“As you all know, finals are fast approaching,” the professor starts, pacing around their classroom.
Jimin listens attentively, pushing his round-shaped eyeglasses upwards. His eyebrows are furrowed as he gets a little impatient with his professor’s announcement. He doesn’t understand why his professor is building up too much suspense just for a finals announcement.
“And a lot of you have been slacking off in my class. Remember, it is you who make your grades, I simply just compute them. Some of you have failing partial grades, but it’s nothing a good finals grade can’t fix.”
Jimin notices the look of worry and stress on some of his classmates’ faces. Jimin, being one of the top students in university, doesn’t even seem fazed. He just wants to get this announcement over with.
“Which is why I’ll be putting you in groups for your finals.”
Jimin finally cracks an expression at the last nine words his professor just said. He gasps in disbelief, leaning back against his seat. Some of his classmates look relieved, some look happy, and there are also a few who look just as annoyed as Jimin.
Jimin doesn’t work well in groups, especially if it’s not his comfort group. Okay, maybe he’s exaggerating. He works well in his comfort group, with people he knows will work hard like him. But if it’s some random group his professor makes? Well then that’s just fucking great, Jimin thinks. A variety of people, including people who don’t give a fuck about whatever work they’ll be doing.
His professor sits down on the teacher’s table in front, his Macbook in front of him. “I’ve already created groups for this class. There will be five groups, seven members each. Remember which group you are in, I won’t be repeating this again.”
Jimin still has a frown on his lips. He twirls his pen between his fingers as he watches his professor type something on his Macbook.
“I hope we’ll be group mates,” Kim Taehyung, Jimin’s best friend, whispers next to him. “Wait, do you think it’ll be in alphabetical order?”
“I don’t know, but knowing this old man it’s probably random.” Kim Namjoon whispers, sitting on Taehyung’s other side.
“Or based on academic capacity,” Jimin murmurs. “The three of us will most likely not be grouped together.”
“Why not? We’re all smart!” Taehyung whines, albeit softly, not wanting the professor to hear him.
“I mean, he’s not gonna want to group all the smart people together if he wants to increase the grades of those who are failing,” Jimin explains.”If we’d be grouped together our grades would reach the skies.”
“Doesn’t sound like a bad idea to me,” Namjoon says.
“Alright, everybody settle down. Each group will have a leader, and the leader will also be the one to hold onto the evaluation paper. The leader will evaluate each group member based on their teamwork, effort, and etchetera,” the professor announces. “I’ll only be announcing this once so listen up, write this down; whatever you want.”
Jimin has a small smile on his lips at the thought of an evaluation. Jimin has always been fair and honest on evaluations. He’s always the leader whenever he’s involved in group works.
“For the first group we have the leader, Kim Namjoon. The members are Kang Hanjae, Jung Hoseok…”
Taehyung elbows his other seatmate Namjoon, who is busy listing down the members on the back of his notebook. “Jung Hoseok is in your group. Doesn’t he excel in this class?”
“Uh-huh,” Namjoon mumbles, making sure he lists all of his group members.
The professor proceeds to announce the second group, which Jimin isn’t in. Jimin starts tapping his pen on his notebook impatiently. The professor starts announcing the third group. “The leader is Kim Taehyung. The members are Min Yoongi, Lee Kwangsik….”
Taehyung subtly pumps his fist in the air, a boxy smile plastered on his face as he turns to Jimin. “Jimin, you hear that? I’m group mates with Min Yoongi.”
“Isn’t he an athlete? If I’m not mistaken, the championships are happening soon so I bet he’ll be busy.”
“Who cares,” Taehyung leans back against his seat. “He’s a smart athlete from what I hear. Knows how to balance academics and extracurriculars. Plus, he’s hot.”
Jimin chuckles. “Did you even listen to the other members in your group aside from Min Yoongi?”
Taehyung’s smile fades. “Oh fuck.”
Jimin shakes his head. He turns back his attention to the professor who’s getting ready to announce the fourth group. “Alright, for this group we have Jeon Jeongguk as the leader.”
Jimin’s eyes widens, and he glances at the back row where Jeon Jeongguk sat. Jeongguk is one of the star athletes in their university. Jimin has nothing against athletes, but it’s surprising for their professor to assign Jeongguk as a leader. Jimin rarely even sees him attend classes.
Everyone looks just as surprised, heads turning to Jeongguk. Jeongguk didn’t even look like he was listening, but when the professor mentioned his name and leader in the same sentence, it was enough to catch his attention. “M-me?”
“Yes you, Mr. Jeon. There are no other Jeon Jeongguks in my class.”
Jimin chuckles, putting down his pen. He’s surely gonna be the leader of the fifth group, so he’ll just wait ‘til the professor announces it.
“For the members of Mr. Jeon’s group, we have Han Sunhwa, Lee Mingyuk, Ha Jieun, Kim Chaewon, Song Jaesuk, and Park Jimin.”
Jimin whips his head up, eyes widening in horror. Everyone glances at his direction, just as surprised as when Jeongguk was announced as a leader.
“Did I just hear my name?” He asks, turning to Taehyung.
Taehyung blinks rapidly. “I-I guess?”
“I’m just a member? You’re telling me Jeon Jeongguk is my leader?”
Taehyung turns his head to Namjoon, like he’s asking for help. Namjoon reaches his hand over to squeeze Jimin’s arm. “Maybe it’s a mistake, just ask the professor later.”
The profesor proceeds to announce the fifth and last group. Jimin doesn’t hear his name again. He grits his teeth and grips his pen tightly.
“Alright, now that the groupings are done, let’s discuss what you’re all gonna be doing as a group and what you’ll be submitting to me,” the professor stands up and paces around once again. “Since our subject is all about the Philosophy of Man, Human Living — that’s exactly what your finals will be about. Using the four major questions of life: origin, morality, meaning and destiny you’ll be creating a documentary of a person’s perspective for each question. Different people per question, so that’s four people. You’ll evaluate and analyze the answers, compare them and write a paper about it…”
Jimin wants to hit his head on his desk. He’s frowning the whole time the professor is explaining the task to them. As soon as he finishes explaining, he clasps his hands together. “Any questions? If not, then you’ll be spending the rest of the time meeting with your group. Go on and group yourselves.”
Everyone starts getting up their seats to form their groups. Jimin stands from his own seat and marches towards the table in front, where the professor is seated. Jimin puts his hands on the edge of the table. “This has to be a mistake.”
Jimin says those exact words with someone. He looks up and sees Jeon Jeongguk on the other side of the table. He’s also looking at Jimin. Jimin scoffs and turns to the professor. The professor removes his eyeglasses. “I was expecting the both of you to approach me.”
Jimin straightens up, crossing his arms against his chest. “So this is a mistake then.”
“No it is not, Mr. Park.”
Jimin’s relieved expression falters.
“I don’t understand, professor,” Jeongguk speaks up. “Why am I a leader? You know what my grades look like.”
“I absolutely do, Mr. Jeon.”
“Then why? I mean, he wants to be a leader, then let him be the leader instead of me.” Jeongguk points at Jimin.
“Are you questioning my decisions?” The professor sighs. “And no, I will not be changing anything.”
“Professor Kang, I just—“
“Mr. Jeon, your group mates are waiting for you. I won’t be changing anything. Please head over there now.”
Jeongguk huffs. He glances at Jimin quickly and then listens to the professor. He walks away from the table, leaving Jimin with the professor. Professor Kang turns to Jimin. “You heard what I said to him, right?”
“Of course, professor. I-I just, I don’t seem to understand? Is there something wrong with my grades? Am I lacking some activities?”
“No Jimin, and in fact your partial grades are more than okay. You yourself know how well you’re doing in my class,” he says. “This has more to do with Jeongguk than you. You see, Jeongguk doesn’t seem to grasp how much potential he has in my subject. He’s too blinded by the reasoning that he’s an athlete and can’t juggle both academics and sports. I fail to disagree with his belief, that’s why I want him to discover his own potential by making him a leader.”
“In exchange for my grade? With all due respect Professor Kang, but my grades are on the line too.”
“Jimin, you’re doing so well in my class that there is not a chance that you’ll ever get a failing grade. I just want you to help Jeongguk, guide him. I know you’re used to leadership, and Jeongguk is not, so I ask you to kindly guide him.”
“I’m gonna babysit him?’
The professor sighs. “Just trust me Jimin. I know what I’m doing.”
Jimin suppresses the urge to roll his eyes. He bows instead, and then starts walking towards where his group is. Jeongguk glances at him. “Okay Jimin is here.”
“So?” Jimin raises an eyebrow.
“He’ll be the leader,” Jeongguk says to his group. “We’re gonna listen to him.”
“No I am not,” Jimin frowns. “You’re the leader.”
“Fine. As leader I assign Jimin as the leader and will you all listen to him instead of me. Case closed.”
“Jeongguk,” Jimin sighs. “Like it or not, you’re the leader. So quit acting like a child and let’s start brainstorming for ideas instead.”
Jeongguk snaps his fingers. “Right! Brainstorming, of course. Let’s all start brainstorming.”
Jimin buries his face in his palm.
Jeongguk plops down on his bed, face hitting the pillow. “I fucking hate Professor Kang.”
Min Yoongi, Jeongguk’s ultimate roommate and best friend, just chuckles. “When he announced you as a leader, your reaction was hilarious.”
Jeongguk lifts his head from the pillow. “This isn’t funny, hyung!” He whines. “I think Jimin is going to hate me for the rest of his life.”
“Okay, I agree that Professor Kang was cruel for putting Park Jimin in your group,” Yoongi says. “Park Jimin, out of all people.”
“I can handle being a leader. I mean, I can try,” Jeongguk utters. “But having Jimin in my group is too much.”
Jeongguk doesn’t hate Park Jimin, no. Infact, it’s the exact opposite. Jeongguk is basically in love with him.
He’s been crushing on Park Jimin since the day he saw him at freshman orientation. Jimin had that beautiful smile plastered on his lips, his eyes bent into twin crescents. He walked around the campus next to Kim Taehyung. Jeongguk still remembers that day like it was yesterday. Jimin was wearing a simple baby blue sweater and jeans, but Jeongguk thinks he looks like a fairy and an angel combined. Jeongguk really didn’t pay attention to orientation, he had his eyes glued on Jimin, who was sitting three rows in front of him. Jeongguk knows that he wasn’t the only one who was head over heels for Park Jimin. He knew a lot of girls and boys also found Jimin attractive, and it was just the way it is. Jimin has this aura around him like he’s glowing.
And then Jeongguk finds out he has a class with Jimin. He learns that Jimin is incredibly smart and takes his grades seriously. Jimin has also gained the respect of professors, because of course Jimin was a model student. Jeongguk starts to lose hope at ever snatching a chance with Jimin right there and then. Jimin is surely into people who are just as smart as him. Although Jeongguk knew to himself that he wasn’t dumb, he just wasn’t near Jimin’s level. Plus, Jeongguk has a feeling that Jimin dislikes athletes. And Jeongguk was definitely an athlete.
“You’re being too negative about this,” Yoongi says. “What if this is finally your chance?”
Jeongguk snorts. “Chance? On Jimin? Let’s be realistic here hyung.”
Yoongi rolls his eyes. “What I’m saying is, this is like an open door for you. You can impress Jimin by showing him what you can do.”
“What I can do? You mean fail him?” Jeongguk whines. “You should’ve seen his face when he went to Professor Kang. It looked like he was gonna light me up in flames!”
Yoongi chuckles. “You’re overreacting. You just think Jimin doesn’t like you.”
“He doesn’t. He dislikes athletes, remember?”
“He dislikes athletes who don’t give a shit about their academics. Are you one of those athletes? No, you’re not.”
Jeongguk pouts. “Okay fine. It’s not like I would lose anything.”
“That’s the spirit!” Yoongi gives him a pat on the back. “Now get changed. We have to go to practice.”
Things are not going the way Jeongguk wants them to be.
He was so into his soccer practice last night that he didn’t even think to check his phone. He also didn’t check it after practice because he was too tired and immediately went to sleep once he arrived in his dorm. He slept a little too well, waking up at almost ten in the morning. When he finally checks his phone, he sees an email from Park Jimin last night.
TO: firstname.lastname@example.org and 5 others
Subject: Philosophy Finals
Good evening. Just informing you that we’ll be meeting up tomorrow at 9AM at the library. We should discuss our plans as early as possible. Please do not be late as we all have existing classes in the afternoon. Thank you.
So that’s how Jeongguk finds himself scrambling to take a shower, changing into decent clothes, and running to the library. He checks the time on his watch as he runs, cursing to himself when he sees that he’s more than an hour late. He pushes through the doors of the library, causing people to look at him. He stops in front of the librarian’s counter, catching his breath. He ignores the librarian’s stare as he signs his name in the Log In book, and then proceeds to look for Jimin and his group mates. Once he sees them on one of the tables at the back, he takes a deep breath before approaching. His group mates are giving him a judgmental look, but Jimin doesn’t even look away from his laptop screen.
Jeongguk slowly slides in a vacant seat across Jimin, clearing his throat. “Uh, sorry I’m late.”
Jimin finally glances at him, raising an eyebrow. “Nice of you to join us.”
“I-I just…” Jeongguk gulps. “I didn’t check my emails last night because I had practice and I—“
“Don’t waste your time explaining Jeongguk,” Jimin says. “I hope you don’t mind me ordering a group meeting.”
“N-no, not at all! In fact I was just—“
“Great. So we’ve already listed out people who we think are suitable for this project. Relatives, friends, etchetera. We’ll do further discussions about this to break this list down into only four people.”
Jeongguk slowly nods, glancing at the paper on the table.
“Unless you have ideas of your own, Jeongguk?” One of the members, Sunhwa, asks directly at him.
Jimin straightens up in his seat and crosses his arms against his chest, like he’s waiting for Jeongguk’s response. Jeongguk blinks, completely caught off guard, but he remembers Yoongi’s words. Show Jimin what you can do. “I actually wanted us to explore? I-I mean, instead of having people who we know, what if we select random people?”
“And how do we select random people?” Another member, Mingyuk pipes up.
“I was thinking of maybe just asking people at the park? We can make letters that ask for their permission and for the terms and conditions. I think it would be better since we really don’t know this person’s origin, meaning, morality and destiny.”
“You do know that will take time? I think random people at the park wouldn’t want college students crowding up to them and documenting their lives and inspecting it.” Jimin says.
Jeongguk nods. “Yes of course. I understand. But there’s no harm in trying. We can try for at least three days and if we don’t get anyone to participate, then we’ll proceed with the list. Is that alright?”
His group members nod at that, agreeing to his plans. Jeongguk glances at Jimin who is just typing away on his laptop. Before Jeongguk could ask him, Jimin beat him to it. “I’ll make the interview request letter.”
Jeongguk can’t help the small smile that blooms on his face. “Okay, thank you Jimin-ssi.”
They end their group meeting just like that, and they start heading to their own ways. Jeongguk stays behind to wait for Jimin, who is waiting for his laptop to shut down. Jeongguk clears his throat. “Jimin-ssi, I just wanted to apologize for being late. That was very irresponsible of me, and I’ll make sure it will never happen again.”
Jimin closes his laptop before he faces Jeongguk. “I hope you mean it when you say it will never happen again. I know you’re busy juggling both curricular activities and academics, but this is our Philosophy finals, so I hope you give it some priority.”
“O-of course. I was just very tired last night that I didn’t get a chance to check my email.”
Jimin turns around to take his laptop and put it inside his bag. “We’re all students here, Jeongguk-ssi. Some of our group mates are also part of curricular clubs, but they manage to get here in time.”
Jeongguk bows his head in shame. “Right. It’s not an excuse. I’m sorry.”
“At least it gave you a lesson,” Jimin says. “I’ll see you at our next meeting. I’m expecting an email from you about wheres and whens.”
“Yes. Of course.”
Jimin gives him a curt nod before he starts walking away and out of the library. Jeongguk sighs and plops back down on the wooden chair, embarrassed and disappointed in himself.
“You told him that?”
Jimin frowns, turning towards Taehyung. “Why are you making it sound like I committed murder?”
“No I am not!” Taehyung slaps his shoulder. “It’s just… the poor boy is probably shaken up. You’re kinda scary and super intimidating, you know.”
“He was late for more than an hour. Anyone in their right mind would get pissed at that.”
“Did he say why?” Namjoon asks, looking up from his iPad.
“He was trying to explain, but I didn’t really listen.” Jimin answers. “But I’m assuming he was practicing or something.”
“So you sent the email at seven in the evening, asking for a meeting the next morning?” Seokjin, Namjoon’s boyfriend who’s two years ahead of them, asks.
Jimin huffs. “Seven in the evening is still early, okay? Plus, I have never encountered a student who doesn’t check their emails regularly! I check my emails more than I check my Instagram.”
“Mmm, well maybe he was too busy practicing and then was so exhausted that he passed out as soon as he got back in his dorm, not checking his email.” Taehyung concluded. “Give him a little slack, Minie.”
Jimin rolls his eyes. “Professor Kang is asking me to guide Jeongguk. I’m guiding him by reprimanding him for being late, and he’ll probably never arrive late again and will always check his email.”
Seokjin snorts. “I think texting him is better than an email, Jiminie. At least he would see it right away.”
“An email is more professional and formal.”
“You’re groupmates.” Namjoon deadpans.
Jimin pouts. “Whatever. Have you guys met up with your own groups? Any plans?”
“I’m meeting with them later. I think meetings after class are much better since we wouldn’t be in such a rush.” Namjoon replies.
“Me too!” Taehyung pipes up. “Plus I also wanted to sleep in ‘till eleven earlier.”
Jimin shrugs. “Well I did my meeting earlier and I’m free right now. You wanna stop by a Starbucks, Seokjin hyung?”
Seokjin nods. “Sounds good.”
Jeongguk sends an email on a Friday afternoon the following week. The email contains information about where they’ll be recruiting people for their project. Jeongguk has decided on Yeouido Hangang Park as the place, his reason being it’s the most crowded park during weekends. They’ll all be meeting there tomorrow at two in the afternoon.
When the next day comes, Jimin eats lunch with Namjoon and his groupmate Jung Hoseok. Taehyung couldn’t come along because he went to visit his family for the weekend.
“So you’re meeting with your group today?” Namjoon asks.
Jimin nods. “Jeongguk scheduled it. It’s about time he did. If it were up to me, we would’ve been halfway done already.”
Hoseok chuckles. “The task was given a week and a half ago, Jimin. We still have around two months to finish.”
Jimin is about to answer when Namjoon beats him to it. “Jimin doesn’t like cramming. He’d finish anything earlier if he can.”
“It’s not just that,” Jimin huffs. “We’ll be busy with other subject finals too and our schedule won’t be as relaxed as it is now, so I’m just making use of my time.”
“Damn. I wish I had the same mindset as you,” Hoseok says as soon as he swallows his food. “Whenever I have free time I either just sleep it off or go to parties.”
Namjoon snorts. “You’d need a miracle to see Jimin at parties.”
Jimin gasps, putting down his chopsticks. “Hyung! How dare you describe me as a sixty year old? I got my fair share of party experience.”
“Oh my god Jimin, you’ve only been to four real parties. Your family’s events don’t count.”
Jimin frowns. Hoseok just laughs, calling him cute, and Namjoon pinches his cheeks.
After having lunch with Hoseok and Namjoon, Jimin heads to Yeouido Park to meet with his group. He arrives at the park twenty minutes ahead of schedule, and he goes straight to the meeting place they agreed on. Jimin can’t help the surprise when he sees two of his group members already there. He was expecting himself to be the first one to arrive. Sunhwa and Chaewon spot him approaching, and immediately wave. “Jimin-ssi!”
“Hello,” Jimin greets back, placing his bag on the bench. “You guys are early.”
“Wanted to stroll around the park,” Chaewon answers.
“Jeongguk was earlier though, I think he was here since noon.” Sunhwa says, pointing somewhere. Jimin follows the direction of fingers and sees Jeongguk biking on the bike lane, Airpods in his ears. He’s wearing a simple black shirt and grey sweatpants. His long black hair is tied into a bun, and if Jimin were being honest, Jeongguk looked really hot.
It’s nothing surprising. The whole university knows and agrees that Jeon Jeongguk is one of the hottest students around. He’s also the star playing of the soccer team, which apparently makes him even hotter for other people. Jimin has heard that during championships, students who are from other schools cheer for Jeongguk instead of their own team. He’s just that charming.
Jeongguk starts biking in their direction, and stops right in front of them. He gives Jimin a smile, showing his front bunny-like teeth. “Jimin-ssi, you’re here.”
“I am,” Jimin crosses his arms across his chest. “You seem to be enjoying yourself.”
Jeongguk shrugs. “I wanted to scout the area. There’s lots of people around so it’s a win for us.”
“Uh-huh,” Jimin nods slowly, subtly glancing around their area, looking for something. When he doesn’t see what he’s looking for, he looks up at Jeongguk. “And where are the permission letters?”
Jeongguk’s smile falters. Jimin sighs, pinching the bridge of his nose. “I replied to your email and sent you the document. All you had to do was print it.”
“I-I… I will. There must be a printing shop nearby,” he mumbles, taking out his phone. “I’ll be right back! I-I’m sorry!”
He starts to bike away, and Jimin sits on the bench, shaking his head. It’s then that another two members arrive. “Hey, where was Jeongguk going?” One of them asks.
The four members slightly move away from Jimin, and they start whispering. Too bad for them though, Jimin can still hear them.
“He forgot to print the interview request letters,” one of them explains in a hushed voice.
“Oh, did Jimin get mad?”
“I guess you could say that. You should’ve seen Jeongguk’s face.”
“Poor guy, he even arrived early to make up from last time, but he still messed up. He looked pretty nervous.”
Jimin gulps, taking out his phone to check his emails instead of listening to his group members. There’s a feeling brewing in Jimin’s chest, and it feels heavy.
The last group member arrives ten minutes before Jeongguk does. He has an envelope with him, and he looks out of breath. Jeongguk seems to be always out of breath whenever they have group meetings. He stops biking in front of them and puts the envelope on the bench. “I printed out twenty copies just in case.”
“That’s a lot, Jeongguk! But thank you,” one of the members says, and the other members also say their thank you’s.
“Thank you,” Jimin mumbles, taking the envelope to check on the letters.
“You’re welcome,” Jeongguk sounds so small and so nervous, it makes the horrible feeling in Jimin’s chest grow. “I’m sorry again Jimin.”
Jimin shakes his head, eyes not meeting Jeongguk’s. “It’s… it’s fine. What’s important is you got it printed so we can get started. How do we do this?”
Jeongguk blinks rapidly. “Oh… oh uhm, we could split up? Let’s each bring letters. I know it’s gonna be hard finding someone who’ll agree to this so it’s better we go separate to make it faster. If one of us gets a person to agree, just call or text.”
“How? We don’t have each other’s numbers?”
“Oh, uh… we kind of have each other’s numbers except yours, Jimin-ssi.” Jieun says.
An awkward silence looms above them. Jimin clears his throat. “Oh. Well, I should probably give you guys my number.” They start taking out their phones when Jimin recites his phone number.
“Okay then, everybody take some letters and let’s meet here after.” Jeongguk announced.
They start going their own ways. Jimin heads near the river side, where a lot of people are just sitting and enjoying the breeze. He starts to approach them, starting his speech with a simple hello and introducing himself. Jimin gets rejected easily when he starts talking about their project, and he was already expecting to be rejected by people so it doesn’t really bother him. He just moves on to another person, until he’s been rejected by more than ten people. Jimin huffs, feeling his patience grow thin. He takes out his phone to check if his group members have any update.
Thankfully a member, Jaesuk, does send a message saying he got someone to agree. Jimin let out a relieved sigh. That’s one down, just three more to go. Jimin is about to go in the opposite direction when he sees Jeongguk talking to a pregnant woman. Jimin just stands there and watches the event unfold. They keep talking until Jeongguk smiles brightly, handing the letter to the woman. Jeongguk then crouches down, and Jimin sees Jeongguk talking to a little girl who was behind the pregnant woman the whole time. Jeongguk’s expression looked gentle, and he must’ve said something funny because the child giggles. Jeongguk raises his hand in front of her, and the little girl immediately gives him a high five.
Jimin immediately looks away and turns to the voice calling him. Sunghwa and Minghyuk were standing next to him. Jimin turns to them, his cheeks a bit red. “Oh h-hey. Did you guys get someone?”
If they did catch Jimin staring at Jeongguk, they don’t show it. Instead, they both beam at the question. “We did! He’s a fresh graduate and he says he knows the struggle of searching for people to participate in things like these so he agreed.”
Jimin nods. “That’s nice.”
“I think Chaewon and Jieun also found one, and Jaesuk texted that he found one too.” Sunhwa says, glancing at her phone.
“Hey guys,” Jeongguk comes out of nowhere. Well, not really nowhere. Jimin has been staring at him talking to someone earlier. “Any updates? I got a text from Jaesuk.”
“Yeah, and we also found someone!” Minghyuk smiled. “Jieun and Chaewon also found someone, so we need one more.”
“Ah, that’s great!” Jeongguk grins, like he’s proud of himself. “We got four out of four already then?”
Jimin then realizes that he’s the only one who didn’t get anyone. He feels absolutely embarrassed, but he doesn’t show it. He just clasps his hands together. “Very well then, call the others and we can discuss how we do this.”
As soon as they’re all together again, they head to the nearest coffee shop to discuss thoroughly. Jeongguk returns his rented bike on the way, and once they’re all seated, they put all the information they’ve got so far on the table.
“Since there’s seven of us and only four parts, I guess we’ll go with 2-2-2-1?” Jimin began.
They all nodded at that. Sunhwa raises her hand. “I think it’s best if we each get assigned to the participants we recruited.”
Jimin gulps. He did not help out in looking for participants. It’s unlike him to not help in anything, and he feels embarrassed and angry at himself at the same time. Instead of trying to persuade people to participate, he got caught up staring at Jeongguk. He doesn’t even know why.
“I volunteer to be the one without a pair,” Jaesuk says.
“Very well. You’ll get the least hardest part Jaesuk.” Jeongguk declared.
“How about Jimin-ssi?”
Jimin feels his cheeks flush, but before he could say anything, Jeongguk speaks up. “He’s with me. He helped me earlier.”
Jimin whips his head towards Jeongguk, surprised. The members just hum in agreement. Jeongguk doesn’t glance at Jimin, but just focuses on the pieces of paper scattered on the table.
Jimin and Jeongguk are assigned as Destiny. Jimin doesn’t say anything for the whole meeting. Once they all finish and agree to everything, they start leaving the coffee shop one by one. Jimin doesn’t move from his seat, and Jeongguk must’ve noticed. “Jimin? Are you gonna stay?”
Jimin clenches his jaw. “You didn’t have to lie to them like that.”
Jeongguk’s eyebrow furrows. “What do you mean?”
“You know damn well I didn’t help you in finding your participant,” Jimin looks up at him. “Why would you… why would you lie?”
Jeongguk looks taken back. He puts his hands in the pocket of his sweatpants. “I-I… I really didn’t think too much about it. You didn’t have a partner and I—“
“So you lied? You could’ve just said that you’d partner with me because I was useless!”
“You weren’t useless!” Jeongguk answers, sounding frustrated. “I didn’t lie, Jimin. You did help me, you just don’t know that you did.”
Jimin’s eyebrow furrows. “What the hell is that supposed to mean?”
“It is what it sounds like,” Jeongguk grumbles. “I have to go.”
Jeongguk doesn’t even give Jimin a chance to say anything as he turns around and walks out of the coffee shop.
“I really don’t think he was trying to insult you or be rude to you, Minie.”
Jimin nibbles on his lower lip, eyes drilling on that one page on his textbook. He’s been stuck on the same page for a while now, but he doesn’t dare turn to Taehyung’s direction. He feels his chest tighten at Taehyung’s words, but he doesn’t show it.
“Maybe he just wanted to pair up with you,” Seokjin adds, voice gentle.
“Why would he?” Jimin asks, finally looking up from his textbook. “It’s what I don’t understand. I’ve been… I’ve been strict with him.”
“You’ve only met with him for two meetings, Jimin. Surely you weren’t that bad.” Namjoon supplies.
“Or maybe he needs your help? I mean, isn’t this a good thing? That you’re both paired up as a subgroup? Professor Kang did want you to guide him.”
Right. Guide him.
“Hey, don’t villainize yourself,” Taehyung puts his hand on Jimin’s back reassuringly. “You’re not a bad person Jimin.”
The way Jimin’s chest tightens at the thought of Jeongguk tells him otherwise.
Jimin gets added in a group chat. He realizes that he’s been acting like a boomer sending emails when making a group chat was obviously more convenient. His group mates send updates from time to time, and Jeongguk replies with short words of acknowledgement or just a simple thumbs up.
Jeongguk hasn’t contacted Jimin yet in regards to the part they have to do. Jimin knows he should probably text Jeongguk, but he’s chickening out. He still feels bad about being indifferent towards Jeongguk. So he just lets it be. They’re ahead of other groups anyway and they still have more than a month to finish. Jimin just focuses on his other classes in the meantime, trying to clear his head.
When Jimin hasn’t heard from Jeongguk in two weeks, it starts to bother him even more. Jimin sees Jeongguk talking to the members in the group chat, but why wasn’t he messaging Jimin? What if he’s actually working on it on his own because of Jimin’s petty outburst at the coffee shop?
Jimin decides to go to Jeongguk personally instead of just texting him. He asks Taehyung about Min Yoongi’s dorm number, since he knows Jeongguk and Yoongi are roommates. When Taehyung tells him, he wastes no time and heads to Jeongguk’s dorm room. Once he arrives, he stands in front of the door for at least ten minutes before he takes a deep breath and knocks.
Jimin checks the time on his watch. It’s four in the afternoon. What if Jeongguk wasn’t inside and actually had classes or even soccer practice? Jimin’s thoughts get cut off when the door opens, revealing Jeongguk in a crumpled white shirt and black tracksuit pants. “Oh. Jimin-ssi.”
Jimin clasps his hands together. “Hi.”
Jeongguk blinks. “Hello?”
Jimin takes a deep breath. Again. “So… any plans for our part in our Philosophy finals project?”
Jeongguk looks tired. He has dark circles under his eyes and his hair is messy, like he’s been in his room the whole day. He’s gripping on the door frame a little tightly, and leaning against it. “Right, right I’m sorry I haven’t been in contact with you.”
“Did you perhaps start without me?”
Jeongguk shakes his head. “No, no of course not. I’ve just been… preoccupied.”
Jimin feels relief flood into him. “Oh, okay. That’s alright. Maybe we can start soon? Are you still in contact with the participant?”
“Yeah, I told them I’ll just contact them whenever and ask for their free time. I’ll text them later to ask if they have any time tomorrow.”
Jimin clears his throat, flashing a smile. “That’s great. Just text me if they are available tomorrow, or if whenever they are available.”
Jeongguk nods. “Okay, I’ll do that.”
“Okay,” Jimin answers, feeling awkward. “I should go. See you tomorrow?”
Jeongguk nods again. Jimin gives him one last smile and turns around, walking to the stairs. He hears the door close behind him and he releases a shaky breath.
The next day, Jimin is waiting at the front of the university for Jeongguk. Jeongguk texted him last night saying that the participant replied and has time tomorrow to meet them. They agreed to meet at the front of the university so they can go to the meeting place together.
Jimin checks the time on his watch, seeing that it’s seven minutes past ten. Jeongguk is already seven minutes late. Jimin tries to brush it off, reminding himself that he should be more gentle and kinder. Jimin takes out his phone to check for messages from Jeongguk, but he has no new text messages.
“Jimin, sorry I’m late again.”
Jimin looks from his phone and sees Jeongguk approaching him. Jimin feels his heart drop when he sees Jeongguk in crutches, taking careful steps towards him. Jimin sprints towards Jeongguk. “W-what happened?”
Jeongguk pulls up his pants on his left leg. His lower leg and foot is wrapped in a cast. “Just an accident during soccer practice.”
“Since two weeks ago, it’s why I haven’t been able to start our part.”
“Two weeks ago?” Jimin’s eyes widen. He didn’t notice it yesterday, maybe because Jeongguk was wearing tracksuit pants.
“Yes. I couldn’t really move my leg the past few weeks without it hurting so I let it heal first, but now I can walk.”
“Are you sure?” Jimin asks. “I-I mean, we can just work on this when your leg heals.”
Jeongguk chuckles. “Jimin, my leg won’t be healing anytime soon. The doctor said I have to keep this cast for two months.”
“What?” Jimin blinks. “But… isn’t the championship next month?”
Jeongguk lets out a shaky breath, shrugging. “I guess I won’t be playing.”
“Jeongguk… I’m so sorry.”
“It’s fine. It’s my fault, I wasn’t being careful.”
“Hey, accidents happen. It’s not your fault.” Jimin says softly.
Jeongguk gives him a small smile. “Thanks Jimin-ssi. We should get going, our participant is probably waiting.”
“Right! Right of course,” Jimin glances at Jeongguk’s crutches. “You sure you’ll be okay?”
“Yep, don’t worry about it.”
“Okay, but we’re taking the taxi instead of the bus.”
Jeongguk pouts. “What? Taxi fare is expensive!”
“Don’t worry about it, I’ll pay.”
Jimin shakes his head. “Come on, let’s head over there where the taxis pass by. Careful steps.”
Once they arrive at the meeting place, Jimin immediately spots the pregnant woman Jeongguk was talking to before. Once she spots them, she waves, but her eyes become worried when she sees Jeongguk in crutches. “Oh, what happened?”
Jeongguk just shakes his head. “It’s nothing serious ma’am.”
She doesn’t seem convinced. “Are you sure? Minji can be a handful sometimes.”
“It’s nothing my partner and I can’t handle,” Jeongguk chuckles. “And I’m sure Minji will be nothing but an angel.”
“Alright,” she answers, putting her hand on her stomach.
Jimin turns to the little girl approaching. It was the little girl who was with the pregnant woman before. This must be her child, Minji. Jimin doesn’t know why she’s needed, though.
“Hey,” Jeongguk smiles, giving Minji a high five. “What’chu got there?”
“Just some ice cream,” she answers, glancing at the crutches Jeongguk has between his armpits. “Are you okay?”
“Yes I’m okay, don’t worry. Kookie just tripped because Kookie is clumsy.”
Minji nods, glancing at Jimin. She blinks. “Hello. Who are you?”
“Oh. I’m Kookie’s… friend. My name is Jimin.”
Minji’s face lights up. “Jimin? It’s the opposite of my name!”
Jimin chuckles. “It absolutely is.”
“I’ll be at the hospital across,” Minji’s mom says. “I have a check-up scheduled and I think it’s best that Minji doesn’t go with me to the hospital. I trust you and your friend, Jeongguk-ssi.”
“Of course. You have all the information you need from me.”
She chuckles. “I do. I’ll leave you now,” she gives Minji a kiss on the forehead and smiles at Jimin before she leaves the ice cream parlor.
Jimin blinks. “Will we wait for her to come back and watch her daughter before we get to interview here?”
“Nope,” Jeongguk answers. “Minji is our participant, not her mom.”
Jimin’s forehead creases. “What do you mean?”
Jeongguk looks uneasy, and Jimin forces himself to calm down. “Well, I just thought that, since the professor didn’t specify an age… we would ask a child in her point of view. I’m sure everyone is gonna interview adults and all, but I-I wanted to try and see what a child’s perspective is. Minji is eight years old, and I assure you she’s very smart at her age.”
Jimin takes a deep breath. “Okay.”
Jeongguk raises his eyebrows. “Okay?”
“Okay,” Jimin shrugs. “I trust you.”
“Thank you,” Jeongguk answers, voice gentle. “We should do the interview somewhere else,” he looks around the parlor. “It’s too noisy here. There’s a playground nearby, I guess it’s better there.”
Jimin nods, turning to Minji who’s watching something on her phone while she’s eating ice cream. “Minji, you wanna go to a playground?”
Minji looks up from her phone. “Playground? I want to!”
“Alright,” Jeongguk chuckles. “I’ll text your mom and tell her we’re heading to the playground.”
The three of them walk to the playground, and Jimin is walking side by side with Jeongguk, holding Minji on his other side. They’re taking slow steps, and Minji doesn’t seem to mind. Once they arrive at the playground, Minji runs towards the slide while Jimin helps Jeongguk sit on the bench. Once he’s sure Jeongguk is alright, he starts setting up the camera that he brought with them to document everything.
The playground is empty, aside from them. A lot of people keep passing by, either jogging or walking their dog, but no one is staying by the playground. Minji starts running towards them after she’s done on the swings.
“Minji-yah, you know what to do right? We’re just gonna ask you a few questions and all you have to do is answer them.” Jeongguk explains.
Minji nods, and then tilts her head. “Will there be math questions?”
Jeongguk snorts. “No, no math around here. I hate math.”
“Me too!” Minji giggles.
“Math is kind of cool, though.” Jimin pouts.
Jeongguk and Minji stare at him, giving him a thumbs down. Jimin just laughs.
“Alright Minji, come sit down.” Jeongguk pats the space next to him. Jimin stays behind the camera, just watching them. Minji obliges and sits next to Jeongguk.
Jeongguk turns to him. “You ready?”
Jimin nods. “Yeah. Do you…” he hesitates, not wanting to seem like he’s doubting Jeongguk. “Do you have your questions ready?”
Jeongguk nods. “I do. B-but if you want to, you can ask the questions.”
Jimin shakes his head. “No, you do it. I trust you.”
Jeongguk smiles at him, and Jimin smiles back. Jeongguk gives him a thumbs up before facing Minji.
“Alright, I’m pressing record in three, two, one…”
“Minji-yah, do you know what destiny is?”
Minji nods. “Yes I do.”
“Okay, and what is destiny in your understanding?”
Minji starts playing with her fingers on her lap, but she looks at Jeongguk once again. “It’s… it’s like how my mommy met my dad. They met because of destiny. It’s how mommy gave birth to my brother, and me, and to my other sibling still in her stomach.”
Jeongguk nods. “So you think destiny is something that controls what’s going to happen to us?”
Minji doesn’t say anything at first, like she’s thinking about it. Jeongguk just waits patiently for her to answer. “Mommy said that it’s the other way around.”
Jeonguk tilts his head, but then he smiles. “Ah. So you think we control our destiny?”
Minji nods. “I-I don’t think anyone controls us. We have our own brains! We think on our own Kookie oppa.”
Jeongguk laughs. “Of course. You know…” Jeongguk starts explaining to Minji so gently, and Minji listens to him attentively.
Jeongguk asks more questions that are fit for an eight year old, and Minji answers them all. Once they finish, Jeongguk ruffles Minji’s hair. “You did so well!”
Jimin returns his camera into safe keeping, and it’s when Minji’s mother arrives. Minji runs towards her, hugging her mom. Jeongguk and Jimin give their thank yous, and Minji’s mother thanks them as well for taking care of Minji. Minji says goodbye to them, and they start to leave the playground.
Jeongguk is still seated on the bench, watching Minji and her mom disappear. Jimin sits next to him, the bag on his lap. “I guess we’re done.”
Jeongguk turns to him. “Hmm? We still have that paper we need to wrap all these up.”
Jimin laughs. “Well yeah, we still have that, but the hard part is over at least.”
“The hard part is the paper, Jimin-ssi. I’m so bad at writing essays.” Jeongguk whines.
Jimin shakes his head in amusement. “Don’t worry about it, Jeonggukie. Since you did the interview, I’ll take the lead on our paper.”
“So you like making essays.”
“Hmm maybe,” Jimin replies, and then changes the subject. “You’re good with kids.”
“I have a baby brother,” Jeongguk answers. “It’s just some getting used to.”
“Mmm, you must be a great big brother then.”
Jeongguk chuckles. “I hope so.”
Jimin smiles, and looks down. He drags his shoes on the ground, not knowing what to say next. They should probably start heading back to university, but Jeongguk seems relaxed and showing no signs of wanting to leave. They sit side by side in silence, until Jimin decides to speak up again. “Are you okay with not playing for championships?”
Jeongguk doesn’t answer at once. He kicks a small pebble with his uninjured foot before he does. “Not really.”
“Did you trip? It looks bad.”
“It’s complicated,” Jeongguk sighs. “Coach got mad at me for not being careful. I’m the winger of the group; the fastest player.”
Jimin nods in understanding. “Just focus on healing for now, Jeongguk-ah. So you’re all better for the championships next semester.”
Jeongguk nods. “Yeah, I just… I was looking forward to this semester’s championships. There’s only a month left, and I just had to fuck up.”
“How many times do I need to remind you that an accident is an accident?” Jimin says. “It’s not something you can control. You can be the most careful person in the world and still get into accidents.”
Jeongguk nods. “You’re right. I guess I’m just destined to be in the bleachers this semester.”
Jimin can’t help but let out a small giggle. “Yeah, where your fans are.”
Jeongguk raises an eyebrow. “Fans?”
“You know, those students from other schools who cheer for you instead of their own team,” Jimin explains.
Jeongguk chuckles. “Really? They do?”
“That’s what I heard,” Jimin shrugs. “Seems like you’re the crowd’s favorite. There won’t be a lot of people watching if they found out you’re MIA.”
“Do you watch soccer games?”
“Me? Not really.” Jimin shakes his head.
“Ah, right. I don’t usually see you in the bleachers.”
“Why? Do you look for me?” Jimin teases.
Jimin giggles. “What? Why?”
“I don’t know,” Jeongguk chuckles nervously, looking away. “To impress you maybe?”
“Impress me?” Jimin tilts his head.
“Yeah,” Jeongguk mumbles. “That’s what you do if you want someone to notice you or like you. You impress them.”
Jimin blinks. He opens his mouth to say something, but nothing comes out. Jeongguk takes it as a sign to keep talking. “Soccer is my forte, you know? Sports. I always hope you’d watch one of the games just so I can show off and impress you. But you don’t watch any of the games, you’re not interested in sports. So here I am, trying to impress you by making this group finals project work. I’m clearly failing so bad.”
“You…” Jimin takes a shaky breath. “You like me?”
Jeongguk nods. “Since I first saw you during freshman orientation.”
Jimin can’t help but gasp. Freshman orientation was a long time ago.
“It’s okay Jimin-ssi,” Jeongguk chuckles softly. “I know I’m not the type of person you like. This is probably awkward. You’re probably weirded out—“ Jeongguk pauses when he feels Jimin intertwine their hands together.
Jeongguk glances at their intertwined hands, mouth gaping in surprise. He looks up at Jimin who’s looking at him with soft eyes. “What do you mean you failed?” Jimin asks.
“I-I… I clearly did. I arrived an hour late on our first meeting, I forgot to print the permission letters, I didn’t contact you for two weeks and now we’re behind our other groupmates. And then earlier I arrived late again. And then you got mad at me when I—“
“Jeongguk,” Jimin shakes his head. “Listen, I’m sorry if you felt like—like you failed. You didn’t. I’m sorry I was rude to you when you were clearly trying. But you didn’t fail. I just saw you interviewing Minji earlier and you were so amazing. You’re literally injured but you still did all of this. You were taken aback when you were assigned a leader but look at you now, you’re leading us so well. We’re the only group who’s finished with the interviews and will now start the papers. You’re doing so well and I’m so proud of you. You… you impressed me. So much.”
Jeongguk’s eyes widen. “Really?”
Jimin can’t help but let out a giggle. “Yeah. And I’d love to see you play soccer too, next semester. Maybe you can impress me even more.”
Jeongguk looks like he’s glowing. He has such a bright smile on his face, and he squeezes Jimin’s hand in his, basking in the moment.
They take it easy after that. They work on their documentary video and the paper together. Their group mates don’t say anything at how caring Jimin is with Jeongguk, they don’t say anything when Jimin leans closer to Jeongguk when he laughs, they don’t say anything when they arrive at the meetings together.
Once finals arrive, they finally pass their group project. They pass it first thing in the morning, and they’re the first one to pass among all five groups. Professor Kang skims through the pages of the paper, and he mumbles a good job, giving Jeongguk a satisfied smile. Jeongguk puffs his chest in pride.
Jimin focuses on his finals that week, so he and Jeongguk don’t really talk and meet up. But once their finals week has passed, they spend time together again. Jimin goes with Jeongguk when he wants to watch his teammates practice for the upcoming championship. Jimin knows Jeongguk is still disappointed that he can’t play, but Jimin makes sure to cheer him up quickly.
Jeongguk also goes with Jimin when Jimin wants to read a novel in the library. Jeongguk reads his own book, but he can’t help but glance at Jimin from time to time, wondering how everything has changed. He never imagined a moment like this in his life. He was so sure that he’d never even become friends with Jimin when Jimin got mad at him at that cafe on the day they looked for participants. Jeongguk doesn’t know what they are, they’re probably just friends for now, but Jeongguk doesn’t mind. Just spending time with Jimin is enough for him.
But after a few months, their subtle touches become more obvious. They start giving each other pecks on the lips instead of cheek, they hold hands when they’re together, even if there are other people watching. So Jeongguk finally asks. He asks Jimin to be his boyfriend.
Jimin says yes.
“I missed seeing Jeon Jeongguk on the field,” a woman from behind says. “I can’t wait to see him play today.”
“Yeah, didn’t they lose last semester?” Another one says. “Jeongguk is their winger. Maybe he’ll turn the tides now.”
“Oh here they come!”
A loud bass music plays around the field as the players start approaching the field.
“Jimin, Jeongguk is waving at you like crazy!” Taehyung shouts because of the loud music.
Jimin giggles, looking at his boyfriend. His hair is tied in a bun, and he’s smiling his adorable bunny smile while jumping as he waves at Jimin’s direction. Jimin waves back subtly, scrunching his nose in delight.
Namjoon, Seokjin, Taehyung and Hoseok are watching with him. Jimin is sure he didn’t need to ask Taehyung because Taehyung wants to watch Min Yoongi play too. Seokjin, Namjoon and Hoseok accepted Jimin’s offer, saying they wanted to bet on the game.
Jimin isn’t deaf to not hear the murmurs around him, his boyfriend’s name getting tossed around. Jeongguk is the talk of the town after his absence in last semester's championship. Their university lost, and people are saying it’s because of Jeongguk’s absence. Now that Jeongguk is all healed and back in the field, people are expecting their university to win.
It’s also Jimin’s first time watching Jeongguk play. He watches Jeongguk’s soccer practice sometimes, but it’s his first time watching him play for a championship. It’s annoying how the rumors about Jeongguk being the crowd’s favorite was true. Jimin can’t help but feel pissed hearing girls and boys giggling about how hot his boyfriend is, especially with his man bun and his fitted jersey.
The game starts not long after, and Jeongguk immediately has the ball. He kicks the ball around and avoids the opposite team, his moves smooth and swift. He really is their fastest player.
Jimin gathers up the courage to cheer for his boyfriend. “GO JE—“
“GO JEONGGUK!!!! JEON JEONGGUK! JEON JEONGGUK! JEON JEONGGUK!!”
Jimin huffs, sitting back down on his seat with a frown on his face. Seokjin notices him and laughs, patting his back. “It’s okay Jimin.”
“How will he hear me, hyung? These people have a volume of a microphone!”
“Well you just gotta—hey look Jeongguk is gonna kick the—OH FUCK!! GOAL!!”
Jimin watches Jeongguk run on the field, giving his nearby teammates a high five. He turns to Jimin’s direction and throws a kiss. Jimin smiled lovingly and is about to send one back when an ear-splitting scream erupts in his area. He groans, rolling his eyes in annoyance. He turns to Taehyung. “Why did you get us seats here?”
“How would I know Jeongguk’s fangirls sit in this area!” He reasons out.
The game ends with their university one point ahead. Everyone erupted into cheers, and stood up from their seats. Jeongguk and his teammates are running around the field giving each other manly hugs and high-fives.
Jimin just keeps clapping, a sense of pride in his chest on his boyfriend’s success.
“Jimin-ah, where do you wanna eat after?” Namjoon asks.
He turns towards his friends. “Me? I don’t mind eating anywhere—“
Jimin’s eyes widen when Jeongguk’s voice booms around the field. He whips his head to Jeongguk’s direction and see’s Jeongguk pointing at him, a megaphone in front of his mouth. “Did I impress you?”
Everyone is surely looking at him, but Jimin doesn’t care. He just laughs and nods, giving Jeongguk a thumbs up. Jeongguk pointed a finger gun at him and winked, and Jimin is just so in love.
It’s not until they’re in the privacy of Jimin’s room when Jimin congratulates his boyfriend. Jeongguk has just showered, and he’s laying on Jimin’s bed with Jimin straddling him. He has his big hands secured on Jimin’s waist, and both lust and adoration is swimming in his eyes. Jimin leans forward to catch Jeongguk’s lips in his, mumbling a congratulations.
Jeongguk sighs in contentment as their lips part, nosing Jimin’s neck.
If someone were to ask Jeongguk about destiny, he’d simply answer one word.
Jimin. Jimin is his destiny.