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Clandestine Confessions

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The harsh green light of the hotel clock flashed 3:21 AM, and it was then that Yoongi gave up the charade and abandoned all hope of sleep. He sighed, throwing the covers off and stumbling towards the suite’s mini-kitchen to fix himself something to drink. A caramel macchiato would be nice right about now (it’s not like he’d be going back to sleep anyway), but he’d have to settle for whatever coffee came pre-stocked in the kitchen pantry.

He finished adding a tablespoon or so of coffee grounds to the filter and flipped the brewer on. Rubbing his aching temples, he took a seat and waited for the water to heat. This was so unlike him. Sleep had never been a stranger. It always came easy to him, but with the way he was feeling right about now, he wondered if he’d ever be able to rest well ever again.

He briefly considered wandering over to the next-door suites and seeing if anyone else was still awake, but it wasn’t likely. They had all most likely fallen asleep long ago. Everyone tended to turn in early after performance days, but every now and again someone would be up late. Namjoon was the most likely contender, he figured, as the group’s diligent leader often stayed up to toil away at new song lyrics when the mood struck him. The two of them were alike in that way. Maybe there was a slim chance he’d still be up, too- and willing hear Yoongi out in his time of need.

Reaching for his cell phone, Yoongi opened up his familiar messenger app. He scrolled through his previous chats, the most recent being a series of stupid puns from Jin and a couple of dumb memes from Jungkook. As expected, no one else was online at this hour. Not a soul…except for the one person that had caused this entire mess, the one and only cause of his late-night torment: you.

The green status dot next to your profile picture taunted him. It beckoned him to message, and it mocked him for even considering it. Back and forth, his indecision grew.

“You two need to talk this over,” Namjoon’s advice echoed in his head. He’d pulled Yoongi aside today when he’d realized what had been bothering him. “Just ignoring it isn’t going to make this any better.”

He gritted his teeth. Curse Namjoon. His advice was completely right. The way he saw it, he only had two options: he could wait for you to message him first, tossing and turning and losing who knows how much more sleep in the meantime. Or he could make the first move.

“Hey. You’re still up?” he typed, his finger feeling heavy as lead as it lingered over the send button. Mustering up the courage, he pressed it and initiated the conversation he’d been dreading all evening.

The green dot next to your picture turned grey; you went offline. He’d just missed you…or were you avoiding him? 

He cursed under his breath, ready to rip a fistful of his hair out. That was just great. Now he definitely wouldn’t be sleeping. No, instead, he’d be torturing himself by replaying tonight’s memory of you over and over again in his mind. The image of your ecstatic face, wide-eyes sparkling from the front row (V.I.P. seats, no less), would haunt him. He couldn’t get it out of his head: you were bathed in the dancing glow from the surrounding sea of lightsticks, your cheeks flushed from excitement. When he turned to see you from up on stage, he couldn’t fight the grin growing on the corners of his lips. That same smile soured and disappeared seconds later. You hadn’t come alone. You’d brought another man, one who he’d never seen before. One that was standing entirely too close. One that was eagerly trying to grasp your hand in his. One that was quite obviously into you the same way Yoongi was.  

 

To put it lightly, it had thrown him off. His mood turned to a sudden bitter concoction of irritation and anguish. He never dreamed you’d use the extra ticket to bring a date along to the concert. Did you seriously have no idea about the way he felt for you? Did you know and simply not care? You couldn’t be that cruel.

He fought his best through the pangs of heartbreak to put on a good show, but he doubted it was working- and he was right. After the performance, fan sites across the internet were reporting about his distraught performance that night, questioning what was wrong. His lackluster spirit had been bad enough to send his observant fans into a frenzied panic. His followers were a little too perceptive for their own good sometimes. He felt disappointed in himself for worrying them, but what could he do? Beneath his shiny idol exterior, he was still a human. And he felt so broken.

Maybe it was all his fault. He hadn’t captured your heart quickly enough. The life of an international idol was a hectic one, and despite his best efforts, maybe he just wasn’t capable of giving you the attention you deserved. The two of you had become very close since the miracle of meeting each other. In the time span that you’d known and befriended each other, you’d gone from being a devoted fan to becoming a dear friend. The two of you discussed everything, shared everything, and did your best to always be there for one another- all while managing to keep it a complete secret from the outside world. You had insisted from the very beginning that you wouldn’t give the industry any fuel for a possible scandal. 

Back when he had first started to fall in love with you, the pit of his stomach was filled with constant dread. He feared that there was no way you’d make it out of this unscathed. How could he be anywhere near a proper boyfriend when he was hopping continent to continent? Could you tolerate rarely ever getting to see him in person? On top of that, he technically wasn’t allowed to date. He worried incessantly about being less than enough. He worried it would hurt you. How ironic- in the end, it was him who was hurt, left to nurse a broken heart.

His cellphone vibrated atop the counter. A fluttering sensation swirled within his chest. He wasted no time in reading your words.

“So, Motionless Min is wide awake tonight?” your message read. “Are you traveling or something? I thought you guys had the day off tomorrow.”

“We do.”

His reply was curt and simple, and he instantly regretted acting so petty. It wasn’t like he’d ever formally asked you to go steady with him anyway. You weren’t dating. You were best friends, that was all. Maybe his crush really was one sided all along. He didn’t really have a right to act so jaded, right? In an effort to cover up his bitterness, he quickly typed a follow up message.

“Why are you still up?”

“I guess I’ve got a lot on my mind,” your reply was simple.

“That makes you and me both.”

The chat came to a stop then. The tension was thick. There was a metaphorical elephant in the room, so to speak. Who was going to bring it up first? Would you talk about it at all? Namjoon’s advice echoed in his head, and he acknowledged that it was time to face this directly. He took a deep breath.

“I want to talk to you about something,” he said. “But it’s going to be awkward.”

The three minutes it took you to reply back felt like three years.

“You can talk to me about anything, Yoongi.”

The earnest reply left him feeling flustered. You were always so kind like this. Talking with you was safe and comfortable; you made it easy for him to show his subtler sweet side to you. Was he going to jeopardize that relationship by coming clean? He hesitated. No. He needed to do this.

“I saw you at the concert tonight.”

“Yeah?? And I saw you. Kind of impossible not to see you when you’re up on stage lololol. You were amazing, Suga.”

That…wasn’t the reply he had been expecting. Were you trying to change the subject?

“Were you on a date tonight?”

That was him: honest, forward, and arguably a little tactless at times. He lacked the refined, smooth-talking charm that Taehyung had, and he wasn’t sweet and playful like Jungkook, and he certainly didn’t have the jovial, happy-go-lucky energy of Hoseok. What was his charm? He wasn’t really sure, but he hoped it would be enough to help him stumble through this conversation.

“It wasn’t like that,” your reply was meek. “He’s just a friend who lives in the city that I met up with.”

Just a friend. He wondered if you thought of him in the same way…

“But why does that matter?”

Your aggressive question hit him like a truck. Were you challenging him? It put the two of you at an impasse. This would be the deciding moment of truth. Your relationship was a seesaw, a game of indecision and implied feelings that relied on a delicate balance. He teetered somewhere between a friend, a lover, and an idol. Could you let him be all three?

He paced around the hotel room. This really wasn’t the way he wanted this to go down. Whenever he had imagined confessing to you, it had always been a deeply personal affair. He wanted it to be unforgettable. He didn’t see himself nearly as suave or romantic as his bandmates, but he at least wanted the moment to be a special one. He definitely didn’t want to confess his love to you via text message in a hotel room at the buttcrack of dawn.

There’s no going back now, he thought. Might as well.

He opened up a notes app, carefully typing out his message before sending it. He wrote a series of thoughtful paragraphs, deleting and re-typing and deleting again. He crafted long-winded declarations that spilled his feelings, poetic confessions that read more like sappy lyrics than anything else, and detailed the crushing feeling he’d felt when he saw you sitting there with that guy tonight. None of it was good enough. He’d never struggled with finding the words to express himself before, but this felt impossible. In the end, he settled on a singular sentence.

“It matters because you’re more than just a best friend to me.”

There. He’d finally said it. All this time, his best kept secret had boiled down to one measly line of text. Adrenaline pumped through his veins as the minutes ticked by. How were you going to react? What would you say? Would you say anything at all? He decided to send up a follow up message before you had the chance.

“I love you. I should have told you sooner.”

And eventually, another.

“I want you to tell me if you don’t feel the same way. I can take whatever you have to say, so don’t hold back.”

And a final one.

“And I’m sorry about telling you over via chat at four in the morning. Please tell me I’m not too late.”

He crawled back in bed. His head hit the pillow with a thwump noise, the down feathers not nearly firm enough to his liking. He missed his own bed back at home. He missed his dog, Holly, and he missed being able to fall asleep soundly, and he missed the security of knowing you were his best friend. Now, he didn’t even have that. Was putting it all on the line like this worth it? When he considered the chance you might love him back, the answer was an obvious, resounding yes… but when he thought about the crushing rejection that might be moments away, he no longer felt so sure.

Would you still be friends after this? What was he going to do without you? He had six best friends in the form of his bandmates, of course (at this point, they were more like brothers). They’d undoubtedly support him through this, but they wouldn’t be able to understand how he was feeling right now. They couldn’t feel the searing pain he felt every time he imagined that guy becoming your boyfriend, holding your hand and taking you on concert dates and kissing you and-

“How could you be late when it’s only ever been you, Yoongi? I love you, too. You have no idea how much.”

His weary eyes grew wide. He reread the message over a second time, a third, a fourth. Was this real? By some cruel trick of fate, had he finally fallen asleep? Was it all a dream?

“I swear, the guy with me tonight was just a friend. I don’t have feelings for anyone but you.”

“Where are you staying?” His thoughts were formulating faster than his fingers could type. “You’re staying in the city tonight too, right? Which hotel?

“What?! Why?!”

“I’m coming to see you.”

“It’s, like, 4 in the morning!”

“I don’t care. I have to see you.”

He flung the covers back off his legs with a powerful kick. Throwing on a pair of jeans and a black hoodie, he dressed in a hurry. He ran his fingers through his messy bedhead, hoping you would excuse some of the more untamable cowlicks.  There was no time to waste. One of the company’s security guards would be on night duty for the hall- he could escort him to your hotel via private car. This was definitely risky if any paparazzi or curious fans caught him en route. Yoongi would find an excuse for his late-night visit tomorrow, if worst came to worst. He’d send a heads-up text to the boys; they’d help cover for him if need be. He doubted he’d have to explain it, though; the bodyguard assigned to duty tonight was a chiller guy than most with a generally no-nonsense disposition. He never asked any questions and he was pretty good about staying out of Bangtan’s personal business.

“Hmmm…” you typed. “If I don’t tell you the name of my hotel, I guess you’ll just have to go to bed and get some well-deserved sleep…”

“Don’t you dare.”

“Aright, alright!” he swore he could hear your teasing tone and pleased smirk as he read your response. The details of your place of residence were attached, along with one last lament: “Just don’t get into any trouble.”

Just as Yoongi predicted, the guard on duty asked no questions. He simply escorted them down the private exits of the exclusive hotel wing and instructed Yoongi to wait as he retrieved a vehicle. The luxury hotel was a frequent host to enough high-ranking officials and celebrities to warrant such back-room setups, but Yoongi doubted your inn would have the same level of security. He’d just have to be extra careful.

The black minivan had extra tinted windows; no one on the outside could see through the black glass, but the car’s passengers could see out. Yoongi watched the city lights outside speed by in warm blurs of red and blue, wishing that the driver could go faster. Thankfully, your hotel was relatively close by to his own. Not that the distance mattered; tonight, he would have been willing to travel hours if it meant seeing you. He needed to make sure this wasn’t just a dream.

As the car pulled into the parking lot, his heart pounded faster. You were waiting inside for him. He eagerly pulled the hood of his sweatshirt around his head, opening the car door with quick fervor.

“Please wait, sir,” the guard stopped him. “I will return in a moment.”

He sighed, slumping against the back of the seat. He cursed his life of fame. While he was eternally grateful for his success and fortune, it was moments like these that made him miss being normal. All he wanted right now was to run into that lobby, pull you close, and never let you go.

When his guard returned, drove them to a back entrance of the building and pulled into what seemed to be an employee parking spot. He handed Yoongi a hotel key.

“There is an executive lounge area on the top floor currently closed to normal guests,” he explained. “The card will get you in. It will also work for the staff elevator beyond those doors.”

“Thank you,” Yoongi said. “I appreciate it.”

“Of course,” his guard nodded. “And Mr. Min? I would suggest you finish whatever business you have relatively soon. It would be best to return before the need to explain arises.”

So he didn’t have much time, and he needed to be careful not to be seen by anyone else. But that was more than enough. He took out his phone to fire off one last message.

“Wait for me on the 40th floor. I’ll let you in from the inside.”

He hurriedly made his way into the back entrance and onto the staff elevator. The tall, steel doors shut and began the climb to the top of the building.

If the car ride felt long, then the elevator crawl felt like an eternity. Knowing that you were nearly within reach made the wait even more excruciating. The hour was growing wickedly late, and the world was silent save for the ding of each passing floor. He tried to make sense of his blurry, distorted reflection in the elevator paneling. He gave his hair one last run through with his fingers and hoped the dark circles underneath his eyes weren’t too unsightly. Hopefully, you would excuse his less-than-glamorous appearance.

At last, the doors opened.

He had entered via the staff elevator, and a quick glance at his surroundings showed that he was in some sort of pantry room. Rows of foodstuffs and cooking utensils lined the walls. Though it was dark, Yoongi was able to navigate to the door, find a light switch, and enter the main lounge area.   

The room was large, lavish, and decadently opulent. Velvet sofas and Turkish rugs decorated the suite. A large, marble-top bar counter took up the corner. The main wall was a glass window from top to bottom, overlooking the night skyline from a spectacular height. A lounge this fancy was nothing new to Yoongi, but what was different for him was the sense of silence and privacy. There wasn’t another soul around.

He walked over to the far side of the room. The suite was enclosed from the guest access elevator via a frosted glass wall; being an exclusive area of the hotel, one had to scan a key card with special privileges to enter. He inserted his pass into the reader and opened the door.

“Yoongi-“

He grabbed you and pulled you in, holding you taut against his chest.

It was quiet, save for the sound of his heart beating fast. Outside, the world was pitch black. The dawn was on the verge of arriving.

“We don’t have much time,” he began. “I need to get back before our manager realizes I’m gone. But I wanted to see you.”

 You ran your fingers gently across his cheek with a feather-light touch.

“Understood,” you smiled. “I was dying to see you, too.”

“You didn’t get enough of me at the concert tonight?” he smirked.

You gave him a playful push. He continued before you had a chance to come up with a witty retort.

“I think you didn’t get enough of me because you were too busy trying to make me jealous,” he taunted. “And it worked.”

“Hey, if that is hypothetically what I was trying to do…then I finally got you to make a move,” you laughed. “And we both confessed in the end. I’d say that was a success.”

He shook his head, giving you a playful scolding nose with the click of his tongue.

“And I’m supposed to be the bad one in this relationship,” he said.

“Oh, you are,” you laughed, wrapping your arms around him once again. “You’ll always be my bad boy, Suga.”

His lips slipped into a wide smile, beaming from ear to ear, his pearly pink gums showing in the process. Warm rays of morning light began to spread across his skin. Your heart skipped a beat.

“Watch the sunrise with me?”

You pulled him towards the elegant loveseat facing the wall-window. You took a seat, dragging him down with you. Snuggling close together, you watched the city glow in the early-morning light, thankful for this moment. Your boyfriend would be leaving soon, but it was alright; for now, this warm embrace was enough.

 

Chapter Text

Click refresh. ‘This product has yet to be reviewed.’ Sigh. Repeat.

It was a constant, soul-crushing cycle. You knew that the world of publishing was a tough one. You didn’t expect to become a best-selling author overnight or anything, but man, you’d give anything for at least one person to leave a review. Negative, positive, any feedback was welcome at this point. Just a sign that someone had read your toilsome hours of hard work and that you weren’t just shouting into the void.

You’d heard all the advice before: your first work was always the hardest, never give up, write for yourself first and foremost and the audience will follow…and it was all great advice, of course. But it didn’t change the fact that you wished that someone would enjoy reading your work even a fraction as much as you enjoyed writing it. Your first book had already been available for a month with nary a single piece of reader response.

You let out another frustrated sigh and closed your laptop. Sitting around and torturing yourself like this wasn’t going to get anything productive done. You stood, stretching your arms high above your head. How long had you been cooped up in your room? Maybe a little fresh air would clear your head.

You scrambled around your room, looking for your jacket. The breeze outside seemed to be picking up. If you hurried, maybe you could sneak in a walk before the inevitable afternoon storm.

Just as you’d found your jacket and slipped it on, a long-awaited noise chimed and stopped you in your tracks. An e-mail notification?

“New review for your product: [Murakumo: Dreams of Summer].”

Your heart nearly jumped out of your chest. The jacket slipping off your shoulders, you quickly took a seat and mentally prepared yourself for whatever commentary awaited. You did your best to steel your nerves against the possibility of some harsh criticism.

“I initially found this book on accident,” the review began. “I was searching for my favorite author (Murakami) and, thanks to an autocorrect typo, I ended up searching ‘Murakumo’ instead. This was what I stumbled upon.”

This wasn’t exactly a promising start…

“I can now say that Murakami is no longer my favorite author after reading this book.”

Wait, what?

“It’s been a really long time since I’ve read something that I connected with on such a personal level. The level of self-awareness and introspection it takes to explore the existential themes present is indicative of a true visionary. Once I picked it up, I couldn’t put it down. I saw reflections of my own early life in this novel, and I am sure that other readers will as well. And speaking of other readers, where are they? It’s a sore mistake to miss out on a gem such as this.”

The review was positively glowing. Your eyes felt misty- your first review and it happened to be the kindest critique you’d ever received. You read the full-length review three times over, feeling more elated with every word. It felt as though your body couldn’t contain all the happiness swelling up within. Scrolling back to the beginning of the review, you decided to leave a grateful reply to thank your generous first reader.

The reviewer’s username was Runch_Randa. Hm. The name sounded weirdly familiar to you, but you couldn’t quite place why or where you’d heard it before. You digressed and continued on with preparing your thank-you note.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better first review,” you began. Did that sound too weird? Maybe you should open with a better line. You hit the backspace, starting over. “Thank you for purchasing my debut novel.” Oh no, that sounded a little too formal, didn’t it?

Before you could finish, the sound of yet another chime graced your ears. You had a new e-mail.

This time, the e-mail did not redirect to the website link selling your book. Instead, it was a message personally addressed to you. The subject line read: “About your book.” The sender, you noted, once again went by the username Runch_Randa.

“I hope it was alright to reach out to you via email instead of just the book page,” it began. “I saw your contact information listed on the site. I know that’s technically for business inquiries only, but I just had a couple of questions about your work.”

 This was a little peculiar. You weren’t expecting to have fan questions already!

The mysterious e-mail continued at length, gushing over every last detail of your novel. Nothing had escaped this reader; he discussed every theme, device, and characterization you’d spent months crafting with great passion. His intelligent insight was incredible. He might have been praising your work, but you were more impressed with his observational skills and critical eye. You eagerly set to work on answering his questions.

“So, it’s a bit of a funny story,” you began. “The word ‘murakumo’ is Japanese for ‘gathering clouds.’ The full title is intended to reflect the main character’s sense of longing for the familiar, a return to the comfortable summers he spent in his small-town home to which he can never return…”

<><><> 

What started as one email turned into two, and then into three, and eventually into ten, and sparked a lengthy correspondence with one of the most interesting strangers you’d ever had the pleasure of interacting with.

Who was this mysterious Runch_Randa person? Whoever they were, you were fascinated. It was like the two of you were eerily on the same wavelength.  They shared brilliant ideas and bold new ways of looking at things, and the more they would send to you, the more you were dying to see the world from their perspective. For every witty statement you had, they were ready to counter it with a clever retort of their own. You’d never connected with anyone else like this before.

You felt positively giddy over your strange encounter with this unique stranger. The days that followed were filled with constant conversation, and your heart felt light. Somewhere in the back of your mind, reason and rationale plead their case. You had to remind yourself that this person could be anyone in the world. You didn’t know their true name, much less what they looked like. Despite this, you couldn’t help but feel happy, like you’d finally made a real connection with someone out there. It would be okay. You were being careful, after all. 

However, around two weeks in, a particular conversation tinged your boundless joy with a touch of anxiety.

“I know it’s out of the blue, but I was wondering if you’d be willing to allow me to use your masterpiece as inspiration for a song I’m writing,” he inquired.

“A song? Are you a musician?”

“Yeah,” he said. “You could definitely say that.”

“Oh? I wonder if I’ve ever heard any of your stuff before. I’d be honored to have my work be incorporated into a song.”

“That’s a relief. I may or may not have jumped the gun and already started working on it, haha.”

“Would you mind sending me some of your music?” you asked. “I’d really like to listen.”

You decided to press for a little more than just the music.

“Actually, I’d like to learn a little more about you in general. You know all about me from my author bio, but I have no idea about you! I don’t even know what your name is.”

A part of you cursed yourself for being excited as you anticipated their response. You had to give yourself another reality check. This could be anyone from a tired single mother who had picked up your book while working night shifts to sweet old man in a retirement home somewhere. Maybe it was actually a dangerous weirdo…

“It’s sort of funny when you think about it. You might know me better than anyone after all of the deep, personal conversations we’ve had, but I haven’t even shared the surface level details about myself.”

“It’s a little ironic,” you agreed.

“Call me Monie.  Phonetically, that’s a short ‘O’ sound.’

“Monie?”

“Well, my full name is a little bit longer, but that’s my nickname. I’m actually from Asia.”

Monie. Different, but you liked the sound of that.

“If you don’t mind my asking…. are you male or female?”

“I don’t mind. I’m a guy.”

“Age? Sorry to make you play 20 questions here.”

“Hey, no worries. I should have told you more about myself sooner. I’m in my twenties, by the way.”

You wondered how much of what he was telling you was truth and how much else was fabricated.

“So, about that music. Can you send me some? You’ve got me really curious.”

“I’ll do you one better. I’m actually going to be in your city this weekend on a business trip. I’d like to meet somewhere in real life and play what I have finished of the song. Would you be comfortable with that?”

 Meeting this Monie character in real life? The idea was incredibly tempting. You were wickedly curious to see who exactly who it was that had fascinated you so much, but you also knew this was a very risky idea.

“I don’t even know what you look like.”

“I’m sorry, I swear there’s a good reason for that. I just honestly think you wouldn’t believe me if I showed you.”

“Oh, aren’t we a little vain?” you teased. “Are you so attractive that you think I’ll just automatically assume you’re a catfish?”

“No, it’s not like that, haha. And I swear I’m not catfishing you either. I promise, you’ll understand why the second we meet.”

You considered your options.

“Is there any safe way possible for us to do this?” you wrote, voicing your concerns. “Look at this from my perspective. You could end up being a crazy stalker or a serial killer or something. How can I be sure I’m not walking into some kind of sick death trap?”

“I completely understand. I know it was a bold request to begin with.”

Even though it seemed like the right thing to do, you felt an inescapable sadness at turning him down. Curiosity was eating away at your insides. Against all better judgement, you’d definitely developed a sort of fondness for this person. You’d never connected so deeply with anyone before. Thinking long and hard, you proposed a solution. You opened up a web browser and double checked some pertinent information.

“Wait. I think I have an idea,” you said. “This weekend was already booked for me, but I think that will work out to our benefit. There’s a Korean Pop Music convention in town starting this Friday. The place will be packed with people and everyone will have to go through extensive security before being admitted to the event. It seems like a pretty safe situation for both of us, right?”

“That’s perfect. No joke, that’s literally the business trip I’ll be in town for.”

Huh, small world. Well, he did say he was involved in the music industry, and that he was from Asia.

“No way! Can I assume you work for one of the agencies, then?”

“I do! I’m on staff at BigHit Entertainment, actually.”

You resisted the urge to scream.

“You’ve got to be kidding me. Do you have any idea how much of a BTS fan I am?”

“You’re ARMY? Now we’re talking. Come on, fess up: who is your bias?”

“I never could have dreamed that this was the turn this conversation would take. I’m kind of freaking out right now.”

“You better not say RM. Take it from someone who works with him: that dude is a total d-bag.”

“Those are fighting words. You take that back!”

“Haha, I’m kidding, I’m kidding…. kind of. Give me one second.”

You took a moment to catch your breath before getting an incoming email from the official convention center e-mail, forwarded to you by none other than Monie himself. Opening it, your heart stopped.

“Monie. You’ve got to be kidding me. I think I’m going to have a heart attack.”

You’d originally only been lucky enough to score basic admission tickets to the event; no access to the big-name stage events, panels, or fan meets. But now? You had a full event V.I.P. pass with the same backstage privileges as the staff. It was the highest level of exclusive access- this pass wasn’t even available for sale. It was literally priceless. He’d been telling the truth. Monie was the real-deal.

“What can I say? This job has its perks.”

“How can I ever repay you?!”

“Just don’t run off and leave me for Jimin when you get there, lolol.”

You couldn’t believe this. Your head was buzzing with an electric sort of energy.

“Where will we meet at?! What should I wear?!”

“How does 6PM work on the opening Friday? It’ll be inside the convention center, of course. We’ll be working on a private soundcheck at the Palace Main Stage then. Meet me there? Oh, and no need to worry about the dress code. Just wear whatever you like.”

“Seriously?! I’m V.I.P. now- I can’t show up looking like a bum!”

“If it’ll help you feel better, I’ll be dressed pretty casual for setting up the soundcheck. Just throw on jeans and a white t-shirt. Red converses, if you wanna get flashy with it, haha.”

“Alright,” you agreed. “I’ll just do that.”

<><><> 

Namjoon,” Jungkook whined, sprawled out on the backstage sofa. “Will you please get off your phone already?”

“You might as well give up on that, Jungkook,” Taehyung said, digging through the cluttered fridge to find a soda. “It’s a lost cause. When he’s talking to his darling author-nim, he’s in his own little world.”

“She has a name, you know,” Namjoon protested. “And I’m just making sure she knows where to meet up at.”

“I can’t believe you’re going to do this.”

“Yeah,” Jungkook agreed. “She doesn’t even know who you are, right?”

“I bet she’s Jimin biased,” Yoongi chimed in, not looking up from his own phone as he lazily scrolled through his feed.

“Twenty bucks says she’s not,” Taehyung countered, taking a swig of Sprite.

“I’ll take that bet,” Yoongi nodded.

Namjoon groaned. They were so immature sometimes. Really, giving her cutesy nicknames like ‘author-nim?’ Taking bets on who her favorite was? (Although he couldn’t help but wonder…)

He was head-over-heels with someone he’d never met in person before, and they all knew it. He’d tried to hide it at first. It had all started out innocently enough- he truly had loved your work. He’d finished your novel within hours of discovering it, and subsequently raved about it to all of his bandmates. It was in talking to you and the both of you sharing your innermost ideas, thoughts, and beliefs that he had crossed the line from loving your work into loving its author. The way you saw the world was beautiful, and he longed to see everything through your eyes. He relished in the late-night conversations. He awaited to hear your surprising opinions with bated breath. Your perspective was one-of-a-kind, and he had met his match.

And that was when he really messed up. He just couldn’t hide his feelings. He couldn’t control the way they seeped into his everyday life. The woozy, lovestruck smile that would inevitably creep onto his lips when he checked his inbox and saw a new message from you, the thrill of the constant conversations, the dreamy mood he couldn’t shake that carried him through the day…they all gave him away. That was when the teasing began.

It was “author-nim” this and “author-nim” that. It didn’t help that Jungkook had looked up your book in the midst of the drama to tease him and found your author bio in the process. The picture of yourself you’d included was adorable, which only made the teasing worse.

“Hey, Yoongi,” Jungkook asked. “Where are the others at? I want them to get in on this bet, too.”

“Jimin and Jin are running through vocal warm-ups with the coach three doors down, and I have no idea where Hobi went.”

“We need to find him. Namjoon is meeting his darling author-nim really soon, we don’t have much time to waste!”

Namjoon stood, taking his exit.

“You guys are unbelievable,” he groaned. “The worst.”

“We love you too, man,” Yoongi laughed.

“Good luck!” Taehyung called after him. “And remember: I better be the best man at your wedding!”

Shutting the door behind him, he made his way down the busy backstage hall. Tired assistants ran back and forth through the area at top speed. Venue professionals hoisted large sound equipment and shuffled stage props to-and-fro. Production managers were busy barking into earpieces, commanding service staff to adjust every last detail until each setting was just right. Amidst this chaos, he arrived at the designated meeting place: backstage door B94, the sign reading ‘AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL ONLY’ in large, blocky letters. He’d wait for you inside.

It was better to meet you without any of the guys around. He imagined his identity reveal alone would be a massive shock to you, not to mention meeting the others. There was no need to throw you into sensory overload all at once. Not that he’d be able to keep them from meeting you for long; they’d weasel their way back here before too long despite his adamant protests.

He drummed his fingers against the tabletop, the pitter-pats providing nice background noise to distract from his nervous thoughts. The anxiousness was beginning to sink in. The convention center was massive- would you find your way alright? He’d given you careful instructions on where to go and how to navigate the nearly military-levels of security, but he imagined that such chaos would be a very jarring experience for someone who wasn’t used to it. That might have been an everyday occurrence for him, but it wasn’t for you. He hoped you’d be okay.

How were you going to react? This was a totally unprecedented situation, after all, and he severely doubted you’d be expecting it was him. You most likely were concerned for your safety at this point, and that made him feel more than a little guilty. He was just thankful that, by some miracle, he got you to agree to this. You were certainly a brave soul. Maybe he should have come clean with everything in the very beginning, but was there any way possible you would have believed him? He doubted it. He’d dropped so many hints along the way about his identity; his username was even his old rap persona, all the way back from those tender school years. Maybe you had caught a few of the references along the way, but if you didn’t, he couldn’t blame you. This was all a rather bizarre scenario to begin with.

He was glad that today was only rehearsal and setup. They wouldn’t be performing until tomorrow. If he had to meet you for the first time in full makeup and stage costume, it would feel…wrong, somehow. His relationship with you was unique. You’d gotten to know him with no pretense of fame, the true Namjoon core within the RM shell. His stage persona was an inseparable part of him, but it was only one side of a much more complex puzzle. Most people would never see the whole picture.

But with you? For once, he finally felt like things would be different.

A timid knock on the door signaled your arrival.

“Hello?” an unsure voice called out. “I’m looking for Monie. Is he here?”

His heart accelerated in his chest. The palms of his hands were clammy as he wrung them together, taking one final deep breath before opening the door and closing the space between you.

“Monie here,” he said, flashing you a warm, confident smile. “It’s so nice to finally meet you in person.”

Silence. A silence and tension thick enough you could cut it with a knife.

Namjoon Kim was used to seeing starstruck fans. He was used to shocked gasps, followed by screams of delight. He was even used to the excited tears and the occasional sob. But in all of his years of being an idol, he had never once encountered anyone as shell-shocked as you were in this moment. It was like watching a computer freeze up and crash, the confusion reflecting in your saucer-wide eyes like a blue screen of death.

“I don’t believe this,” you gave a simple, monotone response.

“I’m really sorry,” he gave a sheepish smile, rubbing the back of his head. “I wasn’t sure how to tell you. I hope that this doesn’t make you too uncomfortable-“

’Monie.’ As in, short for ‘monster.’ Rap Monster,” you put two-and-two together. “Asian. Musician. And the whole “I just honestly think you wouldn’t believe me if I showed you” thing. Ugh, how did I miss that?!”

 You might have been freaking out, but you weren’t alone. Namjoon felt like the entire world was spinning wildly, each breath more sharp and painful than the last. What was he thinking, revealing himself like this? Of course you were going to be upset. This was sort of a huge surprise. Had he jeopardized everything? The last thing he wanted you to think was that his feelings were insincere; this wasn’t a game to him.

“This must be a huge shock,” his fingers running from the back of his head to the front of his honey-blond locks. “But believe me, you’re not the only one starstruck right now.”

“Namjoon. Namjoon Kim is starstruck?” you choked out the words, your mouth dry.

“Hey, I’m only meeting my favorite author ever. It’s a little intimidating.”

The sound that escaped your lips was a laugh- one very surprised guffaw. Good, you were laughing now. A little bit of the tension eased from his tight shoulders.

“I’m sorry, but…but…that’s just hilarious! You’re a world-famous musical prodigy who routinely performs some of the largest sold-out stages in the world, and you’re nervous about meeting the author of a crappy unknown e-book?”

“Excuse you,” he reached for the familiar work on the table behind him, holding it up with great pride. “I happen to have ordered the physical copy.”

You laughed and laughed, clutching your disbelieving head.

“This whole time,” you shook your head, averting your eyes to the floor. “This whole time, it’s been you? I don’t believe this. This has to be a dream or something.”

And it really felt like one- at least, to Namjoon it did. You were striking in person, your unconventional features as gorgeous as your unique mind. You even took his outfit suggestion and showed up in his (somewhat joking) recommendation. Red high-tops and all! He felt his heart beat even faster in his chest. He was a goner.

“Well, Mister Monie,” you said, meeting his gaze. You finally mirrored his smile on your own face. “Now that I’ve restarted my heart…It’s a pleasure to meet you as well.”

“Is it weird if I ask you to autograph this?” he retrieved a Sharpie out of his pocket and presented your own book to you without a hint of jest.

“Believe me, that’s not nearly the weirdest part about this. Gosh.”

You took the book from him and neatly autographed your name on the cover before cracking it open. He watched your pretty handwriting scrawl out a message on the title page. Namjoon, you penned the small note. I’m thrilled to have inspired you as you have inspired me. P.S. I can’t believe you thought I’d ditch you for Jimin! RapMon bias for life.

You handed the book back to him, and he gingerly accepted it, smiling so wide that he felt as though the grin would be permanently affixed to his cheeks. Locking eyes with you, he was thrilled to see you were gazing back at him with the same dreamy expression on his own face. He vehemently hoped you wouldn’t notice he was blushing. That was so not cool of him. Unfortunately, there was little chance you hadn’t noticed by now; the rosy hue coloring his cheeks was unmistakable.

“You actually wore the outfit,” he laughed. “Red high-tops and all. I thought for sure that was a dead giveaway.”

“”Oh, I’m on staff at BigHit Entertainment,” you mocked his words from an earlier conversation.  “I can’t believe you!”

“And I can’t believe we’re finally meeting. And that we already know each other so well.”

“Yeah, we do. It’s a weird feeling, right?”

“A good feeling,” he nodded. “You’re as beautiful as you are smart.”

If Namjoon’s cheeks were rosy, yours were now the color of a cherry tomato.

“I…I…Ugh, you know, for a writer, I have no idea what to say right now.”

“Then don’t say anything,” he pulled you into a playful hug. “And, as any good author knows, let the action do the talking.”

“RM, we’ve got a group soundcheck warm-up in three-“ Jungkook flung the door open and popped his head into the frame. Spotting you in Namjoon’s embrace, he broke out into a wickedly devilish grin. “Oh, hey, it’s Namjoon’s darling little author-nim! We’ve had to hear all about you these last few weeks.”

“Jungkook,” Namjoon growled. “Get out. I’ll be there in a second-“

“Hey, Jungkook, did you say author-nim is finally here?!” Taehyung called from afar. “Hold on, let me get the others! Wait there!”

The poor leader buried his flustered face in his hands and groaned.

“No worries,” you laughed, placing a gentle hand on his shoulder. “Go knock that soundcheck out of the park before all of Bangtan comes back here and tries to cram in this tiny room. I’ll be waiting to hear that song of yours as soon as you get back.”

“You’re the best,” he said, his gaze soft and full of affection.

“Oh, wait- one more thing!” Pressing a kiss to his dimpled cheek, you delighted in the sound of his breath hitching. Much to your delight, you were no longer the one who was blushing the hardest. Maybe even ultra-cool leaders were caught off their guard now and then.

’Show, don’t tell,’ right? Now, off you go!” You gave a playful wink before pushing him out the door.

Chapter Text

“J-Hope,” Namjoon sighed, rubbing his temples. “For the last time. Alvin and The Chipmunks 3: Chipwrecked is in no way an accurate representation of life in the United States, nor is it a piece of classic American film.”

“I think you’re wrong,” Hoseok shook his head in disapproval. “It was playing on our last flight for a reason, Namjoon. They don’t just randomly select the in-flight movies. Those things are hand-picked. That movie was definitely a blockbuster overseas at some point.”

“Hobi’s right. How many movies get a third installment? Not many- only the significant series get that kind of treatment,” Taehyung agreed.

“Tae, I don’t want to hear it from you. Your favorite movie is The Princess Diaries 2: A Royal Engagement. You don’t know crap about Western cinema.”

“Oy, and who made you the expert, Namjoon?” Yoongi interjected. “Speak for yourself. We’ve all watched plenty of international films, thank you very much.”

This argument had been going on for much too long of a time. While it had initially been entertaining for, like, the first hour, Jin had long since grown tired of it.  It was starting to feel like this layover was never going to end. At least this airport had a small private wing to conceal them from the public eye. The chaos that would ensue if they had to wait for their next flight in a regular terminal would be insane.

Jin shifted and repositioned himself in his chair as he searched for a distraction to drown out the heated debate happening in the background. Phone in hand, he tilted the camera around, watching his expression change on the screen. He just couldn’t get the angle right today, and that was no good. It’d been way too long since he’d graced the internet with a selfie- a whole three days. Ridiculous! Mr. Worldwide Handsome had a responsibility to keep his patient fans happy, after all. Now, if only he could concentrate on taking this picture.

“I can’t believe you’re going to disrespect Julie Andrews like this,” Jungkook snapped at the group’s leader. “She did a fantastic job in that movie. “

“Guys, which angle hides the bags underneath my eyes better?” Jin called. “I’m thinking the left side…oh, but doesn’t my hair look a little messy from that perspective? Maybe the upper right would be better…”

Amidst the chaos, no one had even heard him. It was like he hadn’t spoken at all. He sighed. That whole argument had started as a goofy joke to get under Namjoon’s skin, but Jin wasn’t so sure if they were still teasing. The boredom was really starting to get to all of them. Hopefully, the stormy weather would blow over soon and they could hop the next late-night flight out of here. The sun had long since set, and the ruby red glow of the runway lights was the only thing brightening the black night sky. It was foggy out tonight, the moon and stars hidden behind a curtain of clouds.

Jin slipped the phone back into his pocket. He just wasn’t feeling it right now. Good selfies were an art, and art takes a certain element of inspiration. There was little to be found on this dreary, cloudy night, trapped in an abandoned airport terminal with six of his closest friends (more like brothers, really) as they fought passionately about anthropomorphic chipmunks and fictional princesses.

He stood from the uncomfortable waiting chair and stretched before walking over to the display screens hanging from the ceiling. It appeared that not many flights were active this time of night- not domestically, anyway. The few remaining flights were international departures, save for a handful of late-night arrivals.  He scanned the list trying to find their own, his tired eyes squinting against the strong blue light. Current estimated delay time: 3 hours.

He meandered back over to the waiting area, the group’s luggage sprawled out in a messy, makeshift camp.

“You’re telling me you’re ranking Alvin and the Freaking Chipmunks up there with Casablanca?!” Namjoon was pulling at his hair. The poor leader was at wit’s end.

Casablanca didn’t have wise-cracking popstar rodents,” Hobi countered, smug smirk wide on his face. “Or a heartwarming message about family. So, I would actually say it’s better, in a sense-“

Yoongi burst out in a fit of snickering, no longer able to contain his laughter. The others followed suit at the sight of Namjoon’s exasperated face. His features stretched in a distorted expression of disbelief.

“Hey, Jin! Do you agree with us?” Jungkook called. “Who do you agree with? Us, or Namjoonie the Snooty Film Critic over here?”

“At this point, I’ll agree with anyone who can get us on our next flight faster,” Jin retorted.

Walking towards the side of their private waiting zone, he located his familiar luggage. It didn’t take long. The suitcase was a unique bright, sky-blue color, the material patterned with a series of minimalist motifs.

At first glance, one would merely see a colorful collection of random symbols, such as crowns, swords, and question marks, but that was only to the untrained eye. Those who were truly in the know would recognize the designs as paying homage to classic Nintendo characters and icons. He’d never seen another one like it- this suitcase was nearly one-of-a-kind, after all. It was once part of a super-limited collection from years ago, which was only available to long-time members of the official Nintendo fan club. He still remembered staying up until three in the morning to secure one, and even after becoming famous, he still hauled this trusty, beat-up thing around. (And, regardless of what the others said, this was a totally cool bag and not at all indicative of his nerd status. They were just jealous. Totally.)

He unzipped the top. He needed to grab a comfier change of travel clothes. Ordinarily, he opted to wear his most fashionable ensembles when travelling. He and the other boys were always anticipating passerby fans and paparazzi hoards eager to snap a photo. However, considering that both this and the next stop were in private terminals, along with the fact that he was feeling spectacularly lazy tonight, he figured some sweatpants and a comfy t-shirt wouldn’t hurt. It would definitely make it easier to sleep on the next plane.

He blinked once, twice, a third time. The jetlag must have really been getting to him, because he couldn’t believe what he was seeing. A soft, periwinkle blue scarf? A pair of cat-eye sunglasses? Some sort of vintage-looking Disney Princess sweatshirt? He’d never seen any of this stuff in his entire life before. How did it get into his suitcase?

He dug deeper. Nothing was familiar. Not the fuzzy pink socks, not the hairbrush with a picture of a fluffy kitten on it (adorable, but definitely not his), and not the- wait, oh no, was that a bra?!

This was most definitely not his suitcase.

He quickly slammed it shut, feeling a concoction of embarrassment and panic wash over him. He just wanted a comfy change of clothes, and instead, he’d uncovered a really big problem. Where was his bag? Was someone else investigating all of his things in the exact same moment? Once they figured out who the bag belonged to, there was no way he was getting it back. Dread sank into the pit of his stomach- not over the prospect of losing potentially expensive things, no. He was pretty sure Gucci would gift him and the rest of the boys a brand-new wardrobe at this point. No, he was worried about the sentimental items left in that bag, the things that were now irreplaceable. His favorite trusty pullover he’d had since his high school years was in that bag, along with the first fan letter he’d ever received (pre-debut, no less). He still carried it as a good luck charm to this day, and the thought of losing it now felt like a low blow.

He had to get his bag back.

It was completely understandable that security had pulled the wrong bag- not once all his years had he ever seen another person with this same bag. Never! What were the odds that someone else out there would not only have the same bag, but be at the same airport at the same time, and have their bag circulating in the same baggage claim area? If he didn’t know better, he’d be highly suspicious that this was some kind of media trick. He wouldn’t put it past the desperate media hounds to go through his personal things in hopes for an exclusive scoop. When he initially thought of who might have stolen his bag, a list of companies and reporter names immediately came to mind. Maybe they’d faked this contact information- it wouldn’t be the first time they’d tried something crazy. Could they have packed the suitcase, too? If they did, they’d done an incredible job of making things look realistic. From the half-empty tube of toothpaste to the haphazard plastic baggie of ponytail holders and bobby pins, the bag felt legitimate. Maybe, with any luck, this really had been an accident and not a premeditated trick.

If it was some kind of miraculous coincidence, he hoped whoever had his bag would be kind enough to return it. If they knew who he was, he could definitely see them taking one glance at the nametag and dashing out of there to pawn it off. The thought made him deeply upset. He didn’t know why being famous meant sacrificing all of your personal privacy and freedom, but he wished people would give him a modicum of respect. Luckily, as far as he knew, no one had figured out Bangtan was here today. This layover was unexpected, to their advantage.

The luggage tag attached to one of the external zippers had all the proper contact information printed on it. Perfect- he could resolve this quickly. Whipping out his phone, he punched the number in and pressed send.

It rang and rang.  Jin smoothed his hair back with frustrated fingers, waiting for the other end of the call to pick up.

“Hello?”

“Hello,” he began, addressing the caller by the name on the tag. “My name is Kim Seokjin. I’m afraid we’ve had the misfortune of our bags being mixed up- “

The ‘call ended’ tone abruptly sounded in his ear. He scoffed. They’d hung up.

So there went any hope of resolving this quickly. Now he had to get security involved- which, arguably, he probably should have done in the first place. But hey, it had been a distraction from the boredom, even if it had been an unwelcome one. He turned to head over to the far side of the wing where the BigHit personnel would be keeping watch.

As he turned to leave, his phone vibrated once again. He had a new text message.

“Alright. ‘Fess up. Who is playing this prank?”

This was…not at all the reaction he had been expecting.  Perhaps it really had been a stroke of fate that had caused this to happen and not an elaborate scheme.

The stranger sent another text. “Did my best friend put you up to this? Did you at least get paid off? Because you shouldn’t have taken the money, dude. It’s not nice to tease me like that lolol. Good Jin impression though. Very solid.”

So, they were familiar with his identity then. And not just on a casual level either; he hadn’t introduced himself as a BTS member first and foremost. They knew him by name.

“Good Jin impression, though.” A smile played at the corners of his lips as he reread that part of the message. You don’t know the half of it, he thought.

“I swear, it’s not a prank,” Jin typed. “This really IS Kim Seokjin and we really did switch bags. You’re at Emmanuella K. Sutton International Airport, right?”

“Oh, so my best friend told you where I’d be flying out from?” the reply came. “Lololol…nice try! But I know this is a prank.”

Well, he couldn’t blame them. The whole thing seemed super implausible, even to him. He was just going to have to make them into a true believer. Perhaps proving his identity, and thus, exposing his real phone number was a bad idea, but he had to get his bag back as soon as possible. He could change phone numbers in an instant, but he couldn’t recover the sentimental value those items held.

He unzipped the stranger’s suitcase once again. He pulled a few items out of the bag, quickly assembling them into a makeshift outfit.

He wrapped the periwinkle scarf around head and tied it in place before slipping the cat-eye sunglasses onto his nose. Rummaging around the suitcase, he pulled out the well-worn Disney sweatshirt. This thing looked to be pretty old now, with a small snag in the right sleeve and a tiny hole near the collar. It was the perfect finishing touch- he needed undeniable proof that he was telling the truth, and this combination of accessories would prove it. He put it on and closed the suitcase’s cover.

Angling his phone camera downward, he made sure to include the bag in the background. He flashed his signature smile and took the selfie.

“Ta-da!~” he wrote, attaching the image to the text. “Hey, did you hear the mystery of the idol who lost his luggage?...Probably not, it was a really ‘brief case!’ ㅋㅋㅋㅋ

He couldn’t help but chuckle at his own dumb joke. He hoped however this stranger was would laugh, too.

“Jin, they’re going to get us some dinner,” Jungkook approached, “So you need to come and give your order- what in the world are you wearing?! “

Jin turned, still donning the stranger’s clothes.

“It’s called fashion, JK. Look it up!”

Jungkook gave the outfit another look-over, from top to bottom. He pursed his lips.

“Alright,” he shrugged. “Whatever you say, Jin. Just don’t let the fans see you in…well, whatever that get-up is. ‘Cause if they do, they’re going to be calling you ‘Mr. Worldwide Tacky’ from now on.”

“Hey!”

Before Jin had a chance to offer a witty retort, Jungkook was running back to join the rest of the group, a devilish grin plastered to his face all the while. He considered chasing after him, but Jin decided against it. He wasn’t ready to tell the rest of them what had happened quite yet, and besides, he was sure he’d get a lengthy lecture about it when he did. Sending this selfie wasn’t exactly the most well-thought out plan of his…but it was certainly a relief to his boredom. Wasn’t he allowed to have a little bit of fun every now and again?

The stranger’s initial reaction was just what he had expected (much to his blissful amusement). He watched the flood of text messages pour in with a satisfied smile. Their excitement was infectious. He could practically hear the excited squeals contained within the keyboard smashes, and his heart felt warm at the joyous reaction. A heavy weight had been lifted off of his chest. If this person was this thrilled over the mix-up, then they were surely a good-natured fan who would be willing to return his things.  All he had to do now was to get security to escort them and his bag back here.

The next message, however, had him freaking out instead. He opened it to find a return selfie attached.

He didn’t know the person in the picture, but he certainly recognized the two-thousand-dollar Givenchy bomber jacket draped around her shoulders. And the black silk tie wrapped around her eyes like a blindfold. And the left Santoni dress shoe goofily placed atop of her head.

“Hey, Jin. Did you hear about the pilot who went through a rainbow during his flight test? They said he passed with flying colors! Ha!”

Even amidst the initial surprise, he couldn’t help but snort. That was an undeniably great pun. How had he never thought of that one before?

“That’s a nice one!” He replied. “I guess we should be happy the pilot didn’t fail his test…that would be a ‘travel-sty.’”

“That joke was a little too ‘plane.’ It just didn’t ‘take-off’ for me.”

“I’ll have you know that these puns are ‘fly.’ Your sense of humor might just be ‘delayed’…”

Going toe-to-toe in a pun war with him? While wearing his left dress shoe on her head? She was bold. He had never encountered anyone so brave before…and he most definitely liked it. He glanced up from his phone, stealing a look at the rest of the group. They weren’t looking his way. They were too engrossed in figuring out what they wanted to order for dinner. Good. He had a feeling they wouldn’t approve of what he was about to do.

What should I call you?” he asked. “Wait, no, don’t tell me. I’ve got it! I’m going to call you Shoe-na.”

“Shoe-na?!”

“Short for ‘Shoe-noona.’ Get it?”

“Hey, who said I was older than you?! I could just as easily be younger, you know.”

“Don’t tell me your age, then! This pun is too good to be ruined.”

He was so absorbed in the ongoing conversation that he didn’t even notice Jimin approaching from behind him.

“Wow, who is that?” Jimin peered over his shoulder.

He jumped. He’d been caught!

“You didn’t come order anything, so Jungkook tried to tell the staff that you requested two bagels and a Jalapeño pepper for dinner. Don’t worry though, I had your back…he also said something about you playing dress-up?”

“Thanks,” he sighed, heart slowing back to normal speed. He slipped the sunglasses off the bridge of his nose. “It’s…kind of a weird story.”

“I can see that,” Jimin gave a little grin. “But I’m very curious to hear it.”

“Well, there’s been a luggage mix-up…no, more like a sort-of…luggage miracle.”

“A luggage miracle?”

“Somehow, in this very airport, there’s another person with this exact suitcase, and we’ve ended up accidently exchanging bags.”

“Hm,” Jimin remarked, eyes widening in surprise. “How did that manage to slip past security? That really is a miracle.”

“Furthermore, the girl with the bag isn’t a paparazzi and, as far as I can tell, she didn’t plan this. She’s a genuine fan that just happened to end up in this mess.”

“That’s even more bizarre.”

“And, to top it all off…she’s adorable,” Jin whipped his phone screen around to reveal the series of text messages. “Ask yourself: have you ever seen a series of puns this good?”

Jimin winced. “Heol,” he shook his head in disbelief. “These are truly awful. It’s like a female version of yourself. This really is a miracle.”

Jin reopened her previous selfie. He examined the background of the photo carefully. It appeared as though she was still in the airport, waiting outside a closed fast-food kiosk.

“I think…I think I have to go get my bag back myself.”

Jimin was silent for a moment. He ran his fingers through his frayed hair in thought before letting out a resolute sigh.  

“I agree, I think you have to, Jin. Not only is this person willing to put up with your puns, but they also play along. This might be your only shot at love,” he responded with a sweet smile.

“Hey!”

“I’m only kidding,” Jimin laughed. “Your puns aren’t so bad.”

He stood slowly, rolling his achy shoulders. Walking over to his own bag, Jimin unzipped the top and began removing articles of clothing.

“Hm? What are you doing?”

“Well, if you’re going, you’ll need a disguise, right?” Jimin rummaged through his bag. “You’ll also need a distraction, but I’m sure we can handle that.”

 “You’re going to help me? Just like that?” Jin was touched. “I thought you were going to tell me this is a horrible idea.”

“Hey, what are friends for? And I wouldn’t call this a horrible idea- maybe a risky one, but I have a hunch that everything’s going to be alright. And in the event that it isn’t, your hyungs won’t be far behind.”

He handed Jin a black mouth mask, a ballcap, and a dark pullover.

“If you go alone, I don’t think you’ll have too many problems. It’s late now, and no one is expecting us here, so the risk is low. But you should still be careful.”

“Thank you,” Jin said. “Seriously, from the bottom of my heart.”

Jimin placed a reassuring hand on his friend’s shoulder and gave a shy smile.

“Good luck,” he wished before slipping his phone out of his pocket.

“EMERGENCY MESSAGE TO BANGTAN,” he began the group message. “Jin needs our help!! He has to slip through our security with no questions asked (I’ll explain later). We need a good distraction!!”

Jimin pressed send, setting off a tiny chorus of notification sounds. It only took a few moments before each member of the band had read the message.

“Say no more,” Yoongi replied. “We got this.”

Within mere seconds, a show began to unfold.

“Honestly, Namjoon,” Yoongi began aloud, his voice growing louder with each word. “I’m getting freaking sick and tired of your crap.”

“Excuse me?”

“You boss us around, day in and day out, and you try to act like you know everything about world culture but here’s a newsflash: you don’t.”

“Oh, like you’re one to talk?” Taehyung chimed in, making a notable effort to be even louder than Yoongi’s preceding outburst. “You’re not so easy to get along with either. I had to wake you up from a nap last week and you nearly bit my head off about it!”

“I’m surprised he didn’t whisper ‘Suga’ before he went off on you, like he does before he raps,” Hobi joined in, voice booming. The group was getting rowdier by the minute, and the staff was beginning to turn their heads. Thankfully, they had managed to pull this distraction off, though it was certainly a close call- each of them fought desperately to conceal their smiles and would-be fits of laughter with every piece of dialogue. “Speaking of which, who’s tired of hearing that in all of our songs?”

“Well, you know what? I’m going to start screaming ‘JUNGKOOK ON THE TRACK’ before I sing!” Jungkook shouted.

“Then the whole darn song is literally just going to be you screaming ‘JUNGKOOK ON THE TRACK.’ If you haven’t noticed, golden maknae, you get all the lines!”

“You know what? You guys are all seriously on my nerves!”

At that, Jungkook decided to escalate the performance, giving Jin his opening to run. He lunged forward at Taehyung, giving his chest a slight shove and sending him staggering backwards. The two were barely holding their laughter in, but thankfully, the performance was convincing enough. In the same moment, Yoongi slid his jacket off his shoulders and put his fists up, ready to duke it out. It was the last push that they needed in order to give Jin a clean shot for the exit.

The group had the full attention of security now. Every member of the staff was charging across the room at full speed in order to intervene. As they rushed the fake fight, Jin took his leave, slipping away completely unnoticed…

<><><> 

Were you dreaming? A part of you still wondered if this was some elaborate prank. Maybe you were on some kind of hidden camera TV show, or perhaps you were still asleep on the flight back home. If fate were cruel, you’d wake up momentarily to a cramped economy seat, an aching neck, and the heartbreaking realization that this had all been a dream. But, as far as you’d understood it, this was all happening. You just couldn’t believe it.

“Shoe-na,” his last message read. “Stay where you are. I’m coming to meet you.”

Your heart was pounding erratically against your chest, and the fact that your all-time celebrity crush was now calling you by his own personal silly nickname for you was not helping the matter. You needed to calm down, lest you pass out the moment he showed up. Deep breaths in, deep breaths out. The breathing exercise only made things worse, as you ended up inhaling the earthy spice of cedar and cinnamon from his jacket draped around your shoulders. It wasn’t what you’d expected Kim Seokjin to smell like, but it made sense that such a warm person would also have a warm scent to match.

You fought the greedy urge to further rummage through his bag. The curiosity within was burning strong, but you wanted to show at least a little bit of respect. You desperately hoped he hadn’t combed through your own bag too much. Your cheeks felt hot as your imagined him digging through all of your personal belongs, feeling embarrassed for having packed so much crap into one bag. But hey, not everyone was a mega-rich international idol, and baggage fees were expensive! Why check another bag when you could shove it all into one suitcase?

There was no one else around at this hour. You had lingered long enough in this terminal after arriving that you were now effectively alone. This wing of the airport was quiet, save for the pouring rain on the roof overhead and the occasional intercom announcement. You sat on the ground, Jin’s bag by your side and the Taco Bell storefront counter to your back. The fast food kiosk had long since closed, but as it was the only one of its kind in the airport, it served as an easy rendezvous point. You wondered where Jin was right about now, how much security would accompany him, and whether or not this was really happening. Time was a weird dichotomy at this point; was time flying by with the nervous hammering of your heart? Or was each second painfully slow, flowing like cold molasses? You couldn’t tell.

Despite his utmost efforts to appear unassuming and inconspicuous, the man that appeared around the corner was unspeakably and undeniably handsome.

 Even beneath the ballcap, mouth mask, and simple hoodie-and-jeans ensemble, you immediately recognized the man before you as Kim Seokjin. The thousands of images, fancams, and music videos had simply not done him justice. He was gorgeous. Seeing him in person, one couldn’t deny that he was living poetry in motion. You quickly scrambled to your feet and felt a sudden pang of shame at wearing his jacket. How could you have done something so awkward? Without thinking, you quickly began to slip it off.

“No, no,” he shook his head, an amused smile evident in his voice. “Keep it on! It looks a lot better on you anyway.”

“Kim Seokjin,” you simply replied. Your voice was small and dry, getting caught in your throat. Only now did you notice that he hadn’t come with any security- how incredibly peculiar. “I can’t believe it’s really you.”

“Honestly, I think I might be more surprised to meet you. What were the chances of this being a totally coincidental mix up?”

Your cheeks felt hot. Were they as red as they felt? Could he tell you were nervous? He could totally tell. You quickly racked your brain for something to say, searching for some elegant, dignified response.

“Well, I guess you could say that the airport security here is a soar spot. The agents were kind of flighty, and the process was a pretty turbulent experience.”

Ugh. What were you thinking?! More airport puns!? How embarrassing-

The sound that graced your ears might have been the most lovely, awkward noise you’d ever heard. It was like the sound of a car’s windshield wipers working hard against a downpour. Your horrible jokes had earned the privilege of hearing Jin’s infamous laugh, face to face.

“I take it back,” he said, pulling down his face mask to reveal a radiant smile. “Meeting you wasn’t a random event. With puns that good, this has to be the work of destiny at play.”

He wheeled the bag at his side in between the two of you. It was identical to the bag at your feet.

“Here are your things. I must apologize for having sorted through them, even if it was on accident.”

“I had your dress shoe on my head,” you grinned. “I think, if anyone should be apologizing, it’s me. I didn’t go through anything besides grabbing the props I needed for the selfie, I promise.”

 “Apologize? On the contrary. I owe you my deepest thanks.” His demeanor shifted into a more serious tone. “A few of the items in that bag are priceless and irreplaceable. If anyone else had found my bag….I don’t think I would still have them.”

“Oh no, I really hope this jacket isn’t one of them,” your eyes grew wide as you prepared to fling it off your shoulders once again.

“No! No, that’s just a standard Givenchy jacket. That’s nothing special,” he shook his head. “Not like this…”

He crouched to the ground, unzipping the suitcase and sorting through the collection. Everything was exactly in place as he had packed it, making the object he was looking for easy to find. He retrieved a very worn looking sweatshirt. He displayed it proudly, the words ‘Bosung High School’ emblazoned across the chest. You felt honored at the sight, as though you he was inviting you to peer into a very private memory.

“I wore this on the day I auditioned,” he said. He pointed at a slight stain below the collar. “I spilled a little bit of gochujang sauce right there during lunch that day. I still, to this day, can’t get the stain out.”

He folded the sweater back up and packed in gently in the bag’s corner.

“That’s not even the most precious thing to me in this bag, though,” he continued. Unzipping a compartment on the top lid, he slipped out a small, laminated piece of stationary. You felt your stomach drop at the sight.

“This has been my good luck charm since the beginning,” he said, his words seeping with fond affection. “It’s been with me through everything. Good, bad, and everything in between.”

Could it be? No. No, there was no way.

“It was the first fan letter I ever received, all the way back in my early debut days.” He gazed down at the paper with nostalgia in his eyes. “Back then, I was the least popular member of Bangtan. Can you believe that? I felt like, no matter how hard I practiced, no matter how hard I worked, I was never going to measure up to the other boys. I was pretty close to giving up.”

The corners of your eyes began to feel misty. Were you even still breathing?

“But then…this came in the mail for me. My very first fan letter! It meant the world to me. I’ve read it so many times that I have it memorized, but I still carry it around as a reminder of why I do what I do when I lose sight of what’s important. Whenever times get hard, I just remind myself of those words: Dear Seokjin…I hope that-“

“Dear Seokjin,” your voice wavered as you recited the words you’d written so long ago. “I hope that you will have time to read my letter. I know you’re training hard for a successful debut.”

Jin froze. Slowly, his stare transferred from the paper in his hands to your own teary gaze. As the realization began to sink in, his lips parted with an inaudible gasp.

Even so,” you continued. “Even so, I’m thankful if you see this.”

You swallowed thickly. That was your fan letter. Kim Seokjin was still carrying around a letter you wrote years ago as his precious good-luck charm, and now, you and the letter had been reunited. Jin was silent as he stared at you, his expression unreadable.

“I…I don’t remember exactly what I wrote after that,” you sheepishly explained. “It’s been a really long time. But I remember telling you that you were- well, are- my favorite. And that I-“

“I believe in you,” he quoted, not breaking eye contact. “And I know you’ll go far regardless of what anyone else might say. No matter what happens, please never give up. You’ve inspired me. When I see how hard you work to achieve your dream, I-”

 “I know that anything’s possible,” you recalled the segment you’d once written.

The silence that hung between the two of you was deafening. Your eyes remained locked on each other, your own feeling misty as the tears pooling threatened to spill over.

“It seems crazy,” your voice wavered. “But I swear, I was the one that wrote that letter to you.”

Reaching into your purse, you slipped your ID from your wallet and handed it to the dazed man. Sure enough, the name printed neatly on the ID was a perfect match with the signature on the bottom of the letter.

“Jimin was right,” Jin whispered underneath his breath, astonished. “This really was my chance.”

Before you had a chance to question what he meant by that, you were pulled into a sudden embrace. You were shocked to find the heartbeat in his chest matching your own with a rapid, haphazard rhythm.

“Forgive me for being forward,” he began. “But I can’t let you slip by. Do you believe in fate?”

“If I didn’t before, I do now,” you replied breathlessly.

“Then let me start our whole meeting over,” he said, pulling away from you to flash a brilliant smile. “Hello, my name is Kim Seokjin, and for years now, I’ve been your biggest fan.”

It was all so ridiculous that you couldn’t help but laugh.

“Well, hello then, Mr. Kim,” you teased. “Funny, I would describe myself as your biggest fan. Coincidence?”

“No, I don’t believe in coincidence anymore. Would you allow me the immense pleasure of taking you on a date?”

“I think there’s a Cinnabon open the next terminal over. How does that sound?”

“Cinnabon?! I think I can take you somewhere a little nicer than that for our first date-“

“Maybe I’m ready for the first date to start immediately,” you replied with a giggle. “Or maybe I just happen to like cinnamon rolls.”

As he prepared a witty retort, the sound of his phone pinging interrupted. It was a message from Jimin.

“Our plane came in sooner than expected, so you need to head back ASAP. Did you get everything resolved?”

He cursed his absolutely wretched luck.

“Is everything okay?” you asked. His aggravated expression didn’t fill you with confidence.

“How do you feel about hitting the road again?” he asked, eyeing your suitcase. “Seeing how you’re already packed.”

“W-what?! You mean, like-“

“Korea is beautiful this time of year. Have you ever been?”

“Jin, this is crazy, I can’t-“

“I’ll cover any and every expense.”

“There’s no way your company is going to allow-“

“Then I’ll make them allow it,” the steadfast determination gleaming in his eyes was absolute. “Please. I promise I’ll sort everything out. But I can’t let you go now that I’ve finally found you.”

By all means, it was a crazy plan. You had just gotten back home, only to jump right back on a plane to follow your celebrity crush on an all expenses paid trip for how knows how long? It sounded way, way too good to be true. There was no way you were ever going to be able to pay him back. Should you do it? What if there was a catch to all of this?

If there was, you couldn’t find any hint of it in his expression. It was nothing but pure admiration and a growing sense of desperation.

You sighed.

“I know that anything is possible,” you quoted. “That’s what I wrote, right?”

The thrilled grin you received in response sent your heart soaring.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

You were close enough that he could practically taste the faint hint of spearmint that still lingered on your breath. A steady breath in, a steady breath out. He felt each one, a concentrated string of exhalations, ever so slightly brushing against his warm cheeks. He didn’t dare open his eyes- he couldn’t, not even if he wanted to. There wasn’t a muscle left in his body that would listen. Your presence melted him. You were the summer sun, and he was a caramel candy liquefying against the scorching blacktop.  

“Almost done,” your voice was as gentle as the brush sweeping across his eyelid. “Just a little bit more.”

‘Just a little bit more.’ He told himself those same words countless times during sessions just like this one. However, it never did any good for his nerves. ‘Just a little bit more’ had become a lost cause; you’d been Jimin’s designated make-up artist for quite a while now, and his feelings for you only continued to grow with each passing day. More shows meant more stage make-up, which meant more time spent in the vanity chair. His heart was never going to catch a break.

A cool mist settled across his face. It was a nice feeling. The setting spray chilled the fire burning in his cheeks. Trying to hide his feelings seemed like such a lost cause at this point, but he couldn’t bear to tell you now. Just the thought of doing so sent him into cold sweats.

“Ta-da,” you cheered, flipping a hand mirror around to face him.

“Flawless work, as always,” Jimin smiled, his eyes full of admiration- more so for the artist than the artwork.

“You always look stunning with warm palettes, but I can’t help but miss when we got to do super dramatic looks like this all the time.  You were made for these smoky-gray tones.”

Today’s planned performance was a throwback. The television show BTS was appearing on had requested a repeat performance of the ultra-popular Blood, Sweat, and Tears. Thanks to your hard work, Jimin certainly looked the part. It was as though he’d stepped straight out of the music video, looking exactly as he had the day they’d originally shot it.

“If I look good with this type of concept, I think that it’s less to do with me and more to do with your skills,” he replied with a bashful grin.

You smiled, taking the compliment. You’d long since learned that you had to accept kind words such as those without arguing otherwise, lest you be trapped in one of Jimin Park’s infamous “no, you!” compliment wars. It was no exaggeration to say that he was one of the politest people you’d ever met. He was ever eager to please, but his words were never disingenuous. In fact, his words were so earnest that you had to constantly remind yourself to focus. He’s a gentleman, you reminded yourself. He treats everyone this nicely! It’s nothing personal.

“Showtime,” the stage manager called. The appearance of his head in the doorway was always a dreary signal. It meant that your time together was once again drawing to a close. “It’s time for stage formation. You’re on in five.”

He sighed. And just like that, his time with you was over. The minutes had flown by even faster than usual, but at least the boys had separate dressing rooms for today. A little one-on-one time without the usual chaos was always a welcome treat. He stood from the vanity chair and rolled his shoulders.

“Well, that’s my cue. Thank you, as always.”

“Don’t mention it. Break a leg!”

With a warm smile, he was off.

<><><> 

“Guys,” Namjoon announced to the rest of the group that evening. “We have to do something about Jimin.”

This announcement had been a long time coming. While it wasn’t overtly obvious in the beginning, Jimin’s crush had finally reached a critical state. His feelings were gushing over in almost comical displays; no amount of teasing could extinguish the dreamy gaze in his eyes, silence his lovelorn sighs, or get him to stop wandering off to sulk on his lonesome. He wasn’t even eating dinner with the rest of them tonight! His behavior had altogether become impossible to ignore. Being forced to endure his embarrassing attempts at flirtatious banter and painfully obvious displays of affection had become cringe-worthy at best and stomach-churning at worst. It was time to do something- no, the time to do something was months ago.

Jungkook watched the gooey cheese slip off his pizza crust. Steam rose from the slice, still much too hot to eat without burning the roof of his mouth.

“It was weird having separate dressing rooms today,” he said. “I’m so used to hearing him compliment that poor girl over and over again while getting ready.”

He blew a cold huff of air across the pizza slice, but it was to no avail. He wished he would have tossed in a request for some breadsticks or something. Sitting and waiting for food to cool down was a special kind of torture. At least this group meeting was sort of interesting enough to help pass the time.

“Do you think she knows?” he asked, finishing the question with another lazy blow of breath. “You know, that he’s in love with her?”

“It’d be impossible not to know at this point. If he gawks at her any harder, his eyeballs are going to fall out of his head,” Yoongi replied.

“I don’t think she knows,” Hobi interjected. “If she did, wouldn’t she say something?”

“Look, regardless of whether she knows or not, that’s not what this discussion is about.” Namjoon said. “We need to help Jimin be more confident about his own feelings. Both for his sake and ours. I can’t watch much more of it.”

A unanimous agreement settled over the room. While they cherished their friend’s gentle, kind personality, no one would deny that he struggled with being a little too considerate at times. Jimin was a chronic people pleaser. Ultimately, somewhere along the way, he had forgotten to look after his own desires. 

 “It’s easy,” Yoongi snapped his fingers, a spark of enlightenment twinkling in his eyes. “When it comes to winning over a girl, a cypher rap battle is how I’d do it. I’d prove to her that I’m better than all the other guys. But…hm, I’m not sure how you’d do that in Jimin’s case. Has there ever been a vocal line cypher? Maybe he could demonstrate that he can sing louder than the rest of the vocal line members.”

“Impossible,” V shook his head. “I can definitely sing louder than Jimin. I’d win that competition.”

“Excuse me?” Jin shot him an offended look.

“Alright, no more ideas from Suga! We’re getting off topic- who else?”

“I’d win a girl over with my humor,” Hobi remarked. “Make her laugh! Maybe Jimin could try that? He could try to do his own outrageous makeup look before she arrives.”

The group simultaneously imagined it: an awkwardly smiling Jimin, sitting quietly in the vanity chair with frightening clown-esque makeup…

“Nope, I take it back. I don’t think he could pull off that angle.”

“Guys, guys.” It was Jungkook’s turn to speak up. “You’re thinking about this the wrong way.”

The group silenced their stream of chatter. With all eyes on the youngest member, he continued.

“Suga’s bravado, J-Hope’s comedy…those things would never work in this instance. Our Jimin has his own unique charm, so that’s not the problem. The real problem here is that he’s way too shy to ever come out with it. We need to encourage him to make his intentions clear. Get him to express his feelings to her.”

“Hm,” Namjoon nodded. “Insightful analysis, maknae. Very insightful.”

“See? This is why you should leave this all to me, the international playboy.”

“Stop waggling your eyebrows at me,” Namjoon sighed. “International playboy? We all know you get sweaty palms just talking to women.”

“Okay, so I’m a nervous international playboy! The point still stands that you should have a little faith in me.”

The sly, playful smile plastered on Jungkook’s face made Namjoon uneasy. There was no going back now. Once Jungkook put his mind to something, there was no stopping him. There was no force on earth that was going to be able to prevent him from unfolding whatever disastrous plan he’d concocted. He just hoped that, by some miracle, whatever strange idea he had up his sleeve would work.

<><><> 

The next day found the group up before sunrise to begin filming a teaser trailer for an upcoming music video.

The production studio was already ablaze with routine hustle and bustle despite the ungodly hour. Jimin weaved through the crowd of staff members as he made his way to the elevator. They still had a significant amount of time before everything would be ready to shoot. Usually, they liked to run through everything a few times before the official taping, just to make sure they were prepared to give their best performance. He guessed that the rest of the boys were around here somewhere, probably already on set. He’d slept in a little later than the rest of them today.  He pressed the up button and took a bite of his breakfast sandwich while he waited for the lift.

“Jimin!”

“Jungkook,” he smiled in response. “Fancy running into you here.”

“Are you ready for today’s filming?”

“I think so. I was a little nervous about such a different concept, but I think it’ll be a- hey!”

Jimin was now short a bite of his breakfast sandwich. Mid-sentence, Jungkook had leaned over, stealing a mouthful from his egg-and-cheese bagel.

“Why don’t you get one of your own?” Jimin protested with mild disapproval.

“Gladly,” he mumbled through full cheeks, “If you’ll take me to where you got that.”

Jimin turned from the elevator, dragging his friend in the opposite direction. Jungkook could be such a handful sometimes. The relationship between the two sometimes reminded Jimin of the ornery mishaps of his own younger brother, and the thought granted him a little more patience. This kind of teasing was just part of Jungkook’s charisma. He never meant any harm by it.

The cafeteria area was abuzz. A collection of pop-up cafes and food carts served fast-moving lines of hungry patrons, all of which were hard at work production members setting up for the music video. Jimin pointed out the stall where he’d ordered his own breakfast. While Jungkook ordered his own breakfast, Jimin fetched a table.

Taking a seat towards the less-crowded area of the cafeteria, he popped the lid on his latte. A warm, frothy puff of steam rose from the cup. He stirred the white foam and watched the bubbles swirl around like a miniature coffee galaxy.

“It’s nice to finally see you again,” Jungkook said as he took his seat. “You haven’t been eating with us lately.”

 “Sorry,” he apologized. His half-lidded eyes were still gazing into the cup. “I’m not sure if anyone’s noticed, but I’ve been in a sort of…different mood lately, if you can call it that. I never intended to make anyone feel distant.”

Believe me, dude, Jungkook thought. We know.

Much to Jimin’s surprise, Jungkook didn’t press the issue any further. Instead, they opted to discuss a number of passing topics, the subject ranging from their upcoming comeback to their favorite phone games to Yeontan’s new Gucci toy set (Taehyung was absolutely going to spoil that poor dog rotten). The casual conversations were pleasant as the two enjoyed their early morning breakfast together.

A brilliant wave of color passed by. A poor set assistant was nearly engulfed by a massive arrangement of neon-colored balloons. The arrangement floated by like a shiny helium bouquet, catching a hundred frantic snapshots of the cafeteria in its latex reflections. 

“Hm, that’s peculiar,” Jimin said. “Do you think that’s for us? I thought today’s video concept was a mature, dark theme?”

Another lesser-known group would be shooting an MV on an adjacent lot later that afternoon. Most likely, the balloons were headed to that building, but it didn’t matter. Jimin didn’t seem to be aware of the scheduling details- a side effect of his recent dreamy demeanor, no doubt. This was Jungkook’s opening.

“Oh, that must be for the staff party afterwards.”

“Staff party?”

“Yeah, the farewell one. Didn’t you see the BigHit memo from earlier?” Jungkook continued. He nonchalantly chewed his food, careful not to seem overly rehearsed or suspicious. He had to pull this off; it was the perfect opening!

“No, I don’t think I saw that. Who is the farewell for?”

Jungkook stopped chewing. His expression fell. “Don’t tell me that you forgot your own make-up artist is transferring groups, Jimin.”

“What?!”

“BigHit is transferring her to TXT after shooting wraps today. They really like her portfolio with all the looks she’s done with you over the years and I guess they need that kind of leadership over there. I heard she might even have a stylist management role.”

This couldn’t be happening. The news was a sucker punch to the gut. The breakfast in his stomach was going to come back up. Surely, Jungkook had misheard.

“Well,” Jungkook continued, “She might turn the team management position down, now that I think about it. She’s more of a one canvas kind of girl, isn’t she?”

“Yes,” Jimin swallowed thickly. “Yes, she is. Jungkook. When exactly did you hear this information? I’m shocked I haven’t heard it yet.”

“Last night. I had no idea that you didn’t know. She’s your makeup artist, after all.”

Yes, his make-up artist. Not Soobin’s, or Yeonjun’s, or Hueningkai’s, or any other TXT member for that matter. The title on her badge had read OFFICIAL BTS STYLIST [PARK JIMIN] for years, and he hadn’t ever imagined that it would change. A dreadful headache began creeping up as the panic sunk in.

“I’m pretty surprised she didn’t tell you. Well…maybe not too surprised. I bet this whole thing has probably been really painful for her.”

Jimin’s eyes were ablaze with distress.

“I’m rather shocked myself. I thought she and I were fairly…close.”

A thousand thoughts swirled around in his head. Had he done something wrong? Had he said something inappropriate, or perhaps worked her too hard? Was he too demanding? He only had questions, but not the faintest hint of an answer for any of them.

“Jungkook. Why would she just leave all of the sudden? After all this time together?”

He feigned deep thought at the question.

“Honestly? I think it has something to do with the other stylists on staff.”

“How so?”

Had someone said something to upset her? Had she become a victim of workplace bullying? If that were the case, he’d put a stop to that within mere minutes. He might have been courteous and kind by nature, but at the thought of someone treating her cruelly, he felt a blaze of indignant fury. By the time he was done with whoever had been causing her problems, they were going to wish they’d never stepped foot in BigHit’s doorway. He would make them regret the day they’d ever submitted their application.

“You know, they might have tipped her off that she was ‘trying to get too close with a client.’ From what I’ve overhead, it seems like she was…kinda under the impression that she was bothering you.”

“Bothering me?!”

“Yeah,” he shrugged. “Making you feel…uncomfortable.”

She had completely, totally, and absolutely misunderstood! There wasn’t a bigger misunderstanding in all the world! He stood up from his chair.

“That’s- that’s crazy! Nothing could be further from the truth!”

“Oh? Seriously?” Jungkook cocked his head to the side. “That’s funny. We all thought the same thing, y’know, that she did make you feel a little uncomfortable.”

“You did?!”

He felt bad about lying to one of his closest friends in the world, but from the bottom of his heart, Jungkook truly believed that this was the only way to get through to him. It was a difficult lie, for sure: literally everyone and their mother could tell that Jimin was head over heels in love, but if he became aware of that, Jungkook knew that the embarrassment would eat him up alive. If he were anymore bashful about this, he’d never get anywhere with her. He was a sensitive guy.

“Look, Jimin. I don’t know, but if I were you, I’d clear all of this up before she goes. It’s best to leave it without any regrets.”

He didn’t have to say another word. With those words, Jimin was already on his way. Jungkook took out his phone and started a new group thread to inform the others.

“INTERNATIONAL PLAYBOY STRIKES AGAIN ~(' ▽^ 人) BOOM! He’s en route as we speak!”

“Whaaaa?” Namjoon was the first to reply. “We aren’t even due in makeup for another hour and a half. How did you manage that? Wait, scratch that, where are you guys?”

“Okay, so I had to lie a little bit. But it was for his own good. All’s fair in love and war!”

“You LIED to him?!”

“Looks like you’re about to be….caught in a lieeeee!~” Jin chimed in with a completely unhelpful contribution.

“Again, a little bit of faith in me, please? And a lot of faith in Jimin!”

<><><> 

He gave a hasty knock at the dressing room door, but didn’t bother to wait for the response before entering.

“Jimin!”

Just as expected, you were already there. Despite it being your last day, you still went through the trouble of showing up this early and prepping the materials. Ever the diligent artist.

“I’m so happy to see you,” you said with a sincere grin. “You’re early, but that’s great because I have some awesome ideas for today’s look...not to toot my own horn or anything, of course. Sit, sit!”

You prodded him towards the vanity chair with hurried excitement. Your trusty three-ring bound lookbook was at the ready, fresh with laminated sketches you’d been pouring your heart and soul into. As you flipped through each passing page, your hard work was immensely evident. Perfectly blended pigments and accompanying color gradients were displayed on an outline of his face. 

“I stayed up all night finishing these. I think I’ve finally decided on the right one!”

Why were you so happy? You were about to leave his life forever. Why were you bouncing around acting thrilled? He felt confused and frustrated.

Your nails made a ‘tak, tak’ sound as they tapped against a capsule of prescription contacts. The capsule’s label displayed a sparkling, bright blue color.

“Here, put these in before we get started. I know that we need to use rich, dark tones for today, but I really think that these will add solid contrast against the rest of the look.”

You tossed the bottle into his hands before turning to toss makeup products out of your bag and onto the counter. Silently brooding, he unscrewed the bottle cap and put the contacts in. He blinked once or twice, adjusting to the strange feel, and decided that now was the time to say his piece.

“Listen. I just heard about-“

“Oh, one sec, Jimin, I don’t want to get this in your mouth.”

He closed his lips as you squirted a pump of primer onto your fingers and began spreading it across his cheeks. Your touch was warm and soft. It was a familiar beacon that always managed to keep him sane during the more difficult times, and as he realized that this would be the last time he’d ever feel it, he leaned in closer. His world was going to crumble if he never got to feel this ever again.

“How do you feel about a deep scarlet pigment underneath your lower eyelids?” You turned to prepare a sponge with liquid concealer. “Too dramatic?”

“Hm? No, no, that’s fine. I trust whatever you have planned. Look, I-“

You began sweeping the sponge across his face with great gusto. You could feel it: today was going to be your best work thus far. Maybe even the magnum opus of your career! Teeming with excited energy, you were working faster than usual. You were giddy with eagerness to reveal to Jimin everything you had planned for today.

“I made sure to stock up on the foundation brand you liked from last time. Éphémère, in the shade Warm Porcelain.”

He felt hurt. He felt so, so hurt that you would be this excited for your last day together. His heart shattered in his chest.

“You went through the trouble of ordering more of that?” Was it a final parting gift of sorts? The anguish in voice was apparent as he tripped over the words. “That’s…so thoughtful of you.”

“Anything for you,” you flashed him a brilliant smile.

“Anything for me?”

He couldn’t take it anymore. No more interruptions: he was going to say his piece. His gaze was intense as he gazed up through lengthy lashes. Even behind the artificially colored contacts, his emotions seeped through, a smoldering mess of frustration, confusion, and passion. He poured every last ounce of feeling into his glare, just as they’d trained him to do all those years ago during idol training. While modest, he was well aware that his ‘killer gaze’ was one of his definite specialties. It was always a sure, steady hit with his fans, but he was uncertain how you’d personally react. The silence that hung in the air was suffocating.

Your cheeks dusted rosy. The brisk brushing movements of the sponge in your hands came to a sudden stop. Had it worked?

You quickly turned your back to him, head hanging low. You assembled more materials, giving yourself a moment to catch your breath.

“If you’ll do anything,” his voice faltered, betraying the aggressive confidence he was faking in his expression, “Then would you please explain to me why you didn’t tell me sooner?”

Your blood froze cold. Was he implying what you thought he was implying? Had he finally figured out the massive, enormous, uncontrollable crush you’d been harboring on him for all this time? You swallowed thickly.

“I’m…I’m not sure what you mean,” you replied.

“Please,” he pleaded with you. “You can tell me honestly.”

He was definitely referring to your crush on him, wasn’t he? You cursed your flaming cheeks. There was no way you could hide it any longer. It was time to admit it.

“I’m sorry,” you couldn’t turn back to face him, your eyes focused on the marble countertop below. This was mortifying. “I didn’t tell you because I thought it would make you feel awkward.”

You didn’t want to make feel awkward? How could you possibly think that leaving him wouldn’t make him feel anything but crushed?

“Well, if I can speak candidly, I feel beyond awkward now. I’m really upset about this. Far more so than perhaps I have any right to be.”

You buried your face in your hands. This was your worst nightmare, playing out in real time. You wanted to curl up and die beneath the dressing room couch in the corner.

“Is there anything I can do to make you reconsider that?” he pleaded. His voice was desperate. “I’d do anything.”

Wait, what? He was willing to do anything to get you to stop being in love with him? That was cold. That was freezing cold. That was so unbelievably NOT the Jimin you knew. Maybe he was justified in feeling upset that you couldn’t separate your feelings from your professional obligations (it had to be tiresome having everyone fawning all over you all the time), but he certainly wasn’t justified in treating you this poorly. You felt a heated wave of bile, heartbreak, and fury rise in your throat.

“No,” you turned and met his gaze, just barely keeping your tears at bay. “No, there’s not. You can’t control how I feel, Jimin. If I made you feel uncomfortable, then I’m sorry, but you can’t just ask me to forget about something so…so…important to me.”

He was silent now. He closed his eyes, whatever thoughts passing through his mind were a total mystery to you. You pressed onward with your assigned makeup job. You wished you had the strength to storm out, but you weren’t sure if putting your entire career aspirations and future dreams at risk was the best call. Suddenly breaking an important contractual obligation with a company like BigHit was sure to get you blacklisted from the industry, and you knew that you had best not do that without a really good reason. You’d play it safe and wrap this up as quickly as possible. There’d be plenty of time to cry in the comfort of your own home afterwards.

Your fingers were shaking as you applied the moisturizer to his lips. You were so close to his face. It was a painful temptation, a reminder of your disgraced, forbidden feelings. You felt ashamed. How could you have been so foolish to fall in love with Park Jimin?

You thought you knew him better than anyone else in the world. The countless hours spent by his side, facing challenges and trials together…you’d become fast friends and, eventually, each other’s closest confidants. Had it all been a façade? Maybe you truly hadn’t known the real Jimin.  

The single tear rolling down his cheek stopped you in your tracks. When his eyelids opened, gazing up at you once again, they were cloudy, red, and…full of fear? He looked as wide-eyed and anxious as a helpless fawn caught in headlights. He leaned towards you, growing closer and closer, and you could no longer see the unease reflected in his eyes as he closed them once again. Your brain didn’t have enough time to process what he was doing when he pressed a soft, tender kiss to your lips.

It wasn’t a long kiss, by any means. It was over as quickly as it began; short, sweet, and unsure.

“Forgive me for my forwardness,” he apologized. “But this is my last chance before you go. I had to make my feelings for you clear. If I didn’t, it was going to eat me up inside forever.”

He shook his head in disbelief as he continued his tangent.

“You’ve been mere millimeters away from me all of these years and I’ve been dying to do that, but I’ve been such a coward. I’ve only ever cared about making others happy, but now, for the first time, I’m finally, selfishly concerned with my own happiness.”

He sighed. You couldn’t find a single word. You were bewildered beyond belief.

“If you’re leaving to climb up the career ladder, I won’t stop you. I’ll always support you in pursuing all your dreams, just as you have with mine. But just know that, throughout all the time we got to spend together, I was happy. I was really, truly happy.”

His voice was thick and strained as he finished his confession.

“And honestly? I’m going to watch TXT every day and feel insanely jealous of whoever gets the honor of working with you. They’re going to be sitting in a seat just like this and sharing your time and talents and getting to know you so well and I’m not okay with that. I can’t send you away with a pure heart; I’m going to resent it. I’m sorry I couldn’t be a better man. I love you.”

“Jimin,” the tears, no longer able to be contained, spilled down your cheeks. “You just said my feelings for you made you upset. You said you’d do anything to get me to stop liking you. Now you’re telling me that you love me? And what the heck does TXT have to do with any of this?!”

“You’re leaving tonight, aren’t you? To work for the other group?”

“Not unless BigHit literally drags me out kicking and screaming.”

“But…I thought…I thought…Jungkook told me…”

His eyes dropped down to his shoes, brows furrowing as he thought hard about the situation. When the realization hit, everything fell into place.

I’m going to murder Jungkook!

He buried his face in his hands, exactly as you had moments before.

“Oh my gosh, I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry.”

I’m bashing him on the head with a microphone during our next performance, I swear it. No, why wait until then?! I’ll kill him on a V Live right after this! I’ll take the jail time! I’m sure our fans will understand!

You crouched down, placing a hand on his shoulder, urging him to look up.

“Hey, first things first,” you gave him a reassuring smile. “Never trust a devil maknae. And second…”

You leaned in, locking his lips in your second sweet embrace. When you pulled away from the kiss, the two of you were breathless.

“Don’t apologize. Park Jimin, I’ve been in love with you since the very beginning.”

He didn’t say anything in response, but he didn’t need to. The awestruck expression on his face explained more to you than words ever could. The gentle rise and fall of his chest with each thunderstruck breath he took confirmed all your most longing daydreams: he loved you just as much as you loved him. He’d simply been too shy to come clean with it until now.

You traced his silky-smooth cheeks with the back of your hand.

“Looks like I won’t need to add any color to these,” you gave a small laugh. “The natural blush you’ve got going on looks more stunning than anything I could do.”

He placed his hand atop yours and dragged it to his lips, pressing feather-light kisses atop your fingers.

“No, no, I most definitely need you to finish working your magic on me before the shoot. Make sure you do a good job- I’m taking the most beautiful girl I know out for dinner afterwards, so I’ll need to look the part.”

“Dinner?! You know we can’t go out anywhere. This has to remain a secret from the world! I’m not going to become the person that jeopardizes everything you’ve worked for-“

“I’m already ahead of you. I’m making reservations at Casa del Bangtan, naturally. How does ramyeon and a midnight movie at my place sound?”

“It sounds perfect. Do you honestly believe you can get the boys to give us a little alone time?”

“I’ll work it out, love. There’s only five of them.”

“Five?”

“Yeah, there will be, after I murder Jungkook. Speaking of which, one moment please- I have a message to send.”

You didn’t need to see the phone screen to guess the nature of the text. You fought back a giggle or two. You’d need to thank Jungkook personally later- had he not intervened, who knows how long it would have taken for the two of you to finally confess to each other? Sure, his intervention had been like dropping a lit match into a puddle of gasoline, but it had worked. Knowing the guy, you could also vouch that his intentions had been pure (although severely explosive and a little misguided). Not that it mattered much: your new boyfriend was likely going to be livid about the little white lie for weeks to come. With the sheer bliss you were feeling now, you were starting to wish Jungkook had done this a whole lot sooner.

“I’M ACTUALLY GOING TO KILL YOU, JEON JUNGKOOK,” the imposing text read, followed by another. “Also, I seriously owe you one. Thank you. :)