Actions

Work Header

the art of envy

Work Text:

Park Jimin’s alarm goes off at five in the morning to an empty bed.  

He'd gotten up half an hour early today, his nerves fried and his stomach tied into a knot, and had decided to add four extra miles to his six-mile run to try to work off some of his anxiety. 

He warms up, double-knots his shoelaces, and gets going. He runs consistent seven-minute miles, gets back at a quarter to six, and proceeds to dry-heave into the toilet until his body gives out. 

Then he stands, peels off his sweaty clothes, steps into the shower and turns the water as hot as it can go in an attempt to burn all of his problems off of him. It doesn’t work, though, because the water heater’s been broken for a week now and his landlord still hasn’t gotten it fixed—and he won’t, he says, until Jimin pays rent. But Jimin still hasn’t gotten his paycheck from the bar yet, so he can’t technically afford it. And even with his paycheck, it’ll still be tight. Maybe he’ll ask Seokjin if he can pick up another weekend shift. 

Jimin rummages through the fridge, wrinkling his nose at the smell. There’s definitely an open jar of kimchi somewhere in there, and it’s stinking everything up—unpleasantly, at this point. He’s only got a single egg left, and half an orange, because he hasn’t had the time or money to go grocery shopping this week. But it’s either that or starve , so he cracks the egg into a pan and peels the rest of the orange. It tastes vaguely like kimchi, and Jimin’s stomach rolls unpleasantly as he forces himself to eat it . As he scoops the fried egg onto a plate, the edges chipped, he looks sadly at his broken rice cooker—yet another thing he hasn’t been able to afford to replace. 

Acid stings his throat as he takes tiny bites, trying to coax his body into digesting something despite the nerves. He’s got a six-hour day at the studio today, and then his shift at the bar goes till one in the morning, and he doesn’t know when—or how much—he’ll be able to eat for the rest of the day. His phone buzzes, and when he checks it, there are two new notifications, one from Seokjin and the other from Hoseok:  

 

kim seokjin (work): Hey, can you come in an hour early today and fill in as manager? Yoongi’s sick and I need to take him to the hospital. 

hoseok: yooooo jeongguk’s visiting today are you still coming in?????

 

Jimin closes his eyes against the wave of nausea that rises at the sight of Jeongguk’s name. He swipes out of Hoseok’s notification and answers Seokjin’s text instead. 

 

jimin: yeah, at 5? will I get managers salary for that 

kim seokjin (work): Yes! Also omg thank you so much…I’ll pay you managers salary for the whole shift ;))

jimin: it’s a double yes from me then!! i hope yoongi’s ok

kim seokjin (work): Yeah…we think he has appendicitis, so that’s why I want to give myself plenty of time just in case. 

 

Abandoning his half-finished egg—he’s far too nauseated to continue eating—Jimin quickly types out a reply to Seokjin and dumps his plate into the sink. He wants to get to the studio early today so he can spend some time working on his showcase choreography before he starts lessons for the day. It’s only a week and a half until the showcase, and it’s the last chance of the year to get picked up by a big company, which is what Jimin’s been working towards for as long as he can remember. While he loves the studio that he’s at, it’s supposed to be temporary—it trains dancers specifically to be picked up by other companies, and Jimin’s been there two years and hasn’t been offered a spot yet.  

Well—he would’ve. And this is where Jeongguk enters the story, where Jimin’s perfect, neat plan had ruptured in a thousand different places and his whole life had dissolved. 

His phone rings abruptly, startling him. Hoseok’s name is displayed at the top of the screen, and Jimin sighs, knowing that Hoseok will only continue to pester him on all forms of social media until Jimin answers. He accepts the call, and doesn’t even get a hello out before Hoseok launches into conversation. 

“Are you or are you not staying home from the studio today?” Hoseok asks. 

“I’m not,” Jimin replies tiredly. “I need the money, and I can’t just cancel on all my individual lessons.” 

“Wow, Jimin-ah,” Hoseok exclaims, “so brave! If it was me, I’d be hiding under blankets. Or I’d punch his face in.” 

“Hyung, you like Jeongguk,” Jimin reminds him. “You wouldn’t hit him.” 

“You’re right,” Hoseok agrees. “But after he basically took your spot—” 

There’s a spike of bitter emotion in Jimin’s chest, and Hoseok catches himself before he finishes his sentence. 

“Either way,” Hoseok continues hastily, brushing past Jimin’s sudden silence, “you should work on your showcase piece today. Lessons or not.” 

“I know, hyung,” Jimin mutters. “It’s my last chance. At least for 3Three.” 

“You don’t know that,” Hoseok protests. “They take people in between, too—” 

“Yeah, famous dancers,” Jimin says, unable to stop himself from sounding resentful. 

“Jimin—” 

“It’s fine,” Jimin replies, swiftly cutting Hoseok off. “I have to get ready. I’ll see you in a couple hours.” 

“Don’t overdo it,” Hoseok says.

Jimin thinks about his ten-mile run, at the deep-set tiredness that’s already taken hold of his legs. “I won’t,” he promises, gritting his teeth against the metallic sting of the lie. 

He says one last goodbye to Hoseok, and then hangs up, tossing his phone onto his bed. He opens the door of his closet, glaring at the picture of him and Jeongguk, the one that he’d stuck too firmly to the mirror and then was unable to get down. It’s a picture Taehyung had taken about four months ago, and in it, they’re fast asleep, their fingers intertwined. Jimin doesn’t even recognize himself—there’s less weight on his shoulders, and his face is so relaxed. He looks—well, he looks like he’s in love. And at that moment in time, he was, because he’d been with Jeongguk for about two and a half months at that point, and blissfully unaware of how much shit was about to hit the fan two months later, when their June showcase rolled around, and Jeongguk had gotten an email from 3Three that had shattered Jimin’s world, and, consequently, their relationship. The studio had been Jimin’s big break, the singular chance he’d been working towards, the path out of this stupid shitty apartment and his stupid shitty bar job. When Jeongguk had opened the email, he’d looked at Jimin and had said, very quietly, that he’d been offered the singular spot at 3Three, and he’d say no if Jimin wanted him to. 

He’s still bitter about how he’d insisted that Jeongguk take the opportunity, sour-tasting envy and low-simmering fury warring with victorious, soaring pride. But as Jeongguk started to wrap things up with Jimin’s current studio, all positive emotions had soured, and he found himself hating Jeongguk by the end of the week, bitterly wishing for his success and wanting Jeongguk to hurt as much as he was. 

Then the self-hatred had started, because Jimin had quickly realized that everything he was thinking made him a terrible boyfriend and an even worse person. It was with cold, clinical detachment that he’d ended their relationship the day Jeongguk picked up and moved to central Seoul, over to his shiny new apartment and 3Three’s big, fancy studio. 

Jimin shakes his head, bringing himself back to the present. He doesn’t have time for regret, and he certainly doesn’t have time for self-pity. He’s got a whole middle section to choreograph and three lessons to plan out, and it’s already a quarter past seven. Jimin quickly packs his bag, shoving his dance clothes and his work clothes in, not sure if he’ll have enough time after his last lesson to take the train all the way back to his apartment

He gives the picture of him and Jeongguk one last spiteful look, and then closes the door to his closet firmly. Jeongguk may be coming to the studio today to say hi, but that doesn’t mean Jimin actually has to see him. In fact, he’s carefully planned his lunch break to coincide with the exact time Jeongguk’s supposed to show up. It does mean he’ll have to kill a couple thousand won on buying lunch, but he’d pay a million won just to avoid Jeongguk. There’s no part of him that is remotely ready to face his ex-boyfriend, not when he still hasn’t moved on from the disaster that was three months ago.

He squares his shoulders and walks out the door, praying to the heavens that his plans will go smoothly for once in his life. 

 


 

The heavens, it seems, do not give a fuck about him. 

From the very first moment that he sets foot in the studio, everything falls to ruins. The room he’d wanted to use is already taken by a group of girls working on their piece for the showcase. They invite Jimin to share, but he’s so deeply insecure about his choreo right now that he waves them off with a smile and a small bow. 

“He’s so nice,” he hears one of the girls sigh as he closes the door. “I wish every man could be as sweet as Park Jimin.” 

You wouldn’t say that if you were inside my head, Jimin thinks, making his way towards Hoseok’s office, hoping that he’ll at least get a spot on the couch to watch some TV, since choreo is out. That also doesn’t work out, because Hoseok’s boyfriend Namjoon is there, and while Namjoon is nice and smart and very easy to be around, Jimin finds it’s hard to keep up his cheerful exterior when he has to watch Hoseok and Namjoon together. The way they orbit each other is comfortable, familiar, and so loving that it makes it hard for Jimin to breathe. So he only lingers for a couple minutes, accepting a cup of coffee from Namjoon before he excuses himself and takes cover in the shitty room they use for the twelve-and-under lessons. He sulks in there and watches anime on his phone until his first individual lesson shows up—a little girl named Sunmi, who tackles Jimin as soon as she sees him, beaming brightly. 

“Look, sunbae, I lost my other front tooth!” She says proudly, sticking her tongue through the spot where her teeth used to be. 

“Sunmi, let Jimin-ssi up,” her father scolds, and Sunmi scrambles off of him, her smile not flickering. Jimin gets to his feet and pats Sunmi on the head, feeling a little better now that she’s here. “I’ll see you in an hour, okay?” Sunmi’s father asks, and inclines his head towards Jimin. “Thank you, Jimin-ssi. Make sure she does well.” 

“Of course,” Jimin answers. “See you in a little while.” 

The day slips by in this fashion. Parents come by, drop of their kids, Jimin teaches them, and then they leave and he falls back into the same nerve-wracking anxiety he’s been fighting all day. 

Noon comes just as Jimin finishes making notes about his last group lesson, marking which of the kids are ready to move to the advanced group and which need to stay. Hoseok pokes his head into the room, knocking on the doorframe. “Jeongguk’s just arrived, Jimin-ah,” Hoseok says. “He’s in the lobby. He brought Kim Taehyung, too, if that makes it any different.” 

Jimin hesitates. Taehyung is how he’d found out about 3Three in the first place, and they’ve maintained a pretty close friendship despite not hanging out as much since the breakup. Jimin knows Taehyung feels awkward—he’s Jimin’s friend, but he’s Jeongguk’s coworker, and he’s too nice to pick a side. 

“I’m going on my lunch break,” Jimin mutters, grabbing his backpack and hoodie. “Let me know when he’s gone.” 

Hoseok gives him two thumbs up. “Will do,” he says, and disappears down the hall. 

Jimin sighs, shouldering into his hoodie and putting his headphones in. Maybe he’ll just get some kimbap from the store across the street—it’s cheaper than going to a sit-down restaurant, and with the state his stomach is in, he doesn’t know if he could eat a full meal anyway. 

It’s raining lightly outside when Jimin goes to sit by the window, fidgeting with the wrapper of his kimbap. He idly watches people pass by as he chews, wondering what their lives are like, if they carry weight on their shoulders, or if they wake up and feel like they’ve turned to sand. He wonders what they feel when they look into the mirror, if they flinch away the same as he does.

Someone stops in front of the window, blocking Jimin’s view, and it takes a second for his mind to register that it’s Jeongguk, eyes wide and one hand pressed against the glass as he stares in. Jimin chokes on a grain of rice and his life flashes before his eyes as he tries to dislodge it, coughing violently. When he looks up again, Jeongguk’s making a beeline for the door. With a sinking feeling, Jimin realizes he’s sitting in the exact same convenience store that he and Jeongguk frequented every Wednesday for the same triangle kimbap Jimin’s eating right now. In fact, they even sat in the same goddamn spot, holding hands and sharing an earbud while they talked shit about their seniors. 

God, he’s such an idiot. This is what he gets for not being over Jeongguk even a little bit, despite how desperately he wants to be. 

The bell over the door rings, and Jimin crams the rest of the kimbap into his mouth and stands, diving behind a row of chips just as Jeongguk walks into the store. 

“Shit, shit, shit,” Jimin hisses, crouching and shuffling away as Jeongguk looks around, confused. 

“Jimin?” He calls, unsure.

Panic builds in Jimin’s chest. The way to the door is blocked by Jeongguk, and there’s no way Jimin can maneuver himself around the shelves without knocking something over—which leaves him two options: stand up, face Jeongguk, and walk out with a shredded pride, or make a break for the bathroom and crawl out of the window there. 

The answer is obvious. 

He ignores the strange look the cashier gives him as he shuffle-runs towards the bathroom and locks the door behind him, breathing a sigh of relief once he’s safe from Jeongguk’s sight. The window opens with some effort, squeaking loudly as he pries it open, and he tosses his backpack through before boosting himself up to the ledge after. It’s a tight fit, and it’s one of the rare times that Jimin is thankful for being on the smaller side—Hoseok or Seokjin wouldn’t be able to get out this way. His landing is less-than-graceful, but he ignores his stinging palms and sprints back to the studio, shamefaced yet oddly victorious.

“What the fuck did you do to your hands?” Hoseok asks a couple minutes later when Jimin storms back into the studio, fuming. “What’s that stain on your hoodie, too?” 

Jimin slams his backpack on the desk and yanks open a drawer, rummaging around for some disinfectant and a couple band-aids for the nasty scrapes on his hands, obtained when he’d pitched head-first out of the bathroom window and onto the hard concrete below. 

“You look like you just escaped a war zone,” Namjoon comments. 

“I did,” Jimin mutters. “I ran into Jeongguk at the convenience store. I had to escape.” 

He misses the knowing look Hoseok and Namjoon exchange, too busy wiping down his hands. 

Anger simmers through him as he presses gauze against his cuts, cursing his own stupidity. He’s in the process of aggressively opening a band-aid when the front door to the studio opens. Instinctively, he looks up and quickly forgets about his hands.

Somehow, Jimin had forgotten that he wasn’t safe at the studio either, and Jeongguk had the infuriating capability of returning here, too, which is exactly what he’s done. 

“Jimin,” Jeongguk says for the second time, pink-cheeked and windswept. He’s wearing a beanie and what Jimin’s almost positive is his hoodie under a worn denim jacket. He looks incredible, as always, but that doesn’t stop something dangerously murderous from boiling under Jimin’s skin at the sight of him

Well, if there was any doubt if he was still holding a grudge towards Jeongguk, it’s gone now. 

“Jeongguk,” Jimin says shortly. “Hi. What can I do for you?” 

Jeongguk blinks, clearly not expecting the undercurrent of hostility in Jimin’s voice. 

“Jimin-ah,” Namjoon chides, but Hoseok elbows him and they both quietly excuse themselves to a different room. Jimin throws Hoseok a desperate look, but Hoseok only shrugs his shoulders like, you got yourself into this one. 

They’re alone now, and Jimin sharply turns back to Jeongguk. “What do you want?” He asks, still snippy. 

“I, uh,” Jeongguk fumbles. “I just came by to say hi.” 

“Hi,” Jimin replies cooly. “You can go now.” 

Jeongguk’s face twists, hurt filling his eyes. “You don’t have to be an asshole,” Jeongguk mutters. “Why are you still acting like this? What did I do this time?” 

Jimin doesn’t give him a reply, stiffly collecting his bandages and shouldering his backpack. “Don’t come by anymore,” he says instead. 

“I just thought,” Jeongguk starts, twisting his hands in the front of his jacket, “now that it’s been a couple months, maybe we could talk about—” 

“You thought wrong,” Jimin cuts him off, brusque. “Don’t you have rehearsal to go to? Or friends to entertain at your shiny new flat?” 

Jeongguk’s mouth puckers. “Why are you doing this?” He asks quietly. 

“Because I’m an awful person,” Jimin says, ice-cold. “And you deserve it.” 

He storms out of the lobby before Jeongguk can reply, slamming the door behind him and trying not to let the wounded expression on Jeongguk’s face break his heart.  

 


 

Jimin’s still in a bad mood when he shows up to the bar, and he is doing an incredibly bad job at hiding it. 

“Jimin,” Sehun says cautiously as Jimin types furiously at the computer in the manager’s office, trying to figure out why the punch-in clock isn’t recording times. “Are you—uh, are you okay?” 

“I’m fine,” Jimin mutters. “Why won’t this piece of shit work?” 

“You don’t look fine,” Sehun says dubiously as Jimin grips the edges of the desk and takes a deep breath. “What time are you moving to waiting tables?” 

“Seven,” Jimin says, checking the clock and holding back a curse when he sees it’s already six-thirty. “And I get off at one.” 

Sehun winces. “Ouch. Why’d you take Seokjin-hyung’s shift if you’re working so late? Didn’t you also come from the studio?” 

“Yoongi’s sick,” Jimin says, logging off the computer before he can punch a hole through the monitor, “and yeah, I did.” 

“Did something happen there?” Sehun asks, and Jimin genuinely cannot tell if Sehun really wants to know or if he just wants gossip, but Jimin so angry he doesn’t really care. 

“Jeon Jeongguk showed up,” Jimin huffs, standing and ignoring the way his overused muscles protest. “And pissed me off.” 

Oh,” Sehun says, nodding understandingly. “Your ex, right? What’d he do?” 

Shame heats Jimin’s face, and Sehun’s eyebrows rise. “He just…he did everything I did, only better. And then he was an asshole about it.” 

There’s a metallic taste on Jimin’s tongue as he says this last part, but he swallows it down and looks Sehun in the face. 

“You…that makes no sense,” Sehun tells him, looking utterly confused. “You’re saying you hate him because you’re…jealous? That he did better than you?” 

Yes. “No,” Jimin snaps. “Now go back to work or I’m going to fire you.” 

Sehun holds up his hands in surrender. “Fine, fine. Don’t hate me because I told the truth.” 

“I hate you no matter what,” Jimin says, scowling. “Sneaky asshole.” 

“Jealous bitch,” Sehun fires back, clearly delighted that he’s got something to hold against Jimin now. “See you out there.” 

Seokjin comes back at seven-fifteen, pale and harried-looking. “It’s all okay,” he says when Jimin dips in to check on him. “It wasn’t appendicitis, it was just food poisoning from bad sushi he had with his friends the other night—oh, shit, why is it so busy out there?” 

Jimin shrugs helplessly, rummaging around in one of the desk drawers for a new pen, because his is out of ink. “It’s Friday night. People want to drink.” 

“Are you okay?” Seokjin asks as Jimin tucks a new ballpoint pen into his apron, smoothing down the front of his shirt. “You look a little tense.” 

“I’m just an open book, I guess,” Jimin mutters irritably. “No, hyung, I’m fine.” 

Seokjin studies him a minute longer. “If you say so. Also, I got Chanyeol to stay until one, so I’m letting you off at eleven because you came in early.” 

Jimin’s heart sinks, and he tries not to let his panic show on his face. “I, uh, I really need the money,” he says awkwardly. “So if there’s any possibility that I can stay—” 

“I’ll pay you for the whole shift,” Seokjin says, leaning back in the chair. “You’re overdoing it, Jimin. I can tell.” 

“I’m not,” Jimin protests quietly, but every part of his body disagrees with him. “I’m okay.” 

“Go home early,” Seokjin tells him. “If you’re not gone by eleven, then I’m going to be pissed.” 

Jimin hesitates, wanting to argue, but the look on Seokjin’s face tells him he shouldn’t push it. 

“Alright,” Jimin says, meek. Seokjin gives him a smile, and then Jimin slinks out of the office, reentering the bar so he can keep taking orders. The rest of the night passes in much of the same fashion, and by eleven, Jimin is so worn-out he can barely stand up. The bottoms of his feet ache, and his legs scream at every little movement. He hasn’t eaten since lunch, either, and with every step he takes towards the exit, his vision swims sickeningly.  

“Okay, time for food,” Jimin mutters, starting down the street and relishing the cool, clean air, free of the smell of beer and cooking meat. Nothing’s really open now, except for bars, so he winds up back at the same convenience store he’d eaten at for lunch near the studio. He buys himself instant noodles, mentally calculating how much he’ll need to add to his run tomorrow to work the calories off. As his dinner cooks, he scrolls idly through Instagram. Jimin stops when Jeongguk’s username appears in his feed, which is strange, because he rarely ever posts. Jimin still follows him because of this exact reason—it’s infrequent enough to keep his envy at bay, but he still has access to Jeongguk’s account when he wants to feel bad about himself. This particular post is a couple pictures of Jeongguk in the studio, posing with Hoseok and Namjoon, and then a mirror selfie at the end of him and Taehyung in one of of what must be 3Three’s dance rooms, if the surroundings are any indication. 

 

liked by jhope-jdope, prodbyrm, and 736 others 

jjk_97 excited about the future ft. my best friends!!

View all 206 comments

vvv_tae cuteeee

doubleb why didn’t you post the one with me in it hahahahaha

 

Jimin blinks at the picture for a second, feeling conflicted. Envy wins out in the end—as it always does, with him, and he shoves his phone back into his pocket, irrationally upset. 

He eats his ramen too fast and burns his mouth, desperately trying to pull himself out of his own head. He thinks about good things: about running a marathon one day, about the dance showcase, about going out with Namjoon and Hoseok this weekend. But every thought is ruined by Jeongguk, who intrudes every corner of his mind, barging in and spoiling everything. 

It’s this desperation that drives Jimin to walk back up to the counter with two bottles of soju, the bottles sweating a little in the mild September night when he starts back down in the direction of the studio. The front door is locked and all the lights are off, but Jimin’s worked here for so long that Hoseok’s given him a key—a key that would be immediately revoked if Hoseok knew Jimin was in here to drink, not to dance. 

The studio is eerie in the nighttime. No music echoes distantly down the hall, and the constant buzz of people talking is gone. There are no dancers in the studio, and the offices are shut tight and locked. Jimin picks studio two, the one he’d wanted his morning, and unlocks the door. It feels a little like entering an alternate dimension with the lights off, the air still and quiet. The moon shines weakly in through the windows, and his reflection in the mirror looks like liquid shadow. Turning on the lights comes almost a relief, like he’s bringing the world back into the room. 

He collapses into a heap opposite the mirror, joints cracking and muscles groaning in relief. The taste of soju sweeps over his tongue when he opens it and takes a sip. It takes a couple mouthfuls before he starts to feel the effect of the alcohol—Jimin’s always had a strangely high tolerance—but he’s glad when he can, warm and buzzing and taking the edge off. 

He wasn’t always like this—hot-tempered and jealous, quick to snap and even quicker to insult. He’s struggled for months with bringing himself under control, has tried meditation and therapy and disconnecting from social media, all in an attempt to rid himself of his envious grudge. Nothing’s worked so far, so he’s stuck with punishing himself day after day, waking up too early and running too far, pushing his body past its limit. He won’t eat for hours, lets his ears ring and his nose bleed, dry-heaves into toilets, grips too tightly, goes too far. 

And every time, he takes a sick sort of vindication from it. When he hurts, he thinks I deserve it, this is what I get, this is what I fucking get.  

He exhausts himself so he doesn’t have to think about what he’s done, what he’s doing, and what he’ll continue to do unless he somehow manages to shed his anger and piece his shattered life back together. 

He finishes the first bottle of soju and opens the other, watching his reflection warily as he drinks. Pale face, skinny wrists, clothes that don’t fit him quite right anymore. This, he thinks wrly, eyeing himself, is why people ask if I’m okay all the time. He looks—he looks sick, is what. Jimin likes his face, he really does—but not this face, the one that’s scowling back at him, sharp, thin, and tired. So, so, tired.

He’s tired of everything, all the time. Nothing’s made him happy in so long, not even dancing, because he’d hinged his whole life on it and it’d let him down, and now he has to scrape together a second chance he’s not even sure exists. 

He’s tired, but mostly—mostly he’s sad. And maybe that’s what was in his eyes, the part of his face he doesn’t recognize. Bitter, heavy, stinging melancholy, steel wrapped around his heart, refusing to relinquish its hold. 

He doesn’t know how or when he ends up crying, but he does, and it hurts. His eyes burn and his throat stings at the salt from his tears. He’s drunk, too, and that just makes it worse, because he can’t find a way to reel himself back in or stop it. 

At some point, a single thought rises through the fog in his brain: Jeongguk. 

He wants Jeongguk, no matter how irrational or stupid it is, and he’s had two bottles of soju and can’t see the harm in calling. He ignores the distant ringing of his mind, saying no, no, bad idea. 

Jeongguk picks up. Of course he does. 

“Jimin?” He says, sounding sleepy. Vaguely, Jimin registers that it’s midnight on a Friday, and Jeongguk probably has work tomorrow. Saturdays are busy at big studios.

“I woke you,” Jimin gasps. “I’m sorry.” He hangs up immediately, but he only sits in silence for about three seconds before his phone buzzes, lighting up with Jeongguk’s caller ID. He picks up tentatively, sniffling. 

“Don’t just call me and hang up,” Jeongguk snaps, sounding a little peeved. “What’s wrong?” 

“I don’t know,” Jimin says weakly. “But you’re the only person in the whole world that can make it better.” 

Jeongguk pauses a moment. “Are you drunk?” 

“No.” 

Jeongguk waits. 

“Yes,” Jimin modifies, flopping over so he’s lying on his back. “I had some soju.” 

“How much?” 

“Two.” 

“Two shots?” Jeongguk asks. “That’s not bad—” 

“Two bottles,” Jimin finishes. Maybe he should sit up soon, because there’s a concerning taste in the back of his mouth, sort of like he’s going to vomit soon. 

“Shit,” Jeongguk says, sounding much more awake now. “Where are you? Are you alone?” 

“Mmm,” Jimin hums, consciousness swimming pleasantly. “Studio. Might vomit.” 

“Okay, stay there, I’m coming.” Jimin listens as there’s the sound of rustling fabric, then a door opening and closing. 

“Yo, where you off to?” Someone asks in the background on Jeongguk’s side. 

“Friend emergency,” Jeongguk answers, and then another door opens and closes, and then there’s the sound of his breath, short and quick. “Jimin, are you still there?” 

“Yeah,” Jimin says, feeling very sleepy. “Don’t come here. I don’t want to see you.” Tears well in his eyes again, trickling down his cheeks and getting into his ears. “I hate you.” 

“Too late,” Jeongguk says, sounding a bit out-of-breath. “Fuck, why didn’t I just take Yugyeom’s car?” 

“I hope you get run over,” Jimin says, but he’s not sure how coherent he is through the alcohol and all the crying. “You and your stupid face.” 

“Stay with me,” Jeongguk answers, either not hearing Jimin or choosing to ignore that particular comment. “Don’t hang up, and don’t go to sleep.” 

“I’m not dying,” Jimin scoffs wetly. “I’m fine.” 

“You didn’t look fine,” Jeongguk says, “when I saw you in the lobby.” 

“Your fault,” Jimin reminds him. 

Jeongguk doesn’t have anything to say to that, and the next two minutes are pretty quiet, save for Jeongguk checking back in every now and then to make sure Jimin’s still there. 

Jimin stays on the line the whole time, though he’s not quite sure why. Maybe it’s a kind of sick masochism, listening to Jeongguk and how he seems to genuinely care

This is what you threw away, the nasty voice in his mind whispers. This is what you ruined,  

He’s stopped crying when Jeongguk finds him three minutes later, still lying and staring emptily up at the ceiling. 

“Oh, hyung,” Jeongguk says, and he sounds about as broken as Jimin feels. 

“You never call me hyung,” is all that Jimin can think to reply with. He tries to sit up but his arms don’t work, and Jeongguk has to help him. The warmth of him is solid, and he smells as good as ever, like sleep and boy and a hundred other different things that still soothe the anxious rhythm of Jimin’s heart. 

“Remember when you fucked me in this room?” Jimin slurs as Jeongguk hauls him to his feet. “Right in front of the mirrors? And—and nobody ever found out?”

Jeongguk’s hands tighten around his waist, and Jimin’s knees buckle bonelessly as he tries to get his balance. “Yes,” he says shortly, and Jimin feels a little satisfied at the conflicted expression on his face. “Come on, Jimin. You need to go home.” 

“Don’t want to,” Jimin mumbles. “I’ll just lie here and decompose. Nobody will even notice.” 

Jeongguk rolls his eyes. “I forgot how dramatic you get when you’re drunk. Do you still live in the same apartment?” 

“Had to move,” Jimin admits, swaying unsteadily. Jeongguk catches him before he can faceplant. “Was too expensive.” 

Something like sympathy flickers across Jeongguk’s face, and Jimin hates it. 

“Don’t give me that look,” Jimin snaps, but the effect of his anger is ruined when he can’t lift his head from Jeongguk’s shoulder. 

“What’s the address?” Jeongguk asks. Jimin tells him, and only comes to regret it when Jeongguk gets in the cab with him, one arm around his waist and the other against the window. 

Jimin whines and shoves against him. “What are you doing in here?” He asks, pushing a little harder. “Get out.” 

“The car’s moving, Jimin, and you’re shouting,” Jeongguk says, looking relatively unbothered. “And I definitely wasn’t about to dump you in a cab by yourself.” 

“I. Am. Fine,” Jimin enunciates, but his voice sounds disconnected even to himself as his vision swims again, bile rising in his throat. 

Jeongguk rolls his eyes again—what a brat—and slaps down a couple bills on the center console of the cab before dragging Jimin out of the car and up the stairs to his second-floor apartment, small and shitty. 

Jimin’s absolutely humiliated, to say the least, and stops Jeongguk at the doorway before he can go all the way in. 

“Thanks for the help,” he says firmly, starting to close the door. “Forget about this night, okay, and I’ll delete your number from my phone, and I’ll never call you—” 

Jeongguk’s eyes go wide as Jimin’s nausea reaches a tipping point, and he has to cut himself off to go make a break for the bathroom. He gets there just in time, dropping painfully to his knees and retching violently into the toilet. There’s a comforting hand on his back, and the familiar smell of Jeongguk fills his nose, cutting through the taste in his throat and mouth. If Jimin wasn’t so busy being sick he’d hate himself more for forgetting to close the door. But since he feels so shitty, and Jeongguk is toasty warm and comforting, he gives himself a pass. Just one. 

Jimin brushes his teeth, and Jeongguk stands there next to him, still radiating concern and affection and making Jimin uncomfortable. He’s feeling a little better—vomiting has sort of shocked the sobriety back into him, at least temporarily—so he’s more aware of how wrong their situation is. He’d given up the space in Jeongguk’s heart a while ago, when he’d looked Jeongguk in the face and told him I don’t want to be with you anymore. 

Jimin soundlessly pulls off his work clothes and stumbles in the direction of his bed, collapsing weakly into the mattress and blankets. His head is still fogged over with alcohol, and his eyes droop heavily. Jeongguk turns the lights off in the bathroom, plunging the whole room into darkness. Hovering awkwardly at the doorway, cast in moonlight, Jimin thinks he looks a little bit unreal. 

“I guess—I guess I’ll go now,” Jeongguk says unsurely. 

“No,” Jimin says, eyes closed. He’s already halfway to sleep, not sure if this is a dream or if it’s really happening. “Stay.” 

“I really, really shouldn’t,” Jeongguk replies, but he’s already taking a step towards the bed. “We need to talk in the morning.” 

“Mmm,” Jimin agrees sleepily. Everything sounds muffled, like he’s underwater, and the mattress dips as Jeongguk sits down on it, hesitant. 

Jimin loops an arm around his waist and tugs him down, ignoring the sound of protest he makes. His mind is filled with static, and Jeongguk is warm and Jimin is absolutely not in love with him, he swears. 

He can feel the exact moment when Jeongguk gives in, because he sinks into the bed and pulls the blanket over them both. He says something, too, but Jimin doesn’t hear him because he’s already fast asleep. 

Jimin’s dreams are strange and disturbing. In one, the studio’s filling with water, and Jeongguk leaves Jimin in there to drown, locking the door behind him. In another, he’s back at the scene of their breakup, but Jeongguk’s hands and nose bleed onto the carpet of Jimin’s old apartment, the one he’d been able to afford Jeongguk’s help. Jimin’s words strike him like stones, cutting open his skin, and the sight of his pain is so awful that it physically pulls Jimin from sleep. 

He immediately regrets opening his eyes. The force of his hangover is so intense that he feels like he’s going to be sick again just from the brightness of his room. There’s a dry spot in the back of his throat, and it feels like something crawled into his mouth and died there. He runs his tongue along the back of his teeth and breathes in slowly through his nose, trying to work up the strength to sit up. The other side of the bed is empty, and a glance at his phone tells him it’s a little past eleven. 

Jeongguk’s in the kitchen, talking to someone on the phone, and Jimin creeps towards the open door, his whole body throbbing with his hangover. He knows the polite thing to do is clear his throat, and he’s about to—until Jeongguk says his name. 

“Jimin-hyung still isn’t talking to me,” Jeongguk says, and Jimin freezes, one foot in the kitchen. Jeongguk’s back is to him, and he pauses as he waits for whomever’s on the other side to respond. “No, yeah, he was pretty fucked up last night, but I got him—no, he didn’t say anything, but I don’t think he’s over me. And I’m not just saying that.” 

Jimin scoffs internally. Truth or not, it still annoys him to hear it. 

“I’m at his house right now,” Jeongguk continues. “He’s asleep.” Another pause. “Yeah, I’ll be back to the studio sometime today. I got some attention from SM—I seriously think we’ll be brought on board as back-up dancers, at the very least. I’m pumped, yeah.” 

Something inside of Jimin breaks at these words. He can almost hear it shatter, falling to pieces, and can’t help the tiny gasp that slips past his lips. Jeongguk turns at the noise, face falling when he sees Jimin standing there. 

“Uh,” he says. “I…just remembered, I have to call Namjoon-hyung. Bye, Tae.” 

He hangs up. Jimin doesn’t still doesn’t say anything, trying to figure out how to breathe. SM. Goddammit. Of course Jeongguk’s got attention from them, of course they’re going to recruit him after three months at an already-new studio. He’s moving so quickly, burning so bright, and there’s no chance that Jimin will catch him. All he can do is stand on the ground and watch as Jeongguk easily achieves dream after dream, plucking stars from the sky without problem. 

They stare at each other a second longer. Jimin watches the panicked guilt unfold on Jeongguk’s face, simmering with hatred and resentment. 

“Jimin,” Jeongguk says quietly. 

Jimin doesn’t respond, just turns on his heel and walks silently back into his room. 

“I’m gonna wait out here for you,” Jeongguk calls after him. “We need to talk.” 

 


 

Jimin goes to take a shower. 

He’s on the verge of breaking down into tears but at the same time, the urge to punch something as hard as he possibly can grips him to the very core, making him want to scream. 

He wants to hit Jeongguk. He wants Jeongguk to hurt as much as he has, wants Jeongguk to get a taste of his own fucking medicine. 

He slams the bathroom door behind him, eyes burning. He clenches his jaw so tight his teeth squeak as he turns the shower on, nearly tearing the clothes from his body like he can somehow shed the boiling mixture of emotions that eat away his insides like acid. 

The shower water doesn’t even get warm—of course it doesn’t, because everything hates Jimin, and he deserves it, because he’s a terrible person for wishing pain on his ex-boyfriend just because he was better. 

“Goddammit,” Jimin mutters, unable to stop the tears that well in the corner of his eyes and spill over, mingling with the shower water. He takes a sharp breath through his nose. Yes, Jeongguk worked for it, and yeah, he deserves everything he’s gotten but why can’t Jimin have that, too? He’s put blood, sweat, and tears into this whole thing, just the same as Jeongguk has, and for what? A small success that pales in comparison to what Jeongguk’s got, and all because Jeongguk was more attractive, more sensual, put more feeling into it. 

Something in him feels like it’s shattering, hollowing him out and destroying him. Life isn’t fair, he knows it’s not— god, he knows, probably better than most—but Jimin can’t help but feel like he should’ve earned a little more. 

Jeongguk deserves his success, Jimin tells himself, tries to trick his mind out of its fury and his heart out of its envy. 

It doesn’t work, because these things aren’t so easily let go. And he’s an awful person for it. 

No wonder he and Jeongguk broke up—Jimin’s got the art of envy down to perfection. 

He scrubs hard at his face, nose clogged up from crying and mouth bitter with the taste of tears. The lukewarm water does nothing to help, either, only serving to make him more upset. 

Eventually, he gets sick of feeling bad for himself and shuts the shower off. As soon as the sound of the water abates, he can hear Jeongguk talking, muffled through the door. That’s all it takes to reignite Jimin’s rage, and he takes a staggering step out of the shower and towels himself off so violently he loses an earring. His whole body tingles, and he doesn’t know if he should slap himself or give in and punch a hole through the glass. 

Either would do, he thinks. He wants to hurt and be hurt in equal measure, at this point, because he’s so angry for such a shitty reason.  

Jimin’s one step away from walking out naked before he remembers that Jeongguk’s still in his bedroom, jabbering away on his phone and oblivious to the violent, nasty cocktail of feeling that’s been set off in Jimin. He pulls on his boxers and a shirt last-minute before slamming open the door, angry, self-loathing, and extremely homicidal. 

Jeongguk’s eyes widen as soon as he sees Jimin, who distantly thinks he must be quite a sight: freshly-showered and wild-eyed, one earring missing and his hands in fists. 

“Uh, hyung, I have to go,” he says quickly, and hangs up. 

“Who was that?” Jimin asks quietly, voice belying nothing of how he really feels. His face must, though, if Jeongguk’s wary expression is anything to go by. 

“Namjoon-hyung,” Jeongguk answers, taking a step backwards. “Jimin-ah, look—” 

“Don’t,” Jimin says sharply, and Jeongguk shuts his mouth guiltily. “Don’t try to explain, or apologize. I don’t wanna hear it. I don’t deserve to hear it.” 

“Why—uh, what’s wrong?” Jeongguk asks, and winces when Jimin glares. 

“You don’t want to know.” 

“I do, though. That’s why I asked.” 

Jimin takes a deep breath. “You’re a terrible person. But I’m even worse.” 

“I— you— what?” He stutters, clearly not expecting that response. 

“You came to the company,” Jimin explains, nails cutting into his palms, “with no competitive experience, no professional training, no nothing—and you fucking worked for six months and took the 3Three spot.” A terrible look of realization comes over Jeongguk’s face, and Jimin closes his eyes, trying to fight back nausea and another wave of tears. “That spot,” he continues, “was supposed to be given to me. I’d been doing lessons for my whole life, I’d been practicing for years—and you came in and just…took it. Like it was nothing, like you didn’t even try.” 

Jimin takes a deep, shuddering breath, and forces his eyes open. Forces himself to watch Jeongguk react to his words, react to what he’s going to say next. 

“I have never been so angry in my whole entire life,” Jimin says, tone dark. “You said you’ll get it next time and you did your best. Even though you knew, Jeongguk, that I’d been working for that spot my whole life. It was my ticket out of here, and you knew that.” 

“Jimin—” Jeongguk says desperately.

“Let me finish,” Jimin snaps, crossing his arms. “Anyways, I broke up with you. Because I was drowning in envy and in grief, and my life absolutely fell apart when I suddenly realized my ten-year-plan had just dissolved right in front of my eyes, thanks to my goddamn boyfriend.” 

“What did you want me to do?” Jeongguk asks, raising his voice. “You told me to take it, Jimin! You—you seemed so proud, so happy for me—I never knew you felt that way at all!” 

How could I not tell you to take it?” Jimin shouts, voice breaking. “You worked so hard, Gukkie! You’re an amazing dancer and you deserve that fucking spot but goddamn, I wish I’d deserved it too.” His vision swims with tears, and he takes a step away from Jeongguk, turning so his face is hidden. “I was—I am proud of you. And that’s why I’m the lowest, shittiest person. Because I was so self-obsessed and caught up in my own anger that I couldn’t be there for you.” 

“I—I wish you’d told me this sooner,” Jeongguk whispers after a second. “This would’ve been a lot easier if I’d known.” 

“You need someone better than me,” Jimin replies harshly, still working hard to keep his tears back. “I’m an asshole.” 

“You’re not,” Jeongguk says, and the strength of his voice surprises Jimin. “Stop moping, Jimin, and stop feeling bad for yourself. You know that’s not true.” 

“Look what I fucking did!” Jimin answers, temper rising again. “I ruined our relationship!” 

Jeongguk scoffs, rolling his eyes. “And now you’re being dramatic.” 

“I have a right to be,” Jimin replies, wiping his face, “because you’re being an asshole right now.” 

“You’re a fucking trainwreck,” Jeongguk snaps, and oh, this is a familiar conversation—too familiar, in fact, because it’s the same conversation they’d had right before they’d broken up. Jeongguk seems to remember this the same moment as Jimin does, because he snaps his mouth closed with a guilty expression. 

“I didn’t mean that,” he says quickly, attempting to backtrack. Jimin’s absolutely had it, though, with this whole exchange—he’s just as upset as he was before, and they’ve gotten nowhere. “I just really wish we’d never broken up,” he admits suddenly, twisting his hands together and giving Jimin a nervous look. “Especially now that I know it was over something we could’ve worked through.” 

Jimin blinks at him, trying to find a place to fit this new piece of information amongst his anger. “You don’t hate me.” 

“No?” Jeongguk says, though it sounds like a question. “Why would I?” 

“Do I need to explain the whole thing again?” Jimin asks, arching an eyebrow. 

“Oh,” Jeongguk exhales. “No. That’s—well, it sounded, um, reasonable. Kind of. I mean, you always were sort of…angry, but I’d be furious too if my whole life fell apart. So I can understand why you did it. Maybe not the breaking-up-with-me part, but…” He trails off here at the look on Jimin’s face. “I’m making this worse.” 

“Just. Shut up,” Jimin says tightly. “And come here.” 

Jeongguk does, albeit cautiously. Jimin looks him over, at the flush that sits high in his cheeks and the way that his hair, a lighter brown than it was three months ago, sticks up in the back. His shirt is wrinkled, and there’s a hole in the knee of his pants, but he’s still just as attractive as he was, all lean muscle and boyish good looks. That’s part of the reason why he’s so furious: because he’s not over Jeongguk, not even a little bit, and no matter how heartbroken or angry he is, he still wants to kiss the absolute hell out of him. 

“Jimin?” Jeongguk asks tentatively. 

Jimin rocks back and forth on his heels, clenching his jaw and battling violently against a myriad of potential bad choices. 

“Oh, what the fuck,” he mutters eventually, and grabs the collar of Jeongguk’s shirt with both hands, hauls him forward, and kisses him so hard their teeth knock together. 

The reaction he gets is immediate. Jeongguk’s hands come up to grip at his hips so tightly that his fingers press into bone, prying Jimin’s mouth open with his tongue and trying to take control of the kiss. 

Jimin doesn’t let him. He needs this, needs to feel like he’s got the upper hand, just for once. After months of feeling like he’s a step behind, an afterthought, not worth a second glance, he wants to feel like he’s in control. Even if it’s just a kiss. So he grabs Jeongguk by the nape of his neck and pushes back against him, trying to ignore how heated things are getting, with Jeongguk’s tongue behind Jimin’s teeth and his hand under Jimin’s shirt, setting him on fire and burning through his skin. He can feel how upset Jeongguk is too, when he squeezes too tightly or bites Jimin’s lower lip hard enough to sting.

They finally get to the edge of the bed. Jeongguk is unwilling to go down, locking his knees when Jimin puts a hand on his chest and tries to shove him. 

Jeongguk pulls away, something dark simmering in his eyes. “Jimin—” 

“Let me,” Jimin says, nudging Jeongguk again. 

Jeongguk gives him another look, halfway between murderous and exasperated.

“Please,” Jimin tacks on. “I need—I need this.” He leans forward and noses along the juncture between Jeongguk’s shoulder and neck, kissing across his collarbones and up his throat. When Jimin gets to a spot just beneath his jaw, Jeongguk shudders, eyes rolling back into his head momentarily, a breathy half-moan slipping through his lips. Jimin takes advantage of this moment and pushes again, and Jeongguk yelps and tips backwards onto the bed. He tries to struggle back up, but Jimin’s always been stronger than him, even if Jeongguk’s technically bigger, so Jimin is able to keep him against the mattress. 

As soon as he’s on top of Jeongguk, knees pressing against his waist, he stops and looks down. As much as every part of him wants to do this, he’s not going to move until Jeongguk says okay. He’s furious, and he wants to hit Jeongguk in his fucking face, but he’s not an asshole. 

“Jeongguk,” Jimin prompts, running a hand up the side of Jeongguk’s torso, fingers catching on his ribcage. Jeongguk back up at Jimin, slightly breathless and flushes all the way down his neck. Their eyes meet and the air grows heavy, humid and heady with anticipation. 

“Alright,” Jeongguk relents at last. “I’m in.” 

“I stay top for the whole time,” Jimin tells him, already leaning down. “I know you’ll hate it.” 

“I trust you,” Jeongguk says. He opens his mouth to say something else, but Jimin’s sucking a bruise into that same place below his jaw, and all coherent speech tapers off into a moan. 

“Ah, fuck,” Jeongguk breathes, hips jumping. “I’m—” 

“Shh,” Jimin says against his skin, biting gently on the spot he’s just marked. Jeongguk shifts again, and Jimin takes quiet, vindictive pleasure in how worked-up Jeongguk is already, how frantic his motions already are. He runs a hand up Jeongguk’s chest, under his shirt, nails dragging lightly over his skin. Jeongguk shivers, goosebumps rising on his arms, and Jimin smiles briefly before moving back up to kiss him again, wet and searing. Jeongguk is falling apart under him, shuddering and moaning and shifting up against Jimin with a sort of desperation Jimin’s never seen in him before. 

Everything about them is fast, hot, and desperate. Their mouths connect again and again, and the heat between them builds, inescapable and all-consuming. It collects in the base of Jimin’s stomach, in the the wet heat of Jeongguk’s breath on his neck, and the way he whispers Jimin’s name, again and again, like if he stops for a second they’ll come back into themselves and remember why they’re here. 

The thing about sleeping with an ex is that the rhythm’s already established. Jeongguk knows the sensitive skin on the inside of Jimin’s thighs, knows the curve of his waist and the fragile blue veins on the underside of his arms. And Jimin knows which way to move, how fast he needs to go to get what he wants, how to take what Jeongguk’s giving him. Pleasure hits deep, shaking him to his core, and something in the back of Jimin’s mind comes unglued, tearing apart like wet paper. 

His climax builds in the base of his stomach, in the backs of his knees, setting him on fire and tearing the breath from his lungs like he’s just run a thousand miles with his eyes closed. Jeongguk slows for a second, and Jimin hovers at the top, out-of-breath and on the verge of tears.

Then Jeongguk squeezes his hip, gentle in a way Jimin doesn’t deserve, and they both come together, burnt-out and smoking. Exhaustion rips through Jimin’s body, and the hollow of his chest empties suddenly as the fire and fury abate. 

He slides off of Jeongguk, collapsing into the bed. His thoughts crash around in his head, out-of-tune and dissonant, and he wonders when he’d lost all will to fight. Was it when Jeongguk had put a hand on his waist to steady him? Was it when he’d breathed Jimin’s name, affectionate and unchanged? Or had been in the very beginning, when Jeongguk had looked into Jimin’s eyes and said I trust you

He doesn’t know. He doesn’t know anything except for the fact that it hurts, like heartburn or something worse, dissolving his ribcage and spreading through his chest like a wildfire. There’s nothing he can do about it, nothing he can do to stop it—the guilt, the self-loathing, the overwhelming sense that he’s fucked up, undoubtedly and irreparably. 

He’s sweaty, naked, and post-sex tired, but he cries anyway, because things need to come out, and he’s run out of words to say or names to call himself. So he gives into the tears, into the great, shuddering sobs that sweep over him like waves, drowning him and filling his lungs.

And Jeongguk—

Jeongguk holds him. Wraps his arms around Jimin, bodily fluids be damned, and lets Jimin get tears and snot all over him and the pillow he’s lying on. Jimin can’t keep all of his pieces together anymore, because he’s exhausted from doing everything by himself for months, trying to convince himself that he’s fine, that he’s not as upset as he really is. He can’t hold himself together, so Jeongguk does it for him.

“I’m sorry,” Jimin gets out at some point, and it’s almost incoherent against Jeongguk’s collarbone. “I’m the worst person ever. I get it if you really hate me, now.” 

“I don’t hate you,” Jeongguk replies, arms tightening around Jimin’s torso. “If I did, I wouldn’t have slept with you.” 

“Hate sex is a thing,” Jimin says, not sure if he should cry harder or laugh. 

“Yeah, but I let you be on top.” 

A wet, pathetic giggle bursts from his lips, verging on the edge of hysteria. “Good point.” 

Jeongguk smooths a hand down his back. “Do you want to take a shower?” 

Jimin sighs, shifting and wincing at how sticky they are, pressed together like this. “Mmm. You can go first, if you want. You’ve probably got places to be.” 

“I’m staying right here,” Jeongguk says stubbornly. “This is the first time that you’ve let me in for three months. I’m not going anywhere.” 

“But what if I want you to go?” Jimin whines, wiggling in Jeongguk’s arms. “Now it’s awkward, because not only did you let me ride you—” 

Jeongguk chokes. Jimin ignores him. 

“—but you’re also my ex and I just cried into your shoulder because I hate myself only slightly more than I hate you.” 

“I love you,” Jeongguk says, and Jimin exhales shakily, feeling a thousand pounds lighter. The cavity in his lungs has emptied out, and his whole head aches from crying. “I wish we didn’t break up.” 

Jimin hiccups but doesn’t have anything to say in response. He doesn’t know what he’s supposed to do next. Who is he supposed to forgive? Is there anything to forgive? Does this mean he can stop waking up every morning and punishing himself?

He’s got no clue, so he calls his mom when Jeongguk gets into the shower. 

“Hi, baby,” she says, and Jimin’s eyes feel prickly again at the sound of her voice. “How are you doing?” 

“Not so good,” he replies, sniffing heavily. “I don’t know what to do.” 

“I’m here to listen,” his mother says. “I want my son to be happy. Have you eaten lunch yet?” 

“Yes, Mom,” he sighs. In the bathroom, Jeongguk starts to sing something by Dean. 

“Don’t use that tone with me,” she scolds. “If you want my help, you have to be nice to me.” 

“Sorry,” he says. “I need advice.” 

“Okay, baby. What’s happening?” 

Fighting back tears, Jimin tells his mother the story—the vanilla version, sans making out, sans the near-hate sex—and she listens, her quiet breathing the only sign she’s still there on the line. 

When he finishes, he waits for her opinion. This is the first big thing he’s talked to her about ever since he came out about a year ago—it’d been a couple months before she’d called him, sobbing and begging for forgiveness, and even less time since he’d seen her and they’d talked about it, holding each other and crying on the couch. She’d come to terms with it—the fact that he was never going to wait for a bride at the altar, that no woman was ever going to approach her and tell her she was pregnant with Jimin’s child. But she’d done it for the sake of him, for the sake of their relationship, and she tells him that now. 

“You’re the most precious thing to me,” his mom continues. “Well, your brother and father are too, but it’s always been us, Jiminie.” 

“I love you,” he croaks quietly. “I think I’ve really screwed up.” 

“Nothing that you’ve done can’t be forgiven,” his mother tells him. “I think the worst crime you’ve committed so far is punish yourself unfairly.” 

“I can’t—I don’t know how to stop,” Jimin says, pressing his free hand to his eyes, catching the tears that threaten to spill over. “How do I even start to be nice to myself?” 

“It’s hard,” his mother admits. “I know, because I’m the same way. It feels like an uphill battle, having to relearn how to be kind to yourself.”

“So it’s pointless?” He asks. 

“No, not pointless,” his mother says. “Just difficult. But one day, you’ll let yourself sleep in, and you’ll go for a walk in the park and breathe the air and think about nothing. And you’ll let yourself love things for the sake of loving them, and feel a little less sad.” 

She pauses here for a moment. The bathroom door opens, and Jeongguk comes out, wet-haired and bright-eyed. He makes eye contact with Jimin, who probably looks as miserable as he feels. 

I love you , Jeongguk mouths, and smiles. 

“One day,” his mother continues, “you’ll look yourself in the mirror and think, I deserve the love I give.” 

Jimin looks over at Jeongguk, at the familiar shape of his shoulders and the planes of his face, softened in the early afternoon light, and smiles back.

 


 

After that, things are—well, they’re not better, necessarily. But they’re different, and Jimin doesn’t mind it as much as he thought he would. 

First off, he starts seeing Jeongguk more. There’s still only a week until the company’s showcase, and Jimin only has half a choreo, but Jeongguk has always been suspiciously good at wiggling himself into the little spaces in Jimin’s life. He pops up conveniently just as Jimin’s about to go get lunch, or will be waiting outside of the bar after Jimin’s shift every now and then, car keys dangling from his fingers. They get chicken together on Tuesday night, and Jeongguk listens patiently as Jimin tells him about how he’s missing the middle section of his dance, and how Sehun won’t stop asking him about the hickey Jeongguk left below Jimin’s ear on Saturday morning. 

Jeongguk gets a wicked look on his face. “Did you tell him it was from me?” 

“No,” Jimin answers curtly. “I told him I fell.” 

Jeongguk looks at him for a second before he dissolves into laughter, snorting beer out of his nose, which in turn gets Jimin laughing. He laughs until his abs start to hurt, and another piece of the knot in his chest loosens. It’s been doing that for the whole week, bit by bit. There’s no saying how much damage there is, or how long it’ll take before Jimin wakes up and feels light, but he’s making progress. For the first time in a long time, he feels like he should at least try. 

“No, seriously,” Jimin continues, wiping his eyes as Jeongguk attempts to catch his breath. “I don’t even know why I’m working so hard. There’s no point, really, in trying to get picked up by a big studio. I think I’ll just take Hoseok up on the full-time teaching job and quit the bar.” 

Jeongguk frowns. “You don’t think you’ll get picked up?” 

“I’m old,” Jimin reminds him. “And I’ve been here for three years. I don’t see why anything would change.” 

“That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard,” Jeongguk rebukes, taking another gulp of beer.

“3Three said not to expect them,” Jimin says. “Actually, this is the lowest turnout of company reps that we’ve had all year. It’s mostly for parents and friends.” 

“I could call in a favor with my rec—” 

“No,” Jimin says forcefully, cutting Jeongguk off and almost knocking his drink over. 

“Why not?” Jeongguk asks timidly. 

Jimin takes a deep, steadying breath. “If I do this, I have to do this on my own,” he explains, voice trembling. “I want to get in because I got in. Not because someone else held the door open for me.” 

Jeongguk’s face relaxes as he understands. “Oh,” he says. “Well, you’re an absolutely amazing choreographer, Jimin. And everyone deserves to see that.” 

“Thanks,” Jimin mumbles, suddenly feeling shy. “I’m not that great, though.” 

“You’re better than me,” Jeongguk says easily, shrugging. “I only got signed because you basically choreographed my whole dance and refused to take credit for it.” 

Jimin scowls, ducking his head. “I did not. And don’t say that. It’s not true.” 

“You did,” Jeongguk insists. 

Jimin sighs, exasperated, and claps his hands to his cheeks. “We could sit here and argue all day and you wouldn’t give in, because you’re a little shit—” 

“Hey—” 

“—but I have work to do,” Jimin finishes, shoving the last bit of chicken into his mouth and standing up. “The showcase is this Friday.” 

“I should also be getting back to 3Three,” Jeongguk adds, and there’s a hot spike of anger in Jimin’s chest when he hears that name. He swallows it down, though, because Jeongguk doesn’t deserve any more shit for it, as infuriating as it is. “Thanks for lunch, Jimin-hyung.” He puts his jacket on, smiling sweetly as he comes around the table and hovers where Jimin’s sitting. 

Jimin looks up at Jeongguk, eyes narrowed. “Why are you smiling like that?” 

Jeongguk puckers his lips dramatically, closing his eyes. “Kiss?” 

“Oh my god,” Jimin mutters, almost turning him down before he remembers that he’s still very much in love with Jeongguk. So he stands and presses a tiny kiss to the corner of Jeongguk’s mouth, trying desperately not to think about how he’s digging himself into a hole he’s not sure he’ll be able to get out of again. 

Dating Jeongguk the first time was a fantastically terrible idea. Dating Jeongguk a second time is infinitely, impossibly worse. 

But here he is anyway, making ahjummas gasp as he kisses his ex-boyfriend in public.

God, Hoseok’s going to give him so much shit. 

 


 

Two days before the showcase, with the middle part of his choreo still missing, Jimin has a breakthrough. He’s sitting in studio two with Jeongguk, going through the motions, starting and stopping until he’d gotten too frustrated to continue and collapsed against the wall, out-of-breath. He pauses the Drake song he’d been dancing to and groans, covering his face with his hands. 

Jeongguk, who’d been going through emails in the corner, quietly shuffles closer with his computer in his lap. He tucks his head into the crook of Jimin’s neck without a word and sticks the other earbud into Jimin’s ear. It’s something by Frank Ocean that Jimin doesn’t recognize, but at this point, he’ll take anything over Nice For What. 

“Maybe you’re pushing it too hard,” Jeongguk offers after the song ends. “You should sleep on it. It’s ten.” 

“I can’t sleep on it,” Jimin answers. “I have two days, Jeongguk.” 

A new song starts, and Jimin immediately recognizes it. He looks down at Jeongguk, who’s frantically scrolling through his Spotify for a different song. “No, no,” Jimin assures him. “Don’t change it. I like this song.” 

Napkins. Riz La Vie. It had been playing when Taehyung had taken the picture that’s stuck in the corner of Jimin’s closet. He can remember falling asleep to it, the way that it had filtered through his dreams and colored them pink and purple, surrounded in the quiet warmth of Jeongguk’s body. 

His mind gets going at that thought, and he leans over and finds the song on his phone, playing it aloud over the speakers and getting to his feet. He takes the familiar movements of his choreography and slows it down, stretches himself out. A hand, foot, and elbow—less like he’s trying to make a point, and more like he’s a visual for the music. 

Technically speaking, there’s not much different between the two. The old choreography is mostly intact, though he does throw a new move in here and there. But it feels different. Slower. Gentler. Like breathing. He pauses, rewinds, reworks, and the minutes are scraped away until Jimin gets to the end of the song around midnight and realizes he’s got a finished choreo that he likes. 

He turns to Jeongguk, feeling happier than he has in ages, beaming so widely he feels like his face might split. Jeongguk’s got an awed expression on his face, eyes shiny. 

“That was amazing,” Jeongguk breathes. 

Suddenly feeling shy, Jimin looks down at his feet. “You…you think?” 

“I know,” Jeongguk replies, and there’s some kind of ferocious pride in his voice that makes Jimin’s heart quiver. “You’re going to do so well, Jimin. You’re going to blow everyone away.” 

Jimin doesn’t really know what to say to that, so he quietly suggests that they pack up, because it’s midnight and they both have long days tomorrow. 

“I hope you’re not working late at the bar,” Jeongguk remarks as they wait together for his taxi. “Did Seokjin give you time off?” 

“Yeah, until next Monday,” Jimin says. “It’s technically my paid vacation, so if I fuck this weekend up I’m screwed for the rest of the year.” 

Jeongguk presses his lips together. He hasn’t touched the subject of recruitment since Jimin had snapped at him in the chicken restaurant. 

“Look,” Jimin says in an attempt to mollify him. “I have a great choreo, and I have tomorrow to really nail it.” He steps forward and grabs Jeongguk’s outstretched hand, hauling the younger to his feet. “If I do okay, I do okay. And if I don’t—well, there’s worse things in the world than having to teach kids.” 

“But—” Jeongguk starts, his sentence cutting short when Jimin leans forward to kiss him, smoothing one hand down Jeongguk’s front and curling the other one at the nape of his neck. 

“It’ll be fine,” Jimin says. He doesn’t necessarily believe it, and he can tell Jeongguk doesn’t either—his whole future is riding on this, after all—but for now, it’s enough. 

 


 

He doesn’t talk much with Jeongguk the next day, because they’re both incredibly busy. Jimin stays late at the studio again, turning down Taehyung’s offer to get drinks. 

Jeongguk calls him at eleven-thirty, as Jimin’s taking a water break. He’s exhausted, and his body screams for a break, but his fear and anxiety keep him on his feet, running through his new choreo until it’s seared into his muscle memory. He can’t rest until he’s sure, one-hundred percent, that he’s not going to get up on stage and freeze up. 

“Hello?” Jimin says, answering his phone and putting Jeongguk on speakerphone. “What’s up, Jeongguk?” 

“Are you still in the studio?” Jeongguk asks. 

“No,” Jimin says, because he know Jeongguk’s going to bitch at him if he says yes. “I’m on my way home.” 

“I can hear the echo of my own voice off the walls,” Jeongguk says, sighing. “Get some sleep, Jimin.” 

“I can’t,” Jimin mutters, screwing the cap back on his water bottle. 

“Why not?” 

“I’m not going until I know I’m not going to mess up,” Jimin says, leaning forward and stretching out his overworked leg muscles. “There’s too much risk, Jeongguk.” 

“Well, what if I told you I was out front of your apartment?” Jeongguk says, voice pitching lower. Jimin immediately scrambles for his phone, taking it off speakerphone and casting a hasty look around him despite the studio being absolutely empty. 

“What?” He asks, clutching his phone against his face. “Are you really?” 

“I’m horny,” Jeongguk says petulantly, and Jimin feels his cheeks heat. 

Jeongguk,” Jimin hisses. “You can’t—what’s wrong with you?” 

“I missed you so much,” Jeongguk continues, ignoring Jimin completely. “And now that you’ve started to let me back in, it’s like…it’s like every single switch in my body has been flipped.” 

Jimin takes a slow breath in through his nose. “I—” 

“I’ll let you be on top again,” Jeongguk adds casually, like they’re talking about the weather. “I know you like it. You can do whatever you want with me, just come home.” 

Heat spikes low in Jimin’s stomach, and he curls his hands into fists, trying to keep himself under control. If he’s being honest, sleeping with Jeongguk again was an awful idea, because it had completely torn down whatever fragile restraints Jimin had built against him. Every dream is filled with his face, his hands, and whenever he’s near, Jimin physically aches to touch him, like a pull in his gut that says closer, closer. 

“Hyung,” Jeongguk says, bringing Jimin back to the present. “Are you coming?” 

Jimin looks at himself in the mirror, at the circles under his eyes and the quiver of his knees, a side effect of his exhaustion. 

He really shouldn’t go back. He knows this. He’s got so much to do, and a choreo to perfect. A boy he doesn’t deserve is waiting for him with open arms, ready to put aside all the pain in an attempt to start again. An attempt Jimin hasn’t earned, too. The truth of the matter is that he loves Jeongguk in a way he’s never loved before—painfully, with his whole mind and body, through the best of times but mostly through the worst of times, when the world was ending and all he wanted was to go to sleep and never wake up again. 

One day I’ll deserve the love I give, Jimin thinks. It sounds a lot like his mother’s voice. 

“Okay,” Jimin says at last. “I’m coming back.” 

 


 

Jeongguk really is waiting out front of Jimin’s apart, his hood pulled up over his hat. It’s the same hoodie that he’d worn when Jimin had seen in him in the studio lobby a week ago. God, had it only been a week? It feels like ages. Months, maybe, or even a year. 

Jeongguk smiles delightedly at him, hands in his pockets. “You’re here,” he says. “It would’ve been awkward if I’d waited until you came back, right?” 

“You’re the worst,” Jimin says, brushing past Jeongguk to unlock his apartment. “I’m fucking exhausted. Move out of the way.” 

“Mean,” Jeongguk pouts, sildling up right next to Jimin and breathing down his neck as he fumbles with his keys. “Do you not wanna hook up tonight, then?” 

“If you bail on me after I came all this way,” Jimin threatens, opening the door, “I’m gonna be so pissed. Yes, of course I want to hook up. If I didn’t, I’d still be in the studio.” 

“But you said you’re tired,” Jeongguk says, forehead wrinkling as he follows Jimin up the stairs. “So what’s that mean?” 

Jimin sighs. “Are you being stupid on purpose?” 

“No?” 

“It means,” Jimin says, “that I want you to fuck me. Gently.” 

Jeongguk’s eyebrows go up as he freezes in the process of pulling his hood down.

“Please,” Jimin adds, because if he was nice once he can try to be nice again. Past him is someone he strives to go back to being, post-breakup and post-summer showcase. 

Exhaling loudly, Jeongguk nods. “Uh. I can do that.” 

Jimin nods, heart fluttering as he feigns nonchalance, casually opening the door to his apartment and leading the both of them in. “Good.” 

Jeongguk follows Jimin to his room, watching silently as Jimin kicks off his shoes and drops his dance stuff on the floor, kicking it to the side. It’s only when Jimin takes off his hoodie that the quiet air between them dissolves, because Jeongguk coos at him and rushes forward, scooping him up and kissing every inch of Jimin’s face that he can reach. 

“Ah!” Jimin squeaks, holding back laughter as Jeongguk kisses his nose, his chin, his eyelids. “What—get off me!” 

“So cute,” Jeongguk hums. “When your hair sticks up like that you look like a baby chick.” 

Jimin glowers at him and tries to wiggle his way out of Jeongguk’s arms, but Jeongguk’s strong, and Jimin’s pathetically tired. There’s not much he can do either when Jeongguk throws the both of them onto the bed, clinging to Jimin like an overgrown octopus and continuing to kiss him all over. When Jeongguk starts taking Jimin’s clothes off, too, it’s with the same sort of soft affection, brimming in his eyes and threatening to spill over if Jimin looks too hard at him. Already, this time is different than Friday. There’s no anger, and no desperation. Jeongguk is gentle, pressing open-mouthed kisses to Jimin’s collarbones and neck as he rocks against him, slow and constant until they both quietly tumble over the edge and into each other’s arms

After, Jimin lets Jeongguk hold him, hoping that he can hear the sound of Jimin’s heart, a steady beat of I’m here, I’m here, I never really left and I adore you still. He doesn’t— can’t—say any of it aloud, but Jeongguk squeezes him a little tighter like he knows anyway. 

When their skin cools, Jimin lets Jeongguk shower first, and lays in bed and watches the neon signs of the stores outside puddle on the ground, pink and purple, mind miraculously empty. 

The water finally gets hot when it’s Jimin’s turn to take a shower, but he doesn’t know if it’s because the landlord felt bad for him and fixed it or if it’s some sort of miracle. Either way, he enjoys it very immensely, standing under the showerhead and feeling exhausted in the best sort of way, the deep- seated kind that gets down to his very bones and promises a night of good sleep. 

Jeongguk is dozing when Jimin comes back out in his boxers, crawling into bed and collapsing sleepily onto Jeongguk’s chest. 

“You’re not going to try to kick me out?” Jeongguk asks sleepily, cracking an eye open. 

Jimin throws an arm over Jeongguk’s bare stomach, skin tingling pleasantly at the heat that comes off of him. “Nah,” he says, taking a deep breath and settling into the mattress. “You’re warm. And it’s too much effort to try to fight with you when you’ll end up staying anyway. Besides, I’m selfish.” 

“It’s not selfish to want me to stay,” Jeongguk murmurs, carding his fingers through Jimin’s hair. 

“It is,” Jimin replies. “Because you’ve forgiven me, and you love me, even though I did nothing but hurt you and push you away.” 

Jeongguk’s hand stills momentarily, and Jimin can feel him choosing his words carefully. “You apologized, so I forgave,” Jeongguk says “Besides, you’re already punishing yourself enough for it. I’m not going to get mad at you on top of that.” 

Something immense and warm washes over Jimin, and the thing in his chest relaxes further. “I’m still being selfish. And just because you’ve forgiven me doesn’t mean I have.” 

“I know,” Jeongguk says simply. “That’s okay. I love you anyway.” 

Jimin fumbles for Jeongguk’s hand, loosely interlacing their fingers. He still can’t say it back, not yet—there’s too much there, too much that he still needs to work through, that he still needs to forgive. 

“Goodnight, Jeongguk,” Jimin says softly, squeezing Jeongguk’s hand. 

“Night, Jimin,” Jeongguk replies, and squeezes back. 

 


 

Jimin has little time to stress about his upcoming performance tomorrow because he’s busy shepherding kids into line and getting solo and group acts out onto stage in time. The younger ones go easily, brimming with confidence only little kids have, while the older ones shuffle out nervously, clutching the front of their costumes and looking pale. These are the ones Jimin bends down to hug, smoothing hands over heads and untwisting fingers from the front of shirts. They grip onto him, whispering about messing up or falling over or forgetting the choreo. 

“You don’t have to be perfect,” Jimin tells them. “You just have to try your best. And sometimes that means falling over, or forgetting a move.” He wishes someone had told him that a long time ago. 

Eventually, the kids wrap up and the instructors start. Hoseok blows everyone away with a blend contemporary and hip-hop, and their junior instructors have put together a modern ballet piece so well-choreographed Jimin nearly cries with pride. 

When the dance before him starts, though, all of the anxiety and stress he’d put aside comes crashing down around him, making his head ring and knocking the breath from his lungs. 

This showcase is no different than any of the other showcases he’s done—but at the same time, it’s unlike any performance he’d ever done before. Because this is his last chance at the life he’d worked so hard for, that he’d thought he’d have by now. 

“Park Jimin with Napkins, by Riz La Vie, the MC says, after the applause from the previous show dies down. 

He takes a deep breath. Now or never, Park Jimin, he thinks, and slips out from behind the curtain to take his place on stage. The lights are off and the audience rustles quietly, the sound of paper crinkling and the low murmur of voices making him feel like he’s stepped into an alternate dimension. 

Briefly, he wonders where Jeongguk is sitting. 

Then the music starts, and everything melts away. The world shrinks until it’s just him and the thrum of the bass through the stage. His body knows the movements, and he lets himself enjoy it, the sheer act of dancing. 

It’s better to have loved and lost, the song goes, than to have never loved anything at all. 

He thinks about Jeongguk again, and the next movements hurt with what he’s done to him, with all the things he’s said and all the apologies he owes. Loved and lost, that’s for sure. But maybe he can love again. 

The song starts to end and Jimin thinks, maybe I can forgive myself, too. 

For a second, after the music’s died down, there’s silence. Then it shatters into thunderous applause, and Jimin distantly registers people flying to their feet as the noise grows, cresting until all he can hear is the sound of his own heartbeat and the roar of something he’d done right, long at last. 

His face hurts from smiling when he goes backstage again, which is filled with people, shouting things at him and pressing up close to hug him or pat him on the back. Hoseok tackles him and pulls him into an embrace so tight Jimin’s back pops, jabbering into his ear about how that was the greatest performance he’s ever seen, and that he was crying and Namjoon was crying, and oh, did you see Jeonggukkie yet? 

Seokjin, somehow, is there too, beaming widely and holding a bouquet of yellow and white flowers. He also hugs Jimin way too tightly, and Jimin massages his aching rib cage when Seokjin steps back, looking immensely proud. “This is an excellent reason to ask for vacation days,” he says. “That was amazing, Jimin-ah.” 

“Thanks, hyung,” Jimin replies, rubbing the back of his neck and feeling shy. 

Seokjin suddenly remembers he’s holding flowers, and dumps them into Jimin’s arms. “Those are for you,” Seokjin tells him, nodding, “because that was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.” 

Just as Seokjin’s about to say something else, Jeongguk appears in the back, gaze jumping from face to face. As soon as his eyes land on Jimin, his face softens, lips tugging at the corners. 

“—and you’re not listening to anything I’m saying,” Seokjin finishes, looking bemused. “Is that Jeon Jeongguk?” 

Jimin tears his eyes off of Jeongguk to focus on Seokjin. “How did you—?”

“Sehun’s a gossiper,” Seokjin replies, patting Jimin on the shoulder. “I’ll let you be, then. Congrats again, Jimin-ah. See you later.” 

“Bye, hyung,” Jimin says, already distracted as Jeongguk weaves his way between dancers and parents. 

Jeongguk’s grin is bright when he approaches Jimin. 

“Hey, you,” Jimin says, and he barely gets another breath before Jeongguk scoops him into his arms and kisses him, slow and sweet. The flowers get crushed between them and Jimin knows everyone’s watching him, but Jeongguk’s got a hand at the nape of his neck and he’s smiling against Jimin’s mouth. 

“That was amazing,” Jeongguk breathes when they separate. “You’re—you’re incredible. I wish I could dance like you. I’m so jealous.” 

“Don’t be,” Jimin replies. “We both know how that worked out last time.” 

Jeongguk laughs, pressing a thumb to the corner of Jimin’s mouth. “I love you. You’re amazing.” 

Jimin beams, and he’s about to kiss Jeongguk again when there’s a tap on his shoulder. Startled, he turns to see a woman, dressed smartly and smiling kindly. 

“Park Jimin, was it?” She asks, extending her hand. “I’m Kim Hyoyeon, from Antipix Studio.” 

At the name of the studio, Jeongguk’s eyes go wide and Jimin’s heart jumps into his throat. Trying to control his sudden tremors, Jimin tentatively shakes Hyoyeon’s hand. 

“It’s good to meet you,” she says. “We don’t normally see fall showcases, but as we were unable to make the summer one, I came today.” Her smile spreads as she rummages through her purse. “Your reputation precedes you, Park Jimin, and you live up to it. I’m surprised you haven’t been hired somewhere else already.” She hands him a business card, minimalistic and embossed with the Antipix logo and Hyoyeon’s name, number and email. 

“Pardon, but I don’t really understand,” he says blankly, staring down at the card. “Why—why are you here? I didn’t think any scouts were coming.” He turns to Jeongguk. “Is this your doing? Or Taehyung’s?” 

Jeongguk shakes his head, equally as wordless. 

Hyoyeon’s eyes sparkle as she laughs. “We’ve heard good things about you, Jimin-ssi, and we wanted to see if they were true.” She nods at the business card. “I’ll send you an email. I would love to chat more.” 

Jimin barely remembers to bow to her as she leaves, and he looks soundlessly over at Jeongguk, clutching the card in his hand and desperately trying to turn his world right-side up again. 

“What just happened?” He asks, voice a whisper. He looks down at the card, not sure if it’s real. 

“That was just Antipix,” Jeongguk says, a slow smile spreading across his face. “And they’re interested in you.” 

Jimin looks up at Jeongguk, and then back down at the card. “But—but they choreograph for celebrities. The president’s daughter took a dance class there. They’ve got millions of views on YouTube.” 

“You’ll fit right in,” Jeongguk says, grabbing Jimin’s hand. “They’re all talented, just like you.” 

“Oh my god,” Jimin replies, the reality of the situation finally sinking in. Oh my god. Antipix.” 

“Hell-fucking-yes, Antipix,” Jeongguk replies, grabbing Jimin by the shoulders. “And I know it’s not 3Three, like you wanted, but—” 

“But nothing,” Jimin cuts in. He feels like his whole body’s been doused in warmth, like the sun is shining on his face right now. His cheeks start to ache with the force of his smile, and he wants to cry and laugh and scream all at the same time. This is real. He did it, and he earned it. “Things don’t really go exactly as planned,” Jimin continues. 

“Oh?” Jeongguk asks, eyebrows raising. 

Jimin grins wider, nodding. “Yeah.” 

There is no 3Three, no apartment in Gangnam—but there is Jeongguk, and there is unlearning his envy and shedding the weight of his grudge, tiny bit by tiny bit. Everything is the total opposite of what he’d planned, true— yet when he looks at Jeongguk, smiling so brightly, he thinks that maybe he likes this outcome better. 

 


 

Kim Hyoyeon <kimhyoyeon@antipix.com>

 

Hi Jimin! 

 

It was really great to meet and talk last Thursday. I’ve talked to my supervisors and some of the HR people, and we’d really love to have you come in for an interview. It’s nothing too formal—your dancing speaks leagues about you, believe it or not—so don’t feel pressured to dress up. Think of it as a casual chat. I was thinking some time next week, if you’re free. Let me know. Our schedule is pretty flexible, and this is about you, after all. 

 

Hope all is well, 

 

Kim Hyoyeon 

 

Antipix • Recruiter and Manager

Seoul, South Korea

 


 

Park Jimin’s alarm goes off at five in the morning, and Jeongguk grumbles something rude under his breath as he tries to turn it off. He also tries to convince Jimin to stay in bed, but Jimin promises that he’ll be back soon, leaning over to press a kiss to Jeongguk’s cheek and then slipping out to go for a run. It’s only four miles today, because he’s tired and deserves a break for once. It’s significantly colder now, too, as Christmas quickly approaches, and Jimin’s glad for the warmth of his apartment when he gets back, showering off quickly and diving back into bed next to Jeongguk, who groans when Jimin cackles and presses his cold hands to Jeongguk’s skin. 

Thirty minutes later, they get up together, and Jeongguk leans against Jimin’s back and dozes off as Jimin cooks them breakfast. They part ways for work after that but meet up again for drinks with their friends in the evening, where they all go for noraebang and drink soju until they all collapse and have to call taxis back to their houses. 

Antipix treats Jimin well. They give him the freedom to teach when he wants to, and send interested parties his way until his inbox is filled with emails from companies all looking to debut so-and-so or they need a choreographer for this show or this person. It’s busy, and a lot of work, but Jimin loves it, and slowly starts to grow back into himself. 

He and Jeongguk get back together, of course. And Hoseok gives them a lot of shit for it but in the end, they’re good for each other. Jimin becomes someone he likes when he’s around Jeongguk, softening at the edges and remembering what it feels like to smile for the sake of smiling. 

Some days are still bad, though, and Jeongguk will rub his back when he dry-heaves in front of the toilet, or he’ll call Hoseok on the verge of a panic attack, overwhelmed by his future. He’s still a little too hard on himself, pushes a bit too far, has trouble knowing when to stop. 

But there are days—more and more, as time passes—where he wakes up to the sound of Jeongguk’s breathing, quiet and steady, and feels like he’s in a dream. 

And Jeongguk will kiss him and say I love you, I love you, I love you, and Jimin will think, I deserve it.