“Hyung?” Jinyoung's voice drifts through the room, following the click of a keycard unlocking the door and a soft knock on the doorframe.
“Hm?” Jaebeom says, glancing up from the trophy he’s been staring at since they arrived back at the hotel after the award show. He isn’t sure how long he’s been sitting here in semi-darkness, but from the look on Jinyoung’s face, it’s probably been a while.
Jinyoung makes his way into the room, increasing the brightness of the lights before carefully sitting down on the bed next to Jaebeom. “I know you haven’t checked your phone yet, so I came to tell you that we’re meeting in Youngjae’s room for food,” he says.
Jaebeom nods. “I’ll be there. Thanks, Jinyoungie.”
Jinyoung leans into Jaebeom, his head a familiar, comforting weight on Jaebeom’s shoulder, and Jaebeom closes his eyes at the contact. When Jinyoung speaks again, his voice is hesitant in a way it hasn’t been in years. “Are you going to –”
“I won’t eat anything,” Jaebeom says, cutting Jinyoung off partly because he already knows what the question is, and partly because that cautious tone of voice hurts to hear. He offers Jinyoung what he hopes is a reassuring smile as Jinyoung pulls away to look at him. “Just your company is enough.”
Jinyoung doesn’t seem particularly reassured, but he does manage a small smile in return. “It’s too late in the night for you to be acting this cheesy.” He types something into his phone, and Jaebeom knows Jinyoung is telling the others to add a second serving of his order, which he’ll undoubtedly give to Jaebeom once it arrives.
He was already thinking about the uncertainty of the future before Jinyoung joined him, but it strikes him, then, that after tonight, he has no idea when he’ll get to experience the easy domesticity he has with Jinyoung again. He’s suddenly all too aware that this is the only life he’s known for the past twelve years, and he’s on the verge of losing it. He inhales sharply, trying to soothe the sudden spike of anxiety that shoots through him.
Of course, it doesn’t go unnoticed by Jinyoung, who eyes him worriedly. “What's wrong?”
“It’s nothing,” Jaebeom says, even though he knows that won’t do anything to ease Jinyoung’s concern because it’s quite obviously a lie.
“Okay, sorry. That was a dumb question,” Jinyoung says quietly. “I already know what’s wrong. So don’t you dare say it’s nothing.”
“This is the best choice for us,” Jaebeom says. “So it should be nothing.”
“Saying goodbye to the last seven years of our lives isn’t nothing,” Jinyoung says. “The last nine years, for the two of us. It isn’t nothing, no matter how right it is for us to do it.”
Jaebeom feels the hint of a smile tugging at his lips. “When did my little Jinyoungie become so grown up, huh?”
Jinyoung is silent for a few moments, his eyes searching Jaebeom’s face. “Only you know the answer to that,” he finally says. “You’re the only one who’s been there all along.”
“Are you mad?” Jaebeom asks, terrified to hear the answer. “That I won’t be there anymore?”
Jinyoung fixes him with a pointed look. “You will be,” he says like it’s a fact of life. The sun rises in the east and sets in the west, the Moon orbits the Earth, and Jaebeom will always, always be by Jinyoung’s side. “You will be.”
“It won’t be the same,” Jaebeom whispers, looking down at his lap. “You know it won’t, it can’t. Not for GOT7 and not for us.”
He feels Jinyoung’s arms around him, pulling him closer so he can tuck his head into the crook of Jinyoung’s neck. “It doesn’t have to be the same,” Jinyoung says. “You’re such a good leader, hyung, and you care about us so much. It was really thanks to you that GOT7 became a family, our family. So we don’t need anything to hold us together. We do that ourselves.”
“Right,” Jaebeom says, taking a few deep breaths to steady himself. “You’re right, of course.” He lifts his head to smile at Jinyoung, though his eyes feel a little wet. “It was thanks to you too, you know. You always have been my better half. And we didn’t raise those kids to forget their parents as soon as they leave the house.”
Jinyoung laughs at that, and his eyes are watery too. “Exactly. They’ll always have us and we’ll always have them.” He places his head back in its rightful spot on Jaebeom’s shoulder before he continues. “As for the two of us? Well, you did say our tombstones would be side-by-side. I’m gonna hold you to that.”
Jaebeom presses a kiss to the top of Jinyoung’s head. He’s never done anything like that before, but Jinyoung lets out a soft, contented noise that has Jaebeom doing it again. “Who else would I be tombstone-mates with?” he asks. “You’re my soulmate, after all.”
“You’re my home, Jaebeommie-hyung,” Jinyoung says softly. “You’ll always be my safe place. No matter what. No matter where we go next. If there’s no you, there’s no me.”
They sit like that for a while, wrapped in each other’s arms, sharing whispered memories that turn into whispered promises for their future – a future that will look different than their past, but a shared future nonetheless.
(They never say the words out loud, but they’re implicit in every promise they make to each other.
“I promise I’ll watch every show and movie you act in.” I love you, Jinyoungie.
“I promise I’ll listen to every song and album you release.” I love you too, hyung.
“Let’s promise that one day, we’ll make another JJ Project album, just the two of us.” “Yes, we will.” We will always love each other.)
“The others are probably wondering where we are,” Jaebeom says eventually. “We’ve been missing for a while.”
“The others probably know exactly where we are,” Jinyoung counters. “They know us, and they know what this means for us, specifically. That’s why they let me come find you.”
Jaebeom smiles. “We did well, didn’t we?” he asks fondly. He doesn’t need to specify what he means – he can tell that Jinyoung knows he’s talking about them rebounding from a failed duo project to an award-winning group, about them practically raising five other members, about them overcoming every challenge they faced to end up where they are now, together.
Jinyoung kisses Jaebeom’s shoulder gently before looking up at Jaebeom with an incomparably beautiful smile. “Yes, hyung. We did.”
(Later, when they’ve joined the others and the food is being passed around, Jinyoung hands Jaebeom the extra meal he ordered for him, and Jaebeom already knew it was coming, but he still has to will himself not to cry in front of everyone. No one will ever know him like Jinyoung does, he thinks, and he doesn’t really want anyone else to anyway.
The others notice, of course, and start their usual round of teasing – “Our parents take such good care of each other!” and “Why weren’t we invited to the wedding?” and “Good thing our forgetful dad has his faithful husband to feed him!” Jaebeom can’t bring himself to be bothered by any of it. He just feels warm, meeting Jinyoung’s eyes and sharing a secret smile with him, sitting in this room with his family.
And things are going to be different from now on. That’s inevitable, because there’s no longer a contract binding them together. But as he watches Yugyeom and Youngjae lying on the bed and giggling over a joke together, watches Jackson and Mark huddling together as they look at something on Jackson’s phone, watches Jinyoung feeding Bambam a bite of his food with uncontained affection in his eyes, Jaebeom knows that Jinyoung was right, that the contract was never what kept them together in the first place.
So he smiles, because everything that’s coming, everything their future holds, will be for the better.)