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Love as Fast as Light

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[moodboard by cata]

~ ~ ~

The cool towel on Jeongguk’s face was starting to turn lukewarm, but he had been lying in his savasana for a solid five minutes. For the entire hour of hot yoga, Jeongguk hadn’t been able to focus worth a damn, nor had he been quite able to spare a glance at Jimin. All weekend, he had paced the company and his apartment, trying to figure out what the fuck he was feeling and what was going on in his own head, but he had been entirely unsuccessful. All he knew was that he had had the greatest sex of his life with his best friend, who had dropped about a dozen reminders that they were, indeed, just friends.

But then why? Why had he caved? Why had Jimin just willingly agreed to fake it for one more night by throwing sex into the mix? Why had he kissed Jeongguk in the taxi? Why?

The class ended with one collective “ohm,” but Jeongguk stayed put for an extra minute as the studio emptied out. Then he finally cracked open his eyes and removed his towel, clenching it in his fist as he sat up cross-legged. He glanced to the back corner and saw Jimin halfway in the cleaning closet, emerging with a mop. Jimin saw that Jeongguk was up and alert, so he walked over quietly, bowing to the last student that was leaving the studio.

“Good class,” Jeongguk commended, wanting to smack himself as he stood up with a yoga block in between his hands for a distraction. Jimin smiled, propping the mop against the floor and resting his hands one on top of the other at the tip of the handle.

“No face-planting this time,” he pointed out, and Jeongguk rolled his eyes with a weak smile. “Did you have a good weekend?”

“Yeah, it was fine. Can we skip the small talk?” Jeongguk asked, and Jimin snickered.

“Sure. We can skip the small talk,” he agreed, because their friendship typically didn’t have the confines of a regular friendship. They were brutally honest with one another when it counted, but feelings seemed to be the one thing Jeongguk could speak on without choking. “You wanted to know why.”

“I did.”

 

mood: “lose you too” by shy martin

 

“Look, I…” Jimin sighed, turning his head to wipe his temple on his shirt in the middle of the hot room. “I know you want some deeper meaning, Gguk, but there really isn’t. We got carried away. I took it too far and probably had too much champagne, and you were my fake boyfriend who just finished a full-length fucking album. It felt like a good decision at the time.”

“That’s the most basic excuse in the book,” Jeongguk pointed out with caution, and Jimin smirked.

“It might be basic, but it’s still valid,” he replied. “Jeongguk, Friday night was amazing. And the sex was great. That’s not what this is about. I don’t regret any of it.”

“Well, neither do I. So what are you trying to say?” Jeongguk wondered.

“Well, what are you trying to say?” Jimin asked, raising his eyebrows. “Jeongguk-ah, we’ve been friends for years. Best friends. And we’ve always been so good together as friends. What we were doing was just so you could produce an amazing album. And by the sound of it, that’s exactly what you got.”

“Look, all I’m trying to say is that—it’s—I just didn’t know… I don’t know where we stand,” Jeongguk replied, his heart screaming at him. Confess, you idiot! Tell him you fell in love! Tell him! But the fear had Jeongguk in a chokehold. What if he confessed to Jimin and Jimin just gave him that sad smile? What if Jimin didn’t feel the same? What if Jeongguk confessed and everything fell apart? That was the one and only thing holding Jeongguk back from letting the dam burst. It was the crippling fear that the response wouldn’t be what he wanted so desperately to hear. “So I was asking why because—I mean, after all those years, we just decided to have sex?”

“I mean, talk about pent-up sexual tension. We were in the middle of a fake relationship,” Jimin said, and Jeongguk cracked a small smile. 

“I guess I was just asking if it—you know. I don’t know. If it meant anything to you or if it was just sex with your best friend,” he said, keeping his voice as even as possible. “And I don’t… I mean, I don’t want anything to change. With us. Fuck, I’m horrible at this.”

“Hey. Stop it,” Jimin firmly said. “You’re not. Nothing’s going to change. You’ll always be my best friend, Gguk.”

“Hyung, my album is done,” Jeongguk muttered, turning the yoga block over in his hands. “And I—I don’t know. I really don’t know.”

“You’ve always been a method actor,” Jimin said with a fond smile. “Always. You immerse yourself in whatever you’re feeling, whatever the task is at hand. You’re brilliant at it. And this was another one of those things, Jeongguk, and that’s what I’m afraid of. I’m afraid that you’ll wake up one morning soon and snap out of it and regret everything. I mean, we both got too caught up in it. And I don’t want your album to come out and then you step back and realize, ‘oh, shit, I didn’t mean for it to go this way.’”

“You’re right,” Jeongguk sighed, rubbing his forehead. “I know you’re right. I’m just—I’m in my head.” He waved his hand around his face. “I don’t know if anything I was feeling was real or not now. I feel like questioning everything.”

“That’s exactly what I’m saying,” Jimin said with a small laugh. “So just give it time to settle. We’re friends. Let’s stay that way. Give yourself some time and space. The last three months were a lot, Jeongguk-ah. You have an album release coming up and a lot of promo and an entire world tour. You’ll be busy. You need to focus on that.”

“You’re very calm about all of this,” Jeongguk said, narrowing his eyes. “Here I am panicking, and you’re just totally zen.”

“I’m a yoga instructor, fool,” Jimin replied, and he and Jeongguk snorted with laughter. “Look, I’m just being calm about it because I don’t want to lose you, and I know you have a lot to focus on with your career. If you’re still hung up on the sex, just think of it as getting to know each other a little better.”

“You’re an idiot,” Jeongguk sighed, and Jimin snickered. “That’s not helpful at all.”

“Jeongguk-ah.” Jimin moved the mop and nudged at Jeongguk’s bare feet. “It’s all good. Seriously. Friends. You and me. Life as usual. It’s that easy.”

“Yeah. Life as usual,” Jeongguk repeated, but his heart was in the pit of his stomach. Nothing about their conversation had gone the way he had wanted it to, and he was keeping his energy up just so he wouldn’t cry in frustration. It was exactly as he had feared. Jimin had never seen their arrangement as anything more than just that—an arrangement. Something only to benefit Jeongguk’s career, a strategic move. Business. Just a friend helping a friend. And Jeongguk had been stupid enough to catch feelings.

“Gguk-ah.” Jimin’s voice was gentle, so Jeongguk stopped turning over the yoga block and glanced up. “Just give yourself some time. It’s like salt in a wound right now, this whole conversation. We’re both too close to it to understand. Just… time. Give yourself time. Time and space.”

“I know,” Jeongguk whispered, licking his lips and slowly nodding. “Yeah. I’m—yeah. Thank you, hyung. For… yeah. Just talking to me about it.”

“Well, what was I going to do, cut off communication entirely and ghost you?” Jimin asked, raising his eyebrows in amusement. Jeongguk shifted the yoga block to a position underneath his arm.

“I mean, that’s what they do in dramas,” he noted, and Jimin rolled his eyes with a small smile.

“Alright, get out of here. I need to mop the floor. I have a yin yoga class that I’m substituting in five minutes.” He pushed Jeongguk’s feet with the mop, and Jeongguk reached around and used the yoga block to whack Jimin’s ass with it. Jimin let out a yelp and scowled, and Jeongguk weakly laughed and packed up all his belongings, cleaning off and rolling up his mat.

“Hyung?”

“Yeah, Gguk?” Jimin turned to look over his shoulder.

“Um, if I—can I send you some tickets to my first-listen showcase?” Jeongguk asked, shifting his footing anxiously. “Just, um, three tickets. I’ll send three. For you, Hoseok hyung, and Namjoon hyung. In case you want to come.”

“Of course I want to come,” Jimin said with a smile. “Send the tickets. I’ll be there.”

Jeongguk nodded, and then he threw his yoga mat with its sling over his shoulder and padded out of the classroom, feeling lightheaded. It had to be from the hot room. Jeongguk didn’t want to attribute it to anxiety or the slippery slope of rejection, because had Jimin rejected him? Not… really. Had Jeongguk said enough for Jimin to reject him? No. But none of it stopped Jeongguk from feeling like the last three months had just been Jimin playing him for a fool.

And it wasn’t Jimin’s fault. Jimin had not played Jeongguk for a fool at all. He had done exactly what Jeongguk had asked him to do, including taking it to the extreme. But Jeongguk couldn’t help but feel like he had been hypnotized and hoodwinked. Perhaps it was because of what Jimin had said—pent-up sexual tension. Was it just sexual, though? Or had Jeongguk fallen down the rabbit hole because of years of suppressed feelings that he had never known were there?

If yoga was meant to be meditative in fashion, Jeongguk lost any sense of peace the moment he walked out of the yoga studio and into the real world. His breath was coming out shorter. He forgot where he had parked his car. His mind was scrambled. Feeling like everything was too bright, Jeongguk pulled out his phone and dialed Yoongi.

“...Hyung? It’s me. I—I need to talk to you. Please.”

 

***

 

HELLO. THIS IS GENIUS LAB ENTERTAINMENT.

 

We would like to provide an update on the release of Jeon Jeongguk’s first full-length album, “LIBRA,” originally planned for release on 1st September.

 

Genius Lab takes the physical and mental health of our artists very seriously. At this time, Jeongguk is experiencing personal life stressors and anxiety that have left him feeling unable to happily participate in promotional activities. Jeongguk has asked to delay the release of his album, and we have immediately complied with the artist’s request.

 

Please look forward to the release of “LIBRA,” as well as Jeongguk’s participation in promotional activities, on 13th October. 

 

All first-listen tickets will be honored for the new date, and full refunds will be provided for those fans who cannot make it to the show on this day. We apologize for the inconvenience and stress this may cause some fans.

 

The LIBRA World Tour will commence as scheduled, beginning 23rd October in Busan, South Korea. We thank you for your continued interest in the artist’s live performances.

 

Jeongguk has expressed his regret in being unable to meet with fans presently. He is looking forward to resting and returning to give his love back to his fans who have waited so patiently.

 

Thank you.

 

***

 

mood: “if i hated you” by fletcher

 

“Hey.”

“Hey.” Jeongguk glanced up from his guitar, a notepad and a pen to his right so that he could jot down ideas that he had on the fly. Taehyung was standing in the doorway of the artists’ lounge, and to Jeongguk’s surprise, Yoongi was behind him. Suspicious, Jeongguk narrowed his eyes and watched them both sit down on the couch. It was rare for entertainment company CEOs to be so casual with their artists, but Yoongi was a different breed with a small but successful company in the palm of his hand.

“What are you working on?” Yoongi asked, pulling out his phone to check a message and then tucking it away.

“Um, just a new song,” Jeongguk said distractedly, eyes flicking down to the lyrics he had written so far. Nearly the entire page was filled, but it was all just a giant brainstorm. He was certain he had a melody, and now he just had to fit the lines he had come up with into the song itself. His phone was lying on the couch, and the screen illuminated with a social media alert, but Jeongguk didn’t even notice it. All he noticed was that the lock screen background photo he had was a picture he and Jimin had taken together at the bowling alley, Jimin sitting in his lap, both of them smiling radiantly. And Jeongguk couldn’t bring himself to change it.

“Deluxe edition?” Taehyung asked, slouching and crossing his arms.

“Maybe.” Jeongguk chewed his bottom lip, and then he conceded and set his guitar aside. “Do you two want something?”

“We’re just tag-teaming you to make sure you’re okay,” Yoongi replied honestly. “You’re one month away from album release now.”

“I’m fine,” Jeongguk lied, but he was lying, and Yoongi and Taehyung both knew it. Jeongguk’s birthday had come to pass, and Jeongguk had never been one for birthday celebrations. But he had woken up that morning feeling heavy and lonely, thinking about how his emotions had clouded his ability to be an artist, how he had delayed his album release because everything had been too overwhelming.

Yoongi agreed and understood immediately. He hadn’t even questioned Jeongguk’s decision. He had just asked Jeongguk for a new date, and when Jeongguk had suggested Jimin’s birthday, Yoongi had only flicked his eyebrows up before nodding and drafting up the press release. Taehyung had not been as nice, telling Jeongguk that Jeongguk was just making it worse for himself without forcing Jeongguk to talk about it.

Jeongguk had spent his birthday at the company with his guitar, thanking fans online for the birthday wishes and finding it in himself to go to an event at a café that local fans had organized. But what had killed him the most was that Jimin had called him to ask where he was, and Jeongguk had told him. And then Jimin had shown up with a cake, lighting the candles and everything and asking Jeongguk to make a wish. He hadn’t been able to stay thanks to the hip hop class he had agreed to substitute that night. But the hug he had given Jeongguk had been a tipping point.

Jimin seemed none-the-wiser, but Jeongguk was in a downward spiral now. He and Jimin were back to “normal,” or so Jimin probably thought. But every single interaction felt like a bullet to the heart for Jeongguk, because time and space weren’t helping him. With each passing day, he woke up and fell deeper in love with Jimin, thinking he was crazy for having such feelings. And then he would torture himself by listening to his album from start to finish, the story he had created, the story of how he had fallen in love.

“You want to go out to eat?” Taehyung asked, and Jeongguk shook his head.

“I’ll get delivery.”

“Jeongguk-ah,” Yoongi said, and Jeongguk sighed.

“Yeah, go ahead. Here comes the lecture,” he said sourly, and he noticed the look that Yoongi and Taehyung exchanged. The two were annoyingly in sync with each other now that they were dating. Jeongguk still couldn’t believe that his impassioned insults in Taehyung’s direction had shifted the dynamic of the relationship completely. Taehyung had actually sat down with Yoongi and explained his fears, and Yoongi had just given him space and listened, to Taehyung’s immense relief. Taehyung had then been the one to ask if Yoongi wanted to make it serious, and Yoongi had, to his own admission, cried in private out of happiness after agreeing. 

“We’re not going to lecture you.” Yoongi crossed one leg over the other. “You’ve just been reclusive for two weeks, Gguk. Which, I mean, fair enough. I know you’re resting and trying to work things out. But you’re not explaining yourself, either.”

“What do you need me to explain? You can work it out for yourselves,” Jeongguk said with the same icy tone, and then he sighed, feeling guilty. “Sorry, I’m sorry. I just… I don’t know.”

“I mean, you could start with that night at The X,” Taehyung suggested, and Yoongi gave him a look. “What? It’s either that or nothing.”

“We had sex that night.”

“What?” Yoongi and Taehyung both said immediately, but Jeongguk just continued to stare at the ceiling, his heels pressed into the ground, legs straight, arms crossed.

“That night. We left and went back to my place and had sex,” Jeongguk recounted almost monotonously. “And it was fucking great. But then that Monday, I went to yoga, and we talked. And he just—he said that we were both too caught up in it. That I’ll wake up one morning and realize that I regret everything, and he didn’t want that to happen because he didn’t want to lose me as a friend.”

“Okay. I mean, so far, it makes sense,” Yoongi tentatively said. “Not that it’s ideal, but I see what he’s saying.”

“And he was so nice about it all,” Jeongguk almost whispered. “I mean, there I was, a fucking fool who fell in love with my goddamn fake boyfriend, and he was just—he was so good. Just explained it and let me down gently even though I didn’t even confess to anything. And he doesn’t know. How could he fucking know?”

“So you’re telling me that he was really faking it the entire three months?” Taehyung raised his eyebrows. “Am I hearing that correctly? He’s that talented? Faked it that well?”

“Apparently,” Jeongguk murmured.

“I don’t buy it.”

“Tae,” Yoongi sighed, but Taehyung just threw up one hand, letting it smack down on his thigh.

“No, look, I’m sorry. Jeongguk, I’m sorry. I’m not trying to twist the knife or anything,” Taehyung apologized preemptively. “But honest to Christ, do you really think that everything he did for you over the past three months was just to be a good friend? Who the fuck kisses you like that if they’re faking it? No one’s that good.”

“He must be,” Jeongguk muttered.

“What was the sex like?”

“Okay, time-out corner,” Yoongi joked tiredly, pointing. “Don’t even go there, Tae.”

“It’s an important question,” Taehyung argued, sitting up straighter. “Can’t you see he’s hurting? He’s fucking lovesick, and you think I’m not going to try to figure this shit out for him? Jeongguk, what was the sex like? If you don’t want to tell me, fine. But if you can—”

“What do you mean, what was it like?” Jeongguk interrupted snappishly. “It was just the two of us. No one fucking watching. But I asked him to fake it for one more night like an idiot, and he agreed to it. And then we had sex, and it was the best sex I’ve ever had. Anything else? Is that enough detail for you?”

“And what was his reason for having sex with you?” Taehyung questioned.

“I don’t know. In too deep, too much champagne, too excited about me finishing my album. A combination of things,” Jeongguk cranklily replied. Taehyung then fell quiet, pitching forward with his elbows on his knees, palms pressed together pensively. He glanced over at Yoongi, and Yoongi finally joined in, sighing.

“That… rubs me the wrong way,” Yoongi said, and Taehyung hummed. “Not in a bad way. Just—That’s a shitty reason. Not even shitty, just… stupid. There’s something else going on there.”

“Thank you,” Taehyung sighed in gratitude, and Jeongguk set both hands over his face, eyes closed.

“I don’t really want to talk about this anymore,” he mumbled.

“Jeongguk, your entire album is about him,” Yoongi reminded Jeongguk. “Every single song. I mean, it’s a damn story. It’s a fucking love confession. Like it or not, you’re going to have to talk about it a hell of a lot come October.”

“I fucked up,” Jeongguk whispered.

“You didn’t fuck up,” Taehyung retorted. “You wrote a kick-ass album. You’ve seen the preliminary reviews from the media. You’ve gotten nothing less than rave reviews so far. Even that dickhead from Billboard who always went ‘meh’ when you released music said that he loved it, gave you a great review, said there are no skips on the damn album.”

“Yeah, but what the fuck does that even matter if I feel like this?” Jeongguk asked, throwing up one hand. “And it’s one-sided! Jimin’s fine! Doesn’t even know! Fuck, I’m doing this to myself. He’s just going about his business being a good best friend and I’m just—I’m just here. Feeling crazy. He said I needed to give myself time and space to—like, pull myself out of it. But it’s not helping.”

“Well, what usually helps you deal with your emotions?” Yoongi asked, lifting one foot and using it to beckon to Jeongguk’s guitar. “Not telling you to overwork yourself, but music is your therapy. See if anything good comes out of it.”

“And maybe talk to us,” Taehyung recommended. “We’re here all the time. We see you most often. Just talk to us if you’re feeling something.”

“Yeah. I will,” Jeongguk agreed, his chest still aching. “I just… I don’t know. I can’t let it go. I can’t stop thinking about my own feelings. Like if I’m just imagining it all.”

“Doubt it,” Yoongi replied.

“I mean, have I always been in love with him?” Jeongguk finally said it out loud, though he was speaking to the ceiling. “Have I just been suppressing it all this time? Has he ever…? Jesus, I don’t know. I don’t fucking know.”

“Write about it.” Yoongi patted Taehyung’s thigh, and they both stood up together, Taehyung stretching and then ruffling Yoongi’s hair like the pest he was. Yoongi blatantly ignored it, whether he minded or not. “And for fuck’s sake, try going home at some point.”

Jeongguk just hummed and watched his friends walk out of the artists’ lounge, and then he picked up his notebook with one hand. There was potential. There was definitely a song there. He just had to work through it and come up with something of substance.

He didn’t just go home, though. He went home and then woke up early enough to go to yin yoga, of all classes. Jimin was the teacher, naturally, and his face lit up happily when he saw Jeongguk walk into the class just after it had begun. He walked around the class and helped students adjust their poses to increase the stretch, and when he approached Jeongguk, he helped adjust Jeongguk’s position on the bolster and then rubbed his back shortly before moving to the next student. Jeongguk had to remind himself of his breathing to keep from crying on the spot, because it seemed like he was in a precarious emotional state with very little logical explanation.

“I’m so sorry,” Jimin whispered apologetically to Jeongguk when class was over. “I have to get ready for the next class. Do you want to grab a drink this week, or are you good?”

“I’m—Well, I mean, if you want to,” Jeongguk said with a weak laugh.

“Just want to give you space,” Jimin replied, still stacking the yoga blocks back in the alcove along the wall. “It’s up to you. You never really talked to me about pushing your album release to October, so I just… you know.”

“I know. I’m sorry,” Jeongguk apologized, feeling like there was an elephant in the room that he was ignoring. It’s on your birthday. Bet you noticed. Do you get it? Do you understand how in love I am with you? Do you know? I even named my album after you. Everything is about you. “I—yeah, I just got too anxious with everything, so I pushed it back. That’s all.”

“ I get it,” Jimin said breathily, still cleaning up. “That’s fine, Gguk. We can talk if you want to. But I’ll just let you text me if you want to do anything. No pressure. It’s fine.”

“You’re too good to me. Don’t you get it?”

“What?” Jimin’s brow furrowed, and Jeongguk cleared his throat and shook his head, backing up.

“Sorry. I’m sorry,” he apologized again with haste, and then he turned over one shoulder and ran out of the yoga studio, hearing Jimin call his name once but not chasing after him. Jeongguk shoved the door open and had to come to a halt for a moment to remember where he had parked his car along the street, and then he broke into a run until he saw his car parked. With shaking hands, he unlocked it and threw himself into the driver’s seat, and once he was in the safety of silence, he burst into tears and gripped the steering wheel with both hands, bowing his head onto the top.

“Fuck, fuck, fuck,” he quietly cursed, because he had never fucked up so badly. It had just slipped out. His subconscious thoughts had made their way out of his mouth, and he had as good as let it slip that he was struggling. Now Jimin knew. It was just out there in the open, up for interpretation.

When Jeongguk’s phone started vibrating in his bag, he knew exactly who it was. But like an idiot, he checked anyway just to see Jimin’s name and the picture of the two of them together on the screen. And Jeongguk just stared with tears in his eyes, watching the phone ring and ring until it finally, mercifully stopped. Then he tossed his phone onto the passenger seat, not even bothering to put it into the holder. When it started to ring again, Jeongguk didn’t even look at it. He just started his car and drove straight home, jaw clenched to keep from crying harder.

Now he was dreading Libra season.

 

***

 

Jeongguk rapidly rubbed his face and blew out a breath, and then he set his hands on the piano keys again. He had woken up at four in the morning with a melody like a gift in a dream, and he had just made coffee before getting to work. It was almost lunchtime now, and he hadn’t slept. He couldn’t sleep.

For weeks, when he closed his eyes, all he could see were supercuts of his friendship with Jimin. Even when he had his eyes wide open, the flashes were jarring enough to stop him dead in his tracks. Every day now, he went through the four and a half years he had known Jimin like he was editing a novel, combing through and searching for those moments, those moments when he realized that he was right on the edge of falling deeply in love but held himself back, friendzoned himself.

He wasn’t doing it on purpose. He desperately wanted it to stop, but it was an addiction, because it made him feel justified. His therapist had recommended a few solutions to get the thoughts to dissipate, but Jeongguk didn’t want them to, because he hadn’t spoken to Jimin in three weeks. Three weeks without a conversation wasn’t unusual; when Jeongguk was on the road, he often forgot to contact Jimin, but they always picked right back up where they left off when they reunited. But this was different. This was after the dam had burst, and now it was October, and he wasn’t focused on the album release. Instead, Jeongguk was re-living countless moments like a film strip before his eyes.

Each moment he reviewed was a moment where he swore that there was more than friendship lingering between the two of them. Sometimes Jimin had triggered it. Sometimes Jeongguk had triggered it. But as Jeongguk went through it all in his mind, whenever a new memory ravaged his brain, he wrote it down in a notebook, and it helped him sort out his thoughts. And as he wrote, as he listed them, he realized in a mixture of horror and relief that there were dozens of moments throughout the years when they had crossed that boundary line. And now Jeongguk was nearly finished his song. It was a piano-based tune with hardly any music, mostly vocals, but it had an R&B, almost spoken rhyme vibe to it.



Remember you told me once you didn’t need your coffee today?

Who were you trying to play? I know caffeine runs through your veins

Barely even knew you then, no more than a name and a pretty face but

We were both attached, had to stay in our own separate lanes

 

Knockin’ on my door near midnight, tears in your eyes, fists clenched

Like you’d been benched, but the letdown, you said, was easy

Held you in my arms for hours, said you were lost and confused but

Now that I look back, all I can think is that I’m glad you came to me

 

Now it’s like a supercut, all the moments, all brilliant

Pieces of a puzzle, fit together, and you’re heaven-sent

 

There’s a glow like a halo around you when I look

All the time in my mind has a shine when it’s with you

Brilliant heart, brilliant soul, you can read me like a book

And I love you

 

Picked you up at the airport around noon, told you Paris awaits

Right at the gates, and your smile almost took my breath away

Now all I can think of is that I held you while we slept at night but

We said that it was just what friends do, that it was all okay



With every little story that Jeongguk poured out into lyrics, he felt like it was harder and harder to breathe. The worst part was that he knew he was doing it to himself—the emotional pain and inner turmoil was no one’s fault but his own. But he had never been in love like this before. Nothing had ever hurt as much as loving Jimin did, especially when Jeongguk took more than two seconds to consider that Jimin never had feelings for him at all, that everything at the end of their fake relationship had been unrequited.

Jeongguk had failed to calculate the pain that came with falling in love with his best friend. He and Jimin had always been thick as thieves, always there for one another in the blink of an eye, always blurring the boundary lines without thinking much of it. Jimin was Jeongguk’s person. He was the one Jeongguk could go to for anything, no matter how silly it seemed in his mind. Jimin could always sort it out. And on the other hand, whenever Jimin needed a confidant, someone to listen to life’s little problems, Jeongguk was there. But now Jeongguk was taking the space Jimin had offered, and it was making things worse. And Jeongguk’s time was running out.

“One more time, okay? With a little more enthusiasm.”

“If I give it more enthusiasm, I’ll sound like I’m running a theme park ride,” Jeongguk griped, and Seokjin snorted.

“Just do it again. Humor me.”

“Fine.” Jeongguk smoothed out his shirt, and then he waited for the signal. “Hi, this is Jeongguk, and you can stream my brand new single, ‘Neon,’ available now on Spotify.” With a small smile, he flashed two finger hearts, and then Seokjin nodded, giving two thumbs up. Jeongguk deflated and leaned his back against the wall, knowing he had to do one for Spotify in Korea as well, and that he had about five other short promotional videos to shoot before he was free.

“Okay, talk about the deluxe version now,” Seokjin advised, still sprawled out on the couch, and then he gestured to the table. Jeongguk blew out a breath and picked up the album, his album, off the table, turning it over in his hands. The photoshoot for the cover and photobook had been a moment of fun in his period of rest. He had gone for a hard look and a soft look, offering two different versions to fans in case they were interested. Perhaps he wasn’t an idol, but hitting hundreds of thousands of pre-sales in Korea alone was astonishing. The numbers didn’t lie—people were excited for the album, and Jeongguk wished he was excited, too.

The album itself was nine songs. With the deluxe version, Jeongguk was offering two additional tracks with an exclusive poster:



TRACKLIST

  1. are you here?
  2. neon
  3. ill-uminated
  4. don’t speak (quiet)
  5. i think those are butterflies
  6. libra
  7. silk
  8. fuck it, i’m in love
  9. until 3am

DELUXE VERSION

  1. 찬란 (brilliant)
  2. waking up



“Alright, hold it up like you’ve just won a Grammy,” Seokjin teased, and Jeongguk rolled his eyes and set himself up in the right position. Then he gave his spiel, well-practiced, glad that he was, at the very least, proud of the content he was about to put out. He supposed that art was pain, because releasing an 11-song album in the form of a love confession was guaranteed to drive Jimin away from him for good.

 

mood: “loved you once” by clara mae

 

True to his calm nature, Jimin had not interrupted Jeongguk’s resting period. Since the yoga class, he had not called or texted Jeongguk, nor had he hinted at hanging out in any way. Jeongguk wanted to be upset, wanted to beg Jimin to chase after him or need something from him, but that was just the wounded part of his soul speaking. When he actually sat himself down and thought about it, he realized that Jimin was being mature about it and doing the right thing, no matter how much it hurt.

Truthfully, Jeongguk just missed him. He missed Jimin’s smile, his laugh, his quirky sense of humor, the teasing, the terrible jokes. He missed Jimin’s soft touch and the way that he rested his head on Jeongguk’s shoulder. He missed everything about Jimin, right down to the way he looked at Jeongguk whenever they were together. And now he had absolutely no clue if he would ever get the chance to have Jimin back in his life the way they used to be. Now he was afraid that he had ruined everything. Or, more importantly, that having sex once had ruined everything.

So maybe Jeongguk wasn’t ready, but he was prepared to lose Jimin. He was bracing himself for impact.

The promotional activities did very little to wipe Jeongguk’s brain of the constant thoughts. The interviews, the social media content, signing hundreds of albums—none of it helped, especially because the album was named LIBRA , and it was just a reminder that Jimin was blatantly and brashly woven into every single second of every single song. But Jeongguk distracted himself with rehearsals. He practiced like his life depended on it, up to fourteen hours each day, rehearsing his setlist for the tour and learning a few dances to go along with some of his songs. This was his first headlining tour where he wouldn’t be performing in small venues or pubs. He was starring in his own show with a few up-and-coming opening acts, and that was a first for him. So Jeongguk planned to pull out all the stops. The choreography alone for “Neon” would tide the fans over.

“Both days sold out.”

“Insane,” Jeongguk murmured in response to Seokjin, watching the city fly by from the passenger side. His response was automatic, barely a thought spared. It was the morning of October thirteenth—his album was now out in the open for the world to hear. Hundreds of thousands of people were tuning in to hear Jeongguk’s bold love confession to Jimin. Jimin may have tuned in to hear it, and he hadn’t contacted Jeongguk, which didn’t bode well.

“And people are loving it so far,” Yoongi said, because he was riding shotgun, never one to miss out on a first-listen show. “On social media. Have you looked?”

“Not really,” Jeongguk admitted. “I’ve been avoiding it.” He turned his phone over in his hands before tapping it gently against his palm. “Been trying to decide if I want to text Jimin or not and wish him happy birthday.”

“If you don’t, you’re an asshole,” Yoongi stated plainly, and Jeongguk knew he was right. He was just dead scared to send a single text, because what if Jimin ignored it? What if they were at that point now where they were pretending to be strangers instead of the best friends they were supposed to be? Space was space, but how much was too much?

“I’ll text him before the show,” Jeongguk decided, biting the inside of his mouth. “But, um… I’m glad people are liking the album.”

“Enthusiasm, Gguk,” Seokjin said encouragingly. “I mean, damn, I know it’s a touchy subject, but come on. You just put out a full-length fucking album, and it’s a massive success. The music video got six million views in twelve hours. You know how insane that is for someone who isn’t an idol or a massive Western artist?”

“I mean, his fellow SoundCloud artists hyped it up, so that helped a lot with the views,” Yoongi replied. “But the fans are vibing with the video. One million likes already. I know I shouldn’t focus on it, Gguk, but Jesus, you’re pulling some numbers. Pretty massive for the awkward kid from Busan who used to put a blanket over his head to record his songs.”

Jeongguk smirked. “I used my closet, too.”

“And you came out of the closet,” Seokjin sighed, and Yoongi snorted as Jeongguk rolled his eyes. “Alright, well, look alive. This show is sold out, and we have work to do.”

Jeongguk walked into the venue through the backdoor with his hood up and his face mask on, head down because there were some fans already waiting and hollering his name. He did give them a wave, which made them yell happily, but then the door shut and he blew out a breath, shoving down his hood. Then, as he walked down the hallway while following closely behind Seokjin, he pulled out his phone and scrolled through until he found his conversation with Jimin. He had to just rip the Band-Aid off and do it, text him without looking back or fretting. Seokjin held open the door of the dressing room, so Jeongguk scooted inside and plopped onto the couch, trembling fingers creating the message. Seokjin hovered, curious, so Jeongguk turned his phone to show the message before sending it.

“Maybe a little more personal,” Seokjin recommended, so Jeongguk frowned and reworded a few things, showing it again. Seokjin nodded, and as he left the room, Jeongguk sent the message:



JEONGGUK [12:31:35PM]

Jiminie hyung, happy birthday! Have a drink tonight for me!



Jeongguk then stared. He stared at his phone until his vision blurred and his eyes crossed lazily, and then he cleared his throat when he realized that he wasn’t getting an immediate response. Feeling a bit of breeze in his chest like there was nothing but a hollow cavern there, Jeongguk locked his phone and left it on the couch, and then he shuffled out to the stage to rehearse.

Lunch was delivered after rehearsals, soundcheck began, and fans began to line up outside around five o’clock. Jeongguk had tuned his guitar, tested out the piano and the drum machine that were both on the stage, made sure he had enough room to do the choreography for “Neon” while holding a microphone, because he did live vocals and live vocals only without a wireless headset microphone. Once he was satisfied, he went back to his dressing room to start getting ready, because the stylist from the company had arrived to do his hair and make-up.

“Look who it is!”

Jeongguk glanced up into the mirror, and he saw Taehyung in the reflection, standing at the dressing room door. His deep purple hair was swept back, and he was wearing a casual grey suit, looking like a model. 

“You can come in,” Jeongguk said, sensing that Taehyung was hesitating. Relieved, Taehyung strolled in with a radiant kind of confidence that Jeongguk needed to siphon, and then he plopped down in the chair beside Jeongguk, crossing his ankles.

“Seokjin hyung said you sent a risky text,” he said with a grin.

“Yeah, which has gone unanswered,” Jeongguk replied. His phone was on the vanity table, and he was ignoring every single notification.

“It’s his birthday. Maybe he’s busy,” Taehyung suggested, but Jeongguk knew that it was only for show. With an exhale, Taehyung added, “Okay, so maybe he’s not busy. You think he heard the album?”

“You really love to just—” Jeongguk pretended to stab himself in the chest and twist the knife, and Taehyung snickered.

“Look, I just think you need to demand a conversation at this point. It’s been, what, almost a month? You both did the annoying right thing, and you’ve had your precious time and space. Didn’t do much for you, did it? So maybe tell him you want to talk before you go on a goddamn world tour.”

“How did I do this?” Jeongguk asked, the make-up artist blatantly ignoring the conversation between the two friends as she diligently worked. “How did I fuck it up this badly, hyung? Seriously. Don’t bullshit me.”

“Jeongguk, you didn’t fuck anything up.” Taehyung lifted one leg to cross it over the other. “You panicked. It’s fine. I mean, you fucked your best friend. That has consequences, you know? Especially if he wasn’t giving you much. He’s always been a bit… mysterious.”

With a fleeting tightness in his chest, Jeongguk said, “Okay, but did I panic that hard? I mean, the way he just—did you see how quickly he friendzoned me?”

“Yeah, which is why I also said that I think there’s way more to it,” Taehyung replied. “And there’s no point in rehashing the past like this. What’s done is done. All you have to do is put on a killer show for your fans. Thousands of them, Gguk, all waiting to hear this fucking banger of an album live for the first time.”

“You know something?” Jeongguk turned a bit in his chair, and the make-up artist didn’t even bat an eyelash; she just followed his movements. “I’ve written EPs and singles about breakups and exes for years, and I didn’t give a fuck. I mean, some of the songs were downright personal, right? Still didn’t affect me. Didn’t bother me to sing them. But now all I can think of is that I’m stuck singing these songs for the rest of my career if I lose Jimin, and every time I do, I’ll have to remember what happened.”

“That’s… really fucking harsh,” Taehyung said with a weak laugh. “Don’t think of it like that.”

“Easier said than done.”

“Just think of it as performing a few little tunes,” Taehyung said, swinging his sunglasses around in a circle while pinching one of the arms between his fingers. “And stop thinking you’ll lose Jimin. Your friendship was rock solid, Jeongguk. I don’t think he’s the kind of person to just ghost you for good after things escalated a little.”

“What about you?”

“What about me?”

“You and Yoongi hyung.” Jeongguk rubbed his lips together when his stylist requested it, and then he turned his chair, his make-up finished, his hair styled. “When you two made that shift. What was it like?”

Taehyung raised his eyebrows as if he had never considered the opportunity to answer such a question. He puckered his lips in thought, and then he tilted his head quickly.

“Do you want the honest truth?” he asked, and Jeongguk nodded. “It was hell. It was exactly what I wasn’t expecting.”

“What do you mean?”

“That transition,” Taehyung said. “From being friends who had sex to actually dating. Whoever said being in a relationship was easy is a liar. It’s fucking hard work. I mean, being friends was so simple, you know? And now we have to fucking—I mean, there’s so much to think about, so many feelings to consider. That equilibrium, just… everything.”

“But?” Jeongguk prompted, raising his eyebrows. “There has to be a ‘but’ coming.”

“There is,” Taehyung promised with a tiny smile. “But… holy shit, it’s worth it.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah. I mean, I went through some traumatic shit before meeting him. But he’s just so willing to take me as I am, which is a miracle. And I’m willing to accept him just as he is. I mean, some days it sucks. I’ve never fought with him as much as I have being his boyfriend. But that’s the thing. I’m fighting with him, but I’m also fighting for him. For us. And that’s the difference. That’s the difference between being his friend and being his boyfriend.”

“So… So it just took some adjusting,” Jeongguk said, working it all out in his head. “Between the two of you.”

“Adjusting, yeah. But so much fucking communication,” Taehyung groaned. “Jesus, I’ve never communicated with someone so much in my life. We have to talk. But like I said, it’s worth it. And that’s why I think you need to sit down and talk with Jimin when you get the chance. Because maybe I’m an idiot, but there’s no way he’s never had feelings for you. Call it a hunch, but you two were too close for there to be nothing.”

“I keep… like, going back,” Jeongguk said, waving his hand around his head. “Going back through our whole friendship. Remembering all these times when we had moments where I probably could have fallen in love with him but just chose not to.”

“Exactly.” Taehyung lightly smacked his own thigh. “And all the songs you wrote just solidify that. So maybe remember that instead of thinking that you’re going to lose him. That won’t do you any good.”

“That transition.” Jeongguk picked at his fingernails as he zeroed in on Taehyung. “That transition you and Yoongi hyung went through. I want that. I’d fight. With him and for him. Both. But the way he was talking… I think I’m friendzoned for life.”

“Chin up, Gguk,” Taehyung said, because the dressing room door opened, and Seokjin popped his head in. Taehyung stood up, brushed his fingers underneath Jeongguk’s chin like the nuisance he was, and then winked. “I’ll go find my spot to enjoy the show. You’re gonna kill it.”

“Thanks, hyung,” Jeongguk sighed, and then he looked at his reflection in the mirror briefly before rising to his feet, ready to go.

A new comeback was always hard on the nerves, but Jeongguk usually felt unfettered excitement at the prospect of introducing his hard work to the world. Now he just felt nervous with a sick feeling in his stomach. Once he was onstage, he knew that the feeling would evaporate. He loved the stage more than anything in the world. But the walk to the stage was terrifying.

The house was full. Jeongguk could hear all the loud chatter and excitement, could hear fans singing along to his songs that were playing on the speaker system while they waited for the show to begin. There was a buzz in the air, and Jeongguk desperately wanted to match it. So he stood backstage with Seokjin in front of him, bouncing up and down with his lips vibrating in a basic scale to warm up his voice more. He had already done plenty of warming up, but now his heart was pounding.

His first-listen shows were never dramatic or formal. He was just going to walk out onto the stage and wave and grab his guitar for the first song, which was “Libra,” since it was a bit more upbeat and catchy. 

“Okay, here we go!” the stage manager called out, and then the music cut off, and the crowd cheered in approval as the lights dimmed even further. When he saw the gesture, Jeongguk took a deep breath and then walked out onto the stage, and the moment he felt the heat of the lights and absorbed the crowd’s energy, half of his fears vanished, and he grinned and waved, finally feeling the first sparks of excitement.

“Hey, I’m Jeongguk, nice to meet you!” he said into the microphone, and then he stepped back and bowed to his audience in gratitude. Then, without hesitation, he lunged and grabbed his guitar where it was resting in its stand, and the audience relayed their approval with cheers and screams. Grinning, Jeongguk slung the strap over his head, shrugging it into a comfortable position, and then he shifted his footing and began to quickly and efficiently tune it as he leaned in and spoke into the microphone.

“I have a new album out,” he nonchalantly said, and he stifled a laugh at the screams, still listening through his in-ear monitors to make sure his guitar was tuned properly. “Bit different from my normal whining, right? But you still like it?”

“YE-E-E-E-ES!” the audience replied in a chorus, and Jeongguk nodded, relief flooding his system.

“Was the music video okay?”

“YE-E-E-E-ES!”

“Is it cool if I play ‘Neon’ a little later? Can’t hold a guitar when I do it.”

“YE-E-E-E-ES!” The enthusiasm was rising, and Jeongguk was beaming. Then he glanced over into the wings while he was tuning his guitar, and in that moment, time stopped. All of the air was sucked out of the room and out of his lungs, and he suddenly couldn’t hear anything. Not the screams of the crowd, not the guitar in his in-ear monitors. In fact, his fingers froze, and his fixed gaze turned into tunnel vision.

Jimin was standing in the wings. He was right there, right on the edge of the stage where the audience couldn’t see him, fiddling with his fingers. As if the sand was not running through life’s hourglass, as if a crowd wasn’t waiting for the show to begin, Jeongguk kept his eyes fixated on the man he loved with every aching beat of his heart, hearing his own staccato breathing in his ears. With a bit of fumbling, Jimin reached for his phone and held it up, and Jeongguk knew instantly that that meant he had read the birthday text. Their nonverbal communication had always been spot-on. Jimin tucked his phone away, and then he took a visible deep breath and lifted both of his fists and shook them once. The small smile on his face was soft, full of affection that Jeongguk hadn’t been expecting, and enough to fuel him for a lifetime, if not just for this show. Jeongguk watched in a dazed stupor as Jimin pressed his palms together and rested his fingers against his mouth like he was nervous, but then he grinned and waved one hand.

Get on with it!

“Okay!” Jeongguk whipped his head back to the microphone, feeling like his knees were going to give out on him, the world rushing back into focus, sound flooding his ears again. “Let’s, uh… let’s do this!”

Jeongguk stepped away from the mic and patted his guitar as he counted, “one, two, three, four—!” The band he loved and adored that always toured with him then began to play along with Jeongguk, and the audience clapped to the rhythm, phones already in the air to record Jeongguk’s every move.

It was arguably the best show Jeongguk had ever put on in his career, including the times he had toured in different countries, including the times he had felt at his prime. Nothing compared to the immortality he felt onstage now, even in spite of the fact that he was sharing a slew of new songs he had never performed live before. Every song, every song, was perfect. Jeongguk, the eternal Virgo perfectionist, couldn’t find fault in any of his performances. He kept waiting for his voice to crack, for his fingers to slip on the piano keys, for the feedback in his ear to turn to shit, for something to go wrong. But every little break between songs, he looked over into the wings, and Jimin was still standing there steadfastly, mostly with his fingertips resting over his mouth, a sparkle in his eyes, his body language saying everything he couldn’t communicate to Jeongguk while Jeongguk was onstage. And Jeongguk had absolutely no idea what was going through Jimin’s head, but Jimin had just heard almost every song from his album, and he hadn’t run off.

“So—” Jeongguk popped the microphone off the stand and grinned, taking a step back as he caught his breath, one hand on his hip. “This next song is the first single off the album—” Screams and cheers interrupted him, but Jeongguk laughed and kept going. “And I thought I’d prepare something special for you. My, uh… my best friend is a dance instructor, and he’s definitely going to judge me, but here’s ‘Neon.’”

Jeongguk turned to get into position, but he didn’t miss the way that Jimin nearly fell to the floor laughing in the wings. The music began, and Jeongguk closed his eyes for a moment, picturing Jimin with that damn neon nail polish that had driven Jeongguk to a point of near insanity while recording “Neon.” He sang and danced, hitting every single beat in the music with the choreography, savoring the audience’s reaction during the small dance break that he had inserted, showing off all the diligent practice he had put in to make sure it was a complete performance.

Then the lights went down. Jeongguk ran offstage in the opposite direction from Jimin and pulled his shirt off, panting, letting a few people fan him and pat him down and fix his hair as he put on a different shirt, because the encore was coming up. He gulped down as much water as he could manage, slipped his in-ear monitors back in, and then waited for the signal to walk back out onto the stage. 

“I, uh…” Jeongguk sat down at the piano, the audience silent. “I just want to thank you all so much for coming out tonight for the show. It means a lot to me. I wish I could explain just how much. This album was really different from the music I’ve released previously.” Jeongguk scratched his nose with one finger, staring at the piano keys. “I, um… I wanted to tell a story. I didn’t mean to tell a story, but life just… works in mysterious ways. So it’s a story about falling in love. That, uh… that kind of love that’s just staring you right in the face and you never knew it. So I hope that each of you found a song you could relate to on the album. Thanks for being here. This song is from the deluxe version of the album, and it’s called ‘Waking Up.’”

Jeongguk cracked his knuckles, and then he played a few quick scales, much to the delight of the audience. Then he set his fingers in the right place and began to play, his eyes closed half the time as he sang into the microphone:



Dream, it’s in my head, you’re not really in my bed

But I wish you were

Lost, I feel so lost, I’m lonely and at what cost?

And I want you here

 

I see it every night, a movie on reply in my mind

You kiss me, crawl into bed, you’re right by my side

I hold you close until your breathing evens out

And that’s what this is about

 

There’s a part of you in a part of me, and I spent so many years without knowing a thing

And you were there all along, and the feeling’s so strong, can’t believe I was missing out

I’m waking up

Waking up to you, waking up to us

Waking up to every little piece of love

Waking up with you in my bed, not just in my head

Want to open my eyes and look right into yours

Forever, I want it forever



And then it was over. Jeongguk gave his final bow as his band continued to play in the background, blowing kisses to the audience, crouching down and tossing the water bottles off the edge of the stage to a few of the girls up front who were hollering for them, making sure his guitar pick went to the teenage boy in the front row who had stars in his eyes. Then Jeongguk left the stage, and he went right into the wings where Jimin was standing.

“What are you doing here?” he asked breathlessly, informally, ripping his in-ear monitors out and letting them rest on his shoulders. “Hyung, you… why are you…?”

“You invited me to your show,” Jimin said, and the muffled sound of his voice was like heaven after going so long without hearing it. “And I wouldn’t miss it for the world. I, um… Jeongguk, I listened to the album.”

LIke the first drop on a rollercoaster, Jeongguk’s heart plummeted, but Jimin’s hand kept him from crashing. He grabbed Jeongguk’s elbow and squeezed.

“Can we just—where’s your dressing room?” he asked, and that was the unspoken signal that he wanted to have a conversation. After the best show of Jeongguk’s life, Jimin was here to talk, and Jeongguk wasn’t sure if he was ready. But he gestured in spite of it and led the way, grabbing a water bottle from someone backstage and bowing to every single person he passed, thanking them for their hard work, high-fiving his band and congratulating them on a great show as he clapped one hand against the water bottle with a grin.

When he held the dressing room door open, Jimin silently walked through, and Jeongguk let the door fall shut, giving the two of them privacy. Jeongguk used the top of his hand to subconsciously pat at his face in case he was still sweating, but he was in the clear, even though his hands were shaking.

“Um, happy birthday, by the way,” he said, and Jimin hooked his thumbs in the front pockets of his jeans, smiling.

“Pretty decent birthday present,” he replied, rocking back and forth a few times. “I, uh… yeah. I listened to your album. I—Honestly, I wasn’t going to. I didn’t really think I was ready to hear it. But Hoseok hyung listened to it first for me, and he—I mean, you know how he is. He told me I had to listen to it right away. Said it was important.”

“Hyung…” Jeongguk whispered, but Jimin wasn’t finished.

“So I listened to the whole thing from start to finish. Deluxe version and all,” Jimin added with a breathy laugh. “And I—I…” He ruffled his black hair as if he was nervous, and Jeongguk couldn’t believe what he was seeing. “I wasn’t really… I wasn’t expecting any of that. I—I just thought it would be some generic lyrics. But it’s you, so I should have known better.”

“Hyung, I’m sorry,” Jeongguk whispered, mortified. “I’m—I’m so sorry, I—”

“Don’t apologize.”

“No, I should. I didn’t—I didn’t mean to. I didn’t mean for any of this to happen.” Jeongguk couldn’t stop it from coming out. Now the dam was bursting in real time and verbally, and he was going to say his piece and be done with it. “Wh-When I asked you to pretend to date me, I really meant it. I just wanted a few fake dates, nothing crazy, and we just—you were right, we got carried away. I got carried away, I didn’t—I didn’t mean to—it just happened, and I—I was writing all these songs, and…” Jeongguk pressed both heels of his palms to his forehead for a moment, taking a deep breath. Then, wringing his hands together, he continued. “I wasn’t supposed to fall in love writing this stupid album, hyung, that—that wasn’t my plan. I wasn’t supposed to catch feelings or do all this dumb shit that—I feel like I ruined everything because I couldn’t… hyung? Hyung, why—why are you crying? Hyung?”

Jeongguk stopped rambling, because when he finally looked at Jimin, Jimin was standing there crying quietly, tears trickling down his cheeks. It was the small sniffle that had alerted Jeongguk, and now he was already preemptively crestfallen. He had taken it too far. Now Jimin was upset, and Jeongguk had never been able to stand seeing Jimin cry; it was more painful to him than any physical wound could ever be.

“I’m so sorry. I’m sorry, hyung, please don’t cry,” Jeongguk whispered, feeling his eyes burn. But Jimin just started laughing, still crying as he shook his head.

“That’s not why I’m crying,” he said, choked up. “Not even close. I’m not upset.”

“You’re… What? Then why…?”

“B-Because you’re saying all these things,” Jimin said vaguely. “All these things that I’ve—God, I’ve waited so long for you to say what you’re saying.”

Jeongguk cocked his head to the side in heart-stopping confusion, especially when Jimin closed the distance between the two of them and stood before Jeongguk as if he was expecting something. Like moving through a dream, Jeongguk reached up and used two thumbs to brush away Jimin’s tears, but it didn’t matter—more tears just fell, so Jeongguk dropped his hands.

“Hyung, I don’t—” But Jeongguk cut himself off when Jimin closed his eyes and tilted his head back for a moment, a watery smile on his face as one tear slipped down the side of his jaw. Then he righted his head and looked Jeongguk in the eye.

“Jeongguk,” Jimin laughed through his tears, sniffing. “I’ve been in love with you for three years, you idiot. Three fucking years.”

 

mood: “still into you” by meadowlark

 

“...What? Y-You—You what?” Jeongguk had to be hallucinating or hearing incorrectly. In no proper world could Jimin possibly be standing before him with a confession that matched Jeongguk’s feelings, the feelings he had assumed were detrimentally misplaced. It had to be a dream. But Jimin was smiling while crying.

“Why…?” Jimin laughed again. “Why do you think I was so willing to be your fake boyfriend? You didn’t notice? I didn’t even ask questions. I just agreed to it.”

“I… hyung, I don’t understand,” Jeongguk croaked out, because he needed to be sure that what he was hearing was right, because he was starting to feel lightheaded.

“What’s there not to understand?” Jimin said, a few more tears trickling down his cheeks. “I’ve been in love with you for years, but I’ve always just played the best friend, you know? You were always so caught up in your music or whatever else you were doing. But Christ, I thought you would’ve at least caught on. And you never did.”

“I…”

“And now you’re saying that you fell in love writing a goddamn album about me, and I’m just—” Jimin threw one hand up with yet another laugh, the tears coming harder as he continued to talk. “Do you know what it’s been like? Just standing on the sidelines for years, loving you from afar? Waiting, Jeongguk. Waiting for my chance. Fucking hoping, God, I hoped every single day that you’d just—that maybe you’d look at me next. Maybe you’d think I was…”

“Hyung, I don’t… three years?” Jeongguk whispered, feeling a lump form in his throat. “Y-You… You’ve been waiting? You—How did…”

“Jeongguk, I’ve been in love with you since we met,” Jimin confessed, still tearful. “But when—when we met, we weren’t single. Neither of us were. You broke it off with Jaehyun, I broke up with Namjoon, and I—Jesus, I thought that would be my chance, and it wasn’t. It wasn’t, and I friendzoned myself because I was too fucking scared to ruin a good thing. We were good as best friends, so why mess with it, you know?”

“Why—Why didn’t you just tell me?” Jeongguk whispered, and Jimin snorted.

“The same way you told me?” he asked, and Jeongguk finally managed to chuckle, even though his eyes were now brimming with tears to match Jimin’s. “You were always so oblivious. And I’m the idiot who found it endearing.” Jimin laughed. “And I just… I don’t know. I resigned myself to being the best friend. I never thought I’d get any further. I just accepted it, that I’d always love you and you’d never love me back. I accepted it for years, and do you know how good you get at hiding your feelings when you have three years of practice?”

“Hyung,” Jeongguk said sadly, the first tear finally escaping from his eyes.

“And then you came to me with this proposal,” Jimin said, sounding fond through his tears as he sniffled. “To be your fake boyfriend. And you didn’t think it was weird that I just agreed?”

“W-Well—Well, no, because it’s—it’s you, we always do stupid shit,” Jeongguk pointed out, and both of them finally laughed. Jimin wiped his eyes, and then he pointed to the couch hopefully, tilting his head. Jeongguk took Jimin’s hand and led him to the couch, and then he sat down first, thinking Jimin would sit beside him. But instead, Jimin waited until Jeongguk was seated, and then he climbed gingerly into Jeongguk’s lap, knees on the couch cushion. Then, like they had been doing it for years, Jimin wrapped his arms around Jeongguk’s neck and buried his face in Jeongguk’s shoulder, and Jeongguk hugged around Jimin’s waist and rubbed his lower back soothingly, his eyes closed.

I’ve been in love with you for three years.

Three years. Three wasted years where Jeongguk had Jimin right in front of his face, but in which he had opted to fuck around with anyone but his best friend, the man who was so suited for him that it was like divine intervention. How had he not known? How had he missed it?

“We do always do stupid shit,” Jimin murmured, lips against Jeongguk’s neck, and then he sat up, tips of his fingers in Jeongguk’s hair. “But this was peak stupidity. You said ‘pretend to be my boyfriend,’ and Jesus, I just jumped right at the opportunity. Didn’t even think it through.”

“I thought you were just being a good best friend,” Jeongguk whispered, letting Jimin use a few fingers to wipe away the silent tears that were falling. “If I—hyung, if I had known that you felt like this, I never would have asked. I just dangled it in your face if that’s how you—shit, why didn’t you tell me?”

“Tell you what, that I loved you? You can’t just come out with that,” Jimin said with a chuckle, eyes still bloodshot. “Not after that many years of friendship. Crossing that line is scary enough.”

“No wonder you were so good at it,” Jeongguk breathed, and Jimin’s smile was watery but pleased. “No wonder I fell for you so fast. Hyung, I think—I think maybe it was always there, you know? I think we were always like this.”

Jimin’s lips twitched in an upward turn, eyelashes still damp with lingering tears. “When I told Namjoon and Hoseok what we were doing, they thought I was insane. Namjoon scolded me. Said that I was only going to end up heartbroken. But I didn’t see it that way.”

“How did you see it?”

“I saw it as my only chance to ever love you,” Jimin whispered, and Jeongguk slowly closed his eyes, tears leaking from the corners. He could hear in Jimin’s voice that Jimin was crying again, too. “Even if it was just temporary. Even if it was fake. Even if you really felt nothing. I just wanted to know what it was like.”

“Why do you think I begged you to fake it for one more night?” Jeongguk opened his eyes with a smile, despite his tears. “Because I swore you felt nothing. You were that good at making me think that it was all pretend. So I just thought that maybe I could have you like you were mine for one more night.”

“So you’re telling me that we fell into the classic miscommunication trap,” Jimin said, voice hollow. Jeongguk snorted as Jimin let out a little groan, dropping his forehead against Jeongguk’s as he sniffed. “You know it was like a dream to me. Every little date, every moment, every time we were together, it felt so surreal. I had been just—just holding onto this stupid idea that maybe we could be more than friends for so long. And then I got to kiss you and dance with you at nightclubs and…”

“I feel like an idiot,” Jeongguk whispered, eyes closed. “How could I have not known?”

“You’re not an idiot. And would knowing that I was in love with you have made a difference?” Jimin cocked his head to the left, a few strands of black hair falling into his beautiful eyes. “Jeongguk, if anything, you writing this album was the best thing that could have ever happened.”

“Why?”

“Because it happened naturally. I didn’t just drop a bomb on you,” Jimin said with a chuckle. “Jeongguk, your songs were so beautiful. All of them. The lyrics were just… I think I cried the entire time I listened. Your voice, too, the way you sang… and the fact that the songs were about me just—I had to come tonight. I had to. I couldn’t miss it. Not after listening to the album. I knew that us doing this fake dating shit was just for songwriting, but nobody is that good.”

“You know why I delayed the release?” Jeongguk rested his back on the backrest of the couch, eyes fixed on Jimin. He was just wearing ripped jeans and a white t-shirt, but Jeongguk had never been so spellbound by a single human in his life. “Because I knew I had written an entire fucking album confessing my feelings to you. And I was scared that if you heard it back then, back after… after we’d already had sex, after we’d talked about everything… I was afraid that I’d lose you. That you’d tell me it was all just pretend, and that it would destroy me. So I waited.”

“That was hard for you, wasn’t it?” Jimin whispered, repeatedly tucking Jeongguk’s hair behind one ear with affection. “Us having sex.”

“What, it wasn’t for you?”

“It was the most difficult fucking thing I’ve ever done in my life,” Jimin admitted outright. “Not staying the night? Walking out? I cried myself to sleep that night. But in my head, it felt like the right thing to do.”

“It messed with me,” Jeongguk confessed. “Because it was so…”

“Amazing.”

“So fucking incredible,” Jeongguk agreed with a sigh like he was re-living it, and Jimin giggled, ducking his head. “God, it was the best sex I’ve ever had in my life, and then you just… left.”

Jimin turned his head to use his shoulder to wipe away the last of his tears. “I was being selfish. I knew time was up. I knew your album was done. I knew we’d have to go back to being friends, because that was the deal. But you asked me to fake it for one more night, and it seemed like you wanted it just as badly as I did. So I took my chances. That’s why I wanted to bottom.” Jimin laughed at himself. “So I could just feel it all and have that to hold onto if… yeah. If we never…”

“So you enjoy torture,” Jeongguk murmured, and Jimin snickered, finally giving Jeongguk a real smile.

“You don’t understand,” he whispered. “I really thought it was over. I thought that my chance to be with you was long gone. That if you didn’t have feelings for me after I’d committed myself to being your fake boyfriend, then that was that.”

“Little did you know,” Jeongguk whispered back, and Jimin’s smile widened.

“I thought that maybe…” he admitted softly. “Maybe, just maybe. When we talked at the yoga studio and you… you were so confused, and I—I wanted to just go for it then. But I was so fucking scared, Jeongguk. I was so scared that you were just caught up in the moment and that you would regret it, and then you just agreed to what I was saying, so I thought that was it.”

“Jesus, we’re so bad at this,” Jeongguk sighed, and Jimin pursed his lips to suppress his smile, failing graciously, his eyes sparkling even though they were still shining with the threat of tears. “But hyung, the album. Did I—Is it okay? Are the songs that I wrote okay?”

“They’re beautiful.” Jimin brushed his knuckles against Jeongguk’s cheek. “Don’t change a single thing. But I expect a signed album.”

“I’ll give you twenty.”

“Jeongguk.” Jimin gently took Jeongguk’s face between his hands, and Jeongguk knew at that moment that he was a goner. The love of his life had been right in front of him for years, and now Jeongguk was wide awake, savoring every single touch. “Whatever you were feeling… whatever you felt when we were together… even if it was all pretend, I… I want to know if it was real or not. If you meant what you said that night. When you said that I had no idea what I’d done to you. What did you mean?”

“I meant that I already had feelings for you,” Jeongguk confessed. “And I was panicking. It was all real to me, hyung. It still is. Even after being away from you for a month, I still feel the same. Time and space didn’t help me at all. It just made me want you more.”

“Then say it,” Jimin whispered, eyelashes fluttering against his cheeks as he closed his eyes. “Say it. Please. I… I just want you to say it. I want to hear it.”

With a bit of shifting, Jeongguk sat up straighter, pulling Jimin further into his lap and massaging his waist before holding him like he was a precious jewel, eyes fixed. He waited for Jimin to open his eyes, and when he did, Jeongguk drowned. He lost himself in honey brown and sweet love, knowing that their feelings were real, that they were sharing the same heart. It was surreal in the moment, Jeongguk attempting to comprehend the fact that he was about to change the course of his relationship with Jimin with just a few words. But he was ready.

“Jimin-ah,” he softly said, and Jimin let out a small breath of anticipation. “I love you.”

Jimin’s face crumpled as he closed his eyes and dissolved into tears again, and then he fell forward and buried himself in Jeongguk’s shoulder again, his chest pressed to Jeongguk’s pounding heart, Jeongguk setting a quivering hand on Jimin’s back. Jimin’s fingers curled into Jeongguk’s hair as he cried, and then he lifted his head just slightly, nuzzled against the side of Jeongguk’s head, and sniffed.

“I love you so much, Jeongguk,” he whispered, and Jeongguk immediately turned his head and pressed his lips to Jimin’s cheek and temple. Then he rested his hands on either side of Jimin’s face and kissed him, their tears mixing, and Jeongguk felt a sudden rush of completeness that he had never anticipated. He had always been whole, but somewhere along the way, Jimin’s love had become a puzzle piece, and now he had the full picture. 

They kissed with abandon, with the idea that there was spoken love between them now, a bond that went deeper than what they had experienced before. Jeongguk never wanted his lips to leave Jimin’s again. He belonged here. This taste, this touch, this feeling, something to chase for the rest of his life.

“What do we do?” Jeongguk breathed, breaking the kiss. “What—What do we do? Hyung, what do we do now?”

“Shh,” Jimin shushed with a small smile, eyes closed, forehead touching Jeongguk’s as he pressed one hand to Jeongguk’s chest—a familiar gesture meant to bring a sense of calm to Jeongguk, and one that always worked. “Just breathe. We don’t have to rush.”

“I know that, but I’m only here for another week,” Jeongguk whispered. “I leave for a world tour next week, hyung. I won’t be here. I won’t be able to—to work on this, to be with you, to do any of this the right way.”

“Jeongguk.” Jimin’s hands came to rest on Jeongguk’s cheeks, his eyes still glistening with tears even though he looked radiant with love. “It’s okay. There’s no rush. Our feelings are out there in the open now. We can take our time. Just explore it.”

“Okay, but—” Jeongguk leaned in and kissed Jimin softly, pulling a smile from Jimin’s lips. “I don’t want it to go wrong. We can take it slow. I like that. But…”

“Jeongguk, I’ve waited years for this,” Jimin whispered. “If I have to wait a few months for you to come back from your tour, then I’ll wait.”

“No, you’ll come visit me.” Jeongguk was firm, locking eyes with Jimin. “You just tell me where. I’ll give you a list of cities, and you just pick where you want to meet me, and I’ll fly you out so you can be with me. I’m not staying away from you for three months. Not after all this.”

“I have to work, Jeongguk,” Jimin laughed.

“And you can take off,” Jeongguk argued. “Please. I want to do this the right way. This whole transition, going from… from whatever the fuck we had going on to now.”

Jimin’s laughter almost drowned out Jeongguk’s last words. “Okay. I know. I want that, too. I—Sorry. This is a lot to process.” He blew out a breath. “A lot. This is a lot.”

“It’s a lot for me, too,” Jeongguk admitted. Jimin seemed to be in a daze for a moment, but then he slowly blinked and fixed his eyes on Jeongguk.

“It’s just been so long that it all feels like a dream,” he admitted. “I feel like I’ll wake up tomorrow without you.”

“Yeah, I’ve written songs about that,” Jeongguk said with a grin as Jimin cracked a smile, a distant look still in his eyes.

“Jeongguk, do you know why Namjoon and I broke up three years ago?”

“What? No. No, don’t say that. Don’t tell me,” Jeongguk pleaded, but Jimin lifted a hand and waved it, shaking his head.

“No, no, no. It’s not like you’re thinking,” he swore, and Jeongguk exhaled in only mild relief. “Not like that. We broke up for a lot of different reasons. We just drifted apart and became better friends than lovers, which is fine. It happens. We talked it out. You know all of that. But a week after we broke up, we met for coffee.”

“You did? I didn’t know that,” Jeongguk said with a small frown.

“Yeah.” Jimin nodded, shifting in Jeongguk’s lap. “We just met up to check in on each other, see how we were doing emotionally, see if there was anything else we needed to talk about or work through together as we were splitting.”

“That’s unrealistically mature.”

“Shut up,” Jimin said with a breath of laughter, and Jeongguk clicked his tongue with a tiny smile and gestured for Jimin to continue. “We got coffee, and we talked about a lot of different things. But one of those things was you.”

“Why me?”

“Because the more Namjoon and I talked, the more we both realized that I was developing feelings for you,” Jimin said, and Jeongguk’s heart skipped. “I didn’t really understand it until Namjoon asked me to consider it. And once we went through a few moments, I realized that he was right. It was the same way that he asked me for Hoseok’s number during that coffee date. We were both going in different directions. But he’s the one who pointed out that I was… yeah. That I was falling in love with you. Slowly, but still.”

“You two were really disgusting as a couple,” Jeongguk complained, and Jimin threw his head back as he laughed, forcing Jeongguk to hold his waist to keep him from toppling. “Jesus, as long as I wasn’t the reason you two broke up.”

“Not at all,” Jimin said with emphasis, clearing Jeongguk’s worries. “What I’m saying is that I think you were right. I think it was always there for both of us, and we just never acknowledged it until now. Until right now.”

“I love you,” Jeongguk said softly, head against the backrest of the couch again.

“I know,” Jimin sighed, and Jeongguk smacked his thigh and pulled him in for a bone-breaking hug, kissing every inch of the side of his head, hardly able to believe that he had Jimin, his Jimin, like this. Giggling, happy, tears dry, glowing with love, no longer a mystery.

“Can I ask you something?” Jeongguk re-situated Jimin on his lap as Jimin hummed in agreement. “Would it be considered rushed if I—shit, look at my hands, I’m shaking.” Jeongguk held up one hand as it trembled, and Jimin giggled. “I just—I’m going on tour, and I don’t want—I’m an idiot, I’m sorry. I just—fuck it. Will you just date me for real? Be my real boyfriend, not my fake boyfriend?”

“Yeah? Just like that?” Jimin’s teasing lilt had returned to his voice, but he sounded absolutely delighted. “You’re really laying it on thick, aren’t you? Here I am, reeling because I never thought I’d get this far, and now you’re just here asking me out.”

“Can you give me an answer?” Jeongguk wearily requested, and Jimin stifled a laugh, brushing his nose against Jeongguk’s as they both smiled.

“You want to be exclusive so that you don’t have to worry about anything when you’re on tour,” he whispered. “Admit it.”

“Yeah, fuck it. I admit it.”

“That’s good. Because I was about to turn into the same jealous monster, so I’m glad you did it first,” Jimin said with a happy sigh, and Jeongguk smacked his other thigh. “It’s not too fast. Not when I’ve been waiting for so long and you wrote eleven songs about me. I think we both need to fess up.”

“So you’ll be my boyfriend.”

“Yes. I’ll be your real boyfriend,” Jimin agreed, beaming. Jeongguk grabbed him around the waist, falling sideways, and then he rolled until Jimin was on his back on the couch, Jeongguk hovering over him, their lips meeting hot and heavy and needy, Jeongguk’s hand slipping underneath Jimin’s shirt to touch warm skin. They kissed until the room felt hot, until Jimin was gripping the waistband of Jeongguk’s jeans and tugging, until Jeongguk forgot that he had just played a show to a sold-out crowd. Gasping, he pressed up with his palms on the fabric of the couch, staring down at the man he loved.

“Come home with me,” he said breathlessly. “Please. Come home with me and stay the night. I want to be with you.”

“Okay,” Jimin whispered. “Can I come to your show tomorrow night, too?”

“You can come to any show any time,” Jeongguk replied, lowering himself to kiss Jimin’s waiting lips once more. “Come on. Come home with me.”

Together, they both hopped off the couch, and then Jimin grabbed Jeongguk and pulled him into a hug. Silently, they stood in the middle of the dressing room and embraced, Jimin’s head on Jeongguk’s shoulder, Jeongguk’s lips against Jimin’s soft hair, his hands pressed to Jimin’s back. There was a ticking clock somewhere in the room, but it was otherwise quiet. The ticking of the clock seemed to morph into Jimin’s steady heartbeat, soothing Jeongguk as he closed his eyes and breathed in time with Jimin. This was nothing new—they had embraced and matched their breathing patterns before for yoga purposes. But this time, it felt different. This time, it felt like their hearts were determined to wrap around one another.

Jimin helped Jeongguk pack up all of his belongings, leaving a few things behind for tomorrow’s show. Then, with his backpack on and Jimin carrying his guitar case, Jeongguk opened the dressing room door.

“Uh.”

“Jesus fucking Christ, it’s about time. Are you two done being morons?” Taehyung was standing there with his arms crossed, and he wasn’t alone. Yoongi was by his side on his phone, and Seokjin was on the other side, texting away. And to Yoongi’s left were Namjoon and Hoseok, who had apparently attended the show without Jeongguk knowing.

“Gang’s all here,” Jimin commented with a laugh.

“No, seriously,” Taehyung said, raising his eyebrows. “It’s been a half hour.”

“We’re done being morons,” Jeongguk confirmed.

“Elaborate, please, for the sake of our sanity,” Hoseok requested wearily, his elbow still linked with Namjoon’s.

“We’ve confessed our undying love for each other, I’m going home with him, and we’re now real dating, not fake dating,” Jimin said with appropriate drama.

“There is a god,” Yoongi declared, and then all seven of them burst out laughing. Then, in a flurry of goodbyes and hugs and playful nudges and laughs, they all went their separate ways, Seokjin with Jeongguk and Jimin so that he could drive.

“We were about to start taking bets,” Seokjin said as they got into the car. “How long it would take until you two emerged. If you’d be together or not. It was getting serious. Taehyung was about to take money.”

“Taehyung is a little shit,” Jeongguk declared.

“Well, yeah, but I was about to put a few thousand won on a love confession,” Seokjin admitted, and Jimin let out a bark of laughter as he hopped into the backseat of the car, Jeongguk on the other side. Seokjin chatted happily about the show to the two of them as they drove back to Jeongguk’s apartment, Jeongguk clutching Jimin’s hand in his. It still felt utterly surreal, like there was a bit of a glow around the entire scene that made it a dream.

Jimin didn’t let go of Jeongguk’s hand the entire car ride, even as they chatted animatedly with Seokjin about the show. The look that Seokjin gave Jeongguk when he dropped the two of them off was something that burned into Jeongguk’s brain immediately. It was a look of mixed relief, affection, and happiness. He wished both of them a good night and said he would be back for Jeongguk around noon tomorrow, and then Jeongguk led the way into his building and up to his apartment.

“Gguk?”

“Yeah.” Jeongguk set his stuff down once inside and turned to look at Jimin, watching as Jimin placed the guitar case on the floor with care.

“How tired are you?” Jimin asked as he straightened up, and Jeongguk suppressed a smile, already moving towards his bedroom, his heart stuttering.

“Honestly? It’s right after a show. I’m wired. Wide awake. Why? You want something?” he asked, and then he crossed his arms at the waist and pulled his shirt off, tossing it to the side and walking into his bedroom. He heard footsteps, and then Jimin had him by the waist, turning him rapidly and pressing him up against the wall by the bedroom.

“You,” he whispered, his lips on Jeongguk’s. “If you want.”

Jeongguk kissed him softly, his heart racing, the butterflies in his stomach wildly flying every which way. “You said that you’d take me another night.”

“Mhm.”

“It’s another night.”

And there was the green light. Jimin backed Jeongguk up into the bedroom as they kissed feverishly, as if they were running out of time even though they both knew better. Clothing flew around the room as they undressed each other, and for the first time, Jeongguk stood and ran his hands up and down Jimin’s naked body in a reverent, worshiping fashion, taking in every curve and valley, every inch of his skin, absorbing all of his little breaths between kisses. And Jimin reciprocated, circling Jeongguk slowly, hands all over, lips dragging along Jeongguk’s shoulder blades and around to his chest before finding his lips again.

“You’re so beautiful, Jeongguk,” Jimin whispered as they fell onto the bed together. “So beautiful… all mine… tell me you’re mine… let me love you,” he said between kisses as a shiver ran down Jeongguk’s spine.

“I’m yours,” Jeongguk whispered, propped up on his elbows, head falling back when Jimin trailed open-mouthed kisses down his chest to his abdomen, and then his fingers dug into Jeongguk’s thighs as he used his mouth only to wrap his lips around Jeongguk’s cock. “Fuck, hyung, that’s—” Jeongguk’s breath caught in his throat as Jimin worked his tongue around Jeongguk’s cock with ease, and Jeongguk lost himself in it entirely, eyes closed, mind drifting from the pleasure. He wasn’t even sure how it happened, but there was a mess of limbs moving and staccato breaths, and he suddenly found himself kneeling backwards over Jimin as Jimin fell back against the pillows with the lube, and Jeongguk knew exactly what he was about to get.

“You’re gonna be the death of me,” he breathily said as he bent and took Jimin’s cock into his mouth, and then he whined in the back of his throat and froze, feeling Jimin’s fingers circling his rim with lube. It was a fucking dream to Jeongguk, being able to hear Jimin’s quiet praise while being fucked open with skillful fingers. Jimin had never once had Jeongguk like this, but it wasn’t obvious, given the way that he seemed to know exactly what Jeongguk liked.

“Fuck, fuck,” Jeongguk gasped, almost collapsing when Jimin’s fingers brushed just the right spot. “Fuck, stop, I don’t want to come already.”

“I’d eat you out, but I think you’re good to go,” Jimin said cheekily, and Jeongguk almost face-planted into the mattress. The sense of desperate and panicked urgency from the last time they had had sex was gone. Instead, Jeongguk now felt desperate to have Jimin as close to him as possible, to physically feel how much Jimin loved him, to know in the most intimate way. Without even discussing it first, Jeonguk just rolled onto his stomach with a pillow under his hips, silently indicating that that was how he wanted it. Jimin straddled his hips, and then he bent and left a trail of kisses down Jeongguk’s spine.

“Should I use a condom or not?” he whispered, and Jeongguk almost felt tempted to bite his own fist.

“Shit, don’t. Don’t use one if you’re clean,” he breathed, his head spinning. “I am. Are you? Don’t—No. Don’t use one.”

“I was hoping you’d say that,” Jimin murmured, grabbing for the lube again to slick himself up. Jeongguk could hardly catch his breath, buzzing and dizzy with anticipation, tempted to rut against the pillow, but then Jimin nudged his legs apart just enough, using one hand to spread Jeongguk and the other hand to guide himself. Jeongguk buried his head in his arms and moaned quietly as Jimin slowly pushed in, pausing a few times to let Jeongguk adjust to the sensation of being full. He littered Jeongguk’s skin with kisses, fingers leaving possessive indents on Jeongguk’s hips that made Jeongguk shiver in pleasure, rocking his hips forward as Jeongguk whispered the one and only name that mattered to him.

“Baby, please,” Jeongguk whispered, the bedsheets in two fists, elbows pressed into the mattress. “Stop teasing, just…”

Jimin let out a small laugh, sounding breathless already. “Just let me enjoy this, hm? Let me just…” He slowly pulled out almost all the way, and then he thrusted smoothly back into Jeongguk as Jeongguk let out a low moan, pushing his hips back eagerly. Jimin took that as a hint. He started to pick up the pace, finding a rhythm as he fucked into Jeongguk steadily, encouraging Jeongguk to touch himself. His voice was damn near hypnotic, his touch like a ripple effect on Jeongguk’s skin. Being fucked so hard and so well that he could barely walk afterwards was something Jeongguk craved, and Jimin seemed to understand that.

“Jimin-ah,” Jeongguk gasped out, the right side of his face pressed to the mattress as he reached down and wrapped a shaking hand around his own cock, hardly able to focus.

“God, you take me so well,” Jimin praised breathily. “Feel so good, baby, so good. Gonna make you ride me one day. Want to see you on top of me.”

“Touché,” Jeongguk laughed, choking on his next breath and gritting his teeth when Jimin thrusted particularly hard, rolling his hips in just the right way that had Jeongguk wondering how to breathe. When Jeongguk couldn’t stand it anymore, he collapsed onto the bed, and Jimin got the memo. He laid his entire chest against Jeongguk’s back, threading his fingers through Jeongguk’s hair, the angle sending his cock deeper as Jeongguk softly moaned.

“I love you so much,” Jimin whispered, kissing Jeongguk’s right temple and then his shoulder. “So much, you have no idea. I love you, Jeongguk.”

“I l-love you, too,” Jeongguk breathed, drowning deeply in the intimacy of the position they were in, savoring the skin-on-skin contact, turning his head to accept a kiss. “N-Now fuck me like you love me.”

“You’re a brat,” Jimin laughed, panting, and then he re-gripped Jeongguk’s hair and started to fuck him harder, as requested. Jeongguk gasped for air, the friction from the pillow against his cock absolutely perfect, the way Jimin was fucking him so beyond incredible that he knew he wouldn’t last much longer.

“C-Close,” Jeongguk barely managed to moan, and Jimin let out a breath of acknowledgement.

“Wanna come inside you,” he said, and Jeongguk nodded frantically, his stomach twisting into a pleasurable knot. Jimin then began to fuck him so hard that his body moved against the mattress, the bed shifted, and Jeongguk swore he had never felt anything so good in his life. Jimin was going to ruin him in the best way, ruin him so that Jeongguk would never want anyone else, and Jeongguk was going to let him.

“J-Jeongguk,” Jimin choked out in warning, and then he thrusted once and buried himself deep inside Jeongguk as Jeongguk let out a choked noise, feeling Jimin come inside him. The sensation alone of Jimin still shallowly fucking into him was what spurred Jeongguk on. He rutted his hips against the pillow in desperation a few times, and Jimin caught on, increasing the speed of his thrusts. Jeongguk held his breath when he came, his vision blurring for a moment, clenching around Jimin as the high consumed him.

The immediate aftermath was a blur. Jeongguk vaguely registered the thousands of kisses Jimin left all over his skin, knowing he had cum trickling out of him as Jimin pulled out to clean up. He was so fucked out and dazed that he could hardly cooperate, but he managed to wipe himself down with Jimin’s help, and then he watched Jimin flop onto the bed naked. Addicted to Jimin’s touch already, Jeongguk rolled right into his boyfriend’s arms, cuddling onto his shoulder as Jimin held him close.

“I love you more than anyone in the world,” Jimin murmured, stroking Jeongguk’s sweaty hair with one hand as Jeongguk rested his hand on Jimin’s chest right over his heart.

“Tell me this is real,” Jeongguk whispered, his eyes falling shut. “Tell me you’ll be here when I wake up.”

“Always.”

“Promise me.”

“I promise.”

“I love you so much,” Jeongguk whispered, feeling his eyes burn. “I missed you. I don’t ever want to go without you for that long again.”

“Deal.”

“This won’t be easy. Really dating each other. Not faking it anymore. It’ll be hard.”

“I know.” Jimin turned and kissed Jeongguk’s forehead. “It’ll be a lot of work. Kind of like… like getting to know each other all over again. But worth it.”

“Worth it,” Jeongguk agreed, feeling safer than he ever had in his life in Jimin’s arms. “Also, you can fuck me like that whenever you want.”

“Only if you promise to tie me up one day.”

“What?” Jeongguk rocketed upright onto one elbow, and Jimin snickered, eyes sparkling.

“Well, yeah. I’m into some kinky shit,” he replied shamelessly. “You up for it?”

“How kinky are we talking?”

“Very.”

“I’m in.”

“Knew you would be,” Jimin said, and then they both burst out laughing and collapsed into each other’s arms again, giggling and whispering, teasing one another, kicking their feet and tangling their legs together, Jimin asking what was for breakfast just for Jeongguk to say “me.” Despite the shift in their dynamic, despite the way they loved each other with such rapid fierceness in a turn of events, they were still friends. At their very core, all intimacy and relationship navigation aside, their friendship remained, and that was what Jeongguk knew would keep them going. That would keep them strong. That was their foundation—years of trust built up with laughter.

So maybe Jeongguk would fight with Jimin someday. But without a doubt, he would fight for Jimin every day endlessly, with reckless abandon, wildly and completely.

 

***

 

3 months later

 

mood: “love me hard” by elley duhé

 

“ALRIGHT, ALRIGHT! THANK YOU SO MUCH, SEOUL!”

The crowd cheered in approval again as Jeongguk waved, back onstage for the encore. It was the final night of the LIBRA tour, a chilly night in mid-January, but the audience had eaten up every single song Jeongguk had performed so far. With enough energy to probably perform for another four hours, Jeongguk grinned.

“I have two more songs for you tonight,” he said as he held up two fingers, and a resounding “AW-W-W-W-W” filled the venue. Jeongguk laughed. “Two is better than one, right? Let’s do this. Here’s ‘Neon.’”

The screams were deafening. Jeongguk had saved one of his best performances for last, including the dance. The audience absolutely ate it up, every second of it. Jeongguk’s dancing had improved with every show, likely because he had a very feisty and very encouraging partner to impress. “Neon” was still a hit with his fans, and overseas, it was getting some radioplay. But although Jeongguk’s star was on the rise, one thing remained constant.

“Thank you, thank you,” he said with gratitude as a stagehand passed him his guitar. Jeongguk used a towel to quickly pat his forehead dry, and then he slipped the strap over his head and situated his guitar comfortably behind his back, grabbing a water bottle. He chugged some water, and then he approached the mic.

“This last song,” he said, hearing the crowd hold their breath collectively in anticipation, “is special to me. I wrote it the night that I realized I was in love with my best friend. Took me a while to accept it, even though the lyrics of the rest of the damn album said otherwise.” Jeongguk laughed along with the crowd. “But this song really hits me every time I perform it, because I can remember writing it at about four o’clock in the morning. And things are different now, you know? Now it’s not just this fantasy in my head. Now I have the love of my life with me at all times. I mean, literally. He’s in my house.”

The crowd laughed again, but it was true—Jeongguk wasn’t living alone anymore. Jimin had moved in around Christmas, immediately setting up a Christmas tree in the corner of the living room and hanging twinkle lights. Every morning that he was home, Jeongguk woke up with Jimin in his bed and in his arms. Every morning that he was home, he kissed his best friend and made coffee for the two of them. Some mornings, they showered together. Some mornings, Jimin kissed Jeongguk’s forehead and ducked out to go teach yoga. Some mornings, Jeongguk tucked Jimin in with hearts in his eyes and left for the company. But every night, they came home to one another.

And there had been a few squabbles. There had been a few times when they had butted heads. But Jimin knew how to quell Jeongguk’s anxiety, and Jeongguk knew how to break Jimin’s stubborn streaks. The honeymoon phase was over, but Jeongguk was still, with every piece of his heart, in love. He fell more in love every day.

“So with that being said this—oh? Are you okay?” Jeongguk interrupted himself, because he saw movement from the wings. He turned with his eyebrows raised, and for a moment, his heart stopped. But then Jimin, who had been standing backstage the entire show, ran right out onto the stage in front of thousands of people. Jeongguk heard the screams and cheers from the crowd, none of whom had ever gotten the chance to see Jeongguk with Jimin in real life, but Jeongguk had tunnel vision. It was a risk, but Jimin seemed intent on taking it, and Jeongguk was not going to stop him. Jimin ran right into Jeongguk’s arms, and Jeongguk grabbed his waist as Jimin wrapped his arms around Jeongguk’s neck. With the approval of the crowd, Jeongguk smiled like a lovesick fool as he lifted Jimin’s feet off the crowd, kissing him for the world to see.

“I love you,” Jimin whispered against his lips, and Jeongguk didn’t need to hear it—he felt the words forming on Jimin’s lips. Then he released his hold on Jeongguk and backed up into the wings again as Jeongguk watched his every move, spellbound. He would always be mesmerized by Jimin’s very existence, the same way that Jimin was enthralled by Jeongguk. Nothing about the way they loved each other was fake. Not anymore.

Jeongguk pulled his guitar back in front of him, blushing furiously, and then he laughed nervously as he approached the mic. The audience seemed utterly delighted, though, so Jeongguk grinned. He plucked a few strings on the guitar, his lips still buzzing.

“That’s one way of introducing a song. This is ‘Fuck It, I’m in Love.’”

Jeongguk played the first notes as the band joined in, and before he sang a single note, he looked over into the wings where Jimin was standing. And when their eyes met, Jeongguk realized that he had a forever audience of one. Even when his star dimmed, even when the cheers of the crowds faded and the opportunity to be on stage disappeared, Jeongguk would always have Jimin by his side to listen to every song, every note, every lyric. He would always have Jimin to love.

And Jeongguk could write a thousand songs about it.