Asiana 106 (scheduled to depart ICN at 4:05 PM and land at NRT at 6:05 PM) boards an hour late. They were delayed leaving Dalian because of air traffic and bad visibility. They sat on the tarmac there for almost two hours, passengers getting hotter and grumpier and angrier as the minutes ticked by. Taehyung and Jimin had handed out bottles of water and bags of pretzels and nuts, but those had been small consolation to the passengers with missed connections and upended travel plans. It had been a huge weight off Jimin's shoulders when the captain had radioed from the cabin and announced that they were finally cleared to depart.
Now they're at Incheon, preparing to do a quick turnaround. Jimin woke up this morning in Saipan, where he had almost thirty six hours off. He'd spent most of the time sleeping. They flew Saipan to Incheon to Dalian to Incheon and now he's got just this one last leg before he's done for the day. His feet are killing him and his head hurts, but they have no more than twenty minutes to get ready for the next flight while catering and cleaning service the plane.
"Do you have any aspirin?" he asks Taehyung.
“Sorry,” Taehyung says. “I might have some multivitamins, though.”
Jimin sighs. He’s not sure why he bothered asking Taehyung, who never gets sick. Maybe it’s the multivitamins.
“You’re usually the prepared one,” Taehyung says conversationally. “You’re sure you don’t have any?”
"I left my first aid kit in my other bag," Jimin says. "I don't know what I was thinking." He shakes his head. “How long until you fly out?” he asks, to distract himself as much as anything else.
Taehyung frowns. "I think tomorrow afternoon," he says. "But I'm flying out of Haneda."
"Ugh," Jimin says. "Having to change airports is such a pain."
"Yeah," Taehyung agrees. "I've got four days off after that, though, and then I'm going to Sydney. I’ve got a couple of days there. I think I’m going to take a surfing lesson."
"Lucky," Jimin says. "I'm back out of here tomorrow. We're turning around and going right back to Nagoya after we get home."
"These long days are going to get to you, Jimin," Taehyung says. "You should see if you can get on my Sydney block and we can go surfing together. Why are you working so much?"
Jimin feels his cheeks get hot. "It's dumb," he mutters. "I wanted to make sure I had off for the concert, so I switched a bunch of shifts with Jisoo."
Taehyung shakes his head. "I guess you're not JK’s number one fan for nothing, huh?"
Jimin grins. "Nope," he says. "I just need to make sure I get a ticket. The pre-sale is tomorrow night, so as long as we're not delayed too long coming back from Nagoya, I should be fine."
"Good luck," Taehyung says. "I know those ticket sales are brutal. I helped Lalisa try to get tickets for something last year when we were waiting to board in Shanghai. She broke down in tears when they all sold out before she could get connected to airport WiFi.”
The phone rings then. It's the gate agent, asking if they're ready to begin boarding. Taehyung, as head flight attendant, checks with the captain and then tells the gate agent they're ready to go.
Jimin closes his eyes for a moment and then forces himself to his feet. He gets a little bottle of facial mist from his own bag and spritzes his face. He'd like to brush his teeth too, but there's no time. He settles for straightening his scarf and running a quick comb through his hair. It's important to him that he look good – not for any reason of vanity, but because he wants to do his best to represent Asiana Airlines. He knows air travel these days isn’t as glamorous as it used to be, but he can do his small part to make the experience special for his passengers, and these small touches go a long way.
Taehyung heads to the back of the plane, and Jimin takes his position up front. He hears the tell-tale footfalls and then the first passenger – a middle-aged man in a suit – appears on the jet bridge.
"Hello sir," Jimin says, putting on his brightest, most cheerful smile. "Welcome onboard."
"I'll be coming back around as soon as we're in the air, ma’am," Jimin reassures the woman in 1D.
They're fully boarded now, and preparing to close the cabin doors. Jimin’s composure is wearing thin. The cockpit says they have a thirty minute take-off window, so they need to pull off the gate and get this show on the road.
Easier said than done.
Jimin is working first class on this flight and he barely had time to offer his guests a drink before he needed to collect the cups again. He's just finished reassuring rich old Mrs. So-and-so that he'll be back around with another cabernet for her and gotten the last of the service items when he notices that the guy in 1C still has his laptop out.
Jimin drops the glasses in the galley and steps back into the first class cabin.
"Sir," he says.
1C has headphones on. He either can't hear Jimin or is ignoring him.
Jimin sighs. Really, people ought to know better. He taps 1C gently on the shoulder. The man – oh, he’s handsome, and about Jimin's own age, wearing expensive designer clothes – looks up, blinking.
"Yeah?" he asks.
Jimin fixes a hard smile on his face. "I'm sorry, sir, but we're about to close the cabin door, so I need to ask you to put away your laptop."
The man's eyes go wide. "Oh," he says. "Yeah. Sure. Uh. Just give me two seconds to –"
He smiles. There are dimples. People are probably charmed by that smile, but Jimin has long since grown immune to the charming smiles of entitled rich assholes in first class seats.
Ordinarily, Jimin is all patience and sweetness. Ordinarily, Jimin would laugh it off and countdown 'Three - two - one' before teasingly asking the man again to put away and stow his laptop.
But they're trying to get off the ground as quickly as they can and Jimin’s head is still aching and he’s been up for hours. His swallows and shakes his head. "I'm sorry, sir. Now."
The man's charming smile twists into a frown. "Fuck," he mutters. "I am. Just let me save, okay?"
Jimin should go secure the galley. He should step away and count to ten and then come back with a smile on his face. He doesn’t. He stands with his hands on his hips and glares at the man until he shuts his laptop and starts to stow it in the side pocket of his seat.
"You're in a bulkhead row," Jimin says. "That needs to go overhead." All pretense of cheerful civility gone.
The man gives him a dark, evil look and then gets up – he's tall, Jimin realizes as he steps out into the aisle – to stow it in his bag overhead.
The man glares at Jimin again as he sits back down and buckles his seatbelt.
There's nothing Jimin hates more than these frequent flier assholes who think they know better than the crew. He gives the man a dirty look of his own – I'll be keeping my eye on you, buddy! – and then does his final check of the first class cabin. All the other passengers have peacefully complied with his request. They're buckled in and stowed just like they should be. He glances at 1C as he returns to the front of the plane, but the asshole is distracted now, scrolling through some playlist on his phone.
Jimin almost stops to ask him ifit's in airplane mode, but he doesn't want to push his luck.
He's buckling himself into the jump seat when Taehyung comes back up front.
"What was that all about?" Taehyung asks as he takes the other jump seat.
Jimin rolls his eyes, keeping his voice low. They all know how sound carries into the first class cabin, even over the roar of the engines. "1C didn't want to put his laptop away."
Taehyung nods wearily. "A shame," he says. "I thought he was sort of cute, too."
Jimin sighs. “It’s been so long since I’ve been on a date I don’t even notice anymore.”
Taehyung laughs. “Come on, Jimin-ah. What happened to the fun-loving guy I know ? Besides, I thought the girls were trying to set you up with that cute friend of theirs who flies Korean Air?”
Jennie’s friend had been cute. Really cute. But Jimin just hasn’t had the energy for dating lately, especially not someone with a schedule as crazy as his own.
“They were,” he says, “but I’m not really looking for anything right now, Tae.”
Taehyung shakes his head sadly. He’s cavalier about his love life; he doesn’t seem to be looking for anything either, but unlike Jimin, things just seem to find him. Ah well. That’s how things are for some people. That’s not how they’ve ever been for Jimin.
There's a tiny moment of disorientation and Jimin realizes they've pushed back and are taxiing. He exhales. Finally, a few minutes of peace. He takes his phone out of his vest pocket. He takes his phone out of his vest pocket. Just last night he'd finally changed the wallpaper. For months it had been a picture of JK at last year’s Cookies’n’Cream 3 fan meet: head thrown back, eyes closed, blue stage lights gleaming on his dark hair.
A picture from the first night Jimin saw JK in the flesh.
He tries hard not to smile. It's so dumb, honestly. As a kid he'd never cared much one way or another about idol music. He'd like the popular songs just fine, but he'd never gotten into it like some people did. He's not even really a fan of idols now. He's just a fan of one.
JK. Jeon Jungkook. Golden Boy. The Nation's First Crush.
It's all Jisoo's fault. Jimin had never even heard of Jeon Jungkook before he agreed to rent an apartment with Jisoo and her friends. It's a typical crash pad: the single bedroom has two sets of bunk beds and a single for Jimin – more a cot than a bed, really. There's never any food in the fridge, and he never has any idea who’s going to be around.
Still, it's a big step up from the last place Jimin was living – if you could call it that. There had been fifteen or sixteen people ostensibly calling that place home, and he'd woken up there more than once to find a total stranger in the kitchen, brewing coffee. He’d always felt in the way and underfoot even though he paid just as much rent as anyone. He’d hated that place, hated how he never felt like he had any right to be there, and it had been a relief when Jisoo asked him if he wanted to go in on something nicer with a few friends of hers.
The new apartment doesn’t feel like home either, but that’s okay for now.
The only thing he hadn't been counting on was Jisoo, Lalisa and Rosie plastering the bedroom walls with posters of their favorite idol. (Jennie pretends to be above such things but Jimin has seen her phone. She’s had a picture of JK from the Euphoria MV as her background for ages). Jimin had honestly thought the kid looked weird at first, with his big nose and those big eyes that made him look constantly startled and his slightly too prominent front teeth. Gawky, kind of like a rabbit.
But one day when he'd had off and all the girls had been working and he'd felt the oppressive weight of all those posters' collective stares, he'd decided he might as well see what was so special about this JK guy.
Jimin had innocently clicked play on the first search result on YouTube and waved goodbye to life as he knew it. Three hours later, he was still on his computer, in near hysterics at a behind-the-scenes video of Jungkook feeding a stray dog on the set of one of his MVs. Jungkook crouched down low and called to the dog in a sweet voice and then got startled when the dog gently licked his outstretched hand. His wide-eyed expression of shock and delight had made something tense in Jimin’s heart ease.
It’s just. Jungkook is so cute. And so nice. Kind, really. And so handsome, in a subtle way that sneaks up on you. He's really grown into his features these last few years especially. Jimin still can hardly believe how young JK looked when he first debuted. He's glad he waited a few years to become a fan – he still feels a little weird about having a silly crush on someone younger.
Jimin fell hard and fast. One day he had only the vaguest awareness of JK as 'the guy on the posters' and the next he could reel off by memory the track listings of Jungkook's first three studio releases.
That was a year and a half ago. His obsession has only intensified.
Last night had been Cookies’n’Cream 4. Jimin had tried everything he could think of, but he hadn't been able to get off to attend. JK's army of dedicated fans had ensured that videos and pictures of every single performance were uploaded almost instantly, but it still hadn't been the same as being there in person.
Jimin still hadn't been able to resist changing out his wallpaper. One of his favorite fansites, Lunar Prince, had taken an absolutely gorgeous shot of JK during Begin. Wearing a white button-down shirt that hugged his broad shoulders and narrow waist and smiling a gorgeous smile, Jungkook extends his hands towards the viewer, as if inviting them to step out of their humdrum existence and into his own dream world.
Like Jimin has any shot of anything like that happening. He's been waiting for his Prince Charming for a long time now. All he gets are assholes who won't shut off their laptops and old lechers who try to grab his ass during beverage service.
Right. Beverage service. Just one more flight, and a trip to the hotel, and then Jimin can spend as much time catching up on Cookies’n’Cream 4 as he wants.
As if on cue, the captain’s voice comes on over the PA system. "We're next in line for departure. Flight attendants take your seats, please."
Jimin puts his phone in his pocket. It's dumb, maybe, but after hundreds of flights and thousands of hours in the sky, he still gets the same little thrill of delighted, nervous excitement every time. He breathes in. The plane starts to accelerate. The engines' roar grows louder. He watches out the tiny window as they race down the runway, faster and faster. He inhales, and holds the breath, and then in a wonderful moment of weightlessness they're airborne, soaring up into sky.
That's the feeling Jimin loves: that very first moment of freedom. That's why he does this still, even when the days are long and the passengers are awful and he has to miss once-in-a-lifetime fan meets.
He closes his eyes for just a moment, and smiles to himself. Yes. It's still worth everything he has to give up to get to fly.
But that moment of peace is short-lived. A familiar electronic chime sounds. Jimin opens his eyes. Taehyung is already on his feet. It's time to get to work.
"Kim Namjoon-ssi," Jimin says, fixing a pleasant smile on his face. "What can I get you to drink this evening?"
Kim Namjoon – formerly the asshole in 1C – looks up, blinking. He's doing nearly as good a job as Jimin at pretending that he's forgotten all about their earlier altercation.
"Um," Kim Namjoon says. "Red wine?"
"Very good," Jimin says. "We have a beautiful Murrieta's Well and a Gran Claustro 2011 that has a delicious mouthfeel and notes of chocolate and herbs."
"Uh," Kim Namjoon says. "The first one, please"
Jimin nods. At some airlines the attendants write these things down, but on Asiana they memorize everything. It's a point of pride.
"And for your meal, sir?"
Kim Namjoon stares at the menu seriously. Jimin stifles a sigh. Couldn't he have done this earlier? This isn't some long-haul flight; they're operating on a tight schedule and Jimin's already had to waste time getting 1A's bag down from the overhead compartment for her.
"I'll take the bibimbap, please."
"Very good," Jimin says. "Please let me know if there's anything else I can get you to make your flight more pleasant."
Kim Namjoon smiles a vague smile and nods, but his attention is already back on his laptop.
Jimin knows a dismissal when he sees one.
Whatever. Truthfully, he doesn't have time to get all worked up. A lot of flight attendants prefer business class, but not Jimin. There are fewer passengers up here, but a lot more work to do. Taehyung is the lead on this flight and he picked coach, though, so Jimin hadn't had a choice. He gets the rest of the business class passengers' orders and then heads back to the galley. It's been four years since Jimin got his wings, and truth be told he can do this with his eyes closed now.
After a shaky start, things are going just fine even though the guy in 1B is angry they don't have guava juice. Jimin listens sympathetically to his complaints and offers orange juice instead, which the man accepts with a sniff. He gets 1B’s meal served and gets 1C's glass of wine and glass of water. Kim Namjoon is busily typing away at his computer again, expensive bluetooth headphones on. Jimin clears his throat to get his attention.
Kim Namjoon types away obliviously, happy as a clam.
"Sir," Jimin says, a little too loudly.
Startling, Kim Namjoon looks up.
"Oh," he says, eyes wide. He relaxes when he sees it's just Jimin with the wine. "Thanks."
He's really not that cute, no matter what Taehyung might think. He's got a nice smile, sure, and his dimples are kind of endearing, but he's not that handsome.
He's no Jeon Jungkook.
Jimin sets down his glass of water and the empty wine glass and then makes a little production of showing him the bottle.
Namjoon does his part by pretending to read the label, and then nods.
Jimin tips the bottle and a stream of rich, red cabernet pours into the glass. Namjoon smiles again, like he's looking forward to a drink.
Two terrible things happen then: the old woman in 1D decides she needs to use the restroom and they hit a patch of turbulence.
Old Mrs. 1D staggers just as she's trying to push past Jimin into the aisle. The turbulence isn't bad, but she doesn't look too steady on her feet to begin with. Jimin is sure she's going down, but her sense of self preservation must kick in because she grabs onto his shoulder instead. Unprepared to bear her weight, he lurches to the side. She falls anyway, and Jimin flails, upending the bottle of cabernet.
Wine spills all down Kim Namjoon's front, red as blood on his crisp, white shirt.
Everyone freezes for ten seconds. Jimin closes his eyes and wonders if he's hallucinating. He stayed up too late looking at pictures of Jungkook, and this is a hallucination induced by sleep deprivation. It has to be.
He opens his eyes. No such luck.
He swallows and considers curling up into a ball and crying, but his years of training and experience kick in. Mrs. 1D is moaning something incoherent about her back and her hip. Jimin jumps to his feet and steps over her to deposit the offending wine in the galley sink. It's a waste, but he has more urgent matters to attend to.
He sees Taehyung looking up from way back in coach, expression worried. Jimin steps back into the cabin.
"Sir," he says to Kim Namjoon. "I am so sorry. As soon as I've helped this passenger I will be right with you."
Kim Namjoon looks too amazed at what just happened to even reply.
Jimin helps Mrs. 1D to her feet. “Ma’am, are you okay?”
She turns her watery eyes on him and says, “I would have been fine if you hadn’t tripped me, young man.”
Taehyung, who has come up behind her, looks on in horror.
Kim Namjoon bursts out laughing.
Jimin closes his eyes. His cheeks are hot and his blood is boiling and in four years doing this job he’s never had anything close to this mortifying happen to him.
It costs him every ounce of self control he has to duck his head and say, “Ma’am, I am so sorry. I assure you it was an accident.”
He must not sound as contrite as he’d hoped because Taehyung jumps in then. “Jimin, let me help Mrs. Lee.” He must have looked at the passenger manifest on his way up here. He’s so good. “Why don’t you help Mr. Kim with his… situation?”
Jimin glances from Mrs. Lee, who is still clutching her side and moaning, to Kim Namjoon, who in spite of his wine-splattered shirt is watching the whole scene with visible amusement on his face.
Taehyung escorts Mrs. Lee up to the restroom, bearing most of her weight. He says something quietly to her, and she laughs. He’s so charming, so good. Jimin will never be as good with people as Taehyung is. Jimin closes his eyes and then, preparing to debase himself further, turns back to Kim Namjoon, bearing a warm towel and a stack of napkins.
“Sir, you have my deepest apologies. Asiana will reimburse you for any damage to your person and property.”
Namjoon takes the towel and cleans off his glasses. He looks younger without them on. “It’s really okay,” he says. “I was watching the whole thing and I know it wasn’t your fault.”
Some little knot of tension in Jimin’s chest unravels. He ducks his head. “You still have my most sincere apologies. This isn’t acceptable, whatever the cause, and we will make it whole.”
“Well,” Namjoon says. “You’re in luck, because my laptop was spared and this shirt is old. I’m going to look like an idiot clearing passport control, but it won’t be the first time I’ve looked like an idiot.” His smile softens. “Is the old woman ok?”
Jimin frowns. “I think she’ll be fine,” he says diplomatically. He remembers something then – something he’d stuck in his bag three days ago, when he’d set off from Seoul on a long haul flight to Bali. “Sir, if you’d like, I can offer you a pair of Asiana pajamas to change into. They aren’t one of the amenities normally offered on short-haul flights but I, um, have a pair on board.”
Namjoon smirks. “Are they as stylish as your vest and scarf getup?”
Jimin struggles to keep his face straight. He likes the vest and scarf, thank you very much. “I’m afraid they’re just plain gray jersey.”
Namjoon looks down at himself – gory aftermath of a violent crime spilled down his front. “I’ll take you up on that,” he says. “I thought the whole thing might make a good story for the people who are picking me up, but I don’t know them that well, and it’s probably better not to risk it.” He grins again.
In spite of himself, Jimin is charmed. Damnit.
Jimin keeps his face straight. “Of course. It’s the least I can do, sir.”
Fifteen minutes later sanity has been restored to the first class cabin. The rest of the meals have been served and the drinks have been poured. Mrs. 1D has accepted the fact that she hasn’t broken any limbs or dislocated her hip and is consoling herself with several strong martinis. The other passengers are focused on their food now that the excitement has passed. Jimin steps into the galley and exhales loudly. He is so ready to be done with this flight.
The bathroom light changes from red to green, and the door slides open. Kim Namjoon steps out, wearing Jimin’s complimentary pajamas. They’re a medium, which would have fit Jimin just fine, but they’re just a little too small on Kim Namjoon. He’s skinny, but his shoulders are broad and stretch the fabric.
Tall, well built, and has cute dimples? Damn. Maybe Taehyung was right.
Of course Jimin had to go and spill wine on the guy.
“How do I look?” Kim Namjoon asks, twirling in place.
Jimin stifles a grin. “Like you’re ready for bed,” he says solemnly. “I only wish we had lie-flat seats so I could make one up for you, sir.”
Namjoon chuckles. “I’ve had a few people tell me they wanted to get into bed with me,” he says, “but I’ve ever had anyone tell me they wanted to make up up a bed for me.” His eyes search for a moment and settle on Jimin’s name tag. “I’ll have to take you up on that next time, Park Jimin.”
Jimin’s cheeks are so hot he must look like a persimmon. They’re probably going to get stuck this way. He can’t tell if Kim Namjoon is hitting on him, or teasing him, or both. He swallows and stands up straighter. “I’ll look forward to serving you on a long-haul flight to one of our over two dozen international destinations, sir.”
Kim Namjoon laughs, loud and delighted. “You’re good,” he says.
Jimin can’t help but smirk. “Asiana prides itself on its professionalism.”
Namjoon gives one more bark of a laugh and heads back to his seat, still smiling.
“You survived?” Taehyung asks when he comes up from coach a few moments later. “How’s your fall victim?”
“Drunk,” Jimin says honestly. He just gave Mrs. 1D her third martini.
“1C looks happy,” Taehyung says slyly. “Where’d you get the pajamas anyway? I’ve wanted pair of those for ages.”
“Oh,” Jimin says, rinsing the wine glass he’s holding and reaching for the next one. “I mentioned it to Youngjae the last time we flew together. He was lead on that run to Bali I did a few days ago, and you know him. He’s always got a way to make things happen.”
“Too bad you had to give them away,” Taehyung says. “Maybe you should get Kim Namjoon’s phone number and suggest you stop by to get them back sometime.”
Jimin rolls his eyes. “He’s not as much of an asshole as I thought, but it’s against the rules to proposition passengers.”
Taehyung rolls his eyes. “Like I don’t know that,” he says. “Just saying. He is cute, and he was definitely checking you out when you were getting the pajamas down from your bag. He’s interested, is all I’m saying. Or are you still saving yourself for Jeon Jungkook?”
There go Jimin’s cheeks again. The tips of his ears are hot too. “Shut up,” he mutters. “I’m not saving myself for anyone. I’m just not going to make an idiot out of myself by hitting on a guy I spilled half a bottle of wine on.”
Taehyung grimaces. “Okay, yeah. Not exactly the best first impression there, Jimin.”
Jimin washes and rinses the last glass. He closes his eyes and exhales. With the stress and excitement he hadn’t even realized that his headache had gone away. Funny how that doesn’t feel like much consolation now.
The PA comes on and the captain announces that they’re beginning their descent into the Tokyo metropolitan area. Taehyung heads to the back and Jimin gets back to work clearing the first class cabin. Full and sleepy, the passengers are quiet. Had Namjoon really been checking Jimin out? He’d been flirting pretty intensely, but some guys are just like that. It is against the rules to proposition passengers, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen, and it has been a while since Jimin’s gone on an actual date.
He writes his number on a cocktail napkin and then heads back to clear Namjoon’s tray. That little thread of anxiety in his chest has gotten tangled into a knot again. Jimin’s never been great at this kind of thing. He can fake it when he’s in uniform, but that’s different. On his own, without his vest and his wings and his position, he’s a bit of a mess.
Namjoon is staring at his laptop again when Jimin walks up with what he hopes is a confident smile on his face.
“Sir, are you all finished?”
The napkin feels damp in his hand.
Distracted, Namjoon looks up. Their eyes meet. There’s none of that gentle warmth from earlier, just the vague disinterest of someone interacting with a server.
“Oh,” he says. “Yeah. I’m good.” And then he turns back to his computer.
Jimin exhales and nods and clears Namjoon’s tray with shaky hands.
Thankfully he doesn’t spill anything else.
Back in the galley, he crumples up the napkin with his phone number and tosses it in the trash.
What had he been thinking? He shakes his head. Just a few more hours and he’ll be in his hotel room where he can finally catch up on the day’s JK news.
His friends might give him shit about being an idol fan but JK isn’t just a talented singer and dancer. He’s a good person. A kind person, who always treats his fans well.
Kindness is in short supply these days.
It's nine o'clock before Jimin finally gets into bed with his iPad. They didn't get to Narita until almost seven, and he and Taehyung had to make an official injury report about the incident with the woman in 1D. He'd taken the shuttle by himself – Taehyung had to head to his own hotel near Haneda – and picked up a decent looking bento at the convenience store down the street from the hotel before practically throwing himself into his room.
There's no feeling in the entire world that Jimin likes better than closing his door and clicking the lock. He's got a five thirty wake-up call scheduled for tomorrow morning and he needs to get to bed, but after he takes off his nametag and his uniform and washes his face, he feels like a regular person again.
It's nice to overnight in Tokyo. The hotels are always really good: soft sheets and comfy pillows. He leans back against the headboard and starts scrolling through his twitter feed. Jimin follows fan sites mostly. He's always been a little hesitant to make too many friends in the fandom, because he's older and he's a guy and he knows how that might look. He has a few people he talks to – people he’d call friends even – but mostly he's content just to enjoy the pictures and videos that other fans take.
He pauses on a post by ChocolateChip. She's been with Jungkook since his debut, and she's got almost three hundred thousand followers herself. She must have been really close at last night's fan meet, because her pictures are so high definition he can see the little faded scar on JK's cheek.
Ah. Jungkook. He looked so good last night. He's in profile in ChocolateChip’s picture, lit from behind so that he seems almost to glow. His hair is mussed and he's beaming. He looks so happy that it makes Jimin smile reflexively, heart glad.
It's so weird feeling this way about someone he's never met and will never meet. It's not like he's got a crush on Jungkook, exactly. Not a real crush. Jimin thinks he's cute – gorgeous, actually – and he is awed by Jungkook's talent, but he doesn't daydream about going on coffee dates with him or holding hands while they stroll along the Han River or kissing Jungkook's sweet, pink mouth...
He doesn't daydream too often, anyway.
It makes him happier than he can say to see Jungkook looking so happy and well. He's spent the last few months on tour – hitting up not just Japan and China but also all of Southeast Asia. Jimin knows better than anyone how draining that kind of travel is, and he'd been worried to see Jungkook looking more and more tired and worn in each set of airport pictures. The Asian leg of the tour wrapped up three weeks ago, though, and it looks like Jungkook has taken some time to rest. His cheeks look fuller and his skin looks clear and he looks like he's having the time of his life on stage.
Jimin keeps scrolling, past picture after picture of Jungkook performing, Jungkook playing a game with a fan, Jungkook in a milk carton costume, Jungkook wearing a bunny-ear headband. He saves a few that particularly catch his interest. When he was in the first throes of his obsession, he'd save almost every picture, but after filling a five hundred gig external hard drive with the fruits of his labor he decided to cut back. He just saves the really cute pictures now.
By the time Jimin gets through his feed, he's feeling a lot calmer. His day was shitty and he's still angry he had to miss the fan meet, but tomorrow he'll get his concert tickets. He'll see Jungkook in person again soon enough.
He sets his iPad down and slips out of bed. The hotel room is chilly. Gooseflesh on his bare arms and chest. He steps over to the window. He's on the tenth floor tonight, and the glittering lights of Tokyo are spread out like a net of stars. It is beautiful, but he's seen it so many times now that the pleasure has dimmed.
He shuts the curtain, blotting out the whole world.
When he first started flying, he'd made it a point to text his mom every night and let her know that he'd gotten to his destination safely. They still talk often, but not every night now. He loves his mom a lot. They look like each other and even have similar mannerisms. He’s about as close to her as he is to anyone. Lately, though, every time he calls she asks him how his job is, if he’s thinking of coming to visit, if he’s met anyone new.
It’s subtle, but he knows his mom and he can tell she’s thinking that maybe it’s time Jimin settle down and get off the road. She’s just worried about him. He doesn’t know how to reassure her that even though it’s very hard sometimes he’s doing what he wants to do. Jimin might not love his job right this second, or this week, or even this month, but he does love it.
He gets out a shirt for the morning and irons it and hangs it in the little closet. He sets out his shoes and his pants and his vest and his watch, everything in its place. He brushes his teeth and washes his face. His reflection in the mirror looks tired and a little shabby. He needs a haircut when he gets home. Maybe he'll dye it again before the concert. Something different would be nice.
He double checks that both of his alarms are set (just in case the front desk doesn't call) and then climbs back into bed. He shuts off the light on the nightstand and reaches for his phone. He checks twitter one more time before he goes to bed, and good thing too – RabbitintheMoon97 just posted a fan cam of Magic Shop. Jungkook debuted the fan song at last year's Cookies’n’Cream, but it hasn't been officially released yet. Even so, it's one of Jimin's favorites. It was last night's encore stage, and Jimin has to swallow back a lump in his throat when halfway through the song Jungkook chokes up. His big eyes sparkle with tears, and he buries his face in his hands for a moment before recovering and finishing the song in a loud, clear voice.
The video ends with Jungkook waving at the crowd with both hands, beaming and delighted while his dancer hyungs run out from the wings to take their bow with him. Jimin smiles and puts down his phone and lies there awake for a little while, smiling, thinking about Jungkook's cute front teeth and the way his eyes go wide when he gets excited and his voice and his dancing and all of it. Thinking that a world with Jeon Jungkook in it can't really be so awful.
"Oh fuck," Jimin says quietly.
He feels like all the air has been squeezed from his chest.
It's five o'clock and he is sitting outside of gate 24 in Chubu Centrair International Airport. Their flight back to Incheon is supposed to board in a half an hour, but they just got the call they're delayed until almost seven.
They're going to be in the air when the tickets go on sale. Fuck. Jimin's going to miss the concert.
He blinks a few times. He's not going to cry, damnit. It's just been such a long day, and he's been looking forward to this for so long, and now he's going to miss it. Outside, a bleak spring rain falls. Jimin feels as low and miserable as the weather.
"Hey," Yuna says consolingly. He works with her pretty often, and she knows all about his JK thing, even though her drug of choice is EXO. "We might get moved back up. Maybe we'll get home on time."
Jimin shrugs. "Maybe," he says glumly. He sighs. "It's okay. I should have made sure I was off today. I could have asked one of the girls to try for a ticket for me. It's not that big of a deal."
He pastes a weak smile on his face.
Yuna frowns. "It's a big deal if you're upset," she says. "I'm really sorry, oppa."
Jimin shrugs. "I'll get over it," he says.
Yuna purses her lips. “Hey – maybe we'll get canceled. If we get canceled and head back to the hotel, you’ll have plenty of time to get your ticket."
Jimin nods. It's possible. Weather in Seoul is awful right now, and there have been a few other cancellations. If they get canceled soon, he would have plenty of time to get set up before tickets go on sale. Just maybe...
The flight does not get cancelled.
They board an hour and forty minutes late. Jimin's stomach is twisted in knots but he smiles and greets the passengers as graciously as he knows how. They taxi out to the runway and then are held for another forty minutes. There's a little girl in the second row of coach with her mother who is furiously upset. Jimin feels awful seeing her scrunched up little red face. He gets one of the little pins they keep on hand for emergencies like this, and crouches down by her seat.
"Hi sweetheart," he says, smiling. "You're so brave, getting on a big plane. Is this the first time you've flown on a plane?"
She is maybe four or five years old, and her mother prompts her to answer. "Eunmi-yah, answer the nice man."
She blinks and sniffs, shaking her head. "No," she says. "We came here to visit my grandma."
"Ah," Jimin says, nodding gravely. "So you're a professional. Since you've flown so much, I have a surprise for you."
She looks at him with big, wet eyes and holds out her hand. He grins and drops the pin into her little palm. It's just a cheap thing, painted gold in imitation of the wings that Jimin and his fellow crew wear, but she grins, delighted.
"It's sharp," he says, "so let your mom help you put it on, okay?"
Her grateful mother smiles at him as she leans over to fasten the pin to the little girl's shirt. Once it's fastened there she puffs her chest out to show off her new prize.
"Now that you have your wings," Jimin says, still crouching down, "you have a big responsibility, okay? You have to help Yuna-ssi and me by keeping really quiet. Can you do that?"
She nods, lower lip still a little shaky but looking much more resolute now.
Jimin gives her his biggest grin and gets to his feet.
He feels a little bit better after that.
By the time they finally take off, it's eight thirty. The flight is running two and a half hours late, and the passengers are mutinous. Jimin still feels half sick with nerves and anger but he smiles his cheeriest smile and gets on with food and beverage service.
When tickets to JK's concert go on sale at ten, they are somewhere over the East Sea. The cabin lights are dimmed, and the passengers are dozing. Jimin and Yuna are up in the galley. Jimin takes out his phone. Jungkook's smile seems like a reproach.
"Well," he says, "oh well."
"Aw," Yuna says. "I'm sorry, oppa. The same thing happened to me last year when tickets for EXO Planet went on sale."
Jimin just shrugs. He feels a little dumb, getting so upset. He'd just been looking forward to the concert so much.
"It's no big deal," he says. "There will be other concerts. Besides, there's no guarantee I would have gotten tickets anyway. Last time they sold out in five minutes."
"Wow," Yuna says, laughing. "Your boy is getting popular."
Jimin huffs. "He's not my boy," he says, "And he's always been popular. I know he’s no EXO but his public recognition has really increased since Mysterious Kiss. His songs have always charted really well and he had the top selling male idol album for the last –"
Yuna laughs. "I know he's popular, oppa. I was just kidding. He's Jeon Jungkook. Even my grandma knows who he is. She watched every episode of that drama."
"Yeah," Jimin sighs. "If she gets tickets to the concert, do you think she'll invite me?"
Yuna laughs. "I don't know," she says. "You might have some stiff competition. Last time I was home my sister had a JK poster hanging up in her room."
The call button rings then and Yuna steps out to attend to some needy first class passenger.
Jimin sighs, glancing down at his phone again. "Sorry," he says quietly. He's not even sure if he's apologizing to Jungkook or himself. He feels a little better now, but damn, it's still shitty.
He'd wanted to go so badly.
Oh well. Like he said, there's always next time. He puts his phone away and gets out a trash bag to go begin collecting the service items.
It's after midnight when he gets home. All the girls are out. They don't keep track of each other's schedules, but it’s not uncommon for the apartment to be empty. Lisa and Rosie especially sneak in weekends in their respective hometowns whenever they can. He drops his bag in the living room without unpacking, takes a quick shower, brushes his teeth, and gets into bed. He plugs in his phone, but he can't quite bring himself to catch up on twitter. He doesn't want to see everyone celebrating their successful ticketing. He sighs. He really shouldn't be this upset. It's just a concert.
He is upset, though. He rolls over and presses his face into his pillow and lets all the tears he fought back earlier spill out. He cries until his throat hurts, and then he gets up and washes his face again and gets back into bed, totally worn out.
Truth be told, Jimin might not have lasted past his first six months as a flight attendant if it hadn’t been for Jung Hoseok. Although Hoseok is only a year older than Jimin, he’d already had his wings for three years by the time Jimin finished training. In fact, Hoseok had been there on Jimin’s final training fight, and he’d given Jimin a big hug after they’d landed in Taipei.
“You did it, kid!” he’d said, sounding as happy for Jimin as anyone possibly could.
Jimin had blushed and hugged him back, flattered and pleased, because Hoseok was just about the platonic ideal of a flight attendant. Tall, slim, and handsome, he cut a dashing figuring in his perfectly pressed slacks and dress shirt. He was rarely in a bad mood, and when he was he never let even a second of displeasure color his interactions with passengers. He followed the rules to a T, but didn’t make things stifling or unpleasant like a few of the people that Jimin had trained with. Beyond all of that, he was just a great guy – kind and caring and all around awesome.
Jimin always looked forward to flying with Hoseok, and dreamed one day of being as good as he was. Hoseok was something of a mentor, something of a role model, and definitely one of Jimin’s best friends.
Six months ago, when Hoseok had announced that he was transferring to ticketing, Jimin had been quietly devastated.
“I think this will be so much better,” Hoseok confessed quietly. “I thought I could make it work, Jimin-ah, and Yoongi never complains, but I just want to be around him, you know? I got sick of missing him every time I left.”
Jimin had nodded, although he hadn’t known then and he doesn’t really know now. He’s never felt that way about anyone, and he’s not sure there’s anything that could get him to give up his wings.
But, he thinks, maybe Hoseok had made the right decision. It is a Saturday morning and Jimin is sitting across the table from Hoseok and his boyfriend, Yoongi. It’s hard to get together often, but they try to grab brunch once or twice a month when Jimin is in town on the weekend. It’s always good to see them – Jimin has to admit that Yoongi is a pretty awesome guy, after you get to know him. And Hoseok literally radiates contentment these days. Jimin has never seen anyone look as utterly happy as he does right now.
“Thank god he wasn’t a total dick about it,” Jimin says, taking another sip of his mimosa.
“Wow, no kidding, Jimin,” Hoseok says.
Jimin is relating the story of the asshole with the laptop and that damn bottle of red wine.
“He was actually pretty cool about the whole thing,” Jimin admits begrudgingly. “The lady who nearly tripped me wanted to sue.”
Yoongi snorts. “For what? Rug burn?”
Jimin shakes his head. “She claims she injured her hip,” he says incredulously.
Hoseok laughs. “Oh god,” he says. “Did I ever tell you the story of the guy who dumped the coffee on himself?”
“No,” Jimin says, grinning. “Dumped it on himself?”
Hoseok waves a breezy hand. “It was some long haul – I forget where. Maybe somewhere in Europe? Anyway, the was a guy in first class who was drinking whiskey the whole flight. Glenfiddich, I think. Maybe four or five little bottles, and he didn’t eat his meal. He wasn’t totally shit faced, but he was close.”
Yoongi grimaces. “No offence, but I can’t imagine a worse place to get trashed than on a plane.”
“I wish more people were as sensible as you are, honey,” he says, patting Yoongi on the cheek.
Yoongi scowls and then blushes.
“Anyway,” Hoseok continues, “we start the breakfast service and this guy gets a cup of coffee. I guess it was too hot. Those urns are so unpredictable.”
Jimin nods. It’s true. You never know whether the coffee is going to be scalding or tepid.
“He took a sip, and burned his tongue, and he must have been pretty far gone at that point because he picked up the cup to see if there was a ‘Caution – contents are hot warning’ and dumped the entire thing in his lap.
Jimin snorts and then covers his mouth to smother it. People seriously lose twenty IQ points the minute they step on a plane.
“Ouch,” Yoongi says, grimacing.
“Ouch is right,” Hoseok says. “He was howling so loudly I could hear him all the way in the back of the plane. Kibum got involved and got the guy into the bathroom and cleaned up, but he was furious. I heard he sued both for the ahem, material damage and because we were negligent in letting him drink all those whiskeys.”
Jimin shakes his head. “People are terrible.
“You don’t even want to know what I’ve found in the back of my cab,” Yoongi says darkly.
Yoongi is a taxi driver. Hoseok and Yoongi met, actually, when Hoseok had ordered a car to pick him up at two in the morning for a very early call. He’d expected the normal uncommunicative ahjussi and been startled to find Yoongi – close to his own age, with a wry sense of humor – instead. Hoseok had traded stories with Yoongi about the perils of working in the transportation industry all the way to Incheon, delighted by Yoongi’s goofy laugh and the bright eyes he glimpsed in the rear view mirror.
The next time he’d arranged for a car, he’d requested Yoongi as a driver, and then the next. Hoseok had started arranging for a car service even when he could barely justify it. It had taken six months of this before Yoongi worked up the nerve to ask him out, but they’ve been basically inseparable ever since.
“Vomit?” Jimin asks, grimacing. Motion sickness is more common than he’d ever realized before he started flying, and he knows Yoongi drives his fair share of drunks.
“Worse,” Yoongi says darkly. “Far worse.”
Hoseok reaches for his hand and gives it a consoling squeeze. “But you’ve only got another year, and then you’ll be Doctor Min Yoongi, and you’ll never have to drive a cab again.”
In addition to being a cab driver, Yoongi is also pursuing a PhD in ethnomusicology at Yonsei. When he’d revealed this to Hoseok a month into their awkward Incheon-Seoul courtship, Hoseok had been amazed and even more besotted.
“It’s not that bad,” Yoongi grumbles. “I mean, I met you didn’t I?”
Hoseok beams at him, and they kiss, sweet and chaste.
Jimin takes his phone out and glances at it. He has a message from someone asking if he can trade shifts next week. He thinks he can do it, but he needs to check his schedule to be sure.
“You know, I almost miss flying,” Hoseok says wistfully.
“You can always transfer back,” Yoongi says gently.
“No,” Hoseok says, shaking his head. “No. This was the right choice.”
Yoongi beams at him, embarrassed and delighted.
Jimin braces for more PDA but thankfully the waiter comes then with their meals. They’re trying a new place today that serves ten different types of eggs Benedict. Jimin got his with smoked salmon and avocado and olives. They are all quiet for a few moments as they dig into their food.
After a few minutes, Hoseok nudges Yoongi with his elbow and asks, “Well?”
Yoongi swallows and frowns. “‘S good,” he says. “I still think brunch is bullshit, but yeah, it’s good.” Yoongi has some kind of ethical objection to brunch, but he still joins them almost every time they get together. He brings a forkful of his own food – eggs Benedict with gochujang hollandaise, kimchi, and pork belly – to Hoseok’s mouth. Hoseok happily accepts.
“Yours is better than mine,” he says a little sadly, even though his looks very good too – served over a round of cornbread with chipotle hollandaise.
“Let’s trade then,” Yoongi says. “I wanna try yours too, anyway.”
“No, hyung,” Hoseok protests. “It’s fine.”
But it’s too late. Yoongi has already switched their plates.
Hoseok beams and kisses him on the cheek.
Jimin’s always been a bit romantic, but this gratuitous display of new love is almost too much for him to handle.
When Yoongi gets up to go to the restroom a little while later, Jimin says, “I was going to ask if you had any regrets, but I guess not.”
Hoseok sighs happily. “You know, I do miss it a little,” he says, “but I really, really love him, Jiminnie. He’s really sweet, and funny, and shy, and so smart. He cares so much more than he lets on.” He shrugs, as if lacking adequate words to further expound upon Yoongi’s innumerable admirable qualities.
“I’m really happy for you, hyung,” Jimin says, smiling as broadly as he can.
“Thanks, Jimin,” Hoseok says. “And what about you? Other than spilling wine on passengers, what have you been up to lately?”
Jimin shrugs. “Just working, I guess. You know how it gets sometimes.”
Hoseok nods. He does. “Not seeing anyone, then?” he asks, a bit slyly.
Jimin shakes his time. “When would I even have time to meet someone?”
Hoseok makes an exasperated noise. “Don’t say that. You never know when it’s going to happen. Look at Yoongi and I!”
Jimin shakes his head. “Nah,” he says. “That kind of thing doesn’t happen to me.”
Jimin is an attractive enough guy in his mid-twenties with a good job. He’s a bit short, but he keeps himself in shape. He hooks up with people once in a while, when the mood strikes him, but those are just fleeting physical encounters. His job isn’t exactly conducive to dating. He can’t remember the last time he met someone he thought he might really like.
“It might be happening right now,” Hoseok says, annoyed. “You need to give people a chance, Jimin.”
“I give people a chance,” Jimin protests, even though he knows he can be quick to judge at times.
Hoseok rolls his eyes, and turns back to Jimin. “Why don’t you just join a dating site or something? You’d meet tons of guys that way, Jimin. I mean, you’re really cute and you have a great career. People would be tripping over each other to swipe right on you.”
Hoseok – and others – say things like that, but somehow it’s never quite what happens. Jimin has tried dating apps before, but it feels so weird and impersonal.
“I don’t know,” he says slowly. “I think this just isn’t the right time. It’ll happen for me when it’s supposed to, or it won’t. I’m not worried.”
He takes a defiant sip of mimosa.
Hoseok sighs. “I know Jimin-ah. I just want to see you as happy as I am, you know?”
He smiles at Yoongi, just coming back from the restroom. Yoongi smiles back, and then ducks his head as if unsure what he did to merit such intense affection.
Jimin rolls his eyes. He gets it. He really does. It’s not some uncommon dream, falling into heartshaking, world-changing love, but it doesn’t happen for everyone. He’s happy with the little life he’s made for himself. Happy, and proud.
“I’m okay, hyung,” he says. “Honestly. I mean, if I never end up meeting the right guy, so what?”
“Well,” Hoseok says slowly, “that would be fine, of course, Jimin-ah. As long as you’re happy.”
“I am,” Jimin says stubbornly.
Hoseok smiles, satisfied with that answer, and then he and Yoongi get caught up in a long and contentious discussion about where they should go to buy a new lamp for their living room. Jimin slowly picks at the remainder of his breakfast, and thinks about what Hoseok had said. Are his standards too high? He never thought so. But still, when he closes his eyes and thinks about his ideal guy, it’s Jungkook’s face he sees.
Admittedly, JK is hard to top, but Jimin isn’t pining. Really. He’s tried dating. It’s just never worked out for one reason or another: his travel schedule, or lack of compatibility, or plain old disinterest.
He’s just never met anyone quite good enough to make him want to give up what he has. He’s happy, and maybe that’s good enough.
Two days later, Jimin wakes up at the ungodly hour of 4AM. Lalisa and Jennie are asleep in their beds. He gets up quietly and creeps into the bathroom to shower and shave and dress. He packed his bag last night, so after he dries his hair and pulls on his uniform the only thing he needs to do is grab his stuff and head downstairs. He knows he should take the shuttle to Incheon, but it's so early that he splurged on a car service. Whatever. His living expenses are low. He saves and sends money to his parents every month. This isn't that much in the grand scheme of things.
He dozes in the back seat of the car. The only nice thing about having such an early flight is that there's no traffic. It's an hour from his place to the airport and he's able to get a nice nap in before they pull up out front. He tips the driver and grabs his bag and he's inside well before he needs to be at the gate. He's not hungry yet, but he could use some coffee, so he heads through security (using the CREW ONLY lane still gives him a little thrill) and then to Starbucks.
He checks his phone while he waits in line. He doesn't know any of the other flight attendants working this shift with him. It's always nice to work with friends, but he doesn't mind either way. He hops on to twitter for a second, but there's not too much going on right now. An artist he follows posted a really pretty piece of fanart – Jungkook dressed like a Joseon-era nobleman, posing in front of a stylized cherry tree. He's still admiring it when the guy at the counter says, "Excuse me? Sir?"
Whoops. Jimin puts his phone in his pocket. Hopefully nobody saw what distracted him so much. He smiles. "Sorry," he says cheerily. "Still waking up. No caffeine yet."
The spotty kid nods impatiently, not impressed with Jimin's flight attendant voice.
"Um, I'll have a grande midnight mocha Frappuccino, please."
Jimin pays and steps over to the side to wait for his order. He crosses his arms. A stylish mother and her daughter get their drinks. A tall man in fashionably ripped jeans and a black blazer with brown leather elbow patches taps his foot impatiently. He's standing a few yards away from Jimin, imperious as he waits for his double shot espresso or flat white or whatever pretentious drink he's ordered. He's wearing sunglasses indoors like an asshole, but he's also long and lean – just the kind of build Jimin likes. His platinum blonde hair is long on top, slicked back from his face.
Where's he going? Jimin likes to play this game with passengers sometimes. Maybe New York? Sydney? He's dressed well enough that maybe he works in fashion. His luggage gives no clues: he's got one of those fancy black Rimowas, clearly not new but also devoid of stickers or any other identifying marks.
Just another stranger, off on some exciting adventure.
"Namjoon?" one of the cheerful clerks calls, setting an iced americano down on the counter. "Jimin?" she says, almost immediately.
Jimin and the well-dressed man reach for their drinks at the same time.
Namjoon – Kim Namjoon! – grins at Jimin, unleashing those damn dimples again.
"Please," he says, stepping back to let Jimin get his drink. Jimin ducks his head and grabs his Frappuccino and heads to the little bar with the sugar and napkins to get a straw.
"Do those actually have any caffeine in them?"
Jimin looks up. Kim Namjoon is standing beside him, still wearing those goofy sunglasses, smirking as he reaches for a straw of his own.
"They have enough," Jimin says briskly.
Namjoon shrugs. "Just seems more like a dessert than a coffee to me."
"Thankfully, you don't have to drink it," Jimin says. He wraps a napkin around his cup and steps back into the concourse.
"Good point." Kim Namjoon is right beside him. Great.
"Where are you headed today?" he asks conversationally.
Jimin considers giving the cold shoulder, but maybe it's just easier to play along.
"Nanjing," he says.
"Nice," Namjoon says. "And then?"
Jimin sighs. "Then back here. Then to Chengdu."
Namjoon whistles. "Wow. You're a busy man, aren't you?"
Jimin just shrugs. "It's a normal shift," he says.
"I was hoping you'd be working my flight again," Namjoon says.
Oh. Are they flirting again now? Jimin swallows. "Where are you going?"
Namjoon smiles. "Back to Tokyo," he says.
"You must fly a lot," Jimin says blandly.
Namjoon nods. "I have been lately. I'm working on a big project right now, so I'm going over every four or five days for meetings. Do you fly to Tokyo a lot?"
Jimin shrugs. "Sometimes," he says. "I don't have any flights scheduled there right now though."
"Too bad." They're right at the intersection of two of the concourses. "I'm this way," Namjoon says, nodding towards his gate.
"Ah," Jimin says. "I'm going out of 50."
Namjoon tuts. "Too bad."
"You just said that," Jimin says, rolling his eyes.
"Just being sociable," Namjoon says pleasantly. "It was nice to see you again, Park Jimin. I washed your pajamas. I'll have to stick them in my bag for the next time we run into each other."
Jimin laughs, charmed in spite of himself. "You can keep them," he says. "I got them for free."
"That wouldn't be fair," Namjoon says. "I'll have to owe you, then."
"I ruined your shirt," Jimin says, grinning. "I owe you, if anything."
Namjoon shakes his head. “Nah. I told that story at a dinner party and it was a huge hit, so I'm doubly in your debt."
"I'll have to spill something on you again, then.“ Jimin quips.
Namjoon wrinkles his nose. It is a cute nose. "Nah," he says. "Stretches the boundaries of believability."
Jimin nods. Fair enough. He waits just a moment too long to say anything, and there's an awkward interruption to the rhythm of their conversation.
"See you around, Park Jimin," Namjoon says softly. He smiles, his cheeks do that dimply thing again, and then he is gone, just another anonymous traveler disappearing in the crowd.
Jimin presses his hand to his warm cheek. Huh. Weird.
Two days later, Jimin is in Tokyo, and everything is a mess.
He's not supposed to be in Tokyo. He's supposed to be in Seoul, enjoying a relaxing day off, but he'd been on reserve and bad weather in Southeast Asia had thrown the schedules into disarray so he'd gotten called in. He's worked four segments already today and they're getting in late after an earlier ground stop. The hotels closest to Haneda are all full. Jimin got stuck some place in Shinegawa. It sounds a lot nicer than his usual digs, but he's exhausted and it's raining and the thought of taking the train is making him feel a little sick.
After the last passenger is helped off the plane and he and the other attendants do a final check of the cabin, Jimin gets his bag down from the overhead compartment and heads out into the terminal. It's pretty empty this time of night. His stomach growls and he considers stopping to pick something up for dinner here, but really more than anything he just wants to get to the hotel and wash up and get into bed.
He heads out into the arrivals area. Prominent signs point him towards the trains, but ugh. He's just not sure he can do it tonight. He knows he shouldn't spend the money, but he goes the other direction, towards ground transportation. He'll buckle down and start taking the AREX again. He'll cut back on expensive coffee. Tonight, he's taking a cab.
But the cab line stretches down the sidewalk. A dismal rain falls. Sodden businessmen huddle under their umbrellas. A siren sounds somewhere nearby. Jimin feels a headache coming on.
This is going to take forever. He hesitates for a moment – maybe the train would be faster? He has an umbrella somewhere in his bag, but he doesn’t want to dig it out. He squeezes his eyes shut and swallows. He really doesn't hate his job but there are moments – like this one – where everything feels entirely too overwhelming for him. He doesn't want to be standing outside Haneda International Airport on a blustery evening waiting in an endless taxi line. He’d rather be anywhere else.
He glances down at his phone. Jungkook's smiling face gives him strength. It's quarter to nine. Late, but not that late. Fine. He's just decided to make his way to the end of the line when –
"Hey Park Jimin. I thought you weren't scheduled to fly into Tokyo."
Jimin looks up.
A tall man in a long grey trench coat, wearing light denim jeans cuffed at the ankles. His blond hair isn't slicked back today; it falls in his face, unstyled, but it's no less flattering this way.
Jimin sighs. "I was on reserve," he says. "Got called in."
Namjoon shakes his head. He looks sickeningly relaxed and happy for this hour. "That sucks," he says.
"Yeah," Jimin says. He doesn't have the energy to banter today.
Namjoon narrows his eyes. "It's a nightmare trying to get a taxi here."
"Yeah," Jimin says dryly, "I’ve gathered that."
"Where are you going?" Namjoon asks.
"Shinegawa. Uh. The Intercontinental Tokyo?"
"Oh," Namjoon says appreciatively. "Nice. Treating yourself tonight?"
Jimin rolls his eyes. "The company books our hotels for us. Everything around here was full, I guess."
Namjoon nods. He hesitates a moment, tilting his head. "This is gonna sound weird, but I can drop you off there if you want. I have a car coming for me and it's right on my way."
"Getting into cars with strange men is one of those things my mother warned me about when I told her I wanted to be a flight attendant." Jimin raises an eyebrow, daring.
Namjoon laughs. "Strange men? Come on. I'm not a strange man. You know me. You've spilled wine on me."
Jimin is never going to live that down, is he?
The wind gusts suddenly. Someone loses hold of their umbrella and it tumbles down the sidewalk. Jimin is only wearing his uniform jacket over a button up shirt. He's not dressed for this weather. The taxi line seems to have grown even longer.
This might be a mistake. Jimin is too tired to care.
"You don't look like a serial killer, I guess," he says. "You're sure it's not a problem?"
Namjoon leans forward a little. "If I were a serial killer, do you think I'd look like one?"
Jimin frowns. "Okay, that’s creepy. I'm just gonna go get in the taxi line."
Namjoon laughs again, a whole body laugh with his eyes scrunched shut and both his dimples showing. "Relax," he says. "I'm just messing with you. I'm not a serial killer. I'm in the music industry, actually."
"Oh," Jimin says. Huh. That's kind of cool. He wonders if Namjoon knows anyone famous.
"Is that a respectable enough occupation for you to accept a ride?"
Jimin nods. "Just this once," he says warningly, but he follows along as Namjoon leads them down past the taxi line to where sleek black sedans await more privileged travelers.
A man holding a little dry erase board with Namjoon's name written on it in English helps them put their luggage into the trunk. Namjoon has a brief conversation with him in what sounds like fairly fluent Japanese. (Jimin's Japanese is limited to those basic requests and commands he has to give in the line of duty.) The driver holds the door for Namjoon on one side of the car and then Jimin on the other, and then pulls out into the traffic.
It's a little weird. Namjoon sits smiling on one side of the back seat and Jimin sits on the other, resting his head against the window. They don't say much. The driver has the radio turned on, but the volume is too low for Jimin to make out much of anything other than the occasional incongruous laugh track. The car is nice, but not new. There's a little tear in the seat, and the floor needs to be vacuumed. Still, it's a hell of a lot nicer than a taxi.
Their one attempt at conversation falters.
"When are you flying out?" Namjoon asks, gently inquisitive.
"Um," Jimin says. "Tomorrow morning."
It's a lie. He has no idea why he doesn’t just tell the truth. He's not flying out until the day after next; he has all day tomorrow with nothing in particular to do.
Namjoon nods. "Ah," he says. "Always on the go.”
"Yeah," Jimin says. “That’s kind of the way it works.”
It comes out more harshly than he intends.
Namjoon smiles, but then looks away, and that's it.
The cool glass feels nice against Jimin's cheek. The hotel is only twenty minutes by car according to his phone, but something – the weather, construction, an accident – has the highway all backed up. They creep along. In Seoul, people would be leaning on their car horns, but everything is strangely silent here. Raindrops on the windows. The orange glow of the streetlights against the washed out city night sky. They're very near the bay, and Jimin can see glimpses of the inky unquiet water between the buildings, between the other cars.
Traffic lets up. They start moving, and in no time at all they're pulling up in front of the hotel. Oh. It looks even nicer than Jimin expected. The driver parks and gets Jimin's bag from the trunk. For a moment, Jimin thinks he should – what? Ask for Namjoon's phone number. No. He’s got no plausible reason to do that.
"Thank you, Kim Namjoon," he says.
Namjoon smiles at him. "My pleasure, Park Jimin."
The driver hands Jimin his bag and bows and Jimin wonders for a wild moment if he should tip the guy? But it’s already too late. He's getting back into the car and pulling away from the curb, back towards the highway.
He can't tell if Namjoon waves back; the windows are tinted black.
Jimin enjoys his day off in Tokyo. The hotel is really nice. His room is big and he has an amazing view of the Tokyo skyline. He sleeps in, goes for a run in the empty and immaculate hotel fitness center, and then takes a long shower. He's tempted to go back to bed, but he forces himself up and out.
It's a quick train ride to Shinjuku. Last night's bad weather has given way to clear, cool sunshine. Jimin wanders around a park, enjoying some late cherry blossoms. He gets lunch, and then browses for a while, wandering in and out of the big, glossy department stores. He sees a scarf in one of the stores with a pretty pattern of magnolias in pink and cream and gray. It makes him think of his mother, so he buys it as a gift for her. He really needs to get home and see his family. He'll have to look next time he's scheduling shifts and see if there's anything with a layover in Busan.
He picks up a few other things for himself: a nice sweater in olive green, a moisturizer and serum set he doesn't really need but lets himself be talked into by the charming saleswoman, and most amazingly, a copy of JK's first photobook, which he's been looking for on eBay for months but has never seen nearly as cheap as this.
That evening, back at the hotel, he dumps his purchase on the desk and sits on the bed and carefully, carefully removes the shrink wrap on the photobook. He's seen most of these pictures, of course – they've been scanned and available online for ages. It's not the same thing as seeing them in the glossy, high resolution flesh though. He flips through, careful not the crack the spine, and takes a few pictures to post on twitter.
Picked this up in Shinjuku today. Unopened!! Look at how cute our baby Kookie was!
A few people reply to his tweet, jealous of his luck at finding such a rarity, wondering what he's doing in Shinjuku, asking if there were any other copies he could pick up for them.
He replies to a few accounts and flips through the book again, more carefully this time. Jungkook had been barely seventeen years old when these pictures came out, and he looked it. They are simple and sweet, with none of the gloss of his later photoshoots: Jungkook in overalls posing with a shiny red bicycle. Jungkook sitting on the top of a brick wall, looking up at the sky. Jungkook holding an ice cream cone. Jungkook cuddling a pet rabbit.
He's grown up a lot since this was released, Jimin thinks. In four years, Jungkook has grown up and gone on to do amazing things.
Four years ago, Jimin got his wings. Since then, he’s done nothing except get old.
With that depressing thought in mind, he goes downstairs and orders a glass of wine at one of the hotel restaurants. He eats at the bar, head down, picking at a plate of bucatini all'amatriciana. He finishes half of it, signs for his meal, and goes back upstairs.
He strips down to his boxers and washes his face and brushes his teeth and climbs into bed before nine. The sheets are soft and the pillows are plush, and he feels okay. A little bored, a little lonely, but really not too bad. It’s not like he’d feel any better back in Seoul. He plugs in his phone, sets his two alarms and then slips out of bed to get his iPad.
Jimin has seen all sixteen episodes of Mysterious Kiss multiple times. Jungkook, in his first drama role, stars as Kim Hancheol, a talented young painter with a tendency to end up exactly where he doesn't belong. He competes with an older and much better knwon actor for the affection of the heroine, who is trying to discover the identity of the man she kissed while blindfolded at a birthday party.
It's not a very good drama, truth be told, and Jungkook isn't a very good actor, but he's enthusiastic and the story has a certain fresh charm. Jimin queues up episode seven, where Jungkook and the heroine go on a date to the Han River park. They ride bicycles together, and then Jungkook draws her picture, which blows away in the wind – only to be retrieved by the male lead, who just happens to be passing on his way home from soccer practice, looking appropriately athletic and sweaty.
It's silly and sweet, a little piece of confection. Jimin rests his head on his pillow and props the iPad on the nightstand and watches as Jungkook brings the girl another portrait, much more carefully done, as an apology for losing the first. The heroine trips as they walk home from the boutique where she works, dropping the portrait in a puddle but falling right into Kim Hancheol's open arms.
Ridiculous, really. Things like that never happen in real life. Jimin shakes his head, smiling to himself. His eyelid are heavy. He falls asleep thinking of nonsense kisses and foolish coincidences and chance meetings in the rain.
April fades into May, and Jimin keeps busy. He picks up as much overtime as he can, and ends up making some long haul trips – to New York one week, and then to Rome the next, where he has an entire day free to wander around through the strange old city. When he first started traveling, he made sure to take pictures in front of all the most famous landmarks he saw. He has all those pictures still, but he rarely looks at them now. He keeps an Instagram so that family and friends can keep track of where he is, but he finds he doesn't care as much about taking pictures of every little thing anymore. He'd rather wander around the Colosseum, marveling at the crowds and at the ancient stonework, worn but still so sturdy. For lunch he eats the best pasta of his life in a tiny trattoria off a narrow cobblestone lane, and then wanders through the leather district, where he buys a pair of loafers for a very good price.
It's a nice day.
He takes a week off of work to go visit his family in Busan. He sees them a few times a year at least, but it's been way too long since he's spent a whole week with them. It's good to catch up with his parents and his brother, good to spend some time doing not much of anything. He sleeps late and lets his mother make him breakfast. He goes for long runs and naps afterwards. He visits the beach with his brother and some friends on an unseasonably hot day. They swim and sunbathe and despite copious application of sunscreen, Jimin ends up red as a lobster. They get together with his aunts and uncles one night, and he sees cousins he hasn't seen in years. Some are married now, and his cousin Chaeyoung even has a little baby girl, not quite two years old.
It's a really nice week, and Jimin resolves to come spend more time at home. He knows it means a lot to his parents, and he's surprised to realize it means a lot to him too.
On the fifteenth of May, JK drops his first comeback teaser - a fifteen second clip of Jungkook's face fading into starry sky, over a twinkling piano melody. It's not much but it's really pretty and fan speculation goes into overdrive. The last music Jungkook put out was an OST for his drama. It's been almost six months since his third mini album was released, and his Cookies are rabid for updates.
Jimin gets sucked in a bit. It's funny how that seems to happen. He wonders if it works like that for all fans, or just for him. Sometimes his attention wanes. He keeps up with Twitter and watches any new releases, but he doesn't find himself thinking of JK randomly at odd idle moments, doesn't find himself humming JK's biggest hits under his breath. But like the moon, things wax full again and Jimin finds himself caring a whole lot more. He starts spending way too much time online again, on Twitter and Nate Pann and YouTube, reading speculation about what kind of song JK's title track will be this time, watching old MVs and fancams, even participating in the endless picture posts by uploading a few of his favorites.
It's kind of embarrassing, maybe. There aren't a lot of male fans to start with, not male fans of male idols at least, and even fewer fans his age. He always feels a little weird talking to someone online when he has to admit that he's a guy – and twenty five. Most of the fans – almost always female and younger than he is – think it's cute and are glad to call him oppa, but Jimin suspects that they judge him too, sometimes. If he were obsessed with the Doosan Bears, nobody would blink an eye. But an idol fanboy?
He knows people think it’s a bit odd.
Whatever. The one benefit of being old is that he doesn't care about people’s opinins quite as much as he used to. Yeah, people snicker, but JK brings him so much joy that he doesn’t really care.
The last week in May, there's a tropical storm that wreaks havoc on the flight schedules. A ton of flights are cancelled, and Asiana is offering double-time to any flight attendants who will pick up three day shifts. Jisoo and Rosie sign up, and Jimin does too. There are more and more posts about meet-ups and fan goods for JK's concert, and he needs a distraction.
He dead-heads over to Narita on an evening flight. The plane is packed full and he can't get into first class, but he gets a nice business class window seat. He knows the the gate agent and some of the flight attendants working this flight, so they let him pre-board. It's not that big of a deal, but it's nice to get his bag right over his seat and get settled before the crowds start pushing on.
He has his iPad in his lap and is rooting in his backpack for his earbuds when he hears someone sit down next to him. Sigh. It's not like he really expected there to be empty seats, but there's still a momentary pang of disappointment. The guy is pretty tall too. Great. Knowing Jimin's luck, he's probably one of those assholes who treats the armrests like his own personal property. He sneaks a covert glance – bleached hair and sunglasses on the plane? Definitely an asshole.
Jimin puts in his earbuds and scrolls through his music. He's been listening to a lot of JK's older stuff lately, even though the fan consensus is that it's not really as good as his more recent tracks. It took him a little while to find his voice, but that doesn't mean the old stuff is bad. 'Love Is Not Over’ might be kind of generic, but JK's voice is so sweet and pure that it makes Jimin's heart ache.
Economy starts to board. A child cries unhappily as her father carries her to the back of the plane. The overhead bins fill up, and the flight attendants have to coerce unwilling passengers to gate check their bags. Thank god Jimin isn't working this flight. As it is, he's getting annoyed secondhand. Even JK's sweet voice can't soothe away all his frustration.
Mr. Sunglasses has his laptop out. He's looking over some vaguely legal, vaguely important looking documents. He's got his tray table down too. It's fine, since they haven't finished boarding yet, but it still annoys Jimin. He opens his iPad to see if he has any downloaded movies he hasn't yet watched.
"You're a fan of him?"
Jimin takes out his earbuds. Sunglasses is staring at Jimin's iPad. Great. Nosy bastard. When Jimin looks up to confront him, the man’s face undergoes a series of contortions – shock, confusion, then... pleasure? A familiar smile. Dimples.
"Park Jimin," Namjoon says, sounding pleased. He slides his sunglasses up onto his head and beams. "What are the odds?"
"Rather good, apparently," Jimin says under his breath. "What are you doing in business? I thought you flew exclusively first class."
Namjoon's grin goes lopsided. "I was supposed to fly last night," he says. "Got stuck because of the weather, and this was the best I could get."
Jimin rolls his eyes. "On behalf of Asiana, I apologize for making you travel with us riffraff."
Namjoon smiles. "Apology accepted," he says. "Honestly, though, I don't really care where I fly. The first class thing just got written into the contract of the gig I'm working right now."
Jimin nods. He puts one earbud back in.
"You're a fan of JK?"
Jimin can feel his cheeks heat up. "Yeah," he says. "So what?" He's a little surprised Namjoon knows who JK is. Yeah, he's popular, but professional men in their mid-twenties aren't exactly his core audience.
Namjoon shakes his head. "Are you going to his concert?"
He's even more surprised that Namjoon knows about the concert.
Jimin sighs. "No," he says. "I couldn't get tickets. I was working that day, and I was in the air when they went on sale."
"Ahhh," Namjoon says. "I hear they're going for three or four times face value on the resale sites."
Jimin nods wearily. "Yeah," he says. "I thought about picking one up that way but –" He shrugs. "– it's just a concert."
"Wise," Namjoon says.
Boarding is finished. Namjoon closes his laptop and puts it in his backpack, stowed under the seat in front of him. He folds his hands in his lap, fingers woven together. He has nice hands, Jimin thinks. Very long, elegant fingers. Jimin's hands are kind of small and stumpy; he's always been jealous of people with beautiful, graceful hands.
"Are you excited for his comeback?"
"Huh? Oh." Jimin takes an earbud out again. Apparently Namjoon isn't done with him. "Yeah. Of course. Everyone's excited."
Big Hit dropped more photos and a longer MV teaser. The track is more energetic than the first teaser had suggested, and Jimin really likes what he's heard so far. Never mind that in some of the preview pictures Jungkook is wearing a translucent black shirt that provides just a hint of his sculpted chest and abs.
"Good," Namjoon says. "I really liked the MV teaser, myself."
Jimin frowns. "Are you a fan too?"
Namjoon chuckles. "Not quite. Didn't I tell you what I do for a living?"
Jimin does remember Namjoon mentioning it, that cold night in Tokyo when he'd given Jimin a ride. "You're in the music industry... Oh!"
Namjoon laughs again. He seems to find everything delightful. It's weird. He reaches in the inside pocket of his jacket and takes out a slim leather card case. He pulls out a business card, red letters printed on thick, creamy cardstock.
Kim Namjoon, Director, Artists & Repertoire, Big Hit Entertainment
"Oh my god," Jimin says, flushing.
Namjoon's laugh is more delighted than it's yet been. "What's wrong? I think it's great. I don't usually get to talk to fans."
Jimin nods, but he still feels mortified. Namjoon works for Big Hit. Of course. Jungkook is probably like a younger brother to him, and here Jimin is acting like a starry-eyed fan.
"How long have you been a fan for?" Namjoon asks.
"Uh," Jimin mumbles. "A couple of years. My roommates are big fans, and I just fell into it."
"Ah," Namjoon says, nodding knowingly. "So you're devoted."
Jimin nods, not sure where Namjoon is going with this. He's embarrassed. The flight is about to take off and all he wants to do is put his earbuds back in and turn up his music and pretend this conversation never happened.
"You must have been bummed when you couldn't get tickets to his concert," Namjoon says.
Jimin nods, annoyed. Of course he was bummed. There were thousands of disappointed fans. He's just about to ask Namjoon why the company didn't plan more dates when Namjoon says, "I could get you a ticket, if you'd like."
Namjoon shrugs, like it's nothing. "I get a few for every event," he says. "They usually go to other industry types like yours truly, but I'd like to see at least one end up with a real fan."
"Seriously?" Jimin can feel his heart flutter in his throat. Is this some kind of hidden camera prank? A ticket to JK's concert? For real?
Namjoon nods. "Sure," he says. "They're not general admission, but they're pretty good seats. First section, stage right, I think."
"Oh my god," Jimin says. He can’t even feign cool indifference now. "That would be incredible. I don't know how I could thank you."
Namjoon smiles. "Try not to spill anything on me next time I'm up in first," he says jokingly.
Jimin wrinkles his nose. "That was just an accident."
"And not really your fault," Namjoon says, grinning. "I know. Here. Let me have your phone number. I'll get in touch when I've got the ticket for you."
Jimin's a little reluctant, but Namjoon seems like a nice enough guy, and this is a more than generous offer. "Okay," he says, and then reads off his number when Namjoon is ready.
"Thank you so much," he says sincerely when Namjoon is finished. "Really. This is amazing."
"My pleasure," Namjoon says, and then he turns back to his laptop with a smile on his face.
Jimin feels weird the whole flight. Should he try to make conversation? Namjoon's just made him an incredibly generous offer. They've run into each other – what is this? Three? No. Four times now. They're not friends, but maybe they could be.
That would be nice, maybe. It's been a while since Jimin made any new friends outside of fandom.
But then they start to taxi and Namjoon puts his headphones back on. Jimin holds his iPad in his lap, but Namjoon's eyes are closed. Okay. He's done talking. Jimin's got it. He puts his own earbuds back in but he's embarrassed for some reason to watch what he'd been planning on; namely, another episode of Jungkook's drama. He queues up a movie he downloaded instead, about a star who pretends to have a baby to get revenge on her cheating ex. It's amusing enough, but not really his cup of tea, and he shuts it off when they serve the meal.
Familiarity breeds contempt, and Jimin can't do more than pick at his food. It's not bad, really, but he ate a late lunch and he’s not hungry enough to force himself to eat plane food. He does drink the whiskey and coke he orders. Namjoon seems to be enjoying his meal well enough, until he glances over and sees Jimin's uneaten tteokgalbi.
He swallows, and then blanches. "Do the flight attendants spit in the food or something before they serve it?"
Jimin snorts, indignant. "No," he says. "Of course not. We would never do that. The food is fine. I'm just not very hungry."
Namjoon nods. "Ok," he says. "Good, because I am hungry. I was in meetings all day."
Jimin nods, and then feeling braver than he would had he not had the drink, asks, "What exactly do you do as the director of artists and repertoire? Other than fly back and forth to Tokyo all the time?"
Namjoon laughs. "I fly to Shanghai and L.A. sometimes too, you know."
"Oh," Jimin says. "I've never seen you on those flights, though."
Namjoon wrinkles his nose. "It has been mostly Tokyo lately." He narrows his eyes, smiling. "Can I tell you a secret?"
A secret? "Uh, sure," Jimin says.
"Okay," Namjoon says. "Jungkook is going to debut in Japan this fall. I've been going over there so often because we're finalizing plans for his album."
Jimin boggles. "Oh my gosh, really?"
Namjoon grins. "Yeah," he says. "He's signed with Def Jam Japan. He's been recording, and we're going to have an MV shoot after the finale concert."
"Oh wow," Jimin says. There's been speculation among the fans about Jungkook's Japanese debut, but nothing conclusive. Twitter would go nuts if they knew.
As if Namjoon can read his mind, he says, "If this ends up all over the internet, I know who to blame." He holds a finger to his lips.
"I won't tell anyone," Jimin mumbles, embarrassed. "I'm really not... I mean, I really like Jungkook but I'm not one of those crazy stalker fans or anything.”
"I know you’re not. You’re not in Seoul often enough for that," Namjoon says. He smiles again, a softer smile. His lips are very pink, and his dark eyes are long-lashed and his skin is smooth, and then there's that damn dimple. "I know I can trust you, Park Jimin."
Jimin's heart goes all melty and soft. He smiles, biting his lower lip. It's been a long time since he's felt like this because of anything in real life. "Don't worry," he says. "Your secret is safe with me."
"I'm glad to hear it," Namjoon says, practically beaming amusement.
Jimin brushes his hair out of his face, scrunches up his shoulders, and takes a bite of the damn tteokgalbi just to have something to do.
When they deboard, Namjoon gets out first and gets his bag down from the overhead. He steps back to make room for Jimin, who reaches up to get his own luggage down. The sweater he's wearing – a loose shapeless black thing – rides up, baring his stomach.
"Damn," Namjoon says. "Didn't realize being a flight attendant was such a physically demanding job."
With his bag on the floor in front of him, Jimin tugs his shirt down. "The safety of as many as 495 passengers is my primary responsibility. Of course I keep myself in good shape," he says primly.
Namjoon nods. "I like that dedication," he says, smile playing on his lips.
Jimin stands up a little taller and throws his shoulders back, but secretly he's glad when the person in front of him finally starts moving. They pass down the jet bridge and into the concourse. Jimin really needs to pee. He starts to make a beeline for the restroom, but Namjoon flags him down.
"I'll text you when I have your tickets," he says, beaming still, sunglasses pushing his messy bleached hair back off his face.
Jimin forgot how tall he is. He's not a giant or anything, but the three inches or so that separate them are a lot to handle after a few drinks.
"Thank you so much," he says, smiling too. "I really can't tell you how much I appreciate this, Kim Namjoon."
"It's my pleasure, Park Jimin," Namjoon says. "See you in a few weeks, then?"
"If not sooner," Jimin says.
Namjoon's eyebrows lift.
"I might catch you on a return flight, I mean."
"I'm headed back out Thursday," Namjoon says. "Afternoon flight, I think."
"I'll be in Singapore then," Jimin says. "Too bad."
"Too bad," Namjoon agrees.
Jimin can feel himself smiling too widely – that goofy smile he hates that stretches his cheeks. The only consolation is that Namjoon is kind of smiling like an idiot too. They might stand there all day, grinning like loons at each other, but Jimin really does have to piss.
"See you in a few weeks then," he says, stepping slowly back.
"Yup," Namjoon says. He waves, and then lingers just a moment before turning and heading in the direction of the Arrivals Hall.
In the restroom, Jimin stares at himself in the mirror while he washes his hands. His cheeks are vivid pink.
Jimin is in Jinan, waiting to board a flight back to Incheon when Namjoon texts him.
Hi Park Jimin. Where in the world are you today?
Hello Kim Namjoon. I’m in Jinan.
I had to check a map to make sure I knew where that was. I hope you got to see some of the 72 famous springs
Jimin smiles despite himself.
I've got your ticket!
Jimin bites his lip to prevent himself from breaking into a huge grin. He hadn't really believed Namjoon would come through.
Thank you so much!! I can't tell you how much I appreciate this!
It's my pleasure :) You'll have to pick the ticket up at the box office the day of the concert. July 10th at the Olympic Gymnastic Stadium
As if Jimin hasn't known the date and venue for months.
A ticket. Wow.
Thank you again!! I can't believe I'm actually going to get to go!
Taehyung leans over and rests his head on Jimin's shoulder. "Who's that?"
Jimin pulls his phone away, and then feels bad. "Oh," he says. "Just this guy."
Taehyung makes a significant face, eyebrows raised. "Just this guy? What guy? Where'd you find a guy, Jimin?"
Jimin rolls his eyes. "He was a passenger, if you must know," he says. Then he mutters, “It’s that guy I spilled the wine on.”
Taehyung grins. “Told you he was cute.”
“It’s not that,” Jimin hisses. “I kept running into him and we started talking. Anyway, he works for Big Hit, and he got me a ticket to Jungkook's concert."
"Oh damn," Taehyung says. “That’s amazing.”
"Yeah," Jimin agrees. It really is.
Namjoon has sent another text. I'll see you there, Park Jimin
Jimin tamps down a giddy grin. If not sooner
Jimin sleeps late the morning of July 10th. He came in from Shanghai the night before – no delays, thank god – and didn't get home until almost midnight. That's not too late for him, but he wants to be well rested for today. All the girls are working, and he has the apartment to himself. They'd been insanely jealous when he told them about Kim Namjoon and the free ticket, of course, but happy for him too.
"Why don't I ever meet tall, handsome strangers who work for Big Hit?" Lalisa had asked, pouting.
"I never said he was handsome," Jimin said.
Jennie pats his shoulder with a perfectly manicured hand. "Oppa, you mentioned his dimples like ten times."
Damn. Had he? They are nice dimples.
"You better take a ton of pictures," Jisoo warned.
"What if this guy brings you back stage?" Rosie asked, eyes bright. "What if you meet JK?"
Jimin hadn't even thought of that. "Oh my god," he said. "I don't know what I'd do."
Jimin still isn't sure what he'll do if he meets Jungkook, but he's beginning to think it won't happen. He's actually wondering if this entire thing is some kind of prank. No reason, exactly – but he hasn't heard from Namjoon since that day he said he’d gotten Jimin a ticket.
If he gets to the box office and there's no ticket waiting, he's going to feel like the world's biggest idiot, but that's a risk he has to take. He might get to see JK.
He changes about ten times before settling on a pair of black jeans and a white tee shirt, with a striped sweater over top in case it gets cool. It's not like it really matters what he wears, of course, and after an entire week in uniform he’d be contents to go in swats, but he's got tentative plans to meet up with one of his friends from twitter and he doesn't want her to think he's a slob or anything.
He sets off for Songpa around noon. The concert doesn't start for hours, but he wants to make sure he's there with plenty of time to spare. He doesn't listen to music on the subway ride out there. It doesn't make sense but he has some thought about resting his ears before the concert. He takes out a book and reads instead, but he is distracted and mostly just watches the other people getting on the train and wonders whether any of them are headed to the Olympic Gymnastic Stadium as well.
When he gets to the venue, he's surprised at how busy it already is. There are crowds of fans gathered around outside – fansites covertly selling merch and friends meeting up. Jimin messages his friend Joohyun – she's a few years older than him and in grad school – but she replies that she's still an hour or so away.
He wanders around for a bit until he finds the box office. They're open, so with his heart in his throat, he steps inside and waits in line until he gets to the front of the queue. He smiles at the woman behind the counter and tells her that he's here to pick up a ticket for Park Jimin. She asks for his ID and then takes such a long time consulting a list that he starts to get worried that Namjoon really had just been fucking with him. The business card had been a fake. (How? Some tiny voice of logic asks. Jimin ignores it.) This is all a setup to embarrass Jimin because he's a grown man getting all worked up about an idol.
"Ah, here you are," the woman says. She reaches into a drawer and pulls out an envelope, and hands it to Jimin. "Enjoy."
She smiles at him. He takes the envelope with trembling hands, and steps aside to let the next person come up to the counter. He opens it slowly. There's a ticket inside with a sticky note on the front, with his name scrawled on it in very bad handwriting.
He blinks. The ticket is still there. Namjoon came through.
He puts the ticket in his wallet, careful not to crease it, and then heads back outside. He hadn't particularly noticed the weather earlier, but now the sun is shining and the blue sky is free of clouds. The excitement is palpable. There are more people now – kids mostly, but Jimin is so happy he can't be bothered to feel awkward and old. His phone buzzes. Joohyun is here. He heads around the front of the station to meet her, keeping his eyes peeled for a short woman in a jean skirt and a black sweater.
"Oh, Joohyun nuna," he calls, waving, as he sees her walking up from the subway. He follows her Instagram, so he's seen pictures of her before.
She narrows her eyes. "Jimin-ah?"
"Hey!" he says.
"Oh my gosh," she says, laughing, giving him a quick hug. "You're so tall."
He's not, really – barely average height – but Joohyun is tiny.
She steps back and look at him for a moment.
Embarrassed, he asks, "What? Do I have something on my face?"
She wrinkles his nose. "You should have warned me you were so handsome." She puts her hands on her hips.
Jimin wrinkles his nose back. He knows he’s an attractive enough guy (physical appearance is sadly high on the Asiana list of desired qualities for flight attendants) but he’s not exactly turning heads.
“I’m not,” he protests, but she just shakes her head.
“All the kids are going to think you’re one of Jungkook’s celebrity friends,” she says, laughing, and okay, now she’s just teasing him.
He’s known Joohyun for almost two years, ever since he became a JK fan. He’d followed her twitter by chance, and they’d gotten to talking somehow, and become friends that way. He’s never met her in person before, though, and it’s exciting to finally put a face to the familiar name.
They wander around the venue. Joohyun wants to pick up some fan goods, so they do that and then stand in line to take a picture with a JK standee. They make goofy faces and the picture comes out pretty well. Joohyun wants to post it on Twitter, and even though Jimin feels a little bit weird about it he says he’s okay if she does, so she uploads it and tags him.
Evening is approaching, and everyone is getting more excited. Joohyun doesn’t have a general admission ticket either, but she’d had good luck during the ticket sale; she’s just a few rows further away from the stage than Jimin is, but on the other side of the venue. Since they’re in no rush to get in the door, they sit down on some steps to wait.
“I wonder if he’ll sing Only For You,” Joohyun wonders.
Jungkook’s debut song is a sweet, old fashioned ballad. It didn’t chart well, and he doesn’t perform it live often. He didn’t really hit big until his second release, which saw him shift to a more uptempo style of dance music, but Only For You is still a fan favorite.
“Maybe,” Jimin says. “He’s definitely going to do Euphoria.”
“Of course,” she says, rolling her eyes. “I hope he does the b-sides too, though – oh, Jimin-ah, you have a message.”
Jimin looks down at his phone, which is blinking. “Oh,” he says, unlocking it. “It’s from Namjoon.”
No problems getting the ticket, right?
“Ohhh,” Joohyun says. “Your mystery man.”
He’d told her over KKT all about Kim Namjoon and his fortuitous encounter. He had to, since he’d tweeted about not getting a ticket and had to explain how one suddenly came into his possession.
No problems! I can’t thank you enough!
“He’s not my mystery man,” he protests, after he’s sent the message.
Another message from Namjoon comes almost right away
What are you doing right now?
Jimin frowns. ? Just waiting outside for doors to open
Come around the back of the building
Jimin hesitates before replying. Can I bring a friend?
Sure. Head to the entrance marked vendors. See you in a minute :)
He looks up at Joohyun.
“You look like you’ve seen a ghost,” she says, grinning.
“He asked me to come meet him around the back of the building,” Jimin says. “Do you think he’s gonna bring us backstage?”
Joohyun’s eyes go wide too. “Us?”
“I asked if I could bring a friend,” Jimin explains.
“Ohh,” she says, “You’re such a gentleman, Jimin-ah.”
As covertly as they can, they walk around past the merch tent, past the teeming crowds of teenage fans, past the porta-potties and rows of garbage cans. They walk around to the side of the venue, where there’s an access road to the rear. Jimin again wonders if this is some kind of joke, but sure enough towards the back of the building there’s a little door labeled ‘Vendors’.
He looks at Joohyun.
“Knock,” she says. “Go for it.”
Jimin hesitates a moment, and then knocks.
The door opens a moment later to reveal a smiling Kim Namjoon. Sometime in the last few weeks he’s dyed his hair again. The fresh platinum blonde makes his skin look honey warm.
“You made it!” he says, stepping aside to let them into the dark, drab interior of the venue.
“I did,” he days. “Ah, Namjoon, this is my friend Joohyun.”
Namjoon smiles and holds his hand out to her. “A pleasure,” he says. “Any friend of Jimin’s is a friend of mine.”
“Thank you so much for bringing us back here,” Jimin says.
Namjoon laughs. “This hallway is pretty impressive,” he says, “But I thought you might want to see the rehearsal.”
“Uh,” Joohyun says, “yeah. Are you for real?”
Namjoon nods. “Come on.”
They follow him through the weird winding halls. Jimin is in a bit of a daze. They pass racks and racks of lights and stacks of speakers and people scurrying to and fro. Pallets of commemorative cups and merch. Finally, they emerge out into the main concourse, which is empty still but in just a few hours will be packed full of fans on the way to their seats.
“You ready?” Namjoon asks them, grinning.
Jimin turns to Joohyun. She rolls her eyes. “I think so,” she says, totally deadpan.
Namjoon opens the door, and they step onto the floor of the arena.
A few dozen feet away, Jungkook is standing in the middle of the stage, surrounded by a cadre of back dancers and managers and stylists.
“Jungkook-ah,” Namjoon calls, “Everything okay?”
Jungkook – Jeon Jungkook! – turns, eyes wide, and says, “Oh, hyung! Yes. I’m good.”
Namjoon shakes his head. “The kid is always good,” he says fondly.
They watch Jungkook rehearse three songs. Jimin’s heart is pounding, and he can’t tear his eyes away from the stage. It’s not the first time he’s seen Jungkook live, of course, but this is totally different than peering down from the third tier of stadium seats. Jungkook is right there, in the flesh.
He looks a lot younger like this than he does in the promotional materials, and Jimin remembers that in spite of all he’s achieved the kid is only twenty one.
It’s pretty amazing.
“He sounds so good,” Joohyun gushes.
“His voice has improved a lot,” Jimin agrees.
Namjoon looks proud. “We got him a new vocal trainer last year, and he’s really been working hard to improve his stability and control.”
“Have you worked with Jungkook a long time?” Jimin asks, curious.
Namjoon nods. “Yeah,” he says. “Before I got this promotion, I worked on his management team. And I contributed lyrics for a few tracks too.”
“I didn’t know you were a musician,” Jimin says.
Namjoon makes a face. “I’m not, really. I thought I wanted to be a rapper for a while, when I was a kid.”
“Really?” Jimin asks, laughing. “I can’t picture that.”
“There’s video online,” Namjoon says, “but I’ll never reveal my secret stage name.”
“Oh, that’s no fun,” Jimin says, smiling. “I’ll show you the embarrassing old video of my high school dance recital.”
“You danced?” Joohyun asks, curious.
Oh. That’s right. He’s never mentioned it on Twitter.
“I went to an arts high school,” Jimin says. “I was a modern dance major. I thought about going to college for dance, but I ended up doing hospitality instead.”
“Huh,” Namjoon says. “You’re full of surprises, Park Jimin.”
“It was just a hobby,” Jimin says, shrugging. “And it’s been ages. I actually don’t even know if I have any of those old videos anymore.”
Namjoon tuts. “Sounds like I’m going to have to do some judicious googling.”
Jimin grins. “Good luck,” he says. “There are a lot of Park Jimins out there.”
Namjoon’s eyes widen comically. “Oh, that’s not fair.”
Jimin laughs. “Maybe I’ll show you one day,” he says. “You already have enough dirt on me.”
“What dirt?” Namjoon asks. “Other than the fact that you drink Frappucinos?”
“Hey!” Joohyun protests. “What’s wrong with Frappucinos?”
“Nothing,” Namjoon says, “except they’re not coffee.”
“They contain coffee,” Jimin says crossly.
Namjoon snorts, and looks prepared to counter this argument, but just then his phone buzzes. He glances down.
“Oh shit,” he says. “It’s almost time.”
Namjoon leads them back out to the main concourse, which is starting to fill with fans now.
“Well,” he says. “How was it?”
“Amazing!” Joohyun says. “Thank you so much!” She turns to Jimin, smiling. “Jimin-ah, I’m going to head to my seat. It was so good to finally meet you in person.” She pulls him into another tight hug, and waves and then heads off into the throng.
“You’ve never met each other before?” Namjoon asks, a funny look on his face.
Jimin frowns. He knows it’s a bit odd, but people who aren’t fans don’t really get it. “I’ve known her online for years,” he says. “We kept talking about making plans to meet up, but my schedule is so bad, and she’s in grad school, so it never happened until now.”
“Huh,” Namjoon says. “That’s cool.”
Jimin can’t tell if he’s making fun or not.
“She’s really great,” he says, a bit more defensively than he intends. “She’s studying social work, and she wants combat the stigma against single mothers.”
“Hey,” Namjoon says. “I think that’s awesome. I wasn’t teasing.”
“Oh,” Jimin says. “Well. Good.”
“Do you have to be anywhere after the show?”
Jimin shakes his head. He hadn’t been planning to do much more than go home and catch up on twitter.
“Meet me back here when it’s over,” Namjoon says. “If you want, I mean.”
“You don’t need to do anything else for me,” Jimin says quickly. “You’ve already been way too generous, Namjoon.”
Namjoon laughs. “I’m not being generous,” he says. “I just want to spend more time with you before you disappear on me again.”
Jimin smiles wryly. “Are you saying I should start working the Incheon - Narita route regularly?”
“I’m saying I wouldn’t mind,” Namjoon says.
Jimin smiles. “I’m gonna head to my seat,” he says, “but guess I’ll see you after?”
“Yeah,” Namjoon says. “Enjoy, Jimin.” He waves.
Jimin waves too, and then walks a few yards down the hall, and then turns and waves again.
Namjoon, watching with an amused smile, waves back.
Jimin waves last time and then turns, embarrassed, and walks quickly towards his seat.
The concert is almost like a dream.
Jimin finds his seat and then takes his light stick – a glowing chocolate chip cookie – out of his bag. The venue is full of Cookies holding their light sticks now, and singing along to each song that comes on. They’re projecting a video on the big screen behind the stage, scenes of Jungkook on tour. There are shots of him lounging back stage and shots of him in front of landmarks – the Bund and Victoria Harbor and the Petronas Tower. It’s new footage, and Jimin wonders if they’ll put out a DVD now that the tour is done.
He takes a shot of his view and sends it to Joohyun, who takes a shot of her view and sends it to him in return. They’re almost directly across the venue from each other, but it’s so big and crowded he doesn’t have any chance of spotting her. The seats around him are reserved, and don’t fill up right away. When they do, it’s not with teenaged fans. Jimin recognizes some of the actors from Jungkook’s drama, and some of his idol friends. Wow. Namjoon hadn’t been kidding when he said these were good seats. He feels awkward, and tries not to make eye contact.
Finally the lights dim, and everyone is instantly on their feet. A cloud of smoke billows from the wings, and then the lights flash and Jungkook emerges from beneath the stage, beaming and waving. From the very first note of the very first song, the entire audience is singing along in one voice. When he first debuted, there had been a lot of people critical of Jungkook’s singing, but Namjoon is right to be proud. He’s improved so much and Jimin is proud too. He sounds as good as on the album – better, even, adding little runs and vocal improvisations that he could never have pulled off two or three years ago.
Jimin doesn’t know how to describe it. Time stands still and speeds up all at once, so that he can pay attention to every note of every song and yet before he even has a chance to catch his breath Jungkook is standing at the front of the stage linking hands with his dancers and bowing. Jimin cheers louder than ever. He feels light and happy, far, far away from all his mundane worries. Jungkook, with his voice and his dance and his smile, brought them all here together and made them all feel that maybe, just maybe, better things are waiting for them around the next curve in the road.
Jimin lingers for just a moment after the house lights come back up. He closes his eyes and tries to preserve that last image of Jungkook standing on stage, arms raised and face triumphant. He takes a picture of the empty stage then, and posts it on Instagram with the caption ‘Magical’.
He never wants to forget this.
He almost texts Namjoon with some excuses about needing to go home, but he feels so thankful that he goes back to the stage door, where, to Jimin’s minor surprise, Namjoon is waiting for him.
“How was it?” he asks, smiling.
“It was amazing!” Jimin says.
"Cool," Namjoon says. He's smiling still, a fond smile that Jimin doesn't totally understand. "So, do you want to go say hi?"
"Hi?" Jimin doesn't know what he means. "Joohyun nuna already left, I think."
Namjoon laughs, a goofy open-mouth laugh that makes his eyes disappear. "No," he says. "To Jungkook, I mean."
Say hi? To JK? Is Namjoon kidding? "Yeah!" Jimin says, a moment too quickly. "I mean. Sure. Okay. Are you sure he's not too busy?"
Namjoon’s eyebrows lift. "I'm sure," he says. "That was a nice save, by the way. You dialed it back down pretty quickly."
Jimin feels his cheeks get hot. "I can do the whole over-enthusiastic fan thing fairly convincingly if you want," he says.
"Tempting offer," Namjoon says. "Jungkook would definitely get all embarrassed, and that's a lot of fun, but I think we'll save that for the second meeting."
"Well," Namjoon says. "Come on. Let's go meet your idol."
They head back through that labyrinthine network of underground passages. Namjoon asks Jimin a bunch of questions as they go. What had the thought of the new intro video? As Jimin suspected, it is footage they're planning to use in an upcoming DVD. How had the sound been? Were the lights distracting? Could he see okay? As a former professional, what had he thought of the dancers?
Jimin rolls his eyes. "I'm not a former professional," he says. "I studied for a couple of years in high school."
"Better than me," Namjoon says. "I know it will surprise you, but I kind of have two left feet."
It is a little surprising, honestly. Namjoon is tall and careful with his movements, and there's a certain grace to that, but Jimin sees now how that care might be the result of one too many unexpected tumbles.
"I thought they were good," Jimin says. "I thought a few of the stages were too busy though. Jungkook is a very good dancer, considering that he really didn’t train for long. He's got such nice lines, too." He can’t help but sound a little envious. "Honestly, I’m too short to have danced professionally."
"You're pocket sized," Namjoon says. "It's cute."
"Excuse me?" Jimin huffs. "I'm basically average height," he mutters. "I’m tall enough for Asiana, anyway. You know they have a minimum height requirement, right?"
"Is that why all the girls are so tall?" Namjoon asks.
Jimin nods. "And they have to wear heels," he says, "so I look even shorter in comparison."
Namjoon laughs again. "You should wear shoe lifts," he says. "They're a mainstay in the entertainment industry."
Jimin shakes his head. "They're forbidden," he says. "Supposedly someone was wearing shoe lifts and tripped and spilled hot soup on a passenger. There was a lawsuit and everything."
"Ah," Namjoon says. "Well, given your track record, you better steer clear then."
"Hey!" Jimin protests. "You know that wasn't my fault!"
"I know," Namjoon says, grinning. "But I'm going to keep bringing it up." He stops before a closed door and knocks. "Here we are."
There's a shout from inside, and Namjoon opens the door and motions for Jimin to proceed him in.
Inside, there are dozens of people scurrying about – staff and stylists and dancers and all sorts of other people. Jimin wonders for a moment if they've missed Jungkook, but then Namjoon puts a hand on his shoulder and steers him through the melee towards the back of the room, where JK is sitting on a couch, lounging loosely with a damp towel around his neck.
It's weird, seeing him up close. He looks younger, and Jimin can see that his skin is a bit rough. (That's always been a controversy among fans – there are some who think it's a fansite's responsibility to make sure their idol looks the best he can, and there are some who think that it's better to show him in all his flawed, gorgeous humanity. Jimin is firmly in the latter camp.). Jungkook is sweaty and spent now, but he's also the same beautiful talented person that Jimin has spent the better part of his heart on for the past two years. Seeing him like his – in such a rare and unguarded moment – makes Jimin’s heart race. It seems like it should be a dream, but it’s not.
"Jungkook-ah," Namjoon says, still with his arm around Jimin's shoulder. "Great job tonight!"
Jungkook's eyes light up. "Oh, thanks, hyung!" he says. "Did you really think so?"
Namjoon nods. "Really good. You sounded great. How's your throat feeling?"
Jungkook puts a hand to his throat, as if assessing the situation. "Not too bad," he says. "I'll drink some ginseng honey tea when I get home."
"Good," Namjoon says. "Jungkook, this is my friend Jimin."
Jungkook's eyes go hugely round. "Oh," he says. "You're Jimin."
"What?" Jimin turns to Namjoon, frowning. "You were talking about me?"
Namjoon smiles. "I told you the story about the wine was a big hit. No pun intended."
"Oh my god," Jimin says, color rising in his cheeks. "I can't believe you told Jeon Jungkook I spilled wine on you."
Jungkook grins a goofy sincere grin that makes his nose wrinkle. "Namjoon hyung had it coming, Jimin-ssi. I don't know what he's told you, but one time at a meeting with the CEO he spilled two cups of coffee all over the storyboard for my next MV."
"That wasn't my fault," Namjoon says, laughing. "The table was wobbly!"
"Likely story," Jimin says.
"It was wobbly," Jungkook admits, "but there was also that time that you knocked over the flower arrangement in..."
"Okay," Namjoon says hastily. "So maybe I've spilled a thing or two in my time, but sometimes good things come from spilt milk. That MV concept was pretty awful."
"They wanted me to dress up in a chicken costume," Jungkook says, amused. “I was supposed to woo the heroine while handing out fliers for a fried chicken place.”
"And if Jimin hadn't spilled the wine on me, I would never have gotten to know him," Namjoon says, like getting to know Jimin is some kind of prize. “There’s something to this being clumsy thing.”
Jungkook grins, looking goofy. “I’m using that as an excuse next time Sungdeuk hyung gives me grief in practice.”
He leans back, and the collar of his shirt gapes a little, baring a swath of collarbone and chest. All Jimin can think is that half the people he considers friends would be close to spontaneous combustion right now, seeing this loose, happy version of their star. He's thrilled too, jittery and weird in a way he can't quite explain, but more than even Jeon Jungkook, all he can concentrate on is the warm comfortable weight of Namjoon's arm on his shoulder, and the way it feels like it belongs there.
"Did you have a good time, Jimin-ssi?" Jungkook asks.
"It was great," Jimin enthuses. "I went to your concert last year, too, but this was even better."
"Oh," Jungkook says, eyes going even wider. "You're really a fan then? I thought Namjoon hyung was just messing with me."
Jimin starts to feel his cheeks heat up. "Yeah," he says. "My roommates are big fans and I just kind of fell into it. I really like your music though. Your voice is so great."
"Oh wow," Jungkook says. "That's so cool!"
Jimin doesn't know why Jeon Jungkook – rich and absurdly famous and talented enough for four or five idols – would care that some random friend of one of his bosses is a fan, but it's flattering regardless.
"Jimin is a dancer too," Namjoon adds. His fingers press into Jimin's shoulder a bit more firmly. "He said he thought the stage looked too cluttered, and we should spotlight you more."
"Really?" Jungkook sits up and leans forward. "I said the same exact thing. You're a dancer, Jimin-ssi?" He sounds curious.
"No, no," Jimin says quickly, shooting Namjoon a dirty look. "I mean, I studied dance in high school but it's been years. But um. Yeah. I think you're really talented and they should give you more space on stage to show it."
"Wow," Jungkook says again, beaming. "Thanks!"
"Hey, Jungkook-ah," says a tall man, stepping through the crowd.
Oh. Jimin recognizes him. It's Kim Seokjin, Jungkook's manager – the most handsome manager in all of kpop. He has his own fansites and everything.
"Hey hyung," Jungkook says. "What's up?"
"Do you want to go out and grab dinner with the dance crew or do you want to head home?"
"Oh," Jungkook says. "Let's go out." He turns, smiling, to Namjoon and Jimin. "Do you want to join us?"
Namjoon steps away, as if to better see Jimin’s reaction. "Do you want to come, Jimin?” Namjoon’s expression turns grave suddenly. “I mean, you don’t have to. The ticket was just, you know, from the goodness of my heart. I don’t want you to feel obligated. You’re not obligated, I mean.”
Jimin hadn’t felt obligated, but he’s glad Namjoon said so. He seems like a really good guy, his habit of wearing sunglasses on planes aside.
Dinner with Jeon Jungkook?
Jimin’s not sure he can handle that. Not after this night, not while he feels so full of delight and magic from the concert. He needs more time to reconcile the smiling kid on the couch with JK. He’s just about overflowing with feelings, and he doesn’t have the mental energy right now to appropriately parse them out.
“I think," Jimin says, slowly, “I think I’m going to pass."
Namjoon’s face falls.
“But,” Jimin says, steeling himself. “I’d like to get dinner some other time, Namjoon. If you want to.”
“Really?” Namjoon asks, tilting his head.
“You really don’t have to,” Namjoon says, quickly. “Like I said, I would have gotten you the ticket regardless. I’m glad it went to a fan. I –”
Jimin feels his cheeks heating up but something about the magic of the night makes him bold. “Kim Namjoon, I flirted with you even after spilling red wine on you. I want to go to dinner. Alone, preferably, but you can invite the back-up dancers if you have to.”
Namjoon beams. “Awesome,” he says. “Um. When do you fly out again?”
“Friday,” Jimin says.
Jeon Jungkook is watching him with an amused smile on his face. A lot of people are watching, actually. Watching Namjoon and Jimin like they’re the leads of some improbably romantic comedy.
“Wednesday, then?” Namjoon asks, grinning, stupid dimples showing. His hands are shoved in his pockets like he doesn’t know what to do with them.
Jimin nods. “I think that will work,” he says.
“Cool,” Namjoon says.
“Cool,” Jimin says. He leans back a little on his heels. “I guess I’m going to hit the road, then.” He turns to Jungkook, feeling strangely bold. “It was a really great show, Jungkook-ssi. Thank you.”
Jungkook’s eyes are about the size of dinner plates. “It was my pleasure,” he says, recovering his composure. He’s not a celebrity for nothing. “It was so nice to meet you, Jimin-ssi.”
Jimin smiles, and then feeling the weight of too many gazes, ducks his head. He waves once, awkward, at Namjoon, and then steps back out into the hall.
Through the closed door, he can hear Jungkook and Seokjin ribbing Namjoon. Jimin squeezes his eyes shut, like by doing so he can somehow contain the torrent of feelings that threaten to pour forth from his chest. He leans back against the wall, and presses the heels of his palms into his eyes, and stays like that for just a moment, before he stands up and, shoulders straight and posture tall, walks back out into the venue trying very hard not to blind the world with his smile.
He’s got a date.
He's standing in the kitchen the next morning staring dumbly at the coffee maker, wearing boxers and an old ratty tee shirt when he hears the front door open.
"Don't bother with that," Rosie says. She sets an iced caramel macchiato down on the counter. "We got you coffee, oppa."
Jimin glances up at her. He's friends with all the girls, although he's closest with Jisoo, but still. It's not like them to buy him coffee.
"Come on, oppa," Lisa says, taking him by the hand. "Sit down and relax. You didn't get home until so late last night. You must be exhausted!"
Jimin rolls his eyes, but he lets himself be led to the couch. Jisoo is sitting in the armchair, legs tucked up inside an oversized sweatshirt. Jennie is sitting at her feet. After depositing him on one of end of the couch, Lalisa and Rosie sit down in a tangle at the other end, with Lisa's legs laid across Rosie's thighs.
"What's going on?" Jimin asks, laughing, even though he has a good idea.
"Don't 'what's going on' me, oppa," Jennie says, pointing a finger. "Fess up! You met JK, didn't you?"
Jimin rolls his eyes, grinning. "What are you talking about? How would I have met JK?"
Jisoo tuts. "Come on, Jimin-ah," she says. "What do you take us for? You get a free ticket to the concert from some Big Hit bigwig, and you're going to tell us you didn't scheme your way backstage?"
Jimin feigns innocence, eyes wide. "I would never –"
"Liar," Rosie says, grinning.
"Come on, oppa," Lalisa says. "Tell us. What was he like?"
They're obviously not talking about his date with Namjoon.
"Well," Jimin says, grinning, "Namjoon brought me back to watch the soundcheck."
Lalisa and Rosie gasp and kick their feet. Jennie leans forward. Even Jisoo, ostensibly the calm and mature member of their little group, has an eager, shining look in her eyes.
"It wasn't open to the public," Jennie says.
"Yeah," Jimin says, grinning. He's never liked the kind of fans who show off on twitter about their special concert experiences, but this is different. These are his friends – some of his best friends in the whole world – and he wouldn't even know JK's name if not for them. "He had to sneak us through backstage."
Jimin nods. "You know my friend Joohyun? I met up with her at the venue, and Namjoon said she could come too."
Rosie tosses her head. "Oppa! What the hell! You should have invited us! I would have called in sick for this."
Lalisa pats her on the cheek, consoling.
"Well," Jimin says, enjoying this more than he should. "I mean, I don't even know if anything is going to come of it, but he did say that he could get me more tickets next time."
Rosie lets out a high, glad yelp, and Jennie says, "You better!"
Jisoo hushes them. "So he brought you backstage for sound check."
Jimin nods. He takes a sip of his coffee.
Jennie throws a pillow at him. "Get on with it, punk!"
Jimin laughs, spreading his hands in a conciliatory gesture. "Okay, okay, sorry. It was awesome. I mean, you know how good JK is live, but this was like – it was just him, you know? He didn't have makeup on or have his hair done. He just standing mid-stage, singing, bantering with the sound guy."
"What was he wearing?" Lalisa asks.
"Jeans," Jimin says, a little embarrassed at how well he remembers all these details. "Black jeans, and a white tee shirt, and a grey hoodie, unzipped."
"Ohh," Jennie says. "Of course."
Black jeans, a white tee shirt, and a grey hoodie is basically JK's outfit. There are innumerable candid photos of him wearing a variation on this theme.
"How did he sound?" Jisoo is leaning forward now, arms folded on her knees. Her eyes are bright. They're all looking at him, waiting.
"Really good," Jimin says. "I mean, he always does, right? But he sounds better than ever. Namjoon said actually –"
He pauses. He's not sure if he should share this. Namjoon said not to say anything about the Japanese debut, but he hadn't mentioned anything about getting a new vocal trainer.
"What?" Rosie says. "Oppa, you're killing me!"
Well, it's probably okay. Jimin feels a bit weird, but he knows how much this means to the girls. "Namjoon said that they got Jungkook a new vocal trainer last year, and that he's improved a lot."
Lalisa laughs. "That's not a secret," she says. "I mean, have you heard him lately?"
"So good," Jisoo says, sighing. "He sounds better than ever."
"So you got special VIP backstage access," Jennie says. "But how was the show?"
"The show was great," Jimin says. "I mean, you've all seen him before. You know how good he is."
"Wish I could have gone to this one," Rosie says, pouting.
"I wish I could go to it again," Jimin says, smiling. "Go back and live it over again."
"That good?" Jisoo asks, one eyebrow raised.
"That good," Jimin says. "It felt like it lasted forever, but somehow it was done way too quickly, too. Afterwards –"
"There's an afterwards?" Jennie asks. "Jeeze. This guy must really like you."
Jimin, a little blushy, shrugs. "I mean, I think he just wanted to say goodbye. Anyway, he brought me back stage afterwards, back to Jungkook's dressing room."
They all lean forward, hanging on his every word.
"He introduced me," Jimin says. Then, red-cheeked, "He'd actually told Jungkook about the wine incident. Jungkook knew who I was."
"Oh my gosh," Lalisa says, so overwhelmed she rolls off of Rosie's lap and onto the floor.
"Oppa," Rosie says, breathless. "You're practically famous now!"
Jennie rolls her eyes but she's grinning too.
"That's pretty amazing," Jisoo says. "JK knew who you were."
"Yeah," Jimin says. "He was really nice, too. He asked me what I thought of the show."
"Jeon Jungkook asked you what you thought of the show?"
Jimin nods, grinning. "Yeah," he says. "I told him it was even better than last year. And –" This is a little embarrassing, but everything about this conversation is a little embarrassing. The genius of his friendship with the girls is that they don't care, and neither does he. "– And I told him what we were saying that time about the choreography being too cluttered."
That was a point he'd discussed with Lalisa, who had studied dance as a child.
"Oh," she says, eyes wide. "Really?"
Jimin nods. "Yup. He said he told the company the same thing."
Lalisa swoons, rolling over so her head is in Jennie's lap. Jennie pats her soothingly.
"How hot was he in person?" Jennie asks, still carding her fingers through Lalisa's hair.
How hot had Jungkook been in person?
On stage he had shone - under the brilliant stage lights, every line of his body had seemed wrought of liquid silver. Gilded. Perfect. He had commanded the attention of thousands, seemed an unattainable ideal.
But in the dim dressing room, with his face a little red from being washed, and his hair coming out of it's stiffly styled coif, he'd seemed – younger. Sweeter. A kid, really. Handsome, sure, but if Jimin is being honest with himself he can admit that his attention had mostly been on Namjoon.
"He was really hot," Jimin admits.
"But?" Jisoo's eyes are narrowed. She's known him longest, and she knows him best, and she can tell there's something he's not saying.
"I guess I was kind of distracted," Jimin mumbles.
"Ohhhh," Rosie and Lalisa say in unison.
"Someone's got a crush," Jennie croons.
"Jungkook was really great though," Jimin says, too quickly. "I mean, he was so polite and even more charming than he is in video. He even asked if I wanted to go out to dinner with them."
"And?" Rosie asks, her eyes huge.
Jimin shrugs. "I said no." He doesn't know how to explain how weird it had felt – being there in that room with JK, the subject of Jungkook's attentive, interested gaze. He'd felt weird, a bit wrong even. Overwhelmed mostly, and unsure of what he was supposed to feel.
"Boo," Lalisa says, jumping up. "You're no fun, Jimin. I would have gone to dinner and wooed Jungkook with my wit and charm. He would have fallen in love in an instant, and swept me off my feet."
"Oh," Jisoo says, laughing. "I think Jimin's already been swept off his feet. When's your next date?"
"Wednesday," Jimin says, blushing, shy suddenly.
"Awwww," Rosie says. "That's so romantic."
Lalisa grabs her by the hand and pulls her to her feet, and they waltz around the pocket-sized living room while Rosie sings, "Someday, our prince will come."
They circle, laughing and then collapse on the couch again.
“Some people have all the luck,” Rosie sighs.
“It’s not like that,” Jimin says, rolling his eyes. “We’re just going to get dinner. I mean, he’s an executive at a record company.”
Jennie clucks. “Don’t fight it, oppa.”
“Yeah,” Rosie cheers. “Go get your man!” This prompts her and Lalisa to burst into song again.
Jimin, smiling and shaking his head, gets up to go to the kitchen. Jisoo touches his hand as he passes.
“Really, Jimin,” she says softly. “You deserve this, you know?”
He’s glad at least one of them thinks so.
Jisoo, sitting on the couch in her pajamas with a face mask on and a pint of ice cream in her hand, shakes her head.
It is Wednesday evening, and Jimin needs to leave soon for his dinner with Namjoon.
“I don’t think so, Jimin-ah,” she says, shaking her head. “I liked the other jeans better. They make your ass look great.”
Jimin rolls his eyes. “What about the shirt? Is this too fancy?”
“Too bad it’s so hot out,” Jisoo says. “I feel like you should wear a sweater, since sweaters are like, your thing. That looks cute though. Maybe if you tuck it in.”
He’s wearing an off-white button up shirt with a mandarin collar and black buttons. “You don’t think it’s too plain?”
She shakes her head. “It looks nice,” she says. “Sophisticated.”
Jimin nods. Okay. Sophisticated sounds good.
“Thanks, Jisoo-yah,” he says.
Spoon in mouth, she smiles and nods. The girls like giving him fashion advice.
He’d honestly been a bit of a disaster when he first started flying. Out of his uniform, he tended towards gauche hip-hop clothes that were too young for him then and are far too young for him now. Over the last few years he’s tried consciously to cultivate a more intentional and simple style, sticking mostly to well made but fashionable clothing in shades of black and white and grey.
He ducks back into the bedroom and changes into the other pair of jeans. He checks himself in the mirror. Not too bad. He’s styled his hair up off his face, since that makes him look a bit older. The jeans are nice, and he’s wearing his favorite black loafers. He tucks the shirt in, and fusses with it a bit. Okay. Not bad.
It’s dumb, really, to be worried this much. Namjoon has already seen him wearing a neck scarf. It doesn’t get much worse than that. Still, every time they’ve met Namjoon has been dressed well in expensive fashionable clothes. Jimin doesn’t want to show up looking like a slouch.
He’s surprised, really, at how much he cares about impressing Namjoon. Surprised at how nervous he is.
He grabs his wallet and his phone and sticks them in his pocket. He drums his fingers against the top of his bureau. Did he forget his wallet? No. He’s got it. Damn. He glances at his phone. If he doesn’t leave now, he’s going to be late.
An hour later, Namjoon and Jimin are tucked into a tiny booth in a cozy little meat restaurant. Pork belly sizzles invitingly on the griddle. Namjoon had proposed a series of restaurants via text that Jimin had never heard of before. Each was, Jimin discovered when he searched them on Naver, more expensive than the last: sleek popular joints with tasting menus and lots of foraged ingredients and molecular gastronomy. Jimin had gotten more and more nervous until he’d finally had to put his foot down and proposed that he and Namjoon meet at a nice bbq place he’d gone to with Hoseok and Yoongi once.
He’s glad he did. The restaurant is small and not too crowded. The day was hot and stifling, but just as he’d gotten off the train thunder had shaken the skies. He’d dashed the three blocks to the restaurant, dodging raindrops and puddles. He’d been a bit breathless and a bit damp when he’d slowed to a stop just down the block from the restaurant. He paused a moment to compose himself, and then he’d looked up and seen Namjoon, standing a little awkwardly outside the door under a massive umbrella.
Feeling damp and disheveled, Jimin squared his shoulders and said, “Hey, Namjoon.”
Namjoon had startled, twirling with his umbrella so that it threw off a little shower of its own. His face was expressionless – even a little grave – and he looked tall and picturesque in that grey trench coat, dramatically lit like he’d stepped out of a magazine shoot. Jimin had felt a little intimidated and very soggy. All the week’s misgivings started to rise again in his throat, but then Namjoon caught sight of Jimin and smiled. “Hey yourself,” he’d said happily. “This weather is crazy. I hope you didn’t get too wet.”
Jimin smiled back. “It didn’t start raining until after I got on the train,” he said. “So no, I’m not too soaked. Let’s go inside, though.”
Now they are warm and snug in their little booth. While they wait for the meat to cook, Namjoon tells a story about an argument he’d had with Jungkook earlier that day.
“It’s really not my responsibility,” he says, “but Seokjin hyung thinks he listens better to me for some reason, so I get dragged in all the time. I told him that it was his choice, but that if he really wanted to go ahead and post it, I wasn’t going to deal with what happened if the fans freaked out.”
Jimin wrinkles his nose. “I mean,” he says slowly, not quite sure how to approach this with Namjoon. “It’s not like that shirt he wore at the concert left much to the imagination.”
Namjoon laughs. “Yeah,” he agrees, “but a shirtless bathroom selfie is so tacky.”
Jimin snorts. “He’s twenty one now. He’s at that age. If you don’t want him to bare it all on Instagram, why don’t you arrange for something more classy? Like one of those artsy black and white magazine shoots.”
Namjoon tilts his head, looking thoughtful. “Don’t you think the fans would freak out?”
"There are two kinds of fans," Jimin says, with a slightly professorial air. "There are fans who dream of Jungkook as their little brother, and there are fans who dream of Jungkook as their boyfriend." He takes a sip of his soju and soda. "The first kind are going to edit the photos and draw shirts on him to protect his modesty. The second kind are going to print them out and hang them up in their room."
Namjoon laughs. "Edit shirts on him? Really?"
Jimin nods. "Oh yeah," he says. "Fansites do that kind of thing all the time. It's a joke, but I mean, also not."
“That’s amazing,” Namjoon says. And then his expression changes. "And what kind of fan are you?"
"Do you think of Jungkook as a little brother, or a boyfriend?"
Namjoon is close enough that Jimin can smell him, some musky, spicy cologne that probably costs more than Jimin makes in a week. He can feel the heat of Namjoon's body, and see each of his eyelashes.
"I'm a boy fan," Jimin says mulishly. "We're a separate subspecies."
"Good," Namjoon says, looking satisfied, "I was hoping it wasn't the boyfriend one."
"Why?" Jimin asks, arching an eyebrow. The soju is making him bold. "Hope I'm taking applications?"
Namjoon chuckles. "I’ve been waiting long enough to take on you a date,” he says. “So, yeah. I guess I am.” His cheeks are a little bit flush, and he ducks his head in an endearing way. He gets bold, sometimes, Namjoon does, but each bold moment is followed by some small self-deprecating gesture.
“I’m a difficult man to get ahold of,” Jimin says, a little absurdly. He’s not even sure what he means. “But we’re finally here.”
“We are,” Namjoon says, smiling calmly. "How did you become a flight attendant anyway?"
Jimin takes a sip of his drink to compose himself. It has something of the opposite effect.
"I considered going to college to study dance," he admits, "but like I said I don't really have the height for a principal dancer and it's a very hard life. I wasn't sure I felt passionate enough to dance full time, so I stayed in Busan and went to school for hospitality instead. I like taking care of people, so it seemed like a good fit."
“Ah,” Namjoon says, “So you’re a Busan man like Jungkook. I thought I heard a bit of an accent when you got so upset at that poor old lady.”
Jimin snorts. “That poor old lady tried to take me out,” he says.
Namjoon nods, smiling. He takes a sip of his own drink. Under the table, their feet brush, and Jimin pulls his back like he’s been stung. Can you feel the thrill of skin on skin through leather loafers? He’s trying to find out, apparently. Namjoon doesn’t acknowledge their glancing blow. He just grabs the tongs to snatch another slice of samgyupsal from the grill.
"Anyway," Jimin continues, pushing his hair back out of his face, feeling a little too warm, maybe. "I thought I might work in a hotel or something, but my friend Jisoo – she's actually the one who introduced me to Jungkook's music – wanted to apply to be a flight attendant with Asiana and persuaded me to go with her. I didn't think I had any shot of making it, but here I am."
“You enjoy it?” Namjoon asks.
Jimin nods. “I do, even after so long,” he says. “It’s not an easy job, exactly, but there’s something magical about flying.”
“So long.” Namjoon narrows his eyes. “How long have you been doing it? You don’t look very old.”
Jimin wrinkles his nose. “I’m twenty five –“
“Aha!” Namjoon says. “So you have to call me hyung! I’m twenty six.”
“I’m twenty five, hyung,” Jimin says, “I’ve been flying for four years.” He tilts his head. “You’re awfully young to be the director of artists and repertoire, aren’t you?”
Namjoon shrugs. “Just lucky, I guess,” he says. He glances down. “I’m going to confess a deep, dark secret.” He takes a deep breath. “I’ve been working with Big Hit since I was a kid. I wasn’t kidding when I said I wanted to be a rapper. I auditioned for a place in the boy group they were planning to debut.”
Jimin looks up, eyes wide. “You wanted to be an idol,” he says, maybe a little accusatory.
“No,” Namjoon says, waving a hand. “No. I just wanted to make music. I wanted to reach people with my words.” He sighs. “But the lineup kept changing, and the debut kept getting pushed back, and then Shihyuk hyung found Jungkook through Superstar K and the boy group got put on the backburner.” He shrugs.
“So you just gave up?” Jimin doesn’t know Namjoon well, of course, but he doesn’t seem like the kind of person who would give up on a dream so easily.
Namjoon shakes his head. “It wasn’t giving up. It was more like adjusting. I decided to do my military service, and Shihyuk hyung promised me a job when I got out. I’ve been working for him ever since.”
“Huh,” Jimin says. “That’s pretty amazing. You must be really talented, hyung.”
Namjoon shrugs again, a bit awkward. “Here,” he says, in lieu of answering, putting a few choice pieces of meat on Jimin’s plate.
There’s a slightly awkward pause. This is what Jimin had been expecting, what he always dreads on dates – that moment when he says something awkward or runs out of easy conversational cues and unfamiliarity and unease floods in to fill the empty space in the conversation.
But then Namjoon asks, "What's the coolest place you've ever been?"
Oh, that’s something Jimin has plenty to say about. He has been so many places now, seen so many things he never thought he would. The memories are all a little sterile though – flat and glossy as picture postcards. Jimin doesn't mind traveling alone, but he thinks the sound of another human voice and the feeling of someone's hand in his would have made those memories richer by far.
"I went to Rome a little while ago," he says. "That was amazing. Everything is so old there, and the city is so beautiful."
“Ah,” Namjoon says, sounding a bit envious. “I keep hoping Shihyuk hyung will want to send Jungkook on a European tour. I’ve only been to London.”
"Europe is really cool," Jimin says. He takes another sip of soju. He's at that place where he feels good and soft and calm. "Paris is as beautiful as everyone says, and I really enjoyed Barcelona. I'm hoping sometime soon I can go to Istanbul. But honestly, I think my favorite place is still Japan."
Namjoon smiles at this.
“I like how busy it is,” Jimin continues, “and people are very friendly and helpful. I spent a weekend in Kyoto a few years ago, in the fall, and it was the most beautiful weekend of my entire life."
“That's sounds very romantic."
Jimin laughs. "I was there by myself, hyung. I'll have to visit again someday, when I've settled down.”
"Don't you want to keep flying?" Namjoon asks, curiously.
Jimin nods. He does, but... "Most flight attendants retire by the time they're 26 or 27," he says. "It's not as bad for the men, but for the women, it's almost a requirement. They want young, pretty faces." He makes a decidedly unpretty face, nose wrinkled and tongue sticking out.
Namjoon tilts his head. "And you don't qualify as a pretty face?"
Jimin blushes. "Oh," he says. "I've got a few years left before I'm over the hill."
"It's kind of like being an idol, isn’t it?" Namjoon shakes his head. "We keep telling Jungkook that it's important to solidify his fan base now, because after his military service things will be different."
"Thank god I already have that out of the way," Jimin says. His service hadn’t been especially bad – just standard grade miserable – but still he’s glad to have it in the rear view mirror.
"Cheers to that," Namjoon says, and they clink their glasses.
The evening draws to a soft, warm conclusion. The food is all gone. Jimin feels loose and easy and warm. His foot keeps brushing Namjoon’s foot, but Namjoon doesn’t pull away now. When they get the bill, Namjoon pulls out a credit card before Jimin can even protest.
"Nope," he says, getting up to go to the register and pay. "This is on me.”
They head up to the counter. Jimin rifles in his bag for some chapstick. Namjoon somehow nearly trips putting his trench coat back on. They step out into the evening. The rain has passed, and the air is cool and washed clean.
"How are you getting home?" Namjoon asks. His cheeks are a little flush, and the tops of his ears.
"Cab, I guess," Jimin says.
"Let me give you a ride?" Namjoon has a hand stuck in his pocket, and he's leaning back on his heels a little bit.
Classic signs of inebriation. Jimin has been trained to recognize them.
"You shouldn’t be driving right now," Jimin scolds.
Namjoon laughs. "I'm not," he protests. "I'm not. We keep a car service on reserve. I texted while I was paying.”
"Oh," Jimin says, mollified. "Sure. You can give me a ride, then, I guess."
They make small talk for few moments – something about the food, some chicken soup restaurant Namjoon wants to try, inanity – and then a black conversion van pulls up to the curb.
“This isn’t quite what I’d been picturing,” Jimin says, laughing.
Namjoon grins. He opens the door for Jimin. "After you," he says, gesturing.
Jimin rolls his eyes but climbs into the van. Namjoon climbs in after, tripping over Jimin's legs as he climbs in. He catches himself on the armrest and then falls, grinning, into his seat.
Jimin pulls the door shut. The driver pulls away from the curb.
“Oh,” Jimin says, and he leans forward to give the man his address.
“That’s a nice neighborhood,” Namjoon says, idly.
Jimin flushes. His living situation is a bit odd. People not in the industry don’t understand, sometimes. “I share an apartment with four other flight attendants,” he says. “It’s only a one bedroom. The girls share two sets of bunk beds and I have a cot.”
“Wow,” Namjoon says. “Close quarters.”
Jimin shrugs. “We’re rarely all there at the same time. I keep saying one of these days I’m going to move out and get a place of my own, but it just seems wasteful to pay for more when I’m on the road twenty nights a month.”
Namjoon nods. “That makes sense. Do you mind it?”
Jimin shrugs. “Sometimes. More now than I used to, I think. I love the girls but sometimes you want your own space, you know? And...” He hesitates. “With the travel, everything in my life feels so temporary, you know? I’m never in the same place, never with the same people. I think it might be nice to have some place permanent to come back to. You know. Like home.”
Namjoon nods. “I think I know what you mean. I bought a place last year.” He grins. “After the promotion. Big, fancy place in a high rise in Gangnam.”
“Are you bragging right now, hyung?” Jimin wrinkles his nose.
“Little bit,” Namjoon says. “Are you impressed?”
“A little,” Jimin admits. “How do you like your new place?”
Namjoon laughs. “Not as much as I thought I would, honestly. I bought it for the view, but it’s so bright at night I had to have blackout curtains installed. Before I moved I was living with two buddies of mine, but now it’s just me. I don’t mind being alone, but it’s kind of lonely. Must be nice having so many roommates.”
Jimin smiles. “It’s mostly nice,” he says diplomatically. “The girls are the ones who got me into JK. I told you that, didn’t I?”
Namjoon nods. “You should have said something. I could have gotten tickets for them too, Jiminnie. Next time.”
The pet name sounds so sweet and natural in Namjoon’s gruff, low voice.
“You already did so much,” Jimin says quietly. “Thanks, hyung.”
“It’s nothing,” Namjoon says, waving his hand. “Besides, you gave me some really good feedback. I’m going to write it all off as market research.”
“Is that all I am to you?” Jimin pouts.
Namjoon narrows his eyes and smirks. “Is it?” he asks.
“I don’t know,” Jimin says, biting his lower lip. “I guess we’ll see, hyung.”
It seems far too soon when the van pulls to a stop outside of Jimin's apartment.
"Ah," Namjoon says. "We're home, honey."
"No," Jimin corrects. "It's 'Honey, we're home'."
He feels a weird pang, though. He might be home, but it’s not like he can invite Namjoon up. Oh well.
"You're right," Namjoon says. He is smiling at Jimin with a weird soft light in his eyes.
"Tonight was really great, Namjoon. Thank you," Jimin says, feeling a bit off kilter, a bit overwhelmed.
"It's been my pleasure," Namjoon says.
Jimin starts to get up but Namjoon stops him with a soft hand on his wrist. "I'd like to kiss you now, Jimin. If that’s okay."
"Oh," Jimin says, softly, because he'd hoped, but he hadn't been sure – not totally. "Yeah. That would be good.”
He leans forward, so that the armrest kind of presses into his belly, and Namjoon leans forward, and they kiss. It's a little awkward. Their lips mash together a little too much, but Namjoon's are soft and warm, and it’s good.
"Mmm," Namjoon says, after they've separated. "That was nice."
"Yeah," Jimin says, too quickly. "So… am I being too ambitious to ask when the second date is?"
Namjoon laughs. "Not too ambitious,” he says. “I don’t know my travel schedule for next week yet, but I’ll text.”
"Soon," Jimin says.
"Soon," Namjoon agrees.
They stare at each other for a moment longer. Everything seems so soft and sweet and good, like a scene from a drama, like a scene from a music video where the strings swell and voices rise in exhilaration and delighted.
"Goodnight, hyung," Jimin says, smiling. "Goodnight, Kim Namjoon."
"Goodnight, Park Jimin," Namjoon says, and he smiles and waves, and Jimin tries to back gracefully out of the van but he trips and nearly hits his head on the doorway. Namjoon's mouth twists but he has the courtesy not to laugh.
Jimin does laugh though. He can't help himself. This is all so absurd. The van pulls away but Jimin lingers for a moment under the streetlight in front of his building. It's unreal, and in the more somber light of morning he expects things will look different. But this has been a magical night, and Jimin thinks he deserves to savor that for now.
And in the morning, everything seems a bit flatter, a bit more mundane. Last night seems like the dream it was. Jimin drags himself out of bed and drinks some water while he makes a pot of coffee. It's hot out and the air conditioning is on high, but he's chilly, so he puts on some big goofy sweater that Taehyung made him buy that's too big for him and sits with his knees to his chest in the chair in the living room and drinks his coffee and scrolls through twitter on his iPad.
Fan sites are still posting pictures from the concert, even though it’s been a week. It's funny, Jimin thinks, how different it looks in photographs. They capture all of these individual, striking, thrilling moments – Junkgook's flashing eyes, his playful, bold smile, the way the lights play in his messy hair – but none of the feel of it.
Still, it's JK, and old habits are hard to break, so Jimin favorites the best of the photos and saves a few he really likes.
He's watching a fancam when his phone notification sounds. He has a text.
It's from Namjoon.
Good morning! How's your head?
Jimin smiles. Not awful, but it’s been better. Yours?
Same. I have a meeting at 10 about tour merch and I'm seriously considering skipping. There's only so much I have to say about light sticks and I've said it all.
Jimin frowns. Light sticks are important, okay? They're a way for the fans to show solidarity and stand out at music shows. Jungkook's are cute, but they have notoriously bad battery life.
I have a lot to stay about light sticks, hyung. Can you ask them to make the battery life better? Or make a rechargeable one? The battery life is really bad now. Everyone hates it.
He knows it's not likely they'd make a change because of anything he says, but he figures the least he can do is advocate for the fandom and for the environment, or something.
Namjoon doesn't reply right away, and Jimin goes back to his coffee and his fancams. He has nothing to do today, really, other than laundry and ironing. Maybe he'll get out for a run, or maybe he'll go back to bed. He needs to get online and confirm his schedule, too, and bid on some more flight blocks, but it’s not urgent.
His phone buzzes again. He thinks it might be Taehyung, texting from wherever he is in the world right now, but it's not. It's Namjoon again.
I told them about the batteries. They're going to bring it up with the manufacturer
Jimin feels a weird flush. He hadn't thought Namjoon would actually do that.
You didn't really have to mention the battery life
Namjoon sends him a little frowning face. :( A moment later, he texts again. I want to hear all of your opinions on sticks, Park Jimin
Jimin squints at the phone. Was that supposed to be a double entendre? That was awful
No reply. Then, I'm sorry. Seokjin hyung is wearing off on me
Jimin snorts. What? Is he the king of dick jokes or something?
Please. He's not so limited in scope. Jin hyung is the king of all bad jokes
Jimin smiles. You can let him know his crown is safe, then
Namjoon sends a frowny face again.
Jimin smiles to himself but doesn’t reply. He should, maybe, but he can’t think of anything else to say. He used to be the kind of person who had to reply to every text, every call, every message right away. He’s gotten better about not doing that. He wonders if Namjoon will take his silence as some kind of slight but whatever. If he does, he does.
He does not. Namjoon texts again later that afternoon, a little nothing text because he’s bored. It becomes a regular thing. Namjoon will text in the morning and ask Jimin where he is in the world today, and Jimin will respond with a little snapshot: the view of roofs out of his hotel room window, or a pretty sunset he'd taken from the plane, or something he saw in town. It's comfortable, and low pressure. Namjoon sends him pictures, too, of trees and flowers and once a fuzzy white dog.
she's pretty. is she yours?
He. and yeah, he lives with my parents but he's my little rap monster
lol. is that his name?
yeah. that was going to be my stage name when I was a prospective idol
...you're kidding me, right?
I never kid, Park Jimin
It's fun. Namjoon seems genuinely interested in the inane details of Jimin's life and doesn't care when he takes forty-eight hours to respond because he's doing a quick-turn around in Uzbekistan. Namjoon is charming and bright and funny, and every text he sends puts a smile on Jimin’s face.
And Namjoon even seems to appreciate that Jimin is a JK fan. Maybe. Jimin's not really sure how to feel about that yet. They haven't talked about it, beyond what Jimin thought of the concert, but Namjoon will mention stuff sometimes, like how the Japanese debut is coming along, or that the company that manufactures the light sticks has decided to go with a rechargeable model. He sends a picture of JK once – Jungkook, really, just soft, sweet Jungkook, who is standing at Namjoon's side wearing heavy eye makeup and a silvery shirt. MV filming. Jungkook-ah says hi
Jimin feels weird, like he's got contraband or something, but it makes him happy too. He would never share any of this publicly of course, but it still seems like he's doing something wrong, somehow.
Jimin likes talking to Namjoon. It’s easy, and the texting keeps things pleasantly low-stakes. They flirt gently, but never go too far. Namjoon makes him smile and makes him laugh, and honestly it’s really nice to have someone to text when bad weather delays him for six hours in Beijing. Namjoon’s sympathy may just be feigned, but it’s a comfort all the same.
It's been three weeks since their first date when he gets a text from Namjoon that says can I call you really quickly?
Jimin's heart sinks. They’ve been trying and trying to set up a time for that second date, but Namjoon has been over in Tokyo and Jimin’s schedule has been rough. He knows it’s not easy, but they're not serious enough yet that Namjoon would call him to break things off, right? There are barely things to break! But maybe that's the problem. Maybe Namjoon's starting to realize what it would mean to date someone who never knows exactly when and where his feet will touch the ground.
sure Jimin sends back, and he prays he can keep it cool even though he's been up for twenty hours and the thermostat is broken in his hotel room, so that it's an uncomfortable 60 degrees and Jimin is shivering even under the blankets.
Jimin sits with his knees to his chest waiting for the call. He’s got the tv turned on – he’s in Bangkok and he’s watching some Thai game show that is totally incomprehensible to him. He mutes it. The only sound is the hiss of the too-persistent air conditioner. He stares at his phone. JK’s smiling face stares back at him. What is Namjoon doing? Is he really going to call or –
His phone buzzes, startling him so badly he nearly loses hold of it.
“Hello?” Jimin answers, feigning like he doesn’t know who it is.
“Hey, Jiminnie,” Namjoon says. “Long time no uh, talk.”
Jimin can hear his smile in his voice. He doesn’t sound like he’s called to break up with Jimin. “Yeah. Hey hyung.”
“So,” Namjoon says. “What are you up to?”
Jimin rolls his eyes. “I’m in Bangkok. In the hotel. Watching something on tv.”
“Sounds fun,” Namjoon says.
“Not really,” Jimin says. “You must be bored if you called me just to chat, huh?”
“Oh,” Namjoon says. “I’ve got to go have dinner with some reps from Sony Japan in a little while, actually.”
“That doesn’t sound too bad,” Jimin says.
“Should be fine,” Namjoon agrees. “I’d rather talk to you, though.”
Oh. Jimin smiles. He can feel his cheeks warm. “Talk then, hyung,” he says.
Namjoon laughs. “Getting right to the point, huh?” He takes a deep breath. “Um, so remember how you sent me your schedule?”
“I remember,” Jimin says.
“I saw you had a few days off in Tokyo at the end of the month,” Namjoon says. “I know this might seem kind of forward, but I was wondering if you had any interesting in going to Kyoto with me. One of the guys from Sony has a machiya there and offered to let me use it for the weekend.”
Jimin blinks. A weekend in Kyoto with Namjoon? “That’s a pretty intense second date,” he says.
On the television, a magician shows off a fancy bit of sleight of hand.
“Too much?” Namjoon asks, sounding a bit nervous. “I know it’s a lot but you mentioned how much you enjoyed Japan and with how much I’m over here I thought it might be easier for us to get together there than in Seoul. I know you already spent some time there and I don’t think this is going to be better than that or anything, but when he offered to let me use the place I thought of you right away. I definitely understand if it’s too much, though. I don’t –“
He’s talking too much, too fast. He really is nervous.
A weekend in Kyoto. It is a lot. Jimin closes his eyes and remembers his last weekend there. That had been such a lonely and beautiful trip. Would another visit ruin it? Does he want to spend a whole weekend with Namjoon? The texting has been good, definitely, but a weekend together is a whole different thing. A more serious thing.
Ordinarily, Jimin would refuse. It would be easy. He could lie and say his schedule changed. He could simply say no. But something about the soft tremor of uncertainty in Namjoon’s voice touches his heart.
“I think that sounds nice, Namjoon,” he says softly. “I’d like to go to Kyoto with you.”
“Oh,” Namjoon says, relief evident. “Cool.”
“Cool,” Jimin says, smiling.
“I’ll text you all the details,” Namjoon says.
“Cool,” Jimin says again, and then cringes, because really? “Sorry. I mean. Uh.”
“It’s cool with me too,” Namjoon says.
“Cool,” Jimin says, wryly this time. “Have a nice dinner.”
“Have a nice –“ Namjoon pauses, as though he doesn’t know what to say.
“Night?” Jimin suggests.
“Yeah,” Namjoon says softly, that smile still in his voice. “Have a good night, Jimin.”
“You too, hyung,” Jimin says, smiling.
“Good night,” Namjoon says again.
Jimin doesn’t want to hang up first. He hesitates.
“Okay,” Namjoon says, laughing. “On three, okay?”
“One,” Jimin says.
“Two,” Namjoon says.
“Three,” they both say at once.
Jimin hangs up. He flings his phone down the bed and squeezes his knees closer into his chest, wrapping his arms around them. He feels weird and overwhelmed and nervous and thrilled all at once.
Jimin slowly uncurls himself. He leans forward, scrambling down the bed to grab his phone.
Namjoon’s already sent him a text.
I’m really glad you said yes
Jimin types a message and presses send before he can change his mind.
I’m really glad you asked me
Jimin doesn’t wait for Namjoon’s reply. He sets his phone down on the night stand, upside down. It’s early afternoon, but he’s exhausted and it’s so hot out he can’t even think about going out, even though the room is so cold. He turns off the light but leaves on the television. He curls up on his side, arms wrapped around a pillow, and pulls the blanket up to his ears.
A weekend in Kyoto with Namjoon. An entire weekend. Holy shit. What did he just agree to?
This time, Jimin is waiting. It's two in the afternoon, and the sun is hot. July in Tokyo, and the rainy season isn't over yet. It's not raining now, but there are clouds gathering and rain is on the way.
He landed a few hours ago and changed out of his uniform in the crew lounge. He'd sent Namjoon a text when he landed: On the ground!
He hasn't gotten a response yet, and he's starting to worry this is some kind of setup. It's irrational – he and Namjoon have traded texts every day since their last phone call – but he's hot and hungry and a bit sleepy and sweat is rolling down under the collar of his shirt and some unreasonable part of him can't help but suspect he's been set up.
He sighs and pulls out his phone. Still nothing from Namjoon. He drags his suitcase over to the bank of vending machines outside of the terminal and roots around in his wallet for some yen. He pops in the coins and waits for his bottle of green tea. He's trying hard not to drink so much caffeine when he flies. He’s always so dehydrated and the caffeine doesn’t help. Tea isn't as good as water, but at least it's a bit better than coffee. He opens the bottle and takes a long drink. He should have tried to eat on the plane, but he hadn't been sure what Namjoon had planned – and truthfully he'd been a bit nervous. He’s hungry now, though, and a little dehydrated, and he really just wants Namjoon to show up, so they can be on their way.
Other travelers get into cabs, are greeted by loved ones, make their way to the train station. Jimin waits. The hot white summer sun bleaches everything. He takes out his phone and scrolls through twitter. Jungkook was a guest on a popular variety show a few days ago, and the broadcast company released a few behind the scenes clips. The show had featured a segment where the celebrity guests were asked to handle a variety of unusual animals, and there's an adorable gif of Jungkook shying away from a tiny hedgehog. Jimin smiles as he watches Jungkook's eyes go wide in shock, over and over.
He's so distracted that he nearly jumps out of his skin when Namjoon says, "He asked Seokjin hyung if he could get a hedgehog after that, you know."
"Shit," Jimin says, looking up. He puts a hand on his chest.
Namjoon is standing a few feet away, wearing a white tee shirt tucked into black pants and some very ugly sandals that probably cost more than Jimin wants to know. He's tan, and his blond hair is growing out, falling floppily in his face.
"Hey," he says, smiling, hands shoved in his pockets. "I'm so sorry I'm late. There was terrible traffic."
Jimin huffs. "You should have texted."
"Ah," Namjoon says, ducking his head, bashful suddenly. "About that – I might have dropped my phone in the sink this morning when I was shaving, so we're going to need to make a little detour to the Apple store before we get going."
Jimin snorts. "What were you doing on your phone while you were shaving?"
"Trying to talk Jungkook out of getting a hedgehog," Namjoon says, totally deadpan.
Jimin laughs, charmed in spite of himself. "I suppose I can forgive you," he says. "Even though you're depriving the world of selcas of Jungkook and his hedgehog."
"Nobody's around to take care of it," Namjoon says practically. "I suggested he get a hermit crab instead, but he said hermit crabs were creepy."
Jimin smiles. "They don't have quite the same cuddly appeal."
"No way," Namjoon says, eyes wide. "Crabs are really cute." He leans back on his heels.
"You're weird," Jimin says, but he's smiling. He feels better, now that Namjoon is here.
"A bit," Namjoon admits. "So. Hey. How are you, Jimin?" He leans forward and kisses Jimin on the cheek, soft and welcoming. Jimin feels his heart go pitter-pat.
"Pretty good, now that I know you aren't standing me up. How are you, hyung?"
"What kind of guy do you take me for?" Namjoon pouts. "I would never stand you up, Park Jimin. Not when I've waited this long to see you again."
They smile dumbly at each other for a few moments, and then Namjoon says, "Are you ready to go? The driver is waiting, and I need to get to the Apple store before it closes." He sighs. "I guess it's time for me to break down and get one of those really ugly indestructible cases that can withstand being run over by a tank."
They start to walk towards the parking garage. "Are you planning to run your phone over with a tank?" Jimin asks.
Namjoon shakes his head. "No," he says, "but you have to be prepared for all eventualities. One time I was running through the parking lot at Incheon, late for a flight, and my phone fell out of my pocket. I realized it almost right away, but a bus had already smashed it." He makes a mournful face.
Jimin grins. "Okay," he says. "Yeah. Maybe one of those cases is a good idea. Something military grade.”
They get to the car and the driver helps put Jimin's things in the trunk beside Namjoon's. They both sit in the back seat again, but it's more comfortable this time. Less distance – both the physical and metaphorical kind – between them. Jimin tells Namjoon about a recent flight to Jakarta he'd worked that had the worst turbulence he's ever experienced.
"It was so crazy, hyung," Jimin says. "The captain said afterward the plane in front of us didn't report anything, but one second I was serving a nice couple some water, and then next I was a meter in the air. Babies were crying. Everyone was crying, actually."
He smiles now, but it hadn't seemed that funny at the time.
"You didn't get hurt, did you?" Namjoon asks, serious suddenly.
"No," Jimin says quickly. He hadn't told the story to garner sympathy. "No," he says. "I was fine. Just a little bruised up. No one got hurt. They tell us in training what it feels like, going through turbulence like that, but it's still scary. I didn't freak out or anything. We have to stay calm for the passengers, no matter what."
Namjoon tilts his head, a funny expression on his face. "You're a pretty brave guy, Park Jimin."
It's not really like that – he'd just been doing his job. "It's what any of us would have done," Jimin says finally.
"Still brave," Namjoon insists. Then, more softly, "I'm glad you're okay."
Jimin smiles. "Thanks," he says.
The traffic isn’t too bad, and they make good time to Shibuya. The car drops Namjoon off in front of the store.
"You can just wait here if you want," he says apologetically. "I'm really sorry about this, also."
Jimin rolls his eyes. "You said that," he says, climbing across the back seat to get out on Namjoon's side of the car. "It's okay. I can browse while you deal with your phone."
Jimin pokes at the fancy new model iPads and Apple Watches for a bit, and then spends a long time looking at phone cases, even though he'd never trade in for some pedestrian case. His current case was a special birthday support item produced by RabbitintheMoon, with an exclusive shot of JK they never released online. He's put off upgrading his phone for over a year now because he doesn't know if and when RabbitintheMoon will do a case for the iPhone X. Maybe that’s a little silly. He doesn’t care.
Jimin is at the iPad display doodling a little picture of a stick figure flying a plane. It's weird drawing with the stylus, but he gets used to it after a few minutes and surrounds his little pilot with happy clouds and wheeling birds.
"Huh," Namjoon says. "That's cute. You didn't say you could draw."
"Oh," Jimin says, embarrassed. "I can't really. Just you know. I doodle here and there."
"Better than I can do," Namjoon says. "Even my stick figures don't look like stick figures.
Jimin grins. "You got your phone?"
Namjoon nods. "Yup. And called the driver. You ready to get going?"
The driver drops them off at Tokyo Station. Namjoon reserved tickets, so all they need to do is wait. Jimin buys a cup of coffee and some snacks from one of the vending machines. He keeps waiting for things to feel weird, but they haven't yet, and he's starting to wonder if they will. Namjoon is so... peaceful? Is that the word Jimin wants? He's not sure if that describes it exactly, but there's something about Namjoon's placid, happy attitude that sets Jimin's soul at ease.
Their train pulls up to the platform. Namjoon has reserved them seats on a green car. They find the right car and find their seats and Namjoon puts his bag on the rack overhead. He goes to reach for Jimin's but Jimin pulls it away.
Namjoon smiles and steps side to let Jimin put his own bag up. “Wasn’t sure if you could reach.”
Jimin gives him a dirty look. “I'm a professional," he reminds Namjoon.
“Right,” Namjoon says, laughing and taking his seat.
"I've never been on a bullet train before," Jimin admits after he's stowed his luggage.
"Really?" Namjoon asks, a little amazed. "Not even just for the hell of it?"
"It's just easier for me to fly into Osaka," Jimin says.
"You better take the window seat then," Namjoon says. "You can't miss the famous view of Mt. Fuji."
Normally Jimin would refuse – Namjoon paid for the tickets, after all; shouldn't he get the best seat? – but something about the pleased tone of Namjoon's voice gives him pause. Namjoon is happy that he's come up with something new for Jimin to do, and happy to let Jimin have the better view. Making Jimin happy would make Namjoon happy. Wow.
"Okay," Jimin says. "Thanks, hyung."
He takes the window seat.
They get settled in and Namjoon digs out the tickets and then apologizes as he folds down the table from the seat back and gets out his iPad. He needs to answer a few last emails, and then the weekend is work-free.
"It's fine," Jimin says. "You look very professional, Mr. Director of A&R."
Namjoon snorts and shakes his head but keeps typing diligently.
Jimin rests his head against the seat back, and he feels sleepy suddenly. He has a moment of disorientation and then realizes they've started moving. Slowly, and then much faster, the city rolls by outside the windows. He closes his eyes. He'll close them for just a moment, and then he'll feel better. He'll just close them for a moment and then –
"Hey," Namjoon says. "Jimin, hey. You're going to miss the view."
Jimin blinks. Oh wow. He really did fall asleep. His eyes feel gummy. He rubs them. Namjoon's iPad is still out, but he's not looking at it. He's leaning forward to stare at out the window. Jimin turns – and nearly gasps. The snow-capped mountain is peach and lavender, in front of a crimson sky. It's prettier than any post card.
"Wow," he says.
Namjoon nods. "Yeah," he agrees. "Wow."
They watch in silence until the track curves and the mountain goes out of view.
"I know you woke me up, but I'm not totally sure I'm not still dreaming,” Jimin say softly.
Namjoon beams. "I told you you'd want the window seat."
"You were right," Jimin agrees. "Thank you, Namjoon hyung."
Namjoon's smile is even wider, almost goofy looking, honestly, but so sweet and pleased that it makes Jimin smile like a fool in return.
He dozes for the rest of the trip, not really asleep but not quite awake, feeling absolutely soaked in the sweetness of the evening and his company. It is not long, though, before they are pulling into Kyoto Station. They get their bags down and descend into a momentary fray. Namjoon loses control of his suitcase for a second, and scrambles to right it. Jimin sleepily bumps into the person in front of him. Everything is disorder – and then they're out on the street standing at the taxi rank.
Their turn comes. Namjoon gives their address to the driver in his impressively fluent Japanese, and they're off, zipping through the streets.
Jimin is sleepy and hungry, but he feels the special energy now that comes only from being in a new place. He stares out the window, taking in the evening scenery: pedestrians strolling along the Kamo River, lanterns hanging from waterfront restaurants and inns, the jumbled geometric shapes of the buildings, slightly obscured, slightly abstract.
It is not long before the car stops, pulling up to the curb on a street full of beautiful traditional homes. It's quiet and suburban here, and Jimin is a bit disappointed – he is thinking of the glowing lanterns and cobbled streets they passed. On his last trip He’d stayed in a bland hotel near the airport, and he’d secretly been excited to stay in the historic area. It’s okay though, just a minor disappointment he feels bad for even feeling. He gets the bags from the trunk while Namjoon pays the driver.
"This way," Namjoon says, smiling as he takes his bag.
They walk down a few blocks, past stately quiet houses, and then turn down a tiny alley. Ah. Here are Jimin's cobblestones. The suitcases bump as they roll over the uneven surface. There is a door at the very end of the alley. Namjoon takes a piece of folded paper out of his pocket and then enters the code for the door. It opens onto a tiny stone-paved courtyard. Namjoon shuts the door behind them, and it's like they've stepped through into another world.
They slide open the shoji panel door and then take their shoes off in the entrance way. Up another step, and Jimin gasps.
The floors are honey gold wood, gleaming in the soft light. The walls are creamy white, but the beams are dark and aged. The living room opens onto a little gem of a garden – maple tree and mossy rocks and rich green ferns. The furniture is modern, but so clean and spare in its lines that it suits the old room perfectly.
"Namjoon," he says, "This is so beautiful. We can't stay here."
Namjoon grins. "Why not?"
"I don't know. It looks like a magazine. What if we break something?"
Namjoon grins. "I already warned my colleague," he says. "He said it would be a good test run for when he brings his grandchildren here."
Jimin laughs. "Okay," he says. "Wow. This is amazing. Thank you so much, hyung."
Namjoon smiles, obviously pleased. "You're welcome, Jimin-ah. Why don't we get settled and then go get some food? You can pick which room you'd like."
Oh. Are they not sharing? Jimin hadn't been sure. He'd been nervous, actually. Not about sleeping with Namjoon, exactly, but just – well. He hadn't been sure what Namjoon wanted. But this – this beautiful home and all of Namjoon's thoughtful planning and their separate bedrooms – doesn't feel like some casual hook-up.
This feels – in a very tentative and uncertain way – like it could be something more.
Jimin wakes up in the dark, uncertain of where he is. Some Haneda Airport hotel? He breathes in. The air is fragrant with cedar and rain. No. He is in the machiya in Kyoto, in the beautiful tatami mat room on the second floor. He is with Namjoon.
He closes his eyes, but he can tell right away that he won't go back to sleep. It is raining very hard. He can hear the patter on the roof, like little dancing feet. He is awake, but he doesn't feel bad. He feels good, actually. The futon is very soft, and other than the rain the night is silent. He stares up at the dark ceiling. After they had gotten settled, they walked through the quiet rain-glossed streets to a little restaurant with just three tables and a counter. They ordered plenty of the simple, comforting food: potato dumplings with meat sauce, steak donburi, pickled vegetables, some stew that Jimin never learned the contents of but which was deeply delicious regardless.
The restaurant was so pocket-sized that their feet kept brushing under the table. And afterwards, walking home, Namjoon had carried the umbrella and held Jimin close, one arm around his waist. It had been so good, so close and cozy, and Jimin had almost thought that when they got home they might –
But, lounging on the couch in that little jewel box of a house, halfway through his first beer, Jimin had yawned enormously, so much so his jaw cracked, and Namjoon had wrinkled his nose and laughed.
"Go to bed," he'd said.
Jimin, who was sitting beside him but not right beside him, had bumped their knees together and said, "Don't wanna. I want to stay here with you.” It had felt forward, but the alcohol made him bold.
Namjoon had smiled but looked pleased. He'd put his hand on Jimin's shoulder, and then leaned forward and kissed him, softly but so tenderly that it felt like an embrace.
"Go to sleep," he'd said quietly. "We have all day tomorrow, and the next day."
Jimin opened his mouth to protest – and yawned again.
They'd both laughed, and then kissed again, a long lingering kiss that Jimin was reluctant to end. His fingers rested on Namjoon's thigh, and Namjoon's big hand felt so good on his shoulder, but finally they'd managed to pull themselves apart, and Jimin had gone to wash up and go to bed.
He'd needed it. His phone tells him it's now four in the morning. He was tucked under the covers of the futon by ten, so he slept hard for six hours. That's more sleep than he usually gets. He stretches, and blinks his eyes open again. Maybe he'll sleep for another few hours, but first he has to piss.
He pads silently to the beautiful bathroom. (That had taken his breath away too – it is nicer than a spa, with black marble floors and a huge cedar soaking tub.) On his way back to his room, he notices the light is on downstairs. He quietly goes down and pauses on the bottom step. Namjoon is sitting on the couch, wearing glasses that Jimin has not seen him wear before. He has a book in his lap.
"Hey," Jimin says softly. "Couldn't sleep?"
Namjoon looks up and shakes his head. "Not really," he says. He looks tired, though, with dark circles under his eyes.
Jimin nods. He knows that feeling. He sits down on the couch beside Namjoon. Namjoon puts his book down on the coffee table. He smiles at Jimin, and it feels like it did before they went to sleep, like they are standing on the edge of something. It is still raining and the air is petrichor and old dreams.
Jimin scoots closer. “Lie down,” he says, patting his lap.
Namjoon glances up – like he's checking to see if it's okay – and then rests his head on Jimin's thigh. For such a big person, he takes up surprisingly little space: knees curled to his chest, with his arm draped over the side, so his long graceful fingers brush the floor.
Jimin slides his hand across Namjoon's shoulder, up the back of his neck, and then through his hair – thick and healthy considering how often he must have to bleach it. His fingernails drag a bit. He scratches behind Namjoon’s ear, gently. His mother used to do this for him when he was a child. He has never slept well, and she always knew somehow. Quiet as a ghost, she would come into his room and stroke his hair and sing to him in her sweet, untrained voice.
Jimin sings now, almost without thinking. He sings one of JK’s songs –the forgotten B-side from an early single, about looking for a lover by the sea. He’s not a good singer, but in a high, faint voice he sings the first verse, and then the chorus, and Namjoon doesn’t protest or even stir. He is heavy and still, listening, so Jimin keeps going until the song is over and he falls silent and only the rain is left.
Namjoon turns, so that he's lying on his back, looking up at Jimin. His eyes are strangely bright. The weight of his head on Jimin's thigh is comforting. He moves his hand from Namjoon's head to the curve of his jaw.
“Do you like that song?” Namjoon asks, in a strange voice.
Jimin nods. “It’s one of JK’s,” he says inanely, as though Namjoon wouldn’t already know. “Not one of the real popular ones, but I always liked the lyrics. The line about the lover speaking with the voice of the wind is so beautiful.”
Namjoon smiles and closes his eyes and without opening them he says, “I wrote them.”
“That song,” Namjoon says, one eye cracked open. “Those lyrics. I wrote them.”
“Oh,” Jimin says. “Oh my god.” He feels his cheeks get hot. He’s embarrassed, and he doesn’t know why. “I’m sorry, hyung.”
Namjoon grabs Jimin’s hand. His is so much bigger that he can fold Jimin’s hand almost entirely in his own. “Why are you sorry? I can’t believe you know all the words.” He shakes his head. “I haven’t thought about that song in years.”
Jimin doesn’t know what to say. He doesn’t pull his hand away, but he can’t bring himself to meet Namjoon’s eyes. He stares out at the garden, which is nothing more than a square of richer darkness.
“You’re embarrassed,” Namjoon observes.
“I’m not,” Jimin lies. “but it’s kind of weird to sing you your own song, hyung.”
“I thought it was sweet,” Namjoon says. “Beautiful, actually. But if you’re embarrassed, sing me something else, then, Park Jimin.”
Jimin swallows. He doesn’t want to, but he feels he has to now. Namjoon squeezes his hand. Jimin clears his throat and sings one of the songs his mother used to sing for him, an old one about a baby sleeping alone in a deserted house on a lonely island.
When he is done, Namjoon is silent for a moment and then says, “Maybe you should have been an idol, Jimin-ah.”
Jimin huffs. “Stop messing with me,” he says.
“I’m serious,” Namjoon says. “Your voice is so…”
“Girly?” Jimin says, recalling old elementary school taunts.
“No,” Namjoon says sharply, “Not that it would be a bad thing if it were. Clear and sweet, like a bird. Soaring.”
Jimin rolls his eyes.
“I’m serious,” Namjoon says. “I can put you in touch with someone from Big Hit Entertainment’s A&R Department, if you want.”
Jimin laughs. He can’t help himself. Namjoon grins and laughs too.
"We need to sleep," Jimin says, absurdly, when he’s calmed himself.
Namjoon smiles. "You're right. I have a lot planned for us tomorrow."
"You do?" Jimin asks, surprised.
Namjoon shakes his head. "Not really," he says. "I have a list of places to go see, but I don't really care what we do."
He doesn't say it, but Jimin understands. He doesn't care what they do, since they will be together. He nods.
"You're comfy," Namjoon says. His eye flutter shut, but he is still smiling. Jimin has an absurd urge to press a finger into the little divot of Namjoon’s dimple.
"Let's go to bed," Jimin says, laughing, exasperated, but glad – so glad.
"Mmm," Namjoon says. "Let's just stay here."
Jimin shakes his head, but he doesn't move. Namjoon's face softens, slowly, as ease comes over him. His breathing gets steady and deep. Jimin rubs the pad of his thumb along Namjoon's jaw and Namjoon shifts, minutely, as though pressing into it.
He is asleep.
The rain is still falling, and that cool delicious flavor is still in the air. Jimin closes his eyes and listens to the patter on the roof, on the stones in the garden. There are no other noises in the world except for the song of the rain and the steady, quiet huff of Namjoon's exhalations. He closes his eyes, and although he is not comfortable, he can't imagine disturbing Namjoon's sleep. He would stay like this forever, if he could.
He sleeps too.
"So are you telling me you spent an entire weekend in Kyoto in some fancy ass luxury townhouse with Mr. Hottie Record Executive and all you did was fall asleep on the couch together?"
Taehyung, jittery, taps his foot. He says he's worked seven days in a row, and his blood at this point is at least half coffee.
It is five o’clock in the evening and they are in the crew lounge at Narita. That morning, Namjoon and Jimin had taken the Shinkasen back to Tokyo. Jimin hadn't paid any attention to the scenery this time. Instead he'd dozed with his head resting on Namjoon's shoulder, their fingers woven together. A car had met them at the station and driven them to the airport. The driver had gotten Jimin's luggage from the trunk, and Namjoon had gotten out and come around the car. He'd slid an easy hand down Jimin's side and smiled at him, and then kissed him, luxurious and slow, but the embers of the weekend's heat had kindled, and the kiss had gotten deeper and closer and Jimin had put his hand around Namjoon's neck and Namjoon’s hand had slid down to Jimin’s hips, fingers pressing in, steadying him like they had when they’d fucked before dawn in the big stall shower of the machiya.
They'd managed to tear themselves apart only when the driver had cleared his throat in a loud and rather obvious way.
"When am I going to see you again, Park Jimin?" Namjoon had asked.
"Soon," Jimin said. "I mean. If you want to."
Namjoon grinned and stared down at his feet. "I don't want to see you go," he'd mumbled. "But if you have to, I hope it's not a long parting."
Sweet. So sweet. Jimin's heart had shaken. "Soon," he'd promised. "I'll send you my schedule again. When are you back to Seoul?"
"Tomorrow," Namjoon had said.
"Soon," Jimin had said again, regretting that his own schedule was sending him back to Incheon and then to Guangzhou tonight.
"Promise," Jimin said, and kissed the sweet bashful dear smile right off his face.
Namjoon pulled away with the greatest reluctance. "I’m gonna be late," he mumbled sheepishly.
"Go," Jimin said, resisting the urge to steal one more kiss.
Namjoon had gotten back in the car but rolled the window down and waved, half hanging out, as the car pulled away.
Jimin had waved too and waited until the car was around the curve and out of sight before he sighed and turned towards the airport.
It seems like days ago Jimin said goodbye to him. The weekend feels like another life, like he’s just emerging from some feverish dream.
"No," he says. "No, of course we didn't just fall asleep together, Taehyung."
"Oh," Taehyung says. "Good. I mean, not that there's anything wrong with romantic weekends and platonic couch snuggles – you know I think they’re awesome, but I had the feeling you didn't like this dude in a platonic best bro way."
Jimin rolls his eyes. "You're the only platonic best bro for me, Tae," he says.
Taehyung grins, and takes another sip of his venti vanilla latte. "So what else did you do? Did you have a good time? Is he your boyfriend now?"
"It was amazing," Jimin says. "I mean, Kyoto is maybe the most beautiful place I've ever been, but you know, Tae, I really think it was just being there with him." Jimin shakes his head. "I remember everything we did, but when I think about it, all I can see is Namjoon's smile."
"Wow," Taehyung says. "Jiminnie, you're totally gone for this guy, aren't you?"
Jimin wrinkles his nose. "I really like him," he admits, feeling giddy and dumb and thrilled.
"So are you like, officially dating? What's the deal?"
Jimin shrugs. "We didn't talk about it," he says.
Taehyung groans. "You should have talked about it."
Jimin sighs. "I know," he says. "I know. It just... it never came up. It felt like more than just a hook-up, though."
Taehyunts snorts. "Jimin, from what you just told me, it felt like some epic French New Wave film about the lost weekend of two fated lovers."
Jimin laughs. "Not quite," he says. "It was really, really good, though."
It was good, but something in Jimin’s stomach twists, because as good as it was this feels good too. It felt good to him to put his uniform back on and brush his hair and give his riotous heart some time to settle. He feels a bit scoured – exposed, too raw – and the familiar scene of sitting with Taehyung in a crew lounge soothes some of that weird new ache.
“When are you going to see him again?” Taehyung asks.
“Soon,” Jimin says. “I sent him my schedule after I got changed. He’s in Tokyo so often now. I’m not sure when we’ll both be on the ground in Seoul at the same time.”
“Eh,” Taehyung says. “You’ll figure it out.” He waves a hand, like these daunting logistic challenges are just minor annoyances.
“Yeah,” Jimin says. “I think we will.”
“You think?” Taehyun frowns, mouth spread wide. “Jimin, I’ve never heard you talk about anyone like you’re talking about this guy. This is just my opinion, but I think you should try to make it work.”
Jimin nods, a little annoyed. “I’m going to,” he says, laughing his annoyance off. “I mean, I really like him, Taehyungie. I just know how hard it’s going to be to figure things out. This weekend was really great, though.”
Great is an inadequate word. It had been magical.
Taehyung nods. “Okay, good.” He stirs the ice in his coffee cup, making it jangle. “I’m happy for you.”
Jimin smiles. “So tell me about Paris,” he says. “Your texts were so cryptic.”
Taehyung’s eyes go wide. “Oh right!”
Taehyung launches into a story about his latest adventure – chatting with a passenger on the plane who turned out to be an executive chef at a Michelin starred restaurant, which led to an invitation to dinner – on the house! – and then drinks with the cute French waiter, who'd invited Taehyung back to his apartment afterwards for steamy French sex.
It's not that Jimin hasn't had his share of hookups over the years, but serendipitous things like that always seem to happen to Taehyung. That must be one of the perks of looking like a male model.
"Sounds like you had fun," Jimin says, smiling. He likes hearing Taehyung's stories, even if they sometimes spark a tiny flame of envy. Today, though, he feels so sated and full of complacent easy warmth from Namjoon that he can't even be bothered to feel jealous. He feels like he’s been the star of his own love story, for once. "Are you going to stay in touch with Bastien?"
Taehyung shrugs, grinning. "I mean, I got his number and told him I'd give him a call next time I was in Paris. He didn't really speak much English, though, and no Korean."
"You don't really speak much English, either," Jimin says, rolling his eyes.
"Ah," Taehyung says, "But we both spoke the language of love, Jimin."
Jimin laughs, and Taehyung takes another long drink of his coffee. The conversation moves on. Taehyung has a good week off coming up and he has a whole list of things he wants to do at home – more than he'll ever get done in a week, but Jimin applauds his ambition. Before too long, he has to go to his gate. They promise to get together when Jimin gets back home, and then Taehyung dashes off to get another coffee before he has to board.
Jimin still has an hour before he needs to leave. He gets up and makes himself a cup of tea and scrolls through the pictures he took over the weekend. Not many, really, considering what a good weekend it had been. Or maybe because of that. He'd been too busy living it to remember to get out his phone. There's one, though, he really likes, of him and Namjoon in Arashiyama forest. They'd gotten up very early Sunday morning to take the train there, hoping to beat the midday tourist crush. Jimin had been sleepy and a bit out of sorts, but coffee from one of the vending machines in Kyoto Station had soothed his nerves a bit.
Their pre-dawn departure had been worth it. The bamboo groves had been empty and serene, green and gold in the early morning light. The air had been cool still, and Jimin had felt a million miles away from everywhere as they wandered the quiet paths. He and Namjoon had taken a picture together in front of a screen of waving tall emerald bamboo, just a selfie on Jimin's phone. He'd had to stand on his tiptoes to press his cheek against Namjoon's, but the photo came out good. It's not the kind of careful studied selfie Jimin takes sometimes in the hotel bathroom at night – careful of his angles so his face doesn't look to round, with a filter to smooth away any imperfections, embarrassing pictures he wouldn't show anyone – but it's better than that, actually. They both look so fucking happy. Namjoon's eyes are squeezed shut and he's beaming, and Jimin is grinning too, not even caring how it makes his cheeks look.
He'd felt even happier than he looked that morning. It's weird to remember it now, sitting the drab khaki-colored crew lounge, sipping tea from a paper cup. He'd felt like his insides were made of liquid gold. They'd held hands all day. Jimin hadn't even minded the sweaty palms.
For a moment he thinks of making the photo his phone background, but it's too forward maybe. Like he told Taehyung, it had felt like more than a hookup – so much more – but they haven't really talked about it yet, and he doesn't want to presume. Besides, Jungkook has been his wall paper for the last two years and changing now feels like some kind of betrayal.
Thinking of Jungkook makes him realize that he hasn't checked twitter since before the weekend. He has a few mentions, a few DMs from friends. He replies and then scrolls through his feed. JK performed at the SBS Super Concert in Taipei and there are tons of gorgeous new photos and fancams to catch up on. He likes a few, and then gets out his earbuds to watch a few fan cams, but it feels a bit different, watching so much after the fact, like he's missed out on that vital spark of excitement that following an event in real time engenders.
Once he's caught up on his feed he tweets something about missing all the super concert fun stuff and asking people to @ him their favorite pictures. A minute later, his phone pings. He's got a DM from Joohyun.
I was wondering where you were
Spent the weekend in Kyoto. It was really nice!!
By yourself or...?
He feels his cheeks get warm. You got me, nuna. With Namjoon
He puts his phone down for a second, and when he picks it up again she's replied.
Get it, Jimin-ah! We should get coffee when you're back in Seoul. I want to hear all about your romantic trip
Grinning, he replies and tells her he'll message when he gets home.
He's only got a few minutes left before he needs to go to his gate, but he sends one last text.
Namjoon had a meeting with a very important Japanese broadcast company today. They're negotiating for Jungkook to appear on one of the most prestigious Japanese music shows. Namjoon had been nervous; there have been articles in the media lately about how the Hallyu wave is over, and solo male idols have never been the most popular anyway.
I hope the meeting went well!!
Jimin stares at his phone, biting his lower lip.
miss you already xx
It feels like too much as soon as he sends it, and he shoves his phone in his pocket. Oh well. Too late now. Something tells him Namjoon won’t mind. He gathers up his bag and, pausing to straighten his tie in the mirror, heads off to find his gate.
With Namjoon spending so much time in Tokyo and Jimin working a bunch to make up for his weekend off, it's almost two weeks before they see each other again. They text, of course. More than even before, actually. Namjoon sends Jimin snapshots of rich blue summer skies and crimson sunsets, of a tiny snail clinging to a street sign, of a half-eaten green tea croissant that looks a hell of a lot more appetizing than the leftover business class snacks that Jimin had for breakfast.
Jimin sends Namjoon pictures sometimes too, but his routine is a lot more mundane. The inside of a plane is the inside of a plane, and besides, he's not supposed to take pictures while on the job. Still, one evening flying back from Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, Jimin pauses after drink service is done and glances out the galley window and his heart catches in his throat. The sky is lemon and peach and tangerine. They are flying through a sea of cotton candy, through a dreamscape of pillowy glory. He takes a quick picture, phone pressed to the plexiglass.
Later, when they're back on the ground in Seoul, he sends the photo to Namjoon with no caption. It doesn't nearly capture the glory of what he'd seen, but it's a pretty picture anyway.
Jimin is on the train, headed back to his apartment, when Namjoon replies.
I understand why you don't want to give it up
Jimin smiles and presses his phone to his chest, overwhelmed. He closes his eyes and steadies himself before he responds.
They talk on the phone too, sometimes, late at night. Not about anything in particular – just whispered bedtime conversations about their days. Jimin will tell stories about annoying passengers and Namjoon will recap another of his interminable meetings in preparation for Jungkook's Japanese debut. It's coming up soon – only a few months out. Big Hit hasn't announced anything yet, but Jimin gets the inside scoop of course.
Jimin feels very close to Namjoon during these little evening check-ins. Close, and comforted by his deep voice. Sometimes, especially if the time difference works against them, Namjoon will fall asleep on the phone, so that all Jimin can hear is the soft sound of him snoring. Sometimes he'll listen for a little while before he hangs up.
Finally, though, their orbits bring them back in line, and they both end up flying into Seoul on a Friday night. Jimin gets in very late and takes a car to his apartment. As quietly as he can so as not to wake his sleeping roommates, he dumps his bag and strips off his uniform and crawls into bed.
He wakes late, feeling tired, to a rainy, dismal morning. His heart sinks. Oh no. He and Namjoon had been planning to go to Seoul Forest. What are they going to do now? They didn’t come up with any contingency.
He curls up again and pulls his blanket over his head, but he's not really sleepy. He can hear Jisoo and Lalisa singing in the kitchen. He sits up and squeezes his eyes shut. No point in delaying the inevitable. Maybe tomorrow the weather will be nicer.
He drags himself into the living room.
"Oppa, what's wrong?" Lalisa asks.
"Nothing," Jimin mutters. He slouches over to the counter and pours himself a cup of coffee. "I was supposed to go to Seoul Forest today, but the weather looks shitty."
"Ohh," Jisoo says. "Jimin-ah has a date."
Jimin pouts. "I had a date."
"Aw," Lalisa says. "Can't you change plans?"
Jimin shrugs. They can, but he's feeling tired and sulky now and wondering if the best thing to do might not be to go back to bed.
Just then his phone pings. It's from Namjoon.
It's so silly that Jimin can't help but smile.
"Oooh," Jisoo says. "That must be the boy, then."
Jimin wrinkles his nose and types a reply one-handed.
Jimin takes a sip of coffee while he waits for Namjoon to reply.
I still want to see you. Do you want to go get lunch and a movie?
Jimin grins. "He still wants to hang out. Lunch and a movie."
Lalisa shakes her head. "That's boring! Why don't you suggest the aquarium?"
"The one in COEX?" Jimin has never been there before; some old lingering sense of Busan pride kept him away. Still it might be fun.
How about the aquarium?
Namjoon doesn't reply right away, and Jimin wonders if he's said something wrong. Maybe Namjoon really had wanted to go to the movies. Jimin sits down at their cramped little table and scrolls through twitter while he sips his coffee. Lalisa and Jisoo are frying eggs, and the good smell makes his stomach gurgle. Lalisa laughs at him and when they set the table with bowls of rice and eggs they serve Jimin too.
Jimin is distracted as he eats. It looks like there's controversy brewing on twitter. A well-known female celebrity had said something slightly disparaging about Jungkook on a notorious entertainment program, and the fandom is in an uproar. Jungkook's fans are incredibly devoted. Most of the time that is a good thing, but sometimes their furor can burn white hot. They've been posting hate on the female celebrity's Instagram page, and now her fans are getting worked up.
"The drama gets so old," Lalisa says, frowning at her own phone.
Jimin's cup of coffee is down to the dregs when Namjoon texts again.
Sorry!! Dealing with some work stuff this morning
Jimin smirks. I saw
I'm sorry, hyung. We fans are very protective
I can tell. Fire is out for now. So. Aquarium?
Jimin finishes his coffee. Yes. Aquarium. What time do you want to meet?
They decide on one. Jimin finishes his breakfast and showers and gets dressed in a nice pair of jeans a nice black tee shirt. He's not sure if it's too casual, but Lalisa reminds him he can throw on the new bomber jacket he picked up in Shanghai, which dresses the outfit up a bit. He's really nervous, more nervous than he should be considering how well their weekend away went. Maybe he’s nervous because of how well it had gone. Is there any way today – this dreary, rainy day – can live up to that?
"You look fine, Jimin-ah," Jisoo says.
She and Lalisa are sprawled on the couch now, catching up on back episodes of their current favorite drama.
"Thanks,' he says. "I just wonder if I should –"
"Go," Lalisa says, laughing. "Go, oppa. If you don't know go now, you're going to be late."
He glances down at his phone. Oh shit. She's right.
He runs to the train, huddling as close as he can under the umbrella to try to keep his hair dry. Finally, he gets to the subway station, but he has to wait ten minutes for a train. By the time he boards, he's worked himself up to a minor frenzy. Maybe this was a bad idea. Maybe they should have rescheduled. Namjoon is going to be annoyed and distracted and Jimin is worried about the damage to Jungkook's name and reputation and the weather is so awful. They're both going to be in foul moods, and have nothing to say to each other, and all that magic is going to have vanished.
That's what Jimin is afraid of. That's what has always happened before.
He is tempted to come up with some elaborate last minute excuse and head home, but before he can decide he's at Samseong Station. He gets off and heads down the escalators into the mall. It's thronging with teenagers and couples and families, everyone eager to get in out of the rain. He gets turned around and has to consult one of the store directories, but finally he sees the blue luminescent entrance to the aquarium in the distance. There's a crowd. Namjoon's height and blond hair normally make him stand out, though, and by the time Jimin is standing beside the tanks of wavering kelp, he realizes that he's the first to arrive.
It's ten after one, though, and not like Namjoon to run late.
He stares at the tank. A school of fish float gracefully through the water, flashing silver and navy as they turn to and fro. They're beautiful. Jimin has always liked the ocean, alway liked fish. He raised a goldfish named Luffy when he was a kid, actually. He remembers racing home from elementary school so that he could sprinkle a pinch of the stinking flakes in Luffy's tank.
He is startled out of his reminiscence by the sound of someone calling his name.
"Jimin-ah," Namjoon says, cutting through the crowd. His eyes are wide and his hair is all disordered, like he's been pulling on it in frustration. "I'm so sorry. Shihyuk hyung called me just as I was getting off the train."
Jimin smiles. "It's okay," he says. "If you're busy we don't have to –"
"No," Namjoon says. He takes out his phone – the space gray iPhone X he bought two weeks ago in Shibuya – and powers it down. "I'm not even in the HR department! What do they want me to do?"
His cheeks are red and his eyebrows are knit and he looks much more disordered than usual, but just the sight of him sets that nattering, uneasy voice in Jimin's mind at ease.
"I'm sorry," Jimin says. He smiles. "Hi, hyung." He steps forward and presses a kiss to Namjoon's cheek.
Namjoon melts toward him, hands coming up to bracket Jimin's waist. Jimin wraps his arms around Namjoon, holds him up for a few moments, holds him close, lets Namjoon rest his head on Jimin's shoulder.
"Long day?" Jimin murmurs.
"Long, shitty day," Namjoon says. "But it's already better."
He says that, and those butterflies in Jimin's stomach take flight.
"Yes," Jimin says, pulling back but taking Namjoon's hand. It is.
And it is a very good day. Namjoon has never been to the aquarium either, and he is deeply fascinated. The damp corridors shimmer with blue light, and the fish swim and sway in silent disregard of all their admirers. Jimin likes the reef area best, with all the little jewel-bright fish dancing among the fantasy spires of the corals, but Namjoon, bizarrely, likes the crabs.
"They're so cool," he says, crouching down to get a better look at a giant spider crab. "Look at him go!"
Jimin personally thinks the thing is a little terrifying, but he says nothing so as not to diminish Namjoon's joy.
They take their time strolling through the exhibits, but it's not a very large aquarium, and they're in the gift shop by three o'clock. Jimin tries on a puffer fish hat. He doesn't buy it, but he lets Namjoon take his picture – cheeks puffed out in imitation of the fish.
Namjoon laughs and laughs at the picture, eyes squeezed shut and nose wrinkled, so even though Jimin sort of hates it he doesn't make Namjoon delete it.
"You can't show it to anyone, though, hyung. Promise!"
"That was really nice," Namjoon says as they step back into the mall. "Good idea, Jimin-ah."
Jimin smiles, happy and flush. "I'm glad you enjoyed it," he says. "Sometime we'll have to go to Busan and visit the aquarium there. It's way bigger than this."
It feels a bit daring, a bit like a step forward, to make even theoretical plans to go to Busan together, but as happy as Jimin feels right now he would gladly plan to go to the ends of the earth with Namjoon – or further.
"I'd really like that," Namjoon says, smiling. "I've never been to Busan, you know."
"What?" Jimin shakes his head. "You Seoulites think the country ends at the city limits."
"Not true," Namjoon says, laughing. "I just. You know. Never made it down there. Never had a reason to go, before."
Jimin flushes. Is he a reason to go? He thinks – hopes – that's what Namjoon means.
He likes the idea of being a reason for Namjoon.
By the time they find their way out of the labyrinth of the mall, the rain has stopped. The air is cooler and moist, and the sky is a rich, dark blue. Namjoon is hungry. He wants dinner. They can't decide want to get. They wander through the streets with no real destination in mind, talking and talking. Jimin wonders how he could have worried so much about having things to talk about with Namjoon. It's so easy. Easier than breathing, and before they even realize that time has passed it's six o'clock, and they're both starving.
They get naengmyeon for dinner. Namjoon has been craving it, he says, and Jimin doesn't object. They take the train to go to his favorite place. It's a bit of a trip, but the restaurant is as good as Namjoon promises. They linger a long time over the big bowls of fragrant chilled beef broth and chewy noodles. Jimin doesn't want the meal to end. He thinks Namjoon might feel the same way. Still, there's only so long they can stretch it out before the proprietor starts to give them the evil eye. Jimin insists on paying – Namjoon had picked up the admissions to the aquarium.
Full and content, they step outside into the night. The city seems more alive now, somehow, rousing itself after the stultifying heat of the day.
Jimin is not ready to go home. He's not ready for this day to end.
Namjoon smiles at him, goofy and brilliant. Jimin smiles back.
"So," Namjoon says, hands in his pockets. "Um, do you want to come back to my place for a drink?"
Jimin can't help but laugh. "A drink?" He rolls his eyes. "Sure, hyung."
Namjoon grins. "What are you implying, Jimin-ssi?"
Jimin raises his eyebrows. "I'm not implying anything, hyung," he says, but he takes Namjoon's hand as they start back to the subway station and rubs his thumb gently over Namjoon's knuckles, eager for more.
Jimin does not make it back to his place until late the next afternoon.
It scares Jimin, how much he misses Namjoon when they are not together. He finds himself thinking about Namjoon when he is passing out hot towels in business class on a long haul to Sydney. How Namjoon had looked, that first day – gorgeous, Jimin is willing to admit now, and unattainable. He finds himself thinking of Namjoon on a stormy night in Frankfurt. Rain drums against the windows and Jimin curls around one of the pillows and thinks about Namjoon's smile, his voice, his touch.
It's barely been a month since Kyoto. They've gone on two dates. Too fast. It feels too fast and terrifying and amazing.
On the last Saturday in August, Jimin waits for Namjoon on a bench near the Ttukseom Seoul Forest subway station. It is nearly noon. The sun is hazy in a blue sky, and heat makes the distance dance. Cicadas chirp persistently, a noise that reminds Jimin with intense poignancy of the first day of school: waking early and putting on his crisp new uniform, the thrill of a new backpack and new notebooks, the sense that something wonderful might happen this time – even though it never did.
He uncrosses his legs and crosses them the other way. A woman jogs past pushing a tiny dog in a stroller. The dog's red tongue lolls and the woman's shoes pound a steady rhythm on the pavement. Jimin hasn't been running much lately. He needs to get back to it.
Jimin spots Namjoon before Namjoon spots him. It's not too surprising – his height is a giveaway and he's also wearing Carhartt overalls over a black tee shirt and somehow managing not to look like a total tool.
Jimin gets to his feet, smiling, waving, feeling that little flicker of like and want kindle again.
"Namjoon," he calls, waving, grinning, barely able to contain how happy he feels.
"Jiminnie," Namjoon says, grinning. He waves with both hands.
They walk towards each other. Jimin has to keep himself from running. When they get close enough Namjoon catches him around the waist – his hands are long and elegant, just like he is – and reels Jimin in close for a kiss.
It's good. Really good. When they step apart Jimin feels giddy, a little stupid.
"Hey," he says, smiling.
"Hey you," Namjoon says, and he smiles, and there are those damn dimples again. "How are you?"
"Good," Jimin says, bouncing a little on the balls of his feet. "Good. How are you, Namjoon?"
"Tired," Namjoon says. "There was some mix up with the director who is supposed to film Jungkook's MV, and I was on the phone all night talking to his people."
Jimin swallows. Oh. "You could have cancelled," he says, a little reproachful.
"Nah," Namjoon says, shaking his head. "I feel better already now that I'm here. You look great, by the way."
Jimin glances down at himself. He hadn't put in any particular effort today – just pulled on a pair of black cut offs and a white tee shirt. He wants to look good for Namjoon, but concessions have to be made for the heat. Jimin doesn't usually like to wear shorts, because they make his legs look too stocky, but he remembers the way Namjoon had run his hand up the length of his legs – up calf and knee and thigh, fingers barely ghosting over the skin – and said in a low voice that he couldn't wait to see those legs wrapped around his waist.
"Thanks," Jimin says, hoping his cheeks aren't going pink. "You do too. I mean, you always do, but it's not everyone who can pull off overalls."
Namjoon pouts. "I like them," he says.
Jimin grins. "I like them too," he admits. I like you, he thinks, is closer to the mark, but he's not going to say that out loud.
They walk toward the river. It's too hot to hold hands, but they walk near each other, side by side, shoulders bumping. Namjoon talks about his week – they're deep in the planning phase for the Japanese debut, which is the biggest project Namjoon has taken charge of since his promotion.
"I mean," Namjoon says, eyebrows knitting, "I just want it to be good, you know? Like, I know the fans are going to support him, but Jungkook cares about putting out quality content, and I want to make that happen for him."
"You will," Jimin says. "You are. Hyung, everything he's put out has been so great. You're doing a great job."
Namjoon snorts. "Everything? What about 'Slam'?"
Slam, an early track, had been an unfortunate detour into neon colored, auto-tuned club banger territory. The track was offensively bad on its own; the video had been even worse. A barely legal Jungkook had looked supremely uncomfortable in swim trunks and mesh shirt, surrounded by a bevy of bikini-clad dancers, gyrating away amidst scenes of generic Hollywood-eque debauchery.
"Okay," Jimin admits, "not 'Slam', but that was before you were in charge, right?"
"Uh, yeah," Namjoon says, sounding a little affronted. “Don’t you really think I’d let him release anything like that, do you?”
"I don't know," Jimin says, grinning. "You tell me, Rap Monster. You never secretly harbored ambitions to be the Korean Drake?"
"Ouch," Namjoon says, laughing. "Low blow! I found a bunch of old clips of me on an external hard drive the other day, but there's no way I'm going to let you see them now."
Jimin pouts. "I was just teasing," he says, worried that he's gone a bit too far.
"I know," Namjoon says, smiling, like he's trying to let Jimin know it's okay.
"I still have to ask my mom if she has any videos of me dancing," Jimin says, because he feels like he should, even though he isn't sure he wants to see those old videos again.
"If you show me yours, I’ll show you mine," Namjoon says, grinning.
Jimin rolls his eyes and punches him in the shoulder, but they're both laughing. It's never been easy quite like this for Jimin before.
That scares him too.
Namjoon packed a picnic lunch – nothing fancy, just kimbap and some snacks and a thermos of iced tea. He brought a blanket, too. Jimin snorts when he spreads it wide to lay on the ground and sees that it's emblazoned with Jungkook's fan club logo.
"Didn't have anything else?" he asks, smirking.
Namjoon grins. "Not really," he says. "Besides, I thought you'd like it."
He's right. Jimin does.
They sit on the Cookies'n'Cream blanket, which does little to blunt the sharp dried edges of the short-mown grass. They eat the kimbap with their fingers and pass the thermos of tea back and forth. The sun is hot. Jimin should have brought a hat.
"This reminds me of being a kid," Namjoon says.
Jimin looks up at him – his eyes narrowed against the bright sun, those ridiculous overalls, the blonde shock of hair falling messily to one side – and feels so fond it almost hurts. "How so?" he asks, rolling onto his back, crossing his arms behind his head.
Namjoon shrugs. He pulls a stalk of grass from its sheath and shreds it. "It feels like today could last a hundred years."
He isn't speaking loudly, but his voice feels loud in the silence. They are removed here, and the din of the city is nothing but a murmur in the background. Indistinct. There is nothing but space and silence, the hammering of the cicadas and the gold burnt stretch of grass, and the silent sentinel trees, watching them calmly.
"Yeah," Jimin says. He understands. He lives so much of his life by the clock – always thinking ahead to the next ETD – that the months seem to race by. This kind of day – the kind of day he hopes will never end – is rare. Precious.
"Do you ever think about how each day is shorter than the last?" Namjoon, leaning back on his hands, looks up at the sky. There are no clouds. The line of his neck is long and elegant.
"Huh?" Jimin blinks.
"I mean," Namjoon says. "Every day is the same length, but each day represents a shorter and shorter overall portion of our lives." His tone is a little pedantic.
Jimin laughs. "That's a really depressing thing to think, hyung," he says.
Namjoon shrugs. "I guess," he says. "I think the secret of being happy is finding ways to slow time down."
Jimin rolls over onto his belly. Reaches out and rests a hand on Namjoon's slim ankle. Cute. Who ever thought ankles were cute before?
"Tell me your secrets, master," he says in a faux-serious voice.
Namjoon snorts. "I don't know," he says. "I'm still trying to figure it out."
Jimin closes his eyes. There is a strange, melancholy note in Namjoon's voice he hasn't heard there before, but it's not bad – it feels true. Something new and different Namjoon is willing now to let him see.
"When I was a kid," Jimin says, "I wanted so badly to be grown up already." He's not quite sure he understands what Namjoon is trying to tell him right now.
"What do you want now?"
Jimin shakes his head. "I don't know," he says. "I mean, I'm happy enough? And it seems too late to change."
"It's never too late to change," Namjoon admonishes.
Jimin snorts. A gnat buzzes near his head, and he shoos it away. "Sure, Mr. Director of Artists and Repertoire."
Namjoon flexes his foot. Jimin can feel the muscles in his leg shift. "What's that supposed to mean?" He sounds amused.
"Easy for you to say that when you're living your dream, is all I'm saying." Jimin rolls over onto his side, letting go of Namjoon's ankle. He doesn't want to look at Namjoon's face right now.
Namjoon snorts. "How do you know that?" he asks, and there's a hint of reproach, but more amusement. "Maybe I secretly long to be an alpaca farmer, Park Jimin."
Jimin laughs. He rolls back over. "Alpacas?"
Namjoon shrugs. Slowly, with a heavy grace, he lies down too, facing Jimin. His face is inches from Jimin's face. There's a beauty mark on his eyelid that Jimin hadn't noticed before, and another on his upper lip.
"Alpacas are cute," Namjoon mumbles. He sounds sleepy. Heat dazed. Jimin feels it too. The sun is so warm. The air is full of some soporific heaviness. The last gasp of summer. It's been such a good one too.
"I heard they're kind of mean," Jimin says. "They bite."
Namjoon raises an eyebrow. "Where'd you hear that?"
He reaches out and gently, so gently brushes some hair out of Jimin's face.
Jimin is not used to being touched like that – like he is something precious. He is not used to being looked at by someone who really wants to see him.
Jimin shrugs. It's awkward, lying on his side. "Just heard it somewhere," he says. "Let's go to Peru. We can find out."
Namjoon smiles, scrunching his eyes, wrinkling his nose. "Okay," he says. "Peru. Let's go."
It's so hot and so still that any motion at all seems nearly impossible. Namjoon slides his hand to rest on Jimin's neck. His rough thumb brushes over Jimin's nape. Far away, somewhere, some children laugh. The sound sends goosebumps racing up Jimin's arms. Delighted, he laughs too.
He misses that feeling, misses those days when it felt like anything was possible.
“Hyung,” he says quietly. “What made you give up rapping?”
Namjoon looks at him, inquisitive and bright. “Hmm? Oh.” He shrugs. “I don’t know. I waited a really long time to debut, Jimin. I waited, and I waited, and I started to realize that maybe it just wasn’t going to happen for me. Not everyone can be Jungkook, you know.”
Jimin does know. He knows that feeling well.
“Do you miss it?”
Namjoon nods. “Yeah,” he says. “I do, sometimes.”
Jimin rolls over onto his back. The clouds drift lazily through the hot sky. Cicadas chirp, and
“But at least you tried,” he says finally.
Namjoon nods. “I tried,” he says. “And I wasn’t always happy, but I am now.”
Jimin closes his eyes. Namjoon rests his hand on Jimin’s shoulder. “I’m happy too,” he says.
Namjoon smiles. He scoots down the blanket and puts his arm around Jimin’s waist, presses his nose into Jimin’s shoulder.
Jimin can't say how long they stay there. It feels like forever.
"Fucking finally," Taehyung says under his breath.
They're at KUL, coming in from Incheon and they've been waiting for an hour for ground crew to bring them into the gate.
It's late, and Jimin is tired. He feels like he's getting sick. A tickle in his throat and stuffiness in his ears presage an end of summer cold. He closes his eyes and takes a deep breath. Just a little longer, and he can get to the hotel and sleep.
He glances down at his phone, so quick. He'd texted Namjoon when they landed – nothing important, just a quick 'hey :) on the ground' but he hasn't heard back yet. It's not a big deal, really. Namjoon is so busy lately – traveling back and forth between Seoul and Tokyo once a week or more. Jimin isn't even really sure where he is right now. Was he flying back to Seoul tonight? Or is it tomorrow?
Jimin chooses to believe it's tonight and that's the reason Namjoon hasn't replied.
He's not going to be that needy boyfriend. He's not.
Well, not a boyfriend, at least. Not yet. The needy thing he's working on.
The gate agent finally arrives to drive the jet bridge, and the captain turns off the seatbelt sign. The passengers, impatient, tired, and hungry, begin to surge forward in an angry tide.
"Just a moment," Jimin says, smiling.
The man at the front of first-class glowers.
Taehyung, who has finished clearing them with the gate agent, glowers back.
"Go ahead," he says, in a cold, forced voice.
There are fifteen minutes of chaos as the passengers deboard, but it passes quickly enough and then finally Jimin can get his own bag down and head out into the terminal, right behind Taehyung.
"That was rough," Taehyung mutters, once they're away from the gate.
Jimin nods. "Yeah," he says.
It's like that sometimes – for no reason at all the atmosphere is off. The passengers are upset, and the flight gets delayed, and everyone is anxious and angry and sour.
"We're free now though," Taehyung says, grinning. "I am not moving from the pool tomorrow."
Although Kuala Lumpur International Airport is congested, and flights are often delayed, these routes are hotly contested among Asiana flight attendants because you get to stay at a very, very nice hotel right outside the city.
"Mmm," Jimin says. "Yeah. That sounds nice."
It does sound nice, but right now he can't think beyond getting into his room and into his bed and just shutting out the world for a little while.
Outside, waiting for the shuttle, it's hot. Humid. The air is laden in a way that portends storms. Jimin takes off his jacket, balls it up under his arm even though it means he'll have to get it cleaned. Taehyung plays some game on his phone, distracted himself. Jimin snuffles. He wishes he had a tissue.
The shuttle shows up twenty minutes late. Jimin gets a window seat, and stares blankly out at the increasingly dense houses, at the green tops of the trees. Taehyung whoops when he beats a level in his game. One of the other flight attendants, an older woman named Nayoung who is a rare lifer, is snoring in the middle seat, her head tipped back.
Although the roads are always congested, it doesn't take them too long to get to the hotel. It's one that Jimin has stayed at before, and it is very nice. They wait in line, and get their keys, and Taehyung grins at him and waves. His room is on the first floor.
"Don't stay up too late," he says, warningly. "I wanna hit the pool early."
Jimin rolls his eyes, but he's smiling. "I'll be up," he says.
"Good," Taehyung says. "Because you know I'm not above ordering room service to your room."
Jimin laughs. For a while, a few years ago, that had been an on-going prank of theirs – each ordering room service to the other's room at some ungodly hour of the morning.
"You wouldn't violate our truce," Jimin gasps.
Taehyung grins. "Don't try me, Park Jimin. Get that cute tush of yours down to the pool so I don't have to."
Jimin laughs, shaking his head. "Goodnight, Tae," he says.
"Nighty night," Taehyung says, and heads off towards his room.
Jimin takes the elevator to the ninth floor, key hard in hand. He tows his bag down the empty hall. 901... 903... 907... Ah. 909. He opens the door. Chill, faintly fragrant air rushes out. He drags his bag inside, slams the door shut, and turns over the deadbolt.
There is no better feeling in the entire world than shutting the door after a long, long day.
Jimin takes off his shoes, and his shirt, and his pants and tosses them in a pile on the floor. Tomorrow he'll get them cleaned. They've got a whole day here and there's plenty of time. He pulls on a tee shirt and flips through the room service menu. He's not that hungry but he hasn't eaten since lunch and he knows he'll be hungry in the morning if he doesn't eat. He calls and place his order, and then unpacks a few things: toothbrush and toothpaste. Razor. Brush. His phone charger and the portable bluetooth speaker Namjoon got him recently when he complained about how bad the sound quality was on his phone.
Jimin picks up his phone, which is face down on the night stand.
He still has no reply.
He doesn't want to bother Namjoon by texting again. He wrinkles his nose.
But… they're still in the first blush of infatuation or something, aren't they? If he can't do this now, when can he?
just got to the hotel and very tired. hope you had a good night xxx
He sets his phone on the night stand and goes into the bathroom to wash his face. His room service comes. The burger and fries are pretty good, and he's hungrier than he realized. It's too quiet in the room – just the hiss of the air conditioner and some faint distant laughter, drifting up from the pool. He gets out his iPad and pulls up some old video of Jungkook's on Youtube. It's one of Jimin's favorites – Jungkook backstage at a music show, when he'd been just a kid. Still fresh faced and young, he'd been less than a year into his debut, and he'd gone around wide-eyed greeting the more senior artists and giving them his album.
The culmination of the video is when he presents an album to IU, who had been promoting at the time. She is gracious and charming, and clearly amused by Jungkook, who can barely meet her eyes, whose smooth cheeks go red when she tells him that she's listened to his single and enjoyed it.
Jungkook has named IU as his ideal type more times than Jimin can count.
It's endearing, and a bit bittersweet, to know that Jungkook too is disconcerted to come face to face with his idol.
The video is nearly over when Jimin's phone rings.
Heart feeling instantly lighter, Jimin answers. "Hello?"
"Jimin-ah?" Namjoon's voice is tired; Seoul is only one hour ahead, but he's not as much of a night owl as Jimin. "Hey."
"Hey, hyung," Jimin says. He is smiling. He can't help himself. "How are you? Are you in Seoul now."
"Yeah," Namjoon says. "I'm at a work thing."
"Ah," Jimin says.
All the other noise has receded. Now all he can hear is Namjoon, and the tense, empty space between his words.
"And you're in..." Namjoon hums softly. "Malaysia?”
Jimin feels a rush of absurd affection he can't explain. "Yeah," he says. "Kuala Lumpur. Just got into the hotel. I have a day off tomorrow. Taehyung wants to hang out by the pool."
"Nice," Namjoon says. "I'm jealous. It's raining here."
"Poor hyung," Jimin says. "Maybe if it's nice this weekend we can go swimming. I'm coming back Thursday, remember?"
"Ah," Namjoon says, and there is a note of displeasure in his voice. "Jimin, I have to go to Tokyo this weekend."
Jimin blinks. Stares at the shivering circle of light on the desk made by the desk lamp. He knew that, he thinks. He thinks Namjoon mentioned it. It's just hard to keep their schedules straight sometimes.
"Oh," he says. "Right." He swallows. "When are you coming back to Seoul?"
"Sunday night," Namjoon says.
"I fly out again Monday afternoon,” Jimin says, swallowing, feeling a bit sick.
"You can meet me at mine after I get in," Namjoon says, warm, soft, tired. "I'd like to see you longer, but I'll take what I can get."
Something sour in Jimin's stomach dissipates. "Yeah," he says. "Same."
There is a moment of emptiness. The distance between them floods in to fill the gap.
"I've gotta get back to the party," Namjoon says. "I just wanted to make sure I called you before it got too late."
Jimin smiles. "Thanks, hyung." He swallows, and then in a smaller voice adds, "It was really good to hear your voice."
"Yours too," Namjoon says.
"Have fun at the party," Jimin says.
Namjoon laughs. He's complained often about his hatred of industry events. "I'll try," he says dryly. "Sleep well, Jimin-ah."
"Good night, hyung," Jimin says.
"Good night, Jimin."
Silence, again. Silence, big and gaping.
Jimin hangs up before it envelops him.
Down at the pool, in the hot tropical night, someone is still laughing.
"I don't want you to go," Namjoon mumbles, pressing his lips to Jimin's neck, to his collarbone.
"I don't want to go," Jimin says.
They are in the wide bed in Namjoon's room. Soft white sheets, and plenty of pillows. The curtains are open and dawn has already touched the sky at the horizon. Jimin closes his eyes. In eight hours he will be on a plane, headed for Shanghai.
He does not want to go. He feels sated right now: drunk off Namjoon. His warm skin, and the stubble on his jaw, and the scent of his cologne, woody and spicy and warm.
Namjoon kisses lower – sternum, nipple, ribs. His lips are butterfly soft.
"Tickles," Jimin says, breathless, running a hand along Namjoon's shoulder.
"Mmm," Namjoon says. "Good." He looks up, grinning, stupid with it. His hair is a mess, and his eyes are dark, and god. He looks so good. Jimin has never felt about anyone the way he feels when he looks at Namjoon.
"You're so beautiful, hyung," Jimin says, smiling, feeling stupid with it.
Namjoon rolls his eyes. He does that, sometimes. It surprises Jimin so much, still, because he still thinks so much of Namjoon as the man he met on that Incheon-Narita flight so many months ago: tall, handsome, well-dressed, and supremely confident. There's more now – a whole galaxy of things he's learned, and a whole universe left to explore – but that initial impression has persisted.
But every once in a while, when Jimin compliments him, Namjoon will roll his eyes or scrunch his nose or shy away, like the complement is unwarranted.
Those moments make Jimin's heart hurt.
"It's true," Jimin says, shaking his head, bringing his hand up to cup Namjoon's jaw. "Stupidly beautiful, hyung."
"You're one to talk," Namjoon says, grinning, pleased and shy. He kisses lower, over Jimin's stomach. "Have you seen yourself, Jimin-ah?"
Jimin squirms. He knows what he looks like. He knows that he's lucky, really. He's never had a hard time staying in shape. He knows, objectively, that people like that kind of thing, but he can't for the life of him figure out why they think it's better, say, than Namjoon, who is long and slim and soft in the best way, who has a body that is made for hugging, for close contact.
"I'd rather look at you," Jimin says.
"Nah," Namjoon says, shy, his blond hair falling in front of his face. He's got an inch of roots now, and he's told Jimin that he doesn't know what he should do with it.
He'd look good with anything, Jimin had said, and Namjoon had gotten shy then too.
Jimin squirms. Namjoon is kissing down his stomach, tenderly, softly, slowly. His big, long-fingered hands hold Jimin's hips in pace, fingers pressing into the divots right above Jimin's hipbones. Namjoon is so careful with him, like he's something precious, like their time together, rare that it is, that should be savored.
No one had ever made Jimin feel like this before.
He closes his eyes.
Namjoon's lips drift further south, petal soft. Feather light kisses along the ridge of muscle that runs from Jimin's hip down to his cock.
"Fuck," Namjoon mumbles. His breath is warm. "So goddamn hot, Jimin-ah. So gorgeous."
Jimin, eyes closed, makes a vague noise of disagreement. Namjoon can say whatever he'd like, as long as he keeps –
The alarm on Jimin's phone, so recently snoozed, goes off again.
"Ughhh," Jimin groans, flailing for it on the night stand.
Namjoon sighs and wraps his arms all the way around Jimin's waist, presses his cheek to Jimin's belly. "Not gonna let you go," he mumbles.
"Hyung," Jimin says softly. "I've got to go. I don't have anything ironed."
Namjoon pouts, which is entirely unfair.
"Ten minutes," he says. "Fifteen." He kisses JImin's belly button, teeth just digging into the lean muscle.
Jimin closes his eyes. He feels so good right now. So warm. So safe, in the circle of Namjoon's arms.
A week at least before they'll be together again.
"Fifteen minutes," he says. "That's it, Namjoon."
"That's plenty of time,” Namjoon says, smirking, and, slipping a finger under the waistband of Jimin's boxers, he continues his work.
The restaurant is nice. Nice enough so that Jimin, who is wearing a nice pair of black slacks and a white shirt with no tie and a jacket, feels underdressed. He hesitates right before the entrance. A tall woman in a blue evening gown and a man in a silver suit that matches his salt and pepper hair step past him. Jimin takes his phone out of his pocket. It's eight thirty, doors have been open for an hour, and Jimin has been up for more than twenty.
He woke up yesterday at 10PM in Hong Kong, showered, dressed, and made his way to the airport via shuttle for a 2:15AM departure. They were delayed over an hour, though, and didn't take off until nearly four in the morning, didn't arrive at Incheon until after eight. He'd dropped exhausted into his seat on the AREX a little after eleven, and not been home until noon. He'd taken off his jacket and kicked off his shoes and collapsed on his bed fully clothed. His alarm, which he'd had the foresight to set before passing out, woke him up at four. Starving, he'd wolfed down some instant ramen and then showered again, and then, towel wrapped around his hips, stood and stared in his closet in some dismay.
Jimin had been flattered and pleased when Namjoon had invited him to Big Hit's end of summer party. It was an annual event, something held over from their lean days, when the CEO would take them all, Namjoon had said, out for pizza and beer. With Jungkook's success, times have changed. Now the event is an opportunity to mingle and woo the industry's brightest luminaries.
Nothing Jimin had to wear seemed appropriate for such an event, so he'd thrown on sweats and a tee shirt and raced to Myeongdong. He'd felt pretty good trying this getup on in the Lotte dressing room, but now he feels sloppy and underdressed.
Too late now though. He'd barely had time to get home and change before heading over here. He's already later than he said he'd be.
He gives his name to the man at the door and is checked off some list. He steps inside; the inside of this place is just as nice as the outside. Nicer, maybe. There are waiters circulating with plates of hor d'oeuvres, and large artistic flower arrangement at the center of each table: spiked dracaena, and bright stems of ginger, and exotic birds of paradise. Music – a recently remixed version of JK's newest single – plays softly in the background, and tall people with celebrity sheen mix and mingle.
Jimin needs a drink.
A waiter glides past with a tray of some cocktail or another. Jimin isn't in a position to be discerning right now; he takes a glass. It is tart and herbal, with a spicy kick. And it's strong. That's the part that counts.
He takes out his phone. He texted Namjoon before he came in, but there's no reply yet. Namjoon had wanted them to come together, but he'd had to be here early to help make sure things were ready, and then Jimin's flight had gotten delayed, and now here they are. Here Jimin is, all by himself.
He takes a long swallow of his drink.
Beyond the entrance there are a dozen high tops, and then a bar beyond that, with booths and more seating. It's crowded, although not as crowded as it will get. JImin sticks one hand in his pocket, tries to make himself look at ease. There's a woman standing at one of the tables wearing a silver dress that ends mid thigh. She looks so familiar that Jimin wonders if she's ever flown one of his flights. The man she's talking to is tall and handsome enough to be an actor and oh.
It's the woman who played the female lead in Jungkook's drama. Right.
Jimin goes to take another sip of his drink. Whoops. It's all gone. He sets the empty glass on an unoccupied table and heads for the bar. The open bar. The bartender is handsome – everyone here is, it seems like – and winks at Jimin, which is cute and annoying all at once. Jimin orders a Bacardi and coke. While he's waiting for his handsome bartender friend to make it, someone comes up and puts a hand on his shoulder.
"Jimin-ah," Namjoon says.
Jimin turns, and ah, there's Namjoon, looking more handsome than anyone Jimin has seen yet tonight.
"Hyung," Jimin says, smiling, feeling a little stupid from downing that first drink so quickly on an empty stomach. "Hyung, you didn't tell me how fancy this was. You look all –" He waves a hand abstractly in Namjoon's direction.
"What do I look like?" Namjoon's smile is too amused.
"Fancy," Jimin says. He takes a step closer. Too close. Their toes bump. "Hot," he breathes, leaning up to kiss Namjoon.
Namjoon's hand finds his waist. The kiss lasts a moment longer than it should, really, in public, at a work event, but it feels like several eternities since they last saw each other.
"Mmm," Namjoon says, smiling. "I'm so glad you could make it. I know there are probably things you'd rather be doing than tagging along to my dumb work thing."
Jimin scoffs. "Namjoon, this isn't a dumb work thing. This is an awesome work thing."
He is glad now too, in spite of how tired he feels. He's so glad he can be here for Namjoon. So glad that Namjoon wants him to be part of his life.
"Well," Namjoon says, grinning. "I guess it's better than free coffee and bagels in the office."
Asiana flight attendants have mandatory retreats a few times a year, but those are mostly filled with safety training and long sessions about company policy.
"At my last company thing," Jimin says, "we had a two-hour meeting about hot nuts."
Namjoon laughs. "What?"
"You don't even want to know."
They get drinks and, hand on Jimin's waist, Namjoon steers them through the crowd, pointing out guests of note. There's the singer who is rumored to have gotten her big break only after accepting a sponsor, and there's the actor whose talent is only matched by his temper. Namjoon knows all these people, is happy and at ease doing his job. Jimin tries hard to feel the same, but mostly can't think of anything to say when Namjoon introduces him to the producer behind last year's biggest girl group hit.
Namjoon and the producer are still shooting the shit when there is a momentary hush. The photographers outside yell for their chance at a photo. The doors open wide. Jungkook walks in with his manager Worldwide Handsome Kim Seokjin. After the lull, the buzz of conversation resumes. Jungkook is the company's biggest star by far, but they all know him here, mostly. They are inured to his celebrity aura.
Jimin's head is aching faintly. Exhaustion will do that to you. He's not had very much to eat. There are waiters circulating with trays of food, but they just have small bites, and Namjoon keeps them moving, talking to different people, and really what Jimin would like right now is nothing so much as to leave and go get a greasy fast food burger.
He doesn't, though. Instead he goes back to the bar to get them another round of drinks, which takes longer now. The crowd has grown. The wait at the bar is three deep. Jimin sticks his hands in his pockets.
By the time he gets their drinks, Namjoon has moved on from talking to the producer. Jimin looks around, frowning, but he doesn't see Namjoon's familiar blonde head anywhere. His heart sinks even though he knows this is work for Namjoon. He's not here to have a good time. He could have been called away by the CEO, called away to handle some problem. Any number of reasons.
Jimin can wait. When Namjoon is done with whatever he's doing, he will come find him. With a drink in each hand, he heads upstairs. There are more tables on this elevated second level, more people talking and laughing. Sometimes, there's nothing Jimin wants more than to be part of a talking, laughing crowd like this. Sometimes – like when he's alone in his hotel room thousands of miles away from everyone he knows and loves – being in a crowd like this would be a boon. Tonight the happy conversation just sounds like white noise. He can't make sense of it. He needs some quiet now, and some space.
The third floor is almost empty. Jimin slips through a glass door and out onto the balcony. Seoul glitters all around him. He's seen this view so many times, but always from above. It looks so different down in the thick of it, down in the beating heart of the city.
He sits down on a little bench, behind some stunted arborvitae in square wooden planters. It's cold out here, and windy, and the only other people partaking of the view are a couple down at the far end of the balcony, leaning a little too far over the railing and smoking cigarettes.
He sits with his knees drawn up to his chest, phone face up on the bench beside him, waiting for Namjoon to text. The ice has melted in the drinks. They're all watered down, not very good. Still. He takes a sip. The bartender's pour was stronger this time; he winces at the burn. The cool night air feels nice, and the distant noise of the city is a soothing murmur after the barrage of noise inside.
The door that leads inside opens. Someone steps outside; their shoes make a pleasant clipped sound on the cement surface of the patio.
Jimin glances up. Red hair. Not Namjoon. He sighs and takes another sip of his drink.
That voice is familiar. Jimin looks over his shoulder again.
Oh god. It's JK. Jungkook.
"Um," Jimin says. His cheeks are hot and he hasn't even had a chance to do anything embarrassing yet. "Hi, JK."
Jungkook steps around the planter and leans back against the raining. "Oh," he says, smiling, bright eyed, as pretty and perfect as any picture. "Jungkook is fine, Jimin-ssi. What are you doing out here? Where's Namjoon hyung?"
"Not sure," Jimin says quietly. "Um. I went to get us another round of drinks and I lost him. I was going to text him, but I don't want to bother him while he's working."
"Poor Namjoon hyung," Jungkook says, laughing. "Last year he got cornered by this awful rich old woman – I never even found out who she was – who wanted him to get her tickets to the fan meet."
Jimin wrinkles his nose. "Did he?"
"Nah," Jungkook says. "Namjoon hyung doesn't do stuff like that." He must see the look on Jimin's face, because he continues right away. "I mean, I think it was different with you."
Jimin wrinkles his nose. "Why?"
Jungkook shrugs. "I mean, because you're a fan, right?"
Jimin's cheeks go more flush. "Yeah," he says in a low voice. "What's wrong with that?"
Jungkook's eyes widen. It's an expression Jimin has seen so many times before, but one he never thought would be directed at him. "Nothing," Jungkook says. "Nothing at all. I'd rather have tickets go to people who are fans, Jimin-ssi."
Oh. "Well," Jimin says slowly, finishing off his drink. "How do you know she wasn't?"
Jungkook snorts. "She wasn’t," he says. "You didn't see her. She was like one of those wicked rich stepmothers from a drama."
Jimin grins. "Hey," he says, "your fandom is very diverse. You never know. Maybe she runs a fansite. Maybe she's out there at every concert with her DSLR."
Jungkook laughs, delighted. "She could be the devil genius behind Ladyfingers."
This is one of the biggest – and most controversial – JK fansites. Their photographs are good, but they've gotten criticized for bullying other smaller fansites and using money fundraised to support JK for their own nefarious ends.
Jimin grins. "Maybe," he says. "Anyway, it was really nice of Namjoon to get me tickets. I know he didn't have to do that."
"Namjoon hyung is really good guy," Jungkook says. "He's really talented too. When I first joined the company he was still a trainee. He could have debuted if he wanted."
Jimin's first drink is done. He takes a sip of the second, watered down to the point of blandness now. The wind gusts, and the awnings that shade part of the balcony during the day rattle.
Jimin's life is a strange one, he knows, but he can think of few moments stranger than sitting on the balcony of an exclusive Seoul club, listening to Jeon Jungkook sing his boyfriend's praises.
"He is a good guy," Jimin agrees, proud but disconcerted. "He won't show me the videos of him rapping, though."
Jungkook laughs. "Oh," he says. "I can send you some. Here, let me give you my number."
He reaches for Jimin's phone and Jimin recoils. He's not sure he can imagine anything more mortifying than handing a celebrity your phone when they're your lock screen image.
But. No. He's changed it, hasn't he? His lockscreen is a picture he'd taken in Kyoto, and his wallpaper is a selfie of him and Namjoon from the day they want to the aquarium.
He unlocks his phone and hands it to Jungkook, who enters his phone number and Kakao ID.
"I've got tons of dirt on Namjoonie hyung," Jungkook says affably. "I'll send you all the best stuff. We did karaoke at a company party a few years ago and he sang 'Hips Don't Lie'."
"Oh my god," Jimin says. "I need to see that. Or wait, on second thought, maybe I don't."
"Don't let hyung fool you," Jungkook says. "He may have two left feet, but he's really not a bad dancer when –"
"Who's not a bad dancer?"
Namjoon puts his hands on Jungkook's shoulders. They hadn't heard him come out.
Jungkook glances up, grinning. "You, hyung."
Namjoon rolls his eyes, but he's smiling too. He shoves Jungkook, gently, just playing, and then comes around to sit beside Jimin. Sliding an easy arm around Jimin's waist, he says, "Hey. Sorry. I got corralled."
"It's fine," Jimin says, smiling, feeling glad all of a sudden. "I figured, and Jungkook was keeping me company. Telling me all about your Shakira impression."
Namjoon's eyes go wide with mock anger. "You wouldn't, Jungkook," he gasps.
Jungkook grins. "It's a great video, hyung. You really commit to the performance."
"You didn't even tell me you could dance," Jimin says, pouting. "Hyung, why haven't you taken me dancing?"
"I'm really not much of a dancer," Namjoon says, self-effacing. "I mean, if you want to go, we can, but don't get your hopes up." He grins, and ah. There's Jimin's favorite dimple. "Besides, someone promised to send me videos of their dance days." The hand wound around his waist worms under the hem of his shirt, tickling.
Jimin squirms. "I don't even know if I have any of those videos, hyung."
"Boo," Namjoon says. "Unfair."
Jimin gets to his feet, feeling wobbly. It's been a long, long time, but he still remembers the old forms. He raises his arms parallel to the ground and lifts his leg to spin into a messy pirouette. It's not good, of course. He hasn't danced in years, and he's drunk besides. He's embarrassed as soon as he's finished, ducking his head and pressing his hands to his face.
"See," he mumbles. "You're not missing much."
"Oh," Jungkook says, "Wow. You have really pretty lines, Jimin-ssi."
Embarrassing. He really doesn't. His proportions aren't bad but – "Nah. Too short," he says, feeling that second drink all of a sudden.
Namjoon stands up and catches him around the waist, reels him in close. His hands – so long-fingered and elegant – come to rest at the small of Jimin's back. "I think you're the perfect height," he says, and he leans forward and kisses Jimin, not as chastely as he could considering the audience.
Someone catcalls. Jimin looks up, wide-eyed, startled. He is reminded, suddenly, with a lurch, that they are at a work function, that Namjoon is here for business and Jimin shouldn't be distracting him.
But it's just Seokjin.
"Ohh, Namjoonie," he says. "Get it."
The teasing is gentle, but Namjoon gets adorably red-faced. Jimin is sure his cheeks are flush too. He feels it, heat in his cheeks and his belly.
He hopes they can leave soon, slip into a cab and away into the night, back to Namjoon's apartment.
"Kiddo," Seokjin says, coming up behind Jungkook and patting him on the back. "Break time is over. Minah is looking for you."
Jungkook's face falls. "Hyung," he whines. "Do I have to?"
Seokjin shakes his head.
Jungkook's head falls, and it is such a small and ordinary gesture of resignation that Jimin is shocked.
This isn't JK. Not at all. This is Jungkook – this sweet, hard-working kid, who isn't even older than Jimin's own younger brother.
Slowly, Jungkook gets to his feet. He straightens his jacket and smoothes the wrinkles from his pants. "Okay, hyung," he says. "Let's go."
"Just a few photos," Seokjin says, slapping Jungkook on the back, starting to usher him towards the door back inside.
Jungkook pauses, though, looking back. "I'm glad we got to talk, Jimin-ssi," he says. "I'll go dancing with you if Namjoon hyung won't." He grins, incorrigible, and then throws his arm around Seokjin's shoulder. "Come on, hyung. My audience awaits."
Once they're back inside, Namjoon grumbles, "Who said I wouldn't go dancing? We can go dancing."
Jimin smiles, dizzy, dazed. He sits down beside Namjoon again, slips his arms around Namjoon's waist and rests his head on Namjoon's shoulder. "We don't have to," he says. "But it might be fun. Can't remember the last time I went dancing."
"We'll go," Namjoon says. "What were you and Jungkook talking about?"
Jimin shrugs. "I don't know," he says. "Just talking. He was singing your praises, hyung."
Namjoon smiles in a satisfied way. "He's a good kid," he says.
"Sounds like you're a good hyung," Jimin says quietly. "Good people."
"You too, Jiminnie," Namjoon says, turning a little so they're facing each other. The smokers down at the other end have gone; they're all alone up here now. Namjoon kisses him, sweet and close. "You're a good person too. You're so –"
Jimin isn't sure what he is. He's not sure he wants to know. He kisses Namjoon again to quiet him, so that they are forced to use a simpler language: lips and fingertips. Muted moments pass. The wind gusts, but Jimin does not feel cold.
But Namjoon is at work; he's so responsible. He does not forget. He sighs and presses one more kiss to the corner of Jimin's mouth, off target but just perfect. "Let's go back in," he says. "Your hands are freezing, Jimin-ah."
Jimin nods. "Okay," he says quietly. "Hyung, you don't have to take me dancing if you don't want to go. It's okay."
"And let Jungkook take you?" Namjoon snorts. "I don't think so."
Jimin shakes his head. "He was just being nice. He's not... Hyung, he's JK. He's not going to go dancing with me."
"He would, you know," Namjoon says quietly. "If you wanted him to, he would." His brushes Jimin's cheek, the softest, barest touch.
Jimin looks away embarrassed. Does Namjoon think he'd rather go with Jungkook? That's not at all what he'd meant. "Rather go with you," he mumbles.
Namjoon kisses him once more. He gets to his feet, and then, weaving their fingers together, helps Jimin to his. "Come on," he says, sounding resolute. "We'll dance, Jimin."
Jimin arrives at Phuket International Airport from Incheon at a little after midnight. He'd gotten into Incheon from Sydney the night before and had barely an hour before his next flight. He'd changed into jeans and a tee shirt in the Crew Lounge and scrubbed his face before running over to his gate. He'd paid to reserve a seat instead of flying standby, and through some accident of luck he'd ended up in business class. He'd been absurdly grateful to collapse into his seat when boarding started and stayed awake only long enough to eat his dinner before passing out.
He clears immigration and customs and then has to wait a frustrating twenty minutes for the resort shuttle to arrive. He's yawning and bleary by the time it does. There's no traffic, and they make good time, but it's still an hour to the resort. It's two thirty in the morning by the time his luggage is unloaded and the attentive night clerk buzzes him in.
"Good evening, sir," she says, smiling. "Welcome to Sri Panwa."
Leaning heavily against the desk, he gives her his name and waits while she looks up his reservation.
"Ah, yes," she says. "Mr. Park. Your guest has already arrived." She hands him an embossed envelope with his keycard and a map of the resort. "We hope you enjoy your stay here, sir. Please let us know if there's anything at all we can do to make your time here more comfortable."
A porter loads Jimin and his bag into a golf cart and drives him along a tree-lined path to their villa.
It's gorgeous. He'd splurged on this, of course, so it had better be. The air is faintly fragrant with some subtle perfume. Everything is rich wood and sleek glass, subtle warm lighting.
They have the penthouse. The porter leaves Jimin and his bag at the entrance to the suite. Jimin fumbles his key, but finally gets the door open. As quiet as he can, he steps inside and shuts the door behind him.
Shuts out the world.
The living room is dark; there's just one light on. Everything is still, cool. Utterly calm. The far wall of the room is not there – just one huge plate glass window looking out over the dark, restless sea.
Jimin leaves his suitcase where it sits. Quietly, silently, he takes off his shoes. Strips off his jeans. Tugs off his tee shirt. He pulls his toiletry pouch from his bag and tiptoes into the bedroom.
Namjoon sleeps quietly there, sprawled out in the middle of a big bed, gilded by the moonlight.
Jimin shuts the bathroom door and brushes his teeth. He washes his face again, and his hands and chest and arms. He'd like a shower, but he's too tired now. It would just wake him up.
It can wait. It can all wait. That's what this trip is about.
He turns off the bathroom light and slips into the bed beside Namjoon.
Soft sheets. He shifts, trying to get comfortable. Namjoon stirs. His eyes flutter. "Hey, baby," he mumbles, voice rough with sleep. "Wha time 's it?"
Jimin shifts closer, wraps his arms around Namjoon's waist. "Night," he says. "Still night. Sleep, Namjoon-ah."
Namjoon smiles. He nods. His hair is all a mess. "'Kay," he says. "Sleep."
He closes his eyes again, and his breathing settles.
Sleep does not come quite as easily to Jimin, but it's okay. He's okay. He closes his eyes and pulls closer still to Namjoon, as close as he can get. It's okay – they're together. He is at peace.
Jimin wakes slowly – so slowly – in his lover’s arms.
That is a strange and thrilling thing to think at six in the morning. He hasn’t gotten more than a few hours of sleep, but already the sun is rising. The ocean is a color of ripe peach. The sheets are so soft.
“Ugh,” Jimin says, because fuck, he’s still tired.
“Good morning to you too,” Namjoon says, pressing his nose into Jimin’s shoulder. There is laughter in his voice. “What time did you get in last night?”
“Don’t wanna think about it,” Jimin mumbles.
Namjoon’s arms are around Jimin’s waist. He pulls Jimin closer. “Go back to sleep,” he whispers. “We have nothing to do but be.”
Jimin can’t tell if that’s poetic, or if he’s just exhausted.
It’s Namjoon, so he’s willing to bet on poetic.
Namjoon brings a hand up, strokes Jimin’s hair, gentle, gentle. “Go back to sleep,” he says again.
Jimin closes his eyes.
When he wakes again mid-morning, Namjoon is not in bed.
Jimin stretches enormously. His bones creak. He rolls his neck. Outside, the sun is properly up, and the ocean is such an intensely turquoise color that it seems impossible.
Namjoon is in the living room, sitting on the couch, laptop open. He is wearing one of the resort robes, loosely belted. His broad, strong chest is bare. His feet are up on an ottoman, and one of his slippers hangs off.
Endearing. Jimin feels something in his heart swell.
“Good morning again,” Jimin says,
Namjoon shuts his laptop and sets it down. Beaming, he says, “Morning, sleepyhead.”
Jimin pads across the room to drop heavily on the couch beside Namjoon. He tucks his toes under Namjoon’s thigh. “Hey,” he says, once Namjoon’s arm is around him, “I didn’t get here until after three.”
“I know,” Namjoon says. “I’m glad you slept.” He is all smiles this morning.
“How was your flight?” Jimin asks.
“Fine,” Namjoon says, and then he yawns hugely.
Jimin glances at the laptop sitting closed on the coffee table. “Were you working? I know you’re busy, hyung.”
“Just checking my email,” Namjoon says. “You have perfect timing, Jimin-ah. They just brought breakfast.”
The little table is laid out with a white cloth and fine white plates. It’s fancy. Fancier than Jimin expected when he booked this place. Lalisa had recommended it when he’d mentioned that he was planning a weekend away with Namjoon, and he’d known by the price it would be nice. But still. This is really nice.
They eat fruit and omelets and drink strong coffee and bellinis, sitting close enough together that their knees brush. A stem of purple orchids sits in a little bud vase. Jimin is chilly and has to get the other robe from the bedroom. Namjoon laughs at how long it hangs on him, and Jimin throws a napkin at him.
It’s been a week since they’ve seen each other; they talk about small things. Jimin had an actress on his flight to Sydney a few days ago. She’d been very pretty in person, and very thin, and hadn’t treated the flight attendant on her side of the plane very well.
“I don’t get it,” Jimin says, frowning. “How can someone so pretty be so awful?”
Namjoon shakes his head. “There’s no correlation between physical beauty and character, Jimin-ah,” he says, looking thoughtful. “If there were, I wouldn’t be such a great guy.”
He grins, and Jimin kicks him. “That’s dumb,” he says. “Don’t be dumb, hyung. You’re – ugh. You’re so gorgeous.”
Every time Namjoon says something like that, Jimin wants to shake him. He does the next best thing instead and leans forward to kiss him.
Namjoon tastes like mango.
After breakfast they change into their swim trunks and go down to the beach. Namjoon carefully spreads suntan lotion all over Jimin’s back, and Jimin returns the favor. They get two loungers next to each other, and drag them a bit close, so they can lie there in the sun, soaking up the heat, with their fingers brushing.
“I never thought I’d like a place like this,” Namjoon says quietly.
“A tropical paradise?” Jimin raises an eyebrow. “Sounds awful.”
Namjoon laughs quietly. “No,” he says. “A resort. Always thought it would be boring.”
“And it’s not?” Jimin asks, a little anxious. This had been his idea, and he wants the weekend to go well.
Namjoon shakes his head. “Nah,” he says. He smiles. “I think it might be the company.”
Jimin feels that thing in his heart flutter again and reaches for Namjoon’s hand.
After a while, though, Jimin gets restless.
“Hyung,” he mumbles. “I’m too hot.”
Namjoon lifts his sunglasses, looks Jimin slowly up and down. Jimin feels giddy and glad, a little turned on by the lazy pleased expression on Namjoon’s face. “Fair,” he says, “but I’m not sure I can help you with that, Jimin-ah.”
Jimin rolls his eyes to hide how pleased he is. “Let’s go for a swim,” he says, getting to his feet and grabbing Namjoon’s hand. “Come on. Let’s go!”
They swim for a while in that startlingly clear water. The sand is so soft and so white, and the water is warm. It’s amazing. Like something out of a dream. Jimin grew up near the ocean, and he remembers going to the beaches in Busan as a kid, but they were not like this. Coarser sand, darker seas. Closer to the real world. Not this fairytale place, so far removed from all their cares.
The water is so lovely; Jimin could swim all day. Namjoon, though, has other ideas. He puts on a rather ugly Hawaiian shirt and a bucket hat and they wander down the beach. Jimin, wearing a straw hat of Jennie’s, watches the way his footprints in the sand flood with water, and then vanish beneath the next wave. Namjoon collects little things – pretty shells, a piece of sea glass, a tiny twisted piece of wood that looks like a cat at a certain angle.
(Jimin doesn’t see it, but he doesn’t want to ruin the illusion for Namjoon.)
They’ve wandered pretty far down the beach when Namjoon crouches down with an excited shout.
“Jimin-ah!” He says. “Check it out.”
Namjoon has found a crab. It’s about the size of his fist and a faded red color. It has two little bead eyes that swivel here and there, and its claws clack.
“Creepy,” Jimin says.
Namjoon gasps, aghast. “Creepy? What are you talking about? He’s adorable.”
He picks the crab up. It dances across his palm, and then with no warning its wicked looking claw darts out and closes around Namjoon’s thumb.
“Fuck,” he curses, eyes going wide.
Jimin bursts out laughing. Namjoon’s eyes are as round as bottle caps, and his cheeks are red from the sun and from shock.
Namjoon lowers his hand to the ground and shakes gently. The crab holds on fiercely for a moment, and then lets go and drops to the ground. It stands still for a moment, claws raised, a warrior standing his ground, but it must decide correctly that they are unworthy foes, because it scuttles back towards the water and is in a moment washed away by the surf.
“Ow,” Namjoon says piteously. “I must have startled the little guy.”
He holds up his thumb. The crab didn’t break the skin, but there is a little red mark where the tip of his claw dug in.
Jimin takes Namjoon’s hand and presses a kiss to the pad of his thumb. “All better,” he says.
Namjoon smiles at him, eyes soft. “All better,” he agrees.
He takes Jimin’s hand and they walk back to the resort that way.
Evening. A time of purple skies and purple sea. The lonely song of the waves. The dry rustle of the palm fronds. They spent the afternoon in their private pool, and then showered, and now they are eating dinner at one of the resort’s restaurants. Their table is outside, and it feels like they are perched on some unreal precipice, balanced between land and sea.
The food is good; Jimin has an appetite from the day spent out under the sun, in the water. He’s drinking something sweet and a little spicy. Pineapple juice, soda, and vodka infused with Birdseye chilies over crushed ice, garnished with basil. Namjoon is drinking red wine – of course.
“I was thinking tomorrow we could rent kayaks,” Jimin says, smiling, resting his chin in his palm. “I mean, they’re included. But we could get two and paddle out to one of those little islands.”
Namjoon smiles. “That sounds like a good plan to me,” he says.
Since Jimin proposed this trip he’s agreed amicably to every suggestion. Jimin knows Namjoon is not a garrulous person; still, he doesn’t like the faint suspicion that Namjoon is just going along with what he wants.
“Or we can do something else,” Jimin says, swirling the crushed ice around in his glass. “Did you even look at the brochure?”
Namjoon looks sheepish. “I meant to,” he says. “I even put it on my iPad for the flight, but I kind of fell asleep before we even took off.”
Jimin rolls his eyes and huffs, but really he feels fond, and a bit sorry. He knows how hard Namjoon is working lately. The Japanese showcase is in three weeks, and Jimin knows it was a big deal ask for Namjoon even to get this weekend away.
“Good thing I looked at it all, hyung,” Jimin says cheerfully. He brings the resort’s website up on his phone just to refresh himself. “We can go kayaking, or paddle boarding – although that might be dangerous – or –“
“Hey,” Namjoon protests. “I’m all elegance and grace.”
Jimin grins. “Sure,” he agrees. “Does that mean you want to do sunrise yoga?”
Namjoon grimaces. “I’ll pass,” he says. “I don’t want to do sunrise anything.”
“Anything?” Jimin raises an eyebrow.
Namjoon grins, reaching out to take Jimin’s hand. “Well, I can think of something.”
Jimin rolls his eyes. “No sunrise yoga, then,” he says, wryly. “Oh, hyung, they have snorkeling. That might be fun.”
Namjoon looks intrigued by snorkeling. “Like, at a reef?”
Jimin nods. “’Enjoy a relaxing hour-long cruise on one of our luxury shallow-bottom glass boats before reaching one of Southeast Asia’s most pristine and beautiful reefs. Our professional instructors will help you make the most of your day long excursion. Be prepared to be amazed by an abundance of colorful fish, sea turtles, and bright coral. A catered lunch is provided.’”
“Sounds pretty awesome,” Namjoon says. “Do you think there will be crabs?”
Jimin snorts, laughing. “Yes, hyung. I’m sure there will be crabs. Do you want to do this tomorrow? We can sign up after dinner.”
“Sure,” Namjoon says, lazy, smiling. “I think that sounds great, Jimin-ah.”
“Cool,” Jimin says.
They order desert, some ridiculous passion fruit cheesecake to share. Jimin feels flush and glad. Stupid happy, really. He’d been just a little nervous, asking Namjoon to come here with him – even after Kyoto, he’d worried it might seem a bit too formal. That was different, after all. They’d had separate rooms there.
Here, they are unambiguously together.
The too-sweet taste of the cake lingers on Jimin’s mouth.
They are here together, but they’re not together. Not official. Maybe it’s dumb and maybe Jimin’s old fashioned, but some part of him wants Namjoon to ask Jimin to be his boyfriend.
Namjoon hasn’t asked though. Jimin isn’t sure why.
“What’s wrong?” Namjoon asks, fork halfway to his mouth. “You had a funny look on your face there for a second.”
Jimin shakes his head. “No,” he says. “Nothing. I’m fine.” He looks up smiling. “You can finish the cake, Namjoon-ah.”
“You don’t like it?” Namjoon’s eyebrows knit.
“No,” Jimin says. “I like it. I like it a lot. I’m good, though.”
Namjoon takes another bite of the cake. There’s a bit of whipped cream on his lip. Jimin wishes they were back at the villa so he could lick it off.
He’s had a few drinks, but the giddy sensation he feels isn’t intoxication. He feels drunk on Namjoon. Dizzy with him. He wants Namjoon. He wants this.
“Namjoon-ah,” Jimin says, and Namjoon looks up, eyes wide.
“Namjoon-ah,” Jimin says. “We’re here together, right?”
Namjoon looks around, as if suddenly expecting to see some crowd of interlopers.
“I don’t see anyone else,” he says.
Jimin narrows his eyes. “No,” he says. “I mean, we’re together, right?”
Namjoon frowns. “Um,” he says.
“Kim Namjoon.” Jimin slams his hand down hard enough to make the silverware rattle. He hates feeling unsure about this. He just wants to know. “Am I or am I not your boyfriend?”
Namjoon’s look of alarm softens into one of amused pleasure. “Park Jimin, are you asking me out?”
Jimin pouts, feeling foolish suddenly. “I was waiting for you to do it,” he says glumly. “But I don’t want to wait until I’m ninety.”
Namjoon squeezes his eyes shut, wrinkles his nose. “I’m sorry,” he says. “I’m sorry, Jimin-ah. I just figured we were. You know.”
“Yeah,” Namjoon says.
“Yeah,” Namjoon agrees, nodding, looking more self-satisfied than he has any right to look.
“You didn’t answer my question,” Jimin says, frowning.
Namjoon looks up at him, and there is some bright amused light in his eyes. He’s so… Namjoon. So serene, and sure of himself in a way that Jimin envies and adores. Of course he didn’t think he had to ask Jimin out. Of course he would have assumed they were together.
“Park Jimin,” Namjoon says, reaching across the table for Jimin’s hand again. He weaves their fingers together. He runs hotter than Jimin; his palms are warm. “It would be my honor to be your boyfriend.”
Jimin smiles what must be the stupidest smile in the universe. He can feel it: cheeks and wrinkled nose. He doesn’t care. He is happier than he has any right to be.
“Good,” Jimin says, trying to compose himself.
“Good,” Namjoon agrees. Then his smile softens. “I’m sorry, Jimin-ah. I didn’t realize you didn’t think we were –“
“It’s okay,” Jimin says all in a rush. “It’s okay, hyung. I just. I wasn’t sure, you know? I wasn’t sure you wanted –“
Namjoon shakes his head, frowning. “I want everything you want to give, Park Jimin,” he says, voice low. He leans forward and kisses Jimin.
Jimin’s heart thrills.
“It’s only a few weeks,” Jimin says, face pressed to Namjoon’s chest. “It will go fast.”
Namjoon makes a dissatisfied noise. “Not fast enough.”
He squeezes Jimin a bit closer, arms wrapped tight around Jimin’s waist.
Jimin looks up at him – his clear, bright eyes, his smile, his button nose. He feels giddy with affection.
Two weeks seems like an eternity, but –
“You’re going to be so busy you won’t we need have time to miss me,” Jimin says dismissively.
“Not possible,” Namjoon says. “You’re always on my mind, Jimin-ah.”
“Not fair,” Jimin mumbles. “How I am I supposed to compete with a lyricist?”
“I wrote a couple of songs,” Namjoon says, incredulous. “Years ago.”
“Yeah,” Jimin says, “but they’re such pretty songs, hyung.”
He swallows. There’s a lump in his throat suddenly. This weekend was good. So good, but now it is over, and they won’t see each other for two weeks. Standing in the middle of Phuket International Airport, Jimin wants to turn around and go back. He doesn’t ever want to let go.
“Jimin-ah,” Namjoon says quietly. “I’m going to miss you.”
Jimin says nothing, just nods, and then presses his nose into Namjoon’s chest again.
On the intercom, they announce that they are boarding all passengers and all zones for Cathay Dragon Flight 212 to Hong Kong International Airport. Namjoon’s got a layover there, and then it’s back to Tokyo for more work. Jimin is flying directly to Incheon later tonight. He’s going back out tomorrow on a flight to London, where he’s got two days before he flies back to Seoul. Then it’s a marathon of shorter flights before he heads to Chicago for a few days. He’ll have circled the world twice over by the time he finally gets back to Seoul just in time for the big party celebrating Jungkook’s Japanese debut.
“I’m going to miss you too,” he says. “So much, hyung.”
They call final boarding for Namjoon’s flight. He kisses Jimin, soft and lingering. They could be the only two people in the world, even here, in the middle of this chaos.
“Go,” Jimin says. “You’re going to make the crew mad if you’re the last person on.”
Namjoon rolls his eyes. “Yes, sir,” he says.
Jimin smacks him on the chest, playful. “Go,” he says.
“Love you, Jimin-ah,” Namjoon says.
Oh. Oh god. Jimin swallows. “Love you too, hyung.”
They kiss once more, and then through some superhuman force of will, Namjoon pulls himself away and heads to his gate. Jimin watches as he fumbles his phone, watches as he pulls up his boarding pass, watches as the irritated gate agents usher him onto the plate.
Watches until he’s gone.
He swallows. His eyes sting.
“Love you,” he says again.
It is raining in Chicago.
More than raining. The skies have opened up. Rain smears the tinted windows of O'Hare's Terminal 5. It looks like the entire damn building is going through a car wash.
It is 4 o'clock in the morning. Even with the priority given to international flights, Asiana 772 has been delayed since just after midnight. A line of unseasonal autumn thunderstorms rolled through, and lightning shut the whole airfield down for hours. The lightning has tapered off, although the rain still falls.
That's not the problem, though.
The captain finally got on board twenty minutes ago and called a maintenance issue.
Jimin, jittery from lack of sleep and nerves, feels like he might throw up.
He is sitting in the jet bridge with the other flight attendants – no one he knows well. They’re hiding, unwilling to face the wrath of a mob of exhausted, outraged passengers.
O'Hare is not an Asiana hub. There are no spare aircraft here. Unless the maintenance issue is something that can be fixed with duct tape (more common than you'd think, truthfully) they may be here for quite a while.
A non-stop from Chicago to Seoul is not an easy flight; they'll lose a whole day in transit. Even if they took off as scheduled, they wouldn't have landed in Seoul until Thursday morning. Jimin had been planning to go to Namjoon's apartment, catch a few hours of sleep, and then head directly to the party.
If they take off right now, they'll land in Seoul around 5PM. If he changes in the crew lounge at Incheon and gets a taxi, he might be able to get to the party on time.
The gate agent walks over from behind her desk. She looks tired; her hair is falling out of its neat bun. She should have been off work hours ago. She has her phone in her hand, and a resigned expression on her face.
"Chaeyoung, Dahyun, Sana, Jimin? You guys are done," she says, shaking her head. "It's going take two hours for them to get the part, so we're going to be delayed until at least 8AM."
Sana make a noise of disgust.
"Great," Dahyun says. "Just great."
Jimin squeezes his eyes shut to keep from crying. He doesn't care he had to wake up in the middle of the night. He doesn't care that he had to sit here for hours without getting paid. He doesn't care about any of that.
He's going to miss Namjoon's party.
The three woman – friends, apparently – head off towards the crew lounge, muttering quiet complaints. They ask Jimin if he'd like to come – maybe someone there can figure out when they're going to get out of this hell hole – but he just smiles and tells them to go ahead. He needs just a moment.
He wheels his suitcase slowly through the terminal – all but empty, except for a few sleeping stragglers and some janitorial staff. Fuck. Fuck. Their flight is full. There's no way he can fly standby as a passenger. The best-case scenario now is that he gets a jump seat on the flight scheduled to go out tonight.
Too late for the party. There's no way he'll make it.
He takes a seat at an empty gate and takes out his phone.
Namjoon does not pick up right away. It's five in the afternoon there; he is still at work. Jimin closes his eyes. He can't do this via voice mail. He can't. He'll have to go check in at the crew lounge and try again later. He'll –
"Hello? Jimin?" His familiar voice is dark with concern.
"Namjoon," Jimin says. It comes out laced with a tired desperation he should have disguised.
"What's wrong? I thought you'd be in the air by now."
Jimin nods, swallowing. He feels close to tears. "We're delayed, hyung."
"Oh, Jimin-ah," Namjoon says quietly. "I'm sorry." He is still at work; Jimin can hear chatter in the background.
"No," Jimin says. "I'm sorry, hyung. I'm not going to make it to the party. I'm so sorry."
"It's okay, Jimin-ah," Namjoon says softly, sounding a little tired himself.
It's not okay, is the thing. It's not, and Jimin knows it and Namjoon does too, and pretending otherwise leaves a sour taste in Jimin's mouth. This should be a big deal. Namjoon has been working towards this for so long, and he should want Jimin there with him.
He should, but with everything he’s got going on right now, is it any wonder that Jimin isn’t in the front of his mind?
Jimin swallows, snuffling.
Silence, and then– "Are you crying?"
"No," Jimin says, more vehemently than he intends, but it's too late. He is crying – big ugly tears rolling down his cheeks. He's always been like this
"Jimin-ah," Namjoon says, quietly. "Jimin, what's wrong?"
Jimin squeezes his eyes shut. There's a lump in his throat. "Why don't you care, hyung?"
A momentary pause. A woman pushing a cleaning cart walks past whistling. The jaunty tune echoes eerily in the silence.
"Jimin," Namjoon says again. "I care. I care so much. Tonight isn't going to feel complete if you're not there with me, but I know it's not your fault. I know there's nothing you can do."
Too cool. Too calm. Not what Jimin wants right now. He's so upset – at himself and at the airline and at the goddamn weather and at Namjoon. Can't Namjoon just give him the satisfaction of reacting with something other than perfect, mature calm? Just this once?
"I could quit," Jimin says. "I could transfer to ticketing, like Hoseok did. If I cared enough." His voice shakes.
A longer pause. "So you're saying you don't care enough."
Jimin is shaking. "No," he says. "No, that's not what I'm saying, Namjoon. That's not what I'm saying. I'm saying that I wish you gave a shit that I'm not going to be there tonight with you."
"Jimin," Namjoon says, voice harder. "I told you that I do. It's not your fault. Do you want me to get mad at you for something that’s not your fault?”
Jimin shakes his head. That’s not what he wants at all. He can’t explain it. He just wants to be there, with Namjoon. He wants Namjoon to be as upset as he is that Jimin won’t be. “No,” he says, sobbing now, quietly and desperately in the way he hates the most. “No, Namjoon. Fuck. No. That’s not what I want. I just want you to care.”
“I do care, Jimin,” Namjoon says. “Jimin, I do care. I told you I want you here. I don’t – what do you want me to do? Cancel the party? Do you want me to cancel the fucking party because you’re stuck in Chicago?”
This is the angriest Jimin has ever heard him. The heat in Namjoon’s voice is not as satisfying as Jimin thought it would be.
“No,” Jimin sobs. Tears are running down his face. He feels disgusting and exhausted, a sniveling waste of life. He’s so tired and so sad. He hadn’t slept well last night, feels like he’s getting a cold. His sinuses are stuffed. The crying makes his head ache. “I just … This is so hard, Namjoon.”
“What?” Namjoon is quiet. He must have gone somewhere else; there is no more cheery office chatter in the background. “Being with me? It’s hard? How do you think I feel, Jimin? Don’t you think I wish it were easier, too?”
Jimin doesn’t know how Namjoon feels. Not really. Everything has been so good. They’ve never talked about the bad things, the hard things. Easier to pretend it is always going to be sunshine and white sand beaches. A tear runs down the end of his nose and drips onto his slacks. He’s going to have to get his clothes cleaned again. Fuck.
This job has never been easy. Long hours, little sleep. He spends most of his time halfway around the world from the people he loves. It’s a choice he made though, and one he’s never regretted.
It’s never been this hard before.
He feels like his heart is splitting.
“Namjoon,” he says quietly, mustering every ounce of dignity he can. “I’m sorry, Namjoon. I just … I’m really sorry I’m not going to be there. Things aren’t good. I just need a little time right now, I think.”
A frustrated noise on the other end of the line. “So you’re saying you don’t want to be together? What happened to two weeks ago, Jimin?”
“No,” Jimin says, right away. “No, that’s not what I’m saying. I’m just saying – I’m tired right now, and not feeling well, and I’m upset I’m not going to be there. I want to talk about this. I just … I need time.”
His voice shakes in a way he hates.
Namjoon exhales, and Jimin feels lower and stupider than he ever has. Namjoon has worked so hard to make this a reality, and this night was supposed to be his reward, and now Jimin has ruined it.
“Fine,” he says. “Fine, Jimin. How much time do you need?”
Jimin swallows, willing himself not to cry again. “I don’t know. I don’t fucking know right now, okay?”
A long break. Maybe Namjoon has just hung up. It would serve Jimin right.
“Okay,” he says. “Fine. Time. I understand. Let me know when you’re ready to talk, okay?”
“Okay, hyung,” Jimin whispers.
“Take care of yourself, Jimin,” Namjoon says sadly.
He hangs up.
Jimin doesn’t get out of Chicago until the following evening, when he’s called up as a replacement after one of the FAs assigned to work the flight gets sick.
The day and a half he spends shut in his room in the Hilton Chicago O’Hare is one of the very worst of his life. He can’t seem to stop crying, is the thing, not even after a shower and a meal. He cries until he’s exhausted and then he passes out on top of the blankets. He wakes up in the middle of the night, delirious and heartsore, unsure of where he is. He checks his phone, sees the time, remembers, hopes –
But no. There are no missed calls. No messages from Namjoon.
Jimin asked for time. Namjoon will give it to him.
Jimin knows he's fucked up. He knows that Namjoon has shown more patience and kindness than he has any right to expect. Namjoon's not a fool though; he's not going to come running after Jimin, not going to treat him like a little child who has to be coddled.
Jimin needs to be the brave one now, but that feels almost impossible when his heart hurts so badly.
He gets up and washes his face and brushes his teeth. His reflection in the mirror is hollow-cheeked and wan. He needs to shave. He doesn't want to look at himself; he turns and finishes brushing his teeth facing the door.
He sleeps a little, unquietly, and wakes exhausted.
Not crying at least.
At least he doesn't cry.
There is bad turbulence during the first hour of the flight back to Seoul. Several passengers get sick. It's not a pleasant time for anyone, but at Jimin is busy enough to be distracted.
He doesn't take his phone off airplane mode when they land, and dozes on the AREX.
None of the girls are home when he finally gets to the apartment. Thank god. He loves them, but he can't face them right now.
Jennie wouldn't hesitate to tell him he's being an ass. Jisoo would just sigh and shake her head.
He sleeps for a few more hours – a dead, dark, exhausted sleep with no dreams. He wakes after noon and forces himself to go for a run. He's been slacking lately, and besides, the pounding of his feet on the pavement is almost loud enough to drown out the dreary moan of the voices in his head. He runs for an hour along a familiar route, until he's sweating and his head aches. He goes home and showers and then heads out for coffee and food. He feels better after that. He feels a bit better, at least.
He does laundry that afternoon, and then orders take out and spends the evening on the sofa rewatching Mysterious Kiss. Jungkook is as charming as ever, but it's different now that Jungkook texts him funny memes and stupid pictures of Namjoon and bad jokes he gets from Seokjin. Not worse – but different. But thinking of Jungkook makes Jimin think of Namjoon, and that sets him off again.
He can't even make it through the first episode.
If things go south with Namjoon, it's not like Jungkook is going to keep talking to him.
He'll lose his boyfriend, his friend, and his idol in one fell swoop. Nice going, Jimin. Not many people can screw up that royally.
He puts on another drama, but he ends up with his face pressed to the pillow, fighting back tears.
He has breakfast with Hoseok the next day. They meet up at their favorite cafe, a tiny place with turquoise tiled floors and white walls hung with art and lots of green plants. It's so quiet and peaceful it almost makes Jimin feel okay. Almost.
"You look like hell, Jimin-ah," Hoseok says as he sits down across the table.
Jimin wrinkles his nose. "Thanks, hyung," he says, although it’s not some big surprise.
Hoseok sighs. "What happened?"
Jimin hangs his head. "I don't know," he mumbles. "I fucked up. I ruined everything."
"Jimin-ah," Hoseok says, frowning. "I'm sure you didn't. Tell me what's going on."
So Jimin tells him. It feels good to tell the story, honestly, stupid and immature as it makes him seem.
"I didn't mean to get mad," he says quietly, staring down at his latte in its pink mug. "I didn't mean to get mad, but hyung, I just want him to want me there."
He swallows. He doesn't want to cry again.
"And you don't think he does?" Hoseok asks.
"No," Jimin says. "I know he does." He shakes his head. He can't articulate it. "I just... I wanted to be there, hyung, so much, and I was so upset I couldn’t be, and he was so calm and sweet about it, like it was no big deal at all."
"Jimin-ah," Hoseok says, sounding sad, sounding soft. "Not everyone gets upset in the same way."
"I know that," Jimin says, a little too harsh. "I do know that, hyung. I know it's not his fault. I just... I don't know what to do." He closes his eyes. "Was it this hard for you?"
Hoseok shakes his head. "No," he says, "But it wasn't quite the same thing. Yoongi's schedule isn't like Namjoon's. It's harder for you two to find time together. And –" He shrugs. "I don't know, Jimin. It just felt like the right time for me to make a change."
"I don't want to give up flying, hyung," Jimin says quietly. "I don't want to give up flying, and I don't want to give up Namjoon."
"You don't have to," Hoseok says. "But you can't put this on Namjoon. You need to decide what you want, and then you need to talk to him."
"You're right," Jimin says, sighing. It's so damn hard though. He feels so dumb. "He must think I'm an idiot, hyung."
"He doesn't," Hoseok says.
Jimin hangs his head. Namjoon is so cool, so successful, so handsome, so good. There's no reason for him to put up with Jimin.
"Jimin," Hoseok says, laughing, "come on. You were just telling me about your romantic weekend away together. I know I've never met him, but from everything you've told me, this guy adores you. You need to let him love you, kiddo."
The girl at the counter calls Jimin's name. He goes up and gets their sandwiches. He smiles at the girl behind the counter. Jimin has to smile at so many people. It's one of the main requirements of his job. It should be a relief to let Namjoon see all of him– all these ugly jealous parts –but it terrifies him.
"How much was it?" Hoseok asks, as Jimin sets down his quiche.
"My treat, hyung," Jimin says. He sighs. "I owe you way more than this for listening to me whine."
"That's what friends do," Hoseok says, decidedly.
Jimin nods. He sighs. “What am I going to do, hyung?" he asks, trying to summon up the appetite for his own lunch.
Hoseok shrugs. "I don't know, Jimin-ah," he says. He smiles – that bright, calm smile that had set Jimin so much at ease the very first time he'd seen it. "You're brave enough and smart enough to figure it out, though."
Mom told me you were looking for this
Jimin gets the text from his brother when he lands back in Incheon after a day of flying. He's gone from Seoul to Jeju to Seoul to Beijing and back, and he's exhausted. He doesn't have a chance to actually see what Jihyun has sent until he's on the AREX headed back home.
The attached video is of his first recital at Busan Arts. He hadn't been expecting to get a featured role, and he'd been so nervous that he would mess up.
Watching the round-cheeked boy in the video, Jimin feels longing and pride twine together in his chest. He'd done well that day – everyone had told him he'd done well, and he'd gotten other featured roles in later recitals after that performance. He'd never been as proud as that first time, though, because he'd never been so unsure.
He remembers, too, how much he loved it. How he'd found a release from tension in the dance studio he'd never known was possible. He'd felt in control there, in command, in a way he has rarely felt before or since.
Why hadn't he pursued dance? It's hard to remember now. It seems like such a long, long time ago. There had been comments – few but not discreet – about his height. There had been stories from some of his older friends, already in college, about the grueling schedules, the sore muscles, the nasty, sharp-tongued professors, about how those things had sapped away the joy they'd felt. There had been his fear, most of all.
Fear he wouldn't be good enough. Fear he would fail.
That has always been there, underneath everything Jimin has ever done. For a long time he assumed that everyone felt the same. When he realized that some people – like Taehyung, like Hoseok, like Jennie – didn't feel that same kernel of fear, or were able to subdue it through force of will, he'd been stunned. Felt, honestly, like a bit of a failure. He hadn't realized that was possible.
It is still not possible, for him. The way he’s treated Namjoon is proof enough of that.
It's been two days since he had lunch with Hoseok, and he still hasn't found the right words to apologize. He feels too bad, too small and pitiful. He knows he need to say something, and soon, but nothing seems adequate.
He watches the video of his first recital over and over again. Deep in his muscles, he remembers everyone single one of those moves.
He misses dancing. He misses it a lot. He's spent years missing it. For a while, he thought about pursuing as a hobby, but it had stung too much at first, and then when he decided to fly he'd been too busy. He remembers Namjoon's promise that they would go dancing together.
Unbidden, tears come to his eyes. He does not know if he'll ever dance with Namjoon now.
He pulls up KKT and types a quick message – a cop out, really, but he hopes Namjoon understand how much it means for Jimin to share this.
I promised you I'd dig this up eventually
He attaches the video and presses send.
Odds are Namjoon won't even have time to watch it tonight. Jungkook's showcase is tomorrow night; he's probably been working non-stop. Jimin hopes someone reminds him that he needs to sleep.
Jimin is working a flight into Narita tomorrow afternoon. The plan had been that he'd drop his stuff at Namjoon's hotel, change, and then head to the venue.
It is going to hurt worse, being in the same city, but he doesn't want to distract Namjoon on his big day. Later, after the showcase, they can talk. They can try to work things out. Come to some understanding. Jimin can apologize, at the very least. Even if Namjoon doesn't want to have anything to do with him anymore, he wants to do that much, at least.
Asiana 333 is slightly delayed taking off from Incheon, and it is a little after noon by the time they land at Narita. The sky is low and grey; the cabin seems subdued. Jimin is in the rear of the plane. It takes an extra-long time for the passengers to disembark. He gets his bag down and steps onto the jet bridge, coat over his arm. He says goodbye to the other flight attendants, who are off to work another flight, and then heads for ground transportation.
Weird, being here today. Weird, and sad. He's been trying hard to ignore it, and work provided some distraction, but his heart aches.
He pauses just inside the exit to pull on his coat. He'd like to get a cab today, but he'll take the train. He has a ticket in his wallet, he thinks. He starts rifling through the detritus of receipts and dry-cleaning slips and T-Money cards. He really needs to clean his wallet out one of these days. That's something he can do when he gets to the hotel, actually. That's –
He looks up, frowning. He must be mistaken, but it sounds like someone just called his name. He shakes his head and turns back to his wallet, but –
"Hey, Park Jimin!"
Namjoon's blonde head is like a beacon. He must have had it freshly bleached. He is red faced, and his grey trench coat flaps behind him. Business men in dark overcoats shoot him dark glances. Noisy young punk, causing trouble.
Jimin blinks. This isn't a hallucination or a flashback. Namjoon is still here, standing right in front of him.
"Namjoon," he gasps.
"I thought I was going to miss you," Namjoon pants, brushing his hair back off his forehead. “Traffic was awful.”
"We were delayed," Jimin says. "What... Namjoon, what are you doing here?"
Namjoon shakes his head. "Jimin," he says, "I want you to come today. Even if – no matter what happens, I mean. I want you to come today. I know how much this means to you."
Jimin closes his eyes – he's not going to start crying again .
"Namjoon," he says, but he already has a lump in his throat. He stares at his feet. He can't meet Namjoon's eyes. "I'm so sorry."
"Jimin-ah," Namjoon says quietly. "It's okay."
"It's not okay," Jimin says. "Namjoon, I shouldn't have gotten upset at you. It was all my fault." He swallows. He hates feeling this way. Hates it so much. He's always been more tender-hearted than he likes.
"Are you crying?" Namjoon asks softly.
Jimin shakes his head no, but of course he is crying now. He wipes too violently at his eyes. His cheeks are wet.
"Jimin-ah," Namjoon says, and he steps forward and folds Jimin in his arms. "Hey, it's okay. It's not all your fault. It's not all anyone's fault. Things moved fast – I mean, it felt like that to me. Everything just felt so right that I didn't want to talk about any of that serious relationship stuff. I guess I thought it would all just fall into place."
Jimin nods, squeezing his eyes shut. He’d thought that too, even though he knows that’s not how things work outside the glossy world of dramas. He hates crying, hates crying in front of Namjoon even more, but it feels so good to be in his arms again.
"I didn't either," he says in an ugly, froggish voice. "It still feels right, hyung."
Namjoon hugs him tighter. "Jimin-ah, I care about you a lot. We need to talk about what happened. About what we both want. But, if you want to, I'd like you to come to the showcase tonight. I know Jungkook wants you to be there."
Jimin looks up, blinking. "Jungkook does?"
"Ah," Namjoon says, grinning a crooked grin. "So you pay attention when it's JK, huh?"
Jimin pouts. "You know that's –"
"I know," Namjoon says, softly. "I was just kidding. I want you there too, if you want to come."
Jimin nods, blinking back more tears. "Thank you, hyung. I really do."
"I know," Namjoon says softly. "You deserve good things, Jimin-ah. You deserve things that make you happy."
Something about the soft, slightly sorrowful light in Namjoon's eyes as he says that pierces Jimin right to the heart. He can't help it; he bursts into tears again.
It's magic. It has to be. There's no other explanation for how Jungkook – quiet almost to the point of shyness, and fond of the same dumb computer games Jimin's brother likes to play – can transform on stage into JK.
Jimin wishes he knew that trick; even though they stopped at Namjoon's hotel – even though he took a shower and changed his clothes – he still feels grubby with the refuse of sorrow and tears. Red-cheeked and puffy-eyed, he's convinced everyone can tell he's spent the last week crying his eyes out.
They would be able to tell, except JK just stepped onto the stage through a cloud of dry ice painted pink and purple by the stage lights– fairytale dreamscape. He commands every single eye in the house.
The intro to JK's new Japanese single starts playing, and the roar of the crowd is deafening. JK stalks to center stage, looking dangerous, looking burnished, looking untouchable, and grins once rakishly before bursting into song.
He's so good, and even though Jimin's Japanese is not good enough to understand the new lyrics, the familiar melodies and Jungkook's sweet, beautiful voice set his heart at ease.
Namjoon had asked if Jimin wanted to watch from backstage, but Jimin had said no. Partially because he hadn't wanted to distract Namjoon – was not sure he wouldn't burst into tears again – but mostly because he'd wanted to be here, in the middle of the audience, surrounded by other people who understand what it's like to give so much of your heart to someone you'll never know.
It's a different now, for Jimin. Of course it is. But JK's voice and smile still kindle joy in his heart in a way that makes no sense, that doesn't need to make sense, that is absurd and a little silly and one of the brightest, best things Jimin has ever felt.
It makes him happier than he can say – happier than he has any right to be – to get to share that with all the other fans.
Namjoon knew how much this would mean to Jimin, had wanted him to come even after what happened between them.
He is such a good person that it makes Jimin's heart ache, cuts right through that buoyant joy.
No. There is time for that later. They are going to talk, calmly and like adults. They are going to figure things out.
The new single ends, and Jungkook greets the audience. His Japanese is still a little halting, and he only says a few lines before switching over to Korean, but the fans are appreciative of his effort. They all know how hard he tries.
When Jungkook's intro ends, the lights dim again. There is a moment of darkness, a moment of anticipation, and then the familiar first notes of Euphoria echo through the hall.
Jimin smiles, grins so hard his cheeks hurt. He loves this song so much, loved it before he'd felt anything like the kind of love it describes.
He loves it even more now, because he understands it better. He has never felt happier, never felt more at home than he does with Namjoon.
What he hadn't realized – what JK does not sing about – is that the strange, brilliant sweetness is partnered with bitterness and sorrow. All of it more intense and real than anything else Jimin has known.
That is not a lesson you can learn through song. Maybe that's a lesson you can only learn through life. Through love.
Jimin closes his eyes. He feels tears come again, but he is not sure if they are tears of joy this time, or sadness, or both things wound together. There were hard nights when his flight got in on the wrong side of midnight and he felt tired enough to fall asleep standing up, and the thought JK's voice and smile were the only things getting him through until he could finally collapse on his hotel bed. There were nights he spent thousands of miles from home, chatting about JK with Joohyun and feeling closer than if they had been sitting right beside each other. There were nights when JK's voice drowned out the roar of jet engines and lulled Jimin to sleep.
Jimin is so thankful and so glad. He owes JK for all of those things, a deep well of gratitude he's not sure he'll ever be brave enough to share with Jungkook. He's given Jimin so much happiness.
Most improbably of all, he led Jimin to Namjoon.
A debt he can never repay, even if things don't work out.
The bright, sparkling beat kicks in, Jungkook launches into the chorus. Jimin smiles, mouthing along to the familiar words. He sways slightly in place. He’s so into it, when someone taps him on the shoulder – Jimin’s brow knits reflectively. Who would bother him now, of all times? Some concert novice, trying to get a better view? He’s taller than many of the fans, but he’s by no means tall. He turns, prepared to tell the person to get lost and –
“Oh,” he whispers.
“What are you doing here?” His whisper is barely audible over the music.
Namjoon grins. He holds out a hand. “I think I promised you we’d go dancing. I know this isn’t what you had in mind, but…” He smiles that charming smile, the one with the dimples that stole Jimin’s heart the first time he saw it.
Jimin hesitates a moment. “Namjoon,” he says, ignoring the dark looks some of the girls standing nearby are giving them. “We need to talk first. We need to –“
“I know,” Namjoon says. “We will. Dance with me now, Jimin.”
Jimin hesitates, but then takes Namjoon’s hand. Even if things don’t work out, he still loves Namjoon. He still wants this moment. It’s awkward at first. This isn’t a song for couples, really, and they move stiffly, like two teenagers on a first date. Namjoon is smiling though, and Jimin is too – he can’t help himself. His heart is soaring, and he feels so glad. He’s scared still that he’s ruined things. Scared, deep down, that he won’t be enough.
But in this moment, spinning awkwardly together at the back of the GA section while Jungkook sings his heart out on stage, Jimin feels like he’s where he belongs.
"Where did you put the box with the towels, Jimin-ah?" Namjoon calls, voice muffled.
Jimin, sitting on the floor of the living room, looks up. "I think it’s with the other bathroom stuff, hyung."
"I can't find them," Namjoon says, sounding mournful. “I looked through every box.”
Jimin huffs out a laugh. "I'm coming."
It is May – just a little over a year since Jimin spilled wine on Namjoon on that Incheon - Narita flight. Yesterday, Jimin and Namjoon moved into their new apartment. The girls had come over to help with the move, and Taehyung, Hoseok, and Yoongi had showed up with pizza and beer, and then Jungkook and Seokjin had stopped by with wine, and they had all sat on the living room floor, eating pizza from the box and drinking wine out of coffee mugs. Lalisa and Rosie had feigned awe in front of Jungkook for a half an hour, and then bullied him into singing for them, which he‘d done with bashful good nature until Seokjin had declared it bedtime and shepherded everyone out the door and Namjoon and Jimin had been alone in their apartment for the first time.
A year, and not all of it easy.
The morning after Jungkook‘s debut showcase in Tokyo Jimin met Namjoon at a quiet coffee shop a few blocks from Namjoon‘s hotel. It was raining that morning. He still remembers the way the raindrops blurred the street. Namjoon had arrived first. He’d ordered himself an americano, and Jimin remembers very vividly the way his long, slim fingered hands had looked wrapped around the blue mug. Jimin had gone up to order his own drink with a strange and indefinite feeling of dread growing in his stomach.
They had danced together, and then after the show Namjoon had taken Jimin backstage to congratulate Jungkook, who had been ecstatic, wrapping Jimin in a sweaty hug. But with the music over, distance reimposed itself between Jimin and Namjoon. They had made plans to meet the next morning, and then Jimin had taken a cab to his own hotel.
And here they were. To talk. Jimin was terrified, but he had resolved to try as hard as he could to be brave.
He sat back down across from Namjoon. They sipped their coffee. Namjoon seemed to be waiting for Jimin to speak. He took a deep breath and said, “Namjoon-ah, I’m in love with you, and that terrifies me.”
It was a trite statement, but Namjoon hadn’t laughed. He had taken Jimin’s left hand in his right and said, “I think I feel the same way.”
They talked for a long time that morning – about Jimin’s fears, and about Namjoon’s, and about what needed to change, and about what didn’t. Jimin didn’t want to stop flying, but he wanted to be present more in Namjoon’s life. Namjoon promised to talk more, not to assume that Jimin and he were always on the same page.
“You can take all the time you need to figure out what feels right,” Namjoon had said. “Anything is enough for me, Jimin.”
Jimin didn’t know how that could be true, but he believed Namjoon meant it, somehow.
They agreed to try again, slowly, and with more care this time.
In December, Jimin had worked a flight with Lee Seunghyun, a veteran flight attendant he’d known in his trainee days. Seunghyun had been with Asiana for fifteen years but, he announced as they taxied for takeoff, he was leaving to work with a company that supplied flight attendants for private jets and charter flights.
“It’s easy work,” Seunghyun had drawled. “You get to meet all kinds of high rollers and influential people, and you’re not at the mercy of the damn schedulers.”
“Hyung,” Jimin had asked, barely daring to get his hopes up, “are they still looking for people?”
He started his new job in February. It’s different. He has to put up with even richer, more entitled assholes than before but he only has to do it ten days a month.
It‘s not a perfect solution, but for now it works. He still gets to fly, but he has more time for life. Time to spend with Namjoon, and to do things he wants to do. He hasn’t said anything to Namjoon yet, but now that they’re moved in, Jimin is thinking of signing up for a dance class at a studio nearby. It’s something he wants to do for himself. It’s something he thinks might make him happy.
The new job doesn’t pay quite as well, but he and Namjoon had already talked about moving in together before Jimin had left Asiana. After he made the decision to quit, it seemed like the natural thing to do. They’d talked for a little while about Jimin moving into Namjoon’s apartment – that big, glossy, impersonal box in the sky – but that hadn’t felt right. Jimin is the one who had suggested that Namjoon rent his place and that they look for a new place together. It hadn’t taken Namjoon long to agree.
They‘d looked at so many places, in so many neighborhoods. It had seemed like they might never find a place when a friend of Namjoon’s had tipped them off to this place – spacious and quiet, on a tree lined street in an untrendy neighborhood. Their neighbors are respectable professionals. The house isn’t large, but they have a tiny yard with a tree in it and old wooden floors that Namjoon says have their own stories to tell.
It‘s not perfect, but it’s theirs.
If only they can track down the towels.
Namjoon is in the bathroom, shirt off, staring pitifully down at the open boxes.
“I looked,” he says, pouting
Jimin sighs and opens the one box Namjoon hadn’t yet gotten to.
“Here,” he says, taking out one of the nice towels. “You’re going to shower?”
Namjoon nods. “I have to be in the office at eight for that conference call.”
Jimin wrinkles his nose. “Boo,” he says. “Why don’t you just do it from here?”
Namjoon shakes his head. “It’s a video call,” he says. “Shihyuk hyung wants us all in the office.”
Jimin nods. He wants Namjoon around all the time but he’s working hard at holding his tongue when Namjoon has work obligations. He knows how important Namjoon’s job is to him; it is one of the compromises they are both learning how to make.
“Let’s go out to dinner tomorrow night,” Namjoon suggests. “Do you want to make a reservation at that Italian place we went to with Hoseok and Yoongi?”
Jimin nods, glad. “Sure,” he says. “That sounds great, hyung.”
He makes the reservation while Namjoon showers, and then changes into pajamas. It’s not late, but it’s been a long day, and he had maybe a glass more of wine than he should have. They’re buying new furniture, and not all of it is here yet, but they do have a bed, at least. Namjoon’s backpack is on top of the bare mattress, phone charger and headphone and wallet spilling out. It’s no wonder he loses things so often. Jimin shakes his head and smiles as he stuffs everything back inside. His hand lingers over the little black notebook Namjoon carries around; Jimin had asked what he writes in it, and Namjoon had confessed, a little red-faced, that he still writes lyrics sometimes.
He hasn’t shared them with Jimin yet. It will be okay if he never does. It just makes Jimin glad to know he’s not the only one whose dreams linger.
Jimin sticks Namjoon’s notebook in his bag and then drops it on the floor, and digs the sheets out of one of the boxes stacked in the bedroom and makes their bed for the very first time. He smooths the blankets they picked out together and fluffs the pillows.
He gets his phone then and takes a picture. This is the first time they will sleep in a bed that’s theirs; maybe it’s silly and sentimental. He can’t help himself.
Jimin is cozy under the covers with his phone in hand when Namjoon comes in from the bathroom, skin rosy and damp, toweling drying his hair. He drops the damp towel on the floor, and then arches his back, stretching
“I know it’s not late,” he says, “but I’m exhausted.” He pulls on that same slightly-too-small pair of Asiana pajamas Jimin had given him the day they met and climbs into bed, wrapping his arms around Jimin’s waist.
“You worked hard,” Jimin says, sleepily pressing a kiss to the top of Namjoon’s head.
“You did too,” Namjoon murmurs sleepily.
The streets are quiet here; there are no traffic noises outside, no ambient light. It is cozy and close. Namjoon closes his eyes. Jimin presses play on the video he’d been watching.
“What’s that?” Namjoon has one eye open, peering over Jimin’s shoulder.
“Hmm?” Jimin looks over at him.
“What are you watching?”
“Oh,” Jimin says, blushing. “Nothing.”
It’s not nothing. It’s the fourth season of a very popular show where ambitious trainees from a variety of entertainment companies compete to earn a chance at debut. Jimin hadn’t meant to get hooked, but the drama is better than on most scripted shows. His favorite is Kiwan, a classically trained ballet dancer who has an iron will and an endearing habit of telling silly jokes.
“Wow,” Namjoon says sleepily. “Are you falling for another idol? Jungkook is going to be devastated.”
“They’re not idols yet,” Jimin says. “Besides, who do you think got me hooked on this? Jungkook says he’s just scoping out the competition, but I know better.”
Namjoon snorts, but he watches quietly as Kiwan and another trainee move through their dance routine, graceful and fluid with all the strength and energy of youth.
“Do you ever wish that was you?” Namjoon asks quietly.
Jimin is quiet for a moment. “Honestly, yes, but not as often now. Not after seeing how much Jungkook has to go through.” He pauses. “What about you, Rap Monster-ssi?”
Namjoon snorts. Then, more quietly, “Sometimes, yeah, I do.” His voice is slow; he’s going to fall asleep soon.
On screen, the two boys stand stock still while the critical judges point out their most minute flaws.
“I think I would have loved being on stage,” Jimin says slowly, “but I don’t know if I would have been strong enough to make it.”
Namjoon shifts. The new mattress squeaks. “Jimin,” he says, and he is frowning when Jimin looks over at him. “You’re one of the strongest people I know. You know that, right?”
Jimin shrugs, shy. “You have to say that,” he says. “You’re my boyfriend.”
“No,” Namjoon says. “I’m not kidding. If you had wanted to be an idol, you would have made it. I’m sure of it.”
Jimin rolls his eyes.
“Hey,” Namjoon says, “I am the director of A&R for one of Korea’s top entertainment companies. I know what I’m talking about.”
Jimin turns and kisses Namjoon, pleased. “Thanks, Namjoon-ah,” he says. He’s crisscrossed the world, been to places he never dreamed he would, and yet somehow – “I think I ended up in the right place, though.”
Namjoon nods and makes a sleepy noise of assent, and hugs Jimin closer.