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Run Into Sin

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“You know these things. You know how to ride a dirt bike, and you know how to do long division, and you know that a boy who likes boys is a dead boy, unless he keeps his mouth shut, which is what you didn't do, because you are weak and hollow and it doesn't matter anymore.”
Richard Siken - Crush

**

(Mood for the first quarter of this chapter: LANY - Walk Away)

 

“Jeongguk. Guk. Honey, you gotta get up.”

Jeongguk groans from the insistent deep voice calling out to him, disturbing him from his deep slumber. He squeezes his eyes shut tighter, willing the man away from him and granting himself a few more minutes of sleep. However, Hoseok doesn’t relent.

“Guk… we have rehearsals, c’mon.”

“No. Please.”

It’s no surprise that Jeongguk has been hiding out in Hoseok’s apartment recently, trying to refuel in the comfort of his friend’s four walls. Stepping outside means facing reality, means the possibility of facing Jimin and he can’t handle that right now.

Hoseok sighs as he scoots forward, kneeling before Jeongguk and the bed. A soothing hand runs through strands of Jeongguk’s hair, gently tugging at the roots.

“I know you’re hurting, Guk. I know you don’t want to go anywhere. I know and I understand. But our dance practice is days away and we haven’t practiced in two days. I’m scared. This is important for us and we can’t blow it, not because you’re heartbroken.”

“I’m not heartbroken,” he mumbles stubbornly back.

“Not heartbroken,” Hoseok repeats, though there’s a scoff evident in his tone. “But regardless, you can’t stay in bed. We have to make a move today.”

Jeongguk feels like a burden. The past two days have been terrible for him, confining him to Hoseok’s bed. He had insisted on taking the couch since he was crashing unexpectedly but Hoseok had claimed as a hyung, he can’t give Jeongguk the uncomfortable option and forced him onto the bed.

He hasn’t done much. He’s ate when Hoseok’s prompted to, showered when he felt the sweat sticking to his body and causing an unpleasant odor and he’s practiced the routine during nighttime when insomnia plagues him and Jimin’s words spin in his mind. He’s desperate for a distraction, of any kind, to remove the cruel words that Jimin had uttered.

Jeongguk doesn’t mean to come across as useless. He just doesn’t know how to force himself to go through a normal day-to-day routine when his chest threatens to collapse upon itself, when his heart squeezes tightly in an uncomfortable manner whenever he even thinks of stepping back onto campus.

Jeongguk sighs as he blinks awake, being greeted with a blearily vision of a concerned, mother-hen looking Hoseok crouched before him.

“You worry too much, hyung,” Jeongguk mutters under his breath, husky from the remnants of sleepiness.

Hoseok shrugs. “If I won’t, who will?”

“I really don’t want to go to class.”

“I know, sweetheart,” Hoseok frowns. There’s a sympathetic look that implores his features, softening out his curled down lips. He reaches out, soothingly rubbing his shoulder blades. “Trust me. But we have to remember that our performance is merely four days away and we haven’t been in the studio even once.”

“If we fail, you can blame me.”

“We’re not failing.” Determination filters into his voice, shaking his head furiously. “If you talk like that again, I’ll slap you.”

Jeongguk decides not to irritate his older friend any longer. He nods in a silent promise, not wanting to dwell on the idea that they may fail in four days. They’ve been working hard for an entire year and they have an audience waiting for them, entertainment companies anticipating to see their talent and whether or not they’re worthy to get signed. If anyone deserves the recognition and a deal, it’s Hoseok.

The man stands before him with the utmost assurance despite their halted rehearsals, he’s confident in the two of them together.

“Sorry. Let me shower, I’ll be right out.”

Hoseok seems to hesitate before he reluctantly agrees, giving Jeongguk the space he needs. He smiles, leaning over to pet his hair before withdrawing. There’s a perk in Hoseok’s steps now, seemingly satisfied with himself. Jeongguk vaguely wonders what he’s done in this lifetime to receive such a constant beam of sunshine in his life.

Once Hoseok’s left, Jeongguk’s guard comes down.

The previous attempts he had desperately tried to put in place for Hoseok comes tumbling down and his smile falls, melancholy taking over. He takes a deep breath, collecting himself by counting back from ten in his head. He has to start the day. Time won’t wait up for him, no matter what. Time won’t slow down because he’s facing a turmoil.

He tears the duvet off his heated body, grabbing a fresh change of clothes from his bag. In a hurry, Jeongguk hadn’t packed efficiently and he’s regretting it now―left with scraps and clothes that aren’t matching.

The shower takes a while to warm up but he stands under the unforgiving, cold spray until it’s pleasant. The shower hit the knots in his back harshly, limbs working slower than usual as he scrubs himself. In the small enclosed place, he can’t help how his thoughts wander to Jimin and he has to force himself to focus elsewhere.

His phone hasn’t been switched on for three days now. He wonders if Jimin’s tried to reach out to him, to apologise and try to retract his words. Jeongguk wonders whether or not it’ll matter now, whether the damage has already been done.

Before he can begin to spiral dangerously and enter an unhealthy state-of-mind for the rest of the day, he exits the shower and begins his day.

Hoseok’s waiting in the kitchen for him, the dining table adorned with his favourite breakfast option: an egg sandwich.

It’s bittersweet. Jimin would have food waiting for him for every meal, whether it’s fresh or pre-prepared, and it’d taste delicious each time. It feels criminal to indulge in someone else’s cooking, especially when he’s desperately craving someone else’s. He takes a deep breath and smiles at Hoseok in appreciation, grabbing the sandwich and gingerly taking a bite.

It’s distasteful. Hoseok’s cooking is spectacular, if anything. But Jeongguk doesn’t have an appetite and the texture rubs at his taste buds, making him want to throw up.

Hoseok notices but he doesn’t say anything else, pretending to be blissfully unaware as he filters around the kitchen. He washes the dishes, humming a tune under his breath as he gives Jeongguk the time he needs to finish his breakfast. They both know no one’s leaving until the plate is empty.

It takes a while but Jeongguk finally swallows the sandwich down, a large lump in his throat as he puts the plate down.

Hoseok finally turns around when there’s a silent promise that he’s finished, grinning slowly as he nods delightfully.

“Great! Let’s go!”

Hoseok remains the devoted friend he is, dropping Jeongguk off to his classes with a encouraging embrace and a promise he’ll be here at the end so they can go to dance practice together. Being out in public once again and immersing with people has never felt more like a mission than it does now, having to put up with a false pretence and pretend he’s okay.

He’s not sure whether he’s overreacting or not. He feels like he is.

Jeongguk has managed to fall for someone for the first time. He has known his sexuality from a young age but it’s never extended beyond sexual desire, the feeling of wanting to be with someone romantically has always been a distant hope for the future. At some point, he had become convinced everyone uses him for his family name and therefore, he had refused to allow himself to get attached to anyone.

Jimin entered his life. At first, for the five months, he admired the boy from afar. There was layers upon layers to Jimin, each stuck to him fiercely and never revealing much about himself. Jeongguk had been intrigued, purely because he likes a challenge, and he had fought hard to pull each layer down.

Now, he’s been revealed with who Jimin is. A frightened individual himself, running from a life where he’s been trying to cater to others. Deep inside, bitter towards anyone who supposedly has it better.

Jeongguk hasn’t had better.

What’s a life when your parents look down upon you, put a price tag on you and treat you nothing beyond that? What’s a life when your parents have been emotionally unavailable all their lives and can only show their affection through money? A new iPhone for when you fail a test, a new MacBook for when you trip up on the street and have a graze. What’s a life when they discover your one and only talent and try to strip you away from it, try to reduce you down to their lives and then, shun you out because you refuse to follow?

Jeongguk squeezes his eyes shut, exhaling sharply through his nose.

Before he can enter the first class of the day, he feels a tight pair of arms wrapping around his body. The person snuggles into Jeongguk’s neck, sighing and the warmth and the musky scent of the person instantly reminds him of Taehyung.

Taehyung is here. Taehyung’s hugging him and consoling him, nuzzling his nose into the junction of Jeongguk’s neck. He’s here. Jeongguk could cry. As lovely as Hoseok’s presence has been, nothing compares to his best friend of similar age.

“I’m here, I’m here,” Taehyung’s whispering as if he’s reading his mind. “I’m sorry I didn’t come see you before. Honestly, I didn’t know where you were and you wouldn’t answer my calls.”

“Sorry.”

“It’s alright, Guk. You okay?”

They stand outside the class and though the lights dim and the lecture begins, neither of them move from the back hug. Jeongguk feels his muscles relaxing, falling more pliant in Taehyung’s hold as the seconds tick by.

“No,” he replies honestly.

Taehyung sighs. “I know.”

“Have you spoken to Jimin?”

“I don’t want to.”

Jeongguk frowns and shakes his head. Memories of Jimin standing alone, broken in their living room enter his mind and it causes him to have to take a deep breath. He shouldn’t feel guilt but that resides alongside the other dwelling emotions, knowing he perhaps hadn’t made the best decision. Jimin was, also, reeling from his own problems and he had left Jimin to fend for himself.

“But… is he okay?” Jeongguk tries not to pout. “Please, tell me he’s okay.”

Taehyung doesn’t reply for a while, seemingly no words to muster up with. He finally pulls away from the embrace, turning Jeongguk around so they’re facing each other. Worry implores his features, brows furrowed together and lips stretched into a thin, concerned line.

“You really like him.”

How many times are people going to state this? Jeongguk knows, he knows this feeling even when it’s unfamiliar and icky, feels unpleasant and invades every vein in his system to cause him to go into overdrive. He knows he likes Jimin.

“Yes, Taehyung.” He hopes the annoyance doesn’t shine through his tone.

If it does, Taehyung barely notices. He just sighs and shakes his head, running a hand through his well kempt hair.

“Yoongi’s been with him and he claims that Jimin’s doing okay,” he answers Jeongguk’s concerns.

Of course Jimin’s okay. Why wouldn’t he be okay?

Jeongguk forces himself to breathe through the sharp stab he feels in the side of his stomach, the realisation that Jimin’s just fine without him. He forces his perilous thoughts to a part of his brain he can’t access, refusing to acknowledge them. He reaches out for Taehyung’s forearm instead, tugging him in the direction of their lecture hall.

“We’re going to miss the notes.”

**

Clinical Psychology. Important.

Jimin rereads the words he’s written on his notepad, bold and underlined and yet, as he sits in this lecture―none of the words go through him. They go right over his head, unbothered and unfazed.

He has no real reason to focus in Psychology lessons now.

The only reason he had opted to pick the subject was because his dad was a long-time Psychologist, held a deep, intricate passion for the topic. He had devoted his entire life to helping other patients, coming up with alternative methods than resorting to medication for mental health.

Maybe, just maybe, if Jimin had followed the same path―he’d earn a father’s love.

He’d earn his father’s smile directed towards him instead of his siblings, he’d earn his father’s praises instead of being told he’s a failure. Just maybe, it’d be his turn to be accepted into the family.

It never worked. His father never called him, never checked up on him the entire time he’s been doing his degree. The one time he did, he was only displeased by Jimin’s course and claimed he had chosen the wrong university to study at. There’s always something wrong with Jimin, one thing after the other that always makes him fall short of his father’s pride shining on him.

Jimin can feel both Yoongi and Seokjin’s gentle, but prying eyes, focusing on him.

It causes an itch under his skin, wanting them to look away but knowing his friends are only concerned for him. He doesn’t want it. He doesn’t deserve it. For someone with such a rough history, how could’ve he assumed Jeongguk’s life?

He might’ve had no idea of what Jeongguk’s dealt with. They’ve never allowed their bond to progress to that extent, never managed to make it down to the nitty and gritty details. But he knows Jeongguk’s life couldn’t of been easy, not with the way he holds dancing so dearly like it’ll slip right through his fingers and how he lives like a peasant despite the fact that he’s apparently rich.

Jimin is so stupid.

“Jiminie,” Yoongi’s calling for him, nudging him. “Focus.”

“Patient, Yoon.” Seokjin interrupts and provides his piece. “He’s trying.”

Jimin grits his teeth as he lifts his head up, reading the words on the projector even when they blend into each other and makes the task is virtually impossible. Fuck Psychology. He doesn’t need Psychology anymore.

“We have an assignment coming up,” Yoongi continues in his velvet smooth tone, not a single mishap. If he’s worried for Jimin, he’s doing an exceptional job of hiding it and only meaning business. “He can’t slack off, not now.”

“He’s having a hard time.”

“So? I―”

“Stop,” Jimin says harshly. “Stop.”

They all fall silent and Yoongi turns away, determinedly focus on the rest of the lecture as Seokjin nods off to sleep.

The longer Jimin sits here, the more he feels paralysed. He doesn’t have to keep pretending now, he doesn’t have to keep scoring high grades and overworking himself into the early hours of the morning for his father, his mother. They no longer matter. They’re no longer a part of his life.

It’s a revelation that he’s still trying to come to terms with. Whilst there’s mourning within himself, a gaping hole that leaves his heart wide open―there’s also relief.

Relief that he doesn’t have to hide his sexuality any longer and he doesn’t have to keep pushing away potential partners he would’ve gotten with before, relief that he doesn’t have to keep internalising his sexuality. Relief. It floods his system and takes over, feeling liberated. At long last, Jimin’s free.

Fuck Psychology.

He throws his pen down, grabbing his bag and shuffling out of his seat.

Yoongi’s hand shoots out to halt him almost immediately, eyes flooding with panic as he tightens his hold. As if he’s afraid Jimin will go running.

“Where’re you going, Jiminie?”

Jimin manages a smile. He hasn’t been able to show off such gestures recently, not when he feels like he’s going to break into two pieces, quite literally. Returning home to an empty apartment, void of Jeongguk’s cheerful presence has been hurting him more and more when he wakes up to the same the next morning.

He may of ruined one good thing for himself, he won’t allow his life to follow the same way.

“I’m dropping out.”

Yoongi’s eyes bulge right out of his sockets. “W-what?”

“Hyung, you know I have no interest for Psychology.”

“Yes, but―”

“So, I quit. I’m done. I’m going to apply for culinary school right now.”

Yoongi seems bewildered, eyes darting across Jimin’s features as he analyses him carefully. When he notices nothing but absolute sincerity staring back at him, his steel expression is dropped. There’s something that resembles… pride in Yoongi’s pupils, darkening them momentarily as he bites his lips.

“I… go on, Jimin. I’m proud of you.”

Maybe, just maybe, it’s okay that his parents never held any honour for Jimin and his efforts. Maybe, they were never supposed to be the people to give him acceptance, to give him the assurance that he needs.

Because before him sits Yoongi with wide, shining eyes that are nothing but genuine. There’s candid honesty in his voice, quivering with the words.

Jimin closes his eyes. This is what it feels like, to have someone to be proud of you.

“I love you, hyung.” Is all he whispers before he grabs his belongings and ushers out of the lecture, thrilled with the adrenaline. Prepared to start a new life and make amends.

**

Jeongguk keeps faltering.

It’s obvious that he’s focusing on something else, mind wandering far away from the studio he stands in, in front of the big mirror and the blinding lights. His body may be present in the dancing studio but his mind isn’t.

Hoseok’s trying his hardest to be patient but annoyance leaks into his tone.

“We have our performance in two days, Guk.” Hoseok shuffles closer to him, reaching out to wrap an arm around Jeongguk’s shoulder and draw him closer. “C’mon, get your head in the game.”

“Sorry, hyung.”

Jeongguk wishes it was so easy, wishes he can erase every part of Jimin from his mind and focus on the task at hand.

They practice for thirty minutes longer with little to no break, exhausting themselves until their clothes are drenched with the sweat. The song switches up and the seconds break ends, prompting them into rehearsing over and over. Jeongguk’s limbs move on their own accord, following the dance steps like he can do it in his sleep.

“Is your family coming to watch the performance?” Jeongguk asks, voice coming out as a high squeak.

The song finishes and before the next audio can play, Hoseok’s walking over and halting their CD. He turns to Jeongguk with an almost sympathetic look, like he doesn’t want to admit the truth. Jeongguk hates how he makes people feel like they have to walk on eggshells around him, especially concerning the topic of family.

It takes a minute for Hoseok to finally answer, heaving a sigh.

“Parents and sister, yes,” Hoseok finally says. “They’re travelling from afar for me.”

Hoseok has a good relationship with his family, spends most nights talking to his sister on the phone and FaceTiming his mother in the morning when he’s eating breakfast. He maintains a good bond, despite the distance and the absence between them.

Jeongguk wants to feel envious. They’re travelling from their home city to Seoul, just to see Hoseok perform. They want to support their son in the flesh, want to watch him through their own eyes. It proves their utmost love for their son.

Whereas Jeongguk’s family, only residing forty minutes away from campus, won't be attending.

He fails to feel bitter over this fact any longer, though. He has known what his family is like since the minute he had decided to move out of the mansion that no longer held the meaning of ‘Home’ for him and came to study.

Jeongguk doesn’t want his family there.

“That’s good,” Jeongguk grins. “I bet your parents will be excited.”

Hoseok sheepishly smiles. It still looks like he’s trying to hold back, to make sure he’s not rubbing his fortune in Jeongguk’s face. Hoseok is lucky but Jeongguk only feels prideful over this fact.

“Yeah… we’ve been talking about it a lot, recently.”

“I can’t wait to see them.”

Hoseok hums in approval over this fact. He retreats back to the stereo system and turns the music back on, prompting them to continue with the routine.

In total, they’re performing six songs. It’ll be a fast-paced, tiring performance that’ll consist of them being fast on their feet and little breaks in between. Some many even consider it inhumane. But Jeongguk wants it fast, intense―he wants to prove he can take it and he can make a potential future career out of this dream of his.

Nothing will break his heart harder than not being able to achieve his dream.

Hoseok doesn’t need to guide him any longer, both of them familiar with their dancing moves. It continues in the same manner, Jeongguk gaining confidence over his every step and Hoseok’s encouraging nods and praises only spuring him on.

They, momentarily, stop for a break when they hear the front door rattling.

“Someone’s at the studio,” Hoseok sighs as he shakes his head, running a hand through his hair to straighten it out. “Go check for me, please?”

“Sure.”

Jeongguk swallows. A part of him isn’t prepared to meet other people and interact with them but he also knows Hoseok is trying to get him back to his old self. He takes a deep breath, walking to the front door of the studio.

He opens without pausing to take a look in the peep hole.

It’s Jimin.

Jimin’s standing before him with bleary eyes, smudged eyeliner underneath his eyelash. He’s wrapped his arms around himself, trying to hold himself up. He looks like he’s desperately trying to keep himself in place, eyes lighting up just the slightest upon seeing Jeongguk.

“Guk—“

“No.”

Jeongguk’s declining immediately, not even waiting for his answer to follow. He’s not sure he wants to listen to Jimin right now.

Granted, he’d give anything to fix the situation between he and Jimin. But right now, there’s still lingering resentment that dwells deep within him and invades his organs. He can’t make good with someone who he’s still silently cursing in his head.

Jimin’s face falls. The light drains, his lips curling downwards. He looks genuinely remorseful, like he’s aching to say his piece but short of getting what he wants.

“No?”

Jeongguk doesn’t bother saying anything else. Maybe, he can deal with it after his performance. But right now, seeing Jimin is opening up a wound that’s still trying to heal weakly. He can’t cut himself deeper when he’s got other things to focus on.

Jeongguk would rather secure his future first.

“I’m sorry,” he says and hopes his apologetic tone is obvious when he shuts the door and retreats back inside the studio.

Jeongguk doesn’t dare register the loud sob that breaks right afterwards, loud and clear to anyone. He doesn’t dare let his clenching chest and his twisting heart win.

**

Jimin’s not sure what to do, where to go.

He’s beginning to pick up the pieces of one part of his life. He hasn’t officially dropped out of university, not yet, but he’s already made a list of culinary schools around Seoul. They’re cutthroat and demanding, wanting expertise and experience. Jimin has both. He just has no record of it, never expanding upon his talents, never taking it anywhere else besides the kitchen.

But upon seeing Jeongguk and the harsh door to his face—Jimin’s beginning to realise his mistake more than ever.

He stands outside Yoongi’s apartment, urgently ringing the bell for him. It’s been a few minutes and there’s still no answer. He tries to call the man but to no avail. He sighs, feeling tears prickling in the back of his eyes again. Jimin has never felt so alone.

There’s shuffling from the other side of the door and it opens to reveal Taehyung.

Jimin halts, his expression falling upon seeing Taehyung. There’s obvious distaste settling in Taehyung’s features, frowning deeply and nose scrunched up. He glances around the block before glancing back at Jimin, unimpressed.

“Jeongguk isn’t here.”

“I’m not here for Jeongguk,” Jimin promises, trying not to let his voice come out as a whine. “I’m here for Yoongi hyung.”

“He’s not here either.”

Jimin bites his lips as it wobbles, a fresh set of tears overcoming him. He’s both heartbroken and regretful, mourning the loss of his family and his roommate. He’s both feeling liberated and trapped. Jimin sniffles as he tries to furiously wipe away the moisture before he can embarrass himself but Taehyung catches the sight of him crying.

He softens a little, reaching out to hold Jimin’s forearm.

“D’you wanna come inside?”

“I don’t deserve—”

“Come inside,” Taehyung insists firmly, gently steering Jimin into the block with the hold. He closes the front door behind him and opens up his arms, offering an embrace. “C’mere. Come.”

There’s something comforting within Taehyung’s tone, pinging him deep inside. Jimin, oddly, can’t keep it back anymore. He falls into the hug and begins to cry. He cries for his parents, for his siblings that he doesn’t think he’ll ever see again, for his roommate’s heart that he shattered, for the trust he held between the palm of his hand but crushed. He cries because he finally can.

Taehyung seems a little out of his element with the situation but adapts well enough, guiding him away from the front door and up to the apartment.

“Sit down, Jimin-ah,” Taehyung pushes him down onto the couch. “Hyung is out for an extra class he’s taken but he’ll home soon. Do you want anything to drink, to eat?”

Jimin shakes his head. “Just sit here with me, please?”

Taehyung seems to hesitate but obeys, nodding as he settles down besides him. He crosses his legs underneath him on the couch, grabbing the bottle of water on the coffee table and taking a long sip. It’s clear he’s trying his hardest to navigate through this awkward moment. He and Taehyung are good enough friends, they know each other through Yoongi but they’ve never delved in such a situation.

Taehyung finally seems to understand what he needs to do because he scoots closer.

“Wanna talk to me about what’s going on? I only know bits, there’s gaps in my knowledge. Enlighten me.”

Jimin sighs, shaking his head sheepishly.

“You’ll think differently of me.”

“Why do you think so?”

“You already do, Taehyung,” he reminds the man. “Just now, you were looking down upon me.”

Taehyung has the decency to look a little regretful about that, tugging on his bottom lip between his fingers. He shrugs.

“Like I said, I don’t know the full story.”

“I… I said some things I wish I could take back now.”

Taehyung hums thoughtfully, scrunching up his eyebrows carefully.

“About his family?”

“Y-yeah.”

“That was the worst topic you could’ve chosen to say something bad about. Do you know how sensitive that is to Jeongguk?”

Jimin hates that he does know. He knows all too well. Even if it hasn’t been talked about with direct words, the topic of family hangs heavy between the two of them. Even if they never had a conversation about it, Jeongguk had always avoided even heading in that direction. He had always seemed bitter about it, sour and closed off. It was ridiculous that Jimin couldn’t take the hint when provided with one.

“I guess so.”

Taehyung clicks his tongue. “It’s something he’s been trying to escape his entire life, Jimin. It’s the reason he ever left the dorms.”

“Dorms?”

“I know I shouldn’t say this without Jeongguk being here. This is his story but he’s stubborn, he’ll never fully let on how bad it is and honestly I don’t even know how bad it is,” Taehyung sounds worked up over the situation, lips curling downwards. “But he was born in a rich family yes, but he’s been disowned.”

“I know that… he told me before he left the apartment.”

“Ah,” Taehyung nods solemnly. “They disowned him because he refused to follow the family line of expectations.”

“The—what?” Jimin repeats, befuddled.

“Jeon… Jeon family?” He says with an eyebrow raise, pulling out his phone and typing up the name online. Through Google search, he shows Jimin his phone. “They’re really big in the business district, own shares from big companies in Korea. They’re rich. Like really rich.”

Jimin takes the phone off him tentatively, skipping through the pages upon pages of articles, news on the family. Not in a single one is there a trace of Jeongguk’s name. It’s almost as if he’s been completely wiped off, erased from the family. Jimin frowns as he keeps scrolling, waiting for some news about the boy but coming to a dead end.

“They wiped him out.”

Taehyung nods. “They freezed his inheritance too, pretend he no longer exists.”

“I… why?”

“Because he wants to dance, wanted to become an idol. It’s not acceptable. Every member of the family follows one route: their business, you’re either a part of it or you’re no longer a part of them.”

‘That’s so cruel.” Jimin’s aghast, shaking his head furiously. “That’s horrible.”

“Well, yeah… but that’s the reality, isn’t it? Cruel life.”

Jimin shudders and now that he replays the night, it hits him even harder. The way he had so casually thrown Jeongguk’s status back in his face without any concern, without any second thoughts as to how this could affect the boy himself. He hadn’t done his research, hadn’t known the full story before he had spoken.

Even just thinking about Jeongguk’s face, how it crumbled and his facade came right down is enough for Jimin’s world to tilt off its axis for a second.

He’s desperate to make amends, he’s just not sure how.

“What do I do, Taehyung?” Jimin hates how high his voice comes off, shrill and grasping at straws that remain of the broken relationship before him. “How do I fix this? I’ll do anything.”

Taehyung stares off into space for a second, contemplating upon the question. There’s no one else—besides Hoseok, and Jimin’s sure he wouldn’t want to see Jimin right now—that knows Jeongguk better. Taehyung knows the ins and outs to Jeongguk, has spent the most time with him since the beginning. If there’s anyone who’ll know how to fix this, it’ll be Taehyung.

Jimin’s relying on him to help him through this tribulation. Jimin has never been good with dealing with emotional situations, anything that requires him to leave his shell and interact with others. He wants to make a change, though. He wants to learn when to bite his tongue, how to remain silent and not speak out of anger.

Taehyung looks troubled before he sighs, running a hand through his hair.

“Don’t do anything. Not right now.”

“Taehyung…” he frowns.”

“No, I mean it.” His voice is stern when he speaks, features contorting to seriousness. “He has an important performance. This will make or break his future, entertainment companies will be there. He could, or could not, get signed. This is important.”

“Important. I got it.”

Jimin’s only ever seen him dance once in his life. It had been a blessed time, regardless, to get to see the passion and the complex adoration he holds for dancing. It’s apparent that Jeongguk was born to do this, born to perform and attract people’s attention and their admiration. Now that he’ll perform in front of big names, an audience—he’ll enamour everyone that encounters him.

Jimin’s sure of it.

He’ll do anything to prevent the performance from going wrong.

“So, if you really care about him—you’ll wait.”

“I do care. I care a lot.”

Taehyung seems a little unconvinced and he doesn’t comment, fiddling with the hem of his shirt. Jimin feels the need to enforce this fact, reaching over to wrapping his fingers around Taehyung’s forearm. Their eyes meet once again and he whispers the words this time, only audible for the two of them in the room.

“I care.” Jimin repeats firmly. “I like him. I’m falling for him. I really fucking care, Taehyung.”

Each word is said with utmost ferocity, sincerity pouring into his tone. He’s ripping his heart open, leaving it out on the table for others to observe. He’s never felt so vulnerable. He’s never allowed anyone to make him feel so vulnerable, never allowed someone into his life to this extent.

Taehyung’s lips twitch and eventually, a small smile takes over.

“I believe you,” he responds.

**

The day has arrived.

Jeongguk stands backstage, his new suit plastered onto his skin. It’s black and it’s sequined, sparkling out and making him look radiant. Makeup noona’s work around him, patting him down with powder and adorning him with eyeshadow. It’s just one of the many outfit changes for the night.

He and Hoseok will dominate the stage for the better of forty minutes with different dances, intermission in between so they can get changed. They have a whole team of dedicated stylists and makeup, doing their degree in their respected places, working after them.

Jeongguk’s nervous.

He’s nerve riddled, the sensation invading every bone in his body and leaving him feeling crippled with fear.

Jeongguk knows he’s good at what he does. He has given up his family, his reputation for something that he’s devoted his time to and gradually improved upon. Even when he had been forbidden from dancing, he had taken it upon himself to lock his bedroom door at nighttimes and practice till the early morning. Even if his footing had been to be light as to not disturb his family, even when the music volume was so low that it barely used to be audible.

He has a chance to prove it and he’s here for the crown, for the winning.

Hoseok comes back from the separate dressing room he has for himself, dressed from head-to-toe in the finest clothes. The prestigious dance academy funds their students well, providing them with everything they can only ever dream of. He looks dashingly handsome in the floral blazer, paired with a white ruffle button-up and tight black slacks that hug his figure.

Jeongguk offers a small smile to him, eyes scanning over him playfully as he wolf-whistles.

“Looking good, hyung.”

Hoseok rolls his eyes though there’s remnants of fondness that implore behind them, tugging at the end of his blazer. He crosses over to Jeongguk, invading his personal space as he fixes the collar of his blazer, too.

“You know what you’re doing tonight, right?”

“Yeah. Inside and out. Memorised.”

“No problems, whatsoever?”

Hoseok looks so concerned. Ever since Jimin’s sudden appearance at the dance studio, he’s been skirting around Jeongguk like he’s genuinely afraid for the younger man. He cares, an incredible amount, and he can’t help but show it obviously. Wholeheartedly.

“Nope. You’re good, as well?” Jeongguk checks. “Know what songs we’re doing?”

“Of course I do,” Hoseok clicks his tongue in disapproval, swatting his shoulder. “I created them, don’t get cocky.”

They share a short laugh together, both of them apparently shaking with the nerves now. The countdown to their performance has begun, barely less than thirty minutes till showtime. It’s clear everyone is aware of this fact, sound technicians running around and stylists making their last minute adjustments.

Jeongguk’s hands tremble as he hears the crowd settling behind the stage curtains, a bustle of energy taking over. Behind the curtains are a group of important people deciding on Jeongguk’s fate. They hold the path of his future, his prospects in their hands and he’s eager to please.

Hoseok notices because he reaches over, grabbing ahold of his hands.

“We’re going to be okay. Remember the steps, in beat to the music. I have faith in you, Guk.”

Jeongguk takes heed to the words, allowing the advice to rush over him like a flood. The words offer some source of comfort to him as he squeezes his eyes shut, nodding a little.

“Thank you, hyung. We’ll do well.”

Hoseok drops the hold when another stylist is calling him away, wanting to make adjustments to the fitting of his blazer so it curves around his glorious hips. The older man excuses himself, wandering off and leaving Jeongguk alone with his consuming thoughts.

His hand shakes as he reaches out for his water bottle, taking a long sip and willing the moisture to soothe the lump in his throat. He wishes he had eaten more, a low rumble of his stomach reminding him that he’s been neglecting his meals.

Jeongguk turns on his heels, ready to walk to position before he’s stopped by his coach standing before him.

The coach has a wry smile playing on his lips, seemingly looking bittersweet. In his hands, he holds a piece of paper that’s mostly crumbled. The look on his face looks concerning and it immediately puts Jeongguk in further unease, the feeling crawling in his lungs and squeezing tightly.

“Hi, coach-nim,” Jeongguk mumbles. “Can I help you?”

“No, no. It’s all good,” the man promises. “I just needed to make one thing clear, if that’s okay with you.”

(Mood: Joy Division - Love Will Tear Us Apart )

Jeongguk has been avoiding any figure of authority since the porn videos had come out to the public. He had been denying taking any part furiously, refusing to admit that it’s him in the frames. Whenever he’d see his coach around campus, he’d run and hide in the other direction to avoid striking a conversation that’ll inevitably drift towards the topic of the rumours.

Yet standing before the intimidating and menacing figure now, there’s nowhere to hide.

“Of course.”

The coach pursues his lips, running a hand through his greasy, unkempt hair. It seems like he’s trying to avoid the inevitable, create a distraction so he can work through what he wants to say.

“I don’t think there’s a future for you here, at the academy, after this performance, Jeon.”

The room stills. Cold dread addresses Jeongguk, coursing through his veins as he allows the words to process within him slowly. One-by-one. He waits, waits for his coach to laugh and tell him he’s okay. It doesn’t come. The coach is still staring down at him with a conflicted look, partly saddened but also unbothered, almost relieved.

It doesn’t feel real.

“Sorry?”

“What I’m trying to say, Jeon, is that we can’t keep you on after this performance.”

“B-but, why?”

Words fail him, his sentence faltering and ending with a crack in his tone. With twenty minutes till showtime, he doesn’t need this right now. He knows he potentially wants to get signed by an entertainment company but he also wants to complete his degree, he wants to hold his head up high and prove he got to his position without buying his way through.

All the hopes and dreams he had held strongly for himself are crashing down, tumbling into pieces right before him.

The coach’s lips twist in an contorted pain smile.

“I think we both know why.”

“But you said it was fine, that it was outside of the studio and my personal life—”

“Jeongguk,” the coach cuts off with a heavy sigh. “Please, don’t make this any harder than it has to be.”

Without any real explanation, without a promise of closure—he’s being dumped from the academy. For his mistake. For wanting a real way to fund himself that didn’t cripple his demanding timetable in the process. Jeongguk’s aspiring dancing career has come to an unfortunate end, at the end of this night. He’ll no longer be a part of the studio, he’ll no longer be able to dance with Hoseok.

Hoseok.

At the mention of his dance partner, he glances around frantically in the space he stands but finds no trace of the man whatsoever. He glances back to the coach and he almost considers pleading, getting down on his knees.

The coach is already moving away though.

“We’ll talk at the end. I’ll give you a proper send-off. Thank you for your efforts in the academy, Jeongguk and we wish you the best of luck.”

Jeongguk wants to protest but the words are stuck in the bottom of his throat, feeling choked and close to bursting into tears. But he knows he can’t. In fifteen minutes now, he has to show his face to the world with impending doom at the end of it. He has to represent an organisation he’s no longer a part of.

They used him until the performance to uphold their reputation and now, tragically, they’re dropping him because they no longer need him.

Jeongguk sniffles and he has to take a deep breath, eyes fluttering shut as he maintains a shaky composure over himself.

You’ll never succeed in dancing. In one way or another, you’ll fuck it up. You belong with us, Jeongguk. In the Jeon family, making money, sitting in business meetings with your older brother, carrying on the inheritance and the name. Don’t embarrass us, son. Don’t go out there with hopes of dancing when they’ll never amount to anything. Don’t fool yourself with a talent you don’t have.

“You’re right, appa,” Jeongguk whispers under his breath. “You were right. I’m sorry.”

He knows where he’s going after this performance.

**

(Mood: Fink - Looking Too Closely)

 

Jimin sits in an obscure part of the theatre hall, squeezed in the back out of direct people’s view. Recently, he’s been receiving more and more stares. He’s not a fool. He knows exactly why people are staring, exactly what they’re thinking when their eyes linger over his figure like they’re trying to match it to the one they had seen in the videos.

He has a face mask pulled over his mouth, further concealing his identity as he hides in the dark corner.

The performance is about to start and he feels like he could be sick from nerves, himself. He hasn’t seen Jeongguk properly in a week now and the void of the boy is beginning to leave a gaping hole in him. His heart feels empty, his chest feels hollow. Jimin’s become too accustomed to Jeongguk and it should terrify him but he can’t help but chase the feeling, instead.

From a distance, he can spot Yoongi, Taehyung, Seokjin and Namjoon sitting together. He has the urge to go and sit with them but he knows, deep down, he’s not welcomed.

He remains devoted to his corner.

The lights dim and the music intensifies, causing the crowd to fall silent immediately as they patiently await the appearance of the anticipated performance of the year. The dance performance from Jeongguk and Hoseok has been advertised, mentioned and talked about for months now.

It’s finally coming to life.

People are clearly eager to see the talents they’ve been informed about over and over if the crowded hall is any indicator, each seat is taken across the entire theatre hall. There’s a group of men right in the front, adorned in three-piece suit attires and Jimin’s sure they’re from the entertainment companies.

The curtain is raised and Hoseok is revealed for his solo dance.

Jimin’s never seen the man dance before so it’s entrancing, drawn in from the very first second. Hoseok is a born performer and he owns the stage like he created it himself, prancing around with intricate tumbles and back flips that look way too graceful to be real.

Jimin’s holding his breath through the entire routine and he’s so mesmerised that he doesn’t recognise Jeongguk entering the stage.

The crowd immediately starts cheering, some wolf-whistles can be heard. Jimin’s heart jumps out of his chest when he notices Jeongguk, wearing his black blazer with the bedazzled jewels, making him sparkle under the spotlight.

But there’s no spark in Jeongguk’s face when he looks out to the crowd.

Jimin remembers distinctly how Jeongguk looks when he dances, can memorise each bump and curve on his face as the smile takes over when he assumes his position. Each step that the younger man takes, there’s a shine of his true passion that’s evident for everyone to see and recognise.

But right now, his expression remains blank.

His eyes are drained, a dark brown that look more annoyed than anything else.

Jimin bites his lips, distinctly knowing something is seriously wrong but he can’t seem to piece together what’s going on. He doesn’t understand what could possibly go wrong. He also knows Jeongguk would never let anything affect his day.

Jeongguk takes centre stage as he dances, Hoseok following his lead but the lack of chemistry is prominent. Jimin’s eyes dart quickly to the entertainment companies, their expression unimpressed and barely moving an inch.

His heart starts to hammer.

He feels panicked. A gut feeling settles into Jimin, knowing there’s nothing he can do to help but desperate to do something. He digs his nails into the palm of his hands, taking a deep breath to calm the turmoil he feels for Jeongguk.

The first song is over and Jeongguk barely spares a glance to the audience, not a single hint of smile on his face, as he wanders off stage to get dressed in his next outfit for the second song.

Jimin waits another five minutes before Jeongguk’s emerging once again. This time, he wears a stunning pink jacket with white pearls around the collar and sleeves, adding a pop of colour to his otherwise mundane attire.

He has a solo dance this time as the lights become faint and leave him illuminated on stage under the spotlight, alone.

Jeongguk starts to move around stage gracefully, moving his limbs languidly. He does a handstand and stands up straight, barely even moving an inch out of place. He’s practiced and poised, showing off expertise he holds in his field.

There’s a few cheers from the crowd, only increasing in speed when Jeongguk completes a complicated dance move.

Jimin holds his breath as he watches with pride, joy filling his orbs as he holds his hands and waits.

Waits for disaster, apparently.

Jeongguk’s scanning across the audience and unfortunately, his eyes meet with Jimin. They widen immediately, losing focus of his dance moves and tumbling down to the floor of the stage with a loud thud. Jimin stands up, torn between running towards him and having to dig the heels of his feet into the ground to prevent himself.

There’s gasps that ripple through the crowd and a few murmurs but like a true performer, Jeongguk stands up.

Almost acting like nothing has happened, like he hadn’t just tripped over himself upon the sight of Jimin—he continues. He seems even more withdrawn now, only putting half the effort into his moves and his eyes remaining blank.

Jimin’s not sure he can focus on the rest of the performance even if he tries. When the song is over and Jeongguk disappears backstage, he realises his presence is only doing more harm than good. With a heavy heart and a crushed soul, he stands and leaves the theatre hall before he can further damage Jeongguk’s future more than he already has.

**

(Mood: Tom Odell - Heal )

 

Jeongguk’s a failure.

He’s a failure.

He had not only tripped during his solo performance—perhaps, arguably, the most important part of the entire night for him and his future—but he had received absolutely no feedback from any of the entertainment companies. He’s left with no future whatsoever in his chosen field. Kicked out of the dance academy, pushed away from the companies. Dancing has, suddenly, become a distant and hopeless dream for him.

He hasn’t seen anyone since the performance ended. He had ran out of the hall as soon as the last song was over and everyone was giving them a standing ovation—one he didn’t deserve to stick around for.

Jeongguk had rushed back to Hoseok’s apartment and blindly stuffed a bag full of clothes, his necessities and left without a word, without a sound.

He sits in the train heading towards Gangnam-Gu, feeling detached. Helpless.

Jeongguk’s phone buzzes insistently in the pocket of his jeans and he distinctly wishes it’d stop, he almost wants to throw it out of the window so it’ll stop. He’s not in the mood to talk to anyone, he’s not sure he’ll ever be in the mood to willingly discuss how he had managed to jeopardise his own future.

Upon seeing Jimin, he had faltered.

He hadn’t expected Jimin to show. The wound is still raw, still open and bleeding and seeing Jimin had only cut deeper. He wishes he had a control over his emotions, he wishes he could enter a state of being completely business and never allowing the outside world change his game face.

Apparently, he’s weak.

Like his father had claimed.

Now he sits in the train towards his old home after two years, hands joined together, ready to plead for forgiveness. Jeongguk is ready to take on a mundane life. He’s been proven twice, brutally, in one day that he was a fool for ever trying to pursue something that’s completely out of his jurisdiction, out of the norm for people like himself.

Jeongguk rests his head against the window as he cries. It’s embarrassing to let down his guard in public, to let the dam burst when there’s people surrounding the cart but he can’t help it.

He tries to hide his face within his clothes, sniffling as he smears snot into the scarf he’s wrapped around his neck tightly. But the sounds are loud and his crying is apparent to everyone riding with him.

Jeongguk’s tried. He’s failed. He’s a failure.

He had a distant dream for himself and he’s attempted it for himself, he’s seen how it causes destruction in his life and now, he’s letting go.

The train comes to a stop. He takes a deep breath and collects himself, wiping furiously under his eyes so his family won't notice he’s been crying. He wraps the scarf around his neck tighter, burying his head in the fabric before he makes his way to exit from the train cart.

It’s a short walk to his residential mansion. It’s located within the centre but still discrete enough that no one can peek in, unless they’re invited. The mystery surrounding the Jeon family knows no ends.

Jeongguk takes a deep breath as the mansion comes to view.

This is the same place that haunts him in his sleep, invading his peace and making him rethink his entire life. This is the same place he’s been on the run from, trying to escape and avoid. This is the same place that has embedded within Jeongguk and changed his entire life.

He stands before the residence and he knows what he has to do.

He takes a deep breath before approaching the watchguard. It seems like since Jeongguk’s absence, they’ve hired new staff. He doesn’t seem to recognise the man standing before him at all. He shoots a twisted smile to the man.

“Is Eomma and Appa inside?”

The man tilts his head to the side, confusion settling into his features as if he’s just been addressed to in nonsensical language.

“Sorry? Who are you?”

Oh. Right.

Jeongguk has almost forgotten that he’s been erased from the family history, every trace of his name removed. There’s no surprise the new watchguard has no idea who he is.

“I’m Jeon. Jeon Jeongguk.”

The watchguard looks at him more closely before nodding, moving to his walkie talkie and talking into it. After a few minutes of back and forth, the man looks down at Jeongguk, mostly unimpressed and his facial expression mostly not moving.

“Your father asks why you’re here.”

Jeongguk bites his lips. It’s now or never. He either has to confess he’s back, here to beg for forgiveness from his parents or he can turn back on his heel and return back to his demolished future.

“I’m here to join the business. I’m here to tell them they were right.”

The watchguard’s expression remains mainly blank but hints of sympathy are detectable, his lips curling downwards. His hand twitches over the walkie talkie and he seems to resist a sigh before he nods.

“Go right through.”

**

The dining room is still as grand as Jeongguk last remembers. The light walls reflects a certain ambiance, creating a facade of something calm. The chandelier hangs low from the ceiling, illuminating the decked table. The centerpieces are groomed and replaced with fresh flowers every single day, a tradition Jeongguk’s mother hasn’t eased up on.

Jeongguk sits on the right with his father at the head, his brother opposite him and his mother on the other head of the table. They’re all staring down at him, making him feel flustered under the warmth of the lights and their heavy, expecting gazes.

He shifts on his seat, squirming with discomfort. He’s been here for approximately five minutes and he’s already feeling sweat growing under his collar, making the attire uncomfortable to sit in.

Jeongguk hadn’t even bother changing after his dance performance, running right as soon as the curtains had been drawn. He’s still wearing the expensive blazer, the buttons done right up to his neck, looking uptight.

His mother’s analysing his physique critically, eyes wandering over his figure and pausing at the choice of clothing. She’s cutthroat and unforgiving with her hard look and when her eyes resettle on his, her lips stretch into a thin line.

Jeongguk swallows.

Finally, his father edges forward. He folds his hands on top of the dining table, taking a deep breath before he begins to speak.

“I told you, didn’t I?” Is the first thing he says to Jeongguk, to his son, since returning. His lips curl upwards in a twisted, satisfied smile. Like he’s been living for the day he gets to say: ‘I told you so’ to his son. “You’d never be happy with dancing.”

Jeongguk grits his teeth. He has to clench his fists under the table, on his lap to resist saying anything unjustifiable. He was always happy with dancing. He just wasn’t able to bring the right amount of integrity to the respectful field, embarrassing himself and his dance partner. He wishes Hoseok never chose him.

“Yes, appa.”

“Hands on the table, Jeongguk,” his mother chides, cutting in and speaking now that the father had. “Have you forgotten your basic table etiquette?”

He exhales sharply through his nose, flexing out his fingers before bringing them to everyone’s view on the table. He hates how he finds himself naturally slipping into a more submissive headspace around his parents, somehow still paralysed by their power. Even being in this house, alone, brings back enough torturing flashbacks.

“I was right, wasn’t I?” The father pushes for an answer.

“Yes, appa. You were right.”

“What made you change your mind?”

He contemplates his answer for a second, not wanting to be completely honest with his family. They don’t deserve it, they’ve never earned a single ounce of his trust and he knows whatever he’ll say will only be used against him in the future. He bites his lip raw, taking a deep breath.

“I just had no passion or drive for it anymore.”

His father’s eyes light up as he nods eagerly.

“That’s my son. I finally got my son back.”

The words feel like the vile building in the back of Jeongguk’s throat, having to swallow heavily around the distaste in his mouth. It tastes like blood, vulgar and hard to ingest. He hadn’t forgotten his father’s patronising words, the way he looks down upon Jeongguk but he’s not used to it being thrown in his direction anymore.

“Yes, appa.”

“You’re hundred percent you want to join the business? There’s no going back once you do. Not this time, especially. You won’t keep fucking us around.”

“You were—” Jeongguk almost protests. You were the one that disowned me. But he receives a sharp look from his brother sitting opposite him, a slow shake of his head to warn him that it’s the wrong selection of words. One step out of line and Jeongguk will be sent packing right out of this house. “Yes, appa.”

“Tell me why you want to join.”

This is the part where he’s made to beg.

His stomach churns uncomfortably as he bows his head, falling into more submission. It only gratifies his father, apparently, because even with his gaze directed downwards, he can notice the man’s delighted grin.

“Because I realised my mistake, appa. I’m sorry. Please, take me back and let me prove I was wrong.”

“That’s it?”

“I lived to regret my decision everyday.” He continues, close to tears now as the conflicted words come out of his mouth. His voice cracks and everyone’s eyes remain burdensome on him before he forces himself to keep speaking shakily. “I lived to regret not joining the family business. I struggled with my money, a lot. Please, take me back.”

His father’s sadistic grin only grows, turning to his brother.

“Joonho, what do you think?”

Jeongguk’s still in two minds about he feels about his brother. On one hand, it seems like Joonho genuinely cares about him. When he was still a part of the family before it came tumbling down, Joonho would take care of him and guide him through the tribulations that came with being a part of the Jeon family. He’d assure that Jeongguk never put his foot in his mouth. But on the other hand, Joonho can also be devoted to his parents to a fault. It’s hard to trust him wholeheartedly.

Joonho turns to Jeongguk and looks him up and down for a second before speaking softly.

“Take him back, appa. I think he’s learnt his lesson.”

His father turns back to Jeongguk.

“We’ll form a contract tomorrow and we’ll unfreeze your inheritance, all the millions of it. We’ll keep adding to it, as well,” he says proudly. “Go get some rest now. Your room is untouched. Don’t let me down this time, Jeongguk.”

“Yes, appa.”

**

When Jimin wakes up the next morning, he decides to chase down Jeongguk.

Yesterday’s dance performance had wretched his soul and he feels directly responsible, he needs to scavenge out Jeongguk’s presence so he can apologise. There’s so many things left unsaid between them that he needs to get out of his system. There’s been enough time between them that now, he’s ready to openly confess to how he feels.

It’s terrifying to put yourself on the line, to bare open your deepest thoughts for others to implore at, to make yourself purposely vulnerable. It’s terrifying, even more so, when you’ve been taught to do exactly the opposite of that and you’re beginning to branch out of the norm.

But Jimin knows if he doesn’t try now, the chance will slip right through his fingers. He’ll never get the chance of redemption with Jeongguk. He’s not sure if he deserves a second chance, to ask Jeongguk to come back to their share home but if he never tries—it’ll eat him up, gnaw at his stomach.

By now, Jimin’s figured out that Jeongguk’s staying with Hoseok.

He takes his time getting ready, continously swallowing down the nerves that he feels invading him. He takes more time than usual when styling his hair, allowing his strands to curl at the ends. Once he’s ready and checked his appearance twice over, he finally begins the bus journey over to Hoseok’s apartment.

Jimin’s never been inside Hoseok’s apartment. He’s stood outside once whilst waiting for Jeongguk back when they had just started to live together. He only vaguely remembers the route and nostalgia floods him as the bus takes him to his destination. Jimin wishes he could go back in time, when things were simpler and he and Jeongguk were still strangers.

Maybe, he wouldn’t fall for him second time around and he wouldn’t manage to make a mess of it all.

When the stop arrives, Jimin takes a deep breath before stepping out of the public transportation vehicle. He walks into the smaller roads, down to Hoseok’s apartment block. It’s the same as he remembers when he walks up to the front door, buzzing for Hoseok. He’s granted entry minutes later.

When he walks up to the third floor and knocks for Hoseok, he almost hopes he’ll be met with Jeongguk.

It is, indeed, Hoseok, though.

Hoseok looks weakened, signs of fatigue taking over his features. His eyes are red-rimmed like he’s been lacking from sleep, barely able to keep them over as he leans onto the door He blinks lethargically at Jimin, scanning him all over.

“Hey…” he sounds hesitant as he speaks, furrowing his brows.

“Hi, hyung,” Jimin greets, licking his lips. “How was the dance performance? I was there to see a bit. I loved your solo dance.”

Hoseok’s smile is barely manageable but it’s there, running a hand through his hair.

“Thank you, Jimin-ah. Would you like to come in?”

“If you don’t mind…”

He’s a little surprised by Hoseok’s hospitality, especially after how he had treated and talked down to Jeongguk. Jimin almost feels like he’s overstepping a line with how tired Hoseok apparently is, in desperate need of a deep slumber but instead, willingly catering to Jimin.

Hoseok shakes his head patiently and steps back, opening the door all the way and allowing him through.

Jimin walks into the unfamiliar surroundings, doing the courtesy of sweeping a look around the entire apartment. It’s a fairly small size, especially for a struggling student but it’s lived in and cosy. There’s vibes that resemble Hoseok with the personalised photo frames, the trophies showcased for his dancing.

Jimin smiles and looks back at Hoseok, nervously wringing his fingers together. Before he can speak, Hoseok’s cutting in.

“So, I’m guessing you and Guk fixed things up?”

The question is unexpected. Jimin furrows his brows as he settles his back against the counter, supporting his weight on it.

“No…? Why would you think that?”

“Um… because Guk didn’t come here after the performance and I was guessing you two patched things up?”

“He didn’t?” Jimin repeats, the first burst of panic registering within him. “Wait, where did he go after the performance?”

Hoseok seems a little startled now, offering a helpless shrug.

“He disappeared right after the performance.”

“Have you spoken to him since?”

“Nah,” Hoseok shakes his head. “I was going to now, I thought he was with you or something.”

“No, hyung. I left the show two dances in.”

Hoseok’s features turn sour, perplexed now as he glances to Jimin with desperation leaking into his pupils. Almost like he’s begging for Jimin to be lying. He takes a deep breath and runs a hand down his face.

“Where the fuck is he then?”

“I don’t know!” Jimin exclaims immediately. “I haven’t seen him since the performance.”

Hoseok’s grumbling angrily under his breath as he crosses over to his living room, grabbing his phone. He’s viciously dialling a number not to no avail, sighing in frustration as he looks over to Jimin.

“He stumbled during the performance, didn’t he?” Hoseok asks. “I could tell, something was really wrong.”

Jimin bites his lips as the memories flood his mind, nodding slowly.

“Yes, hyung. He did. It was pretty bad. I left right after that because I couldn’t bear watching it any longer.”

Hoseok sucks in a harsh breath as he tries calling Jeongguk a few more times but each time, he’s met with voicemail. Neither of them have had from Jeongguk since yesterday at the performance and when putting the context into place, it’s clear there’s something seriously wrong. Jeongguk wouldn’t go running.

“Let me try Namjoon, or Taehyung,” Hoseok suggests as he wanders into the corner of his kitchen, trying to reach out to their mutual friends. Jimin waits anxiously as Hoseok talks back and forth with Namjoon for a few minutes. Hoseok returns with a solemn expression. “Namjoon…”

“Namjoon, what?”

“Namjoon thinks Guk went back home.”

“Went back home?” Jimin repeats, dumbfounded.

Admittedly, Jimin’s knowledge about Jeongguk’s past life before he had started university and his family is limited to none. He doesn’t know any details, is only aware of the fact that he’s from a prestigious background and apparently, hates it when it’s mentioned to him frankly.

Jimin wishes he understood why. He wishes he could rewind back to a week ago before he had stomped upon their growing relationship, before he had managed to break apart every building block they had been constructing together. They were working towards something beautiful, something that Jimin’s willing to give up his insecurities, his issues and time and effort for.

Hoseok looks close to tears. He nods, running a hand through his hair and tugging at the roots like he’s trying to root himself into the ground and not overreact.

“Jeongguk takes everything to heart. He expects the best of himself, perfectionist in every sense. Even if he won’t admit it,” Hoseok speaks even when his voice trembles over the words. “He gets that from his family. They had subconsciously groomed him to be that way and it still reflects in his behaviour.”

The new piece of information resonates within Jimin, dwelling in his mind as he rethinks every word Hoseok’s just told him. He tries to apply the information to the Jeongguk he knows and finds truth ringing clear within them.

“I know…”

“He thinks he failed yesterday so if anyone knows Jeongguk, they’ll know he’s beating himself up over it.”

“So, he went home because of it?”

Dread dawns on Hoseok’s face as he nods his head slowly.

“To beg for his parents back…”

“They disowned him, didn’t he?” Jimin whispers, remembering Jeongguk’s angered words.

“Yeah. For Jeongguk, he had a choice. He could either join the family business or he’d be shunned, removed. They’d act like he no longer exist. They’d freeze his money and they’d leave him homeless, pleading for forgiveness but Jeongguk never allowed that to happen. He came here, he made a name for himself.”

If Jimin wasn’t already feel guilt, it flushes into his system twice as harder now. The more he learns about Jeongguk, the more he learns that the younger man isn’t just a happy-go-lucky, extroverted individual. There’s more to his character that he lets on, more suffering and anguish that he conceals within him and hides behind a mask.

“So, he’s gone home? To ask for them back?”

“Presumably so.”

“He gave up dancing?” Jimin repeats, still feeling befuddled and desperately hoping none of Hoseok’s words are true.

Jimin’s seen Jeongguk’s passion for dancing himself. He’s seen the way he holds it closely to his heart, treasures the fascination he holds for it. It’d be a injustice to the world if Jeongguk resorted to being a businessman, sitting behind desks and addressing older, greedy men who only care for money.

Hoseok’s biting his lips hard enough that he bleeds, worrisome evident.

“Yes, Jimin. That’s what I think.”

It immediately settles wrong within Jimin. He feels an urge to stop Jeongguk from making the biggest mistake of his life so he’s not thinking twice, not even contemplating the words that escape him with a rush.

“Where’s his family home, hyung? I’m going there.”

**

There’s a knock on his bedroom door, followed by. “Can I come in?”

Joonho stands in the doorway but steps inside without permission, despite asking.

Jeongguk doesn’t expect any better and resists the urge to sigh, shuffling to sit upright on his bed. He glances around his room one last time, still in a trance since sitting in his childhood room. It really hasn’t been touched since he left, his dirty shirt still strewn across the floor. He wonders how deeply his parents resented him for chasing a far reality to the point they didn’t allow the maids into his room.

“Sure,” Jeongguk replies uselessly.

Joonho steps gingerly into the room. He looks around, wrinkling his nose at the contents in the room.

“This is filthy.”

“Shut up.”

The brother cracks a smile before he edges further, sitting down on the bed besides Jeongguk. He’s holding a folder in his hands and Jeongguk already knows what it is. His heart begins to beat quicker and he has to take a deep breath, look away before it becomes abundantly clear.

Joonho is patient though and eventually, he pushes the folder into Jeongguk’s hand.

“The contract.”

Jeongguk swallows as he takes it off him but refuses to take a look at the documents, not wanting to read between the lines of his freedom being stolen from him. This contract will bind him to the Jeon family for eternity, require him to marry a good housewife and maintain a reputation like much his father’s where he slaves away behind a office and fake business associates.

“Oh. Thanks.”

“I think you should check it, buddy. You should know what you’re getting yourself into.”

“Okay.”

Jeongguk still makes no move to open the folder. Instead, he places it down on the bed before him.

“Guk… you should—”

“Can you stop?” He cuts in, words more fierce than expected. A fire is burning inside of him, growing deeper with every passing second that he stays in this suffocating mansions with emptiness inside. “Stop acting like you care, hyung. You never contacted me once since I left, not even once.”

“Jeongguk…”

“So, please. Don’t play the caring older brother now.” He grabs the papers, pulling out the papers and barely giving them a glance as he takes the pen. He’s about to sign it. He’s about to give up his whole life.

Joonho reaches out and halts him.

“Don’t.”

Jeongguk blinks in disbelief as he tears his hold away from his brother, pupils alight with fury.

“Don’t fucking touch me.”

“Don’t sign it.”

“Why the fuck not?” The cynicism rolls off him now, unable to hold it back any longer. “This is what you, what appa wants. You want me to give up everything so I can serve under you. You’ve given up everything already, given up the woman you love and now you want me to follow you. Don’t act like you care now. Don’t fucking do it.”

Joonho looks mostly unaffected. Perhaps, he’s just become immune to everything he’s had to endure since he followed their father blindly into the business. He had a life of his own, eager to get into the acting industry. He had a girlfriend. He left everything behind to remain loyal for the Jeon family.

His expression remains well maintained, barely moving an inch.

“All I’m saying, Jeongguk, is: think carefully. Is this what you really want? There’s always a way. Don’t make my mistakes. There’s always a way.”

Before Jeongguk can rebuttal, Joonho is standing up. He shoots him one last desperate look, confusing the younger man further before he walks out.

The contract lays out before Jeongguk. The rules, the regulations are all in black and white for him to read. He sees a section of ‘inheritance’, meaning his money will be granted back to him in full. He takes a deep breath and puts the papers back inside the folder, promising to sign it later.

**

Jeongguk sits around the dining table with his family. They’re all awkwardly quiet as expensive cutlery scraps alongside the china plates. The maids run around the table, refilling his father’s food and ensuring he’s eating well. His mother sits at the opposite head of the table, wiping her mouth every few seconds and never actually consuming her food.

Another maid walks into the room, sheepish expression on her face.

“There’s a boy at the door. He’s looking for Jeongguk.”

Jeongguk perks up at the mention of his name, his ears opening up as he raises his head. His plate of dinner is mostly untouched, unable to find it within him to consume the stew. He wonders who it could be. He assumes it’d be Namjoon, considering the man is familiar with Jeongguk’s family.

The father looks up, unimpressed.

“Tell him to go home. Jeongguk’s here now and he won’t be leaving.”

Jeongguk swallows at the authority ringing in his tone. There’s no nerve from anyone around the table, the workers in the mansion to question him. A long suffering pause passes before the maid nods.

“Of course.”

It only serves to make his curiosity grow a considerable amount, pondering upon who it could be that’d come after Jeongguk. After all, he had spontaneously disappeared after the performance. He hadn’t reached out to anyone. His skin crawls with the need to go check but he knows it won’t be acceptable.

His father looks up to him and offers an insincere smile.

“Have you signed the contract yet, my son?”

Of course, that’s the topic of discussion. Jeongguk halts where he’s forcing himself to stuff another mouthful of the pork stew into his mouth. He lowers his spoon, visibly hesitating. Opposite him, Joonho has stiffened up but tries his hardest to play it off.

“Not yet.”

“Have you read it through?”

“Yes,” Jeongguk lies because he knows it’ll only cause a commotion if he says no. “I have. I agree. I just need to sign.”

“Well, hurry up.” The man stops, swallowing his bite. “Actually, Jeongguk. Go bring the papers now, sign them in front of me. Let’s begin a life together, son. Let’s not delay it any longer.”

Whilst Jeongguk had been planning on signing them, he had never imagined there’d be a strict deadline impending upon him. He had never imagined he’d be forced to do it merely hours after receiving the document.

“Appa—”

“Go.”

His heart begins to hammer and despite his obvious anger towards his brother, he shoots a desperate look to Joonho as if his older brother will come to his aid. Joonho looks back at him with sorrow taking over his features, as if he’s resigning to the fact that he simply can’t help in this situation.

“Appa…” Jeongguk tries again, grasping at straws. “Appa, I—”

Jeongguk.”’

“Sir,” the maid has returned once again, looking timid as ever. She keeps her head bowed like she’s frightened. “The boy simply won’t leave. He’s throwing curses, threatening.”

“Who the fuck is he, then?” The father bellows, apparently already worked up over Jeongguk’s hesitation and now the uninvited guests.

Jeongguk holds his breath as the maid stumbles over her next words.

“It’s a Park Jimin, sir.”

Jimin. Jimin. Jimin is outside.

Jeongguk’s eyes widen and he feels himself instinctively standing up, his heart already leaping out of his chest as his limbs work on their own accord. He’s tempted to break out into a run, straight to Jimin. Another part of him is terrified. He’s not sure how it’ll settle with his father, the news of Jimin waiting for him.

His father waits for a second. “Is he a commoner?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Tell him to get the fuck off my property, then. Before I call the police.”

“He’s waiting outside the gates, sir.”

“Still my property!” The father snarls. “I want him out. Nevermind, let me just.” He grabs his phone, presumably to dial the police.

Jeongguk’s reacting before any further can be taken, the thought of Jimin being handled by his family making his nerves go into overdrive. He has never touched his father and yet he has the courage to reach out for him, hold onto his forearm to prevent him from moving any further.

The man halts as his eyes turn wide, facing Jeongguk.

“Son… what do you think you’re doing?”

“You’re not calling them.”

“There’s an unknown peasant on my territory and—”

“I said, you’re not calling the police,” Jeongguk repeats his words with more firmness even when his voice shakes from the fear that he’s actually stood up to his father. He feels a cold shudder passing through his body but he holds up his own, his heart speaking for his mind. “You’re not going to call them.”

“Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t.”

“Because Jimin’s done nothing wrong. He’s a good man.”

“Who invited him here?”

“He’s got concerned about me,” Jeongguk says. “I’m going to go talk to him.”

“You’re not leaving this dining table, young man.”

Even with his father’s order, he finds himself directly disobeying. He stands up and puts his napkin down on the table, barely giving him a second glance as he starts to walk out of the dining table.

“Jeongguk. I said sit down right now.” His father calls after him.

Jeongguk keeps walking.

Adrenaline pumps through his system at the disobedience he had just performed in front of his father. Admittedly, he has always been a rebellious teenager growing up. He snuck out of his mansion plenty of times, on many occasions, and he involved himself readily in scandals that were published about him.

But he had never directly said something to his father’s face.

His father is an intimidating, powerful man. He, alone, is worth millions. He can crush Jeongguk with his fingers, bring him down to the ground and tarnish his entire life. He has always walked around eggshells when it concerned his father.

Yet, he’s walking towards the front door of his mansion and out without a backward glance.

Jimin had been there yesterday, at the theatre hall. He had sat amongst the audience, in the far corner, and he had watched eagerly. There had been delight in his eyes, exhilarated seeing Jeongguk perform.

Before Jeongguk had managed to falter and fail his routine, lose his dance academy place and receive disapproving looks from all the entertainment companies.

(Mood: Dua Lipa - Be The One)

Jimin sits on the curb outside the gates, the hood of his jacket pulled up to conceal most of his face. He wears a mask over his mouth, further hiding his identity. His legs are raised up to his chests, arms wrapped around them in a feeble position. He’s rocking himself back and forth, back turned to Jeongguk and oblivious that Jeongguk stands before him.

He takes a moment to observe Jimin. To memorise how Jimin reacts to stressful situations. To learn the behaviour for himself.

“Jimin,” he finally calls when he’s ready, the name coming out of his mouth in a rush. He swallows. “Jimin. It’s me.”

Jimin freezes his motions and it takes him a moment before he’s slowly turning around to face him. His eyes are ample, doey-eyed and bleary with unshed tears, red-rimmed underneath with dark eyebags. He looks like he hasn’t slept well for days and the same probably applies for Jeongguk.

Jimin blinks a few times, like he’s in apparent disbelief.

“You came. You actually came outside. I thought they’d tell me to leave.”

“Apparently, you’re refusing to.”

Jimin manages to laugh a little though it bubbles out of his mouth and falters fairly quickly, lips curling downwards. The tears finally release out of his system, rolling down his cheeks as he hiccups.

“Don’t do it, Guk. If you’re doing what I think you’re doing, please don’t.”

Jeongguk takes a deep breath.

“What do you mean?”

“You’re joining the family business, aren’t you? That’s why you’re back here.”

“Why does it concern you?” He asks, just because he’s bitter over everything that has happened and he can’t help it.

It only causes Jimin to cry harder, even though it’s silent. Tears are replaced with more moisture even when he tries to wipe them away, trying to gain a composure over himself.

“I might have made you feel like I don’t care, that I’m a judgemental asshole and maybe I deserve that. But why are you doing this? Please, don’t do this.”

“You are a judgemental asshole.”

“Guk…”

“This is my family,” he continues, gesturing to his grand mansion behind him. His future. His home for the rest of his life. “My fortune. My inheritance. My life, Jimin. Is this what you imagined it’d be?”

“Say what you want. Like I said, I deserve it. But I’m begging you, don’t sign your future over to them.”

Jeongguk’s temper is pushed over the edge, bursting with the overwhelming emotions as he begins to yell loudly on the street.

“Why the fuck not, Jimin?” He asks cruelly. “I lost my dance academy place, I fucked over my performance and lost the company deals I was supposed to be granted. I lost you. What’s left for me? Nothing. Nothing. This is what I deserve because I never had a talent—”

Jimin stands up as he walks over to him, eyes swimming with the outrage he’s feeling as he places the palm of his hand over Jeongguk. It successfully cuts off his angry ranting, his words coming out muffled.

Jimin stands in close proximity and Jeongguk’s eyes fluttering shut, relishing the warmth of the other boy. He hates to admit it but he’s missed being surrounded by Jimin’s presence, enveloping him and for the time being, making him feel at immediate relief.

“Shut up,” Jimin says resolutely. “Shut the fuck up.”

“Jimin,” he tries to respond but it’s fallen on deaf ears, inaudible.

“Are you kidding me, Jeongguk? You never had a talent in dancing?” He’s raging, vibrating with the relentless words that stream out of him, not even stopping to inhale. “What about those nights you spent in the studios, till the early morning? Till your body ached? What about those times Hoseok praises you, endlessly. Your coach? Your friends? The whole damn campus adores you, loves you, looked forward to your performance and guess what? If you stuck around long enough, you’d realise they were praising you, too.”

“Jimin—”

“Don’t you dare stand in front of and tell me that you don’t have a talent in dancing when that’s what you were born to do. You were granted the ability to share with the world. Yes, okay—you got kicked out of the academy, you might’ve even lost some deals and you’re just giving up? Just like that? One rejection and that’s fucking it?”

Jeongguk closes his eyes as he begins to cry, moved by the words Jimin’s providing him with. The sob breaks out of him, though the sound is blocked, and his whole body shakes with the force. Jimin continues though, crying with him as he stutters over his words.

“You get up. You try again. You go to auditions for these companies, you work even harder and you prove you have worth.” Jimin pauses to sniffle, eyes blurred with the moisture. “Don’t say you deserve nothing. Not when you deserve everything, Jeongguk.”

Jeongguk takes a deep breath. He allows the words to resonate within him, dwell in the wounds where he’s hurting and bleeding out. They soothe him over and it takes him a couple of minutes to let them process.

Jimin’s standing before him, pouring his soul and might out to him. Something he’s never done with anyone, considering his introverted personality. He has never given away his heart to anyone, allowed himself to fall.

Before Jeongguk can contemplate his actions, he acts upon his gut instincts.

Jeongguk grabs Jimin’s hand that covers his mouth, pulling it away but only to tug Jimin closer. He cups the back of his neck, bringing him forward so he can crash their lips together.

It’s like being reborn. Kissing Jimin has always felt like serenity, where everything aligns and begins to make sense to him once again. The static noise in Jeongguk’s head quietens as their lips work over each other, smacking eagerly as their tongues meet and dirtily move against each other.

It sparks a fire within Jeongguk, in the pits of his stomach of desire and want. He just wants Jimin.

No matter how much Jimin has scarred him with his words, he wants him. He wants Jimin without the pretence of making videos together. He wants Jimin in the mornings, waking up together and he wants Jimin during the nights when they cuddle up and sleep within each other’s presence.

Jimin moans softly into his mouth, fingers reaching out to tangle in Jeongguk’s hair.

They stumble over each other, struggling to maintain themselves out in the open as they kiss. If Jeongguk’s parents saw the interaction between their son and another man, it’d be game over. But it’s already over, it’s been over for a while now.

Jimin pulls away to take a deep breath, eyes still closed as he regains a composure.

When he opens his eyes, they’re still shedding with tears but he doesn’t seem melancholic anymore. Optimism floods into him, evident on every feature.

“Come home, Jeongguk,” Jimin pleads, his voice breaking on his name. “We have a lot to work through, I know. But I know you don’t want this, so please don’t do this.”

Jeongguk barely has to deliberate his decision. One look at Jimin and he already knows what he wants.

“Wait for me here?” He requests softly. “I gotta go and break off the ties myself, for the first time.”

This time around, it’s Jeongguk disassociating himself from a toxic environment. He won’t be rendered heartbroken after this because he already knows where he belongs. He belongs in his dingy, small apartment shared with the man he’s falling for and he belongs with Hoseok, working on his dancing.

Jimin flashes him a smile.

“I’m not going anywhere without you.”

**

Walking back into his apartment is refreshing.

He throws the bag on the floor and walks in further, collapsing onto the couch and burying his head into the leather seat. He inhales deeply, another bubble of emotions settling heavy on his chest.

Jimin walks in after him and sits down besides him, waiting for a beat before speaking.

“I don’t know if you care, after everything I’ve done. But I applied for culinary school.”

Jeongguk halts from where he’s trying to memorise every bump in the couch before he looks up hastily, looking over to Jimin in surprise.

“You, what?”

It’s the last news he had been expecting to hear but he readily welcomes in. His heart swells with pride though he doesn’t voice it out loud yet, staring at Jimin intently.

Jimin flushes as he nods, running a hand through his mangled black hair. He looks sheepish about his news like he’s trying to downplay this fact, not make a big deal out of it.

“I dropped out of school. Losing my parents made me realise I didn’t need to keep doing that and that I should, myself, actively seek out what I like doing the most.”

“Which is cooking.”

“Yeah.”

Jeongguk sits upright as the news processes. He remembers every single night Jimin stayed up till late to complete homework he never had desire in doing so, forcing himself to study every minute of his day so he could convince himself the subject was made for him.

He licks his lips as he waits for the right response to articulate.

“I’m proud of you, Jimin. Really proud.”

Jimin’s smile grows and his cheeks heat up as he looks away, not fighting the praise and seemingly to accept it. Another moment passes.

“Thank you, Jeongguk.”

“You’re welcome.”

“Yoongi hyung wants to host a little get together at his apartment at the news tomorrow night, will you come?” He asks though there’s uncertainty in his tone, pleading with Jeongguk.

He’s nodding before Jimin even finishes.

“Of course.”

They fall back into silence. Jeongguk sighs as he folds his legs underneath him, glancing around the apartment. It seems like Jimin’s barely been around recently, not a single object moved out of its designated place. It doesn’t feel lived in.

It takes another few minutes before Jimin’s twisting his torso towards him, facing him. Seriousness takes over his features as he reaches out to hold Jeongguk’s hand.

Jeongguk welcomes the contact instinctively, wrapping his fingers around Jimin’s and holding onto him tightly.

Whilst their relationship remains up in the air, he could never deny Jimin a thing. It feels right, to be touching him and to be sitting near him. He has been deprived of Jimin’s proximity and right now, he feels like he’s finding inner peace after a week of constant and relentless turmoil. The voices in his heads are coming to a peaceful end.

“I’m sorry.” Jimin’s words are sincere and the apology is thick with remorse, proving with the expression Jimin wears. “I’m so fucking sorry, Jeongguk. For saying what I said, for doing what I did. I’m not even going to try and justify myself. I said something wrong and I’m really sorry. I hope you can find it within you to forgive me, Guk.”

Jeongguk shakes his head patiently. Despite the hurt behind Jimin’s words a week ago, he can recognise when someone’s being honest.

He lifts their conjoined hands, placing a soft, lingering kiss on Jimin’s knuckles.

“I’ve already forgiven you.”

“But—“

“Will you forgive me for making you feel like you were nothing more than a fuck to me?” He continues, lips twisting downwards at the mere mention. “Especially when you’re so, so far from that. To me.”

“I - I… of course.”

“I’m falling for you, Jimin. I’m an absolutely goner. Surely you’ve realised that? What I did with Hayoon was a moment of weakness, a moment of me freaking out, before I realised just how much you mean to me. Do you believe me?”

Jimin’s eyes fill up with tears once again and Jeongguk’s faster this time. His spare hand cups Jimin’s cheeks, using his thumb to wipe away the moisture before they can fall. It’s not the time to cry anymore.

“I believe you, Guk.”

“I’m sorry this porn contest became a mess and we never got to win. I’m sorry it got to this point of disaster but you’re here with me now and I never want to let that go.”

Jimin swallows audible, his Adam’s apple bopping as he nods even when it’s delayed. His eyes flutter shut as his chest heaves, humming.

“It’s okay. I’m honoured to be able to do the contest with you, to be able to learn what a truly beautiful soul you are, Jeongguk.”

Jeongguk smiles softly. Everything feels tranquil, his heart bursting with emotion. He can’t help but seek out more contact, pulling Jimin into an embrace. Jimin falls into the hold immediately, snuggling into his body. Jeongguk secures his arms around Jimin tightly, squeezing his eyes shut.

“I’m falling for you too, Jeongguk.” Jimin whispers into his ear before he laughs prettily, sounding more like himself than he has through this entire ordeal. “I already have.”

Jeongguk, for the time being, doesn’t have the appropriate response.

Instead, he holds Jimin even closer and presses kisses down the side of his face. Jimin giggles at the affection, leaning into his touch. Jeongguk wraps his arms around his lower waist, hauling him forward so Jimin climbs into his lap.

He doesn’t know how long he sits on the couch with Jimin straddling his lap, kissing lazily with the revelation that they’re falling in love with each other. Because all he really knows is that he can continue doing this for a long time.

**

(Mood: Lord Huron - Fool For Love)

 

Yoongi really goes above and beyond for the little get together for Jimin.

He decks out his entire apartment, filling the small space with decorations and an assortment of foods. Taehyung claims he was the mastermind behind it all and doesn’t let Yoongi take all of the credit. There’s a small number of guests, namely their closest friends. It’s nice to see Seokjin, to see Hoseok and Namjoon arriving together.

It’s also pleasant to see Jimin unwinding down in such a setting. He holds a glass of cheap champagne, wrinkling his nose as he drinks but attempting to pretend he’s liking it. Every now and then, his eyeline will follow Jeongguk’s.

They’ll make eye contact and Jimin smiles gently, his cheeks flushing with the warmth of the alcohol and the good feeling that consumes him and every person in the room.

When Hoseok sees Jeongguk, he’s immediately sprinting over and embracing him. Jeongguk melts into the hug, sniffling a little. He knows he’s let his hyung down, disappointed him by ruining the company deal, by getting kicked out of the academy but apparently, Hoseok doesn’t let it show.

There’s not a single lingering negative feeling between them as Hoseok runs a hand down his back, soothingly trying to reassure that it’s okay.

“Fuck that academy. I quit, too.” Hoseok announces into his ear.

Jeongguk freezes at the news. Hoseok loves the dance academy. He has worked hard to get up the ladders within the other dancers, to get his own room in the studios and scavenge out Jeongguk to join him. He’s been reigning the academy for years and he finally had a shot at performing in front of people of importance.

He leans away from the hug, holding Hoseok’s shoulders tightly.

“Hyung, what the fuck?”

“I’m not going to keep dancing there without you, my partner. What would I do without you?”

“But… but,” Jeongguk flounders, unable to find the right words to articulate how he feels. Though there’s unease for Hoseok’s position, he feels a contentment settling into him. Hoseok’s loyal enough to quit his place in the academy, uproot his entire life and leave himself in uncertainty just for Jeongguk. He feels tears building up in his eyes but Hoseok’s reaching out, wiping them away before they can surface. “But, hyung… what’re you going to do?”

Hoseok shrugs with a slight pout, looking worrisome but not letting it show entirely.

“I’ll go wherever you go. If you’ll have me? Dance partners forever?”

Jeongguk swats his shoulders playfully before pulling him back into another hug. He feels the eyes of their friends staring at them like hawks as they cling onto each other like a lifeline. He can hear Jimin cooing which only causes him to smile against Hoseok.

“Forever, hyung. Forever.”

More alcohol is passed around and glasses upon glasses is given to him through Taehyung, settling around the kitchen island as they sip at the vodka soda. Jeongguk feels himself unraveling bit by bit. Though there’s a lot of his life to still sort out, sort through—he feels at peace knowing that what he needs is right here.

Jimin who’s attempting to dance with Yoongi in the middle of their apartment, Seokjin embarrassingly joining in and Hoseok putting them to shame. Taehyung standing by his side with Namjoon, nudging his hips against his in time to the beat of the music.

He relishes the feeling because right now, he’ll never ask for more.

Eventually when he enters a tipsy state of mind, Jimin’s slipping up to him discreetly. He reveals a joint and gestures to the front door, offering a suggestive eyebrow raise.

They chase each other down the stairs, giggling as they run and skip two steps at a time. Jimin almost falls and Jeongguk’s rushing over, grabbing ahold of his waist to steady him before picking Jimin up instead.

Jimin squeals, wrapping his legs around Jeongguk’s waist and even as he protests and demands to be let down, he’s only clutching onto him tighter. Jeongguk can’t stop laughing, feeling elated and overjoyed.

They arrive outside the apartment block, standing side-by-side against the wall as Jeongguk lights up the blunt.

“You liked smoking weed, then?” Jeongguk questions curiously as he takes the first hit, taking a long draw before exhaling and watching the smoke curl up into the air. He hands it over to Jimin who takes it off him gratefully.

“It was nice. Pleasant,” Jimin hums in agreement as he follows the same actions. “Couldn’t stop laughing afterwards, I like that.”

“Yeah. The effects are nice.”

They smoke for a while in peacefulness, not feeling the need to exchange any words between each other. There’s comfortable silence that invades them, reassuring Jeongguk that this is meant to be. Every time he exhales, he finds himself glancing over to Jimin and unable to resist, he reaches out for him.

Jimin follows when Jeongguk tugs him closer, taking the hint and settling between Jeongguk’s thigh against the wall. Jimin smirks, tilting his head up so he can watch the younger man closely.

“What is it, babe?”

“You’re just really pretty, Jimin.”

Jimin rolls his eyes fondly and clicks his tongue as he refuses to accept the compliment but the goofy, appreciative smile speaks volumes more than his words will ever let on. He leans into the touch, nuzzling his head into Jeongguk’s neck as he takes a drag of the blunt and exhales into Jeongguk’s neck.

They talk for a little while, finding the conversation drifting to Jeongguk’s family.

It’s a little strange to discuss intimate details about his emotionally constipated, twisted family. It’s hard to bring out every moment that has contributed to his dark times and the person he is today but Jimin seems to soak up every detail.

Every time Jimin pouts in displeasure at the points in the story that becomes harder to listen to—namely how Jeongguk’s father treats him, breaks him down and makes him feel inadequate—he kisses Jeongguk’s lips.

They start lazily making out against the wall, grinding their hips down upon each other needily. The rest of the conversation is swallowed whole by Jimin’s desperate moans being whimpered into Jeongguk’s mouth, clutching onto Jeongguk’s sleeve and digging his fingers in hard enough to leave marks.

“Jimin,” he groans. “Not here.”

“Take me upstairs,” Jimin’s begging right back, eyes still closed even as they part from the kiss. With each moment passing, they’re growing more eager to rip the clothes off each other and if Jeongguk doesn’t get Jimin alone in his bedroom right this instant, he might just come in his pants. “Please, missed you inside of me so much. Make love to me, Jeongguk. I want you—”

“Oh my God!” Someone squeals, breaking the moment apart.

Jeongguk shrieks as Jimin jumps at the same time, jolting in surprise and immediately taking a step back from Jeongguk’s embrace. Both of their heads snap towards the direction of the sound, finding Hoseok standing there.

He looks horrified, dismay filling each feature of his as he covers his eyes, traumatised.

“Holy shit. I want to unsee that so bad.”

Jeongguk chuckles, shaking his head. He’s still panting hard from the pace of their kissing, willing his stirring cock to relent as he runs a hand through his hair and fixes a few unkempt strands.

“What do you want, hyung? I’m busy.”

Hoseok chuckles nervously, eyes still wide like he’s mentally wiping out every single second he just had to witness. He walks towards Jeongguk and with each step he takes, his smile begins to grow steadily. He looks ecstatic, vibrating out of his skin.

Before any of them can question what’s going on, Hoseok hands his phone over.

It’s an email, opened up to a letter from an entertainment company.

Jeongguk’s breath catches in his throat and he pauses, unable to read any further. Both jubilation and fear fills him automatically, both at once, as he holds onto the phone tightly. His eyes remain on Hoseok, searching his pupils.

“What is this, Hoseok hyung?”

“Read it,” he simply demands.

Jeongguk shakes his head adamantly. “No, no. I can’t.”

“Just read it!” Jimin squeals, unable to hold back as he practically jumps on the spot. He reaches over, grabbing the phone off Jeongguk and reading for himself, too impatient to wait. A moment of silence spreads between them before Jimin’s looking up, eyes wide. “Jeongguk… baby…”

“Stop, stop. Jimin—”

“This company’s calling you and Hoseok hyung to them. They want to train you, take you under their wings,” Jimin’s breathing out in shock, looking over to Hoseok who only nods to confirm the news. “They… they were there for the performance, Guk.”

Jeongguk blinks in disbelief once, twice.

“I did so bad in the performance, though.”

“Apparently not,” Hoseok interrupts as he steps forward, grasping his shoulders. “We did so good, Jeongguk. If only you could’ve seen yourself thrive on stage. One mistake doesn’t matter and this company obviously doesn’t care. They want us under their name.”

It still feels like a dream, like he’s floating and none of this real. He had never imagined he’d get called in by an entertainment company. He had performed poorly in front of his audience, disheartening himself and proving his skills to be merely mediocre.

But someone had taken a liking on him. On Hoseok. On them together.

“Oh my God,” Jeongguk whispers out. “We’re… we’re going to be trainees?”

Hoseok’s eyes glisten when he nods, ease taking over his features.

“Hell yes, Jeongguk. Yes, we are.”

Jeongguk can barely begin to comprehend how he feels. Short bursts of euphoria begins to fill within him, embedding deep in his stomach. He feels overwhelmed, unable to process the news effectively. It’s always been a distant hope for the future.

He had been so quick to resort to giving up on his dream. But now he stands before the man he’s falling in love with, his older brother that he relies his entire life on and a group of friends in the apartment upstairs that he’ll willingly give up any part of himself for.

Jimin’s going to culinary school in Seoul, Jeongguk’s going to become a trainee in Seoul. They’re both fulfilling with the ambition that they had rooted to, held onto and attempted endlessly to accomplish.

Jimin’s pulling him into an embrace, cooing under his breath. Jeongguk leans into the touch, unable to resist and soaking up the attention. He’s still in a state of permanent shock and it only begins to register within him as Jimin repeats ‘my superstar’ over and over under his breath.

When they pull away, Jimin kisses him softly on the lips. His expression looks enchanted, mellowed out from the drugs but looking genuinely contented like there’s nowhere else he’d rather be.

“We’re going to be okay, Jeongguk.”

For once, Jeongguk believes Jimin’s words. It feels like it’s going to be okay.

“I know,” he whispers right back. He chases after Jimin’s lips, moving closer for another peck that he gets given readily. “I know. We’re going to be okay.”

Hoseok cheers, jumping up and down on the spot with overjoy.

“Let’s go upstairs and fucking party!”