thoughts away before he can dwell too long and tarnish his somewhat good mood. Photography always puts him in a heightened mood. He throws his head back and lays out in the sand, his limbs sprawled out.

Despite having work in the early hours tomorrow, he has no intentions of heading home soon.

It’ll be another busy day in the office, running after models and checking up on his stylist team. It’ll be another jam-packed day with correcting the little details of the shoot such as making sure the backdrop is immaculate, the camera settings are correct and the models are following the guideline of their looks.

It can be suffocating working for a company like Saint Laurent. As prestigious as they are, and the presence they hold in the city of New York, it’s still difficult. The expectations are endless. It’s hard to adjust to but Jeongguk’s beginning to adapt to his new job.

It’s been five months thus far, he’ll get used to it. Freelancing and internships had to come to an end at some point.

Beaches are bittersweet.

The sea resembles calmness to him but it also floods back unwanted memories, most of them stabbing him right where he’s still healing. Right from his childhood till his teenager years, before making the move from Busan, beaches have been his escape.

“There you are.”

Jeongguk’s head snaps up at the voice that calls out to him, seeking out to put a face to the sound. Sure enough, emerging from a distance, is Yoongi. There’s a soft smile sprawled across his face, fondness etched in his features.

Jeongguk finds himself returning the heartfelt gesture, his own lips twitching upwards.

Yoongi comes and collapses besides him. He cradles his legs to his chest in a vulnerable position, wrapping an arm around to keep him upright as he scans the view before him before glancing over to Jeongguk.

The sunset has faded now, replaced with a darker sky. It’s a telltale sign that it’s time for Jeongguk to go home.

“Did you get any good pictures?”

Jeongguk nods as he picks up his camera, opening up the media roll. He hands it over to his friend without sparing a second glance at the pictures, not sure he wants to look at them just this minute.

There’s not a single person who has the privilege of being able to pry into Jeongguk’s personal pictures like Yoongi does.

Yoongi takes the camera off him with an appreciative smile, scooting even closer to him. He quietly flicks through the media, murmuring praises under his breath every few seconds.

“How long have you been here?” He asks.

“I don’t know,” Jeongguk replies honestly. His voice is hoarse from being mute for so long. He looks at his watch, wincing. “A good five-six hours, I guess.”

“Not surprising. These pictures, you start in daylight and end in the evening.”

“Are they any good, though?”

Yoongi scoffs in disbelief as he hands the device back to him.

“You already know you’re good. Stop seeking for compliments.”

He laughs. “Shit, you caught me.”

“How did you even manage to make this shitty beach look so fucking good, huh?” Yoongi demands to know, nudging him playfully before laying down besides him and curling into Jeongguk’s side. “I fucking hate you.”

Jeongguk chuckles lowly. He watches out across the beach for a minute, observing where the water meets the sand and where the seaweed and seashells wash up. He watches the little children running along the shore, squealing.

He looks back at Yoongi and smiles warmly, wrapping an arm around him and pulling his hyung closer.

“I don’t know.”

They lay side-by-side for a minute, basking in each other’s presence and the serenity of the beach. Yoongi makes comfortable silence easy, never making it a necessity to exchange futile words.

Once it darkens and the beach becomes empty, moonlight reflecting upon the shimmering water—Yoongi begins to coax him up.

“C’mon. We gotta take the train back.”

“What’s the rush?”

“It’s late, kid,” Yoongi rolls his eyes patiently. He’s always patient, never prodding or pushing. “You have work tomorrow.”

“As long as you drop me home.”

“Fine, c’mon.”

Yoongi stands first. He wipes down the remnants of sand lingering on his clothes before reaching out for Jeongguk. He readily takes the gesture, heaving up with a loud groan as his muscles protest at the movement after remaining stagnant for so long. He stretches out his arms, yawning.

“How’s your day been then, hyung?” Jeongguk asks.

Yoongi smiles pleasantly as he draws Jeongguk close to him, walking back to the station side-by-side.

New York City hasn’t felt home to Jeongguk since he was nineteen. But somewhere, deep down, within Yoongi—he feels like a little child in Busan again. With a family he still talked to, with a love he still held onto.

“Good,” Yoongi giggles happily. “Yours?”

“Couldn’t be better.”

Yoongi doesn’t stop talking about his new crush the entire way home, rambling on and on about the pretty girl with the golden blonde hair. Even as they walk into their borough of Bushwick in Brooklyn, Yoongi’s still insistently going on about her. Jeongguk doesn’t seem to mind, though.

When they arrive outside Jeongguk’s studio, Yoongi halts them.

His relative ease is replaced with somewhat of concern, twisting his features up as he inspects Jeongguk critically.

“You gonna be okay, Guk?”

It’s pathetic.

It’s been two years and Yoongi’s still skirting around the issue, hesitantly checking up on him like it happened yesterday.

He knows he doesn’t make it any easier. Disappearing all day and switching off his phone only aids to Yoongi’s worries but sometimes, he wants to be alone. Sometimes, he wants to sit on the beach and he wants to allow his mind to roam freely.

It’s been two years. Jeongguk’s supposed to be over it.

He’s definitely not over it.

“Of course, hyung,” Jeongguk forces himself to say with a half-hearted smile. He’s good at pretending. “I’ll be okay. You live down three blocks. I’ll come if I’m not, yeah? Go home. I’ll see you soon.”

Yoongi hums and though he doesn’t seem entirely convinced, he doesn’t argue. He doesn’t pry. Always gentle, always remaining within the boundaries and worrying from a distance. Jeongguk doesn’t deserve him.

“If you’re sure, kid. Goodnight.”

Yoongi offers a wave and walks off. Jeongguk watches his figure disappear before he takes a deep breath, pulling out his keys and entering his empty apartment.

**

“The man of the hour is here!”

Jeongguk is greeted with Namjoon’s nonsense the minute he steps into the stylist room. He rolls his eyes fondly at his co-worker. He’s swarmed with photography equipment which he gently places to the side, shrugging out of his jacket. Only then does he take a moment to glance around the room, watching the bustle of the room.

Hoseok is already working on adorning an model. She’s beautiful and her dead-straight hair cascades down past her shoulders, as preferred for the shoot.

“Yeah, sorry. I’m a little late.”

Hoseok peers over his shoulders where he’s working on the girl, waving him off with a gesture in the air.

“Don’t worry. We’ve barely started,” he reassures.

Jeongguk’s only been hired within Saint Laurent for five months but his job is important to him, to his co-workers. He’s worked his way up the ladder since he was fifteen and was gifted a camera for his birthday by his mother. He interned and slaved away the second he entered the city and eventually scored a deal, four years later, with Saint Laurent.

He’s the head photographer, alongside another array of talented photographers, and he wishes he could extract more joy from his job.

“Good. Good. I need to run down the shoot with you guys.”

Namjoon stops from where he’s going through the collection of the clothes hung up on the rack, looking over. Namjoon’s meticulous with his job, ensuring every crease has been smoothed out from the clothes and the attire is immaculate.

Hoseok grabs the eyeshadow palette and even as he works, Jeongguk knows the man’s full attention is granted.

“Go on.”

“Okay, so…” Jeongguk wanders over to the rack of clothes, absentmindedly flicking through the clothes. “The concept for the Fall shoot is pretty laid-back, for the most part. Black and white pictures, only splash of colours for…” He picks out a particular piece, a leopard printed jacket. “These pieces. Otherwise, the usual, as always. Makeup shouldn’t be over the top, subtle. For the last outfit change, we’ll go a little drastic with a smokey eye.”

Hoseok shoots him a thumbs-up, not diverting his attention off the model.

“Got it, boss.”

“Shut up,” Jeongguk groans and immediately shuts down, despising it when his older co-workers treat him like he’s superior. “Namjoon hyung, you got it?”

Namjoon’s returned to fixing over the clothes with precise care, hands barely touching the fabric like it’s precious goods. He nods.

“I got it.”

“You both gonna be okay?” Jeongguk makes sure everyone is comfortable with their designated tasks before he wanders off, towards the main room where the workers are setting up the scenery for the shoot.

Jeongguk watches the workers filter around the room, adding the finishing touches to the back drop as he sets up his camera whilst nibbling on a breakfast bar.

It barely takes fifteen minutes altogether before the first model steps out, prepared and garnished from head-to-toe in spectacular clothing, flawless makeup. Jeongguk smiles. He already knows it’ll be easy to work with her.

The model’s petite body fills out the clothes perfectly. He guides the woman into position as he begins to snap pictures, asking her to alternate between different poses.

“That’s it…” Jeongguk encourages, readily handing out praise when deserved. “Hand under your chin, chin up, please.” The model obliges and he hums in approval, nodding as the flashes go off, finger pressing down on the trigger continuously.

The second model comes out and he repeats the process, twice over when he has to shoot them together.

“Second outfit change, please,” Jeongguk says when he’s pleased with the outcome.

He wanders over to where his laptop is connected to the cameras, the pictures coming up on display. Jeongguk sits down as he waits for the second round of pictures, flicking through the result. So far, he’s pleased with the outcome and it gives him the small surge of confidence he needs.

When the models come out again and Jeongguk begins to snap pictures again, Namjoon and Hoseok take a quick break to watch him.

“Recess,” Jeongguk finally announces once he’s beginning to exhaust himself. “Take your break, ladies and we’ll do the final outfit change and shoot.”

The models walk off gratefully towards the dressing room to get comfortable back into their normal attire. Jeongguk switches his camera off, changing the batteries so he’s prepared for the third round before collapsing into his chair.

“You alright, Guk?” Hoseok approaches him with a glass of water.

He accepts the ice-cold content off his older friend, throwing his head back as the liquid soothes his dry throat.

“I’m good,” he promises. “Just a few hours left now.”

Unfortunately, the job doesn’t end here for Jeongguk. He continues to work through the day, editing and retouching the pictures according to the guidelines and how he deems fit. He’ll stay back till late in his office, aided with iced coffee to fuel him through the gruelling hours to get by.

Namjoon joins them a few minutes later with a sandwich of his own, nibbling it slowly before he talks.

“Did you know that there’s a new model joining us tomorrow?” He asks with a mouthful of food, swallowing before resuming. “I saw him briefly for fittings and measurements after he passed the casting. He’s so pretty, honestly.”

This isn’t news to Jeongguk. Saint Laurent are always hiring new and fresh faces to represent their company.

“Oh, really? What’s his name?”

Namjoon falters for a second, seemingly pondering over the question before offering a helpless shrug.

“I’ve forgotten but listen, he’s Korean!”

Now, that is a surprise.

It’s not that Saint Laurent haven’t hired other minorities for their company—they have, admittedly a small amount—but the majority of models he’s worked with are white. To hear that they’ve branched out further and have accepted a Korean man to be the face in New York City is surprising. Pleasant.

Jeongguk hums happily under his breath, taking another long sip of his water.

He can only imagine how this will resonate with the aspiring ethnic minorities models, who believe their dreams are out of reach due to who they are. A ghost of his past definitely would’ve clung onto this news, celebrated this fact. His chest tightens and he has to force himself to drink more water.

“That’s awesome,” Jeongguk says sincerely. “I really can’t wait to work with him, in that case.”

Jeongguk attempts to create a rapport with all his co-workers and with the models—especially the more frequent ones.

He already knows he’ll be eager to form a bond with the Korean model, knowing he’ll want to work in his favour and grant his wishes towards how he’d prefer to have his pictures edited. It’s refreshing to know that he’ll have a new, fresh face to work with, to bring out their beauty to the camera and for the world to admire.

Without even having met the model, Jeongguk’s feeling waves of overwhelming muse washing into him.

He’s already anticipating the moment he’ll be able to come face-to-face with the model.

Namjoon has an affectionate smile tugging at the side of his lips, tentatively taking another bite of his sandwich.

“Me neither.”

The rest of the day follows in the same manner. The models switch into more extravagant outfits, attempting to make a statement with the style. Jeongguk pays extra attention to making sure the pictures come out right, trying to bring attention to the rarity of the pieces and the higher tier of prices.

Once he’s done with the shoot, he packs up his equipment and vows to work from home.

Namjoon drops him back to the subway station with a silent promise of seeing him again tomorrow as they’ll do an introductory photoshoot with the Korean model. He tries not to feel a burst of elation, controlling his smile.

As predicted, Jeongguk’s met with the rush hour on the way home. He’s plastered up to one side of the train cart, crowded by other bodies. He breathes through the discomfort, more than accustomed to New York’s rush. He cradles the bag with his photographer equipment to his side, making sure no one is within arm’s reach as he pushes his headphones in and zones out to the beat of his music.

When his stop in Brooklyn arrives, he pushes through the people to get out and walks towards his studio apartment.

He’s surprised to be met with Yoongi.

Yoongi sits outside the building on the steps, wringing his fingers. He looks up when Jeongguk approaches him, looking sheepish.

“I had nowhere to go.”

Jeongguk immediately softens. After a long day of running around after other people, he’s grateful for the presence of his older friend and feels an odd sense of calamity taking over him. He takes a deep breath, withdrawing his keys from his pocket.

“You okay?”

Yoongi nods in affirmation. “Can I stay the night?”

Jeongguk knows Yoongi’s only asking because he’d spend the night on his own, otherwise, worrying about Jeongguk. He wants to send him packing home, promising over and over that it’s been two years and he’s fine. He doesn’t need constant hovering, constant checking up on. But he can’t bring himself to speak such bitter words, especially to a man who only seems to want to provide his unconditional love to him.

“Of course, hyung,” Jeongguk finds himself obliging. He unlocks the front door, opening it up to allow Yoongi through first. “As long as you cook for me. I’m tired of microwave meals.”

“You bet, baby!”

**

It’s another day at the headquarters, except this time Jeongguk will be meeting the Korean model.

He doesn’t mind the mundane routine of getting on the morning rushed subway to Upper East Side in Manhattan, grabbing his iced latte from his favourite corner independent coffee shop before entering the building. He doesn’t mind because today, he has a purpose of meeting the new model he’ll be working alongside closely.

Every time a new face of Saint Laurent is brought into the company, it’s a part of Jeongguk’s job description to become friendly with them. He’ll work alongside Namjoon today as his hyung will take the last fittings and he’ll take headshots, introductory pictures as he’ll display the man’s face to the world.

Jeongguk doesn’t mind because it’s a break from his usual, day-to-day work at the office.

Namjoon is already waiting for him by the elevators, grinning enthusiastically as they enter the lifts together and Namjoon reaches over to press the seventh floor.

“Are you excited?” He asks.

Jeongguk fiddles with his equipment bag, adjusting the strap so it’ll rest comfortably on his side. He sips on his cold coffee before sparing the older man a look, offering a half-hearted to downplay his true emotions.

“Yeah. It’ll be a nice change.”

“Mmm! I can’t wait to take his measurements. He’s said to have lost weight since the last time he was here.”

Jeongguk frowns as he stirs the coffee with his straw, not wanting to display his dismay to this fact. He’s no stranger to the modelling industry, he practically slaves his entire life away at his career. But regardless, being told the fact so bluntly manages to drain his joy from his system.

He bites his lips before gulping down the liquid content.

“Really? How long has it been since?”

“Like… two, three weeks?”

“Right.”

Namjoon doesn’t offer any more words. They both know how unsettling the situation is and there’s nothing either of them can do to make it better. As they exit the lifts and enter their section of the floor, Jeongguk finds Hoseok has already arrived and he’s settling in.

“Good morning, sunshine!” Hoseok greets when he notices the two of them, offering a wave. “Come, come. I got everything set up. The model’s scheduled to arrive in less than ten minutes now.”

Ten minutes.

Jeongguk internally panics, glancing around his unprepared work desk. He begins to empty out his photography equipment, expanding the legs of his tripod and testing it out.

“What’s the mood of the photoshoot?” Hoseok questions as he withdraws his eyeshadow palettes, contemplatively comparing the colours.

“Subtle,” Jeongguk replies.

“Neutral, warm colours?”

“Yes, please. Don’t use a lot.” Jeongguk’s not looking at him as he talks, walking around the room as he grabs the batteries, placing it into his camera and starting it up. “Use a medium brown, create the slightest smokey look and leave it there. Excessive foundation, if you can.”

Hoseok grins and winks, getting to work immediately. Namjoon arrives from the wardrobe room minutes later with a few attires he had chosen out for the shoot that would introduce the model into the world of Saint Laurent.

Together, they opt on a casual look. Two outfit changes, both with the trademark Saint Laurent button-down shirt designs with tight slacks and jeans. Once Jeongguk’s prepared, he edges towards the door.

“Bring him out once he’s ready, yeah? I gotta set up properly.”

Jeongguk hates to admit he’s almost jittery with nerves as he helps the workers to create the backdrop of the shoot. They all agree a simple white backdrop will be most suitable for the shoot, wanting to draw as much attention as they can towards the model instead of the background.

He knows, with time, the model will start getting involved with the more fun photoshoots. Soon enough, he’ll be out in the open for field day photo shoots, doing commercial shoots, getting signed by other companies and building up his name steadily. Soon, he’ll be the face of the new perfume, for the makeup line.

It’s admirable to watch someone accomplish their dreams, their hopes and Jeongguk’s grateful to be able to take part in making that happen for someone.

He takes a quick break to finish his coffee, set up the computer with his camera to ensure the pictures he’ll snap will come up for inspection. All in all, it takes an hour for everything to be settled, prepared.

Just then, Namjoon emerges.

“The model is ready!” He announces chirply, clapping his hands together. He’s overwhelmed with joy, it seems, with crinkled eyes and a bright smile that radiates warmth. “He’s gorgeous, Jeongguk. You’re going to have so much fun with him and he has a killer body. His name is—”

Before Namjoon can begin to delve further into details, a familiar sound immediately demands Jeongguk’s attention.

The velvet smooth, with a hint of a deeper tone, hits his ears and he’s craning around to place a face to the voice. Dread registers within Jeongguk immediately, his system shutting down as his veins feel cold. His brain stops working, his heart race increasing dramatically as he feels his pulse hammering.

It can’t be him. It can’t be him.

Jeongguk’s hand shakes without even the confirmation and his palm feels sweaty, moist when he clenches and he has to take a deep breath.

Because when he looks up, surely enough, there is Park Jimin.

It’s been two and half years since Jeongguk had the privilege to set his eyes on Jimin and it seems like time has graced him. He’s still as handsome as ever despite his considerable weight loss, cheekbones sunken in but a sharp, defined jawline. He’s dressed in the finest luxuries, screaming expensive in the silk button-down that hangs off his body in an obscene manner and shows off his slim waist underneath.

Jeongguk swallows and he allows his eyes to wander, up to Jimin’s.

Because Jimin still has the most gorgeous dark brown eyes, holding galaxies within them. His orbs sparkle like stars, bright and striking to anyone who encounters him. That had been the first thing Jeongguk had fallen in love with: Jimin’s eyes.

Two and half years later, he’s still in love with the same feature. Pathetically.

Jimin’s still engaging with Hoseok, attention completely devoted to him and unaware of Jeongguk that stands frozen in the middle of the room.

“Park Jimin,” Namjoon continues, completely oblivious to his inner turmoil. “Park Jimin—what a name, huh? Everyone’s gonna know him, love him, admire him.”

He stares at Jeongguk expectedly, waiting for a response.

Jeongguk wishes he had an appropriate response for this moment but he can barely comprehend what’s going on, his mind spinning dangerously as he reaches out to hold onto Namjoon.

The older man reaches forward within a flash, offering his support.

“Guk… are you okay? Jeongguk?”

At the mention of his name, Jimin’s looking up.

Their eyes meet and Jimin’s pupils widen. The gestures he had been making with his hands as he speaks halts, going slack and dropping to his side limply. The elation is drained from his expression, replaced with… blankness.

Replaced with nothing.

The luminous warmth of his features run dry and Jimin’s left looking shell-shocked, a ghost of the person he was just seconds prior to them noticing each other. He comes to a stop, not daring to make a move closer to Jeongguk.

Both Hoseok and Namjoon seem to recognise something is wrong because they’ve both gone silent, turbulence taking over their faces.

They all wait for someone to take initiative, say or do something.

Jeongguk can’t seem to take his eyes off Jimin, trying to fuel the burning desire he’s had for two whole years to get one last look at the boy. Jimin stands before him, open with no barriers and it hurts. It hurts him right down to the core, digging into the unhealed wounds and tearing them apart all over again.

He wants to cry. He wants to scream.

Instead, the first thing he says is. “No.”

The room is still and tension envelopes all four of them thickly, causing each breath to sound heavy between them.

Namjoon is still holding onto him, tightening his hold.

“Guk, honey - what do you mean?”

“No, no, no,” Jeongguk starts repeating like a chant, words slipping out of his mouth before he can prevent himself. He stumbles backwards, nearly tripping over his tripod. “No. No, no.”

Jimin looks torn. It’s like he wants to turn on his heel, run in the opposite direction and the other part of him seems compelled to step forward. He almost seems to do just that, his leg moving in action but only stopping himself the last second. His features contort to troubled, lips twitching dangerously and tugging downwards unhappily.

Jeongguk can’t bear another second looking at him.

Memories flush him, invading every personal thought and emotion in his body. He feels violated, stripped and vulnerable for everyone to take notice. For someone who holds himself so well, composed as ever—he’s falling apart, in front of his hyung’s and Jimin.

“Jeongguk, Christ!” Namjoon’s following after him, holding onto him firmly to ensure he doesn’t fall back. “Get a grip. What the fuck is wrong?”

Jeongguk’s shaking his head adamantly.

“I’m not doing this. I can’t do this.”

Namjoon looks like he may cry himself, eyes shining with unshed tears. He seems overwhelmed and he’s trying to keep a handle over himself so he can be there for Jeongguk. He pulls Jeongguk closer.

“Hey, hey. Do you need to go somewhere private? Talk to me.”

“I can’t, I can’t—”

Jimin steps forward though he’s careful to keep a distance from his body and Jeongguk’s.

“Shall I leave, instead?” He’s asking, patience imploring his tone.

Upon further and closer inspections, Jeongguk can pick up more details like how Jimin’s dyed his hair blonde. His strands have dried out, it seems—presumably from the constant toxins that he uses to change the colours of his hair with bleach. He really has lost weight, it’s the most noticeable factor.

Jimin’s eyes narrowed on Jeongguk, carefully trained and awaiting what to do.

He always did like to follow, never lead, never understand what to do or not to do in certain situations.

“No.” Jeongguk forces out.

Jimin looks unconvinced, heaving a small sigh before taking a step back and resuming his position before.

“I just need a moment, okay?” Jeongguk excuses himself, already making a move in another direction. He doesn’t look at Jimin when he speak, eyes pleading with Namjoon’s. “I’ll be out. Just… a minute, okay?”

Neither of them stop him and Jeongguk takes the moment to escape. He runs out of the room, out of the designated department and towards the elevators. He pushes through the bodies on the lifts, frantically pressing for the roof of the building and faces the wall as it takes him up.

When he emerges into fresh air and the view of Manhattan high-rise buildings, the sight of the city and the Chrysler building has him exhaling.

It’s not often Jeongguk will smoke but this grants him the perfect opportunity, allowing himself to indulge as he notices a cigarette carton with a lighter resting on the ledge. When he lights it up and almost chokes on the first inhale, he quickly realises why that’s the case but keeps smoking regardless.

The air is chilly and it nips at his cheeks as he tries to warm himself up with the cigarette, trying to calm the swirling thoughts inside of him.

Jeongguk can’t placate a single thought, most of them tormenting and building up. He feels different emotions, ranging from outraged to fear, from pain to some sort of fucked up relief. But he can’t figure out his thoughts.

Eventually, after some time, he decides to pull himself together.

The cigarette is half finished and he crushes it with the heel of his dress shoes before making his way back inside, down in the lifts to the seventh floor. Unsurprising, neither three of the men have made much of a move.

Namjoon still stands in the centre, seemingly lost and confused. Hoseok is sitting with Jimin on the chairs on the side now, both of them distant and not uttering a single word.

“Let’s get this shoot started,” Jeongguk speaks mechanically, trying to enter a detached state-of-mind if he has any hopes of getting through the next few hours sane. “We have headshots, general pictures and a short interview to film.”

Jimin looks upon hearing his voice. His expression has remained the same since their eyes had first met: steely cool, not revealing a single inner, deeper emotion. Perhaps that’s the problem they’ve always had, their inevitable and disastrous downhill, Jimin’s inability to school his emotions and express them accordingly.

It doesn’t matter now, though. Two years later, there’s nothing left between them to save.

“Jimin, if you’d like to come and stand here,” Namjoon guides.

Namjoon still looks all parts of confused, filtering uncertainly into his expression but he’s attempting to hold himself together for Jeongguk’s sake.

Jeongguk knows as soon as Jimin’s gone and they’re alone, allowing him to take a breath and work through the array of emotions, Namjoon will jump on him with questions.

Jimin obeys as he stands, taking a deep breath.

“My manager, Seokjin, couldn’t be here today but he will be next time,” Jimin uselessly supplies. “He’d be eager to meet the people I might be working closely with.”

The room remains deafeningly silent. Jeongguk refuses to speak, refuses to acknowledge the words. He hasn’t known a single detail about his life for two and half years, he doesn’t want to start to learn them now he otherwise he’ll want to memorise each and every single minute he’s missed. Jeongguk can’t.

It seems like Namjoon’s loyalties know no end because he remains stubbornly quiet, too.

It leaves Hoseok to fill in the gaps as he stands up, smoothing out Jimin’s hair for the shoot and muttering his answer. They’re all feeling uncomfortable, perhaps Jeongguk does the most, but they’re all tentatively skirting around each other like they have no idea what’s going on.

Jeongguk definitely doesn’t.

But he shouldn’t be so surprised, either. After all, he had known Jimin wanted to be a model since the beginning of time. Jimin had always talked about chasing his dreams, going after the biggest and bestest and never slowing down. Jimin had wanted the whole universe, wanted to reach the stars and he wanted to always be on a journey that went upwards.

Here he is, accomplishing his goals.

How could Jeongguk ever feel resentment for this fact, bitterness that had kept him up late at nights for two years? How could he when Jimin stands before him, seemingly successful and his journey has only begun from today.

It hurts. But Jeongguk has always been selfless when it comes to Jimin, and it seems like that’ll continue for years.

“For basic headshots, just sit on the chair,” Jeongguk begins to speak. He tries to remain level-headed and he keeps his voice steady, pointing to behind the cameras where there’s a plush, leather seat encrusted with diamonds. The best for the finest. “Look into the camera, keep an eased poise.”

Jimin follows directions well, always likes to be told what to do and how to do it and that hasn’t changed. He hums as he moves with confident strides towards the chair, seemingly having slipped into the unfazed, unbothered stance.

It’s fine. In fact, it’s easier for Jeongguk to work with.

Jimin strikes the right poses, keeping an enigmatic yet intriguing expression that has Jeongguk reeling so he can’t imagine the public’s reaction.

He’s improved, too.

Jimin has learnt and improved since the last time they had attempted to do this, pulling off their own little photo shoot as giggly teenagers for Jimin’s portfolio to take to castings. The old eighteen-year old with chubby cheeks and a bright smile is nowhere to be found, replaced with a hard and emotionless, detached twenty-two year old that’s seemingly unaffected and not afraid to display just that.

It feels like he’s burning down to the core of his existence, each passing minute feeling more insufferable than the last. Every time he glances over to the computer where the pictures of Jimin he’s snapping are coming up, he feels like throwing up.

He has done this before, countless times - it has never felt like this.

After a few dozen pictures that Jeongguk feels somewhat satisfied with—he always finds it’s difficult to feel satisfied with Jimin’s pictures, considering how beautiful he is—he turns off the overhead, blinding lighting.

Jimin feels grateful because he releases a breath, blinking a few times.

Jeongguk doesn’t want to address him directly unless he has to, sure that his voice will waver and leave him short. Instead, he takes a clear step back and goes over to observe the pictures he’s managed to snap. Jimin seems to get the hint because he hesitatingly follows a few minutes later, still skirting around as he leans in and looks at his own shots.

Their proximity, right now, is closer than ever and Jeongguk has trouble breathing.

He keeps himself under control, regulating his inhale and exhales so he’s not embarrassing him. Jimin doesn’t seem worked up, he doesn’t seem to be having any problems whatsoever so why is Jeongguk humiliating himself, exposing himself in such a vile, vulnerable way?

Jimin hums, pleased with himself and the pictures.

“They’re good.”

Jeongguk wants to acknowledge the banal compliment, barely touching in resemblance to how Jimin used to praise him for his work. He still remembers now, the words of delight that streamed from his lips with each and every picture he had the privilege to see for himself. Now, Jimin’s keeping a clear distance.

It hurts. It all hurts so much.

He clears his throat and doesn’t respond, unable to find the right words to comeback with. Instead, he turns the laptop off altogether.

“Hoseok hyung will prepare you for the next shoot.”

“Will you photograph that one, too?” Jimin questions, voice smooth, without a sign of hiccup.

“Yes.” Unfortunately.

Jimin smiles, just slightly and barely existent but it’s there, before he walks away back to the stylist rooms. When his presence has disappeared from the room, Jeongguk instantly feels a rush of relief flooding him. Meeting Jimin again, after two years, had been an event he had fantasised about.

He had imagined sweet talks and reunions, warm hugs and small pecks of forgiveness. He had high hopes. Overtime, the hope had dried out and left him in a permanent, halted state of cynicism.

But Jimin stands before him, walks around in the same building as him and Jeongguk feels nothing.

Nothing but a small budding resentment and perhaps, the comfort that Jimin’s making it out there in the world. He refuses to acknowledge anything else, putting a barrier between himself and his unfiltered, spinning emotions.

It takes another hour before Jimin emerges with an hesitant, unsure Hoseok in tow.

Jimin has changed into a more Saint Laurent branded, recognisable look with the button-down shirt ripped open and revealing his toned abs. A scarf wrapped tightly around his neck, styled with a leather jacket and tight, distressed jeans. He’s a vision that Jeongguk liked to indulge in, bask in the feel.

Jeongguk swallows.

“Let’s get started.”

They resume the tasks from before, barely pausing in between the pictures. Jimin, despite being here for a while and being tugged from one style to another, hasn’t complained even once. He’s perfect, dolce like a model is trained to be. Despite his somewhat muscular body and his thick thighs, he’s still… very petite, small.

Conflicting thoughts spin in Jeongguk and he has to refrain from allowing them to take over his professional, level-headed mind as he guides Jimin into a few perfect poses.

When it ends after another torturing hour, Jeongguk feels like he could drop.

He’s eager to get home and he never wants to touch upon these pictures again, wants to keep them locked away and never allow anyone’s eyes to wander upon Jimin’s celestial body and his eyes.

Jimin visibly relaxes once it’s over, too. He rolls his shoulders around a few times, trying to ease the tension bunched up in his blades before he runs a hand through his blonde hair. He looks so composed, so cool. Jeongguk almost can’t put years and years worth of memories to this Jimin.

“What’s next?” He asks.

“An interview. I won’t be filming that. I’ve finished.”

If Jeongguk observed any closer, he could’ve put ‘disappointment’ as a way of describing Jimin’s expression. It immediately falls, the previous light draining and he looks at Jeongguk with a slight twitch of his lips.

“Oh.”

“I only take the pictures.”

“Right.”

Jeongguk’s already packing up his equipment, filtering in and around the room without sparing Jimin a glance. He can’t. It’ll scar him deeper and he’s spent enough time this entire day doing exactly that. Jimin watches him intently, eyes fixed and staring intently but not saying anything.

Not until Jeongguk’s done and prepared to make a run for his sweet escape, Jimin’s tender voice is calling out to him.

“Guk…”

It’s the same voice that he used when he had bad news to deliver, when he’s trying to skirt around an issue. When he was nervous over exams and over a new casting he had. The voice is often quiet, barely audible but peeks of compassion and affection implores through.

It’s the same tone that had been used the last time they had talked.

“No,” Jeongguk’s repeating his words from before. He turns around, narrowing his eyes carefully at Jimin. “No. I don’t want to hear it. You had your chance, Jimin and you lost it. Don’t say a word to me.”

He doesn’t stick around long enough to see how Jimin reacts, already sprinting out of the office as fast his feet can carry him.

**

(Mood: Adele - When We Were Young)

 

Jimin and Jeongguk - 13 years old.

 

It’s evening time and Jeongguk finds himself at complete bliss, lazing on the sandy beach with the distant view of high-rise buildings fading behind the dark clouds. It’s going to rain soon, he can feel it with the choppy waves and the brisk air that nips at his cheeks.

Jimin sits besides him, resting on the balls of his hands with his legs stretched out.

He’s wrapped up tight in a thick scarf, concealing his neck and half of his face as he shivers into the material.

If Jeongguk wasn’t so comfortable and at complete ease, he would’ve suggested going back inside to their home. He’s spent the last three days with Jimin and the thought of parting ways now makes his chest ache with longing. He’s so pathetically, uselessly, gone for Jimin.

“You okay?” Jimin whispers, hints of fondness peeking through his tone as he turns to look at him and smiles.

Jeongguk stares back at him. He wants to memorise the curve of his lips, the way it tugs upwards every time Jimin directs his attention towards him. It takes every self control in his body to remain seated, wiggling his toes in the sand as he giggles.

“I’m good. It’s pretty here.”

Jimin hums as he scans out across the ocean, watching the sea as far as his gaze will allow him. He scoots closer to Jeongguk instinctively.

They hardly initiate any physical contact, hiding underneath their blankets and trying their hardest to keep their distance. Even if there’s a tugging, magnetic pull that draws him towards Jimin, he tries his hardest to resist. But it seems like Jimin doesn’t want to keep denying it, if his hand landing on top of Jeongguk’s is any indicator.

Jeongguk’s breath hitches as he shuts his eyes for a second, composing himself.

Jimin’s hand rests on his, they’re touching.

Jimin seems amused by his reaction because he chuckles under his breath, turning into full, loud laughter.

“Shut up!” Jeongguk interrupts, swatting him with his spare hand.

“Sorry, sorry,” he mumbles in response but at the same time, he intertwines their fingers and squeezes lightly.

They fall back into silence but it’s comfortable and it feels right. Both of them sitting side-by-side, watching the sky darken further and the air became chillier. Neither of them have the intention to come, basking in the serenity they receive to be soaking in each other’s presence. Jeongguk feels like he can sit here forever, and never complain about it.

“Your birthday is coming up,” Jimin brings up. “Virgo baby.”

“Virgo baby?” Jeongguk scrunches up his brows in confusion. “What’s that?”

A moment passes and Jimin’s expression turns to shocked, looking thoroughly unimpressed as he pulls back. Jeongguk panics and immediately pulls him back, tightening his hold over their hands not to allow him to slip away. It causes Jimin to smile adoringly.

“Your astrology star-sign. You’re a Virgo.”

“Oh…” Jeongguk shrugs nonchalantly, unbothered. “Okay, what about it?”

“You really have no clue, huh?”

“I just… don’t see the big deal.”

Jimin sighs under his breath but he doesn’t sound frustrated with him, just confused.

“My parents and I have always read our horoscopes together, it’s like a tradition. It’s very special to me, y’know?”

Jeongguk readily accepts any information he’s allowed to be granted about Jimin. Even after being friends with him since childhood and nappy days, he finds himself still learning details and picking up on things. He thinks he’ll never get bored, he’ll always want to know more about him.

“Oh, really? Tell me about Virgo’s, then.”

Jimin grins and he launches into an explanation, more than delighted to talk about horoscopes. Jeongguk had no idea that his best friend is so passionate about astrology and he vows, makes a mental note, to research himself about the entire ordeal and learn details so he can engage in conversations about it with Jimin. He wants to relate to Jimin on every level he can, wants to never run out of things to talk to him about.

Jimin tilts his head as he observes Jeongguk quickly, nodding to himself.

“You’re such a Virgo, Guk, I don’t think you even realise!” He’s smiling so wide, it must hurt his jaw. “So hardworking, independent to a fault… just, wow. Neat freak.”

“I’m not a neat freak!”

“Loves animals…” Jimin continues, though, not registering any of the rebuttals. His smile spreads. “So in love with animals, God. It’s adorable!”

“Are you just listing things you like about me?”

Jimin grins and nods eagerly. “Yup! Well, everything about you is perfect so what can I really do?”

“Shut up.”

Oh, oh! Insanely clever, like… too clever. You get such good grades already, how the fuck do you do it?”

Jeongguk hides his face in the crook of his elbow, allowing the compliments to rush through him. It’s not a surprise that Jimin is sappy. He often is. He’s vocal about his affection and whilst he doesn’t show it through physical interactions, his words are striking and always so deep. Jeongguk treasures each and every word he says.

He flushes deeply and Jimin coos, noticing as he leans in and kisses his cheeks.

It only causes Jeongguk to blush further.

He takes a moment before pulling back, turning to face Jimin with a shy smile.

“What’s your star-sign, then?” He asks, curious now.

“Mine?” Jimin hums as he crosses his legs, angling his torso towards Jeongguk so they’re facing each other better. “I’m a Libra.”

“Libra? And what’s good about you guys?”

Jimin offers a nonchalant shrug, always downplaying himself only to hype others up.

“We’re not great, to be honest,” he replies honestly. “We’re very committed to like… um, having a peaceful life, like… balanced, and shit? Y’know?”

Jeongguk blinks at him. “No… no, I don’t know.”

“We just wanna make everyone happy, I guess. Kind, gentle. Just really fucking soft.” He scrunches up his nose like he hates to admit this.

Jimin’s not giving him much detail and Jeongguk makes another note to research about Libra’s, to learn the in’s and out’s of Jimin and who he is. He’s not sure if he actually believes in astrology and whether or not it determines a person—but regardless, any window into his life will be helpful.

“I guess, that’s right.”

Jimin shakes his head fondly, biting his lip.

“Jeongguk… why are you so perfect?” He asks randomly, breaking the topic of conversation at hand. “Like, seriously, it’s not fair.”

He laughs and his heart race quickens, beating against his chest in a dangerous manner. For some reason, Jimin’s words always affect him the most.

The change has come on quick but he finds himself falling for Jimin more and more everyday. Is that even possible? To feel head over heels for a guy? Is that even normal? Is it right? Jeongguk doesn’t know. He has a lot of questions and not many answers, thoughts that spiral in his mind but no way to resolve them.

When he’s alone and he thinks about it, it scares him down to the core of his existence.

But like now, sitting on the beach in Busan—he doesn’t feel fear. Instead, he feels enlightened. Like he’s found something precious between he and Jimin and he’s hanging onto it, clutching tightly and refusing to let it slip through his fingers. They’ve grown up together, gotten to know each other’s personality and families.

It’s been more than eight years that they’ve been friends and the bond keeps getting stronger, deeper and now, Jeongguk just really wants to kiss Jimin.

He sits on the beach, having snuck out of his house after telling his mother he’s only going down to the local corner store, with Jimin. He’d never change this moment for anything, even if his mother will be upset with him for lying.

He sits on this beach and all he wants is Jimin’s lips, it’s all he can think about and it’s driving him mad.

It seems like Jimin’s intentions are the same as his because when he tilts his head to face the boy better, Jimin’s licking his lips. The direction of his eyes linger downwards and they both exhale sharply.

“Jimin…” he almost whimpers.

Jimin smiles softly, reaching out to cup Jeongguk’s face and whispering.

“My little Virgo baby,” under his breath.

That’s it. Jeongguk can’t hold it back any longer.

“Is it okay if I kiss you?” Jeongguk’s voice matches his. “Please?”

Jimin laughs prettily, a sound that resonates deeply within him. He wants to capture the sound of Jimin’s laugh and wants to replay it on a loop, never wants to tire himself of hearing it.

“Of course. I’ve been waiting forever.”

First kisses are always awkward, Jeongguk’s read. But when he leans in and presses his virgin lips against Jimin’s, it feels anything but. It’s sloppy and quick, a peck before they pull off but Jimin’s eyes remain closed.

“Did we just… did we just kiss?” Jimin asks, almost baffled at what has just happened.

Jeongguk seems dazed but Jimin’s lips against his is a sensation he can easily get used to, even if he doesn’t quite understand why he loves it so much.

“Yeah… yeah, I think so.”

“Can we do it again?”

Jeongguk chuckles and rolls his eyes but he doesn’t deny him—he can’t deny Jimin a single thing - before he tugs Jimin forward and starts to kiss him again. They deepen it a little this time, skirting around the new act together. Jimin seems to hesitate when he feels Jeongguk’s tongue grazing against his lip and it takes him a moment to understand, opening his mouth.

Jeongguk’s thirteen when he kisses Jimin for the first time and he realises, there and then, that this is a forever thing.

Jimin is a forever person.

**

“Fuck this! No, fuck!”

Jimin groans at the insistent yelling from the kitchen, shaking his head in his slumber and he tosses in bed and grabs a pillow. He puts it over his head, willing the sounds to quieten down so he can catch another few minutes of sleep. His sleep routine has been erratic, only able to catch short naps throughout the day as he gets up ungodly early to run to castings and shoots since his newly scored deal with Saint Laurent.

Fuck you! I just wanna make pancakes!”

But alas, to no avail, Taehyung’s still yelling in the kitchen.

Jimin contemplates every single thought he ever had when he had decided to accept Taehyung as his roommate, and his best friend, and his modelling associate. He just wants to sleep right now but it seems like a myth.

“Shut up!” Jimin screams back, his voice hoarse having just being disturbed minutes ago.

The clanging in the kitchen stops for a second before there’s some grumbling and a sulken, annoyed Taehyung stalks back into the bedroom. He’s naked besides his Calvin Klein boxers, hanging low on his waist. He grabs Jimin’s robe, throwing it on top before climbing into bed besides Jimin.

A fond laugh bubbles out of Jimin as he instinctively draws his friend closer, a hand running through Taehyung’s unkempt strands.

“You alright?” He asks, tender despite the exasperation of being awoken.

Taehyung mumbles into the pillow, muffled before shaking his head.

“Just wanted to make pancakes.”

“And why couldn’t you?”

“They fucking burnt.”

Jimin rolls his eyes. “You woke me up because you burnt pancakes, are you kidding me? Why didn’t you just order some?”

“Because I’m trying to make these vegan, healthy ones,” Taehyung continues, pout evident in his tone. “Why the fuck is dieting so hard? I just want sugar.”

Taehyung’s been placed on a specific diet, prompted to lose some more weight to keep his deal with his agency. It’s been bugging Jimin who already struggles with his own eating habits and his own weight. He hates seeing his friend go through the same ordeal and can only pray it won’t progress downwards, not as bad as he has it.

Modelling is a tough industry, no one is a stranger to the fact. But no one really understands just how hard and demanding it is, not unless you’re a model experiencing it for yourself.

“Shall I make you some?” Jimin offers, yawning behind his fist. “I can try. I’ve made alternatives to pancakes before.”

“Those fucking protein shit? Nah, thanks. That’s literally egg-whites, not pancakes.”

“Hey!” Jimin scolds, swatting his shoulder. “Take what you get, brat.”

Taehyung refuses to answer, continuing to complain under his breath before giving up and slumping into the mattress. It’s still early—really early—and Jimin knows it’s Taehyung’s messed up body clock waking him up before 7am. He grabs his duvet, pulling it over Taehyung to snuggle him in.

“I still have a few hours before I gotta run to my shoot. I’ll make you something.”

Taehyung shrugs, defeated. “Okay.”

The bustle outside their apartment has just started, taxi horns can be heard and people’s insistent chatter. Jimin reaches over to shut his window, locking it. Soho is a great neighbourhood but perhaps, deciding to live in Manhattan in general was a mistake. He’s close to his castings and shoots but he’s also finding it relatively hard to adjust.

Jimin thinks Taehyung’s gone back to sleep after fifteen minutes or so of complete silence. He reaches to the side, grabbing his reading book and resuming to read Jack Kerouac’s poetic words until he’s drawn out of his haze.

“You okay?”

Jimin frowns as he looks down at his mate. “Uh, yeah?”

“No… but like are you okay?”

He can’t help but let out a laugh at Taehyung’s question. His friend is bizarre, sure, in the best kind of ways but he’s never been cryptic. He leans down to lay besides Taehyung, staring him in the eyes.

“I’m okay, okay. Why? Why do you ask?”

Taehyung seems tentative, nibbling at the hanging layer of skin on his lip before shrugging helplessly.

“No, it’s just… for the past day or so, since the shoot with Saint Laurent, you’ve been quiet. I can’t seem to figure out why, y’know? It’s just bugging me.”

“Oh.”

“And I can’t not ask, you know? So… this is me, asking.”

“Very eloquent, Taehyung.”

“Appreciate it,” Taehyung says mumbled, looking up to offer a shrug. “But seriously… are you sure you’re okay?”

“Uh…” Jimin shrugs helplessly. “I guess so?”

Jimin isn’t purposely trying to withdraw or act detached. He tries his hardest to be the best roommate he can be for Taehyung, trying to make each day somewhat fun between them. They bounce off each other naturally, often refer to each other as platonic soulmates. But sometimes, they know when to recharge and take time away from each other.

Jimin respects Taehyung, looks up to him to inspire himself to be a better person.

Taehyung is everything he wishes he could be—composed, has his life together and never concerned about anything that’s not directly related to his career. Goal-orientated and focused, Taehyung is always striving and working for the better.

Whereas Jimin falters as soon as he sees a person from the person to the point he reaches out to Seokjin, wanting to drop his deal with Saint Laurent.

“You guess so?” Taehyung repeats, more intrigued now. “Tell me, babe. What’s going on?”

“Hm...” Jimin sighs, playing with his duvet. “I don’t really know how to say.”

Seeing Jeongguk again had been a stab right into the stomach, still reeling from the sharp pangs he had received. He had seen Jeongguk freaking out upon noticing him, withdrawing hastily. Jeongguk hates him now, that much is clear. The look of dismay had been painted over his expression, etched into every wrinkle.

Jeongguk looks older, sader. Jimin did that.

Though he’s still as beautiful as ever, his eyes aren’t shining anymore. His smile doesn’t stretch as wide anymore.

Jimin did that to him. He destroyed his person.

He takes a deep breath, squeezing his eyes for a second before whispering. If he talks any louder, his voice will break and he doesn’t want to cry. It’s been two and half years, there’s no time for crying anymore.

“Do you remember my ex-husband? Jeongguk?”

Taehyung scoffs immediately. “That emotionless asshole? Yeah.”

“Shut up. Don’t call him that.”

“It’s true.”

“Anyway…” Jimin continues quickly, unable to bear any words against Jeongguk. “I saw him again.”

A beat passes, and another.

“You saw him? What? He still lives in New York, what the fuck?”

“Yeah… I know. I’m shocked myself.”

Jimin hadn’t expected Jeongguk to stay in the city after their brutal divorce. Whilst it had been relatively painless and they hadn’t even needed to see each other during the process of the whole divorce—it had been done in a despiteful manner, out of hatred and resentment that lingered deep within Jimin.

He had expected Jeongguk to go running.

To pack his bags, move back to Busan and forget he or New York City or their dreams ever existed.

Seeing him again after two-and-half years of desperately trying to forget him, remove every trace of the man that he had ruined with his own fingertips had been hard on him.

But Jeongguk’s still here, he’s still surviving and he’s thriving. He’s a head photographer at Saint Laurent and seemingly flawless at what he does, professional and practised. Jimin feels pride.

“How?” Taehyung demands to know.

“He’s the photographer at Saint Laurent. One of them, anyway.”

“Oh…”

“He took my pictures for my headshots.”

Oh… oh, shit.”

“Seeing him was just…” JImin struggles to find the words. “Bad, Tae. Really bad.”

Taehyung pouts now, looking more concerned for Jimin than his ruined pancakes.

“Oh, honey,” he coos under his breath. He comes closer to Jimin’s body, loosely wrapping an arm around his waist and sighing. “Did you two talk or anything?”

“Nope. He hates me.”

“It should be the other way around.”

“I did some bad things too,” Jimin declines. He hates it when his friends aren’t understanding to Jeongguk and the circumstances against him. “I… fucked up, as much as he did and it was really fucking messy. I just want to forget him forever. I was getting there but now I’m working with him all the fucking time, Taehyung!”

Now that he’s talking about it, it’s coming out of him like a stream. Jimin can’t hold it back any longer, the thoughts that had been tormenting him are spilling out.

“I’m sorry, Jimin.”

“I just want to forget him.”

It’s a lie. Jimin doesn’t want to forget him. He wants to cling onto every memory, every kiss, every crinkled-eyed smile and every goofy laugh Jeongguk had given him. He wants to hold onto every touch, every graze. He wants to hold onto every year, every minute, every second Jeongguk had readily given him.

But it hurts. It’s too painful. The longer Jimin holds on, the deeper it scars him. He’ll never recover, he’ll never move on if he doesn’t make himself.

“I know,” Taehyung supplies sadly. “What’re you gonna do? Is it awkward with him?”

“So awkward,” Jimin whines. “I want to quit the deal but Seokjin hyung might actually murder me. We worked hard to get that deal.”

“Yeah… Saint Laurent is a big deal, buddy.”

“I could… I don’t know, blacklist him? So I never have to work with him?”

Taehyung contemplates for a second.

“You could but that news like that spreads fast and it’ll probably discredit his value as a photographer, y’know? Immediately peg him for like… a rapist, or something.”

Jimin’s lips curl downwards and he starts to shake his head. That’s the last thing he wants. He’s already torn apart Jeongguk’s life enough and now that the boy has finally made it, he’s not going to ruin his career.

“No. No way. Not doing that, then.”

“Just gonna endure it, then?”

“I’m gonna have to,” Jimin sighs and the thought alone makes his lungs constrict, lump in his throat thick. He’s going to cry. He doesn’t want to.

Jimin buries his head into the blanket and takes a deep breath, his chest heaving with the exhale. He buries down the need to cry, regulating his inhales and exhales.

Taehyung notices before he shifts forward, pecking his forearm.

“You’re going to be okay, you know?” Taehyung whispers. “We’ll figure it out. Don’t quit, though. Saint Laurent was your goal since you were eighteen.”

Jimin nods into his side.

“Yeah, I know.”

“We’ll figure it out.”

**

Jeongguk turns up to Yoongi’s apartment with a cheap bottle of red wine in his hand, tears staining his puffed out cheeks. He rings for his hyung insistently, choking back a dry sob as an arm comes to curl around his stomach.

He’s pathetic. Really pathetic.

He’s not sure what has reduced him down to tears but when he had opened the modelling pictures of Jimin and observed him, properly, he had broken down.

Yoongi comes down a few minutes later, opening the door only to curse under his breath.

“Guk!” He says, shaking his head. “What happened?”

“J-Jimin…” Is all Jeongguk can manage before his vision is blurred once again, obscuring the view of his friend coming towards him and tugging him inside the apartment.

Jeongguk stumbles inside, intoxicated. He had walked the three blocks distance between their apartments drunk, in the middle of the night. His head feels heavy, swimmingly underwater. It’s painful here.

“Jeongguk…” Yoongi’s voice is heavy with remorse as he gently attempts to pry the bottle out of his hand. “Give that to me. You’ve had enough.”

There’s not much content in the bottle so it slips out easily, into Yoongi’s hold. He places it down on the ledge in the hallway before practically dragging Jeongguk up, into his house.

They don’t talk.

Yoongi doesn’t say a word as he makes a bed for Jeongguk on the couch, cushioning his head and tucking him into a blanket.

Jeongguk accepts the warmth and the comfort, trying to curl into the couch. It’s a little uncomfortable but with his current state, he’s unaware as to what’s really going on. All he can address right now is Jimin and his beautiful face. There’s a longing feel in his chest, ripped open and poked at.

He had thought this heart wrenching feeling was over, that he’d never to experience this level of pain ever again.

Yet he feels like the same twenty-year-old something that had just gotten divorced with no career, no money to his name except a broken, unfulfilled degree. He feels like the same man who had lost everything he had treasured within a few months, left with an emptiness that can never be covered.

“Goodnight, Jeongguk.” Yoongi leans down, kissing the top of his head.

Come tomorrow, Jeongguk will explain that it’s never going to be okay. That he saw Jimin again and he’s going to continue doing so. But the words won’t form right now and he struggles before falling unconscious.

The last thing he feels, thinks about is Jimin.