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To Seek, To Find, To Know

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When he walked into the room, all eyes turned to him. This was a normal occurrence so Jeongguk wasn’t disturbed as he kept his gaze down and continued on his trip to the elevator to take to the top floor where the Special Agent-in-Charge’s office was located.

 

Two short rasps against the door to alert the agent of his presence and then without waiting for a reply, he entered.

 

“Morning.”

 

“Guk,” the Special Agent-in-Charge sighed, not even needing to look up from his files. As the Special Agent-in-Charge, he was responsible for the organisation of all field agents including Jeongguk and since he was the only person in the whole building who dared to enter this office unannounced like that, the other didn’t even have to bother double-checking. “At least wait for my reply before barging in here. I could have been in the middle of a meeting.”

 

“Nah, don’t worry. I checked your schedule already.”

 

The higher ranked agent sighed again but smiled as he watched Jeongguk make himself at home by casually plopping down on the white couch in the office. Although they were in a work environment, Jeongguk didn’t hesitate to show his playfulness and Jeonghyun, being the good older brother he was, didn’t reprimand him either. Instead, he stood up and joined Jeongguk on the couch. The older brother scanned the younger who was wearing a black 20th Century Boy’s hoodie and blue ripped jeans with his classic Timberlands.

 

“How’re you? I haven’t seen you for a few days and it looks like you already gained more muscle.”

 

“Well if you didn’t lock yourself in here all day maybe you’ll know,” Jeongguk grinned causing the other to pull him into a headlock and ignore the profanities coming from the younger.

 

“Still a brat, I see. How’re Mum and Dad?” Jeonghyun asked, finally letting go of Jeongguk after turning his hair into a mess. The younger had just returned from his trip to Korea and the first thing he did was visit his brother who spent most of his days cooped up in his office.

 

“They’re doing great but you should still go visit them. They miss you.”

 

“I called them yesterday night already. I don’t have the time to fly to Korea and check up on them anymore.”

 

“I know. They understand too, they just get lonely sometimes with both of us over here. Anyways, what did you want to talk about?”

 

“Do you know team BTS?”

 

“The elite team? Who doesn’t know them?’

 

“What do you think about joining them?”

 

“Them as in BTS? That’s your plan? You think I’m good enough?”

 

“Who said you’re not?”

 

“Are you serious? Have you seen the glares people give me for just coming to work? Wasn’t it hard enough to keep my identity a secret for my undercover missions? And now you’re asking me to join BTS?”

 

They were answering each other’s continuous questions with questions but they both seemed to understand just fine. Jeongguk had a close relationship with his family, especially his brother, so when he saw Jeonghyun rising in ranks in the Federal Bureau of Investigation, he also noticed the stress his brother was put through. He joined in hopes of lessening the weight on his brother’s shoulders as his involvement in the FBI allowed Jeonghyun to share some, not so classified, troubles with him. Sometimes, his youthful mind even helped his brother solve several cases as he would perceive the case differently and think in a unique manner.

 

And Jeongguk, being the genius he was, rose quickly and earned a spot as an agent in no time, reducing the gruelling six years of education to a mere three. His brother would call him a gem at times however, this displeased many others as they felt the twenty one year old boy deserved nothing. ‘Connections’ they would spit in his face.

 

“I know and I’m sorry they treat you like that but I think that you’ll work well with BTS. Dongyul left after what happened.”

 

“Oh right, Dongyul. Is he ok?”

 

“He’s… recovering but I don’t think he’ll come back.”

 

Jeongguk nodded. BTS was their strongest team of special FBI supervisory special agents and criminal profilers, put together personally by his brother and they were about the only other people in the FBI that Jeonghyun trusted fully. Everyone knew of Seokjin Kim, the psychologist, Yoongi Min, the technical analyst, Hoseok Jung, the forensic pathologist, Namjoon Kim, the leader and an intelligence analyst, Jimin Park, the behaviour analyst and Taehyung Kim, the geographical profiler and also an intelligence analyst. Dongyul Nam was a surveillance specialist but worked in BTS as a profiler. However an accident left him currently resting at the hospital in a coma.

 

Not many had met the seven of them though, not even Jeongguk, props to his brother who decided that their identity should be kept as discreet as possible. Jeongguk thought they were a perfect team already even with one less member and since he usually only worked as an undercover agent or taking on roles in more tactical operations, he was unsure why his brother felt the need to ask him to join. This plan to move him to the intelligence division will give him the task of handling criminal, cyber, counterterrorism, and counterintelligence activities, all of which he was not confident in.

 

“I don’t think anyone but you wants me on the team so I’m going to have to reject your offer. You might as well ask me to jump into a pit of fire. Also, in case you haven’t realised, I’m only twenty one. And I will kindly remind you, since you seem to have forgotten, that you need to be at least twenty three to become a special agent.” Sassy, yes but getting the point across.

 

“Jeongguk, please. You’re the only person I trust enough.”

 

His brother noticed a hesitation and pushed on. Jeonghyun will always be Jeongguk’s weakness and it was something his brother was immorally exploiting right now but if that’s what it took to get Jeongguk to understand, he’ll play the gamble.

 

“I know the team seems perfect even without Dongyul but trust me when I say, they need you.”

 

Jeongguk still kept his mouth shut and cast his eyes down at his hands.

 

“Please? If you really don’t like it then you can leave but at least give it a try.”

 

“Have you talked to BTS about this yet?”

 

“Not yet.”

 

“What if they’re not keen on having me join the team? What if they look down on me too?”

 

“Then prove to them why you deserve to be where you are right now.”

 

“But-“

 

“Jeongguk, if you say you’re not worthy or anything like that, I will slap you.”

 

The younger brother scrunched up his nose at the empty threat but then nodded.

 

“Fine,” Jeongguk sighed. “But you know you’re going to break the rule by allowing me on the team, right?”

 

“Don’t worry. I’ve already notified the Assistant Director. He applauded my idea and even said you were the perfect choice for the team.”

 

“He did?”

 

“Yeah. With your records and achievements, I highly doubt people who actually bother to notice them will look down on you.”

 

“Thanks,” Jeongguk smiled softly.

 

“Are you fine with me introducing you to them tomorrow?”

 

“Tomorrow?” he screeched.

 

“Yeah? I want you to get to know them before a new case comes in. Don’t tell me you want to back out already,” his brother joked.

 

“No… no, tomorrow’s absolutely fine. Yeah. Tomorrow.”

 

“Don’t be so nervous. They might be the most elite criminal profilers in probably all of US but they’re still humans, you know?”

 

“Right. Of course. I’m not nervous at all. What makes you say that?” Jeongguk said with a nonchalant attitude.

 

“Sure,” his brother laughed and ruffled the younger’s hair.

 

“Are they scary?” Jeongguk asked, barely audible but his brother heard him anyways. He was imagining muscular, mean-faced with a build that could probably send him backwards with just a jab to his chest.

 

“Definitely not,” his brother stated. “Quite the opposite if you ask me. They’re a bunch of goofballs and I’m sure you’ll never get bored around them but when they get started on a case they don’t joke around. Just like you actually. That’s another reason why I think you’re fit for the team.”

 

Jeongguk nodded, storing the knowledge in his brain.

 

“Well since we have that settled, I need to finish all this paperwork,” he said, standing and pointing at the stack of sheets on his desk. “You can stay if you want, just don’t disturb me.”

 

“It’s ok. I’m going to go and enjoy my last few hours of freedom,” Jeongguk said with a fake sniff.

 

“Don’t be so dramatic, Guk,” Jeonghyun said with a roll of his eyes. “You still get holidays as a supervisory special agent.”

 

“Sure,” Jeongguk said sarcastically as we walked towards the door of the office. He’ll get holidays but everyone knows that special agents get called in all the time, especially since they were currently lacking in the workforce. “See you later.”

 

“Mmm, see you later, Guk,” his brother said absentmindedly, already pulling out his phone to text someone before turning his attention back to the files.

 

“I love you.”

 

“Love you too.”

 

When Jeongguk stepped outside, he closed the door gently before speeding out of the building. Why did I agree? Why did I agree? Why did I agree?

 

Now he has even less time to do what a twenty one year old boy is supposed to do at this youthful age. As he walked further and further away from the building, he scanned the area to find something to do and upon spotting a welcoming but unfamiliar café, he walked in. Jeongguk was going to have one last unrushed coffee before probably starting hell.

 

As Jeongguk entered, he realised his misfortune when he was met with a long line that reminded him of the time. 8:00am. Prime time for coffee. Jeongguk groaned as he joined the line and impatiently tapped his foot at the lady at the front who was having trouble deciding between a long black and an espresso.

 

Finally, it was his turn and he placed an order for a café latte with an extra teaspoon of sugar because he felt like he needed it. He took the buzzer from the cashier and went to find a seat but realised all the tables were occupied already. There was only one table in the corner of the café, which had an empty seat, but there was someone sitting there, sipping his coffee and frowning at his phone.

 

The male had his eyes covered by his messily trimmed hair, which was slightly wavy. Much like himself, Jeongguk also noticed that the other had his ears pierced and from the left one hung a long chain. His eyes travelled down and the other was wearing a white dress shirt, buttoned only up to the third button, perfectly accentuating his sharp collarbones and revealing a glimpse of his chest. The aura the male generated was powerful and slightly intimidating and this made Jeongguk hesitate to approach him but he did anyways.

 

“Can… can I sit here?” Jeongguk asked, catching the attention of the other who nodded and immediately wiped the frown off his face.

 

“You look familiar. Have we met?”

 

“I… I don’t think so?”

 

“Why’re you so nervous? It’s cute but I’m not going to bite, you know?”

 

Jeongguk was taken aback out how outspoken the other was but after the exchange of the joke, the male seemed more approachable and friendly so he relaxed in the chair.

 

“Right. Sorry.”

 

The other hummed and turned to face his phone again, unconsciously putting his frown in place again.

 

“Are you ok?” Jeongguk asked tentatively, fearing he would overstep his boundaries. However the other simply smiled and shook his head.

 

“Oh sorry yeah, don’t worry,” he sighed before muttering, “Just work.”

 

“Ah, me too actually.”

 

“Hm?” the other replied, interested.

 

“My br-boss is planning to make me work my ass off,” he joked.

 

“That’s horrible.”

 

“I know right? I’m twenty one. He such let me enjoy my youth to the fullest.”

 

The other’s laugh was as deep as his usual voice and Jeongguk found himself wanting to hear more. The eyes that the other gave Jeongguk had him melting in the intense stare and he gave a shy small smile back.

 

“But more importantly, you’re twenty one? You look five to me,” the other.

 

“Hey! That’s rude,” Jeongguk jokingly pouted. “You don’t look that much older than me.”

 

“Two years actually,” the other said as he lifting up two fingers, leaving Jeongguk sulking again.

 

“What-“ Jeongguk began but his buzzer interrupted their moment. “Wait a second, I’ll be right back.”

 

Jeongguk stood and walked to the counter again and after obtaining his café latte, he walked back to the seat and realised that the other was on his phone again. He was busily texting someone so Jeongguk kept his mouth shut and instead found himself captivated by the other’s features. His eyes roamed over the long eyelashes before travelling to the mole on his nose and Jeongguk could tell that the other was unhappy from the way he creased his eyebrows slightly and pulled his lips into a thin line.

 

“What’s wrong?”

 

“Huh?” the other looked up, almost dropping his phone in the process of being startled at Jeongguk’s presence. “When did you get back? You scared me.”

 

“I scared you? I’ve been sitting here for quite a while now,” Jeongguk laughed.

 

“Sorry, what were you saying?”

 

“Why’re you distracted? You keep frowning. Is something wrong?”

 

“Nothing. It’s just… I’m not really… I don’t want to sound rude but it takes me a while to warm up to people and it doesn’t help when I don’t really like change,” he sighed.

 

“Oh, if I’m making you uncomfortable you can just tell me to leave,” Jeongguk said, slightly heartbroken but respecting the other’s wish.

 

“No! No! It’s not you!” the other exclaimed a bit hurriedly before realising he had just raised his voice and everyone in the café was currently staring at him. He tried to look anywhere but at Jeongguk before saying, “Stay. I don’t know you but you seem nice.”

 

“Seem nice?” Jeongguk teased.

 

“Shut it,” the other said, covering his embarrassed face. “Anyways, I was referring to work. Boss man is nice and all but he’s introducing a new person and I’m worried that we won’t get along.”

 

“Well, I don’t know you either but you seem nice too,” Jeongguk said as the other let out a wide boxy smile. “I honestly can’t imagine you not getting along with anyone.”

 

“Thanks.”

 

Their moment was once again interrupted as the other’s phone rang in his hand and he quickly picked it up. Excusing himself, the elder went outside to continue the call and Jeongguk didn’t really mind. He thought about the other and realised that he didn’t even know his name so he reminded himself to ask.

 

By the time the elder returned, Jeongguk had almost finished his coffee but before he could open his mouth, the other grabbed his jacket off the back of the chair and apologised in a hurry.

 

“I’m really sorry but boss wants to see me now so I’m leaving but here’s my number,” the male said as he pulled out a pen and paper. He scribbled down his number messily and gave it to Jeongguk before nodding and taking his leave. “I hope we meet again.”

 

“Me too,” Jeongguk whispered when the other exited.

 

Finishing his coffee, he pocketed the number and left the café as well. Jeongguk wandered off, trying to find another pastime and realised that he missed the mural villages in Seoul again. The village was one of the places Jeongguk went to in attempts to escape life especially when his job became too much. Having to deal with criminals and dead bodies everyday had robbed Jeongguk of his peace and he often found himself having trouble sleeping but the mural villages offered Jeongguk something he knew he couldn’t have. His parents and the villages were the only two reasons Jeongguk often flew back and forth to Korea.

 

Here in America, there was no such thing as mural villages but there were empty alleys decorated with colourful graffiti that Jeongguk also didn’t mind looking at once in a while. Usually no one roamed those streets, providing the desired atmosphere for Jeongguk to peacefully admire the art.

 

He rounded a few corners until he reached the unfamiliar edge of the town where the walls were filled with the most graffiti. Some drawings were interesting while others were delicate but he made sure not to ignore any of them as ran his eyes over every piece. Jeongguk felt a few bodies shift behind him, not so quietly, and he tensed his whole body, preparing himself for combat.

 

One body lunged at him but before he could dodge and deliver a blow back, the person was knocked flat on the ground. Jeongguk immediately looked over at the person who knocked him out and realised that the male was half a head shorter than him. He frowned as the other people turned to face the shorter male who knocked their friend out.

 

“You messed with the wrong people, shorty,” one of them spat before they all moved to attack him.

 

Jeongguk saw the other chuckle before dodging every single punch and kick sent at him. He had never seen anyone move as gracefully as the person in front of him and soon, the other had defeated all of the hooligans and left them sprawled out unconsciously on the floor while he nonchalantly swiped his nose.

 

“What was that for? I could have handled them.”

 

“You looked kind of distracted,” he grinned. “What’s a kid doing here anyways?”

 

“I’m not a kid. I’m twenty one already,” he huffed as the other laughed a really sweet laugh.

 

“Are you sure?”

 

Jeongguk rolled his eyes and was about to turn around and walk away but the other quickly reached forward and grabbed his bicep.

 

“Sorry, you’re cute to tease but seriously, I’m glad I caught them following you.”

 

“I could’ve handled them,” Jeongguk repeated and caught sight of the curious glint behind the other’s attractive eyes.

 

“Really now?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“Well I’m sorry for getting in your way,” he joked light-heartedly, nodding his head in an insincere apology and he didn’t even realise he still had his hand resting on Jeongguk’s arm.

 

“Where did you learn to fight like that though?”

 

Jeongguk was a meticulous agent and this meant he noticed the other’s slight hesitation before a mutter slipped from his mouth.

 

“Been training for a few years.”

 

However, he was quick to dismiss the other’s change of attitude when the shorter of the two tugged on his arm, pulling him out of the dodgy alleyway and into a busier street.

 

“Come on, let’s get some food. I’m hungry.”

 

Despite Jeongguk’s grumbles of protests complaining that they were just strangers, he let the older boy drag him along, offering little resistance. With the other facing away from him, Jeongguk took his time to observe the veins, which crawled along his hands and arms and only then did he realise that the other’s grip was surprisingly strong for his size. The male felt the eyes on his back and smirked. He had to admit Jeongguk was rather cute but he was too curious for his own good and his job required him to keep secrets.

 

The shorter was tempted to turn around and catch Jeongguk staring at him but they were already nearing a small restaurant so he just pulled Jeongguk faster. Jeongguk looked up and noticed that the exterior of the restaurant read ‘Silver Zekka’ and it radiated classiness with its glass windows but once they were inside, the atmosphere changed to warm and relaxing. The seats were pastel blue leather round sofas which circled around white tables and the whole restaurant was dimly lit with suspended hanging lights that accentuated the calm ambience.

 

“This is a restaurant my friends and I frequent. The owners know all of us now so you don’t need to feel uncomfortable if they stare. They’ll probably be interested in you since the seven of us never bring other people.”

 

Jeongguk nodded but shifted uneasily in his seat as an elderly couple came out from the back and their faces immediately lit up when they saw the other’s face. They both moved to the table to greet him with a hug and Jeongguk decided that the shorter male must be a decent person at least.

 

“Oooh, who’s this?” the woman questioned.

 

“My new friend,” the other smiled and Jeongguk stood up to greet the elderly couple too.

 

“Nice to meet you, I’m-“ Jeongguk began but his introduction was cut short with the other’s phone.

 

The elder looked annoyed as he pulled out his phone out of his pocket but his face completely morphed when he saw the identity of the caller and apologised to the elderly couple and Jeongguk before sliding out the restaurant.

 

“Don’t mind him. Him and his friends are always running off with mysterious calls but what were you saying dear?” the woman asked.

 

“Oh um, my name’s Jeongguk Jeon. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

 

“How polite. I’m Alyson King and he’s Hayden King and the pleasure’s all mine,” she laughed as she shook Jeongguk’s hand.

 

“Would you like to order first?” Mr. King asked.

 

“No, it’s ok. I can wait for him.”

 

“We’ll be at the counter when you’re ready then,” Mrs. King smiled before the couple walked away.

 

Jeongguk smiled to himself. His day was turning out unexpected but he didn’t find himself minding this turn of events. He looked down at the menu and his mouth started to drool as his stomach reminded him of its emptiness. The breakfast menu was extravagant and Jeongguk couldn’t help wishing to try everything. I’ll definitely have to come back here.

 

He was interrupted by the other rushing in and apologising yet again.

 

“Hey, I’m really sorry. I know I invited you here but I have to leave. Something came up but I promise I’ll take you out for a meal some other time. I’m so so sorry. I’ll see you later?”

 

With that the other ran out leaving a speechless and baffled Jeongguk sitting in his seat wondering how they was going to contact him again without even exchanging numbers, names or anything.

 

Jeongguk frowned and fiddled with his fingers, unsure if he should order or just leave. His thoughts were distracted again as a tall, slim male entered carrying an authoritative wave of air with him. He was wearing black frame glasses which made him look ten times smarter and a white shirt clung desperately to his chest whilst a grey knee length cardigan covered his arms and shoulders. An unnecessary belt accessorised his plain black pants but Jeongguk noticed the length of the male’s legs and thought he was a model due to the perfect proportions. Jeongguk also considered him undeniably attractive but was quick to tilt his head down again, pretending to find the menu interesting, when the male proceeded to look around the room.

 

From the corner of his eye, he saw the customer walk towards the owners, give them a hug before conversing about something. Without even having to look, Jeongguk could feel the elders point at him and then the male nodded and thanked them.

 

He feigned surprise when the long legged male walked over and tapped the desk to grab his attention. When Jeongguk lifted his head up, he was greeted with a charming dimple smile and he found himself unable to not smile back.

 

“My friend bumped into me as he was leaving and told me to find you and apologise.” He must be one of that guy’s six friends.

 

“Oh ugh, it’s fine. It seemed urgent.”

 

“Have you ordered?”

 

Jeongguk shook his head in reply.

 

“Here, allow me,” the other spoke eloquently before taking the menu from Jeongguk with his long slender fingers. “If this is your first time here, I recommend this and this.”

 

“Sure,” Jeongguk shrugged and the other left to order for the both of them.

 

“So, how did you guys meet?” he asked when he returned.

 

“He kind of, not actually, saved me from a bunch of guys that were going to attack me in a lonely alleyway.”

 

“’Kind of, not actually?’” the other questioned with a quirk of the eyebrow and a smile playing at his lips.

 

“Yeah, I could’ve defended myself just fine.”

 

The other laughed, finding Jeongguk’s determined expression endearing.

 

“What?” Jeongguk asked when he noticed the other staring at him.

 

“Nothing, I can see why he took a liking in you. You’re cute.”

 

“I’m not cute,” he grumbled.

 

“Sorry, my mistake. You’re adorable?”

 

Jeongguk glared at the other male but this only caused him to laugh again.

 

“What were you doing in a ‘lonely alleyway’ in the first place?”

 

“Admiring the graffiti?”

 

“The what?”

 

“Graffiti,” Jeongguk nodded firmly and the other male flashed his dimple smile again.

 

“You should be careful. Kids need to play in safer places.”

 

“I’m not a kid,” Jeongguk said with a really serious expression that failed to reach its purpose of convincing the elder he wasn’t a child.

 

“Sure,” the other laughed.

 

“Anyways,” Jeongguk sighed. There was a question he was dying to ask and now that he felt slightly more comfortable around the elder, he didn’t hold back asking, “Are you a model?”

 

The other choked on the cup of water he was downing and accidentally sprayed Jeongguk’s face with a combination of water and spit, making the younger scrunch up his nose.

 

“Hey!” Jeongguk complained as he tried to blink the water out of his eyes. “What was that for?”

 

“Oh my god, I’m so sorry,” the other apologised as he laughed and reached over to wipe Jeongguk’s face with the sleeve of his cardigan. “But please don’t say things like that.”

 

“If you don’t like what I say, next time shut me up in a different way please.”

 

The other raised both eyebrows and smirked as Jeongguk quickly caught on his own words.

 

“I… t-that’s not what I mean,” he stuttered, face growing incredibly redder by the minute. Jeongguk prayed that maybe someone would also call him right now and save him from the embarrassment.

 

“All good. I’m just teasing.”

 

It took Jeongguk more than a few moments to recover from his flustered state but thankfully the other didn’t question and took the courtesy to immerse himself in his phone. When Jeongguk was ready, he returned to the subject.

 

“If you’re not a model, what do you do then?”

 

“Classified,” the other smiled, looking up from his phone.

 

“Fair enough,” Jeongguk shrugged and let it go. They weren’t close friends or even friends to put it so if the other wasn’t willing to tell him, Jeongguk was going to respect that.

 

Before either could say anything, Mrs. King carried over a tray of small toasted sandwiches, sausages, sunny side up eggs, bacon and baked beans to lie neatly on the table.

 

“Thank you,” they said in unison and the elderly woman nodded before scurrying to the kitchen again.

 

The other handed a knife and fork to Jeongguk and the latter returned a favour by handing him serviettes. As Jeongguk helped his fork to a piece of sausage, Mr. King approached them with a tray of buttery pancakes and fruit, laying them next to the other food.

 

“On the house,” he smiled and they thanked him as well.

 

“How many times do you guys come here?” Jeongguk asked, astonished by the couple’s kindness.

 

“Enough,” the other laughed. “We used to come here more but work gets in the way. We’re required to travel a lot so we only visit when we’re in town.”

 

“Wow, I would hate that.”

 

“You get used to it.”

 

“It must suck,” Jeongguk said, imagining himself having to constantly travel.

 

“Not really. As long as we’re all together, everything becomes tolerable.”

 

“That must be nice.”

 

Jeongguk stopped talking and his nerves came back again at the thought of joining a new team tomorrow. Would I fit in? What if they don’t like me? What if they kick me out? What if-

 

“Are you ok?” the other asked when he realised that Jeongguk stopped eating entirely.

 

“Yeah, I’m just… nervous? I’m kind of starting a new job tomorrow and I’m worried.”

 

“Well, if you do what you always did, you’ll get what you always got.”

 

“And is that bad?”

 

“Depends if you were satisfied with what you got in the past,” the other shrugged. “Sometimes people are afraid to move on from their past but you shouldn’t be afraid to try something new. If you don’t, how will you grow?”

 

“Why do you sound so convincing?” Jeongguk groaned and the other smiled.

 

“I’m just saying, don’t worry so much. It’s a misuse of your imagination.”

 

“I don’t even want to think about what that means so I’m just going to nod.”

 

The other laughed and ruffled his hair before shoving a piece of bacon at Jeongguk’s mouth and forcing him to eat.

 

“See? That wasn’t that hard, was it? Now eat,” he ordered.

 

Jeongguk didn’t know why he immediately complied, picking up his fork to eat another piece of bacon, but he felt so much lighter after the talk.

 

“Do you think you’ll be ok later? I need to do some things at work.”

 

“I’m not a child,” Jeongguk rolled his eyes.

 

“Right, I seem to have forgotten,” the other teased and Jeongguk had to hold himself back from punching the other.

 

When they were done, they split the bill and the other was on his way after waving at Jeongguk.

 

Jeongguk sighed. He couldn’t muster enough courage to even ask for the other’s name and now, he was deeply regretting it but it was too late. He was long gone. Jeongguk berated himself for letting the other slip past him but tomorrow was still on his mind and even though the elder was so good at convincing him that he should embrace the endless possibilities, Jeongguk wasn’t sure if he was ready to take this opportunity to move on. He looked around and decided to take his mind of work and the male with a stroll through the local department store.

 

He walked past many stores but nothing in particular caught his eye so he turned to leave but as he distractedly sauntered back to the entrance, a young girl no more than the age of five ran straight into him and she consequently toppled over. Jeongguk looked down in shock at the child who was rubbing her head and frowning at the hard wall she just ran into which happened to be Jeongguk’s legs. He smiled at her before bending down to dust her dress off and picking her up into his arms.

 

“Are you ok? Are you hurt? Where’s your mother?” Jeongguk asked as he rubbed the girl’s head for her but her mother suddenly appeared.

 

“I’m so sorry. Soojin, apologise to the gentleman,” a tired looking woman sighed, struggling to hold the shopping bags in her arms.

 

“It’s ok,” Jeongguk said and realised that there were three other children hiding behind the mother. When the girl he was holding wrapped her arms around his neck and smiled cheekily, he turned back to the mother and asked, “Would you like some help?”

 

“That’ll be great but I don’t want to bother you.”

 

“No, it’s fine. I have nothing to do anyways.”

 

“Do you mind helping me take them home? We only live a few streets away from here.”

 

“Sure,” Jeongguk smiled before taking more than half of bags from the woman’s arms without letting go of the girl who was now close to falling asleep in his arms.

 

Jeongguk followed the mother closely as she ushered her other kids to cross the roads at the right time and turn the right street corners. The girl he was hugging was drooling on his shoulder but Jeongguk simply smiled and held onto her tighter.

 

When they arrived at an apartment complex, the woman gave Jeongguk an apologetic look before fumbling for her key card and allowing them access to enter. Jeongguk looked around to make sure her three little ducklings were following and helped steer back one of the children, who had decided he wanted to follow a butterfly, with a gentle push to his back. The energetic child smiled up at Jeongguk like he had been guiltily caught in the act and Jeongguk couldn’t help laughing and ruffling the boy’s hair as he grabbed onto Jeongguk’s jeans.

 

They took the elevator to the fifth floor and he followed the woman into a room on the right hand side of the corridor. She quickly took the bags from Jeongguk’s arms and set them down on the table before convincing the younger to stay for a cup of tea at least because she felt bad for troubling him. He sat down slowly on the couch, trying to not disturb the sleeping child and the woman returned with a warm cup of tea, which she placed on the coffee table in front of him.

 

“I’m really sorry about Soojin. She didn’t sleep well last night.”

 

“That’s ok. I’m glad she’s getting some rest now,” Jeongguk said as he gently patted Soojin’s back.

 

“I can’t thank you enough for helping. These children can be a handful sometimes.”

 

“It’s fine really. I love children and yours are so well mannered and adorable,” Jeongguk smiled and the mother smiled back proudly.

 

“Would you like to stay for lunch?”

 

“It’s ok. I don’t want to disturb you. It seems like you have enough mouths to feed already,” Jeongguk laughed as one of the boys’ screams rippled through their home.

 

“I insist,” she said. “I don’t know how I would’ve managed by myself.”

 

As Jeongguk thought about her offer, there was a noise at the front door and another male entered. The first thing that caught Jeongguk’s attention was the other’s nose. It was so straight and perfect. The male was wearing a tight, striped shirt paired with loose grey slacks, which were severely wrinkled.

 

“You’re back? I didn’t expect you so soon.”

 

“Hi aunt Youngmi. I’ll probably be gone again soon though,” the male sighed as he took off his shoes and walked into the lounge, where Jeongguk was currently sitting with Soojin drooling on his chest. “Who’s this?”

 

“He helped me bring the kids and the shopping back home.”

 

Jeongguk waved awkwardly at the other but when Soojin stirred in his arms, he stopped instantly and moved to softly pat the child again. The male looked hesitantly at his aunt but she just smiled and turned her attention back to Jeongguk.

 

“She must really like you.”

 

He rubbed the back of his head and voiced his thanks and she scurried off to make lunch.

 

“So…” the other male started, making no movements to join Jeongguk on the couch. “Who’re you? What do you want? Why did you follow my aunt home?”

 

Jeongguk looked up in shock, not expecting to hear such hostile questions thrown at him but he was disturbed. He was merely doing a favour for a poor lady so he hadn’t come to receive such treatment from her nephew.

 

“If you don’t like me, I can leave,” he said, getting up from the couch, Soojin still grabbing tightly onto him in her sleep.

 

However, the aunt must have overheard their conversation because she rushed back into the lounge to scold her nephew, hitting him once over the head with a ladle.

 

“Don’t be so rude. He’s not a criminal. Stop treating everyone like criminals.”

 

The nephew pouted as he rubbed the sore bump on his head and turned around to apologise to Jeongguk.

 

“I’m sorry for being rude. You have to be careful these days. Never know what motives someone has.”

 

“Don’t worry about it. If I went home and found a strange man hugging my cousin, I would probably tell him to piss off too.”

 

The other laughed at his statement and gestured for Jeongguk to sit again.

 

“You look young. Are you in university?” the nephew asked.

 

“Nah, I graduated already.”

 

“Really? How old are you? You look younger than twenty.” Not again.

 

“I’m twenty one actually. You?”

 

“Twenty four.”

 

Jeongguk hummed in acknowledgement but the arrival of the other three children broke their conversation.

 

“You’re back,” one of them said excitedly before throwing himself at the other male.

 

“Yes I am,” the nephew laughed as he picked up the boy and threw him in the air before catching him and giving him a kiss on the cheek.

 

“How long are you staying this time?”

 

“I don’t know,” he sighed. “I might be leaving again soon. I’m sorry.”

 

The other girl and boy climbed onto him as he sat down again and Jeongguk watched in amusement as the nephew struggled to handle the three children.

 

“Don’t be sorry. You have to catch all the bad guys. You’re our superhero,” the girl whispered.

 

Jeongguk’s heart flipped at that and he noticed that the other male was trying to hide his tears.

 

“I’m glad I can be your hero,” he said, hugging the kids before letting them run wild again.

 

“’Catch all the bad guys?’ Are you a police officer?”

 

“Something like that,” the other nodded and Jeongguk finally realised why he was so tense when he saw Jeongguk.

 

“Lunch is ready!” they heard the aunt call from the kitchen and the nephew stood up first before telling Jeongguk to follow him to the dining room.

 

Jeongguk carried Soojin with him and managed to sit down at the table without alerting the child at all. The aunt smiled and walked to Jeongguk’s side to take the sleeping girl away so that he could eat. Soojin struggled at first but after some coaxing from Jeongguk, she reluctantly let go and crawled into her mother’s embrace, falling promptly back asleep again.

 

The nephew watched the fond exchange and finally relaxed. Even though he knew nothing about the younger, his bunny teeth and smile wrinkles around his doe eyes were something he wouldn’t mind getting used to seeing. The twenty one year old also radiated positive energy of enthusiasm, trust and loyalty which made the younger actually seem his age. If Soojin liked him so much, he was willing to give the younger a chance as well.

 

The other three children ran noisily into the dining room and Jeongguk and the nephew helped them climb into their places on the table. The boy who had charged at the nephew was also the one who had nearly run off with the butterfly outside the building and he now walked over to Jeongguk and latched himself onto the adult. Jeongguk smiled before picking up the child and placing him on his thighs. The kid smiled like he was victorious and reached for his plate of food, which Jeongguk had just pulled over for him.

 

“What’s your name?” Jeongguk asked.

 

“Daeho.”

 

“That’s a really nice name.”

 

Daeho grinned shyly and nearly slid his plate off the table but Jeongguk quickly caught it and pushed it back so it sat safely. The other noticed Jeongguk’s reflexes and narrowed his eyes slightly but he remembered that his aunt had already deemed the younger ‘not a criminal’ so he let it go.

 

“Do you have siblings?” the nephew asked.

 

“Just an older brother.”

 

“You’re really good with children. Daeho is usually really shy with strangers and Soojin doesn’t just fall asleep anywhere.”

 

“Oh,” Jeongguk replied dumbly as he rubbed the back of his neck again.

 

“You must really like kids,” the male smiled.

 

“Yeah. Nothing in this world is as pure as a child’s smile and love,” Jeongguk said with a smile himself.

 

The other nodded in agreement and they went back to eating while looking after the messy children who were now arguing with one another. It was taking a while for them to get the kids to settle down but when the nephew raised his voice, they stuck their tongues out at each other before going back to their lunch.

 

“I’m sorry you had to witness that. I don’t usually get angry.”

 

“That’s ok. You look cool when you do,” Jeongguk accidentally let slip.

 

“Do I?”

 

Jeongguk noticed the lift of tone in the other’s amused voice and quickly played it off.

 

“Yeah. You kind of remind me of my brother when he used to scold me,” he tried to say calmly.

 

The other didn’t lose his entertained smirk as he chuckled.

 

When they finished their lunch, Jeongguk thanked the aunt and turned to leave but she stopped him and forced her nephew to send their guest out. The nephew shrugged and led Jeongguk to the elevators and even got in with him.

 

“Hey, about earlier. I’m really sorry for being so rude. You’re a really nice guy and I shouldn’t have been so prejudiced against you.”

 

“That’s ok.”

 

“You should stop by again, I think my aunt, Soojin and Daeho will love that.”

 

“Sure,” Jeongguk smiled.

 

The elevator dinged as it stopped on the ground floor level and Jeongguk nodded at the other before taking his leave. He had wasted half of his day already by his accidental meetings but who was Jeongguk to say he didn’t like it.

 

He smiled at the ground, dreaming in his own world, as he walked in no particular direction but a basketball obstructed his path and he stumbled ungracefully to avoid slipping on it. When Jeongguk gathered himself again, he looked up and heard someone snicker before they ran up to him.

 

“I’m sorry. You good?”

 

“Yeah, it’s fine. Don’t worry.”

 

“Do you play?” the other asked as he bent down and picked the ball up with one hand. Jeongguk noticed his skin was really pale, a contrast to his dark attire but brushed it off to answer the other’s question.

 

“Not really.”

 

“Want to join?”

 

“Huh?” Jeongguk frowned. “It’s ok. I don’t want to get in your way.”

 

“Nah come on,” the male said and placed the unoccupied hand on Jeongguk’s back, pushing him in the direction of the courts.

 

“Are you sure?”

 

“Yeah, I was just practicing by myself anyways.”

 

“Ok.”

 

“We’ll play one on one. Do you know what check is?”

 

Jeongguk nodded and the other threw the ball at him.

 

“You start,” the shorter male said as he walked to the top of the key and Jeongguk took his position outside the three point line.

 

Jeongguk bounced the ball to the male who bounced it back to him to indicate the start of the game. Jeongguk had to admit he wasn’t the best at basketball but he still knew how to dribble and thus his double crossover left the other male somewhat startled. Using the other’s shock to his utmost advantage, he smirked and ran past him to score a quick lay-up.

 

“I thought you didn’t play?”

 

“Yeah, I haven’t touched a ball in years,” Jeongguk stated before tucking the ball under his arm. “Whose ball?”

 

“Winner’s,” the other said and gestured for Jeongguk to move back to his starting position.

 

Again, Jeongguk checked the ball and the next round began. He dribbled slowly at first to keep his eyes on the other male and watch for any movements. Jeongguk saw the other advancing and instinctively held out an arm-bar. The shorter of the two lifted an eyebrow in interest and nodded before moving back a distance.

 

Jeongguk saw him back away and took this chance to try his luck again. He stood up and shot the ball at the hoop, grin only coming out when he heard the swish sound.

 

“Three pointer!” he exclaimed whilst jumping up and down like a child given ice cream.

 

The other smiled affectionately when Jeongguk did another few whoops to celebrate his shot and as the taller turned to face him with his large, curious eyes, he decided that he was going to let him win.

 

“Let’s do loser’s ball,” Jeongguk smiled, not mockingly but rather fondly.

 

“If you don’t mind,” the other shrugged before lying, “I’m a bit rusty.”

 

Jeongguk kept the smile on his face as they checked and he tried to suppress his competitive devil side down. The thin and probably older boy was dribbling cautiously and as he approached Jeongguk, the younger reached to try snatch the ball away however, the other was quicker and after an in and out dribble, he had passed Jeongguk’s defence and headed to the hoop. Jeongguk chased after him and caught the rebound of the missed shot and he dribbled the ball outside the three point line again.

 

The older pretended to be nonplussed that he had missed but turned his head away from Jeongguk to hide the smirk that he accidentally let out instead. After he let Jeongguk score a few more points, he waved for the younger to join in him in lying on the floor.

 

“How do you have so much energy?”

 

“Why do you have none already?”

 

“Don’t be a brat.”

 

“Maybe you’re just getting old,” Jeongguk teased and laid down next to the older only to receive a punch on his arm. He whined and rubbed the sore area, forgetting to be surprised that the other’s punch was actually strong enough for Jeongguk to feel pain.

 

“Deserved.”

 

Jeongguk rolled his eyes before closing them. The spring sun was nice to bathe in and he found himself almost drifting off defencelessly, ignoring all his training to be alert with strangers he had went through in order to become an agent. Truthfully, he forgot that he was even lying next to someone until a shadow covered his face. Forcing his eyelids open, he saw the other holding up a hand to shade him from the sun but looking off in the distance and acting like he didn’t really care.

 

“Thanks,” Jeongguk smiled.

 

The other turned around in surprise when Jeongguk spoke and the younger sat up.

 

“I thought you were asleep.”

 

“Don’t always trust everything you see. I mean you look mean and unapproachable but who knew who actually had such a soft side?”

 

“Shut up,” the other said, pushing Jeongguk’s chest back.

 

The younger, who had turned and was now completely absorbed in observing the patterns the clouds made in the sky, did not see the hand move towards his chest, resulting in him falling onto his elbow on the rough asphalt.

 

“Shit, are you ok? I didn’t mean to push you so hard.”

 

The other grabbed Jeongguk and pulled him upright before quickly looking at his elbow and brushing the rocks and dirt away to reveal the reddened patch of skin. He sighed in relief when he realised that the younger wasn’t bleeding and sat back down, without letting go of his arm. Jeongguk was stunned as he intently watched the other gently rub the area he had landed on.

 

“I’m not that fragile,” Jeongguk pouted.

 

“Sorry… I just… don’t want to hurt another person.”

 

Jeongguk smiled as the other was having trouble finding his words but didn’t notice that the elder’s attitude was shifting strangely. He also happened to miss the ‘another’ but to be fair, he was distracted by the other’s gentleness.

 

“Don’t worry. This isn’t even a scratch,” Jeongguk said, remembering the countless knives that have found their way to his body in his missions and that one bullet wound that he had obtained when his undercover identity was revealed by a traitor. For the sake of the other’s sanity though, Jeongguk will leave out the part about his bullet scar as he continued to convince the other that he was fine, “I mean once you’ve been stabbed by a knife, nothing really hurts that much.”

 

“Yeah… you realise how easy it is to have life taken away from you,” the other nodded as he let go Jeongguk’s arm.

 

“Scars you for a while,” Jeongguk nodded.

 

“Wait, you’ve been stabbed by a knife before?”

 

“A while back, yeah.”

 

“I’m sorry you had to experience that at your age.”

 

“Don’t worry. It was my choice.”

 

“You asked someone to stab you?”

 

“No,” Jeongguk huffed childishly before pausing to find an excuse about being stabbed. “I-“

 

“Just messing with you,” the other laughed as he cut Jeongguk off. “You don’t have to tell me if it’s going to bring back unpleasant memories.”

 

“Not that unpleasant. I would just prefer to not experience that again.”

 

“Same.”

 

“How did you get stabbed?”

 

“I got into a fight.”

 

“Because you lost after you challenged them to basketball match?”

 

The other looked at Jeongguk in shock. No one had dared to talk to him like the younger did. Not even his boss. At this thought, he burst into laughter and Jeongguk found it contagious as he laughed back. The gummy smile that the elder displayed was something Jeongguk did not expect to see but now that he had witnessed it, he wished the other would wear it more often.

 

“How’re you not dead yet?” the other asked.

 

“Who would kill someone as cute as me?” Jeongguk joked as he placed his hands under his chin and struck a flower pose.

 

The elder spluttered and had to control himself from reaching over and squeezing the younger’s cheeks while the other was completely oblivious to his internal debate.

 

After they got lost in time, spending the day talking on the courts, dusk had almost fallen and the elder dragged the younger with him to eat. He told Jeongguk that he was supposed to meet a friend but had forgotten so they headed over the friend’s house, Jeongguk only agreeing because the other promised that his friend was a great cook.

 

When they arrived at the apartment, the elder let them in by entering the code to his friend’s home whilst Jeongguk politely turned his head away. They heard a clatter of pots and pans from the kitchen and the elder led Jeongguk to the source of noise.

 

“Oh hey. Where’re the others? Did you get called in yet?”

 

“No.”

 

“Who’s this?” the really handsome friend asked, turning off the stove.

 

“A friend. Met him near the courts,” the other shrugged before he gestured for Jeongguk to wait for them in the lounge. “Sorry, can you stay by yourself for a while? We need to talk about something.”

 

“That’s fine. Take your time, I’m the one intruding,” Jeongguk said before glancing one last time at the friend and leaving the room.

 

“He’s so cute and sweet,” the friend said when Jeongguk was gone and the other nodded. “Anyways, have you talked to boss yet?”

 

“No but I saw his text this morning. Who’s joining our team?”

 

“I don’t know. He didn’t tell us anything. And there’s another case he wants us to take after we meet him or her tomorrow.”

 

“Another one? We just got back from the one in Ohio and there’s already another case?”

 

“Yeah, he’s called most of us in to talk about it already. I think he’s going to call you soon so maybe you should leave first.”

 

“Are you ok with staying with the kid?”

 

“I’m a psychologist, remember? I think I know how to look after people better than you,” the friend said, causing the other to roll his eyes.

 

“Ok, don’t scare him.”

 

“I’ll try not to.”

 

“I’m joking, he’ll surprise you,” the other smirked before they both headed to the lounge where Jeongguk was scrolling through his phone.

 

“Hey kid, I need to go out but you can stay for dinner if you want. You really need to try his cooking,” the other said as he patted his friend’s shoulder.

 

“Ok. Be careful, it’s getting late,” Jeongguk replied and the other rolled his eyes.

 

“Don’t tease my friend too much. He’s sensitive,” the other laughed as he dodged his friend who raised an arm to whack him.

 

With that, the other waved to Jeongguk and strolled out of the apartment. Jeongguk smiled at the other two’s interactions and without knowing it himself, he developed a liking for the friend too.

 

The friend looked at Jeongguk and could tell the younger was relaxed from the way he sat on the couch. Body language was more powerful than words and it never lied. He could also see the hint of mischief in Jeongguk’s eyes and he smiled at the thought of the younger testing his friend’s patience.

 

“You’re not scared of him?”

 

“Why would I be? He’s so nice.”

 

“Nice? Him?” the friend asked, pointing at the door the other had exited from.

 

“Mhm.”

 

“I’m not sure we’re looking at the same person. He’s the grumpiest grandpa I know.”

 

“That is kind of true too.”

 

“I can’t believe he lets you tease him. If I did, he would probably knock my head off even though I’m older.”

 

“Really? You look younger than him.”

 

“All my friends tease me because I’m the oldest.”

 

“How old is ‘oldest’?”

 

“Twenty six.”

 

“Maybe you just have really young friends,” Jeongguk shrugged while the other laughed and patted his head.

 

“Let’s go eat. I cooked for my other friends but I think they’re all running late so let’s dig in first.”

 

“Ok,” Jeongguk replied happily, following the elder to the dining room. This was the second meal he was treated to in one day and Jeongguk felt slightly apologetic for troubling the random strangers.

 

“Don’t worry, we usually can’t finish so much food by ourselves,” the elder said, sensing Jeongguk’s discomfort. “Do you want a cup of water?”

 

“Yes please.”

 

When the friend returned with a glass of water he encouraged Jeongguk to try his dishes while he waited for the reaction.

 

“This is so good,” Jeongguk said, stuffing his face with a variety of food.

 

“Eat slower. You’re going to choke,” the friend laughed.

 

Jeongguk looked up at the elder and grinned before continuing to eat.

 

“Why do you look like you haven’t eaten in days? The food’s not going to disappear you know.”

 

“It might,” Jeongguk laughed as he glanced at the elder’s stomach.

 

“Hey, I’m not the one demolishing all the food right now.”

 

“But you just look like you have a pretty big appetite,” Jeongguk said and realised he was spot on when the other pulled a petulant face.

 

“Nothing like a growing kid’s.”

 

“Are you referring to me?”

 

“Maybe.”

 

“I’m not a kid,” Jeongguk sulked.

 

“You’re like what? Fifteen?”

 

“Twenty one actually.”

 

“Don’t lie,” the psychologist said even though he knew the younger wasn’t.

 

He just wanted to see the younger pout adorably and the elder smiled when he got what he wanted.

 

“I’m joking,” he laughed. “Would you like some dessert?”

 

“You made dessert too?”

 

“Yeah, French cheesecake,” he said as he went to the fridge and pulled out the cheesecake.

 

“You should open a restaurant,” Jeongguk recommended.

 

“I’ll consider it when I retire,” he laughed.

 

Jeongguk watched as the elder cut the cake into ten slices and then move one of the larger pieces onto a separate plate before handing it to the younger. He took the cake eagerly but paused and looked up at the elder.

 

“You’re not going to try some?”

 

“Maybe later when my friends come home but don’t let that stop you. I want to know how it tastes.”

 

The younger nodded, cut off a bit of the slice with his fork and placed it in his mouth. He groaned as the smooth and creamy texture complimented the crumbly graham crust, altogether producing a rich taste that seemed slightly decadent. Jeongguk gave a thumbs up to the elder and devoured the rest of the cheesecake in less than five minutes while the other sat, satisfied at his own creation.

 

“Are you sure you don’t want to try some?” Jeongguk asked when the elder passed him another slice. “It’s really good.”

 

The psychologist shrugged but then opened his mouth and Jeongguk flushed, quite attractively the other thought, before feeding the elder a bit of the cheesecake. When the elder flashed him a smile and a nod in appreciation of his own dessert, Jeongguk looked down and quietly finished the rest of the cake.

 

Soon, they were both bursting with food and the other invited him to the lounge again where they sat and chatted, one waiting for his friends to come eat their dinner while the other was just simply enjoying the company.

 

“Do you have a girlfriend?”

 

“Boyfriend and no,” Jeongguk laughed. “You have a girlfriend?”

 

“My job’s too busy,” the elder said casually and Jeongguk was surprised that the other was unaffected with his sexuality before the elder also added, “But also boyfriend.”

 

“Oh.”

 

“Yeah,” he said before flashing a grin to the younger.

 

“So what’s your job?”

 

“I’m a psychologist.”

 

“Interesting. Can you read my mind?”

 

“Just because I’m a psychologist, doesn’t mean I can read your mind,” the elder sighed, rubbing his temples.

 

“I know. I’m joking. I heard psychologists hate it when people ask them that question.”

 

The elder eyed Jeongguk with baleful intensity but the glare quickly disappeared when the younger started laughing. Jeongguk opened his mouth to slip another cheeky remark however, this time, it was actually his phone that rang and interrupted their conversation. Realising that it was his brother, he picked up in a record-breaking time.

 

“Hey, what’s up? … Yeah, I ate already. … No, I’m at a friend’s house. Are you still in your office? … You’re coming home? … Ok, I’ll be home soon then. … Bye. … I love you too,” Jeongguk said before hanging up.

 

“Who was that?”

 

“My brother,” Jeongguk said with the widest grin the other had ever seen the younger give. “He rarely comes home these days because he’s so busy with work.”

 

“Do you need a ride home?”

 

“It’s ok. I’ve bothered you enough already,” Jeongguk said as he hopped up and headed to the door. “Thank you for the meal and tell gramps I said bye.”

 

“Sure,” the elder replied and stood up to walk Jeongguk to the door.

 

At the door, Jeongguk gifted the elder his usual bunny smile before skipping to the elevators. After he stepped outside, he peered around to figure out where he was and then walked to his right, hoping that it was the correct direction. The streets were illuminated by the lampposts which stood an equal distances along the footpath and looking up, he noticed the faint lingering lilac in the sky which were slowly fading into the darkness. He dropped his hands into the pockets of his hoodie as he strolled into a familiar neighbourhood.

 

When Jeongguk entered the house, he took off his shoes before looking around. Seeing the light in the family room on, he headed through the corridors in that direction. Their house was really warming in its monochromatic colour scheme of cream and beige with slight touches of black. In their family room sat a cream linen U-shaped sectional sofa, which ran around the vast majority of the room. The cushions had decorative patterns, in fawn, colouring the white background and in the middle of the sofa was a dark brown coffee table. The only two objects, which accessorised the cream walls, were the television that was built into the wall and a family photo inside a matte black frame. The floor was also covered with a beige polyester carpet and to sum it all up, this was the place Jeongguk felt most comfortable at.

 

Walking into the family room, his brother was already sitting in the middle of the sofa but the younger saw that he wasn’t resting. Rather, Jeonghyun had various files scattered messily on the table while he was flipping through one. His long sleeves were rolled up, his tie was loosened, his shirt was untucked and his hair wasn’t nearly as organised as Jeongguk had witnessed in the morning. The elder didn’t notice his brother returning home, distracted by his work in front of him. Jeonghyun wore a frown as he wrote something on a sticky note before adding it to the file and throwing it onto the pile. Before Jeonghyun could pick up another one, Jeongguk approached his brother.

 

“You should take a break,” Jeongguk said, dropping onto the sofa and resting his head on his brother’s lap.

 

“Oh, you’re back.”

 

“Mhm, what were you reading?”

 

“A case file.”

 

“Do you need some help?”

 

“It’s ok. You should go wash up.”

 

“Says you,” Jeongguk grinned, messing up his brother’s hair more. “But really, let me help. I didn’t join the FBI for you to still push me away.”

 

“I know but I’m having your team take on a new case tomorrow so I think you should go get some rest.”

 

“A new case? Tomorrow? I thought you wanted me to get to know them first.”

 

“That’s what I planned originally but I got a call from the Police Department in Oklahoma City. They need our help.”

 

“Can’t you reject them?” Jeongguk groaned before holding up his index finger. “Actually don’t answer that, I know it was a stupid question.”

 

His brother laughed and raked his hand through the younger’s hair.

 

“So whose house were you at?”

 

“I don’t know. Friend’s friend.”

 

“You didn’t even ask for his name?”

 

“I was too busy being amazed at his cooking I forgot to ask.”

 

“You’re a terrible agent.”

 

“Shut up. He seemed harmless. Also can you believe this?” Jeongguk said suddenly sitting up. “I had a midget rescue me today. Well not exactly rescue because I was ready to fight them myself but he came and just knocked them out before I could even deliver a blow. And then there was this other stranger who called me five. Five! He was sixteen years off.”

 

“Wait who were you going to fight?” his brother frowned, ignoring all of Jeongguk’s other complaints.

 

“Some random people who were trying to sneak up on me in the alleyway but that’s not important. They called me a kid! How ridiculous!”

 

“Guk, I told you not to go wandering in the alleyways. They’re dangerous.”

 

“I know. I know. Heard you the first hundred times. Don’t you ever get tired of telling me off?” Jeongguk joked.

 

“Not if it concerns your safety. Guk, please. I don’t like getting calls from the hospital,” his brother said and when Jeongguk went silent, he carried on lecturing his brother. “Haven’t you put me through enough this lifetime?”

 

“Getting injured while doing my job doesn’t count,” Jeongguk pouted and flopped down again to rest his head against his brother’s leg.

 

“BTS will be safer. You won’t have as many operations.”

 

Jeongguk looked up at his brother who had already returned to reading another file.

 

“Tell me the truth. That’s the real reason you want me to join BTS, isn’t it?”

 

“Maybe,” Jeonghyun laughed.

 

“But you realise I’ll be dealing with psychopaths, right? I’m not really sure that’s better.”

 

“At least I can keep track of your whereabouts at all times. You went undercover for nearly two months without contacting me. Two months! Do you know how worried I was?”

 

“Sorry,” Jeongguk replied and started to feel guilty. If his older brother went on a dangerous undercover mission and he couldn’t contact him for more than even a few days, he might go crazy.

 

“It’s ok. You couldn’t let them suspect you, I understand. Just don’t show up in front of me covered in blood again.”

 

“If Sangjun didn’t blow my cover, I would’ve come out unscratched. Talking about Sangjun, have you tracked him down yet?”

 

“Not yet. He’s always two steps ahead,” Jeonghyun sighed. “But when we find him, I’m going to tear him to pieces myself.”

 

“Please don’t,” Jeongguk laughed. “The bullet didn’t do that much damage.”

 

“It shattered your clavicle.”

 

“And now it’s healed,” Jeongguk stated as his brother sighed.

 

“Are you ever going to tell Mum and Dad?”

 

“I don’t want to give them a heart attack so that’ll be a no,” Jeongguk chuckled.

 

“They’ll probably never let you come back to Virginia,” Jeonghyun agreed.

 

“Exactly.”

 

“Anyways, I told BTS they’d be having a new member.”

 

“And? What did they say?”

 

“I don’t know… I can’t say they were exactly eager but they didn’t reject the idea completely.”

 

“Great,” the younger replied sarcastically.

 

“Don’t worry. Once you guys get to know each other, you’ll never want to leave the team.”

 

“Hopefully.”

 

“Anyways, go wash up. I’ll finish looking over these files.”

 

“Yes sir,” Jeongguk said as he saluted his brother and pushed himself off the sofa carelessly, resulting in him crashing into the table and groaning an inaudible ‘ow’.

 

“Be careful!”

 

“I’m okay!”

 

After he scrambled up and did a little dance, which made Jeonghyun laugh and shake his head, Jeongguk waved a quick goodbye and sauntered down the hallway to the bathroom.

 

Jeongguk took a quick shower before throwing on a loose white shirt and grey sweatpants. Walking out of the bathroom, he whistled as he headed back to the family room but stopped immediately when he saw that his brother had already finished looking at the files, stacked them in a neat pile and was now snoring lightly with his head lolling back and forth. Jeongguk tiptoed to his older brother and gently tried to shake him awake.

 

“Five more minutes, Jeongguk,” Jeonghyun said as he swatted Jeongguk’s hands away.

 

“You should take a shower and then go sleep on your bed.”

 

“I’m too tired,” Jeonghyun groaned, making Jeongguk roll his eyes.

 

In the end, Jeongguk had to drag his irresponsible older brother into the bathroom and Jeonghyun ended up taking an even quicker shower than Jeongguk. When he came out in nothing but sweatpants, Jeongguk threw a hoodie over him before pulling Jeonghyun over to the sofa again and helping him dry his hair with a dry towel.

 

“Honestly, what would you do without me? Don’t you know sleeping with wet hair is bad for you?” Jeongguk laughed.

 

“Could’ve done it myself,” Jeonghyun grumbled.

 

“As if you would’ve bothered in your state.”

 

“Oh and don’t forget to pack some necessities for tomorrow by the way.”

 

“Why?”

 

“The case? You’re going Oklahoma City, remember?”

 

“Ugh, I forgot,” Jeongguk groaned.

 

“Honestly, what would you do without me?” his brother laughed, throwing his head back to catch Jeongguk’s smile.

 

“I wouldn’t be here if not for you.”

 

“Yeah and sometimes, I regret coming here. I still haven’t made up my mind if I’m happy or sad that you followed me here.”

 

“You seem pretty happy to me,” Jeongguk grinned as he bent down and back hugged his brother.

 

“Only because I know you’re safe.”

 

“Then let’s just keep it that way.”

 

“Yeah,” his brother whispered.

 

“There. You can go sleep now,” Jeongguk said, giving his brother’s and one last rub before throwing the towel in the laundry basket.

 

“Thanks Guk. Goodnight.”

 

“Night.”

 

Jeongguk laughed as his brother closed his eyes and felt the walls to get to his bedroom. He turned off the flush ceiling lights and headed to his own bedroom to get ready for his first case tomorrow. Jeongguk pulled out a bag before throwing in his passport, wallet and his phone charger. When he finished, he sat on the bed and gazed out the window. The thought of having to meet six strangers who will most likely be discontent with him sounded very unappealing but it was the only way for both of them to remain in Virginia so he accepted it. He wasn’t only doing this to prove himself but also for his brother.

 

Outside, the moon smiled at him while the stars waved. He couldn’t help drifting his thoughts to the male he met at the café with the really deep voice and then the male who had supposedly saved him in the alleyway. The man with the glasses that looked like a model had a surprisingly cute smile and the other who had nearly kicked him out of the his house owned a bright smile which could easily light up the dark. He couldn’t forget the basketball player, who, despite his appearance, was rather soft and gentle and last but not least, the amazing cook who happened to be a psychologist and a very easy tease. They were all good looking in their own ways and Jeongguk didn’t realise the smile that they left on his face.

 

Not even when he fell asleep.

 

Chapter Text

“Jeongguk, we’re going to be late!”

 

“Calm down!” Jeongguk called back as he hopped down the corridor, trying to tie the shoelaces of his black leather shoes.

 

When he stood up again, he smoothed down the black suit jacket he had just crinkled before fixing the buttons of his silky, wine coloured dress shirt, which were currently mismatching at odd angles. Jeonghyun scanned him, frowned and then moved forward to help his brother flatten the escaped locks in his hair.

 

“At least you look presentable today,” the elder muttered.

 

“Can I drive?”

 

“Sure,” Jeonghyun smiled, weak to Jeongguk’s doe eyes, and chucked the keys at the younger who caught it swiftly in one hand.

 

Together, they walked out of the house and into the garage where Jeonghyun had parked their shared black SUV last night. Jeongguk unlocked the door and sat in the driver’s seat while his brother took the passenger.

 

The drive was slow due to the amount of traffic in the early morning but Jeongguk kept the ride interesting by blasting off his hyped playlist, which consisted mainly of Big Bang. Jeonghyun watched fondly as his younger brother tapped the steering wheel and bobbed his head to the beat of Bang Bang Bang while they were waiting at an unusually long red light. Jeongguk was about to start dancing during the chorus but the light changed so he calmed himself down and pressed the accelerator.

 

When they reached the headquarters, Jeongguk parked the car in the spot his brother was given as Special Agent-in-Charge. They got out and Jeongguk walked around the car to admire his perfect parking skills.

 

“Guk, you…” his brother begun talking before noticing there was no one next to him.

 

Jeonghyun swirled around and laughed when he saw his brother squatting next to their car, observing the ground. Jeongguk was so focused he almost missed brother calling for him.

 

“Come on, Guk.”

 

Jeongguk followed his brother into the building and as they walked, he noticed that many employees would greet his brother out of respect or thank him for his hard work. He watched Jeonghyun reply to each and every one of them, exchanging a few words before they allowed the two brothers to continue on their way.

 

“How do you know everyone?”

 

“Because I bother to try,” Jeonghyun said, turning so that Jeongguk could see him roll his eyes unprofessionally.

 

“Right. Forgot that you’re the almighty, compassionate, benevolent Special Agent-in-Charge for a second there,” the younger snickered as he twirled and stood in front of his brother.

 

“I think you’re pushing it,” Jeonghyun laughed, pulling Jeongguk back to his side so he wouldn’t bump into the woman behind him.

 

Jeonghyun noticed that whenever someone walked near them, his younger brother would shy away, keeping his mouth shut and letting the elder do the talking. He found himself wishing that other people will get a chance to witness his brother’s playful side one day because they were truly missing out.

 

But moments like this when Jeongguk looked timid and afraid just reminded Jeonghyun that his younger brother was indeed still a child at heart despite all the cases he had single-handedly solved and all the injuries he had obtained as a consequence. Jeongguk was not the type to voice his opinions or showcase his emotions but after twenty one years, Jeonghyun was an expert in reading him. Jeonghyun felt a sudden urge to protect his brother so he put an arm around the younger’s waist before gently pushing him into the elevator with him.

 

“What makes you think I’ll be good at profiling criminals?”

 

“Because you have this like sixth sense that can just detect criminals which I think will help. Plus, it’s you we’re talking about, Guk. You’re good at everything.”

 

“Wrong but thanks anyways,” he smiled.

 

“Can you wait for me? I need to go up to my office and grab the case file and a few other things.”

 

“Don’t take too long.”

 

Jeonghyun grinned cheekily at his younger brother who whined and they continued to bicker until they arrived on the second floor from the top, which was specifically designed for BTS to occupy. When the elevator arrived, Jeongguk got off first but looked back at his brother and stretched out a hand to stop the doors from closing.

 

“Hyun.”

 

“Yeah?”

 

“Is it too late for me to back out?”

 

“Yes.”

 

Jeongguk pulled the best pouty face he could possibly muster but it just made his brother laugh and shake his head. The younger of the two brothers sighed and lowered his head in a defeated slouch before urging Jeonghyun to hurry up with his errand while he would not complain but wait patiently for his brother to return. The older of the two ignored the sarcasm and waved to Jeongguk as they allowed the doors to finally close. Jeongguk stepped back to see it reach to topmost level and let out a lengthy sigh.

 

After standing in his spot for a few minutes, he grew bored and curiosity got the best of him. Jeongguk walked cautiously out of the section for elevators to where his new office would be located but when he heard voices, he immediately stopped and tilted his head to eavesdrop on the conversation.

 

“I heard the new member isn’t even twenty three yet.”

 

“Is that allowed? Even Tae and I joined right after we turned twenty three last year.”

 

“I don’t know. But they wouldn’t put someone unqualified on our team, would they? Boss wouldn’t allow that.”

 

“I heard that they even got approved by the Assistant Director though.”

 

“They’re either close to the higher ups or just really skilled.”

 

“If it’s the former, they’ll probably have a hard time.”

 

“They’re going to have a hard time either way. I heard the new member was more on the tactical side even though he was trained in the intelligence division too.”

 

“Great. We can profile and find the criminals and they can just go catch them.”

 

“Is it really wise to introduce someone new when we’re receiving a new case today? It’s not like we’ll need their help. We should hope they don’t get in our way instead.”

 

“Don’t be rude, Yoongi. You’ll never know. Maybe, they’ll surprise you.”

 

“Yeah right. I’m not surprised that easily.”

 

“Except for that kid yesterday.”

 

“What kid?”

 

“Don’t know. Didn’t catch his name. Yoongi, what was his name?”

 

“…I don’t know. I didn’t ask either. Thought you would.”

 

“You two are unbelievable. You call yourselves special agents?”

 

“Yoongi was probably distracted by how cute he was.”

 

“Hey, talk for yourself.”

 

Jeongguk frowned. Their voices were familiar but from where, he couldn’t remember. He tried to inch a little closer but came to a stop and squinted as he saw the male from the coffee shop with his long earring dangling as he tilted his head. Said male was whispering to a shorter male who reminded Jeongguk of the person who supposedly saved him in the alleyway. Glancing at the rest, the male with the astonishing physique stood tall and powerful whilst the cousin who had treated him hostilely had his arm slung around the guy who challenged him to a basketball match. Lastly, the psychologist with the perfect features was shaking his head at them, eyes fond.

 

“Who’s there?”

 

The male with the glasses asked sternly, having noticed Jeongguk’s creeping presence. Jeongguk bit his lip before stepping out into the open, frown still gracing his childlike features. When the six agents caught sight of the younger, Jeongguk’s frown reflected onto their faces along with an extra element of shock and then confusion.

 

“Kid?” This time it was the male who he had beaten in basketball.

 

“What’re you doing here?” coffee guy frowned.

 

“You shouldn’t be here. You’re going to get in trouble,” the cousin said.

 

“Boss is going to be here soon. Don’t let him see you. Quickly leave,” the psychologist urged.

 

“How did you even get up here?” the last one of the six spoke, clearly more amused than worried.

 

“I… you…”

 

Jeongguk pointed at the elevators and then back at the group of people in front of him. He tilted his head and was about to open his mouth to ask a question but they were all moving towards him already and the male from the coffee shop grabbed his wrist before dragging him towards the elevator, the others also helping push him in that direction.

 

“W-Wait,” Jeongguk said, trying to pull his arm free from the dead tight grip.

 

They stopped pushing as Jeonghyun made his entrance and quickly hid the youngest behind their backs, afraid of their boss noticing an intruder. Jeongguk crossed his arms and tried to hide his smile as they created a human barricade around him before shrugging and waiting for it to unfold.

 

“Boss…”

 

“Morning. Have you seen a kid around this height with a baby face?”

 

The team frowned while Jeongguk rolled his eyes and his brother caught sight of him behind the wall of bodies.

 

“Ah, I see you guys met already,” Jeonghyun smiled as they allowed him to walk past and put an arm around Jeongguk’s waist. “Guys, this is Jeongguk Jeon, my younger brother, and the newest member of your team. Guk, this is Taehyung Kim, Jimin Park, Namjoon Kim, Hoseok Jung, Yoongi Min and Seokjin Kim.”

 

By the end of the introductions Jeongguk realised that the guy with the deep voice was Taehyung, the graceful midget was Jimin, Mr. Glasses who denied being a model was Namjoon, kind of police officer was Hoseok, rusty basketball player was Yoongi and the cook that turned out to be a psychologist was Seokjin.

 

“Is something wrong?” Jeonghyun asked, sensing the team’s surprise and unusual interest in his younger brother but when Jeongguk shook his head, he shrugged and continued, “Can you guys look after him for a while? The Director needed to talk about something. I’ll come back down to debrief you on your next case later.”

 

“I’m not a kid,” Jeongguk intervened and a few of the team chuckled.

 

“I know but you literally wanted to back out like five minutes ago,” Jeonghyun laughed, patting Jeongguk on the arm before turning to leave again. “Make sure he doesn’t run off!”

 

“You got it boss,” Namjoon said and when Jeonghyun had entered the elevator, he directed his next question at Jeongguk, “So, why did you want to back out?”

 

“I… I heard you guys weren’t eager in having a new member and I guess I wasn’t really ready to join either. I mean you guys are practically famous! And I’m just… me. I only accepted because my brother asked as a favour,” he shrugged.

 

“Not to burst your bubble but you’re pretty famous too,” Namjoon said, flipping through Jeongguk’s file that Jeonghyun gave him.

 

“Yeah but not in a good way.”

 

“What do you mean? Look how many cases you’ve solved. You’ve been undercover a lot,” Namjoon said, scrutinising the paper.

 

Most of Jeongguk’s undercover missions included classified information which were not disclosed to anyone but Jeongguk, his brother a select few of higher-ups. Even if most of those details, such as date, location and purpose of the assignment weren’t given to Namjoon, the leader could still analyse the difficulty of each task from Jeongguk’s medical reports. The youngest had a number of healed broken bones and weapon scars but a certain injury caught Namjoon’s attention.

 

“And it says here that you’ve even attained a wound from a gun.”

 

“Yeah.”

 

The others winced and furrowed their eyebrows but it went unnoticed by the youngest.

 

“Your list of achievements goes on and on,” Namjoon continued as he flipped through the paperwork that was the reports of Jeongguk’s past missions.

 

“As if people care about that,” Jeongguk laughed scornfully. “To them, I’m just the twenty one year old agent who got to where I am through my brother. Didn’t you guys say it too? I’m either close to the higher ups or just really skilled, was it?”

 

“You heard that?” Taehyung frowned.

 

“Well, you guys weren’t exactly quiet and I was kind of just standing there,” Jeongguk chuckled.

 

“But we’ve established that you’re really skilled, haven’t we?” Namjoon said.

 

“I know you’re thinking that it’s both though.”

 

“Jeongguk, I’m sorry you heard that. We were wrong to say things like that without even first meeting you properly but anyone who has read this list of achievements,” Namjoon said, holding up Jeongguk’s files and continuing, “Wouldn’t think like that. If they do, it just means that they’re jealous. I mean you’ve accomplished more as a twenty one year old than most agents ever will in their whole life. Don’t let what they think about you corrupt your mind, they are still people who won’t judge you with prejudiced opinions, ok?”

 

The youngest glanced up at the leader who was staring at him with fierce sincerity and he couldn’t help but believe the elder.

 

“I guess,” he shrugged.

 

“Good. Now welcome to BTS,” Namjoon said with a warm smile.

 

“Thanks,” Jeongguk smiled back and shook the leader’s outstretched hand.

 

“So…” Jimin said, pushing Namjoon out of the way and ignoring the ‘show some respect to your leader’ so he could sling his arm around Jeongguk’s shoulders. “You were a secret agent? Guess you really could’ve handled those people yesterday then.”

 

“How do you guys even know each other?” Taehyung asked, moving Namjoon further away so that he could stand on Jeongguk’s other side.

 

“Thought I was being heroic and rescued his ass yesterday and I might’ve also laughed when he said he could’ve handled them by himself.”

 

“Pretending to be a white knight just because you thought he was cute?” Taehyung snickered and Jimin moved around Jeongguk to hit the younger. Jeongguk smiled as Taehyung whined and rubbed his arm to ease the pain.

 

“Wait, how do you know him?”

 

“Met him in a café.”

 

“How romantic,” Jimin sniggered back.

 

Taehyung pushed Jimin off Jeongguk before chasing him around the office like a cat and mouse except in this case they were both cats as Jimin turned and snatched something off of Taehyung’s table and used it to taunt him with. Jeongguk laughed, watching the two of them but when Hoseok stepped forward and awkwardly rubbed the back of his neck, he directed his attention to the elder.

 

“Wow. I was really rude yesterday. No hard feelings?”

 

“None,” Jeongguk grinned and as they shook hands, Taehyung and Jimin stopped fighting each other to come back and watch their interaction.

 

“What’d you do now?” Yoongi smirked at Hoseok.

 

“I might’ve treated him like a criminal and nearly kicked him out when he helped my aunt bring my cousins safely back home.”

 

“Definitely rude.”

 

“That’s rich coming from you,” Hoseok said with a smile on his face.

 

“I’ll have you know we got along very well yesterday.”

 

“Wait, how did you two meet?”

 

“This is the kid that surprised Yoongi,” Seokjin stated, stepping forward to join the rest of them.

 

“I can’t believe you met all six of us yesterday,” Namjoon laughed from the side. He had somehow ended up standing the furthest away from Jeongguk as the others had inconsiderately pushed their leader out of the way to talk to the youngest. “Well, since you know everyone already, I’ll show you to your table first.”

 

Jeongguk nodded while Namjoon eyed at the others to give the youngest some space before leading him around the messy office to an unoccupied table near presumably Taehyung’s.

 

“This used to be Dongyul’s table but we’ve cleared out as much as we could. They’re still a bit of files and stuff in the drawer but we’ll clear those when we get back.”

 

“No rush, it’s fine.”

 

Then Namjoon pointed out each of the other member’s table before pointing to a room in the corner which was separated from the main room by a glass wall. The inside was neat and on the walls hung group photos of the team and certificates of their achievements and Jeongguk couldn’t help the disappointed feeling at the back of his mind. He had just as many achievements but no one took notice of him or even showed the slightest ounce of respect.

 

“That’s my office but I rarely use it. I usually stay out here with everyone even when we’re not working on a case.”

 

Jeongguk nodded, absorbing all the information thrown at him.

 

“You’ll realise that we’re more of a family than a team here. We look out for each other both physically and emotionally so if we do anything that makes you uncomfortable or something goes slightly out of your comfort zone, don’t be afraid to voice it.”

 

“Ok, thank you,” Jeongguk smiled.

 

“Are you done explaining useless stuff to him?” Taehyung asked, sliding over on his office chair.

 

“Tae,” Namjoon sighed.

 

The leader was about to argue that Taehyung should give their newest member some time before interrogating him but when he noticed the other four members also approaching, he gave up. He was only letting this go since Jeongguk didn’t seem uncomfortable with them, not because he was also curious. The leader turned around to face the youngest again and saw that Jeongguk was already sitting back onto the table, arms crossed and round eyes lit with amusement.

 

“I’m just curious,” Taehyung began, “But what does it feel like getting shot?”

 

“And why did you get shot?”

 

“Why weren’t you wearing a bulletproof vest?”

 

“Where did the bullet hit?”

 

“Did it leave an exit wound too?”

 

“How did you get to the hospital?”

 

“Uh, shit. Happened when my undercover mission went wrong which is why I couldn’t wear a vest. My shoulder, it shattered my bone and no exit wound. And I think my brother might’ve broken more than just a few traffic laws to get me there in time,” Jeongguk laughed, answering all six questions at once.

 

He could vaguely remember the experience. When the bullet hit, he had barely registered the pain and focused on escaping instead. At the time, Jeongguk couldn’t trust anyone so despite the extreme stinging sensation in his shoulder and the rest of body beginning to feel numb, he carried himself to his brother who he knew was waiting for his news at the FBI department in Wisconsin only to fall into shock from the loss of blood. After that, everything was a blur and all Jeongguk could remember was waking up a few days later in a hospital bed with his brother next to him, eyes puffy from crying and not sleeping properly.

 

“Now I’m glad I’ve got a good brain so I don’t have to do anything which requires me going undercover and getting in the way of a gun. Doesn’t sound like my type of fun,” Taehyung joked inappropriately but it made Jeongguk laugh.

 

“Do you want to see the scar?”

 

All six of them, including Namjoon, nodded enthusiastically having never seen one in real life but only in the photos of their cases. Jeongguk chuckled and then shrugged his jacket off his shoulders to unbutton a few buttons of his shirt before shifting the left side to reveal the closed bullet wound near his shoulder. The others gathered around him and were unaware that they were making Jeongguk jittery. He could almost feel their warm breaths ghosting across his skin but he tried his best to not lean away from their proximity and intense stares.

 

“How long did this take to heal?” Taehyung asked, prodding the scar lightly. He glanced up at Jeongguk to make sure he wasn’t hurting the younger but had to force his eyes away when he caught the younger chewing on his bottom lip.

 

“I don’t remember exactly but a long time. My brother wouldn’t give me assignments even when I said I was fine,” he sulked and the others laughed.

 

“You probably weren’t fine then,” Yoongi stated. “Boss wouldn’t keep his best agent from work without plausible reason.”

 

“It was just a few nightmares,” the youngest grumbled and when Yoongi lifted an eyebrow he added, “Ok, maybe I had a few anxiety attacks every now and then, no energy to do anything but sleep but apart from those I was completely fine.”

 

“Yeah right,” the elder scoffed.

 

“’No energy to do anything but sleep’. Sounds like someone we know,” Taehyung said and everyone laughed when Yoongi pinched him.

 

“I’m suddenly feeling really sympathetic towards boss. You would be a really troublesome brother,” Jimin laughed, ruffling Jeongguk’s hair.

 

“Yeah, you’re laughing but we’re the ones that have to look after him now,” Hoseok added comically.

 

“Shit.”

 

“Hey! I said I’m not a kid,” Jeongguk huffed and pulled an annoyed face, which just made his team laugh even harder.

 

“Jeongguk, as much as I like seeing you like this, your brother might walk in at any time and this is kind of a workplace so could you maybe button your shirt back up?” Namjoon asked, as he was a responsible leader who was merely looking out for his new teammate.

 

The youngest reddened until he was nearly the shade of his shirt and quickly buttoned up his shirt again while the others smirked and tried their hardest to look away from Jeongguk’s sharp collarbones, however none of them succeeding. Jeongguk didn’t realise that all of them were staring at him, eyes more than just curious as they glazed over his muscle curves which didn’t seem fitting for his face. With his collarbones and chest covered, their eyes moved to his black slacks which wrapped themselves tightly around the younger’s thighs, all the while Jeongguk remaining completely oblivious to their interest in his body.

 

As he finished putting on his jacket again, his brother strolled in and joined their circle unsuspectingly. Jeongguk internally thanked whatever power Namjoon had in reading the future because it just saved him further embarrassment and explanation as to why he wasn’t wearing his clothes properly.

 

“You guys seem like you’re getting along.”

 

“Yeah, turns out we actually all met Jeongguk yesterday,” Seokjin informed his boss.

 

“Really? Why didn’t you tell me, Guk? Now, I look like an idiot introducing you guys,” Jeonghyun complained giving Jeongguk a hit to the arm.

 

Jeongguk pretended to topple off the table like he was affected by his brother’s punch and Yoongi dived to catch him.

 

“I’m joking,” Jeongguk laughed, patting Yoongi on the arm as he stood up straight again.

 

“Wow, Yoongi’s caring about someone?” Jeonghyun asked in genuine surprise.

 

“I know you’re my boss but-“

 

“I’m going to steal my brother for a moment,” Jeonghyun smiled, interrupting Yoongi’s threat. “I promise I’ll return him.”

 

Yoongi glared at his boss while the others nodded and Jeonghyun led his younger brother away.

 

“Yeah?” Jeongguk asked once they were out of earshot.

 

“What do you think? Can you work with them on the new case?”

 

“Yeah, they’re great.”

 

“How come you didn’t tell me you met them already?” Jeonghyun said, putting a hand over his heart in an act that suggested he felt betrayed.

 

“Because I didn’t know either. None of them told me their names.”

 

“Oh, I guess it was fate then,” Jeonghyun said, raising his eyebrows twice.

 

“Don’t give me those eyes,” Jeongguk whispered as he tried to frown his smile back.

 

“Guk, you can’t be that dense. I saw the way they were all looking at you when you were showing them the bullet scar.”

 

“You saw that?”

 

“Yeah,” his brother said, rolling his eyes and sniggered, “Waited until you got dressed before I walked in. Couldn’t ruin the moment now, could I?”

 

“Oh my god, you’re a horrible brother. And boss.” Jeongguk groaned as his brother laughed heartily.

 

“Anyways I was talking to the Director and it seems like we have another lead on Sangjun.”

 

“Let me guess, you’re going?”

 

“Yeah. I might not be back until after you finish this case depending if we catch him or not.”

 

“Why’re you so eager to catch him?” Jeongguk laughed.

 

“After what he put us through, you think I’ll just let this go? You couldn’t sleep properly for a few months and I stayed awake to look after you so technically we both suffered, you just a little more.”

 

“Yeah, I’d prefer to wipe that from my memory,” Jeongguk shuddered.

 

“Also next time you get injured, please don’t come to my office. Go to a hospital. I nearly died as well when I saw you faint in a pool of blood.”

 

“I already apologised a few times for that!”

 

“I’m just reminding you but don’t ever get shot again,” Jeonghyun laughed before they both walked back to join Jeongguk’s new team. “Ok, team so this is your first case with Jeongguk so I expect you guys to show him the ropes. He’ll probably catch on by himself though so don’t worry too much.”

 

Jeonghyun walked them to shared table in the middle of the room and laid out a case file.

 

“I got a call from the Oklahoma City Police Department yesterday and they have requested our help with a series of murders of female children with auburn coloured hair between the ages of three to five. They have found three bodies in the span of three weeks, all of which strangled and disposed of in the exact same manner and they don’t think this serial killer is going to stop anytime soon. You’ll take a plane west to Oklahoma City where the police will give you further details on this case. Your flights have been booked for you to take soon and I’ve already notified them of your arrival tonight. You’re dismissed. Go prepare.”

 

The Special Agent-in-Charge waved for them to shoo and pulled his brother to the side again.

 

“Make sure to stay safe and don’t forget to eat. Really, I know how tough these cases can get so I sneaked a few snacks into your bag. Eat them when you have time, ok?”

 

“Got it, Mum,” Jeongguk grinned.

 

“I know this is more behind the scenes but you still go in to catch the killer so please take care of yourself,” Jeonghyun pleaded. “And if something does happen, don’t hesitate to call me. I’ll fly over no matter how close I am to catching Sangjun.”

 

“Don’t worry. You’ll see a healthy Guk return.”

 

“I better.”

 

Jeonghyun smiled softly before hugging his brother.

 

“Be careful too,” Jeongguk whispered. “Sangjun’s dangerous.”

 

“I will. Don’t worry.”

 

Jeonghyun knew. He saw it behind Jeongguk’s eyes. The vulnerability which the younger never displayed because he didn’t want to burden anyone. Jeongguk’s encounter with Sangjun had taken a toll on both his physical and mental wellbeing but like always, he never voiced his troubles. Jeonghyun knew his brother wasn’t ready to face Sangjun so he took it on himself to find the traitor and bring justice to Jeongguk.

 

“I’m serious. He didn’t hesitate shooting me and we’ve been friends for how long?”

 

“Yes yes, I know. Wouldn’t want to worry my baby brother.”

 

“Hey,” Jeongguk whined, scrunching up his face.

 

“I love you.”

 

“I love you too.”

 

They never parted without those too phrases. Never. They both knew the risks their lifestyles brought and after Jeongguk’s close encounter with death, they made sure to tell each other those three words even if they had just finished an argument.

 

The elder left to go back to his own office to probably work on some more paperwork and get ready to catch Sangjun. Jeonghyun’s absence was quickly replaced with the other six, who were waiting for his brother to leave so that they could return next to Jeongguk.

 

“You and your brother are really close. That’s quite unexpected,” Jimin stated.

 

“Is it? Why?”

 

“Well, you guys are both so busy. You’ll barely have time to interact,” Seokjin said to which Jeongguk shook his head.

 

“He took a lot of time off work when I got shot. We wanted to hide it from our parents so he looked after me.”

 

“That’s terrible!” Taehyung exclaimed and Jeongguk swatted his arm.

 

“Is that why we didn’t see him for a few months? You were his personal matters?”

 

“I would say I’m pretty personal, yes,” Jeongguk nodded and the others laughed. “But you guys are really unexpected too.”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“Well, with the way people make BTS sound, I honestly thought you guys were like muscly, intimidating, mean-faced men so it made me more hesitant on joining but you’re quite the opposite,” he laughed.

 

“Yoongi’s quite terrifying,” Hoseok said. “I mean he almost threatened your brother. His boss.”

 

“I don’t see it. His smile is cute.”

 

“That’s right. I’m adorable,” Yoongi agreed whilst others turned to face them with their mouths agape, shocked by the words that came out of their mouths.

 

Jeongguk smiled his signature smile, the one where his nose scrunches up and his bunny teeth shine, as Yoongi walked to his side and wrapped an arm around the younger.

 

“He gets me.”

 

“Jeongguk, what have you done with our Yoongi?” Namjoon asked.

 

“The savage Yoongi is dead.”

 

“Didn’t Yoongi swear at me last time I called him cute?” Hoseok frowned.

 

“Think so,” Seokjin nodded.

 

Another round of laughter erupted before the team remembered they had a case to solve.

 

“Anyways Jeongguk, usually we head down to the airport together but if you have other plans, feel free to meet us there,” Namjoon informed.

 

“Why would I make plans when I was told I’d be receiving a case today?”

 

“There’s the sassiness I know,” Yoongi laughed. “Come on, let’s get ready.”

 

Jeongguk smiled and nodded.

 

Soon, they were all squashed into Seokjin’s car and the eldest was driving them to the airport. Namjoon was in the passenger seat, Jeongguk was stuck in between Jimin and Taehyung while Yoongi and Hoseok took the back. Namjoon turned the radio on and out blasted Adam Levine’s Lost Stars. Jeongguk unconsciously sung along while swaying his head left and right, also unaware that the rest of them had ceased all repartee to listen to him.

 

The bridge consisted of several high notes that Jeongguk confidently sung in perfect tone even adding his own adlibs in between the lines. It was only when Jeongguk was up to the last chorus did he realise that everyone excluding Seokjin, who might’ve joined if not for the sake of not losing their lives in a car accident, was staring at him.

 

“What’s wrong?” he asked.

 

“Nothing. Continue singing,” Jimin urged.

 

Jeongguk hesitantly finished the rest of the song and everyone started clapping. The youngest, feeling embarrassed by the attention, rubbed the back of his neck, tilted his head and then did the thing he was best at, scrunching his nose.

 

“Why didn’t you join our team earlier?” Taehyung asked. “We had to deal with Yoongi and Hoseok’s singing competitions.”

 

“Yeah, I couldn’t count how many times my ears bled,” Jimin added.

 

“Did they sound like a dying donkeys?”

 

Even though Jeongguk knew what he was going to get, he said it anyways. Then came the snickers from Jimin and Taehyung while he felt the two expected whacks on his head and shoulder, which he pretended to be in pain from. He saw Jimin and Taehyung wrap an arm each around him protectively while giving Yoongi and Hoseok a playful glare, which probably did not intimidate the two elders in the slightest.

 

“Play nice, kids. We’re nearly there,” Seokjin huffed from the front while Namjoon chuckled.

 

After a few more minutes of teasing one another, Seokjin finished parking the car and Namjoon ushered the team out of the car. They retrieved their bags before obediently following their leader inside the airport. Checking in, they received their boarding passes and proceeded to their gate. Time passes relatively fast when you’re having fun so within no time, they had already boarded the plane and were now flying smoothly in the sky.

 

Namjoon advised them to rest on the plane and not fool around as they’d need their energy in the upcoming days. The leader, however, stayed awake to finish reading his book.

 

While the others gradually fell into sleep, Jeongguk turned a few times in the seat, unable to find a comfortable position and in the end, he woke Jimin up to asked him to switch seats with him so that he could sit in between Namjoon and Yoongi. Jimin grunted, annoyed from getting woken up but nevertheless trod over the Jeongguk’s previous seat next to Taehyung and fell back asleep.

 

“Is something on your mind?” Namjoon asked, initiating the conversation.

 

“How long have you been on the team? You must’ve been really young as well if you’re the leader now.”

 

“More than two years. Why?”

 

“Don’t… don’t the murders stay with you? Do you not get bothered by it?”

 

“At first they did. My very first case, I witnessed severed bodies parts, done by a psychopath and I couldn’t sleep after that. Yoongi had already been on the team for a while during that time and he stayed with me and helped me through it,” Namjoon nodded. “But after a few cases, I realised all the potential disasters the team had prevented, it kind of eases the memories away.”

 

There was more. Jeongguk noticed. He knew. Something Namjoon wasn’t telling him but since they had barely met, Jeongguk wasn’t going to pry. If they trusted him later on, maybe they would tell him but there was definitely more in Yoongi and Namjoon’s history. Jeongguk, being one of the most scrupulous agents in the FBI, also observed that the group’s dynamic was different. Very different. Jimin and Taehyung had a story but once again, respecting their privacy he didn’t delve. Hoseok and Seokjin were harder to read but Jeongguk would be stupid if he didn’t notice the slight limp in Hoseok’s gait or the way Seokjin’s face fell when he thought no one was looking.

 

But there was a time and place for everything and that time was not now.

 

“Oh. I guess I never really thought of it like that,” the younger shrugged contentedly.

 

“I know this could bring back unpleasant memories so you don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to but what went wrong in your undercover mission? You’ve been on so many undercover operations and you’ve always come back without more than a knife wound or a few bruises but what happened to this one? What was different?”

 

“Well you saw on my file that I went undercover alone most of the time but I actually had a partner who worked with me for some of the more complex cases. We went on quite a few cases together so you could say we worked pretty well together. The time I got shot, it was a joint operation again but he turned around and sold me out.”

 

Jeongguk didn’t tell Namjoon everything either. Didn’t say that they were infiltrating a gang to find information on illegal weapons and drug imports and export. Didn’t say that Sangjun and him had known each other since before their training days and were close friends. He didn’t tell the elder that Sangjun was the one who shot him because he didn’t want Namjoon to pity him. They had their secrets but he had his too so it was just a game of forbidden whispers and Jeongguk never lost.

 

“What happened to your partner?”

 

“Ran away. Everyone in the FBI thought he vanished because he left no traces. My brother’s been trying to track him ever since but he’s worked in the FBI for so long already. He knows how we work.”

 

“Is that why he moved you to our team?”

 

“Yes and no… He planned to have me transferred away from tactical operations the first time I got injured so he had me trained under every other division but I kept receiving new missions and I proved to be really useful to the FBI. It was hard for me to transfer out when I was in the middle of a case but I think the bullet triggered my brother to finally put a stop in my missions. He just didn’t predict BTS would be missing a member because he was actually planning to leave with me to the Headquarters in Washington. Then when… Dongyul got injured we decided to stay in Norfolk.”

 

“I’m glad Jeonghyun didn’t leave. He’s a great boss. I can’t imagine working under someone else.”

 

“What about me?” Jeongguk pouted.

 

“I’m glad you didn’t leave either,” Namjoon laughed and smiled secretly to himself, amused that the younger was so easy to tease. “Now get some sleep. We have another forty minutes until we arrive in Charlotte for the layover and you’re going to need the energy.”

 

Jeongguk smiled, plugged his earphones in and after a few minutes, his head was drooping at an uncomfortable angle so Namjoon helped move it onto his own shoulder. Jeongguk’s mouth was slightly open and Namjoon chuckled before covering the younger’s torso with the suit jacket Jeongguk had taken off prior to boarding.

 

“Why do I feel like he’s been through more than all of us combined?”

 

“Yoongi? I thought you were asleep.”

 

”Betrayal can’t be easy to accept,” the older continued, choosing to ignore Namjoon’s statement.

 

“Hey, we went through this, didn’t we? Stop feeling guilty about Dongyul. It wasn’t your fault.”

 

“I know, I was actually talking about Jeongguk this time.”

 

“Oh.”

 

“You know yesterday when I met Jeongguk, he told me he was stabbed before too. I mean you can’t even tell from the way he acts.”

 

“Yeah… on the outside, he’s such a bright and bubbly kid but who knew he had experienced so much.”

 

They watched the youngest sleep peacefully, undisturbed by the voices around him.

 

“Wait, how did you even meet him?” Yoongi asked. “Weren’t you busy the whole day?”

 

“I went to Silver Zekka to eat breakfast in the morning and saw Jimin running out. He told me he met this kid but had to run off because boss called him in so I just ate with him.”

 

“And you didn’t ask his name either?” Yoongi smirked.

 

“Shut up.”

 

Yoongi laughed. Earlier, the others had all laughed at Seokjin and Yoongi for not fulfilling their roles as special agents but little did they know that no one else did either.

 

“What about you?” Namjoon asked, changing the topic before Yoongi could slide another snarky remark.

 

“Challenged him to a one on one.”

 

“Basketball? Poor kid. Did you wreck him?”

 

“Nah I let him win. He looked so happy whenever he scored and I didn’t have the heart to block them,” Yoongi chuckled.

 

“We’re all going to lose ourselves at the hands of Jeongguk,” Namjoon said, smiling fondly at the sleeping child on his shoulder.

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“Don’t tell me I’m the only one who’s noticed the way we all look at him. It’s different from the way Jeonghyun does. It’s not very… brotherly.”

 

“None of us are going to push ourselves onto him if he doesn’t want it if that’s what you’re worried about,” Yoongi shrugged.

 

“That’s not what I meant. I just don’t want this to create discordance in our team.”

 

“Trust us,” Yoongi said firmly. “We’re all professionals. We won’t let our feelings get in the way of work.”

 

“Hopefully not,” Namjoon sighed and they took one more look at Jeongguk before Namjoon went back to reading and Yoongi, to sleeping.

 

When they landed in the airport in Charlotte, Namjoon gently shook his six members awake before making them drowsily followed him off the plane. They continued their sleep in the lounge of the airport and Seokjin took on the responsibility of staying awake so that they wouldn’t miss their next flight.

 

However, half an hour until their flight, Seokjin had to drag six half-awake children with him onto the plane. It was a difficult feat but he managed to somehow get all six of them in their correct seats before he could finally relax into his. Since the flight attendants would inform them when they arrive at their destination, he closed his eyes and fell asleep too.

 

Jeongguk could feel two hands on his shoulders but he refused to open his eyes. He continued to drown out the noise and movement around him and opted to sleep longer but the hands shook him again.

 

“Five more minutes, Jeonghyun,” Jeongguk said, swatting the hands away and he heard a few people laugh.

 

“Jeongguk, wake up. We’re here.”

 

“Who’re you? Where’s here?” he groaned before sitting up and rubbing his eyes.

 

When he finally forced his eyelids open, he was blinded by six beaming smiles. Yoongi’s hands were on his shoulders while Taehyung’s fingers were carding through his hair.

 

“Oh, we’re here,” Jeongguk smiled sheepishly.

 

He stood up, grabbed his bag and rushed off the plane with the others. Jeongguk followed them as they got escorted into police cars and driven to the police department. It was already quite dark, Jeongguk noticed, and he restlessly tapped his hands on his knee out of a habit of being nervous. Namjoon, who was in the car with him, merely smiled and watched Jeongguk gnaw on his bottom lip as well, another action the younger would resort to when he had nothing else to fidget with.

 

“Don’t be nervous,” Namjoon whispered gently.

 

“Oh sorry.”

 

“Why’re you apologising?” the elder laughed before ruffling Jeongguk’s hair and looking out the window. “You’ll be fine.”

 

“Thank you.”

 

When they arrived, Namjoon led them inside the building and the chief came out to greet.

 

“Good afternoon, I’m Special Agent Namjoon Kim, the leader of BTS and this is my team.”

 

“Thank you so much for coming. I’ve heard so much about you guys,” the chief said, shaking each of their hands before turning back to Namjoon and holding his arm out, “If you’d all follow me.”

 

Namjoon nodded and the chief led them past the information desk, around the corridors and then up a few levels. Jeongguk noticed that the police department looked nothing like the FBI headquarters with its calming beige walls and white marble floor. There was even a glass display of the police uniform near the entrance and Jeongguk was marvelled by the openness of the building.

 

He stopped observing the surroundings when everyone came to a halt inside a small room with glass walls. There was a huge corkboard hung up on the wall, next to a whiteboard and Jeongguk had to force down a whimper when he saw the photos of the murdered children. Their pure smiles were turned upside down and the haunting look in their eyes, he didn’t think he would ever be able to forget. The eyes were so empty. No happiness. No love. No hope.

 

Just a whisper of death.

 

Chapter Text

Jeongguk thought the corkboard was more of a heavy reminder of the tragic victims than a place for them brainstorm. From the side, he could also hear Taehyung’s breathing waver but it was minimal and really, who could blame them? It’s not everyday you see the photos of three dead infants from ten different angles.

 

He felt an arm wrap itself around his back and turning to the side, he saw Jimin’s calming smile so he gave his best at trying to smile back. Jeongguk had seen more gruesome deaths take place right in front of him but the fact that they were children was a first for him and that’s what made it worse. They were meant to have a long journey ahead of them but it was just cruelly taken away. He felt his heart break when he thought about the victims’ parents and the broken families and Jeongguk knew Jimin must of sensed the discomfort radiating off him because of what the elder murmured next.

 

“Are you ok?”

 

“Yeah… yeah I think I’m good,” Jeongguk whispered back.

 

Hoseok being the forensic pathologist was the first to move forward and observe the photos closely. He looked like he was in deep thought however, when the chief starting talking, Hoseok snapped up and re-joined the team.

 

“We found the three bodies here and this is where the children’s homes are,” he said as he pointed at the red X’s marked on the map and then the blue X’s. “All three of them had been reported missing and then found less than a week later but an autopsy showed that the deaths occurred only a day or two before that.”

 

“What else connects these three deaths apart from the fact that they’re all auburn haired females?”

 

“When the parents realised that their child was missing, all of them found a photo on their child’s bed. A photo of themselves.”

 

The chief pointed at three photos on the side of the corkboard. The team crowded around the photos and realised that it was taken in secret from an awkward angle. One of them was a photo of the family, happy and laughing as the dad and little girl were playing catch. The second, the mother was tickling a young girl while the father and the elder son watched with a smile on his face. The third and last photo, the whole family were linked with their hands, the mother and father and the sides while the two children were in the middle.

 

“Is there anything else you know?” Namjoon asked.

 

“No. This is all we have so far.”

 

“Ok, thank you.”

 

When the chief left the team to talk on their own, Hoseok immediately went back to the photos of the deceased children. He picked up the one with the first little girl and then the photo of the second girl and lastly the third and final child. Hoseok frowned at the photos and turned to face the rest of the team with the handful of photos.

 

“What is it?” Namjoon questioned.

 

“These strangulation marks,” Hoseok said tapping at the children’s necks. “They’re hesitant.”

 

“Which means what?” Jeongguk asked unsurely while everyone else nodded in understanding.

 

“It means that the killer was feeling remorse and regret when he or she killed them,” Jimin filled in for Jeongguk.

 

Jeongguk nodded and made a mental note to himself to remember for next time.

 

“Wait so we’re looking for a killer… who feels bad about killing his or her victims?” Jeongguk asked.

 

“Basically yeah.”

 

“Then why kill?”

 

“Different people have different motivations but usually the killers either desire control, are aggressive, obsessive, seeking revenge, traumatised or mentally unwell. If they are hesitant, we know our suspect wouldn’t fall under control or obsession. And from what we can tell by the corpses, the killer isn’t overly violent either. Sometimes this can help us determine the suspect’s gender and approximate the age range,” Seokjin explained.

 

“Ok,” Jeongguk nodded slowly, trying to understand from a different point of view. The people he had usually encountered when he worked undercover as a secret agent weren’t uncertain or hesitant but pulled the trigger or threw a knife without bating an eye.

 

Taehyung moved forward next to observe the map while the rest of them expressed their thoughts and when he heard them finish discussing the photos, he called them over to the map.

 

“Here,” he said as he pointed to the blue X’s. “All the children were taken within this two kilometre radius so far.”

 

“So the killer is familiar with this area then,” Namjoon said.

 

“Yeah and here,” Taehyung continued, pointing at the red X’s this time. “They were all found approximately one kilometre from their house.”

 

“The killer must live around that area or frequent it enough to be familiar,” Jeongguk nodded, catching on.

 

“Yeah,” Namjoon smiled. “Yoongi, can you scan the area? I need information on every person who lives or works in this two kilometre radius. Anyone who looks like they’ll have motive, report back to me immediately.”

 

“On it. Remember your radio earpieces,” Yoongi reminded before rushing off to the computer forensic lab.

 

The remaining six stood around the board, pointing out consistencies with the three abductions and murders. At some point around midnight, the group had dispersed to continue with their own thoughts and theories so Jeongguk sat seated on a black chair in the corner of the room. The police had given them a huge pile of reports and photos and the team had automatically moved to relieve the stack of some of its weight. Jeongguk learnt that the team’s system of working consisted of each individual analysing their own pile before they deemed there was nothing worthy inside and rotated it to a fresh pair of eyes.

 

Even though he was severely confused with the whole case and didn’t really know where to really begin, he wasn’t keen on bothering the team. When Jeongguk gave a quick glance at the rest of the team, he realised they were all preoccupied with their own thoughts, some of them frowning silently at whatever they were analysing, others whispering information to themselves from the files they were flipping through.

 

He took the chance to move in front of the board and scrutinise the three photos, which were left on the children’s beds. Although they were taken by presumably the killer, Jeongguk couldn’t help but admire the photographs. They captured the essence of the moment, evoking heavy love and familiarity. It was a shame that such beautiful families were ruined. He was determined to contribute to this case to bring justice to the three families.

 

Jeongguk didn’t even remember time passing but soon the six of them were interrupted with the rise of the sun. He blinked his tiredness away as stood up to stretch out his sore muscles but a sudden, loud voice startled him.

 

“Namjoon!” the voicce called breathlessly from the opposite side of the door.

                           

They turned to see who had called their leader and noticed that it was the chief again. He hurried towards the team before taking a moment hunched over his knees to catch his breath.

 

“What’s wrong?” Namjoon frowned.

 

“We got a call. There’s report of another missing child.”

 

Namjoon looked around at his team and everyone nodded in sync.

 

“Let’s go,” Namjoon said.

 

“We have cars downstairs ready to take you,” the chief informed.

 

“Thank you.”

 

The team rushed out the office and down to the car park again where there were three police vehicles lined up one behind the other. Namjoon and Seokjin got in the first one, Hoseok and Jeongguk in the second and Jimin and Taehyung in the last. As soon as they climbed in, the cars took off, driving smoothly through the streets of Oklahoma City.

 

“You ok?” Hoseok asked.

 

Jeongguk turned around and smiled as he nodded. Hoseok reached his hand over and took one of Jeongguk’s before giving it a squeeze.

 

“Let us know if it ever gets too much.”

 

“Don’t worry. I’ve seen worse.”

 

Jeongguk was definitely not boasting but rather stating a fact to reassure Hoseok that he was really fine. The elder chuckled understandingly and they both went back to staring out the window, hands still held in each other’s, Jeongguk squeezing a bit tighter than intended.

 

He wanted to ask if the elder was ok as well but he didn’t have the courage to open his mouth again, instead resorting to a small sigh. Jeongguk wished he were close enough to talk freely with Hoseok, to tell the elder his problems and for the other to tell him what’s bothering him. There was definitely something on Hoseok’s mind whenever they were alone and Jeongguk didn’t want to pry but the way Hoseok would stare at him made him feel uneasy. It wasn’t that Jeongguk disliked the undivided attention the elder showed him but because Hoseok’s eyes held a certain degree of sadness. Sadness which Jeongguk couldn’t understand. He couldn’t recall any particular actions which may have deeply upset Hoseok so why did the elder’s eyes speak such pain?

 

During the rest of the car ride, in which Jeongguk wasn’t thinking about Hoseok, he observed the tranquillity of the neighbourhood and noticed that there was hardly a trace of people roaming the streets. The sidewalks were smooth and the blocks were joined with such precision that the gaps were barely noticeable. The houses were identical in structure and even their gardens were so empty that you could blindly roam through them and not walk into anything. However, the patios of each house were well decorated and Jeongguk noticed that many elderly couples liked sitting there to enjoy their tea and snacks.

 

When the police cars pulled over to the curb, they stepped out onto the freshly mown lawn where they were met with many different officers crowded around the house. They flashed their FBI special agent identification cards before putting on gloves and allowing an officer to lead them through the front door and then upstairs where they passed more officers talking and gathering evidence. Finally, they arrived at the bedroom of the missing four year old girl. Her parents were crying in the corner while one officer was trying to calm them down and talk to them while another two were taking photos of the child’s bed and room.

 

Seokjin immediately walked towards the parents and sent the police officer off while he, himself, crouched down in front of the parents and started whispering to them. The rest of them went to the bed and observed at the photo laid on top of it. It was taken of the family through the window with the mother cradling the missing girl who was sleeping while the father chatted with an elder boy. They waited for the police officers to finish taking photos before picking up the photo to observe it closer.

 

Namjoon squinted at the photo and proceeded to walk to the parents and ask them which window the photo was showing. Through her sobs, the mother told him it was the window in the living room and the leader thanked her before telling Seokjin with his eyes that he was taking the team downstairs.

 

Once they arrived, a quick scan of the room had Taehyung pointing at the window on the east side and Namjoon nodded before leading them outside to the east side of the house where the window was located. Holding the photo to eye level, he compared it to the house, confirming it was indeed the spot the suspect had stood to take the photo.

 

“The area is so vacant,” he stated his observation whilst the others seemed to agree with something Namjoon didn’t specify.

 

“It means the killer isn’t a stranger here,” Jimin said to Jeongguk.

 

Jeongguk nodded at Jimin’s words even though he still couldn’t quite figure out why. Why does the land being scarce mean that the killer isn’t a stranger to this neighbourhood? He was so into his thoughts that he didn’t even realise Taehyung had moved to his side and was whispering to him until he felt his breath in his ear.

 

“If there’s nothing here, then there was nowhere to hide and the killer would’ve had to take the picture in the open,” Taehyung said before noticing the position he put them in. He hesitantly leaned back and continued, “On the way you saw all those elderly couples sitting on the verandas, yeah? The police said they talked to the neighbours and no one has seen anybody suspicious. That’s why we know the killer is both familiar with this place as is the residents with the killer.”

 

Jeongguk frowned. He had observed all of that as well but why couldn’t he piece it together as well? Jeongguk remembered what he had overhead one of them say earlier in the morning and sighed. ‘They’re going to have a hard time anyways.’ Disappointed in himself for proving said person correct, he was about to walk off but Taehyung immediately stopped him.

 

“What’s wrong? Did I say something?”

 

“No, it’s not you. I was thinking why I’m so stupid? I don’t know why my brother told me to join you guys.”

 

“Hey,” Taehyung said, punching Jeongguk’s arm with more force than intended before apologising and rubbing the pain away. “Stop hating yourself. This is literally your first day and you want to outsmart us? I’ve been on this team for the shortest amount of time but that’s still nearly a year. I’m just saying that we’re way more experienced at this so don’t feel like you’re stupid, ok? If you don’t understand, I don’t mind explaining.”

 

“Yeah. I’m sorry. I’m just not used to all of this speculating. I usually just go undercover and beat people up without revealing my identity,” Jeongguk joked.

 

“I would ask you to tell me about your adventures but we have a killer to catch so maybe another time?” Taehyung smiled as he stared intently at the younger, hand lingering on Jeongguk’s arm. After getting lost in the younger’s eyes, Taehyung tilted his head at the house and gave Jeongguk’s hair a ruffle before making his way back inside.

 

Jeongguk smiled, Taehyung having successfully made him slightly less disappointed in himself and shrugged before following Taehyung back into the house, Jimin and Hoseok on his tail. When he entered the bedroom where the rest of his team were, he noticed that Seokjin was still talking to the devastated parents, probably extracting as much information as he could while Taehyung and Namjoon were conversing seriously about something.

 

He leaned against the doorframe and stared absentmindedly at the crayon drawings on the walls around the room. Once, again he was tugged out of his thoughts when a hand touched his back.

 

“What’s on your mind?” Jimin’s voice sounded.

 

“I’m wondering what the motive is. Why would the killer be targeting young girls with auburn hair in particular? That’s fairly specific. And why keep them for a few days before killing them? The autopsy showed they didn’t starve, right? And when the bodies were found, the children had all changed their clothes but why?”

 

“You have a point,” the elder nodded. “Why put in so much effort to keep the child alive and well groomed if they’re just going to kill them?”

 

“Could it be that they’re looking for something?”

 

“Maybe,” Jimin hummed before they both fell silent again.

 

After Seokjin finished speaking with the parents, the team gathered around and shared their thoughts. Jeongguk watched as they threw ideas back and forth, nodding at some but quietly disagreeing to himself at others.

 

“How did they get in?” Jimin asked at a certain point.

 

“There’s no sign of a forced entry but the police found scuff marks on the windowsill which means our killer probably climbed two stories to abduct this child,” Namjoon informed.

 

“Agile,” Hoseok nodded.

 

“And they would have to have a relatively smaller frame to fit,” Taehyung noted, analysing the window.

 

“Let’s finish up here and talk when we get back to Yoongi,” Namjoon ordered.

 

They nodded and when they decided that they had collected everything they needed, the team returned to the cars which were waiting to take them back to department. This time Jeongguk was seated in the car with the eldest who seemed to be deep in his own thoughts so he sat back and didn’t disturb him.

 

“Jeongguk?”

 

“Yeah?”

 

“Why were you so quiet?”

 

“You looked like you needed some time to think,” Jeongguk shrugged.

 

“No, I mean back at the house.”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“Why didn’t you say anything?”

 

“What more could I say? You guys said everything I was and wasn’t thinking of,” Jeongguk laughed but Seokjin could tell the younger was still bothered by something.

 

“You know you’re allowed to disagree with things we say too, right?”

 

“Yeah?”

 

“If you think we’re wrong, you can say so. We’re not going to hate you or anything.”

 

“I know… it’s just that I don’t know, it’s going to sound stupid. Don’t worry.”

 

“I’m a psychologist, remember?” Seokjin said, offering Jeongguk a small encouraging smile.

 

“Well, whenever you guys think of something or come to a conclusion about something, I just feel like I’m lacking… like I’m completely useless to the team. I want to help but I don’t think I’m qualified enough for all of this.”

 

“Jeongguk,” Seokjin started in a scolding tone that Jeongguk recognised his brother would use when he was self deprecating. “Just because you haven’t been on this team as long as everyone else, it doesn’t make your opinion any less valuable. I mean you’ve come face to face with death and you didn’t blink twice before pulling yourself up and fighting again so if you think you’re lacking and not qualified, then what am I? A potato?”

 

“Maybe, I mean you can never be too sure,” Jeongguk shrugged and Seokjin chuckled.

 

“Ok, that joke backfired on me but seriously, stop belittling yourself.”

 

“You sound like my brother.”

 

“Then your brother is very wise and you should listen to him more.”

 

“Why’re you so sure? I could be like the stupidest person you ever met. We’ve known each other for less than two days.”

 

“One, we all trust boss and two, you just seem trustable and really innocent. Did I mention that?”

 

“You mean trustworthy?”

 

“…No I mean trustable.”

 

“Ok, if you sure,” Jeongguk laughed.

 

“And if you’ve solved so many cases, I doubt you’re stupid.”

 

“Thanks I guess,” Jeongguk chuckled.

 

“That’s ok. If you ever need someone to talk, just know that I’m always here.”

 

“I will… thank you.”

 

Seokjin hummed in satisfaction before they sat the rest of the journey in silence. Jeongguk would sneak a few glances at the elder occasionally, feeling entranced by Seokjin’s side profile but he also noticed the way his face would turn sorrowful as if he was dwelling on miserable memories. However, when Seokjin caught the younger staring, he would simply mask his melancholy with a small smile and Jeongguk would merely smile back before facing his window again.

 

When they arrived at the department, the seven of them immediately headed back to the corkboard to collect their ideas. Jeongguk joined them as they sat down in the leather chairs around the wooden table in front of the board.

 

“Yoongi, you copy?” Namjoon asked through his earpiece.

 

“Yeah I’m here. Go on.”

 

“The killer stayed within the two kilometre radius again,” Taehyung stated first.

 

“Ok Jin, what did the parents say?” Namjoon asked.

 

“The same,” he sighed. “They heard nothing during the night but when they woke up, their daughter was gone and in her place was the photograph.”

 

“What happened to their other child? The boy,” Taehyung asked.

 

“They said they sent him to his aunt’s place.”

 

“Quick question,” Jeongguk interrupted. “How old is he?”

 

“Seventeen.”

 

“Why?” Hoseok questioned.

 

“Just wondering,” Jeongguk shrugged, not noticing both Taehyung and Seokjin frown but before they could say anything Namjoon cut them off.

 

“The killer climbed through the window. It’s about fifty by eighty centimetres,” he told Yoongi.

 

“That’s quite small,” Yoongi stated.

 

“Relatively speaking, yes.”

 

“Wait but doesn’t that mean that they would have to climb out again with the child?” Jeongguk frowned.

 

“…Yeah,” Namjoon nodded. “Yeah, they would.”

 

“Without the child waking up and making a fuss?” Taehyung asked.

 

“Maybe they covered the child’s mouth,” Hoseok suggested.

 

“Then it’ll take a lot of skill to climb two stories with just one hand,” Jeongguk nodded.

 

“What if they have an accomplice?” Namjoon frowned.

 

“That… that is possible,” Taehyung reluctantly agreed.

 

“But these kind of killers are usually really careful about their work. Would they risk bringing someone in?” Seokjin pondered.

 

“If there’re two suspects that will make it slightly easier for us because there is more chance of a mistake but judging from the past few kidnappings, everything with this killer has to be planned thoroughly. This is the fourth family and they still haven’t had a slip up nor has any minute detail been changed so it is more likely to be one person. If it is, then our suspect must have found a way to quietly move the child away from their bedroom without making a fuss. We just have to figure out how to help us with the profiling,” Jimin analysed.

 

“But how do we catch them? We can’t just sit and wait until they make a mistake,” Jeongguk sighed.

 

“No, we can’t,” Namjoon spoke. “That’s why we have to look through every single file here again and find a slip up that the police may have missed.”

 

The team nodded and together, they sat in the black chairs through the night again searching for clues in countless evidence that was handed to them, only moving to stretch their cramped limbs or to relieve themselves. Jeongguk’s brain was throbbing as it scrapped one theory after another. He noticed that by three o’clock, half of them were nodding off but as soon as their head dropped, they woke up, drank another cup of coffee before returning to their files or photos.

 

Jeongguk was the only one who managed to stay awake the whole night without dozing off for even a minute. He tried to keep the noises he was making at a minimum to not disturb the rest of his team who were in slumber, however, giving up after a few minutes. As he wracked his brain through his theories, Jeongguk clicked the pen in his hand at a speed that was life threatening for the pen. Why auburn haired female children between the ages of three and five? Why leave the photo? Why keep them alive for a few days only to kill? Why strangle them? Think from the perspective of a criminal, Jeongguk, think. What do they gain from this? Nothing. Then who? What? When? Where? Why?Who?For who? No impossible. … Is it?

 

He groaned and smacked his face with the autopsy report he was currently analysing.

 

“Are you ok?” Namjoon chuckled, having been watching the younger the entire time.

 

“I hate this.”

 

“Already?”

 

“Ok never mind. I dislike this. A lot.”

 

“Have you slept at all?” Namjoon asked, squinting at the clock on the side. “It’s already eight in the morning. Maybe you need to rest up a bit.”

 

“Ugh I can’t. I feel like I’ve already wasted a whole night,” Jeongguk sighed.

 

“Do you want some more coffee then?” the leader asked as he stood up.

 

“No thanks. I just want to solve this case.”

 

“Ok, I’ll be right back then.”

 

“Sure,” Jeongguk smiled before rubbing his face as if it would clear his head.

 

He stood up to stretch his arms and legs but was interrupted by someone calling his name.

 

“Hey Jeongguk.”

 

“Yoongi!” Jeongguk said turning around in surprise as the elder made his entrance. “What’re you doing here?”

 

“I needed a break and I was falling asleep in the chair at the computer forensic lab.”

 

“Have you found anything? Please tell me you’ve found something.”

 

“There’re six hundred thousand people in Oklahoma City and I narrowed down the suspect list to everyone in this two kilometre radius but there’re still so many people. I’ve already eliminated the elderly, the more well built men and women, the victims and the young children but nothing comes up,” Yoongi sighed, shaking his head. “And especially since we don’t know this person’s motive.”

 

“I want to smash my head against that wall.”

 

“Please don’t. I would hate for you to ruin your cute face,” Yoongi laughed as Jeongguk rolled his eyes and plopped himself back down onto the chair. “I came to check up on you guys but I see they’re taking a break as well. How’re you holding up?”

 

“Bad. My brain is going to be fried at this rate. I reckon going undercover in a gang and pretending to suck up to the leaders to get information is a lot easier than this.”

 

“That’s sounds horrible.”

 

“Not if you get out alive,” Jeongguk laughed. “Anyways, I’m going to read this autopsy report again and see if something jumps out. Might have missed an important detail the first few thousand times.”

 

“And I’ll go see if I can drown myself with more research.”

 

“Have fun.”

 

“I will,” Yoongi snorted.

 

Namjoon returned after Yoongi left and by nine, the whole team were up and working again. Jeongguk laid the four photos left at the victims’ houses to study again but as he glanced between the photos he frowned. What if… He picked up the first one before putting it down and taking the next. The photos… maybe… When he was squinting at the last photo, his thoughts were interrupted by his leader.

 

“What’s wrong?”

 

“Hmm?” Jeongguk replied, startled because he thought no one was watching him.

 

“You’re frowning and your mouth is open.”

 

“Oh, nothing,” Jeongguk said and when he noticed that Namjoon was still waiting for him to elaborate he continued, “It’s… it’s going to sound stupid.”

 

“Jeongguk,” Namjoon sighed and this drew the attention of the rest of the team. “You’re part of our team now so don’t be afraid to voice your thoughts. Your brother told us that you helped him solve a lot of his cases which means you obviously have justified reasoning to whatever you’re thinking so just tell us what’s on your mind.”

 

“Ok, don’t judge though,” Jeongguk murmured, realising that all five of them were waiting for him and Yoongi was probably listening in as well.

 

“We won’t.”

 

“I was thinking… that the killer might be a photographer or someone in that profession. These four photos,” Jeongguk said as he held up the four photographs that were left on the children’s bed. “They just seem too… how would I put it… too professional for a normal person?”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“A long time ago, I wanted to go into arts so I took lessons and learnt how to take photos from skilled professionals. There are key elements that we take into account when we take a photograph and the most successful photos are the ones with good composition. When you look at these four photos, the line, shape, colour, form, texture and pattern are all ridiculously stunning despite the fact that they were taken secretly.”

 

“Yoongi, did you hear that?”

 

“Yeah,” they heard Yoongi through their earpieces.

 

“Look up all the photographers in this area. Professional and freelance.”

 

“Already on it.”

 

“Really?” Jeongguk frowned.

 

“Really what?”

 

“You’re just going to take my word for it?”

 

“I’m not going to miss any chance we have at catching this killer. Judging from the past murders, we only have around four more days maximum to prevent this child’s death so every idea is not to be dismissed. If by any slim chance we find out our killer isn’t a photographer, we can always come back and rethink but you made a really valid point so I don’t see why we shouldn’t listen.”

 

“Oh.”

 

Namjoon ruffled Jeongguk’s hair before stepping in front of him and rubbing the younger’s small frown away from his face.

 

“Next time you have ideas like that, don’t be afraid to voice it. Any one of us will listen, ok?” Namjoon said gently.

 

“Yeah, ok,” Jeongguk agreed, smiling back as Namjoon nodded approving.

 

“Yoongi, have you found anything?” Namjoon asked.

 

“Joon, they’re too many photographers. You’re going to have to narrow it done more.”

 

“The houses. Check for any photographers who have worked near the victims’ houses in the past few weeks,” Jimin said.

 

“Why?”

 

“Yesterday at the house, we realised that our killer wasn’t a stranger to those streets and when the police questioned the neighbours, they only asked if they had seen anyone suspicious. But if the photographer had work in this area, then no one would suspect them.”

 

“Right,” Yoongi said and begun typing again.

 

“You have a theory, don’t you?” Namjoon asked after Jimin and Yoongi finished talking.

 

“Kind of? It might be a bit of a jump though,” Jimin reasoned but the leader nodded for him to continue. “Well, at the girl’s house today, Jeongguk brought attention to the fact that the killer’s preferences were oddly specific. When we were talking yesterday and Tae mentioned the brother of the victim, I realised that all the families that have lost children always had two, didn’t they? In every instance, it was always the younger one that went missing so it means that our killer is probably looking for someone specific.”

 

“What’re you saying?”

 

“I’m saying maybe the killer had two children as well.”

 

“But why would they need to take another children if they have two already?” Jeongguk frowned.

 

“Had,” Taehyung said, catching onto Jimin’s point. “Because their younger child died.”

 

“So they’re taking the infants to replace as their own child?”

 

“I don’t know. It’s a wild guess but what if our killer is still suffering from the loss and is imagining those children as theirs? That’s why they’re so specific in the ones they take because they’re trying to find a child that resembles their lost one.”

 

The rest of the team nodded slowly, trying to digest Jimin’s words and he continued his theory.

 

“Hoseok, yesterday you mentioned that the strangulation marks were hesitant, right?”

 

“Right, that would make sense here because they’re parents themselves so they feel remorse killing another child but at the same time, it’s not like they can return the child. So after a few days, when they’re not satisfied, they kill them and find another one?” Hoseok asked, making sure that that was where Jimin was going.

 

“Something like that,” Jimin nodded in affirmation.

 

“Why strangle the child though? Why not something less conspicuous?” Namjoon frowned.

 

“I… I don’t know,” Jimin admitted.

 

“Yoongi?”

 

“One second, I’m trying to narrow the list down with all your points.”

 

The rest of the team were still nodding at Jimin’s theory, hearing the click clacks of Yoongi searching before the technical analyst’s deep voice cut through again.

 

“Bingo. There’s someone who matches everything. A single mother. Auburn hair. She has- well had two daughters but lost her three year old seven months ago to a thief who broke into their house. Cause of death… strangulation. The elder daughter was at someone else’s house that night but she was the first person to discover her dead sister when she came home the next morning. The mother owns a photography studio near the centre of the two kilometre radius and the company had been hired to attend events near all four of the victims’ houses. I sent you the address for the studio as well as her home address.”

 

“Ok, good work. You too, Jimin. Vest up and let’s go,” Namjoon said to the rest of the team.

 

As they all stood up quickly and followed their leader, Jeongguk couldn’t help but feel a little uneasy. His sixth sense was telling him that something was definitely wrong with their presumptions but where does Jeongguk even stand in this team at the moment? Jimin had amalgamated the all clues so easily and came up with a theory to match everything but why had it all linked up so well and what were the chances that their profiling matched someone so perfectly? Was this how smoothly their cases went every time? Was it luck? No, definitely not. There’s no such thing as luck when it comes to criminal profiling.

 

So didn’t it all seem a tad bit too simple?

 

Chapter Text

“Hoseok, Jimin, you two come with me to the studio. Jin, Taehyung and Jeongguk, the three of you, go search her house,” Namjoon ordered.

 

Namjoon had the two teams split up in his mind a fair while back already, evening out the tactical, strategic and defence intelligence. Jeongguk, he assumed, and Jimin were the most skilled with guns and hand-to-hand combat while Seokjin and himself would be able to talk calmly to the suspect if a situation were to arise. Taehyung’s diverse knowledge would be able to help in unexpected circumstances and although Hoseok sported a limp, reasons unknown to the leader, he knew the elder was more than capable of handling himself.

 

Out of the six of them, it wasn’t a surprise that Jeongguk was ready in the shortest time, his FBI bulletproof vest tightened, guns ready in their holsters and other equipment in their respective carrier slots. He didn’t have to wait long for the other five to finish adjusting their body armour before setting off after Jin and Taehyung towards the vehicle assigned to them, the other three heading in the other direction.

 

Jeongguk settled into the back seat of the black SUV without hesitance, letting Taehyung in the passenger seat and Seokjin in the driver’s. When the eldest drove off, Jeongguk checked once again that he was equipped with all of his weapons, protective gear and handcuffs before finally relaxing into the seat.

 

He couldn’t bring his mind off how troubled he was feeling about the whole case. Jeongguk really hoped that their profiling was correct and Gianna Emerick, the mother, was the killer because there was a life on the line and he really didn’t want to risk anything. Sighing, he was just about to express his thoughts to the two elders who had both reassured him to speak his mind however, he was interrupted by Yoongi’s husky voice, which cut through their earpieces.

 

“Wait guys, there’s more to this mother than we thought. I did a bit more digging and it turns out our suspect has been regularly attending a mental hospital so I hacked the hospital and found her medical reports. She was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder a week after Mariah, the younger daughter, died and it turns out the trauma has also affected her memory.”

 

“Memory loss is a natural survival skill and defence mechanism people develop to protect themselves from psychological damage. It helps cope with a traumatic experience,” Seokjin sighed sympathetically.

 

“But that’s not all,” Yoongi said. “She fell into both major and psychotic depression and it’s caused damage to her brain cells.”

 

“So you mean?” Namjoon asked.

 

“She has dementia.”

 

No one spoke as they tried to process Yoongi’s words. If she has dementia, then she doesn’t fit the profile. How would she be able to plan and execute everything so precisely?

 

Had Jeongguk been wrong in the analysis of the photos?

 

Maybe they weren’t even professional. How would Jeongguk even know? He had left the arts so long ago, trends would have moved everything on and photography must have changed. New elements, new compositions to consider.

 

He led his team the wrong way and they were all going to waste precious time.

 

“More specifically, Lewy body dementia,” Yoongi continued.

 

“What’re the symptoms?” Jimin asked calmly.

 

“Most commonly, patients suffer from attention problems, reduced spatial skills, memory impairment, poor problem solving and planning, visual hallucinations, muscle stiffness, depression and balance and walking difficulties. However there’re some cases where patients also have REM sleep behaviour disorder, repeated falls and syncope, unexplained loss of consciousness, autonomic dysfunction, hallucinations of other senses such as touch and hearing or visuospatial abnormalities.”

 

Definitely did not match the profile.

 

“But since she lost her daughter only seven months ago, she should still be at the early stages, no?” Jin frowned.

 

“It doesn’t say here on the report but I should think so, seeing as though she just started treatment two months ago.”

 

“Then she shouldn’t be showing too many symptoms of dementia but more from her post-traumatic stress disorder.”

 

“Ok, we’ll continue with the search then,” Namjoon decided and that just made Jeongguk feel worse.

 

Now that we know Gianna is most likely not the killer, why are they still so adamant on searching for her? Shouldn’t we return to the police department and go back to square one?

 

But again, Jeongguk chose not to question the leader’s choices and sat back into the seat, silently waiting for their arrival at Gianna’s house. The house wasn’t actually that far but every second that Jeongguk was in the car, he felt like it was wasted. The sirens of their vehicle weren’t helping much with alleviating the weight off his mind and he wished, wished and wished again to return to earlier in the morning so he could tell his past self to not speak. There was nothing he could do now except try his best to not let his mistake affect him but Jeongguk already knew that that was going to be impossible. He was never going to forgive himself.

 

“Jeongguk, we’re here.”

 

Taehyung’s voice interrupted the silent monologue running through his head and he returned to the present. They were going to go in and arrest an innocent woman who had recently suffered a significant loss in her life. They had even obtained a search warrant and were going to search the house, high and low, but they were going to find nothing. No traces of the existence of children. No reminders of the traumatic past. Nothing.

 

As the most tactically skilled member of the team, Jeongguk was chosen to lead Seokjin, Taehyung and the group of police into the house. He grabbed his gun from the holster and stepped into the driveway of the house, pausing for a brief moment to admire the geometric quality of the exterior. It didn’t stand out from its surrounding neighbours but still appeared neater with its polished brick walls and refined white front door. The modern house stood behind a perfectly manicured lawn and the construction boasted minimalistic architecture. The wide, rectangle rectangles bore no sentimentality for chintz and Jeongguk had a clear view of the black and silver colour scheme of the interior.

 

He silently indicated for Taehyung and half the police force to round the house so they could block off the back exit. With the other team running into their place, Jeongguk, Seokjin and the other remaining officers stepped through the patio, reaching the front door.

 

Whilst Seokjin, Taehyung and Jeongguk were arranging into their positions, Hoseok, Namjoon and Jimin arrived at the studio. The front had as much personality as a blank canvas. With only the studio name embellished on the top of the black wall, they could clearly see into the studio through the glass walls which bracketed the building. It seemed to be closed however, they could discern the unmistakable artificial lighting which glimpsed through from behind the reception desk.

 

Namjoon tilted his head in the direction of the entrance and looked back at Hoseok and Jimin. After receiving a nod of confirmation from the pair, Namjoon quietly but swiftly walked to the front of the building, not needing to worry if his teammates were behind because he trusted them. Luckily, the glass door was not locked and the team were able to enter the studio without much inconvenience. The leader crept towards the room which was illuminated by the studio lights, weapon raised and eyes and ears wary of movement. Closely followed behind him was Hoseok who covered his left and Jimin who remained alert at his right. There was a sigh before Namjoon burst into the room, his gun held high and pointing at the only occupant of the room who flinched at the sudden intrusion.

 

“FBI! Hands where I can see them.”

 

The young lady, no more than the age of twenty one, frowned in shock but lifted both arms obediently into the air and Namjoon allowed the rest of the police to file into the room, searching the corners of the room for any signs of evidence.

 

“We’re not going to hurt you,” Jimin began as he holstered his gun but as the other’s frown deepened, he continued, “Do you work here?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“What’s your name?”

 

“Amaya Emerick.”

 

The first daughter.

 

“We need you to come in with us,” Jimin said gently.

 

“Why?”

 

Jimin shared a look with Hoseok and Namjoon but the leader, noticing the hesitance, stepped forward to speak to Amaya.

 

“We have probable cause to place your mother as the suspect of the abduction of four female kids and murder of three of them.”

 

“That’s impossible,” the daughter answered flatly. “My mother has dementia. How can she possibly kidnap four kids and then murder them without getting caught until now?”

 

“We believe that-“

 

“Apart from your mother’s mental illness, everything else about her fits our profile,” Jimin said, interrupting Namjoon.

 

When the leader gave him a questioning look, the younger merely shook his head. The trust between them was built through many shared experiences and thus, Namjoon instantly knew that Jimin had cut him off for a reason. They turned their attention back to Amaya who seemed to be panicking. The way her body talked to them suggested an increasing paranoia, almost like she was going to throw up. She suddenly whipped her head to directly face Namjoon, slightly scaring the leader in the process. Her breaths were heavy against the trembling hand covering her mouth and her next question was less audible than a whisper but Namjoon, nevertheless, heard.

 

“Are you searching my mother’s house right now?”

 

“Yes.”

 

Amaya’s eyes widened at the leader’s answer before she furiously shook her head and dropped back into the black seat she had occupied before they encroached the studio. Hoseok and Jimin stared confusedly at the young woman, unable to comprehend what had just happened, as they had not heard the question, but they had to leave their thoughts when Namjoon asked them to help bring her in. The behaviour analyst, although still puzzled, immediately assisted the leader in calming Amaya down and leading her with him to their black car.

 

After settling her into the backseat of the car, he turned back and noticed that Namjoon was conversing with the rest of the police force. He closed the car door and went to stand quietly next to Hoseok, both of them watching as their leader ordered the officers to search the remaining and hidden areas building for any traces of evidence. When he was done, he bowed slightly to the officers before make his way back to his team.

 

“Why did you stop me earlier?”

 

“I couldn’t let her doubt us. When you say ‘we believe’, it sounds like we’re unsure of our own analysis and criminal profiling.”

 

Namjoon wanted to ask why Jimin didn’t want her to doubt them but he was cut off by Taehyung calling to him through the radio. He didn’t know whether he was happy or sad with the next three words.

 

Jeongguk stood on the right side of the door while Seokjin stood on the left, both of their guns held close to their chests. The younger knocked twice and announced ‘FBI! We have a warrant to search this place.’ They waited for a reply or for footsteps to sound near the door but when neither happened, Jeongguk knocked again. No answer. He tried his luck with the doorknob but unfortunately, it was locked. He looked at the elder for assistance, unsure of how the team usually carried out their arrests, and Seokjin gestured for him to knock down the door.

 

“Are you sure?” he whispered. “Shouldn’t I just pick the lock?”

 

“It’s ok. Taehyung has the back exit covered if she tries to escape.”

 

Although the elder reassured him that it was ok, he was still hesitant as he lifted his leg and easily kicked the door down. Jeongguk stepped over the threshold, gun and eyes immediately flew to scan the vast space before him.

 

“FBI!” Jeongguk yelled as he walked around the first floor of the house.

 

“Ma’am? If you’re home, please show yourself!” Seokjin said calmly, following Jeongguk.

 

Jeongguk nodded at the flight of stairs leading to the second floor and Seokjin and the police officers were quick to follow him up. Reaching the top, Jeongguk pointed Seokjin to the right while he headed to the left. He was careful to open every door and check the whole room before moving to the next and repeating the same actions.

 

The bathroom was empty. A bedroom with gentle silver walls which were decorated with nature posters was left messy and empty. Another bedroom near the end of the corridor had a queen sized bed sitting in the middle but it was also empty. As he approached the last room, he noticed that it was hidden away quite well. He probably would have missed the room entirely if he hadn’t heard a lullaby being sung softly behind the black door. Jeongguk had to push down the gasp that threatened to leave his throat when he approached. He waited until Seokjin was finished with the right side of the corridor before catching the attention of the elder and gesturing to the door he was leaning against.

 

Seokjin nodded and crept silently towards Jeongguk until both of them were situated outside the last door. Jeongguk’s grip tightened on the gun before he pushed open the door and aimed at the middle-aged woman who continued to sing her lullaby, unfazed by the addition of people in the room. She was cradling the missing girl, Rose, while rocking back and forth to the melody of her song.

 

“Gianna Emerick, put the child down,” Seokjin said.

 

“Shhh,” she hissed, “You’re going to wake Mariah.”

 

Seokjin and Jeongguk inhaled heavily, trying to remember how to talk, and it was Jeongguk who ultimately recovered first.

 

“Gianna, she’s not your-“

 

“She’s beautiful,” Seokjin cut in as he put his gun away, waving at Jeongguk to copy him. “How old is she?”

 

“Three years old,” the mother smiled.

 

“Mariah is a beautiful name.”

 

“Her father chose it before he passed,” Gianna sighed.

 

“May I hold her?”

 

“She doesn’t like being held by strangers.”

 

“I’ll be gentle. I won’t harm her, I promise.”

 

Gianna hesitantly looked up to meet Seokjin’s eyes but quickly adverted it when she noticed Jeongguk staring at her too.

 

“Who’re you?” she asked, tone accusative.

 

“I’m a doctor and this is my assistant. We’ve come to check up on Mariah. May I do that?” Seokjin answered.

 

“She’s fine,” she spat as she continued to glare at Jeongguk, in fear or anger or whatever emotion she was feeling towards the younger.

 

“Yes, she looks rather healthy but I would like to examine her just to be sure.”

 

With a small step, she put less distance between Seokjin and herself but her eyes were still set hard as they observed Jeongguk. She took another step but then suddenly stopped, clutching the child closer to her body. Jeongguk got the message and slowly backed away until he was nearly out of the room. Only when Gianna saw that Jeongguk was far away from Seokjin did she move forward and hand the child over.

 

Seokjin felt for the child’s pulse and relaxed slightly, knowing she was still alive. He looked back up at the mother and found her gazing fondly at the young girl.

 

“Do you mind if we take Mariah to the hospital?” he asked gently.

 

“Why? What’s wrong with her?”

 

“Nothing is wrong,” Seokjin spoke, trying to calm Gianna down. “I just don’t have all the necessary instruments here to do a full check-up.”

 

“P-Please don’t take her away.”

 

“We’re not taking her away from you. You’ll need to come with us too,” Jeongguk replied softly when he noticed the elder hesitate, unable to keep up with the blatant lies.

 

Gianna turned to face Jeongguk again after the younger spoke. Her eyes were a testament of the suspicion, distrust but mostly hate she felt towards Jeongguk but one more look at Seokjin had her agreeing to the doctor’s request. Seokjin sent a message to Jeongguk with a quick shake of his head then a tilt in the direction of the front door.

 

Jeongguk nodded and exited the room, casting one last glance at the desperation which was displayed on Gianna’s face and at the child in Seokjin’s arms. He orderly rounded up the police officers inside the house and asked them to hide or wait outside before he proceeded to the back exit.

 

However, when he opened the door from the inside, he instantly regretted his carelessness as he was met with nine barrels aimed straight at his face.

 

“It’s me. Don’t shoot.”

 

Taehyung sighed in frustration and relief as Jeongguk walked up to him.

 

“You scared me.”

 

“I’m sorry. I forgot,” Jeongguk said while he sheepishly rubbed the back of his neck.

 

“You forgot I was standing out here?” Taehyung asked, amusement tinged behind his shock.

 

“No, I forgot to tell you that we found Rose.”

 

“You found her? Is she ok? Where’s Seokjin? Where’s Gianna?”

 

“She’s ok but…”

 

“But what?”

 

“Well, it was exactly what Jimin said. Gianna thought Rose was Mariah and she was afraid we were going to take her away from her so Seokjin had to tell her he was a doctor and that he wanted to take the child into the hospital for a check-up.”

 

“Right, we shouldn’t let her see us then,” Taehyung nodded. “Come on.”

 

Jeongguk sighed as he followed Taehyung back around to the front of the house. He heard Taehyung calling to Namjoon through the radio and sighed again.

 

“We found Rose.”

 

So Jeongguk was right about the photos all along. They had found the child. The case was solved.

 

But still, Jeongguk contemplated. It was the annoying sixth sense that was bothering him again but why? They caught the mother in the act so what were they missing? It was evident to everyone that there were no more pieces in the puzzle left to be solved but Jeongguk continuously felt like they had been blinded to an empty spot.

 

“What’s wrong?” Taehyung asked as they approached the black car.

 

“I… I feel like something’s wrong.”

 

“What do you mean? Didn’t you find Gianna with Rose?”

 

“Yeah, we did but ever since Jimin told us his theory this morning, I felt like something was wrong. I’m not saying I don’t trust Jimin’s profiling and skill but I don’t know…”

 

“It seemed a bit too straight forward and simple?”

 

“Yeah,” Jeongguk frowned.

 

“That’s what I thought at first but Jimin’s a behaviour analyst. He’s studied behaviour problems, the changes the environment has on an individual’s behaviour and how to implement plans to fix bad behaviour. For this case, I think he and Seokjin should know best how the suspect thinks so I’m not surprised his theory was correct but I do agree that this case seemed easier than our others.”

 

“Do you usually solve cases this quickly though?”

 

“No,” Taehyung shook his head. “No, we don’t. But we usually don’t have a Jeongguk Jeon in the team either. Without your help, we wouldn’t have known that our suspect was a photographer and would’ve probably still be looking for clues to narrow down our suspect list.”

 

“I should probably just ignore this feeling then,” Jeongguk sighed in defeat instead of feeling embarrassed from Taehyung’s praise.

 

“What? Sorry, I didn’t catch that,” the elder frowned.

 

“Don’t worry. I had a question, is it actually possible for someone to convince that another’s child is theirs though?”

 

“Well, if they have a strong psychosis, then yes.”

 

“Right,” Jeongguk nodded, storing more knowledge away. “Seokjin’s coming. Let’s go.”

 

Taehyung gestured for Jeongguk to drive while he sat himself into the passenger seat again. They waited silently for Seokjin, Gianna and the now awake child to walk towards their car. Jeongguk saw that Rose looked like she was trying her best to hold her tears, determination evident in the pout between her chubby cheeks. He deemed that she was probably terrified from waking up to two complete strangers who were going to bring her to two more.

 

When the three entered the car, Jeongguk was quick to give the child a reassuring smile, however quickly withdrew it as a menacing glare was directed to him from Gianna. He faced the front, unable to cope with her hostility and turned the engine on to head back to the police department. The mother was bound to be even more agitated when she realises that he didn’t drive them to a hospital and if Jeongguk was lucky, he would be able to avoid her wrath. Taehyung kept sparing him quizzical looks throughout the drive but apart from that, everyone remained silent.

 

They had left the officers back at the house, trusting them to collect the appropriate evidence and sorting out the necessary documentation. Taehyung knew Jeongguk wasn’t convinced from their talk earlier but to be completely honest, Taehyung, himself, was also confused at the case.

 

Trust.

 

That’s why their teamwork was so strong. By doubting their choices, he felt like he wronging someone so he decided to push that uncertainty away. If there were an actual problem, it wouldn’t just be Jeongguk and him recognising it.

 

As soon as they arrived at the department, Jeongguk bolted out of the car and Seokjin and Taehyung couldn’t really blame him for the mother had literally burned a hole in the back of the younger’s head through the duration of the ride. This made them both puzzled since she had acted indifferently in Taehyung’s presence. There was something about Jeongguk that unnerved the mother but they couldn’t figure out what as their thoughts were interrupted by Gianna’s rage.

 

“This isn’t the hospital. Where am I?”

 

She tried to snatch Rose out of Seokjin’s arm but the psychologist was swift and moved out of her arms’ reach before she could lunge at him. Jeongguk, who was lingering on the other side of the car, didn’t hesitate to run around to assist Taehyung as he tried to hold the mother away from Seokjin. Gianna started screaming hysterically, drawing the attention of the inside officers who ran out to take her from the two FBI agents and into an interrogation room.

 

“Are you ok?” Jeongguk asked a shocked Taehyung.

 

“Yeah,” Taehyung smiled before chuckling, “Was slightly not prepared for that.”

 

Jeongguk nodded but their moment was once again interrupted when Rose started crying in Seokjin’s arms. She buried her head into the elder’s neck while her hands were making small, grabby motions at Seokjin’s bulletproof vest.

 

“Hey, hey, it’s ok. We’re not going to hurt you,” Taehyung whispered.

 

Rose lifted her head slightly and viewed Taehyung through her teary eyes.

 

“I want my mummy.”

 

“Your mummy’s coming soon. Don’t worry, we’re the police,” Taehyung smiled as he took the girl who was reaching out to him.

 

“P-Police? The good guys?” she sniffed.

 

“Yup.”

 

“Where did the bad woman go? She was s-scary.”

 

“We took her away. You won’t see her again, sweetheart.”

 

“T-Thank you,” she whispered timidly in between her hiccups.

 

“Do you want some cookies? How about I find you some cookies?” Taehyung chuckled.

 

“Yes!” Rose exclaimed, trying to wipe her tears away.

 

Seokjin and Jeongguk watched the two fondly as Taehyung took Rose inside the building to find some snacks.

 

“What’s your name?”

 

“Rose,” she smiled but then frowned after a short second. “Why was the bad woman calling me Mariah. Who’s Mariah?”

 

“She thought you were someone else but it’s ok now. Your parents are coming to take you home.”

 

Rose nodded happily and looked over Taehyung’s shoulder, seeing Seokjin and Jeongguk.

 

“Are they good guys too?”

 

“Yes, they’re my friends.”

 

“He’s pretty,” she whispered whilst pointing a short finger at Seokjin.

 

Taehyung and Jeongguk chuckled at the girl’s honesty and Seokjin, in the meantime, sent a flying kiss to the girl who scrunched up her nose at the action and hid behind Taehyung,

 

“What’s your name?” Rose asked.

 

“Taehyung.”

 

“Can I call you Tae? Taehyung is too hard,” she pouted and Taehyung laughed.

 

“Whatever you want, sweetie. Now would you like chocolate chip or vanilla?”

 

“Chocolate chip!”

 

Taehyung sat down and placed Rose on his lap, seeing as though she refused to be parted with him. Seokjin pulled up another chair while Jeongguk chose to lean against the table, all of them watching Rose munch contentedly on the cookies. She was so focused on the snacks she didn’t bother to lift her head as another three agents walked into the room with Amaya. Jeongguk led the three away towards the corridor of the interrogation room to fill them in on what happened whilst Taehyung stayed with Rose and Seokjin took Amaya to another room.

 

“We had to break into the house because she wasn’t answering the door but we found her upstairs cradling Rose. Gianna thought she was Mariah so Seokjin had to tell her that he was a doctor and wanted to examine Rose at the hospital. But when we arrived here, she tried to attack us when she realised we weren’t at a hospital so you might want to be careful when you question her.”

 

“Ok, thank you. Good work, you three. Jimin, I want you to come in with me when I question her.”

 

“Wouldn’t Seokjin be a better choice?” Jeongguk frowned before furiously apologising to Jimin. “Sorry, I-I didn’t mean any offence.”

 

“No worries. I agree with you but…” Jimin smiled but then exchanged something akin to reluctance with Hoseok and Namjoon.

 

“Oh… I’m sorry… I shouldn’t have questioned your choices,” Jeongguk directed at Namjoon and escaped back Taehyung before the three could stop him.

 

What was it they didn’t want to tell him? If it were something major that affected Seokjin, wouldn’t it be best for him to know it as well, now that he’s a part of the team? Did they not trust him yet?

 

He went back to find Taehyung brushing crumbs off of Rose’s face while the child giggled at him, apology for making a mess in her eyes. Jeongguk saw Taehyung squeeze the girl’s cheeks, causing her to push the hands away and rub her sore face with a pout. The elder agent cooed even more at her and Jeongguk just stood near the doorway, taking in the domestic scene before him.

 

“Tae loves kids.”

 

“Yoongi?” Jeongguk gasped, patting his heart to try and recover from the shock while the elder just chuckled. “Stop doing that.”

 

“Good job on the photos.”

 

“Thanks. What’re you doing here?”

 

“I came to make sure you guys were all ok,” Yoongi shrugged.

 

Jeongguk smiled but stayed silent, an action that Yoongi was grateful for since he wasn’t one to express his concerns. Yoongi ruffled Jeongguk’s hair before they both turned their attention back to Taehyung and Rose.

 

At that moment, Rose’s parents burst into the room, followed by two police officers who profusely apologised to Yoongi, Taehyung and Jeongguk for not holding the parents back. Taehyung waved them off as he helped Rose jump off his lap and into her parents’ arms. He turned to Jeongguk and asked him to quickly get Seokjin so the elder could talk to the child before the parents took her home. The younger nodded and headed down another corridor to where Seokjin was presumably talking to Amaya.

 

When he knocked and entered at Seokjin’s call, he noticed that Amaya was sitting in a chair opposite Seokjin, frowning at the ground.

 

“Seokjin, can I talk to you?” Jeongguk said whilst pointing at the door.

 

The elder nodded and whispered a few words to Amaya before stepping outside with Jeongguk.

 

“Rose’s parents are here already so Taehyung asked if you could go talk to her before they take her home.”

 

“Oh right,” Seokjin said, slapping his forehead because how could he have forgotten? Maybe it was just that time of the year again where he couldn’t concentrate properly. “I’ll go talk to Rose now. Can you stay and look after Amaya?”

 

“Sure.”

 

Seokjin turned to leave but suddenly halted.

 

“Jeongguk…”

 

“Yeah?”

 

“Amaya, she’s kind of emotionless right now, or rather just calm for someone who just found out their mother was a criminal- murderer no less. I think she’s still in shock because she isn’t really responding to me…”

 

“Do you want me to try to talk to her?”

 

“If you don’t mind. You’re closest to her in age. Nothing too aggressive and try not to bring up the situation just yet. I want you to just get her talking.”

 

“Ok, I’ll try my best. Go talk to Rose.”

 

“Thank you, Jeongguk,” Seokjin smiled before finally stepping away.

 

Jeongguk took a deep breath before entering the room again. He wasn’t experienced in dealing with victims or situations like this so he wasn’t just a little nervous. Amaya hadn’t even changed her position in the slightest and Jeongguk was starting to worry.

 

“Amaya, are you ok?”

 

No reply. Stupid, Jeongguk, stupid. Why would you ask her if she was ok? Of course she isn’t. She just found out her mother’s a murderer. Ok, let’s try another approach. What do nineteen year olds even like these days? Oh wait, they found her at the photography studio. Is that too closely related to her mother? Maybe, I shouldn’t bring it up. But I don’t have anything else to say…

 

“Uh…” he started dumbly. “So you like photography?”

 

Nothing.

 

“I love photography. It gives me freedom and power. Isn’t it a wonder that you can stand behind a camera and capture the beauty of a moment? I think all photographs tell stories. It’s the only language that’s understood across the world but at the same time, one photo has more than hundreds of different interpretations,” he sighed.

 

“How did you find my mother?” she whispered as she kept her eyes on the ground.

 

“The photos,” Jeongguk answered truthfully after a moment of shock.

 

To be fair, it wasn’t him that brought up the situation so Seokjin shouldn’t be mad at him, right?

 

“Hey, um… do you want to talk about something else?”

 

“I can’t believe it.”

 

“I-I’m sorry.”

 

“For what?”

 

“I’m sorry you have to be in this situation.”

 

“It was you, wasn’t it?”

 

“W-What?”

 

“You’re the one who realised the suspect was a photographer because of the photos."

 

“I…”

 

She scoffed before finally lifting her face to look at Jeongguk. Her frown was quickly erased as her expression turned into one of shock, fear and then more anger.

 

“Get out.”

 

“What?”

 

Amaya stood up abruptly, edging to the corner of the room to get away from Jeongguk. The young agent stared at her with confusion and concern but remained rooted in the spot, neither moving closer to her nor leaving.

 

“Get away from me.”

 

“Amaya, calm down.”

 

“No, get out,” she screamed.

 

Jeongguk stood, shocked from the sudden outburst, contemplating whether he should go find Seokjin or try and calm her down but that issue was quickly resolved when Seokjin, followed closely by the rest of the team, practically flew into the room.

 

“What’s wrong?”

 

Amaya pointed at Jeongguk, hatred written on every inch of her face.

 

“Jeongguk, get out,” Seokjin said, not harshly, as he carefully moved forward to calm Amaya down.

 

The flustered younger ran out of the room at a record breaking speed, not even sparing a moment to look back until he reached the bathroom. Jeongguk hunched over one of the carrara marble sinks and turned on the tap, splashing a substantial amount of cold water onto his face. He didn’t realise another person had joined him, only perking up to look at his reflection when he felt a hand on his shoulder. Jeongguk dropped his head back down to stare at the sink, unable to cope with the worry in Yoongi’s eyes. Gripping the edge of the sink, he tried to level his breathing.

 

“I screwed up.”

 

“No you didn’t.”

 

“I broke their family.”

 

“Jeongguk, you saved Rose’s life.”

 

“Amaya… she’s already lost her father and younger sister and now she’s going to lose her mother too.”

 

“That’s not your fault.”

 

Yoongi was firm but gentle and Jeongguk couldn’t find the strength in himself to argue.

 

“Do you want to talk about what happened?” Yoongi asked. When Jeongguk didn’t reply he quickly added, “It’s fine if you don’t want to. Let’s go back. I think they’re all worried.”

 

“I… Seokjin wanted me to talk to Amaya since I’m closest to her in age and because she wasn’t talking or responding to him. He specifically told me to not bring up the situation but Amaya did. I swear I was avoiding it so when she brought up the case, I tried to get her to talk about something else but she found out that I was the one who led the police to her mother. I’m sorry.”

 

“Jeongguk, you have nothing to be sorry for. Nothing you did was wrong, ok?”

 

The younger didn’t reply and Yoongi knew he wasn’t going to get one so after a solid five seconds of silence, he softly tugged Jeongguk around to face him before pulling him into an embrace. He felt some relief when Jeongguk relaxed in his arms and despite the younger’s stronger build and their evident height difference, it finally hit him how young Jeongguk actually was. He shouldn’t be going through all of this pressure and uneasy, conflicted thoughts at the mere age of twenty one. No, he was far too young for that. However, all of his thoughts vanished as soon as he felt Jeongguk return the hug. It was like the younger was thanking him and reassuring him and whilst Yoongi was never comfortable with physical contact, he couldn’t help but feel disappointed when Jeongguk pulled away.

 

“Let’s go,” Jeongguk smiled tiredly.

 

“Are you sure? I mean, we can stay here all day if you need.”

 

Jeongguk chuckled and shook his head, missing the ‘pity’ Yoongi muttered, before leading the elder to the exit.

 

It was a slower journey back to the others but neither of them were in a hurry to return. Jeongguk was first to spot his four teammates and he felt Yoongi’s calming touch on his back when he hesitated. Jeongguk was glad that they didn’t cease their conversation when they noticed him approaching but what he didn’t know was the figure behind him shaking his head. They were sorting out the necessary files to take into the interrogation room but Jeongguk couldn’t really focus. His mind was still living in that room with Amaya. So many things had gone wrong in so little time. Now that his head was clearer and his emotions weren't controlling him, Jeongguk revisited the conversation he had with Amaya.

 

He didn’t even notice Namjoon and Jimin already heading to question Gianna until he felt a gentle push from Yoongi in the direction the others were walking in. He smiled embarrassedly and apologised to Yoongi who rolled his eyes before jokingly scolding Jeongguk to not be apologetic for such trivial matters.

 

As they gathered outside the two way mirror, Jeongguk felt Hoseok sliding up to stand on his left and offered him a small smile which the elder returned in five times the brightness.

 

“Your name?” Namjoon began.

 

“Gianna Emerick,” she spat begrudgingly.

 

“Age?”

 

“Doesn’t it say there on your file?”

 

“Age?”

 

“43.”

 

Namjoon sighed but continued, pushing the photos of the three victims towards her.

 

“Do you recognise these three children?”

 

“Mmmm, not really.”

 

“Not really?”

 

“May have seen them once or twice?”

 

“Are you asking me or telling me?”

 

“I don’t know?”

 

“Ok, let’s move on. Do you know what these are?” Jimin asked as he placed the four photographs, left on the children’s beds, in front of her.

 

“Photos?”

 

“Look here, Mrs. Emerick. We’re sorry about what happened to your family but that doesn’t excuse your actions. Do you not feel the slightest bit of guilt about what you did to those innocent children? Camillia, Josephine and Celeste were another family’s precious daughter and you just took them away. From safety, from love, from life.”

 

“What?”

 

“Don’t pretend like you don’t know what I’m talking about. We have concrete evidence to convict you of abduction and murder so unless you start talking to us, we can’t help you.”

 

“I…” she begun before pausing. It was brief but Jeongguk saw confusion in her eyes but it disappeared as quick as it appeared. He dismissed it, relating it to the symptoms of her dementia. “Where’s Amaya and Mariah?”

 

“I’m sorry, Mrs. Emerick. Mariah is dead. She died seven months ago.”

 

“You’re lying. I saw her about half an hour before you took her away from me,” she accused.

 

“I know this might be hard to believe but that child wasn’t Mariah. Her name is Rose.”

 

“You think I’ll believe that?” she scoffed. “Why’re you trying to take Mariah away from me?”

 

“We’re not trying to take her away from you.”

 

“Yes, you are. Where’s Amaya? Don’t her take her away from me too.”

 

“Your daughter is in good hands right now.”

 

“If… if I confess to the abductions… and murder of those children, you have to promise me to keep Amaya and Mariah safe.”

 

“We promise we’ll keep her safe as long as she stays on the right side of the law.”

 

Jeongguk was no genius like Einstein but he was a victim of post-traumatic stress disorder himself and so, it was weird because the mother was barely showing any of the symptoms that he had experienced. It wasn’t that he wished for the mother to suffer but the fact that she seemed so at ease during this interrogation which was unsettling. However, Jeongguk suddenly realised that she had already removed the event, which had caused her trauma, out of memory so that was probably the reason why she wasn’t experiencing those difficulties anymore. But still, he knew there was something she wasn’t telling them or simply just hiding. Seokjin was their psychologist and Jimin was their behaviour analyst but that didn’t mean Jeongguk was not observant with people’s emotions and behaviours.

 

But what if Jeongguk’s own emotions were getting to him? Was he overthinking? His sympathy towards Gianna and Amaya might be blinding him from the reality and giving him a misconception of the truth. He couldn’t let his feelings get in the way of what is, so again, he tried to push his negative thoughts away.

 

“Let’s start with a simple question, how did you abduct the children without them waking up?”

 

“I don’t know. I can’t really remember.”

 

“Do you remember why you abducted the children?”

 

“Not really.”

 

“Why did you leave the photos on the children’s beds then?”

 

“Thought it’d make a decent m.o..”

 

“But you do realise, the photos are what gave you away?”

 

“So, what? You want me to be sitting here regretting that decision?”

 

“No,” Jimin sighed. “Why did you kill them?”

 

“I… I don’t know,” she whispered.

 

Jeongguk was so confused by all her answers and his own conflicting thoughts that he zoned out and missed the rest of the interrogation. There was something just not clicking but he couldn’t figure out what. He’ll consider bringing it up to Jimin about it later but for now he’ll watch and learn as the elders take the lead with the rest of the procedures. He vaguely heard Namjoon and Jimin coming out before the leader told the rest of the team that the court was going to take her condition into account before deciding where to send her.

 

“Amaya’s going to be under surveillance for a while until they deem her wellbeing stable,” Seokjin informed. “The photography studio that Gianna owned is also closing down unless Amaya wants to take over.”

 

Photography studio.

 

Photos.

 

How did Amaya know which photos I was talking about? Didn’t Namjoon specifically order the police to not release the details of the case to the public?

 

“What if they have an accomplice?”

 

What if Gianna was the accomplice? It would explain how they got the child out of the house without making a fuss or creating a scene.

 

Maybe Gianna didn’t kill the children. Maybe that’s why she was confused. Maybe she lied to protect Amaya.

 

“I… I think Gianna’s lying,” Jimin said quietly.

 

Me too.

 

Chapter Text

"Lying?”

 

Jimin nodded firmly.

 

“When we were interrogating her, her body language, her eyes and especially her hands showed that she was nervous. She’s lying.”

 

I think so too.

 

“But why is she lying?”

 

To protect her daughter.

 

“I think she’s trying to hide something.”

 

She’s doesn’t want us to know that Amaya’s involved.

 

But that was just what Jeongguk was assuming. What if he’s wrong? What if he was so caught up in the moment that he analysed the whole situation wrong? Maybe it would just be best to stay quiet and not say anything this time. He’d already caused enough mess for his team.

 

“For some reason, she hates Jeongguk,” Taehyung added. Thank you for sharing that. “Should we let Jeongguk try talking to her? Maybe his presence will upset her and cause a slip.”

 

“Let’s try that,” Namjoon nodded, agreeing.

 

“Uh…”

 

“Jeongguk, go inside and see if you can do some more prodding.”

 

“Are you sure that’s a good idea?”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

I’m going to screw up again.

 

“I mean what if she reacts like Amaya?”

 

“…What happened between you and Amaya?” Namjoon frowned.

 

Jeongguk hesitated as he remembered his brief moment with Amaya. Now that his head wasn’t constricted and he was thinking clearer, he realised that Amaya had seemed angrier seeing his face than finding out that he was the reason her mother was being interrogated. Hadn’t he also noticed a flash of fear behind her quiet eyes?

 

“I… I’m not sure. When she saw me, she turned angry but also… scared? … Never mind, I don’t know what I’m saying. I was probably just shocked by her sudden outburst and misread the situation. Don’t worry… I’ll just go.”

 

Jeongguk didn’t even wait for his team’s reactions before he stepped into the interrogation room, hoping that this wouldn’t take long as Gianna had already set her eyes on him and was sending an intimidating glare his way.

 

Standing there, Jeongguk realised how much of an understatement it was when he said he hated interrogations. Even though he wasn’t ever the one being interrogated, Jeongguk hated the vast emptiness of the room. The longer he stayed, the more the walls seemed to cave towards him. The lights were a harsh fluorescent shade, casting a slight bluish-green to every detail of the room. Everything was cold and dull but of course, that was the purpose. The physical layout was designed to maximise the suspect’s discomfort and sense of powerlessness but that didn’t mean Jeongguk particularly liked the room either.

 

However, more than the sparsely furnished room, he hated the way they were taught to act. He had to exploit the suspect’s weaknesses with dominance, control and consequence.

 

“Hello, Mrs. Emerick. I’m Special Agent, Jeongguk Jeon.”

 

“So you’re not a doctor’s assistant.”

 

“No. No, I’m not.”

 

“You lied.”

 

“So did you,” he said, confident and cold.

 

“You know Cohen, don’t you?”

 

“Who’s that?”

 

“I don’t know. All I remember is the fact that I hated him for some reason.”

 

“What do I have to do with him?”

 

“You look the same,” she spat.

 

Well that was something Jeongguk was not prepared for but just as long as she didn’t start shouting at him as well, he can do this. Outside, however, Yoongi was frowning. Cohen. Cohen. Why did it sound so familiar? Where had he seen it?

 

“What’re you here for? Got more questions for me? I’m going to give you the same answers as I gave those other people. You-”

 

“I was talking to Amaya.”

 

When Gianna sat up a little straighter and leaned forward, Jeongguk knew he was going the right way.

 

“Do you know what she told me?”

 

“What?”

 

“She admitted it. Confessed to everything.”

 

“Admitted what?”

 

“She told me she murdered those children. She told us everything was her fault and we should leave you alone.”

 

“Amaya’s innocent. She didn’t do anything.”

 

“That’s not what she said to me,” Jeongguk tsked.

 

“It was all me,” Gianna insisted.

 

“Then care to explain how you killed those children and where you left their bodies?”

 

“You already know how. Why do you need me to tell you?”

 

“Because you don’t know.”

 

“Yes, I do. I just have dementia.”

 

“If you insist,” Jeongguk said sarcastically before asking an obvious question, “Would you also like to tell me why you only took children with auburn hair? Why so specific?”

 

“I was finding someone to play with Mariah.”

 

“You abducted other children with the same hair colour as Mariah so she could have friends? Is that what you’re saying?”

 

“Yes.”

 

Gianna never once wavered but Jeongguk knew she was lying. How? If she hadn’t taken the child, then Mariah would not have existed in her unstable mindset. The only reason she believed her daughter was alive was because her psyche convinced her that the abducted children were hers. Thus, she could not have taken the children as a playmate for her daughter. Jeongguk had revealed one lie after another and he was starting to get annoyed because Gianna was still hard-set on not exposing the truth. He desperately wanted to leave the room but he couldn’t without accomplishing what he came in for.

 

Jeongguk took a long breath and sighed.

 

“Mrs. Emerick, either you tell me the truth or both you and your daughter will be going to jail.”

 

Jail.

 

“Mariah’s dead.”

 

“W-What?” Jeongguk frowned, cold demeanour already dissipating.

 

“Cohen… Cohen’s in jail. He’s there because he killed Mariah.”

 

That’s where Yoongi saw the name. The thief who broke into their house. Cohen Mullis.

 

Amaya screamed at Jeongguk because he looked like Cohen not because the younger was the reason they were here. How did Yoongi miss that? Why hadn’t he dug up more on Cohen? Evidently, last time hadn’t served as a lesson. Why was he so intent on making the same mistake twice?

 

“You,” she breathed in rage before she jumped out of the chair and started yelling, “You dare put my daughter in jail? With that filthy thief? All she was trying to do was help me. You don’t know what we’ve been through. You don’t know what it feels like to lose a daughter or a sister. You’re just a useless, stuck up agent who thinks he knows everything. But guess what? You. Don’t. Know. Anything.”

 

Every word was a weapon. They echoed endlessly, corrupting his mind. It hurt more than he would have liked to admit.

 

Jeongguk’s had those thoughts as well but coming from another person hurt more than he expected. He knew he was useless, he did. He couldn’t possibly understand what Gianna was going through either but that was exactly the reason he felt bad for convicting them.

 

Yoongi came in as she opened her mouth to continue yelling. Jeongguk was in too much shock, shame and guilt to listen to anything around him so the rest of her words fell on deaf ears.

 

“Jeongguk?”

 

He didn’t respond. Obviously.

 

Yoongi had no choice but to drag the younger out of the interrogation room. Jeongguk, surprisingly, let himself be led in the direction the elder was pulling him in. He didn’t even notice the six pair of eyes on him, concern mixed with guilt behind the cores. There was a hand on each shoulder but the touch was so gentle and light, he almost couldn’t feel. He was just frowning at floor, not really sure what was going through his head. Self-denigration? Self-hatred? Self-doubt? Or maybe all three?

 

“Jeongguk?”

 

It was Seokjin’s soft, fairylike voice that he was trying to drown out.

 

Jeongguk tried his best to remove everything and suddenly, his mind just went blank, unpleasant thoughts leaving him behind. He couldn’t really feel anything. Not even the hands shaking him. His features morphed into a neutral expression, head still hung low. He felt light. His brain was foggy. But moreover, he was just numb.

 

“What’s happening?” Taehyung whispered.

 

“He’s dissociating himself.”

 

“How do we help? C-Can we bring him back?” Jimin questioned unsurely.

 

“I-I don’t know how. I don’t know what caused the dissociation. He’s using it as a defence mechanism but I don’t know why,” the eldest fretted.

 

Then, as if Jeongguk’s mind wasn’t tortured enough, it took him back to the previous year. He was running. And running. And running. He was tired. So so tired but he couldn’t stop. Not even when a body lunged at him, knife falling through the side of his thigh. Not even when Sangjun appeared in front of him and the bullet impacted his shoulder, making his pace stumble with the unexpected force. Not even when the loss of blood made his vision blurry and he had to blindly throw his body through the maze of alleyways.

 

It’s not real, Jeongguk. Snap out of it. You’re safe. It’s not real.

 

“Let me- let me think. What causes dissociation? Um, anxiety, panic, obsessions and compulsions, uh, past trauma, stress? Stress. I think he was stressed,” Seokjin rambled quickly.

 

“Stress?” Namjoon frowned.

 

“Y-Yeah yeah, sometimes in the face of stress, people exit their thoughts, feeling and bodily sensations and completely zone out.”

 

“Uh… not to freak out but he’s frowning… and breathing faster. Why’s he breathing faster?” Hoseok blathered, tone layered with alarm and fear.

 

They all flinched backwards when Jeongguk brought both arms up and crossed them over his chest like he was shielding himself from something. His hands were wrapped tightly around his shoulders and his body was tilting forwards, like it wanted to curl into a ball. He surprised them more when he dropped into a squat, fingernails digging through his suit jacket. Jeongguk couldn’t even feel all his twitching muscles and tingling sensations along his extremities.

 

“He’s not zoning out anymore. He’s panicking,” Yoongi commented in a hurry.

 

It’s not real. Focus on the voices around you. You’re not there. Sangjun’s across the country. It’s ok.

 

“Jeongguk? Hey, don’t be afraid. We’re all here,” Seokjin said gently as he crouched down as well. “Whatever you’re thinking, it’s not real. Can you hear me?”

 

Yes. Yes, I can.

 

“Remember to breathe. That’s it. Just follow my voice.”

 

I’m trying.

 

“Come back to us, Jeongguk.”

 

Jeongguk took a breath and held it for a few seconds before letting it out. He repeated the process several more times, focusing on the Seokjin’s voice and just like that, Jeongguk woke up from his nightmare. He had broken into a cold sweat and there was still a heavy feeling in his chest but he was awake. Jeongguk felt exhausted, like he was seconds from passing out. Seokjin knew though. Of course he would know. In fact, they all knew Jeongguk was about to collapse.

 

“Can I touch you?” Seokjin asked.

 

Jeongguk nodded numbly, not sure trusting his voice would get them far in the conversation.

 

The elder’s hands moved slowly towards his arms, whilst he kept his attention on Jeongguk’s face, ready for any indication to back away. When no such rejection was shown, Seokjin grabbed his biceps gently and pried his arms off of his torso. Only then did Jeongguk realise he was hunched over on the floor with his arms previously enveloping his body in a protective stance. Seokjin gently pulled him up before leading him with small steps away from the corridor and into an empty room. Jeongguk didn’t register that the others were gone until he entered and saw the five standing nervously in the room, some holding bottles of water, some holding a variety of snacks.

 

He was led to one of the couches and he dropped gratefully into the corner whilst Seokjin kneeled down in front of him. Jeongguk was fiddling with his fingers, too ashamed to face any of them.

 

“I’m sorry. I screwed up again, didn’t I?”

 

“No, you didn’t, Jeongguk,” Seokjin whispered. “She gave away enough.”

 

“She did?” Jeongguk frowned.

 

“Yeah. She said ‘All she was trying to do was help me.’”

 

“Oh.”

 

“Good job,” Seokjin smiled before Namjoon hesitantly came forward to sit beside Jeongguk.

 

“I’m sorry for putting you in that situation. I should’ve asked you if you were okay with interrogating her… I’m sorry for not considering your feelings.”

 

“And I’m sorry for not thoroughly searching up Cohen’s profile,” Yoongi apologised. “If I had, we might’ve known earlier why Gianna and Amaya hated you so much.” Thank you again for that.

 

“You should’ve told me what you were thinking,” Jimin murmured from across the room. “I thought Amaya was acting suspiciously as well. Joonie, yesterday when I cut you off, it was because of how she reacted when we barged into the room. Instead of being scared, she was more shocked? And then when we told her about our suspicion of her mother, she denied her mother’s involvement too quickly. But of course, there’re people who are less expressive of their emotions so I didn’t want to jump to conclusions.”

 

“Jeongguk, why didn’t you tell us you suspected her?” Seokjin asked softly.

 

“I… I don’t know. I guess I just didn’t want to suspect her. She’s only nineteen. It just…”

 

You’re only twenty one’ they all thought but didn’t mention. The time for that was not now.

 

“Mhm?” Seokjin hummed gently for Jeongguk to continue.

 

“It just felt… wrong.”

 

“What felt wrong?”

 

“This whole case. When I was talking to Amaya before, she asked me how we found her mother and I told her ‘the photos’. She didn’t even ask me what photos. She just got kind of angry when she realised her mother was found because of me. And… I don’t know. Is it bad that I sympathise with them?”

 

“No. It’s not bad,” Seokjin said. “What happened to Mariah wouldn’t have been something that was easy to cope with but to resort to abducting other children and murdering them was not what they should’ve done. That’s wrong.”

 

“I know. I just feel bad,” Jeongguk sighed. “Can you… tell me what happened back there?”

 

“Are you sure you want to talk about that now? You look like you’re literally about to faint.”

 

“Yeah, I’m okay. I want to know what happened.”

 

“How much do you remember?”

 

“Uh, just her screaming. Everything else was a blur.”

 

“Well, I think what she said may have caused you to feel stressed which triggered your mind to suffer a psychological response called dissociation. You with me?”

 

“Yeah, go on,” Jeongguk nodded.

 

“Before I continue, I’m going to ask you a question. You don’t have to reply if you don’t want to, ok?”

 

“…Okay.”

 

“What she said about you, why did you feel stressed?”

 

“I… I don’t want to answer that.”

 

“That’s fine,” Seokjin replied quickly. “Just… please just don’t let what she said get into your head. She doesn’t know you or what you’ve been through either. She was in no place to say that to you.”

 

Of course the elder had read his mind. He was a psychologist. Jeongguk would only be fooling himself if he thought he was able to hide everything or if he thought Seokjin wouldn’t be able to read him as easily as he gave himself away. But Jeongguk hated being vulnerable. He hated being susceptible to other’s words and actions. He hated being weak.

 

“I guess,” Jeongguk shrugged. “But what happened after the dissociation?”

 

“You went into a panic attack,” Seokjin spoke slowly.

 

“Oh… I… I’m sorry.”

 

“Why’re apologising?” Namjoon frowned.

 

“I don’t really know. For bothering you in the middle of a case?” Jeongguk sighed.

 

“Jeongguk, you didn’t bother anyone. Don’t say that. You’ve contributed more to this case than any of us did on our first cases and really, we wouldn’t be here if not for you.”

 

“Sorry.”

 

“Stop apologising,” Yoongi ordered gently and Jeongguk chuckled.

 

“Do you… want to talk about it?”

 

“Talk about what?”

 

“Your panic attack,” Seokjin whispered like it was a secret.

 

“Not really,” Jeongguk murmured as he dropped his line of sight to the floor again.

 

“Do you want some water then? Food?” Hoseok offered, holding up both items he mentioned.

 

Jeongguk shook his head and sighed again, slightly regretful of the action as it caused his more nausea. He hadn’t slept properly in nearly three days and the lack of rest was finally starting to catch up with him. His whole body felt sluggish and every movement drained the remaining energy inside of him. He slumped down further into the couch and closed his eyes, enjoying the brief darkness for a moment before their leader’s voice brought him back.

 

“When was the last time you slept?” Namjoon frowned, remembering his conversation with Jeongguk in the morning.

 

“Before we left?”

 

“Jeongguk-“

 

“I know, I know. I did try to get some rest but I just couldn’t. Every time I closed my eyes, my brain was like ‘but what if’ so I ended up staying awake the whole night,” Jeongguk joked, mind already deciding to shed some seriousness and sanity.

 

“Here, take this,” Seokjin said as he handed the youngest an energy bar and a bottle of water. “Replenish your body at least, if you’re going to be stubborn.”

 

“Yes’ir,” Jeongguk slurred.

 

While Seokjin rolled his eyes, the rest of the team laughed fondly at the cute lopsided grin adorned on the drowsy Jeongguk. The younger had already seemed to move on from whatever it was he had just experienced and they weren’t keen on bringing that memory back so they just let it go as well.

 

In due time.

 

“We need to question Amaya,” Namjoon spoke. “Jeongguk, do you want to stay here?”

 

Jeongguk paused and looked up from where he was finishing off the bar to find Namjoon staring at him.

 

“Me?”

 

“The last time I checked, you’re the only one here named Jeongguk,” Namjoon chuckled.

 

“Oh,” Jeongguk smiled embarrassedly. “It’s ok. I want to see what she says.”

 

Namjoon glanced for Seokjin’s approval and the eldest had no choice but to reluctantly nod his head. Jeongguk was part of the team, part of the family, now so if his health and safety weren’t in a dire situation, he had no reason to keep the younger from doing his job.

 

“I’ll get someone to take her into interrogation room two. Come whenever you’re ready.”

 

“I’m ready. We can go now,” Jeongguk said, already getting ready to march out but as soon as his eyes settled on Seokjin’s disapproving frown, he quickly sat back down. “Or… we could wait a bit.”

 

Seokjin nodded and his frown turned into a small smile at the younger’s obedience while Namjoon gave a ruffle to Jeongguk’s hair before he walked out of the room.

 

“Why’re you guys just standing there?” Jeongguk smiled at the rest of the team who were still lined up in an orderly fashion on the opposite side of the room.

 

“I didn’t want them to crowd you so I told them to stand back.”

 

“It’s fine,” Jeongguk told Seokjin before patting the space next to him. “Come sit.”

 

Their eyes found Seokjin’s and when the elder silently allowed them to move forward, they didn’t hesitate to occupy Jeongguk’s personal space. Jimin took the seat Namjoon had been sitting in before he left while Taehyung moved to lean on the armrest next to Jeongguk. Yoongi and Hoseok drew closer to the younger and remained on either side of Seokjin.

 

“Are you sure you want to watch the interrogation? We won’t think any less of you if you want to rest here for a bit,” Jimin said gently as one of his hands reached up so he could card his fingers through Jeongguk’s hair.

 

“I’m good,” the youngest smiled. “I want to know if she’s really involved. Wait, Seokjin, how did the talk with Rose go?”

 

“Rose said she didn’t wake up when she was taken but in the morning, she awoke to a ‘strange room’ with light pink walls. She tried to open the door but it was locked so she started crying. Apparently Gianna heard her and rushed in to tell her she was safe and there was no need to be scared.”

 

“That was the room we found her in,” Jeongguk nodded. “Did she mention Amaya?”

 

“No, she said Gianna was the only person she saw.”

 

“So either she never saw Amaya or we’re wrong and she’s completely oblivious to her mother’s crimes,” Taehyung considered.

 

“Let’s go find out,” Yoongi said as he tilted his head towards the interrogation rooms.

 

As Yoongi led them out, they all made sure to watch over Jeongguk who was unsuccessfully trying to not show his fatigue. Seokjin used his wide shoulders to block Jeongguk’s view of the first interrogation room, which was currently holding Gianna, when the group walked down the corridor. Hoseok, who had also seen the youngest tense and lower his head as they passed, felt his protective instincts increase incredibly so he casually placed a hand around Jeongguk and pulled him closer. His actions were so natural that he didn’t even realise what he had done until he saw the younger lift his head and offer him an appreciative smile.

 

When they reached the second interrogation room, Namjoon was standing outside waiting for them. He glanced at Jeongguk first, feeling proud of his team when he realised they were try to make a circle of shields with their bodies, before turning his attention to the rest of them.

 

“I’m going to make her wait fifteen more minutes so you guys can go back if you want.”

 

Jeongguk knew this technique. The purpose was to make the person being interrogated more scared and stressed. Usually they would put them through longer waits where the suspect was deprived of sleep, food and water to further weaken their resolve. When the person isn’t at their full strength and attention, the questions they asked would have a greater mental effect. Namjoon was using psychological manipulation before he even entered the room.

 

“It’s ok. We’ll wait out here with you,” Taehyung said and their leader patted his back with a small smile.

 

“How do you guys do this so often?” Jeongguk sighed. “I’m completely drained and this is only my first case.”

 

“You’re complete drained because this is only your first case,” Yoongi said.

 

“And because you haven’t slept for a few days,” Namjoon added.

 

“It won’t get easier intellectually but eventually… it will, mentally. You’ll recover faster and learn to move on,” Seokjin murmured from beside Jeongguk.

 

“Hopefully,” Jeongguk whispered back.

 

“Jimin, I want you to come in with me again.”

 

The younger nodded at Namjoon’s request and this time, Jeongguk learned not to question. He glanced quickly at Seokjin, noticing that the elder seemed to, once again, be frowning into the distance so he shrugged off his thoughts to give a gentle nudge. When Seokjin snapped back to face the younger, Jeongguk watched as his features came back to life. The eyebrows were reconstructed into soft lines of affection while the corners of his mouth turned up to show the beginnings of a smile.

 

“Are you alright?”

 

Jeongguk kept his volume low to not disturb the rest of the team who were discussing the situation but also because he was certain Seokjin wouldn’t have wanted all the attention on him. Although they had all shown him consideration with his panic attack, Jeongguk was still trying to convince himself not to be bothered by the fact that everyone, but him, seemed to know what was troubling the eldest of the group.

 

“Yeah, I’m fine. What’s up?”

 

“Nothing… I just… don’t worry.”

 

“Something’s bothering you.”

 

“Yeah, this case,” Jeongguk lied.

 

“And?”

 

“And what?”

 

“You looked like you wanted to ask me a question.”

 

“No, it’s just…”

 

“Yeah?” Seokjin encouraged, ever so gently.

 

“Don’t worry about it. Let’s talk after this case. Namjoon and Jimin are nearly ready to go in.”

 

“Ok,” Seokjin hummed after a second of hesitance and they both turned to face the mirror again.

 

Amaya glanced up from where she was staring down at her leg as Namjoon and Jimin entered the room.

 

“I’m sorry for the wait. I don’t think we’ve properly introduced ourselves. I am Special Agent, Namjoon Kim and this is Special Agent, Jimin Park.”

 

“Why am I here?”

 

Namjoon arched his eyebrow but other then that, he carried himself into the room with a mask of reticence.

 

“I don’t think you’re in the place to be asking us questions.”

 

“Where’s my mother?”

 

“In the other interrogation room.”

 

“What’re you going to do with her?”

 

“That’s not up to us to decide.”

 

Amaya frowned but instantly looked away when she felt Jimin’s perforating gaze on her. Passive aggressive, he was.

 

“Now, I think it’s our turn to ask some questions,” Namjoon said calmly after having purposely indulged her.

 

She scoffed but didn’t object because what was the point? It wasn’t like anything she said could stop them from asking her the questions they needed answers to.

 

“Where were you on the nights your mother abducted those children?”

 

“The photography studio.”

 

“Shouldn’t you ask me to specify which nights?” Namjoon spoke.

 

“I’m… I’m always there at night.”

 

Good save.

 

“Were you aware of your mother’s crimes?”

 

“……”

 

“Were you aware of your mother’s crimes?” Namjoon repeated patiently.

 

“If… if I was… what would happen to me?”

 

“So you knew?”

 

The temperature of the room seemed to lessen by a few degrees at Namjoon’s cold words and Jimin’s accusing stare. Jeongguk made a mental note to never get on their bad sides because hell, he would not want to be on the receiving end of that much bitterness.

 

“I-“

 

“You knew she abducted those four children. You knew she was trying to find a replacement for Mariah. You knew she wasn’t in the right state of mind and,” Namjoon attacked before adding a dramatic pause, “You knew she killed three children but you didn’t say anything?”

 

“I-“

 

“You didn’t think of saving those children? You didn’t think about going to the police? Why?”

 

“I-“

 

“Camillia, Josephine and Celeste were someone’s daughter. They were someone’s sister. So why? Why did you not save them? Why did you not seek help? Why-“

 

“Because it was all me,” Amaya screamed out of irritation.

 

“So it was you?” Namjoon spoke, no hint of surprise.

 

“Yes,” she hissed. “Everything was my idea. Leave my mother out of it. You don’t understand what she had to go through. Losing my father took a hit on her but at least she had Mariah and me. Mariah was our light. She brightened up every day and took my mind away from all the harmful memories. Can you imagine what I felt when I saw her just lifelessly… lying there that morning? She had bruises around her tiny neck in the shape of that thief’s fingers. If I ever see him again, I’m going to break every single finger, cut them all off and then shove them down his throat.”

 

“Be careful what you say,” Jimin warned. “There’re cameras.”

 

Amaya laughed hysterically.

 

“You think that should be one of my concerns right now?” she scoffed.

 

“Why did you abduct those children?”

 

“Because my mother was losing it. I had never seen her so hopeless before and I wasn’t going to let her leave me too.”

 

“So you were the one who abducted those children?”

 

“You think? How would my mother possibly accomplish all that by herself?”

 

“How did you get Rose out of her house without waking her up? It was two stories high.”

 

“…I took the stairs.”

 

“We know you went through the window.”

 

“I exited through the door.”

 

“Don’t lie to us, Amaya. We know you’re trying to protect your mother,” Namjoon said.

 

“Amaya,” Jimin started gently. “You know… you and your mother are really similar. The two of you are trying to shield each other by taking the blame but we can’t help either of you unless you tell us the truth. We found your mother with Rose so no matter what you say now, she’ll be deemed an accomplice. If you answer our questions truthfully though, we may be able to consider her mental health and transfer her to a hospital, instead, for help with recovery.”

 

Jimin saw her hesitate and lower her head and he knew that his words had carved themselves into not only her mind but also her heart. She exposed herself so easily that if Jimin were to close his eyes, he would still be able to discern her feelings clearly. Amaya was regretful about what she had done and if there was any chance for her to make amends to her wrongs, it being help for her mother, she would take it. Jimin wasn’t a psychologist but people’s actions spoke just as loud as their words.

 

“I... my mother only helped with the abduction of Rose,” Amaya admitted. “All it took was a little convincing that Mariah was still alive and she was on board with all my plans. Everything was all me. She… she doesn’t deserve to be locked up for my mistakes.”

 

“Why leave the photo?”

 

“I was doing them a favour of leaving one last memory. I… I didn’t even have that chance with Mariah,” she whispered.

 

Ok, now Jeongguk was most definitely sympathising Amaya. Her story didn’t justify her actions but Jeongguk couldn’t even begin to imagine losing Jeonghyun. The thought itself hurt tremendously and he suddenly realised he hadn’t talked to his older brother since before they left. Once this case was finished, he was immediately going to call Jeonghyun. Yes. That made him feel slightly better.

 

“Why did you kill the children?”

 

“Because they screamed and cried too much saying they wanted their parents and my mother kept realising the child wasn’t Mariah.”

 

“But why kill?”

 

“Do you think it would have been a better idea to return them after the children saw our faces?”

 

“No… that would not have been wise on your part.”

 

“I… I’m sorry. For everything.”

 

“Amaya, we’re not going to lie to you and say that everything is going to be ok because quite frankly, we’re not in charge of what happens next. Our job here is done and we’ll be gone soon but thank you for telling us the truth.”

 

“The parents. Do they hate us? Do they hate me?”

 

“How do you feel about Cohen?”

 

She nodded, understanding what Jimin had meant by the question before opening her mouth and whispering, “Are… are those families going to be ok?”

 

“I can’t speak for them but if you remember how you felt when you lost Mariah, their pain right now can’t be any less.”

 

Amaya hung her head down, in shame and guilt and penitence.

 

Namjoon and Jimin gathered their files and exited the room, leaving her to bathe in the remnants of her dignity. Jeongguk saw that Jimin had slouched against Taehyung as soon as the former had seen him and he suddenly realised that out of the team, the bond between the two twenty three year olds seemed to be the strongest. Yes, Yoongi and Namjoon also had a history but it was different. Theirs was more recent.

 

The leader tilted his head towards the room where they had formulated all their ideas and theories and the team migrated to the other room. Once everyone was together and inside, Namjoon took his leave again to find the head of the chief who had also been monitoring the interrogations with a few senior officers. Although there were still six of them remaining, no one spoke.

 

It didn’t take long for Namjoon to return and announce that the case was officially handed back to the police and that they were in the clear to return to Virginia. The team nodded but apart from that, they stayed in comfortable yet heavy silence. They gave each other time to let the weight of the case settle in and allow their minds to be consumed by their thoughts. Jeongguk guessed that it must have been like this after every case because Namjoon had joined the silence as well, taking a corner on the opposite side of the room.

 

Just because Jeongguk was correct about his observations and assumptions, it didn’t mean he wasn’t hurt by the outcome. He doesn’t regret convicting them but he does think Seokjin is wrong. The elder had reassured him that it would get easier mentally but Jeongguk believed that this would never get easier.

 

Over the course of their deep, concentrated quietness, Jeongguk had felt a few pairs of eyes glance at his occasionally at different intervals but chose to ignore them all. He really didn’t want to confide in them with the burden of his own problems. If the case bothered him too much when they return home, he would maybe talk to Jeonghyun about it. But then again, his older brother also had a lot to handle, himself, being the Special Agent-in-Charge and taking the responsibility to find Sangjun.

 

Jeongguk sighed. He decided he’d just keep everything to himself then.

 

Namjoon rose first from his seat and gently told his team that they had a plane to catch. It was calm again when the seven males begun gathering their belongings and cleaning up the mess of paperwork and files they had scattered unorderly around the room.

 

A while later, the leader scanned the area and decided that the space was neat and similar enough to what it had looked like a few days ago. They were about to do one last check on the room but there was a minor commotion outside and they hurried back towards the interrogation rooms. The team was met with the sight of Gianna struggling against the two officers trying to take her away while Amaya was looking wistfully at the scene, two officers also by her side. The mother snapped her head up, recognising Jeongguk again, and hissed wildly at the youngest agent. Amaya was pulled away from the area first before the other two officers wrestled Gianna along.

 

As Jeongguk watched Gianna being led away in handcuffs, he saw her glaring at him with more hatred than before but it no longer fazed him. It was like he was in a trance as he watched those pair of soulless eyes disappear behind the wall.

 

“Jeongguk-“

 

“I’m fine. Let’s just go,” Jeongguk said before he started for the elevators.

 

He knew his words and actions weren’t very polite but he didn’t think he was ready for more talking nor did he even want them to even bring it up again. While he walked towards the exit, the remaining members shared a shrug and a look of hopelessness before following the younger.

 

The ride down was quiet as well as their journey to the airport. Jeongguk was in a car with Jimin this time and he was grateful that the elder kept silent, only consolation offered was the hand over his fidgeting ones. He was disappointed when they arrived and the elder had to remove the warmth but fortunately, the two of them happened to be placed next to each other again on the plane with Jeongguk next to the window, Jimin by his side and Yoongi in the aisle seat.

 

Namjoon had explained that they usually travelled to and from their cases on a private jet however, it was undergoing remodelling so they would have to take public flights for this case. In that moment though, Jeongguk was glad because he was certain the seats on a private jet would’ve been too spacious for Jimin to reach over his hand to comfort him.

 

It was nearly six at night when they took off and gradually, the team fell asleep, save for Jeongguk who stayed awake, his mind too restless. He opted to witness the cooling pastels of the evening morph into a royal black shade before finally seeming stagnant. Jeongguk found solace in the grey clouds. They encouraged his mind to wander. The stars then emerged, looking like beacons of hope for all the lost souls of the world.

 

Jeongguk leaned the side of his head against the window and watched as the cities beneath him came to life with different coloured lights. He let his eyes linger on the small vehicles travelling to get to their destinations and this sight would have been mesmerising if not for the complex and consuming thoughts which pervaded his mind. No matter how much he tried to shake off what Gianna had said to him, he just couldn’t. He didn’t want to believe her words but he gave himself no choice as his heart devoured them greedily. Jeongguk sighed and closed his eyes, unable to fully relax in the darkness which, in that moment, ceased its comforting hold on him.

 

One layover later, they reached Virginia and soon after that, they returned to the FBI headquarters. While the rest of the team got off on the floor they occupied, Jeongguk rode it up to the highest level to check if his brother had returned but when the elevator reached the top, he stepped out and found the floor completely void of any presence. He sighed, disappointed at the lack of his brother, before going a floor down again.

 

Jeongguk quietly exited the elevator and sat down at the table he was assigned. He looked up when he felt Yoongi’s eyes trained on him and noticed that the rest weren’t doing very well in concealing their concern. Over the period of their first case, Jeongguk was already accustomed to most of the team’s mannerisms so he knew they were dying to approach him but he wasn’t in the mood to be around company so he disregarded the attention.

 

Distractedly, he fiddled with whatever was on the desk before realising that it belonged to Dongyul and immediately withdrew his hands. He vaguely remembered Namjoon telling him they were going to clear the rest of Dongyul’s table after the case so he decided to help take some responsibility off the leader by neatly collecting and piling the remaining objects, mainly stationary, onto the middle of the desk.

 

Jeongguk looked through the drawers and found a photo of a bunch of other children among a few adults. Although he didn’t know which one Dongyul was, he smiled fondly at the group of smiling kids. There was another photo. The children were around the age of young teenagers but this time, he easily noticed Dongyul for there was only one male child of Asian ethnicity. He stood with the same adults as the first photo, however, he didn’t look as carefree and cheerful.

 

He put the remaining photos away, scolding himself internally for being nosy and going through someone else’s belongings. He opened the top drawer and found it completely empty except for a ring and necklace which sat together at the back beside an empty, velvet box. It looked like the two pieces of jewellery had fallen out of the box so Jeongguk carefully pulled the three objects out of the drawer. The ring was made of black tungsten with a singular rose gold line encircling the band, the entire piece boasting class. The silver chained necklace looked more on the feminine side with a small glass ball encasing pink carnations. Jeongguk marvelled at the elegance and simplicity and made sure to carefully package the two delicate items inside the small box.

 

As Jeongguk placed the box aside with the rest of Dongyul’s things, he looked up to find Namjoon returning from wherever he had left to. When the leader noticed the stack of objects on Jeongguk’s desk, he advanced carefully, tired smile already dawning on his face.

 

“Is that all Dongyul’s?”

 

“Yeah… I’m sorry, I thought it wouldn’t hurt to help clean it up. You look really tired.”

 

“Don’t apologise,” Namjoon said, shaking his head. “Thank you for helping. We should’ve cleared it out for you sooner.”

 

“It’s fine. I don’t really need the table right now,” Jeongguk reassured softly.

 

“You guys should go home and get some rest. Paperwork can wait until tomorrow,” the leader said, addressing the rest of the team.

 

“What about you?” Jeongguk frowned.

 

“Don’t worry, I’ll go home too. I’m a bit drained.”

 

Jeongguk nodded, satisfied that Namjoon wasn’t going to overexert himself but a loud, musical ringtone cut over everyone’s thoughts. Namjoon looked startled before fumbling for his phone and pulling it out of his pocket. He frowned when he didn’t recognise the phone number but he answered the call nevertheless.

 

“Hello? Namjoon Kim speaking.”

 

They watched as lines of cognisance crossed his face as the person on the other end continued talking while Namjoon only supplied a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ occasionally. After two or so minutes, he finally ended the call and faced the team, expression of pure relief and pleasure.

 

“What happened?” Taehyung asked.

 

“Dongyul’s awake.”

 

“He’s awake?” whispered Yoongi.

 

“Oh my god,” Seokjin gasped. “Let’s go.”

 

“Jin, it’s nearly midnight. I don’t think they’re going to let you in,” Jimin said.

 

“Are we allowed to visit?” Hoseok questioned.

 

“Yeah, the nurse who called said they moved him out of the ICU because his condition was stable.”

 

“When’re visiting hours then?” Seokjin asked.

 

“I don’t know. I’m guessing it’ll probably be around eleven in the morning,” Namjoon answered with a shrug. “Jeongguk, would you like to come along with us to meet him?”

 

“Yeah, sure,” Jeongguk agreed hesitantly before glancing at the pile of Dongyul’s belongings on his table. “I can give these back to him. I think they’re important.”

 

“Ok, we’ll all go home to get some rest and meet at Virginia Hospital Centre at eleven tomorrow.”

 

The team nodded and Jeongguk carefully put the photos and the black box in his bag before heading towards the elevators with the other six. Reaching the ground floor, Jeongguk was first to step out but he was stopped by an arm on his shoulder. He swivelled around and saw Seokjin- no, scratch that, all of them regarding him with uncertainty. He stretched his right arm to stop the elevator doors from closing on him before tentatively facing his team. The look he wore had them resisting the urge to pull him into an embrace and cuddle him until he fell asleep safely in their arms.

 

“How’re you getting home?” Seokjin asked, slight frown replacing the attempted neutral expression.

 

“Uh… I’m going to… walk?” Jeongguk questioned back.

 

“I can drive you home if you want,” all of them offered at the same time and Jeongguk chuckled.

 

“It’s fine. I don’t want to trouble you and I kind of feel like taking a walk right now.”

 

“Are you sure?” Hoseok asked, not liking the idea of leaving Jeongguk.

 

“Yeah,” Jeongguk nodded. “I’ll see you guys tomorrow.”

 

“Wait, we should exchange numbers just in case any of us need you or you need us.”

 

“Oh, sure,” Jeongguk said as he pulled out his phone.

 

After receiving their numbers he pocketed his phone again and finally stepped out of the elevator, gifting them a small wave.

 

“Get home safely.”

 

“You too, Jeongguk. Text us when you get home.”

 

Jeongguk nodded right before the doors covered his face and as he watched the elevator travel down to the basement where their cars were parked, he let his smile drop. He sighed and exited the building, heading in the direction of his and Jeonghyun’s house. Jeongguk found the gentle breeze’s reassuring touches and he relaxed, deciding to take more than a necessary amount of detours even though both his body and mind were exhausted. He knew it wasn’t a sensible choice but he didn’t regret it when he tilted his head upwards. Jeongguk loved the silent company of the night, the stars and the moon. Despite the warnings he had received about the dangers of walking alone at night, he felt completely safe. Some nights were just made for reflection and savouring the light of the universe.

 

His eyes followed the lines the twinkling lights created and he felt like he could forget his troubles and just enjoy the moment. The beguiling darkness really absolved everything. But he knew that when dawn came, the memory of his bliss will be long forgotten and the thoughts, driven by reason, will return.

 

He spun a few circles when he walked across a bridge like he was starring in a musical before coming to a halt at a lonely bench in the middle of a park. Plonking himself down, he absentmindedly leaned back and relished in the silence. As he inhaled, he realised how at peace the trees seemed as new leaves grew with every passing second. He tried to convince himself that he was in control of his emotions.

 

Looking at his watch, Jeongguk frowned and then sighed. He had wandered quite far away from home and if he wanted to get a decent amount of sleep, his wisest choice would probably be to go home. Though reluctantly, he stood up and made his way back to the more alive areas of Virginia.

 

After reaching his house an hour later than should be, he messily toed off his shoes before heading to the family room. Jeongguk felt oddly alone. He had never felt so intimidated in his own home and the monochromatic colour scheme wasn’t doing much to offer him console. Looking around, he found his phone, which he had discarded on the table upon entrance, and slowly picked it up. After unlocking it, he scrolled through his contacts, fingers hovering above his parents. It was half past one in the morning for him so a quick calculation had him estimating that it was around half past three in the afternoon for them. Deciding against talking to his parents, who would probably ask him about Jeonghyun before urging him to bring a nice girl home, he continued scrolling.

 

He remembered the team telling him to contact them when he returned home so he sent a quick message to all six members before returning to his contact list. The person he wanted to talk to most was Jeonghyun but he didn’t want to bother his older brother. He sat for a few minutes, contemplating whether or not he should call him but his heart won over his brain and he pressed the call button. After a few rings, the call directed him to voicemail and he sighed, putting his phone back onto the table.

 

Jeongguk stood up in disappointment and made his way to the bathroom, deciding to finally take a quick shower. The warm water was more comforting than he had remembered and his five minute shower lengthened to nearly twenty minutes of serious and probably harmful thinking. With no one else at home to scold him for his choice of clothes, he exited the bathroom in only boxers and a towel around his neck.

 

Slouching back onto the couch, his phone vibrated with the alert of a new message and Jeongguk lethargically reached for the device. He saw a few messages from his team telling him that they were glad he was safe and to have a good night’s rest but what took his attention was the fifteen missed calls from a certain worried brother. He pressed Jeonghyun’s contact again before holding the phone to his ear and this time, it took less than half a ring for Jeonghyun to pick up.

 

“Jeongguk! What’s wrong? Did something happen? Are you ok? Do you need me to come? Where’re you?”

 

Jeonghyun flooded Jeongguk with question after question and the younger suddenly felt bad for disturbing his brother. He realised the lack of his nickname and felt even worse, knowing full well his brother must have been severely concerned after missing his call.

 

“Jeongguk? Jeongguk? You there? Talk to me,” Jeonghyun said in desperation while Jeongguk was dwelling in his own guilt.

 

“Hey, Hyun. I’m sorry for interrupting your case-“

 

“You scared me,” Jeonghyun sighed in relief. “What’s wrong? Please don’t tell me you’re calling because you’re injured. I don’t think I’ll be able to handle-“

 

“No, no, I’m completely fine. Just a bit tired.”

 

“Did you guys finish the case? Where’re you?”

 

“I’m back home already.”

 

“Are you ok?”

 

“Yeah,” Jeongguk smiled.

 

“Are you sure? Do you need me to come back?”

 

“No, no, please don’t. I just… miss you. You’re not in the middle of something, are you?”

 

“Of course not. I’m sorry for not picking up earlier. My private phone was charging and I forgot to take it with me.”

 

“It’s fine. You’re ok too, right?”

 

“Yeah, don’t worry. I’ve been cooped up in the same room for a few days trying to follow this lead,” Jeonghyun complained, putting Jeongguk’s heart at ease.

 

“Do you want my help?” Jeongguk offered even though he was secretly hoping the elder will refuse.

 

“No it’s ok, Guk. We just keep getting led into dead ends and it’s annoying me. I’m not even sure he’s here anymore,” Jeonghyun groaned in frustration.

 

“Take a break if you need one,” Jeongguk advised. “Health and safety first, remember?”

 

“Yes, yes, stop worrying,” Jeonghyun chuckled and Jeongguk rolled his eyes.

 

“Oh and when we got back, the hospital called us and told us that Dongyul woke up.”

 

“He’s awake?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“How is he? What’d the doctor say? Is he ok?”

 

“I don’t know but the nurse said his condition was stable enough so they moved him out of the ICU already and we’re going to visit him tomorrow.”

 

“That’s good. That’s really good to hear. You’re going too?”

 

“Yeah, the team said they wanted to introduce me to Dongyul. Is something wrong with that?”

 

“No, no, no. You should get some rest then,” Jeonghyun murmured.

 

“Yeah, I will. Just wanted to make sure you were ok before I went to bed.”

 

“Don’t steal my line,” Jeonghyun chuckled. “Goodnight, Guk. Sleep early. And on your bed, not the couch.”

 

“I will. Goodnight.”

 

“I love you.”

 

“I love you too.”

 

Chapter Text

Paying no heed to what he had promised his brother last night, Jeongguk woke up on the couch under a pile of cushions as he was too lazy to get up and retrieve a proper blanket. He instantly regretted not listening to his brother’s wise words when his sore muscles were exacerbated with every small movement. Jeongguk groaned, falling back onto the couch and tried to find his phone with his eyes closed.

 

He found the device lodged between the couch and torpidly pulled it out. Squinting at the time, he blinked and rubbed his eyes when a round eight stared back at him. Too early. Way too early. He sighed in frustration from having to move but nevertheless stalked to his bedroom to charge his phone and promptly fall back asleep on his comfortable bed.

 

However before he could reach the deepest part of his sleep cycle, his phone vibrated, notifying him of an incoming call. Jeongguk wanted to chuck a pillow at his phone but his line of work required him to always be alert and ready to receive new missions so he reluctantly rolled out of bed and all but crawled to the table his phone sat on.

 

“Hello?” he answered groggily.

 

“Jeongguk, hey, it’s me. I’m sorry, did I wake you?”

 

“’S fine. What’s up, Taehyung?”

 

“Uh… how’re you getting to the hospital?”

 

“I don’t know. I was going to figure that out when I got up.”

 

“Oh, if it’s fine by you, I could drop by your house and pick you up?”

 

“No, no, don’t worry about it. I don’t want you to take a detour,” Jeongguk murmured with his head resting on his hand and eyes still shut.

 

“I insist,” Taehyung urged. “We could go get some breakfast before going to the hospital.”

 

“Are you sure?” Jeongguk frowned.

 

“Yeah, send me your address and I’ll be there a bit after nine.”

 

“Mmk.”

 

“Bye, Jeongguk.”

 

“Bye,” he replied, body itching to wriggle back into bed.

 

“See you soon.”

 

Then Jeongguk hung up first and flew into his untidy blankets, taking less than a second to drift off again, not bothering to process what had just happened until another call woke him up. He grumbled in protest but dragged himself back to his phone and picked up Namjoon’s call.

 

“Is something wrong?”

 

“Hey, sorry to bother you, Jeongguk. I was just wondering whether you wanted me to come pick you up since you don’t have a ride.”

 

“It’s ok. I think Taehyung’s coming soon but thanks for the offer,” Jeongguk smiled, trying to blink away his tiredness.

 

“Oh. Okay, I guess I’ll see you at the hospital then,” Namjoon chuckled, successfully concealing his disappointment.

 

“Mmm see you.”

 

After Jeongguk hung up yet again, he sent Taehyung his address before falling fast asleep again. What he hadn’t predicted though was the next four consecutive calls from the remaining members of the team, their conversations playing out somewhat similar to his and Namjoon’s. By the time, Yoongi, his final teammate called, he gave up on sleeping and plodded his worn out self to the bathroom to freshen up.

 

Returning to his bedroom, he carelessly threw on a pair of black slacks beneath a black and grey striped polo. He completed the semi casual look with a black belt and the black bag with his wallet and Dongyul’s belongings. When he finished getting dressed, he unplugged his phone from the charger and tidied up the messy family room. As Jeongguk finished, he was just about the plop himself onto the couch but the doorbell informed him of Taehyung’s arrival.

 

He glanced at the mirror to check his attire and hair one last time before rushing to the front of the house and clumsily swinging the door open. Jeongguk conducted a quick scan of the elder and noted that Taehyung was wearing an oversized grey shirt with an intentional tear at the shoulder and wide black pants.

 

“You look cute.”

 

Jeongguk blushed heavily and rubbed the nape of his neck after he registered what Taehyung had just said to him. The elder chuckled at the action and ruffled Jeongguk’s hair, a gesture that did not help alleviate the younger’s embarrassment.

 

“Come on, let’s go eat.”

 

“Let me go get my bag and keys first,” Jeongguk said as he turned around and stumbled ungracefully back into the house.

 

When he returned, Taehyung was leaning against the doorframe, one hand in his pocket while the other scrolled through his phone and Jeongguk smacked himself for not inviting the other in. The elder looked absolutely stunning in his casual clothes but Jeongguk didn’t have the courage to voice his thoughts, unlike Taehyung had.

 

“Sorry for making you wait.”

 

“All good. Are we ready to go?”

 

“Yeah,” Jeongguk smiled and followed Taehyung to his car.

 

It was a white sedan they entered and Jeongguk noticed that the inside was more spacious than he had imagined it to be from the exterior. Once both of their seatbelts were on, Taehyung turned on the engine and drove in the opposite direction of the FBI headquarters.

 

“Did you get a good sleep?”

 

“Yeah but I’m still tired,” Jeongguk smiled.

 

“You can sleep now. I’ll wake you up when we’re there.”

 

“Where’re we going?”

 

“There’s this new café at the edge of the city and I thought we could check it out. Is that ok?”

 

“Yeah, yeah. I don’t mind just as long as I get fed,” Jeongguk joked and he grinned when Taehyung laughed.

 

“Forgot that you’re still a growing kid.”

 

“Hey!” Jeongguk pouted making Taehyung laugh even harder.

 

“Seriously, you have to stop pouting otherwise I’m going to crash this car.”

 

“Not my problem,” Jeongguk sulked childishly.

 

“I wasn’t joking though,” Taehyung smiled, turning to gaze fondly at Jeongguk when they stopped at a red light. “If you’re tired, you should get some more rest.”

 

“It’s ok. I’m wide awake now.”

 

“You sure?”

 

“Mhm.”

 

“Ok cool, I don’t like driving in silence,” Taehyung admitted while Jeongguk chuckled.

 

“You could just play some music, you know?”

 

“Or you could just sing for me, you know?” Taehyung imitated, reducing Jeongguk to yet another spluttering mess.

 

“Maybe sleeping was a better choice.”

 

“No,” Taehyung whined. “I’m joking. I’m joking. I’m not going to force you to sing.“

 

“I know. I was joking too,” Jeongguk laughed.

 

This time, it was Taehyung who pouted and Jeongguk understood why the elder had told him to stop. He averted his gaze from the elder’s mouth to the window as Taehyung pulled out an aux cable and connected it to his car’s stereo input jack.

 

“Play something,” Taehyung offered.

 

Jeongguk turned back around and saw the other end of the cord dangling in front of his face. The younger obediently fixed the end into the headphone jack and scrolled through his phone before choosing the song he was in the mood for.

 

It took a few seconds for Taehyung to realise that it was Adele’s emotional voice which was playing through the speakers and he chuckled when Jeongguk started swaying to the melody of ‘Someone Like You’. The younger dramatically placed a hand over his heart while she sung the first verse and Taehyung had to try hold back another bout of laughter when he caught sight of him. Jeongguk would’ve looked ridiculous to anyone else out of context but Taehyung found everything about him endearing.

 

Once she reached the chorus, Taehyung joined in, not holding back as he belted out the high notes, changing the song slightly to suit his voice. Jeongguk, on the other hand, was beyond amazed at Taehyung’s rich and deep voice, evident by his stunned state. Mouth agape, eyebrows slightly furrowed and body frozen, he unabashedly gaped.

 

Taehyung smirked once he finished the chorus and snapped his head to the side, making eye contact with Jeongguk whose eyes were trained on him. The younger agent, who was quite flabbergasted, tried to cover up his acute sense of embarrassment with a cough and another rub of the back of neck, a motion Taehyung had paired with Jeongguk’s nervousness.

 

“You never told me you could sing,” Jeongguk accused.

 

“You never asked,” Taehyung quipped.

 

To Taehyung’s absolute dismay, Jeongguk pouted again, making it harder for him to resist the urge to kiss the pout away. The younger, oblivious to Taehyung’s internal dilemma, crossed his arms over his chest and turned to face the window with a childish huff.

 

“Hey, don’t ignore me,” Taehyung whined.

 

Jeongguk kept up his immature act although the pout had formed into a small smile.

 

“We met less than a week ago,” Taehyung said softly. “We have plenty of time ahead of us to get to know each other.”

 

“Don’t say that,” Jeongguk whispered.

 

“Hmm? Don’t say what?”

 

“Nothing,” Jeongguk smiled, turning back around so Taehyung could see his face. “How much further?”

 

“A few more minutes. Why? You going to take that sleeping offer?”

 

“Now that you mention it…” Jeongguk said, pretending to contemplate whether he should take a nap.

 

“No, no, no. You never heard me say that.”

 

Jeongguk laughed and shook his head as they continued to playfully bicker until they reached the quieter streets where the café was located. The elder led him through the maze of pavements, the two of them making small talk along the way. Jeongguk learned that Taehyung’s favourite colour was grey and that he had a younger brother and sister. He was, unsurprisingly, also Korean and his hometown was Daegu although he had spent most of his childhood in Geochang with his grandma. From those few minutes of listening to Taehyung recount his adventures with his parents and siblings, Jeongguk could tell that the elder was very much family oriented alike himself.

 

When he realised that Taehyung hadn’t brought up their recently solved case, he was eternally grateful because he knew that Taehyung knew that he was still suffering from it. To put it in other terms though, maybe Taehyung was just trying to be his distraction. The elder had been nothing but gentle, reassuring and just altogether warm. He didn’t make Jeongguk feel useless or alone and that was exactly what the younger needed even if it would kill him to admit it.

 

“Behold, we’re here,” Taehyung announced as they came to a stop outside a cosy, little building.

 

“A Coffee Story,” Jeongguk read.

 

“Let’s go, let’s go.”

 

Jeongguk walked into the café after a really excited Taehyung practically ripped the door open, bell chiming noisily as they entered. Taehyung pulled him to the counter and they discussed their preferred drinks and sandwiches for a while before Taehyung instructed Jeongguk to go find seats while he ordered. Though the younger protested, when Taehyung pushed him with minimal strength in the direction of the tables, he relented and strolled away but not before pulling his signature nose scrunch and pout.

 

He heard Taehyung chuckle from behind but ignored it with a playful headshake. The interior was similar to most cafés with small and round brown tables, comfortable, cushioned chairs and dim, yellowish lighting. He found himself sitting in the corner of the second level where he had a clear view of the counter and Taehyung. It was almost instinct when his eyes flitted around the café, examining every inch as if he was looking for a sign of danger. When he found none, he relaxed the tension out of his posture and smiled at Taehyung who was currently placing their order.

 

Taehyung could feel the eyes on the back of his head and he knew they were Jeongguk’s so he wasn’t alarmed when he sensed the attention. He thanked the lady at the counter and headed up the stairs with the receipt and buzzer in his hand. Gracefully dropping himself into the seat across from Jeongguk, his lips quirked up into a pleasant smile.

 

“Why do you look so happy?” Jeongguk asked in amusement.

 

The elder simply shrugged, swallowing the ‘because of you’ that he had almost answered with. Pretending to look anywhere but Jeongguk, he turned his attention to the wall behind the younger. Out of work, Jeongguk sometimes forgot what his job was and that everyone around him was just as physically able or nimble as he was so as he had tried to snatch the receipt out of Taehyung’s hand, he was genuinely surprised when the elder swiftly withdrew his hand. Taehyung smiled victoriously at Jeongguk before tucking the piece of paper safely into his pant pocket. He had, evidently, no intentions of Jeongguk paying him back.

 

“Taehyung,” Jeongguk pouted.

 

“Tae,” the elder corrected.

 

“Guk,” Jeongguk replied immediately.

 

“Always have to have the last word, don’t you, Guk?”

 

Jeongguk’s heart swelled and pulsed unevenly at the nickname but for once he didn’t let his embarrassment get the best of him. Instead, his smile had Taehyung melting as well as the elder tried to keep his gaze anywhere but Jeongguk’s lips. Tempting.

 

They sat there like an old, sappy couple absorbed in their own world.

 

That is, until the buzzer vibrated violently on the table, startling both men out of their daze. Taehyung quickly scrambled up and nearly fell down the stairs before finally making it to the counter. He handed the buzzer over and took their tray with a little thank you to the young male on the other side and then walked back up to the second floor with more finesse.

 

After Taehyung set the tray down, he didn’t go back to his seat, earning himself a quizzical look from the younger. He didn’t explain but chose to show his thoughts by silently dragging his chair over and placing it down beside Jeongguk. The younger pretended to not be flustered at how close Taehyung sat or how their knees were almost touching underneath the table, instead, busying himself with fixing the plates on the tray so that his sandwich was facing himself and Taehyung’s sandwich was facing him.

 

Jeongguk took a sip of the sweet potato latte he had asked Taehyung to order and nearly spat out the drink when the hot liquid made contact with his tongue. Taehyung watched the whole thing in mirth, his smile only turning empathetic when Jeongguk sent him a very cute glare.

 

“Laugh at my misery, why don’t you?” he sulked.

 

“Since you asked so nicely, I’ll make sure to not forget next time.”

 

Next time.

 

Jeongguk smiled happily as he reached for his sandwich. Taehyung grabbed his own and took a bite. He nodded his head as he assessed the taste and gave Jeongguk a thumbs up, suggesting that he liked the sandwich. The younger chuckled before taking a bite of his sandwich and copying Taehyung’s actions. A bite. A few nods. And a thumbs up. Taehyung rolled his eyes playfully but held out his half eaten sandwich for Jeongguk to try. He timidly leaned forward and took a small mouthful. After chewing for a while, Jeongguk smiled and gave Taehyung an unspoken approval for the elder’s choice of sandwich.

 

It took them longer than necessary to finish their breakfast but even then, it was only slightly past ten. Taehyung patted his stomach in content and leaned back into the chair, letting both arms fall lazily beside him.

 

“You look comfortable,” Jeongguk commented.

 

“I am. I don’t want to move,” Taehyung laughed.

 

“I’ll take your car and drive myself to the hospital. You can stay here.”

 

Taehyung pulled his best downcast expression but Jeongguk ignored it with a laugh.

 

“Hey, Tae…”

 

“Hey, Guk.”

 

“Taehyung,” Jeongguk said seriously, trying to grab the elder’s attention. Taehyung quickly pushed himself up so he was sitting properly when he realised Jeongguk’s humourless tone and nodded for the younger to continue. “Can I ask… what Dongyul was like?”

 

Jeongguk asked hesitantly because he didn’t know what actually happened. Everyone called it ‘an accident’ but what if there was more to this than rumoured? He didn’t know what to think when Taehyung sat up even straighter, eyebrows folding into a genuine frown.

 

“Well… he’s older than Jimin but younger than Namjoon. He was in BTS already when Jimin and I joined so since he was closest to us two in age, the three of us grew really close and we kind of treated him as our mentor but more like a friend. After everyone felt more comfortable with Jimin and I, we treated each other like brothers. We were a family. The seven of us, we trusted each other and we knew we would always have each other’s back… but…”

 

“…But?”

 

“It was a really unfortunate accident… I don’t want to say too much because I don’t really know if it’s my place but I believe that we were all at fault about what happened. Yoongi’s taking it the hardest though so I would recommend you to try and not bring it up in front of him.”

 

“Ok, I won’t,” Jeongguk smiled gently. “And you don’t have to tell me anymore if you don’t want to. I was just curious to know how he fit into the team because you guys seem so perfect as six people.”

 

“Oh, trust me, even when there’s six of us, I still feel like something’s missing,” Taehyung said. ‘It’s missing you.’

 

“If Dongyul recovers, maybe he’ll be able to join the team again and I could go back to being a secret agent.”

 

“No,” Taehyung objected a bit too quickly. “I mean… you should stay in BTS. Going undercover is too dangerous.”

 

Jeongguk simply chuckled and turned his eyes back to gaze at his fingers. Taehyung sighed, disappointed that Jeongguk didn’t catch what he had meant. Jeongguk was the member that they wanted. Needed. Taehyung had noticed the team’s fond gazes and extensive care with Jeongguk during the case so if he didn’t even realise they all saw him in that way then he should really give his FBI badge back. Dongyul was nice and Taehyung would love for him to return to the team but he just didn’t like the elder like that. Maybe once Dongyul returned to the team, he would like Jeongguk more than a brother too and then everything will work out and they could be a happy, eight people family.

 

Taehyung brought back a lighter topic and as their conversation progressed and time seemed to move faster as soon, it was half past ten. The elder checked his watch and waved for Jeongguk to accompany him back to the car. The bantering was back when they made themselves comfortable, Jeongguk in the driver’s after begging Taehyung to drive. Well, he didn’t really have to beg since the elder had relented when Jeongguk had asked him nicely. When Taehyung had agreed, he was rewarded with an enchanting smile and the bright twinkling of his eyes and right then and there, he confirmed that Jeongguk would be his biggest weakness.

 

“Do you know the way?”

 

“Getting lost is all part of the fun.”

 

“If you say so,” Taehyung chuckled. “Let’s try to get there by eleven though.”

 

“I’m joking, I know how to get back,” Jeongguk smiled. “I like wandering the quieter streets of Virginia. That’s where I met Jimin.”

 

“When he heroically saved you?”

 

Jeongguk laughed at Taehyung’s teasing tone and at the memory before they both smiled and sat in comfortable silence.

 

Throughout the drive, Taehyung tried and abysmally failed to not get distracted by the way Jeongguk drove with one hand, the way the veins stood out on his arms and the way the younger perfectly controlled the steering wheel. It wasn’t the first time he saw Jeongguk drive but being alone allowed him to observe the details he couldn’t see last time under Jeongguk’s suit jacket.

 

“Is there something on my arm?”

 

“No… no… sorry I just got lost in my thoughts,” Taehyung lied.

 

Jeongguk chuckled knowingly but said no more.

 

It wasn’t long before Jeongguk pulled up inside the hospital’s car park and returned the keys to Taehyung. They walked through the entrance together and waited on the couches in the lobby, making sure to avoid the direct paths of doctors and patients. Jeongguk didn’t tell anyone, not even his brother, but he despised the hospital. The hospital walls held the weeps of many bereaving families and friends. Everywhere smelt of medicine, chemicals, antiseptics and sometimes, the sickening sweet smell of flowers. The lights were too bright for the darkness which occurred inside.

 

However, what Jeongguk hated most though was the beeping of the machines which declared one’s life and death.

 

He kept himself composed by sticking closer to Taehyung than necessary. The mere presence of the elder would have been enough comfort for Jeongguk but unfortunately for him, he had always been sensitive to fragrances. He wasn’t prepared for the addictive scent of Taehyung’s cologne and thus, he didn’t even realise that he was relaxing and unconsciously leaning onto the elder. Taehyung didn’t seem to mind that much though when Jeongguk’s head fell on his shoulder, instead, smiling and helping Jeongguk brush his fringe out of his eyes.

 

While the two sat there, Yoongi and Hoseok arrived together followed by Jimin and then Namjoon and Seokjin. They gathered together and waited for Namjoon to finish asking for Dongyul’s location before they made their way to the specified room.

 

The team took a few moments to collect themselves outside of Dongyul’s room before Namjoon knocked once, twice, thrice. They heard a soft ‘come in’ and the leader carefully pushed open the door to reveal one of the hospital’s VIP rooms. It was a large area holding one hospital bed, one three seater couch and two single seater couches. There was a television across from the bed and two bedside tables next to Dongyul with two vases of flowers.

 

“Dongyul,” Namjoon smiled as they filed into the room.

 

“Joon,” Dongyul exclaimed excitedly before noticing the rest of the team and screaming out their names with equal enthusiasm. “Seok, Tae, Jimin, Jin, Yoongi.”

 

“Hey Dongyul,” they greeted.

 

Jimin and Taehyung were the only two to run towards Dongyul’s bed and tackle him cautiously with a hug while the others sensibly remained beside the bed.

 

“Make yourselves at home. Oh and who do we have here?” Dongyul smiled gently before his eyes fell on the remaining person in the room.

 

Dongyul, Jeongguk noticed, had a narrow jaw, slim monolid eyes with straight, high arched eyebrows and a tall roman nose. His eyes decreased in size when he smiled but it wasn’t a crescent like Jimin’s. Jeongguk saw his row of perfect teeth gleamed when a smile was directed at him and he stepped out from where he had hid behind Namjoon.

 

“Oh, Dongyul, this is Jeongguk Jeon. Jeongguk, this is Dongyul Nam,” Seokjin introduced.

 

“Nice to meet you.” Jeongguk said shyly.

 

“Pleasure’s mine.”

 

Though Dongyul’s left hand was connected to the IV drip, he extended it for Jeongguk to take. The younger was careful not to put too much strength into the handshake and Dongyul must’ve noticed because he chuckled at him.

 

“How old are you? You look so small. Although that title still belongs to Jimin.”

 

“Hey,” Jimin groaned from where he was sitting on the bed while Taehyung tried to hold back his smile.

 

“I see you guys haven’t changed one bit but anyways dear, how old are you?”

 

“I’m twenty one.”

 

“Ah, a baby indeed. What’re you doing with these people? Do you… know what they do for a living?” Dongyul frowned.

 

“Dongyul, he joined BTS a few days ago,” Hoseok replied softly.

 

“Oh… you’re an agent? But you’re only twenty one?”

 

“Yeah, he’s really good though. Solved more cases than most of us,” Taehyung declared proudly.

 

“Really?” Dongyul smiled as he viewed Jeongguk with renewed interest.

 

“When you recover, you should join the team again and I’ll go back to being a secret agent. I was just… uh you know… filling in,” Jeongguk said with a sheepish smile.

 

Jeongguk didn’t notice the small frowns crossing the rest of the team’s faces and although they all wanted to oppose to that idea, they decided unanimously that they would have to save that conversation for another time. Dongyul deserved their attention in the meantime.

 

“I see,” Dongyul nodded. “How’re they treating you?”

 

“What?”

 

“If they bully you, come report back to me and I’ll kick their asses for you.”

 

“Dongyul, he’s boss man’s younger brother. We’re the ones watching ourselves,” Taehyung joked while Dongyul gasped.

 

“Jeongguk, I’m so so sorry. You are not small. And you are not a baby. Please don’t be offended.”

 

“Don’t worry,” Jeongguk smiled, finally relaxing after Dongyul’s jest.

 

“Dongyul, we all call him ‘kid’. He doesn’t get offended,” Jimin chuckled.

 

“Yes, I do.”

 

His pout earned himself a few coos from Hoseok and a hair ruffle from Seokjin. Even Namjoon reached backwards to pinch the younger’s cheeks. Jimin and Taehyung smiled fondly as they watched over the scene unfolding in front of them and for a few seconds, they had forgotten Yoongi and Dongyul were even in the room.

 

“How’re you?” Jimin finally asked.

 

“Well, when I first woke up, I kept falling in and out of the coma so I don’t remember much except that I felt like I was drowning. Then I thought I was being surrounded by like hundred doctors and nurses and there was a lot of bright, white light. Everything was so confusing but apparently that was all a few days ago. They moved me out of the ICU yesterday and I’m feeling a lot better already.”

 

“That’s good,” Hoseok smiled.

 

“Did the doctor say anything?” Namjoon asked.

 

“Not really. He said he’s going to talk to boss and tell him when I’ll be ready to be released from hospital and prepared to be an active agent again.”

 

“Are you ready to return?” Seokjin asked softly.

 

“I should be fine,” Dongyul nodded.

 

“Mentally?”

 

“I don’t know. The trauma hasn’t really hit me yet but I think that’s because I don’t remember much of the incident.”

 

“Ok,” Seokjin smiled. “I think everything will come back in a few days or weeks, depending on your recovery but just let me know if you need someone to talk to.”

 

“I will. Thanks, Jin.”

 

Seokjin ruffled Dongyul’s hair and Jeongguk couldn’t help but feel a little left out. The seven of them had been through so many difficult times together so they would obviously know each other better but why was Jeongguk feeling like this? He wasn’t jealous, was he? They didn’t belong to him. Why was he behaving so selfishly?

 

“Oh right. That reminds me, Dongyul, I have some of your belongings.”

 

Jeongguk proceeded to take out the photos and jewellery box from his bag before handing them to Dongyul. The elder hurriedly accepted them and set the photos aside on the bedside table, choosing to focus on the small, black box instead. He carefully opened it and sighed in relief when he found both pieces of jewellery inside.

 

“What’re those?” Taehyung asked curiously.

 

“This ring is from my father and this necklace is my mother’s,” Dongyul smiled as he held them up. “They’re really important to me. Thank you so much for bringing them to me, Jeongguk.”

 

“It’s fine,” Jeongguk beamed before tilting his head down in embarrassment.

 

The team smiled fondly at Jeongguk’s shyness, longing to reach out and coddle him. They realised the self-control and restraint they possessed must have reached extreme levels these past few days. At this point, they were even jokingly suspicious that Jeongguk was actually sent by Jeonghyun to test them because honestly, how was it possible that they all fell for him so quickly?

 

This time, however, Dongyul seemed to finally speak his mind about the team’s new relationship. Nobody had noticed his frown the first time around but Dongyul was getting more and more curious to the dynamic of this team.

 

“Jeongguk, are you dating someone or single?” Dongyul asked bluntly.

 

“Uh… single… why?”

 

“Nothing just… you seem like a good kid. I don’t want anything to happen to you.”

 

“Dongyul, don’t worry. He’s not getting hurt on our watch,” Jimin reassured the elder.

 

“But it’s not like you guys can be with him twenty four seven to protect him… oh,” Dongyul said as he scanned and read the faces of all his teammates. “Really? All of you?”

 

Ok, to tell the truth, Jeongguk lost the conversation somewhere between his own answer and Jimin’s soft voice. Dongyul seemed confused but then realisation swept his face before disapproval. He looked slightly intimidating to Jeongguk, even with all the tubes connecting to his body, so he hid himself further behind Namjoon because he had absolutely no idea what was going on.

 

“Well, I mean look at him,” Seokjin sighed.

 

“Yeah but-“

 

“Dongyul, you’re scaring him,” Hoseok whispered to the younger.

 

“And didn’t you say he was boss’-“

 

“Dongyul, it’s fine. We know what we’re doing,” Namjoon cut in and Dongyul sighed.

 

“He’s only twenty one. He shouldn’t even be an agent at his age.”

 

Oh. They were talking about him. Ok, that’s one part cleared up.

 

“Will boss allow it?”

 

Will my brother allow what?

 

“We haven’t actually talked about anything yet,” Jimin said.

 

“But how is it going to work? Are you going to make him choose? Because-”

 

“We’re going to leave it up to him. We all just want the best for him,” Taehyung spoke.

 

“Just be careful, ok? If something happens to him, boss won’t be happy.”

 

“You make him sound like a devil.”

 

Dongyul sighed again but shrugged and helplessly looked away from Namjoon. Even though Jeongguk still had zero clues as to what happened, he could tell that no one was comfortable as they stayed in mutual silence. They all made sure to either look at a wall or at the floor, choosing to just ignore the talk.

 

“Um… I’m going to… go get a drink?” Jeongguk mumbled, interrupting the heavy atmosphere.

 

He quickly escaped the suffocating room and was about to make his way down the corridor to further run away when he felt a few bodies joining him. He spun around and saw the rest of his team standing in front of him, apologetic expressions written over their faces. But someone was missing.

 

“Where’s Yoongi?”

 

“He wanted to talk to Dongyul alone.”

 

Jeongguk realised that Yoongi hadn’t spoke since before they entered the room and he frowned. It wasn’t until he remembered what Taehyung had told him that morning that he nodded and sat himself down on one of the benches lining the side of the corridor. Half of the group joined him on the remaining seats while the rest stood.

 

He chewed his lips out of habit while his fingers fidgeted with air. Did he do something wrong? Was his position in the team compromising their relationship? Would it be better if he-

 

“Jeongguk.” Namjoon murmured.

 

“Yeah?”

 

“Um… are you ok?”

 

“Yeah? Why?”

 

“We’re sorry about what Dongyul said and-“

 

“Don’t worry, I lost the conversation like right after I finished talking.”

 

“Oh.”

 

“I just heard some stuff about Jeonghyun. What’s wrong?”

 

“Nothing, don’t worry about it,” Hoseok waved.

 

“Also when Dongyul fully recovers and joins the team again… are you really going to go back to being a secret agent?” Jimin asked.

 

“I don’t know,” Jeongguk shrugged.

 

“You could stay if you want. I mean no one’s kicking you off the team.”

 

“But-“

 

“What Jimin is trying to say that we all want you to stay, Jeongguk,” Namjoon expressed clearly while Jimin nodded.

 

“I… I’ll talk to my brother about it,” Jeongguk smiled.

 

Namjoon nodded and ruffled Jeongguk’s hair. The corners of the younger’s mouth rose higher at the gesture but he couldn’t help noticing a different energy coming from the person beside him. Hoseok. The elder was staring at him, not happy and not angry but just sad again. Jeongguk shifted uncomfortably at the attention before he finally decided to muster up the courage and face Hoseok.

 

“Hoseok… are you ok? Did I do something wrong?”

 

“Huh? No, why?”

 

“I don’t know. You just always look so upset with me,” Jeongguk said whilst Hoseok’s frown deepened. “Actually never mind, it must be the case getting to me again. Don’t worry.”

 

“Wait,” Hoseok said, reaching to stop Jeongguk from turning away. “Let’s talk somewhere else.”

 

Jeongguk nodded and Hoseok waved at the rest of the group before leading him to another corridor where there were less people and patients roaming around. Hoseok took a seat first on one of the hospital benches first before gesturing for Jeongguk to join him. As Jeongguk sat down, he noticed that the elder had his elbows resting on knees and he was glaring at his restless fingers.

 

“I… I don’t know where to begin. I haven’t really told this to anyone before.”

 

“Not even the team?”

 

Hoseok shook his head and Jeongguk put a hand on the other’s shoulder, giving it a gentle squeeze.

 

“We don’t have to talk about it if you’re not ready then.”

 

“No… you should probably know if we’re going to keep working together,” Hoseok said firmly.

 

“Ok. Take you time,” Jeongguk smiled gently.

 

“It’s just that… sometimes I see myself in you.”

 

“What do you mean?” he asked hesitantly.

 

“I used to be a secret agent as well. Worked under the alias J-Hope.”

 

“J-Hope?” Jeongguk screeched, jumping up before looking around sheepishly, sitting down again and lowering his voice as he continued, “I’m sorry but you’re J-Hope? As in the ‘J-Hope’?”

 

“Yeah,” Hoseok smiled affectionately at Jeongguk’s reaction. “I was the ‘J-Hope’.”

 

“No way! All of us looked up to you when we were training. You were our role model! You were a legend!”

 

“Glad to know,” Hoseok chuckled.

 

“Did you really single-handedly defeat like twenty gangsters without any weapons?” Jeongguk asked while randomly whacking the air in front of him, making Hoseok laugh and tousle his hair.

 

“That’s only half true. My partner was with me so the two of us beat them up together.”

 

“Wow,” Jeongguk breathed as he shuffled back into the chair. “Just wow. I can’t believe I’m sitting next from you. It’s such an honour.”

 

Hoseok laughed again as Jeongguk looked at him in awe and he couldn’t help smiling at those adorable doe eyes.

 

“You were the best agent in the FBI… why did you quit?”

 

“I didn’t quit. One of my missions went wrong…” Hoseok paused as he took a deep breath. “I lost two of my best friends that day.”

 

“I… I’m sorry,” Jeongguk whispered.

 

“It’s not your fault,” Hoseok smiled sadly. “But as the rest of us were trying to escape, my leg got caught in one of the traps…”

 

“Oh my god.”

 

“Yeah… the doctors said I would never be able to walk again but I didn’t want to accept it so I took on rehabilitation. It was hell and I hated every bit of it but I just wanted to prove them wrong and I did. I knew nothing was going to be the same even before I left the hospital… but when I finally returned to the FBI, I still wasn’t ready to face the truth. I could barely hold my ground against the beginners and everyone told me to just give up and trust me, I was really losing hope. That’s when I met your brother.”

 

“Jeonghyun?”

 

“Yeah, he offered me the opportunity to learn criminal profiling and he had me trained in forensic science before asking me to join BTS. He gave me hope and a chance at new life so I really cannot thank your brother enough.”

 

Jeongguk stayed silent because he didn’t know what to say. He wanted to comfort the elder and tell him how strong he was for fighting and being able to walk again but he also felt sympathetic that Hoseok had to experience everything. However he was saved from his dilemma when Hoseok starting talking again.

 

“So… I’m sorry if I stare at you like that sometimes. I’m just envious that you’re so young and skilled and I don’t know… I guess I just miss the adrenaline of being undercover if you know what I mean,” Hoseok smiled.

 

“Yeah… yeah, I miss it too,” Jeongguk said, smiling back. “Don’t think this the wrong way though, I do love being in the team.”

 

“I know,” Hoseok chuckled. “I wouldn’t exchange this for a good leg. I think I found where I belong.”

 

“Me too,” Jeongguk whispered.

 

“I just wish that I left the secret agent life behind by choice,” Hoseok sighed.

 

Jeongguk could only nod, feeling slightly guilty because he had left the agent life by choice and not because he was incapable of executing further missions. Well, thirty percent his choice, forty percent his fear of re-entering that life and thirty percent his brother’s desperate pleas.

 

“Why did you not want to tell the team?”

 

“It’s not that I didn’t want to tell them… it’s just that I don’t know how to bring it up and no one’s ever asked about my past.”

 

“I’m sorry for being so nosy then,” Jeongguk joked and Hoseok laughed.

 

“No, I’m glad you asked. It feels good to finally tell someone,” Hoseok smiled.

 

“I’m sure the team will listen whenever you want to tell them,” Jeongguk said as he patted Hoseok’s back softly. “Especially Taehyung.”

 

“I can already imagine his face,” Hoseok laughed. “Come on, let’s go back and see if Yoongi’s done.”

 

Jeongguk nodded and stood up, following Hoseok back to where the other four people were waiting. Yoongi was still absent so they sat down again in the empty seats, attracting the attention of Namjoon and Jimin.

 

“Where did the two of you go?” Jimin asked with a suspicious smirk.

 

“Nowhere,” Jeongguk shrugged innocently and Jimin jumped onto the younger’s back, drawing a string of protests about the elder’s weight.

 

“I’m not that heavy,” Jimin pouted as the rest of the team laughed. “But really, what were you guys talking about?”

 

Jeongguk and Hoseok looked at each other and Jeongguk gave an encouraging nod and smile. Jimin had given Hoseok the perfect chance to open up about his past and Jeongguk didn’t want Hoseok to miss it. Hoseok smiled back at the younger before taking a deep breath and turning to face the team.

 

“Do you know who I was before I joined BTS?”

 

“Who?” Jimin asked quietly like he would prefer to not hear the answer.

 

“J-Hope,” Hoseok smiled.

 

Hoseok and Jeongguk watched in amusement as the others’ jaws grew slack and dropped. Taehyung was, as they expected, the most entertaining to watch as the words took about five seconds to process in his head before he let off an unrestrained gasp, causing the nearby nurses to stare at him. He apologised, unabashed by his actions, and turned back to face Hoseok.

 

“I’m hurt,” Taehyung pouted. “You tell Jeongguk before any of us and you’ve only known him for what? A week?”

 

“He asked first,” Hoseok shrugged, smile playing at the corners of his mouth. “Anyways, I quit being a secret agent when one of my missions went severely wrong. I ended up in the hospitals for a few months and the doctors told me that I would never be able to walk again.”

 

“But…”

 

“Yeah,” Hoseok grinned. “I obviously can’t move around as smoothly or quickly as I did before but I’m just grateful that I can walk… you guys don’t have to look at me like that. Smile and be glad that I’m alive at least otherwise who would brighten the mood in this team if I’m not here.”

 

The team’s commiserative expressions disappeared at Hoseok’s joke, leaving them chuckling instead.

 

“Yeah, you’re our hope,” Namjoon smiled. “We’re glad to have you on this team. It’s an honour for us.”

 

“Thank boss for that. If he hadn’t found me that day, I might be on the opposite side of this world,” Hoseok said, laughing at the memory of his first meeting with Jeongguk’s brother. He was barely holding himself together and when his boss approached him at his most vulnerable, the words didn’t filter through his mind before he spilt his life story.

 

Jeongguk couldn’t help but feel proud of his brother. If Jeonghyun hadn’t helped Hoseok, Jeongguk would never have met the elder and the thought alone was slightly terrifying to imagine.

 

Whilst the chatter started up again, Jeongguk zoned out. His brother had helped so many people whereas Jeongguk was just ruining families. He couldn’t help his thoughts drifting to Gianna and Amaya. What he had done felt so right but so wrong at the same time. Was there really no way to help both sides? It’s not like how they turned out was their fault, right? What would his brother have done?

 

“Jeongguk? Earth to Jeongguk!”

 

He snapped out of his thoughts as Taehyung waved his hand in front of his face and turned around and saw that everyone looking at him.

 

“Huh? I’m sorry, what were you saying?”

 

“Why were you frowning so hard?” Yoongi asked and everyone snapped their heads, unaware of the other’s return.

 

“You’re done?” Namjoon asked.

 

“…Yeah,” Yoongi whispered.

 

“You good?”

 

Yoongi nodded but avoided everyone’s gaze. No one apart from Jeongguk seemed curious before he realised that they probably all knew the reason anyways.

 

“Shall we go?”

 

Jeongguk was slightly disappointed but then he remembered. He was just a ‘useless agent who didn’t know anything’. Jeongguk sighed. How true Gianna had been.

 

What he hadn’t noticed was Seokjin frowning at him but when he did, he smiled. A ‘what’s wrong’ look was exchanged with a ‘don’t worry’ glance but of course, the elder didn’t drop the issue. He approached Jeongguk who was tailing at the back of the group and slowed down to match his pace.

 

However before he had a chance to talk to Jeongguk, a nearby nurse, who was running at full speed towards them with a tray full of surgical instruments, knocked into the younger. Consequently, the tray toppled onto the floor and the contents scattered to various corners of the corridor.

 

“I’m sorry. I’m so so sorry,” she apologised.

 

“It’s fine,” Jeongguk smiled gently as he crouched down and helped her pick up the tools.

 

Seokjin also bent down to assist them while the rest of the group spun around, stunned by the loud commotion. They hadn’t realised the pair were so far behind them but when they noticed the two helping the nurse, they smiled and waited patiently down the other side of the corridor.

 

Jeongguk found many different types of forceps and some funny looking scissors but as he held up the scalpel, Seokjin’s eyes widened and he smacked it out of the younger’s hands. Both the nurse and Jeongguk frowned though the latter was more shocked at the elder’s actions than angry or annoyed. The nurse, who was in a rush, picked up the remaining objects, thanked Jeongguk and left to return to her previous task.

 

However when Jeongguk waved a hand in front of Seokjin’s eyes, the elder didn’t respond. He had his trembling arms around his body, hugging the air closer to himself. Seokjin was rocking back and forth, muttering and whimpering, and Jeongguk gasped when he recognised the signs. He had just induced a panic attack.

 

The team, who had seen everything from Seokjin hitting the scalpel out of Jeongguk’s hand to him beginning to feel anxious and scared, carefully manoeuvred themselves through the maze of patients. Yoongi and Jimin were the first ones to arrive and they knelt down in front of the eldest, both of them whispering reassuring statements to him. Although all of their words were too quiet for Jeongguk to actually hear, he didn’t want to obtrude on someone else’s privacy so he took a step back and allowed the others to take over.

 

Namjoon approached him and pulled him up from where he was squatting by himself on the floor. Jeongguk appreciated the soft rubs on his arms and when he looked over at the elder, as if to ask if Seokjin was ok, the leader nodded his head and mouthed a ‘it’s fine’ in hopes of dispelling the younger’s worries.

 

They watched as Yoongi and Jimin guided Seokjin up and onto one of the side benches. The two sat on either side of the elder, continuing their murmurs while the remaining members stood awkwardly a few metres away. When Seokjin finally gave them a tired smile, Jimin nodded for the others to approach.

 

Jeongguk knelt down slowly in front of Seokjin but he couldn’t smile back.

 

“I’m sorry,” Jeongguk whispered, feeling worse by every passing second.

 

“It’s not your fault. Don’t worry,” Seokjin whispered weakly.

 

“I… what did I do? Please tell me what I did so I can try and not do it again,” he pleaded.

 

Seokjin exchanged eye contact with the rest of the team before sighing and looking back at Jeongguk. Yoongi and Jimin remained at the elder’s side as he tried to pull his body upright and recompose his expression. Jeongguk glanced hesitantly at the rest of the team and noticed that all of them were avoiding eye contact with him while their faces were pulled into grim lines of concern.

 

Of course it was another shared secret.

 

“Actually it’s fine. Don’t tell me if you’re not ready,” Jeongguk smiled sadly before standing up and walking away.

 

The rest of the team looked like they wanted to be alone so Jeongguk took the courtesy to leave first before they could ask him to. Although he was feeling slightly hurt that they were choosing to exclude him from everything yet again, he understood that they needed time as much as he did. Jeongguk knew that each of their stories were mentally demanding like his so he was going to respect their privacy since they’ve been so respectful of him.

 

“Where’re you going?” Jeongguk heard Taehyung ask.

 

“You guys look like you want to talk and I don’t want to intrude so… I’ll just get going first.”

 

“Wait.”

 

Jeongguk turned around again at Seokjin’s command and saw that the rest of the team was communicating again with their eyes. Seokjin was observing the youngest and Jeongguk could tell that the elder read both the disappointment and understanding off his face because he wasn’t trying really hard to hide it.

 

“Come here,” Seokjin said softly.

 

He hesitantly looked at the rest of the group, asking for approval, and when Namjoon nodded, he slowly made his way back. Jimin stood up to allow Jeongguk to replace him at Seokjin’s side and the youngest sat down cautiously to not startle the eldest again.

 

“I… four years ago, before I joined this team, I had a patient. His name was Junyeong. He was a bright kid but he didn’t have a happy family. Despite that, whenever he came to me, he was always smiling and joking around during our sessions.”

 

Jeongguk nodded for Seokjin to continue, never once interrupting the elder.

 

“Junyeong… he was the strong and silent type like you and he didn’t know how to voice his problems. It took a while for him to actually talk to me about his situation and what was troubling him but he just wanted someone to reassure that everything was going to be ok so I tried my best to be there for him. Junyeong would call me sometimes in the middle of the night when things at his house got really bad and I’ll sit there and talk him through it. I could hear his parents screaming, fighting in the background and glass shattering and every one of his cries and whimpers broke my heart but do you know what I said to him? I told him everything was going to be fine and he trusted me.”

 

Seokjin’s voice wavered at the end and Jeongguk reached his hand out and interlaced his fingers with the elder’s. Seokjin looked up at the sudden contact and his eyes indicated a silent thank you at the unspoken support Jeongguk was trying to give. He turned his gaze back down to his hand as he continued his story.

 

“One day… he just couldn’t take it anymore. He called me and he was crying and I couldn’t talk to him properly but then he… he said he couldn’t keep ‘doing this’ anymore and apologised. He said goodbye just like that before hanging up. I… I didn’t know what had happened until I got a call from the hospital the next day. He used a piece of glass and… and slit his wrist,” Seokjin sobbed.

 

Jeongguk squeezed Seokjin’s hand tighter and blinked away his own tears as the psychologist openly cried.

 

“I always see him around this time of the year. Just then, when you picked up the scalpel… it was so close to your wrist and it reminded me too much of him and I-I’m sorry. I feel like it’s all my fault. I failed him.”

 

“No you didn’t,” Jeongguk whispered. “Don’t say that. You tried your best already.”

 

“But it wasn’t enough. He would only be around your age now,” Seokjin murmured.

 

“Hey,” Jeongguk said as he moved to crouch down in front of Seokjin. “You said he was a really bright boy, didn’t you? I’m sure if Junyeong was here, he would want you to be happy.”

 

“How can I be happy knowing what I did to him?”

 

“You didn’t do anything to him but what you did for him, he would never forget it.”

 

“And what I didn’t do for him, I would never forget.”

 

“Seokjin, please understand you did what you could. You shouldn’t have to constantly look back to the past and dwell on your regrets.”

 

“I know. I’m trying,” Seokjin sighed.

 

“How did you end up in BTS?” Jeongguk asked, attempting to change the topic.

 

“Your brother,” Seokjin smiled. “After what happened with Junyeong, I quit working and being a psychologist altogether because I thought I wasn’t qualified enough and I didn’t want anyone else to get hurt again. All my friends got really worried when they couldn’t contact me but Youngnam, one of the FBI’s psychologists, found me locked up at home and he introduced me to your brother. After a few months when my performance improved, your brother asked me to join BTS and I easily accepted because I wanted to help people again.”

 

Jeongguk smiled genuinely for once. His brother definitely had an eye for finding the best agents.

 

“You can just call me Jin, by the way,” Seokjin smiled.

 

“If you’re Jin, then I’m Guk.”

 

Seokjin chuckled and Taehyung ruffled the younger’s hair.

 

“Ok, Guk. Can we leave the hospital?”

 

Jeongguk nodded eagerly, since he had been hoping to leave the second he stepped in, and helped the psychologist onto his feet. Seokjin appeared surprisingly well for someone who nearly had a panic attack but that’s probably because the eldest knew how to channel his inner demons inside himself.

 

While they made their ways to the basement, Yoongi and Jeongguk never left Seokjin’s side despite the elder’s continuous insistance that he was fine.

 

“Where’s everyone heading off to now?” Namjoon asked.

 

They were synchronised when they shrugged and replied with an ‘I don’t know’. A silence proceeded the interaction as they hovered uncertainly around the car park, waiting for someone to speak up.

 

“You guys are welcome to come my house,” Jeongguk whispered.

 

“What?”

 

Jeongguk took a deep breath and summoned all the courage he had within himself to reveal what he going to admit next.

 

“My brother’s away and I don’t really like being alone.”

 

When his statement was met with silence he looked up from gazing at the ground to see all six of his team members in various degrees of shock. Instead of teasing him like he had predicted, they look relatively worried.

 

“Jeongguk, why didn’t you say so earlier?” Yoongi murmured gently.

 

“We wouldn’t have left you last night if you had told us earlier,” Jimin nodded.

 

“There was too much going through my head, I guess,” Jeongguk shrugged, turning his head down again.

 

They smiled sadly, memories of the case coming back to them, and as they swapped regretful glances, Namjoon stepped forward to lightly hold both of Jeongguk’s shoulders.

 

“Hey, look at me, Jeongguk.”

 

Jeongguk lifted his head.

 

“We’re a team now. It’s fine to voice your thoughts. We’ll never push you aside, ok?”

 

“Ok,” the youngest whispered.

 

“Let’s go to your house then,” Namjoon smiled and before Jeongguk could even nod, Taehyung hopped forward.

 

“Am I your ride again?”

 

“I’ll drive you this time,” Jimin offered, pushing his friend out of the way.

 

Jeongguk laughed but when Taehyung looked at him with hopeful eyes, he couldn’t find the heart to choose between the two and shrugged his shoulders instead.

 

“I don’t mind.”

 

“You spent all morning with Tae. What about me?” Jimin pouted.

 

“Ok, ok,” Jeongguk chuckled before turning to Taehyung. “I’m sorry, Tae. I’ll see you back at my house.”

 

“It’s fine,” the elder reassured, squeezing Jeongguk’s cheeks and smiling when the younger didn’t push his hands away.

 

“Wait, it’s nearly noon,” Namjoon informed. “Should we go eat first?”

 

“We can go Silver Zekka,” Hoseok suggested.

 

“Good idea,” Seokjin smiled.

 

They parted ways with a few goodbye’s and Jeongguk followed Jimin to the other’s car. The elder was full of surprises apparently as he sat himself in the driver’s seat of a blue, convertible sports car. Jeongguk gaped and admired the car for a few minutes before finally getting inside and waiting for Jimin to finish laughing at him.

 

“Do you like her?” Jimin asked, tapping his car.

 

“She’s beautiful,” Jeongguk nodded.

 

“You can drive back to your house from the restaurant if you want.”

 

“Really?”

 

“Yeah,” Jimin chuckled as he started the engine.

 

“Wow. Thank you.”

 

“Don’t thank me,” Jimin smiled as they pulled out of the hospital. “I haven’t driven her in quite a while.”

 

Jimin pressed a button and the roof pulled back, allowing Jeongguk a clear view of the sky. He laughed when Jeongguk gasped, his reaction had played similarly in Jimin’s mind. Jeongguk finally noticed the borderless flow of clarity. The vast sky was empty without its usual obstructions of cotton ball clouds, giving the residents of Viriginia a view of the infinite beauty.

 

“It’s wonderful, isn’t it?”

 

“I love it. I’ve always thought of the world as my canvas and my eyes as the paintbrushes. Everything left to my imagination…”

 

“I’m sure you would have been an amazing artist.”

 

“Huh? Oh… thank you,” Jeongguk whispered shyly.

 

Jimin smiled affectionately but stayed quite for the rest of the short trip, not wanting to interrupt Jeongguk from his daze because damn, his side profile was adorable as well. Jeongguk hadn’t even realised that they arrived until Jimin apologetically told him that he was going to have to close the roof. The younger agent sheepishly mumbled an apology and waved for Jimin to do what he needed.

 

“Come on. I think we’re the last ones.”

 

True to the words, when they arrived the other five were already seated in a corner booth talking animatedly among themselves and not really paying attention to the menus in front of them. Namjoon waved at the pair when he caught sight of them and Jimin pushed Jeongguk gently towards the group. He slid into the row of seats, sitting down next to Hoseok, and Jimin placed himself down beside him.

 

“Here’s the menu,” Namjoon said as he handed Jeongguk the menu.

 

“We all know what we’re getting already so feel free to choose whatever you want,” Jimin smiled.

 

Jeongguk nodded and scanned through the menu quickly, not wanting to delay the team from eating any longer. He wasn’t in the mood for something heavy so after a few seconds of indecision, he randomly settled on a meal that sounded appeasing.

 

“Ready to order?” Hoseok asked.

 

“Yeah,” Jeongguk hummed and Namjoon motioned at Mr. and Mrs. King, trying to grab the elderly couple’s attention.

 

When they saw the group waving at them, they smiled and finished what they were doing before Mrs. King scuttled over with a pen and pad.

 

“Oh, Jeongguk, you’re back. It’s good to see you, sweetie.”

 

“Nice to see you too, Mrs. King,” Jeongguk smiled politely.

 

“You’ve met?” Seokjin frowned.

 

“Yeah, he came in a few days ago with Namjoon and Jimin,” she chuckled.

 

The whole group sat speechless as they stared back and forth between Mrs. King and Jeongguk. What was shocking to them though wasn’t the fact that she had remembered Jeongguk but the way she treated him. Sure, they had to be nice and respectful to their customers but they could tell the elderly woman had already grown a soft spot for Jeongguk despite only meeting him once. Mr. and Mrs. King had always had a knack when it came to understanding people’s true nature and it took the elderly couple a few days to even warm up to the team. It must’ve been the pureness and innocence that radiated from Jeongguk which captivated everyone, they believed.

 

“Where’s Dongyul? Is he not with you guys anymore?”

 

“Ah, no. He’ll be back soon,” Namjoon informed.

 

“I see,” she nodded thoughtfully. “Are you all just having the usual?”

 

“Yes please,” Jimin murmured.

 

“What about you, dear?” she asked Jeongguk.

 

“Could I have the Brioche French toast please?”

 

“Of course. I’ll tell the chefs to sneak extra strawberries for you,” she chuckled before collecting the menus and returning to the front.

 

“Wow,” Taehyung spoke after the short silence that ensued when she left.

 

“What?” Jeongguk asked, confused why they were all smiling at him.

 

“Guess you charmed her too.”

 

“Too?”

 

“Mhm,” Taehyung answered vaguely.

 

“I can’t believe she learnt your name before any of us. We’re terrible agents,” Namjoon laughed.

 

“Namjoon, lower your voice,” Seokjin scolded and the leader immediately covered his mouth like it would swallow his already spoken words.

 

Jeongguk laughed at the action and soon, the conversation split into small groups. Namjoon was telling a story of how he had broken a chair the first time he had come to the restaurant with Yoongi by just sitting on it while Jimin and Jeongguk were cackling in amusement. Jimin then shared to Jeongguk that the two clumsiest members of the team were Namjoon and he, himself.

 

“I always trip. Like everywhere and at any time. But Namjoon… he’s just unfortunate? Everything that comes in contact with him just breaks so if you value your health, stay away from him.”

 

“Hey,” Namjoon pouted after whacking Jimin upside the head.

 

“Don’t worry, Namjoon. I’m not going to avoid you. I can handle it,” he said with determination making both elders laugh as they remembered his similar phrase a few days prior.

 

Then the food arrived and they ate like they had been starved. Jeongguk realised that Mrs. King kept her promise because his French toast was hidden under a pile of strawberries and blueberries and he believed he was correct to assume that there seemed to be more chocolate sauce as well.

 

As soon as they finished, Seokjin had immediately raced everyone to the counter and paid the bill, saying he hadn’t treated the team to a meal in a long time, much to the remaining member’s protests. Jeongguk jumped up excitedly as they turned to leave since he had recalled Jimin letting him drive the convertible.

 

“Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go.”

 

“Are you riding with Jimin again?” Namjoon asked and Jeongguk nodded happily.

 

“He’s letting me drive,” he exclaimed.

 

“At least give us your address before running off,” Hoseok laughed.

 

“Tae has it. Ask him,” Jeongguk smiled as he dragged Jimin out of the restaurant.

 

Jimin chuckled as he handed over the keys before hopping into the passenger’s seat. Jeongguk climbed into the car after Jimin and his eyes glowed as he turned on the engine and opened the roof. He let out a delighted cheer and clapped his hands excitedly before reversing out and driving in the direction of his house. Jimin sat quietly and fondly observed the younger the entire time, unwilling to interrupt his endearing antics.

 

The ride lasted shorter than Jeongguk liked and he sadly bid farewell to the car while Jimin tried to not coo at the younger’s pouty face.

 

“You can borrow her whenever you want. Just as long as I don’t need it,” Jimin smiled.

 

Jeongguk’s eyes widened and he leaped towards the elder, startling him with an embrace and a not so quiet ‘thank you’. It didn’t take long for Jimin to recover and he wrapped his arms around Jeongguk’s waist to return the hug. When Jeongguk pulled away, he was still grinning like a child given a basket full of candy and Jimin couldn’t help reaching up and ruffling his hair.

 

“Let’s wait for the others inside.”

 

Jimin nodded and allowed Jeongguk to lead him to the front of the house where the younger fumbled the keys out of his pocket and inserted it into the lock. Jeongguk took off his shoes and Jimin mimicked the action before they entered the spacious house together. Jimin stood in front of the family photo for a long time before Jeongguk realised what the elder was looking at.

 

“How old were you here?”

 

“I think like five?”

 

“You grew up so well,” Jimin smiled like a proud father.

 

Jeongguk chuckled just as the doorbell rang and he hurried back to the front of the house. He opened the door to admit Yoongi, Namjoon and Taehyung and he quickly invited them in. When they finished taking off their shoes and stepped into the house, the bell rang again and Jeongguk swung open the door almost immediately, surprising Seokjin and Hoseok in the process. He laughed at their shocked expressions before ushering them in and waiting for them to remove their shoes.

 

They followed him into the family room where Jimin was still smiling at the photo and as soon as they saw what the agent was distracted by, they swarmed around as well. Jeongguk quickly escaped to the kitchen where he pulled out some glasses from the cabinets and gave them a quick rinse since they were dusty from being stored away for probably months. He filled the glasses with water before carrying half of them to the family room and returning for the remaining three.

 

As he entered, the group had moved from the photo to the couches, leaving Jeongguk a space in the middle between Yoongi and Namjoon. He gratefully dropped into the space and he realised he didn’t feel lonely like yesterday.

 

“So, Jeongguk, tell us about yourself,” Namjoon initiated.

 

“Apart from the fact that you’re not a kid and you’re twenty one,” Taehyung smirked.

 

“And surprisingly good with children,” Hoseok added.

 

“And quite the handful for your brother,” Jimin nodded.

 

“And got shot by a gun last year,” Jin continued.

 

“And stabbed,” Yoongi spoke.

 

“What do you want to know?” Jeongguk smiled.

 

“Anything.”

 

“Uh… I’m a deep sleeper?”

 

“Wow, really now? I couldn’t have guessed that,” Taehyung said, eyes widening in mock surprise.

 

Jeongguk rolled his eyes in reply but the gesture held no malice and left the elder laughing.

 

“Sleeping is Yoongi’s specialty,” Hoseok chuckled.

 

“Join me?” Yoongi teased with a smirk and Jeongguk choked on nothing whilst everyone else laughed at his reaction. “I’m joking. No need to get so worked up. The offer’s up if you ever rethink though.”

 

“Yoongi, stop it,” Seokjin scolded.

 

“So, Jeongguk, where’re you from?”

 

“Busan,” Jeongguk answered attracting a gasp from Jimin.

 

“Me too,” the elder said excitedly.

 

“Really?”

 

The rest of the group laughed as both Jimin and Jeongguk’s eyes brightened until they were absolutely radiating with happiness. They were entertained when the two started arguing about which beach was their favourite, Jimin convincingly stating Gwangalli Beach whereas Jeongguk preferred Haeundae Beach.

 

“Guys, can we just agree they’re equally beautiful?” Yoongi sighed.

 

“No,” Jimin and Jeongguk childishly answered, adding in a pout each, and Yoongi threw both hands up in resignation.

 

“Jeongguk,” Namjoon interrupted. “You said that you wanted to go into arts? Why the change of heart?”

 

“My brother. I followed him here because I was worried about him.”

 

“You gave up your dreams because of that?”

 

“Yeah? Well, to tell the truth, I don’t think my parents were keen on me doing arts either though. ‘No future’ I think it was they said,” Jeongguk laughed.

 

“So you joined the FBI?”

 

“Yeah because I thought going undercover in gangs and terrorist groups and profiling psychopaths was going to be so much better.”

 

The six elders laughed at the younger’s sarcasm knowing full well that Jeongguk had chosen probably the most dangerous job in the world to retaliate against his parents.

 

“Did your parents not say anything about you being a secret agent?”

 

“They don’t know. Hyun and I told them we were both working behind the desk,” Jeongguk grinned.

 

“Cheeky.”

 

“Yup.”

 

Jeongguk smiled playfully but when he shifted to change his uncomfortable sitting position, he realised he was leaning half of his weight on Namjoon though the elder hadn’t mentioned it. He sat up and apologised to the leader but Namjoon merely shook his head and patted his shoulder, extending an invitation to Jeongguk to rest on it. The younger happily complied, turning a few degrees to the sides so he could prop his head on Namjoon’s shoulder whilst his back leaned slightly onto the elder’s chest. Although Jeongguk didn’t think much of the position, Namjoon’s heart was beating erratically and he was internally questioning himself how they had ended up sitting like that.

 

“If you had the chance, would you continue to pursue arts?”

 

“I don’t know…” Jeongguk admitted. “I like it here. I like this job. Art is too… unpredictable.”

 

“Just don’t forget your passion for it,” Namjoon whispered.

 

“What about you guys? Were you always inclined toward being special agents?”

 

“Nah, Jimin and I were both dancers but we realised we could use our intelligence and agility for a different purpose.”

 

“I wanted to be a musician. Probably a saxophonist.”

 

“You play the saxophone?” Jeongguk gasped.

 

“I used to,” Taehyung smiled.

 

“You have to show me one day,” Jeongguk pleaded.

 

“Maybe,” Taehyung chuckled.

 

“What about you, Namjoon?”

 

“I don’t know. Maybe a philosophy teacher? Otherwise just a boring office job.”

 

“Me too,” Seokjin exclaimed. “A random company employee.”

 

“Yoongi?”

 

“I don’t know. A composer?”

 

“Wow,” Jeongguk smiled. “As fun as all of that sounds, I really cannot imagine BTS without any of you.”

 

“We can’t either,” Hoseok chuckled.

 

Then for some reason, they all turned quiet, immersed in their own thoughts. It was the comfortable type of silence though so Jeongguk didn’t feel awkward or nervous. That is until someone spoke again.

 

“I have a question,” Yoongi said so quietly that all of them nearly missed it.

 

“Mhm?”

 

“Who do you like best out of us?”

 

The atmosphere suddenly changed. The tension in the room was almost palpable and Jeongguk tried to not show how much the question threw him off.

 

“W-What?”

 

He failed, obviously.

 

“Who do you like best out of the six of us?” Yoongi repeated without hesitation.

 

Jeongguk sat up slowly and saw all six pairs of eyes on him and the intensity in their stares had him squirming on the spot. An attractive blush fixated itself onto his cheeks and his entire body started burning from embarrassment.

 

“I-“

 

“Guk?... You home?”

 

“Hyun?” Jeongguk said, springing up from the couch and racing himself to the door, desperate to escape from Yoongi’s question.

 

“Hey, Guk, I’m back,” Jeonghyun smiled when his younger brother hopped into view and lunged himself at the elder.

 

“Good timing,” Jeongguk huffed.

 

“Is someone here? Why’re there so many shoes?”

 

“Oh yeah. I invited them over.”

 

“Who’s them?” Jeonghyun asked, following Jeongguk into the family room. “Oh.”

 

“Hey, boss. What’s up?” Taehyung grinned.

 

“Did I interrupt something? Do you want me to leave?” Jeonghyun chuckled, sensing the heavy atmosphere.

 

“No, this is your house. We couldn’t possibly kick you out,” Namjoon smiled with a hint of playfulness.

 

“It’s Guk’s house too,” Jeonghyun said, playing along with the leader.

 

“Hyun,” Jeongguk whined before dragging his elder brother with him to the kitchen. “We’ll go make dinner. You guys can watch the television or something.”

 

“Did something happen?” Jeonghyun asked when they arrived in the kitchen.

 

“…No.”

 

“You’re lying.”

 

“I know.”

 

“Jeongguk,” Jeonghyun laughed. “What happened? Why’re you so flustered?”

 

“I… they asked me something and I just wasn’t ready to answer.”

 

“What did they ask?”

 

“Who… I liked best out of the six of them.”

 

“Is that all?”

 

“Yeah? What were you imagining?” Jeongguk frowned as his brother gave him a smirk.

 

“What do you think?”

 

“Oh my god,” Jeongguk groaned and Jeonghyun laughed, gently nudging his younger brother with his elbow.

 

“You know when I first decided for you to transfer to BTS, I knew you guys were all going to get along. Just not… well, like this.”

 

“Like what?” Jeongguk frowned.

 

“You know what,” Jeonghyun winked. “So… what did you answer?”

 

“I didn’t. You interrupted me,” the younger grinned cheekily.

 

“Oh. Oh no. Oh no no no. Maybe I should really leave.”

 

Jeongguk glared at his brother but kept his hand firmly on the elder’s arm in fear that Jeonghyun would run off because that was something he would do.

 

“I’m joking. But who do you like best?”

 

“I… I don’t know. I like all of them. I mean I can’t… I can’t choose,” Jeongguk sighed.

 

“Maybe they can learn to share then,” Jeonghyun shrugged.

 

“Share what?”

 

“You.”

 

Again, rosiness bloomed on Jeongguk’s cheeks at the casual word Jeonghyun spew before he scrunched up his nose and whacked his brother on the arm. Jeonghyun let out a high-pitched laugh that resembled a hyena’s at his brother’s cute reaction and turned to open the white cabinets, keeping his mouth shut to save the younger from further embarrassment.

 

“Isn’t that weird though? To have like six partners at the same time?”

 

“Polyamorous relationships aren’t really common but they’re not ‘weird’. They’re just… rather complex. It’s going to be difficult. For you especially.”

 

“What do you mean?” Jeongguk asked and Jeonghyun turned back to face the younger.

 

“Well, you’re going to have to trust, be honest and respect not only one but six people even though I can see that you guys already do so that’s not a problem but the seven of you would have to discuss agreements, boundaries and whatsoevers. Good communication is the key to every relationship. Since I think I’m correct to assume that you’re the centre of this relationship, you’ll have to constantly reassure them that you haven’t lost interest and make sure none of them are insecure or feel anxious over losing your affection and I haven’t even gotten to jealousy but you see what I mean?”

 

“Wow, how do you even know all of this?” Jeongguk frowned, surprised at his brother’s wisdom.

 

“The FBI had another team a few years back who were in a polyamorous relationship as well and they were only a five people group but it was still really complex and didn’t end well. After they broke up, the team was split but enough about them. Back to you. If the six of them are willing to go along with it, I don’t see why you guys can’t try it. Plus, I don’t want my best team of agents to be in conflict so just try talking to them about it.”

 

“And you’ll be ok with that?”

 

“Yeah, just as long as you’re happy.”

 

“I… I don’t know. Maybe later,” Jeongguk sighed, trying to push it to the back of his responsibilities and Jeonghyun chuckled understandingly.

 

“So what do you want to serve them? As they say the way to a man's heart is through his stomach,” Jeonghyun said dramatically before adding, “Although you’re kind of already in their hearts but you know, just to be sure.”

 

“Oh my god. Can you stop talking?” Jeongguk groaned although he was slightly amused.

 

“No, I can’t. It’s my responsibility as your brother to annoy you. Now will you come help me choose something before my best agents starve,” Jeonghyun smiled as he opened the fridge.

 

Jeongguk rolled his eyes but nonetheless followed his brother to the fridge where they noticed the blatant scarcity of their house. There wasn’t even a single egg inside but it wasn’t unusual since they both rarely ate at home.

 

“Maybe we should just order something?”

 

“Good idea,” Jeonghyun nodded. “Wait, how did your first case go?”

 

“Uh… pretty good, I guess. We saved the child and found both criminals.”

 

“Two? That’s definitely rare.”

 

“Yeah,” Jeongguk sighed.

 

“What is it?”

 

“What is what?”

 

“I know that sigh. Something’s wrong,” Jeonghyun frowned sternly but his features immediately softened when Jeongguk slouched against the counter.

 

“I don’t know if I’m ready to handle these cases mentally.”

 

“Did something happen?” his brother questioned as his concern grew at the defeated look on Jeongguk’s face.

 

“Not really. I just… I don’t know. The criminals are different from the gangs I usually meet undercover and I’m just trying to get used it.”

 

“Guk… I’m sorry. If you want to switch back to tactical, let me know immediately.”

 

“Thank you,” Jeongguk smiled. “And don’t apologise. I chose to join the team.”

 

“Sort of chose,” Jeonghyun corrected with a chuckle.

 

“Hyun… what’s going to happen to Dongyul?”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“I mean is he going to join BTS again?”

 

“Oh,” Jeonghyun said, remembering that Dongyul was originally in BTS. “I haven’t thought about that. I don’t know if he wants to after what happened. He may need some time to recover mentally. Do you know how long until he’s ready to get discharged?”

 

“No… but he said he couldn’t remember much of the incident…”

 

“He couldn’t?” Jeonghyun frowned. “I’ll ask the doctor about his memories before I talk to him tomorrow. I’ll see when the doctor deems him fit to return.”

 

“If… if he’s going to join BTS again… would I need to leave?”

 

‘Oh. That’s what he’s worried about.’

 

“No, definitely not. Eight members for a team aren’t too much. He’ll just have to get used to your polyamorous relationship,” Jeonghyun winked.

 

“If that even happens,” Jeongguk muttered. “Wait, why are you even here?”

 

“What’d you say, brat?”

 

“No, I mean where’s Sangjun? What happened? Did you catch him? Why’re you back already?” Jeongguk frowned.

 

“Oh… um…”

 

“What is it? Just tell me… please.”

 

“He slipped away again,” Jeonghyun sighed, unable to look his younger brother in eye.

 

Jeongguk could feel Jeonghyun’s disappointment in himself but he really did not blame the elder. He knew Jeonghyun was trying his best already and that’s all that mattered to him. Jeongguk smiled and slung an arm around Jeonghyun, patting the other gently on the arm.

 

“It’s fine. We’ll find him.”

 

“I’m sorry.”

 

“It’s not your fault. Really. Didn’t I just tell you not to apologise for things that aren’t your fault?” Jeongguk chuckled.

 

Jeonghyun finally gained enough courage to look up and when he saw the soft smile on his younger brother’s face, he couldn’t help smiling back. He gave a small nod to Jeongguk whose smile grew wider at the action.

 

“Would you guys like some help?” interrupted Seokjin as he strolled into the kitchen before halting. “Is something wrong?”

 

Jeongguk shook his head and pushed Seokjin out of the kitchen again before tugging his brother to follow him back to the family room. When they entered after Seokjin, Jeongguk rubbed the back of his head sheepishly and informed the team that they had literally nothing at home so they would have to order takeout.

 

“That’s ok with us,” Namjoon laughed.

 

“What do you guys want?” Jeongguk asked, dropping himself back down onto his spot that remained vacant.

 

He looked up at his brother and shuffled closer to Namjoon before patting the space next to him. Jeonghyun smiled and sat down, much to Yoongi’s chagrin.

 

“We don’t mind. You can choose,” Jimin shrugged.

 

“Hyun, you can choose,” Jeongguk said, passing the responsibility to his brother who was rolling his eyes already, knowing full well that his younger brother was not a decision maker.

 

“Ok, I’m going to go get some pizza. Any preferences?”

 

“Why can’t you just order it?” Jeongguk asked in horror.

 

“I feel like going out and clearing my head a bit. Don’t worry Guk, I’ll be back soon,” Jeonghyun winked.

 

Jeongguk watched, unmoving, as his brother retrieved his keys and wallet again and headed to the front door.

 

“Wait,” Jeongguk called as he raced after Jeonghyun, catching him in the corridor where all their shoes were neatly lined.

 

“Yeah?”

 

“I… um…”

 

“Use this chance, Guk. Don’t be afraid,” Jeonghyun smiled softly. “Trust me. Trust them.”

 

“…Thank you,” Jeongguk whispered.

 

“I love you.”

 

“I love you too,” he smiled and then his brother slipped out.

 

Jeongguk took a deep breath, readying himself and trying to push away all his inner turmoils before pacing back to the family room. The rest of the team were sitting there comfortably, exchanging quiet and calm chatter. When they noticed him enter, some offered a small smile while others opted for intense stares. He shuffled into the space in between Yoongi and Namjoon again, nervously fidgeting with his fingers. If they noticed his behaviour, they didn’t question but Jeongguk was positive all of them knew what he was thinking about.

 

“Yoongi, your question before… I don’t have an answer. I don’t think I ever will.”

 

“I know,” Yoongi smiled gently.

 

“But…”

 

“But?” Taehyung encouraged.

 

“I thought… maybe we could… try something… I mean only if you guys want to. If you’re uncomfortable we don’t have to, it’s fine. Don’t feel-“

 

“Jeongguk,” Jimin said, cutting off the younger’s rambles. “What is it that you want to try?”

 

“I-I… it’s… it’s um… a um… po…” Jeongguk stuttered, suddenly feeling embarrassed.

 

“Do you want to try a polyamorous relationship?” Namjoon asked, saving Jeongguk from having to say it.

 

“Yeah,” Jeongguk whispered awkwardly. “I mean only if you’re comfortable with it. If you don’t want to, it’s ok too and… I uh should probably just be quiet now.”

 

“Jeongguk,” Seokjin started. “We were actually talking about this when you were with your brother in the kitchen.”

 

“And?” he asked hopefully.

 

“Well, it’s obvious we all bear the same feelings for you and it’ll definitely be cruel to both you and us if we asked you to only choose one of us so we decided that maybe a polyamorous relationship would be best. We talked it out and agreed to not harbour any jealous feelings and to solve conflicts whenever it should arise but we just didn’t think you would be up for it too,” Hoseok chuckled.

 

“Really?” Jeongguk asked, finally perking up to see the six identical smiles they wore.

 

His eyes were so precious.

 

He reflected their expressions on his face when they nodded and soon, they moved the centre table against the wall so they could all sit in a large circle on the soft carpet. Jimin had pulled Jeongguk to sit between himself and Hoseok and the former didn’t hesitate resting his arm around Jeongguk’s waist. Well, it wasn’t like it was the first time anyways. The younger leaned into the touch without giving the gesture much thought.

 

“Hoseok, can you tell me about any of your cases. I mean only if you want to. If you don’t-“

 

“It’s fine,” the elder chuckled as he squeezed Jeongguk’s cheeks.

 

“Hey, you’re going to make my cheeks stretchy,” the youngest protested.

 

“Oh no,” Hoseok laughed, retracting his hand.

 

“So story?”

 

“Oh right,” Hoseok smiled sheepishly. “Do you have any case in particular you’re curious about?”

 

“All of them,” Jeongguk nodded.

 

And so, that’s how the group spent the next half hour listening to Hoseok’s close escapes and challenging operations. Jeongguk kept his jaw hung open throughout all four stories, nodding his head quickly when Hoseok’s story became suspenseful and slowly when he described his thoughts and procedures when coming up with the plans.

 

Whenever Jeongguk let out tiny surprised gasps, Jimin would chuckle and rub his fingers soothingly along Jeongguk’s ribs. After the first story, during when Hoseok had taken Jeongguk’s hands in his, he gave the younger a few reassuring squeezes every time he pouted at the elder’s past injury.

 

“I see you’re all comfortable,” a voice laughed from behind.

 

“Hyun? When did you get back?” Jeongguk frowned.

 

“Thanks for noticing. I’ve been standing here for a minute now. Mind helping me with the pizzas?” his brother chuckled.

 

“Oh sorry.”

 

Jeongguk laughed as he quickly scrambled up and out of Jimin’s comfortable arms to take half of the boxes from his brother. Together, they set down the five pizzas before sitting beside each other. The team was calmer with his brother around and Jeongguk found it very amusing. He tried to lighten up the atmosphere several times but the team didn’t dare to cross the border and remained composed. Jeongguk shared a hopeless look with his brother who chuckled and shrugged his shoulders at the younger’s failed attempts.

 

“You guys can relax. We’re not at headquarters,” Jeonghyun laughed, helping his younger brother out.

 

“But, boss-“

 

“Jeonghyun.”

 

“But-“

 

“If you can’t get used to calling me Jeonghyun outside of work, then you can’t have Jeongguk.”

 

“Hey,” Jeongguk pouted at his brother’s maybe, he wasn’t too sure, empty threat.

 

“Ok, Jeonghyun,” Namjoon smiled.

 

Jeonghyun felt relieved when he felt Jeongguk relaxing like his mission was finally accomplished. The conversation flowed smoothly and gently after the slight hiccup and they were having so much fun, none of them realised that the pizzas were completely gone until Jeongguk took the last piece. When the youngest finished, he helped his brother clear up the empty boxes and led the group to the kitchen to wash their hands before moving themselves back on the carpet.

 

Jeongguk tried to keep up with the conversation but it wasn’t long before he dozed off, feeling safe and content in the company of his brother and his six new partners. His head was lolling from side and to side and Jeonghyun quickly snapped a photo before helping Jeongguk’s head onto his shoulder.

 

“So… how was the case?” Jeonghyun asked.

 

“It was different. We caught the mother but we didn’t expect the daughter to be involved as well but luckily her behaviour drew suspicions so we were able to investigate her too. Jeongguk helped a lot. We wouldn’t have figured out the suspects had anything to do with photography if he hadn’t been there,” Namjoon said and Jeonghyun automatically felt guilty because he knew he was the main reason Jeongguk chose to not follow his dream.

 

“Did something happen to Jeongguk during the case?” he asked hesitantly and when the others were trying to think of how to best phrase their words, he whispered, “Is he ok?”

 

“He… took it hard,” Yoongi started carefully. “The daughter found out that we caught them because of the photos they left at the scene of crime and then apparently Jeongguk looked similar to the thief who killed the younger daughter so both her and her mother blew up at him. While he was interrogating the mother, she screamed some unpleasant things at him and he coped with it by disassociating himself. We were trying to bring him back but then he went through a panic attack-“

 

“Disassociating? And panic attack?” Jeonghyun frowned. “He hasn’t had one since… sorry… continue.”

 

“We think he’s just finding it hard to wrap around the fact that what he’s doing is right. Even though Jeongguk saved a child, he feels guilty for breaking another family because what they had experienced influenced their actions.”

 

Jeonghyun nodded slowly at Yoongi’s words, head swimming with concern and more guilt.

 

“Maybe I shouldn’t have transferred him into the intelligence division,” he sighed.

 

“Didn’t you transfer him because tactical operations were too dangerous though?” Jimin asked.

 

“Yeah… but most cases in his undercover missions did affect him that much… mentally. Only physically.”

 

“We’ll look after him, don’t worry,” Seokjin reassured him.

 

“Thanks,” Jeonghyun smiled. “I’m glad… he seems happier.”

 

“We’re glad you transferred him into the team,” Hoseok grinned.

 

“So he talked to you about it?”

 

“About what?”

 

“Your relationship.”

 

“He told you?” Taehyung asked in shock.

 

“Yeah,” Jeonghyun chuckled. “I told him to talk to you guys, hence why I purposely left to buy the pizzas.”

 

“Oh.”

 

“Have you decided how you want to go with this?”

 

“We uh… decided on a polyamorous relationship,” Namjoon answered shyly.

 

“Good,” Jeongghyun smiled.

 

“You’re ok with it?”

 

“Yeah, I don’t see what’s wrong. Just as long as none of you are uncomfortable and you’re all happy, it’s fine. Also, I’m going to go talk to Dongyul and his doctor tomorrow. I’ll update him on your relationship, if you don’t mind, so if he does accept the offer to join the team again, the eight of you will have to find a way to work together. But in the meantime, just don’t let your emotions and feelings come in between work.”

 

“We won’t,” they replied confidently.

 

“And don’t you dare hurt Jeongguk in any way, physically or mentally. He doesn’t need that in his life right now. I’m not going to tell you his story but he’s not as strong as he might appear. On the inside, he’s still a fragile child who’s been hurt way too many times for his age.”

 

It wasn’t surprising news. All of them had noticed Jeongguk’s shells over the last few days and if he wasn’t ready, they would wait. They would wait forever if that was what it took for him to fully trust them and open up about his worries.

 

“We’ll protect him,” they promised.

 

Jeonghyun nodded approvingly as he turned to his side and watched Jeongguk sleeping undisturbedly on his shoulder.

 

It was peaceful.

 

If only it could remain so.

 

Chapter Text

It had only been four days since the official start to their relationship and Jeongguk knew this would sound cheesy, but it felt like he had known them for years. It was just so comforting and secure to be around the elders and their care for him was something Jeongguk didn’t know he needed. Growing up, he had always hated it when people babied him because it made him feel childish and weak but now, he wouldn’t have wanted their relationship to go any other way. He wasn’t ashamed when they instinctively took care of him or simply doted on him. The intricacy of everything and the respect they held for one another had Jeongguk wondering what he had achieved in his past life to be blessed with meeting these six people.

 

Four days, however, was also quite a long time for them to not have a case but Jeongguk suspected his brother was probably behind their temporary hiatus. He knew Jeonghyun was feeling guilty about what he was mentally incapable of coping with but with the team’s new dynamics and the talk he had with his brother three days ago, Jeongguk felt like he was ready to tackle any new case that should arise.

 

Turning back to three days ago to when Jeongguk had approached his brother while they were both coincidentally at home, the talk played out with many new revelations.

 

“Jeonghyun. Hyun. Jeonghyun. Jeonghyun. Hyun. Hey,” Jeongguk said in quick succession.

 

“Yes, Guk?” Jeonghyun asked, voice tinged with amusement.

 

“I… um…” Jeongguk said, suddenly turning shy.

 

“Mhm?” Jeonghyun waited patiently as he watched his younger brother with fond eyes.

 

“I talked to them yesterday and they agreed on a polyamorous relationship.”

 

“I know,” the elder chuckled. “They told me yesterday.”

 

“Oh. They told you?”

 

“I asked.”

 

“What did you say to them after that?” Jeongguk asked suspiciously.

 

“I said ‘good’.”

 

“And that’s all? That seems a bit too dull and calm for you…”

 

“Would you have liked me to say more?”

 

“No, no,” Jeongguk replied quickly with a shake of his head making his brother laugh.

 

“Any particular reason you’re home today and not with your boyfriends?” the elder smirked.

 

“Actually there is.”

 

Jeongguk’s tone alerted Jeonghyun that there was something serious on his mind and the elder quickly stopped the work on his laptop to turn and give his younger brother his full attention.

 

“What’s wrong?”

 

“I actually wanted to talk to you about the case.” Jeonghyun gave him a nod as an indication to continue. “I know I told you yesterday that nothing happened during the case but I actually had another panic attack in the middle of the case.”

 

“They told me that too,” Jeonghyun whispered.

 

“Oh.”

 

“Was it Sangjun again?”

 

“Yeah,” the younger sighed. “I don’t know exactly what happened but I remember feeling awful with the thought of convicting them. Then when the mother screamed at me so I tried to bury all the self-hatred I had within me deeper and I just went completely blank. The next thing I know, Sangjun’s appearing out of nowhere and aiming the gun at me again.”

 

“Jeongguk… what you did was save maybe tens of children from losing their lives. You saved tens of families from losing a loved one. You did the right thing. You don’t need to hate yourself.”

 

“But if you think about it another way, don’t you think they were forced into the situation?”

 

“Yes and no. It wasn’t fair that they lost a daughter and a sister but coping with their loss through abduction and murder is a crime. Does that make sense?”

 

“It makes sense but… I still feel conflicted.”

 

“Jeongguk, I’m sorry you had such a difficult first case and I know it’ll definitely take time for you to get used to but if you ever need, the option to transfer out of the intelligence division will always be open to you.”

 

“I… I don’t want to transfer out… just yet.”

 

“I know,” Jeonghyun smiled gently. The elder watched as Jeongguk fidgeted around with his fingers and another question popped into his mind. “Do you miss him?”

 

“…Yes, I do. I think about it everyday. Did I do something wrong? Was he always working for The Black Dragon? Was our friendship ever real to him? … Does he hate me?”

 

“Jeongguk, his decisions were not your fault and I know for a fact that he doesn’t hate you. I doubt his deceiving abilities are higher than some of the criminals I’ve met so from what I’ve seen, I’m certain he wasn’t always working for them. Something must’ve changed.”

 

The younger sighed again and Jeonghyun hesitated before carefully whispering the next question.

 

“You liked him, didn’t you?”

 

Jeongguk looked down and nodded sadly. Jeonghyun heart ached for his brother. He had always had his suspicions but he never wanted to push his brother into confessing because he wasn’t sure the elder reciprocated Jeongguk’s feelings. After the incident, Jeonghyun had no courage to ask Jeongguk and thus, it was always left a mystery.

 

Jeonghyun put his arms around Jeongguk in a sign of comfort and he sighed quietly to himself when the younger snuggled further into the hug. He always played his role of Jeongguk’s personal therapist because he understood that after Sangjun, the younger agent had never trusted another person enough to confront them with his problems.

 

The talk did, however, provide some solace for Jeongguk and that night, he found peace in his sleep.

 

In the present, Jeongguk was practising his firearm skills at an indoor shooting range with the rest of his team. His partners. He was using a .45 Automatic Colt Pistol and training in the twenty five metre range. The other members of his team watched in awe at his consecutive perfect aim, each bullet directly passing through the centre ring. Though Jeongguk had been shooting less regularly over the past year, he was grateful he hadn’t lost his touch.

 

As Jeongguk’s last bullet went through the centre ring, he relaxed and took off his earmuffs before placing the gun down on the ledge. Turning around, confused at the silence his ears were met with, Jeongguk saw that his team had gathered around him so he smiled his trademark smile.

 

“What?”

 

“You look hot when you’re shooting,” Jimin remarked.

 

Jeongguk felt the heat crawl to his face and tried to push through the elders’ bodies in an attempt to escape the eager look in their eyes. Though he had spent most of his break with the team, he decided he wanted to play ‘push and pull’, always stopping interactions before they could advance further than gentle, lingering touches.

 

However, the situation he was currently in put the game in danger. No longer was he in a position to be able to ‘push’ as the elders cornered him against the ledge. He stepped back and stumbled slightly so that his hands braced his fall and were now resting on the smooth, black surface. Pretending to not be flustered at his vulnerable position, he raised an eyebrow as if he weren’t aware of their intentions. He felt an arm slide around his waist and turning to the side, he recognised Hoseok’s smirk closer to his face than he expected. Still not playing along with them, Jeongguk placed his hand against the elder’s chest, arm now acting as an obstruction between Hoseok’s and his body.

 

The small action from Hoseok proved to be a distraction for Taehyung, who took the chance to swoop quickly in front of Jeongguk and rest his hand atop of Jeongguk’s one that was on the ledge. The younger quickly whipped his head to face the next ‘player of the game’, he liked to think of it as.

 

Now that they were actually dating there were no consistent, conflicting thoughts holding the six elders back such as ‘am I going too far?’, ‘should I stop?’ and ‘does he like me too?’. They were bold but little did they know, Jeongguk was sly.

 

“Jeongguk,” Taehyung whispered, his deep voice dropping even lower so that it resonated with fierceness and intensity.

 

“Taehyung,” he murmured back teasingly.

 

They heard a familiar-sounding cough from behind and immediately jumped away from Jeongguk. Jeonghyun, who had been standing there since Jeongguk’s second last bullet, was watching the group fondly. Their attraction to his younger brother was no doubt apparent and Jeonghyun knew he should be supportive of Jeongguk meeting new people and coming out of his shell but he couldn’t help his protective instincts, which were convincing him to hide the pure child from impending harm, as soon as the team broke through to Jeongguk’s personal space.

 

“So… uh,” he started, forgetting the reason he had come.

 

Jeongguk chuckled knowingly at his brother’s brief confusion but decided now was not the time for being playful.

 

“Is something wrong?” he asked.

 

“Oh, that’s right. I came to tell you that your private jet has finished remodelling and it’s ready for your next case,” Jeonghyun said as he lifted up the case file in his hand. “It’s an urgent case. The murders are growing more aggressive. The file has everything they know so far so review it on your way there.”

 

Jeonghyun handed Namjoon the case file, who then passed it over to Seokjin because he didn’t trust himself to not misplace the file. Jeonghyun smiled before quickly pulling Jeongguk away for a brief farewell.

 

“Remember to call me if it gets too much, ok?”

 

“Yeah, yeah,” Jeongguk smiled.

 

“I read the case and it’s quite brutal so-”

 

“Hyun, I got it. I’ll let you know if I can’t handle it.”

 

“Just be careful,” Jeonghyun sighed and shifted nervously from one foot to another.

 

“I will… thank you.”

 

“Ok, go now. Minneapolis needs you.”

 

“I’ll see you when I get back. I love you.”

 

“I love you too.”

 

Jeongguk gave his brother one last tight hug before hopping back to where the rest of the team were readying themselves. They smiled and pulled him towards Seokjin’s car again, piling in and heading off to the airport. When they arrived, they flashed their FBI identification cards and were led towards their private jet. The team had forgotten that Jeongguk had not seen it and thus, were not prepared for his loud exclamation when they entered the aircraft.

 

“This is amazing,” the youngest murmured, pushing past the group to explore the plane.

 

At the bright smile on Jeongguk’s face, Namjoon didn’t have the heart to stop the youngest to get to work so he followed him and investigate the new design of the plane. They seemed to have kept the grey and blue colour scheme for a professional look but the riddance of several object had given the area a more spacious feeling. The main lounge that was set up for their meetings consisted of two long, grey couches lining the side of the plane and were decorated blue cushions. The table in the middle and on the sides were of black marble and the floor was layered with a grey carpet.

 

Everything was simplistic but spoke elegance. There were no excess furniture or decors to distract them from their job. As Jeongguk wandered further into the aircraft, he was met with a pristine bathroom, which was wide enough to fit ten people. Towards the end was a bedroom with the same calming, grey hues with a splash of white here and there.

 

Jeongguk roamed back to the front of the aircraft, where the team was gathered, awaiting his return. He walked in with a satisfied grin, which of course, the team didn’t miss commenting on.

 

“Had fun?” Hoseok smiled.

 

“Mhm,” Jeongguk hummed, plopping down in the space between Seokjin and Yoongi.

 

“Do you like it?”

 

“It’s beautiful,” Jeongguk nodded.

 

Yoongi wrapped an arm casually around Jeongguk and the younger leaned into it as Seokjin pulled out the case file again. He handed it over to Namjoon who was sitting on the other side between Jimin and Taehyung. They wait quietly as Namjoon opened the file and scanned through the contents quickly, frown deepening with every page. Jeongguk gauged Jimin and Taehyung’s reaction as their expression turned into one of disgust when Namjoon flipped to a particular page.

 

Jeongguk’s brother’s words rings in his head ‘…it’s quite brutal.’

 

“How bad?” he asked.

 

“Bad,” Namjoon answered hesitantly. “A series of murders that happened on three separate days but all within the last seven days. First victim, Joel Sanders, aged thirty five. No family or friends who reported him missing. He was found with the second victim, Ivy Jordyn, aged twenty nine. No family or friends who reported her missing as well. Third victim, Evelyn Wood, aged twenty three. Again, no family or friends who reported her missing. And our most recent pair of victims found late last night, Bailey Cox, aged twenty nine and Riley Mason, aged thirty. No reports on either of them. All five bodies were discovered outside or near different police precincts.”

 

“So none of them had attachments. It makes sense why this serial killer would target them,” Yoongi nodded.

 

“What’s connecting these murders?” Taehyung asked, looking over Namjoon’s arm to see the files.

 

“A tattoo. All the victims have the same tattoo but the police department in Minneapolis haven’t been able to discover the meaning because all five bodies were severely burnt so the tattoo was unclear.”

 

Namjoon dug through the pile and extracted the forensic reports of the first three victims before handing them over the Hoseok along with the photos of the victims’ bodies. The elder took them and glanced over it without much of a reaction.

 

“Signs of external and internal bruising were detected on all three victims. They also have numerous scars from different kinds of knives, both old and new. … Old scars?” Hoseok frowned.

 

“So either all of our victims have coincidental scars from their past or they have disappeared for far longer than expected and no one realised,” Jimin pondered grimly.

 

“What’s the m.o.?” Namjoon asked.

 

“All bodies were severely burnt but the two most recent were burnt beyond recognition so they’re currently conducting an autopsy and combining that with full body x-rays, anthropological assessments, odontology investigations and dental data, recording of personal effects and collection of tissue samples for DNA and other investigations to help establish identifications of these victims. All digital records of the first three victims were completely wiped from systems and databases. Composite sketches and DNA testing assisted in portraying a graphical representation,” Hoseok read.

 

“I’ll try and recover as much as I can when we reach Minneapolis- what’s wrong?” Yoongi frowned when he saw Hoseok’s grimace.

 

“Evidence of sexual assault found on both females.”

 

“Did-“

 

“And the male,” Hoseok added, eyebrows furrowing further.

 

They shuddered and Hoseok sighed before putting the files down to rub his head. It wasn’t the team’s first time seeing sexual assault in their case but they rarely ever encountered one where a male was a victim. Yoongi, who had been on the team for the longest, had only ever seen it twice.

 

“According to security footages, these five victims were all last seen more than a year ago and none of them had bank cards to trace,” Taehyung interrupted the heavy atmosphere, evidently moving the conversation away from the last topic and the team seemed to silently follow.

 

Jeongguk neither missed the glance spared between Jimin and Taehyung nor failed to catch the way Namjoon carefully and apprehensively watched the two. Another secret.

 

“Are there any more photos of the tattoo?” Yoongi asked as he peered over Hoseok’s shoulder.

 

“This is a sketch of the details they could make out of the burned bodies,” Hoseok said, giving Yoongi the drawing outline.

 

Jeongguk looked over as well, eyes narrowing before he snatched the photo out of Yoongi’s hands.

 

“What is it?” Yoongi frowned.

 

“This tattoo… why does it look so familiar… I feel like I’ve seen it before?”

 

“From where?”

 

“I don’t know. Wait a second.”

 

Jeongguk closed his eyes rubbed his temples, annoyed that the memory wasn’t coming. He had been undercover too many times. He had been exposed to the art of tattoo too many times. And he had tried to forget everything too many times.

 

“Hey, it’s ok if you can’t remember it now. It’ll come to you,” Namjoon said, the rest of the team turning their attention to the trio.

 

But it frustrated Jeongguk.

 

It was three alternatingly flipped triangles within one another, which sat comfortably below another three overlapping circles that decreased in size as it rose. The line that ran through the centre of the design joined the tattoo, giving it a sense of unity and integrity. Jeongguk knew it was somewhere in the back of his mind but it was one of those memories he had buried too deep down because it was more painful to remember.

 

“Do any these faces ring a bell then?” Seokjin asked as he handed Jeongguk the composite sketches of the victims.

 

“I… I don’t think so,” Jeongguk said, shaking his head.

 

“They might not be accurate though,” Jimin reminded.

 

“Not even familiar,” Jeongguk confirmed more firmly this time.

 

“That’s ok,” Seokjin nodded as he took the sketches back and patted Jeongguk’s shoulder.

 

Jeongguk sighed and reached for the next few sheets of paper handed to him by Taehyung, smiling softly when the elder’s hand lingered for a seconds over his, rubbing small comforting lines. The younger retracted his hand when he felt the rest of the team’s eyes on them and sat down in haste.

 

He could still feel their gaze on him as he pretended to read the information he had just been given. Though it was slightly distracting, Jeongguk didn’t mind the attention. Especially not when they whipped their heads away and feigned innocence as Jeongguk lifted his. He chuckled quietly to himself and watched as his team resumed their serious attitude and continued working on the case.

 

Arriving at Minneapolis, they were swiftly escorted through the bustle of travellers and towards the three police vehicles parked outside the exit. Jeongguk entered the second car along with Yoongi who looked like he was ready for bed already. The younger smiled as he lightly tugged Yoongi and helped the elder’s head onto his shoulder. They sat through the journey silently and comfortably but their minds were both heavy with the weight of the case.

 

When they arrived at the department, Jeongguk observed the yellow police tape two blocks down where the majority of police officers were currently gathered. They regrouped with the rest of the team and followed Namjoon into the building only to be stopped by a figure hurriedly makes his way out.

 

“Oh, Special Agent Namjoon Kim, it’s good to see you and your team again? And who is this?”

 

“Ah, Jacob meet Jeongguk Jeon, the newest addition to our team. Jeongguk, meet Jacob Fosser, the Chief of the police department.”

 

“It’s nice to meet you Special Agent Jeongguk Jeon,” the Chief said as he extended a hand.

 

“Pleasure’s mine,” Jeongguk smiled.

 

“I’m sorry for the terribly short notice. I believe you’ve already read the case file we’ve sent over?” Jacob asked, addressing the team again.

 

“Yes, we are well informed with the details of this case. Is there perhaps a computer forensic lab our technical analyst could use?”

 

“Right this way,” Jacob nodded as he ushered some officers forward to take Yoongi to the lab.

 

“Would we be able to investigate the crime scene now?”

 

“Oh, yes, of course. Of course,” Jacob said as he gestured for another pair of officers to lead the special agents to the scene before announcing his departure and leaving in the opposite direction of the commotion.

 

“Our forensics team is typing the report as we speak and it will ready in about an hour,” one officer informed as she lead the way.

 

“The news of this series of murders have not reached the public yet but it won’t be long before it does,” the other said grimly.

 

“We can keep that from happening,” Namjoon reassured.

 

The officers nodded and guided the rest of the way in silence until they finally reached the scene where they dismissed themselves to head back to the department.

 

“Jin, Jimin, Tae, go talk around with the police officers and get their opinions and anything that may have been missed in the files. Hoseok, Jeongguk come with me to examine where the bodies were found.”

 

They nodded without questions and Hoseok and Jeongguk followed their leader towards the crime scene while Seokjin, Jimin and Taehyung walked around to talk to the surrounding police officers. They observed the open space in which the victims were dumped in the middle of the night. They were standing at the intersection of one minor road and one major road and though the bodies were left in the corner of one of the buildings, a passerby would easily distinguish the bodies even in the dark.

 

“How did they manage to leave not one but two bodies here? Anybody could’ve seen them,” Hoseok thought out loud.

 

“More than one suspect?” Jeongguk suggested.

 

“Maybe,” Namjoon hummed.

 

“Did they accidentally leave behind any clues?” Jeongguk asked.

 

“Let me ask.”

 

Hoseok and Jeongguk followed their leader to the officer standing closest to them. The elder man quickly took his hands off his hips and nodded in greeting when they approached.

 

“How may I help you?”

 

“We would like to know if any additional evidence have been found before we arrived,” Namjoon stated.

 

“Except for the removal of the two bodies, we’ve kept this area in its original condition. Chief wanted your team to analyse it.”

 

“Ok, thank you.”

 

Hoseok and Namjoon both sighed when the officer walked away and Jeongguk frowned silently at the back of their heads as he trailed after them back to the corner.

 

“What’s wrong? Did he say something wrong?”

 

“No,” Namjoon answered. “It’s just that…”

 

“Just that what?” Jeongguk prodded carefully.

 

“Last time we came to Minneapolis, it was about a year ago. The police didn’t contribute to the case at all because Jacob told them to just leave it to us and stay out of our way,” Hoseok supplied.

 

“Oh… but-“

 

“And then that asshole took some credit when we finished the case,” Yoongi’s annoyed voice came over the radio.

 

“Why didn’t you guys do anything about it?” Jeongguk frowned.

 

“We wanted to,” Hoseok sighed. “But boss looked really stressed last year and he was always running in and out of the office and we didn’t want to bother him so we just stayed quiet.”

 

“Oh,” Jeongguk whispered, feeling slightly guilty because he knew exactly why Jeonghyun was so busy and stressed last year.

 

“Yeah did something happen to your brother?”

 

“Uhh, not really,” he half-lied but Hoseok and Namjoon nodded even though they detected the uncertainty in Jeongguk’s words. “I’ll talk about it with him after this case.”

 

“We’ll see if Jacob changed or not first. If he’s still unwillingly to offer us assistance, then maybe mention it to boss.”

 

“Ok,” Jeongguk hummed.

 

“We should start looking around,” Namjoon sighed as they put on the gloves supplied by the police.

 

As Jeongguk squatted on the ground, he peered around the area that marked the position of how the bodies were left. He paced around the white outlines, tilting his head left, right and upside down. He squatted down again beside the body closest to the yellow tape and backtracked a few steps. Hoseok and Namjoon just watched him, confusion missed with curiosity. They jolted when they heard a clatter and Jeongguk spun around to see a silver lighter sitting near his foot.

 

To anyone else, the lighter would look like just another plain silver lighter but to Jeongguk, the patterned border stared back at him with a sneer, Jeongguk believed. It cut through all of his protective layers, tearing and tugging at Jeongguk’s mind.

 

“Jeongguk?“ Namjoon frowned when Jeongguk shot up and gasped.

 

“I know…”

 

“Sorry?”

 

“I know where it’s from,” Jeongguk said, hurriedly standing up. “I-I… it’s...”

 

“You know where what’s from?”

 

“The… oh my god.”

 

“Jeongguk, hey what happened? What did you find?”

 

“I need to- I need to call my brother,” Jeongguk mumbled, taking off immediately after the words were spoken.

 

“Wait, where’re you going?” Hoseok called after him but Jeongguk chose to ignore it as he ducked under the yellow tape and continued stumbling away from the crime scene until he reached a secluded area.

 

Jeongguk wasn’t given a choice as memory flooded back one after another. He stood so painfully lost.

 

Unwillingly, he remembered.

 

The triangles.

 

What they had meant.

 

Aggression. Energy. Power.

 

The circles.

 

What they had meant.

 

Endurance. Restriction. Eternity.

 

The police had misinterpreted the salient integral of the tattoo.

 

For it wasn’t a line that ran through the centre.

 

But a black dragon.

 

Chapter Text

His trembling thumb pressed Jeonghyun’s name as his other hand disconnected the radio link to his team.

 

One ring.

 

“Guk? Have you arrived? Why’re you calling me?”

 

“I- the tattoo- the case- dragon-“

 

“Jeongguk. Calm down.”

 

“I-I’m trying,” Jeongguk stuttered.

 

“Jeongguk, I’m on my way to the airport right now. Talk to me. What’s wrong?”

 

“I- the case…”

 

“What about the case? Where’s Namjoon? Where’s everyone else?” Jeonghyun asked and Jeongguk could hear the concern and panic.

 

“They’re still at the crime scene right now.”

 

“What? Where’re you then? Jeongguk, are you alone?”

 

“You said you read the file, right?” Jeongguk whispered, ignoring his brother.

 

“Yes,” Jeonghyun breathed as a brief honk of a car also travelled through the phone with his voice.

 

“The tattoo. It’s the tattoo of The Black Dragon.”

 

“Oh my god… oh my god Jeongguk, get back to the team right now. Stay inside the police station until I arrive, ok?”

 

“Jeonghyun…”

 

“Jeongguk, do as I say, please?” Jeonghyun pleaded.

 

“…Ok,” Jeongguk whispered. “Ok.”

 

“Stay on the phone with me until you’re with someone.”

 

“I can see Hoseok and Namjoon.”

 

“Can you hand the phone over to Namjoon?”

 

“Yeah, wait a second,” Jeongguk said as he approached the confused team leader who was looking around frantically for his lost team member.

 

“Are you ok? Where did you go? We were so worried. Please don’t run off like that,” Namjoon said as he breathed a sigh of relief and grabbing Jeongguk’s shoulders to scan him up and down while Hoseok hurried to his side too, face pulled down into a worried frown.

 

“Jeonghyun wants to talk to you,” Jeongguk murmured as he held out the phone to Namjoon.

 

“Boss?” Namjoon asked, eyebrows rose before taking the phone from him. “Hello, boss? … Yes, he’s with me right now. … You want me to what? … Keep him inside the police station? Ok, ok. … And away from the case, ok got it. … You’re on your way? Here? To Minneapolis? … Ok, we’ll inform the police department and send someone to the airport. … No, he hasn’t told me anything. … Ok. … I promise.”

 

Jeongguk took the phone from Namjoon when the leader handed it back to him and held it up to his ear again.

 

“Jeonghyun?”

 

“Jeongguk, I need you to tell the team and the police department what the tattoo actually is and what it means. Give them a better sketch if you can still remember it.”

 

“I will.”

 

“Are you ok?”

 

“I don’t know,” he whispered.

 

“Trust the team.”

 

“I will.”

 

“Jeongguk?”

 

“Yeah?”

 

“I love you.”

 

“I love you too, Jeonghyun.”

 

“I’ll see you soon. Go inside now and let the police finish with the crime scene.”

 

“Ok. See you,” Jeongguk sighed before hanging up.

 

“Come on, let’s get you back to the station,” Namjoon said.

 

“What about the lighter?” Jeongguk frowned.

 

“I already told the police to send it to the forensics lab to see if they could detect any fingerprints. I’ll finish up here, you go back to the station with Namjoon,” Hoseok smiled hesitantly.

 

“Ok. Come soon,” Jeongguk sighed before walking back.

 

“Tell Jin, Jimin and Tae to come back with you.”

 

“Mhm,” Hoseok nodded.

 

Namjoon walked behind Jeongguk, confused as to why his boss had asked him to keep Jeongguk inside the police department until he arrived but he didn’t question it. He trusted both Jeonghyun and Jeongguk and if the former was personally coming to Minneapolis, then the case must’ve been more complicated than it already was.

 

“Is he ok?” Namjoon heard Yoongi’s voice.

 

“I don’t know. Have you found anything?”

 

“Not yet. I’m still trying to recover the victims’ files.”

 

“Ok, we’re nearly there.”

 

“I’ll meet you outside.”

 

“Ok.”

 

He watched Jeongguk trudge along slowly, the five minute walk turning into ten minutes. By the time they arrived at the station, Yoongi was already waiting there, shifting from one foot to another out of impatience and worry. When the elder caught sight of Jeongguk he lunged forward and cupped the younger’s cheeks before pulling him into a hug. Jeongguk sighed as he wrapped his arms around Yoongi and buried his face into the elder’s neck, breathing in the calming scent.

 

“What happened?”

 

“I… I’ll tell you guys when the others come.”

 

“Let’s get you inside then,” Yoongi whispered.

 

Reluctantly detaching himself from Jeongguk, he ushered the youngest in, turning around to make sure Namjoon followed. Yoongi took them up to the third floor where the police had prepared the large area for them to work the case on. When they arrived, several officers that were roaming aimlessly around nodded in greeting and watched the trio curiously. Jeongguk walked towards a corner of the room and dropped onto one of the black office chairs. Yoongi and Namjoon opted to lean against the table as they waited for the rest of their group to join them.

 

They didn’t miss how Jeongguk fidgeted anxiously with his hands or how his eyes travelled around each and every inch of the room like he was trying to detect signs of danger. Namjoon reached forward and held Jeongguk’s hands in fear that the younger would injure himself from the way he was digging his nails into the skin on his fingers.

 

Jeongguk sighed and offered Namjoon a small smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes but the leader understood the gratefulness when hid hands were lightly squeezed.

 

When the rest of the team arrived, Yoongi and Namjoon realised that Hoseok must’ve told the team what happened since Seokjin, Jimin and Taehyung remained quiet and waited patiently for Jeongguk to speak. Jeongguk sighed yet again and he stood up slowly as he viewed the rest of his team.

 

“We need to call the Chief. This case is larger than we thought.”

 

Namjoon agreed silently as he left to search for Jacob. He returned not long after with the Chief, the Deputy Chief and a few of the higher-up officers.

 

“Do you have a whiteboard I could use?” Jeongguk asked.

 

“Of course,” Jacob nodded as he led the crowd to the roll call room which consisted of two long whiteboards, a lecturn and a few rows of tables.

 

They heard Jeongguk close his eyes and clench his fists before walking up to the lecturn while the rest of the police force dispersed to sit down at the tables. Unwilling to leave the youngest up at the front by himself, they stood slightly off to the side so they’d be able to step in whenever Jeongguk felt uncomfortable to continue.

 

“The tattoo,” Jeongguk started quietly. “Is missing the most important detail so we’ve missed the meaning behind it.”

 

He turned around and grabbed a black whiteboard marker. Taking a deep breath, Jeongguk drew the three triangles first. Then he drew the three circles before finally drawing the long, thin dragon in the middle of the design. When he finished, he put the marker down and gave himself a moment. Turning around he caught glimpses of his team’s concerned expressions but he ignored them because he wouldn’t have enough courage to speak his next words if they kept watching him like that.

 

“This is what the tattoo actually looks like. It’s the symbol of The Black Dragon.”

 

“As in the gang, The Black Dragon?”

 

“Yes,” Jeongguk nodded at the police officer.

 

“So someone is killing gang members?”

 

“Presumably.”

 

“Why?”

 

“I don’t know,” Jeongguk frowned. How was he supposed to know? He wasn’t the murderer? “There’re several reasons I can think of where someone would want to murder gang members but-“

 

“What are those reasons?” Jacob questioned.

 

“Revenge. Definitely revenge because gangs take but they never give whether it’s property or lives. Power. Control. Gang rivalry. Maybe another gang wants to prove themselves more powerful or they’re fighting to take control. Or…”

 

“Or?”

 

“Or maybe our perp is ‘giving’ the bodies to the police as a statement.”

 

Jacob scoffed and made a negative attempt in hiding his frown.

 

“They want to tell us that we can’t do anything against these gangs which are terrorising the city- no state so now they must step in to rid the Minneapolis of its criminals.”

 

“So you’re saying someone like Batman appeared?” Jacob snorted and the rest of the officers burst into laughter.

 

“No- I-“ Jeongguk stopped himself.

 

“Special Agent Jeongguk,” Jacob spoke again. “You were undercover in The Black Dragon, no?”

 

Jeongguk frowned, uncomfortable with the tone of the chief’s question and its underlying implications. He didn’t know how the news of his mission with The Black Dragon had travelled so far that even small police departments knew of it but he didn’t let his surprise show.

 

“Yes.”

 

“Does everyone have this tattoo?”

 

“Only the members who were of higher rank or close to the leader.”

 

“And how is it that you know what the tattoo looks like?”

 

“I saw it a few times when I was undercover.”

 

“When were you undercover?” Jacob interrogated.

 

“That’s classified,” Jeongguk muttered.

 

“How long were you undercover for?”

 

“That’s classified too.”

 

“Why did you leave before your mission ended?”

 

“That’s classified as well,” Jeongguk spoke, putting extra venom on the ‘classified’.

 

“Do you have this tattoo then since you remember it so… vividly?”

 

“What’re you implying?” Namjoon intervened.

 

“Chief is clearly wondering if your member still has ties with The Black Dragon,” Miriam, the Deputy Chief, stated.

 

“No, I’m not ‘wondering if’. I’m saying Jeongguk ‘is’ definitely still part of The Black Dragon,” Jacob accused, dropping the ‘Special Agent’ to sound superior. “I heard you returned to the FBI after obtaining no information on the gang. They changed you and now you’re back to work as a spy, aren’t you? Do you want to know who’s killing members of your little gang?”

 

Jeongguk shrunk back when the memories of his time with The Black Dragon and Sangjun resurfaced. The team didn’t waste any time springing forward to either pull the youngest closer to their side or to act as a shield blocking Jeongguk’s view of Jacob, Miram and the rest of the police officers who were staring at him with menacing glares. Seokjin, Yoongi, Namjoon and Hoseok stood closest to the crowd, eyes angry enough to intimidate lions while Jimin and Taehyung positioned themselves right in front Jeongguk, their backs to the police.

 

“What proof do you have of those claims?” Hoseok spat.

 

“None…” Jacob shrugged. “Yet.”

 

“So you think he’s trying to obtain information to help The Black Dragon exact revenge upon whoever’s killing them?” Yoongi scoffed.

 

“Probably.”

 

“Then why would he point out that the tattoo was The Black Dragon’s signature and present a correct sketch?” Jimin snapped. “If he were really part of the gang, he’d be smart enough to leave that information out and just wait until we had enough reason to suspect someone.”

 

“T-That’s because h-he’s trying to earn our trust first,” Jacob stuttered, caught off guard.

 

“I can assure you that Special Agent Jeongguk is not affiliated with The Black Dragon anymore,” Seokjin spoke, emphasising Jeongguk’s higher-level rank.

 

“How long have you even known him for? How long has he been in the team? He wasn’t with the six of you the last time you came to Minneapolis. How can you be so sure he’s not working for them anymore?”

 

“Because we trust him,” Taehyung said in agitation.

 

“Then you’re all fools who don’t deserve to be special agents.”

 

“I dare you to repeat that,” Yoongi growled.

 

Hoseok and Namjoon held Yoongi back from pouncing on the elder man right as a voice threaded with power, confidence and dominance rippled through the air.

 

“Jeonghyun,” Jeongguk whispered as his brother angrily stormed into the room, hair slightly tousled from hurrying across the country.

 

“Boss,” the rest of the team addressed, breathing a sigh of relief.

 

“S-Special Agent-in-Charge Jeonghyun Jeon,” Jacob nodded in greeting.

 

“Jacob Fosser,” Jeonghyun said coldly.

 

“W-What brings you here, Sir?”

 

“I want you to repeat what you said before I entered.”

 

“I-I don’t… I d-don’t remember, Sir.”

 

“Shall I remind you?”

 

“T-That’s ok, Sir.”

 

“No, no. I think we all need to hear it again. Hmm, what was it? ‘You’re all fools who don’t deserve to be special agents’. Do I recall correctly?” Jeonghyun spoke slowly before adding, “Chief.”

 

“I-“

 

“You ask for my help and I gave you my best team of agents. But you insult and accuse them with no proof? Is this how a ‘Chief’ should act?”

 

“N-No, Sir. I apologise for my preconceptions.”

 

“I’m not the one you should be apologising too.”

 

“Oh. Of course,” Jacob stammered before turning to face the team and bowing. “I got ahead of myself, I apologise for calling you fools. I hope you’d be able to forgive me and continue helping with the case.”

 

“Is that all you have to say?” Jeonghyun asked.

 

“Y-Yes?”

 

Jeonghyun frowned and turned to his brother, gesturing for him to step forward. Jimin and Taehyung gently pushed Jeongguk to Jeonghyun’s side and the elder wrapped an arm around the younger agent’s shoulders, squeezing softly.

 

“I believe you owe him some form of apology?”

 

“Sir… w-we’re not asking for much. We just want Special Agent Jeongguk off the case.”

 

“And why is that?”

 

“W-We believe he may still have ties with T-The Black Dragon. I-It would put the whole case in jeopardy if the necessary precautions aren’t taken.”

 

“And what makes you think he’s still affiliated?”

 

“The circumstances are too convenient, i-in my opinion. I-I don’t know when the undercover assignment was b-but I heard he disappeared for more than a year after he allegedly ‘left’ the gang.”

 

Now although the details of Jeongguk’s involvement were vague and disoriented, Namjoon was perceptive and extremely intelligent. From what he could remember in the sparse details of Jeongguk’s files, there were regular medical reports, which didn’t fail to outline the younger’s injuries obtained from his missions. So when had Jeongguk taken a year break from missions? He wished he knew the answer but none of Jeongguk’s files were dated nor did they reveal the location and purpose of each mission because that information was classified and Namjoon would be lying if he said it didn’t frustrate him how little he was let in on. He did know, however, that something major must have happened between Jeongguk and The Black Dragon otherwise the younger would not have left before finishing his assignment.

 

They all knew, in fact. From the way Jeongguk tried to hide himself. The way Jeongguk’s eyebrows knitted into a pained frown. And the way Jeongguk had tried to push the memory of the tattoo out of his mind.

 

“Now that you place him in BTS, their case involves The Black Dragon. That sounds awfully coincidental, don’t you think?” Jacob continued and the team were so close, so so close, to whacking the Chief over the head and hopefully knocking some sense into him.

 

“Have you not heard the saying ‘rumours are carried by haters, spread by fools and accepted by idiots’?” Jeonghyun said harshly.

 

“I-I’m sorry, Sir?”

 

“All of your judgements are based off what you ‘heard’ but what have you actually seen?”

 

“Uh…”

 

“Did you see Jeongguk interacting with members of The Black Dragon? Or passing on information of the case to them?”

 

“N-No… Sir.”

 

“Then what evidence do you have to associate him with The Black Dragon?”

 

“But Sir-“

 

“Jeongguk stays on the case. He has more knowledge of The Black Dragon than all of us combined and he would be the most helpful in figuring out who’s trying to go against them. If you want him off the case, the whole team is off the case,” Jeonghyun spat.

 

“But you can’t trust him, Sir,” Jacob urged desperately.

 

“Are you saying you don’t trust my decision?”

 

“N-No, it’s just that… that well, Jeongguk is-“

 

“Jeongguk is my brother,” Jeonghyun stated through gritted teeth. He hadn’t planned to use that card, hoping his anger was intimidating and authoritative enough for the Chief to back off. He knew Jeongguk hated it when people talked behind his back, spitting back and forth that his position was earned through Jeonghyun.

 

“B-Brother?” Jacob and the rest of the officers stuttered, jaws falling slack in shock.

 

“Yes. Brother,” Jeonghyun said aggressively as he pulled Jeongguk closer to himself.

 

“Oh… oh, I-I’m so sorry,” Jacob gasped as he repeatedly bowed to the brothers. “Special Agent Jeongguk, I am so sorry. I-I didn’t know you were Sir’s brother. I w-wouldn’t have accused you if I was aware, p-please don’t hold it against me.”

 

Jeongguk scoffed to himself. Even in the apology, Jacob wasn’t addressing the real problem but the fact that he hadn’t known of Jeongguk’s family.

 

“Please stay on the case. We can’t solve it without the seven of you,” Jacob begged.

 

“Don’t think I won’t report this to the State just because you gave a hollow apology,” Jeonghyun said, unsympathetically.

 

“Y-Yes, Sir. I’m sorry, Sir.”

 

“Clear out this room. We have a case to work on,” Jeonghyun sighed, waving everyone out.

 

They watched as the police officers filed out in a hurry to get away from Jeonghyun’s anger. When it was finally the eight of them left in the room, Jeonghyun turned Jeongguk to face him and quickly pulled him in for a tight hug. Though the younger was startled at first, he quickly reciprocated the embrace, burying his head into Jeonghyun’s shoulder.

 

“Are you ok? Oh my god. I’m so sorry.”

 

“Jeong-“

 

“I-I should’ve recognised the tattoo. I had all of Sangjun’s case on my desk-”

 

“Jeonghyun-“

 

“And I even had the drawing of the tattoo you replicated. It was sitting right next me when I received the case file. I-“

 

“Jeonghyun,” Jeongguk whispered.

 

“I’m sorry, Jeongguk.”

 

“It’s ok.”

 

The rest of the team stood awkwardly, pretending they didn’t hear Sangjun’s name or the fact that he was related to The Black Dragon. They were sure it was something Jeongguk didn’t want to share yet because he had failed to mention the male when he corrected the tattoo. They did notice, however, that the youngest was still not completely comfortable with them, choosing his brother’s comfort over theirs but their hearts were big enough to ignore the disappointment.

 

“Are you ok?”

 

“Yeah… for now,” Jeongguk sighed, removing himself from the warm embrace.

 

“Do you want to go back home?”

 

“That’d just give Jacob what he wants,” Jeongguk chuckled.

 

“Jeongguk… you don’t have to stay here just to prove Jacob wrong,” Jeonghyun frowned.

 

“No. I’m staying. I need to know what’s happening. Why someone is killing The Black Dragon.”

 

“Are you sure?”

 

Jeongguk nodded, resolution in his eyes making his brother sigh.

 

“If it gets too much and you want out, let me know straight away.”

 

“Yes, Sir,” Jeongguk smiled with a salute.

 

Jeonghyun sighed again before turning his attention to the rest of the team and motioning for them to come closer and not stand awkwardly to the side.

 

“So have we got any leads? Anything at all?”

 

“We talked to the officers and I can confirm they know absolutely nothing,” Seokjin sighed.

 

“What I’m confused about though,” Jeongguk frowned. “Is how our perp or perps found the gang members. The only ones with this tattoo in The Black Dragon are the ones closely affiliated to the leader unless that changed after I left. If that wasn’t the case then the people we’re looking for should have a decent knowledge on The Black Dragon or there’s no other way they’d know who to target.”

 

“What about a high-ranked member who has the tattoo themselves and wanted to leave The Black Dragon?” Taehyung suggested.

 

“Impossible. If you’re that high-ranked, then you’re in for life. There’s no leaving, everyone knew.”

 

“Exactly. So now that they regret it and do want to leave, they have to kill off the members slowly until the whole gang collapses,” Jimin added.

 

“But why leave them in front of police stations then?”

 

“They don’t know how else to dispose of the bodies?” Namjoon asked.

 

“I doubt they don’t know how to deal with dead bodies,” Hoseok spoke.

 

“The bodies are definitely a statement then. But for what?” Yoongi frowned.

 

“I don’t know. I’m still leaning towards someone or some group of people seeking revenge from The Black Dragon and then dropping them off at police stations to show the police what they should be doing.”

 

“Then how do they know who to kill?”

 

“That’s what doesn’t add up,” Jeongguk sighed.

 

“Excuse me?” a faint voice spoke from the doorway.

 

“Yes?” Namjoon said, raising an eyebrow.

 

“T-The forensic reports of the fourth and fifth victim are finished. Chief wanted me to bring them to you,” the young officer murmured.

 

“Give them to Hoseok.”

 

“Next time tell your Chief to come himself,” Jeonghyun spoke up.

 

“Y-Yes, Sir.”

 

“Thanks, you may go.”

 

The officer scurried off and Jeonghyun sighed.

 

“Didn’t you guys have a case in Minneapolis last year as well?”

 

“Yeah,” Namjoon nodded. “You remember that?”

 

“Mhm, I was actually in Wisconsin,” Jeonghyun said, glancing at Jeongguk who stiffened at the name of the state. “Which precinct?”

 

“This one. 3rd.”

 

“Was Jacob like this last year?”

 

“…Yeah,” Yoongi answered when everyone else hesitated.

 

“Why didn’t you tell me when the case was finished?”

 

“Because you seemed really busy so we didn’t want to bother you…”

 

“Oh… oh right. Yeah, um, I’m sorry about that,” Jeonghyun murmured. “Next time, please just tell me anyways. It’s better to deal with sooner rather than later.”

 

“Of course, boss,” Namjoon nodded, giving the elder a smile to which Jeonghyun returned. “Hoseok, how’re the reports?”

 

“The same. Multiple scars and lesions identified under the burns.”

 

“What about the sexual assault?”

 

“Also consistent,” Hoseok nodded, Jeongguk noticing Jimin and Taehyung grimacing.

 

“Does sexual assault occur much in gangs though?” Namjoon asked.

 

“More often than not,” Jeongguk confirmed grimly.

 

“So if your theory is correct, how exactly do we find our perp?”

 

“There’re too many people who have a grudge against The Black Dragon but let’s start with ruling out anyone absent from Minneapolis this past week.”

 

“What type of person would go to such lengths when murdering the gang though?” Jeongguk frowned. “Why burn the bodies completely? A stab in the neck or heart or any other vital points should’ve been enough.”

 

“I think we’re looking for someone aggressive. Someone with a history. Someone who has nothing to lose,” Jimin proposed.

 

“Should I ditch recovering the victims’ files and get started on the list of people who have probable cause then? You guys can follow that up,” Yoongi sighed, and stood to leave the room when Namjoon nodded an affirmative.

 

“We’ll go over the reports and CCTV cameras again,” Namjoon replied.

 

As they worked, the team took turns sharing the lone, black two-seater couch which laid in the corner of the room except Jeongguk, who, again, was the only one who didn’t sleep during the night, a mixture of feelings weighing heavy as they circled his heart. Yoongi’s list of people who may have a motive was growing incredibly fast, approximately two people per minute. Why were there so many people against The Black Dragon? When had The Black Dragon expanded from Wisconsin to Minneapolis?

 

Jeongguk sighed.

 

The night wasn’t filled with just mysteries but regret, helplessness and self-degradation on top.

 

Jeongguk believed he was responsible for everything. He was sent to destroy the gang but he had failed and now they were growing larger and stronger, posing as a threat to all the citizens in the two states. Why didn’t I see through Sangjun? Why had I put so much trust in the elder? Why did I let my emotions dictate my actions?

 

If someone were really targeting The Black Dragon, they wouldn’t get far because they’d either be found by the police or by the gang. Jeongguk just hoped they’d find the perpetrator or perpetrators first because the consequences of going against a gang that powerful were severe.

 

Jeongguk alternated between sudden urges to solve the case and wallowing himself in self-hatred but neither approaches seemed to help him, the night consequently ending with no new discoveries or findings. The only thing really keeping him awake were the cups of coffees the rest of the team were taking turns in giving him and the pieces of bread his brother had force-fed him.

 

Even Yoongi had taken a few strolls out of the computer lab to check up on the team. When Yoongi slid past Jeongguk, he let his hand linger slightly on the younger’s head after the hair ruffle he had given. Disappointingly, Jeongguk hadn’t even registered the action, too absorbed into whatever it was in front of him. Yoongi found Jeongguk’s concentrating face adorable though and if he could, he would’ve sat there the whole night just watching the younger.

 

The police had informed them that they were trying to help yet they all knew it was false as Jeonghyun caught them on several occasions lounging around their desks. There was a lot he was going to be reporting back to the State when the case ends and boy was he ready to do his brother some justice.

 

When morning passed and midday came, they breathed a sigh of relief at the knowledge that no new bodies were found but it didn’t make them feel completely easy because they had nothing new to work with. The room now resembled an aftermath of a hurricane, papers thrown messily on the several tables in the room. The team had barely moved from their original positions, the state of the room contributing to one of the reasons they remained still.

 

Jeonghyun watched as his brother sat against one of the desks, swinging his leg back and forth to keep himself awake and composed. He peered over discreetly and realised that the younger was analysing the composite sketches of the victims with his eyebrows indicating his confusion. Jeongguk had the nail of his thumb caught in between his upper and lower teeth and was gnawing on it absentmindedly.

 

“What’s wrong?” Jeonghyun whispered. “I know that look so don’t say ‘nothing’.”

 

“It’s just…” Jeongguk sighed.

 

“Just?”

 

“I don’t know. You could say that I moved relatively high in ranks in The Black Dragon and was exposed to many of those close to the leader but why have I never seen these people before?”

 

“Maybe new recruits joined after you… you know…”

 

“I don’t think so,” Jeongguk frowned. “After I left, they would’ve been more cautious and not have this many new recruits.”

 

“True,” Jeonghyun nodded slowly, considering his brother’s words.

 

A knock on the door interrupted them and they look up to see the Chief timidly standing at the door, afraid of bothering them. He made eye contact with the team but his head whipped down immediately when his eyes locked with Jeongguk’s. They didn’t even need to be Special Agents to interpret the way Jacob was shifting and fidgeting as nervousness.

 

“What is it?” Jeonghyun asked.

 

“The forensics report on the lighter Special Agent Jeongguk found yesterday is ready,” Jacob said as he crossed to room to hand Jeonghyun the paper.

 

“This was sent in yesterday, wasn’t it?”

 

“Y-Yes, Sir.”

 

“Why’d it take this long for the report to be finished?”

 

“I don’t- I don’t know. I’m sorry, Sir,” Jacob apologised while Jeonghyun shook in head.

 

“No fingerprints of the victim found on the lighter?” Jeonghyun frowned after quickly scanning to report.

 

“No, Sir. There’s only one set of fingerprints and they don’t belong to anyone on our files.”

 

“Ok, you can go now,” Jeonghyun dismissed.

 

The Chief bowed to the Special Agent-in-Charge and glanced one last time at Jeongguk before scuttling away to probably do nothing. The rest of his team didn’t fail to comment on the Chief’s not so subtle look of distaste casted at Jeongguk when they were sure the elder was out of earshot.

 

“Why can’t he just acknowledge that Jeongguk is on their side?” Jimin huffed.

 

“Because people usually don’t want to deviate from what they believe and admit they’re wrong,” Namjoon said.

 

“What if… what if we’re wrong?” Jeongguk gasped.

 

“Huh? What?” Jeonghyun frowned.

 

“What if we’re looking at this case wrong?”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

The rest of the team followed Jeongguk as he ran to the messy desk where all the information concerning their case was messily scattered. He rummaged through the pile before digging out several photos of the bodies of the five victims where the tattoos could be seen. His breathing increased as he held them up so that his team and brother could clearly see what he wanted them to see.

 

“We weren’t flexible with our thinking. Namjoon, you said that people usually don’t want to deviate from what they believe and admit they’re wrong. What if this applies for us as well? This whole time we held onto our first belief that our perp was murdering members of The Black Dragon. But our victims have disappeared for a really long time, right? So these tattoos… what if the victims aren’t even gang members?”

 

“So you’re saying…”

 

“It was inked onto them against their will.”

 

Chapter Text

“The victims aren’t members of The Black Dragon. That explains why I’ve never seen them before.”

 

“So someone is abducting people to tattoo the symbol of The Black Dragon onto them?” Taehyung frowned.

 

“And torture them for a year?” Jimin continued.

 

“Why kill them now then?” Yoongi asked, having left the computer lab and rushed into the room after hearing Jeongguk’s theory.

 

“Maybe they’ve finished ‘using’ these victims,” Namjoon supplied.

 

“Who would do such a thing?” Seokjin shuddered.

 

“Gangs,” Hoseok whispered. “They like to mark their property. The only thing I don’t understand is why they’re disposing of the bodies in such a manner.”

 

“Because it’s a game to them,” Jeongguk spoke.

 

“They’re playing with the police. Showing they have the power and control around here,” Jeonghyun nodded, agreeing with Jeongguk.

 

“Ok, let’s say it really is The Black Dragon murdering these people. How’re we supposed to arrest them? ‘Can’ we even arrest them?” Taehyung asked.

 

“No, we can’t,” Hoseok and Jeongguk answered together.

 

Jeongguk gestured for Hoseok to explain, the elder having more experience undercover than he did.

 

“As much as gangs threaten the safety of civilians, they provide a lot of information to the police on rival gangs in hopes that their illegal acts would be overlooked. To completely take down a gang, you’ll need substantials evidence to convict them of all of their felonies. You’d also need the sufficient information of their major outlets and hideouts to perform a raid and arrest the significant figures of a gang or there may be a chance for the gang to rise again. We simply do not have that power right now so there’s nothing we can do.”

 

“No,” Jeongguk frowned. “I was sent in to The Black Dragon to help gain information to take them down and I failed-”

 

“Jeongguk, that wasn’t your fault,” Jeonghyun insisted.

 

“I should take responsibility-“

 

“Jeongguk,” Jeonghyun frowned as he tugged on the younger’s arm to force Jeongguk to face him.

 

“Jeonghyun, I can make this right-“

 

“None of this is your fault, Jeongguk. You don’t need to do anything to make it right.”

 

“No, I’ll go seek a rival gang. A group that wants to threaten The Black Dragon’s power.”

 

“Jeongguk, if you want to go undercover, it’ll take you weeks to infiltrate and months to gain enough information. You can’t just expect to waltz in and ask them to trust you.”

 

“What other choice do we have right now?” Jeongguk argued back, his volume rising to compete with his brother’s loud voice.

 

“No. I’m letting you go after what happened last time.”

 

“Jeonghyun, you know there’s no other way to take down a gang.”

 

“But what if you run into someone from The Black Dragon? What if you run into Sangjun?”

 

The team’s ears perked up again at the sound of a familiar name. Jeonghyun had mentioned a certain ‘Sangjun’ yesterday and it was quite obvious said person was involved with The Black Dragon but what happened between Jeongguk and Sangjun, they were all curious yet none had the courage to interrupt the brothers’ fight.

 

“I…”

 

“Jeongguk, leave this to someone else, please. I’ll send another agent in. It’s too risky for you to work undercover now that you’ve been exposed by The Black Dragon,” Jeonghyun pleaded softly.

 

“But we can’t just stand around and do nothing. The Black Dragon are going to keep killing the innocent people they abducted while someone gets ready. We have to act now.”

 

“Yes, we can’t sit around. I’m not saying that’s what we’re going to do but I just can’t let you risk you life. Again.”

 

“Jeonghyun-“

 

“Jeongguk, please. I don’t want to spend every day and every night hoping you’d return. Praying you’d be safe. Wishing I never got you into the FBI in the first place,” Jeonghyun whispered weakly.

 

“But-“

 

“I thought you wouldn’t want to go undercover anymore after last year.”

 

“I don’t. I just… I feel like all these people are dying because I wasn’t able to bring The Black Dragon down.”

 

“Jeongguk Jeon, this is not your fault. Stop blaming yourself for everything. What Sangjun chose to do was beyond your control.”

 

“It’s not what he chose to do that’s on my mind but… it’s just that I should’ve seen it coming. I blame myself for not being careful-“

 

“Jeongguk,” Jeonghyun sighed. “No one saw it coming. I should have realised his motives as well but I didn’t, did I?”

 

“Who’s Sangjun?” Namjoon asked quietly, taking both Jeonghyun and Jeongguk by surprise as the pair had forgotten about the rest of the team’s presence.

 

The two brothers exchanged a look and the team curiously tried to decipher their eyes. Jeongguk took a deep breath before turning around to face the team, his brother simply nodding at Jeongguk’s decision.

 

“Sangjun is my ex-partner.”

 

“As in he used to be in the FBI?”

 

“Yeah,” Jeongguk sighed and something clicked in Namjoon.

 

“Sangjun is the partner who sold you out?” Namjoon gasped, remembering his conversation with Jeongguk on the plane to their first mission.

 

“Yeah.”

 

“And that means you got your bullet wound from being undercover in The Black Dragon?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“Oh my god.”

 

“So Sangjun’s with The Black Dragon now?” Yoongi asked.

 

“I think so.”

 

“Can we ask how you escaped?” Seokjin whispered carefully.

 

Jeongguk sighed before turning to his brother uncertainly. The rest of the team noticed the subtle gesture as well, the idea that they were all special agents being forgotten by Jeongguk.

 

“It’s fine if you don’t want to tell,” Seokjin smiled gently as he came forward to cup Jeongguk’s cheeks.

 

“No… it’s just… I said Sangjun sold me out, right?” Jeongguk murmured and the team gave a hum to signal him to continue. “Well, he led me to a deserted alleyway so that The Black Dragon could surround us. Then they revealed that Sangjun was actually a double agent and he told them about me being a secret agent as well and they- I-I don’t know what they wanted with me but it wasn’t good.”

 

“It’s ok. Just breathe,” Seokjin reassured.

 

“They… they tried to restrain me but I broke through and ran away. As I was trying to escape… I was shot.”

 

Still, he wasn’t ready to tell them. Jeongguk wished he had the courage to say that Sangjun was the one but maybe, it was just that he couldn’t bring himself to accept it. Sangjun. His best friend. His crush. It was ridiculous. It’s been over a year since the incident and Jeongguk should’ve been over him by now but why was he holding onto the edge of the cliff, hoping that Sangjun had a reason?

 

Sighing, he chose to glance briefly at his team when he finished his story and found them just staring with varying degrees of pain like they had forgotten that they too had the ability to speak. Turning to Jeonghyun, the elder gave him a small nod, which spoke an ‘it’s ok, you don’t have to tell them if you don’t want to’. Jeongguk hadn’t even noticed his brother had slowly shifted back so that the rest of the team could surround him during his recount but it became apparent now as he watched Jeonghyun creep out and close the door quietly behind him.

 

“We’re not letting you go undercover as well,” Namjoon decided.

 

“Namjoon-“

 

“I’m your leader now. I will not risk a member of my team.”

 

“But-“

 

“Jeongguk, after he did that to you, why would you still want to go anywhere near The Black Dragon?”

 

“Because this is my fault. I have to fix it.”

 

“No, it’s not your fault,” Jimin said. “And if we’re ‘fixing’ this, then we’re fixing this together.”

 

“Jeongguk, how would you feel if I were to volunteer to go undercover right now?” Hoseok interrupted.

 

“I… I’d tell you not to go.”

 

“And why is that? My actions may prevent a lot of deaths, right? So why’re you telling me to stay?”

 

“Because I don’t want you to get hurt,” Jeongguk whispered.

 

“How do you think your brother and all of us feel then?”

 

“But you weren’t the reason The Black Dragon have gained so much power. You don’t have that guilt.”

 

“And ‘you’ shouldn’t let that guilt dictate your actions,” Yoongi whispered.

 

Jeongguk opened his mouth but closed it again unwilling to argue anymore because he had to admit, their reasons were making far more convincing than his. Sighing for the hundredth time that afternoon, he dropped his head and nodded in response to the elders’ request to stay. His team smiled in relief but sorrow before reaching to enclose the youngest in their arms.

 

He unconsciously slumped into the embrace and closed his eyes, the lack of rest finally catching up with his body. Though he fought against the drowsiness, the soft whispers of reassurance from the elders gradually lulled him to sleep. Seokjin, who was playing the largest part in holding Jeongguk up, chuckled slightly when he had noticed the younger’s soft snores. The psychologist looked around to see the rest of the team viewing Jeongguk with fond eyes and how he wished they weren’t in such a tense situation so they could stand there and admire his sleeping form.

 

“Help me bring him to the couch,” Seokjin whispered.

 

The two or maybe three person job took six special agents to complete as they gently moved Jeongguk to the couch, hoping that their actions would not wake the boy. When they settled him down, Namjoon took of his jacket and slowly covered Jeongguk’s upper body with the black article.

 

“Did anyone see him sleep yesterday?” he asked.

 

Namjoon was met with five headshakes and he sighed, rubbing his forehead. At that moment, Jeonghyun decided to poke his head back into the room to see if the coast was clear. His eyes immediately softened when he saw the scene before him, his younger brother taking a rest on the couch with his partners gathered around him protectively.

 

“He finally fell asleep, huh?”

 

The team jumped and turned to face the additional person in the room, nodding sheepishly.

 

“Did he still insist on going undercover?”

 

“Yeah but we’ve stopped him… for now,” Seokjin sighed.

 

“What are we going to do? How’re we going to stop them?” Hoseok asked.

 

“I… I don’t know,” Jeonghyun admitted, shocking the team as they’ve never seen so much confusion and hopelessness from their boss. “But we’ll figure something out. For the victims. For Minneapolis. And for Jeongguk.”

 

“Are we certain this is The Black Dragon’s doing though?” Taehyung spoke up.

 

“I’m not trying to be biased but Jeongguk’s theory fits everything we know about this case so far. Why Jeongguk had never seen the victims before. Why they all have The Black Dragon tattoo on them. Why they’ve all been physically and sexually assaulted. Why the bodies have been left outside police stations on purpose. I can’t think of a better explanation so our best option is to accept this until we can prove otherwise,” Jeonghyun said.

 

After considering their boss’ words, they nodded in understanding and decided to focus on discussing plans on how to proceed with the case.

 

“For now, don’t disclose any new information of the case we may find to the police. Most importantly, do not inform them that we believe the perpetrator is The Black Dragon. We can’t trust them anymore.”

 

“Why?” Jimin and Taehyung asked, genuinely confused.

 

“Gangs always have people working inside police stations. If they know we know, they might change the method of murder to confuse us or they may decide to just stop completely and lay low for a while,” Hoseok supplied.

 

“Isn’t that better?” Seokjin frowned. “We want them to stop murdering innocent people, don’t we?”

 

“Yes, but we need to save them too. We can’t leave them be held captive by The Black Dragon when we know they’ll continue to receive physical and sexual abuse. If they stop their actions, we’ll have no new evidence that may help this case,” Yoongi replied.

 

“But gathering enough evidence to bring them down could take weeks and months on end. Not to mention the fact that we can’t even ask the police for help,” Namjoon frowned.

 

“There’s nothing else we can do,” Jeonghyun sighed. “The Black Dragon are obviously proving to be a threat for the whole of Minneapolis and no doubt Wisconsin so we can’t delay this anymore. Yoongi’s right. We have to save those innocent victims.”

 

“You’re going to send someone in?” Hoseok asked, although it sounded more like a statement because he knew. Hoseok knew full well that that was the only way to break a gang.

 

“Yes.”

 

“Don’t tell Jeongguk,” Yoongi requested bluntly and the team nodded in agreement.

 

“How? He’s going to find out eventually. It’ll only hurt him now to keep this from him,” Jeonghyun whispered as he glanced at his brother.

 

“Because he’ll volunteer. Tell him after the agent has infiltrated so he can’t intervene.”

 

“Yeah… yeah, I don’t know. We’ll see,” Jeonghyun sighed again. “Yoongi, I don’t want you working on their computers anymore. Did you bring your laptop?”

 

Yoongi nodded. That wasn’t a question anyone needed to ask him. Ever. Where he was, his laptop was too. Yoongi walked over to his bag and retrieved the device before setting it down on the still messy table.

 

“What do you need?”

 

“I need you to dig up anything and everything you can about The Black Dragon.”

 

“Do you want me to go through the FBI database too?” Yoongi frowned.

 

“No no no. There’ll be no need for that. I have access to most of that information already, please don’t go breaking down our firewalls too,” Jeonghyun quickly replied.

 

“What do you want us to do?” Hoseok asked.

 

“Namjoon, you and Yoongi have been on the team for longest. I want you to run through the information with him and see what we can and can’t use. Hoseok, you have the most experience with gangs. I need your help in developing a cover for the agent I’ll send in. Seokjin, Tae, make sure the police do not hear a word about what we’re doing. Keep them informed and up to date with our previous theory. Make them believe that we still think the victims are part of The Black Dragon. Give them false details if you have to. Jimin, stay with Jeongguk and… try your best to not let him in on this plan. I’m sorry for giving you the toughest job, I know how stubborn Jeongguk can get when he wants to but I think it’ll be wiser to keep this from him until further notice.”

 

“It’s ok,” Jimin quickly reassured. “I’ll keep him occupied.”

 

“Oh and don’t let him explain his theory to the police. Use whatever excuse you have to.”

 

“Got it,” the younger agent nodded.

 

“Let’s get to work then.”

 

The seven of them dispersed, still keeping their actions quiet to not wake Jeongguk. Yoongi and Namjoon were huddled in a corner, frowns never leaving their faces as keyboards clicks and whispers were all that were heard. Seokjin and Taehyung gave Jacob regular updates on their ‘dead-ends’ to which the chief thanked them for their hard work before dismissing them. They somehow missed the Chief leaving his office every time they ‘updated’ him. Hoseok spent most of his time scanning through the files Yoongi had pulled up to help Jeonghyun produce a believable cover although he had to admit, Jeongguk might have been the better option for that particular job since he’s had direct contact with The Black Dragon. Jimin alternated between helping Seokjin and Taehyung, checking up on Jeongguk and ensuring that he was available when his team needed him.

 

It wasn’t until after sunset when Jeongguk finally rose from his deep slumber and sat up, rubbing his eyes in confusion. Jimin was immediately by his side, chuckling and ruffling Jeongguk’s hair.

 

“Morning.”

 

“What time is it?” Jeongguk smiled sheepishly.

 

“Nearly eight.”

 

Jeongguk bolted up but Jimin pulled him back down onto the couch.

 

“Why didn’t you wake me up? I’ve been sleeping for six hours.”

 

“Almost six hours,” Jimin corrected.

 

“What’re we doing? Do we have a plan?”

 

“Um… no we’re actually still working on the plan. Boss doesn’t want to let the police in on our discoveries because he’s worried about moles and stuff.”

 

“Why do Yoongi and Namjoon look ready to smash something?”

 

“I don’t know… hey, are you hungry?”

 

“What?” Jeongguk frowned.

 

“Are you hungry?”

 

“Not really.”

 

“Let’s order some food for the others.”

 

“But don’t we have work to do?” Jeongguk asked, frown deepening if that was even possible.

 

“They’ve got it covered. Come on.”

 

He couldn’t understand why Jimin was acting like he desperately wanted to leave the room but Jeongguk decided it was better to just follow. Jimin must have had a reason and if he wasn’t ready to give his side of the story, Jeongguk would be respectful.

 

“Jimin… are you ok?”

 

The elder turned around from where he was already far down the corridor and stopped to give Jeongguk a small smile. It wasn’t sincere, Jeongguk noticed and the void of emotions in Jimin’s next words confirmed that the older agent was hiding something from him. Yet again, Jeongguk reasoned it’d be best to not question.

 

“Yeah, I’m good. Why?”

 

“…Nothing. Where’re we going?”

 

“I want to take a break on the roof,” Jimin shrugged, remembering that it would be better to keep Jeongguk inside the police station.

 

“Oh,” Jeongguk said, quickening his gait to match Jimin’s.

 

“It’ll be nice to get some fresh air after being locked in that room for so long. Maybe down time might help us think about the case.”

 

“I thought you said they had it covered?” he asked, carefully steering the conversation back.

 

“Uh… they do. Just…”

 

“Do they have a plan?”

 

“What?” Jimin murmured as he lifted his eyebrows up innocently.

 

“A plan? Do they have a plan?”

 

Jeongguk watched Jimin’s features tense for a second. It was a slight second but it was there and Jeongguk analysed it. Jimin’s body language spoke defence before the whole stance shifted uneasily. He was nervous. Why?

 

“Are you ok?”

 

“Yeah… Jeongguk, I just really need a break from the case.”

 

It was the first full truth Jimin told Jeongguk. He wanted a break. He needed a break. And maybe Taehyung did too.

 

“Ok,” Jeongguk whispered.

 

Sensing the sincerity in Jimin’s voice, Jeongguk chose to believe him and made sure Jimin saw his smile. He looked down at Jimin’s empty hands before reaching across to let his fill the space. Holding the other’s hand was such a simple action but it gave Jimin enough comfort and security to help him relax.

 

They walked through the station, connected like that, until Jimin noticed Jeongguk’s confidence deteriorating from all the attention they had gathered, his eyes became so icy that it wouldn’t be surprising if he had brought upon an eternal winter to the police station. It was rare for Jimin to hate because he was always told hate was a strong word. Jimin had only ever gotten as far as ‘strongly disliking’ someone but never hating. In their current situation, however, Jimin had no trouble deciding that he hated the 3rd precinct.

 

He ensured to ignore the confused and disgusted look from the officers they passed and grasped onto Jeongguk tighter. The younger, to his relief, didn’t let go of his hand either even though Jimin knew how uncomfortable he must’ve been feeling.

 

“Thank you,” Jimin whispered as soon as they reached the roof of the building.

 

“For what?” Jeongguk frowned.

 

Jimin lifted up their intertwined hands before pressing a kiss to Jeongguk’s hand and breaking away. Although Jimin really wanted to see Jeongguk’s rosy cheeks, layered with embarrassment, he decided he’d leave the teasing for later. He dragged Jeongguk towards the edge of the roof before leaning against the cement wall and sighing at the city lights.

 

Standing together, Jimin hadn’t realised that an hour had passed, too entranced by Minneapolis. While Jeongguk was glad to see Jimin relaxing, he couldn’t forget about the case no matter how hard he tried. It was my fault. It was my fault. It was all my fault. I could’ve prevented all of this. All of these lost innocent lives. How stained must my hands get before I correct this?

 

“Jeongguk? Jeongguk! Earth to Jeongguk.”

 

“Huh? Yeah? What’s up?”

 

“Are you thinking about the case again?” Jimin asked for the fifth time that hour.

 

“No… yeah,” Jeongguk admitted, the fifth time uttering those two words as well.

 

“How about we go back then?”

 

“No, it’s ok. You said you needed a break.”

 

“I think they’ll get worried if we stay here any longer.”

 

“Ok, let’s go then.”

 

Guilt flooded Jimin’s every thought as Jeongguk gave one last glance to the view beneath them before stretching and turning towards the door they exited from. This was wrong. This was really wrong. They shouldn’t have to hide this from Jeongguk. He was a member of the team now and he deserved every right to know.

 

“Jimin?” Jeongguk frowned when the elder continued to stay by the wall. “It’s ok if you don’t want to go back, really.”

 

“No, it’s not that. Don’t worry,” Jimin sighed.

 

“Hey, Jimin. What’s wrong? Is this case bothering you?”

 

“Yeah a bit… but let’s not talk about this right now, please.”

 

“Ok,” he sighed.

 

Jeongguk took hold of Jimin’s hand again when the elder reached his side. He stared worriedly at the elder on the way back to the room but Jimin chose to ignore it, guilt growing exponentially. It outweighed his own uneasiness as the feeling evaded every corner of his mind. Jimin felt even worse knowing that Jeongguk must’ve been worried about him but for all the wrong reasons.

 

“Where’d you go?” Seokjin frowned.

 

“Taking a break,” Jimin replied easily, hiding his inner conundrums behind his nonchalance so the psychologist wouldn’t catch upon them.

 

“Are you ok?” Taehyung whispered to Jimin when Seokjin went to talk to Jeongguk.

 

“I guess… are you?”

 

“Holding it together.”

 

“Do you want to switch? You go take a break and keep Jeongguk away from the case.”

 

“Are you sure?”

 

“Yeah, I took an hour break already. I should do something now.”

 

“Is he getting suspicious?” Taehyung asked.

 

“No, he actually thinks I’m just uncomfortable with this case… which I am but he hasn’t caught on what we’re doing.”

 

“What about we let him help us with Jacob? That way he wouldn’t feel like he’s doing nothing.”

 

“Hmm… wouldn’t that be a bit risky?” Jimin frowned.

 

“What have you told him?”

 

“That we couldn’t let the police know what we were doing because there might be moles and I said you guys were working on a ‘plan’…”

 

“So Jeongguk helping us deceive Jacob will at least stop him from thinking about our ‘soon-to-be’ plan. It should be fine.”

 

“He’s not going to be happy when he finds out that we’ve been keeping him in the dark.”

 

“Yeah,” Taehyung sighed.

 

Jimin and Taehyung watched Jeongguk smile at something Seokjin said before walking towards them. While Taehyung filled Seokjin in on bringing Jeongguk into the plan, Jimin explained to Jeongguk that they needed to keep the police away from their discovery so that the others could work on a ‘plan’. Although Jeongguk was sceptical why it would take four special agents to mislead the police department, he decided against voicing his uncertainty because the request just supported what he had realised earlier on the rooftop.

 

As he worked with the three elders, he kept stealing glances at Yoongi and Namjoon in one corner of the room occasionally moving to exchange information with his brother and Hoseok in the adjacent corner. Jeongguk couldn’t make out what the pairs were whispering to each other but he knew it wasn’t good news by their frustrated and strained looks.

 

With morning twilight, came another commotion.

 

A junior officer barged into the room after about a hundred rapid knocks on the door. He almost didn’t hear Namjoon’s ‘come in’ over his own knocks.

 

“What is it?” Namjoon asked, exasperated.

 

“Sorry… you should come. More bodies were found two streets away.”

 

“Now?” Taehyung frowned. “Before dawn?”

 

“Yes, Sir.”

 

“How many?” Hoseok questioned.

 

“Three, I was told.”

 

“Lead the way,” Jeonghyun nodded before stopping and looking at Jeongguk. “You should stay here.”

 

“No, I’m going.”

 

“Jeongguk, it’s not safe,” Yoongi murmured.

 

“You’re all going to be there as well as about fifty officers. How is that not safe?”

 

“Because-“ Seokjin started but stopped himself, eyeing the police officer warily.

 

The officer received the message apparently because he squeaked and exited the room in a hurry, shutting the door not so gently behind him.

 

“The Black Dragon aren’t stupid enough to do anything in front of so many people,” Jeongguk retaliated.

 

“Yeah, they won’t but that’s not the only thing we’re worried about,” Jimin whispered.

 

“Then what?”

 

“Jeongguk,” Jeonghyun sighed quietly. “I don’t want anything to trigger you. I want to keep you away from The Black Dragon as I can and you going to a crime scene caused by them is the exact opposite of that.”

 

“But I can help.”

 

“We know, Jeongguk, but you can help here. Don’t let anyone into this room. No one can find out what we’re doing.”

 

“What ‘are’ we doing here?” Jeongguk sighed. “I’ve been doing nothing for the past few hours except for feed Jacob nonsense on how we have no leads. Do you even have a plan yet?”

 

Jeongguk scrutinised Jeonghyun’s eyes shifting from the team back to him and he heard the unspoken agreement between them.

 

“Ok, I’ll stay back. You guys go,” Jeongguk said monotonously.

 

“Really?” Jeonghyun frowned.

 

“Yeah. Whatever.”

 

Jeongguk plopped himself down back down on couch and pulled out his phone, pretending to be invested in the news. He didn’t look up as the rest of the teams promised a quick return nor did he give any indication that he heard them. However, as soon as the door shut, Jeongguk counted to ten before springing up and walking to the corners Jeonghyun, Yoongi, Hoseok and Namjoon had occupied a while ago. There were a couple of sheets lying around but the first thing he picked up was Yoongi’s laptop.

 

There was no way they didn’t have a plan.

 

Jeongguk was well aware that Jimin was only trying to be a distraction. Yes, the elder might have seemed very sincere in asking for a break but he had already figured out the underlying motives when they spent an hour in silence on the roof. He scoffed quietly. What did they take him for? Why did they not even let him in on their secret plan? Did they think he was too weak to handle this? Did they think he was going to gullibly believe their white lies?

 

Did they not trust him?

 

With unintentional aggression, he opened the laptop that automatically went to sleep due to lack of use and groaned when he was met with a password bar. Not wanting to give up, Jeongguk set the laptop down and pried around the sheets they had left carelessly next to the electronic device. Most of them were reports from their case but what caught his eyes was a map which showed the location of highest gang activity in Minneapolis. Jeongguk traced his fingers over the map where either Jeonghyun or Hoseok had drawn bright red circles and frowned. What were they planning? It’s not like they’ll be able to take down The Black Dragon by just finding out where they operated.

 

When he was just about to ruffle through more paper, a knock on the door interrupted him and he bolted away from the corner. Another knock sounded as he ran back to the couch and pulled out his phone.

 

“Come in.”

 

Jeongguk watched the door open, slowly revealing Jacob’s face. The Chief analysed Jeongguk from head to toe before peering around the room and finally entering.

 

“Do you need something?” Jeongguk asked with as much politeness as he could muster.

 

“Is there a reason you’re not at the crime scene?”

 

“Not in particular,” Jeongguk shrugged before pausing and continuing, “Why?”

 

“…I think your team’s hiding something from you.”

 

“Why do you say that?”

 

“You haven’t heard anything from them, have you?” Jacob spoke.

 

“Heard what?”

 

“Look, Special Agent, Jeongguk. I think there’s a reason your team doesn’t want you at the crime scene.”

 

“And what could that be?” Jeongguk frowned while narrowing his eyes.

 

“There was something found…”

 

“Continue.”

 

“Under the bodies, there was a message written in blood.”

 

“What kind of message?”

 

“A message directed to you.”

 

“What’d it say?”

 

“’Jeongguk, you did this’,” Jacob recited.

 

The special agent froze when the words Jacob had spoken processed in his mind. ‘Jeongguk, you did this.’ It’s my fault. It’s my fault. It’s all my fault. I could’ve saved them. They’re dead because I couldn’t bring The Black Dragon down. It’s my fault.

 

“Why’re you telling me this?” Jeongguk whispered.

 

“Because you’re the only one who can stop this now. Whoever did this is obviously after you whether you want to accept it or not.”

 

‘You’re the only one who can stop this now. You’re the only one who can stop this now. You’re the only one who can stop this now.’

 

I’m the only one who can stop this now.

 

“Are you going to hide behind your brother forever?”

 

‘Hide.’ I’m a coward.

 

I can’t hide forever. I can stop this. I need to stop this.

 

“I’ll let you think,” Jacob said and left the room immediately after that.

 

Jeongguk’s blood-stained hands were currently carrying ten lives. Ten.

 

Clenching his fist, mind made up, Jeongguk removed the radio from his pant pocket and dropped it on the table. He placed his phone next to it and glanced one last time at the room before sneaking out of the building, blending into the shadows as he passed watchful eyes. Jeongguk knew that if he were to come back alive, he’d never hear the end from Jeonghyun but Jacob was right. He was the only one who could stop this now.

 

Remembering the red circles on the map, he picked up his pace as he walked to the dangerous part of Minneapolis where the gang activity was highest. Unbeknownst to Jeongguk, his footsteps started making tracks on the region ‘owned’ by The Black Dragon. It’s not like there was a sign specifically claiming the area was ‘territory of The Black Dragon’ but Jeongguk should’ve paid more attention to his surroundings when he reached the dank alleyways with little light and no traffic.

 

The buildings were packed tightly together but Jeongguk wasn’t intimidated by the way they loomed over him. His soles were aching but they continue to force him further and further into the labyrinth of narrow streets. On the filthy ground, even his shadow appeared to be in slight discomfort, urging him to turn back around and run back to safety.

 

Yet Jeongguk walked on.

 

His steps finally faltered when he felt a group of people in front of him. Stopping, he had no choice as they leered at his vulnerable body, unabashedly checking him out in the now first breaths of dawn.

 

Jeongguk hesitated as he lifted his chin and walked- ran right past them, not stopping until he couldn’t hear their snickers and jeers. He bent over his knees, his heart pumping way too much blood than necessary. However, he wasn’t really given much of a break because another group of people had his surrounded from both the front and back this time.

 

Eight, he counted.

 

He could handle them.

 

No big deal.

 

As the four in front neared him, Jeongguk shifted his left leg back, turning his body sideways so that he could keep an eye on the four behind him. His fists found their way to about five cheeks and four ribs while his legs about two cheeks, two stomachs, three legs and one private part. Though Jeongguk had injured them, he hadn’t managed to knock any of them out fully.

 

When he punched the buffest of the bunch directly in the eye, his left leg became tangled in someone’s right. Spinning around in shock, he tried to pry his leg away but a twist had him grunting in agony before an elbow attacked his neck, successfully making him fall to the ground. Then the kicking began.

 

Jeongguk panicked, bringing his arms to protectively cover his face as hands and legs roamed around his body like starved wolves. The pain was making everything numb but through it all, he felt a few pairs of hands clawing his clothes. One pair was ripping at his black jacket while another that had already managed to rid Jeongguk of his belt was now grabbing the waistband of his pants, uncaring of the roughness in his actions. Jeongguk kicked, knocking away the perpetrator prying at his pants but the one attacking his torso managed to remove his jacket with a filthy smirk.

 

One hand covered Jeongguk’s mouth, smothering his whimpers, as more hands came forward to restrain his movements. There were hands touching him in indecent places where Jeongguk had never let anyone touch before but without his arms and legs, Jeongguk struggled helplessly. Jeongguk’s cries were ignored as the men assaulted him, taking joy from the writhing body under them. They chuckled devilishly between themselves as Jeongguk’s pure eyes, which became stained with fear, self-hatred and guilt, begged them to stop.

 

Jeongguk was losing everything.

 

It was hard to breathe.

 

He wanted to just disappear.

 

However as Jeongguk contemplated giving up, four men disappeared from his sight and his arms were back in his control. He elbowed one of his attackers, freeing a leg before letting that slam into another. Jeongguk took care of the remaining two and from his peripheral he saw a figure dressed in a black t-shirt, black slacks and a black cap knocking the four men around him unconscious.

 

Jeongguk stood up shakily, fixing his torn slacks, his perpetrators fortunately not advancing any further than unzipping the pair of pants. His shirt sat on him at a weird angle and it looked like it had been through a war but it was there at least. Before Jeongguk could reach to shift his shirt the blur of black, which had saved him from what would have been probably the worst incident of Jeongguk’s life, grabbed his forearm firmly and turned to run in a random direction. Jeongguk allowed the figure to lead him unquestioningly, zigzagging in and out of alleys until they reached one that seemed relatively safer.

 

The person let go of Jeongguk’s arm and he fell forward, letting his hands brace on his knees. His breathing was irregular and erratic but none of the calm words Jeongguk was telling himself were able to still the unbearable emotions plummeting around inside of him. Jeongguk didn’t want his body anymore but that wasn’t a choice he could make. He pressed the palm of his hands against his eyes, forcing the tears back into his eyes. His whole body was shaking so badly and he finally realised that something or someone was holding him up.

 

He looked up through watery eyes and though his vision was blurred he could see the shadowed face beneath the cap. There were no words to describe how overwhelmed Jeongguk felt. Not just by the attempted sexual assault but by the identity of the person in front of him.

 

Never in his life had he thought of a situation where he’d be alone with him again especially not after the previous incident. Jeongguk should’ve seen it coming but he chose to live by ‘ignorance is bliss’. Now, he had no choice but to face the person who had broken him a year prior yet supposedly saved him minutes ago.

 

It wasn’t just a friendship that was broken, but a heart.

 

Jeongguk’s heart.

 

Chapter Text

Jeongguk gaped in horror, fear and shock.

 

The unwanted memories trickled back as Sangjun took a few steps back, his expression unreadable. He could faintly recognise the shaking of his body intensify but it was nothing compared to the thoughts running through his mind.

 

Jeongguk just stood.

 

Paralysed.

 

He wanted to cry. He wanted to scream. He wanted to run. But he did none. Swallowing his fear, he stood his ground as Sangjun approached him again, stopping right in front of him. They could feel each other’s breaths, Jeongguk’s more irregular while Sangjun’s were calm and almost timid.

 

Time seemed to pause, as they stood face to face, neither saying anything until Sangjun reached a hand up, resting it on the younger’s shoulder, maintaining eye contact with Jeongguk the entire time. The action finally snapped Jeongguk out of his momentary daze and his soul returned along with his emotions. He barely registered his arm swinging at Sangjun’s face, hard.

 

The attack did not take the elder by surprise and he stumbled to the side before using the brick wall beside him to stabilise his stance. Jeongguk’s entire shoulder ached from being dragged around on the concrete floor but he ignored their screams to favour glaring at the elder former agent.

 

“I deserved that.”

 

“You…” Jeongguk seethed.

 

“Jeongguk, calm down.”

 

“Calm down?” Jeongguk screamed as he lurched forward to punch Sangjun again.

 

To his surprise, the elder didn’t resist and took the impact but Jeongguk wasn’t done there. The blow was followed by another, which was followed by another which were followed by several more, though hesitant. Sangjun didn’t try to dodge or defend himself but the most confusing aspect was that Jeongguk realised the elder never laid a hand on him. No punches. No kicks. Only grunts of pain from Jeongguk’s hits.

 

“What’re you playing at?” Jeongguk frowned when he finally stopped attacking Sangjun and grabbed the elder by his collars.

 

“I want to talk to you.”

 

“Well, I don’t.”

 

“No. I need to talk to you.”

 

“I have nothing to say.”

 

“Jeongguk, please.”

 

“No,” Jeongguk hissed as he turned to walk away but a hand around his wrist stopped him.

 

He tried to pull his arm away but the grip was too strong and his arm didn’t budge.

 

“Sangjun, let me go.”

 

“No-“

 

“I said let me go,” Jeongguk yelled.

 

Jeongguk tried to wrench his arm away but Sangjun was quicker to push Jeongguk against the wall and pin the younger’s hands beside his shoulders. Jeongguk resisted, of course, but Sangjun had always been stronger. His second option was to use his legs to kick or knee the other away. With any other person, his plan might have succeeded but this was Sangjun. His best friend for eight years. They knew each other front and back and Sangjun didn’t waste anytime as he pressed himself against Jeongguk so that his ex-partner’s movements were completely restrained.

 

“I… I need your help,” Sangjun said quietly as he turned his gaze away from Jeongguk’s sharp one.

 

“You need my help?” Jeongguk scoffed.

 

“Guk, I-“

 

“Don’t. You don’t deserve to call me that, Sangjun.”

 

“Jeongguk, I know you’re angry-“

 

“Angry?” Jeongguk shouted. “Angry doesn’t even come close to what I feel.”

 

“Jeongguk-“

 

“You betrayed me, Sangjun.”

 

The cold words struck Sangjun and Jeongguk didn’t understand why the elder flinched as his face fell to one of immense regret and self-hatred.

 

“Let me go. We’re done here.”

 

“No. Not until you listen to what I say.”

 

“I don’t need an explanation as to why you shot me.”

 

“Jeongguk, I-“

 

“I just want to know why you chose The Black Dragon.”

 

“Jeong-“

 

“They’re not even a large gang-“

 

“I-“

 

“But I guess our eight years of friendship meant nothing to you-“

 

“I was blackmailed.”

 

“…You… what?” Jeongguk frowned.

 

“When we were undercover, they found stuff on me.”

 

“What stuff?”

 

“……”

 

“Sangjun, what stuff?”

 

“I can’t tell you.”

 

“Then how am I supposed to help you?” Jeongguk cried in frustration.

 

“You don’t need to know about that right now.”

 

“It’s your past, isn’t it? You never told me everything because-“

 

“Because you’d hate me if you knew.”

 

“Fine. Fine, don’t tell me.”

 

“Jeongguk,” Sangjun sighed and Jeongguk finally realised how tired and stressed the elder was. “I-I can’t do this anymore. I want to leave The Black Dragon.”

 

“But what about the stuff they have on you?”

 

“I’ll get thrown in jail or maybe even killed by them but I don’t care anymore. It’s more painful working for them.”

 

“You don’t care if I find out?”

 

“I do,” Sangjun whispered. “I care about what you think more than anyone else. That’s why I’m coming to you. I want to help you take The Black Dragon down and then I’ll tell you everything about my past. I don’t want you to hear rumours and pieces from what other people heard because no one knows the real story but I don’t want to tell you just yet.”

 

“Why does what I think matter?”

 

“……”

 

“Sangjun, if you want my help, you’re going to have to start being honest with me.”

 

“I like you, ok?” Sangjun admitted and then a pause the length of a lifetime occurred.

 

“I’m sorry, what?”

 

“I like you.”

 

“I…”

 

“I’m sorry I shouldn’t have said anything-“

 

“I can’t believe it,” Jeongguk whispered sadly.

 

“I know, Jeongguk. I don’t expect you to understand but I’m not lying.”

 

“No, Sangjun. I believe you… I just… I… I liked you too…” Jeongguk whispered.

 

“You… are you serious?”

 

“Yes, Sangjun. I can’t believe you liked… me.”

 

“No, not ‘liked’. I still like you, Jeongguk.”

 

“No-“

 

“I screwed up, I know-”

 

“Sangjun, shut up-“

 

“Please just listen to me-“

 

“No,” Jeongguk whimpered. “You don’t get to say that to me. Not right now.”

 

“Jeongguk,” Sangjun murmured weakly.

 

“Let me go.”

 

“Jeongguk-“

 

“Sangjun, please,” Jeongguk whispered, the tremble in his voice and tears in his eyes breaking Sangjun’s resolve.

 

“Just please don’t run, ok?”

 

Jeongguk gave a barely identifiable nod and Sangjun let him go. Keeping his promise, Jeongguk stayed put as he rubbed the blood back into his sore arms.

 

“You got better,” Jeongguk stated impassively.

 

“Sorry?”

 

“Your physical.”

 

“Oh,” Sangjun said sheepishly, raising his arm to rub his head. “That’s what being in a gang does to you, I guess.”

 

“What’s that?” Jeongguk frowned as the elder’s action caused him to expose a bit of his stomach.

 

“Nothing,” Sangjun mumbled quickly, pulling down his shirt.

 

Jeongguk had none of it though as he sprung forward and lifted the shirt up forcefully. Across the elder’s abdomen were scars hidden under deep gashes which were too recent to even become scabs.

 

“Where did you get these?”

 

“Uh…”

 

“They did this.”

 

“It’s not that bad, trust me.”

 

“Sangjun, why’re they doing this to you?”

 

“The Black Dragon… they like to feel powerful. Why do you think they’re sending so many burnt bodies right now?”

 

“To taunt the police.”

 

“The FBI more specifically. They left everything a mystery in hopes that the police would ask the FBI for assistance.”

 

“What do they want from us?” Jeongguk frowned.

 

“You.”

 

“Me?”

 

“They want you gone.”

 

“……”

 

“Jeongguk, that day if I didn’t shoot you… they would’ve tortured you, raped you and made me kill you.”

 

“They wouldn’t have found out about my identity if you didn’t tell them.”

 

“I didn’t tell them,” Sangjun whispered.

 

“Don’t lie-“

 

“Jeongguk, I said they blackmailed me. They found everything on me, your association with me included. The FBI didn’t cover our tracks as well as our other missions because they thought this assignment was going to be a short infiltration. They didn’t know how big of a threat The Black Dragon imposed and thought we were only going to mingle for a while but when they realised we were going to be undercover for more than just a few weeks, they tried to encrypt our information. By then, it was too late. They found out my real identity already. I screwed everything up, I know but Jeongguk… I would never betray you intentionally. I’ll explain everything after we bring The Black Dragon down, I promise.”

 

“Sangjun, do you want to know bullet did to me? I lost my faith and trust in everyone. I’m scared. So scared that one day I’d never be able to see my brother again. Scared that I’d never be able to see my parents again. Sometimes when I’m asleep, I can still picture the moment I was running for my life. It left scars on my heart. It destroyed me.”

 

“Jeongguk, I’m sorry,” Sangjun whispered, his eyes brimming with unspoken sorrow. “I’m so so sorry. If I could go back, I’d rather they torture me, use me, kill me instead of you having to suffer like this.”

 

“Don’t say that.”

 

“I mean it.”

 

“It doesn’t mean anything to me anymore.”

 

“I know. You’ll never forgive me, will you?”

 

“…I don’t know.”

 

“Jeongguk-“

 

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

 

“Sorry?”

 

“Why didn’t you tell me that you were forced to work for them?”

 

“I… I’ll explain later. Jeongguk, trust me, please?”

 

“Fine,” Jeongguk sighed.

 

“I have information on The Black Dragon. Information that’ll allow the police to do away with the gang for good but I need your help. I don’t trust the police. I know there’re many people working inside the Minneapolis precincts.”

 

“Moles?” Jeongguk frowned.

 

“Yes. The Black Dragon purposely centred most of their attacks around the 3rd precinct to draw the FBI’s attention there. Apparently it was because they were the most corrupt and had the most moles or something but they’ve known your team was here since the moment you stepped off the plane. Your team being in the 3rd precinct allowed The Black Dragon to keep their eyes on you this whole time. They did all of this to draw you out, Jeongguk. This is a game to them, you should know that. They wanted to see what you were capable of doing but you went and just exposed yourself so easily."

 

“Do you have names of the moles?” Jeongguk asked, disregarding Sangjun’s last few sentences.

 

“No, but I’ll know who they are when I see them.”

 

“Ok… ok, I believe you.”

 

“Thank you, Jeongguk.”

 

“Don’t thank me just yet,” Jeongguk sighed. “When I left, I couldn’t bring any concrete evidence on their association with the Chinese Triads. I’m guessing you have everything?”

 

“Mhm,” Sangjun nodded, pulling up the leg opening of his slacks to reveal hard drive hidden under his sock. “I managed to steal as much of their files as I could. They’re all encrypted though.”

 

“Give it to me.”

 

Sangjun obediently handed the hard drive to Jeongguk, retracting his hand immediately. Jeongguk noticed the action but chose not to mention it.

 

“Let’s go before The Black Dragon find us.”

 

“Wait,” Sangjun said, reaching to stop Jeongguk by the shoulder before quickly letting his hand retreat.

 

“What’s wrong?”

 

“Are you… ok?”

 

“Yeah, why wouldn’t I be?”

 

Jeongguk followed Sangjun’s eyes and saw that his leather jacket had been lost, his shirt was messily torn at the neckline and his pants ripped to reveal his bloodied skin. Then he remembered the hands, the dozen of hands, roaming savagely over his body. Nothing was gentle as their only purpose was to destroy him. Jeongguk pressed the thoughts down, closing his eyes to wash the touches off of his stained body. Sangjun cautiously slipped his hand onto Jeongguk’s shoulder and let out a breath of relief when the younger flinched but didn’t remove the hand. Although Jeongguk didn’t want to succumb to the familiar warmth of the elder, he needed some leverage to keep himself composed.

 

“You good?” Sangjun whispered.

 

“Yeah.”

 

“Jeongguk… no one would think you’re weak if you’re traumatised,” Sangjun murmured as if he had read Jeongguk’s mind.

 

“Stop. You don’t know me,” Jeongguk denied quietly.

 

“Sorry.”

 

“Let’s go.”

 

Jeongguk slid his shoulder out from under Sangjun’s hand before leading the elder back to the headquarters. He could feel the eyes on the back of his head but he ignored him. Why was he willing to trust Sangjun again? Why was he so weak?

 

Too busy in his thoughts, he didn’t realise they were already standing outside the 3rd precinct that was until he heard a gasp and then a click of the safety catch on a gun being switched off. Jeongguk immediately looked up and saw a police officer standing in front of the station, gun aimed at the two of them.

 

“Hands up.”

 

“Put the gun down,” Jeongguk ordered but the officer didn’t listen. He groaned in frustration, trying to move forward but the officer whipped around and pointed the gun directly at him.

 

“Don’t move.”

 

“Woah, woah, woah. Calm down,” Jeongguk frowned, taking a step back.

 

“What’re you doing with him?” the officer spat.

 

“He’s with me.”

 

“He’s a wanted criminal. There’s an APB filed-”

 

“I know what was filed. He’s with me though,” Jeongguk repeated. “Now, I order you to drop the gun.”

 

“Chief was right,” another officer huffed as he rushed outside with his gun loaded as well.

 

“Excuse me?”

 

“You were still working for The Black Dragon all along,” a third officer said, joining them.

 

“Sangjun, stay behind me,” Jeongguk whispered pulling the elder’s sleeve.

 

“Jeongguk-“

 

“Stay behind me. They won’t hurt me,” Jeongguk spoke through gritted teeth.

 

“Would you look at that?” an annoying voice assaulted Jeongguk’s ears.

 

The special agent looked up and saw a sneer across the Chief’s face.

 

“Jacob, tell your men to drop their weapons.”

 

“Why would I do that? We have proof that you’re still working for The Black Dragon. Your brother won’t be saving you this time.”

 

“Don’t-“

 

“Arrest them.”

 

Jeongguk was at a loss for words as the three officers moved forward, handcuffs ready. He was conflicted whether he should attack them or not but going against them didn’t seem like the smartest choice as they had the advantage of having three guns to none. However, as an officer came forward and elbowed him in the stomach before roughly grabbing and forcing his arms backwards, his subdued whimper had Sangjun lunging forward and punching the living daylights out of the officer.

 

“Sangjun, no!” Jeongguk screamed when he saw the other two officers pointing their gun back at him.

 

“I wouldn’t resist if I were you,” Jacob scoffed.

 

“What crawled up your ass and died?” Sangjun spat while Jeongguk tried to hold the elder back from straight out attacking the Chief.

 

“Sangjun, stop. They have guns,” Jeongguk whispered desperately.

 

“That won’t stop me from killing them.”

 

“Don’t say that.”

 

“They hurt you.”

 

“It’s fine, Sangjun. Look, I’m not injured.”

 

Sangjun glared at Jeongguk sceptically but then directed the menacing glower at the four police officers.

 

“Do whatever you need but I want to see them both in handcuffs within the next five minutes,” Jacob ordered.

 

“Yes, Sir,” the three officers answered simultaneously and Jeongguk felt a tingle of fear shoot through him.

 

Of course Jeongguk’s gut feeling had to be right.

 

Sangjun stepped in front of Jeongguk and placed his iron like arm over the younger, stopping Jeongguk from pulling him back. Jeongguk tried to plead but Sangjun ignored him.

 

“Hurry up, the three of you. I’m dying to see your brother’s face,” Jacob chuckled.

 

“Sangjun, stand back, please. They’ll hurt you.”

 

“They’ll hurt ‘you’,” Sangjun retorted.

 

The officers approached them and when the first one drew his arm back for a punch, Sangjun braced himself, catching the arm with experience before jerking the officer back. Jeongguk watched helplessly as the second one gave no break and pulled out his baton, giving it a large swing towards Sangjun, who, to no one’s surprise, caught and snatched the baton out of the officer’s hands. The elder then turned his attention back to the first officer, readying his stance for hand-to-hand combat.

 

Jeongguk sighed, knowing the officers stood no chance, but the breath was drawn back into his lungs when he caught Jacob moving with an exaggerated movement, which was followed by a glint in the corner of his eyes. The glint belonged to the gun of the Chief who now had the weapon aimed directly at Sangjun’s back. Jeongguk didn’t think twice before acting, moving forward to push the elder out of the way of the impeding danger. Like the last time he had been shot, Jeongguk didn’t hear the gun go off but only hissed as the bullet grazed his arm and the area exploded in pain.

 

The sound of the gunshot seemed to draw the attention of the rest of the building as officers gradually filled the area outside of the station. Jeongguk stood in front of Sangjun, shielding him while Jacob’s eyes hardened with irritation. Jeongguk felt Sangjun’s hands pressing into his arm, presumably to stop the blood flowing generously down his limb.

 

“What is going on here? Who fired a gun?”

 

“Sir,” Jacob said, jumping slightly and quickly hid his gun behind his back.

 

Jeonghyun exited the building with the team behind him, worry, agitation and annoyance engraved on his face. Jeongguk finally, finally, realised what he had done. They were probably going crazy coming up with plans to find him but right now, that was the least of his worries.

 

“Well we finally know whose side your brother is on,” Jacob scoffed like he had been right all along.

 

“What are you talking about?” Jeonghyun frowned before catching sight of Jeongguk.

 

“Jeonghyun, wait-“ Jeongguk fretted as Jeonghyun ran toward him.

 

“Jeongguk! Are you ok? What were you thinking?” his brother screamed. “Do you know how worried we were? Why-“

 

“Jeonghyun. Jeonghyun, listen to me-”

 

“Sangjun,” Jeonghyun growled and Jeongguk could see the rage take over his usually sweet brother.

 

“Jeonghyun, don’t.”

 

Jeongguk’s words fell on deaf ears as his brother grabbed Sangjun’s collars and threw a punch similar to the one Jeongguk had hurled.

 

“How dare you show up in front of us again?” Jeonghyun spat as he punched Sangjun again and again and again.

 

“Jeonghyun, stop,” Jeongguk screamed, trying to rip his brother off.

 

“How dare you come back?”

 

“Jeonghyun-“

 

“Why can’t you leave Jeongguk alone?”

 

In the meantime, the police watched, amused and the team gaped, horrified. Jeonghyun pushed Jeongguk away uncaringly and the younger sucked in a sharp breath when the pain in his arm intensified. He huffed angrily and ran a hand through his messed up hair while his brother seemed anything but controlled, pouncing relentlessly on the former agent. Sangjun’s condition had worsened significantly compared to when Jeongguk was done with him an hour prior.

 

But Jeongguk was sick and tired of violence.

 

Without further delay, he aggressively tried to pull Sangjun away, taking a blow from Jeonghyun as consequence. Only when Jeongguk fell weakly to the ground, did the team snap out of their daze and rush forward to grab Jeonghyun, holding him back from injuring anyone else further.

 

“Get off of me,” Jeonghyun yelled.

 

“Boss,” Yoongi said steadily. “Calm down.”

 

Jeonghyun seethed at Yoongi but the special agent was unfazed and merely nodded in Jeongguk’s direction. Jeonghyun glanced down and saw Jeongguk holding his cheek and suddenly guilt overpowered all his other emotions and pushed him to the ground beside his younger brother.

 

“Jeongguk? Jeongguk, oh my god. I’m so sorry.”

 

“It’s fine,” Jeongguk whispered quietly as he stood up by himself.

 

“No, I-I hurt you, Jeongguk. I-”

 

“Jeonghyun, it’s ok. Please, can we go inside and talk?”

 

“Y-Yeah, of course.”

 

“Namjoon, make sure Sangjun stays with you guys. Don’t let the police near him and Sangjun, don’t hurt anyone else.”

 

“They hurt you first,” Sangjun argued but shut himself up when Jeongguk sighed tiredly.

 

“Just-“

 

“I will. Sorry.”

 

The team looked at each other, bewildered at Sangjun and Jeongguk’s interaction but they knew better than to question. It didn’t seem like anything had ever happened between the two.

 

“I’ll explain when we get inside,” Jeongguk sighed, swaying shakily when his brother pulled him up.

 

Jeonghyun nodded and gave Sangjun one last glare before helping Jeongguk into the station. Hoseok and Namjoon grabbed Sangjun’s arm and led him into the building and up to the room they had been working the case in while Jeonghyun took Jeongguk to another.

 

When they arrived, Sangjun dropped into one of the chairs and rubbed his face in frustration. The team didn’t drop their stares, monitoring every one of the former agent’s movements. Sangjun was good looking. So good looking it was almost annoying. He had straight, soft eyebrows and a beautiful nose which stood tall and proud. His lips, though bleeding, were a natural shade of pink. His black hair was styled back with no need for gel and despite being in a gang for so long, he only had one simple earring hanging on his left ear. The most attractive part of Sangjun’s face, however, was the eyes. It was… gentle.

 

They all had only one thought. How was Sangjun part of The Black Dragon?

 

“I know you guys know who I am and what I did to Jeongguk and you probably have questions but if you want to know anything about him, I’m not going to tell you,” Sangjun sighed.

 

“Why did you do it?” Yoongi spat. “Do you know what it did to him? Do you know what betrayal does to someone? He was what? Twenty?”

 

“I’m not going to explain myself of give any excuses. Jeongguk deserves to know everything first.”

 

“Fine, what’re you doing here then?” Namjoon sighed.

 

“I’m handing myself in. I need your help to bring The Black Dragon down.”

 

“Why should we trust you?” Hoseok frowned.

 

“Because I have evidence. Evidence that’ll destroy the whole gang.”

 

“Why didn’t you give it to the police earlier? Why did you wait until we got here?” Seokjin questioned.

 

“I had no choice. The Black Dragon have people on the inside. I don’t trust the police.”

 

“And you trust us?” Taehyung asked.

 

“No, I trust Jeongguk.”

 

“Jeongguk doesn’t trust you.”

 

“I know and I don’t deserve his trust but I gave the hard drive to him and he agreed to help.”

 

“How did he run into you?”

 

“It’s… it’s not my place to say,” Sangjun muttered.

 

“Did something happen to him?”

 

“I told you it’s not my place to say. When Jeongguk’s ready- if he’s ever ready, he might tell you guys.”

 

“Stop acting like you know him.”

 

“Look, I’ve known Jeongguk for eight years. He wants to act tough but he’s still the same kind-hearted kid I met. He’d do anything to protect the people he cares about even if it means sacrificing himself. He hides his injuries so that other people won’t have to worry. When he’s wronged, he would just listen and accept their opinion without fighting back. He tries really hard to be the best agent he can but he still receives backlash and hate. Even though he acts like he’s fine, he’s hurting inside. He’s the most selfless person I’ve ever met so tell me now, are any of those wrong? How much has he changed since I left?”

 

They stayed silent as they listened to the Jeongguk Sangjun had known. He hadn’t really changed all that much.

 

Sangjun did know him. Perhaps even better than they do.

 

It wasn’t surprising really but that didn’t mean they could stop the jealousy they felt at the bond the two shared in the past. But from a mile away, they could tell the bond was more than it seemed on the surface. More than just ‘friends’.

 

“If that’s the way you saw Jeongguk… how did you have the heart to betray him?” Jimin whispered.

 

“I… I didn’t want to shoot him.”

 

“What?” the team whispered. “’You’ were the one who shot him?”

 

“He didn’t tell you? … I… that’s all I’m going to tell you. Jeongguk deserves to know first. It’ll be his choice to tell you.”

 

“Why’re you acting like this?”

 

“Acting like what?”

 

“Like you still care so much about Jeongguk when you’re the cause of so much pain and suffering?”

 

“Because I like Jeongguk, ok? Is that a problem?”

 

“Yes, he’s our boyfriend,” they growled, the statement drenched with pride and victory.

 

“Our?”

 

“Yes. Our.”

 

“Right,” Sangjun sighed before letting his head hang and sighing.

 

Of course Jeongguk was taken. What was he expecting? It’s not like he was expecting the younger to hold onto him forever. No, he wouldn’t have wanted that. Jeongguk deserved only the best and Sangjun would merely dragged him down so he accepted it. It was someone else’s honour now to make Jeongguk happy. To hold his hand. To see his smile.

 

“Treat him well,” he whispered.

 

They looked at him like he had grown three heads and made no attempt to veil their shock. Out of all the things they expected Sangjun to say to them, those three words weren’t anywhere near the list.

 

Meanwhile, Jeonghyun’s anger returned to him when he realised his brother’s actions. All thoughts of restraint were lost to him as Jeongguk lowered his head, obviously bracing himself for the lecture that was about to hit him.

 

“Jeongguk can you please, for once, not act out of impulse?”

 

“Jeonghyun, I-“

 

“Don’t Jeonghyun me. Do you know how worried we were? We made plans to search every single corner of this city until we found you. Can you not consider how we’ll feel before acting?”

 

“I-I’m sorry,” Jeongguk whispered guiltily.

 

Jeongguk hated when his brother turned like this. Eerily calm but authority, disappointment and concern dripping off of his words. He’d rather much prefer his brother to just give him a beating or at least scream at him for the wrongs he had did.

 

“We wanted to keep you safe but what did you do? Run off to ‘fix’ this? Jeongguk, this can’t be fixed by you alone and I don’t know how many times I- no ‘we’ need to repeat this but The Black Dragon not being taken down was not your fault. You’ve been a secret agent for long enough that you should’ve been able to see the trap yet you went and walked straight into it.”

 

“I’m sorry.”

 

“Think about the consequences your recklessness could bring, Jeongguk. Not only may we have lost our best agent but your team would’ve also lost a member and a lover and I would’ve lost a brother. Would that help in this situation?”

 

“I’m sorry.”

 

“Stop. I don’t want your apologies. I want you to understand that can’t keep putting yourself in danger. You’re old enough to know that a small decision made on temporary emotions could change your life permanently. Did you leaving do anything to help our problem? Did you miraculously find a way to solve this?”

 

“Actually… Sangjun gave me a hard drive with everything against The Black Dragon,” Jeongguk replied quietly.

 

“What?”

 

“He wants to take them down.”

 

“Why on earth would you believe him?” Jeonghyun sighed.

 

“I… but he…”

 

“Jeongguk, I know you held feelings for him before but you can’t let that be the reason to trust him again. Not after what he did to you.”

 

“He said he had a reason though.”

 

“And you shouldn’t believe that either.”

 

“But you said so yourself that he wasn’t always working for them a-and that something must’ve changed. I… I want to give him a chance to explain himself.“

 

“I know what I said but-,” Jeonghyun sighed before stopping and running a hand through his hair. “I’ll talk to him, ok?”

 

“Thank you,” Jeongguk whispered timidly.

 

“Now tell me everything that happened.”

 

And suddenly everything that happened played through Jeongguk’s head like a movie. The sixteen filthy hands salvaging his body. The cynical smirks which resembled the Joker’s. The violating eyes. The thought of losing himself.

 

“Jeongguk?” Jeonghyun frowned.

 

The younger showed no sign that he had heard his brother, as the memories wouldn’t stop. Each event happened in such a short time that Jeongguk had barely processed it before moving on. But now… now that he was given time to think, he understood how severe his actions were. How irreversible the consequences would’ve been.

 

“What happened to your clothes?” Jeonghyun murmured as he lifted his hand to observe Jeongguk’s shirt, not expecting the violent flinch he received from his younger brother. “Jeongguk? Are you ok? Are you hurt?”

 

“N-No, I’m fine.”

 

Jeonghyun didn’t believe him. In what world did Jeongguk think he could deceive his older brother when his body language literally spoke fear? He had his arms wrapped protectively around his upper torso as he subtly leaned away from physically contacting Jeonghyun. He couldn’t stop his eyes turning away from Jeonghyun, finding his hands much less terrifying than his brother’s eyes.

 

“Jeongguk, what happened?” Jeonghyun whispered, fearing the answer. “Y-You’re scared. Of me.”

 

“I’m sorry.”

 

For once, Jeonghyun was at a complete loss when it came to his brother. Jeongguk had never looked so frightened and weak. Not even after he had been shot. He was shaking but Jeonghyun had no idea what to do. Jeonghyun didn’t want to reach out to hold him like he always had, afraid of another rejection but he couldn’t leave his brother like this.

 

“C-Can you tell me why at least? W-Was it because I hit you?”

 

Jeongguk shook his head vigorously but the seed of guilt was buried so deep into Jeonghyun’s heart, it’d be impossible to remove.

 

“W-Will you tell me later… when we get back to Virginia?” Jeonghyun whispered gently.

 

“…I-I don’t know.”

 

“That’s… that’s ok… take your time, I won’t push.”

 

“Thank you.”

 

“You know I even called the FBI to send me all the agents available right now,” Jeonghyun murmured, trying to change the topic.

 

“Sorry…”

 

“No, it’s ok,” Jeonghyun smiled softly. “I’m just glad you’re safe and- what happened to your arm?”

 

“Ugh… about that…”

 

“Jeongguk-”

 

“Um… maybe we can discuss this after the case.”

 

“No. Who did this to you?” Jeonghyun frowned. “This is a…”

 

Jeonghyun immediately regretted raising his voice when Jeongguk shrunk back even further but then realisation slammed into him and he forgot about the feeling.

 

“This is a bullet wound, Jeongguk. That gunshot we heard- oh my god. They’re dead. They are so dead.”

 

“Stop-“

 

“I’m going to-“

 

“Jeonghyun, please… I-I can’t. Not right now,” Jeongguk whispered so weakly and desperately that it took his brother by surprise.

 

“…I-I’m sorry. Jeongguk, I’m so so sorry.”

 

“You can get rid of them. Report them. Do whatever you need but after this case, ok?”

 

“Ok. Ok, Jeongguk. I’m sorry,” Jeonghyun whispered. “But first, we should get this cleaned up, ok?”

 

Jeongguk nodded, the action slow and lacking of energy. This time Jeonghyun took care not to touch Jeongguk as he led the younger to the couch and sat him down. He lifted the sleeve and saw that the bullet hadn’t left a deep wound. No need for stitches. Grabbing the first aid kid from a cabinet, he cleaned Jeongguk’s wound gently before dressing his arm in a roll of gauze bandage.

 

“Jacob shot me,” Jeongguk suddenly confessed in a low whisper.

 

“W-What?” Jeonghyun stuttered.

 

“He was going to shoot Sangjun. I pushed him out of the way and yeah…”

 

“I’m going to kill him,” Jeonghyun muttered.

 

“He was the one who told me about the message as well.”

 

“What message?”

 

“The one under the bodies.”

 

“What message under the bodies?”

 

“The one written in blood?”

 

“There was nothing written… under… the bodies…”

 

The brothers stared at each other in confusion before realisation hit both of them stronger than a bus. While Jeonghyun’s eyes widened, Jeongguk’s dulled.

 

“He knew. He knew I was going to go after The Black Dragon by myself. He wanted to prove he was right.”

 

“Jeongguk-“

 

“The Black Dragon… t-they want me d-dead, Jeonghyun. I walked r-right up to them… I could have died.”

 

The emotionless way Jeongguk spoke those statements brought chills across Jeonghyun’s body. Jeongguk seemed completely unfazed like being a target of a powerful gang was an everyday happening. But then he saw a crack. The small sign of fear written in Jeongguk’s eyes had Jeonghyun breathing again.

 

“I’m not going to let that happen.”

 

All Jeongguk replied with was a shudder and Jeonghyun stared hopelessly at his brother.

 

“Can I?” Jeonghyun whispered as he let his arms drift around Jeongguk but his face fell when the younger flinched again. “Sorry.”

 

“I-It’s not your fault. Really.”

 

Jeonghyun smiled at Jeongguk and the younger didn’t realise how sad and guilty the elder looked. Jeonghyun knew he screwed up. He had never laid a hand on his brother before and he shouldn’t have ever. Jeonghyun deserved this. To not be trusted again.

 

“Let’s go,” Jeongguk sighed, standing up and walking out.

 

He didn’t want his brother touching his dirty body. He didn’t want to burden his brother with his experience. But he was scared. Scared to be alone. Scared of losing control. Scared that people would know what happened from just how he looked. Could they tell he had been indecently assaulted?

 

Jeonghyun remained by himself in the room after watching Jeongguk’s back disappear behind the door. He wanted to slap himself. He wanted to cut off his right arm. He wanted to take Jeongguk’s pain away. Instead, he held his head in his hands and forced the tears away. Now was no time to be weak, he told himself.

 

Standing up, he chased after Jeongguk, reaching the younger right before he entered the room the rest of the team and Sangjun were in. When Jeongguk looked questioningly at him, Jeonghyun gave him another smile which was again, not returned. Jeongguk pushed open the door and they were met with dull silence, completely contrary to what they had expected. While the members of the team looked rather guilty and regretful, Sangjun remained impassive.

 

Jeonghyun watched as out of the seven people in the room, Jeongguk chose to approach Sangjun. He continued to observe as the elder of the two stood quickly to greet the younger before they exchanged a few words. Jeongguk nodded his head in Jeonghyun’s direction and Sangjun nodded his understanding as he walked over to the elder.

 

“Jeongguk said you wanted to talk?”

 

“You said there’re a lot of moles in the Minneapolis precincts?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Do you have proof?”

 

“There might be some of their files in the hard drive I gave Jeongguk.”

 

“Ok… why did you shoot Jeongguk?”

 

“It was an accident,” Sangjun sighed and Jeonghyun frowned but accepted the answer. He knew sincerity when he saw it. “I’m sorry for what I did to him.”

 

“I’m not the one you should be apologising to.”

 

“I already apologised to Jeongguk,” Sangjun nodded. “But I’ll tell him the truth after this case is over.”

 

“Did you have a reason for choosing The Black Dragon over the FBI?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Ok… just don’t hurt him again. Mentally and physically.”

 

“I won’t. I promise.”

 

Jeonghyun nodded and ended their whispered conversation as he turned back to face the team. Immediately, he noticed that Jeongguk stood uncomfortably in the presence of the elders, mind running through excuses to extract himself from them. Jeonghyun was left in utter confusion for the team had done nothing to Jeongguk. He had never been this closed off with them. Why did he seem so distant? Did it really have nothing to do with Jeonghyun hitting him?

 

“Did something happen to Jeongguk?” he whispered.

 

“It’s not my place to say.”

 

“Can you please just tell me whether it’s a yes or a no, at least?”

 

“…Yes,” Sangjun sighed. “But I’m not going to tell you.”

 

“So you know?”

 

“I saw.”

 

“Is it bad?”

 

“Really,” Sangjun confirmed.

 

“Thank you for telling me.”

 

“Don’t thank me. I’m only telling you because it’ll be better for Jeongguk.”

 

Jeonghyun sighed and caught a glimpse of Jeongguk flinching when Jimin tried to touch him. It wasn’t surprising that the elder agent’s face fell from the rejection but it was quickly masked with a gentle smile, which crinkled at the corner of his eyes. Jeonghyun didn’t wait for Jeongguk to return the smile because he knew it wasn’t coming. Instead he called out to his brother and gestured for the younger to join him and Sangjun.

 

“Do you have the hard drive?”

 

Jeongguk hummed before producing the black, rectangular disk from his back pocket and handing it over to Jeonghyun.

 

“Yoongi,” Jeonghyun called, drawing the team’s attention.

 

“Yes, boss?”

 

“I want you to decrypt this.”

 

“Is this the…“

 

“Yeah,” Sangjun nodded.

 

Yoongi took the drive from Jeonghyun and connected it to his laptop, getting to work. Although they all shot Jeongguk inquisitive looks, no one questioned it when he leaned closer to Sangjun or how the former agent tried to position himself in between Jeongguk and the rest of them like they were dangerous. As if Jeongguk’s discomfort with them wasn’t testament enough of the tenseness, the silence accompanying them kept everyone on edge. The only sound heard in the room was the clicks and clacks of Yoongi furiously typing on his laptop.

 

“I should go talk to Jacob,” Jeonghyun sighed.

 

“What’re you going to do?” Sangjun asked.

 

“I don’t know. We can’t arrest Jacob yet. He has the whole police on his side. We’ll never find the moles.”

 

“Why’re we arresting Jacob?” Namjoon frowned.

 

“Who cares? I’ve been waiting for this forever,” Yoongi scoffed.

 

“Yoongi, you can’t arrest someone for being an asshole.”

 

“He’s manipulated the case. He manipulated Jeongguk,” Jeonghyun interrupted Yoongi and Namjoon’s slight banter.

 

“What? He what?”

 

“I’ll explain later. Focus on decrypting the drive,” Jeonghyun sighed while glancing at Jeongguk to make sure the younger was ok.

 

“What are we supposed to do after I decrypt this?”

 

“You can’t trust any of the precincts here. They have moles everywhere. I can be your witness and help identify members of The Black Dragon. The information I’ve given you should be enough to disrupt and dismantle them. Contact the National Gang Intelligence Centre and National Drug Intelligence Centre. Inform them that they’d have to deal with Minneapolis police precincts simultaneously to prevent members escaping. They should be able to handle the rest.”

 

No one refuted what Sangjun had said, instead remaining quiet and nodding along to the load of information given in the span of twenty seconds.

 

“You haven’t forgotten,” Jeonghyun nodded.

 

“Never.”

 

“I’m going bathroom,” Jeongguk suddenly whispered, wanting to avoid bringing attention to him but to no avail.

 

“I’ll come with,” Sangjun offered.

 

“No. Sangjun, you stay. I’ll go,” Jeonghyun frowned.

 

“Jeonghyun, it’s fine. You should go talk to Jacob. He probably still wants to arrest me,” the younger sighed before leaving without another word.

 

Sangjun followed Jeongguk out, albeit receiving suspicious glances from Jeonghyun and the team. The walk to the bathroom was slow as the two finally relished in some peace and quiet.

 

“Thank you,” Sangjun whispered.

 

“For what?”

 

“Saving me.”

 

“I don’t like owing people.”

 

“I know… but still, thank you.”

 

Jeongguk nodded expressionlessly.

 

“Is your arm ok?” Sangjun asked.

 

“It’ll-“

 

“Heal, I know. But is it ok?”

 

“Yeah,” Jeongguk murmured, pushing open the bathroom door. “Not the first time, remember?”

 

“Sorry,” Sangjun winced and Jeongguk immediately regretted it when he heard the guilt embedded in his apology.

 

The elder watched as Jeongguk bent over the sink and bore holes into himself with a stare full of loathing, contempt, disgust, abhorrence and unforgivingness. Jeongguk gave the impression that he was seconds away from scrubbing and scratching every part of his body until he felt clean again and Sangjun didn’t know whether his inability to act or Jeongguk’s self-hatred broke his heart more.

 

“Do you want to talk?”

 

“I just want to forget everything.”

 

“Do you want me to go?”

 

“…N-No,” Jeongguk whispered so fragile and weak. If Sangjun had not been standing right next to him, the utterance would’ve been inaudible.

 

Jeongguk dropped his head but Sangjun still made no moves to comfort him. The last thing Jeongguk needed right now was physical contact and especially not from Sangjun.

 

“Tell me if you need anything,” the elder murmured.

 

“P-Please just don’t tell them. Not e-even Jeonghyun.”

 

“Jeongguk-“

 

“Please. I-I don’t want them to know. I feel disgusting.”

 

“I… I won’t,” Sangjun promised.

 

“Thank you.”

 

Sangjun wanted to sigh at the unhealthy coping mechanism but he kept it inside. He wanted nothing more than to see Jeongguk wrapped up in a blanket and being spoilt healthy and happy. Sangjun knew Jeongguk didn’t fully trust him anymore but he wasn’t disappointed because he had no expectations of being forgiven or for them to return to what they were like before.

 

The silence wasn’t overbearing and Sangjun was thankful for that. He stood with Jeongguk in the empty bathroom for about thirty minutes before their moment was finally broken by a knock on the door. Jeongguk eyed it warily and Sangjun quickly reassured the younger that he was safe and no one was going to hurt him.

 

“It’s probably someone from your team. We’ve been here for half an hour.”

 

“Oh…”

 

“Come on. We should head back,” Sangjun whispered.

 

The door opened to reveal a very concerned Seokjin and Hoseok but Sangjun subtly gestured for them to give Jeongguk some space. They backed away slowly as Jeongguk emerged, his young face painted with distress. It pained them to see Jeongguk like this but they understood that they had to respect the younger’s wish of not telling them about whatever was bothering him.

 

Seokjin and Hoseok were both holding onto their anger as they led Sangjun and Jeongguk back. While the two were in the bathroom, Jeonghyun had informed them of all of Jacob’s crimes, including the non-existent message he had ‘passed’ on and the injury resulted from a certain gun. After his recount, it took the team every bit of restraint to not storm through the station and arrest Jacob. Yoongi had stayed unusually silent, no outburst whatsoever until he volunteered to arrest Jacob and rip his tongue out along with breaking all ten fingers. Without a doubt, Jeonghyun had disapproved, though reluctantly, and decided that the arrest would be best left to other special agents with no personal connection to the case.

 

The next few hours passed like a blur beginning with Jeonghyun returning from his talk with Jacob. He had announced that he gave the Chief a feeble excuse to allow the team to take Sangjun to the FBI headquarters in Minneapolis. Though Jacob was not happy, when Jeonghyun suggested the Chief to tag along so that he wouldn’t be able to escape his crimes, the Chief happily agreed, probably believing he was an important figure of the case.

 

However as soon as they arrived at the FBI building, Jacob was handcuffed and led away. Jeonghyun told the team to take a break while he went to ‘sort everything out’. They were still confused at Jeongguk’s attitude and were more than willing to spend time with the youngest, hoping that Jeongguk would maybe open up to them about what happened.

 

Nothing went according to their plans as Jeongguk spent the whole afternoon with Sangjun. Wherever the younger agent was, the former agent was too. It irritated the team that Jeongguk seemed more comfortable around someone who had betrayed him than with them, his partners, but they didn’t want to start a petty argument. Instead, they kept their eyes trained on the pair, watching them like hawks. They tried to make out the hushed whispers that were thrown back and forth between Sangjun and Jeongguk but it was hard to read their lips so they gave up after five minutes of determined effort.

 

Jeonghyun returned after two hours but tagged behind him were two agents. Jeongguk frowned when his older brother approached him, face full of apology and regret.

 

“They need to take Sangjun away now.”

 

“Wait,” Jeongguk said, jumping up from the couch he had sat upon with Sangjun. “I need to talk to him first. Alone.”

 

Jeonghyun looked at the two men, equipped with sunglasses and radios before sighing.

 

“Let me talk to them.”

 

Jeongguk nodded and Jeonghyun wanted to ignore the heavy desperation in his younger brother’s eyes but he couldn’t. Too much had happened today and too much information hidden was from Jeonghuyn for him to be unconcerned.

 

The younger fidgeted in his chair as he saw Jeonghyun speaking frustratingly with the two agents, all the while Sangjun watching him fondly from the side. Jeongguk hadn’t lost his habit of biting his fingernails or rubbing his nape and Sangjun realised that he had missed witnessing even these minor mannerisms.

 

When Jeonghyun returned, he was agitated to say the least but he kept his tone controlled.

 

“You have an hour at most.”

 

“Thank you,” Jeongguk whispered before letting Jeonghyun lead the two agents and the team out of the room.

 

“So… where do I start?”

 

“From the very beginning I hope.”

 

“Right,” Sangjun chuckled before turning serious. He wasn’t taken aback by Jeongguk’s sudden change of demeanour from timid and weak to nonchalant and calm. He knew victims’ feelings could vary from week-to-week, day-to-day and even minute-to-minute. “The very beginning. I… I never even mentioned my family to you, did I?”

 

Jeongguk shook his head.

 

“Well… how do I say this? … I wasn’t exactly raised in a great family.”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“My mother died when I was about six and my dad remarried two years after that but when his wife divorced him a year later, he changed. … He became alcoholic, abusive and just… really really angry all the time. I was only nine.”

 

“Did he…” Jeongguk whispered.

 

“He beat me almost everyday. Hit me, pushed me, slapped me, kicked me,” Sangjun confirmed Jeongguk’s thoughts.

 

“Oh my god-“

 

“But that wasn’t all. He would starve me when he was in the mood. We had a basement and he would force me down sometimes and then forget about me for days.”

 

“That’s… that’s why you hated the dark.”

 

“Yeah. On some occasions… he would use a knife to ‘play’ with me when he wasn’t satisfied with how I screamed.”

 

“Those scars-“

 

“Let me finish, Jeongguk. Just let me talk, please. I want to tell you everything but… I don’t know if I’ll be able to if you show me sympathy.”

 

“Ok… sorry. Continue,” Jeongguk whispered.

 

“I was twelve when I couldn’t take it so I ran away. I wanted to keep my grades up to ‘have a future’ but living on the streets made that quite difficult. Everything changed when I met Sinclair and he took me in.”

 

“As in…”

 

“Yes, as in Sinclair Blood, the leader of the largest gang, Outsider.”

 

“Oh my god…”

 

“He… he looked after me and I trusted him. He told me I reminded him of his younger brother who had died when he got caught in the middle of a gang war. I, in return, told him everything about my past and Sinclair went ahead to personally kill my father. The worst thing was… I didn’t even care. I didn’t care that his tongue was slit and his arms and fingers were fully broken. I didn’t care his neck was snapped halfway to hell and back. I didn’t care about all the knives that were jabbed into him. I thanked Sinclair. He fully supported my studies and wanted only the best for me and because of him, no one dared to touch me but then…”

 

“Outsider was brought down.”

 

“Yeah… Sinclair was sent to jail and I had no one again. Although Sinclair was ruthless, he was a good person, Jeongguk. I was only fifteen at that time he was taken but that didn’t mean I was stupid enough to not realise that various gangs who had a grudge on Sinclair were actively seeking me out. I ended up being forced to join another gang because their leader offered me protection. I shouldn’t have believed him. I was still naïve and got talked into doing heroin. It didn’t take long for me to get addicted and then blackmailed into helping them abduct those that were going against the gang. But then I met you. Do you remember? You were only thirteen going onto fourteen at that time. A small lost boy in high school,” Sangjun smiled softly.

 

“But when we met, you didn’t seem like…”

 

“Like I was part of a gang? Like I was overdosing on heroin? Like I could help torture people without feeling remorse? Like I was a monster?” Sangjun whispered as Jeongguk winced.

 

“Sorry.”

 

“It’s ok. You changed me in more ways than one. You’ve always wanted to be an artist or a photographer and it was amusing to me, the way you ran around trying to find a muse. From the moment you tackled into me, I knew that I didn’t want you caught up in my mess but I didn’t officially leave the gang until I was seventeen. You were fifteen and you came to me because your brother wanted to join the FBI and you felt completely and utterly lost.”

 

“Yeah, I was,” Jeongguk chuckled.

 

“The tiny fifteen year old you told me you wanted to protect your brother and you didn’t want him to live such a dangerous life. Do you remember what I told you?”

 

“That my brother just wanted to help people. He wanted the world to be a safer place for people he cared about. For me.”

 

“Yeah, ironic, isn’t it? I said that when I was one of the people making the world a more dangerous place.”

 

“Sangjun-“

 

“Shhh. Then I told you to think about it and the next day you came back and told me you were going to join the FBI too because you wanted to protect the people you cared about. You mentioned me as one of those people and it just… overwhelmed me. After Sinclair, no one had ever cared about my wellbeing. My safety. My happiness. For you, Jeongguk, I was willing to leave that life and help you make the world a better place even if the withdrawal from heroin made me want to kill myself.”

 

“When… when did you realise you liked me?”

 

“Probably when you were seventeen and joined the Training Academy as well. You excelled in everything. Everything.”

 

“I-“

 

“Don’t even try to deny it,” Sangjun chuckled. “Of course, the gangs weren’t happy with my departure but when I moved into the Training Academy, they couldn’t reach me. I mean even they weren’t stupid enough to infiltrate a building full of people who aspired to be part of the FBI.”

 

“No, that would not have been the wisest.”

 

“After that my life seemed too perfect. We trained together, graduated together, became agents together. Everything was fine until we were assigned to The Black Dragon,” Sangjun sighed. “I thought that nobody would recognise me just like all those times we were undercover but my luck streak had to end eventually.”

 

“Someone recognised you?”

 

“Unfortunately. They informed the leader and he dug around and found my records. The fact that I trained at the academy and then my identity as a Secret Agent.”

 

“And along with all of that they found me.”

 

“Yeah… Jeongguk, I’m sorry. They… I didn’t even realise they knew about our identities until they told me after six weeks. They were watching us. Purposely feeding us the wrong information to see what we’d do. The leader confronted me personally and told me him plans. They knew I’d listen to them because they had all my ugly secrets. With everything they knew, they’d either hand me to the FBI or use me in some way, maybe to get you to listen to them, so I thought it’d be best if I voluntarily agreed to join The Black Dragon. I needed to know what they wanted to do with you.”

 

“What were they going to do with me?”

 

“They told me go back to the FBI to be a mole but first, I had to be the one who killed you to prove my loyalty. When they told me to go work as a double agent, I knew from the moment that I needed to get you out. You were the most important variable to them. If something went wrong and you managed to return to the FBI, the whole operation would go under and I knew that.”

 

“Why did you shoot me then?”

 

“You… you were too busy running and didn’t see all the guns they were pointing at you. I knocked quite a few people out before they had the chance to shoot at you, which I later blamed on you… sorry. But what I failed to realise was Roy taking a shortcut so that he could pop up in front of you. When I saw him, my instincts took over and I jumped between the two of you and fired to force you to take a right. I didn’t want to shoot you… but injuring you somewhere nonfatal would’ve severed your link to me.”

 

“What would’ve happened if you had refused to work for them?”

 

“They’d either have both of us killed before we could run or they’d kill you and hand me into the police as a peace offering of sorts.”

 

“So either way, they wanted me dead?”

 

“Yeah,” the elder confirmed.

 

“That day… that day you were trying to tell me to leave then, weren’t you?”

 

“But I was too late,” Sangjun whispered.

 

Jeongguk would never forget ‘that day’.

 

“Ian,” Sangjun called Jeongguk’s undercover name.

 

“Ryden,” Jeongguk nodded back.

 

“Can I talk to you?”

 

Sangjun dragged Jeongguk up and away from the crowd of gang members that the younger was currently beating in poker. Jeongguk wanted to question the elder’s behaviour but decided that trusting him would be easier. Sangjun lead Jeongguk further and further into a maze of alleys before finally coming to a stop. He checked left and right while Jeongguk stood, more than just a little perplexed and confused.

 

“What’s wrong, Jun? If we’re seen together, they’re going to be suspicious.”

 

“Guk, I don’t have time to explain. You-“

 

“Ryden!” someone called.

 

Jeongguk saw Sangjun’s face stiffen as he turned to the newcomer with a faux smile.

 

“Roy, what’re you doing here?”

 

“I was looking for someone,” Roy said and Jeongguk saw a group of about ten members shifting behind him, looking almost bored.

 

“Do you need help finding him or her?”

 

“No, actually I found him already. Ian… or should I say Special Agent Jeongguk Jeon?”

 

Jeongguk’s eyes widened and he immediately surveyed his surroundings for escape routes only to realise that there was about another five gang members approaching him from the back. Gritting his teeth, he turned to Sangjun to see how the elder would react but Roy’s next words caught his attention.

 

“Sangjun, you did well.”

 

“What?” Jeongguk frowned. Sangjun? Why did Roy know Sangjun’s name as well?

 

“Ah, you look cute when you’re confused. You’d look perfect writhing underneath me. Begging me,” Roy smiled sinisterly, making Jeongguk’s insides churn and want to throw themselves onto the concrete.

 

“I’d rather die,” Jeongguk spat, trying to look over Sangjun’s shoulder to see the elder agent’s face.

 

“Now, that’s no way to go. It won’t be fun if you die before I can get my hands on you.”

 

“You’re sick.”

 

“A rather unpopular opinion,” Roy chuckled. “Sangjun, why’re you still standing there? Come join us.”

 

“Jun?” Jeongguk whispered.

 

“Jeongguk, you see your friend here is actually a double agent working for us. We told him to lead you here and you oh so trustingly followed him so let’s make this easy as well, shall we?”

 

“N-No,” Jeongguk stuttered, tugging on Sangjun’s wrist. “Jun, look at me. It’s not true.”

 

“It is. I’m a double agent, Jeongguk.”

 

“No… no, no, no.”

 

“Take him,” Roy ordered.

 

Jeongguk’s reaction was instantaneous despite the betrayal that flowed uneasily inside of him. He kneed Sangjun in the back and decided that the five people behind him were an easier target than the eleven in front of him. A rather smart decision.

 

They ran forward but Jeongguk was quick, too quick. He grabbed the first person’s arm and bent in at an awkward angle, drawing a pained outburst from said man. He didn’t relent but used the man’s body as a shield as another approached and attempted to punch him. Using the man’s uninjured arm, he hit another member of The Black Dragon before roundhouse kicking the second, who had returned to continue his attack. With only two people left in his path, he flipped over the first man and kicked them both when he landed, giving himself enough time to run through the agonised gang members.

 

He heard gunshots from behind but Jeongguk was trained and managed to ignore his trembling hands as he ran. He didn’t even know where he was running to but he knew he just had to get out. Briefly in the background he could hear Roy shouting but it was beyond him to actually make out the words. Jeongguk slid to a stop when someone unexpectedly jumped out, wielding a short switchblade. He was too slow to deflect the attack but fast enough to avoid it getting lodged in his abdomen. Instead, it fell through his thigh.

 

Jeongguk elbowed the man in the back of the head, the latter’s body falling onto the ground with a thud. He continued his escape but he made the fatal mistake of turning back to see how many people were still chasing him because when he looked forward again, Sangjun was there. And he was there with a gun.

 

The bullet hit Jeongguk’s shoulder before he heard the gun go off and he stumbled backwards at the force. Looking up, he saw that Sangjun still had the gun raised so he ran in the only direction where he couldn’t see any members of The Black Dragon. He somehow made it to the busier streets and hailed a cab, ignoring the weird looks he received from onlookers.

 

He ordered the taxi driver to take him all the way to the FBI headquarters where he hoped his brother was, the journey taking more than just a few hours. Although Jeongguk wasn’t able to make contact with Jeonghyun in the two months he was undercover, his brother had told him he would stay in FBI headquarters in Wisconsin until Jeongguk returned. When Jeongguk arrived at the building, he ran past all the agents walking around, dodged all the security before making his way to the top floor. He entered his brother’s office, making sure he saw his brother’s face, even though it was paling, before knocking out.

 

And that was all Jeongguk could remember.

 

“Why didn’t you tell me? Give me a sign even.”

 

“I feared that if you knew I was working for The Black Dragon against my will, you’d come back and try to save me. I… I couldn’t risk that, Jeongguk. You meant too much to you a-and I should never have dragged you into this mess in the first place. Jeongguk, I knew my past was going to come back but I ignored all the signs.”

 

“Sangjun…”

 

“When… when I let you go that day, I told The Black Dragon that I shot you but you had still gotten away. They were furious because now, I couldn’t return to the FBI and work as their double agent.”

 

“Sangjun, what did they do to you?”

 

“That doesn’t matter.”

 

“Sangjun-” Jeongguk huffed only to get cut off again.

 

“Jeongguk… just… please don’t ask about that night, ok? You can ask me anything but I really don’t want to ever think about it again.”

 

Sangjun, too, did not want to think about all those pairs of hands nor did he want to ever remember the scorching pain of the stretch as he was violated. The ringing of his ears had blocked out most of the sound and the blindfold over his eyes had the sight but he will never forget.

 

Never.

 

“…Ok. Ok, I won’t,” Jeongguk whispered.

 

“Do you hate me now?”

 

“No.”

 

“You should,” Sangjun smiled sadly.

 

“Sangjun, I could never hate you.”

 

“Not even after I shot you?”

 

“No, not even then. I felt many things. Betrayed, scared, disappointed but hatred was not one of them.”

 

“You’re too kind. You should learn to protect yourself more,” Sangjun spoke softly.

 

“Sangjun, you should have come clean with me as soon as we joined the FBI. No, even before that. Jeonghyun would have understood and he would’ve helped you. Why did you not trust us? … Why did you not trust me?”

 

“I did trust you, Jeongguk. I know you would’ve done everything to help me but that was what scared me. … I was scared you’d help me but hate me at the same time. I was scared you’d get involved and end up like my father. And if I did end up accepting Jeonghyun’s help, it would seem like I was using you.”

 

“You don’t use your friends if they’re the ones who offer to help first.”

 

“Ok, ok, I get it. Can we please stop talking about this? You’re making me regret my life,” Sangjun chuckled though he didn’t find his own words funny.

 

“What about the Training Academy? Do you regret the time you spent there? Do you regret the difficult missions they put you through? … Do you regret the time you spent with me? When we got into trouble together for sneaking out to eat at two in the morning. When we went on that trip to Maldives after we graduated and got lost everywhere we went. When we developed our own secret language to talk to each other during our missions.”

 

“No. No, I don’t. Jeongguk, you were the best thing that happened to me. I remember every little thing we did and I always will. The times we stayed up all night to talk to each other even when we knew the next day’s training was going to be hell. The times you came up to me for impromptu road trips because you wanted an escape. The times you got in trouble with your brother and used me as your shield. The times we accidentally woke up in the same bed after a tiring fitness session and tried to push each other off. The times where we were confused whether this hoodie was yours or mine and we end up wearing each other’s clothes. The times we decided to be lazy and stay in for movie nights and pass out on each other. And the times I was able to make you smile and laugh.”

 

“Sangjun…”

 

“I know, Jeongguk. I know you don’t feel the same way I do anymore.”

 

“I’m sorry,” Jeongguk whispered, unable to hold Sangjun’s gaze anymore.

 

“Don’t apologise. It’s my fault. I ruined everything but… the six of them. They really like you.”

 

“How do you know?”

 

“I could see it in their eyes.”

 

“Oh…”

 

“I hope they’ll make you happy. If they hurt you, I’ll break out of prison to beat them up.”

 

“I think Hyun would be done with them by the time you get out,” Jeongguk joked.

 

“Guk, can you look at me?” Sangjun asked quietly, reaching over to grab both of Jeongguk’s hands, feeling relieved and confused when the younger didn’t flinch.

 

Jeongguk gave a sad smile as he lifted his head. He neither called Sangjun out for the use of the nickname nor retracted his hands from the warmth of the elder’s. The warmth he didn’t know he had dearly missed.

 

“Promise me you’ll talk to someone about what happened today.”

 

“What do you mean?” Jeongguk frowned.

 

“When I found you…”

 

“I’m fine,” Jeongguk whispered quickly. Maybe a bit too quickly.

 

“No, you’re not.”

 

“Jun, don’t worry-”

 

“I worry about you all the time, Jeongguk. I know, probably better than anyone here, that no one would be fine after that.”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“I know exactly how you feel, Jeongguk. Even if you try to hide your feelings, I’ve been where you are and I know it feels like your fault but it isn’t. I know you feel broken but you’re not.”

 

“Sangjun-“

 

“Please don’t hate yourself. Please talk to someone. Anyone. You’re strong and don’t ever forget it.”

 

“I… thank you.”

 

“Don’t thank me, Jeongguk.”

 

“No. I never thanked you for saving me today so thank you, Sangjun.”

 

“It’s ok… but we don’t have much time left, Jeongguk.”

 

Jeongguk frowned and glanced at the clock only to find that an hour had passed already. How?

 

“I want you to forget me.”

 

“What?“

 

“I’m not worth it.”

 

“Yes, you are.”

 

“Please try, for me?”

 

“I can’t… I won’t.”

 

“I hope in our next life I’ll have no past holding me down and we’ll be given another chance at friendship at least,” Sangjun continued.

 

“I…”

 

“I’m sorry about everything.”

 

“I forgive you, Sangjun.”

 

“Thank you.”

 

“Jun, I-“

 

“I love you, Jeongguk.”

 

“Times up!” the agents announced as they walked in and forcefully pulled Sangjun away from Jeongguk, the latter’s hands dropping lifelessly back onto his lap.

 

Jeongguk, paralysed once again, watched Sangjun’s regretful smile.

 

Only when he was completely out of sight, did Jeongguk give in to his overwhelming emotions.

 

His heart hurt all over again but this time, it was different.

 

Because Sangjun deserved his tears.

 

Chapter Text

“…-guk? Jeongguk!”

 

Jeongguk snapped out of his daze, blinking a few times as he registered the familiar furniture of his surroundings. Looking up at Jeonghyun, who was warily watching him from his right, he attempted a small smile that did nothing to ease his brother’s worries.

 

“Are you ok? Do you want to go back to your room and rest?”

 

Jeongguk merely stared back at his brother. He gave no indication he heard his brother’s questions as his mind drifted back to his thoughts and eyes hazed into oblivion.

 

“Hey, Jeongguk?”

 

Jeonghyun slid up beside Jeongguk with caution and reached out hesitantly for the younger’s arm. His hand met Jeongguk’s forearm and the younger snapped his head up to face his brother, unaware of Jeonghyun’s presence prior to their skin contact. The elder retracted his hand just as quickly and Jeongguk frowned when the warmth was removed. Jeonghyun looked guilty, conflicted, confused but Jeongguk seemed only to be focused on his area of forearm that his brother had touched.

 

“Why did you do that?”

 

“W-What?” Jeonghyun whispered.

 

“Why did you move away?”

 

“I… y-you- Jeongguk-“

 

“Forget it,” Jeongguk sighed and turned to face the other side of the room.

 

“Jeongguk… talk to me. What’s wrong?”

 

“Nothing.”

 

“Jeongguk-“

 

“I don’t want to talk about it, okay?” Jeongguk snapped harshly.

 

“But-“

 

“Just leave me alone.”

 

“What’re you so angry about?” Jeonghyun frowned, anger rising at his younger brother’s disrespectful attitude.

 

Jeongguk huffed and ignored his brother.

 

“You always act like this when you’re faced with problems, Jeongguk. You either charge straight at it like a bull or close yourself off and completely ignore it. This is why we kept the plan from you.”

 

“The plan,” Jeongguk repeated slowly.

 

“We were going to send an agent in and have them try to bring The Black Dragon down. We were gathering all the information we had on them while you were sleeping.”

 

“That would’ve taken months, Jeonghyun. Do you know how many lives would’ve been lost if I hadn’t acted?”

 

“Do you know what might have happened if Sangjun hadn’t chosen to help us bring them down?”

 

“That’s not the point,” Jeongguk spoke through his gritted teeth. “You hid the most important part of the case from me. You say you do it to protect me but you can’t keep treating me like a lost, helpless child because that Jeongguk is long gone. Yes, I’m hot-headed, rash, reckless and I jump into action without giving two thoughts but I’m a part of the team now, Jeonghyun. You were the one who put me in BTS so do you know how it felt to be left in the dark? I knew you all had something planned from the minute I woke up but I thought you’d just reveal it to me in due time since I had a lot going on. I respected all of your decisions but when the seven of you left me at the station that day, all I felt was that you guys couldn’t trust me.”

 

“Jeongguk, that wasn’t what we were intending but you can’t just head into a suicide mission as soon as someone says it’s your fault. That’s exactly the reason we didn’t tell you. You should’ve known that Jacob was lying. You were trained to read people, Jeongguk.”

 

“Well, I wasn’t in the right mind now, was I? Jeonghyun, I don’t need you to remind me what I did. As much as I want to forget everything that happened, I can’t. So please, can you just back off?”

 

“We were just trying to look out for you, Jeongguk. We know you’re not a child anymore but we’ve experienced much more than you have and the consequences we’ve suffered, we just don’t want you to as well.”

 

“I’m old enough to make my own decisions. Old enough to learn through my mistakes. If you shelter me, protect me from everything, give me no chance to even make a mistake, how am I supposed to grow?”

 

“Some mistakes are affordable but some are not. You can’t play with life and death,” Jeonghyun stated before sighing, rubbing his temples to emphasise his annoyance. “You know what, we’ll talk about this later. I’ve been staying with you at home for the past five days because you seemed like you didn’t want to be alone but now I have way too much work to catch up on. If you want to remain stubborn, then be that way.”

 

Jeonghyun huffed one last time and rose from Jeongguk’s side before grabbing his necessary belongings and making his way to the FBI headquarters, no last glance thrown at his younger brother. Jeongguk, meanwhile, chose to give the wall a death glare like it had offended him as well. He vaguely heard his brother muttering to himself as he stomped into the hallway, put on his shoes and proceeded to slam the front door on his way out. The loud bang made Jeongguk unconsciously jump up from the couch and he finally registered how empty the room was without his brother. Clutching a cushion tightly against his chest, he tried to replace the warmth of his brother. It was getting slightly difficult to breathe but Jeongguk closed his eyes and convinced himself that everything was okay, that the silence wasn’t overbearing, that he was safe.

 

They couldn’t find him.

 

They couldn’t touch him.

 

They could not.

 

They will not.

 

He was safe.

 

Safe.

 

Jeongguk repeated the word to himself, like it could hypnotise himself into believing it. With his eyes still closed, he took a deep breath and allowed the flowery scent of the candle burning to enter his senses and struggle in devouring the unease. He wanted to listen to Sangjun and talk to someone but no one deserved to be burdened with the sickening incident except he, himself. Not his parents. Not his brother. Not his boyfriends. It was his choice to seek out The Black Dragon that left him in such a predicament.

 

But that didn’t stop Jeongguk’s vulnerable side to grant permission to his tears, which desperately begged him to seek affection. To be held by someone who wasn’t disgusted by Jeongguk’s tarnished body, who wasn’t beside him because of pity and who would repeatedly reassure him that he was safe in soft whispers.

 

And through some means of dark magic, telepathy or whatever it could be called, the sound of the doorbell resonated through the empty household. Jeongguk’s teary eyes glanced around in shock as he hesitated to rise and advance to the front door. What if they were back to finish what they’d started? What if it was the few members of The Black Dragon who had managed to escape the federal forces? What if-

 

Another loud ring cut through his thoughts and Jeongguk wiped the remaining tears from his eyes before creeping down the corridor with the stealth of a secret agent. He knew his eyes must’ve been red and puffy and his breath erratic but it didn’t distract his alertness. Jeongguk flinched again when instead of the doorbell, the intruder chose to resort to sharp, simple knocking.

 

“Jeongguk? Are you home?”

 

It was Yoongi’s voice.

 

Yoongi.

 

His boyfriend.

 

He couldn’t see his boyfriend like this. Not when was everything but strong and calm. Not with his inner conundrums threatening to spill all his secrets yet hide Jeongguk away from all harm at the same time. No, he couldn’t let Yoongi see him like this. The elder already had every reason to leave him, Jeongguk couldn’t add unattractiveness to the list.

 

But Jeongguk wanted to held and comforted.

 

He wanted to be told that he wasn’t disgusting.

 

That he was safe and not alone.

 

So he threw the door open before his brain could confuse him any longer and before Yoongi could take his leave.

 

“Jeongguk?” Yoongi frowned in shock, noting the younger’s slumped shoulders, lowered head and swollen eyes.

 

He didn’t wait for the younger to invite him in or even reply and walked straight into the house instead, closing the door behind him. Jeongguk backed away as the elder approached, unable to find the courage to meet Yoongi’s eyes. He held his breath as Yoongi gently cupped his cheeks and lifted his face so that he could see Jeongguk without the younger’s fringe running interference.

 

“Baby, what’s wrong?”

 

If this was any other circumstance, Jeongguk would have blushed at the name that slipped so naturally out of Yoongi’s lips but now, it only reduced him to a sobbing mess. Yoongi froze and contemplated retracting his hands but decided against it when Jeongguk leaned into them. He tried wiping the tears away but as soon as they were gone, more followed its path so Yoongi gave up on the task and brought Jeongguk down to cry into the crook of his neck, uncaring of the way the tears soaked his favourite shirt.

 

“Do you want to move inside?” Yoongi whispered.

 

Jeongguk nodded meekly but didn’t move and Yoongi didn’t push as he rubbed up and down the expanse of Jeongguk’s back. When the younger calmed down to sniffling, Yoongi shifted back slowly and turned around to lead Jeongguk into the family room. Over the past few weeks, Jeongguk’s pride wasn’t something that could be missed so Yoongi knew the last thing Jeongguk probably wanted was someone seeing him like this.

 

He sat the younger down, making sure he was in a comfortable position before whispering he’d be back soon. Yoongi moved slowly to the kitchen, retrieved two glasses of water and effectively gave Jeongguk some time to cool down from his outburst. The yougner hadn’t moved in the slightest since Yoongi left and though it was unnerving for the elder, he didn’t show it. He had to be strong for Jeongguk.

 

“Why… why’re you here?”

 

“You weren’t replying. I got worried,” Yoongi murmured sheepishly.

 

“I’m sorry,” Jeongguk quickly apologised and Yoongi shook his head.

 

“Don’t apologise. I’m just too impatient, sorry.”

 

Jeongguk dismissed Yoongi’s apology to favour staring at his fidgeting fingers. He sank further into the corner of the U-shaped couch and brought his legs up against his chest.

 

“Do you… do you want to talk about it?”

 

Jeongguk shook his head and Yoongi nodded.

 

“Can I hug you?”

 

He hesitated, looking up to meet Yoongi’s hopeful eyes but hastily turned away and murmured something under his breath.

 

“Sorry? I didn’t catch that,” Yoongi said patiently.

 

“I feel disgusting.”

 

“I don’t mind.”

 

“You don’t understand,” Jeongguk cried, new tears running down his face. “I… I’m… I’m disgusting. Tainted- I- I can’t-“

 

“Hey, hey, it’s okay. Calm down,” Yoongi pleaded as he moved to Jeongguk’s side again and pried the younger’s hands away from his face.

 

“No, it’s not okay-“

 

“Jeongguk, please-“

 

“I can’t get them out of my head.“

 

Yoongi forced Jeongguk to look at him and only him, bringing their faces a mere few centimetres apart.

 

“I’m here, Jeongguk. Look at me. I don’t know who ‘them’ are but they’re not here, okay? It’s just me. Me and you.”

 

Jeongguk’s whimpers died down slightly when Yoongi rested their foreheads together. Without jostling the younger too much, Yoongi moved to sit in between his legs and the tight grip on the elder’s arms slowly disappeared as Jeongguk relaxed. Yoongi tried to not let Jeongguk’s watery, doe eyes affect him but each tear pulled at his heartstrings.

 

“I’m going to move away now, okay?”

 

“No,” Jeongguk whispered, hastily grabbing Yoongi’s sleeves again. “I… can we stay like this… please?”

 

“Of course,” Yoongi smiled as softly as he could and moved his hand to card through Jeongguk’s hair.

 

I don’t deserve it. I don’t deserve him.

 

Jeongguk, exhausted from crying, rested his head on Yoongi’s shoulders and tried to ignore the ache forming in his lower back due to the awkward position. After Yoongi noticed him constantly shifting to try to ease the strain, he shuffled around and resituated beside Jeongguk again. He opened his arms invitingly and Jeongguk didn’t hesitate to jump into the embrace.

 

“Yoongi, I… something… something happened during the case,” Jeongguk whispered after another ten minutes of silence. He received a small hum from Yoongi and took a shuddering breath before continuing, “When I… when I left to find The Black Dragon, I was attacked. There were only eight of them and I-I thought I could take them on… but I couldn’t. They touched me, Yoongi… they touched me everywhere.”

 

The elder’s hands stopped its small rubbing motions on Jeongguk’s back and the younger wished he could take his words back. He was disgusting, there was no way Yoongi or any of his boyfriends would want him now.

 

Yoongi breathed slowly, recalling Jeongguk’s dishevelled state and now understanding the reason. The cause.

 

He was angry. He was furious. But Jeongguk needed him to be calm. ‘For Jeongguk.’

 

“Did they… how far?”

 

“Sangjun beat them up before they could get… everything off.”

 

Not only was he tarnished but he was also weak.

 

Couldn’t even save himself.

 

“Jeongguk-“

 

“I know. I hate that I couldn’t do anything. I hate how heavy my skin feels, like- like their hands are away there. It’s disgusting. I hate myself.”

 

With his last remark, he pushed Yoongi’s arms away from himself and chose to not meet the elder’s eyes, fearing the rejection and judgement. However, he found his face being lifted again by warm, gentle hands. He met Yoongi’s eyes and all he saw were concern, sorrow and… guilt.

 

“Jeongguk, you are not disgusting. The action of those people, that’s what’s disgusting. Not you, baby. You shouldn’t hate yourself for not being able to do anything. You can’t control what they did to you. No one can.”

 

“Don’t you hate me?”

 

“Why would I hate you?”

 

“Because they touched me.”

 

“And?”

 

“And… and I don’t know. I just… I can’t stop thinking about them. And what might have happened if Sangjun hadn’t found me. No matter how much I scrub my body, the hands are still there, Yoongi.”

 

“Jeongguk don’t think about the ‘what if’s. I’m going to be honest, I have no idea what you’re feeling right now and I’m not the best at comforting but I’m going to stay for as long as you need and I’ll be gone the minute you don’t want me here.”

 

“But do you want to be here? Don’t stay just because I’m weak and disgusting and-”

 

“Hey, Jeongguk, baby, please don’t say that about yourself. You are so strong, so beautiful and from the day we met, I’ve always wanted to beside you,” Yoongi murmured, slowly leaning forward to press a kiss under Jeongguk’s fringe. He watched Jeongguk, waiting for a sign that the younger was uncomfortable or simply didn’t want to be kissed but when he was met with no such reaction, he let his lips timidly touch Jeongguk’s forehead.

 

Jeongguk didn’t know when he had closed his eyes or let out a shaky breath, only focusing on the feeling of Yoongi’s steady breathing tickling his hair. It was comforting, almost like the simple gesture was trying to erase all the bad memories.

 

“Is there anything you want right now? Anything I can do?”

 

“I just want to stay like this… please,” Jeongguk whispered weakly.

 

I don’t deserve it. I don’t deserve him.

 

I should tell him. I need to tell him.

 

Yoongi hummed softly as he rocked Jeongguk side to side. The younger seemed to finally fully relax for the first time since Yoongi arrived and the elder didn’t know whether to be comforted or daunted by the silence.

 

He’s going to leave. He is.

 

“Are you going to tell the others?” Yoongi asked quietly.

 

“I don’t want them to hate me.”

 

“They won’t.”

 

“They’ll think I’m disgusting.”

 

“Hey, if the same thing happened to me would you hate me and think I was disgusting?”

 

“No, of course not.”

 

“Then why do you think we will?” Yoongi whispered gently. “You know all of us have been really worried ever since we returned from Minneapolis. Boss hasn’t been coming to work and you barely reply to us when we messaged you.”

 

“Sorry-“

 

“Don’t apologise, Jeongguk. I’m telling you because although we all wanted nothing more than to see you, we agreed with each other that you needed time and space. The case took a large toll on you mentally and physically and we didn’t want to add to that stress by pushing anything onto you. I told them I was going to drop by and check on you today.”

 

“I just… I don’t want to lose them.”

 

“You’re not going to lose them. I can promise you that, Jeongguk. If you want to see whether I’m right, I’ll ask them to come over but if you really don’t want to see them, that’s fine as well. I’m not going to force you to meet them or tell them anything you don’t want to.”

 

Jeongguk lifted his head slightly to see a small smile attached to Yoongi’s lips and although he was hesitant with his decision, he wanted their comforting presence more than anything right now. Giving a nod, Yoongi kissed his forehead again before pulling out his phone and sending a quick message to each of his friends.

 

He’ll hate me. He will.

 

It didn’t take long for them to arrive. They came as a large, rowdy group and Yoongi suspected they must have gone out together somewhere close to Jeongguk’s house. He detached himself from Jeongguk and when the younger whined at the loss of warmth, Yoongi quickly reassured him that he wasn’t leaving but just getting the door. Hearing their chatter from the hallway, he slipped out of the house, shutting the door behind him before any of them could enter.

 

“What’s wrong?” Seokjin frowned, always the alert and perceptive one to people’s moods.

 

“Well,” Yoongi sighed. “Something happened during the case, when we were at the crime scene. I thought I should give you guys a warning first. Jeongguk doesn’t want to talk much so don’t pry into what happened. Don’t crowd him and try to keep noise levels down around him. Also try not to startle him, he’s a bit scared to see you all.”

 

“He’s scared of us?”

 

“Yeah…”

 

“Did he tell you what happened?”

 

“Yeah, the main parts.”

 

“Ok, we’ll be careful. Don’t worry,” Jimin nodded.

 

Yoongi turned back and opened the door quietly, admitting the five bodies behind him. He headed to the family room first as the others took of their shoes and uncertainly shuffled after Yoongi. When they crossed into the room, Yoongi was already back beside Jeongguk, holding the younger boy in his arms. They could tell Jeongguk was trying to hide behind Yoongi and if it wasn’t for the latter’s warning beforehand, they would have thought the sight of Jeongguk’s hands clutching tightly onto Yoongi’s shirt was endearing.

 

The elder agent nodded for them to sit and while Seokjin, Hoseok and Jimin sat down on Jeongguk’s side, Namjoon and Taehyung placed themselves on the side of the sofa closer to Yoongi. It was unusually silent, none of them knowing what to say or how to even start a conversation when the tension was so stifling.

 

“Jeongguk?” Yoongi whispered.

 

“Hmm?”

 

“They’re here.”

 

Jeongguk shoved his face further into Yoongi’s neck and the elder resumed carding his fingers through his hair.

 

“Do you want to tell them?”

 

“Can you?”

 

“Do you want me to?”

 

Jeongguk paused before nodding.

 

“Are you sure? We don’t have to tell them anything if you don’t want to.”

 

“I’m sure. I just… I just don’t want to say it again.”

 

“Ok,” Yoongi murmured.

 

Without realising he had pulled Jeongguk closer to himself, he tried his best to repeat Jeongguk’s words from before. It was inevitable he rephrased half the words but the team understood the gist nonetheless. There were mixed reactions ranging from anger, shock, concern, grief, sympathy and fear even. When Yoongi finished speaking, Jeongguk waited for an uproar, for someone to call his disgusting, for someone to run out of the house, for rejection. But he received none.

 

“Oh my god, Jeongguk, sweetheart. We’re so sorry,” Seokjin whispered while sliding closer, not close enough to touch.

 

“Why’re you sorry?”

 

“We’re sorry that that happened to you-“

 

“You don’t hate me?”

 

“No,” Jimin answered firmly.

 

“You don’t think I’m disgusting?”

 

“Never,” Hoseok assured and Jeongguk looked up in confusion.

 

“See?” Yoongi whispered. “I promised.”

 

“But they touched me and- and I can still feel it… I-I just want it gone. Why can I still feel their hands-”

 

“Hey, sweetie, don’t hurt yourself. Do you think there’s anything we could do right now to help you?”

 

“I don’t know- I- how do I get rid of this feeling?” Jeongguk whimpered and the elders bit back the urge to break down at the younger’s vulnerable tone. Everyone looked at Seokjin for an answer but the eldest was just as lost on how to answer as they all were but he had to try for Jeongguk’s sake.

 

“I… do you feel better when Yoongi’s holding you?”

 

Jeongguk nodded.

 

“Yoongi feels different. Warmer. Safer.”

 

“Can I hold your hand then?”

 

Jeongguk nodded again and reached his hand out to take Seokjin’s.

 

“Is this ok?”

 

“Yeah,” Jeongguk breathed, resting his head back against Yoongi’s shoulder.

 

I don’t deserve it. I don’t deserve them.

 

I need to tell them. I have to tell them.

 

They’re going to leave. They are.

 

They’ll hate me.

 

I’m selfish.

 

Selfish.

 

Jimin and Taehyung shared a distraught look and Namjoon, catching the exchange, took the two away from Jeongguk and into another room. Hoseok made to follow them but Namjoon quickly gestured for him to stay with Jeongguk because the youngest needed him more.

 

“Where’d they go?” Jeongguk whispered. “Do they hate me?”

 

As he questioned Hoseok, the elder felt a shiver run down his spine at Jeongguk’s eerie calmness. It seemed like he ready to accept the answer even if it was an affirmative.

 

“They would never hate you, baby.”

 

“Then why did they leave?”

 

“They… they just need some time. They don’t have a good experience with sexual assault… it was their first ever case after they joined the team together.”

 

“Promise?”

 

“Yeah,” Hoseok smiled sadly as he scooted in front of Jeongguk and held out his pinky. “Pinky promise.”

 

Jeongguk linked his own pinky with Hoseok’s and neither let go after joining their thumbs to seal the promise. Jeongguk’s eyelids were drooping, tired from all the tears shed and Seokjin whispered softly, telling him it was ok. He could trust them. They weren’t leaving.

 

He was safe.

 

By the time, Namjoon returned with Jimin and Taehyung, the distress across the pair was certainly less than before but it was still obvious.

 

“He’s asleep,” Seokjin informed.

 

“How was he?”

 

“Insecure. He thought Jimin and Tae left because they hated him.”

 

“We could never,” they whispered in protest.

 

“Yeah, that’s what I told him. Pinky promised even,” Hoseok murmured, pointing to their joined pinkies with his free hand.

 

“Do you think boss knows?”

 

“Definitely not,” Seokjin answered.

 

“How do you know?”

 

“He wouldn’t leave Jeongguk alone if he knew.”

 

“But he did stay five days at home already.”

 

“He nearly sacrificed his position when Jeongguk got shot. There’s no way he wouldn’t be here if Jeongguk had told him. Jeongguk needs people he can trust more than anything right now and boss is pretty much the first person on that list.”

 

“True.”

 

“But there’s something else he’s not telling us,” Seokjin commented.

 

“There is?”

 

“Yeah. I think it’s something unrelated to this though.”

 

“Do you think he’ll tell us?”

 

“I don’t know. I’ll try talk to him when he wakes up but honestly, I’m a bit scared to know what it is. If he was ready to tell us about the sexual assault, how severe do you think the other issue is that he still feels the need to hide it from us?”

 

Seokjin’s words took a while to process but when it did, fear was quick to be summoned into their hearts. It was overpowering. Suffocating.

 

“I hate it. I wish I could just take all the pain away. It hurts me so much to see him like this. So small… so insecure… so scared.”

 

“We do too, Yoongi. We do too.”

 

They sighed and gave all of their attention to the sleeping figure against Yoongi’s chest, wrapped in elder’s arms, one hand in Seokjin’s while a pinky on the opposite hand was in Hoseok’s.

 

He looked peaceful.

 

He looked young.

 

He looked safe.

 

For the first time since entering the house, they let out a breath of relief. Jeongguk had opened up to them about it. Even though they weren’t as experienced as counsellors, they would do their best to help Jeongguk through any guilt and confusion he may possibly experience. They would be beside him as he rebuilt any feelings of safety, trust, control and self-worth he lost during the assault.

 

For as long as he needs, they’d be there.

 

It wasn’t until an hour before dusk that Jeongguk finally stirred, alarming all six elders who had decided to stay by his side to entire length of his nap. It was the first time he had rested so soundly since returning to Virginia as flashbacks had pervaded sleepless nights. However, forgetting the situation, he sat up, wide eyed, frantically trying to pull away from all the physical contact. Seokjin and Hoseok were quick to let go of his hand and Yoongi tried to help Jeongguk slide away of him.

 

“Hey, hey, hey, Jeongguk,” Yoongi whispered gently after the younger was finally off his numb legs.

 

Jeongguk whipped around to face Yoongi as the elder spoke but when he was met with a small, slightly strained smile, he calmed himself down.

 

“Are you ok?”

 

“Y-Yeah. I think so.”

 

“Do you mind if I hug you?” Namjoon asked after seeing Yoongi grimace when he tried to move his leg.

 

Jeongguk shook his head and Yoongi shuffled back to give Namjoon space to slot himself down and pull the younger slowly into his arms. It took him a while to relax but his trembling breath of relief was enough to inform Namjoon that he was comfortable. They sat quietly, monitoring Jeongguk to see if he needed anything or showed any signs of distress. After five minutes of staring into space, Jeongguk seemed like he remembered something and looked around frantically.

 

“What do you need, sweetie?” Jimin asked, coming forward.

 

The rest of the team shifted into view but he kept his eyes focused on Jimin and Taehyung only.

 

“Are you ok?”

 

“J-Jeongguk,” Jimin choked, not expecting the younger’s question. He shouldn’t be in a position where he had to worry about others. No, not with all of the issues infested in his mind already.

 

“We’re ok, Jeongguk. We’re ok,” Taehyung promised, extending his hand for Jeongguk to take if he wanted. Jimin mimicked the action and Jeongguk was quick to accept both hands.

 

“Do you… do you think you’re ready to hear our story?”

 

“I think so.”

 

“Ok…” Taehyung nodded as he squeezed Jeongguk’s hand gently. “So Jimin and I, you probably guessed, are really close, right? We were actually friends since childhood, grew up together, went to school together and decided to become agents together. Neither of us wanted to be secret agents so we trained in different divisions of the FBI but we were still really close.”

 

“Jeonghyun recruited me right after I turned twenty three last year and Taehyung followed shortly after. We both got a few days to get to know the team before we were called into our first case in Kansas. The perpetrator had sexually assaulted his victims before pushing them off buildings to deceive us into thinking it was suicide.”

 

“How did you realise all of the crimes were the same person?”

 

“His modus operanti was too obvious, one. And two, he wasn’t bright enough to realise his semen sample was inside all of the victims.”

 

“Oh.”

 

“Yeah… when we arrived we were told he had already murdered four females and a fifth was missing. We… we…” Jimin sighed, looking down.

 

“We saved her,” Taehyung finished.

 

“But?”

 

“But not fast enough. We couldn’t prevent the sexual assault.”

 

“He had already violated her three times.”

 

“She blamed us when we found her. She screamed and broke down, said she didn’t want her body anymore nor did she want to live. Taehyung and I believed it was our fault as well. If only we had saved her faster, maybe she wouldn’t have experienced what she did. Maybe she wouldn’t have to live with that for the rest of her life. Maybe she could be happier.”

 

“It’s not your fault though,” Jeongguk frowned.

 

“We know now. We shut everyone, including each other, out. It took a while but we came around. The point is it’s not your fault either for what happened.”

 

“But if I hadn’t-“

 

“Jeongguk, this is exactly what Jimin and I realised after we kept beating ourselves up over the case,” Taehyung murmured softly. “Being threatened, attacked, assaulted, harassed is not something anyone, least the victims can control. There’s a difference between wishing it hadn’t happened and wishing you had done something else to prevent it from happening. This is not your fault.”

 

“I… ok yeah,” Jeongguk whispered. “Ok.”

 

“Ok,” Jimin and Taehyung smiled.

 

“I’m sorry for being so difficult.”

 

“Don’t apologise for having those thoughts, hon,” Taehyung said, bringing Jeongguks hands up to kiss them softly. “You have every right to feel the way you do.”

 

“And you’re not being difficult. We can tell you it’s not your fault as many times as you need. Until you believe us,” Jimin whispered.

 

“Thank you.”

 

I don’t deserve them.

 

“Are you hungry?”

 

“Yeah, actually a little bit. Sorry,” Jeongguk smiled sheepishly, embarrassed at the viscous growl of his stomach which exposed him.

 

“Why’re you apologising?”

 

“I-I don’t know,” he pouted, confused, and they smiled fondly.

 

“Do you want me to order some takeout?” Hoseok asked.

 

Jeongguk nodded.

 

“Do you have anything in particular you want? Any cuisine?”

 

Jeongguk shook his head.

 

“Thai?”

 

He nodded.

 

“Ok,” Hoseok chuckled and pulled his phone out.

 

“Do you want to take a bath while we wait for the food?”

 

“That’d be nice,” Jeongguk nodded shyly.

 

Seokjin helped him out of Namjoon’s arms and followed him to his bedroom.

 

“Do you want me to stay with you or will you be ok on your own?”

 

“Can… can you stay? Only if you want to.”

 

“Of course, sweetie.”

 

Jeongguk grabbed a new set of clothes before heading to the bathroom, Seokjin in tow. He set them down on the counter and sat on the closed toilet seat, waiting for Seokjin to prepare a bath at the perfect temperature. The elder made sure to had plenty of soap so that the surface of the water was covered with bubbles. Finishing, he stepped out to allow Jeongguk to enter the tub without invading too much of his privacy and only returned when Jeongguk had called him after he’d settled.

 

“Do you want me to wash your hair?” Seokjin offered.

 

Jeongguk hesitated before nodding timidly. Seokjin gave him a reassuring smile before reaching for the shampoo and massaging it through his hair. Jeongguk tensed for a brief second at the physical contact and Seokjin slowed down to give him time to adjust. He let out a small chuckle when the younger relaxed, his neck resting against the edge and eyes shut.

 

“I’m sorry for avoiding you guys for so long. I’m a coward.”

 

“No. You’re not a coward. You were able to tell one of us, weren’t you? That’s strength, Jeongguk. No one deserves this to happen to them so your reaction is completely normal. You can take as long as you need to trust us and we’ll be here forever if you want. You’re not alone.”

 

“…Thank you,” Jeongguk whispered.

 

“Thank you for telling us and letting us help you,” Seokjin smiled, washing the shampoo away and applying conditioner. “Please tell us if you’re uncomfortable at any time. Tell us if you’re scared or want to be alone… if you want to let anything off your chest, feel free to as well. Don’t be afraid to bother us, ok?”

 

“Ok… thank you.”

 

Seokjin chuckled and ran his fingers through Jeongguk’s hair, unknotting his tangled strands of hair.

 

“About boss…”

 

Jeongguk whipped his head up at an alarming speed, suddenly remembering their fight.

 

“What about Jeonghyun?”

 

“Have you told him?”

 

“…No… we had a fight. He left before Yoongi came this morning.”

 

“Are you going to tell him?”

 

Jeongguk shrugged, shoulders lifting out from under the bubbles, and Seokjin nodded.

 

“It’s fine if you don’t want to. We’ll be here for you.”

 

“Thank you.”

 

“Stop thanking me, baby,” Seokjin smiled. “We want to be here.”

 

“Ok.”

 

Seokjin gently washed the conditioner out of Jeongguk’s hair, making sure none of the soap ran into his eyes. The doorbell rung a few minutes later and Jeongguk startled from his drowsy position in the bathtub.

 

“It’s ok, Jeongguk. It’s just the food,” Seokjin reassured.

 

“Oh,” Jeongguk whispered, slouching back.

 

“Do you want to stay a while longer or get out?”

 

“I… I want to get out,” Jeongguk admitted while Seokjin smiled fondly.

 

“I’ll step out to let you finish washing up and get changed. If you need any help just call me.”

 

Jeongguk nodded and Seokjin exited the bathroom, closing the door softly behind him. He waited a bit for Seokjin’s footsteps to fade away before standing up and draining the water. Jeongguk then turned on the tap, hot water instantly exploding from the showerhead while he grabbed the loofah on the side. For once since returning to Virginia, Jeongguk didn’t scrub himself until his extremities and body were covered in angry, pink welts, which obscured his natural medium skin tone. It was like the elders’ comforting hugs had erased the disturbing pressure he had been feeling the past few days.

 

All he could feel were their light touches as he finished with just a simple rinse.

 

I don’t deserve them.

 

Seokjin, in the meantime, poked his head into the family room to check up on the others who were busily setting up the food around the coffee table.

 

“Is he ok?” Namjoon asked being the first to notice Seokjin.

 

“Yeah, I told him that he could talk to us and we’ll be here for as long as he wants. But before he comes back, I need to talk to you guys about something. I know your instincts are to jump in and protect him but we have to try to not take control. Sexual assault, even if it wasn’t successful, makes some victims feel… invaded, like they’ve lost control. So instead, we need to listen to him. Listen to what he wants. He needs to know that he’s still able to make his own decisions and try not to startle him with unexpected touches because it might remind him of the incident. If he wants to be comforted, I think it’ll be best if we let him tell us that. At the same time, don’t go overboard with your carefulness. Jeongguk needs to know that nothing has changed between us and treating him too differently might cause him to overthink our actions. It’s complicated, I know-”

 

“Jin, it’s fine. We understand.”

 

“Did you ask about boss?”

 

“Yeah, we were right. Jeongguk hasn’t told him yet. Apparently they had a fight this morning and boss left before Yoongi came.”

 

“Oh…”

 

“What do we tell him if he comes home to find all of us… you know… loitering around?”

 

“That we want to spend time with our boyfriend,” Jimin stated simply.

 

“It’s up to Jeongguk to decide whether he wants to tell boss or not. The only thing we can do is stay beside him, help him feel safer and support the decisions he makes.”

 

“Ok,” they agreed collectively just as Jeongguk returned.

 

When he walked into the room, clad in an oversized white shirt and grey sweatpants, he froze as he noticed all six elders had quietened down to stare at him.

 

“You should dry your hair,” Seokjin chuckled. “You’re going to catch a cold.”

 

“Oh… yeah.”

 

“Do you want me to help?” Hoseok offered.

 

“Only if you want to.”

 

“It’ll be my pleasure,” the elder smiled, reaching slowly for the small towel around Jeongguk’s neck.

 

He pulled it off Jeongguk and directed the younger onto the couch to sit him down. Giving Jeongguk’s wet hair a few gentle rubs, soaking the towel, Hoseok removed the towel and leaned down to show Jeongguk his wide grin.

 

“All done.”

 

“Thank you.”

 

“It’s ok.”

 

Hoseok gave Jeongguk’s hair a ruffle on his way to the laundry to throw the towel away and before Jeongguk could react to what just happened, Namjoon’s face popped up in front of him, dimple smile on display.

 

“Pad see ew or pad thai?”

 

“Pad see ew please.”

 

A clear container of pad see ew was handed to him and he accepted it unconsciously.

 

“There’s fried chicken on the table if you want,” Taehyung smiled.

 

“Thank you,” he whispered.

 

He brought the chopsticks towards the noodles which caused the elders to finally snap out of their own daze and turn away from staring so intently at him. Jeongguk was starving a few minutes ago but his hunger didn’t seem to bother him anymore, not when Seokjin had brought to light his fight with his brother. Without noticing the others’ eyes back on him, he sighed heavily, eyes dropping to eye the pad see ew in his hand.

 

Should he have told his brother? Would his brother hate him? Would his brother think he’s disgusting?

 

No, of course he wouldn’t.

 

This is Jeonghyun, Jeongguk was thinking about. The one who was beside him for most of life. The one he trusted the most.

 

And that’s exactly why he shouldn’t bother the elder with his problem. It wasn’t that major, right? Jeonghyun had too much on his plate already and Jeongguk was only going to give him more stress.

 

The fight had been his fault, after all.

 

But then he realised.

 

He had forgotten to part with his brother after the most important message. The three words they’d promised each other they would never forget. Because neither of them knew when it would be their last time seeing each other.

 

Jeongguk dropped the container onto the coffee table without care before springing up, startling his boyfriends in the process.

 

“What’s wrong, Jeongguk?”

 

“I-I have to go.”

 

“Go where?”

 

“I need to see my brother.”

 

“Jeongguk-”

 

Yoongi cut himself off when Jeongguk charged towards the front of the house, full of purpose. They followed after him but as the younger was just about to rip open the door, it flew inwards, nearly hitting Jeongguk in the process.

 

There, stood the person Jeongguk was seeking for. They both froze, Jeongguk in that time processing his brother’s hair that rivalled Einstein, his lopsided suit jacket and his miserable expression. Jeongguk knew he didn’t look that much better with his torn, guilty look and casual wear which hung loosely around his body.

 

“Jeonghyun-“

 

His brother jumped forward and wrapped Jeongguk in a tight hug, interrupting his sentence.

 

“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry, Jeongguk.”

 

“Me too,” Jeongguk whispered. “I’m sorry for arguing with you.”

 

“I’m sorry for leaving.”

 

The team overlooked the scene with a relieved smile, nodding politely when Jeonghyun caught sight of them standing awkwardly in the background.

 

“Oh, I thought the cars outside looked familiar,” he chuckled. Jeonghyun released Jeongguk however, leaving an arm around the younger’s shoulder to comfort him. He didn’t mention how Jeongguk had tensed and flinched when he had flung himself onto him. “Come on, let’s go inside.”

 

Jeongguk nodded and walked back towards the family room, constantly checking to see if his brother was still behind him like the elder would run off again. Jeonghyun smile softly when he noticed Jeongguk’s concern and placed a hand on the younger’s back to remind him he wasn’t leaving.

 

Arriving at the room Jeongguk had just run out of, they settled down on the couch while the rest of the team lingered hesitantly by the door.

 

“Come in,” Jeonghyun urged.

 

“We should give you two some time,” Yoongi informed. “I think you guys have stuff to talk out.”

 

“Are you leaving?” Jeongguk frowned, frantic.

 

“We’ll be back in an hour or so,” Jimin quickly reassured.

 

“Oh… ok.”

 

The team nodded again at their boss before exiting the house, leaving the pair in the slightly tense silence. Jeongguk fidgeted with his cuticles, trying to find the best start to the conversation. Another apology? Was this how conversations usually started? Chancing a quick glance at his older brother, Jeongguk noted the pensive frown Jeonghyun wore and resisted the urge to wrap his arms around the elder.

 

Eventually, it was Jeonghyun who took a deep breath and sighed. He turned to face Jeongguk directly before pulling his brother’s face up to meet his eyes.

 

“Do you remember Younghee?”

 

“Of course,” Jeongguk frowned, unsure where his brother was going.

 

Jeonghyun never talked about her and Jeongguk knew why though. She was Jeonghyun’s occasional partner while he still worked as a secret agent. She was also his girlfriend. Jeonghyun’s first and last girlfriend.

 

To Jeongguk, she was like a second sibling. A second mentor.

 

But she was the one who had broke Jeonghyun.

 

After she disappeared, Jeonghyun didn’t talk or eat or sleep. Jeongguk had been in the training academy during this period, oblivious to his brother’s mental health. When he was finally released for the winter holidays, it was through Jeonghyun’s colleagues that he found out his older brother wasn’t replying to any of them and neglecting his job. Jeongguk had then discovered Jeonghyun locked in his bedroom, surrounded by piles of used up tissues while he had lain unmoving under messy blankets.

 

It took Jeongguk the whole holiday to pull Jeonghyun out of his shell, even to the extent where he missed the first few days of his training.

 

But he didn’t mind. He would do anything for his brother as would Jeonghyun for him.

 

“Did you find her?”

 

“She died.”

 

“What? What do you mean?”

 

“I lied when I told you she disappeared. She actually died. Because of me.”

 

“W-What?”

 

“I didn’t want you to worry because you were so busy but… during one of our missions, I thought everything was clear and that it was safe for me to enter a warehouse where one of the drug deals took place in. But apparently, they had seen us coming and duped us. She warned me not to enter because something seemed off. She said it couldn’t have been this easy but I didn’t listen. I was young and reckless and thought I knew what I was doing. She suffered the consequences. When the crossfire started, she sheltered me from the dozens of bullets that I was the target of. She died right in front of me that day and till this day, I can still see her sad smile when her lifeless body dropped.”

 

“I… oh my god… Jeonghyun, I’m so sorry.”

 

“What’re you sorry about? How reckless I was? How stupid I had been? That’s not on you. That’s my fault. Why hadn’t I just listened to her? If I had, she’d still be alive right now.”

 

“No, I… I’m sorry that had to happen to two of the loveliest people.”

 

“Don’t apologise,” Jeonghyun sighed. “If only I hadn’t been so rash… it’s my fault… and this is why I’m scared when you do something dangerous. I’m scared of losing you as well- I can’t.”

 

“Jeonghyun… I-I’m sorry. I’m so sorry,” Jeongguk whispered, wiping the tears out of his eyes.

 

“Please, Jeongguk. Please stay safe for me. Please.”

 

“I… I’ll try. I’m sorry- I didn’t know- I-“

 

“You couldn’t have known. I hid it from you.”

 

“But, I-I- should have- I’m sorry- I-“

 

“Jeongguk, please. If you just listen to us when we tell you something’s a risk, I’ll be ok,” Jeonghyun murmured gently.

 

“I’m sorry.”

 

“Stop apologising,” Jeonghyun chuckled sadly, pulling Jeongguk into another hug. They sat in comfortable silence for a while before Jeongguk sighed.

 

“Jeonghyun…”

 

“Mhm?”

 

“I’m sorry for acting the way I did the past few days.”

 

“Do you want to talk about it now?”

 

“When we were in Minneapolis… and I left to find The Black Dragon… I was attacked, obviously. You would’ve probably guessed that. Sangjun was actually the one who rescued me.”

 

“From the fight?” Jeonghyun frowned.

 

“No… not exactly… it was a fight… but well… how do I say this? There were eight of them… and they tried to rape me.”

 

Jeonghyun froze. Every single vein, artery, muscle, organ in his body seized. His heart probably stopped beating for a second as well.

 

“Tried. They didn’t get far enough before Sangjun stopped them.”

 

Jeonghyun calmed himself down. Breathe. In and out.

 

“Are you ok?” Jeongguk asked.

 

“N-No.”

 

“Jeonghyun?”

 

“I’m… I’m such an asshole.”

 

“What?”

 

“I yelled at you. I-I should’ve been there for you. I shouldn’t have pushed you. I-“

 

“Jeonghyun, breathe,” Jeongguk frowned.

 

“I’m so sorry, oh my god. I’m a horrible brother, I-“

 

“Stop-”

 

“Do they know?”

 

“Yeah…”

 

“I’m so sorry.”

 

“For what?”

 

“When you needed me the most, I- fuck I treated you like that. I fought with you. I-“

 

“I was the one who started it.”

 

“But I should’ve been careful around you, I shouldn’t have snapped. I should have known, Jeongguk.”

 

“You couldn’t have known. I hid it from you,” Jeongguk smiled sadly, repeating his brother.

 

“Is this why you were so scared of me? Are you ok with us hugging right now? Do you want me to move away? Should I-“

 

“I want to stay like this. You’re comfortable.”

 

“Fuck, Jeongguk. I’m so sorry. I didn’t hurt you this morning with what I said, right?”

 

“It’s ok, Jeonghyun. I promise. I deserved it.”

 

“No-“

 

“Shut up and just hug me.”

 

Jeonghyun closed his mouth and hugged Jeongguk tighter to his body.

 

“You don’t think I’m disgusting, right?”

 

“Why would I?” Jeonghyun gasped.

 

“Because-“

 

“Because they touched you?”

 

“…Yeah.”

 

“No. You’re not disgusting. You’re Jeongguk. They didn’t take away anything that’d to make you have any less value, make you any less important to me, any less important to all of us.”

 

“Ok.”

 

“Do you believe me?”

 

“I’m trying to.”

 

“I’ll be here. I’ll tell you every second of every day until you believe me. I won’t leave unless you want me too.”

 

“That’s what they said too,” Jeongguk smiled.

 

“You’ll choose me over them, right?”

 

“Hm.”

 

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

 

“Don’t make me choose,” Jeongguk pouted. “You can all stay.”

 

“…Thank you so much for the kind offer. I didn’t know I was a guest here.”

 

“Shut up.”

 

“I’m older.”

 

Jeongguk chuckled and squeezing himself closer to Jeonghyun, he felt relief pleasantly drown him. Jeonghyun’s consistent circular motions on his back helped all the tension out of his muscles, causing him to sag even further onto his older brother’s chest.

 

“I’m sorry for being so self-centred. I should have stayed longer with you after Younghee. I’ve always been worrying you with my reckless actions but you try to do everything to hide your problems and not make me worried. I’m sorry for being selfish.”

 

“And I’m sorry for losing my patience. I’m sorry for yelling at you when you needed me most. I’m sorry for running away from an argument like that. I’m sorry I hid parts of my life that I didn’t want to accept. I’m sorry for leaving without telling you I love you.”

 

“I love you too, Jeonghyun.”

 

“Let’s not fight again. I didn’t get any work done today because I couldn’t stop thinking about our argument. And let’s also try not to hide stuff from each other.”

 

“Hear, hear.”

 

A lie. There was still something Jeongguk hadn’t come clean about and the guilt weighed down his heart. He was confused with everything. Himself. His emotions. His heart. Why couldn’t humans be simpler? Why couldn’t they only feel one emotion at a time? Why couldn’t they just stop feeling negatively altogether?

 

Jeongguk was forced to leave his thoughts when Jeonghyun chuckled, squeezing the younger’s cheeks before pulling his hand back like he had been burnt.

 

“Shit, can I do that?”

 

“I would say no because you’re going to elongate my skin but it feels so normal so yes you can. I just want to forget it ever happened and return to what we were like before. I think it’ll help if you do some of the stuff we always did. Just don’t make it too sudden.”

 

Jeonghyun smiled cheekily and kissed Jeongguk’s forehead.

 

“Ew,” Jeongguk complained. “I didn’t mean stuff we did as kids. I don’t want your saliva on my forehead.”

 

“What saliva?” Jeonghyun chuckled.

 

“Yuck.”

 

“Don’t yuck me.”

 

“I’ll do what I want,” Jeongguk pouted.

 

“You know…”

 

“Hm?”

 

“I think we both need a break.”

 

“From what?”

 

“Work,” Jeonghyun sighed.

 

“Maybe we should go visit Mum and Dad.”

 

“We should.”

 

“I miss them.”

 

“Me too.”

 

“I could do with one of Mum’s beef soups.”

 

“Oh, I miss those so much, don’t remind me,” Jeonghyun groaned.

 

“Beef soup.”

 

“Brat.”

 

Jeonghyun glared at the top of Jeongguk’s head, well aware the younger felt it because he chuckled.

 

The sound of several short rasps against their front door broke their conversation. The two brothers exchanged an alarmed look before realising two hours had already passed since Jeongguk’s team had left.

 

“I don’t want to move. Can we just leave them outside?”

 

“Jeonghyun, they’re my boyfriends.”

 

“And they’re interrupting our perfect brotherly bonding time.”

 

“You mean depressing reminiscing time.”

 

“Whatever. Do you want me to go get them?”

 

“Nah, I’ll do it,” Jeongguk smiled, sluggishly pushing himself of Jeonghyun.

 

Unlocking the door, he was faced with the rest of his team, their cheeks tinted pink from the chilly breeze which wrapped around the night. They let out toothy grins when they saw him and Jeongguk smiled back shyly.

 

“Do you feel a bit better?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“You look happier,” Yoongi noted while Jeongguk smiled wider.

 

“Oh, sorry, come in.”

 

He stepped back to allow the elders entry.

 

“Where’s boss?”

 

“Family room.”

 

Once they lined up their shoes neatly at the entrance, Jeongguk headed inside with them following closely behind him. He resumed his previous position while Jeonghyun gestured for his agents to sit. They did so, obediently. Jeongguk smiled fondly at his boyfriends’ nervousness around his brother. No matter how close they were, there was still a certain level of respect held for Jeonghyun which prevented them from calling him by his first name.

 

“I heard you guys were planning on staying.”

 

“Uh… yeah… if Jeongguk wants us to,” Namjoon answered without his usual eloquence.

 

“I do.”

 

“Are you guys ok now?” Jimin asked.

 

“Better than ok,” Jeonghyun smiled, ruffling Jeongguk’s hair.

 

“I told him.”

 

“We had a long talk,” the older of the two brothers nodded along. “Seems like we’re both great at hiding stuff, pushing it away because we didn’t want to deal with it.”

 

“It happens to everyone,” Seokjin reassured.

 

“Yeah, we’re all learning,” he nodded. “So where’d you guys go for two hours?”

 

“We drove to a nearby park and talked for a while,” Yoongi informed.

 

“Are you guys ok?”

 

“Yeah, of course, boss. We just had to sort some stuff out as well,” Hoseok answered.

 

“What’d I say about calling me boss outside of work?”

 

“Sorry… Jeonghyun.”

 

“That wasn’t that hard, was it?”

 

“Um… sure?”

 

“Also are you guys ok with taking a break from your work?”

 

“Of course. Jeongguk’s health is a priority. We wouldn’t have it any other way,” Taehyung nodded.

 

“Ok good. I went back to the office and there were two cases but I handed them off to the other teams. We’ll call you guys in if they need assistance. I know they can handle it.”

 

“Thank you… Jeonghyun,” Namjoon said.

 

“Of course.”

 

“Are you sure we can stay the night? We won’t be a bother, will we?”

 

“No, it’s ok. Spend as much time here as you want and as Jeongguk wants. I have a lot of work to catch up on tomorrow so it’s good he has the six of you,” Jeonghyun smiled, rubbing Jeongguk’s arm soothingly.

 

When Jeongguk kept his eyes down, intent on staring at his lap and nothing else, the elder cast him a subtle, concerned look. The rest of the team must not have noticed yet or simply attributed his behaviour to the happenings of the last case.

 

“Jeongguk, can you help me set up the guest bedroom just in case they need it?”

 

“Huh? Oh yeah, of course,” Jeongguk nodded, getting up to follow him.

 

“We’ll help too.”

 

“No, you’re the guests sit down.”

 

“But we’re intruding.”

 

“Sit down.”

 

Jeongguk bit down a small smile when the six agents hastily sat down, backs straight, hands in fist, used to obeying Jeonghyun’s assertive tone of voice. Jeonghyun, meanwhile, nodded with a pleased smile and turned to lead Jeongguk away. Arriving at the guest bedroom located further into their house, Jeonghyun pulled Jeongguk in, shutting the door gently.

 

“What’s up?”

 

“You knew I wanted to talk?”

 

“Yeah, you’re kind of… obvious.”

 

“I don’t know how else to put this so I’m just going to be a bit blunt. What’s wrong?” Jeonghyun murmured softly as to not startle or scare Jeongguk.

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“You’re hesitating around them. You didn’t join the conversation at all.”

 

“You know what happened.”

 

“There’s something else.”

 

“Yeah… yeah ok fine, there’s something I haven’t told you yet,” Jeongguk admitted. He should’ve known that nothing would ever get past Jeonghyun.

 

“Are you uncomfortable with them? Do you want me to send them back home?”

 

“No, no, no. I’m not… exactly uncomfortable. I want them here but…”

 

“But?” Jeonghyun repeated, not rushing for an answer.

 

“I… I don’t deserve them.”

 

“And why is that?”

 

Jeongguk sighed and plopped himself down onto the bare mattress, Jeonghyun joining him a second later.

 

“It’s ok if you don’t want to tell me. It’s your feelings and I’m sure they’re valid but I just want to say that if, on the off chance, you’re thinking this because of what happened that day, then I think you should talk to them about it.”

 

“It’s not because of that,” Jeongguk whispered, confirming Jeonghyun’s suspicions.

 

Jeonghyun wrapped an arm around Jeongguk’s back, slow. When the younger didn’t show any signs of uneasiness he squeezed Jeongguk’s arm comfortingly. Jeongguk sighed, resting his head on Jeonghyun’s shoulder as he tried to sort the mysteries and multiple trains of thoughts. He was grateful the elder didn’t push him to talk, he was, but he wished Jeonghyun would, in this case, do just that so he could release all his pent up emotions. It was getting a bit too heavy for him to bear.

 

“Is it bad?”

 

“I don’t know.”

 

“Ok, I’ll be here if y-“

 

“Sangjun confessed to me.”

 

“…”

 

“When he saved me.”

 

“…”

 

“And again when you gave us the hour to talk.”

 

“Ok,” Jeonghyun nodded slowly. “Did you tell him how you felt as well?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“So… in what way does this affect whether you deserve them or not?”

 

“I’m confused. I liked Sangjun for so long and he tells him now that he did too- that he still does and I just- I don’t know- when he told me he loves me, my heart kind of hurt? I felt so guilty because after all he put me through, I was still touched by his confession yet the six of them have treated me with nothing but care and affection and I don’t think I’ve reciprocated nearly enough in this relationship for it to be fair on them so now I just don’t know what to feel anymore. I’m scared- no, terrified- I- I-“

 

“Woah, woah, woah. Breathe, kid.”

 

Jeongguk sighed in frustration at the words unable to be expressed and shoved his face into his brother’s neck.

 

“Tell me what to do, please.”

 

“Jeongguk… I… you can’t control your heart. You’ve harboured feelings for Sangjun for many, many years. It’s evident that even after all of this time, some will always remain. You can’t control that. And now you have six boyfriends who are probably showing you an overwhelming amount of attention and intimacy that you haven’t exactly adapted to it yet. Give and take in a relationship can’t be measured because it’s a subjective perception and everyone shows their feelings in different ways. Just because you’re not as expressive as they are, it doesn’t mean you’re not ‘giving’.”

 

“But it’s not fair on them how I can’t open up my whole heart to them because Sangjun’s still occupying some of it.”

 

“And that’s why you go talk to them about it. Don’t you think it’s unfair that they don’t even know what happened between you and Sangjun?”

 

Jeongguk opened his mouth. Then he closed it. Then he opened it again, this time with a frown.

 

“Tell them that you’re confused. If they truly like you, which I’m certain they do, they’ll wait for you to understand your feelings. Maybe they’ll even shower you with so much affection that you’ll feel ready to fully move on. That you’ll feel whole without Sangjun.”

 

“It’s not that easy,” Jeongguk groaned.

 

“I know. Take your time, they’re not leaving anytime soon. I’m withholding your team from further cases in the meantime anyways.”

 

“Thanks, Hyun. What would I do without you?”

 

“You wouldn’t be here if not for me.”

 

“Stop it. I love my job. Stop blaming yourself for what path I took.”

 

“Yes, sir.”

 

Jeongguk smiled softly at Jeonghyun who wore a similar expression.

 

“Thanks for always being here, Hyun. I’m still sorry for being so selfish.”

 

“Don’t apologise. I was the one who kept it hidden from you because I didn’t want to accept what I had done. I should’ve told you, Jeongguk, I’m sorry.”

 

“How about we both stop apologising?”

 

“Deal.”

 

“We should go back to the family room. They’re waiting.”

 

“Hmph,” Jeonghyun huffed.

 

“What?”

 

“Nothing.”

 

“Jeonghyun, what?”

 

“Nothing.”

 

“We’re not leaving until you tell me.”

 

Jeonghyun glared at Jeongguk.

 

“I was rooting for you guys to get together and when you did, at first I was so happy. I felt that you were happier and finally, you know, able to accept people again.”

 

“Then what’s wrong?”

 

“You’re just growing up so fast. It’s not going to be long before you leave me for them. Before you no longer need me. I finally realised how much I have to let you go. Look you’re already-“

 

“Jeonghyun, stop worrying,” Jeongguk chastised, then let out a smile at Jeonghyun’s pout. “I’ll always need you, ok? I’m never going to stop coming to you for advice, stop relying on you, stop loving you. I won’t let you out of my life this easily. You will always, always matter to me.”

 

“I know but… I thought I’d be really happy with the seven of you together. Now, I just feel like they’ve stolen my baby brother away.”

 

“Ok, first. I’m not a baby, stop calling me that.”

 

“Your pout is saying otherwise.”

 

“And second,“ Jeongguk continued, ignoring his brother. “They didn’t steal me away. I’m choosing to share a bit of the time I spent with you with them now.”

 

“I know, I know, I know. My protective elder brother instincts are just spiking, you know? I’ll just sit in the corner and be jealous by myself. Don’t mind me.”

 

“Jeonghyun.”

 

“What?”

 

“Nothing,” Jeongguk chuckled lightly.

 

“What?”

 

“Thank you.”

 

“For what?” the elder frowned.

 

“For always looking out for me. I feel safer knowing you’ve got my back so thank you.”

 

“Always,” Jeonghyun smiled.

 

“Now let’s go back. You just took an extra ten minutes of my time.”

 

“You should go back and talk to them. Do you want me to leave and stay somewhere else for the night?”

 

“No,” Jeongguk protested immediately.

 

“I don’t want to get in your way though.”

 

“Just stay in your room or something then. Don’t leave me again. I’m going to get separation anxiety. I was so scared something might’ve happened to you the one time I didn’t tell you I love you.”

 

“Ok. I won’t leave,” Jeonghyun smiled. “I’ll lock myself in my room.”

 

“You don’t need to go that far.”

 

“Nuh-uh. If I don’t lock myself in, I’ll be tempted to eavesdrop.”

 

“Yep, you earned my approval. Lock yourself inside please.”

 

“Brat.”

 

“I love you, Jeonghyun.”

 

“I love you too, Guk. I hope the talk goes well. Don’t stay up too late.”

 

“I won’t. Goodnight, Hyun.”

 

“Goodnight.”

 

Jeongguk smiled one last time before exiting the guest bedroom and making his way back to the room where his boyfriends awaited. They were smiling at something Taehyung had said and Jeongguk had hesitated before entering because he couldn’t remember the last time everything was fine. A time where they were all relaxed. When he didn’t make them worry.

 

He stepped in and sat in the space Hoseok and Namjoon had created for him.

 

“Where’s boss?”

 

“He went to his own room.”

 

“What took you guys so long? You should’ve accepted our help if there was that much work.”

 

“Actually…”

 

“Actually?” Yoongi prompted.

 

“There’s something I should have told you guys ages ago. You deserve to know… I was just too afraid. But I realised it’s not something I have to work on by myself. I have the six of you. I want to trust on rely on you more.”

 

The two elders beside him simultaneously reached out a hand for Jeongguk to take and he did so without hesitating.

 

“One step at a time. We’re all working towards the same future,” Seokjin murmured.

 

Jeongguk took a breath and retold Sangjun’s and his story. How they met. How Sangjun inspired him. How he respected him. The many days and nights they spent together. The hardships they pulled each other through. The happiness they found within each other.

 

Then the attraction.

 

When he had realised. When he had tried to deny it. When he had accepted it.

 

His graduation came next. Then a brief outline of the dangerous undercover missions he had gone through with the elder where his feelings developed to stronger, more dangerous attachments.

 

Love.

 

But then the betrayal. If it could even be called that anymore.

 

He had no right to tell Sangjun’s story but he made it clear that the elder had Jeongguk’s safety in his best intentions. He didn’t have the courage to look at his boyfriends’ reactions so kept his head hung low.

 

Jeongguk was just glad no one interrupted him as he poured out his heart for the next part may have never come out if they did.

 

The confession.

 

His anger and confusion at how they had both missed the signs. Scared at the thought of what they could have been.

 

The second confession.

 

His disappointment in himself when he realised he was touched. When he realised Sangjun still remained in a small part of his heart.

 

The guilt that had come next, its loud voice obscuring any voice of reason. His hesitation. His unwillingness. His self-hatred.

 

“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry for feeling the way I do-“

 

“Sweetie-“

 

“I loved Sangjun so much and I don’t anymore. At least I think I don’t. The six of you matter the most to me but I can’t stop the confusion my heart feels. I think it fears loving again so it’s hiding, closing itself so it can’t be hurt again. I’m sorry. You guys deserve so much better.”

 

When had he started crying?

 

“No, don’t say that Jeongguk. You don’t get to decide what we do or do not deserve.”

 

“Feelings that you’ve hid for so long don’t disappear that easily. You shouldn’t blame yourself for something you can’t control.”

 

“We understand that you’re confused, Jeongguk. That you’re scared to open yourself up fully to us. To be vulnerable and to love again.”

 

“And that’s why we’re willing to wait. We can wait however long you need until you feel like your heart is ready to accept us.”

 

“A relationship isn’t perfect. They take time, patience, understanding and acceptance but it’s our journey.”

 

“We’ll stick with you to until the end. We promise.”

 

“Promise?”

 

“Yes, would you like to pinky promise?”

 

Jeongguk giggled softly but nodded and pinky promised all six of them.

 

“Thank you.”

 

Chapter Text

Hoseok grunted as he fell on top of Jeongguk, a loud smack resonating as a result of the younger agent’s back hitting the mat. They grappled at each other, nothing gentle about their interaction. Jeongguk legs hung around Hoseok’s waist as the elder tried to pin him down and restrict his limbs. Jeongguk shifted so that he could catch Hoseok’s left wrist in one swift movement before pushing it behind his left leg which was still dangling beside the other agent. He smirked, knowing he had successfully brought Hoseok away from his centre line. In the brief second where Hoseok was reduced to one hand, Jeongguk lifted his hips so that he could wrap his legs around the elder’s neck. He crossed his legs behind Hoseok’s head to force them into the diamond position first and then proceeded to pull Hoseok down.

 

“Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow. Jeongguk, let go.”

 

Hoseok slapped Jeongguk’s thighs with much aggression, alerting the younger that he was forfeiting the sparring match and Jeongguk, who was currently trapping his poor head in a triangle choke, quickly released the hold. Chuckling slightly when the rest of the team cheered and whooped at his victory, he brought his hips back down to the ground and legs to either side of Hoseok while the elder rubbed his sore arm and neck. For once, Hoseok had to admit he didn’t appreciate the muscles on Jeongguk’s legs.

 

“Why’re your legs so strong?”

 

“Are you really complaining?” Jeongguk teased as he crossed his arms behind his head.

 

“Don’t be smug just yet. There’s still Jimin.”

 

To be honest, Jeongguk was already holding back because he didn’t want to injure the elder’s leg but Hoseok didn’t need to know that. It wasn’t pity that Jeongguk was showing, he was just being cautious. If Jeongguk had wanted, Hoseok would never have even gotten the chance to push him onto the floor. Jimin, however, was a different story. Jeongguk had never sparred with Jimin before but from what he had seen the first time they met in the alleyway, he was anticipating a challenge.

 

Still laying the compromising position with Hoseok kneeling between his legs, nursing his neck, Jeongguk waited for him to stand up so he could rise too but that never happened. Instead, Hoseok leaned down again and pressed a gentle kiss on Jeongguk’s sweaty forehead, making him smile softly. The elder retreated slightly and the only sound heard in the large training facility were the two agents trying to level their breathing. Their trance was short-lived as Jimin came forward and pulled Hoseok off of Jeongguk.

 

“Hey, I think it’s my turn to kick ass,” Jimin said, undertones of playful jealousy in his voice.

 

The others laughed as Jimin extended a hand to Jeongguk and pulled the latter up as well. Jeongguk shrugged away his smile as he fixed his uniform and tightened his black belt so it sat more securely. Jeongguk knew their eyes had followed his actions. From the way he purposely exposed a bit of his collarbone to the way he made the belt accentuate his thin waist. Jeongguk was also certain his tanned skin, which was gleaming with sweat, contrasted beautifully with his white uniform. All of this, yet he continued to pretend that he was unaware of their admiration of his physique.

 

After he put on the show, he walked to the opposite side of the room and waited for Jimin to get in position as well. The elder was still cracking the joints in his fingers, trying to relieve the pressure inside. Jeongguk couldn’t help but stare as the elder moved to his neck because damn it, that was attractive.

 

“I’m not going to go easy on you just because we’re dating,” Jimin stated.

 

“Mhm,” Jeongguk nodded easily.

 

Jeongguk was competitive. He, himself, knew it but that never stopped him from using his rational side whenever someone challenged him. Jeongguk was never planning on holding back against Jimin.

 

“We don’t have all day, guys,” Yoongi commented dryly, secretly just wishing to see Jeongguk spar again. Even though the younger had already beaten Seokjin, Hoseok, Namjoon, Taehyung and himself, it still wasn’t quite enough of a display for him.

 

“Come on, let’s put on a show for gramps,” Jeongguk chuckled.

 

“I’m your boyfriend,” Yoongi mumbled grumpily.

 

“Sorry? What was that? I didn’t quite catch it.”

 

“Don’t make me come over there, baby,” Yoongi scolded, unable to stop himself from smiling at Jeongguk’s cheeky grin.

 

“Alright, alright. I’m just joking,” Jeongguk laughed.

 

It was such a beautiful sound that the elders stood, mesmerised. After everything that had happened, they had nearly forgotten what Jeongguk’s laugh sounded like. They had given Jeongguk plenty of time and space when he needed it for the past three weeks, only allowing physical contact when Jeongguk specifically asked for it. They were by his side through the many sleepless nights where he felt afraid to even close his eyes because of the nightmares that plagued his dreams. They reassured Jeongguk he was safe with them every hour, minute, second they could and they realised the effort had paid off when Jeongguk started to open himself up as he welcomed their presence and even began to let teasing remarks slide again.

 

Jeonghyun had only given them two comparatively smaller cases in the time to ease them back into their job. He’d personally checked over the details before handing them over to the team which was severely reassuring to Jeongguk.

 

Of course, over the three weeks, his relationship with his boyfriends had also developed into regular usages of nicknames. When they had used it in the moments Jeongguk was actually able to process the words and not feeling exposed or vulnerable, it had taken him by surprise. However, the moment he saw how nervous the elders were when they were testing for his reaction, his heart melted into a puddle. It was comforting how his nickname changed upon the situation and his delay in responding completely vanished after the first few times.

 

Smiling at the younger, Jimin lowered himself into position, Jeongguk following not too long after. As Seokjin gave the start signal, they approached each other cautiously as if they were trying to analyse their opponent before striking. Jeongguk narrowed his eyes slightly at the realisation that Jimin was dainty on his feet, his steps light and quiet against the mat. If he remembered correctly from the alleyway several weeks ago, Jimin was coordinated, manoeuvring his extremities with unrivalled grace.

 

Jeongguk would just have to win this quick and easy before he was brought to a disadvantage.

 

Jimin advanced first, throwing a swift jab with his left hand. Jeongguk ducked almost simultaneously and slipped down to grab the elder’s waist, which resulted in their hips being pinned together. Quickly hooking his right leg around Jimin’s left, he swung the elder down to the ground and moved his arm around Jimin’s neck. However, the elder retaliated with experience, bringing both arms out of Jeongguk’s captive before he could successfully restrain them. Jeongguk, having been in this same situation in previous matches, mounted a leg up to Jimin’s waist so that his hand could turn the other’s face towards the floor. With Jimin turned away, Jeongguk lowered his body to the other side, capturing the elder’s wrist and pulling it back into an arm bar.

 

Jeongguk didn’t hesitate to let go when Jimin released a loud, distressed screech, warning his boyfriend of the agonising pain that shot through his upper limb. The younger frowned, quickly climbing on top of Jimin to check if he wasn’t hurt.

 

“Are you ok?”

 

“Ow, fuck. That was painful. I forgot how much arm bars hurt.”

 

“Sorry, I’m sorry, oh my god,” Jeongguk murmured, rubbing Jimin’s arm before leaving small kisses on his wrist.

 

“It’s fine, baby,” Jimin smiled softly, forcing down his pained grimace.

 

“Are you sure? Your wrist’s turning red already.”

 

“You’re kissing all the pain away.”

 

“Jimin, seriously-“

 

“I am serious. It’s just a bit sore, don’t worry,” he assured as he pat the side of Jeongguk’s torso.

 

“I’m sorry.”

 

“But,” Jimin smirked.

 

“But what?”

 

“My turn.”

 

“Hey-“

 

Jeongguk’s breath got pushed out of his lungs when Jimin flipped their position so that Jeongguk was lying with his back on the mat whilst his hands were pinned on either side of his head. Jimin then tangled their legs into the grapevine hold, leaving Jeongguk unable to move his legs as well as his arms.

 

“Never let your guard down.”

 

“That’s cheating,” Jeongguk accused.

 

“Sweetheart, ‘playing smart’ is the term I think you’re looking for.”

 

“Let’s call it a tie.”

 

“Nuh uh. No can do,” Jimin grinned and when Jeongguk opened his mouth to protest, Jimin continued, “Did I give up?”

 

Jeongguk pouted, adorably, might he add, and it made Jimin want to give in but he didn’t. The elder laughed when Jeongguk huffed and turned his head to the side, his childlike qualities resurfacing.

 

“Baby, are you mad?”

 

“No.”

 

“Are you sure?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Alright,” Jimin smiled before leaning down to kiss Jeongguk on the cheek.

 

Jeongguk continued his petulant scowl and Jimin was forced to lean down and leave more quick pecks. He shook his head when Jeongguk gave no reaction before an idea came to his mind.

 

“Come on. Don’t make me tickle you.”

 

“Don’t you d-“

 

Jimin grinned evilly as his wriggling fingers moved from Jeongguk’s wrists to his body. The other five watched the pout morph into small giggles which softened the room with its lightness and airiness. It was warm like a bonfire in winter, a gift that promised to erase icy weather and dark nights.

 

The elder finally withdrew his hands when Jeongguk begun wheezing between his laughs. Staring at Jeongguk never got tiring, Every delicate slope, every carefully sculpted curve could be displayed in an art museum.

 

“Precious.”

 

“Sly.”

 

“You mean cunning,” Jimin snorted before getting off Jeongguk.

 

“You tricked me.”

 

“No I didn’t. Your arm bar really did hurt. I just realised after that the match never officially ended since I didn’t give up.”

 

“Well I’m sorry for being worried,” Jeongguk huffed as he sat up. Jimin reached over and cupped both of his cheeks, giving him an Eskimo kiss.

 

“Forgive me?”

 

“No.”

 

“Please?”

 

“No.”

 

“Please, love? Baby? Sweetheart? Honey? Pumpkin? Angel? Kookie?”

 

“Alright, fine.”

 

“Thanks, sugar.”

 

Jeongguk scrunched his nose, cringing on the exterior but secretly loving the pet names inside, and a smile bloomed when Jimin chuckled lightly. He realised his other boyfriends were standing close by, shaking their heads at the pair’s antics.

 

“Don’t worry, sweetie. We’ll count that as your win,” Namjoon grinned.

 

“Really?”

 

“Yes,” Seokjin smiled at how Jeongguk’s eyes had lit up.

 

“But I won,” Jimin whined.

 

“If this was an actual fight, you would’ve lost,” Taehyung grinned, still shaking his head.

 

Jeongguk whooped while Jimin pouted this time. However as he opened his mouth, ready to retort, his words froze on his tongue when he saw how Jeongguk’s two front teeth were on full display. He wasn’t gloating of course but just genuinely happy he hadn’t lost his abilities to maintain his top position at physical combat so Jimin backed down. His boyfriend’s happiness was all he needed.

 

Namjoon suddenly held up his hand and all noise ceased at their leader’s action, his concentrated eyes alarming the rest of his team members.

 

“Do you hear that?”

 

“Hear what?”

 

“Stop it, you’re scaring me.”

 

“Wait… I think it’s just my phone,” Namjoon mumbled sheepishly as he tumbled over ungracefully to the side where their belongings were stored on the shelves.

 

The rest of team groaned in relief and returned to cooing or fawning over Jeongguk. The youngest, embarrassed by all the attention on him, ducked his head in hopes that his fringe could cover the heat in his cheeks. Seokjin was having none of it as he crouched down to lift Jeongguk’s chin up, ultimately giving them a clear view of the tinted blush framing his face. He protested with a small whine which made their fond smiles even wider, if that was possible.

 

It seemed like they all ended up on the floor, a part of their body touching Jeongguk’s in some manner. The younger was leaning against Seokjin’s chest, his hands holding one of Yoongi’s and one of Taehyung’s whilst Hoseok massaged his legs and Jimin his scalp. He allowed himself to be cared by five of his boyfriends and gave a sleepy smile as in indication he was comfortable and sated with their warmness.

 

“Bad news.”

 

“No,” Jimin groaned.

 

“Had to break this moment, didn’t you?” Taehyung pouted.

 

“We were trying to make Jeongguk take a nap. You know how early he woke up this morning,” Hoseok said in an accusative tone.

 

“Let the poor boy rest. He just kicked all of our asses as well,” Yoongi continued dramatically.

 

“Not mine,” Jimin muttered.

 

“Guys, come on. Listen to what Namjoon has to say first,” Seokjin urged, noticing the leader’s grim expression.

 

“New case.”

 

That snapped everyone out of their playful disappointment and Jeongguk shot up so fast that he nearly head-butted Jimin. Giving an embarrassed apology, he turned his attention to Namjoon.

 

“Where’re we going?”

 

“Nowhere. It’s here, in Virginia. We’re going to the Division One HQ so we should get dressed. It’s a few minutes from here.”

 

“Is it…?” Taehyung trailed off.

 

Namjoon shook his head, face unable to hide his distraught and the team understood. Everyone begun moving with a purpose, no more joking, smiling or laughing. Jeonghyun had promised to push away the heavier cases from them but if he couldn’t deflect this one, the crime must be no small one. However, this didn’t mean that the elders stopped giving Jeongguk small signs of comfort, a soft touch on his lower back, a gentle nudge as they shuffled past him or a quick hair ruffle in the passing.

 

It wasn’t long before they made their way to the underground parking, splitting off into two cars and heading towards the police station. Jeongguk’s hands were taken into Namjoon’s soft, warm ones while Seokjin drove and Jimin fidgeted anxiously in the passenger seat. The fifteen minute drive felt like it had only taken a few seconds before they were pulling up to the curb outside of the building.

 

Namjoon, sensing his subtle discomfort, leaned over to place a small but sweet kiss on Jeongguk’s forehead. His heart leapt at Namjoon’s affectionate smile first and then again when the elder’s expression readjusted into full seriousness, confidence sparkling off of him. He was led into the building with the rest of the team, Namjoon’s long strides keeping him at the front before the chief came running towards them.

 

“Special Agent Namjoon Kim, good to see you again.”

 

“Chief Mason,” Namjoon nodded, reaching to shake hands. “I would say the same except I think my presence here holds only negative connotations.”

 

“That is true. Thank you for coming nevertheless. I heard your team was actually supposed to be on a break but the case is a bit…”

 

“Let us talk in the meeting room.”

 

The chief nodded, pivoting and marching towards the elevators. They arrived on the fifth floor and Mason stepped out before bringing them to a large room, lined with a window on one side. The walls were almond brown with a long table stretched out in the middle of the space, sheets and files already scattered atop. Police officers were talking in small groups inside but straightened their backs at the arrival of the seven FBI agents.

 

Namjoon bowed his head in a greeting to all of the officers as he walked to the front of the room where evidence was pinned up on the corkboard. The Chief stopped next to it and looked back, waiting for a sign from Namjoon to begin the overview. When the leader ensured his whole team was ready, he nodded.

 

“There has been three consecutive murders in the past week. All victims were found in busy, familial neighbourhoods past dusk. Comparing the time they were found to their respective missing person’s reports, it was estimated that the victims were kept for approximately a day or two before each of their deaths. Upon inspection, the injuries sustained by the three victims are not consistent. An autopsy further confirmed this as the only similarities were the multiple lacerations, stab wounds with clean-cut edges and pointed ends, minor nerve lesions as well as muscle, ligament and tendons tears at the shoulders resulted from severe dislocation of the bones. Most of these seem to be caused in the torture videos sent to us by the perpetrator.”

 

“Torture videos?”

 

“Yes. The perpetrator sent us a video of moderate quality for each victim, depicting the different forms of violence he inflicted upon them.”

 

“Was the cause of death consistent?”

 

“Yes, haemorrhage or internal bleeding if you will.”

 

“Approximated time of death?”

 

“Three to five hours before they were found. The victims seem to have no connection at the moment. The first, Liza May, female, aged seventy four. She’s from West Virginia. Her daughters reported her missing after having several texts and phone calls ignored. The second, Alan Coleman, male, aged twenty seven. Resided in Maryland. He was reported by a friend who he had a meeting with on the night of his disappearance. And lastly, the most recent, Malia Li, female, aged thirty six and the only victim who is from Virginia. She missed a day of work before her company reported it on the second day. She was found yesterday night, Alan, three days before her and Liza three days before him. We requested help from the FBI because we believe a fourth victim is imminent.”

 

“Is this all?”

 

“Yes, sir. The full autopsy reports, missing persons reports and any other files related to this case are all set on the table for you. If assistance is needed, let me or any of the officers know.”

 

“Thank you. The videos are here too?”

 

“Yes, they’re on the desktop for easy access. Do you require our help with the projector?”

 

“No, it should fine. We can handle it.”

 

“Ok, we’ll clear the room for your team.”

 

“That’ll be great, thank you,” Namjoon nodded.

 

They waited patiently as the Chief led the officers out of the room, each giving a small nod as they exited. When they were finally alone, they sunk into the armchairs around the table while Yoongi rounded the table to fidget with the projector. Using the time wisely, they scanned the files stacked on the table, ensuring they had the important details memorised before Yoongi informed them the videos were ready.

 

Open on the board now was a frozen display of an elderly lady of white ethnicity gagged, her full body stretched out with her arms bound to the ceiling and legs split and tied to the floor. Hunched over slightly, supposedly unconscious, the woman didn’t move when the video begun. A dimly lit white light came from the side while the background was dark, leading them to believe that the torture was either carried out in an abandoned building or in a basement of sorts.

 

A figure clad in black long-sleeve, jeans and mask shifted into the camera’s frame after ten seconds, slapping the victim harsh enough to awaken her. The team winced at the loud strike as skin met skin and fists were clenched beneath the table when pain and confusion spanned across the victim’s features. She flinched up, eyes full of fear as they watched the perpetrator’s movements. Uselessly, the elderly woman resisted against the ropes which only seemed to which amuse her abductor.

 

“Pause.”

 

Yoongi stopped the video and everyone turned their attention to Hoseok who had spoken.

 

“Look at how the ropes are tied. They’re secured with a Munter hitch first then two half hitches and an overhand stopped knot. He knows what he’s doing. And judging from the stature, our perp is most likely in his mid twenties to early thirties.”

 

They stored the information away before Yoongi continued the video.

 

The perpetrator circled around her like a hawk would their prey. Her chest rose and fell quickly, straining against the ropes again as she tried to push the ball of cloth out of her mouth although to no avail. There was no warning when he suddenly reached and pulled her head back by her permed white hair. A small whimper made its way out of the video and her reaction seemed to satisfy the perpetrator. He forced her to face the camera directly before commencing the onslaught of his attack which consisted of several punches to her fragile face.

 

Done with his fists, he pulled out a small knife, its blade defined enough for clean-cut edges and pointed ends. From the locations of haemorrhage on the autopsy, the team knew that there were blows directed to her abdomen as well but mostly likely prior to the video if the woman curling into herself at the start was anything to go by.

 

He wrenched the calico cloth out from between her teeth, her distressed sobs and whimpers unhindered now. The following action was painfully slow as he brought the blade gliding across her forearm before continuing down to her arm and shoulder. Blood squirted out in streams, staining her shirt first before trickling down to her pants. He concluded the video with shallowing cuts along her face and neck, completely unfazed by her shrieks or begs to stop.

 

Once he was content with the damage caused, he dropped the knife carelessly and ended the video. The screen the team was viewing cut to black as they sat, horrified from the graphic depiction.

 

“Play the second one,” Namjoon ordered.

 

Yoongi nodded and pulled that one onto screen as well. The backdrop was similar to the first, dark and mysterious. The twenty seven year old victim who appeared like a Latino or Hispanic descendant was also restrained to the ceiling and floor in a similar manner to the first with a cloth clenched between his teeth. Unlike the elderly lady’s video, which was only three minutes in length, this one reached nearly seven.

 

The second victim was also attacked with punches to the face first but the next affliction differed. The perpetrator pulled out three mid-length needles, held in between the four fingers on his left hand. Without hesitation, they were shoved straight into the victim’s arm before they were quickly withdrawn and inserted into different sections of his body. Although he tried to hold up a strong front, tears slithered down his cheeks, leaving wet traces in their wake.

 

The needles in the perpetrator’s hands were then replaced with a larger cloth, which he then wrapped around the victim’s head, tying a knot swiftly. He forced the victim to face the ceiling and it was the only warning of what was about to come as Jeongguk watched a jug of water come into view.

 

Asphyxiation.

 

Jeongguk’s breath faltered along with the victim’s when the perpetrator poured slowly to lengthen out the torture. It was a harrowing half minute as the victim pulled on his restraints, trying to free himself from the lack of oxygen. Jeongguk didn’t realise his own lungs had stopped cycling air and watched the video, unbreathing. When the jug finally ran out of water, both the larger cloth and the smaller one used as the gag were removed, leaving him shaking and gasping for air. Tears were now mingled with water, accentuating the blotches on his face.

 

It took the last of the victim’s strength to lift his head and prepare himself for the last leg of the torture. Jeongguk read the despair and hopelessness in his eyes as the perpetrator approached him with the same sharp, sheening knife. There were a few desperate ‘no’s before the blade sunk straight into the victim’s arm. He didn’t slice the knife along the skin like he had with Liza but stuck with quick jabs to both forearms then areas of the chest, which they all knew were carefully struck as to not damage the important internal organs.

 

The perpetrator definitely knew what he was doing.

 

When the victim fell unconscious assumedly from the level of pain, the knife dropped and the video ended. Namjoon gave himself a few minutes and Yoongi understood, sitting back into the chair as he too attempted to calm his uneven heartbeats. They silently processed the videos and Jeongguk, glancing around the room, realised he was feeling just as nauseous as the rest.

 

Only giving themselves ten minutes or so of rest since they were working against time, Yoongi pulled up the last and final video. His hands trembled slightly when he played the video and though it was quite open and obvious, none spoke an acknowledgement.

 

A middle aged Asian woman was secured like the previous two victims, also unconscious. The perpetrator walked into screen, obnoxious confidence oozing through the screen. Like a routine, a few strikes to the face woke up the victim who jerked up and struggled against the ropes. Her eyes read hatred and disgust and something they couldn’t quite pinpoint. Wait.

 

Was it familiarity?

 

Did she know her abductor?

 

The words she wished to convey were muffled by the cloth inside her mouth but it didn’t stop her from continuing her incoherent mutters. The perpetrator begun his torture by bringing out a small taser and shooting it directly at her body, rendering her paralysed for an achingly long five seconds. Once the effects wore off, she writhed from the lingering pain, sobbing through shortly spaced hiccups.

 

Without break, he brought out a branding iron from outside the video’s frame. The tip was red, orange and yellow in colour like it had just been dipped in a conflagration of flames. A sickening sizzle reverberated through the meeting room followed by a high-pitched shrill shriek from the third victim as she struggled to stay conscious through the pain of the skin on her arm burning. Jeongguk thought that with the woman close to fainting, the torture would stop but how wrong he was. She hung helplessly as several more jabs were targeted at her. Some at her arms, others at her torso.

 

Flipping out a knife to finish his work, he roughly cut several lines along her jawline and around the collarbones, purposefully avoiding the fatal neck regions. It was messy and uncontrolled unlike his last two victims who he had seemed to take his time with.

 

No longer able to fight the pain, her head dropped and the video ended, leaving the room eerily quiet. The echoes of the three victim’s screams filled their ears, forcing their way into the seven agents’ memory. Vivid images of the torture fought alongside the sound as it, too, crawled inside to leave a permanent imprint.

 

They were still like statues, temporary incapacitated, both disbelieving what they had just witnessed and wishing they would just wake up from the nightmare. A heavy feeling in their chests weighed them down as they processed how much responsibility was just thrown into their hands. Even Namjoon, who had kept his cool for the most of it, was rendered speechless.

 

“Ok,” he finally managed to whisper out. “Let’s go through what we can infer first. It’s obvious from his physique that he’s a male ranging approximately mid twenties to early thirties. Hoseok said our perp is familiar with knot tying which means he must have some degree of training in the police, marine, military or something which requires this skillset.”

 

“He may even be someone with surgical competence. Judging the way he avoids major arteries, veins, organs, he has to have decent knowledge of the human anatomy,” Taehyung added.

 

“Now, motive. Jimin? Jin?”

 

“Personal pleasure. Sadistic gratification. Punitive means. Extreme hatred. Revenge. There’re too many reasons he could be doing this especially since there are evident differences with this case. No connections have been discovered between the three victims yet, the methods of torture also varied but he does seem to be taking in some satisfaction with the pain inflicted.”

 

“I don’t think it would be personal pleasure or sadistic gratification. The torture of third victim seemed like it carried overwhelming hatred compared to the first two. Something about her must’ve aggravated our perp more than the others,” Jimin continued.

 

“What if he’s just slowly finding it more pleasurable or cathartic so the tortures are getting progressively more and more aggressive?”

 

“If he were truly doing this for sadistic gratification, wouldn’t younger victims be more suitable? Right now, it seems like he’s careful when choosing his victims. He devised a different torture method for each of them, the only consistent forms being the punches at the beginning and the use of the small carving knife at the end,” Jeongguk frowned.

 

“Also with the third victim, his cuts were less restrained than the first two. Almost like he found it hard to hold himself back from committing murder on camera. On the autopsies,” Hoseok said, holding up said documents. “The lacerations were half a centimetre deeper as compared the others, which were more superficial.”

 

“The third victim, Malia, I’m almost certain she knew the perp. It’s why he chose to not remove her gag in the video. If she could identify him, this confirms that his choices are, indeed, not randomised.”

 

“Right now, we should focus on building a profile and finding the connection between the three victims. Through this we can try and prevent a fourth victim as well as understand his motive. We know the perp sends his videos to us at exactly midnight so we have less than twelve hours to find him.”

 

“It would be less because he would probably have captive of his next victim before midnight, no?”

 

“Yes, that’s correct but we don’t know when during the day the victims go missing so we’ll set the goal to midnight and aim to prevent the torture.”

 

“What about the press? Should we tell them to warn the public?”

 

“No. We should keep this away from them for the time being. If they issue a warning without the slightest knowledge of who to be careful of, it could cause mass hysteria from the public.”

 

“Ok, I’ll let the Chief know.”

 

“Let’s get to work then.”

 

The team nodded and while Seokjin, Taehyung and Jeongguk reached for the files at the end of the table, the others grouped together at the front of the table near the screen to replay the videos. They had all agreed to switch tasks after a while so that no one was stuck with the examining the videos for too long.

 

Jeongguk sighed when the videos played, creating a disturbing background for them. He opened the file in his hand and was faced with photographic images of the crime scene at several different angles. Their arms were bent at odd angles and Jeongguk had recalled from the autopsies that dislocation from hanging had caused this outcome. Pools of blood bathed the bodies and he noticed several more cuts littered on their torsos and limbs compared to what had been showed on the videos.

 

As he continued flicking through the photos, he paused on a few particular close-up shots to the victims’ faces. Their bloodshot eyes were lifelessly staring back at him and Jeongguk froze.

 

“Hold on, can I see the victims’ profiles?”

 

Taehyung, who had been frowning at the profiles, lost in thought, nodded and handed them to him. A soft touch lingered on Jeongguk’s arm before Taehyung reluctantly pulled himself away, the small action making the younger smile as he returned to the task in front of him.

 

Why did he feel like he knew the victims? How was that even possible? He didn’t have many friends, most of them being in the room with him currently, so why did the three faces ring a bell?

 

He flinched as another shrill scream ran through the meeting room. Hoseok, Namjoon and Jimin were still watching the torture videos, analysing down to every last detail. Jeongguk, however, felt like his insides were curdling like milk with lemons, a subconscious sign of disgust, fear and shock. His fingers shook slightly as he held the stack of papers in front of him. Jeongguk tried to focus on the victims’ profiles but bones cracking, unrestricted whimpers and fabric shuffling invaded his trains of thought.

 

When the second video finished for the third time, Yoongi, Hoseok, Namjoon and Jimin gathered back together to discuss the notes they had taken. Jeongguk could hear some murmurs of agreement and some confident arguments of disagreement. Turning his head to the other pair of agents, Seokjin and Taehyung were both immersed in their own documents, perfectly calm and composed.

 

“I’m going to grab some water,” Jeongguk informed no one in particular before slipping out.

 

He wandered across the level to where the break room was and dropped into one of the chairs in the corner. Ignoring the confused stares from the police officers, he held his head in his hands, rubbing the temples. No matter how hard he tried to block out the pained cries for help, they continued to ring through his ears. He had never experienced something this terrible even when he was a secret agent.

 

Jeongguk was just about groan in frustration when a familiar figure pulled out the chair beside him and seated himself down. He noticed that with the presence of his boyfriend, the room seemed to clear out, the officers probably afraid to get in the way of the two special agents.

 

“Baby, you ok?” Namjoon asked, his concerned tone making Jeongguk feel incompetent.

 

“Just needed a break.”

 

“Is it too much?” he asked as he pulled Jeongguk over and slid him onto his own lap, the younger jutting his lips out in an upset pout.

 

“A bit.”

 

“Hey, stop blaming yourself for being distressed. Even though this isn’t my first time watching this type of content, I’m still uncomfortable.”

 

“I can’t stop hearing them. I close my eyes and all I hear is their screams.”

 

“How about I talk and you listen to my voice? It’s how Yoongi helped me when I went through my first torture case.”

 

Jeongguk nodded.

 

“Ok. We can go back in whenever you feel ready.”

 

He nodded again.

 

“So imagine yourself standing on a narrow pebbled path surrounded by beautiful myriads of flowers leading up to a small but cosy cottage. Through the ripples of the river’s surface, the clear smoothness of the rocks shines from beneath. It lies, peaceful, innocuous, disregarding the rest of the environment as it wends between the banks with perfect consistency. The grass is soft and endlessly climbs up towards the setting sun. Shadows are dancing around the trees as squirrels and birds retire to their homes within. A floating fragrance conjures homemade apple pies, sugary cookies and hot chocolate. The air is gentle kind of heat, not hot or cold but tepid. There’s a breeze, which caresses whatever it may come in contact with, and it carries a soft melody of sweet kisses.”

 

“And warm hugs.”

 

“And warm hugs,” Namjoon chuckled. “Inside the cottage was life. A ribbon of smoke curled out of the chimney along with the scent of burning wood. It was a comfortable kind of messy behind the grey stone walls. The decorations and furnishings were quaint but pleasant to the eye. Whites complimented beiges which complimented the browns. Misplaced belongings were forgotten and covered by oddly coloured quilts and throw blankets. A dog lets out happy barks as it catches a whiff of your return, racing towards the entrance and tackling you to the ground. A life of calming simplicity, what would that be like?”

 

“It would be a life I’d like.”

 

“Me too.”

 

“Do you think that could ever be us?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Ok.”

 

Namjoon pressed a few kisses to the crown of Jeongguk’s head, revelling in the way the younger giggled and tried to swat him away even though there wasn’t much effort put behind the action. He knew if Jeongguk really didn’t like the affection they had shown him, he could easily overpower any of them and physically push them away. But he didn’t. So Namjoon continued.

 

After a while, Jeongguk requested another imaginary piece and Namjoon obliged obediently. By creating a vivid scenery, Namjoon hoped he could both erase the screams from Jeongguk’s nightmares as well as the gallons of red which would drown his mind as they had his.

 

This one was a celestial piece. Star crossed lovers, rabbits on moons, a wish upon a shooting star. He was only halfway through his whispers when another agent strode into the room, interrupting their intimate moment.

 

“What’s wrong?” Seokjin murmured after he had caught Namjoon’s protective arm around Jeongguk’s shoulders, cradling him.

 

“The videos.”

 

“Oh Jeongguk, honey, don’t think you’re the only one feeling like this. I bet Namjoon used checking up on you as an excuse to escape for a while because I know I did.”

 

Seokjin really was telling the truth so when the younger chuckled, he cheered internally. Namjoon smiled too, unable to deny such claims because like Seokjin had said, he had desperately needed a break.

 

“Oh and here comes Yoongi and Hoseok.”

 

Jeongguk looked up and confirmed Seokjin’s statement with his own eyes before letting his head fall back against Namjoon’s shoulder.

 

“Please tell me you aren’t here just because Jeongguk is but also because those videos were disturbing,” Hoseok sighed.

 

“You guys too?”

 

“God, yeah. Thank you so much for having the courage to walk out first. I needed to take a breather ages ago but I couldn’t bring myself to leave. You ok, bun?” Yoongi whispered.

 

“I’m fine. Keep talking. I like hearing your voices.”

 

“You wouldn’t like hearing those three sing, I can promise you that,” Seokjin joked, receiving a glare from the other agents.

 

“We’ll spare your ears today,” Yoongi chuckled.

 

“But you’ll sing for me one day?”

 

“If that’s what our little prince wishes, then there’s no refusing.”

 

“’m not a prince,” Jeongguk denied cutely, his note scrunching at Namjoon’s statement.

 

The elders cooed at him, making him even shyer, and Jeongguk attempted to tuck his face into Namjoon’s neck to escape the attention. As the laughter died, a heavy silence suddenly enveloped them, reminding them of what they had been so actively avoiding. Jeongguk traced patterns along Namjoon’s collarbones as his eyes monitored the rise and fall of the elder’s chest.

 

“How are we going to stop him?” Jeongguk sighed at last.

 

“All we can do right now is try to piece our deductions together, build a profile and link the victims. We must find him and prevent a fourth victim.”

 

“You know, the victims look a bit familiar to me. I’m pretty sure I know them.”

 

“But they live in different states?”

 

“Exactly.”

 

“How deep is your memory of them?”

 

“I don’t know. It’s hard to explain… like their faces look a bit different to what I’m remembering?”

 

“Different how?”

 

“Just… different.”

 

“Do you think this might be linked to another one of your past cases?”

 

“But I’ve never taken a case in Maryland before.”

 

“Huh,” was all they could reply with, stumped.

 

“It’s ok. It’ll come to me,” Jeongguk shrugged as he stood up with the intention of returning to the meeting room.

 

“You sure you’re ready to go back?”

 

“Guess we’ll find out.”

 

The leader frowned hesitantly, his hand still around Jeongguk’s wrist, before Yoongi snorted.

 

“Namjoon’s just disappointed you’re not sitting on his lap anymore.”

 

“I mean, I never even got to finish my story.”

 

“Finish it for me after this case,” Jeongguk smiled, leaning down to peck their leader’s cheek before bolting it back.

 

The four elders stood, stunned. Sure, Jeongguk had demanded tonnes of hugs and kisses but he had never actually been the one to physically initiate them. Not until now.

 

Namjoon touched his cheek lightly, a whisper of Jeongguk’s lips caught there. Seokjin, Yoongi and Hoseok’s expression quickly turned into a playful kind of jealous, making their point by turning their backs to their leader and marching the meeting room after their escaped boyfriend. When they returned, Jeongguk had his arm around Jimin, the elder exasperated by the case and leaning his head against Jeongguk’s shoulder. Taehyung was no better, turning pages in frustration before his expression softened immediately at Jeongguk’s carefully placed, light touch on his knee.

 

Taehyung dropped the files and slumped back into the chair as he took Jeongguk’s hand in his own, bringing it up to his lips and watching as Jeongguk’s smiled softly.

 

“Are you ok?”

 

“Yeah. You?” Taehyung whispered.

 

Jeongguk shrugged, jostling Jimin slightly, and Taehyung nodded understandingly.

 

“Don’t push yourself if it’s too much, ok?” Jimin added.

 

“I know.”

 

“If you don’t want to take this case, let us know whenever.”

 

“I will.”

 

“Promise?”

 

“I promise,” Jeongguk nodded.

 

Jimin lifted his head up to kiss Jeongguk’s nose and Taehyung, wanting to join in on the intimate moment, nuzzled his forehead against Jeongguk’s temple, which evoked small giggles from the younger.

 

“How long are you guys planning on standing there?” Jeongguk smiled.

 

Seokjin, Yoongi, Hoseok and Namjoon who were gathered at the door, flinched, realising they were caught spying on the three youngest snuggle together affectionately. A sheepish grin grew on their faces as they filed into the room and Jimin and Taehyung shook their heads at the familiar expression.

 

“Let’s get back to work.”

 

“Shall we switch?”

 

“Yeah, as much as I would prefer not to, we’ll take a turn looking at the videos.”

 

Taehyung dragged him up by the arm and led them to the front of the table where Seokjin was fiddling with the projector already. Plopping himself down beside the elder, he grabbed a spare notepad and waited for the videos to begin.

 

He sat through the first video, breaths irregular by the end.

 

The second video, he barely watched as his eyes diverted to different parts of the room, avoiding.

 

Too distracted through the last video, he had nothing to offer when Seokjin and Taehyung discussed what they had observed.

 

“Jeongguk? Are you listening?”

 

“Huh? Sorry, what were you saying?”

 

“Tae said the victims looked familiar as well.“

 

“Oh.”

 

“Are you ok?”

 

“Yeah, I’m just… I just zoned out. Sorry.”

 

“You’re kind of pale.”

 

“Am I?”

 

Seokjin frowned and walked around to their side of the table before kneeling down in front of Jeongguk.

 

“Hey, are you sure you want to take this case?”

 

“I… I don’t know.”

 

“How do you feel?” Taehyung frowned.

 

“My mind’s a bit foggy,” he admitted.

 

“I think you might be dissociating again.”

 

“What’s that?”

 

“It’s a mental process where you disconnect from your thoughts, feelings or memories. It happened on your first case. You’re using it as a defence mechanism.”

 

“How… how do I stop myself from doing it?”

 

“Well usually patients go through psychotherapy or counselling,” Seokjin sighed. “But from my professional point of view, I think what you need is a safe environment, away from stress.”

 

“Is something wrong?” Hoseok asked as the rest of the team finally noticed the situation.

 

“He’s dissociating again.”

 

“I’m sorry, I-“

 

“No, sweetie. Don’t apologise. It’s not something you can control so readily.”

 

“What should we do?” Jimin asked.

 

“Most people with dissociative disorders go through some form of cognitive behavioural therapy but from my experience as a psychologist, I think all Jeongguk needs right now is an environment which he feels safe in.”

 

“And that’s not here,” Yoongi stated.

 

“No, it isn’t.”

 

“But I can’t just abandon the case.”

 

“Jeongguk, I know you want to help but we don’t want to risk anything. We’re not saying you’re weak so don’t you dare think that. It might just be better for your mental health to take a bit more time off,” Namjoon reasoned.

 

“But I feel safe with you guys.”

 

“Do you feel safe working this case?”

 

“If you guys are here, then yes,” Jeongguk pouted stubbornly and quite endearingly.

 

“Jeongguk-“

 

“Ok, ok. I’ll go home and stay with my brother.”

 

“Thank you, hon. That’ll ease our minds a bit,” Seokjin smiled.

 

“Let me know when you guys finish the case.”

 

“We will. Don’t think too much about the case. Just rest up, ok, bun?” Yoongi asked and Jeongguk nodded.

 

“Do you want me to take you back?” Jimin offered.

 

“No, you guys should work the case. Don’t let there be a fourth victim. Stop him.”

 

“Yes, sir.”

 

Jeongguk chuckled lightly and stood up to stretch his sore limbs.

 

“Text us when you get home.”

 

“I will.”

 

“Don’t forget or we’ll nag you no matter how busy we are with the case.”

 

“Duly noted.”

 

They each took turns farewelling Jeongguk with a kiss on the cheek or forehead or nose. When the last person finished coddling him, he was reluctantly let out the door before the rest of the team turned back to continue the case with a heavy sigh.

 

Jeongguk sat inside the police station as he waited for the taxi he had called to arrive. In his unstable state, he wisely decided that walking home and perhaps fainting along the way was not worth the risk.

 

The drive passed by and Jeongguk was brought out of his distracted, hazy daze when the driver asked to be paid for the third time. With a quick apology, Jeongguk handed over the correct amount before hopping out and dragging himself to the entrance of his house. He managed to open the door after a few perfunctory tries where he missed the keyhole.

 

He couldn’t remember his feet carrying him to the family room but he dropped gratefully onto the couch when he came around. Shooting the group a quick message informing that he was safely home, he threw the phone onto the coffee table. Although his limbs, heavy and drained, wanted to sleep, his sixth sense was nudging him awake. It blared red sirens in warning of impending danger and the feeling of a pair of eyes on him was unable to be ignored.

 

No, it was just his imagination.

 

That’s all.

 

He’s scaring himself.

 

Safe.

 

He was safe.

 

Jeongguk slowly pushed himself up and surveyed the room, finding no sign of movement or abnormalities. His eyes landed on the large family portrait that the rest of his team were so interested in when they had come over.

 

Why was he reminded of the victims?

 

“Oh my god.”

 

Feeling blood drain from every inch of his body, he quickly brought out his phone to dial whoever popped up on his contacts list first whether it was a member of the team or his brother, it didn’t matter. His hands were shaking out of his control and the feeling that he was being watched returned tenfold as he was now in a full sprint back towards the front door.

 

There was the sound of quickening footsteps approaching behind and Jeongguk’s breath caught in his throat. From the pace of the strides and weight of the steps against the wooden floorboards, Jeongguk could indeed confirm it was a male and he was almost certain it was the perpetrator his team was now after without his help. His fingers fumbled from the sheer disbelief of his revelation.

 

As soon as he managed to open the phone app, a cloth abruptly covered his nose and mouth. He turned to elbow his attacker but the other seemed decently trained because they quickly dodged the elbow with a slight shift so that their hands remained over Jeongguk’s face. He struggled violently, trying to not breathe in the chemicals on the cloth but his attempt at resistance was futile. They knew what they were doing. It didn’t take long for him to lose control of his body as it succumbed to the drugs.

 

Jeongguk closed himself into the darkness and let his body get carried away into the night.

 

Chapter Text

Dark.

 

“We only have five hours until midnight. Wouldn’t he have already abducted his next victim by now?”

 

“No. Don’t say that. We can stop him.”

 

“How? We’ve watched the videos countless times and we still barely know anything.”

 

“Jimin and I spoke with the victims’ families and friends. They weren’t very helpful either. Claimed the victims were loved by all.”

 

“Nothing about the three victims align.”

 

“Ok, let’s think about this. How come Jimin, Tae and Jeongguk all think the victims look familiar while we don’t? There has to be some connection there, no?”

 

“Jimin and Tae practically grew up together so if you know one, you’re bound to know the other.”

 

“But where does Jeongguk come in?”

 

“What are we missing?”

 

“Should we… maybe… call Jeongguk?”

 

“No, let’s not bother him until we need to. He must be exhausted.”

 

“In his state, was it really a good idea to send him home by himself?”

 

“He’s safer there with boss.”

 

“Wait boss isn’t home though. When he informed me of the case earlier today, I’m certain he made that call from his office.”

 

“Hold on… Jeongguk isn’t replying to my texts. Is he asleep?”

 

“Am I the only one who feels uneasy?”

 

“Has Jeongguk messaged anyone after his group text?”

 

“No.”

 

“Nothing.”

 

“Ok, let’s not assume the worst. He’s probably fast asleep or his phone is out of battery.”

 

“I just called. He didn’t pick up.”

 

They fell into a dull, foreboding kind of silence. It reminded them of the time they had returned to the station after investigating the crime scene only to find Jeongguk missing.

 

“Wait…”

 

“What is it, Jin?”

 

“What if… what if he was dissociating on his way home-“

 

“And he never really arrived home?”

 

Cold.

 

“Call boss.”

 

Before Seokjin could even finish, Namjoon was already pulling up Jeonghyun’s contact information on his phone. It took four rings for their boss to pick up the phone.

 

Namjoon?

 

“Hey, boss.”

 

What’s wrong?

 

“Are you by any chance with Jeongguk?”

 

No? I haven’t seen him since this morning. Shouldn’t he be with you guys?

 

“Actually, that’s the thing. During the case, he started dissociating again so we thought it’d be best to send him home. We received a text four hours ago and he informed us he was home but he hasn’t responded to any further texts or calls. The calls aren’t going straight to voicemail either which means his phone must be on so we were wondering if he was with you.”

 

No, I was at headquarters today,” Jeonghyun frowned and Namjoon could hear his boss panting, the next words confirming his suspicions. “I’m headed home right now. I’ll let you know if I find him.

 

“Ok, we’ll keep you updated if he replies to us.”

 

Fear.

 

Jeonghyun hung up and pulled his car out of the car park hastily. His palms slid against the steering wheel as he gripped onto them with unnecessary force. Switching on his siren, he painted the cars beside his vehicle in red and blue. Jeonghyun used a remedy he had taught Jeongguk in stressful situations and calmed himself through deep breaths before pressing down on the accelerator.

 

He would never forgive himself if something happened to Jeongguk as a result of him transferring divisions.

 

The drive was aggravatingly long and it didn’t help when a car crash created a traffic jam a few minutes away. After a messing parking job, he threw himself through the front door, uncaring of how the doorknob left a small dent in the adjacent wall. Charging in, his heart stopped when he noticed that Jeongguk had indeed left traces of himself inside the house from his pair of shoes lying messily at the entrance to the cushions which sat out of their positions on the couch.

 

Jeonghyun looked around for anything else Jeongguk may have left behind but upon finding no notes or unusual signs of disorder, he extracted his phone and dialled his brother’s number. Jeonghyun made his way slowly back to the front of the house where Jeongguk’s ringtone rang. Squatting down, he withdrew the younger’s phone from under their shoe cabinet. It was smashed as if dropped in haste and Jeonghyun frowned before carefully unlocking the phone with his fingerprint. Sitting on the screen was Jeonghyun’s contact page.

 

The uneasy feeling, which was pooled at his gut, now burst and distributed its horrors out to every other part of Jeonghyun’s body. His fingers tightened their grip on Jeongguk’s phone as the worst scenario played through his mind. Jeonghyun was well aware of the details of the team’s newest case for he was the one who reviewed it. He finally understood why the regret that was induced from handing over the case was so overwhelming.

 

This had to be a mistake.

 

A misunderstanding.

 

Or a dream.

 

No, a nightmare.

 

His Jeongguk was safe.

 

Jeonghyun made a quick stop back at the FBI headquarters to grab all the necessary documents before all but flying to Division One HQ where the team were waiting without any recent news about both the case and Jeongguk’s whereabouts. Ignoring the officers who had tried to stop him on his way in, probably perceiving his stern face as a threat, he flashed his FBI identification card to the reception desk and demanded to be taken up to where the team were.

 

The elevator ride took far too long for Jeonghyun’s liking. His annoyance wasn’t concealed very well as he tapped his foot impatiently against the floor of the elevator. Usually, he’d put on a front in stressful circumstances in order not affect others but in this situation, it was impossible. His frustration bled out and attached itself to the officer guiding him but Jeonghyun’s mind was too distracted for him to notice how scared he was.

 

When the ding signalled their arrival, Jeonghyun sped off without the officer, much to the latter’s relief, and burst into the meeting room, startling the occupants inside.

 

Pain.

 

“Boss?”

 

“He has him.”

 

“Who has who?”

 

“The perp. He took Jeongguk.”

 

“What?”

 

“Jeongguk was taken. He was taken from our house.”

 

“No. He-he can’t-”

 

“How do you know?”

 

“I found his phone, screen shattered and sitting under the shoe cabinet. When I opened the phone, he was just about to call me. There’s no other tenable reason Jeongguk’s missing. Quickly, now brief me on your progress of the case.”

 

“Hold on- he-“

 

“Jeongguk couldn’t have-“

 

“We- we sent him home. We-“

 

They broke themselves off and sat, disbelieving. Jimin and Taehyung, who were sitting together, were in each other’s arms, both with tears tracked down their cheeks. Namjoon clutched his forehead, trying to calm himself down and Seokjin sat still, eyes watery. Yoongi seemed angry. Angry at himself. Hoseok too. Guilt, anger, dread.

 

Jeonghyun was conflicted between wanting to rush them and wanting to give them time to process their distraught and sighed heavily as he clenched his fists. He quickly blinked back his tears when the silence brought on vivid imaginations of the future.

 

Time was running out and they needed to find the perpetrator.

 

They needed to find Jeongguk.

 

Save him.

 

“Get yourselves together. From what I read before I gave the case to you guys, the perp only keeps his victim for two days at most. We don’t know what time Jeongguk had been taken so we’ll have to count from when the message was sent.”

 

“But…”

 

“No, you’re right, boss,” Seokjin whispered, gulping away his unsteady breaths.

 

“We’re sorry. It was our fault, boss. We’re so sorry. If only we hadn’t sent him home-“

 

“No, you did the right thing. If he was dissociating, the best call would’ve been to remove the issue and if that required him to leave, then you have nothing to apologise for. Now let’s get work.”

 

The team nodded, resolve firmer and feeling less hopeless with Jeonghyun guiding them. Wiping away loose tears and masking their emotions, they listened to Namjoon updating their boss on what they had been able to deduct in the past few hours but was unable to provide a detailed profile for their perpetrator because of their lack of knowledge. Namjoon didn’t miss the fact that Jimin, Taehyung and Jeongguk all seemed to recognise the victims and although Jeonghyun offered his thoughts here and there, they were still at a dead-end.

 

“I brought all of Jeongguk’s cases in the past two years. I thought they could be of use. I know we’re not yet able to determine if Jeongguk was targeted or not but something from his past cases may spark an interest. There might also be a link to the current three victims inside. I want two people to come back with me to obtain footages around our house as well as interview the neighbours if they had seen anything unusual while the other four of you go through Jeongguk’s old cases. This is all classified information that has only been shared with the people involved and the higher-ups. None of this is to leave the room. Understood?”

 

“Yes, sir.”

 

“Good.”

 

Jeonghyun handed over the files he had grabbed when he made the trip back to headquarters before Seokjin and Jimin took on their usual roles and followed their boss back out of the department.

 

Hopeless.

 

Yoongi, Hoseok, Namjoon and Taehyung hesitantly reached for the pile of Jeongguk’s cases after the three had taken their leave and took a deep breath. This felt like an invasion of privacy. This information was supposed to have come from Jeongguk when the younger was ready. Not like this. Jeongguk was a private, very closed person and to see his past summed up on a few pieces of paper had their hands twitching with uncertainty.

 

But this was a matter between life and death.

 

And if Jeongguk would trust them less after the case, then so be it.

 

It was a risk worth making.

 

Three cases later, the team had barely learnt half of the hardships Jeongguk went through. It seemed every case had its own way of torturing Jeongguk and playing with his physical health. Even Hoseok, who had taken on more cases in his time serving as a Secret Agent, was shocked at the difficulty and degree of danger Jeongguk was subjected to during his cases.

 

They were so focused that midnight when struck, it went by, unbeknownst to them.

 

That is until a knock on the door was followed by the chief entering in a hurry.

 

“Sorry to bother you, Special Agent Namjoon but we have received another video.”

 

“W-Who’s the victim?”

 

“…”

 

“Mason, who is the victim?”

 

“We haven’t identified him but from appearance, it’s a male in his early twenties with a well-built physique, Asian ethnicity and… looks eerily similar to one of the agents on your team, sir.”

 

“Where’s the video?”

 

“Here, sir.”

 

Mason stretched his hand out to offer a small USB to Namjoon however, the Special Agent merely stared at it, nothing but dread and fear striking him.

 

“Sir?”

 

“H-how bad is it?” Namjoon whispered.

 

“Brutal.”

 

“Compared to the previous ones?”

 

“There were a few differences in his torture but overall, compared to the other videos, the perp seemed a bit more out of control. Psychotic.”

 

Namjoon’s breath faltered as he finally took the USB into his own hands however instead of hand it over to Yoongi, he clenched the device tightly in his palm. He was terrified. A video of their baby being tortured, who wouldn’t be? Yoongi shuffled forward to slowly urge the USB out of the leader’s hand before dragging Namjoon back to the front of the table where Hoseok and Taehyung sat, distraught expressions heavy. Connecting it to the projector, Yoongi pulled the video up to reveal a dim setting identical to that of the previous three videos.

 

“That’s not our Jeongguk. That c-can’t be,” Taehyung stuttered.

 

However much their hearts wanted to deny it, they just couldn’t. The blindfolded and gagged figure who was restricted in the same awkward position as the other victims was no doubt Jeongguk. His fluffy tuft of hair sat messily on his head, his soft pink lips wrapped uncomfortably around a cloth gag and his beautiful doe eyes, a feature worth displaying at an art exhibition, hidden behind a strip of black.

 

“We have to tell boss.”

 

“I’ll… I’ll call him,” Namjoon said weakly, wanting to claw out his eyes for the image he had seen.

 

Dialling Jeonghyun, he held the phone up against his ear as the rest of his body succumbed to the numb feeling.

 

Did you find something?

 

“No…”

 

What happened?

 

“He… he…”

 

He what?

 

“Jeongguk…”

 

W-What?

 

“It’s midnight.”

 

No,” Jeonghyun said.

 

“Boss-“

 

No, no, no, no, no,” he screamed through the phone like a broken record.

 

“Please come here.”

 

No, not Jeongguk. It can’t be.

 

“Boss-“

 

Please tell me it’s not Jeongguk. I- I knew something was wrong the minute I handed your team the case- I-

 

“Jeonghyun, please,” Namjoon whispered his boss’ name calmly even though he felt as broken as Jeonghyun on the inside.

 

N-No.

 

“Jeongguk needs you. He needs us.”

 

Why does it have to be Jeongguk? Why?

 

“I don’t know, Jeonghyun.”

 

Namjoon was squeezing his phone so hard, he was scared his screen would crack and shatter under the pressure. He could hear Jeonghyun’s distressed sobs continue on for a few seconds before Seokjin’s voice filtered through the speaker.

 

What happened? Why’re boss and Jimin crying?

 

“Jeongguk.”

 

No.

 

“Could you guys please come back?” Namjoon pleaded weakly.

 

N-No.

 

“Jin, please…”

 

I’ll get them here,” Seokjin whispered, voice cracking with his promise.

 

Namjoon nodded forgetting Seokjin couldn’t see him before hanging up and sinking in the chair. Jeonghyun was right. Why Jeongguk? Why did it have to be Jeongguk? Their sweet, endearing, precious Jeongguk. Could the good Jeongguk had accomplished in his life backfire yet again?

 

Perhaps.

 

Probably.

 

With the return of Jeonghyun, Seokjin and Jimin, the four were forced out of their horrified daze and Yoongi reluctantly moved to play the video. The rest tried their best to keep themselves composed as the cursor hovered over the play button.

 

One click and everything began.

 

Jeongguk’s unsteady breaths that led the clip were deep and unsettling. Unlike the other victims, he was awake already and struggling against his restraints with the little energy he had left. The perpetrator must’ve enjoyed watching Jeongguk fight for his freedom because the first whole minute consisted of just Jeongguk pulling on the ropes that bound him down.

 

After the aggravating sixty seconds passed, a familiar figure entered the frame and Jeongguk, sensing the presence, froze along with the seven agents. The team was expecting Jeongguk’s blindfold to be taken off since none of the other victims had one in the first place but they were quick to realise how wrong that thought was. Dragged into the screen was a metal bat, the handle gripped loosely in the perpetrator’s hand. The sight of Jeongguk hanging from the ceiling, unsuspecting, had their hearts tearing.

 

The first swing was directed at Jeongguk’s legs, a mortifying crack vibrating the furniture of the room as whimpering sounds also found their way out the video. A blanket of anguish wrapped itself around them. Watching the younger defencelessly stretched out as the perpetrator paused for dramatic effects tormented them. They wished they could take away Jeongguk’s pain.

 

The perpetrator proceeded to strike Jeongguk’s legs once more before moving to several swings at the abdomen and two concluding collisions between the bat and both of Jeongguk’s shoulder blades. Satisfied, the perpetrator dropped the bat and watched Jeongguk’s head loll around, the younger on the verge of giving into the pain.

 

He wasn’t done though.

 

With one hand in Jeongguk’s hair, he yanked the younger’s head back and removed the blindfold. The team thought it was cruel of the perpetrator to blindfold Jeongguk, rendering him unable to predict or prepare for the onslaught of pain but the disposal of the black strip of fabric revealed damp, tired eyes. Staring directly at the camera, were his precious doe-like features, pained and helpless.

 

Jeonghyun’s nails dug harshly into his palm, as did the rest of the team’s.

 

Why Jeongguk?

 

A knife was brought out from the perpetrator’s back pocket. The exact same knife used to carve patterns into his other victims. When Jeongguk caught sight of the weapon, he slumped, surrendering. Their hearts wrenched as blood glided down his arms, staining his white shirt with the beautiful contrast. Although Jeongguk was adamant on staying strong during the initial leg of the torture, he succumbed to the wants of the perpetrator and let his cries and whimpers of agony out, the sound only hindered by the gag. Jeongguk groaned when the action of him shying away from the slow drag of the knife across his skin exacerbated his shoulder injuries.

 

Instead of concluding the videos there like he had the previous ones, the perpetrator seemed to have other plans. He brought a needle into the screen and the seven froze. A substance, clear in colour, was injected into Jeongguk’s bloodstream before the needle was discarded onto the floor and the video, cut.

 

None of them processed the fact that their cheeks were smeared with tears as more followed the previous ones. They merely sat, immobilised by fear. Fear for Jeongguk. Fear for what might be happening as they worked the case.

 

Fear for what will happen if they’re too late.

 

“W-We let this happen.”

 

“One of us should’ve gone home with him. What is wrong with us?”

 

“How… how do we get him back?”

 

Can we get him back?”

 

Their thoughts were disjointed and the only thing they could focus on was Jeongguk’s whimpers. The small sounds which begged for someone to save him. The noises that lost its strength and hope as time went by.

 

“We- we have to focus,” Jeonghyun stammered, wiping the escaped tears as he tried to put on a strong front.

 

“What happens if we’re… if we’re too late?“

 

“T-They’ll find him tomorrow. Lying lifeless i-in some neighbourhood and- and-“

 

“No. We’re going to find him, Tae. We’ll save him. We have to.”

 

“We can’t-“

 

“It’s not possible-“

 

“How do we-“

 

“Wait… wait, wait, wait, wait, wait… what was the substance he injected?”

 

An issue no one had addressed yet. An issue they were actively avoiding. An issue that couldn’t be accepted.

 

“Oh my god.”

 

“How much longer do you think we have?”

 

“No. Don’t- don’t say that.”

 

“What if… we’re too late already?”

 

“No, no, no, no, no-“

 

“What if that was… poison?”

 

“No, no-“

 

“What if he’s gone already?”

 

“Stop, please,“ Jeonghyun screamed.

 

Covering his ears, he slid to the floor and sobbed while curling into himself. The others’ distraught rivalled Jeonghyun’s as fists clenched hair and teeth bit cheeks.

 

They considered the possibility.

 

Likely outweighing unlikely.

 

“Jeongguk’s safe. It’s all a nightmare. He’s safe.”

 

They chanted together. Words muddled, minds muddled.

 

“It’s our fault. It’s all our fault.”

 

“N-No, it’s mine. I fucking knew I shouldn’t have given the case to you- I fucking knew-“

 

“We should’ve never left him on his own-“

 

“This wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t hand the case over.”

 

“And this wouldn’t have happened if we just kept Jeongguk here with us.”

 

“Now, he’s… gone and we can’t… there’s nothing we can do.”

 

“No… no, two days, remember?” Yoongi sniffled.

 

“But we don’t know if Jeongguk’s alive-“

 

“We have to try.”

 

“H-How do we get him back then?”

 

“We do what we’re good at. We need to treat this as any other case.”

 

“We all know that’s not possible.”

 

“Remember what you promised me when you first started dating?” Jeonghyun whispered.

 

“We said we wouldn’t let our emotions and feelings come in between our work.”

 

“And?”

 

“We would protect him.”

 

“Isn’t it too late for that?”

 

“No. Yoongi’s right. Where there’s a chance, there’s hope. And when there’s hope, we have to try. For Jeongguk. I don’t want to regret not trying when there’s a chance of saving him.”

 

“…Ok… ok, Jeonghyun. Where do we start?” Namjoon whispered.

 

“We managed to get hold of a few CCTV cameras near the house. Let’s… let’s go through that first, I guess,” Jeonghyun sighed.

 

Yoongi accepted the files Seokjin handed over and connected it to the computer. As he fiddled with searching for the video with the correct time, Jeonghyun and the rest of the team attempted to freshen up although there was no hiding the blotched cheeks and swollen eyes. They swallowed their guilt and fear and replaced it with hope, a light, bright as Jeongguk’s smile.

 

They’ll find him.

 

They’ll save Jeonggguk.

 

And when they do, they’ll tear the perpetrator to shreds for touching their baby.

 

“Are we… are we ready?”

 

“Yeah,” Jeonghyun whispered, weak from his overwhelming emotions.

 

Pulling up the first video, filmed from across their house, he skipped the video to the hour before Jeongguk had returned home. There were no alarming movements so he played the video at four times speed until a taxi finally pulled up outside the house and Jeongguk hopped out. His steps were slightly uneven as he staggered towards the front, fumbling at the keyhole a few times before finally entering.

 

Nothing unusual.

 

That is until a few minutes later, the door reopened and the same black clothed and hooded figure from the videos stepped out of the house with his back to the outside. The perpetrator stuck his head out, surveying his surroundings. When he decided there weren’t any bystanders or witnesses in the vicinity, he hooked a body over his shoulder and walked as quick as he possibly could with the additional weight to a black car parked with half of it out of the camera’s view. The team cursed at the careful positioning of the vehicle and flicked through the other files, looking for one with an angle directly towards the car.

 

“We need to try and find how the perp broke into the house and then quickly scan the rest of the videos to see if there’s a clear shot of the license plate. We’ll run the number if we can.”

 

Deciding to split up to work more efficiently, Yoongi, Hoseok and Namjoon focused on finding the footages with a clear view of the license plate, which was surprisingly not hard to find considering the advanced skill of their perpetrator. Yoongi quickly left to process the number while the remaining two offered their help to the other group. Jeonghyun, Seokjin, Jimin and Taehyung who had been watching the tedious silence of the hours previous to Jeongguk’s disappearance, tapped their fingers impatiently against the wooden surface of the table.

 

Nearing midday, the black car finally pulled up outside the neighbouring house and sat still for several moments before the perpetrator exited the vehicle. Stealthily, he crept up to Jeonghyun and Jeongguk’s house, ensuring to keep aware of his surroundings. Opening the lock seemed like child’s play to the perpetrator as he allowed himself entry within a minute.

 

He had been there waiting.

 

And waiting.

 

And waiting.

 

What would have happened if they hadn’t sent Jeongguk home?

 

Would Jeonghyun have found the perpetrator first?

 

Would he have arrested the intruder then and there and solved the case?

 

Would Jeongguk have been safe?

 

“Stop it.”

 

“Stop what?” they asked their boss.

 

“Whatever you’re thinking. This isn’t your fault. The perp has been eerily careful, everything down to the last detail. If he couldn’t get his hands on Jeongguk now, he wouldn’t stop trying until we brought him down.”

 

“Hold on, yesterday we said that from the way he tied his knots, some degree of training in the police, marine or military. Being able to take down Jeongguk proves just this. Even though Jeongguk wasn’t at his best, boss said he was just about to call him which means he was aware of the danger and his phone must have dropped during the confrontation.”

 

“Or he could’ve been hiding there and pounced when Jeongguk entered the house?”

 

“That wouldn’t explain how Jeongguk messaged us or why he had boss’ contact on screen.”

 

They nodded thoughtfully, trying to assemble everything together only to end up nowhere like a puzzle missing its vital pieces. How was this perpetrator outsmarting them? How was he able to avoid every mistake? How-

 

“I’m back,” Yoongi announced, returning to his seat.

 

“So?”

 

“The number belonged to a Volkswagen but the car driven by our perp was a Honda.”

 

“It was stolen.”

 

“Precisely.”

 

“Now what?”

 

“They entered the license plate and VIN into the national database and it’s already been broadcasted to all police agencies in Virginia. If we’re lucky, our perp may have driven past an automate license plate reader. They’ll let me know if they find anything.”

 

“Ok,” Jeonghyun nodded before turning to Namjoon. “Did you guys find anything in Jeongguk’s past cases?”

 

“Nothing of interest. There’s no obvious link to the first three victims and his cases were comparatively mild in those areas. It would be quite difficult to have offended someone to this extent.”

 

“Hold on… what if he wasn’t targeting Jeongguk?”

 

“So you’re saying…”

 

“What if he wanted boss? He didn’t know Jeongguk was going to be home that early and that interfered with his plans?”

 

“But that would require the knowledge that Jeongguk wasn’t going to be home for a while, wouldn’t it? He’d have to have known Jeongguk was away on a case.”

 

“Why would he be after me?”

 

“I don’t know. Why would he be after Jeongguk?”

 

As the countless asked question was spoken, silence embraced them uncomfortably. Still, they had not found an answer and they feared they might never. Taehyung suddenly snapped up from the pondering position he was sitting in. Seokjin’s words were replaying in his ears and while everyone else sat, hopeless, Taehyung considered the possibility.

 

“Wait, boss, have you even seen the other videos yet?”

 

“No… no, I haven’t,” Jeonghyun frowned, realisation washing over him.

 

“Yoongi-“

 

“I’ll get them up.”

 

They wait, fidgeting, as Yoongi once again pulled up the first three torture videos. He pressed the play button at Jeonghyun’s hand waving for him to begin and for the billionth time, they watch the same figure cross onto the screen.

 

“Wait…”

 

“What?” Yoongi asked, pausing the video again and mimicking the others who were already facing Jeonghyun.

 

“When I was watching Jeongguk’s video, all I could focus on was what the perp was doing to him but now that I look at him… he looks… familiar? He reminds me of someone but I… don’t know who?”

 

The team whipped their head around to observe the screen. True to what Jeonghyun had said, they had been too focused on the various methods of torture afflicted that all their attention was solely on the victim. Now, concentrating on just the perpetrator, he did look somewhat familiar like a small memory that had been slowly replaced by Jeongguk’s sweet smile.

 

“You said, Jimin, Taehyung and Jeongguk all thought they recognised the victims, right?” Nods. “Why? There must be something there.”

 

“We’ll watch the videos again and watch the perp this time.”

 

The first three passed by without any further revelations and they reached the final video they all dreaded reviewing. Yoongi turned the volume down, in hopes of obscuring Jeongguk’s cries so that it won’t distract them or cause them to break down again.

 

“Wait wait wait,” Namjoon whispered. “Rewind.”

 

Yoongi tapped a few keys and sped the video backwards, stopping on Namjoon’s command.

 

“Pause. Right there,” the leader said, pointing to a smudge of black.

 

“Zoom in,” Hoseok requested.

 

Yoongi scrolled with the mouse in the area where the perpetrator’s hand was retracting. The frame, wherein the mistake lied, was slightly blurred and they had to strain their eyes to try and make out the shape of the slip up.

 

“Is it possible to make it clearer?” Jimin asked.

 

“One second,” Yoongi muttered as he clicked a few buttons and the video focused, turning the lines sharper and clearer.

 

On the hand of the perpetrator was a simple black ring, which had a fine rose gold line encircling it. The ring was elegant, one must admit, but in this circumstance, it built a queasy harshness inside of them. Their breaths shuddered and as understanding hit them one by one, they slumped into their seats, wondering how they could’ve missed all the blatant signs.

 

“Dongyul…”

 

Chapter Text

How did they miss the signs?

 

The perpetrator was a male in his mid to late twenties.

 

The perpetrator was skilled enough to take Jeongguk down.

 

The perpetrator was left-handed.

 

“Why? Why would Dongyul do this? What reason does he have? And why Jeongguk?” Taehyung choked out.

 

“Shit.”

 

“Jimin?”

 

“Shit- I remember.”

 

“What? What do you remember?”

 

“I-I know where I saw the victims,” he whispered.

 

“Where?”

 

“In Dongyul’s photos. Tae, do you remember the photos we accidentally saw at his house a while back? The ones he hid away when he realised we were looking at them.

 

“Oh my god.”

 

“Yeah…”

 

“Why did he kill them?”

 

“I don’t know, Tae. I don’t know.”

 

“Yoongi, try find a connection between one of the victims and Dongyul.”

 

“Got it, boss,” Yoongi nodded as he took out his own laptop.

 

“Jimin, Tae, is there anything in particular you remember about the photos? Anything that stands out?”

 

“Just… just he was always surrounded by kids of various ages.”

 

“So like his group of friends?”

 

“No?” Jimin frowned, turning to see if Taehyung agreed.

 

“It was different people every time,” Taehyung confirmed.

 

“Ok…” they nodded slowly.

 

“So what is that supposed to mean?”

 

“He had different friends?”

 

“Why would he kill his friends?”

 

“And wasn’t the first victim and the third victim both far older than Dongyul? They couldn’t have been his friends.”

 

“T-Tae and I kept in touch with him this whole. He told us he was discharged right after we’d come back from the last case but that’s when we spent everyday with Jeongguk b-because he was… oh my god, do you think that if we paid more attention to Dongyul, this wouldn’t have happened?”

 

“No, this isn’t your fault. Dongyul informed me he was going to be taking a break and was indefinite on when he’d be able to return. He said he needed a bit of time so I told him to let me know when he wanted to come back. I talked to his doctors and they said although he was recovering well physically, his mental progress was slow and to give him time and space to adapt to his partial amnesia.”

 

“They didn’t think he was going to be a threat?”

 

“No, they thought he was stable for the most part.”

 

“So something must have happened after he got released. Something that triggered him to act this way. But what?”

 

“Right now, I think we should focus on how to find to Jeongguk or where he may have hidden him. We have less than twelve hours to find him.”

 

“Ok, you’re right, boss. Where do we go from here?”

 

“Jimin, Tae, do you remember where he lived?”

 

“Yeah, down in Petersburg but I remember him mentioning a vacation house over in Seaford he bought a few years back.”

 

“We’ll split into two teams then. Jimin, Tae you two come with me to the vacation house. Seokjin, Hoseok, Namjoon you three head down to Petersburg. Yoongi, can you link us up over the radio? I want you to stay here and continue finding a connection or anything that’d be useful. We don’t have much time left.”

 

“Of course, boss.”

 

Jeonghyun nodded and made his way out of the meeting room to update the chief of police and the other officers on their situation. His whole body was tense as he led the group of agents and officers down to where the vehicles were parked.

 

The drive was sat in stiff silence and in the rear-view mirror, he noticed Jimin and Taehyung were wearing frowns matching his. He sighed and focused on the passing greens through the window. Houses sat, uncaring of the world it lived in, roads laid bare to the dim sunlight and trees swayed without fear of the dangers of the world.

 

Jeonghyun glanced down at his watch, realising the other team must have arrived at the house in Petersburg now and as if they read his mind, Namjoon’s voice filtered through to update him.

 

“He’s not here.”

 

“All of his belongings are gone as well,” Hoseok added.

 

“No signs of break in. He must’ve fled.”

 

“Damn it,” Jeonghyun muttered.

 

“We’ll gather what we can and meet you back at headquarters?”

 

“Yeah, we’re going to arrive at Seaford in twenty. Keep us updated if you find anything.”

 

“Yes, sir.”

 

Jeonghyun leaned against the car door, rubbing at his temples to calm the tingling nerves there. The uneasiness built slowly, layer by layer, as he prayed silently for Jeongguk to be alive. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t erase the awful images of Jeongguk’s limp body, suspended by the thick ropes, calling for help. Their help. His help.

 

Why hadn’t he given the case away? Why did he put his brother through such sufferings? Why was it always Jeongguk?

 

“Boss? Namjoon?”

 

“Yeah, Yoongi, go ahead. We’re listening.”

 

“Well I was looking through Dongyul’s records when I realised there were many inconsistencies so I did a extensive search and found that some of his vital current records are fabricated. I dug up his old files which he thought he had completely deleted and I’m confused because there was nothing to hide?”

 

“Did you find something that linked him to the victims?”

 

“Yes, I actually did. Dongyul grew up in Hampton’s Children’s Home, an orphanage approximately three and a half hours from here. The first victim, Liza May, owned the Home without proper qualifications and since it wasn’t government-run, there weren’t any official documents that linked the victims together. However, I found that Malia Li, the third victim, had worked at the orphanage for a few years before moving onto her current career and Alan Coleman, the second, was an orphan who also grew up in Hampton’s Children’s Home.”

 

“Why did he hide that from us?”

 

“I don’t know- oh my god.”

 

“What? What did you find?”

 

“There’s a newspaper article from about fifteen years ago. It says the building was set on fire late one night and because of the incident, the orphans were forced to disperse to different institutions.”

 

“Is there record of where Dongyul went?”

 

“No but wait, listen to this. ‘On midnight of March 23, 2003, a fire broke out at Hampton’s Children’s Home which left a young child of Asian ethnicity trapped in the building. Upon arrival, fire fighters were directed to his bedroom on the second floor where they found the eight year old unconscious due to smoke inhalation. The number of casualties have yet to be confirmed but many have suffered minor burns and myocarditis.’,” Yoongi read.

 

“What happened to Dongyul after?”

 

“The article only says that he was hospitalised. Nothing more. He must’ve been transferred to a proper orphanage. I’ll look through the annual reports of orphanages near Hampton and see if I can find him.”

 

“Why didn’t the police conduct an official investigation on the cause of the fire?” Seokjin asked.

 

“There was a police report but it stated that Liza May confessed to the cause of the fire being a gas leak so the police didn’t question any further because the victims were too young for a full toxicological blood test. Liza’s alone wouldn’t suffice.”

 

“Why did he take this many years-”

 

“Oh my god. Dongyul- he… the last case he worked… the fire.”

 

“Shit.”

 

“But the doctor said his memory hadn’t recovered when he was discharged?”

 

“Wait what’s the date today?”

 

“April 4th.”

 

“He took his first victim ten days ago on March 25th. Do you think the anniversary of the fire triggered something?”

 

“That’s highly likely.”

 

“Hold on, we’re here. We’ll let you know what we find.”

 

“Ok.”

 

When the vehicles stopped around the house, Jeonghyun led Jimin, Taehyung and a team police officers towards the house. He had his gun loaded, safety off, as he waited for officers to circle to the back and get into position. Jimin barged through the door with a quick shove and they entered the house with cautious eyes. Though the youngest two had never been to Dongyul’s vacation house, the design of the interior was similar to his home in Petersburg and they split off to the sides while Jeonghyun stepped through the main corridor.

 

A call from both Jimin and Taehyung let Jeonghyun know that the rooms were void of anyone but an uneasy, foreboding sensation found its way into the agent’s bones. There was something eerie in the air on his side of the house. He gestured with his hand for the officers behind him to slow down and the sound of a television floated beside them.

 

Jeonghyun burst into the room, gun held up, only to be met with the sight of Dongyul relaxing on his recliner, legs folded and hands placed passively under his chin.

 

“Hands where I can see them.”

 

Dongyul slowly lifted both arms, more like he was stretching than surrendering. Jimin and Taehyung entered during the commotion and froze when they recognised the back of their friend’s silhouette.

 

“Stand up,” Jeonghyun said and Jimin was instantly on him, bring his wrists behind and restraining them in the metal cuffs.

 

“How rare to see you on field, boss.”

 

“Don’t call me boss,” Jeonghyun spat.

 

“As you wish.”

 

“Why, Dongyul? Why?” Taehyung whispered.

 

Dongyul kept silent, regarding the three agents with contempt and hostility.

 

“Jimin, Taehyung, go look for a basement or something. Anywhere he might’ve hidden Jeongguk.”

 

“You’re never going to find him,” Dongyul scoffed as the two agents disappeared.

 

“Take him back,” Jeonghyun ordered to the police officers.

 

He turned around and searched around the house for any evidence, any sign of Jeongguk, anything. He pulled open drawers with more force than necessary but no obvious indications of what he had done came up.

 

“Anything?” he asked Jimin and Taehyung when he entered the bedroom.

 

“Nothing yet. No basement or hidden rooms.”

 

“We should let the rest of the team know.”

 

“Right,” Jeonghyun sighed before connecting the line. “We’ve got him.”

 

“Who? Jeongguk?” Namjoon replied instantly.

 

“No, Dongyul. There’s no sign of Jeongguk here. This isn’t where he held the victims.”

 

“Why was he at the vacation house then?”

 

“I don’t know but he was sitting here waiting for us to come,” Jimin almost spat.

 

“Wait, look,” Taehyung gasped.

 

“What? What is it?” Hoseok questioned when both Jeonghyun and Jimin suck in a sharp breath.

 

“What’d you find?” Seokjin asked this time after no one responded.

 

“H-he’s alive. Oh my god, he’s alive.”

 

“Jeongguk? How do you know?”

 

“Dongyul’s laptop. There-there’s a live stream of Jeongguk wherever he is. The camera angle is at eye-level so you can only see him.”

 

“Fuck.”

 

“T-The police are on their way back with Dongyul. We’ll be there soon… when we’re done here.”

 

“Ok. We’ll wait,” Namjoon said before the line disconnected.

 

“Let’s hurry.”

 

Jeonghyun rounded up the officers to let them finish the investigation while he returned to HQ with Jimin, Taehyung and the laptop where the rest of the team and Chief Mason were waiting anxiously in front of the interrogation room.

 

Having not noticed Dongyul’s leaned back, relaxed position, Namjoon directed their attention to the two way mirror. They frowned when Dongyul glanced in their direction to smirk and even though they knew the ex-agent couldn’t see them, it sent shivers down their spines.

 

“How long’s he been in there?”

 

“About twenty minutes,” Chief Mason replied.

 

“Where’s Yoongi?”

 

“He was trying to dig some more but he hasn’t found much useful so he’s heading here soon.”

 

“Ok. Jimin, Taehyung, you two do the interrogation.”

 

“But boss-“

 

“Trust me.”

 

“Ok,” Namjoon relented. Although he had wanted to nail Dongyul, he trusted Jeonghyun’s decision to let the younger pair take over.

 

“Can you handle it?”

 

“Yeah,” Taehyung breathed and when he caught Jimin’s eyes, the elder nodded in resolution.

 

“Remember he’s unpredictable right now. He might not seem like the Dongyul we knew but if you say the right things, he may start to show signs of remorse, regret, sympathy even. He was closest to the two of you so I’m really hoping he’ll open up more. Just make sure to keep him talking. He knows our ways so if he chooses to stay quiet, we’ll be in big trouble.”

 

“Understood. Let’s go.”

 

Taehyung followed after Jimin who had entered first with an air of laid-back indifference, a complete contrast to their true emotions. Dongyul looked up with a cynical smile on his lips. He never let his eyes leave the two as they trailed around the room, creating a suspense that didn’t disturb the eldest in the slightest.

 

“You seem to be doing a lot better, Dongyul.”

 

“Oh, I’ve completely recovered. Thank you for the concern,” Dongyul chuckled sarcastically.

 

“Shall we get to the point?”

 

“Ah, what’s the time?”

 

“Ten to twelve.”

 

“Then you have… about four hours before…” Dongyul hummed as he made a motion of slicing his neck.

 

“What do you want?”

 

“I want to make a deal with the DA.”

 

“You’re kidding. Who in the right mind would make a deal with you? We have enough to send you away for life.”

 

“At the expense of Jeongguk’s life, yes.”

 

“Dongyul, you’re not getting a deal.”

 

“Did you find it?”

 

“Find what? Your laptop?” Taehyung spat while Dongyul smirked.

 

“I want a deal or you can watch him die. Just like you watched me,” Dongyul said as he turned to the mirror. Yoongi flinched.

 

“Why did you kill them?”

 

“They deserved it.”

 

“And Jeongguk?”

 

“Does Jeongguk deserve this too?”

 

“Perhaps.”

 

“What did Jeongguk do to you?”

 

“He replaced me.”

 

“W-What?”

 

“He didn’t replace you, Dongyul. There’s always a place on the team for you.”

 

“Is there?” Dongyul sneered.

 

“What happened, Dongyul? Why did you change so much?” Taehyung asked, sadness hidden poorly under his voice.

 

Dongyul paused and they were certain it was confusion he saw in the ex-agent’s eyes but what could he possibly be confused about?

 

“How did you find me?”

 

“Your ring, the one Jeongguk gave back to you, it was in the video.”

 

“So you haven’t even figured out what they did to me,” Dongyul scoffed. “So much for being the best agents in the FBI.”

 

“You didn’t leave much for us to discover.”

 

“Or maybe the tech analyst you have isn’t as competent as you thought.”

 

“What did they do to you?”

 

“So much, Tae,” Dongyul chuckled sombrely. They thought he wouldn’t have wanted to disclose more information, a dead end, however, Jimin and Taehyung’s sad but patient eyes were enough to fuel him to resume his story. “They starved me, physically assaulted me. All because no one wanted me. Even Liza, that witch, pretended she didn’t know what was going on behind the closed doors of the orphanage she was supposed to be responsible for. I was a liability to them. Couldn’t even put on a cute show to persuade a family to adopt me. There was a fire one night… Alan set it. He was always intrigued by fire and tried to scare me that night with the lighter but I fought back and he set the orphanage on fire. I’m not even sure to this day if it was an accident but they just left me behind.”

 

“Left?”

 

“Me dying in the fire would have done them a favour.”

 

“They wouldn’t have been that cruel to leave an eight year old child inside a burning building.”

 

“After all the cases we’ve solved together, you’re still surprised at how vicious humans can be, Jimin?”

 

Jimin looked Dongyul in the eye and behind the distrust, he could see glimpses of hurt and loneliness, ones he had never noticed before. He sat down across Dongyul and saw that Taehyung did the same beside him.

 

“That was the first time I lost my memories, from the shock and trauma, they told me,” he continued with a bit too much nonchalance. “I was fine after that. I got transferred to a new orphanage and the carers and orphans were a lot nicer so I kind of just pushed the fragmented memories to the back of my mind. That is until I started working in the FBI. With each case, the build of memories grew stronger and stronger but I didn’t want to believe them. I know memories can get distorted over time but these, these visions were raw. I almost felt like I was experiencing it all over again. But then you guys came into my life and I thought I’d found where I belonged. I thought I could just forget about it. Erase it with all the pleasant memories you brought me. You guys were my family.”

 

Dongyul’s gaze hardened as they watched him clench and unclench his hand. There were deep crescent shaped marks on his palm from how hard Dongyul was trying to hold back his anger.

 

“And I thought I could let go.”

 

“But?”

 

“But you left me. Just like they did. In the fire.”

 

“Dongyul, we didn’t-“

 

“You left me and instead of taking responsibility, you moved on. I was nothing to you.”

 

“Don’t say that, Dongyul,” Taehyung reprimanded sharply.

 

“The truth hurts, Tae.”

 

“You and I both know you’re just convincing yourself lies to make it easier,” Jimin said, neither gentle nor harsh, and Dongyul scoffed.

 

“Why didn’t you report them when your memories returned?”

 

“It happened so long ago, plus, who would’ve believed me, a person allegedly suffering from amnesia?”

 

“We would’ve, Dongyul. We would have believed you if you came to us,” Taehyung sighed quietly.

 

“Then believe me now. They’re monsters. They deserve what they got. Give me a deal and I’ll at least return Jeongguk to you.”

 

“We can’t and we won’t.”

 

“Don’t you realise you don’t have much time left? Are you sure you don’t want to save him or even see him one last time? If you’re too late there won’t be a body to find.”

 

“What does that mean?”

 

“He’ll be reduced to ashes and it’ll all be your fault.”

 

“Y-You’re bluffing.”

 

“Am I?”

 

Jimin, unable to keep his glare at bay, bore holes into Dongyul while Taehyung sighed, a bit too dramatically in Jimin’s opinion, and stood up with a shake of his head before leaving the room. The two were left in a staring competition before Jimin, putting on a believable show, pushed his chair back roughly and exited as well.

 

“What is it?” Jimin asked as soon as the door was closed.

 

“I think I know where Jeongguk is,” Taeyhung answered.

 

“Where?”

 

“If you think about it, why did Dongyul torture his victims?”

 

“So they can feel the pain he has felt.”

 

“And what better place to bring them than-”

 

“Where he suffered,” Jeonghyun whispered, voice shaking.

 

“The orphanage,” Taehyung nodded. “It was close to his vacation house as well.”

 

“Yoongi, what happened to Hampton’s Children’s Home after the fire?”

 

“Nothing. The owner never sold the property so it remained as it was since its location wasn’t in a highly populated area.”

 

“What’s the address?” Hoseok asked.

 

“We’ll text it to you. Get going. We only have three hours to save him according to Dongyul and it’ll take an hour to get to Hampton if traffic’s not heavy. Chief, could you get a few of your officers to go along with them and get a medical team ready. Yoongi, Namjoon and I will stay here just in case,” Jeonghyun said. “And be careful when you enter whatever is left of the building. He implied that there was going to be a fire so beware of any traps.”

 

They nodded and as they ran off to fulfil their orders, Jeonghyun turned back to watch Dongyul. He had to confirm that Taehyung’s hunch was correct. Jeongguk had to be there. He had to.

 

“I’m going to go talk to him.”

 

“We’re coming,” Namjoon announced and with a nod, Yoongi agreed.

 

Jeonghyun gave themselves a few seconds to prepare themselves and then barged into the room, a confident posture warning the two younger agents to follow suit.

 

“To what do I owe the pleasure of having a visit from the Special Agent-in-Charge?”

 

“We found him. It’s over, Dongyul.”

 

“Did you?” Dongyul asked, a chuckle of disbelief escaping.

 

“Hampton’s Children’s Home.”

 

A twitch. That was all it took for Jeonghyun to know they were right. With Dongyul’s unspoken confirmation, Jeonghyun was out the door, leaving Yoongi and Namjoon inside.

 

“Dongyul…”

 

“Don’t, Yoongi. I don’t want to hear anything you have to say.”

 

“I’m sorry, Dongyul. I wanted to apologise that day at the hospital but you forgot what happened and you were just so happy seeing me. I-I know I was selfish but I didn’t want you to hate me.”

 

“Isn’t it a bit too late for that?”

 

“Why did you send us the videos, Dongyul? You’ve worked as a profiler for long enough to know that’s where most of the perps slip,” Yoongi asked.

 

“If you haven’t figured, my aim wasn’t to get away with what I’ve done. If it were, you wouldn’t have caught me this easily.”

 

“Then why?” Namjoon frowned.

 

“So you can watch them suffer. Didn’t you enjoy watching me suffer?”

 

“Dongyul, I-“

 

“And, Namjoon… what kind of leader can’t even protect his own team? You failed to protect me. You failed to protect Jeongguk. I was right that day. You don’t deserve to be a leader.”

 

“You-“

 

“Yoongi, don’t,” Namjoon warned.

 

“If I’d known what became of you, I never would’ve…” Yoongi whispered.

 

“You never would’ve what?”

 

Yoongi sighed, shaking his head and casting Dongyul an unspeakably grief-stricken glance before heading to where Jeonghyun must’ve been waiting for them. Namjoon looked between the exit and Dongyul, hesitating.

 

“What do you want?” he snapped.

 

“I… I want to tell you something. Yoongi… he was the one who pulled you out of the fire. He ran in there. He went against my orders. He risked his own life to save you that day.”

 

Dongyul remained passive though the cynic was gone now.

 

“And Tae was right, you know? There was always a place on the team for you.”

 

Namjoon sighed as well and left, missing the brief remorse, the first sign of regret Dongyul had shown.

 

The car ride was quiet, the air tense as they waited for the other team to report their status. They weaved through the cars on the highway at an unsafe speed but it wasn’t fast enough for Jeonghyun. He wanted to yell at the officer driving to speed up but he knew it wasn’t fair on the other so he fidgeted with his radio, impatient, anxious.

 

He held on tight to the laptop and alternated between checking his watch and the live stream of Jeongguk. Nearly an hour had passed since the other half of the team left for the orphanage. Shouldn’t they have arrived by now?

 

Did he read Dongyul wrong?

 

Were they too late?

 

He looked down at the screen and tapped nervously, hoping it would magically summon the agents. Namjoon placed a reassuring hand on his shoulder as an offer of comfort but Jeonghyun couldn’t focus on anything except the laptop.

 

His wish came true when he saw Hoseok and Jimin enter the scene with their guns held up before they hurriedly freed Jeongguk from the restraints. Yoongi and Namjoon had caught on as soon as they saw their boss stop moving, stop breathing almost. Peering over Jeonghyun’s shoulder they watched Seokjin and Taehyung appear along with a trail of police officers who seemed to be busying themselves out of the view of the camera. Jeongguk was carefully let down and the medics rushed in to carry him out of the screen.

 

Jeonghyun cried. In relief, he wasn’t really sure.

 

He didn’t know his hands were shaking until warm tears fell on them. Yoongi and Namjoon weren’t much better themselves, distraught caught in their throats.

 

“We have him,” Seokjin heaved. “We have him. We have him.”

 

“I-Is he okay?”

 

“I don’t know… he’s… alive. Unconscious but alive.”

 

“What’d the medics say? Do they know what was injected into him?”

 

“No… I’m in the ambulance right now and he’s receiving emergency treatment. They suspect several broken bones especially at the ribs, dislocation of both shoulders, first degree burns on his wrists, abdominal injuries, severe haemorrhage, nerve lesions, possible brain damage… and that’s only what they can infer from a brief examination.”

 

“W-Will he m-make it?”

 

“I… I don’t know. I’m s-sorry,” Seokjin choked out.

 

“He will,” Jeonghyun’s shaky voice cut through. “He’s strong. He’ll make it.”

 

“Which hospital?” Yoongi whispered.

 

“Hampton Private Hospital.”

 

“We’ll be there.”

 

The conversation cut off, leaving them to suffer in their own thoughts. The officer, noticing the tension in the car, sped up and Jeonghyun barely had time to register out a thanks when they’d arrived at the front entrance of the hospital.

 

Jeonghyun barged in, restraint a foreign concept. He all but launched himself at the reception desk, whipping out his ID to demand the whereabouts of his younger brother. Namjoon would have felt bad for the fear in the nurses’ eyes as they froze at the loud voice of the perceived uncontrollable male if it weren’t for his own urgency to know his boyfriend’s condition.

 

“Boss! Yoongi! Namjoon!”

 

They whipped their head around to Jimin’s voice and wordlessly followed the younger down a few corridors until they arrived outside an operation room with a red light blinking angrily at them.

 

“They prepared a room for him but we insisted on staying here,” Seokjin sighed.

 

“How bad is he?”

 

“He was… barely alive. And Dongyul wasn’t lying. He had oil surrounding Jeongguk and a timer on some sort of device that would’ve pushed a candle onto the pile.”

 

“I… I don’t know what I would have done to Dongyul if we were too late,” Yoongi breathed.

 

“Don’t think about that,” Jimin tried to console. “He’ll be okay. He’s in good hands.”

 

And with that, silence ensued yet again.

 

Although it was only hours of waiting, it felt like decades had passed when the glaring red light finally disappeared and left them in the subtle glows of pre-dusk. They hadn’t even realised how still they had been for the extended period of time until standing up caused a few of them to stumble. Nevertheless, they gathered themselves long before the doctors even exited the operation room with several nurses wheeling out an unconscious Jeongguk behind. As if they had known, probably by the state of the seven agents, the doctors immediately headed towards them when a small smile.

 

“H-How is he?”

 

“He’ll be able to make a full recovery with proper care and rehabilitation but he’ll have to wait a few weeks before he can even take on light physical therapy. The cuts on his arms and burns on his wrist will inevitably leave scars and the bandages will need to be changed consistently to prevent infections. His scans have shown no distinct signs of brain damage but that will need to be confirmed when he wakes up. He’s also suffered mild peripheral nerve lesions which will take months, perhaps years, to repair themselves. Surgery for his broken ribs, tibia, femur and scapula was very successful but those will also take several months to heal. We were alerted of his situation and we believe the mixture of drugs that was injected into him seem to be the cause of his severe gastrointestinal bleeding. Because of this, we’d like to keep him here for a period of time to monitor his vitals.”

 

“Thank you. Thank you so much for you hard word,” they breathed while the doctor nodded.

 

“Also Mr Jeon is on a lot of medication so don’t be alarmed if he sleeps until tomorrow.”

 

“Ok. Are we allowed to stay with him?”

 

“All of you?”

 

They nodded.

 

“Usually we won’t allow it… but I think we can make an exception this time,” he smiled kindly.

 

“Thank you. Thank you. We won’t be in your way.”

 

“Call one of the nurses if he wakes up. I’ll come back in a few hours to check up on him.”

 

“Ok, we will. Thank you.”

 

Following the nurses, the entered one of the VIP rooms and although there were sofas on the far side of the room, they all chose to remain near Jeongguk. Jeonghyun drew small circles on the back of his hand, hoping his brother would understand his promise of never leaving the younger’s side until he was awake. In the silence, only the slow beeping of the cardiac monitor kept their imaginations from travelling too far.

 

“Jeonghyun, you look exhausted. You should get some rest.”

 

“Speak for yourselves,” their boss sighed.

 

“No one’s going to take him away. Not with all seven of us here.”

 

“I’m… I’m so scared of closing my eyes. I don’t want to open them and find him gone.”

 

“He won’t be. He’ll be here.”

 

“I… If I lost him again, I don’t know what I’d do…”

 

The team sat quietly, not knowing how to respond. They haven’t been there with Jeongguk through as much ups and downs as Jeonghyun had. They hadn’t nearly lost him multiple times. But the fear of doing so settled in and they understood Jeonghyun.

 

With their jobs, injuries are a common occurrence.

 

How were they going to stand Jeongguk constantly getting hurt if twice was already two times too many?

 

When the clock passed midnight and they continued drowning in their unhealthy thoughts, unaware of the twitching figure on the bed. It wasn’t until Jeongguk groaned that they all snapped out of their daze.

 

“Jeongguk- oh my god- you’re awake-“

 

“Someone call the doctor.”

 

“Oh my god-“

 

“Jeongguk, stay awake for me, sweetheart-“

 

“Where’s the doctor?”

 

“Call the nurses.”

 

“You’re ok, hon, stay with us, please-“

 

“How’re you feeling?“

 

“Are you ok?“

 

“Does anywhere hurt?”

 

“Stop crowding him,” the doctor’s voice said, cutting over the frenzy.

 

“Sorry, sorry, sorry,” they apologised as they hastily backed away.

 

“Hi, Jeongguk. I’m Doctor Davis,” he introduced in a hushed tone.

 

“Water… please.”

 

“Of course.”

 

After a few minutes and plenty of gulps of water through a straw, Jeongguk relaxed comfortably onto the pillows propped up to support his back and shoulders.

 

“How’re you feeling?”

 

“Tired,” he answered, voice still raspy and strained.

 

“Does anywhere hurt?”

 

“A bit.”

 

“Would you like a higher dosage of painkillers?”

 

Jeongguk shook his head, the motion slightly dizzying.

 

“Okay, we just need to go over some regular checks, I’m sure you’re familiar with them. Is that alright with you?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“Good, you’re doing great, Jeongguk.”

 

After checking his sensory and motor responses, deeming his reflexes and nervous system not damaged, the doctor noted things to the nurses who copied down his instructions onto their clipboards.

 

When Doctor Davis finished the check up, he gave the agents a brief summary of his findings and a quick warning to let the patient rest before they thanked him and he was off to tend to his other patients.

 

“I-I thought I told you not to show up covered in blood again, Guk.”

 

“Technically… I wasn’t… the one… who showed up,” Jeongguk smiled, breathing heavily as he used all his energy to get his words across.

 

“I hate you.”

 

“Feeling’s… mutual.”

 

“Brat,” Jeonghyun sniffed.

 

Jeongguk grimaced when his chuckle caused a sharp pain to spark in his chest. He looked at the identical swollen, red-rimmed eyes the others were trying to hide.

 

“I’m… sorry,” he whispered.

 

“No- I’m sorry,” Jeonghyun said. “I knew I shouldn’t have given you the case. I had a feeling something was going to happen. I just didn’t expect the case to be another personal one.”

 

“It’s not… your fault… Hyun. … You… couldn’t have… known.”

 

“I should’ve trusted my instincts-“

 

“You couldn’t… have known,” Jeongguk repeated.

 

“I’m still sorry.”

 

“Don’t be.”

 

“Don’t tell me what to do,” Jeonghyun joked through his tears.

 

Jeongguk smiled tiredly, that one action seeming to use up most of his remaining energy.

 

“I think you should talk to them- no, I think you should listen to what they have to say. Don’t force yourself to speak, okay?”

 

Blinking his eyes as a ‘yes, of course, my perpetually worried brother’, Jeonghyun smiled and kissed his hair before standing to let the team move closer.

 

“I’ll go buy some food for everyone.”

 

It was midnight but… still. They had to eat.

 

“Thanks, Jeonghyun,” they spoke hesitantly and waited for him to leave the room.

 

“Well? … Are you going to… stand there all day?”

 

His boyfriends smiled brokenly as they approached him and sat themselves a safe distance away from the youngest as if being any closer would cause the boy harm. Jeongguk’s hands trembled, trying to reach out to them, and thankfully Yoongi and Namjoon received the message. It was a difficult feat to grasp the hand so tightly without jostling the IV drip but they managed.

 

“You okay?” Jeongguk whispered.

 

“Yeah. We are now,” Namjoon smiled.

 

“Jeongguk… first of all, we want to apologise. We thought the perp was someone who had a personal vendetta against you so we looked through your past cases to see if you may have offended someone or if anyone had a motive to hurt you. We’re sorry for invading your privacy like that.”

 

“It’s okay. … Thank you… for telling me.”

 

“We’re going to explain why Dongyul did what he did. We aren’t making up excuses for him because no amount of hatred could justify his actions but we want you to listen, okay? If it ever gets too much, you can tell us to stop and we’ll leave it for later.”

 

Jeongguk nodded.

 

“Namjoon and I, we joined a team a few years back and naturally being the two new members, we stuck together. Namjoon showed great potential and he was immediately promoted to leader when ours moved into another division.”

 

“It was hard at first. The team didn’t understand what Jeonghyun saw in me so they gave me a hard time and on top of all my new responsibilities, I kind of broke. They didn’t think I deserved to be the leader because I was new and inexperienced but Yoongi helped me see that they were just envious… insecure just like I was.”

 

Jeongguk knew all too well what Namjoon meant.

 

“Jeonghyun walked in on one of our arguments and he dispersed the team that day. We thought he was going to transfer us to different divisions but he kept Namjoon and I. We weren’t a team yet but Jeonghyun had us train in various divisions. He told us he was going to personally make a team, even had the name ready before he found the third member, Hoseok. Then came Seokjin, followed by Dongyul and Jimin and Tae together.”

 

“We worked unbelievably well together, even I was amazed,” Namjoon claimed. “We were all respectful of each other and no one questioned why I was the leader despite my short experience as a criminal profiler.”

 

“That is until we had an argument once during a case. Not like the small disputes every team has but a full blown out quarrel. Dongyul snapped at Namjoon because he disagreed with the profile and-“

 

“I argued back. I knew he was wrong but I still should’ve considered it. I should’ve showed him I valued his opinion. He said I didn’t deserve to be a leader and it hurt. Suddenly everyone’s sharp words came back and I was so sacred, I just… froze.”

 

“I was furious because everyone in the team knew that Namjoon was pressured by his responsibilities and Dongyul had used that. I yelled at him. I told him we had to be a team if he wanted to work his own case, he can.”

 

“We profiled the arsonist as a meticulous ex-fireman in his late thirties whose office wife left him after he suffered severe burns to his face. After leaving all five victims alive, we were left with barely anything.”

 

“Dongyul thought we were going about it the wrong way. Said it wasn’t a male who was projecting his anger onto others but just someone who found sadistic gratification with ruining others’ lives.”

 

“He left angrily and knowing him, we just assumed he was going out to clear his head.”

 

“We were worried, of course. This was the first time any of us walked out on a case. He wouldn’t respond to the radio line we used but we continued to update him on our progress of the case. I knew he heard everything we said because he hadn’t disconnected it so I made sure to track his cell,” Yoongi said.

 

“From what we predicted, we knew the perp was going to strike again that night so we were trying to figure out his next victim and we did. It was going to be at a small, empty office building so not wanting to leave Dongyul out of our discovery, we updated him. But he just happened to be close to building and went after the perp, himself, even though Yoongi told him to wait for backup.”

 

“I was on site that night. I was there to monitor all the security cameras in the building. The perp had surrounded and filled the building with alarms so I directed everyone in and out. I told Dongyul through the radio to be careful and that I could surveil everyone’s movements through the cameras. He finally responded, said he didn’t need my help but he didn’t disconnect either. When I told him the victim was on the third floor, I don’t know why I did- I was stupid, he immediately headed that way.”

 

“We were also inside the building at the time so Yoongi had the keep an eye on the both of us. It was hard since it was a relatively small office and there were a lot of blind spots Yoongi couldn’t cover. One of the officers with us accidentally set of one of the alarms and the whole second floor was set on fire. While half of us went to save the victim, the other half of us went after the perp. We split off and Yoongi couldn’t focus on Dongyul with us running in two different directions.”

 

“I… I didn’t see Dongyul fall unconscious in the fire after an unstable bookshelf fell on him until it was too late. I was so centred on helping them catch the arsonist, I forgot to check on him. I didn’t do it on p-purpose. I-I swear. I would never do that to someone. Even if I hated them.”

 

“I know,” Jeongguk reassured.

 

“When we all made it out, Yoongi realised Dongyul was still in the building so he barged in against my orders. They just made it out before the building collapsed but Dongyul fell into a coma with the extent of his injuries.”

 

“I drowned… in guilt and self-hatred. I blamed myself for days, weeks. Why couldn’t I have watched him carefully? Why didn’t I tell him to get out as soon as I saw him in the building? Why did he have to suffer because of me? I wanted to apologise after he woke up but he’d forgotten what had happened. He didn’t even seem to remember the argument.”

 

“We thought he was going to blame us for what’d happened but he didn’t and we didn’t want to push it.”

 

“Why did he… kill those… people?”

 

“Dongyul used to be an orphan. An orphan that no one wanted to adopt and because of that, his caretaker, the second victim, assaulted him, the owner, the first, neglected him and another orphan, the third, bullied him. They left him in a fire which was caused by the last victim when he was eight and although he survived, he lost all his memories from before that day.”

 

“Apparently, when he started working with us, each case brought more and more memories back but he didn’t want to believe that he was an unwanted child because we wanted him. We needed him in the team.”

 

“He was still suffering from temporary amnesia when he was discharged until the anniversary of the fire at the orphanage triggered Dongyul’s memories to return. He concluded that we didn’t want him so he wanted to take revenge on everyone who had hurt him. He sent us the torture videos because he wanted us to watch them suffer like we did when he was in the fire. And… and he took you because-“

 

“Because… he thought I’d… replaced him. … He thought… I took his family… away from him. … The only people… who had ever… accepted him.”

 

“Yeah,” Yoongi confirmed sadly.

 

“If only we paid more attention to him after he was discharged, maybe we could have prevented this.”

 

“If only we prodded a little more about Dongyul’s childhood, we may have found him before he took you.”

 

“If only we had accompanied you home, you wouldn’t have been taken.”

 

“If only we had checked up on you constantly after you left, we would’ve realised you were gone sooner.”

 

“If only we worked faster, you wouldn’t have suffered as much as you did.”

 

“If only we could take your pain away…”

 

“If only… I hadn’t… joined… the team… none of those… victims… would’ve died.”

 

“Jeongguk, there’s nothing we would change about you joining the team.”

 

“We’re so lucky to have you. You can’t make us say otherwise.”

 

“If I could, I would never let you out of my sight.”

 

“We were so scared, Jeongguk.”

 

“I’m sorry.”

 

“Don’t apologise. It’s our fault.”

 

“Its not. … When I recover… I’ll tell you… every minute… of every day… that it’s not… any of your fault.”

 

“We don’t deserve you.”

 

“You do. … Don’t say that. … Where’s Dongyul now?”

 

“Back at the station… we can deal with him later.”

 

“As long as you’re in this hospital, we’ll be here too.”

 

“Don’t be ridiculous. … You guys need to… rest too. … You probably look… just as horrible… as me.”

 

“Thanks, Guk,” Taehyung chuckled wetly.

 

“But how exactly are you going to stop us staying in your state?” Jimin joked.

 

“By telling… the doctor to… send you home… of course,” Jeongguk grinned cheekily, life returning to his eyes.

 

They smiled at the light banter before just sitting beside Jeongguk, quietly, peacefully.

 

“Go to sleep. We’ll be here when you wake up,” Hoseok said, watching Jeongguk’s eyelids threaten to close. Although the younger tried to fight them, rather cutely, they all knew it was pointless opposing the medications.

 

“A-Are we going to be ok?” Jeongguk heard them whisper just before he fell asleep.

 

“Yeah… we will be.”

 

Chapter Text

Three months after discharge, with continuous visits to the rehabilitation centre, Jeongguk was nearly at full recovery save for his neural injuries. He was never alone for a single minute at the hospital or after he’d returned home. Normally, he would complain about the lack of privacy but he wanted them around him, needed him. The first few weeks out of the hospital weren’t easy. On top of his physical disabilities, Jeongguk’s mental state was worse for wear. He found it hard to be alone in the dark, he couldn’t sleep without a light on and flinched away from all sharp objects.

 

He refused taking painkillers in fear of becoming addicted and most nights, he needed someone to talk to him until he was too tired but they did so willingly. Never once had his boyfriends or brother complained and Jeongguk knew he shouldn’t but he felt slightly guilty for bothering them when they could be saving others. He didn’t voice it until a month down and his boyfriends were quick to coddle him with reassurance.

 

In the three months, they had declined all cases, even the smallest ones, to focus on Jeongguk’s improving health but in return, it had also meant that there was more work for Jeonghyun who needed to re-evaluate the distribution of all his agents. But even when he drowned in piles of paperwork, Jeonghyun made time each day to ask how Jeongguk was doing.

 

“Isn’t it about time for you to head off?”

 

“This brat. Trying to kick me out of my house because his boyfriends are coming over,” Jeonghyun sighed dramatically before speaking to himself, “They need their privacy, Jeonghyun. Don’t get in between them. They won’t be able to do anything with their boss in the house-”

 

“Hyun,” Jeongguk hissed, flustered pink embracing his cheeks and Jeonghyun smiled so hard, he felt his muscles cramp.

 

“I’m just joking. You guys better behave.”

 

“Hyun, stop it.”

 

“Fine, fine. At least let me stay until your boyfriends arrive,” he pouted pitifully.

 

“Can I refuse?”

 

“No,” Jeonghyun hmphed, knocking Jeongguk’s temple with his knuckles.

 

“I’m joking too, Hyun. I don’t think I ever thanked you for everything these few months so thank you.”

 

“You don’t need to thank me. It’s my fault you’re caught up in this mess. I sometimes wish you pursued art but if you love what you do, I guess that’s all that matters.”

 

“I do.”

 

“Even after everything?”

 

“Yeah,” Jeongguk nodded.

 

“Do you wish to return after you’re recovered?”

 

“Yeah, Doc actually cleared me this morning.”

 

“Ok… ok, I won’t stop you then.”

 

“Thank you,” Jeongguk smiled as he wrapped his arms tightly around Jeonghyun. “How’re things with the Director?”

 

“He’s still on my back because your team’s absence is creating more and more work.”

 

“Well you can tell him we’ll be back soon then.”

 

“Are you sure you don’t want another few weeks off?” Jeonghyun sighed.

 

“Yeah. Crime doesn’t go on holidays.”

 

“Ok, I’ll be back tomorrow morning if I manage to finish everything. Plenty of time, right?” Jeonghyun winked jokingly only to earn a slap.

 

“One of these days, I’m going to move out.”

 

“You’re going to leave your poor brother alone in this huge house?”

 

“Yup,” Jeongguk said, popping the ‘p’.

 

“Brat,” the elder huffed.

 

Jeongguk laughed along with his brother until the distinct sound of the doorbell cut through their moment.

 

“Looks like my time’s up. Do you want me to let them in?”

 

“Yeah, thanks. I’m too lazy to get off the bed.”

 

“Of course you are,” Jeonghyun chuckled, sliding off to gather his work materials. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

 

“Mhm.”

 

“I love you, Guk.”

 

“I love you more.”

 

“I love you most.”

 

“Stop it,” Jeongguk laughed, scrunching up his nose.

 

He heard his brother shuffling around outside followed by the sound of tinkling keys which stopped when Jeonghyun opened the front door. After an exchange of greeting and polite conversation, Jeonghyun directed them where his younger brother was lazing around. Jeongguk chuckled at Jeonghyun’s reluctant tone, amused at how the elder can go from teasing them one minute to being overprotective the next.

 

Lethargically, Jeongguk lifted a hand to wave as his boyfriends enter.

 

“You ready for bed already?” Namjoon chuckled as he dropped a kiss on Jeongguk’s forehead.

 

“Mhm.”

 

“Hey, baby, long time no see,” Jimin smiled softly.

 

“You literally took me to the doctors this morning.”

 

“Like I said. Long time.”

 

Jeongguk rolled his eyes but accepted the peck on his cheek with a giddy smile. Taehyung followed, ruffling his hair as he kissed the other side. Their few seconds of just smiling at each was sweet until a loud Hoseok barged into the room, ready to smother Jeongguk in a hug.

 

“You’re heavy.”

 

“That’s ok. You’re strong.”

 

Hoseok pressed a soft kiss on his collarbone before Seokjin pulled him off hastily.

 

“His ribs just healed, Hoseok,” he scolded and Hoseok could do nothing but grin sheepishly.

 

“Hey, Jin.”

 

“Hi, baby. Your ribs ok?”

 

“Yeah, don’t worry,” Jeongguk said, trying to ease the guilty look on Hoseok’s face.

 

Seokjin sighed but cupped Jeongguk’s cheeks carefully, kissing his worried frown away.

 

“Where’s Yoongi?”

 

“Here bun,” Yoongi said, appearing over all the heads to bop and kiss Jeongguk’s nose.

 

“What’re you doing back there? I can’t see you properly.”

 

“He’s just a bit short,” Taehyung grinned evilly.

 

Yoongi ignored him in favour of watching Jeongguk giggle behind his hand. It was adorable, might he say, and the urge to kiss the sweet laugh was awfully hard to resist.

 

“Do you mind if we sit?”

 

“Since when did you have to ask? You guys practically live here,” Jeongguk grinned.

 

After the agents begun frequenting their house, he and his brother had moved the queen bed from their guest bedroom into Jeongguk’s room so that they sat beside his king sized bed. It was a tight fit when all seven of them were sleeping together but for sitting, there was more than enough space.

 

Namjoon was already making himself comfortable on Jeongguk’s right while Yoongi snatched the position on his left. He immediately snuggled up to the former when a strong arm was wrapped around his shoulders. Jeongguk filled them in on his past few days since his boyfriends had alternated in spending time with him. The Director had been trying to persuade them all to return but they were adamant when they told him that they weren’t going to work as a complete team without Jeongguk.

 

Currently they watched Jeongguk talk animatedly about an incident a couple of days ago when Namjoon and him and visited a newly opened dog café on the edge of the city.

 

“This massive dog jumped on him as soon as we walked into the seated area and Namjoon fell down, dropping all the snacks with him. He made such a commotion everyone in the café turned to stare at us,” he smiled.

 

Jeongguk, ever the oblivious, continued, unaware of all the eyes which suddenly shifted, dancing with an unspoken emotion.

 

“Then all the dogs gathered around us and finished the snacks. We weren’t even two metres into the room yet and Namjoon-”

 

“Jeongguk, please stop,” Namjoon groaned.

 

“Wait, I took a video,” Jeongguk gasped. “Where’s my phone?”

 

Before Jeongguk could look over to check his nightstand, Namjoon leaned towards him, cupping the soft cheeks before letting their lips touch. Jeongguk froze, his hands on Namjoon’s shoulder, ready to push the elder away out of instinct at the unusual soft feeling against his lips. When his mind finally came around, he stretched his arms out to pull Namjoon closer, a sign which told the elder it was ok. Namjoon smiled, licking at Jeongguk’s lips to ask for permission. The younger obediently opened his mouth and it was the last thing he could remember before the kiss grew heated and Namjoon lost all semblance of control. Jeongguk’s small whimper did nothing but make Namjoon groan lowly as he forced himself to retract.

 

They stared at each other for what felt like minutes, forgetting the presence of the other five in the room. Namjoon eventually smiled and fully drew back, giving Jeongguk a bit of space.

 

“W-What was that for?”

 

“Remember when we first met and I spat water on you?”

 

“How could I forget?” he chuckled.

 

“You told me that if I don’t like what you say to shut you up in a ‘different way’.”

 

“…No, I didn’t.”

 

Namjoon chuckled at the cute denial while Jeongguk’s cheeks flared up and he tried to duck his head away from their predatory gazes.

 

“I think I forgot to… turn the stove off. Yeah, that,” Jeongguk blurted before trying to jump off the bed.

 

The elders smiled in amusement and it was Yoongi who caught Jeongguk’s wrist in his hand, stopping the younger from slipping away.

 

“Sweetie, where do you think you’re going?”

 

Before Jeongguk could reply, Yoongi pulled him gently across his lap and secured the younger with a hand on his nape, stroking affectionately.

 

“Push me away if you want me to stop, ok?”

 

Jeongguk nodded and grabbed Yoongi’s shirt in his fists as the elder brought their faces together and melded their lips together. He relaxed after a few seconds before allowing Yoongi entry when he believed he was ready to be kissed senseless. Jeongguk breathed in the minty scent, which followed Yoongi around, the overwhelming senses leaving him tingling all over. Although the kiss was slightly aggressive, Yoongi’s aim to devour as much as he could, Jeongguk felt safe in his arms.

 

Yoongi finally pulled back to admire his work, satisfied with how dishevelled Jeongguk was from the kiss. Jeongguk breathed heavily, eyes wandering everywhere but towards Yoongi’s.

 

“I’m feeling rather neglected.”

 

Jeongguk snapped his head back to the figure beside Yoongi who was pouting, clearly jealous as he crossed both arms over his chest. Yoongi and him both chuckled before the former slid him over to Hoseok, helping the younger settle on his lap. Jeongguk throwing his arms around Hoseok’s neck finally wiped the pout away and gone was the misery as want took its place instead. They met in the middle, Jeongguk adapting and relaxing far quicker than he previously had.

 

It was a comfortable sort of desire Jeongguk felt from Hoseok.

 

As Hoseok explored his mouth, Jeongguk suddenly fought back, surprising the elder who’d thought the younger would submit easily. A growl from Hoseok had Jeongguk regretting his reckless action and trying to pull back from Hoseok’s tongue, which passionately delved into his mouth.

 

Hoseok chuckled when he relented and let the younger back away. Jeongguk’s swat on Hoseok’s shoulder was weak and a small pout formed on his lips.

 

“Wasn’t too much, was it?”

 

“No… it was nice.”

 

The elder let out a boisterous laugh before Jeongguk was whisked away from his lap by Seokjin. When the younger finally processed what had happened, Seokjin’s face was close to his, causing his already uneven breathing to hitch at the suddenness. How was Seokjin even more majestic up close?

 

“Where’s mine?”

 

“Your what?”

 

Seokjin smirked at Jeongguk’s feigned innocence and that was the only warning he gave before their lips smashed together. Jeongguk gasped in surprise, unaccustomed to the elder, who was usually gentle and careful, turning rough and greedy. Whimpering as a hand grabbed his hair, he tried to sync his movements to Seokjin but the elder was already deepening the kiss. With their chests pressed against each other, Jeongguk felt warmth and security encompass him.

 

Jeongguk licked his lips after they separated and Seokjin resisted the urge to kiss him again.

 

“Did you forget about me?”

 

Taehyung’s voice was playful but it couldn’t cover the lustful undertones, which had Jeongguk squirming on Seokjin’s lap. He all but threw himself into the elder’s arms, ignoring Seokjin’s whine.

 

“You’re the forgetful one. Maybe you’ve even forgotten how to kiss.”

 

“Shall we put that theory to test?”

 

Jeongguk giggled and Taehyung pulled him so close that space was a lost concept to them. Tentatively, he traced Jeongguk’s bottom lip with his tongue until the younger whined, demanding more. The gentle hand combing Jeongguk’s hair suddenly grabbed a fistful and tugged him at an angle so that their lips could lock together. Their tongues met at last and Jeongguk sighed into the kiss. A shiver rampaged down his body alongside a prickling sensation when Taehyung groaned, voice deep and raspy. The grip in his hair tightened faintly and Jeongguk, sensitive from all the emotions, felt even more electrified.

 

Unfortunately, it ended, leaving Jeongguk wanting more and Taehyung stopping himself from destroying Jeongguk’s lips.

 

“So?”

 

“Definitely remembered,” Jeongguk answered after he recovered from the haze.

 

Taehyung smirked sinfully but Jeongguk couldn’t finish admiring the elder because he was pulled onto Jimin’s lap.

 

“Hey.”

 

“My turn.”

 

Jimin was surprisingly patient and respectful despite being last and waited for Jeongguk to make the first move however, as soon as he tangled their tongues together, Jimin surrendered to his own thirst. Jeongguk felt his back touch the soft blankets before Jimin’s firm hands cupped his cheeks to keep his face tilted towards him. There was nothing soft about the kiss as Jimin’s lips moved aggressively against his, occasionally biting down to elicit a whimper.

 

The only form of resistance came when Jeongguk ran out of breath and had to tap Jimin’s ribs to let the elder know.

 

“You ok, babe?”

 

“Yeah… just needed… to breathe.”

 

They watched as he rested his head back against the bed covers, chest rising and falling rapidly. It was hard to not stare at the sensual pink colour of his swollen lips, coated with saliva, while his eyes were glazed in remnants of lust. His hair was a disordered mess, sitting on his head at odd angles, and his shirt had ridden up to show glimpses of tan skin.

 

It was quiet moments like these that finalised the elders’ thoughts.

 

They waited calmly for the youngest to level his breathing and bring himself out of the daze. Jeongguk smiled sheepishly when he finally found the courage to meet Jimin’s eyes.

 

“I love you, Jeongguk,” Jimin whispered and the younger froze yet again, slipping out of his bliss.

 

“W-What?”

 

“I love you.”

 

“… I-“

 

“You don’t have to say it back if that’s what you’re worried about, Jeongguk. I just wanted you to know how I felt.”

 

“But-“

 

Jimin shushed him with an innocent, lingering peck on Jeongguk’s lips, which whisked away all his memories of their past cases. Closing his eyes, he savoured the soft, fairy-like feeling.

 

It wasn’t rushed. It wasn’t hungry. It wasn’t about dominance.

 

It was just sweet.

 

“I don’t think I’m the only one,” Jimin smiled before leaving Jeongguk’s side to allow someone else to occupy it.

 

Someone else being Seokjin who came up beside Jeongguk and rested his hands upon the younger’s.

 

“Jeongguk, I love you too.”

 

Similar to Jimin, the eldest leaned down and pressed his lips against Jeongguk’s, smile growing when he felt the latter return the kiss. He raised his hand to Jeongguk’s cheeks and let his thumb caress soothing circles on the skin. Even though Jeongguk was ready to follow the elder’s fast pace from before, he decided he quite liked this one too.

 

“And I think my time is up,” Seokjin chuckled when he felt a hand insistently tapping his shoulder.

 

Jeongguk opened his eyes again and laughed when he saw Namjoon rolling Seokjin away from him. The elder clumsily tumbled forwards with a bit too much enthusiasm and almost fell on top of Jeongguk. Without saying anything like Jeongguk had expected, Namjoon bent down and surprised him with a kiss alike Jimin’s and Seokjin’s. Namjoon pulled back and they, yet again, lost themselves in each other’s eyes like there was no one else in the room apart from the two of them.

 

“I love you, Jeongguk Jeon.”

 

“Finally,” Jeongguk heard someone exclaim as he watched Namjoon being dragged away from him.

 

The momentary absence of warmth was quickly replaced with Hoseok’s gentle and calming aura, which did nothing less than relax him further. Hoseok brushed Jeongguk’s messed up fringe and the younger let his eyes shut as he leaned into the touch. The elder pressed a kiss to Jeongguk’s nose first, chuckling when he saw the cute scrunch. Moving down, he let their noses brush before kissing Jeongguk’s lips.

 

“I love you, Jeongguk,” Hoseok whispered, their lips still touching.

 

Like Jeongguk had predicted, once the words left Hoseok’s mouth, the elder was gone from his sight. In his place, Taehyung’s shy smile. His elbows were on either side of Jeongguk, blocking the younger’s peripheral view of the other agents.

 

“I love you more than all of them, Jeongguk.”

 

Jeongguk chuckled at Taehyung’s statement that made their love seem like a competition but before his laugh could leave his mouth, Taehyung’s lips were on his. Jeongguk breathed heavily through his nose, unprepared for the sudden kiss, but relaxed when he felt Taehyung’s hands begin a comforting roam in his hair. The sensation left him tingling all over again.

 

When Taehyung pulled off, Jeongguk smiled at Yoongi, the last person. He watched apprehensively as the elder moved forward, his motions slow and not as enthusiastic as the others. Jeongguk wanted to ask the elder if something was wrong but that idea became lost to him when Yoongi returned a gummy smile.

 

Sliding his hand under Jeongguk’s head, he tilted the younger up slightly to meet their lips halfway. Jeongguk breathed in the fresh minty scent again while he propped his elbows back to support some of his own weight. Yoongi pulled away and chuckled at the sleepy expression on Jeongguk’s face.

 

“I love you, Jeongguk.”

 

Jeongguk smiled sweetly and glanced around to make sure the others hadn’t left.

 

“Go to sleep. We’ll be here when you wake up,” Yoongi whispered, bringing Jeongguk’s head onto his lap.

 

“Goodnight.”

 

“Goodnight, baby. Sweet dreams.”

 

Jeongguk smiled and drifted off almost immediately after. The elders watched fondly as Jeongguk’s chest rose up and down with every soft huff of breath. They stared at Jeongguk’s face as if they hadn’t already committed every single feature, every single detail to memory. Keeping quiet as to not wake Jeongguk up, they eventually fell asleep around him.

 

When morning came, Jeongguk was woken up by someone stroking his hair and another kissing his forehead. He peeled his eyes open, still disorientated, to meet six faces blocking the woven strands of sunlight. Smiling back sleepily, Jeongguk opened his arms to let the warm hugs engulf him.

 

Maybe, in that moment he was already convinced.

 

But he waited.

 

Weeks later, after a particularly tough case, he scheduled another gathering at his house, which always seemed to end with him breathless, on the bed, in a tangle of bodies.

 

He realised he could definitely get used to this.

 

Going to bed every night after whispering goodnight to them.

 

Waking up to their calm smiles everyday.

 

Being surrounded by his boyfriends.

 

Perhaps loving them wasn’t as daunting as he had once thought.

 

Perhaps everything would be ok.

 

When the soft rays finally hit the pile of bodies on the bed, Jeongguk sat up from his bundle of blankets, watching the others shift and lazily gaze up at him.

 

“Morning, baby.”

 

“I have a secret,” he blurted.

 

“Mhm?”

 

“I love you.”