“New blood at six o'clock,” Taehyung says, as the make-up artist examines her work, skilled fingers over imperfect skin like soft brushes against a blank canvas.
Jungkook looks up from the glossy pages of the magazine that he's been reading. In the mirrors stretching down the wall, he can see the entire dressing room – racks full of clothes, stylists making the last minute changes, debating whether alabaster white is better than ivory and if smokey eyes are being overused, while they all agree on the lightest shades of powder because nothing is ever bright enough.
In the midst of the multi-coloured chaos of fabrics and patterns, Jungkook spots a boy who looks younger than him, his round brown eyes slowly getting accustomed to the harsh neon lights. It seems like they're searching something or rather somebody, and Jungkook continues watching him.
- - -
The photo shoot for High Cut happens on a gloomy autumn day in October.
Jungkook wakes up to rain hitting the window panes and thunder ripping apart heavy clouds somewhere above glass skyscrapers. He glances at the clock on the nightstand and red digits tell him that he's already late.
After waiting twenty minutes for a cab to arrive and sitting through another half an hour in the traffic jam down the main street, Jungkook slams the car door shut and runs the short distance between the cab and the entrance of the glass building, heavy raindrops hitting his cold cheeks. Hands stuffed in the pockets of his leather jacket, he curses under his breath while waiting for the security guard to let him in.
The clock doesn't lie and he's terribly late. That's never a good sign.
The elevator ride to the twentieth floor lasts too long. Jungkook stares at his distorted reflection on polished metal and counts the floors. When the elevator doors finally slide open, he stumbles outside only to be greeted by soft piano music coming from the speakers in the every corner of the studio. The only other sound that can be heard is the clicking of the camera, interrupted from time to time by the photographer giving instructions to the person in front of the lens.
Jungkook walks up to the stylist, bows and apologizes for being late. She gives him a halfhearted smile before guiding him to the dressing room.
Pastels. Lots of beige and peach hanging on the racks. Popular aesthetics for idle youth pretending that they're above current affairs.
Jungkook ends up wearing a knitted sweater two sizes too big and baby blue trousers. His make-up is light, eyeliner reduced to the needed minimum, and yet it feels heavy – layers upon layers of foundation and powder. Once he's ready, he sees the stylist smiling in the mirror congratulating herself for another emotionless painting on the perfect canvas because that's all he is. A perfect canvas.
“They're waiting for you,” she says and the pronoun rings in his ears. He had hoped for a solo session this time. He's been worked very hard, hoping to get the eight page editorial, maybe even the cover.
The scenography is a washed out pink, that sad tone between the colour of the clouds as the sun starts to set and the light being filtered through peach coloured curtains. When Jungkook comes to the set, the photographer motions to him to stand beside the boy in a white dress shirt and dark slacks. Even to his naive eye, they look uncoordinated, mismatched. But this is fashion and he gave up trying to understand it a long time ago.
“The theme is opposites,” the photographer says, his hand painting images in the stale air. “If you had arrived on time, Jungkook, you'd know that you're Jimin's reflection in the mirror.”
At this, Jungkook diverts his attention to the boy next to him, his eyes roaming across his cheeks, down the slope of his nose, tracing shape of his lips and his jawline. The boy's features look nothing like his own. They can never be anything else than opposites.
He can see the tips of Jimin's ears turning pink under his scrutinizing gaze; he notices the bobbing of his Adam's apple when Jimin swallows.
“Jimin, face Jungkook,” the photographer commands and Jimin obeys. “Look him in the eyes.”
They're so close that Jungkook can count Jimin's eyelashes. Jimin's eyes are chocolate brown, at first sight plain and ordinary, just like many others. But the longer Jungkook looks at them, the more details he sees – the way light reflects in his irises, little specks of gold in the sea of warm brown. Jimin's pupils are slightly dilated, either due to excitement or discomfort, Jungkook can't differentiate the two.
Instead of trying to discover mysteries hidden in Jimin's eyes, a thought about drowning comes to Jungkook's mind, but he gives up nursing it when the photographer sends them to change.
- - -
Jeon Jungkook is a name that Jimin is used to hearing. Young and spoiled with made bones of knives and eyes dark as a raven's feathers, soaking up the spotlight and blinding anyone near him.
Everybody's heard of him. The good stories, the bad stories. The rumors cling to him just like his monstrous shadow on the runway. They're circulating in the backstage, clubs and bathrooms. From Vivienne Westwood to Burberry, from tailored suits to leather jackets and ripped jeans, Jungkook's done it all. Some say that he should be feared, others say that he'll be forgotten once the season's over, just like the other rising stars. But all of them agree that he always takes it one step further.
At first, Jimin doesn't believe it. There can't be that much truth in harsh words mumbled between fittings, but then he stumbles in the backstage restroom of Valentino and there he is – alabaster skin and toothpick bones on dark ceramic tiles – throwing up bile and whatever is left of a few vitamin pills and tic tacs.
Jimin knows he's not supposed to see this and he would not have seen it if the bathroom stall doors weren't too heavy for Jungkook to close, but damage is done and Jimin slams the door shut so nobody else can enter the bathroom. It's not to hide anything, they all do it, some more often than the others. It's to protect, even though he's not sure what.
He approaches the mirrors and opens the tap. The sound of running water fills the space but doesn't drown the noise surrounding them. Music from the runway is pulsing under his feet, beneath the black ceramic tiles, echoing in the small space. At places like this, walls are always paper thin.
A flush of the toilet and Jungkook's back to his feet, a little kiss of vomit on his chin.
He says, “There's no use of that. Music is too loud. Nobody will hear.”
He leans against the wall, wiping stomach acid off of his lips, his white outfit in perfect contrast with the dark background. Jimin can see him in the mirrors, his hand still on the tap. He doesn't turn it off.
Jungkook's staring at him, charcoal rimming his eyes, his irises as dark as the night. A study in contrasts, that's what he is.
“I'm sorry,” Jimin mumbles. “I -”
“What?” Jungkook snaps.
“Nothing. It's nothing.”
- - -
Porcelain cracks. Porcelain breaks. Porcelain shatters into a million pieces.
Sometimes people do the same.
- - -
Somewhere between time zones and passport stamps, Jimin loses track of time. All airports begin to look the same – a giant wave of concrete and glass; rows of iron columns, high ceilings and vast terminals, lost luggage and nervous passengers.
As he makes his way through the airport, Jimin reads on the board that the flight for Moscow has been delayed for four hours. A sigh escapes his lips and he unscrews his water bottle. The water is stale, his black coat suddenly feels too warm. At the gate, a stewardess offers him a small smile, an apology perhaps.
“You can relax in the waiting room until the problems are solved. I'm terribly sorry. Sir,” she says.
When he pushes open the doors of the waiting room, he spots Jungkook sitting in the back row of the almost empty room.
Even here, with the rows of blue plastic chairs, dull grey floor and windows stretching from the floor to the ceiling, with withered plants in the corners and candy wrappers around full trash bins, Jungkook looks stunning, unreachable and unapproachable. Behind his Ray Ban sunglasses, it seems like he doesn't spend a thought on his surroundings.
For half a second Jimin muses whether he should approach Jungkook. They aren't friends and even though they did a photo shoot together, Jimin's not sure whether Jungkook remembers him.
After a while, you start forgetting not just names, but faces as well.
Still, four hours is too long and Jimin could use some company. To feel a little less out of place, maybe.
He clears his throat and asks, “Is this seat taken?”
Diverting his attention from his phone, Jungkook tilts his head to look at him. Behind tinted lenses, Jimin can't see his eyes.
“It's you,” he says.
There's a hint of recognition and an awfully small quirk of his lips which could almost be mistaken for a smile. Jimin does just that.
“We keep on bumping into each other.”
“World is a small place,” Jungkook replies.
Jungkook's leather MCM backpack is on the seat between them. From the zipper hangs a Mickey Mouse keychain. Red against black, childhood turning to adulthood in turbulent teenage years and Jimin remembers hearing how young Jungkook really is.
“We have four hours. If you're headed to Moscow,” Jungkook says.
And Jungkook's getting up, putting on his jacket and taking his backpack.
“We should get coffee,” he says and Jimin nods.
They end up in a cafe near the duty free shops. The waitress welcomes them with a tired smile and an exhausted “What can I get you?”
“Mineral water and a chocolate muffin,” Jungkook says taking off his sunglasses.
“And for you? Something to eat as well?” she turns to Jimin, who shakes his head.
“Just coffee, no sugar. Thank you.”
The airport coffee is tasteless and lukewarm. Jimin takes a sip and carefully swallows it. Jungkook's fingers circle around the muffin, picking small pieces off and making them even smaller. He doesn't eat. It's just to pass the time. A nervous habit, maybe.
Everything around them is in pale shades of grey. Through the glass, Jimin can see passengers walking to the terminals, groups of tourists gathering around their guide. There's clatter of porcelain cups and plates and laughter coming from the nearby table.
Jungkook is distracted by the way condensation clings to his water bottle and the way the muffin disappears underneath his fingers.
Perfection looks a little on the thin side today, Jimin thinks, when he looks at Jungkook. Stripped of make-up with visible acne scars on his cheeks, blemishes dotting his chin, dark circles under his eyes like eyeliner that can never be washed away, Jungkook seems like the aging portrait of Dorian Gray. A whole lot of imperfections can be seen, but Jimin isn't staring. He just...
He's always been good with noticing details and Jungkook doesn't mind being looked at. He's used to it by now.
“Have you been to Moscow before?” Jungkook asks.
“It's my first time,” Jimin admits. The cup between his fingers is cold, now. Cold ceramic against warm skin. Would Jungkook's translucent skin feel the same?
“I think you'll like it. It's nothing like Seoul,” Jungkook says, corners of his lips curling upwards. A hint of a smile, always just a hint because porcelain dolls can't smile and even now, Jungkook looks like one.
“Would you like to show me around?”
Jungkook looks up, his eyes finding Jimin's and the world stands still for a fleeting moment. Something akin to surprise changes his features and Jimin catches the spark in his eyes. With a tilt of his head, Jungkook leans across the table and says, “Yes, but only if you ditch the after party.”
- - -
Jimin does. He changes into jeans and a hoodie after Armani show. Pulling his snapback low, he walks down the corridors, past skittering models and human hangers, through the hysterical mass of coordinators and stylists. When he leaves the building, he texts Jungkook and patiently waits for him to arrive.
Jimin's fumbling with his phone, trying to beat his own record in a game he's been playing between shows, when Jungkook startles him.
“Jesus Christ,” Jimin gasps as Jungkook taps him on the shoulder. He turns around on his heels and nearly falls into Jungkook's arms. Proximity can be a tricky thing.
“Sorry,” Jungkook says, but Jimin can tell that he's not sorry. Not one bit. Not at all.
They're lost in Moscow with its warm mornings and chilly evenings. It's supposed to be late spring but nature never follows the same pattern and Jimin feels the cold creeping up his fingertips. He stuffs his hands in the pockets of his hoodie and follows Jungkook down wide boulevards.
Jungkook doesn't talk much, his nose digging into his thick red scarf, cheeks dusty pink from the wind. He inhales life and exhales smog. They're seduced by milky lights and remains of turbulent times. Under the veil of darkness, all edges become soft, blurred and Moscow is no longer made of asbestos and stone, but wishes of young lovers and blood covering the Red Square.
They stumble down the stairs to the metro station, past the workers returning home, because Jungkook wants to show him something. Jimin's not sure what to expect. Super-fast trains? Or platforms longer than any runway he's ever walked down? All sleek lines and clean pavements? Street dancers? Buskers, maybe?
As they push through the crowd, Jungkook grabs his hand to stop them from drifting apart and Jimin's breath gets caught in his throat at the sudden contact. Jungkook's skin is warm and it catches him off guard. Who knew that perfection isn't cold like a marble statue.
The ceilings of Moscow metro stations are works of art, public display of colours and talent. Endless details reflecting on granite floors. Paintings as beautiful as the works of renaissance artists. Mosaics made with coloured glass and marble. In the heart of the concrete jungle there lies an escape to a different time.
They stand in the centre of the platform and Jungkook talks about art, life and death and how envious world famous museums are of Russian stations, but his voice gets lost in foreign words and people pushing past them and all Jimin catches is the childlike expression on Jungkook's face.
They spend a few hours there, wasting time that seems to pass more slowly when they're just bystanders. The metal benches which they're sitting on are cold. Every train takes more and more people away, until they're the only ones left.
Two Korean boys lost in the capital of Russia.
Jungkook looks at the ceiling and Jimin checks the time on his phone.
“We should return,” he says and Jungkook hums in agreement.
They return to a deserted hotel lobby and receptionists fighting sleep behind the front desk. Their footsteps echo down the corridor with crystal chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. Jimin catches a glimpse of Jungkook in one of the mirrors they pass by. Black hair and coat, red scarf and porcelain skin. A perfect contrast.
“Care to come in for a drink?” Jungkook asks once they reach his room and Jimin looks at him a little surprised, a little amused.
“I thought you didn't drink.”
As he slips the key into the lock, Jungkook says, “I do a lot of things I'm not supposed to be doing.”
At this, Jimin half-expects him to smile, but he doesn't. Jungkook pushes the door of his room open – an invitation – and Jimin follows him inside.
It's a one-time deal, Jimin tells himself as he kisses Jungkook later that night. He's a little tipsy, vodka burning down his throat and Jungkook should be feeling the same, but when Jimin leans forward, his fingers under Jungkook's chin, tilting his head just enough for Jimin to kiss him, he can only taste mineral water and mint on Jungkook's lips. At first, it's experimental, lips on lips, closed mouths, no tongue; maybe innocent, clean, almost pure but in the next moment, Jungkook's licking between his lips, parting them open and Jimin forgets how fragile Jungkook looks when his fingers pull him closer.
It's a one-time deal and they have the luxury of skipping questions as hands seek skin under the layers of fabric and every touch burns, as Jungkook's lips trail sloppy wet kisses down Jimin's neck and the world behind the silk curtains is standing still. Jimin is aware of his frantic heartbeat, pulse drumming in his ears and he wonders whether Jungkook feels the same or if this is just one of the things Jungkook's used to doing between photo shoots and fashion shows. But Jungkook leaves him no room to think as he rolls his hips down and a broken moan escapes Jimin's parted lips.
His long fingers are fumbling with the buttons of Jimin's jeans. Skin on skin and hands searching, hands everywhere; lips swollen and red, lucid eyes and desperate whispers of love and lust and all beautiful lies that the world has to offer.
Jungkook's skin feels like satin under Jimin's fingertips, like Da Vinci's work in flesh and blood and alabaster bones. His lips are bitten from the reckless kisses, red on white canvas; his fingers are digging in Jimin's skin seeking affection and Jimin caves in.
Jungkook takes Jimin from behind, reducing them both to sweat and maybe a few tears here or there as they come together.
And since this is a one-time deal, Jimin can get out the bed, pick his scattered clothes, get dressed and leave without a message and a goodbye kiss, without showering and fingers dancing across cheekbones, a gentle touch, a see-you-soon or this-was-a-mistake. But Jimin stays, pulling the covers over them and counting Jungkook's eyelashes instead of his ribs, kissing his lips and not his thin wrists.
London. Beijing. Madrid. Tokyo.
Hotels change with time zones, pastel colours turn to neon ones. Spring/Summer Galliano turns to Autumn/Winter Tom Ford and it's still a one-time deal: colourful condom wrappers and silk sheets, cold ceramic tiles beneath heated skin and two handprints on the still-misted bathroom mirror. Here one moment, gone the next – footsteps echoing down the hallways; fingers touching, never interlaced.
“I do a lot of things I'm not supposed to.”
- - -
Models are nothing like fine wine. Their value doesn't rise as the years fly by because nobody is willing to pay for wrinkles around eyes and skin hanging on bones like clothes on a rack. Still, there's so much that plastic surgery can do before they are replaced with young blood and still rosy cheeks.
Beneath it all, models are creations of mass production, made out of the same mold carefully crafted by the hands of a skilled designer. The same brown eyes and high cheekbones, narrow noses and long limbs. Some last longer than the others, some get caught in a vicious cycle of low-fat yogurts, one per day, and a grapefruit for breakfast because gaunt is the new beautiful, and emaciation is the desired look.
Like poems on amphetamines, modelling only looks pretty on the outside, on catwalks under relentless neon lights.
Jungkook pushes his fingers down his throat, as far back as he can. Pruned skin over bulky, nodular joints and Jimin looks away.
Scrape the surface away and perfection is rotten flesh under the thin shiny veneer.
The back of Jungkook's throat is raw, but he's used to the pain by now. But this is such a small price to pay for being the one to open the fashion show. He feels acid rising from the pit of his stomach and he bends forward again.
Jimin has long stopped pretending to wash his hands when he stumbles upon Jungkook retching out his insides and translucent pieces of his soul because Jungkook is right – the music is too loud and even with paper thin walls nobody will hear anything. Nobody will want to hear anything.
As Jungkook washes his hands, Jimin looks at his reflection in the vanity mirror. He stares at the same old perfection that weighs Jungkook down and for a brief moment, merely a heartbeat, he knows that when the roles are reversed, he will probably look the same. A little less perfect, perhaps.
Even when he destroys himself, Jungkook wants to fail more, lose more, die more than others, and Jimin's walking behind him on this elongated Mobius strip, never quite catching up.
- - -
Berlin comes with hot July days and melted ice-cream running down fingers, making them sticky with sweetness. Jimin arrives half an hour before schedule and finds Jungkook in the dressing room, among colourful outfits and accessories, palettes of bright eye-shadow and stylists wearing a genuine smile on their face instead of a frown.
It's a pictorial for Céci, scheduled months ago, pushed back and forth again and again. When the make-up is done, they head to the site and Jimin sees vivid graffiti and Hoseok checking his camera, adjusting the shutter speed and worrying about light and angles.
He likes working with Hoseok. All of them do.
Hoseok is colour, corny jokes and boisterous laughter; embodiment of pop culture and latest trends. He never works in a studio with dull backgrounds and artificial light. The locations he picks are picturesque, like cut-outs from tourist magazines but never popular among foreign guests, little pieces of paradise scattered around the globe.
When he sees Jimin, Hoseok waves and smiles. After few minutes, he calls his assistant and asks whether everybody is happy.
“Gloomy models, gloomy pictures. The sun can't help with that regardless of how much it shines. Now smile, Jimin.”
There's something warm in the way Hoseok treats his models. Maybe it's the encouragement, maybe his smile, the way he always asks for their opinion even though he's the one in charge. And maybe through the viewfinder he sees children forced to grow up too quickly in order to fit the mould made by a reckless designer, and he finds a way to make them human again.
- - -
On the opposite side of the spectrum from Jung Hoseok stands Min Yoongi.
Nobody knows which city they're in. Curtains are closed, silence in the studio is overwhelming and Jimin knows what to expect when he sees Jungkook wearing dark slacks and unbuttoned dress shirt.
It's a known fact that Yoongi despises colour. All his works are studies in black and white; clean lines and edges sharper than the model's cheekbones. His photographs are stripped from emotion, humanity, oddly imperfect under scrutinizing gaze of their creator. To Yoongi, nothing is good enough and models are just breathing mannequins with glass skin and protruding bones.
When he works, Yoongi doesn't talk, stylists and make-up artists don't chatter about latest Donna Karan creations. There's no music, just the sound of shutter breaking the silence.
Black and white clothes hang on the rack. Not a hint of colour anywhere.
Jungkook waits for his turn and occasionally says something. Jimin hums in agreement because today that's all he can do. His soul is left behind in some bathroom stall.
Maybe Jungkook could lend him his own, but there's so little left of it that Jimin doesn't want it, not any longer.
When Jimin looks at his reflection after the make-up artist has finished her work, he sees a mask painted on his face in thick brush strokes of foundation and eyeliner. Black is rimming his eyes, his cheekbones are sharp enough to cut glass. It's a Venetian mask made of finest ceramic.
Jimin wonders whether it would crack if he smiled.
Their eyes meet in the mirror and unsaid words get stuck in their throats. They've become good at playing pretend, masking sloppy kisses with something oddly resembling emotions. They've been meeting on airports, in hotels between time zones, whispering sweet nothings against abused skin and Jungkook's always been the first one to pack his things and leave.
When Jimin thinks about it, they've never passed the phase of sweet nothings. Meaningless words are spoken either in Korean or English, but in the end, it doesn't matter. Nothing is nothing and that's all they'll ever be. There's no substance in the empty shell of a man, between floating ribs and eyes like august moons.
Jimin should have known better, but perfection is deceiving and beauty is skin deep.
Butterflies in their stomachs have decomposed in acid before their wings grew strong enough for them to fly away, to escape from their fragile ribcage.
Jungkook opens his mouth to say something but Yoongi's calling for him and he leaves the dressing room without a single word.
- - -
This isn't a relationship, Jimin wants to say before Jungkook sits in his lap and kisses him. Jimin can taste mix of alcohol and tic tacs on his lips and he should push him away, but he can't.
Today, Jimin lacks the strength, determination – everything.
Jungkook wants to say something as well but he was never good with words so he lets his actions speak for themselves in hopes that Jimin would understand, but then he realizes that Jimin's not kissing him back and his lips stop moving against Jimin's.
“What's wrong?” he asks. His arms are around Jimin's neck, his fingers playing with the loose strands of his hair.
Jimin wants to laugh. “Where should I start?”
Jungkook frowns and his mask cracks. It's another million-dollar pose for High Cut, but there are no cameras to capture this moment of... of something Jimin can't name, because the word vulnerability is too strong, and the word panic doesn't quite fit.
“From the beginning, I guess,” Jungkook replies.
“It's too late for that.”
And it is. When this – they – started, Busan was still a home and not just a random place on the map; Paris was a dream waiting to come true and time zones hadn't insisted that there can be more than twenty-four hours in a day.
“You can always try, Jimin.”
There are only a handful of moments when Jungkook has called him by his name and at first Jimin doesn't know how to respond. The syllables are still rough when Jungkook says them. They lack real emotion, but these days that is such a common thing. The only novelty is that Jungkook is looking him straight in the eye, trying to see the things Jimin can't say in his dark irises, because eyes mirror the soul, but what is there to be seen when the soul has been flushed down the toilet before a fashion show in a nameless city?
Still, he tries to find an answer for the silence and comes up with “This is the end.”
“There was never a beginning,” Jimin says. “We were just a one-time deal.”
“You're right. How foolish of me to think something else,” and he's getting up, taking his bag from the floor and leaving.
Jimin hears the door of the hotel room slamming shut and he collapses on the bed.
That night he dreams of carnivals, shattered porcelain masks and falling in the abyss between the cracks in the asphalt. When he wakes up, the sun is high on the sky and he barely manages to make it on time for the roll-call. As they read the names, Jimin notices that Jungkook is absent. He tells himself not to care about it.
- - -
They don't meet in Paris. In New York they get booked for different shows. Jimin skips Milan and ends up going back to Busan. He wants to say that he's headed home but that word has lost its meaning a long time ago. The sad thing is that he doesn't even remember when.
His mother says that he has changed, that auburn hair suits him. His grandmother jabs him in the ribs, saying that he's just skin and bones, and cooks for ten that afternoon. Jimin skips the family dinner, pretending to visit old friends which he doesn't have.
He strolls down the beach passing by numerous couples holding hands. Something swells in his chest, but he blames it on the jet lag and a different time zone.
- - -
Jimin is waiting for his luggage when he sees Jungkook. Dark red hair, Ray Ban sunglasses and the same old melancholy lingering on his bones. It's hard to miss, the way he walks like everybody is beneath him, the world is reduced to a reflection in the vanity mirror as skilled fingers hide all imperfections with powder a shade too light.
They meet in the backstage area of Marc Jacobs and for once, Jimin is the one to open the show. Jungkook catches a glimpse of him on a portable television set backstage as he waits for his turn. He sees Jimin's face floating down first on the runway, chin low and eyes sweltering dark with something deeper than rage or lust.
This is new romanticism and new renaissance moulded into one. This is something between terror and fervour, the closest thing to perfection Jungkook's ever seen. It's wrong in the rightest of ways and maybe they shouldn't have been just a one-time deal.
For Jungkook, they were never a one-time deal.
- - -
Seasons come and go, and when Jungkook returns to Korea, he sees Jimin's face on the billboards promoting whatever latest product people are obsessed with; he sees Jimin's face on the covers of magazines. Photographs bring back bittersweet memories, each of them cutting a little deeper, but when Jungkook really looks at them, he realizes that Jimin's eyes look dead.
He pulls the phone from his pocket and scrolls down the contact list until he finds the right number.
Jimin's phone rings. Once, twice.
He stares at the caller's ID, opting whether to answer it. With his bottom lips between his teeth, Jimin taps his fingers on the screen until he hits the right button and Jungkook's voice comes from the other end of the line.
“I thought you'd never pick up,” he says. There's something akin to relief lacing his voice, but Jimin chooses to ignore it.
“That was an option,” Jimin admits. “I didn't expect you to call.”
At the other side, Jungkook laughs and for once it doesn't sound artificial. “Your face is everywhere. It's hard to miss. I thought I should congratulate you for getting the campaign everybody wanted.”
“Thanks, I guess. Now -”
“Hoseok-hyung should take the photos next time,” Jungkook blurts out.
“Your eyes look dead. It's not,” he pauses. Waits for the words to come.
“It's not what?” Jimin prompts.
“Nothing. It's nothing.”
“Jungkook, I know you. Maybe not so well but I can tell when you're lying.”
“Your eyes usually look like liquid gold. They're so alive. I guess I miss them. I miss you, Jimin,” he says. Too much, too fast, like the world could end. Right there, right then.
“I miss you too, Jungkook. More than I could ever say,” Jimin whispers.
For few minutes nobody says a word. Jimin listens to Jungkook's breathing, to the static and the background noise. The hands of a clock are perfectly aligned, and this is the moment of encounter on the Mobius strip, a meeting half-way between tomorrow and today.
- - -
Paris. Milan. Moscow.
Flamboyant colours bleeding from the billboards into the darkness of the night. Tourist sights illuminated just enough to remain an attraction, never quite the same as they are on the postcards, somehow they're always out of reach.
Jungkook knows it all – the glitter and glamour and stars left to burn out on dirty pavements. He has seen every city through tinted glass, never experiencing anything it has to offer to hungry tourists because the fashion shows always swallow up his time – paper thin walls, endless chatter and excitement, empty water bottles and make-up smeared on mirrors, occupied bathroom stalls and the sound of purging lost in the music coming from the runway.
That's all there is to it. Magical things happen on the catwalk with celebrities sitting in the first row and photographers in the second.
Jungkook gets picked by Alexander McQueen. Tall, lean and fragile is what they ask for. Porcelain skin and big eyes.
Taehyung gets stuck with Jeremy Scott, as per usual.
They're in Paris, the city of love and light and art. From the Montmartre to the Louvre, there are lines of people waiting everywhere; under the Eiffel Tower and in Versailles. Instead of the smell of croissants, the stench of gasoline lingers in the air. Nothing can't escape pollution and as he inhales smog, Jungkook wonders whether cigarette smoke would taste the same.
In the afternoon, Jungkook comes to watch Taehyung at the Jeremy Scott show, mumbling something about friendship and his hotel room being too small and a jet lag that has sunk deep into his bones.
It's too colourful for Jungkook's taste, neon colours shinning under bright lights. So, he grabs a magazine and sits in the chair in front of an empty make-up station. Taehyung lets him be and wanders around greeting familiar faces and making new friends. Jungkook can hear his laughter over music and how he complains about make-up artists who don't understand what neo-baroque meeting 21st century Gatsby is supposed to look like.
He flips through the pages, skipping interviews, barely looking at the photos. Taehyung returns and a make-up artist is already dusting pressed powder everywhere.
“New blood at six o'clock,” Taehyung says.
When Jungkook looks up from the magazine, he sees Jimin in the mirror and smiles.
Jimin does the same and for once things fall into place.