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you made me strong.

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The roaring sound of the crowd illuminates the room. It swarms through Jung Hoseok’s ears and sends his mind into a chaotic frenzy.

His head is ringing, literally, from the massive punch he had taken across his cheek not several seconds prior. And he swears he's in pain, can practically feel the immediate swelling of his cheek from the contact of the fist on his body, but all he can concentrate on is the loud thump thump thump of his heart that's now mixed with the new, high pitched buzzing in his head.

Hoseok stumbles backwards unable to keep himself upright after that particular punch. But there are hands on him right away dragging him back up by the collar of his white shirt. Then there is a face right in his space, spit flying out from his mouth as his opponent hollers. "Fight me, you coward!"

Hoseok is pushed and he falls into the rope surrounding the fighting ring. His opponent has left his space for now to pace back and forth on the other side to get himself worked up, but Hoseok has this strange feeling he's really doing it to give Hoseok just one fucking moment to get himself together.

He's panting feverishly, feels blood drip from the corner of his mouth and he wipes at it with the back of his hand. Daring to look up at the atmosphere around him, Hoseok is only met with the small room of people that are shouting obscenities, screaming and cursing at him. They’re all trying to make a few dollars on this fight.

And for those few seconds Hoseok isn't even sure if this is real, if this is even happening. Because how the fuck did he get here? How did he manage to fuck up his life like this? Why did he even agree to fight to begin with?

There isn't much time to think of anything else. His internal crisis is put on pause the moment the manager of the fight is pushing at him from the other side of the rope, and Hoseok has no choice but to go forward. He meets eyes with his opponent again, and Hoseok feels that in that moment that they might be on the same page - because they both probably don’t want to be here necessarily, and this guy is probably in the same situation by rolling around in debt and not having any other means to get out except to fight.

The man looks around almost hesitant before meeting Hoseok’s eyes again, then he leans forward. "Just let me fucking win."

Hoseok shakes his head. He's heard stories about what happens to the fighters if they try and cheat their way out or bargain with each other in any way. And he’s not going to do that. He’s too honest to begin with, and sure, maybe fighting in an underground establishment isn’t exactly speaking much for his character right now but Hoseok won’t cheat. Instead, Hoseok throws a punch the best he can with full intention of hitting his opponent the right way. It's sloppy and his opponent dodges it easily. He growls.

"Come on!"

Hoseok swings again and again, each punch landing at nothing in the air. Then his opponent is yelling, raging, throws his fists against Hoseok's side back to back and as a result he falls again at the contact unable to even stand.

The crowd is booing, and his opponent is shaking his head in disappointment.

Before Hoseok knows it, the manager of the fight is standing in the ring and saying something to the crowd that Hoseok can't make out - probably about who the winner is or something like that. Then he's quite literally dragged away, and as his feet touch the surface on the ground he ignores the displeasure from everyone around him as he leaves the area.

Hoseok is in a hallway next, his body being shoved harshly from behind as he stumbles forward. He drags his hand against the concrete wall in defeat, feels the rough texture against his fingertips, lets the blood drips from his mouth as he stares at the ground.

It's not a long walk but it seems like a lifetime. Hoseok turns down another hall and through a set of metal doors, then trots down the cement steps to the many cells that line around both sides of the large block.

Hoseok goes willingly into his own cell and he’s surrounded by the familiar concrete walls once again as the door is shut and locked behind him.

It's only my second fight, Hoseok thinks to himself. He presses his hands against the far wall and spits some of the blood from his mouth onto the floor. His mind spins, his body is on fire from the adrenaline.

He isn't sure how long he’ll be able to do this.

It's not soon after he is in his cell that there is the squeak of the door again as it's unlocked. Hoseok turns his neck over his shoulder, notices through the bars on the window on the door the guard that is posted around on the occasion.

The door opens and another man walks in. He has a big duffel bag thrown over his shoulder and is slightly smaller in size, but he’s lean and carries a somewhat stoic expression that seems too casual for this type of place. He's wearing a black beanie that covers most of his head, with only small slivers of black hair that breach out here and there. His eyes are small, crescent, and pretty.

Pretty.

He's attractive, probably the most beautiful thing in this entire establishment if Hoseok is being honest.

Hoseok remembers Park Jimin from a brief encounter last week after Hoseok’s first fight. Hoseok had been unconscious for two days apparently, having taken a beating fit for several people. When he blinked open his eyes, the first person he saw was Jimin sitting at the side of his bed. He didn't know his name at the time or who he was or what he was doing in his cell. But he remembers the slight smile that could be mistaken for a scowl, the gentle shake of his head underneath of that black beanie, and the dabbing of a cold cloth against Hoseok skin that had broken out in a fever. "You’ll be alright. Just sleep it off."

But now he's back, and Hoseok can only assume it's so he can patch him up like before.

Hoseok isn't sure why but he feels suddenly embarrassed.

"Don't take too long," the guard says annoyingly to Jimin out of nowhere. Jimin, in return, turns to the man with squinting eyes and a dull expression.

"Shut the fuck up. Don't forget that you're just a fucking lap dog for my uncle.”

The words are harsh, quick and sharp like a tact, and maybe in any normal situation out in the world where Hoseok isn't trapped like a prisoner and forced to fight his debt away he would have laughed at the interaction. But he stays quiet not wanting any retaliation later.

When Jimin turns back to Hoseok, his expression softens just the smallest amount. He waits for the guard to close the door and lock it behind him before speaking next.

"You looked like shit out there today."

Hoseok's mouth opens. He makes a sound, like a scoff almost and he's caught off guard by the comment, but then he shuts it with a snap.

Jimin steps into the room and drops his bag on the ground. He motions for Hoseok to take a seat on the edge of the bed and Hoseok complies. There's silence between them as Jimin pulls out a bottle of water from his bag, unscrews the cap and gives it to him. Hoseok takes it gratefully and chugs it down. It's immediately refreshing and he lets out a pitiful sigh.

"Fuck my whole life."

He watches Jimin grin as he digs through his bag further. Hoseok can see the many rings around his fingers, silver and shiny, different shapes and sizes, that’s matched with the bracelets that dangle around his arms and the little chain on his neck. He's dressed in black jeans with holes in the knees and a simple black t shirt that hugs his lean frame. Small, random tattoos litter his arms and a lip ring sticks out from the left side of his mouth. And compared to how Hoseok looks, or how everyone in this underground fighting ring looks on the daily, Jimin seems like a complete breath of fresh air.

Jimin's eyes move upwards as if he can sense that Hoseok is watching him. "I guess you don't look too bad this time."

Hoseok looks away nervously. He lets out another sigh and fiddles his fingers against the side of the bed. "Everything still hurts like a bitch, though."

"I bet," Jimin says as he continues to get out what he needs. "That's sort of what happens when you get stuck here."

Hoseok has a thousand things he wants to ask Jimin - how did he end up getting this job in the first place? What is he doing? Does he know how long Hoseok will be here? Is he a bad person?

But he keeps it all to himself for now and lets Jimin set up his supplies. He lays out the gauze and medicine, slips into a pair of gloves, then moves the light so it's right on Hoseok's face.

Jimin tilts Hoseok’s chin to the side, squints as he leans in closer to the bloody cut on the side of Hoseok's cheek, and then he eyes the second one on his lip. "It's not too deep. Don't even think it needs stitches. Hyunwoo must have gone easy on you."

"I guess I'm lucky," Hoseok mumbles, but Jimin only laughs sarcastically in response.

"Lucky? Really? That's the word you're gonna use right now?"

Hoseok winces as Jimin presses an alcohol swab against his cheek. "I guess - I guess he could have done worse. There was something about it that was different than the first time I fought."

"That's because the first time is always the worst," Jimin says easily, and the conversation is unique. It’s strange to be talking about things like this to begin with, and to be doing it so casually at that. But after nearly being alone all week stuck in his cell while he recovered from his first fight, it's nice to have any type of conversation. "It's like an initiation. Not everyone survives afterwards, Hoseok. Trust me, I've seen it happen."

Jimin's words, once again, are casual like he's said these things a thousand times before. How many people like him have come through these doors trying to pay off debts? How many people have gotten themselves in so deep that there was only one very illegal way to get out of it?

Hoseok is loosely watching Jimin as he cleans off his face. Jimin’s fingers are skilled and calm as he wipes ointment over the cut and puts a small bandage on it. "You might have a little scar, though."

"Probably better than being dead, or my family being dead," Hoseok says sadly.

"Yeah, probably."

Jimin moves away from him and back to the bag. Hoseok just watches him with his cat still catching his tongue about all the things he wants to ask.

"I saw you got whacked pretty good in your side so," Jimin pulls out some dry ice packs and cracks them against his knee easy, wags them around to break apart the substance inside that will keep it cool "take your shirt off so I can try to see if there are any internal issues.”

Hoseok swallows, isn't sure why he feels so stupid all of a sudden with a simple action of taking off his clothes for Jimin. But if Jimin is a doctor or something he guesses it's okay. He pulls off the simple white shirt, groans loud in the process realizing suddenly that yes his side fucking hurts.

Jimin turns his eyes back to Hoseok, scans him over but it seems casual, again, like he's done this a thousand times. "Put your arm up."

Hoseok does as he's told and Jimin observes the area then sighs. "I knew he aimed low on purpose. I’ve been watching that kid fight for weeks now. Like I said, he might have taken it easy on you. He usually aims right for the ribs, always tries to break one or two. I'm surprised he didn't this time - would have kept him out of the ring for another week."

"What does that mean?" Hoseok questions at Jimin's comment. "If he broke my fucking ribs then he wouldn't have had to fight?"

"Yeah, something like that," Jimin says. "It's not like, official, you know. There aren't rules or anything in all this, per say. It's just that my uncle likes a good show, and if you put one on for the crowd and does what he wants then he eases up on you a little bit, that's all."

"That's all?" Hoseok shakes his head, winces when Jimin starts poking around his side where his opponent had landed his punch right near his kidney. "How do you know all of this, anyway? How long have you been here? Is he really your uncle?"

Hoseok can’t help but word vomit everything in one sitting.

Jimin is quiet for a few seconds before he grumbles. "Come on, don't ask so many questions."

"I want to know! I - " Hoseok stops mid sentence when Jimin moves his eyes quickly to Hoseok’s with a small glare, and Hoseok swears his throat goes dry. "I don't know if I can do this."

"You don't have a choice, right? No one here ever had a choice. So suck it up, take the beatings, give some beatings, put on a good show. You'll be out in no time."

Jimin zippers up his bag and throws it over his shoulder. "Hold the ice on it on and off for an hour. After they let you shower, we'll wrap you up for a few days. The bruising will go down, he didn't break anything. I'll leave some ointment with the guard. Apply that twice a day."

"Wait, Jimin - " Hoseok bites on his lip, eyes going sort of wide as he swallows when Jimin stops. "Will you come back?"

Jimin tongues his cheek, adjusts the bag on his shoulder before knocking on the door. The guard unlocks it for him.

"Yeah, I'll see you around."

Then he leaves just like that.

The door closes behind Jimin and the guard gives Hoseok an unnecessary scowl before moving out of eyesight. Hoseok holds the ice pack to his side, winces again at the pressure. He swears he isn't going to cry, tries to remember why he's doing this to begin with, but those thoughts of his family only make him more upset. He blinks away the tears, drinks more of the water that Jimin had left behind for him and wallows for quite a while until eventually he's escorted to take a shower.

Hoseok had hoped to see Jimin again in those few hours, yet the person that comes back to tend to him is someone different. They don't speak to him, wrap him up roughly with barely the softness that Jimin had showed him even if his attitude was a bit snarky. Then he leaves without a care. Hoseok turns the overhead light off in his cell, lays down on the bed on the side that isn't throbbing in pain, and somehow falls asleep to the creaking sound of the building around him.

 

—◦◉◦—

 

Hoseok doesn't talk to Jimin again for another week.

Well, he does see him twice actually, but only because he had stuck his face at the bars on the door to see what was going on out in the block when some commotion had taken place. There had been a really bad fight and someone had gotten stabbed with a broken bottle during it. The fighter was being literally dragged into their cell and that’s when Hoseok saw Jimin walking behind them with his duffel bag. His black boots clacked against the ground and he was wearing that black beanie again with his tattoos prominent and jewelry swaying as he went.

Hoseok had tried throughout the rest of the week to pay attention to the progress of that fighter. The only thing he had heard from stolen conversations was that he was maybe one fight away from getting out of there until something happened, but no one knew what exactly. The entire week, Hoseok swears he didn't see or hear that guy come out of his cell, and he had only seen Jimin one more time attending to him.

He doesn't want to think the worst but he just can't help it.

Fights during the week aren't common, except Wednesdays apparently where the boss of the entire organization opens the ring for exclusive types of fights such as an anything goes, and this was apparently how the guy had gotten stabbed with a bottle.

Hoseok had healed surprisingly well that week, even after being allowed to work out and stretch and see some sunlight. He had even witnessed some of the other fighters from his block try to run, especially when they were allowed outside in a gated court like they are in jail or something.

Hoseok had never heard the sound of a gunshot before, but he quickly learned how piercing it is, how magnifying the noise is, and how the sound doesn’t exactly leave him at night.

They are completely surrounded by trees. It’s an area that's been abandoned probably for years now, perhaps an old warehouse building or maybe an old jail. When he came outside the first time, Hoseok had realized that escaping was probably more futile than just fighting. The situation isn’t ideal, sure. And Hoseok doesn’t have any real reason to believe that his debt will ever really be paid off. The only hope he has is watching one other gentleman actually leave earlier that week after apparently fighting here for months.

But what happens afterwards? Are they ever truly free? Will they really be left alone?

And how can he move on?

Hoseok works out the best he can and plays some basketball with a guy that's staying in the cell next to him. He had wanted to speak to Hyunwoo about their fight, maybe inquire if what Jimin had said was true about him taking it easy on Hoseok, but for some reason he decides to steer clear. Hoseok feels that he has to make his own way.

Even after just two weeks in a place like this has seriously fucked his mindset up.

The other caretaker checked on Hoseok that Friday evening before his fight, cleared him to be good for his opponent. He wraps his wrists and ties his sneakers, stretches and tries to get himself motivated and be a little more put together even though he has no idea how tonight will go.

And he's scared, of course, now that he's seen someone stabbed with a fucking piece of glass (and especially because it’s been a week and that guy still hasn’t come out of his cell).

Before Hoseok was taken, before he made this ridiculous deal to be a fighter for this mob or business or whatever they are, Hoseok worked in a restaurant and didn’t do anything significant with his life. It was decently mediocre and boring. He tells himself that he was content with that type of lifestyle - making minimum wage, barely surviving or having food to eat that week, and things that lower class people have to deal with. And now, he's walking down that damp hallway with three men following him, hand trailing alongside the cement wall as he prepares to fight for his goddamn life.

To say that his life has changed over the last few weeks would be the biggest understatement.

He can hear the crowd muffled and cheering as he approaches, and adrenaline courses through his body at the magnifying sound.

They don't really have names here. He's not introduced or given the chance to speak, just pushed through the crowd and into the ring. Hoseok doesn't recognize anyone's faces, can't pinpoint anyone specific in the crowd that may be repeat customers or common betters. Some are cheering and others are booing, and Hoseok decides to try and just cancel them out. He looks around maybe trying to find out who the owner of all of this is - Jimin's uncle apparently - but he's never met him and has always dealt with everything second hand through those that he trusts. Hoseok doubts someone this important would be sitting in the crowd, anyway.

Hoseok tries to find Jimin as well but to no avail.

His opponent comes in the ring and Hoseok doesn't recognize him, someone from the other block apparently. They go through the motions and formalities of starting the round, and then the first punch is thrown.

 

—◦◉◦—

 

Hoseok truly believes that for those ten minutes of being in the ring with his opponent tonight that he blacked out.

The next thing he knows after he blinks and comes to his senses, Hoseok is standing over him victorious. His nose is probably broken and his knuckles are bloody, and there is this sudden and terrible ache in his chest as he watches the unconscious man get dragged away by his feet. He gulps, almost wants to cry but decides he absolutely cannot do that right now in front of everyone.

Hoseok is shoved down the hallway again, but this time it's slightly different. He's given water immediately and once he gets to his cell there is food waiting for him. He's surprised, to say the least. Is this what it's like to actually win?

He doesn't feel deserving of anything. Actually, he feels immediately nauseous as soon as he gets a whiff of the food. Once the two guards leave, Hoseok hurls ungraciously into the toilet. He feels his ribs ache at the pressure and the vomit taste like acid on his tongue. He's finally crying, he realizes, and hopes that it's drowned out by the gross sound of vomiting. Hoseok’s entire chest hurts, sort of feels like his soul is being ripped apart just like he destroyed his opponents face in the ring. This isn’t him. He’s never been one to hurt anyone in any way, especially not physically.

Hoseok wipes his face afterwards and plops onto the ground with his back against the bed. He feels his lip bleeding again and his hands are shaking as he sits there in his misery.

The door opens next. And Jimin walks through.

He stands there for just a moment with his bag over his shoulder looking down at Hoseok, that black beanie sitting on his head and his jewelry swaying. Compared to everything Hoseok’s seen over the last two or three weeks, Jimin is nothing but a light, like a beacon.

Hoseok is embarrassed and knows he looks a mess, but he's finding that he doesn't want to be talking to anyone else right now. He closes his eyes and groans, but it comes out like a soft pout.

Jimin drops the bag then kneels next to Hoseok on the ground. His fingers move his chin to the side to examine his face. Jimin is being gentle, and his voice comes out softer than it did the week before when he saw him. “Just hang in there, okay?”

Hoseok nods, and all he’s been wanting to do all week is talk to Jimin and ask him more questions about his life and who he is. He doesn’t care about why he’s here or what his relationship is like with his uncle. He just wants to get to know him. Yet here he is crying on the floor, unable to even put a sentence together. His body hurts and he winces for no reason, cringing into himself and feeling his eyes start to muddle over and over again with fear of losing it completely in front of Jimin.

He wants to be strong, but he just doesn’t know how.

“You really fucked that guy up, you know,” Jimin says to him quietly and pulls out his alcohol swabs.

“I didn’t mean to,” Hoseok sniffles and stares at the wall behind them. “I don’t know what happened.”

“Nothing happened, Hoseok,” Jimin says to him next as he dabs at his lip to wipe away the blood. “You just did what you had to do.”

“I didn’t though, I didn’t need to go that far. I don’t - I don’t even remember it,” Hoseok tells him. “It was all so quick. I don’t even feel like myself.”

Jimin sighs and pulls out another ice pack and sets it in Hoseok’s hand. “You aren’t too bad today. Keep ice on your knuckles for a little bit, make sure to stretch tomorrow. Try to run around a little when they let you go outside and keep your stamina up, okay?”

Jimin starts to zip up his bag and Hoseok pouts, knows he’s about to fucking cry again but tries to keep it together so Jimin doesn’t think he’s a total loser. “Okay.”

“I’ll have them change your diet. You need more protein if you’re gonna keep kicking people’s asses like that,” Jimin tries to joke and Hoseok recognizes his dry humor. He nods again.

“Okay.”

Jimin tongues at his lip ring, then reaches out a hand to press into Hoseok’s shoulder. Hoseok looks up to meet his eyes, a chocolate brown that seem deep and heavy with his own burdens that Hoseok probably can’t even begin to understand. Hoseok feels enamored for a moment, as if just looking at Jimin could cure everything that’s wrong with his life right now.

It looks like Jimin is about to say something else, but then he just nods and stands, knocks on the door and the guard lets him out. Hoseok places the ice on his knuckles and closes his eyes trying to hold onto this feeling for as long as he can.

 

—◦◉◦—

 

Hoseok quickly realizes that the only thing that’s starting to get him through the weekly fights is knowing that he’ll be able to see Jimin afterwards.

It’s this dumb motivation that makes him feel incredibly stupid and vulnerable. Because his real motivation should be the fact that his family would be in danger if he didn't successfully fight, and that he needs to pay off this debt. And he has to fight in order to secure everyone's safety.

But his family seems so far away - those problems seem far away. And Jimin is right here.

“Lemme see,” Jimin asks and motions for his hands, and Hoseok holds them up easy. The knuckles are bleeding through the tape tonight, an indication that he fought well. “You’re getting better.”

“Not sure if that’s a compliment,” Hoseok sighs.

Jimin takes his hand and starts to unwrap the tape. “Whoever put these on did a shitty job. If they let me take care of you before your fights and not just after then you wouldn't even be bleeding right now."

“I’m positive they don’t really give a fuck about us like that.”

“They should, you’re the ones making money for this club. You should be more taken care of.”

Jimin’s brow furrows as he works, a trait that Hoseok has caught onto over the last few weeks of Jimin patching him up after his fights. He winces slightly at the sting on his knuckles even though Jimin handles them with expert care.

“What do you do?” Hoseok dares to ask randomly, even though Jimin has made it clear from the beginning that he doesn’t like to talk about himself on a personal level. He sees his brow pinch automatically.

“I clean up dumbasses in an illegal fighting ring,” Jimin says back smartly, but Hoseok knows that Jimin knows what he means.

“Come on.”

Jimin sighs and sits back in the chair. He looks hot - Hoseok hates that he thinks it given the abnormal situation but he does. Jimin's legs are long, yet his stature is short and his body slender, and Jimin constantly gives off this expression that makes it seem like he’s seen the end of the world and came back just to relive it all over again. He's rough but beautiful, this statue of art that Hoseok finds to be his motivation over anything else.

“I’m about to finish nursing school,” Jimin says to him. “My uncle is paying for it so in return, this is what I do for him.”

“Wow,” Hoseok says in slight surprise, and he immediately feels bad for Jimin even though he doesn't know the details of the situation. “Sorry you had to find this gig.”

“Didn’t really have a choice, at least that’s what I tell myself,” Jimin says, picks up the ointment and starts to pour some on his fingers. “Could just go into massive debt like everyone else my age but here I am.”

“Don’t be so hard on yourself,” Hoseok tells him. “Something tells me your uncle wouldn’t take no for an answer, anyway.”

Jimin moves his eyes up to Hoseoks at the comment. “Yeah, maybe you’re right.”

Something flashes there, just a small spark or slither of understanding between them that makes Hoseok gulp.

“This might sting,” Jimin runs the ointment in his knuckles, and Hoseok tries to stop the tremble in his hand but it’s impossible. Especially now that this stupid feeling is starting to churn right in his stomach at Jimin’s hands on his.

“Sorry,” he whispers almost shyly but Jimin just nods. His black hair sneaks out from under his beanie to sit mostly in his eyes, and he shakes his head to try and get it out of his way.

“It’s okay, just relax.”

They stay quiet until Jimin is finished patching him up, and Hoseok tries to relax but it’s impossible to deny the growing feelings he’s starting to have for Jimin even in such a shitty environment and situation.

Eventually when Jimin is finished, he gives Hoseok aftercare instructions for his wounds, stands with his bag and leaves with a small wave.

 

—◦◉◦—

 

“So what about your family? What happened to get you in so much trouble?” Jimin asks as Hoseok lays on his back with his arms over his face and he’s groaning in absolute pain.

“Fucking can’t believe that asshole kicked me in my kneecap. Who does that?” Hoseok complains instead of answering the question.

He hears Jimin chuckle as his skilled hands press in the right places on his outstretched leg to gently check it. “Don’t worry, he’ll regret doing that.”

“It’s hardly funny,” Hoseok peaks out from behind his arms and Jimin catches his eyes to smile.

“You gotta play by the rules. He knows that. You must have intimidated him or something.”

Hoseok is unsure if Jimin is being sarcastic or not and he scoffs. He’s in a bad mood, mostly because his fights so far have been decently fair, and while he feels terrible about hurting other people there is a strange understanding between him and his opponents. If the fight is fair then he’s starting to not feel so awful about it. And even when he’s the one who loses, Hoseok doesn’t stay angry with his opponent as long as everything was copacetic.

“I doubt I intimidated him,” Hoseok says next with a small groan.

“You’ve been doing really well, Hoseok. You think that just goes unnoticed?”

Jimin presses right into a weak spot on his knee and Hoseok winces. “Shit, hurts like a bitch.”

“It’s not a tear or anything, that’s good,” Jimin maneuvers away to grab his supplies. “Could have been worse.”

“That’s a really common thing for you to say, you know,” Hoseok practically complains.

“It’s true. He could have completely blown out your knee. You could have been benched for weeks. You think that makes you any closer to getting out of here?”

“Even at this rate it seems like I never will,” Hoseok continues to whine, and he’s not one to be so negative (even if he is stuck in an illegal underground fighting organization), but the pain in his leg is almost unbearable.

“You will,” Jimin puts ice on his knee and starts to wrap it up. “Keep fighting like this and you will.”

Hoseok is quiet for a moment while Jimin finishes tending to his leg. But Jimin’s initial question still lingers, and since Jimin isn’t one to get too personal with their conversation Hoseok decides to answer it. “It was my fault, what happened with my family and the debt.”

Jimin secures the wrap then leans into his bag to grab some aspirin. “Why’s that?”

“It’s embarrassing.”

“I’ve probably heard worse,” Jimin encourages as he hands him the medicine and a bottle of water. “I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve been told over the last four years that are absolutely ridiculous.”

“You really want to know?” Hoseok asks after he downs the medicine. “I don’t want to ruin some image you have of me.”

“And what image do you think I have of you?” Jimin smirks.

Hoseok shrugs. “I don’t know, that maybe I’m not the worst guy in here?”

“I already know you aren’t,” Jimin says this confidently and Hoseok looks away feeling his chest thump in that stupid way again. He lets out a sigh deciding to just let it out. If Jimin wants to judge him based on his actions then he’ll understand.

“My parents were paying for my college but I didn’t finish. I dropped out,” Hoseok explains gently. “They didn’t exactly know I dropped out and I sort of kept their money to pay for rent and whatnot.”

Jimin wets his lips at the reveal. There’s a different expression on his face, one that Hoseok can’t read. And he’s immediately worried that he fucked something up.

And just saying it out loud makes him feel ashamed.

“So my uncle lent you money? To what, pay back your parents?” Jimin inquires further.

Hoseok nods. “It’s stupid, really. They cried a lot when I told them I was taking care of it. Told me that I didn’t have to do this. They forgave me, you know? But I came here anyway.”

Hoseok swallows and doesn’t want to cry but feels he might. Because he misses his family a lot.

“Of course they did, they love you,” Jimin reaches out a hand and places it on Hoseok’s, then gives it a little shake. “And trust me, what you did is definitely not the worse thing I’ve heard here, okay? Like, it’s so far from it, Hoseok.”

“There’s a part of me that feels like I deserve all this,” Hoseok then says while looking around the room and acknowledging the space with a deep sigh. “It’s weird but out of the last three years of my life this has been the most worthy thing I’ve done.”

“Stop,” Jimin shakes his head in disagreement. “Look, don’t say that.”

“It’s true,” Hoseok presses. “I’m not trying to be melodramatic or anything. I’ve done nothing with my life. At least here I sort of have a purpose.”

Jimin scoffs and stands, and his mood has shifted immensely at Hoseok’s next comment. He starts throwing his supplies in his bag and Hoseok begins to panic at the sudden change in atmosphere between them.

“I’m sorry. What did I say?”

“Nothing, you just sound like every other asshole here who thinks they don't have anything to live for,” Jimin dismisses.

“Wait, Jimin,” Hoseok stands suddenly as well, completely forgetting about the pain in his knee. He winces and plops back down on the bed. “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be sorry. If that’s how you feel then fine, I get it,” Jimin sighs, and he lingers for a moment like he wants to say something more. Hoseok swallows hard hoping for him to just say what’s on his mind. Because he cares about Jimin’s opinion. He doesn’t know when he started to care but he does. “Or maybe I don’t get it, I don’t know.”

“You don’t have to,” Hoseok says quickly. “You shouldn’t have to. What you do here is really brave. What we have done, the fighters, is anything but. But this is our chance to make it better. It sounds ridiculous, and I’m sorry you have to hear it from me. I actually never thought I’d be saying it or caving to this fucked up mindset of being okay with fighting, but there is something about it that’s shifted.”

Jimin presses his lips together and looks at the floor. “It’s just manipulation, Hoseok.”

“I don’t think it is.”

“This isn’t some therapeutic psychological recovery camp where you learn to forgive yourself.”

“Why are you being like this?”

Hoseok is so confused. One second Jimin is being sweet and nice to him, wanting to take care of him and giving him encouraging words, and the next he's cold, disconnected. And Hoseok isn't able to deal with it, not when Jimin has been the only ray of hope or some sort of sunshine in his life while he's been in this dreadful place.

And sure, maybe he's felt more confident recently due to fighting well (win or lose) and getting a better hang of how to fight in general and keep the crowd happy, but at the end of the day he just wants to see Jimin.

It's becoming overwhelming how much he craves to see him.

But now he's looking distant, disappointed. And Hoseok doesn't understand.

"I'm not being like anything."

"You are! I - I just want to talk to you, I want to see you and - " Hoseok stops talking, realizing that maybe he's saying too much, and that their friendship isn't that important. Maybe at least not to Jimin. He sighs feeling defeated. "Can you just stay for a minute?"

Jimin and him meet eyes, and Hoseok isn't sure but he feels like he might vomit from sudden nerves.

"Stay?"

"Yeah, just - " Hoseok fiddles with the edge of the bed, tries to ignore the pain in his leg. "Can you?"

Jimin chews on his lip ring, swipes his tongue over the little hoop in obvious contemplation.

He glances back to the door where the guard isn't anywhere around. They don't linger like they usually do, and maybe they've had some trust in Hoseok recently to leave him alone with Jimin.

And Jimin seems capable enough of taking care of his own.

Then Jimin nods, drops his bag once more and sits back in the chair. He crosses his leg over his knee and manages a small smile.

"You're something else, Jung Hoseok."

 

—◦◉◦—

 

It's a few days later and Hoseok is outside playing basketball with some of the other people from his cell block. It's a dreary day, with clouds in the sky that are gray and heavy with rain that might pour down at any given second. In the mountains it's cool and breezy, and although Hoseok doesn't want to become familiar with the atmosphere he almost can't help it when he does these things so routine now.

It's strange, and Jimin's words linger about this not being a place to recover from his detrimental decisions, yet Hoseok can't help it. Because as strange and abnormal this entire situation is, Hoseok does feel better about himself in some ways.

It’s also extremely confusing. Because is it manipulation just like Jimin had said? Is it some sort of Stockholm syndrome that Hoseok is too blind to recognize?

After a while, Hoseok glances around the courtyard to catch the full image of Jimin sitting on one of the cement slabs by the building.

It's rare that he comes outside with them. Actually, Hoseok can't remember the last time he saw Jimin outside of his cell other than to attend to other fighters in his block.

Jimin's entire persona, the energy that he brings just by sitting there smoking a cigarette and observing the atmosphere, is enough for Hoseok to feel as though someone threw the basketball right at his chest. Because Jimin is a work of art, like someone painted him so perfectly and stuck him in this place that doesn’t deserve him.

Hoseok sucks up enough courage to make the next basket in the game, then takes his leave from his friends.

He heads over to Jimin with a towel around his neck. And normally he'd be worried about being so stinky and sweaty in front of someone that makes his heart flutter this way, but Jimin has seen him in plenty of fucked up states these last few weeks so he pays it no mind.

"Hi," Hoseok says to him once he's close enough, and Jimin exhales a plume of smoke into the air.

"Hey."

"Weird to see you during the day," Hoseok says next.

"I'm sitting in on a meeting today," Jimin explains loosely and casually, as if he isn't talking about some underground fighting organization to begin with and this is just another conversation he's having for everyday life. He flicks his ash onto the ground. "Lots to talk about, apparently."

Hoseok joins him on the cement slab and runs the towel down his face and neck.

"What kind of meeting is it?" Hoseok decides to inquire, figuring that maybe Jimin will spill the information willingly, and he'll have some further insight on everything.

Jimin inhales on his cigarette again. "Restructure, I think."

"What does that mean? Do you sit in on a lot of meetings with your uncle? Did you have school today?”

"You're asking a lot of questions again."

Hoseok presses his lips together and looks down at his feet. "Sorry, I'm just curious that's all."

"How's your knee?" Jimin changes the subject without hesitation and intention of answering any of Hoseok’s questions.

"Good, I think. I was able to run around today on it without wanting to rip my leg off, so that's something."

Jimin nods and flicks the ash again. Some of it flies in the air and is swept away from the breeze. "Just put some ice on it later after being on it today, should be good for tomorrow's fight."

"Yeah," Hoseok puts the towel around his neck again.

They sit that way for a silent minute, with Jimin smoking the remaining of his cigarette and Hoseok watching the others run around the court. Some are working out and others are still playing basketball.

"When are you finished school?"

Jimin drops the cigarette and crushes it under his boot. "I'm finished already."

"Oh, really?" Hoseok pipes up. "I guess that makes sense. I came here in the spring. I feel like I’ve lost track of time.”

"Yeah, I heard that happens," Jimin says and bends forward with his arms on his knees. "My uncle came to the ceremony. This was last week. I don't have any immediate family. It's just him and my cousin who works here too, you know, gonna inherit everything or whatever."

"That's nice that he went?" Hoseok inquires with a twist of his neck to look at Jimin now trying to read his expression. "Maybe?"

"It was fine. My uncle is a charmer. Plus he paid for my entire education so it's not like I had a choice in whether he showed up or not."

"Well, congrats on graduating. Now you can leave here and be a nurse at a hospital or something, right? Put all this behind you?"

Jimin is quiet, pulls out another cigarette and lights it against the breeze.

"Yeah, sure,” he says back dully with smoke pluming out through his nose as he releases the toxic air.

"Wait, you aren't gonna stay here, right?" Hoseok asks next recognizing Jimin's flat tone.

Jimin inhales deep and lets out a little smirk. His tongue darts out to twirl his lip ring and Hoseok watches the action with a gulp.

"I have a job at the hospital already part time. I'm in the ER. But something tells me my uncle isn't going to want me to leave here, necessarily,” Jimin lightly explains. “Probably what this meeting is all about.”

"Jimin, you can't stay here and do this forever,” Hoseok says with a slightly frantic tone. “You have to live your life!"

"And he'll what, have to find someone else he trusts to patch up all his prized fighters? You think anyone else can handle this job?" Jimin challenges and turns his head to look right at Hoseok. "I knew I was stuck here the moment I agreed to help out. You got your baggage, I guess I have mine. We're both just here for different reasons."

Hoseok's eyes trace Jimin's mouth, his nose, that lip ring. He gulps again. "Don't get stuck here."

"Why not?” Jimin then says as the smoke cascades around his face like a smokey canvas. “You're here."

Hoseok is positive that the air around him has been sucked out and he can't breathe. Jimin's words make him feel dizzy, and sad, all at the same time. It's both reassuring and wrong to be in this situation in general, but knowing that Jimin has been enjoying his company is enough for Hoseok, at least for today.

He decides not to ruin the fragile moment, just lets it linger right between them in unspoken feelings that they both seem to understand.

Jimin smokes his cigarette and Hoseok relaxes his knee, both of them sitting there until they feel the first droplets of rain hit their skin and everyone is ushered inside. At the door, Jimin gives a smile, something soft and hidden that Hoseok latches onto, before he's vanishing down another hallway and the boys are taken back to their cells.

 

—◦◉◦—

 

"Go on and say it," Hoseok says before Jimin can even get a word out once he steps into Hoseok’s cell after his next fight. He’s sitting on the ground with his back against the bed and has his eyes closed as he rests his neck on the mattress.

"Say what?" Jimin asks back and feigns innocence.

"That I looked like shit out there today," Hoseok replies, and he thought it was coming out a little funny or playful but Jimin is quiet for too long. Hoseok opens his eyes to look at him and there is something different against his features, maybe softer or concerned. He's not sure.

"You didn't look like shit at all," Jimin says quietly, then he's dropping his bag and kneeling down next to Hoseok on the ground. His back is facing the door and he leans close, closer, and for a very awkward moment Hoseok is almost positive that Jimin is going to kiss him.

He flinches when Jimin is right there, with his mouth so close to his own, and it’d be easy for Hoseok to just kiss him if he really wanted to. His stomach twists, and he barely gets his words out.

"What are you doing?"

Jimin wets his lips and looks right at him. "You need to be careful next week."

Hoseok blinks a few times at the comment. "What?"

Jimin reaches for his bag, blindly fumbles through it to extract the alcohol swabs and starts to rub them against the new cut on his cheek. He’s completely facing away from the door, covering Hoseok’s body in the process, and Hoseok suddenly catches onto what Jimin is doing. He doesn’t want to guard to overhear the conversation.

"I guess they’re starting to bring me in on some of the details now. I found something out in my meeting,” Jimin says quietly to him, and Hoseok leans in even closer to try and hear better. "They’re going to put you in in the anything goes fight on Wednesday. Apparently they’re still pissed off at Hyunwoo taking it easy on you during your second fight. Said this should be your payback for it."

“That’s fucking crazy,” Hoseok immediately scoffs. “It’s been weeks since that fight! Why bring this up now?”

“I don’t know, okay? You’ve been doing really well so I guess this is just an excuse to put you in anything goes. Not everyone can handle it but they think you can. Besides, Hyunwoo isn’t even in the picture anymore, so someone has to do it.”

"What do you mean he's not in the picture anymore?" Hoseok asks impatiently and he feels his blood start to boil at the sudden revelation.

"He's fucking dead, Hoseok, that's what I mean."

Hoseok shakes his head and his eyes go wide as saucers, and he immediately starts to panic. "What? Dead?!"

"It happens. Okay?” Jimin tilts his chin a little harshly and continues wiping at his face, and Hoseok ignores the burn. “That's why you need to play fair."

"But I didn't ask him to do that! Why should I get punished for it?" Hoseok asks frantically.

“I don’t know what else to tell you, alright?” Jimin sighs, and when they meet eyes Hoseok is certain that he’s falling for Jimin even now in this chaotic moment. He looks right at Jimin's mouth and his lips, and he’s so close he could still probably kiss him if he wanted to. And considering he might fucking die tomorrow in this fight, Hoseok is seriously considering it.

“Jimin - “ Hoseok starts, but his nerves get the best of him. “I can’t do it. I can barely fight as it is. Can you help me? Can you get me out of it?”

Jimin shakes his head and his shoulders drop. “I tried already.”

“You did?”

“Of course I did. And it didn’t work. I guess I could try to think of something else but my uncle didn’t want to hear anything from me about it,” Jimin tells him. “But I don’t know what yet.”

Hoseok sees the guard at the bars on the door looking in suspiciously, and Hoseok fakes a wince and pushes Jimin away pretending that he’s still in pain. Jimin catches on quick and pulls away, digs into his bag for some more bandages to wrap his knuckles. And the conversation ends just like that, with Hoseok regretting not kissing Jimin (even though he’d probably regret it if he did, especially if the guard outside had seen), and with this awful lingering feeling about this upcoming fight.

Before he leaves, Jimin gives Hoseok one last look. It seems desperate and sad, as if Jimin is feeling guilty for not being able to get Hoseok out of the fight.

But Hoseok doesn’t feel that way at all. In fact, he can’t even believe Jimin had tried to help him in the first place. “Thanks for letting me know, Jimin.”

Jimin only nods, lets his eyes linger on Hoseok’s for a few seconds longer than he normally would. Then he collects his things and leaves.

 

—◦◉◦—

 

Hoseok is pacing in his cell. The crowd for the Wednesday night fights are more specific and reserved for only exclusive members of this establishment. He asked around to try to find out more information on who he’d be fighting or what the crowd was like, and Hoseok was only able to find out that the crowd is much smaller and more refined, with heads of bigger crime organizations that enjoy seeing a more brutal fight with less rules. Hoseok remembers very specifically during his second week here the man who was stabbed with a glass bottle in the anything goes and how he never recovered. Hoseok is positive that he died, he’s sure of it, considering he never came back out of his cell again. 

For days following his conversation with Jimin after the Friday night fight, he wished Jimin would come back just to see him at least once. But he didn't.

He worries that they found out about Jimin giving him this heads up, especially since Hoseok has been asking around about it. He worries that they killed him. He worries that he’ll be next. It's difficult to think about anything else when he's trapped within these four cement walls with only his mind and thoughts to occupy him.

He pokes at his dinner on Tuesday the day before his big fight. They've been feeding him well and Hoseok likes to think that Jimin plays a small part in that. Sometimes they even ask him if he wants something specific, especially before a fight. But tonight he's not hungry. Instead he wants to vomit.

He just wants to see Jimin again.

It's late and Hoseok is gazing up at the blank ceiling after the rest of his block has gone to sleep. The guards don't usually linger that much at night and his cell block is well behaved with little to no problems.

But then there is a small sound from out in the block and it catches Hoseok's attention. He sits up slightly looking at the door. He doesn't have much time to register anything before he can barely make out the black beanie and the ruffled hair through the barred window. "Jimin?"

The door is unlocked and opens, and Jimin comes sneaking inside with a little flashlight in his hand. "Hey, get your shit."

"What? Why? What's going on?"

Jimin has another duffel bag and starts to randomly toss things of Hoseok's inside it in a near frantic. Hoseok sits up in immediate confusion. "Jimin, what the fuck?"

"Shut up, just come on. I'm getting you out of here."

"Wait, no! Jimin, just wait," Hoseok practically falls from his bed and grabs his arm to stop Jimin from throwing his things inside the bag, and the light is dim from the flashback but Hoseok can see the panic in Jimin's eyes, this fire and adrenaline that is unfamiliar. "I can't just leave!"

"You have to!” Jimin harshly whispers back. “Look, I know what's going on tomorrow. It's not good. I know who you're fighting and you’re going to fucking die if you fight him.”

"That doesn't matter!" Hoseok says back. "What about me? My family? You think your uncle will just let me go? No one has ever escaped here before. I've watched them all get shot if they tried! And what about you?!"

"What about me?"

"If he knows you helped me, then - "

Jimin exhales and swipes his tongue over his lip in irritation. He shoves the bag in Hoseok's arm. "Don't worry about me. And don't worry about your family or what will happen to them or you. I got it under control. You just need to trust me, okay?"

"No! This is crazy."

"No, you don't trust me?" Jimin snaps at him and when they meet eyes again Hoseok is shaking, nervous, and he gulps.

"Of course I do. But, but this isn't right. This can't end well."

"It'll be fine, okay?"

Jimin is saying this with such confidence and Hoseok's heart is racing. He feels frantic, unsure, but he wants to trust Jimin so that's what he'll do. "Okay."

Then he's throwing things in his bag, random belongings that he's collected over the last few weeks. He's not even sure what's in there and it takes just another minute. Jimin pokes his head out the door to scout the area.

"Alright, lets go. We have a three minute window."

He keeps low and exits out the only door that leads into this cell block, then takes them down a corridor that Hoseok doesn't recognize. He has a thousand questions that he wants to ask but he follows Jimin's lead, hides when he hides, ducks when he ducks, and every time someone passes by he feels like he might puke everywhere.

But Jimin is skilled like a cat, knows the area well and seems to know exactly where everyone is going to be and how to get out of the line of sight of the cameras. He feels like he's in some stealth mission in a video game, and he's never been good at them to begin with.

Eventually, they leave out a side door to a small parking lot where they are met with one other older gentlemen who is standing by a truck. Jimin doesn't say anything to him, just acknowledges for Hoseok to get inside the back.

"What about you?" Hoseok hesitates for a second as his eyes go from the truck to the man and back to Jimin. “You’re not coming with me?”

"I have my own car. I can't just leave it here. Besides, I'm allowed in and out freely. I'm not exactly suspicious."

"And this is less suspicious?" Hoseok questions with doubt. The man gets into the truck and starts it up. "This is ridiculous! This never works in the movies, right? He's just going to drive me out with no repercussions?"

"He works here too, okay? They don't search us or anything like that,” Jimin tries to explain. He grabs onto Hoseok’s arm and ushers him towards the back seat.

"Then why can't I just go with you?!" Hoseok practically whines in desperation. "I don't know this guy. I don't trust him, I trust you."

"Hoseok, just get in the fucking truck,” Jimin opens the door and starts to walk away. “He's meeting me out on the highway and I'll see you then."

"No!" Hoseok reaches for Jimin in panic, and Jimin turns back quick at Hoseok's next outburst. Then Jimin is in his space, his body pressed right up against Hoseok’s front, and his lips find Hoseok's in a heartbeat.

It's a harsh kiss, something that impacts Hoseok and causes him to step backwards as he tries to catch his balance. But as quick as it happens it's over, and Jimin pulls away with a stern look on his face. "Get in the fucking truck."

Hoseok nods aimlessly, runs his tongue over his mouth as Jimin turns away to go right back inside the way they came out.

Hoseok lays down on the backseat, covers himself with a blanket as instructed and hides. He closes his eyes, feels the truck moving and swears this isn't going to work, that it just cant be that easy to get out of wherever they are like this. He hears the driver roll down the window and then listens to some light conversation about having a good night and seeing them tomorrow. Hoseok squeezes his eyes shut, expects the blanket to be ripped over his head at any second and for all of this to be over before it even starts.

But nothing like that happens. The truck continues to move and eventually they are driving. He tries to figure out how long he stays in the vehicle like that, starts to count in his head until he can't remember what number he's on anymore. It feels like days even though it’s probably only been less than an hour. His body is stiff and sore.

He wants to cry. He feels Jimin's lip ring lingering against his mouth, and all he’s been wanting to do for the last few weeks is kiss Jimin and try to understand how he feels for him, maybe even try to figure out if what he’s feeling is real or if it’s just because he’s been trapped inside that establishment for so long. But his lips tingle with the remnants of the kiss. It makes him shiver and frown, and he just hopes that everything is okay, and that Jimin is okay.

Eventually the truck slows and seems to pull off on a gravel road. Then the vehicle is idling and the man up front, who has said nothing this entire time, speaks up. "Go on, get out."

Hoseok gingerly pulls the blanket off of his head and blinks a few times to adjust his eyes to the continuous darkness. He sits up. "Is Jimin okay?"

"He's fine. Kid is smart. Trust him, alright?"

Maybe hearing it from another person gives Hoseok a little more hope on the situation, even though he doubts that anything good will come from all this. He mumbles a thank you and climbs out. He immediately realizes that they are on a small pull off road from the highway and it's pitch black and late. Hoseok closes the door, and the man just drives away leaving Hoseok there all alone with his bag.

There are several fleeting seconds where Hoseok starts to panic for two reasons.

One, this could be an ideal place for a set up. They could swoop in, kill him easily, and leave Hoseok back in this secluded little area to die and no one would ever know.

Two, Jimin might not have made it out. Maybe they saw him fleeing on the cameras. Maybe they caught him trying to leave after realizing that Hoseok wasn’t in his cell to begin with.

Hoseok shivers and feels like he might just fucking cry at any second considering his life has become so fucked up. And he hates everything now, hates the decisions he's made and how bad of a son he was to his parents, hates that he's not a good person anymore, or at least he doesn't feel like one. And he doesn't know how to get out of this and make everything right.

He doesn’t know if he can make it right.

After about ten minutes, a second set of headlights are pulling onto the small back road. Hoseok can't help but tremble and can't see who is inside. Maybe it's someone from the illegal organization coming to collect him. Maybe they'll drive by and stick their guns out the window and shoot him right then and there.

But the car stops and Hoseok then sees the familiar black beanie from inside the driver's seat. Hoseok's heart drops into his stomach.

Jimin is opening his door and rushes around the car in a small jog. Hoseok drops his bag as Jimin zeroes in. His arms go around Hoseok's neck to bring his lips against his mouth, and they're kissing - kissing like it's been overdue, and Hoseok feels like it might have been, that it might be. It's sweet and slow, and Hoseok can hear Jimin's little whine tickle down his throat, feels the coolness of the metal against his mouth.

Hoseok sighs, finding that his hands fit on Jimin's waist naturally, feels Jimin's palms on the side of his neck to keep them close. He kisses him sensually, with small closed mouth nips that feel like a dream. It’s both unreal and perfect at the same time, this moment that he’s wanted for so long, and maybe Hoseok hadn’t realized how much he feels for Jimin until right now. And no, they don’t know that much about each other except for the stolen conversations they’ve had over the last few weeks. Yet Hoseok has this feeling - especially while kissing Jimin this way - that all of the things he doesn’t know about Jimin doesn’t matter.

And that he’ll care for him either way.

Jimin stops to catch his breath and presses their foreheads together, closes his eyes and sighs as well. "Maybe I really like you."

Hoseok laughs gently next, finding Jimin's words to be cute and innocent, vulnerable given Jimin’s overall demeanor and how he presents himself. Though Jimin is still rough around the edges and still holds this edginess about him, Hoseok is glad to hear the words even though it makes his heart thump irregularly at how nervous he still feels.

"You like me enough to bust me out of an underground fighting operation,” Hoseok tells him quietly. “We might as well get married at this point."

"And you ruined the moment," Jimin scoffs and pulls away from Hoseok’s embrace with a roll of his eyes. "Get in the car."

He opens the passenger door and doesn't wait for Hoseok to get inside before going around to the other side and gets him himself.

Hoseok settles against the seat with his bag in his lap and Jimin pulls off the highway.

"So where are we going exactly? What's the plan?" Hoseok asks. He touches at his mouth and feels lightheaded at Jimin kissing him and tries to shake it all away since this moment of figuring out what’s going on is obviously more important.

Jimin grips the steering wheel. "Not far, just some motel for now. I have to get some things together before everything is all clear."

"What does that mean?" Hoseok asks and it bothers him that Jimin is being so vague with the plan. "I can't just run away. I can't just change my name and my face and pretend that I don't exist."

"Who said anything about that?" Jimin says more than asks. "You won't need to do anything like that. We just need a somewhat safe place for the next few days while I make the arrangements to get you off the hook."

"And what does that entail?" Hoseok continues to prod.

"Always asking so many questions," Jimin sighs.

"That's because you don't give me any straight answers, Jimin," Hoseok presses.

"The less you know the better," Jimin says back, and he's pulling off the highway and onto a smaller road in the middle of town. Hoseok doesn't recognize where they are, so he just goes with everything and tries to memorize whatever he can. "Look, I'm not trying to be a dick or keep you in the dark, but you just need to trust me. I know my uncle, I know the organization. My plan will work. We just can't be there right now."

"I don't know how to trust any of this. All I want to do is make sure that my family is safe and that no one will come for me again."

"They won't."

"How do you know?"

Jimin sighs loudly this time. "You're gonna regret me doing this if you keep asking me shit."

Hoseok frowns and turns to look out the window. He's not frustrated and he's rarely one to feel that emotion, but he just wishes that Jimin would trust him. This is his life, after all.

Jimin pulls into the parking lot of a motel. Contrary to popular movie tropes it doesn't look too bad, maybe a little run down but nothing scary or disgusting. They get out and Jimin tells Hoseok to wait outside while he gets them a room. Again, Hoseok listens just putting his trust in Jimin and waits as instructed.

Jimin leads them to the top floor of an open balcony and to their room. Inside, the whiff of a typical motel hits them - it’s a little stingy but again he's seen worse that's portrayed in the movies. There is a little kitchen and a table, two beds and a TV, the basic essentials. Jimin drops his own bag and Hoseok does the same. Then he's fumbling around on his phone.

"Do you think they noticed I'm gone yet?" Hoseok asks to break the silence that’s grown between them.

"No," Jimin says plainly.

"How do you know?"

"I just do."

Hoseok frowns and fumbles through his bag to grab some clothes. "I'm gonna take a shower. Might be nice to not have to do that in front of ten other guys."

Jimin only nods and he’s focused on his phone as his fingers type away. Hoseok figures it must be important so he leaves Jimin to it and heads into the bathroom. He turns on the shower and steps into the heated water.

He suddenly hurts. It’s as if every single sore muscle in his body that gotten beat up these last few weeks are resurfacing from the water pressure. He presses his hand against the tiled wall, lets the water scorch his back and drip painfully down his entire body. He isn't sure how long he stays in there thinking about everything, from his family to the fights to what happens next to - to Jimin.

Hoseok feels a small heat rumble in his belly at Jimin's mouth on his. He can practically taste the metal of his lip ring, replays his little whine over and over in his head. And knowing that he's just outside the room and that they’re here together has him confused.

What happens next for them?

He dries himself off and slips into his shorts and shirt then heads back out into the room.

Jimin is sitting in one of beds leaning with his back against the headboard. He’s on his phone still and lifts his eyes to acknowledge Hoseok as he emerges from the bathroom. Jimin has changed into sweatpants and a small shirt that shows a bit of his waist, and the general image of Jimin just laying there so comfortably looking like that causes that heat inside of Hoseok’s stomach to flicker.

It's late, he realizes, and exhaustion is hitting him like a train.

"How long are we going to be here?" Hoseok dares to ask.

"Just a couple of days," Jimin says back. "Are you hungry? I got some stuff from the store while you were in the shower.”

"I’m good."

Hoseok dries his hair with the towel then untucks the comforter of the second bed and crawls inside. He sighs loudly and dramatically. "My body hurts."

"From what?"

"Not sure. I feel like I'm going to vomit. My knee is aching. My back - "

He stops mid sentence when Jimin starts to laugh. Jimin drops his phone on the nightstand then props himself up on his elbow to look at Hoseok from his bed. "Need an examination?"

Hoseok gulps and shakes his head. "No, I guess I'm just used to telling you what's wrong with me."

"It's good to know."

They are quiet for a couple more moments as Hoseok just stares at the ceiling and Jimin lays on his side now, and he can feel Jimin's eyes on him.

"I won't be around tomorrow, but just stay here, okay?" Jimin says next.

"Where are you going?" Hoseok asks this but he doesn't anticipate that Jimin will answer. And he's right. Jimin stays quiet, lets the question linger in the air.

"Are you sleepy?"

Hoseok nods. "Exhausted."

"Why don't you go to sleep, then?” Jimin says. “I need to shower anyway. Just relax."

Hoseok nods again and watches as Jimin stands and removes his shirt as he walks to the bathroom. Hoseok catches the flash of Jimin’s skin and the little dimples on his back and the flex of his muscles as he disappears inside. Hoseok frowns and chews down on his lip.

His mind races with what is going to happen tomorrow when they realize Hoseok is not there and that their contestant won't be fighting for all of the important people that apparently show up on Wednesday nights. And once they find out it was Jimin who helped him escape, then what?

He wants to trust Jimin, but it's hard when everything is so unknowing.

Eventually Hoseok closes his eyes and dozes off before Jimin can return from the shower.

 

—◦◉◦—

 

Hoseok's not sure what time it is when he stirs awake, swears it's only because he's having a terrible dream. As he snaps his eyes open, he automatically feels his body hurt again and he groans. He sits up only slightly to see Jimin standing by the table with an arm crossed over his bare chest and a glass in his hand. The TV is muted with just black and white pictures of a random movie playing on an old screen that Jimin is aimlessly watching.

Hoseok gulps dumbly at Jimin's body - he's lean with a long torso wearing only sweats that sit way too low on his hips, and he's not wearing his famous beanie tonight. Hoseok can't even remember if he has ever even seen Jimin without that beanie. His hair is long and dark and it curls at the ends to swoop under his ears and against the nape of his neck. From the light on the TV, Hoseok can see another tattoo along his ribcage, and his nipples that are pierced with little barbells.

He's suddenly very hot, Hoseok realizes, especially when his eyes trace down Jimin's body a little lower.

It's all such a fucking mess - this entire situation has him so confused. He shouldn't be thinking about Jimin's body or how good he makes him feel, even if he is a little rough around the edges. The only thing he should be worrying about is making sure that they don't get caught and that they both get out of this mess alive.

It's as if Jimin realizes he's being watched. His eyes shift to Hoseok on the bed. "Sorry if I woke you."

"It's okay," Hoseok looks at the clock, realizing its just after 2am. He rubs at his eyes. "Did you sleep any yet?"

"Not yet."

Jimin takes a sip of whatever is in his glass and hisses at the apparent burn.

"Are you okay?" Hoseok asks next and his voice is timid and soft.

Jimin is quiet, a common trait that Hoseok is so familiar with especially after he's been asked something he definitely does not want to answer. Jimin moves his eyes back to the TV, his body still leaning against the table unmoving. Yet unlike all the other times before when Hoseok would ask Jimin a million questions and Jimin would blow them off, this time he answers.

"No."

Hoseok feels his throat tighten at this simple word. Jimin has been put together this entire time. He's been the one practically holding on to everything for both of them. It's difficult to know that this might be just as hard on him as it is for Hoseok. And he feels immediately guilty for everything.

"I'm sorry. I'm sorry I put you through all of this," Hoseok starts to apologize automatically, wanting Jimin to feel better and feeling as though this is all his fault. "I'm sorry that you felt you had to break me out of that place and help me. I'm sorry I’m such a mess. I’m sorry - "

"Hoseok, shut up," Jimin looks back at him firmly. "Just stop."

Hoseok clamps his mouth shut, watches as Jimin pours some of the liquor that he had apparently gotten on his grocery run into another glass. Then he walks over and hands it to Hoseok in bed. He takes it, contemplates for only a second, before gulping some of it down.

The sting hits him - it's a cheap whiskey that could probably taste better on a day where the world wasn't already bitter on his tongue.

Jimin sits on the other bed facing Hoseok and lights a cigarette. Hoseok sits up as well and crosses his legs in the middle of the bed and pushes the blanket away from him. Jimin runs his hand down his face. "Tell me something, talk to me about anything other than all of this bullshit."

"Okay," Hoseok nods as he arranges himself more comfortably. "Anything in particular? Any topic?"

Jimin lifts his head up, takes a drag and blows the smoke up above them. "Hobbies, funny stories, childhood adventures - literally anything that makes you a normal person, anything that doesn't involve fighting rings or stealing from your parents."

Hoseok takes another sip of the whiskey and it burns. He swallows it down.

"I have a lot of dumb hobbies," he says and spins the liquid in his glass as he talks. "My mom used to hate it because as a kid I could never really decide what I wanted to do, couldn't stick to anything. She'd enroll me in a photography class then I'd want to dance then I'd want to work on computers. I wanted to do everything."

"Did you stick with anything?"

Hoseok shakes his head. "No, and I wasn't ever upset with that but it drove my parents crazy. When I went off to college, I was an undecided major. Figured I could just take some business classes or computer courses and get a good job that way, but I couldn't stay focused enough to concentrate. I didn’t care about any of that stuff. It seems stupid now when I look back at it. I wish I could have just finished like a normal person.”

“College isn’t for everyone,” Jimin tells him with a shrug.

“Maybe not,” Hoseok sighs. “There was one thing that I always ended up going back to, though."

"What was it?"

Hoseok steals a glance to Jimin who is leaning back on the bed now, hands pressed behind him with his body long and the tattoo on his chest stretching. He brings the cigarette to his mouth and inhales deeply, and he’s observing Hoseok with an attentive stare. Hoseok watches as the smoke plumes from his nose.

"I really liked to dance,” Hoseok admits shyly. “But I'm too old to get back into it."

"What are you, like seventy?" Jimin scoffs. "You can do it, just takes some classes or something."

"What would be the point? It’s not like I could make a career out of it this late in my twenties. People work for years practicing and trying to make it. It wouldn't feel right."

Jimin rolls his eyes and takes a heavy drink. "You don't have to make a career out of it. But you could do it just for fun. It might help you not be so fucking depressed."

"You're a little mean when you've been drinking," Hoseok says honestly to Jimin who looks up at him over the rim of his whiskey glass. "You're mean in general, but this is different."

Jimin swallows down the rest of his liquor and puts the glass on the side table. "Sorry."

"Its okay."

"I just wanted to know more about you and I'm fucking it up."

Hoseok shakes his head. "You're not, you're just an honest person. I get it."

Then Jimin is laughing suddenly with his head shaking so his black hair shimmies into his eyes. "You're unbelievable. How can you defend me so much after everything that's happened with this whole situation?"

"Why do you say that?" Hoseok tilts his head to the side.

"You're such a pushover, Hoseok. I'm really not trying to be mean about it, I promise. But no wonder you got involved with my uncle and got thrown into his crazy ass fighting operation. You let people influence you and you stand up for people too quick. You should be pissed at me!"

Hoseok is undoubtedly confused. He squints his eyes and shakes his head. "Why would I be pissed at you? You literally patched me up for weeks. I know you just work for your uncle or whatever but fuck, I wouldn't have even survived mentally without you, Jimin."

Jimin chews on his lip ring and inhales on his cigarette once more. "What do you mean?"

"You're all I looked forward to after a fight," Hoseok admits and sets his glass down on the table. He scoots up on his bed so his legs fall over the edge. "If it wasn't for you, I don't know what would have happened to me. They would have broken me, probably. But knowing I could see you after a fight, knowing you'd fix me up and we got to talk, that’s what kept me going. And sure, you were a dick most of the time and you are pretty mean. But I get why you're like this."

Hoseok sighs at his own words and dares to look up at Jimin who has let most of his cigarette burn down now, and he's just eyeing him in this studious way that causes Hoseok's stomach to churn again. "Like what?"

"Defensive, and protective. You have to be given who your uncle is and what he made you do. I just hope that one day you feel like you don’t have to be like that anymore," Hoseok says honestly. Jimin crushes the cigarette in the ashtray. "I just hope one day you're free from your uncle. I hope you can go save lives at the hospital and not have to worry about illegal fighting rings or stupid guys like me who get in way over their heads over dumb financial decisions."

Hoseok looks down at the ground. Jimin is quiet again for a minute and the whiskey makes Hoseok's skin feel hot.

"You made me want to."

Hoseok's eyes dart upwards to meet Jimin's. "Want to what?"

"Get out, be free," Jimin says quietly. Jimin slides forward from the bed, and before Hoseok registers what's happening Jimin is closing the small distance from his bed to Hoseok's. He crawls onto his lap with his thighs straddling Hoseok's own.

"What are you doing?"

Then Jimin kisses him just once, and Hoseok feels his body tense at Jimin against him. "You just make me want to not be that way anymore."

"Really? How? We don't even know each other," Hoseok gulps down the nerves, yet his hands find a place right on the side of Jimin's thighs as if they belong there.

"I know that,” Jimin says easily with his voice low and straight to the point. “So let’s start with this."

Kissing Jimin is mind-blowing. And this kiss, compared to the one outside the car earlier that night, is different. Because Hoseok discovers quickly that Jimin is rough, impatient.

He bites at Hoseok's lip and takes it between his teeth with a soft, demanding grunt. And Hoseok automatically feels like he can't keep up.

Jimin grinds his hips down, opens his mouth sloppy to kiss Hoseok just the same. Hoseok pants out instantly, whines even.

"Jimin," he breathes out and gasps in surprise when Jimin takes a handful of his hair and pulls his neck back. "You're - you’re not drunk, are you?"

He can taste the aftermath of Jimin's kiss, the whiskey that's now laced on his tongue as if it’s forbidden. Jimin drags his mouth over Hoseok's parted lips lewdly, flicks at it teasingly with confidence in his actions. "No. But I want you all the same.”

"You do?"

Jimin is kissing him again as if to show him the answer while his ringed fingers gather into Hoseok’s hair to tug him back just a little more. Hoseok moans with slight embarrassment as his neck arches upwards into the kiss, and he tries to catch his breath but finds it impossible with the relentless way Jimin is kissing him.

"Don't you want to just forget for a while?" Jimin's mouth is on his ear next, gently tugging at the cartilage. His voice sends violent shivers down Hoseok's body, and he bucks up automatically at the pressure against his groin from Jimin's body on his lap. “After everything we’ve been through, can’t we just forget?”

"I - I don't know. It's quick, it’s - " Hoseok moans when Jimin rolls forward to coax him further. He releases the grip on his hair and feels Jimin’s hands pulling at Hoseok's shirt to peel it off. As if he doesn’t have control of his actions, Hoseok lifts up his arms and lets Jimin throw the garment somewhere behind him. "I like you, I don't want to ruin anything."

"You're not," Jimin encourages. "It's not."

"How do you know?" Hoseok rolls his head to the side once Jimin starts to run his mouth all over Hoseok’s neck. He squints when Jimin’s teeth dig into the skin right under his ear.

"I just know."

"So, what, you want to date or something?"

Jimin sucks on the flesh and gives the skin a harsh tug. Hoseok cries out lightly and bites down his lip as Jimin marks him up. His tongue massages the spot afterwards, then he pops off his neck with a sigh. His hands brush back Hoseok’s hair and he holds his face right between his palms. "Hoseok, shut the fuck up, please. I swear you ask me so many questions."

"I'm sorry."

"Don't be sorry, stop saying you’re sorry," Jimin eyes him dangerously like he wants to devour him. "I’m good at taking care of you, so just let me. Let me help you. Let me get you out of that mess. Be good for me, okay?"

Hoseok opens his mouth to say something because of course he has about a thousand questions he wants to ask Jimin. Why do you want to take care of me? Why do you want to help me? Do you even really like me? What is this with us now? What happens next?

But there is a spark in Jimin's eye, one that is almost begging Hoseok to let him do all the things he said. And Hoseok wants to, he wants to let go of the moment and just be taken care of for once.

He nods and swallows down another gulp.

"You want me too, don't you?" Jimin traces his fingernail down Hoseok's cheek. Hoseok nods again.

"Yes."

"We can worry about all of that stuff later, okay? Get through tonight, get through tomorrow, and it'll all be over, I promise."

Hoseok's heart races when Jimin pushes himself down on his lap again. And maybe it's a combination between Jimin’s honied words and the pressure against his crotch, or just the thought of maybe creating something with Jimin after all of this is said and done, but Hoseok is so hard, so immediately hard and feeling desperate for whatever Jimin wants to do to him.

Then they’re kissing again, this time with Jimin controlling the movement more hungrily. His hips grind down on Hoseok’s lap with force, his tongue darting around inside of his mouth trying to find whatever he's looking for. Hoseok groans and digs his nails into Jimin's legs as his body starts to vibrate at how good Jimin makes him feel just sitting here like this.

Jimin crawls off of him next and Hoseok can see how hard he is through his sweats, and he finds himself nearly whimpering at the sight. He tugs off his shorts while Jimin searches through his wallet for a condom, then he rummages through the bag for a small bottle of lube that he had apparently bought when he went out to the store.

Like he planned this.

Hoseok isn't sure what to feel right away about that, and chooses to ignore it.

He lays back on the bed with his hand on his cock to stroke himself gently, his body trembling from anxiety and his heart clutching at the beautiful sight of Park Jimin stripping from his pants. Because he's gorgeous, so strong and lean with a body fit for some romance novel that Hoseok doesn't even feel worthy of right now.

And Jimin is relentless, still impatient. He practically dives onto Hoseok's lap with his mouth devouring his, and with low grunts and moans escaping down Hoseok’s throat. It's so quick that Hoseok barely has time to register anything or even admire how Jimin feels on top of him.

He mumbles between their frantic kiss. "Jimin, slow down."

But Jimin only bites at his lip in retaliation, pulls it in so many different directions and Hoseok is squirming, whining, dizzy.

Fuck, he's never been handled like this.

He's panicking on the inside, only because Jimin is being so aggressive and prominent. He’s panicking because he doesn’t feel equal or deserving of Jimin in any way, like he’s spent this entire time being a victim and he wants to prove to Jimin that he’s anything but. Yet there is also this part of him that believes Jimin likes it like this, that this is how he is when it comes to intimacy, whether emotional or physical. So while Jimin sits up on his lap to squirt lube on his fingers, Hoseok can finally admire him this way and he feels safe.

Hoseok lets himself feel everything.

Jimin reaches around his body with his sticky fingers, and then he's touching himself just like that.

He pulls his lip between his teeth, grunts out as he pushes his fingers inside.

Hoseok watches in complete amazement. He’s immediately enthralled, utterly fascinated by Park Jimin on top of him right now touching himself. His cock is throbbing and begs to be given attention in any way. He moves his fingers to help Jimin with the stretch wanting to pleasure him too, and wanting to share the moment with him. Hoseok is almost surprised that Jimin doesn't swat them away, automatically assuming that Jimin would want that control, but instead Jimin just smirks with this little twist of his mouth that causes Hoseok's body to electrify.

"You wanna touch me?"

Hoseok nods.

"Gonna stretch me real good?"

He nods again, fingers prodding against Jimin's hole to replace his fingers with his own. He groans and is breathing heavy, and Jimin is pushing himself down into Hoseok’s fingers so relentlessly.

Jimin’s mouth is back in Hoseoks again with the kiss hard and angry, and Hoseok finds it all overstimulating and he hasn’t even fucked him yet - the kiss and the heat on his fingers, Jimin’s body and how beautiful he is. It’s all so captivating and overwhelming. He’s whining again, he realizes, feeling desperate for Jimin now and to be consumed within him. He moves his fingers faster and tries to dig deeper.

Jimin pulls back to look down at Hoseok under him, and his expression is wild with his hair in his eyes and that small smirk on his lips.

Jimin sits back and Hoseok pulls out his fingers, feeling the sticky residue in its aftermath. Jimin tears open the condom wrapper and slips it on, and Hoseok wiggles at the contact of something against his cock. Its quick, all of this is so fast. But there doesn’t seem to be anything stopping Jimin in having what he wants, how he wants it.

Then Jimin is lining himself up against Hoseok’s member, one hand pressed against Hoseok’s chest and the other guiding himself down. They meet eyes as the tip breaks through first, and Hoseok moans out shamelessly and grips onto Jimin’s legs with a squeeze.

“Fuck,” he pants out and resists the urge to push upwards knowing Jimin probably won’t like that. Jimin eases himself down skillfully, his face expressing the immediate pleasure of being filled yet there is something else there that Hoseok can’t make out. It’s a very specific type of control that has him gulping, squirming, as Jimin keeps potent eye contact and sinks down the rest of the way.

Jimin lets out a sigh and pulls his lip between his teeth. “You okay?”

Hoseok nods feverishly as the heat is consumed around his cock. It’s unbelievable. And Jimin is unbelievable and looks so perfect sitting on him like this.

"You're doing good," Jimin grunts as he adjusts. "You feel so good."

Hoseok reaches up his hand to drag his fingers along the tattoo on his rib cage, his nails brushing across the inked letters as if he’s touching something precious.

“When did you get this?”

“Last year,” Jimin grinds down suddenly then and Hoseok squeaks out a loud groan.

“Why did you get it? Did it hurt? What does it mean?”

Jimin shakes his head with a little laugh that is strained from the stretch. “Still asking me questions even when I’m sitting on your fucking cock.”

“Sorry, I just want to know.”

Jimin starts to move next with his hips rolling in a sensual and particular way that causes Hoseok to throw his head back with an excruciating moan.

“Okay, fuck. No more questions,” Hoseok exhales harshly as Jimin sits up and slides back down in one quick motion that has Hoseok seeing stars. “Fuck.”

“Noisy,” Jimin huffs but Hoseok can see the smile behind his scolding. He presses his hands into Hoseok’s chest and starts to grind quick, his breath coming out as soft grunts as he does so particularly and skillfully.

Jimin is immediately spectacular and in control, and Hoseok is in complete awe of his movements that flow like brush strokes on a canvas. Yet he’s steady and consistent, moves on Hoseok’s lap like he can do this forever he needed to.

Hoseok is a mess.

He’s grabbing anywhere that he can reach - Jimin’s legs then the pillow with his neck rolling around his head aimlessly as the pleasure shoots through him like a goddamn natural disaster. Jimin moves with hips circling perfectly, with stamina that is out of this world, and with complete control over the two of them that Hoseok has already given up on trying to take back. It’s nothing he’s ever experienced before, and he feels his body going rigid and his head becoming dizzy every time Jimin slides so skillfully against his cock.

Jimin is biting at his lip ring when Hoseok meets his gaze from under him like he’s examining him, observing everything that Hoseok is doing in order to pleasure him even more. Hoseok’s face gets hot as they stare at each other and he feels his cheeks burst into flames.

Jimin’s hand wraps itself around his cock, then he leans his other hand back to grip onto Hoseok’s thigh.

“Wanna come?" Jimin's voice is sultry and defiant, almost teasing. "You're doing so good, taking me so well.”

Hoseok grunts shamelessly at the shift in angle, and fuck he can’t believe that Jimin is even real. He looks mythical and alluring, dominating and full of confidence that Hoseok can’t even compare with. Hoseok squints and nods. “Yeah, I don’t have to though. I can wait if you want.”

Jimin laughs cutely next, moves his hips different as he starts to stroke himself to his own rhythm. “You couldn’t keep up with how long I can last, Hoseok.”

“That’s encouraging.”

“I can fuck you for hours like this,” Jimin says with a self-possessed twist to his lips. “Could just sit right here in your cock and watch you squirm.”

Hoseok moans and thrashes at Jimin’s indelicate words. There are parts of him that want that. He wants everything from Jimin even if he’s embarrassed and can’t keep up. But right now all he can think about is cumming.

“Could just listen to you whine all night,” Jimin picks up the pace from this position, his thighs bouncing now as he lifts himself up and drops himself back down so fluidly to paint his canvas a dangerous array of unperturbed colors. “Sound so good. Fuck, you drive me fucking crazy.”

“Ahh, Jimin, Jimin - “ Hoseok feels his body ignite. He sees white, feels his limbs spasm at the way Jimin is grinding down on him so mercilessly now.

Then Jimin is moving from the position and throws himself forward again to kiss Hoseok powerfully. He grabs his face between his hands as he bounces harder in his lap. He swallows down Hoseok’s moans, captures them right against his tongue as he fucks him hard. “Come on.”

Hoseok can’t hold back, doesn’t want to. He cums hard with a screeching whine, his hands digging into Jimin’s arms as he thrashes underneath of him. He moans and breathes heavy into Jimin’s mouth as he holds him down, finding that the release is everything he ever fucking needed after all of these chaotic weeks of fighting off his debt.

Then Jimin is moving upwards, popping off Hoseok’s length and shimmying up to straddle his chest. His hand is on his cock again to jerk himself off, his tongue sticking out between his teeth and his breathing coming out harsh as he chases his high.

Hoseok’s mind is hazy, eyes still blinking through his orgasm as he stares languidly up at Jimin. He reaches up his hands to flick over the nipple rings wanting to bite them and suck them between his lips. He plays with them laggardly as Jimin’s face twists to find his own stimulation in hopes of releasing his orgasm, and Hoseok is looking up at him with his eyes wide and filled with longing.

Jimin is cumming then, the sticky substance shooting out on Hoseok’s face in no particular manner. Some of it drips on his lip and some cascades against his sharp, fucked out features. Hoseok moans again but the sound is captured against Jimin’s mouth once more as he kisses him breathlessly. It’s messy, dirty, yet Hoseok feels comfortable and content. He kisses him back the best he can, tries to keep Jimin close to him and not wanting to give up on this feeling quite yet.

Jimin’s mouth lingers on Hoseok’s as they breathe together in unison. And Hoseok realizes that the moment is becoming intimate, special.

He wants to say something, literally anything that’s not a question about random things he’s interested in when it comes to Jimin. But his mind is only filled with the image of Park Jimin and his beauty, and he feels captivated, and complete.

Jimin kisses him again just once, then he’s moving to take off the condom for Hoseok and standing up to find a towel to throw back at Hoseok on the bed. Hoseok cleans off his face, admires Jimin silently just walking around the motel room naked trying to find what he needs. He pulls up his shorts, sits up and feels his head fucking spin in the aftermath.

Jimin pours another glass of whiskey and takes down the shot with a hiss. Then he finds his sweats and pulls them up, and finally lights a cigarette.

Hoseok clears his throat and holds up his glass from the bedside table. Jimin eyes it with a little smirk, grabs the bottle of whiskey and walks back over to him.

“I know you don’t want me to ask about tomorrow - " Hoseok starts to say as the brown liquid topples inside.

“But you’re going to,” Jimin settles on the bed next to Hoseok with the ashtray in his lap and crosses his legs. “Right?”

Hoseok shakes his head then takes down the shot. “No, I was just going to tell you to be careful.”

Jimin exhales a plume of smoke into the air above them. They meet eyes sincerely and Jimin leans forward with Hoseok meeting him halfway on instinct. They kiss sweetly and tenderly, with an unspoken understanding between them this time that seems genuine.

“I’ll be careful, I promise.”

 

—◦◉◦—

 

When Hoseok wakes the following morning, he's on his back and his head is immediately throbbing from just the smallest of hangovers. Late into the night, Jimin and Hoseok had shared another glass or two of whiskey and Hoseok had passed out exhausted from everything - from the sex to his general lifestyle over the last few weeks to everything else. He isn't even sure if Jimin fell asleep with him, but as soon as he wakes up he realizes that Jimin is nowhere to be found.

There is immediate panic, only because Hoseok feels instantly lost without seeing him. But he tells himself that he has to calm down quick, because he knows Jimin is taking care of things today.

He promised everything would be okay, so he'll just have to trust him.

Hoseok showers,(maybe secretly admires the little purple mark on the side of his neck that Jimin had left him last night), and shuffles around the motel room aimlessly. He clicks through the TV channels, munches on snacks that Jimin had bought from the convenience store the night before, works out a little bit, strolls up and down the balcony outside literally doing anything he can to try and keep his mind away from the fact that Jimin went back without him.

From snooping around the motel, Hoseok discovers where he is at least and what city and state he ended up in after he had agreed to fight, and he frowns when he realizes he's so far away from home.

The worst part is knowing that he could leave if he wanted to. He could pack a small bag with his menial belongings and hitchhike back to his city, find his parents and tell them he's sorry, wait for the day that Jimin's uncle comes for him and kills him, or his family, or worse.

But Hoseok stays put. He paces through the room and feels himself getting worked up as the hours pass. From the afternoon to the early evening to night time, until eventually Hoseok realizes it’s about the time the fights that are taking place tonight have officially started.

And he's not there to participate.

And he just doesn't know what the fuck is going to happen.

Hoseok wants to pull out his hair. It's midnight and Jimin still isn't back yet. His car isn't in the lot. There haven’t been any phone calls or anything indicating that Jimin is okay. He sits on the edge of the bed and buries his hands in his face and feels like he's about to cry over not knowing what to fucking do.

Because what if the worst really happened? What if Jimin's uncle didn't exactly enjoy the fact that Jimin let Hoseok escape? They've killed people before. Would he really go through that much trouble to killing his own nephew?

Hoseok takes a swig of whiskey, then another. The hours continue to pass.

1am, 2am, nothing.

He's tired, feels his eyes heavy from the slight buzz and from exhaustion and boredom and the unknown. But Hoseok forces himself to stay awake. He can't imagine being able to sleep not knowing that Jimin is okay, or that he's alive.

3am. 4am.

Eventually the sun starts to rise over the small town. Hoseok watches the cars on the highway in the distance pick up as the traffic starts on a Thursday morning. He sits at the table and rests his chin in his palm supported by his elbow on the wood with his eyes drifting closed against his will. He thinks that this is probably it and that he'll have to just accept his fate of being alone, and that Jimin is probably dead. Maybe he’ll be on the run forever and never go back home. Maybe he’ll helplessly try to find the organization and turn himself back in and hope for the best.

A life of fighting in those rings wouldn't hurt anyone, right? Jimin had said there were people that spent their entire life there, so maybe he could just become one, too.

Hoseok’s thoughts are irrational and incoherent from his lack of sleep and the alcohol. His head falls off his chin and he snaps his head up. And at the same time this happens, the door to the motel room opens.

And Jimin staggers inside.

"Oh my god!"

Jimin is beat to shit - perhaps that’s not even the best way to describe him. Hoseok is on his feet and running towards Jimin who is quite literally falling inside the room. Hoseok reaches out to grab him before he topples over completely.

"Jimin! Oh my god, what happened? You're alive. I can't believe it, oh my god," he drags him to the edge of the bed and Jimin falls onto it with a chaotic wince of pain. And Hoseok's mouth falls open at the sight of Jimin in this state, his entire body tensing from how fucked up Jimin looks.

His eyes are swollen with prominent purple and green bruises forming there. His lip ring has been ripped out with nothing but an open gash in its place. His clothing is covered in blood and other questionable substances, and his knuckles are bruised and bloody. It’s everything that Hoseok probably looked like the first night they met after his very first fight. And Jimin was right, it seems, that the first fight is always the worst.

But then Jimin winces again and presses his hand against his torso where blood is pouring out even more than it was before.

Hoseok's hands are shaking as he lifts up his shirt, notices the incredible gash there that looks like it's been pierced. "Oh my god, okay. What the fuck, they didn't even patch you up? You've been doing so much for them and they couldn't even help you!? Okay, tell me what to do?"

"My bag," Jimin motions for his supplies and Hoseok brings it over to him. He helps Jimin take off his shirt and Jimin breathes out in absolute pain. "Pressure - "

Hoseok takes the already bloody shirt and presses it against the wound while Jimin's shaky hands fumble through his supplies to grab the gauze and alcohol swabs, the needle and thread and everything else he needs.

He's breathing unsteady and sporadic, and Hoseok notices that he's sweating and clammy. He touches one hand to his forehead, feels that it's hot to the touch. "Jimin - "

"I'm fine. Fucking, pour this shit on it for me."

Jimin motions for the alcohol. He hesitates but complies to the demand, tries to ignore the agonizing hiss from Jimin at the motion of it burning his open wound.

They go to work like that for a long time, with Jimin patching himself up and Hoseok doing the best he can to help. Jimin stitches up his own wound, cleans up his lip and the other cuts and scrapes on his damaged body. He downs the whiskey with heavy gulps, lights a cigarette and lays flat on his back at last.

Hoseok sits next to him and dabs at Jimin's face with a cold wet towel.

"You didn't have to do this for me," Hoseok says softly. "You didn't have to fight for me."

"Yeah, I did," Jimin says and his eyes are closed as he lays there. "They needed someone to fight. It took some convincing but my uncle caved. I told him I'd pay back the money he spent for my education so I wasn't in his debt, and that I'd fight for you if he let us both go."

"Looks like he did more than that to you."

"Yeah, he was pissed. He let my cousin pass me around a few times like a punching bag. Had to show his dominance or whatever. But I guess," Jimin sighs again, opens his eyes to look up at Hoseok warmly. Hoseok puts his hand in Jimin's hair and pushes back the sweaty strands. "I guess it all worked out. He said you could go. You made him a lot of money over the last few weeks. Said this fight was gonna be your last, anyway."

Hoseok's heart hurts. He can't believe Jimin would go through this for him and he feels undeserving again. He shakes his head in disbelief. "I should have just stayed and fought then! You didn't even have to do it for me!"

"Yes, I did," Jimin reaches for him, his hand interlocking with Hoseok's now and he frowns. "I wouldn't have been able to get out otherwise. And I mean, technically I still owe him a debt but at least he won't be hounding me or keeping me prisoner. I can leave now. I'll send him money for college as I get it."

"You trust him?" Hoseok asks sincerely.

"Yeah, I do. I know it sounds crazy but we're family. He's a bad guy, I get it. What he does is terrible. But I trust him," Jimin sighs sadly. "He let me go. It’s over."

Hoseok leans down to kiss Jimin gently, and he hates that he winces from where his lip ring got ripped out. "Did you win at least?"

Jimin smiles cheekily and brushes back Hoseok's hair from his forehead. "Fuck no."

Hoseok laughs something amazing then, and maybe part of him was expecting Jimin to have won and showed his uncle a good show. "Really??"

"I got my ass kicked. It was so scary. I don't know how you managed to keep going after your first fight."

Hoseok's heart softens and he kisses Jimin again, then again. Jimin rubs at the nape of his neck to keep him close, winces through the kiss but is determined to keep their mouths together as long as he can.

Hoseok pulls back and says easily. "It was you, Jimin. You kept me going. You made me strong."

Jimin closes his eyes and pulls Hoseok down besides him so they're laying together on the bed. Hoseok is careful to wrap himself around Jimin’s torso and digs his head right into Jimin's arm as they snuggle.

"So what now?" Jimin asks timidly with a slight change of tone from what Hoseok is mostly used to.

"I want to go back home," Hoseok says to him easily. It’s the only thing he can think of now that he knows they’re safe and now that he knows they can move on with their lives. "Will you come with me?"

He can feel Jimin smile, and though he's weak right now he squeezes at Hoseok’s shoulder to keep him closer to his body. Hoseok's entire soul warms at the touch and the motion.

"Yeah," Jimin then says. "I'll go home with you."