“Word is you’ve got someone coming for you.”
“Yeah. Kid’s some sort of prodigy,” Hakyeon says, catching Hoseok’s shirt as he pulls it off and throws it at him. “Went on the news after his last competition saying something about how it’s his goal to beat you this next round.”
“Well, he can try.” Hoseok leans down and picks up his brace, starting to strap down his right knee.
“I don’t know man, he’s pretty good. Throwin’ some real sick tricks.” Hakyeon shrugs, adjusting his aviators to rest higher on his nose.
“I feel like you’re trying to scare me, coach.” Hoseok looks up at Hakyeon, fingers adjusting straps and clicking the apparatus into place without much conscious thought, the motions far past routine at this point.
“We both know you’re not scared of this kid.”
“That’s what I’ve been saying. Kid’s what, twenty?”
“Twenty-one,” Hakyeon says, then throws his lifejacket at his head.
He catches it out of reflex, pausing in his minute adjustments of his brace. “Whatever, I’ve got five more years in the professional circuit on him either way,” Hoseok scoffs.
“So, not a threat then.”
“I didn’t say that,” Hoseok says, shrugging into his navy and teal lifejacket. It’s one of his favorites, especially with his current hair color. “But this season’s going to be exciting now. Been a while since I felt properly challenged.”
“You’ve got Jimin to challenge you.” Hakyeon ties his rope off on the tower of the boat, stepping back onto the dock to drop the coil of rope next to Hoseok.
“Jimin's got too many mental blocks to throw something gnarly enough to best me.” He zips up the jacket and goes back to his brace, clicking the plates into place.
“Just real talk man.” Hoseok shrugs, adjusting the last latch of his knee brace. “It is what it is.” He jumps up, shoves his feet into his bindings. “Now, we gonna go or what?”
“Alright, alright,” Hakyeon says, jumping back into the boat to start it up. “Dock start then?”
“Bro, I just got my hair colored, can’t get it wet for another day.” Hoseok tightens the laces one more time before picking up the handle of his rope, hoping to the edge of the floating dock. “Of course I’m doing a dock start.”
“I’m swamping you, just for that.” Hakyeon says, easing the boat away from the dock.
“Whatever man, you don’t have the balls,” Hoseok calls, grinning when Hakyeon flips him off over his head. The boat idles out further onto the lake, slowly taking up the slack in Hoseok’s rope.
“One of these days your vanity is going to come back to bite you in the ass,” Hakyeon shouts across the increasing distance, the first few beats of Hoseok’s warm-up playlist thrumming out of the speakers attached to the boat’s tower. “And when it does I’m going to shit myself with glee.”
“Never gonna happen, man,” Hoseok yells, hands twisting around the handle, adjusting his grip. “Hit it!”
Hakyeon is a lot of things—annoying mostly—but he’s a damn good driver and an even better coach, so the second Hoseok jumps off the dock and his board touches water Hakyeon guns it, pulling Hoseok into a smooth, easy butterslide before falling in behind the boat, hair dry and the early morning sun warming his shoulders.
“That him?” Hoseok asks, pushing his auburn hair off his forehead. It’s hot, even in the shade of the tent. He itches to get his feet in his bindings and his board on the water.
“Yup,” Hakyeon says easily, arms behind his head and reflective ray-bans perched on his nose as he tips back in his chair, calm as can be while Hoseok hides his pre-run jitters behind warm-up stretches.
They both watch from the athletes-only area as Jeongguk Jeon, Hoseok’s newest competition, starts his first qualifying set. Hoseok tries to focus on his technique but mostly ends up looking at the muscles shifting in his arms.
“Did he just land a toeside front roll with frontside 540 like it was nothing?” That trick took Hoseok two qualifying rounds to successfully land, and Jeon did it first trick off the dock.
“Yup,” Hakyeon says, drawing out the word and popping the ‘p’.
“That’s disgusting.” Hoseok stretches down and touches his toes. “Ballsy on the first pass,” he says, upside down, talking to his knees more than Hakyeon. “I still don’t go for it until the end of my second pass and I land it ninety percent of the time.” Each competitor gets two passes per set, up one side of the lake and back. If they wipe-out in the first set they’re done until their second set.
“I told you he was good.”
“You were right.”
“Fuck no, bruh. It’ll take more than that to worry me.” And he isn’t worried. Not really. He’s taken home the trophy and the prize money in every competition he’s entered, and usually a board-babe that night. Two, maybe, if he landed something really impressive.
“You look pained,” Hakyeon says, smirking like he does when he knows he’s being a shit and doesn’t care.
“It’s the sunburn,” Hoseok says smoothly, stretching his quads.
Hakyeon drags his eyes up and down the tanned lines of Hoseok’s body. “You haven’t been sunburned in four years.”
“Which is why this one hurts like a bitch.”
Hakyeon opens his mouth to call Hoseok on his bullshit when Yongsun calls out: “Jay, you’re on deck in two.”
“Duty calls,” Hoseok says, easily side-stepping the swat Hakyeon aims for his butt. “Watch me win.”
“Dude if you don’t you’re doing sprints for an hour,” Hakyeon shoots after him, just to spite him.
Hoseok flips him off as he walks away toward the starting dock, teal and navy-blue life jacket thrown over one shoulder and his board under his arm.
Jeon won’t know what hit him.
“How do you want it?” Is the first thing out of Namjoon’s mouth when the boat glides up to the dock.
Hoseok looks up, watching Jeongguk Jeon ricochet smoothly to the dock, slingshot from the boat’s momentum. He twists his board as he curves around to the side of the dock, slowing his speed and sinking into the water, hair still dry.
“You know me,” he calls, looking back at Namjoon as he repositions the boat. “Fast and hard.” He winks at Jeon, who’s pulling himself out of the water and onto the dock as he says this.
Jeon’s hand slips out from under him and he falls back into the lake off the dock, his coach yelling at him from the waiting area as he flails in the water.
“For fuck’s sake Jeongguk!” his coach yells, hands fisting in his bleached hair. “Get your fucking head in the game and get out of the water!”
“Twenty-three then?” Namjoon checks, verifying his run speed.
Jeongguk finally manages to get onto the dock, hair now wet, and starts stepping out of his bindings, his coach still cursing up a storm in the distance as words like ‘embarrassing’ and ‘cocky-ass punk’ float down to where they’re at.
“Chyeah,” Hoseok says, throwing the end of his rope—coiled next to him on the edge of the dock—to Seokjin so he can attach it to the tower.
Hoseok can’t be sure, but Jeongguk looks like he’s blushing. It could just be exertion from his set, though. It’s probably that.
“Yo Jay,” Seokjin says as he fastens the rope. “You gonna give me something pretty to catch?” he asks, picking up his camera and sitting on the bench seat at the back of the boat, nimbly dodging the two judges in the boat on his way.
“Can’t. It’s impossible to do anything prettier than you are, bro.”
“You smooth shit,” Seokjin laughs.
“Nah seriously brah, keep that lens on me. I’ll give you something good.” Hoseok throws one last wink at Jeongguk, who is now stripping out of his lifejacket and slicking his hair out of his eyes.
Jeongguk glares back at him.
“Don’t waste my battery, Jay,” Seokjin calls as the boat begins to drift away.
“When have I ever disappointed you?” Hoseok calls, picking up the handle and twisting his hands around the grip, flexing his fingers.
“Whenever you’re ready, princess,” Namjoon calls from the captain chair.
“Ready,” Hoseok and Seokjin say at the same time.
Namjoon idles forward until the slack is out of the rope. The moment it pulls taut Hoseok is jumping onto the water, board slapping the surface with a satisfying smack. Namjoon guns it, and Hoseok breathes deeply, settling into the wake and waiting for Namjoon to curve back around for his first pass.
It’s his first trick that makes him the most nervous. Hakyeon always says you know how a set is going to go the second you launch for your first trick. Hoseok knows how his set’s going to go on the approach to his first trick, so he breathes deeply and cuts hard heelside when Namjoon pulls straight, starting his set.
The first thing he throws is a mobius, a simple invert with a full 360-degree twist in the air. His momentum takes him wake to wake, and he rides out the speed in a smooth landing before doing a surface switch to cut back on his heelside again.
It’s a smooth dance by now. Hours of practice have drilled into his muscles the familiar steps of cut, crouch, pop, flip, land, assess and repeat until it’s as easy as breathing. So, he takes a second, assessing how many more tricks he can fit in on this pass before Namjoon doubles-up, then gets to work.
He sticks to the things he knows he can hit. He kicks a temper tantrum easily, landing the double backflip in a low crouch and cutting out on his heelside only to turn and cut back in on his toeside, approaching the wake with both hands behind his back and launching into a toeside backroll with a backside 360.
He fits in a quick eggroll before Namjoon begins his easy curve to bring them back around for his second pass. Namjoon’s double-ups are some of the smoothest Hoseok’s ever had, and he’s always thrilled when Namjoon is the driver at a competition.
He doesn’t hold back on his second pass. If he wrecks on this pass he’ll keep any points up to the wreck, so it’s go big or go home.
He goes big.
He throws an orbital off his first heelside cut, managing a slick indy nosebone in the second rotation that gets him bonus points. He knows he has to throw something as big as the 540 Jeongguk threw if he wants to qualify ahead of him for the next stop in the tourney, so Hoseok throws a Crow Mobe 540, a variation of the trick Jeongguk threw. It’s the same trick, really, except he passes the handle behind his back and switches his grip, instead of rotating it above his head like Jeongguk did. It increases the difficulty of the trick without him needing to add a rotation.
He imagines the outrage on Jeongguk’s face as he lands his last trick—a heelside front flip with a frontside 360—to be pretty spectacular. By his count, he’s managed to qualify for finals a mere five points ahead of Jeongguk.
He rides it out as Namjoon reaches the end of the second pass, doubling-up and heading back to the dock for the next rider.
When they’re close enough, Hoseok slingshots himself across the water, letting go of the rope to glide back into the dock, rotating his feet in a smooth 180 to stall and plop on the dock before his board sinks below the water.
“Nice set,” Jimin says, stepping into his bindings as Hoseok wriggles out of his and pulls his board out of the water.
“Thanks man,” Hoseok says, smiling. “Good luck with yours.”
Jimin gives him one of his big smiles, eyes crinkling, which Hoseok knows means he’s nervous but doesn’t want to show it and hops to the edge of the dock, zipping up his vest.
“Heads!” Seokjin calls, tossing Hoseok’s loosely coiled rope to Yongsun a second before Jimin tosses the end of his rope to Seokjin in a smooth transition that comes from years of competitions.
“Nice riding,” Yongsun says to him, handing him is rope and smiling coyly. “You looked good.”
“Thanks, it felt good,” he replies, letting his hands brush against hers as he takes his rope back. He drops it on the deck in favor of stripping out of his vest. He drops his lifejacket on his board and bends down to grab his rope, chatting easily with Yongsun while he coils it neatly.
“If you’re interested, there’s an afterparty tonight,” Yongsun is saying as he finishes coiling up his rope.
“Oh?” Hoseok asks, eyebrows lifting. If he’s getting an invite to a local party, he’s almost certainly getting laid tonight.
Yongsun nods, tucking a strand of blonde hair behind her ear. “I’ve got some friends in town who are doing a bonfire thing on the west shore. I figured inviting some of the competitors would only make things more fun.”
“We’re a fun group,” Hoseok says, already thinking of a few people here he’s going to bring along. “I’ll be there.”
“Great!” Yongsun chirps, waving at him as he heads back up the dock to where Hakyeon is waiting for him.
“Your thirst knows no bounds,” Hakyeon says dryly, arms crossed over his chest. He’s sweating slightly under the Colorado sun.
“Like you’re one to talk,” Hoseok shoots back. “I can barely go a day without hearing about your vast and—frankly—terrifying sexual exploits with that boyfriend of yours.”
“You’re just jealous because you’re single.”
“I don’t want a relationship. They’re messy and overly-complicated.” Hoseok grabs the towel Hakyeon holds out for him and quickly pats himself dry.
“Bullshit.” Hakyeon takes the towel once he’s done with it “You’re afraid of committing to something other than your wakeboard.”
“I know what my strengths are, coach.” Hoseok gives him a smarmy wink, which Hakyeon rolls his eyes at.
Hakyeon is about to say something else—no doubt one of the many lectures he likes to aim Hoseok’s way at any given time—when Taehyung’s mop of unruly hair crosses his field of vision.
“Bruh, your run was dope.” Taehyung rushes up to Hoseok, crushing him to his chest in an overly affectionate hug and swings Hoseok around.
Hakyeon steps neatly out of the way of their flailing limbs.
“Yo, Tae!” Hoseok slaps him on the back a few times before ruffling his hair, shaking strands lose from the messy bun he has it in. “What’s up man? I haven’t seen you since…Alabama?”
“Sounds about right. Birmingham, right?” Taehyung grins at him, somehow managing to make it look sleepy and lazy despite the bright look in his eyes.
“I’m proud of you for remembering! You were pretty stoned that weekend.” Hoseok laughs as Taehyung finally sets him down. Taehyung has a perpetual look of calm around him, eyes always a little wide and startled that gives him the appearance of always being slightly high. Hoseok isn’t totally sure he’s ever actually seen Taehyung sober.
“Dude I know.” Taehyung pulls the tie out of his hair, letting it fall in sandy waves around his face and neck, shaking it out before redoing the bun. “Whatever I smoked was hella strong man. Had me high for a week I swear.”
It’s statements like this that make Hoseok wonder how Taehyung is the best wake-surfer in the U.S. There aren’t many people who could hang onto that title and compete stoned most of the time. “You hear about the party tonight?” Hoseok asks, steering the subject somewhere else. He wants to invite some people anyway. “West shore, bonfire, the works.”
Taehyung looks at him with a slightly more surprised expression than normal. “Yeah? Sounds like a fun time.” He taps a slender finger against his chin. “Do you think they’ll care if I bring some people?”
“Bring whoever you want. I’ll probably see if Wang and Tuan wanna come, invite a few people from your end of the competition.”
“Sick.” Taehyung nods, pleased. He claps his hands together, startling Hoseok, before adopting a serious expression. “Well, I’ve gotta go prep for my runs but I’ll see you later tonight yeah?”
“Bro, you know it.” Hoseok gives him a firm pat on his bare shoulder. “Surf those waves man.”
“He’s weird,” Hakyeon says once Taehyung jogs off, his board shorts nearly falling off his slim hips as he moves.
Hoseok shrugs. “He’s a wake-surfer. They’re all a little weird.”
“Amen to that.” Hakyeon gathers up Hoseok’s gear. “Let’s get this packed up since you’re done. That way you can have plenty of time to get yourself pretty for the party tonight. Just promise me you won’t do anything stupid.”
“Promise, coach.” Hoseok picks up his lifejacket and rope while Hakyeon handles everything else. “You know you wanna come.”
“I really, really don’t. Taekwoon and I are video chatting tonight. I plan on making the most of it.”
Hoseok rolls his eyes and gives Hakyeon a disgusted look, throwing his stuff in the truck once Hakyeon unlocks it. “You’re so old and boring.”
“I think you mispronounced deeply loved.” Hakyeon carefully places Hoseok’s board and rope into the bed of the truck before hopping in behind the driver’s seat.
Hoseok rolls his eyes and gets in the truck. “Gross.”
When Hoseok finally shows up to the party it’s to find it in full swing. The west shore was easy enough to find, and the party even easier still. There’s a massive lakeside cabin with large bay doors that open up right onto the beach where a bonfire is already blazing. A few meters down the beach there’s a dock that trails off into the lake, people already dotting the length of it with drinks in their hands. Hoseok can hear their laughter echoing out across the lake.
It’s a gorgeous cabin, and Hoseok takes a moment to appreciate the vaulted ceilings and various rooms before wandering out the open back doors onto the beach.
“Bro, you gotta try this,” are the first words out of Taehyung’s mouth when he finds Hoseok. “This weed is so dope.”
That’s right. Colorado. Legalized weed.
Hoseok takes a deep drag from the joint Taehyung puts in his fingers, letting the smoke linger in his lungs before he breathes it out, watching the smoke dissipate by the light of the bonfire.
He loves Colorado.
“That’s good shit.” He turns around to look at Taehyung only to find that he’s disappeared back into the crowd. He shrugs, taking another drag of the joint before wandering around the beach, soaking in the sound of laugher that rises up above the notes of music and the heat from the bonfire.
Hoseok looks around, eyes finally landing on Yongsun, who is working her way toward him with friends in tow. “Hey pretty girl,” he greets, giving her a slow, easy smile.
She laughs, waving a hand in front of her face and scrunching up her nose. “Jay, these are my friends, Wheein, Hyejin and Byulyi. Wheein is the one who put this whole party together. It’s her parents cabin that they let us use when we wanna have some fun.”
Hoseok gives them all the kind of smile that’s gotten him into beds faster than he’s gotten through a drive thru lane. “Nice to meet you ladies. Thanks for letting a bunch of crazy athletes crash your beach party.”
Wheein plucks the joint from his fingers with a coy smile. “You’re all pretty cute, so you’re welcome.” She gives him a wink as she takes a drag. “Anyway, enjoy the party. We’ll see you around.”
And just like that Hoseok’s on his own again, the four girls disappearing in a storm of giggles. He’s so enamored with Yongsun’s smile that it takes him a moment to realize Wheein took the joint Taehyung had given him with her.
“Damn,” he mutters. He’s just about to go look for her to get it back when an arm loops around his shoulders and a drink is shoved in his hand.
“Jung! What’s up man?”
“Hey Wang!” He shuffles his drink to his other hand so he can reach up and slap Jackson on the back. “Glad you could make it!”
“For sure brah. You know I’m always down for a good party.”
“I’ll drink to that.” Hoseok smashes his red solo cup into Jackson’s in mimicry of a toast and takes a sip, coughing at the ferocity of the burn all the way down his throat. “What the hell is this?”
“Tub juice,” says Mark, appearing out of nowhere and draping himself over Jackson’s shoulders. “Apparently one of the locals makes a killer batch.”
“Do they now.” Hoseok eyes the contents of his cup with trepidation. He still has runs to do tomorrow for the quarter-finals, and judging by the way he’s already starting to feel a bit floaty he’d better not drink anything more that what he has in his hand. He’s competed hungover before, but it’s not an experience he’s all too keen to repeat.
“Jeon!” Jackson yells suddenly, jumping up and down in excitement and making the contents of Hoseok’s and Mark’s cups slosh alarmingly.
Hoseok takes another large gulp of his to minimize the potential of a Jackson Wang Incident. When he shudders his way through the resulting burn, it’s to find a new addition to their slapdash group in the form of one Jeongguk Jeon.
“Jung have you met Jeongguk yet?” Jackson has a hand on Jeongguk’s shoulder, smiling affably at a somewhat startled Jeongguk.
“Hey man, what’s up?” Hoseok holds out his hand to Jeongguk in greeting. He’s a cute kid. He’s got big eyes that make him seem perpetually startled, which is a strange thing in a face as angular as Jeongguk’s. The kid looks like his jaw was carved from marble. Hoseok gives him one of his best smiles, hoping to coax a similar expression from Jeongguk.
Jeongguk doesn’t smile, just stares at Hoseok’s proffered hand with disgust. “We’ve met,” Jeongguk says to Jackson, ignoring Hoseok completely.
Hoseok drops his hand and stuffs it into the pocket of the board shorts he never bothered to change out of. He wouldn’t call their wordless interaction on the competition dock this afternoon a meeting, but whatever.
“Uh…yeah, okay.” Jackson looks at Mark, who gives him the facial equivalent of ‘fuck if I know’ and shrugs his shoulders. “Mark and I are going to go talk to Byulyi now. Have fun kids.”
And then they’re gone, Hoseok and Jeongguk left staring at one another. Jeongguk isn’t staring as much as glaring at Hoseok.
Hoseok isn’t sure what his face is doing but he’s fairly certain it’s close to his ‘what the fuck’ look that’s incredibly unflattering but what exactly did he do to Jeongguk Jeon. Jeongguk reaches out, takes the drink from Hoseok’s hand, and downs the rest of it in one deep pull.
“What the fuck,” he says, coughing and wiping his mouth with the back of his hand.
“What is it with people and taking things from me tonight?” Hoseok asks, because really, this is getting ridiculous. Not that he needed any more of the drink. The beach is already starting to spin a little around him and what the hell was in that drink.
“Not a fan of people taking things from you?” Jeongguk asks pointedly, in a way that implies he’s not talking about something more than drinks. Hoseok has no idea what Jeongguk is trying to get at, but the animosity is rolling off him in waves.
“Uh, is anyone?” Hoseok has no idea what to say to this kid.
Jeongguk shrugs and looks away, attempting to appear unaffected, but Hoseok has spent enough time around Hakyeon’s boyfriend Taekwoon to know what sullen pouting looks like.
Inside the cabin, someone starts playing music loud enough to carry over the length of the beach. Immediately people start to gather in the space between the cabin and the fire, dancing close and carefree to the music floating around them.
“It was nice to meet you Jeongguk,” Hoseok says quickly, sensing his escape from Jeongguk, who is still glaring at him. “I’m gonna go dance. See you around, bro.” He gives Jeongguk a quick wave and makes his way over to the group of people dancing and getting lost among them for a bit.
At some point he ends up next to Wheein and manages to snag what’s left of his joint from her fingers, finishing it off and giving her a wink when she slaps him on the chest playfully. He flicks the last of the joint towards the fire and retaliates by pulling her closer by the hips, encouraging her to dance with him to the music.
They dance together easily, and it doesn’t take Hoseok long to coax her closer, matching the movement of his body to the sway of her hips between his hands. Her arms loop around his neck, and she moves in closer, smiling coyly at him and biting her lower lip between her teeth, drawing his attention to her lips. Wheein is beautiful and seems like enough of a good time for him to be wiling to sacrifice a few hours of sleep with her tonight.
Her fingers toy with the strands of his auburn hair at the back of his neck and he relaxes in her arms, his gaze flicking lazily around as he passively watches the crowd around him. It’s like that, with his arms around Wheein and her hands in his hair that he notices Jeongguk standing at the fringes of the dance crowd, barely illuminated by the light of the bonfire, staring fixedly at Hoseok. He doesn’t flinch away when Hoseok meets his eyes. Jeongguk stares at him with something dark and burning in eyes that flicker with light from the bonfire burning between them.
Taehyung appears by Hoseok, gently tugging Wheein away from Hoseok to dance with him instead, and Hoseok dazedly moves towards Jeongguk, drawn towards the inescapable pull of his gaze. He’s definitely a little high and a little drunk, which probably has something to do with how helpless he feels right in this moment.
He draws up a foot away from Jeongguk, taking in his intense dark eyes beneath a fringe of equally dark hair. They’re the same height, eye to eye, and Hoseok wonders why Jeongguk is staring at him so intently. The world spins around him slightly now that he’s no longer moving and he’s a bit drunker than he thought.
“Wanna dance?” Hoseok asks, not sure what Jeongguk wants from him but knowing that it’s something.
Jeongguk doesn’t say anything, only stares at Hoseok for another second that feels like an eternity before nodding sharply, once. He grabs Hoseok by the wrist and drags him back into the middle of the crowd, his hand burning like a brand against Hoseok’s skin. Hoseok does a poor job not letting it affect him. Jeongguk is hot as fuck—you’d have to be blind not to think so—and Hoseok isn’t in the habit of turning down the advances of someone as good looking at Jeongguk, no matter how cryptic those advances may be.
“Your runs were good today,” Hoseok says as Jeongguk’s hands settle on his waist and they start moving to the beat of the music still spilling from the open doors of the beach house. “You’ve got a lot of talent.”
A furrow appears between Jeongguk’s eyebrows and he pouts slightly at Hoseok.
Hoseok waits for his response, but none is directly forthcoming, so he tries to think of something else to say. Something to get Jeongguk to talk to him instead of stare at him in the unnerving way he is currently. “You’re landing some really good tricks out there. Remember to keep your core engaged on your layouts and you’re set,” Hoseok rambles. Criticism of Jeongguk’s tricks probably isn’t the best way to go judging by Jeongguk’s affronted look, but Hoseok rambles when he’s nervous and being as buzzed as he is isn’t helping.
“You’re going to go fa—”
The command, issued in Jeongguk’s soft voice, sends shivers racing up Hoseok’s spine. It’s the first time he’s heard Jeongguk’s voice sound like this, so it takes him a moment to register that the words he said to Hoseok were a command. “Don’t tell me what to do, punk,” Hoseok says in a joking tone with just enough bite to make it clear he’s a little bit serious.
“Has anyone ever told you that you talk too much?” Jeongguk responds. Something ignites in his gaze and he pulls Hoseok closer until they’re dancing chest to chest, bodies pressed close, the light from the fire flickering over the right side of Jeongguk’s face.
Oh, shit. Hoseok is burning and it’s not from the fire.
Hoseok opens his mouth to respond, to sass back in the face of Jeongguk’s seriousness, but finds it difficult to do so when Jeongguk kisses him. It’s a harsh, intense fight for control right from the moment their lips touch. Hoseok fends off Jeongguk, determined to hold his own against him and keep Jeongguk in his place.
It gets harder and harder to do that, though, as Jeongguk nips at his bottom lip and they start to move away from the consuming heat of the fire. Hoseok feels the sand grow gradually cooler beneath his bare feet as Jeongguk steers them into the darkness. His head is spinning and everything that isn’t Jeongguk or the way his tongue is smoothly running over Hoseok’s bottom lip before gliding past and licking into his mouth fades away.
He gasps as his back collides with rough bark, Jeongguk kissing him deeper, more insistently as he cages Hoseok against a tree. When he pulls away a long moment later to kiss a trail of fire down Hoseok’s neck, Hoseok takes a minute to breathe and look around him.
The bonfire is visible in the distance, but Jeongguk has backed him into the cluster of trees to the side of the beach house where they are very much alone. Hoseok wonders briefly if this was Jeongguk’s plan all along or if singling out Hoseok was a spur of the moment decision.
“You wanna do this here?” Hoseok asks, to clarify. He’s not necessarily opposed to sex on a beach, but he’s got another run to do tomorrow and it would probably be better to do it on a bed.
Jeongguk straightens, looking at Hoseok with something dark lurking in his eyes. “You scared, old man?”
Hoseok gapes at him, speechless. He’s starting to come down from his high—not completely, but enough to know he’s starting to get tired of the way Jeongguk thinks he can talk to him like this—and his patience is starting to wear thin. “Are you going to fuck me or would you rather stand there and taunt me?”
He knows it’s just a metaphor, but Hoseok could swear Jeongguk’s eyes ignite in flames. Hands fist in his hair as Jeongguk pulls him in, harsh teeth biting at his lips as he kisses like he wants to destroy Hoseok.
Things move quickly after that, and it takes very little conversation between them to get Hoseok on his hands and knees on the ground with Jeongguk behind him, slick and ready with a packet of lube he’d pulled from the pocket of his board shorts.
“I knew I wanted this,” Jeongguk says as he fucks harshly into Hoseok from behind, “the first moment I saw you on the water.”
Hoseok pants and moans into the grass he’s fisting between his fingers. “Why me?” He doesn’t understand Jeongguk’s fervency, the fervor with which he’d approached Hoseok.
“You walk around these competitions like you’re a god, and I wanted to know what it would be like to hear you scream.”
Hoseok shivers, and Jeongguk fists a hand in his hair, his other hand gripping Hoseok’s hip hard enough to bruise. This is the first time Hoseok has been fucked by someone who actually believed the image he maintained on the docks. He’s never acted that way outside of competition, but he supposes that to someone like Jeongguk—who has only ever seen him in competition settings until tonight—he can understand how that would be all they know about who he is.
Either way, Jeongguk isn’t letting up his relentless pace and Hoseok digs his fingers into the coarse lake grass and holds on until he’s crashing through an orgasm that’s as sudden as catching the toe of your board on the wake and going under in a spray of white water.
Jeongguk releases his grip from Hoseok’s hip and hair, and Hoseok flops onto the sandy grass limply. It’s been a while since he bottomed, and he can already tell it was a mistake to do this the night before his last run of the tournament. He’ll berate himself later for this particular brand of idiocy but right now he’s too floaty from what lingers of his high and orgasm.
“You alright?” Jeongguk asks quietly. Hoseok can’t see him, but he hears Jeongguk pull his board shorts back up and the coarse shifting of sand as he stands up.
“I’m fine,” Hoseok pants, still catching his breath. Jeongguk has stamina, and Hoseok is ready to find his way back to his bed at the hotel and sleep for a week.
“Good. I need you in top condition when I beat you tomorrow.”
Hoseok looks over his shoulder at Jeongguk, not surprised in the least when he’s greeted with a cocksure grin. “Oh, is that what this is?” He slowly stands up and gets himself in order, settling his shorts back over his hips and straightening his shirt. It makes sense now, Jeongguk’s sheer determination to get him alone, the ruthless way he’d taken Hoseok apart, his smug satisfaction now. It’s not the first time Hoseok has literally been fucked over, but he thought he was smarter than this, more perceptive.
Jeongguk’s head tilts in unvoiced curiosity.
“You think you can fuck me the night before a competition and throw off my game enough to beat me.” Jeongguk’s eyes widen. “Let me tell you something, kid,” Hoseok says softly, his voice low and dangerous. Jeongguk can’t seem to help the way he leans in closer to Hoseok. “I’m a legend for a reason. Good luck tomorrow, Jeon, you’re going to need it.”
He walks away before Jeongguk can respond and tries to convince himself the whole walk back to his hotel that he isn’t hurt over what just happened.
“You look like you got fucked over by Satan,” is Hakyeon’s greeting when he sees Hoseok the next morning.
“Up yours, Cha.”
“No thanks, Seokie, that’s what I’ve got Taekwoon for.” Hakyeon’s teasing grin slips away as he runs his eyes over Hoseok’s body. “Seriously though, you gonna be ready to shred today? You need to put down a solid run to guarantee first place over that Jeon kid.”
“I can beat him in my sleep, coach. You know that.”
“On a good day, yeah. But in your current condition?” He critically watches the way Hoseok bends stiffly to pick up his knee brace. “My confidence in you has been higher.”
Hoseok pauses buckling up his brace to emphatically flash Hakyeon an offensive hand signal.
Hakyeon snorts in amusement, but remains concerned. “Dude, what happened to you last night?” His eyes linger over Hoseok’s torso as he pulls off his shirt. “Is that a bruise on your hip?”
Shit. Seriously, fuck Jeon. “I fell into a tree last night while I was tipsy. Nothing big.”
Hakyeon gets this pinched look on his face. “Hoseok, you’re closer to thirty than twenty-five. Don’t you think you’re a bit old to be getting drunk the night before a competition?”
Hoseok tries not to audibly groan as his lower back twinges when he shrugs his lifejacket on. “I know, I know. It was a mistake. It won’t affect my run, I promise.” He once did a run with pneumonia and nailed every trick. He’s got this. “Besides, I could do what I did yesterday in my qualifying run and probably win.”
Hakyeon hands him his board and makes a tisking sound behind his teeth in disapproval. “But would your qualifying run be enough points to beat Jeon’s full run?” He crosses his arms and pins Hoseok down with a fierce stare while Hoseok slips his feet into his bindings and does them up. “I don’t think anything less than your best would be enough to beat him.”
Hoseok grits his teeth because Hakyeon is right and he definitely knows it. “Are you gonna get in the damn boat and help me warm up, or are you going to stand there and gloat?”
Hakyeon slides his reflective aviators off the top of his head and onto his face. “Are you gonna do your full run and not bitch like a little girl?”
“Bro,” Hoseok says, putting on his gloves and picking up the handle of his rope as Hakyeon hops off the deck and into the speedboat. “I’ve got this.”
The engine of the boat purrs to life and Hakyeon begins to pull away from the dock, slowly taking up the slack in the rope. Goosebumps erupt across Hoseok’s arms in the cool morning breeze of Colorado. It’s early enough that they’re the only ones on the water right now, and it’s some of the best glass Hoseok’s seen in a while.
Hakyeon idles in the water, giving Hoseok enough time to hop to the edge of the dock and yell, “Hit it!” before he punches the throttle and Hoseok jumps onto the water as the slack disappears from the rope. He wobbles a bit but steadies soon enough; not his smoothest start but he’s definitely had worse.
He takes it easy on the water for his warm up, letting the easy in and out as he cuts soothe the soreness in his muscles. He does easier versions of all his tricks for his planned run for the finals later today and lands all of them easily, and by the time Hakyeon is circling back to the dock he feels much looser and ready to crush Jeon.
“What do you think about chilling at Powell after this tournament is over?”
Hoseok looks up at his coach in surprise. “Like, rent a houseboat, sleep under the stars, roast in the Utah heat, all that shit?”
“Yeah,” Hakyeon nods. “Taekwoon’s family has this dope-ass house boat that fits like, twenty people. We could invite some people from the circuit and make it a party. We can stay as long as we want, too.”
“And Taekwoon is just…fine with that?”
Hakyeon shrugs. “I mean, it’s not like he’s going to say no to me.”
“Whatever, he loves me.” Hakyeon sniffs and pushes his aviators further up his nose from where they’d slipped down.
They’re sitting in the athlete’s tent, watching the wake surfing finals—which Taehyung is predictably killing—while Hoseok tries not to shake out of his skin with nerves. No matter how many times he’s done this, no matter how often he’s won, he always gets nervous before the finals.
“I mean, if you’re sure he wouldn’t mind that sounds hella dope.” Hoseok could use a few weeks with nothing but red rock, warm water, and sun. Not to mention wakeboarding whenever he wanted. “Yeah, it would be fuckin’ lit.”
Hakyeon smiles and texts someone on his phone. “Taekwoon says he’s fine with it,” he says after a minute. “You good to leave a week from today?”
It’s the middle of June. It’s not like Hoseok has any other plans besides lazing around his apartment between training sessions. As a professional athlete his life pretty much revolves around wakeboarding training and competitions, so he’s almost always free to drop his plans and do something else if he wants. “Yeah bro. Who else is coming?”
Hakyeon shrugs. “I’m sure Taek will invite a few of his friends. We should bring some people from the circuit too, if they can. Seokjin and Namjoon, your friend Taehyung, maybe the Park kid and his coach.” Hakyeon gets a sly look on his face as he says, “Maybe the Jeon kid and his coach,” very, very nonchalantly.
“Sounds good to me, bro,” Hoseok says, fighting to keep his expression perfectly blank. Unlike Hakyeon, he doesn’t live his life in douchey aviators and therefore has to work to keep his emotions from broadcasting right across his face.
Hakyeon smirks. “I’ll be sure to invite them, then.” He looks up at the official’s clock at the end of the competitor’s tent. “Shit, you’re up in fifteen. You ready?”
“Bro, I’m always ready, you know this.” Hoseok moves to stand up from his chair and begin stretching when he feels something twinge in his bad knee. He grimaces, gingerly working it back and forth while Hakyeon frowns at him.
“Your knee okay?”
“It should be fine. My brace will help.”
Hakyeon frowns, if possible, even more. “I don’t like you having to rely on your brace,” he says, watching Hoseok strap his brace on his knee. “If you need to pull back a stunt I want you to do it. No sense in winning if it’s going to land you in physical therapy for the next six months.”
Hoseok nods. “I know, I’ll be careful.”
Yongsun walks up to Hoseok. “You set Jay? They’re ready for you at the dock.”
Hoseok finishes fastening up his brace and takes his lifejacket from Hakyeon. “Yep. I’m ready.” He follows her down to the dock, Hakyeon behind him with his rope and board.
The Jeon kid is already at the dock. He’s up right after Hoseok’s set, and Hoseok makes a pointed effort not to look at him. He gets it now, that Jeongguk probably just wanted to fuck him for the smug satisfaction of being able to say ‘I fucked over Hoseok Jung in every possible way and I won the gold’, and he doesn’t need that kind of negativity right before his final run in this competition.
It doesn’t help that Jeon’s coach has been glaring at him all morning, as if Hoseok was the one to fuck over Jeon.
“Hey Jay,” Namjoon greets with a smile from behind the wheel of his black Moomba. It’s Namjoon’s favorite boat and with how state-of-the-art all of its features are, Hoseok understands why. It also kicks a mean wake. “You ready?”
Hoseok adjusts his brace one last time. “I was born ready.” Hakyeon tosses his rope to Seokjin so he can attach it to the boat’s tower. “You know how I like it. Just like yesterday, okay?”
Namjoon nods, his Ray Bans catching the sun as he does. “You got it.” He starts the boat as Hoseok jams his feet into his bindings.
“You’ve got this,” Hakyeon says in his ear, bending down to be at eye-level with Hoseok. “Do what you’ve been doing every practice and you’ll easily take this home.”
Hoseok nods at Hakyeon, both of them serious in a rare moment of nerves. Hakyeon gets almost as nervous during a final run than Hoseok does. “I’m ready coach.” He slips on the gloves Hakyeon hands him. “Like I said, I can do this in my sleep.”
Hakyeon gives him one last nod and signals to Namjoon, who begins to pull slowly away as Seokjin tosses the handle of Hoseok’s rope to him. Hoseok catches it easily and hops to the edge of the doc, and with one last deep breath, Hoseok yells, “Hit it!”
It isn’t until his second pass down the edge of the lake that everything goes to shit. His first pass had been flawless, and he’d managed to land the reverse 1280 that had been hit or miss for weeks, but when he lands after his first trick on his second pass, pain spikes through his knee and he makes a split-second decision to dial down the intensity of his tricks. If he can’t trust his knee on landing, it’s not worth it to throw something that might land him in surgery.
He recalculates his points mid-air on his second trick, and it’s not enough to get him gold, especially with Jeon in the mix. He throws everything into the safer versions of his last two tricks, adding as many grabs and embellishments as he can to up his score, but when he slingshots himself back to the dock at the end of his run, the look on Hakyeon’s face tells him he didn’t do enough.
Hoseok hops back on the dock, lifting himself out of the water and letting Hakyeon help him to his feet before getting out of his bindings. He doesn’t say anything, mindful of the way Jeon and his coach are eying them curiously. It’s probably not obvious to the onlookers, but all of the competitors can tell that he just intentionally scaled back his tricks and they undoubtedly all want to know why.
Hakyeon takes his board and lifejacket while Hoseok catches his coiled rope from Seokjin, both of them getting off the dock as quickly as possible to make way for other competitors.
“Nice run,” says Jimin as he’s passing Hoseok. “I’m not used to seeing you play it safe.”
Hoseok clenches his teeth and smiles through them. “Thanks, Jimin. I thought you’d appreciate a shot at a medal for once.”
He doesn’t have to look at Jimin to know he’s probably seething, and even if he wanted to Hakyeon is dragging him back to the competitor’s tent.
“Hoseok what the fuck,” Hakyeon whispers once they’re secluded in a corner of the tent. “Why did you pull your tricks?”
Hoseok groans softly as he sits down. “My knee hurts like a bitch.”
Hakyeon goes from pissed to concerned faster than Hoseok can blink. “What happened.”
“I don’t know man, it’s like I landed my frontside 540 just fine, but my knee didn’t like it and I thought better safe than surgery so I dialed it back.”
Hakyeon pinches the bridge of his nose, his Ray Bans lifting up slightly. “Okay,” he sighs, gently undoing Hoseok’s brace. “Let’s see what the damage is.”
Hoseok’s brace comes off, and it’s immediately obvious that his knee is starting to swell. There’s a bruise starting to form on the inside of his joint, and he winces as Hakyeon gently moves his knee back and forth, testing his range of mobility.
“I’m calling Hongbin,” Hakyeon says decisively. “You need someone to look at this and he’s the best.”
Hoseok looks around, not missing the way Jeon’s coach is narrowing his eyes at them from the dock, or Jimin's curious attention on them. “Okay, sure. But after the competition. I don’t want anyone else knowing.”
Hakyeon rolls his eyes. “Fine. But I’m putting your brace back on and you’re going to wear it until we can see Hongbin.”
“Yes sir,” Hoseok snarks, but doesn’t protest as Hakyeon puts his brace back on. Hongbin is the best, and Hoseok would rather wear a brace through the awards than fuck up his knee any worse than it already is before Hongbin can look at it.
Hoseok turns his attention to the water, where Jeongguk is beginning his set and watches as Jeongguk throws enough tricks to place him comfortably above Hoseok.
“Good run, Jeon,” he says when Jeongguk makes it back into the competitor’s tent after his set. The scores don’t lie; Jeongguk has taken first place and there’s nothing Hoseok can do about it.
Jeongguk’s eyes flick to where Hakyeon is wrapping an ice pack around his knee. “Thanks.”
And he really shouldn’t, but Hoseok can’t help but say, “You really earned this win. You clearly work hard,” with his brightest smile.
Jeongguk’s coach—Hakyeon said his name was Yoongi—looks at Hoseok like he’s grown a third arm and maybe a horn because without the context of what happened between Jeongguk and Hoseok at the party, Hoseok sounds like the most gracious runner-up in history.
Jeongguk’s jaw clenches and Hoseok can see the tips of his ears flush, but Jeongguk only gives him a stiff nod of his head before sitting down in a chair a few seats away from Hoseok.
“By the way,” Hakyeon interrupts, addressing Yoongi, “we’re going to Powell with a bunch of people as a sort of end-of-competition party. Houseboat, camping, cliff jumping, all that jazz.”
Yoongi raises an eyebrow. “All…that jazz?”
Hakyeon smiles. “You and Jeongguk are invited. I can text you the details if you’d like.”
Jeongguk looks like he’s about to protest when Yoongi throws a towel directly in his face. “Sure, count us in.”
Yoongi turns to Hoseok. “Nice riding out there.” He gestures to Hoseok’s knee. “I hope that’s nothing serious. If you’re out of the competition it will make things too easy for Jeongguk. He needs a good challenge like you.”
“Thanks,” Hoseok says, not entirely sure if that was a compliment, but Yoongi merely nods in response and pulls a sulky looking Jeongguk up to his feet to make him stretch after his run.
Hoseok and Hakyeon exchange a look that says they’ll talk later, something Hoseok isn’t looking forward to at all.
Hoseok doesn’t linger after the awards ceremony. He doesn’t think he can take another pitying stare as someone else congratulates him for his second-place medal.
Hakyeon loads up all of their stuff in record time. “Let’s get you to Hongbin. He has an opening tomorrow morning.”
Hoseok climbs into the passenger seat a bit stiffly. “Is he close to us?”
“Nah, we’re gonna fly out to him.”
Hoseok balks. “But what about Powell?”
Hakyeon shrugs. “We can fly into SLC and drive down from there. I’d rather spend the money on the airfare than wait to have your knee looked at.”
“Okay,” Hoseok responds, leaning his head against the glass of his window and watching the lake fade from view as they head for the hotel.
“I’ve got good news and bad news,” Hongbin says, walking into the exam room with a handful of x-rays. “Good news: no surgery.”
“That’s awesome,” Hoseok says, looking to Hakyeon to confirm.
Hakyeon narrows his eyes at Hongbin. “What’s the bad news.”
Hongbin throws the x-rays against the lights, showing images of Hoseok’s knee. “Bad news is that you’ve got a second-grade sprain in your right knee.”
Hoseok winces while Hakyeon hisses in displeasure next to him.
“I know,” Hongbin says, “not what you wanted to hear. Fortunately, if you stay off the water for a month or so and do the exercises I’ll give you, it should heal up in time for the fall competitions.”
“So…no wakeboarding for a month.”
Hongbin sighs. “Yes, Hoseok, that’s what I just said.”
Hakyeon gets this pinched look on his face that says he’s not happy, but he doesn’t say anything other than, “You heard the man, Hoseok. No wakeboarding.”
Hoseok releases an explosive sigh and flops back against the exam table. “Powell is going to suck balls.”
By the time they get their shit together enough to make it into Salt Lake, Hoseok is grumpy, exhausted, and ready to strangle Hakyeon.
“If I hear you complain about Taekwoon one more time,” he warns, “I’m going to personally throw your phone into the Great Salt Lake.
Hakyeon gives him an incredulous look. “I haven’t seen him in a month¸ Hoseok. Forgive me if I’m not a little excited to see him for the first time after seeing your mug every day.”
Hoseok rolls his eyes and leads the way through the airport toward baggage claim. “Yeah, okay. Did you remember to invite everyone?”
“Of course, I did.” Hakyeon says, before he gasps and pushes past Hoseok when he spots Taekwoon waiting by the bottom of the escalators.
Hoseok watches as Hakyeon jumps down the last few steps in order to run and jump at Taekwoon. There’s a dull ache between his ribs as he sees the way Taekwoon gently cradles Hakyeon’s face in his hands, placing gentle kisses all over his face before kissing him deeply, heedless of anyone watching.
Hoseok watches and aches. While being the best—well, second best now—wakeboarder in the nation affords him lots of opportunities to travel and experience things he wouldn’t get to otherwise, it’s not conducive to relationships. What few relationships he’s had have been short flings while on the competition circuit, or relationships that broke under the strain of his training and travel.
And then there’s Jeongguk Jeon. Hoseok can’t help but replay what happened between them over and over. The whole flight that’s all he could think about. It’s funny now how he first thought that Jeongguk might actually be interested in him, when he first approached Hoseok. But it’s clear to him now that Jeongguk’s only aim that night was to fuck him in order to fuck him over in competition.
It shouldn’t have worked, but then again, Hoseok’s knee should have been fine.
“Hoseok,” comes Hakyeon’s impatient voice. “Get your head out of your ass and get your bag. We’ve got a long way to go before tonight.”
Hoseok shrugs off his thoughts of Jeongguk and moves.
“Bro, this is dope as fuck,” Taehyung says the second he sees Hoseok walking down the dock toward Taekwoon’s houseboat.
Hoseok grins and slips Taehyung some skin. “Yeah, Hakyeon’s boyfriend comes from a rich family.”
Taekwoon slaps Hoseok on the back of his head as he passes Hoseok to walk on board the houseboat. Taehyung snorts and follows Taekwoon on to the boat, Hoseok and Hakyeon close behind.
Everyone is more or less gathered at the houseboat already, Hoseok finds, as he steps off the dock and onto the boat. It’s a massive thing. There’s a fucking hot tub on the top deck and a slide that launches off the top deck into the water. As he enters the interior of the boat there’s couches along one wall in front of a flat screen TV, a kitchen and refrigerator beyond that, and rows of bunks near the stern of the boat.
“You weren’t kidding,” Hoseok says to Taekwoon, who has stepped into the boat behind him and is flipping switches and pushing buttons by the captain’s wheel. “This is awesome.”
Taekwoon smirks, then turns to Hakyeon. “Is everyone here babe?”
In response, Hakyeon raises his fingers to his lips and lets out a piercing whistle.
Within moments everyone on the boat is in the main cabin, pulling their sticky tank tops and t-shirts away from their already sweating bodies.
“Is everyone here?” Hakyeon asks, looking around the circle.
“Namjoon is on our boat, waiting to follow us out on the lake,” Seokjin says.
Yoongi shrugs from his spot next to Seokjin. “Jeongguk and I are here. Jeongguk is unpacking our stuff, but we didn’t bring anyone else.”
Hakyeon frowns, counting on his fingers. “Is nine all we have?” He turns to Taekwoon, who is priming the engines now. “Babe, did you invite anyone else?”
“I invited Sanghyuk and Jaehwan, but I also told them I’d leave them if they were late—”
“—And they’re always late,” Hakyeon finished for him, rolling his eyes. “Whatever, if they make it they’ll make it. Does everyone have their gear? Jackets, boards, ropes?”
Hoseok looks around to find everyone nodding. “Who was in charge of food?” He asks. Hakyeon has planned this whole trip, and while Hoseok has never known Hakyeon to overlook any kind of detail big or small, he doesn’t want to stave in the middle of a lake either.
“Taehyung and I stocked the fridge with all our food already!” Jimin says from his sprawled position on the couch.
“Yah,” Taehyung says, “and I came fully stocked with weed so, we’re good there too.”
Yoongi reaches over to smack Taehyung upside the head while Hoseok can hear the sound Seokjin’s palm makes when he hits his own face in exasperation.
“Weed isn’t legal in Utah,” Hakyeon says with a frown.
Taehyung smiles disarmingly. “Relax. It’ll be fine.”
Hakyeon is about to say something when there’s a thud on the front deck. Hoseok turns around to look through the windows lining the boat to see Taekwoon’s friends Jaehwan and Sanghyuk.
“Let’s get this party started,” Jaehwan screeches, while Sanghyuk follows behind carrying their bags. The moment all of their stuff is on the boat Taekwoon begins pulling away from the dock.
Hoseok looks around at their party of eleven—minus Namjoon and Jeongguk—and wonders what exactly he’s gotten himself into.
There’s one thing that Hoseok will never get tired of seeing, and it’s the sheer beauty and size of Lake Powell. Azure water framed by red sandstone, narrow passages and canyons that make boarding a scenic adventure.
Taekwoon cruises through the main channels for a while, Namjoon following next to them in his Moomba, and Hoseok climbs the tight spiral steps onto the upper deck to really enjoy the view.
There’s a bunch of pool chairs lined up under the canopy and Hoseok takes one next to Yoongi, who already looks like he’s asleep. It’s warm under the June sun, already in the nineties temperature-wise, but the cool breeze and gentle rocking as the boat cruises deeper into the canyons of the lake make it quite pleasant.
Yoongi cracks an eye open under his sunglasses as Hoseok sits down next to him. “Oh, I thought you were Guk.”
“Surprise,” Hoseok says lamely, making jazz hands.
Yoongi snorts and closes his eye. “If you’re too noisy I’ll push you off this boat into the water.”
Hoseok leans back, reclining in the chair, and says nothing. He watches the rocks go by, admiring the graduations in the red and the way the sandstone contrasts with the blue of the water. The sun, the breeze, the rocking, all lull him into a daze that remains unbroken until one Taehyung Kim decides to settle himself directly onto Hoseok’s lap.
Hoseok immediately begins to sweat anywhere Taehyung is touching him. The breeze is nice, but it doesn’t do shit when it’s fighting the body heat of two people pressed together.
“Yoongi will throw you off the boat if you’re too noisy,” Hoseok says immediately. It’s always best to curtail Taehyung in advance whenever possible.
Taehyung nods and flops down onto one of the other chairs, and Hoseok is surprised when all Taehyung does is close his eyes and, by all apparent appearances, drifts off. On his other side, Yoongi chuckles under his breath.
It takes about another hour before Taekwoon navigates the boat into a narrow inlet that dead-ends in a cove with a sandy shore. Hoseok gets up and helps to anchor the boat to the shore, working with a whiny Jaehwan to dig holes for the anchors.
While they’re digging, Hoseok spots Jeongguk for the first time since he stepped foot on the boat, which is a feat on Jeongguk’s part because while the boat is big, it’s not that big. He watches from the corner of his eye as Jeongguk jumps into the water and wades to shore, Taehyung right behind him, and has to suppress a laugh when Taehyung unexpectedly pulls Jeongguk off balance and backwards into the water, dunking him while laughing maniacally.
“Oh, to be young,” Jaehwan mutters.
Hoseok gives him a skeptical glance. “Aren’t you like, basically the same age?”
Jaehwan stops digging and give him an affronted look. “I’m twenty-five, don’t slander my good name.”
“You don’t have a good name,” shouts Sanghyuk, who is digging a different hole a way off with Seokjin. He ducks as Jaehwan picks up a small lump of sandstone and throws it in his general direction.
Seokjin straightens up and gives them all an unimpressed look. “Can we please finish this so that we can get on the water? It’s hot and I would rather be doing literally anything else. I’m too pretty to do this honestly.”
“I think you look hot with a shovel babe,” Namjoon yells from the deck of his boat, tied to the stationary houseboat. He’s busy attaching everyone’s gear to the tower of his boat so they can go out as soon as they’re finished securing the houseboat. “Ten out of ten, will bang later tonight.”
“You absolutely will not,” Hakyeon practically screeches from where he’s tying the anchor ropes to the side of the houseboat. “This is a shared space. We aren’t animals.”
Hoseok laughs and gauges the hole he’s dug. Good enough. He smacks Jaehwan in the arm to get his attention and between the two of them the get the anchor buried with rocks on top to keep it in place.
It only takes a few more moments for Sanghyuk and Seokjin to finish theirs, and then the four of them wade back into the water, heading for Namjoon’s boat.
Jimin materializes on the rear deck of the houseboat now that all of the work is done, leaping lightly from the deck to Namjoon’s boat with his lifejacket in hand. “Do we have enough time to do a run tonight?” Jimin asks, looking up at the sky and biting his lip in worry. “Isn’t it going to get dark soon?”
“Nah,” Namjoon says, finishing up attaching their boards to the tower. “It’s summer and Utah. We’ve got sun until like nine.”
Hoseok hauls himself out of the water to sit on the swim deck. “Who else is coming out tonight?”
“You’re not,” Hakyeon says, his head popping out over the railing on the upper deck to scowl down at Hoseok.
Hoseok groans. “I’ll be fine, coach.”
“What’s up bro?” Taehyung asks as he pulls himself onto the swim deck and moves up into the main body of the boat, Jeongguk following him.
“Nothing,” Hoseok says, acutely aware of Jeongguk’s eyes burning into him. The last thing he wants is for Jeongguk to find out about his knee unless he absolutely has to. Jeongguk has made it clear he’s Hoseok’s enemy, not a friend.
Hakyeon has no such qualms. “He’s land-locked for the next month.”
“Dude, what?” Jimin says, eyes widening. “Why?”
Hoseok winces. “It’s nothing, I’m fine,” he replies, giving Hakyeon a very pointed look that he promptly ignores.
“His knee is sprained. If he gets on the water I’ll murder each and every one of you and hide your bodies out here.”
Everyone, including Namjoon, flinches back at the threat.
“Jeez, Hoseok,” Taehyung whispers loud enough for Hakyeon to hear. “Your coach is scary.”
Namjoon starts the engine, and Hoseok stands up and gets into the boat, moving up to the bow to sit in the front. Seokjin appears on the rear deck of the houseboat, untying Namjoon’s boat before hopping aboard.
“I’ll make sure he stays off the water,” Seokjin says evenly, waving to Hakyeon as they pull away slowly from the boat.
Hakyeon nods, and Namjoon guides them out of the inlet they’re in, speeding up once they hit the bigger channels.
“Who’s up first?” He asks, slowing down once they’ve found smooth water.
Jimin jumps up eagerly, already zipping up his life jacket.
And so it begins.
Somewhere between Jimin's run and Taehyung’s, Jeongguk joins Hoseok in the bow of the boat, the wind as they speed through the red-rock canyons of the lake granting them a modicum of privacy.
“I’m sorry,” Jeongguk says, almost too quiet for Hoseok to hear over the sound of wind in his ears.
Hoseok watches him from the corner of his eye. “For?” He’s not necessarily trying to be sassy, he’s not actually sure what Jeongguk is apologizing for. It could be several things. Fucking Hoseok in an attempt to beat him. Actually beating Hoseok and taking the winnings and sponsorships that came with that win. Assuming that something as simple as a slightly rough fuck could actually throw Hoseok off his game.
Yeah, could be several things.
Jeongguk gets a pinched look on his face and squints into the sunset. “For being a dick.”
Okay, not what he was expecting. Behind the boat, Jimin manages to land an impressive inverted Tantrum to Blind.
Hoseok raises an eyebrow, not taking his eyes off Jimin. “Wow. How hard was that to say?”
Jeongguk turns and scowls directly at him. “Oh, go fuck a spoon,” he replies. “I felt bad because of your knee but if you’re going to be a dick about it I’ll just leave.”
Hoseok sighs. “Relax, man. I accept your apology.” He’s man enough to recognize when he likes someone despite knowing it could be a bad idea. He’s always been weak for a pretty face.
Jeongguk’s shoulders relax, and Hoseok admires the way the glow from the sunset softens his features, making him look young and vulnerable instead of the tough exterior he’s been hiding behind.
He looks beautiful, like this.
“But just so we’re clear,” Hoseok begins, “You’re apologizing for my knee, not for fucking me in the hopes of making me easier to beat?”
Jeongguk goes bright red, flustered as the sun dies in front of them, while behind the boat Jimin wipes out spectacularly in a spray of white water.
“Yo, Tae, where are the marshmallows?”
Hoseok looks up from the fire they started on shore and watches as Taehyung throws an unopened pack of marshmallows at Jaehwan’s face, hitting him directly in his somewhat prominent nose.
“Ow,” Jaehwan says, blinking, while Sanghyuk snatches the marshmallows from his lap.
“Thanks Tae,” Sanghyuk calls as he eagerly tears into the package to roast them.
It’s been a few days since they got out on the lake, and Hoseok has watched as their odd band of boarders and non-athletes became one seamless group of individuals. It’s been fun, despite him not actually being able to get out onto the water. He’s watched Jimin and Taehyung hit it off surprisingly well, an easy friendship forming between them almost instantly.
Just a few minutes ago Hoseok heard Jimin asking Taehyung to teach him how to wakesurf, a question that was answered by Taehyung’s excited screech.
Across the fire, Hoseok can feel something other than the heat burning into him as Jeongguk stares at him fixedly. He’s been trying to ignore it, but ever since Jeongguk’s somewhat failed attempt at an apology Jeongguk has started watching Hoseok whenever he thinks he can get away from it. It’s enough to make his stomach twist with excitement and nerves, something warm and lasting kindling in his gut, but he went there before and got burned, so he’s been keeping his distance.
“Hoseok can I talk to you for a minute?”
Hoseok starts and looks over at Yoongi, who has already sat down on the sand next to Hoseok.
“Uh…” Hoseok doesn’t know what to say, and finally settles on, “Sure man, what’s up?” because Yoongi does not seem like a man you say no to.
Jeongguk certainly can’t. The boy does whatever Yoongi says without complaint. Well, except for that time yesterday when Yoongi handed Jeongguk a bottle of sunscreen and said, “help me apply this. I’m too old to get a tan,” and Jeongguk’s answer had been to scowl and throw the sunscreen back to a laughing Yoongi.
“It’s about Jeongguk.”
Hoseok gets this sinking feeling of dread. He can already tell that Yoongi is perceptive, but if he’s got any idea what’s been going on between Hoseok and Jeongguk he’s sure a lecture of some kind is coming.
He figures it’s best to cut straight to the chase. “Okay listen bro, he fucked me first.”
“I see the way he looks at y—wait, what did you say?” Yoongi abruptly cuts off and looks over at Hoseok, eyebrows raised.
“Uh…he beat me first?” Hoseok struggles to recover. Yoongi didn’t know, which means he just made this situation way worse than it needed to be. Awesome. “I’m going to return the favor one day.” He wonders if throwing himself into the fire in front of them would be better than sitting through the rest of this conversation.
Yoongi narrows his eyes at Hoseok. “You said ‘he fucked me first’, didn’t you?”
“I think you need to get your hearing checked old man. I definitely didn’t say that.” Hoseok knows Yoongi isn’t going to buy his bluff, but it’s worth a shot. For whatever remains of his pride, at the very least.
“You’re a shit liar bro.”
Well, there goes that. Namjoon sits next to Jeongguk across from them, roasting stick in hand and several marshmallows in his hand. Seokjin sits down next to him with an anticipatory expression.
“Tell it to someone more gullible than me,” Yoongi continues. “Is that why you lost that day? Because of Jeongguk?”
Hoseok scowls at Yoongi. “No, it wasn’t him. Give me a little more credit.” Yoongi rolls his eyes. “It was my knee acting up.”
“Whatever.” Yoongi is quiet for a moment, and they both stare into the flickering flames. Across from them, Jeongguk is looking between them with a worried look on his face.
They both watch as one of Namjoon’s marshmallows goes up in flames, turning black immediately. Seokjin laughs, slapping Namjoon’s arm while he does.
“Don’t fuck this up,” Yoongi continues after a moment. “It might be hard to see, but Jeongguk actually cares about you, for all that he’d say otherwise.” Hoseok scoffs, violently shoving aside the part of him that leaps with excitement at the idea that Jeongguk might like him too. “I’m serious,” Yoongi insists. “I’ve never seen him this way with anyone else.”
Yoongi is quiet for another long moment. Namjoon’s second attempt at roasting a marshmallow isn’t going much better, and they watch as it falls off the stick to bubble into a sticky mess against the coals of the fire.
“Jeongguk won’t admit that he wants someone until it’s eating him from the inside out. When he finally gives in…the result can be explosive.”
Hoseok rolls that around for a while, analyzing all of Jeongguk’s behavior since they met, several things clicking into place. “Well, that explains a few things.” He shares a knowing look with Yoongi.
“All I’m saying, is to be gentle with the kid. Sometimes he doesn’t know what he wants until he’s fucked a situation six ways to Sunday and even then, it’s hit or miss.”
“Are you saying you know what he wants?”
Yoongi’s face scrunches in thought. “Only about half the time.” He gives Hoseok a considering look. “I’ll tell you that he cares what you think of him. As aloof as he may seem, he does idolize you quite a bit.”
Well, that’s interesting. “Oh really?”
Yoongi nods. “He wouldn’t shut up about you until he met you.”
“Good to know.”
And it is. Yoongi leans back on his hands, stretching out his feet to the fire while Hoseok thinks and gazes into the flames. For the first time since he sat down, he glances at Jeongguk, intending to look away immediately, but his eyes snag on the intensity in Jeongguk’s eyes, and he knows that whatever is still simmering between them isn’t dead yet.
Hoseok can’t sleep.
Even at night, it doesn’t drop below eighty degrees, and it’s hot in the interior of the houseboat where their bunks are.
Fucking Utah desert.
Plus, he can hear suspicious noises coming from where Namjoon and Seokjin are bunked and yeah. He’s not here for that shit.
So, he quietly gets up and slips out onto the front deck, taking his blanket and pillow with him, climbing the ladder that lets out on the upper deck. There’s a stowaway chest up here with futon mats that he can lay out and sleep on.
Out here there’s no light pollution, nothing to distract from the natural light of the stars, and as he lays down and wraps his blanket around him, he can see the milky way cutting a diamond ribbon through the sky.
“Mind if I join you?” a quiet voice asks.
Hoseok raises his head and sees Jeongguk standing next to him with his own futon, looking hesitant and shy.
“Sure,” Hoseok says, and he lays back down as Jeongguk drops his mat right next to Hoseok’s and flops down on his back, eyes fixed on the stars.
“It’s hot as balls out here,” Jeongguk says, apropos of nothing.
Hoseok snorts and laughs softly. “It’s the desert. Of course it is.”
“Yeah but like, even the water is warm. It’s like wakeboarding in bathwater.”
Hoseok shrugs, then realizes Jeongguk can’t exactly see that motion. “Yeah, but it’s better than boarding in a mountain lake, ya know?” He turns his head to look at Jeongguk and nearly startles away when his nose brushes Jeongguk’s.
His breath catches in his throat and something hot burns under his skin—this time it isn’t the Utah heat.
“Yeah,” Jeongguk breathes, and inches his face forward enough that he’s nosing Hoseok’s cheekbone.
And Hoseok can’t do anything to fight the compulsion to close those last few millimeters between them as he leans in and kisses Jeongguk.
Even knowing it was coming, they both gasp into the kiss, and Jeongguk’s hand settles around his waist and pulls him closer, both of them rolling on their sides to get closer as Hoseok’s hand comes up to grip the sharp line of Jeongguk’s jaw.
This kiss is completely different from their last kisses. Where last time Jeongguk kissed him like he wanted to destroy him, now he kisses Hoseok like he’s something precious, something worth treasuring, and Hoseok feels any resistance he had toward Jeongguk melt under the gentle way he teases Hoseok’s bottom lip between his teeth.
He doesn’t know how long they lie under the stars, lost in the feeling of one another as their hands roam slowly over each other’s bodies, taking the time they didn’t take last time to simply enjoy each other, and Hoseok melts in Jeongguk’s arms. He doesn’t know what this kiss means, if it means anything, but for now he lets himself enjoy it and decides that he can think about the consequences tomorrow.
Eventually they must fall asleep, but Hoseok can’t pinpoint the moment when sleep takes them, and all he knows is the soft pressure of Jeongguk’s lips against his own, on his neck, his eyelids.
When the pink of the sunrise wakes him in the morning, the futon next to his is empty, but there’s a lingering warmth to it that says Jeongguk was there moments before.
“What’s going on between you and Jeongguk?” Seokjin asks later the next day while Hoseok is helping him make lunch for everyone else.
They’re alone in the kitchen at the moment, which Hoseok is grateful for. Hakyeon and Taekwoon are on the upper deck, probably lounging in the sun and making out, while everyone else is either asleep or out wakeboarding on Namjoon’s boat.
Hoseok nearly cuts off the tip of his finger in shock as he dices some carrots. “What?”
Seokjin hums softly and gives him a gentle look. “I’m not sure anyone else has really noticed, if that’s what your worried about, but I can tell.”
Hoseok gulps. “I…don’t know.” He resumes dicing carrots, careful to keep his fingers clear of the knife. “It’s complicated?”
Seokjin is quiet for a while, not speaking again until they can hear the sound of Namjoon’s boat approaching and dinner is nearly ready. “Whatever happens,” Seokjin says softly, catching Hoseok by the arm as he passes to go gather everyone to eat, “be careful. Jeongguk feels things deeply and I don’t want to see either of you get hurt.”
Hoseok nods and continues out to the rear deck. That makes two of them. And even if he doesn’t know what the hell is going on, he can’t help but feel like he’d like something good to come of whatever this is with Jeongguk.
He steps out onto the back deck at the same moment Jeongguk hops off Namjoon’s boat and onto the deck of the houseboat.
“Oh, hi,” Jeongguk says, biting his bottom lip. His skin is damp and glistening with water, and his hair is damp and windswept. He must have done the last run because his board shorts are clinging wetly to his thighs and—
Hoseok’s brain short circuits.
“Dinner’s ready,” he manages, his voice coming out in a wheeze.
“Food?” Sanghyuk pops up out of nowhere, looking excited. “I’m starving, get out of my way Jeongguk.” He pushes Jeongguk out of the way in order to get inside, the tantalizing smell of Seokjin’s cooking wafting out through the screen door.
Jeongguk stumbles from the push, right into Hoseok, causing him to over balance and start to fall backwards. In an effort to stay on the deck of the boat and not in the water, Hoseok grabs onto Jeongguk’s shoulders, but Jeongguk is still off balance from bumping into Hoseok and instead of stopping his fall, they both end up in the lake.
Hoseok surfaces first, gasping for air and from the shock, flicking his hair out of his eyes. Yoongi and Taehyung are laughing at Hoseok and Jeongguk—who surfaced a second after Hoseok—from the deck.
The rest of their time at Lake Powell goes quickly, after that.
The hot, dry days bleed one into the next, broken by time splashing around in their lagoon, wakeboarding runs where Hoseok watches everyone else have a blast, and quiet nights under the stars.
After the night he kissed Jeongguk, Hoseok starts sleeping outside every night. It’s cooler that in his bunk, and the breathtaking view of the night sky is too spectacular to pass up.
And if most mornings he wakes up with Jeongguk curled around him, well, that’s not so bad either.
Eventually, though, they start to run out of fuel and food, and Hakyeon makes the decision to pull up the anchors and head back to the main docks. It’s a flurry of activity to get everything off the boat once it’s docked, to collect his gear and belongings to dump into Taekwoon’s car, and by the time he’s finished Jeongguk is nowhere to be found.
“Looking for someone?” Taekwoon asks, noting the way Hoseok keeps looking around for that flash of ebony hair.
He doesn’t want to leave without saying something to Jeongguk.
“No,” Hoseok replies after too long. “I’m not.”
He gets into the car and tries not to let it bother him when it feels like there’s a piece of his heart he’s lost to a pair of intense, burning brown eyes as they begin the drive home.
Hakyeon, true to his word, doesn’t contact Hoseok until his month ban on wakeboarding lifts. In the two weeks he has to do nothing but recover and heal, Hoseok has too much time to think, and therefore spends all of his time pretending to watch Netflix and thinking about Jeongguk.
He wonders if Jeongguk misses him at all.
The time they spent at Powell was enough to show him what Jeongguk is really like. How he masks his vulnerable heart with an icy exterior and a scowl that warns people away when they’re in danger of getting too close. Jeongguk is sweet, kind to those he cares about, and a fierce friend.
Hoseok wonders if he’d be the same in a relationship, and then immediately shuts down that line of thinking as soon as it flits through his head. He can’t afford to dwell on what could be. Their kiss in Powell didn’t mean anything more than that. It’s dangerous to read anything more into it.
But he can’t stop thinking about that kiss. About the way Jeongguk would wander onto the top deck with him at night and fall asleep next to him. And how sometimes Hoseok would wake up before Jeongguk did in the morning to find Jeongguk wrapped tightly around him, his lips pressed to the back of Hoseok’s neck.
Hoseok would always drift back into sleep, and when he next woke joengguk would be gone, but Hoseok knew, and in knowing that there was more to Jeongguk than he first realized it made it harder not to think about him.
Not to want him.
So, Hoseok buries himself in training, and with the help of Hakyeon, he starts to get stronger and better for the fall competitions at the end of the summer. He has to redeem himself, and most importantly, he has to see Jeongguk again.
A month into practicing again, Taehyung comes to visit him under the guise of catching up, but Hoseok knows they’ll talk for five minutes and then watch movies until they fall asleep like they do whenever Taehyung comes over.
“Bro, Jeongguk is coming for you this season,” Taehyung says as he sits on Hoseok’s sofa and laces his hands behind his head. “Swears he’s gonna beat you clean this time, whatever the fuck that means.”
“Oh, does he now?” Hoseok hides a smile as he turns into the kitchen to get snacks for their movie marathon.
“Yeah, and he’s laying down some pretty sick tricks too.” Taehyung shrugs, speaking up so Hoseok can still hear him as he rummages through his cupboards. “I don’t know man, he might end up being better than you this year.”
Hoseok laughs, walking back into his living room with drinks and snacks. “Nah, I’m the best there is.”
“Jeon will at least give you a run for your money.” Taehyung takes a bag of chips from Hoseok. “He’s mad talented.”
“Maybe, if he can get over this obsessive need to beat me and just board.” Which is true. Jeongguk’s biggest strength is his fixation on what he wants, but that can also be his weakness if he starts to obsess. “The kid needs to get control over his emotions, you get me bro?”
“Oh, I get it.” Taehyung crunches a chip noisily. “Jeon is mad emotional. Ranted to me the other day for like an hour about how stupid your face was.”
“Right?” It takes Hoseok’s brain a second to register what Taehyung has said. “He’s such a bit—wait, what?”
“Bruh, the kid’s obsessed with you. It’s obvious to everyone.”
Well, this is news to Hoseok. He tries desperately to keep his heart under control, but the damn things seems intent on doing a mobius in his chest.
“I know, he’s always been weirdly fixated on me.” Hoseok manages to say, calmer than he feels.
“Yeah but this is like, something else my man. He’s got feelings for you, I think.” Taehyung makes a face, like having for Hoseok is the most disgusting thing he’s ever thought of.
“Feelings? What kind of feelings?”
“Fuck if I know. Intense ones.” Taehyung shrugs again, picking up the remote to the TV. “With the way Jeongguk acts, I wouldn’t be surprised if he was like, half in love with you or something.” He gets a considering look on his face. “Or he could just hate you.”
Hoseok snatches the remote from him, starting up Netflix. “No shit, sherlock.”
They both get lost in the shows, but while Taehyung is actually watching it, Hoseok is thinking about what Taehyung said, and wondering if maybe, just maybe, Jeongguk actually does have feelings for him.
It’s during another one of their movie nights when Taehyung pauses the movie and turns to Hoseok with a serious expression on his face.
“Okay Hoseok, real talk. Jeongguk is mad hung up on you bro.”
It takes Hoseok a solid five seconds of blank staring at Taehyung’s face before he can pull his mind away from the movie to process what he said. “Dude, what?”
Taehyung gives him a flat look. “It’s true man. Jeongguk has been like, whining to me about how much he misses your stupid face and how bad he wants to text you and shit.”
Hoseok’s heart stops in his chest. “Are you kidding me bro?” It seems too good to be true, and Taehyung seems like the most unlikely person to give him this kind of information.
“Bruh, no.” Taehyung makes a gagging sound. “It’s honestly a bit too much for me. The bro is hella jacked up over you which like, weird right? You’re so annoying.” He stuffs a handful of popcorn in his mouth, staring at Hoseok the whole time.
It’s distinctly unnerving.
“Bro. Ouch.” Hoseok slowly and methodically begins to peel apart a Twizzler for something to do. Taehyung is usually transparent in everything he does or says, but right now Hoseok feels like he’s drowning in double speak. “You for real tho?” he asks to clarify.
“Dude, I’m like eighty percent high right now. You know I can’t lie when I’m this stoned.”
Hoseok chokes on Twizzler.
Taehyung doesn’t do anything to help him and instead, laughs while Hoseok coughs and reaches desperately for water.
“He wants to text me?” Hoseok asks, once he’s finally able to speak again.
“Wait, do you actually like him?” Taehyung looks comically shocked. “What happened at Powell?”
“Nothing,” Hoseok lies, gesturing at Taehyung’s phone. “You gonna give him my number?”
Taehyung opens and closes his mouth a few times before wordlessly pulling out his phone. Hoseok’s phone buzzes a moment later with a text from Taehyung.
“There,” Taehyung says, rolling his eyes. “If you guys get married or something I call best man.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Hoseok scoffs. “You’re obviously flower girl material.”
Taehyung throws a pillow at him and resumes the movie, apparently done with the conversation.
Hoseok reads the text on his phone before frowning in confusion. It’s from a number he doesn’t recognize.
Who is this?
It takes a few minutes for Jeongguk to type out something else. Hoseok isn’t expecting a novel, but he’s certainly expecting a bit more than the simple, how are you? that Jeongguk sends.
I’m fine. Training, sleeping, the usual
Hoseok doesn’t know what to do with this, what to say. There’s a lot that’s gone unsaid between the two of them, and he doesn’t know how to talk to Jeongguk like this. Like they’re friends.
Good. I want you to be at your best when I beat you this season
Hoseok snorts when he reads the message. Apparently, he didn’t have to worry at all. This is the Jeongguk he knows how to talk to, and he quickly looses himself in a fast exchange of teasing jabs with Jeongguk.
After that they text fairly often. It’s never anything deep, nothing regarding their feelings for each other, whatever they may be, but Hoseok feels a sort of easing in his chest. Like the worry and stress over what he is to Jeongguk slowly fades with every playful text, every sleepy selfie he gets, and the one time Jeongguk sends a simple I miss you late one night.
If Hoseok’s knees give out on him when he reads that message, well, he lives alone for a reason.
It becomes easier for Hoseok to accept his feelings for Jeongguk. It’s not like he was outright denying their existence, but after their kiss at Powell and Jeongguk’s sweet, earnest side that Hoseok got to see, it’s easier to believe that he’s not going to shred his heart to pieces allowing himself to have feelings for Jeongguk.
Over the rest of his training, as he works with Hakyeon and gets stronger than he’s ever been, Hoseok begins to crave Jeongguk’s presence in his life. He wants to be able to hold Jeongguk, to fall asleep next to him like he did at Powell and wake up together. He wants to sit through Hakyeon’s outrageous dinner parties with Jeongguk, trading knowing looks every time Hakyeon holds Taekwoon’s hand under the table and thinks he’s being subtle about it.
And for the first time, Hoseok thinks that he might actually get what he wants. Jeongguk is consistent in his subtle affections for Hoseok, in his gentle teasing via text. Jeongguk still insists that he’s going to beat Hoseok, and it’s a true testament to how deep he’s in that he’d be okay losing if it was Jeongguk he lost to.
The last tournament of the summer approaches, and Hoseok hopes.
The first time Hoseok sees Jeongguk again the sight of him takes his breath away. There’s something different about seeing the person you’re falling toeside for in the flesh, instead of through too many late-night texts and shy selfies.
Jeongguk’s hair is a deep purple, and the second he sees Hoseok he drops his life jacket and brushes past a startled Yoongi, walking straight for Hoseok.
“Hey,” Hoseok whispers, once Jeongguk is within arm’s reach.
“I missed you,” Jeongguk blurts, his ears going pink at the tips. “A lot.”
Hoseok smiles, raising an eyebrow. “I mean, I am pretty great. I don’t blame you.”
Jeongguk gives him a flat look. “Shut up,” he says, right before pulling Hoseok close and kissing him thoroughly, regardless of their coaches and all the other competitors watching.
“I missed you too,” Hoseok says, once Jeongguk releases him.
He doesn’t miss Taehyung whispering, “Bruh. You owe me twenty bucks,” to Jimin off to the side.
“For fuck’s sake,” Yoongi gripes. “Jeongguk can you stop kissing your competition and get your ass in the game? There’s a tournament going on here, in case you two didn’t notice.”
“Let them be in love,” Hakyeon says, somewhere behind Hoseok.
Hoseok can’t be sure exactly. He’s too busy kissing Jeongguk again to care much about anyone else, tournament be dammed.