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fly away like a butterfly

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The first time Jimin sees him, cherry blossoms are painting the world pink.

 

It’s a sunny, vivid day. It seems as if everyone decided, at the same time, that the world is too beautiful to be sitting cramped up in their own homes, so the park is packed with people of all ages. Walking, singing, laughing, playing, enjoying their lives. Jimin is no better. Being stuck at university for most of the week was not something he liked or wanted at all. When Saturday finally came, however, he decided to take the advantage of it and leave his apartment to go to the park nearby. The light breeze makes him feel light. The sunshine is caressing his cheeks, slowly and lightly like a song. He closes his eyes and breaths in, his lips curling into a small, satisfied smile.

 

He’s so immersed in his own little world, walking slowly with half-closed eyes, barely noticing anything around him, when a playful and happy melody reaches his ears. He follows the sound as if he is possessed. His friends are late as usual, so he figures that, listening to the cheerful melody that’s playing, doesn’t sound as such a bad idea.

 

The sound is coming from the playground and he can hear the kids screaming from joy a few feet away. Soon, he is met by those same children dancing, smiling and jumping around like it’s the most fun they’ve ever had. And there, standing between all those children, is a boy. His lips are wrapped around a melodica. His eyes are shut but they do not seem too bothered or too focused. There are no wrinkles worrying his face. Instead, his face seems relaxed, carefree, free of all worries and not caring if what he is playing sounds good or not. He dances around the children, spinning in circles round and round.

 

Jimin’s so mesmerized that he barely registers when the music changes, and the boy’s eyes meet his own.

 

It’s almost as if no one else exists but the two of them at that moment. Jimin forgets about the children, forgets about all of the people surrounding them, forgets two of his best friends that he is supposed to be meeting with. Boy’s eyes, wide and expressive, are looking at him as if he recognizes him. There’s some sort of familiarity behind that gaze and Jimin cannot quite pinpoint it. Something about the boy seems familiar to him as well, but he cannot place him. He cannot remember if he has seen him anywhere before. Maybe he did. Maybe he didn’t. He isn’t sure. But what he’s sure about is that he doesn’t want to dwell on it much. Right this moment is what matters to him. And right now, he fell in love with music and the way cherry blossoms fall around the boy, making him look eternal and brilliant. Jimin wants to stare forever.

 

He takes a step forward. He doesn’t know why. He isn’t quite sure what possessed him either, but he does. And he steps closer and closer, getting closer to the boy who isn’t taking his eyes off of him. They keep looking at each other in trance. By now, the children have stopped dancing because there’s no more music playing and are now playing around the playground. Nobody’s paying attention to them, but Jimin feels as if all the eyes of the world are focused just on him and the boy. He gets close, so close that the boy is now looking down at him from the plaything he’s standing on.

 

“Park Jimin!” Somebody calls him from behind and before he can react, the person is crushing his back with their huge arms and body. Jimin whines in annoyance.

 

“For Christ’s sake, Tae, calm down.” He manages to say while the other boy keeps all but crushing him. His best friend has always been like this – overly affectionate and overly dramatic. Jimin’s used to it, although he doesn’t really appreciate Taehyung crushing him until he dies, every single time he sees him. Taehyung finally lets him go, so he manages see his other best friend Yoongi approaching them as well. Yoongi opens his mouth, but before words come out, he looks up at the boy and stares for about two seconds straight.

 

“Oh. Hi, Jeongguk! I haven’t seen you in a while.” Jimin’s eyebrows furrow in confusion. Why does the name sound so familiar? And why and how does Yoongi know the boy in question? The boy finally puts his melodica down and gives Yoongi a small smile. He jumps from the plaything and bows slightly to Yoongi.

 

“Hello, Yoongi-hyung. It’s nice to see you again.” The boy’s, Jeongguk’s – Jimin makes a mental note – small smile turns into a wide grin. It’s gorgeous, Jimin thinks, the smile. It’s so bright, so happy that Jimin wishes he could smile like that as well. Jimin’s smile has always been reserved, always a bit too uptight. Ever since the event at least. Jimin shakes his head, trying to pry those thoughts away. No, no. He cannot think about that. That memory is too painful, too raw and he doesn’t want to revisit it now – when he’s surrounded by all of his friends and Jeongguk. He tries to give him his best smile, but he’s almost certain it still looks too fake.

 

“Hi.” He says shyly, doesn’t even know if he should introduce himself. Maybe Jeongguk knows him? Jimin was never good at remembering people’s faces. He would forget them in seconds. Although, Jeongguk is beautiful and he would like to believe he would remember someone as beautiful as Jeongguk.

 

“Hi. I’m Jeongguk.” He says, like Yoongi hasn’t mentioned his name just moments ago. He offers his hand, with the same, bright smile and Jimin takes it into his smaller one. He still keeps his gaze on Jeongguk’s eyes, not being able to keep it away.

 

“I’m Jimin.” He introduces himself after all, and Jeongguk’s smile somehow grows a bit wider. Jimin doesn’t know why, maybe Jeongguk really does know him somehow, but Jimin decides not to question it. If Jeongguk says anything, that’s fine. If he doesn’t, that’s also fine. Or at least Jimin keeps telling himself that. Jeongguk’s grip on his hand loosens, so Jimin pulls it back. He misses it – the warmth – but he’s not about to let anyone know that; not even himself.

 

“It’s nice to finally meet you properly, Jimin-hyung.” It stunts Jimin a bit; the casual use of his name. The way Jeongguk’s eyes turn playful for a bit. The way he looks – as if he’s aware of something Jimin isn’t. The boy is confusing and Jimin’s confused with the said boy, but he feels weird if he questions it. They’ve only just met after all. They are just a couple of strangers and Jimin’s not a creep.

 

“Jeonggukie here is Seokjin-hyung’s brother. He’s also interested in music production, right, Jeonggukie?” Yoongi says and proceeds to ruffle Jeongguk’s hair. The youngest tries to hide his smile and show annoyance instead, but it doesn’t really work out. Because in the end, Jeongguk only ends up laughing so much his eyes crinkle and his whole body starts vibrating. He tries to get away from Yoongi’s playful hands, screaming Stop, hyuuuung, stop, but the words not really holding any menace to it. Jimin’s smile gets fond, surprising even himself, because he doesn’t remember smiling that fondly in years.

 

It makes sense now; why Jeongguk feels so familiar. Jimin’s been in Yoongi’s studio a few times. Maybe he has seen Jeongguk in passing, or maybe Yoongi has mentioned him a few times before. Jimin’s not sure what exactly it is, but he can deal with this; deal with Jeongguk being Yoongi’s acquaintance and Seokjin’s brother. That means this is not Jimin’s last chance to see him.

 

“Oh, Jeonggukie, are you still looking for that piano accompaniment?” It’s Taehyung who asks the question and Jimin’s whole body goes rigid as soon as the question is asked. He knows they aren’t speaking directly to him. He knows that he shouldn’t react like that every time word the word piano is mentioned in his presence. He’s too sensitive to the topic, he knows and he’s trying his best to change it. Currently though, he still can’t.

 

Jeongguk nods. “Yeah, nobody seems to fit my perspective. Everyone’s used to playing in this old, boring, automatic way. They don’t know how to play with music, and if they don’t know that, I cannot dance to it. I know I’m asking for a lot because pianists have to play a certain way, but I guess I don’t want that certain way and that’s why I can’t find anyone that’s fitting.” He shrugs nonchalantly and smiles a little. Jimin, however, Jimin cannot feel his body any longer. He’s shaking, quite positively so, and his vision is blurry; not from tears, but from sheer fear and panic. He can feel it. His heart beating faster and faster. His body not being able to catch the oxygen it needs. His feet trembling and the ground disappearing. He needs to go.

 

“I need to go,” is the last thing he says before he, without looking at any of them, all but runs away from the playground. He can hear the shouts, hear the calls, muffled but still there, but he doesn’t stop. He needs to breathe, and he cannot breathe here.

 

So, he runs. Without direction, without knowing where, trying to get away from his mind, from his problems. He’s running and running until he’s in an alley close to his apartment. He manages to fall against the wall before the memories he’s been trying so hard to suppress, finally take over him.

~

He still remembers, clear as day, how nice his life was. There was nothing he loved more but playing the piano. The black and white keys, right underneath his fingertips, making the melody he wanted them to. His fingers, moving swiftly across them with ease. His eyes, closed, lost in the moment, knowing the score he was playing by heart. His lips curled into a little satisfied smile, because he knew the notes that he was playing sounded perfect.

 

And then there was his mum, standing a little behind him, listening to him and humming with satisfaction. She would sometimes point out if she thought the note he had played sounded wrong, and next time, Jimin would try to correct it and play it right. When he did so, she would always praise him and clap with pride bursting out along with her smile. It was what made Jimin the happiest – seeing her smile and satisfied with him. So, he tried. He tried, and he always worked so hard to be the best he could be. His mum always wanted him to be the world’s renowned pianist, so he worked towards that goal. It was what his life came to be. He lived and breathed piano. He almost had no friends. Some might think his high school life was boring because of it, but no. Jimin was happy. He was happy doing what he loved, and he was happy making his mother proud.

 

But then, in his second year of high school, his mother got cancer. And it was like a punch in the gut. When he was told the truth, he cried endlessly. He couldn’t stop no matter how hard he had tried. His mother tried to comfort him, whispering the words that meant nothing in the long run. His mother only got worse and his passion for piano was slowly fading away with her as well. Her last few days were spent with Jimin sitting by her hospital bed, holding her hand and talking about nothing and everything. He missed the competition the day before she died. She even begged him to go, she wanted him to go, but he couldn’t make himself do so. He knew that, the moment he puts his hands on the piano, he will start crying. So, he didn’t even try.

 

When she died the day after, there was nothing that anyone could do that could calm Jimin down. There was Taehyung, there was always Taehyung. Through thick and thin, through the worst, when Jimin had no one else, Taehyung was there. Being the only child meant Jimin had no one but his mother, so Taehyung stayed with him. He all but moved to Jimin’s house and was making sure he was eating and sleeping properly. If it weren’t for him, Jimin didn’t know where he would be today. He was grateful, so, so grateful to have a friend as good as Taehyung. He loved and appreciated him so much, and he hoped Taehyung knew that well.

 

His aunt came to live with him until he was off-age to be able to live on his own. However, once his mother had passed away, his love for piano completely disappeared. He started to despise it, that black and white instrument. He had locked the room where he and his mother practised all the time – locked the door and decided to never go in again. Instead of focusing on piano, he focused on his studies, deciding he needed a different path in life. He studied hard, especially working hard in Maths and Chemistry, figuring out that piano wasn’t the only thing he was good at. He found himself getting absorbed in numbers and formulas and soon, he realised he had a new passion. It wasn’t bad. In fact, it made Jimin livelier, more outgoing, happier and more approachable than before. His hard work paid off and he was accepted to Seoul National University, double majoring in Maths and Chemistry. He was ecstatic once he’d found out, and when Taehyung told him he got accepted in Japanese Language and Literature Department of SNU, his happiness was uncontainable. He couldn’t wait to get out of Busan and leave all the bad and sad memories behind – leave every memory of his passion for music and piano behind. His aunt could move back to her house and Jimin would finally start living his life to the fullest.

 

It was a given that him and Taehyung would be roommates, so they searched for cheap apartment together. His mother’s allowance and his aunt’s help could only do so much though, and Jimin was forced to also find a part-time job. He worked in a little coffee shop, just a couple of blocks away from his apartment, and it was oddly fulfilling, even though it was taking a great tool on his body once exam season approached. Jimin loved every aspect of it though. Living with Taehyung, studying what he genuinely enjoyed and loved, and working and earning his own money.  He even met Yoongi again in the meantime. They knew each other ever since Jimin was a middle school kid and Yoongi was a cool older guy who knew something about music production. Yoongi was always in awe of Jimin’s playing skills and always encouraged him to be better. However, being two and a half years older, meant that Yoongi moved away to pursue his music producer dreams even before the incident.

 

Meeting him again was like a breath of fresh air. It was completely coincidental. Yoongi walked into the coffee shop Jimin worked in one day, and the rest was history. Yoongi became one of his closest friends again, along with Taehyung, and Jimin was never happier to have those two people in his life. His passion for the piano and him never acknowledging it again was always hanging somewhere in the air, but nobody really brought it up. Everyone knew what kind of effect it had on Jimin, so for two years, nobody dared to mention it when Jimin was close by.

That is, until Jeon Jeongguk came and caused the storm.

~

“Jimin? Jimin, hey, are you okay?” It is the first thing Taehyung says when he enters their shared apartment. Jimin managed to get himself onto the couch in the living room, his body still a bit shaky and his brain still a little fuzzy. He’s trying to watch Friends playing on the TV, but it’s more noise and less sense than anything else. He looks up once Taehyung comes to stand in front of him. His face is creased with worry, and he looks slightly out of breath. Jimin wants nothing but to hug him. So, he does. Pulling himself up a bit, he stretches his hands towards Taehyung, probably looking needy and desperate but it isn’t like he cares. Taehyung gets what he wants to say and do – like he always does – so without uttering another word, he sits beside Jimin on the couch and wraps his strong arms around Jimin’s smaller frame.

 

Jimin clings onto him like his life depends on him. He buries his face deep into Taehyung’s neck, taking in his scent and getting drunk on the way he smells. The tears are creeping up again and he doesn’t try to hold them back. He knows Taehyung isn’t going to mind. He’s been there through all of Jimin’s breakdowns, some even worse than this one. Therefore, he sobs into Taehyung’s shirt, letting all of his bottled-up emotions out; not caring about how he looks or sounds. Taehyung’s hands are rubbing his back smoothly and he’s rocking them back and forth, like Jimin is a child he needs to take care of. Right now, though, Jimin doesn’t feel too far away from that.

 

“Shhh, it’s going to be fine, Jimin. Calm down, shhh. Take deep breaths. That’s right, Jiminie, that’s right. You’re so strong, so brave. You’ve gone through so much and yet you always stay bright and happy all the time. I admire you so much, Jiminie, you’re too good for this world.” Taehyung’s soothing voice and his sweet words do the trick just like they always do. Soon after, Jimin’s sobs get quieter and his breathing less heavy. He feels his eyes dropping, Taehyung’s voice and his arms wrapped around him, lulling him into sleep. Even though he probably shouldn’t, he doesn’t fight it and lets himself fall asleep in Taehyung’s embrace.

 

 

Maybe it is Jimin’s overthinking brain or maybe something really did change, but after that night, Jimin feels as if Taehyung became even more protective of him than he already was. He always makes sure he’s by Jimin’s side and when he sees Jimin getting uncomfortable, Taehyung easily switches the topic of the conversation or, if needed, butts in and defends him. It’s more than Jimin can even ask for and he is more than grateful to have a friend like Taehyung. He feels safe with him acting like that and although he knows it’s not really healthy, because avoiding the problem and overreacting every single time it is brought up is not an ideal and healthy way of dealing with things, he still wants it. Craves it. Craves that shield that keeps him numb to the outside world. And Taehyung’s there to give it to him willingly. He’s not an idiot who isn’t going to take it.

 

“Jiminie, are you sure he doesn’t hate me?” Taehyung asks for what seems to be a millionth time. They are sitting at the kitchen table, eating cheap take-out because they are broke and therefore, cannot afford quality food. It’s not their fault. If they die from junk food, they’ll just blame it on the government.

 

“Yes, Tae, I’m sure. Yoongi-hyung is just like that. He doesn’t express his feelings easily. He needs time, don’t worry about it. If he hated you, he would never hang out with you as much as he does.” Jimin tries to reason and it isn’t really easy because Taehyung is so convinced that Yoongi hates him that if it wasn’t sad, it would be funny. Okay, it’s still a bit funny. Taehyung’s so desperate for Yoongi’s approval it’s becoming a bit of a problem. If Jimin is to defend Yoongi, it really isn’t Yoongi’s fault Taehyung craves everyone’s approval and wants everyone to love him. Not everyone can meet the demands of one Kim Taehyung.

 

“B-but, why isn’t he cold with you as well? He never looked at you as if you just murdered his loved one or something and he looks that way at me all the time! It’s not fair, I did nothing wrong.” Taehyung is one hundred and fifty percent in the whining mode right now and Jimin is about ready to burn him alive or something.

 

“We’ve known each other for ages, Tae. Just believe me, okay? You can ask him yourself if you’re so concerned he hates you, but he’ll just tell you the same thing I did.” He says as he finishes his food and gets up to throw away the trash. Taehyung, however, is not even close to finishing his food. He whines too much about unimportant things. And Jimin’s about to lose it.

 

“I can’t ask him that, Jiminie. He’ll probably kill me if I do, and I love my life too much to risk it.” He pouts as he stares at his food, not even making an effort to eat it anymore. Taehyung is a great friend, but sometimes he can be a bit too much.

 

I’ll kill you if you don’t cut back with the whining already,” is the only thing Jimin says back and rolls his eyes. Taehyung lets out a big sigh and murmurs something that sounds like ‘fine, whatever’ and he finally gets back to eating.

 

 

It’s raining outside, sad droplets of rain falling down softly on Jimin’s cheeks. It’s his workday though, so he has no other choice but to walk in the rain. What makes it worse though, is that he has lost his umbrella a few weeks ago, accidentally leaving it on the bus, and he was too lazy to buy another one. So here he is, bundled up in a jacket, hat and hoodie over his blonde hair as to not get it wet while, quite literally, everything else on him is, in fact, drowning in rain. It isn’t ideal, but at least his hair isn’t going to get wet.

 

He figures he’s been standing way too long underneath the rooftop of his apartment complex and he’s finally about to step into the pouring rain when suddenly, there’s a shield above his head. He looks up only to see a large umbrella above his head, held by an unfamiliar hand.

 

“It’s not a good idea to walk in the rain like that, hyung. You’re going to get all wet and then people at work will scold you. I thought you were more thoughtful than that.” There’s an amusement in the voice next to him and he can imagine the smirk that’s probably colouring person’s face. His head shots to the side as fast as lightning, and it’s him. It’s eyes brighter than the stardust. It’s soft cheeks and even softer smile. It’s Jeongguk and Jimin’s almost knocked off his feet when he takes him in. He looks different – different than that day at least. But at the same time, he looks like the same, bright boy Jimin has met then. It’s only been a week since but to Jimin, it feels only like yesterday.

 

“I-I…. I’m really not.” Jeongguk laughs. He laughs this loud, resonant laugh that leaves his whole body trembling. It’s so addicting that Jimin starts to laugh as well. It’s nothing that funny. It’s nothing special. It’s just Jimin being his dumb self. But Jeongguk still laughs like it’s the funniest thing he has ever heard. It makes Jimin’s eyes that much bright and happier. He thinks, Jeongguk makes him feel sort of happiness he longed to feel again. He doesn’t know why, doesn’t have an answer why Jeongguk makes him feel so giddy. At first, he thought it was a rush of fresh morning air, and sun too radiant, and the music and environment surrounding them. But maybe it’s just Jeongguk – sunshine embodied itself. “But wait, how did you know I got to get to work?” Jimin finally realises that Jeongguk came out of the same building as him, talking about Jimin’s job which is weird because Jimin’s never really said more than a few words to the boy before.

 

“Oh, I live here? So, I saw you leaving quite often, and I was at your workplace a few times. Yoongi also mentioned you’re working in a coffee shop, so I guessed you’re going there now as well.” He explains with a little smile playing on his lips, his joyous laughter dying down completely. He seems content almost, looking at Jimin like that and Jimin’s not sure what to make out of it.

 

“Oh. I’m sorry I’ve never noticed you before. I don’t understand how I haven’t, to be honest.” He admits bashfully. It’s weird but he feels almost sad, not noticing Jeongguk before. He thinks of how much time they could’ve spent together, getting to know each other. So many missed opportunities, and it’s probably Jimin’s fault. He should’ve noticed him, should’ve approached him. But then again, maybe the Sun was too frightening for Park Jimin to approach it at first.

 

“It’s okay, hyung. I should’ve introduced myself earlier.” He smiles wider again, his eyes crinkling and his whole face scrunching up. If Jimin had a camera with him, he would take a picture and frame it. No. He would take thousands of pictures of it, of that smile and when asked for the pictures of the sun, he would show them those. “What matters is that we’re talking now, right? Because I really like talking to you, hyung. And I wish we could talk more.” It’s sincere and so innocent sounding and it tugs at Jimin’s heartstrings, those words. Nobody has ever said something like that to him. So why Jeongguk is saying it to him right now, is beyond Jimin’s understanding.

 

“I like talking to you too, Jeonggukie. I’m sorry that our first meeting ended up the way it did...” He trails off, only realising now that he has never properly apologised for the way he had left that day, no explanation whatsoever. He should’ve probably asked Yoongi for Jeongguk’s number and apologised way before today, but he is too much of a coward for that. “I’m… I’m too sensitive to some things, I’m sorry.” He finishes, staring at the ground, too embarrassed to look up. He doesn’t even know if it’s something worth apologising for, but he feels that if he doesn’t say it, his chest won’t feel at ease. He hears Jeongguk chuckle, so he thinks it’s fine.

 

“You don’t need to apologise, hyung. It was insensitive of us to bring it up anyway. I think it’s just because Tae and Yoongi-hyung are worried that I won’t find anyone in time, so they’re always asking about it, whenever they get a chance to. I think I need to apologise for bringing it up, not you.” They finally move from their spot, starting to walk towards Jimin’s workplace. Jeongguk’s umbrella is big enough to cover both of them, even though Jimin needs to squeeze a bit closer to Jeongguk so he wouldn’t get wet. Jeongguk doesn’t seem to mind though.

 

“Is it… how soon do you need to find an accompaniment?” Jimin manages to get out. There’s a lump in his throat but he cannot seem to get rid of it. He knows he needs to be a bit braver and try a little harder. He cannot let his past demons haunt him forever.

 

“Um… I have like five days left.” He chuckles humourlessly. “They accept entries till then and I have to have an accompaniment if I want to even go to the auditions. It’s stupid because I think that at least at the auditions we should be able to use recorded music, but apparently they don’t think so.” He shrugs, like it doesn’t matter but Jimin can see he’s worried about it. The smile is gone from his face and is instead replaced by the stoic expression Jimin doesn’t quite like. Upset doesn’t look good on Jeongguk, he decides.

 

“Is there really nobody you can find?” He’s not even sure what style of music and dancing Jeongguk is doing anyway. There’s not much that Yoongi or Taehyung have told him, knowing that it would only upset him further. He finds it inconsiderate to ask now though, feeling as if he should know it by now. Especially with how much Jeongguk knows about him.

 

“No… I’m trying to fuse contemporary and hip-hop style in my routines and even though the competition is almost strictly traditional, I don’t want to stick to it, but try something new and different instead. However, nobody’s willing to play out of the box and it’s so frustrating because I don’t want to change my vision and my style of dancing just because everyone’s always sticking to the music sheet and aren’t willing to experiment even a bit. I’m aware that’s important if you want to be a good pianist but… I just want someone to trust me and try something different with me. I’m sorry, that’s probably a lot to take in all at once.” Jeongguk finishes, sounding angry and discouraged. Jimin bites his lip and tries not to think too hard.

 

“No, no, it’s fine. You can let it all out. I’m… I always played by the score. That’s what got me so many trophies and got me to where I was back then. So, I understand those pianists… But I also understand your perspective and… I can only hope you’ll somehow find someone fitting-”

 

“What about you, hyung? Would you ever be willing to return to music?” Jeongguk asks out of blue, cutting him off, and it takes Jimin by surprise so much that he stops walking for a second. They’ve almost arrived at his workplace now and Jimin thinks it’s the perfect timing.

 

“I… I don’t know, Jeonggukie. I haven’t played for a long time and… I’m not good anymore. I’m sorry, I… I need to get to work. I’ll see you soon.” And with that, he’s running away from his problems once again.

~

Ever since that day, the thought is not leaving his head. It’s like Jeongguk seeded it there and now there’s no way of it to go away. He doesn’t tell anyone though. He doesn’t tell anyone about the thoughts consuming his brain, making him forget what he was doing, making him confused and scared. He knows what everyone’s response is going to be. And he doesn’t need to hear it. He doesn’t need anyone convincing him it’s a good idea when he knows it will only bring him sorrow and pain. He’s not even sure if he can even play anymore anyway. He hasn’t touched the piano in the last seven years. Not with the serious intentions of playing, at least. He’s probably rusty around the edges and it’s questionable if he can play even twenty percent as good as he did back then. He can still feel the melody inside of him though. He can still remember, the sound that the keys would made when he touched them. Learning and learning and playing until his fingers almost fell off in his first few years. His mother was the first to tell him when to take a break, when enough was enough. Because Jimin didn’t know his limit and he was never satisfied enough, so he would play for hours till no end and his mother would start getting worried.

 

He’s afraid that, if he starts playing again, there will be no one to stop him and he will overwork himself to the point where his fingers break, and his body starts to give away. That wouldn’t be his first time – overworking himself. He’s always overworking himself for his classes and exams, and he overworks himself at work even though his boss keeps telling him to take it slow. If he gets back to what was once his passion… he cannot be certain he will know when he had reached his limit.

 

He’s still fussing about it in a cafe two days later, trying to stop his brain from giving him stupid and careless ideas, when the bell chimes announcing a new customer. He tries to compose his expression as best as he can and puts a smile on his face – the one his boss likes to see because “the customers love it, Jimin-ssi, please smile like that all the time”. Therefore, he likes to try at least, even if it’s not the greatest smile in the world or whatever.

 

“Hello! Welcome to the-” He starts to say but the words get caught in his throat once he sees who is standing in front of him. It’s Jeongguk once again, that stupidly adorable bunny smile on his face and his eyes only looking at Jimin. Standing beside him is a guy Jimin has never seen before or doesn’t recall seeing him at least. He’s saying something to Jeongguk, but it looks like Jeongguk is not paying attention to him anymore. Instead, he’s walking towards Jimin, looking idiotically happy and Jimin finds himself smiling a bit more sincerely than usual. It’s stupid. He should duck his head in shame instead and apologise thousands of times for being an idiot once again, but looking into Jeongguk’s eyes, he doesn’t think Jeongguk really minds.

 

“Hi, hyung! Long time no see!” Jeongguk says so cheerfully it takes Jimin a bit by surprise. Hence the initial surprise, Jimin chuckles at younger’s antics. The guy next to Jeongguk rolls his eyes, but there’s no annoyance behind it, just pure affection. Jimin wonders if Jeongguk has everyone wrapped around his little finger because Jimin cannot see it being any other way. Everyone loves him and Jimin understands why.

 

“Hi, Jeonggukie. And…?” He looks at the guy standing next to Jeongguk. He has a little smile on his lips, a little twinkle in his eyes and Jimin has no idea what for.

 

“Hi, I’m Kim Namjoon. I’ve heard a lot about you, Jimin-ssi.” The Namjoon guy says, his smile widening. Jeongguk gives him a look of pure disbelief as he slaps his arm not so lightly. It looks like Namjoon’s used to it though because he only laughs, unbothered.

 

“Hyuuuuuuuuung!” Jeongguk whines a little bit like a child would. His lips make an adorable little pout and Jimin cannot help the smile that reappears on his face at the sign of it.

 

“Oh, is that so?” asks Jimin and shifts his gaze back to Jeongguk who is now sporting a face couple of shades redder than usual. It’s adorable and Jimin’s just a little bit smitten. He sort of wants to squish his cheeks maybe. And coo at the cuteness. Seriously, just a little bit smitten, he’s not lying.

 

“He’s exaggerating, don’t believe him.” Jeongguk’s quick to defend himself, all wide eyed and flushed. Jimin’s smile reaches his eyes at that. He feels something warm tug at his heart and it’s so… different, but so welcoming he doesn’t mind it one bit. Just knowing that Jeongguk is talking about him to his friends makes him feel special, even if it probably means nothing.

 

“Whatever you say, Jeonggukie.” His tone is teasing, and he cannot stop smiling and he thinks Jeongguk flushes even deeper. He smiles back though, stupidly so, and Jimin knows they look like idiots – just smiling at each other like they have no other business to do, like there aren’t people around them. And he wants to keep doing that, keep this moment forever. However, it’s not professional and his boss will scold him if he keeps getting distracted by Jeon Jeongguk. That’s why he tries to look at least somewhat serious as he asks for their orders. He doesn’t really succeed but he’s not sure if he even wanted to succeed, not with Jeongguk smiling like that at him.

 

They sit at the bar, Jeongguk not even trying to give some sort of excuse but saying “I want to be close to you, hyung, and talk to you as much as possible” instead. Jimin’s taken aback a little, not expecting the words to come out of younger’s mouth so easily. He tries not to let it show though, even though he’s almost certain that he’s the one with red cheeks now. Jeongguk doesn’t complain so he thinks it’s fine.

 

 

As it turns out, Namjoon studies at Seoul National University as well and Jimin’s quite sure he’s seen him around the campus a couple of times. He’s studying philosophy and knows Jeongguk ever since Jeongguk joined his brother Seokjin in Seoul. Namjoon and Seokjin have always been good friends, and with Seokjin being busy with his company and everything, Namjoon and Jeongguk started to hang out a lot. Namjoon looks over Jeongguk a lot, making sure he eats and rests properly and does his studying. Jeongguk jokes how it is very annoying, but it’s clear from his happy exterior that he adores Namjoon a lot. And that Namjoon adores him back. Seeing Jeongguk acting the way he is with the people he loves, seeing Jeongguk being loved the same way back, makes Jimin feel even happier and at ease. It is beautiful. He finds himself and Taehyung in those two and he thinks how amazing it is, that Jeongguk has a good friend like Namjoon. Jealousy is overrated and Jimin would be stupid to be jealous of that. Instead, he admires them and their friendship and only hopes that one day Jeongguk and he will build a similar bond.

 

“Jeonggukie, have you… have you managed to find an accompaniment?” Jimin gets out after a while. They’ve been talking about everything and anything for about a good hour now, both Jeongguk and Namjoon finishing their coffees a bit ago, but not asking for a refill. They still stay and chat though, like it doesn’t matter if they are sitting empty handed at the coffee shop.

 

Jeongguk shakes his head, his lips turning downwards. He drops his gaze and stares at the smooth surface in front of him, tracing it with his finger mindlessly. “No. There’s literally no one who wants to do it. I think that I’ll just have to not enter at all. There’s no point if I cannot find an accompaniment.” He laughs humourlessly once again, bitterly and it leaves a bad taste in Jimin’s mouth. Namjoon’s expression suddenly turns serious, his face relaxing in some sort of hopeless, sad expression. The whole atmosphere turns cold, melancholic. Jimin feels a shiver run down his spine and just looking at them like that, makes him feel sad as well.

 

“Jeongguk… I’m sorry I could’ve done nothing.” Namjoon whispers to Jeongguk but Jimin still hears him. Jimin’s lips press into a thin line as he tries to sort the cups into their right place. His hands shake a little, his heart beats too fast, way too fast, and he’s on the verge of running away. He’s sure he will do so, sees himself making excuses and making a dash towards the back. He’s about to do it, already taking a step back. Opening his mouth, he’s ready to say the shortest apology he can manage at the moment and leave the room before he starts crying.

 

“I’ll do it,” is what comes out instead though. It catches everyone by surprise – Namjoon, Jeongguk, and Jimin himself. His eyes grow two sizes bigger as he realises what has just left his mouth a moment ago. Jeongguk’s head snaps up as fast as lightning, his expression matching Jimin’s. Namjoon’s still staring at Jeongguk though and there’s something in the way he’s looking at him that Jimin can’t quite figure out at the moment.

 

“Are you serious?” Jeongguk whispers, shock clear in his voice. Jimin finds himself nodding, again without his body consulting his brain first. What is he doing? Why is he doing this? He cannot do this. He will fuck it all up. He’s nowhere near ready to play the piano. He’s nowhere near ready to play it in front of an audience again. And he’s supposed to do it flawlessly in such a short amount of time that he doesn’t see the point in trying. However, Jeongguk’s expression loses all of its sadness then. His empty eyes turn bright again, and the smile makes it back to his lips. All of a sudden, he is getting up and, no warning whatsoever, is coming around the bar and behind it, where Jimin is. Looking the happiest Jimin has ever seen him, Jeongguk is wrapping his arms around Jimin and pulling him towards his chest. Jimin lets out a little ‘oof’ from the surprise but his arms automatically wrap around Jeongguk’s waist. “Thank you. Thank you so much, hyung.” Jimin cannot be certain, but he’s almost sure he hears a slight tremble in Jeongguk’s voice. Jimin only hugs him tighter.

 

“I want to help you.” It’s the only thing Jimin’s sure of. He wants to help Jeongguk and he doesn’t know if he’ll be of any help at all and if Jeongguk will only end up hating him once he hears his awful playing, but if it’s the only way he can help… he’ll do it. His hands still shake, all of his being is telling him to run away. But Jeongguk’s arms keep him put. From the corner of his eye, he sees Namjoon smiling at them, a relief clear on his face. There’s still that something there, but Jimin tries not to look too deep into it. Instead, he smiles back at him, and nods lightly, letting him know it’s okay.

 

Jeongguk lets go of him moments later, his expression bright, but obvious tears of happiness falling down his cheeks. He tries to wipe them with the back of his hand, looking bashful while doing so. Jimin wants to do it for him but he thinks it’s a bit too intimate, a bit too personal, so he settles on watching him.

 

“Don’t cry, Jeonggukie.” It’s funny, how the nickname settled so well, so early. They haven’t known each other for that long at all, and here’s Jimin, calling him so affectionately since the beginning. Jeongguk never complained though, so Jimin continues to use it and Jeongguk keeps smiling brightly. It’s all Jimin cares about really.

 

“I’m just so happy, hyung. Thank you so much. You have no idea how much this means to me. I really, really wanted to go to this competition because it’s really amazing you know, and I could be recognized for my style of dancing, even if it’s not really traditional. I just want to show the world who I am, so for you to give me that opportunity when the piano itself is such a tough topic for you... It just means so, so much, hyung.” He’s blabbering on and on, his voice raising a pitch higher in excitement. Jimin almost expects him to start clapping like a kid who’s finally getting its favourite candy. He would be lying if he said it isn’t the cutest thing he has ever witnessed. If it means making Jeongguk this happy, Jimin is willing to risk it all. He thinks that, right now, it’s better if he listens to his heart rather than his brain.

 

“I’m happy if you’re happy.” He says with a stupidly sweet smile, and it’s so cheesy, so idiotically cliché, but he cannot find it in himself to care. Maybe meeting Jeongguk was supposed to happen. Maybe Jeongguk was supposed to turn Jimin’s life upside down. Jimin still isn’t sure how he feels about it. He isn’t sure if it’s a good or a bad thing and if he should look forward to the happy tornado that is Jeon Jeongguk, or should he be scared. Right now, though, he just wants to see Jeongguk smiling, and he’ll do anything for that smile.

~

“You did what now?” Yoongi’s jaw drops open and a few pieces of food he had just bitten, fall out. Jimin would find it funny and laugh under any other circumstances, but currently he’s feeling sick to his stomach and he barely got the words out and it’s all just a big mess in his head. Yoongi, him and Taehyung decided to hang out at Taehyung’s and Jimin’s apartment a day after Jimin has agreed to become Jeongguk’s accompaniment. He hadn’t told Taehyung separately, but instead waited for all three of them to be together again to get the news out.

 

Taehyung literally jumps out of his seat, almost knocking down a can of beer in the process. “Oh my god, you’re not joking, right??” He’s almost screaming, his voice a few decibels too loud. Jimin would scold him at any other moment but right now, he understands. The overreaction is excused because Jimin overreacted himself. He barely slept at all last night, dwelling over if it was a good idea to help Jeongguk or not. What’s done is done though, because Jeongguk applied them both on the very same day. He was so excited, so full of energy, Jimin couldn’t tell him his fears. Not yet at least.

 

“No, I’m not. I’m really going to be Jeongguk’s accompaniment for the competition.” He says quietly. His throat is clogged up, so it takes all of his strength to stay firm and certain in what he’s saying. It’s so sudden, the decision he has made. It is a shock to him, let alone the people who know him so well. It’s not explainable. He cannot figure it out and unravel it himself. He thinks that maybe it has been in the back of his mind ever since his first encounter with Jeongguk. Maybe even before that. He cannot deny his love for piano. Even to this day, he still likes listening to it, even if it brings so much pain. He doesn’t think a part of him can let go of it. His life is unfulfilled without it and he cannot lie to himself about that anymore.

 

“Wow… I, wow. Jiminie that’s…. amazing,” comes out of Yoongi, his food completely forgotten by his side. All of their food is, in fact, laying forgotten currently. Taehyung still looks too appalled to say anything, only staring at Jimin like he’s a ghost and not human. “You… are you sure you’re okay enough to do it? I’m not doubting you, Jiminie, but it’s only been a few days since you were convincing us that it’s too much for you and that you can’t.  So, I’m just wondering… what made you change your mind? What changed?” Yoongi’s eyes are kind. His features soft and assuring. Jimin knows he can trust him, but the problem is, he doesn’t know the answer to the question himself. He may be even more confused than Yoongi himself.

 

He shrugs and looks down at his lap, the can of half drank beer still in his hands. “I don’t know. He… He looked so sad and defeated so I… I didn’t want to see him look like that so I just… offered myself.” He bites the bottom of his lip, trying not to worry and fear everything but that’s next to impossible.

 

A hand grips his shoulder reassuringly, and when he looks up again, Yoongi has a smile on his face. “That’s good, Jimin. Whatever the reason, I think it will do you good. Once you get back to your passion… you’re going to love it, Jiminie, I can feel it.”

 

“Yeah.” Taehyung confirms, looking a little more like himself now. “That’s amazing, that’s really… I’m so proud of you Jimin. We both are. Jeongguk is a great kid and working with him and going back to your real passion might just change your life again, you know.” Taehyung is always like this, making comments that make him seem more mature. They never fail to assure Jimin in a way no one else can. He smiles as best as he can and shifts his gaze between both of them.

 

“Thank you both. I really, really hope so.” The hug they share lasts for minutes.

~

The path he’s walking on isn’t all that unfamiliar. He’s taken it a few times when going to Yoongi but right now, Yoongi isn’t the reason he is walking in that direction. It’s more nerve-wracking, and it feels more emotional than it has ever felt before. He doesn’t know what to expect – from Jeongguk or from himself for that matter. They have to practice if they want to be as good as possible. There’s no time for Jimin to think again and again about all of this. He has made a promise and he’s not the one to back away from his promises. Jeongguk needs him and he’ll be damned if he isn’t going to give his all. It is painful. It is nowhere near easier, but he’s willing to try and change that. He cannot keep living like this – in constant fear and pain. Nobody can and he’s no exception.

 

The building of a small music company is bigger than he remembers. It’s been a few months already, since he’s last visited. Yoongi keeps working day and night, producing and writing music whenever he can, barely getting any sleep in between. It’s not that someone’s forcing him to do that, it’s just the way he is. He’s one of the few company’s music producers so the big chunk of work comes into his hands. He never complains though because it’s something he loves doing ever since he knew what words producing and music equipment meant. Jimin thinks he would be empty without it. Something like Jimin is right now, without his piano. There are tingles running down his arms and hands when he remembers that he’s going to play the piano soon. There’s an itch in his hands, anticipation to finally play the piano again. Mixed emotions are swirling around his brain, making him feel torn. He almost turns around at one moment, but the voice in his head stops him from doing so, saying Your want to play the piano again is bigger than your want to run away. He thinks that might be true.

 

When he’s a few feet away from the building, he stops walking just for a few seconds. He takes a deep breath, trying to calm himself down – to collect his thoughts and clear his mind. He almost needs as much time to take those few last steps as he needed to get there. Walking inside the building, he’s met with few of the staff members walking around and teenagers that look like trainees giving him a few odd glances. However, the initial awkwardness is swept away once he sees a face he’s seen every time he would make his appearance here. Dressed in a tailored suit, with a big, bright smile that matches his younger brother’s is Seokjin, walking towards him in ushered steps.

 

“Jiminie! It’s so nice to see you again!” He exclaims, wrapping his arms around Jimin and hugging his smaller frame tightly. Jimin smiles at the affection and wonders, once again, how he has missed out on Jeongguk all this time. He must’ve been a fool.

 

No.

 

He is a fool.

 

“It’s nice to see you, too, Seokjin-hyung. How have you been?” He asks once they part. He looks as good as always, handsome to boot. His hair is styled messily but he still manages for it to look like art. His eyes are as kind as ever and he’s looking at Jimin like he has just given him to world. Jimin doesn’t know how to feel about that.

 

“I’ve been good, thank you for asking, Jiminie. And thank you so much for agreeing to help my brother. You have no idea how much it means to all of us. It’s been his wish since forever to enter this competition, so you taking a chance on him and helping him really means so much. I couldn’t be more grateful to you.” His words are sincere, just like his eyes, and Jimin doesn’t know how to take it all in. Everyone is thanking him so much, like he has given Jeongguk the world and he doesn’t see the point. It’s all on Jeongguk anyway.

 

“No, I’m glad to help. I was really sad he couldn’t find anyone and… and if I could help in any way, I wanted to do it. I think I should thank you and him for this opportunity really.” He manages to get out. It’s probably the most honest thing he has said in these few days. He should be grateful that Jeongguk made him want to play the piano again because nobody until now has managed to do it. He owes Jeongguk more than Jeongguk owes him.

 

“No, no, really Jimin… Jeongguk admired-”

 

“Hyuuuuuung!! What are you bothering my Jiminie-hyung about?” Comes the whiny voice behind Seokjin and Jimin almost chokes on his spit. My Jiminie-hyung. Christ. Jimin is really about to have a heart attack. He stares at pouty Jeongguk in wonder as he approaches. Jimin’s thoughts are a mess again. Jeongguk tugs at his brother’s sleeve when he gets close enough. “We have work to do, you know, and you are holding him back.” He’s still pouting and Jimin wants to do anything to wipe that pout off his face. It’s messing with his brain too much.

 

“Ahhh, I’m sorry, my little brother. That wasn’t my intention.” Seokjin says teasingly with a wicked grin on his face at which Jeongguk only rolls his eyes. His gaze switches to Jimin then and his smiles becomes just a little bit bigger – or Jimin’s imagining it all, he isn’t quite sure.

 

“Come on, Jiminie-hyung. We have to get started, I’m soooo excited.” He lets go off Seokjin and then, Jimin’s hand is being wrapped around a slightly bigger one that is tugging him towards the direction of their practice room. Jimin stumbles as Jeongguk pulls him along with him and his heart does a stupid flippidy-flop thing again and he isn’t sure if it’s himself or his heart that is falling more and more.

 

 

The piano in the practice room isn’t big or grand or anything special. But it’s the prettiest piano Jimin has ever seen. It may have something to do with the fact that it comes along with Jeongguk’s bright, shining smile but Jimin’s not going to be the one to admit that. He smiles despite himself as he runs his fingers over the keys. The most he has done in the past few years is playing a few notes here and there when he would visit Yoongi. Even that was so tiring for Jimin mentally. Yoongi could barely convince him to do even that much. That is why he isn’t quite sure if he’ll be able to be of any help. Maybe he’ll stop in the middle, maybe he won’t be able to start playing at all. He’s not sure himself, even though he doesn’t want to disappoint Jeongguk in any way.

 

“It’s okay.” Jeongguk voice is close to his ear. Jimin didn’t even notice when he moved, didn’t even notice the presence of another body by his side. He didn’t even notice the hand running up and down the lower part of his back. Not until now. “Take your time, hyung. I know it’s hard. We’ll take it one step at the time. We can do this.” He sounds so certain, so sure of Jimin that Jimin feels almost guilty. Jeongguk positive energy has some kind of effect on him though; because he finds himself nodding at his words. He can do this. He must do this. They won’t fail because of him. He won’t take this away from Jeongguk because of his own stupid fears.

 

“Okay… Thank you so much, Jeonggukie.” He means it. He really, really does. It means so much, to be understood by him. Jeongguk could very well be unreasonable if he wanted to be. Jimin doesn’t know if there’s more to it or if there are any particular reasons for it, but he isn’t the one to question it.

 

It takes him a while – around half an hour. He’s sitting down and just looking at the keys. The music score in front of him is not the one he’s one hundred percent familiar with but it is also not particularly hard or anything. Sixteen-year-old Jimin would be able to play it with ease. And his mother would clap in amazement. He shakes his head, trying to let go of those thoughts inside his head. He cannot let them win, not this time.

 

Placing his fingers on the piano keys is a step forward. He focuses his eyes on the score in front of him, reading over the notes carefully. The first notes he plays are sloppy and hasty. They don’t sound good to his ear and he doubts they sound right to Jeongguk as well. He doesn’t stop though – doesn’t allow himself to. He plays more and more, getting deeper and deeper into the composition. It’s a messy composition. It’s nowhere near the perfect score he’s used to playing. It, however, has a certain charm to it and he sees why Jeongguk would pick it. The composer isn’t written anywhere so Jimin cannot check if he’s ever heard of them.

 

He plays and plays. He plays the score over and over, pouring every single emotion he’s feeling to the top of his fingertips. His eyebrows are furrowed, his face stern and it’s nowhere near the perfectly-composed face everyone always taught him to have. He cannot mask it. He cannot mask what he’s feeling or how everything makes him furious and sad and happy and the same time. Somewhere in the middle of his mad playing, Jeongguk takes a seat beside him, careful not to disturb him. Jimin can feel his eyes on him. He can feel that he isn’t watching the piano or the score like Jimin is. Instead, he has his eyes trained on Jimin’s face. What he’s looking at, Jimin cannot tell. He doesn’t let it affect him and his playing. He continues, without a break and he’s not even sure how it all sounds and if he’s making any sense with the way he’s playing. His ears have lost its sense of hearing ever since he started to play. He hears nothing. The sound is drowning. He’s drowning. He doesn’t allow it to have an influence on him. He doesn’t allow it to make him stop playing the same notes over and over again – not until he’s convinced it sounds as good as it sounded seven years ago.

 

And then it stops. The hand stops it. His hands stop moving once there’s a hand over one of his own. Suddenly, he’s awake. It feels as if he’s waking up from a bad, bad dream. It shakes him up so much he almost falls down the chair. “Hyung, stop.” Whispers a voice next to Jimin’s ear. He’s shaking all over. There’s a cold sweat running down his forehead and cheeks and neck. He didn’t even feel it. He felt nothing. He felt nothing of a cold, harsh reality that greeted him. “It’s okay, hyung, please. It’s okay to stop now. Take a break, you can’t keep on playing like this.” Jeongguk’s voice is soothing, assuring and Jimin drinks it all in. He closes his eyes and tries to breathe. It’s so overwhelming. It’s so overwhelming and he has no idea how to get away from it all.

 

“I’m sorry.” He manages to choke out, his voice trembling uncontrollably. The hand that was once on his own, now wraps around his shoulders and pulls him into his chest. Jimin doesn’t remember when he has started sobbing. He doesn’t remember when all of these tears left his eyes, leaving the traces on his cheeks, making them red and puffy. Jeongguk wraps his other arm around him as well and pulls him impossibly closer. Jimin doesn’t think when he clutches onto Jeongguk t-shirt or when he sobs into the same t-shirt, hiding his face in the crook of Jeongguk’s neck. “I’m so sorry, Jeongguk, so sorry.” He says between the sobs but Jeongguk only shushes him.

 

“It’s okay, hyung, I understand. It’s going to be okay. We’ll get through this.” And Jimin really wants to believe him, he really does, but he isn’t sure they’ll find a way how.

~

A few days later, Jimin learns who helped Jeongguk with the choreography for the competition. If Jimin thought Jeongguk is bright and a ball of sunshine, then he doesn’t think there are words to describe how Jung Hoseok is like. He’s the same age as Namjoon and he’s attending K-ARTS along with Jeongguk. Jimin can see immediately that Jeongguk looks up to him and his dancing a lot. And, Jimin must admit, the moment he has seen Hoseok dance, he was mesmerized as well. That isn’t to say Jeongguk doesn’t look absolutely wonderful and beautiful while dancing, but Jimin can see why Jeongguk admires Hoseok so much.

 

Hoseok hugs Jimin as if they’ve known each other for ages the first time they meet. He’s fast to compliment Jimin on his piano skills, even if Jimin played as much as just a scale. It takes Jimin by surprise – Hoseok’s openness and enthusiasm. He’s always there, brightening up the mood and trying to make Jimin smile at least once. It is an effort Jimin appreciates.

 

“I think you’ll do great, Jeongguk-ah. The choreography is tight, your moves are sharp and you’re showing your emotions well. There’s just a few places here and there where you’re a little bit sloppy but that’s nothing you cannot fix with a little bit of practice.” Hoseok assures Jeongguk, putting a hand on his shoulder in encouragement. The auditions are only a week away and Jimin feels far from ready. Sure, he’s gotten a lot better than his first attempt at playing the piano, his fear and anger simmering down significantly. However, it is nowhere near the perfection he craves and no matter how much Jeongguk assures him that he is getting better and that he will be amazing in a weeks’ time, Jimin cannot seem to believe it. Not when his ears are still drowning the melody out, not when the ringing surrounding him never seems to differ away. He tries to stay positive for Jeongguk though. It’s the least he deserves after all.

 

“Thank you, hyung. Thanks for helping me, I wouldn’t be able to do everything without you.” Jeongguk’s grinning so hard, his eyes turn into crescents and Jimin cannot help himself but to stare in awe. He wonders if his awe over everything Jeongguk does will ever fade away. Somehow, he doubts it because the boy is worth all the awe in this world. 

 

“I’m always here, Jeongguk, for whatever you need. You know that.” The door of the practice room opens and Namjoon’s head pops out behind the doors. “Oh, hey Namjoon! Were you waiting for long?” Hoseok asks, peeling himself away from Jeongguk’s side and starting to walk towards Namjoon’s curious face.

 

“Oh, hi hyung. Are you two going somewhere?” Jeongguk looks just as confused as Jimin feels. His eyebrows are raised high which makes him look a little bit like a lost bunny. Jimin would mush over it if he was alone but he guesses he’ll have to save that for later.

 

“Yeah, we’re going to go eat out today. We’ll see you later, Gguk-ah, yeah?” Hoseok states, turning around to give them both a smile. Jimin doesn’t want to pry on any of them so he just smiles back. It looks like Jeongguk has the same idea because he only nods and gives them a thumbs up.

 

“See you later, guys,” is all he says before Namjoon and Hoseok both disappear behind the closed doors. Jeongguk then turns towards him. Jimin cannot see the trace of worry anymore, his face looking so blissfully radiant that Jimin tries his best to remember it, to capture it in his mind and never forget it. It’s the way he likes Jeongguk the most – happy with no worries creasing his adorable face. “Are you ready to continue, Jiminie-hyung?” He asks, just a little bit of a teasing tone in his voice. Jimin doesn’t mind it one bit.

 

“Yeah, Ggukie, I am.” They continue to practice until both of them are too tired to move anymore.

 

That night is the first, but not the last, they fall asleep exhausted in the practice room, hard floor underneath them but arms secured around each other like a blanket they both do not miss or need.

~

“It’s going to be okay, Jimin. Trust me. I know you and you’re going to do amazing. Calm down. Deep breaths. Think about Jeongguk. Positive thoughts only. You’ve both worked so hard for this. You’ve both put your blood, sweat and tears into this. But you’ve been here for each other and you’ve pulled through these few exhausting days. You cannot let your demons win now, Jimin. You’re good enough. You’ve always been good enough. You won’t fail him.”

 

“How do you know that, Yoongi? I can barely hear myself play. I can barely play the score right. He’s going to fail because of an incompetent accompaniment. He’s going to hate me for the rest of his life, hyung. I’m an idiot for thinking I could do this. I should’ve never even promised anything.”

 

Doors open.

 

“Yoongi, Jimin and Jeongguk are up in ten minutes.”

 

“I’m going to calm him down till then, don’t worry. Just make sure Jeongguk doesn’t find us. Keep him away from this room, Tae.”

 

“Okay, I’ll do that, hyung. I’m sorry for not being of any help.”

 

“No, you are doing more than enough.”

 

“Thank you.”

 

Doors close.

 

“Jimin, listen to me. You’re good enough. You’re an amazing pianist. You may not be as good as when you were sixteen, but you’re still better than ninety-five percent of world’s population. I believe in you. And Taehyung believes in you. And Namjoon and Hoseok and Seokjin believe in you. But most importantly, Jeongguk believes in you the most. He wouldn’t ask you to be his accompaniment if he didn’t trust you. Please, believe me when I say he admires you so, so much and that he would want nobody else but you. Even when I made suggestion to play for him, he said: No, it’s either Jiminie-hyung or no one. He likes you so much, Jimin, you have no idea.”

 

“W-what? I thought he couldn’t find anyone.”

 

“And he couldn’t. At first. Then he was getting desperate and when you two finally met, he had his eyes set on you and only you. When you rejected him the first time, I offered to be his accompaniment because I saw how much he was struggling. And I didn’t want him to give up on the competition just like that. But he was so certain he was going to convince you, one way or another. When that didn’t work, he said it makes no sense to compete without you. Not to him anyway. But then you offered yourself and he was over the moon. He doesn’t even show half of what he feels for you… to you. But believe me when I say he admires and likes you so much he would do anything for you. He’s so precious, Jimin. So please, you do this for him. Do as best as you can – and I know you can. You are strong and brave, Jimin, and you can play your heart out like you did seven years ago. If not for yourself, then do it for Jeongguk. Because the boy needs it more than anyone.”

 

“A-are… you aren’t lying now just to make me go, right?”

 

“I would never lie about something like this, Jimin.”

 

Silence.

 

“Okay… okay I’m going. I’m really going now.”

 

“You can do it, Jimin.”

 

“Thank you, hyung, so much.”

 

“Anytime, Jiminie. I’m always here for you.”

 

 

Jimin’s head is spinning. He cannot feel his fingers. He doesn’t know what just happened. He can barely register the tight applause coming from the judges or Jeongguk’s arms wrapped around his shoulder, him barely keeping himself up, clinging onto Jimin for support. It’s overwhelming. It’s all too much but Jimin thinks this is what happiness feels like.

 

“You did amazing, hyung.” Jeongguk gets out between deeps breaths he is taking. “We did amazing, hyung. The judges loved us. I loved us. It was incredible. You improved so much over the past week. It was so different from the first time you played for me, hyung.” He’s smiling, blindingly so, despite the fatigue he’s clearly feeling. Jimin’s face muscles move on his own, until he’s smiling right back at Jeongguk – no holdbacks, no fakeness behind it. It’s one of those honest, happy smiles only Jeongguk manages to get out of him.

 

“You were even more incredible, Ggukie. The way you moved across the stage was so enchanting. Everyone loved you – your passion, your bright smile, the way you pulled everyone in just with your dance. Not everyone is able to do that, I hope you know that.” He says honestly, staring at those deep-coloured eyes that tell so much, but so little at the same time. He wants to keep staring forever.

 

“Thank you. But all of that wouldn’t be possible without you, Jiminie-hyung. If it weren’t for you sitting there, by that piano, I don’t think I would be able to do as well as I did. You did so much for me, I’m really grateful and thankful to you.” He says it so quietly that it seems as if it’s some shared secret between them that nobody else should know about. And Jimin thinks how he wants to keep it to himself. He doesn’t want anyone to know about Jeongguk’s words that engrave each other into his heart. He wants to thank him thousands of times, but he thinks that, even then, it wouldn’t be enough.

 

“There they are!!” Their moment is broken by the loud shouts coming from Hoseok and Taehyung’s high-pitched screams. Their safe bubble is burst so they quickly look away from each other and focus their gazes on their friends. This is the first time Jimin sees them all together – Namjoon, Yoongi, Hoseok, Taehyung and Seokjin. They’ve managed to sneak a peek into their audition through the backstage doors and Jimin doesn’t even want to question how they got away with it. He’s just happy they are here. All five of them have matching grins on their faces, looking like proud parents. Jimin almost finds it adorable. Almost.

 

Jeongguk lets go of him as they approach them and start hugging them one by one. It’s a lot of hugs to take in all at once and Jimin would like to mind it more than he actually does. “You did perfect, Jiminie.” Yoongi assures as he hugs Jimin and pats him on the back.

 

“Thank you. For everything. Thank you for bringing me back to my senses back then.” It’s hard. And Jimin thinks it will always be hard for him because painful memories don’t go away just like that. However, he has so many people that support him and that are there for him, so he thinks he’ll be fine. He has to. For Jeongguk. If not for his own sake, then for Jeongguk’s.

 

“I’ll always be there for you, Jiminie. Don’t you worry, okay?” Jimin nods against Yoongi’s neck and a small smile frames his face. Yeah, he’ll really be fine.

 

“You guys ready to celebrate?” Taehyung asks a few minutes later, all bright smiles and hyperactive spirit. Jimin feels tired and he is aware that Jeongguk feels even more tired as well. It’s not like they can avoid it though. The audition passed well. The results will be posted on a website tomorrow. There’s not much they can do until then. Plus, Jimin owes them. He’s caused so much stress for all of them. The least he can do is have fun with his group of friends. And when he looks at Jeongguk and sees him nodding along enthusiastically, he’s even more convinced.

 

“Yeah, for sure. Let’s go!” He half-shouts and they all laugh.

 

Nobody’s sad when they leave to celebrate that night.

~

The weather gets warmer, Jimin’s and Jeongguk’s relationship grows brighter and Jimin’s heart starts to beat a little bit faster each passing day.

 

They practice a lot. They are both hardworkers who seem not to know when to stop. If it weren’t for Seokjin or sometimes Yoongi, they would both probably burn out in no time. One time, Jeongguk came to the point where he almost collapsed but Jimin was quick to catch him and bring him water and let him take a long rest. More often than not, they end up sleeping in the practice room. It’s uncomfortable. It’s nowhere near ideal. But Jimin somehow prefers resting his head on Jeongguk’s chest more than he likes sleeping in his own bed. He almost forgets to care about college and work with all the hassle about the competition. He neglects the important exam and almost fails, but luckily, his smart brains don’t fail him, and he barely passes it. He doesn’t think about it much however. College isn’t his first priority at the moment and with the piano back into his life, it’s not his greatest passion either. Not really.

 

When it comes to the piano, he plays so much his fingers start to bleed at one point. He has to take a break few days long then for them to heal properly. His hard work, however, soon starts to pay off. Even him, himself, his biggest critic, starts to see some progress. The sound is still drowning in his ears, but he can somewhat feel himself getting progressively better. Even Jeongguk and Yoongi say so as well, Yoongi coming by sometimes to watch and listen to them practice. He comes off as a great help because he would point out details Jimin needs to fix that he himself or Jeongguk couldn’t quite catch or hear.

 

It’s another piece they are practising for the first round of the competition right now, as they passed the auditions with flying colours, and it’s a bit harder for Jimin than it was the case with the first one. The notes are more complicated, and the rhythm is a lot faster. Both of his hands don’t get to rest, and his right foot hitting the pedal underneath is not in any better position either. He works even harder and tries even more to please Jeongguk as best as he can. It’s Jeongguk telling him to slow down most of the time, and Jimin tries to take breaks and not overwork himself. Him and Jeongguk are both idiots though, so most time than not, they do the opposite.

 

“He’s really happy he’s doing this with you, you know.” Seokjin says one day when they’re eating lunch together. Jeongguk has gone to the bathroom and Jimin guesses Seokjin decided to use that chance to say some stuff to him. He doesn’t know if he should be scared or not.

 

“I… Why do you say that?” He asks quietly, taking a little piece of beef and putting it into his mouth. It’s easier for Jeongguk and him both, to eat at the company’s cafeteria as they aren’t wasting any precious time going somewhere else, when they might’ve spent that time practising. Seokjin is always quick to order them anything they want, and he always joins them, chatting away and never letting the conversation die down. Jimin likes him a lot. He can see how Jeongguk and him are brothers, with their laughs and the ways of talking so similar. It’s very endearing in some way.

 

“Because I feel like you don’t see it and you should. You’ve taken my place as his favourite hyung, so I thought you should be aware of it.” He winks at him playfully. “No but seriously, you make him so happy I’m glad you came into his life. And I think… it also happened at the right moment. So yeah, you really are special to him.” At that moment, Jeongguk walks back into the room, not failing to tease and ask what they were gossiping about.

 

Jimin, however, can’t seem to forget Seokjin’s words. They get stuck in his head and repeat themselves over and over again like a broken record. Sometimes he wants to ask Jeongguk if it’s true, if what his brother has said is really what he feels like. He’s too much of a coward though, so he cannot make himself do so. He watches the way Jeongguk looks at him though. The way he treats him and slowly he starts to believe Seokjin’s words.

~

“I want to do it.”

 

“You’re serious, Jimin? You really want to try composing?”

 

“Yeah I… I have things I want to get off my chest.”

 

“But you want to do a piano composition?”

 

“Yeah… I want to compose my own piece and record it. I know that’s not what you usually do because you’re so focused on pop and hip-hop music, but if you could help me just this once… I promise I won’t ask you about something like this ever again.”

 

“It’s fine, Jimin. Of course I’ll help you. You don’t even have to ask. Is there any particular reason you want to do this? Do you want to give it someone?”

 

“I… I feel like I owe something to this person. So yeah, I guess you could say that. But I also want to do it for myself. I missed music so much and now that I’m finally doing it again, I feel… better and I just want to express it the only way I know.”

 

“That’s great, Jiminie. We can start working on it whenever you are ready, okay?”

 

“Okay, thank you, hyung, so much.”

 

“Always.”

~

The day of the first round of the competition comes and Jimin’s feeling less nervous and less panicked than he did on the day of the auditions. He’s dressed in a nice suit that suits his body frame well. He looks like a real pianist this time around. Jeongguk is dressed like a proper contemporary dancer, all glittery costumes and shiny make-up, even though his style of dancing doesn’t fit the styling all that well. Nonetheless, he looks so gorgeous Jimin cannot take his eyes off of him. He’s so beautiful, so eternally tantalizing, Jimin cannot help his heart fluttering just a little. Then again, it has become so normal for his heart to beat a little bit faster whenever Jeongguk was near that he barely registers it anymore. In this particular moment, though, he thinks his heart fell even harder than it already did.

 

“You’re absolutely stunning.” He doesn’t even realise he says it, not until Jeongguk’s smile widens and he’s wrapping his arms around Jimin’s waist tightly. Jimin doesn’t hesitate to hug him back.

 

“No, I think you meant yourself, beautiful.” It’s so annoyingly cliché Jimin wants to slap him for being so cheesy. He holds back though and only laughs lightly against his neck. “We’re going to be great, Jiminie-hyung. We’re going to conquer the whole world.” Jeongguk’s voice is exploding with confidence Jimin’s never possessed. He sounds so doubtless, so confident like he’s able to predict the future and already knows the outcome.

 

“We are. You and me. Together.” Jimin doesn’t know why he says it or even how he says it. He guesses it’s Jeongguk’s influence on him. He’s spent so much time with the boy, he’s starting to rub off on him. He doesn’t mind it one bit. If it meant being in this gorgeous boy’s presence and being able to hear him laugh and cry and see him smile… then he’s willing to let him be the influence he needs.

 

“Together.” Jeongguk repeats and Jimin can feel him smiling into his shoulder. They have the competition in their hands. Even Jimin’s starting to believe in it.

 

 

“Damn, that was even better than the audition. Jeongguk, you killed it!” Namjoon is the first one to shout this time, pulling Jeongguk into a bear hug, his dimples on full display.

 

“You were also amazing, Jimin. Your playing got so much better I’m… I’m incredibly proud of you. You worked so hard and… I can see the sixteen-year-old in you.” It’s Taehyung. It’s Taehyung that says it, looking into his eyes with pride and amazement. He hugs him so hard it almost knocks a breath out of Jimin. “You’re so good, Jimin, more than good. Your mother would be proud.” It’s the sentence that makes Jimin’s eyes wet. He hugs Taehyung tight, like he did so often when they were younger. He hugs him so tight and buries his face into Taehyung’s chest, trying to stop the tears from escaping his eyes.

 

“I know she would, Tae, I know. I know I did well and I’m so… happy.” He says through the lump in his throat. To his own surprise, he manages to hold back those tears, manages to keep them at bay and grin instead. Yeah, his mother would be happy, so happy, so proud. She always was. She never once failed to clap and cheer for him, even if he did less than perfect. His demons were strong, but his mother’s happy face in front of his eyelids was stronger.

 

The hand grips his shoulder reassuringly and he doesn’t even have to look to know who it is. Still, he peels himself away from Taehyung and looks at Jeongguk’s shiny face. The make-up is still strong. It didn’t come off even after so much dancing. With sweat combined, it should look gross but to Jimin, it looks like a piece of art.

 

“We’ve conquered the world.” Jimin says with a smile and Jeongguk matches his own. For a moment, Jimin forgets there are other five people surrounding them. Just like the first time he has seen Jeongguk. He forgets that there are people watching them and that forgetting the world right now, at this moment, may not seem like such a good idea – that getting lost in Jeongguk’s brilliant brown eyes is the last thing he needs. However, his heart doesn’t ask. Looking at Jeongguk like that, after they’ve just gotten every member of the audience on their feet, clapping and screaming for them, it makes him feel like there’s no one else. No one else that matters and no one else he should think about. He feels invincible, with Jeongguk by his side. Almost like nothing, nobody could break him at this very moment. And he thinks Jeongguk might feel the same.

 

“Together.” Jeongguk repeats and smiles knowingly. It’s their little secret. Nobody needs to know the meaning behind it. It matters to no one but them.

 

“Together.” He says as well, whispers it, only for Jeongguk to hear. And if it weren’t for Hoseok’s loud cough he thinks they would keep staring at each other forever.

 

They come in first place that night.

~

The stars are shining especially brightly that night. The sky was never as clear, never as beautiful as tonight – especially not in Seoul. If he really tries, Jimin can probably count all the stars glistering and shining and smiling down on him. With his hands in his pockets, he rocks his feet back and forth, waiting, impatiently so. One could say Park Jimin is nervous. He isn’t even sure why himself. There are numerous of thoughts swirling around in his head, making him think and rethink, think and rethink. He tries to calm down, tries to calm down his beating heart; but Jeon Jeongguk means too much, and music means too much, and those things combined make him anxious.

 

He hears familiar footsteps coming from behind him a few minutes later. His head snaps up and he looks over his shoulder, only to be met with dashing smile and glossy eyes. Jeongguk all but runs towards him, seeming to be happy just to see Jimin. It’s automatic, the way Jimin’s lips stretch into a wide grin. He cannot help it; not when Jeongguk is looking as bright as the night sky – not when Jimin’s so stupidly in love with him.

 

“Hey, hyung!” Jeongguk greets when he gets closer, almost too close but Jimin doesn’t protest.

 

“Hey, Jeonggukie. Thank you for coming.” He doesn’t stop smiling, doesn’t stop looking up at that face filled with pure glee and happiness. Something seems lighter in Jimin all of a sudden, like all of his anxiousness goes away. He feels at ease, around Jeongguk. Even though he makes him feel awfully anxious at times, when he sees that beaming smile, all of his worries go away and he’s sure. He is sure it’s going to be fine.

 

“Always. What did you want to show me?” Jimin grips at the iPod in his pocket. He’s still uncertain; afraid it isn’t good enough and that Jeongguk won’t like it – won’t enjoy it. It’s so important to him – music. He let go of it years ago, feeling betrayed, never wanting to come back to it. It was too hard for him. It was all just too much, and all of his passion couldn’t have saved him from quitting. However, now. Now that Jeongguk came into his life like a tornado, a storm, sweeping away everything he has ever known; showing him different ways to perceive and understand music, making him see that he still has that same passion – hidden away somewhere just waiting to be let out again, it’s a different story altogether. Jeongguk gave him the push, became the backbone he’s needed all along. He has never been more grateful to someone in his life, so he wants to repay. But music is so important to him and it’s so important to Jeongguk and he doesn’t want to disappoint neither of them. He hopes he doesn’t.

 

“Can we sit over there? I want you to listen to something.” He points at the bench behind them. It’s old and rusty but it doesn’t matter. Jeongguk only nods and without another word starts walking towards it. Once he sits down, Jeongguk leans back and takes a deep breath with a little smile forming on his lips.

 

“What is it, hyung, what is it? Don’t keep me waiting any longer, please.” He looks over at Jimin and pouts prettily. Jimin stares at him, bewildered, his lips slightly apart. He tries to find words before realising they mean nothing. Instead, he shuffles the hand into his pocket and takes out his iPod, bright red earphones wrapped around it. He unwraps them and hands one over to Jeongguk.

 

He looks away before speaking up, his face and neck crimson red. “I have been composing this for the last three weeks. I know it isn’t perfect, I know it’s not nearly good enough, but… Jeonggukie… you helped me so much. Helped me see what I couldn’t see. Helped me face my biggest fears, my biggest regrets… You helped me find my passion again, my true self who’s been buried underneath all my despairs. So, I wanted to give something back, and show you what you have managed to draw out of me. I hope… I hope it’s okay.” His voice goes airy at the end, the sound barely passing beyond his lips. He’s not certain if Jeongguk hears it but he’s too afraid to look. He shuffles with his iPod before hitting play and letting the sweet and torturous melody fill both of their ears.

 

It starts out slow, painfully so. There is a sense of longing, of sadness, but also hope.  Then it starts to build up, and the piano gets heavier, the emotions getting more confused, more mixed, angrier. And then it dissolves. It dissolves into a sweet melody, almost like the storm has passed and now, all the emotions are at place, sure and certain. It skips. The melody skips and it’s so happy, like being in love for the very first time.

 

Jimin doesn’t take his eyes off of his lap, before he feels a slight pressure against his pinky. When he looks to the side, there, wrapping around his pinky, it’s Jeongguk’s much bigger one, warm and assuring. Jimin feels his face becoming impossibly hotter but he still looks up. Jeongguk’s doe-like eyes are looking at him, soft and assuring and sincere. Jimin’s gaze is locked on Jeongguk’s. He cannot look away any longer, no matter how much his body wants to do so. He gulps, getting a strange feeling in his stomach and he thinks he might throw up any second. Before he can try and run out of here though, Jeongguk’s other hand is cupping his cheek, his thumb painting over his cheekbone.

 

Closer. His face is closer. His eyes are closer. His lips are closer and all Jimin can see and hear and breathe is Jeongguk, Jeongguk, Jeongguk. Jimin’s eyes flutter shut, his lips fall slightly apart and then Jeongguk’s lips melt into his own. Jimin’s heart feels as if it’s about to burst and crash and burn. He fists his hands into Jeongguk’s jacket, pulling him closer wanting and needing more and more. Their breaths mingling, their lips pressing, moving together as if dancing, and needing everything and anything from each other. Jimin wants to say so much. He wants to say so much just with his lips against Jeongguk’s. Everything that he cannot say out loud, he wants to express it with this kiss.

 

 Jeongguk. Jeongguk is so precious and Jimin feels a lot for him. Feelings he still cannot quite comprehend himself, still isn’t sure what they are or how strong they are. However, there is one thing he’s certain of – and that is that he wants to protect Jeongguk forever. He wants to keep him safe and sound, away from everything bad from this world – because Jeongguk is precious and kind and sweet and currently everything to Jimin. Maybe he’ll be everything to Jimin forever.

 

Maybe they will be forever.

 

Right at that moment, shooting star flies across the sky.

~

Everything changes.

 

And then again, not anything at all.

 

It is so easy, to fall into Jeongguk’s gravity even more. It is so easy, to get used to touches, to little kisses meaning a job well done. It is so easy to get used to Jeongguk’s warm arms circling his waist more times than not. It is easy mostly because they’ve done this so many times before. They were always comfortable around each other. The only difference is that now, Jimin knows for sure what that adoration in Jeongguk’s eyes is for. He now gets to feel those soft, warm lips pressed onto his own whenever he pleases. He gets to have Jeongguk entirely and he cherishes it and loves it so much, he hopes it will never end.

 

They keep practising to the best of their abilities. Jeongguk’s routines get more merciless, more rigorous and the pieces Jimin has to play get faster, messier and downright more tiring as well. Jimin doesn’t complain though. He loves it. He loves the way Jeongguk moves to the sound of his piano. He loves how he hits every note with his body, how he gets to show everything that he has along with Jimin’s playing. It makes Jimin feel a little bit smug, no matter how ridiculous that may sound. They still work way too hard and they both wear each other out way too much, but they’re happy. They’re happier than ever before, always having each other’s arms and embrace to fall back onto. There are their friends as well, of course, always looking out for them, always being their moral support. The first time they kissed in front of them, nobody was surprised. They only made gagging noises and told them to get a room, the gesture drawing the laugh out of both of them.

 

It is good. They are good and Jimin is happy and he wouldn’t change anything. Ever.

 

“Hey… when we’re finished with the practice… do you want to come back to mine?” Jeongguk asks him, quirking up one eyebrow. He’s holding a water bottle in his hands, opening it slowly while waiting for Jimin’s response. Jimin is drying his sweaty hair with the towel and he has barely processed what Jeongguk has asked him before he nodded his head eagerly. Whatever he asks, Jimin will agree with it anyways probably.

 

“Yay, we can get something to eat then and have a Marvel marathon or something.” Jeongguk starts saying excitedly in between the gulps of water he’s trying to drink and Jimin can’t help but to chuckle at his enthusiasm. Putting the towel down, he smiles fondly at Jeongguk.

 

“Sounds like an awesome plan, Gguk.” It almost comes out as a whisper, but it doesn’t pass Jeongguk’s ears. Instead, he smiles even brighter, runs up to Jimin and lifts him up like he weights nothing – like they are in some kind of a romantic movie and he’s the main character’s love interest. Jimin clings onto his strong shoulders as Jeongguk kisses him sweetly, the kiss almost impossible to keep because they are smiling too much. “You’re such a dork.” Jimin mumbles against his lips. He has a feeling his heart might burst from beating too fast at the moment. He’s so in love that he might just go into cardiac arrest.

 

“Only for you,” Jeongguk answers back and kisses him again for a good measure.

 

Jimin really feels like he might’ve fell a bit too hard.

 

 

Jeongguk insists on watching Iron Man even though he’s already seen it at least hundreds of times before, but Jimin can’t find it in his heart to protest. Instead, they get snacks and get comfortable on Jeongguk’s bed, Jimin’s head resting against Jeongguk’s chest while Jeongguk’s hand is stroking his hair softly. He’s completely immersed into the movie, his bamby eyes glistering from excitement and his teeth biting at his bottom lip in anticipation, like he already doesn’t know what’s going to happen next. Jimin though, Jimin can only focus on a hand in his hair, on the steady heartbeat beneath his head, on Jeongguk’s happy, boyish expression. He finds himself smiling unconsciously, staring at the perfection painted right in front of him. He could do this the whole day – his whole life even, probably. He could probably stare and admire Jeongguk forever. It doesn’t seem like something farfetched at all.

 

A few moments later, Jeongguk finally catches Jimin staring, so he looks away from the movie and looks at Jimin for a second. “Why are you staring? Do I have something on my face?” He furrows his eyebrows adorably, his lips forming a little pout. Jimin would coo if it wouldn’t be a bit creepy, so he only smiles wider.

 

He shakes his head and pecks Jeongguk’s nose. “No, baby, you don’t. I’m just admiring the art in front of me.” Jeongguk’s face goes different shades of red, his eyes looking away from Jimin’s. He burrows his head in Jimin’s neck, his cheeks wide from smiling.

 

“Oh god, Jimin, why are you so cringy?” He mutters against his neck, a light teasing tone colouring his voice. Jimin chuckles in response, rubbing at his back.

 

“You make me cringy, baby.” He admits, feeling no shame at all. He would be cringy with Jeongguk all the time if it meant having him clinging onto his body right after. His answer only makes Jeongguk groan and Jimin thinks he goes even redder. He didn’t think that is even possible though.

 

“Love you.” He whispers into his neck and kisses the spot right where his neck and shoulder meet. Jimin’s eyes grow wide, his mouth opening and closing but no words coming out. His whole body is frozen, feeling as if he cannot move the muscle from the shock. It comes to Jeongguk a moment later – what he has said. Jimin can feel the exact moment he realises because his lips go still against Jimin’s neck and he stops moving for a few seconds. He expects him to take it back, say that he’s said it without thinking and that he didn’t actually mean it – not yet at least.

 

However, it doesn’t take long for Jeongguk to move again, this time pealing himself away from Jimin’s neck and pressing their foreheads together. One of his hands comes to caress Jimin’s cheek, his eyes determined and honest. “I love you.” He repeats one more time, shocking Jimin again. “You don’t have to say it back, if you aren’t sure yet. But I’ve known for a while. You’re the love of my life, Jimin, and I want nobody else in it but you. You’re my rock. You keep me pushing forward. You’re bringing me out of my shell. And I love you, Jimin. I love you so much it hurts. And whenever you need me, whenever you want me to, I’ll always be by your side. I’ll always stand by you. I know I’m being incredibly cliché right now, but… I think you need to know that. I really, really love you.” He says it like it’s a secret. He tells it like he only wants Jimin to know – Jimin to hear. In that moment, Jimin is left speechless. He doesn’t know how to answer, what to say. There are so many things he would like Jeongguk to know – so many things he wants to express and say just like Jeongguk did. However, nothing seems to be able to go pass his lips. There are tears prickling at the corner of his eyes and, because he cannot do different, because his brain doesn’t seem to want to listen to him right now, he says nothing. Instead, he grabs Jeongguk’s face between both of his hands, pulls him in and kisses him with so much passion it takes both of their breaths away.

 

Everything he wants but cannot say. Everything he’s feeling inside of his heart, everything he feels inside of him mind… he tries to express it all in that one kiss. He’s crying, and he looks desperate and needy, but this is probably the first time in his life he doesn’t care. Jeongguk has given him so much. He’s shown him that it’s okay to fall down, but that he needs to get up again. He’s shown him how doing the thing he loves the most is not the crime just because his mother is gone. He brought him back to his first love and he would never be able to thank Jeongguk enough. Most of all though – Jeongguk taught him how to love again. He showed him how it feels to be loved, to be cherished – to feel free.

 

Jimin’s sure he will never feel about anyone the way he feels about Jeongguk. Something in him though, something in him is still not strong enough to say those words. He thinks that he still needs some time. That’s why Jimin kisses him breathless. They kiss until their lips are numb and both of them can barely feel them anymore. The movie is playing in the background, but it’s long forgotten.

 

They fall asleep wrapped in each other’s embrace, safe and sound. Jimin thinks he falls asleep with his lips turned upward.

~

Yoongi is messing around with some beats when Jimin walks into his studio. It’s a miracle he has managed to do that because Yoongi usually has his doors locked. Right now, though, he left them wide open like he knew Jimin is going to need him. His headphones are covering his ears completely, so he doesn’t turn around when Jimin comes in and shuts the door tight. He doesn’t even flinch when Jimin pulls up a chair from the corner of the studio and sits beside him. It’s only when Jimin taps his shoulder, does he turn his head around and looks at him in surprise. Jimin would laugh at how oblivious he is, but then again, he doesn’t wish for an early death so he only snickers and shoots him a soft smile. Yoongi finally takes his headphones off, stopping the loud music playing.

 

”Hey, Jiminie. Sorry, I didn’t hear you come in.”

 

He laughs. “I figured. I’m sorry if I’m bothering you but… I really needed to see you.” He says quietly, almost shyly, looking away from Yoongi’s questioning eyes and looking down at the desk in front of him. He knows there is nothing he should be afraid of asking Yoongi, of talking to Yoongi, but there’s still an ounce of fear creeping inside of him – of being judged, even though Yoongi would never do that.

 

“You’re not bothering, Jimin, don’t ever think you do.” He assures, giving his shoulder a light squeeze. “What is it? Is everything going okay with Jeonggukie?” At the mention of Jeongguk’s name, Jimin’s face immediately lights up. It’s funny and a bit embarrassing the way the mere mention of Jeongguk makes him feel – all fluttery and happy inside. And maybe he should feel ashamed because of it, but all he can feel is proudness and love and an incredible amount of affection and he just cannot find it in himself to be ashamed of that.

 

“Yeah, yeah… everything’s great. It’s just… I feel a bit guilty.”

 

“About what?” Yoongi gives him a confused look and Jimin’s face goes a bit red while thinking about what he has to say. It seems a bit stupid, a bit silly, but he can’t stop thinking about it – can’t stop thinking that he has done things the wrong way, even if Jeongguk didn’t say anything even the days after.

 

“Well, um… a few days ago… Jeongguk has kind of said to me that… t-that he loves me.” The last part is whispered, barely audible, but Jimin knows Yoongi catches it because he goes still for a second. He takes a deep breath and continues, still looking at the desk rather than Yoongi. “A-and… I didn’t say it back. When he said it, he said it was fine if I still don’t feel comfortable enough to say it and he acts like nothing’s different, but it still… bothers me in some way. I-I… I don’t know if I want to say it or better to say, how to say it. It’s all just… a bit too soon.” He manages to finish, letting it all out all at once. From the corner of his eye, he can see Yoongi watching him – nothing else. He doesn’t move, doesn’t change his expression, doesn’t show anything on his face. He almost looks passive-aggressive, but Jimin is aware he’s probably processing it all in his head.

 

“Do you think you feel the same, though?” The question leaves Jimin feeling dumbfounded. He finally looks up, eyes wide and blinking rapidly, trying to figure out what he was just asked. It takes him off guard, quite similar to how Jeongguk’s Love you took him by surprise.

 

“I… I… I don’t think I’m sure yet. Love is such a strong emotion and I’m… I’m definitely in love with him, but saying such big words is so, so hard for me and just… feeling that way is also too much way too soon and… in some way I feel like I’m not even allowing myself to feel everything I should because…”

 

“Because you’re afraid of everything being taken away from you again?” Yoongi finishes for him, carefully, his eyes filled with concern and wonder and worry. All Jimin can do is nod.

 

“Yeah… it just seems like everyone I love is torn away from me in some way and… and I don’t want the same to happen to Jeongguk. If I’ll love him… I want to love him for as long as he will let me. I want to hold him, have him, spend as much time as he wants me to spend it with him. Because I don’t think I’ll ever be able to stop loving him once I start. Maybe I already can’t. Maybe it’s already too late.” Instead of saying something, Yoongi stays quiet, pulls his chair a bit closer and wraps his arm around Jimin’s shoulders, pulling him into a tight hug. Jimin hugs him back automatically, only then realising that’s what he needed all along – comfort.

 

“It’s okay, Jimin.” He whispers into Jimin’s ear, his voice soothing, calming. “It’s okay to be afraid. It’s also okay to feel too much. Take your time. Jeongguk probably knows this, that’s why he said what he said. That’s why he doesn’t what to push you or persuade you to say those words back. He lets you go at your own pace – lets you decide what’s best for you. Because that’s what people that love you, do. I know it’s hard to not feel guilty but… but I think you also know he wouldn’t want that. That that wasn’t his intention. Take your time, Jimin, I know it’s hard.” They stay quiet for a few minutes, just holding each other tightly. Jimin tries to let those words sink it, to accept that it’s okay and that, one day, he’s going to be able to embrace Jeongguk wholly, without all of his insecurities getting in the way.

 

“Thank you, Yoongi-hyung, really,” is all he manages to say, but he knows it’s enough.

 

“You’re welcome.”

*

Hoseok climbs back into the bed, changed to clean boxers and smelling of soap. Namjoon stirs from the half-sleep he has fallen into. He would need to get up as well and freshen up, but he’s feeling very lazy and very much sore and he would rather stay laying forever. Preferably cuddle, but Hoseok was never the type. He has asked hundreds of times and the answer is always the same.

 

“Hey, come on, we got to get going soon. And I don’t want anyone barging in and seeing us like this.” Hoseok says close to his ear, all while shaking his shoulder roughly as if that will make Namjoon move faster. Namjoon tries not to roll his eyes and keep his annoyance at bay.

 

“Because you’re so ashamed of me, huh?” It slips out. He didn’t mean to say it out loud. He’s always good at controlling his emotions, calculating what he will say as to not get the other party hurt. Always good at analysing the situation and making the best out of the worst. But this… thing with Hoseok… it’s making one part of his brain somewhat irrational. He’s becoming more easily irritated, more rash, more… hurt. It’s clutching at his heart, everything that has to do with Hoseok, everything that has to do… with that. He doesn’t know how to deal. Neither does Hoseok. And he feels as if both of them are slowly, but surely losing their minds. Losing each other, spiralling down.

 

“Namjoon… fuck, we both know what would happen if anyone found out. Besides, how would you explain it? Oh, it’s nothing. We’re just two buddies fucking because we’re incapable of dealing with pain? Is that what you would say? And even if you would, how do you think they would take it? Especially Jeongguk… Fuck, he would feel so guilty. On top of everything… he really doesn’t need our shit right now.” And Hoseok’s right. Namjoon knows that. He isn’t stupid. He knows that somebody finding out about what they were doing would be way too much. They cannot handle it themselves, let alone other people. He doesn’t want anyone to feel guilty, especially not Jeongguk, because it’s not his fault his friends don’t know how to deal with problems, with pain, with heartbreak. The rational part of Namjoon knows that Hoseok and he should stop. He knows that they should seek professional help instead and find a healthy way to deal with it, and not ruin each other. But they are already far too deep into this and it’s too late to turn back now.

 

“I know. Fuck, I know, sorry Hoseok.” He rubs at his eyes and slowly gets into the sitting position. He’s all sticky and sweaty and he should clearly go take a shower because it’s sort of gross. His eyes focus on Hoseok and he’s met with a small, soft smile, their little argument already forgetting. “Kiss me, please?” He murmurs, his cheeks becoming a deep shade of red. He hates, hates being vulnerable, asking for something like this, so why and how he even does it, he doesn’t have the answer himself. Fortunately, Hoseok doesn’t tease him nor rejects him and instead, he leans in and kisses him sweetly. He holds their lips pressed together for a few moments, unmoving, just drinking each other in, until Hoseok finally pulls away.

 

“Come on, lazy ass, Jin-hyung is probably already waiting for us.” This time his tone is lighter, more teasing, lacking that sharp quality it had before. Namjoon likes this a bit better.

 

“Fine, fine, I’m going.” With that, he barely gets up from the bed and limps towards the bathroom while Hoseok’s amused chuckle follows him. Namjoon may or may not has flipped him a bird.

 

 

The coffee shop where they meet Seokjin is quiet and half-empty. Namjoon’s grateful for it because some peace and quiet is exactly what they need.

 

Seokjin nurses a cup of coffee, drinking large gulps, almost all of it disappearing in seconds. Namjoon’s eyes search for Yoongi, but they don’t find him anywhere.

 

“Hey, Jin-hyung!” Hoseok is the first one to greet him, shooting him a wide grin. It seems almost all too fake, but Namjoon thinks that fake happiness is exactly what they need right now, if they can’t get a hold of the true one. Seokjin looks up from his now empty cup as they sit down opposite of him. He looks tired, to say the least. There are big dark circles around his glassy, brown eyes, his hands are clammy and shaky, and he looks as if he might pass out anytime soon. He is usually so good at keeping his composure, even in the last couple of months. There isn’t the time where he doesn’t look well put-together, with smile always framing his handsome face and making sure not to let any negative emotion show. Except for now. Namjoon thinks this is the first time since he has met Seokjin that he saw him look so wrecked, so broken. Even when they found out, he was the most collected out of all of them. But now… Namjoon guesses even the strongest people are meant to break.

 

“Hey, guys.” His voice is hoarse, completely different from what it usually sounds like. Namjoon finds himself worrying even more, wondering if there’s any news that won’t make any of them feel better.

 

“Where’s Yoongi-hyung?” He decides to ask instead, figuring that it would be better to wait for him, if he is coming, instead of Seokjin repeating what he needs to say twice.

 

“He called and said he wouldn’t make it. Jimin visited him in the studio because he needed a talk, so he stayed over and now apparently, he’s sleeping on Yoongi’s couch. Naturally, he can’t leave him or make him leave now, so we agreed on meeting again some other day, just the two of us.” Seokjin explains, his voice void of any emotions whatsoever. He may as well sound like a broken record, repeating whatever he has structured to say inside his head. Namjoon cannot blame him. All of them are falling apart, but it’s the hardest for Seokjin.

 

“Oh, that’s okay then. We’ll manage without the grumpy cat.” Hoseok tries to crack a joke, to brighten up a solemn mood and Namjoon appreciates him for his effort. Even Seokjin manages to let out the smallest of chuckles.

 

At that moment, the waitress appears beside their table, asking them both for their orders respectively. She leaves again once she has their orders written down, smiling brightly at each and every one of them, and even if she feels the pain and sadness coming from all of them, she doesn’t let it affect her.

 

“So, Jin-hyung, are there any news?” Namjoon asks what both he and Hoseok were asking themselves, once the waitress is out of the earshot. Seokjin lets out a heavy sigh and finally looks at them again, his eyes filled with sorrow – heartbroken.

 

“Yeah…” He gulps. “It’s getting worse… His condition. They… they even said that what they have predicted the first time… that it may have been wrong – that maybe he doesn’t even have that much left. They said it’s progressively going to get even worse and that they can’t guarantee he’ll be able to get through the competition without any problems. They’ve even recommended him to quit it altogether, but he protested so much they just didn’t even try to push the idea further. He said… he said how he finally has everything that he has ever wanted and that he won’t give up on it, not even if… if it means dying sooner.” One tear falls down Seokjin’s cheek, so he closes his eyes in an attempt to keep them in. His hands are shaking, his whole body is trembling and Namjoon is first out of his chair and hugging Seokjin tightly. “Fuck… don’t do that, Joonie, I’ll just cry harder.” He lets out a humourless laughter, a few more tears escaping him, his eyes and cheeks getting redder as the seconds pass by. The waitress comes and leaves their drinks without a word, fortunately realising the seriousness of the situation.

 

Namjoon hugs Seokjin harder, feeling his own set of tears threatening to fall down. He has cried so much already that he isn’t even sure how there’s any tears left in his body. He lets them fall freely though, not seeing the point in keeping them in – in making himself feel even worse than he already feels. From the corner of his eye, he can see Hoseok looking away from them, biting his bottom lip and keeping his eyes tightly shut. Unlike him, Hoseok was never the one to openly cry – would rather fuck Namjoon raw than show his weakness. They’ve talked, numerous of times, about everything. About their emotions and their feelings and while Namjoon understands Hoseok in some way – understands he wants to stay positive for everyone, wants to be their light… what Namjoon didn’t say back then is that he thinks Hoseok can’t hide himself forever. That he cannot be a happy pill all the time and that nobody expects him to be. Namjoon doesn’t think Hoseok would listen to him though, so he lets him do what he thinks is right. Besides, he would be a bit of a hypocrite because he’s not dealing with everything in the best way possible either.

 

“What about Jimin?” Hoseok breaks the silence after a few minutes. “Did he finally tell him?” The question makes them all shiver. It’s what everyone fears. It’s what makes them all worry even more.

 

“No,” Seokjin whispers. “He didn’t yet. He told me he’s planning to do it after the competition but there’s still so much left and I’m not sure he’ll last that much longer without collapsing. He keeps telling me he’s fine though and that he’ll manage and that he’s feeling amazing but… I’m dreading the moment Jimin does find out.” He takes a deep breath before continuing. “He’s admired him and loved him for years, always, always taking about Jiminie-hyung and how cool his piano skills are and how he wants to meet him a-and dance while he plays a-and… now that he finally has him, has him in ways he didn’t even imagine himself… he’s afraid Jimin will leave him once he finds out. That it will be too much for him. I don’t… I don’t think so, but… you know how Jeongguk is. Once he’s set onto something, it’s not easy for it to leave his mind.” Both Namjoon and Hoseok stay quiet. They don’t know what to say, feeling so, so helpless.

 

They don’t know Jimin for long, but both of them are smitten by the boy and both of them are certain that he feels a lot for Jeongguk. He doesn’t seem like the type of person who would just… leave, but Namjoon guesses you can never know the person enough. He hopes and prays that Jimin is not like that, although he knows Jeongguk would never blame him. Jeongguk works like that, thinks he isn’t worthy enough even if he never shows it. But Namjoon was there through countless of his breakdowns. He was there when he found out he was sick without return. He was there when Jeongguk confessed to him that he wasn’t as strong as he pretended to be. There’s nothing in the world Namjoon wouldn’t do for Jeongguk. He loves him like his own brother and he wishes he could take his pain away. He wishes so, so bad even though he knows that’s nothing short of impossible.

 

He knows Jimin cares a lot for Jeongguk and that’s why he’s hoping he won’t leave – that he’ll stay until the end, no matter how far or close the end really is.

 

“And Taehyung doesn’t know either?” Namjoon asks again, remembering Jimin’s bubbly best friend. Even though he has spent so much time with Yoongi, they’ve never told him, afraid that he might tell Jimin immediately. Perhaps it isn’t fair, but they are all doing their best to respect Jeongguk’s wishes. Deep down, Namjoon thinks how Jimin might hurt more because nobody told him earlier than for Jeongguk being sick. But he has tried to convince Jeongguk numerous of times to tell Jimin everything but has failed miserably each time. Jeongguk won’t listen and it is useless to keep trying when nothing will change.

 

“No, of course not. If he did, Jimin would probably know as well. I feel bad, for both of them, but nothing can convince Jeongguk in doing things a different way. He thinks it’s better if Jimin doesn’t know anything for now… thinks it will break him and while I agree… I wish he would’ve just told him. Because the longer he waits, the worse it will become. I just don’t want Jimin to find out in any other way than from Jeongguk itself but Jeongguk’s condition… I’m afraid that it won’t wait for him to say anything.” Seokjin’s voice is drained, completely miserable and Namjoon wishes he could comfort him in any way. But the truth is that he cannot comfort himself, let alone other people. So, he can only hug Seokjin again, hoping the man feels the comfort through it.

 

All of them are dealing with this in a way they shouldn’t. All of them are doing unhealthy things and still trying to get by. It’s hurting all of them, but they still try to put on a smile – for Jeongguk’s sake especially. The boy doesn’t want to see them pitying him, doesn’t want to see the sadness on their faces, so they do their best to fake it. It’s probably what’s holding Jeongguk up – his incredible enthusiasm, his carefree attitude, his will to live as best as he can and manage. Namjoon would be selfish if he did anything to take that away from him. He’d rather cope with things in an unhealthy way than make Jeongguk feel as if he’s doing all of them worse. It’s their fault after all, not his. He deserves nothing but happiness.

 

“How is your mother?” Hoseok asks gently, rubbing Seokjin’s arm in comfort. Seeing Seokjin this weak, makes them weak as well. They’ll get through this though. They’ve promised each other, so they cannot back out of their promise now.

 

Seokjin shrugs. “As all of us, I guess. She’s trying to keep it together for Jeongguk’s sake, but her nights are spent more crying than not. Losing our father was hard enough… I don’t know how we’ll handle it if Jeongguk really… really leaves us.” His lips start to tremble, his hands start to shake and there is one, lone tear falling down his cheek. Namjoon feels his own building up inside of him. It’s ready to burst – everything he’s been holding in is ready to break free. He doesn’t want it because if he does, he’s not sure he’ll be able to stop. That’s why he swallows the lump forming in his throat, closes his eyes, and breathes. He knows that holding in his emotions isn’t right at all, but if he wants to have even an ounce of strength left for Jeongguk – he has to.

 

“We’ll all be here for you. We all are here for you. You know that, Jin-hyung. We’ll get through this together. We have to. For Jeongguk’s sake. For your mother’s sake. We have to do our best.” Namjoon manages to get out, still keeping his eyes closed. He can feel Seokjin nodding against his arms that are still wrapped around him.

 

“I know, and I’m so grateful for you all, because I don’t know what I would have done if you weren’t here.”

 

It’s past midnight once they leave each other’s sides – Seokjin going to his brother, and Namjoon and Hoseok leaving together towards Namjoon’s apartment. It’s fine. They are fine. They can get through this. Together.

*

Holding his hand was Jimin’s favourite thing in the world.

 

The way it was slightly bigger than Jimin’s, enwrapped and held safe in Jeongguk’s own. These days, they would always go to the studio together, hand in hand, stopping for a coffee at a café closeby and stealing kisses whenever they could. They realised that maybe one of their apartments was more comfortable than the studio’s floor. Whenever all seven of them were together, Taehyung would make gagging noises because “you are so disgustingly cute, it makes me want to puke” – his words, not Jimin’s. Jimin couldn’t help himself, not around Jeongguk anyways. And it looked like Jeongguk doesn’t have any problems with it. In fact, many of their “disgustingly cute” moments were initiated by Jeongguk himself. It makes Jimin even happier and giddier because it makes him feel wanted, loved. In one of his past relationships, he would feel like a burden because his partner would never return the affection he was giving to him. It made Jimin feel insecure and it was one of the reasons why they broke up in the first place. It took Jimin a while to start being affectionate again, after that, that’s why he appreciated Jeongguk being the way he is even more.

 

The second round of the competition is just in five days and if they passed it, they are going straight to the semi-finals. It is a step closer to both of their dreams now and Jimin has never felt more excited for something. He is even thinking of looking through a couple of piano competitions himself – after this one is finished, of course. He wants to get back to piano completely. He didn’t even realise how much he had missed it until Jeongguk came into his life – didn’t even realise how much his fingers were itching to play again.

 

The rehearsals are going flawlessly for the both of them. Jimin has never felt more satisfied about his piano playing than now. Naturally, it could always be better, but even he himself could tell the difference from the first time he has touched the piano in ages, and now. He would even dare to say he is proud of himself. Not that he could say that out loud because he would feel selfish, undeserving to say so out loud, but thinking about it is good enough for him. Jeongguk, though, Jeongguk never fails to praise him. At the end of the day, he always says how well he has played, how incredible the composition sounds once he’s playing it – that there is not anyone in the world who could play it like him. In moments like these, more often than not, Jimin ends up blushing and in fits of giggles, hitting Jeongguk’s arm with his tiny fist and repeatedly telling him to stop. As much as he loves the praise, he’s not really good at handling it. Jeongguk says that’s the endearing part of it.

 

“Let’s get through it one more time and then we’ll go eat, okay?” Jeongguk shouts to him from the other part of the practice room, sweat sticking to him like glue. He’s barely breathing properly, trying to get it under control.

 

“Are you sure you can handle one more, Gguk? Isn’t it better if we take a break now?” Jimin tries to reason but he already knows the answer. Jeongguk’s stubborn when it comes to the things he has planned already, so Jimin already expects that he won’t give in. That’s why he’s not surprised when he shakes his head.

 

“No, no, I can handle it, please, hyung. Just one more time and then we’re done, I promise.” The thing is, Jimin can’t say no to him, so he just sighs and nods, getting his gaze back to the piano in front of him.

 

They start back up again, playing from the top – the torturous, sweet melody both of them has come up with. Next part of the competition asked of them to compose their own pieces, without using the sample or anything similar. Jimin likes the challenge, that’s why he has enjoyed working on it with Jeongguk. They’ve made it complex and completely different from anything they’ve done before. However, that also meant that the choreography is different, more difficult and is taking more tool on Jeongguk’s body. He has never complained though, so Jimin has guessed it is fine.

 

He guessed it’s fine all up until now. Jimin senses something is wrong the moment he stops hearing the familiar rhythm of Jeongguk’s steps following his piano. The moment he notices, he lifts his gaze from the score and looks towards Jeongguk’s direction.

 

One moment he’s sitting on his chair, playing the melody, the next he’s jumping off his seat and rushing towards Jeongguk’s falling form. However, he doesn’t make it in time and Jeongguk’s body crashes against the hard floor.

 

“Jeongguk!” Jimin screams his name while falling onto his knees next to Jeongguk. “Baby? Baby, what’s wrong?” There are tears prickling at the corner of his eyes, ready to fall down at any given moment. His eyes are searching for any visible signs of what could have made Jeongguk fall down but he sees nothing. Jeongguk looks same as ever, healthy as ever, but instead of Jimin feeling less worried, he feels even more.

 

“I-It’s nothing, hyung. J-just, please, if you can, try to get me up and carry me towards the chair in the c-corner.” Jeongguk manages to get out, his words cut short. He’s barely breathing properly, but now not from overwork.

 

“What do you mean, it’s nothing? It’s obviously something if you just fell down like that!” The hysteria is taking over Jimin’s body. The tears keep falling harder and harder. His hands shake uncontrollably so, and he feels as if his knees are about to give out. Despite everything, despite feeling the anger building up inside of him because Jeongguk doesn’t want to tell him anything – he still puts one hand under Jeongguk’s neck, and the other under his hips, and lifts him up in his arms. He’s heavy, heavier than Jimin in every case, but he still tries his best for it to not seem like a problem.

 

“It’s really nothing, Jimin. I’m just tired, is all.” Jeongguk mumbles in his shirt and Jimin tries to stay angry – he still is angry – but his heart melts a little. Jeongguk’s voice just has that kind of effect on him.

 

He lowers Jeongguk down on the chair slowly, making sure not the accidentally hurt any part of his body. Jeongguk whines a little, not too happy about being away from Jimin’s embrace, but still obligatorily unwraps his arms off Jimin. Jimin sits on the chair next to him and locks him with a stern gaze.

 

“Jeongguk-ah… please… I thought we were past this stage. I thought you know you can tell me anything. Please, don’t lie to me. I know this isn’t just mere tiredness. I know you, Gguk-ah, and I know this has never happened before – not here. Not like this. So, can you please stop pretending and tell me what’s wrong?” By the end of it, the whole anger simply leaves Jimin, leaving him with nothing but concern, his pleads wrapped around his sad tone. He takes one of Jeongguk’s hands in both of his own and squeezes them tightly, trying to assure Jeongguk that it’s fine – that he can trust him.

 

Jeongguk isn’t looking at him. Instead, his eyes are focused on his legs, as if they are trying to pierce through them. It looks desperate – that look on his face – and Jimin doesn’t know what to make out of it. He doesn’t question it. Instead, he just waits. Waits for Jeongguk to be ready to speak up.

 

“I can’t… Can’t you wait until we at least pass the second round of the competition… and then I promise I’ll tell you?” He still isn’t looking at him, still keeping his gaze on his legs. Something is unsettling inside of Jimin and he knows it’s wrong – knows he shouldn’t listen to Jeongguk. Maybe it’s only his stubborn self that wants to know everything right now but… But the uneasiness in his stomach won’t leave him and he wants to know. If there’s anything he hates, it’s being left in the dark.

 

“I… Please, Jeonggukie, I can’t… I can’t live not knowing what is happening to you. If you don’t tell me… I’ll go and ask Seokjin-hyung if I need to. But I want to hear everything from you… so please, tell me now. I beg of you.” He knows he sounds desperate, on the verge of going insane, but he doesn’t care. He cares for Jeongguk way too much to just let this go. In his own eyes, he couldn’t call himself Jeongguk’s boyfriend if he broke under Jeongguk’s wishes so easily. A part of him knows that whatever Jeongguk is hiding, it’s because he thinks it’s for Jimin’s own good. But Jimin feels worse like this – knowing nothing at all, feeling helpless, than maybe knowing too much.

 

“Jiminie-hyung…” He finally looks up. “I… You’re going to hate me.” He stutters out, his eyes becoming glassy, matching Jimin’s own.

 

“I could never hate you.” He says immediately, not wanting those words to leave Jeongguk’s lips ever again.

 

“Do you…” He looks down at their intertwined hands. “Have you ever heard of…” He squeezes one of Jimin’s hands tightly, too tightly. “…of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis?” Jimin barely catches what he says as Jeongguk’s voice goes quieter and quieter the more words he pronounces.

 

He shakes his head. “No, I haven’t.” He tries to stay calm and collected, tries to listen to Jeongguk without making him even more nervous than he already clearly is.

 

“It’s… It’s a illness… that affects like… muscles, they start to decrease, twitch, just not… function properly. I-it usually affects people who are older, a-and it progresses fast. It usually starts from upper part of the body, b-but in some rare cases… it starts affecting limbs, l-like arms and legs first.” His hand is shaking in Jimin’s hold, he’s breathing heavily, tears rolling down his cheeks like a waterfall. Jimin wants to wipe them away, but the problem is… he cannot make himself move an inch. “I-I-I… E-even though it affects mostly o-older people… a-and almost never t-those younger than t-twenty-five… I-I… I was d-diagnosed with i-it.” He hiccups and tries to take a breath but fails. His nose is clogged up, his mouth full of saliva and he cannot fucking breathe. Jimin only watches. Cannot do anything. Cannot wipe his own tears away. “I-it was around f-five months ago w-when I found out a-and… it has only g-gotten worse. T-they told me not to do a-anything like this s-sort of competition, b-but that was the o-only thing I wanted to do b-before I… b-before I…”

 

The broken sob, cry, wail, that passes Jeongguk’s lips pitches through the empty room like a song.

 

Throwing himself forward, Jeongguk buries his head deep into Jimin’s chest, while getting his hand out of Jimin’s grip and clutching his shirt with both of his hands instead. “I-I-I… I-I don’t want to die. I-I-I don’t w-want to leave this world. I don’t want to leave dance. I don’t want to leave everyone. I-I-I… I don’t want to l-leave… you.” Heavy. Heavy breaths. Loud cries. Soaked shirt. Desperate hands. “I-I… I have l-l-less than a fucking y-ear, J-Jiminie. I have less than a fucking year, but I don’t want to die!” Screaming. Empty rooms. Heartbreaking sobs. Words.

 

Words.

 

Words.

 

And more words.

 

“Jeonggukie,” is all he manages to utter. Jeongguk grips harder. Jimin grips back.

 

After all,

 

words are useless anyway.

~

“FUCK!”

 

He slams the door shut the second he walks into the apartment. Cheeks red. Eyes swollen. Body trembling. His voice out of control.

 

“FUCK, FUCK, FUCK, NO!” He screams like a madman. There is nothing but red he sees.

 

He was keeping himself in control until now – for Jeongguk’s sake. He was calm, holding Jeongguk until he didn’t fall asleep in his own apartment. Now though, Jimin couldn’t keep it in anymore. There is a pillow on a couch. Screaming, he throws it against the wall. He takes the next one and then the next one and does the same.

 

The cup standing on the table crashes against the hard floor, breaking into millions of pieces. He doesn’t see. Doesn’t hear. But feels too much. Way too much. All at once.

 

“J-Jeongguk, n-no.” He wails again and again, sobs breaking through his small, fragile body as he lets everything else. He’s walking on broken glass, porcelain, tarnished pillows and blankets but he doesn’t care about anything. He chants Jeongguk’s name like a prayer, trying to deny everything he has told him. No. No. No. No. He won’t leave me. He’s okay. Everything’s okay. We are okay.

 

He fails.

 

He knows he’s lying to himself even if he tries to push that thought away. He kicks and screams and cries like a child that cannot be controlled. And at this moment, that is the truth.

 

Suddenly, there are hands gripping his arms from behind, trying to stop him from doing anything else. He recognises them immediately. Taehyung. When did he get here?

 

“JIMIN! Jimin, what’s wrong? What is going on? Why is our apartment tarnished? What has happened?” It is only then that Jimin starts hearing other sounds besides his sobs and deafening ringing in his ears. Taehyung sounds frantic, speaking into Jimin’s ear like this. He sounds concerned and ready to call the ambulance if Jimin doesn’t respond. Jimin starts sobbing harder. With Taehyung’s grip on him, his knees give out, and he falls down on the floor. There may be glass underneath him. He isn’t sure though. He doesn’t care either.

 

“I-I can’t live without him, T-tae. I can’t let him leave me. I-I can’t handle it. I-I’m… I love him, Tae, I cannot fucking let him leave me alone on this fucking world!” Between the sobs, he shouts the last words desperately. Angry, sad, heartbroken, lonely… there is so many emotions he is feeling all at once that he cannot even differentiate between them anymore. He wants to keep kicking and screaming, even if he is aware it will help no one, not even himself.

 

Taehyung crunches behind him and wraps him arms tightly around Jimin’s neck. “What do you mean, Jimin? Are you talking about Jeongguk? Why would Jeongguk leave you?” Of course. Of course, Taehyung doesn’t know. Because if he did, Jimin would find out sooner as well. He sobs harder, no words able to leave him trembling, red lips.

 

“Taehyung…” There is a third voice, behind them, calm but broken. Jimin would recognise it anywhere. And just from that one word spoken he knows – he knows that he knows. “I’ll tell you everything, but we need to get Jimin in his bedroom, let him sleep. Maybe it will calm him down at least a little.” Jimin doesn’t believe Yoongi’s words. He doesn’t think anything can take away the pain he is feeling – emotions that are washing over him again and again. However, he isn’t strong. He feels so, so weak, so he cannot fight them both when they lift him up in their arms and carry him to his bedroom.

 

“He can’t. He can’t. He can’t. I love him. He can’t.” He keeps repeating quietly, feeling like a lunatic, but again not caring – not caring for anything, but Jeongguk.

 

He thinks it’s the way he falls asleep – with Jeongguk’s name and I love yous on his lips.

 

 

He awakens from the deep slumber he has fallen into when it’s already dark outside. It’s quiet – almost too quiet. He has expected to at least hear voices, but that isn’t the case. His eyes feel heavy, dried tearstains making it hard for him to keep them open for long. If nothing, his body has significantly stopped trembling. His eyes still sting, and he feels as if he could start crying again at any given moment, but he holds it back, decides he has cried enough tears for one day. If Jeongguk decides to visit… he doesn’t need to see him in this state. He doesn’t deserve it. It would be selfish.

 

He closes his eyes once more, but with no purpose of falling asleep again. Instead, he tries to count the breaths he takes, tries to get his hammering heart under control. He knows he cannot be fine just yet, is aware he cannot get over it immediately, but he has to try to function like a normal human being at least. It’s the least Jeongguk deserves.

 

It takes him another few minutes to be able to open his eyes again. Tearstains still dry, he slowly lifts his body up from the bed. Taking the glasses from his nightstand, his vision doesn’t improve much. His body feels heavy, immobile, dead. Still, he pushes it to move it. Standing up on his feet, he moves as he feels. It’s too dark for him to see where exactly he’s going, so he relies on his memory. When he gets to the door, he taps along them until he feels the knob beneath his fingertips. Pressing down, he opens the door and the bright light coming from the hallway’s light blinds his eyes. Almost instinctively, he puts one hand across his eyes, the light too bright. It takes him a few seconds more until he’s used to it and he can move again. He debates between going to the bathroom and going to check if there’s anyone actually home, but he guesses the second option is better, especially if there are people worried about him. He owes to show them he’s awake and well, at least.

 

Moving towards the living room, he can finally make out the two familiar figures. They are both seated on the couch, watching some drama playing on the TV. They don’t hear him right away, too immersed into what’s going on, on the screen – or their own thoughts. Jimin cannot be too sure. However, once he’s a foot away from the couch, Taehyung’s head, who’s closer to him, snaps towards his direction. Once he sees him, he’s jumping onto his feet, whispering a worried “Jimin” at the same time. Yoongi follows suit, but unlike Taehyung, he says nothing. The whole living room is squeaky clean and Jimin feels the embarrassment wash over him the moment he remembers what kind of mess he had caused.

 

“Hey, guys.” He whispers, his throat soar and voice weak. It is only then that he realises just how thirsty he is and how dry his throat is. Yoongi seems to notice as well because he’s lifting the untouched glass filled with water sitting on the table and offering it to Jimin. Jimin accepts it gratefully, taking the glass with both hands because he doesn’t trust himself not to drop it. They still shake a little, almost unnoticeably so, but it’s there still.

 

He chugs it down like he hasn’t been drinking anything in years. He almost chokes, but he keeps it in, knowing he needs it more than anything right now. Once he’s drank it all, he can see Taehyung’s worried, soft gaze on him, and Yoongi’s patient eyes.

 

“Are you feeling more like yourself?” Taehyung asks gently, as if he’s afraid his voice might break Jimin somehow if he speaks any louder. And Jimin cannot guarantee that wouldn’t happen.

 

“Y-yeah, I’m better.” He pauses for a second and puts his head down in shame. “And I’m sorry. For what I did. For how I acted. I’m really, really sorry, I… I just couldn’t think straight, I guess. Something took over me and I just… couldn’t fight it.” Before he could register what is happening, there are two pairs of arms wrapped around him, hugging him tightly as if wanting to take away all the pain he is feeling.

 

“No need to apologise for that, Jiminie. It was out of your control I… Yoongi told me what made you react that way and I… I don’t think I would react any better if I was in your place, so I can’t blame you. I’m so sorry, for everything that’s happening to you. I… I just wish I could take even just a bit of your pain. You don’t deserve any of it.” Jimin stays quiet as Taehyung’s words slowly sink in. At first, he thinks he might start crying again, but tears never come. Maybe he has cried enough already to last him a lifetime. Then he thinks he might start panicking again but that doesn’t happen either. All he is feeling, all he is capable of, is emptiness. There’s a hole in his chest so big he almost feels cut out from the rest of the world. A part of him wishes he could scream, cry, let out his emotions in any way, but nothing is coming. All is just. Empty.

 

“It’s okay, Tae. You could say I’ve almost gotten used to it.” He lets out a humourless laugh, bitter almost. He always wants and wants so much, but he guesses life doesn’t want to treat him fairly. “Maybe that’s just my fate – this kind of life. There’s nothing you or I or anyone can do about it. So, don’t stress over this. Don’t stress over me. I’ll be fine. I’m always fine.” He doesn’t know who he tries to assure more – himself or Taehyung and Yoongi. Truth is, he doesn’t believe his own words, but he cannot let him friends worry more than they already do. They have their own lives, their own problems, he cannot bother them more with his own – more than he already did anyway. He loves them, doesn’t know what he would do without them, but they don’t deserve this. They deserve nothing but happiness.

 

“Don’t lie to us, Jimin-ah. Don’t try to shield us from something we all know. Let us be your rock. Let us try and help you. Don’t push us away when that’s the last thing we want you to do. I know you believe you are helping us by doing that, but you are only doing worse. So please, let us be there for you. We’ll go through everything together because we know you would do the same for us.” Yoongi says close to his ear, almost saying those words as if they were a secret. Jimin bites his lip, his mind cloudy and lost from everything.


“I love you, guys. I don’t deserve you,” is the only thing he manages to say. Other words – he doesn’t know. Not at the moment at least.

 

“We love you as well, but we don’t want to hear none of them. You deserve us as much as we deserve you, so quit that and let us help you.” Taehyung’s voice sounds so sure, so determined that Jimin doesn’t dare protest it. Instead, he only nods his head, too afraid to speak, and pushes the negative thoughts to the side.

 

Instead, he tries to find the assurance in warm arms and tight hugs.

~

He finds himself standing in front of Jeongguk’s apartment a day later, feeling guilty for not contacting the younger sooner, but also knowing that it is what he needed and that Jeongguk will probably understand. He knocks so lightly that it wouldn’t have surprised him if Jeongguk didn’t hear it at all. He contemplates chickening out and leaving as fast as he can, but he misses Jeongguk too much and wants and craves to see him. No matter how much everything hurts, through how much pain both of them will probably go through, Jeongguk has taken over his heart and mind and he cannot imagine not being there for him when he needs him the most.

 

He’s about to knock for the second time, this time a bit louder, when the door opens slowly. Jeongguk’s head peaks behind it, the look he wears best described as a bit hopeful, a bit scared, and a bit tired. The moment he sees Jimin’s face, his eyes brighten, twinkling as if the stars itself have settled inside of them. The moment he sees those eyes and his little smile, he forgets about all his worries. All of his doubts wash away and all he is left feeling is – love. He doesn’t care for anything else. What matters to him is Jeongguk is here, always waiting for him, loving him and wanting him. So, without much thinking, without saying anything, he wraps his arms around Jeongguk’s shoulders and hugs him tightly to his chest. Jeongguk’s arms around his waist bring them even closer together, with Jeongguk’s face buried in Jimin’s neck.

 

Jimin doesn’t know for how long the stay like that – holding each other at the doorsteps of Jeongguk’s apartment. Somebody might have already seen them but it’s not like Jimin can find it in himself to care.

 

“I’m sorry,” he finally whispers, his eyes filling with tears once again, but he tries to hold them in. He doesn’t want to cry in front of Jeongguk. He doesn’t deserve it. Jimin should try and be as happy and supportive as he possibly can. That’s why he wants to try and keep trying.

 

“It’s okay, baby,” Jimin’s heart melts at the pet name. He can hear the smile in Jeongguk’s voice, so he feels his own smile making its way to his lips.

 

Jeongguk detaches himself from Jimin’s hold, yet still keeping his arms wrapped around him and looks at him in a way that can only be described as pure admiration.

 

“Come on, let’s go inside. I want to watch Iron Man while cuddling you.” Jimin’s smile only widens, almost becoming too much. Jeongguk takes his hand into his, holding it like it’s something fragile, like it might break at any given moment, and tugs him softly inside. Jimin goes without hesitation, only wanting to be in Jeongguk’s arms and nothing else.

 

 

Jeongguk smells like cinnamon, and apples and freshly picked flowers. He smells sweet and yet sour at the same time. Jimin cannot get enough of it. He pulls himself even closer towards him, drinking in his smell as if he’s an alcoholic craving for his favourite drink. He wants to get lost in it. Letting go is not an option. He cannot believe that not that long ago, he was even considering it – leaving Jeongguk. It is only now that he sees how much he’s been fooling himself. No matter what comes between them, no matter the circumstances, Jimin can’t see himself ever not being by Jeongguk’s side. Even if their time is short, even if they may not have forever, as Jimin thought they have – it’s better than nothing.

 

“Jeongguk…” He whispers, barely audible but Jeongguk still averts his eyes away from the movie to look at him. He tilts his head cutely, a little pout adoring his lips.

 

“Hmm?” Jimin bites his lips, not sure anymore if what he’s about to ask is the right thing to ask Jeongguk. He must get it out though. He must know what goes on in Jeongguk’s mind, for it to be come so… easy to him.

 

Shaking off his nerves, he speaks up. “How did you… How did you say I love you so easily?” He can’t look into his eyes. Instead, Jimin has his eyes fixated onto his lap, suddenly playing with his fingers becoming a lot more interesting than it previously was.

 

“Because it’s easy.” Jimin looks up faster than he intended to, only to be met with eyes glimmering without nothing but love and understanding. “I knew I loved you for a while now, Jimin-ah. Even before I kissed you. Even before we started dating, I… I’ve been admiring you for so long, Jimin. I wanted to approach you and introduce myself for such a long time, but I’ve never had a courage to. But then you saw me, and we started getting closer and closer and… I started feeling so much, too much in such a short amount of time, even more than I did before and I… I guess I never tried to stop it. Because being in love with you is one of the best feelings I’ve ever experienced. I kept thinking how I can’t die without not giving myself to you and loving you even if you didn’t love me back and I… I just-”

 

“I love you, too” Jimin blurts out, without even realising it at first. His eyes widen when he does though, but Jeongguk only smiles happily and cups Jimin’s cheeks into his hand.

 

“I know, baby. I know.” And they kiss and kiss and Jimin forgets every doubt, every negative thought he may have still had and gets lost in his touch, in his lips melting with his own like a chocolate – dark, rich and his and his only.

 

I love you.

 

I love you.

 

I love you.

 

My moon.

 

My stars.

 

My beginning.

 

My end.

 

~

 

Second round of competition comes and goes. It passes as smoothly as the first one, Jimin and Jeongguk passing it without any problem. When they get off the stage that day, Jeongguk’s eyes are glistering and the smile that is lighting up his face is every assurance Jimin wants and needs. They hug each other tightly as always. They kiss and whisper sweet I love you’s into each other’s lips while their friends keep fake booing and making gagging noises. Jimin manages to flip them a middle finger but that doesn’t stop them. He wouldn’t have it any other way though.

 

However, with their success and high spirits, Jeongguk’s state gradually worsens. He tries to hide it from Jimin and does his best not to let it show in his performance, but Jimin is too observant. As they practice for semi-finals, Jimin cannot help but let worry take over him. As days go by, it’s quite obvious that Jeongguk keeps struggling more and more – that his steps get that much heavier, that the pain is becoming too much too soon and that from now on, it’ll only become harder for all of them.

 

Jimin lets him pretend for a few days. He lets him believe he doesn’t see the pain he tries to cover with a smile. It’s hard on Jimin as well – to keep pretending like he doesn’t see what his boyfriend is going through, but he also believes he should give him time and let him, himself say it when he thinks the time is right. A part of him feels guilty, but he knows how pushing someone to tell something they aren’t ready for yet, can have negative consequences rather than positive ones. He’s the grand example of that. He’s not too proud of it, believes that he could’ve handled things more maturely in the past, but his past self didn’t see or ask for logic. That’s why he isn’t sure that Jeongguk’s reaction would be rational. Maybe he doubts him too much. Maybe he’s projecting his own self at Jeongguk too much, but he still wants to do what he thinks it’s more right.

 

 

“Jimin, I- can we go home and cuddle now? I don’t think I can do it anymore.” Jeongguk asks a week later, spread out on the floor, the droplets of sweat dripping down his body. Jimin silently stands up from his seat by the piano and makes his way towards his boyfriend. Kneeling down, he runs his hand down Jeongguk’s cheeks and caresses a little scar on his right side. A little smile that graces his lips seems to relax Jeongguk a bit, his body visibly getting less stiff under Jimin’s touch.

 

 

“It’s okay, Jeongguk-ah. Let’s go home.”

 

And they do. Hand in hand, tightly clasped together, they walk to Jeongguk’s apartment. Jimin doesn’t even think of stopping by his own, guessing that Taehyung and Yoongi are inside, and disturbing them isn’t in Jimin’s plans currently. Once they make it inside the apartment, Jeongguk collapses on the couch, breathing heavily, his legs shaking, his body giving in to the pain.

 

“Baby, take it slow, please.” The worry is evident in Jimin’s tone, even though he tries to mask it. He knows they should slow down on practising, knows they should take more breaks and not tire themselves as much as they do, especially Jeongguk, but Jeongguk is too stubborn and saying anything will probably get them nowhere. Jimin is not better himself, but he would slow down for Jeongguk. “We have time. There’s no need to worry, we’ll pass semi-finals as well, and we’ll win the whole thing we… we can take it a little bit slower and still win, I promise you, Gguk-ah. Just please, you need to take care of yourself.” He tries to reason, tries to be gentle, careful. Making Jeongguk upset is the last thing he wants to do.

 

“It’s okay, Jimin, I promise. I’m fine, it’s just that my legs get tired more easily. But I swear I can handle it. Really, Jimin, it’s best if we practice the more we can. I’ll be fine. It’s nothing I wasn’t going through before.” Jeongguk tries and tries to convince him, but he cannot fool Jimin. Because he’s barely getting the words out – getting cut short by heavy breathing. His shirt is damp with sweat, and his legs keep trembling. He’s lying on the couch – immobile – not moving a muscle. Jimin gulps, knowing what it means, knowing Jeongguk cannot feel anything right now and that moving is next to impossible.

 

Stepping closer, he wraps one arm around Jeongguk’s shoulders, while he puts the other one beneath Jeongguk’s knees. He lifts him up carefully, despite the protests leaving Jeongguk’s mouth.

 

“Shush. We’re going to talk about everything later, when you decide to be less stubborn and more reasonable. But now, I’m going to take you to our bedroom and I’m to cling onto you like a koala. Every part of my body pressed against yours, until you can feel every touch, every tingle, my legs, my hands, my lips. Okay? And then… and then you’re going to wrap your arms around me and hold me so tightly that I’ll never want you to let me go. And you’re going to kiss me until you take every bit of my breath away, until I can feel nothing but you. Do we have a deal, Jeon Jeongguk?” He puts him down gently, making sure to remove the covers before. The smile graces Jeongguk’s lips and he chuckles silently.

 

“Yeah, we have a deal.”

 

They both keep their promises.

 

*

 

It’s loud. It smells like shit and Jeongguk has never wanted to run away faster. Sure, he’s no stranger to hospitals nor to their god-awful smell, but it doesn’t mean he’s ever going to get used to it.

 

It’s a regular check-up, nothing out of ordinary, but Jeongguk wishes he didn’t have to get those regular check-ups either. The only thing different from all the other times he has visited the dreaded place is, that beside Seokjin, Jimin is by his side as well now. He didn’t want him here. He doesn’t want Jimin to see this side of him – to hear all the bad news the doctor has to announce regarding Jeongguk’s health. But Jimin was determined to go with him and he is a weak man – he can never say no to Jimin. That’s why he gave in, and now they were here, sitting on chairs waiting for the doctor to come back with the results.

 

Jeongguk doesn’t remember for how long they’ve been inside the hospital already. Hours and hours have passed, but they could go nowhere. It took a while until the doctor examined him thoroughly, and even more until the results were collected.

 

He isn’t nervous. He’s become numb to the feeling, always expecting the worst. Ever since he has found out about his illness, he was prepared to die at any given moment. It sounds harsh and depressing even to Jeongguk’s ears but making peace with the truth makes him feel saner, more human, as crazy as it sounds. He cannot voice it out loud, can’t say exactly what he’s thinking and feeling for the sake of people around him. He doesn’t want to be a burden more than he already is. After all, it’s not something that bothers him anyway. He doesn’t have an urge or the need to say it to someone. In fact, he’s quite content with keeping those thoughts to himself. He finds it calming in some way. Maybe it isn’t fair towards his brother, his mother, his friends, his Jimin but he always chooses what he wants. And what he wants right now, is to be happy for the others. For them to remember him as this bright, happy, joyous kid even at his deathbed. He wants to be remembered as someone who makes other feel better, as someone who deals with his illness in a non-cliché, peaceful way. Maybe his whole life, his whole story is one big cliché, but he doesn’t care about that. He wants to make the best of the little time he has left, so he won’t let himself be anything else but who he has always been.

 

Doctor walks back into the room with a look full of sorrow on his face and Jeongguk already knows what to expect. He remains calm, while Jimin grips his hand a little bit tighter, his hands shaking. He wants to say I’m sorry. He wants to get Jimin out of the room, so he doesn’t have to hear what the doctor will say, wants to keep him away from all the bad stuff that will surely be said, but Jimin has decided himself that he wants to be here. So Jeongguk has no rights to force his own wishes on him. He stays seated and waits for the doctor to finally speak up.

 

“I’m sorry to say this but… It’s not looking good, Jeongguk-ssi. It’s starting to get worse. The neurons in your leg muscles are starting to die out at the faster pace and I’m afraid it’s going to start to affect your arms soon as well. You can be expected to feel the pain and the constraint of the muscles. Using the muscles will become harder, therefore, as I already told you, you should be very careful with your daily activities and I cannot emphasise enough how important it is for you not to overwork your body and muscles. I know you won’t listen to me, and that you’ll continue with your competition, but it is my duty to warn you that you are not doing any good to yourself with it.

 

The progress would be a lot slower, if you just slowed down. I know this is important to you but maybe you should take your health into the consideration.” The sorrowful look in the doctor’s eyes has almost made Jeongguk consider his words. Almost. He knows all of this, knows that what he’s doing is nowhere near good enough for him. But he won’t stop now, not now, when he got so far. Not now when Jimin has finally got his passion back. And lastly, he needs to win this. This is the only wish he has left.  If he doesn’t do this, he’s going to feel unfulfilled, empty – like he didn’t do everything he wanted before he’s… gone.

 

“I have to do it. I know you want the best for me, but you also know I can’t give up. I promise, after I’m done with this, I’m going to stop dancing. I’m going to watch out for my health and everything but… It’s only for a little while. It’s almost over.” He felt his determination building up and up and he knew nothing could stop him. He won’t let it.

 

“Jeongguk-ah,” Jimin’s voice comes as quiet and soft as a slow wind passing by. He takes Jeongguk’s hand in his own, the touch feather-like, assuring, calming. Jeongguk’s gaze fixes on him, on his solicitous gaze, lips bitten raw from uneasiness and worry. “Are you sure? There’s no shame in quitting if it benefits you more. I want you to live as long as possible, Jeongguk-ah. I want to spend every possible moment with you, even if it means not fulfilling what we promised each other. I’d never hold it against you. Please, Gukkie, please don’t do this to yourself.”  Jimin’s tormented expression, his sorrowful voice… Jeongguk almost gave in.

 

“Baby, it’s okay. I can do this. I want to do this. I’m not going to give up when we came this far. We’re going to do this and we’re going to win, and nothing will stop us. Not even my stupid illness.” He squeezes Jimin’s hand even tighter, trying to sooth out the pain he can see Jimin is feeling. He’s going to make his body and muscles listen. They are going to win this, no matter what. Despite still not looking as certain and determined as Jeongguk is, Jimin nods and gives Jeongguk one of his special smiles reserved only for Jeongguk. That’s how Jeongguk’s sure that Jimin understands him and will stand by his side, by Jeongguk’s decisions.

 

Seokjin, however, Seokjin stays quiet throughout the whole session.

~

“Jeongguk, you’re being too reckless.” Seokjin speaks up as soon as they step into their apartment. He’s rarely here, preferring to occupy the other ‘fancier’ apartment he owns. Still, this time around he decided to go along with Jeongguk. Jeongguk should’ve guessed right away what this was all about.

 

He rolls his eyes, not even looking at Seokjin, but instead making his way towards the kitchen. He’s hungry. “Oh please, hyung. We went over this countless of times. I’m going to do this even if it kills me faster. It’s my only wish, hyung, please respect it.” His tone is sharp and leaves no room for talkbacks. However, Seokjin was never the one to accept it. They bicker all the time. Ever since they were little, no matter how much they loved and cared for one another, they would always bicker back and forth, even over the smallest things. This, though, this isn’t small and that’s why their bickering and fights are worse than ever. Jeongguk knows it comes from a good place, that Seokjin only cares for him too much. He knows that Seokjin can’t bare the thought of losing another family member. But Jeongguk cannot look at the world like that. Being stuck in a cage, not being able to do what he loves to do, just to get a few more months to live… that’s not the life he wants. That’s not the life he craves. Call him reckless, or stupid but… it’s his life. It’s the way he wants to live and nobody’s going to stop him.

 

“Think about our mother, Jeongguk. Think about all the pain she’s going through knowing very well that her son is on a brink of fucking death and is still fucking around with it. Think about me. We only have you. And soon… knowing that we’ll soon without you, too… Don’t you know how painful it is? Just thinking about it? Have you even thought about that, Jeongguk?” He has seen his brother cry about two times in his life, and he only remembers properly one of them. Now… now is the third time. And he thinks he might remember this one forever.

 

Seokjin’s whole body is shaking from the force of it. Jeongguk thinks that he may not even be aware of the tears dripping down his cheeks and neck. His bottom lip is trembling, his knees going weak. Jeongguk cannot do anything but stare. He shuts his lips tight, not letting himself say anything. Taking a step closer, he takes in the red splotches on Seokjin’s faces, takes in the complete hopelessness that has taken over Seokjin’s usually warm eyes. He takes another step and then yet another and then he’s right in front of his, spreading his arms and wrapping them around Seokjin’s fragile frame. He pulls him close, so, so close both of them have trouble breathing. Jeongguk doesn’t know when his own tears start to well up in his eyes, but he only becomes aware of them, when a loud sob leaves his lips.

 

He doesn’t know who’s holding on tighter, doesn’t know who is sobbing harder, doesn’t know who craves to stay longer. “I’m sorry,” is what leaves Jeongguk’s lips after god knows how long. “I’m sorry I can’t stop myself.” It’s all he can say. It’s all he can do. He doesn’t want to make his brother nor his mother worry. He loves them too much for it. But there’s something stronger in him. A promise made – to himself and himself only. A wish he never got to fulfil. He wishes he could please everyone. He wishes that the stupid illness never existed and that his life didn’t feel like it is going by in vain, but those are all mere wishes. He can do nothing to change the future or past. He’s not a magician. There’s no spell that will make him live longer than intended. It is why he wants to make the most out of it, even if his family might not understand.

 

“I hate you.” Seokjin gets out through his sobs, but without any truth or menace intended. So Jeongguk’s chuckles through the tears, feeling his heart getting just a little bit lighter.

 

“I hate you, too.”

 

It’s the first night in their lives that they sleep cuddled up, not ready to let go of each other’s side. It’s also the night Jeongguk falls asleep with a smile on his face.

~

The preparations for the semi-finals are the hardest one until now. Jeongguk’s body doesn’t want to listen to him and all is going horribly wrong. The move he has to do once, he does it twice. The one time he has to lift his leg up, it is not corresponding at all. He falls to the ground because his legs give out on him a dozen times a day. He wants to scream and shout and cry, but he doesn’t let it get the best of him. He doesn’t let Jimin see the pure frustration and desperation he is feeling because of the way his body is just not functioning. Or at least he tries to make it as less obvious as possible. He knows that Jimin probably sees right through him, but he keeps quiet. They keep working day in and day out, but both of them are trying to be careful and not overwork themselves. At this point though, Jeongguk’s not even sure that he’s capable of overworking himself even if he wanted to. He’s feeling completely powerless and drained just after two hours of practising. They take it slow.

 

Taehyung and Yoongi come down to visit often, bearing food and drinks that both Jimin and Jeongguk are thankful for. They stay for a little while, just enough for them to take a break and chat about all the nonsense happening around them. All of them try their best to avoid the topic of Jeongguk’s illness, knowing very well that Jeongguk would like if they talk about it as little as possible. He appreciates their effort even if it’s obvious they’re struggling with it.

 

“Am I imagining things or did those two get closer?” Jeongguk asks Jimin after they leave one day. Taehyung and Yoongi were never particularly close or great friends for that matter, as Yoongi tried to avoid Taehyung like a plague for reasons unknown to Jeongguk himself, but these days they seem to stick by each other’s sides more often than not. Looking at Jimin though, it’s obvious he’s surprised just as much as Jeongguk.

 

“You see it, too? I thought I was imagining things.” He answers wistfully and pouts his lips in confusion. He starts talking again but Jeongguk can’t pay attention anymore. Instead, he stares at Jimin’s pouty lips, at his crystal clear, lustrous eyes, at his rosy, puffed-out cheeks, at his small, chubby hands fidgeting with a button on his shirt as he talks and Jeongguk’s lost, lost, lost in everything Jimin. He doesn’t even realise when he takes a step closer and brings his hands towards Jimin’s cheeks, cupping them and lifting his head towards his eyes. He stops talking mid-sentence, his expression showing even more confusion.

 

“What are you doing?” Jeongguk smiles affectionately and shakes his head at Jimin’s adorableness. He wishes he could help himself when it comes to being utterly whipped by Jimin’s mere existence, but he doesn’t think there’s helping him any time soon.

 

“Nothing, I just love you.” He says simply and he can see Jimin’s eyes widening slightly, as if it’s the first Jeongguk has said those words. So, Jeongguk’s brings Jimin’s face closer and kisses the pout out of his lips. “I really, really love you, Park Jimin.” He could say it thousands of times and he still thinks it wouldn’t be enough.

 

“I love you, too, Jeon Jeongguk.” Jimin whispers in-between their lips and the smile that graces both of their lips is too big for them to do anything else but to stare at each other like two fools in love. They aren’t anything else after all.

 

 

Jeongguk’s dressed in another sparkling outfit, this time black and blue colours gracing his fit body. He doesn’t feel his best. He could feel the muscles in his left leg twitch at the most random times, feel his muscles weaken and then minutes later everything would be fine again. He tries to keep his thoughts positive. He tries to believe that everything will go fine, and they’ll get through this fine. They will. And they’ll go to the finals. And they’ll win the finals as well. And Jeongguk will have his last wish fulfilled and Jimin will also be happy and they’re going to celebrate until they are all too tired to function properly. He closes his eyes and takes deep breaths, imagining it all, making himself believe and believe.

 

He feels a pair of arms wrap around his waist from behind. Small hands lock him in place and Jeongguk smiles in the embrace.

 

“You okay?” Jimin whispers in his ear, a hot breath tickling his neck. Jeongguk hums in acknowledgment and leans back a little. Most of the times, he preferred being that one that is held – held by Jimin. It makes him feel safe and sound, as cheesy as that sounds.

 

“Yeah, we can do this.” He voices what he has been thinking all this time, the determination he wasn’t even aware he had, colouring his voice. Jimin chuckles the sweetest of chuckles and Jeongguk would like to keep it, save it, and never let it escape, if he could.

 

“Of course, we can. We got this far. We aren’t about to give up now, aren’t we?”

 

“We aren’t.” Jeongguk confirms, nodding at the same time, believing in victory more and more. They can do this. They really can.

 

Jimin lets go of him when the others start to approach them. All of them are dressed for the occasion. Their suits are done up to a T. The smiles adoring their faces are blinding, shining, assuring. Jeongguk hugs them all, holding them just a little bit long, and that much stronger.

 

“You’re going to be great,” says Taehyung.

 

“You can do it, Gguk, I know it,” whispers Yoongi.

 

“You’re amazing, show them what you’ve made of,” cheers Hoseok.

 

“You worked hard for this. You practiced more than ever. And that work will pay off, I truly believe that, Gguk,” assures Namjoon.

 

Seokjin is the last one. His solemn expression is the only one that stands out. He still offers Jeongguk a genuine smile, stretches out his arms and pulls Jeongguk into a tight hug. Jeongguk thinks he might start to cry, but the tears he expects from Seokjin never come. “Jeongguk-ah. You’re reckless. You’re absolutely insane for doing what you’re doing – for risking your health just for your passion. However, if I was in your place, I can’t claim I wouldn’t be acting the same. Because I would be lying if I said so. If you weren’t reckless, you wouldn’t have the passion. If you didn’t have the passion, you wouldn’t be reckless. And living in world without passion… without recklessness… is it really worth it? So as much as I want you to live longer, to put your foot on the pedal, I also want you to fulfil everything you’ve ever dreamed of.

 

I believe in you, Jeongguk-ah. I believe in your passion. I believe in your recklessness. I believe in your dreams. So, go out there with calm heart and mind and do what you do the best. Swipe everyone off of their feet, make them cheer and cry, so that we can all stand here once again when the finals come around.” Instead of Seokjin, Jeongguk is the one with tearstains on his cheeks. He lets the tears fall, fall and fall, not trying to wipe them off. He knows his make-up is probably getting ruined, but he cannot and doesn’t want to stop them. He hugs Seokjin a little bit tighter, buries his face into crook of Seokjin’s neck and he feels like his five again – seeking the comfort of his brother’s embrace when things got too much, or when their mother would raise her voice at him, or when he just wanted to feel like he and his brother were the only ones that exist in the whole wide world.

 

“Thank you, hyung, thank you,” is all he can say. He feels like it isn’t enough – feels like whatever he says won’t ever be enough to repay him for everything he has done for him, for everything he has been through because of him. Nothing will ever be enough, but he hopes Seokjin won’t hold it against him, hopes he can understand.

 

Seokjin rubs his back affectionately, just like he used to do, and Jeongguk can feel his small smile getting just a little bit bigger, a little bit brighter, a little bit more Seokjin-like.

 

“I’m always here for you, Little One.” Jeongguk doesn’t let go of him until they have to leave.

 

And then they are there, standing on the stage, and Jeongguk is waiting for the first note to play… he knows it’s going to be okay. It’s going to be okay because he has everyone by his side. It’s going to be okay because he deserves it. He deserves to be happy and others deserve to see him happy. So, when the lights turn on, and the music starts playing, Jeongguk closes his eyes, forgets about everything, and just starts dancing.

.

.

.

.

.

 

Of course, with every victory comes a defeat.

 

Jeongguk is rushed into an ICU at exactly 10.45 pm.

 

The sirens are blaring.

 

The cries and screams are filling out a usually quiet hospital hallway.

 

Namjoon is deaf to it all.

 

It was all going so well. Jimin’s and Jeongguk’s performance was more than successful. Jeongguk danced beautifully without even the littlest of the mistakes. Jimin’s feathery touch while playing the grand piano produced a haunting and captivating melody, so everybody got sucked into their own world. Going off the stage with a standing ovation from both the judges and the audience, it was quite clear they will get into the finals without any doubts.

 

And that is exactly how it was.

 

They hugged and jumped around and all of them shed tears they didn’t want anyone to see. Everything was turning out to be good – too good. That’s why on their way out, Jeongguk suddenly stopped walking.

 

One moment, he was laughing and talking with all of them. The next moment, he was collapsing onto the ground.

 

Fortunately, Seokjin was walking close enough so he could grab him before his head hit the hard ground.

 

And now they were here.

 

Jimin didn’t stop crying ever since. Seokjin has been crying silent tears and not speaking to anybody. Taehyung, Yoongi and Hoseok aren’t any better, so it was all up to Namjoon to keep it all together.

 

Namjoon, however, Namjoon is shaking. Badly. His body doesn’t seem to want to listen to him because no matter how hard he tries to make it stop, nothing seems to be working. Luckily, nobody seems to notice. Everyone is too busy being stuck in their own thoughts, in their own heads, to be able to perceive anything around them. Namjoon can understand that, especially because he isn’t much better.

 

They know absolutely nothing – about Jeongguk’s condition. Nobody has still told them anything and it’s already been two hours. Jimin has been all but screaming at any doctor that passed by them to tell him anything, but they wouldn’t budge. Most of them knew nothing, but the ones who did, only told them that it is a confidential information they cannot yet reveal. Namjoon has never wanted to punch something or someone more in his life.

 

He starts walking up and down the corridor, urging his body to calm down, when there is a hand grabbing his own and interlocking their fingers together. Without even turning, he knows who it is.

 

“Joon… are you okay?” Namjoon snorts out a laugh and faces Hoseok. His face is puffy from crying and huge bags adore his eyelids. He has never seen him like this. Hoseok was always perfectly composed, always happy, always making sure nobody saw his weak side. Right now, though, it is clearly too much even for him.

 

“Are you?” He asks back because he knows both of them know the answers. Just as Namjoon can see the state Hoseok is in, Hoseok can feel the tremble of his body.

 

“No.” Hoseok answers still, his eyes saying nothing and too much at the same time. Namjoon cannot bare to look at them any longer. “You want to go get some fresh air?” He asks, his voice coloured with concern but Namjoon feels nothing but despise.

 

“No, Hoseok, not with you. Please, just… leave me alone. God knows how Jeongguk is, I don’t need this on top of that.” Hoseok untangles their hands almost immediately, looking sheepish.

 

“I’m sorry. I’ll leave you alone, I’m really sorry.” He turns around and gets back to the seat next to Yoongi. Namjoon would feel guilty, if he could feel anything at the moment. However, all he feels is hurt and sadness.

 

 

Another hour passes until the same doctor that’s been taking care of Jeongguk every week, approaches them with a sad smile on his lips. Namjoon already feels himself growing weak, losing hope, even if the doctor has said nothing yet. Everybody else jumps on their feet in the speed of light, their eyes rimmed red, swollen but wide with wonder and terror.

 

“What is it? How is he??” Jimin is the first one to croak out, his voice almost unrecognisably hoarse due to all the crying. Namjoon takes one step closer, and then one more. They are all gathered around the doctor, clutching to each other’s arms and dreading what is to leave the doctor’s lips.

 

“I’m afraid that, unfortunately, the illness has not only influenced Jeongguk’s limbs now, but it has also started to influence his lungs. As I was scared, he overworked his body and has gone beyond his abilities and therefore has made the illness take turn for the worse. He probably had trouble breathing prior to fainting, but he tried to hide the signs. We believe, it all came at once and his body couldn’t keep up.

 

“We managed to stabilise him. He’s currently still sleeping, but we believe he’ll wake up in the next twenty-four hours. However, it made the illness progress faster, much faster than we had initially anticipated. That is why, Jeongguk will in no way be able to compete again. We also need him to stay in hospital for a few more weeks, as we would like to monitor his condition and have him here on our watch 24/7. We know he will be against it, but there’s nothing we can really do. His limbs are weakened a lot and we’re afraid that if he goes and tries to dance again… they will give out almost immediately.” A broken sob leaves Jimin’s lips, more tears rushing down his reddened cheeks. Hoseok, who stands next to him, wraps both of his arms around Jimin’s small, fragile frame and pulls him close to his chest. Seokjin presses his lips together and turns his head away from everyone’s eyes. Taehyung doesn’t try to hide his tears, while Yoongi seeks out his hand and squeezes it tight, not letting go.

 

Namjoon though, Namjoon can do nothing but watch. He feels powerless, as if his hands are tied tight with no way of untying the knot. He can do nothing but stare at the doctor’s apologetic face and his friends breaking apart right before his eyes. Maybe he should run towards them, hug them all tight, assure them that everything’s going to be alright. Maybe he should bring them all a warm drink, sit them down and try to calm them down. Maybe he, himself, should cry for Jeongguk and beg the doctor to say that it is all a lie. Because thinking how Jeongguk won’t be able to fulfil his last wish is nothing short of heartbreaking. He knows Jeongguk will hurt more than all of them combined. He knows that he will try his best to still do it, but ultimately won’t succeed because nobody will let him.

 

Namjoon should do a lot of things, comfort a lot of people, be the rock to all of them but… but he cannot move. He cannot make himself move a muscle. It feels as if his body has been cemented to the ground. He cannot open him mouth to say anything, cannot do nothing but stand and watch. Feeling worthless. Feeling numb.

 

“Hey, Namjoon.” He hears a voice. He knows a voice, knows it very well, but he doesn’t recognize it, cannot register it. The face in front of him is a blur. A blur of familiarity, but vagueness. “Namjoon, are you okay?” The voice asks, but he cannot answer, cannot shake his head, cannot move.

 

Numb.

 

Worthless.

 

You could’ve done something.

 

You should’ve done something.

 

He trusted you, and you did nothing for him.

 

You failed him.

 

You failed you.

 

You aren’t worth being called his friend.

 

You’re selfish.

 

You could’ve done so much more.

 

Seokjin’s face finally becomes clear. It is the last thing he remembers before he breaks down.

 

*

 

Two days later, Jeongguk’s mother sits by his side, holding his hand tightly. There’s a small smile gracing her lips as he looks at her son, who’s pouting and frowning. Jimin finds it amusing.

 

“But muuuuum, they are stupid. I feel perfectly fine. I can do it. I can compete in the finals. We still have time. It’s two weeks away after all. I can’t give up just like that, just because of one mishap. They’re blowing this whole thing out of proportion. I feel even better than I felt before I fainted, I swear.” Jeongguk’s insisting and nagging about performing is something they have all expected. What they didn’t expect though, is for him to whine more than twenty-four hours about it. Jimin would do everything for him, if he could. He would give him the world. But he had enough time to realise that right now, there is no way of fulfilling his wish. No matter how much Jeongguk insisted that he is fine and feeling okay, all of them know he is lying. The doctor himself told them that his limbs are so weak he cannot walk on his own. After all, all of them have witnessed it. The wheelchair beside his bed is enough of an indicator. Wherever he went, and that was mostly and only the bathroom, he had to use it with the help of the nurse. It was painful to watch, the first time Jimin has witnessed it, he wanted to break something, but he could only hope and pray Jeongguk will be better as the time passes by.

 

“Honey, please, that is enough. We already went through this over the phone. You can’t move on your own, let alone dance. You aren’t fooling yourself, let alone us, sweetie. I know that right now you feel like you haven’t done enough, that your goal is incomplete, that you should push yourself until the end but… You’ve done more than enough. Imagine, you found out about your illness – an illness that prevents you from using your body at your own will. Most of the people would give up immediately. Most of the people wouldn’t even think about dancing anymore. They would try every single thing possible to prevent the illness from spreading faster – even if it means giving up on their goals and dreams.

 

“But you, honey, you didn’t let that stop you. In fact, it even made you more determined. You went as far as ‘chasing the love of your life’ to play for you – as you so charmingly said to me once you got him to be your partner. And you practiced so much, so hard, even if your body was resisting. And you went so far as to getting to the finals. There’s so much you should be proud of, so much you did that most of the people wouldn’t. You came so far and did everything in your power that you could.

 

“That is why you shouldn’t feel like you didn’t complete your goal – like you failed. Because I think that you’ve gone even beyond your goal. You made some great friends, you fell in love, you danced your heart out, you enjoyed life to its full extent, not letting even the minute pass by in vain. And I love you for it, my sweet boy. I love and admire your bravery and determination so much and am so proud of you and your accomplishments. And I know others are, as well. So now, let us take care of you. Let us do our best to keep you with us as long as we can.” For the first time since he woke up, Jimin could see tears escaping Jeongguk’s eyes and travelling down his cheeks and neck. He squeezes his mother’s hand a little bit tighter and tugs on it, pulling her closer so he could hug her. He says nothing. There is nothing to be said. They are there, holding each other. Words are unnecessary.

 

And Jimin watches it all from the side, feeling his own lips forming a little, barely-there smile.

 

 

After that, Jeongguk does his best to calm down and accept his faith – and Jimin tries to guide him through it. The only thing that Jimin leaves the hospital for, is to shower, eat and bring more food. He puts his education on pause and quits his job, even though it was all so important to him. Old Jimin would hate New Jimin. New Jimin doesn’t care anymore. He has some money saved on the side and all of his friends are willing to help him. Jeongguk is more important right now. He needs Jimin and Jimin will put his life on hold for him without feeling an ounce of guilt. He knows that in the long run it may cause him some problems, but right now, he doesn’t care.

 

Jeongguk, as any other normal human being, hates the hospital food, so Jimin tries to always cook him sometimes and bring him over something he will actually eat. Jeongguk, however, eats less and less. The doctor said that it is completely normal. That he will feel the urge to eat less and less as the time passes by and that his body will get thinner. It’s inevitable and no matter how hard Jeongguk forces himself to eat as much as he used to, if he manages to eat that amount, eventually he ends up throwing up.

 

Jimin tries to stay positive, tries not to cry in front of him and be there for whatever he needs. He needs to be strong because Jeongguk is always so painstakingly tenacious, always makes sure nobody is feeling down and now… now it’s time for all of them to be there for him.

 

 

Jimin is sitting on the bed next to Jeongguk, a television playing some movie from the 80s, when in walk two figures. Yoongi and Taehyung are doing their best to look cheerful, carrying with them a bunch of sweets and a little stuffed teddy bear.

 

“Helloooooo,” Taehyung’s loud, booming voice spreads through the room, his huge, boxy smile making Jeongguk smile in return as well. “Look what we have for you,” He waddles the little teddy bear in his hand, looking so proud for remembering to bring it with him. Jimin finds it absolutely endearing.  And he’s not the only one, seeing as the way Yoongi is smiling up at Taehyung cannot be described as anything else but pure adoration.

 

“Oh my god, that’s so cute, Tae.” Jeongguk says just as cheerful, his full smile lighting up the whole room. He stretches his arms as much as he can and makes grabby hands towards the teddy bear. Taehyung eagerly complies and puts the teddy bear into Jeongguk’s hands. Jeongguk hugs it close to his chest, looking like a kid on Christmas morning. Jimin’s heart tightens a little while looking at him, with his sweater paws and sweet smile.

 

They sit down on the chairs next to the bed, Yoongi fidgeting with his fingers while Taehyung remains his happy self. “How are you feeling, Gguk?” Yoongi asks with his signature tiny smile. He looks a bit nervous, a bit scared, and Jimin sympathises with him wholeheartedly.

 

“Good, I’m getting real better. It’s all thanks to Jimin, of course.” He looks at Jimin and grabs his hand, intertwining their fingers. The loving smile takes over his face and Jimin can hear Taehyung gagging a little. Not that Jimin cares.

 

“Well, I’m glad to hear that. I really hope they let you off soon.”

 

“I hope so as well. So, is there anything new with you, hyung?” Jeongguk asks with his eyebrows raised in wonder, breaking his eye contact with Jimin and getting his gaze back at Taehyung and Yoongi. Though he doesn’t let go of their hands.

 

“Well, first off, Jimin, why didn’t you tell me Taehyung has a voice like that?” Jimin looks at Yoongi with a confused look on his face, scrunching his nose and pouting his lips. The question is so random that Jimin fails to see the relation.

 

“Ummmm, you never asked?” It’s true though. Not to mention that Taehyung sang so rarely that even Jimin forgets he has a beautiful voice sometimes. Once long ago, Jimin has been trying to convince Taehyung to get more into singing, but Taehyung has always only protested against it, so Jimin let the topic drop years ago. How Yoongi even got Taehyung to sing for him is a mystery of its own.

 

“How was I supposed to know to ask? Anyway, Seokjin heard him completely randomly while he was staying in your flat and long story short, he signed to Seokjin’s agency and he’s going to collaborate with me on a track.” Jimin blinked.

 

“What?”

 

“Uhhhh, I know it’s kind of sudden, but it just sort of happened.” Taehyung tries to explain with big hand gestures and a beaming smile. Jimin was still dumbfounded and Jeongguk isn’t doing much better. It all happened so quickly, so unexpectedly and Jimin feels a bit surprised, maybe a bit hurt that he neglected his friends’ lives so much that he didn’t see such big changes. “We’re making a great song though. Yoongi-hyung’s going to rap and I’m going to sing and it’s going to be the collab of the century.” He is like a little kid finally being given his favourite candy to eat. Jimin wants nothing more but to give his best friend a whole world.

 

“Hey, hey. Don’t get ahead of yourself. We only started working on it.” Yoongi grumbles, playfully slapping Taehyung’s hand and trying but failing to hide his affection. Jimin was wrapped up in his own and Jeongguk’s world so much, he has failed to see how much closer Taehyung and Yoongi have gotten. It’s something he’s been craving for years to happen, the pair always bickering and only hanging out for Jimin’s sake, and now that it happened, he had missed it completely. His heart felt with warmth though, the happiness and proudness washing over him.

 

“But I already know it’s going to be. You’re amazing, hyung, so I know we’ll make the best song ever.” Taehyung wraps one arm around Yoongi’s shoulders and pulls him into a side hug. Yoongi’s face turns red almost forthwith and he is caught so off guard he yelps.

 

“Okay, okay, oh god, I get it. You can let me go now.” Yoongi tries to get himself away from Taehyung’s death grip, but Taehyung’s too strong for Yoongi’s tiny self so it ends up being useless. After he struggles for about a minute, Taehyung finally shows him mercy and weakens his grip on him. Once Yoongi’s finally away from Taehyung’s clutches, he notices that Jimin is almost on the floor from laughing too hard and that Jeongguk isn’t doing much better. It was all way too funny to Jimin, even if Yoongi didn’t find it as amusing.

 

“Very funny.” He huffs and crosses his arms across his chest and his expression resembles the one of a kicked puppy, so Jimin starts to feel a little bit bad. He tries his best to control his laughter and stop it, but it takes him another minute to get himself back in control.

 

“It really is though,” Jeongguk pipes in shamelessly and Jimin is sure he is the only one that can get away with taking to Yoongi like that.


“Shut up.” Even though he tries to sound mad, his soft exterior and nonchalant attitude tell a different story. So, they all laugh and joke some more. They all act like they aren’t in the hospital, like there is no problems, like nothing is real. They just enjoy themselves and each other’s company.

 

Because they never know when it might be the last.

 

 

Jeongguk’s dementor gets weaker. At one point, the lower parts of his legs become 95% immobile and moving around becomes close to impossible. Even sitting up becomes harder, demanding more effort and energy which Jeongguk also starts to lose more and more as each day and night pass by. Jimin all but moved to the hospital, the medical staff having to make him get out at night because he isn’t allowed to stay and sleep overnight. Even Jeongguk’s nagging and pleading to leave and get some proper rest don’t work and Jimin stays as stubborn as ever. Jimin knows that Jeongguk’s secretly glad he stays, even if he doesn’t say it outright. Jeongguk’s mother is also an often visitor, having moved to Seokjin’s flat herself. She felt too guilty, too self-conscious to stay in Busan. She wanted to be there for Jeongguk whenever, and even though Jeongguk, of course, protested and said that there’s no need to leave all her life behind just for him, she didn’t listen. Then Jeongguk complained how nobody listens to him anymore and all Jimin had to say was simply that – he wasn’t right. Jeongguk didn’t protest much after that.

 

Namjoon is seen visiting Jeongguk whenever he has time, which comes down to at least three times a week. It pains Namjoon immensely that he cannot visit more often, be there for Jeongguk every day, but life’s a bitch and is making me busier than ever so he can barely scrap by time he does. Jeongguk always tried to convince him that it’s fine – that, in fact, he’s happy Namjoon’s not here more often because he thinks he would go insane with so much people around him all the time. It doesn’t stop Namjoon from feeling like an absolute shit of a best friend though.

 

Jeongguk tries to keep the smile on his face whenever he’s there, even though he’s visibly struggling and not being able to move parts of his body bothers him to bits and pieces. Namjoon wants to tell him it’s fine, that showing his true emotions is not a sin and nobody will judge him, but he knows better and he knows Jeongguk and knows that telling him these things will change nothing. Because Jeongguk wants to appear fine and happy for all of them, even when he’s not. It’s an image he’s very determined to leave burned in everyone’s minds and Namjoon knows his words won’t be able to convince him otherwise.

 

“Joon, I forgot to ask you,” Jimin turns towards him, his eyes furrowed in confusion. “Did you hear from Hoseok lately? I haven’t seen him around for ages and with… recent events, I thought he’d be here more. Disappearing from the face of the Earth at times like this is so unlike him and… I’m just a little worried.” An immediate guilt washes over Namjoon. He looks down to the floor and bites his lip, not knowing what exactly to say. He cannot tell the truth, cannot tell he ruined almost everything – that the reason why Hoseok is avoiding all of them is him. He wouldn’t know where to start, how to start and how to even explain everything that was happening for such a long time that no one else was even aware of. That’s why he ignores the voice in his head telling him that the right thing to do is to say the truth and goes down the alternate route.

 

“I really don’t know. He hasn’t contacted me either and I haven’t seen him around. I tried to get in touch with him but he just… I don’t know. But I believe he’s fine. Maybe he just has tough time dealing with it all. I think we should all give him time.” He lies through his teeth, fighting the urge to break down and spill everything.

 

 Just as Jeongguk is about to answer though, there’s a knock at the door.

 

“Come in!” The knob turns and in comes the familiar face they’ve all just been mentioning seconds earlier. His eyes are apologetic, his smile is sincere and shy and he looks as guilty as Namjoon feels inside. Namjoon looks at the man he hurt and tries his best not to fall down on his knees and beg for his mercy. Instead, he just stares. Stares and stares but Hoseok’s eyes don’t meet his own. Rather, they are focused on Jeongguk and his thin from. Which is completely understandable, but irrational and selfish part of Namjoon’s brain tells him that’s not the true reason. He brushes those awful thoughts away.

 

“Hey, Jeongguk-ah,” he says as he comes closer and closer, until he’s standing right by the chair Namjoon’s sitting on. “I… I’m so sorry I haven’t visited sooner. I don’t really have a good excuse. In fact, I don’t want to make any excuses but nothing excuses visiting my… sick friend. I’m so sorry. I’m an awful person and I know I don’t deserve your forgiveness nor your kindness but I promise that, from now on, I’ll be here more often and that I’ll make sure to be there for you whenever you need me. I was selfish but… I’m going to put you first because you deserve the world, Jeongguk-ah. You were always there for me, whenever I needed it, so now I’m going to try and be there for you as much as you were there for me.” Hoseok’s voice is shaking by the end of his speech. His eyes glister with tears that are barely holding onto his eyelashes. Namjoon feels the urge to wrap his arms around him, to give him the comfort he never gave and that he never asked for. But he knows better, so he stays put, silently observing the scene happening right before his eyes.

 

Jeongguk extends his hand, putting it on top of Hoseok’s own, which found its way to Jeongguk’s bed. He gives him the softest, comforting smile, nothing but pure adoration and forgiveness seen in his eyes. “It’s okay, Hobi. What matters is that you’re here now. You’ve always been a friend and I knew that someday you’re going to come around. I would never hold anything against you.” It’s so simple – his statement, and Namjoon can do nothing but admire him for it. There are only few people in the world as good and as pure as Jeon Jeongguk – and the world does not deserve him. None of them are worthy enough of his kindness and pure heartedness, and yet, he still wants them around, urges them to stay.

 

“Thank you,” is all Hoseok manages to whisper. He squeezes Jeongguk hand tightly thought and Namjoon guesses gestures speak louder than words.

 

 

Later that evening, when Namjoon and Hoseok and leaving the hospital at the same time, it’s the first time in a while they are alone again. At first, Namjoon thinks of keeping quiet the entire time. However, the silence is awkward and Hoseok keeps avoiding his glance like a plague and Namjoon realises this is ridiculous and makes no sense at all.

 

“Hoseok, listen, I-”

 

“No.” Hoseok cuts him off immediately. “I’m sorry, Namjoon-ah, but I don’t want to hear it. We both fucked up. We both fucked up with being together in the first place, and now we both fucked up even more. I don’t think I can go back to being only your friend, but I also don’t think I’d ever want to be something more. You know I’m bad with feelings, and quite frankly, you aren’t much better either. Isn’t that true?”

 

“… It is”, is all he can say.

 

“Yeah, so… I think it’s best if we avoid each other as much as we can. Of course, we can act normal in front of others and act like nothing changed but… I just can’t do it anymore, Namjoon-ah. I really can’t. I’m sorry.” And before he knows it, Hoseok is pushing the hospital’s door open and is, once again, running away and away.

 

And Namjoon? He can do nothing but stop and stare.

 

*

 

Brother.

 

That is the first word Jimin hears just when he’s about to pull the door open. He stops with his hand just above the doorknob and takes a step back. Ever since Jeongguk has ended up in the hospital, Seokjin has been everywhere but here. It wasn’t on purpose, wasn’t what Seokjin wanted, but it was out of his control. There were too many commitments, too many people asking for favours Seokjin couldn’t refuse. He’s been stressed ever since, trying to keep a brave façade and show nothing on the outside. He’s been calling Jimin at least three times a day, asking for reports of Jeongguk’s condition and asking for any new information. Most of the time, Jimin had nothing new to say and Jeongguk’s been finding the whole thing amusing, screaming over Jimin that he’s still alive.

 

Now, it looks like he has finally found the time to come over so Jimin didn’t want to bother them. Instead, with a small smile on his face, he turned away from the door and made his way towards hospital cafeteria.

 

It was filled with people, mostly patients along with their close ones, getting the disgusting food they served. It isn’t like they have many other options, especially if they’ve been here for a long time and their family lived far away. What kills Jimin, is how many kids there are. And yet, they still find strength in themselves to smile so brightly that they light up everyone’s days. Their parents, even though there’s obvious sadness in their eyes, are smiling just for them, laughing while watching them run in excitement all over the cafeteria. Other people are giving them space and warm smiles as they continue to have as much fun as they can muster. Jimin stands and watches, watches and watches all these people, all these children, life in a hospital becoming a part of their daily routines. They’re so used to it they probably don’t remember the life before. Jimin realises, he’s no better. He’s been spending his time here only for a few weeks and yet, his memories of something else, normal life, became blurry. It’s almost as if his whole life started revolving around hospitals and Jeongguk. He doesn’t regret it, but he has to admit that he’s feeling rather… lost.

 

Jeongguk has become such a huge part of his life that he almost forgot everything about what was important to him before. He feels himself beginning to fall into the pit of no return, where he becomes indulged in something or someone so much he doesn’t know how to think or do anything that doesn’t involve them. He knows it isn’t healthy, knows he should get his life back together. He should get back to university, get back to his daily job, play piano by side but… it seems so hard. Because Jeongguk’s condition is nowhere near good enough. And they all know… they all know he’s not going to be alive for long, know they cannot do anything to stop it and that’s why it’s even harder to make himself do anything more.

 

He’s becoming nobody. He’s becoming a shell of a person he once was. He cannot escape from this loophole he has gotten himself into and he’s not sure if he wants to either. He wants to spend as much time with Jeongguk as possible. Even if it’s not healthy. Even if it kills him along with Jeongguk. He feels himself growing more dependent as the time passes by, more attached and desperate. Desperate to save at least one person in his life. Because he can never save anything, it seems. He wants to cling onto Jeongguk and never let him go. But, he keeps slipping away, more and more. Not physically, but he can feel it. He can feel the strength leaving Jeongguk’s body little by little, even if it’s mostly unnoticeable. The light in his eyes is becoming dimmer and the hands holding his own are becoming weaker.

 

He wants to cling, so, so desperately, but he already knows that it’s too late.

 

He grabs the food for all of them and makes his way back towards Jeongguk’s room, with a heavy feeling in his chest.

 

 

Three months later

 

They say that everything happens for a reason.

 

The events in our lives, the people we meet, the choices that we make, the lies that we say, the people that we leave, the places that we run away from… nothing is accidental and nothing can be reversed.

 

No matter how much we wish something might’ve happen like this, or how much we wish some event never took place… Even if we want to change our whole lives around… it is impossible to do so. Jimin has prayed so much, ever since he was a little boy. To change this, to change that, to make this easier, to make that better but… he always felt like it was in vain. Now, as he watches the scenery before him, he thinks that maybe it was really supposed to be this way. He was supposed to always see tragedy.

 

He is a walking tragedy. Maybe if he wasn’t in those people’s lives, maybe… things would be different. But then again, maybe his destiny is to be a destroyer. To come into people’s lives, even his own, and destroy them.

 

Pain.

 

All that’s left of him is – pain.

 

He cannot even look into anyone’s eyes; doesn’t even dare to come closer to any of them. That is why he’s watching it all from afar. He wonders how many times will he have to do through things like these… if he keeps on living.

 

Because he keeps destroying, and destroying and only destroying. Maybe it’s time he destroys himself this time. It is not like he has anything to live for anyway. His mother is long gone. He never knew his father. The love of his life has now joined his mother at the dining table. And his friends… his friends don’t even recognize him anymore. They don’t even recognize themselves. They are lost, just as he is. But at least they aren’t bearing the tragedy on their shoulders. If he stays in their lives, he’s only going to destroy them as well. He should leave them, to live as happily as they can. To start new relationships, end toxic ones, get jobs they want and become successful. They are better off without the tragedy looming over them all the time.

 

He takes one more good look at the scene in front of him – at the dark circles and dark, grey clouds. Instead of taking a step forward, he takes a step back. Turns around.

 

And without looking back,

 

he walks.