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When Taehyung was younger, he used to want to become an architect. There was something incredibly fascinating about it, he thought, and he always told his parents he’d design a house for them—one bigger, warmer and better than the one he grew up in.

But those were just dreams he had when he was very, very young. As he grew a little, he realized that pursuing a career in architecture wouldn’t be the best for him. He wasn’t very good at technical drawing, and he definitely didn’t have the patience for it. Interior Architecture and Design wasn’t quite the same as being an architect, but it was close enough, and Taehyung liked it even more. It’s something he was good at and that he enjoyed, that let him be creative, as well.

Life turned out to be a little different for Taehyung, though. One can’t live off dreams, Taehyung was told his whole life. And that turned out to be a reality, he knows now.

“Tae?” starts Jimin, knocking softly on the wooden door. “I have a client coming in fifteen. I told you earlier, but in case you forgot...”

Taehyung lifts his eyes up from the book he’s reading, looking at his friend and roommate. He’s already dressed for work, bottom half covered in lingerie.

“Yeah, I remember,” Taehyung says. He nods towards the bag that is hanging from the handle of the door, saying, “Take some condoms to the other room, though. We’ve run out.”

“Thank you,” replies Jimin, digging in the bag and taking a box before he turns around to look at Taehyung once again. “Do you have someone coming over later?”

“At six, yes,” he says. “Please, don’t get come on the bed sheets.”

Jimin laughs cheerfully, throwing his head back. “Okay, babe, I won’t,” is the last thing he says before walking away and closing the door.

Taehyung and Jimin are escorts. They both met a few years back at another job, and then started working for the same agency. But that didn’t give them freedom, and most of the money they made wasn’t for them. So they decided to move in together, quit the agency and start working as independent escorts.

They rented a two bedrooms apartment in Gangnam, where they could get ahold of the richest possible clients. One of the bedrooms is for business; neither of them sleeps there, and they need to work around each other and make sure that their time with clients doesn’t overlap. Both of them slept in the other one, sharing the queen size bed.

It worked well for them. Maybe a bigger place would have made things easier, but if they got something bigger most of what they earned would go on the rent. Taehyung is happy like this—he doesn’t mind sharing a bed with Jimin, and they need rests between clients, at the end of the day.

He’s happy like this. Easy money, he reminds himself. There was a time when he had other plans and escorting was just a means for him to survive, where he worked to pay for university. But then he realized he could make 500,000 won in one hour from just seeing one client, and he realized that it paid off. He could work as an escort for as long as he’d want to, save enough to live the rest of his life without working, and still have enough to spoil himself on the daily.

It was worth it.

By now, he’s more than used to it and everything it entails. The sound of the buzzer has become a constant in his life, and so has Jimin’s voice answering it, telling whoever is downstairs to come up. Always accompanied by a pet name.

He doesn’t even flinch when he hears their front door being open, or when Jimin and the man greet each other briefly before going silent. At first, Jimin and Taehyung tried to respect the other’s privacy as much as possible, wearing headphones while the other was with a client. But now neither of them care and have decided it’s wiser for the other to listen in case a client oversteps a boundary, in case one of them needs help. After all, this is not their private life. This is work. Taehyung doesn’t mind if Jimin listens to him having sex, and he knows that Jimin feels the same way about him.

This sex is not supposed to be fun, it’s not supposed to be intimate. It has stopped feeling like sex, and it’s more like a task now.

When Jimin comes back not too long after, he does so naked and with come all over his belly. Taehyung knows he’s looking for a towel, so he throws one to him from where he’s lying on the bed.

“That was fast,” Taehyung whispers, aware that the client is still there.

“Just as I like them,” Jimin replies, his comment making Taehyung smile.

That’s understandable if you ask Taehyung. He’d rather have someone who books the whole hour just to come within fifteen minutes—it makes his work easier and faster. It’s not like he’s into it, so it doesn’t baffle them when they come quick. If anything, it’s a blessing.

“How much?” he asks, knowing that he doesn’t have to add anything else for Jimin to understand what he’s asking.

“600,000 won,” Jimin replies. Taehyung raises his eyebrows. “I know, right? That’s 100,000 more than most but I’m not going to complain.”

“Go back in there before he starts looking for you,” Taehyung teases. “We don’t need no man wandering around here.”

Jimin jokingly blows him a kiss before he makes his way back to the client, now taking the towel with him.

It’s easy to build a wall between them and the clients, even if the clients don’t feel like it. Taehyung remembers it used to affect him a lot more back when he started, remembers how after the first time he cried for hours and scrubbed himself in the shower almost until he was bleeding. He felt dirty, guilty, like he was letting his family and himself down by doing this. But now? Now he doesn’t feel anything when he does it. Which is probably for the best.

The client leaves and Jimin jumps in the shower as soon as he does. When he comes out he goes back to the bedroom with Taehyung, now smelling of cotton and body wash.

“I’m so tired,” he says as he flops on the bed next to Taehyung, lying on his back. “I don’t think I’ll be seeing anyone else for the evening.”

“You’ve been seeing people all day,” Taehyung replies, closing his book and leaving it aside so he can run his fingers through Jimin’s hair. Jimin closes his eyes and leans into the touch. “I think you should rest for the rest of the day. Maybe we can watch a movie together?”

“That sounds great,” Jimin mumbles. “Are you free?”

“I think so, yes,” Taehyung replies. “Let me check the app.”

After quitting the agency, they both signed up for Adultwork. It was easy, it was fast and it was the best method for high class escorts to find clients online. And it also meant they got to choose who they wanted to see and who they didn’t want to, at what time, and for how much. Clients try to book a meeting with them, and if they agree with the conditions—the price, mostly—and the hour, then they just accept it.

The thing is, Taehyung will never not have his phone on silence. So he always misses notifications until he checks his phone. Which is not the best given the nature of his job and how sometimes men like to book meetings suddenly, but hey. He gets enough requests for this habit of his to not translate into a loss.

“Oh?” he says as he checks the notifications. He has several, some even for tomorrow, but there is one that catches his attention. It’s from the user JKbusan, but his location says Seoul. The booking is offering 1,500,000 won for around three hours for tonight at nine. “Holy shit.”

“What?” asks Jimin as he gets closer, sneaking a peek at Taehyung’s phone.

Taehyung swipes over the notification to read the message that JKbusan sent, attached to the booking. As soon as he does, his eyes go even wider than before.

I am looking for a partner to attend a business dinner tonight at nine with me. I would like someone who dresses discreetly yet elegant. I am not looking for any physical intimacy, just a date for the night. If you’re willing to take this job, please let me know as soon as possible. — JK.

There’s no denying that the offer is… something else. It’s not unusual for him to get clients that don’t require physical contact or intimacy. He has his fair share of customers that are like this, that just want a nice dinner out, someone to talk to and hang out with. But it’s rare for them to offer such a big amount of money.

Taehyung bites down on his bottom lip. He has a client coming very, very soon, but it’s just a one-hour long meeting. He has more than enough time to prepare and get there. If fucking is easy money, this is even easier.

“Are you gonna do it?” Jimin asks, curious.

“I think so, yeah?” Taehyung says, tapping on the other’s profile. “Looks like it’s a new profile, but he’s verified, and all. It doesn’t seem like a creep.”

Jimin hums as he gets closer, getting a better look at Taehyung’s phone. JKbusan’s profile was created very recently and he hadn’t had any dates yet, but his identity is verified, at least.

“Make sure he doesn’t want to meet somewhere spooky,” Jimin points out, Taehyung nodding. “And no getting in a car with him or letting him take you home. He seems harmless enough like this, but…”

Taehyung nods. There are certain risks that come with their job, obviously. He knows that living in the same place where they take clients is dangerous, but they take precautions: they only take clients that are either regulars or have had other meetings with other escorts. It’s one of the aspects that Taehyung likes about the app—that it’s transparent for both sides. Besides, they always make sure to be home if the other is taking clients.

“I’m going to accept,” Taehyung says, confirming the booking and starting to type a message back. “1,500,000 won for having dinner with him and looking pretty? Besides, I bet we’re going to eat somewhere fancy. I’m into this.”

After he replies it’s time for him to quickly get ready to receive his next client, so soon enough he forgets about it. The client today is a regular of his, a middle-aged man who looks for a way to… unwind every once in a while.

Taehyung is private about his life since he knows that sharing his life story with his clients isn’t precisely a good idea. Especially since he doesn’t come from the background that all of them do, or the one that Taehyung pretends to belong in. But part of his job is making all these men feel like they’re close, like they’re in love, even if it’s just for an hour. So they all share, share, share—that’s why Taehyung knows that the man he’s meeting today has a wife and two kids. That’s why he knows that he’s in denial about liking other men.

I feel like it’s not cheating if it’s not with another man, he had said. It still makes Taehyung want to scoff.

“Hey, you,” the man, Jonghwan, greets as soon as Taehyung opens the door. “It’s good to see you.”

“Good to see you too, babe,” Taehyung says, crossing his arms over his chest as he leans against the doorframe. “Come in?”

Jonghwan steps inside, Taehyung closing the door behind him as soon as he does. They have done this enough to know that payment comes before anything else, so Jonghwan reaches for his pocket as soon as he’s inside, handing Taehyung an envelope.

Taehyung takes it and expertly counts the money, giving Jonghwan a wide smile when he’s done. “It’s always a pleasure making business with you,” he says, quickly opening the door to the next room and leaving the money there before he turns back to Jonghwan.

“You look so pretty tonight,” Jonghwan mumbles as he takes one step closer, reaching forward so he can grasp the fabric of Taehyung’s cream-colored silk robe. “You should wear pretty things like this more often. Maybe I can get you something.”

“You like it?” Taehyung asks, letting Jonghwan put his arms around his hips. Almost as if he switches on something inside of him, he lets himself relax against the older man, palms resting against his chest. “Then you’re going to love what’s underneath.”

Jonghwan smiles, his grip around Taehyung getting tighter. “Then you should show me, don’t you think?” he asks, leaning forward so he can whisper in his ear. “Take this off, pretty.”

Taehyung closes his eyes, trying hard not to shiver. He reaches forward and undoes the light tie that is keeping his robe closed, looking up to meet Jonghwan’s eyes.

Right now, he has work to do.

 

 

“JKbusan messaged you back while you were back there,” Jimin announces as soon as Taehyung comes back from the bathroom.

He has just showered after sending Jonghwan back home, his hair dripping a little.

“Has he?” he asks, striding into the room. He has his thick bathrobe on, so he just grabs a clean towel from the wardrobe and starts rubbing his hair roughly, trying to dry it up.

“You shouldn’t do that, it’s bad for your hair,” Jimin points out. “And yeah—I didn’t open the notification, but he messaged not too long after you replied to him in the first place. You should write back soon, if you want the job.”

“Oh, shit, let me see,” Taehyung replies, lying on his belly on the bed as he reaches for his phone. “I hope it’s not too late to get back to him now.”

“I’m sure it’s not,” replies Jimin from his side. “He seemed pretty desperate in the first one, so…”

Taehyung swiftly unlocks his phone and taps over the notification. He chews on his cheek as he waits for it to load—he really does hope it’s not too late. This job is easy and well paid, so it’d be such a shame if he lost it.

That is amazing. My colleagues and I are meant to meet at half past eight, so we should meet at quarter past eight to arrange payments and build some sort of backstory. As I said, please dress elegantly and modest. Some makeup or jewelry would be alright, but nothing too over the top. I’m positive I will be able to recognize you because of your pictures, but in case I don’t, I’ll be wearing a black suit and black silk shirt, no tie. I will see you at quarter past eight in front of The Cornerstone. — JK.

“The Cornerstone?” Jimin asks as soon as he’s done reading, tilting his head a little so he can look at Taehyung. “Damn, that’s fancy.”

“He’s paying me 1,500,000 won for accompanying him to dinner with his colleagues,” Taehyung replies. “Of course he’s fancy. Fuck, this is brilliant.”

“He sounds so formal,” comments Jimin as Taehyung types a short message agreeing to meet up with him. “I wonder what he looks like. You’re going to need a name, you can’t just call him JKbusan while having dinner with his colleagues.”

“I will ask him once I’m there,” Taehyung says, plugging his phone in to charge as he stands up. “I need to dress elegantly and modest. Let me see what I can do.”

Taehyung knows he has plenty of appropriate clothing. It wouldn’t be his first time going to a place like this, and a lot of his clients have dress requirements. If they’re regulars, more often than not they give him money beforehand, so he can get himself something nice.

In the end, he goes for something quite discreet. He chooses a two pieces black suit and a white shirt, floral embroidery details climbing up the front of the white fabric. He turns around and looks at himself in the mirror, Jimin whistling behind him.

“Does it look good?” Taehyung asks. He thinks he does, but mirrors are a tricky thing, sometimes. Last thing he needs is an angry client accusing him of not looking like he does in pictures.

“You look hot,” Jimin replies. Taehyung knows that Jimin is a bit biased when it comes to him, but he is also honest. It wouldn’t be the first time Jimin has told him he doesn’t like an outfit he’d put together or something he has bought. He trusts Jimin’s opinion. “Your ass looks cute on those ones.”

“The pants are fitted,” Taehyung reveals. “I need to take advantage of my assets.”

Jimin laughs at that, saying, “You’re terrible.”

After that, Taehyung starts doing his makeup. Like the message said, he doesn’t go too over the top. He just puts on some foundation and concealer, fills his eyebrows a little and applies some neutral shimmery eyeshadow. He also puts some black kohl on his upper waterline to make his lashes look better, aware that mascara is probably too much for tonight. He briefly considers putting some gloss on, but he ends up discarding the idea: not too over the top, Taehyung, he reminds himself.

Truth is, he’s not that big on makeup. Even though he can appreciate the way he looks, it feels somehow uncomfortable, and Taehyung is happier with a bareface than anything. Plus, he’s not very good and needs to always ask Jimin for help with something, since he never had the interest to learn. Still, the guy openly mentioned makeup in his mention. And it’s a special occasion, since he doesn’t get to places like The Cornerstone every other night, so...

When he’s done he looks in the mirror hesitantly. He thinks he looks good—no, he knows he does. He just hopes it’s not too much, like the client had specified. He’s worried about the eyeshadow, mostly. It’s not like it’s too bright or anything, it just shimmers a little, but he makes sure to grab a small packet of makeup remover wipes just in case.

“Is this okay?” Taehyung asks, turning around to look at Jimin again. He knows he’s always asking him for validation but he can’t help it.

“Are you kidding? You look great,” replies Jimin, standing up to look at him. He puts his hand under Taehyung’s chin and makes him look up at him, grabbing Taehyung’s brush from the desk. “Close your eyes. Just let me blend this a little more, and you’re good to go.”

Taehyung hums, letting Jimin work his magic. He’s way better at makeup than Taehyung will ever be, so he just lets him work as he tries to stay as still as possible. He can feel his long, dangling earring swing from one side to the other, the cold of it making him want to squirm whenever it touches the skin of his neck.

“Ah, yeah, this is better,” says Jimin once he’s done, Taehyung opening his eyes to look at him. “You’re so stunning. Oh my God, you really are so gorgeous.”

“Shush,” Taehyung says, standing up as he looks at the hour on the watch on their bedside table. “I really should get going now.”

“Go then, you legend,” Jimin says lying back on the bed as Taehyung gets his phone. “Go get that million.”

Taehyung chuckles. He’s actually quite excited about this—he gets to have a nice, fancy dinner and gain 1,500,000 won out of it. He just needs to pretend to be the guy’s date. And if he does well enough, maybe he can get a regular out of this—God, he hopes he can. He could use some nights earning this much.

So now, he has one mission—he needs to make the guy practically fall in love with him.

“You bet I will.”

 

 

 

Taehyung shifts on his feet as he takes a look around himself, biting down on his lower lip. He’s waiting for JKbusan where they agreed. It’s cold, but he still decided to leave with more than enough time. He’d rather wait a little bit than have one client be upset with him because he had to wait—it wouldn’t be the first time.

It’s early December, and Seoul already got so cold during the night that it feels like it’s the middle of winter. Taehyung is glad he got to wear a suit, at least. Some other times he has had to wait out in the cold with short, thin dresses. At least today he doesn’t feel like dying.

He’s so submerged in his own thoughts he doesn’t notice the man approaching him until there’s a hand on his elbow. He turns around startled, ready to snap at whomever it was, but then he really looks. The man standing in front of him is beautiful. Since he hadn’t stated his age on his profile and because of how formal he spoke, Taehyung was expecting him to be older. But he can’t be older than Taehyung is. He’s around the same height as him, and he’s handsome—dark parted hair, big and expressive eyes, a strong nose and strong jaw. Taehyung is left speechless, staring for a few seconds until the stranger speaks.

“You’re K Tae, right?” he asks. Taehyung feels his cheeks go red. In all honesty, he picked that escort name a few years ago when he thought it sounded cool. Now… well, now he has to stick with it.

“I am, yes,” Taehyung replies. “JKbusan…?”

The man nods, Taehyung licking his lips. He was already excited, but it’s not that often that he gets attractive clients of around his age that pay nicely. And now, just by looking at him, he knows this will be a very, very nice evening.

Taehyung quickly composes himself after his initial shock. The guy is hot, yes, but Taehyung has dealt with hot guys before. He does appreciate a handsome guy, but a beautiful face—and a nice body, even if the coat he’s wearing still covers most of it—is not enough to leave him speechless, or defenseless. Not all the guys that come to him are lonely old men.

“I’m Jeongguk,” the man introduces himself as he bows a little, snapping Taehyung out of his daze. Taehyung politely bows back at him, smiling a little. Without any delay, the man reaches for the inner pocket of his suit and pulls out an envelope. “Here’s the money. I counted it twice, all of it is there.”

Taehyung likes that. He has a strict business before pleasure policy, which he’s sure people can understand in a job like his. He’s glad that for once he doesn’t have to explain the obvious.

“Thank you,” Taehyung replies, taking the envelope in his hand. He doesn’t pull the money out of it, he knows better than to do that on the street, but he’s planning on counting it before the evening is over. Jeongguk seems trustworthy, but just in case he decides to play Taehyung. 1,500,000 won is quite the sum of money, after all. “I’m Tae. It’s nice to meet you.”

“So, about what we’ll tell my colleagues… I don’t want anything too complex,” Jeongguk starts. “We could just say we met through a friend and have gone out on a couple of dates. Does that work for you?”

“It does,” Taehyung says. In his experience, more complex and decorated lies bring out more skepticism. He’s a good actor, of course, his job requires for him to be one. “Anything I should know about you, in case they ask questions?”

“No, since we’d still be pretty casual at this point,” Jeongguk says. “Or, wait—I’m twenty-three and I work as a legal management accountant for a law firm. I think that’s it?”

Taehyung nods. As he suspected, the guy is younger than him. “That should be enough, yes,” Taehyung replies.

“Okay, that’s good,” Jeongguk says, taking a look at his wristwatch. It’s a Rolex. Taehyung raises his eyebrows, but he can’t say he’s shocked. If the guy can afford to pay 1,500,000 won just to have a date, then he has the kind of money for a Rolex. “I hope you’re not cold. They’ll be here any minute now.”

“I’m fine,” Taehyung lies with a smile. He is a bit cold—it’s December, after all. But he’s not about to tell this guy he wants to wait inside. For starters, he knows how men like this get at suggestions, or as they choose to see them, orders. And he’s also sure that it would be seen as impolite to go inside before the rest of guests arrive. So, suck it up, buttercup. “Do you mind if I smoke?”

“Not at all,” Jeongguk replies, reaching into the pocket of his own coat. “I’ll have one myself, too.”

As someone who started his story with cigarettes because of social smoking, Taehyung finds the act of smoking with someone to be a great icebreaker. He’s naturally extroverted, but there have been many occasions when he has found himself building conversation easily when he’s in a group of smokers.

Taehyung smiles at him politely as both of them get their cigarettes. As he fishes for his lighter he notices Jeongguk can’t seem to find his, so he offers to light up his cigarette as well. Instead of replying, Jeongguk just leans forward and cups the lighter with his hands as Taehyung rolls the stone. “Thank you,” Jeongguk replies as he pulls back, Taehyung lighting his own cigarette. “I must have forgotten mine at home.”

“Story of my life,” Taehyung says. “I swear there’s a black hole somewhere absorbing all of my lighters.”

Jeongguk laughs at that, and Taehyung smiles in delight. He’s positive he already has Jeongguk in the palm of his hand.

They talk a little bit as they wait for Jeongguk’s colleagues to show up. Nothing too interesting or remotely personal—more chitchat about lighters, about the weather or how this winter seems to be even more ruthless than usual. Jeongguk is well-spoken and his voice has a soft edge to it that makes Taehyung want to just bring topic after topic just so he talks more, the sound smooth and sweet as honey to him. Unluckily, he doesn’t seem to be a talker. His answers are just long enough to not be considered as unpolite, but it’s obvious he’s more of a listener himself.

Not that Taehyung has any problem with that. As an escort he has learned how to adapt, especially since he more often than not is surrounded by pompous assholes who love to talk about themselves. Still, he’s naturally more of a talker. There are no uncomfortable silences when he’s around.

“I don’t intend to sound indiscreet and you can just ignore it if this question makes you somehow uncomfortable,” he asks after exhaling a puff of smoke. “But how come you’ve hired an escort? I’m sure a man like you doesn’t need one.”

Taehyung doesn’t mean to flatter or flirt. But the truth is that there are very few men like Jeongguk that hire his services, or any other escort. Usually, it’s either men that are more on the unattractive side, or old and bored with life, looking for something to spice things up. Jeongguk doesn’t look like any of those things… Well, maybe a little boring. He’s an accountant, after all.

“Ah, well,” replies Jeongguk, taking a drag of his cigarette. “I might have lied and said I’m seeing someone.”

Taehyung laughs, amused. He’s also sure that, if he wanted to, Jeongguk wouldn’t have much of a problem finding himself someone to see. That’s why he asks, “How come?”

“I was talking to the guys we’ll be dining with tonight,” he starts. “They said that afterwards we should go out for drinks and they’d find me someone to spend the night with, so I lied and said I had been seeing someone recently.”

“You don’t fancy going out?” Taehyung asks, curious.

“Not my thing,” Jeongguk admits, the corner of his mouth twitching. “Also, it’s a weekday.” Taehyung laughs at that. Yeah, just like he thought, this Jeongguk is a little boring. “What’s funny?”

“Nothing, nothing,” replies Taehyung with a smile. “Just not the answer I was expecting, that’s all.”

Just as Jeongguk promised, his colleagues don’t take too long to get there. They’re dressed just as well as Jeongguk himself is, black suits with perfectly ironed shirts. Something about all of them screams luxury. Didn’t Jeongguk mention he worked for a law firm? It must be a good one, Taehyung observes as he takes in the appearance of Taehyung’s friends.

“You know, when you mentioned you would bring a date, I really thought you were making it up,” says one of them as he greets Jeongguk warmly, the other smiling at him. His lips are plump and he has honey brown hair, his bangs carefully styled to show his forehead. He turns to Taehyung then, giving him a blinding smile. “My name is Kim Seokjin. It’s very nice to meet you…”

“Likewise,” he replies, smile accompanied by a bow. “I’m Tae.”

“And I’m Kim Namjoon,” says the other man. He’s taller and his hair is dark. What really calls Taehyung’s attention is the couple of dimples that appear on his face when he smiles at him. They’re adorable, and something about them makes Taehyung genuinely smile at him.

“Tae. It’s my pleasure,” he replies, bowing to him as well.

The three of them greet each other, and in those brief moments where all the attention is away from him, Taehyung lets himself observe the trio. Taehyung doesn’t really understand how it’s possible for good-looking people to stick in groups like that, but part of him is offended. How dare all of them be so unfairly handsome? It’s just not realistic.

He’s brought back to reality when Seokjin nods in the direction of the restaurant and says, “Shall we go inside, then?”

Taehyung has been to his fair share of fancy restaurants in Seoul, especially in the Gangnam area, but this is the first time he’s been to The Cornerstone. No matter how many of these he sees, he will never not be amazed at these kinds of places—the lights are dimmed giving it a cozy atmosphere, and on the wall farthest from them, the big windows allow them to see the Seoul city lights.

Jeongguk places one of his hands on the small of his back as they walk, a discreet yet flirty touch that has Taehyung sending him an accomplice smile over his shoulder. He’s being paid for putting up an act, right? He’s the best at what he does, and he’s decided to prove it to Jeongguk. So he decides to hire him again, of course.

A waiter guides them to their table, in one of the more private dining rooms. The low murmur of other diners can be heard over the jazz music that plays in the background, and something about it makes Taehyung feel warm inside. This is one of the reasons why Taehyung does what he does—part of him feels like he was born to go to places like this, even if the financial situation of his family doesn’t agree with that statement.

He remembers back in the day when restaurants like these scared him. He could barely make sense of the menu or the wine list. By now he knows them as well as he once knew what his usual McDonald’s order was, and has even founded opinions on what the best wines to accompany each dish are. Taehyung doesn’t hesitate anymore when he makes his orders, not even with foreign dishes.

As was to be expected, job talk is brought up eventually. That’s a relief for Taehyung, honestly—he gets to relax for a little bit, disconnect from things and let his mind wander wherever. Like how horrendous the hairdo of the women three tables to the left is, and how the golden prescription glasses the guy in front of them are.

“Doesn’t Jeongguk tell you about work, Tae?” Seokjin asks at some point.

Taehyung appreciates the efforts to bring him back into the conversation. Maybe if this was his real boyfriend he’d be a bit more upset about being left out, but he can understand why these topics come out between co-workers. Work seems to consume all the men Taehyung goes out with, for some reason.

“Oh, no, he doesn’t,” replies Taehyung, smiling as he steals a glance in Jeongguk’s direction. “Which I am grateful for, really. His job doesn’t sound the most fascinating to me if I’m frank.”

The three of them laugh at that, Jeongguk adopting a resigned expression. “I couldn’t be perfect, could I?” he asks, reaching out towards Taehyung.

Taehyung gets it. He reaches forward himself and gives Jeongguk’s hand a quiz squeeze. The guy is good at the fooling game, better than Taehyung was expecting.

“Of course you are, honey,” Taehyung replies, giving him the sweetest smile he’s capable of without it getting too cloying.

Dinner goes well, smoothly. Both Namjoon and Seokjin are incredibly charming, just as respectful and well-mannered as Jeongguk himself is. Seokjin cracks a few—bad—jokes that make Taehyung laugh, Jeongguk choking on his wine at one of them as Namjoon closes his eyes and shakes his head, an amused smile still on his face.

But eventually, the part where they ask him questions about himself has to come. Taehyung is used to this, to bullshitting some story on the spot. He usually writes down in his phone whatever life he has chosen to live once he’s alone, in case the client wants to go out publicly again. He could always use the same story, but where’s the fun in that?

“So, Tae,” asks Namjoon after a while. “What do you do? I wish I could say Jeongguk has talked lots about you, but the truth is he has been keeping you away from us until today. No offense intended.”

“None taken,” Taehyung replies with a laugh. “I’m a stylist. Not as fancy as being a lawyer, but…”

“Oh, it’s fancier,” Seokjin interjects as he pats his mouth with a napkin. “You do look like a stylist. And here I thought I’d be the best dressed tonight.”

“You? The best dressed?” asks Jeongguk as he raises an eyebrow, a playful expression on his face.

Jeongguk seems to be very comfortable around the pair. It was to be expected since they’re friends after all, but there clearly has been a shift in attitude from when it was just the two of them until now. With Seokjin, he’s very playful and they bicker a lot. With Namjoon, it’s different—he feels a lot of admiration and respect emanating from both of them for the other, and it’s very moving to see.

“Better than you,” Seokjin says, resting his palm on his chest. “At least I’m wearing a tie.”

And as always, the dreaded question has to come. Taehyung, obviously, refuses to give out his real name while escorting, knowing the dangers that can come with it. K Tae was enough for him online, but of course, every time they met with other people, someone had to ask the question.

This time, it’s Namjoon.

“So,” he starts, taking a swipe of his wine. “What does Tae stand for?”

As much as he likes to change his backstories in order to not get bored, this is one that Taehyung always stays loyal to.

“Taeyong,” he replies, the lie slipping past his lips naturally. At this point, his first instinct when someone asks for his full name is to say Taeyong, if he’s honest. “But I like Tae more. Feels warmer.”

Truth is, he still hasn’t grown used to Taeyong. He doesn’t feel like people are talking to him, which is inconvenient, so he just sticks to Tae if he can.

The night is, for lack of a better word, very lovely. Taehyung excuses himself and goes to the restroom while they wait for dessert, a chance he uses to make sure all of the money is there like Jeongguk promised. It wouldn’t be the first time someone tries to fool him and slip less than they agreed to; that’s why Taehyung always makes sure to count it before the encounter is over. But just like he thought, Jeongguk is trustworthy.

The food is delicious, the wine is exquisite, and the company is excellent. Taehyung can’t believe he’s getting paid for having a good time, for real.

Seokjin is the one to pay the bill, handing his card over and looking at the exaggeratedly high number on the bill with a comfort that Taehyung still hasn’t grown accustomed to, despite having been doing this for a while now. He doesn’t understand how some people can hand such high amounts of money over so freely, but he stopped questioning it a long time ago. Especially considering he’s the one benefitting from it.

The time to leave comes. The four of them share a cigarette by the door of the restaurant before Namjoon and Seokjin leave together, only Jeongguk and him left. This is the moment of truth, right? This is where Jeongguk will tell him if he’s happy with his job or if, on the other hand, he wasn’t worth the 1,500,000.

“Thank you so much for tonight,” is what Jeongguk says. Taehyung feels a knot in his throat that he didn’t know existed relax. “You were truly brilliant, and very lovely.”

“The pleasure is all mine,” Taehyung says, truthfully. Of course it’s his pleasure—all he had to do was lie a little, and not only did he get a lovely soiree in one of the best restaurants of Seoul, but he also got 1,500,000 won. It was truly a pleasure.

“Of course, of course,” Jeongguk says. “Do you have a ride home?”

“I’ll get a cab,” Taehyung says. Usually he’d go walking, but he has a very big amount of money on him right now, and he doesn’t want to risk it. Safety measures, he guesses. “But thank you so much for the offer. That’s very lovely of you.”

“Ah, well,” Jeongguk says, slipping his hands in the pockets of his coat. He wants to leave now, and Taehyung doesn’t want to delay it any further, either. “If that’s all…”

“Goodnight, Jeongguk,” Taehyung says, giving him a warm smile. “Have a safe trip back home.”

“Likewise! Goodnight, Tae.”

In the cab home, Taehyung looks out of the window and lets himself get distracted by the bright lights of Gangnam. It still feels weird to call this part of Seoul home, even after a couple of years. He wonders if it will ever feel like home, or if he will always feel like a stranger, like a tourist. Like he’s not fit for it.

Eventually Taehyung gets home, leaning against the door after he’s locked it. As he called it when he saw Jeongguk, this was… a lovely night. A lovely night that earned him more than a million won.

God, he hopes Jeongguk messages him again.