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Ninety-nine

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"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder–"

"Uh, I guess...? But, hyung, when you're as beautiful as me..."

 

 

 

 


 00



It’s 1:30 in the afternoon and golden sunshine flits through carefully picked billowing curtains. Some rays cast golden hues in polygons over expensive silk atop framed furniture, some are on the pale and shining marble floor of the messy living room, and others glimmer against Kim Seokjin’s flushed, handsome, and sleeping… but definitely hungover face. 

Until.

A chorus of angry bells makes Seokjin’s hair stand on end. He sits up in a daze, arms getting caught on the velvet robe that hung over his shoulders and left little to the imagination. It causes him to fall off the couch. With a thud, he hits his head against the edge of the coffee table and curses in hushed whispers, barely having the time to register the complete mess of his apartment before he rushes to the door, pulling the string of his robe a little closer to his waist.

The doorbell seems to be angry, because it won’t give Seokjin’s pounding head a fucking break. His bare feet pitter patter against the cold floor of his apartment, with each step an embarrassing recollection of last night’s events. When he steps on a pair of diamond-crested bunny ears, he finds his prized 000 Escoda brush hacked against a plaster painting of one of his friend’s exes and almost slips on a used condom—

Jesus,” Seokjin grumbles. “What the fuck."

— he’s reminded of the debacle of last night’s events, and it’s only the fancy heating of the apartment that keeps him from freezing to death in embarrassment.

Holy shit. Was he dreaming, or did Yoongi really fill his jacuzzi with Cristal champagne and Kimchi-flavored licorice for his birthday surprise? Seokjin tried hard to rack his nauseous brain for any answers, but the doorbell was nagging at him at an alarming rate of… oh, maybe 400 happy Hoseoks per samba dance? And it really wasn’t helping his 24-shots of vodka-induced migraine.

“Ah, for fucks sake,” Seokjin growls. He switches to his heavily accented English. “I’m coming! You don’t have to abuse the doorbell like a—”

He lifts the heavy golden door handle of his apartment and is met by a cold gust of wind... and a boy that smells like a flower shop on overdrive. This… definitely isn’t Yoongi or Namjoon or Hoseok or—

“Uh, come in, I guess?” Seokjin murmurs in confusion as he closes the door. He's still too hungover to process that he could die in like, five seconds because a nice smelling stranger came out of nowhere and just barged into his apartment, but he really couldn’t help but be semi-attracted to a human that didn’t smell like vomit or alcohol after all that happened the previous night.

Seokjin wasn’t sure if it was the cool air that caused his hair to stand on end, but as he closed the door and spun around—very slowly, as too much movement would certainly cause him to throw up all over his Givenchy robe like Taehyung promptly did on last week’s alcohol adventure—he finds his jaw dropping to the floor and his hangover sporadically melting away into anxiety.

The boy  walks to the center of the apartment, gracefully stepping over the mess with his back turned to Seokjin, and he sheds his clothes like a well-practiced burlesque stripper.

“Where to, Sir Kim? Do you have, um, an area prepared?" Seokjin’s heart stops at his throat at the sound of the accented English.

First, the coat slides from the boy's arms— flimsy fabric holding expensive arms, Seokjin notes—then a sweater is shed, then a shirt disappears… and it’s all bare skin and Seokjin is paralyzed. The sight of the boy’s muscular back: smooth, fair, slightly pink from the sudden shift in temperature, makes the vodka evaporate from his body. Suddenly, the room is too hot and everything is awkward and Seokjin certainly does not have morning wood— 

“Uh, hey,” Seokjin hurries to the boy. He plants delicate fingers on the soft skin between two defined shoulderblades and suddenly the boy turns and— “Dios mìo.”

Although Seokjin has, in the past, swallowed a six inch steak in one bite, he is certain that the length at which his jaw has dropped to the floor suggests that he should try to gobble up a sixty inch steak the next time he feels like eating meat. He’s face to face with a handsome young looking boy—East Asian, it seems— and a perfectly sculpted chest and stomach that puts that overhyped David sculpture to shame.  

Seokjin swallows and begins to sweat... and the boy’s big eyes grow big. 

“Uh, I don’t know who asked you to come here,” Seokjin offers in Korean. It was worth a shot. He tries to place his hands somewhere more… decent… but the boy is naked from the hips up, so Seokjin had to settle for muscular shoulders instead.

The boy nods, understanding and replying in perfect Korean. “Uh, I think Kim Taehyung paid for me?”

Seokjin swallows. “P-Paid for you?” He doesn’t even know if his bed was fixed up enough for this. Or… did these things happen on beds? He remembers that his most recent failed painting was still buried under his sheets next to his six dog plushies. What was Taehyung thinking? He turned 25. Not 40-something old enough to need a sugar baby.

“Yes. To service a Kim Seokjin for whole three hours...” The boy’s eyes widen, cheeks fading into a soft pink.  "T-That's you, right?"

Three hours?” Seokjin gasps. Suddenly, the boy’s skin seemed too hot. Seokjin turns from him, eyeing the mess of his living room and nervously biting the inside of his cheek. Seokjin begins to nervously mumble. “I mean yes, that's me... but oh god I can finish in ten minutes what the fuck am I gonna do for three fucking hours Taehyung is really the opposite of Namjoon because he is a complete idiot I can’t believe my own brother would hire—"

“You can finish in ten minutes? That’s really impressive.” The boy exclaims with a slight tremble. Despite the warmth of the apartment, Seokjin eyes the shiver of the boy's beautiful frame as wind blows through one of his open balconies. Seokjin is horrified to see Hoseok's black thong draped over his outdoor cactus. "S-Sir Kim? I mean, I’m fine with packing up in ten minutes if you’re so stressed about this, but I just really need to-”

With a breath, Seokjin removes his Givenchy robe, hoping to the heavens that it doesn't smell too much like his friend Jose Cuervo,  and settles it gently on the boy’s shoulders. “Look, erm, what’s your name?”

“Jeon Jeongguk, Sir,” the boy replies.

Strange. That didn’t sound like a hooker name. Well, if Seokjin was being completely honest, this entire thing was a strange pity. This boy was exactly Seokjin’s type. From the smell to the face, to the presence of those strange V lines that got him tingling to his toes… it was a dream come true. But wasn’t hiring a prostitute to culminate his week of birthday surprises a bit too much? This one must be expensive too, judging from the way he was sculpted and so, so, pure. Like a porcelain doll.

Perhaps... Seokjin would like to get to know him more than just... rent him. He's always been a romantic at heart, and dating a prostitute didn’t sound so bad. Not if he was as beautiful as this. And really… Seokjin didn't feel well enough to do anything but munch on samosas and down a couple of painkillers in a warm bath. 

“Hi Jeongguk,” Seokjin smiles. The boy seems surprised at the sudden show of familiarity. “Why don’t I fix us some lunch first?” 

“I-“ Jeongguk hesitates. “I can’t really eat beforehand. I get gassy and bloated. It’s not good for the... you know.”

“O-oh, that's nice to hear.” Seokjin blushes. He didn’t know what he was trying to do—lighten the mood probably—but it was obvious from the way the room seemed colder that he had failed drastically. "So you’re a bottom, then?”

“A.. b-bottom?”

“I mean… you’re the first hook- uh, escort, that I’ve ever… um—” Seokjin isn’t sure how to have better phrased it, because the look on Jeongguk’s face certainly proves that everything coming out of his mouth is very offensive.

Seokjin grimaces and steps backward out of shame, throwing up a little in his mouth when he feels the used condom slide against his bare foot once more. Jeongguk looks mortified as he hugs the robe closer against his chest. His face indignant as he turns and begins to stomp out of Seokjin’s penthouse apartment and right into the quiet suburbs of uptown Barcelona. 

Despite the angry burst and feeling of guilt that suddenly consumed him, Seokjin still has the urge to capture the moment in his mind: an angry, beautiful Korean boy in his favourite robe, storming out of his penthouse suite while the white curtains billowed around him. Perfect for a painting, he thinks. Then–

I’m not a prostitute!” 

Oh. 

“I’m a fucking nude model, you bourgeoisie asshole!”

 As the door slams shut, Seokjin agrees miserably that it sounded just about right.

 


 09

 

 



 

The smell of the cool December air in uptown Barcelona is something that Jeongguk could grow used to. As he poses on a low and wide marble pedestal where he was sure a grand piano was placed just last week—

 

 

 

“Are you sure Yoongi-hyung isn’t going to beat your ass for this?” Taehyung asked.

 

 

 

“Oh yeah, I’m gonna get a beating—” Seokjin smiled. He watched the movers take the piano to the study instead. “—but maybe after I beat your ass for not telling me you booked me a fucking nude model." Seokjin turned to his younger brother. "I called him a hooker, Tae!”

 

 

 

“Oh uhm… Haha. Surprise?"

 

Jeongguk closes his eyes and listens to the slow rumble of sports cars on gravel, of cicadas desperately trying to survive in the cool weather, and finds his shoulders relaxing minutely. It also helps that Seokjin often aerates fine red wine and plays piano renditions of old pop songs as soon as he arrives. Other than the calming properties, the environment of Seokjin's apartment is just… so rich.

When Jeongguk poses for this particular client, he finds the taste of luxury he’d always envisioned for himself when he came to Barcelona two years ago.

This was the life he wished he lived. On the white pedestal, draped with a white translucent cloth, Jeongguk isn’t an immigrant on a financial scholarship who waits for Subway's coupons for discount sandwiches in late in the evening just so he could fill his fridge. He isn’t struggling to pay for the shack he shares with five other people who don’t know how to flush the toilet. Here, Jeongguk feels like a million Euros, which, judging from the marble and satin that donned most of the surfaces in this area, was probably how much it cost to rent the suite.

Jeongguk’s thoughts are interrupted by a honey deep voice behind an easel. “So,” Seokjin hums. Jeongguk eyes adept fingers with charcoal, moving against paper — it looks rich, graceful, like the rest of Kim Seokjin. “You’re a student?”

“Yes, hyung-nim,” Jeongguk breathes. “I’m a scholar at the University of Barcelona.”

He doesn’t know why Seokjin always makes small talk with him. His previous clients usually left him to his own devices. All Jeongguk was usually paid to do was to look pretty, sit still, and emulate art, so he still isn’t quite sure what he feels about Seokjin’s constant attempts at conversation. It was definitely humanizing, making him feel like he wasn’t just there as an object to be stared at, but it was also unusual... especially since he’d find Seokjin staring at him so intently as they talked, and a face as handsome as that was enough to make anyone reel. 

Seokjin clicks his tongue, stretching his neck to see more of Jeongguk, and the flimsy shirt—that doesn't hide much of his chest, Jeongguk notes—slides off one of his shoulders.

“Impressive. I told you to call me hyung, though. We’re only… four, five years apart?" The sight of Seokjin’s collarbones above the low cut of his shirt makes Jeongguk suddenly palpitate. “You turned twenty-one last September, right?”

“Yes, hyung,” Jeongguk smiles, relishing the fact that Seokjin remembered something as basal as his age. “I’m a junior. Bachelor of fine arts as well.”

As well?” Seokjin grins. He grabs a smudging cloth from behind him and Jeongguk sees a rippling of muscles under Seokjin's shirt. Other than the soft eyes that he finds appraising his curves and angles, the sight of Seokjin keeps him warm. “Who told you I was an art student? You flatter me. Do I look that young?”

“Oh? You aren’t?” Jeongguk grows embarrassed. He’s tempted to shift slightly. “I just assumed—cause you wear this PE shirt sometimes and you have these obscure and expensive art materials everywhere—" 

“Oh, relax,” Seokjin assures him. “I am. I’m actually taking my masters degree in classical art.”

“In the Barcelona Academy of Art?”

“How did you know?” 

Jeongguk’s smile almost reaches his ears. “Only the best get in there, and you seem pretty great.” 

It’s Seokjin’s turn to blush. He looks at Jeongguk’s face for a moment or two and suddenly coughs once, twice, thrice. Jeongguk watches as Seokjin flips his notepad to a clean page.

“Okay, we can shift poses now,” Seokjin mumbles. The soft pink of Seokjin's flushed cheeks is beautiful—at least in Jeongguk’s eyes. “Anyway, when did you get here? My parents sent me here about five years ago. There aren’t much Koreans in the area, so I was really surprised when you started conversing with me in our language-”

“Hyung?” Jeongguk interrupts as he sits up and stretches his stiff joints, thankful for the shift in pose. His legs have fallen asleep. 

Seokjin looks up immediately. “Yes? Are you cold? Hungry? Should I close the windows—”

“No, thank you,” Jeongguk answers. He tests the waters in his head—momentarily prodding at the idea by anxiously coming up with his hyung’s possible responses. “I just… Can I ask about why I'm still here? Why are you doing this?”

“Doing what?”

Jeongguk hiccups slightly. “This. You keep calling me. I expected a one day thing, but ever since that first time…”

"Models are hard to come by," Seokjin says defensively. He isn’t looking at Jeongguk. “I need a muse. That’s it.”

“But there are others out there. Prettier ones. Ones who can sit still for longer. Are you doing this because Taehyung asked you to? Did he tell you about my situation? I mean, I appreciate the extra cash, but I don't want you to pity—"

“You’re pretty...” Seokjin suddenly blurts out from behind the easel. Ignoring the escalating beat of his heart, Jeongguk tilts his head to try to see the faint pink that he's now so sure colors his hyung’s cheeks. “I mean— er, you seem pretty still to me. Like a statue! Haha.”

“Hyung, I—"

“Jeongguk, you’re fine,” Seokjin sighs. He finally reveals his face from behind the easel, and Jeongguk isn't surprised that it isn’t any less handsome from five seconds ago. “I- I need you.”

“What?” Jeongguk feels a little light headed, unsure if it's because of the compliment from the beautiful, rich man, or the wine that perfumes the apartment. Is it possible to inhale wine molecules from aeration? Is he getting drunk… or… 

Seokjin claps his hands, bringing Jeongguk out of his stupor. With the beating of his heart, Jeongguk hears the sports cars careen on the gravel in uptown Barcelona sing to him like a lullaby. It was nice to be needed.

“Alright! Now bend your back and face a little to the left like— ah! There. Perfect.”

 


 

“So, the contract is… six hour sessions that can be split up to twice or thrice a week.”  

“Yes.”

“And,” Jeongguk asks. He tries not to stare too hard at the way Seokjin cleans up. Seokjin looks a little too expensive in his layers, and the mood lighting of the fancy restaurant isn’t helping his nerves. The big fat crush he was harboring in his chest was also working against him. In his ratty coat, Jeongguk doesn’t really feel like he deserves the caviar and pateé laid out in front of him. “It’s 50 Euros… per hour?”

“Yes.”

“So that's,” Jeongguk asks again. His fingers tremble against the written contract. It seemed too good to be true. “300 Euros a week? And I can borrow your art materials?”

“Yes. You’re a math genius! Congratulations!”

“Hyung…” Jeongguk takes a sip of his water to calm his nerves. Everything about this—especially the man in front of him—was definitely too good to be true. “Hyung, I don’t need a sugar daddy.”

Seokjin chokes on his wine, incredulous. “I’m not asking you to be my sugar baby!

With a start and a sudden shh! from the waiter, they both realize they were conversing loud enough for the entire restaurant to hear. Albeit the entire conversation being in Korean, there wasn’t really a proper translation for sugar baby other than its English form, so the people in the restaurant surely had their own hypotheses of the situation.

 “Anyway,” Seokjin coughs. He loosens his tie. Licks his lips. Jeongguk tries very, very hard not to stare. “That’s my proposed deal. And, uh, I won’t touch you, er, that way.” 

"That way?" Jeongguk begins to ask, until he notes Seokjin's uncomfortable stare and finally understands. It was... debatable, to say the least. Jeongguk reads through the contract, noting that the 'personal relationships' amendment was limited to their "business hours," and what he wanted to do with Seokjin wouldn't really fall within that timeframe anyway. Not that... not that it mattered.

Kim Seokjin, chaebol heir to a conglomerate of art galleries back in Seoul, was entirely out of his reach. Jeongguk was certain that he wasn't worth the nail on Seokjin's pinky toe.

Nevertheless, Jeongguk needs cash and loves the company of the beautiful, rich man who often spewed bad jokes. It's almost a dream come true, save for the part where he has a big ass crush on his employer. With a sigh, he reaches out and grabs the pen to sign the papers. "Okay, I accept."

“Wait, for real?” Seokjin raises both his eyebrows in surprise. There is a slight tremble in his fingers... he seems excited. Amused. Expressions flash across his face so quickly that Jeongguk can’t keep up. He's that happy over hiring an on-call nude model?  "I just—“

“Just what, hyung?” Jeongguk realizes that there are many things he'd do for that smile.

“Nothing.” Seokjin murmurs, smiling widely. He begins to vigorously cut his steak only to shove it into his mouth in one bite. “Nothing at all.”

 


27



 

“Um… yeah. I can’t make it tonight. I have an appointment, so I’ll have to rain check on the paella. Really sorry.” Seokjin says through the phone. Namjoon notes that he doesn’t sound very sorry. “It’s my treat next time? I’ll cook for you! Invite everyone over.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Namjoon reassures. “No worries. Go to your appointment, hyung. I’ll see you tomorrow in school anyway.” He ends the call and fixes the collar of his suit, eyeing the disappointed party of four in front of him.

“Hyung can’t make it?” Hoseok asks. “That’s really weird. This is his favourite restaurant. He never misses out on dinner nights in Santa Maria’s. Never.”

Namjoon notes the truth in this and takes a sip of his sangria. “You know… he has been a little weird lately. He’s been spending more of our allowance on art materials instead of obnoxiously-branded whisky. Even our mom is getting worried.”

Hoseok clicks his tongue. "I can't believe your mom worries about that! My mom worries about me spending a dime over budget."

"Hoseok." Namjoon scowls at him. "You literally just bought a Maserati."

"Completely beside the point, Joonie. The downpayment for the car was definitely within this month's budget—"

“Alright, can we stop with the flirting for one minute so we can get back to talking about Jin-hyung? Is he acting out?” Yoongi asks. He spoons some patatas into his mouth without much heart. “He moved my Steinway piano to the study. I would’ve thought he bought some ridiculous dog-themed art piece for display, but there’s nothing there. The center of his living room is just empty.”

Namjoon raises his eyebrow at this. His eldest brother always found comfort in Yoongi's piano playing on the most stressful nights. Seokjin often relished in Yoongi’s soft melodies—it eased his anxiety in the earlier days of their move, when their parents forced them to socialize and throw lavish parties every week to find connections and grow some roots. Although Taehyung, ever the social butterfly, loved the events, Seokjin, who had to do most of the planning, did not. His hyung had to take care of everything: from making sure that the every wine bottle was chilled at the optimum temperature, to vacuuming the carpets himself until they were stripped of all their dust, lest that snob Rosalié complain that his apartment was too dirty for her allergic rhinitis again. 

The hodgepodge of planning was how Yoongi and Seokjin became friends. The Kim brothers urgently needed a pianist for one of the first nights after their move, right when their parents were coming over, and no one but obnoxious Barcelona music-school Min Yoongi could play the Jeongseon Arirang in its classical rendition.

In the midst of reminiscing, Namjoon realizes that his younger brother has been silently stuffing spoonfuls of rice into his mouth instead of joining the discussion. 

Namjoon gives him the stink eye.

“Do you know anything about this?” Namjoon questions. “Is this your fault again? Did you throw up on any of hyung’s Givenchy robes again? You know he hates that.”

“No! I didn’t!” Taehyung says defensively. “I just…”

“Just?” Hoseok leans in.

“Okay, so Jimin—you know, my new friend from school—he has this roommate who needed some extra cash for this one art plate, and this dude just so happened to be a nude model. And you know how it was hyung’s birthday, right? He’s been complaining and whining about needing inspiration and how all his paintings are blank and lifeless, so I met up with this friend of Jimin’s and can I just say… like, wow! I thought hyung would love to paint this, so I hired him to model for Jin-hyung for a day because the boy is seriously his type, and that way, Jin-hyung is happy, the dude gets money, and Jimin is happy because his friend is happy. And it just so happens that it worked and Seokjin-hyung is painting again and wanted to help him so they’ve been seeingeachothereveryweekandnowIcan’tseemtostophim.”

“…”

“That was…” Yoongi gulps. “Well that was certainly a lot to take in. But I’m not surprised. Hyung has always been the most caring of all of us. ”

Oh my god,” Hoseok exclaims. A little from the overwhelming story, a little from downing three glasses of white wine in ten minutes. “So Jin-hyung is finally getting some action?”

“Where did you even get that, Hoseok-hyung? I don’t think it’s like that at all,” Taehyung suggests between spoonfuls. “Jeonggukie told me Jin-hyung is very respectful. Hasn’t touched him, in fact.”

“Well,” Hoseok muses. “I just assumed—pretty boy. Hyung’s type. Naked in one room…?"

“Jeongguk is his name?” Namjoon interrupts, and suddenly Hoseok has passed out on the table from liquor. 

“Y-yeah…?”

“Is he pretty enough for our hyung?” Namjoon asks.  “Do you have a picture of this Jeongguk dude?”

Taehyung brings up a recent selfie with Jimin and his roommate, pointing at a boy with big eyes, a lovely smile, and two big front teeth peeking from his lips. “That’s him. Cute, huh?”

Yoongi takes the phone and scrolls through Jeongguk’s profile, whistling in the process. “Seeing this, I’m not sure if hyung wants to help the kid... or if he wants to get into the kid’s pants. That’s a good face. How ambiguous. Who wants to bet that hyung has this huge crush already?”

Namjoon sips his wine, nodding. It was… a silent approval. If his hyung preferred this Jeongguk over Santa Maria’s all-meat paella, then there must be something there. "Why can’t it be a little of both? Jin-hyung’s always been good at hitting two birds with one stone. He’s crafty like that.” 

“It’s the Kim gene,” Taehyung agrees. "And to be honest, I think it's Jeonggukie who has the huge crush on him."

Out of the blue, Hoseok lifts his head from his drunken stupor and regards his friends. “Huh? Two birds? I’m pretty sure this John Cook's only got one bird though? Is hyung the one hitting it?”

 


39



 

The session ends early, minutes before half past eight. It has been an odd three hours. Seokjin had been sweating profusely the entire night, fidgety despite the open windows of the suite and the heating that was put on low. Because of this, the air was extra cold for Jeongguk: enough that he had politely and shyly asked to be robed for the last half of the session. But even if it was like his hyung had eaten four packs of fire noodles before he started painting, they kept the usual pleasant conversation that hasn’t stopped in the entire two months of sessions.

They shared stories—tidbits or tidal waves of information that came gradually, naturally, as if Jeongguk wasn’t posing with his dick out in the open and Seokjin wasn’t busy memorizing every curve of Jeongguk’s body.

It's nice, Jeongguk thinks. It’s nice to be familiar. To find a semblance of home.

Seokjin talks about his brothers fondly, recalling childhood memories of Binggrae milk and waiting for the Samanco ice cream truck to pass by their houses. Jeongguk had met one of them—Taehyung, who was Jimin’s newest friend—and the face seemed to have matched the lively, charming boy in Seokjin's stories. It occurred to Jeongguk that it was only by some crazy twist of fate that either of them had ever met. While the Kims lived in chaebol-luxury in the heart of Seoul, Jeongguk came from an average family in the suburbs of Busan. If it weren’t for their shared passion for the arts, he may have never gotten to meet Kim Seokjin. 

The thought made Jeongguk nervous. Perhaps, other than his growing bank account, meeting this man had brought more color to his life. He might be growing attached. Now, even in the dirty streets of his alley home, Jeongguk finds that he can paint rainbows. Perhaps it was the passion in his hyung’s eyes. It was contagious, to say the least.

“I can’t wait for you to meet Joonie,” Seokjin grins. Jeongguk notes that crows feet appear on the corners of Seokjin's eyes when he speaks about things he truly loves. An annoying voice hoped that they appeared when he talked about Jeongguk... but who talks about their nude models? “He’s a mess. Brilliant, but a mess.”

“Is he the literature major brother of yours?” Jeongguk asks for confirmation, trying not to overthink the Seokjin's suggestion of meeting the rest of his family. He looks over his shoulder at Seokjin, robe undone from the waist up. “I think I came over to borrow your pencil set one day, and eleven of them were broken. There was a note from a ‘Joon’ apologizing for the mess.”

Seokjin cackles, eyes bright. “That’s him! He isn’t allowed to enter my art studio. I feel like he’d end up punching a hole through most of my canvasses.”

Jeongguk pauses. He ponders. 

“Am… I allowed to visit your studio, hyung?”

 Seokjin pauses. He ponders.

“When…” he gulps. “Hm. I don’t think you’d need to because everything you can borrow is right here-“ Then he stares intently at Jeongguk, forehead glistening with sweat and eyes boring so deep that Jeongguk feels his ears color with emotion. “When it’s ready, I’ll take you through it myself.”

The air is suddenly quiet but the atmosphere is noisy with tension. The velvet of the Givenchy robe around Jeongguk’s waist feels constricting, and despite the cold, he wanted nothing more than to rid himself of it. But Jeongguk thought of Seokjin’s bare skin touching the soft fabric—thinking, repeating, that Seokjin has worn this many times before. It becomes the driving force that keeps it on.

“Okay, ‘Guk!” Seokjin exclaims. “That’s it for today. I left your envelope right where it is and—”

As soon as Seokjin had given the okay for him to pack up, Jeongguk twisted to wrap the robe gently against his skin—reveling in the intimacy, the softness, the fantasy that Seokjin’s skin might be as soft as this velvet. His eyes were half-closed, sultry as he unconsciously slid the robe up each of his shoulders with sighs. 

“Jeongguk—”

The robe sleeve pauses in its ascent, halting abruptly at the urgency in Seokjin’s voice. “Hyung?”

Seokjin doesn’t leave the stool behind his easel. The sweat still shines in rivulets.  

“Jeongguk.”

“H-hyung?”

“Would you…” Seokjin breathes as he hides his face behind the canvas. After holding his breath for one, two more seconds, his head pops out and greets Jeongguk with a soft smile. It's breathtaking. “Would you like to stay for dinner?”

Jeongguk smiles as his heart stills. It’s his favourite shade of pink—soft under the glistening chandeliers of the living room. It’s the shade of pink that colors Seokjin’s cheeks, and it’s one that Jeongguk memorizes and stows at the back of his head—to paint, he thinks.

“I’d love to,” Jeongguk replies. And the robe is fastened a little looser.

 


 “I have a brother too,” Jeongguk smiles. With his teeth peeking through his lips and his face snuggled closely against the collar of another of his fluffy robes, Seokjin almost forgets that he’s seen Jeongguk's weiner over fifteen times. Jeongguk seems normal. Comfortable across him on his marble topped kitchen bar, Jeon Jeongguk isn’t Seokjin’s muse or nude model— he's more like a dear friend whose smiles squeezed the edges of Seokjin’s fond heart. “But I left hyung back in Busan. He’s a really good artist—better than me. I think you’d like him.”

“Mmm?” Seokjin spoons the rest of the sherbet into his mouth, lemon and tangy. “Why so?” 

 

 

He eyes Jeongguk licking his spoon—childlike. Innocent. His big eyes blink at Seokjin. “I don’t know. You both seem… light hearted?  Sweet? You’d tag each other in dog memes and stuff.”

“I think I’d rather tag you in dog memes, if I we’re being honest,” Seokjin admits without thought.

Preparing a slew of curses about allowing himself to be so vulnerable, he suddenly sees the way Jeongguk’s smile finally reaches his eyes. It was lovely, and it made his chest hurt in more ways than one. Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to have oily carbonara for dinner—his arteries were clogging up and he felt like he signed his slow descent to cardiac arrest.  

“I’d like that.” Jeongguk looks up, cheek scrunching up as if he was in thought. He taps the dessert spoon against the glass bowl. “But you aren’t even my friend on social media. If you were my contact, then maybe I could’ve invited you to my last gig.”

“Your last gig?” Seokjin inquires. “You’re a musician?”

“I’m a high-ranked busker, thank you very much. If you were my friend on social media, then maybe you’d know that I’ve been booked for a lot of school gigs lately. I'm becoming pretty popular.”

Hm, popular, Seokjin muses.

The mere thought of anyone seeing Jeongguk pose for anyone else makes him see red, which definitely rings alarm bells in his head. This crush of his was borderline idiotic. Seokjin tried so hard not to get attached, did his best to let things remain professional and unfeeling for Jeongguk's sake.

Why should Seokjin get possessive over a model whose job was to pose nude in front of people who wanted to draw him? Jeongguk's body was his temple, and Seokjin has to remind himself time and time again that it took more than one person to venerate a temple. He just. His damn crush was making his brain go wonky and his heart so possessive. 

It was ludicrous.

All the sessions of eyeing curve after beautiful curve, of watching the rise and fall of a lovely and sculpted chest was doing things to Seokjin's brain. It seemed like every hour that passed gave Seokjin the illusion that Jeongguk could be his—that Jeongguk was his. They talked so comfortably in his living room, like they had known each other forever, that Seokjin sometimes forgets that they've only known each other for some months. And although the conversation was an initial attempt to make Jeongguk feel more relaxed in the environment, Seokjin found himself growing so interested, so invested in the soft timbre of Jeongguk's voice echoing in his living room that he couldn't paint without hearing it.

This made the entire thing dangerous not only for Jeongguk, but also for Seokjin. If Seokjin ever scared Jeongguk away and he disappeared from Seokjin's life, then Seokjin was very sure that he'd fall back into his art slump, unable to finish a single painting in the next, say, fifty years.

It was ludicrous, but it was real, and Seokjin realized that asking Jeongguk to stay over for dinner wasn't the best and brightest thing to do. Now, he's being forced to see Jeongguk beyond the realm of still lifes and artistic nudity. Across his kitchen counter, Jeongguk wasn't just his model. Jeongguk was this wonderful human being who had friends, who studied, who had various social media accounts, and who was, apparently, a popular musician back in his university.

Seokjin finds that a part of his chest crumbles at the thought of Jeongguk living a life outside of him. It's like that Lés Miserablés song--without Seokjin, Jeongguk's world would go on turning, but it was starting to seem like it wouldn't work the other way around.

He suddenly envisions an arena full of boys and girls who were all in love with Jeon Jeongguk, all of them holding pickets of his charming face, chanting for an encore performance. Jeongguk is in the middle of the stage, removing his robe seductively after painting this hyper realistic self-portrait, only to play some Beatles ballad with only an electric guitar hiding the fact that he was fucking nude—

Okay. So that was a little overboard, but Seokjin is an artist. He's wired to imagine the most obscure situations. That's the only way he's survived in Barcelona's art scene until now.

Speaking of the arena audience though, Seokjin desperately wants to be a part of that crowd of unadulterated worship... but he knows that acting on this desire was only a recipe for disaster. Seokjin knows that Jeongguk was better off without him. This was the hardest part. Kim Seokjin, with his face, talent, wealth, and penchant for charming even the grumpiest of men, usually got what he wanted when he wanted it. This time, however, he had to be the one to push his desires away.

He finds that using humor was the safest way to hide the fact that he was hurting pretty badly.

“Really now?” Seokjin teases. “An art student, a model, and now a musician? Is there anything you aren’t?”

“Well,” Jeongguk pouts. “I’m not your friend on social media."

Well,  Seokjin thinks. You aren't mine.

“Is this your passive aggressive way of making me add you?” Seokjin smiles fondly. He leans across the table and scrunches up his nose with a teasing smile, allowing himself to enjoy the company, despite the alarm bells ringing in his head. He knows that adding Jeongguk was another broken barrier, another bridge that would make it easier to be a part of Jeongguk's arena life. He tries to deflect the question. “For your information, even with dog memes on the line, I’m Kim Seokjin. People add me.”

“Rightfully so,” Jeongguk flashes his teeth in laughter, and Seokjin finds that, although it sounds like an old man is dying, it's one of the most pleasing sounds on earth. For fucks sake... his favorite sound used to be Tony Bennett. What has he amounted to?  “I mean, with that face—?”

The laughter dies down as Seokjin reaches over and thumbs a sherbet splatter off Jeongguk’s cheek. It was so dangerously close to his mouth that neither of them are able to breathe in the process.

Seokjin sits back down, dazed, overwhelmed with the smell of flowers, the fleeting warm touch, the dangerous eyes of Jeon Jeongguk that have rid themselves of childlike innocence and now look at him with… Seokjin can’t even find the words for it. Desperately, he tries to remind himself of all the reasons why he couldn't do this to Jeongguk, why he couldn't let himself fall, and especially why he couldn't allow Jeongguk to fall for him. He just-

“S-sorry,” Seokjin breathes. “You had something there, and I was distracted so I… uh."

In attempt to salvage any of his dignity, Seokjin grabs his phone and searches for a Jeon Jeongguk studying in Spain and adds him immediately, realizing that death by social media was definitely better than death by talking about embarrassing things I did impulsively. He twists to grab his wine glass—begging for anything to help calm him down—and raises the screen to show it to a curious Jeongguk. 

“There. I did it. I guess you can be my exception, ‘Guk. You happy?”

“Very," Jeongguk says as he nods, reverting to his puppy-like state. Seokjin’s heart flutters. He's royally fucked, as they say. 

   


 45



 

Jeon Jeongguk doesn’t know what came over him. As Seokjin gave him the signal to pose, he dropped the robes agonizingly slowly—this week, it was a translucent Versace drape—and the way it slid off his shoulders was one for the books. Then, Jeongguk posed.

He wasn’t entirely sure why he laid down on his side, knees bent gently towards Seokjin. Couldn’t really understand why his thighs spread apart naturally, inviting, tantalizing—why he arched his neck in a way that he knew made people sweat. He flexed his core to reveal thick muscle, perfect, rippled, dangerous. 

Okay. Jeongguk actually knew why he positioned himself that way—and it was because, in last night’s drunken university dorm stupor, he had realized that he may very well be intensely immensely extremely infatuated with his boss. Or his artist. Or his whatever. And it wasn’t in the “oh my gosh I have a crush on him like in high school” type of thing. It had become the painful, pining, agonizing kind that made Jeongguk feel pain in his chest. It was the kind of feeling that yearned for deep friendship, for physical affection and personal intimacy. It took hours of Jimin's questions to get him to admit this truth.

He didn’t know what it was—

Okay, complete lies. Jeongguk knew it started with that damn face and shoulders, but it grew with the dinners, the conversations, the way Seokjin looked at him like he was the most beautiful human he'd ever seen. It was the kind of gaze that reminded him that he was capable of achieving his dreams and becoming so much more. It was the way he grew addicted to the wrinkles on the corners of Seokjin’s eyes and the lines around his mouth. Jeongguk knew his feelings were real when he started to fear not seeing Seokjin again, when he started to become afraid of the end of their contract.

So he tries to speed things up.

Jeongguk isn’t stupid. He sees the way people double take as he walks by, despite the ratty hoodie and the torn up Timberlands. He knows he’s well-built, he knows he can be desired. Two years of modeling naked in front of people gives you a kind of invincible confidence that you can be art.

Which leads Jeongguk to his very awkward, very erotic attempt at seducing Kim Seokjin.

He pined for touch. He longed for caresses. Jeongguk knew that no touching was in their contract, but he was hoping that it could go beyond business hours—so he bucked his hips, spread his legs, peered at Seokjin from behind his lashes, and bit his lower lip like there was no tomorrow. All for Seokjin’s taking.

Jeongguk almost feels bad. Seokjin’s entire face is beaded with sweat despite the mid-February winter air. He enjoys the trickle—the shifting eyes, the twitching legs—but ultimately, like the rest of the things in Jeongguk’s life, the plan backfires. 

Thirty minutes into the pose, complete with heavy breathing for maximum effect, Seokjin flips his notepad closed and pinches the space in between his eyes. 

"Jeongguk,” Seokjin breathes. He trembles. “We’re done for the day. Go dress up. The envelope is right where it usually is. I’ll see you next week.”

Ah. No dinner. No wine. No gentle ruffle of the hair or peck at his temple. 

Perhaps Jeongguk is becoming spoiled… nevertheless, he walks out, completely disappointed. 

As he walks out the door, he hears Seokjin call out. “And maybe you should go get checked! You were panting a lot. Maybe the carpet dust has given you asthma!”

Jeongguk wanted to kick himself in the face. It would have been less painful. 

 


 51 

 

 



 

“Hyung, what are you making?” Jeongguk asks quietly. As he tightens the robe around his waist, he peers over Seokjin’s shoulder in the large kitchen, nose picking up fragrant herbs and spices amidst expensive aftershave. He was too busy smelling his new favourite scent- he called it eau de Seokjinnie - that he almost rests his chin on Seokjin’s broad shoulders. He stills himself. After the events of last week, he'd been too afraid to touch Seokjin in any way.

To his surprise, his hyung had other ideas.

With a mischievous grin, Seokjin sets aside his spatula and gingerly takes Jeongguk’s arms to settle them under his apron—right around his waist. Jeongguk feels his chest against Seokjin’s broad back—terrified that the beating of his heart was loud enough to become the bass line of a Chainsmoker’s song. His knees are weak, and he feels his joints turn to mush and goo at the proximity of their bodies.

It’s a nightmare and a dream come true. 

“I’m making Provençale,” Seokjin says nonchalantly. He resumes his sautéing with one hand and rests the other on Jeongguk’s intertwined arms around his waist. “And I know it smells good, but you have to hide under my apron if you want to stay here.” Seokjin pats the suddenly shaking arms. “I’m not risking that flawless skin of your getting any scars from careless oil splatters.”

Jeongguk only has enough energy to nod. As he does so, he finds that his chin rests perfectly against the dip of his hyung’s shoulder—and when he hears no complaint from his hyung, he settles there, burrowing into the muscle like he belonged. Jeongguk leans closer, allows himself to bask in the rare opportunity of being so close to Seokjin. He smells like fine wine.

“Hyung, that’s unfair,” Jeongguk whines. “Your skin is at risk, too!”

Seokjin chuckles. “I’m not the one who models for a living.”

“I honestly think you should reconsider. You’d be really nice to paint.”

Suddenly, the air is filled with only the quiet hiss of tomatoes hitting the bottom of the pan. As Seokjin sautés, Jeongguk feels his hyung’s heart start to beat contemptuously, harmoniously, a betrayal that rivals the way Jeongguk palpitates as he allows his desires to reveal themselves so blatantly. He attempts to lighten the mood with friendlier honesty. 

“It smells so good,” Jeongguk whispers, and he isn’t sure if he’s referring to the food or his hyung. Probably a mixture of both. “You’re so great, hyung.”

 “You’ll think I’m even better once you taste this,” Seokjin says enthusiastically. He brings up a wooden spoon to Jeongguk’s lips over his shoulder. “Perfect, right?”

 Jeongguk could only sigh against Seokjin’s neck. “It’s perfect.” You're prefect.

 


 75



 

Seokjin’s affections are blatant. He moves according to his whims and urges, bends situations to his beck and call — he is spoiled in all things, and that's his worst habit. Spoiling. Being spoiled. Taehyung is a product of this habit, and despite all his efforts, Jeongguk is about to become that, too.

Before Jeongguk is to strip naked, Seokjin usually greets his muse by leaning against his apartment door and holding out a glass of wine, offering it to a boy with eyes wide enough to eat him whole.

Sometimes it changes. It’s champagne if he’s feeling a little frisky. Jeongguk usually takes the glass and sips it eagerly, with the apples of his cheeks forming indents against the wide rimmed glass. Seokjin tries to take pictures in his mind of the way Jeongguk is so malleable, so soft.

And when Jeongguk is stripped to nothing, sometimes haphazardly draped with a cloth or a pile of fruit — they once used a banana, and they had to pause because it was too damn funny — Seokjin does his best to focus. He inhales and exhales to the rhythm of his heart, which is usually fucking fast, mind you, so he ends up speed drawing like a madman on both steroids and caffeine. Or Hoseok after he had a pint of frozen yoghurt that one time. Or when Yoongi gets drunk at poetry slams. Or when Taehyung sees random babies on the street and he— anyway, Seokjin can’t help it. 

Every moment of Seokjin thoroughly examining Jeongguk’s curves, his veins, his muscles? Every second he is exposed to perfectly imperfect features makes him weak in the knees. He treats all their sessions like a visit to the Louvré. Despite all the initial warnings and dangers, Seokjin still looks at Jeongguk like he’s the Mona Lisa: with respect, admiration, and a carnal need to steal it and make it his. 

The other half of the time, Seokjin has practiced angling his thighs in obscure ways to hide his raging boner. 

With his eagle eyes, however, this phenomenon isn’t alien to Jeongguk, but he always has difficulty categorizing Seokjin Boners™ into the “it’s just a client” pile... because... you know... he wants Seokjin to be more than just a client. 

Truth is, two years of nude modeling makes you somehow immune to the seductive artists and those who start to sweat when they make eye contact with you. Other than those awkward encounters, being a nude model wasn’t all that bad. Sure, Jeongguk had to workout twice more than he was used to (which was… a lot), and he had to watch what he was eating, but he didn’t have a lot to eat anyway so it wasn’t much of an effort.

Jeongguk had been in Barcelona for three months at the time he’d seen his shocking bank balance of five Euros to spend for the next week. His brother messaged him the next day, apologizing that he’d been struggling with commissions back in Busan and couldn’t send in money for another two weeks. 

Thankfully, he made a friend in his contemporary dancing elective in the University of Barcelona who had connections in the art scene. Park Jimin was a blessing. He got into Jeongguk’s personal space, shoved a ‘wanted: nude model’ flyer into his shocked face, and winked. 

“Don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it,” Jimin remarked. “It pays well.”

And it did. Despite the initial discomfort and the constant pressure to manscape, Jeongguk believed it to be a respectable and well-paying job. Sure, it’s pretty shocking to see paintings of your naked body on random street galleries or to have a handful of people ogling at your dick in an enclosed space,  but he’d grown used to it. He found that art always made him look beautiful. 

Occupational hazards?” Jeongguk mumbles in response to Seokjin’s previous question. This week, he was asked to be as relaxed and comfortable as possible. He's on his side with a towel around his middle, chin tucked gingerly into the nook of his elbow as he regards Seokjin's usual position behind the easel. “There are some.”

Jeongguk hears the sound of a paintbrush snapping and uses his optimum nude model self-control not to immediately turn his head to look at Seokjin. “Fuck, hyung! That brush was a Da Vinci!” 

“Oh, uh,” Seokjin says, clipped. “It’s okay I have more in my drawer. Anyway— uh, occupational hazards like what?”

With permission, Jeongguk shifts his pose and regards Seokjin curiously.  

“The usual for nude models,” Jeongguk says nonchalantly. “The perv in the crowd... someone recognizing me from a painting… people extending sessions for hours… I guess... There was one time someone touched my ass—“ 

Snap.

“Hyung! That one was an Escoda!” 

Right, right,” Seokjin grimaces. Jeongguk watches Seokjin brush wood splinters off his pristine button down. “I can always buy more. Anyway, back to your—“ Seokjin pauses. “Ah. Jeongguk. Have you modeled for anyone else recently? Have you experienced any of these occupational hazards these past months?”

Jeongguk does his best not to smile. This was what it was about? “Oh, I don’t know, hyung,” Jeongguk grins. His eyes sparkle as he watches Seokjin eye him possessively. “Have you hired any models other than me since we started?”

Jeongguk cackles as he watches Seokjin squirm uncomfortably in his seat. “‘'Guk! How can you- uh, I don’t hire—You’re the only model I’ve ever had a decent conversation with and, okay, probably the only model I've ever hired and I’m—" 

“I’m kidding! I know there's no going back once you see me,” the younger says with a grin. His smile is bright as he regards his hyung—his funny, easily-flustered, elegantly beautiful hyung. Damn, he’s fucked. “Besides, I haven’t had the time to respond to anyone but you. You've got me all fully booked.”

Jeongguk watches as the earlier frown on Seokjin’s plush lips relaxes into a soft smile. Into relief. The movement allowed Seokjin’s dimples to show slightly, and Jeongguk had a small argument with himself about whether or not he should write about them in his journal tonight. Figuring that nothing can be cheesier than that one journal entry when he compared the split second Seokjin stuck his tongue out in concentration to a cherry blossom in the spring, Jeongguk nods his head and agrees that Seokjin’s dimples were illegal and definitely going into his journal tonight. 

“Promise?” Seokjin grins. Jeongguk does his best to curse Mr. and Mrs. Kim for creating someone too good looking. 

“I promise,” he assures his hyung. It was a half truth, anyway. Setting aside the insane amount of money he receives from posing for three hours in an expensive suite, eating expensive food while talking to an expensive man, Jeongguk chose to model solely for Seokjin because he wanted to. He'd been contacted to model whenever he's free—which is four out of seven days a week—but he found himself declining those offers to get coffee or watch soap operas with his hyung instead. “Besides, with how much you feed me? No one's gonna want to draw food babies on a muscular man.”

“It’s not my fault that I always make too much!” Seokjin argues. “And you always look great. I always tell you that Da Vinci could’ve chiseled those abs from marble, but apparently I don’t tell you enough.”

But he does. And every time Jeongguk hears it, his feels the blood rush to his ears. To hide his flush, he tries to redirect the conversation. “Anyway, how many pieces do you have of me by now, hyung? You never let me see any of it.”

“Hmm, we’ve been seeing each other for four months now—I have about 32? 34 pieces?” Seokjin mumbles as he resumes his sketch. 

“What do you even do with them? Are you gonna sell them? ‘Cause I want a cut if ever. Like, you know, commission—“

Seokjin cuts him off. “Funny. I think they’re actually some of my best work, but I can’t seem to show them to anyone else, much less sell them…”

“Why not?” Jeongguk asks as his heart drops to his feet. Was he the problem? He’d seen one of Seokjin’s paintings in Taehyung’s apartment once. They were beautiful. “Are you ashamed of showing them to anyone? Of showing me to anyone?”

“No— of course not!” Seokjin clamors. He sets his pencil aside and pouts at Jeongguk. “It’s— It’s hard to explain. But I think these paintings are only beautiful because the subject is beautiful. It’s like… It’s like I can’t allow anyone else to look at them because they’re mine. I don’t know how else to explain it. Maybe it’s artist’s displacement? An identity crisis? I’m not sure.”

Of the paragraph Seokjin exclaimed, Jeongguk stopped hearing anything after the subject is beautiful part. But who could blame him? He was as lovesick as any lovesick nude model can be, and hearing that beautiful Kim Seokjin found him, Jeon Jeongguk, beautiful, made his cheeks hurt from smiling.

“Is there anything funny about my troubles, Jeon Jeongguk?” Seokjin asks after the thirty minute mark. Jeongguk hadn’t been able to stop his grin.

“Not at all, hyung,” Jeongguk breathes. “Not at all.”

 


 

The bell rings to signify the end of another inspiring lecture, but Seokjin still wonders why he needs to buy sleeping pills to drink at night if his classes already do that much for him. He steps out into the March air, with the temperature warming from the winter but still cold enough to need coats for walks outside heated buildings. After packing up his sketchpad, he stretches on his stool and turns, wincing when he hears tiny pops sound at his back.

From the corner of his eye, he eyes a little mop top and an earring from the window of his classroom- double taking when he realizes that Europeans don’t usually have terrible bowl cuts and rarely have more than one piercing on their ears. Rushing, he tucks the drawing materials under his arm and almost trips over his classmates as he barges through the door, proving his suspicions right when he finds a cheeky Jeon Jeongguk smiling from ear to ear against a fancy brick wall.

As soon as he sees Seokjin exit the room, Jeongguk’s nose scrunches into playful annoyance, and Seokjin finds himself in the middle of an almost-heart attack.

Cute. Cute. Cute.

Seokjin wished Jeongguk didn’t have to put on clothes because clothed Jeongguk usually had the same effect on him as nude Jeongguk anyway. 

"Took you long enough,” Jeongguk smiles. He hands Seokjin a smoking latte with mittened fingers. “I was afraid your coffee was gonna get cold! You move like a turtle, hyung.”

“Ha!” Seokjin argues. He sips the latte carefully, cherishing each warm drop as it flooded his throat. It tastes sweeter than usual, Seokjin thinks. “Just wait ’til you meet Yoongi. He’s the real slowpoke! You have to—“

“Did you just say slowpoke?” Jeongguk laughs. “What are you, 80 years old?”

“I’m 25!”

“No, you’re 80.”

“I’m sorry I speak like an old man,” Seokjin grumbles. “Am I entertaining you, at least?”

“You’re always entertaining, hyung. Like a wise, old man—"

“I’m not that old!” Seokjin shouts. When people begin to look their way and Jeongguk holds his stomach in laughter, he ends their bickering by taking a sip of the coffee. He also does this to try and hide his smile, but he’s in constant denial. “Why are you here, Jeongguk-ah? Don’t you have class?”

Through a pink flush, Seokjin notices warmth emanating from Jeongguk’s cheeks—even warmer than the coffee in between his freezing palms. “Nothing, really,” Jeongguk shyly responds. He looks up and smiles. “Just wanted to show you that I’ve paid off my loans and can afford obnoxious caffeine now.” Jeongguk holds up a similar cup in his hand.

“‘Guk, that’s grea—“

“Also, I—“ Seokjin is interrupted by Jeongguk with sudden fear in his eyes.  “ —just wanted to see you.”

Seokjin’s mind and heart are a ticking time bomb. It's a combination of hell naw, holy shit to fuck yes, holy shit. But for now, all he can exclaim is an, “Oh?” 

“Oh.” Jeongguk agrees. “I-is… Is that okay?”

Seokjin closes his eyes and takes a deep breath. Work relationship work relationship work relationship work relationship work relationship, he repeats to himself. But Seokjin has been known to spoil himself constantly, and despite all the walls he's tried to build up and all the dangers that he foresees, he ends up saying, “Yes. Yes, of course.” 

 


 84



 

After sessions, Jeongguk and Seokjin find themselves in their usual spot behind the kitchen stove. Whether it’s an aromatic Parmigiana or a homesick serving of Bibimbap, Jeongguk gravitates to Seokjin’s back like the north and south poles... wait. Wrong analogy, Seokjin thinks. The north and south pole actually repel each other, and that wouldn’t make sense because Jeongguk always— 

Anyway, as Seokjin stirs that night’s dinner: a homely meal of Jajangmyeon to celebrate the A+ Jeongguk scored for one of his final papers, he silently leans back into Jeongguk’s stable frame, relishing in the stability of strong forearms resting around his middle. He doesn’t know why he still keeps up the ‘hide your arms under my apron to protect yourself from oil splatters’ ruse... or why Jeongguk seems to always just go with it. Last week, Seokjin made a sandwich—completely oil free—and Jeongguk still snuggled him under his apron and tucked his chin into the small nook between Seokjin’s shoulder and neck.  

  

“Just in case?” Jeongguk asked. 

“Just in case.” Seokjin replied as he sliced the tomatoes. 

 

Celebrating the A+, however, was also just a ruse. It was completely obvious that the two just yearned for each other’s company, but they kept up these excuses, disguising their wanton desires under celebrations, needing school help, and preparing too much food. One time, Jeongguk felt like it was his turn to spend for dinner so he ordered them both cheap Thai takeout—a very eye opening experience for Seokjin— and even then, it was disguised under the ruse of, “You have to try it, hyung!”

Why did they do it? Why did they feel like they had to be actors vying for an Oscar every time they wanted to spend time with each other? At this point, were they liars or actors?

This time, however, there seemed to be more on Jeongguk’s mind. As Seokjin added the last of the sesame oil and tossed the noodles, Jeongguk was silent, not once commenting on how wonderful the food smelled. Seokjin is worried. 

“Anything wrong?” He asks. Seokjin lifts a shoulder to wriggle Jeongguk’s chin and shake him from his stupor. “You haven’t said a word since you got dressed.”

“Ah, it’s nothing,” Jeongguk mumbles. He tucks his mouth into Seokjin’s shoulder and breathes. 

“Look, you usually say something about how good the food smells five minutes into me stirring, then I spoon some of it into your mouth, and you make this obscene choking sound that reassures me it doesn’t taste like dog food. That’s our routine,” Seokjin argues. “But you haven’t said a single thing since you got dressed. What’s wrong?”

“First of all, dog food doesn’t taste so bad, hyung—“ 

“Jeongguk, what the fuck—“

“And I just have a lot on my mind,” Jeongguk answers. He rests his cheek against Seokjin’s neck, warmth still comforting. Seokjin knocks his temple against Jeongguk’s. 

“Jeongguk, I’m here to listen,” Seokjin says with a shrug. Turning off the stove, he turns around, still nestled in Jeongguk’s embrace, and puts both his palms against Jeongguk’s cheeks. “I can help. You always come to me when you need anything already, right?”

Truth is, Seokjin played his affections blatantly, but nonchalantly. He exudes an aura of smoothness, of suavity, like he can charm a baby into giving him their candy. In reality, Seokjin is freaking the fuck out inside his head, with tiny Seokjins running around inside his brain, shouting, throwing up, ringing red alarm bells to signal that shit is hitting the ceiling. That is currently happening right now. At that very moment. Jeongguk is close enough that Seokjin could count his eyelashes, and the smell of flowers consumes him.

“Hyung, I…” Jeongguk begins. Seokjin waits anxiously, ready to submit to the younger's every beck and call, but worried that it might not be within his reach. After almost half a year of knowing each other, they'd silently established this minute dependency despite their initial hesitations and Seokjin's attempts at not getting attached.

They both got really attached.

Jeongguk's inhibitions melted away after their fifth dinner, and sometimes, Seokjin found a bunny-toothed muscle pig knocking on his door because he needed "help" with his art projects. Sometimes... it was Seokjin. 

    

The bell atop the coffee shop's entrance chimed, and Seokjin's head bobbed up immediately. He was so happy to see that it was his favorite Jeon. He raised his hand to grab Jeongguk's attention, heart speeding up when Jeongguk clambered up to him with a bounce.

"You rang?" Jeongguk grinned, pulling out a seat to sit in front of Seokjin. He sipped at the iced beverage Seokjin proffered him.

Seokjin had seen him just days ago, but because it was midterms season, they hadn't been able to meet up for a session that week. Knowing that Jeongguk was finally free that day, Seokjin had asked to meet with him because yesterday he saw this dog on his walk back home from the grocery store and it was such a good boy and he just really wanted to show — ah, fuck it. Seokjin was done lying to himself. He missed Jeongguk terribly. He hadn't even had wine in the past six days, much to Hoseok's disappointment when he came by the other day.  

"I missed—" Seokjin began. He saw Jeongguk's eyes shine in anticipation. "I- I missed drawing you."

Jeongguk visibly deflated. "O-oh. So, uh, am I gonna undress here, hyung? Cause... I mean-"

"N-no!" Seokjin exclaimed. He raised his small notepad and his charcoal pencil. "I just... I want to do portraits today, if you don't mind?"

"Portraits?"

"Yeah," Seokjin replied. He smiled encouragingly, trying to reassure Jeongguk that it was going to be okay. "I'm still paying you, if that's what you're—"

"I don't need to be paid, hyung," Jeongguk interrupted. He looked away. "You know that."

"I... I do." Seokjin agreed. Jeongguk had demanded that Seokjin stop sending him money even after he missed sessions, and Seokjin knew that it stopped being about cash months ago. Nevertheless, this was the best for the both of them.

With a sigh, he opened his sketch pad and discreetly tried to flip through the pages and pages of his sketches of Jeongguk, some of them just his eyes, some his profile, others were two minute speed drawings of smiles and expressions he wanted to save for rainy days. "Look here, please."

Jeongguk turned his head and faced Seokjin, eyes tired, absent of the excitement that had previously decorated his face. Trying not to die from guilt, Seokjin began to draw in detail, taking in all the soft curves and perfect imperfections that shone on Jeongguk's face. But in the middle of sketching his tall, curved nose, the expressive eyes, the small dimple that sometimes popped out of his cheek when he chewed... in the middle of sketching the first earring, and the mole under his bottom lip, Seokjin realized that his drawing, albeit graced with a beautiful subject, had no life. 

Seokjin felt like complete shit. He didn't want this.

"Hey Jeongguk," Seokjin said. "Do you want to know why I really asked you to come here?"

"Yeah?"

"I saw this dog yesterday, and I wanted to show you in person," Seokjin lied. Nevertheless, he set aside the sketch pad and swiped through his phone. "Look at him! What a good boy!"

Seokjin warmed at the way Jeongguk grabbed his phone and suddenly went on a swiping spree through all his photos. That was the smile Seokjin loved. It grew bigger, wider, lovelier with each passing swipe and— holy shit, Seokjin didn't take that many photos of the dog yesterday. Jeongguk would've seen the—

"That was, indeed, a very good boy." Jeongguk handed the phone back with a grin. He was laughing, eyes bright and trained on Seokjin, cheeks flushed with warmth, warmer than the rising Barcelona temperature. Seokjin couldn't help it.

"Jeon Jeongguk," he breathed. "I missed you."

"I know," Jeongguk laughed. "I missed you, too, Seokjin-hyung."

When Seokjin turns over his phone, he finds that Jeongguk had swiped further than the last photos he'd taken. Jeongguk reached the compilation of portraits Seokjin had captured of Jeongguk the last time they'd met for "work."  Candid photos. Many of Jeongguk smiling, blinking, unknowingly lighting up Seokjin's world. He'd been exposed.

Somehow, Seokjin figured that he couldn't care less.

 

“You can tell me,” Seokjin reassures him. His hands squeeze gently. Not too hard, dumbass, your palms are probably sweaty. “Tell me anything.”

“Hyung, I need a nude model.”

 Seokjin almost chokes. 

 “I need to paint this nude model next month and the entire class wants to split this professional guy but honestly he’s too expensive and I’m not in debt anymore but I want to save and—“

 “Whoa, whoa,” Seokjin says gently. His hands move to Jeongguk’s arms and he feels the muscle ripple under his touch. “Easy there. Doesn’t your friend Jimin know any more people? Cheaper people? Or how about Jimin himself? I met him, he seems very pretty. If you need money, though, I’m always ready to— “

 “Hyung, I want to paint you.”

 “—pay for y-you… Pardon?

Jeongguk grows flustered under Seokjin’s touch, glowing bright red. “I want you to model for me. As my subject. I- I know your rate must be very high since you always look like a movie star, but I- uh, I can’t pay, so maybe I can offer sessions for free? I just—“

Seokjin has always been insecure.

He wasn’t beautiful like Jeongguk was—he didn’t possess the curves, the sharp angles that made people beautiful. Despite the constant stares and the handful of offers he received to model for quaint fashion boutiques, he had resigned this attraction to the exotic nature of his race. If he were in Korea, he doubted he would be beautiful.

And this... honestly, Seokjin didn't know why he was so concerned about breaking more of the professional barriers, but this seemed to be the last straw. He was so used to safe guarding Jeongguk's vulnerability, worrying about protecting him without trying to own him, he tried so hard not to allow his feelings to further poison the relationship he had with Jeongguk. This time, it was Jeongguk asking for his vulnerability, his trust. It was the other way around.

But for some damn reason, Seokjin automatically says, “Okay.”

 “O-okay?” Jeongguk asks incredulously.

“Yeah, and no need for compensation.” Seokjin nods, albeit nervously. It was his habit, spoiling and being spoiled. He figured that the lines between work and feelings had been crossed a long time ago. “Where would you like to do it?”

 


 

“So this is what you look like with proper clothes on.”

“Hyung!” Jeongguk says in surprise. He runs to Seokjin’s open arms, almost knocking the both of them over in the process. Mid-embrace, he cranes his head back to look Seokjin in the eye, ignoring the tumultuous chorus of people eyeing his encounter with the famous Kim Seokjin. The Kim Seokjin that lives on that penthouse up top, and that has booked over seven galleries all over Spain.

Yes, he wanted to glare at them all. I am hugging this gorgeous and famous oppa. "Fuck you, by the way. Department store clothing is still clothing."

"Giorgio Armani would disagree."

"That dude is probably dead, so why should he matter?"

"Hey! He's not dead, just old!"

"A lot like you, then?" Jeongguk remarks. 

"Jeongguk, I'm literally just 25—"

“Anyway, what are you doing here? I thought you were flying to Paris with Yoongi-hyung? Weren’t you going to buy market shares or something?” Jeongguk asks.

“Eh,” Seokjin shrugs. He breathes in warmth. “Numbers are boring. Givenchy looks great on you, by the way. ”

“You're changing the subject! Why are you here?"

“Fine. I don’t know,” Seokjin admits. “Unlike numbers, you're not boring, so I think... I think I missed you?”

Jeongguk visibly glows.

“You think you did?” Jeongguk teases. “Or you did?”

“I think I did,” Seokjin answers with a smirk, pursing his lips. “It may or may not be the case. I just know that I wanted to see you, so I I’m here, and now you really have to stop making duck faces because I’m still your hyung and you should respect me or else I won’t take us to that Tapas restaurant downtown!”

“Yoongi-hyung will be mad you skipped another trip…” Jeongguk gleams. “You always make him mad.”

He hooks his arm through Seokjin’s and allows the crowd’s hushed murmurs to fade from his senses. Yes, Jeongguk thinks with pride. He's kind of mine. 

“Eh,” Seokjin shrugs again, eyes alighting. He leans in close, tired, and so exhausted from lying to himself and everyone else. “I think it’s pretty worth it.”

 


 90



 

“Kid had a long day?” 

“Yeah,” Seokjin mutters. He had long since stopped painting his favorite subject as the said subject had fallen asleep—not for the first time— an hour or two ago. Tutting to himself, Seokjin glances over his shoulder and worriedly eyes the dark circles that decorate Jeongguk’s sleeping face. “It’s finals week.”

As soon as Jeongguk apologized for closing his eyes mid-pose, Seokjin watched as his model fell asleep against the marble podium in the middle of his living room. His pleasant snores echoed throughout the whole suite. Instead of annoyance, Seokjin looked at Jeongguk with pure fondness and adoration, hoping to the heavens that he had never fallen asleep nude modeling in front of anyone else in the past. Selfishly, Seokjin thinks that the vulnerability of a sleeping Jeongguk should be reserved for him.

Seokjin set aside his easel and tiptoed to get the softest duvet from his linen closet and traipsed to the podium to wrap it around Jeongguk. Seokjin tucked him in gently, fingers light as feathers as he draped the cloth over his sleeping subject and made sure he was wound tightly under the covers. “Rest well, ‘Gukkie.”

The doorbell rang an hour after, and Yoongi was unsurprised to find a blanket-wrapped nude model asleep on the white marble podium where his grand piano used to be. Settled comfortably on the sofa with a cocktail in hand, he watched a frazzled Seokjin check on Jeongguk every fifteen minutes, trying hard not to comment on the lines of worry that adorned Seokjin’s forehead. 

But he's Min Yoongi, so he does anyway.

“At the rate you’re going, your forehead wrinkles are going to make you age fifty years in one night,” he remarks. “Stop checking on him, hyung. He looks fine. He’s covered in a Prada duvet from head to toe.”

Seokjin settles and harrumphs on the sofa beside Yoongi, putting his feet up while clicking his tongue in worry. “I told him not to come in for the next two weeks, but he’s stubborn about our contract and—"

“You really like him, don’t you?” Yoongi was never one for dilly-dallying.

With his back against Yoongi’s, Seokjin raises up his champagne glass for a toast. “I do, and it’s disgusting.”

Seokjin says they shouldn't clink too hard, lest they wake up Jeongguk.

“Disgusting?” Yoongi asks. His hyung had always been a hopeless romantic, so he figured this would excite him beyond measure. Plus, Jeongguk was undeniably attractive. “You like this heart-eyes-flowers-blooming-everywhere shit. What’s wrong?"

“He’s younger than me.”

“So was that four member Mariachi band you boned in an orgy in your third year of college. That didn’t stop you. And he’s legal, isn’t he?”

“Yoongi-yah,” Seokjin responds abruptly. “We promised never to talk about that ever again! Besides, Jeongguk is different—“

“Whoa, whoa, whoa.” Yoongi settles his champagne glass on the coffee table and holds up his hands in an act of placating his hyung. “Don’t start with all this 'he’s different' crap. This isn’t a young adult romance novel. Tell me what the fuck is really going on because you wouldn’t move my piano or miss out on Santa Maria’s paella night six times if you weren’t head over heels for this kid.”

“Tone down!” Seokjin whisper-shouts. “You might wake him.” 

“If you’re so worried about him, why don’t you just move him to your guest room? You’ve been checking on him every fifteen minutes to see if he’s cold but he looks like he’s about to combust from all the warmth you put into the way you caress his forehead!”

“I—“ Seokjin whispers, ashamed. “He isn’t wearing anything underneath, so I can’t touch him like that.”

“Jesus Christ, hyung,” Yoongi facepalms. “You’ve been painting his dick for the past eight months and you can’t carry his ass to a fucking bed?

“I- I told you,” Seokjin blushes. “It’s never been like that. It’s what I’m so afraid of… He’s great, Yoongi. I pick him up after school, we have dinner after sessions… sometimes, we see each other for no reason and it's great. But I feel like if I do anything more, he’ll suspect something is up, rub the contract in my face, and leave. Then I'll be a heartbroken and  washed-out artist.”

Yoongi bites the inside of his cheek.

“You know that’s bullshit. First, anyone who knows anyone can tell you like him by the way you look at him- even when he's fully dressed. You're so obvious. It would take a numbskull not to see that you like him more than red wine and tapas," Yoongi scolds. "Hyung, even Namjoon caught on, and we both know he wouldn't notice a wedding proposal if it punched him in the face."

"I-"

"Second, you're a chaebol heir living in a penthouse suite, drinking 900 Euro champagne in uptown Barcelona. You have a budding career, your nice face, and pretty much the rest of your life to live." Yoongi doesn't give him a chance to speak. "And lastly... Jeongguk really doesn’t seem like the type to do that, hyung. I'm insulted for him.”

Seokjin pauses in surrender.

“I think you’re just afraid to tell him the truth,” Yoongi suggests. He picks up his glass and downs the rest of the Cristal to accentuate his point. If dramatic flairs were Seokjin’s specialty, he could play that game too. “You’re afraid to tell him that you’ve been lying from the very start.”

“That’s stupid. Who was I lying to?"

"Maybe him," Yoongi offers. "Maybe yourself."

"Stupid. What would I lie about? Why I hired him?” Seokjin asks.

“Your words, not mine.”

“Yoongi, you can’t like someone at first sight.”

“Yeah,” Yoongi breathes. He exhales and allows his head to hang off the back of the sofa, resting. “But you wanted him the moment you saw him, didn’t you?”

Seokjin is spoiled. Everybody knows that.

Seokjin shakes his head and Yoongi knows that he’s won this round. Yoongi has conversed with Jeongguk a lot the past months, and he honestly doesn’t know why Seokjin is afraid to tell the truth. It was very obvious from the way they moved around each other that the feelings were mutual. And with his hyung’s face? It was impossible for Jeongguk not to have developed a small crush on Seokjin at first glance. Everyone falls into this trap.

No one is exempt. 

No one.

Yoongi closes his eyes. 

“I never lied to him,” he hears Seokjin mumble indignantly by his feet. “I did want to help him... and he helped me find my passion again. It’s why we got into this in the first place.” 

“But you wanted more than that,” Yoongi offers. “You still want more than that.” 

Seokjin pauses.

“Is it wrong?”

“Not at all,” Yoongi says. “It’s not wrong to care for people, hyung. It’s always been in your nature. It just so happens that this time, there are more feelings attached to it. The lovey-dovey kind of feelings.”

“But do I deserve him? How will he fare if I bring him into this life? Gossip, criticism, the public eye scrutinizing him at every turn? He’s too… he’s—”

“No one really deserves anyone, hyung,” Yoongi replies. “We just do our best to try and be good enough to deserve people. That’s how life works."

"And Jeongguk? How will he-"

"He knows that we have to do our best to get the things we want. I'm pretty sure that if it's for you, the kid will do anything.”

“I just... I don’t like being vulnerable, Yoongi-yah,” Seokjin sighs. He finishes his own drink, eyes not leaving the snoring bundle of white Prada sheets in the middle of his living room. "I can't control myself around him. He makes me feel so vulnerable."

"Sometimes it's good to get out of our comfort zones, Seokjin-hyung."

"I guess. But I can't ask that from him." Seokjin sighs and shakes his head, sipping the last trickles of his champagne. “I’ll bring him to the guest room.”

 “Good,” Yoongi breathes. He knows he’s gotten through. "Because the snoring is about to give me a migraine.”

 


 

Jeongguk had been fidgety the whole day—a lot more than the usual twitches or pen nabbing. His legs were shaking, his wrists trembled, and everything seemed to put him on edge.

“What’s wrong, ‘Guk?” Jimin commented during their lunch break. Jeongguk couldn’t even bring a carton of milk to his mouth without shaking. “It feels like you’re about to explode." 

Taehyung answers for him. “He’s painting my brother naked tonight, so I think he’s really scared.”

Jimin freezes with wide eyes and frantically looks from Jeongguk to Taehyung like his life depended on it. “Oh my god is this for real?”

Jeongguk throws up a little in his mouth as Taehyung shrugs and gobbles up an entire panini. He pales.

“Although personally,” Taehyung says through his attempt at chewing. “I really don’t get why you’re so nervous. It’s just Seokjin-hyung.”

“Yeah,” Jimin plops down beside Taehyung and begins to gnaw at an apple. “Kim Seokjin, aka the Korean Adonis and Michelangelo of Barcelona. Hello? With those shoulders and lips? Those gallery views? He’s the living, breathing fantasy of every art student in Spain, I swear to—” 

“Okay. One,” Taehyung swallows, turns to Jimin, and raises a finger. “That’s my brother you’re talking about.  Don’t be gross. And two,” Taehyung turns to Jeongguk. “I know you’ve had this big crush on him forever, but his dick is just pretty and big but it’s not as pretty nor as big as mine, so you don’t have to worry—”

 

Jeongguk chokes on his milk and swears he passes out the rest of the day.

   


99



 

It’s quiet.

It wasn’t the mind-boggling, fireworks-filled night that Jeongguk imagined. He didn’t even have to hide a boner as soon as Seokjin de-robed. The only sounds in the expanse of Seokjin’s living room were the angry scrawls of graphite against canvas and the deep breathing of Seokjin and Jeongguk in a penthouse suite in uptown Barcelona.

Seokjin is, however, as beautiful as Jeongguk always imagined he would be. Perhaps even more beautiful, but Jeongguk thinks that anything more beautiful than what he initially imagined would’ve gotten him blind. Maybe that was why he saw stars when the robe glided off Seokjin’s frame and onto the marble finish. 

Jeongguk had to bite his lip so much to keep his jaw from hitting the floor.

Kim Seokjin was a daydream and a nightmare. Curves, edges, and smooth, smooth lines, decorated every nook of his features—from his head to his toes. His body wasn’t chiseled and hard, but it was soft, gentle, angry, and rough where it needs to be. It's hard to express on paper, Jeongguk thinks. Something this beautiful, this something cross-legged elegantly on the marble pedestal cannot be captured completely by his hands.

After the first ten minutes, Jeongguk notices the first shiver.

“Hyung, are you cold?”

Seokjin shakes his head.

After the first twenty minutes, Jeongguk notices the tenth shiver, and he’s extremely certain that the humid summer air is warm enough to breeze through the penthouse suite. After the first twenty minutes, Jeongguk realizes it isn’t the cold. 

He eyes the way Seokjin blinks intensely, the way his hyung holds his breath.

It’s fear.

Tantalizing, afraid, vulnerable.

The chandeliers above glisten against the sheen of sweat on Seokjin’s forehead, and Jeongguk feels a terrible pang that this discomfort was all his fault.  Jeongguk drops everything. 

He stands up gingerly, slowly, and walks to Seokjin while holding his breath.

Slowly.

Slowly.

Jeongguk eyes the shiver of the shoulders and kneels down in front of Seokjin who has bared it all. For me, he thinks.

Jeongguk kneels down in front of Seokjin and gently caresses the broad shoulders like he’s always dreamed of—

And finally plants a chaste kiss on his mouth. Soft. Slow. It tastes like red wine. Tastes like oil paints and freshly fried samgyeupsal. 

It tastes like Seokjin.

 

He doesn’t know why he did it. Why his feet and hands and mouth moved of their own accord. All Jeongguk knows is that fear is never something that Seokjin should feel around him. Fear is not in their dictionary. Jeongguk had spent a total of ninety-nine hours undressed in front of Seokjin, and in every one of those hours, he had never felt fear, had never been indecently touched, had always felt human and whole.

“It’s just me,” Jeongguk whispers against Seokjin’s lips. It was a kind reassurance, a hopeful note. It opened the door to Jeongguk’s feelings. “There’s nothing to be afraid of.” 

If Seokjin was to be vulnerable in front of Jeongguk, perhaps Jeongguk was to make himself vulnerable as well. It was self-sacrificing, understanding that Seokjin might not want him back in the same way, knowing that his hyung might break contact in lieu of their contract and never speak to him again. But Jeongguk desperately needed to stop Seokjin’s pain and—

“It’s not just you,” Seokjin sighs with his eyes closed. He leans forward and his fingers come up to hold Jeongguk’s cheeks. His fingers were cold, calloused. “Jeongguk… It is you. That’s why I’m so afraid.”

“But—”

“I’ve filled up my gallery with everything you are—" Seokjin interjects. “My walls, the corners of the floors, they're filled with you. Your hands, your eyes, your smile. Even without you in my living room, I find myself sketching you into my notepads and trying desperately to get you out of my head.”

Jeongguk trembles. “That’s okay-"

“No.” Seokjin grumbles. “I break pencils at the thought of you modeling for anyone else, I get worked up when you don’t text me as soon as you get home, and sometimes I don’t want you to go home. You should be afraid of me. You aren’t an object I can possess, Jeongguk. You should never be treated like an object.”

“You never did,” Jeongguk reassures him. “Hyung, you never did.”

“Then why are you still here?” Seokjin asks. “Didn’t I trap you here with the promise of money? A contract? I told you this wouldn't happen, but it just got harder and harder to stop myself and in the end—”

“No,” Jeongguk smiles. He crawls onto Seokjin’s lap and cups Seokjin’s face, bringing their breaths closer. “I am my own person. I choose to stay, hyung. I’ve been choosing to stay, and you treating me like I was human—it’s what kept me coming back all this time. Other than your really handsome face and killer Chapchae, of course.”

“Jeongguk,” Seokjin exhales and turns away. The attempt at humor was lost on him. “You don’t understand. I'm scared because I want you.”

Jeongguk’s breath hitches. “And I want to you too.”

Seokjin’s eyes are shut tight and Jeongguk feels him trembling under the contact of their skin. They shiver, they prickle, and all he can do is trace the curve of Seokjin’s jaw with a finger to reassure him that everything will be okay. Everything is alright. 

“That’s one of the problems,” Seokjin finally speaks. “How can you want something that’s not even half as beautiful as you?”

"That problem is the easiest to solve, hyung," Jeongguk grunts in confusion and pushes Seokjin down onto the podium, straddling his hips like he’s always dreamed of. Seokjin gulps from his position, head cradled by the robe he had removed moments ago.  “Would you like me to show you how beautiful I think you are?"

"Jeongguk."

"Seokjin-ah," Jeongguk says, and Seokjin's eyes alight. "Don't ever be scared around me, okay?"

 


 

Jeongguk kisses a stripe up Seokjin’s neck, beginning at the mole by his collarbones and ending by the base of his ear. It was something he’d always wanted to do— he'd dreamed of traveling the expanse of Seokjin's everything with nothing but his lips. The sound that Seokjin makes as he suckles on the soft skin makes Jeongguk’s hair stand on end.

“You’re fucking gorgeous,” Jeongguk breathes. Seokjin mewls with his arms pinned against the floor, eyes half closed as every sensation screamed at him for more. He groans as he feels tugging against his pants, breathing heavily as the friction escalated into a high. “I don’t know who told you you weren’t the most handsome man in the entire universe…"

"J-Jeongguk," Seokjin breathes. He squeezes tightly against Jeongguk's shoulders, bringing down the younger's face to lessen the space between them. This was more than what he asked for. Jeongguk was... is probably one of the biggest surprises of his life. After that night, they'd come together effortlessly, leisurely, and they worked through all their worries one at a time. To Seokjin's absolute surprise, Jeongguk wasn't close to leaving. He had promised to stay. To stay, and to backhug Seokjin through all the future dinners they were to cook.

Jeongguk mewls as Seokjin licks at his chest. 

"Was it Joon-hyung who told you? Because you’re definitely—“

“Oh my god did you just bring up my brother in the middle of sex—“

“Oh," they stop for a moment. "Oops.” 

 

 


202



Seokjin’s breath is hot against Jeongguk’s cheek as they move in unison, one pant after the other, one scream after the other. Piano chords rumble beneath them.

Jeongguk stills midway, forehead resting against Seokjin's. “Hyung—"

“Shh…”

“This- this life of yours. The champagne, the gondolas, taking trains to Italy to have photo shoots with Vespas— I don’t fit in."

"What do you mean?" Seokjin asks. "Can we talk about this another time? Because—"

Jeongguk shakes his head. "Look, I’m not asking you for any money. I’m just—What’s in it for you? You’ll give me everything, you already give me everything but— “

“I’ll have you.” Seokjin smiles. He kisses the back of Jeongguk’s head. “I’ll have you — and I’ll have your love. And perhaps nothing else will matter.” 

“Of course it matters. This is Barcelona.” Jeongguk argues. "Meat is expensive and kimchi is a bitch to find." 

"Jeongguk," Seokjin laughs. Even if they were buck naked on top of Yoongi's grand piano, clearly in the middle of something overtly obscenehe finds so much innocence and color in the way Jeongguk's forehead is scrunched.  “Exactly. It’s Barcelona.” He kisses the top of Jeongguk's head. "We can be whoever we want to be. And right now I'm in you, so can we please just—"


"But what will you tell your parents? Hey mom, hey dad, I'm marrying this nude model that Taehyung hired for my 25th birthday-"

"What is with you and mentioning my brothers while we have sex?"

 


 305



 

“You know — the first time you got naked, I thought there couldn’t be anyone more perfect than you.”

 “Really?” Jeongguk mumbles. “Well, you were clothed and I thought you were the most beautiful man I’ve ever seen. Had this big crush on you.” 

Seokjin is surprised.

“Really? You never thought I took to you out of pity?”

“I did at first," Jeongguk considered. "I thought you were just trying to help me out — but then... you used fresh pancetta in that first carbonara you fed me.”

“And? Pancetta is a staple in carbonara.”

“That’s a 60 euro slab of meat! You don’t feed that to a charity case.”

"I can't believe you base my affections over a piece of meat. I'm both flattered and horrified."

 

Jeongguk hums. "But... you do know I like eating your piece of meat, right?"

"Jeongguk!"