HoSuk popped into the room soon after nine, looking as awake as though he'd been up for hours. "Get up, sleepyhead!" he cried, playfully yanking the pillow out from under my head.

Now, water-fights can get too messy, but a pillow-fight is irresistible, and HoSuk's bed was covered in ammo. I flung one at him and he almost fell down. To finish the job, I sprang at him and knocked him over. I pinned him down with my own body but he rolled over on top of me and, seizing a pillow of his own, smacked me in the face. He laughed, but it was no longer a game to me--it was war.

"I will not be defeated!" I screamed, and I grabbed the pillow right out of his grasp, socking him with it. I succeeded again in knocking him over, and while he lay on his stomach, I hit him again on the backside. I eagerly awaited retaliation, but nothing came. He wasn't moving.

I put the pillow down and leaned over his motionless body, putting a hand on his shoulder. "HoSuk...?"

With a great battle cry, he suddenly jumped up and threw himself on top of me. It scared the hell out of me to hear him scream like that, but I laughed happily as he began nibbling on my neck, growling as though he were actually ripping my throat out. I threw my arms around him, relishing the bite of this savage beast. His gnawing turned to gentle kisses, and his growling was transformed into sweet murmuring against my skin. He kissed my forehead, then jumped up and pulled me to my feet. "Hurry up and shower so we can get some breakfast." He tried to make a scary monster voice. "I'm starrrving!!!"

I stepped out of the shower smelling like strawberries. The scent of the soap had made me even hungrier, and now I was craving fruit. HoSuk met me in the hall. He caught hold of my hand and pulled me down the hall to the lift. Enclosed together inside its glass walls, he pulled me close and kissed my lips. "You smell like heaven." I smiled with pleasure, but after we'd stepped out into the hall and found the kitchen I stopped dead in my tracks. We weren't alone.

TaeKyung was standing by a counter, and a gorgeous boy I'd never seen before was sitting at the table. They both looked up as we entered. I suddenly felt as though I'd been caught doing something wrong, and dropped HoSuk's hand. I backed out the door without even realizing it.

"Good morning!" TaeKyung called brightly. "What would you like for breakfast, MinWoo?"

"Try the French toast," the golden-haired boy at the table said. "I made it myself!"

HoSuk reached back and caught my hand again. "You met TaeKyung yesterday at the coffee shop. This is WooHyuk."

The beautiful young man stood up, slowly looking me up and down as he held out his hand, walking nearer. He looked very much like HoSuk, only a few years more mature. Obviously another of his brothers. We shook hands and bowed slightly as HoSuk continued his conversation.

"WooHyuk, this is MinWoo, my new boyfriend."

WooHyuk's eyes never flickered from mine, his smile never wavered. "Charming."

There was a moment of awkward silence following, during which my heart was thundering. I didn't even realize WooHyuk still had his hand clasped to mine. HoSuk called me his...boyfriend...

TaeKyung caught my wild look. He seemed a bit concerned. "Hey... WooHyuk, let's go finish up that round of tennis."

WooHyuk released me, his face lighting up. "Oh, yes! I believe I'm ahead by four points."

HoSuk laughed. "They've been playing the same game for nearly three weeks!"

"First one to get eight points ahead of the other, wins," TaeKyung explained. "So far no one's had more than a five-point lead at any one time."

"You're welcome to watch," WooHyuk smiled at me with his eyes. "You can even play, if you like--after breakfast, of course."

They left together through the kitchen door. HoSuk continued watching them through the window. "They'll never finish this game out with a winner. They'll have to quit first; they're both too good." He turned back to me. "What would you like to eat? WooHyuk's French toast really is excellent. Of course, we could make pancakes if you'd prefer, or there's cereal...or...MinWoo, what's wrong? Why are you staring at me like that?"

"You just told your brother I'm your boyfriend!"

He smiled at me. "You are! And I'm yours. Oh, MinWoo, what's wrong? Aren't you happy?"

"How did you know?" I asked suddenly, the burning question at last coming to surface. "How, did you know I'm gay, when I myself never thought...?"

He looked at me a little solemnly. "Don't say 'gay'."

"Sorry; but how did you know?"

He shrugged. It's pretty obvious, really, once you know what to look for. Besides, you're too beautiful to pay attention to anything less perfect. Still...that you should choose me..." There again was his ceaseless modesty. Then I saw. I never was 'gay.' I didn't prefer males; I just preferred him.

"Last night...why wouldn't you..."

"Not now," he said. "You aren't ready. I can't touch you unless you're sober, and you want it for more than just pleasure." He put his hands on my shoulders. "It'll mean more to both of us, especially if you can remember it."

"Remember what?!" I cried out in frustration, twisting out of his arms. "What's the big secret about sex? Why won't you just show me?"

He wasn't angry. He was as patient as ever with my senseless shouting and bad temper. He kissed my hand. His eyes were laughing. "The longer I make you wait, the more we'll both enjoy it." He took a step back and looked me up and down, slowly. Under normal circumstances, if anyone had examined me so intensely it would have been uncomfortable. But standing there in a sleeveless, white Nova Crisis T-shirt (a gift from HoSuk) and my fave pair of jeans, I felt a tingle of pleasure. He stared hard at my chest through the thin, worn material. It made my blood pound through my veins even harder. He was turning my on just by staring at me that way. I know it was immature (God! I'm just like SungHoon!) but I wanted him so badly I could have done him right there on the kitchen table, and I yelled, "Touch me!"

He smiled slyly; obviously he'd caused me to have this little outburst on purpose. He put his mouth so close to mine as he whispered sultrily, "There's a reason for the wait. You'll find out."

I swallowed hard, longing to taste his lips, but stubbornly resisting. "...When?"

"Maybe tonight...I don't know. It's up to you, really. Just--" he broke the spell by laughing and returning to his normal tone, "as long as it's after breakfast! I told you I'm hungry."

He chattered at me happily while we finished off WooHyuk s toast (he really is a damn good cook) with biscuits and some of the fruit I'd been craving (at one point HoSuk made some off-color comment about how good strawberries were for sex, then teasingly changed the subject again... a cruel joke perhaps, I thought) and had fresh orange juice.

After breakfast, HoSuk suggested we go see a movie. It was really too hot by noon to do anything active (even TaeKyung and WooHyuk gave up the tennis game--now WooHyuk's lead only by two points) so I quickly agreed. It was exciting. I'd only been inside a theater twice--one time I'd sneaked into it (with some hoodlum I'd considered a friend at the time) only to be tossed out before the movie had ever started.

The theater was really within walking distance, but it was too hot. We used a transport to cut across town. The theater had three movies about to start; HoSuk had seen two of them. We ended up getting tickets to something called "Triangle" (yeah, I thought it sounded dirty, too). It was really boring. There seemed to be three (duh) main characters who talked a whole lot about, but never directly to, each other. Then there were dozens of nameless faces who had no tangible purpose in the plot, but were there just the same. The purpose in the plot itself eluded me. It was all a bunch of random, casual dialogue with no action. I didn't want to seem ungrateful to HoSuk, however. So I relaxed and let my thoughts wander off the screen. I was, in my mind, in bed with HoSuk. I could see us together, naked, under the sheets. He was whispering something in my ear--the Secret. I couldn't hear his words, but I felt different...enlightened, no longer kept in the dark. There was nothing sexual in my little daydream. It was just the two of us, being together.

I felt HoSuk slip his arm around my shoulders. "Enjoying it?" he whispered into my ear.

"...Enjoying what?"

He laughed at me, kissing my cheek. "The movie."

Oh. Movie. Forgot. I turned my head to him, and caught the sarcastic look behind his laughing eyes. He hated it, too. I grinned at him, not really needing to explain.

He sank down into his seat, pulling me along. He grabbed under one of my thighs, pulling my leg on top of his. I was really confused. Surely he didn t mean to... In the theater...? The armrest between us was poking my ribs painfully. "HoSuk... What are you--?" Not that I didn't want to, but it was a really uncomfortable position.

"Don't you know? This is what the back row is for!"

"Oh..." Sounded strange to me, but what the hell? He was biting my bare shoulder and I liked it. I reached for him and--


"Damn!" HoSuk (another rare moment of swearing) cursed. "Robocop here has just ruined everything."

I could sense the thing scanning us, and the little red light next to its left eye started to flash, showing that it was clearly confused.

Yeah, I thought. You just caught two males making out in a public theater. Bet that just blows your circuits...

Well, needless to say, we were quickly escorted from the premises and asked not to return if we couldn't keep our hands to ourselves. HoSuk told the robotic guard that nobody wanted to see their crummy movie anyway, childishly sticking out his tongue. When he turned back to me, he was smiling. He grabbed my hand and skipped away with me--literally. We spent the afternoon window-shopping and finally had a quick dinner at MacWooJin's.

We heard a lot of noise coming from the living room when we got back. We headed for the lift. It's so different to be free to go where you please whenever you like. My parents would have been worried sick if any one of us had left the house for a few hours by ourselves. It was pretty nice not to have to answer to anyone.

"Now what?" I asked as we stood, some small distance apart, in the glass elevator.

"How do you like video games?"

Video games. I had to think just a bit when the last time I d played one had been. Nintendo practically ran the entertainment world, but it had been probably five years since my last encounter with virtual gloves. "I always used to like Donkey Kong," I replied. It was good exercise to put on the VG and VS (virtual gloves and virtual socks) and pretend to grab hold of the tree branches as you swung across the DV screen.

He made a strange face. "Donkey...? Oh, right! I remember! I had one of those games when I was a kid. But haven't you ever tried a Playstation?"

I looked at him blankly.

"Wow, stop! Hold the lift! Take us to the fifth floor!"

We hopped out on our stop, and I was amazed to see such a marked difference from even there. Everything was metallic and gleaming. He pulled me through the hallway. Our shoes clanked on the metal and I realized how very futuristic everything seemed. There were lights on the floor instead of the ceiling, glowing a soft green. At the end of the hall was a weird vault-like door. HoSuk entered a code into its panel, and it opened up to a black void. I peered in cautiously, but he gave me a hard shove. I heard the vault close behind me. What the...



"I--I can t see you!"

The room exploded in a burst of white light and I had to squint for a moment while my eyes adjusted. Except for a row of strange little leather recliners, the room was empty. HoSuk was standing near a light switch on the other side of the room.

"Better?" he asked, his voice echoing.

I looked up to see a spiraling roof, way above our heads. "What is this place?"

"The game room," he said simply. "And these are Playstations! Have a seat."

I wasn't sure what fun a chair could be, but sat down anyway. The chair leaned back, strapping me in. "What the--"

"Relax! It's not comfortable, but it doesn't need to be." He strapped the goggles to my face and I was gone.

And then I was back...somewhere else. I was suddenly standing on a beach, the waves just a short distance away. Do dae che... I looked all around me, but I was completely, utterly alone. I'd never seen the ocean before, but couldn't bring myself to appreciate it just then. "HoSuk!!!" I screamed, and suddenly he was beside me, appearing from thin air. "HoSuk...? HoSuk, where are we?"

"Technically, we're in my house. But mentally... This is Playstation, a full-body and mind, virtual reality game."

"This," I gestured at the sea, "is a game?"

"Well, you can play games here. We could just as easily be running through a house full of zombies and firing laser weapons. But I thought maybe we'd enjoy this more..."

"Is it...is it real?"

He smiled. "Only to your mind. Nothing will hurt you physically--even if you think you re drowning or something, as long as you make yourself breathe. Think of it as a dream. And don t worry--you re out there on that chair, next to me, and we re safe."

I took off my shoes and socks, walking in a small circle, digging my toes into the soft sand. It felt so real...

He laughed at me, not unkindly. "Have you adjusted yet? You get used to it very quickly, eh?"

"And we can leave whenever we like, right?"

"Of course. Now, what do you want to do?"

"What are the options?"

"We can stay here and talk, just to be alone. Or we can play some of the games. There s an infinite number of possibilities here. Just tell me what you want to do, and we ll do it--anything at all!" He stepped closer and put his hand on my face. "Anything you want...here, your dreams can come true."

I looked about me. It was so peaceful, so romantic. In one direction, the beach stretched on like some endless desert. In another, the ocean waves created the only sound in the world. There was no breeze, no sounds of chirping birds, no clouds. Jut the sun, the sand and the sea...and HoSuk.

I slipped my arms around his waist and put my cheek to his. "Have sex with me."

He hugged me to him, stroking my back. "If you like. But, I'm warning you now, it s not real. You might be disappointed."

It made me angry to hear him say that. How could he? I only wanted to be touched by him. He had made me feel this way, and now he was denying me the one thing that could sate my burning lust? "If this is the only way I can get you to do it, then so be it," I said a little harshly.

He sighed and worked loose of my grasp. He looked at his left wrist at a band that looked almost like a watch. I discovered suddenly that I had one, too. He was pressing some buttons repeatedly, and as he did so the sunlight grew dimmer and dimmer. The sky became a faint purple twilight, and from some unknown source, soft music began to play. He reached out and grabbed my hand, pulling me toward the surf. When we got to the water, he dropped my hand and walked right into the sea. He motioned for me to follow.

I was hesitant. "Is it cold?"

"It's not real."

Cautiously, I stepped in. He was right; it wasn't real. The water's temperature was no different from the air around us--an adjustable feature, of course, but why should we freeze just to feel the water? It did feel wet, however. By the time I reached HoSuk, he was shirtless.

"Take off your clothes. Don't worry about where you're tossing them; they're not really here, anyway."

I found the whole situation rather incredible, but I was so eager to feel his body against mine that I knew nothing else mattered. We were naked, the water up to our waists. His body was gorgeous; how could it not be real? He held his arms open wide and I reached for him. We hugged each other. It was strange. My brain registered the sense of touch, but it felt forced, almost metallic. He began kissing me. I knew that our lips were touching, but it wasn't the kind of touch I'd grown accustomed to--or perhaps dependent on. There was no warmth, no softness. We tried making out for several minutes, but it didn't arouse anything in me the way it normally did.

He could sense I was growing tired of trying, so he had me turn around. "Do you understand this? Do you know what I'm going to do?"

"Yes," I said eagerly, though I was not really quite so sure.

He entered me right then, and began to thrust his body against mine. I could hardly believe it. At last I would know what all the fuss was about! At last I would be able to use all the bottled-up tension inside me. Or so I thought. But after several moments I realized I felt nothing. The physical touch was there, but there was none of that sweet emotion I d been longing for. I wanted more than his sex. I wanted him to love me. This was...hollow. And I wasn't enjoying it a bit.

He stopped as suddenly as he had started. He pulled me out of the water and down onto the sand of the beach, where he continued to touch and kiss my body. God! I couldn t take it anymore. It was like being with some robot. I pushed him off of me roughly, yelling, "Stop!"

He looked at me as if hurt for a moment, then nodded. His eyes flickered off of me as he messed with the dial on his watch. He disappeared. For a second I was afraid again. I hated being alone in that ugly, empty place; a deserted, lonely, haunted island of misery. Come back to me, HoSuk! Come back, or let me out of here!

Suddenly I was blinded by a bright light. I was back in the chair, and HoSuk was standing over me, my goggles in his hands. The seat slowly raised up, my restraints releasing me. I felt strange, as if this world were the fake one.

"Are you okay?" HoSuk asked.

I remembered his cold, clammy body against mine--in mine--and shuddered. I couldn't look at him.

He sighed. "Okay. Let's go."

We went back to his room in silence, not speaking or touching. It was very awkward. We got into his bedroom and stood for a moment facing each other, avoiding eye contact. Finally, just to break the silence, I asked, "What time is it?"

"Eight-thirty," he replied, checking his watch. I think we were both relieved to be talking.

"Really?" Only about twelve minutes had passed, but I could have sworn we d been in that chamber for hours.

"Time passes differently in there. It s easy to lose yourself. A week could be less than a day..." His voice trailed off, sensing my apathy.

I couldn't suppress a shudder. Who'd want to get lost in that frightening world? It hadn t been a pleasant experience for me, and I didn't want to repeat it, ever. If that was what sex felt like, he could keep it!

"Are you cold?" He moved toward me, as if to wrap me in his arms. I backed away. He tried another approach, leaning in to kiss me. I shook my head and turned away. "MinWoo..." He took hold of my hands, but I pried them away. He looked hurt but I'm sure he understood. You look tired. Get some sleep, and I'll see you tomorrow, okay?"

I nodded icily and went silently to my own room, closing the door behind me. I was sad and frightened and angry all at once. I collapsed onto the bed, depressed and frustrated.

He was right. I was disappointed.