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"Darling," Mrs. Park started.

Jimin wished she wouldn't.

He straightened, squaring his shoulders and raising his chin. The only time she ever bothered to call him by that dreadful pet name was when she wanted to criticize some aspect of Jimin's being. The less ammunition he gave her, the better. His mother didn't move right away. Instead, she remained frozen in place at the window, peering through the sheer white curtain at nothing in particular. Jimin barely resisted the urge to sigh. What was she hoping? That he would guess whatever it was she wished to discuss and possibly hang himself further if he outed something she was none the wiser of? Those years were well behind him. Jimin knew better. Although it pained him to sit and wait, he would do precisely that. 

By now, Jimin had lost count of many instances she had trapped him in this very room, on this horrid couch. God he hated this sofa. Could he blame a glorified upholstered seat for attempting to break him in? Not entirely. It's just that there were countless memories embedded into the fabric where his very buttocks currently sat. This is where he perched for hours every week for over a decade when his private tutors arrived with seminars. Where he rested in between ballet sets, hoping and praying to rub the numbness in his feet away. Every damned instrument his parents had forced him to take lessons for; lyre, piano, violin, clarinet, always took place right here. Every scolding, lecture, reprimand, and occasional strike from his father. All the etiquette classes, courting preparations, weaving sessions, posture correction, calligraphy exercises, poetry... There was probably more of Jimin's blood, sweat, and tears in the sofa than actual fiber at this point.

At last she faced her son, beckoning with a single crooked digit for him to come closer then made motion for Jimin to spin around. She began unlacing his corset vest, muttering that the string had been looped improperly. Unlikely. These days, Mrs. Park seemed to have developed an unhealthy habit of scrutinizing Jimin's appearance. The white long sleeved ruffle blouse with frills at the neck Jimin wore under the aforementioned gold and black corset vest would be her next article of complaint, no doubt. Didn't matter that Jimin looked absolutely stunning. Somehow she always found some miniscule detail to complain of. 

"Your father and I have been giving a lot of thought to your situation." Mrs. Park spoke evenly. 

"Mn. And what situation would that be, precisely?" Jimin felt like being bold today. 

"Jeon." She answered flatly. 

"Ah." He hummed. "Thinking of throwing us an evening party? Jungkook would be very uncomfortable with anything too lavish. I might be able to persuade him to attend a masquerade ball, though." 

"You have entirely lost your mind in that pretty head of yours if you believe your father and I have any intentions of entertaining such barbaric rebellion, Park Jimin." She countered. 

"It was only a joke." Jimin mumbled. "The bit about the party." He clarified as he wrung his fingers together idly. "Not about Jungkook, that was serious. We're serious." 

"I had hoped as you got older, blossomed into your role, truly learned your responsibilities and what is expected of you as our sole heir, this juvenile disobedience would end." She yanked the string through the loop abruptly, disrupting his balance ever so slightly. "I shouldn't have to tell you how ridiculous this is, Jimin. You're practically royalty. He's a laborer." 

"Carpenter. A rather good one, too. Don't you think?" Jimin asked. "I know you both hoped I would start considering a suitor or be more solemn regarding these courting balls, but I'm not sorry." 

"If you two have been keeping things as private and confidential as you claimed last night then there's still time to undo this." She responded. 

"Undo? What is that supposed to mean?" he questioned.

 "Nobody else needs to be aware. Certainly not any of the commendable young dukes and marquesses lining up for your hand in marriage." Another tug. "You've caused our family an immense inconvenience, but your father and I are already looking into potential contractor bids to replace the Jeon business moving forward. It will be frowned upon, you know. People will talk." 

Jimin could do nothing more than roll his eyes. "You're being dramatic, mother. There isn't any reason the Jeons can't continue doing work for the Park family." 

Without warning, she twisted and gripped the laces tighter then jerked Jimin until his back was flush with her fists. 

Mrs. Park leaned over his shoulder. "Oh, there absolutely is. You will never see that man again, Jimin. The contract will be shredded and they will be exiled from any and all future projects." 

"You don't intimidate me. I'm not a child, hell I'm not even a teenager anymore. I live here because your laws bound me to do so until marriage. You'll be rid of me soon enough." Jimin reassured her. 

"Until an agreeable marriage, Jimin. There is no value to be gained by marrying you off to a poor man. I'd like to put an end to this before anyone suspects and while your purity remains intact." She did not bother masking her distaste even once she resumed threading the ribbon through the eyelets with much more force than the task required. 

"I certainly hate to burst your bubble, but if by purity you mean before we have sex, it's much too late for that." Jimin considered telling her how many times too late, but thought the better of it. For now. 

“Jimin, are you not concerned with the reputation you are casting upon yourself? How will you ever find a husband who can provide for you now that you’re ruined?” Mrs. Park said. 

“Ruined? Mother, I am not an adulterer. I am a free man with no martial bounds. Why shouldn’t I be permitted to take part in pleasures of the flesh?” Jimin posed. 

“It doesn’t work like that and you know it.” Her voice grew a little louder. Jimin could almost feel her anger ready to bubble up and burst any moment now. “You understand better than anyone how important class and honor are for people like you. You’ll be snubbed anywhere you go if this gets out. Can you imagine? Park Jimin, fallen?” 

“You forget that I am very much a man. And while I absolutely disagree with the grotesque hypocrisy of noble men able to partner with as many people as he pleases, while women are chastised for it, I would like to remind you that I am in fact a male.” 

“I know that, Jimin.” 

“Do you? It seems as though you and father both would almost prefer if I weren’t.” Jimin waited for her to protest. When she didn’t, he went on. “It must be difficult for you, having a son like me. I’ve no interest in women, which breaks with tradition. Seeing me with another man means accepting a double standard. You can’t shelter me like you would a daughter. But god damn it, haven’t you both done it anyway.” 

She pressed her lips into a thin, strained line that did nothing to aid in the disguise of wrinkles around her mouth. “It is not difficult.” 

“Why does it matter then? Who’s to say I won’t marry Jungkook?” Jimin asked. 

“Jimin!” She snapped without hesitation. “He’s a filthy commoner.” 

“His family lineage may not be as grand or blue-blooded as ours, mother but they have been deeply intertwined in our history for decades. Building our manors, erecting theaters or banquet halls on a whim. Designing, modeling, and manufacturing whole estates. I wouldn’t say Jungkook is hurting for employment.” Jimin argued. 

“There’s no stability in that, Jimin. He has no money to support you.” Mrs. Park lamented. 

“I don’t need any money, I’m perfectly capable of finding a job of my own.” Jimin shot back.

“I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear you say that. Your ancestors are rolling around in their graves right now, darling.” 

“Well unfortunately I am much more interested in being fulfilled than focusing on what a bunch of old, dead family members might think of me. I hear enough critique from the living, don’t you think?” Jimin posed, grunting when she jostled the cords mid-loop. “Besides, this obsession with marriage… who says I even want to be married?” 

“You’re being thick in the head, Jimin. That won’t be for you to decide on your own. Your father and I have no qualms of going a much more traditional route to arrange a suitor for you.” Mrs. Park threaded the last hole then sighed. “A decent man, who would satisfy your financial needs and treat you with respect.” 

“Sounds positively boring. I can assure you, Jungkook knows better than to give me respect when he’s satisfying me.” Jimin couldn’t help himself. 

If they had been facing each other, she absolutely would’ve slapped Jimin hard enough to have him seeing stars. She settled instead for the next best thing and what she had access too; crisscrossing Jimin’s laces and yanking them with enough force to leave him gasping. Mrs. Park grabbed her son by the shoulders and spun him around. 

“When the hell are you going to grow up and realize you can’t keep flanking yourself with men who are beneath you if you ever want to amount to anything more than a glorified cum rag?!” She hollered, face red and her left eyed twitched three times. 

Jimin wrinkled his nose. It wasn’t often that his mother used any sort of provocative language because she deemed it unseemly. In fact, Jimin was almost impressed that she used it correctly. Still, the implications she kept pinning to her son were tiptoeing dangerously close to pissing Jimin off. 

“Mother, you make it sound like I’m at bars offering myself up to anyone who looks my way. It’s one man. The only man, if you must know.” Jimin didn’t find it worth his time to inform her of just how many of those proper gentlemen they insisted on setting him up with had attempted to put their hands on him or worse. “Besides, who else am I ever around? You keep me locked up like I’m in a dungeon. My only friend here is Namjoon, my advisor, who you picked yourself if you recall.” 

“This isn’t the first time you’ve associated yourself with less than favorable company,” she accused. “That awful valet of yours who had no style sense. What was his name? We brought him in as a favor to his dying father. Horrible mistake. Ended up as a coachman for a few years.” 

“Yoongi.” Jimin gritted, amending his tone a bit softer when he said, “And he’s doing quite well. He designs home décor now, can you imagine? Went and opened a business for himself in another country. We write each other frequently.” 

Mrs. Park rolled her eyes and took a few steps back. Jimin almost snorted. Keeping a further proximity from Jimin probably was literal as much as it was symbolic. As if her physical distance from her son removed her from the potential limelight of his scandalous relationship. 

“How many people know about you two?” She asked. 

“Depends. How many people have you and father cried to about how much of a disappointment I am?” Jimin retorted. 

She scoffed. “We would never discuss something so shameful with anyone! How many people has he told?” 

“No one.” Jimin lied. 

He knew for a fact that Jungkook’s apprentice, Hoseok, had been informed. That look Hoseok gave him at the railway station unveiling ceremony a few weeks ago stayed with Jimin for a reason. He knew. Jimin knew he knew. Hoseok knew Jimin knew he knew. They didn’t need to talk about it. Not to mention, Hoseok had stopped flirting with Jimin and fallen into a much friendlier, joking rapport. 

“Hogwash,” Mrs. Park deflated. “You think a man like that wouldn’t brag to every beggar, drunk, and bum on the street that he’s hooking up with someone in your economic position?” 

“Jungkook is an incredible man. The only reason I approached you and father about us was because I naively thought you might be mature enough to understand my feelings for him.” Jimin conveyed. 

“Darling.” There she went again with that awful nickname. “You are barely in your twenties. How could you possibly know anything about the difference between feelings and lust?” 

Jimin arched a perfectly manicured brow. “We have an emotional connection I won’t bother trying to explain to you. I’m attracted to Jungkook as a person, as a man. Those are feelings. But lust? Well, that’s when we-“ 

Don’t.” Mrs. Park warned. “Don’t you dare.” 

“We don’t have to agree on everything. You don’t even have to like the arrangement. I just want you to respect us. Respect him. Jungkook deserves that much.” Jimin implored. 

“The only reason you are ‘attracted’ to that Jeon boy is because you’re completely and totally infatuated with the idea of him. You want what he has because you don’t know any better. Maybe that’s our fault. You’re so pampered and spoiled, it’s not your fault you don’t comprehend how awful it is to be among the peasant folk. We spared you from that, you know.” She studied her son’s face, all too pleased to watch the color draining. “Jeon is another one of your temporary experiments. Sneaking around is thrilling. Pretending to be normal is exciting. But slumming it, Jimin? Oh, darling. That isn’t for you. It’s cute while you’re young. I would suggest not wasting too much time playing fantasy while your youth and worth deteriorate.” 

“That’s not it at all. Jungkook isn’t a plaything. He-“ 

“He is, Jimin.” His mother interrupted. 

Her words were final and if he couldn’t be sure from the curt tone of her voice, Mrs. Park made it abundantly clear when she turned on her heel and stalked to the door. Arguments welled up and died in his chest a dozen times. What could he gain from fighting with her? The compassion Jimin once hoped for now seemed nothing more than a distant, foolish dream. She would never understand. 

Mrs. Park halted sharply at the door and cut her son one final, shrewd glance. “Ants don’t deserve to sit at the dinner table with people, Jimin.” 

 



When Jungkook came to find Jimin later that evening, ironically, it was in the same room as before. The moment Jimin saw Jungkook and thought about that hideous cream colored couch he had half a mind to tackle the man down and insist they do it on the offensive piece of furniture. It would certainly be the first time anything good ever happened on that wretched couch. 

"Hey," Jungkook greeted through a smile. "Namjoon said I'd probably find you in here." 

"I didn't think you could make it tonight." Jimin said. 

He hardly allowed Jungkook enough time to fully close the door before he had thrown his arms around Jungkook's neck and sank into a tight embrace. 

"Whoa, hey there. I missed you, too."

Jimin didn't even need to see Jungkook's face to know he probably had the biggest, toothiest smile while hugging Jimin. 

"You finished early?" Jimin asked as he nosed at Jungkook's throat. 

"Yeah, my dad was able to recruit a few partners after all. Just cleanup left, but I figured they could handle that part without me." Jungkook wiggled his fingers playfully along Jimin's back. "These hands have much better uses than sweeping debris all night." 

"You should have called me. I would've come to you." Jimin tried not to sound pouty or needy or heaven forbid clingy

Jungkook's smile was endearing all the same, even if he was picking up on Jimin's apparent loneliness. "I'm sorry, peach." 

Jimin tingled from the roots of his hair all the way down to his toes. Ordinarily, nicknames irritated the young patrician and anytime any one (except his infuriatingly stubborn mother) called him as anything other than his name, Jimin made a point of behaving exceedingly more difficult than usual. The first time Jungkook compared him to a peach, Jimin should've slugged him right then and there. Now he looked forward to hearing it. Sought affirmation that they were still close that Jungkook felt as strongly as Jimin did because he called him peach. 

"This is interesting," Jungkook commented, now leaned back enough to get a good look at Jimin's outfit. "Corset? What an incredible color on you." 

"Take it off," Jimin cooed. 

"What?" Jungkook squawked, blinking stupidly slow. 

Immensely charmed, Jimin chuckled under his breath, stood on his toes, and threw himself at Jungkook, molding their lips together in a kiss lacking patience. Jungkook followed Jimin's lead even if he didn't entirely understand why it was happening. Who was he to complain? No amount of riches, jewels, or gold in the world compared to having Jimin in his arms. Jungkook was practically the definition of what it meant to be alive, blood rushing through his veins so quickly that the pressure was making him dizzy, but he didn’t care. He was too engulfed in the lips which were impatiently smashed to his own to bother with being concerned.

“Jimin,” Jungkook rasped seconds before Jimin drug his bottom lip between his teeth and had the audacity to nibble.

“Take it off, Jungkook.” Jimin purred. And damn it Jungkook would swear he could actually taste desire on Jimin’s sinful lips. “Right here, right now. Take me, Koo.” 

As if Jungkook could ever have the self-control to resist such a humble request. No time to think, their bodies were moving on instinct tugging buttons free and prying shirts away. Moments like these left Jungkook feeling the difference in their class more than ever. Even in their tussle between the vicious way which Jimin was attacking his lips, Jungkook recognized the expensiveness of the sheer garment he’d just torn open. Meanwhile, Jungkook’s once white cotton shirt and muddied trousers held no monetary or personal value. Jimin smelled lavish too, hell even his soft smooth skin was luxurious under Jungkook’s calloused fingers. Jungkook wasn’t entirely sure where this aggression was coming from. It worked a deep growl from him each time Jimin’s nails raked along his back. Jimin bit down on Jungkook’s lip so hard he broke the skin, trickles of blood seeping from the small cut. But Jimin never allowed the elder to taste it, greedily sucking away the irony liquid while he continued to ravish the carpenter’s mouth. Jungkook growled like some sort of wild animal about to savagely devour its prey- and devour he truly did. He had torn his mouth from Jimin’s now swollen, plump lips and began leaving open mouthed kisses along Jimin’s jawline and throat. Jimin’s head tilted back in appreciation, soft pants managing to pass his parted lips. It didn’t take much longer for them to tumble to the couch, rolling around a few times before Jungkook managed to pin Jimin beneath him. 

“Put your hands on my ass,” Jimin hissed. 

Jungkook might have a panic attack tonight.

Jimin was being sexy, even if it weren’t his attention to do so. The way those gorgeous, expressive eyes were only half lidded and giving Jungkook the most seductive stare two eyes could possibly muster. The way Jimin’s cheeks were burning with desire. How could he ooze sexuality as if it were his paid profession? Nimble fingers ghosting over his waistband snapped Jungkook back to reality. 

“You’re hesitating. What’s the matter?” 

“I’m not.” Jungkook dismissed then pecked Jimin’s lips twice. “Just admiring you.” 

Jimin wanted to let loose all of the moans which were welling up within his chest. He wanted to claw every inch of Jungkook’s back while begging him to move faster, to just fuck him already. But Jimin knew Jungkook better than he knew himself. 

“Don’t tell me you’re having performance anxiety.” Jimin joked, attempting to lighten the mood. He wriggled his brows, daftly pressing his leg between Jungkook’s. “You know I can feel how much you want this, right?” 

Jungkook laughed and shook his head. “It’s just something Namjoon said. We can talk about it later.” 

“Jungkook,” Jimin paused, sighing a long moan when said man started nipping at his throat. “If you’re going to have Namjoon on your brain while we’re doing this, I might be jealous.” 

“Said you argued with your mom today.” Jungkook admitted, mouth traveling lower to the juncture of Jimin’s throat specked with a beauty mark. 

Jimin’s lips were dry, moistened only when the tip of his small pink tongue slipped out and dabbed them. He gave a thoughtful hum while carding his fingers through Jungkook’s unruly locks. Jimin was not certain he wanted to entertain this conversation at all (although he definitely would have to scold Namjoon later for being a spy and a tattle tale). 

“She said you’ve ruined me.” Jimin twisted and giggled when Jungkook teased his stomach with kisses, licks, and soft bites. “I’m unmarketable now.” 

Jungkook may have been the one to bring up the topic, but he also was first to lose interest as the fire burning in his groin was becoming difficult to ignore. And why should he have to? A gorgeous, willing and needy young man was sprawled on the couch waiting for Jungkook to take advantage of him. 

“What a pity.” Jungkook pressed fresh kisses around Jimin’s bellybutton, locking eyes with the aristocratic beauty. 

“She thinks you’re just a plaything. Can you believe that? Had the nerve to imply you’re just my wild ride for entertainment.” Jimin said. 

“Am I not?” Jungkook mouthed into Jimin’s hip. 

Jimin’s body stiffened as he gripped Jungkook’s shoulders, forcing the handyman still.

“What?!” Jimin squeaked. 

“Come on, Jimin.” Jungkook held Jimin’s right hand and kissed his fingers a few times. “Everything about you screams regality. I’m covered in sweat and dirt all day every day.” 

“So?” Jimin’s voice was high now and somehow he managed to sink deeper into the couch, withdrawing from Jungkook. “What is that supposed to mean? You really think I’m just using you?” 

“I didn’t say you’re using me. We laugh. We have fun. We date. We explore. We have copious amounts of sex. But we both know that there’s no future for us.” Jungkook’s brows furrowed when Jimin snatched his hand away. 

Jimin’s lips slanted. “Get off of me.” 

“Jimin-“ 

“I said get off.” Jimin didn’t need to raise his voice to be intimidating. 

Sighing, Jungkook lifted his hands in defeat and did as he was asked. For several long, awkward, and silent moments they remained like that- Jimin sunken into the couch with a pale face and unreadable expression, Junkook looming just over the arm of the couch knowing in his gut he had fucked up. 

“To be clear,” Jimin began, finally sitting up. “You don’t want a future with me? Is that what I’m hearing?” 

“Jimin, come on. Don’t make me the villain.” Jungkook rubbed the back of his nape. “I’ve seen the way you look at Taehyung. Let’s not pretend that this is going anywhere.” 

“Taehyung? He’s my best friend, there is nothing going on with us.” Jimin hopped up, snatching his blouse and vest from the floor to shield his bare chest. 

Jungkook snorted. “He’s a politician’s son and the only person you can stand being in the same room with for longer than five minutes. Other than your assistant. Your parents will make the arrangements.” 

“Jungkook, I have no interest in marrying Taehyung and I can assure you that’s mutual.” Jimin gritted, frustration beginning to overwhelm him. 

“Then it’ll be someone else, won’t it? Someone who’s filthy rich like your family. Who can buy you diamonds and fancy furs and useless extravagant trinkets to junk up your armoire?” Jungkook spat. 

Jimin hugged himself tighter. “Is that what you think of me? That I’m just some spoiled brat and- you know what. Never mind. Don’t answer that. I honestly don’t want to know. I told my parents about us, Jungkook. Do you think I would do that if I wasn’t serious? If I didn’t want to have to hide and sneak around?” 

“I think you would say or do just about anything to get under their skin.” 

Jungkook regretted the words the instant he’d said them. Jimin looked smaller somehow, the way he stepped back and clung to his clothes as if they were going to protect him. As if he needed protection from Jungkook. 

“You should go.” Jimin whispered. 

“I didn’t mean it like that. I shouldn’t have said it.” Jungkook tried. 

“But you meant it all the same, right? You shouldn’t have said it, but that’s how you feel.” Jimin responded. 

“I don’t think you came clean to your parents about us just to piss them off. I shouldn’t have implied it.” Jungkook took one step closer and Jimin took several back. 

Jimin bristled. “Look me in the eyes and tell me you don’t think I’m just toying with you for cheap thrills until I’m forced into marriage.” 

Three rasps on the door broke their tension and either saved Jungkook or completely damned him, it was too soon to tell. Jimin called for whomever it was to enter, the door creaked open, and Namjoon stepped inside. He quirked a brow, observing their disheveled and half-clothed state before fixing Jimin with his gaze. 

“Apologies, master Park. Your father has requested your presence on the lanai.” Namjoon supplied. 

“This day just keeps getting better and better, doesn’t it?” Jimin muttered. “Thank you, Namjoon. And for the last time, please just call me ‘Jimin’ instead.” 

“Of course, my liege.” Namjoon answered. “Master Jeon, a word before you go?” 

Jimin looked between the two of them wondering what in the hell Namjoon could possibly wish to discuss with Jungkook. Probably the alterations his mother wanted for the third floor. Jimin bid farewell to his advisor, paused beside Jungkook but couldn’t find any words to say, so he said nothing. Jungkook watched Jimin leaving with a heavy heart. Had he just singlehandedly ruined the best thing to ever come into his mundane, meaningless life? 

“Fuck,” Jungkook groaned, collapsing on the couch. 

"Feeling a tad foolish are we, sir?" Namjoon inquired once the door was closed. 

"Tch, you have no idea." Jungkook grumbled while he buried his face in his hands. 

"If I may be so bold, sir, perhaps you'd have a bit more success if you just waltzed straight up to master Park and struck him square across the face next time." Namjoon suggested with a straight face. "That might do less damage." 

"Alright," Jungkook grumbled, peeking through his fingers. "Apparently you have some idea." 

"Tell me, master Jeon, exactly what did you expect to be the outcome when you accused him of toying with you?" Namjoon asked. "You might as well have said you agreed with his mother."

"I didn't.. that's not what I..." Jungkook scrubbed his face with his palms, exhaling deeply. "Don't you ever get tired of listening through walls?" 

"Quite, sir. And if you must know, I was moments away from leaving since it sounded as if you and master Park intended to defile one another." Namjoon mused with a thoughtful expression. "But then you blundered the whole thing." 

"Why do you even care if I mess up? What does it matter? You're part of their staff, aren't you? Isn't it your job to make sure Jimin follows the rules? Doesn't seem like you're very invested in staying employed." Jungkook accused. 

"My job master Jeon is to see to it that his grace is taken care of." Namjoon corrected. "I don't much care for the politics or the formalities. As long as master Park finds something to make himself happy, that's good enough for me." 

Leave it to the actual damn butler to have a better moral compass than Jungkook. He hadn't meant it, not the way it came out at least. In his own less than sensible way, Jungkook wanted to protect himself. His feelings and sentiments for Jimin were pure and ran deep, but reality needed to be factored in. Yes, yes of course he hoped for a future with Jimin. A real one. Away from this stuffy upscale lifestyle. But what could Jungkook ever hope to provide a man like Jimin? Jimin's parents would never allow it, they'd more than made that clear even before knowing about their son's involvement with the family carpenter. 

"You know," Namjoon interrupted. "I believed for a while that something might be you. Now I'm not so sure." 

"I wasn't trying to hurt him." Jungkook felt the need to defend. 

"You certainly weren't trying to comfort him either, were you?" Namjoon reasoned. 

Jungkook sighed. “What would you have done then?" 

"Me, sir? Why, it's actually quite simple." Namjoon beamed, dimples poking free. "I wouldn't have fallen in love with someone I had no intentions of courting." 

"I'm not in love with Jimin." Jungkook deflected weakly. Neither of them believed it. "And besides, how can I court someone I am not legally allowed to see beyond the scope of my work? He's practically a prince, I have no standing here." Jungkook's shoulders slumped in defeat. 

Namjoon approached the couch and gave Jungkook's shoulder a squeeze, waiting patiently for the younger male to look at him. 

"That hasn't held you back before now has it, sir?" Namjoon said. 

Namjoon had a point. Knowing good and well who Jimin was, what family he belonged to, his social standing, and impending arranged marriage certainly had not stopped Jungkook from staring openly the very first time they met. Didn't prevent him from making an absolute fool of himself for the sake of hearing that devastatingly beautiful laugh ringing in the hallway. And surely it hadn't kept Jungkook from kissing Jimin for the first time nor any time since then. What Jimin cherished most about Jungkook, in his own words, was the way Jungkook never changed the way he conducted himself for Jimin's benefit. On more than one occasion, Jimin praised the bull-headed approach Jungkook took, citing it as one of the most intense reasons he felt drawn to the craftsman.

Jungkook wished he had taken the time to share his secret with Jimin. The reason he never treated Jimin like royalty? Why he never addressed Jimin in a more respectful manner? Why he didn't bother adhering to any of the rules surrounding how he ought to interact with Jimin? It was easier to pretend they were the same. In Jungkook's mind, even if Jimin might be of a nobler class than himself, they could play make believe. Jungkook could imagine that he had the right to be speaking to Jimin, that they existed in the same world. And truthfully? Jimin made it so easy to pretend. Jimin so desperately desired to be seen as more than his name, more than a figurehead of bureaucracy. 

They belonged together, Jungkook admitted. They brought out the absolute best in one another. It was easier to force Jimin to shoulder the blame, simpler to claim the magnificent nobleman only wanted a romp on the wild side before settling into his diplomatic role, than to deal with the consequences of their actions. Jungkook repeated over and over again that he was prepared for whatever Jimin's parents might do or say. Fear consumed him, though. Concerns that he may be unable to deliver on the many promises he'd made to Jimin plagued his mind. His own insecurities took to forefront of Jungkook's thoughts and he'd made some awful remarks to Jimin because of it. Jimin deserved an explanation. 

And an apology. Jungkook knew he had more than likely overstayed his welcome as it were already. He should go home, wash-up, and give Jimin a call in the morning. The thought of leaving things unresolved though did not sit right. So Jungkook waited. He waited until the sun had disappeared, all the while imagining what he might say to Jimin. Also wondering why in the world the ugly chaise was so damned uncomfortable. Jimin's parents were more than well off, couldn't they afford to buy cozy furniture? And yet, after an hour or so of waiting, Jungkook found himself fast asleep. 

When he awoke, it was to the sound of massive brass doors slamming shut just across the hall. Jungkook jumped, startled nearly out of his skin. The room was pitch black save for the moonlight casting a single strip of light from the opposite window. Jungkook scrambled to his feet as commotion in the hallway grew louder. Gingerly, he cracked the door open enough to see Mr. Park and half a dozen guards crowding around Jimin's bedroom door. They made demands for him to come out this instant and return to the the parlor at once. 

Ah. They must have ambushed Jimin with a suitor. A less than subtle response to finding out about Jimin's relationship. Jungkook slipped out the side door leading to the linen closet and servant's quarters, taking advantage of all their yelling so he could disappear undetected. No way he'd be getting to Jimin's bedroom through the front door. He'd have to result to scaling the complex, climbing up to Jimin's window, and hoping that Jimin would actually want to see him and let him in. 

Unfortunately, it seemed fate had other plans for Jungkook tonight. Jungkook was cutting through the labyrinth of a garden when a figure leapt out of the shadows, tackled him into the bushes, then punched him square in the nose. Jungkook gasped, the weight of the stranger getting off his chest gave him a burst of oxygen he wasn't expecting. It took a moment for his blurred vision to clear before he recognized the man. 

"Taehyung?" Jungkook said. 

"That's Kim Taehyung to you," Taehyung seethed. 

"Listen, I'd love to stay and chat. But I'm kind of in the middle of-" 

"Of what? Hm?" Taehyung jabbed his index finger into the center of Jungkook's chest. "On your way to fuck with my friend's head some more?" 

"No, no! I just wanted to apologize." Jungkook didn't bother asking how Taehyung knew. That blabbermouth Namjoon had probably squealed. 

"Let me tell you something, Jeon. Jimin would be spared a world of grief if we were arranged to be married. I expect nothing from him, he'd be free to come and go as he pleased. It would be purely for show." Taehyung rambled much louder than Jungkook felt necessary. 

"Great, got it. Understood. Jimin should marry you for appearances. I'll keep that in mind." Jungkook pressed himself further into the bush, attempting to wriggle past Taehyung to no avail. 

"You were supposed to be different." Taehyung lamented. 

"Excuse me?" Jungkook questioned.

 "Everyone Jimin's parents have ever set him up with are always challenging his intentions, telling him what they believe he wants or needs." Taehyung shook his head, disappointed. "You were supposed to be different."

"Why? Because I'm not rich?" Jungkook snarled. 

"Precisely. You know better than anyone how it feels to be put in a box. To have people snap judge you by your name, the clothes you wear, the company you keep. It's the same for Jimin. I thought you understood that." Taehyung replied. 

Jungkook straightened, flexing his fingers before balling his fists at his side. "I do-" 

"Jimin likes you." Taehyung once again was stabbing Jungkook in the chest, flattening him back into the bush. "Yeah, sure, he loves you and all that, but he likes you. As a person. For your personality. He likes the way you make him feel. Jimin tells you things in private he wouldn't share with anyone else. You know that. In what world would he go through the trouble to fake months of intimate moments with you and come out to his parents just for the thrill?" 

"Look. I know you're Jimin's best friend and you're just trying to protect him. But I need you to get out of my face or we're going to have a problem." Jungkook said.

Taehyung obliged, but didn't spare any more than enough room for Jungkook to straighten up and still be trapped. 

"I made a mistake. I realize that. If it's alright with you, I'd like to talk to Jimin now." Jungkook tried, his tone soft. 

"I love him." Taehyung replied flatly "Not the way that you do, but I'd be willing to bet I'd go to the same lengths for him, if not more. So I suggest you tread lightly, Jeon. You better take care of him properly." 

Jungkook noticed for the first time that Taehyung's eyes were bloodshot. Strange. Not to mention they had encountered one another plenty of times before, and sure Taehyung certainly wasn't Jungkook's biggest fan by any means, but he had never been so hostile. 

"I'll make it right, Taehyung. I promise." Jungkook conveyed sincerely. 

"You'd better." a quiet voice spoke behind Taehyung. 

Jungkook's heart leapt into his throat. Taehyung rolled his eyes, begrudgingly stepping aside to reveal none other than Park Jimin partially stashed in the rose bushes. He stepped forward cautiously, sure to stay away from any of the garden lights, and carefully plucking free any stray thorns that had woven themselves into his jacket. 

"Hi, Koo." Jimin gave a small waive. 

Jungkook dove forward, wrapping Jimin in a tight hug. 

"My peach." he breathed. "I'm so sorry." 

Jimin squeezed him. "Me too. I was being sensitive just because I felt vulnerable. I should've-" 

"No, the blame isn't on you. What I said was wrong and I knew it when I did it. I should never have spoken to you that way." Jungkook conveyed. 

"You know how I feel about you, right?" Jimin needed to be certain. "I would never use you." 

Jungkook kissed Jimin's nose and smiled. "I know, peach. And I will always want a future with you." 

"Fantastic." Taehyung interjected dryly. "Now if you two wouldn't mind getting a move on before the entire security team comes looking for Jimin." 

"What do you mean?" Jungkook questioned. 

A sharp horn blared into the dead of the night, echoing through the estate loud enough to wake the dead. Jungkook remembered tripping the alarm once and only once before. It was the summer he spent adding a wing for Mrs. Park's brother and his wife. Though it had only been an accident and Jimin was in eyesight of his parents, nearly thirty or so armed guards began storming the grounds seeking the young heir. 

"You have to go. Now." Taehyung insisted. 

"What are you doing?" Jungkook asked incredulously. 

"Making a choice." Jimin supplied. "You once told me if I ever needed to run, if it became too much and I couldn't take it anymore, you'd guide me. Did you mean that?" 

Jungkook's heart was simultaneously doing summersaults and twisting in half. Their first night alone after Jimin rejected yet another suitor. They were hardly even friends back then, but oh my they were crushing hard. And Jimin, in all his beauty and elegance, was a sobbing mess. It ripped Jungkook right in half to see him so broken. It was a foolish promise, one he had no business making. One he wasn't even sure Jimin had heard. 

"Yes, Jimin. If you have to run, if you're ready, I'll be right here with you." Jungkook confirmed. 

Taehyung shoved a small bag into Jungkook's arms, wedging enough of a gap between him and Jimin to swoop in an embrace his friend. They hadn't much time now. The alarm was screaming louder and Jungkook could hear hurried footsteps growing closer. 

"Seokjin and I will come to the rendezvous point in three days’ time. Not a moment later." Taehyung urged, pressing a quick kiss to Jimin's forehead before directing his attention to Jungkook. "If anything happens to him-" 

"You will personally rip me limb from limb. I remember." Jungkook said. 

"Thank you, Tae." Jimin expressed, squeezing his friend as if they would never see each other again. Jungkook had no intentions of letting that be the case. "I love you." 

"Jimin, I hate to interrupt," Jungkook stated. "We have to move." 

And just like that, they were racing hand in hand through the maze as if their very lives depended on it. That was exactly the gravity of the matter though, wasn't it? If they didn't make it out, if by some misfortune either of them were caught, that would effectively be the end of their romance. For Jungkook, possibly the literal end of his life. For Jimin it may as well be the very same. They would lock him up for sure.

Silently, swiftly, without pause, despite the increasing uproar clamoring just behind them, Jungkook and Jimin bounded through the night, and never dared look back.