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Death Of Our Troubled Youth

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Every twitch of muscle under the skin makes the soft fabric of a designer shirt slip down a tanned shoulder, revealing a patch of bruised skin. Hickeys are scattered over a protruding collarbone, teeth marks visible in the brightness of the spring day.

Jungkook observes the abused skin with interest, resisting the urge to reach over the table covered with expensive pastries on equally expensive plates. He's mesmerized by the shape of the bruises, their color and placement. He's only ever seen them in movies, but here they are now, imprinted on his friend's neck, out in the open for the world to see.

The scandalized look of the maid that serves them and the equally shocked expression on his mother's face do nothing to make the owner of the bruises feel any less proud. If anything, it makes him puff out his chest as he inhales sweets, disregarding both the fork and the knife set on the table.

"You look like a mauled sheep," Jimin comments idly before pushing his sunglasses up the bridge of his nose.

"My wolf has sharp teeth," Taehyung grins. He pops another piece of chocolate cake in his mouth, enthusiastically chews, and then washes it down with apple juice from a wine glass.

"Be careful not to get eaten," Jimin smirks. Even behind the dark lenses, the bruises on Taehyung's neck look awful, like he slept with a wild dog and not a boyfriend who he keeps hidden away somewhere in the city.

Jungkook still hasn't looked away from the mess that is Taehyung's neck. He wonders if it hurt, what it means, and if he would allow somebody to do this to him. He would. There's no doubt. To piss off his parents or to make them notice his existence or maybe both. The Jeons only ever realize that they have a son when the television crew comes to their mansion to make a video report. Then they smile in front of the cameras, and Jungkook's father pats his back while his mother calls him her sunshine and tells the world how proud they are to have Jungkook as their son. That phase only lasts while the cameras are rolling. Once that persistent red light is off, his mother grabs a glass of red wine and swallows down a Xanax pill because the effects of the previous one are wearing off. Before Jungkook can return the hug, his father is already on the phone with the company's lawyers, and Jungkook is left standing in the middle of their living room while the filming crew discuss their next shooting location.

"He can eat me out anytime," Taehyung shoots back, and Jungkook is only woken up from his daydream when the napkin Jimin aimed at Taehyung lands on him instead. Just in time for the regularly scheduled bickering session.

"You're so nasty," Jimin accuses, fake shock written all over his pretty face.

"Wouldn't you know that? I saw you ogling my pool boy. Those sunglasses ain't fooling anyone, Park Jimin," Taehyung shoots back.

Jimin has enough decency to pretend to be embarrassed. He turns to Jungkook, takes off his sunglasses, and bats his eyelashes. Nothing good ever comes from this action, and Jungkook braces himself.

“How are you, Jungkook? Did anything new and exciting happen this week?”

It takes herculean type strength for Jungkook to finally pull his gaze away from the hickeys littering Taehyung’s skin.

“Not really, no,” he replies.

The answer doesn’t seem to please Jimin who leans forward, directly into Jungkook’s space. He shifts, somewhat uncomfortable with the invasion. Jimin leans closer, undeterred by Jungkook’s actions, his eyes examining every part of Jungkook’s face as though he’s trying to figure out if Jungkook’s lying.

He’s not.

“Always the good boy, Jungkookie, so prim and proper,” Jimin muses, leaning back in his seat. “You’ll be twenty soon. You need to live a little.”

What Jimin states is the truth. Compared to his two friends, Jungkook is the epitome of good manners and politeness. That’s how his nanny raised him, never to cause trouble, always to behave well. Simply put, he's to blend in with the furniture and the heavy curtains cascading from the vaulted ceiling to the floor. That’s his role, how the son of a fortune five hundred businessman and famous actress is meant to appear – prim and proper, perfect as a porcelain doll.

“I am living,” he says defensively, but there’s no conviction, no vigor in his voice. If anything, he sounds a little sad, looking down at his hands resting on his thighs, on white slacks, freshly ironed.

Jimin’s eyes soften in the familiar way they always do when he wants to comfort Jungkook.

“Go out with us this weekend,” he offers. “We’ll introduce you to plenty of pretty girls.”

“And boys,” Taehyung pipes up.

Jungkook smiles a tiny smile that barely lifts the corners of his mouth. “I’ll think about it.”

 

Family dinners are barely something better than cutouts from lifestyle magazines. A picture-perfect mirage and nothing more. Jungkook’s mother wipes her mouth after every small bite of the undercooked vegetables that are meant to help her maintain her weight and small waist. His father has the sleeves of his shirt rolled up, elbows on the table as he devours the delicious roast while trying to read some financial reports.

They sit on opposite ends of a long table, barely able to see each other thanks to the tall vase of wildflowers set in the middle, right in front of Jungkook who chases peas around his plate with a fork. He’d rather eat Korean food then this European cuisine whose name he can’t even pronounce, but the national dishes are banned in favor delicacies from the tables of aristocrats. If only his parent knew that blue blood doesn’t come from steamed broccoli and medium rare beef.

He sighs.

“How’s school?” his father breaks the silence that had stopped being awkward a long time ago.

Jungkook looks up from the mess on his plate, his fork sliding through the brown sauce that tastes like burnt flour. On instinct, he glances at his mother, but she’s too busy checking messages on her phone to notice that a conversation has started. She won’t take part in it; their talks are always so mundane and boring, lacking the glamor of the red carpet.

“It’s summer vacation, Father,” he reminds the man who has yet to look up from his paperwork.

“Oh… how’s Minji then? That’s your girlfriend, right?”

Jungkook sighs again. Minji was a girl from the neighborhood who Jungkook had playdates with when he was four. They haven’t seen each other in more than ten years. He has no clue how she is, but it’s the thought that counts, right? His father’s memory is fantastic when it comes to remembering the names of Jungkook’s friends from the period of his life when he wasn’t even sure what the word friend meant.

“She’s fine, I guess.”

“You guess?” his father asks, lifting his eyes from the financial reports for the first time since dinner began.

On any other occasion, Jungkook would be happy to have his dad’s attention to himself, would even be selfish about it, but now—he shrugs, and his father arches an eyebrow.

“You don’t know how your girlfriend is doing? Son, don’t lie to me. You know I don’t like liars.”

“She’s not my girlfriend,” Jungkook mumbles, almost inaudibly.

He should put an end to this conversation, leave the table after throwing his napkin on his placemat and telling his father that if he only remembers Jungkook when he needs a distraction from work, then he’s looking for it in the wrong place.  He should tell him that he doesn’t need his pity anymore, that he will no longer fight for the crumbs of his father’s attention with a horde of self-proclaimed marketing experts and secretaries.

Jungkook does none of this.

Instead, he stays where he is, fork left on the table and hands folded in his lap, staring at his half-full plate. He appetite is gone. If he takes another bite, he might throw up all he’s already eaten.

“Good,” his father says, almost victoriously. “She wasn’t the right one for you. You’ll find someone better. We Jeons never settle for things below our level.”

Jungkook wants to remind his father that his industrial empire was just a hardware store when his mother was already playing lead roles in movies. He wants to remind him that it is her money that secured their future, that she was so above his level, and still is, the distance being as far the sun. But who’s Jungkook to confront the businessman of the year? He’s just a kid who doesn’t know anything, least of all himself.

“What if I find a boy?” Jungkook asks, a bit of defiance in his voice which his father completely misses. Figures.

The man laughs, boisterous and obnoxious, on the verge of tears. “That’s a good joke, son.”

He isn’t joking.

 

 

“You told your father that you have a boyfriend?” Taehyung asks.

Jungkook shrugs. Jimin clicks his tongue as Jungkook’s eyeliner goes crooked due to the movement. Grabbing a wet-wipe, Jimin rubs at the wobbly line, tosses the tissue aside, and reminds Jungkook to be still so he can continue his work. If they want to go clubbing with Jungkook, he needs to look at least twenty. No fake ID will help with Jungkook’s baby face.

“That I’ll find one,” Jungkook corrects.

“Will you?” Taehyung inquires further.

Jungkook doesn’t know. He didn’t think things through when he boldly uttered the words to his father. They were right on the tip of his tongue, and he just said them, not worrying about the consequences. They’re out now, in the open, and Jungkook thinks that’s not such a terrible thing. He could have some fun with this. They did tell him to live a little.

“Maybe?” Jungkook answers, unsure.

Before he can say more and dig himself into a bigger hole with his white lie, Jimin declares his job done and tells Jungkook to open his eyes. He does and is met by a soft smile on Jimin’s face that quickly turns mischievous. His eyes glint with something inexplicable that spells both best wishes and trouble.

“Then let’s get you a boyfriend!” Jimin exclaims, pulling Jungkook up from the chair and leading him out of the room as Taehyung trails behind them.

The baby blue sweater and beige pants in which Jungkook arrived at Jimin’s house have been replaced with black skinny jeans and a leather jacket over a tank top, and charcoal rims his eyes, just shy of being slutty. Jimin’s in similar attire, but the impressions they give off as they walk past young things who look at them with hungry eyes are inherently different. With his tousled hair and silver jewelry, Jimin looks every bit the angel that misses the exit for heaven and accidentally ends up in purgatory while Jungkook’s the young demon unaware of his powers. Judging by the heavy piercing gazes focused in their direction, the club goers most certainly notice them.

“Imagine them fucking,” one of the girls by the entrance says to her friend. “I’d have a threesome with them. It’d be hot.”

Jimin giggles, pulling Jungkook closer to his side. “No one will be devouring my Kookie tonight—at least not without my permission,” he declares and continues mumbling something about Jungkook’s innocence and lack of alcohol tolerance.

“A-are you sure about this?” Jungkook whispers in Jimin’s ear when they’re close to the entrance.

Taehyung is nowhere to found, having disappeared as soon as Jimin pulled over to park a block or two away. He said something about meeting his boyfriend and getting Jungkook’s fake ID. It’s unlikely that he’s forgotten, but Taehyung’s more often than not fashionably late, a habit that’s got them in trouble on more than one occasion.

Jungkook’s hands are trembling, along with his entire body. Jimin seems to have noticed because he laces their finger together as he leads them through the crowd, straight to the big, burly bouncer with the cleanly shaven head and grizzly bear brows. The man looks menacing, and Jungkook’s teeth are mere seconds away from chattering in fear. The bouncer glares at them, and Jimin smiles in return.

“You have an invitation?” Grizzly man asks as the people in line begin to complain about privileges and unfair treatment. Some of them have been waiting since sunset to get inside, and now two boys are skipping the line, waltzing in like they own the joint.

Jimin’s smile grows wider as he reaches for his wallet. It wouldn’t be the first time that he bought his way into a club with his black card. After all, he leaves terrific tips for the whole staff and not just the pretty bartenders. However, before Jimin has a chance to bribe the burly bouncer, the door behind the man swings open.

Music from the club spills into the street, the sound intoxicating and tempting. Some of the people standing close start to dance, but not Jungkook. His eyes are locked on a couple who appear from behind the door. He makes out Taehyung’s form wrapped in the embrace of a slightly taller man whose arms are draped around Taehyung’s shoulders almost possessively, and Jungkook must admit, the guy is handsome, though not in the typical flower boy sense. His features aren’t something you’d see in a drama. However, there’s a quality to the man’s appearance, something commanding yet not threatening. His smile contrasts the sharp lines of his face, and Taehyung traces the lines of the man’s jaw with his fingers until one of them settles in a deep dimple.

“They’re with me,” the man says, his voice deep, rough, thick, as the bouncer turns to look at them.

With a nod and much to the chagrin of the waiting crowd, the bouncer steps aside to let them pass. Jimin tugs Jungkook’s arm as he leads him inside. The heavy doors close behind them, and Taehyung detaches himself from his presumable boyfriend to give them a hug which Jimin declines with a scoff and a, “Took you long enough.”

“Sorry,” Taehyung says as he squeezes the life out of Jungkook, who allows it because he needs tangible proof that all of this is real.

“You’re not forgiven,” Jimin retorts.

“Would I be if I told you who’s here?” Taehyung taunts as he pulls back and returns to the embrace of dimples, who chuckles and slips a hand in the back pocket of Taehyung’s seemingly painted on jeans. If they disappear a few minutes later, it will be to no one’s surprise.

Jimin stays silent, waiting for Taehyung to say something else as they push their way deeper into the club until they reach the secluded area designated for VIPs and plop down on the plush, oversized, art deco seats, oblivious to the people already seated at the table.

Jungkook’s eyes roam around the place, soaking in all the novelties and observing people who look a lot like they wandered off the set of a movie about the underground scene. Jimin continues his silence, gaping like a fish at the man sitting opposite him. Jungkook cocks his head to stare at his friend. There’s something about the look on Jimin’s face that tells Jungkook he wants to say something to the stranger, that to Jimin, the man’s not a stranger at all, but Jimin remains silent.

“Hey, pumpkin,” the man says with a smirk that has Jimin clenching his fist next to Jungkook’s thigh.

“My hair is no longer orange,” Jimin counters, his cheeks red which Jungkook is certain the other man can’t see in the dim lighting.

The man smiles. “Guess we’ll--”

“Sorry to break the sentimental get together, but I’m here too. Haven’t you missed me as well?” another man who Jungkook hadn’t noticed says.

“I saw you last Friday,” Jimin says with a roll of his eyes as the other occupants of the table laugh.

All but Jungkook. He doesn’t know these people. Their appearance doesn’t fit any of the descriptions either of his friends gave him when they told him about going out and living foolishly before they had to return under the crystal bells and resume the role of heirs.

“That’s rude, Jiminnie,” the new stranger teases. “And here I thought you’d introduce me to your new friend. Guess not. Well, I’ll do it myself.”

He has to get up to shake Jungkook’s hand, and it’s only when a hand is shoved into his space that Jungkook realizes he’s being spoken to. His eyes land on heart-shaped lips first, and then they move up to meet brown eyes that lack warmth. It’s like the flames dancing in them have been frozen, and Jungkook has been frozen under that piercing gaze too because he can’t find it in himself to look away.  

“Jungkook,” reluctantly, he takes the offered hand and mumbles. It earns him a smile that’s cocky around edges.

“Hoseok, and this is Yoongi,” he jabs a finger in the direction of the man now sitting beside Jimin.

Jungkook’s tries not to eavesdrop on their conversation, but he still hears a hushed, “I missed you,” coming from a voice that certainly isn’t Jimin.

“The one in the corner trying to eat your other friend is Namjoon,” Hoseok says.

Jungkook doesn’t need to look to know that he’s talking about Taehyung and his boyfriend. Perhaps Taehyung has never been so secretive about him, and it was Jungkook who refused to listen to him when he waxed poetic about Namjoon.

Hoseok still hasn’t let go of his hand, and Jungkook is vaguely aware of the fact that their hands aren’t a bad match. Hoseok has slender fingers, hands pretty despite rough palms. The bruises they'd make would be pretty too.  Jungkook shakes this thought away and blames it on Taehyung’s lack of shame. Speaking of Taehyung, he’s sucking face with Namjoon, making noises almost loud enough to overpower the music in the club.

When Hoseok finally lets go and sits back again, Jungkook takes in his appearance. Hoseok is hot for the lack of better words. He looks like something out of a wet dream, a polished version of a bad boy from an eighties teen movie. His eyes are sharp, just like his cheekbones and nose. Jungkook isn’t sure where to look, a nagging voice in the back of his head telling him that Hoseok knows that he’s being checked out and that he doesn’t mind if the way he’s sitting comfortably is anything to go by.

Sleeves of a green sweatshirt are rolled up to his elbows, but there is no jewelry on his hands, not even a watch around his wrist. Jungkook guesses that he must not care about time as he slowly drinks watered down whiskey or cognac or whatever brown liquid that goes with ice. The expensive drink doesn’t go with Hoseok’s ripped jeans or the snapback he’s sporting. Without much thought, Jungkook proclaims him a contrast, something that humans are wary of but often indulge in.

“I haven’t seen you around,” Hoseok says when it becomes painfully obvious that they’re the only two not involved in a conversation. “Is this too late for you?”

Jungkook steals a sip of Jimin’s fruity cocktail and almost chokes on the strong alcohol hidden in the pink liquor. “It’s well past my curfew,” he says, going for a joke, but he’s certain Hoseok sees right through him.

“Thought so. Still, it’s nice you came. Hanging out with couples is never fun,” Hoseok muses.

Jungkook looks around and realizes that they’re the only ones left. He spots Jimin dancing with Yoongi, smiling from ear to ear as Yoongi leans in to say something in Jimin’s ear, his hands firm on Jimin’s hips. Taehyung is nowhere to be seen. Jungkook guesses tomorrow, his maid will witness a fresh set of bruises as she serves him breakfast... if he makes it out alive. Jungkook silently prays that his friend doesn’t get eaten, but knowing Taehyung, he’s not sure if his friend would mind disappearing for a week or two. It’s happened before, but his parents are always too gullible and believe every lie Taehyung tells them. At least they noticed that he wasn’t present at family dinner. Jungkook’s certain his parent wouldn’t realize he was missing.

“Don’t worry, your friends will be okay,” Hoseok continues when Jungkook doesn’t reply.

“I didn’t say they wouldn’t.”

“But you thought it. It’s okay, I wouldn’t entrust my friends to Namjoon and Yoongi either. But bad guys usually hide behind handsome faces,” Hoseok declares as though passing down wisdom.

“So I shouldn’t trust you?” Jungkook asks with newfound bravery.

“Thanks for the compliment, but I’ll let you figure that out for yourself. I gotta go now. See you around, Jungkookie. Be careful around wolves.” Hoseok grins, sharp teeth on display as he walks away, leaving Jungkook alone at the table. In his bubble of calm in the crowded club with music blaring from gigantic speakers, Jungkook wonders whether Hoseok was referring to himself.

 

“So how was it?” Jimin beams at them from the driver seat.

The car drifts from one lane to the other, but on the road leading to their upper-class neighborhood, where houses are not divided by fences but by acres of land, the streets are deserted. There’s no danger that they’ll have an accident.

“The best fucking of my life,” Taehyung muses from the backseat, staring dreamily out the window, as though in the darkness of the night, he sees things that aren’t there but still make him giddy. Jungkook’s curious about what Taehyung sees.

“Eww,” Jimin says, scrunching his nose in distaste. “I wasn’t asking you, but Jungkookie. Did you have fun?”

“You left me alone,” Jungkook says, crossing his arms over his chest and staring straight ahead at the empty road. He sees the silhouette of tall gates in the distance.

“We left you with Hoseok,” Jimin stresses, as though it changes the fact that Jungkook spent most of the night alone, watching the people around him having fun.

“He had things to do and so he left.”

“I’m sorry,” Jimin says. The car returns to the correct lane now that Jimin’s eyes are back on the road.

“It’s better this way,” Taehyung pipes up, finally sobering up from Namjoon’s kisses. He leans forward and rests his cheek on Jungkook’s seat.

Jimin turns to look at him, and the car swerves again but straightens almost immediately. “I thought you liked Hoseok.”

“I do,” Taehyung defends, “but Hoseok’s not boyfriend material. He sleeps around.”

“You forget that Namjoon slept around, too, before you two got together.”

“That’s not the same,” Taehyung says, and Jungkook wonders why. The dreamy look is back in Taehyung’s eyes. He misses the way Jimin scoffs and presses down hard on the gas pedal, but he doesn’t miss Jungkook’s question.

“You tried to set me up with Hoseok?”

“Jimin did. It was all his idea,” Taehyung throws out.

Jimin gasps and reaches back to hit Taehyung. He misses and hits the seat instead.

“You wanted a boyfriend. Hoseok is both hot and single. He’s just your type.”

“So my type is anybody that’s single?” Jungkook asks at the same time as Taehyung says, “Hoseok doesn’t do relationships, but he’d do it for money. Probably.”

“Why would I pay someone to play my boyfriend?”

“To piss off your dad? To make your mom realize you’re all grown up and don’t need a teddy bear as a birthday present? To make them stop seeing you as a toddler?” Taehyung offers.

To make them notice you is left unsaid, but it hangs in the air between them. Jungkook’s painfully aware of not only that but the fact that Taehyung is telling the truth. Jungkook did say that he’d find a boyfriend just to get a reaction from his dad. Maybe going through with it would be the right thing to do.

“Okay,” he says.

“Okay?” Jimin blanches, hitting hard on the brakes. Tires screech against the tar as the car comes to an abrupt stop.

Taehyung nearly comes flying into the front seat. “Fuck you, Park,” he fumes, but Jimin doesn’t seem to notice. His eyes focus on Jungkook, processing the one word with four letters that he’s just said.

“You can’t be serious.”

Jungkook doesn’t respond.

 

 

Three weeks and four days later, Jungkook officially turns twenty. He’s an adult in the eyes of the law and society. In the eyes of his parents, however, he’s invisible.  Sitting alone at the massive table is no different from sitting there with his parents, Jungkook surmises as he once again moves his food around the plate, strategically, like chess pieces. His mother, he’s been told, is in China. Or is it Japan? He doesn’t remember. She’s on location for a film. His father has been away all week for a conference for which he is the main speaker. They didn’t even send a card.

He looks up to find his nanny standing next to him with a cake and an apologetic smile.

At least someone remembered.

 

 

“Happy birthday!” Jimin throws confetti and bear-hugs him as soon as Taehyung pushes him through the door of the swanky penthouse hotel room.

“Thanks, hyung.” He walks further inside. “Why are we here, again?”

“Because tonight, we celebrate. You’re an adult now, Kookie. Time for you to get a little wild. Not too wild though; you’re still my precious child.” Jimin answers, and Jungkook still doesn’t understand why they’re renting a hotel room.

“What Jimin’s trying to say is, we’re all gonna get shit-faced drunk tonight in honor of your birthday, and driving home would be detrimental to all our lives,” Taehyung clears up his confusion.

“Yes, that,” Jimin confirms.

“So what did your mom get you as a present this year?” Taehyung asks, pushing Jungkook onto the bed so Jimin can do his make up.

Jungkook shrugs, “Nothing.”

“Nothing?” Jimin and Taehyung repeat in unison.

“I think they forgot.” It shouldn’t bother him, them forgetting, but it does… more than Jungkook wants to admit.

“Da’fuck you forget to commemorate the day you push a human out of a hole the size of a bottle cap?” Taehyung fumes.

“She had a C-section.”

“Still.”

He shrugs again.

He’s not sure how he feels, angry, sad, tired? Tired, he thinks, best fits. He’s spent his entire life trying to live up to a standard of illogical perfection. He gets good grades, is a member of all the right clubs. He’s on track to get into the ivy league school of his parents' dreams. Jungkook’s the poster child for good behavior. Yet all of this is still not enough for his parents to pull their heads out of their self-absorbed asses long enough to remember his birthday. Yeah… he’s tired.

Jimin puts a hand on his cheek, guiding his face forward, and his eyes soften. “Tonight, we’ll make sure that it’s you who forgets them, okay?”

He nods and blinks away tears.

Khaki trousers are replaced with black, skin-tight leather pants that accentuate every move of Jungkook’s muscular thighs.  The baby blue cashmere sweater is tossed aside in favor of a black cotton top with useless zippers in odd places and meshed sleeves that show off his defined arms. This time around, Jimin makes his eyes dramatic, with dark liner and smoky charcoal lids that push past slutty and land squarely in the danger box. If Jungkook looked like a young demon on their last outing, well, tonight, he’s the ruler of the underworld.

Music blares from ceiling to floor speakers; Jungkook can’t hear his thoughts which he thinks is not such a bad thing. Tonight he’s opening the door on new experiences, tonight he’s going to act first and think later.  Tonight the word no will not be a part of his vocabulary. This decision is made just as his eyes fall upon what Jungkook can only describe as the most alluring human he’s ever seen. The man’s orbs are pitch black, the depths of which speak of danger and darkness. The gaze is intense and holds Jungkook in place and draws him towards the owner simultaneously.,

“Oh no you don’t,” Jimin warns, grabbing his arm. “You’re not ready for that kind of trouble just yet, grasshopper.” He pulls Jungkook in the opposite direction away from the man who’s currently smirking, his eyes sparkling with mischief, and Jungkook knows before the night ends he’ll be on the receiving end of whatever not sufficient for work thoughts are playing the man’s head.

Fruity drinks litter the table, the sweetness masking the high alcohol content. Jungkook’s not sure how many he’s consumed. He’s not sure of anything, really. He’s restless, like a lit stick of dynamite, fizzing and sparking, waiting for the last bit of the fuse to dissolve under the flames so he can finally explode.

“Let’s dance,” he declares, needing to work off his energy.

“Okay,” Jimin agrees readily, grabbing both him and Taehyung by the arm and pulling them to the dance floor.

They’re a sight; he’s aware of this, hungry eyes following their every move, and even under the influence, Jungkook’s acutely aware that Jimin’s seductive moves are meant to draw attention. He wants people to notice them. The older boy’s always been a bit of a whore in that respect. The stranger from before is behind him. The man’s even more stunning up close, and Jungkook’s fuzzy, inebriated mind doesn’t understand how that’s even possible. Jimin’s grinding against Taehyung, and the two are lost, buried in the deep trenches of the music.

“Are you together?” The man’s dark eyes are piercing, and it takes a moment for Jungkook understand the meaning behind the question.

“You mean like together, together?” Not his finest interrogation, but it’ll have to do.

The man chuckles, and while it softens his features, it somehow makes him seem more deadly than before. Jungook swallows hard.

“Care to dance?” It’s a question, but it feels like a command. Jungkook’s always been obedient.

He nods.

Strong fingers encircle his wrist, pulling him away from Taehyung and Jimin who are both too drunk to notice. Jungkook willing follows, like a lamb to the slaughter. As they move away from the crowded dance floor, Jungkook’s brain tells him he should at least ask where they’re going, but his mouth doesn’t seem to want to move. They’re mere steps away from the VIP section when a familiar, yet unfamiliar voice calls out to him. He stops and is jerked forward a bit when the man with the grip on his hand tries to continue walking.

“The fuck,” the man hisses.

“I thought I told you to watch out for wolves?” Hoseok appears, with the same sharp teeth and the same sharp features, eyes steely, devoid of compassion, almost cold. The gaze is not directed at Jungkook.

“You told me to find out on my own.” His answer doesn’t make sense, even if it’s true.

“Do you know him?” the deadly stranger asks.

“Mmm,” Jungkook hums.

The man turns to face Hoseok, and a silent war begins. Invisible shots are fired without a word ever being spoken between the two. Moments later, Jungkook’s being lead back to the dance floor by Hoseok, and he wonders if this situation is less dangerous than the previous.

“Here’s your friend, safe and sound.” Hoseok hands him off to a panic-stricken Jimin.

“Jungkook,” Jimin yells over the boisterous music. “Taehyung and I were so worried. We went looking for you and bumped into Hoseok. Don’t ever do that again, walk off without alerting us.”

Jungkook doesn’t remind them that he was standing right next to them when the stranger with the intoxicating eyes approached. He wonders if it’s a thing, his invisibility. First his parents, and now his friends. Doing what people expect of him doesn’t seem to be getting him anywhere. Jungkook’s done, just done. He’s tired of being the perfect son and the cute best friend. He’s tired of people requiring things from him but never giving back to him. He fucking just wants to be noticed.

“I’m out,” Hoseok declares as Jungkook stares solemnly at Jimin without responding.

He watches disappointedly as Hoseok walks away without ever turning back, without so much as a glance in his direction. Jungkook was just a package to be delivered, and the man has done his job.

Maybe it’s the alcohol, maybe it’s the anger and rage that’s been building in him for years, maybe it’s just simply time to step out of the box he’s built around himself. Jungkook’s not sure which, but he’s blames his next action on one if not all of them.

Hoseok’s not looking in his direction when Jungkook approaches him. It’s strange, the thoughts that go through his head when he knows he's about to do something he'll probably regret. Things like how is the man’s back equally as attractive as his front? Like is Hoseok the wolf, and if so does that make Jungkook the lamb? Like how’d the man end up here, in this club, on the same night as Jungkook?

Maybe it’s fate.

Standing behind Hoseok, he’s close. Close enough to feel the man’s body temperature mixing with his own but far enough away that Hoseok doesn’t notice his presence. Figures, the story of his life. His hand trembles slightly as he stretches his arm forward to tap Hoseok on the shoulder with his index finger. There’s no plan. He made a promise to act first and think later, and that’s exactly what he’s going to do.

Hoseok turns to face him. Surprise and curiosity blink across his features, gone as quickly as they appeared, as though the man has read his mind and knows what happens next. Good for him, Jungkook thinks before stepping forward. Jungkook looks down, a hand on Hoseok’s chest tracing the lines of the man’s abs through his thin, low cut v-neck black tee. When he looks up once again, Hoseok’s expression is intense, almost threatening.

For a moment, Jungkook thinks the man’s angry, that he crossed some line he wasn’t supposed to cross, but before he can ponder it further, Hoseok yanks him closer and covers Jungkook’s mouth with his in a hungry kiss. He responds immediately, and it surprises him how willing he is, how much he wants this. Hoseok’s mouth is so warm, the caress of his lips softer than he would have imagined. He tastes tentatively with his tongue, and Jungkook parts his lips, allowing the man access with a low moan.

It doesn’t last long. Hoseok pulls away, separating them.

“Are you the wolf?” Jungkook asks.

“Depends. Do you want me to be?”

He considers the man in front of him, the confident smirk on Hoseok lips, eyes devouring Jungkook. It’s predatory, the gaze. Hoseok’s a hunter, and Jungkook’s the prey. He has his answer. The man is indeed the wolf. He inhales and answers the question.

“Yes.”

 

“He said yes,” Jungkook answers Jimin’s question.

“That’s not a correct answer to my question,” Jimin counters. “And yes to what exactly?”

“Yes to pretending to be my boyfriend.” Jungkook grimaces thinking about the steep price. He wonders if the backlash will be worth it.

“What?!” Jimin and Taehyung say in unison, the latter of the two almost falling out of the cozy loveseat he’s curled up in.

“You fucking did it? Well hallelujah,” Taehyung rejoices. “I fucking can’t wait to see how your parents react.”

Jimin, on the other hand, seems less enthusiastic. The older boy stares at him with searching eyes. Jungkook feels the weight of the question sitting on the tip of Jimin’s tongue. He waits for him to ask.

“Are you sure?”

He’s not.

“Yes.”

It’s a lie. Jimin knows this.

“It’s not too late to call it off,” he offers.

“Yes, yes, it is.”

It’s a matter of principle now; Jungkook has made a decision, and if he’s learned anything from his father, it’s that a real man always accepts the consequences of his decisions. Hoseok wasn’t immediately receptive to the idea, and honestly, Jungkook’s not sure what he said to change the man’s mind. He was well passed tipsy, and his emotional state was wobbly, to say the least. So any number of illogical babblings could have fallen from his lips, the ones currently bruised and swollen from rough, ravishing kisses.

They didn’t have sex. There are no bruises on Jungkook’s skin. His maid can breathe easy; she’ll not be scandalized just yet, but, had Hoseok asked, he would have said yes.

“Did enjoy your birthday, at least?” Jimin drops the topic, and Jungkook’s thankful.

“I did.”

It’s the truth.

“I bet you did,” Taehyung giggles. “I thought Hoseok was gonna eat your face off. Damn. Not gonna lie, that kiss looked fucking hot. I may have gotten a little hard.”

“OMG! Can you not for five minutes,” Jimin reprimands Taehyung. Jungkook wonders if the duo has ever gone a day without bickering. “Plus, I thought you said Hoseok wasn’t the relationship type. Why would you want him kissing Kookie?”

“Kissing does not a relationship make, Park Jimin. Have you dated every person you’ve kissed?”

“No, but I’m not Jungkook,” Jimin replies simply.

He’s not offended. Jimin’s words are true; they’re not the same. When they were kids, Jungkook would cry easily if he fell or if someone said hurtful words. Jimin, on the other hand, got up when he fell down and always had a reply ready, no matter the situation. Jimin may look soft, but he’s hard, built of stone on the inside. Jungkook may look tough, but bruises easily on the inside, even if he doesn’t show it.

They’re not the same.

 

 

“He fucking offered you how much money?” Yoongi puffs out, eyes wide with disbelief.

“Five. Thousand. Dollars,” Hoseok answers again, this time extra slow.

“Rich kids, man,” Namjoon pipes in from the corner, long legs propped up on a wobbly card slash dining table Hoseok had bought at a yard sale for two dollars a while back.

“Shocked the hell out of me, that’s for sure. One minute we’re kissing like it’s gonna lead to something, next, he’s asking me to be his fake boyfriend and offering me more money than I’ll ever make running packages for Smithy.”

“What’d you tell him?” Yoongi sits up straight, hands rubbing against the upholstery of the dirty brown armchair Hoseok found on the side of the road. It’s not much to look at, with the torn fabric, but it’s comfortable and serves its purpose.

“What do you think I told him?”

“Yes?”

“Fucking straight, I told him yes.”

“Doesn’t hurt that he’s hot as fuck, does it?” Namjoon's always there to point out the obvious.

“And a damn good kisser, too,” Hoseok adds. “A little sloppy and a tad too eager, but God, the sounds he makes.” Hoseok inhales and exhales.

Yoongi gives him a knowing smile.

“Beware of the innocent ones, Seok. They’re the most dangerous of all,” he warns him.

“Yoongles, don’t you worry about me. I love’em and leave’em. I not the falling in love kind.”

Hoseok had made that mistake once, loving someone, giving his heart. The other never felt the same, never reciprocated in turn. It taught Hoseok the most valuable lesson of all: Love is a lie. In any relationship, no matter how picture perfect it seems to the untrained eye, someone is giving while another is taking without giving back. Love makes people weak. It blinds them to what’s going on around them. His heart still bears the sharp shards of when it was shattered. Never again. Hoseok doesn’t give, but if offered, he will take until there’s nothing left to give.

Jungkook, sweet, innocent Jungkook, with his large eyes and visible insecurities, has made Hoseok an offer no sane person would refuse.

A smile, a smirk really, plays along the lines of Hoseok’s lips as he remembers how greedily Jungkook lapped at his mouth, moaning and whimpering, giving away his secret desires without even so much as a push from Hoseok’s end. The kid’s gonna be a fun one, he surmises, and it’s been a while since Hoseok’s had fun.

 

“So how do you want to do this?” Hoseok’s not one for beating around the bush.

They'd agreed to meet in a tiny coffee shop three blocks from Hoseok’s apartment building, not his typical meeting place. Hoseok feels out of place in the yuppie-type establishment, but he takes comfort in knowing that Jungkook looks out of place in the less than upper-class neighborhood. Eyes dart around the room nervously as the younger man takes in his surroundings, and Hoseok would pay money to be a fly on the wall of Jungkook’s thoughts right now. He chuckles at the idea, and Jungkook looks up.

“Is something funny?”

“Mmmm, you.” Hoseok leans in across the tiny metal table, and Jungkook’s eyes widen. “Let me ask you something, kid. Have you ever done something like this before? Hell, have you ever done anything truly bad before?”

When Jungkook doesn’t immediately reply, Hoseok has his answer. He wants to dirty Jungkook, to take the white-washed purity that’s practically dripping from the boy’s aura and rub it around in filth and grime. He bets Jungkook would look beautiful with dirt on his face. Hoseok feels almost guilty about his thoughts, but it’s slight and being crushed under the excitement he feels at the idea of tainting Jungkook’s innocence. The kid clearly needs to live a little, and Hoseok’s an excellent teacher. Or so he’s been told.

“Does it matter?”

“No, I guess not. All bad behavior has a to start somewhere, I guess,” he muses, remembering his first foray into the darkness. He pushes the memory aside. “So how are we gonna do this?” He poses the question yet again.

“Not sure. I never really thought that far ahead.” Jungkook shrugs, and Hoseok chuckles again.

“Okay, let me rephrase the question,” Hoseok says as he leans back in the chair, creating space between them once again. He notices when Jungkook breathes a sigh of relief. “Why are you doing this?”

Emotions that Hoseok can’t adequately read flitter across Jungkook’s face, eyes focused intensely in one spot.

“I’m just tired, you know?” the boy starts. “Tired of being what everyone expects. I just want to not, for once.”

Hoseok gets it, and it may be the first time in forever that he relates to another person’s feelings. It should be scary, the discovery that he, a person from the dregs of society has something so intimate in common with this kid from the upper echelon of life.  Curiously, it only serves to make the idea of dragging Jungkook down to his level that much more enticing. Misery loves company, he supposes.

“Yeah, I get that. So how far you willing to take this ‘fake’ relationship to make it look real?” He makes air quotes with his fingers.

Jungkook balks at the question, gaze saucer-wide.

“W-what do you mean?”

“I mean, Jungkookie,” Hoseok smirks, stealing the pet name he'd heard Jimin and Taehyung call the boy, “that it’s gotta feel real. Your friends and family are never gonna believe you just pulled a boyfriend out of thin air, not after so many years of perfect behavior. You need to start dropping evidence, subtle yet noticeable.”

Jungkook’s head tilts to the side, his eye contemplative.

“Like what?” The boy blinks, and Hoseok can almost see the wheels turning in Jungkook’s head.

“Like I asked, how far do you want to take this?”

Jungkook remains silent for a breath, and Hoseok waits.

“As far as I need to… I guess.”

Hoseok smirks.

Just the answer he wanted.

 

Pushed up against the door of the dirty, smelly public restroom, with the grungy metallic door-handle digging a hole into the arch of his back while Hoseok’s teeth graze the sensitive skin between his clavicle and neck—is not how Jungkook pictured the start of their fake relationship. But he’s not complaining.  One of Hoseok’s hands is on his left hip, and the man’s slender fingers are jabbing into the flesh beneath his cotton trousers; he hopes it leaves a mark, purple flower-like bruises, a reminder of the exhilaration he’s feeling. It’s a mixture of adrenalin, anticipation, and fear. The door isn’t locked; at any given moment some random individual could force it open and find them, and Jungkook’s too lost in the sting of Hoseok’s teeth biting into his flesh to wonder why the thought of being discovered excites him so much.

Baring his neck more, he bends his head to the side as his body voluntarily pushes toward Hoseok’s chest.

“God, you really are willing, aren’t you?” Hoseok speaks into his skin. The sensation of the man’s breath on his injured epidermis, coasting warm air over the bruises his teeth have just created, has Jungkook whimpering his reply.

Images of Taehyung’s skin from their breakfast several weeks prior enter his mind. He remembers his curiosity, his wondering at what it would feel like to have someone do that to his flesh. He has his answer.

Hoseok’s fingers sink deeper into his hip, and Jungkook bucks forward. He gasps, mildly confused by his body’s reaction. He’s always naively believed sex was about love. He was wrong. He doesn’t love Hoseok, barely knows him, but if asked, he’s willing to let his first time be against a filthy, graffiti-ridden bathroom door, in the middle of the kind of neighborhood he’s only seen on an episode of COPS, with a man he’s paying to be his fake boyfriend.

Muddled, confused, and frustrated... all are accurate descriptions of what he feels when Hoseok steps back, dropping slender arms from Jungkook waist.

“That should do it,” the man says, unaffected by what's just transpired while Jungkook’s fights to catch his breath and regain his composure.

He blinks. A feeling of being completely unprepared and in over his head overtakes Jungkook. The thought that perhaps he’s bitten off more than he can chew scurries across his mind. Hoseok stands before him, eyes taunting him, daring him, and Jungkook’s unsure what the challenge is, and more importantly, he’s sure he’ll lose.

“S-should do what?” His brain finally processes Hoseok’s words.

“Get a conversation started,” Hoseok tells him as he pulls Jungkook forward and turns him to face the mirror. “That’s gonna leave a pretty nice bruise.”

A long finger caresses the area Hoseok’s mouth previously inhabited. Jungkook’s head lolls slightly to the side from the touch, and he bites back a groan.

“You’re so fucking sensitive,” Hoseok whispers, dangerously close to his ear.

Jungkook locks eyes with the man’s dark orbs as he gazes at Hoseok through the glass. Hoseok’s head is next to the hand that’s rubbing Jungkook’s bruising skin. He can see the light, bluish-red discoloration beginning to form. He almost smiles, a bit giddy at the discovery. Hoseok looks lethal as he holds Jungkook’s gaze in the mirror. He watches in slow motion as Hoseok dips his head closer to the crook of his neck to kiss the exposed skin. He trembles. The soft touch of Hoseok’s mouth is more intimate than Jungkook imagined.

“I bet you make pretty noises as you’re being fucked.”   

 

Hoseok’s statement follows him to family dinner, where Jungkook resumes his game of chasing food around his plate with a fork. Tonight’s cuisine is taken straight from the pages of Better Homes and Gardens. Jungkook sighs, wishing he could sink his teeth into a burger or a less art deco-like food.

“You don’t like the lobster, son?” his father addresses him. It’s the first time the man has looked away from the stack of papers in front of him since dinner started some thirty minutes ago.

Jungkook doesn’t hear the question immediately, mind still concentrated on Hoseok’s words.

“It’s polite to speak when spoken to,” his father’s passive-aggressive reprimand alerts him to the fact that he’s being spoken to.

“I’m sorry father, what was your question?” Jungkook looks up from his plate.

“I asked you if you lik-” the man begins, then abruptly pauses in favor of staring at Jungkook curiously, eyes half-squinting and brows drawn together. “What happened to your neck? Were you bitten?”

A cloud of confusion swoops in but soon dissipates when Jungkook realizes where his father’s focus lies. He almost snickers when the words, “were you bitten,” finally make their way into his brain.

“You could say that,” he mutters under his breath.

“What did you say?”

“Nothing.” Jungkook looks up meeting his father’s gaze.

“It looks like a hickey. Jungkook, do you have a girlfriend?” his mother asks, hidden on the other side of the ornate vase sitting in the middle of the table.

“I-I’m seeing someone,” he stutters.

Saying it out loud means he’s committed; there’s no backing out now. The door to his lie has been opened like a pandora’s box, and now that’s it out in the open, there’s no putting the cover back on it.

“I hope she lives up to our standards. Never date someone below you, Jungkook. It’s not becoming,” his father warns as he lowers his gaze back to the stack of papers before him.

He wonders if his father actually believes that a person’s worth is determined by their financial circumstances. The man’s words are left floating in the air. There is no follow up to the statement, no further query from either of his parents about his love interest. Nothing regarding how they met or finding out if he’s in love or if it’s a crush. For a moment, Jungkook was silly enough to believe that his parents were taking an interest in him, silly enough to believe that his existence means more to them than a distraction from their duties or his role as the perfect son they put on display for the world to admire like an ornament on a Christmas tree.

Jungkook’s always been a good son. He doesn’t muddy the waters, doesn’t push against the goad. He plays by the rules. Growing up, it was how he received compliments, how he measured love. People who do good things, receive good things. It’s the mantra his nanny taught him.

When Jungook was a child, the mantra was true. Right behavior got him presents and a chance to sit at the grown-up table during meals. His father would bounce him on his knees and tell him how proud he was of him. His mother would take him when she went shopping and show him off, introduce him as her beautiful boy. The problem, he guesses, is that no one stays young forever. All children grow up.

The problem is, Jungkook’s all grown up.

“I never said it was a girl.” This time he doesn’t mutter the words. He says them clear, loud. He makes sure he’s heard.

He doesn’t see his parents' reaction to his statement, but he feels the weight of their stares on his back as he exits the dining hall. The excitement from earlier is back, crawling and twisting around in his core. only this time, it’s not fraught with lust or desire. This feeling is different. It’s an awakening of sorts, a path to freedom--to breaking away from his cookie-cutter existence. Each step he takes away from the table is a step towards finding out who he really is beneath the magazine ready mock-up that his upbringing has created.

He hopes he likes what he finds.

 

“Well damn, Jungkook,” Taehyung exclaims with pride, and Jungkook smiles. “I didn’t think you had it in you, to be honest. We all know I’d do anything, but you have rules and guidelines and shit. Fuck, I wish I was there to see the look on your old man’s face.” Taehyung shakes his head then leans over to pat Jungkook on the back.

“Kookie,” Jimin starts, his tone has Jungkook bracing himself for a dad-Jimin lecture, “you know I'll be the first person to tell you to live a little and experience life. I’m not trying to tell you how to liv-”

“Oh, geesh Minnie, don’t go all dad on the kid,” Taehyung cuts Jimin off.

“I’m not going dad.” Jimin sighs then combs his finger through his hair. “Tae, you and me, we’ve always bucked the rules, skewed the lines, pushed things as far as we could to see what we could... can get away with. Jungkook’s always been obedient, the good boy. And yeah, I make fun of him for it, but it doesn’t mean I don’t respect the hell out of him for it, as well.” Jimin pauses, then turns to face Jungkook.  “I just want to make sure you know what you could be losing. I’m all for you finding yourself, Kookie, but I’m worried that you may regret what you lose in the process.”

He smiles. This very same thought has kept him up for the past two nights. Jungkook’s thankful that Jimin is thinking about him.

“Hyung, I’ve thought about this. Yes, I could lose a lot here, but isn’t it worth it to finally find out who I am?” Jungkook worries he’s not getting his point across when Jimin scowls slightly. “I feel like a photograph most days, something people pick up and look at but don’t interact with because it’s not real. I’m not real, hyung. This person is born from other people’s points of view and the fear that I won’t be liked. I look in the mirror daily and wonder who I am, what I believe, and what I want. Don’t you think it’s time I found out?”

Jimin’s soft smile appears, the one that comes out when he’s proud of something Jungkook’s said or done. The older boy nods and sighs and chuckles.

“You’re growing up so nicely, Jungkook.” Jimin sighs again, louder and harder than before. “Alright. If you’re sure, I’ll support you.”

“Aww, Jimin, I’m so proud of you,” Taehyung teases and receives a pillow in his face as a reward.

The moment is light, and Jungkook absorbs it, soaking it in. He’s about to start a war, one he’s not sure he’ll be victorious in, but all revolutions begin with moments of conflict. A saying he’d read once comes to mind, a revolution is a struggle to the death between the future and the past. Jungkook wonders which will win.

 

Seeing Hoseok again elicits more emotions than Jungkook’s comfortable with. There’s always been a sense of mystery surrounding the older man, which he surmises to be natural. The man's personality and aura are so out of the realm of Jungkook’s everyday life. What disturbs him more is the anticipation he feels when he knows there’s a chance he will be in Hoseok’s presence, as well as the popcorn popping bursts of pleasure he feels when their paths cross. It’s alarming and confusing.

“Here,” he pushes the envelope across the table in Hoseok’s direction.

“Cash. I’m impressed.” Hoseok’s tone is teasing. “Does daddy know you’re using his money in such a manner? I bet he’ll be disappointed in his little Jungkookie.”

The money, Jungkook would tell Hoseok if he could find his words (another unfortunate by-product of being in Hoseok’s presence), is his. Jungkook maybe young, but he’s always been a bit of an idiot savant when it comes to finances. Wise investment choices and even more prudent spending has allowed him to amass a small fortune of his own. His monetary prowess is nothing in comparison to his father’s, but if he needed to, Jungkook could live quite comfortably on what he’s managed to make.

“Shit kid. Are you naïve? Have you never done a business deal before?” Hoseok’s question feels more like a scolding. “You never pay the full amount up front. What if I decide to skip town or something?”

Jungkook hasn’t brokered a deal before. He doesn’t know the protocol, but he also figures that, payment or not, if Hoseok chose to back out, there’d be nothing he could offer to stop him. They agreed on an amount, and Jungkook's always been a man of his word. He expects, and yes it may be naivete on his part, others to do the same.

“If I had only paid you half, couldn’t you still choose to leave?” The question comes off harsher than he intends.

Hoseok eyes him curiously for several moments, and Jungkook dearly wants to know what the man is thinking. A half smile lifts one corner of Hoseok’s lips, and his body trembles ever so slightly as a small laugh escapes. Jungkook takes a mental video of the moment.

“Point taken. Well, I guess it’s official; we’re an ‘item,’” Hoseok makes air-quotes as he says the word. “We should celebrate. What’cha want to do?”

It’s two forty-five in the morning, and they’re sitting in a twenty-four hour McDonald's. Apart from the workers, he and Hoseok are the only occupants.

"This... this seems pretty nice,” Jungkook replies and immediately giggles at the look of surprise on Hoseok’s face.

“You do know this is a McDonalds, right?” The question is posed cautiously.

“I’ve never been to one.”

It’s the truth. Growing up with a famous mother, one who couldn’t go out in public without being recognized, has kept Jungkook from experiencing many things the average person considers normal.

“You’re shitting me!” Hoseok’s jaw is practically on the table. “You’re too rich for Mickey Dees?”

While Jungkook’s father would probably agree, it’s not the main reason.

“No, not really. My mom, she’s, uhm, she’s a bit famous, so things like fast food places and the mall were a security risk,” he answers nonchalantly because it’s his life. He doesn’t see anything unusual or peculiar about it. Hoseok, on the other hand, continues to look at him as though he’s grown a second head, a hideous one at that.

“Wow. Shit. That’s just-wait, so what else haven’t you done?” Hoseok leans forward in the booth, and Jungkook slides back. The move is unconscious, a knee-jerk reaction to Hoseok’s closeness.

Jungkook still thinks about their moment in the bathroom. He still bears the mark on his neck like a medal of honor. It’s stupid, he knows. The moment meant nothing to Hoseok. Jungkook’s positive the man’s forgotten it even happened, but for him, it’s a memory he’ll hold on to, like a keepsake to remind him of the first time he felt something, felt alive.

“I don’t understand your question.”

“Like, have you ever eaten macaroni and cheese straight out of the pan? Or gone to an amusement park? Had a sleepover and ate popcorn and drank soda until you puked?” Jungkook shakes his head, and Hoseok guffaws in disbelief. “Been to a house party?”

“I didn’t have a lot of friends growing up, except for Taehyung and Jimin. Our fathers are business partners.”

“Yeah, Taehyung said your dad’s a douche,” Hoseok informs him offhandedly.

“Taehyung and my father don’t get along.” He doesn’t defend his father, he never does.

“Alright, well since I just got paid and this is our first official fake date, tell me what you want to eat. I’ll buy.” Hoseok winks and bows and smiles and... wow.

The smile is brief, as though the usually steely man had accidentally let his guard down, allowing Jungkook behind his wall only to immediately realize what he’d done and push him back out again, but Jungkook has now been witness to the brilliance that sparkles like a newly cut diamonds from Hoseok’s eyes when he genuinely smiles. It’s mesmerizing.

“You okay, kid?”

“Yeah, yeah, why?” He blinks, trying to reset his brain.

“You kind of blanked there for a minute. Look, I know I’m good looking, but staring is creepy.” Hoseok’s grinning, mocking him, and Jungkook feels the heat rising from his neck to his checks. “Jungkookie, I think we’re gonna have a lot of fun together.” Hoseok winks and then gets up from the booth, stretching his hand in Jungkook’s direction. He stares in confusion until it dawns on him that the man’s offering it to him.

Hoseok’s hand isn’t soft, but it isn’t rough either. Instead, the feel is somewhere in between the two extremes. His grasp is firm, and there’s a sense of possessiveness to it, as though accepting the outstretched hand meant Jungkook somehow became the property of its owner. A gentle but forceful tug finds him on his feet but off balance, causing him to land with a thud against Hoseok’s chest.

He jumps back immediately, creating distance. His hand still trapped in Hoseok’s, he doesn’t get far, and once again, Jungkook’s mind tries not to dwell on the thought of how well their fingers fit together. The corners of Hoseok’s mouth are pulled up in a confident smirk, and the man’s once soft eyes glisten with something dangerous and dark, causing Jungkook to swallow down a shiver.

The girl behind the register eyes them suspiciously for a brief moment before continuing to smack her lips loudly as she chews the gum in her mouth.

“Can I help you?” she drawls, dragging each letter as though the words were too heavy on her tongue.

“I don’t know, can you?” Hoseok says, leaning on the counter, lasering the girl with a grin.

Jungkook expects an eye-roll and a sarcastic reply. He’s surprised when the girl’s reaction is a blush and a nervous giggle.

“What’cha in the mood for, love?” Hoseok turns his deadly grin on Jungkook, and he suddenly understands the girl’s response.

“I-I don’t know. Uhm, french fries and ice cream?”

Taehyung had once told him that McDonald's was the best place to have french fries and ice cream at three in the morning. Of course, Taehyung was high at the time, and if Jungkook remembers correctly, his friend also claimed that Superman took him.

“French fries and ice cream it is. I’ll have a medium number one with a coke.”

The girl busies herself with preparing the order. Hoseok pays, and she hands him the tray of food with a shy, “Here’s your order.”

They return to their original booth, and it isn’t until he tries to sit down that Jungkook realizes they’ve been holding hands the entire time. There’s an odd sense of emptiness, as though a void is created when Hoseok releases his grip. His hand feels cold with the absence of warmth from Hoseok’s palm. Whatever discord he felt at the loss of their fingers being entwined is replace with joy as the first taste of his ice cream dipped fry touches his tongue.

It’s euphoric; Taehyung did not lie. Sweet, salty, delicious... Jungkook’s in heaven, and he feels cheated. This rite of passage had been stolen from him. He’s eaten more fancy delicacies than he knew what to do with, most with names his tongue refused to say and scents he couldn’t place, food his father had described as being served at the tables of kings, and yet none of it tasted as good as this simple and easily pronounced meal.

“You like that, huh?” Hoseok eyes him curiously, and not for the last time. “You’re an oddity, kid. I’m not really sure what to do with you,” the man states, mostly to himself.

“What would you want to do with me?” The questions comes out wrong, or maybe right. He’s not sure what he’s asking.

Hoseok squints his eyes and tilts his head to stare at Jungkook, and it dawns on him that the question, although blurted in innocence, feels very much like it holds a double meaning, like he’s insinuating something other than what the words mean. That sense of being in over his head resurfaces as he realizes he’s in a neighborhood far from his own, with a man who’s not above taking money to date him.

“I guess we’ll answer that question in due time,” Hoseok replies as he takes a bite of his burger.

Jungkook supposes, as he continues to eat his ice cream fries with a smile on his face, they’ll be answering a lot of other questions in due time, as well.

 

The table is silent as they eat. Hoseok takes the opportunity to study the younger man in front of him, sitting on the other side of the table, smiling like a giddy child. Jungkook’s taken to licking the salt off his fries before dipping them in the creamy vanilla mixture, tilting his head back and dropping them into his open mouth. The kid just doesn’t make sense.

There’s an innocence about Jungkook that confuses him. Hoseok’s known Taehyung and Jimin for a while, and the two may look like angels, and even play the part when necessary, but Jungkook’s two older friends are far from innocent. But this kid, Hoseok realizes, is not acting. He's not playing the naïve schoolboy, using his looks as a manipulation device. No, this is very real. Jungkook has no clue what he’s doing, and yet continues to delve further and further into a hole Hoseok’s not sure he’ll be able to climb out of. As he watches Jungkook eat, licking his lips and his fingers as though he’s just discovered food, Hoseok feels a sense of guilt. He should turn the kid down, send him home tell him to just talk to his parents. He should.

There’s a whole host of things that Hoseok should do, none of which he plans on starting anytime soon. Things like get a real job, live a law-abiding life, and do fewer drugs. No, he will not be warning Jeon Jungkook, innocent rich kid, that this path is wrong for him, but maybe, to keep his conscience feeling less mirky, he won’t add to Jungkook’s demise. Perhaps he'll even try not to give in to the urges the kid brings out in him. For instance, right now, the desire to lean over the table and lick the dab of ice cream sitting at the corner of Jungkook’s thin, pink lips is overwhelming.

There’s a whole host of things that Hoseok should do. Things like call his mother and let her know he’s not dead in a ditch somewhere, reconnect with his father (fuck that, his father can die for all he cares), finish up the last class for his college diploma (after all, he’s only ten credits away); Namjoon would be proud. Hoseok’s never had someone be proud of him before. He's not sure he wants the commitment.

There’s a whole host of things that Hoseok should do. The problem is, it’s just a hell of a lot more fun to do the things he shouldn’t.

Jungkook gasps in his mouth when their lips meet. Hoseok doesn’t close his eyes; he likes watching. Jungkook’s eyes are wide, surprised, and they flutter when Hoseok sinks his teeth into the boy’s bottom lip. A whimper escapes, and Hoseok wonders for the millionth time what other things Jungkook hasn’t done.

“Ever had a handjob in a dark alley, Kookie?”

A second whimper is the boy’s only response.

Hoseok’s fingers dig into the back of Jungkook’s neck, and the boy’s lips fall open, giving him full access. He’s never been one to not take advantage of a situation. It’s not in his nature, and Jungkook gives things so nicely... it’d be rude to say no, really. With exhausting effort, he manages to pull mouth away from Jungkook’s. The boy chases after him, his eyes closed and lips puckered. It’s cute.

Maybe Yoongi was right. Perhaps the innocent ones are the most dangerous. As Hoseok leads Jungkook from the table to the doors at the rear of the building, he reminds himself that he likes danger. Hell, it’s practically his middle name.

“Omph,” a puff of sound escapes Jungook’s lips. It’s the second time he’s pushed the boy up against something, and Hoseok thinks he may have discovered a new kink.

Jungkook doesn’t speak, doesn’t move, but his eyes are hooded and watching Hoseok’s every move.

“You didn’t answer, love.” He drags his teeth along Jungkook’s neck just to feel the boy tremble against him. Jungkook doesn’t disappoint.

It’s a dangerous game he’s playing. It’s addicting how pliable Jungkook is, how every touch, no matter how slight, elicits a response of silent begging from the boy. Hoseok’s easily addicted to things. It’s a flaw, one that gets him trouble more often than not.

“Ever had a handjob in a dark alley?” he asks the question again as he mouths along the soft skin of Jungkook’s neck.

Jungkook’s finger curls in the belt loop of Hoseok’s jeans. He hears the catch of the boy’s breath. A gargled sound seeps from between Jungkook’s parted lips as his head lolls back, knocking against the wall. Hoseok bites deeper into the soft, warm flesh, and Jungkook edges closer pushing their bodies together. The area on the boy’s skin is sensitive, Hoseok knows this. It’s the spot he marked previously.

“So, so eager, pet.” He laps at the new cut with his tongue, and Jungkook squirms against him, panting heavily. “I’ll rephrase the question. Do you want me to give you a handjob in a dark alley?”

Slowly, methodically, he runs his hand from Jungkook’s exposed neck, past his clavicle, down his heaving chest. He mentally maps the muscular lines of the boy’s abdomen. Jungkook’s ripped. Hoseok smiles at the discovery. Jungkook squirms more, his movement erratic, as though he’s unsure of which direction he needs to go. So innocent.

“Yes or no, Kookie?” he asks as he teases the button of Jungkook’s jeans.

Strangled, needy sounds are all the boy seems capable of making, but Hoseok believes in tough love, in teaching lessons. Even though he knows what Jungkook’s answer is, anyone within earshot knows, Hoseok has asked a question, and he expects a god damn answer.

“Yes or no, Kookie,” he asks again, gruffly, voice steely.

Hoseok doesn’t like being disrespected. Not replying is disrespectful. Slipping his hand further down until it covers the near hard lump in the front Jungkook’s dress pants, he feels the muscle twitch as he squeezes hard. It hurts, he knows it does, but Jungkook needs to learn to speak when spoken to.

“Yes. Or. No.”

“Y-y—ee-ss,” Jungkook chokes out, the tears streaming down his face glistening under the dim street lights.

“Good boy. That’s a good boy,” Hoseok purrs against his ear.

Gentle strokes replace the firm grip. He feels the tension leave Jungkook’s body as the boy returns to his previous consistency of putty, his body gyrating to the rhythm of Hoseok’s hand. He feels Jungkook hiccup and his body jerk when he uses his other hand to tease the button of the boy’s pants loose.

Hoseok grins when Jungkook jolts violently at the touch of his cold, slender hand as it snakes its way into the boy’s once perfectly pressed pants, slipping down under the elastic of his boxers and gripping his hard, pulsing flesh.

 It’s addicting how pliable Jungkook is, and Hoseok... he gets easily addicted to things.

 

 

Jungkook can’t sleep. His skin, his mind, he… he’s on fire. Every fiber of his being is buzzing, a live wire of desire that refuses to be silenced. The ghost of Hoseok’s hand, the warmth of his breath tickling Jungkook's skin, the ice cold burn of the man’s voice as it demands his to submission is alive and well in Jungkook’s mind, as though imprinted on his soul. Only it’s not a inanimate memory, like a photo that he can take out, look at, then put away. No, the sensation is active, animated like a 4-D movie in which he’s the star, and it's screaming to be set free.

His back arches against the mattress, his hand crawling along the sheets. He doesn’t want to do it. It's dirty, touching yourself; his nanny said so. Yet his hand continues its trek towards his body. He tries grabbing the comforter, tries stopping, but the need is too strong. Truth is, he’s lying to himself. He wants it, the feeling of being broken down, of having all his senses set ablaze, reducing him to an inferno of unquenchable desire... he wants it.

The need is raw. It has no boundaries, no stop. It makes Jungkook feel alive in a way his picture-perfect life never has. Hoseok touch makes him feel wanted, needed. It’s not real, he knows it. He’s paying the man. It doesn’t matter. His hand is on his chest, caressing its way along his skin, and he stops just short of the waist of his cotton pajama bottoms. His heart is pounding in his chest. He’s wide awake, body vibrating with anticipation. He closes his eyes.

He remembers.

“Good boy.” Hoseok’s voice vibrates through him.

It’s disconcerting the effect Hoseok has on him, Jungkook’s muddled mind thinks. The zipper lowers with ease. It seems to be as willing as Jungkook is, falling effortlessly under the push of Hoseok’s long fingers. Brown eyes, piercing, dark, no warmth in their depths, no sign of affection or fondness. It’s an empty void. It shouldn’t turn him on, Hoseok’s lack of emotional attachment, but it does.

Hoseok's watching Jungkook's every move, the wolf stalking his prey. Jungkook’s somewhat shocked when Hoseok spits his hand, his eyes holding Jungkook’s almost as if he’s challenging him to say something. He doesn’t; he couldn’t if he wanted to.

“Uuuh,” the sound falls from his mouth as Hoseok’s takes Jungkook's lips between his own.

It’s the second time the man has surprised him with a kiss. Jungkook learns that third kisses are just as important as first. He holds no unrealistic expectations; their lives are not a romantic comedy. He doesn’t expect Hoseok to fall madly in love with him, but Hoseok kisses him like he owns him, like Jungkook’s already given away his soul, and maybe he has.

Hoseok’s tongue invades his mouth, fiery, passionate, demanding, making it hard for Jungkook to stay aware, to not give in with complete abandonment. He fights to get his mind grounded, to not get lost as he’d done during the two previous kisses. He loses the war when Hoseok’s slick palm rests against his shaft and slender fingers curl into a firm grip. Tight but not too tight. Fucking perfect, in Jungkook’s humble, inexperienced opinion.

 

Jungkook’s hands don’t feel like Hoseok’s. They’re not slender, his fingers aren't as long. It doesn’t seem to matter as the scene in his mind continues to play. He squeezes, tightening the grip. His body tenses with anticipation, and his legs involuntarily spread, allowing him better access as he begins to slowly move, replicating the movie in his mind.

“Fu-“ the rest is a choked whimper.

Slowly, steadily, Hoseok’s hand moves from the base to the tip. Jungkook feels the muscle jerk, and his body copies the movement. Hoseok repeats the action, lips pressed to Jungkook’s ear, whispering, purring, telling him what a good boy he is. It’s too much and not enough when Hoseok continues his repetitions. Up and down, up and down—slowly, agonizingly, perfectly.

 

“Mhmm,” Jungkook moans in the darkness of his room, the noise bouncing off the royal blue walls.  He grips the silk sheet, bunching it between his fingers, his hand bobbing up and down slowly, carefully, creating friction as it moves. His body jerks, pushing into the heat. He wants more, needs more.

 

“Fuck,” Hoseok groans in his ear, “you really are a wanton little slut aren’t you?”

The question comes as Hoseok gradually speeds up his movement, and Jungkook groans incoherently as he bucks forward. The increased speed comes with a firmer hold, Hoseok tightening his grip, incorporating tiny squeezes as he continues to stroke along the shaft of his cock. The alternating changes in pressure have Jungkook seeing stars. He leans forward, trying to look down, to see what Hoseok’s doing, but his eyes are rolling back in is his head because suddenly and without warning, Hoseok changes direction.

“You like that, huh?” He can hear the confident smirk, almost gloating, in Hoseok’s voice.

 

And yes, Jungkook liked it; he liked it a lot. Picking up the pace, he rocks into his hand, creating a maddening rhythm. Tonight is one night Jungkook’s thankful for their large house, for the distance between his parent’s room and his own. No one hears as he pants loudly or when the springs in his mattress begin to creak under the pressure of his movements, his mind sparking like lit firecrackers. He switches direction, stroking from tip to base. His legs start to tremble as he squeezes harder and pumps faster. Precum mixes with the saliva, and wet, slick noises bounce around the room, causing a sense of urgency to bloom in Jungkook’s core as his arches further off the mattress.

 

God, I want to fuck you. You’d let me, wouldn’t you, Kookie? You’d let me cum inside you, too, wouldn’t you? Fill you with my cum, bet you’d like that, wouldn’t you baby?” Hoseok taunts him, baits him, starts a picture show in his mind that Jungkook can’t block out.

Yes, he would. He’s never had sex before. He’s come close. Never with someone of the same gender, but if Hoseok’s dick feels anything like his hand, Jungkook's pretty sure he’d beg the man to be his fake boyfriend for life. He squirms as Hoseok's touch becomes overwhelming, his mind unsure how to react. He wants to explode, like an A-bomb of erratic, unstable desire. In the same breath, he wants to slow down the moment and let the sensation become a memory, like a photo or a keepsake.

Hoseok twists his hand, the motion now circular, round and round instead of up and down.

“Ahh-hh-rgh..shi-” Jungkook can’t form words. His brain has seized. He jerks forward and tries to follow the rhythm, but he can’t.

“That’s my good baby. Cum for me, Kookie,” Hoseok encourages, voice deep, gravely, dirty. The sound vibrating through his body, heightening the twists and tweaks of Hoseok’s hand. “Say, my name, Jungkookie. Loud.”

Hoseok flicks his thumb against his tip, and it’s the final straw, the one that breaks him.

 

“Shit, Hoseok, Hoseok, Hoseok! Oh God!” The man’s names echoes in the quiet of his room.

He cums. Hard. Soiling his two hundred dollar sheets.

 

Hoseok’s movements don’t stop, even as Jungkook trembles and cries. Strung out, almost hungover after painting Hoseok’s wrist and the front of his pants white, his whole person stutters as Hoseok continues to rub him through his orgasm. Jungkook wants to both run away from what he feels and stay and enjoy it. It’s overwhelming, and there are no words to adequately describe the rush. His world has gone from black and white to technicolor, sound and touch have been intensified by the thousands.

“Such a good baby,” Hoseok speaks the words against his mouth just before pulling Jungkook’s bottom lip between his teeth and biting hard.

 

“Oh FUCK!” he screams.

Then blackness.

 

“Jungkook,” his father summons him to his office.

When he was younger, his father calling him into his study was a happy event. The walls are a mini-monument of his father’s achievements, plaques, photos, and framed newspaper clippings line the eggplant colored stucco.

“Yes sir,” he greets his father with a tiny bow.

“Have a seat, Jungkook.” It’s said with a stern edge. Jungkook sighs.

He’s been waiting for this, the moment his father would corner him about his comment at dinner. It’s been two weeks, two weeks since he insinuated that his love interest may not be female. Two. Weeks. Even though he knew the man wouldn’t ignore it, it still stings a bit to realize he’s been put off for so long. Jungkook wonders which work crisis or business associate beat him out for the top place in his father’s life. He wants to ask, but he doesn’t. The question will join the stock-pile of queries he hasn’t voiced over the years.

His father sits behind a traditionally styled, cherry wood desk. The carved designs in the front remind him of a mix of flowers and snakes, what it would look like if snakes were flowers as well. The antique brass handles are his favorite part of the desk. They make the piece of furniture feel old, rustic, and used. It reminds Jungook of an old western. His father sighs. He tears his eyes away from the desk to look up.

“What has gotten into you lately?” the older man starts.

“I’m not sure what you mean, Father?” Apart from his comment at the dinner table, Jungkook’s life as it is lived in front of his parents has remained much the same.

“I think you’re taking your little joke too far.” Jungkook can tell his father is choosing his words carefully.

“What joke?” He isn’t confused; he knows precisely what his father is referring to.

“Don’t play coy, Jungkook,” his father retorts, voice firm as he leans forward in his chair, placing his elbows on the desk. “You know exactly what I’m talking about. I don’t understand why you insist on this passive-aggressive form of rebellion.”

“I haven’t done anything that should be categorized as rebellious,” Jungkook states calmly.

The truth is, he hasn’t. He’s not a child. He no longer requires his parents' permission. A feeling of rebellion does exist though, a tiny revolution of sorts. He usually doesn’t talk back. In every other encounter of this sort, he’d listen, accept, and fume on the inside. This is the most forward he’s ever been when speaking with his father.

“So you believe that little stunt you pulled about your supposed interest not being a girl is normal behavior?” His father cocks an eyebrow.

When Jungkook was younger, that action was synonymous with his father being disappointed in him. He’s sure the meaning hasn’t changed, but his response has. The realization surprises him. It’s recent. Were they having this conversation a month ago, Jungkook would have sat silently, accepting his father's disparaging words. Today, perhaps for the first time ever, he finds his voice.

“I never said the person I liked was a girl, Father. You assumed it was so. How is that rebellious?”

Silence. His father doesn't reply. Instead, the man studies him, eyes narrowing on Jungkook’s face as though he’s never seen him before, and in many ways, he thinks his father hasn’t. The year Jungkook turned ten, his father’s business became a fortune five hundred, and Jungkook’s position in the family when from son to heir.

“Fine. You want to continue the game? Fine,” his father bookends his statement. “Your mother’s new movie premieres in two weeks. Why don’t you bring your new friend-” the man makes air quotes, “as your plus one and allow your mother and I to meet him?”

He almost says no, almost. He realizes his father’s trying to call his bluff.

“Okay,” he says, looking his father straight in the eyes. The man blinks, stunned, but doesn’t withdraw the invitation. “Is that all, sir?”

“Yes,” there’s a quiver in his father’s voice, it has Jungkook feeling a sense of power.

“Thank you, Father. I’m sure my friend will be very excited to attend,” he says with another bow as he exits the room.

 

“Holy shit, your mother is—well damn,”Hoseok shakes his head with a long whistle.  “I had my first real coming of age moment to a picture of your mother. Small world.”

Jungkook’s not sure where to lead the conversation from this point. The thought Hoseok jerking off to photos of his mother is disturbing but not uncommon. Jungkook has had the not so happy happenstance of encountering more people than he’d like to admit in his age range who find his mother attractive. A classic MILTF, one of his classmates informed him a year or two ago.

Hoseok’s statement has a different sensation curling in Jungkook’s core. It’s a feeling he can’t quantify. His relationship with the other boy doesn’t require a deep or profound understanding of his emotions. Their affiliation is a business deal and nothing more; once he gets what he wants, the partnership ends. Looking up at Hoseok, who still seems to be in awe of his mother’s identity, Jungkook wonders about his reasons, what he’s hoping to achieve. The words were said on a whim, and the idea was born in a moment of passion, but what he hopes to gain? Well, Jungkook’s not exactly sure.

“So, a movie premiere, huh? Sounds fancy. Not sure if you can tell, Jungkookie, but I’m not a suit and tie kind of guy.” Hoseok’s words draw him out of his head.

“I never said you had to wear either,” he informs the older boy.

“True. But there’ll be reporters and paparazzi and shit, right?” Hoseok, for all his bravado (that Jungkook has experienced first hand), seems nervous about attending the event.

Jungkook nods.

Hoseok doesn’t say anything, and for a short stint, Jungkook worries he’s going to decline. The thought of his father winning makes his insides squirm. For once in his life, Jungkook would like to have the upper hand in their parent-child relationship. He knows his father genuinely believes that his words are a lie, a cleverly constructed ploy for attention. To a certain extent it is, but it is also very real. He dearly wants to prove his father wrong.

He says none of this to Hoseok.

“I guess I could borrow something from Namjoon. Yoongi’s hyung is about my size,” Hoseok muses.

“Or we could go shopping,” Jungkook suggests. “I mean, I’ve never been on a shopping date. I’ve actually never gone shopping in a mall. Most of my clothing is tailored or bought by a stylist my mother employs.”

“Shit, that’s some real high-class shit, fuck,” Hoseok seems genuinely awed, and Jungkook can only nod. “Wait. Shopping for like, clothes?”

Jungkook nods again.

“You and me?” Hoseok asks slowly as though the thought is beyond belief.

“Uhm, yes?” It comes off more question than reply.

Silence follows as Hoseok studies him, the man’s eyes roving over Jungkook’s face, and it’s unsettling. He wonders what the older boy is looking for and if he’s finding the answer. Jungkook’s not a talker by nature. He was raised to be seen and not heard. It’s in his nature to keep his thoughts to himself and not share what he thinks or feels. This lack of sound is not comforting. Hoseok’s presence has him feeling antsy.

“You’ve really never been to a mall?” Hoseok breaks the silence.

“My mother did an opening once. I was nine or ten, I think, and we got to go on a tour with the owner. Does that count?” 

“You make me seriously reconsider being jealous of the rich,” Hoseok informs him with a shake of his head. “All the money in the world and you can’t even enjoy it properly. What a shame.” Hoseok sounds genuinely disappointed. “Okay, Jungkookie, you can be my sugar daddy. Take me shopping, mi amor. Make me beautiful.” Hoseok bats his lashes and puckers his lips, and Jungkook blinks, unsure yet again of how to respond.

Hoseok’s an enigma, a collaboration of polka dots and stripes, leather and lace. He’s a mixture of textures that shouldn’t go together, and yet they fit so perfectly. The older man smiles and laughs, but there’s no warmth, no joy in the depths of his eyes. Yet he’s saved Jungkook from a stranger and warned him about the dangers of the world. It makes no sense. Jungkook thinks there’s more pain hidden behind the man’s ear to ear grin, and it makes him believe that maybe he and Hoseok aren’t that different after all. Perhaps they both wear masks to conceal their true selves.

“Earth to sugar daddy,” Hoseok calls out to him snapping a finger in his face.

“Oh, uhm… sorry,” he apologizes and feels the heat rising to his cheeks.

“Thinking about how good I’m gonna looks in a fancy suit, weren’t ya?”

“No!” Jungkook blurts out.

Hoseok laughs loud, and it’s different from his usual smirks, different from his empty smiles, but Jungkook’s not sure why.

“Relax kid, I’m just shitting with you. But so you know, I look fucking hot in a suit. You should daydream.”

 

 

“You’re taking Hoseok where?” Jimin balks, mouth slightly open, eyebrows drawn as though Jungkook has told him he's an alien from another planet.

“My father told me to bring him to my mother’s premiere,” he repeats his statement.

“Has, uhm, have your parents met Hoseok?” Taehyung looks equally as baffled.

“Mmm, no.” He shakes his head for emphasis.

“You’re gonna take an enforcer to the opening of your mom’s movie?”

“Enforcer?” Jungkook looks up confused. “What’s that?”

“Seriously Jungkook, what century were you born in? I swear to God, if you didn’t have Jimin and I you’d, live in a house with white walls and no windows and never know that a world filled with bright, vivid colors existed outside.”

“What Taehyung is trying to say,” Jimin cuts in and steps forward, pushing Taehyung out of the way, “quiet rudely might add, is that you can be a little naïve about how the world works. Hoseok’s not the kind of person you want to take to fancy events that may or may not directly affect your mother’s career. While I’m all for you shaking up the Barbie dreamhouse you live in, this,” Jimin waves his hand dramatically, “this may not be the way to do.”

“I didn’t do it. My father told me to bring him, challenged me, to be honest. If Hoseok doesn’t come, then my father wins.”

Jungkook sighs. He’s not sure when he declared war. Maybe the battle has been going on all along, manifesting in each tiny burst of anger that he pushes down or in the times he gets his hopes up only to have them dashed and ignored. He feels like a guest in his own life, and he’s tired of it.

“I think Taheyung and I should come with you,” Jimin announces a few minutes later, his voice softened. It’s the tone he uses when he’s worried.

“If you and Taehyung hyung come, then it defeats the purpose. My father will just see Hoseok as another one of my friends. I’ve thought about this, hyung.” He hasn’t. “I know what I’m doing.” He doesn’t.

In fact, Jungkook has no idea what he’s doing. The words had first fallen out of his mouth on a whim. There was no forethought, no planned out concept. His statement that fateful day was born from a need, from years of feeling invisible in his skin, in his home. Now, now that the words were out, swimming in the ether, now that he’s planted an idea in his father’s mind that there may be more to him than the third person at the dinner table, there’s no going back.

Jimin sighs. It’s deep, and tiny wrinkles appear at the corners of his friend’s eyes. He knows that Jimin is scared for him, nervous about how this could impact him later. It’s funny, he thinks to himself, that his friends are more afraid about his future than he is, and right now, he’s too far gone to even question why.

“You’re sure?” Jimin questions again after a while, his hand is on Jungkook’s shoulder, and his eyes are searching Jungkook’s eyes.

“I’m sure hyung.” He’s not. But his voice is firm, confident as he holds Jimin’s worried gaze.

“Okay.” Jimin slowly accepts the situation.

“I’m taking him shopping, to uhm, buy clothes,” he informs his friends.

Taehyung’s laughter from his spot curled up on the leather sofa has Jungkook turning in his direction.

“Have you ever even been shopping?”

“No, not really. But, I mean, how hard can it be?” Jungkook’s not sure what all the fuss is about.

“No, no, my little inexperienced friend. Shopping for clothes is not a sprint; it’s a marathon,” Taehyung starts, and Jimin nods his head in agreement. Jungkook wonders how something so simple is turning into such a trial. “First you have to know what fits your body type and what colors look best on you. Because Jungkook, clothing is not about covering your body, it’s about putting your body on display. A walking mannequin, so to speak. People should look twice, should want to know where you got what you have on, and have a deep, dark desire to peel it off your skin to see what’s underneath.” Taehyung sits up, eyes twinkling with mischief, mouth set in a curious, square, almost a smirk as he continues. “Whatever you buy Hoseok must make even your straight laced, douchebag of a father want to fuck him before the night is over.”

“Eww, Taehyung, can you not. I could have lived my whole life without the mental picture of Jungkook’s dad fucking Hoseok hyung. God, you’re nasty. Is sex all you think about?” Jimin scolds Taehyung.

“Park Jimin, do I need to remind you about how you got your ‘A’ in organic bio?” Taehyung makes air quotes, and Jimin turns a shade of red that makes Jungkook curious about other dubious grades that the boy has received.

“Don’t ask,” Jimin tells him, a hand in the air, signaling Jungkook to not even think about opening his mouth. He chuckles at the death glare Jimin’s casting in Taehyung’s direction. In true Taehyung form, the man ignores the daggers flying from Jimin with ease.

“I think Saint Laurent,” Taehyung says out of the blue.

“Huh?” Jungkook and Jimin respond in unison, confused by the sudden topic change.

“For Hoseok hyung, Saint Laurent. Their suits have clean lines that would suit hyung’s frame really well.” Taehyung looks at them as though he can’t understand why they weren’t following the conversation.

“Though it pains me to say this, he’s right. Hoseok hyung, although it’s hard to tell, is nicely decked out under those oversized hoodies he likes to wear,” Jimin muses, and Jungkook doesn’t ask how his friend is privy to this information.

“If you say so,” Jungkook replies with a shrug. He was just going to let Hoseok pick out what he liked then pay for it. He decides that having a point of reference in case Hoseok’s asks is probably a good idea.

“This does not inspire confidence, Jungkook. I feel like Hoseok's gonna show up in a graphic tee and ripped jeans. It can’t be a just be yourself event. Your dad will see through that in a heartbeat. When your father sees Hoseok, he needs to think to himself, ‘okay, I see why.’ First impressions are the most important,” Taehyung educates him.

It makes sense, what Taehyung is saying. Hoseok’s father is a master at spotting bullshit. It’s how he went from a one-man organization to a fortune five hundred company. If Jungkook hopes to get on the man’s radar, Hoseok needs to make a lasting impression. A feeling of biting off more than he can chew has his head swimming, and once again, he wonders what he’s hoping to gain.

“How will I know what suit is right?”

“Trust me on this, you’ll know,” Taehyung answers as he and Jimin exchange knowing smiles.

Lying in his bed that night, Jungkook once again wonders at his reasoning, at the timing, at why he chose to open his mouth and blurt out that statement to his father. He’s never been one for confrontation. He’s more of a silent brooder. He’s never caused any waves, not even the slightest ripple, but here he is, openly challenging his parents to a duel, not one with swords or guns but every bit as dangerous because someone has to lose, and the cost could be his life or life as he knows it. He wonders if he’s prepared for the aftermath.

 

“You sure you don’t want to go shopping today?” Jungkook asks as they stand in line for popcorn.

Hoseok had called out of the blue and suggested a date. Jungkook is still somewhat wary, wondering why the man was suddenly motivated to take the initiative. Every encounter and meeting thus far has been at Jungkook’s behest.

“Yeah. I was thinking we don’t know a lot about each other. If we’re going to fool your parents, then we need backstories, how we met and shit like that. And we should at least know the basics about each other. All I really know about you is that your mother is hot and you make pretty sounds when you cum,” Hoseok tells him, a wicked gleam in his eyes.

Jungkook wonders if he’ll ever be immune to Hoseok’s teasing. Since day one, the man has had his number, knowing exactly what buttons to push to elicit a reaction. It’s confusing, the magical hold that Hoseok has over him without even trying. It’s confusing and exciting but also not real. Jungkook has to continually remind himself that none of this is real.

“How is watching a movie going to help us know each other better?” Jungkook enquires. “I mean, we can’t exactly talk, that's rude. Plus, I kind of want to see this movie.”

Ironman is Jungkook’s all-time favorite movie. He was a kid when the first one came out, and it sealed his love of superhero movies. His friends prefer clubs over films, and on more than one occasion he’s been teased about his collection of Marvel paraphernalia. His only real chance to watch a movie, without being the lonely loser who goes to theaters by himself,  is attending premieres with his mother. Usually those are romcoms or something his mother is starring in. There’s a happy excitement building in his core at the thought of seeing this movie with someone other than his parents. He doesn’t want to spoil it by talking.

“It won’t,” Hoseok informs him cheekily. “I just wanna see this movie. I love Black Panther. Plus, wasn’t this on your list of dates you’ve seen in dramas list?”

Jungkook grimaces, shrieking internally in embarrassment. In all fairness, he was a bit drunk when they had the let’s date talk. It was the night he asked Hoseok to date him for money. In his half-drunken haze he listed off all the dates he’d watched in dramas that he’d fantasized about. Hoseok, it appears, has the memory of an elephant.

“You know, you don’t have to keep bringing that up,” Jungkook retorts.

“I know, but it’s so much fun. Your cheeks get red, and you get this look on your face like you smell something bad. Your nose crinkles and shit. It’s kind of adorable,” Hoseok says the last part offhandedly, not really paying attention to Jungkook as he speaks, too busy pointing out the candy he wants to the clerk behind the concession stand.

It’s not real, he warns himself as a feeling of warmth spreads through his core. Hoseok may have said the words  unguardedly, but they don’t mean anything, Jungkook reminds himself.

“Hey, are you listening?” Hoseok snaps his fingers in front of Jungkook's face. He hadn't realize he’d zoned out.

“Sorry?”

“I said what do you want? My treat.” Hoseok repeats.

“Oh, uhm, popcorn, lots of butter, and cherry coke, please,” he replies, and yeah, he’s excited. Jungkook’s never eaten greasy popcorn, and soda is a sin in his house.

“You look like a kid in a toy store. You’re so deprived for someone so rich?”

“We don’t really eat junk food, because of my mom, and my dad—I’m not sure why with him,” Jungkook tells him.

After ordering they carry the sugary-salty treats to the check-in kiosk where they present their tickets to the attendant who informs them their movies in on theater B. Jungkook looks around in awe. The movie posters line the halls, and he laughs when he spots his mother’s face on one of them. It’s surreal to think that his mother is a professional actress yet he can count on one hand the number of times he’s actually been to a movie.

“Ahh, there it is,” Hoseok utters pointing to Jungkook’s left.

“Jung Hoseok,” a voice unfamiliar to Jungkook calls from behind them.

Jungkook pauses his strides, about to turn around when Hoseok firmly grabs his arm, holding him in place.

“Stay behind me,” he commands Jungkook under his breath. Hoseok guides him behind his back as they turn. “Hyung,” Hoseok acknowledges the man’s presence, voice hard, cold, unfeeling.

There’s an edge to Hoseok’s tone, something that alerts Jungkook to the fact that this present situation is more perilous than he might think. The man’s aura has changed. Gone is the teasing person from before. In his stead is someone hard, dark, even more unfamiliar to Jungkook. Hoseok may be a virtual stranger to him in many ways, but this version of the man is downright alien.

Looking up over Hoseok’s shoulder, Jungkook’s eyes widen at the man standing before them. The stranger is every movie villain come to life, from the greased back hair to the meaning smirk coloring his lips. The man’s stance suggests that he wants to start a fight.

“We haven’t seen you around lately, Hoseok-ah. The boss misses you.” The words slither out of the man’s mouth like the hiss of a snake.

The tone is anything but friendly, and beneath the statement, there’s a hidden threat. Jungkook shivers involuntarily behind Hoseok, and the man must feel it because a hand finds Jungkook’s wrist and squeezes it comfortingly. The touch is calming even though his heart is still pounding in his ears.

The stranger notices him.

“Who do we have here?” The man cranes his neck to get a better view of Jungkook.

He feels Hoseok’s hand pushing him to the center, behind Hoseok’s head, blocking the man’s view.

“He,” Hoseok starts, “is none of your concern. If the boss misses me, he knows where to find me.”

“What about me? I miss you too,” the man mocks. Jungkook shudders again. The words feel like cold water on his face. He reaches out unconsciously, his fingers bunching the material of Hoseok’s black hoodie in his hand.

“I don’t give a fuck about your feelings. I don’t work for you, and the last time I checked, I wasn’t on anyone’s payroll as an employee,” Hoseok retorts. “Don’t fuck with me, Sam. The last time it didn’t go so well for you. Don’t mistake my good looks for weakness.”

The words are said calmly, almost too calmly. The statement doesn't feel like a threat, more like Hoseok’s stating a fact. It’s in that moment that Jungkook realizes he knows nothing about Hoseok’s life, nothing about what the man does when they’re not together. In fact, Hoseok has warned him on more than one occasion that he wasn’t a good guy, and now he wonders about the validity of the man’s words.

“Relax, Seokie, we’re just having a friendly conversation,” the man replies, and he takes a step back, his hands waving in front of him.

“Nothing you do is friendly, Sam. You interrupt my personal time again, and I won’t be this polite,” Hoseok warns.

The man stares them down for a brief interlude, as though weighing his options. Then smiles, and like Hoseok’s, it doesn’t reach his eyes.

“Calm down, my friend. My apologies. I justed wanted to say hi,” the man says, and the tone is still frightening.

The man casts one last look, peering over Hoseok’s shoulder, still trying to get a glimpse. Jungkook notices him from his spot behind Hoseok, an eye peeking around the side of Hoseok’s neck.

“Why aren’t you gone yet?” Hoseok challenges.

“One day Hoseok, you and me, we’re going come to an understanding,” the man says as he turns and walks away.

“You okay?” Hoseok turns to face him.

Jungkook can’t keep himself from trembling, and he’s unable to find words so shakes his head. He finds himself in Hoseok’s arms, pressed into his chest. He buries his face in Hoseok’s neck and inhales, letting whatever cheap cologne mixed with deodorant that Hoseok is wearing seep into his olfactory glands. The scent is musky, earthy, and grounding. He feels his heart rate slowly lowering and his breathing returning to normal.

“We can leave if you want?” Hoseok tells him, his voice soft.

“No, no, I want to stay,” he replies, inhaling the man’s aroma one last time before pulling away. “I really want to see this movie.”

Hoseok stares at him for a brief moment then gives a tiny nod of his head, agreeing to Jungkook’s request. They sit in the last row of seats, the ones against the wall. The movie distracts him, and Jungkook gets lost in the color and action happening on the screen in front of him. Every now and then he steals a look to his left, but no matter how discreet he tries to be, Hoseok always catches him and holds his gaze briefly, eyes searching Jungkook’s face worriedly before looking away.

Jungkook returns his focus to the movie and has a moment of realization when Killmonger declares war on Black Panther, telling the hero how many people he has killed and in how many countries. The character’s callousness and lack of guilt about what he’s done has Jungkook remembering the encounter in the hallway. Once again, he’s reminded that Hoseok is a stranger, that this game he’s playing could have ramifications that go beyond just getting a rise from his parents.

Turning his head again, he steals another glance, and Hoseok's eyes are there looking directly at him with the same worried look on his face. Jungkook tilts his head, studying Hoseok. The man is hard to read.

“Hyung,” Jungkook’s surprised that his lips are moving, “are you a bad guy? Are you dangerous?”

“Yes. Yes, I am.”

There’s no hesitation, and Jungkook turns back around and sinks in his seat.

 

The bus is empty, and Hoseok wonders if Jungkook’s ever been on a bus before. The younger man is usually dropped off and picked up by a private car. They’re sitting in the back row, right beside each other even though almost all the seats are empty. Their hands are resting on the seats next to each other, and each shake of the vehicle has them touching. Jungkook’s head is leaning against the glass, bouncing slightly with the motion of the bus.

“It wasn’t always like this,” he starts.

He doesn’t owe Jungkook an explanation. This is the risk the youngster took when he decided to offer a stranger money to date him. To the younger man’s credit, he hasn’t asked for details and hasn’t changed the way he interacts with Hoseok. Jungkook slowly turns to face him, and it dawns on Hoseok how young the kid is, how innocent he is, and how nervous he was when Sam appeared.

“I had a less than stellar upbringing. My dad died when I was five, and my mother married my stepdad when I was seven. I went to school like any kid, was even part of a dance crew.” He laughs softly at the surprised look on Jungkook’s face. “I got moves, kid. Maybe one day I’ll show them to you. Anyway, due to circumstances that we’re not close enough for me to divulge, I had to leave home at the age of sixteen. There aren’t a lot of options for a homeless teen. I had to survive, you know? My life, or certain parts of my life, are dangerous, and yes, there are parts of me that are bad. I had to learn to be hard, to not care. It’s how I survive. If this scares you and you want to call off the deal, I get it.”

It surprises him, the illogical need to protect this person he doesn’t know. There’s an innocence to Jungkook that Hoseok wants to preserve. Maybe it’s his way of coming to terms with the loss of his. He’s not sure why, and he can’t think about it too much. He’s not Namjoon. He doesn't do philosophical.

“No,” Jungkook blurts out almost immediately. “I don’t want to stop. Truthfully, I was scared in the hall, scared of that guy. But, but-” the younger man takes a deep breath and looks up, and it’s striking what Hoseok sees reflecting from Jungkook’s eyes, “I trust you hyung.”

Trust. That is what Hoseok sees in Jungkook’s depths, and it scares him.

“You don’t know me, Jungkook. I told you to stop being so naïve. The world isn’t filled with nice people; your house isn’t even filled with them. You wouldn’t need a fake boyfriend if it were. Stop being so damn trusting.”

The person in front of them turns and shushes them with a finger to his lips and an extremely irritated look on his face.

“Sorry,” Jungkook apologizes, and Hoseok’s not sure who the boy is directing it to.

He grabs Jungkook’s hand, holding it in his own. Jungook looks down at their hands then up at Hoseok with a questioning expression on his face.

“This is what people do on dates,” he whispers, and he’s graced with a tiny shy smile.

“I know you think I’m simple,” Jungkook leans in, talking under his breath, “and yes, there’s a lot I’ve been sheltered from, but I’m a good judge of character, hyung, and while our lifestyles may differ because of circumstances, I think we’re a lot alike. We both want more than the life we’re leading now. Maybe doing this, pretending to date, will help us find what we’re looking for somehow.”

Hoseok doesn’t respond. Jungkook resumes leaning his had against the glass. Hoseok remembers Yoongi’s word when his friend told him to be careful, when he warned him about nice boys. Jungkook is a nice boy. It dawns on Hoseok as he tries not to ponder how easily his and Jungkook’s hands fit together, that Yoongi is right. Jungkook may be the most significant threat that Hoseok encounters after all. The boy makes him feel things, and that’s the biggest danger of all.

He closes his eyes and leans his head back against the headrest, and for the first time since leaving his home at the age of sixteen, Hoseok allows himself to simply enjoy the moment of normalcy.

 

“Oh, I forgot, Mino wanted me to ask if you’re free to DJ next Friday?” Yoongi tells him, the couch squeaking as the man sits up.

“Oh, really? Wait, next Friday? I can’t.”

“You’re saying no to money?” Namjoon pipes up from his spot on the floor in front of the old couch.

“Well, he has a sugar daddy now,” Yoongi teases.

“More like a sugar baby,” Hoseok quips.

“How’s that going, the fake dating?” Yoongi asks.

“Okay, I guess. The kid’s way too trusting. If I were a different personality type, that kid would be missing or worse by now. He told me he trusted me the other day,” Hoseok relays to his friends.

“You seem worried about that. You’re not starting to like the kid, are you?” Yoongi leans forward in his seat. The edges of his mouth curve slightly, but not in a smile, more like a grimace.

“I bumped into Sam at the theater-”

“Fuck,” Namjoon spits out, cutting him off. “I thought you said you gave up being a runner?”

“I did, I have. I’m not on the payroll. I was a back up anyway. Himchan said I wasn’t cut out for the job. Sam is just an ass who likes to stir things up. The thing is, the kid and I were out at the time.”

“Shit, did Sam see him? That man’s crazy in the head.” Yoongi sounds concerned.

Namjoon and Yoongi have never worked for Himchan, but they have had the pleasure dealing with Sam, and the encounter was anything but pleasant and subsequently lead to Hoseok’s early retirement. Sam holds a grudge, and revenge is his payback of choice. Hoseok had made the man look bad on a job, and Sam showed his displeasure by beating Namjoon to a bloody pulp. Hoseok returned the favor, and he and the man now have a little war of sorts. For the most part, Hoseok’s not worried. Sam, for all his bravado, is scared of Hoseok, but that doesn’t mean he won’t try to manipulate Jungkook if he were ever to learn the boy’s identity.

“I don’t think so. I hid Jungkook behind my back,” Hoseok assures him.

“I hope you’re right.” Yoongi doesn’t sound convinced.

“So why are you turning down the DJ job?” Namjoon inquires after a while.

“I, my lowly friends, am going to a movie premiere,” he proudly informs the duo.

“Premiere? Like you’re going on opening night?” Yoongi asks confused.

“No, as in Jungkook’s mother is Son Ye Jin, and yours truly will be accompanying the young prince to the premiere of his mother’s new movie.”

“No shit! Fuck, Son Ye Jin is gorgeous,” Namjoon exclaims. “She’s high class. Shit, Jungkook must be loaded.” Namjoon gives a low whistle, and Hoseok nods his head.

“Yeah, he lives in a world that you and I couldn’t imagine if we tried,” Hoseok muses, thinking about how deprived Jungkook’s life seems compared to his. “Money isn’t everything though,” he adds offhandedly.

 

“So, are you ready for the premiere?” his father questions the moment dinner begins.

Jungkook looks up, surprised by the question. He can’t remember a time recently when he father didn’t have a pile of work sitting before him at the table.

“Yes, Father, I’m looking forward to it,” he answers before dipping his spoon in the red liquid he assumes is soup.

“And your friend? Is he looking forward to it as well?”

“Yes. He’s a big fan of Mother’s,” he informs them as he takes another spoonful of what turns out to be a spicy roasted red pepper soup.

“Ahh, how lovely,” his mother chirps from across the table. “I love fans. Where did you and your new friend meet?” she asks. It’s another first, his mother speaking during dinner. Most meals find his mother glued to her phone, checking messages and rearranging her schedule or in a near zombie-like state due to whatever relaxants her doctor has prescribed. Having her participate is a mixed bag of emotions for Jungkook, realizing that it’s due to the conversation centering around her.

“I met him at an outing with Taehyung and Jimin,” he informs his mother.

“Ahh, that reminds me, I need to speak with Taehyung’s mother,” his mother states suddenly, gently wiping her mouth with a cloth napkin before laying it on her plate. “Jungkook, I look forward to meeting your friend.” His mother excuses herself from the table, leaving Jungkook alone with his father.

There’s a shift in the atmosphere with his mother gone, the room feels uneven, unbalanced somehow. It’s not as though he hasn't spent time alone with his father before, of course he has. When he was younger, he relished anytime with his father, but as Jungkook began to grow, his feelings began to change. It’s normal, he supposes, his post-teen angst. A right of passage, pushing the limits, finding one’s boundaries.

“Will we be meeting your friend before the event?” His father’s question sounds more like a challenge than a genuine inquiry. “You’ve been spending a lot of time away recently.” The man notes out of the blue.

Jungkook is quite literally dumbfounded. In the tenth grade, he spent a week away at overnight camp, and when he returned home, only his nanny had been aware of his absence. So this moment is huge, unprecedented. Yes, he’s been going out more than usual lately, but he returns home every night and has not missed a family dinner. His father paying attention to his goings and comings, well, he’s not sure how to feel. He wants the attention, craves it, but not like this. He wants it to be given out of affection, not just to prove him wrong.

“Did you want to meet him prior?”

“I think that would be appropriate, don’t you?” His father’s voice is brisk, cold, and Jungkook blinks at the hidden anger he hears there.

“Yes, I suppose it is. I just wasn’t aware you wanted to meet him,” he answers slowly, unsure of the exact words to say.

“He’s in a relationship with my son. I think I have a right as your parent to know what kind of person you’re letting into your life.”

Jungkook doesn’t say the words on the tip of his tongue. He doesn’t remind his father that it’s never mattered before. He doesn’t tell him that he knows his father’s sudden interested in Jungkook’s life isn’t about Jungkook or his desire to be a better parent at all. Their perfect image is what his father is worried about. What  will the press think? How will it affect his stocks and portfolio. His father isn’t concerned about him; he’s worried about the bottom line.

“Very well, Father,” he bites out, then he draws back, controlling his emotions. “We’re going on a shopping date this Wednesday. I can have him meet me here and introduce him to you and Mother. If you’d like me to?”

His father studies him for a brief moment. There are questions his father’s grave brown eyes, questions that he doesn’t ask.

“That would be fine,” his father answers just before taking a sip of his Chardonnay.

They finish the rest of the meal in silence. Like boxers in different corners of the ring, they each eat quietly, thoughtfully, strategizing on the best move to knock the other out.

 

 

Jungkook’s staring. He’s trying not to but it’s difficult, and he’s pretty certain that the show Taehyung and Namjoon are putting on at the end of the table is meant to be seen. His friend is straddling the blond’s lap, and Namjoon’s large hands are gripping Taehyung’s waist on either side, long fingers digging into the boy’s leather-clad skin. Jungkook wonders what shape the bruises that are bound to appear will look like. The random thought has him thinking about Hoseok.

He shakes his head, hoping to erase the imagery that’s wanting to form. They haven’t had further moments past the back alley of McDonalds. He smiles to himself. Big Mac has a whole new meaning to him after that night. His body aches. He glances over at Taehyung and Namjoon once more, alone in their own world, trying to eat each other. He hopes they both survive, even as the hint of jealousy rears its ugly head.

The club is noisy, loud, crowded. Jungkook is not a fan of any of those things, but he loves music, loves to dance. Looking over at the dance floor longingly, he spies Jimin and Yoongi dancing close, illogically close given the tempo of the music. Jimin’s grinding against Yoongi as the man holds him tightly, one hand on each of Jimin’s buttocks. They’re smiling, and again he feels the green-eyed monster hissing in discontentment.

Hoseok’s sitting beside him, quiet, lips pressed together, his mouth is almost a straight line. The man has been like this ever since Jungkook informed him that his father wanted to meet him before the premiere. Jungkook wants to ask if Hoseok’s okay, wants to offer him an easy out, but he stays quiet. A habit he needs to break, his silence.

He hears Hoseok inhale just before he feels the man’s breath on his neck.

“Wanna dance? I need to clear my head,” Hoseok asks as he leans a way to take a gulp of whatever brown liquid graced the ice in his cup.”

He nods and tries to hide his smile. It seems he’s failed as Hoseok looks at him curiously but says nothing. Standing to his feet, preparing to walk forward, he’s surprised when Hoseok grabs his hand and entwines their fingers before leading him to the dance floor in the middle of the room. All he can do is stare at the way their digits fit together perfectly, like puzzle pieces.

It feels real, this moment, and Jungkook warns himself not to get attached, not to be naïve, to take Hoseok’s advice and not trust so easily. But as Hoseok pulls him to stand in front of him, snaking an arm behind Jungook’s back, placing a warm palm on the curve of his spine, he realizes it’s already too late. He likes Hoseok, the dangerous stranger, much more than he should.

 The music slows the moment Hoseok’s eyes find his, and Jungkook is imprisoned immediately, a willing slave, a wave being tossed and carried by Hoseok’s ocean. Every move the man makes is elegant, precise, grabbing the music and making it his own. It’s gentle and soft, the way he feels in Hoseok’s arms, pressed into Hoseok’s skin, his body obeying. following the slightest nudge or prodding of the man’s guidance.

Yet there’s a harshness to the dance, a warning in the back of Jungkook’s mind telling him this moment should not be underestimated, cautioning him not to give too much too easily. It’s hard to heed the advice when the sensation to let go and give in is all-consuming. Hoseok's fingers dig into his back, pushing them closer together, and the heat between them grows. Jungkook’s heart rate increases alongside it. He worries that Hoseok will hear the pounding through his skin. The dance is perfect, everything from their breathing to the way their feet move in sync. They are one, bonded together by sound and movement.

Their cheeks are touching, and he can feel Hoseok’s breath against his skin. It’s intoxicating, Jungkook decides. It’s the best way to describe Hoseok. The man can break down Jungkook’s defenses without any real pressure. It’s as though Jungkook’s a book that Hoseok has memorized. The man knows what’s written in every chapter and which page to turn to in order to get the outcome he desires, and Jungkook has yet to read even one letter.

He’s not sure when or how it happens, but their lips are touching, corner to corner, and the realization has him shivering in Hoseok’s grasp. The action has Hoseok turning his head, causing his lips to slide across Jungkook’s. He holds his breath and tries to adjust his eyes downward, but they are too close for him to see anything but the curve of Hoseok’s nose.

The fourth kiss is less hungry than its predecessors but more intimate. Hoseok’s lips brush against his gently, almost carefully, as though Jungkook is fine china that he wants to admire but not break.  His head presses in automatically, chasing after the man’s mouth. He wants more, and Hoseok’s obliges. Jungkook’s mouth falls open has Hoseok pulls his bottom lip in between his own, sucking on it. He grips the front of Hoseok shirt, needing to hold on to something, anything, as reality begins to slip away from him. He moans into Hoseok’s mouth when the man bites down on his lip, not hard, just enough to get a response.

“You’re such a problem, kid.” Hoseok speaks the words against his lips. “I’m trying fucking hard to resist you, but shit, you make it so damn hard.”

He doesn’t respond, partly because he’s not sure what to say, and partly because Hoseok’s tongue has pushed its way into his mouth and subsequently stolen all the words from his lips. He bucks forward, and a strangled sound escapes through his mouth when Hoseok’s hand squeezes his ass.

“Maybe I will come on Wednesday, meet your parents, then take you to your room and fuck you hard. Do all the nasty things I do to you in my dreams. Would like that, Kookie? Huh, baby?” Hoseok’s voice is husky and dark. It’s not menacing or frightening, but Jungkook’s body trembles anyway.

His response is a broken whimper. The mental picture of Hoseok in his room, in his bed, is too much.

“What the fuck?” Hoseok barks as Jungkook is pulled away from him almost violently.

“I should be asking you that same question, hyung,” Jimin’s growls angrily. “What the fuck do you think you’re doing?”

Jimin pushes Jungkook to stand behind him, and another hand is holding him from behind, Taehyung's hand. He’s too strung out, too far gone to say anything. He can only let himself be lead away. He’s not sure if he wanted the moment to stop, but he’s smart enough to know it needed to.

“What are you doing, Kookie?” Taehyung asks, wrapping his arms around Jungkook. He can hear Jimin in the background talking, no, screaming at Hoseok. “This isn’t you. You don’t behave like this. You’re my precious, innocent, baby Jungkookie.”

“I’m not that innocent, hyung. I-I like it, how it feels. I feel unguarded, free, lost. I don’t think about things when he touches me. I don’t feel invisible either. What’s so wrong with that?”

“It’s not real, Jungkook, that’s what’s fucking wrong,” Taehyung responds, and there’s no bite, no judgment. Just facts.

Tears sting at the corners of his eyes. Taehyung’s right. Jungkook knows what’s wrong, knows why Jimin pulled him away. He’s been numb for so long; he just wants to feel something. That’s always been the issue. It’s why he started this whole goddamn charade in the first place. Hoseok’s the first person to make him feel alive, to make his heart beat, to make him question his life. Hoseok makes him feel like he exists.

But it’s not real. He’s paying him.  There is no real human connection. He gives, and Hoseok takes.

Jungkook wants real.

His life is already fake enough. He’s the perfect, plastic child, the living doll who obeys and gives people what they want, getting nothing in return. His father, his mother, his teachers, and now Hoseok. Only unlike the others, Jungkook sought Hoseok out and gave himself away. While he can lay blame on the others, he can’t blame Hoseok. The man had warned him, on more than one occasion, not to be trusting, not to be naïve, not to just give things away. Ironically enough, in trying to gain freedom, he’s created the same damn cycle.

Looking up, he sees Hoseok walking towards him, long strides and determination in his eyes.

I want real.

Hoseok’s gets closer.

I want real.

Hoseok’s standing directly in front of him, his eyes shining and face red with anger. He’s breathing heavily. The man’s gaze never leaves his face. There’s a question being asked without words when Hoseok raises his hand in Jungkook’s direction.

Jungkook wants real, but in that moment he realizes, he wants real with Hoseok.

He raises his hand, answering Hoseok’s question.

 

 

“This is my favorite place,” Hoseok says as he turns to face Jungkook.

They haven’t spoken, not since the club, not since the kiss, not since Jimin pretty much cut him a new one for playing with his friend. Is he playing? Hoseok’s not sure anymore. He needs to think, and right now, he also needs Jungkook near. The beach is quiet, serene, peaceful. It’s the one place Hoseok feels genuinely at ease, and even then only at night, when the air is crisp and he can hear the beat and swish of the waves rather than see them.

His mother used to bring him here when things with his stepfather got too loud and they needed a break. She’d sneak into his room in the middle of the night, and they make the journey. It’s one of his fondest memories. Hoseok doesn’t think about it often. It hurts to remember his old life. They’re sitting side by side on Hoseok’s jacket that he threw on the sand when they arrived. Their arms are touching, and apart from his declaration some minutes ago, no further words have been uttered.

“Jimin is right, you know?” he confesses to the younger boy. Jungkook doesn’t move. “You’re a very complex creature, Jeon Jungkook. You straddle the line between innocence and sensual so well. I want to protect you and ravish you at the same time, and it’s becoming a problem. I don’t do relationships,” he inhales, “but I hate being alone.”

A bitter laugh escapes at the irony of the situation. When Jungkook asked for them to pretend to date, he’d jumped on it. Easy cash playing a rich boy’s boyfriend. He figured he’d just jerk Jungkook around, get what he wanted, then walk away. Only Jungkook isn’t what he expected. The world is a wonder to him, and it reminds Hoseok about a time in his life when he wasn’t jaded, when he didn’t believe that people only existed to hurt him.

“I’m not asking you to marry me, hyung,” Jungkook tells him after a while.

“I never said you were.”

They’re quiet again, sitting still, listen to the roar of the ocean. Arms touching.

“Why are you doing this, Jungkook?” he breaks the silence. He’s never really gotten a reason for the game they’re playing. Honestly, in the beginning, he wouldn’t have cared.

Jungkook inhales deeply and exhales, he repeats the action twice before speaking.

“I’m not sure. At first, it was just a wayward remark said to get a rise. Then it became more. My life, hyung, it doesn’t feel real. I don’t feel real. It’s like I’m living in one of my mom’s movies, a scripted character with no backstory.” Jungkook looks down at his hands, and Hoseok follows the gaze. The boy’s fingers are distressing the tail of his shirts. “I want to feel real, hyung.” The statement is a whisper.

“That’s a tall order, Jungkook. I’m not sure I can fill it,” he muses, mostly to himself, knowing deep down he could never be enough.

Jungkook turns, facing him in earnest, eyes wide. A hint of sadness lay in the brown orbs.

“I know. But you help, hyung. My heart beats around you. You confuse me, too.”

The moonlight reflects against Jungkook’s skin, lighting his eyes. The rays frame the boy, causing a glow to form around Jungook’s features. He looks ethereal, and Hoseok finds himself reaching out to touch just make sure what he sees isn’t an illusion.  Jungkook’s skin is warm and soft under his fingers, and the boy closes his eyes and leans his face into Hoseok’s palm.

Leaning forward, he brushes his lips lightly against Jungkook’s. The boy’s mouth falls open automatically. Pulling back, he takes a moment to study the boy. Jungkook’s eyes are still closed, and his lips are parted slightly, inviting Hoseok in. He shouldn’t accept, but the offer is too tempting and he wants it, the feel of Jungkook’s mouth moving against his, the warmth of Jungkook’s body pressing into his, the sounds, the deliciously addicting sounds he knows the boy is capable of making... Hoseok wants it all.

“A lot of what we’re doing is fake, we both know this. But this moment, what I feel, how you feel this close to me, is very real.” The statement is the most genuine thing Hoseok has said in a while.

This time it’s Jungkook who initiates the kiss. It’s shy and seeking, and it lights a flame that Hoseok knows he’ll never be able to put out. He allows Jungkook to lead, to carry on the expedition. He helps though, moving forward, resting his hand on Jungkook’s thigh to pull him forward until their legs are touching so he can angle his head to give the boy better access. Jungkook greedily accepts, maneuvering to deepen the kiss, and Hoseok’s sees stars when the boy’s tongue fights its way into his mouth.

A low moan escapes, and he tightens his grip, fingers pressing into Jungkook’s clothed skin, pulling him closer. The boy complies without a struggle, and before Hoseok has time to realize what’s happening, Jungkook’s straddling his lap and grinding down into his front with the force of a needy hurricane.

“Shit,” he hisses the word, and Jungkook immediately swallows it up.

Holding on to Jungkook firmly, he flips them over until the boy’s back is pressed into his jacket on the sandy beach. Jungkook’s hands are trapped between their bodies, up against Hoseok’s chest. Releasing Jungkook’s hip, he moves the boy’s hands, holding them above Jungkook’s head. They’re chest to chest as he devours Jungkook’s mouth, taking back control from the boy. Once again Jungkook gives without a struggle. The boy’s submissive nature is both intoxicating and scary.

“Hyung,” Jungkook chokes out and bucks into him, causing a lightning bolt of need to strike through Hoseok’s core.

Letting go of one of Jungkook hands, he slides his arm into between their bodies until his palm is resting against Jungkook’s crotch. The boy squirms needily and whimpers in Hoseok’s mouth. Jungkook’s half hard member is pushing against the fabric as Hoseok begins to rub.

“Ahh, shi—hyun-oooh,” Jungkook groans and whines, and Hoseok swallows down every sound that drips from the boy’s lips onto his tongue.

Moving his hand up, he slips it under Jungkook’s cotton shirt, gliding along the boy’s warm, muscular abdomen up, up, up until he finds what he’s looking for. The nipple is hard, and a sound that Hoseok wants to record and playback for all eternity escapes from Jungkook’s lips when he tweaks the boy’s nub.

Dominance rears its head, and he squeezes harder, pressing his thumb and his index fingers together. He revels in the jerks and flailings of Jungkook’s body beneath him as the boy repeatedly pushes into him. Jungkook groans, and a stuttered whine fall into Hoseok’s mouth. It’s addicting.

“What do you want, baby? Tell me what you want. I’ll give you anything you ask for,” he encourages the boy to speak.

“I—shiii-” Jungkook starts but doesn’t finish as Hoseok’s teeth bite into his flesh.

He knows he’s broken skin when the sulfuric taste impacts his tongue, and Jungkook’s blood in his mouth is adding kerosene to an already raging fire as he swallows it down. His hand pushes at the material covering Jungkook chest, exposing skin and the boy shivers slightly when the cold air hits his warm flesh.

“Come on, Jungkookie. Use your words, baby. Tell me what you want,” he whispers the words in Jungkook’s ear as he purposely pushes down hard, grinding with all his might into the heart of Jungook’s need, knowing the boy won’t be able to do more than make unintelligible noises.

“Ahh—ghh, I-ahhh…”

Jungkook jerks up, as his back arches off the sand covered jacket. Using his free hand, he grabs the hem of Hoseok’s t-shirt, scrunching it in his fingers. Jungkook’s nails graze his flesh and Hoseok trembles at the sensation.

“Can I—do you want,” he’s never asked before. Usually, one thing just leads to another.

“Y-yes,” Jungkook’s reply is faint, soft, locked between a murmur and a whisper.

“Are you sure?” Hoseok’s not sure why he asked a second time.

“Yes, b-but, I’ve never… I mean it would be my-”

“Shit, you’re a virgin?” The words don’t even leave Jungkook lips before Hoseok, employing what has to be superhuman strength, pulls himself off of Jungkook’s body.

He feels guilty when he looks back at sees shame and confusion on Jungkook’s face.

“I don’t do first times,” he explains, knowing it doesn’t make the situation better.

“Oh,” Jungkook mutters, sitting up and straightening out his disheveled shirt.

“Look, my first time was less than stellar. I hated it, to be frank. Ironically, it got taken by someone who paid me to give it to them.” Hoseok grimaces at the memory. It’s the first time he’s shared it or even said the words out loud. It was a dark moment in his life, one that, in many ways, has shaped the choices he’s made in life up until now.

“I’m sorry, hyung,” Jungkook’s voice is soft, earnest, and apologetic.

“Look, Jungkook, I’m not gonna front like I’m a good guy who wants you to wait for ‘the one.’ I want to have sex with you. But your first time should mean something. You shouldn’t be giving it away to some guy you’re paying to have a fake relationship.”

“If it’s my first time, don’t I have the right to give it to whoever I want?” Jungkook asks.

Once again, Hoseok’s reminded about how innocent the boy is, how much life experience Jungkook’s been deprived of growing up in his glass castle.

“Yeah, you do, and I can guarantee the moment it’s gone and you realize you don’t have it anymore—all you’ll feel about the moment is regret. Trust me. I know,” Hoseok educates the younger man.

Jungkook inhales.

“Hyung, shouldn’t I want to lose my virginity to someone who understands how important a person’s first time is?” Hoseok almost laughs at the question.

“No, Jungkook, you should want to lose it to someone who understands how important you are.”

They don’t talk the whole drive to Hoseok’s shitty apartment complex. Leaning his head against the window, he watches as the street signs and buildings zoom by in a blur, the memory of his first time threatening to break through the brick wall enforced with chains and padlocks that he’s buried it behind. He looks up when the motion of the car stops.

“Hyung,” Jungkook calls from next to him, a hand on his arm to stop him from leaving immediately.

“If I think about it—if it’s not a decision I fall into in the heat of the moment and I decided that you’re still the one I want, will... will you at least think about it?” Jungkook’s eyes are pleading with him, and that feeling of wanting to protect the boy rears its head.

“Jungkook, if somewhere along this journey we become friends and I’m no longer someone on your payroll, if our relationship changes and you still want your first time to be with me,” Hoseok says with a deep sigh, “then yes, I’ll at least think about it.”

Jungkook's lips turn up into a smile, and the corners of his eyes crinkle.

“Thank you, hyung, not just for the answer, but for stopping me tonight, for not taking advantage even when I was begging you to. I know you think you’re a bad guy, hyung, but you saved me when you didn’t know me, when I wasn’t paying you. Life’s made you hard, but that doesn’t mean you’re bad,” Jungkook spits the words out as though he’s been holding them in for a long time and finally found the right moment to release them.

He smiles. He’s not sure it goes to his eyes. Trust is hard for him, giving and receiving, and he doesn’t understand why Jungkook has chosen to trust him. The thought of someone genuinely caring makes him happy and sad simultaneously.

“I wish I were the person you see me as.”

“You are, hyung. You are.”

 

“Are you mad at me?” Jimin asks over lunch as Taehyung’s maid places a bowl of autumn pear salad with candied walnuts and balsamic vinaigrette before them. Jungkook loves this salad,

“Why would I be mad at you, hyung?” he questions before taking a bite, savoring the sweetness of the pear and walnuts as it mixes with the tart of the vinaigrette.

“For the night at the club. For yelling at Hoseok. I was worried and possibly a little drunk,” the man confesses.

“A little?” Taehyung chirps from Jungkook’s left, and he giggles at the glare Jimin casts the lavender-haired boy. “That’s quite the flower you have blooming on your neck there, Kookie. I guess your wolf has sharp teeth as well.”

The heat rises to his face immediately, and he feels it spreading.

“Oh my God, Jungkook, please tell me you didn’t.-”

“We didn’t,” he cuts Jimin off before the question can be finished. “You and Taehyung hyung were right.”

“Wait, I was right about something?” Taehyung quips with a chuckle, causing laughter to erupt at the table.

“Hyung stopped it from happening. Ironically, he said the same thing that you both said,” he informs his friends and smiles a bit at the shocked expressions on their faces.

“I guess I misjudged him,” Jimin states, “but that doesn’t mean I want to see my child getting groped in middle of a dance floor.”

“But it’s okay for you to get groped?” Jungkook volleys back.

“Yes, I’m the parent in this scenario. It’s a do as I say but not as I do society.” Jimin laughs. “Jungkook, just to be clear, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t experience life. In fact, we both know I'm an advocate for you stepping out of your box, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want you to be safe and be happy. I’m not a fortune teller. I don’t know what the future holds. I just don’t want you to get hurt. Life can be scarring.” Jimin uses his, I’m concerned about you, voice.

“I know, hyung. The thing is, I think Hoseok hyung and I are a lot alike. We both wear masks to hide and, I guess, to protect ourselves. Hyung’s mask is because of too much interaction with the world, whereas mine is because of not enough interaction.” He pauses, taking a moment to find the right words. “Maybe the reason I chose that hyung is because deep down I sensed we could help each other find whatever it is we’re both looking for.”

“I can say one thing for sure. Since spending time with Hoseok hyung, you’ve come out of your shell more. I can’t remember the last time you’ve said this many words. Usually it’s a shoulder shrug or an ‘I don’t know.’ I like this, talking to you and hearing your thoughts. It’s refreshing,” Jimin says with a proud smile.

“I for one would like to resume the conversation about that wicked hickey on your neck. Precisely what was hyung trying to do?” Taehyung leans in, eyes curious.

Jungkook smiles, shrugs, and promptly responds, “I don’t know.”

“Tease,” Taehyung taunts, sticking out his tongue.

They’ve been friends for years, growing up in the same circles. Today is the first time that Jungkook has felt like an equal and not the younger brother tagging along. He doesn’t know when the change began, when he started saying the words in his head rather than just thinking them. It’s freeing, and it feels like, at least here among his friends, he’s found his place.

 

“How’s it going with the kid?” Namjoon asks. Hoseok watches as the man drowns his fries in ketchup.

They’re at the burger shop across the street from Yoongi and Namjoon’s studio. Hoseok’s always been a little jealous of his friends for being able to pursue their dreams. He wonders where he would be right now had he been able to do the same. He guesses it doesn’t matter since he can’t bend or turn back time.

“Honestly? I think I should have taken Yoongi hyung’s advice,” he tells them.

“Oh, really? Which? I give a lot good ones.”

Hoseok chuckles.

“The beware of good boys. This kid’s got my head in a tailspin. I’m not sure if I want to protect him or muddy his lily-white innocence and make him as murky as me,” he tells them. A wayward sigh escapes his lips.

“Fuck, welcome to our world,” Namjoon mumbles, mouth full of half-chewed hamburger. Hoseok grimaces at the sight.

“Hashtag relatable,” Yoongi laughs. “Jimin was supposed to be a distraction, a rich boy I played around with until I got bored. I wasn’t looking for a relationship. I even broke it off. But I missed him, you know? Like my world felt incomplete and shit.”

“You and me, we’re different, hyung. You have a family, something to bring to the table. You and Joonie have your own business. Me? I’m a thug for hire. It’s not the same thing. Jimin has nothing to lose with you. Jungkook, however, has nothing to gain with me.” He’s not berating himself or putting himself down. Hoseok’s survived this long by knowing his place in the world.

“I see the way that kid looks at you, Hoseok, like you hung the moon or some equally magical shit. I don’t think he has the same point of view as you,” Yoongi points out.

“Just because we don’t share the same opinions doesn’t mean I’m wrong, hyung.”

“In this case, Hobs, I think it does. Stop selling yourself short. You’ve done the best you could with the shitty cards you’ve been dealt. That doesn’t mean you don’t deserve love, or that someone like Jungkook can’t love you. I never saw Taehyung coming, and I’m sure Yoongi hyung feels the same way about Jimin. We’re equally as unfit as you, Hobi. If you like this kid, give yourself a chance.”

He doesn’t respond to Namjoon’s pep talk. He merely shrugs his shoulders and smiles at his friend. He’s tired, and in less than forty-eight hours, he has to meet Jungkook’s parents, people who, without knowing him, have already judged him not good enough. There is no chance. He and Jungkook are from two different worlds. Hoseok’s not about to allow himself to hope. Fairytales don’t come true. At least they don’t for him.

He misses his mother. He wishes he could call her, wishes he could ask her what she thinks. He probably could, but he won’t.

 

Jungkook’s house is not a house. Hoseok’s pretty sure it’s a mansion. He sits in the taxi a bit longer than he needs to. The driver clears his throat. Hoseok pays the man and gets out of the car.  He stands gaping at the large house sitting just beyond the sidewalk, towering, looming over him as if it's trying to intimidate him. The fence that encloses the property is a uniquely twisted work of art that should be hung on a wall in a museum somewhere. Pressing the button on the gate, he announces himself to the attendant on the other end of the speakers. The ornate metal gate swings open, and suddenly Hoseok feels underdressed in his blue jeans and baby blue, v-neck pullover.

Stepping inside, he notices the marble fountain sitting just to his left. He fights the urge to check for koi. An angel holding a harp is perched on the top, eyes looking skyward, and water spurts from the harp as though it’s the embodiment of the music it should be making. The water falls gently into the crystal blue pool below. Hoseok watches ripples form only to quickly dissipate.

Hoseok stabs the doorbell, which glows with a yellow light surrounding the white button, and he hears a faint 'ding dong' from somewere inside. Hoseok huffs, waiting for someone to come to the door. It is, moments later, opened by a lady wearing a pink and black maid outfit, her hair pulled back into a tight bun.

“Good evening, sir,” the young woman greets him politely. “Master Jungkook is waiting for you in the living room. Please follow me.”

She swings the door open further, allowing Hoseok inside the foyer. The first thing he notices is the spiral staircase. The banister is wooden, with flowers intricately craved into the red-brown wood. It’s breathtaking, and Hoseok stares a beat too long.

“This way please,” the women urges gently.

“Oh sorry, I-I…uhm, it’s lovely the carving.” He tries to make conversation as he follows her, his sneakers squeaking across the black and white checkerboard tile.

“Mmm, it is indeed,” she responds as she leads him into a large room.

Hoseok gasps and swears he sees the woman hide a snicker.

It’s as though he’s stepped out of reality and into a movie. The room is like nothing Hoseok’s ever seen before. Space is airy and open with high ceilings and cut out arches leading to a little alcove hallway. The lights above are cut in the shape of stars and scattered across the ceiling, and Hoseok hopes he’s allowed to stay late enough to see them turn on. A genie’s bottle, that’s what the room reminds him of, the inside of a genie’s lamp.

“Hyung,” Jungkook breaks him from his trance, grounding him, and Hoseok is thankful for the distraction, “you made it.” Jungkook sounds almost surprised, and he wonders if the boy expected him to bail.

“Mmm, that I did. Your house is like walking into an alternate universe,” he tells Jungkook, still gawking.

“That will make my mother extremely happy. She designed it look like Agrabah from Aladdin and the Arabian Nights,” Jungkook explains.

“Ahh, that's why it reminds me of a genie’s lamp. I wasn’t too far off then,” he answers nervously. “This is so far above my paygrade, Jungkook. You sure you want to go through with this?” He asks, suddenly realizing what’s at stake for Jungkook if this goes south.

“Honestly, before you got here, I was worried, but when you walked in the room... I don’t why, but I knew it was all going to be okay. Yes, hyung, I want to go through with it. I have to choose my path at some point, right?” Hoseok nods. “Well this, this is my time.”

Jungkook grabs his hand and leads him down a long hall lined with painting and photos, some of which seem familiar. He doesn’t have time to ponder why. Entering the dining hall, Hoseok feels the atmosphere change almost immediately. Tense is the best description he can come up with. The table in the center can seat at least twenty people, and Jungkook's father, or who he assumes is Jungkook’s father, is sitting at the head. The man’s an older, more refined version of Jungkook, with sprinkles of gray scattered throughout his dark locks so perfectly, Hoseok wonders if it was done on purpose.

“Hoseok-sshi, welcome. Please have a seat,” the man offers, but it sounds like a command.

“Thank you, sir.” Hoseok bows before taking a seat next to Jungkook to the left of his father.

“Jungkook’s mother is at a press junket. She won’t be joining us tonight.”

Hoseok feels Jungkook tense beside him. It’s obvious Jungkook did not know his mother wouldn’t be attending the dinner. It feels like a setup to Hoseok. Jungkook’s father has already made up his mind about how the night will play out. Any fear Hoseok felt when he first entered the lavish house has turned into something else, the will to win maybe. He’s not sure. The one thing he is certain of is that this night will not go the way the older man intends, not if Hoseok has anything to do with it. He squeezes Jungkook’s hand under the table.

“Thank you for having me to dinner. I’m excited to meet Jungkook’s family,” he sounds every bit the attentive boyfriend.

“I’m pleased that you were able to make it. We’ve been curious about the person who has been taking up so much of our son’s time.” There’s a hint of the man wanting to say more, but he controls himself.

“You know how it is when a relationship is new, I'm sure, sir. Jungkook and I can’t seem to get enough of each other,” Hoseok answers and gives the man his brightest smile, the one that Namjoon calls blinding.

“Relationship?” the man falters, a catch in his voice. “How long have you two known each other?”

Hoseok does a quick round of mental math, backdating to a month before Jungkook made him the offer.

“About three months?” Hoseok turns to face Jungkook. “That seems correct, right babe?”

Jungkook’s eyes widen, and Hoseok has to keep himself from laughing out loud. The boy looks like a deer caught in headlights.

“Yeah, uhm, that sounds about right,” Jungkook finds his voice.

“I see,” the man says slowly, eyes toggling between Jungkook and Hoseok as though he’s trying to spot the chink in their armor. “How did you two meet?”

“I told you, Father,” Jungkook speaks up, and Hoseok feels a sense of pride. “We met through Taehyung and Jimin.”

“Yes, Taehyung and Jimin are dating my best friends. They dragged me out one night, and Jungkook was there, and the rest, I guess you can say, is history.”

It’s a while before the man responds, and Hoseok can almost feel the realization that all of what they’re saying is real as it dawns on Jungkook’s father. Hoseok knows this is where the real battle begins. He can tell by the set of the man’s lips that not only is Hoseok’s gender an issue, but Hoseok himself is an issue, a scourge, if you will, upon their perfect family persona. Within five seconds of meeting Jungkook’s father, Hoseok had the man’s number. Jungkook may have grown up privileged, but his father most certainly did not.

Image is everything to the man, whether it’s real or not. His perfect son liking men doesn’t fit into the magazine ready world that Jungkook’s father seems to subscribe to. The man is pristine looking, from his perfectly grayed hair to his tailored suit. Even the food is color coordinated. Had Hoseok come from a reputable family, he thinks the man would have found a way to work around his gender, but from the moment he entered the dining room, Hoseok felt as though his presence was an affront to the man, a bacteria infecting their flawless lifestyle.

“What do you do Hoseok?” Jungkook’s father asks.

“I used to be in the courier service,” it’s not a total lie, “but now I DJ at a club.”

“Ahh, I see.” The man sounds less than impressed. “What about the future, what are your plans for then?”

“To survive I guess,” Hoseok starts, then he remembers who he’s talking with. “I haven’t really thought beyond making sure my bills get paid, sir.”

Truthfully, Hoseok wants to go back to school, major in dance, and maybe open his own studio and teach. It’s a pipe dream. He doesn’t share this with Jungkook’s father. He’s positive the man wouldn’t care.

“We should get going,” Jungkook chimes in from beside him.

“We are you both off to?

“We’re going shopping for a suit,” Hoseok informs the man. “I don’t have much occasion to wear one, but I want to be appropriately attired for the premiere.”

A look scurries across Jungkook’s father’s face. It’s unreadable, but Hoseok is aware that the man is displeased by the idea of him being at the event. Hoseok decides to add fuel to the fire.

“Thank you so much for inviting me, sir. I’m honored. Your wife is one of my favorite actresses,” he addresses Jungkook’s father with a bow after getting up from his seat. “Thank you for having me to dinner.” He bows again.

“It was my pleasure,” the man answers tersely, no hint of warmth or acceptance in his voice. “Jungkook, please don’t be home too late.”

“I won’t, Father,” Jungkook replies as they exit they room.

“Well, that went well,” Hoseok says once they’re out of the house.

“He’s angry. I will be getting an earful when I return this evening,” Jungkook tells him.

“He’s probably going to tell you to uninvite me.”

“Probably,” Jungkook agrees.

“What are you going to do?”

The boy is silent for a moment.

Their car arrives, and as they enter the back seat, Jungkook turns to him. “Take you anyway.”

 

 

As predicted, Jungkook father is indeed waiting up for him. He summons the boy to his den as soon as Jungkook returns home.

“Have a seat, Jungkook.” He obeys, sitting in front of the large desk. He doesn't ask why he’s being called in. He lets his father speak first. “Hoseok seems nice.”

“He is.”

“This premiere is very important to your mother, Jungkook. The film is being sold into foreign markets, and reviews show that those markets are receptive to the product. The image we portray as a family is vital,” the man starts, and Jungkook clenches his fist. “Do you understand what I’m trying to say?”

“No.”

He does.

His father’s eyes narrow, and the man sighs and sets his lips in a line.

“What I’m trying to say is, now is not the time to share your experimental relationship with the world. We need to present a united front for the sake of your mother’s reputation.”

Jungkook has had enough. This time his words don’t stay hidden.

“Mother works in an industry, Father,” he bites out the formal title, and there’s sting to the way it rolls off his tongue, “where the most famous people are either gay, bi, or drug addicts. My relationship with Hoseok, which is not an experiment, he’s not a lab rat, won’t register on anyone’s radar. Let’s be honest. This isn’t about Mother or her movie. It’s about you and you're illogical desire to have people believe we’re the perfect family.”

“Is there something wrong with wanting to present the best side? Hoseok’s beneath you, Jungkook. He doesn’t fit into this world. Your status requires someone who can live up to the standard set by the society you live in. Hoseok would never be happy here. Is that what you want for him?”

“We make our own happiness, Father. Are you happy? Is this really the life you wanted? This fake, photoshopped life? I hate it. I hate looking in the mirror and not knowing who the person looking back is. I have no identity, no sense of self. Hoseok may not fit into the Crayola colored world that you’ve painted, but at least he knows who he is. I have done everything you’ve ever asked of me up until now, and where’s that gotten me? You barely talk to me. You address me as though you’re paying me. Don’t pretend that you’re doing this for my good. You have no idea what’s good for me. How can you when you don’t even know me?”

He’s shaking, every inch of his body charged like a live wire of untamable electricity. The words won’t stop coming, and his mind is filled, crammed to the brim with all the words that he hasn’t said over the years, with every feeling and emotion that he’s pushed down and buried. He lets it all out and doesn’t hold back, like a broken faucet.

“I’m tired of being plastic, Father. I want to experience life. I want to feel real. I want to be your son, not some Ken doll you say nice things about to the media but never talk to in real life.”

When the period falls after his final word, Jungkook feels a million pounds lighter. He’s so weightless, a strong wind would carry him away, and he thinks he’d let it. He inhales, trying to get his breathing under control, trying to calm the embers of the fire whose blaze has cooled. His father looks dumbfounded, almost lost, and Jungkook feels a small bit of guilt at unleashing all his feelings at once.

“You’re not plastic, Jungkook,” the man starts, then stops, and Jungkook watches as his father searches for the right words. “this is the world we live in, son. At this level, we must maintain a particular image, be it true or not. I am sorry if that isn’t what you want to hear, but it doesn’t make it any less true. I’m not trying to hurt you, I just don’t want you to struggle the way I did to find your place.”

Jungkook’s not sure what he expected. Maybe an apology, perhaps a hug, something other than more words that mean nothing. He wants his father to acknowledge him, to let him know he hears Jungkook’s voice, and even if he doesn't understand, to let Jungkook know it'ss okay to feel this way. He doesn’t get what he wants.

“Then you’ve failed, Father, because I’m lost, and this map that you’ve drawn for me navigate life just spins me in circles and goes nowhere.” He sighs and runs his hand through his hair. “I’m going out.” He gets up from the chair and bows to the man behind the desk before walking out the den, out the door and into the open air.

 

It’s three in the morning when Jungkook knocks on Hoseok’s door. He could have gone a to Jimin's, to Taehyung’s, to a hotel, to a plethora of different places, but only one is needed. As he's driving around aimlessly, his mind empty having unloaded its contents on his very unsuspecting father, Jungkook realizes that what he wants is warmth, Hoseok’s warmth. He wants to bury his face in Hoseok’s chest and feel the man’s arms wrap around his body. The few short months that they’ve spent together are the most alive Jungkook’s ever felt. Hoseok has helped him find his voice and placed him on the path to finding where he belongs. He doesn’t know where the relationship will lead, but he knows he wants to find out. He wants to follow the rabbit hole wherever it leads.

The door opens, revealing a sleepy Jung Hoseok, eyes barely open, hair pointed in every direction. Sleep lines from his pillow mark his face, and it’s the most beautiful the man has ever looked.

“Jungkook?” Hoseok voice is scratchy with the dregs of sleep still attached.

“Can I stay here tonight, hyung?”

Hoseok nods and pushes the door further open. As Jungkook crosses the threshold into Hoseok apartment, it’s the most at home he’s felt in his whole life. Each step he takes further in is a step towards something new, something that’s his, and further away from the cookie cutter life he’s always known. It’s scary and exciting, and Jungkook's sleepy mind welcomes it wholeheartedly.

As Hoseok's front door clicks shut, Jungkook says goodbye to his old life and opens the door to life lived on his own terms.