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I'd flex, but I like this shirt

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Taehyung doesn't know why, but he ends up on that site again, looking at the photos of himself from the art exhibit. He's standing next to his painting, smiling, and his hands hang by his sides like he doesn't know what to do with them. He squints at himself and groans - he looks like a zombie in these, like he's drained of life. Is this what aging looks like? 

He scrolls lower, down to the comments. He's going to regret reading them, because they always make him feel worthless, but that doesn't stop him. They don't fail to do their job, and Taehyung pushes against the wall with his feet, rolling his chair away from his computer, his hands pressed against his face.

No one told him success came hand in hand with depression. He's been eating like shit, feeling like shit, looking like shit. He's only in his mid-twenties, this wasn't supposed to happen for at least another decade and a half.

To be fair, Taehyung wasn't expecting his own success. He attributes a lot of the recent attention his art has been getting to the one or two collectors he has met abroad, who seem to only be interested in pieces from 'overseas'. He reckons there's some sort of fetishizing involved, but it's putting food in his mouth and a roof over his head, so Taehyung can deal with it. What he can't deal with is the self-consciousness that suddenly barges into his life along with the attention.

This sucks so much more because Taehyung has never felt insecure about his looks. A few years back he was certain he was a nine on a good day (eight-point-five in Seoul). Now, the life of a poor artist has taken its toll, even with a comfortable bank account, and he solemnly looks in the mirror at his face. He runs his hands down the sides of his cheeks, groaning, feeling sorry for himself. He misses his old face, his old friends, his old, stupid, art school.

Going through his Instagram feed convinces him that he needs to start going to the gym again, because every other post is something about yoga, or cross fit, or a perfectly lit photograph of an acai bowl on an aesthetic wooden table. His friends all look good, holding hands with new lovers, off on beautiful beaches. Taehyung tried to keep in contact with them when he first moved, and his friends echoed his attempts, but they slowly drifted into the sidelines, and then even further back and out of view. If this is a part of growing up, he doesn't want it. 

If he can't get his friends back, maybe he can get back the way he looked. He knows he maybe hasn't changed much to outsiders, he maybe put on a few pounds (he hasn't checked), and possibly needs a haircut, but his face. Being an artist makes him hyper-aware to aesthetic changes, and he knows his face has changed: he's drained. Colorless Taehyung. It would be nice, in addition, to get abs, maybe plump up his ass. Maybe get laid after three months of chronic masturbation.

Exercise routines typically go catastrophically for someone like Taehyung, who happens to get bored faster than the usual person and prefers to work in bursts of energy, whenever he wants. Late night Pilates are generally his go-to now. Also, the whole eating healthy thing...that's going to be a fucking struggle.

If it gets him out of looking like the undead, though, he should probably try again.

So he makes the vow to get fit, then after watching Bridget Jones' Diary - which just happens to be playing on TV - feels a surge of self-confidence, mirror-cries a little, and orders a mushroom and swiss cheese burger with a large fries from Burger King. He gets a diet soda to make himself feel better.

The cute delivery guy gives him a tragic look when Taehyung grabs the bag of food from him like it's a care package, sniffling as he digs into his baggy pockets for money. 

"Rough night?"

"Uh. No?"

That was a rude assumption - he squints through his glasses at the name tag - 'Jimin'. Why do they always send him anyway? Don't they have a list of workers or something? If Taehyung had any shame, he might be a little embarrassed.

"Ah. You just. I don't know. You look a little...puffy," the fucking delivery guy continues, making a gesture towards his own face. His eyes are large and stretched out for miles like a cat's.

"Excuse me?" Taehyung is holding the paper bag in his fist like a hammer.

Satan, in the form of a hapless delivery boy, smiles, like he's genuinely embarrassed or something. "Ah! No, I don't mean like...puffy as in fat, or anything. I mean you look upset! You're actually a great looking guy. Seriously."

"You're lucky I'm super nice because you don't deserve a tip," Taehyung says glumly, slapping the bills into Jimin's hand.

Jimin shoves the bills into his pocket as he laughs. He reaches up to take off his stupid little hat and runs a hand through his hair, still lingering in the doorway. "Um."

Taehyung holds the bag close to his body, the wafts of beef lacing up into his nostrils. "Is something wrong?"

"No, just, if you ever need to talk or anything," Jimin offers, smiling, and oh god is his delivery boy hitting on him? This is kind of a new low. "I actually live in the apartment next to this one. So don't hesitate to ask for me if you need a friend."

"Sure...thanks, Jimin," Taehyung offers back, giving him a tight lipped smile, the kind he gives people in elevators. Honestly, he's touched, Jimin seems nice. And he has gorgeous eyes- Taehyung almost wants to paint them.

Still, the experience is harrowing, and after Jimin leaves, Taehyung spends forty-five minutes scrolling through personal trainers at his local gym online. He's going to need someone to tell him what to do, not just the intent of going to the gym because intent is never enough.

He's going to have to hire the creme de la creme to figure all of this shit out for him. The only thing he knows about gyms is that he doesn't want to go there, ever. Especially the one near Taehyung's residence, which happens to be on an affluent area, Bupun Gym, boasting celebrity members and the like.

He chews on his burger, scrolling with his free hand, stopping once in a while to take a sip of his fourth glass of wine. He stops at a trainer profile, dropping the burger on his plate and leaning into the computer screen. He wipes his hand on his pants, then uses it to push his glasses up the bridge of his nose.

Well, hello, sir. Who is this? 

One Jeon Jeongguk. Damn. Jesus Christ.

Specialties:

Bodyweight training

Strengthening

Postural Correction

Mind-Body awareness

Abdominal Development

Nutritional counselling

I've been providing guidance to those who have sought me out for over five years.  I help my clients meet their physical goals so they can make the most out of their lives. I believe a good trainer is someone to listens, learns as much as he teaches from his clients, and motivates them to live a healthier and more active lifestyle. With good guidance, anyone can reach their fitness goals. 

Taehyung's heart is beating in his throat because this guy is seriously hot. He knows he shouldn't be picking a personal trainer based on how hot they look in a tight black Nike shirt alone, but his whole list of specialties seems really intense too, probably, even if Taehyung doesn't know what half the terms even mean. (What the fuck is bodyweight training?)

He picks up his burger, eyes still glued to the screen, and takes a haphazard bite. Oh, jackpot, there are videos along with the photos of Jeongguk.

He clicks the first one, titled "Ring Muscle-Up Tutorial", and watches, mouth slack, as his soon to be trainer and future husband reaches up and grips the steady rings, lifting himself up gracefully using his weight alone, first with his arms out, elbows bent, then after a small exhale, pushing himself up, the rings gripped down at his hips. Also, he is shirtless.

Taehyung wipes at his mouth and scrolls down to the next video when texts starts to scroll up on the screen explaining the mechanics of the move, because that's unimportant.

The next one is called "front lever" and Jeongguk (tragically, in a shirt this time) lifts himself up towards a bar, parallel to it, his body stretched out straight in the air. The one after that is called "pistol squat", and the one after that "human flag" and it's all very sexual, even just going by the names alone. As someone who has popped multiple boners while watching UFC, Taehyung considers this is probably just an addition to his long list of kinks. He suddenly wants to paint Jeongguk. Tonight is an inspirational night.

He shakes the distraction out of his body and pulls out his phone, typing down Jeongguk's name because you never know, he could sustain a head injury before tomorrow and forget it when he gets to the gym. Taehyung feels a small spark of shame because this is creepy, even for him, but having a hot trainer could maybe help him with the whole distraction-from-anything-important thing he has.

But first, he has a large fries to finish.

 

 


 

 

Taehyung figures wearing a work-out shirt with a funny saying on it might make the other gym-goers think he's totally ready and has absolutely done this before. He catches a glimpse of himself in the mirrored walls as he walks to the information desk and he looks cute like this, he thinks he might just casually start dressing in work-out clothes.

He thinks all of this until he actually gets to where the gym members are, standing around, chatting. They're all fit and beautiful, white teeth, glistening foreheads, firm muscles. No one is wearing a t-shirt with a funny saying on it.

He feels a few eyes linger on him, judgmental, and Taehyung huffs, swinging his bag over his shoulder. 

The man at the desk is so energetic it makes Taehyung feel like he needs to project, and Taehyung never needs to project.  He's almost threatened.

"How can I help you!" he practically screams at him.

"Hi!" Taehyung shouts back, grinning. "Um. I'd like to sign up for a...personal trainer." 

"Sure! Can I see your membership card?"

He probably didn't think this through entirely.

"I, uh," he leans in and say, quietly, "don't have one. So I'd like to get, both actually. If you could help me with that." He smiles brightly.

The man, on the other hand, seems to falter. He quickly recovers, though, because Taehyung is giving him one of the most charming smiles he can muster. The slight embarrassment he feels makes it ten folds more effective, he figures. 

"Of course," the man behind the desk says, peppy again. He reaches down into a drawer and pulls out a bundle of papers stacked higher than the fucking entirety of the Lord of the Rings novels. "Please just fill out this information. This package here is for the membership, just basic stuff. You know, parking, fees, payment options. This section package is for what you're looking for in a personal trainer, once again, super basic information. Weight, eating habits, goals. We'll match you up with someone we think best fits your needs."

Taehyung is staring at him with his eyes glazed over, mouth slightly agape. "Um. 'kay..."

He grabs the bundle of papers and tries to hide the fact that its heavy as he walks past the group of weight-lifters who still seem to be sizing him up. He sits down on one one of the waiting room chairs, glancing over to the man sitting next to him, some skinny, bespectacled dude, also filling out the giant package. He looks up at Taehyung, defeated.

Taehyung smiles at him, feeling his empathy spike, "Hey. You just starting out too?"

The man shrugs. "Yeah. I mean I figured I should. These questions make me feel like I really don't want to, though. It's a punch in the stomach."

"Hey, hey, hey, what's this attitude?" Taehyung says, reaching over and flicking his pencil. "Life isn't about how hard you can hit, it's about how hard you can get hit."

"Wow, that was actually pretty inspirational," the man says, confused. "Did you just come up with that yourself?"

"Yup." Nope. It was from Rocky's speech to his son.

The man seems to get that Taehyung is kidding, just judging by how fast Taehyung responds and the silly expression on his face afterward. The man laughs, which Taehyung reckons is better than him moping earlier.

As always, Taehyung seems to feed other people advice he should be feeding himself. He thinks this because as he flips through the pages he really does feel like Mr. Sad over there. They're all seemingly basic questions, but answering them outlines how out of shape Taehyung really is.

How many days a week do you exercise, approximately? (Moderate to heavy)

Taehyung sighs. Do Pilates count?

Two.

He moves on to question two.

What does your general diet consist of?

Ah, fuck.

The next time he checks the clock, forty five minutes has passed, his little friend has left, and the man at the front desk seems to be packing up. Is it 10pm already?

Taehyung groans, rubbing his eyes. He gets to the last page and skims it, licking his lips in anticipation. Okay, here we are.

What are you hoping to make advancements in?

Taehyung thinks really hard. As the man said, they're going to be picking a trainer for him (which is stupid, in Taehyung's opinion) and he's not about to point at Jeongguk's photo in the pamphlet and say 'I want that one', even though he has half a mind to when he sees Jeongguk on the page, arms crossed over his chest, Mona Lisa smile and all. 

He puts his pencil against the page:

body weight exercises

have get good posture

develop my abnominals 

get fit + eat better

Taehyung glances at his scribbles, frowning. Makes enough sense, probably. He gets up and hops his way up to the man at the desk, dropping the load of papers down in front of him.

"I filled out the adoption papers," Taehyung says, tapping at the pile.

He looks up at him, confused. "Sorry?"

"I meant cos there's a lot of pages," Taehyung explains, waiting for a laugh, but he just smiles fondly and grabs the pile. 

"Thank you-" he raises his eyebrows, waiting for his name.

"Taehyung."

"-Taehyung. I'm Hoseok, I look forward to seeing you here with us," he says, rehearsed, full of sunshine, and Taehyung bows.

"Me too, thanks for helping, Hoseok."

 


 

 

Ordering Burger King right now probably isn't the best idea ever, but tomorrow is a new chapter in Taehyung's life, so he might as well go out with a bang.

As he waits for the doorbell to ring, he feels a surge of inspiration, sliding into his work room. He sets the easel in front of him, positioning a large canvas on it. He stares at the white expanse, ruminating, his hand tapping at his thigh. He reaches down beside his left foot and picks up his safety-glass palette for pigments. He ponders for a moment, his right hand stroking at the smooth surface of the glass. He's feeling green. He's feeling moss green. He begins to mix, the excited thumping in his heart slowing down, steady.

He paints for a few moments, just slashes of green, rectangles streaking across the canvas. 45 degree angles, varying in directions, but progressively going up. Taehyung always starts to paint from the bottom up.

His phone chimes form the ground and he reaches down to grab it.

[22:12] Hey, Taehyung. Hope all is well :) I'll be in town next week and I would love to meet up with you again. Been thinking about you.

Oh, jeez. He's horny, but he's not that horny.

Kim Seok-Jin, the wealthy son of a CEO, tall, broad-shouldered, gorgeous, and...incredibly awkward to talk to. He was one of Taehyung's first and most enthusiastic clients. It was all very flattering, until he learned it was because Seokjin just really, really wanted to fuck Taehyung, and that he mostly just purchased art for its monetary value. Then it was still flattering but slightly uncomfortable, almost like Seokjin was buying him rather than his art.

Taehyung prefers relationships over casual fucking, but since moving here both the sex and relationship fronts have been drier than a popcorn fart. So, at the time, he folded.

The sex was great - if not a little weird due to some unsexy dirty talk - with Seokjin ramming doggy-style into Taehyung's ass mercilessly, for an incredibly long time, to the point where Taehyung was breathless before Seokjin, which is rare during sex. But then the whole lead up to the fucks, the dinner, the conversations before they met up, all of the verbal contact with this man had been a train wreck. Taehyung's humor just didn't translate well to Jin, and similarly, Taehyung didn't really relate to the weird business life problems he liked to ramble on about in the car on their way to and from hotels. He was nice enough, and they had a good fling for a while, but Taehyung is a phoenix rising from the ashes right now, so he can't waste his time on no-strings-attached fuck fests with the Korean Patrick Bateman anymore.

He doesn't respond to the text and resumes painting.

The sound of the doorbell knocks him out of his memory haze, and he grumbles, putting down the palette and slipping on a piece of sketch-paper on the ground as he makes his way to the door. His robe is slipping open, and he grips it closed with his paint streaked hand right as he opens the door. He probably looks insane like this, his hair in a state of disarray, the smell of alcohol on his breath.

Of course it's Jimin. Why wouldn't it be.

"You," Taehyung says, grinning anyway because he's friendly like that. "You stalking me?"

Jimin laughs and holds the paper bag out to him. "I don't think I'd make a good stalker."

"You don't," Taehyung says, grabbing the bag and reaching down to his pockets before realizing he's wearing a robe. "Shit. Um, you can step inside if you want, I just have to find my wallet." He turns and shuffles quickly into his room, beginning to throw things around in a frenzy as Jimin steps inside, looking around curiously. 

"This is a nice place," Jimin pipes from the living room, and his voice is smooth and slightly high-pitched, it's somehow soothing. "What do you do for a living, if you don't mind me asking?"

"Murder," Taehyung says darkly, emerging from his room, holding his wallet.

Jimin laughs as Taehyung begins to walk towards him, holding the Gucci wallet up in the air threateningly. "I'm one of the most famous hit-men in the world."

Jimin nods. "Right. Okay. And you were hired to kill me."

"I paint," Taehyung says, shoulders relaxing. He starts flipping through the wallet.

"Wow, you must have really made it big, huh," Jimin says, impressed, and Taehyung takes a liking to his nonjudgmental tone, which seems so different from the general air of snobbery and elitism in his art circles. 

"I don't know. Kind of," he holds out the bills for Jimin to take.

Jimin flips through them then looks up, "Um, you gave me way too much."

"I'm aware," Taehyung muses, zipping the wallet closed.

Jimin waits for a moment, his feline-eyes wide, mouth slightly open. Then he smiles, brighter than the sun. "Thank you!"

"No worries. Okay you gotta go now, I need to eat my burger then masturbate," Taehyung says, beginning to shoo Jimin towards the door.

The latter laughs. "In that order?"

"Yup."

"Okay, enjoy your meal, thanks for choosing Burger King," Jimin says picking up his delivery bag from outside the door and swinging it over his shoulder. "And have fun with your dildo," he says cordially, bowing his head.

Taehyung closes the door, impressed and a little taken aback because Jimin really just one-upped Taehyung's inappropriate statement. As he turns around he realizes, in horror, that his bright purple dildo is sticking up from his glass coffee table, presenting itself readily for the world to see. 

"Oh fuck. Fucking great," Taehyung growls to himself, having a hard time ripping the thing from the table, thinking this is probably a pathetic sight to see: him in his over-sized silk robe, trying, with green hands, to pry a penis from a table.

The embarrassment slowly fades as he stands, thoughtfully holding the dildo, frowning in thought.

"Fine. After my burger," he finally says to it, fondly dropping it onto his couch.

 


 

 

Later that week, Taehyung commutes home from an art-exhibit, exhausted, with his canvas in its carrying case, tucked under his arm. He stands on the subway, yawning and stretching his eyes open wide, a method he invested in after he realized it helped keep him from falling asleep. The method makes him look somewhat like a maniac during the instances he accidentally makes eye-contact with other passengers, but he's gotta do what he's gotta do.

He's reaching up to adjust his beret when he feels his phone vibrate in his pocket. He struggles to stand without tipping over, the canvas pressed up into his armpit, swinging from the handgrip as he pivots during a harsh stop.

"Sorry," he mouths to the unimpressed woman next to him after he accidentally kicks her foot.

He looks down at his phone-screen, lighting up when he sees that it's an email from Bupun Gym.

 

Hi Taehyung,

The trainers at Bupun gym and I have collectively gone over your file and decided that I am the best fit to help you get to where you'd like to be. Please send me your weekly schedule and let me know what times line-up up with my open slots: they are enclosed in the attachment below. In the attachment, you will also find my rates, session lengths, and expectations for potential clients, along with my own code of conduct. For our consultation, please dress lightly (breathable form fitted tank or t-shirt and shorts). I look forward to meeting with you in person and hearing any questions or concerns. 

Sincerely,

Jeon Jeongguk

 

Taehyung beams at his phone screen, biting his lip to stop from letting out a squeal. He looks up like he wants to share this special information with the people around him, but eye-contact with the stern woman he kicked earlier is a immediate repellent and he looks back down at his phone. Stay calm. You are a serious client, with serious physical needs. 

When he gets back to his apartment he chucks his carrying-canvas against his couch and runs to his room, still in his fall coat and beret. He sits down on his chair and grabs the palette from the floor. He thinks for a moment, paintbrush poised over the colors, before dipping into orange.

 


 

 

After a brief and lack-luster email correspondence, they eventually agree on a schedule and Taehyung has half a mind to already shout that it is entirely too much before he even sits down for his consultation. 

But here he is on a Thursday evening, in his red short-shorts, sitting on the cold leather chair of the consultation studio. He stares down at his thighs, and they look huge from this angle even though he knows they're not, even though he knows his legs are generally are one of his best features. He shifts, hearing the chair's leather peel noisily from from under his thigh as he lifts it.

The door opens, Jeongguk walks in, and Taehyung immediately feels his heart drop into his lower stomach. He's twelve, no, fourteen times sexier than the media uploads on the gym website. His skin is fair, hair dark in contrast. His mouth is small but his lips are red with color, like he just finished eating a cherry popsicle. He's muscular, but not Arnold big: he nestles in that perfect medium that shouts obvious but not obnoxiously built. He's a Seoul nine at least. He's wearing all Nike, all black - with one of those skin tight training t-shirts Taehyung knows only look good on the smallest fraction of the population. 

It's cold in the room, and Taehyung tries not to look at the trainer's nipples. He almost misses hearing Jeongguk's name and entire introduction.

"-to finally meet you," he hears Jeongguk finish as he sits down in the chair across from him, the two men separated by a table.

"Yes. Yes, hi! Nice to meet you," Taehyung babbles, flustered but picking up his nerves and assembling them as fast as he can. Oh god, those little black earrings; are those gauges? No, they can't be because that would mean this is the afterlife and Taehyung has died suddenly and been admitted into heaven.

Jeongguk gives Taehyung a slight, almost forced smile, and for a moment he looks about twelve. He immediately ages about a decade when he stares down at what looks like Taehyung's portfolio in his hands, his brows knitted in concentration. "So I went through your info. Would it be fair to say you're a beginner to sustained fitness routines?"

"Yes. Beginner, absolutely," Taehyung murmurs, nodding. 

Jeongguk nods then gets up from his chair, placing his hands on his hips and exhaling slowly. Taehyung watches, with his mouth open, as Jeongguk's flat stomach tenses under his shirt while he rolls his shoulders. Every movement he makes looks regal, statuesque. "Okay, I'm just going to take some measurements first." He reaches into a small cupboard attached to the table.

"Like...dress size?" Taehyung reflexively moves his hands to his belly, feeling the flesh with concern.

Jeongguk blinks, holding a tape measure. "In a way, yes. Your chest, waist, hips, height."

Taehyung swallows and stands up, kicking himself mentally for not thinking about how invasive this consultation might be. He sighs, it's not like he's ever going to get fucked by this Adonis, so he clears his head.

"Don't worry, it's just for reference," Jeongguk says quietly, like he's noticed the discomfort in the air, and Taehyung thinks it's really sweet of him, no matter how confused Jeongguk looks saying it. 

Taehyung smiles fondly as he walks over the the wall with the numbers climbing up to the ceiling, which is assumes is where he will be measured. "I'm just not used to being touched by strange men in tight work-out clothes," he offers.

Jeongguk lets out a small laugh, his teeth poking out of his red lips and Taehyung wishes reality came with instant replay.

"Alright, you're a rowdy one. That's good, channel that energy," Jeongguk says, wrapping the tape measure around his right hand and reaching out with the left to position Taehyung. "Up higher, back against the wall, legs straight."

Taehyung can't help but imagine what other sort of orders Jeongguk may enjoy giving in his personal life. 

Taehyung stands, arms and legs spread until Jeongguk swats at his arms. "Arms relaxed, down at your sides."

He begins to measure Taehyung, leaning down with his face close to Taehyung's crotch when he gets to his waist, wrapping the tape measure around his stomach (which Taehyung sucks in experimentally then lets go when the action elicits a stern look from Jeongguk). Jeongguk pauses after he takes the measurement and taps his finger against Taehyung's shirt, looking up at him. This angle should be illegal. "Cute shirt," Jeongguk's mouth says, but his tone is judgmental.

Taehyung looks down, having forgotten what he put on in the morning.

"'Kitten my swol on'," Jeongguk reads, slowly, uncomfortably, staring at Taehyung's tank, at the crudely drawn cat in a headband with a dumbell raised in its paw. Jeongguk is a hater, Taehyung decides, and there's only one way to deal with haters: kill them with kindness.

"You are smitten with my kitten," Taehyung says pleasantly. "I can order you one if you want. They have all different sorts."

"No thanks," Jeongguk says quickly, giving him that stick-up-my-ass tight lipped smile he offered earlier with his name. Well, excuse me for desecrating your holy workout ground with my cute fucking shirt. "Let's get you to the first test. Get on that green mat over there."

"Test?" Taehyung asks, fearful again. "I'm not good at tests."

"Well lucky for you there's no failing criteria. As I told you earlier, this is just for reference," Jeongguk continues unsympathetically, sliding the mat into place with his Nike'd foot, and pointing at it with his pen. "Can you show me a push-up?"

"Duh." Taehyung gets on the mat and gives Jeongguk what he thinks is a perfectly acceptable push-up, but Jeongguk growls in protest when Taehyung starts to stand up again. "Get back down, hang on."

He squats next to Taehyung, facing his horizontal body. "This," he says, reaching out to place his tip of his index finger against Taehyung's lower-back, right before the curve of his ass, "bring it down. Lower. Good. And these," he taps at Taehyung's arms, "are too far out, shoulder width apart. Try again."

Taehyung does another, and to his disappointment it's a lot harder than the first one. 

"Another one, this time bring your face down as far as you can. Nose pointing at the floor, neck straight."

Taehyung tries again and feels the warmth of Jeongguk's hand against his tense stomach, lifting it up slightly. "Don't let your stomach droop down, keep it tighter. Good, try again."

Taehyung can't believe how much his arms are already burning, he feels like he's about to be really embarrassed. He tries one more time, taking all the pointers into account. 

"Beautiful. That's a proper push-up, good job," Jeongguk says. 

"Now what?" Taehyung breathes from the plank position.

"Now show me how many you can do, just like that, until you're exhausted."

Taehyung groans inwardly, feeling the burn in his arms already. He gets through about nineteen before he collapses down on his stomach. "I'm dead. I'm done."

He doesn't want to look up at Jeongguk because his face is red with over-exertion and exhaustion after doing fucking nineteen push-ups and if he isn't dead and in Hell now, he wants to be. He finally wills himself to flop over onto his back, watching Jeongguk as he writes on his note-pad, emotionless. 

"Sixteen pushups," Jeongguk concludes, clicking the pen.

"Um, excuse me," Taehyung barks, sitting up way too fast, feeling dizzy. "I did nineteen, not sixteen!"

"You did sixteen push-ups in the correct form, and the last three with poor form, so we're going with sixteen. Okay, get on your back. Let's do some sit-ups. You have one minute."

Taehyung manages to get through forty of those, eliciting a "excellent, great job" from his previously unimpressed trainer, and this small token gives Taehyung the energy of a rising athletic champion.

Taehyung smiles at Jeongguk while he pants, watching him write down in his little black notebook again. 

He doesn't know how he does on the next test, which involves him running back and forth between two walls with increasing speed intervals that are differentiated with a series of beeps. Jeongguk doesn't seem to say anything, and Taehyung pouts, squeaking his sneakers on the gym floor as his trainer silently writes in his notebook.

"Well, Taehyung," he says, finally, glancing up. "In general I'd say you're on the low side of average, fitness-wise."

"Is that...bad?" Taehyung asks and Jeongguk smirks, like he's charmed.

"What did I say these tests were for?"

"Reference," Taehyung announces enthusiastically, happy with himself at having remembered.

"Yes. So this is a good point to start at. I think we can accomplish a lot," Jeongguk says, placing his hands in his pockets. Taehyung doesn't think he's seen Jeongguk slouch once since they met. "That's all we'll be doing for today. On Monday we'll start your first training session."

Taehyung nods, scratching at his bare thigh. "Okay, can you show me something cool before I leave?"

Jeongguk looks puzzled, tilting his head to the side. "Something cool?"

"Yeah, like, a cool move. I don't know, an exercise thing that will motivate me," Taehyung says, impatient.

Jeongguk nods slowly. "Um, sure." He stares at the mat, trying to decide. "How about a hand-stand pushup?"

"A hand-stand or a pushup? Which one?" Taehyung asks.

"Both," Jeongguk answers, and he sounds a little cocky. It's overwhelmingly sexy. Up until he actually does the 'hand-stand pushup' which ends up being even more agonizing to watch. He starts with a regular hand-stand, then lowers his face down to the ground, his elbows actually bending, defying gravity, then he lifts his whole body back up into a hand-stand. He does five, effortlessly, before he swings back into an upright position.

"Well?" Jeongguk says, when Taehyung just stares.

"I'm...so inspired," Taehyung says, and it comes out a little erotically, so he offers a boxy grin to offset any creepy vibes he might have betrayed.

Jeongguk looks almost shy, staring at ground for a moment, then nods. "Good. Let me show you out."

They walk down the hallways, quietly for a few seconds before Jeongguk clears his throat. "It says in your profile that you paint."

"Yeah," Taehyung says, always excited to talk about art. 

"That's cool, you should bring something to show me on Monday," Jeongguk says. "Something that makes you motivated when you look at it."

Taehyung is about to say that staring at Jeongguk's crotch while doing pushups is the metaphoric carrot to his metaphoric horse, and that he doesn't need anything else to motivate him - but he just smiles, liking Jeongguk's suggestion too. "Okay."

 


 

 

Taehyung is so damn horny when he gets home, he doesn't know what to do with himself. He finally decides to fuck himself with his purple dildo, but feels unsatisfied, somehow on edge, he can't even get the thing in comfortably, so he just lies spread eagle on his back in defeat.

All he can think about is Jeongguk's hand on his waist as he does pushups, the gentle push of his palm against his stomach, his hands gripping Taehyung's ankles as he reminds him to keep his feet on the ground. He realizes, to his disappointment, that all these moments of skin to skin contact were because Taehyung was doing something wrong. 

He reaches out and grabs his phone, scrolling through his text messages. He stops at Seokjin's text.

No. It's not worth it. He's going to talk about stocks and watch himself in the mirror again while he fucks Taehyung. 

He sighs and drops his phone on the bed next to him.

He thinks about Jeongguk again. His rate is hefty, but he's probably worth it. Sure, Jeongguk might be completely turned off from Taehyung and his lack of physical prowess, but at least Taehyung feels motivated to work-out when he wakes up the next day, even though Sunday is colored in black on his agenda as his 'level one'.

(Jeongguk labeled the days in order of difficulty from level one to four, and today, the level one, has the accompanying notes 'meditation, light yoga':

"What about my cheat day?"

"I don't believe in cheat days.")

Is painting considered meditating? Taehyung crawls out of his bed, slipping his feet into fur slides. He drags on a pair of boxer-briefs and trudges into his work studio, still groggy from sleep, sitting down on his stool. He feels the light breeze sliding in from his open window, sending goosebumps up his bare back. He's feeling like white, like egg-shells, with specks of yolk yellow. Cornmeal.

After an hour he gets up, yawning. He stares down out his window, his hands running up and down the sides of his arms to heat himself up. He watches a couple walk by, holding hands, and Taehyung feels a string of longing deep in his stomach. The girl's coat is a bright royal blue, almost obnoxiously piercing through the grey weather. Taehyung suddenly starts, remembering Jeongguk asked him to bring a motivating painting to their session.

He scrambles to his pile of paintings in the corner of his studio, crouching down, adjusting himself in his briefs before sliding the canvases around, trying to find one he might particularly like. Taehyung has a habit of keeping the ones he thinks have any sort of real artistic value to him hidden in his apartment, only taking them out if there's an art-show or exhibit he particularly cares about that has asked him to showcase. This pile is good, but it's not his best. He thinks whether he should pick one of his best, for Jeongguk to see, but he quickly dispels the idea because Jeongguk doesn't really care, he's being paid to do this.

Still, he picks the best from his pile of rejects, because Taehyung thrives on validation. 

It's a painting inspired by a particular patch of ocean he stared at on Long Beach after being invited to an art show in California two years ago. After a particularly nasty hiccup in his relationship with his (now ex) boyfriend, the genius decided to break up with Taehyung over the phone, long-distance. He had hung up the phone and felt a strong urge to dramatically toss it into the receding water. He pulled his arm back, bracing, then stopped and just watched the rhythmic waves. It was hypnotic, full of life but calm, like it understood. He sat on the beach, staring for hours, until the sun completely set.

He stares at the painting before turning it over and running his index finger over the title on the back: Therapy. 

 


 

 

Taehyung attracts some awkward stares as he waddles through the main entrance of the gym on Monday, holding the wrapped canvas protectively as he fits himself through the door. He's a few minutes late, and when he has a chance to look up, he sees Jeongguk standing at the information desk, next to a worried Hoseok, arms crossed in front of his chest, looking stern.

Taehyung grins apologetically at him and runs a hand through his nest of hair before using it to steady the painting when it teeters dangerously at his relinquished grip.

Jeongguk's annoyed expression seems to disappear when he notices the wrapped canvas, he licks his lips, letting his arms fall to his; he starts forward to help Taehyung.

He holds the sides of the bundle gingerly, allowing Taehyung to stand up straight. Taehyung pants for a moment then stretches his arms, laughing. "I think I already got my work-out today."

Jeongguk is holding onto his painting carefully; Taehyung is endeared.  "Is this something you painted?"

Taehyung nods, smiling. "Yup. My, uh, motivational thing. I guess?"

Jeongguk shoots him a small smile. "Awesome. Okay, follow me to the aerobics room. We're going to start with some stretches to loosen you up."

That is so vulgar. That is so fucking vulgar, there is no way Jeongguk didn't hear himself say that. Taehyung decides, though, that Jeongguk seems like an oblivious guy.

The stretches don't seem to be too bad, Taehyung realizing he's actually more flexible than he initially thought. It's still hard to really reach his toes, though, on account of his long legs, but he tries anyway.

Jeongguk is meticulously unwrapping the canvas as Taehyung does his lying twists on the mat. He looks up at his trainer, who is staring carefully at the way the canvas is wrapped to prevent doing any damage to it.

He smiles up at him from the ground. "Don't worry, that painting is heavy duty. I chucked it around a few times after I painted it."

"Why?" Jeongguk asks, finally managing to pull it out of its encasing.

Taehyung sits up. "It's from after a break up. I was really pissed. So."

Jeongguk raises his eyebrows in understanding then lets his eyes roam over the painting, his expression unreadable.

Taehyung doesn't usually feel nervous when people look at his art, but for some reason he feels exposed right now, sitting on the cold mat, goosebumps on his bare limbs.

"This is...this is really nice," Jeongguk says, finally glancing up from the painting. "You know, I always really liked art."

"Thanks!" Taehyung says, gleeful. "Oh really? Are you a secret artist?"

Jeongguk smiles. "Nah. I mean, I sketch a little but, this sort of thing," he points to the painting, "this seems like it takes a lot of talent."

Taehyung wonders how Jeongguk can go from being such a hard-ass to so sentimental like that.

"Uh, we'll just put this here against the wall as we stretch, as your motivation," Jeongguk continues when Taehyung doesn't respond because he's so taken by his trainer. 

When they're finished here, Jeongguk takes the painting with him to the next room and sets it against the wide window, the sunlight from outside bathing it in yellow, and Taehyung almost prefers the artwork looking like this.

"We're going to work on some strength exercises today. You have a naturally athletic body, so we're going to work on toning," Jeongguk says as he assembles some dumbbells. 

Taehyung beams even though he knows Jeongguk probably didn't mean that as a compliment. He'll take it.

Jeongguk coaxes him through the list of exercises, and Taehyung is doing well... initially. Near the end he feels his energy plummet, like his brain can't pump endorphins anymore.  

He whines through the last few reps, panting and falling onto his back. 

"You know, the more you whine, the more energy you expel," Jeongguk says, smacking at Taehyung's stomach. "Come on. Up."

Taehyung points at the bench press. "Oh I know this. I've seen this. I wanna try this!" Taehyung says and Jeongguk shakes his head.

"No, stay away from that for now. Let's do something else."

Taehyung sighs. "Can we at least do the epileptic?"

"The...what?" 

"Epileptic. The machine, you know," Taehyung does swinging motions with his arms and legs.

"The elliptical," Jeongguk says, and his hand is against his forehead in exasperation, but he's smiling. 

Taehyung lights up. "Yeah! That."

"No, that's for cardio. We're moving on to rowing."

This proves to be even more nightmarish than the last round, feeling his arms burning as he pulls the ropes towards himself. "This fucking burns," he mumbles, and he's shaking even though he's trying not to. He reckons his arms are the weakest part of his body.

Jeongguk stands behind him, his chest almost pressed against Taehyung's back, his hands lightly gripping Taehyung's biceps, keeping his form correct as he pulls back again. "Good. Keep going, six more. You can slow down, just don't stop the movement."

Taehyung groans, his head falling back, drawing a bark of disappointment from Jeongguk. "Hey, hey, head up, come on stay focused. Look at your painting."

"I fucking hate that thing, it reminds me of my ex," Taehyung grits, feeling like his eyes are filling with tears.

Jeongguk pauses, like he wants to question why he even brought it in the first place, but just sighs. When he speaks again his voice is gentle, coaxing. "Come on, three more. For me, then."

For me.

Taehyung finally manages before letting himself go limp against Jeongguk's chest. "Okay. No more. I'm finished forever."

Jeongguk squeezes his biceps and steps back, keeping him upright. "We still got some squats. Focus, clear your head."

"You're the worst," Taehyung says rubbing at his arms, staring at Jeongguk.

Taehyung did squats, once upon a time, after finding out they made his ass look great. He seems to do well now, drawing an impressed sound from Jeongguk.

"Excellent. That's fantastic, keep that up," Jeongguk says, and Taehyung is smiling until he turns his head to see Jeongguk holding out weights for him to take while he does the squats.

"Judas," he says lowly, reaching out to take them.

"If something is easy, make it a little hard."

"Hard is the last thing happening right now," Taehyung says through his teeth. "So, so soft right now.

Jeongguk makes a sound that sounds eerily like a laugh but Taehyung is in too much pain to look up.

Once they finish, they sit on the mat for a few minutes.

"How do you feel?"

"Like death."

"For now. You'll be surprised in no time," Jeongguk says, handing Taehyung his water bottle.

Taehyung takes a swig and wipes at the sweat on his forehead with the back of his hand. "I'm already surprised at how bad I am at this."

Jeongguk leans back, placing his palms on the mat and dawdles for a few moments. The action would have a child-like innocence if it wasn't for the biceps bulging from under his shirt sleeve. "If you want to change the way you live, you have to stop whining for a few minutes," he says, looking over at Taehyung finally, like he's been trying to word the sentence for a while.

"But I'm so good at whining," Taehyung is sure to tinge his voice with an unbearable intonation that makes Jeongguk wince in annoyance then stand up, beckoning to Taehyung the way Bruce Lee might in a movie.

"Okay, that's enough. Up."

"We're doing more?" he's horrified, gripping at his knees and pleading with his eyes.

"No, we're going to sign your progress log and then you can go home and do whatever it is you do in your spare time," Jeongguk says, turning away before Taehyung even gets up. "You actually did really well today, good for you."

Taehyung inflates a little, then groans at the burn in his thighs. "I don't think I'll have the energy to do what I usually do in my spare time."

Taehyung watches his trainer's ass cheeks move in his Nike Flex joggers and makes a mental note to buy that same pair in white because damn. He can't see the outline of Jeongguk's underwear so he's probably wearing boxer-jocks, something to keep everything snug, the fabric cupping his dick and balls just right, all the way down his thighs-

"-session, right?"

"What?"

Jeongguk turns around on the spot menacingly, placing a hand on his hips, and the move is almost sassy. "I said... You'll be more focused at our next session, right?"

"Depends," Taehyung says, squeaking at the floor shyly with his shoe. "Will you be nicer to me?" he flashes Jeongguk a smile he's been rehearsing since grade-school, since he learned it got him out of any chore.

Jeongguk's eyes are glaring but his mouth is smirking, a new - and probably favorite - combination Taehyung vows to drag out of his trainer as often as he can from this day forward. "Nice try. That's not going to work with me."

"That?" Taehyung frowns.

"That," Jeongguk points at Taehyung's face. "Whatever you're doing. It won't work on your trainer. You're not paying me to be nice to you."

"We'll see," Taehyung says, spinning on his heels and walking to his work-out bag with an accentuated hop in his step.

  


 

Two weeks pass and Jeongguk is definitely nicer to Taehyung. He's not nicer in the physical sense - if anything he's pushing him even harder - but he's not so quick to scold Taehyung because of his whining or his general hatred of most the exercises they do. Taehyung is sure Jeongguk has begun to understand Taehyung's personality and is quickly devising new techniques to help him stay motivated. 

He tries to perform at least one or two bodyweight drills for Taehyung at the end of each class, shaking his head in embarrassment at how exaggeratedly Taehyung claps for him after each one. Unfortunately, he does not let Taehyung sit on his back while he does push-ups, but he does allow him to place weighted plates with increasing kilograms.

He has also allowed Taehyung to bring his own music to play during some of their more repetitive work-outs, though he claims he does not understand how Singing in the Rain helps Taehyung focus or keep a good rhythm going. Regardless, he lets Taehyung do it, and Taehyung really appreciates that.

His favorite of all the additions to their sessions is the twenty minute outdoor run Jeongguk sporadically suggests throughout the week after Taehyung's work-outs. They both wear beanies and wind-breakers (which Taehyung loves) then go for a refreshing run around the neighborhood. They don't talk unless Taehyung really can't help himself from pointing out a cute child or a dog breed he wants, but he still loves this time the most. Feeling the cold wind stinging his face, reddening his nose, hearing Jeongguk panting next to him, his posture never breaking, feeling fingers against his own back when Taehyung hunches, pushing him back up straight.

Taehyung knows his little crush has turned into a pretty big one, one that isn't as easy to ignore anymore - but he tries anyway.

 

 


 

 

Yoongi is looking at Taehyung with his hands in his pockets and his back hunched, like Taehyung is a stain on his shirt. 

Taehyung stops humming as he signs the artist card on the wall next to his painting. He caps the pen then glances over at him. "What?"

"You're doing that thing I hate."

"I'm not singing!" Taehyung defends, throwing the balled up pamphlet in his hand at Yoongi.

"Not that," Yoongi advises. "You're clearly dying to say something, but instead of just telling me you're doing that anno-"

"-I'm working out. I have a personal trainer and I'm in love with him and I want him to fuck the shit out of me," Taehyung says excitedly, leaning in to grit out the last bit of his sentence a little quieter when the gallery patron walks by and flashes them a smile. Taehyung figures his whole 'ignore my feelings for the well being of my working out goals' has not been going well.

"Great."

Even with Yoongi's lack-luster responses to almost everything Taehyung says to him, he still manages to be one of the few art-folk in this city that Taehyung mostly enjoys being around. He's almost like a piece of art himself, inanimate but full of life at the same time, and refreshingly honest. Still, he wouldn't exactly say they're friends.

'Friend' is such a strong word.

Teahyung brought one of his newer paintings to display at the show this coming Friday, one with bright colors and curled lines, like a mashed up board of flattened confetti. Yoongi's painting on the other hand, echoes the typical cubism he general exhibits - sharp, straight lines, faded hues. The two paintings look obvious next to each other like this, any idiot could match them to the corresponding artist standing in front of them, like they're children instead of combinations of colors and shapes. But Beethoven wasn't especially known for his quiet style, either, and Taehyung figures he can't hide his personality from his art even if he wants to.

"It is great, isn't it," Taehyung says, stroking the frame of his painting, pretending Yoongi was praising his artwork instead of sarcastically responding to his infatuation with his personal trainer. He glances over to catch Yoongi giving him a look of mild disdain mixed with the remnants of a smile.

"No. Having sex with your personal trainer seems really fucking stupid, actually," Yoongi says, his tone casual.

Taehyung frowns. "Well you don't have to worry about that, Min Yoongi, because he's out of my league.Just out of curiousity, though -and be honest - on a scale of one to ten, what am I, physically? Ten being the best, obviously. Really think this through, I'm not doing great on the self-esteem front this mo-"

"About a four."

"I...that was way too fast, you didn't have time to even think properly," Taehyung blubbers. "That's unfair. Come on."

"Three."

"Is this a missile launch? You're an asshole," Taehyung says glumly, reaching down to pick up an arm full of bubble-wrap and tape he discarded after unwrapping his painting.

"The fact that you're using numbers to quantify how physically attractive you are is enough for me to deduct at least five of your own stupid points."

Taehyung stands up straight, his arms full of plastic, pieces of tape sticking to his over-sized mohair coat. "So, then, technically you think I'm a nine. If you deducted five points to get to a four."

Yoongi rolls his eyes so far back into his skull Taehyung thinks he might sever his optic nerve. "You're an artist. How can you seriously use a scale like that to measure aesthetics."

"I'm not serious, I'm depressed," Taehyung says, waddling over to the trash can, smiling at an artist who stands over it, shoveling handfuls of dried plaster into its mouth until he moves away for a moment to let Taehyung discard his waste. "Maybe I should invite him here. You know, show him my art." he continues, standing back to think fondly of how Jeongguk will look dressed up dinner-casual, with a pamphlet in his hand, asking Taehyung about his painting with a look of adoration on his face.

Yoongi snorts quietly, but the noise is jarring, dragging Taehyung back down to reality. "He's a gym rat. He doesn't give a shit about Dadaism."

And there it is. That genuine cynicism. That's why Taehyung feels so lonely in this city. He glances at his painting and suddenly feels like half the colors look less vibrant than they did when he first hung it on the wall.

 

 


 

 

"Do you know what Dadaism is?" Taehyung asks at their next session, as he's stretching. His fingers are hitting the top of his shoes and he inflates with pride.

Jeongguk glances up from readjusting a pull-up bar. "Like, the art movement?" There's a medicine ball lying menacingly next to him.

"Yeah!" Taehyung says, suddenly swinging up.

"Hey. Don't move up so fast from stretching, you'll hurt yourself," Jeongguk snaps, but he's smiling back at the bar now.

"Do you like going to art exhibitions?" Taehyung asks, 'shaking out' his stretch. He probably spends more time shaking out stretches than he does actually doing them. This has annoyed Jeongguk more than once.

Jeongguk looks confused for a moment then scratches the back of his neck in thought. "I don't think I've been to any. But I think I'd enjoy it, yeah. Don't forget your calf stretches."

Taehyung bends down into the downward-dog. "You should come to the one next Friday at Fuse Gallery. I have some paintings on display, including a new one I'm unveiling."

Jeongguk doesn't answer and Taehyung glances up from his awkward position. He looks like he's having some sort of internal argument with himself. Taehyung doesn't know if his face is filling with blood because of his position or from fear of Jeongguk rejecting his offer. 

"You don't have to if you don't want to. I just thought. I mean, you said you really like art..."

"I do," Jeongguk says, decidedly, standing up from his crouch. He licks his lips and nods. "I'll drop by if I finish early with my last client. What time is it?"

 Taehyung gets up from his bent position incredibly slowly, making a point to smile at Jeongguk along the entire way, and the trainer chuckles at the display, shaking his head. "It's at 8pm. You should definitely come by," Taehyung says when he finally straightens out.

"Cool. Now, no more noises for the rest of the session."

"No more noises or no more talking? Because that's cruel, even for you."

"Fine," Jeongguk says picking up the medicine ball, relishing the way Taehyung's face falls at the sight of it, poised. "Noises are fine."

 


 

Taehyung spends a great deal of time fussing mentally over the art show, which in turn leaves him little time to actually get ready. He doesn't bring up the exhibit for the entirety of next week's sessions, hoping silently instead, that Jeongguk remembers.

He opts for a fashionably over-sized maroon blouse and a pair of plaid cropped trousers. He moisturizes his face and dabs Carmex on his lips, finding that these little additions make him look infinitely better, naturally adding color to his face. He isn't nervous because he's done this hundreds of times before. Just mingle with the other artists, answer questions, then check sales at the end of the night and see if any of the clients bite. Most of his more expensive art has already been sold at the gallery's pre-sale, where most of the obsessive clients flock. Taehyung has a pretty decent list of regulars, which also adds to his level of ease.

Trying to get his art appreciated in the first place was the initial step, back when he first started out, and with that era came the majority of his nerves. Now, most the fuss is involved with Taehyung pretending he genuinely likes these people he has to come in contact with. These vapid, condescending, or just down-right rude people who, at some points, Taehyung can not believe share the same profession as him. The clients are even worse.

And this is coming from someone who genuinely likes dealing with people. When you start selling art, you open a very large can of worms.

The gallery is already half full when he gets there even though the artists are typically supposed to show up earlier. Taehyung sees Yoongi speaking to one of his old clients, holding a martini glass in his hand. He's smiling but Taehyung can see he doesn't want to be here either. 

Taehyung makes his way over to the minibar and it takes him almost ten minutes because he's stopping every few steps to chat with artists or clients, flashing them convincing smiles and touching them fondly on the arm to successfully convince them that he doesn't actually hate being here right now.

He finally reaches the bar when he feels a hand on his shoulder, firm and warm. 

He turns around hoping to God that through some miracle it's Jeongguk, but it isn't. It's Seokjin. Kim Seokjin is standing in front of him, smiling awkwardly.

"Ignoring me, huh," he says, and he's being cool but Taehyung can tell he looks a little upset and he really can not be dealing with this right now, not here.

"Oh my God, what?" Taehyung says, being as cute as he possibly can, eyes wide and confused. "So nice to see you here! What do you mean 'ignoring'?"

Seokjin looks puzzled, which is a good sign. "I texted you a few days ago. I'm in town for the next few months, for a bid I have with my dad's company, thought maybe you'd want to hang out. You never responded."

Taehyung furrows his eyebrows, pouting in thought. "I never got a text," then after an acceptable moment, he adds flirtatiously, for effect, "I'd never ignore you, Seokjin."

"I mean, it was sort of a booty-call, but still, it hurt," Seokjin adds and oof, Taehyung feels like his already soft dick inverts in his pants.

"Hah."

Seokjin smiles, like that wasn't a shitty, mean joke, looking down at his outrageously expensive shoes. "You look incredible, by the way. Like, really good. Can I get you a drink?"

Taehyung tilts his head to the side and increases the voltage of his smile. "That's okay, I'll get one later."

Unfortunately, that comes across as an invitation and Taehyung didn't think it through properly (this is Seokjin after all) because Seokjin is already hunched over the minibar ordering two gin and tonics. 

He sighs, inwardly, taking the drink pleasantly and sipping at it slowly while Seokjin talks. And talks. And talks. He talks about how he's in town for a few months during the bid, and how he's here to buy some paintings for his father's birthday, and about some other useless things, but Taehyung has already put him on mute.

His eyes travel around the room as Seokjin is droning on in his head and finally they settle on Yoongi, who appears to be talking to- 

"Jin, hey, um, I think I see a client who's been hounding me for a while, can I take a rain-check?" Taehyung almost yells over him and Seokjin looks surprised but shrugs and nods, and Taehyung is gone before he can say anything else.

Taehyung closes in on Yoongi, and no it was not a trick of light, he is actually standing next to Taehyung's painting and talking to an aggressively delicious looking Jeongguk who holds a pamphlet in his hand and yes, yes this is his fantasy. 

Jeongguk is talking, but as he speaks to Yoongi he looks up and notices Taehyung bulldozing towards them. His previously conversational features relax into a comfortable smile and Taehyung feels throat close up.

"Hi! Oh my God, hi! You came!" Taehyung practically screams from behind Yoongi, in intervals, making Yoongi jerk backwards in surprise.

"I. Yeah, I finished early, so," Jeongguk says as Taehyung all but shoves Yoongi towards the wall. 

"Wow, I'm...that's so cool of you, so um," Taehyung has never been this tongue-tied and Yoongi seems to notice because he's actually smiling, a real, wide, genuine smile like he's truly appreciating how uncool Taehyung is being right now.

"Jeongguk was just telling me about how he's your new personal trainer," Yoongi says from his uncomfortable position, pressed up against the wall. He makes it look good, though, standing lazily, arms crossed, hand holding a wine glass.

"He's doing really well," Jeongguk says and he smiles in such a way that Taehyung is already creating the conversation in his head between himself and Yoongi, who in this future scenario will be reluctantly agreeing with a satisfied Taehyung that Jeongguk is a nine. No, a ten today. He's wearing a black pea-coat over a plain black t-shirt, and it's loose, which Taehyung supposes is meant to be subtle, but the way the shirt's fabric subtly creases between his pecks is almost sexier than if he had been standing there nude. Almost.

Taehyung laughs and usually he's good at pretending but this laugh comes across as a little weird and high pitched and Yoongi twitches at the nightmarish sound. "I'm. I'm going to go. Do something, I don't know," Yoongi mumbles and starts to walk away from the two.

Jeongguk raises his hand to say bye but Yoongi is already bee-lining towards the minibar.

"He's, uh. He's a little weird," Taehyung says, relaxing in Jeongguk's calm presence. "Nice guy, though." Taehyung glances over at the minibar to see Yoongi, but his eyes are drawn to Seokjin, who is laughing casually with the gallery proprietor, holding his check-book in his hand. 

"Yeah, I really like his art too," Jeongguk says, pointing to Yoongi's painting. "This is definitely something I'd hang in my office."

Taehyung nods, feeling the jealousy snake around his body. "Yeah, he's really talented."

Jeongguk's eyes shift to Taehyung's painting after a moment. "This is really great, too. I'd hang this one in my apartment," Jeongguk says, glancing over at Taehyung who's demeanor shifts, in a hopefully not obvious way, to pleasure.

"Really? You like it?" Taehyung asks stepping in closer so they're standing side by side, staring at Taehyung's painting.

"Definitely," Jeongguk says then looks down at the pamphlet. "'Cerebral Journey Through Light', that's a fitting name."

Taehyung nods. "Yeah I was thinking a lot when I painted this. I had a lot on my mind. Which, I mean, I usually do. But I had more on my mind than usual when I made this one. Imagined what it would be like if someone was shrunk down to a microscopic size and injected into my brain meat. The colors and sights he would see floating around in there, the synapses firing off. It would probably be really overwhelming. I'm pretty overwhelming, you know?" he says without realizing he's been rambling, finally tearing his eyes away from his painting to look at Jeongguk.

Jeongguk isn't staring at his painting, he's looking directly at Taehyung, his eyebrows raised, his mouth slightly open, engaged. "That's. You're really good at this art stuff. I mean, I don't know how to word that compliment, but I meant it as one," Jeongguk says, finally, when Taehyung just stares back at him embarrassed. "When you talk about it...it really shows on your face that you love it."

"I mean, I don't know," Taehyung brushes off, endeared at Jeongguk's attention. "Thanks."

The entire fantasy crashes into a pile of fire, metal, and engines, though, because Taehyung hears Seokjin clear his throat politely to the left and they both turn to face him. When the fuck did he even get here?

"Hey, sorry to interrupt," Seokjin says, holding his phone like they were in the middle of a meeting, the three of them, and he just got an important call. He looks pissed. "I gotta go. So... text me later when you have a chance. About that thing." And then he fucking winks.

Taehyung is horrified, but he snaps his face into a polite smile anyway. He's certain his eyes are dead. "Sure. Yeah. Okay, bye," he says, his neck burning up.

He sees Seokjin smile and give Jeongguk a quick up-down, like he's calculating his threat level before he turns around to leave, hands busy texting away on his phone. Taehyung slowly turns back to his painting and hopes Jeongguk just continues talking about his painting, or disease, or famine, honestly, anything other than Seokjin. But he doesn't.

"'About that thing'," Jeongguk parrots suggestively, and when Taehyung finally builds the courage to glance over at him, Jeongguk is still looking at the painting, the corners of his mouth upturned teasingly.

Then, completely without warning, Taehyung decides to loudly say: "He's not fucking me."

Jeongguk takes a startled step backwards and looks at Taehyung, "Woah, what?"

"So you like my painting?"

"Taehyung," Jeongguk says softly and Taehyung does not like this tone; he's saying his name in that way where it sounds like a question, like he's about to say something Taehyung is not going to like so he decides to talk instead.

"Sorry, I didn't mean to say that out loud. Sometimes my mouth just says things, and then," Taehyung makes a vomiting gesture to signify what happens when his mouth works on its own.

"That's okay, I mean really, it's none of my business," Jeongguk says, apologetic. "I was just teasing. It was inappropriate."

"Wait, how was what you said inappropriate?" Taehyung asks, confused at how Jeongguk could turn the table like that.

"I mean, to joke like that with a client," Jeongguk says, clinically, and Taehyung's dick inverts for the second time that evening.

A client. He hates that. He shouldn't, but he does.

"That's okay. Really," Taehyung says, unable to hide how upset he is and hating himself for it. He leans in and looks intently at a specific point on his painting, as though he's just noticed something that wasn't there before.

"I should probably go, it's getting late," Jeongguk says, tapping on Taehyung's shoulder with his rolled up pamphlet.

Taehyung straightens up and looks at Jeongguk, giving him the brightest smile he can muster which is probably pretty mediocre compared to his usual bravado. "I really appreciate you dropping by."

"Ah, don't mention it, this was fun."

"You're great. I mean, as a personal trainer. Thanks for the work you do," Taehyung continues. He sounds petty.

"You're...welcome," Jeongguk says, his expression indecipherable. "I'll see you on Monday?"

"See you."

Taehyung stands in front of the painting for few more minutes, well after Jeongguk leaves. He doesn't move when he feels Yoongi's presence fill the empty spot that was filled a little while ago by the person who is his personal trainer and will never be anything more than that.

"I'm assuming something went horribly wrong," Yoongi says, and Taehyung isn't even facing him but he smells the alcohol on his breath when it hits him in a small gust.

"He apologized for making an inappropriate joke - that's what he called it. Inappropriate. And then he went on to call me his client," Taehyung states monotonously, his baritone revved.

"Is that a bad thing?" 

"No. That's why I'm upset. I'm upset because that's completely normal."

"Did you want him to say 'boyfriend' or something?"

Taehyung finally looks up, and says, tersely, "No, Yoongi. I didn't. That's the thing. I couldn't even expect him to say 'friend'. That's the worst part. We're not even friends, and I have this huge, stupid, crush on him, I'm inviting him to my fucking art shows. I'm embarrassing. I'm a mess."

Yoongi just nods and takes a sip out of his now empty glass, the icecubes hitting his lips in vain. "That does suck."

 


 

 

Taehyung spends the next few days recuperating in his apartment; he's hibernating. The emotional sting dies down after he adds more layers to his painting in the living room, appreciating how beautiful it all looks together anyway, regardless of the pain.

He goes through two bottles of wine in one night and by the morning he's 'over it', albeit hungover. He hired Jeongguk to help Taehyung get fit, and Taehyung's getting fit, so he should be happy. He is happy. It has only been a month but he's already made a lot of progress. He hasn't lost any weight, since that was never the goal, but he has noticed a change in his thighs and his ass - taking squats slightly more seriously than the rest of his exercises has actually paid off, he thinks as he stares at himself in the mirror. The fat has rearranged itself nicely in the places he wants.

He turns around so his faces the mirror and pulls his underwear down to his thighs, twisting back to examine the reflection of his butt. He flexes his cheeks then lets go. Nice.

He pulls up his underwear then runs a hand down his stomach - no six-pack, but he's finally achieved that ab-crack he's been wanting, even when Jeongguk tells him not to focus on it. It's slight, but it's there, and it's fucking pretty. Taehyung considers a belly-piercing and it's probably the gayest idea he has ever had, but after two bottles of wine he's feeling especially gay.

Most impressively, he hasn't had Burger King in a month.

So why is he still so depressed?

When their next session comes up, Jeongguk's compliments fall a little flat. They spend little time talking about the exhibit, even though Jeongguk seems to genuinely want to discuss.

Presently, Taehyung is lying in his preferred position - spread eagle - on the yoga mat, staring up at the ceiling, feeling sweat trickle down the sides of his cheeks from under his headband.

"You look great, you've really made some changes and you should be proud of yourself," Jeongguk says, happily, turning the clipboard down towards Taehyung as though he could actually see the times written on it from this distance and angle. "How are you feeling?"

"Great," Taehyung lies convincingly, scratching at the side of his leg. "Exhausted but great." There, he adds an element of truth to his lie so he feels a little better about himself.

Jeongguk smiles and Taehyung feels it at the back of his heart, "I'll be back, I'm going to grab some copies of your itinerary for next week."

Taehyung fiddles with the side of the mat as Jeongguk leaves. 

After a moment he gets up with a groan, hands on his waist, leaning back to stretch out his sore stomach. He wanders over to the bench press, running a hand across the cold bar, curious.

He squats down (with effort) to look at the weight numbers. Forty-five kilograms seems like a pretty safe number.

He spins the weights into place on opposite ends of the bar and shuffles onto the bench, gripping it. He breaths in and slowly pushes the bar out of place and up in the air - this is surprisingly easy. He holds it in place, encouraged, then starts to lower it. About half-way down, he realizes forty-five kilograms is probably way, way too heavy because there's no way he's going to be able to push this thing back up. This is stupid, even for Taehyung.

He's trying to stop himself from panicking at this point as the bar slowly closes in on his chest. Taehyung can see the headlines tomorrow: Fucking idiot found dead on bench with fifty pound weight gouged into his neck.

Even though he feels surprisingly calm, his vision begins to go black from the edges. He assumes this is the warm embrace of death. The last thing he hears is a concerned yell, and the last thing he sees before complete darkness is is a blurry, fair face with a shock of black hair standing over him.

When he comes to, he's lying on the mat and Jeongguk crouching next to him, both hands closed around the sides of his neck, supporting it.

"Oh. Hi," Taehyung says weakly.

"What the fuck were you thinking?" Jeongguk yells, his expression of concern turning into something mean.

"I'm. I don't know, I was curious," Taehyung mumbles, squirming.

"Don't move," Jeongguk snaps. "You were curious? Do you have any idea how incredibly stupid, how incredibly dangerous that was?"

Taehyung groans. "I'm sorry, okay? Stop yelling at me, I'm the one who's hurt."

Jeongguk hisses as he sits back with a hand against his forehead, eyes closed. He looks genuinely worried and Taehyung finally feels the dam break, seeping guilt into his system.

"Can. Can I get up?" he asks, weakly.

Jeongguk positions himself with one hand behind Taehyung's neck, the other sliding under Taehyung, against his lower back. "Don't sit up straight, curl to your side like this. Okay, now push yourself up slowly with your hands. How does your neck feel, do you feel any pain?"

"I feel pain," Taehyung says as he sits up, bleary-eyed. "But I think that's from the last exercises."

"Slowly move your neck side to side for me," Jeongguk says, watching him closely.

Taehyung moves his head around - it doesn't hurt.

"Lift your arms up slowly from the side," Jeongguk grips his shoulder lightly as Taehyung moves his arms. "Any new pain?"

"No."

Jeongguk stands up, doing that exhalation thing he does, which Taehyung now realizes is his method to calm himself. "You really fucking scared me, Taehyung."

Taehyung mopes on the mat. "I'm sorry."

"If you feel any pain when you get home, call me or someone you know to take you to a clinic," Jeongguk says, taking his notepad out of his pant pocket.

"I'm sorry," Taehyung repeats again, almost in a whisper, his voice cracking because this whole session went from bad to worse and it's entirely his own fault. Now his trainer is upset, probably hates him forever, never wants to look at him again. It's his first fucking lesson.

"It's. It's okay," Jeongguk says, reaching down for Taehyung to take his hand. He helps pull him up slowly. "Can you walk?"

"Yeah."

Hoseok looks at Taehyung, worried, as Taehyung slowly makes his way out. He offers Hoseok a pathetic smile and a slight wave, because even in this state he wants to seem like he's' fine to everyone else.

Jeongguk is writing on a sheet of paper Taehyung assumes is some sort of injury report as he walks out of the gym, but he glances up momentarily to look at Taehyung and his expression makes Taehyung feel like he never wants to come back.

 

Chapter Text

 

 Taehyung is so sore from his work-out he can barely move when he gets home. He lies on his couch, half his limbs spilling off the side, groaning in pain. He snakes a hand under the front of his shirt, rubbing at his stomach. 

Well, all of this failed pretty early on. Art proves to be a lucrative career for Taehyung, for someone who can not stick to one thing, let alone career, unless it echoes his own chaotic personality. Maybe he's just meant to aesthetically decline in his mid twenties. Maybe he's meant to just turn into an old, lonely hag and die alone.

His stomach growls.

Sighing, he reaches out to paw for his phone on the glass table, finally finding it under a sketch pad. He has Burger King on speed dial.

After he calls, he wills himself to get up and paint a little again. Despite the emotional drama, it has been a successful month with clients. He's certain he sold paintings at the exhibit but he never ended up checking on account of the disastrous turn of events - he'll just wait for the checks and receipts in the mail. On top of this, he has been working on a commissioned painting: a simple, almost childish splash of colors meant for the home of a super-wealthy psychologist. Selling out is what lets Taehyung live a comfortable life. At this point, he's just comfortably lonely and depressed.

And he sits here on his stool. Mopey, lonely, hated, frumpy, a sell-out. Taehyung can't remember when he's ever been at this point.

He's feeling ebony black globs. He grabs his paint brush and mixes some colors, preferring a certain slate black over the general lack of light. He grabs a bottle of Oleopasto from the easel and unscrews it with his teeth, squeezing some on his palette. He lets the tube fall from his mouth to the ground and grabs one of his favorite hog hair mop brushes, swirling it messily in the paint. He raises the brush up and examines the bristles, coated in globules of black paint.

He brings it to the canvas, building up the texture slowly, admiring the way the paint sticks out from the surface, three dimensional. 

The doorbell finally rings and Taehyung gets up, trudging to the door, picking up his wallet from the table along the way.

"Hey, buddy," he says to Jimin who stands in the doorway, smiling at him with two bags in his arms. For some reason, Jimin's presence emits a welcome warmth that Taehyung wants to hold on to.

"Hi," Jimin says, then frowns slightly. "You okay?"

"Nope," he reaches into his wallet for some cash. "Here."

"Do you need to talk? I don't have any more deliveries for the night," Jimin offers, not moving to take the cash.

Taehyung sighs. Okay, fine. You win. He moves to the side and beckons Jimin in with his arm, like he's the butler of a manor.

"Want a drink?" he asks as he shuffles to the kitchen.

Jimin is already sitting on the couch, peeling the top half of his uniform off to reveal a plain white t-shirt. "Sure, I'll have whatever you're having."

Taehyung is feeling like tequila. A whole bottle of tequila, enough to land him in the emergency room, but he decides one close brush with an embarrassing death today is bad enough. "Red wine it is."

He picks a relatively expensive bottle because his life is spiraling, and shuffles over to the couch, flopping down. He groans in pain, wincing as the movement sends a jolt of pain through his thighs.

"You okay?" Jimin asks, reaching out to take the bottle from Taehyung.

"Yeah. I just...had a tough work-out today," he says, smiling weakly. "So, Jimin. How long have you been working for Burger King?"

Jimin grins, his beautiful eyes squinting shut. He sets the bottle on the table, reaching out to twist off the cap. "Since I decided to go back to school again to pursue dance."

"Oh?" Taehyung asks, perking up. "You dance?"

"Yeah," Jimin says, reaching out to pour wine into Taehyung's glass. "I stopped for a while when I tried to get into my dad's business, but I hated that."

Taehyung only notices now that Jimin is quite svelte and small, so he must have been dancing from a very early age. He suddenly feels like a giant sitting next to him on the couch.

"Good for you," Taehyung says, raising his glass for Jimin to clink his own against. "Do what you want. Always. You never know what's gonna happen. You could get crushed to death tomorrow doing bench presses."

Jimin raises his eyebrows. "That's surprisingly specific..."

"Yeah, well," Taehyung takes a large sip and winks at Jimin over the glass.

Jimin tells him about his life with his family, about the trials and tribulations that led him to deciding to be a dancer. Taehyung is usually talkative, but feels at ease hearing Jimin do the work instead this time. It's nice to be able to switch off once in a while.

Taehyung is staring at Jimin's lips, deciding they're really beautiful. He also hasn't been laid in three months. Also Jeongguk hates him.

"Okay," Taehyung says, suddenly, putting his glass on the table. 

"Okay?" Jimin asks, confused, doing the same with his own glass.

Taehyung pauses for a moment then crawls towards Jimin on the couch, reaching out the touch the side of his face. "Um." He leans in and presses his lips to Jimin's.

The dancer returns the kiss for a few seconds, and it's weird. Taehyung thinks maybe it's because of the position they're in, but it's really not doing anything for him, even as the kiss gets a little heavier. Before he can decide what to do next, Jimin slowly leans back, their lips separating with a little pop. "I..."

Taehyung blinks at him.

"I don't mean to be, like, rude," Jimin starts and Taehyung wishes for the weight bar from the gym to suddenly appear above him again and crash down onto his head, putting him out of his misery.

"Wait," Taehyung interrupts, before Jimin can continue. He sits back against the other end of the couch. "Wait. You don't want this?"

"N-no. Not really?" Jimin half answers half asks, looking slightly mortified. "I mean, you seem like a really great guy I just...you're not..."

Taehyung can't believe this is happening. Taehyung is being turned down by the delivery guy Taehyung thought he already turned down weeks ago.

"I'm not what?"

"Really my type," Jimin says, wincing. "You're actually really hot, I'm just, I don't know, I don't feel physically attracted. I'm really sorry if I misled you."

Taehyung stares a him. "Misled me? You. God, I'm an idiot. I'm sorry."

"No, I'm so sorry! I just...you seemed really sad, like you needed to talk," Jimin fizzles, and Taehyung feels the sharp icicles around his heart melt a little.

"I was. I still am," Taehyung says, defeated. He can't be upset at someone who genuinely wants to make him feel better. He feels even worse thinking he really misread the friendly demeanor as Jimin just trying to get into his pants. He hates this neighborhood for making him into the jaded, hateful person he never used to be. He also partially blames Seokjin because he's still angry about that.

Jimin sits there, uncomfortable. "I'm. I guess you want me to go. I'm so sorry."

"No," Taehyung says, looking up at Jimin. He licks his lips and offers him a smile. "Um, could you maybe stay for a bit? I mean, if I haven't scared you away by trying to stick my tongue in your mouth."

Jimin's expression dissolves into relief. "I'd love to stay and talk."

"I never used to be like this," Taehyung admits. "Ever since moving into this apartment two years ago, I've turned into some lonely, creepy man."

Jimin nods. "I get that. It's the environment. This neighborhood is the worst. It has a bad effect on people."

"Right?" Taehyung yells, throwing his hands up. "That's exactly what I'm thinking! I just. I'm lonely now, for the first time ever. I don't have any friends. It's weird to go from having too many friends to none at all."

"What about romantic relationships?" Jimin asks, drawing an agonized stare from Taehyung.

"Well, it's embarrassing," Taehyung starts, and Jimin is still staring at him with those nonjudgmental eyes, so he continues. "I haven't had a crush on anyone in a long time. But I think I'm in love with my personal trainer."

Jimin gives him a greasy smile. "Okay, okay that's a start. That's good!"

"He hates me."

"Oh. Why?"

"I just, I don't know, I think I really let him down during the last session. I don't think I can recover from that," Taehyung admits, picking at his couch. "Also he just thinks of me as his client. He makes it a point to stress it, often."

"You should talk to him about it," Jimin says adamantly. "The guy is probably used to being disappointed if he's a trainer."

Taehyung moans, rubbing at his eyes. "No. I can't. He's been working so hard. I think I just need to reach my fitness goals and then quit."

The conversation is therapeutic, filling Taehyung with a sense of calm. Jimin is really good at listening, nodding along when Taehyung rambles on, offering little bursts of encouragement throughout his spiels. 

They're on their third bottle of wine, now, both sleepy, both sitting in silence and beginning to nod off.

"Hey," Taehyung mumbles sleepily, you can crash here tonight if you want. I promise I won't molest you again."

Jimin smiles and flops back against the couch. "You sure?"

"Yeah. It's the least I can do," Taehyung says, suddenly feeling a lot of affection for the man, reaching over to pat at Jimin's outstretched leg.

Jimin is still smiling, but he looks like he's already drifting into sleep.

Taehyung stands up and grabs his favorite blanket from the guest room, the one he uses to drape over himself when he paints sometimes. He spreads it over Jimin's small body on the couch, watching him for a moment before turning around and dragging himself to his room.

He flops face down on his bed, and feels himself drifting into sleep immediately, the taste of wine at the back of his throat and the feeling of resentment weighing on his mind.

 


 

Taehyung wakes up to an empty apartment and he feels a sense of sadness wash over him. He sits up in bed and looks down at his phone. 

one unread message

It's from Jeongguk; he taps it open and reads.

[09:32] Hi Taehyung. I was wondering if you could meet up with me today to talk.

Oh great.

[12:21] yea sure.

Taehyung gets up from his bed, leaving the phone on his pillow.

to talk

That sounds so fucking ominous, and if Taehyung weren't so hungover and generally depressed he might actually have cared. Logically though, this is maybe good, because there's nothing worse that can happen from here, this is rock bottom. He makes his way into the living room and sees his blanket folded neatly on the side of the couch, his flattened Burger King delivery bag sitting on top of it, covered in small, neat words.

hey!! thanks for letting me stay the night. and thanks for the conversation. we should hang out again soon some time! (as friends!!!!)

in the mean time, good luck with your trainer. I googled him in the morning before I left and he is really hot.......definitely my type.

lol kidding. seriously. I left you some burger king coupons and my number. don't be a stranger :)

Taehyung doesn't know why he's crying, but it's happening. He feels the wet hot tears dripping down on the paper bag, spreading like oil stains. 

 


 

He's already on his third cup of espresso when Jeongguk shows up, right on time. He's carrying a folder under his arm, wearing a denim jacket on top of a black t-shirt, his hair beautifully fluffed, separated in that trendy part that Taehyung wishes he could pull off. His hands twitch and he curls his fingers into his palm.

Jeongguk smiles when he makes eye-contact with Taehyung, who sits there, jittery as ever, swimming in a massive sweater, donning a beanie that pushes his (probably greasy) hair back and exposes his forehead. He offers a shy grin in return as Jeongguk sits in the chair in front of him.

"Hey, sorry, am I late?" Jeongguk asks apologetically. 

"Nope. I'm early," Taehyung says, and his voice comes out crackly because it's the first time he's talked since the night before except for the word 'espresso'.

Jeongguk nods. "How are you feeling?"

"Fantastic," Taehyung smiles widely, but the dark circles under his eyes are obvious and Jeongguk laughs politely down into the table. 

"I'm glad. Listen, I want to talk to you a little about our sessions," Jeongguk starts and Taehyung deadpans.

"You're breaking up with me."

Jeongguk laughs again, the second time in about twenty seconds, and Taehyung is surprised by how at ease he seems outside of the gym.

"No. No, I'm not. I just had a few questions I wanted to ask you," Jeongguk continues, interrupting himself to look up at the waitress and say "Green tea, please," offering a smile that Taehyung is sure probably just made her wet.

"Sure," Taehyung says, uneasily, fidgeting with his fingers.

"But first, I, um. I want to apologize," Jeongguk eases, meeting Taehyung's gaze. "I was really harsh with you after that scare. I shouldn't have been so severe. You made a mistake, it was terrible of me to lash out like that."

Taehyung is a little speechless. He wets his lower lip with his tongue. "It's okay. I mean, I'm sorry, too. That was crazy of me to do after you warned me to stay away from the bench press."

Jeongguk nods silently, then looks down at his cup of green tea. "Taehyung, why did you feel like you needed a personal trainer?"

Taehyung pauses. "I want to get fit?" he says after a moment and he doesn't really understand what that means now - the words just sort of slip out like he's supposed to say them, like he's some MKUltra test subject hell-bent on upholding the status quo. The irony isn't lost on him.

Jeongguk takes a whiff of Taehyung's bullshit. "Don't just tell me what you wrote on the form, be honest."

"Honest?" Taehyung is usually good friends with honest, but ever since honest meant 'stuff you don't want to admit to' their relationship has been strained.

"Yes."

Taehyung sighs. "I feel like I look like shit. Ever since moving here."

Jeongguk looks surprised. "How come?"

"I think I've just changed for the worse since starting to work here. I usually feel this after I see photos of myself from art shows," Taehyung admits. 

"So this is mostly aesthetic for you, then?" Jeongguk asks, like he doesn't agree.

"Honestly, now that you ask me, I really don't know. I guess I just always equated looking good with feeling good. That's probably not a good thing, right?"

"Taehyung," Jeongguk says, leaning in slightly across the table. "People want to work out for different reasons. There's no right or wrong reason, it's just usually a good thing to know why you're doing something."

Taehyung nods, then feels curiosity spike. "Why do you work out?"

"It gives me confidence," Jeongguk answers almost immediately. "I'm actually a pretty shy guy. It was a big problem for me for a while. Working out makes me feel good about myself."

"I can see that," Taehyung says, almost teasing. "You give yourself away sometimes. The shyness."

Jeongguk smiles. "Yeah, it comes and goes. It's not a problem, honestly, it's just part of my personality. It was hard at first, though. Especially in a profession like this."

Taehyung chews on the corner of his lip, trying to imagine how Jeongguk used to be before doing all of this, and it still seems charming.

"Honestly, Taehyung, the aesthetics, though...that aspect of it, it's all relative to how you feel. The feeling is what makes you look better, if that makes sense. The feeling you get when you climb something you never thought you could. When you look in the mirror after that, you look good, even if there's no real discernible difference."

"So you're saying to change my goal," Taehyung says, feeling like Jeongguk is actually pretty good at this motivational thing. But he also feels that he'd probably be an easy target for some cult-leader type maniac in this volatile state. Taehyung is easily impressionable when he's sad. In the past, this meant drugs, regretful sexual encounters, and lots of stupid hair colors, but now it could be dangerous. (He doesn't want to end up dead in a bunk-bed wearing white Nikes like those Heaven's Gate guys.) Something tells Taehyung that Jeongguk is actually trying to help him, though, so he's willing to be malleable. 

"Well, not exactly. I'm suggesting to maybe try and change your perspective, maybe looking better isn't what would make you happy. I think you see what you feel like when you look at photos of yourself online."

"That's deep."

"Is it?"

"Borderline cult leader-y." And it comes out anyway, because Taehyung loses his filter again.

Luckily Jeongguk surprises him. "Join me, Taehyung," he responds darkly, holding out his hand and Taehyung laughs, swatting at it.

"Seriously, though, It makes sense...I think. I think I have to confront the fact that I want something other than what I initially thought I did," Taehyung suggests nervously, feeling winded. It's a sad conclusion to come to, let alone while talking to the person you are infatuated with: the idea that you're depressed because of your infatuation with them. He doesn't want to get 'fit', he wants someone in his life - he wants Jeongguk in his life, he wants to kiss him, he wants to hold his hand, all that stupid stuff. It seems so juvenile when he thinks about it now, but any joy the fruits of his working out bore seemed to rot immediately under the shadow of an idea that he may have disappointed Jeongguk at any point in their sessions. Sure, he was attracted to Jeongguk from the get-go, but he didn't think it would get this enormous, this hard to ignore, this complex.

"I think admitting that to yourself is going to help you a lot," Jeongguk says, avoiding eye-contact like he's noticed how uncomfortable Taehyung is.

Taehyung feels his eyes stinging with tears so he points at Jeongguk's tea. "It's getting cold."

Jeongguk looks down, almost surprised to see the cup still there, full of tea. He picks it up and takes a small sip before putting it back down. "Also. I mean, for what it's worth, I think you're very attractive, before you started working out and now."

Taehyung's mind goes blank for a moment, white, and he slowly pushes his thoughts back in.

He stares at Jeongguk, his eyes wide. A smile slowly spreads across his features, drowning his nerves. "Wow. Now I'm sure this is a trap. Was my espresso spiked? Have you already killed me?"

Jeongguk's face seems to be filling with heat, even in the weird gloomy lighting, and he taps nervously at the side of his cup. "I know it doesn't and shouldn't matter what I think. I just thought it might help."

"It does matter what you think," Taehyung says, seriously, drawing a small grin from Jeongguk. "I thought you were judging me from the second you saw me, like I was some kind of sea monster or something."

"I mean, the shirts with the sayings on them," Jeongguk says, tilting his head to the side and wincing. 

"They're fucking cute, okay?" Taehyung laughs reaching up to touch the sides of his own cheeks in embarrassment, like he's waiting to feel the warmth as it makes its way there.

"Whatever motivates you," Jeongguk says. "Speaking of motivation. I have your painting, it's in my office. You can pick it up whenever you want."

"I don't want that fucking thing, burn it," Taehyung says staring at the espresso grains at the bottom of his cup. "When I look at it I'm just going to think about my ex knocking me out with a weight, now."

Jeongguk doesn't laugh, he looks vaguely embarrassed. "Can I...keep it? I mean, I'll pay you, obviously. If you don't want it, though, I'll take it off your hands."

Taehyung's heart leaps in his throat again. "You want it?"

"Yeah. It's calming. I like blue."

"Of course. I mean, you don't have to pay me, you can have it," Taehyung says, beaming at him, lassoing a smile from his trainer. "Consider it compensation for almost dying on you the other day."

"Deal."

"Also, um," Taehyung begins hesitantly. "Thank you. For coming to the show the other day. Sorry if I was being weird. I guess I just wanted to impress you and I was nervous."

"You weren't being weird. I really enjoyed being there," Jeongguk says and he's staring directly into Taehyung's eyes, like he doesn't want any part of what he's saying to be taken lightly.

"I'm glad. You know, as your client," Taehyung adds, tracing the outside of his espresso cup with his index finger. Still not over it. 

Jeongguk purses his lips in a smile, like he knows he's never going to escape from this. "Yes. Client. I mean, if you still want to do this."

"I think I should. I think I should meet my goals at least, even if this whole fitness thing isn't the answer to all my problems," Taehyung says, certainly.

"That's a good attitude. To finish what you start," Jeongguk says, and then - hesitantly - reaches across the table and puts his hand on Taehyung's forearm. "You're strong enough to do this."

Taehyung stares at his hand, feeling his arm burn even after Jeongguk removes his touch. He looks up at Jeongguk and smiles, then leans back in his chair, at peace. If Jeongguk was a cult-leader he would drink all the Kool-Aid, no questions asked.

Jeongguk leans back too, a look of contentment rushing over his features. His dark eyes study Taehyung for a moment, like he's trying to put together a thousand piece puzzle.

"What motivates you?" Taehyung asks, under his trainer's steady gaze.

"Progress motivates me," Jeongguk answers, then stands up, reaching in his pocket to take out some bills to put on the table. He points at Taehyung, "This. This is progress."

 


 

 

Taehyung spends the rest of the afternoon and night texting Jimin about his progress with Jeongguk, and how he's pretty sure the trainer doesn't hate him as much as he thought he did.

 Jimin is ecstatic, then happy, then unreasonable, when he suggests Taehyung should make some sort of romantic move. It's almost annoying how certain Jimin is that things will work out perfectly for Taehyung, but being an unreasonable person himself, the pep talk actually makes some sort of effect. 

But Taehyung has already decided that he doesn't want to ruin this relationship he has with Jeongguk, this comfortable place where Jeongguk is genuinely happy with Taehyung and wants him to succeed. Taehyung doesn't want to let Jeongguk down more than he wants to reach his own goals. He didn't tell him that, of course.

Taehyung thinks he can probably be a client for a little longer, until it hurts too much. Then he'll do his magical disappearing act, with some sort of excuse, maybe a relative died, or he doesn't have any more time because of his busy schedule. He'll separate himself from Jeongguk quickly, and then just move on. Like he always does.

There's always that other option, too. The one where he actually tells Jeongguk how he feels and hopes for reciprocation. But the idea of telling Jeongguk and then being turned down anyway is just too much for Taehyung to handle, emotionally. He prefers to just be obvious with people and let them draw their own conclusions.

He feels red today, carmine, candy-apple red. He oozes the colors onto his palette messily. He stares up the canvas, thinking he actually really likes this piece. He decides to move it to his living room, where he has recently started working on his favorite works. There's something different about painting there, surrounded by all his things, almost like they're an audience, urging him to finish, offering him compliments and critique.

He's lucky he sets up in the living room, because he gazes at the creepy little Andy Warhol clock he has on his dinner table and realizes he has to leave now if he doesn't want to be late again.

He doesn't have time to shower again, guessing Jeongguk can deal with the paint marks. He quickly changes into his work-out clothes, pausing with a hand over his piles of shirts. He grins, picking the one tank he knows will piss off most the people at Bupun Gym. He almost wants them to judge him now. He realizes this is a shade of his old personality crawling back to him.

When he gets to the gym, Jeongguk is waiting at the information desk again, chatting with some really attractive people. Taehyung feels some jealousy and has to remind himself that he's an eight (well, maybe a seven here).

"Hey!" he says, walking up to them. 

The broad-shouldered man on Jeongguk's right looks at him, nodding once, smiling slightly. "Nice shirt."

"Thanks," Taehyung beams, glancing at Jeongguk who has his lips pressed together to stop from laughing.

The woman leaning against the information desk bends her head sideways, her silky ponytail spilling down her shoulder. She reads the shirt: "'Everything hurts and I want to die'. I love that."

Do you, though? "Thanks," Taehyung grins at her.

"Shall we," Jeongguk says, finally, placing a hand on Taehyung's back to lead him away like he's a caretaker instead of a trainer.

They walk together quietly for a few moments before Jeongguk admits: "That one is pretty funny. I like it."

"It's very fitting, too. Everything does hurt and I do want to die," Taehyung says, cheerfully. "Like I said, I'll order you one."

It's their cardio day, and Taehyung finds himself really enjoying it, as always. His heart rate soars, but he doesn't feel sore. Eventually, though, he is exhausted, and Jeongguk is being extra nice to him this lesson so he lets him rest for ten minutes - this small kindness makes Taehyung's chest fill with heat.

They sit on the mat, stretching. Taehyung grabs a towel and pats at the side of his neck. "Jesus, how do you look so good, still, after running through all those exercises with me? You're not even sweating. You never sweat."

Jeongguk offers him a water bottle. "You're doing great. Don't compare yourself to other people, especially not your trainer. Also, I sweat a lot, I overheat easily."

"Right, right," Taehyung says flippantly. "So, how much can you bench press. Like nine-hundred pounds?"

"No," Jeongguk says, annoyed. "I don't bench press, actually."

"What? What equipment do you use then, to look like that," Taehyung points at him. "I don't think you've ever told me."

"I try not to use anything other than dumbbells and my own body weight. You'd be surprised with what you can do with your body, and what it can do for you after a while."

Taehyung is intensely curious. "Show me."

Jeongguk smiles. "Ah, this again. Will it motivate you?"

"More than you know," Taehyung says, trying not to sound too excited. "I know I usually ask you to do some sort of pony trick at the end, but I want one now. Do, like, your daily work out."

The nonchalance probably fails because Jeongguk laughs and gets up. "Okay. Today is Monday," Jeongguk looks down at the mat, listing off his itinerary. "I starts with foam rolls, move on to a resistance band, this is all boring stuff you probably don't want to see. Hm. After my warm up I do some skill training. How about I show you a planche push-up?"

"Sure, I don't know what that is, I'll be impressed anyway."

Jeongguk gets down on the mat and puts his hands down by his waist, slowly pushing himself up in the air - unlike a traditional push-up, though, his legs are off the ground. He lowers himself back down, his body straight, muscles in his arms and back straining. "This one is great for your back muscles and strength building."

He goes back down to his initial position, then rolls his body up and into the air, into a perfect handstand, before rolling it back down to the planche pushup position. "Rolling planche push-up into a hand-stand." Jeongguk is panting slightly, and Taehyung feels the heat radiating from him - it's intoxicating.

"That is so fucking majestic," Taehyung breathes. He's like a fucking stallion.

"Honestly, the rest doesn't look so fancy. You'd be surprised how helpful very simple work-outs are for building strength and muscle," Jeongguk says, sitting cross-legged on the mat. "There's a lot of not moving actually. Lots of position holds. Plank holds, pushup holds, squat holds. It's almost meditative, which is why I like it."

Taehyung is fully smitten just hearing him talk, sensing the passion in his voice. "Not moving. Sounds right up my alley."

"Actually, I was going to suggest that you should compile a list of furniture to use in your apartment to work-out with. You can do most of this with things you already have, or even outside using trees and boulders," Jeongguk reaches over beside the mat to pick up his notepad. "What kind of furniture do you have?"

"Uh," Taehyung purses his lips. "I got some really weird shit, Jeongguk."

"Weird...furniture?" Jeongguk asks, puzzled, his eyebrows furrowed.

"Yeah. Like, a couch made from bones. A chair shaped like a hand, weird titanium stools," Taehyung lists, watching Jeongguk's expression as he slowly lowers the notepad into his lap in confusion.

Taehyung continues. "I mean, you can come over and look at my weird stuff if you want?"

He doesn't really plan to say that. He doesn't really plan to say anything, but it just happens to spill out, and for a moment he's very scared.

There's a pause and Jeongguk closes the notepad. "Okay, let's do that. I'll bring some helpful stuff, too. Let's get through the rest of this session and then we'll schedule a time."

Taehyung nods and watches as Jeongguk gets up to set up their next cardio exercise. It slowly sinks in over the second half of the session that Jeongguk is going to be in his apartment and he feels a flutter of trepidation in his chest, replaced slowly by stark fear, replaced slowly by arousal, then slowly dissipating into numbness.

A client.

 

 


 

 

Jimin is over, watching Taehyung run around in a frenzy, two hours before Jeongguk is scheduled to come over.

"You don't need to be this nervous, I mean, you're just his client, right?" Jimin bubbles from the couch and Taehyung wants to smack him.

In fact. "Ow!"

Taehyung places a knee on Jimin's chest, swatting his head. "Don't test me, I'm super powerful now."

"Yeah, that actually hurts. Stop, I'm getting light-headed," Taehyung removes his knee, keeping a hand on Jimin's head.

"Also, I'm not nervous. I'm just trying to make sure I haven't left any colorful dildos lying around," Taehyung mutters, stepping back to check under the coffee table, even though it's made from glass, transparent.

He throws everything that doesn't belong in the living room into his guest and bedrooms, littering the ground with sketchpads, markers, pencils, articles of clothing, underwear. Taehyung realizes he hasn't actually cleaned his apartment in over a year.

"Is it me or does it smell in here?"

"It smells like paint, actually. Which explains a lot. You know, the paint fumes," Jimin says.

"I'm gonna beat you again," Taehyung warns, but he's laughing.

Jimin jumps up from the couch gracefully. "I could always give you pointers too, by the way. You know, ways to move. Flexibility, in case Jeongguk wants to bend you over something particularly rigid."

"I'm about to bend you over my knee," Taehyung reaches out to grab Jimin's arm but he does some sort of athletic ballet leap backwards, arms up and out in an Olympic salute.

"Show off," Taehyung mumbles, placing his outstretched hand on his hip.

"Well, I'm gonna go. Text me. Have fun. Use protection," Jimin says as he gathers his things from the couch.

"Bye," Taehyung says as Jimin disappears out the door, and that weird uncomfortable silence settles in his apartment again. He's starting to get used to having Jimin around, and his absence is already painfully evident.

He stares around his apartment at his strange furniture and ponders how the hell he's going to manage doing intense athletic exercises using them. He stands up, feeling strangely motivated. He does twenty pushups, rests, then does fifteen squats. He lies on his side on his couch, flipping through his phone while he does leg circles, his toes pointed. He hasn't changed his outfit since the morning, and doesn't intend to. He's wearing an old green t-shirt he doesn't even remember purchasing and little silk white shorts that he reckons are too revealing, fanning out when he sits, and probably prone to ripping. Still, his legs look good in white so he leaves them on, reaching down to rub at a bruise on his knee, probably from one of the fucked up things Jeongguk made him do at the gym.

He doesn't realize that he's fallen asleep until the sound of a knock from outside startles him awake. 

He sits up in a panic, in the exact way Jeongguk warned him never to do, and runs to the door. He swings it open to expose an apologetic Jeongguk standing with a big box tucked under his arm. "I texted you, and you didn't respond. Sorry, I shouldn't have just showed up."

"No! No, you were supposed to come, I'm an idiot, I just sort of...fell asleep," Taehyung says, trying to flatten the side of his hair.

Jeongguk just smiles and Taehyung realizes they're still standing in the doorway. "Come in, come in," he moves aside and grabs Jeongguk's jacket sleeve, pulling him.

Taehyung runs to the couch and readjusts all the pillows. "Sorry, I haven't cleaned this place in a long time."

"No problem," he hears Jeongguk say behind him, and then, "Your glutes look amazing, by the way. Great job."

Taehyung freezes and looks back at him, still bent over the table. "My what?"

"Glutes," he repeats, like he's speaking to a child. When Taehyung doesn't react he sighs, "Your ass."

"Oh. Oh," Taehyung says and begins to smile but Jeongguk shakes his head. 

"You not knowing what glutes are just reversed how impressed I was," Jeongguk places the box on the ground and shrugs off his jacket to reveal one of those maddening, loose t-shirts. This time it's white.

"And you calling my ass 'glutes' was worse than, like, every bad thing that has happened ever on this earth," Taehyung grumbles, but he feels his neck heating up. He silently thanks his laziness for deciding to stay in this outfit. 

 Jeongguk is sitting cross-legged on the ground now, and it's fucking cute. He starts to fidget with the tape holding the box closed. "I try to be professional."

"I know. It's gross," Taehyung says, sitting down in front of him. "So what is this thing? Did you buy me a pony?"

"Nope. Better. This is a wall-mounted pull-up bar," Jeongguk says, and he's serious, like this is actually something that could be exciting. 

 "Uh."

"First, before I show you how this works, let me see the furniture you have," Jeongguk says standing up again and surveying the room. His eyes fall on the chair made to resemble a chair. "Wow, you weren't kidding. This stuff is weird."

"This stuff is awesome. It's called art," Taehyung says protectively, hopping up to walk towards the chair. He pats at the thumb. "He didn't mean it, shhh."

"Whatever it is, it might be a little difficult using it to work out. Hm, that though," he points at his dinner table. "That could be useful for some pull-up variations."

Jeongguk walks over to it and sits down with his legs under the table, he reaches up to grab the ledge and walks his feet forward. "Keep your legs and back as straight as you can, lower yourself down like this, then pull yourself back to the top."

Taehyung sits down, sliding next to Jeongguk. His kitchen floor is cold against his upper thighs and probably the part of his ass that is hanging out of the shorts in this position. He imitates the move. "Like this?"

"Try to get your body a little straighter," Jeongguk says tapping at his lower back in that way that Taehyug loves. He tries again. "Perfect."

Jeongguk hops up to his feet, looking energized. He claps his hands together. "Okay, what else. That over there," he points to a low metal table next to a love-seat made from feathers.

"This is a great height for dips and a lot of other moves," Jeongguk walks over to the table and stands with his back to it, placing his hands on the ledge. He lowers himself to the floor, his legs out straight, then slowly brings himself back up. Taehyung watches him, pleased.

"I never knew this stuff was so multi-functional," Taehyung says walking over to try the move himself.

Jeongguk continues to show him other helpful moves: plank holds, lying bat wings -

"- and single leg squats, which I'm sure will be your favorite," Jeongguk finishes, performing the move with a smirk on his face.

Taehyung smiles at him, adjusting the side of his new favorite shorts.

"Okay, I think that's all I'd recommend for now involving your furniture," Jeongguk says, searching the room again with his large eyes.

"Don't worry, I don't try to deadlift my titanium furniture."

Jeongguk tuts. "Let's hope not. Hey," he says, pointing across the room to the canvas Taehyung set up earlier, with newspapers strewn under it. "Is that what you're working on?"

"Yeah," Taehyung starts, nervously.

"Do you mind? Or is not for public eyes," Jeongguk asks, politely, and he's right, it's not for public eyes, but Jeongguk isn't the public so he can rub his eyes all over it.

"Sure, I'm not done, so it might not look so good. It's mostly just color play," Taehyung says, following him like a beaten puppy as Jeongguk works his way to the canvas.

"Holy shit. This is. Wow," Jeongguk sits down on the stool to examine the paint marks. "What inspired to make this?"

You.

"Just, my life right now. You know, all the stuff I've been doing," Taehyung mumbles, gesturing with his arm stupidly.

"Do the colors all mean something?"

"Yeah," Taehyung says, reaching out to touch the green. "New beginnings," he slides his fingers over to the yellow and white, "hazy exhaustion." His fingers crawl to the black, "defeat," then up towards the red, pausing for a moment. "Sex, or something. Lust."

Jeongguk is watching his fingers, hypnotized. He swallows, then stands up abruptly, surprisingly Taehyung. "That's really cool. Here, I'll show you how to set up the bar."

Taehyung is a little hurt at how quickly Jeongguk bursts past the painting he's been particularly proud of, but he notices Jeongguk's flustered demeanor and feels a swell of worry. "Sure. Um, are you okay?"

"Yeah. I just, I have to go soon, so I might as well do this now," Jeongguk says, his back to Taehyung, bending down to pick the bar out of of the box.

"Okay. If you need anything, like water or whatever, let me know, okay?" Taehyung prods, watching Jeongguk walk over to the doorway of Taehyung's bedroom. 

"I'm fine, thank you," he says, shooting him a small smile. "Can we use this doorway here?"

Taehyung walks over to the other side of the doorway, facing Jeongguk, his back to the inside of his room. "Yeah. Just try not to look inside because it's a hurricane zone right now."

Jeongguk reaches up and fastens the bar to the top of the doorway, he tests it by pulling up slightly with one arm. He does it again with both arms before looking at Taehyung.

"Okay, just stand here like this, or if you prefer to be facing out of your room, I can reposition it," Jeongguk says, tapping up at the bar.

"It's fine like that," Taehyung nods.

"Just grip the bar like this, and do the same bar pull-ups we went over at the gym," he says showing him a few.

Taehyung watches him, and he feels needy, because there's something inside his apartment with them and Jeongguk is trying hard not to notice it. Taehyung steps forward as Jeongguk lowers himself, realizing to his own surprise that they're actually very close suddenly, about a foot away. Jeongguk's arms are still raised, holding the bar, but he doesn't make a move to step back from Taehyung.

"Jeongguk," Taehyung starts, and he reaches out hesitantly, putting his hand on the side of Jeongguk's face, both standing under the doorway. Jeongguk shifts slightly under his touch, his skin hot.

Suddenly Jeongguk is pulling himself up again, almost like he's escaping. Taehyung moves a little closer again, his face dangerously close to Jeongguk's crotch. When he lowers himself down again their foreheads are practically touching. Jeongguk leans forward, his hands still gripping the bar above his head. He places his forehead against Taehyung's. His eyes are closed.

"Jeongguk, tell me what's wrong," Taehyung says, but he knows. He fucking knows, and he wants to milk it. He wants Jeongguk to feel this way around him, to feel like he wants him too, and it's sadistic. His heart is beating in his throat. He reaches out and experimentally places both his hands on Jeongguk's chest.

"Taehyung," he practically whispers, like he's physically hurt.

"Do you want to kiss me?"

"Of course I want to fucking kiss you," Jeongguk mutters, his eyes screwed shut. "I've been wanting to kiss you forever."

"Why didn't you tell me?" Taehyung asks and his voice is almost inaudible, searching for itself.

"You hired me to help you, Tae," Jeongguk says, and he sounds hurt, like he's the one who's letting Taehyung down, and the idea of it is so ridiculous that Taehyung has a hard time coming up with a response.

"I need you," he manages, and it's cliche but it's also exactly the truth; there would be no better way to put it even if he had the ability to form other words.

Jeongguk finally opens his eyes, noticing how close they are. He lets his hands fall, settling on Taehyung's waist, squeezing like he's feeling the texture. He lets out an unsteady breath, and his grip relaxes, his fingers sliding down the sides of Taehyung's silk shorts, pausing there in hesitation.

"Please? Please," Taehyung asks then repeats when Jeongguk makes no move, staring into his eyes.

Jeongguk shifts slightly, closing the distance between their lips; his mouth feels hot and wet against Taehyung's own dry lips. His hands grab at Taehyung's hips and pull him forward, flush against himself. Taehyung moans quietly and deepens the kiss, his tongue swiping at Jeongguk's lower lip, asking for permission. Jeongguk seems full of fire at this point, his hands already gripping Taehyung's sides hard enough to bruise. "God," he says against Taehyung's mouth when they break the kiss for a breath.

"Can we?" Taehyung asks desperately between them, and he means sex but he can't think right now. Jeongguk seems to know what Taehyung's saying anyway, because he's crashing their mouths together again, his knee pushing between Taehyung's legs, nudging him backwards, farther into his room.

The light of the setting sun from outside the window is bathing the room in light, and Taehyung suddenly realizes - after Jeongguk pushes him on the bed - that he's used this area as a place to toss trash and trinkets he picked up from the living room.

Before he can say anything, Jeongguk breaks the kiss and looks uncomfortable for a moment, digging down under the blankets and pulling out Taehyung's purple dildo. "What even..."

Oh God.

"Oh God," Taehyung says, covering his face with this hands. All the words he lost in the last few minutes seem to come rushing back.

"Wow."

"Shut up, don't judge me, I've been lonely," Taehyung says, violently swatting the dildo out of Jeongguk's hand. It flops on the ground obscenely.

"Do you," Jeongguk starts, his teasing smile fading slowly. "Do you use that on yourself?"

Taehyung looks at him sheepishly. "Yeah?"

"That's really hot," Jeongguk says and leans in again, planting kisses on the side of Taehyung's neck, first small and quick, then developing into the open mouthed sort that leaves marks and Taehyung is moaning, reaching up to grip the back of Jeongguk's hair with both hands.

"Feels so good, Jeongguk. Oh my God," Taehyung pants and Jeongguk makes a sound of approval, down to his clavicles now. "Take off your shirt," Taehyung orders rapturously from underneath him.

Jeongguk sits up, straddling Taehyung's thighs, and pulls his shirt off with one quick movement, throwing it on the mountain of Taehyung's clothes built from the floor.

Taehyung is one-hundred percent certain he's going to remember the image of Jeongguk sitting above him like that, his hair messy, his eyes dark and full of lust, his chest heaving. Yes, he will remember this on his dying bed, even as they're pulling the plug, this is what he will be thinking about. "Your turn."

"Help me."

Jeongguk reaches down and crawls his fingers underneath Taehyung's shirt, his right hand slipping under Taehyung, against his back, pulling his upper half slightly up off the bed with with the strength of one arm. He pulls the shirt over and off Taehyung with his other hand then lowers him back down; Taehyung has half a mind to suggest including this in Jeongguk's daily work-out.

Jeongguk shifts back on his knees and lets his hands knead down Taehyung's sides, like he's trying to feel what's underneath. 

"Hurry," Taehyung whispers, because this isn't fair.

"Wait."

"Hurry."

Jeongguk leans down to kiss Taehyung, his hands still tracing into Taehyung's skin, ghosting along his chest, fingers tapping at his nipples in passing, treating Taehyung's torso like it's written in braille. Taehyung is shivering with each touch, releasing short breaths into the kiss.

"Lube," Jeongguk murmurs against Taehyung's lips. "Condom."

Taehyung reaches out blindly, grabbing at the drawer of his bedside table. He thinks he has them held out, but he can't be sure because his vision is beginning to cloud. He closes his eyes and listens to Jeongguk uncap the tube.

"Take the shorts off for me."

Taehyung has to bite his lips because every word Jeongguk is saying at this point goes straight to his dick. He starts tugging at his shorts and Jeongguk reaches down to grab Taehyung's wrists, his eyebrows coming down, stern, thoughtful. "Slowly, Tae. I've been thinking about this..." He shifts backwards slowly on his knees like he's giving Taehyung space to perform.

Taehyung's fingers freeze, his thumbs inside his waist band. He whines because this isn't hurrying, this is the opposite, but the burn that comes with knowing that Jeongguk has imagined this scenario is great incentive.

So Taehyung smiles through his panting, tilting his hips up, bringing his ass off the bed slightly, shimmying the shorts down slowly and savoring the intoxicated look on Jeongguk's face while he watches with glazed over eyes. Taehyung gets the shorts far enough down to expose the fact that he has recently trimmed and Jeongguk makes a pained sound and his own hand is now in his pants, working at his cock while he stares at Taehyung pulling the tiny shorts past his hard dick, the fabric rolling down into a small flimsy line across his thighs. 

Once Taehyung gets the shorts past his feet Jeongguk reaches across and grabs the underside of Taehyung's thighs, pulling him across the bed toward shim. "Come here."

He reaches down and takes the base of Taehyung's cock, and this causes an electric jolt to run through Taehyung, and he seizes on the bed, his eyes slamming shut. Jeongguk pumps him once, his grip loose to enough to make Taehyung's hips hitch up in annoyance.

"Jeongguk. You," Taehyung breathes painfully, his hands gripping at the sheets down at either side of his ass. "Please just..."

"Please what?" Jeongguk asks, leaning down to kiss Taehyung on the mouth, his hand gripping Taehyung's dick tightly now, squeezing hard, and Taehyung groans loudly, both of his hands reaching up to grip the back of Jeongguk's hair as he's hunched over him, staring down with one hand around Taehyung's dick, the other placed on the pillow by Taehyung's head.

"Please," Taehyung repeats, humping up into Jeongguk's hand in quick little thrusts.

Jeongguk releases Taehyung's cock so suddenly, he's still humping the air for a moment before he whimpers and watches Jeongguk work his own pants down, releasing his hard dick and it is just as beautiful and thick as Taehyung imagined in his hundreds of fantasies. Taehyung stares at it for a moment then brings his eyes to Jeongguk's, his voice low and surprisingly steady. "Fuck me."

They're kissing again and Taehyung hears Jeongguk rolling the condom onto his dick, then rummaging with the bottle of lube. Without notice, he feels Jeongguk's lube slicked finger press below his balls, slowly dragging down towards his hole and he shudders, breaking the kiss, his arms curling around Jeongguk's neck. Jeongguk has been holding himself up above Taehyung with one arm for the majority of this, and Taehyung watches the muscles in his bicep and abdomen tense and release with every movement - this should be an art form.

"Do you need me to..." Jeongguk asks, pressing his finger past the tense ring and into Taehyung's heat, feeling him clench around his finger.

"No. No I don't need it," Taehyung says, but he's fucking himself slowly on Jeongguk's finger anyway, desperate at this point. "You're killing me."

Jeongguk removes his finger and Taehyung doesn't even have time to moan in disappointment before he feels the press of Jeongguk's cock against his entrance, wet with lube. "Let me know. Let me know if it hurts," Jeongguk pants into Taehyung's ear, and then he kisses him on the lips in a romantically sickening way that makes Taehyung's heart beat in his throat.

Taehyung nods, knowing he won't tell him because he's willing to be ripped apart at this point, torn to shreds, he doesn't fucking care as long as Jeongguk is the one who's doing it. Jeongguk slowly pushes forward, and his dick is impossibly thick, taking a good deal of effort to slip the head in. Jeongguk looks almost apologetic, but Taehyung just gives quick nods, staring at him silently, his eyes half-lidded, his mouth open. He reaches out to grab the back of Jeongguk's thighs, urging him to keep going when Jeongguk starts looking concerned. Taehyung wishes he could reassure him vocally but he can't make a sound because of how fucking stretched he feels, and Jeongguk reaches down to take the side of his face into his hand, breathing hard. "You're so...fucking tight," Jeongguk manages, slipping in deeper.

Taehyung finally makes a noise, gasping, closing his eyes. "Yes, yes," he moves his hips forward to meet the small thrust, 

Jeongguk makes a broken sound, moving faster with each new moan elicited from Taehyung. Jeongguk fucks him harder and harder into the bed, the sheets pooling under his body, coming undone from underneath the mattress as a result of the friction. Without notice, Jeongguk slows down his quick shallow thrusts and opts for long, dragged out pumps, watching his whole shaft perversely disappear into Taehyung before pulling out slowly to sink back in all the way. Taehyung's knees are bent and pushed up high, pressed against his shoulders, and if he weren't on another plane of existence he'd remind Jeongguk of how he was definitely not this flexible before their sessions.

Jeongguk continues his slow and deadly onslaught, and this is the kind of rhythmic fucking that drives Taehyung crazy, his eyes roll back, he grips the sheets tight enough to tear them, rolling his hips to the motions, his stomach tensing.

"Harder. Harder. Right there, keep going," Taehyung orders, like a mantra, and Jeongguk is kissing him but having a difficult time time because Taehyung seems to have lost control of his lips.

"Look at your body, you're so beautiful," Jeongguk groans into Taehyung's mouth, fucking him so hard and slow that every thrust sends a spark of pain and pleasure through Taehyung. Taehyung suddenly seems to come alive, releasing the sheets to grab at Jeongguk's shoulders. "Flip me. I want to ride you."

Jeongguk obeys at lightning speed, and Taehyung doesn't spare a moment before he positions himself above Jeongguk, sinking back down on Jeongguk's dick. He bounces himself on spot, his head back, his hands reaching back to grip Jeongguk's muscular thighs. When he feels his orgasm closing in, he leans forward, his hands on Jeongguk's chest now, grabbing at his pecs, sitting down completely on his dick, rolling his hips desperately.

"I'm going to fucking come," Taehyung manages somehow through his frenzy.

Jeongguk growls. "Come on my dick. Do it."

Those words are all Taehyung needs but Jeongguk reaches up anyway to grab Taehyung in his hand, pumping him as Taehyung moves forwards and backwards, once, twice, then shudders, clenching with a shout. Taehyung's come shoots ribbons across Jeongguk's chest and suddenly he has eighteen ideas for a new painting. "G-god."

Taehyung legs are twitching and his entire balance is thrown off from the orgasm but he wants nothing more than to have Jeongguk come too. He slams down harder and harder, feeling Jeongguk's grip on his waist tighten. He's good at this part, he lives for this part. "Come inside me please, baby. Your cock feels so good. Do it. I want it." 

"Fuck," Jeongguk sobs as he comes, and Taehyung is still riding Jeongguk's cock with a few more long strokes, wanting Jeongguk to maximize his pleasure as long as he can. Jeongguk exhales violently, clutching Taehyung's shivering thighs. Taehyung's is still sitting above him, shuddering from his orgasm, his hands down on Jeongguk's heaving chest, his head dropped forwards, a trail of saliva hanging obscenely from his bottom lip. They breathe together like this in their blissful state and Taehyung tilts his head up to look at Jeongguk, smiling.

"Wow," he says, and Jeongguk reaches up touch Taehyung's cheek, his thumb swiping across Taehyung's lower lip.

"Wow, you. You're...you are," Jeongguk says back eloquently, then winces and emits a quiet whine, his dick sensitive. Taehyung slowly rises up off Jeongguk's cock, admiring the way the condom looks wrapped around his softening member, still wet and glistening from being inside his ass. Nineteen painting ideas - just from their first fuck.

Taehyung shifts his lower body down and lies on top of Jeongguk, his head pressed against his chest, his arm and leg draped over him.

"I've been wanting to fuck you since before I met you," Taehyung says, finally, and they lie in silence for a minute. "And I'm not scared to tell you anymore because you can't take the fuck back. The fuck has occurred."

"Wait," Jeongguk says, leaning back to look into Taehyung's eyes. "What do you mean since before you met me?"

"I mean," Taehyung huffs, matter-of-factly, "I saw you on the gym website while looking for a trainer and I thought, wow. Wow, this guy is a dream."

"What? Really?" Jeongguk asks, his eyes wide in fascination.

"And then. I maybe made sure you were chosen as my personal trainer by, uh, slightly embellishing my goals so they would fit your specialties," Taehyung says and is worried for a moment when Jeongguk's expression looks almost angry, but then he closes his eyes and starts laughing, hard. His head is thrown back, and his hand is up against his eyes. Taehyung grins as he watches Jeongguk's Adam's apple bob with each burst of laughter.

"You," Jeongguk says finally, looking down with tear filled eyes at Taehyung's beaming face. "You're fucking crazy, Taehyung."

"Yup," Taehyung says cheerfully, hugging Jeongguk close, burying his face into Jeongguk's chest, wrapping his legs around him under the sheets. "But now you're mine forever, so who's the real winner here?"

Jeongguk laughs again, reaching up with a hand to ruffle Taehyung's hair. "I'd say both of us." He pauses for a moment, in thought, then apprehensively begins again: "I, uh, I actually brought you up to Hoseok, finally. After a few weeks of training you. You've met him, he works at the front desk."

"Really?" Taehyung asks, feeling his heart rate increase. "What did you say?"

"I said 'Hoseok, I have this client, and he's so fucking adorable I don't know what to do with myself'," Jeongguk laughs, and Taehyung grabs at Jeongguk's arm like he's suddenly a ledge over a fifty foot drop.

"Shut the front door, no you did not. You didn't say that to him."

"I did, though."

"Then what happened?" Taehyung asks, his grip probably painful now, looking up at Jeongguk like he's telling him the end of his favorite fairy-tale.

Jeongguk sighs. "He guessed that it was you actually. I have a type, apparently. Tall, tanned, the lips, all of it."

"Can you hold on while I turn on my voice recorder app real quick, please," Taehyung mumbles against his shoulder but makes no actual move.

"He said that if it's just physical, I should be able to get over it. But if not...ah, now I'm here, so."

"So it isn't just physical?" Taehyung asks, nervously, since they just have a very physical encounter.

"It isn't, otherwise I wouldn't have let it get to this," Jeongguk says cautiously. 

Taehyung swings himself up and throws his leg over Jeongguk pulling himself on top of him, straddle-hugging him against the bed and nuzzling into his neck. "I'm never letting you leave this bed."

"That's okay. Your ass looks incredible from this angle."

"I also have another thing to admit," Taehyung murmurs from Jeongguk's chest.

"Hm?"

"Remember when I almost killed myself in the gym that one time and you were really mad at me?"

"Yes."

"I was really upset afterwards, so I ordered Burger King..."

Jeongguk swats at Taehyung's head with the same hand that's ruffling his hair. "What you eat is your own business, you don't have to admit things like that to me."

"That's not what I'm admitting."

"Oh?"

"I tried to hook up with my Burger King delivery boy. And he rejected me."

Jeongguk pauses, then grabs Taehyung's shoulders and pivots him over so he's on his side again, staring into Taehyung's eyes. "Explain."

"I was depressed, and I thought - completely off the mark by the way - that he was hitting on me, so I was like okay, fine, why not. I'm not even attracted to the guy, he looks twinky-er than I do. And then he rejects me. Tells me I'm ugly. It was all really dramatic," Taehyung says in one breath, maintaining eye-contact.

"He called you ugly?"

"Yeah."

"Fuck that guy."

"He also said I was disgusting and smelly and that he would never sleep with me in a million years."

Jeongguk pauses, his look of concern turning into one of incredulity. "You're making all of this up."

Taehyung laughs. "I swear I didn't make up the rejection part. But he didn't actually say all that mean stuff. You just looked like you were ready to a fight a bitch for me and I couldn't stop myself."

Jeongguk rolls his eyes then turns over onto his back, looking at the ceiling. 

"What?" Taehyung says, poking at Jeongguk's bicep.

"What about that other guy?" Jeongguk asks quietly.

"What guy?"

"The guy from the art-gallery. Not Yoongi. The suit."

Taehyung's heart turns into a sticky, hot mess in his chest. He leans forward and plants a kiss on Jeongguk's shoulder. "The guy I stressed to you that I wasn't fucking."

"Yeah."

"What about him?"

"You're really not fucking him," Jeongguk says, like a question, turning his face again to look at Taehyung. His eyes are concerned. This is all Taehyung has ever wanted in his life.

"No. No, I'm not. I was, a few months ago, I'll be honest, and he wants to again. But I don't. I actually can't stand him," Taehyung says, reaching out to stroke the side of Jeongguk's face, down his cheeks, across his jaw, fingers ghosting his lips. "I get American Psycho vibes from him. I don't want to end up with my head in his fridge." He adds, a little too happily.

Jeongguk doesn't laugh, but he does smirk, which is progress. "Does he know that? That...you don't want to have sex with him?"

"You know, I'm having a hard time buying you going from obnoxiously referring to me as your client to sounding like you're obsessed with me," Taehyung says, his hands trailing down to Jeongguk's chest.

"You're so sexy," Jeongguk suddenly admits, out of the blue.

Taehyung isn't the sort to exhibit shyness after people tell him they think he's cute or sexy, especially when it comes after sex, but the way Jeongguk does it now, so seriously, staring into his eyes like he's stating something that was always there, makes Taehyung feel giddier than he has in years.

"I'm not fucking that guy, and I'm not fucking my delivery boy, the only person I want to fuck is you," Taehyung says throwing his limbs over Jeongguk's body again and pressing firmly against him.

Jeongguk smiles up at the ceiling, and they lie there like that for a few moments.

"I'm sorry," Jeongguk says suddenly.

"For what?"

"For being scared to admit that I was attracted to you."

Taehyung smiles up at him. "It's okay. You're a professional."

"I am. Well, I was."

"Jeongguk?" Taehyung says quietly.

"Hm."

"I think this is it."

"What?"

"I think this is the thing I really needed. Not the sex, just...you," he's nervous suddenly, but he feels like he shed his tact along with his clothes earlier. "When I was showing you my painting, that's when I realized: I could either have you or never see you again. There was no other option."

"I was thinking the same thing," Jeongguk says, threading his fingers through Taehyung's hair.

"I know. I'm really happy."

"Me too."

 

 


 

 

The next morning Taehyung wakes up alone in his bed. He reaches groggily around in the sheets in case Jeongguk is actually just hiding underneath the pillow he has tucked between his legs or something, but he isn't there. He frowns and rubs at his eyes. There's a crash from the kitchen and Taehyung scrambles out of bed, naked. He slides into the living room and sees Jeongguk standing above the sink holding what looks like half a glass bowl, wincing at Taehyung. The rest of the bowl is in pieces on the ground.

"Fuck. I'm so sorry, Tae. I was..." he bends down and starts to pick up broken shards of glass.

Taehyung stands there, naked, looking at Jeongguk and then at the counter. There are two frying pans on the stove with sizzling eggs and tomatoes in them. "Are you making me breakfast?"

Jeongguk looks up from the floor, delicately holding several pieces of broken glass in his hand. "I was trying."

"You were trying. Oh, sweetheart, my sweet-pea. God, thank you, he's perfect," Taehyung says, bringing his hands to his face joyfully.

Jeongguk stands up, giving Taehyung a little half smile that is criminally cute coming from someone who is built like him. His eyes then drift down to Taehyung's crotch and his expression darkens. "Hope you're as hungry as I am."

"You didn't just say that. This isn't real. I'm still asleep."

Jeongguk laughs and shuffles over to the cabinets, searching for and finding the trash bin. "Sorry, I helped myself to your ingredients."

"Use anything you want. Use all of it," Taehyung says lovingly, leaning against the kitchen wall, almost yelping when the cold presses against his bare ass.

"I have breakfast at the same time every day. Intermittent fasting, you should look into it, it's great great method to include in your training."

Taehyung sighs, turning to walk back into his room. "You just ruined it."

"I'm just being honest," Jeongguk calls after him.

Taehyung emerges again wearing a pair of grey shorts and a white tank, yawning, his arms stretched out. "Feed me!"

"You love your short-shorts, huh," Jeongguk says, pointing at the chair with a spatula. "Sit."

Taehyung plops onto the chair, reaching out to take a piece of bread from the plate and tearing it up. "Sorry for liking to be comfortable."

"I wasn't complaining."

Taehyung smirks, chewing on the bread thoughtfully. "So like. We're going steady, right? We're dating."

Jeongguk pauses, his fork raised over his plate. "About that. I'm breaking up with you."

Taehyung's heart drops. "Excuse me?"

"I mean, as your trainer. I can't be your trainer anymore. And yes, we're dating."

"Don't fucking. Why would you word it like that, you maniac? After our romantic night?"

Jeongguk grins. "You're the one with the break-up fixation. Figured it would get your attention."

Taehyung feels a little better but not really. "Why can't you train me anymore? If you say it's because I'm your client, I will fling these eggs into your face."

"Well," Jeongguk says, spooning some food into his mouth. "It's against my code of conduct to sleep with my..."

"Clients," Taehyung frowns, still offended at how relaxed Jeongguk seems about this. "But I'm not just your client."

"Exactly," Jeongguk says. "That's what I mean."

"Who cares if you're fucking me!"

"Taehyung, I can still train you. I just...not on paper anymore. I can't take money from you, okay?" Jeongguk says slowly, urging himself to be calm in the face of Taehyung's outburst. "It'll be different, but we'll make it work. And...and I'm not just fucking you, remember?"

"Fine. And yes, this is so much more than fucking. Last night wasn't just sex, it was a spiritual experience, I left the bonds of earth and touched God," Taehyung muses to himself, and just thinking about last night almost makes him horny again.

"Don't be like that, you know what I mean."

"You mean that we're dating," Taehyung says, staring at an increasingly red Jeongguk who just nods curtly and forks more food into his mouth. This is nice, this shyness, this is something Taehyung can work with. "Yes we are. I'm not settling for anything less. I think I already made it clear to you and a bunch of people you don't know that I'm obsessed with you. I pretty much stalked you.."

Jeongguk smiles through his bite. "Yes, you kind of did. But I'll let it slip this time."

Taehyung frowns because Jeongguk can't get the last word. "If I didn't stalk you, then we wouldn't be in a loving relationship now."

"Yikes. Is that the defense you're planning on using in court?" 

Taehyung sighs because Jeongguk got the last word; he places his hands on the counter and launches himself forward, his lips puckered, eyes closed, waiting.

He hears Jeongguk chuckle and then feels the press of his lips against his mouth. Taehyung is going to finish his painting today - he wills it.

 


 

Even though Jeongguk is no longer officially, on-paper, hired by and training Taehyung, Taehyung still makes it a point to drop by the gym as often as he can.

Today, before he shows up, he spends time finishing his painting. He adds some more orange, a burnt orange, crisp and radiant, coming in from the sides like a wild-fire. He stands up, staring at his finished product, holding his palette. He wipes at the hairs against his forehead with the back of his hand, feeling especially thrilled with his work. He tries to think of a title for it on his way to the gym, but nothing comes to him, instead he's just filled with an expanding warmth inside despite the cold weather.

Spending time on gym equipment isn't as fun alone, and Taehyung often finds himself abandoning his work-out goals. He spends 45 minutes walking, not jogging, on a treadmill while watching Netflix. Or uses assistance weights he knows are lighter than what he should be including into his exercises. 

He finally hits some sort of burst of energy today, right before Jeongguk is scheduled to be finished, and over-exerts himself using the rings. He figures twenty minutes of intensive working out is better than none at all.

He presently sits on the mat, back and arms burning, eating baby carrots while flipping through a Men's Health magazine, mostly just to look at the men. Food isn't allowed in here, but whatever, he's dating Jeongguk, so. He can do whatever he wants.

Speaking of Jeongguk. 

He hears a cough and looks up to see his stern boyfriend walking through the weight-room entrance towards Taehyung, his hair is sweaty and he's holding a bag of weights. "Eating? Here?"

Taehyung shoves the bag of carrots under the mat and grins up at Jeongguk. "Nope."

"Give me that," he says, reaching, and Taehyung sighs and pulls out the baggy, holding it out for Jeongguk to grab.

"And this mat isn't meant for you to sit on and...what are you even reading?"

"You're so much more attractive than all of these guys, baby."

Jeongguk sighs, putting the bag of weights on the floor. "You're unbelievable."

"Are you done with your client? Can we go?" Taehyung asks, legs crossed, reaching out with his arms like he's a toddler in need of a lift.

Jeongguk reaches out his hand and that's good enough, so Taehyung takes it and pulls himself up.

"Yeah, we can go," Jeongguk says, "And you just said the C word."

(Taehyung had recently made Jeongguk promise not to use the word 'client' anymore.

"I forbid you. You are forbidden. It triggers me."

"But what should I call them, then?"

"I don't know. Customers."

"I'm a personal trainer, Taehyung, not the owner of a 7-11.")

"Aw, button, you're confused," Taehyung coos. "We agreed that you can't use the word. Remember?" he feels a firm but playful squeeze on his ass and they're not even out of the gym yet, which is a rare but extremely welcome move on Jeongguk's part.

Taehyung is still thinking about butt thing when they get back into his apartment, and he's immediately shoving Jeongguk against the door soon after closing it, pressing his hand under Jeongguk's shirt, crawling his fingers up his stomach. "Fuck me."

Jeongguk makes a noise of surprise, placing his hands on the sides of Taehyung's face and pulling him back a bit. "Tae, I'm sweaty, and smelly, and your friend is coming in an hour."

"You're saying those things like they're not all turn-ons," Taehyung wrangles, pressing back in to kiss him. "Grab my butt again."

Jeongguk reaches down and grips Taehyung's ass with both hands, sighing into the kiss, defeated. When Taehyung's phone starts ringing he moves again though, and peels Taehyung off like he's a giant leech. "Okay, enough. I'm going to shower. Answer him, he's been texting you all day."

"Yes, sir," Taehyung drawls angrily, watching Jeongguk away. "Are you going to tell me to drop down and give you push-ups?" The phone rings into voicemail anyway.

"We'll save those for later," and even the way Jeongguk rejects him is a turn-on. Taehyung watches him as he walks towards the bathroom, slipping his shirt off.

"What time did you say Jimin was coming?"

"Nine. And I'm ordering pizza. I don't care if you don't want any," Taehyung calls after him, obnoxiously, and Jeongguk just makes a noise of acquiescence. "By the way, you just basically promised me that we're having crazy, fucked up work-out sex after he leaves. Or, I mean, he can join in. Whatever you prefer."

"Shut up, Taehyung."

Taehyung watches Jeongguk's bare back as he disappears into the bathroom and thinks about how this is better than winning every jackpot to every lottery. He walks over to his dinner table and picks up a letter from his large pile of abandoned mail accumulated in the last little while. He stares at the mailer, and it's from Fuse Gallery; it's the list of sales from the exhibit. Through all the emotional trauma he's experienced in the past few weeks, the show seems like a distant memory floating in the back of his head, mostly submerged.

The business world seems so far away from his actual art at this point, like it's separate, the way it was always meant to be. Everything fits.

He doesn't care, but he slits the envelope open and pulls out the list. Seokjin bought one of his paintings, of course. (Taehyung deleted his contact info from his phone soon after the art show, and he hasn't received a text from him since.) There are few other clients, and he recognizes all of their names, except...

"Did you buy my painting?" Taehyung suddenly shouts into the hallway. "Did you buy Cerebral Journey Through Light?"

There's a moment of silence and Jeongguk pokes his head out of the bathroom. "Maybe?"

Taehyung walks over to him, holding the letter up against the light like it's a pregnancy test. "Why didn't you tell me?"

Jeongguk shrugs, pulling at a towel to cover himself when Taehyung steps into the doorway. "I don't know. Are you upset?"

"No. No, I'm not. This is really, really sweet of you," Taehyung says quietly, pressing the letter against Jeongguk's chest. "You didn't have to do that."

"I wanted to."

Taehyung leans in to kiss him on the lips but Jeongguk stops him. "I want the one you're painting now, too. If you plan on selling it. I'll double what you're planning to charge for it."

"I'm not selling that," Taehyung says pressing against Jeongguk's hold to plant the kiss on his lips. "It's a symbol of my happiness. It's a symbol of us. It's not for sale."

"Even to me?"

"No. Because you're meant to have it. It's for you."

Jeongguk's reaches out to take Taehyung's face, stroking his cheeks with his thumbs. "I'd really love that. I love you."

"I love you too."

Taehyung walks back into the kitchen when Jeongguk starts the water, dropping the paper on his counter. He puts his hands on his hips and looks across the room at his painting. Seeing all the colors and shapes together like this fills him with a strange sense of nostalgia over events that haven't even fully occurred yet. 

He walks up to his work, stroking the canvas. He reaches down and picks up his palette, squirting some black onto the glass. He dips a calligraphy brush into the slick paint and brings it to the back of the painting: Progress.

 

 

( "'Careful, these guns are loaded'. Jesus Christ."

"I told you I'd order you a shirt. I warned you."

"Tae, I can't wear this at the gym."

"You can wear it, like, other times, though. Right?"

"What are you implying?"

"Nothing. I don't know. What do you think I'm implying?" )