I was desperately trying to get my heartrate to drop, because right now, it felt like it was going to explode in my chest. Although, that mess was probably going to be easier to clear up than the one I was currently in the middle of.
“What’s wrong with you?” Sungjae asked me.
JJ had worked out who I was and I was about to have a heart attack. “Nothing,” I responded before I said something I shouldn’t.
Sungjae took a couple of steps towards my bed, and I wrapped my arms around the pillow, using it as a shield. His attention was on my face. “You have a split lip,” Sungjae said, slowly. “And a swollen jaw. That doesn’t look like nothing.”
I did? I reached up to my mouth, wincing as soon as my fingers brushed over the corner of my lips. Fuck that hurt. I closed my eyes, not really wanting to discuss that problem. Not until I had spoken to JJ and worked out what he was going to do. “I might have deserved this.”
It was JJ speaking who made me open my eyes. “What’s up?” he asked Sungjae, although his attention was still locked on me.
“Manager Choi is downstairs. He wants to speak to us all.”
My chest felt tight again. What was he doing here? Had JJ called him? It felt like the oxygen was being sucked out of the room. I could see mouths moving, but I could barely process them until JJ got up and started dragging Sungjae out of the door. He was saying something about cleaning up, and then the door shut behind them.
I had to sit there, waiting for the feeling of impending doom to disappear before I scrambled to my feet and locked the door. Only then did my heartrate drop enough for me to catch my breath.
It wasn’t the only thing that dropped.
The bandage slipped to the floor like the final act of show and tell. I leaned back against the door and stared down at it as my brain slowly started to process everything.
JJ knew who I was.
There really wasn’t anything else to process.
Yeonwoo didn’t like Justin but he thought he had hit my brother and not me. I’d never been punched before but I was willing to take that one ten times over if it could undo JJ finding out who I was.
I let out a stream of expletives, feeling marginally better after doing so.
“OK, Soph,” I muttered to myself. “He had the opportunity to tell Sungjae and he didn’t. But he could be wanting to do that with the manager and the rest of the group present. Fuck.”
If he did, there was nothing I could do. I mean, I could deny it, but obviously someone was going to get me to prove it and that wasn’t going to happen.
But maybe he wouldn’t.
I couldn’t work out why he wouldn’t, but that was a possibility.
Either way, I had to leave this room and face the music.
I triple-checked the lock and bent over to scoop up the bandage. Feeling like I was in an out of body moment, I walked over to Justin’s closet and opened it, the mirror on the back of door showing me the red mark under my eye and the split lip. Just how had Yeonwoo hit me?
I stepped up to the mirror and peered at my reflection. I have no idea how, but I swear doing so made my face throb. This was going to bruise. My gaze dropped to my hoodie. It was covered in blood.
Doing my best not to touch my face in the process, I took the hoodie and t-shirt I had been wearing off. With a speed which had come with practice, I quickly wrapped the bandage back around my breasts, making them disappear into almost nothing. This was another reason I would be glad when this was over. They might not have been big, but strapping my boobs down was uncomfortable. I was missing my bras.
I pulled on a fresh t-shirt and grabbed a clean hoodie. Finally, I left the room to dart over to the bathroom. I’d been in the room for long enough and needed to get downstairs. There was no way of hiding the forming black eye, but I cleaned up the cut lip as best I could before pulling the hoodie on and heading downstairs.
Everyone was in the living area when I got there. I paused, trying to work out what I was walking into. With the exception of Yeonwoo who permanently looked like he was born with a scowl, everyone else seemed… curious.
I didn’t want to get ahead of myself, because he could still say something, but right now, it looked like JJ hadn’t said anything. He was on the same couch as Yeonwoo and Chan, and his attention was fixed on me. He still looked pissed at me, and I quickly looked away, moving beside the other couch.
There was room to sit next to Sungjae, but I remained standing. The little voice in the back of my mind was reminding me that it would be easier to run away if I wasn’t sat down.
“What happened to your face?”
I blinked, looking over at Manager Choi. He was staring at my face in horror. Before I could stop myself, I glanced over at Yeonwoo. I’d seen enough fan comments to know fans thought he had an intense look about him, and they were right. At that moment, it was all directed at me and being on the receiving end wasn’t a pleasant experience.
Saying something wasn’t going to help. I could barely remember exactly what I had said to Yeonwoo but getting punched was my fault. Or a little of my fault and a lot of Justin’s fault.
There wasn’t a right answer to the manager’s question.
Instead, I folded my arms and cocked my head. “What do you want?” I asked Manager Choi, hoping I sounded bored and irritated, and not like I was ten seconds from passing out.
Manager Choi’s jaw jutted out, clearly exasperated, and yet, also not surprised. “I’m not stopping. I just wanted to let you know that it will be an early morning tomorrow. The company has agreed to your suggestion for DrakoTV.”
DrakoTV? What the hell was that? The others seemed excited at whatever it was. Drako didn’t have a TV show or reality show. They had a V-Live channel… that was 90% live videos from the group – something I was going to allow Justin to be known as being indifferent towards for now – and some behind the scenes clips when it came to making of the music videos. I shook my head. “I don’t understand.”
Manager Choi didn’t explain. I wasn’t sure if he hadn’t heard my question, or he was ignoring it. “Make sure you’re up bright and early, otherwise the production team will be waking you up when they install the cameras.”
“I don’t…” I trailed off.
Fuck, fuck, fuck. “Cameras?”
Cameras being installed… in the house?
Manager Choi nodded. “Don’t look so surprised. We need them installed as soon as possible and that’s going to involve an early start. Although I suspect you will all be in your practice rooms anyway. They will try to cause as little disruption as possible.”
I sank down onto the couch before my legs gave out on me. I was being hit from all sides today – both metaphorically and literally. Right now, what I really wanted was to be able to go outside and take a lot of deep breaths. I’d settle for sitting where I was and doing it, but so far no one had noticed I was on the verge of this meltdown.
Instead, I resorted to something I’d gotten good at when studying; zoning out. As the other members of Drako chatted happily about finally getting a reality show, I tuned them out into white noise so that I could logically work this out.
A meltdown, freak out, or panic attack was not going to help me. Justin wasn’t going to help me. And Justin’s relationship with Drako meant that Drako weren’t going to help me. Right now, it was just me.
Cameras around the house weren’t the end of the world. This was Korea. This wasn’t Big Brother or Love Island. There was no way they’d get through any broadcasting approvals if they put the cameras in the bathroom…
I searched my brain trying to recall any idol reality show with cameras in the bathroom. I was drawing a blank thanks to my only real exposure being through Drako, but music videos were censored if they were too provocative, and idols had to cover up tattoos before going on shows.
The worst thing they could do was put the cameras in the bedroom. I shared with JJ and I had already been unbelievably careful around him. If I needed to switch to changing in the bathroom, that was easily done.
I could feel my panic levels dropping slightly.
Drako had never had a reality tv show before, which also meant fans didn’t really know how Justin normally behaved at home. It was unlikely they could call me out on some habits like whether I preferred to sit cross-legged on the couch, or stretch out on it like it was a second bed.
Mannerisms were the key thing. Manliness. I needed to work on my walk and…
None of this made the blind bit of difference if JJ said something.
Automatically, I looked over at him and found him, once again, watching me. Or maybe he’d never taken his attention off me. My life – my brother’s life – was in his hands.
I blinked, the white noise disappearing as I realized Sungjae was waving a hand in front of my face. “I guess you did take a strong hit to the head,” he muttered under his breath.
“What?” I demanded, impatiently.
“Just forget it,” Sungjae snapped. I looked up and discovered Manager Choi had left us. Maybe that was for the best. “I’ll be in the basement if anyone needs me.” With that, Sungjae left.
I sucked in a deep breath and stood. “I’m going out,” I muttered. I probably should have followed Sungjae to the basement seeing as though I was soon going to be recording an album.
I could feel JJ’s stare was still boring into the side of my head, but I needed fresh air. I needed to get out of the house and have half an hour to myself.
But also, maybe JJ would think he had got it all wrong if he saw me acting like normal.
“Not likely. Not with that eye. Anyone could see you,” JJ muttered. He seemed to appear in front of me like he had developed teleportation powers. “You and I are heading up to that bedroom.”
Considering everything that had happened in the last couple of hours, the last thing that should have gone through my mind was an X-rated image of JJ’s dick entering me as I lay naked beneath him on his bed…
But it did.
I didn’t even have my eyes closed and it was as vivid as the real JJ standing in front of me.
I ducked my head. “Sure.” With cheeks on fire, I accepted my fate and traipsed upstairs. As JJ wasn’t behind me, I detoured to the bathroom. Safely inside, I ran the water cold and splashed it on my face.
With water still dripping from my chin, I stared at my reflection in disbelief. “Your mind really went there?” I asked myself. There was probably some psychological explanation for it. In reality, I was screwed. And not in the way I wanted to be. I grabbed the towel and dried my face.
With my head held high, I walked to Justin’s bedroom. JJ was already in there, waiting for me.
I was barely clear of the door when he handed me an egg. “For your eye.”
I took it from him. It was still cold from the refrigerator. Sitting on the edge of the bed, I raised it to my eye, rolling it over the skin beneath it. It was the first time I’d ever had to do that, but I was used to watching my brother from his many injuries. I had no idea how it worked, but rolling an egg over a bruise really did help it heal quickly.
JJ locked the door and then turned back to me, rubbing at the back of his neck. “You are Sophie, aren’t you?”
I stared back at him.
“I saw your bandages.”
“Pervert,” I muttered under my breath.
He stepped forward, pointing his finger at me. “You don’t get to play that card. It’s not like I went there expecting to see tits. I thought you were Justin and I thought you were hurt.”
I lowered the egg and frowned. Irritatingly, he had a point there.
“You are Sophie, aren’t you?”
“Yeah,” I admitted.
Justin stared at me for the longest time. I stared back. Finally, he moved over to his bed, sitting down directly opposite me. “I can’t believe how much you look like him.”
“He’s my twin,” I said, simply. There was no sarcasm in my tone, even though I could easily have added it. But I was tired of acting like Justin.
“Why are you here and not Justin?”
There had been hundreds of occasions where I had played out in my head how I was going to react if I ever got caught. In none of them had I ever disclosed why I was here instead of my brother. Most of the time, I’d just say that we were playing a trick. Of course, I never imagined I would get caught only days into being here as Drako was starting preparations for a comeback.
I sighed. “He’s in rehab.”
JJ’s mouth dropped open. “The fuck?”
“He has been hooked on prescription drugs ever since he hurt his knee,” I continued. JJ stared at me, rubbing the back of his neck again. “He wanted to check himself into rehab.”
JJ opened his mouth to say something, and then promptly closed it. He stood, looked at me like I was an apparition, and then started pacing back and forth. I watched him, until, eventually, something seemed to flick on inside him and he strode over to me. He reached down, taking my hand holding the egg, and held it against my cheek. “Roll it or it will bruise.”
“Does it really matter?” I asked, waiting for him to let go of my hand.
“We’re going to have cameras in here tomorrow and the last thing we need are the fans asking why you have a black eye.” I stared up at him. “Do you not think they’re going to be more concerned about the fact I’m not Justin?”
“If you managed to fool us, I’m sure you can fool them too,” he said, dryly. He finally let go of my hand and stepped back, but he didn’t sit back down.
“You’re not going to tell them?”
JJ snorted. “The last thing I’m ever going to do is tell the fans that you’re not Justin. There would be pandemonium. What I should do is tell Manager Choi and get you out of here before anyone else finds out. It wouldn’t be the first time a group has had a comeback without all of its members.” He ran his hand over his mouth. “Fuck.”
Nothing like the present.
I stood. Instantly, JJ was pressing his index finger into the center of my forehead, making me sit back down. “Where do you think you’re going?”
“No.” JJ took a step back and scowled down at me. “I mean, I should, and honestly, Justin would deserve it.”
“But you’re not going to?” I asked, uncertainly.
JJ sat down on the bed. “Why are you pretending to be Justin?”
“I told you; because Justin is in rehab.”
“Yeah, but why are you here? What’s in it for you? Are you a fan? Are you a sasaeng, because this is crazy enough for you to be one considering you’ve gotten yourself into my bedroom.”
“Like fuck I’m a sasaeng,” I snapped at him, dropping my hand with the egg into my lap. “And if I was, why would I do this? You all hate Justin! You’d all flip your shit if I – he – made moves on any of you. I agreed to this with only half the basic information I needed, including the fact my dumbass brother shared a damn bedroom and his half of the room was a petri dish of teenage boy gunk!”
“Hey! That’s unfair to actual teenage boys because even when we were trainees, the rest of us were never as messy as Justin!” JJ objected. He stood up and grabbed my hand, pushing the egg back against my face. “Will you please keep rolling that fucking egg!”
He sat back down, scowling at me.
“He was desperate,” I admitted, quietly. “He said things were bad between all of you, but I’d seen clips of you guys together, how you interacted on shows… I didn’t think it was that bad.” I sank my chin into my other hand and instantly winced as I squished my lip. “But the drugs…? Justin has never asked for help. I knew he wouldn’t have done if he wasn’t desperate. The two of us never had that close twin relationship you see, and I’ve barely spoken to him since he moved out here, but he’s still my twin. I thought I could do this because you guys weren’t supposed to be having a comeback. I thought if you didn’t like me – him – it would be easy to stay in my room and watch Netflix for a month. Because it’s only supposed to be a month.”
“I don’t know what the hell I’m supposed to do,” JJ admitted with a long breath. “Do you even play the keyboard?”
“What do you want to do?”
I paused in rolling the egg, just holding it against my cheek. That was the last thing I expected him to ask. “I don’t want to be responsible for destroying Justin’s career, or yours.” JJ snorted but he didn’t say anything. “What I really want to do is see Seoul and have a vacation; spend time here with my brother before I move to New York and start my internship. Seeing as though that really isn’t an option, I want my brother to get through rehab while I stay here and make it seem like everything is sunshine and rainbows, even if that is only for the fans.”
I stared at him expectantly. JJ just stared back at me, occasionally shaking his head. It was like he was staring at one of those optical illusions but not really seeing it. “What the hell does that mean? OK?” I asked when I couldn’t take anymore.
“It means OK.”
“Then, now what? You’re not going to tell Manager Choi, but what about the others?”
JJ rubbed his hand over his jaw before standing. “I don’t know. I need to think about it.” He walked over to the door and unlocked it, but he didn’t turn back to me. “What I do know is that Drako has a comeback and I have less than a month to learn the songs. I’m going practicing.” He opened the door and walked out, closing it behind him.
I flopped back onto the bed and stared up at the ceiling, feeling completely hopeless. Even if I currently wanted to strangle him, I still wanted to help my brother. And what was irritating was that I couldn’t really blame this on him.
Sure, he and the rest of the group had major issues with each other, but this comeback had been out of his control and I was the one who had gotten punched. If that hadn’t have happened, JJ wouldn’t have tried to help me, and he wouldn’t have discovered who I really was.
I was too worried to sleep, even though that was probably what I needed to do. I couldn’t work out what JJ’s endgame was. Was he going to tell the others? Why didn’t he know? What did he have to gain by not doing? What did he have to lose by doing so?
With no answers, and no desire to push JJ, just in case, I decided that the only thing I could do was continue as normal. Whatever this normal was… Drako still had a comeback, and at this moment in time, Justin – whether that was me or him – was expected to be part of it.
I wasn’t one of these musical geniuses who could see a sheet of music once and then be able to play it from memory. I was good, but I needed to practice. And seeing as how I wasn’t going to be able to sleep any time soon, that was what I was going to do.
I went downstairs, grabbed a bottle of water from the refrigerator in the deserted kitchen, and then made my way into the basement. All of the other four rooms had lights on and signs of life within, even if I couldn’t really hear much.
Sungjae, Yeonwoo and Chan had no idea what was happening, and JJ… well, he seemed to be acting like nothing had changed. For now, at least.
I slipped into Justin’s practice room and took a seat at his keyboard. I ran my fingers up and down the keys before doing some scales to warm up my hands. It had been a while since I had played for anything but fun, and tomorrow I might discover this was completely pointless, but until then, Justin was relying on me.
Somehow, I lost myself in the music. By the time I stopped, thanks to cramp in my fingers, it was late. Or early, depending on which side of three you normally got up. Feeling like a zombie, I left the practice room, only to find all of the other rooms still had lights on.
This was normal for them, but I couldn’t do it. I needed sleep. I was close to falling asleep at the keyboard. Remembering that there would be people in the house setting up cameras, I decided a late-night shower was in order.
“Balls,” I grumbled to myself in the shower. Or lack thereof. Now I was really going to have to be careful when it came to showering. Not that I ever planned on letting the rest of the group join me, but I didn’t want anything appearing on this show that would give things away. “Please don’t let them go in the bathroom,” I prayed.
Somehow, I managed to get some sleep. It was only a few hours, but when I did wake up, JJ’s bed was noticeably unslept in. Was that because he didn’t feel he could sleep in his own room, or because he had stayed up all night, practicing?
There was a knock at the door, and I sat up, making sure the bandages were still in place. “Come in.”
Sungjae poked his head in. “The production team is here. PD-nim says we should go do a task today so that the cameras can get installed.”
PD-nim… Production Director… the guy in charge.
“Manager Choi said that they would be coming this morning, so why do we have to go and do a task?”
Sungjae rolled his eyes. “Probably because they don’t want us to know where the cameras are going to go. Hurry up and get downstairs so we can open the envelope and find out what the first task is.”
“Sungjae!” I cried before he could shut the door. Startled, he looked over at me. “They won’t put cameras in the bathroom, will they?”
“You weren’t listening at all last night, were you?” Before I could come up with some lame excuse, he shrugged. “There are no cameras going in the bathroom. They’re not filming between the hours of eight and eight overnight, unless they have a special task for us. Next time, listen. Now, get your bad-tempered ass downstairs and plaster on the niceties for the cameras.”
He backed out of the room in a worse mood than he had entered, and I flopped back on the bed. I was praying that the fact my brother was a dick was because of the drugs and not just because he was a dick.
Fully expecting that if I didn’t get downstairs quick enough someone would come upstairs with a camera, I hurriedly got dressed and went down to join the others. I was met by an impatient woman at the bottom of the stairs who thrust a mic pack at me. “We’re behind schedule already. Do you need help wiring up?”
“I’ll help,” JJ said, appearing out of nowhere, missing his noble steed. He grabbed the equipment the woman was holding and then tugged me to one side, behind the stairs and out of the way of the camera crew which was setting up behind us. He pulled up his shirt to reveal the battery pack and receiver of the microphone strapped to his waist. He quickly flicked a switch and the red light died. “They’ve already got some cameras on, so you need to listen carefully because you don’t really want any of the crew to be putting their hands under your shirt.”
JJ’s expression and tone were strangely void of anything. I couldn’t tell if he was OK with things, or if he was pissed at me. “I’m listening.”
“Lapel mic,” he said, holding up the tiniest mic I’d ever seen. “Feed the wire up your shirt and make sure it’s attached firmly to your collar. If you put on an extra layer, or take one off, you make sure this stays on top. If you don’t one of the crew will be there before you know it, complaining that they can’t hear you.”
I nodded, taking the microphone off him and fed it up under my t-shirts as instructed, feeling strangely awkward in front of him.
As I did so, JJ leaned forward, wrapping his arms around me. I froze, unable to breath, until something cold settled against my back, making me shiver. I turned my head, just as JJ looked at me. Our faces were inches from each other.
“It gets hot.”
As my mouth fell open, JJ stepped back.
It took about six seconds for feeling to return to my body and I realized there was something heavy on my back that hadn’t been there moments ago. Breaking the stare, I turned the top half of my body as I lifted my t-shirts. Strapped around my waist was the battery and receiver. It had a piece of yellow tape on it with Justin’s name. That was what got hot.
That and my face…
“The range on those is pretty good, and the battery will need changing a few times a day. Get me if you get stuck. The switch on the top is to turn it off, so remember to do that when you go to the bathroom.”
I turned back to face JJ, only to find him shaking his head. “What?”
“You should have rolled that damn egg.”
Before I saw it coming, he was back up in my personal space, only this time, his hand was heading straight for my head. I closed my eyes and flinched, but he touched my cheek with the lightest touch. A wet, light touch.
My eyes flicked open and I found him dabbing at my cheek so gently that I barely felt it despite the tenderness of the area. “BB cream,” he muttered. “It should hide the bruise for now, but you’re going to have to start wearing makeup for a while.” His gaze flicked up to mine and once again I was aware of just how close his face was to mine as he applied the cream. “Though you’re probably used to that.” His tone was as soft as his makeup application.
“Justin! JJ! Will you stop fucking about and get your asses in here!”
“Cameras, Yeonwoo!” Sungjae screeched.
The yells of the both of them broke the spell. JJ stepped back and turned his mic on. Without another word, he fastened the lid on the cream and slipped it into his pocket.
I was going to need that cream to cover up my pink cheeks, never mind an ugly ass bruise.
What the hell was that?
Before he could get too far away, I grabbed his sleeve. “Does that mean you’ve decided?” I asked him, conscious of the mic being on.
JJ stared into my eyes. After pursing his lips, he shook his head. “Not yet.”
Confused, and on edge, I turned on my microphone and followed him into the kitchen. I barely had time to think before Sungjae was counting us in to introduce us to the camera. My movements weren’t as smooth as the others, but I was still half hidden behind JJ.
Great. That was another thing I was going to have to master.
Seeing as we weren’t asked to retake it, I figured I’d passed for now.
Now wasn’t the time to zone out. Not with the cameras rolling. Instead, I focused on the five envelopes on the table, each bright green and with no markings on them.
Sungjae picked up the second one and looked at us. “Our first challenge is…”