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Trouble I'm In

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“That’ll be fourteen eighty-seven, sir.”
 
Taehyung pulls out his wallet, sleek brown leather with the word Gucci printed on the side in gold. He fishes for some crisp bills and hands it to the cashier who takes it with a rehearsed smile.
 
“You usually only buy two bottles,” she says and points at the extra bottle of soju with long, chipped red fingernails that are long overdue for a manicure. “Special occasion or rough night?”
 
Taehyung tries a smile but it probably makes him look more tired than anything. His eyelids feel heavy and his back aches from sitting in an office chair for nearly ten hours straight. He’s eager to get out of the suffocating, black suit and into something more comfortable.
 
“Rough night,” he replies with a dramatic sigh and she laughs, the sound awkwardly loud in the store.
 
Taehyung had spent the entire day in his office trying to get a proposal that his department had been working on for the past few months finalized, only for it to be rejected. He’d even stayed an extra two hours, only to be told that his ideas weren’t innovative enough or whatever the fuck that was supposed to mean. And now, he just wants to knock back a few bottles of soju and drown in self-pity before passing out.
 
The doorbell chimes and the first thing Taehyung is hit with is the overwhelming stench of perfume. Second, the clack of heels against the dirty, white tiled flooring. It’s midnight on a Wednesday and Taehyung is expecting a women with aching feet, tired from her miserable day at the office. But when he turns his head, what Taehyung sees has his eyes nearly bulging right out of their sockets.
 
It’s a man, that’s for sure. But men don’t wear heels, nor do they wear pink sequin dresses that shine under fluorescent ceiling lights. When he moves, the color seems to move with him, swirling in the small, plastic sequins that gleam brightly whenever the light catches them.
 
The man (who looks more so a boy) has no real physically feminine feature, no thin waistline and delicate wrists. Instead, he’s slightly tanned, not as dark as Taehyung but gently sunkissed. His shoulders are broad and the dress is loose, hanging off one shoulder, exposing prominent collarbones and the start of— holy shit are are those pecs? His entire appearance is disheveled, dress scrunched up to reveal the smoothness of his thighs and brown hair sticking up in tangled clumps as if it had been yanked at. He’s wearing makeup as well but it’s all smudged; the black coal of his eyeliner and mascara is running, mixing with sweat to create a coon-eyed effect and the red lipstick he wears is smeared across his chin. When he moves from the entrance and down a row of shelves, he wobbles in his heels a little; they’re cream colored, soft in a way that isn’t as loud as the glitters of the dress.
 
Taehyung doesn’t realize that he’s been staring until the boy looks up from the rack to stare directly at him. The boy smirks, pretty red lips quirking up knowingly. Only then does Taehyung look away sharply when his brain finally registers that he’s been caught. His cheeks heating up in something akin to shame, Taehyung is quick to mutter polite goodbyes to the cashier before grabbing the alcohol and hightailing out of the store to the parking lot.
 
It’s quite dreary, with the pavement worn and cracked from being run over by countless semi trucks. The once bold white colors of the parking lines have now chipped away and faded until they’re nearly blended into the tar. The lights from the gas pumps are almost blindingly bright in a way that’s obnoxious. It’s definitely a place where Taehyung expects to be murdered. But who knows, he’s a regular here so maybe he gets some kind of murder free privilege. He barely notices the cold before he’s settled into the comfortable leather seat of his silver Mercedes and lets out a breath he hadn’t realized that he’d been holding.
 
Still kind of dying from embarrassment for being caught staring so openly, Taehyung carelessly throws the soju in the backseat before pressing his head against the steering wheel and tries to will away the mortification. It shouldn’t be this big of a deal, really. Ever since Taehyung had moved further away from the crowded downtown area of Chicago a few years ago, it had become routine to swing by the truck stop after work every night and buy some alcohol. It was just off the highway, fifteen minutes away from his house and Taehyung took solace in the emptiness of the stop whenever he went.
 
There were always late night truckers parked at the side of the building smoking cigarettes or taking a leak but they never bothered him, which Taehyung was grateful for because they all looked shady. Most of them were fat, white old men with unkempt beards and stomachs that fell over too tight belts. They were often loud and drunk and sometimes would whistle at Taehyung’s fancy car and call him a “pretty rich asian boy.”
 
From the past few years, Taehyung’s seen all sorts of people go in and out of it but never someone like the kid from earlier, all prettied up and dressed like some sort of drag queen. Was it a costume party in the early fall? A dare of some sorts? Taehyung shakes his head. It shouldn’t matter because it’s not like he’ll ever see the guy again, so it’s ridiculous to even think so hard about it—but Taehyung has always been slightly curious by nature.
 
Lifting his head from the steering wheel and pulling himself together with a couple soft taps on the cheek, Taehyung turns the key into the ignition, the car coming alive with a soft purr. He’s just ready to shift the into reverse when the passenger door opens so suddenly that he lets out a small squeak of surprise.
 
“I saw you starin’ at me in there,” he says before Taehyung can even register who he is.
 
Taehyung blinks, rubs his eyes and then blinks some more because maybe he really is just this stupidly tired because there’s no way that the same kid from earlier is currently sitting in his passenger seat. Except, he is and Taehyung can do nothing but gape like a fish because holy shit is he so much prettier close up. In the small confine of the Mercedes, the smell of floral perfume is even stronger than before and Taehyung can’t help but push himself against the door, repulsed by the cheap smell and confused as to why this kid is sitting in his car without a care in the world.
 
“What—”
 
“Do you wanna fuck me?” the boy cuts in, not allowing more than one syllable out of Taehyung’s mouth. “If you give me a ride I’ll let you fuck me.” His sultry voice is deep in a way that matches his physique and not the way he’s dressed. “You’re a cute one, I’ll even let you cum on my face if you want.” The boy is crass with his speech in a way that has Taehyung gaping like a fish at a complete loss for words. This has to be some kind of prank, right? Maybe Seokjin hired someone to mess with him for fun because he’s always the one to complain about how Taehyung literally does not have a life outside of his work.
 
“I—I’m so—” confused ?
 
The boy smirks and under the stupidly bright lights hanging above the gas pumps shining through the car window, the shadows on his face makes it a little intimidating. “Aw, don’t play shy,” he coos. The boy’s hand moves to touch Taehyung’s thigh and he jolts, slapping it away. The boy frowns and leans back. “Hm? Are you rejecting me?”
 
“D—did Seokjin put you up to this?” Taehyung finally manages to splutter out, because this has to be a prank.
 
The corners of the boy’s mouth twitches before he laughs. It’s soft and breathy and Taehyung swallows. “Who’s Seokjin? I’m just tryna show you a good time.”
 
Taehyung frowns. “Sorry, I’m not into that.”
 
The boy’s silent for a moment, face expressionless and Taehyung wonders if he’s about to be murdered in a truck stop parking lot at the age of thirty. But then the boy laughs, smile a bit too bright for midnight.
 
“I was just kiddin’, dollface.” He pulls back, giving Taehyung room to breathe finally. “I honestly just need a ride home if that’s okay with you? Promise that I’m not gonna rob you or nothin’ just cos’ you drive a fancy ass car.”
 
Taehyung raises a brow. “Why don’t you just take the bus, kid?”
 
The boy has the audacity to pout. “Don’t wanna. Plus that shit gets expensive, yeah? Living in Chicago ain’t cheap.”
 
There’s some random kid. In his car. Asking for a ride home. What the fuck.
 
Taehyung just blinks.
 
“Take the bus,” he repeats lamely. There’s no way in hell he’s giving some stranger a lift just because he has a nice face. Not that Taehyung’s attracted to him or anything because that would be weird. Besides, Taehyung likes soft, long hair and petite and curvy figures. He likes how girls are soft and gentle and men are nothing like that.
 
His parents had taught him to be mindful of public appearances since the moment he learned how to talk and stand on his own two feet. Caution was something that Taehyung knew all too well.
 
The boy has the audacity to look irritated. “Do you really think that a pretty lil’ thing like me would be safe riding public transport this late at night? Hm?”
 
He has a point, Taehyung knows this. He is all too aware of how dangerous the city of Chicago can be this late, especially for someone as...unique as the boy next to him. But still.
 
“And getting into some random guy’s car is supposed to be safer how?” he retorts, arching a single brow. “Do you know who I am?” he asks stiffly, hand slinking towards the door handle in case he needs to make a quick escape. What if some rival company had hired a hitman? What if he’s about to be kidnapped for ransom?
 
The boy snorts in disbelief. “What? No. I—” he rolls his eyes, fingers finding their way through his hair as he attempts to comb out the knots, but he only succeeds in getting his fingers caught instead. He yanks harder and Taehyung flinches at the sound of hair being pulled out, which the boy tries to play off by smoothing down his messy hair instead. “Why are all of you rich guys so goddamn egotistical? Look, I don’t care if you’re some fancy CEO or the king of China or whatever. I just wanna get home safely and you don’t look like the type of guy to try anything funny.”   
 
Taehyung purses his lips, fingers drumming against the steering wheel thoughtfully as he weighs his options. Yeah, he could just kick the kid out and be on his merry way. The alcohol is still in the backseat where he’d thrown it earlier and Taehyung’s bones ache from the stress of the day. He has nothing to gain from this really and he’s never been particularly nice or considerate, especially not to strangers, but the thought of something awful happening to someone so young just because Taehyung’s kind of sketched out and doesn’t feel like giving him a ride home leaves a bad taste in his mouth.
 
“Where do you live, kid?” he asks.
 
“Rosemont.”
 
Taehyung hums and doesn’t tell boy that he lives in the same area as well. Taehyung stares at the shadow of the boy’s neck and though he can’t see the hickies, he knows they’re there. He hesitates for a long minute. The boy waits quietly.
 
“Fine,” he mumbles. “I’ll take you home.”
 
“At what price?” the boy is quick with his tongue and there’s a suggestion flirting with his words.
 
“None,” Taehyung deadpans.
 
The boy looks surprised. “Seriously? You don’t want me to—”
 
“Listen,” Taehyung cuts in with a tired sigh. “Do you want a ride home or not?”
 
The boy nods ever so slightly, mouth parting slightly in disbelief that Taehyung wants nothing out of this, something that makes Taehyung kind of bitter because does he really look that kind of sleazy person?
 
“Whenever you’re ready, dollface.”  
 
For a brief moment, Taehyung questions every life decision he’s ever made in his life to lead up to this point and lets out another dragged out sigh. He shifts into reverse, backs out of the parking lot and exits the ramp out onto the highway for what he’s prepared to be the longest and most awkward drive of his life.
 
“I’m Jay,” the boy says after another minute of silent driving.
 
Taehyung glances over. “Is that a nickname?” he hums, fingers tapping against the steering wheel again, something he tends to do when he feels uneasy.
 
“You sound like you don’t believe me.” The boy pushes the button on the side to recline the seat and puts his feet on the dash, heels still on and everything. All crass and no manners. “Is it ‘cos I’m Asian? My name ain’t Jackie Chan if that’s what you’re wondering.”
 
“I wasn’t thinking that at all.” He glares at the feet on his dash. “Could you sit like a normal person, please?”
 
“Don’t worry. I won’t scratch up your expensive leather you big baby.” His feet sway from side to side, almost as if he’s teasing Taehyung. “What about you, hm? Gotta name to go with that face of yours?”
 
“V,” he blurts out with instant regret because it’s the first thing that comes to mind.
 
The boy—Jay, laughs. The loudness startles Taehyung, causing him to jump.
 
“There ain’t no way in hell your name is V.” Taehyung keeps his eyes focused on the road but he can practically see the mocking expression that’s probably on Jay’s face. “At least I can make mine sound believable, but you?” he tsks. “Nah, you’re first generation Chinese American or somethin’. Definitely not a Jap. Bet you got some pretty boy name like Xiao.”
 
Taehyung frowns. “I’m Korean, not Chinese. And you shouldn’t say Jap, it’s kinda racist.”
 
“You musta’ been here for a long time,” Jay says. “Your english is damn perfect.”
 
“Something like that,” Taehyung mutters. “Didn’t you just admit to using a fake name?”
 
“Did I?” Jay smiles coyly when Taehyung turns his head to give him a pointed look. “Should we play along with these little white lies for tonight? I’m Jay and you’re V, yeah?”
 
Taehyung wants to say that he’s not much of a liar but people like him don’t get where they are in life with honesty. The art of faking his identity is something he’s mastered to protect his personal life and family.
 
He turns off the highway ten minutes later and Jay guides him down some familiar streets until he says, “drop me off right here.”

“Are you sure?” Taehyung asks. It’s a familiar street with some old Czech restaurants and a park, and he knows that it’s a short walk aways from any of the neighborhoods.
 
“You’re cute but not cute enough for me to let you know exactly where I live,” Jay jokes before clambering out of the passenger’s seat when Taehyung pulls over to the side.
 
“It was nice meeting you...Jay,” Taehyung calls out hesitantly.
 
The boy (whose name is definitely not Jay) turns and leans down to peek his head back into the car. The makeup on his right eye is a little more smudged than before, probably from rubbing at it. He smirks. “It was a pleasure not really doin’ business with you, dollface—or should I call you V hyung?”  
 
Taehyung blinks in surprise. “You’re Korean?”
 
But Jay merely giggles. “Thanks for the ride. We’ll probably never run into each other again but if we do I’ll give you a kiss, hm?” he says instead.
 
Taehyung opens his mouth to tell Jay that he doesn’t swing that way, but in the span of twenty minutes he’s learned how abrupt of a person Jay is, so it doesn’t come as a surprise when he’s unable to even get a word in. Jay winks, blows him a kiss and calls him dollface one more time before slamming the door shut and strutting off down the sidewalk, tall and confident in killer heels. And for the millionth time that night, Taehyung is rendered speechless.

***

 
The second time they meet it’s nothing like fate, but more of an awkward coincidence. It’s been another long day, and when Taehyung steps out of the Mercedes he pops the first two buttons of his white dress shirt; runs his hand through his hair that’s starting to feel greasy, untamed. He sighs, and unlike last night he doesn’t exhale frost like dragon’s breath. It’s fall but the weather is bipolar; cold, warm, and then cold again. He tsks in annoyance, skin feeling like it’s melting in his black suit jacket, so he takes it off, throws it haphazardly in the car not really paying attention where it lands, the sound of the door slamming shut echoing throughout the lot.
 
The chime of the doorbell when he enters the store is familiar. He doesn’t check to see who’s at the register tonight, but rather he goes straight for the coolers, zoning in on the soju and grabbing two bottles this time. His stomach still feels kind of unsettled from last night. It had been yet another rough night, one of those nights where he had drank all his soju and had still felt empty so he had delved into his liquor cabinet. He turns around, spots a large glass bottle of Jack Daniels on one of the shelves and almost considers abandoning the soju for something with a little more kick for tonight, but reminds himself that that kind of alcohol is reserved for one’s lowest moments. Sure, Taehyung’s proposal that he’d worked on for months had been rejected but he hasn’t hit rock bottom yet.
 
He should be used to this by now, really. He’s worked his ass off at the company for years to get such an important position, and yet nothing he does has ever been good enough. The disappointment and hurt following each rejected proposal should be something that doesn’t affect him anymore, and yet, Kim Taehyung is a pitiful man.                        
 
He turns away, continues down the aisle and heads for the register, only to stop dead in his tracks at the sight of a familiar figure. Taehyung can’t see his face but who else could it be apart from Jay? The boy is wearing a black crop top today that shows off the hard lines of his six pack with ripped jeans that hug his ass and— oh my god, his thighs.
 
Taehyung shakes his head to clear his mind and swallows. He’s ready to turn back around and hide behind one of the shelves when Jay speaks.
 
“Ah, damn. I’m a dollar short,” he says. “Mind doing me a solid this time?”
 
The cashier (Taehyung recognizes as being on the more uptight side) shakes his head. “No can do, kiddo. If you don’t have enough money to pay up you’ll just have to come back next time.” He moves to grab the cigarettes from the counter and put it back in the cabinet behind him, but Jay is quick to rest a hand adorned with various rings on top of the cashier’s.
 
“C’mon baby,” he purrs. “Can’t you give me them just this once?” from behind, Taehyung can see the way his head tilts to expose his neck.
 
It seems to have the exact opposite effect because the man yanks his hand away from Jay like he’d just been burned. “Don’t touch me you fucking freak!” He shrieks loudly, words harsh and cruel in a way that makes even Taehyung flinch back.
 
Taehyung can see the way that Jay’s shoulders stiffen and decides to step in, lest things turn any uglier. He smoothly steps in front of the boy, sets his soju down and pulls out some cash. “I’ll take those cigarettes as well.”
 
The cashier’s eyebrows shoot up. “You sure?”
 
Taehyung doesn’t look at Jay but he can feel the warmth next to him. To be honest, he’s afraid that if he looks he’ll lose whatever cool guy stunt he’s trying to pull off.
 
So he shoots a fake smile towards the cashier instead. “Positive.”
 
He pays for everything and it isn’t until they’re stepping out of the store that Taehyung finally turns around, holding up the pack of cigarettes towards Jay that he recognizes as Camel Blues. “You shouldn’t smoke,” he says. “It’ll kill you eventually.”
 
Jay doesn’t even hesitate when he daintily plucks the box out of Taehyung’s hands with manicured fingernails painted lilac. “You really didn’t have to do that, but thanks.” He doesn’t sound apologetic at all as he ignores Taehyung’s words and tears the wrapper off from the box. “I can pay you back any way you’d like.” Jay smirks suggestively around the filter of the cigarette he puts in his mouth, hand cupping around the flame of the lighter as he lights the stick up.
 
“It’s fine,” Taehyung replies curtly.
 
“Ain’t it crazy how we meet like this again?” Jay says with a giggle. “It’s only been twenty four hours. Couldn’t wait to see me, could you?” he winks, smirking around the cigarette. “Didn’t I promise you a kiss?”
 
Jay looks more put together today. There’s no runny makeup to create coon eyes and crusted eyeliner, plus his hair doesn’t look like sex. His eye makeup is smoky: all black with dark eyeshadow that extends into a cat-eye and lipstick a deep, burgundy color. He looks good like this, almost like some chic punk rocker. The entire concept is completely different from last time but enticing all the same.
 
“I come here after work a lot,” Taehyung explains, completely ignoring the flirtation.  
 
“Do you now?” Jay hums and Taehyung instantly regrets telling him this.
 
He gives Taehyung a once over, biting his bottom lip and making a pleased noise in the back of his throat. “Why does someone like you come to a shady ass place like this?”
 
Taehyung shrugs. “I’ve been coming here for years and no one ever really bothers me.”
 
“Ooo, I like a man who’s fearless like that.” He takes another drag, and Taehyung watches the paper burn orange and Jay flicks the ash away. “But you must have some fears?”
 
Taehyung shrugs. “Not really.”
 
“Everyone is scared of something, dollface.” Jay’s gaze is piercing in a way that makes Taehyung think that he can see something that Taehyung can’t, like he’s prying open Taehyung’s ribs to see what’s really inside of him and Taehyung looks away, skin burning with something unpleasant that makes him want to rip it all off. It’s like he’s staring into the wide mouth of the sea and no, he’s not scared. His parents had taught him how to kill his fears.
 
So he says “I’m afraid of spiders” to keep it simple because it’s such a common thing to be scared of and it won’t hurt him to say out loud. He doesn’t shake at this, doesn’t shake the way he did when he was sixteen and it’s easy, shallow. “All bugs scare me,” he adds on.
 
“Are you afraid of dying?”
 
“Everyone is,” Taehyung’s response is instant and sure. Because it’s true, everyone is afraid of death. Again, he tries to keep it shallow and not think about dying because he’s not sure if he would really even be scared.
 
Jay snorts. “You rich guys must have it so easy for your worst fears to be fucking spiders and dying.”    
 
Easy? Taehyung think about his monotonous ten to twelve hour office shifts and how he hasn’t taken time off of work in three years. He thinks about how much he has to pretend in order to get sponsors to like him and how he’s constantly under the public's scrutiny. Money makes me lonely he almost says because in an industry where the world wants to eat him, he’s never learned to be close to anyone and he wonders if he really does have it easy.
 
But instead, he chuckles and says, “I guess I do.”
 
Jay must sense a change in mood because he’s quiet for a moment. He looks around the lot and when he finally sees Taehyung’s Mercedes he smirks, blows smoke out and says, “mind giving me another ride?”
 
Taehyung should say no.
 
“Why not?” he says instead with a shrug. What the fuck is his problem? He pulls out his keys, the headlights flashing brightly when he hits the unlock button and Jay is quick to move to the passenger seat and get in before Taehyung’s even opened the driver door. “What are you doing, Kim Taehyung?” he mutters to himself, too low for Jay to pick up.
 
This time, Taehyung is a little bit more prepared for Jay’s weirdness on the drive back but not by much.
 
“So you come often after work, hm?” he has his feet on the dash again and Taehyung hates him for this. “What exactly is it that you do?”
 
Taehyung shrugs. “Not much. Just a typical office job.”
 
“You really expect me to believe that?” Jay reaches down to pick up the suit jacket that Taehyung had thrown in the car earlier and fumbles with it to find the tag. “You’re like a walking closet of Armani and you expect me to believe that you’re some normal office worker?”
 
“It was a gift,” he says but it sounds like some lame excuse in his mouth.
 
“A gift,” Jay deadpans.
 
“Uh, yeah?”
 
“Was this Mercedes a gift too? Or how about that Rolex on your wrist, was that a gift as well?”
 
“I don’t think we’re close enough to be asking these kinds of questions,” Taehyung replies stiffly.
 
“Fine,” he huffs before he leans back and crosses his arms.
 
It’s silent for a few minutes and Taehyung knows that it’s best this way. The two of them don’t really know each other and he’s only just giving this kid a ride so he should really keep his mouth shut. But Taehyung can’t help it, honestly. He’s never met someone quite like Jay before and all of the questions just build in his throat to create a monument.
 
“What’s your real name?”
 
Jay, who’d been watching the street lamps pass by out the window, turns his head. “What’s yours?”
 
“You first.”
 
“I thought we aren’t close enough to be asking these kinds of questions,” he retorts. “Unless we’re fuck—”
 
“We’re not.” Taehyung can feel his left eye twitching in irritation because why does this kid have to make everything so goddamn sexual?
 
“Sad,” he says with the slight pout of his bottom lip. “I’m sure you’re great in bed.”
 
“That’s for me to know and you to never find out,” Taehyung replies dryly.
 
Jay laughs, throws a wink at Taehyung and says, “challenge accepted.”
 

***

 
It’s a Tuesday night and Taehyung is just as deathly tired as always. It’s his routine soju stop and these days it seems like he’s been buying a lot more alcohol for his midnight pity parties. It’s one of those nights where he’s really not in the mood for any kind of human contact, nothing particularly awful had happened at work, it had been the same, bone drying kind of day and besides his team cooking up a revised proposal, Taehyung had nothing but paperwork to do all day and he’d only had to stay thirty minutes after his shift ended this time. It’s just one of those days, really; one of those days when life seems so much more exhausting than usual and each sentence is punctuated by a long sigh and maybe he’ll cave in and grab that bottle of Jack Daniels tonight. It’s one of those no bullshit nights.
 
Too bad that bullshit always seems to find him anyways.
 
He’s barely just stepped foot into the store when a familiar voice, loud and angrily hits him.
 
“What the fuck do you think you’re doing?” Jay is standing near the coolers, looking as striking as ever but that’s not what makes Taehyung frown. There’s an older white man in his late fifties that Taehyung recognizes as the store owner. He’s got a grip on Jay’s left elbow like iron and he doesn’t look too happy, face twisted in rage.
 
“I should be askin’ you that, boy!” he yells back. “You think I ain’t seen you stealin’ them beers?”
 
“I didn’t steal jack shit, you fuckin’ crazy old man.”
 
Jay tries to yank his arm away but the owner refuses to let go, gives him a sharp pull even and growls. “I have eyes in the back of my head, ya’ hear? You think I ain’t heard about you and what you been doing around these parts?” he squeezes, fingers creating craters in Jay’s smooth skin. “My employees been tellin’ me ‘bout all the weird shit you been doing!” his nose flares, eyes narrowed into slits. “Prancin’ in here dressed up like sum’ little girl trynna’ seduce good men for free shit. Wearin’ dresses and frills like a—like a faggot.”  
 
The slur is like a punch to the gut and Taehyung swallows, the air suddenly feels suffocatingly cold.
 
Jay’s body goes tight like a bow string. “Let go of me.” His voice is unsteady with emotion. “I didn’t steal shit,” he repeats lowly.
 
“Is something the matter here?” Taehyung finds himself speaking up.
 
Both of them snap their attention towards Taehyung and upon seeing who it is, the owner’s demeanor changes drastically. “Don’t worry ‘bout it, sir. Jus’ caught some kid stealin’ is all.” He waves a hand dismissively. “I’ll call the cops real fast.”
 
Taehyung doesn’t miss the way Jay’s eyes widen at the mention of law enforcement and while the logical part of his brain tries to convince him that it’s none of his business, that he should just walk away; Taehyung can’t help but feel a surge of protectiveness towards the stranger he’d only met days ago.
 
“How much does he owe?”
 
“There’s no need to worry ‘bout that, sir. The cops’ll—”
 
How much? ” Taehyung repeats more firmly this time.  
 
“Twenty-dollars.”
 
Jay looks red in the face, lips pulled tautly down as he opens his mouth and begins to say, “you—”
 
“I’ll pay twice the amount if you let him go.”
 
The owner’s eyes widen. “But sir, why would you do that? Do you know this kid?” he shakes Jay by the elbow again and something ugly and black bubbles in the pit of Taehyung’s stomach.
 
“Yes. So I suggest you let go of him right now,” he says coldly.
 
The owner is quick to comply at his icy words and almost instinctively, Taehyung steps to stand in front of Jay, who’s rubbing at his elbow, the skin around it red from where he’d been manhandled so roughly.
 
Taehyung pulls out his wallet and fishes out a twenty dollar bill.
 
“You shouldn’t be defendin’ that freak,” the owner says, shooting Jay a glare. “I reckon’ he ain’t bring ya anythin’ but trouble, sir.”  
 
Taehyung inhales deeply and tries to control himself. “I don’t think it’s very professional for someone who runs a business to talk to their customers that way.” He then leans forward to whisper lowly so that Jay can’t hear. “And if you ever put your hands on him like that again, I’ll fucking shut this shitty little place down, you hear me?” He watches the way the man gapes like a fish in disbelief. “What, you don’t think I’m serious?” he chuckles dangerously. “I’ll have you on the streets like a beggar next time you even look at him the wrong way.” Taehyung then pulls back, smiles apologetically and says loud enough for Jay to hear, “sorry about all the trouble. It won’t happen again,” and then guides Jay out by the small of his back.
 
“You need a ride?” he asks as soon as they step out. It feels like an ugly night, the vehicles from the freeway sound louder, lights brighter in a way that hurts his head.
 
Jay shrugs nonchalantly. “If you’re offering.”
 
He doesn’t seem affected by what had just went down, just throws himself against the passenger seat and makes an annoyed sound at the back of his throat. “What a stingy old man. It was just a few fucking snacks.”
 
“So you really stole then?” Taehyung inquires with a raised brow, not at all surprised but a little put off by the fact that Jay would admit it so shamelessly.
 
“What? You gonna call the cops?” he challenges with a roll of his eyes. He pulls out a piece of bubblegum from his pocket and pops it in his mouth, throwing the wrapper on the floor without care.  
 
Taehyung sighs in exasperation. “You’re really something else, you know?”
 
Jay winks, puckers his pretty lips to blow a bubble that expands and pops loudly in the car. “Oh, I know it, dollface.”
 

***

 
Taehyung doesn’t see Jay for the next week and he supposes that since the owner had damn near called the cops on him, he’ll never come back and Taehyung knows that this means he’ll never see the strange boy again. It shouldn’t bother him, really. They don’t know each other and from an objective point of view, Taehyung was just trying to help out some random kid going through what he presumes to be hard times. They hadn’t even learned each other’s real names.
 
And yet, Taehyung can’t help but feel that something is missing. Things seem a lot blander now. They had only met thrice, but Jay had brought some color to Taehyung’s monochrome world of adulthood. He still held the exhilaration and recklessness of youth that Taehyung had lost long ago and that had been something that he had slightly envied Jay for. The change isn’t mind blowingly different. This isn’t some shitty romance novel where the main character falls in love at first sight and honestly, Taehyung is able to go about his daily life without thinking much about it. He still has the perfect job and the perfect life. He still has girls constantly falling over him and his wallet only gets fatter every day. It’s only when he’s back in the truck stop for some more alcohol that things begin to get a little solemn.
 
It’s for the best though, Taehyung thinks. People like Jay are bad for his image anyway.
 
It’s a bit later than usual when Taehyung’s finally able to leave the office. He debates on whether or not he should make a detour to the truck stop and buy something lighter like a six pack of beer this time or if he should just go home and pass the fuck out. He decides the former and this time he doesn’t even think about Jay when he pays the cashier.
 
He’s ready to go home and maybe watch a short movie but he kind of really has to pee, and although Taehyung hates using public restrooms with a passion, his bladder is screaming at him. He shifts onto his right leg and doesn’t think he can hold it. He asks where the bathroom is, to which the cashier gives him a key and says that it’s outside, on the side of the building. He scrunches his nose when he realizes it’s that kind of bathroom.
 
He notices that there are a fair amount of truckers tonight. As usual, some are smoking or conversing with each other. There are voices interlacing into deep conversations, probably old friends catching up on old times. Taehyung notices two men standing close to each other next to the door of a green truck. One’s murmuring lowly and the other giggles. For a split second, the breathy noise sounds a little too familiar, but Taehyung doesn’t much of it because his bladder is demanding his attention.
 
The bathroom is disgusting of course. The urinal has a yellow tinge to it from piss and the drain is brown. Taehyung scrunches his nose in disgust but relieves himself. He uses a few paper towels to turn on the sink because there’s no way in hell he’s touching anything in this bathroom. He holds his breath nearly the entire time until he’s back outside, shuddering to himself because that was definitely the worst bathroom experience ever—or maybe he’s just being a privileged dramatic prick.  
 
He’s about to head back to his car when the same two men from earlier catch his attention. They’re still close but unlike before, nothing about their postures is relaxed or playful. The first man seems to have the other man pinned against the truck, gripping his wrists and pressing their bodies together. He’s whispering something harsh in the second man’s ear, who’s no longer giggling and struggles against the pressure. Taehyung doesn’t really have any interest in anything shady that goes on at truck stops and is just about to turn around and continue on his merry way when the first man stumbles back from being pushed by the man who had been pinned down.
 
It’s dark so Taehyung can’t really clearly make out who they are, but the second man hisses something lowly and begins to walk away. He doesn’t get far though because the first man grabs him by his wrist and yanks so hard that he nearly falls over.
 
“The fuck do you think you’re goin’?”
 
“Let go of me!” he yells and there’s something familiar about the voice that makes Taehyung swallow, dread stirring in the pit of his stomach. He squints his eyes to try and distinguish the two better with little success.
 
He shakes the first man off and the sound of heels against asphalt is all too familiar to Taehyung. But it isn’t until he steps further away from the truck and under a street light that Taehyung’s eyes widen in surprise. At the same time, the man that Jay had just shaken off marches towards him angrily.
 
It’s all in slow motion from there. The man yells some obscene words his way, chubby face twisted in anger and Jay rolls his eyes, opens his mouth to say something snarky that never comes because the pudgy man pulls his arm back before lashing out to hit his open palm against Jay’s cheek, his head snapping to the side with the force as he stumbles back. The sound of Jay being slapped is harsh and deafening, causing some heads to turn.
 
It’s none of Taehyung’s business. None. Of. His Business.


“Hey!” Taehyung shouts, feet heavy against the asphalt as they carry him across the lot to where they stand. He throws himself in between them, shielding Jay from the man. “Don’t touch him like that!”
 
“What are you doing here?” Jay asks in surprise, the same time that the pudgy man barks out a who are you?
 
“It doesn’t matter who I am. Don’t touch him like that.” Taehyung tries to seem intimidating, puffs out his chest and lowers his voice. The man is kind of scary, if he’s to be quite honest. He’s a bit shorter than Taehyung and definitely fatter, but he’s got tattoos snaking all the way up his arms and his neck. Although his head is shaved, his beard is unkempt with the salt and pepper look, signifying that he must be significantly older—definitely twenty years or so. He’s wearing a white shirt with a large brown stain on it, tucked into ill-fitted washed out jeans with holes in him.
 
“Are you trying to pick a fight, boy?” the man growls with a step forward, chubby fingers clenching into a fist.
 
To be honest, Kim Taehyung is not made for physical confrontation—like, at all. Sure he’s wealthy as hell and could shut this entire place down with just a phone call and yeah, if this guy starts throwing punches, Taehyung could file a lawsuit so big that it would put the man in crippling debt for the rest of his life. And if his parents found out...well, his mother had always been a little morally unhinged when it came to the whole revenge thing (he really wouldn’t put it past her to fabricate evidence that would throw this man in prison for at least a decade) but Taehyung also knows that if he gets a knife or gun pulled on him no amount of money can save him. Taehyung also knows that his arms are noodly, his stomach soft and that the last time he exercised was his junior year of highschool.  
 
So yeah, he’s kind of a pussy. Sue him.
 
Taehyung considers just apologizing and going on his merry way because this is really none of his business and the way that Jay holds his breath behind Taehyung has sweat beading at his forehead. His eyes dart around frantically as if a savior will magically appear and he knows that his next choice of words will determine whether or not he gets his ass kicked—or stabbed. (Who knows at this point).
 
“He’s mine!” Taehyung blurts out. He’s not even quite sure what mine is supposed to mean and internally he’s slamming his head against a brick wall at the cringe. It’s just that when Taehyung is put in these kinds of stressful situations where he really doesn’t know what to do, his brain kind of gives up on him and he’s left sputtering out nonsense.
 
He’s resigned himself to death at this point, but then the man laughs and he doesn’t look angry anymore but rather kind of nervous. “Sorry. I didn’t realize that he was one of yours,” the man says, sounding quite docile. “It gets hard to tell which ones are up for grabs at times. I ain’t mean to cause trouble to you.”
 
Taehyung furrows his eyebrows, mouth falling open at a loss for words. He’s not quite sure what he’s supposed to say in this kind of situation because he doesn’t know exactly what the hell is even going on in the first place. Luckily, Jay is quick-witted enough to put on an act. He steps forward, hand slinking around to link arms with Taehyung, he pushes his body against Taehyung’s side and tilts his head sideways with a pout.
 
“Please don’t be mad at me,” he practically whines. And fuck, Taehyung really should be mad that Jay put him in such an awkward situation but then Jay has the audacity to bat his stupid long eyelashes and Taehyung feels something weird in the pit of his stomach.
 
“I told you not to wander off,” Taehyung pretends to scold him and he really can’t believe that they’re putting on this ridiculous act—which seems to work by the way because the greasy man backs off and Taehyung doesn’t hesitate in grabbing Jay’s wrist and dragging him away before the man changes his mind.
 
He doesn’t stop until they’re back in the front of the store and turns around on Jay so suddenly that the kid crashes into him with a soft ompfh before stumbling backwards. “What the hell was that?” Taehyung’s tone is sharp and slightly irate.
 
“What was what?”
 
“You know what I mean,” says Taehyung with a scoff.
 
Instead of answering him, Jay walks over to the Mercedes and lightly taps on the glass of the passenger door. “It’s getting cold and I really don’t wanna be here in case that creep gets back. Say we get out of here, dollface?”
 
Taehyung sighs at Jay’s complete dismissal of whatever the fuck had just happened but relents anyways and unlocks the car (mainly because Jay is right and he really doesn’t want to be stabbed tonight).
 
“Ugh,” Jay groans as soon as they’ve hit the highway. His feet are on Taehyung’s dash again, heels taller than usual and Taehyung can see his painted toenails. He lulls his head back against the headrest and closes his eyes. “Men can be so fickle, I swear.” He lets out a rather dramatic sigh and says, “you’re the only one I can trust.”
 
Taehyung snorts. “We barely even know each other.” There’s a beat of silence that he quickly fills because there’s too many questions and not enough answers brewing in his head. “I think you owe me an explanation.”
 
“Not really.”
 
“I just saved your ass,” Taehyung points out. “So yeah, you do.”
 
Another shrug. “Nothing really. I was just askin’ him for a ride home and at first he seemed chill or whatever but then he got all fuckin’ creepy about it, man.”
 
His explanation sounds strange and rehearsed to Taehyung’s ear but he’s in no position to push a guy he’s known for only two weeks. So Taehyung doesn’t say what he’s thinking, that Jay is lying and there was definitely something more to that. But it’s not like Taehyung has any conclusion of his own and Jay’s explanation is plausible enough.
 
“Do you normally ask random truckers for rides?” he asks instead.
 
“Yeah. My job’s a bit far from Rosemont and I’m too broke to buy a car, plus bus fees add up so…”
 
Taehyung swallows at this revelation. The thought of someone like Jay all prettied up and attractive (in a completely hetero way of course) asking questionable truckers for a ride home every night makes him feel unsettled.
 
“You shouldn’t do that. It’s dangerous,” Taehyung admonishes.
 
Jay shifts in the passenger seat as if to make himself more comfortable. Eyes still closed, he sinks further into the seat, almost as if he’s about to doze off. But Taehyung knows that he’s still listening.
 
“I can handle myself.”
 
Taehyung averts his gaze from the road for a split second to give Jay a look of disbelief that he can’t see. “Yeah, because you were completely handling yourself back there.”
 
“Don’t expose me like that.”
 
Taehyung almost laughs but that would be too friendly and Taehyung’s not even sure what to classify their relationship as. They’re certainly not close enough to be friends but Taehyung also doesn’t go around saving strangers in parking lots either.
 
“I think you owe me your name while we’re at it.” He’s feeling a little bold tonight, like Jay isn’t completely intangible now that Taehyung has something to hold over him.
 
“We barely even know each other,” he echoes.
 
“I could have been stabbed or shot in the head saving your ass.”
 
Jay opens his eyes at this and gives Taehyung an exasperated look. “Are you really guilt tripping me into telling you my name?”
 
“Maybe.”
 
Jay rolls his eyes. “And I thought that I was the drama queen.”
 
“You are,” Taehyung deadpans. He doesn’t say it, but he desperately wants to know this kid’s name for some inexplicable reason. And it makes no sense because Taehyung is not the kind of person who cares enough to even try and get to know people past familiar pleasantries. He’s especially not the type to pick up weirdos who cross dress on the street either. But there’s just something about Jay that makes Taehyung alight with wonder and he hates it.
 
The car is silent after that. Jay doesn’t seem like he’s going to answer Taehyung’s question any time soon and the latter is too tired to pester him about it. Taehyung can’t help but feel bitter about it because he just really wants to know this strange kid’s name for christ sakes. It’s childish. Taehyung is never childish.
 
“Jeongguk.”
 
“Hm?”
 
“My name.” His words are hesitant. “It’s Jeongguk.”
 
“Jeongguk,” Taehyung tests the syllables on his tongue and decides that he likes it
 
It sounds nice.
 
“I’m Taehyung.” He hates the way he gives out his name so easily, something that his parents have always cautioned him of. Jeongguk hadn’t even asked and yet Taehyung opened his mouth without a second thought. It gives him slight anxiety, but he figures that there are plenty of other Kim Taehyung’s in America, right? Sure, it might be a little riskier since Jeongguk is also Korean but telling one person shouldn’t hurt.
 
“That’s a cute name,” says Jeongguk. “Definitely not the twink chinese name I was expecting.”
 
“That’s—”
 
“I’m joking.”  
 
Taehyung pretends to be annoyed because Jeongguk is offensive and immature in a way that should be distasteful, but he ends up almost laughing instead.
 
“You don’t smile much.” Jeongguk tilts his head and observes Taehyung with careful eyes.
 
“Yeah I do, just not around you.” Taehyung’s words seem like a lie to even his own ears but Jeongguk’s insightfulness is very much not appreciated. Taehyung is sure that he does smile often. He smiles at the cashiers at the truck stop, he smiles at his co-workers in the morning when they greet each other. But it all seems like a sham, like something abstract and unreal.
 
“I bet it’s beautiful,” Jeongguk teases and Taehyung’s ears burn because he’s not used to getting such unabashed compliments from other men.
 
“Stop being weird about things,” he mumbles and Jeongguk just laughs and calls him cute.
 
Taehyung doesn’t say much after that but Jeongguk talks enough to fill up the car with his voice and while Taehyung usually drives with the radio a little too loud, whenever Jeongguk’s around he doesn’t even turn it back on. Even the sound of other cars passing become like background noise because Jeongguk’s voice is warm and full of passion in a way that sings like a song in Taehyung’s ears. No homo, of course.
 
When Taehyung finally stops at the street that Jeongguk always asked to be dropped off at, he turns in his seat to face Jeongguk, seat belt digging into his shoulder. “Don’t ask people you don’t know for rides anymore,” he says.
 
“You expect me to walk home?” Jeongguk says dryly whilst rolling his eyes.
 
“No, I—” Taehyung swallows. It’s not too late to change his mind and just send Jeongguk on his way. It would be the smarter move, honestly. Taehyung had just learned his name after all. And yet, a part of him cares about this kid who dresses how he wants and wears glitter on the high points of his cheek and speaks vulgarly without care of social cues. “Give me your number.”
 
Jeongguk’s eyebrows disappear into his fringe before his eyes hood into something more sultry. “You need a booty call? Didn’t expect you to make a move so fast, we only just learned each other’s names after all.”
 
Taehyung really does blush this time. “That’s not it you idiot.” Jeon Jeongguk is completely unfathomable. “Can you just chill out and not be an immature pervert for once, kid?”
 
Jeongguk looks annoyed. “I’m not a kid so you can stop calling me that.”
 
Taehyung snorts. “You look like you could still be in high school.”
 
“I’m twenty-two you asshole,” says Jeongguk with a glare.
 
“You’re still a kid,” Taehyung deadpans even if he’s actually quite surprised that Jeongguk isn’t eighteen but an actual adult even if he doesn’t act like one. “Anyways, I’ll give you rides from now on which is why I need your number.”
Jeongguk looks suspicious. “Are you serious?”
 
“Completely.” Taehyung nods.
 
“But...why would you do that?” Jeongguk furrows his eyebrows, expression perplexed in a way that portrays his youth. Taehyung almost finds it cute. Almost.
 
“I don’t know,” says Taehyung with a shrug. For once, he’s being honest. When it comes to Jeongguk, he really doesn’t know. It’s an answer that evades him, something that leaves goosebumps on Taehyung’s skin because he’s the kind of man who always has the answers. He’s the kind of man who doesn’t leave any room for being unsure and the last time his hands had shook he’d gotten hit hard across the face.
 
Taehyung doesn’t like people he can’t solve. Taehyung doesn’t like people who leave his tongue swollen in his mouth. He had a schedule and Jeongguk just messes it all up.
 
He looks to Jeongguk’s six-inch heels, now halfway out of the car and how it turns him into the Eiffel Tower, and his fishnets and tight leather dress that looks way to sexy on him and—and Jeongguk is a catastrophe that Taehyung shouldn’t get any closer to.
 
Jeongguk steps out fully and turns around, leaning into the car just like the first time they had met. “I’ll only say it one time dollface so you better listen up.” Taehyung holds his breath when Jeongguk rattles off his number and doesn’t breathe again until Jeongguk’s slammed the door and strutted down the sidewalk.
 
He repeats the number in his head like a mantra, holds onto every syllable like a prayer. His fingers are clumsy when he fishes his phone out of the inner pocket of his suit and he almost forgets how to count when he pulls up his contacts list and adds Jeongguk’s number to it. A part of Taehyung’s mind reasons that giving out his personal number to some strange guy he’d barely known for two weeks is dangerous and that if he wants to call Jeongguk, he should just call Jeongguk from his secretary’s phone. But another part of him, the curious and secretly reckless part wants to take this risk—to hell with his career.
 
Taehyung isn’t sure when to text Jeongguk and it isn’t until  he’s sitting in his living room, watching reruns of the Office and halfway through his second bottle of soju that he finally summons liquor courage to do so.
 
You : When will I see you again?
 
He sends the message only for his face to quickly heat in embarrassment. Does he sound too desperate? He sighs, throwing himself flat against the couch, soju sloshing out and landing on his white t-shirt. At least it’s not Gucci.
 
The soju doesn’t burn going down anymore like it used to in his early twenties when the only thing he ever drank was a glass of wine or two at social gatherings because keeping face also means drinking shitty three-hundred dollar red wine so that no one could start whispering behind his back about alcoholism. But Taehyung’s older now and he has his own million dollar home with six extra empty bedrooms and god —he’s so fucking lonely.  
 
He laughs, a choked sound catching in his throat that he drowns with five more mouthfuls of alcohol. The last thing that he remembers before he passes out is Steve Carell making another joke that Taehyung’s heard a million times. He laughs anyways, even if it rings hollowly in his too big house. Even if it hurts
 

***

 
It’s been four days of Taehyung constantly checking his phone and Jeongguk still hasn’t texted him back, nor has he seen him at the truck stop (which shouldn’t be surprised after what happened the last time). In the meantime, Taehyung tries to avoid the fact that Jeongguk had totally read his message and ignored him by working on paperwork that’s been piling up—or he could have totally entered the wrong number which would be a million times worse.
 
“You look stressed,” Seokjin points out as he sets a bottle of painkillers and hot tea on Taehyung’s desk. “And this is the third hangover you’ve had this week. Might want to ease up on the alcohol a bit, boss.”
 
Taehyung tries to glare at his secretary but it turns into more of an awkward squint because his head is fucking killing him and making facial expressions hurt. “I’m fine,” he says stiffly. “Just a little headache is all.”
 
Right. It’s definitely not because your blood is made of alcohol or anything.”
 
“I don’t think this is something you should be discussing with your superior,” Taehyung warns with a frown pulling at the corners of his mouth.
 
Seokjin is unperturbed. He just snorts and says, “take your medicine you ass.”
 
Taehyung’s not the kind of boss with a wide smile and friendly laugh despite his pretty appearance. If he were to describe himself, he’d heard one of his female techs call him a “nightmare to deal with” . Some would say he takes his job way too seriously, which is something that Taehyung will never understand because of course he takes his job seriously. The industry he works in is cutthroat and there’s never any time to slack off or fool around. It wasn’t as if Taehyung was mean or anything, because he wasn’t, just incredibly stoic. Hard to impress and even harder to please, his employees often look at him with nervous eyes.
 
Seokjin has been someone that Taehyung has worked with since his early days at the company,  back when he was still young and had yet to secure his position. He had been a little different then, a little bit less stone faced and tight lipped and the bags under his eyes weren’t as prominent. Seokjin always complains about how boring he is and Taehyung only lets Seokjin get away with it because he’s the closest thing to a friend that Taehyung has.
 
Seokjin would even go as far as to call them best friends but Taehyung is the kind of person who is always tightly wound up and never lets anything get past the surface. He’s not quite sure if he’s the kind of person who has a best friend.
 
It’s when Seokjin turns to leave that Taehyung blurts out, “how do you know if someone is ignoring you?”
 
He whips around quickly, eyes narrow and calculating. Taehyung refuses to look at him, staring at the words on the paper before him and pretending to flip through the pages. He signs it without really reading what any of it says but he just needs something to keep himself from being too obvious.
 
“What do you mean?”
 
“I mean, hypothetically speaking, if you hypothetically have been kind of talking to someone for a couple of weeks now and they finally hypothetically give you their number,” he grabs another stack of papers, “and you hypothetically text them and it’s been four days and they still haven’t responded, are they hypothetically ignoring you?”
 
“Do you like this person?” Seokjin asks, not missing a beat. “Hypothetically of course.”
 
Taehyung shakes his head, still refusing to look up. “Uh, hypothetically they’re a bit too strange for that kind of relationship,” and I’m not gay, “but they are an interesting person so I guess in a hypothetical situation I would be hoping for a response.”
 
“Have you tried hypothetically texting them since then?”
 
“No.”
 
Seokjin shrugs. “Maybe you should.” The corner of his lips twitch and it’s obvious he’s trying not to laugh. “Hypothetically speaking.”
 
It’s a few moments of stagnant quiet before Taehyung speaks up again. “Seokjin?”
 
“Yeah?”
 
“Why are you still here?”
 
“Jeez, I’m going. I’m going already.”
 
He knows that Seokjin is right and that he should probably try and message Jeongguk once more. Maybe the kid had been busy and had just forgotten to respond, or maybe he didn’t take Taehyung’s offer seriously. But still, there’s something akin to embarrassment burning inside of him that makes him hesitant in a way that isn’t at all like how an almost thirty-year-old man should act.
 
Taehyung doesn’t text Jeongguk again. He does a lot of staring at the last message he sent, not knowing if Jeongguk was ignoring him or Taehyung had just gotten the wrong number. He repeats Seokjin’s previous words in his head in an attempt to gather some balls to just do it, but ends up typing out and deleting a million messages, only to throw his iphone on the glass desk and kicks his legs to roll his chair back in frustration.
 
This is stupid. He doesn’t know why he’s sulking over some kid almost eight years younger than him. Jeongguk’s young and vibrant and probably has a million other better things to do than to pay any attention to some irrelevant guy nearly in his thirties. Plus, hadn’t the only reason that Taehyung asked for Jeongguk’s number was just for in case he needed a ride? What if he had that situation taken care of? Then there would be no need to text Taehyung.
 
Taehyung nods to himself. He’ll forget about Jeongguk. Yeah, that’s exactly what he’ll do.  
 
It’s just then that his phone buzzes, blue screen lighting up with a notification of a text message. Taehyung darts forward so suddenly that he trips over the legs of his chair, hits his knees on the hard floor and bangs his forehead on the corner of the desk with a sharp cry of pain. He barely gives himself time to recover, standing on throbbing knees and unlocking his phone with his fingerprint.
 
Jeongguk: r u still at wrk?
 
You: Yeah, why?
 
Jeongguk: oh nvm thn
 
Taehyung chews at his bottom lip and looks at the clock.
 
You: I’m getting off soon, though. I can pick you up somewhere if you’d like?
 
Jeongguk: mmm tht wud b grrreeeeat. im downtown at the left side of 2nd & walnut st.
 
You: I shall be there in 20 minutes.
 
Jeongguk: thx dollface ;*
 
It’s only eight in the afternoon and Taehyung rarely leaves the office before midnight. He still has plenty of paperwork left on his desk and while the thought of leaving early for the first time in years makes him anxious, he throws on his suit jacket, grabs his keys and leaves before he can change his mind.
 
Seokjin’s sitting at the secretary desk outside, and his eyebrows shoot past his hairline when he sees Taehyung turn off the lights and lock the door to his office.
 
“What are you doing?” he asks suspiciously.
 
“I’m, uh, going home.”  Taehyung should have known he wouldn’t be able to sneak past his secretary.
 
“The last time you went home early was when you caught the flu and nearly had to be hospitalized two years ago,” Seokjin states in disbelief. “Did something happen? Is everything alright?”
 
“No, everything is fine,” Taehyung reassures quickly. “It’s just—um—well you see—”

Seokjin holds up his hand and shakes his head. “I’ll save you the embarrassment this time. I’m happy that you’re cutting yourself some slack for once so just go. As long as nothing terrible happened, I don’t need to know the details.”    
 
Taehyung nods and he’s just reminded of how grateful he is to have someone like Seokjin working directly under him.
 
“I’ll see you tomorrow.”
 
“It’s gonna be Saturday, boss.” But Taehyung’s already zoomed down the hallway and to the elevator, fingertips tingling with something akin to excitement.
 
He gets to see Jeongguk again.

Chapter Text

The address that Jeongguk texts Taehyung is in downtown Chicago and Taehyung drives around the block five times before he’s finally able to find a parking spot. He frowns when he realizes his mistake of parking right in front of a club on a Friday night. Sending a quick text to let Jeongguk know that he’s here, Taehyung glances around in an attempt to find Jeongguk in the steadily growing crowd. When thirty minutes pass and Taehyung realizes that Jeongguk might still be doing whatever fuck the he’s doing, he leans back against his seat and sends another message, asking Jeongguk if he’s coming anytime soon.

It’s fifteen minutes before Jeongguk finally replies and by then Taehyung has grown anxious.  

Jeongguk: srry.

Jeongguk: my boss is making me stay an extra hr!! ughhh. u can leave if u want.

You: Do you have a ride home?

Jeongguk: nah but idk when i’ll get off so its aight. I’ll figure it out. Always do lol.

Taehyung thinks of Jeongguk getting into another shady person’s car and disappearing forever. The thought doesn’t sit well with him.

You: It’s cool. I’ll wait.

Jeongguk: ok!!! Will b out in an hr!!! See u soon qt xxx

And so Taehyung waits. He waits until the minutes turn into an hour and the glowing signs advertising bars and clubs begin to hurt his head. He texts Jeongguk, asks him if he’s coming out soon and it’s been thirty minutes with his message being left unread. Just a little bit longer, he tells himself, heart already beginning to weigh down in his chest. I’ll wait. He swallows.

But now it’s been two hours and Taehyung finds himself on the third episode of the new season of Black Mirror on his phone, eyelids drooping. At some point, he slumps over with his head pressed against the window and falls into a dreamless sleep.

When Taehyung wakes, there’s drool leaving a trail from the corner of his mouth and he shoots straight up, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand and looking around to make sure that no one had seen that slip up. He yawns loudly, crocodile tears forming as he blinks the bleariness away. He stretches, back popping in content as he relieves the aching from falling asleep in a discommodious position. It isn’t until he checks the time on his phone that his brain is startled wide awake.

12:30 a.m. it reads. Taehyung had been asleep for three hours. Had he really been that exhausted? He doesn’t know why he looks around (it’s not like Jeongguk’s gonna pop out of nowhere) but he does anyways. He checks his messages. Jeongguk still hasn’t read them.

The heaviness grows. It aches. Taehyung considers sending one more message, stares at the unread tick mark with his bottom lip caught between his lip. Chews until he can taste blood in his mouth. He feels awful—sick even. There’s something stuck in his throat like a rock, thick and unyielding.

You: hey...where are you?

You: are you ok?

You: Jeongguk answer me. I’m still here and you’re not and—

Taehyung deletes it all, throws his phone violently into the passenger seat. He’s breathing hard, cheeks burning, stomach turning. He feels fucking embarrassed. Pitiful. Taehyung had just been stood up. He’d left the office early in hopes of seeing some stupid kid and had just been stood up and it’s like he’s back in highschool again, young and naive. Sixteen year old Taehyung trembling and godless, waiting for someone who will never come.

He leans his head back against the headrest, breathes in deeply, tries to calm himself. He reminds himself that he’s Kim Taehyung, heir to a billion dollar company and Jeongguk should mean nothing to him, shouldn’t get under his skin like this. But here he is, letting Jeongguk rot his teeth and they’ve never done anything more than have meaningless conversations in this car.

How is it that nearly fourteen years later Taehyung still hasn’t learned his lesson? He’s still pathetic. He doesn’t know why he feels this way over some kid. They aren’t even friends but they’re not exactly acquaintances either. But he’s so angry, almost irrationally so. He wants it to go away, wants the numbness to return.

Hands gripping the steering, knuckles turning white, Taehyung doesn’t put his seatbelt on. When he hits the freeway, he’s alone this time. He wants to call his mom and ask her if this is how little he must mean to the world for some weirdo who dresses like a girl to stand him up, but reminds himself that his parents already think he’s not right in the head to begin with. Instead he turns the radio up loud till his eardrums ring in hopes that it’ll drown everything out.

 

****



Taehyung doesn’t hear anything from Jeongguk for the next few days, the last message being of Jeongguk promising to be out soon followed by a bunch of unnecessary emojis added on. Jeonguk still hasn’t read his message. Taehyung checks every time he picks up his phone.

Taehyung doesn’t know what he’s feeling, all he knows is that being so blatantly stood up like this makes him feel shitty even if it shouldn’t really matter because it’s not like him and Jeongguk have anything nor will they ever because Taehyung likes boobs. Likes curves. Likes the softness of girls.

He hasn’t fucked anyone in awhile. Thinks maybe he should. Thinks that maybe getting shitfaced alone isn’t really a good idea. He’s been doing a lot of that lately.  

Seokjin brings him hangover soup on Friday, the lines of his eyes creased with worry. He’s more gentle with Taehyung than he usually is. “Seriously, are you okay?” he asks. “You’ve been drinking a lot this week. It’s not good for you.”

Taehyung has his head pressed against his desk, paperwork scattered and messy just like his life. He groans into his arm, kicking his legs beneath him like a petulant child. “My head fuckin’ hurts.”

“Then stop drinking,” Seokjin scolds. “If something’s going on you can talk to me about it, yeah?” A pause. “Did something happen with your dad?” he asks nervously, as if he knows better because he does. When it comes to talking about Taehyung and his family there’s always an invisible Do Not Enter sign. “Tae,” he says the nickname softly, like something between friends. Seokjin only calls him that when Taehyung goes through his bad periods. “If your dad said anything you know—”

“Stop,” Taehyung cuts him off, presses his face further into the glass surface until it hurts. “It’s not him.”

“Then what is it?” Seokjin sounds exasperated.

It’s me, Taehyung wants to say. It’s always me.  

“I’m just stressed,” he says instead. It’s a lame excuse and they both know it. But it’s not technically a lie because Taehyung is perpetually stressed.

“Maybe you should take a vacation,” Seokjin gently suggests. “It’s been years, Tae. You deserve a break.”

“It’s fine,” Taehyung responds immediately. “I’ll get over it.”

“At least take a few days off,” Seokjin pushes.

“There’s too much to do and I still need to write up a new draft since our last proposal got rejected.” As if to make his point, he picks up a thick, manila folder full of papers.

“The company won’t go under just because you take a few days off.” Seokjin sounds frustrated at this point, but he should know by now that trying to convince Taehyung to take any time off is like speaking to a brick wall.

“I have Sundays off,” Taehyung says it like having one day off out of a seven day week is enough. And so what if he spends Sundays sleeping for sixteen hours. Taehyung loves his job and he wishes that Seokjin would understand that.

Seokjin mumbles something under his breath about Taehyung being hard headed but doesn’t say anything else.

The rest of the day passes by uneventful. There’s a board meeting that Taehyung only half pays attention to, his mind elsewhere. When his shift ends, Taehyung thinks that he’ll skip out on drinking tonight. Although his headache had disappeared (thanks to Seokjin) he still feels sort of nauseous and his bones ache.

It’s when he’s just entered the elevator that his phone chimes. He doesn’t think much of it, expecting it to be an update from one of his team members or maybe his brother demanding him to come visit soon. What he’s not expecting though is a text from Jeongguk.

Jeongguk: u busy?

Taehyung contemplates leaving him on read, anger simmering in his chest. He stares at the message until the elevator doors open and he steps out into the parking garage but he’s not that petty.

You: yeah.

Jeongguk: i’m hungryyyy. work sucked :((((

You: oh.

Taehyung sits in his car, watches the way the text bubble keeps popping up as if Jeongguk is unsure of what to say.

Jeongguk: are u mad at me?

You: not really.

Jeongguk: ur throwing mad shade and giving me one worded replies.

Jeongguk: i’m rlly sorry.

Jeongguk: smthn came up & ugh i know i should have told u but ughhh i’m an asshole :( pls dnt be mad hyung i didn’t mean to stand u up like tht.

Jeongguk: pls let me make it up to u. i’m abt to get off. how abt we go grab smthn to eat?

If Taehyung’s honest, he had been worried sick about Jeongguk for the past few days, conjuring up a million different worst case scenarios of what could have happened to Jeongguk. Because maybe he was kidnapped or murdered is better than acknowledging the fact that Taehyung had been ditched just because.

Jeongguk’s apology is half assed and vague, an excuse that takes Taehyung back to his high school days. One that he’s heard too many times before and he knows that he shouldn’t so easily accept, because a part of Taehyung knows that Jeongguk had done it on purpose. Taehyung’s not stupid enough to give in so easily. He’s getting too old for this shit and refuses to play this game with Jeongguk.

You: no thanks. I’m good. It’s cool.

Jeongguk: pleeeeeaseeeee

Jeongguk: hyuuuuunggg

Or maybe he is. He tries to rationalize reasons why this is a bad idea, why he should just delete Jeongguk’s number and never speak to the other again because Taehyung knows that people like Jeongguk are like venom. Will ruin him the first chance they get. But the way Jeongguk begs him, calls him hyung has him weak in the knees.

Taehyung doesn’t know what it is but he’s got it bad.

His fingers hover above the keyboard as he tries to talk himself out of this. Jeongguk isn’t good for him, will tear Taehyung open with his bare teeth and see all the rot inside of him. His parents would be upset if they knew their son was hanging out with someone like Jeongguk; low class, against the norm.

Still, he finds himself sending a quick I’ll be there soon you better not ditch me before he starts the car and pulls out of the garage. Taehyung knows that he shouldn’t feel this giddy about seeing Jeongguk again. He shouldn't after being humiliated and left hanging for days like that, but there’s something about Jeongguk that makes him almost reckless, that makes Taehyung want to be near him and it drives him crazy.

There’s a comical sense of relief knowing that Jeongguk doesn’t hate him. That he wants to see Taehyung again. That’s good. That’s great. Although he’s still a bit tense because it feels like he hasn’t seen the kid in a decade. God, since when had he become this dramatic? It shouldn’t even be this much of a big deal. It’s not like there’s anything going on between the two of them. Jeongguk is literally just some kid that Taehyung had gotten out of trouble a few times. It’s not like they’ve ever held hands and kissed, and it’s not like Taehyung wants to do those things because once again, he’s into boobs and curves and definitely not dicks. Definitely. Not.

Jeongguk’s only pretty to look at because he dresses like a girl.

When Taehyung pulls into the same street, Jeongguk is already waiting outside. He moves onto the road, attempting to peer into the tinted window, hands pressed flat against the surface in a way that makes Taehyung grimace because he knows they’ll leave marks.

Jeongguk’s quick to climb inside once the door is unlocked, flashing Taehyung a bright smile. “Hey there dollface” he chirps. “Did you miss me?”

Taehyung had been preparing himself to act annoyed, like he’s still angry over the fact that Jeongguk had ditched him last time even though the resentment had faded the moment he saw the other standing on the sidewalk. Instead, he finds gravity pulling at the corners of his lips into a deep frown. He blinks as if to make sure that his eyes aren’t playing tricks on him, as if to make sure that the ugly bruise that Jeongguk is sporting on the outer curve of his left eye isn’t there.

“What happened to your face?” he asks sharply.

Jeongguk startles in surprise at the severity in Taehyung’s tone. He seems confused at first, but when Taehyung lifts his hand up to brush his fingertips against the bruise, both of them flinch back. Jeongguk in pain and Taehyung because he’s kind of really mortified at the fact that he had just touched Jeongguk out of instinct more than anything else.

“Ah, that.” Jeongguk laughs nervously. “I just got into a slight argument with a customer a few nights ago.”

“Argument?” Taehyung’s eyes narrow. “Customer?”

The bruise definitely doesn’t look a few days old. It’s a fresh splotchy red and purple color scattered across his cheekbone to curve up towards his brow. The rest of his face is left unmarred, the slight tan a jarring comparison to the angry mottled colors like a disease.  

“I work at the bar,” Jeongguk says. “Sometimes people get drunk and violent. You know how it is.” He tries to shrug it off and smiles even brighter, but Taehyung notices the way that the corners of his lips wobble and he’s all too familiar with the haunted look in Jeongguk’s eyes. It’s almost as if he’s staring at a reflection of himself.

“It’s no big deal.” Jeongguk laughs. “He got thrown out with a few teeth missing so it’s all good.”

Taehyung can’t tell if he’s telling the truth. Jeongguk seems like the type to swallow the truth into oceans and hold lies on his tongue like silver knives. He seems almost like a ghost, this boy that Taehyung knows nearly nothing about except for the fact that he dresses like a girl but still acts like a man. Taehyung knows that Jeongguk is brazen and crude and fearless. He knows that Jeongguk speaks recklessly, his words lashing out with such unapologetic recklessness bordering on being rude or intrusive ninety percent of the time. And that’s all Taehyung needs to know because they’re nothing but acquaintances.

They’re nothing more.

So Taehyung doesn’t ask what eats away at Jeongguk. He doesn’t ask where that bruise really came from or why someone as young as him works so late into the night. Instead, Taehyung grips the steering wheel tight and asks, “are you still hungry?” because it’s easier to replace emptiness and unspoken questions with food.

Jeongguk visibly relaxes at this, shoulders sagging as he leans back against the seat and closes his eyes. “I’m starving.”

So they head to a nearby diner. It’s small and kind of shady, definitely not the kind of place that Taehyung would ever be caught in but Jeongguk’s eyes had lit up when he’d spotted the burger place through the window and for some incomprehensible reason, Taehyung couldn’t bring himself to say no, or to tell Jeongguk that he’s vegan.

“I’ll pay,” Taehyung says.

Jeongguk frowns. “This was supposed to be my apology so let me.”

But Taehyung merely shakes his head. “You’re here now and that’s enough for me.”

Jeongguk is quiet for a moment, clearly caught off guard by Taehyung’s words before he collects himself. “That means I can pick anything, right?” there’s a devilish grin on his face as if he’s ready to eat Taehyung up and empty his pockets out and Taehyung just shrugs at his childishness.

Jeongguk seems to grant mercy to the poor waiters soul and doesn’t order the entire menu, but instead a calorie induced burger with four patties, a large fry, and a strawberry milkshake. Taehyung simply asks for a cup of coffee, which earns him the stink eye from Jeongguk for being so boring.

Taehyung sits with his back straight, hands in his lap with his fingers drumming against his thigh, something he often does when he’s nervous or uncomfortable and right now he’s feeling a little bit of both. He glares at the dinghy yellow ceiling light that keeps flickering, giving the place an unpleasant glow and doesn’t dare to touch the table (who knows how many germs are on there). He’s not quite sure what he’s supposed to say in this situation. He’s never seen Jeongguk outside of a parking lot setting, and having a casual meal with him late into the night like this feels a little too personal for his liking. Taehyung scoffs to himself.

“You look like you’d rather be anywhere than here right now,” Jeongguk says, finally breaking the silence. “Sorry this place ain’t have fancy chandeliers and a million dollar steaks.”

Taehyung begins to pick at the material of his slacks with jittery fingers. “I’m not sure what you mean. I’m completely fine.”

Jeongguk rolls his eyes, rests his elbows against the bacteria infested surface and leans forward. “Then why don’t you relax a bit, hm?”

“I’m completely—”

“Bullshit,” Jeongguk cuts off. “You’re a really shitty actor, dollface.”

Luckily, Taehyung is saved by the waitress who reappears with his coffee and Jeongguk’s food. He can’t help but grimace at the sight of all the grease and heart attack condensed into one burger.

Jeongguk catches him and lets out an airy laugh. “This is how us normal, classless people eat.” He gives a pointed look to the mug in Taehyung’s hand. “Is shitty three dollar coffee the only thing on the menu that won’t hurt your elitist ego?”

Taehyung swallows, feeling flustered and a little bit upset with the insult. “I’m not that shallow,” he mumbles. “I’m vegan.”

Jeongguk rolls his eyes. “So not only are you an elitist, but you’re a vegan elitist. Ugh.” He bites into the burger messily, juices dripping crudely from his fingers. “Mm,” he practically moans around a mouthful, in a way that no one should moan while eating a fucking burger.

Taehyung tries to breathe properly.

“I just care about what’s going into my body.”

“You’re drinking coffee,” Jeongguk says after another bite. “Isn’t that a bit hypocritical?”

“Shut up, kid.”

Jeongguk scowls. “Can you stop calling me a kid? It’s fuckin’ irritating and you’re probably not that much older than me.”

“I’m nearly thirty,” Taehyung deadpans.

“Oh.” Jeongguk quirks his eyebrow in a genuine show of surprise.  

“Yeah.”

“I didn’t expect you to be…”

“Old?”

Jeongguk laughs, spitting out an onion before removing the rest from his burger and dropping them on the plate with a look of disgust. “Yeah. You’re practically ancient as fuck.”

Taehyung rolls his eyes. “Sorry to disappoint.”

“Is that why you’re so senile and boring?” Jeongguk teases, slurping loudly at his milkshake.

Taehyung frowns in response. “I’m not boring.”

“Mmm?” Jeongguk wipes his greasy fingers on a napkin, perches his arms on the table and leans forward. “So what do you do for fun then?”

“I do lots of stuff,” he responds lamely getting more flustered by the second. “I like to read and watch Criminal Minds and, uh, sometimes I dogsit for my coworker.”

“Oh yeah?” Jeongguk looks like he’s really trying not to laugh as he pops another fry in his mouth slathered in ketchup and mayonnaise. “Do you have bingo night and spend your weekdays scrubbing other old people’s backs at the bathhouse too?”

“First of all,” Taehyung narrows his eyes in offense, “you’re a little asshole.” He picks a fry from the plate to flick it at Jeongguk’s forehead who whines in response. “And second of all, there is nothing wrong with bingo.”

Jeongguk bursts out laughing this time. “God, you really might as well go into retirement at this point. Your life seems dry as fuck.”

“What? Just because I don’t go out and get wasted at parties every weekend and pick chicks up from clubs means that my life sucks?” Taehyung’s trying not to let Jeongguk get to him so easily, but he does feel kind of offended that he keeps getting poked fun at. “I work a lot. I don't have the luxury to be reckless the way kids like you do. Maybe one day you’ll learn to grow up.” Taehyung knows that it’s a low blow but he can’t help but feel kind of frustrated at the fact that he’s supposed to always be the mature and level headed one.

Jeongguk looks annoyed. He snorts as he drags his index finger through the ketchup on the plate, creating aimless shapes. “You think you’re so much better than me just ‘cause you make some fuckin’ bank, huh?”

“That’s not what I—”

“Fuck off,” Jeongguk cuts off. “Don’t try to apologize when you just spoke your mind probably for the first time in your life, yeah? Bet you don’t do that much.”

Taehyung snaps his mouth shut and swallows.

“Listen,” Jeongguk starts with a sigh, “I may be a petty gay who talks too much shit but I’m also pretty observant and I’m not trying to like, be a bitch or anything, but I’m just saying that you look like you could use some fun in your life. Aren’t you tired of your boring ass routine? Isn’t there anything that you wanna do besides work and be miserably single?”

“Yeah but—wait, you’re gay?”

Jeongguk looks at him in disbelief. “You’re kidding me, right? I thought it was pretty fucking obvious.”

“Well i—it’s just that I don’t know many people like you,” Taehyung stammers out, which sounds absurd but Taehyung had been raised by bourgeoise Korean emigrant parents.

“Oh my god.” Jeongguk looks like he wants to throw himself out the window. “That is the most hetero thing I’ve ever heard. Bet you were a sheltered as fuck rich kid. Bet mommy and daddy wouldn’t be too happy if you were anything other than straight.” He says it like a joke, laughs to himself like it’s supposed to be funny. It’s supposed to mean nothing, but it stings and Taehyung feels the familiar sharp pain in his chest that he’s so used to covering up with twelve a.m. soju.

It hits too close to home. Makes him feel small, lesser. He clenches his fists under the table, the blunt of his nails digging into his palm. He’s almost scared. Almost wonders if Jeongguk knows, if he can see right through him. Taehyung knows that he should just laugh it off, because if he can laugh it means that it’s not real and it doesn’t matter, it means that Taehyung, crawling towards the eve of his thirtieth birthday, still doesn’t have that ache that burns his body from the inside out the way it did when a young naive teenager.

“I kissed a boy once.” If he says it casually, easily it doesn’t mean anything. “Back in highschool. I wanted to know what it was like.” He doesn’t know why he’s telling Jeongguk any of this or why he needs to validate himself in front of the other.

Jeongguk arches a brow, eyes glinting in amusement. “You look like the closeted homo type.”

Taehyung feels his blood run cold.

He flushes, lips downturned and refusing to make any eye contact, fingertip circling around the rim of the mug. The coffee’s turned cold and Taehyung has no appetite anymore, not even for something so simple. “I’m not gay,” his words come out angry, barely restrained. “It was over ten years ago.”

It’s a half lie. Taehyung only fucks boys when he’s had too much to drink and can pretend that the strong hard lines of a masculine back gives way to the soft curves of a girl. He only fucks boys under the cover of night when even the moon is asleep and only the walls of love motels know his secret.

Jeongguk looks like he wants to say something but knows better, tip of his tongue held between his front teeth. Like he doesn’t find any of this funny anymore. He looks like he knows men like Taehyung, like he’s laid under the sheets with people like Taehyung with nothing but skin and skin and skin. His frown speaks of pity and Taehyung hates how pathetic he must look.

Jeongguk clears his throat as if to dispel the awkwardness that has surrounded them. “Do you want to go?”

“Yeah. I’m pretty tired. Sorry,” Taehyung says and it’s not a lie. He feels especially drained after this conversation and something equivalent to guilt is burning a hole through his stomach. He needs a drink.

So he takes Jeongguk home. Jeongguk has his phone plugged into the audio jack, volume turned up high as he belts off key to Bigbang as if to drown out whatever the fuck had just happened at the diner and Taehyung is quiet, drives with his eyes focused on the white lines of the freeway and maybe if he drives fast enough he can rid himself of whatever he’s feeling. Like maybe Jeongguk will forget their conversation in the diner and he can just go back to being Jay and not Jeongguk.

When Taehyung drops him off, Jeongguk turns around like he always does and calls him dollface and when he smiles it’s less lascivious this time and more insecure.

“I’ll see you soon,” Jeongguk says it like a promise and Taehyung’s dumb, stupid heart betrays him. Ba-dump. Ba-dump. The sound is loud in his chest because Jeongguk always looks pretty.

“Yeah.” He almost chokes on his words. “See you soon, Jeongguk.”

And Taehyung drives away, hopes the night will swallow him whole. When he gets home he strangles a bottle of vodka by the neck and drowns out the whisper in his head with the disgusting taste of hard liquor. At some point he finds his knees pressed against the cold marble floor his bathroom, head bent over the toilet as he wretches, the foul taste of vodka and coffee like acid in his mouth. He can’t breathe. He can’t breathe.

He doesn’t remember anything after that.

 

****


Taking Jeongguk out for dinner after work becomes some sort of routine they fall into. It’s always late when the city begins to fall asleep, their meetings always begin and end under the indigo blackness of night. Jeongguk always prettily put together, sometimes there’s hickies on his neck. Sometimes there’s bruises on his face, saturn rings adorning his wrist.

Taehyung is always messy. Always tired. His suit is always ironed flat without a wrinkle in place, but the glassiness of his eyes and dark circles always give away his exhaustion.

He doesn’t always pick Jeongguk up from the same place either, it’s mostly different streets with Jeongguk waiting on cracked cement. Sometimes he comes out of alleyways with crumpled clothes and swollen lips. Taehyung never asks about it. He traces constellations of the bruises on Jeongguk’s body with his eyes instead.

It’s never too bad. Jeongguk’s still the same erratic and loud boy that Taehyung had met at the truck stop a month ago. Still unpredictable and crass with his words. Still someone that Taehyung has trouble understanding, but if there’s one thing he knows for sure it’s that Jeongguk most definitely doesn’t work at a bar.

Still, he doesn’t ask. It’s none of his business in the first place.

Taehyung doesn’t know when their relationship begins to border on something more than being just two strangers. But he starts to take Jeongguk out more, greasy five dollar burgers from cheap diners replaced with something more refined, more expensive. Spending money on Jeongguk becomes something he doesn’t mind and he never lets the younger pay for the meals.

Little by little, he learns things about Jeongguk as well. Like the fact that he majors in fashion and hopes to make it big in the industry once he graduates. Despite Jeongguk’s strangeness, Taehyung is surprised to learn that he doesn’t have some kind of fucked up childhood. “My mom really supports me,” he had said. “I wouldn’t be able to be who I am today if it wasn’t for her.”

Taehyung feels envious, wonders what it’s like to have a parent love their child unconditionally the way that Jeongguk’s mom does. Jeongguk likes to talk about her a lot and Taehyung is always quiet, always jealous. He’s supposed to be the one with the perfect life.

“How can a fucking steak cost one-hundred dollars?” Jeongguk gawks at the menu, mouth open in a way that’s almost cute. Taehyung enjoys seeing the other out of his element like this, caught off guard as he squirms in his seat.

“It’s a five star restaurant,” Taehyung says simply. “I come here all the time.”

Jeongguk hasn’t been working for the past few days, says his manager gave him some time off. By now the hickies on his neck have faded, the only blemish being a faint scar on his left cheek.

“You can afford to eat like this every day? I thought you were just a normal office worker,” he teases.

Taehyung tenses. It’s some unspoken rule between them not to discuss their professions. “Uh, yeah. I guess.”

“What if I order like, fifty steaks?”

“Go ahead.” Taehyung shrugs. Pours himself another glass of wine that had cost three-hundred dollars. It goes down his throat like velvet.

“If you can afford fancy ass liquor why do you buy shitty soju from a fuckin’ truck stop?” Jeongguk eyes him with judgement.

“Just because I have money doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy the simple things in life, Jeongguk.”

The younger snorts. “Yeah, okay. Whatever you say, gramps.”

“I’m not that old,” Taehyung grumbles.

“But you act like an old man. Do you even have friends?”

Ouch. That one stung.

“I’m too busy for friends.” Taehyung tries to keep up an air of nonchalance, like he couldn’t care less about the fact that yeah, he doesn’t really have anyone except for Seokjin, and even then he tries to keep himself distant from the elder. Like, the last time that he and Seokjin had even hung out was three months ago for his birthday. Like, yeah, he’s definitely not lonely. Doesn’t stare at his bedroom walls and talk to himself.

“Don’t you ever get tired?” Jeongguk asks. “Being like this all of the time. You just seem really shut off, like you don’t care much for anything.”

“No,” Taehyung answers because nothing about it is hard, he’s lived like this for the past ten years. When you shut yourself off from everyone and become stuck with loneliness for so long it becomes a companion.

Taehyung is okay with living the way he does.

Jeongguk sighs. “Could you like, at least smile? Or would that break whatever dark and mysterious image you have going on?”

“I do smile,” Taehyung says with a frown.

“You literally have permanent bitch face. Bet you came out of the womb looking disgusted with the world.”

Hey.” Taehyung tries to sound mildly offended.

“What, are you gonna mean mug me to death or something?”

“I hate you.” 

“No you don’t.” Jeongguk flutters his lashes, leans forward and licks his glossed lips. Taehyung’s eyes following the movement. “You think I’m fucking sexy, dollface.”

“I’m not—”

“Gay.” Jeongguk rolls his eyes as if it’s the most unbelievable thing he’s ever heard. “I know. You’re so straight that you say no homo whenever you give another dude a high five. Can’t breathe the same air as other dudes because that’s just so gay.”

Taehyung feels himself blushing. “I’m not that much of a prick.”

Jeongguk is quiet for a moment, sips at his wine before saying, “if you’re not that much of a prick then let’s go clubbing.”

“Wait. What?” Taehyung blinks. “You mean right now?” Jeongguk just nods. “I’m not even in clubbing attire.” He’s still wearing his work clothes and he’s sure that he looks pretty gross after being in the office for nine hours.

“Who the fuck cares? We’re just going to have fun and dance, not for you to pick bitches up.”

“Crass.”

“Okay first of all, I don’t give a shit. Secondly, please can we go.” Jeongguk pouts, cheeks puffing out as he crosses his arms over his chest. He dresses rather normally on his days off; just a black crop top with the words EAT ME printed on the front in horroristic red, blue skinny jeans and heels.

“I don’t know, Jeongguk.” But the way the younger looks at him, begs him to just let loose and have fun just once has Taehyung’s resolve wavering in an instant. “Fine.” He sighs. “We can go.”

Taehyung knows that this is probably going to be a big mistake. Taking someone like Jeongguk out to dinner was one thing, but taking him to a club where there are hundreds of prying eyes runs a higher risk of someone who recognizes him seeing him with Jeongguk. It’s a dangerous game they’re playing and he’s not sure why he’s just going along with it. Maybe it’s the fear that excites him. Makes him feel alive.

He pushes the thought of his parents and their disappointed faces to the back of his mind and just goes with it.

After they finish their meal, Taehyung excuses himself to the restroom to try and make himself look decently presentable. He splashes water over his face, stares at his reflection and tells himself to calm the fuck down. He doesn’t know why he’s feeling so nervous, it’s not like he’s never been to a club before. But this is new territory for him and Jeongguk, breaks the routine that he’s just barely gotten adjusted to.

Still, Taehyung can’t bring himself to say no. So what if people see them together? It’s not like they have something going on. Taehyung guesses that he can consider them sort of friends. What’s the worst that could happen?

Besides, maybe Jeongguk’s right, maybe Taehyung really does need to let loose for once. He’s always so wound up and tense and takes at least ten aspirin pills a day. If Seokjin knew that he was actually going out to a club for pleasure that didn’t involve coercing sleazy old Directors into business deals for once, he’d be proud.

But of course, as soon as they step foot into a club that Jeongguk picks, Taehyung is once again questioning why he’d ever thought it was okay to get himself into this mess in the first place. It’s one of those EDM nightclubs, dark with beams of different colored lights pulsing with the music. Taehyung can barely hear anything over the bass as Jeongguk takes his hand and guides him to the bar. He’s so disoriented by the whole thing that he barely notices that Jeongguk had held his hand until he’s settled on the barstool.

“I’ll have Sex on the Beach!” Jeongguk yells over the sound of the music to the bartender. Taehyung orders rum and coke which prompts Jeongguk to boo and call him boring.

It’s after Jeongguk finishes his tall glass, slurping loudly at the straw that he stands back up. “I wanna dance.” He looks expectantly at Taehyung who shakes his head.

“No. Absolutely not.”

“Come on,” Jeongguk whines.

“No.”

Jeongguk huffs in annoyance. “I brought you here to have fun, not sit at the bar like some depressed middle aged man going through a divorce.”

“I am having fun,” Taehyung reassures him. “I’ll be fine just sitting here drinking. It’s what old people like me do anyways,” he jokes.

The other relents, rolling his eyes. “Fine. But I’ll be back for you later,” he promises before he turns and skips into the crowd.

Taehyung orders a screwdriver next, not yet feeling the buzz as he watches the mass of moving bodies. The corners of his lips tilt in amusement at two white girls on the dance floor and it’s apparent that they’re absolutely trashed. They’re screaming at the top of their lungs, limbs thrashing wildly as they jump up and down, tits verging on almost exposed. Taehyung’s not sure how one of the girls thin heels haven’t snapped off yet.

He pulls out his phone, checks his work email and responds to the easy ones that don’t involve him needing to look at a spreadsheet or consulting his team members. He sighs when he opens an email from JJ Group, another established korean emigrated American company. The email’s short and simple, CEO Ahn’s secretary saying that he would like to set up a meeting soon. JJ Group is their closest business partner here in the States and his parents have been trying to set Taehyung up with Ahn’s niece for the past decade. No doubt this meeting would just be another attempt at setting the two up again, so he makes up some lame excuse about being too busy to fit a meeting into his schedule this month.

“You look a little lonely.”

Taehyung’s head snaps up in surprise at the sudden proximity of the voice next to him. A girl looking to be in her mid-twenties has taken residence on the stool next to him. She’s wearing a sheer black dress that hugs her curves, tanned skin and heavy accent hinting that she’s some kind of Spanish.

“I hope this seats not taken.” She bats her eyelashes, dark and caked with mascara. She’s beautiful, the kind of girl that Taehyung would fuck.

“It’s not,” he says, looks uneasily back to his phone because he’s not sure exactly what he’s supposed to do.

“That’s good.” She smiles calculatively, eyes roaming unabashed over Taehyung’s body. “Wanna buy me a drink?”

“Sure,” he says with a shrug, orders another screwdriver and a martini for the girl.

“I’m Camila,” she introduces with her thick accent, “an exchange student from Bolivia.”

Taehyung almost makes up another name but figures that some exchange student from a foreign country won’t know who he is so he introduces himself right back, takes Camila’s outstretched hand and gives it a gentle shake.  

They talk about their home countries, Camila says that she likes the States but after being away from home for eight months she misses her mom’s cooking. Alcohol makes Taehyung’s tongue loose and he admits that he hates visiting Korea, says there’s too much pressure back home to find a nice Korean girl and finally settle down.

“Korea’s suffocating,” he says. “I feel like I have to be someone else when I’m there.”

Camila hums in sympathy. “I know this may sound crazy to most people but I’m so glad I wasn’t born into money. It sounds awful.”

Taehyung laughs dryly. “Yeah, certainly isn’t the life I would have chosen for myself.” Because yeah, he may have it all. Million dollar house, nice sports car. All the women want to fuck him and all the men want to be him. Taehyung doesn’t have to wake up and worry about not having enough money to get him through the month and to most people he leads a life of envy. But money can’t buy freedom, can’t make his parents proud. Can’t make him whole again.

Taehyung jumps at the sudden pressure on his thigh. Camila has placed her hand there, the flat of her palm running up and down his leg. “Bet I can take your mind off of it,” she purrs. Bats her eyelashes, tilts her head to the side in a way that exposes her neck.

“Oh really?” Taehyung’s trying to go for cocky but instead his voice shakes. He picks up his glass, takes a sip that turns into three until he’s downed the whole thing out of nervousness.

Camila’s hands wander dangerously towards his crotch and Taehyung should be turned on by this, Camila’s beautiful and actually really nice and smart. She’d had an entire deep conversation with him instead of jumping the gun and Taehyung knows that he should feel lucky that someone like her chose him out of all people. He should be, and yet Taehyung can’t help but feel uneasy. Her touch doesn’t feel right and it burns in the wrong way.

“You don’t have a girlfriend, right?” she asks.

Taehyung can’t bring himself to respond. Instead, he squeezes the glass until his knuckles turn white but he can’t reject her either because rejecting a girl as gorgeous as Camila would mean something that Taehyung can never bring himself to admit. His head is spinning and he doesn’t know what to do and fuck, he’s starting to freak out.

But then Jeongguk’s there, materializing out of the crowd with the fringes of his hair dampened with sweat. When he sees Camila’s hand touching Taehyung so intimately, something dark flickers across his face before he struts over, perches himself on Taehyung’s knee and wraps his arms around his neck.

“He has a boyfriend. Sorry sweetie,” he says tightly, lips pulled up in a thin smile.

Camila’s eyes widen. “O-oh! I had no clue,” she stutters. “I’m so sorry.” She looks embarrassed as she apologizes and quickly excuses herself.

Jeongguk watches her until she disappears, expression unreadable before he turns back to Taehyung with that same tight smile. “What was that about? You’re supposed to be having fun with me but instead you’re trying to pick up skanks.” He sounds jealous almost, but Taehyung quickly dismisses the thought.

“It was nothing. We were just talking.”

“Talking,” Jeongguk reiterates dryly. “Right.”

Taehyung’s suddenly very conscious of the weight of Jeongguk sitting on him. They’ve never been this close and the gesture is too intimate for Taehyung’s liking.

“Uh, Jeongguk. Can you—”

“Oh, so this must be the cutie you’ve told me so much about.”

Taehyung blinks, unaware of the fact that Jeongguk hadn’t returned alone.

The guy doesn’t look like he could be much more than a few years older than Jeongguk. He looks to be korean, with blonde hair pushed out of his face, plump lips and a small face. He’s wearing a black t-shirt that hugs his frame, deep v-line showing off a lot of skin. The black leather pants he sports are equally as tight and Taehyung can’t help but stare. He wonders if all of Jeongguk’s friends are this good looking.

Jeongguk giggles. “Yeah, this is him but he’s a bit grumpy and mean to me.” His arms tighten around Taehyung’s neck. “This is my best friend, Jimin. Jimin meet Taehyung he’s…” Jeongguk trails off, seemingly unsure of his words.   

“Boyfriend?” Jimin finishes with a teasing smile.

“I’m not gay,” Taehyung says quickly.

Jimin and Jeongguk share a knowing look.

“He’s one of those kinds, eh?” Jimin says and Jeongguk laughs. Taehyung frowns, not getting the joke. “When Jeongguk said that he’d hit the jackpot I expected you to be some sleazy old rich man, but you’re actually pretty hot.”

“Uh, thanks?” Taehyung’s not sure if it’s a compliment. Knowing that Jeongguk talks to his best friend about Taehyung as nothing more than money doesn’t sit too well with him.

“Can we dance now?”

“Jeongguk, I told you—”

“If I leave you here you’re just gonna have fifty different girls approach you,” Jeongguk argues. “You saying that you’d rather hang out with them than me?” he’s visibly pouting now, trying his very best to look upset.

Taehyung can never say no.

“Fine,” he relents. Jeongguk hops off his lap with a squeal and the moment Taehyung stands up he has to grab the counter for support, suddenly feeling dizzy. Had he really drank that much?

When Jeongguk pulls him to the dancefloor, the buzz begins to thrum through his body more pleasantly. Jimin joins them, and at first they dance a little goofily, the two of them jumping around and laughing. Under the influence of the alcohol, Taehyung can’t help but smile as well. He feels good, feels alive. But he’s no professional dancer, so he simply sways a bit and moves his arms.

It’s innocent. It’s nice and Taehyung can honestly say that he’s having a good time.

“Are you having fun?” Jeongguk yells over the music.

“Yeah!” Taehyung shouts back. “This is fucking great.”

Jimin and Jeongguk both laugh and Taehyung just smiles back goofily because he’s drunk as hell and the last thing on his mind is work or his parents. Here, dancing with Jeongguk and Jimin, all of his worries have become muddled as the tenseness in his body loosens and soon, he too is yelling and flailing around and just living.

When the song changes to something more dark and sensual Jimin begins to sway his hips, moves with purpose as he does some body rolls, moves to stroke Jeongguk’s chest and crowd in his personal space. Jeongguk responds in kind, and although he’s not near as good as a dancer as Jimin, the sight is enrapturing.

Taehyung swallows as he watches the pair closely. Watches the way they whisper in each other’s ears and connect their hips together, giggling below their breaths. Jeongguk moves to grab Jimin’s ass and pull him closer and Jimin kisses his neck.

Fuck, none of this is supposed to be hot but Taehyung feels too warm. Feels like he’s been thrown right into the oven as he watches them.

They both turn towards Taehyung, something dark and foreboding in their gazes. Jeongguk whispers something in Jimin’s ear again and the other smiles devilishly, looks at Taehyung like he’s about to swallow him whole.

“Dance with us, hyung.” Jeongguk reaches for Taehyung and he finds himself sandwiched between the two with Jeongguk behind him and Jimin in the front. He jolts when Jeongguk grabs his hips, begins to slowly sway them to the beat of the music. Jimin puts his hands on Taehyung’s shoulders and tilts his head back, mouth parted slightly and eyes closed.

“Mm, I love this song,” he says, voice raspy and sensual as he moves his hands down to Taehyung’s chest, moves closer until Taehyung can feel the heat of his body. “Gukkie was right, you’re so fucking hot,” he purrs.

“T—thank you,” Taehyung stutters out.

Jimin laughs. “You’re so cute, jesus.” He leans forward as if he’s about to kiss Taehyung. “Y’know I’m a professional dancer? Own my own studio and everything, but Gukkie says I dance like a slut.” Behind him, Taehyung can hear Jeongguk giggle.

“You do,” he says. “You dance like a naughty boy, Jimin.” He presses his hands more tightly to Taehyung’s side. “Why don’t you show Taehyung? Let him be the judge.”

Jimin’s gaze grows dark under the pulsing lights. He catches his bottom lip between his teeth and smirks. “Yeah? How does that sound baby? Want me to dance for you?”

“I—” Taehyung tries to speak but his throat feels tight and his head is swimming. He should say no because this is too much, too intimate and he wishes he could go back to when they were all jumping around and keep things simple. This isn’t right, he knows it’s not but he can’t bring himself to say no.

Jimin takes his silence as a yes and begins to move to the beat more seriously. He touches himself, hands sweeping up his stomach, to his chest, to his neck before running through his hair. He takes a finger in his mouth, sucks on it and makes wet sounds before releasing it with a pop. Behind Taehyung, he hears Jeongguk moan.

“He’s so god damn sexy, right?” Jeongguk says against the shell of his ear and Taehyung just nods dumbly.

Jimin turns around, drops low to the floor before he brings himself back up, shakes his ass teasingly  and winks over his shoulder. He moves back, presses himself flush against Taehyung and grabs his hands, placing them on his waist. He bends forward, ass brushing lightly against Taehyung’s crotch as he begins to shake it again. Jimin’s got a nice ass, round and big and shit, the way he teases Taehyung with the light brushes is driving him crazy.

Despite knowing that it’s wrong, that he shouldn’t be here doing this, Taehyung can feel the way his cock begins to fatten between his legs with every brush of Jimin’s ass. Taehyung swallows, tries to regulate his breathing and tries to clear his mind from the haze of lust that has overtaken him. Tries to get a fucking grip on himself and tell Jimin to stop. But then Jimin’s pressing himself more firmly against Taehyung’s crotch, grinding down and gyrating his hips like fucking sin.

Taehyung feels himself grow harder, bites his tongue and tries to suppress any sound that might escape his lips. He’s losing himself again, barely resists the urge to rock forward into Jimin’s ass. Wonders how tight he’d feel around his cock.

He’s so fucked up.

“You like that?” Jeongguk’s hands have begun to wander all over Taehyung’s body, begins to tug Taehyung’s dress shirt out of his pants.

“J—Jeongguk,” Taehyung attempts to warn, voice coming out shaky. He already sounds fucked out and nothing’s even happened yet.

“Yeah, dollface?”

Taehyung feels a warm wetness as Jeongguk darts his tongue out to lick teasingly at his earlobe, a temporary distraction tactic as his hands finally sneak under Taehyung’s shirt. The feeling of Jeongguk’s fingers against his abdomen makes him jump. Makes him shiver.

A—ah,” he moans when Jeongguk places his palm flat against his lower stomach and applies pressure.

“You like that?” Jeongguk whispers. “Like it when I touch you like this?”

Taehyung swallows again, by now Jimin is basically bouncing up and down on his crotch and Taehyung is so painfully hard that the friction makes him whine. Makes him tremble. Hands all over him, Jimin dancing filthily on him like this—it’s all too much. Taehyung feels overwhelmed. His clothes stick to him and he pants harshly, stomach tightening. Feels like he could cum from just this.

He lets out an unhinged groan, breath coming out in short bursts. Everything is spinning out of focus.

Jeongguk must feel the way that Taehyung’s lower stomach tightens because he pulls his hand away.

“That’s enough,” he says to Jimin over Taehyung’s shoulder. “I think you’ve put on quite a show, hyung.”

Jimin smirks, grinding down on Taehyung one last time in a way that nearly has Taehyung stars before he pulls away and straightens out. Taehyung can’t help but let out an audible whine of frustration at the loss of contact. He immediately blushes afterwards when he realizes just how close he actually was.

“Aw, was he about to cum in his pants?” Jimin coos. “Flattering.”

Taehyung wants to crawl in a hole. He still feels hazy and on edge, has to resist the urge to hump into the air to find some relief because his dick fucking aches and he wants—-he wants—he doesn’t know what he wants. He just needs some release.

Jeongguk grabs Taehyung by the arm and turns him around so that they’re facing each other. “Did you like that?” he asks, hands once again trailing teasingly down Taehyung’s side, around to the front, just above the waistline of his slacks. “Jimin’s hot but I’m hotter.”

As if to drive home his point, Jeongguk reaches down and grabs Taehyung through his slacks. Taehyung yelps, hips bucking forward for more and god it just hurts and he needs to get off so badly.   

“Mm,” Jeongguk moans. “You’re already so fucking hard. So turned on for me.”

“I think my job here is done,” Jimin says but Taehyung’s barely listening, doesn’t even take his eyes off of Jeongguk when Jimin says, “I’ll see you around, cutie. Have fun.”

He’s completely enraptured by the way the lights reflect the sheer gloss on Jeongguk’s lips, how his tongue darts out to swipe sensually over his bottom lip. Taehyung wonders what he tastes like. If it’s sweet, maybe strawberry or if it’s bitter and sticky. Taehyung doesn’t remember the last time he’d kissed another man and he wonders what it would be like to kiss Jeongguk. If his lips are just as soft as girls. If he smells like vanilla or more manly. But he doesn’t kiss Jeongguk because even in his inebriated state that would be too much.

Can you fuck a guy and say no homo afterwards?

“Your cock feels so big. So full.” Jeongguk’s dirty with his words, gives another squeeze that has Taehyung’s knees nearly buckling. He feels like jello, like Jeongguk could do whatever he wanted with him. “Bet it would feel so good inside me.”

“Yeah?”

“Bet you could make me cum from just your thick cock.”

Jeongguk’s words go straight to Taehyung’s dick and he feels it kick. “Yeah?” he repeats again stupidly because Jeongguk makes him go crazy, makes him tongue tied and desperate.

“Fuck yeah.” Jeongguk leans forward, sucks harshly at Taehyung’s neck as he rubs him through his slacks. “Wanna feel you stretch me open. Want you to fuck me so good that I can’t see straight.” Taehyung preens when Jeongguk sucks right above his collarbone, no doubt leaving a hickey. “Do you want that, Taehyung?”

Taehyung inhales sharply because god yes, he does want it. He wants it more than he’s wanted anything in a long time. Jeongguk’s touches make him feel hot all over like he could just explode into a million pieces. His hand rubbing against Taehyung’s clothed dick makes him feel like he could cum any moment. He feels his thighs tense as he gets closer to the edge again but Jeongguk reads him well, stopping his ministrations just to rest his palm there. Taehyung feels like he could cry.

But there are a lot of what if’s niggling in the back of his mind. Like, a part of Taehyung knows that this is wrong, knows that he shouldn’t be here doing this. Knows that he shouldn’t feel so good from being touched by another man like this. And maybe if he was more sober he would be disgusted with himself, would shove Jeongguk away and run, but he can’t. Jeongguk’s touches are tantalizing and he’s so fucking beautiful.

“Just say it and I’m yours for tonight,” Jeongguk mumbles against his skin. He pulls back, peers at Taehyung from long eyelashes. Taehyung wants to touch him but he’s scared. So scared. “Just say it, dollface.”

Taehyung thinks about his parents and how awful it would be if they found out. He’s already barely tolerated as it is, his relationship with his dad hanging by a single thread. He’ll probably be sent back to Korea, or if his dad is feeling extra cruel he’ll be sent to one of those Christian gay camps. He knows the risk but still.

“I want to fuck you,” he finds himself saying. “I want to fuck you so badly right now, Jeongguk.”

The other boy smirks, tugs on Taehyung’s hand. “Then what are we waiting for, hm?”

Taehyung gulps. “My place or yours?”

“Yours.”

Taehyung honestly doesn’t know how they make it back to his house. He’d been distracted by the way Jeongguk had ran his hands along the inside of his thighs the entire drive home and had even ran a stoplight or two. Jeongguk had nearly made him cum a third time, had stuck his hands straight down Taehyung’s slacks to fondle him through his underwear.

Taehyung’s just barely closed the front door before Jeongguk turns him around and slams him against it, hands immediately tugging the suit off and throwing it to the ground.

“Hey, that’s expen—”

“Shut up,” Jeongguk growls, fingers already working at unbuttoning his dress shirt and kissing down his chest. “You complain so much.”

Taehyung’s panting harshly, skin sensitive to the touch. Jeongguk’s fingertips are cold against his sweat dampen skin. He’s not even given time to fuss over the shirt that Jeongguk throws on top of his jacket before Jeongguk’s turning Taehyung around so that his cheek is pressed against the door. He can feel Jeongguk’s hardness pressed against him when he leans forward to kiss down Taehyung’s back.

Taehyung shivers at the sensation as Jeongguk sucks and licks his way down. He moans softly, breath hitching with each touch. It makes him dizzy, hips canting up into the door seeking some sort of relief.

“Where’s your bedroom?” Jeongguk asks breathlessly.

Taehyung hesitates for a moment before he takes Jeongguk by the hand and drags him upstairs. When they get to his room he’s not sure what to do, he hasn’t taken another person home in such a long time it feels foreign to him. A little exposed.

But then Jeongguk starts taking off his clothes. First the crop top and then his jeans before he jumps on the bed, bouncing around like a little kid. He crawls to the edge and kneels on his knees. “C’mere gorgeous,” he motions with his finger and Taehyung follows until his legs hit the edge of the mattress.

With nothing but a pair of boxers on, Jeongguk is even more breathtaking and Taehyung is sure that his body was sculpted by the gods themselves. He’s all hard lines of muscles and no softness or curves. He’s the epitome of masculine and Taehyung knows that his mouth shouldn’t water at this but he can’t help himself.

Jeongguk smooths his palms over the front of Taehyung’s stomach before he starts to undo his belt slowly at his leisure and Taehyung whines.

“Isn’t patience supposed to come with age?” Jeongguk jokes as he pulls the belt free. “Maybe you can spank me with this next time,” he says before he tosses it and fuck, if the thought of Jeongguk bent over Taehyung’s leg, cheeks red with lashings from a belt doesn’t make Taehyung any harder than he already is.

“Can I touch you?” Taehyung asks rather tentatively because he needs to feel Jeongguk underneath his fingers.

Jeongguk rolls his eyes. “Thought you never would. Touch me all you like.”

So Taehyung pushes Jeongguk down onto the bed, crawls over him and begins to lightly trace the curves of his muscles. They’re firm under his touch and pull taut whenever Taehyung brushes over sensitive areas, and when Taehyung brushes his thumb over Jeongguk’s nipple the younger bites his bottom lip, back arching into the touch. Taehyung presses down harder this time, rolls Jeongguk nipple between the pads of his fingers.

N-ngh yeah,” Jeongguk moans. “Feels so good when you touch me there.”

“Fuck,” Taehyung breathes out. “Your nipples are so sensitive.”

“Yeah. Sometimes I can make myself cum just like this.”

The image of Jeongguk making himself cum from just nipple play is insanely hot and Taehyung can’t help but press his hardness into Jeongguk’s thigh.

“Wanna fuck you.”

“I brought some stuff. Check my back pocket.” Jeongguk says as Taehyung moves to pick up his discarded jeans from the floor and digs around in his pockets until he produces a small bottle of lube and a condom that he lays next to Jeongguk.

“Take it all off,” Jeongguk demands. “Wanna see how pretty your cock is.”

Taehyung complies, undoes the button with shaky fingers and pulls his slacks and underwear down in one go before ridding the younger of his boxers.

They’re both completely naked now and fuck, Jeongguk is unearthly. His cock stands fully erect, the tip flushed red and the vein on his underside bulging. He’s cleanly shaven, even his balls are hairless. Taehyung licks his lips, he wants to taste Jeongguk but he’s been on the edge for two long and needs his release.

He uncaps the lube. “I—I haven’t done this in awhile,” he confesses. “I don’t want to hurt you.”

“Thought you were straight,” Jeongguk says with a laugh. Taehyung doesn’t reply. “But you won’t hurt me so don’t worry, just hurry the fuck up before my dick falls off.”

“So mouthy.”

Taehyung squirts a decent amount of lube on his fingers, but Jeongguk says, “More. I like it wet.”

“Fuck,” Taehyung groans. “You can’t just say things like that, Guk.” The nickname slips out accidentally and Jeongguk blushes.

Taehyung shakes his head as if to clear the haze but he’s too far gone. He squirts even more onto his fingers, warming it up before he presses a finger against Jeongguk’s hole. He swirls the ring of muscle, watches in fascination as it spasms under his touch. He’s done anal with girls before but it’s never the same and he’s never this turned on.

“Taehyung, I swear to fucking god if you don’t—”

Taehyung pushes a finger in up to the first knuckle and Jeongguk’s words turn into a moan. He moves in and out slowly before pushing his finger all the way in and finds that when Jeongguk begs for more, it’s not too difficult to get the second finger in. He’s not as tight as Taehyung thought he would be.

“Did you finger yourself already?” he asks.

Jeongguk nods. “Y-yeah. Fucked myself with a dildo this morning thinking of you.”

“Really?” Taehyung asks in disbelief as he begins to scissor Jeongguk open.

“I’ve wanted—mmm yeah, right there—to fuck you since the day I saw you.”   

Taehyung blushes. “Oh,” is all he says in response.

“What about you? A-another finger.” The third is a bit of a stretch but Jeongguk begins to fuck himself down on Taehyung’s fingers, the whole scene so fucking lewd with the way the lube creates squelching noises. “Do you ever think about fucking me?”

Taehyung is quiet for a moment, not exactly sure what to say because he’d always told himself that Jeongguk was just another face. “I—I thought you were real pretty,” he admits because he’s fucking drunk and horny and the two put together makes him reckless with his words. “Couldn’t stop staring at you.”

“Yeah. I’m fucking hot.” Jeongguk tries to sound cocky but his voice is shaky and when Taehyung nocks his fingers at just the right angle, he moans loudly, hips jerking up erratically. “S—stop. I’m gonna cum if you keep doing that. Just fuck me already.”

Taehyung considers teasing him for a little longer as revenge but he’s too wound up at this point to put it off any longer.

When he pulls his fingers out, Jeongguk’s gaping hole clenches desperately around air and shit, Taehyung just needs to be inside of him right now.

His fingers are slick with lube so he rips the condom packet open with his teeth. It’s one of those already lubricated ones and some of it gets inside of his mouth. It tastes like cherry. “You bought flavored condoms?” he asks quizzically.

Jeongguk laughs. “It keeps things interesting. Plus I was kinda hoping to suck your dick but, y’know, priorities.”

Taehyung pinches the tip of the condom and rolls it onto his length, hissing at the contact now that he’s finally able to touch himself. Even though the condom already has lube on it, he drizzles more onto his cock because Jeongguk likes it wet. He gives himself a few jerks before spreading Jeongguk’s legs, rubbing his cock against his slickened hole before he pushes the head in. He’s mesmerized by the way it disappears inside of Jeongguk like this, stops halfway to give himself a breather because after edging for so long his balls feel like they’re about to explode.

When he’s sure that he’s not about to prematurely ejaculate, Taehyung bottoms out, pushes in until he’s pressed against Jeongguk’s ass.

O-oh,” Jeongguk moans. “Fuck, you stretch me so well.”

Taehyung groans when Jeongguk circles his hips. “How do you want it?”

“I want it hard and fast baby. Fuck me until I can’t walk.”

“Oh yeah?” Taehyung starts moving slowly, feels the way that Jeongguk clenches deliciously around him. “Bet you wont want anyone else’s cock after this.”

“Doubt that.”

“Fucking mouthy,” Taehyung growls. He pulls out to the tip before slamming all the way back in. Jeongguk makes a choked sound as his back arches off of the sheets.

“Y-yeah. Fuck me just like that.”

Taehyung leans forward, latches a mouth around Jeongguk’s nipple while he rolls the other between his finger and starts fucking into him leisurely.

Jeongguk whines loudly, starts babbling dirtily as he chokes on his own words. “Shit, yeah. Baby it feels so good when you touch me like that. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.” He wraps his legs around Taehyung, heels digging into his back as Taehyung begins to pick up the pace. Taehyung knows that he won’t last long and by the noises that Jeongguk makes, he won’t last long either.

Taehyung leans back, pushes at Jeongguk’s legs so that they’re pressed against his chest. “Hold them,” he orders and Jeongguk complies. Hands resting against the back of Jeongguk’s thighs, Taehyung finds himself able to reach deeper into Jeongguk like this. He fucks hard and fast, his balls wet from the lube slapping loudly against Jeongguk’s ass.

Ohmygod. Tae, your cock is so—” he sobs, words all jumbled together and bordering incoherent. “Fuck. So deep. So deep baby.”

“You take my cock so well,” Taehyung growls breathlessly. “Bet you love it when I pound you like this with my fat cock.”

“I love it,” Jeongguk babbles. “I love your cock so much, Tae. Make me cum, please make me cum.”

Taehyung pushes harder on the back of Jeongguk’s thighs until he’s literally sandwiched in half. “You wanna cum all over my cock like the dirty boy you are?”

“Y-yuh. I’m so fucking dirty. So dirty.” Jeongguk’s eyes are squeezed shut at this point, mouth wide open and drool leaking from the corner as his moans and whines fill the room.

“Can anyone fuck you like me?”

“No. You make me feel so good. S-shit, I think I’m gonna cum. Tae, I can’t. I have to cum. Ngh.”

Taehyung takes Jeongguk’s dick in his hand, feels the way it begins to pulsate under his touch as he jerks the other off. “Cum on my cock. Cum for me.”

And Jeongguk nearly cries, spine arching off the bed and hips jerking as he begins to spasm. He cums with a cut off moan, fucking himself into Taehyung’s hand as hot white shoots out in large spurts. Lands on his stomach, dribbles down Taehyung’s fist.

Taehyung can’t handle it, can barely see straight. His movements become more erratic as he loses rhythm, the squelch of of his cock disappearing into Jeongguk’s hole and the way the younger clenches around drives him over the edge. His balls tighten almost painfully and his abdomen nearly cramps as he cums harder than he ever has in his life. He groans loudly, choking on his own spit as the wave hits him with such force that he leans over to press his face against Jeongguk’s chest and sobs, tries to fuck Jeongguk through both of their orgasms but he jolts, dick over sensitive and holy fuck he’s spent.

For a long minute they just lay there, both trying to come down from their high until Jeongguk grunts and pokes him in the side. “You’re too heavy, hyung.”

Taehyung pulls out, hisses because his dick is way too sore right now. He ties the condom and throws it  aimlessly at the floor before rolling to lay on his back, sweaty skin sticking against the sheets.

Jeongguk scrunches his nose in disgust. “You’re gross.”

“I just gave you the best fuck of your life so I don’t want to hear you complaining.”

“It wasn’t the best fuck but okay.”

Taehyung glares. “That’s not what you were saying literally two minutes ago.”

“Shut up.” Jeongguk slaps him in the chest. “Can you get me a towel? I don’t want to wake up with dried cum all over me.”

Taehyung sits up, eyes roaming over the younger’s naked figure. He looks all fucked up, cheeks flushed, chest heaving and coated with splotches of cum. “How can someone come so much? Seriously, thought it would never end.”

“I have a high sperm count.” Jeongguk pouts.

In the end, Taehyung stumbles to the bathroom and runs a washcloth under warm water before he returns to the bed and wipes Jeongguk down, cleans the lube between his thighs and frowns at the large wet patch on the sheets.

“Those are gonna be a bitch to wash,” he grumbles.

Jeongguk merely hums, eyes already half closed. Taehyung knows that sleeping in the same bed isn’t really a smart move. He should call an Uber and send the younger boy home but he’s drunk, sleepy and he’s just had the best orgasm of his life.

So he pulls the covers up over them and settles down next to Jeongguk. He feels lethargic, limbs heavy and mind hazy.

The last thing he thinks about before he passes out is the enraged face of his father standing over him, hands balled into fists as he spits venom at Taehyung.

“I won’t have a faggot for a son.”

And before Taehyung can make sense of the mistake he’s just made, he’s out like a light.


























  

 

Chapter Text

Taehyung wakes up to messy sheets and the unfamiliar feeling of a warm body beside him. He groans, throat feeling unbearably dry. Sunlight is eating its way through his eyelids, too warm on his skin. It’s one of the first days that he hasn’t woken up to completely dreary weather but he knows that’ll probably change in a few hours. Chicago is miserable in the winter.

Summoning the strength the peel his eyes open, Taehyung flinches at the pounding of his head and the way his muscles ache. He groans again, glaring blearily at nothing in particular as he struggles to sort through his memories of last night. The haze begins to lift, his vision adjusting to the sunlight. The first thing he notices is the breeziness he feels, and there’s something warm pressed up against his side—or someone.  

Taehyung throws the blankets off and lets out a stuttered breath as he realizes that he is, in fact, naked and so is the person next to him. He notices a mop of messy raven hair and the curves of someone that is definitely not the soft features of a woman. That person just happens to be Jeon fucking Jeongguk, and it’s like he’s just been dunked into freezing water because Taehyung feels paralyzed and sick when his brain begins to connect the dots and everything from last night hits him like a flotsam.

He’d slept with Jeongguk. They’d fucked. He remembers Jimin grinding on him. Remembers how he’d almost came in the club in front of hundreds of people. Remembers the hard lines of Jeongguk’s muscles and how the younger had trembled under his touch and begged for more. The bliss, the moans, the sound of skin against skin. And, and, and—

Taehyung jumps out of bed, the room spins and he nearly loses his footing and falls straight onto his bare ass. He stares at Jeongguk with wide eyes, the other still deep asleep with the soft sunlight caressing his features, creating a soft glow. Like this, Jeongguk looks less devious. Less like he’s going to swallow Taehyung whole and more like the twenty-two year old he should be. His features are gentle, almost childlike, with his bottom lip jutted out in a natural pout. His makeup is smudged and his hair messy from being pulled on, and fuck, he looks so angelic. So unearthly. It takes Taehyung’s breath away but it’s not beautiful. It’s like muddy waters rising in his lungs and he’s going to be sick. Going to be fucking sick—

Taehyung panics. Runs to the bathroom and locks himself in it. He doesn’t know how long he stares at the door, trembling, shaking, stomach lurching. Doesn’t know why he’s so afraid because it was just a hookup that didn’t mean anything and Taehyung doesn’t swing that way; doesn’t think that Jeongguk is beautiful. His heart doesn’t skip a beat when he looks at Jeongguk. He doesn’t hesitate, because Kim Taehyung doesn’t have time for weakness. Yet his ears are ringing and some irrational part of him says that his father knows; that he’ll come banging on the door any moment now and knock it right down.

Fag. Fag. Fag. Fag.

His mother will be so disappointed.

Taehyung shakes his head, turns to look at himself in the mirror and laughs pathetically to himself. Why the hell is he even being so dramatic? Jeongguk is on the other side of the door sleeping blissfully in Taehyung’s bed and no one else but Jimin knows. Last night was a simple fluke, a moment of carelessness. People do crazy things when they’re drunk, right? Plus he’s been spending a lot of time with Jeongguk lately and on top of a heavy workload, Taehyung had just been feeling lonely is all. He’d probably mistaken Jeongguk as a girl anyways, especially with the way that he dressed. Anyone else would have been just as confused.

He smiles at his reflection. “Get it together Kim Taehyung,” he says to himself. Then he turns away, hops in the shower with the heat turned up all the way until it makes his skin flaming red and scrubs a little too hard with the loofah. He tries to get the smell, tries to get the touch of Jeongguk off of him because the more paranoid part of him is saying they’ll know and Taehyung is back to being borderline hysterical again. But he gets through it somehow and he when he returns to his bedroom, Jeongguk is still sound asleep. Quietly, he dresses himself for work. He debates on waking Jeongguk up but he’s not ready for that conversation, not yet, and so instead he leaves a note saying that he’s off to work on the side table, together with a glass of water and some aspirin.

The very moment he steps outside, the sun has already disappeared behind the clouds and Taehyung feels nothing but cold and emptiness. He smiles up at the grey sky, the dry skin of his lips cracking and bleed at the stretch. He doesn’t flinch at the sting, just smiles wider and feels the blood well up. With one last glance back at the house, Taehyung takes the stairs down two at a time and runs away.

 

***



Jeongguk’s laid sprawled out on Jimin’s beat up old couch watching reruns of Game of Thrones in nothing but a pair of boxers and a white t-shirt. A half smoked cigarette hangs loosely from his lips, ash falling on the already stained cushions. He’s not really sure what’s happening on the T.V. at this point, too enthralled by a game of Candy Crush on his phone. He doesn’t even spare a glance when the front door opens and Jimin announces his return because he’s on a streak and—

“Ow, what the fuck!” Jeongguk drops the phone in his lap, hands flying to the back of his head where his so-called ‘best friend’ had just smacked him. “That’s fuckin’ assault, Jiminie.”

Jimin stands behind the couch with his hands on his hips and has the audacity to glare. “How many times have I told you not to smoke with the windows closed, asshole?

Jeongguk shrugs. “Oops,” is as much as an apology as Jimin gets before Jeongguk puts the cigarette out in an ashtray on the coffee table. Jimin goes to open the closest window, grumbling all the way about how irresponsible and awful Jeongguk is.

“Forgive me this once?”

“Fuck you,” Jimin grumbles.

Jeongguk pouts. “It slipped my mind.”

“That’s always your excuse.”

Jeongguk throws himself across the couch dramatically. “Yeah, but I’m sad.” It’s a shitty excuse and he knows it but Jimin is an angel with a soft spot for Jeongguk and the younger would be lying if he said that he totally didn’t take advantage of it.

Instead of a snarky response, Jimin shoots Jeongguk a glare before making his way to the kitchen to scour through the fridge for something to eat. “That new boy toy of yours still hasn’t called?”

“Nope,” Jeongguk sighs, and as if to confirm it he checks his messages and sure enough, there’s not even a peep from Taehyung’s end. “Which I don’t really get, ‘cos I was definitely his best fuck ever.”

Jeongguk doesn’t mean to sound egotistical (or maybe he does) but he knows that he’s the kind of guy that sad middle aged men screw behind their wives’ backs. He knows that he’s attractive. Knows that he’s every gay wet dream. He remembers the way that Taehyung had been completely engulfed in the throes of passion and god, Jeongguk never thought it could be so hot to watch a guy come like that.

Jimin makes a triumphant sound as he pulls a lunchable out of the fridge and makes his way to to the living room, kicking Jeongguk’s legs out of the way before he plops down right next to him. “He’s probably having one of those internal wars with himself. Isn’t he one of those closeted gays? He’s probably freaked the fuck out right now. Give him time.”

Time? Jimin must have a way deeper understanding of whatever the fuck is going through Taehyung’s head because Jeongguk doesn’t know patience and he’s never been good at understanding other people’s feelings.

“Yeah but it’s been like, five years. Maybe I should just find another one.”

Jimin rolls his eyes. “It’s been five days, Jeongguk.”

“Okay, and?”

“And isn’t he fucking loaded?” Jimin smirks. “You don’t meet a lot of sugar daddies who are rich and cute, dude. Soon enough you’ll be dressed in Prada and living in a penthouse. Trust me when I say that you don’t want to let that go.”

“You’re right,” Jeongguk grumbles. “I just don’t understand what the big fuckin’ deal is though. It’s not like either of us are looking for commitment.”

“Did you not hear anything I just said? Have you even talked to him about where your relationship even stands right now?” When he’s met with no response, Jimin looks completely exasperated. “Oh my god, Gukkie. What if he falls for you?”

“Who wouldn’t? I’m hot,” Jeongguk responds with a wink.

“Yeah, but he’s also hot. And young. And completely your type.” Jimin picks up a slice of ham and throws it at him. “And you’re also an insensitive asshole for not communicating with him.”

Jeongguk rolls his eyes. “I’m not looking for love, Jimin. I’m looking for someone to pay my tuition. It’s not that deep.”

Jimin doesn’t look convinced. “Really? Because you seem happier ever since you met him, and you were totally ready to kill that girl at the club for hitting on him.”

“I don’t like to share.”

“Bullshit.”

“C’mon, Jimin. You know the moment he finds out what I really do he’ll hate me.” Jimin opens his mouth to argue but Jeongguk cuts him off. “Don’t. Guys like him getting emotionally mixed up with a mess like me is a recipe for disaster.”

It’s the truth. Men like Taehyung obviously come from old money. Jeongguk remembers the way Taehyung had clammed up when it came to the subject of his sexuality. He remembers the way Taehyung had gripped the coffee mug in his hand when Jeongguk had joked about his family being shitty. Yeah, Jeongguk’s kind of complicated, but people like Taehyung are even worse.

People like Taehyung try so hard to pretend they're perfect. Like having a closet full of Gucci makes him untouchable. Jeongguk knows better; knows that Taehyung’s got more than a few skeletons in the closet. He knows that he’s just a ticking time bomb by the way dust bunnies make him anxious. Taehyung always seems to be shaking, eyes darting around. Waiting for something. Jeongguk prides himself on reading people well. He thinks he can read Taehyung through his stone-faced, monotone persona, but just when he thinks that wealth makes Taehyung nothing but arrogant, there’s always a shift. Like when Jeongguk is retelling stories from his childhood and there’s a faint smile on Taehyung’s lips and something akin to infatuation in his eyes. Like when they had fucked and Taehyung had blushed and been too afraid to touch Jeongguk.

Sometimes Kim Taehyung, on the precipice of turning thirty, seems like he’s still a child.

Jimin looks sad when he turns to Jeongguk. “You deserve to be loved, Guk. You deserve someone who will always make you feel beautiful. Someone who would give you the entire world and I hope you know that.” Then he purses his lips and says nothing else.

I know, Jeongguk wants to say, but he’s never been in love and he knows just how scary humans can be from the countless lovers that have made Jimin cry hysterically at three in the morning. Jeongguk doesn’t want to ever fall in love if that’s all that awaits him.

 

***



Taehyung isn’t avoiding Jeongguk.

Okay, maybe he kinda is.

Okay, maybe he’s completely avoiding the younger man. It’s been almost a week now and Taehyung finds himself in a position he knows all too well: hunched over his desk with his head in his hands nursing a hangover. Seokjin’s been hovering over him more than usual lately and by this point there’s already aspirin and a warm mug of coffee waiting for him when he comes to work in the morning.

Lately, Taehyung has learned that anxiety is a crippling thing. Ever since that night with Jeongguk, his hands seem to have a permanent tremor to them and sleep becomes nothing more than a pipe dream. When he’s not drinking he’s feeling sorry for himself, but even when he is shitfaced, Taehyung still feels sorry for himself. It’s pathetic really, how a fucking college student has reduced someone like Taehyung into nothing more than a mess.

Taehyung knows that it would be ignorant for him to say that their relationship was purely innocent. As much as he hated to admit it, Jeongguk had become some sort of perverse fantasy for him. Jeongguk’s wild and unpredictable. He wears lipstick and heels and short skirts that show off his toned thighs. It’s almost perfect. Like they could be right for each other but Jeongguk has a dick and they’re not.

He considers texting Jeongguk a few times because while Taehyung might be a prick, ignoring someone you’ve been hanging out with after you’ve fucked them isn’t in his realm of acceptable shitty behavior. But what would he even say? Hi, having sex with you was a mistake and I’m not gay. Just curious.

Still, Taehyung’s a coward. He overthinks things. Analyzes and tears events apart until he gets stuck in a time loop of regret. He tries to delude himself with thoughts of Jeongguk just being temporary. A glitch in the system. He tells himself to move on but it doesn’t feel right. It doesn’t, because at this point, Jeongguk has become something more than simply a passing face and  it’s a terrifying thought; someone meaning more to you than they should. Taehyung shouldn’t care but then he’s thinking about the bruises on Jeongguk’s face and the way they adorn his wrists like Saturn’s rings and he can’t leave because he’s afraid—afraid of what will happen to Jeongguk if he does.

Still, he can’t stay, either. Taehyung knows better. He knows that whatever they have will only end in disaster, so he turns his phone off, chucks it across his desk, and gets to work.

Later that night, when the suns set and his joints ache, Taehyung makes his routine stop for soju. It’s a quiet night being the middle of the week and he barely even spares the cashier a glance, already deathly tired as it is. He’s feeling more pathetic than usual lately, like any semblance of happiness has been sucked out through the marrow of his bones. It’s all motor memory now: work, go home, drink, cry, sleep. Today is no different.

Or at least, it’s not supposed to be. It’s when he’s reaching down for some peach flavored soju that it happens.

“Haven’t seen you around in a while, dollface.”

Taehyung freezes, feels the air floating around his lungs until it burns and he exhales shakily. He doesn’t know what to do, refuses to budge even an inch with his hand still around the neck of the glass bottle, bent over at an awkward angle. For a brief second he thinks that maybe he’s just desperate enough to start hearing that voice wherever he goes.

“Can’t you at least look at me?”

He can’t. He can’t. Taehyung’s afraid that if he looks than Jeongguk will strip him bare with just his eyes and see it all. His heart thuds against his ribcage and rings in his ears and it’s that slow creeping dread that starts in the pit of his stomach that Taehyung hates the most. It’s silly, because he’s sure that what happened meant nothing to Jeongguk, but nothing is ever as simple as that for Taehyung.

He straightens out suddenly and blurts out, “I’m not gay!” The words ring through the quiet store, causing the cashier to glance at him in confusion.

“Okay?” Jeongguk furrows his eyebrows, glossed lips pursed like he’s not sure whether to laugh or be upset.

Taehyung flushes. He’s stupid. Stupid Taehyung and his stupid stupid mouth. He’s not used to losing composure like this but when it comes to Jeongguk his knees shake and it’s like he’s in high school again.

He doesn’t look Jeongguk in the eyes but at the mole under his lip instead. “What are you doing here? Thought you got banned.”

Jeongguk shifts his weight to his left leg, clears his throat as if this is just as awkward for him as it is for Taehyung, but people like Jeongguk don’t get embarrassed. Taehyung doesn’t get it.

“Yeah, but this was the only way I could get you to see me.”

Taehyung watches the way Jeongguk bites his plump lower lips before his eyes flitter up to finally, finally look at him. He’s not wearing much makeup today, just some nude eyeshadow and lipgloss and to Taehyung’s relief, his face is free of any bruising. A black leather choker adorns his neck and instead of the minimalistic look that Jeongguk had been going for the last time Taehyung had seen him, it seems that he’s reverted to his goth chick alternate personality. He’s wearing nothing but an equally as dark glossed bralette, showing off the hard lines of his stomach and fuck he’s just so bare. Taehyung’s eyes travel downwards to the red and blue plaid skirt that should be illegal because of how short it is, to the enamoring site of Jeongguk’s muscular legs covered by the mesh of fishnets and maroon pumps to finish off the look.

Jeongguk is still the very embodiment of sin and Taehyung hates the way his mind reacts.

They’re quiet. Taehyung opens his mouth only to close it again because who wants to tell the truth? Saliva sits like venom on his tongue and he swallows, tries to quell the queasiness in his stomach.

“I wasn’t avoiding you,” he says. Stoic. Composed. Like the Kim Taehyung he’s supposed to be.

“I never said you were.” Jeongguk’s face is blank, like two can play at this game.

“I’ve been busy.”

“Mmm, is that so?”

Taehyung bends forward again to pick up the forgotten bottle of soju, tosses it lightly in his hand in an attempt to appear nonchalant. “Is there something you need? Must be pretty important if you’re here risking having the cops called on you.” Taehyung knows he sounds like an absolute prick right now.

For a moment, Jeongguk looks irked. He clenches his jaw and Taehyung sees the way his shoulders tense for a moment before relaxing again. It’s a three-sixty from there. Jeongguk leans his arm against the display rack and smirks.

“Maybe I just wanted to see my daddy. Is that so bad?”

Taehyung’s brain short circuits then because holy shit, had Jeongguk really just called him that? He can’t fight the blossoming flush that creeps up his neck and fucking Jeongguk doesn’t fail to notice it. If anything, his smirk grows wider.

Taehyung clears his throat, focuses on the fluorescent lights above because that definitely didn’t affect him. Didn’t make him throb with dirty fantasies in mind. “Well, it’s nice to see you.”  He’s being obviously awkward as fuck but Jeongguk doesn’t bat a lash.

“If you don’t want me to hate you take me out to dinner,” he says.

“What?” Taehyung blinks. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Jeongguk rolls his eyes, heels tapping impatiently against the tiled floor. “Do I have to spell everything out for you? I’m pretty sure you don’t want to talk about it so don’t play dumb and just take me out. Besides,” he hesitates, “shouldn’t a daddy treat his baby after neglecting him for so long?”

Taehyung completely blanks. Like, holy shit, his dick is about to do all the talking blank. Because not only does Jeongguk keep calling him that word, but he’s also implying that they have that kind of relationship—something that Taehyung should object wholeheartedly to. He knows this could cause a scandal and that if his father ever found out, Taehyung would lose everything.


He knows this and yet Jeongguk makes him feel like he’s suffocating. Like the idea of being someone’s sugar daddy isn’t an entirely terribly idea. Besides, isn’t that what they’re relationship has been this entire time? Taehyung giving Jeongguk rides and buying him dinner at five star restaurants all of the time?

“Okay,” he says quietly because he’s sure that if he speaks any louder his voice will crack. “Okay, I’ll buy you dinner.”

“Great!” Jeongguk squeals. “Let’s go.”

“It’s twelve in the morning, Jeongguk. Nothing good is open at this time.”

Jeongguk pouts and it’s not one of the cutest things that Taehyung has ever seen.

“I’ll buy you whatever you want tomorrow,” he supplies weakly.

“Fine,” Jeongguk huffs. “Can you take me home at least?”

“Yeah, I can do that.”

So for the first time in a week Taehyung finds Jeongguk in the passenger seat of his car, something that he had grown to miss. For some reason it makes him nervous. He taps his index fingers against the steering wheel and turns up the radio a little too loud. Tries to hum along to the beat of a song he doesn’t recognize because this really shouldn’t be awkward and Taehyung doesn’t want to make things awkward, but Jeongguk is unusually quiet and the air between them right now is thick with tension. He keeps giving the other glances out of the corner of his eye, but when Jeongguk isn’t scrolling through his phone, he’s staring out the window and Taehyung is used to the silence being filled with the younger man’s chatter. Taehyung thinks that maybe he’s really fucked up, which by all means isn’t that hard for him to do. He’d left Jeongguk alone in his house with nothing but a note, after all.

He grips the steering wheel harder, feels the way his palms have grown slick with sweat and wipes his hands on his pants one at a time. They’re almost to the place where Taehyung always drops Jeongguk off and neither of them have spoken, and for some reason Taehyung feels immensely guilty—feels like he owes Jeongguk an explanation even though he doesn’t because they’re not exactly friends, right? Because neither of them really know each other’s lives, but Taehyung knows that Jeongguk’s favorite color is red; knows that he loves Justin Bieber but loves his mom even more than life. He secretly is the biggest Bigbang fan and hopes to return to Korea one day so that he can meet them.

But what does Jeongguk know about Taehyung? That he’s rich? That he folds secrets into origami shape and hides them away? Taehyung only allows Jeongguk to peer at him through a crack in the door like a sliver of light, and yet he wants more. Some selfish part of himself wants Jeongguk to see all of him with no filters. Or maybe Taehyung is just tired of pretending and god how is he even supposed to say it? That this loneliness eats away at him like a fungus. That he drinks himself to death every night to numb the feeling of being empty. That his heart is an arena but all of the seats are empty because if Taehyung counts all of the people who love him on one hand he ends up with only Seokjin.

He doesn’t know how to tell Jeongguk that he’s been a martyr his entire life. His personality reduced to a half empty cup of water that people fill with whatever they please, because he’s always been good at giving.

Taehyung wants to say I don’t know how to be myself. Help me. That’s selfish. So selfish. I ran away because I’m scared, please don’t hate me. That’s even worse isn’t it? It’s like Taehyung’s never ready for anything. Appointments he’s planned last month give him anxiety and when his parents call him his hands shake. How can Taehyung ask anything of Jeongguk when he doesn’t even know how to hold his body together without pieces of himself falling out.

“I’m sorry,” is all he manages to say to fill the silence. They’ve pulled over to the side of the familiar cracked sidewalk and Jeongguk is still looking out the window.

He expels all of the air from his lungs and Taehyung is ready for the younger to turn leave without a word but before he knows it, Jeongguk is whipping around and Taehyung squeezes his eyes shut, ready to be yelled at but then—what the hell? Jeongguk climbs over the console to straddle Taehyung’s lap with difficulty, and puts his hands on his shoulders.

“What are you doing?” Taehyung tenses. Having Jeongguk close like this is nearly overwhelming. Almost too much. Too little.

“Making sure you can’t leave me,” he murmurs. Hands moving up to Taehyung’s neck to squeeze slightly in a way that has his pulse quickening, before roaming up to the planes of his face, to finally tangle in the locks of his hair.

“Jeongguk I don’t think we should—”

Jeongguk doesn’t listen, just leans down to kiss Taehyung soft and slow, but Taehyung’s mouth remains firmly shut, his eyes darting around in an attempt to avoid looking at the man in his lap. Holy shit, Jeongguk is kissing him. Like, actually kissing him. Eventually, Jeongguk pulls back looking rather annoyed.


“Kiss me,” he demands.

“I—I can’t,” Taehyung sputters out because he shouldn’t. He really shouldn’t.

“I don’t give a fuck if you’re gay or not,” Jeongguk snaps. “Just kiss me, you prick.” And then he yanks on Taehyung’s hair and Taehyung’s mouth opens in a gasp at the jolt of pleasure and Jeongguk delves forward. Stuffs his tongue right into Taehyung’s mouth and Taehyung tastes peach lip gloss this time. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Taehyung can’t help but finally cave in.

Jeongguk kisses with such a sense of urgency like he’s ready to devour Taehyung. The press of their lips borderline painful, tongue’s clashing in a mess of messy saliva and breathy moans. Taehyung feels too hot. Feels like he’s going insane when Jeongguk takes his bottom lip between his own teeth and bites down hard. Taehyung can faintly taste the blood in his mouth but it only makes his skin grow hotter.

Jeongguk grinds his hips down and Taehyung’s hands fly to grip his waist, a guttural moan emitting from the back of his throat because fuck, he’s already so hard and they’ve done nothing but kiss. He begins to trace up the bridge of Jeongguk’s bare spine with his fingertips, his other hand wandering underneath Jeongguk’s skirt, feeling the skin in between the wide holes of the fishnets.

Jeongguk pulls back to breathe, lips swollen and cheeks flushed, he stares down at Taehyung through hooded eyes. He roughly pulls Jeongguk closer causing him to squeak in surprise at the  action, but then Taehyung’s leaning forward to kiss and suck at Jeongguk’s chest and he lets out a breathy mewl.

Taehyung’s missed this. Jeongguk smells like a mix of cigarettes and vanilla, and Taehyung can’t help but inhale deeply when he moves up to Jeongguk’s neck. He sucks hard, making sure to leave a mark and Jeongguk squirms in his lap as he rocks forward impatiently.

“M-more,” he begs.

“Fuck, Jeongguk.” Taehyung rests his forehead against the crook of his neck.

“Is something wrong?” Jeongguk freezes and Taehyung can hear the hint of fear in his voice. Like, he’s afraid that Taehyung’s about to shut him out completely.

“You’re just so infuriating,” Taehyung jokes.

Jeongguk giggles. “Yeah? You gonna punish me for that? Fuck me like the cock slut that I am, daddy?”

“Shit.” Taehyung grips Jeongguk’s upper thigh. “You’re so dirty, y’know?”

“Yeah? Bet you like that. Like me being nasty like this for you.” As if to make his point, Jeongguk makes a grand show of swirling his hips down hard and Taehyung jolts at the stimulation.

The car feels suffocating, like if Taehyung doesn’t strip Jeongguk down right now he’s going to lose his mind, and he might as well be because Taehyung always finds himself at the mercy of the younger man.

“Take it off,” he demands, tugging at the straps of the bralette. “Take everything the fuck off.”

“I thought car sex was supposed to be quick and easy.”

“Did I fucking stutter, Jeongguk?”

Jeongguk flushes, looks down at Taehyung through his lashes and says in a small voice, “yes daddy.”                                                            

And then he’s stripping. The bralette gone over his head, but maneuvering out of the skirt is tedious and Taehyung has to move the seat back to give him room. Their foreheads bump together awkwardly and they laugh, letting out muttered curses. It all seems too light hearted for the relationship they have, but it’s funny because Jeongguk is bent at an awkward angle trying to yank the skirt down and Taehyung can’t help but smile at his struggle.

“That’s the first time I’ve heard you laugh.”

Taehyung’s expression immediately closes off. “What do you mean?”

“Don’t stop, dollface.” Jeongguk reaches forward, still bent at an awkward angle to caress Taehyung’s cheek. “I like it. Your laugh, that is.”

“O-okay.” Taehyung nods dumbly. “I’ll uh, do that. Laugh, that is.”

They stare awkwardly at each other for a moment before they both realize the ridiculousness of the situation they’re in and burst out into laughter again. Jeongguk manages to finally shimmy out of that nightmare of a skirt and throw it in the passenger seat, and Taehyung returns to full hardness at the sight of Jeongguk wearing black laced underwear. When he moves to take them off, Taehyung puts a hand on his wrist to stop him.

“Leave the rest on,” he says. “I want to fuck you just like this.”  

“Got a thing for lingerie?” Jeongguk teases with a wink and Taehyung can’t even deny it because the sight of the younger man in nothing but laced panties, fishnets and heels is bewitching.

Taehyung feels Jeongguk through the silk of his panties, touches light and teasing as Jeongguk bucks his hips up into the feeling.

“Stop teasing me,” he whines. “Ah.”

“Mm, why should I?” Taehyung asks mindlessly, as if they’re talking about the weather and he’s totally not about to fuck Jeongguk into oblivion.

“Because I’ve been a bad boy and need to be taught a lesson.”

Taehyung seems to ponder Jeongguk’s words for a moment before he’s reaching around to spread his cheeks and—

“What is this?” he prods around with his fingers a little more, eyebrows shooting up in surprise. “Is this a fucking buttplug?”  

And Jeongguk (being Jeongguk) has the audacity to look smug. “It’s a present for you.”

“Did you plan this?” Taehyung asks, feeling absolutely baffled.

“Not exactly. I was just thinking of you this morning and—” Taehyung pulls the plug out, causing Jeongguk to let out a lewd moan. “And I couldn’t help but finger myself.”

“You’re gross,” Taehyung says but the insult is empty.

“But you love it.”

“Fuck you.”

“You’re not doing much of that right now,” Jeongguk counters.

“I hate your ass,” Taehyung grumbles.

Jeongguk snorts. “You love this ass. It’s like fucking gold to you, dollface.”

Instead of retorting, Taehyung asks the younger man if he has any lube and of fucking course he does. He reaches over the console for his handbag and procures two square packets. “They were for free at this coffee shop downtown,” he explains and Taehyung doesn’t even want to know where Jeongguk gets his coffee from.

Undoing his belt and unbuttoning his jeans, Taehyung reaches in and finally pulls his aching cock out from the confines of his briefs. He half expects Jeongguk to give him the lube, but instead Jeongguk is ripping the first packet open. “Let me do it,” he says, pinching the condom by the end and rolling it over Taehyung’s length. He opens the second one even though it’s a pre-lubed condom and Taehyung can’t help but find it cute how eager Jeongguk seems as he drizzles more onto his cock, spreading it with his hands as he begins to pump Taehyung slowly.

“D-don’t you have to prep yourself?” Taehyung asks between stuttered breaths.

“I’m already all stretched for you, daddy,” is all Jeongguk says before he lifts himself up and rubs Taehyung’s cock between his cheeks, smearing lube all over his skin and god it’s already so wet. “Tell me how badly you wanna fuck me. Tell your baby boy how much you want him.” 

Taehyung feels like he’ll go insane with the way that Jeongguk talks like absolute sin. He swallows hard. “I wanna be inside of you more than anything, Guk.” The nickname slips out again and it’s surprisingly comfortable on his tongue. “Wanna fill you up with my cum like the dirty bitch you are.”

For a moment Taehyung thinks that he might have gone too far, but Jeongguk shivers and lets out a little mewl and fuck if watching Jeongguk getting turned on at being degraded isn’t the hottest thing ever.

Finally, Jeongguk positions Taehyung’s cock over his hole and slowly starts the sink down, the muscles of his stomach tensing. They both moan in relief at the feeling of finally being fully stimulated and in his sober state, being inside Jeongguk feels better than ever.

Once he’s bottomed out Jeongguk begins to move slowly, and Taehyung isn’t sure who’s teasing who at this point. He takes his time, grinds on Taehyung’s cock slowly like he’s savoring it all, head tilted back and mouth parted. He seems to be in a world of his own and Taehyung can’t help but watch, completely enraptured by this moment.

“Tell daddy how it feels,” Taehyung finds himself saying. Screw Jeongguk for making Taehyung fall right into his trap. But Taehyung can’t even lie to himself—he loves the power that kind of title has over Jeongguk. Loves the way it makes him shiver and mewl.

“F-full,” Jeongguk stutters out. “Daddy you make me feel so full. I can, ngh—I can feel your throbbing cock. No one else c-can make me feel like this.”

He starts to rock down faster, movements messy and erratic with his thighs shaking from the strain of having to hold himself up for so long. “You’re so fucking thick.” He finally opens his eyes and looks at Taehyung with such a euphoric expression that he snaps.

Grabbing Jeongguk’s hips, Taehyung begins a brutal pace of fucking up into his heat. There’s a song playing on the radio in the background but the sound of them fucking drowns it out.

“Y-you’re so fucking wet, baby boy.” Taehyung’s grip is nearly bruising and Jeongguk lets out a high pitched whine as he bounces on his cock, hands flying up to Taehyung’s shoulders to steady himself.

“Holy fuck. Holy fuck, Tae.”

Taehyung growls, lifts a hand and smacks Jeongguk’s ass causing him to cry out. “What did you just call me?”

“D-daddy,” Jeongguk cries, he looks completely gone at this point and there’s drool at the corner of his mouth. “You fuh-fuck me so well. Hah. I’m such a bad boy. Such a bad, bad boy.”

“Yeah?” Taehyung lets out breathlessly. “You’re a nasty little slut riding daddy’s cock like this.”

Cheeks flushed and tears hanging from his lashes, Jeongguk looks absolutely fucking wrecked. The squelching sound of Taehyung pounding into his asshole is obscene and he can feel the wetness seeping through his slacks.

“I’m—I’m gonna cum,” Jeongguk chokes out. “Daddy, I’m going to cum so hard. Holy fuck, right there. Yes, right there.”  

“Cum for me.” Taehyung reaches for Jeongguk’s cock, begins to rub at his head and Jeongguk fucking preens. “Cum for daddy.”

And then Jeongguk tenses, the grip he has on Taehyung’s shoulder tightening and thighs quivering, he lets out the most obscene sound as he releases all over Taehyung’s hand and he hopes to god that no one hears how loud Jeongguk’s being.

Taehyung fucks into Jeongguk, the younger man’s spent body sagging against him. When he cums, he bites his tongue, a low sound of pleasure emitting from the back of his throat. Had sex always felt this good?

Completely boneless, Taehyung tilts his head back and tries to collect himself. Sweat drips from his fringe into his eye, and when he lifts his hand to wipe it away he realizes too late that it’s the hand that has cum on it.

“What the fuck,” he growls.

“That’s so gross.” Jeongguk laughs, nose scrunching in distaste. “Got any napkins?”

“In my glove compartment.”

Jeongguk lifts himself up and Taehyung hisses at the movement, dick oversensitive. While Jeongguk climbs back into the passenger seat to dig around for napkins, Taehyung ties the condom and throws it right out the window.

“Here you go.” Jeongguk hands him some napkins and Taehyung cleans himself as best as he can before throwing those too out the window.

“That’s bad for the environment,” Jeongguk jibes.

“Shut up. You got cum everywhere you monster,” Taehyung grumbles.

“Don’t be such a wuss.” Jeongguk bites his bottom lip and looks thoughtful for a minute. “Will I, uh, see you tomorrow?”

Taehyung freezes. He shouldn’t see Jeongguk ever again, he really shouldn’t. Hooking up while drunk was one thing, but they’re both completely sober with clear thoughts and Taehyung knows that if they’re caught it’ll be the end of him. But for some reason, a huge part of him can’t let Jeongguk go. He’s not gay but there’s an undeniable attraction he has to Jeongguk and maybe it’s because he dresses like a woman but Taehyung can’t let him go.

“Do you like touching me?” he asks when Taehyung doesn’t answer.

“I don’t know,” Taehyung mutters because it’s not the same as touching girls, but it feels the same. Yet boys aren’t supposed to kiss other boys. His father had beat that into his head a long time ago. Right now, though,  it seems ridiculous to tell Jeongguk that it says so in the bible. “It feels right.” It’s the first time that Taehyung’s ever been a hundred percent honest with someone and for once, he doesn’t hate it.

“Then let’s see each other again.” Jeongguk says it with such finality that Taehyung can’t even argue, so he finds himself going along with it instead.

“Okay.” His throat feels tight. “Okay.”

Taehyung’s scared.

***



The next time Taehyung sees Jeongguk is a few days later, which means he’s had time to lay on his couch watching Netflix and sulking over his poor life choices. He often stares at his hands like they’re dirty and lately they’ve been shaking more than usual for some reason. There’s something stuck to his ribs like a note jammed into the corner of a door and it feels a lot like fear. Or maybe anxiety? Taehyung doesn’t know the difference anymore. All he knows is that sometimes he wakes up feeling like the world is going to end, and has to rip himself out from bed.

He still doesn’t know how to text first, but checks his phone far too often as if it’ll send a telepathic message to Jeongguk to just text him. It doesn’t of course, so when Jeongguk finally does text him, asking to be picked up per usual, Taehyung is overjoyed.

He hasn’t been drinking as much lately.

Like always, the place that Taehyung picks Jeongguk up from is different from the last. He’s so anxious and overjoyed to see the younger man again though, that he doesn’t even notice the location is in the more seedier parts of inner Chicago until Jeongguk climbs into his car and all Taehyung can see is red.

“Hey there, dollface.” Jeongguk smiles at him. “Did you miss me?”

Taehyung just blinks in response because what the fuck? What the actual fuck? There’s blood smeared across Jeongguk’s mouth from his nose. His face is mottled in different colors, left eye nearly swollen shut. Yeah, Taehyung’s seen Jeongguk a little roughed up before but this is in a whole different ballpark and the handprints on his neck makes Taehyung feel like crying. The anger he feels must be palpable because Jeongguk’s smile starts to fade.

“What’s wrong?” he asks.

It takes all of Taehyung’s willpower not to just start screaming at him. He tears his eyes away because if he looks at Jeongguk any longer he’s going to actually lose his shit. Instead, he stares at a street sign and says in the flattest voice possible, “clean yourself up.”

Jeongguk’s quiet for a long moment, before he mutters an “okay” and Taehyung hears the glove compartment being opened. He doesn’t spare another second shifting gears into drive and pressing down hard on the gas pedal. The car shoots forward, jerking both of them back and Jeongguk lets out a small sound of surprise but doesn’t say anything else.

It’s a quiet night but the volatile thoughts bouncing around in Taehyung’s mind are loud and won’t shut up. He wants to know why Jeongguk does this to himself; why he would put himself through so much pain and for what? Does he think Taehyung’s stupid and doesn’t know shit? Like maybe he believes that growing up in money makes Taehyung naive but Taehyung knows how it feels like to be a falling elevator. He knows violence like the back of his hands. Knows it etched into the creases of his palm like memory.

He drives faster, going ninety-five on the freeway as if he can outrun the ugly feelings inside. But for once, Taehyung finds that he can’t stay silent, so he abruptly hits the breaks and pulls to the side of the road. His breathing is heavy and he’s trying so hard to not lose composure right now.

“Taehyung, what—”  

“If we’re going to do this I want you to quit that job,” Taehyung cuts him off angrily. “It’s dangerous and I don’t want that on my consciousness knowing that I could help you more.”

“What are you talking about? It’s just bartending.” Jeongguk’s trying to act dumb but Taehyung isn’t going to play this game right now.

“I’m serious, Guk.” He finally rips his eyes away from the road to look at Jeongguk, heart rate picking up again because who could ever do something like this to another person? Taehyung is all too familiar with monsters like the ones who beat Jeongguk up. “I’m not stupid and I know that you must really need the money if you’re going as far as to—” he cuts himself off, unsure of what to say.

“Just say it, Taehyung.” Jeongguk smiles but it’s cynical, his words sharp as he glares at Taehyung. “Or are you too embarrassed and disgusted, huh? Don’t want the world to know that you’re sleeping around with a prostitute.”

“Jeongguk—”

“Are you willing to pay for all of my tuition? Can you afford that?” he cuts off, glare gone and expression vacant. It gives Taehyung whiplash the way Jeongguk just switches up on him like that all of the time. Like one moment he’s laughing and teasing him, and the next moment he’s a monsoon.   

“That’s it?” Taehyung snorts.

Jeongguk rolls his eyes as if Taehyung’s just bluffing and says rather dryly, “you gonna pay my rent too?”

Taehyung shrugs. “If it helps you focus on your studies more I don’t see why fucking not.”

At this, Jeongguk gapes like a fish, as if he can’t really believe what he’s hearing. But then his expression is shut off and guarded again. His lips pressed into a thin line. “Don’t mess with me, Taehyung.”

“You’re the one messing with me!” Taehyung snarls, finally snapping. “You ask me to pick you up from shady ass places all of the time and expect me not to give a shit? Like, okay I’m just completely cool with carpooling you from one place to another just for you to get beaten. Do you really think that I’m such a shitty and inconsiderate person? I don’t give a fuck about what you do, Jeongguk. I just want you to be safe. Is that too much to ask for? I—” he cuts himself off, realizing that his hands are shaking again and runs them through his hair.

“Shit—Jeongguk. I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to yell at you.”

Jeongguk seems equally as taken aback. The silence is back as both of them attempt to regain some semblance of composure.

“Why do you care?” Jeongguk finally asks, voice small. He’s looking down at his lap, eyebrows furrowed and lips pulled down into a frown.

“I don’t know,” Taehyung admits because there shouldn’t be a reason for him to care, and Taehyung doesn’t remember the last time he had actually been that angry for someone. “I just do, Guk. I don’t know how to explain it but I just do.”

“Okay.” Jeongguk nods his head slowly, looks back up to make eye contact with Taehyung. “If you want me to quit that badly I will. Are you sure you can really pay for all of my school though?” he asks with doubt.

“I wouldn’t lie to you about something like that,” Taehyung says earnestly.

Jeongguk smiles. It’s small but it’s there like he’s willing to trust Taehyung just this once. “Thank you, Taehyung. Thank you.”

Taehyung pretends that his heart doesn’t skip a beat.  




















 

Chapter Text

As the weeks pass by and give way to another month, Taehyung finds himself spending more and more time with Jeongguk. He’s not used to investing so much of his time into something else other than work, and he’ll admit that ever since he and Jeongguk talked about things the change has been jarring for him.

For the first week, the dynamics between them had been a little rocky and difficult for the both of them. Jeongguk seemed tense all of the time, and Taehyung is pretty sure it had to do with the fact that for the first time ever, someone other than Jimin knew what Jeongguk did for money. Perhaps he was afraid that Taehyung was secretly disgusted by his job, even if it was far from the truth.

But Taehyung wasn’t any better off. He was used to people being fake humble when it came to money. Was used to women playing pretend with modesty whilst begging to be showered with gifts. The way that they’d tell him that they didn’t need anything materialistic from him whilst snatching his debit card right out of his hands anyways. Their fake smiles and fake kindness and fake everything. Taehyung was used to this kind of arrangement, but being a sugar daddy for another man was a whole other ballpark.

It was new. It was thrilling, but Taehyung didn’t know what the fuck he was doing. Where it only took Jeongguk a few days to loosen up, it ended up taking Taehyung a lifetime. He still flushes and feels the slightest bit of embarrassment with Jeongguk calls him daddy.

He still feels so unsure of this all. What the two of them have is fragile and Taehyung knows this. He knows that what they’ve built together is a house of cards, ready to collapse at the slightest of tremors.

Taehyung is hesitant and holds his breath, but he’s trying to adjust. He’s trying.

Jeongguk on the other hand, seems all too familiar with this scene and doesn’t even try to hide how much he loves spending Taehyung’s money. Taehyung gives Jeongguk five-hundred dollars a week for self-indulgence, but Jeongguk blows through that in a handful of days before he’s calling Taehyung in the middle of meetings, begging for his card. How the hell Jeongguk spends so much in just a few days is beyond Taehyung. It wasn’t as if Taehyung actually cared how much Jeongguk spent, but it was starting to get out of hand and Jeongguk was acting more like a spoilt prince than ever.

Keeping true to his word, Taehyung had wired money to Jeongguk’s bank account for rent and overdue tuition. With his head hung low, Jeongguk had confessed that his family was riddled in debt and that most of the money he made went home to help his mom, barely leaving any for himself, which is why he had started taking on more clients lately.

Taehyung wanted to pay everything off right away, but Jeongguk had pointed out that his mom would be quite suspicious if all of their debt went away in just a day. So Taehyung had set up another bank account just for Jeongguk, whose eyes had nearly bulged out of their sockets when he had seen all of the extra zeros in his account. Nonetheless, he had given Taehyung an extra blowjob as a thank you.

Taehyung.” As soon as he hears Jeongguk’s voice whining through the phone, Taehyung knows exactly what he’s calling for. The sunset streaming through the windows, layers his office in a soft orange glow. He leans back in the chair, feet perched carefully atop his desk. Today had been less stressful than usual, which was saying a lot. His parents haven’t called at all this week, nor has his father complained to Seokjin about how flawed of a son he is per usual.

Things have been calm, strangely enough. For the first time ever, Taehyung feels like he can breathe. Hanging out with Jeongguk has made him feel lighter than ever, and maybe it’s the thrill of knowing that he’s doing something forbidden—the way that his heart races knowing that they could be caught any minute, but Taehyung revels in it.

“Hm, you’re not calling to telling me that you’ve spent all of your allowance already are you, darling?” He twirls around to face the window, sunset warmly seeping through the linen of his suit. He’s already aware of the answer.

“Now baby,” Jeongguk breathes out into the other end, tone sickeningly sweet. “I saw the cutest shoes while I was out with Jimin, but yesterday I spent—”

“Your entire allowance?” Taehyung cuts off. Jeongguk is silent, and Taehyung can’t help but smirk to himself because messing with the younger man always gets him going. “I’m at work. We’ll talk about this later,” he says, attempting to sound nonchalant.

He can picture the way Jeongguk must be pouting right now. Cheeks puffed out and lips plump, kissable. Jeongguk’s good at acting cute when he wants to.

“But—”

Taehyung ends the call before his resolve wavers because he doesn’t know how to say no to the other. He doesn’t know why he does it. Why he just gives in so easily to someone like Jeongguk. Taehyung’s met many beautiful women in his life; women that men would kill for, but for some reason Taehyung has always been impervious to their charms. And yet, so desperate for his father to accept him, he’d given them everything they ever wanted. But for the first time ever, Taehyung finds himself wanting to give the world to someone—to Jeongguk.

Because when Taehyung’s with Jeongguk, he feels less like a half empty cup and more like he’s overflowing. Like there are too many emotions swirling inside of him, overwhelming and indecipherable and Taehyung feels like he’s going to combust at any moment. When he’s not with Jeongguk the anxiety and doubt eats away at him, but when he’s with Jeongguk it’s too much. Like layers of him are peeling away and he feels awfully vulnerable.

“Kims can’t be weak,” his father would say.

Oh, if only he could see the deplorable person that his son has become now.

He knows he’s playing a dangerous game here but he just can’t help it. It’s a phase, Taehyung tells himself. A mid-life crisis that will end eventually. It’s because he’s sad all of the time and feels the weight of the world on his shoulders, but Jeongguk is like a breath of fresh air; an escape. Taehyung is someone who works a monotonous office job, and Jeongguk is like a windbreaker that he hides behind.

It’s just a phase because after all of the women that have fallen into his bed and stuck venom down his throat, Taehyung needs a break. He needs something different before he returns to a world that wants to swallow him whole.

For the first time in forever, Taehyung leaves the office before the sun sets. Because his father hadn’t had anything particular to bitch about this time, his desk isn’t cluttered with unnecessary paperwork. This time when Taehyung lets out a long sigh, shoulders sagging, it’s out of relief instead of the usual dread that comes with working a corporate job.

When he locks his office, Seokjin is already stood up and gathering his things. “You’re leaving now?” Taehyung questions, eyebrows furrowed.

His secretary looks just as equally surprised to see him. “You too?”

Taehyung nods. “It feels weird to say, but there’s nothing left I really have to do.”

“Yeah, we haven’t gotten many calls either,” Seokjin says. “And your father—” he pauses, lowering voice. “I mean, Mr. Kim has been strangely quiet this week.”

“He probably found another money hungry woman twenty years younger than him to stick his dick into,” Taehyung jibes with a shrug.

His father was someone that could never stay tied down to anything but money. Not his wife, nor his son, but to blackmarket deals in shady clubs. “The world revolves around money,” he would say to Taehyung as a child. “If you have no money you have no power. And if you have no power, then you’re nothing.”

Taehyung never once felt like a son growing up, but rather just another tool to be used for his father’s grand schemes that would seem to never come to fruition because unless Taehyung was making them millions of dollars, he was a failure.

Was Taehyung smart? Yes. He was more than competent, actually. He had graduated from Harvard with a 4.0 GPA and by the time he was twenty-six, he held a spot on the board of directors. He was hailed as a prodigy tycoon with his innovative ideas, but for some reason, no matter how hard Taehyung tried, it was never good enough for his father.

Seokjin frowns, disgust clear on his face. “Wouldn’t be the first time or the last.”

“Tell me about it.” Taehyung snorts derisively.

“Say, Taehyung.” Seokjin starts hesitantly as he walks around the front desk to stand in front of him, arms crossed over his chest. He purses his lips and seems to be analyzing Taehyung from head to shoulder. “You seem different these days. Did something happen?”

Taehyung blinks. “No?”

“Did you meet someone?”

He swallows at this, averting his gaze from his inquisitive friend. “I don’t have time for that, hyung.”

“Oh?” Seokjin raises a brow. “Mind explaining those hickies on your neck then?”

Hands instantly flying up to cover his neck, Taehyung flushes a deep scarlet. “I don’t know what you mean.”

Seokjin laughs. “I was kidding, Tae. But you must really be seeing someone for you to react like that. You’re completely smitten, aren’t you?”

Taehyung frowns, feels himself flush even more. “No ‘m not.”

“Yes you are.” Seokjin doesn’t look like he believes him one bit. “Who is she? She must be a stunner for you to be so taken with her. You’ve never showed much interest in girls before.”

Something in Taehyung’s expression must have changed, because Seokjin looks alarmed and is immediately backtracking.

“It doesn’t have to be a girl!” he blurts out. “If you’re seeing another guy that’s totally fine with me.”

Taehyung rolls his eyes, tries to play it off as simply Seokjin being over dramatic even if he can feel his blood pumping because someone knows. “It’s no one special, hyung,” he answers flatly, but even as the words come out of his mouth they don’t feel right.

“If you say so.”

It all tastes bad in his mouth. Sticky and bitter like cherry flavored cough syrup, and when Taehyung turns to leave the feeling stops him in his tracks. He tries to ignore it, but it’s like realizing it’s raining on vacation and he can’t wish it away. It sticks to his lungs and his screws feel loose—all wrong.

It’s a small voice at the back of his head that he can’t ignore. Tell someone, it says.  

“Hyung,” he starts slowly, hesitantly.

“Yes?” Seokjin’s still standing by the front desk, busy putting his laptop into his suitcase, but when Taehyung speaks he stops to look up. Seokjin’s always been attentive like this and sometimes Taehyung hates it.

“If I was—” It’s like the half of his brain that’s screaming this is wrong! Is trying to trap his words behind an iron gate and Taehyung feels himself shrinking, shrinking. What if Seokjin thinks of him as less of a human being after this? An abomination?

Seokjin’s really listening now, eyebrows furrowed, he takes a step towards Taehyung. “You know you can tell me anything, right? I won’t judge you, Tae.”

“But what if you hate me?” his voice shakes. These days he finds himself more unsure of the person that he is more than ever. His emotions are everywhere, the facade he had worked so hard to perfect for years crumbling.

“I could never.”

Taehyung takes a deep breath as he attempts to steel his nerves. “What if...hypothetically, the person I was sleeping with wasn’t a woman?”

“And?”

“And what?”

“Weren’t you going to tell me something groundbreaking? Is he a gangster or?”

“Hyung—”

“God, please don’t tell me he sells meth.” Seokjin looks like he's seriously concerned about this scenario at this point, his eyebrows furrowed. “We’re too old for this shit, Tae.”

“He’s a man,” Taehyung blurts.  

“Okay?”

“I had sex.”

“Congrats?”

“With another man.”

“You put your dick up a dude’s poop shooter?”

“I put my dick up a dude’s poop shooter.”

“Interesting.” Seokjin hums.

“Do you hate me?”

Seokjin rolls his eyes. “Oh, Tae. I couldn’t give two shits about who you love.”

“I don’t l—”

“Man or woman, does it really fucking matter?”

Taehyung doesn’t respond, just stares at the ground feeling awkward as he refuses to look at his friend because this was not the reaction he was expecting. He expected Seokjin to be weirded out, appalled at the very least, but his friend doesn’t even seemed phased in the slightest. The conversation is too casual, as if they’re talking about the fucking weather and if anything, Taehyung is the one feeling weirded out.  

“I’m gonna go,” he mumbles, immediately turning and hitting the call button for the elevator.

“Have fun!” Seokjin calls after him suggestively, as Taehyung hurriedly steps into the left, cheeks set aflame. “And make sure you use protection! I know it’s not the same as it is with women but you can still get all kinds of—”

The doors close and Taehyung simply stares into space feeling mortified. And then, for the first time in forever, he laughs wholeheartedly to himself.

 

 



Taehyung is still reeling from his confession to Seokjin when he gets back to his house. He had expected to feel nothing but shame and guilt, but surprisingly enough Taehyung finds himself feeling...light? Less like he’s suffocating, and more like seeing the sun for the first time in years. Like a lifetime spent carrying such a heavy burden is no longer crushing him. It’s honestly a bit confusing and jarring, and Taehyung is still trying to get a grip on himself.

He doesn’t feel happy (that would be a vast overstatement) but he does feel a sense of relief knowing that one person in this world doesn’t hate him for seeing Jeongguk. Some silly part of himself thinks that maybe things could work out with Jeongguk, no matter how fleeting this arrangement is. It’s such a delusional and naive thought, and yet Taehyung can’t help but find himself yearning for the other.

A silly, silly part of Taehyung thinks about waking up next to Jeongguk in the morning again. They’ve fucked plenty of times since then, but Jeongguk never stays and Taehyung regrets just abandoning the younger man the way he did. He thinks about how Jeongguk would look caressed softly by the moonlight as he slept soundly beside Taehyung. Yes, he thinks about things he shouldn’t, like Jeongguk wearing his clothes. Like making him breakfast. Like holding him as more than just some hookup. He thinks about Jeongguk and the back of his hands and the skin on his knees and wonders what it would be like to just run away and drive off under a hot pink sky.

He thinks about Jeongguk as if he isn’t Kim Taehyung and is just a normal almost thirty-year-old guy with a low paying job, but it doesn’t matter because he has Jeongguk.

What would it be like to love Jeongguk? But oh god, Taehyung isn’t in love and Jeongguk isn’t his and the startling revelation makes him feel sick, because how could he ever even entertain the idea of falling for another man?

He’s stuck in his headspace, barely registers the fact that he’s arrived in front of his own home. Taehyung almost lets himself panic. Almost as in, the moment he enters the house and toes off his shoes, the sound of the T.V. playing is enough to stop any depressing thoughts. For a moment, Taehyung thinks that maybe someone broke into his house because he’s a paranoid perfectionist who never forgets anything.

He’s careful as he creeps through the house, even goes as far as to grab a golf club leaning against the wall in the hallway (being forced to go golfing with old rich men was the most boring shit ever) and holds it like a bat, ready to strike whoever comes at him.

He leans against the corner wall leading to the living room, muscles tense as he holds his breath. Over the sound of the T.V. he can hear someone murmuring quietly on the phone. He plans his method of attack out in his head, thinking of ways to fend the intruder off whilst also doing minimal damage to himself. Maybe he should call the police?

Taehyung takes one last deep breath, and then he’s jumping around the corner quickly, golf club held high above his head, ready to swing down upon his enemy as he lets out a war cry. There’s a screech of surprise and Taehyung feels briefly triumphant knowing that he caught the person off guard, but then—

“J-Jeongguk?” he freezes, golf club still held above his head, ready to swing down upon the younger man. “Why are you here?”

Jeongguk, who is currently has his phone pressed against his ear, slowly blinks, and Taehyung watches as the gears in his head turn. “Um, I was bored and had nothing else better to do,” he furrows his eyebrows in confusion. “What the hell are you doing?”

Taehyung remembers that he’d given Jeongguk an extra key to his house last week because Jeongguk was always around anyways. So much for having impeccable memory. But in Taehyung’s defense, Jeongguk had never just shown up when he wasn’t home.

“Oh, y’know…” Taehyung starts, “Just got off of work and uh, trying to relax and maybe watch some—” his eyes flicker to the screen “—Family Guy?”

“It’s the Cleveland Show you fake fan.” Jeongguk snorts. “Jimin, you still there? Yeah. I think Taehyung plans to murder me today, so make sure to play MCR as I’m lowered into my grave.”

“I was not!” Taehyung blurts.

Jeongguk gives him the most unamused look. “Dollface, you’re literally holding a golf club like you’re ready to bash my skull in.”

“I was practicing for a tournament,” he argues. And just to make himself look even more guilty, he throws the club back out into the hallway and they both flinch as it loudly clangs to the ground.     

“Right.”

“Why would I, Kim Taehyung, lie?” he can feel himself starting to sweat.

“Okay.” Jeongguk rolls his eyes. “I gotta go but I’ll talk to you later Jimin.” There are few more words exchanged between them before Jeongguk hangs up and sets his phone on the coffee table. He raises an eyebrow expectantly. “So are you just gonna stand there and embarrass yourself further or are you gonna sit? Jimin says hi by the way.”

Taehyung blushes furiously as he quickly makes his way around the couch to sit next to Jeongguk, making sure to keep a considerable amount of space between them. “Oh, um. Hi? Tell him I said that. I mean, tell Jimin the hi part. Not the first two words I just uttered, because that would be so awkward. God, I mean tell him—”

“Dollface.” Jeongguk cuts him off with a pointed look and Taehyung immediately snaps his mouth shut. There’s a moment where all Jeongguk does is stare at Taehyung flatly, but then he’s grinning from ear to ear and giggling gleefully.

“What’s so funny?” Taehyung frowns.

“Nothing.” Jeongguk starts laughing even harder and something inside Taehyung feels ugly.

“Are you making fun of me?” he doesn’t mean to give such an attitude, but Taehyung’s had enough of feeling embarrassed for one day and Jeongguk is just being plain mean now.

“I’m not laughing at you. I promise. It’s just—” Jeongguk attempts to gather himself. “Wait, are you actually pouting right now?”

“No.”

Jeongguk’s eyes widen in shock. “I never thought I’d live to see the day where the Kim Taehyung actually pouts.”

“I’m not pouting!” he can feel his face burning hotter than ever and if Jeongguk could just shut the fuck up that would be great.

“You totally are. Holy shit, why are you so cute?”

“Cute?” Taehyung splutters. “Who the—whomst? In what generation? In what lifetime? Not in this house.”

Jeongguk laughs again. It’s a full body laugh where he throws himself against the arm of the couch and lets it shake his entire body. Shit, Taehyung has never felt this high off of seeing another person’s joy. He can’t quite place his finger on whatever it is that he’s feeling, but it bubbles into his chest and threatens to spill over because the man in front of him is too damn beautiful.

Taehyung is so enamored.

“‘m sorry,” Jeongguk manages to say once he’s calmed down. He sits back up, smooths his hair back down into place. “It’s just that for the past few months that I’ve known you, you either look mildly uncomfortable with everything around you, or like you’re gloating over everyone.”

“I do?” he suddenly feels self-conscious.

“Yeah,” Jeongguk starts to say carefully. “I dunno, you were so shut off and cold when we first met. You just didn’t seem like you cared for anything I guess? Like if the whole world were to burn, you wouldn’t even bat an eye.”

“I find it hard to care about things,” Taehyung confesses. The words slip out without meaning, and Taehyung wants to hit himself because he just keeps speaking recklessly today—but it’s painfully true.

It’s not that Taehyung doesn’t want to get close to anyone, or that he’s too superior to give others his time of day. It’s more like he’s had a lifetime of his father hammering toxicity into his head. “Men like us can’t afford to care about people, son. In the world we live in, money is the only thing that doesn’t lie.”

And Taehyung, always so eager to make his parents proud, threw himself into a corporate job that his twenty-two year old self hated just because for once, he wanted to give his parents something to smile about. For some reason, his naive younger self thought that maybe he could fix their family if he could just be a good son.

Taehyung’s good at finding things that hurt him and making sure they stick. He does bad thing after bad thing, because yeah maybe he’s destroyed any chance of happiness, but it’s his happiness to destroy and no one—not a single person can take that away from him. He throws himself against the pavement and no one ever asks him why he scrapes his knees for people who don’t care about him. It’s like, how does Taehyung have time for anything else when he’s too busy being a disappointment to the people that matter the most?

“I know, and I get it so you don’t have to feel ashamed or anything,” Jeongguk reassures. “You were just being careful, right? People like you got too much to lose if you aren’t.”

The level of understanding that Jeongguk has catches Taehyung off guard. Over the time they’ve spent together, Jeongguk never fails to surprise him with the amount of thoughtfulness he has and it leaves Taehyung feeling a little vulnerable.

“I feel like you’ve been yourself around me recently and…” the faint hues of pink stain Jeongguk’s cheeks as he begins to play with his fringe nervously. “...and it makes me feel happy? You just walk around with the weight of the world on your shoulder, so I guess it makes me feel good knowing that you can loosen up just a little around me.”

“Oh,” is all Taehyung can say. It’s all he can say because for some strange reason, Jeongguk’s words make him feel like he’s floating—a little warm inside. But they also hurt. Jeongguk’s always like this; overwhelming, almost too much. Whether he’s smoldering Taehyung with his touches, or being kind with his words, Jeongguk is too much.

It’s quiet for a long minute, and both of them are too busy looking anywhere but at each other.  Taehyung tries to quiet the pounding of his heartbeat through sheer will. Wishes that he could create an ocean between him and Jeongguk because wow. Wow.  

He really doesn’t know how to handle Jeongguk.

“I’m sorry,” he finally says. “I—I’m not used to this. To us,” he elaborates.

“Is it because I’m a guy?” Jeongguk asks quietly.

“No. Yes? Maybe.” Taehyung lets out a long sigh. “I don’t know. I’m not gay.”

Jeongguk purses his lips like he wants to say more. Taehyung thinks he almost looks hurt, but quickly casts the thought aside because to someone as young and beautiful as Jeongguk, someone as pathetic as Taehyung is worth nothing more than a fat wallet and a closet full of brand name clothing. To someone like Jeongguk, Taehyung is just another sugar daddy.

“It’s okay.” Jeongguk shrugs as if he could care less, but his voice sounds tight. “We’re just here for a mutual benefit. We fuck ‘cos we’re both physically attracted to each other, not because we’re in love.” He winks. “Plus as long as you buy me those Prada heels I’ve been dying to wear, you can label yourself as whatever you want, dollface.”  

He doesn’t know why, but Jeongguk’s words hit him right in his achilles heel and it fucking stings. It aches. It’s a reminder that he’s good for nothing but Prada heels and pretty diamonds. It’s a brutal reminder of his worth and Taehyung feels himself start to disintegrate.

But why is he hurt? It’s silly, really. Taehyung was the one who suggested this arrangement between them, but now he’s hurt that Jeongguk doesn’t want more?

He thinks about everyone in his life, and how if he counts the people who don’t use him on one hand, he only ends up with Seokjin. But it’s okay, right? Because as long as long as he’s being used, at least someone wants him for something and that’s more than enough for Taehyung.

“How much are they?” he manages to ask past the lump in his throat.

“Only six hundred,” Jeongguk answers dismissively.

Taehyung had originally planned to make sure that Jeongguk was keeping his grades up before buying him anything else, but right now he doesn’t have the energy to argue and he’s pathetic enough to do anything to make Jeongguk stay—even if that means buying shoes that are six hundred fucking dollars.

“Okay,” he says weakly. Tries to smile but it doesn’t come as easily anymore. “Okay,” he repeats.

Jeongguk squeals, jumps across the couch right into Taehyung’s lap. “You’re the best daddy,” he coos as he throws his arms over Taehyung’s neck and leaves a wet kiss against his cheek.

A delusional part of Taehyung wants to be more than that.

 

 



Jeongguk begins to come over to Taehyung’s place while he’s at work more often. While they had been hanging out often before, Jeongguk’s presence starts to become a near daily present in his life. In fact, at this point, the younger man practically lives at Taehyung’s house with how much he’s over. He’d even taken to spending the night a few times a week.

It’s a bit jarring, and Taehyung’s still struggling to catch up with things. Taehyung is someone who is used to loneliness. He’s used to coming back to a silent house and eating dinner alone, the sound of a metal fork scraping against a plate echoing loudly. It’s all Taehyung has ever known, really. Throughout even his childhood his parents were absent. He remembers how even at ten years old he felt forgotten. His parents were always away on business trips, and even when they were home, only his mother showed any type of interest in him. But her smile was always tight and controlled. His father never looked at him anymore. Not ever since—

Taehyung tries not to think of the bad things anymore.

And Jeongguk makes it hard for Taehyung to think of the bad things. He leaves a piece of himself all around the house; from the spiderman house slippers he leaves in front of the door, to the toothbrush he keeps right next to Taehyung’s for the times he spends the night. Taehyung, who is used to being alone comes back home to a house full of life—this place, too big for one person starts to feel less like an empty shell whenever Jeongguk’s around. After a long day at the office that cause his bones to ache, coming back to Jeongguk sitting with his legs cross on the floor, homework scattered on the coffee table, never fails to soothe Taehyung’s nerves.

It’s strangely domestic—so much so that Jeongguk tries his best to clean up after himself and keep his things in order because he knows that messes give Taehyung great anxiety.

“I’m home,” Taehyung calls out automatically as he steps through the threshold. It’s strange how comfortable they’ve become with each other, like they’re more than just an arrangement.

He spots another two pairs of shoes and feels slightly wary.

“In the kitchen!” Jeongguk’s voice echoes.

Taehyung starts down the hall and hears a bunch of hushed giggling. “Um, did anyone come over?” he calls. While he’s alright with Jeongguk being here, he doesn’t feel too sure about other people. “I saw some other shoes by the door but—”

As soon as he steps into the kitchen, the words die in his throat.

Taehyung blinks. Once. Twice. “Huh?”

Behind the center island stands Jeongguk and Jimin with aprons on, covered in flour. All over the counter there are various baking utensils, along with spilt droplets of what Taehyung assumes is batter. For some reason, Jimin has purple icing smeared across his cheek and Jeongguk is giggling like a four year old.

To add to his confusion, Seokjin stands with his back to all of them as he cooks something on the stove that smells pleasantly spicy to Taehyung.

“Calm down children,” he reprimands but doesn’t look away from the boiling pot.

“Dollface!” Jeongguk calls as soon as he spots Taehyung.

Jimin squeaks. “You’re not supposed to be back yet. The cake’s still in the oven.”

Taehyung blinks again. The three of them seem perfectly at home right now, as if Taehyung is the only one who thinks it’s weird that the three of them are in his kitchen chatting and laughing like old friends right now.

“Um,” is all he can say.

“Don’t think too hard,” Jeongguk says. “I was surprised when Seokjin hyung stopped by earlier today. We spent like three hours crying over reruns of Desperate Housewives. You didn’t tell me that you had super hot friends—or that it was your birthday.” Jeongguk looks a little offended.

“What?” is all that Taehyung can say because he’s still trying to condense everything that’s happening right now into his brain. Jeongguk calling Seokjin hyung only makes the situation more strange, because Jeongguk never even really speaks Korean all that much, and the only time he ever pulls the hyung card on Taehyung is when he’s trying to weasel his way out of trouble.

But then it all clicks and oh. “I’m sorry. I totally forgot,” he apologizes.

“You expect me to believe that?”

“He’s not lying,” Seokjin pipes up. “I have to remind him nearly every goddamn year.”

“How would he survive without you?” Jimin’s eyes are wide in amazement, and okay, maybe Taehyung forgets some things but just the unimportant ones.

Seokjin practically glows under the praise. “Right? I’m his lifeline.”

Taehyung shrugs. “It’s just a birthday.”

“Just a birthday?” Jeongguk looks as if he’s been personally attacked. “It’s literally a day just for you. Don’t your parents make a big fuss over it? I know my mom does.”

“My mother calls when she doesn’t forget.” The words come out more bitter than Taehyung intends them to be. But he’s thinking about his parents and how while his mom calls on the occasional birthdays, he mostly ends up waking up to some stupidly expensive gift that Taehyung doesn’t even care for left of his doorstep. There’s always a card that comes with it signed Love, Mom & Dad and some empty happy birthday wishes written in it.

Birthdays are a miserable event for Taehyung and Seokjin is the only one who tries. Taehyung doesn’t know why he still does.

“Oh,” is all Jeongguk says. “Sorry.”

“Awkward,” Jimin needlessly singsongs.

Jeongguk elbows his friend harshly. “I hope you don’t mind that I invited Jimin, by the way. When I told him that I was going to attempt to help Seokjin hyung bake a cake, he demanded that he join.”

“I don’t mind.” Taehyung shrugs. “I’m gonna go take a shower real quick. Just uh, please clean up after yourselves.”

Jeongguk isn’t the only one acutely aware of how much disorder causes Taehyung distress. Seokjin has known for years how strangely sensitive he is to it and has witnessed some of Taehyung’s strange episodes; like the time he’d spent thirty minutes straightening a stapler on his desk because it just wasn’t right. When Seokjin had come to check on Taehyung and found that he was still trying to straighten the same damn stapler, Seokjin had attempted to remove it. In an indescribable fit of anger, Taehyung had lashed out and yelled at him.

Seokjin suggested therapy, but Taehyung assured him that it was just stress.

The anxiety must start to show on his face, because Jeongguk smiles gently and Seokjin looks at him with worried, knowing concern.

“Don’t worry, Tae. We’ll make sure it’s spotless before you come back down,” Jeongguk reassures him.

“Okay.” Taehyung hesitates. “Just promise to clean up properly? You know how I get when the counters—”

“Promise,” Jeongguk says gently. “Now go take a shower and help us salvage our surprise by acting fake surprised when you come back.”

 

 




“Oh wow.”

Taehyung doesn’t even have to act fake surprised when he walks into the dining area and approaches the table. The lights are completely off, the only source of light being two candles, a three and zero respectively. The icing is purple and crudely drawn with obviously unsteady hands, in white icing it spells out Happy Birthday Taehyng! They even spelt his name wrong.

All three of them look a little silly wearing party hats, and Taehyung feels a little embarrassed when they start singing the birthday song off key. Jimin switches to the korean version halfway through so it ends up being one big jumbled, incoherent mess.

Jeongguk walks around the table to place a cardboard crown on top of Taehyung’s head. “I got this from Burger King,” he says. Leans forward to press a kiss to his cheek. “Happy birthday,” he whispers, and the moment feels strangely intimate despite them being in the same room as their friends.

“Thank you,” he mutters. A little lost for words.

“Hurry up and make a wish before wax gets all over the cake,” Seokjin admonishes, gesturing for Taehyung to hurry up with his hands.

“You better make a wish,” Jimin warns. “And you can’t say it out loud or it won’t come true.”

“That’s just a hoax.” Taehyung rolls his eyes and leans forward, getting ready to blow them out without thought.

“Make a wish, dollface.” Jeongguk’s voice is gentle when he places a comforting hand against Taehyung’s back.

Taehyung hesitates for a second. Thinks about how silly it is for him to be actually entertaining such a childish idea on his birthday. He does it anyways— squeezes his eyes tightly shut, doesn’t know who he’s wishing to when he blows out the candles. Doesn’t know what entity will receive it, but he hopes for something anyways.

Taehyung wishes for a happiness that doesn’t taste of blood.

Jimin turns the lights back on, and Taehyung peels open his eyes as he roots himself back into reality and is taken out of his trance. He leans back, the burnt after smell of the candles making his nose scrunch in distaste.

In the light, Taehyung can see everything else set out on the table more clearly. “You made kimchi jjigae,” he says wondrously.

“And japchae,” Seokjin adds on. “You don’t seem to feed yourself well so I thought I’d make your favorites. Now hurry up and sit down before the food gets cold.”

Taehyung tries not to seem too eager when he sits next to Jeongguk, but the moment that Seokjin sets a plate down in front of him, he’s digging in and almost moans because holy shit, Seokjin is an amazing cook as always.

Jimin doesn’t even try to hide how pleased he is, even going as far as to moan obscenely. Taehyung glares but Jeongguk’s doing that thing where he throws his body when he’s laughing and yeah, Taehyung is kind of whipped.

When it’s time to cut the cake, Taehyung is surprised to see that it’s neither yellow or brown on the inside. “Even the inside is purple?”

Jeongguk smiles. “Purple’s your favorite color, right? That’s what you told me the first time you took me out to a five star restaurant.”

“You remember that?” Taehyung is in awe.

Jeongguk snorts haughtily, as if he can’t believe that Taehyung would dare to ask such a question. “I remember everything you tell me, silly.”

“O-oh,” Taehyung stutters out. “That’s nice.” He’s trying to play it casual but his voice comes out thick with emotion, and it’s stupid because he’s getting choked up over a cake being fucking purple, but it means something to him. Jeongguk had remembered such an insignificant detail about Taehyung and it makes him feel like he’s kind of worth something—no matter how fleeting the feeling may be.

Seokjin tries to celebrate every year just to make sure that Taehyung feels like he is loved. Even Jimin (who he’d only met in brief intimacy at the club) is sitting comfortably in Taehyung’s house as if they’re two close friends and not complete strangers.

The sense of belonging is overwhelming and Taehyung feels himself overcome with such a profound sense of gratitude for the three people here. His insides are like broken glass, and he’s someone who is never steady. Hands always shaking. But Taehyung’s never felt...this alive? This important? Like he actually exists and this is real. This is real.

In this house there are no secrets between the four of them, and it feels so full that it fills Taehyung up with warmth. Erases all of the ugliness inside of him, and he can breathe. He can breathe, and it’s like a shaky sense of relief after a long and arduous journey. Taehyung thinks that maybe he can have this. As delusional as it all seems maybe, just maybe he can have this one thing to himself.

Taehyung’s never been good at keeping relationships. He lets them go like birthday balloons and paper airplanes. He doesn’t know how to be anything concrete, so used floating in the air like dust.

“Thank you guys,” he practically wheezes out shakily. Then, in a stronger voice, “No one’s ever done something like this for me before.”

Seokjin raises an eyebrow. “I buy you shit every year, jackass.” It’s a light jibe with no ill-intent behind it.

“Yeah, but,” Taehyung pauses unsure of himself. He’s always so unsure. Always doubting and second guessing before it all loops in his head and he’s stuck in a limbo of anxiety. “I’ve never had this. An actual party.”

Okay, well that’s a lie. Taehyung had celebrated his tenth birthday with his parents, but then he remembers how that had ended. Bruises against the tan of his skin like impact craters on the moon. He’s hated birthday’s ever since.

It’s almost second nature for Taehyung to shut down at this point when his emotions are out of control like this. He’s upset with being so tightly wound up, ready to snap at any time, but right now it feels as if everything is slowly unwinding.

Jeongguk, who notices the flurry of emotions on his face, reaches under the table to lace their fingers together and gives a gentle squeeze. He doesn’t say anything, just rubs circles into the back of Taehyung’s hand.

Jimin snorts. “Well now that we actually know when your birthday is, next year we’ll throw an actual party for you.”

Seokjin hums in agreement. “And now that I have helpers it’ll be bigger and better.”

The three of them begin to chatter about various things, but Taehyung can’t keep up. He’s still stuck on their previous conversation. Holds onto Jimin’s words like a vice.

Next year. It’s the fact that Jimin says it so casually like they’re ready to stay. Like this all isn’t just temporary. Seokjin falls in line so well with the two younger men and seems completely at ease. It’s strange because Taehyung’s only known Jeongguk for a few months and Jimin even less, but it’s like seeing old friends. And yet, he’s suspicious, always second guessing because everyone always wants something from him.

Taehyung lets his shoulders sag, eyes falling to the table. All of this makes his head hurt and it’s too much to take in at once.

“Are you okay?” Jeongguk asks quietly.

Taehyung nods. “I’m just tired. Long day and all.”

It’s ridiculous, really. Why can’t Taehyung just enjoy good things without feeling like its too much? Who gets overwhelmed by kindness like this? By normalcy? He wants this. He wants to hold on to this little group they’ve made because he feels like he belongs here, but it’s hard. It’s hard and Taehyung feels like he’ll ruin this peaceful tranquility and he can’t. And he can’t. And he can’t.

“It’s about time I head out anyways,” Seokjin says. “Gotta be up bright and early tomorrow at the office.”

“Yeah me too.” Jimin nods. “I have a dance recital soon so I’ll be practicing at the studio all day tomorrow.”

Taehyung feels awful, like he’s kicking everyone out and ruining the fun. He cuts himself on paper edges and falls apart at the slightest of things. He’s angry at himself and while he’s lived a rather normal rich kid life, he realizes that his social life is anything but.

They all say their goodbyes and Taehyung thanks them for coming. When he closes the front door and walks back to the dining area, he finds Jeongguk meticulously cleaning up.

“You don’t have to do all of that,” he says. “Makes me feel kind of guilty watching you clean up my own house.”

Jeongguk shrugs. “I know how you feel about bacteria and all of that shit, so I don’t mind.” He looks up after he’s got all of the plates stacked atop one another and smiles softly. “Go on up, I’ll take care of it.”

“Alright.” Taehyung turns to leave but hesitates. “Hey, Jeongguk?”

“Hm?”

“Are you staying the night?”

“Only if you want me to.”

“Will you stay the night?” The question comes out as meek and so unlike the strong and assured person that Taehyung usually is.

“I’ll be up soon,” Jeongguk promises and that’s all the reassurance that Taehyung needs.

After changing into his nightwear, Taehyung spends the first few minutes laying in bed and checking emails on his phone, but he can’t focus. He feels a bit jittery—out of focus. But it’s not a bad thing completely, at least he doesn’t think it is. Taehyung’s still riding the high of feeling alive, but his body is already bracing itself for the crash.

Because Taehyung knows how to hurt. He knows how to down three bottles of soju a day and spend the rest of the night stuck to the bathroom floor. His talent is cutting off people who might actually care about him and abandoning his passions for the approval of loveless parents. But it’s a good hurt if it burns his insides, an even better hurt if it kills him.

Taehyung thinks that maybe he should let all of this go.

But then Jeongguk’s leaning against the doorframe with his arms crossed, the light from the hallway creates a shadow and oh, Jeongguk is beautiful. He’s not dressed up today, just in a plain oversized white tee and sweats which means that Seokjin’s presence must have really caught him off guard.

“You still awake?” he asks and Taehyung grunts in response.

Jeongguk climbs into bed next to him, and once he’s settled he turns to stare at Taehyung.

Taehyung swallows.

“Why are you so close?”

“Why can’t I be close to my daddy?” Jeongguk pouts petulantly.

“Shut up,” Taehyung mumbles and tries to fight the rising blush.

Jeongguk laughs but the sound is tight. Cautious.

“Are you okay?” he asks gently.

“Why wouldn’t I be?” Taehyung feels himself beginning to tense up.

“It’s just that you seemed a bit overwhelmed so I was worried about you.”

They don’t do this—whatever Jeongguk is trying to do, it’s crossing a line. Their conversations only consists of things that don’t involve baggage. Taehyung knows Jeongguk as a man with a mouth like a pistol and eyes like knives. He’s not used to this side; more gentler and so acutely aware of Taehyung’s feelings.

Taehyung doesn’t know how to let go.

“I’m okay.” Even to his own ears, the words ring hollow.

Jeongguk hums, reaching out to place reassuring touches against the skin of Taehyung’s arm. He shrugs. “I mean, you can tell me anything dollface. It ain’t like I’m gonna tell anyone.”

“It’s...it’s not really anything bad?” Taehyung furrows his eyebrows, trying to make sense of his own feelings. “I was actually really happy today.”

“Then what’s there to worry about, darling?”

Taehyung averts his gaze. He can’t look the younger man in the eye right now. “I’ve never really had friends before. Growing up I was always alone, so unless we’re talking business I’m pretty shitty socially.” he confesses. “I guess it just felt too unreal? Like oh, I’m fucking happy but all of this is going to disappear so what’s the point? It all just turns bad again anyways.”

Jeongguk’s hands travel down to intertwine their fingers, and like before, he begins to soothingly stroke the back of Taehyung’s hand.

“You deserve good things.” He doesn’t like the way Jeongguk says it, voice thick with emotion. It’s too personal. Too much.

“It doesn’t feel like it,” Taehyung murmurs. “I fuckin’ hate my birthday, Jeongguk. It’s too painful to celebrate.” Jeongguk opens his mouth to speak, but Taehyung can’t take any more of this right now, and has decided that he’s said too much already. “It doesn’t matter. I don’t want to talk about it anymore.

“Tae—”

“I don’t want to talk about it,” he repeats more coldly this time.

Kim Taehyung,”  Jeongguk’s tone turns severe suddenly and Taehyung’s mouth snaps shut. “You matter, okay? You deserve everything the world has to offer.” He hesitates, and then, “you matter to me.” It’s a mumble and Jeongguk’s ears flush after he says it, but Taehyung hears him all too loud and clear and his heart is thrumming with the rush of warmth that fills him.

This feeling he gets around Jeongguk is familiar; too familiar, and it scares Taehyung. He’s not ready—doesn’t know if he’ll ever be. Doesn’t know if he’ll ever be enough for someone like Jeongguk. Doesn’t know if Jeongguk even wants him like that.

Taehyung begins to feel the anxiety squeezing his insides like a wet towel.

“You’re just saying that.” The words come out shaky, breathing uneven. “I’m just your daddy right?”

“Well you are most certainly my daddy,” Jeongguk jokes. He chuckles nervously, squeezes Taehyung’s hand a little lighter like he’s afraid to let go. “But...is that all we are to each other?”

It’s quiet for a minute as the wheels in Taehyung’s mind slowly begin to turn. His throat feels tight. “I dunno,” he manages to say. “I just—I just don’t know.”

“Hey. Hey.” Jeongguk moves even closer until the two of them are pressed together, chest to chest. Heart to heart. Being close to Jeongguk like this always feel like home for Taehyung. “We don’t have to talk about this now, okay? I can wait, Tae.”

Taehyung blinks quickly, feels himself overcome with emotions that he can’t quite pinpoint. It’s too messy. “I’m scared. I’ve never done this before.”   

“Me too,” Jeongguk admits. Swallows thickly. “I’m used to just being fucked like a toy but you—you’re the first man I’ve slept with that treats me like I’m more than just a quick fuck. I was wrong about you, y’know? You’re more than just some rich asshole, dollface.”

“You’re the most amazing person I’ve ever met,” Taehyung says and it’s true. Jeongguk is someone who is brusque and insensitive at times, but he’s also bright and accommodates Taehyung’s selfish lifestyle of secrecy almost too well. When he kisses Jeongguk instead of inky space he tastes wildflowers. Jeongguk’s touch is like the lit end of a matchstick, and Taehyung always finds himself feeling dizzy. Spiraling. When they collide everything is green and alive like summer.

“I hide you away, but at the same time I want to give you the world, Jeongguk. Isn’t that miserable? Isn’t that selfish?” Taehyung laughs bitterly, feels his eyes well up but he quickly forces it back down.

“It’s selfish,” Jeongguk says. “But I’m not miserable Tae, and I know that you’re private for my own safety.”

“You don’t want to leave?” Taehyung asks, chewing on the inside of his cheek.

“I’m still here aren’t I?”

“There’s a lot you still don’t know about me.”

“I can learn.” Jeongguk wiggles his other arm out from between them and lifts it up to gently run his fingers through Taehyung’s hair. “I’m short tempered and self-centered, but if you give me time I can learn.”

“What if I hurt you?” Taehyung shudders at the thought of Jeongguk crying, expression twisted in pain. “I only ever know how to hurt the people around me.”

Jeongguk shrugs. “Then I’ll hurt and I’ll cry and maybe even resent you, but I’ll move on someday and maybe five years later we’ll meet in a coffee shop like some shitty romcom and things will be different. I’ll be older and more mature and by then you’ll be able to love yourself a little more. Maybe then we can try again, yeah?”

“You really want to try with me?” Taehyung questions slowly, because maybe he’s reading this wrong. Maybe it’s all some kind of cruel joke. He’s never known anyone besides Seokjin that likes him for more than his money.

“Don’t you?” Jeongguk fires back. He stares at Taehyung with such burning intensity and openness that Taehyung has to look away.

Boys like Jeongguk are too bright for men like him. But a stupid and naive part of Taehyung still wants to try. Jeongguk makes him want to try.

“Okay,” he says. Breathes in deeply and holds it there for a second. He exhales, feels his skin tingling as Jeongguk’s fingers leave Taehyung’s hair to run down his forehead, the bridge of his nose. Stops at his lips and presses down like quiet reassurance.

“Okay,” Taehyung mumbles again against Jeongguk’s fingers.

Maybe this can work—whatever this is.  

 

 

 



When Taehyung wakes up in the morning he feels hollow even with Jeongguk beside him, and it ends up being one of those days. There’s nothing particular that happens that makes it a bad day and even work isn’t too stressful for him. And Taehyung should feel elated because now things between him and Jeongguk are a little less abstract. And yet, he feels a knot in his stomach throughout the day that only grows worse whenever he comes home to see Jeongguk spread out on the couch watching a movie.

Taehyung is aware that things between him and Jeongguk are changing and maybe if he’s bold enough, he could even say that what they have is a little serious, but he pretends not to know anything instead. Tells himself that ignorance is bliss. Brushes it off like Saturn is in retrograde and when Jeongguk asks him if he’s okay, Taehyung says he just woke up on the wrong side of the bed.

He tries to push it away, even as the gears begin to turn in his head. Even as the days past and things between him and Jeongguk grow even more domestic, Taehyung keeps his distance. Tries to shut his own feelings out but by this point he’s become a leaking faucet and it all slowly begins to crash down on him.

It’s four days later when he’s in the shower, water scalding and reddenning his skin that Taehyung has the time to just stare at the white lines between tiles and be alone with his thoughts. That’s when it all really hits him.

He remembers the first time he had kissed another boy when he was nine and how quickly an innocent, naive crush had turned into destruction. He remembers how hot it had been that summer day—the cicadas were singing and when their lips met he had thought, boys taste salty. But it was nice and Taehyung had liked it. He had really liked it.  

He thinks about Jeongguk and how they only ever touch behind the closed doors of Taehyung’s apartment so that only the walls may know their secret. He thinks about how breathtaking Jeongguk looks under the sunlight and how he should let that go. He has to let go because boys only kiss boys when even the moon isn’t awake to see and they’re the only ones alive to cradle this scandal in between satin sheets.

And it’ll always be this way because Taehyung is good at taking something beautiful and turning it into destruction. Every relationship that comes his way is temporary because his only talent is swallowing poison. He’s scared of stability and commitment, scared of anything that isn’t an indigo night because the first time he had loved something his father had called him a fag. His happiness has an expiration date; it’s not the vastness of the blue sky but an artificial fluorescent light.

Taehyung thinks about boys and how he likes kissing them more than girls and how it’s only ever earned him the closed fists of his father to leave bruises to blossom across his jaw. He lays boys like Jeongguk across his sheets and just takes and takes and takes. He destroys beautiful things because what’s the point? What’s the point?  

It’s getting messy. Taehyung steps out of the shower and instead of drying himself off, he stares at his distorted and blurry reflection of the mirror, surface covered with condensation from the heat of the shower. He leans forward, the palm of his left hand gripping the edge of the sink. Placing his index finger against the mirror, Taehyung begins to draw letters.

He takes a step back, stares at what he’s written. He stares. And stares. And—oh. He gets it now.  

There’s a slight tremor that begins at his fingertips before it spreads like wildfire throughout his body and Taehyung is shaking. The knot in his chest hurts worse than ever and his head throbs. Everything seems distant, as if he’s in a tunnel—his eyes are burning. He doesn’t know why it hurts so much. But it’s like ever since Taehyung met Jeongguk, even a pin prick can cut him open. He wonders how someone like Jeongguk can make him feel so full but empty at the same time. He thinks about Jeongguk and the way that the corners of his eyes crinkle when he smiles and oh god, how can he let that go?

For the first time in years, Taehyung feels himself beginning to break down. All of the bad is starting to spill over and he can’t stop it. He wants it to stop.

With blurred vision, Taehyung looks up to see what he’d written on the mirror and chokes back a sob. Through the traces where his finger’s had wiped the water away, read the words:

I’m gay.

And underneath it written almost illegibly:

Please forgive me.  

He can’t let Jeongguk go.