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beauty is of soft whisperings

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A hand draws down Jimin’s face in despair, lips parted in a groan. In his other hand, a notice, black letters screaming up at him that he’s late on rent once again. At this point, he’s shocked he hasn’t been dragged out of this apartment by his toes.

He drops the paper and grabs his phone, thumb on the speed dial for the only person he can call right now.

Hello, hello, my dearest,” Taehyung coos into his ear. “What did I do to finally earn a call back?

Jimin sighs. “Fuck. I’m sorry, Tae. I’ve been so busy lately—”

You know I’m fucking with you.”

Between his two jobs and however many side jobs he can pile on top of them, Jimin is surprised he even has time to breathe anymore. Yesterday, he forgot his own name while trying to sign paperwork.

Seriously, are you okay? You’ve been MIA for days now.”

“Yeah, I just— I’ve been working. But I wanted to ask you about those job offers you mentioned before.” He’s embarrassed to even ask. Who does he think he is, acting like he should get paid to stand in front of a damn camera? “I’m late on rent again.”

There’s a gentle sigh on the other end. “Jimin, you know I said I’d help you if you need—”

“No, Tae. I don’t—” He folds in on himself. “I don’t want that. You’ve already done enough for me. I’ll just… take one of those modeling jobs and call it good. That should have me back on me feet by the end of the month.”

Are you sure?

“I’m sure.”

Quiet. He thinks Taehyung sighs again, but tries to hide it. “Okay. I’ll gather the listings again.

“Thanks.”

Jimin.”

“Yeah?”

I love you.

Jimin presses his palm to his eyes. “Love you too.”

 

At this point, Jimin practically has a Pavlovian response to the last ding of the bell over the bakery’s exit. As soon as the last customer is out the door and the clock strikes 6 P.M. he’s across the small space to slam the lock down.

He’s boiled closing down to a science and is clocked out in twenty minutes, leaning in the office doorway with a false smile on his lips. “I’m heading out.”

His mom’s fingers fly across the keyboard, eyes on the budgeting for the store. She pauses long enough to take off her glasses and rub at her eyes, then smiles up at Jimin. “Okay. Are you singing tonight?”

Jimin nods. “I don’t have a night off until Wednesday.”

She folds her hands in front of her face, mouth stretched into a tight line. He knows what’s coming before she even says a word, and it makes him want to bolt. Any more questions about money and he might turn to ash in front of her eyes.

“Are you doing well right now, Jimin?” she asks. “You’re not overworking yourself, are you?”

“I’m okay.”

“Jimin…”

“I promise, I’m fine,” he says, and this time he tries a little harder when he smiles. “I gotta go so I’m not late. But I’ll see you tomorrow, okay?”

“Okay. Be safe. Text me when you get home.”

Jimin hums a little promise as he goes, and then it’s time to run through the motions again—on the bus, clock in for his next job, change his clothes and take out his lip piercing so he at least looks the part of a bougie lounge singer. Next is crooning out some sappy love songs for tonight’s patrons and pretending he cares before he can go home and pass out.

This time, when he crashes into his bed, hair still wet from the shower, he pauses to check his email. Laptop perched on his knees, he picks up the phone as he reads through the modeling jobs from Taehyung. Maybe having a friend in art school will pay off better than he ever thought. These jobs pay well for just a couple of quick shoots.

“I’m looking through the email right now,” Jimin says as soon as he hears the line pick up.

Hello to you too.”

“Sorry. Hi,” Jimin says. “I’m looking at the email right now.”

There’s a chuckle from his friend. “I figured I’d give you a few options,” he says, “and as many styles as possible. Trust me, indie photographers are always desperate to find new models so you could snatch anyone of these. They don’t have the same backlog of contracted models that others have. In other words, I can find you more options if you don’t like any of these.

“I’m sure I’ll find something here. But I’ll need photos to send to them, right? They’re not just gonna pick me without knowing what I look like.”

We have those shots I took of you at the beach. Remember, the ones I used as references for that painting?

“Would that work?” Jimin asks, and then his eyes go wide at the very bottom listing. “Why is this one way better pay? The one from this Jeon guy.”

Oh, Jungkook’s! His photography is a little different from the others,” Taehyung explains. “Plus, he’s a lot more loaded than the others. But he also told me he likes to make sure that the pay is worth it for the model, considering.

“Considering what?” Terrifying thoughts flit through Jimin’s mind. What exactly is this guy expecting his models to do?

He’s looking for a nude model.

“Nude… model?” Jimin stares down at that number. Maybe if he looks at it long enough he can forget what he would have to do for it. Dollar signs in his eyes, that’s what he needs. Don’t think about the act. Think about the money. It shouldn’t be a big deal. Just a few pictures.

What’s the worst that could happen, anyway? He shows off his body for a few shots and then goes on his merry way. It’s not like Jimin isn’t confident in his body.

I promise you, he’s very professional,” Taehyung says, the sound of cars honking around him. He hisses out a curse at someone.

“Are you speaking from experience?” Jimin asks. His finger taps against his laptop, the ad staring back at him.

I haven’t modeled in the nude for him, if that’s what you’re asking.

“Good, because I don’t want that image in mind as I’m trying to pose for him.” Jimin runs an exhausted hand running down his face.

There’s a cackle from the other end of the line. “What’s wrong? Afraid you’ll get too turned on?

Jimin rolls his eyes.

So you’ll take the job?

“Do I really have a choice? At this point, I’m surprised my landlord hasn’t kicked down my front door,” Jimin sighs, head falling back on his headboard. “You know the other day I climbed up a tree and broke into my own window just to avoid him?”

The fact that you were able to break into your own window is concerning. Maybe you should dangle the poor security of that place over his head to delay paying rent again.

“That’s honestly not a bad idea.” Jimin sits up, brushing his hand through his hair now. “Alright. Fuck it. I’ll take the damn nudes.”

Taehyung chuckles again. “I’ll give Jungkook your number and the pictures I took. He’ll reach out to you.”

“Okay.” Jimin feels like he could curl up and fall asleep right now. He’s exhausted. He hopes this shoot doesn’t take too much out of him. Who the fuck has time for three jobs? “Thanks, Tae.”

Anything for you.”

“Sleep tight.”

You too.”

Jimin hangs up with a sigh, phone plopping to his bed as he stares at that email. Those numbers. That name. Jeon Jungkook. It almost sounds familiar to him. He wonders if Taehyung has mentioned him before.

He should have asked more, he thinks, as he shuts his laptop and settles in for bed. Is this guy nice? Is he one of those obsessive, avant-garde types who pats himself on the back for ‘pushing the boundaries of art’? Like most of Taehyung’s school friends who turn their noses up on the rare occasion Jimin joins them for a night out.

Curling up around one of his pillows, Jimin shuts out the thoughts and listens instead to the traffic below. He remembers a time that used to stop him from sleeping—more used to the quiet of the suburbs than the bustling downtown. Now it lulls him into nightmarish dreams of cameras pointing at him from all angles, tracking his every move, and some faceless shadow telling him how to look.

How to act.

That he’s not good enough.

God, he hopes Jeon Jungkook isn’t an asshole.

 

For half a second, Jimin thinks he’s feeling an earthquake until he realizes it’s his phone buzzing. He scrambles for it, bleary eyes trying to make sense of the unfamiliar number on the screen. Blinking, a set of texts finally come into sight and it clicks.

Hi, Jimin, this is Jeon Jungkook. Taehyung gave me your number yesterday.

I looked through your photos and I think you would be perfect for my current project.

I sent you an email with a file attached that you can read over before we decide to me. I’ll have to have you sign once you’re here, but if there’s anything you’re not comfortable with on there just let me know.

Looking forward to hearing back from you.

Well, he’s straightforward if nothing else.

Jimin switches to his email, brain still foggy as he pads out to his kitchen. It’s exactly what he expects—a bunch of legal mumbo-jumbo about allowing the release of his photos as the photographer sees fit, showcasing them, publishing them in magazines. He checks over every detail about thirty times, his heart in his throat as he chokes his coffee down.

He’s surprised to find the bit in the agreement that they can’t make any alterations to his appearance without consulting Jimin first. Isn’t it basically expected for models to photoshopped to Hell and back?

His thumbs hover over the buttons, steam from his coffee mug curling around his hand.

It takes a moment, and then he pounds out the first decent response he can think of. This guy already seems sold on him, so what if he doesn’t make the perfect impression? This is a one time job, just to get ahead for once.

And maybe the tiniest piece of him is hoping to self-sabotage and not go through with it after all.

I looked over the contract and it seems good to me. I’ll attach an image of my schedule and we can discuss the best time to meet.

No turning back now.

 

 

Jimin takes the stairs slowly, peering at the floor numbers as he passes them. He should have just waited for the elevator. Why does this guy have to be all the way on the sixth floor? Why do New York buildings all have to be so damn tall?

Then again, if anyone living here saw him in the elevator they would probably call security on him. He clearly doesn’t belong on the Upper East Side.

He shakes the rain off his jacket as he nudges his way into the hallway—it’s more like a second grand entrance if he’s honest, literal archways guiding him past the doors as he keeps his eyes peeled for the right apartment number—a box of leftover donuts from the bakery tucked under his arm. Every step closer makes his heart pound and pound and pound. It’s just one step closer to getting naked for a random man he’s never met before.

Here’s to hoping he’s not walking into the opening scene of a thriller.

The scrawling silver numbers loom in front of his face as he rings the doorbell and waits.

Yeah. Here’s to hoping. He gives himself one last cheers in his head and wishes he actually had a final glass of champagne to drink as the handle turns. He should have had Taehyung come here with him. The notebooks and writing supplies in his bag might be heavy enough to leverage as a weapon.

In front of him stands a man with the biggest set of eyes he’s ever seen. For a moment, Jimin almost thinks he’s staring at a teddy bear, if not for the blue-streaked black hair pulled back in a messy bun, the piercings all along his ears, the tattoos that peek from under a baggy t-shirt, the… size of him. He’s beefier than Jimin would expect a photographer to be.

“You must be Jimin,” Jungkook, he assumes, says as he reaches out to him.

“Yeah. Jungkook?” he asks, shaking his hand.

“That’s me. Wow.” Jungkook chuckles slightly. “Taehyung was serious when he said you’re even more stunning in person. I— Uh, sorry. Come in.”

“I brought… baked goods,” Jimin says as he steps in, and then instantly regrets it. Is it weird that he brought leftovers from work? “Um.”

“Oh, that’s…” Jungkook looks perplexed, but he smiles as he accepts the box from Jimin. “Thank you. You didn’t have to do that.”

Jimin just shrugs, eager to change the subject. He cringes as he watches Jungkook sets the box down and hopes this guy doesn’t think he’s a weirdo already. He can bear getting naked in front of this guy eventually, but making a fool of himself within the first thirty seconds? Out of the question.

It feels like he’s swept away in a tornado in the next second, too many things happening at once, too many words he can’t quite comprehend when Jungkook beckons him further into the room. He’s never had anyone be so to-the-point with business like this.

“So this is the studio,” Jungkook says, then points at the upstairs, “slash apartment. I know everyone says to separate work from personal life but…” He shrugs as he passes Jimin, walking backward ahead of him. “This makes it a lot easier. I hope that’s alright with you.”

“Yeah, it’s no problem.”

He’s totally not on the verge of shitting himself from nerves as he follows Jungkook through the place, distant pop music thumping from a speaker he can’t find. 

It’s immaculate, minimal and decorated with photographs that Jimin can only guess have garnered a number of awards. He wonders if they’re Jungkook’s or not. Floor to ceiling windows look out over the city, and he hopes there are none of those in whatever room they shoot in.

Taehyung wasn’t joking when he said this guy is loaded. Either he’s one hell of a photographer or he comes from money. Or something more nefarious. Jimin doesn’t let his mind wander too far into its imagination.

“Here’s the agreement I emailed you the other day,” Jungkook says as they leave the main room for one with, thankfully, no windows and a set of equipment obviously for photoshoots. He spins around to hand Jimin a thin stack of papers, stapled and crisp-white. Everything here is almost too perfect.

It’s like Jungkook lives on a set. Does he realize not every corner of his living space has to be picture perfect? It’s almost infuriating to see things so clean when, most of the time, Jimin forgets to even throw his takeout away after dinner. 

“I already signed my part. So you can look over that again, if you want. I’ll go grab my assistant real quick.”

He has an assistant. Jimin watches him go, then sits in the first armchair he sees to flip through the pages. He already read it in the email but he’s better safe than sorry. Who knows what this guy could have slipped into this one, expecting Jimin to sign without checking again.

His eyes linger on the line at the end of the page, pen pressed over it, the ink bleeding through to his pants leg. Why is he making such a big deal out of it? It’s just a few pictures. Nude photoshoots are the new hot trend with celebrities anyway—everyone wants to be the next to “Break the Internet”. Maybe someday this will give him some sort of weird publicity for his music.

And it’s good money now. He needs it. And it’s easy.

Or at least it seems easy.

His eyes drift to a coffee table photobook, open to a picture of a man and a women in the nude, his arm wrapped around her waist as he dips her, his other hand reaching behind himself to another man.

He stares at the paper again. The first two letters of his name shake a little, but he steadies out by the end and finishes with a swoosh.

 

Another whirlwind hits when Jungkook comes back, discussing something with his assistant in Japanese. Jimin remembers enough from school to understand the gist of it—get the papers from Jimin, Jungkook will set up things in here as she does a few touches on Jimin’s hair and makeup.

At least, that’s Jimin’s best guess, so he stands up as soon as the assistant’s eyes land on him, handing over the papers.

“Thank you,” she says in English, then glances uncertainly at Jungkook, and repeats it Korean.

“You can use whichever is easiest for you,” Jimin says.

“English it is, then,” she says as they shake hands. “I need to practice my Korean more, especially working with this guy. I’m Aimi.”

“Jimin.”

And then she says something to Jungkook in Japanese that he doesn’t understand. With a playful wink and a ‘nice to meet you’ to Jimin, she rushes back out of the room with his papers. The door shuts behind her, and it’s just him and Jungkook.

“You can hang up your jacket and bag by the door and get changed. Aimi will came back in to do your makeup in a bit.”

Jimin just nods. He doesn’t think Jungkook even sees him.

“So, what do you do for a living, Jimin?”

“I’m a singer.” He flinches. That makes him sound like so much more than he actually is. “It— It’s just a side gig at a little lounge. My second job is at a bakery.”

My parents’ bakery, he thinks, but he’ll leave that part out. Jungkook doesn’t need to know his spotty track record with jobs for a damn photoshoot.

“Hence the, uh, leftover donuts I brought,” Jimin continues as Jungkook flits about the room, gathering his gear, checking the… set? Is that what he should call it? It just looks like a normal bedroom, if he’s honest. “There are always a lot of leftovers.”

“Honestly, that sounds like the dream job,” Jungkook says with a glance over his shoulder, a lopsided grin on his face as he adjusts the backdrop. “Free food everyday? Count me in.”

At least he’s nice after all. That might ease the nerves a bit.

“So which is the one you actually want?”

“Huh?” Jimin stares at him as he fidgets with his camera now.

“Which job?” Jungkook asks, puppy dog eyes swimming with curiosity. Jimin can’t really think with those eyes looking at him like this, so he’s thankful when Jungkook peers down to adjust the settings on his camera. “Which job is the one you actually want and which is the one you’re doing just to get by?”

Silence follows, a brief glance shared between them as Jungkook smiles again.

“I know the grind,” he says. “There are always those jobs you take only because you have to.”

Yeah, this one, Jimin nearly blurts out.

He huffs out a breathy laugh, arms crossing protectively over his chest. “Neither, really. But I do want to become a singer. Just not… in the way that I am now…”

He trails off. He’s not even sure Jungkook is listening anymore. At this point he’s just procrastinating getting undressed.

“Alright,” Jungkook says under his breath, still clicking through something on the screen. Jimin stares at a spot on the wall, suddenly acutely aware of the fact that he’s about to be completely naked in front of a total stranger. “So, I figured we’d do it on the bed—”

“What?” Jimin snaps out of it, blinking rapidly as Jungkook meets him with equally wide eyes.

“I— I meant the shoot. We’d take the photos on the bed. Feels more authentic that way.”

They just stare at each other.

And then Jungkook sputters. “Unless you’re not comfortable with that. Aimi can set up something different if the bed makes it feel too weird. And— And if you feel uncomfortable about having just me in here, she can stay in the room with us— Or— That might make it more uncomfortable. Fuck. Shit.”

His face turns redder than Jimin’s jacket as he covers his mouth in thought, glaring at the floor. Jimin didn’t expect this from a guy whose whole thing is erotic photography. It’s sort of adorable in its own charming way, makes Jimin feel a little less out of his element.

“The bed is fine,” he says, finally releasing the death grip he has on his own arms. He can’t help his smile as those wide eyes reach him again, a sigh of relief escaping Jungkook. He sheds his jacket first, already feeling way, way too exposed. “Maybe leave the extra set of eyes out for this one. I already feel weird enough getting naked in front of one stranger.”

Camera in one hand, Jungkook uses the other to shoot a finger gun at Jimin, a white-toothed grin to accompany it. “You got it,” he says, and then spins toward the bed to line up a few test shots.

Jimin takes a deep breath, hanging his jacket up on the hook. He stares at it, like it might have all the answers in the world, like it’ll burst into a money tree in front of his very eyes and solve all his problems before he actually has to do this.

It doesn’t.

It was worth a shot.

He reaches for the first button of his shirt and pops it open.

“You can set your clothes over there,” Jungkook says, and Jimin wanders over to a chaise lounge, a robe folded atop it on one end. He slowly undoes his shirt, staring at the empty space on the seat. “If you want some privacy, you can change behind that curtain and I can step outside. And you can wear that robe until the shoot starts. Aimi will have to put a little makeup and stuff maybe on your chest, or wherever she finds necessary, so…”

“Don’t worry about it,” Jimin says, too afraid to turn around. He doesn’t know if Jungkook is looking at him or not, and he doesn’t really want to. He does tug the curtain around him, though. “You’re gonna see me naked eventually. Might as well just go for it, right?”

He sheds his shirt, taking deep breaths as he resists the urge to peek out from behind the curtain. He really can’t handle knowing if Jungkook is paying any attention at all. Blissful ignorance can be a wonderful thing.

“Also, I’m… not familiar with all this so I’d rather have you here to ask questions like,” Jimin folds his shirt and reaches for his belt, “do you want me to take my piercings out?”

“No, no, leave those in, please,” Jungkook calls back, and he at least sounds distracted. Thank god. “The lip piercing, too.”

His belt clinks as it lands on top of his shirt, and Jimin curses at himself, eyes on his chest. He hadn’t thought about this. The pictures Taehyung sent to Jungkook prior were from before he took on a drunken dare from his friends.

With his last bit of sanity slipping through his fingers, Jimin spins to face Jungkook, the curtain pulled back just enough for Jungkook to see.

“What about these?” he asks, and points at his chest.

Jungkook looks up from his screen, unsuspecting until he gets an eyeful of the little silver bars pierced through each of Jimin’s nipples.

He looks like he actually chokes on the air, then clears his throat and nods. He doesn’t answer, just nods, until he seems to realize that tells Jimin nothing.

“Leave— Yeah, those too. Leave those in too,” he stammers, a nervous swipe of his tongue over his lips. He glances between his computer and Jimin, up and down, until he seems to gather himself and keep his head down.

If Jimin wasn’t so nervous, he would bask in this a little more. Making a photographer whose career it is to take naked pictures of other men blush like that? Yeah, he feels a little smug as he ducks back behind the curtain. It gives him the smallest burst of courage as he slips out of his clothes and tugs on the robe instead. 

There’s a knock at the door, and Aimi steps in again when Jungkook calls out to her.

“Almost ready?” she asks Jungkook, and he gestures her over to Jimin.

“Yeah. Go light with the makeup. I like his natural look.”

Jimin lets himself be ushered over to a seat by Aimi, glancing back at Jungkook as he fidgets with lights and checks how they look through his camera. He almost feels like a celebrity like this—dressed up in a posh robe, an assistant fussing over his hair, the whole set just waiting for him to sit in its spotlight.

It’s sort of laughable. All these years of dreaming of being in front of a camera and now he feels totally unworthy of all this attention.

“Have you ever modeled before?” Aimi asks, sponges and brushes flying as she works.

Jimin shakes his head.

“That should be a crime. You need to be in front a camera,” she continues, then pauses. “Are you okay with me touching up other parts of your body? Just to even out your skin tone for the shoot? Not that there’s much to do. You already have beautiful skin.”

“Oh— Oh. Yeah,” he says. “And… thank you?”

When he meets Aimi’s eyes again, she beams from ear to ear. “Don’t worry about it. He’s very professional,” she says, mirroring Taehyung’s promise. “He does everything he can to make sure his models are comfortable, especially if they’re new. So don’t hesitate to tell us if you need or don’t like something.” She spins her brush. “Let’s start with your chest.”

Jimin purses his lips, undoes the robe, nervous again as he stares at himself in the mirror. The material falls open and Aimi lets out a low whistle as her eyes find the nipple piercings, and then she blushes.

“Sorry. I’m so sorry,” she says with sheepish a glance at Jungkook. In the mirror, Jimin can see Jungkook rolling his eyes, but the smile on his face is fond, if not a little mortified. “I’ve just never met anyone who has ever actually gotten pierced there.”

Jimin almost covers the embarrassed smile on his lips, but stop himself out of fear of smudging any makeup. “It was a dare from my friends,” he explains, “but they only dared me because they knew I wanted them anyway and wouldn’t have the guts without them.”

“Guts, indeed,” Aimi continues as she bends down, sponging along his collarbone. “I wish I had half the courage. It’ll make for an interesting shoot, though.” Her eyes flicker past Jimin, and he doesn’t dare check the mirror to see where Jungkook is now. “Don’t think he’s ever done a shoot with someone with this many piercings.”

With a chuckle, Jimin says, “Well, I hope it adds something positive to the shoot. They were a real bitch to heal.”

He risks a glance this time, but Jungkook eyes stay locked on his phone as he furiously types out a message.

Jimin pretends he’s not just a little disappointed.

 

His heels tap anxiously against the floor, robe wrapped tight around him as Jungkook loops his camera strap around his neck and approaches. Every step he takes closer to Jimin makes him want to scream and bolt for the door, he’s so anxious.

For about two seconds he felt totally confident. But now that Jungkook has actually pointed the camera at him to test his settings one last time, it’s all become real.

“Hey,” Jungkook says, squatting down in front of him where he huddles at the end of the bed. “You look tense.”

“Sorry.”

Jungkook chuckles. “No, that— That wasn’t a criticism. It’s concern,” he says, and Jimin almost thinks he can feel the gentleness of his voice envelope him. “I don’t want you to feel uneasy at all with this shoot. My job isn’t just to take the photos, it’s to make sure you feel one hundred percent okay with everything that we’re doing here. If anything makes you uncomfortable—anything at all—you tell me, whether it’s something I did or even if the room temperature isn’t perfect for you. I work for you as much as you’re working for me, okay?”

He puts his hand up, like he’s swearing on something in a court of law.

“I don’t touch my models at all. Not even to change their pose or fix their hair. I only tell them if they need to change something and let them do it themselves. I know artists get a bit of a reputation of ‘doing anything for their art’ but I would never put my work above your comfort.”

His smile is warmer than a summer day, and already Jimin can feel himself relaxing.

“So, is there anything I can do to help you feel a little less nervous?”

Air eases back into Jimin’s lungs, no longer choked on anxiety as he smiles back at Jungkook.

“I… think you just did, actually.” He chuckles, eyes rolling at himself. “Sorry. I feel like I’m completely overreacting.”

“You’re not, I promise,” Jungkook says as he stands back up. “This is a very vulnerable form of expression. Honestly, I admire you for being so willing to try it without any experience like this.”

Jimin fidgets with the belt of his robe, slowly undoing it as his heart slows. Jungkook turns his back to him, a few feet from the bed, and looks down at his camera. As if that can give Jimin some semblance of privacy as he lets the robe slide off his shoulders.

“Move back to the middle of the bed,” Jungkook instructs, and suddenly his face changes from soft to focused, brows pulled together in thought.

It feels less… scary, how he acts as though he’s studying Jimin. He would be lying if he said it didn’t still feel a touch scandalous, erotic, sliding back on the bed and letting the robe pool around his waist as another man watches him. Jimin reaches for the robe, but a wave of Jungkook’s hand stops him.

“Wait. Leave it around you for now,” he says, head cocking, eyes darting as he seems to imagine what he wants from Jimin. “And fold your legs under—yeah, just like that. Right hand on the bed, next to your knee, left hand back by your hip, and look to the left.”

This is isn’t so bad—Jungkook treats it as if it’s clinical, makes it feel less provocative even if that’s exactly what it is. Even as he instructs Jimin to remove the robe entirely, he’s patient, easygoing, chuckling along with Jimin if he gets nervous and fumbles. Talks to him when he starts to lock up and fret too much again.

“What, um— What made you want to do this?” Jimin asks when they take a short break later, Jungkook adjusting the temperature as Jimin sips at a glass of water. Sweat beads on his forehead and he dabs it away before Jungkook can notice. It’s not even hot, he’s just flushed, maybe still a little embarrassed.

Jungkook shakes his head as he fidgets with his camera, a laugh so tender leaving him that Jimin has to smile along. “I— I don’t really know. I just like the vulnerability of it all. I feel like when you strip everything else away, you see more of a person. No materialism, nothing like that. You see people just as they are. No need to dress yourself up or play some other role, nothing to hide behind. It’s just the person and their raw beauty.”

He takes a deep breath, and Jimin thinks his cheeks are a little red as he laughs at himself.

“Aside from that, um, I studied art history in university. And if you look back at historical nude art, some of the earliest depictions were actually homages to fertility. And it evolved into an appreciation for the human form and, of course, eventually eroticism.” He shrugs slightly. “I do dabble in that too, occasionally, but mostly I just like seeing people in this natural state. There’s always been a history of some people wanting to hide nude art away from the world, treating it as if it’s scandalous when it’s just… a body. We all have them. There should be nothing taboo about our bodies.”

His fingers tap against the side of his camera as he stares down at it, and Jimin wonders if he’s looking at one of the photos he just took.

“I like the idea of normalizing it all, to do away with this attitude that we have to hide ourselves for purity or… whatever reason.” He smiles at Jimin, another shrug, as if he can shrug away his words like they mean nothing. 

Jimin can tell that he’s downplaying his own art out of—what?—embarrassment? That’s his guess, judging by the redness of Jungkook’s cheeks.

“I think the human figure should be celebrated. Every model I’ve worked with has been unique in their own way, and I feel like it’s genuinely changed the way I see other people in my life now. I notice details I didn’t used to.”

“Do you—” Jimin shuts his mouth. He almost asks if Jungkook has ever felt attracted to any of his models before, but is that too far? He’s been so considerate of Jimin, he doesn’t want to make Jungkook uncomfortable now. “You certainly have a unique view on it all,” he says instead. “I think that’s beautiful. I think I was stuck on… thinking it was all about sex.”

Jungkook chuckles again. “Yeah, a lot of people think that. And it can be. Like I said, I have a few series that are erotic, but that’s… not what we’re here for today.”

Jimin takes a deep breath, puckers his lips to let it back out slowly as he sets his empty glass down. He moves back to the bed, something taking over him as he sheds the robe once more and tosses it aside. This time, Jungkook watches him as he kneels in the middle of the dark grey sheets, takes a few cautious steps forward.

“Well then,” Jimin says, returning to the pose they had left off from before. He turns to the side, arms reaching over his head. “Let’s get back to it then.”

He closes his eyes, a sudden confidence washing through him as he leans back, face tilted to the ceiling, and hears the click of the camera.

 

“Do you wanna see the photos?” Jungkook asks, propped on the desk beside his computer as Jimin gets dressed. He keeps himself turned completely away, once again acting as if there’s anything resembling privacy left between them.

“Um.” Jimin freezes. Is it rude to say no? Should he look at the photos? Is that what people typically do?

“You don’t have to,” Jungkook adds, reading Jimin’s mind again. “Some people don’t like to see them, some do.”

Jimin smiles, clears his throat to let Jungkook know it’s okay to look now. He spins around on the desk, swinging his legs slightly as he waits for an answer.

“Maybe next time. This is still sort of new to me. I just— Thinking about looking at those photos of me right now and knowing… eventually a bunch of other people could see them. Ugh.” Jimin shudders, his smile growing more timid as Jungkook watches him. It’s just a little strange, to be watched by someone who just saw parts of his body he probably hasn’t even seen.

“Anytime you’re ready, just let me know.” Jungkook hops off the desk, hand extended. “It was nice working with you today.”

“You too. Thank you for… making it a little easier for me,” Jimin says as they shake hands again. Soft. He has incredibly soft hands. “I’ll see you again next week, right?”

Jungkook nods. “Don’t forget your donuts. Aimi can see you out.”

“Oh, you can keep those,” Jimin says as the door opens again. “As a thank you.”

The smile on Jungkook’s face belongs on a poster, picturesque and shining back at him. There’s a warmth to him that Jimin rarely sees from anyone else. “See you next week.”

“See you then.” Jimin takes a few steps back, then spins on his heel to find Aimi waiting for him. She reaches past him as he slips out the door, can hear her say something to Jungkook about a phone call from a name he doesn’t quite catch. He glances back to see Jungkook take his phone and retreat into the studio.

“Hey, you,” he says, an affectionate tone that makes even Jimin melt.

He hears no more as the door shuts and Aimi leads him out, chattering cheerfully about the weather and getting to work with him again. Another whirlwind rushes him out of the apartment and down the stairs.

These people don’t fuck around with their jobs.

 


Next week comes faster than expected and Jimin is dead on his feet by the time his shift at the lounge finishes. Jungkook was kind enough to arrange the shoots around his hectic schedule and, even though Jungkook insisted he’s a night owl anyway, Jimin feels terrible asking him to shoot so late at night. And now he might be even later.

He doesn’t even bother changing out of his work clothes as he clocks out and grabs his bag, and is halfway out the door when his boss calls him back. His heart accelerates when he sees the look on her face. He knows a bad news expression when he sees one.

“Yes?” he asks, voice trembling.

“I noticed on the time sheets that you were late again today.”

Jimin sighs, his entire body sagging with exhaustion. He nods. “Yeah, I’m sorry about that. We had to cut back hours for a few people at the bakery so I’ve been taking on extra shifts.”

“Okay, well, this is your job too. You either have to find a balance between the two or make your choice.”

“Choice?” Jimin croaks out. He feels like throwing up.

She almost sighs, then recomposes herself and leans against the wall. “This isn’t your first warning, Jimin. It’s not even your second or third. If you want to keep working here, I need to know you’ll be on time everyday and that you’ll take this job seriously.”

“I’m—” Jimin wants to argue. This is his family’s business they’re talking about. He can’t just ditch his parents to handle it all on their own, especially not with them juggling their own side jobs and everything else. He promised them. “I do take this job seriously.”

“It doesn’t feel that way when I’m having to overwork my other performers to cover for you.”

She steps back inside her office, disappointment clearly written across her face. When she returns, it’s with an envelope that Jimin recoils from as if it’s fire. “This is your last check, in advance, if you decide to leave. I need you to make a choice, Jimin, because if you can’t be here, I need to find someone who will be.”

She already knows his answer. How can he just turn his back on his parents when they need him just as much as this place does? Maybe even more. This place may be the closest he can get to his dreams, but he would never forgive himself for choosing that over family.

Jimin reaches for the envelope, heart sinking into his stomach as he does. It feels like fire when he touches it, burning his fingertips.

She won’t look at him as he takes it. He doesn’t say a word.

What is there to say?

He feels empty during the whole bus ride to Jungkook’s.

 

“Relax your face a little more, lips parted, and look down a bit.” Jungkook snaps a few more shots, but Jimin can tell by the look on his face he’s not pleased. “Your shoulders are a bit too tense still.”

Jimin tries to relax, but as soon as he hears the camera click, he knows his jaw has tightened too much again. He sighs, dropping out of the pose. “I’m sorry. I’m—” Fuck, he’s going to get himself fired from two jobs tonight at this rate.

“It’s okay. What’s wrong?” Jungkook asks, already grabbing Jimin’s robe for him. “How can I help?”

“I’m fine. Sorry. My head is just everywhere tonight,” Jimin says as he shrugs on the robe. “I rushed straight here after work and it was just… a stressful night.”

“Busy day at the bakery?” Jungkook pulls up a chair. He never sits on the bed with Jimin except to line up a shot, but he never gets too close. Jimin appreciates it, but at the same time he wishes he wouldn’t. When he tugs at the collar of his baggy t-shirt, a tattooed collarbone poking out, Jimin really wishes he wouldn’t.

Jimin shakes his head, robe cinched up to hide himself away. “No. I was at the lounge tonight.” He stares down at the smooth silk of the robe, runs his hands over it. How expensive is this? This alone could probably pay his rent. “I got fired.”

It just comes out, his voice betraying him. It’s a phrase he’s said too many times, but usually to Taehyung or his parents. Especially his parents. He never tells them how often it happens in order for him to prioritize the bakery. They would hate themselves, tell him to quit the bakery and keep singing. They’ve always been supportive…

That’s why he can’t just abandon their dream for some silly jobs.

It’s silent in the studio for too long, Jungkook staring down at his camera and fidgeting idly with it. Jimin can’t tell if he’s disinterested or lost in thought. But then he stands up, setting his camera on his desk before he nods to the door.

“You should get dressed,” he says, and Jimin’s heart dies in his chest. Is Jungkook about to fire him too? Is this seriously fucking happening right now? What deity did Jimin piss off to deserve this? “If you can’t focus tonight, we can reschedule or… we can sit down and talk over a drink or something.”

Jimin’s mouth hangs open.

“Only if you’re comfortable with that. Aimi’s already gone home so it would just be us.”

“That’s… so nice. Thank you.”

Jungkook smiles, and it almost looks pleased. “I told you, anything for the comfort of my models.”

 

Countertops are fascinating when you’re too nervous to meet someone’s eyes. Jimin traces every inch of the marbled pattern and wonders if it’s real marble as Jungkook pours their drinks. Pop music thumps quietly in the background, and now Jimin can see the tower speakers on either side of a wall-mounted television.

This place looks like a cross between a rich party boy’s dream lair and the end result of a Queer Eye episode. Immaculate. It’s really the only way to describe it. Maybe a bit ostentatious.

“Here you go,” Jungkook says as he slides a colorful drink to Jimin, a wedge of pineapple stuck on the sugary rim.

“Fancy. Were you a bartender or something before all this?”

“I was, actually.” Jungkook beckons him across the room, over to those tower speakers and a set of plush blue couches. They plop down together, several cushion lengths between them. Jimin swears he recognizes the song in the background.

“How old are you?”

“25, same as you,” Jungkook says, then pauses with his drink at his lips. “I hit a lucky streak in the last couple years. Really, I— I was eating scraps two years ago.”

Jimin breathes out a laugh and takes a sip. “I could use a little bit of that luck.”

“If I could beam it over to you, I would.” Jungkook lounges on the arm of the couch, feet kicked up. He looks like he doesn’t have a care in the world. “But seriously, I wouldn’t have been able to do half the stuff I’ve done without a lot of help.” He gestures to the speakers just as it switches to a song Jimin has definitely heard. “Do you know her music?”

“Yeah, I’ve noticed you listen to her a lot,” Jimin says as he wracks his brain for a name. He can picture a neon blue and bubblegum pink-streaked wig and vaguely remembers seeing a zillion of her performances on late night shows. “Nabi, right?”

Jungkook clicks his tongue and points at Jimin. “Yeah, that’s her. I know her as Jeon Hyojoo, though.”

“Jeon—” Jimin stares at him. “She’s your sister?”

“Mm-hm.”

“Wow.” Jimin blinks away the shock, takes a sip as he lets that sink in. “I didn’t realize I was basically in the presence of pop royalty.”

Jungkook chuckles. “I’m only famous by association,” he says. “Not even famous, really. I’m just ‘Nabi’s brother who takes weird photos.’”

Something clicks, and Jimin gasps, his lips curling into a grin. “Wait, wait, wait. I knew you were familiar. All her fangirls thirst over you all the time. I remember seeing a TikTok compilation of your sexiest looks.” He throws his head back as he laughs, slapping his own leg. “Oh my god, that’s you. You’re the TikTok singer’s sexy brother.”

“That’s me.” Jungkook raises his glass as if in a toast, and drinks.

“Wow. I remember when she suddenly blew up on there. That was crazy. She posted that breakup song she wrote on there, right? And everyone just ran with it. I swear every girl in the mall was wearing Nabi wigs for months after that.”

“And every scorned teenager was dancing to that song,” says Jungkook, chuckling at the thought. “It’s crazy. TikTok kids can make or break a person’s career these days.”

“Wow.” Jimin rolls his eyes at himself. “I know I keep saying that, but… wow. It’s crazy. Her rise to fame was so fast and…” He glances over Jungkook, the dark blue hair and tattoos, and suddenly it all makes sense. “It kind of explains you a little bit.”

Jungkook ducks his head in amusement. “Yeah, we grew up a little weird. We were always the kids dyeing our hair with Kool-Aid and cutting up our clothes to make them look cooler. Fucking difficult, by the way, to get good color from Kool-Aid on dark hair, but we got it down to a science.”

That comes as no surprise, considering the neon, rave aesthetic he’s seen associated with her.

“We were really close as kids—still are, but work keeps us apart. Even her stage name comes from this old animation we watched together. It was really popular back home in Korea. And she always called me Gray Rabbit—another character from it.”

Jimin feels a little bubble of warmth in his chest, watching how fond Jungkook looks as he talks about his sister. He can’t count the number of times he wished to have a sibling.

And then he melts. “Oh, that’s why she had a little bunny in that one music video,” he says.

Jungkook nods. “Yep, that was supposed to be me,” he says. “So, yes, I had a lot of help. When she hit her stride, she paid off our parents’ house when they were right on the verge of losing it. Got me out of my biggest slump ever and back on my feet.” He lounges, his shirt hitched up enough to see a sliver of his bare stomach. Jimin is careful not to look. “After I finished university I felt like I had no path. I didn’t know what to do. At all. But thanks to her I was comfortable enough to at least try a few different things, and photography was the one that stuck.”

He shrugs and knocks back the rest of his drink.

“Anyway. Enough about me. We sat down to talk about you.”

“Oh, there’s not much to say.” Jimin shrugs. “I was born and raised here, grew up around Crestwood and moved downtown when I started school. I’ve bounced around from job to job, worked at my parents’ bakery since I was old enough to, studied music in university. And that’s about as exciting as I get.”

“And you said you wanted to be a singer?”

“I do. Or, at least, I just wanna be able to live comfortably doing what I love. Like anyone does.” He swishes his drink around, take a sip. Jungkook watches him as Jimin pulls his feet up on the couch, curling up at the end to face him now. “I got fired from the lounge because my parents needed more help at the bakery so I kept showing up late. My boss gave me an ultimatum.”

The way Jungkook stares at him now makes him feel even more vulnerable than when he’s stripped naked in front of him.

“She wanted me to choose between the bakery and the lounge.”

He stares down at his drink.

“I couldn’t… do that to my parents. Not when they need me so much.”

There’s something in Jungkook’s smile that confuses Jimin. He smiles at Jimin like he knows something.

“You don’t think sometimes that might be holding you back?”

Jimin actually twitches at that, lips pursing.

“Sorry. I just— That was out of line.”

“It’s okay.” Jimin taps his glass. “It… It might. But I don’t think I could forgive myself if I put myself before them. Not after everything they’ve done for me. I owe them a lot.”

“Every time I think I can’t admire you more.” Jungkook sets his empty glass aside as Jimin buries his red face behind his own and drinks. “Did you like working at the lounge?”

Jimin’s eyes flicker back to him.

“It’s just that when you talk about it,” Jungkook says, “you don’t seem very happy.”

Those big eyes stare back at Jimin, wide with curiosity. Maybe he’s right. Maybe Jimin only thought he wanted it because it’s the closest he’s gotten to what he really wants. But when he thinks about never having to set foot in that place again, he feels a little lighter. If it wasn’t for fear of being evicted, maybe it wouldn’t even matter.

He tips his head back to take down the last of his drink, but he doesn’t answer.

 “Do you want another?”

Jimin shakes his head. “No, no. One drink is more than enough for tonight. I still gotta get home. Or… if it’s not too late, we could finish the shoot.”

“You sure you’re up for that?”

“Yes,” Jimin says with a newfound resolve. He sets his glass on the coffee table and hops up, Jungkook rising with him as he stretches his arms above his head. “Once again, you’ve worked some kind of miracle. I feel… relaxed. And I don’t think it’s just the alcohol.”

Jungkook snatches up his glass, suddenly very close. Jimin swears he can taste the alcohol from his breath when he speaks. “Good. I’m glad.” With a nod toward the studio, Jungkook takes a few regretful steps back. “Let’s get back to it.”

 

Something shifts. Maybe it is just the alcohol, but there’s a little less restraint in Jungkook’s actions and little less flush in Jimin’s cheeks whenever he feels too exposed.

His arms cross on the headboard above his head, legs twisted into the sheets as Jungkook kneels on the bed. He still doesn’t touch, but Jimin’s skin burns as if he does, craves it when he leans in with the camera.

These pictures feel much more intimate. Less posture and more vulnerability. It only makes it worse when Jungkook quietly asks him to look at the camera the way he would look at a lover.

Jimin wonders if the camera captures the way his eyes glaze over at that.

“Almost done,” Jungkook says, a somewhat sheepish smile on his lips as he straddles Jimin’s legs. Jimin had promised over and over that he’s fine with this before Jungkook finally went for it. “This is about as spicy as these photos will get, so…”

That’s almost a shame to Jimin. He hasn’t felt his heart race like this before. Even in the throes with a real lover, he doesn’t think he’s ever felt his blood pump like this. To be watched, admired, frozen in time like this. With Jungkook so close but not quite touching, taking in the sight of him, telling him how to move, where to touch.

Sometimes, when he asks Jimin to do something like resting his hand on his own chest, he wonders if Jungkook imagines it’s him doing it instead. And maybe Jimin tests that theory, teases a little bit by letting the tip of his finger brush against a piercing, imagines Jungkook looking at this later when he hears the camera click.

It’s a shame when it’s over. That’s it. Done. No more photos, no more excuses to see Jungkook.

Is this how it ends? Already?

Jimin takes his time getting dressed as Jungkook takes a glance over the photos. He looks more than happy with the results—completely enamored, really, bent over his desk with wide, astonished eyes scanning the screen.

“I liked this shoot a lot,” Jimin says, wandering his way across the room. He stays on the opposite side of the desk, still too afraid to look at the photos. Someday, maybe. “I felt way more comfortable with it than I expected.”

“Good.” Jungkook leans on his desk, grins at Jimin over the top of the monitor. “I’m glad. And… thank you, for being such a fantastic fucking model. I mean, I— I wish I could explain to you… these photos. They’re some of the best I’ve ever taken and it’s… it’s not because of me.”

Jimin rolls his eyes, fingers dancing along the corner of the desk. He braves getting a little closer, still keeping the screen out of sight. They’re not technically working together anymore. No reason to stay profession. There’s no way he misunderstood the look in Jungkook’s eye when they were on that bed.

“If you ever want photos done, just for your own personal use,” Jungkook says as he pushes off the desk. “I’d be glad to do it, free of charge. After this shoot I would do just about anything you asked of me.” He comes to a stop in front of Jimin, hands in his pockets. Not quite close enough. “I owe you.”

“You’re literally paying me for this. You don’t owe me shit.”

“Yeah, but I don’t think anyone else would have delivered the way you did. You’re…” Jungkook looks down at his feet, takes a deep breath. The excitement drains from his voice, quiet and earnest now as he finishes, “Quite the subject.”

Jimin gulps down as he pulls his jacket on, takes a few steps forward, still a respectable distance between them that Jimin wishes wasn’t there. He could just tell Jungkook he’s interested in seeing him again, preferably outside the studio.

But he chokes and, for reasons he doubts anyone can make sense of, says, “I heard Aimi mention, last time I was here, that you have a shoot you need to do for some art show still? An erotic one. And that you still needed a model.”

Jungkook nods.

“Would it be… weird to use the same model for multiple projects?”

“No. Not at all. A lot of photographers have models they work with regularly.” Jungkook’s tongue swipes across his lips, his eyes dancing over Jimin, and there’s hope in them.

Even if it means pretending to be professional a little longer, it gives Jimin an excuse to come back. And he’s curious—just a little bit—what Jungkook would have him do for a shoot like that. Maybe he just wants that thrill again, the adrenaline rushing through him whenever Jungkook almost gets close enough.

“Would you want to work with me again?” he asks.

A look of shock crosses Jungkook’s face, then shifts to what Jimin thinks is pleasant surprise. “If you would be comfortable with that, absolutely.”

“I think I would be. If you could send me some of your previous work in… things like this.” Suddenly, the burst of confidence subsides, and the reality of it crashes down on him. He’s really about to throw himself into an erotic art exhibit just to feel alive like that again. “And we could discuss what it would entail before I decide for sure.”

“Of course. Yeah, I can do that. I— I appreciate you offering.” Jungkook catches his lip between his teeth, another one of those sheepish grins appearing, and Jimin can’t help but smile with him. “I wanted to ask, actually, but I wasn’t sure you would be comfortable with it.”

“Normally, I don’t think I would be. You make me comfortable, though.” Now Jungkook is almost close enough to him, but not like he was when they were on the bed. Jimin wants that again. “So thank you.”

“I tried my best,” Jungkook says, the grin growing more crooked. “Don’t tell anyone we drank on the job.”

Jimin pretends to seal his lips and throw away the key, and Jungkook almost looks like he wants to close the distance just as much.

“I’ll walk you out,” he says, and this time he does nearly lean in, close enough to brush Jimin as he passes him.

Absolutely, Jimin is taking the other job.

 


Three fucking hours Jimin has spent staring at this order form, cooped up in the bakery office. His head is pounding, inventory sheets flung about the desk. He’s so close to done and then he can get the fuck out and sleep. His feet are killing him, his reading glasses need a good scrubbing, and he can’t wait to take the longest bath of his life.

Tomorrow, he’ll sleep all day. No bakery shifts, no lounge shifts. Just him and Netflix, preferably. And—his phone buzzes—Jungkook.

Schedule is open all Sunday evening, so you can come by anytime.

Jimin’s fingers tingle as he types back. His head has been full of ideas about what their next shoot might be like. He might have gone a bit wild on a few nights, falling asleep with less than pure thoughts. He’s seen Jungkook’s other work now. It’s not that scandalizing, but the thought of looking right at Jungkook hovering over him, splayed across a bed like that…

He’s both nervous and excited.

I can come by at 7, he sends back, getting confirmation within seconds. He can’t tell if that’s Jungkook being eager to see him again or just punctual as usual.

He taps his phone against his chin, unfocused eyes drifting over the order form. He barely notices it anymore, mind drifting back to their last photoshoot together. Something was different, he’s sure of that much. Whether it was just the alcohol or something more, it was there.

“Jimin?”

He startles, and his phone clatters to the desk. In the office doorway peeks his father. Jimin claps a hand over his heart.

God, Dad, you can’t do that to me.”

“Sorry.” He chuckles at Jimin. “Have you sent off the order already?”

“Just about to. Do I need to add something?”

“No, no. Just checking.” His dad leans in the doorway, arms crossed. He glances over Jimin, which is a telltale sign that he and his mom have been talking. They’re worried. And now it’s Dad’s turn to check in. “Do you have to work at the lounge tonight too?”

Jimin shakes his head and turns back to the order. He can’t lie while looking either of his parents in the eye. “Not tonight,” he says. “I have tonight off for once.”

“Okay,” his dad says, but he doesn’t sound convinced. “Your mother mentioned you might be having trouble with money again—”

Jimin sighs and drops his head into his hands. “No, Dad, I’m fine. Trust me. I got a little side job that pays well.

And you’ll never know what it is if I have any say in it.

“You’re not overworking yourself, are you?”

Jimin hits enter and spins the chair around. “Dad, I love you, but I just had this exact talk with Mom and I promised her already. I am okay.” He claps his hands together. “I swear. If I really needed help, I would let you know.”

More lies.

“Okay. Okay, okay.”

His dad always was the easier one to fool.

“Well, then, how have things been lately? How’s Taehyung? And Namjoon?”

Namjoon. Just another layer of guilt to add. He lost touch with him months ago. He really should text him.

“They’re doing well,” he lies again. Honestly, as much as he talks to Taehyung still, he doesn’t really know what he’s up to. Is he dating anyone? Has he found a better job yet?

Is Jimin a terrible friend for knowing none of this?

The only one he can answer is the last one.

“Have you thought any more about what we discussed?”

Jimin knows he means going back to school for a more “useful degree”. Why won’t he ever just say it?

“I haven’t, Dad,” Jimin says, trying to keep his smile kind and gentle. He takes a deep breath, hands clasped in his lap. “I know you and Mom don’t really have faith in me—”

“That’s not true.”

“—But I can do this, okay? It’s not easy, but I don’t… I don’t want a life where I regret not even trying to achieve my dreams, okay?” He breathes in, out, eyes never leaving his father’s. “So if I fall flat on my face, then so be it. Then I fall. Oh well. I’ll get back up, dust myself off, and find something else to do with my life. But I can’t— I don’t want—”

To end up settling without ever trying. Like you and Mom.

“I understand,” his dad says, and waves his hands as if to calm Jimin. His fingers tap against his own arm as he thinks. What’s there to think about, Jimin doesn’t know, because they’ve had this conversation a million times and it always ends the same way. “If you do fall on your face, just remember that your mother and I are always here and we want to help you.”

“I know, Dad.”

It always ends the same way, with that promise to be there for him “if” he falls, even though he knows his dad wants to say “when”.

“Okay. Lock up when you leave,” his father says as he pushes off the door frame.

Jimin nods.

“I’ll see you on Saturday.”

“See you, Dad.”

He listens for the bell to ring, then drops his head into his hands with a sigh. Every damn time. A little faith would go a long way. The number of times he’s almost given up because of their voices in his head.

But maybe he still only has himself to blame. He shouldn’t care about approval.

His phone buzzes again but he doesn’t dare look at it.

Yeah, he can’t care about approval anymore. If he did, he could never bring himself to set foot in Jungkook’s apartment again.

Those pictures would single handedly kill both of his parents if they were to ever see them.

 


Jimin brings donuts again and, as he reads over and signs a new agreement, Jungkook jokes, “I’m starting to think you’re trying to sabotage me,” with a pat to his stomach.

“I can’t have anyone in the room that’s more fit than me or I won’t be able to do the shoot,” Jimin says as Jungkook slides the box of donuts onto his desk. He chuckles as Jimin hops up to plop the agreement down onto it.

“Did you even read that?”

“Last night, yeah. I trust you didn’t change anything.”

“Oh, little does he know,” Jungkook says with a grin, backing up toward the couch. “We’ll do a few of these here, but I also have a platform and a couple other backdrops I’d like to try with you.”

“Okay,” Jimin says, and this time he hardly worries about undressing. It’s almost natural to strip down in front of Jungkook now, and he doesn’t even bother putting on the robe to make his way over to the couch. It’s inevitable anyway, and Jungkook has been nothing but respectful so far.

If he thinks about it too much, he realizes that these photos aren’t going to be the same as before. He saw Jungkook’s sample photos—the ones with couples in them made him particularly nervous. He’s glad it’s just him doing this.

Still, even the solo shots frighten him a little. The amount of bare ass and fondling he saw…

He wonders how much of that he’ll have to do.

“There’s also a few more slightly experimental shots I wanna try, if you’re willing. Nothing scary, I promise. Just what I texted you about the other day.”

Yeah, Jimin remembers. The idea of silk wrapped around his wrists is more than a little intimidating, rigging him up like that and leaving him completely vulnerable. He’s never done anything like that, even with past boyfriends, but the thought of putting himself on display in front of Jungkook like that is exciting.

“I’m okay with it all,” he assures Jungkook, as he leads Jimin over to the couch first. “Everything that we discussed, I’m willing to at least try.”

Jungkook smiles, as if Jimin just offered to buy him coffee or something nice like that. Not that he just promised put himself in explicit sexual positions for the sake of his art.

“Okay, so let’s start with you on your stomach,” Jungkook says, “and, uh, I’m sorry, there’s no delicate way to put this but…” He chuckles, and Jimin can’t help laughing along. “Lift your hips so your…”

“Ass is in the air?”

“Yeah. Pretty much.”

So Jimin does just that. His hand curls against the velvety cushion beside his face, the other beneath his body as Jungkook instructs, like he’s reaching to touch himself. He knows he’s meant to look at the camera, but he watches Jungkook through the flutter of his lashes, wonders what he’s thinking when he looks at Jimin like this. 

Is it really just professional for him? Has never felt anything while looking at his models like this?

When Jimin rolls over, legs hooked over the back of the couch. When he peers up at Jungkook, upside down with his hair fanned out around him and only his hands to cover the most private places across his body. When his thumb brushes across one of the piercings in his nipples.

Does Jungkook feel anything the way he does?

 

“Wait, move your hand back down like that,” Jungkook says, careful as he kneels beside Jimin, but no matter what he does he doesn’t look satisfied. His mouth keeps twisting off to one side, corners turned down in a frown.

“Do I need to change something else?” Jimin asks.

“No, no, you’re perfect,” Jungkook says from behind the camera, and it comes out so naturally that Jimin tries not to think on it too much. He’s probably said that to hundreds of models. “I just can’t quite get the angle I want.”

Jimin gulps down any hint of nervousness he has left. “You can get closer, if you want. You know I’m okay with it.” He shifts slightly, pulling his legs together to make it easier for Jungkook to straddle him, so he does.

“You’re sure?” Jungkook asks, glancing down to make sure his legs don’t touch either side of Jimin at all.

“Yeah, I’m sure.”

“Okay. Alright, relax again.”

Jimin nods, eyes closed for a moment as he composes himself, and then lets himself fall right back into his rhythm. He stares up at Jungkook, hand curled daintily around his own throat.

“Knew leaving the piercings in would be a good choice,” Jungkook says, camera clicking away. “Can you… I want you try something for me. And you don’t have to do it if you don’t want to, but…”

As the camera lowers, Jimin feels his heart pick up speed. Without that barrier between them, he feels more than naked, only Jungkook’s eyes on him. Nothing for either of them to hide behind.

“I just want you to do… what you would naturally do,” Jungkook says, and he looks like he instantly regrets it yet pushes on anyway. “If you were with a lover and they were watching you like this.” He pauses, gaze a little unsteady. Jimin swears he leans in a little. “Show me what you would do to seduce them.”

Jimin licks his lips nervously. Now is his chance.

He has Jungkook’s eyes on him.

“Okay,” he says, squirming beneath Jungkook. He stretches one arm above him, his other hand on his throat sliding up as he stares right into Jungkook’s eyes. His fingers nudge at his lip ring, slip past his lips and into his mouth. Jungkook watches, just watches, camera slowly coming back up as Jimin sucks.

He lets them push into his throat, tilts his head back as he sucks again and flutters his eyes shut. He can hear the camera clicking, but now all he sees is the faded image of Jungkook hovering over him, and he imagines these fingers are his instead. He imagines Jungkook pushing his lips apart, tasting him on his tongue.

Even as he hears Jungkook tell him he has the shot he wants, it’s hard for Jimin to stop. He hates breaking the illusion, and by the time his eyes open again, his entire body is flushed with arousal. It feels like his thighs burn where they touch and he wants nothing more than for Jungkook to sate that heat.

But for now, he composes himself again and takes a deep breath.

“Last thing,” Jungkook says, and Jimin just nods to let him know he’s listening. He’s afraid that if he speaks, his voice will give away too much. “I want you to have an expression like… like your lover is touching you like glass. That bliss you feel once you’re worn out and they treat you like you’re the most precious thing they’ve ever held.”

Jimin feels his heart dip into his stomach. “I— I’m not sure I’ve ever experienced that,” he says, trying to remember any time he ever felt that way. He’s had nights where he’s felt completely wrecked after spending it with someone else, but not of them ever treating him like a treasure. Not even close. “But I’ll… try.”

Jungkook lowers the camera to look at Jimin, almost with pity, Jimin thinks. “You’ve never had anyone just… worship you after making love?”

Jimin blushes just at those words. Making love. No one calls it that. No one but Jungkook.

The camera clicks again, capturing the redness of his face, and a little piece of Jimin wonders what he looks like like this. He never looks at the pictures afterward. But this time, as Jungkook seems almost too distracted by him to keep shooting. he has to wonder.

Is it because of him?

Finally, he shakes his head. “No. I haven’t.”

“Well, whoever you’ve been with in the past,” Jungkook lifts the camera, pausing as if to take in the sight before he finally snaps another shot, “hasn’t done you justice.”

Jimin takes a deep breath and closes his eyes. “What’s it like?”

“Uh.”

Jungkook chuckles lightly, and Jimin stares up at him again, bearing over him like this. He knows it’s just to line up the shot. He knows. But it brings to mind other thoughts. Things he shouldn’t be thinking in their current position.

“It’s hard to explain,” Jungkook says, sitting back on his heels. “It’s—” He chews on his lip, stares across the room as he thinks, but never moves from straddling Jimin. It’s tempting to reach out and touch him. “Yeah, it’s really just… impossible to describe. You’ll know it when you feel it. Like an out of body experience. Just…”

He chuckles and shrugs, lifting the camera again, lost for words.

“Can you show me?”

The lens lowers, revealing a wide-eyed stare from Jungkook. What the hell came over Jimin, he doesn’t know. Why would he say that? Why would he think that’s even okay? He promised himself that he would stay professional just a little longer.

“Sorry—” Jimin sputters, pushing himself up on his elbows as he looks for the robe. He can’t meet Jungkook’s eyes as he tries to scramble from underneath him.

He probably just lost himself this fucking job. Even if Jungkook is interested, he needs someone who can do the damn job without trying to fuck him.

“Do you think it would help?” Jungkook asks.

Jimin freezes, halfway off the bed. He has to be imagining things, right? Jungkook can’t actually be offering. No way.

“If I showed you—or tried to—do you think it would help you with this shoot?”

Don’t say yes. Don’t say yes. It’s a terrible idea. How do you remain professional after something like that? Jungkook never touches him, not even to fix his hair. He leaves that all up to Jimin, and it should stay that way, because Jimin knows that the moment they cross that line, he’ll have a hard time stepping back over it.

He should hold back until they’re done with this. Then it won’t matter.

“Maybe,” he says. It’s not an outright yes. Maybe Jungkook will think better of it. At least this way the choice is left in his hands. He might have the restraint to not actually do it, whereas Jimin would drag him down into a kiss right now if he could.

But then Jungkook lowers the camera, letting it hang from around his neck, hands free to do whatever they want. Jimin slides back across the bed, settles between his legs again.

“Lay back down,” Jungkook says, and Jimin does just that.

He lowers himself down, arms folded across his stomach. How many times has he stripped down in front of Jungkook, posed in less-than-innocent ways for him, been exposed in every way possible. Yet this is what makes him feel vulnerable.

Jungkook watches him with his lips pursed, lifts the camera again to take one last shot of Jimin as he turns his head, attempting to face away. He sets the camera aside, attention fully on Jimin now, no distractions. He’s always attentive during the shoots, but not like this. He looks at Jimin like a subject, usually, but this time as if he’s the art itself.

“Don’t cover yourself like that,” Jungkook says, and he sounds confident but the way he gulps tells Jimin he’s just as nervous. Fingers curl around his wrists, guide his hands away as Jimin takes a deep breath, bare chest puffing up. “I know I’ve told you this before, but…”

He draws his fingers along one of Jimin’s arms, splayed across the bed, the other tracing his ribs and making Jimin squirm away from the tickle.

“I don’t just mean this as a photographer,” his hand plants itself beside Jimin’s head, and he leans over him, “you’re breathtaking.”

Jimin swallows. “Have you wanted to touch me?” he asks—whispers, more like it. “Since we started this?”

Knuckles drag down his throat, his chest, down the middle line of his abs. He stops at his belly button, and Jimin resists the urge to arch up for more. More touch. More praise. More of the warmth that spreads through his body, all the way to his toes.

“Yes.” Jungkook leans in. “Can I kiss you?”

Jimin nods, his lashes fluttering shut, the blurry image of Jungkook moving closer giving him that little buzz in his palms—the one you get when you want to reach out so badly, to touch something you know will feel amazing. Like feathers dancing across his hands until he shakes them away and grips Jungkook’s shoulders.

Jungkook’s lips feel small and soft against his own, barely a whisper of a kiss, like he’s waiting for Jimin to allow him to go any further. There’s no redemption from this if he agrees to the silent plea—he can taste it on his tongue how much Jungkook struggles to hold back, begs to be loosed—but everyone has to have regrets in life.

If this becomes one of Jimin’s, so be it.

His heart feels like a slingshot, pulled back to thump against his ribs before it’s shot into his throat. He feels its pulse in his ears, drowning out the sound of the distant fan, the rustle of sheets as Jungkook settles on top of him.

There’s piety in the way Jungkook kisses, like a real lover and not someone simply setting in motion the posturing he needs from Jimin. It’s just for the photos, he has to remind himself, no matter how real it feels. But he’ll let himself enjoy it for now—the feeling of this bigger frame caging him in against the bed, sparks across his body everywhere Jungkook’s shirt hangs loose enough to drag over him, little pricks of excitement on his chest, his stomach.

If Jimin was standing right now, he doesn’t think he would be able to hold himself up, weakened at the core, like his insides are melting. No one takes their time like Jungkook does—caught up in the rat race, cheap kisses without much thought.

Jungkook pulls him in like a black hole, gravity be damned as Jimin feels like he’s floating in his arms. Weightless. He suddenly understands why Jungkook couldn’t describe this, why he has to feel it himself.

“Where do you like to be kissed?” Jungkook whispers, searing those words onto Jimin’s tongue, the tips of their noses meeting when he pulls back to catch his breath. His hair hangs down to frame his face, hooded eyes still bigger and brighter than a full moon as he watches Jimin. “I’ll do whatever you ask me to. This is all for you.”

Jimin shifts beneath him, hands running down Jungkook’s arms. “I don’t know,” he answers honestly. He’s never had time to think about it. So he gives the only other answer he can, “Everywhere.”

He catches Jungkook’s chin in his hand, props himself up enough to almost meet his lips again. Holds him. Just holds him in place as he searches his eyes, those eyes so full of questions and curiosity, waiting. Waiting for Jimin to lead.

“Kiss me everywhere,” he says, thumb poking at Jungkook’s lower lip. “I still wanna feel you on my body when I go to bed tonight.”

A cloudy haze crosses Jungkook’s face, eyes dropping shut at the sound of those words. He barely holds back long enough to not cut Jimin off mid-sentence, and then he crashes forward with more fervor than before, liquid fire between wet lips as they part to breathe each other in. His tongue paints electricity down Jimin’s, along his lower lip, sucking it between his own to make it swell with the reminder of his teeth.

His fingers twist into the sheets around Jimin, pulling them out of place as he tries to pace himself, kissing down Jimin’s throat. Jimin lets himself fall back on the bed, freeing his hands to pull Jungkook’s to his body, slides them to his hips, and then he just watches.

He watches the dance of lips across his body, the flick of a tongue against his nipple—the pause to tweak his piercing and make Jimin sigh out a quiet moan—the hot breath over a wet line down the middle of his stomach. Jungkook peers up at him as he travels down, hands on Jimin’s thighs as he kisses his belly button, his hip bone, the bend of his leg. It makes Jimin’s body curl inward of its own accord, a light gasp between his lips as Jungkook freezes.

“Is this okay?” he asks, already moving away, but something in Jimin snaps and drags him back.

“Yes.” He reaches down, brushes his hand through Jungkook’s long hair, away from his eyes to make them meet his again, and then he pushes him back down. “Do it again.”

And Jungkook dives down, kissing over the spot that still tingles from before. Jimin bends himself in half to keep his eyes on every ministration of Jungkook’s tongue, every nip to the inside of his thigh. He hitches his leg over Jungkook’s shoulder, heel running down his spine to encourage the way his fingertips burn against the length of Jimin’s leg.

He sinks against Jimin like every kiss intoxicates him, drunk on the salt of Jimin’s skin as he kisses at the inside of his knee. Jimin lets himself fall back again, arms stretched above his head as he basks in the same heat on his other leg now—from the bend at his hip to the top of his foot, where Jungkook presses a kiss as if to a royal ring. His lashes flutter open to watch Jimin as he does it, watch the way it makes him suck in a sharp breath.

His legs drop to the bed as Jungkook settles between them, bent at the knee and caging him, Jungkook’s hand warming the back of his thigh. It teases terribly close to Jimin’s perineum, his lips hovering near his cock.

“Can I?” he asks, and the touch of his breath makes Jimin twitch.

He nods, and then his head snaps back against the bed when warmth surrounds him. His body flushes, like he’s being engulfed by the sun, hot all the way to the tips of his ears, but the moon stares up at him in those big eyes.

Jungkook’s long hair gives him plenty to tangle into, to tug at gently when the curl of his tongue feels particularly good. His head spins at the obscene slurp as lips leave him, a thumb drawing a line up the underside of his cock, tongue following it to cradle the head. Jungkook shifts himself up, hovering above him as their eyes meet, hand stroking him, precum slicking up his fingers.

He doesn’t look away as his lips pucker against the tip, kissing it, innocent, like it’s the back of his hand and nothing more, before he sinks back down. Farther, farther down until Jimin writhes from the pressure of his throat. He tries not to move, to be gentle as Jungkook almost seems to toy with him.

But then a hand slips beneath his ass and those eyes ask another question. One Jimin doesn’t have the breath to answer, so he just nods, and then bucks at the feeling of a finger sliding inside him, slick with his own precum. He can tell by the look on Jungkook’s face that he feels it, can tell that Jimin had been playing with himself just earlier today.

Maybe—maybe—he was already imagining this happening before he even got here.

It fits in up to his knuckle, and the way Jungkook crooks it inside him, urging another upward rut from his hips, tells Jimin what he wants. So he gives it to him. He grips a little tighter into Jungkook’s hair, watching him as he braces his shoulders against the bed to give himself the leverage he needs.

Jimin finds his own pace to meet the bobs of Jungkook’s head, the slide of his fingers—two now—in and out of him, reaching deeper until they touch that spot inside him that turns him to a puddle against the bed.

Jungkook gives him everything, sets his body alight until he feels what Jungkook said he would—out of body, the tingles across his skin creating goosebumps over every inch, until he’s so sensitive he feels everything and nothing at all at the same time.

His orgasm hits him like a train, unexpected in a way he’s never experienced before. His head thrashes to the side, his voice filling the silent air as he arches into it, into the grip of Jungkook’s hand and the squeeze of his throat around him. His fingers milk his orgasm from him until his body stops twitching from pleasure and melts against the sheets, and then they slide from him, drawing a warm line under his leg.

Jungkook wipes at the corners of his lips, dark and wet. Jimin barely gets to whisper a “come here” before Jungkook crashes against him again, tongue playing with his piercing, letting Jimin’s lip snap back into place as he tugs at it. He nuzzles beneath Jimin’s jaw and kisses under his ear, hands on his hips. They slide around to his ass, and Jimin feels a whole new wave of excitement slam into him, following the pressure of Jungkook’s hands trailing up his back as he arches against him.

He wraps himself around Jungkook, bare skin against cotton, fingers tugging at the material in false hope that Jungkook might remove it and let him feel everything. It’s like he’s hit with an aftershock, like he could come again simply from being held this way, like Jungkook’s lips are still around him, his fingers inside him. He relives it all over again.

Until Jungkook pulls way suddenly, knees digging into the bed on either side of him again. His hair is wrecked, his lips still bearing the telltale signs of what he just did with Jimin. He stares down at him as Jimin catches his breath, lays the back of his hand across his heated forehead to wipe away a bead of sweat.

“There,” Jungkook murmurs as he catches Jimin’s hand, pulling it to his mouth to kiss at each of his fingertips before he places it back on his forehead, fingers half curled along his brow. He tilts Jimin’s face to the left, his eyes peering up at Jungkook through long lashes, and reaches for his camera.

Jimin’s heart thuds as he gazes up at the lens, lips parted in fleeting gasps. 

“That’s the one.”

The click of the camera makes him dizzy. The thought of being captured like this, permanently printed for everyone to see seems like something out of a fever dream, and he suddenly fears he’ll wake from it.

“Perfect.”

 


Jimin never looks at the photos after, but he’s tempted this time, as Jungkook leans over his desk and clicks through them. He looks more than pleased with the results. The smile on his face never seems to leave, no matter which photos he clicks on.

Fuck,” he utters under his breath, and Jimin doesn’t think he was supposed to hear it. “You really— These ones are…”

If even he’s speechless, Jimin assumes it must be good. Jungkook always has something profound to say about art. He’s curious which ones have him so tongue-tied, so he wraps himself up in the robe and pads his way across the room. If he pauses to look at the way Jungkook’s arms flex when he leans on the desk, he doesn’t have to admit it.

To have those arms wrapped around him again…

Jungkook glances up at him, a curious brow cocked at him. “Do you wanna see them this time?”

Twisting his mouth off to the side, Jimin weighs the pros and cons. Either he’ll look at them and be pleasantly surprised at how he looks or he’ll die from embarrassment, thinking of who knows how many people will see him on display like that.

“Maybe a few?” Jimin hedges, inching around the desk. His heart jumps a little higher with every step.

“These are the ones from when I asked you to do whatever you would do to seduce someone.”

Ah, great. Throwing Jimin right into the deep end. He won’t even ease him in with the couch photos or something. He braces himself as he finally presses up to Jungkook’s side to look at the computer and pretends not to be disappointed when Jungkook moves away from him.

Don’t overthink it, Jimin. They still have to remain semi-professional.

Or maybe that was considered professional in Jungkook’s eyes. After all, he did it to help Jimin with the shoot. Maybe he’s just that sexually open and Jimin is more of a prude, himself, than he ever thought.

With a little promise not to judge himself too harshly, Jimin turns his eyes down to the screen, and then feels them go wide. He doesn’t even feel like he’s looking at himself.

The man on the screen oozes charisma and sex appeal, hair perfectly tousled as he stares into the camera, lips around his fingers. He looks properly ravished, and Jungkook hadn’t even touched him at that point. He’s almost afraid to see how he looks after.
Jungkook skirts around him, clicking over to the next photos in tandem with Jimin’s fears. And there they are.

Jimin splayed across the bed, flushed from head to toe, fingers curled delicately in the sheets. Even in the still images, it’s like he can feel the way his chest was heaving, relive the moment just by looking at them. When other people look at it, will they know how good it felt? Will they feel the same flutter in their chest as he did and still does?

Jungkook moves a little closer, patient as he waits for Jimin to gather his thoughts. Jimin hugs the robe a little tighter around himself, lips pursed as his eyes scan the computer screen. He wishes he had something to say out loud about the photos staring back at him, but it’s all a little surreal still.

He’s torn between wanting to criticize every flaw he notices—he should have tilted his head down more in that one, should have relaxed a little more in this one, why do his leg muscles look so strange in that one?—and accepting that the photos are…

Rather stunning.

Torn between telling himself they’re only like that because Jungkook is talented or accepting that maybe it is because of him.

“How do you like them?”

Jimin sucks in a deep breath. “You’re really good at this.”

A brow lifts at him as Jungkook leans on the desk. He knows exactly what Jimin is avoiding.

He smiles back at him. “I think you see something in me that I don’t.”

“Maybe I do,” Jungkook says before handing Jimin a glass of water, who gladly sips at it. “But that still means that ‘something’ is there, even if you don’t see it.”

Jimin looks away from him, back at the photos. Stares at them. Like he might see whatever it is if he looks long enough. 

He’s never seen himself look like that, completely relaxed, not a bit of tension to be found. If it were anyone else, he would feel like he’s intruding on a moment he’s not meant to see. Or maybe it would make him wish he could make a lover look like that. Maybe he would envy the man in the photo because he wants to be him.

But he still has no idea what the photos are supposed to make him feel, or if he only feels anything because Jungkook showed him how to tell a story with his body. He doesn’t think it has anything to do with himself, but entirely what Jungkook did and made him feel. And if he’s wrong, well, he’s not sure he likes the idea of someone understanding something about him that he can’t even put his own finger on.

He knows he’s relatively attractive—he sees the way people look at him when he sang at the lounge—knows there’s a touch of charm in the jokes he cracks, the sly smirks, knows he works harder than many of the people he knows, knows he’s pushed himself past limits that would break most people.

That’s not what he sees in these photos.

But when he tries to put a name to it, it slips from his grasp.

“I think you might just be biased,” he jests, a grin shot in Jungkook’s direction. “This is why they say not to sleep with your models. So unprofessional.”

It’s a risk, but one he has to take if he doesn’t want to walk out of this apartment disappointed in himself. Not the type to do anything for their art, Jungkook had described himself as. So, surely he didn’t choose to touch Jimin like that just for the shoot. There had to be more to it.

“Is it unprofessional to say I don’t regret it?” Jungkook asks, voice so low it matches the bass from his speakers, and Jimin sighs inwardly at the way it makes his skin tingle.

“Maybe,” he says with a shrug, and maybe he lets the robe slip from his shoulder as he does. “I don’t mind.”

Before Jimin can even blink, Jungkook moves to stand behind him. His arms cage Jimin from behind, and he leans on the desk again. At first it’s just an innocent hand holding his chin, a mildly racy kiss on his neck that doesn’t quite linger long enough to leave a mark. 

Jimin keeps his eyes forward, his grin growing as he feels the robe slip entirely from his shoulder, a pair of long fingers tugging at it.

“Imagine what the tabloids would say,” Jimin murmurs just before lips toy with his, tongue cradling his piercing once again. “‘TikTok star’s brother can’t keep his hands off the sexiest model the world has ever seen’.”

There’s a quiet chuckle into his mouth. “They’d understand after seeing you,” Jungkook says before pulling him into a kiss that renders Jimin breathless. It makes him go crazy, like his mind lights up and tries to shut off all at the same time, misfiring as he tries to regain his bearings.

Too much. It’s too much. Jungkook kisses like he’s tasted every perfect pair of lips in this world but it’s Jimin’s that he’s been longing for. Like if he stops kissing, he may never get to again. Like this is his last damn chance. Every kiss he presses along Jimin’s body feels too good to be true, something no one is ever supposed to experience, only dream of.

The tickle of the robe sliding down his back makes him shiver, but not as much as the trail of warm breath down his spine. He grips the edge of the desk, silk pooled around his ankles as lips dance at his tailbone, arms wrapped around his waist.

His eyes stay shut tight, refusing to look at those pictures as he feels fingers on his thighs—grazing so lightly over the peachy hairs there it feels like static. Jungkook kneels behind him as if in worship, a prayer on the tip of his tongue that has Jimin shaking, fingers twitching against wood grain as he tries to hold himself up.

Knees goes weak, elbows wobbling, and at some point he almost wants to let go, sink into the bedsheets again and lose himself in there.

A string of profanities slip from his lips, lashes fluttering open and catching a glimpse of his own face. Hooded eyes peer up at him, and he shuts them again. Suddenly the thought of knowing what Jungkook sees terrifies him.

And if there’s ever a time he thinks he would understand, it’s now.

 

An offer to use Jungkook’s shower wasn’t what Jimin expected when he mentioned feeling a little sweaty. He tells himself it’s from being under those lights for the shoot and not because he got way too worked up over just having a tongue inside him.

Jungkook knows which it really is, and he seems almost guilty at the thought of sending Jimin home so late at night to do a sweaty, half-version of the walk of shame.

Jimin strips down again and steps into the shower with its fancy black tile and curved, frosted glass door. He shuts it gently, afraid that accidentally shattering it would probably cost him another month’s rent. The next thought, just as the water hits him, is that he has no idea where any towels are for him.

Peeking out, he can guess the ones hanging up are Jungkook’s, and there isn’t a folded towel in sight. He curses, glancing at the door and wondering if he should call Jungkook in. He shakes the water off his hands and grabs his phone, sending him a text instead.

At least the frosted glass hides him decently well, just leaving him a vaguely human-shaped blob on the other side.

Moments later, he hears the door open and a low, “Fuck, I’m so sorry. I completely forgot I washed most of my towels and never brought them back in. I’ll leave them by your phone, okay?”

“Okay,” Jimin says as he ducks under the water again, eyes on the outline of Jungkook as he crosses the room. He watches him carefully place the towels and spin back toward the door, but something possesses Jimin to ask, “Have you ever done a photoshoot in a shower?”

Jungkook pauses, midstep, then drops back to sit halfway on the sink counter. “A few, yeah. Actually, that wouldn’t be bad for a new summer series,” he says. It causes this fond little skip in Jimin’s heart, how instantly inspiration sparks for Jungkook. “I haven’t done any water shots in a while.

“You should do some outdoors,” Jimin says, and then he almost laughs. Are they really discussing photo ideas with nothing but some frosted glass between them? He’s half tempted to yank the door open and finish what they started earlier. Jungkook hasn’t even let Jimin touch him, insisting he doesn’t need it, he just wanted to make Jimin feel good.

There’s no way he wasn’t just as worked up as Jimin earlier. Not with the way he kissed. It has to be torture to not get off too.

“A waterfall would be gorgeous,” Jungkook continues, Jimin watching him through the glass as he tips his head back, seemingly lost in thought.

“So, next week?” Jimin continues, maybe a little squeamish with the silence, maybe a little afraid Jungkook will walk away if he doesn’t keep talking. He can see Jungkook tilt his head curiously, glancing over at Jimin before he thinks better of it and whips away again. “What all do we have in store?”

“Just a few with that backlight so I just have your silhouette and then the bondage ones,” Jungkook says, making Jimin’s heart thud again, “if you’re still okay with that.”

Jimin glances at the blur that is Jungkook again, letting him see just enough to watch as Jungkook leans on the counter and looks in the mirror. He fidgets with a strand of his hair and pushes it back.

“I am.”

“Alright.” Jungkook pushes off the counter, the shape of his dark blue bun and baggy shirt retreating from the room. “Take your time. I’ll be in the studio.” He leaves it unsaid, but Jimin assumes that means he wants him to pop in before he leaves.

Jimin washes up as quick as he can, already feeling too much like he’s overstayed his welcome, and the shampoo and conditioner he thinks costs more than his weekly food bill. It feels as silky as the robe as it pours into his hand and lathers up like a dream. His body feels like it’s been born anew by the time he’s finished, whatever moisturizing body wash Jungkook has making him feel softer than a cloud.

Suddenly he understands why Jungkook’s hands feel so soft on him.

As he tugs on his pants, Jimin hears the door bell ring, and then a chipper voice calling out Jungkook’s name.

“What the— What are you doing here?” Jungkook asks, frazzled as Jimin slips out of the bathroom and tiptoes down the hall. “You can’t just barge in here. You know I work here too, right?”

There’s a giggle—definitely a girl—and then, “You’re such a workaholic. If I don’t barge in I’ll never see you.”

“You could call first, maybe?”

Jimin almost darts back into the hall as Jungkook and his guest head into the living room, but he’s too late. The girl freezes, hand clapping over her mouth to stifle a high pitched scream.

“Oh my god,” she gasps, hand fanning her face. “You scared the dick out of me. Hi.” She practically rushes him, hand extended. “I’m Hyojoo.”

Oh. Now he sees it.

There’s no neon blue and bubblegum pink streaked wig right now—just a black high-pony—but the striking resemblance to Jungkook makes this undoubtedly his sister. If he didn’t know better, he would say they’re twins. Add to that the tattoos, the piercings, the pink-tinted sunglasses and, yeah, he can see how this would be Jeon Jungkook’s sister. 

Two very picturesque people, dressed up like casual rave dolls.

“I’m Jimin,” he says, reaching to shake her hand, but as soon as they touch she tugs him into a hug.

“Oh my god, you are the cutest thing I’ve ever seen,” she squeals as he stumbles into her grasp. Over her shoulder, he can see Jungkook’s mortified, if not slightly entertained, face. “Please tell me you’re Jungkook’s boyfriend and not just one of his models.”

Jimin laughs nervously as she lets go of him, and he nearly crashes back against the wall. “Um, just a model,” he says once he’s regained his footing. “Sorry to disappoint.”

“Hmph.” Her shoulders drop, lips taking on a duckish pout. “Bummer,” she says, and then shoves her brother rather harshly. Enough to make him almost tip over. All he does is wave her off. “How long has it been since you dated anyone? Honestly, it can’t be good for you to look at so many naked people daily and never get laid.”

Jungkook scoffs, hands buried deep in the pockets of his shorts. He looks to be blushing a bit, which Jimin mentally thanks Hyojoo for that. “You need to stop being so concerned about my sex life.”

“I’m just looking out for my big brother.” And then she pinches his cheek and he actually whines at her for it, face scrunching up like a petulant child when he pushes her hand away. All it does is make her laugh more as she turns her attention back to Jimin. “You’re here pretty late.”

He can see the twinkle in her eye, knows damn well what she’s looking for as he glances at Jungkook. In his eyes is a plea, and Jimin is oh-so tempted to ignore it just to watch him blush a little more.

He’ll spare him this time.

“I work a lot, so this was the only time I could be here.”

That pout returns and then she shrugs. “Alright, fine. I never was a good wing woman,” she says. “Will you stay for a drink, though? I brought some goods.”

A rainbow vodka bottle appears from one of the many bags looped over her arm, the store names on each of them making Jimin nervous to even look at. He’s never set foot in a single one and never plans to. He would have to sell every one of his belongings to even afford a shoe from those places.

“I really should be going—”

“No, no, no, I insist!” she calls back to him, already halfway across the room. She keeps going on about the drinks, the food, the gifts she brought, but Jimin hears none of it as he looks to Jungkook.

“If you don’t need to go, I’d say just hang around for a bit until she’s willing to release you.”

Jimin buries his laugh in his jacket and glances to where Hyojoo has spread a number of items across the kitchen island. “If you don’t mind.”

Jungkook leans on the back of his couch, tattooed arms flexing as they prop him up. Once again, Jimin tries not to stare and fails. Horribly. How are they making it through one last photoshoot without jumping each other again?

“I’d be more than happy to have you stay.”

Jimin doesn’t need any more of an invitation than that.

 

The thump thump thump of the bass buzzes through the apartment floor, making Jimin’s toes feel fuzzy as he lounges in the living room with Jungkook and Hyojoo. He can see the battery on his phone slowly draining as the clock ticks closer to 2 A.M. but he can’t really care through their drunken laughter.

It’s been ages since he’s had a night like this. He forgot how good it feels to sit down and just talk and laugh and have fun.

Hyojoo is a character, but he shouldn’t find that surprising from the girl whose music videos involve her performing a demonic exorcism in a bubblegum pink bodysuit. You can’t exactly be shy when you do things like that.

“So how did you end up modeling for this dweeb?” Hyojoo asks, and Jimin holds back a chortle. He’s told her twice already, but she’s trashed at this point.

“Mutual friend,” Jimin says.

“So, what’s— Like, what’s your thing,” she asks, kicking her feet up on the couch and loudly slurping a chocolate-covered strawberry into her mouth. “You said you’re not really a model. So what do you usually do?”

“Stop interrogating the man,” Jungkook says, head shaking back and forth.

“It’s okay,” Jimin says, his head swimming as he lays it on the arm of his couch, staring across the littered coffee table at Hyojoo. Jungkook sits near his feet, one leg dangling off the cushion and the other propped up, his shorts sliding up to reveal the back of his thigh. It’s killing Jimin to even look at him. “I just work. Around. You know, lots of different jobs. But mainly I’m a singer.”

The way Hyojoo gasps and sits upright is like a corpse coming back to life in a horror film. It makes Jimin jump. Her eyes bug out, thick lashes batting excitedly at him.

“You sing? Oh my god, can I hear you sing something?” She gasps again. “Can we sing something together?”

“Oh, no, I—” Nerves worse than he felt on his first photoshoot flood his system, and he almost wants to cry at the thought of someone like Hyojoo hearing him sing. This is what she does for a living. She’s not some tipsy CEO at the lounge, too distracted with wooing another young blonde to really pay attention to Jimin’s voice. “I couldn’t. We have such different styles. I could never keep up with you.”

“Bullshiiiiit,” she says, dragging out the last syllable. “I love experimenting with new styles.” She clambers to her feet, finger held up to him to wait as she grabs for her phone. “C’mere, we’ll film a TikTok together—”

“No, no, noooo.” Jungkook is on his feet in a second to snatch the phone away and gently push her back onto the couch. “You are not posting another drunk TikTok, okay? Remember what happened last time?”

“What happened last time?” Jimin asks with a tired chuckle.

Jungkook glances at him as he plops back into his seat and shoves Hyojoo’s phone between the cushions. “You don’t wanna know.”

Hyojoo rolls her eyes. “It wasn’t that bad. Jungkook is just a baby boy who worries too much.” She sticks out a pierced tongue at her brother—that stud looks like a real damn diamond, just chilling in her mouth—and then points at her eyes, points at Jimin. “You and me. We’ll film one someday.”

He gives her a thumbs up as she flops back onto her couch and shoves a bag across the table at him. “Here, you should take this.”

“What—”

“It’s just that scarf you liked so much,” she says. He tries to protest again but she hears none of it. “It’s just a scarf and I can buy a new one. It looked cute on you.”

Jimin looks to Jungkook for help, but he just shrugs. “It did look cute on you,” he says. “Take it. Maybe someday I’ll photograph you in it… In just that.”

If not for the alcoholic buzz in the back of his skull, Jimin might blush at that. But instead, he just smiles across the couch at Jungkook. In his peripheral, he can see Hyojoo shooting a grin between the two of them. She nudges another bag toward Jimin.

“Here, there are some cute rings in there that might fit you.” She holds up her hand. “You have pretty small hands. My rings might fit on some of your fingers at least.”

He can hear Jungkook chortling to himself at the end of the couch as he pinches the bridge of his nose. Jimin is too drunk to protest to any more of her gifts, so he continues on like this, letting her shower him with them. He doesn’t have to actually take them once he leaves. He can’t.

But for now he indulges her and maybe he enjoys wearing expensive things for once, just to see how they would look on him. They go on like this until his eyelids feel too heavy to stay open.

He doesn’t know when he falls asleep, but the clock on the wall says it’s almost 5 A.M. when his eyes drift open to find Jungkook walking past him, cleaning up the mess on the coffee table.

With a yawn and a stretch, Jimin mumbles, “Shit, did I pass out here?” Across from him, Hyojoo is sprawled and knocked out. “Sorry.”

“You’re good,” Jungkook says with a fond little laugh. “Rather you sleep here than try to get home drunk.”

Jimin pushes himself up, his head still spinning a little bit. There’s a light pounding in his temples and he guesses it’ll only get worse. And, fuck, he has to close at the bakery later tonight.

“You feel alright? You need anything?” Jungkook asks, an armload of garbage from their snacks clutched tight. At his feet sits a bag, and Jimin realizes it’s all the gifts Hyojoo had set aside for him. The pile for Jungkook sits at the end of the coffee table.

“I’m good. I should get home, though.”

Jungkook dumps the garbage into a bag, glancing at his hands before he brushes them off on his shorts. He holds one out to Jimin and pulls him to his feet, face to face now as he smiles. “You sure? I don’t mind if you stay. You can have the guest room. Hyojoo can stay on the couch.”

A sleepy smile struggles its way onto Jimin’s face. “I can’t be in your way like that. Didn’t you say you have another model you’re working with today?”

Jungkook’s head drops back as he sighs at the ceiling. “Ah, shit. I forgot about that.” He’s still holding Jimin’s hand between them. When his face tips forward to look at him again, he’s even closer. “Sorry,” he whispers, and it feels like a kiss.

“It’s fine.” Jimin’s hand slips away. “I can call a taxi.”

“Are you sure? Hyojoo has private drivers—”

“Ohh, no, no,” Jimin babbles nervously. “No, that’s too much for me. A taxi is more than fine. I’m a born and raised New Yorker.”

“Okay,” Jungkook says. He talks so softly Jimin can’t tell if it’s not to wake his sister or something else. “I’ll see you next week?”

Jimin nods. “Next week,” he says, and he wants to lean in. Just a goodnight kiss. Simple and easy. They’ve done more than that.

But Jungkook steps back before he can and jerks his head toward the front door. “I’ll walk you to the door. I would wait for the taxi with you but I,” he waves his hand at Hyojoo, “gotta make sure this mess doesn’t throw up in her sleep.”

“No worries,” Jimin says as Jungkook scoops up his gifts and deposits them in his arms.

“She will track you down and leave these on your front step if you don’t take them,” he says, letting his hands linger when he grabs the bags, fingertips brushing. “Let’s go.”

Jimin shrugs on his jacket at the front door, his messenger bag on his shoulder as usual, gifts tucked under his arm. He lingers in the doorway, maybe just a bit reluctant to leave.

“I hope you had fun tonight,” Jungkook says. “Sorry my sister is a complete lunatic.”

“I think she’s great,” Jimin says. “She’s funny. I’m glad I met her.”

The sigh Jungkook heaves sounds relieved, and he smiles. “Phew,” he says, wiping fake sweat away from his forehead. “I was afraid you’d never wanna see me again.”

“Oh, it would take a lot more than that.” Jimin steps into the hallway. He’s slept the tipsiness off enough to realize now that goodnight kisses are probably off the table. They shouldn’t even be touching each other the way they have so far. “I still have to earn the rest of my pay.”

Jungkook gives a curt nod. “Of course. That’s the only reason.”

“Yep.” Jimin pops his lips together. “Well, goodnight, Jungkook.”

“‘Night.”

Jimin takes a few more slow steps back, almost wishing Jungkook would pull him back. Back to that bed, back into his arms, back into those kisses that make him feel like none of this can possibly be real.

Not this time. This time he spins on his heel and heads for the stairs, the sound of Jungkook’s door shutting behind him. Tonight he waits out in the cool autumn air, jacket buttoned up tight and gifts clutched tighter.

He looks back at the apartment building, high-rise and glowing windows, headlights zooming past as people head to their early shifts. He’s still dead on his feet, ready to pass out, but that little thrill from Jungkook keeps him going.

The fire across his body, gentle lips and tender hands. Jungkook’s words…

That bliss you feel once you’re worn out and they treat you like you’re the most precious thing they’ve ever held.

No, Jimin had never felt that before, but he did with Jungkook. There was nothing in that room but them when Jungkook touched him. Nothing but him and every bit of Jungkook’s attention focused on how he felt, that he was okay.

The taxi pulls up just as Jimin vows to himself that next time, he’ll return the favor. 

He wants to know what Jungkook looks like when a lover takes care of him, treats him like he’s the center of the universe. Jimin thinks Jungkook deserves that more than he does. Probably a lot more.

And even though Jimin knows he shouldn’t—because this is meant to be professional and outside of the studio Jungkook has shown no sign he wants anything else—he wants it. Jungkook has been kind, but he still treats Jimin like he’s his subject more than anything else. He acts as if touching Jimin that way was as casual as any other direction he’s given him during shoots.

Truthfully, Jimin wonders if Jungkook knows how to view someone any other way. Would he ever see Jimin as anything other than an art installment? Maybe, even more importantly, should Jimin let himself hope for Jungkook to see him as anything else?

Or is he just setting himself up for another disappointment?