The bell on the door jingled as I walked in. I marched straight down the first aisle, past the rows of ramyun seeking out the chocolate. The second aisle was the one which held the bounty, but as I stared at the range of candy, I found my desire for something sweet had disappeared.
“Fuck you, Yeonwoo,” I grumbled under my breath.
While I had suffered from moments of self-confidence issues brought on by my small chest, I had never been concerned about my weight, and I was mightily pissed off that just a few words out of Yeonwoo’s mouth had been enough to make me question eating a bar of chocolate.
“I’m telling you, it’s him!”
“Are you insane? It looks nothing like Justin Kang!”
My hand hovered over the dark chocolate Snickers I was contemplating buying and saving for later when I could eat it in front of Yeonwoo. Trying not to turn my head, I glanced out of the corner of my eye and found two girls at the end of the aisle.
“I’m telling you, that’s Justin Kang from Drako!”
The shorter of the two rolled her eyes. “You’re insane, but even if it is, the guy is buying a snack. Leave him be and don’t go all crazy fangirl on him, OK?”
Neither of the girls were Korean. Judging from their accents, I was going to say East Coast US. Wherever they were from, I was exceptionally grateful when the one who had recognized me (sort of), sighed, nodded her head, and walked to the cashier to pay for the items she had in her hands. Was this really something that Justin had to deal with? That any idol had to deal with?
I abandoned the bar of chocolate and turned, heading away from the girls and the cashier, and detoured down the next aisle where the drinks lived. They were still paying, and I didn’t want to have an awkward interaction at the till. I opened the refrigerator door and plucked out a bottle of Sprite. As I allowed the door to swing shut, I turned, and only just refrained from letting out what was sure to be a girly squeak as I found a really pretty girl in front of me.
I gave her an awkward smile and move to the side so I could pass her.
She moved with me, blocking my way. “Oppa, are you blocking my calls?” Oh fuck…
“I think you have the wrong person,” I told her, trying to search my brain as to why she looked so familiar. Was she in a girl group?
I side-stepped to the other side and once more she moved with me. “That’s not funny, Justin,” she said, looking hurt. As tears appeared in the corner of her eyes, guilt flooded me, even though I had no idea who she was.
Since when had Justin had a girlfriend? He wasn’t allowed to date!
OK… so I was aware that a lot of idols dated, although they did it in secret. I wasn’t a delusional fan who thought their favorite was going to wait for them and only them. Idols were human too, and they liked other girls, or boys – or both. They still had sex drives, even if they were famous.
But Justin had never mentioned…
Fuck it. There was a lot Justin had never mentioned.
“Please don’t do that,” I requested, my brain running a million miles a minute as I tried to recall where I had seen her from. For the life of me, I couldn’t place her, and saying anything was likely to make her more upset than she already was.
“How can I not?” she asked me. “You told me you loved me, you slept with me, and then you won’t return any of my calls.”
Either she was crazy or my brother was an asshole, and neither options looked like they were going to have a great outcome right now. “I’m really sorry, but I think you’re confusing me with someone else,” I told her, politely.
I winced, turning to find JJ walking towards me. Unlike me, he was wearing a mask. He was looking over my shoulder, and I couldn’t help but do the same, expecting the girl to be glowering at me, but she was gone.
“Who was that?” JJ asked, carefully.
“Just a fan,” I replied with a nonchalant shrug. “I can’t help being this popular.”
JJ arched an eyebrow. “What is up with you lately?”
With another question I couldn’t answer, I deflected. “What are you doing here?”
“I’m going to cook beansprout stir fry. You seemed upset about Yeonwoo’s comments and I wanted to see if you wanted some before you resorted to living off Sprite for the next four weeks.”
I glanced down at the bottle in my hand. It was a favorite of both mine and Justin’s, but I’d never considered ‘living’ off this. Is that what Justin usually did? That wasn’t healthy…
“Sure,” I shrugged, hoping I didn’t sound too enthusiastic so that I didn’t sound like Justin, but also relieved because I liked my food. I started to walk away to go pay for my drink, but JJ’s arm shot out and grabbed my wrist, stopping me. When I looked back, he was holding out a hand with a mask in it. “Thanks,” I muttered, putting it on, even if it was probably too late now.
I made to walk to the till again, but JJ grabbed my wrist, stopping me for a second time. I looked at him, arching an eyebrow. “You promised you hadn’t done anything with Eunji, and you promised you were going to keep away from her,” he said, bluntly.
Eunji? Was that what her name was?
“That wasn’t what it looked like,” I said, sounding a lot calmer than I felt as I wondered how I could bring this up later when it was just me and JJ and we weren’t in a very public convenience store, so that I could work out who she was. “She spoke to me first.”
“The point is that it looked like it. Be careful, Justin,” JJ warned me before finally letting go of my arm and walking off.
Of course it did, because my brother was a royal pain in the ass. Whether she was another idol, a fan, or a friend, my brother had hooked up with a girl, and that was a huge no-no. JJ seemed to know about it. Did the others? Was she the reason for the frosty atmosphere? Did they know about her and they were pissed?
I paid for the bottle of Sprite, relieved to see that there was no one waiting for me outside of the store when I left. By the time I made the short walk back to the apartment, the undershirt I was wearing was sticking to my back from the humidity. I was going to need to shower tonight.
Inside, the apartment was cool. Aside from JJ in the kitchen, the main area was empty. “Where is everyone?” I asked as I watched JJ pull some vegetables out of the refrigerator. Someone had apparently stocked that while we had been out.
JJ looked at me like I had grown a second head. Again. “The basement? Where else would they be?”
I leaned against the kitchen counter, watching JJ as I opened the bottle of Sprite. “Helping you make dinner?” I suggested before taking a swig of the drink.
“Help?” he repeated, dumbly. “No one ever helps me cook when we get new music.”
“Can I help?” I offered, suspecting even before I said it, that it was going to make JJ think I had gone mad.
“You?” he repeated. “First you clean, now you’re offering to help cook? Are you feeling OK?”
I had an ulterior motive. JJ had seemed friendly earlier, and seeing as we were alone again, I was hoping to dig up some information on Justin and the quagmire of shit he had dumped me in. JJ’s disbelieving expression told me I was close to pushing my luck. “I was being polite,” I shrugged, fastening the lid on the bottle. “I have every intention of going to the basement too.”
“Of course you do,” JJ muttered, returning to pulling vegetables out of the refrigerator.
I walked away, deciding now was not the time to work on JJ. Unfortunately, I had no idea where the basement was. I hadn’t even realized the duplex had a basement. I hadn’t completely explored the apartment either. There was a corridor off the living area, and I was hoping the entrance to the basement was down this way, otherwise it was going to be embarrassing to explain to JJ why I was walking past him again.
There were two doors down the corridor. The first was to a gym. It wasn’t a big gym, but it had a treadmill, a rowing machine, some weights, and a couple of machines to work on arms and legs. I glanced down at the Sprite in my hand, over at the treadmill, then backed out of the room. “Not today,” I muttered.
The second door hit the jackpot with a set of stairs leading downwards. Considering the rest of Drako were supposed to be down there, I was surprised at how quiet it was.
I made my way down, staring at the pictures which were lining the stairway and then the corridor. They were all photographs of Drako performing; some as a group, many individual shots. I was pleasantly surprised that I could recognize most of the performances too.
There were two doors on either side of the corridor, and then, at the end, another. Each door had a clear glass window, and I could see into three of the rooms with ease thanks to the lights being on. In the closest door was Sungjae, his back to the door. He was holding his guitar as he was almost doubled over and staring at the sheet music.
Single person practice rooms. That was what lived in the basement. And judging from how I could see Yeonwoo hitting his drum kit, they were also soundproof. As I passed, Yeonwoo looked over, shooting me a dark look.
Without thinking about what I was doing, I walked straight over to the room with Chan in and knocked on the door. When he didn’t look over, absorbed in tuning his guitar, I pushed the door open and walked in.
For a few seconds, I caught the sound of the guitar being strummed, and then silence as Chan looked up at me in surprise. The rooms were definitely soundproofed. “Justin?”
“Hey,” I greeted him, before internally wincing. Why had I just walked in here? I glanced around the room. It had pale walls, and short of an iMac in the corner, the only other things in here were a collection of guitars and a few amps. My gaze drifted back to Chan and I realized he was waiting expectantly. “I just wanted to make sure everything was OK between us?” I asked him. Not a complete lie.
The surprise didn’t leave Chan’s face. “Why are you asking me this?”
“Because the whole group hates me and I’m done with it,” I told him. “I’m going to apologize as many times as I need to and try to make things right again.”
Chan cocked his head, his hair flopping to the side like ears on a cocker spaniel. It was strangely cute. “Do you even know what you’re apologizing for?” he asked, curious.
My heart leaped into my throat. “What aren’t I apologizing for?” I countered, quickly. “I fucked up.” Apologies were going to be a lot easier when I could work out what I was apologizing for…
Chan set his guitar carefully to the side and then pointed to the chair at the computer table; the only other place to sit. I did as requested, setting my bottle down on the desk. The room was so narrow, our knees were touching. “I hate all this arguing so much that it gives me stomachache, so I really hope you’re being sincere when you say you want to apologize,” Chan told me. “But you really did fuck up and I’m not sure if you truly realize that, Justin. I’m not sure an apology is going to cut it.”
What the fuck did my brother do??
I took a deep breath and a gamble. “What happened between Eunji and me shouldn’t have.”
Chan’s eyes seemed to bulge out of his head. “That’s the first time you’ve admitted to anything happening with Eunji.” He ran a hand through his hair looking thoroughly uncomfortable.
I held my hands up. “Enough is enough. Like I said, I fucked up, and I want to start making things right by owning up to what I did and apologizing. I have to start somewhere. I’m not sure if I can make things right at all, but I would like to make things better. I’m really sorry that it has been affecting you.” I reached over, taking his hands in mine. “I’m sorry you got hurt in all this.”
Chan stared down at his hands in mine before looking up at me and staring intently at me. “You’re different,” he said. My stomach churned in a way which made me regret drinking the Sprite. Before I could yank my hands free and come up with a bullshit reason to why I was different, Chan sighed. “Maybe you are changing. Again.”
“Again?” I asked, cautiously.
Chan shrugged. “I thought it was Eunji, but you’ve been different since our second mini album.” He shrugged again. “You’re not the same Justin I trained and debuted with. I miss that Justin.”
“I don’t think I can go back to being that Justin,” I told him, truthfully. “But I don’t like the Justin I am now.”
“No,” Chan said, slowly shaking his head. “I don’t like him either.” He leaned forward, peering at my face again. “You don’t look like him, either.”
I forced myself to laugh, even though it sounded like an awkward chortle. “Who else do I look like?”
“I don’t know, but-”
I didn’t find out what the ‘but’ was. Instead, the door burst open and Yeonwoo stepped in, glowering at us both. “What the fuck?” he asked, staring at our hands.
I was still holding onto Chan. OK, maybe the touchy-feely girly hand-holding wasn’t normal for Justin, but I wasn’t expecting the anger from Yeonwoo over it. Nor was I expecting the speed at which Chan pulled his hands free from mine. “It isn’t what it looks like,” Chan said, quickly.
I somehow managed to keep my mouth from falling open as I stared at Chan. ‘Wasn’t what it looked like’? Was he implying I was making a move on him? Was Yeonwoo getting upset because he thought I was and that was unacceptable because he didn’t like that kind of thing?
“Chan, you could like anybody, male or female… anybody, but him,” Yeonwoo told the maknae, turning his nose up at me. “But you know what he did to Eunji-”
“I don’t like Justin!” Chan exclaimed. “He was apologizing!”
Yeonwoo let out an ugly sounding snort. “Justin wouldn’t know an apology if it-”
“Ya!” I roared, getting to my feet and standing in front of Chan. “You’re pissed off with me and I get that but stop yelling at Chan!”
In less time than it took for me to take a breath, Yeonwoo stepped up to me, both fists curled as he glowered down at me. “You have no comprehension as to how ‘pissed off’ I am with you.” He moved to the side, glowering at Chan. “You know what he’s like, and you know those apologies of his might as well be thrown down the toilet because they’re just as full of shit.”
Yeonwoo whirled around, storming out of the door and slamming it behind him so hard, I was surprised it didn’t shatter. I turned back to Chan, ready to start ranting about how Yeonwoo was a complete asshole, but I stopped when I looked at Chan. His jaw was quivering.
“I’m sorry,” I said, instead. “And I really am. I’m sorry for everything. For dickish things I did, for putting you in the middle of it all, and for having to hear Yeonwoo say that. He’s pissed at me, and he’s taking it out on you.” I blew out a breath and shook my head. “I really do want to make things right between us, but I don’t want to be the reason you and Yeonwoo fall out. You have to share a room, for fuck’s sake.”
Chan continued to stare at me. My brother had really made a mess of things in this group, but I wasn’t helping. I was just making things worse.
“Look,” I continued. “I’ll make it easy and stay out of your way. And Yeonwoo’s right: you should like anybody but me.”
In all honesty, I’d never picked up on the fact that Chan liked me, or rather, Justin. The group as a whole seemed comfortable around each other. They always seemed happy to relax against each other, give spontaneous hugs, and there were more than a few pictures that had been shared of various members curled up asleep with each other.
Or at least, it seemed that way on camera…
It was growing ever evident that off camera, things weren’t so great in the group.
But even then, I’d not noticed anything that would hint to Chan having a crush on Justin. They certainly weren’t the more popular group ships, but then again, I steered away from ships about my brother. It wasn’t that I cared whether he dated or not, but things in some fandoms went from sunshine and rainbows to full on orgies in two hundred words (not that I had ever read a BTS fanfiction on Wattpad…), and the last thing I ever wanted to imagine was my brother having sex.
“I don’t like you,” Chan said, interrupting my thoughts.
“It’s not you,” he muttered again, looking away.
He did like someone. Someone in Drako…?
I glanced over my shoulder at the door, before turning wide-eyed back to Chan. “Yeonwoo?” I blurted out.
“No!” Chan protested, embarrassed. “It’s not anyone in the group,” he added quickly. “And even if it was, I’m not the one who needs reminding about the no dating rule.”
That was a pointed dig if ever there was one. I also wasn’t convinced that the someone he liked wasn’t in Drako. He’d thrown that comment out a little too quickly.
“I’m sorry,” Chan said, catching me wince.
“It feels like it was deserved,” I muttered. That earned me a frown. I held my hands up in defeat. “Fine, it was deserved.”
“Don’t avoid me, Justin. I don’t want the group to be ignoring each other. I’ll talk to Yeonwoo. But you should too. You really do owe him an apology.”
Yeonwoo wasn’t the only one.
And I still wasn’t sure what I was apologizing for.