- well, it’s like a best friend, but more
Contrary to popular belief, Jaebum and Jinyoung’s first meeting was far from being ‘magical’.
There were no signs, no sparks – nothing. Amidst the hustle and bustle of kids waiting for their turn in the auditions, the air was humid and somehow sticky – boiling with passion and ambitions from hundreds of youngsters.
Number 24 and 25 were just part of them.
It wasn’t the work of fate or whatsoever – the wall just happened to be right there unoccupied. 16 years old Im Jaebum latched himself to the wall as soon as he spotted it – the tiles were cool and soothing, just like the ones in Jeongbalsan station. He danced there all the time and when he did, he did it with his entire body and soul; willing to lose every single bit of his hot-tempered self as he morphed from high school student Im Jaebum into talented bboy Def Soul.
15 years old Park Jinyoung drove himself to the farthest corner of the room out of habit. As a young teen in an established hiphop school, he was constantly surrounded by older students and therefore never seen as a potential challenger. For some, he was nothing but a child who tried to act all high and mighty to get the teachers’ approval. They were all wrong. His actions were the proof of his passion; that his dreams were as big as everyone else’s, if not bigger.
When the crowd suddenly moved, their shoulders bumped and as they looked into each other’s eyes for the first time, there were no rainbows or fireworks. Just two awkward boys bowing at each other, and accidentally bumped their foreheads together as they bowed at the exact same time.
Much later, when they were standing on the stage side by side as the judges passed the trophies and flowers into their arms, they looked into each other’s eyes once more and still, the sparks weren’t there.
But this time, they were pretty sure that it was the beginning of something.
- it’s that one person in the world who knows you better than anyone else
Jinyoung slid down onto the floor as soon as the choreographer left the room. Other trainees had started collecting their stuff and leaving the practice room, one by one, but Jinyoung didn’t feel like moving at all. The linoleum flooring felt cool under his sticky skin and the heat from his body manifested itself as droplets of water on the mirror. It had been four months and eleven days since he signed the contract as a trainee in JYP Entertainment, and it was pretty safe to say that Jinyoung never expected some things.
The hostility of some people was one of them.
He knew that everyone here came from different backgrounds and talents, but with one goal: they all wanted to be acknowledged. They wanted to stand on stage where they could display their abilities to the fullest, and have the whole world recognize them. He wasn’t gonna lie – he wanted the same thing.
But he thought the rivalry was only about talents and hard work – and he was wrong.
People here never hesitated to trample others just so they could stand tall – well, not everyone, but he had seen lots of those. It wasn’t all about who sang their hearts out or who owned the dance floor. In front of the teachers, instructors, and board of directors, they all showcased their best performance and attitude. But behind closed doors, the law of the jungle ruled them all.
He was exhausted. He wanted to give up everything and rush straight back to Busan, to help his parents run their business and enjoy an occasional dance practice as a hobby. But then he looked back at everything he had ever done and the ghosts of his dreams started coming back. He was one step away from reaching what had been his goal since childhood. Giving up now would be the easiest option, but he would never escape the regret if he ever did.
He just wished that he had someone to hold onto.
When he finally decided to drag himself out of the practice room and head home, he was stopped by something cold thumping on his forehead.
He opened his eyes – everything was blurry under the sudden bright light but he could see the outlines of a familiar person. The person had a plastic bag in his hand and he was offering Jinyoung a bottle of cold drink – which he took gratefully. “Hey hyung. Why are you still here?”
It was Jaebum – Im Jaebum. Jinyoung met him for the first time during the auditions – back then, he didn’t even have a name to associate with the face. Number 25 – it was all he knew. Then they were put in the same team and passed through every step of auditions until eventually, they shared the stage and the glory as the joint winners. Jaebum signed his contract around the same time as Jinyoung and they had been training together ever since. But it was Im Jaebum. Im Jaebum who always managed to steal the audience whenever he danced. Im Jaebum who didn’t even want to be a singer at first, yet each and every time he sang, he left the vocal trainer in shock. Even with his bad temper, he had the persona made for the stage, and he was well liked by the seniors and the instructors. It was the Im Jaebum, and Jinyoung was supposed to feel small within his presence.
Strangely, he only felt an unexplainable sense of comfort.
Jaebum slid down to the floor beside him and Jinyoung ditched any plans to leave. They sat side by side in the quiet practice room – it was two in the morning and the cramped basement felt like a ghost town. Taking a gulp from his drink, Jaebum chuckled lightly. “You look so frustrated during the last practice. And Wonpil called, asking me if I’ve seen you anywhere. He was worried, you know.”
“I’m sorry.” Jinyoung bowed his head. He never meant to trouble anyone.
“…It’s suffocating, isn’t it?” Jaebum suddenly said after a long drag of silence.
“Going to school, practicing… day after day and it feels like you’re stuck in the same place. Will I ever make any improvement? Others are already doing something and yet I’m still here, going after the same routines. It’s depressing. Sometimes, I just want to ditch everything and start fresh.”
But you have everything in your pockets. Soon you’re going to get somewhere. Jinyoung wanted to scream. But he felt Jaebum’s hand creeping on the back of his neck and he was pulled into a tight side hug.
“It’s hard, doing all of this again and again… but believe me, as long as we don’t give up, we’re going somewhere.”
Yes. We’re going somewhere.
Jaebum’s smile, for some reasons, calmed him more than anything could.
- it’s someone who makes you a better person. actually – they don’t make you a better person. you do that yourself. because they inspire you
Breathe in. Breathe out.
Jaebum sat with his back pressed to the wall – uncaring that the place he was sitting at was a toilet. He was still mad – but now that some of the steam has gone, he felt mortified. He just threw a tantrum in front of fellow trainees and seniors. Perhaps, it would be less horrifying if he was mad about something big. That way, his reaction would be justifiable. But the prank they were pulling was borderline petty and anyone with normal temper would simply laugh at that.
Sadly, it seems like controlling his temper was not Jaebum’s strength. Not yet.
He stayed there unmoving for several more minutes and finally, he felt better. His breathing was slowly getting normal and his common sense finally returned. Now that he had become himself again, worry started to overflow. He had to find ways to apologize to everyone. The seniors, other trainees. And Park Jinyoung.
He was really mad that it clouded his better judgment. He shoved everyone who tried to get close to him. And when Park Jinyoung tried to wrap his arms around him, he pushed him. Hard. He could even hear the resounding thump when Jinyoung’s body made contact with the wall. And the sound haunted him.
He counted five seconds before he gained the courage to open the door – and he barely made it to two steps before he collided onto someone.
“Have you calmed down now, hyung?” Jinyoung grinned at him, eyes crinkling. There was a small but noticeable bump forming on his forehead, yet it didn’t seem to faze him. He looked happy.
“Everybody is waiting outside. If you’ve calmed down enough, you’re welcome to join us anytime.” Jinyoung smiled and turned around. But before he could leave the bathroom, Jaebum lurched forward, and trapped him in a tight hug.
“I’m sorry.” He whispered. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” He mumbled on Jinyoung’s neck, chanting apologies like a mantra. “I’m sorry for what I did. I know I promised to try and control my temper – believe me, I’m trying, I’m trying. Shit, I just proved that I’m not capable of it, did I? Believe me, Jinyoungie, I really am trying. I will do better next time – just, please, forgive me.”
Jaebum’s apology was cut off when Jinyoung chuckled. “Looks like the toilet did a really good job comforting you. Really though, you shouldn’t apologize to me. Go apologize to the other kids, they were super shocked.”
“But I could have given you a concussion.” Jaebum forcefully turned Jinyoung around and pointed at the bump on his forehead. Jinyoung rubbed the spot, winced slightly, and laughed. “Well, it’s a price I would pay for debuting.”
Jaebum stopped in his tracks. “…What?”
“Yes hyung, you heard it right.” Jinyoung said shyly. “I’m going to debut soon.”
“Congratulations!” Jaebum beamed and hugged Jinyoung tightly, all anger and frustration gone. He was genuinely happy for the younger boy. “Jinyoungie, I’m so proud of you. You’re going to do great up there.”
“Thank you hyung. But you have to promise me something.”
“What is it?” Jaebum frowns.
“Promise me you’re going to keep working hard and keeping your temper controlled.”
“I can do that, okay.” Jaebum smiled. It would be understandable for him if he got mad that Jinyoung got to debut before him, but strangely, he wasn’t. He knew that Jinyoung deserved it, and it made Jinyoung happy. So he was happy too.
“I know you can, hyung.” Jaebum felt his fingers linking together with Jinyoung’s. “That’s my beloved leader.”
Again, Jaebum stopped. “…What are you talking about?”
Jinyoung’s eyes crinkled beautifully as a big smile spread across his face. “Yes, hyung. We’re doing this together. We are going to debut as a duo.”
- a soulmate is someone who you carry with you forever
“I’m sorry. But this is not going to work.”
Beside him, he could feel Jinyoung bristling. They were about to go home from practice when they were summoned to the CEO’s office with no notice beforehand. It was all too sudden and Jaebum couldn’t even imagine what their boss had to say.
Actually – he could. He simply chose not to.
The middle aged man sighed and placed both hands on the table in clasped position. He glanced at the two boys – an array of emotions flashing in his eyes. With a low voice, he repeated.
It’s not working. This kind of burden is usually shared by four or more. It’s going to be hard to continue as two. At this rate, there’s nothing else we can do about you two.
Their boss kept rambling – listing reasons after reasons of why it would be hard to continue as JJ Project. None of his words made it through Jaebum’s brain. He was busy comforting himself, thinking that it must have been nothing but a nightmare. He was thinking about the one beside him – the one who was trembling and Jaebum wasn’t even sure if he could do anything.
He did, however, hear JYP’s last sentence.
“We have decided to suspend JJ Project for an indefinite time.”
It was the last words spoken for a long time – they gave a stiff bow to the CEO and left the office, not speaking to each other. Their manager drove them to the dorm and left, claiming that he still had things to do in the office even though Jaebum knew that he was only trying to give the boys some privacy.
Jinyoung hadn’t said a word, and Jaebum was too afraid to probe.
The younger male had locked himself almost as soon as they reached home and Jaebum was left hovering outside – too unsure to do anything. He felt weak. Anger, disappointment, pain, everything hit him all at once and he was too exhausted to fight back. But more than anything, he felt guilt consuming him. He could hear Jinyoung’s soft sobs as he pressed his ears on the door and the guilt inside him started screaming bloody murder.
When the clock struck midnight and Jinyoung hadn’t stepped out from the pseudo comfort of his room, Jaebum started singing.
He sang like he was asking a question – his self doubts and fears poured within verses after verses. Their career might be ending and he could say an eternal goodbye to the stages he worked so desperately for – but more than anything, he could be saying goodbye to the boy inside the room as well.
For some reasons, it scared him the most.
His voice began to crack as the ending of the song came close and he felt as if his chest had been split in half – like somebody was taking his heart out and ripping it, clawing on it. I promised to take him somewhere. And I failed. Jaebum’s inner self screamed at him through the hole in his chest. He wanted to run away, maybe leave Jinyoung forever and let the younger be with some who could do better. If it wasn’t him, perhaps Jinyoung would already be somewhere right now. He wouldn’t be locked in a dorm crying his heart out and fearing for an uncertain tomorrow.
Jaebum’s guilt was too loud that he didn’t even hear the footsteps and he almost fell backwards when the door suddenly opened.
Jinyoung crashed onto him with no restrain – his warm tears ran down Jaebum’s neck and soaked his already damp shirt but the older male barely felt anything. Arms wrapped around each other and fingers linked wherever possible, they held each other close, not wanting to acknowledge the fact that it might be their last night together.
It might be.
“Is this it?” Jinyoung’s breath hitched as he held back a sob. “Is this really the end of us?”
Jaebum didn’t know what kind of ghost possessed him but he found himself shaking his head profusely.
“I won’t let it.” His voice cracked one more time, yet he felt a surge of strength as Jinyoung’s fingers instinctively gripped onto him tighter. “It might be where JJ Project ends… but one day… one day Im Jaebum and Park Jinyoung will go somewhere.”
He wiped the tears on Jinyoung’s face with his weak, trembling fingers – there were tear streaks staining his own cheeks but he held on not to spill any more. They held each other until morning came and they made a promise – that even if they had to go their separate paths, they would meet again one day, bathed in light and glory.
- it’s the one person who knew you, and accepted you, and believed in you before anyone else did. or when no one else would
Jaebum locked himself in his room as soon as he arrived home.
Had he heard it right? Earlier that day, he was called to the CEO’s office and he already feared for the worst. He had scenarios playing in his head – that the results from his annual examination was deemed not good enough and he would have to go through extra practice. Or worse, he would never be given the second chance. Or he could just get kicked straight out of the company.
When he entered the office, he already braced himself for the news. But it was nothing like he expected.
“Get ready. You’re going to enter a new group, and you’re going to be the leader.”
A year ago, he was given the chance and he blew up everything. He half expected to stay as a trainee for much longer, and even if he did get into another group, he would be just a member. Yet he returned home with the news that he would lead another group.
Was he ready for another chance? Jaebum wasn’t so sure. The wounds from the past were still fresh and it bled slightly whenever somebody poked on it. The first days after the announcement, when he returned to the practice rooms with other trainees, he couldn’t pretend not to hear the whispers. He couldn’t ignore the cold glares thrown at his direction.
And he couldn’t close his eyes to the fact that Jinyoung was going through the same thing.
When the thought about Jinyoung crossed his mind, his fears doubled in intensity. He was going to get put into another group, but what about Jinyoung? He didn’t know what would happen to the younger male. Would he be in the group as well? Or would he have to wait while Jaebum took the stage once again?
The thoughts consumed him and he fell asleep dreaming of twisted futures.
The following day, he was again summoned to the office to meet his new bandmates. He hadn’t seen anybody since he arrived and he wasn’t sure if he had to be scared or relieved. On one side, he was relieved that he wouldn’t have to meet the judging stares. On the other side, he was scared beyond belief. What if his new band members didn’t like him? What if they didn’t trust him to lead them? After all, he had failed once and there was no guarantee that he would succeed this time.
As he approached the main office, his legs started to tremble and he was so tempted to turn around and run away. But he didn’t.
Jinyoung’s face flashed in his mind as he pushed the door open.
There were four boys standing timidly in the middle of the room and their boss was sitting in his seat, calmly waiting for Jaebum to arrive. Jaebum took a quick glance at everyone and he immediately recognized everyone – the three foreigners and one Korean boy. They were nice and incredibly talented – and they didn’t hate him like some others did. But Jaebum couldn’t deny that there was a hint of doubt on their faces when they looked at him.
Jinyoung wasn’t among them.
Jaebum stood there, listening to their boss speaking even though he wasn’t really listening. His heart had dropped onto the floor and he just felt dizzy at the thought of being in a group without Jinyoung. He actually contemplated cutting off his boss’ speech and declare that he would drop out of the team – but the door burst open before he could.
“I’m sorry ‘m late!”
The high pitched dialect grabbed his attention and he looked up to see Jinyoung walking through the door, still panting, but with a bright smile on his face.
Jaebum didn’t wait another heartbeat before he crossed the room and threw both arms around Jinyoung, pulling him into a tight hug.
“We’re going somewhere, hyung.” He heard Jinyoung whisper and Jaebum closed his eyes in pure relief, arms wrapping tighter around the younger male.
Yes, the wounds were still fresh and the future still unknown, but Jinyoung was the Virgil to his Dante and Jaebum wouldn’t mind going through the purgatory.
- and no matter what happens you’ll always love them. nothing can ever change that
The song faded into the background and cheers erupted from everywhere inside the stadium. Jinyoung panted, his breath still ragged and shirt sticking to his back from sweat, but the adrenaline rush from dancing and singing nonstop made him feel giddy, heart beating fast. It was finally, finally – the day of their solo concert. He had been dreaming for this stage since forever – even though there were days when he thought that it would never happen, he never stopped chasing the dream and he was there, standing on the brightly lit stage.
Finally the song stopped, the cheers quieted down, and the boys broke formation to stand in their respective spots.
Jinyoung’s gaze unconsciously moved to the place where someone should be.
He had imagined the scene multiple times – him standing on stage with his band members, thousands of people coming and cheering for them, and he would smile brightly as he delivered his best performance to the world. He did everything, tonight, except one thing was missing.
Countless dreams about the stage and there had never been one without Jaebum by his side. Yet, on the night of the concert, he was staring at an empty spot.
The five other members started delivering their thoughts about the concert but Jinyoung was deaf and blind. A sea of green lights flickering and he only saw beautiful eyes warmly staring at him. A thousand cheers but he only heard someone singing along with him. It was not his dream to stand on stage, it was theirs. And Jinyoung stood there, feeling alone under the stage lights, Jaebum’s words playing in his mind over and over again.
“Go somewhere, Jinyoungie. Go for me too.”
When it was his turn to speak, Jinyoung had to wait several seconds until the words came.
Tears began to form at the back of his eyes and he tried his best to blink them back. It wasn’t a proper time to cry, not when he had five members to stay strong for and thousands of fans to reassure. He started telling the world how grateful he was, of the members, of the fans, their families, the company, and the leader who wasn’t there. He managed to hold everything until the very last moment of his speech when somebody suddenly piped up.
“We have a special guest coming.”
He blinked, unsure of what was happening. He was pretty sure that nobody mentioned anything about a special guest or anyone coming to their concert at all. He knew that some of their labelmates were going to come, but it was scheduled for the second day and most definitely as audiences, not special guests. So what was that with the special guest thing?
He sent questioning glances to his bandmates, but everyone was too busy grinning and moving around in the stage. He didn’t even have time to guess what might be going on before screams erupted from the audience and a familiar voice boomed from the speakers.
“Good evening, everyone.”
The world, for Jinyoung, slowed down and he turned around to see a pair of beautiful eyes staring back at him.
Right then, the words of their promise started ringing in his ears.
“We’re going somewhere.”