Every year, Jungkook would watch as fliers for Cirque du Pandemonium would begin appearing around his school, all yellows and reds and bold words calling for kids all around to come watch the show.
Every year, Jungkook would watch as his classmates bought tickets and grew more and more excited as the date drew nearer and nearer.
Every year, Jungkook would beg his parents to take him to the show, to please let him see the circus—just like the one they traveled with once upon a time.
Every year, they said no, told him that the circus wasn’t the happy place it was made out to be and that it was unsafe for him to be there. The circus, they would say, is a mask to cover up terrible things and terrible people. Stay away from it.
And every year, Jungkook would obey. He really had no choice. Growing up he never worked, his parents bought everything for him, so when they decided he didn’t need something he just didn’t get it. Meaning when they said he wouldn’t be going to the circus, they meant it. There was practically no way for him to buy a ticket.
Every year, Jungkook grew to resent his parents a little bit more.
Every year, Jungkook drifted further and further from them, rebelled against them. He became his own person, pulled away from them.
When he turned fourteen Cirque du Pandemonium shut down and he gave up on his dream of ever seeing it.
At seventeen, news came around that the circus was reopening under a new owner and rebranding as a performance troupe with a fresh image. Jungkook’s dream reignited like a forest fire under heavy winds.
On his eighteenth birthday, he hatched a plan.
Hey, I got them!
OH MY GOD YES
I’ll pay you back when you pick me up.
Say you fucking love me
and I’m the best friend you’ve ever had.
I love you and you’re the best friend I’ve ever had, Yugs.
Damn right I am.
Cause we got front row seats.
Jungkook has to bite his lip to keep from screaming with excitement. Freshly graduated and ready to move into his university dorm, eighteen years old as of today and ready to escape the clutches of his parents, Jeon Jungkook is a new man. He makes his own rules. And his rules state that for his eighteenth birthday he will be going to see Cirque du Pandemonium under the guise of staying the night at Yugyeom’s house.
He already knows exactly what to do. He’s been planning this for months.
Step one, tell his parents than Yugyeom is helping him move into his dorm and that he’ll be staying the night with him until they get his room set up.
Step two, guilt trip them into giving him money to buy gas since Yugyeom is the one driving him everywhere in order to haul all of his things.
Step three, repeat step two multiple times.
Step four, stow all that money away until he has enough to buy tickets to Pandemonium’s grand reopening. They’ve already had several shows around the world since their new era and Jungkook may or may not have been stalking their every move, waiting to hear if they’re as good as they used to be.
Rumor has it, they’re even better.
Step five, finally go see the show he’s always been waiting for all his life.
Jungkook stuffs some spare clothes into his bag when he gets another text from Yugyeom saying that he’s almost at his house. He grabs his wallet and fishes the hidden money out from under his mattress, stuffing it all away before shoving his wallet in his pocket.
He checks himself over in the mirror, practicing a straight face so his parents don’t suspect anything as he leaves. The plan is working out perfectly so far, now he just has to put that finishing touch on it and get the hell out of here.
Turning on his heel, Jungkook glances around to make sure he hasn’t forgotten anything important, then runs down the stairs. He leaps past the final two steps and lands with a light thud, earning the attention of both his parents from the kitchen.
“Hey,” he says, trying to be civil but not overly friendly to them. They would be suspicious if he reverted back to the mushy, loving son they had lost with the arrival of puberty. “Yugs is gonna be here any second so I’m gonna take off and start getting my dorm set up. Like I said, I’ll stay the night with him and we’ll get my last few boxes tomorrow morning.”
“Okay, call us if you need anything,” his mother says, dark eyes glistening in the sunlight. Everyone always tells Jungkook how much he looks like his mother and nothing like his father and he hates it. He doesn’t want to look like either of them.
His father says nothing, just watching him as though he can read Jungkook’s mind. He leans on the counter, staring at his son as Jungkook begins to sweat, the money in his pocket feeling heavy.
“Okay, I’m gonna go,” Jungkook says, turning to the front door. His hand is already around the doorknob when his mother calls him back again. He leans around the corner to look at her. “Yes, mom?”
“Be careful, will you?” she asks, and Jungkook almost panics. Why would she tell him to be careful when (for all she knows) he’s just going to his dorm and then straight to Yugyeom’s house. She’s never told him to be careful when doing something so basic before. “We love you.”
He feels anxious but neither of them try to stop him, so he assumes they don’t suspect anything yet. He doesn’t respond, just gives them a nod and then rushes out the door when he hears the honk of Yugyeom’s horn. He bolts down the pathway leading up to the house and leaps into the passenger side of his best friend’s car, unable to contain his excitement anymore.
Yugyeom grins at him as he straps in, practically bouncing in his seat. Once he’s settled, Jungkook pulls out the money and hands it over. “Alright, let me see those glorious, glorious tickets.”
“Put that fucking money away,” Yugyeom says, swatting at the bills before reaching into his own pocket, Jungkook staring at him, dumbfounded. His friend slaps two tickets into his hand before pulling out onto the road. “Happy birthday, you little shit.”
Jungkook stares down at the tickets in his hand, the center of them black with golden writing, a gold border around the outside. Even the tickets are beautiful. He can’t even imagine what the show is going to be like. He looks to his friend as he blasts through a red light.
“I seriously love you, Yugyeom.”
Shaking his head, Jungkook looks at the tickets again. He beams from ear to ear. Even in his wildest imagination, Jungkook knows he’ll never be able to predict what Cirque du Pandemonium has in store for him, but he knows it will be amazing. His dancer heart leaps for joy inside his chest, squirming to escape.
He can’t resist sticking his head out the window as they drive and screaming at the top of his lungs.
They stop at Yugyeom’s house before heading out, changing into their outfits for the circus. Jungkook goes for an all black look tonight (as he does every time he goes out) and Yugyeom does the exact opposite by wearing every color under the sun.
It takes a little finessing and sneaking to get around Yugyeom’s parents—thankfully, Yugyeom had taken the precaution of parking outside of the garage so they could leave without being heard—but they manage easily enough and find themselves on the road again. Jungkook keeps the tickets clutched tight in his hands, like they’ll disappear if he doesn’t keep a death grip on them.
His palms feel sweaty, his feet tapping against the floor of Yugyeom’s car, and there’s nothing he can do to contain his excitement the closer they get, especially when he sees the top of the tents poking up in the midst of the city.
The car jerks as Yugyeom’s excitement gets the best of him and he speeds up, then slows back down just as suddenly. He’s almost as excited as Jungkook. Years ago, long before Pandemonium shut down, Yugyeom went to see them with his family and they are what inspired him to join the high school dance team with Jungkook.
“I can’t believe this is actually fucking happening,” Jungkook breathes out, eyes wide as he stares out the window of the car.
As they round the corner, they find the wide expanse of the park the circus grounds currently occupies walled off with chain-link fence, a small tent of deep red and black with golden detailing sitting at the entrance, a line of people outside of it. Beyond that Jungkook can see more tents matching the first, twinkling lights dangling between them, and one tent he knows holds the main stage, where their front row seats await them. The Big Top.
The moon hangs behind the main tent, casting a dull glow over the fiery brightness of the circus. It’s beautiful, beckoning Jungkook as though it’s the long lost home he’s been searching for. The closer they get the more he feels right, like he’s finally where he belongs.
By the time Yugyeom’s parked the car and they’re on their way up to the entrance Jungkook feels so excited he thinks he might throw up, too anxious to show them the tickets as they step into the tent so Yugyeom has to do it for him.
He almost screams when they hand him a program with the same black and gold as the tickets. The words Rêveries et Désirs swirl along the top in a sophisticated scrawl. Daydreams and Desires. Jungkook had translated it on his phone on the way here. It’s the theme for this show. They have a new theme every tour and apparently this one is meant to convey their dreams and aspirations to the audience through their performances, as well as their personal desires.
Every forum Jungkook found talked about how most of the “desire” aspect bordered on sexual most of the time, much of it revolving around love, portrayed through partner dances. Especially the aerialist Park Jimin. According to the forums, Park Jimin “invented sex on stage”, so Jungkook’s curious to see for himself. He had avoided looking up any videos so nothing would be spoiled tonight.
As they step through the tent and onto the grounds, Jungkook feels like his breath is quite literally stolen from his lungs.
The grounds beyond the entryway are packed with families and performers. People jumping through hoops, twisting their bodies into impossible shapes, juggling fire, lifting giant weights high above their heads. Jungkook feels like his childhood self again, always in awe of the circus’ mysteries, eager to dive headfirst into its chaos.
Cirque du Pandemonium. The Circus of Mayhem. Oh, how Jungkook wishes he was a part of this world. He can’t understand his parents’ desire to keep him hidden away from something as beautiful as this.
A troupe of women in white and red stride past them, large feathers covered in glitter sprouting from the backs of their outfits. One of them sends him a wink and waggles her fingers in a little wave. Jungkook barely manages not to trip over himself as he watches them. Yugyeom does trip.
He blushes as the women giggle, covering their mouths, a few of them winking as they go. Jungkook’s attention is already wandering to the next sight, and the next, and the next. He sees people of all shapes and sizes, an array of all different hair colors and skin tones. He’s never seen so many different people in one area and he wonders just how far the troupe travels around the world.
Once again, the allure of freedom and adventure calls his name and he has that irrational thought everyone does at least once in their life: he wants to run away with the circus.
Yugyeom grabs his sleeve and tugs, pointing toward the main tent as they near it. “C’mon, the show’s starting in a few minutes. We can come back out and look at everything after.”
“How long are the grounds open after the show?” Jungkook asks, trying and failing to curb his excitement. He’s practically bouncing across the ground as they walk, his heart racing as they pass tent after tent, little makeshift shops dotting the pathway, selling souvenirs and posters of the individual performers. Jungkook notices a particularly long line for the posters of Park Jimin and he almost wishes he was at the front of it even though he’s never seen the man before. He just sounds amazing.
“I think we’ll have about an hour after the show,” says Yugyeom as they approach the tent. A tall girl, no older than them, greets them with a smile. A name tag reading Marie adorns her chest, the rest of her plastered with a red, skin tight leotard, tall boots laced up to her knees over sheer black stocking, and a black and gold top hat.
She smiles at Yugyeom as he hands her the tickets, tearing one piece off each of them and handing them back. “Enjoy the show,” she says, eyes drifting to Jungkook, and he notices with a shock that her pupils are narrowed into slits, like a cat’s.
Contacts, he tells himself. It’s part of the show. But they look so damn real.
He lets himself be dragged away from her, though something about the way she looks at him makes him want to stay right where he is. It’s not that she’s pretty—though she is, she’s beautiful with her golden eyes and milky skin and long legs—there’s something more to it. It’s as though just her gaze has the ability to hypnotize, to tell him to stay.
Yugyeom pulls him away before he can let himself be trapped in it, though part of him wants to tug himself from his grip and go back. Those eyes were like a drug to him and he doesn’t understand why. He just wants to drown in them.
They find their way to their seat and, slowly, Jungkook forgets about those golden eyes and focuses on the empty stage before him. It’s right in front of him, so close he could reach out and touch it.
He bounces in his seat as the stage begins to light up with an ominous red glow, black silk hanging down from the ceiling as a man steps out. He weaves his way through the silk ribbons, cane in hand, golden top hat on his head and black coattails. Red and gold detailing outline his outfit, accentuating the curves of his long waist and broad shoulders. Hypnos, the Ringmaster. Or Kim Seokjin, Jungkook remembers reading his real name is. He was a fresh hire with the rebranding of the circus. Jungkook’s seen videos of the old ringmaster but not this one.
Jungkook holds his breath, waiting, and as soon as the ringmaster opens his mouth the whole crowd seems to lean in to listen closer. His voice rings out as clear as day, beautiful and smooth as he talks, welcoming everyone to the show.
“I, ladies and gentlemen and all those in between, am Hypnos, and I will be your host for the night. I’m here to get you settled in and ready for the spectacle… you are about to witness.” He points with his cane at the crowd, his eyes scanning over them, then landing on Jungkook. They linger for a moment and Jungkook swears the smile on the man’s painted face falters for a moment. “Before we get started,” he says, gaze snapping away from Jungkook, “I have to ask, did you all hear about the circus fire?”
There are murmurs through the crowd, a few people shaking their heads. Hypnos lets out a low whistle. “I sure did,” he continues, “it was in-tents.”
Jungkook feels himself smile, hears the crowd laugh and clap. A few even groan at the pun as the man on the stage beams. He’s just as beautiful as the girl outside. Jungkook can’t understand how anyone can be this flawless, skin as smooth as marble and a statuesque, sculpted face and figure.
“Alright, alright, that’s enough from me,” the ringmaster says, waving one dismissive hand at his own joke. “You didn’t come here to watch me.” Then he lowers his voice. “I know you really did, I just don’t want the others to feel bad.”
“Without further ado, I present to you Cirque du Pandemonium’s first performance of the night, an introduction… into chaos.”
With that, the ringmaster bows and backs away, off the stage, as a troupe of lithe dancers take their positions, the lights dimming, some of them on the stage, others on the platforms high above. The music begins, and Jungkook is lost in the sight of swirling colors and twisting bodies.
It’s barely begun and he never wants it to end.
After several performances, the one everyone has been waiting for comes. Hypnos steps back out onto the stage after the performance of Min Yoongi, also known as the Sovereign of the Shadows, an infamous escape artist. Infamous, because supposedly he really has escaped the law many times, though Jungkook’s not sure he believes that.
“My friends,” Hypnos says, cane planted on the stage in front of him, a crooked grin and arched brow decorating his face. “I know—I know—you have all heard the name Park Jimin.”
There’s a whistle from somewhere in the crowd. And the ringmaster points his cane in the general direction of it with a laugh.
“The master of silk, an enigma versus gravity, the one and only Golden Butterfly who floats so effortlessly through the air he puts real butterflies to shame.” Hypnos pushes his top hat back with his cane. “Let us see for ourselves if he can live up to his name.”
The lights fade as the ringmaster leaves until the stage stands completely black, then dim orange glows in the center, illuminating a figure hanging from red silks high above the stage. His body is covered in gold and black, clinging to his skin almost as if the outfit is painted onto him. Jewels adorn every inch of him, making him sparkle in the low light.
The eerie draw of a lone violin lifts from somewhere in the darkness and high above the man begins lowering into sight from the ceiling, unfurling himself from the silk. Jungkook is met with a shock of pink hair and a black blindfold with a golden butterfly stitched into the front, covering the man’s eyes. He feels like he’s locked in some sort of trance as the man turns in midair. This is without a doubt the famous Park Jimin everyone talks about.
He can’t tear his eyes away, watching the fabric flutter around as the performer dances in midair, his movements so fluid he almost seems to be made out of the same silk he clings to, his body bending in ways Jungkook never thought possible. Jimin slowly lowers himself to the ground, spinning around, upside down, right side up, folding in on himself and stretching out in beautiful poses that are the embodiment of grace and elegance.
The pink-haired man lands gently on the ground, standing on his toes, then leaps back into the air with the crescendo, twisting himself back up into the silks. He flows, smooth, like water, but stops and starts with the beat, emphasizing every part of the song with his body. There’s an intensity on his face that shows through, tension in his jaw that shows the focus on his art as the music quiets to lone violins again, then soft drums. He wraps himself up again, twisting himself higher into the air, and Jungkook feels anxiety and anticipation as he watches.
There’s a pause, all is still. As the bass pounds across the stage again, he drops. Jungkook’s stomach lurches as he watches Jimin sail toward the ground, then stop just feet above it. He’s so close he brushes the fingertips of one hand across the stage before he turns and begins climbing again.
The rest of the performance continues much like the first half, Jimin spinning and twisting, his body matching the music almost as though he leads the beat rather than follows it. With a final drop, Jimin lands on the ground, kneeling, head bent as the lights fade.
Jungkook knows its insane but if he’s ever felt anything like love in his life before, he feels it right now. Whether its for the performance or the man himself, he doesn’t know, but his heart clenches and winds and longs to reach out.
Jungkook stands to clap but then the lights on the stage flash back to reds and oranges and a loud drumming startles him back into his seat. Another song booms out of the silence, faster this time, feminine voices chanting along as Jimin rises to his feet again, slipping the blindfold from around his eyes and tossing it aside. Above him a whole troupe of acrobats spin and leap in time with the song, dancers surround him on the stage, all following his movements.
His hips sway and hands twist through the air above his head, glistening with jewels Jungkook hadn’t noticed before. Something about the way he moves now is so primal in comparison to the sophistication of his aerial performance. He reminds Jungkook of an animal, wild and untamed, sweat-dampened hair flying as he spins, landing on his knees and bending backwards.
As the acrobats swing above him, some grab his hands and lift him, tossing him to another, and Jimin bends and warps through the air as he flies. It’s nerve-wracking and captivating all at the same time. Jungkook wants to close his eyes but he can’t look away. Not when Jimin draws him in, landing on the stage again and bending completely backwards. He flips back, rights himself, and reaches his arms out to either side.
The troupe of dancers rush forward to pick him up by his outstretched arms, carrying him like a king around the stage. When they release him, Jimin spins to face the crowd, quick steps bringing him closer to them, then he drops to all fours, crawling across the stage. It’s slow at first, then he speeds up until he reaches the end of the stage, and Jungkook’s heart almost stops because Jimin freezes right at the edge and reaches out to him. His fingers brush along Jungkook’s jaw, his body rolling against the stage. He suddenly understands what those people online meant when they talked about Park Jimin.
Jimin leans back, kneeling before Jungkook as his hips sway, hands running up his own body, hair hanging in his eyes as his gaze remains locked with Jungkook’s, and it’s like they’re the only two in the whole tent. No one else exists anymore, just them, just Jimin, and Jungkook can’t stop watching him.
Glitter covers his skin and his face is so heavily contoured it gives him a catlike appearance. His eyes, large and emphasized by the deep red, blue, and purple eyeshadow, run deep with mystery and intrigue, a depth hidden behind them that Jungkook doesn’t have the chance to search before his troupe catches him around the waist and pulls him back into the fray.
Jungkook doesn’t even feel himself moving until Yugyeom stops him, but Jimin draws him in like a moth to the flame and he’s standing before he even realizes what he’s doing, trying to move closer to the stage.
“Kook,” Yugyeom hisses, pulling Jungkook back into his seat and gripping his arm like a vice. “What the hell, man?”
He can’t even answer, already captivated once again by the way Jimin moves for the last few moments of the performance. It ends too soon for his liking, the troupe all landing in a flawless pose around Jimin as he stares out at the crowd. His eyes drift down to the front row, to Jungkook, and they don’t leave him until Jimin walks entirely off the stage, hidden behind the curtains once again.
The ending of the show is bittersweet and when Hypnos calls out the entire troupe to bow before the audience, Jungkook’s eyes immediately find Jimin. To his surprise, the aerialist stares right back.
The pink-haired aerialist gives a deep bow to the crowd, hands locked with a taller aerialist and one of the trapeze artists. When he straightens back up, his eyes land on Jungkook again, and Jungkook knows he doesn’t imagine it when Jimin smiles at him.
The curtains begin to close as the crowd claps and cheers, everyone on their feet. It takes a solid five minutes after that for Yugyeom to convince Jungkook to leave, practically dragging him out with the slow flow of foot traffic, elbows jabbing them and heels crushing down on their toes.
They make it out of the tent mostly intact and Jungkook finds himself face to face with Marie again, a curious grin on her face. She beckons him off to one side, watching as Yugyeom grows too distracted with maneuvering the crowd to notice. Jungkook follows her away from his friend, seemingly against his will. He can’t stop his feet from stumbling after her even though his mind says he needs to go back.
“Park Jimin would like to extend a personal thank you for coming to the show tonight,” she says as they come to a stop just around a corner. It feels like Jungkook’s heart stops. “And he would very much like to meet you if you are available to visit him tomorrow before his schedule.”
Jungkook’s head spins and he almost wants to pinch himself to see if he’s dreaming. He must be dreaming.
But then Marie reaches forward and pinches his arm for him. She chuckles as he leaps away, slapping his hand over where she pinched. “You needn’t answer, little one,” she says as a strip of black fabric seems to appear from nowhere, dangling from her hand in front of Jungkook. “Take this. Bring it back here tomorrow and they will let you in. Jimin will be preparing for his act in the main tent.”
Jungkook, still wordless, still dizzy, takes the fabric and realizes it’s the silk blindfold from Jimin’s performance. He turns it over in his hands to see the golden butterfly. Why does Jimin want to see him?
He jumps, looks back to see Yugyeom making his over to him, and promptly shoves the blindfold into his pocket.
“Hey, I lost you for a second there,” Yugyeom says, grabbing Jungkook by the shoulder. “What are you doing over here?”
“Oh, I was…” Jungkook turns to point at Marie, only to find that she’s vanished. He blinks, glances around. Not a single sign of her anywhere. “Never mind,” he says, head shaking to clear his mind. He nudges Yugyeom. “Let’s go.”
Yugyeom questions him no further as they walk, Jungkook lost in his thoughts, lost in the image of those golden cat eyes, lost in the movement of Jimin as he danced. Just thinking about the way Jimin touched his jaw has his whole world turning on its head.
He slips his hand into his pocket, thumb rubbing over the silky smoothness of the blindfold as he hops into Yugyeom’s car.
They’re not even halfway home by the time Jungkook has a plan to meet Jimin tomorrow.
Jungkook goes to sleep with his headphones in and sets his alarm for 7 A.M. Like clockwork (literally) the alarm rings through his headphones, waking him but not his friend. He throws on his spare clothes—which are unfortunately nothing fancy and he kind of hates himself for even thinking of seeing Park Jimin without looking damn good—throws on his shoes, and sneaks out of the house. Once safely on the bus, he sends his friend a text saying his parents needed him home for something and that he would come back to finish moving his things later.
He’s nervous, sitting at the back of the bus with the blindfold in his hands, fidgeting with it and twisting it around and around. He has no idea what to expect when he gets there, what Park Jimin could possibly want with him. There was certainly something between them on that stage last night, the way Jimin looked at him, touched him. Part of Jungkook wonders if that was meant to be part of his performance or if…
No. Jungkook’s not special enough for someone like Park Jimin to step outside his choreography for such a brief interaction. It must have been planned. Jungkook just happened to be in the right seat at the right time.
The bus lurches and zooms around a corner and Jungkook sees the tents come into view. Hopping to his feet and stuffing the blindfold away again, he tugs on the little cord to signal the driver and the bus slows to a stop just yards from the circus grounds.
Jungkook hops out with a wave to the driver and takes a deep breath. Whipping the blindfold back out, he heads for the entrance. No going back now.
Walking through the circus grounds before it’s officially open is almost scary. It’s certainly off-putting, everyone staring at him as he heads for the big top, their eyes drifting from his face to the black silk in his hand.
He shies away from their gazes, keeps his head down and quickens his pace. It’s a relief when he reaches the tent and sees Marie there. She smiles when he approaches but says nothing, beckoning him inside. With a slight bow of his head to her, Jungkook ducks past the flaps of the tent.
Bright lights illuminate the stage and loud music fills the tent. Jungkook passes through the stands, staring ahead at the sight of Jimin wrapped up in silks and spinning through the air alongside another man—the taller aerialist from last night, Kim Taehyung.
Below them stands the escapist, Yoongi, and the trapeze artist, Hoseok. Jungkook has researched all of them online. While Yoongi sits silently, smiling as he watches them catch hold of each other in midair and twist around, Hoseok whoops and cheers, leaping with excitement every time they land a particularly difficult move.
Captivated just as he was last night, Jungkook feels his feet carrying him forward, that blindfold still clutched tightly in his hand. He barely even feels himself moving, almost like he’s just floating forward, closer to Jimin.
Yoongi’s eyes snap to him and the arms crossed over his chest drop to his sides, fists clenching. “Stop the music, Hoseok,” he orders, stepping closer to the edge of the stage. “What the hell are you doing in here?”
Jungkook stops in his tracks, gaze finally drifting from Jimin to Yoongi. He feels his blood run cold at the sight of the other man, tattoos running up his neck and white hair contrasting black eyes.
Behind him, Jimin drops from high above, sailing down to the stage on the silks. He lands just as Yoongi takes another step forward and places a hand on the other man’s shoulder. “It’s okay, Yoongi,” he says, and his voice is soft, just as enchanting as his face. He smiles at Jungkook when Yoongi steps back, then beckons him forward.
After a moment of hesitation, Jungkook moves toward Jimin, takes the steps two at a time until he’s up on the stage. Jimin crosses the wide expanse to meet him as he approaches, a smile on his face, his hand running through his hair.
“Hi,” Jimin says, coming to a stop just feet away from Jungkook. He looks nervous. How could someone as stunning as him be nervous around Jungkook? “I wasn’t sure you would actually come.”
Jungkook opens his mouth to speak, his voice freezing in his throat. Far behind Jimin stand the other three, all watching them too closely for his comfort. The other aerialist especially sets him on edge with eyes blacker than obsidian and skin unnaturally pale. “Um,” he blinks, then holds the blindfold up to Jimin, “I wanted to bring this back to you. I figured you would need it for tonight’s performance, too.”
With a smile, Jimin accepts the little strip of fabric, wrapping it around his hand. “Thank you,” he says, his eyes finding Jungkook’s again. “Surely that’s not the only reason you came here today, though.”
“No,” Jungkook blurts out, then purses his lips. He has no idea how to talk to this guy. Honestly, he doesn’t know why he’s here. All he knows is that Jimin’s standing right in front of right now and he’s close enough to touch and his face is devoid of any of the stage makeup from last night and he’s still unbelievably beautiful.
From head to toe, Jimin wears skin tight black clothes, accentuating every curve in his body, even showing the lines of his abs, and Jungkook’s having a hard time focusing right now.
“Um.” Jungkook tries again, taking a deep breath, but he can feel the others’ eyes on him and it makes him anxious. Jimin seems to catch on, turning to mouth something to them. Reluctantly, they all meander off the stage, Hoseok peeking over his shoulder at them as he goes. Taehyung tugs on his hand, then pulls Hoseok around in front of him, burying his face in his neck as they walk.
Jimin turns back to Jungkook, that captivating smile adorning his pink lips again. “There we go,” he says, a foreign lilt to his voice Jungkook hadn’t noticed before. He wonders where he’s from for a moment before he remembers Jimin had asked him something.
“I, uh,” Jungkook swallows, “wanted to tell you how beautiful your performance was last night. It—” He clears his throat. It was stunning, enchanting. I never wanted it to end. You looked unreal, like an angel flying over that stage. “I’m not good with words,” he says and Jimin stifles a laugh. “I’m better at expressing myself physically— I mean, god, not like that— I just meant— shit— I’m a dancer, too— I wasn’t saying— fuck.”
Jimin chuckles, one hand clapped over his mouth. “It’s okay,” he assures Jungkook, brushing one hand along the boy’s arm and sending a shiver down his spine. “I understand what you meant.” He licks his lips, then purses them together. “I suppose I should’ve asked for your name first.”
“Oh, shit, right.” Jungkook feels his face going redder and redder by the second. “I’m Jeon Jungkook.”
“Park Jimin. Just Jimin to you.”
Jungkook smiles, losing his train of thought when he looks into Jimin’s eyes. Then he snaps himself out of it. It’s hard, though, when someone so damn gorgeous is standing right in front of him. And so… familiar. Something about Jimin feels strangely nostalgic even though Jungkook knows he’s never seen him before.
“Can I ask… why you invited me here?” he asks, deciding he needs to at least try to converse, rather than just stare at Jimin.
“Ah, of course.” Jimin ducks his head, looking a little bashful. He ties his blindfold around his neck like a choker. “Did you eat anything this morning? You’re here so early.”
As if it needed words to be reminded, Jungkook’s stomach growls. He glances down at it, then back to Jimin. “Um, actually, I think I forgot to eat anything.”
Jimin gestures at the tent’s exit. “Let’s get you something to eat while I explain why you’re here.”
Jungkook doesn’t even get a chance to accept the offer before Jimin’s linking their arms together and leading the way out of the tent.
Jimin explains to Jungkook all of the acts they have at the circus as they walk, pointing out individuals as they stand and practice juggling fireballs and other insanely dangerous things right in the middle of their tents. He tells Jungkook about Taehyung and a few others who perform aerial silks like him, about the trapeze artists and how rowdy of a crowd they are.
He nods in the direction of a gigantic man to their left just as he lifts weights larger than him up. Jungkook winces just watching him. He can’t imagine lifting something so heavy.
“We have amazing people here,” Jimin says, beaming around at his fellow performers. “They’re the family I never had.” They duck under ribbons that separate the public grounds from the performers’ private tents and Jungkook feels like he just walked into a dream.
This is what his parents used to do, this is how they lived when they traveled with the circus. It’s beautiful, and Jimin seems so happy. He can’t understand what was so terrible about their lives before that they had to leave, that they wanted so badly for him to stay away.
“Can I ask you something?” Jungkook looks over at Jimin as they walk, surprised to find the other man already staring at him, eyes seeming to drink in the details of his face, drifting from his eyes to his lips and back. He almost chokes on his words.
“Anything at all, Jungkook.”
Jungkook swallows. “Were you with the circus before the new owner bought it?”
“Yes, for a few years,” Jimin says, looking ahead of them now. He stares into the distance, as though becoming lost in the memories. “I ran away when I was sixteen.”
“People actually run away with the circus?” Jungkook asks, eyes widening a bit. He hopes Jimin doesn’t catch the hopefulness in his voice. A troupe like this would never want him. Sure, he can dance, but his talents are nothing in comparison to everyone else here.
Another chuckle from Jimin. He nods. “Yes. At least, I did. “
“What was it like before?”
“Um.” Jimin stares down at the ground, watching their feet. He grows distant, eyes almost unfocused as he thinks. “It was… different.” He slips his arm out of Jungkook’s, no longer linking them together. Jimin ruffles his hair with both of his hands, takes a deep breath, and stares up at the blue sky. “It’s much better now that Namjoon’s here,” he says with a bright smile, then comes to a stop in front of a large truck.
Jungkook stares up at the contraption and how high it stands above them, at the siding gilded in gold and silver paints. It’s far more ostentatious than anything Jungkook would have imagined a circus performer owning. Then again, he doesn’t know much about the inner working of circuses, considering his parents have gone to every length to keep him away from them.
“Wow,” he breathes out, and Jimin loops his arm through Jungkook’s again.
“This is my home,” Jimin tells him, then gestures around the little makeshift yard beside it, at the round table draped with a deep blue cloth and the wooden chairs inlaid with fake jewels—at least, Jungkook assumes they’re fake—and the intricately designed rug beneath it.
It’s not at all what he would have imagined. He would have guessed folding lawn furniture and ratty campers. But this… This is amazing.
“Go ahead and sit down,” Jimin says, ushering Jungkook toward the table before letting go of him. “Give me one moment.”
Jungkook sits, watching Jimin as he makes his way to a neighboring camper and begins talking animatedly with another man. He takes this moment alone as a chance to digest everything that’s happened so far. He’s barely been here fifteen minutes and he’s already overwhelmed. He still doesn’t know why he’s here but they’ll get to that soon, he hopes.
Strangely, Jungkook feels like he fits right in. He’s never felt so at home in such an unfamiliar place. Maybe its in his genes. Maybe his parents have been keeping him away from his destiny all along.
Across the way, Jimin keeps talking to the other man and that’s when Jungkook finally notices the table full of food there. He blinks, stares as Jimin gathers a variety of breakfast foods onto two plates, and he realizes they must eat communal breakfasts here.
Jimin returns to him after another minute and sets a plate stacked high with food in front of him before sitting down. “There we go,” Jimin says, wasting no time in digging into his own meal. “Eat up.”
Jungkook follows his lead, more than happy to stuff his face. The food smells delicious and looks unlike anything he would have expected here. Again, this place is nothing like what anyone would assume and the opposite of what his parents made it out to be.
He looks up at Jimin as he chews his food, then asks. “Do you all live here on the grounds?”
“Some of us stay in hotels,” Jimin explains, swirling his food around on his plate. “Most of us prefer to live here. We’re a family, above all else. I’ve lived here since I was sixteen. I feel like I would feel… wrong… being anywhere else.”
Jungkook feels himself smiling because somehow he understands. This isn’t even his home but he feels like it could be and he understands never wanting to leave this place. It’s enchanting. He’s still not sure any of this is real.
“So, about why I asked you to come here,” Jimin says.
“Oh,” Jungkook nods, “right.”
“When I saw you in the crowd I couldn’t resist reaching out to you,” Jimin says, and Jungkook’s more than a little caught off guard by the confession. “I saw a lot of myself in you, Jungkook. The awe and wonder in your eyes as you watched the show.”
Jimin looks down at his plate, hands lacing together on the table. He swallows.
“I could see you from backstage even when I wasn’t performing. You were so captivated. I was, too, when I first saw the circus. It’s what made me want to run away with it, it’s why I knew it’s where I belonged.” Jimin clears his throat and his eyes meet Jungkook’s again. “I wanted to extend an offer to you. If you’re looking for something more than what you have now… If you’re not happy with your life, we’re always hiring new performers.”
Jungkook gapes at him, eyes wide. “I— I’m not— I don’t—” He swallows and takes a moment to gather his thoughts. “I don’t have any talents like all of you,” he gestures around the grounds. “I really have nothing to offer.”
“You said you’re a dancer.”
“Just a dancer. I can’t…” Jungkook motions flipping through the air with his hand. “…like you can. I’m not an escape artist, I can’t lift hundreds of pounds or breathe fire or do... anything.”
“We could train you,” Jimin says, lacing his fingers together beneath his chin and resting it there. “Whatever you want to do, we could teach you.”
Jungkook opens his mouth and snaps it back shut. This was the last thing he was expecting to happen. Why would Jimin want him to join the circus? Why would any of them want that? He has nothing to offer them.
Though he is so, so tempted to accept. He feels like it’s what he’s meant to do, feels like that’s the right choice.
“You don’t have to give me an answer right away,” Jimin says, hand sliding across the table to rest atop Jungkook’s. His fingers feel soft and warm, sending little sparks through Jungkook’s arm.
“How long will you be here?” Jungkook asks, trying to keep his voice steady despite how weak he feels at Jimin’s touch.
“A few more days,” says Jimin. His hand withdraws and Jungkook misses the gentle pressure of it already. “On Wednesday we’re leaving for Europe for the finale of this tour.”
Jungkook gives him a nod. “Okay. Um, can I think about it and tell you… before Wednesday?”
“Of course,” Jimin says with a smile. He looks down at his food again, then smiles at Jungkook. “Take your time. You should finish your food soon before it gets too cold.”
“Right.” Jungkook nods again, then digs back in, continuing to chat with Jimin between bites.
He ends up staying for another hour, questioning Jimin about all the details of aerial silks and how he can move like that in midair. Jungkook compliments him a few too many times and blushes when he rambles on for too long about how enchanting Jimin’s performance was.
When Jungkook realizes how long he’s been talking Jimin’s ear off he decides it’s time to go. Yugyeom will be waiting for him and Jimin has work Jungkook is no doubt keeping him from.
Jimin accompanies him back to the entrance to the grounds.
“You know, you’re different than I expected,” Jungkook admits as they walk.
“I don’t know.” Jungkook shrugs, feeling his arm brushing against Jimin’s as he does. The other man walks so close to him he can feel the static electricity from his clothes. “I guess I imagined someone… stoic and mysterious. You’re so… smiley and talkative.”
“Ah, sorry to disappoint.” Jimin chuckles. “Offstage Jimin is very different than onstage Jimin.”
“N-No. No, I’m not disappointed at all,” Jungkook stammers, waving his hands frantically. He calms down when Jimin starts laughing. Blushing, Jungkook continues, “It’s nice. And I think it’s amazing that you can lose yourself in a role like that. You’re talented in more ways than one. It’s… amazing.”
Jimin turns to him as they reach the entrance, his hands laced behind him. “Thank you, Jungkook. That means a lot to me,” he says. He runs his teeth over his lower lip and Jungkook has the urge to lean in and catch it between his own. Then Jimin sends him for another loop with his next question. “Can I ask who that boy was that you were here with last night?”
Jungkook blinks. “Oh, Yugyeom. My friend.”
“Just a friend?”
“Well, my best friend but, yeah, just a friend.” Jungkook knits his brows together and stares down at the small aerialist. “Why?”
With feigned innocence, Jimin shrugs. “Simple curiosity,” he says, then darts forward to press a kiss to Jungkook’s cheek. When he withdraws he has the blindfold in his hands again and he’s tying it around the younger’s wrist. “Keep this.” He looks up to meet Jungkook’s eyes. “So you can come see me again.”
A childlike smile splits across Jungkook’s face and he nods, a little too eager, as Jimin’s hands slip away from his. “I will. Before Wednesday.”
“Before Wednesday,” Jimin parrots, then steps back. “Until then, Jungkook.” He begins waltzing backward, back to the big top, and he lifts one hand in a delicate wave as Jungkook backs up in the opposite direction.
He watches as Jimin turns and strides back to the tent with all the grace and beauty of the world in him. Once the aerialist disappears from sight, Jungkook turns and makes his way out of the circus, fidgeting with the blindfold on his wrist.
As he waits for the bus, Jungkook smiles to himself.
Maybe running away with the circus, as cliché as it is, is exactly what he needs to do. It’s certainly what he wants to do. Besides, what could possibly be the downside of running away with Park Jimin? The number of people that would kill for that opportunity and here Jungkook is with it being dropped right into his lap.
Running away with the circus, after all his parents have done to keep him away from it. What a glorious way to escape the life he’s been trapped in for far too long.
Jungkook gets back to Yugyeom’s without much questioning, his friend being naive enough to just believe him when he says there was a leak at his house and his parents needed an extra pair of hands to help fix it. He had barely remembered to remove the blindfold from his wrist before heading inside. That would have been difficult to explain.
They finish moving Jungkook’s things into his dorm and then spend the rest of the day playing video games rather than setting his room up like he had planned. Part of him doesn’t even want to bother with getting things situated, his heart telling him there’s no point, this isn’t where he’s meant to be.
That blindfold in his back pocket keeps calling his name, those rings of fire and those silks hanging down as if from the sky itself keep reminding him that there’s so much more to life than university. There’s more than the dull reality his parents have trapped him in.
All he has to do is go back to Jimin and tell him. Just tell him he wants to leave, that he wants to learn anything from them so he can escape this place. Hell, he’d swallow a damn sword to get out of this city.
Days pass and Jungkook does his best to avoid home as much as he can. Frankly, he just doesn’t want to see his parents. He hasn’t gotten along with them for years but his recent revelation about the circus just makes him hate them. He can’t understand why they kept him from something so harmless, why they took away the one thing he always wanted.
But eventually he returns to gather his last few articles of clothing and whatever he may have forgotten.
He speaks to them as little as possible, keeping his head down as he stuffs his backpack full of what he needs. It’s almost a clean getaway until he reaches the front door and his mom calls him back.
“Were you just going to leave without saying goodbye?” she asks, and he almost feels guilty. Almost.
“Yugyeom’s waiting for me,” he says as his mother wraps him up in a hug that he returns with great reluctance. It’s a lie. Yugyeom’s busy with his own university preparations but he had hoped that would stop his parents from stalling him too long.
His mother lets go of him, his father taking her place to give him a much quicker hug. They may look nothing alike, but he and his father are very much the same person. Both awkward and uncomfortable with prolonged affection. As for his mom, looks are about the only thing they have in common.
“It won’t kill you to say bye to us first,” his mother says, “and I’m sure Yugyeom won’t mind waiting a few more minutes.”
Jungkook tries to hide how antsy he’s growing. It’s Wednesday morning and he has mere hours to decide what he wants to do; if he’s staying or if he’s leaving for good. If he leaves he will quite literally be traveling to the other side of the world. As much as he wants to escape he’s not sure he’s ready for that.
But he also can’t stop thinking about Jimin, can’t stop thinking about running away with him.
“Okay, um, bye,” Jungkook says with a shrug. “I’m literally just gonna be in a different part of the city.”
“I gotta go.” He turns and wrenches the front door open, ready to step outside when he hears his name again, this time in a tone he’s all too familiar with.
He freezes. He knows that tone. That’s not the voice of a parent scolding their misbehaving son. That’s the tone his mother uses only when the circus is mentioned.
Jungkook realizes with a sinking heart that he left the blindfold in the back pocket of these jeans and then wore them again without removing it. He glances back just in time to see his father snag the corner of the black silk and slip it away from him.
“Hey!” Jungkook tries to snatch it back but he mother does first. Her eyes burn with a fury he’s never seen before and it almost scares him.
“Where did you get this?” she asks, holding it in a tight fist in front of his face. “Tell me where you got this, Jungkook, because there is only one place—”
“How do you know what it is?” Jungkook asks, and his mother looks taken aback at the harshness of his voice. “Why do you know what that is? Why don’t you tell me something about your past for once and maybe I would listen to you?”
His mother sputters, lost for words, and his father steps in just as Jungkook snatches the blindfold back. “Jungkook, you do not understand the danger those people pose to you. Especially you—”
“Why especially me?” Jungkook growls back at him. He clutches the blindfold close, the silk fitting between his fingers, soft as Jimin’s hand on his. “I don’t understand. They’re good people. I met them. They’re—”
“When?” his mother’s voice cuts in, shrill and horrified. She shakes her head in disbelief. “When did you do this? Jungkook, what did they say to you? What did they tell you—”
“Nothing!” Jungkook shouts, his face hot and red with anger. Both of his parents take a step back at his sudden outburst. “They didn’t tell me anything. Nothing weird, nothing bad. You know why? Because they’re just normal people.”
He turns on his heel and storms out before they can stop him. As they shout after him, Jungkook speeds up, bolting down the sidewalk to the bus station.
His ears ring and he feels numb with anger as the bus rumbles beneath him, carrying him away.
He’s done. He doesn’t want this anymore. Not this life.
Jungkook goes back to the dorm that was never really his, packs everything important to him, gathers his money, and he leaves. He gets back on the bus and heads for the circus grounds.
He heads toward freedom.
He heads toward Jimin.
Jimin feels more than a little disappointed when they’re nearly finished packing everything up and Jungkook still hasn’t arrived, not even to say goodbye. Just a few minutes before they load everything onto a barge and leave for Europe.
Or what used to be home. Home is the road now. Jimin hasn’t thought of France as home since he was a stumpy, chubby grade schooler. Still, it might be nice to see it again after traveling around for so long.
He sighs, setting his chairs in his truck before shutting and latching the back door. His heart aches just a little at the thought that Jungkook didn’t even come to see him off. He had grown irrationally fond of the boy in a matter of hours. Jimin’s always been one to love and trust and fall a little too hard, a little too fast.
“It’s probably for the best, Jimin,” Yoongi says from behind him, and he turns to face his friend. Yoongi leans against his own truck, arms crossed over his chest. “He’s better off never knowing what we are.”
“But he’s one of us,” Jimin says. “We can all see it. He just doesn’t know it yet.”
Yoongi shrugs one shoulder. “Maybe he doesn’t need to know. Sometimes it’s better to go through life not knowing the truth. Ignorance is bliss and all that.”
“He wants to join us—”
“No.” Yoongi shakes his head, jaw taut as he stares Jimin down, challenging him. “You want him to join us. He doesn’t know what he wants. He’s a kid. And in a lot of ways, so are you. You have a lot of growing up to do, Jimin. This just proves it. After everything you’ve been through, you still get your hopes up too high, trust people too easily.”
Jimin feels the figurative hackles rise on his neck, his nose sticking in the air stubbornly. “You don’t understand. Jungkook… He’s like me. He’s—”
“Stop, Jimin.” Yoongi steps forward, takes a deep breath. “You need to grow up and stop doing this to yourself.”
Tears prick at the backs of Jimin’s eyes as he glares at his friend, fists clench at his sides. It’s not fair. Jungkook was supposed to be special, Jungkook was supposed to finally be the one person he could open up to, truly. If there’s anyone in the world who could understand him, it would be Jungkook. They’re the same. Jungkook just doesn’t know it yet.
Jimin wants to fight back, to snap at Yoongi, but no words leave him. He’s choking on his own tears, his voice broken. And Yoongi just stares back at him, unmoving, until his eyes drift behind Jimin, and widen.
“You’ve gotta be kidding me.”
With his heart pounding, Jimin spins around. His eyes go wide when he sees Jungkook striding across the grounds, huffing and puffing as though he ran here. Jimin feels himself beaming as he bounds forward to meet him.
“You came,” he breathes out as they reach each other.
Jungkook nods, out of breath and sweating. He holds out his hand, the blindfold resting in his palm, and for a moment Jimin fears that this is his goodbye. “I brought this back for you,” Jungkook says, making Jimin’s heart sink, his smile fade. Then Jungkook takes a deep breath and finishes, “I think I got everything I need so I’m ready when you guys are. I wanna come with you.”
The smile slips back onto Jimin’s face with ease and he takes the blindfold from Jungkook’s hand, sliding his own hand into the other boy’s. He squeezes tight and Jungkook smiles back at him.
“Welcome aboard Cirque du Pandemonium,” Jimin tells him, gazes locked, fingers intertwined. “Welcome home.”