I was in that place between being awake and still being asleep; vaguely aware of things around me, but not completely sure if they were the remnants of a dream. I’d lingered outside of Yeonwoo’s bedroom, toying with the idea of confronting him, but eventually, I’d decided against it.
Whatever had happened between Yeonwoo and Justin, if I started questioning it, it was most likely going to raise questions I wouldn’t want to answer. It was just a month. I could hide in my room for a month. Justin and Yeonwoo could work it out themselves when Justin got back.
I’d gone to bed, trying to stay awake to see if JJ would return, but a long day, an exhausting set of introductions, and jetlag had meant I’d passed out before then.
I inhaled a deep breath of something distinctly masculine; sandalwood with a hint of citrus, and then I snuggled deeper into the body beside me. It was warm and cozy.
Too warm and cozy.
It was summer and the air conditioning wasn’t on. As I felt a bead of sweat trickle down the side of my neck, I pulled away from the arm draped over me.
Arm draped over me…
I opened my eyes, seeing JJ’s sleeping face next to mine on the pillow and panicked.
Without thinking about what I was doing, I shoved him hard, sending him flying backwards out of the bed and landing on the floor. “What the fuck? Justin!” he yelled, floundering on the floor, trying to work out what had happened.
I grabbed the blanket and instinctively used it to cover my body.
JJ pulled himself upright, rubbing his ass as he glowered at me. “Fuck, Just… What the hell is wrong with you?”
JJ was wearing a thin white vest top and his boxers – neither of which hid a great deal. “I thought you were away filming,” I told him, trying my absolute hardest to keep my gaze on his face. It was bad enough given I had an urge to check him out, but he had the widest, brightest eyes and they were fixed on me with a scowl, making me want to look anywhere but his face. “You scared me.”
“I got back a few hours ago.” The scowl evaporated and his expression changed to guilt. “I’m sorry I scared you, but in my defense, that was your fault.”
“How was that my fault?” I asked in disbelief.
A cheeky grin appeared as JJ waved his arm around at my side of the room. “It’s spotless; I could see a bed and I thought it was mine. Plus, you steal my bed half the time, so I figured it wouldn’t be an issue.”
“Not with you in it!” I scoffed. The protest died in my throat as JJ arched an eyebrow, looking at me in disbelief. Justin and… JJ? No, that wasn’t right. I may not know much about my brother’s current life, but he wasn’t gay. “Not all of the time, anyway.”
“I knew it!” JJ cried, giving me a smug look. “You do steal my bed when I’m not here.”
My pounding heart was finally beginning to slow. “Only sometimes. When I can’t find my own.”
JJ looked around the room again. “Did we get a maid?”
“I cleaned it!”
JJ burst out laughing.
My brother was gross. I folded my arms. “Do you really think a maid wouldn’t quit the moment she saw this room?”
With a frown, JJ sat down on the edge of the bed. He opened his mouth, paused, and then closed it again. Finally, he pouted. “You make a strong argument.” And then, before I knew what he was doing, he was back on his feet, crossing the room to kneel on the bed in front of me. Seconds later, the back of his hand was on my forehead. I froze. “You don’t have a temperature… OK, who are you and what have you done with Justin?”
I batted his hand away and shuffled away from him. “Shuddup.”
Laughing at my reaction, which he was thankfully reading as indignant instead of panicked, he got up and walked to the door. “You’re still hilarious.”
I breathed a sigh of relief the moment JJ walked out of the room, closing the door behind him. Then, I dropped the sheets I’d been clinging on to, and finally glanced down. I was still fully clothed, and even though I could feel that the fabric tied around me, keeping my small chest flat, was still firmly in place, I pulled my pajama top away so I could peer down the neck and check anyway.
I sucked in a deep breath, then realizing I might only have minutes before JJ returned to the room, I leaped out of my bed, charged to the closet, and pulled on the first set of clothes I could find; sweatpants, a long-sleeved shirt, and one of Justin’s Pokémon t-shirts over the top.
I was switching the air conditioning on when JJ returned. “Why are you dressed?” he asked, looking at me like I was alien. “It’s before midday.”
“I’m still on California time?” I offered, mentally kicking myself. “You can go back to bed though. I’ll go downstairs.”
JJ shrugged. “I’m awake now. I’m not back at the set until tonight for the final shoot.” He yawned and stretched, the action making his vest rise a fraction and tease me with an inch of abs and the top of a trail of dark hair. JJ didn’t notice me staring, thankfully.
And then, he pulled his top off, throwing it into the empty laundry basket. As it landed in the center of it, he turned back to me. “Did you really do the laundry too?”
I nodded. “I was doing my own anyway.”
“I don’t know what happened in America, but I approve,” JJ informed me. And then he dropped his boxers.
My lungs stopped working.
My heart seemed to start beating faster than it had when I’d woken up and seen him, sending all the blood straight to my face. I watched, enthralled, as JJ picked his underwear up with his toes and then half kicked, half threw them into the laundry basket, giving me a clear view of his ass.
Instinct kicked in once more, and I leaped off the bed, only just managing not to faceplant in my hurry, and I fixed my attention on straightening the blankets.
“Maybe I’m the one with the fever,” I heard JJ mutter. No doubt he was testing his own temperature. Like I was a nurse or a soldier, I made my bed with more attention and care than I ever made my own, just so I had something to keep my attention on as I heard JJ wander around the room behind me, pulling clothes out of the closet, and putting them on.
Finally, catching a dressed JJ out of the corner of my eye, I flopped back onto my bed, staring up at the ceiling as the air conditioning pumped much needed cold air on my face. I couldn’t do this for the next month.
“Justin, are you OK?” JJ asked, moving over to Justin’s desk and sitting down in the chair. He brought his feet up, using the bed as a footrest. “You seem weird today.”
“I’m just glad you’re happy to have me back,” I told him.
“Why wouldn’t I be?”
I shrugged, raising my head to look at him. “Yeonwoo wasn’t.”
JJ arched an eyebrow. “What exactly happened between you two?”
So much for that idea. At least I knew something had happened between Justin and Yeonwoo. Even if I was never going to do anything about it, I was hoping that JJ would know and could give me all the details, so I could at least know what I was dealing with.
I gave JJ another shrug and then flopped back on the bed. “Things,” I muttered, vaguely. Who the hell knew?
There was a knock at the door and both JJ and I looked over as it opened and Sungjae poked his head in. His attention was on JJ, purposely avoiding me, but as he realized JJ was on my side of the room, his mouth fell open. “Did you finally get sick of the pigsty?” he asked JJ.
JJ shook his head, using his thumb to point at me over his shoulder.
Sungjae stepped into the room, looking around like he was seeing it for the first time. “You mean you did this?” he asked me, incredulously.
Seriously, the next time I saw Justin, I was going to smack his lazy ass.
“I was bored,” I told him, lamely. I needed to come up with a better reason for any differences between me and Justin, and quickly.
Sungjae was staring at me like I’d grown a second head.
Forget smacking Justin when I saw him, I was going to tell Mom just how gross he was and let him deal with her wrath.
“Did you want something?” I prompted.
Finally, Sungjae snapped out of it, turning his attention to JJ. “Manager Choi called; they want us to come to the office. They’re sending a car in an hour.”
My blood ran cold. “What for?” I asked, the question coming out as a squeak. I cleared my throat and tried again. “Did they say what for?”
Sungjae slowly turned his head to scowl at me. “I would have said if they did,” he told me before backing out of the room.
I struggled into a sitting position as JJ got to his feet. There was no way anyone knew I wasn’t Justin already, right? Everyone in the house seemed to believe I was him, and other than Manager Choi picking me up from the airport…
Fans were insane. They could find their bias from their shadow…
Had they worked it out?
I shuffled to the desk, pulling the laptop off and opening it up. It was still on from the night before, and it took me seconds to load up Justin’s fansite, JustinLove. Even if she wasn’t at the airport, she would have linked to other fansites who would have been.
She had been there. There I was, on a page that I couldn’t seem to stop scrolling down because she had taken so many pictures. I found links to fansites she had linked to previously and discovered most of them had been at the airport too. Not a single one of them had commented that they thought something had been up with Justin. Most were speculating why he had been in California, and…
Fuck. That was my face.
My actual face, not my face pretending to be Justin.
One of them had guessed that he had been there to see me and had found a picture of me graduating. I hadn’t even seen them yet!
Then someone had responded with another photograph, this time of our parents, and pointed out that Justin hadn’t gone to my graduation, and the mystery had resumed.
I wiped a hand over my mouth as I scrolled back up to my picture. I was going to log onto all my personal social media accounts and check they were locked down. I was usually pretty careful about that, as well as only posting things I wanted people to see, but now was the time where I needed to be more careful than usual.
“What are you looking at?” JJ asked, suddenly appearing beside me and staring over my shoulder. I slammed the lid of the laptop closed. “Just, are you checking out girls?” he asked with a long sigh.
“Gross,” I said, turning my head. His was inches from mine.
“Since when do you not like girls?” he asked, frowning.
“It’s my sister,” I said, pulling open the lid again and turning it around.
“Shit! She looks just like you!” he exclaimed, pulling the laptop off my lap to get a closer look. “I mean, she looks identical.”
“Anyone would think we were twins,” I said, dryly. I took the laptop off him and set it back on the desk.
“Is that why you were back in LA?”
I shook my head, grateful that I didn’t have to lie. “I had other things to take care of. I didn’t make it to her graduation.”
JJ got off the bed, a frown back on his face as he shook his head. “That’s heartless. If she knew you were over and didn’t go, she’d be upset.”
I ran my tongue over my upper jaw, choosing not to respond. How had Justin and I come to a point where a complete stranger knew me better than my twin did. After this, after Justin was back in Seoul, I was going to stick around for a couple more weeks and make sure we connected again. We’d never fallen out (unlike him and most of Drako). We’d just… drifted apart. He had a phone now – there were no excuses.
“You should call her,” JJ pressed.
“She wouldn’t answer,” I sighed, once again able to respond without lying. I stood and stretched. “We should head downstairs. The car will be here soon.”
I left the room, not wanting to let JJ push any further with that topic, and I went downstairs. Yeonwoo, Sungjae, and Chan were in the living area, chatting. Their conversation dried up the second they saw me. At least Chan gave me a small smile.
“Morning,” I greeted them, cheerfully. I walked straight past them to where I had left my clothes drying and started testing them. The ones that had dried overnight, I started pulling off the drier and folding into a neat pile, doing my best to ignore the stares boring into the side of my head as I did.
The doorbell chimed and I paused, watching as Chan went to answer the door. Manager Choi walked in. “The car’s here. There were fans outside of the office when I left.”
The others didn’t seem worried about this, but they weren’t pretending to be their twin brother. Or at least I hoped they weren’t, because that would make things really weird. I pulled a facemask out of my pocket and put it on; the only one of the group to do so.
Yeonwoo sent me a sideways look. “What’s up with you?”
I just shrugged, walking past him and following the manager to the car. Minibus was more appropriate. I looked inside and froze. Did they have set seats? If I went in and took someone’s usual place, would that cause problems?
Faking an untied shoelace, I dropped to a crouch and started retying it, taking my time so all the members were on the minibus before I got on and took an empty seat. JJ was at in the back with Chan. Sungjae was in front of them and then Yeonwoo. I wished I’d picked my phone up to listen to music.
Instead, I spent the ride staring out of the window at the streets of Seoul, although I wasn’t really seeing anything that was going by. My heartrate had picked up and I felt like my heart was pounding in my throat. Why the hell were we going to the offices?
Apgujeong-dong wasn’t far from Cheongdam-dong, where the KSTARZ Entertainment office was. We turned off a busy main street, down narrower roads similar to the one the dorm was on and drove straight past a couple of rival entertainment companies before we pulled up outside of a three-story building. The side of the building had a giant picture of Drako hanging from the side of it.
Outside, as Manager Choi had said, were three girls, waiting excitedly. I was too nervous about being at the KSTARZ Entertainment office than I was about them. I was doing everything I could to try to stop myself from throwing up. I kept back, allowing the others to lead the way – to the CEO’s office.
I was too distracted to really pay attention to the inside of the office. The rest of the band went to the small rectangle of seats made up of armchairs and couches, taking seats beside each other. I opted for an armchair at the back, by myself, as it was closest to the door in case I needed to escape.
Moments later, the CEO walked in and we were back on our feet, bowing slightly before we all sat back down. “I know you’re all enjoying some rest, apart from JJ who has spent the time working,” he smiled at the bass guitar player. “But we’ve decided we need to capitalize on the success of your last comeback. You’re popular and your fans are desperate for new music from you, so we’re going to give that to them.”
“We’re having a comeback?” Yeonwoo asked, excitedly.
The CEO nodded. “Yes. We’ve been looking through the songs you’ve provided over the last few months, and we’ll be using a few of them as additional album tracks, but we’ve also listened to the fans, so you’re going to be doing a full album, not a mini album, and we’re going to have sub units for this album for promotional use in the run up to the release.”
I could feel the blood draining from my head. “What?” I whispered, certain I was about to pass out. This was not what I had signed up for. This is not what Justin had promised me.
A month of hiding in a room because Drako were on a break. That was what I had signed up for!
My question was drowned out by Chan’s whoops of excitement. No one seemed to notice the fact I was pinching my thigh, hoping to wake myself up from this nightmare.
“What is the comeback date?” Sungjae asked, getting the other members to quieten down.
“July 20th,” the CEO replied.
The day before I was supposed to switch places with Justin.
I was screwed. How the hell were we going to pull this off?