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Love as Fast as Light

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[moodboard by cata]

~ ~ ~

Removing a heavy and odd-shaped backpack from the overhead compartment of an airplane was, arguably, the most awkward position to be in—objects “may have shifted during flight,” and when Jeon Jeongguk popped open the overhead compartment, he learned quickly why flight attendants regurgitated the same message that he blissfully ignored. His shifted backpack slid right out onto the bill of his black baseball cap like something out of a cartoon, nearly knocking him over.

“Sorry, sorry,” he apologized to other patrons in the vicinity as his back hit the edge of the aisle seat opposite his seat, and he caught his balance and dragged the backpack down his face with a grunt before hugging it to his chest and then heaving it onto the empty seat in which he had been sitting a moment ago.

“Smooth.”

“I don’t want to hear it,” Jeongguk sighed as he adjusted his cap, one elbow resting on the seat of the businessman in front of him. From the middle seat, Kim Seokjin leaned back with his arms crossed, standing up but angling himself as he looked over at Jeongguk.

“I just spent a few hours in the middle seat for you.” He gestured to the backpack Jeongguk was embracing. “That’s karma.”

“Just disembark the goddamn plane,” Jeongguk sighed, and Seokjin snickered.

“Language. Someone might recognize you.”

“Someone might recognize you,” Jeongguk mocked under his breath, and Seokjin punched his shoulder as Jeongguk snorted and began to waddle down the aisle towards the exit doors of the plane. He bowed to the flight attendants, and then he walked down the ramp towards Incheon Airport with Seokjin in tow, the two of them constant and bickering travel buddies. Seeing as Seokjin was Jeongguk’s manager, he was in charge of always looking out for Jeongguk’s well-being, but that didn’t mean that Jeongguk couldn’t take the shit out of him whenever the opportunity presented itself.

“Do you want to go to the studio, or straight home?” Seokjin asked as they walked through the busy airport on their way to baggage claim. They had each checked one bag for the flight from Tokyo back home to South Korea, and Jeongguk also had to fetch his guitar. He hated having to trust an airline to keep it safe, but he had very little choice in the matter, seeing as no airline would let him purchase a ticket just so his guitar could be buckled into the window seat (he had tried that once). 

“Don’t know. Are you going home?” Jeongguk asked, and Seokjin snickered.

“After following you around Tokyo for a week and fighting a hoard of screaming girls? I love you, but I’m going home,” he declared, and Jeongguk grinned, remembering the very moment he had been attempting to shop for a new jacket and about six girls had come barreling into the luxury brand store. Poor Seokjin had really taken the brunt of it, but it made for good stories.

“Yeah, fair. You can just take me to the studio.” Jeongguk scooted past a mother with two excitable children, and he and Seokjin cruised their way through all the rigamarole of returning to South Korea before stopping at baggage claim. Jeongguk grabbed his duffle bag and embraced his guitar like a lost child when it came around on the conveyor belt, and then he and Seokjin exited the airport into the warm, early June air. Seokjin pulled out his phone, likely to check if the car was close by, and Jeongguk fiddled with the straps of his backpack by his waist, his brain still buzzing despite its mushed state.

 

mood: “kintsugi” by gabrielle aplin

 

The trip to Tokyo was meant to have brought inspiration and motivation to Jeongguk. He was self-made, after all, which meant that he was autonomous in his creative process for the most part. After finishing his military service at nineteen, he had plucked up the courage to drop five songs about heartbreak and the woes of being a teenager that he had written and produced and sang onto SoundCloud, thinking that maybe a few of his friends would listen. Twenty-four hours later, his friends had casually spread around his music like wildfire, letting it seep into the black hole of the internet. 

It took just a few days for Jeongguk to explode onto the social media scene. He had gained momentum like an avalanche, shifting from shy university student to shy underground singer with a massive following. His four mixtapes and handful of one-off singles had tens of millions of hits. He had migrated to Spotify about four years ago after being signed to a label and had three million monthly listeners. Perhaps his music wasn’t played on the radio, but his millions of followers on Instagram and Twitter paid no mind to that. They latched onto Jeongguk because of his relatable lyrics, commiserated with him, felt like they were in his mind.

It was without a doubt the Virgo in him, but as a perfectionist to a fault, Jeongguk tried to do it all. He had started out on his own—he wrote every lyric. He composed every song and played the piano, guitar, or the second-hand drum machine. He produced, he mixed, and he sang. Creating the music was nice, but singing was where Jeongguk found his home. His life plan was to sing until his voice gave out on him, until he could no longer make melodies and harmonies through song, until his body was too weak to do so. And encouraging that mindset was one Min Yoongi, CEO and producer extraordinaire.

“Why are you here? Didn’t you just get back from Tokyo?”

“Didn’t you?” Only two minutes after being dropped off, Jeongguk threw his backpack onto the floor by the black leather couch and plopped down, sprawling out and staring at the back of Yoongi’s head. Yoongi had all of his computer monitors spread out before him, headphones around his neck as he clicked away. He held up a finger over his shoulder to Jeongguk, and then he pressed a button to speak into a microphone.

“You can come out.” He released the button, and then he spun his chair around and faced Jeongguk. He was wearing a grey beanie over his blonde hair, but he yanked it off and yawned, ruffling his hair before jamming the beanie back on his head.

“You caught the earlier flight, I see,” Jeongguk commented, and Yoongi adjusted his black GENIUS LAB ENTERTAINMENT shirt while nodding. He was the founder and CEO of his own little label, and he was also a sought-after producer in the industry. The moment he had heard Jeongguk’s teenage SoundCloud ventures, Yoongi had contacted him through direct messaging on Instagram to meet. Jeongguk hadn’t been too interested in being signed to a label until he had met Yoongi in person. Then, with stars in his eyes, he had promptly picked up and moved to Seoul just to sign with Genius.

“Had to be back early. I had a recording session,” Yoongi said, and right on cue, the door opened.

“Well, look who’s back. Have you written your next seven albums?” Kim Taehyung grinned and dropped down onto the couch beside Jeongguk, spreading his legs wide enough that he had to throw one of them over Jeongguk’s thigh.

“I fucking wish,” Jeongguk grumbled, pressing his fingertips against his eyes until he saw flashes of silver. He kept his eyes closed as Yoongi began to play back a lovely R&B-type song that Taehyung was recording for his sophomore album. Taehyung was Yoongi’s first catch, the first artist signed to the label, and he had something of a cult following across Korea and into Japan. He was also shockingly handsome with a wicked sense of humor, and Jeongguk knew damn well what he and Yoongi did when no one was looking.

“Jeongguk is in the middle of an identity crisis. Be nice,” Yoongi said as he slipped his headphones back on and started clicking away again, dropping Taehyung’s vocals into the right place and playing it back repeatedly. Taehyung patted Jeongguk’s thigh.

“What, did you hit a wall?” he asked, and Jeongguk pulled the brim of his cap even further down to cover his eyes. When Jeonguk had first met Taehyung, they hadn’t gotten along well, their personalities clashing, Jeongguk far too shy and Taehyung far too brash. But in the few years that they had been around one another, they had grown to understand how the other functioned, knew each other’s sense of humor and limits.

“I don’t have anything to write about,” Jeongguk complained, and Taehyung hummed.

“Been there. I’ve had material lately, though,” Taehyung said, and Jeongguk saw Yoongi pause for a moment before sighing and returning to his work. Jeongguk didn’t ask, but he knew that Yoongi and Taehyung’s relationship was tumultuous at best. All he knew was that one night a year ago, they had both gotten drunk and had ended up fucking on the couch of Yoongi’s studio, and neither one of them had willpower, because they kept falling back into bed with each other. Yoongi wanted to date Taehyung. Taehyung refused. But they couldn’t break it off.

“Would you like to share some of your experiences with me so that I can write songs about them?” Jeongguk asked, and Taehyung snorted.

“You’re not stealing my material,” he said with a grin.

“Taehyung-ah. Back in the booth,” Yoongi said, waving his hand without even looking. Taehyung scowled, but then he turned to Jeongguk.

“Just watch a drama or a movie and write about what you watch,” he suggested. “You always write songs like you’re sharing your diary. Try something new.”

“That’s not how Jeon Jeongguk functions,” Yoongi said, eavesdropping. Taehyung leaned against the doorframe, tilting his head to the side as Jeongguk raised his eyebrows with a tiny smile, wiggling his heels against the carpet.

“He usually functions as a pain in the ass,” Taehyung said, and Jeongguk lunged like he was going to chase, so Taehyung let out a laugh as he ran his fingers through his dark purple hair and disappeared back into the recording booth. Yoongi turned his chair back around, elbows on his knees as he stared Jeongguk down. He was only twenty-eight but absolutely brilliant, a mentor to Jeongguk.

“You want to do anything with those two songs we wrote?” he asked, cracking his knuckles.

“Two songs,” Jeongguk repeated crankily. “Two songs, hyung. We were in Tokyo for days and I was supposed to be inspired, and we finished two songs. And they both suck.”

“They don’t suck.”

“The melodies are okay, but the lyrics are subpar.”

“They’re not subpar.”

“Don’t lie to me.”

“They’re just different,” Yoongi finally said, and Jeongguk threw up one hand. “What? They are. I mean, you wrote about being in a hotel room and missing someone who doesn’t even exist. You’re writing from a different place. You’re not dating anyone. You’ve written everything you could about life’s current bullshit. And you’re not the kind of person to write peppy, happy, inspirational lyrics.”

“This is the first time I’ve been in this situation,” Jeongguk said, frustrated. “I’m usually always on a roll. I’ve never had a block like this. I should just date someone and break-up with them for the sake of a damn album.”

“Well, if you were okay with just singing anything, it wouldn’t be a problem,” Yoongi pointed out. “I could write you nine or ten songs for an album in a week, all bangers. But that’s not your vibe.”

“What, so I’m weird because I like to write about things that actually matter to me?” Jeongguk asked, pained. Yoongi chuckled, wiggling his chair.

“You do need another break-up,” he teased as he turned his chair back around. “Try a new angle, Jeongguk-ah. Love might be interesting. Maybe your fans want to hear something fresh.” He pressed a button. “Okay, Tae. Can we, uh… let me get the harmonies for the bridge.”

Tired, Jeongguk snatched up his backpack with a grunt and shrugged it onto both shoulders, and then he nudged Yoongi’s shoulder and waved to Taehyung before leaving the small recording space. As he did, he pursed his lips and pulled out his phone to take a quick video of the front entrance to Genius Lab Entertainment, captioning it with “back at it” before posting it to his Instagram story. Then he clicked onto Twitter and lazily lifted his phone at a decent angle, tucking a bit of his blonde hair behind his ear underneath his hat and taking a quick picture of himself and then posting it with a few emojis. His phone began to blow up, but Jeongguk never paid much attention to it. He locked his phone and tucked it away, and then he ducked into the parking garage of the building to grab his car so he could drive home.

Jeongguk’s apartment was in Gangnam, and it was pretty new. When he had first moved to Seoul at age twenty, he had found a tiny shoebox of a studio apartment and had slept on the couch, forgoing a bed and using a towel as a pillow instead. Now that he was twenty-four and earning a decent living, he could afford a few splurges, like his Mercedes and a two-bedroom apartment.

Ordering food for delivery used to be one of Jeongguk’s favorite things to do, but more recently, he had started attempting to cook. He had bought nice pans and a great knife and had just admired them in his kitchen for so long without touching them, but now he was cooking basic Korean meals for himself in his attempt to remain fit. 

The mundane, everyday tasks were what felt good. Jeongguk had spent his first year in Seoul running on fumes, thinking that he had to sleep at Genius in order to make decent music. He had quickly learned that pouring water into a bucket full of holes never worked. Slowly but surely, he was starting to cut back on some of his bad habits, but overthinking and obsessing over his craft was not one of them. 

“The fuck is this?” Jeongguk murmured to himself while lying in bed that night, scrolling through his phone. He always dumped lyrics into his Notes app, and he read:

 

Woke up and reached out to your side of the bed

Wanted warmth but the pillow was cold instead

Thought you’d stay, smell the coffee at 8am

Did I dream up your touch in delirium?

 

Jeongguk was fluent enough in English to write lyrics in the language and he often put out songs in strictly Korean, strictly English, or a mix of both. It helped broaden his audience, but the lyrics on the screen in front of him were horrific in his mind. Disappointed, he locked his phone, tossed it onto the nightstand, and rolled over so he could sleep, trying not to laugh at himself for writing such dreamy lyrics.

The other side of the bed was always cold.

 

***

 

Jeongguk was not one to really indulge in all that Seoul had to offer, but sometimes, he woke up in the mood to do something good for himself. The next day, he rolled out of bed closer to one in the afternoon, fighting exhaustion, and he decided while in the shower that it was a good day to go to a yoga class. And he knew exactly where to go.

OHM Yoga was in Gangnam, and it was one of the more popular spots to practice. Jeongguk had never thought of himself as being a yoga person, but he had been sweet-talked into it by arguably the most important person in his life. Only then had he managed to see the benefits of attempting to meditate and stretching his limbs in directions he had never assumed they would stretch. He had tried all sorts of yoga, but it was hot yoga that had grabbed him by the throat and refused to let go. There was something about sweating profusely until it dripped into his eyes that made Jeongguk feel like he was both productive and successful.

The class was at three o’clock, but Jeongguk slipped into the hot studio late, as he always did, right when the opening meditation had begun. He had made it a habit to walk in late and stay in his ending savasana long after the class had dismissed, because once upon a time, he had been recognized to a point where it had disrupted the flow of the class. Quietly, he rolled out his mat in the back corner, grabbed his blocks and yoga strap from the shelves, and settled into a kneeling position, hands resting palms-up on his thighs. He cracked one eye open and snuck a peek at the instructor, and then he smiled and closed his eyes again.

“...And of course, if ujjayi breathing is part of your practice, you’re welcomed to begin with that. Inhale through the nose, exhale with the mouth closed, dragging the breath at the back of the throat as you do.”

Jeongguk slipped into his preferred breathing pattern until the meditation was over. He went through every pose, every motion, every downward dog. He nailed his tripod headstand, held his eka pada koundinyasana longer than ever before, managed to grab his big toe in his king pigeon pose before collapsing sideways like many of the other students. By the time class was over and he was drenched in sweat, he felt completely satisfied.

“I’ll come around and place a cool towel over your eyes. If you would prefer to not be touched or would prefer the towel to the side, please place your hand over your abdomen.”

Jeongguk kept himself sprawled out, and a cool towel that smelled the lavender was placed onto his face over his eyes and forehead. He felt an extra flick against his forehead, though, that made him smile, even in his exhausted state.

With one final collective “ohm,” class ended, and Jeongguk collapsed back onto his mat with his eyes closed, listening to the footsteps all around him, the quiet chatter of students packing up and heading out. When he sensed enough silence, Jeongguk opened his eyes.

“Oh, fuck,” he gasped, recoiling.

“Language.” Park Jimin was standing right overtop of Jeongguk, straddling his hips with one foot on either side of Jeongguk’s mat, and he was grinning happily. His black hair was a bit sweaty and stuck in his eyelashes, and he was wearing a black t-shirt and black yoga shorts. He was also bent at the waist to be right in Jeongguk’s face. “Not in my classroom.”

“You gave me no other choice.” Jeongguk twirled his lukewarm towel and whipped it against Jimin’s calf muscle. “Good class.”

“You face-planted in your eka pada koundinyasana.” Jimin straightened up, hands resting on his hips as he rocked back and forth slowly to stretch. Jeongguk lifted one knee in a threat, and Jimin snickered and backed up to avoid any pain to his groin.

“Really good that you, the certified instructor who spent time in fucking Goa to train, are commenting only on my face-planting,” Jeongguk retorted.

“Your king pigeon was kind of like an awkward bird,” Jimin replied as he strolled over to grab some of the cleaning supplies, completely ignoring Jeongguk’s bellyaching.

“I missed you so much, hyung,” Jeongguk said loudly, and Jimin let out a laugh, padding barefoot across the floor with the mop to clean the floor before the next class in fifteen minutes.

“I haven’t seen you in a month, fool,” Jimin replied. “Is that what best friends do? Ditch each other for four weeks? All that time apart, and for what?”

“You know I just came back from Tokyo,” Jeongguk complained, rolling over to grab the sanitizer spray for his mat.

“Was it a success?” Jimin started to mop the floor from the far corner.

“Guess how many songs I wrote?”

“Twenty-seven.”

“Two.”

“I was close,” Jimin said with a shit-eating grin. “Come on, you only wrote two? You were on a roll there for a while. You said last time I saw you that you wanted to put out more than an EP this year. What’s going on? Inspiration not hitting?”

“Not even a little.” Jeongguk rolled up his sanitized mat with the sling and threw it over one shoulder. “You should’ve seen some of the lyrics I was writing. I thought Yoongi hyung was going to gag.”

“It couldn’t have been that bad.”

“You’re right. It was worse,” Jeongguk dramatically said, and Jimin rolled his eyes. “Can I do my handstand?”

“Before I clean that part of the floor? Yeah. Do it the right way, or I’ll mop your face.”

Jeongguk got close enough to the wall, and then he bent at the waist and pressed his hands into the floor. With as much strength as he could muster, he kicked up into a handstand, and then his heels hit the wall with a dull thud. 

“Your back is completely bowed.”

“Yeah, yeah.” Jeongguk straightened himself out and fixed his arms and shoulders, and then he started to test his balance bit by bit. “Hyung said that I need another break-up. He was kidding, but I think he was also mildly serious.”

“What, Mingyu dumping you and then you producing a banger of an EP wasn’t enough for him?” Jimin asked, still mopping the floor as Jeongguk watched upside down. “How many men does he want you to date?”

“He was kidding. It was actually my suggestion,” Jeongguk laughed. “But that would make this my fourth release based on real-life heartbreak, and I don’t know. Just feels a bit… like I’m whining.”

“I don’t think your music sounds like you’re whining,” Jimin replied. “Your music is always beautiful, Korean or English.”

Jeongguk immediately fell out of his handstand and collapsed to his knees, hearing Jimin laugh. With a groan, Jeongguk rolled and rose tiredly to his feet, grabbing his mat and towel and water bottle again. Jimin completed his mopping, and then he paused just short of Jeongguk and used the bottom hem of his shirt to wipe at the bridge of his nose, giving Jeongguk the perfect view of his best friend’s slim waist and toned stomach. He was only human, after all, and window shopping never hurt anyone.

Jimin was two years older than Jeongguk, and about four years ago, Jeongguk had met him at a coffee shop in Gangnam—repeatedly. Jeongguk had just come to Seoul to pursue music after being dragged in by then-stranger Yoongi, and he had picked his spot for coffee. Every morning, he had run into a cute but flustered guy always in work-out clothing and always on the run. Jeongguk, who had been dating a fellow aspiring singer named Jaehyun at the time, had politely kept quiet for two months before finally asking the guy’s name and ordering him a coffee when the guy had forgotten to bring his wallet or phone into the coffee shop with him to pay.

Jimin was a yoga instructor who taught dance classes on the side. He had done his military service at eighteen (like Jeongguk had) and had immediately jumped into university. He had been studying health science when Jeongguk had first met him, and now he was thriving, doing exactly what he had always wanted to do. Jimin had taken keen interest in Jeongguk, and they had become fast friends, mixing their friend groups every once in a while. Jimin was loyal and steadfast and a relentless tease with a soft side and a wild streak, introspection and outrageous humor, and the ability to hold his alcohol better than anyone Jeongguk knew.

Jeongguk hadn’t met Jimin in some fantastic, you-have-to-hear-this-story kind of way. It wasn’t a tale he would tell at parties. But if anyone were to ask him about his best friend, his mind would go to Jimin instantly, and Jimin tended to do the same. No matter how many days or weeks they went without communicating, they could bump into each other at a hot yoga class and fall right back into old habits.

“Thanks, but it sounded like crap this time around,” Jeongguk replied. “The beats aren’t bad. The actual music itself? Pretty decent. The lyrics and the melody, though… garbage. I don’t know. I feel like I’ve written so much about heartbreak that it’s like—like a sponge that’s been wrung out.”

“There’s the poet. Emily Dickinson has been awfully quiet,” Jimin teased, opening the sealed door to the air-conditioned lobby, where lo-fi music was playing softly over the speakers. “You want to get a smoothie with me? Or are you busy?”

“No, I can do a smoothie. Is hyung paying?” Jeongguk grinned, and Jimin rolled his eyes.

“Say the guy who just bought himself a Mercedes,” he said, and Jeongguk snickered.

“Okay, fine. My treat, since I ditched you for an entire month.”

Jimin slipped behind the front desk and clocked out, and then the two of them made a beeline for the changing room, where they both showered off and put on clean clothes to avoid walking around the streets of Gangnam drenched in sweat. Jeongguk made sure to put on a bucket hat as well, because although he wasn’t anywhere near idol status, his face was recognizable enough these days.

Neither Jimin nor Jeongguk left any room to breathe in the conversation as they walked to the shop and grabbed their smoothies. As one of them sipped, the other talked, and sometimes they interrupted each other. Jimin told hilarious stories about his yoga teaching woes. Jeongguk told stories about his failed attempts at high notes in recordings that had Jimin in near tears from laughing. Jimin told Jeongguk all about how his ex from three years ago, Kim Namjoon, was planning some nature walk for his two-year anniversary with Jimin’s roommate and close friend, Jung Hoseok. Jeongguk had even written songs about it a year ago—he had asked for Jimin’s thoughts about watching Namjoon fall in love with someone else, and Jimin had delivered beautifully. Jimin and Namjoon were thick as thieves still, a couple that had turned out to be better as friends. Rather, on the plus side, Jimin thoroughly enjoyed watching his panicky roommate get all flustered at Namjoon’s quiet demonstrations of love.

“So you’re back in Seoul?” Jimin asked as they began to walk towards the yoga studio together. Jimin didn’t have a car and preferred to walk or bike everywhere using public transport when necessary, and Jeongguk knew Jimin biked to work.

“For the time being, yeah,” Jeongguk said, kicking a pebble along as he walked alongside Jimin. “I’m not going anywhere until I figure out the angle for this album. I’ve run out of heartbreak material, so I’ll just have to buckle down and find another way. My fans are getting antsy.”

“Your fans would wait an eternity for you,” Jimin said. He knew Jeongguk’s artist woes inside and out and had been there to see Jeongguk go from semi-internet phenomenon to full-blown rising star. In more ways than one, Jimin helped Jeongguk stay grounded in reality. Were it not for Jimin, Jeongguk likely would have let his anxiety take the wheel and steer. He always teased Jimin for saying that yoga was the key to relaxing, that a good diet would help. But in the same breath, Jeongguk did absolutely everything Jimin suggested, and it always worked.

“Someone left a comment the other day asking if I could break their heart, because then I’d put out new music,” Jeongguk dully said, and Jimin snickered.

“You know people on the internet hit new lows in desperation when they have no life outside of Twitter,” he replied, and Jeongguk grinned.

“This was Instagram.”

“Even worse,” Jimin lamented, and they both burst out laughing. Jimin sighed and linked his elbow with Jeongguk’s, and Jeongguk smiled. Jimin was naturally affectionate with a sunny disposition and outlook on life. Jeongguk was likely one of the only people who knew how much Jimin had cried when he and Namjoon had broken up. Perhaps it had been inevitable, but the heartache of going from lovers to just friends was something Jeongguk could hardly imagine. In all of his relationships, he had gone from lovers to strangers, virtually cutting people out of his life when things ended or watching them cut Jeongguk out of their lives.

“So, are we going to get a drink sometime together?” Jeongguk asked. “Go to a club? It’s been forever.”

“Yeah, I could use a drink,” Jimin said as they rounded the corner of the yoga studio where his bicycle was chained up. “Maybe Friday?”

“Friday’s good. Just tell me when and where to meet you.”

“Done,” Jimin said, swinging one leg over his bike. “If you come up with any songs by then, call me. You know I’ll always listen to them.”

“Thanks, hyung,” Jeongguk said in gratitude, and then he ducked to avoid Jimin swiping him in the head as Jimin set his feet on the pedals and rode off, Jeongguk turning over his shoulder to watch his best friend soared down the street, standing up on the pedals with the wind blowing through his hair.

 

***

 

“Let me do it again.”

“Okay.”

Jeongguk kept the left side of his headphones off his ear as he listened to the playback of the floaty piano tune he and Yoongi had composed in Tokyo. There was a downbeat in the bass, and then Jeongguk’s vocals for the final chorus began, lyrics in Korean about how the brilliance of the sun couldn’t compare to the person he loved. Listening carefully, Jeongguk closed his eyes, and then he began a new ad-lib that he hadn’t done two minutes ago.

“Ah, shit, that’s not it,” he said, cutting himself off. He knew Yoongi would trash that take right away. “Should I go with more of an ‘ah’ sound, or a ‘woah’ sound?”

“I think a ‘woah’ sound would be better,” Yoongi replied, always open to giving his advice. “The first ‘ah’ ad-lib was fine, but go for ‘woah’ this time and see what you think. And can you not stick to the melody so much?”

“Yeah yeah, okay. Let me think. Let me…” Jeongguk gripped the music stand while staring down at his own handwritten lyrics, humming to himself and cutting himself off when it didn’t sound quite right. Yoongi was patient as always, and he waited until Jeongguk glanced up and pulled off his grey slouchy beanie to tousle his longer blonde hair.

“You ready?” Yoongi asked through the microphone. They had been in this position a thousand times. Yoongi and Jeongguk had the perfect rhythm in the recording booth, always able to feed off each other’s energy and read each other’s minds as they worked through the song. Yoongi was quick with laying out the vocals and always had suggestions ready. Jeongguk typically walked into the booth knowing what he wanted to get out of the session. They always indulged each other, and that was what made them a dynamic duo.

“Ready.” Jeongguk cracked his neck and pulled his beanie back on, and then he slipped the headphones over his right ear and gripped the music stand with one hand, listening intently as the playback started. Then he did exactly what Yoongi had suggested, going for more of a ‘woah’ sound, running parallel to the melody but throwing in some high notes to add more texture, turning ‘woah’ into ‘ooh’ when he went into his higher register.

“Nice. Come here.”

Jeongguk tossed the headphones and exited the soundproof booth, and then he turned the corner and hung onto the doorframe, listening as Yoongi played back the final chorus of the song. Jeongguk nodded along, finally used to hearing his own voice. When he had started, he had recorded his vocals and had only ever listened to them once to make sure he wasn’t too flat or too sharp. Then he had pretended they didn’t exist, hating the sound of his own voice. After signing with Genius, Yoongi had gotten him a vocal coach for a year just so Jeongguk could get comfortable with his personal sound, and it had worked wonders.

“I like that. That ‘woah-oh-ooh-ooh’ part,” Yoongi commented, using his finger like he was climbing the musical scale himself. Jeongguk hummed, satisfied.

“Yeah. We can keep that. Do I need to add a lower register harmony?” he wondered. “Also, the humming in the first verse. What should we do with that?”

“Get back in there,” Yoongi sighed, grabbing his iced Americano and taking a sip as he gestured. Jeongguk tapped the doorframe and scooted back into the booth where he knew he belonged. In an attempt to make himself look productive, he grabbed his phone and snapped a picture of himself with the headphones on one ear while pressing his lyric sheet to his chest, and he posted it to Twitter and Instagram simultaneously with the caption “new vibes.” The likes poured in immediately, but none of the strangers enjoying his photo knew what kind of new vibes Jeongguk was exploring.

They say they’re okay with something new, but they’re the first to judge me if it’s not what they expected, he thought anxiously, listening as Yoongi rewinded and found the part where Jeongguk had to add his harmonies in. When Jeongguk was in the middle of recording, he glanced through the window and saw Taehyung standing there with his arms crossed, wearing nothing but high-waisted black tapered pants and a white cropped t-shirt, black-framed glasses pushed up into his hair.

“Taehyungie hyung,” Jeongguk said sweetly into the mic, and he saw Taehyung snicker.

“You’re about to ask me for background vocals, aren’t you?” he said when Yoongi pressed the button.

“Just a few, if hyung loves me,” Jeongguk said as cutely as possible, knowing Taehyung was a sucker for it. Their relationship consisted of Taehyung demanding that Jeongguk act cute before getting a bite of food and Jeongguk acting cute when he wanted something from Taehyung, and Yoongi hating both of them.

“...What do you need?” Taehyung yanked open the sealed door of the booth and slung his arm around Jeongguk’s waist. They were used to doing each other’s background vocals. Yoongi had several other vocalists with Genius, but Taehyung and Jeongguk liked each other enough to spare favors every now and again.

“Can you just sing this?” Jeongguk asked, and then he pointed to his lyric sheet and sang what he wanted Taehyung to repeat in his beautiful baritone voice. They had vastly different styles, but when they sang together, it just worked. Taehyung was intuitive and a natural-born singer, too, so he sang what Jeongguk asked in only two takes and walked out of the booth after ten minutes.

“So?” Yoongi spun his chair as Jeongguk collapsed onto the couch at the end of his session. With a groan, Jeongguk lifted his legs up and threw them over Taehyung’s lap, and all Taehyung did was lift his arms while texting before resting them on Jeongguk’s shins.

“So what?” Jeongguk asked, his head on the armrest as he tugged his purple plaid flannel so it wasn’t wrapping around his body.

“What do you think?” Yoongi asked. “You wrote the lyrics. You came up with the piano riff and the melody. We have the vocals now. Do you like it?”

“It’s…” Jeongguk sighed. “I don’t know, hyung. I want to be like ‘hell yeah, approve it for the album,’ but I’m not really sold.”

“Are you being whiny?” Taehyung asked impartially, because he knew how picky Jeongguk was about what five or six songs went onto his little albums. 

“No. I’m making my first full-length album, hyung,” Jeongguk replied. “All I’ve done are mixtapes and EPs and mini albums, that kind of vibe. I have to come up with nine or more songs that I fucking like, and I currently have one that’s just okay.”

“It’s only been seven months since your last release,” Yoongi pointed out.

“Yeah, and I’m not planning a release until my birthday, which means it’s been almost an entire year since I’ve put out content,” Jeongguk replied.

“You’re too hard on yourself,” Yoongi said. “Don’t fall into the trap of releasing content just for the sake of releasing content, Gguk-ah. You’ve done tons of little shows and fan meetings and TV spots. Your campaign for LGBTQ-plus youth was a huge success. Just breathe, yeah? You don’t have to suddenly come up with the perfect album.”

“I know, but that’s the problem,” Jeongguk sighed, pouting for a moment. “It’s time for me to actually put out an album, and there’s an expectation. I can’t just sing about the same old shit anymore. I wrote my way through three break-ups and threw in some shit about life. I’m trying to change up my sound without losing myself, you know?”

“I told you to try a few love songs,” Yoongi reminded Jeongguk. “You’ve only done one or two in the past, but one of them was about loving someone you couldn’t have, and the other was a filler song.”

“Yeah, but the first one is one of my most popular songs,” Jeongguk recalled. “I don’t know. I just need to experience it, you know? I need to go through it to write about it. The music has to mean something.”

“This song is pretty good, though,” Taehyung argued, gesturing vaguely to the recording booth. Jeongguk had named the song ‘Icarus,’ just because it dealt with the sun and had a more heartbreaking undertone to it. 

“It’s average,” Jeongguk said. “Like, if I had an album with eight songs, I could throw this one in as the ninth without feeling shitty about it. But I’m trashing the other one we wrote in Tokyo, and now I’m down to nothing with three months until my release.”

“We haven’t exactly scheduled it with your team,” Yoongi mentioned. “So three months is just tentative. You could push it off.”

“Is this my vibe, though?” Jeongguk asked Yoongi. “You have the final say. I know I’m going for different sounds, but the lyrics and melodies… is this my vibe?”

“Your vibe is chill with insane vocals,” Yoongi supplied. “You haven’t changed. You’re evolving. There’s a difference. You’re not recording things in your bedroom closet anymore, you know? But I still think you have to start expanding. You have to approach your writing process differently.”

“I thought Tokyo would help,” Jeongguk sighed.

“I did, too,” Yoongi admitted. “But I think it just clogged you up even more.”

“Well, what could you do to find inspiration?” Taehyung wondered. “Do you need to meet someone at a club? Do we need to reconnect you with one of your exes? Do you need Yoongi hyung to flirt with you?”

“I’d love to see hyung flirt with me,” Jeongguk said as Yoongi groaned and Taehyung grinned. “I’d rather go to the dentist than reconnect with one of my exes. And meeting someone at a club is just so cliché. I’ve done that before. My second EP was basically my ‘fuck you’ message to Jaehyun. I don’t really know how I could do it again without repeating myself.”

“The struggle of being an artist,” Taehyung sighed. “We always think that the next project has to be bigger and better than the last one.”

“I’m meeting Jimin hyung tonight for drinks,” Jeongguk said, speaking to the ceiling. “Maybe he’ll know what to do.”

“Yeah, where’s he been lately?” Taehyung asked, because he and Jimin were friends thanks to Jeongguk. “It’s been months since he’s been around.”

“He always knows what to say to talk you off the ledge,” Yoongi teased.

“He’s a problem-solver,” Jeongguk agreed. “I went to his hot yoga class the other day, and he said some good things. So maybe he’ll have ideas.”

In fact, Jeongguk was banking on it. His friendship with Jimin was the epitome of mutually beneficial. They both had a deep understanding of one another’s struggles and mindsets. Jimin was great at providing solutions to problems Jeongguk presented, and Jeongguk was great at providing quiet emotional support when Jimin was having a tough time. They looked out for each other, got drinks when they needed to talk, went on vacations together, infiltrated each other’s careers. Jeongguk had been Jimin’s guinea pig during his yoga teacher certification course. Jimin had provided Jeongguk with content for his music, as well as feedback, for years. 

“Hey! Good timing!”

Around nine o’clock, Jeongguk hopped out of his taxi in front of the building full of flashy shops and restaurants right near Itaewon Station, and on cue, Jimin came from around the corner, probably where he had left his bicycle. He was wearing ripped jeans and an emerald green sweater with the sleeves pushed up, his black hair pushed back off his forehead with just his fingers and falling back into place as he walked. Jeongguk hadn’t changed out of his outfit from being at the studio—his loose light-wash jeans and white t-shirt with a massive purple plaid flannel and the same slouchy beanie. They were both used to meeting at The Attic, because some of Jeongguk’s first little public gigs had been there, and Jimin had always done his best to attend.

“This is cute,” Jimin complimented, tugging on Jeongguk’s flannel. “How’d your recording session go?”

“I don’t want to talk about it,” Jeongguk sighed dramatically, leading the way up the spiral staircase to the front door. The Attic was always busy on a Friday night, and tonight was no different. There was one table available by the window that overlooked the main road, and even though it wasn’t a seat at the bar, Jeongguk and Jimin agreed immediately to take it. The girl led them there in the dim lighting over all the chatter as the guitar-singer duo on the little stage began their next song.

“Drinks?” the girl asked.

“Can we grab some of the spicy cheddar popcorn? That and two beers. Um…” Jimin glanced at the menu and pointed, and the girl nodded and walked off. Jeongguk trusted Jimin blindly when it came to alcohol choices, so he didn’t even question it.

“Namjoon’s taking Hoseok on the nature walk tomorrow,” Jimin offered, elbows on the table, fingers laced together, both thumbs pressed to the underside of his chin. Jeongguk surveyed his best friend across the table, one of the dim amber lights illuminating one side of his face. Every once in a blue moon, Jeongguk had a moment where he admired how beautiful Jimin was. He had the pretty facial features of a doll but the ability to go from puppy dog eyes to eyes ablaze with fire. He carried himself with confidence, especially when he walked. And even in the simple moments, when all he was doing was sitting in a dark wine bar, Jeongguk admired him.

“How do you feel about that?” Jeongguk wondered as the girl came back with two bottles of beer and a wooden bowl full of spicy cheddar popcorn. 

“Weird,” Jimin admitted. “Mostly because Namjoon roped me into it so he could really surprise Hoseok. And it just made me think about the time he woke me up early so we could climb a mountain together and watch the sunrise.”

“I remember those pictures,” Jeongguk recalled, picking up his beer. “He’s happy, though.”

“I know he is. And I’m happy for him. And it doesn’t bother me or upset me anymore. It’s just one of those things,” Jimin said, picking up his bottle and tilting the neck towards Jeongguk. Jeongguk met him in the middle for a toast, and then they both took a sip. “You know what I mean?”

“I know what you mean.”

“You wrote, like, five songs about it.”

“I did.”

“All overplayed on my Spotify playlist.”

“Don’t embarrass me,” Jeongguk moaned, and Jimin snickered, grabbing a handful of popcorn and tossing it into his mouth with his head back, still grinning. Jimin always took it too far. He sometimes played Jeongguk’s music during his yoga classes (even when Jeongguk was in the damn room) and had choreographed to it in the past when he taught dance, and Jeongguk had hated every single second of it, even though it was quite flattering.

 

mood: “wasted youth” by fletcher

 

“So what’s wrong with the song you worked on today?” Jimin asked as Jeongguk ate some of the popcorn. 

“Everything,” Jeongguk said lightly, and Jimin rolled his eyes.

“That’s what you always say, and then you wake up the next morning and listen to it again and you text me like, ‘hyung, this doesn’t suck as much as I thought it did.”

“No, this one genuinely sucks.”

“You know Shakespeare with that drama?”

“Shut up,” Jeongguk said with a laugh, because only Jimin could get away with saying such things. “Just listen to it.” Jeongguk pulled out his phone, opened the file, and slid his phone across the wooden table towards Jimin. Jimin picked up the phone, held it to his right ear, and leaned back with one arm crossed, eyes narrowed as he listened. Jeongguk busied himself with his beer and some more popcorn until the painful three minutes passed. Finally, Jimin set the phone back on the table.

“It’s not that bad.”

“It’s horrible.” Jeonguk snatched his phone back and locked it with gusto. “And you know it. Those are the lyrics of an amateur. There’s no heart to it. I’m just writing shit for the sake of writing it.”

“Why are you having so much trouble this time?” Jimin wondered, cocking his head to the side.

“Because I’m not writing about sad shit,” Jeongguk said, crossing his ankles under the table. “I’m supposed to be trying something new. All I write about is toxic relationships and break-ups and seeing your crush at a coffee shop with someone else.”

“Okay, but ‘I Know Your Coffee Order’ was one of your biggest songs.”

“Yeah, but that was because Yoongi gave me a track and I wrote the melody and lyrics in thirty minutes after running into Jaehyun with some other guy at my coffee shop,” Jeongguk explained. “It just exploded out of me, you know? I was still in that mindset. That made it easy to write.”

“So what you’re saying,” Jimin slowly said, “Is that you just want to create music by experiencing things?”

“It makes it easier,” Jeongguk replied. “If I go through it, if I have that first-hand experience, the song means something. I don’t want to write meaningless songs with flowery, poetic lyrics if it’s just coming out of my ass.”

“If you’re only writing it so that it’s a hit.”

“Exactly. So when hyung sat down with me in Tokyo and asked if I was willing to take a different approach, I was like, okay, sure. I’ve written about life struggles and toxic exes, right? So why don’t I write about love? Seems easy enough.” Jeongguk stared blankly at Jimin, and then he dropped his forehead onto the table with a hollow thud as Jimin laughed.

“Oh, you poor thing,” he said in a singsong voice. “You’ve been in love before.”

“Once, and just barely,” Jeongguk complained, thinking about his ex from his teenage years, Yugyeom. “I lost my virginity to the guy and thought that was love. That was five years ago. I know myself better now.”

“I don’t think you’ve ever told me that story,” Jimin said with a grin. “You losing your virginity.”

“I bottomed and it was awkward as hell because Yugyeom had no idea what he was doing,” Jeongguk replied, watching Jimin’s grin widen. “Not enough lube and not enough stamina. Trust me, it’s not a great story.”

“Sounds like a banger.”

“I wish I’d been banged,” Jeongguk said, and he and Jimin both burst out laughing, picking up their beers at the same time. Jeongguk set his bottle down after taking a sip and said, “So now I’m trying to come up with ways to write decent songs.”

“Find someone to date,” Jimin suggested, shrugging. “I mean, what kind of songs about love do you want to write? Have a few one-night stands. That’ll make for good material.”

“I’ve done that,” Jeongguk replied, amused that his friends always used a one-night stand as a possible solution for his creative block. “You can only write so many songs about one-night stands before it gets repetitive. ‘Hey, we just met in this club with all these flashing lights but you look hot and we hit it off right away, so take me home.’ They’re all the same.”

“So date someone.”

“Easier said than done.”

“I’m sure anyone would love to date you.”

“Yeah, sure. ‘Hello, can you date me so that I can write songs?’” Jeongguk mocked himself, and Jimin chuckled. “I’d feel like I was hunting. I don’t know, hyung. I just need to find someone who knows something about love to share their knowledge with me, or show me.”

“No one knows anything about love,” Jimin said poetically. “Pretty sure we all just pretend that we do. Love isn’t this concrete emotion that we can define. So you’re probably not going to be able to find someone who’s an expert.”

“So what if you date me?”

“Come again?” Jimin raised one eyebrow, picking up his bottle to take a swig. Jeongguk, however, suddenly forgot that his drink existed.

“Maybe I’ve been going about it the wrong way,” he said with his elbows on the table, staring at Jimin like seeing his best friend in a new light suddenly. “I wrote great music after my break-ups because I’d been through it. I experienced it first-hand. I had all those emotions, all that shit in my life that I needed to cope with. I knew how it felt.”

“Where is this going?” Jimin asked.

“So if I write great music after experiencing a break-up,” Jeongguk explained, “then maybe I need to experience love to write about love. Not that anyone would be really falling in love, but if you…” Jeongguk ran his hand over his mouth, sitting back, his brain aching with thoughts. “If you pretend to date me, show me what it’s really like, I could do it. I could write songs about what I’m experiencing.”

“That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard,” Jimin said without sugarcoating it. Jeongguk clicked his tongue and pitched forward again.

“You have experience, though,” he pointed out. “Don’t you? With being in love. With showing someone what it’s like to be loved.”

“I… guess,” Jimin cautiously said, still eyeing Jeongguk warily. Jeongguk sipped his beer and waved his hand.

“No, listen,” he insisted, setting his bottle down. “I want to release an album around my birthday. That’s three months away. Three months, hyung. If you could just—all you have to do is give me those experiences. Pretend that we’re dating and show me what it’s like. It’s like acting. Play the role. Help me try something new. And if it fails, then whatever. I’ll push my album back until December or something until I find some other inspiration.”

“So what, all I have to do is take you on a few dates?” Jimin asked, brow furrowed skeptically, elbows on the table with his fingers laced together and his chin resting on top of his knuckles. “Woo you and flirt with you and then send you off to write a few songs?”

“Exactly.”

“And what if it’s awkward? What if we’re not into each other like that?”

“I’m not asking either one of us to be into each other,” Jeongguk emphasized. “I’m asking you, as my best friend, to help me with some method acting. Help with my creative process. Just like I helped you get your yoga certification.”

“I knew that would come back to bite me,” Jimin muttered, and Jeongguk grinned. About a year ago, he had been Jimin’s go-to guy, and Jimin had begged Jeongguk to attend as many of the yoga classes he was teaching as possible while he was training. Jeongguk had loyally and faithfully attended dozens of classes despite his busy schedule just so that Jimin felt comfortable, so that he had someone to look at for reassurance while he was teaching.

“Hyung, it’ll be so easy,” Jeongguk said with earnest. “Three months, that’s it. And if I write enough songs to make an entire album, it could be less than three months. I just need inspiration. I need something better than watching other people be in love, or whatever the fuck Yoongi and Taehyung have going on.”

“That’s what normal people do,” Jimin teased, and Jeongguk pouted purposely, sticking out his lower lip. Jimin scoffed, rolling his eyes as he sat back and crossed his legs at the knee, surveying Jeongguk over the bottle he was lifting to his lips again. “Fine. I’ll entertain this for a minute. Tell me what you want.”

“Just three months,” Jeongguk repeated. “Take me on a few dates. Call me pet names, feed me strawberries, I don’t know. Treat me like I’m the boyfriend of your dreams, and I’ll see if I can write some music based off of it.”

“Boyfriend of your dreams,” Jimin muttered, snickering. “Look, it’s easy enough. We hang out all the time, so all I’d have to do is up my game. But I don’t understand why you’re asking me to do this. I mean, besides being your friend, I don’t really think I have a lot of qualifications to be a fake boyfriend.”

“Yes you do,” Jeongguk argued. “I knew you when you were dating Namjoon hyung. I saw you two together. You treated him like gold. You were so good at it, hyung. So if you can just show me a little bit of that, I bet I could come up with some music.”

“This is the plot of a bad Hallmark movie,” Jimin commented, pinching his bottom lip between his thumb and pointer finger with raised eyebrows. “You realize that, right?”

“Well, I’m out of options,” Jeongguk replied. “I’ve tried writing shit based on what I see from other people, and the lyrics are awful. I’ve tried pretending that I’m in love or that someone’s dating me, but it’s shit. I’m not that kind of person. I wrote kick-ass music because I got dumped, or because I did the dumping. But I don’t want to keep recycling the same old boring shit, you know? You can only write so many songs about break-ups and shitty exes.”

“So you’re going for the opposite,” Jimin slowly said.

“Exactly. If I don’t step out of my comfort zone now, when will I?” Jeongguk rhetorically asked. “Look, all I’m asking is for a few dates, a few nice moments. And I trust you, so that’s why I’m asking you. Will you do it?”

Jimin rolled his eyes and then pressed his tongue into his cheek pensively, drumming his fingers on the table.

“Fine.” He closed his eyes for a moment, and when he opened them, his gaze was locked on Jeongguk, his fingers still. “I’ll be your fake boyfriend so you can write songs. But three months, Jeongguk-ah. That’s it. I’m cutting you off. And lower your expectations.”

“You’ll actually do it?” Jeongguk grinned, biting his bottom lip in anticipation. “Seriously? You’ll star in my bad Hallmark movie?”

“Jesus Christ,” Jimin groaned as Jeongguk snorted with laughter. “Yes, fine. I’ll do it. But only because we’re already friends, and I owe you one.”

“You’re joking,” Jeongguk said, thrilled.

“Yeah, April Fool’s,” Jimin deadpanned, and then he chuckled. “Look, you said it’s only for a few months. Can’t be that difficult to fake it. And it might be stupid enough to work.”

“Hyung, you don’t have to if you’re not comfortable,” Jeongguk said, offering a way out. “I’m not going to force you to do anything. I’m just asking because I’m out of options, and I just want to try a different approach. See if it works.”

“It’s not that I’m not comfortable. It’s you,” Jimin emphasized, his small smile vaguely fond. “And you’re my best friend. I know how you are. You can’t even sing cover songs if you don’t relate to the lyrics in some way. And I can’t blame you for that. Just means that you connect with the music.”

“A few dates,” Jeongguk repeated. “Hold my hand or take me to see a movie. I don’t even care. Take it to the extreme. Keep it lowkey. Do whatever. I just—all I need are the experiences. And if we do it for a few weeks and it doesn’t inspire me to write any music, I’ll just break it off. No big deal.”

“That’s fine. But you’re going to have to have some free time,” Jimin warned, raising his eyebrows in amusement. “You have to be a good fake boyfriend, too.”

“I’m a great boyfriend,” Jeongguk said, and Jimin made a drawn out noise like he was trying to decide if it was true or not, so Jeongguk kicked him under the table, and Jimin burst out laughing.

“I’m kidding, I’m kidding. You’ve always been very sweet with your partners,” he complimented, and then he drank the last of his beer. “Alright. Next… Tuesday night. You busy?”

“Nope.”

“I’ll take you on a little date on Tuesday night,” Jimin said, and Jeongguk stifled a laugh. “A test run. Dazzle you and woo you until you write seventeen songs just about the stars in my eyes.”

“You know what, hyung? I fucking hope so,” Jeongguk said, and Jimin rolled his eyes with a smirk, running his fingers through his black hair.

“Life is never dull being your friend,” he teased, shaking his head. “This is almost like that time you said, ‘hey, come to Paris with me for this gig,’ and it was just because you didn’t want to go to Disneyland alone.”

“Well, I wasn’t going to go on the teacups by myself.”

“You spun them so fast that I almost puked.”

“And we had fun,” Jeongguk emphasized as Jimin laughed. The two of them had been on a variety of adventures together over their years of friendship, and if Jeongguk could say one thing about himself, it was that he was never really predictable. Jimin tended to have a bit more structure in his daily life, but he was always suspiciously willing to take a chance on whatever ridiculous idea Jeongguk had. 

“Just keep Tuesday night free,” Jimin said with a sigh, rolling his eyes yet again. “And come to my Monday night yin yoga class.”

“Yin yoga puts me to sleep.”

“That’s literally the point.”

“I hold a pose for five minutes and I’m out like a light.”

“I’ll just smack you.”

“Seems a little violent for such a peaceful practice,” Jeongguk teased, and they both laughed as Jimin beckoned to the waitress for another round. Jeongguk grabbed a handful of popcorn, giddy as he sat back and munched, watching Jimin pick at one of the bumper stickers on the wooden table as he told Jeongguk that he wanted to run a handstand workshop soon. And Jeongguk listened intently, focused only on the fact that Jimin had agreed to pretend to be his boyfriend for the sake of a potential album.

 

***

 

Jeongguk slept through half of the yin yoga class on Monday night, but he was in attendance, always loyal to his best friend. But then Tuesday came, and all Jeongguk got was a text message from Jimin warning him to be ready around eight o’clock. Jeongguk asked a thousand questions—what was he supposed to wear? Would it better if he disguised himself? How much did Jimin care about being recognized? Were they going to a public space? But Jimin only told him to shut up, so Jeongguk had to take a stab in the dark at what to wear. He opted for comfortable black pants and a white t-shirt tucked in with a dark grey knitted sweater, and then he paced his apartment nervously, chewing the skin off the inside of his mouth and cracking his knuckles.

When he had told Seokjin about his plan, Seokjin had glanced up to the heavens and mouthed the word “why?” before sighing and shrugging and saying that Jeongguk was nothing if not ambitious. When Yoongi had heard, he had just laughed, shoulders shaking, calling Jeongguk “dedicated” and waving him back into the recording booth. When Jeongguk had told Taehyung in passing, Taehyung had hardly even blinked. He had just hummed and said that he thought it was a good idea, but that was Taehyung—another person willing to do whatever it took to get a song right. Taehyung had also had a hickey on his neck, so Jeongguk knew that he had likely had another little tryst with Yoongi that was probably punctuated with a lack of communication.

Jeongguk had spent Saturday and Sunday calling himself a fool for even bringing up the idea to Jimin, but he figured that he was just overthinking, as he was prone to doing. They had been friends for years and had done some ridiculous things together and for each other, but was this too much? Was Jeongguk crossing a line? Jimin knew that Jeongguk was deep into his music, so perhaps that was why he had been so willing to help without even taking time to consider alternatives. To Jimin, it was probably just a job with a deadline, a favor for a friend, because a little extra flirting couldn’t possibly be harmful. To Jeongguk, it was a means to an end, and entertaining the idea of a boyfriend was easy enough. If Jimin held his hand or took him on a romantic date, Jeongguk would be able to dream up some metaphors to weave into lyrics. He’d have that experience to carry into his creative process. 

“Shit,” Jeongguk murmured when his intercom system began to beep at him close to eight o’clock. He pressed the button to unlock the main entrance doors, and only a minute later, there was a knock on his door.

“Hey.” Jimin smiled, standing in the doorway. He was wearing a pair of khaki linen pants and a white V-neck t-shirt with a navy jacket, handsome as ever. “Can I come in?”

“Yeah, come in,” Jeongguk offered, opening the door further. Jimin had been to his apartment dozens of times, so he kicked off his shoes and made himself right at home on the couch. Jeongguk plopped down beside him, rubbing his hands on his thighs distractedly.

“I figured we should sit down for a second and talk about it before we go,” Jimin said. “Just maybe figure out some of the things that you might want. Go into more detail.”

“I don’t know, hyung,” Jeongguk said with a small laugh. “I don’t have any expectations. All I need is a few good dates. Some romantic moments, you know? So I can write about love, or about—shit, I don’t know. Anything but a shitty relationship.”

“You’ve written lyrics about love before,” Jimin reminded him.

“And how many of those lyrics made the final cut?” Jeongguk asked, and Jimin conceded with a hum. “They’re never good enough. Yoongi never likes them. My lyrics about heartbreak are always better, and for a reason. So if I’m going to grow myself as an artist and make a full-length album, then I need to be dedicated to it and figure out a way to make it work. That’s why I’m asking someone I trust.”

“Fair enough. Okay. Well, look, I have a pretty simple date in mind for tonight. It’s like a test run,” Jimin explained. “We’ll see how things go, see if you feel inspired. If it sucks, you can call it off.”

“Deal.”

“Deal. Now let’s go. The taxi is waiting downstairs.”

“Taxi?” Jeongguk repeated.

“Taxi,” Jimin confirmed.

“This isn’t weird, is it?” Jeongguk asked right away, and Jimin snorted as they both stood up and put their shoes on.

“This was your idea, genius,” he said. “Give it a chance before you call it weird. I’m supposed to sweep you off your feet, remember?” Then Jimin extended his hand, and Jeongguk stared at it. He hesitated for a moment, but then he cautiously took Jimin’s hand, lacing their fingers together, his hand engulfing Jimin’s even though Jimin was the one who led the way to the elevator.

“I know it was my idea, but it still feels weird,” Jeongguk admitted as they stepped into the elevator, still holding hands. 

“Why?”

“I don’t know, it just does. I didn’t really expect you to agree to it, so it’s throwing me off a little. But, I mean, I didn’t have any luck writing over the weekend, so it’s still worth it. I really appreciate it, hyung. That you’re helping me,” Jeongguk rambled, and Jimin chuckled.

“You’re my best friend, Jeongguk. It goes without saying. But from this point forward, I’m afraid I can’t call you that,” Jimin said with a dramatic sigh. “You’re now officially my boyfriend.”

“Does that make today our anniversary?”

“What’s today, the thirteenth of June? Sure. Happy anniversary,” Jimin said with a grin as they reached the ground floor and walked hand-in-hand to the taxi. Jimin held open the door for Jeongguk, and Jeongguk stumbled slightly before realizing what Jimin was doing. He ducked into the taxi, and Jimin followed after him, shutting the door.

 

mood: “who you are” by loote

 

“We’re not going far,” he promised, and then he reached over and set his hand onto Jeongguk’s thigh, massaging it briefly. Jeongguk pursed his lips as he set his hand on top of Jimin’s, and then they both looked at each other and snorted, fighting back laughter so that the taxi driver didn’t think they were crazy. Jeongguk stared out the window as he absentmindedly traced his pointer finger over Jimin’s knuckles, trying to reason with what was going on. He had asked for this, but Jimin was just jumping in with very little preparation. 

“Oh, I see what this is,” Jeongguk said with a grin as the taxi pulled up to the curb right along the Han River. Jimin smiled as he paid the fare, and he reached down between his legs and lifted a backpack that Jeongguk hadn’t seen. They both hopped out of the taxi, Jimin shrugging into the backpack, and at the curb, Jimin held out his hand again. Jeongguk took it, trying not to overthink.

“Just a late-night picnic on the river,” Jimin said as they walked together. “Very typical. This is like a rite of passage for most couples, isn’t it?”

“I’ve actually never done this,” Jeongguk said, and Jimin glanced at him, surprised.

“Oh? Even better.”

Jimin led the way to a spot on the grassy hill overlooking the river, and Jeongguk stood by and watched as Jimin laid out a blanket before sitting down cross-legged. Jeongguk joined him, the breeze from being in proximity to the water pleasant. Jimin started to pull things out of his backpack—a container full of sweet strawberries, some whipped cream, some soju. He presented each item theatrically to Jeongguk as Jeongguk suppressed a laugh.

“Soju first?” Jimin offered, and then he poured a shot for each of them. “To our first date.”

“Cheers,” Jeongguk said, tapping his glass against Jimin’s before they both tossed back the contents of the glass. Jeongguk sat cross-legged and leaned back on his palms, admiring the view. Jimin then popped open the container of strawberries, chose one he liked, pinched it by the stem, and held it up to Jeongguk’s mouth. Jeongguk almost opened his mouth to accept it, but then Jimin turned the strawberry and shoved it into his mouth, pulling the stem off with a flourish and a shit-eating grin as he chewed.

“Wow,” Jeongguk said loudly as Jimin laughed. “So much for feeling like a date, huh?”

Jimin grabbed another strawberry, and then he set one hand on Jeongguk’s shoulder. Jeongguk had very little time to prepare, because Jimin swung his leg over Jeongguk’s crossed legs and knelt straddling him, looping one arm casually around Jeongguk’s neck and holding up the strawberry to Jeongguk’s mouth.

“How about now?” he asked quietly, his fingernails scratching the hair at Jeongguk’s nape. Jeongguk blinked up at his best friend in shock, eyebrows raised, watching the grin spread across Jimin’s face. “I can be good at this if you have a little patience.”

Jeongguk didn’t say a word. He just opened his mouth, and Jimin popped the strawberry in, letting Jeongguk bite into it so Jimin could pull the stem off. The strawberry was sweet and tangy, but Jeongguk couldn’t focus, because now Jimin was just casually sitting in his lap, grabbing the container of strawberries and the little container of whipped cream. He dipped the strawberry into whipped cream, and then he looked back to Jeongguk.

“Cat got your tongue?” he asked, eating the strawberry with one hand cupping the back of Jeongguk’s neck.

“No. Just… getting used to it,” Jeongguk finally said, feeling like his voice was strained. My best friend is sitting in my lap. On purpose. I asked for this. What the fuck was I thinking? Did I really think I could handle Park Jimin sitting in my lap? Am I a moron?

“Feeling inspired?” Jimin asked with a grin, reaching up and tucking Jeongguk’s hair behind one ear with gentle fingers.

“It’s been ten minutes.”

“Good. I have plenty of time. This or that? Piercings or tattoos?” Jimin asked, and then he offered Jeonguk a strawberry with some whipped cream on it.

“Both.” Jeongguk ate the strawberry, and Jimin rolled his eyes.

“That’s not the game, babe,” he said, and Jeongguk promptly choked on his strawberry and started coughing. He heard laughter as Jimin rubbed and thumped Jeongguk on the back in a soothing fashion. Jeongguk grabbed for the soju and poured a shot, and then he downed it and sighed, his throat clearing up.

“Sorry,” he apologized, blinking rapidly.

“Don’t apologize. This is pure entertainment for me,” Jimin said, grinning. “You could fight fire with fire, you know. Now choose. Can’t have both. Tattoos or piercings?”

“Tattoos. You?”

“Piercings. Waking up early or staying up late?”

“Staying up late,” Jeongguk said, and then he finally came to his senses and decided to do what Jimin had recommended—get comfortable. Fight fire with fire. He gingerly looped one arm around Jimin’s waist, and Jimin didn’t stop him. In fact, he looked rather amused by Jeongguk’s countermove.

“Me too,” Jimin agreed. “Rich and famous or rich and anonymous?”

“Rich and anonymous,” Jeongguk said without hesitation, and Jimin agreed.

“Kiss on the forehead or kiss on the cheek?” he asked, his eyes sparkling. Jeongguk narrowed his eyes suspiciously, and then, in one swift motion, he cupped his hand at the back of Jimin’s head and bent it just enough so he could press his lips to Jimin’s forehead. Jimin let out a laugh of surprise, smacking Jeongguk’s chest.

“You asked,” Jeongguk said innocently. “I answered.”

“Sneaky,” Jimin said, and then he climbed off Jeongguk’s lap and settled onto the blanket again. But as he reached for the soju, he swung both of his legs across Jeongguk’s lap, and Jeongguk let him do it. “You were worried.”

“Hmm?”

“In the thirty million text messages you sent to me,” Jimin teased, pouring another shot. “You were worried that someone would recognize you if we were out in public, and then they’d harass you about me. Do you still feel that way?”

“Yeah.” Jeongguk watched Jimin pour soju into his glass. “It’s not that I’m super famous or anything. I just… I don’t know. I don’t want to exploit you or anything.”

“Jeongguk, we’ve literally gone on trips together before,” Jimin said with a small smile. “I’ve been a guest star in your social media posts on more than one occasion. It’s not like nobody knows that I exist.”

“Yeah, well, maybe I like keeping you to myself,” Jeongguk blurted out. There was a moment of silence as Jimin turned his glass around in his hand, staring at Jeongguk with a tiny smile on his face.

“You’re really serious about this, aren’t you?” he asked quietly. “About having a pretend relationship just so you can make some good music.”

“You know I’m serious.”

“And you really trust me to be the one to fake it all for you?” Jimin asked, fiddling with Jeongguk’s fingers as he spoke. Jeongguk felt like he was short-circuiting suddenly, because lyrics were raining down in his head like a monsoon, flooding his brain in an endless stream. 

“It’s already working,” Jeongguk said, and Jimin whipped his head up in surprise.

“Really?”

“Really. Can you give me a minute to write something down?” Jeongguk asked, and Jimin nodded, letting Jeongguk reach for his phone so he could furiously type out what was trapped inside his brain. He was silent for five minutes, typing and typing as Jimin politely busied himself, and then he tossed his phone to the edge of the blanket, his heart pounding excitedly. He grabbed Jimin and tugged until the two of them fell onto their backs on the blanket, staring up at the stars, and Jimin rolled onto his stomach, slinging his arm across Jeongguk’s chest and gazing down at him.

“Told you I could be good,” he said with a grin. “Now come to my handstand workshop that I’m planning.”

“This was a set-up,” Jeongguk griped immediately, and Jimin laughed.

“Wow. My own boyfriend won’t even come to my workshop.” He pouted larger than life and pretended to cry, and when Jeongguk nudged his forehead with one hand, Jimin laughed again and collapsed, burying his head onto Jeongguk’s shoulder. “Shotgun relationship, huh?”

“I told you it’s already working,” Jeongguk murmured, closing his eyes.

“So will we have a second date?”

“Yeah.” Jeongguk opened his eyes, his mind racing. “Come over on Friday night. I’ll cook dinner for you.”

“Ooh, how romantic,” Jimin teased, propping back up on one elbow, some hair falling into his eyes as he smiled. With one arm bent behind his head, Jeongguk reached up with his other hand and pushed the hair away from Jimin’s eyes, even though it fell right back into place. “I’ll be there.”

“Have I ever told you how much I appreciate you?” Jeongguk said, and Jimin rolled his eyes, though he looked rather pleased.

“Don’t get sappy now.”

“Well, you are my boyfriend,” Jeongguk said as Jimin groaned. “And yes, I’ll come to your damn handstand workshop.”

“You will?”

“Yeah, of course I will. As long as it’s on a Saturday.”

“It is.”

“Then I’ll be there. Now—” Jeongguk grunted slightly as he struggled to sit up, and then he grabbed the strawberries and whipped cream. The moment Jimin sat up, Jeongguk dipped his finger into the whipped cream and put a dab onto Jimin’s nose, and Jimin didn’t even swat him away. He just glared at Jeongguk as Jeongguk snickered. “Let’s finish these strawberries.”

The strawberries slowly disappeared alongside the whipped cream, and the soju bottle was drained. Jimin tangled his legs with Jeongguk’s legs as they ate and swapped little stories, Jeongguk talking about the interviews he had coming up in the next few days and the small pop-up show he was doing at a bar on Thursday with no notice. Jimin talked about the hip hop class he had to teach on Thursday and how Hoseok kept interrupting Jimin’s morning meditation by letting his dog, Mickey, into the room.

“So.” Jimin rolled and knelt on the grass so he could roll the blanket up while Jeongguk packed the backpack. “What did you think? Good first date? Did I pass your test? Am I an acceptable fake boyfriend?”

“Well, seeing as we have a second date on Friday, I’d say it’s a good start,” Jeongguk said, and this time, he was the one who offered his hand, his brain still buzzing loudly. “You’ve got to have some kind of magic going on. I’m convinced.”

“That’s very poetic of you,” Jimin teased. “Why’s that?”

“Because we had one little date and now I have a thousand ideas in my head,” Jeongguk said, and Jimin rolled his shoulders back proudly.

“And we’re just getting started,” he said with a grin. “You said I could take it to the extreme, so brace yourself. Your first full-length album is about to be a fucking masterpiece.”

“You just want to take credit for it.”

“I should be the first person you thank in your notes,” Jimin declared, and Jeongguk burst out laughing as the taxi pulled up to the curb. The ride was five minutes back to Jeongguk’s apartment, where Jimin had left his bicycle. He would only have to bike about ten minutes to get to his building.

“Seriously, Jimin hyung.” Jeongguk leaned one shoulder against the outside wall of his building as Jimin unchained his bike. “This is exactly what I needed. Just a spark of inspiration. Something to get me going. I’ve been stuck for weeks. So thank you.”

“It’s nothing.” Jimin avoided eye contact as he shoved the chain into his backpack, sounding a bit tense, but then he cleared his throat and glanced up at Jeongguk. “I’m just…” He slowly gripped his handlebars. “Helping my friend. Right?”

“Yeah.” Jeongguk shoved his hands into his pockets as Jimin nodded.

“You seemed to think that I know something about love,” he commented, swinging one leg over so he could perch on the seat. “Is that because of Namjoon? Because you watched me break off a long-term relationship where I was really in love?”

“You were the only example I had of what love looked like,” Jeongguk quietly said. “And I sat on your couch and got drunk with you a hell of a lot after you two broke up. And the things you said… you can’t fake that. So yeah, I do think you know what it’s like.”

Jimin pulled his bottom lip between his teeth as he surveyed Jeongguk in the amber yellow of the streetlights, eyes slightly narrowed. He then licked his lips and sighed.

“Okay. I’ll, uh… I’ll see you on Friday, then?” he said in a questioning tone, and Jeongguk smiled.

“See you on Friday. Hyung?” He waited until he locked eyes with Jimin. “Thank you.”

“Don’t thank me. It’s you,” Jimin said vaguely, but Jeongguk understood. He watched Jimin push off and pedal down the street, and the moment Jimin disappeared around the corner, Jeongguk ran right into his front door and fumbled with his key fob until the lock beeped. He didn’t have time for the elevator, not with the amount of adrenaline coursing through his veins. He barreled into his apartment after taking the stairs to the fifth floor, kicked off his shoes messily as they flipped in loop-de-loops, and then he yanked out his phone and grabbed for his favorite notepad, where he hand-wrote all of his lyrics. His hand shaking, he grabbed a pen, and then he propped his phone up and began to copy down what he had written back by the river:

 

The space between my fingers was meant for yours

Overboard, I’m not bored, think I’ll ask you for more

Sweet divine, lips on mine, no, that’s just in my head

Real or not, I forgot what it’s like, things look red

 

Shoot the breeze, wind in whispers, we talk about anything

Worries in your eyes, you can lose them in mine

It’s a slow, slow fall to the bottom

And a smile so familiar, but the line

That you said as a joke put my heart in a chokehold

I’m here. Are you here? Shit, I’m already sold.

Chapter Text

[moodboard by cata]

~ ~ ~

“Holy shit.”

Jeongguk grinned as he watched Yoongi read over the lyrics he had scribbled down after his first date with Jimin, and his bare minimum profanity meant that he was impressed. Nothing else mattered to Jeongguk. The goal was always to impress Min Yoongi with his lyrics, and when Yoongi lowered the paper and silently handed it back to Jeongguk, Jeongguk could have done backflips.

“And you all wanted to make fun of me,” he said, feeling triumphant. “This is after one date, hyung. I’ve never been so inspired to write in my life.”

“Did you have sex with him?” Yoongi asked bluntly with a laugh. “Seriously, what did he do to pull that out of you?”

“You’re ridiculous.” Jeongguk plopped down on the couch. “No. He literally just took me to the Han River and we had strawberries and soju and talked. That was it. But he was doing all these little things that just—like, my brain was on fire.”

“Well, shit. Don’t knock it until you try it, I guess,” Yoongi said.

“What about you and—”

“Don’t,” Yoongi interrupted sharply, and Jeongguk quieted for only a moment. They were sitting in his personal studio space, a place where Jeongguk knew how to make himself comfortable, a couch where he had slept many nights in the past. He could still remember texting his brand new friend, Jimin, while lying on the couch with a blanket covering him. But he was almost positive that Yoongi had used this couch for personal reasons as well, reasons that included Kim Taehyung.

“Hyung,” Jeongguk said quietly. “You can’t keep doing this. He’s not interested in dating right now. He keeps telling you the same thing every single time. Why are you putting yourself through this?”

“It’s just sex.”

“It’s not just sex. It’s never just sex.”

“Well, it’s better than nothing,” Yoongi snapped. “Either I have those moments with him, or I have nothing at all. I’m not—no, fuck it. I’m not letting it go like that. I don’t care. I don’t give a fuck if it’s stupid. Because… no. No, I’m not giving it up. Because when I have him like that, it feels…”

“Yeah. It feels like you could actually have him,” Jeongguk supplied as Yoongi fell silent, scraping his thumbnail across his bottom lip repeatedly. “You’re just torturing yourself.”

“Welcome to my world.” Yoongi dragged his hands down his face, and then he sighed and gestured to the paper in Jeongguk’s hands. “You want to do anything with that today, or leave it?”

“It’s not done. I still need a bridge,” Jeongguk replied, because he had written lyrics for a chorus and second verse in a fever dream last night while feeling inspired, using one of the tracks Yoongi had created as his inspiration for the melody. “I’ll record the guide next week for you to hear, and you can tell me if it’s any good. But I have that Instagram Live in like… five minutes.”

“Go,” Yoongi said, flicking his hand. Jeongguk hopped up, spun Yoongi’s chair playfully, and then exited the studio, slipping back into his shoes once the door clicked and locked. Right on cue, Seokjin was walking down the hallway.

“Hey, let’s go. I set up the phone,” he said, tilting his head. Jeongguk followed him into one of the small practice rooms, and then he settled down in his favorite chair and let Seokjin fix his hair up before logging into Instagram. Jeongguk took a deep breath and sang a few scales just in case, making sure he had a water bottle nearby. Right on time, he joined an Instagram Live with an interviewer from America, one that he had posted about on his own account a few days ago. There were tens of thousands of live viewers, and Jeongguk waved, determinedly switching his brain to English mode so he could complete a decent interview.

“...So, what about new music?” the girl asked enthusiastically after ten minutes of swapping stories and laughing with one another, with fans chiming in at a rapid speed. “I know we’ve all been seeing a few posts here and there on Instagram and Twitter about you being back in the recording booth. Any spoilers? Anything you can tell us?”

“So, this time around, I’m working on my first full-length album,” Jeongguk divulged, which wasn’t a secret—his fans knew that his intention was to put out a full album now that he had all of his ducks in a row. “And I’m—like, uh… working on growing. Growing as an artist. So there will be some different vibes, different—um, topics and stuff. It’s still pretty rough, definitely a work-in-progress. But please look forward to it and give it lots of love when it’s released,” he said with a bow and a smile.

The comment section exploded, and Jeongguk read as much as he could before going cross-eyed, listening as the interviewer said goodbye to him. The livestream ended, and Jeongguk slumped in his chair, closing his eyes. The door of the practice room opened, and Seokjin strolled in.

“That was good,” he praised. “I barely understood a word of it, but you looked great.”

“Your support is overwhelming,” Jeongguk flatly said, and Seokjin grinned. Jeongguk’s phone then vibrated, so he yanked it out of his pocket:



JIMIN [02:46:03PM]

Come to the studio tonight

 

JIMIN [02:46:14PM]

The dance studio, 7:45pm

 

JIMIN [02:47:19PM]

I’m using one of your songs for my combo tonight and I want you to be there

 

JEONGGUK [02:48:35PM]

you’re so embarrassing lol which song are you using?

 

JIMIN [02:49:03PM]

I’m using “Dazed and Confused” please come watch :(

 

JIMIN [02:49:43PM]

I want my boyfriend to see all my hard work :(

 

JEONGGUK [02:50:31PM]

I can’t believe you’re pulling the boyfriend card on me

 

JEONGGUK [02:51:14PM]

You know I’d be there in a heartbeat anyways, so yes. I’ll be there at 7:45pm

 

JIMIN [02:52:29PM]

Thanks babe ;)



“Babe. He’s calling me babe,” Jeongguk said out loud. “Hyung, he’s calling me—look at this. You know him, so look at this.”

Seokjin glanced over Jeongguk’s shoulder at the text message conversation, and then he chuckled. “I mean, you’re the one who asked him to play fake boyfriend. If anything, he’s doing a spectacular job. Kudos to him. Give him a raise.”

Jeongguk scowled, but he kept his eyes trained on the text messages as he walked out of the building and into the parking garage. What he was doing with Jimin already felt like a delusion, a delusion that was moving at an alarming speed. Jeongguk thought he had set a slow pace, but in looking at it objectively, he realized that he had just told Jimin to go for it and treat him like a boyfriend, and Jimin was doing exactly that. So in retrospect, Jeongguk had gotten himself into his current mess, and the figurative high speed chase was his fault.

But it was working. As Jeongguk drove back to his apartment to unwind and have some lunch before popping into the dance studio, his brain was pulsating with ideas, melodies were dropping in and out of his head, lyrics were swimming around as a reminder that Jimin had not even hesitated to sit in his lap and feed him strawberries. That he was going out of his way now to see Jeongguk more than once a month, forgoing their busy schedules, and Jeongguk was agreeing to it all.

5678 Dance Studio was just across the river in Seongdong-gu, so Jeongguk drove there around half past seven, wearing an all-black get-up with a black bucket hat and black face mask. Jimin taught an advanced class, so Jeongguk knew that it would be high energy the moment he walked in. Jeongguk parked on the street, parallel parking with one hand and years of experience, and then he hopped out of the car, already hearing the dull thump of the bass coming from the dance studio on the second floor of the building. He could see red flashing lights coming from the floor-to-ceiling windows of the studio, and Jeongguk smiled, letting himself into the building and taking the narrow, dilapidated staircase up to the second floor, paint peeling off the wall.

 

mood: “vibez” by ZAYN

 

“Hi, welcome to 5678,” the receptionist said when Jeongguk pushed open the glass door and entered the lobby. He pulled his face mask down to his chin and pulled off his hat, and immediately, the young girl recognized him. “Oh-h-h, right. Jimin-ssi said that you’d be here. He told me to just let you walk in when you arrived.”

“Thank you,” Jeongguk said with a bow, putting his hat on again and pulling his face mask back up as applause and cheering rang out from the largest studio on the left. There was a shuffle, and then the music began again—Jeongguk’s own song, a very lo-fi R&B kind of song called “Dazed and Confused” from his third mixtape. It was, admittedly, perfect for a hip hop combination, something a bit more sensual, and Jimin had a brilliant mind. Jeongguk opened the door and ducked into the studio, and then he stood at the back and watched the group that was dancing, already impressed with what he was seeing. It didn’t take long for people to realize that he was standing in the room.

“HELLO-O-O-O-O!” at least a dozen people called out excitedly with bow as the music cut off. The other twenty or so people in the room slowly turned, and Jeongguk waved, walking the perimeter of the room until he found Jimin crouching down at the front with his back to the mirror.

“Yah, listen up!” Jimin shouted with a grin, jumping to his feet and clapping his hands. “The artist is here! You can show him what we’ve been working on! Everyone together!”

A cheer arose, and Jeongguk glanced over when he felt Jimin’s hand on his lower back.

“Thanks for coming,” Jimin said as he held his phone, which was connected to the Bluetooth speaker system. “They were all really excited.”

“Anything for you,” Jeongguk said, and Jimin grinned. He was wearing ripped black jeans and a black cropped t-shirt with a yellow satin bomber jacket and a black Yankees baseball cap. Sometimes Jeongguk forgot just how outrageous Jimin could be when the whim struck, because he was also wearing a black choker and had all his ear piercings filled with different earrings, his fingernails painted neon green, and he hadn’t forgotten about the belly button piercing. Jimin had two sides to him—soft, bare, natural, zen yogi, and loud, flashy, eccentric, energetic dancer. Jeongguk liked both of them equally.

Even though it felt awkward, Jeongguk took a deep breath and let his own song play loudly through the speakers, and he watched the group dance with a grin, crouching down with his palms pressed together and making sure he caught a glimpse of each dancer at least once. He knew Jimin was filming him, but Jimin always did—he liked to get any footage possible of Jeongguk in his element, knowing that Jeongguk could use it for social media in the future. Jeongguk watched groups, and then he applauded their hard work.

“OKAY, BUT!” he suddenly called out, which was unlike him. Jeongguk never liked to interfere, but he couldn’t resist. “It’s only fair that I get to see the instructor dance the combination, too.”

The class whooped and hollered and cheered, and the look Jimin gave Jeongguk could have killed. But Jeongguk crossed his arms and raised his eyebrows expectantly as Jimin came toe-to-toe with him like a challenge.

“Do it for me, darling,” Jeongguk said with a wink that nobody could see, and Jimin narrowed his eyes, shooting daggers at Jeongguk. But how could Jeongguk resist asking Jimin to dance for him when he looked like this? Especially to his own song. It was an opportunity he couldn’t miss, and he especially enjoyed taking the shit out of Jimin and milking the moment. The dance floor cleared, and Jimin had no choice, seeing as the class was cheering him on. He handed Jeongguk his phone to control the music, and Jeongguk started the music and took out his own phone so he could record his best friend in action.

Jimin was fluid when he danced. He moved effortlessly, his body limber, as if his pulse was the metronome for the music. He was the same practicing yoga—his flow seemed to suit his breathing. Jeongguk applauded him after tucking away his phone, seeing how secretly pleased Jimin looked as he waved off the applause. He kept the music playing as he dismissed class to a tidal wave of gratitude from his students, and people began to disperse.

“You’re a brat,” Jimin said with a laugh, shoving Jeongguk playfully as Jeongguk stumbled with a laugh.

“Do you have another class?” he asked, and Jimin sighed.

“Yeah, I have another one at half past eight,” he said. “But it’s a different song, different combo. Thank you, though. For coming to this one.”

“I’d say thank you for choreographing a combination to my song, but it’s embarrassing,” Jeongguk sighed dramatically, grinning when Jimin smacked his arm. “Hyung, it was really good. Thank you.”

“Well, I just hope you’re feeling inspired,” Jimin said, lacing his fingers together and stretching his arms overhead, his shirt riding up. “To write some music. Were you kidding about feeling inspired after our little date? Or were you serious?”

“I was serious. I showed my lyrics to Yoongi, and he said ‘holy shit,’” Jeongguk replied, and Jimin pursed his lips with raised eyebrows, impressed. He knew quite well what kind of reaction Jeongguk sought from his CEO and producer and mentor, so a bit of profanity was a good thing. “I’m on a roll. I think I can finish this song by the weekend.”

“One down, eight or more to go,” Jimin teased, but he sounded happy. “Well, I’m glad it’s working. We still on for tomorrow night?”

“Yeah. Come to my place around seven o’clock,” Jeongguk decided, and Jimin nodded. He seemed to hesitate for a moment, but then he snaked his arms around Jeongguk’s shoulders in a hug, fingers fluttering over the hair at the nape of Jeongguk’s neck. Jeongguk hugged him back like he had done a thousand times, but he was acutely aware of the way that Jimin’s hand was slowly floating down his back. Much like his own song title, Jeongguk gripped Jimin’s waist with both hands, dazed and confused but unable to pull himself away.

“Thanks for coming,” Jimin said, finally releasing his hold on Jeongguk. “I have another class, sorry. Tomorrow at seven?”

“Tomorrow at seven,” Jeongguk agreed, but before Jimin could step away, Jeongguk grabbed his wrist, slid his grip down, and then squeezed Jimin’s hand. “See you later.”

“Yeah. See you later,” Jimin said with a small smile, already sauntering off to where the closet was so he could wipe down the mirrors and prepare for his next class. Jeongguk watched him walk for a moment, and then he all but ran out of the studio, his head pounding with something that wasn’t even a headache. He didn’t even make it to his car. Instead, he whipped out his phone, started a new note, titled it “NEON,” and then pressed his back to the wall of the staircase and furiously typed:

 

My hands on your waist, neon nails in my hair

Dizzy, dizzy, on my feet but barely there

Way you move, way you move, flashing lights, catch my breath

Kind of feel something new, but I’m scared half to death

 

***

 

As an introvert with a heavy touch of anxiety, Jeongguk felt like he had the art of smiling and nodding down to a science.

“I know it’s a bit unexpected, but I’m here for a week, and Yoongi never stops talking about you.”

“Ironic, because he never talks much at all,” Jeongguk said, and from the adjacent couch, Nakamura Kenji let out a bark of laughter, crossing one leg over the other as he adjusted the brim of his cap. Kenji was a Japanese-Korean producer from RED Entertainment, one of the largest entertainment companies in Japan. The Japanese market was elusive, but Jeongguk had a growing fanbase there, so Yoongi’s industry connections always came in handy, especially when Jeongguk was dropping hints about his first full-length album. Kenji was only about a decade older than Jeongguk, but he was brilliant, much like Yoongi.

“So listen, if you’re up for it, we can grab a drink tomorrow night,” Kenji said to Jeongguk. “Somewhere nice, since my wife’s along for the ride. She’ll want to doll herself up and talk about yoga, but since I know you like a good yoga class, I don’t think that’ll be a problem.”

“Yeah. Yeah, definitely, I’d love to do that,” Jeongguk agreed immediately, seizing his opportunity. “I know a few good places we could go, unless you have somewhere in mind.”

“I’ll put myself in your capable hands,” Kenji said with a smile, and out of the corner of his eye, Jeongguk saw Yoongi chuckling at the conversation. “Hey, if you have a partner or anything, bring them along. No big deal. It’ll give my wife someone to talk to if we’re talking business. She knows her shit, but she stopped caring years ago.”

“My boyfriend is a yoga instructor,” Jeongguk blurted out, and Kenji raised his eyebrows and nodded in approval, looking pleased. “I—yeah. I can bring him along. He’ll know a good place for drinks, too. He’s, uh, he’s really good at that kind of thing.”

“Perfect. Bring him along,” Kenji said with a wave of his hand. “You’re a bit of a yogi, though, aren’t you?”

“Only because of him,” Jeongguk admitted, and Kenji laughed in appreciation. 

“That’s love,” he teased, and then he set his palms on his thighs briefly before rising to his feet. “Awesome. Yoongi-yah! Good to see you again. We’re still down for Sunday to bang out a few of those tracks I sent you, yeah?”

“Cleared my schedule already,” Yoongi replied, and he shook Kenji’s hand fervently. “Tell Rika-ssi that I said hello.”

“She’s too busy shopping,” Kenji sighed, and then he bowed to Jeongguk. Jeongguk leapt to his feet and bowed back, and then they exchanged a handshake. “Get my number from Yoongi here and text me a time and place to meet you and your boyfriend.”

“I will. Thank you,” Jeongguk said, and then he shoved his hands into his pockets and watched Kenji walk out of the lounge room while pulling out his phone. He waited until Kenji’s footsteps faded down the hallway ,and then Jeongguk let out a groan and collapsed horizontally onto the couch, covering his face with his hands.

“My boyfriend is a yoga instructor,” Yoongi said with emphasis, and Jeongguk pressed his fingers into his eyelids.

“It just came out, I don’t know,” he groaned, throwing his hands overhead dramatically like he was on a rollercoaster, staring at the ceiling. “He said yoga, what was I supposed to say? And he said that I could bring my partner along, and guess what?”

“Jimin’s your fake boyfriend.”

“Fuck,” Jeongguk sighed, blinking in slow motion.

“You better hope he’s free,” Yoongi warned, and Jeongguk yanked himself upright like there was a string attached to him.

“Shit, his handstand workshop is on Saturday morning,” he remembered. “Shit, is he going to even want to get drinks? I can’t just cancel on Kenji-nim like that. I’ll—no, fuck it. If Jimin can’t make it, I’m bringing Seokjin hyung.”

“How about you just call Jimin and check first?” Yoongi wearily suggested, so Jeongguk pulled out his phone and checked the time before hastily ringing Jimin.

“Hello? Jeongguk-ah? What’s wrong?”

“Hey, I—What do you mean, what’s wrong? Do you think something’s wrong?” Jeongguk asked with a laugh that Jimin matched.

“Well, you usually don’t call me. You always text,” Jimin pointed out, and he was right. “So this must be urgent.”

“Okay, well, it’s not really urgent,” Jeongguk said, slumping into the couch again with one hand on his forehead. “I, uh, I might have done something stupid.”

“Don’t you always?”

“Excuse me,” Jeongguk sighed, and he heard Jimin giggle. “Um, there’s this big producer from Japan who was visiting, and he wanted to have drinks tomorrow night with me. His wife will be there, too, and she loves yoga. And he asked if I had a partner to bring along, and I might have said my boyfriend’s a yoga instructor so I’ll bring him. Which is you.”

“Ah. You said tomorrow night, right?” Jimin asked for clarification.

“Tomorrow night, yeah.”

“Well, I can do tomorrow night if you really want me there.”

“Seriously?”

“Yes, seriously,” Jimin laughed. “That’s what you do when you’re dating someone, Gguk. You do things with them. You go on double dates. It’s a normal thing. As long as you’re still coming to my handstand workshop, I’m happy to do drinks tomorrow night. We should go to Elevate. You know that place in Itaewon?”

“Yeah, that’s a good idea. I—yeah. Are you sure? Thank you,” Jeongguk said in relief. “And are we still on for tonight? I’m supposed to cook dinner for you.”

“We’re still on. I’ll be over at seven.”

Jeongguk hung up with a small smile, and he rolled his head over to look at Yoongi.

“Are you in the clear?” Yoongi asked. Jeongguk closed his eyes and then stuck his thumb up to the ceiling.

“In the clear.”

He was not, however, in the clear for dinner. Jeongguk was supposed to cook, but his refrigerator was virtually empty. In a panic, he hurried to the supermarket as soon as he was done recording some background vocals for one of Taehyung’s songs, and he snatched up everything he needed for the most basic dinner. Once he was home, he took the easy route and threw some rice on in the rice cooker, and then he gathered the ingredients he needed to make a bibimbap with some tuna, plenty of greens, and some fried eggs. He still had some kimchi in the fridge that Yoongi had made for him a week ago, and as he was pulling it out of the fridge, his bell rang. Jeongguk lunged for the door.

“Hey, sorry. I’m almost done,” he apologized before anything else, and Jimin just chuckled, cocking his head to the side. He was dressed down in plain jeans and a black long-sleeved Celine shirt, but when he lifted one hand to run his fingers through his hair, he still had the neon green nail polish on.

“It smells good,” Jimin said, so Jeongguk took a chance and grabbed Jimin around the waist, spinning him into the apartment as Jimin laughed, gripping Jeongguk’s arms. “So, what do you think? Song inspiration number two tonight?”

“I mean, if I hyper-focus on it, then I won’t get anything done,” Jeongguk pointed out, squeezing Jimin’s hip before hurrying back into the kitchen so he could serve up the food. “So I’m not going to go through the whole night trying to, like, capture a moment, you know? I didn’t do that on Tuesday. So I won’t do it tonight. Plus—” He popped open the rice cooker as steam billowed out— “We’ve done dinner like this a million times before.”

It was true. When Jimin and Namjoon first split, Namjoon had kept their little apartment at Jimin’s discretion, and Jimin had moved in with Jeongguk for a few months before finding an apartment he could share with his Hoseok, a fellow dance instructor and aspiring fashion designer. It was only a matter of time, though, before Namjoon asked Hoseok to move in with him. Jimin sometimes blurted out that he was counting down the days until it happened. Jeongguk secretly thought that Hoseok was holding out because he didn’t want to leave Jimin hanging.

“Okay, well, then you’ll be used to my bibimbap,” Jeongguk said with a grin, scooping some rice out into wide and shallow bowls. Jimin came into the kitchen and hopped up onto the countertop like he had done a thousand times, and he reached over and plucked up a small piece of kimchi, folding it in half and popping it into his mouth.

“God, I love when Yoongi hyung makes kimchi,” he said happily, and Jeongguk snickered. “Plenty of sesame oil on mine.”

“I remember.” Jeongguk drizzled a good helping of sesame oil onto Jimin’s portion, and then he handed the bowl over. Together, they carried their food over to the table, and they sat and chatted nonstop while eating, Jimin throwing out several compliments on the food even though it was a simple meal. As they ate and talked, though, he kept grabbing Jeongguk’s ankle between both of his socked feet, and it made Jeongguk smile.

“God, I’m so full,” Jimin groaned as Jeongguk handed him a toothbrush with toothpaste already on it. They both collapsed onto the couch while brushing their teeth, kicking each other and trying not to laugh hard enough to spew toothpaste everywhere. 

“Remember that time we ran out of toothpaste and you suggested using mint chocolate ice-cream?” Jeongguk said as they settled back onto the couch, and Jimin snorted.

“Listen, it was two in the morning, we were drunk, and I was desperate,” he said in his defense, and then he lifted one finger. “But cutting open the toothpaste tube with scissors and scraping what was left? Stroke of genius.”

“I have those sometimes,” Jeongguk admitted, grinning. “Not nearly as bad as when you locked your phone in portrait mode and we were also both too drunk to fix it.”

“So we laid on the floor to watch some stupid YouTube video about—what was it? Hedgehogs?” Jimin laughed, his head on the backrest of the couch. “Jesus, what were we thinking?”

“We took advantage of the six months we lived together by being two halves of a whole idiot,” Jeongguk declared, and Jimin giggled, dropping his head onto Jeongguk’s shoulder as he did. They sat in comfortable silence for a moment, but the Jeongguk’s mind began to wander, and the little spark of anxiety that dwelled in his brain at all times began to grow into a fire.

“Um, so, about tomorrow,” he started. “I’m really sorry that I just kind of blurted that out. I didn’t mean to put you on the spot.”

“I’m your boyfriend,” Jimin said in a goofy voice, grinning and glancing over at Jeongguk. Using his typical voice, he added, “It’s fine, Gguk-ah. I don’t mind. It’s nice, actually. I mean, after I moved out, I used to see you maybe two or three times a month because you were always so busy, and now I’m suddenly seeing you all the time. And when you’re on tour or doing promo, I see you even less. So all of this is fine with me.”

“That’s true. Hey, I’ve offered for you to just tag along,” Jeongguk pointed out, and Jimin smiled.

“I have a life, you know,” he joked. “Look, don’t worry about tomorrow. It’s just a double date with drinks. It can’t be that difficult.”

“This guy is a decade older than me and he could help me really break into the Japanese market,” Jeongguk explained. “So I need to be on top of my game. And I’m bringing my pretend boyfriend because I couldn’t keep my mouth shut.”

“Don’t be so dramatic,” Jimin scolded, smacking Jeongguk’s thigh. 

“Hyung, I’m so awkward,” Jeongguk complained, almost whining because he knew that Jimin could handle it. “I’ll spend the entire night fumbling like a moron. I won’t know what to do. He’s bringing his wife, and you’re supposed to be my boyfriend, and I—”

“Okay, so what would change if we were really dating?” Jimin asked, rolling slightly on the couch so he was facing Jeongguk more. “I mean, all you have to do is hold my hand or rub my back and maybe recommend a good drink.”

“Yeah, but what if they ask how we met?”

“Then we tell them how we met,” Jimin laughed. “Good old coffee shop cliché.”

“That was years ago, hyung. What if they ask how we started dating? How we fell in love? I mean, they’re married, and we’re—what if they get suspicious? What if we’re not affectionate enough? What if we don’t look like a real couple and he just thinks I’m a liar?”

“You’re overthinking.”

“Am I?”

“So then be more affectionate. Kiss me,” Jimin casually suggested, picking at his fingernails and raising his eyebrows when Jeongguk almost choked. With a laugh, Jimin said, “What, isn’t that what normal couples do? It’s just kissing.”

“Okay, but we haven’t done that before,” Jeongguk pointed out in a panic.

“Then we practice.” Jimin cleared his throat and sat up straighter, lifting one knee up onto the couch and facing Jeongguk. “Kiss me. Go ahead.”

Jeongguk blinked a few times, thinking that maybe he had heard incorrectly. Jimin, his Jimin, Park Jimin, his best friend, the man he previously got drunk with at two in the morning while laughing about hedgehogs, was nonchalantly suggesting that they just kiss. Kiss on Jeongguk’s couch. Practice kissing like it was an exercise.

 

mood: “love scene” by baekhyun 

 

“I can’t just kiss you,” Jeongguk flatly said, and Jimin raised one eyebrow.

“Why not?”

“Because it’s… it’s you,” Jeongguk said, and he saw a flicker of hurt in Jimin’s eyes, so he hastily added, “No, no, no. Not like that. It’s just… it’s a lot. And it’s you. You’re—I mean, you’re my best friend. You’re… You’re really important to me, you know? And I don’t—I mean, what if you kiss me and it sucks?”

“That’s your concern,” Jimin said, sounding like he was trying not to laugh. “Jeongguk, you said you trusted me to do this for you. To fake all of this, to give you the experiences you needed to write good music. You’re scared we may not look like a real couple, and that maybe we should be more affectionate. So just kiss me. Get used to it so that it doesn’t feel weird.”

“You’re right. Shit, you’re right. Sorry,” Jeongguk sighed, rubbing his face with his hands. “I’m stressing and taking it out on you. It’s just—this was just supposed to be you and me going on a few little dates so I can write some lyrics for an album. And now I’m dragging you out on a double date.”

“Jeongguk.” Jimin used two fingers on the side of Jeongguk’s chin to turn Jeongguk’s head, and when Jeongguk saw the soft, comforting smile that was so familiar to him, his entire body relaxed. “You’ve always worried too much. Just relax. If you want to do it, we can. If not, no big deal.”

“No, I do. I—yeah. I want to kiss you,” Jeongguk declared, trying not to stumble over his own words as he sat up and faced Jimin as well, his pulse quickening. “Just—I wasn’t really expecting to kiss you tonight, that’s all.”

“Well, neither was I, but here we are,” Jimin said with a grin. “So just relax. Close your eyes if it helps. It’s just a kiss.”

“Just a kiss. Got it.” Jeongguk took a deep breath, rubbing his hands on his thighs, and then exhaled sharply and nodded, pursing his lips as he mentally prepared himself.

“Well, I can’t kiss you if your lips are like that,” Jimin complained, throwing up one hand as Jeongguk snorted and fell sideways onto the couch cushion, feeling Jimin smack his thigh and then his chest. “You’re impossible.”

“Sorry, I’m sorry. Let me just—” Jeongguk sat up, popped his lips a few times, and then blew out a breath, lips vibrating. Then he sighed and nodded again. “I’m ready.”

Jimin nodded as well, and then he shifted a bit on the couch and set his hand onto Jeongguk’s thigh comfortably, turning his upper body so that he was at a good angle. And Jeongguk only noticed all of his little movements because his brain was short-circuiting in a state of panic. Jimin was about to kiss him. Jimin, his best friend, was going to kiss him any second now, and all because they were faking a relationship—

“Stop giggling,” Jimin chided, but he was laughing at the same time, and Jeongguk couldn’t help it. Nervous laughter was his only coping mechanism, because how was he supposed to come to terms with kissing Jimin? Had he thought this through?

“Sorry, sorry,” he apologized, and then he bit his bottom lip. It didn’t last long. He dissolved into laughter again, and so did Jimin, both of them still clinging onto each other. “It’s just really funny. Sorry.”

“Just close your eyes, fool.”

“Closing.” Jeongguk closed his eyes and took a deep breath, but as he exhaled, he burst out laughing again, and Jimin let out a strangled yell and whacked Jeongguk’s chest again, falling into him and clutching his shirt. They both sighed out the rest of the laughter, taking a deep breath together, and then Jeongguk wiggled his shoulders and situated himself, getting comfortable, his eyes still closed. Jimin’s hand was still on his thigh, and it was making his heart pound, but when he could physically feel Jimin moving in, Jeongguk couldn’t stop himself.

“You know you don’t have to do this if you don’t want to. It’s totally fine, I know it might feel kind of weird, so don’t feel like you have to—”

“Jeon Jeongguk.” 

Jeongguk felt a finger press to his lips, and he slowly opened his eyes, his pulse racing. Jimin was barely a centimeter away from him, honey brown eyes soft, a small smile on his face.

“Sorry,” Jeongguk whispered. “I ramble when I get nervous.”

“I know that. So shut up and close your eyes and just let me kiss you,” Jimin whispered back. Jeongguk nodded quickly, swallowing down his nerves as he closed his eyes again. There was a moment of stagnant silence, and then he suddenly felt soft knuckles brushing against his cheek. Jeongguk’s breath hitched, and he pursed his lips and held his breath as Jimin traced his jaw with one knuckle. His exhale was shaky, his heart slamming against his ribcage when Jimin’s thumb swept over his bottom lip. When he set a few fingers underneath Jeongguk’s jaw, Jeongguk swore his heart stopped beating for a moment.

“Hyung—”

“Shh.” Jimin’s lips brushed Jeongguk’s as he whispered, and Jeongguk forgot how to breathe. Jimin hovered for just a moment, the hand that was on Jeongguk’s thigh moving up to Jeongguk’s chest, where he could surely feel Jeongguk’s heart pounding. Then, just when Jeongguk considered taking a breath, Jimin kissed him softly, tenderly, carefully, and too quickly. Jeongguk felt like he was gasping when Jimin’s lips left his, because it had happened so fast, too fast for Jeongguk to appreciate it and feel it.

So he closed the gap between them again. Jeongguk leaned in and pressed his lips to Jimin’s, and he swore his heart stopped beating as they kissed. Jimin was all soft lips with a hint of spearmint from the toothpaste and a touch of cherry from his Chapstick, and he wasn’t pulling away. His lips moved against Jeongguk’s lips like they had kissed a thousand times, his hand still pressed to Jeongguk’s chest, and Jeongguk inhaled sharply into the next kiss when he fully realized what he was doing.

He liked it.

“Hyung,” he breathed, but that was all he managed to say, because he was moving in autopilot now. His hand slipped to the nape of Jimin’s neck so he could deepen the kiss, silently asking for more, and Jimin fisted the material of Jeongguk’s shirt, his tongue darting out to swipe across Jeongguk’s bottom lip before the next kiss. The only sound in the room was the soft smacking of their lips, but it was music to Jeongguk’s ears. Kissing Jimin felt good. Jeongguk couldn’t remember the last time he had willingly kissed someone and enjoyed it like this. But then Jeongguk felt Jimin’s tongue meet his, and something inside of him snapped.

“Fuck,” he gasped, and that was all it took. Jimin swung his leg right over Jeongguk’s lap to straddle him when Jeongguk pulled, buried his hands into Jeongguk’s hair, and kissed him again, and Jeongguk forgot himself. He forgot that this was just his best friend doing him a favor. He forgot that they were only practicing kissing so that they could fake being a couple in front of people tomorrow. All he could think about was how fucking good it felt to have Jimin in his lap, how good it felt to be kissing someone who seemed to know exactly what Jeongguk liked, how to touch him, all his trigger points.

“Jeongguk, touch me,” Jimin breathed before diving back into another kiss. Jeongguk suddenly realized that his hands were panic-gripping Jimin’s thighs, so he acted fast, licking into Jimin’s mouth as he slid his hands upward. He grabbed Jimin’s waist first, and then he slid his hands underneath Jimin’s shirt and touched his bare skin. Jimin let out a small gasp and arched into Jeongguk, kissing him harder, and Jeongguk’s brain melted, both of his hands wrapped around Jimin’s hips as Jimin leaned in closer, Jeongguk’s bottom lip between his teeth. It was an almost primal reaction, because a small moan escaped the back of Jeongguk’s throat. His skin was on fire, his heart was pounding, and there was absolutely no way he could pretend that he wasn’t aroused.

“God, you’re so…” Jeongguk gasped, out of his mind as his eyes rolled back when Jimin’s lips began to trail down his jaw and the column of his neck. His head lolled, and he whimpered when he felt Jimin’s weight shifting in his lap, because Jeongguk was most definitely hard, and he couldn’t help it. 

“What is it, baby?” Jimin whispered in his ear, and Jeongguk’s breath quickened, his body tense as his fingers dug into Jimin’s warm skin. “Feel good? Could you write songs about this?”

“Yeah,” Jeongguk breathed. He was going to ask for another kiss, but suddenly, the entire moment ripped at the seams. Jimin’s warmth was abruptly gone. Jeongguk’s eyes shot open as Jimin hopped right out of his lap.

“Good, then my work here is done!” he said cheerfully with a grin, and the moment he saw Jeongguk’s confused and horny expression, he burst out laughing and collapsed to the ground on his back, arms and legs out like a starfish. Jeongguk swallowed heavily and blinked a few times, his mind hazy, and then he finally came to his senses as Jimin let out another laugh, rolling on the floor.

“You fucking loser,” Jeongguk complained, catching his breath as Jimin carried on. “Are you kidding me right now? Stop laughing.”

“Ah-h-h-h-h, man,” Jimin sighed as he wiped his eyes, knees still bent as he rolled his head to the side to look at Jeongguk, still grinning. “I really had you going, huh? Were you turned on?”

“Well, I’m not going to get up and walk,” Jeongguk snapped good-naturedly, and Jimin burst into hysterics again, clutching his stomach and curling into a ball on his side, knowing it was okay because now Jeongguk was laughing and slumping on the couch. He vigorously rubbed his face with his hands and let out a frustrated sigh of pent-up sexual energy, and then he dropped his hands onto his thighs.

“You’re a fucking special kind of evil, you know that?” he said, and Jimin snorted, finally sitting up while hugging his knees to his chest.

“You said experiences,” he teased. “Tell me you couldn’t write a thousand songs about that. I know I’m not an expert, but I’m no amateur.”

“I could write a line or two.”

“You’re a good kisser.”

“What?” Jeongguk raised his eyebrows.

“You.” Jimin grinned. “Good kisser. You’re good at kissing. It didn’t suck. Ten out of ten would kiss you again. Might do it tomorrow night in front of that producer.”

“Jesus Christ,” Jeongguk sighed, turning and falling onto his back horizontally on the couch as Jimin stifled a laugh and stood up. He then came and hovered over Jeongguk, staring down at him expectantly, and Jeongguk blew out a breath, opening his eyes.

“See? You thought it would be awkward. No chemistry my ass. We’ll be fine,” Jimin decided, sounding pleased. “Your producer friend won’t suspect a thing.”

“Kiss me.” Jeongguk narrowed his eyes, testing the waters, but Jimin didn’t even hesitate. He bent down and smacked a kiss right onto Jeongguk’s lips.

“You were worried for nothing,” he declared, straightening back up and walking towards the kitchen. “You want a beer? You have any in your fridge?”

“Jesus fucking Christ,” Jeongguk said under his breath first, and then he added, “Yeah, I have beer.”

Jeongguk watched quietly as Jimin twirled into the kitchen and yanked open the fridge, and he grabbed two beers and turned back around. That was the moment when Jeongguk forgot to take a breath. Jimin’s black hair was tousled messily like he’d just been rolling around in bed with someone. His shirt was still a little skewed, and his lips were a bit pink and swollen from all the kissing. Jeongguk thoroughly enjoyed window-shopping when it came to Jimin, because was so damn gorgeous and so easy on the eyes. Taehyung had once called Jimin “walking sex,” and in moments like this, Jeongguk agreed. He almost bent and scolded his cock when it twitched in interest again, because he had just calmed himself down.

“So—” Jimin dropped onto the couch and handed Jeongguk his beer— “Good second date? Still working?”

“Still working,” Jeongguk declared. “I actually have a lot of lyrics that I really like right now. I’ve narrowed down most of the tracks I want to use, so I just need to drop the lyrics in and let the music gods do their mixing. I’d do it myself, but honestly, just coming up with the melodies and lyrics right now is exhausting.”

“You work so hard.” Jimin took a swig of his beer and then rested his head on Jeongguk’s shoulder—a habit of his, something he had been doing since Jeongguk knew him. “I think this might be the first chunk of time where you’re not traveling the world. It’s been two months, and you’ve only been to Japan.”

“I’m pretty sure my promo schedule for a full-length album will be insane,” Jeongguk noted. “So me being at home? That won’t last. I’ll have to go to the U.S. and to Canada again. Probably parts of Europe, definitely Japan and Singapore, maybe the Philippines. I think Yoongi said he wanted to send me to Brazil for the first time, too.”

“Brazilian fans are always super passionate.”

“Exactly. So I won’t be home for long,” Jeongguk said, and Jimin nodded, his beer resting on his thigh.

“I miss you when you’re gone,” he said plainly. “I miss having you in my yoga classes. Or just—I mean, doing this.”

“What, making out on my couch and ruining my life?”

“You cockblocked yourself.”

“Why are you the way you are?” Jeongguk sighed, and Jimin giggled, nuzzling Jeongguk’s shoulder and then taking another sip.

“I’m just glad it’s working,” he said softly. “Do I get to read any of these lyrics? Or hear any of these songs as drafts?”

“Mm, I don’t know. If you’re the one triggering the inspiration, it might get weird,” Jeongguk said with a grin, and Jimin snorted.

“Alright, fine. Fair enough. I’ll just listen to the album when it comes out like everyone else. Can’t believe I’m getting denied my best friend privileges.”

“Can’t believe you cockblocked me.”

“What, you wanted to fuck on your couch?” Jimin asked, and Jeongguk groaned in embarrassment as Jimin burst out laughing. “You’re just mad because now you’ll have to jerk off in the shower before you go to bed.”

“Fucking hell. Thinking of anything but my best friend,” Jeongguk complained, and Jimin scoffed.

“Excuse me. I look great naked.”

“Will you stop it?” Jeongguk demanded in desperation, and Jimin laughed again, taking another long sip of his beer. “Hey, what time is your workshop tomorrow?”

“Nine o’clock.”

“You’re trying to kill me.”

“Oh, sorry, but normal people wake up before lunchtime,” Jimin flippantly said. “And you have to be there on time, or you’ll miss the very important warm-up.”

“Can I warm up in my bed?” Jeongguk asked futilely, and Jimin snickered.

“Be there on time. Be a good boyfriend,” he teased, and Jeongguk rolled his eyes.

“I’d rather be a realistic boyfriend who keeps you guessing as to what time he’ll show up to something,” Jeongguk offered, and Jimin smacked his thigh and stood up, downing the rest of his beer.

“It’s been real, Jeon,” he said, pointing the neck of the bottle at Jeongguk with a wink. “I’ll get going now. Leave you and your hand to have a little fun.”

“You fucking—”

Jimin let out a yelp and thrashed around as Jeongguk leapt up and grabbed Jimin around the waist, flinging him back and forth as Jimin laughed and kicked, trying to break free. Jeongguk thought he had the upper hand, but he was too close to the wall; Jimin pressed both heels into the wall and pushed, and Jeongguk stumbled with him as they both fell to the floor in a heap, hysterical. They rolled and wrestled until Jeongguk finally got Jimin onto his back and pinned him down, and Jimin breathlessly grinned up at him.

“So sad,” he said with a dramatic pout. Jeongguk kept Jimin pinned to the floor as he bent down and kissed him hard on purpose. He pulled away, and Jimin pretended to gag, pulling a face and turning his head slightly. Jokingly insulted, Jeongguk puffed his cheeks and leaned down to pressed his lips to Jimin’s again, and Jimin’s laughter forced Jeongguk to blow a raspberry right onto his lips as Jimin yelled and tried to fight Jeongguk off of him.

“Get off me, you creature!” he hollered, but then he wrapped his arms around Jeongguk’s neck and pulled him down for a hug, so Jeongguk conceded, collapsing with his full weight on top of Jimin as Jimin giggled but accepted it.

“Thanks for coming over,” Jeongguk murmured.

“Thank you for dinner,” Jimin whispered. “I hope you write some good lyrics. Let me know how it goes.”

“I will. I’ll see you in the morning.”

Jimin hopped to his feet as Jeongguk did, and Jeongguk held open the door as Jimin slipped his shoes on. With a final wink, Jimin combed his fingers through his hair and walked down the hallway, disappearing into the elevator.

“Shit,” Jeongguk whispered to himself the moment Jimin was gone, the door falling shut. He wandered through his own apartment for a moment like he was lost, seeing the two beer bottles on the countertop and the dishes in the sink. He was still reeling, trying to make sense of the “date” that he had just hosted, the way Jimin had just so effortlessly infiltrated his mind, the way he made it so easy for Jeongguk to believe that they were actually dating. Jeongguk had not a single worry going into tomorrow night now. He would kiss Jimin hello and goodnight in front of Kenji and his wife without a second thought. And that was because somehow, Jimin had gotten him comfortable enough to kiss. 

Jeongguk abandoned the dirty dishes in the sink and almost walked into the shower with his clothes on. Laughing at himself, he stripped down and stepped into the hot stream of water, ruffling his wet blonde hair and exhaling slowly. The water rained down on his back as Jeongguk ducked his head and closed his eyes, massaging the soap into his shoulders, his mind racing. 

What is it, baby? Feel good?

Jeongguk turned and leaned his back against the shower wall with a sigh, and then he dragged one hand down his abdomen until he could wrap it around his half-hard cock. It had been months, easily, since Jeongguk had bothered to get laid. He felt mildly touched-starved, so having Jimin grinding down in his lap while they kissed was too fucking much. The way his skin was soft and warm to the touch, the way he used his tongue, the way he whispered in Jeongguk’s ear like they had been lovers for years… 

“Jesus Christ,” Jeongguk breathed, working his hand faster around himself, fully hard, his grip tight, keeping a steady rhythm. He pressed his left hand behind him, palm against the wet shower wall, and his head fell back against the tiles. This was normal, wasn’t it? To get off thinking about his best friend of four years, who was just doing him a favor?

What, you wanted to fuck on your couch?

Jeongguk would have given anything in that moment to fuck Jimin on the couch in his state of uncontrollable arousal, arousal that he hadn’t felt in such a precarious fashion for years. He had never let himself think of Jimin like that, but now he felt like he was losing control. Jeongguk whimpered and sped up, his skin buzzing, and then he let out a choked noise when the orgasm hit him. He came all over his chest and stomach and his fist, and the moment he could breathe again, he stumbled sideways back under the hot water and washed away all the cum, his vision slightly blurred.

With his towel around his waist, Jeongguk didn’t even bother to dry himself off. He rushed into his bedroom and grabbed his notebook and a pen, not even bothering with his phone. At the speed of light, he wrote:

 

Lost myself, fuck, I lost myself in you

Didn’t know what you could do, and now I’m reeling, yeah, I’m reeling

Bring me down, yeah, just bring me down slowly

Have eyes for you only, and now I’m feeling, yeah, I’m feeling

 

One kiss and it turned into a million

You don’t know it, but God, you’re fucking brilliant

On the floor and you’re laughing

Don’t mind if I’m asking

For a favor to savor and then I’ll see you later and I’m

Ill-uminated

 

***

 

The handstand workshop was a success for Jeongguk, seeing as he managed to walk on his hands across the room. And dinner with Kenji and his wife was so easy that Jeongguk wondered why he had been worried in the first place. Jimin had absolutely dazzled the couple, and he had looked gorgeous doing it. Rika, Kenji’s wife, had even gone as far as to gush about Jimin when he was in the bathroom to Jeongguk, saying that Jeongguk was “a very lucky man” and that Jimin was “so charming and so smart.” And Jeongguk couldn’t even protest. He agreed with every word Rika said about his best friend, but the friendship idea was momentarily shattered when Jimin returned from the bathroom, turned Jeongguk’s chin, and kissed him softly before sitting down.

“He was impressed, apparently.”

“He better have been,” Jeongguk said as he tuned his guitar, sitting on his stool with one foot resting on the amplifier. He was at his favorite pub and he was scheduled to do a small gig—a gig that he had requested and booked himself, seeing as he hadn’t put himself on a stage in months. Yoongi had encouraged it, and now Seokjin was standing by with him as usual. Jeongguk had only just announced the gig on social media five minutes ago, and he was supposed to start in about an hour, but fans usually converged quickly.

“Well, that’s what Yoongi said,” Seokjin replied, watching Jeongguk pluck gently at the strings of his guitar, listening to make sure it was tuned properly.

“As long as I made a good impression,” Jeongguk replied. “Whatever helps me weasel into the Japanese market.”

“You charted at number nine once, you know.”

“I know that, hyung, but we’re thinking about longevity,” Jeongguk said, glancing up momentarily before resuming his work.

“Well, how was it having Jimin there with you?” Seokjin asked, crossing his arms. “Is that why Kenji was so dazzled?”

“He certainly didn’t mind having Jimin there,” Jeongguk said. “I’m pretty sure his wife and Jimin are going to be best friends. I’ll be replaced.”

“And how’s the songwriting coming along?”

“Absolutely fucking brilliant, as a matter of fact,” Jeongguk said with a grin. “So for all the shit you guys gave me for asking Jimin to help inspire me to write, it’s working. So all of you can go fuck yourselves. Nicely.”

“Maybe not today,” Seokjin replied casually. “How many songs tonight?”

“Seven or eight. Depends on my mood,” Jeongguk replied, his guitar finally tuned. He then set it on his thigh and began to play from memory until he fell into the rhythm of one of his own songs, perhaps one that he would play tonight. Once he was satisfied, he set his guitar down and rolled his little stool over to the keyboard. He turned it on and played a few scales, and then he played the opening chords for another song he was likely to play tonight. Jeongguk was a one-man show in such settings and usually played an acoustic set. When he was on tour, he had a band and backing track and all the bells and whistles. But in a pub, he was home.

The pub began to fill up slowly as Jeongguk remained in the backstage area, chatting with Seokjin about food. When Jeongguk began to hear people chanting his name or calling out to him even though he wasn’t visible, he pulled out his phone and asked for Seokjin’s approval before choosing the photos he wanted to post onto Instagram and Twitter. Then he opened his messages and hovered quietly.

It had been just over a week since Jeongguk had last seen Jimin, both of them monumentally busy with life. But now Jeongguk was playing a gig, and it had been a long time since Jimin had been to see one of his shows. 



JEONGGUK [07:46:55PM]

Hyung, I’m playing a gig tonight at Lo-Fi Pub in Gangnam, it starts at 8pm

 

JEONGGUK [07:47:29PM]

You can come late if you want

 

JEONGGUK [07:47:58PM]

Just wanted to let you know



Jeongguk stared at the screen, waiting for the little bubble to pop up to indicate that Jimin was responding, but it never appeared. With a sigh, Jeongguk shoved his phone into his pocket, and then he stood up and cracked his back, ready to go.

After a vocal warm-up, Jeongguk let a staff member at Lo-Fi introduce him, and the din was deafening when Jeongguk stepped onto the small stage. He usually expected a decent crowd, but there were people pressed up against the windows outside in desperation, and everyone was shoulder-to-shoulder inside the pub. Jeongguk glanced up and waved to the people who were stacked along the staircase and up on the balcony, and then he popped his in-ear monitors in and approached the mic.

“Hey, I’m Jeongguk,” he casually introduced himself as he always did. “Thanks for being here tonight. Be nice to the staff, be nice to each other. Really hope you enjoy the music. Might be my last gig before I put out something new, so here we go.”

 

mood: “gorgeous” by x ambassadors

 

The cheers were loud enough to make Jeongguk smile. Several people, men and women alike, called out that they loved him. Perhaps he wasn’t truly accepted in the eyes of the government while living in South Korea, but there was an ever-growing fanbase, and those who came to listen to his music knew that Jeongguk considered himself pansexual. To all of them, though, it didn’t matter—his music did the talking.

The first song was a high-energy acoustic guitar song called “you good?” that was from his first mixtape, and it was one that Jeongguk liked to start his shows with to keep the crowd engaged. Without much pause, he went right into “I Know Your Coffee Order,” and as he played the opening notes, he saw Seokjin waving an arm from backstage. Jeongguk shifted his footing casually and glanced, and then he grinned. There was Jimin, black baseball cap and face mask and all, standing right beside Seokjin in an oversized white long-sleeved shirt and ripped jeans.

Had Jimin been standing in the crowd, Jeongguk would have been able to pick him out instantly. Jimin had an aura about him, something that had drawn Jeongguk to him all those years ago in the very coffee shop about which Jeongguk was singing. Even dressed down with his cap and face mask, his presence was larger than life.

You’re a good kisser.

Jeongguk turned back towards the microphone and began to sing, playing with his eyes closed, suddenly feeling like he had more of a voice knowing that Jimin was standing backstage. Jimin was a bizarre type of motivation for him—always had been. Just as Jeongguk had been the one to spark Jimin’s confidence in teaching yoga, Jimin was the spark for Jeongguk to perform better. They were a balanced seesaw when it came to their friendship, always willing to share the weight and look out for each other. Right now, though, with the game that Jeongguk was making them play for the sake of his creativity, it felt like the seesaw was unhinged. 

The songs Jeongguk were playing were all older, all about his exes, all about breakups or about life moving too fast around him while he was standing still. But as he played his own songs like he had done a thousand times in the past, songs that he had poured his life force into back then, they didn’t feel quite right. He connected with them because they had come from a dark place in his mind, but in the moment, it felt like a fragile thread, and Jimin had scissors. They weren’t familiar emotions anymore, not when he was so caught up in the present. He could barely remember Mingyu’s face as he sang a song called “Missed Your Bedtime.” 

Eight songs later, Jeongguk bowed about a dozen times as the crowd begged him for an encore. Sweating but satisfied, Jeongguk glanced over into the wings, and then he whipped his head back to the crowds.

“Two songs. Two songs for the encore, and then I’m out,” he said with a grin, and a cheer arose. Jeongguk bent and grabbed his water bottle, chugged down half of its contents, and then capped it and grabbed his guitar, slinging it across his torso and picking at the strings carefully to make sure it was still tuned. Phones were everywhere, recording his every move. There were people with professional cameras taking fan pictures. Perhaps Jeongguk wasn’t an idol and didn’t enjoy the intense (sometimes unbearable) level of fame that came with the gig, but he was coming into his own, and he was one good album away from tipping into stardom. It frightened him most days if he sat and thought about it too long. He only ever wanted to be just Jeongguk.

Jimin was the one who kept him grounded. Jeongguk had a handful of acquaintances, people he met at clubs or bars when he had free time, people he met overseas that called him up for a drink when he was visiting. But for years, whenever he was home in Gangnam, he showed up at Jimin’s doorstep, because Jimin made him feel normal. Jeongguk wasn’t a superstar by any means, but his life was chaos and constant. When he walked into the yoga studio to take class and then grab a smoothie with Jimin, life slowed down. Jimin never harped on Jeongguk about his rising fame, never chastised Jeongguk for it or made it worse. He just accepted Jeongguk as he was, because he had been there when Jeongguk had thrown songs onto SoundCloud to see what would stick.

“Thank you! Thank you for coming on such short notice, thank you!” Jeongguk said with several consecutive bows, waving in every direction and then tossing his guitar pick to a teenage girl who was asking for it. He bent and sat down on the edge of the stage and shook a few hands, and then he rested his elbows on his knees, grabbing a small towel and wiping his forehead.

“Oppa! Are you really making a new album?”

“Yah, Jeongguk-ssi! You should’ve played ‘Backseat.’ That one is my favorite.”

“Oppa, can we get a picture together?”

“Alright, come on,” Seokjin finally said after Jeongguk took what was probably his twentieth picture with a fan. He set his hand on Jeongguk’s shoulder and beckoned with a small smile, and then he bowed and apologized to the fans that were dispersing. Jeongguk hopped up and waved, and then he walked with Seokjin backstage, where Jimin was standing and waiting.

“Hey, you came,” Jeongguk said, watching Jimin pull off his cap and ruffle his hair. Then he approached Jeongguk, casually slung his arms around Jeongguk’s neck, and kissed him. Jeongguk’s heart slammed against his chest in surprise, and he let out a breathy laugh. “What was that for? Are we doing this all the time?”

“Felt like the right thing to do,” Jimin said, arms still around Jeongguk’s neck as he smiled. His eyes flicked up and over vaguely. “Famous singer finishes a gig, goes backstage and kisses his boyfriend. Seemed romantic. Probably should have thought it through, but I’m on a mission.”

“And what’s your mission?”

“For you to write an album,” Jimin declared. “You enlisted my help, after all. Great show. You played all of my favorites.”

“I thought you said every song I’ve ever made is your favorite.”

“Precisely why you played all of my favorites.”

“You’re a pain in the ass.”

“Insulting your own boyfriend,” Jimin grumbled, and then he snorted when Jeongguk pretended to throw him out onto the stage. “Okay, okay, okay. What are you doing this week?”

“Depends.”

“When are you free?”

“Uh…” Jeongguk chewed his lower lip and glanced over at Seokjin, who was standing by and pretending not to notice anything that was going on. He did, however, jump right in with Jeongguk’s schedule, which meant he was professionally eavesdropping.

“You’re free on Tuesday,” he stated, and Jeongguk turned back to Jimin and nodded.

“Tuesday,” Jimin repeated. “Let me take you out to dinner.”

“What?”

“Dinner. Out. A date. A romantic evening with a meal,” Jimin clarified, eyes sparkling. “Like a normal couple would do. How many songs have you written for your album so far?”

“Three. Possibly four,” Jeongguk recalled.

“Then we have to up our game,” Jimin joked. “Dinner? Tuesday night? Something nice. Just you and me. And if you’re up for it, I’m running sunrise yoga on Monday morning.”

“Dinner, yes. Yoga at sunrise? Downward dog at dawn? I don’t know about that,” Jeongguk said, pulling a face as Jimin rolled his eyes with a small smile. “I’m pretty sure I have a recording session all day on Monday, so I’ll need my voice to be in good condition.”

“Yoga doesn’t require talking.” Jimin ran his fingers through Jeongguk’s sweaty blonde hair, and then he kissed Jeongguk’s cheek. “I have to go, but I’m proud of you. Tuesday?”

“Tuesday,” Jeongguk confirmed.

“Hyung, I’ll see you later,” Jimin said, patting Seokjin’s arm as Seokjin lifted a hand in a wave, very familiar with Jimin from all the years he had been working as Jeongguk’s manager. Jimin slipped out the back door and jogged down the small staircase that led to the side street, the door closing on its own accord behind him. That was when Seokjin turned to Jeongguk.

“He’s faking it. You’re faking it, right?” Seokjin asked, raising his eyebrows. “None of that is real. He’s taking you to dinner just for the hell of it so you’ll be inspired to write songs about love and romance and all that.”

“Yes.” Jeongguk lifted his shirt and used it to wipe a bit of sweat that was still on his cheeks.

“Okay.” Seokjin narrowed his eyes and pursed his lips, and then he ran his fingers through his longer black hair and let out a laughing sigh. “You’d never know it.”

“Don’t encourage it,” Jeongguk scolded good-naturedly as he pulled out his phone and plopped down into a chair, legs straight out, feet flexed to keep him propped up. “Can you give me a few minutes before we pack up? I have some lyrics I need to write down.”

“You’re kidding,” Seokjin laughed. “You talked to him for five minutes and you already have lyrics? He’s that inspiring?”

“He’s a fucking wizard,” Jeongguk declared, and then he focused on his Notes app, the melody already swirling around in his head:

 

I was there when your heart was broken in two

On the couch with you, giving you my shoulder to cry on

Got so drunk all those nights, couldn’t let go of you

It’s been years, now the lines are blurring in slow motion

 

You, I’ve been thinking of you lately, this little game we’re faking and

You, you’re supposed to be my friend but the rules are made to bend so

 

Don’t speak, I like it better when we don’t speak

Didn’t think I would and I’d tell you if I could and

The words I want to say are choking me to death, so

I swallow them like pills and the fear is poison and I’ve never been so lost

So don’t speak, I like it better when we don’t speak

(Quiet)

Chapter Text

[moodboard by cata]

~ ~ ~

Jimin wasn’t picking up the phone.

“Shit. Shit,” Jeongguk cursed, still lying in bed with the covers kicked off messily in his state of panic. He had woken up groggy with a dozen messages from Seokjin, and it had only taken him a few minutes to find all the social media posts, including the most damning one in typical, blunt Korean media fashion:

 

SOUNDCLOUD STAR JEON JEONGGUK GETTING COZY WITH SOMEONE NEW: Jeongguk was seen backstage after his show at Lo-Fi in Gangnam on Friday night by fans with a mystery man in his arms. The singer (24) has been out of the spotlight for a few months, likely in preparation for his first full-length album that he has been hinting at for some time. His songs are popular for their messages about breakups and bad relationships. But fans said they saw Jeongguk kissing the mystery man. Is it love? 

 

And the pictures that accompanied that blurb on Instagram… Jeongguk wanted to unsee them. Jimin’s back was to the cameras that had captured them, which was their saving grace. But it was glaringly obvious that they had kissed and it was glaringly obvious that they were, indeed, cozy. And now it was out there in the world that Jeongguk was kissing someone without sharing the details on social media, without naming Jimin as the one faking it all.

“Fuck, finally,” Jeongguk gasped, and then he answered his phone when it rang. “Hyung? Hyung.”

“Jeongguk, what the hell is going on?” Jimin asked, his voice panicked. Jeongguk could tell that he was riding his bike because of the wind. “I just finished teaching, and you called me fifteen times. Are you hurt? Are you okay? I’m almost at your building. Is that where you are? Are you home?”

“I’m home, I’m—hyung, someone got pictures of us at the show last night,” Jeonguk said, his voice trembling. “Your face isn’t showing, but—but you can tell that we’re kissing, and I just—”

“Oh, Jesus Christ. Let me in when I buzz up.” Jimin then hung up the phone without another word. Jeongguk threw back his messy covers and stumbled out of bed, and he splashed some water on his face and brushed his teeth in a daze. The buzzer sounded, so Jeongguk pressed the button, and then he stood with his door open until Jimin came out of the elevator.

 

mood: "hope is a heartache" by léon

 

“Hyung, it’s bad,” Jeongguk said in a panic as the door fell shut. Jimin was still in his black yoga shorts and a t-shirt, but Jeongguk knew he had only taught vinyasa flow and not hot yoga, mostly because he wasn’t sweating.

“How bad?” Jimin asked skeptically, dropping his stuff onto the kitchen countertop. Jeongguk walked back into his bedroom and grabbed his phone as Jimin followed, and then Jeongguk collapsed onto his bed and showed the article. Jimin pursed his lips and narrowed his eyes as he read while sitting beside Jeongguk, and then he let out a little chuckle.

“Jeongguk-ah, come on. They can’t even see my face. Has my name been thrown around yet?” Jimin asked, and Jeongguk shook his head. “Exactly. I’m just that—a mystery man. They’re grainy, dark pictures of you with someone. Could be anyone. And it’s none of their business, anyways. Why are you worrying?”

“Hyung, I’m—it’s not me I’m worried about,” Jeongguk said, tossing his phone onto his nightstand. “It’s you. I don’t want you to have all this exposure that you never asked for just because I need to write a few goddamn songs. I don’t want people to start talking shit about you or saying nasty things about you or calling you names or—”

Jeonguk cut himself off when Jimin hopped up onto the bed, knelt, and then swung his leg over to straddle Jeongguk facing him, taking Jeongguk’s face between his hands.

“Are you listening to me?” he asked.

“...It’s really difficult when you’re in my lap and still in yoga shorts,” Jeongguk replied, not sure what to do with his own hands. Jimin rolled his eyes, so Jeongguk added, “Yeah, I’m listening.”

“Good.” Jimin’s thumb stroked Jeongguk’s left cheek once. “Because I don’t care. I agreed to do this, Gguk-ah. I’ve been your friend for almost five years. I’ve watched you go from nothing to something. I’ve been with you through a lot of shit. Every single person you’ve dated has been a story in the media, but it always dies down. By the time people actually start to care or notice, your album will be out, and we won’t even be doing this anymore.”

“I know, but I don’t know if I want you to be—if your name gets—the stress, it’s—”

Jeongguk couldn’t stop himself from grabbing Jimin’s slim waist when Jimin shut him up with a firm kiss.

“Hyung, we—we can’t, don’t,” Jeongguk said when Jimin broke the kiss. “It’s not—we’re not…”

“Are you done being anxious?” Jimin asked, ignoring Jeongguk’s state of panic over a single kiss. “Otherwise, I’ll kiss you again.”

“Are you threatening me with a kiss?” Jeongguk asked. “In these shorts?”

“Focus,” Jimin laughed, shoving Jeongguk down onto his back on the bed as Jeongguk groaned, letting Jimin fall on top of him and cuddle into the crook of his neck. “Jeongguk,” he murmured quietly. “I can handle myself. You’re making a huge amount of progress with your songwriting. You said so yourself. And I promised you I would help you out. If you want to stop because of a few grainy photos that give nothing away—fine. Let me know. But then you’re back to square one.”

“No, no,” Jeongguk sighed, setting both of his hands on Jimin’s back. “I don’t want to stop, not when I’m finally inspired. I’m coming up with some of the best lyrics and melodies I’ve ever written.”

“Then just breathe,” Jimin whispered, and Jeongguk closed his eyes, because this wasn’t new. Jeongguk was a chronic overthinker with a lot of little triggers that made him feel anxious, and Jimin had learned how to bring Jeongguk down when they had lived together, when he had experienced Jeongguk’s quiet worrying firsthand. He knew what to say, how to touch Jeongguk to calm him down, and how to talk him through it. Jimin wasn’t just Jeongguk’s best friend—he was Jeongguk’s solace. He was a safe place for Jeongguk to fall. But in the same breath, some of the boundary lines had always been blurred between them, and now Jeongguk was struggling even more than normal.

“You really…” Jeongguk took a deep breath. “You really want to keep doing this?”

“Jeongguk, you act like this is a chore for me,” Jimin said with a laugh, rolling off Jeongguk and flopping onto his back. “Just—Just let me do this for you, okay? You asked, and I agreed. It won’t be for much longer, anyways.”

“Right. Okay. So we’re still on for dinner tomorrow?” Jeongguk asked.

“I actually had a different idea.” Jimin rolled his head to the side. “If you’re up for a little bit of adventure. A fancy dinner doesn’t really seem like your vibe. I was going to go for something romantic, but you’re not much of a Michelin-star diner, are you?”

“Only when I’m forced to.”

“Right. So let me surprise you,” Jimin decided, hopping off the bed. He was about to say something else, but then his phone began to ring from the kitchen. Jimin held up a finger, and then he jogged out to answer it as Jeongguk stood at the threshold of his bedroom.

What are we doing?

It had been almost a month now of Jeongguk pretending that Jimin was his to love, and he felt like he had utterly failed his best friend. Jimin was going above and beyond, and Jeongguk was only accepting instead of reciprocating. Perhaps he needed to come up with an adventure. Jimin had asked him to be a good fake boyfriend, and maybe that was what Jeongguk needed to feel more. Maybe he needed to pull a reaction out of Jimin so he could write beautiful lyrics about the way Jimin responded, because he was wildly expressive.

“Hello? Ah, hyung, I’m fine. I’m just at Jeongguk’s. He—get your head out of the gutter. It’s the middle of the afternoon,” Jimin laughed as he leaned against the countertop, and Jeongguk could only assume he was speaking to Hoseok, his roommate. When Jimin spoke to Namjoon, his tone of voice was much softer with a touch more adoration. With Hoseok, he spoke with laughter in his voice. “Yeah. Yeah, that’s why I’m here. Because he saw the articles. It’s fine, seriously… no, he’s panicked enough for all of us,” Jimin said with a grin in Jeongguk’s direction as Jeongguk scowled. “We… oh? Um… yeah, let me ask him.”

“What is it?” Jeongguk wondered as Jimin pressed the phone to his thigh.

“Um, Hoseok hyung wanted to know if you had time to go on a double date,” Jimin said, sounding nervous. “He—I told him I was helping you. I don’t know why he’s asking. I can just tell him that—”

“Sure. When?” Jeongguk asked, and Jimin’s face registered surprise. Jeongguk rolled his eyes. “It’s fine, hyung. It’s four friends going out somewhere. Hoseok says double date. I say catching up. Ask him when.”

“...Jeongguk wants to know when,” Jimin said, bringing the phone back up to his ear. Then he glanced at Jeongguk. “Thursday night. He wants to go bowling.”

“Done. I have a planning meeting in the morning, and then I’ll just finish recording early that day,” Jeongguk promised, and he saw a smile flit across Jimin’s face. 

“That’s fine,” he told Hoseok, sounding pleased. “Yeah... yeah, I’ll be home soon.” 

“...Hyung?”

“Yeah,” Jimin said, tucking his phone away after hanging up as Jeongguk approached.

“Forget your idea for tomorrow,” Jeongguk declared. “Let me take you on a date.”

“You want to take me on a date?” Jimin asked, raising his eyebrows incredulously. “I’m supposed to be the one wooing you enough to write songs.”

“Okay, but it works both ways,” Jeongguk argued. “If I take you on a date, then I can see how you react and write about that.”

“So I’m a science experiment.”

“You’re way cuter than a lab rat.”

“How poetic,” Jimin teased. “Okay, sure. What did you have in mind?”

“Something very cheesy and relatively ridiculous,” Jeongguk replied. “But if you’re game, it promises to be a good time.”

“You know I love a good time.”

“Yeah, from what I’ve heard, I know you do,” Jeongguk said as he pulled a face of fake disgust, and Jimin promptly whacked him on the arm as Jeongguk recoiled with a laugh. In the six months they had lived together, Jeongguk had made it perfectly clear that if Jimin wanted to bring someone home for the night, he could, and Jeongguk would never interfere. The two bedrooms in his apartment were on opposite sides, so there was enough space. Jimin had brought home a grand total of three different people in the span of those six months, and Jeongguk had learned very quickly that Jimin wasn’t really one to stay quiet during sex.

“You’re no better,” Jimin fired back. “Are you done worrying about some silly pictures?”

Jeongguk leaned against the countertop with a small smile. “I think so. You calmed me down. Thanks for just coming straight here.” 

“Well, in my defense, you called fifteen times.”

“It was urgent.”

“Was it?” Jimin asked while sucking in a breath with narrowed eyes, and Jeongguk picked him up off the ground, turned him around, and put him in the direction of the door as Jimin laughed. “Alright, alright. Kicking your own boyfriend out of the house.”

“You can sleep on the couch tonight,” Jeongguk said, and Jimin snorted.

“That would imply that you’re letting me stay. See you tomorrow.”

Jeongguk just let Jimin walk out on his own, and he stared at the white door in ringing silence until his vision blurred, his mind a scattered mess.

 

***

 

When Jeongguk arrived early for his meeting with Yoongi and a few other team members at Genius on Tuesday afternoon, he figured that he would take advantage and go crash Yoongi’s studio, maybe lie on the couch and eat the seaweed snacks that he had shoved in his backpack. He walked down the quiet hallway and took a left, and then he stopped right in front of Yoongi’s studio. He was about to ring the little bell and let himself in (he knew the code), but then he stopped.

“...Right now. Just—Tae. Baby. Not again,” Yoongi’s gentle voice was saying. “I have a meeting soon, darling, we can’t.”

“I’ll be quick.”

“Shh, no,” Yoongi replied, and Jeongguk heard them both shifting on the couch. “I know you would be, but not now. I need a break.”

“You’re no fun.” Taehyung’s tone was teasing, something Jeongguk had heard a thousand times before. Knowing he had already eavesdropped for too long, Jeongguk turned on his heels and began to walk down the hallway, but then the studio door flew open, and he paused.

“Yah, Jeongguk-ah! Did you come to see hyung?” Taehyung called out, hopping into the hallway. His dark purple hair was a bit of a mess, and he was only wearing sweatpants and a thin t-shirt, his feet bare. Jeongguk wasn’t an idiot—he could tell that he had caught the tail-end of their makeshift pillow talk.

“I was just—it doesn’t matter. I’ll go to the artists’ lounge,” Jeongguk said, but then he heard Yoongi calling his name. Eyes narrowed, he slipped past Taehyung, who looked very obviously and very proudly fucked out, and then Jeongguk stepped up into Yoongi’s studio and crossed his arms, leaning against the doorframe and keeping the door open.

“You good?” Yoongi asked. He was now sitting in his desk chair, his feet also bare, wearing an oversized black FG shirt and black track pants. “You can sit.”

“You’re joking, right?” Jeongguk asked, and Yoongi rolled his eyes. “I’ll eat my fist if you two didn’t just fuck on this couch.”

“Standing is good for you,” Yoongi replied, wiggling his chair a little as Jeongguk snorted. The way that he shifted in his chair told Jeongguk that Yoongi had likely been fucked within an inch of his life, but he was playing it off well despite his messy hair and hazy expression. “What did you need? Something about the meeting?”

Jeongguk sniffed and bit the inside of his mouth briefly. “Nothing about the meeting. Just… the recording session today. I don’t want it to be anything major. I want to record some guides.”

“Oh?” Yoongi raised his eyebrows. “How many songs do you have?”

“Four.”

“Jesus, okay,” Yoongi laughed.

“Yeah, it’s not impressive to you,” Jeongguk said, rolling his eyes. “You can write two or three songs in a day. But I have four songs that I actually fucking like, and I want to record the guides.”

“You won’t hear me complain. You know this is a pre-planning meeting, right?” Yoongi asked for clarification, and Jeongguk hummed in acknowledgment. “Where you can talk about your album. The promo team will be there. We have to start laying out a plan.”

“Yeah, well, this time, I actually have a plan,” Jeongguk said, recalling a meeting a month ago when he had stared at the wall with his jaw clenched while everyone around the table chatted about Taehyung’s upcoming album, since Jeongguk didn’t have any material. But now he could talk for ages and explain the concept for his album—love. Love, from Jeon Jeongguk, something completely different. The process of falling in love, a story of sorts. It was halfway complete in Jeongguk’s mind.

“Is that what you came here to tell me?” Yoongi wondered.

“Sorry, did I interrupt?” Jeongguk asked with a grin.

“We were finished,” Yoongi grumbled, rubbing his face with his hands. Jeongguk clicked his tongue and blew out a breath, lips vibrating.

“Hyung, just talk to him,” he suggested with caution, especially when Yoongi gave him a look. “Just—Just talk to him.”

“I’m not losing a good thing,” Yoongi quietly said. “So no. I won’t talk to him about it. I’m not risking losing him.”

“Well, I’m taking Jimin on a date tonight,” Jeongguk offered, and Yoongi perked up slightly, interested.

“Oh? You’re taking him on a date?”

“Yeah. Good fake boyfriend and all that,” Jeongguk said as he waved his hand, and Yoongi snickered.

“Fake boyfriend,” he muttered. “You two are impossible. What are these dates like? Do you hold hands? Kiss? What is it that actually works?”

“We… I mean, we… well, we practiced kissing so we could pull off that date with Kenji and his wife,” Jeongguk pointed out, and Yoongi rubbed his lips together, intrigued and amused simultaneously. “So yeah, we do that. The dates are just… well, I’m taking him to the park tonight and I’m bringing my guitar. I figured I could write about his reaction, you know?”

“Oh, cute. Like a fourth grade science fair project,” Yoongi commented, and Jeongguk stepped and kicked Yoongi’s chair. “Look, I just—” Yoongi adjusted his position in the chair with a breathy laugh— “I just think that you’re kidding yourself, Jeongguk-ah.”

“What do you mean?” Jeongguk asked, crossing his arms.

“You two have been attached at the hip for years. Just seems like there’s a line that you’re close to crossing,” Yoongi explained, shrugging. “I don’t know. I haven’t seen Jimin in months, but whenever I do see him, I always wonder.”

“Don’t be so dramatic,” Jeongguk said, shaking his head. “He’s doing this as a favor, hyung. He’s my best friend. Period. That’s it. There’s nothing else to it.”

“You know that thought you have when it comes to Taehyung and me? Where you stand there and listen to me talk but you’re really thinking about what an idiot I am?” Yoongi asked rhetorically, and Jeongguk pursed his lips. “Right. Enjoy your date. Go get ready for the meeting, and have something ready to go, okay?”

Jeongguk had plenty to show at the meeting, even though his mind was a bit of a mess. He kicked back and explained the concept for the album, the story he wanted to tell, the vibe he was going for, the messages he wanted to relay to his fans. Most people at the table were fascinated enough to ask questions, so Jeongguk bounced ideas off anyone who asked. He read out some lyrics for the songs he had already written, played one of Yoongi’s tracks and sang along over it as best as he could, knowing everyone would get the gist.

And then he walked straight into the recording booth. When the meeting ended, Jeongguk went into a practice room that was soundproof where he had recording materials, and he played Yoongi’s track and sang along to it, throwing his vocals over the track himself like he had done a thousand times when he had first started out. Yoongi’s expertise was a luxury. Jeongguk’s first releases had been completely self-made. Being able to piece together all the parts to create a song that sounded like home was Jeongguk’s greatest strength. It was exactly the reason why fans returned to him for new music. His sound was evolving and he was growing, but he still had his roots.

Jeongguk almost never kept track of the time when he was recording or working on music, because he tended to lose himself in the moment. But tonight, his eyes kept flicking to the clock constantly as the minutes painfully ticked by, and he called it quits around seven o’clock. He then attempted to tame his blonde hair and packed up his guitar, still wearing his same outfit of black pants and a grey pullover sweater to accommodate for the cooler evening air. Then he texted Jimin.

 

JEONGGUK [07:19:35PM]

I’ll be at yours to pick you up at 7:30!

 

JIMIN [07:20:52PM]

Awesome, I’m wearing a bathing suit and nothing else!

 

JEONGGUK [07:21:43PM]

OK so suddenly I’m not picking you up

 

JIMIN [07:23:03PM]

See you in 10 minutes ;)

 

Jeongguk smiled to himself and tucked his phone away, and then he walked to the garage and carefully placed his guitar in the backseat before hopping into the driver’s seat. It wouldn’t take long—Jimin’s apartment wasn’t far from Genius.

“Shit, why are you shaking? Stop that,” Jeongguk said to himself, commanding his hands to quit trembling as he set them on the steering wheel. Why was he nervous? Why was his mouth a bit dry? He was known to have stage fright that was manageable, but his body always reacted—sweaty palms, bit of a cold sweat, tremble in the hands, clogged throat. He was experiencing all of those symptoms now, but this was Jimin. Jimin used to lie on Jeongguk’s bed on rainy days when they lived together and listen to Jeongguk as Jeongguk messed around with his guitar. It was nothing he hadn’t experienced before. So why did it feel like a wild pack of butterflies had been released into his stomach?

Jeongguk planned to park his car and get out to actually go to Jimin’s door, but Jimin was already outside waiting, his face illuminated by his phone. He glanced up when Jeongguk pulled up to the curb, and he smiled.

Keep it the fuck together. It’s just Jimin.

It was just Jimin, wearing black jeans and black t-shirt with a denim jacket, his black hair messily combed back, a few rings on his fingers that Jeongguk noticed as Jimin waved and then opened the passenger side door.

“Right on time,” he commended, buckling in as he surveyed Jeongguk’s outfit. “I see I’m dressed appropriately.”

“Nothing fancy,” Jeongguk promised as he pulled away from the curb. “Um, you look nice.”

“I’m flattered,” Jimin said in a teasing tone, and then he leaned over the center console and kissed Jeongguk’s cheek. “Thank you. How was your meeting today? Everything go okay?”

“Huh? Yeah, yeah. Meeting was fine,” Jeongguk said, silently reasoning with himself. He’s just playing his role. Why are you suddenly overthinking this now? Just look at the facts. You’re friends. He’s doing you a favor. You’re writing songs. That’s it. Stop. “Um, I told them my plan for the album, and everyone’s happy.”

“Well, they should be. I make for very good song content,” Jimin joked with his infectious grin, and Jeongguk readjusted his grip on the steering wheel with a smile. “So what exactly are we doing? This feels like it’ll be fancy.” 

Jeongguk snickered, taking a right turn with his elbow still resting on the center console. “Why, because you’re being escorted in a Mercedes? You’ve been in my car before,” he said, and Jimin jokingly curled his legs in with his knees up and pretended to rest his feet on the dashboard. Jeongguk was so used to his antics that he didn’t even flinch, and Jimin dropped his feet with a dull thud. 

“Yeah, but it’s been awhile, and you know I don’t have a car,” Jimin stated, staring out the window as the city flew by. “I have to say, though, this whole dating thing is kind of fun.”

“Yeah?” Jeongguk turned his head just briefly to look at Jimin’s profile. “Why?”

“Because we get to hang out more. Do all these cool things that we haven’t done before,” Jimin said, still speaking to the window. “You’re making time for me, and I’m making time for you.”

“Yeah, we’re not always good at that,” Jeongguk said, and Jimin chuckled.

“I mean, that’s the perk of being close like we are,” he said. “We can go weeks without talking to each other, but when we finally meet up again, we’re right back on our bullshit.”

“But you’re right.” Jeongguk stopped at a red light. “It’s nice. Makes me realize how much I miss being around you. I don’t have best friends when I’m on the road or traveling. But when I come home, I have you.”

“Better be careful,” Jimin warned. “All this praise might go to my head. Quick—insult me.”

“Your downward dog is a fucking disgrace and you dance like a clown.”

“That’s better,” Jimin sighed, and Jeongguk burst out laughing as Jimin grinned, and then he sat up straight and whacked Jeongguk’s chest. “Okay, but wait a goddamn minute! You were way too prepared for that!”

“I’ve been sitting on those insults for ages,” Jeongguk said dramatically, and Jimin laughed, throwing himself gently against the window as he did, because Jimin had a habit of damn near giving himself whiplash whenever he laughed.

“God, you’re a pain in the ass—oh. Oh, we’re going here?” Jimin glanced out the window as Jeongguk pulled up to SEOUL Forest and swung into a parking spot.

“Nothing fancy,” Jeongguk said. “Just using the park as a nice place to hang out. Come with me.”

Jimin hopped out of the car, and Jeongguk pulled open the back door and grabbed his guitar case and a bag that had a few snacks and some soju in case they got hungry. When he met Jimin around the hood of his car, Jimin noticed the guitar, and he raised his eyebrows.

“Why do you have your guitar?” he asked suspiciously, and Jeongguk gripped the handle tighter. It wasn’t like he could hide it behind his back or pretend he didn’t have it. The guitar was glaringly obvious, so he just presented it with a shrug.

“Don’t know. Guess you’ll have to find out,” he said with a touch of mystery, and then he tilted his head. “Come with me.”

Jeongguk shifted the bag just enough so that he could offer his hand, and he didn’t miss the way Jimin smiled and lunged to take it, like he was proud that he was being offered a hand to hold at all. Jeongguk was still getting used to being hand-in-hand with his best friend. They had done it countless times before, but there was something different about holding Jimin’s hand when Jeongguk knew it was because of the scenario they were playing out, something they were both faking. Just a smack-in-the-face kind of reminder.

“Okay, this is a good spot,” Jeongguk said when he found a good patch of open grass underneath a tree. He set his guitar down carefully, and then he began to unpack—he laid out the blanket, pulled out a tiny fake lantern for a light source as it got darker, showed Jimin that he had some snacks from the convenience store and soju if they wanted it, and then plopped down cross-legged. Jimin did the same, quietly curious.

“Soju first,” Jeongguk declared, and Jimin snickered.

“Liquid courage?” he teased, but he accepted his glass and held it out so Jeongguk could crack open the bottle and pour for two. They tapped their little glasses together and took the first shot, and then Jeongguk sighed.

“Sorry. I’m not really used to organized dates like this,” he confessed. “Or, like… actually making an effort. Not that I didn’t make an effort with my exes, it’s just—fuck, that’s not what I meant. It’s just—”

“You’re being careful when considering what we could do for a date that might help inspire you to write a song,” Jimin supplied, filling it for Jeongguk when he could sense that Jeongguk’s anxiety was sneaking to the forefront. Immediately relaxed upon hearing the words that his jumbled brain was trying to formulate, Jeongguk nodded.

“Yeah, exactly. It’s… yeah. Careful planning,” he agreed, pouring some more soju. They took a second shot and a third shot, and then the glasses were set aside. Jimin peered into the bag of snacks, but then he sat back and cocked his head to the side, watching as Jeongguk fiddled with his fingers, not sure what to do. He was usually so smooth on dates, so why the fuck was he fumbling now, of all times?

“Jeonggukie,” Jimin prompted softly. “Why do you have your guitar?”

“You know why I have my guitar,” Jeongguk said, his heart pounding as he reached over and removed his guitar from its case. He rested it on his thigh comfortably, and then he began to tune it while staring at Jimin. “I may not be great at this kind of thing, but I figured I should use whatever talent I have to do something nice for you.”

“Don’t say it like that,” Jimin scolded. “You have so much fucking talent, Jeongguk-ah. Don’t downplay yourself.”

“Um, so maybe…” Jeongguk took a deep breath with a sniff, still tuning as he tried his best to ignore the compliment. “Maybe you could tell me a song of mine that you like, or any song. I can just go with the flow.”

“I like all of your songs,” Jimin replied. “Don’t make me choose.”

“Well, I only have a few songs that aren’t about breakups or bad relationships,” Jeongguk said with a chuckle. “So I can start with ‘Euphoria’ and go from there.”

“I like ‘Euphoria,’” Jimin almost whispered.

“You sure you don’t want to just eat snacks while I do this?” Jeongguk asked, already blushing. Jimin stifled a laugh.

“No, no. I’m giving you my full and undivided attention, because I know how much you hate it,” he said with a grin. “Plus, you literally brought me here for a date just to sit me down and pull out your guitar to serenade me, so I’m going to enjoy every second of this.”

“I’m nervous,” Jeongguk admitted, plucking at the strings in a simple major chord. “I’ve done this song a thousand times, but never one-on-one like this.”

“It’s just me,” Jimin reminded him. “You’ve sang to me before.”

“That was different,” Jeongguk murmured, avoiding eye contact. After clearing his throat, he set his fingers in the right spot, and then he looked up at Jimin. Jimin was sitting cross-legged and facing him, hands folded with his elbows casually on his knees, eyes soft as he watched Jeongguk. The small smile on his face was enough encouragement. Jeongguk re-settled his fingers in the right place, rolled his neck, and then started to play the acoustic version of his beloved song, one of his only songs about the beauty of love and happiness.

Music was something deeply embedded into Jeongguk’s soul. It was second nature, something that he could create without putting much thought into it. Playing the guitar was one of those innate things as well. The song came so naturally that Jeongguk just closed his eyes most of the time while he sang and played, only glancing up at Jimin once. When he did, he immediately looked away, because it was too much. Jimin was just watching him with the same soft smile that had a touch of awe to it, listening intently, sometimes quickly looking away if Jeongguk so much as lifted his head. 

“...That’s it,” Jeongguk whispered mostly to himself when the last note of the chord he had strummed faded into the open air, and he gently gripped the neck of the guitar and stared down at the strings. He then looked up at Jimin. “Um, if you want, I can…”

 

mood: “come here” by sabrina claudio

 

He didn’t get another word out. Jimin rolled onto his hands and knees, crawled once, and leaned in until his lips were just barely on Jeongguk’s, and Jeongguk’s heart damn near stopped as he closed his eyes, trying to breathe.

“You can play anything.” Jimin whispered the words onto Jeongguk’s lips. 

“What…” Jeongguk lost his ability to speak. Jimin closed the gap and pressed their lips together into a single, sweet kiss, but Jeongguk was already spiraling. When Jimin kissed him again, Jeongguk kissed him back with a racing heart, slow and smooth like honey, soft lips and quiet breaths. He clutched his guitar close to him as Jimin deepened the kiss, and Jeongguk reciprocated, tilting his head a little to allow Jimin easier access. Each kiss was unhurried, a blissful pause in between, something new every time. Jimin swiped his tongue along Jeongguk’s bottom lip as Jeongguk inhaled sharply, wanting to reach out and grab Jimin to hold but unable to. He just sank into the next kiss, his head spinning, tasting the sweet cherry of Jimin’s Chapstick and drowning in his presence, unable to make heads or tails of the situation. Never had Jeongguk been kissed like this, with such intent, and with no sense of urgency.

“...Could you write songs about this?” Jimin whispered between kisses, and as he gently pulled Jeongguk’s bottom lip between both of his lips, Jeongguk reeled, choking on his words.

“Wh—Y-Yeah, I…” Jeongguk tried to breathe as Jimin pulled away just enough, still on his hands and knees, lips pink and kiss-bitten, eyes fixed on Jeongguk. “I—I could… Um…” Jeongguk licked his lips and cleared his throat, lowered his eyes as he took another breath. “I—Yeah. You… yeah. A lot. I—a lot of songs.”

“Will you play me another?” Jimin whispered, brushing his nose against Jeongguk’s.

“Yeah. Wh-Whatever you want,” Jeongguk breathed. He closed his eyes when Jimin bent and kissed his cheek and then sat back on his knees, and Jeongguk almost let out a strangled noise that he couldn’t control as he swallowed the dry lump in his throat. “What… Which one?”

“Anything,” Jimin said softly.  “I do love ‘Double Vision,’ though.”

Jeongguk didn’t even hesitate. He settled his fingers in the right spot and immediately began to play the song Jimin had requested, no questions asked. He played and sang along while Jimin watched, enraptured, smiling. Jeongguk swore while he was singing that he could still taste Jimin on his lips, and it was fogging up his mind. By the time he finished the song, he felt like he had to gasp for air. But then he asked if Jimin wanted to hear another, and Jimin said yes, so Jeongguk played two more songs while Jimin sat and listened, scooting closer and closer to Jeongguk, watching his fingers move.

“Yeah, thanks,” Jeongguk laughed when Jimin gave him a round of applause after the fourth song. “Are you going to kiss me again?”

“Why, do you want me to?” Jimin asked, eyes sparkling mischievously.

“Um, no that—once was plenty, that was—yes, that was enough,” Jeongguk stammered as Jimin giggled. “That… okay. Yeah, I’m feeling inspired.”

Jimin grinned. “Thought I’d give you a nice moment.”

“That was more than a moment.”

“Will you play one of your new songs for me?” Jimin asked, eyelashes fluttering against his cheeks as he stared Jeongguk down. Jeongguk narrowed his eyes, forcing Jimin to crack a smile. “I’m just asking. What, you think you’d be spoiling it?”

“I don’t want to give anything away,” Jeongguk replied, lifting one hand to brush his thumb along his bottom lip as if trying to grapple with the fact that Jimin had just kissed him until their lips were swollen because he had played a single song on the guitar while singing.

“Okay, well, maybe not the lyrics. What about just the music?” Jimin asked. “On your guitar. Give me something.”

Jeongguk chewed on his bottom lip pensively, but then he sighed and patted his hand along the strings over the sound hole of his guitar. Then he used his fingers to pluck at the strings in the funky melody for “Neon,” one of the songs he had already recorded a guide for that was almost complete. Jimin was hyper-focused on Jeongguk’s fingers the entire time.

“I love that,” he commented the moment Jeongguk finished. “It’s really unique. The beat is kind of funky. What does it sound like when it’s not acoustic?”

“How about you wait until I release the album?” Jeongguk raised his eyebrows.

“You’re no fun,” Jimin said with a pout, and then he scooted forward on his knees. “I love watching you play the guitar, though. Always have. Same with the piano. You still haven’t taught me.”

“What do you mean?”

“You’ve been promising me for years that you would teach me how to play the guitar or the piano,” Jimin pointed out, and then he wiggled his head in a joking fashion as he added, “And you never have.”

“In my defense, we haven’t had a lot of time,” Jeongguk said, and Jimin rolled his eyes.

“Okay well, that doesn’t mean I suddenly stopped wanting to learn.”

Jeongguk braced his guitar more comfortably on his thigh, watching as Jimin’s black hair gently blew in the breeze and trapped in his eyelashes. So many times. Jeongguk had seen Jimin this close so many times, but something was different, undefinable. It was as if they had each been holding one end of a string for four years, and now they were both equally pulling on the string to create tension, but it wasn’t the type of tension that broke bridges. It was… odd. It was the kind of tension Jeongguk could play like the strings of a guitar, a tension he could use to create melodies to explain the harmony or dissonance between the two of them. 

“We’re really going to do this, huh?” Jeongguk asked, suddenly feeling lighthearted. Jimin cocked his head, curious.

“Do what?”

“You’re gonna make me do it. Okay. I see how it is. Like we’re not already a walking, talking cliché,” Jeongguk laughed. “Now we’re gonna do this.”

“What the hell are you talking about?” Jimin asked with an amused but bewildered look.

“Come here.” Jeongguk moved his guitar so that he was standing it upright while holding it by the neck, and then he gestured. “Come sit in my lap, Come on. We’re doing this.”

Jimin snorted, but he crawled and turned around to sit in Jeongguk’s lap while Jeongguk remained cross-legged. He then swung his guitar and rested it on Jimin’s thigh and into Jimin’s hands, peering over Jimin’s shoulder.

“Okay. Hold it like… that.” Jeongguk shifted Jimin’s hands to the right position. “This is a six-string guitar. From the top here…” Jeongguk gently set his fingers over Jimin’s by the neck of the guitar, moving them along. “Sixth string is at the top. That’s E. Then down… A, then D, then G, B, and E. First fret… second fret… third fret…”

“E, A, D, G, B, E,” Jimin repeated back in a whisper, Jeongguk’s hand still over his. Jeongguk wrapped his other arm around Jimin’s waist, chin on Jimin’s shoulder.

“That’s right. Brace your thumb at the top here. Good. Basic guitar chords, ready? Let’s do C. C is like… this.” Jeongguk carefully pointed out where Jimin’s fingers should go, and Jimin scooted his three fingers into place over the strings. “Good. And then you strum.” Jeongguk strummed the guitar for Jimin, seeing Jimin’s smile. “You do it.”

Jimin kept his fingers in place and gently strummed the guitar, pleased. So Jeongguk taught him a few more basic chords, hugging him from behind and letting Jimin move his fingers by himself. Then he explained the simple progression of chords for one of his songs, and he talked Jimin through it, letting Jimin fumble around and laugh at how his fingers had string indentations already, how it felt a little painful.

“I’m fragile,” he joked with a dramatic pout, but then he played an E minor chord with ease. “But sometimes you don’t just strum. You pluck the strings and it sounds so different.”

“That’s for a different lesson, amateur,” Jeongguk teased. 

“Well, what’s that thing?” Jimin gestured to the capo that was lying on the blanket.

“It’s a capo.” Jeongguk grabbed it and squeezed it open, and then he slid it onto the neck of his guitar in the right place. “It raises the pitch so I can play in a different key without having to change my finger positioning or anything.”

“That’s fancy. Can I play some more?”

“Sure, baby. Go ahead.”

“Smooth,” Jimin said with a grin, and Jeongguk just rested against Jimin’s shoulder blade, hugging his waist and trying not to let his ears burn in embarrassment. Stay in the moment. Just be in it. Commit to it. This is all just a perfectly constructed scenario. None of what you’re feeling is real. None of what he’s showing you is real. It’s all just for the songwriting process.

It was hitting Jeongguk in sudden and tumultuous waves. All the warnings he hadn’t heeded from his friends, all of the silent but screaming messages in his head. Friends, friends, friends. That had been the mantra. But right now, when he was chin-deep in the moment, Jeongguk couldn’t hear the mantra anymore. It was nothing more than a faint echo. He had suggested dating Jimin as just a solution to a problem, all fake, just a favor from a friend. In true fashion, Jeongguk hadn’t considered the consequences. He hadn’t gauged his own emotional capacity because it was just Jimin.

But was it just Jimin now?

Because Jimin was goddamn good at it. He hadn’t been kidding when he had told Jeongguk that with a little patience, he could be brilliant at being a temporary and fake boyfriend. Jeongguk had seen hints of it when Jimin had been with Namjoon, but now he was on the receiving end, and it felt so real. Was he an absolute fool for braving the slippery slope? Was he an idiot for constantly trying to remind himself that it was all fake, or was he going to just let himself drown in it?

What if Jimin was really his?

“So next,” Jimin said, shattering through Jeongguk’s moment of deep thought. “I would like to do what all rock stars do.”

“Which is what?” Jeongguk asked.

“Smash your guitar. Here we go, a-a-and one, two—AH!”

Jeongguk pulled the guitar out of Jimin’s hands at the speed of light and set it aside before Jimin could lift it up, and then he threw Jimin out of his lap as Jimin rolled onto the blanket in the opposite direction of the guitar, laughing. Sprawled out with his eyes trained on the stars through the trees, Jimin sighed, and Jeongguk watched him. Observed him. Wondered why he felt the subconscious need to press his hand to his chest, wondered why his stomach felt like it was fluttering.

“Jeongguk-ah?”

“Yeah.” Jeongguk began to pack his guitar back up into the case.

“Are you sure you can write songs from this?” Jimin wondered. “You keep telling me it’s working, but I don’t know if you’re exaggerating or not.”

Jeongguk closed the case and locked it. “I’m not. I have four songs written and recorded already, and they’re going through the last stages of mixing. And I’ll be up late tonight, because I know for a fact I can write another two or three songs with lyrics that I actually like.”

“And then…” Jimin licked his lips and closed his eyes. “When you have all the songs for your album, we can just go back to normal.”

“Yeah.”

“Yeah,” Jimin echoed with a small smile. “But you have to keep coming to my yoga classes. That’s a best friend obligation.”

“As long as you come to my shows. They want me to tour for this album,” Jeongguk divulged, ignoring the way his stomach twisted at the idea of friends. “Travel and all that. They’re putting my promo schedule together. I think I’m filming a music video in late August.”

“Will you let me come to the set like I always do?”

“I would be offended if you didn’t.”

“You know what?” Jimin rolled so that he was lying on his side, and he smiled. “I’ve seen you with other people. Like, other boyfriends. But I never really thought much about it.”

“What do you mean?”

“You’re a good boyfriend.” Jimin propped up on one elbow, using a few fingers to pull at some threads on the blanket absentmindedly. “You’re sweet. Whoever actually has this role for real is in luck.” He gestured to himself in his role as fake boyfriend. “And when that happens, I’ll just have to coach them through it.”

“You know, you were doing so well until you got to that last part,” Jeongguk sighed, and Jimin laughed, sitting up. “Thank you, though. I think I was right, too.”

“About what?”

“You knowing what love is.”

“Maybe I’m just a good actor.” Jimin cleared his throat and looked away for a moment, and then he sat cross-legged again. “Should we have some snacks?”

“Snacks are my love language.” Jeongguk fell onto his back and grabbed his backpack, and then he set it between the two of them, offering up the snacks and soju. He watched Jimin paw through the selection, humming to himself. And all he could think about was how the moment he released his album, he was going to struggle to shift back to normal.

Jeongguk drove Jimin home and dropped him off right before midnight, bashfully accepting Jimin’s praise for how well the date had gone and how much fun he had had. Jeongguk swore he was going to get a speeding ticket on his way home, but he ran into his apartment and went straight for his notepad, wanting to strike when the iron was hot. With one hand pressed to his forehead, he wrote feverishly:

 

I’m not surprised, no lie, think it’s always been there

Didn’t want to admit it out loud 

But you’re chaos and calm, eyes that lay my soul bare

Touch like magic and light and sound

 

If you love me, take me

Every kiss, it claims me

You can play me like your favorite song I sang for you and

Yeah, we’re touch and go but

You know every note and

Now it’s taking over every inch of me, so baby

 

I think those are butterflies

 

***

 

mood: “privacy” by baekhyun

 

“Yah, long time, no see!”

“Hey,” Jeongguk laughed, embracing Jung Hoseok with a few thumps on the back and a smile. Hoseok pulled away and squeezed Jeongguk’s shoulder while running his fingers through his black hair, and then he stepped back and let Kim Namjoon sweep in for a handshake that turned into a short hug.

“You any good at bowling?” Namjoon asked, peering briefly over the top of his glasses at Jeongguk like it made a difference. Jeongguk knew damn well that Namjoon’s eyesight was awful—Jimin had always cracked jokes about how chaotic the morning sex had been between the two of them because Namjoon couldn’t see.

“I don’t suck,” Jeongguk replied as the four of them walked into the busy bowling alley, Jimin quietly taking Jeongguk’s hand and huddling close. “What the hell possessed you to choose bowling for tonight, hyung?” He glanced at Hoseok.

“I mean, we could have gone to dinner, but why do that when we can have pizza and beer and bowl and laugh at Namjoon?” Hoseok asked, and Jimin snickered as Namjoon scoffed.

“I slip one time and that’s the end of it,” he complained. “Should we talk about the time Jimin got drunk enough to surf down the entire lane pretending he was the bowling ball?”

“Listen, I tucked and rolled at the end,” Jimin interjected as Hoseok let out his infectious laugh that Jeongguk loved so much. “I think we could go back to that bowling alley without being kicked out again.”

“So are we playing teams, or is it every man for himself?” Hoseok asked as they approached the counter to grab a lane and some shoes.

“Definitely every man for himself,” Jeongguk declared, and Jimin agreed immediately, always competitive. The four of them grabbed their shoes, paid for their lane, ordered pizza and beer, and then they individually chose a ball that suited them. Jimin tried to choose the lightest neon pink ball that was meant for children, but Namjoon shoved it right into Jimin’s stomach and called him a cheater, demanding that he choose a normal one as Jimin laughed.

Jeongguk had chosen to wear all black and a bucket hat just to be safe, because after the pictures that were leaked from his little show, he wasn’t going to take chances. Anyone could recognize him, especially in spaces where young people hung out. The last thing he needed was another social media tidal wave of people connecting the dots. He had almost asked Jimin to dress down and hide his face, but Jeongguk hadn’t been able to bring himself to do it. So now Jimin was wearing ripped light-wash jeans and a plain white t-shirt, simple but an absolute vision.

“Oldest first,” Hoseok declared, setting the order. He was first, followed by Namjoon, Jimin, and then Jeongguk. Namjoon plopped down on the kidney couch for their lane beside Jeongguk, and Jimin stood in front of them both and contemplated his options.

“Come here,” Jeongguk said, grabbing Jimin around the waist and pulling Jimin right into his lap. Jimin perched comfortably, slinging his arms loosely around Jeongguk’s neck and then kissing the side of his head. Jeongguk didn’t miss the side-eye that Namjoon gave them.

“Dare I ask how the songwriting is going?” Namjoon asked as Hoseok picked up his ball to take his first shot. “Jimin told me the bare minimum about this—” He gestured with a one hand— “situation. Is it working?”

“I’m writing like a fucking fiend, so yeah,” Jeongguk laughed. “It’s working. Hyung’s an inspiration.”

“Gag,” Jimin said, and then he let out a cheer when Hoseok knocked down seven pins in his first go. Hoseok turned and gave finger guns to his audience with a wink, and Namjoon snorted, shaking his head.

“It’ll be interesting,” Namjoon said with a dimpled grin. “To listen to an entire album of songs inspired by Park Jimin himself. Can’t imagine you could write about anything other than how annoying he is.”

“Excuse me,” Jimin said indignantly as Jeongguk snickered, and Hoseok rolled a spare down the lane as Namjoon threw him a thumbs-up. “You know better than anyone else, hyung. I’m very romantic. Ask Jeongguk. I’ve totally wooed him.”

“Are you wooed?” Namjoon asked as he hopped to his feet, ready to take his turn. Jeongguk smacked Jimin’s thigh as Jimin let out a yelp, both of them stifling laughter.

“Very wooed, thank you. Hyung! Leave some for the rest of us!” Jeongguk called out as Hoseok returned victoriously, grinning.

“Our Jiminine is wooing Jeongguk,” Namjoon told Hoseok as he passed by, and Jimin threw up one hand in exasperation. Hoseok and Namjoon’s dynamic with Jimin was always entertaining to watch. They both teased Jimin relentlessly with perpetual fondness, and Jimin gave it back to them in spades, but Hoseok and Namjoon had different approaches. Hoseok teased to get a reaction out of Jimin, whereas Namjoon teased with affection and a subliminal message of sorts. Jeongguk found that he always had to try to read between the lines with Namjoon, but with Hoseok, everything was at face value.

“Oh, God,” Hoseok laughed as he sat down in Namjoon’s spot. “I’ve been hearing about your adventures. Heard you had enough of writing about dumbass men who make relationships toxic.”

“Well, there’s always material, but yeah,” Jeongguk conceded, and Hoseok smirked. “I was advised to try a different angle when I had writer’s block, so I chose to try this.”

“I mean, you did your own stunts in that music video from like, two years ago, so faking a relationship isn’t even surprising,” Hoseok teased. “Bet it’ll be a banger of an album. Your first LP, isn’t it? That’s what Jimin said.”

“First one,” Jeongguk confirmed. “You gonna help style me again?”

“I mean, just say the word,” Hoseok replied graciously. He was a budding and rather successful fashion designer and had an eye for styling, so Jeongguk had entrusted him on more than one occasion for public appearances or music videos in the past few years. Being best friends with Jimin had many perks, one of them being access to his brilliant friends. Hoseok was a designer and Namjoon was a literary agent.

“YAH, WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” Jimin shouted, still on Jeongguk’s lap as he laughed at Namjoon. Namjoon was crouching down at the edge of the lane, face in his hands. Jeongguk snorted as he watched the ball roll merrily down the gutter before disappearing.

“YOU’RE A DISASTER,” Hoseok called out.

“I THOUGHT YOU KNEW YOUR WAY AROUND BALLS!” Jimin hollered, and that was too much for both Hoseok and Jeongguk. They burst into hysterics as Jimin hopped off Jeongguk’s lap just to go play-wrestle Namjoon to keep him from grabbing Jimin’s bowling ball to use while he waited for his ball to return.

The pizza and beer arrived as Namjoon took his second turn and managed to knock a few pins down. Jimin shoved half a piece of pizza into his mouth and chugged a third of his beer before grabbing his neon pink (appropriately sized) ball. He let it hang by his side as he scooted up to the line, and Jeongguk watched while eating his own piece of pizza. Jimin wound up, and then he let the ball smoothly glide with a spin down the lane. It hit the kingpin dead center, and all ten pins fell.

“I hate bowling with him,” Hoseok complained right away as Jimin turned and took a dramatic curtsy.

“Show-off!” Namjoon called out.

“How’s the gutter, hyung?” Jimin fired back as he sauntered up to the table and grabbed his beer with a wink. Jeongguk brushed his hands off, and then he grabbed his ball while still chewing, turning it in his hands as he approached the lane. It was a good shot, but he only grabbed eight pins, leaving two at the back.

“My boyfriend’s so talented,” he heard Jimin sighed dreamily as he stood by and waited for his ball to return.

“You’re an idiot,” Hoseok replied without missing a beat. Jeongguk grinned and grabbed his ball, and then he knocked down the final two pins with ease before returning to the table to drink his beer. Satisfied, he collapsed back onto the couch as Hoseok stepped up to the plate.

“Does it feel like a double date?” Jimin approached and patted Jeongguk’s knee, so Jeongguk uncrossed his legs so that Jimin could sit in his lap again. Jeongguk wrapped an arm around his waist, but then he gulped down the spark of fear that had sprung up. The bowling alley was dark, and he was feeling bold in the moment. Nervously, he slipped his hand underneath Jimin’s t-shirt to gently tracing his fingers along Jimin’s spine.

“No, not really. We’ve hung out like this before,” Jeongguk said, his voice a bit strained, because Jimin was leaning into his touch subconsciously.

“Not much songwriting material here,” Jimin noted. “Sorry about that.”

“Hyung, it doesn’t always have to be about the songwriting,” Jeongguk replied, feeling the goosebumps that were rising along Jimin’s skin as Hoseok and Namjoon swapped places, Hoseok returning to his pizza so Namjoon could try for a better turn, the happy couple both laughing at each other.

“I mean, that’s the whole point of what we’re doing,” Jimin said with laughter in his voice.

“Okay, but that doesn’t mean we can’t just hang out, you know? Enjoy the moment. It doesn’t always have to be forced,” Jeongguk explained. “The more natural it is, the better.”

“As long as you’re sure. I just want to do a good job for you,” Jimin replied as he trained his eyes on his Namjoon. Jeongguk pursed his lips and soaked in Jimin’s words, because they hit him right in the heart. If Jimin’s main focus was just to do a good job, then he was exceeding expectations. But was he oblivious to everything else? Did he notice that Jeongguk was slowly losing his grip on reality?

“Hey.”

“Hmm?” Jimin glanced down at Jeongguk, and Jeongguk froze for a moment, gauging his situation. The scales in his mind were balanced right now. They were walking the fine line. But if he acted now, the scales would tip. It was a calculated risk, or perhaps a reckless risk. But the moment was right there, and Jeongguk was craving it. Having a small moment with Jimin had suddenly become an addiction, a fleeting opportunity to feel something that made his heart run wild.

So Jeongguk used two fingers on Jimin’s chin to turn his head, and then he kissed Jimin just once, slow and sweet. But Jimin lingered. He swayed in towards Jeongguk, and suddenly, the bowling alley didn’t exist. It was all background noise, a soundtrack as Jeongguk kissed Jimin just one more time. But one more time turned into a second kiss, and then a third. They were quiet kisses, but nothing could have prepared Jeongguk for the way the world suddenly seemed to melt away around him. That was new, and exactly the opposite of what he expected.

And it was terrifying. It weighed so heavily on Jeongguk’s mind that he felt paralyzed. He had never meant to take it this far. A few dates. That was the original condition. Kissing and touching like it meant something had never been a part of the deal, and maybe it was one-sided. Truthfully, he should have seen it coming. It was the effervescent and ever-present cliché of falling in love with his best friend. Jeongguk couldn’t even bear the thought of love, but he was now at the stage where he was trying to deny himself the privilege of admitting it, of admitting that he was starting to develop very real feelings for Jimin.

What if the feelings had always been there?

“Okay, break it up, you two are gross,” Namjoon’s voice said, and he tugged on Jimin’s arm, ripping through the moment. Jimin clicked his tongue, irritated, but he hopped off Jeongguk’s lap to take his turn, and Namjoon sat down on the couch beside Jeongguk, Hoseok sitting down on the edge of the couch to egg Jimin on.

“Can I ask you something?” Jeongguk said only to Namjoon, and Namjoon nodded. “What was Jimin like as a boyfriend? Honestly. If you could describe it in a few words.”

“Loyal.” Namjoon didn’t miss a beat. “Never forgot a damn thing. Very affectionate. Attentive. But why are you asking me this? That was years ago. And you two aren’t even a real thing.”

“I was just curious. For science,” Jeongguk joked weakly, and Namjoon snickered. “Just… wanted to know if he was the same with you as he is with me.”

“I mean, you know why we broke up. WAY TO GO, JIMIN-AH!” Namjoon cheered as Jeongguk went through the flashback to that dreadful moment while Jimin pumped his fist after knocking down seven pins. Jimin was the one who had ended the relationship, shockingly. A few years together, a shared apartment, and he had chosen to end it. When Jeongguk had asked why, Jimin had said that he had broken it off because his heart just wasn’t in it anymore, and neither was Namjoon’s. It had been the most peaceful, natural break-up Jeongguk had ever witnessed, but Jimin had been utterly distraught, and rightfully so. He had cried in Jeongguk’s arms, constantly sobbing that he was “lost” and “confused,” that he resented his own feelings, and Jeongguk never pressed the matter any further.

“Yeah. But that doesn’t mean you two weren’t in love when things were good. And that’s what I asked for,” Jeongguk admitted. “When he agreed to help me with this. I asked him to pretend he was in love with me and show me what it would be like.”

“Mm. Well, as long as it’s working,” Namjoon vaguely replied. “And as long as what you’re doing isn’t hurting Jimin. You know him better than anyone, Jeongguk-ah. You know how he is.”

“JEONGGUKIE!” Jimin waved, because it was Jeongguk’s turn, and he didn’t even want to get off the couch. He wanted to sit and pick Namjoon’s brain, try to make sense of what was going on, because emotional turmoil was not something familiar to Jeongguk. When it came to Jimin, Jeongguk had always been so certain of where he stood. But now he had made a mess of things for the sake of his art. Jimin was a part of his creative process, but Jimin was also the most important person in Jeongguk’s life. And what if that meant something? What if the sudden constant craving for Jimin’s loyalty and affection was because years of suppressed feelings were bubbling to the surface?

“Shit,” Jeongguk muttered to himself, shaking his head rapidly like he could stop his brain from thinking. Jimin slid across the floor in his shoes, and then he snaked his arms around Jeongguk’s neck with a radiant smile, pleased with the spare he had just gotten. Jeongguk took one look at Jimin, and all of his resolve shattered on the spot.

He was fucked. He was completely fucked. So while the others took their turns and ate the pizza until it was gone, Jeongguk’s fingers flew across his phone screen, his vision blurring, his throat dry.

 

It weighs heavy on my mind all the time

Hold me down, think I’ll drown

We have nobody to blame but ourselves

Bright and wild, you’re my style

 

Should we fake it? Make it? Take it? What do we do?

This is new.

When you touch me, kiss me, see me, I’m so confused

You’re my muse

 

If I wasn’t such a fool, I’d coming running straight to you, it’s a balance, a balance

But the scales are tipping fast, you’re my first and my last, and you know it, so show it

Chapter Text

[moodboard by cata]

~ ~ ~

He was everywhere, absolutely everywhere. His moans were like a symphony, every single kiss sending Jeongguk deeper into oblivion. Touching his skin was like an electric shock, but Jeongguk was certain he could do it all night. Nothing could possibly compare to having such a beautiful human being on top of him, bodies melting together, and the sweet but filthy words he was whispering, God, Jeongguk was falling—

 

mood: “out of my hands” by shy martin

 

He was alone in bed. A truck passing by outside had jolted Jeongguk out of his light sleep. He was lying on his back with his arms sprawled, tangled in his sheets, and his heart was racing. All he had to do was shift to feel that he was completely hard, dangerously close to a wet dream. Dazed, he closed his eyes, and he swore he could see Jimin’s naked body on his eyelids, even though he had never had the privilege. But the thought alone was enough, and Jeongguk was right on the edge. Sleepy but impossibly horny, he grabbed a pillow, rolled over, positioned the pillow just right underneath his hips, and started to rut against it, burying his head in his arms.

“Fuck, fuck,” he breathed, his eyes still closed as the intensity built up to a boiling point inside him. The very second he remembered what it felt like to have Jimin in his lap kissing him, though, that was it. Jeongguk pressed his mouth into his forearm as he came, hips stuttering, the high bittersweet.

You’re acting like a fucking teenager. That was all Jeongguk could think as he stumbled out of bed to clean himself off and change into something that wasn’t covered in sweat and his own cum. He wiped himself down, exhausted, but his mind was on overdrive. All cleaned up, Jeongguk rolled right back into bed, throwing his used pillow to the floor, and then he grabbed his phone and curled up onto his side, opening his Notes app. Still feeling the faint buzzing of his skin from fading arousal, he wrote:



God, I can’t stop dreaming about you in my bed

‘Cause you kiss me like you want me, so baby, come and take me

Hands on your skin, shit, where do I even begin?

I could touch you all night, all night

 

Let me do what you like, you can set the pace

But my fingers are mapping you out, baby, you feel like

 

Silk

It’s all in my head but the sheets under your body are

Silk

Way you whisper and move, and the taste of your lips



Writing lyrics seemed to be Jeongguk’s way of coping now, his way of coming to terms with the fact that he was slowly losing control of the situation. He was too terrified to talk to anyone about it, because what would they know? They would just tease him relentlessly, give him the good old “I told you so” speech. Yoongi would give him that look. Taehyung would just laugh. Any of Jeongguk’s other acquaintances weren’t even in the loop and had no idea.

Jeongguk forced himself into a light sleep, and he woke up knowing that he had a busy schedule. It was August now, and if he was meant to release his album on his birthday, then the countdown was on. He was supposed to be planning his world tour, too, because apparently most of the venue bookings had been secured. Come mid-October, he was meant to be on the road for a solid six months, taking a break only for Christmas but even going as far as to perform a few songs at those ridiculous radio show Christmas celebrations in America.

“You look like hell.”

“Thanks, I didn’t sleep.” Jeongguk sipped on his own Americano as he handed one over to Yoongi, and Yoongi bowed his head in gratitude. They were supposed to have an absolutely packed day together, mostly recording sessions and meeting with the promo team. Jeongguk was now certain he had six songs that would make it to the album, and the one he had written in the middle of the night would surely be the seventh. There were, of course, a dozen or so other songs he had recorded over the months—all boring. Jeongguk didn’t connect with any of them, but they were in the vault in case of emergency. He couldn’t just sing about vague topics that mean nothing to him, but if push came to shove, he would bite the bullet for the sake of the album.

“Wrote these lyrics,” Jeongguk said, turning his phone and showing it to Yoongi. As Yoongi leaned forward, Jeongguk added, “Thought they’d fit well over that R&B track you gave me two days ago. The one with the fun chord progression, remember?”

“You have a melody?” Yoongi wondered. “These are… interesting lyrics. Should I even ask?”

“No.” Jeongguk locked his phone. “But I do have a melody. We’ll deal with the other tracks first, and then I’ll do a guide for this one and you can tell me if you like it.”

“You know something?” Yoongi leaned back in his chair pensively. “We’ve been together for what, a few years now? I’ve brought in songwriters for sessions, sat with you myself to collaborate and everything, and you’ve never churned out lyrics like this before. You’re fast, but this is… I mean, the melodies you’re coming up with are just… I don’t know, Jeongguk. You went from being in a funk to nearly having enough songs approved for an entire album.”

“So what you’re saying is that there’s a method to my madness.” Jeongguk searched Yoongi’s face for the answer, and Yoongi smirked.

“I still think you’re kidding yourself, but yeah. I’ll give you that.”

Yoongi then spent all day with Jeongguk recording absolutely everything that they needed to complete several songs, and Jeongguk didn’t cringe when he listened to the playback. In fact, his heart began to race when he heard one or two of them, and he decided with Yoongi’s approval that “Neon” would be his first single. The song captured the thrilling rush of new feelings, that first moment when the rollercoaster dropped, that swooping feeling of that first leap from the plane to dive to the ground, and to Jeongguk only, it was perfectly Jimin. The entire album was Jimin, but nobody really knew. Jeongguk, though, was finally excited about what he was doing. The promo team was already dropping hints that Jeongguk was preparing to release a full-length album, so his niche fandom was buzzing eagerly, trying to read between the lines of every single social media post Jeongguk shared. 

“Hey, Jeongguk.”

“What’s up?” Jeongguk glanced up from his dinner that had been delivered, where Seokjin was standing in the doorway with a black baseball cap on.

“Someone from Billboard wants to interview you tonight,” he said, and Jeongguk’s heart skipped. “Said that they want to get the first little interview about your upcoming album. You want to do it?”

“Yeah, sure. What are the questions?” Jeongguk wondered, not wanting to be thrown off by surprise questions.

“I can get a preview of them,” Seokjin replied. “Do you want to blacklist any topics? Should we blacklist personal relationships?”

“If I blacklist it, that will just make it obvious,” Jeongguk pointed out. “So don’t blacklist it. I’ll just… come up with a creative way to answer.”

“Cool. Interview’s at eleven o’clock our time,” Seokjin replied. “I’ll bring you the questions if I can get my hands on them.”

He did manage to get his hands on the questions. While taking a break from recording the guide for “Silk,” Jeongguk read through them as he chewed on a straw he had in his water bottle:

 

  1. What kind of vibe can we expect from your first full-length album?
  2. As your album stands right now, what’s the language split? English? Korean? Both?
  3. You like to keep your music gender-neutral. Will that still hold true?
  4. Do you feel like you’re accepted by the Korean music industry, or has being openly pansexual negatively impacted you?
  5. There have been some rumors flying about you seeing someone. Any details?
  6. We heard you’re touring for this album! Can you confirm?
  7. What do you hope fans will get out of this album?

 

No surprises. Jeongguk had answered so many similar questions before, so nothing about what he was reading was new to him. It would be a phone interview, so the person on the other end wouldn’t have to see his face if he struggled to come up with the right words. Surely he would have to answer in English, so Jeongguk spent most of the fifteen minutes leading up to the interview muttering to himself in English, knowing his accent was still strong despite his relatively fluency but doing his best to make sure his answers made sense.

The girl from Billboard who interviewed him was named Daniela. She introduced herself as a fan, saying she was delighted that she got to interview Jeongguk herself. Jeongguk casually asked if she wanted a signed copy of the album sent to her office, and he swore she almost had a meltdown before saying yes. 

“So, what kind of vibe can we expect from this album?” Daniela asked, jumping into the interview and knowing they were both pressed for time.

“It’s still me,” Jeongguk answered. “My approach is different this time because I’m not writing about breakups, but it’s a pretty chill vibe with a few surprises. I think the song material is pretty different from my norm, but I haven’t lost who I am as a singer. It’s still my signature sound.”

“It already sounds amazing. What’s the language split this time?” Daniela asked.

“With the six songs I have recorded right now, it’s a mix. Three are in English, one is in Korean, and two are an even mix of both. Just depends on the mood I’m in,” Jeongguk replied.

“Speaking of that, you like to keep your music gender-neutral, which I think is great for listeners,” Daniela commended. “Is that the same for this album?”

“Yeah, still the same. No need to throw pronouns into my music when that’s not really something that the songs need,” Jeongguk replied.

“Well, in that same realm, I wanted to ask how you’re faring in your home music industry. A few years ago, you talked about how you chose not to audition to become an idol trainee in South Korea because of your sexuality. Do you think being pansexual has negatively impacted your career in your home country?” Daniela wondered.

“Yeah, of course,” Jeongguk casually replied. “But I knew that going in. It’s exactly why I worked hard to kind of establish a global fanbase. I’m not in this industry for the money or fame. I just want to make good music, and good music shouldn’t be dismissed just because of someone’s sexuality. So no, I don’t think they’ll ever play my songs on the radio here. But I accepted that a long time ago, and I’m really happy with where I’m at right now.”

“That’s really good to hear. Speaking of being happy, I have to ask,” Daniela said, and Jeongguk could hear the excitement in her voice. “A few weeks ago, there were photos that were all over the internet of you backstage with someone. Anything you want to share?”

“Not really,” Jeongguk laughed. “Uh, that’s… yeah. That’s part of my personal life that I’d like to keep personal for now. When the album comes out, you can think of that as my way of sharing.”

“So a few personal songs on this album?” Daniela asked, momentarily off-script.

“Yeah, definitely. All of my songs are personal, but, uh… these songs are personal for a totally different reason,” Jeongguk replied.

“Got it, got it. Well, from what I’ve heard, we can look forward to seeing you on tour. Is that true?”

“Yeah, for sure. Nothing’s set in stone yet, but we’re thinking mid-October in a few different countries,” Jeongguk confirmed. “So please look forward to it.”

“Jeongguk, what is it that you want your fans to get out of this album?”

“Uh…” Jeongguk hesitated, because his silly answer he had concocted earlier didn’t seem to quite fit. “I think… I think maybe I just want fans to kind of… hear what it’s like to fall in love. I mean, obviously it’s the creative process, but I—I just want the album to play like a storyline. And I want it to be relatable, you know? I want people to listen to the lyrics and think, ‘yeah, shit, that’s what it felt like for me, too.’ So I just want them to connect with the music.”

Daniela was pleased with all of Jeongguk’s answers. She thanked him profusely, and when Jeongguk hung up, he saw that he had a few text messages on his personal phone. His heart skipped when he noticed that they were from Jimin.



JIMIN [11:17:25PM]

I’m at a nightclub with a few people from the dance studio

 

JIMIN [11:18:32PM]

I want you here with me

 

JIMIN [11:19:02PM]

Will you come? Just for a little. I’m at MAGENTA.

 

JEONGGUK [11:32:51PM]

Hey, I just finished a phone interview with Billboard, sorry I didn’t answer

 

JEONGGUK [11:33:40PM]

I can come for an hour or so if you still want me there

 

JIMIN [11:35:04PM]

I haven’t seen you in a week :( Please come



Jeongguk couldn’t say no to a sad face. It didn’t even matter that he wasn’t exactly dressed for a nightclub. He could take some clothes from his stash at the company. Suddenly not tired anymore, he rummaged through the selection until he found a pair of black jeans and a black t-shirt, and then he shoved a black cap on his head to hide his hair and shrugged into an oversized black jacket. Nightclubs and pubs were the places where Jeongguk was instantly recognized by fans, so he didn’t want to take any chances. He didn’t bother to doll himself up for the nightclub—he was sticking to something simple.

MAGENTA was a popular nightclub in Itaewon, and Jeongguk glanced at his phone for a time check just to see if he had missed the hourly rainstorm of confetti that fell from the ceiling. It was coming up on midnight, so surely he’d catch at least one burst of rainbow colors before leaving.

I can’t believe I’m going out of my way to meet him at a nightclub, Jeongguk thought as he hopped into his taxi. In the past, Jimin had tried to coerce him into a night out, but Jeongguk was an introvert and typically avoided most social scenes, so he had always declined. Now, though, he was already halfway to the club without even considering what could be awaiting him or how packed it would be. That alone suggested to Jeongguk that he was now in the stages of chasing Jimin around like a lovesick puppy.

There was no line to get into MAGENTA, which Jeongguk considered a miracle. He slipped through the front entrance and into the bedlam, the floor illuminated, the colors aesthetically pleasing, confetti all over the dance floor. Jeongguk walked slowly, knowing that he was dressed quite the opposite from other patrons, his eyes scanning the environment, knowing he could easily pick Jimin out of a crowd. It took him less than a minute of searching.

Jimin was up on one of the large steps near the dance floor with four other people who looked to be paired off, making Jimin the odd man out. But they were all dancing together, drinks in their hands. Jeongguk weaved through the crowds, because he only had eyes for Jimin, and Jimin was a sight to behold. He was wearing black vinyl pants and a pale orange cropped shirt with a black and white leather jacket, and his eye make-up matched his shirt. He had rings on almost all of his fingers and all of his earrings were in, including his bellybutton piercing. It was a screaming reminder that Jimin loved to ditch the barefaced, natural yoga look sometimes to go for a glitz and glamour look, and Jeongguk was hopelessly addicted to both.

“Hyung!”

Jimin whipped his head and spotted Jeongguk almost immediately, and his face split into a radiant smile, because even over the music and noise, he had heard Jeongguk calling him. He shoved through his friends and reached his arm out, and Jeongguk took his hand.

“You made it!” Jimin said excitedly, beaming. “Hey! HEY! Guys! This is my boyfriend! He’s here!”

The three guys and one girl with Jimin all hollered their greetings, one of them nudging Jimin in a teasing fashion with a grin. Jeongguk slipped his arm around Jimin’s shoulder and kissed the side of his head, knowing full fucking well that being in a nightclub always made him more affectionate and far more courageous than he would be in any other setting. It was the dim lighting, the idea that nobody knew who he was, that appealed to him so strongly. But even in such a tantalizing atmosphere, Jeongguk flinched in surprise at the sound of Jimin openly shouting that Jeongguk was his boyfriend.

“Thank you for coming,” Jimin said as he turned and wrapped his arms around Jeonguk’s neck. “I was the fifth wheel. I don’t usually care, but I—I just wanted to see if you’d come. Besides, night clubs are great places to find inspiration for songwriting.”

“Well, now you’re not the fifth wheel.” Jeongguk set his hands on Jimin’s waist, and then he let out a laugh, his stream of consciousness taking over. “Jesus, you look so hot.”

“You think so?” Jimin grinned and winked, and then he arched his body right into Jeongguk. Jeongguk gripped his waist tighter, startled by the sudden physical contact, the way Jimin seemed to be moving to the beat of the music subconsciously while in Jeongguk’s arms. “Thanks. You know, there are great songs about dancing at clubs. You should take me to the dance floor and show me off a little.”

“You know I’m not much of a dancer,” Jeongguk said with a breath of laughter.

“That’s bullshit,” Jimin called right away. “You could easily be the main dancer and center of a fucking idol group. Don’t lie to me. You’re just shy.”

“Hyung,” Jeongguk whined, dropping his head as Jimin snickered. But then Jimin cupped both hands at the back of Jeongguk’s neck, kissed Jeongguk’s cheek, and whispered in his ear.

“Just one dance, baby. Please.”

“You little shit,” Jeongguk said as Jimin burst out laughing, taking Jeongguk’s hand. “You can’t use that against me, that’s—okay, fine. One dance.”

“Two?”

“No.”

“So three. Got it! Come on!” Jimin declared, absolutely radiant with glee as he led Jeongguk down the wide steps to the illuminated dance floor. Jeongguk spun Jimin with one hand, and then he wrapped his arm around Jimin’s waist from behind as Jimin melted back into him like they were two perfect puzzle pieces. Jeongguk didn’t know the song that was playing, but it didn’t matter. Jimin moved as naturally as he breathed, and Jeongguk had a sense of rhythm. He followed Jimin’s lead, followed the sway of his hips, savored the way that Jimin’s hands seemed to have a mind of their own.

And Jimin was right. It wasn’t just one dance. It wasn’t just two. By the third song, Jeongguk forgot that he had whined in the first place about dancing with Jimin, because how could he have been so reluctant? Here was Jimin, sexy as sin and eager to dance, body pressed against Jeongguk’s willingly, and Jeongguk was losing his mind. Suddenly, the dream he had had about stripping Jimin down and pleasuring him well into the night wasn’t so far-fetched. It was unrealistic given their situation, but Jeongguk’s thought patterns were erratic. He couldn’t hear the resounding “FAKE” in his head anymore. All he could hear was the music, and all he could feel was Jimin. 

He was everywhere, absolutely everywhere.

“God, you’re so—” Jimin spun around in Jeongguk’s arms, and it was magnetic, the way their lips met.

Danger, danger, danger.

But the flashing lights and alarm bells meant nothing to Jeongguk. It was the heat of the moment to him and nothing else, because it couldn’t be anything else. There were little reminders everywhere that Jimin still saw what they were doing as a transitory favor, that any flirting or advances or even kissing were just because of how he felt at that specific moment in time. So Jeongguk just let it happen like a fool. He gripped Jimin’s hair in one hand and made out with him in the middle of a club like it was foreplay before they fucked in the bathroom. He messed up Jimin’s hair, bit Jimin’s lip and swallowed the little moans that escaped with eagerness, dug his fingernails into Jimin’s waist until he left his mark. 

“Christ, you’re such a good kisser,” Jimin said breathlessly when they broke apart. “Seriously, you’re just—fuck. You’re so good.”

“And you’re not?” Jeongguk leaned his forehead against Jimin’s forehead with a laugh, dizzy.

“To be honest—” Jimin adjusted the brim of Jeongguk’s hat, seemingly unbothered by Jeongguk’s coat and entire fit— “I just kiss you hoping that maybe it’ll spark some inspiration. There are tons of songs out there about kissing, right? Bet you could write a good one.”

“What if I already have?” Jeongguk asked, his chest feeling slightly hollow at the figurative slap in the face Jimin had just handed him. Right. Another reminder that I’m a moron for falling into my own trap. He only kisses me out of obligation.

“Well, since you won’t let me hear any of your songs, I’ll just have to keep kissing you,” Jimin sighed with a dramatically feigned frown as Jeongguk rolled his eyes. “Dance with me again?”

So Jeongguk did. He danced about four more songs with Jimin, twirling him around as they both laughed, pulling away when things felt too intense or when he felt like he was losing himself. But Jimin never flinched, never missed a beat. He was clearly buzzed on the alcohol he had consumed before Jeongguk’s arrival, but he had phenomenal self-control.

When the confetti exploded from the ceiling at one o’clock, Jimin laughed and brushed some of it off Jeongguk’s hat, but Jeongguk could only think about what time it was and how he had to be at the company early in the morning.

 

mood: “die for you” by léon

 

“Hyung, I have to get going,” Jeongguk said, arm around Jimin’s waist as Jimin waved to his friends nearby. “I need to be at the company early. It’s late.”

“That’s okay. I’ll come with you. Will you drop me off first if you take a taxi?” Jimin asked, gripping Jeongguk’s jacket.

“Yeah, of course. I will. Let’s—wait, hold on.” Jeongguk rubbed Jimin’s back and then pulled out his phone as it vibrated in his pocket. He had a stream of text messages, so he unlocked his phone and read:



GLE SEOKJIN [01:01:02AM]

Are you at MAGENTA?

 

GLE SEOKJIN [01:01:52AM]

Because someone called me and said there are fans waiting outside the club to see you

 

GLE SEOKJIN [01:02:16AM]

And a few tabloids who want to get pictures

 

GLE SEOKJIN [01:03:02AM]

Fuck it, I’m coming to MAGENTA to pick you up. Be there in 10.



“Shit,” Jeongguk cursed, and Jimin heard.

“What’s wrong?”

“Someone must’ve recognized me. Seokjin hyung just texted me and said there are fans waiting outside, and the media,” Jeongguk said, rubbing his mouth with a few fingers. “Fucking hell. He’s coming to pick me up.”

“How would they have recognized you?” Jimin wondered. “Wouldn’t they have come over to talk to you?”

“It might not have been here. Sometimes they wait outside of the company to see where I go when I leave,” Jeongguk pointed out. “They might have followed the taxi here. I’m no fucking idol, but I’ve had people do things like that. Crowds at airports. Shit, why now?”

“Jeongguk, it’s fine,” Jimin said, but Jeongguk shook his head.

“No, you have to stay here with your friends. Let me leave by myself,” Jeongguk insisted, but Jimin arched one eyebrow.

“I’m not doing that.” He licked his lips and then set his hands on his hips. “I said I was leaving with you so you could drop me off. Seokjin-ssi knows where I live. I’m not scared of your fans or the tabloids, Jeongguk-ah. It’s never bothered me.”

“Okay, but it—it bothers me,” Jeongguk emphasized. “I don’t need them harassing you.”

“I’m a big boy,” Jimin replied. “Please bring me home.” Then he pouted, and Jeongguk caved.

“Okay, fine. But—hold on, hold on.” Jeongguk answered his phone despite the volume of the music and the loud chatter in the nightclub. “Hey, are you out front?”

“I’m out front,” Seokjin confirmed loudly so Jeongguk could hear. “What the fuck are you doing at MAGENTA of all places?”

“Jimin hyung asked me to come for a little,” Jeongguk replied, and even though it was loud, he could hear Seokjin’s quiet laugh.

“Alright, fine. Shit, wait, is he coming with you?”

“Yeah. He wants you to take him home.”

“Hope he likes thirty or so screaming girls and a half-dozen men with cameras.”

“Thanks for the heads-up,” Jeongguk replied, and then he hung up with a sigh. Jimin was just standing by, swaying happily to the music, waiting for the signal to leave. Jeongguk pursed his lips, and then he stared at his best friend. Stared at the man he felt so much for so suddenly. Had he really been so blind? Had he really spent four years missing what was right in front of his face? Not that Jimin felt an ounce of anything for him, but Jeongguk felt like an idiot. How could he not have realized how wonderful Jimin was?

“Here.” Jeongguk shrugged out of his jacket, and then he immediately draped it around Jimin’s shoulders, covering him almost to his knees. Then he took his hat off, ruffled his blonde hair, and combed Jimin’s hair back before placing the cap on his head.

“Jeongguk, what are you doing?” Jimin said, amused. “I don’t need any of this. Are you ashamed of me or the way I’m dressed?”

“What? No, no, what—God, no,” Jeongguk said, fumbling. “Shit, I’m not—no, you look gorgeous. That’s not why I’m covering you up. I just… It’s complicated, okay?”

“Doesn’t seem very complicated.” Jimin narrowed his eyes, tugging at the jacket.

“I don’t…” Jeongguk took a deep breath, trying to swallow his fear. “I don’t want any of them to see you like this. The way I see you. I—I don’t want them to harass you or take pictures of you. That’s all.”

It was instant. Jimin hugged the jacket tighter around himself, not slipping his arms in but using it to cover his body by pinching it together at his sternum. Then he pulled the hat lower over his eyes, and Jeongguk breathed a small sigh of relief.

“I’m sure it won’t be bad,” he said. “But please stay with me. Don’t leave my side.”

“I won’t.”

So Jeongguk, now in short sleeves and without a hat but also without the energy to care, led Jimin to the front doors of MAGENTA. Jimin held onto the back of Jeongguk’s bicep as they walked outside, and the moment they did, the people waiting in the street converged. They called out Jeongguk’s name, proclaimed their love to him, and a few cameras flashed.

“JEONGGUK OPPA! I LOVE YOU!”

“Get out of the way!”

“Oppa, take a picture with me!”

“Jeongguk-ssi, who’s your friend?”

“OPPA, PLEASE!”

Jeongguk kept his head down, but when he saw someone reaching out towards Jimin, he cut through with his arm and shoved Jimin behind him and out of harm’s way. Jimin just kept his hand on Jeongguk’s back between his shoulder blades as they walked halfway down the street, where Seokjin’s black Hyundai was waiting for them. Jeongguk held open the car door and let Jimin slide in first, and then he tumbled in after, closing the door and sealing them inside the safe vacuum of the car, a few shouts and camera flashes still following them.

“Buckle in,” Seokjin said from the driver’s seat. “Hey, Jimin. Good to see you.”

“Hey,” Jimin said with a grin, pulling the hat off and shrugging out of Jeongguk’s jacket. Jeongguk, though, was buckled in and bent at the waist, covering his face with his hands as he tried to breathe. “Jeonggukie? Jeongguk. Hey.”

“Shit, I’m sorry,” Jeongguk whispered as Jimin slid to the middle seat to buckle in so he was close to Jeongguk. “I’m sorry, that was a lot.”

“Jeongguk,” Jimin laughed, resting his head on Jeongguk’s shoulder and linking their elbows together. “That was nothing. You’re worrying for no reason. You don’t have to apologize. They were just your fans. I’m okay. I’m totally fine. I’m not scared or anything. Hey.”

Jeongguk finally looked up, his eyes meeting Jimin’s, their faces only a centimeter or so apart. Up close, Jimin was heartachingly stunning. His smokey orange eye make-up was perfect, even had some glitter to it. Full lips, defined cheekbones, eyes flooded with concern, black hair mussed. Jeongguk couldn’t stop himself—he leaned in and kissed Jimin softly, and he felt Jimin smile.

“Stop, I’m right here. Just breathe,” Jimin insisted, massaging Jeongguk’s thigh with one hand. “You’re panicking for nothing.”

“I just didn’t—I didn’t want anyone to bother you,” Jeongguk managed to say, feeling lightheaded. “And I put you in that situation.”

Jimin laughed, setting his forehead on Jeongguk’s shoulder for a moment.

“Jeongguk, it was a one-minute walk to the car with maybe thirty or forty people following us,” Jimin said. “So they got a few pictures and videos. You’re making it out to be so much worse than it was. Besides, you know I can handle myself. That kind of thing doesn’t bother me. I know that it comes with the territory, you know? Of being your best friend.”

“You’re right. You’re right, it’s not that big of a deal. Hyung, how did they find me?” Jeongguk asked, leaning forward to address Seokjin.

“Pretty sure they saw you get into a taxi at the company and followed you to MAGENTA,” Seokjin replied, shaking his head. “And you know how Dispatch loves a good scandal. They were probably hoping you’d do something stupid.”

“And all you did was walk out with a friend,” Jimin said with a chuckle. “They can spin that tale all they want. Let them. They have nothing.”

“It’s been getting worse lately,” Jeongguk said as they careened through the city streets. “Not in a bad way, it’s just—how do I explain it? It’s like I’m more famous now than I was a year ago at this time.”

“Bound to happen,” Seokjin said, glancing in his rearview mirror. “You’re talented. You’re young. You’re relatable. People your age love you. You’re gaining popularity overseas, too, and you’re about to release your first full-length album. So yeah, of course it’s getting worse. People are treating you like a real celebrity now.”

“So what you’re saying is that I should never leave my house,” Jeongguk declared, and Jimin let out a bark of laughter.

“Don’t be so dramatic,” he teased. “Besides, you still have to finish the album, which means we need a few more dates. You’ll have to leave the house. And even when we’re done faking it, you still have to come to my yoga classes.”

“Not yoga,” Jeongguk groaned jokingly, and Jimin whacked his chest with a laugh. Then he cozied into Jeongguk’s shoulder, and they rode in silence for a moment. Then, quietly, Jimin took Jeongguk’s hand and laced their fingers together.

“Thank you,” he whispered. “Thank you for coming tonight. I normally don’t feel lonely, but… but I did. And you showed up even though it was late. You’re the best friend I could have ever asked for.”

“Anything for you,” Jeongguk murmured, but he felt tempted to cry. No, don’t call me your friend. I don’t want to hear that. I think I have real feelings for you, and you keep saying I’m just your friend. I can’t take it anymore.

But he said nothing. Instead, he just squeezed Jimin’s hand as Seokjin pulled up to Jimin’s building, and Jimin cheerfully said goodnight before hopping out of the car and skipping up to doors, disappearing inside. Seokjin didn’t immediately pull away from the curb. He placed his elbow on the center console and twisted his upper body to stare at Jeongguk, who was slouched in his seat.

“You wanna talk about it?” Seokjin asked, and Jeongguk wanted to refuse. He wanted to tell Seokjin to piss off like he had so many times before, because even though they went well past the manager-artist relationship, Jeongguk still never let Seokjin interfere with his personal business. But this felt different, and Jeongguk was on the verge of exploding.

“I fucked up,” he said, staring out the window. “I never should have asked him to fake a relationship with me. I fucked up, hyung.”

“Is that code for catching feelings?” Seokjin raised his eyebrows, which Jeongguk saw from his peripheral vision. He continued to stare out the window, though, because he couldn’t bring himself to look Seokjin in the eye.

“I’m just his best friend. And he reminds me of that non-stop. But I’m an idiot. I fucked up,” Jeongguk repeated in a strained voice. “Just take me home, please.”

Seokjin, to his credit, didn’t press the issue or prompt Jeongguk for further information. He could have, because he loved taking the shit out of Jeongguk, but perhaps he could tell that Jeongguk was visibly distressed. So he drove Jeongguk home, but before Jeongguk got out of the car, Seokjin held out a hand and stopped him.

“Listen,” he said quietly. “I’m not really the best at giving advice. But channel it into your songwriting. You might be able to kind of work out your shit if you write it down. You’ve always been good at that.”

“Thank you,” Jeongguk whispered, and then he hopped out of the car and walked with his head down into his building. His ears rang the entire time he was in the elevator, and his footsteps echoed like thunder in the hallways—or was he just exhausted? Jeongguk used a heavy finger to punch in his code, and the door beep and unlocked. Using one shoulder, Jeongguk shoved the door open and let it fall shut on its own accord, and then he stared into the darkness of his apartment, hating that he was alone.

Channel it into your songwriting.

Jeongguk walked like he was in a dream towards his bedroom, and then he sat on his bed and pulled out his guitar, propping it on his thigh. He hadn’t sat and composed a song on the spot in months, but as his fingers started plucking the strings, he closed his eyes and just let it come to him.

The clock ticked over to three in the morning, and then four in the morning. But still, Jeongguk continued to play, his notebook right beside him with a pen that he kept clenching between his teeth so he could play. And the lyrics poured out of him like the tears that he wouldn’t let fall:



Spotlight on. I’m not chained up, but you never know

Confession or obsession? And what do I even gain?

To myself, did it big, are you gonna let me go?

You’ll be the death of me, body to a speeding train

 

(Say it, say it, say it)

Can’t believe it happened when I didn’t even ask for it and

(Say it, say it, say it)

Magnetized, friend in disguise, I’m paralyzed

 

Dreaming of your body, of your touch, of your skin

Dreaming of the way you whisper, where do I begin?

Fuck it, I’m in love

Fuck it, I’m in love with you

 

***

 

Life suddenly seemed to be moving at double speed. Jeongguk found himself at the company almost every single day, getting approval for his songs and recording and rambling on and on in meetings about the concept he was seeking. He was dragged in for a day-long photoshoot for the physical album itself, and the photos came out exactly as Jeongguk had hoped. He had eight songs on his tracklist so far, and he was diligently brainstorming for a ninth and final track, because he wanted nine songs. But regardless, Yoongi was convinced that the album was a done deal. It clocked in at thirty-two minutes with eight songs, so the ninth song was just a formality. But to Jeongguk, the album wasn’t quite done. The story was missing one crucial piece, and Jeongguk couldn’t quite decide what it was.

He had decided, however, on the concept for his music video. “Neon” would be the first single, and the music video would be in black and white until someone, that special someone, touched Jeongguk repeatedly, dragged their hands along his body, and when that happened, it would be neon. There would be different scenes—a nightclub, a bedroom, just Jeongguk underneath a bunch of neon flashing signs in monochrome.

“This isn’t gonna go well.”

“What do you mean?” Seokjin sat down on the edge of the stage beside Jeongguk. They had rented out Lo-Fi specifically to film the nightclub scene, and there were about one hundred extras packed into the small space with the film crew all around. One of the break rooms had been temporarily transformed into a bedroom for the other scenes. Yoongi had spared no expense, and Jeongguk was grateful, but he also felt hollow.

“I don’t know. These scenes,” Jeongguk said, wringing his gloves hands together. He was wearing black leather pants and a black lace see-through top with a black leather jacket, the gloves fingerless and made of lace and leather. His stylist had put a streak of black in his blonde hair, and Jeonguk knew that he looked good, but looking good wasn’t enough for a music video.

“Which scenes?” Seokjin prompted.

“I can’t get into it,” Jeongguk quietly admitted. “And I know that when I watch the playback, I’ll hate it. I don’t even know the dancer they picked to put his hands all over me. The guy’s gonna fucking be in bed with me and I don’t even know him.”

“Don’t be so dramatic. It’s his hands. That’s it. That’s the shot. Hands. The audience won’t even know the damn gender, so take a deep breath,” Seokjin advised, and Jeongguk sighed, rolling his eyes.

“You’re missing the point.”

“You think it’ll come across as fake,” Seokjin guessed, and Jeongguk hummed. “Because it’s your first major music video. It’s not just you strumming a guitar or playing the piano.”

“Just be honest with me,” Jeongguk requested, glancing over at his manager. “I want you to watch the footage. And if it sucks and I look like an idiot, you have to tell me.”

“You know I’m always honest with you.”

“Good. Keep that up.”

“You’ll be fine. Now go, we’re wasting time,” Seokjin said, and then he clapped his hands. “YAH, JEONGGUK’S READY!”

Jeongguk got into place with a smile and a few bows at all the extras around him who said hello. “Neon” began to play through the speakers with its funky bassline and drum machine nuances, and Jeongguk mentally allowed himself a moment to pat himself on the back in pride, because he’d written a damn good song, and he and Yoongi had collaborated like two gods to come up with a killer track. There was no denying it. Jeongguk typically didn’t like to brag about his music, because he always swore there was room for improvement, but this song was goddamn good.

Right on cue, Jeongguk glanced up at the camera and began to walk towards it, slipping through the crowds of dancing extras, pausing every now and again as he sang his own lyrics. Then, the extra designated as Jeongguk’s love interest cut diagonally across him, dragging one hand slowly over Jeongguk’s chest as he did, and Jeongguk closed his eyes, rolling his neck and trying to imagine what it would feel like it Jimin had walked past him and done the same.

“CUT. GOOD, GOOD. JEONGGUK-SSI, COME SEE,” the director called out, so Jeongguk cut through the crowds with apologetic bows and came to watch the footage with crossed arms, letting the stylist fuss with his hair as he stared. Seokjin was right by his side loyally, and they both watched with a keen eye.

“It’s shit.”

“It’s not shit.”

“It’s shit,” Jeongguk said with a laugh. “I mean, it’s passable to everyone else. But I look bored. It’s—No, we can’t use that. Let me try it again, please. Can I do another take?”

The director didn’t complain at all, nor did the extras. Jeongguk did a second take, but he hated it all the same, so he did a third take. In the third take, he drowned his mind in the moments he and Jimin had danced together at MAGENTA, and when the dancer touched his chest, Jeongguk came to a halt, remembering the way his heart always raced when Jimin touched him like that. And because of only those thoughts, the third take was usable. 

“THANK YOU TO OUR EXTRAS!” the director hollered, leading a round of applause. It was close to dinnertime, and they had been shooting since mid-morning. The extras all began to trickle out of Lo-Fi, and the director requested that Jeongguk take a short break before moving along to the bedroom scenes. Preemptively disappointed in himself, Jeongguk walked off to the side to pace by with his hands on his hips, head down, eyes trained on the floor as he tried to give himself a pep talk.

It’s just a music video. It’s all fake, just like your fucking relationship with Jimin. Seokjin is right. It’s just the guy’s hands. I’m not filming a damn sex scene. It’s harmless. Just pretend. Just pretend it’s him

“What are you sulking about?”

Startled, Jeongguk lifted his head, his heart leaping. There was Jimin, having just walked down the long hallway that led to the back parking lot, like he had stepped out of Jeongguk’s mind. He was wearing ripped jeans and a plain blue t-shirt with a flannel around his waist and sunglasses on, and suddenly, all of Jeongguk’s frustration washed away. He whipped his head around to make sure that it was okay for Jimin to even be on the set, but then he caught Seokjin’s eye. Seokjin held up his phone, wiggled it, and then tucked it away with a smirk, turning back to speak to the director. Jeongguk narrowed his eyes, but the gratitude outweighed his misplaced bellyaching. 

“What are you doing here?” he asked Jimin with a smile, and Jimin ran his fingers through his hair and removed his sunglasses, shoving them up to the top of his head.

“You look so fucking hot,” he said without hesitation, and Jeongguk felt his ears burn as he snickered to hide his embarrassment. “Why are you all pissy?”

“Good to see you too, hyung.”

“Yeah, thanks. What’s going on?” Jimin asked, thumbs hooked in the back pockets of his jeans as he stared at Jeongguk. 

“I’m…” Jeongguk used his thumbnail to scratch the side of his nose. “I’m having trouble. With the music video shoot. I can’t get into the mood.”

“What’s the mood?” Jimin wondered, sitting in one hip.

“I already shot the club scenes,” Jeongguk asid, gesturing behind him. “It’s—the music video will be in black and white, but when the extra they hired to be my love interest touches me, it’ll look like neon colors on me. Does that make sense?”

“It does. Very artsy.”

“So now we’re doing a bedroom scene.”

“Oh? Scandalous,” Jimin teased, and Jeongguk rolled his eyes. “Let me guess—they’ll touch you, and it’ll be like neon colors.”

“Exactly.” Jeongguk used the top of his hand to dab along his jaw in case he was sweating, and then he said, “And I have no fucking idea how I’m going to make it look realistic. It’s just a shot of me, you know? The only thing they’ll see of the extra is they’re hands. But I have to fake it.”

“And that’s where you’re having trouble,” Jimin stated, and Jeongguk shrugged.

“Yeah. I’m just being a brat about it, but honestly, it’s a big deal. This is my first major music video, you know?” Jeongguk said in a pained voice. “Like, before, it was just me with a guitar or the piano or something simple.”

“But now you have an actual budget,” Jimin noted, his eyes flicking around the room. “Okay. Are you on a break?”

“For a few more minutes.”

“Where’s the bedroom?” Jimin wondered, and Jeongguk narrowed his eyes.

“Uh, it’s in the break room.”

“Okay.” Jimin turned on his heels and began to march down the hallway, and halfway there, he glanced over his shoulder. “Come on, Jeon. Let’s see some hustle.”

Jeongguk looked over to see if Seokjin was babysitting him or if his stylists were trying to hound him, but they were all otherwise occupied. So Jeongguk quickly jogged down the hallway to trail after Jimin, pointing out the break room that had been temporarily transformed. They both stepped into the room, and Jimin shut the door behind them, drowning out any background noise.

“So basically,” Jeongguk began to explain, walking towards the bed, “I have to be on the bed, and the cameras will be right—what are you doing?”

When Jeongguk turned around to gesture as to where the cameras would be, Jimin was immediately in his space, backing him up. The backs of Jeongguk’s thighs hit the bed, and Jimin used two fingers against Jeongguk’s chest to push him back. Jeongguk fell onto the bed, startled, and then his heart leapt into his throat when Jimin untied his flannel and climbed onto the bed, straddling Jeongguk. He ran his hands up Jeongguk’s body and then grabbed his wrists, gently lifting his arms until they were pinned by Jeongguk’s head. He stared down at Jeongguk with a mischievous sparkle in his eyes and a grin that matched his movements.

“Now you be a good boy and cooperate so I can get you in the mood,” he said in a singsong voice, and he and Jeongguk both stifled laughter, even though Jeongguk was internally screaming and already on the brink of being aroused. Jimin released Jeongguk’s hands, and then he cocked his head to the side. “All they’re going to do is touch you, right? Put their hands on you.”

“Yeah.”

“Close your eyes.”

Jeongguk closed his eyes immediately, and then he felt Jimin’s hands across his chest, knuckles on his neck, fingers tracing his jaw and carding through his hair. It was pure fucking bliss, the way Jimin touched him. Jeongguk bit his bottom lip, and that was when Jimin chose to drag his hands down Jeongguk’s chest. Jeongguk inhaled sharply and arched up into the touch, and then he felt Jimin’s hand glide back up his chest to his throat before settling on his jaw.

“When you’re on this bed,” Jimin whispered, and Jeongguk swore he blacked out as he listened to Jimin’s voice like it was hypnosis, “and those cameras are rolling and they’re touching you, I want you to imagine that it’s me.”

“H-Hyung,” Jeongguk choked out, because then he felt Jimin rock his hips while running his hands up Jeongguk’s chest again.

“Shh.” Jimin bent until his lips were brushing Jeongguk’s, and Jeongguk stopped breathing. “Just pretend. You have to pretend. You close your eyes and you pretend that it’s me. It’s just us, no one else. It’s just me touching you. Can you do that?”

“Y-Yes.”

“Good. Because here comes the crew.”

Jimin disappeared so abruptly that Jeongguk actually let out a strangled noise, rocketing upright as he opened his eyes. He watched as Jimin snatched his flannel up off the floor, grinning like he had just pulled off a fantastic trick, and when he opened the door, it took no more than five seconds for Seokjin and a few other crew members to waltz in, dragging cameras and everything with them.

“You ready to get started?” Seokjin asked as the camera crew set up and the director started chatting with the extra off to the side, explaining the scene. Jimin had disappeared into the far corner of the room, and Seokjin’s expression said that he knew exactly what he had been doing by inviting Jimin to the set. Jeongguk was still in a mild state of shock and he was fighting a hard-on, his mind racing.

“I’m—yeah. I’m ready. But if he’s going to be in the room, then don’t play the song. Or get him out,” Jeongguk hissed. “I don’t want him to hear it yet.”

“Why, because it’s about him?” Seokjin asked rhetorically, but then he nudged Jeongguk with a snicker and went off to ask the director if they could cut out the playback. Jeongguk rubbed his hands together nervously, and then he watched as Jimin slipped around the back of everyone in the room and stood beside Seokjin, a familiar face.

The director talked Jeongguk through some of the shots that she wanted, all different ways of the extra touching Jeongguk that they could capture on camera. Jeongguk stuttered nervously a little, but he agreed to it as long as she was talking him through it, and the extra bowed to him and introduced himself and said he was a big fan, which put Jeongguk at ease.

“Okay, first one! No playback, please! Quiet!” the director called, circling her hand in the air. The cameras began to roll as Jeongguk stood with the backs of his thighs to the bed. The camera was at just the right angle. “First move… push… good, good. Cut! Very nice. Next one?”

Jeongguk sat up, because the extra had gently pushed him with two hands onto the bed, almost exactly like Jimin had minutes ago. They moved swiftly to the next shot, where the extra glided one hand up Jeongguk’s chest to force him to lie down on the bed, and Jeongguk closed his eyes for a moment, imagining that Jimin was still straddling him.

“Good, next shot! Great job, Jeongguk-ssi,” the director praised. Jeongguk laid back on the bed, but as he lowered, he caught Jimin’s eye. Jimin had his arms crossed with a small smile on his lips, and he nodded once at Jeongguk in encouragement. Jeongguk took a deep breath, and then he closed his eyes. As the cameras rolled, the extra damn near mimicked Jimin’s movements, running his hand up Jeongguk’s chest to his neck, then to his jaw and up into his hair, leaving a trail of neon that would be edited in later if the shot was used. Jeongguk let out a little breath when all he could hear was Jimin whispering in his ear, and knowing that Jimin was standing in the room was just a bonus.

The scenes flew by. Jeongguk liked almost all of the footage, and even when Jimin had to run out to go teach a dance class, Jeongguk still maintained his confidence. Having Jimin watch him had made him feel immortal, especially when the song was about him.

“Okay, playback!” The director beckoned to whoever was controlling the music, and now that Jimin was gone, they had the all-clear for Jeongguk to lip-synch along for some scenes in the bedroom. Without the extra, they asked for Jeongguk to lie on the bed or roll on the bed or sit on the bed in some fashion while singing the chorus, which contained a killer melody and lyrics that reminded Jeongguk so strongly of Jimin that he almost missed his cue:



Kiss me in the dark, see the spark, woah-oh

Yeah, you light me up

Fingers on my skin, shiverin’, woah-oh

Got a neon touch

You’re all dark hair and bright eyes and a little bit of love

So kiss me in the dark, see the spark, woah-oh

Got that neon rush



The shoot wrapped successfully, but Jeongguk’s mind was so far gone from Lo-Fi that he nearly forgot to bow and thank all of the staff. He changed out of his music video outfit and into his large sweatpants and oversized sweatshirt, and then he pulled the hood up and grabbed his backpack to sling over his shoulder. Knowing Seokjin was waiting out back with the car, Jeongguk pulled his phone out and let his fingers fly across the screen.



JEONGGUK [10:43:24PM]

Hyung, thank you so much for helping me today, you saved me

 

JEONGGUK [10:44:03PM]

You’ve done so much for me the past few months since I asked you to help me out

 

JEONGGUK [10:45:13PM]

All the songs on my album have been approved, it’s in the final stages

 

JEONGGUK [10:45:57PM]

And it’s all thanks to you. I don’t know what I’d do without you.

 

JIMIN [10:46:15PM]

Die, probably

 

JIMIN [10:46:43PM]

Kidding LOL glad your album has been approved! Time flies when you’re having fun ;)

 

JIMIN [10:47:22PM]

You know I’d do anything for you, all you have to do is ask

 

JIMIN [10:47:51PM]

You’re a good fake boyfriend ;) I’m lucky to have you as my friend!



Jeongguk read the last text. He read it a second time, and then a third.

The album was approved. Time had flown. And Jimin was on the brink of no longer being Jeongguk’s fake boyfriend anymore.

 

***

 

“We have to go out and celebrate.”

“Come again?” Jeongguk glanced up from his phone to stare at Yoongi.

“Out. To celebrate,” Yoongi declared, wiggling his chair as he spoke. “I mean, I know we’re still on the fence about the ninth song, but we have a week until we have to go to production and finalize everything. You have a whole goddamn album, Jeongguk-ah. Remember two months ago when you came back from Japan hating yourself?”

“Well, don’t thank me,” Jeongguk said, tapping the back of his phone repeatedly against his thigh. “Thank Jimin. He’s the one who inspired me to write decent lyrics.”

“No joke, some of your best,” Yoongi conceded. “I’ll never question your methods again. You two wrap things up yet?”

“No, not really,” Jeongguk said, twisting his lips for a moment. “Um, but he knows the album is almost finalized. So I’m sure we’ll just have a chat and go back to normal.”

“Think it’ll be weird?” Yoongi slid down in his chair and set his elbows on the armrests, bridging his fingertips and tapping them against his lips. “Went on all those dates, even kissed, and now it’s just back to business as usual.”

“He was just doing me a favor, and I got an album out of it, so whatever,” Jeongguk said dismissively, because Yoongi was just twisting the knife in deeper like he wanted to watch Jeongguk bleed. “Where do you want to celebrate? Same place as last time?”

“Why, because we got free champagne?” Yoongi recalled, grinning. “Sure, we can go to The X. That’s a good one. They know me there, anyways.”

“Where do they know you?” Taehyung appeared in the doorway of the studio where Jeongguk and Yoongi had been working together. Taehyung was about halfway through the songwriting process for his album, but he was notoriously slow when it came to sharing new music, mostly because he hadn’t been “born” on social media. Jeongguk’s claim to fame was because of SoundCloud, which meant that he was a bit quicker and more insistent.

“The X.” Yoongi glanced up at Taehyung. “Tomorrow’s Friday. Think we’ll go out and celebrate, have a few drinks. Jeongguk’s album is basically done. I’ve approved the tracklist. Mixing’s pretty much finished. And Jeongguk’s promo schedule looks like hell, so I think we should have a drink now instead of waiting. You want to come?”

“Of course I want to come,” Taehyung said with a grin. “Wouldn’t miss an opportunity to celebrate my baby.” Taehyung reached forward and pinched Jeongguk’s cheek before Jeonguk could stop him, and Jeongguk smacked his hand away.

“Tomorrow night, then,” Yoongi said, crossing his arms. “I can pick you up if you want.”

“I can take a taxi,” Taehyung replied casually, and Jeongguk shot him a look. There was a moment of silence, and then Yoongi cleared his throat and rose to his feet.

“I’m gonna go grab some coffee,” he murmured, and then he brushed past Taehyung and exited the studio. Taehyung glanced over his shoulder, and then he shrugged. And that was when Jeongguk snapped. He hadn’t been expecting to, but he was internally emotional over the thought of losing Jimin as someone to pour his love into, so he let Taehyung have it.

“What the fuck is wrong with you?” Jeongguk threw up one hand and tossed his phone to the side on the couch. Taehyung raised his eyebrows, surprised and mildly confused. “You’re such an asshole.”

“What the fuck are you talking about?” Taehyung asked in exasperation.

‘I’m talking about Yoongi hyung,” Jeongguk snapped. “About the way you just—for fuck’s sake, hyung, if you don’t want to be in a real relationship with him, then put him out of his goddamn misery. You’re just stringing him along and giving him hope. He wants to actually date you, and you’re being a dick and just letting him think it’ll happen one day.”

“Why are you even—I just said I’d take a taxi,” Taehyung said with a laugh of disbelief, but Jeongguk wasn’t finished.

“Look, I get it. It’s none of my business. Whatever. But unless you have a good fucking reason and he knows that reason, then figure your shit out. I’m tired of watching him suffer,” Jeongguk said with brutal honesty. “So either man the fuck up and date him for real, or break it off.”

Taehyung stared at Jeongguk like Jeongguk had five heads, because never once since Taehyung and Yoongi had started sleeping together had Jeongguk spoken up about it. Taehyung crossed his arms and ran one hand over his mouth, and then he quietly sat down in Yoongi’s chair, elbows on his knees.

“You know why?” he said, speaking to the floor. “You want to know why?”

“No, but Yoongi hyung probably does,” Jeongguk replied.

“The last girl I was in a relationship with cheated on me,” Taehyung replied. “Constantly. For all nine months that we dated. And she manipulated me into staying, because you know what? I found out she was cheating on me after five months. But I stuck around like an idiot.”

“Hyung—”

“I get why you’re angry,” Taehyung interrupted, still staring at the ground. “I get why hyung would be angry, too. But I can’t get it out of my head. All I can think about is that anyone who would date me would just cheat on me.”

“How well do you know Min Yoongi?” Jeongguk asked with a small smile, and Taehyung let out a short breath that hinted at laughter.

“Biblically,” he joked dryly. “And it’s fucked, you know? Because I know I’m just giving him false hope. I know I’m being an asshole about it. I know what he wants. But he’s sticking around because he doesn’t want it to be over, and neither do I. So we’re in this weird place. And if we start dating, what if things change? What if he decides that he should’ve just left me months ago?”

“You won’t know unless you try,” Jeongguk replied. “Look, I get that this is personal for you. But if hyung doesn’t know why you keep telling him no, then you should probably talk to him about it. He’d get it. He’d probably be relieved because he finally would have a fucking reason. And I guarantee he’d stay with you, anyways.”

“Easier said than done, but I, uh… I can try,” Taehyung muttered, but then he finally looked up at Jeongguk. “You’re in love with Jimin. You know that, right? I listened to all the songs on your album. I don’t even need to see you two together to know.”

“I don’t want to talk about it,” Jeongguk whispered, suddenly put on the spot. Taehyung snickered, smacking his hands on his thighs and rising to his feet.

“Well, if I have to try to talk to Yoongi hyung about the fucked up mentality I have, then maybe you need to figure your shit out with Jimin,” he suggested, a bit of color returning to his face again. “But, um…” He crossed his arms. “Thanks. I think maybe I was waiting for a reality check. Like, waiting for someone to tell me off like you just did.”

“Glad I could be of service,” Jeongguk said, and that was when Yoongi walked back into the studio with an iced Americano in one hand and a sparkling water in the other. He silently handed the water to Taehyung, and Jeongguk pursed his lips and stood up to leave. As he was walking out the door, he saw Taehyung accept the water, set it aside, pull Yoongi into his arms, and kiss him firmly, carding his fingers through Yoongi’s hair.

“I’m so sorry, baby,” he whispered to Yoongi, and that was all Jeongguk heard before he walked down the hallway, hands in his pockets, feeling vaguely victorious.

The feeling didn’t last for very long, though. Jeongguk spent most of his night quietly at home, reading through his promo schedule and making a list of all the tour venues that had been secured so far. When the album was released, Jeongguk would be giving a live first-listen performance at Ace, a venue in the city that allowed for about five thousand guests. It was already sold out, tickets having gone on sale on Monday, so Yoongi had requested that they add a second performance the next day, which was nearly sold out as well.

When Friday night came, Jeongguk left the company early to get ready at home, because he didn’t want to go to a nice venue like The X looking like shit. He dressed in black pants and a black button-up that he left mostly unbuttoned, and he put silver earrings into his left ear and black earrings into his right ear. After messily tousling his blonde hair, he gave up on it and decided he looked nice enough. He used Kakao to grab a taxi, and then he rode solo into the heart of the city, knowing that Yoongi and Taehyung were probably already there.

“Yah, about time!” Seokjin hollered at Jeongguk when Jeongguk stepped out of his taxi. “They sent me out here to fetch you, those losers.”

“Is it just them?” Jeongguk asked, grinning as he clapped Seokjin on the back.

“Nah, there are a few other people from the company, but they’re all people you like,” Seokjin said, knowing Jeongguk all too well. Jeongguk paid his cover fee, and then he stepped into the luxurious nightclub, where Yoongi had rented a booth for them. Seokjin led the way through the dark, calling over his shoulder that they already had plenty of alcohol ready to go.

“JEONGGUK-A-A-A-A-AH!”

“YAH, JEON JEONGGUK!”

“HE’S HERE!”

Jeongguk laughed and reached out to grab a few hands of his friends from the company, and then he fist-bumped Taehyung, who was halfway in Yoongi’s lap and looking rather smug about it. 

“Okay, okay, okay!” Seokjin waved his hand, and then he grabbed one of the many bottles of champagne in an ice bucket. He advised everyone to stand back, and then he popped the cork as the dozen people in the booth cheered. Seokjin poured for everyone, popping another bottle open to fill each glass.

“OKAY, A TOAST!” Yoongi hollered, finally raising his voice over the music with a grin. “TO THIS DICKHEAD FOR FINALLY GIVING US A FULL-LENGTH ALBUM!”

“CHEERS!” Taehyung said first as everyone around the table burst out laughing, and Jeongguk stood up and threatened to dump his champagne over Yoongi’s head. But he tapped his glass against someone else’s instead, downing the champagne in one go and asking for another glass.

It took Jeongguk about fifteen minutes to realize that Jimin was missing. It wasn’t that Jimin had been invited—Jeongguk just felt lost without Jimin, wanted him to be present, wanted to see his smile and hear his voice, wanted to see him drinking champagne with the rest of them. They had seen each other once in the past week, Jeongguk attending a yoga class. But their exchange had been pure friendship at best, which made Jeongguk’s heart hurt. Quietly, Jeongguk pulled out his phone.



JEONGGUK [10:03:03PM]

Hyung, I’m at The X right now celebrating with my company

 

JEONGGUK [10:03:46PM]

Celebrating my album, I mean

 

JEONGGUK [10:04:15PM]

Will you come? I want you here.

 

JIMIN [10:05:20PM]

Are you sure? If it’s a company thing, I don’t want to just show up

 

JEONGGUK [10:06:34PM]

I’m sure. I really want you to be here, since the album is only thanks to you

 

JIMIN [10:07:49PM]

You did it for me, so I’ll do it for you

 

JIMIN [10:08:11PM]

I’ll be there by 11 :)



Jeongguk smiled like a fool at his phone screen while sliding his glass forward for more champagne, suddenly feeling like he needed a little more liquid courage if he was going to have Jimin with him in a dark nightclub again. In the past week, Jeongguk had had a nagging feeling that the reason they hadn’t hung out much was because the album was finished, so Jimin was checking out, ready to go back to being friends. He had even said it over text. But Jeongguk was in such a heavily dazed state of denial that he wasn’t ready to confront it. Maybe Taehyung was right—maybe he needed to figure it out. But figuring it out was terrifying, because the thought of Jimin rejecting him and saying no and then losing him as a friend was too much for Jeongguk to bear.

“HEY! JEONGGUK-AH! IS THAT JIMIN?” Taehyung hollered maybe forty or so minutes later. Jeongguk whipped his head to the left, and his breath caught in his throat. There was Jimin, wearing a halfway-unbuttoned white shirt and a deep plum suit jacket with matching pants, his black hair combed back with a few strands falling in his eyes, looking like a walking dream. He had his hands in his pockets, and he was scanning the crowds with narrowed eyes, trying to find Jeongguk. Jeongguk almost waved, but Jimin caught his eye, and Jeongguk just stared. What else was he supposed to do when Jimin looked that gorgeous?

“Hey,” Jeongguk breathed, rising to his feet when Jimin approached. Jimin bent a little to the side and waved at Taehyung and Yoongi and Seokjin, all of whom waved back with smiles. “I’m glad you came.”

“You asked,” Jimin said simply. Jeongguk glanced over and saw that Taehyung had pushed a full glass of champagne towards Jeongguk on the table, so Jeongguk picked it up and handed it over to Jimin. Jimin accepted it, and then he put the glass to his lips and downed its contents in one go. 

“Come here, come sit,” Jeongguk insisted. Three people got out of the booth so that Jeongguk could slide in, and Jimin followed him. Someone poured Jimin another glass of champagne, which Jimin happily accepted, crossing one leg over the other.

“Cheers,” he said with a grin, tapping his glass against the air in Jeongguk’s direction before downing half of the champagne. He set the glass down and added, “This is it, huh? You’re really putting out a full-length album. Let the fun begin.”

“All those years of EPs and singles,” Jeongguk said, resting one arm on the top of the booth and shifting so he was just talking to Jimin. “I have an actual music video and everything. Pretty fucking wild for the awkward kid from Busan.”

“I like the awkward kid from Busan,” Jimin said with a smile, and then he drank the rest of the champagne. “Can’t believe you’ll be going on a world tour and everything. Remember when you used to come into my bedroom with your stupid guitar and serenade me to wake me up?”

“All improvisation, and every song was brilliant,” Jeongguk declared as Jimin snorted.

“I think my favorite was the one that went like, ‘if you don’t wake up now, I’ll cry.’ What a threat.”

“You hate when I cry.”

“I do, you got me there.”

“I’m actually a little nervous,” Jeongguk admitted. “For you to hear the album. I just want you to like it.”

“I’m sure I’ll love it,” Jimin said, and then he reached up and tucked Jeongguk’s hair behind one ear. “You never disappoint with your music, and you worked hard on this.”

“Because of you,” Jeongguk replied, rubbing his lips together. “None of this—I mean, I wouldn’t even be celebrating an album if you hadn’t helped me out. If you hadn’t… I mean, you showed me… you just—shit, sorry. I’m horrible at this.” Jeongguk wanted a hole to appear in the floor and swallow him up, because if this was what Taehyung had meant, Jeongguk was failing miserably. His anxiety was taking the wheel, and Jimin noticed.

“You’re not. There are a lot of people around, but you’re fine. I’ve got you. We can still fake it for tonight. It’s okay,” Jimin encouraged, using one hand to squeeze Jeongguk’s knee. Jeongguk took a deep breath, trying to calm his racing heart, wanting to scream. Fake it for tonight. Christ, he was so fucked.

“You… Yeah. Well, you made all my exes look like amateurs,” Jeongguk said with a laugh, wishing there was more champagne within reach. Before he could open his mouth to say anything else damning, though, Jimin was in his lap. It was a smooth move. All Jimin did was swing both legs over Jeongguk’s thighs and pull himself up, draping his arms around Jeongguk’s neck. It was almost exactly how Taehyung was sitting with Yoongi, but Jeongguk couldn’t focus on them at all, not with Jimin in his lap.

“I told you that if you gave me time, I’d be great at it,” he said with a smirk. It was dark in the club, the only bright lights coming in fleeting bursts from the dance floor. So Jeongguk wrapped his left arm around Jimin’s waist and set his right hand on Jimin’s thigh.

“You were better than great. You gave me enough material for a whole goddamn album,” Jeongguk said plainly. Jimin pulled his bottom lip between his teeth for a moment, and then he quietly curled in and buried his head in Jeongguk’s shoulder. Jeongguk closed his eyes and hugged Jimin close to him, savoring the moment, wondering what the hell was going through Jimin’s mind, wondering if it was the same thing that was going through his own mind.

Danger, danger, danger.

But Jeongguk couldn’t stop. He was buzzed from champagne, and it was dark with pulsating music. One of Jimin’s hands found his chest, and then Jimin lifted his head and nudged Jeongguk’s chin. There was absolutely no mistaking the open opportunity. Jeongguk didn’t hesitate, didn’t even consider that they had silently friend-zoned each other in the past week or that Jimin had blatantly said they were still faking it. He closed the gap and pressed his lips to Jimin’s, expecting to be pushed away and scolding. 

But fuck, he wasn’t pushed away at all. Jimin responded beautifully, one hand on Jeongguk’s cheek with his fingertips curled around Jeongguk’s neck as they kissed sweetly and slowly. When Jimin licked into Jeongguk’s mouth and silently asked for access, Jeongguk gave it to him, never mind the public setting. He couldn’t be bothered. Nothing was more important than the way Jimin was kissing him, because it was mind-blowing. Jeongguk heard Yoongi calling his name, but he ignored it. He felt Taehyung smack his arm, but he swatted his friend away without once breaking the kiss. Nothing, nothing else mattered.

“Jesus, do you two know how to breathe?” Taehyung commented when Jimin finally broke away from Jeongguk. Jeongguk had no sense of time. How long had they just spent kissing? His lips were swollen enough for it to have been a good ten minutes on and off.  His head was spinning, and it wasn’t from the champagne. Did this qualify as faking it, because—

“Shut up,” Jeongguk heard Yoongi hiss as Jimin buried his head into Jeongguk’s neck again, resting. Jeongguk dazedly circled an arm around Jimin’s waist again, feeling like he was close to having double vision in a state of shock. He could see his empty champagne glass, and he wanted to ask for more to help calm his nerves, so he gestured to Taehyung. Taehyung poured two more glasses, and Jeongguk downed his like a shot and handed one to Jimin by nudging his arm. Jimin lifted his head and chugged the champagne like a lifeline, and then he set the glass down and went back to lying on Jeongguk’s shoulder, rubbing his chest in a soothing fashion.

Just calm down. It’s fine. It’s just because you’re a little tipsy, and he might be, too. Just calm down, Jeongguk scolded himself, feeling like the lights were a little brighter. He attempted a few conversations with one or two people at the table, tried to make a joke with Seokjin, but Jimin was just there, steadfast in his lap, and Jeongguk was panicking. He was going to give himself another pep talk after about ten minutes, but then he felt Jimin’s lips on his neck, and then by his ear.

“Jeongguk.” His voice was a whisper.

“Yeah?”

“Take me home.”

Jeongguk swore he stopped breathing, swore his heart missed several beats. Surely he had heard incorrectly. Surely Jimin was just asking to grab a taxi—

“Take me home with you.”

He wasn’t asking for a taxi. He was dragging his lips along Jeongguk’s jaw, and Jeongguk was falling apart. 

“Okay.”

There was a laundry list of consequences. So many fucking consequences. So many unspoken sentiments. If ever there was a bad idea, it was for Jeongguk to pretend that Jimin was his to love despite the time limit they had enforced, the deadline. Neither one of them had bothered to communicate properly, and every signal Jeongguk had gotten so far was mixed. But not this one. This was clear as day. Jimin was asking to be taken home with Jeongguk, and there was no mistaking the intention behind his request. Jeongguk had hoped that maybe he heard wrong, but Jimin hadn’t fumbled over his words at all.

“Excuse us, sorry. Sorry, sorry about that,” Jeongguk apologized as he encouraged Jimin to scoot out of the booth, the people sitting on the end getting up to let them up. Then, holding Jimin’s wrist tightly, he turned to the group. “Hey, we’re leaving!”

There was a disjointed chorus of goodbyes, many people standing up to congratulate Jeongguk again and hug him, say goodnight, and wish him well. Yoongi and Taehyung, however, did not get up to say goodbye. They both sat together and watched Jeongguk carefully, and Jeongguk knew what they were thinking— bad idea. But Jeongguk was willing to entertain a bad idea at this point. He had never been so hopelessly and acutely in love before, had never felt so overwhelmingly lost in his own mess of emotions. But he was feeling reckless, damn the consequences. He was going to follow Jimin blindly to figure it all out, one way or another.

“Hyung.” Jeongguk gripped Jimin’s hand and spun him around in the middle of the crowd, holding Jimin’s shoulder with the other hand. “What exactly are you asking me? Am I taking you home to your place?”

“You know what I asked you,” Jimin replied, blinking at Jeongguk with a neutral expression. “Drop me off at my place if you want. But you heard what I asked.”

Jeongguk searched Jimin’s dark eyes for any hint of second-guessing, but Jimin was rock solid. So Jeongguk guided him out of The X and found a taxi within minutes, his hands trembling as he opened the door. Jimin slid in first, and Jeongguk followed, but Jimin buckled into the middle seat, which sent Jeongguk’s heart straight into his throat. He gave the driver his address, but that was all he managed. Jimin turned Jeongguk’s head and threaded his fingers into Jeongguk’s hair, tugging him in for a kiss.

Jeongguk had no idea which route the driver took to his building. He never saw a single inch of the road or the city. Jimin’s lips were on his, Jimin’s hand was between his thighs, and Jeongguk felt like he was sitting on dynamite, just waiting for the moment when the world exploded. The driver pulled up to the curb, unbothered by the two men making out in the backseat, and Jeongguk gasped out his thanks and hopped out of the car with Jimin in tow. His knees knocked together as he walked to the front door of the building, and Jimin followed him silently as if they hadn’t been one small moan away from getting each other off in the taxi.

Breathe. Just breathe. It’s only Jimin. Jeongguk repeated the same thing over and over as the elevator soared up to his floor, and Jimin just walked by his side like they hadn’t just made out in the backseat like two best friends never did. Jeongguk’s fingers trembled as he punched in the code, and the door swung open.

Jimin walked through the door after Jeongguk, dropping his wallet and keys on the kitchen countertop with a little sigh. Making himself right at home. Like he’d done it a thousand times, and he realistically had. He had just spent two months faking his feelings for Jeongguk’s sake, and he still was. But they were alone now, out of the public eye. They didn’t have to fake it. No one had to know what they did behind closed doors, but is that what Jimin actually wanted? Jeongguk only had one way to find out.

“Hyung?” Jeongguk said in a strained voice as the door closed, and he turned to look at Jimin, who was just standing there staring.

“Yeah?”

Jeongguk took a few careful steps in Jimin’s direction until they were toe-to-toe, his heart pounding so hard that Jeongguk almost felt nauseous. Then, with a deep breath, he said, “I do want you to fake it for one more night.”

 

mood: “waiting game” by banks

 

Jeongguk’s words were like a green light and an answer all at once. The way they collided was exactly like dynamite. Jeongguk grabbed Jimin by the waist and pushed him right up against the front door as Jimin gasped, but he accepted Jeongguk’s lips against his as Jeongguk shoved Jimin’s jacket off and to the floor, tugging his bottom lip in a kiss. With steady hands, Jimin grabbed the front of Jeongguk’s shirt and pulled, bypassing the need to unbutton it altogether. Jeongguk shrugged out of it, and then he pressed his thigh between Jimin’s legs, deepening the kiss. Nothing about it was polite. They were both gasping for air, hands all over in desperation, like neither one of them knew exactly what to do with the other. Jimin’s hands couldn’t stop roaming Jeongguk’s chest and shoulders as they kissed, and Jeongguk couldn’t even find shame in the fact that he was completely hard already.

“Bedroom,” Jimin managed to choke out. Jeongguk used deft fingers to unbutton Jimin’s shirt, and as he backed up towards his bedroom, he pushed the shirt off Jimin’s shoulders, letting it cascade to the ground like a trail leading to the inevitable crime scene. With one foot, Jeongguk kicked his bedroom door open, and then he pulled Jimin into the room, his brain ravaged with the memory of Jimin backing him up onto the bed on the music video set. They both messily kicked out of their shoes, and then Jimin gripped Jeongguk’s belt and made short work of it.

“Jesus, you’re so—” Jimin turned the both of them and gently pushed Jeongguk onto the bed, and Jeongguk fell backwards and crawled on. Jimin immediately rid Jeongguk of his belt and pants, and Jeongguk swore he almost fainted watching Jimin step out of his own pants and throw them to the floor like trash. Then he climbed onto the bed to straddle Jeongguk, bending down for another kiss.

Frantic. Jeongguk had never felt so frantic in his life. He wanted absolutely everything from Jimin, more than he had ever asked for in his life. He was trembling head to toe like he was drenched in water during winter, his mind on overdrive, the arousal so strong that he thought it would steal his breath. Jimin was kissing him like a starved man without their bodies pressed together, but Jeongguk was desperate for contact. He wanted more. He rolled the two of them until he was hovering over Jimin, and then he dove down.

“Oh,” Jimin gasped out when Jeongguk bent and began to leave biting kisses up his torso and to his collarbone and neck. “M-More, more, I’m—”

“Do you have any fucking idea what you’ve done to me?” Jeongguk breathed as he roughly ran his hands down Jimin’s sides, watching the way Jimin arched up into his touch. “Any idea what I want you to do to me?”

“No, I—Jeongguk,” Jimin said breathlessly, and then he wrapped his legs around Jeongguk’s waist and pulled him closer. Jeongguk fell forward and braced himself on the mattress, already out of breath. He gritted his teeth when Jimin purposely lifted his hips to grind against Jeongguk, their hard cocks meeting as Jeongguk saw stars in his vision. “I want you to—whatever you want from me, forget it, just—please, I just want you to…”

“You want me to…” Jeongguk blinked hazily, unable to believe the words coming out of his mouth.

“Tonight, yeah,” Jimin said softly. “I’ll take you for myself another night. Now just—”

Jeongguk didn’t waste time. He wanted to pleasure Jimin to a point of near delirium, wanted Jimin to be damn near boneless by the time they were finished. He wanted moaning and screaming, wanted to feel Jimin’s nails down his back. Jeongguk couldn’t remember a time in his life when he had felt such a primal kind of want. But he bent and started to leave bruising kisses down Jimin’s neck with his thumbs on Jimin’s nipples, and the gasps he earned were glorious.

“Shit, there’s so much I want to do to you,” Jeongguk panted, lowering his hips and grinding against Jimin as he sucked in a breath. The fact that Jimin was just as painfully hard made the moment even better. Jimin wrapped his legs around Jeongguk’s waist as they kissed, and Jeongguk continually rocked his hips like he was already inside Jimin, his entire body trembling. Jimin’s fingers were digging into Jeongguk’s skin, and his eyes were closed already, back arching off the bed as he sought Jeongguk’s touch.

“Get the—Jeongguk, get…” Jimin choked out, but Jeongguk understood. He hastily reached over to his drawer and grabbed lube and a condom, tossing them onto the mattress. Then he bent and used two gentle hands on the waistband of Jimin’s black boxer briefs, glancing up at him for approval. Jimin was propped up on the pillows, eyes dark, hair tousled, chest heaving slightly as he stared and nodded. Jeongguk pulled off Jimin’s briefs and threw them to the floor, and then he held his breath.

“God, you’re so… gorgeous… look at you…” Jeongguk spoke in between kisses, bending between Jimin’s legs he could turn his head and press his lips along the insides of Jimin’s thighs. Jimin’s hand tangled in Jeongguk’s hair, but Jeongguk kissed up high enough until he could get his mouth on Jimin’s cock. The moment he did, Jimin thrusted up into his mouth with a breathy moan and an incoherent curse.

“Harder, suck harder, you can—shit, shit, that’s it,” Jimin gasped, fucking into Jeongguk’s mouth again as Jeongguk reached for the lube. Still swirling his tongue around Jimin’s cock, he uncapped the lube and drizzled enough onto his fingers, and then he shifted on his knees and slid his hand between Jimin’s legs. Jimin let his knees fall open as he lifted his hips, and Jenogguk could have died happily right then and there.

“Shit, you’re so tight,” he commented breathlessly when he slipped one finger inside of Jimin. I’m fingering my best friend. He’s moaning and asking for more, and I’m fucking fingering him. Jeongguk couldn’t make sense of what was happening, but Jimin was out of his mind, not sure whether to fuck Jeongguk’s mouth or fuck down onto Jeongguk’s fingers. He tried to do both, but he was cursing in pleasured frustration, gripping the bedsheets.

“G-Get undressed. Take those off,” Jimin demanded when Jeongguk was three fingers deep and high off Jimin’s whimpers and moans. Jeongguk kept his fingers inside Jimin and used his other hand to pull off his briefs, tossing them to the floor as his cock came to rest against his stomach. He didn’t miss the way Jimin stared at him. They were seeing each other bare for the first time, and Jeongguk was addicted to what he saw and what he was able to touch. Jimin seemed just as impressed.

“How do you want it?” Jeongguk asked, and Jimin let out a breathy laugh, eyes closing.

“Rough. Doesn’t matter how.”

Rough. He was going to be the death of Jeongguk. Dizzy, Jeongguk decided on the spot that he wanted to see Jimin’s face, wanted to see the pleasure happening in real time. He used his lubed fingers to stroke his own cock a few times with the condom rolled on, and then he sprang into action. WIth his left hand, he put Jimin’s arms above his head one after the other onto the pillow, and then Jeongguk used one hand to pin both of Jimin’s wrists above his head. Jimin’s chest was heaving now, his body tense in anticipation, his legs falling open wider. Jeongguk took Jimin’s left leg and threw it onto his right shoulder, and Jimin whimpered and lifted his hips a little.

“Fuck, fuck, fuck,” Jimin said in a high-pitched whimper as Jeongguk pressed the tip of his cock to Jimin’s slicked hole thanks to the lube. Jeongguk paused, both of them gasping for breath, and he waited, readjusting his grip on Jimin’s wrists. Then he slowly pushed forward, Jimin sucking him in, and Jeongguk nearly passed out from how tight Jimin was. It was absolutely fucking unreal. 

We’re doing this. I’m fucking my best friend. This is it.

Jeongguk rolled his hips a few times in sync with Jimin, turning his head and kissing the thigh that was on his shoulder before bending down and kissing up Jimin’s chest, savoring how flexible Jimin was. His left knee was nearly bent to his chest, but he was completely comfortable and taking Jeongguk’s cock like he was made for it.

“Jeongguk,” he whispered, and Jeongguk kissed over a bruise he had left on Jimin’s neck, humming. “W-Want you to fuck me as hard as—as hard you can, baby. Don’t hold back.”

And there was the second green light. Jeongguk wasn’t sure how either of them was going to breathe, but he was ready. He pulled out almost all the way before snapping his hips forward and thrusting back into Jimin, his hips smacking the backs of Jimin’s thighs. 

“Yes, yes, yes,” Jimin chanted as Jeongguk began to pick up the pace and find a rhythm. Jeongguk was gasping for breath the harder he fucked into Jimin, watching the way his body moved against the sheets, the way his head tilted back on the pillows to expose his entire neck, the way he fought against the grip Jeongguk had on his wrists but not with the intent to break free.

“You feel so good,” Jeongguk slurred, and with one particularly hard thrust, Jimin writhed on the sheets with a sinful moan and clenched around Jeongguk until Jeongguk gasped, almost collapsing. 

“N-Need… I—I need…”

“Tell me what you need, baby,” Jeongguk murmured, stilling inside Jimin and rolling his hips instead, searching. He angled his hips, and that was when Jimin let out a cry, kicking his free leg inadvertently.

“Right there, right there, right there,” he insisted. “Fuck me right there.”

Jeongguk released Jimin’s wrists, and immediately, he had Jimin’s other leg on his shoulder, and Jimin was grabbing at Jeongguk’s waist to bring him closer, nearly bent entirely in half.

“Like this,” he whispered, and Jeongguk nodded, hair hanging in his eyes, a trickle of sweat running down his spine. Jimin was just as breathless and fucked out, already sweating, but there was no stopping either of them. Jimin hooked his ankles around Jeongguk’s neck, and that was it.

“Hold on, baby, come on,” Jeongguk encouraged when Jimin started crying out, overwhelmed by the stimulation as Jeongguk fucked him hard, right up against his prostate. Jimin’s fingernails scraped down Jeongguk’s ribs in desperation, hands pulling at the sheets, but he didn’t tell Jeongguk to stop.  

“God, you just fucking know,” Jimin moaned, panting when Jeongguk slowed only for a second. “Fuck me so well, I’m—I’m gonna…”

“Shit,” Jeongguk cursed, because now he could feel his muscles tightening and the heat building in his stomach. Vision blurred, he blinked rapidly and grabbed Jimin’s knees, shoving them to his chest and lifting his hips. Jimin seemed to understand what was about to happen next, because grabbed Jeongguk’s shoulder and pulled him forward.

“Feel so good, so fucking good,” Jeongguk softly praised between kisses, his tongue meeting Jimin’s as he thrusted shallowly. “Gonna make you come.”

“Please,” Jimin breathed, eyes rolling back and falling shut. Jeongguk readjusted his hold on Jimin’s knees, and then he snapped his hips forward, drinking in Jimin’s moans. And he didn’t stop. Jeongguk gritted his teeth and fucked Jimin with all of his strength. He was gasping for breath, Jimin was begging to a point where he was almost shouting, and that was how the stars aligned. Jeongguk found the perfect spot, Jimin clenched around him with a dry sob, and both of them let out a strangled cry at the same time. Jeongguk nearly blacked out from the intensity of the orgasm as he came into the condom, but he watched in pure awe as Jimin came hard all over his chest and stomach, breath caught in his throat, back arching, sighing as the high consumed him.

 

mood: “champion” by elina (fic title in this song)

 

And then Jeongguk collapsed. He collapsed with his full weight on Jimin, but Jimin didn’t seem to mind. Panting like he had just run a marathon, Jeongguk buried his face in Jimin’s neck, and he could feel Jimin’s heartbeat against his chest, both of their hearts fighting to pump blood. Jeongguk had had sex countless times before, but never in his life had he felt such a satisfied kind of exhaustion afterwards. His skin was buzzing, mind racing, and everything seemed right.

I just had sex with my best friend. It happened. It actually happened, and it was the best sex I’ve ever had. I just fucked my best friend and liked it. All those years of not knowing and not even wondering, and now I know. And I can never go back. 

Jeongguk nuzzled into Jimin’s neck, both of them still sweating and stuck together with cum, but Jimin’s hands were fluttering up and down Jeongguk’s back, and Jeongguk was starting to drift. His desire to stay in this moment forever was so strong that it was consuming his entire body. Being with Jimin like this, so intimately, was all he had been craving for weeks, and now that he had it, he couldn’t find the strength to let it go.

“You were so good,” Jimin whispered, using a trembling hand to stroke Jeongguk’s hair. “Made me feel so good.”

“Mm-mm,” Jeongguk denied, his lips against Jimin’s neck. “No, you—you were amazing. God, I’m…”

“Jeongguk,” Jimin whispered. “Jeongguk, I have to leave. Look at me.”

Jeongguk reluctantly lifted his head, but only because his heart dropped into his stomach and he propped up on one elbow to stare down at Jimin. Jimin, with his black hair fanned out on the pillow and his dilated pupils and his kiss-bitten lips. I’m in love. I’m so in love with him. 

“I can’t stay. I teach yoga in the morning. You know that. I need to go,” Jimin said as he looked Jeongguk in the eye. “But I want you…” He lifted one hand to tuck Jeongguk’s hair behind his left ear. “I want you to come to yoga on Monday. So we can talk.”

“I don’t want to talk,” Jeongguk muttered, closing his eyes.

“Jeongguk.” 

“Okay.” Jeongguk opened his eyes. “I’ll be there.”

“Good.” Jimin used his thumb to brush over Jeongguk’s bottom lip, and then he smiled. “I’ll clean off and go.”

Jeongguk nodded, and then he slowly and gingerly pulled his softened cock out of Jimin as Jimin winced with his eyes closed, still catching his breath. Jeongguk rolled off the bed and tossed the condom, and then he pulled on his underwear in a self-conscious gesture, suddenly feeling very vulnerable. Jimin, however, just strolled naked to the bathroom and wiped himself down, and then he got dressed while Jeongguk sat on the edge of his bed, staring at the floor. Silent. Tense. Was he creating that kind of atmosphere himself, or did Jimin feel it, too? Maybe he didn’t feel it because he wasn’t in love. This was all shallow to him, and it felt like he was going to break Jeongguk’s heart without even knowing what he was doing.

“Hyung?”

“Yes?” Jimin grabbed his shoes that he had kicked off, ruffling his messy hair. Jeongguk looked up with his hands pressed to his thighs.

“Why… why?” Jeongguk whispered. “Why did…?”

“Not now.” Jimin rubbed his lips together, and Jeongguk’s heart lurched. “Not now, Gguk-ah. Just—I need… just let me… we’ll talk on Monday. I need to go.”

“Thank you,” Jeongguk blurted out, but he saw the way Jimin raised his eyebrows, confused. Embarrassed, Jeongguk added, “For—For coming tonight. To the club. You didn’t have to. Um… yeah. Thank you. For everything. For the album, and…”

“We’re friends for a reason, Jeongguk,” Jimin gently reminded him, and Jeongguk physically felt himself deflate. Friends. “I’d do anything for you. I’ll see you on Monday.”

“Monday. Yeah. Goodnight,” Jeongguk whispered. Jimin hemmed and hawed, shifting from one foot to another, and then he took a few swift steps forward, cupped his hand at the back of Jeongguk’s head, and kissed Jeongguk’s forehead.

“Goodnight, Jeongguk.”

Jeongguk only opened his eyes when he heard his front door open and close. He couldn’t bear to watch Jimin walk out. He opened his eyes to an empty apartment, and when he glanced over his shoulder, his bed was a mess of pulled sheets and tossed pillows, evidence that they had collided with one another in a fit of passion, barely a word spoken between them as to what the consequences would be. 

So Jeongguk rolled off the bed. His eyes burning, teeth almost chattering from the overwhelming feeling, he grabbed his notebook and the first pen he could find:



Body hot, skin on fire

We have all night, baby 

What do you want?

You said “take me home.”

 

Touch you there, deep desire

Say my name now, call me

What do you want?

You’ll never be alone

 

Gonna love you ’til your eyes roll back, until 3am when you can’t speak

Got you right where I want you on my pillows

Looking like an angel and you fuck like a god so

 

Stay, I want you to stay right here

You know I’m feeling you 

Stay, I want you to stay right here

You know exactly what to do

Chapter Text

[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.