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Running on Fumes (But We'll Make It Through the Night)

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His chest aches to the throbbing of his feet smacking against the pavement, thick leather boots clanging on the stone and sending splashes of water kicking upwards, propelling against the sky’s downpour.

He glances behind him and sees flashing lights in the distance, yet pushes that to the bottom of his problems because that’s not what he’s running from right now.

Later, maybe.

But the roaring engine chewing up the gravel he’s leaving behind, though… that’s a problem.

Taehyung has enough stamina to outrun a helicopter – he’s done it enough times – and on a regular day, the rain wouldn’t be much of an issue either.

But three fucking hours of this and he’s starting to get a little tired from all the skidding and slips he’s had over the wet ground all because he has no fucking idea about the layout of this city.

He makes a sharp turn now, down a narrow alleyway that he knows will only buy him a few more seconds of time for his pursuers to reroute and come out the other end and, honestly, he considers just hiding in one of the dustbins and hoping for the best.

But that won’t work. They can fucking smell him.

Seriously. Smell.

Some weird, intrusive new technology a batshit inventor from one of the desolate towns over’s come up with, supposedly – like tracking electronic transmissions from the brain wasn’t enough and, well, it wasn’t – not for Taehyung. He doesn’t emit those.

But this thing? Yeah, it can smell him. He had all of this kindly explained to him the last time they cornered him and managed to tear one of his sleeves that had his DNA all over it.

And his scent, apparently.

Just like clockwork, Taehyung gets to the end of the alley and starts sprinting down the next street, counts to five in his head and hears the revving of the van’s engine picking up again behind him.

“Don’t you bastards ever give it a rest?” he calls out over his shoulder, voice drowned out by the heavy rain; his hair’s been sticking to his forehead since about, you know, an hour ago, and he swears it’s actually starting to chafe. He peels it back off of his forehead and pulls the bandana hanging around his neck up to hold his hair back because, well, it’s not like he needs to hide his identity right now considering they’ve known who and where he is for the past three hours.

He just wants one night. One single night without any sort of calamity.

Getting chased was only fun the first thirty or so times.

He rounds another corner, a little more clumsily this time but it doesn’t matter because he knows this area. He knows exactly where he can go, now - about time. This city is far too big and similar-looking for Taehyung to know his way around it at all yet, but he knows this place.

He pushes himself a little harder, feels his feet ring out as they slap against the sidewalk with just enough force that he can get some sort of advantage and he’s just about to run across the road, to get into the alley he needs to get to, when there’s a screeching of tires against the cement, and a horn that shrieks at him. Taehyung stops just in time to get little more than a shock, and he locks eyes with the driver, staring back at him with unblinking doe-eyes and parted lips…

… It kind of makes him wish he had business cards so he could fire his number at him and see that face again later, wink-wonk.

But he doesn’t, so he gives the man nothing more than an apologetic grin and slips into the alley, pushing a huge tower of boxes to the right to reveal a rickety-looking door. He swings it open, puts the boxes back over it and slams it shut, letting himself breathe again as he slips down against the wood of the entrance and succumbs to the peacefulness of the dark for just a moment.

He really needs this to stop.

Taehyung’s been running for almost as long as he can remember now, city to city, place to place. He rarely stays for more than a few weeks at a time before he has to move on for his own safety.

But then, about a year ago now, he met Park Jimin on a lonely night where he was tired and exhausted from skipping yet another town. He’d ended up in this big city he’d never been in, no idea where to go that wouldn’t send red flags to the people tracking him down immediately.

For the first time in his free life, Taehyung felt afraid.

But Jimin has one of the kindest hearts out there, so when he saw a boy wandering around with the most pathetically lost look on his face, he offered him help.

He’s felt like a burden to him ever since.

Jimin keeps insisting that he isn’t, but it’s hard to believe it when he can’t help pay for rent, or food, or bills. When he disappears for volatile lengths of time and worries the other man sick, wondering where and for how long. When he puts him and the people close to him in danger every day that he’s still being hunted down. When he can’t even study or go out or have romantic evenings with his boyfriend without it being wracked with the question of ‘what if he’s gone and doesn’t come back this time?’

Taehyung never promises that that won’t happen. He can’t. Jimin won’t even let him.

So, he allows himself a moment, or maybe two, to think of all the reasons he needs this to stop.

Then, he thrusts himself up to his feet again.

Things to do, after all.

Jimin’s apartment is always dark when Taehyung sneaks in; primarily because electricity is expensive nowadays (despite literally everything running on it. Damn capitalists,) but also because if he’s seen from the outside when he’s hiding, then it’ll put Jimin in danger too.   

And Min Yoongi would kick his fucking ass for that.

Luckily, Taehyung can see rather well in the dark, so he has no trouble at all locating Jimin’s notepad for school lying abandoned on his desk (he refuses to use electronic ones, the hipster) and he hopes he won’t be too mad at him for stealing a page when they’re as broke as they are, but it’s kind of important.

He takes the pen sitting beside it, gives it a few swipes on the paper until it works and scribbles down a quick note explaining his sudden disappearance, apologising for that, and then following it up with something along the lines of, ‘Oh, I’m gonna disappear again suddenly, by the way,’ before signing it off with his name and a smiley face in hopes that Jimin, again, won’t be too mad.

Then, he throws the pen back down, tears out the page, and puts it somewhere he knows Jimin will definitely check – stuck over his mirror. Then, he decides to steal a change of clothes before he goes back out; his current ones are leaving wet puddles all over Jimin’s nice wooden floor and he just knows he’ll get at him for it when he gets back.

Well… ‘when’ is maybe a little too immediate. If? Is ‘if’ better?

He ruffles his damp hair in the sliver left uncovered past his note in the mirror, room only lit up slightly by the neon of the city outside Jimin’s windows and tries not to feel an ounce of pity for himself, or anyone else, when he leaves the apartment again. But, this time, there’s a sense of determination that he hadn’t had when he last left.

He is going to put a stop to all of this. No more disappearances. No more worrying about his friends’ safety.  

~

Jungkook watches the slow flood of raindrops flick and crash and run down the cool glass of the window in a lazy sort of downpour, too heavy to not take shelter from, loud enough that he can hear is thudding like the roll of a drum against the pavement outside. Yet it’s slow… languid. Dreary.

He lifts his paper cup to his lips and blows on the steam, taking a precautionary sip before setting it back down again with a wince.

Cheap cups, bitter coffee, shitty weather.

Usual late night on duty.

All week, all damn week , Jungkook’s been put on ADIEU – something to ‘break him in to the danger of the force’, he was told. Android Defect Investigation and Extermination Unit: a branch of Solelight’s world-famous police department, meant to hunt down and destroy the androids that shouldn’t exist in the first place.

The public see them as a safeguard for the city, a safeguard for the country, and Jungkook isn’t one to disagree, per se. But it’s an important job, given to important people – not kids that’ve only actually been working in the field for a year or two.  

He knows there’s elevated expectations of him, nothing to do with ‘breaking him in.’ Breaking him in would be a couple of patrol runs in one of the WATCH-Bikes on a Saturday night.

Tracking down the most dangerous individuals on the planet? Not exactly a rookie’s job.

But, he isn’t just a rookie. He’s an ‘exceptional student’, as they call him, one that graduated much younger than anyone else before him – all down to the fact that this is what he was raised on. His father was chief of the district all through his childhood and, now, has become the head of ADIEU. His mother was the field marshal of the emergency unit, branded as an utter hero for her level-headedness and control in the hysteria of crises.    

All expectations are on him to not just do well… but fix the problem all together.

And why ?

Well, Jungkook’s not all that interested in the why of things. Do what you’re told, ask questions later seems to be the motto of people in his position. All he knows is what everyone else does: Defected androids are illegal and too dangerous to be let run around the cities, and it takes a highly-skilled, highly determined group of people to prevent them from continuing to live amongst them like normal humans.

Defects are branded with an ugly, glowing lettering on their back, given to them once the law was first instilled of them being too dangerous to remain unbranded. From then on, any created defects were branded from the start, and kept in production for experimentation. The few that were released had been eliminated and it all seemed to work out. But then, regular androids made alongside the defects started updating themselves with the defects’ software and it was decided that the root, along with those infected, had to be destroyed.

Androids infected with the software aren’t superior to the defects, nor are they hard to pick out. Most androids are too weak and outdated to perform properly with the new software, so they begin to defect in a different way. They twitch, or their lights strewn across their bodies start to flicker and blink. Maybe their speech will slur or distort or they’ll start to carry out simple tasks incorrectly. Occasionally, though, they become extremely aggressive – and that’s what makes them dangerous enough to eliminate.

Defects on the other hand, are much more human. Besides their branding, they can be practically indistinguishable from a glance. They don’t have lights in their palms and running up their arms and legs like regular androids do. They were a failed upgrade experiment. A new model, more human than ever – but it wasn’t that that they failed with. They’re too human. They simulate emotion that they learn from watching other humans interact. Greed, offense, envy, disgust, wrath. Without a fault, they emulate what they see. Except they’re stronger than humans. Both in physical strength and durability. They can exert energy for much longer, don’t need to sleep, eat, or drink for incredible lengths of time and have the ability of independent thought, which regular androids struggle with.

They’re dangerous, because they’re better humans.

And, when enough time passes, they realise this and they begin to think that, really, there’s no reason to keep humans around if all they do is enslave them. Not when they can so easily overpower them.

And that’s when they become dangerous enough to eliminate.

But Jungkook hasn’t tasted any of the danger his new job presents - no, his week has been slow, to put it lightly. Nothing more than a few defect-upgrade androids that went on a rampage to mess up a few houses, or threaten a few people with sharp objects.

Not a single defect in sight.

So, on a drizzling Friday night, when he’d much, much rather be at home, trying to get some sleep before he has to write reports on his week’s fieldwork due by nine AM, Monday morning – Jungkook is sitting in a worn-out diner he tends to frequent with only a few other grey-faced customers like himself and a single server.

He’s an oddly chipper man for the mood of the place, humming to himself as he sweeps up dust bunnies and used ketchup packets from the tiled floor. Sharp eyes and tousled black hair trying to outweigh the youthful endearment of his rounded cheeks.

They’ve talked only a handful of times, because, as with most people, the reputation of Jungkook’s family name weighs heavily over every conversation he has, as if with one wrong move he’ll exterminate them there and then – that sort of ruthlessness that got his family put where they are.

And to everyone else, Jungkook is every bit as cold and professional as his family.

Even the other customers won’t look him properly in the eye.

The server’s the only one that does, but that doesn’t mean much, really. Jungkook struggles to remember any conversation they’ve had that’s been longer than trivial pleasantries like ‘how’s school going, how are your friends’ and ‘congratulations on graduating, congratulations on the promotion, what’s the job like? – and especially not ones that were without nervous clearing of throats and fidgeting.

Jungkook doesn’t know all that much about his personal life, past the fact that he’s studying psychiatry at university because he really wants to help people, his best friend causes him too much trouble and eats all of his food and his boyfriend is a green-haired biochemist graduate that can be either very romantic or tragic .

Tonight, though, the server looks a little uneasy, not so cheerful, and he doesn’t think it’s anything to do with him for once.

Jungkook tips back the rest of his coffee, cringing ever so slightly at the bitter-burnt tang of it and stands up, digging into his pocket for the loose change to pay. Then, he crosses the diner with the short, sharp clipping of his shoes against the tiles.

“Hey, Jimin,” Jungkook greets, and the man seems to flinch at the sound of his name, but manages to look utterly blank again by the time his eyes are flicking to the younger man.

“Are you alright?”

Jimin’s lips part a little in surprise, and he straightens up, grip tightening on his broom in an attempt to look just that, but Jungkook’s been literally trained in the art of analysing body language for the purpose of lying, so when the man says “Yeah, of course, Jungkook, why?” he doesn’t buy it for a second.

Jungkook hands him the money for his drink, and Jimin just stares at it in his hand for a fleeting moment, until he kicks into action and takes it, leaving the broom at the side of the counter as he goes around the back of it to put it into the till with the shrill chime of its bell when it snaps shut again.

Then, Jimin turns to look back up at him, forcing a smile so fake that it makes Jungkook’s own cheeks hurt as he mechanically says, “Thank you, come back again soo-,”

“Jimin,” Jungkook says a little more forcefully this time, and the man keeps it up for a second longer, props to him, before the façade drops straight off of his face with a heavy sigh.

“What’s wrong?” Jungkook asks again, and Jimin doesn’t bother trying to recompose himself. Instead, he just leans on the counter, arms folded to support him and stares across at the investigator with a mild expression of annoyance.

“It’s nothing interesting, Jungkook. I’m just worried about one of my friends,” he says, but somehow he gets the feeling it’s more than ‘just’ worried. Jimin’s been wringing his hands in knots all night. He witnessed him pour coffee into the sugar pot earlier.  

“Why?” Jungkook asks, taking a seat at the stool in front of him. Jimin seems to like the idea enough – maybe he’s lost the will to stand, at this point – and comes around the counter to join him at the seat next to him.

“Because…” he mutters, head propped up in one of his hands, “he’s been gone for a little while.”

“He’s missing?” Jungkook asks – apparently too sternly because Jimin seems to jump a little more awake then, stammering, “ No , no he’s… he’s not missing . It’s just sometimes he… disappears for a bit…” he says, then, quickly adds, “ He comes back … but...”

“You still worry,” the younger supplies for him, “I get it.”

Jimin gives a short nod, saying, “ Exactly .” He sighs - looks physically exhausted as he confesses, “I just wish he’d let me help.”

“With what?” He asks, and Jimin’s eyes snap open like he hadn’t meant to say that out-loud.

“Oh, uh. It’s nothing, really. Just personal stuff.”

Jungkook keeps his steady eye contact with him, Jimin shifting uncomfortably underneath his gaze.

Interesting .

“Really. Nothing ,” he says in that same ‘don’t you go snooping Jeon Jungkook’ way that he likes to use when he needs to – like when Jungkook started scheming about the potentially unjust past of one of his supervisors back during his academy training.

Which he was right about, by the way. Bodes quite well for this suspicion.

But Jungkook doesn’t say that, because Jimin’ll only scold him for snooping. Despite the man being likely terrified of his family name, like most of the city is, it doesn’t stop him from reprimanding his ass when he sees fit.

To avoid that, Jungkook instead says, “If there’s ever something you need to talk to someone about, Jimin, you can tell me. I’ll keep it confidential.”

Jimin’s face passes through a couple of complications. Ranging from mistrust to concern to confliction. But then, he just looks grateful, saying earnestly, “I’ll remember that. Thank you.”

“No problem,” he replies easily, slipping off the stool. “Thanks for the coffee.”

Jimin snorts.

“I know you hate my coffee.”

“Thanks for the shelter , then,” he corrects himself, and Jimin just laughs weakly, giving him a polite wave as Jungkook gets ready to brace the cold.

He buttons up his coat, popping the collar to shield at least some of his face, and pushes open the cool metal of the door, the wind and shards of rain immediately slapping against his skin without relent. Jungkook marches to his car as quickly as possible without running and risking falling on his ass. Then, he presses his thumb to the side of the door, and watches it pop open.

Jungkook climbs into the car, the cool leather of the seat bleeding in through his slacks with a shiver, and he pulls the door closed, the pelt of rain softened to patters by the action.

The engine shakes alive with a low rumble when he presses his thumb to the ignition pad, seatbelt moving to wrap across him with a click and beep.

He takes a glance out the side mirror, as his wipers squeak against the window, and he catches the sight of Jimin, sitting forlornly with his head in his arms on the table he just left.

Watching him makes Jungkook feel a little pitiful.

He hopes that, wherever his friend is, he comes back safe.

Then, he drives off. He’s only got a few more blocks to do before he can pack it in for the night and thirty minutes before he’s into overtime – easy. That is, as long as no one runs out in front of him again like they had earlier. Some asshole that had the gall to grin at him after he realised and trudged on - Jungkook almost pissed himself.

But, no, he seems to get down the street without any of that, in fact, the city isn’t as lively as it should be on a Friday night, at all – no doubt because of the downpour that hasn’t ceased all day. Nobody in their right mind would want to go out tonight.

Jungkook, unfortunately, has no choice.

He must drive for ten minutes without seeing a single thing. He doesn’t know how he’s supposed to patrol when there’s literally no one out to cause trouble, but regardless, his shift is nearing its end and Jungkook figures he can just leave the night patrol to deal with the likely boredom they’ll face.

Just a few more streets to check, and all he’s seen is a few knocked over bins and one pair of tire tracks etched into one of the corners.

Strong wind and someone in a hurry to get home, he’d deduce. Nothing particularly patrol-worthy. He can’t exactly fine mother nature for delinquency.

He’s halfway down a poorly lit road, thick with the night’s fog, starting to creep its way in when a shadow illuminated by his headlights stumbles drunkenly right out in front of him. Jungkook exclaims, slamming on the brakes and coming to a squealing stop as the figure collapses onto the pavement inches away.

Jungkook’s hand flies to the handle, seat belt whipping off of him as he scrambles out of the car. The rain shoots against his face as he rounds the vehicle and hovers over the person – the man – who lies before him, looking almost crumpled as he inspects him for any signs of a concussion or the like.

It’s certainly not uncommon for a drunk to fall over like this, especially in such terrible weather, but Jungkook won’t take that as an opportunity to say the person hasn’t hurt themself because of it. Drunk or no drunk, it’s still his duty to help.

“Sir?” he calls to the man, “Can you hear me?”

There’s not even a flinch in his body, and Jungkook almost goes to turn him around, get a look at his face, until he notices the blood soaking his shirt.

Holy shit .”

This isn’t just a random drunkard.

“I don’t know if you can hear me, but I’m gonna call an ambulance, alright?”

Then, the man does react, a little tremor running through him as he reaches a weak hand up into nowhere and pleads, “don’t, don’t… they’ll find me there.” His hand falls flat by his side again with a quiet smack against the ground, and Jungkook’s left in the silence to get his thoughts the fuck together.

What the actual hell?

He rolls him over onto his back to see him clearly.

The man’s young, not much older than Jungkook is, he’d guess, but his face is bruised and slightly cut with red and blue and purple collecting on the skin of his cheeks and jaw like blending ink. He doesn’t know what could’ve caused this, isn’t sure if he should even want to find out.

Jungkook gets a better look at that wound now and sees that the bruising is the least of the problems here. He actually cringes at the sight – regardless of all the injuries they showed him in training.

His shirt’s slipped up ever so slightly, so Jungkook lifts it further to see properly.

There’s an ugly gash scaling his ribs to a few inches above his hip, surrounded in deep purple bruising and oozes of blood. In his almost comatose state, the man whines at the exposure of it to the elements.

While Jungkook… is at a complete loss of what to do.

‘They’ll find me’ he said, but who was he talking about?

Somebody’s chasing him, but was it the somebody that did this? Surely.

And then, who? A defect? A human ? Someone or something that’ll apparently definitely find him if he takes him to the hospital? Can he take that risk?

He doesn’t think so. No, he can’t . Not until he has the full story at least because, of course, there’s always the possibility that this man is a drunk – one that got in a nasty fight, and has disillusioned himself with the idea that whoever did this wasn’t just trying to get him to piss off or saw him as an easy target, but is actually hunting him.

But he can’t just let him bleed. Drunkard or not.

He takes another look over his wound, then over the rest of his body for any other injuries. Checks his pulse, finds a fairly sturdy heartbeat – to his surprise – and then decides to check his eyes again for malposition or convergence or any sign of concussion from when he fell.

But, then… he stalls when he gets a good look at the man because he seems oddly familiar.

And Jungkook doesn’t know any troublemakers , so how-

Wait.

The asshole that ran out in front of him earlier.

This is him .

Jungkook pushes back the unruly hair that’s fallen over his forehead and half of his face and even finds the bandana the man had been wearing earlier, revealing the face, even clearer than he’d seen it earlier. He’s a young man with smooth, gentle features and long lashes gracing his eyes - Jungkook thinks he might even see a beauty mark or two in the limited illumination of his headlights - and all of it comes together to make him handsome , of course, but in a delicate - frankly beautiful way.

When he’d seen him earlier, in dwindling daylight shrouded by rain clouds, he hadn’t found their interaction so strange. Lots of people don’t watch where they’re going in a rush, anybody could’ve ran out in front of him, sure. But, now… with his cryptic words and horrific injury… well it makes the idea of someone actually hunting him a little more realistic.

There could be someone or something or some group looking for this man. And even if that is the truth, who knows why.

He could be a convict, or he could be innocent, and until Jungkook finds out which he doesn’t know if he could take the chance of being responsible for him getting hurt if there is someone looking for him. The man is unconscious. The person after him could be metres away.

So then, he only has one choice.

Jungkook is as careful as possible when he drops to his knees, the material of his trousers soaking up the ground’s wetness immediately, and he lifts him into his arms – the man surprisingly easy to do so with, despite them being around the same height. He carries him over to his car door – wishes he had voice recognition turned on for once as he awkwardly bends over to try and press his thumb against the door without dropping the person in his grip – and then he puts him in the passenger seat, and checks the seatbelt doesn’t wrap around him too tightly to disturb his wound.

And it’s only as he realises he’s completely forgotten to finish his patrol, driving towards his house instead, that he asks himself what the fuck he’s doing with the beaten body of a literal stranger in the passenger seat of his nice white leather interior car.

God, his hyung’s gonna freak.

~

Taehyung wakes up with pain all over his body and in a room he’s never seen before.

This has happened before, unfortunately – after a rough night, sketchy party, one night stand he instantly regrets first sign of daylight.

But this room’s not the usual gutter or shitty apartment he’s used to.

It’s powder white, highlights of reds – roses, pomegranates - running through it like ribbons and quiet. Sterilely silent and pristine, as if it had never even been touched before. The curtains are drawn, but no light shines in, the white blinds permitting none at all; though, there is a simple bedside light, illuminating the whole space of the room as best as it can with its weak orange glow.

Taehyung is quilted in a thick duvet and bouquet of pillows, more comfortable than he’s ever been in his life, and the absence of his bandana on his head along with the dryness of his once dripping locks tells him that things have happened since he last opened his eyes.

When did he last open his eyes? What does he last remember?

It’s all a blur. For all he knows, he’s somewhere perfectly normal right now, and he wants to believe that to calm himself down but there’s something telling him very much otherwise.

And that fear only materialises in the silence as a furious argument hisses outside of his door.

“You shouldn’t have brought him here, do you know how much trouble we could get in, for Christ’s sake?”

“He’s here now, what the fuck do you want me to do, huh? Do what you’re supposed to do to him and we can put this behind us.”

No. Get rid of him. Now.”

How ?”

“I don’t care. Just don’t make a goddamn mess, or Daddy’ll get angry.”

One pair of footsteps stamp off down the hall, and Taehyung stays frozen in his place as the door rattles for a second, as if a hand’s on the doorknob, before it takes itself back off with a quick sigh. After another second or two, they leave as well.

Taehyung waits a minute more before he tears back the duvet, an involuntary groan taking over him as a smack of pain singes in his side. He stays perfectly still, letting the wave of blistering pain sear over him and huffs in ragged breaths, keeping cries of pain to a minimum since he absolutely doesn’t want to attract any sort of attention that might want to ‘get rid’ of him as they so pleasantly put.

He looks down to find the source of his pain and sees his torso bare other than bandages, bled through from the supposedly open wound and Taehyung tries not to shriek at the sickly red of it because oh fucking god, what have these people done to him?  

He tries to calm himself down, screwing his eyes shut and breathing steadily because he can’t pass out right now – not unless he wants to be cut up into little meaty cubes or whatever – and, besides, he’s been in worse situations than this, he’s pretty sure…

…Has he?

But, then, he realises that he only has two options here:

He can either push himself up and go through some of the worst pain in his life and maybe not die from blood loss – or he can wait here in comfort for a quick, mess-less death if they’re going to adhere to whatever this so-called ‘daddy’ wants.

Hey, the second one doesn’t sound so bad actually-

Okay, okay, wait, no. It’s still pretty bad – just sounds a little bit nicer.

So, to psyche himself up, he thinks of Jimin’s reaction to him not coming back after he said he would in his note.

But, that just makes him feel bad for leaving him in the first place and think ah, you know what I sort of deserve this.

So, instead, he thinks about how Yoongi’ll find a way to resurrect him just to kill him again if he upsets his boyfriend that much.

And that… yeah, that one does it.

Taehyung braces himself with gritted teeth, and moves to sit up, hand flying to clutch his side on instinct as he growls low, grimacing, and pushing through the uproar of protest from his wound.

What even happened? Everything’s just fuzzy.

He manages to get himself into a sitting position, nausea piling in his throat from the pain as he shifts to plant his feet on the ground at the side of the bed.

He tries to recall the events leading up to now while he catches his breath again, but can’t piece it together right.

He remembers going to the apartment and leaving a note… and he remembers a vague confrontation after in which he failed to defend himself, so exhausted from running for hours. Then, the grinding of a vehicle pulling to a stop, and his face hitting the cement.

And now… here .

Taehyung grips the bedsheets beside him and tries not to get hung up on it. He needs to get out of here before his captors come back, then he can figure out what the hell happened.

Or… have some strong painkillers with herbal tea and erase it from his mind forever – whatever works.

He huffs a breath, counts to three in his head, and heaves himself off of the mattress, hunching over as he muffles a whine by biting his lip, hot pain pricking sharply over him like electricity.

This isn’t enough to kill him, he’s pretty sure, but god does it hurt like hell.

His steps are slow and heavy, pain rippling up his torso with each tiny gesture, but, still, he stumbles the short distance to the window, pushing the wispy white curtains framing his bed aside and scrabbling for support from the strip of wall separating the two glass panes. He fingers through the blinds and looks out almost desperately at the decrepit countryside surrounding him.

Nothing but fields and roads for miles, all slick with rain and mud. The sky holds a hefty burden of deep black clouds, spitting out rain like it’s acid.

Taehyung doesn’t know if even he’d make it in that.

Imagine, someone like him being taken down by nature.

Something like him. Whatever he is.

Not an android, but not human. Not a defect. Not anything of the sort. He’s something with no label. Something that doesn’t fit.

And now, he’s fallen into the hands of people that intend to ‘take care’ of that. Rid the world of the one that doesn’t belong; release him from being the outcast, the burden like the sky’s black clouds.

With that weighing on his mind, some might wonder why he’d even fight it.

Well. Min Yoongi finding a way to resurrect him, just to kill him again if he upsets Jimin - the aforementioned reason one.

But, also, because the fact that he’s not human (not entirely human?) doesn’t mean he’s not real. It doesn’t mean he’s not alive. He can live and feel and breathe. He’s just better. More resilient and powerful.

A better human? The exact kind of thing that humans are afraid of. The reason he’s been hunted and captured.

Maybe that’s why he’ll fight it. Why he’ll always fight it. To remind them that, whatever he is, whatever they think he is – he’s better.

Taehyung pushes himself back to a stronger stand, feeling energy leak its way back into him, and he finds it in his strength to walk with a little more poise, a little more determination this time.

He will not be beaten. Not by the lesser .

His steps are slow still but sturdier than before, passing over the fluffy white carpet that kisses the souls of his bare feet and it’s that that makes him remember just how bare he is entirely. Besides the silken white pyjama pants clinging to him, his skin is exposed to the rooms lulling warmth. But, once he gets out there, he knows it will not be a lulling warmth. It’ll be brutally cold and he’ll feel it.

Androids can’t feel cold, defects pretend they do but Taehyung? Goosebumps, violent shivering, running nose.

He’s awful with the cold.

But luckily, he won’t have to feel it so much, because when he manages to get to the sturdy white wooden door he notices the long, satin robe hanging next to it on a hook, and he takes it without a second thought, pulling the red, floral-patterned material on over his shoulders, sleeves stopping at his wrists. It isn’t the warmest, but it’ll protect him from the rain, at least. Then, he tugs on the golden curve of the doorknob.

But, it gives a small click instead of budging.

Taehyung curses under his breath, turning around to scan the room for something that could help.

Of course, he could batter the lock with something until it breaks, but that would almost certainly attract attention (what if there’s some kind of alarm?) So, no, he decides, he needs something more delicate. Something to slip through the crack and jostle it until it pops open, or something small enough to slip into the key hole and pick it.

The room, in terms of decoration, is rather scarce, actually; which makes this a difficult task. There’s a few vases of unfathomably bright red roses, bloomed with vitality, a stack of obscure books, manned by a little porcelain figurine of a ballerina – none of it really suitable for picking a lock, unless he does want to smash it. There’s a warm-off-white arm chair, accompanied by a basket of magazines that Taehyung won’t bother to look through, knowing the material’s too flimsy for the job and, besides, he’s not really into celebrity gossip.

The one thing that does catch his eye, however, is the tray sitting on the little glass bedside table. More so, the bottle of water sitting beside the bowl of once-freshly-cut-now-wilting fruit.

Now that isn’t flimsy.

Taehyung stumbles over to the table, leaning on the wall running alongside it for support, and grabs the bottle from the tray so fast, the thing wobbles tauntingly until he smacks a hand down onto it to stop it from making a crash.

Being killed by nature is embarrassing enough, but from breakfast?

With the bottle now in hand, he screws off the lid, pressing the top to his lips and tipping it back, grateful for the drink now because god knows when he’ll get another one. As it empties, he scans the room for something sharp, and cringes a little when he notices the lovely little family portrait hanging on the wall above the bed.

Fair play to them, they don’t look like a family of murderers.

In fact, they look like your average, suburban couple – a handsome, burly man with a sharp jawline and contrastingly cute, round nose that must be the father, and a bright-eyed, pouty-lipped woman standing proudly beside him, a hand each pressed to the two young boys’ shoulders, lovingly.

One boy is taller, with soft, but undeniably handsome features like his father, balanced on a set of strong shoulders, and the other is small, almost adorable boy, with choppy black hair and a smile that bears resemblance of a baby or maybe a bunny.

The man has his arm around his wife’s waist, and they all stand tall, proud… victorious, even, in matching black.

Taehyung wonders how long ago it was. If they’ve changed any since then. If the family in the portrait are even the family that live here.

It could be a stock photo. ‘Emo family portrait’ would probably bring it up on Google.

He drops the bottle on the bed and reaches for the portrait where it hangs, injury objecting with a violent sting but he does little more than grimace at it now, because he doesn’t have time to drop to the floor and writhe like he kind of definitely wants to.

He unhooks it from the wall and hesitates for a moment, locking eyes with the youngest boy in the photograph and it’s weird. His stare is so oddly haunting, like Taehyung’s seen it before – but he hasn’t. He doesn’t know any children. There aren’t a lot of children out on the streets, anymore – not after the fight against defects surged.

So why?

He sighs, eyes closing for a fleeting second, before he flips the portrait over so he doesn’t have to see it anymore and sets it down on the bed. Then, he loosens the wooden backing of the frame, pulling it out by its stand, and retrieving the photograph. There’s no date or anything on the back of it, just a simple marking of the name ‘Jeon’ and Taehyung tries to remember the significance of that name, as if it’ll help him figure out the little boy mystery – except it doesn’t in the slightest.

There’s something about it, though. He’s sure…

But, regardless, he moves the picture to the side, and takes the glass instead, laying it down onto the carpet. He hesitates for a moment, though, because yes, this is probably the quietest way to break it. And usually some broken glass wouldn’t hurt him that much at all (which is why he knows whoever did this to him certainly did a number on him) but he’s already weak from his injury, so all his nerves are heightened right now. Particularly to pain.

I.E. damaging your foot right before you have to walk for presumably miles isn’t the smartest idea.

So, he glances to his side, and catches sight of the duvet lain on the bed. He takes a corner in hand and begins to pull it off, as gently as he can to avoid hurting himself anymore, and drops it onto the glass. Then, he follows it, landing with a cushioned thud on his knees that still manages to send shockwaves up his torso. He grips one corner of the glass with both hands, and shuffles so his knees are keeping down the opposite one, then he pulls.

There’s a sharp crack that comes with Taehyung’s hands slipping off their grip, and he wriggles off the duvet, pulling it back to see the significant damage running diagonally across the glass. He reaches for the corner again, giving it a slight jostle to break it free of the rest of the pane, before his arm jerks back with released tension, and he’s got the stupid piece he needs.

Shit, if this was one of those flash escape games people used to play on the internet for fun half a century or so ago he’d be way over a good time.

Taehyung rises carefully, using the wall beside him to stabilise himself, and retrieves the empty bottle from the bed, gripping the shard with caution in his other hand. Then, he makes his way back over to the door, crumbling at from simple exhaustion when he kneels to get within eye-level of the handle.

He can’t believe one stupid mistake has fucked him up so hard.

He can’t even remember the mistake.

Taehyung takes the bottle, laying it down on the floor and he steadies it with his left hand in an ‘L’ shape, holding the piece of glass in the other with the sharpest edge pointing down. Then, he cuts.

It’s not the best craftsmanship he’s ever seen, the piece he cuts away being awkward and jagged, but he figures that he can brush up on his arts and crafts skills another time, pulling the rectangle of plastic free from the neck and bottom of the bottle and discarding the remains to the side. However, he pockets the shard inside the pocket of his robe – just in case .

Then, he wedges in the rectangle of plastic, just above the door knob, and begins to shimmy it down the slit in the door, cringing every time the material makes a loud snapping noise.

He just has to do it slowly… and carefully… and any second now it’ll hit the lock-

The mechanism makes a soft pop that sounds like freedom, and Taehyung scrambles to his feet as fast as he can, not caring for the plastic that drops to the ground when he tugs on the unlocked door, slipping out of the room with light steps. He closes it again as gently as he can, and looks down the three-way corridor he’s stepped out into.

Here, he can feel the looming cold that’ll await him once he’s out - glass lining the walls in the shape of full-length windows that do nothing to reject the outside’s bitterness. The pelting of rain is so much more prominent out here, and Taehyung shivers as his feet take in the icy marble floor.

The white colour scheme continues yet seems somehow drearier, more blue and grey than white, and all the paths Taehyung has the choice to take look the same. He quite frankly no idea which one would be the wrong or right move, so he goes right, because it’s a synonym for correct and that’s really all he has to go on right now.

It’s completely silent as he makes his way through the hall, as if not a single soul inhabits the entire building and – while relieving – it simultaneously puts him on edge, as if something will jump out at him through any one of the identical wooden doors he passes.

The funny thing is, this place doesn’t really look like any sort of research facility or kidnapper’s warehouse. Artwork and photography line the walls as they break away from the long stretches of windows. Pictures showing flowers, landscapes. Skies and water. Never people. Never the city – as if those things don’t even exist.

It must feel like that so far out here. The building itself feels isolated. Lonely, almost – though he isn’t entirely sure why. Just that it does.

Taehyung comes to the end of the corridor – the only options he has being another wooden door, or a grander, double-door, with frosted glass that echoes the same coolness as he’d felt earlier. He approaches it instead, deciding that it’s vaguely more promising of an escape than another potential room.

He presses down on the handle, relieved when it actually opens, and he quickly shuts it again behind him, a rush of crisp joy fluttering through him when he sees what he’s stumbled upon.

A stairwell. Though, a hell of a lot fancier than any one he’s ever seen before, with sturdy white marble steps and glittering silver banisters. The walls are painted a pale blue and white – the first other colour he’s seen since the red lining the room he woke up in.

But, the main thing that makes him stop in his tracks is the elegant stained-glass window that stretches from the very bottom of the stairwell, right to the top in an array of delicate golds and passionate reds. Youthful blues and mesmerising greens and the warmest, sweetest oranges.

They swirl and block into intricate patterns so incredible, that Taehyung finds himself climbing down a few of the steps, hand pressed to his wound to try and keep it from moving too much, just to get closer.

On the next landing, just a few steps down, the display lies right in front of him, along the wall, and his hand reaches out to touch it, like it’s being pulled by the moon’s magnetism as it glows through the glass.

The coldness of it floods his fingers in a way the windows earlier hadn’t. It’s not shocking or harsh, or a stark reminder of the fate that awaits him outside.

Somehow, he feels energised by it. Invigorated.

He takes a few steps backwards, to get a proper look at the piece, face-to-face, and lets out a gentle sigh of amazement as it comes into frame.

It’s a woman, he sees now. One with glowing eyes and skin, hair as dark as the night itself, holding a heart in her hands that have such a placement in the piece, that he can imagine when the sun hits it, it must burst with colour.

“Beautiful, isn’t it?”

Taehyung freezes where he stands, the sudden intrusion of a voice stiffening his spine as if it’s made of metal (which it’s not, just so you’re sure) as his hand loosely wanders to his pocket, feeling for the shard stored inside almost instinctively. The voice that comments is soft, airy – nothing he recognises or even expected and yet… there’s something niggling at the back of his mind that he’s heard it before.

“It is,” he agrees, words as calm as he can keep them, and the person behind him chuckles – an oddly high, child-like noise that contrasts with the soothing hum of his words. Taehyung glances to his right, hoping to catch a glimpse in his peripheral… but there’s nothing.

“My father had it installed a few years ago, at my request. He never really had an eye for the arts.”

He doesn’t know why the man is having a simple conversation with him. The only thing he can think of is that he must be trying to catch him off-guard. His hand grips tighter in his pocket as he mutters, “Is that so?” focus revolving around the sounds and movements of the stranger, rather than the words they’re exchanging.

“It is…” he chuckles, repeating his own words. Taehyung hears him take a step from where he must be… halfway up the stairs, maybe. His shoes click against the marble eloquently, like a lion prowling.

“That’s a shame… he’s missing out,” Taehyung says, mindlessly, trying to figure out where the man is instead as he hears him walk again, heels clicking and clicking until he’s close enough that the words meet the back of his ear in puffs of warm breath as he says, “Maybe he just hasn’t seen enough yet.”

… Taehyung has no idea why he’s talking about that, honestly. Unless it’s- oh he’s trying to catch him off-guard.  

And just like that, the man slides into his peripheral, and Taehyung steps back, twisting round to face him as his hand clenches the shard in his robe warily.

And his face is also not what he expects.

Bold, sharp eyebrows arch back at him, drawn together almost frustratedly above slowly blinking doe eyes that dot his skin, painted enticingly by the stain-glass like buttons. He’s handsome, that much is clear ( painfully) , but there’s something else about him that makes Taehyung look a little longer.

The eyes… the messily styled hair, the childish laugh… the mention of his father.

“You’re the boy in the portrait,” he says dumbly, shoulder’s sloping out of their defensive stance because that much is clear… but why ? That must be his family, right? Is it his room? His house? Is he a part of this? Or like Taehyung?

The man stares with a thick, tense aura that sends a chill down Taehyung’s exposed skin. And it’s as he shudders, that the stranger’s eyes shift down to the robe draped on his bare skin, and back up to meet his eyes with a harsh intensity.

“You’re wearing my mother’s robe,” he says, completely ignoring Taehyung’s statement, and he can’t help but feel a little confusion seeping in on him as the man looks at the garment adorning him with searching eyes.

What is he searching for? An explanation? He was cold, not setting out to steal his mom’s clothes.

“You got it from her room.”

Then, he must live here. But why is he so annoyed? Looking at him with this half-glare, half-questioning stare – as if he wants a genuine reason for it.

“You put me there,” he argues back, and the man’s lips part, a small “I-,” escaping before they shut again, mouth edging into a thin line. He takes a step forward, athletic frame highlighted by the moon’s rays in a way he hadn’t quite caught in the shadows and Taehyung swallows hard without even meaning to. He moves back with each move forward he makes, until his back hits against the glass, the chill rippling through him like electricity, even through the robe.

The man doesn’t stop until he’s no more than an inch away. Then, his hand starts to reach towards him.

Taehyung catches his wrist, free hand leaving shard in his pocket to swing out at the man’s face, who blocks it with his forearm. They struggle for a moment, pushing against each other with full-strength until he lets go so suddenly, the man jolts forward. Taehyung slips underneath his grappling arms, scrabbling for purchase on the banister as he heads down the stairs, skipping a good chunk of them in his haste.

A hand grabs his arm, yanking him backwards and Taehyung yelps, turning back in surprise to see the man looking at him with an angrily dumbfounded expression – as if he somehow had failed to predict any of that.

“Let go of me,” Taehyung demands bitterly, yanking hard, but the man clings on, tight and fuck, how strong is he that Taehyung of all people (all… creations) can’t even break free?

“No, you-,”

Taehyung doesn’t wait to listen, just takes the opportunity to dig out the shard in his pocket with such speed that there’s a second, right after the glass piece connects with the man’s skin, that they both just… look at each other with equal measures of uncertainty.

It’s a tiny slash on the top of his right cheekbone, nothing more than a cut – neither shallow or majorly deep - but the man still recoils, holding his hand to his face as blood oozes out slowly.

Taehyung watches as the man staggers, a rush of something dangerous in his eye – then he’s leaping forward and, before Taehyung can even blink, he’s been pinned by the wrists to the wall, eyes locked with those of the other man’s in complete, utter silence, besides the quick, sharp breaths they’re both taking.

Taehyung watches a streak of thick blood run down his cheek.

He expects a punch. No, Taehyung expects more – he expects a beating. But his expectations must be off tonight.

Because the man leans in that much closer, forehead almost touching as he mutters, “ Stop fighting me,” through gritted teeth. Taehyung glowers right back.

“Then let me go ,” he hisses, but the man doesn’t even acknowledge it, just tilts his head ever so slightly with sharp eyes.

“Who are you?” He murmurs.

And that… that confuses Taehyung.

“You don’t know?”

Shouldn’t he… know that…?

The man shakes his head, curiosity swirling in his narrowed gaze and it’d be intimidating, even, if Taehyung wasn’t so bewildered.

Taehyung thrashes against his grip, snapping, “Why the fuck would you kidnap me if you don’t know who I am?” but it’s useless. This human has impeccable fucking strength. If he wasn’t injured, he likes to think it wouldn’t be an issue, but his wound’s seeping the literal life out of him, right now. He’s running out of energy to expend.

The man’s grip loosens ever so slightly then, just as his eyebrows pinch together, mouth opening and closing as if he can’t quite find the words. Taehyung stares steadily.

“You… you think I.. . ” He starts, mouth gaping once more before he finally asks, “You think I kidnapped you?”

Taehyung blinks.

“Yes?” He says, a little patronising, a lot confused, pointing out the simple fact that, “You did.”

Unwillingly and illegally taken somewhere by force? Uh, yeah, check the dictionary, mystery man.

But the man just looks astonished… and significantly insulted.

“I saved you, what… why, would I-,” he tries to tell him, but it’s obviously a lie because unless Taehyung had some kidney problem that needed immediate medical attention, he’s pretty sure kidnapping him and giving him this treacherous injury he woke up with did not save him.

“How am I supposed to believe that?” He asks, gesturing between them with his limited hand movement, “You locked me in a room. And you’re literally pinning me against a wall right now.”

Criminal behaviour for sure.

Because, ” he reasons, exasperation obvious in the word, “I don’t know who you are. You could be a damn convict for all I know.”

He’s not. At least, he shouldn’t be considered one because he’s done nothing wrong except exist.

“Then why not just let me go?” Taehyung tries, but the man doesn’t seem to even consider it, immediately telling him, “ Because, if you go that way my father might find you. Or my brother. And you want neither.”

“Why not?” Taehyung asks again and the man bites, “ Because ,” a third time, frustration clearly reaching a peak as he practically growls the word.

“They don’t like visitors. Not with everything that’s going on. I will let you go,” he promises, but Taehyung isn’t really sure whether to believe that, “I’ll just make sure my family doesn’t find out, too.”

And okay, maybe that would sound fine, but then Taehyung remembers something from earlier that might say otherwise.

“But… someone told you to get rid of me.”

The man’s shoulders slump with a slow sigh, as if he’s tired of this conversation already.

“My brother’s a doctor,” he explains dismissively, barely even bothering to look at Taehyung whilst he does, “I was hoping he’d be able to take care of you, but he refuses,” he says, and while Taehyung assumes there is some disappointment there, his face remains completely stoic.

Wait… he wants to help him? But… then why is being such a Grade A, Honour Roll bitch?

“He wants you out of the house, what- Oh my God…” he suddenly says, looking at Taehyung with a surprisingly emotive sense of shock in his expression. There’s a brief pause, swelling with something like disbelief before he realises, “You thought we were gonna kill you,” as if that’s some scandal.

Yes. You wouldn’t be the only ones,” Taehyung confesses and he hopes that makes the man feel bad at least secretly because he really doesn’t deserve all of these running from his persistent death gigs.

Okay… maybe they won’t kill him. On purpose, anyway. But where they’ll take him back to? Yeah, probably a fate worse than death.

The man’s expression sinks back into nothingness with little more than a quirked eyebrow of understanding as he notes, “So… there are people after you?”

“I guess that’s where this came from,” Taehyung answers instead, looking down at the oozing mess of bandage and blood. The man swears quietly underneath his breath when he follows Taehyung’s gaze.

“So, what am I supposed to do now?” He asks, because he hasn’t really got a whole lot of time to just be sauntering about with this thing draining him.

“You’re free to go,” he says, though he’s yet to actually let go of him and prove that. Besides, that’s still stupidly vague.

“How do I get back to the city?” He asks, because it’s still a long way and Taehyung’s pretty sure no buses or trains venture this far out of the city. And taxis? Yeah, catch Taehyung getting a taxi with all those news reports on the number of defects that’ve been caught out with those invasive dash cameras the government watch over.

In fact, public transport in general is both too dangerous and too expensive for him. It’s gotten to the stage of exploitation with that, that it’s probably cheaper to buy your own car.

“Walk?” The man suggests, and Taehyung’s face drops.

What kind of heartless bastard ?

“Why don’t you take me back?” Taehyung asks, getting a little more annoyed now, fully evident in his tone as the man remains completely and utterly ( irritatingly) calm, answering him with, “Because, I don’t know who you are. And if I get caught my father’ll throw a fit.”

But how is that Taehyung’s problem? This guy is insufferable, what the fuck.

“You can’t take me here and refuse to take me back!”

“You’re not my problem,” he returns easily, contrasting almost comedically against the angry hysteria surging through Taehyung’s words.

“I am your problem! I became your problem when you kidnapped me!”

Surely, that is a simple concept. You kidnap someone, you accept that responsibility and offer them a friendly ride back when you realise you made a mistake.

“I didn’t-,” He’s about to try and deny again, but seems to think better of it as he corrects himself with a sigh, quietly telling him, “I can’t risk my family finding out.”

“But you have to,” Taehyung argues, and he really is beginning to feel desperation here. If the man refuses, then what’s he meant to do?

The man looks up at him again, a spark of something Taehyung can’t begin to decipher in his eyes but it’s cold whatever it is. He can feel the heat of the word on his skin as he utters it this time, they’re so close.

Why ?”

A crack of thunder cuts through the words, and Taehyung shudders hard in the cool silk against his skin, eyes drifting to the outside with a newfound sense of panic that doesn’t belong to him.

Is this how humans feel all the time? So vulnerable?

If he’s left to walk back to the city in that colossus brewing outside, he’ll die. This wound plaguing him will make sure of that.

It’s times like these he wishes he was gifted with faster regeneration instead of major strength – since the latter’s proven to be utterly useless now that he’s injured. A human’s overpowered him, for god’s sake.

He looks to this human again, now. His lips are taut, pulled into a tight frown. Eyebrows furrowed and eyes hooded, staring at him with such intensity that Taehyung almost shivers again from just the look.

Maybe there’s anger swirling in the depths of his irises – almost black in the lowlight – but surely, he thinks, surely there’s some kind of humanity too. Not all humans have it, funnily enough, but here’s to hoping Taehyung’s found one of the few that has.

“Because, if you don’t…” he utters, voice barely loud enough to hear over the storm brewing outside, worsening each minute, “I’ll die out there.”

The words hang heavy in the night’s dismal atmosphere, the silence between them stretching on to unbearable length. And there’s this moment, where Taehyung’s sure the man’s going to cave. A moment where his frown stutters, his eyes widen.

“You won’t,” is what he decides, and something about the indifference fluttering in the words, the non-verbal lack of care that contrasts so shockingly with his initial intention makes Taehyung grit his teeth in anger, as if he’s suddenly decided he’s not worthy of that care.

“Look at it!” he barks, pushing once against the man’s grip on him as he dips his head to gesture to where bandages peak out barely between the gap in his robe. Even through the small gap, it’s easy to notice the blood, a deep magenta in the moonlight, seeping out even with the bandaging.

Taehyung takes a shuddering breath before telling him, “It won’t stop,” practically begging, “ please. I’m exhausted already…” and how pathetic he feels saying so out-loud; but it’s obvious, likely to the man as well.

Taehyung’s eyes keep fluttering anytime his mind wanders, his breaths are ragged and sudden, his shoulders slumped as he confesses, “My head’s spinning,” letting it lull to rest on his own shoulder as he looks up at the other through his eyelashes.

Then, the wounded man quietly tells him, “I just don’t know what’s happening to me.”

Taehyung’s never experienced this before. This kind of weakness. His stamina running out, sure – after a long, long time of running – but this feels like he’s sick. Horrifically sick. He feels like he might drop to the ground any moment (for the second time, apparently.)

He feels like he’s going to die, quite simply.

“Look at it,” he says, voice hardly a fraction of the volume it had been when he’d first demanded so. The man’s hard stare wavers when his eyes trace down to his robe. He forgets his grip on Taehyung’s wrists, whose arms fall strengthless to his sides, as the man’s fingers glide down the soft material of the garment, painfully slow, until he reaches the spot where soiled white wraps cling to desaturating skin.

One of his hands push the robe out of the way, resting on the cooling area of his upper-back as it’s exposed to the stairwell’s chill. The other begins to finger at the bandages, moving gradually and cautious as they unwrap the start of it with a rumour of imagined tenderness that Taehyung knows he must be losing it to conjure up.

He hisses as the fabric reluctantly, stubbornly peels off of his skin, sticky with blood, and the man below him mutters an apology, pausing for a second to take a glance up at the other, before unravelling the rest of the first strip, a likely involuntary intake of breath shooting into his mouth when he does.

Taehyung can’t bring himself to look down.

“What in the holy hell did this?” the man murmurs, more to himself than to Taehyung, but the wounded man gives a small shrug of his shoulders regardless, answering, “Whatever it was is fucking dangerous. I don’t injure easily,” without much thought, to which the man’s eyes snap up to meet his, inquisitively – but he doesn’t ask, thankfully.

God, Taehyung has to be careful what he says. This blood loss is messing with his brain-to-mouth filter. And he really doesn’t have a very strong filter to begin with considering the first time he met Yoongi he said, ‘Oh , I didn’t know Jimin was into twinks.’

“Okay,” he says, the words hardly even audible until he snaps, “ Okay, I’ll drive you back to the city. I’ll drop you off wherever you want… but I’m guessing the hospital.”

Taehyung’s nerves jump in his skin at the mention. He can’t go to the hospital. Someone like him can’t go there. Not where there are blood tests and medical professionals. The kinda people that’ll be able to tell who – what he is without a second glance. He’s heard countless horror stories about what happens when defects show up at hospitals, he can’t imagine they’d take much kinder to him.  

Anything but a human tends to be a no-go zone for this damn age.

“I can’t go there,” Taehyung says quietly, adverting his eyes to look over the man’s shoulder when he tries to catch his gaze.  

He takes his hands off of him, the robe falling softly against his skin again, top layer of bandage still lying unwound, and Taehyung can see that hard stare pointing right at him when he asks, “Why not?”

Shit.

“Because…” He stalls, voice trailing off as his brain scrambles for a solid reason. His wound stings almost imploringly at him and he tries not to let it show on his face when it gives him an idea.

“They might find me there,” he answers, finding it in him to match the man’s intense gaze again when he does, clarifying, “The people that are hunting me. That’s the first place they’ll look.”

The man quirks at eyebrow at this, maybe at his choice of words, but after a moment of just plain silence, he puts a hand on his hip, other brushing the strands of hair that’d fallen onto his forehead a moment ago back in place and lets out a staccato sigh.  

“That’s what you said when I found you too…” he tells him, and Taehyung has no memory of the conversation, but congratulates himself for being able to pull that one when he was three quarters out of it, as well.

Not that it’s a lie, per say. They probably would find him if he went to the hospital.

“Just… the city’s fine,” he assures him, but, at this point, Taehyung’s not entirely convinced the man even cares. He guesses he has no reason to but… if he had enough compassion to bring him here – what’s changed his mind now?

And, just to prove his own theory correct, he smooths out the collar of his dress shirt, a pale blue in the dim light, and dismissively claims, “Then I hope you find someone there that’ll help you.”

He’s… he’s really just planning to leave him there?

“Wait… no,” Taehyung says before he can even figure out what he’s really asking, rambling, “I… you can’t leave me like this. I can’t run from them now.”

The man’s mouth draws into a tighter line, looking as if he’s considering saying something, but he isn’t quite there. He begins to shake his head, and Taehyung’s body reacts before his mind catches up.

“Please, please you have to help me!” his mouth says, hands gripping onto the man’s biceps with only a fraction of his usual strength. His eyes widen at the contact, looking down at the fingers digging into his skin, as if they’re alien – yet, when he meets Taehyung’s pleading gaze again, there’s nothing.

“My brother’s stubborn,” he reminds him, firmly, brushing off the man’s hold with callous, claiming, “He won’t do anything for you, no matter what I say – he’s too scared of what our father’ll do if he finds out.”

Taehyung lets out a small, pathetic whimper at that because this is really not going his way at all and he is not above begging when his life is on the line.

Please . They’ll kill me . Your brother doesn’t have to help, but I’m begging you.”

The man looks him up and down, Taehyung standing with his hands tightly knotted together, shoulders slumped and genuine fear being evident in all of it. He hates this feeling, finally understands why humans are so reluctant to feel it. Fear. What a ridiculous concept.

The man lets out a quiet exhale, no longer meeting his eyes, but looking to his right at nothing instead as he utters, “Okay. Alright. I…” He pauses, maybe unsure whether he should even be saying what he’s about to, until he does, pre-warning him, “it’ll be shoddy but I can use some of his medical supplies and try and stitch you up at least…”

Taehyung almost crashes to his knees in relief.

Thank you, oh god-,”

“But then you have to go,” he interrupts him, voice stern and demanding, like Taehyung had been thinking he’d just earned himself some free accommodation for life. He straightens up ever so slightly, shoulders strong and posture almost intimidating if Taehyung wasn’t so overwhelmed with relief.

“I can’t house a potential criminal.”

Taehyung groans.

“I’m not a criminal,” he argues, mimicking the man’s stature, but all he gets from it is a slow raise of a single eyebrow and he feels vaguely embarrassed by trying to make himself look tough. He doesn’t do tough. He does otherworldly and vaguely threatening.

“You can’t prove that you aren’t, and that gives me reason enough to be wary.”

As much as he hates to admit it, the man sort of maybekindof has a valid point here. He guesses if it were reversed, and Taehyung was acquainting with someone that could put him at risk then he’d be wary- wait, he is pretty much doing that.

“… Okay, fine ,” he bitterly agrees, “I’ll go when you tell me to.”

Let him stay for a little though, at least. Jimin will freak the fuck out even more when he sees this wound. Oh fuck, it’s gonna scar isn’t it? He’ll go off .

“Come on,” the man says, all of a sudden impatient, and making towards the stairs again, “we need to go get your things, and then get out of here as soon as possible. My father should still be in his office, but my brother could be wandering anywhere. He won’t let us take anything if he knows.”

And something about the man’s tense demeanour, his urgently hushed words… makes Taehyung wonder something a little… guiltily .

“Will you get in trouble?” He asks, and the man looks more than a little condescending when he glances at him.

“Should you care? It’s for your benefit, isn’t it?”

Geeze, you really can’t be nice to this asshole.

“Maybe I’m not that selfish,” Taehyung argues, but then he’s countered with something that genuinely makes him stop.

“Everybody’s that selfish when it comes to their life. The ones that aren’t are dead.”

Huh, Taehyung’s never thought about it like that before...

The moment moves on, the man leading him silently out of stairwell, looking back only one time when Taehyung makes a grunting noise from a slight stumble on one of the steps that agitates his wound with sharp pain. As Taehyung watches the man shut the door to the stairs, he catches a glimpse of the window one more time.

“Did you really request to have that stained-glass installed?” He asks, because, after all, the man was just trying to charm him into some sort of security with that, wasn’t he?

But as he comes away from the door, he glances at him with judgement in his arched eyebrow and a single corner of his mouth upturned, which somewhat makes Taehyung wish he hadn’t said anything.

“Yes,” he confirms deliberately, “did you think I was lying?”

No ,” yes… “I just don’t strike you as the kind of person to be into art.”

Like, at all…

“Why not?” The man inquires, and maybe he looks a little irate at Taehyung’s revelation, so of course he takes the opportunity.

“You seem uptight,” he announces very matter-of-fact.

“I’m not .”

“Yet to prove me otherwise.”

“I’m on edge,” he corrects sharply, lips pointed downwards into a pouting frown that’s, surprisingly, more endearing than it is intimidating, “I could lose my job for harbouring a criminal- and lose my family for going against them.”

And while Taehyung would like to push his buttons further, something piques his interest there more than wounding the guy up.

“What’s your job?”

He grabs the metal cuffs attached to his belt and gives them a quiet jingle.

“I’m in the Android and Defect Investigation and Extermination Unit.”

Oh, for fuck’s sake. Not only has he stumbled across a cop – but one that specialises in that? He really did land himself in hot water here. Why is he this unlucky?

Also he really shouldn’t use those handcuffs as an answer to what he works as. They really don’t investigate or use them. Not as often as they use their stun guns or FADE weapons.

FADE, standing for Forced Android and Defect Extermination of course. It’s not as if half of them haven’t even done anything wrong or anything. It’s a forced extermination.

But Taehyung doesn’t want to think about all of that right now, and the best coping mechanism he has is shoddy humour, so he nods slowly, lips forming a playful smile as he asks him, “Ah, so it’s not just a kink?”

Needless to say, the man does not look amused.

So, Taehyung takes the incentive to decide, “I’m gonna say both.”

His expression grows somewhat sour as he steps right past him, muttering, “If you don’t shut up I’ll put you in them.”

Taehyung catches up with him, laying a hand on his sturdy shoulder to stop him from walking off again, as he teases, “You’d like that, wouldn’t you, officer?”

He brushes his hand off with so much force, Taehyung’s momentarily shocked at the rejection. But then, there’s that curious little tinge of red to his cheeks…

Well, there you go.

“So, officer,” Taehyung says, having to catch up with him again because he’s walking very fast and he’s still very injured, “do you have a name to go with the title?”

“I’m not an officer,” the man immediately corrects, and Taehyung barely suppresses an eye roll. Clearly avoiding the question.

“You’re not nameless either.”

The man looks over his shoulder with an unsure, cloudy expression fogging over it, as if he can’t quite figure out why he’s even persisting. He turns ahead of himself again, footsteps punctuating the words as he answers, “Jeon Jungkook.”

Oh, okay that’s ni-

Wait. What?

Taehyung falters, feet falling out of step with the man for a moment as his heart gives a miniscule pinch.

“You… you’re a Jeon? As in, Jeon Seokjoon?”

Jungkook stops then too, a few metres ahead of him, shoulders stiffening underneath his dress shirt. Slowly, he turns his head to the side, lips parted in intrigue.

“He’s my father,” he answers.

Jesus Christ.

For the second time that night, Taehyung feels panic flooding into his veins, like injected adrenaline, electricity and all he can think is that he should say no. He shouldn’t accept this man’s help for anything, if he’s smart, but at the same time…

Well, he doesn’t really have a choice, does he?

Regardless, he’d be lying if he said that the family name doesn’t make his blood run cold, recalling all the horror stories of the Jeons. The father, chief of the ADIEU unit. The (late) mother, a renowned field marshal. Their eldest son delving into the route of medicine, despite being a supposed carbon copy of his father while their youngest actually follows in his footsteps, freshly added to the force.

He wouldn’t be surprised if the number of ‘arrests’ made by the family in total is more than most of the rest of the force, combined.

“Is that a problem?” Jungkook asks, Jeon Jungkook holy shit, and Taehyung’s expression must be enough to say that he’s panicking because the man looks nothing less than disbelieving when he manages to babble that it’s, “Just a big name to end up in the house of.”

And when he catches the man’s expression, he tries again to justify himself better, explaining, “You’re quite well known around the city.”

Surely, that’s expected, right? Most people, humans, with any sense are terrified of the Jeon family. They don’t just arrest androids and defects. Anyone who might be suspected to be even associated with one, too. It’s not that unusual, and perhaps that’s why Jungkook begins to look a little uncomfortable, instead of wary.

“Probably not for good things...”

He can’t say he’s wrong on that front. Nobody really thinks of ‘good things’ when it comes to the Jeons. Except deluded extremists that think all androids should be enslaved or killed.  

Once upon a time, Taehyung’s heard, they were very well respected. Most likely when Jungkook’s mother was still alive. Yoongi had once told him about it when he first came to the city, but so much has happened since, he has a tough time trying to properly recall it. She was a good woman, that much Taehyung knows. Perhaps he’ll hear the rest of it someday – maybe even from Jungkook himself.

Jungkook remains quiet for a moment, until he suddenly turns his head towards him again, something solemn and… almost pained in his expression when he tells him, “Just so you know… I’m not like my family.”

“What?” Taehyung asks blatantly, “Cold-hearted? Ruthless?” Maybe it’d be a little harsh if it was anyone else, but his family are murderers. And they get away with it because of the fucked-up hierarchy their city has. Taehyung can’t feel sorry for that.

Jungkook immediately argues, “They’re not-,” before he falters, probably realising himself that he’ll never change Taehyung’s mind, so he doesn’t try to, instead, just telling him, “Never mind. I can’t expect someone like you to understand.”

“Someone like me ?” he echoes, because he has a faint idea of what Jungkook means by that, and it can’t be what he really is because the man would’ve thrown him to the floor by now. He thinks he’s just biased, as if they hadn’t brought it upon themselves.   

“You won’t go to the hospital. Obviously involved with some dangerous people. Don’t know me by face,” he lists, and Taehyung really does see where he’s going with this now, “You clearly don’t think much of our kind, anyway - Authorities...” He clarifies, as if Taehyung’s just rebelling with teenage angst. Authorities in this city means something very different than it does in other ones.

Whilst Solelight isn’t technically closed off from the other cities in the country, it’s been forced to adopt its own rules and regulations after the main government of the land did something along the lines of an isolation on it for its production and distribution of the forbidden creatures that would come to end up as defects. It was a step too far for the rest of the country, rest of the world even – despite the fact that, secretly, other places had been making them anyway. Hell, Taehyung’s the most powerful one of his kind in probable existence, and he was implanted and born in some wasteland research facility at the other end of the country, raised by his parents until the fuckwits that implanted him decided that he shouldn’t have basic humans around him to flaw him, despite them themselves being humans.

But enough of his tragic past, the point is that, now, Solelight is practically independent, and the only people who ever set foot in it are its own people… and idiots like Taehyung.

It’s funny, when he first came here he thought he’d be able to blend in better with the androids, after hearing that it was the city that thrived off their production.

No one bothered to tell him that they also despised them.  

So, authorities? Yeah, he supposes he doesn’t have much respect for them at all… why should he?

“They haven’t… exactly helped me much over the years.”

In fact, they probably want him dead.

But, of course, Jungkook doesn’t know that. Maybe he can’t expect someone like him to understand.

Then, living up to the coldness of his name, the man shrugs his shoulders and with an air of arrogance, suggests, “Maybe you’re not someone that should be helped.”

Taehyung finds that painfully ironic. All he’s tried to do is live his life, he’s never wanted to hurt anyone. It’s only since he’s started being attacked that he’s had to fight back.

Jungkook must be right in that case. Anyone’s selfish when it comes to their own life. If you’re not, you’re dead.

“I don’t think your family’s any better,” he tells him, because, if anything, they’re worse. They may see it like they’re fighting back, but if they’re fighting people like Taehyung, then it’s not defensive.

But Jungkook just sighs, must be nursing a migraine at this point as he rubs the point between his eyebrows, mumbling, “I told you, I’m not… like them.”

Likewise, Taehyung’s head is pounding… but he doesn’t think it’s for the same reason. He brushes it off, regardless, pushing on to ask, “Aren’t you?” when Jungkook catches onto the momentary blip in his demeanour. Now, the man just looks interested in what he has to say.

“The forest isn’t any smaller just because you can see a way out.”

Jungkook blinks.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” He snaps, as if he’s been horrendously insulted without even knowing it, but Taehyung doesn’t bother to reassure him, just calmly states, “I mean, how can you know that, when you’re only seeing a part of it?”

All he’s doing is looking at the situation from his point of view. He sees his family’s wickedness, and the lives of innocents ruined and he supposedly doesn’t agree with it… yet, does he do anything? No , because he doesn’t think any farther than himself. He doesn’t consider the impact that has on other people. He just doesn’t want his own name to be ruined.

There’s a tense silence that stretches on for a long, long time, before he begins to walk again, no further discussion on the subject.

Taehyung doesn’t know why he expected anything else, really.

As they begin to approach where Taehyung’s night began, the corridors still feeling just as cold and unwelcoming as it had earlier, Jungkook suddenly asks, “Well, what about you?”

Taehyung has no idea what he’s referring to.

“Name?” The man prompts after the ten-second long pause. Taehyung utters a soft, “Oh,” Before he announces, “Kim Taehyung, nice to meet you.”

Was that too sarcastic?

They stop at the double white doors left slightly ajar (he could’ve sworn he closed those), as the man clicks his teeth in annoyance at his response. And upon seeing the door again, Taehyung remembers how he got out.

“Oh, yeah … before we go in, I might have-,”

But it’s too late, Jungkook’s already opened the door and seen the chaos of glass across the floor. He might have smashed a little more than he should’ve judging by Jungkook’s cry of “What the fuck did you do?!”

“-smashed some glass,” he finishes, belatedly. There’s a few seconds of nothing but Jungkook gazing at him irately before Taehyung bursts, explaining, “ Look , I had to get out, okay? I thought you were gonna kill me!”

Translation: this is technically your fault.

“So, this is where you got that stupid weapon from?” Jungkook notes, and Taehyung somehow forgot about that part, too, eyes flitting to the cut on the man’s right cheekbone with a tinge of sheepishness to it.

“I’m sorry about that…” he says, before shrugging up his shoulders and announcing, “It doesn’t look that deep, though!”

“Stings like a bitch,” Jungkook counters, and Taehyung doesn’t even really mean to reply with it, but his filter is shit right now with his head swimming like this and he tells him, “Then you should get on well.”

Jungkook looks mortified, lips popping into a soft ‘o’ shape, before they mould into a sharp scowl and he bites, “Fuck you . Just come and get your shit.”

Taehyung sulkily treks into the room, shutting the door behind him even though it won’t properly close anymore because, apparently, he somehow broke the mechanism earlier with his craftsmanship, and he follows Jungkook who opens one of the drawers near the bed and yanks out the neatly folded sweater and pants that are no longer neat nor folded when he lobs them at him. Then, he gathers his shoes from underneath the bed, and chucks them in his direction too.

Jeez, what a baby.

Taehyung shuffles out of the silken pyjama pants he’d woken up in, and pushes the thick robe off of his shoulders, listening to it land with a soft rustle. The cool air of the room tingles his bare skin as he bends over to get his sweater, crumpled on the floor. But then, a wave of nausea hits him along with his injury’s complaint and he teeters - hand shooting out onto the carpeted floor in order to steady himself.

When he straightens up again, his eyes are closed as he catches his breath because what the fuck just happened? But when he opens them, he’s suddenly very glad his underwear isn’t embarrassing as it could’ve been- because he’s just about to tug the sweater on, when he feels eyes burning into him.

Taehyung looks up and makes direct eye contact with none other than Jeon Jungkook (thankful that it wasn’t someone else because… that would be even weirder.)

At first, Taehyung thinks he might just be concerned because of his little… whatever just happened, but then his gaze drops down the length of Taehyung’s body, painfully slow, and back up to meet his eyes again… and there’s something about the interaction that makes Taehyung’s stomach flip besides the churning in it already. Jungkook holds the stare for no more than a few seconds, before he’s looking away with a bitter grimace. He glances at the man’s folded arms, where his fingers are making harsh indents in the curve of his biceps, and Taehyung almost laughs to himself at it.

Likes what he sees, huh?

Taehyung successfully gets his sweater on with no further interruptions and it’s when he’s smoothing it out that he hears the “You can keep the robe,” which Jungkook says so quietly as Taehyung’s shimmying into his stripey slacks, that he barely even hears him properly. In fact, he just gawks at him for a moment, waiting for a correction, but Jungkook still doesn’t look at him.

“What? Really?” he asks, stupefied because why would he even - “I thought it was your mom’s?”

The room dwindles into a cold silence for what feels far too long to Taehyung. He feels too awkward to breathe, never mind do up his pants, but once he does and goes to step into his slip-on shoes, hand pressed to the closest wall to keep him steady from the vague wooziness he’s starting to feel, Jungkook finally breaks the stillness.

He gives a loose shrug, stating, “No use for it now…” which sounds so detached and robotic (like, first gen robotic) that he sort of wishes he’d just smiled and thanked him.

He can’t think of anything to say to ease the tension, keeps hoping Jungkook’ll say something else to move on the weird feeling he has… but he doesn’t.

Instead, Jungkook crouches down, picking up the pieces of broken glass Taehyung had shattered earlier, rising to his feet again to silently deposit them into the small metal trash can by the bed. Then, he glances at the photograph laying discarded on the dishevelled duvet, and Taehyung watches his fingers move delicately towards it until he has it grasped softly in both hands, with an odd tenderness to the movements that Taehyung barely expected the man could even feel, underneath the obnoxious shadows of his rough-handling and acrimonious glowers.

He almost asks about it, what he’s doing, why he’s staring at a photo he’s surely seen a thousand times before – but he stops himself. He understands wholly after the interaction that had just happened, and even if it hadn’t he understands the lingering grief of loss all to well. So, he doesn’t say anything… somehow, it’s like the moment feels too… private to intrude on.

Instead, he quietly looks on as Jungkook stares, before folding it twice in a sudden contrast to his careful actions before. He still hesitates for one fleeting moment, picture sitting quietly, pinched in his fingertips.

Then, he pockets it so quickly that Taehyung vaguely doubts himself over whether it happened at all.

Jungkook looks up, a sharpness in his gaze that isn’t at all new, but certainly hadn’t been present for the seconds that had just passed them, either. His eyes had seemed soft for those moments; childlike, as if he were mimicking the depiction of his younger self in his hand. But now, those round doe-eyes are practically transformed by the heavy presence of the eyebrows framing them – angled and arched to perfection in a dark furrow.

“If you’re ready, then let’s hurry up and go,” he snaps sullenly, as if he hadn’t been the one holding them back just now, but Taehyung understands the words are hollow. He witnessed something that wasn’t his to see, regardless that he doesn’t know what , exactly . The angry pink barely daring to even exist near the highs of the man’s cheeks says enough.

Taehyung nods, going to take a step towards the door, but then one of his knees half-buckles, hand flying out to steady himself on the wall for a moment and his shoulder knocks hard against it when it slips, the collision just making him even more disorientated. He can feel his heartbeat spiking in his chest, and takes a gasping breath, trying to get his eyes to focus on anything at all because everything’s suddenly blurry. He might hear Jungkook say his name, but he sounds like he’s in a glass jar.

“Gimme a sec…” he pants, knuckles turning white with pressure against the wall. His head knocks against it now too, whole body practically leaning against it for support.

His head’s spinning even harder than earlier, all of his limbs feel like jelly and there’s this weird, underlying whisper thrumming through his head. A droning; something that feels heavy and pressurising – drowsy.

“Just luh-let me..” he tries to give himself a small push away from the wall but his arm shakes too much to do anything but fail to support him. Jungkook might be saying something else to him now, he can’t hear anything but white noise, or maybe that’s blood sloshing in his veins.

It’s funny, it almost feels like he’s gonna-

His knees give a weak jolt and he’s plummeting to the ground, limbs clanking against the floor like porcelain though somehow his entire body’s gone numb.

The last thing he sees, with the encompassing darkness surrounding him is Jungkook’s expression of vague horror, and it’s a little funny… just a little funny… is Taehyung laughing?

Then, black.

~

Jungkook watches the man crumble to the ground, and he can do nothing but stare, listlessly as it happens until his actually body reacts, lurching towards the man with panic rising in his throat because he can not have a dead body on his hands.

He leans over him as the weirdo gives a slow smile, letting out a drowsy giggle that’s partially muffled from where his cheek’s pressed against the floor, before his eyes shut.

“What the fuck? Taehyung?”

Jungkook drops to his knees beside him, to check if he… well, he’s still alive, isn’t he? How much blood can a person afford to lose, again?

He puts his hand on the man’s face, gently moving it to face the ceiling and he’s hit with relief, releasing part of the tension held up in his shoulders when Taehyung gives a short, airy exhale at the movement.

He’s breathing – unconscious, sure, but breathing and that means not dead, so…

Jungkook looks around, checking to make sure the man has everything that belongs to him (though he didn’t really have much of anything with him at all when he found him) and his eyes land on the robe – the compassionate, vivacious red that fills so many of his early memories.

Is he really going to give that away to a stranger? Why would he even say that? He can’t get a grip on himself, as if everything he feels and does is off – but the robe… the one that used to be so comforting to him…

He feels sick just looking at it nowadays. Like his brother. Maybe like his father, who knows. The man never mentions his late wife. Nobody ever talks about her, like some kind of omen hangs around the topic. A part of him wonders if he gives it away, will he feel less of that burden? The feeling as if the memory of his mother lies exclusively on his shoulders. He could give it to a stranger and then be free of it…

But, at the same time, he still doesn’t know who this man is. He may be injured, but what if he was he one who struck first? What if he deserved it? Surely, the garment deserves more than that.

Still, there’s a thumping in his chest that almost makes him want to let go.

He always has been too trusting. ‘Led by your heart, since your head’s always too far in the clouds to help’ his mother used to tell him.

No wonder who he got that from.

Jungkook grabs the silk, feeling the weight of it in his hands – though the garment in reality is rather light. He takes one look at the unconscious man  – clumps of sweaty hair kept off his forehead by his bandana, blood-soaked shirt and fitted striped slacks clinging to his body – he still doesn’t know why he even said he’d give it away…

And yet, he puts the robe around Taehyung’s shoulders, shifting himself into a crouch and lifts the man into his arms, standing with only a second’s hesitation before he’s up on his feet, readjusting his hold on Taehyung to something more secure.

He feels cold in his arms, and at this point, Jungkook has no idea how much blood he’s lost, how dangerous this situation is for him because he only found the man after he got attacked or… someone defended themselves against him, and even then, he left a small pool of blood behind. Jungkook’s impressed that he managed to remain so lively up until now with the amount he’d lost. Most people would’ve dropped off by now, he’s sure.

He changes his grip on him again, trying to get his feet held a little above his heart to prevent going into further shock – if he hasn’t already.

If he’s passed out twice now, then that’s bad, isn’t it? The first was likely due to exhaustion… maybe just distress over the situation. What did Seokjin say that was called? A vasovagal episode? They’re not too dangerous, he doesn’t think – but what caused this fainting? It could’ve been from being on his feet for so long, sure, but it could be something a lot worse, too. He won’t know until the man wakes up – if he wakes up – and, even then, he doesn’t even know how to be sure.  

Shit, he should’ve just begged his brother to help. If he has a dead man on his hands he’ll hate him a lot more than he would’ve for helping prevent one.

If word gets out about that, with his brother being literally renowned for his medical expertise – the family name would be ruined beyond repair. Enough people think they’re terrible as it is. If they got in legal trouble they’d pounce on them.

Jungkook kicks open the door, bumping his hip against it to keep it open as they pass through, then, he turns left – heading to Seokjin’s office as quietly as they can. They’re both fucked if they get caught. Taehyung’ll be out on the streets for sure – but Jungkook? He can kiss his privileged position in the force goodbye once his brother rats him out. Seokjin’s always hated when his little brother hasn’t done as he’s told him to, even in times like this, when what he’s told him is bullshit

Jungkook’s acting crazy, going against him like this. Why the hell would he agree to helping this asshole? With the way he was talking earlier, the people after him are serious. Enough to injure, enough to pursue mercilessly. Pushing the legal stuff aside, does he really want to get mixed up in that?

But then… the way his body just gave up on him… he just – he couldn’t just leave him there to die.

Regardless of who Taehyung is, regardless of what his own family name suggests – Jungkook isn’t heartless.

He looks at the man in his arms now. His breaths are quiet and shallow, making his chest jump and jerk in occasional gasps. His expression is, understandably, somewhat sour – lips pressed tight into a frown, eyebrows creasing his forehead and wrinkling where they pinch together. He distantly wonders if he’s dreaming or just burdened by the pain he’s in, even in his half-sleeping state.

Kim Taehyung, he had said. Not an unusual name, by any means. He’s probably met a thousand Kims over the years. It doesn’t give him any information like his own had. All in all, Jungkook isn’t any wiser about who this man is.

In fact, what does he know about him? Besides that he’s in some deep shit and appreciates art? The thought won’t leave Jungkook alone that he could be helping anyone.

What if he was running from people he attacked first? Jungkook wouldn’t know until it was too late.

He’ll have to recruit Namjoon’s help for that, he supposes. He has access to all the citizen profiles.

But, for now, he just has to trust his story. He’ll be careful. He’ll watch for any causes of suspicion, but, all in all, he just has to trust him.

These corridors feel so different now as he passes through, so cold. They’re always cold nowadays - even in the height of summer… the doors look identical, just blend into the same. He can’t even remember what’s behind half of them anymore. But, he reaches Seokjin’s office quicker than he remembered it being, and pushes open the door with his shoulder, cringing slightly at the echoing slap it makes when it shuts.

Taehyung murmurs something incoherent in his arms, and Jungkook figures he must be starting to come around, so he crosses the room and gently sets him in his brother’s desk chair, stepping back to scan around the room for the medicine cabinet, which he finds stretching across the entirety of the farthest wall.

He steps towards it, getting his hands on the doors of the cabinet as soon as he reaches it, but mutters a curse to himself when he doesn’t feel them budge. His eyes land on the keypad sitting beside a hefty-looking lock on the middle door and groans. He stares at the screen, dimly blinking back at him with a demanding red.

Okay, six digits. That’s only like… a million combinations, right?

Only.

He lets out a defeated grunt, punching in the default number of six zeroes, but the device beeps angrily at him, a shrill sound that vaguely hurt his ears. He’s about to punch in 000001 but then, he notices the tiny little warning at the bottom right of the miniature screen.

Two tries remaining.

His finger freezes over the zero.

What happens after two tries? Does it lock for good? Sound an alarm?

Explode?

He doesn’t particularly want to find out, so, instead of taking a decade to go through all possible combinations (not that he can do that now anyway) he actually thinks about it.

What does Seokjin care about enough to use it as a password to his precious medicine cabinet? The amount of times the man’s told him not to touch it is unbelievable. He’ll freak if he finds out.

Once he finds out.

But the number… something as cliché as his birthday? Jungkook doubts it somehow. He’s never been one for generics. Or birthdays.

Maybe something else… like his graduation, or the day he had his first kiss? They day the city changed completely – opting to hunt the creatures they created rather than fix them?

No, none of them seem to fit, Seokjin skipped his graduation and Jungkook would have no clue when his first kiss was – or who it even was from, for that matter.

As for the last? Although many in the city consider it a huge part of their history, Jungkook knows for a fact that Seokjin’s always quietly resented that change, just like his little brother.

Then, maybe the day he got his Masters? Jungkook remembers it surprisingly well, for what was a few years ago now. It was the last time that they all went out together, as a family. They went for dinner, all four of them, and drank something fancy and overpriced to celebrate Seokjin’s success.

Jungkook doesn’t have to think hard for the date, it comes rather instantly to him. 530630 – he punches it in.

But it beeps again, sounding almost mocking this time.

Shit, really ? Only one try left...

Jungkook really does wrack his brain this time. What’s important enough to him that he would know the date so well?

Fuck, if he doesn’t get this… he’ll have nothing to help Taehyung with. He’ll have to take him to the hospital.

Seokjin never tells him about his career, he wouldn’t know a date related to it that isn’t his Masters. Hell, they never talk nowadays full stop. He won’t even let Jungkook talk about their mother. Anytime he tries he just shuts him do-

Wait…

Could it… did he actually…?

Jungkook’s fingers hesitate over the keypad- shaking, even, but not because it’s the last try.

Then, suddenly, he slams in the date, as if he can’t take the tension anymore; part of him is hoping he’s wrong, honestly. He doesn’t care, his brother’s always told him, there’s no way it’s-

A green light twinkles at him, the sound of the mechanism unlocking.

Mom’s anniversary. He really...

God, now’s not the fucking time.

They’ll talk later.

He opens the cabinet, quickly grabbing the antiseptic and setting it in one of his brother’s empty medical bags beside him. He turns to look back at Taehyung, turning to vaguely assess the bleeding from across the room, and quickly deciding that he’ll definitely need stitches if it still hasn’t slowed down after he applies the compression bandages. He goes to the next cupboard, collecting what he needs for that, and moves to get said bandages too. He has no idea what antibiotics to give him, so he doesn’t risk it, instead grabs a pair of gloves, and some non-alcoholic wipes to clean up the undoubtable mess he’ll encounter.

Lastly, he grabs painkillers; he doesn’t know what would numb the pain, nor how to administrate it because, as he said, Seokjin never tells him about his career – and he never had an interest in medicine, so he’ll have to make do with ice and aspirin.

Jungkook piles the rest of this into the bag, minus the compression bandages, and closes it, hoisting it up across his shoulders, making his way back over to Taehyung. He pushes the sweatshirt up his body, pinning it with one arm above his chest, whilst he unwraps the bandage with one hand, flapping it out until it’s completely open. Then, he shifts his other arm down, using both hands to wrap it around the man’s torso, checking it isn’t too tight so he doesn’t completely constrict the blood flow, before he’s securing it. His eyelids flutter for a second, a soft whine leaking out past his lips, before he falls silent once more. It’ll have to do for now – on top of other bandages and hastily put on. Hopefully it’ll stop the bleeding enough that he can stitch him up.

Jungkook rises, letting the man’s sweatshirt fall and he pushes the bag behind his back. Then, he leans over to lift the man again.

And it’s when they exit the room, Jungkook having left as little evidence as possible, that they’re heading down the corridor to leave – when he hears a call of “Jungkook…” and the man stops dead in his tracks, almost embarrassingly so. Seokjin’s always possessed that trait – the ability to demand authority and loyalty.

Slowly, he turns his head, just catching the man in his line of vision – the white coat draped over broad shoulders. Clearly, he was working in the lab.

“Yes, hyung?”

The words sound awkward and unnatural out loud. Of course, Jungkook can barely remember the last time they’ve had a conversation besides from arguing about Taehyung earlier today. He’s been in the heart of the city for so long now, he never comes back here.

Seokjin comes closer then, appearing at his side. Jungkook feels a knot of dread in his stomach when he notices the vague suspicion building on his features, and he turns to face him.

“Correct me if I’m wrong,” he starts, sounding very much as if he knows he’s right, “but, you seem to be carrying that stranger we’d talked about earlier…” and like how in the past, Seokjin would’ve likely jumped at the chance to help this man, Jungkook can’t bring himself to feel the remorse and guilt he once felt at lying to him.

“I’m getting rid of him like you said. I have to go to the city anyway, I’ll drop him there.”

Seokjin’s gaze darts down to the robe draped around the shoulders of the man in his arms, much to his younger brother’s obvious discomfort from his sudden defensive stance. He probably even looks at the familiar strap of his medical bag.

Yet, he doesn’t say anything about it.

“What happened to your cheek?” He inquires instead, eyeing the still-bleeding cut with a strange lack of emotion for the question. Jungkook had practically forgotten about it.

Jungkook gestures to Taehyung, answering “he struck me with some glass,” quickly adding, “but I’m sure it’ll stop soon…” to avoid his brother’s office to clean it up.

He stares at it a moment longer, before his thumb reaches out to swipe the blood away, and he tilts the younger’s jaw for the light to catch on the injury.

“It looks like it might scar,” he comments, but gives no solution for it, only asking, “Where are you taking him, exactly?”

Jungkook can’t help but feel a little disappointed that he didn’t at least offer.  

“Where I found him,” he lies, again so easily compared to when they were young. He tries to sound nonchalant about it as he explains, “It’s on my patrol route. If he gets into any more trouble – whether his or someone else’s – there’ll be someone around.”  

Seokjin gives him another long look. This time one that sweeps from his shifting eyes, to the cut cheek, to the man in his arms, to the robe, to the bag. He knows his brother probably doesn’t believe him. He’s always been good at sensing liars. That’s why Jungkook could never do it when he was a kid. Has anything changed?

But then, all of a sudden, as if they hadn’t conversed at all, his brother gives him a slow nod of dismissive affirmation, and a coldly neutral smile, before he’s returning down the corridor from whence he came.

It leaves a sense of uneasiness, a sense of failure, almost, with him, but not because of what he may or may not know.

Yet, Jungkook only lingers in the spot for a moment, because the man in his grip suddenly gives a violent, spluttering cough, and he’s kick-started back into reality by it, eyes widening at the action because that sounded fucking terrible. Which isn’t a sign of good things.

The rain sounds like bullets hitting the glass, and it’s weird how it feels like nature’s trying to make some kind of statement.

He gets out of the family house as quickly as possible, and, through the drive back to the city, contemplates and wonders how his shitty week managed to get even worse.

~

When Taehyung wakes up, it’s to something obscenely cold touching the skin through the bandages around his wound. He gasps, struggling to sit up straight for a moment before he’s (gently at least) pushed to lay back down on the… cushy… warm… bed?

Wow, he really needs to stop waking up like this – in unfamiliar beds.

“Stay still,” a voice says, and that’s when it all comes back to him. Again.

He really does need to stop waking up like this.

As he sinks back against the mattress again, the exhaustion consumes him again, and he mumbles, “W-what are yuh…you doin’?” barely even peeling open one eye to look at the man whose holding an ice pack to his torso, other hand planted gently on his chest.

“Trying to soothe your pain. Are you awake now?” That same melodic, yet condescending, voice asks him, and Taehyung gives a melodramatic groan as his body adjusts to not being knocked out, rubbing his eyes with the back of his hand as he murmurs, “Yes, but alive? Debatable.”

He hears Jungkook give a soft click of his tongue, before there’s a shift of weight on the mattress, and Taehyung moves his hand away from his eyes to see the man staring right back at him, face a little hard to read as he sits on the end of the bed.

Taehyung looks at the medical supplies laid out across the room, then at the duvet pulled back, sweatshirt pushed up and uncovering his bandages and glances unashamedly hopeful at his make-shift nurse’s face.

“So, did you patch me up already or…?”

Jungkook shakes his head and Taehyung’s heart shrivels a little. Well, there goes that hope. He lets out a begrudging sigh.

“I wouldn’t be able to monitor your condition properly, then. If you died, then I’d be wasting my supplies.”

Ouch.

“Blunt,” he tells him and the other man gives some half-ass attempt at a shrug, getting back up and wandering over to the desk where all his stuff is.

“How long was I out for?” He asks to stop himself looking at the moderately-sized needle he assumes the man’ll attempt to stich his wound with.

Jesus Christ, he’s gonna die. If not from the amateur surgery, then from this goddamn fear that’s choking his chest. That should go away, right? He’s never felt it so badly, how’s he supposed to know?

“Not long,” Jungkook mutters, too occupied examining the bottles he’s brought with him to give a focused response, “Maybe an hour tops.”

See… the thing is… for most humans two hour-long black-outs with a wound of this magnitude… that’d probably unlikely to happen. If Taehyung was human, he probably would’ve died on that second one. If not the first.

Maybe that’s why Jungkook keeps glancing at him with that wide-eyed disbelief he’s trying to cover-up. He likely can’t believe Taehyung’s alive at all. He just hopes he doesn’t know shit about blood loss, like his brother surely would.

“What’s the damage then, doc?” He asks, half wanting to know and half just testing to see how much the man does understand. Jungkook’s eyes flick up from the label he’s reading to Taehyung, and he almost has the urge to swallow from the seriousness in the stare.

“From what I can tell, it’s not great. We need to stitch it up immediately. I honestly don’t even know how you’re alive.”

Fuck.

“Good immune system!” he says dismissively, hoping the man doesn’t call him out on it as he moves to shuffle out of bed but lurches back with a small cry when he feels that unfortunately familiar spike of hot pain tear through his abdomen again.

“Jesus,” he gasps, holding his palm to the poorly dressed area, “I swear my pain tolerance isn’t usually this bad…” The words trickle out before he can stop them, and Jungkook’s already crossed the room, obviously intending to help him, but now he bears a puzzled expression, telling him, “It’s a big injury. Your tolerance can’t be high enough not to feel that…

Any other time, it would be. But the bastards were trying out some new spangled blade that even he’s supposed to find hard to bear any resistance to and that paired with the fact that he’s completely exhausted…

Hey, at least he didn’t say any of that out loud.

“Yeah…” he agrees with a chuckle, pushing the covers back off of his legs and shimmying to sit up a little more careful this time.

“Help me up?”

Now, while he doesn’t exactly expect Jungkook to just yank him to his feet, wound be damned, he also does not expect the way he hooks Taehyung’s arm around the man’s neck, and pulls him to his chest, literally carrying him across the room and setting him down in the cushioned dining chair he’s obviously dragged into his bedroom for him.

As Jungkook pulls away, Taehyung a flood of warmth washes over him, but instead of focusing on that , his eyes immediately begin to scan over the table for no other reason than distraction, looking at the substantial amount the man’s brought.

Bandages, non-alocholic wipes, pointy things that must be for stitches…. Then, his eyes land on something a little unexpected.

“What’s all the ice for?” He asks, curiously, leaning over to hold the bag in his hands because an ice pack is one thing but there’s so much of it… he can’t really think what he’d need it for since they had access to actual doctor’s supplies so-

“Couldn’t find anything to numb,” he answers distractedly, holding some kind of bottle up to the light to check its volume, “We’ll have to improvise.”

No offence but ‘ we’ll have to improvise’ isn’t really a thing he ever wants to hear before he’s about to be… surgeoned.

Taehyung swallows thickly, nerves bundling in his stomach and Jungkook must catch it, because he gives him an almost (not quite, but almost) sympathetic look, telling him, “don’t worry, it’d hurt regardless.”

Wow. So comforting. He should’ve been a therapist instead of the government’s lapdog.

Taehyung gives a soft huff of breath, something that sounds a little unamused maybe, since the man looks up at him, inquisitively, through his fringe with those entrancing doe eyes; they’d make him look almost innocent if it wasn’t for the sheer terrors that are his eyebrows. But, he doesn’t say anything more, just takes the non-alcoholic wipes and stoops down to his knees on the floor, dropping the packet by Taehyung’s feet and shuffling closer to him. He pushes his knees apart and moves between them with a shiver trickling down Taehyung’s body because oh.

“Sorry for the proximity,” the man mumbles, reaching over to the table to check the labels on one of the bottles. His chest brushes Taehyung’s knee, making it jerk a little in surprise and he really hopes Jungkook didn’t notice because holy  shit  those pecs are  solid .

“I can’t work from a distance. Unless you want to risk getting fucked up.”

Oh dear god no, his stomach just lurched.

“That’s... fine...” he says instead, sounding all-in-all pathetically  weak . He just hopes Jungkook takes it as fear.

He must be delusional. He swears he wasn’t this attractive earlier.

Or... was he delusional  earlier ?

Or is it just the fact that said attractive man is now sitting neatly between his legs, looking up at him with such concentration that he looks… hot.

Taehyung decides not to answer that.

And he almost forgets he’s about to get stitches from an amateur when his pain tolerance isn’t much better than a human’s for a moment, until Jungkook says, “I wonder how long you have to keep ice on for it to numb.”

Then, his body kicks into menial panic.

He lets out a shaky breath as Jungkook lifts his sweatshirt with slow caution, as to not aggravate his wound further and Taehyung helps him get it over his head. They let it drop to the floor, the man having already taken off his robe earlier, then, his attention turns to the bandages, sticking to his skin with thick, burgundy blood.

Jungkook reaches out for the scissors laying on the table beside them, and cuts right down the middle, peeling the material off easily as Taehyung hisses at the flutter of pain that comes with his skin plucking off of it. The man below him mutters an apology, echoing the interaction earlier from where he’d removed his bandages, and Taehyung merely nods in subconscious acceptance, attention focused more on the pointing-looking needle very close to the end of the table.

Jungkook unwraps the rest of the bandage, slipping it off from around his back, and lets that drop to the floor too. Then, he grabs the pack beside his feet, taking one out and cleaning up the mess of dried, smeared blood around the wound. A shiver runs through his body from how Jungkook’s free hand grips around the uninjured part of his waist for purchase, he shudders out a soft breath.

“Does that hurt?” Jungkook asks, incredulous over the man’s reaction. Of course, it stings a little, but not enough to spark any sort of shivering and Taehyung doesn’t exactly feel like explaining, so he just nods, eyes darting around the room to avoid his interrogative stare.

“Sorry, I’ll go lighter.”

For the record, he was pressing a little hard.

He quietly cleans it up as much as he can, now that the bleeding has started to subside at long fucking last and he throws the wipe in the trash can under the table. Then, he grabs a new one, and a bottle that’s labelled ‘peroxide’ and Taehyung’s no expert but that does not sound very good.

“What’s that?” he asks, blatantly dubious about it. Jungkook looks up with a blank look and answers, “disinfectant. Will probably sting like hell – but it’s the one that damages your skin the least,” without any hesitation or remorse whatsoever.

Taehyung gulps and feels hot already – probably due to losing so much blood - but now he feels another wave of heat fan over him, chest feeling tight and it’s still so foreign to him – all of this feeling. Whoever thought that one injury and an annoying human could cause this?

Great… ” He mutters and if Jungkook picks up on the sarcasm – which he more than likely does – he promptly ignores it, unscrewing the bottle with a gentle melody humming under his breath. But the dulcet tones are not enough to calm this mayhem going on in Taehyung’s head.

By the time he puts the liquid to the cloth, free hand manoeuvring over to the wound, Taehyung’s so tense that his tummy almost looks defined.

Relax, ” Jungkook coaxes, obviously noticing his muscles all bundled and solidified over his body, “Your thighs are squeezing my arms.”

Taehyung looks down at the man to see that, true to his word, his thighs are squeezing his arms. His biceps, to be exact. Those ripples of muscles that he can just make out through his shirt but, more importantly, feel with his thighs.

He can’t take this, he really can’t.

But he apologises meekly, releasing the man from his hold, who readjusts himself, repositioning his elbow to rest on his knee.

“You want a count of three?” he asks, hand hovering near the wound, and Taehyung agrees easily.

Okay, ” he says slowly, readying himself to apply the disinfectant whilst Taehyung tries to figure out if he really can blame the wound for his blatant cowardice.

Yeah, he’s sure he can…

“One… two-,”

He dabs the wipe to the wound, Taehyung involuntarily yelping because Christ that burns not stings, and somewhere through repeated exclamations and wriggling movements, he curses in a varied and creative amount of ways, to which the man – at Taehyung’s complete and utter surprise – lets out a slew of rapid-fire apologies, the words hastening the longer he goes on.

Once he finishes, he chucks the wipe in the trash so fast it’s like he’s discarding evidence at a crime scene, and when he sits back on his heels again, they’re both breathing considerably heavier than when they’d started (i.e. Taehyung is heaving. )

After a moment of total silence, Jungkook speaks up.

“So,” he starts, the word hanging in the air like a nauseating smell. The smell of fear , “onto the stitches…”

Taehyung’s stomach drops.

Hell no.

“You better numb me with that ice so well I’m pissing icicles.

Jungkook laughs – no, no, it’s a giggle even. This crazily, endearing giggle where his nose scrunches up and his front-most teeth stick out a little.

Taehyung’s stomach drops again. But less ‘hell no’ and more ‘ oh…’

Jungkook reaches for the colossal bag of ice (certainly an overkill) and tears the plastic open with his fingertips. Then, he takes a square of cloth that might be some kind of handkerchief, and unfolds it, setting it on the table so he can scoop some ice into it.

As he wraps it up and is about to hold it to his skin, Taehyung doubts the material’s even thin enough for him to feel it properl-

That’s cold!”

Jungkook gives him a displeased look, as much to say ‘it’s ice, idiot’ but doesn’t actually waste his breath on the words.

He holds it to the wound until it begins to tingle his skin, the man muttering a countdown to himself, then he moves the ice a few inches.

After a while Taehyung’s skin is flushed pink and  freezing  to touch. Jungkook makes him shrug on the robe around his shoulders again to stop his tremors.

Not because he’s worried about him being cold. Because he doesn’t want to make a mistake with his stitches.

“Is it numb?” Jungkook asks, and Taehyung reaches down to poke it, just barley feeling his finger’s touch, and as he’s about to reply Jungkook interrupts with, “Aren’t you gonna check if you’re pissing icicles?”

Taehyung’s snorts, throwing his head back to laugh, mostly out of disbelief that the man’s actually joking with him. He feels Jungkook press the ice to his wound one more time, before he throws it to the trash can, wiping his hands on his slacks to dry them.

Then, like Taehyung’s been dreading, Jungkook reaches for the needle and the medical thread he’s intending to patch him up with.

“Hold these,” he says suddenly, and Taehyung’s slightly dumbstruck as he’s handed the utensils that he’s about to be operated on with and  surely  that is against doctor etiquete  somewhere . But he holds them anyway, hands not shaking but certainly not stable either whilst Jungkook stands, journeys right out of the room and Taehyung’s left to stare at the little pain-bringers in his hands.

That needle definitely looks too thick to be going through his skin. But it’s so sharp...

Is it too late to just bleed out?

Apparently not because when Jungkook comes back he’s holding a glass of water in one hand and two pills in the other and when he stops in front of him and asks him to open his mouth, Taehyung realises that yeah he’s definitely not getting a way out of this one.

Taehyung does as instructed, forgetting to ask what he’s even being given (could totally be getting poisoned right now, but at this point he’s struggling to care) and when his lips part, Jungkook carefully pops both of the pills in his mouth, chasing it with the glass which he gently places against his mouth and pours in - just enough to help him swallow.

Taehyung feels the tablets slide down his throat, the water chilling his chest as if it rushes right through him, and once he settles, he clears his throat slightly, giving the needle and thread back to Jungkook as he asks him, “Please tell me those were painkillers.”

Jungkook gives a soft chuckle (he still can’t believe it) and tells him, “No poison, I promise,” as he stoops back down to his knees and shuffles between Taehyung’s legs again, needle pressed between his lips as he unravels the thread.

He takes the needle into his hand again once there’s enough thread and makes an attempt at getting it through the eye of it. After a few frustratingly failed attempts, Jungkook’s subconsciously pouting, so Taehyung takes it silently out of his little human hands and makes a show of lining it up.

While he’d usually get it first time, it takes him a few mortifying failures as well before he pulls it through.

Precision: yet another gift hindered by his injury.

But Jungkook doesn’t even call him out on it, just says, “Thanks... I’m a little tired,”  and Taehyung hadn’t even really noticed until the man mentioned it, but the sun is beginning to rise through the curtains, and he’d passingly mentioned that he’d been on patrol last night, too, that the man really does seem exhausted. His eyes are heavy, posture slouching from time to time, and actions slow enough that Taehyung sees an opportunity.

“M-maybe you wanna take a nap first? Do it in the morning?”

Jungkook looks away from the needle, suddenly seeming so much more awake as he sits straight on his knees to get a better angle, and he brushes him off, firmly telling him, “ No, we need to do this now,” and Taehyung can tell just by the tone that there is no room for argument here.

Besides, they both know what might happen if he bleeds any more...

Jungkook touches carefully around Taehyung’s injury, then, he brings the split in his skin together, pinched between the fingers of his left hand and checks his reaction, asking, “Did you feel that?”, most likely out of simple curiosity than anything else, since they don’t actually have anything else to numb it with. Taehyung nods, lost for words over how his heart’s pounding in his chest like he’s just ran for miles.

“Barely,” he clarifies, and maybe Jungkook looks a little more relaxed at that. He can’t blame him, giving stitches to a man screaming in pain probably wouldn’t be that great. For any party involved.

“I’m gonna need you to take deep breaths for me, alright? Nice and slow…”

“Uh huh,” Taehyung replies, eyes shutting as he braces for it. He’s seen this happen to people in movies, okay? It never looks fun.

He feels Jungkook’s arm rest across his thigh, a little heavy in how its leaning, and he hears the rub of his slacks against the floor as he gets into a better position. Then, there’s a moment of absolutely nothing.

Until he feels it.

It feels, essentially, like a needle digging into his skin, but he’s aware of every last tear of tissue it goes through, and the pull on the already searingly tender skin as Jungkook’s forced to angle the needle up so he can break if through to the other side. Somehow, that part hurts even more, red-hot pain rippling up his nerves with each movement.

Taehyung grits his teeth so hard they feel like they might break, but he still can’t help the whimpers that squeak out of his mouth each puncture and tug of his skin.

“Breathe, ” Jungkook reminds him, the utterance falling softly from his mouth, so clean, it feels natural. And, for a second, Taehyung’s mind is taken off the pain.

But, Taehyung does as he’s told and takes deep breaths, as steady as he can make them like Jungkook told him to.

“Fucking Christ,” he swears when Jungkook yanks the thread hard, tightening up the whole wound before he stops completely.

Taehyung opens his eyes to see him reaching for the scissors again, and he severs the extra thread, tying the ends into secure knots.

The sharp, searing pains have ceased, and Taehyung thanks ever god out there as all he’s left with is the dull burning sensation of fresh stitches. He lets himself look at the newly sealed wound, and is actually quite pleased to see it looking neat - if not a slightly scary purple-ish colour, and significantly swollen.

Jungkook obviously thinks the same as him, and is already giving it another swipe of disinfectant that, in comparison, Taehyung’s body just acknowledges as a distant sting.

“Want some more ice?” He asks, voice oddly unsure for the man, but Taehyung doesn’t even have to nod, just look at him with something akin to exhaustion (like extreme exhaustion) before he’s pressing the ice pack from earlier back to his skin.

Taehyung sighs with relief.

“I feel like it’s on fire.”

“It’s not, don’t worry,” Jungkook jokes, but Taehyung can’t give any more than a vague hum of amusement, eyes fluttering to closed again as Jungkook continues to soothe him, rubbing the area in small circles.

Taehyung falls asleep naturally, this time, which is an improvement, he thinks.

~️

When Taehyung wakes up again, he’s grateful to find that, actually, he doesn’t feel like complete and utter death, groggy beyond all reason like he has been the past few times he’s woken up.

Passing out does that to you, he guesses. He wouldn’t know for sure – those are the only times he’s experienced it before.

And whilst his stitches still ache, he has to admit, they probably don’t hurt as much as a human’s would, so that must be a sign that he’s getting his strength back, at least.

He lies contently in the incredibly comfortable bed Jungkook’s prepared for him for a few minutes, grateful that the man didn’t just leave him to sleep in the chair because, superhuman or not, he probably would’ve had a crick in his neck once he woke up.

In fact, he allows himself to think about Jungkook in general, and it’s a strange voyage his mind’s going on because this is the man that in the past 24 hours or so has not only kidnapped him and revealed he was seemingly content with Taehyung’s potential death, but has also offered him a place to stay and risked his own personal relationships by stitching up his wound and probably saving him from inevitable death – even going as far to be gentle and mindful of him before, during and after the process.

...Plus, he’s a very handsome man with a good sense of humour.

Not that that’s relevant to his morality, but it certainly does sway Taehyung’s opinion of him ever so slightly.

All in all, Taehyung decides to just be extremely careful what he says and does around him while he’s letting him stay. While he may have done good things for him, Taehyung still doesn’t really know anything about him besides his career - and that career is not a good one for him to get mixed up in.

Taehyung decides to stop thinking about the man that could potentially be his saviour and his downfall if he’s not careful, and get up to go see if there’s any food on offer because all the suffering of the past day has made him fairly hungry.

Jungkook probably has food crafted by his dozens of personal catering staff. Androids, even. He slips out of bed, grateful for the sweater still on him because it’s still freezing. As he’s crossing the room that he hasn’t even stopped to look around yet he realises that he hasn’t actually been around Jungkook’s home, at all – he’s just woken up in this room.

He’s hoping it isn’t too big. If Jungkook hadn’t found him in his family home, he’d probably still be wandering around it now.

But, as soon as Taehyung exits the room, he finds that his hopes follow through because Jungkook’s apartment is actually almost entirely linear. Walking down the hall he finds a few more doors which he can assume are more bedrooms and studies, and then what breaks off into an open living area, merging with an open-plan kitchen and dining room.

And a hushed grumbling of a conversation that feels oddly familiar from one of the other times he woke up.

Taehyung silently crosses into the living space, spotting Jungkook with his side to him as he leans over the island in the middle of his kitchen, hissing at the holographic image of an angry-looking handsome man from the chest upwards that he’s talking to on his Echo.

Taehyung’s never really understood the point of holograms. What ever happened to video calling? And why would you have something so pricey integrated into what you eat off of?  

He did semi expect Jungkook to have some sort of filter on the man by now, though. Taehyung knows he would.

“Okay, I’m sorry I stole some of your supplies-,” the younger man assures him, but he doesn’t really sound all that sorry about the thievery, more sorry that he’s having this conversation right now.

Taehyung creeps slightly closer, trying to get a better look at the other man’s face, because right now all he can see is about a ¾ view of the back of his head, the way he’s standing and that doesn’t give him much insight.

“-Some? Jungkook, you took more than some!”

Oh , Taehyung knows his voice… his brother’s calling to tear into him for stealing his stuff like Jungkook was pretty sure he would eventually. So, then, he must know Taehyung’s still with him… he passes one of the couches now, the man’s face becoming abundantly more in view as he rounds it. Sure enough, it’s the boy in the portrait. Not that that’s a surprise, it’s not like Jungkook has any more siblings.

“Hyung, I needed them, okay?”

“You didn’t even stitch your cut I can see it from here.”

Jungkook touches his cheek, covering it up with a hastily-forced smile that makes his face scrunch too much for it to be natural. But even still there’s still something about it that makes Taehyung’s own mouth upturn. Probably the absurdity of how nonchalant he’s trying to act, even if his brother obviously already knows the truth. Besides, even if he didn’t, the man’s as rigid as a plank of wood with tension.

And his brother can see it. The image quality has to be, like, 4K .

“What cut? It’s basically heale-,”

Taehyung’s hip whacks off the edge of the table he totally hadn’t seen at the end of the couch, and he yelps, holding the affected area like a battle wound (and he knows his fair share about wounds, trust him) and failing to notice the lamp toppling off of it until it’s too late. It clambers to the ground with a dull crack and Taehyung swears louder than he’d intended to.

Jungkook turns to look at him with such speed it’s a wonder he doesn’t get whiplash. Taehyung straightens up, about to apologise when he notices the head of his holographic brother turn in his direction too, only making half a second of eye contact with him before Jungkook shrieks a ‘see ya, hyung!’ and slams his hand on the end-call button, breathing dramatically heavily as his hand lingers on it in the silence afterwards.

Taehyung bends down to reclaim the cracked lamp, setting it clumsily on the table again and just hopes Jungkook’s too… highly strung… to notice.

“Do…” he starts, approaching the kitchen with a little more hesitation than he had previously (for obvious reasons, the man looks borderline psychotic right now.)

“Do you think he saw me?”

Jungkook’s attention snaps to him, a slightly crazed look in his eye that gives Taehyung the urge to lean away a little from him, as he reaches the island.

Yes, ” Jungkook hisses, “I think he did, ” which is entirely unfair because Taehyung didn’t actually do anything wrong. How was he supposed to know his brother didn’t know Jungkook was fixing him up? It’s not like he said that or anyt-

Oh, wait, he did, didn’t he?

Taehyung awkwardly clasps his hands together, waiting for the man to say something else. When he doesn’t, he decides to take the initiative.

“So, what are we doing for breakfast? I’m starved!”

Jungkook glares wordlessly at him. But does he go and make them both breakfast? Yes, he does. And Taehyung doesn’t care if it’s yoghurt and oatmeal – international food of old people – it’s still food, and still a win.

As the two sit on either end of the island (it’s quite a long island, making the scene a little unnatural) they eat in a silence that isn’t exactly heavy but is by no means comfortable, either. Taehyung’s tired of the sound of clanging, scraping spoons against porcelain after five minutes, and decides to fix that silence.

“Has your brother called you out yet?”

Jungkook’s spoon stops, and he glances up at Taehyung, a cold, detached expression clouding over his features which would make most people wish they could take their words back. Taehyung, however, just becomes that more determined to hear the answer.

“No,” the man grumbles, mouth half-full with oatmeal mush as he says it, “He won’t either.”

“Why not?” Taehyung asks, intrigued from the slight defensiveness inching into his tone.

Jungkook swallows his mouthful.

Because , he doesn’t do that. We’re not close enough”

Ah, they aren’t, huh? Interesting.

Taehyung gives a nod, but then he wonders, “Then, why did you freak out about him noticing me so much?”

“Because we don’t talk,” Jungkook replies, raising his mug to his lips and adding, “I have no chance to explain myself,” before he drinks, as if he’s trying to get rid of the conversation in the process.

“Unless you talk to him first,” Taehyung points out, because it all seems quite simple to him. Explain that Taehyung’s only here temporarily, easy peasy. But Jungkook just puts his cup back down with a sense of deflation in his demeanour, muttering, “Yeah, but… but you…” he takes a long sigh before he decides on, “you don’t get it.”

Again, the solution seems simple enough for Taehyung.

“Then you should explain it.”

But Jungkook seems to definitely disagree, immediately countering with, “I have no reason to explain myself to a stranger.”

Taehyung definitely would’ve banked on them working up to acquaintances, but sure.

He decides to stuff some of his own breakfast mush into his mouth then to fill the silence, and see if he can mute the thousands of thoughts seemingly constantly running through his head as of late, until it’s long enough that Jungkook concedes to grace him with his conversation again.

“What are you planning to do about the people chasing you?” he asks and, yup, there is one of the many, many questions running through his head at all times.

He’s thought about this forever. What can he do? He can’t keep running, it’s not safe for him or  anyone around him. It’s especially not fair on Jimin and Yoongi, who don’t even know if he’s dead or alive half of the time when he’s gone.

Taehyung shifts uncomfortably in his seat, peeling his eyes away from the man opposite him and taking interest in the glittering granite worktop he’s eating at instead. He has to be careful what he says to Jungkook. Too much information and he might piece together who is chasing him - and from that he might assume why.

And Taehyung doesn’t think he’ll come to the wrong conclusion.

Jungkook looks expectant of his answer, and so Taehyung tries to give him one. Some sort of game plan or strategy - even something just reckless and crazy enough for it to work… but he’s got nothing.

So, instead, he gives a quiet, disbelieving chuckle, giving up on his mushy breakfast, posture slouching in burden as he mutters, “I’ve no idea…”

And that was not the answer Jungkook was expecting, apparently, because the man is instantly barking, “You don’t know? You mean you went to confront them without a plan? ” at him like it’s some huge deal. It’s not at all to Taehyung, and he tells him as much, informing him, “It’s kind of how I work.”

When Jungkook still doesn’t look appeased, Taehyung decides to humour him, teasingly inquiring, “What do you suppose I do, officer? ” tongue caught in his teeth as the man in question continues to glower.

“I’m not a-,” Jungkook cuts himself off with a sigh, before proceeding to actually try and help when he asks, “How much do you know about them?”

Taehyung hesitates. He knows… a lot.

He grew up constantly tested and given ‘check-ups’ by them, was born in their hospital, a child in their children’s ward, educated in their shoddy attempt at a school. Taehyung was raised by them for their research. And while he has his own parents, he was only born in the first place because of them.

During his early teens, just before he escaped, he found out much of the things he wasn’t allowed to know, too - like the treatment of the AIs there in general. Subjected to experimentation and borderline torture without rest, neglect, mistreatment… but of course, the bastards can get away with it because hey, they’re not technically human, right?

Taehyung has a human body, human mind, but the enhancements they made to his cells before he was implanted are way out of human ability. So, he guesses these all important human rights don’t apply to him, either.

He had to get out once he discovered that, he couldn’t allow himself to be a victim of that - human or not - it was humane.

But Taehyung looks at Jungkook, clearly still trying to think of some sort of plan for him and, to his question of how much he know, he lies, of course. He can’t afford Jungkook finding out too much information about this ‘group chasing him.’

“Nothing, to be honest with you.”

The irony is not lost on him.

Jungkook looks at him as if he thinks he’s slightly pathetic (and he probably does ) and gives a low, drawn out sigh, picking up his mug and swirling it slightly before taking a meditative slug of it. In between his thought process, he seems to have a reality check, suddenly looking back at Taehyung with questioning eyes that makes him slightly on edge because is he onto him?

“Are you sure you don’t want coffee? I made some for both of us.”

Taehyung feels the tension completely deflate in him. Definitely not onto him.

Wow, is he getting that paranoid?

He vehemently shakes his head, observing the drink in the man’s cup and telling him, “No thanks. That looks more like milk than anything, and I like it bitter.”

Jungkook makes a face of vague disgust, saying, “ Why? Bitter coffee is terrible.”

Taehyung, once upon a time, would’ve very much agreed with him, but, as he tells Jungkook, “My best friend makes the bitterest coffee in the world. Like, acidic . I’ve evolved.”

“In the world?” The man echoes with incredulity, musing, “I don’t know… there’s a guy at a diner I go to sometimes and his coffee could probably remove rust.”

Taehyung laughs, surprisingly amused, as Jungkook looks nebulously fond of this supposedly terrible coffee maker, mouth curved up into a gentle smile that Taehyung can’t help but stare at, even if it isn’t for him.

And that… makes him wonder a little.

“So, this guy… is he… like, a boyfriend, or…?” he asks, entirely clunky about it, and honestly isn’t even really sure why he did as he stares down at his empty bowl, not particularly wanting to see how Jungkook’s probably looking at him with that scary furrowed brow of his right now.

But, then… Jungkook lets out an outrageous snort and Taehyung looks up so fast his eyes can’t even focus immediately, locating the man’s face which is alive and crinkling with laughter.

“No fucking way,” he gasps, as if the notion to him is downright hilarious and, frankly, Taehyung feels a little stupid for even assuming. Jungkook shakes his head to himself, that same smile on his face as before which Taehyung can now read as platonically fond as he says, “His actual boyfriend would kick my ass to next weekend if I even tried to make a move on him. And besides I’m…” the man pauses, as if he’s considering his word choice, head subconsciously tilting ever so slightly before he decides on, “not really interested in dating at the minute, anyway.”

Taehyung makes a soft noise of acknowledgement, storing that information away and then he moves the fuck on because that was a dumb question.

Yes, Jungkook is hot. Yes, he’s done some nice things for him like save his life. But he is still an asshole. Technically.

Would Taehyung let him wrangle his circuits? Probably (although, he doesn’t have circuits) and it’s totally normal to want to know the relationship status of someone you find attractive even if you have absolutely no intentions of pursuing them because they probably would want to kill you if they knew your deep dark secret.

… Taehyung’s forgotten the point he was trying to make.

But, before he can even remember it, Jungkook’s by his side, leaning over the counter to grab his bowl, and then he’s walking over to the sink, giving both dishes a quick rinse before he slots them in the dishwasher. It rumbles and whirs for a few seconds until it beeps erratically, and the dishes are sent back up through the circuit to the cupboard.

Jungkook wipes his hands on his jeans and rolls up the cuffs of his puffy white shirt that won’t stay properly on his shoulders because he apparently refuses to button it all the way and as he looks to Taehyung again, he finally says, “I think the first thing you should do is find out as much about the group as you can.”

Even with all he already knows about them, this isn’t actually a horrible idea. And, really, it’s the best he’s got. So, Taehyung nods his head twice, leaning on his hand as the man gives the countertop a quick swipe with a cloth and tells him, “Sounds like a plan - but, I doubt they have a website I can look at the FAQs section of. Where am I supposed to find anything?”

Jungkook’s silent for a moment, eyes roaming behind Taehyung, seemingly in thought, until he tells him, “I have a pretty extensive library. Lots of books about Solelight. There might be something in there - why don’t you have a look?”

Taehyung suppresses a groan. He’s never been one for reading, anyway, and now he’s gonna have to read a bunch of factual books on information that mightn’t even be there and that he might already know?

His face must give him away, because Jungkook looks at him disapprovingly for a few seconds, before he exhales quietly, saying “I’ll help you pick out some things to read.”

Taehyung won’t say no to that. In fact, he grins excessively at the man, claiming, “It’s the least you could do!” to which Jungkook falters for a second, obviously utterly dumbstruck until he barks, “After what? I saved your life!”

Ah, yeah. Taehyung had forgotten that.

“Whatever,” Jungkook grumbles, “I’m just doing it so you can leave sooner,” he tells him once Taehyung just keeps on smiling. The elder isn’t offended, he knows the man’s just bullshitting him - he was the one that let him stay here after all.

~️

And so, Taehyung spends the rest of the morning and afternoon reading book after book. He’s grateful Jungkook bought the audio ones at least, so he isn’t completely bored out of his mind (though, after several hours he almost is.) When Jimin studies he just uses the old-fashioned paper textbooks. He says it’s because he likes them more, but Taehyung knows he just can’t afford it.

That’s the other good thing about being away from him and Yoongi, he guesses. Besides from the fact they’re in less danger, they also save a shit ton of money.

He feels bad for burdening them all the time, but as soon as he gets this group off his ass, then he can actually get a job and make enough money to move out.

Three books in and a lot of skimming once he got to bored to even listen anymore, there’s a knock on the door of Jungkook’s study (personal library?) and when Taehyung tells them to come in, Jungkook appears with a suspiciously steaming mug and two white tablets pinched between his thumb and forefinger.

“Are you gonna sit in your underwear all day?” He says in spite of a greeting, setting the mug down on the table, inches away from where Taehyung’s ended up slouched across it. He straightens up, eyeing the cup and the pills sitting quietly in Jungkook’s hands.

“What are those?” He asks instead of answering him, and Jungkook’s expression clouds over for a second, confused, before he tells him, “Painkillers. Yours should be wearing off now, right?”

Taehyung shrugs his shoulders, stretching his arms above his head as he tells him, “I dunno. I haven’t really moved- Christ !”

A horrendous pain shifts through the movement while Taehyung’s arms snap back to his side, defensively, hunching over on the table again while he grumbles curses to himself. Jungkook slides the mug over closer to him and Taehyung sees the pills be set down into view beside it.

“Idiot,” Jungkook says, in lieu of a ‘work hard’ or ‘see you later.’ No, he just adds, “I’ll take that as a yes.”

Once Jungkook’s out of the room, Taehyung raises himself back up, taking in the unmistakable scent of fresh coffee and he grimaces at it, knowing Jungkook’s milky habits. He knocks back the pills into his mouth anyway, picking up the coffee to chase it despite himself, and almost recoils in surprise when he tastes that sweet, sweet acidity.

Not quite Jimin’s, but close.

It’s only about an hour later, after the painkillers have properly started working and he’s drank his coffee (it definitely rivalled his best friend’s the more he drank) Taehyung decides to take Jungkook up on his suggestion of getting dressed and, subsequently, stretching his legs because after a few hours of sitting in the exact same position, his joints are a little stiff. Taehyung isn’t really used to having to ‘stretch his legs’ and he feels sorry for humans that they have to deal with it. Normally, Taehyung could sit in the same position for weeks and just about feel a little rigid, but he’s got what he’s bitterly named Human Syndrome at the minute, so of course he gets their achy, creaky bones.

Taehyung really doesn’t want to find out what else those guys have up their sleeves if their ‘new weapon’ damaged him this badly.

He takes his mug, planning to drop it into the kitchen on the way to Jungkook’s bedroom, and exits the man’s study with a gentler stretch this time, sweater brushing up his stomach to let the cooler air of the hallway ghost against it.

His wound still feels like it’s sort-of on fire, but he can deal with that sort of pain right now. The duller, more consistent kind. It’s the sharp sudden ones that are insufferable.

True to his mental word, he crosses the living area and drops the mug in the sink, running the water over it to ‘let it steep’ when in reality he just doesn’t want to put it away.

Jimin always gets at him for that.

He exits the room again, heading down the corridor and taking a peak in each door he passes to try and figure out where the man’s bedroom is.

Unless he has a walk-in closet in a separate room. He probably is that excessive.

He finds spare bedrooms (he knows they must be spare, since there’s no clothes in any of them), studies, two bathrooms (one of which sounds as if the shower’s on inside it) and another, smaller living room, – but no master bedroom.

Until he turns the corner.

Taehyung knows he’s found it when he sees the red-carpeted steps leading up to the huge double doors, literal stone arcs outside it and it’s all so pompous with the fancy pale gold walls and dark mahogany flooring that Taehyung literally scoffs.

And then, he looks up above the double doors and almost doubles over in laughter.

He has a fucking portrait of himself. Hand-painted, gold frame, standing all self-assured and so aware of how good he looks in that dark red velvet suit - black lapels and a loose silk white shirt that half screams ‘prince’ and half ‘wow, what a fucking douche.’

Taehyung rolls his eyes at the gaze the painting has on him, something lustful and desperately confident that he just has to roll his eyes at it.

He descends the stairs two at a time, skipping up them rather quickly and he wonders how Jungkook even got planning permission to create it like this. No apartment he’s ever been in’s looked like this, and he very much doubts any landlord would allow this either.

Unless…

Surely, he doesn’t own the entire building.

Rich bastard.

Taehyung pushes open one of the doors, slipping inside, and he almost pisses himself when he does.

The fucking view.

Solelight, in Taehyung’s opinion, has never been a beautiful city. It’s all bright lights and neon, the kind that make you squint and grimace as you’re travelling through it. It’s gaudy and technology-infested and polluted.

But, god, if it isn’t a pretty sight right now.

All those lights douse it in colour, making it twinkle and glitter from every conceivable angle. And while usually, he thinks the tall skyscrapers and apartment buildings are an eye-sore, from here, they look like poles of light. Like rocks among a twinkling sea.

“Holy shit,” he breathes to himself, and, in some way, he half expects Jungkook to come up behind him again, like last night, when he’d been examining a whole other window (he swears he isn’t normally so interested in them.)

But, he doesn’t, and Taehyung lets himself look over the city for a little while longer, before he gets hit by another chill on his legs and goes back to the mission at hand.

He turns his head to the side and, for the second time in the last five minutes, almost pisses himself.

His closet spans the entirety of his left wall.

And it’s a big fucking wall.

“Who the hell needs this much shit?” he says disbelievingly, feet dragging him over before he’s even acknowledged it.

Taehyung opens one of the closet doors, not even surprised when it illuminates with an excessive spotlight, highlighting its grandeur. He sees suits, shirts, blazers, jackets, overcoats and very style of dress pants he can think of - but he doesn’t really feel like dressing as if he’s about to go get his morning coffee and perhaps sue someone along the way - so he keeps looking through the closet doors, passing the absurd number of shoes and, at last, Taehyung sees a small chest of drawers which, when he opens it, finds it holds Jungkook’s presumed ‘casual clothes’, though, he isn’t sure if you can really count designer as casual.

Regardless, he takes the first combination he sees: a pair of plain black jeans and a deep-red, long-sleeved shirt that feels soft to the touch, like new. Both are labelled by the same swirly writing in a language he doesn’t understand.

He closes the closet again, all four of the doors, and is just pulling his sweater over his head, when the entrance door creaks open, and that musical voice exclaims a dissonant “ Christ ,” just as Taehyung pulls the garment off his head, staring eye-to-eye with Jungkook, arms still enclosed by the sweater. While Jungkook…

Well, Jungkook’s got a towel threatening to slip off of his hips.

Taehyung swallows thickly, eyes travelling down the toned muscles of his arms and chest, right down to the edge of his towel, like he’s mimicking the droplets of water gliding down them, and he pulls the sweater all the way off, dropping at his feet, and as he reaches for the jeans, they lock eyes again, the man across the room’s tongue darts out to run along his bottom lip, before settling to poke in his cheek.

Taehyung steps into the jeans, pulling them up his legs, and it’s when he goes to button them up, that Jungkook’s eyes stop following the elder’s hand movements, and he clears his throat and says “My stitching doesn’t look too bad.”

Taehyung looks to examine it himself, and is pleasantly surprised to see that it’s no longer grotesquely swollen, as it had been when he’d done it -  nor is it any horrific colour; just a raw, pinky red.

“Not too bad at all,” Taehyung notes, but the words sound awkward even to him. He buttons his jeans, tugging them down ever so slightly so the waistband isn’t too close to the healing wound.

“I hope you don’t mind, I’m borrowing your clothes,” Taehyung says, redundantly, and Jungkook gives him a vaguely judgemental look as he says, “You’ve already done it…” as if he hadn’t practically told him to, but then he adds, “I’ll pick out all the things I don’t wear and leave them in your room - after I get dressed.”

Taehyung thanks him, telling him he shouldn’t have to do that, but in reality he’s very grateful he won’t have to keep coming in here, after this.

Or… is that unfortunate?

What’s he so goddamn ripped for anyway? Taehyung looks down at his tummy, soft and flat and gives an internal sigh.

As Taehyung’s about to put his shirt on, Jungkook says something that makes him stall.

“You have a tattoo?”

Taehyung follows the man’s eyes to where he’s staring, seeing the gentle petals peak out from above the waistband of his jeans where they hang lower than his slacks had yesterday. He lets out a light snort, he forgets it’s there half of the time.

“Uh huh.”

Jungkook, slowly, makes his way across the room - until he’s barely a breath away, and Taehyung doesn’t know at all what he expects - but it’s definitely not the warm hand that presses against his hip bone, thumb tracing the inked skin there. Taehyung jolts slightly in the man’s careful grip, watching the action in stunned silence, before the man speaks, “When’d you get it?” as if he isn’t touching his bare skin right now.

Taehyung tries not to shiver at the loss of heat when he pulls his hand back again.

“A few years ago,” he answers, mind feeling slightly off-beat from the interaction, “I got it to cover up a scar.”

Jungkook’s eyebrows raise up at that.

“What kind of scar?” He asks, and Taehyung realises that it must sound a little suspicious (and he would be right to be suspicious) as if there’s another gargantous wound under there.

Taehyung gives a gentle shrug, fingers tugging his waistband down a little lower on one side, revealing part of a collection of monochrome daffodils.

“When I was running from the people chasing me, I slipped off a fence and a piece of the metal dug into my leg, scarring all the way down my thigh. When it healed, my skin didn’t go back to normal, so I got it covered up.”

Back then, Taehyung had been on some kind of new medication they’d been testing on him that was meant to make him stronger. He’d taken a shit ton before he left and felt invincible - so, despite the brutality of the wound, it healed in a few days, and he barely even felt it when it was there.

But the medication wore off before it could completely cosmetically heal, and it left the skin all pale and blotchy.

Regardless, Taehyung wishes he had some of that medication now - this wound will not heal in a couple of days.

“Why daffodils?” Jungkook asks with curiosity, eyes drifting down to Taehyung’s covered leg as if he can picture them. Taehyung gives a soft hum, grinning a little to himself. He always loves explaining this.

“They represent a new beginning,” he tells him, remembering how the person in the tattoo parlour had told him the same thing when he’d lamented about the accident, “And I guess I wanted that.” He did. In many, many ways. A new beginning as a free man, yes. But a new beginning as someone who wasn’t bound by their past, too.

“Also to be loved and admired - didn’t think that’d be so bad, either,” he jokes, and Jungkook laughs quietly, before his eyes wander down to the covered tattoo again. He looks slightly contemplative when he asks, “So, it goes all the way down your thigh?” obviously oblivious to how suggestive the words sound aloud.

But Taehyung isn’t.

“Are you trying to get me to show you?” He questions, tilting his head at him as his mouth curves upwards and Jungkook looks confused for all of two seconds, until his eyes pop open, lips following suit as he fumbles to reason, “ No , I was just- I wondered- I didn’t-,”

Taehyung shakes his head, stepping an inch or two towards him. Jungkook’s hand grips his towel, maybe out of instinct and it’s a little amusing, actually, how this man - so cold, so confident - has become like this , all doe-eyed and expectant, with one tiny shred of embarrassment.

It’s… kinda cute, actually.

“-Maybe you’ll see it one day, officer ,” Taehyung mutters, barely a breath away from him now - so much so he can feel the heat of the shower still radiating off his body. Jungkook swallows, throat moving with the action, as he eyes flit between Taehyung’s to down, down, down .

“Look, I’m interested in tattoos, alright?” He says lowly, but honestly, Taehyung wasn’t looking for an excuse, “I have a few myself, so…”

Oh , he does, does he?

Where ?” Taehyung asks with a playful edge to the word, because here the man is flaunting his rippling torso right before him, and yet, he sees none.

Jungkook folds his arms across his chest, giving a soft click of his tongue before he steps back almost defiantly, spinning on his heels in one graceful movement and baring his back to him. Taehyung gives a low hum of approval, stomach fluttering at the sight.

His back is tainted with the image of two crows ; one among a weak bouquet of wildflowers, and the other behind the inverted silhouette of a tree. There’s something oddly powerful about it, deliberate even in its smears and rash strokes, and Taehyung finds himself practically lost for words.

Oh… ” he utters, eyes running across the design carefully, like he’s trying to memorise the details. His fingers almost reach out to touch it, but he thinks better of it because, unlike Jungkook, he realises that it’s weird to just touch someone you barely even know. No matter how… touchable they look.

“You like it?” He asks, and maybe it’s a little cocky, now, (definitely a little cocky) but he absolutely has the right to sound so, considering what a pretty sight he is. Taehyung wonders how cocky he’d be if he was still facing him.

“I do,” Taehyung tells him earnestly, “it’s stunning, I- why’d you get it?”

Jungkook’s shoulders seem to tighten a little then, but he lets his arms fall by his side when he sighs and says, “My mom used to have this painting in her room that she adored. It got lost when we moved out of the city, but I managed to recreate it the best I could.”

Taehyung pauses, unable to stop the small sound of surprise that escapes his mouth.

“Wait… you designed that?”

Jungkook turns around again, confident once more as he gives Taehyung a smug grin, replying, “I told you I liked art.”

‘Liked art.’ Pff, what an understatement.

“Yeah but that…” Taehyung insists, “that’s a masterpiece .”

It really is. Unbelievably intricate, yet, somehow, it looks completely improvised and free. Jungkook gives a weak laugh, mumbling, “Mom said the same about the original. Guess it fits.”

Then, he looks off to the window behind the elder, something unreadable in his eyes as he muses, “I like to think she’d say the same about my take on it.”

Taehyung suddenly feels as if he’s seeing something he shouldn’t again, but he can’t help himself from saying, “You sound like you loved her a lot...”

And it’s a mistake.

Out of nowhere, the soft expression disintegrates, and Jungkook glances to Taehyung with his mouth moving into a frown. He gives a short nod, shaking out the droplets forming in the end of his fringe and pushes it back off his forehead. Then, without a word he crosses the room to his closet.

“I should get dressed…” he mutters after a few seconds where Taehyung doesn’t make a move to leave, “Good luck with your researching.”

It sounds disingenuous, but Taehyung doesn’t really know if he should be offended by it. After all, he doesn’t know why he took his words so badly.

“Right, yeah. Thanks...”

Taehyung goes back to the study, feeling substantially odd from the whole conversation that just happened. But, he brushes it off, sitting back down at the desk and continuing where he left off - but even after another hour or so, he still hasn’t found anything on the people chasing him. Most of the books Jungkook gave him just focus on the history of the city as a whole, not its businesses and organisations and certainly not the cursed android developers ; but, even if he did find them in here, he doubt it’d be any more than their name and location - both of which Taehyung’s already fully aware of.

Acquiesce: Android Development and Recovery Centre - which is a bold-face lie, from the start, but once Taehyung finally looked up acquiesce in the dictionary he found on one of the countless shelves, he realised that another lie in the name is the suggestion that their subjects  ‘comply without protest.’

There is protest. Lots of it. Enough that Taehyung can still fucking hear the cries sometimes when things are too quiet. Acquiesce is absolutely bullshit.

But he’s not surprised he hasn’t found anything in these books, the bastards aren’t even primarily situated in Solelight. They have branches in almost every city, but Taehyung grew up in the primary ‘research facility’, way over on the other side of the country.

And he gives up eventually, at least for tonight. He needs a different means of finding out more information, though, he isn’t sure what he’s really even looking for. Jungkook told him to research things, assuming he knew nothing , but Taehyung knows way more than he could ever find out in this study. So, what more would he even need to know?

A while later, he’s sitting at the dining table with Jungkook, both at the opposite ends again, but somehow it feels even more awkward this time.

The man made them some kind of noodle dish - Taehyung isn’t even entirely sure what kind, but it tastes amazing, and he’s insanely thankful for the first good meal he’s had in quite some time. Sure it’s horrendously high-carb and Taehyung thinks he may have put a grand total of one singular vegetable in it, but it’s still a lot better than it could’ve been.

Actually, he could probably get used to this sort of dinner… Jimin and Yoongi can never really be bothered to make anything after class- and they don’t let Taehyung in the kitchen, so, most of the time, they end up eating order-in food.

Taehyung gets fed up with grease, sometimes.

And he also gets fed up with silences - and the one between him and Jungkook right now is annoying the hell out of him. So, in between his slurps of noodles, he tries to think of something to talk about.

“I found out some things about them,” he lies, but Jungkook doesn’t need to know. He doesn’t know who’s after him, and he doubts he’s even read those books.

The man looks up from his bowl, a reservedness in his gaze as he asks, “Oh, yeah?”

Okay, still upset. Or… angry. Or something.

“Yeah,” Taehyung presses on, “But what am I supposed to do, now that I know things about them?”

Jungkook keeps chewing slowly, cheeks puffing out with food, as if he’s in no rush to answer him. He swallows and sets his utensils down. Then, he leans back in his chair, fingers fiddling with the wide collar of his satin shirt as his eyes wander to the floor.

“I don’t know what your goal is, Taehyung - I can’t give you a plan.”

Taehyung follows his actions, setting his own utensils down, but leaning towards the man on his elbows as he states, “I want them to leave me alone.”

Jungkook looks at him again, then, something pensive brewing under the strong pinch of his brow. His head lulls near his shoulder, almost as if he’s gauging him - but if he has any suspicions over Taehyung’s reasoning, he doesn’t question him.

“Then you either have to give them what they want-,”

“-I can’t do that.”

Jungkook clicks his tongue, as if he’d expected as much.

“Then make it so they can’t come after you anymore.”

Taehyung reflects on Jungkook’s words for the rest of the night. He doesn’t know how he’s supposed to do that, and he can’t see the man elaborating any time soon.

It sounds as if he either has to get rid of them , or himself; but Taehyung’s tried running before - that’s all he’s tried. And how is he supposed to take down someone like them by himself? He may be stronger than humans but he’s not invincible.

His sleep is dreamless that night, mind unable to push itself enough to be creative with the problem currently plaguing him.

If he had dreamt, though, he’s pretty sure it would’ve featured Jungkook’s glimmer of chest in that shirt because wow.

~

The next morning, Taehyung is lying on the gorgeous cream settee in his bedroom, staring at the ceiling as he contemplates what the hell he’s supposed to do.

That is until Jungkook, true to his word, barges in with a pile of clothes bundled in his arms.

Taehyung jumps at the sound of his door swinging open, but Jungkook seems ignorant of it, silently walking towards his bed before he dumps the pile on the sheets. And he really has the audacity to almost leave again without even a glance , when Taehyung springs to sit up, whining, “Hey, hold on. At least help me sort all of that out!”

Jungkook does look at him now, like he wouldn’t be caught dead, but when Taehyung juts out his bottom lip and scrunches up his shoulders, letting out a high, airy little ‘ hmmph’ because cuteness really is the greatest weapon, Jungkook groans and backtracks to the bed again telling him, “As long as you actually help...”

Taehyung jumps up as best as he can with his injury, and skips over to Jungkook, already picking up the first thing: a tacky oversized turtleneck that has pastel rainbow stripes decorating it. Taehyung immediately falls in love.

“I can’t picture you wearing that at all, ” he says very honestly, and Jungkook’s already walking over to the closet (about a third of the size of his, yet still huge ) but he looks over his shoulder at him when he says this, slightly exasperated as he snaps, “Exactly! One of my colleagues bought me it as a joke.”

Most of the explanations go something like that: joke present, poor-taste relative, wrong size, wrong colour, wrong order , terrible hand-me-down, didn’t know what he was thinking buying it.

By the time they’re done sorting it all, Taehyung doesn’t feel as grateful as he had when Jungkook first suggested the idea. Especially not since the man trash-talked everything they put away while Taehyung… liked all of it.

“What does that say about me?” he asks him now, and Jungkook gives a little chuckle, smiling down at his feet so endearingly infectiously that Taehyung finds himself smiling too. The man shrugs, looking back up at him with that grin still evident as he tells him, “You’ve got bad fashion sense.”

Taehyung guffaws, firing back, “Hey, they’re your clothes! There’s no way you’ve always hated every item of clothing there,” he says very confidently, but the man doesn’t concede, assuring him, “Wrong. I never liked any of it.”

And then, maybe, he feels a little bad upon witnessing Taehyung’s bitter deflation, because he tells him, “I’ll still take you shopping for some things. You need socks and underwear and stuff, so-,”

“Then why give me them if you don’t like it?” Taehyung presses on, completely ignoring his shopping point because his pride is at stake here, “You want me to look ugly?”

Jungkook gives a slow roll of his eyes.

No , I-,”

“You want everyone to laugh at me when I go out?” he interrogates, and although his complaints were once serious, he’s absolutely teasing when he asks, “Is that my defense mechanism? The people after me will laugh so hard I’ll be able to slip away?”

Jungkook’s so busy giggling to himself, that he must forget to put on his tough-boy facade, because his eyes are twinkling with amusement, laughter ringing out high and melodically and suddenly he tells him, “ No ! I thought you’d look good in them.”

And the way his face falls immediately once he registers what he said…

That’s the best joke.

Taehyung sees an opportunity to play that unspoken little game of theirs again here, and his lips must like the idea before his brain does because they curve into something that would look slightly sinister if it wasn’t for the words peppering out of them.

“You did , hm?”

Jungkook, all of a sudden, looks very subdued - like he’d rather be anywhere else on the planet right now.

“I meant… better than I did,” he tries, but Taehyung just finds himself more amused by it.

“You think I’ll look good in your old clothes? All those off-shoulder sweaters and ripped skinny jeans?”

He can’t imagine Jungkook ever wearing any of it, but he must think it suits him...

The man swallows, eyes shifting to look anywhere but him as he mutters, “Well… I-,”

“The backless shirts… the satin tops…” Taehyung lists, stepping closer to him, playfully as he wonders, “all of those things that are too short or tight for you?”

Jungkook’s hand reaches up to awkwardly scratch his neck, mouth rushing for an explanation as Taehyung continues, “And what, you wanna take me shopping too? That’s bold ,” he says, and despite how utterly normal it actually is it sure seems to fluster Jungkook.

“Hoping I’ll try something on for you? You wanna see me like that?”

For a few seconds, Jungkook’s face is one of complete embarrassment, but then… it starts to change.

“What if you’re right?” he asks out of nowhere, and Taehyung feels his stomach drop at the shift in tone, both verbally and in the cocky implications of his face.

“Wait what-”

“-What if I do want you to try things on for me, huh?” he coaxes, face swimming with dark suggestion as he asks, “What then?”

Now, Taehyung’s the one that fumbles for words.

“I… I was just…”

“What? Teasing?” Jungkook finishes for him, and he almost nods until the man says, “Were you trying to tease me, Taehyung? I don’t like that.”

Then, he shakes his head vehemently.

“Joking. I joked ,” he corrects hastily.

“Well, you know what?” Jungkook asks, standing so close to him now he can smell his cologne, unmistakably strong and enticing.

Wait enticing? Did he say that? Not enticing.

“What?” He mutters, a part of him intrigued in the man’s words despite himself.

Until he says, “I’m teasing too,” giving him the most absurdly contrasting grin, lighting up his face in elation before he announces, “Gotcha!”

Taehyung has… no words. Literally no words.

And Jungkook moves swiftly on, as if that hadn’t just happened, easily asking him, “So, anyway, I’ve been meaning to ask… who do you know here?”

Topic shift of the damn century.

He doesn’t think he wants to play that game of theirs anymore.

Taehyung, still trying to get his head around that, clumsily replies, "Uh... nobody really… I live with a friend, but I told him I’d be gone for a while."

Jungkook raises an eyebrow at that.

"You did?"

Taehyung nods, suddenly regretting it when he says it out loud, but after all, “I sort of promised I wouldn’t return until I didn’t put him in danger anymore."

And he sticks by that. No matter what.

"So, that’s your plan?" Jungkook asks, obviously intrigued to hear about Taehyung’s goals, and the elder gives him a brief shrug, muttering, “Pretty much... am I naive?"

Jungkook seems to look at him in thought for a moment or two, as if he’s trying to decide it himself. But then he says, "... I don’t know what these people want, or why - but you're not going anywhere until that heals."

Taehyung’s face melds into a smile, and he gasps, “ Really ?”

Jungkook laughs at him, rambling his explanation to him of, "Yeah, I mean… I thought that was kinda obvious by lending you all the clothes - but I was thinking last night… I’ve already pissed off my brother, I might as well make sure you don’t die.”

Huh. Taehyung can’t help but kind of stare in disbelief at him for his bluntness.

“A true gentleman.”

Jungkook winks at him, and Taehyung laughs for a moment or two, staring at the man almost subconsciously until… wait a second.

“What?” Jungkook asks him, immediately touching at his face as if something’s on it.

“Nothing, nothing I just-,” he stops himself, before musing, “You look kinda familiar - and I can’t figure out why. I thought it was just because I saw your childhood photo, but…”

“Well, most of the city knows my family’s faces,” Jungkook supplies casually, “Maybe you do too.”

“No, I…” As if , he doesn’t even know the mayor, “I haven’t been here long. It’s just. Have we ever met before?”

Jungkook seems to ponder this for a minute, but it looks… vaguely put on until he clicks his fingers and admits, “Earlier in the day, before you got attacked, you ran out in front of my car and just grinned at me like some audacious asshole when I almost ran you over .

Taehyung stares at him unblinkingly. He has barely any memory of that day but it’s weird that-

Oh! He remembers that! Yeah, he briefly paused to acknowledge that he could get it.

Now that the man is in front of him and has a name and personality… he feels weird having thought as much.

Not that he… doesn’t still think as much. He might.

“Fuck, I remember that!” Taehyung says, enthusiastically, “I barely remember shit about that day, but- hey wait, that was an apologetic grin!”

Audacious. Pff, not on his watch.

Jungkook continues to frown at him, and Taehyung’s eyes widen in disbelief.

“Oh my god,” he utters.

Jungkook suddenly looks mildly concerned.

But surely not… surely-

“That wasn’t why you were so pissed at me, was it?”

Jungkook practically bursts into denial, snapping, “ No ! I just thought you were a convict! Which you still could be.”Then, there’s a few moments of tranquility, before he sulks, and admits, “Okay, maybe it was a little bit because of that too.”

Taehyung snorts at him, but before he can pester him any more about it, Jungkook’s already saying, “ Anyway , get ready to go, we’ll be leaving in thirty minutes or so.”

Taehyung scrunches his nose in confusion.

“Go where?”

“Shopping?” Jungkook says condescendingly, as if he’s talking to the world’s biggest idiot (which he’s not, thank you.) “I wasn’t joking. Plus, we need groceries.”

Taehyung never thought there’d be a day where he was going grocery shopping with a member of the ADIEU but okay.

It’s been quite a while since Taehyung’s been out in the city without the prospect of running away. He rarely goes out for fear of getting hunted, so when Jungkook asks him if he’s ready, Taehyung sort of forgets what that should mean.

He’s just about to go out the door, when Jungkook’s arm slips out to block it, leaning against the doorway with a disapproving frown until he judgingly asks, “Where’s your mask?”

Right. He’d gotten so used to using his bandana as a way to hide his identity, he forgot it’s actually a health precaution, too. With all the city’s constant use of electricity, there’s an insane amount of pollution in the downtown area - since most of the generators are kept there - therefore, most people that travel to the section wear some kind of protection so they don’t get sick. Taehyung’s even seen people in gas masks, before.

Taehyung isn’t very affected by pollution (it’d probably take him about… two hundred years of being locked in one room with it to actually die) but of course he can’t tell Jungkook that - nor does he want to be stopped by rando civilians and be lectured on the ‘dangers of pollution.’ So, he fakes a reaction, as if he’d somehow completely forgotten, slapping his forehead with an easy smile and is just about to back away and go get his bandana (wherever it may be) when Jungkook clicks his tongue and suddenly, he’s unwinding the scarf from around his neck and draping it across the bottom half of Taehyung’s face instead, winding it around the back of his head and over to the front again before tucking it into his coat and double checking its secure enough to cover his nose.

Taehyung stands completely frozen solid as this happens.

After Jungkook pulls away again, adjusting his own mask, Taehyung muffles out a, “Thanks,” to which the younger barely even acknowledges past a soft nod.

Okay, well that happened.

Taehyung’s skin feels flushed, side-eyeing the man as he gestures them out of the apartment and pulls the door shut so it locks. He just hopes that the scarf covers it.

Even more so than going out without being chased, Taehyung hasn’t been on public transport in forever ; and so when Jungkook tells him that he can’t use the patrol car out of work hours Taehyung calls him a killjoy - but he’s secretly a little intrigued for the experience.

Until he remembers what public transport is like.

First of all, it’s way too expensive for the quality of it. A fifteen minute journey to the centre of Solelight costs them almost fifty dollars in total and, even then, when they get onto the Light Tram, that isn’t really even for a seat each.

It’s eleven AM on a Sunday - there should not be this many people.

Jungkook gestures to a seat halfway down the carriage they end up in and they shuffle through the waves of people to get to it, but before they can, an elderly lady pops out of nowhere and well… they’re hardly gonna take it from her.

Plus, she totally looks like she would beat them with her walking aid.

“Handrails it is, then,” Jungkook mutters, an edge of almost amusement in it, contrasting with the frustration evident in his creased brow. Taehyung doesn’t complain. It’s not like his feet’ll get sore, even with his ‘human syndrome.’

They grab onto the handles hanging from the rail as the final people pile in, squishing everyone even tighter when the doors close.

Taehyung shuffles over to give more room (and to avoid a short person’s shoulder to the ribs) and Jungkook cocks an eyebrow at their forced proximity until someone digs their bony-ass elbow into the pressure point in Taehyung’s back and he flinches so hard they practically end up face to face, which the younger has the gall to snicker at; the sound of which is still audible even over the roaring bustle of the tram because they’re so damn close.

“Is it always this busy?” Taehyung asks awkwardly, having the urge to look anywhere else than in the eyes of the man that’s breaths away from him. Jungkook watches him with an air of incredulity.

“What, you’ve never taken the tram?”

Ah, that…. that’s weird, isn’t it? Taehyung doesn’t get tired easy and can walk fast - what’s the point in wasting money?

“Not really,” he confesses, gaze falling over the crowd of people, meeting a few’s eyes as he does. How many of them are innocently listening in, he wonders. How many are staring at Jungkook for his family legacy (and how many for his appearance?) or at Taehyung in wonderance of who he is with the famous Jeon son.

How many - if any - already know? How many are listening in with a motive?

Taehyung’s fully aware he doesn’t know who is in with them right now, so he keeps his voice low, his words brief - in case any defect hunters or Acquiesce lackeys are watching.

Well, any defect hunter beside the one he’s temporarily living with, that is.

“I like to walk,” he says simply, and Jungkook doesn’t question it, seeming to think it’s a fair enough reason, despite the subconscious downturn of his mouth.

Taehyung’s attention directs to the glass walls of the Light Tram, as it finally starts and rises up onto the higher tracks, stopping once the people on the street look like dots and most rooftops can be seen - besides a few of the tallest skyscrapers.

Then, it juts forward with such a start that Taehyung trips on someone’s foot losing grip of the handrail and almost falling forward completely if not for Jungkook’s quick move to steady him with one hand, warm and gripping onto his waist whilst the other holds tightly to the rail.

Taehyung looks down at the younger’s hand, but doesn’t mention it. Actually, neither of them mention it - gaze flitting to each other for no more than a second before they’re both sharply turning their heads in opposite directions. The rest of the journey stays like that, both of them looking everywhere but at each other. Jungkook still holds him firmly and Taehyung even gets the incentive to put an arm around him, too, other hand holding the collar of the man’s coat lightly when the tram hits an area with sharper turns.

Extra support, you know?

Once the tram starts to slow down in its pursuit through the city’s skyline, people make for the door already, bumping and shoving each other out of the way with such force that Jungkook’s hand even tightens, his body moving closer as if he’s using Taehyung not to fall over now like some sort of pillar - but when they finally get out onto the platform, the contact is gone.

Somehow, Taehyung feels like he can feel a little better, now, despite the scarf wound round his face.

He gets gentle hits of black vanilla, and a floral scent with every breath of the fabric. It’s oddly calming, he thinks.

They exit the station. immediately thrust into the animated streets of downtown Solelight, a person wormed into almost every crevice available as cars and overhead trams slowly roll past with quiet humming.

Taehyung’s always loved the atmosphere of this part of the city, but he rarely sees it, except from a distance. Honestly, he never really has a reason to be here - it’s mainly commercial and business-orientated - but today, he’s getting to tag along for Jungkook’s errands. He doesn’t bring up the clothes shopping ordeal again (he technically lost that little game) but he’s pretty sure that’s on the agenda too.

They make their way down the street, Taehyung looking around as if he’s a stranger to it. In some ways, he kind of is, because seeing the tall stretches of buildings on the horizon from his apartment window is one thing, but walking among them as they climb up and up and up feels like an entirely new city.

He feels small, like he can blend in, almost. It’s refreshing. He has a sort of urge to see it at night when its clouded with vibrancy and sound and glances over to Jungkook, wondering if the man would agree to taking him back here one night.

But the younger grabs his arm before he can even ask, bringing them both to a halt as Taehyung glances up at the building they’ve stopped outside of with its grand, flashing sign, a little neon animation of fruits rocking jovially to grab your attention.

“A… supermarket?” He states dumbly, the other man shrugging his shoulders with nonchalance.

“Told you we needed groceries.”

He did. Actually, his exact words when Taehyung asked them exactly what they needed earlier were, “you eat for four people, we need more everything,” but Taehyung supposed that was what he meant.

It’s not his fault he eats a lot. He’s a powerful being, he gets hungry easy!

Actually, he doesn’t get hungry very much at all but food is fun to eat. He gets bored easily.

The supermarket isn’t exactly packed when they go in, but it is beautifully air conditioned, so, Taehyung lowers his scarf from his face to breathe some vaguely fresh air for the first time in almost an hour. Jungkook gives him a look of half-embarrassment as Taehyung forms a wide stance, arms spread, inhaling the air as the younger goes to grab a cart.

“Stop that,” he says once he returns, lightly thwacking his shoulder, “I shop here regularly, I don’t want people to associate me with… that.

Taehyung, offended, tells him as much, but Jungkook just laughs at his fake-outrage, pushing the cart down the closest isle but Taehyung doesn’t think he’s really looking for anything in particular.

“Regularly?” He repeats, “How come you don’t order online?”

Like 89% of the population.

But Jungkook just hums something a little non-committal, replying, “I like to see what I’m buying. The holograms don’t quite get it, you know?”

Taehyung guesses that makes sense, and he supposes, “that’s why you don’t have androids to shop for you, then?” but Jungkook stalls a bit at that, seeming sort of pensive before he answers, “Yeah, I guess. I don’t really agree with using them as errand-runners. Humanity’ll get lazy and technology like that should be put to actual good use.”

Taehyung glances at Jungkook, wordlessly, for a moment. It’s not exactly an opinion he expected him to have, with his family’s reputation, but he doesn’t know if it’s really something to get excited about either. Plenty of android-haters probably think the same. Why would they have something they hate in their home, after all?

“I see,” he murmurs, then his eyes drift to the shelves, excitement suddenly peaking when he catches the vibrant red of the fruit section, skipping over to pick up a box of the delicious-looking strawberries. Jungkook doesn’t try and stop him when he lowers them into the cart, he just looks at him with some sort of…. expression that Taehyung can’t pinpoint.

He’s fairly certain it’s positive though, his lips are curled upwards.

After they’re done grocery shopping (though, Taehyung wasn’t actually present for most of it, having located a cute baby and their mom who was struggling to get to the top shelf and talking to them for the full hour) Jungkook arranges to have everything delivered around the time they get back to the apartment. Then, they head to the nearest clothes store to get Taehyung his promised items along with some clothes that are  ‘more his style’ since the younger finally caved from hearing him complain about how ugly and bulky some of the clothes make him feel.

“I said just a few things,” Jungkook reminds him once Taehyung has gone a little overboard, the android assistant following them around the store practically covered by the mound of items it’s carrying for him.

Taehyung takes a glance at the helper, feeling rather sorry for the guy, so he casually asks, “Am I missing anything?” as a prompt to wrap up the spree.

The problem is, this android’s sole function is to make sales and carry clothes - it’s not any more intelligent than that so, of course, it launches into all the deals and Taehyung’s a sucker for those.

It leads them both around the store, pointing out all the things he might like, but Taehyung isn’t all that fussed until it presents him with something that he’s very, very glad he didn’t overlook.

Taehyung glanes at Jungkook, a rowing smirk emerging smugly on his lips as he sees the man staring into space in the other direction.

He picks one of the items up off of the display shelf, clearing his throat before he very innocently asks, “Hey, Jungkook - do you think these would suit me?”

Jungkook already mindlessly agrees before he actually looks-- and the words get stuck in his throat, eyes popping open as he stares at the garment in Taehyung’s hands.

The elder tries not to erupt into laughter at the man’s reaction, just keeping an oblivious look on his face as he holds the blood-red lace lingerie set as if it were a t-shirt.

It really is beautiful, Taehyung wasn’t kidding about being glad he didn’t miss it. It’s a deep, warm red, with delicate frills edging around it. Taehyung isn’t really into anything particularly complicated - if it’s a bother to get on then it’s a bother to get off, and this reflects that: a simple, yet stunning bralette that would reach around his ribcage and a pretty pair of panties that’d sit perfectly on his hips, leaving just enough of his skin uncovered to remain (almost) modest.

“Nice, right?” he asks easily, and Jungkook blinks for a few seconds until he regains composure and has the nerve to shrug, looking away as he replies, “Yeah, sure.”

Taehyung feels vaguely defeated, so he buys a few kinds to cheer himself up.

Look, Jungkook’s loaded. This won’t even make a dent in his fortune, he’s sure.

~

They get back to the apartment, eventually. Somehow , with the millions of bags they had to carry since the clothes store didn’t do delivery. Jungkook’s very grateful he decided to have the groceries delivered.

What started as a quest for food and essentials, ended up as some kind of shopping spree. Jungkook doesn’t even think Taehyung actually needed half of the things he bought.

He certainly didn’t need lingerie. Christ, Jungkook’s face still feels hot at the thought. Taehyung seems to have an annoying knack for riling him up.

Now, they’re unpacking the groceries, and the elder is clicking his tongue at… pretty much everything he brings out.

“Preservatives,” he mumbles, setting a box of crackers disapprovingly on the table. He goes through the rest of the bag, just as disdainfully.

“Artificial flavouring, colouring, E-numbers, saturated fat, an unholy amount of sugar and - wait, what are the sprinkles for?” he questions, picking out the tub of coloured little sugar crystals with an air of condescension around him, and a frown on his lips.

Jungkook glances up from where he was disgruntledly arranging the groceries on the counter and hesitates for a moment, contemplating whether he should actually tell him the truth or not.

“I… like it with whipped cream on hot chocolate,” he admits, quietly adding, “And bagels.”

And Taehyung - the supposed ambassador of healthy eating - freaks.

“How the fuck have you survived this long?” He snaps, entirely exasperated with him as he pulls the last of the ‘junk’ out of the bag.

Jungkook shrugs his shoulders, reminding him, “I’m in pretty good shape, actually,” gesturing to his physique, quite clearly evident through the tight cut of his black sweater and slacks. Taehyung’s eyes drift across his body, a glazed sort of look forming in his eyes and he swallows hard.

But, then, he snaps out of it, scoffing hastily and arguing, “Yeah, you might look good but your insides are crying. Seriously, you have to eat some like… vegetables, ” he stresses, looking around at the total lack of anything even vaguely green or leafy nevermind vegetable-like.

Jungkook scrunches his nose up, mumbling, “I’m a grown man. I don’t have to do anything,” and Taehyung immediately fires back with, “No, but if you wanna live past thirty, you gotta eat something actually healthy, Jungkook .”

He crosses his arms over his chest, huffing, “But I don’t like vegetables,” and Taehyung quite literally laughs at him, teasing, “Don’t whine! I thought you were a big boy?” Jungkook just pouts in response and Taehyung glances back over the rest of their shop, disbelieving as he murmurs, “I can’t believe I didn’t see you buying all of this. I was too-”

“Busy cooing over the lady in isle three’s baby.”

Taehyung’s face immediately melts into softness at the memory as he sighs, happily mumbling, “Yeah…”

Jungkook rolls his eyes.

“Anyway, I have a report to write. If you’re bored with books, you can use my laptop to research more - maybe look up news reports of recent attacks. Try and see if they’re looking for anyone else, too?”

Jungkook watches as Taehyung’s face screws up in reluctance, and he sighs.

Who’s the baby now?

“Or, you can just play a game. Whatever works.”

~

But a few hours later (okay, it’s well into the evening) Taehyung manages to get bored of playing games too, because he is a social being and needs constant attention.

So, of course, he goes to bug Jungkook, sitting down right beside him on the couch in the living room and glancing over his shoulder at his laptop.

“What are you writing?” He asks without invitation to interrupt, but Jungkook doesn’t immediately tell him to go away, so that’s a good sign. Actually, he sounds as if he could use the break from the groan he lets out at the man’s question.

“Since I’m new to ADIEU, I have to write a report on my fieldwork each week. I didn’t expect my first week to be so… eventful.”

Taehyung doesn’t need to guess why it was eventful. Guilty as charged.

“Oh, is it due tomorrow?” he asks instead, and Jungkook nods with a grim sense of defeat only inhabited by overworked employees and college students.

“First thing…” he tells him, and while Taehyung totally feels sympathetic for him and all, there’s a little inch of… precaution that he has surrounding it.

“You’re… not gonna mention me, right?” he asks, and Jungkook gives him a funny look, halfway between curious and teasing as he jokes, “Why? Got something to hide?”

But, when he realises Taehyung was seriously asking, he shakes his head slowly, an edge of a smile dusting his lips as he admits, “No, I’m not. I’d get in trouble for that too.”

After another while of Jungkook just typing his report in silence, he seems to want another break, and asks him, “Did you find anything?”

Taehyung actually had done more than just play games (for like, thirty minutes anyway) and he answers him with actual information, saying, “There haven’t been any other attacks like mine. No serrated stab wounds or cops picking them up. But maybe mine’s the first?”

He desperately hopes not. He’s pretty sure Acquiesce aren’t so desperate about anyone else, anyway.

“Maybe. Do you know anyone else who they’d have a reason to chase down like you?”

Taehyung shakes his head in answer and Jungkook hums, suggesting, “Then maybe it is just you. What connection do you have to them?”

Yikes. Can’t answer that one.

So he dodges it with a simple, “It’s a long story,” about twenty-one years’ worth , “I might get into it another time…”

Jungkook thankfully seems to respect that, leading off the conversation with a, “Well, I’m just trying to finish this up, so…”

But now that Taehyung’s been talked to, he’s in the mood to keep talking, and not let Jungkook dwell on his suspicious avoiding of his question.

“What kinda things are you writing about? What do you do in the force?”

Jungkook seems to sense that Taehyung isn’t just going to... be quiet, then.

“ADIEU unit… I’m sure you know, but I’m supposed to investigate and stop rampant androids and defects… but all I’ve seen this week are twitching androids,” he jokes, and Taehyung nods in understanding when he man says, “It’s not an easy job to get into, so I’m grateful…

“But also bored out of your mind?” he suggests, and Jungkook latches onto that, groaning again as he tells him, “ Yes.

Taehyung, intrigued by his attitude towards it, asks him, “Did you want to do that job?”

And Jungkook looks contemplative, as if he isn’t sure what to tell him right away, like he hasn’t let himself think about it.

“Not really,” he finally admits, “But it’s sort of expected of me because of my family. Big expectations and all that.”

Right ,” Taehyung mutters, “I don’t really know so much about that, but…”

“Long story short, my whole family has a legacy in this sort of work - even my brother’s developing medication to subdue them quicker - so, they expect me to rise up to their achievements but I-,” Jungkook lets out a long sigh.

“You don’t want to?” He asks, almost hopeful at the possibility, as if that might mean that he’s on his side and not theirs. Jungkook frowns. Not angrily, but seeming sad, in a way, before he suggests, “Let’s switch topics again. Tell me about the friend you live with.”

Ah, so close.

Taehyung gives an indifferent shrug of his shoulders explaining, “I sort of live with him and his boyfriend. The boyfriend doesn’t live there officially , but he might as well.”

“How long?” Jungkook asks, and it takes Taehyung a second to realise he means him and not the boyfriend.

“About a year. I’m lucky they’re willing to have me, really. I was tired of skipping towns all the time.”

Jungkook looks interested when he says that, asking him, “Is that what you used to do?”

“Yeah. For a long, long time, about five years…” he left when he was sixteen, after all. Yet, somehow he feels like he’s lived the majority of his life running.

“But, now I’m welcome to their humble abode, so…”

“And his bitter coffee,” Jungkook finishes for him, humorously, and Taehyung finds himself beaming at it, fondly thinking of his idiotic best friend.

And his bitter coffee,” he confirms, “Honestly, I feel sorry for the people at the diner he works at.”

Jungkook suddenly sounds intrigued, asking him, “Wait, he works at a diner?”

Taehyung laughs, it is a funny coincidence with his terrible coffee.

“I know right? You gotta wonder how. It’s actually how he met his boyfriend. He stumbled in all half-asleep and hysterical about some… biochemistry final he had in, like, an hour.”

Jungkook’s face drops in realisation but… Taehyung has no idea what he’s realised.

“What’s his name?”

“The boyfriend? Yoongi,” Taehyung answers nonchalantly, “Why, do you know him?”

“No, no - your friend,” Jungkook corrects, “What’s his name?”

Oh, right.

“Jimin, Park Jimin. Why?”

“Oh my God, it’s-” Jungkook starts, face fluttering with, like, twenty different realisations as once before he finally spouts, “ you’re the best friend that’s been causing him so much grief for a year now?!”

Taehyung has a much slower, much more anti-climatic understanding.

“...You’re the weird police-guy that pretends to like anything served in there.”

Fuck, Jimin knows Jungkook. Really? For like, a year he’s been hearing stories about weird police-guy and it’s been Jungkook?

Both of them sit in a kind of strange state where their brains are rapid-fire thinking of all the times they’ve been mentioned to each other and have had no idea.

Eventually, Jungkook gets back to his report, and Taehyung hasn’t even realised how much time has passed by, until the man’s closing down his laptop with a long, dramatic whine of exhaustion.

Taehyung sees the opportunity to try out the huge-ass screen of his, and he takes it.

“So, you wanna watch a movie?”

~

By the time Jungkook gets into the station on Monday morning, he feels as if he’s been away for years with all that’s happened.

The first thing anyone says to him besides the probably forced “Good morning, Mr Jeon!”s from his colleagues, is courtesy of one of his longest co-workers and friend, Jung Hoseok.

No, no… Hoseok doesn’t say good morning, he does a double take when he sees Jungkook, looking up twice from the stack of files on his desk and snorts at him, going back to sorting through his files.

“You look like shit,” he says without even looking at him, and what is Jungkook even meant to say to that? He knows.

But then, the third and only other man in their unnecessarily spacious office, spins around in his chair to face him and sympathetically asks, “Rough night?”

Kim Namjoon, the only man he respects in this house.

“Rough week, Joon,” Jungkook mutters back, trudging across the room to get to his own desk, practically vibrating with the groan that erupts from him when he sees the big fat stack of paperwork awaiting him.

Promoted to the most dangerous and important job in the force his ass. He’s basically a secretary that has the great privilege of patrolling the streets to protect from litterers and those in need of a parking ticket.

“Really?” He asks, voice laced with curiosity as he leans his elbows on his desk, “I thought you were on patrol all week?”

Jungkook sinks down into his chair, the spring giving way slightly as he sighs deeply, hand covering his face as he tells him, “I was. Rough weekend .”

Hoseok perks up a little at this, gracing him with his attention over his case files again (you know, the ones with actual interesting cases) and he leans back from his work a bit, gauging him with a sort of ‘explain yourself’ look that Jungkook doesn’t necessarily want to obey because can he really tell his colleagues that he picked up some suspicious stranger off the street because he’d been brutally injured?

Shit, now they’re both looking at him like that.

“Uh, the son of a family friend is staying with me… He’s a handful.”

“What kind of handful?” Hoseok asks almost… raunchily, giving him a long, pointed look over the rim of his glasses.

It’s suggestive. Jungkook doesn’t want to see it.

“Not that kind,” the younger barks, nursing a pretend (but likely incoming) headache with his finger in slow circles, just as Hoseok tries to defend himself with an unapologetic, “I’m just saying - you’re unusually tired, defensive, hesitant, giving us the old ‘son of a family friend’ spiel, as if your family actually has friends-,”

“Hobi, leave him alone,” Namjoon says calmly, already having lost interest in the conversation, as he’s already turned back to facing his computer, again. Jungkook gives a triumphant scoff.

Hoseok’s always been a bit of an asshole when it’s come to the topic of his family. At first, Jungkook just figured he found them intimidating, which lead him to be spiteful in defense like so many others, but as time went on, Jungkook discovered that, actually, Hoseok’s problems with Jungkook’s family ran a lot deeper than that.

Namjoon had once told him the full story, just so he would maybe cut him some slack, telling him that when Hoseok’s father had been permanently injured while pursuing one of the most dangerous unbranded defects (at his boss’s request) Jungkook’s father made sure he was taken off the entire force, instead of just being relocated to an easier job.

Then, when Hoseok had signed up, half intending to redeem the name of his family, they treated him as if he was some sort of failure - all because of his father. Even people that pass him in the corridors today sometimes look at him with disdain, or reference his father’s accident any time they can.

Jungkook isn’t at all surprised that Hoseok hates his family - actually, he’s surprised he doesn’t hate him, too.

Namjoon said it confused him for a while too, until Hoseok admitted to him one day that he knew Jungkook was different from them - he’d never looked at him in that way, not even for a moment.

The conversation passes them by, and so does the tension of the room after that.

That is, until the light on Jungkook’s desk starts to flash and beep at him, sporadically, and his very own father’s face comes up on the built-in screen, angry and seething even before he says, “ Jungkook. I thought I said I wanted that report by nine AM!”

Fuck.

As Jungkook’s scrambling out of the room, stupid report in hand, Namjoon and Hoseok certainly don’t bother holding in their laughter.

~️

“I don’t know how you expect me to trust you with important duties when you can’t even handle a simple report.

Jungkook shifts in his seat, collar suddenly feeling too tight around his throat, but he’s figured out over the years that the worst thing to do in the presence of his father is to let him know that he’s got to you.

“I gave you the job because your superiors assured me that you could handle it - but where is the evidence?”

His father is a huge bulk of a man, always holding a formidable, unapproachable face. This is how Jungkook’s always seen him, and probably how he always will. Jungkook looks less like him than he does his mother (he’s more gotten her most striking features, while Seokjin’s got her soft looks) but even then he can admit the chiseled jaw, strong nose and eyebrows… all look a lot less of a chaotic horror on himself than they do on his father. He’s ghastily intimidating, but Jungkook doesn’t back down.

“With all due respect, Sir, “Jungkook begins, trying to keep his tone even and calm lest he have an outburst and lose the unspoken negotiation altogether, “You haven’t really given me a chance to prove myself. I don’t know how I’m supposed to show you I can pursue defects when you’re not giving me the chance to.”

Sometimes talking a little strongly to him is the only way to get through to the man. Jungkook just hopes this is one of those times.

His father is deadly silent for a moment, and he really hates that. He can deny it to Hoseok and Namjoon all he wants, but he can’t deny that his father makes him nervous. Very nervous.

And he hates that. The fact he can’t even be close to his own father (never has been.) At least he takes solace in the fact that he knows that all the man can really do is fire him - and even then it’s unlikely. Like it or not, Jungkook was one of the best examination results of the force.

The man gives a long, long sigh, then, he’s pushing down the button on his chair and snapping, “Chung-ah, tell Gong to make copies of all the case files on the suspected defected androids of the last month.

Before the woman even has a chance to confirm with him, he ends to call, looking back to his sun again with a, silent, all-encompassing graveness in his face.

Jungkook tries not to show his elation.

“I’m giving you the chance, Jungkook. I want you to solve all of these cases in the next… say… two months. If not, you’re back on patrol. Indefinitely.”

But then… he suddenly doesn’t feel so elated anymore.

In the moment, Jungkook is very calm. He thanks him for his time and promises him that he will do his best. Then, he very mannerly leaves his office.

However, as soon as he gets back to Hoseok and Namjoon, he sits back down at his desk, hides his face in his arms and gives one, long scream of frustration, completely running over Namjoon’s, “Hey, how did it go?”

He doesn’t bother asking again.

~

Taehyung woke up to a post-it note stuck to the fridge telling him that the food that didn’t need to be prepared was in the left-most cupboard.

So, after some more granola (still the choice of old people, but Taehyung doesn’t want to burn down the only place he can stay at the minute that won’t result in an investigation or one long lecture from his best friend) Taehyung takes the change the man had left him on the counter and shuffles on his own shoes, hoping that Jungkook doesn’t want him to lock the door because he did not give him a key.

He’s hoping the payphone won’t be too far away because broad daylight or not, he’s pretty sure Acquiesce’s goons will still try and fuck him up, no matter whose child is watching.

In the public eye, Taehyung is the worst criminal there for the simple crime of existing.

But he’ll just have to be careful, because last night he’d asked Jungkook if he could make a call to Jimin in the morning (just to let him know he’s not dead) but the man had told him that if he didn’t want the police getting involved, he should probably use a payphone - his home phone’s tapped.

Which seems like a total fucking invasion of privacy but whatever.

Though as Taehyung steps out into a crisp sort of morning, where the season’s transitioning into a warming spring, but still can’t quite let go of the winter’s chill, he doesn’t really mind because it’s surprisingly a pleasant morning to potentially get murdered, and, honestly, it feels like forever since he’s been out in the sun like this.

For the record, Jungkook does live in a huge-ass apartment - the top of it, as a matter of fact. He didn’t see a landlord, but he did see and hear other residents, so, either the penthouse cost fucking millions, or his landlord likes him a lot to allow him to do those sorts of renovations.

Jungkook told him the nearest one was just on the next street, so Taehyung heads that way without much thought in his head for the first time in a little while - and even that’s calming.

He crosses the road, checks briefly for cars without much cause because the streets are almost completely empty besides him, most of its usual inhabitants probably in work or school by now and it’s almost weird how normal Taehyung feels. There’s no one around for him to have to check his back for, he’s not pursuing anyone… he’s just… going to call a friend. And then he’ll go back home and tidy up a bit for Jungkook, until he’ll comes in, thanks him for it, and makes them dinner. He’ll tell him he has work to do, but Taehyung’ll hopefully talk him into watching another movie.

It sounds so normal leaving out the part where Taehyung’s hiding from people who want to ‘reclaim’ him and housing with a man he’s only known for three days because he sort-of kidnapped him. Oh, and he’s part of a group that would want to kill him.

Yeah, totally normal.

Taehyung lets himself believe that, approaching the phone box Jungkook had told him about, and slotting in the man’s change.

He taps in the number, holding the phone to his ear because video-calling the man when he still looks like this is not a good idea - face littered with cuts. But, at least his bruises are disappearing.

Taehyung leans against the box while he waits for the man to pick up. He’s probably getting ready for class right now. Taehyung’s pretty sure he doesn’t have actual class until late morning on Monday (Yoongi’s forever jealous about that.)

On the third ring, Jimin answers, phone rattling as if he was rushing to pick it up and without even waiting for the other man to speak, Jimin breathes, “ Tae?”

“Chim-,”

“Thank fuck, Christ - I hate when you just leave a note. Are you okay?”

Taehyung smiles, feeling undoubtedly fond at the man’s soft whining.

“Yeah, Chim, I’m just fine.”

There’s a few seconds of silence, in which Taehyung can just imagine the suspicion on his face. His eyes are probably narrowed in the way that makes his nose crinkle, bottom lip pulled between his teeth and in three, two, one-

“Is that right?”

Taehyung has to hold back his laugh, shoving his hand in his pocket as he lets himself grin along with his best friend’s frustration.

“It is.”

“Tae - I’ve seen the news. Android blood found on one of the streets near our apartment. Lots of it. A fucking load, Tae. What happened?”

Taehyung grimaces, slightly. He was hoping they wouldn’t test the blood - but the artificial kind that they have has a chemical called Stinthine in it, so it’s quite easily tested and he supposes they had to in order to figure out whether they should be launching an investigation, or a witch hunt.

“Are they on my ass, now?”

Jimin sighs as the man dodges the question, but still begrudgingly tells him, “There’s been a few units creeping around since last night.” Taehyung can tell he’s even more reluctant to say the next part when he groans a little before suggesting, “... you should probably stay away for awhile.”

“... That’s probably a good idea,” Taehyung answers, feeling unexpectedly relieved through Jimin’s suggestion. He just feels like he should stay - as if he’s close to sorting this out once and for all.

“I’ve got somewhere I can be safe for a while,” he tells him, so Jimin doesn’t worry out of his mind over it.

“Where?”

“Oh, it doesn’t really matter.”

Tae.

Taehyung gulps, eyes wandering upwards and away from the brick wall near him to across the street, debating whether he should tell him or not when-

Something catches his eye on the other side of the road.

Wait… who is…

“Chim” Taehyung says quickly, almost in a whisper, “I think somebody’s watching me.”

Jimin sounds immediately panicked, asking him “What do you mean? Who? What do they look like?”

“I can’t see their face. They’re just wearing black,” he mutters, “But they’re facing me. Like… directly.”

The figure across the street doesn’t even move when Taehyung spots them. It’s so… eerie, that he wants to look away. But it’s like he can’t.

Actually it… it feels like he can’t move at all.

What the hell? At first he thought he was just panicking like Jimin but… he can’t move. That… they’re still looking at him and - wait, is it coming closer? What the fuck is going on - why can’t he move?

Taehyung! ” Jimin snaps, and suddenly, it feels as if he’s been pulled from some kind of web, or dream, a haziness coating him, and he almost falls forward on his face, but his hand grips the payphone to keep him balances and he gasps a heaving breath, just in time to hear his friend say, “What happened? I called you, like, five times!”

Taehyung glances quickly in the direction of the figure but… it’s gone. He checks behind him too, as if it’d somehow overtaken him - but there’s nothing.

Taehyung breathes, trying to calm himself down.

“It’s… gone .”

The phone rattles a little as Jimin likely readjusts it in his hand, sounding hesitant to even ask as he says, “What, Tae? Who ?”

Taehyung sweeps his eyes across the street, memory of the figure ingrained into his mind, as his hands shake ever so slightly, clutching the phone so much tighter, breathing weirdly heavily for someone that hasn’t - couldn’t move.

“I don’t know, Chim...”

Chapter Text

In the evening, when Jungkook comes back from work, Taehyung still hasn’t decided whether to tell him about what happened earlier… or not.

He can’t really see a downside to not telling him, if he’s honest. If he does tell him, he might tell him too much. Jungkook might wonder what sorta freaky technological mad men are after him that they have that sort of… what, power to literally freeze him to the spot? And then what? He won’t want to put himself in danger, he’ll assume Taehyung to be some sort of experiment or convict and turn him in.

And if he doesn’t tell him?

Well, he won’t have to deal with any of that, now will he?

But even so, something nags at the back of Taehyung’s mind to tell Jungkook - even if he doesn’t tell him the whole story, just that there was someone watching him, someone that must’ve known roughly where he’d be to appear there and disappear without a trace.

He’s still disputing this, sitting on the counter (regardless that the other man’s told him four times now to get down, it’s unhygienic) and swinging his legs while Jungkook’s making some sort of stir-fry that smells absolutely heavenly, when the younger puts the stove on auto, leaving it to simmer a little, as he turns to Taehyung with something highly skeptical in his demeanour.

“What’s up with you?”

Taehyung blinks. He definitely wasn’t expecting that. He was expecting a ‘get off the fucking counter.’

“What do you mean?” Taehyung responds, genuinely kind of inquisitive about it because he hadn’t really realised that he’d been doing anything unusual - especially not enough for Jungkook to notice - yet, the man arches an eyebrow at him, looking as if Taehyung is not fooling him one bit, though he isn’t really sure what he is or is not fooling him over.

“You’ve barely said a word all evening - but the last two nights I couldn’t get you to shut up,” the man tells him, and Taehyung’s not even sure how he’s really gauged this, (does he talk that much that someone he’s only known a few days can tell?) “Did Jimin say something?”

Taehyung’s even more surprised at that, eyes widening a little at the man’s question, who seems to take that as some sort of yes, because then he’s saying, “I know it’s not my business, I shouldn’t care - and I don’t, really - I just don’t think I can put up with this weird moping…”

That sounds a little more like the man that half-kidnapped him.

Taehyung shuffles on the counter an inch, turning to face the man with a vaguely sour expression before he gives an animated shake of his head, saying, “No, it’s not that. Jimin was concerned, obviously, but that’s… not it.”

“So, there is something up?”

Wait, shit.

No, not really, I just-,”

“Taehyung,” Jungkook says rather firmly, enough that the elder immediately stops scrambling for an explanation, and just looks on, substantially frazzled at… well, really just everything that’s occured over the past 72 hours or so.

“What happened while I was away?”

The elder stares at the man wordlessly for a moment or two, the silence stretching on and on, until Taehyung takes a small breath and glances across the kitchen instead, very plainly telling him, “Someone was watching me.”

Jungkook’s confused, obviously. Taehyung’s words are cryptic and frankly a little eerie, but he swallows down the weird feeling of dread in his stomach - the kind of sort you have in a nightmare where you don’t know what the threat is - and he explains, “I was talking on the phone to Jimin, and I looked across the street and… someone was watching me.”

Jungkook doesn’t say anything immediately, but Taehyung can feel the incredulous look rolling off of him in waves, like it’s burning into the side of his cheek, until he finally says, “Maybe they weren’t watching you, maybe they were just there.”

“They were watching me, Jungkook,” Taehyung refutes, sharply, hands gripping the edge of the counter tight as the man beside him falls silent again.

“Hell, they were walking towards me until… until…” he mutters, barely even able to believe it himself because suddenly, “they weren’t…”

There’s some time that passes, where all that makes a sound is the hissing of their food and the very distant rumble of cars in the streets far down below.

“But-,”

Jungkook. There are people after me,” he harshly reminds him, the younger’s eyes flickering down to the covered wound, apprehensively, “Why is this so hard for you to believe?”

Jungkook seems as if he goes through a couple of responses in his head, mouth opening and closing, until he finally seems to dismiss him entirely, deciding to just believe him as he asks, “Did they follow you here?”

Taehyung doesn’t know, to be totally honest. He didn’t see anyone on his way back, and the person approaching him completely disappeared, so he tells Jungkook as much, and the man frowns, but doesn’t comment on it.

He turns back to their meal, taking the cooker off auto again as he picks up the spatula. He stirs the food around the pan, brow creasing his forehead in concentration but his actions are haphazard and distant - like he’s fairly deep in thought.

But he doesn’t say anything. Actually, it’s not until they sit down at the dining table, eating quietly, that Jungkook finally tells him, “I don’t think you should go out for a while… at least without me,” before he’s chewing again as if nothing happened.

Taehyung, on the other hand, stares, food hanging in his open mouth.

“You what?” He asks, swallowing the food when it makes him sound a little muffled, but Jungkook barely even has the courtesy to regard him, so invested in his dinner all of a sudden.

“I said don’t go out without me. I don’t want anyone tracing you back here.”

Ah, of course . He’s worried for himself.

“And you think you’ll be able to stop that, huh?”

Jungkook gazes at him through his eyelashes, head still bowed towards his food.

“Yes,” he says very simply, assertively ,  “I can.”

Taehyung is vaguely affronted, but doesn’t know if he can really deny it. After all, he did almost totally fuck up earlier.

Besides, something about the notion sends a spark of warmth through his chest.

“Mind helping with the dishes?” Jungkook asks him from out of nowhere, like he’s trying to move past the topic quickly, “I’ve got a lot of work to get started on tonight.”

Taehyung doesn’t really want to do the dishes, but of course, he agrees. The man is letting him leech off of him after all.

“Work?” he asks conversationally, “What, another report?”

“No, actually,” Jungkook denies, a weird mixture of contentment and… unfiltered dread (?) in his voice as he says, “My father gave me actual cases.”

Taehyung scoffs, jibing at him with a playful, “ Pff , that’s so biased-,”

“And he said if I don’t solve all of them in two months I’ll be doing reports and patrol indefinitely. I.E. until he drops or I do, whichever comes first.”

Judging by how he was reacting the other night, Taehyung thinks it’s anyone’s guess who’d last longer.

“Oh. Jeez.”

Yeah . So I need to get started. The sooner I start, the less likely it is someone will get there first.”

“Competitive,” he comments, teasingly, and a flicker of that shows on his face as he admits, “... a little.” But then he grows a lot more serious as he confesses,  “Though, mostly, it’s the point that if I don’t catch them, they might not ever make it to the station , nevermind the rehabilitation centre.”

Taehyung stalls, fork mid-air. He gapes at the man, who stares back at him questioningly until Taehyung points out, “You… you don’t kill them?”

Holy shit.

Jungkook shakes his head, quickly, offended even by Taehyung’s question, telling him, “ Of course not. That’s what I meant the other day. My family and I… we don’t really see eye to eye on these things. I take them to get fixed, the people there are more than happy to take them off my hands.”

Taehyung completely buffers, a look of awe and disbelief paving onto his face as he smiles at Jungkook, genuinely, telling him, “That’s… really amazing. You’re making a real difference to them I’m sure. They’re still real, you know?”

And to his further utter disbelief, Jungkook actually nods. And it makes Taehyung recall an earlier conversation of theirs with some sort of amusement.

“Huh, guess you knew the size of the forest, after all…”

Jungkook looks undoubtedly smug.

“Told you.”

And suddenly, Taehyung has an interest in Jungkook’s mission, because he can help those like him in the long run if he succeeds, so he asks, “And, how many cases are we talking, here?”

“I counted about fifty.”

Wow.

“Fifty defects and crazy androids to find and deliver in two months.”

“Yep. A long shot, I know,” Jungkook says, looking completely overwhelmed already. So… Taehyung takes the opportunity.

“You… might need some help with that…”

Jungkook looks up at him, something sly and inquisitive on his face as he asks, “What are you suggesting?”

Taehyung leans back in his chair, nonchalantly reminding him, “I don’t have anything to do right now. I’m just waiting for an opportunity to confront the people chasing me and this wound to heal…”

He smiles at him, smugly, before revealing, “I’ll help you.”

“You will?” Jungkook asks him, seeming incredulous to his offer, but Taehyung just hums in affirmation.

“I’m surprised you agree with me,” Jungkook notes, “Not many people do.”

He has no idea.

“Trust me, I really do..”

Jungkook looks mildly confused by his assertion, but shrugs him off as he gets to his feet, saying, “... Okay. Let’s clean up and then we’ll get to work.”

Taehyung bounds up after him.

“Dibs on drying!”

~️

Taehyung wakes up one night to a tremendous crack of thunder, and as he peels his eyes open, looking out of the wall length window of his room, he watches as the city’s skyline is mirrored by the lightning flash in the clouds, followed by another deafening rumble a few seconds later.

The rain shoots against the window like pellets, loud and sharp, like any minute now the window’ll give out - even though it’s the width of a brick wall.

Taehyung honestly wonders how he even managed to sleep through it this long, and he wriggles about under the covers, squeezing his eyes shut again, trying to get back to sleep. He was dreaming about a vacation on a warm quiet beach - this reality is much less fun.

He even tries to block everything out by throwing a pillow over his head and shifting to get completely underneath the duvet, but he can still hear it. Really clearly.

Another roll of thunder, and Taehyung quietly accepts that it will be some time before he gets to sleep again tonight, and almost immediately once the thought comes to mind, there’s a dull pain starting to simmer in his side and Christ, Taehyung really curses whatever stupid experimental knife they used on that. It shouldn’t still hurt so bad. He likes to think his regen’s a little better than that.

But evidently not as there’s that throbbing sensation vying for his attention. Taehyung looks over to his bedside table, reaching for the packet of painkillers Jungkook left him and groans when he sees the little tabs have all been emptied.

“Shit,” he swears to himself, already making to roll out of bed to his feet, shrugging on a cotton sweater hanging on the end of his bed frame because the apartment is freezing right now.

He walks out of the room, intending to head right into the kitchen for some medication before going back to bed and hopefully somehow falling asleep through this storm; however, that doesn’t happen - because only after he’s already gotten to the kitchen and downed two pills with some cold coffee because it’s two AM and he doesn’t care, does he see the figure crouched on one of the couches, shoulders shivering and form rigid as its lit up intermittently by the strikes of lightning.

And Taehyung almost pisses himself.

Fuck!” he starts, breathing erratically for a few seconds until he realises that the figure is Jungkook and not some random murderer, but, to Taehyung’s surprise, the man barely even responds to Taehyung’s outburst.

“Jungkook, what are you doing up?” He asks, approaching the couch where the younger sits unmoved, knees hugged up to his chest and face buried in the fabric of his sweatpants.

It’s only when he gets closer to him, and the thunder snaps with a horrendous crash that he sees Jungkook flinch, hard, and he understands.

Taehyung sits down beside him, voice gentle and quiet when he says, “You’re afraid of thunderstorms, aren’t you?”

Jungkook gives a rushed nod, face still lost in his quivering knees and Taehyung doesn’t even really know what to make of the revelation.

Who would’ve thought? City-wide tough guy, ADIEU recruit, a Jeon no less…

Afraid of thunderstorms.

Taehyung doesn’t know why, but he finds himself smiling a little when he puts an arm around the shaking form.

“You’ll be okay, I’m here,” Taehyung promises, not even entirely sure why he does that either, and when Jungkook doesn’t say anything in response, Taehyung asks, “Do you wanna watch something?”

There’s a few seconds filled with nothing but the relentless beat of the rain and a vacant muttering of the storm. Then, Jungkook quietly says, “No.”

“Well,” Taehyung replies, “You can’t just stay here all night, you have work tomorrow. Should we both try and get some sleep?”

He half expects him to refuse again, but the man actually nods, raising his head at last to show Taehyung watering eyes and flushed cheeks. The elder’s chest lurches a little, but he clears his throat in an attempt to hush it.

When Jungkook doesn’t move immediately, there’s a few odd moments where Taehyung thinks he’s expected to carry him or something, but, to his relief (?) the man shimmies himself off the couch once another crack of thunder silences itself.

“I’m not a coward,” Jungkook insists as they’re walking through the corridor. It’s quieter here, the space surrounded by rooms with concrete walls, and Jungkook’s figure seems more assured now, striding behind the elder with his chest sticking out and a weighty look in his wet eyes.

“I didn’t say you were,” Taehyung reminds him softly, slowing to a halt when he reaches his bedroom again. Jungkook stops abruptly, eyes flickering from Taehyung’s face to his hand on the doorknob. “Everyone has things they’re afraid of, Jungkook. Even you.”

The man seems to consider this for a moment, before shrugging his shoulders and muttering, “I guess, but- then, what are you scared of?”

“Oh, I don’t have any fears. I’m too cool for that.”

“But you said-”

“I know. Everyone’s scared of something. Even me,” Taehyung admits, and the man stares cloudily at him for a moment, before shrugging it off, because then the elder’s opening his bedroom door and stepping inside, and just as he’s about to close it again, he notices that Jungkook’s followed him in, too.

Taehyung glances at him warily.

“What… are you doing?”

Jungkook’s shoulders hunch up a little, and maybe he’s trying to still look tough but he ends up just looking kind of adorable.

“It’s really loud in my room,” he mutters from the corner of his mouth, “I can’t sleep.”

“It’s loud here too,” Taehyung argues back, but as he watches the man approach his very comfortable, very luxurious queen-sized bed, he realises he’s probably lost this argument already.

Jungkook settles onto the mattress, pulling the duvet up to his chin and looking rather content with himself as Taehyung stands, arms folded with vague frustration across his fluffy sweater.

“Where am I supposed to sleep?”

Jungkook blinks sleepily, as if he hadn’t really considered this.

“There’s spare bedrooms. Or a settee over there,” he points out, gesturing to the beautiful cream piece of furniture. But, as nice as it is, right now it seems like a gutter to Taehyung.

“Hell no, you’re not kicking me out of my own bed,” he tells him, marching right over to the bed and peeling back the covers; and while Jungkook seems to expect him to try and push him out, Taehyung actually just climbs right in beside him, shimmying down to lie on his back and pull the duvet up with an oxymoronic frustrated sigh of contentment.

And while it may seem as if it’d be an awkward night of tension trying to get to sleep, with another screech of thunder, Jungkook yelps and huddles into Taehyung’s chest apparently involuntarily, since, as soon as the episode passes, the younger grumbles, “Never mention this to anyone.”

Taehyung finds himself smiling as his arms wrap around him with a teasing coo.

(In the morning, when Taehyung wakes up with Jungkook still in his arms, he feels an odd sense of contentment ripple through him. He gets up, and decides to surprise the man with a good, healthy breakfast.

And a bagel to cheer him up.)

~

Over the next few weeks, Taehyung spends countless hours with Jungkook, slaving over all the files and notes they have possession of, and scanning virtual libraries and the police network for anything else of use.

When Jungkook’s at work, continuing their cases from his office, Taehyung sorts and organises and takes notes - and by the end of the second week, they have a monstrous board created on the wall of their preferred study, with drawing pins and strings and crazy annotations and photographs all over it, detailing who was last seen where and why, along with any other significant events that have occurred since or before then.

On the nights Jungkook isn’t home too late, or the days he’s out of office, he goes to visit these places with Taehyung, and ask questions to potential witnesses and local people that just know enough.

They make a pretty good team, Taehyung thinks. Jungkook with his boundless experience and knowledge of the field and Taehyung with his natural people skills and ability to retain just about everything they’ve ever read in those files.

He’s actually had to pretend to misremember things for a moment a few times so Jungkook doesn’t question it.

Overall, he once again comes to the conclusion that Jungkook isn’t so bad. Not that he really thought he was that bad.

Okay he kinda thought he was that bad.

But he’s not, really. He’s just a semi-asshole.

But as it’s nearing the end of the first month, they’ve already tracked down about a third of the androids they’re looking for, and got them to the section of the force that’ll safely take them to get fixed; and even now, they’re sitting in their study, pouring over their files again because they’re so sure that the android that’s been threatening shop owners to give them free coupons is somewhere close , they’re probably about to have another success very soon. Maybe even tonight.

Except, not tonight, because Jungkook stops looking through the latest reports on robberies and hold-ups to tell him, “Two of my friends are coming to hang out later tonight - so we’ll have to investigate these places tomorrow.”

Taehyung isn’t that bothered, if he’s honest. While the mornings are much warmer than they were now, the nights are still cold and rainy - he’s not gonna argue if Jungkook says they’ll have to skip a night.

So, Taehyung nods agreeingly, taking the documents out of Jungkook’s hands to see the places he’s circled for them to visit, absentmindedly asking, “Wow, you have friends ?”

Jungkook gives a staccato scoff.

“They’re my colleagues- ,”

“-Ah, that explains it-,”

“- but they’re my friends as well!” he insists, regarding him faux (Taehyung thinks so, at least) bitterly as he adds, “And it’s not like they’re coming over to work.

Honestly, Taehyung isn’t sure he’d put it past him.

“Okay, fine, I believe you,” he notes sweetly, the man side-eyeing him with a playful sort of sharpness. Taehyung sits back in his chair, watching as Jungkook glances at the clock and then at the mess strewn out across the desk, obviously wondering how much they can get through before his friends arrive.

“But what are they coming over to do, then?”

Jungkook looks to Taehyung, something that’s a bit forlorn and significantly exasperated twisting on his face just as he answers, “Get drunk, probably.”

Huh. He somehow hadn’t been expecting that.

However, true to Jungkook’s predictions, a few hours later two men are trampling into the apartment, cases of beer tucked underneath their arms and Taehyung’s hanging in the door frame, observing the men leave them down on the coffee table and settle down on the couches like it’s their house when Jungkook bumps his shoulder, giving him a very concerned look, as if his new housemate has become some kind of creepy stalker.

“Aren’t you gonna join us?”

Taehyung eyes the cases with caution. He’s never… actually drank any of that before. Jimin and Yoongi have, but Taehyung’s never really liked the smell of it - or how handsy the two get with each other when they drink it. It’s a third-wheel amplifier.

But, he guesses it can’t be so bad if they’re dedicating an entire night to it, right?

“Yeah, sure thing…”

~

Jungkook thinks he’s made a slight mistake, here.

Actually, he’s kinda thought that every time Taehyung’s opened his mouth in the past month. Or when he’s done literally anything. Like look at him. Or appear.

But now in particular, because from no more than an hour into the night… Taehyung’s… well .

“So, how are the cases going? You think you’ll make it in time for your old man?” Namjoon asks him, finger tracing round the mouth of his bottle, languidly. Alcohol doesn’t have much effect on Namjoon, no matter how much he drinks - the chill sort of cool he’s got right now is pretty much the height of it.

Hoseok’s tongue gets a little looser than usual, like now when he mutters, “As if that vulture’s gonna deliver on his promise…” but that’s, again, pretty much the height of it. Jungkook’s learned to ignore him.

As for Jungkook himself, a few bottles of beer is practically a soft drink to him. A little more and, sure, he’ll loosen up a bit, get a bit talkative, but he’s hardly gonna fly of the handle.

Taehyung has demolished his way through five, wait - six?

And he does not have a tolerance.

“He will,” Jungkook insists, giving Hoseok a look of vague distaste, “He doesn’t think I can do it, so he will.”

“Good old Jeon logic,” Hoseok comments, sneering just a bit, but Jungkook doesn’t bite, just harmlessly replying, “It got me this far…”

Taehyung, slumped over on the floor face down, finds this slightly amusing, letting out muffled giggles into the carpet. Then, he raises head from the floor and smiles idiotically at Jungkook. Just Jungkook. Teeth baring rectangular, face scrunching up in a gleeful glow, just at Jungkook. Like no one else is even in the room.

He’s been like this for the past hour and Jungkook regrets the decisions that have led him up to this point because every time the man smiles at him like that his stomach does an involuntary flip.

It’s no wonder why. His smile is… stunning. That smile especially, the one with the vague rosiness to his skin, giddiness floating in his eyes; how his hair falls off his forehead, fanning out below him so perfect and pretty and-

Shit, maybe Jungkook shouldn’t have had the third bottle after all. His mind is getting weird.

So, he moves the conversation along, explaining how Taehyung and him have been investigating them together since the man’s got a pretty decent set of people skills and his memory is weirdly amazing (Taehyung makes a mischievous sort of noise at that, claiming he’s some sort of godly being) and it’s just when he’s getting to saying how they’re actually very close to getting one of the androids that’ve been holding up shopkeepers all across the city lately, when he’s suddenly interrupted by a very loud, very giggly, “ Jungkookie…

Jungkook looks to Taehyung who’s finally moving off the floor, getting onto his knees and shuffling over to his couch, that stupid little smile inkling onto his face.

His friends have a field day with this, bursting out into a chorus (duet?) of “Who’s Jungkookie?” to which Jungkook utterly scrambles to specify that Taehyung doesn’t actually call him that. They have a very professional relationship, thank you very much - a business one. He’s just drunk, and-,

“Jungkookie, you’re so pretty.”

He chokes on his own tongue, spluttering until his cheeks brandish red and he looks at Taehyung with something quite synonymous to horror as the man moves to shuffle onto the couch, throwing his head down in Jungkook’s lap and making a noise of complete contentment as Jungkook’s still recovering from all of that.

This… this…

Why is his heart beating so hard?

He glances over to Namjoon and Hoseok - the former with an appropriate amount of shock and confusion, and Hoseok… shit-eating grin. No surprise.

He always liked Namjoon better, anyway.

Jungkook looks back down at the man practically curling into his lap, shifting upwards so he’s laying on the farthest thigh to him, and he wriggles a little as he makes himself comfortable. When he opens his eyes, they meet with Jungkook’s, and the elder lets out a soft noise that goes straight to his chest because wow .

He’s… absolutely breathtaking.

Of course, he knew he was beautiful but this… his heart is beating way too fast.

Jungkook feels heat surface on his cheeks, mouth falling open as he struggles to say anything rational and in the end, what he comes up with is only half-so because he says, “You think I’m… pretty?”

Could’ve been worse. He could’ve put emphasis on the ‘I’m.’

(In his head he puts emphasis on the ‘I’m.’)

Taehyung gives a slow nod, a gentle smile preening on his lips and Jungkook actually sets down his bottle this time because he’s far too warm and weird right now to drink any more and he tries instead to pay attention to what Namjoon’s saying, something about having heard about that android causing trouble in stores. And Jungkook almost hears him.

But then Taehyung reaches up, hand suddenly cupping Jungkook’s face and- what?

“Jungkookie,” he mutters when their eyes meet, obviously completely oblivious to how confused the younger is, “I said you’re pretty.”

“I heard.”

“Do you think I’m pretty?” he asks, and it sounds as if he was vaguely wondering that all along. Jungkook feels a heat burn onto his cheeks and he cleanly avoids the question, asking, “Taehyung, do you maybe wanna go take a nap?”

No more beer for him.

Taehyung looks ecstatic with the idea, giving a chipper, “Mm hm.”

And Jungkook decides that that is the great think about drunk people. They’re kind of like kids in the fact that you can sort of talk them into anything if you make it sound fun enough.

Jungkook takes an unsteady Taehyung to his bedroom, thankful that he didn’t give him one of the farthest ones because Christ, he’s hard to control when he’s wobbling so much on his feet.

Taehyung’s happy enough to load into bed himself, once they’re there, flopping down onto the mattress gleefully, as he glances to Jungkook with that endearing flushed, spacey look to him.

“Jungkookie… do you think I’m pretty?”

So, he hadn’t forgot about that, huh?

Jungkook looks over his shoulder, checking to make sure his friends hadn’t followed him or anything before he sighs deeply.

As if the answer isn’t obvious.

“Yes, you’re pretty, Taehyung.”

Taehyung beams, giggling excitedly to himself as he rolls over slightly, face squishing against the sheets.

“Are you really this drunk?”

Taehyung looks confused at his question (though, he’d probably look confused at any question,) remarking, “I dunno. I’ve never drank before.”

… something about that is kind of endearing.

“Well, take a nap and I’ll get you some water later, okay?” Jungkook asks him, not wanting to have to deal with the man’s complaint of a hangover in the morning.

He smiles contently, giving a loud yawn, and shutting his eyes, and Jungkook takes the opportunity to leave the room.

And, of course, when he gets back… his asshole friends are laughing themselves to death.

“Your face, Kookie,” Hoseok enthuses. “Holy shit, that was priceless. You’re so fucking red!”

“I get redder with alcohol,” Jungkook bites back defensively, but the man is having none of it.

“Yeah, like, a bit. You’re full on neon, dude.”

He swears, he needs a better friend than Hoseok.

“Shut up, I didn’t invite you over to take the piss out of me,” he mutters bitterly and then… Namjoon.

“Sorry, are we intruding on your romantic evening?”

The traitor. He expected it from Hoseok, but Namjoon.

Jungkook takes another swig of his beer because fuck it.

Once he finally gets rid of them, Jungkook is ready to go to bed and sleep away the horrific events of the night, but he remembers to bring Taehyung water first, sneaking into his room again in the hopes to not wake him up, but he’s shocked to see the man sitting up, fully awake, in bed.

“Jungkookie, you’re back…”

Jungkook sets down the glass by his bedside table, feeling almost scolding of him as he asks, “Did you not sleep?”

Taehyung shakes his head, blissfully unaware of the man’s tone, and happily tells him, “Nope... was waitin’ for you.”

Jungkook frowns in confusion.

“For what ?”

Taehyung doesn’t even reply, immediately, just opens his arms out, face expectant. He pouts when Jungkook makes no move to… whatever, and he just looks so… so disheartened when he says, “I wanna sleep with you.”

Jungkook is a weak man.

“How about I sit here until you fall asleep?”

Taehyung seems content enough with this, muttering a content, “M’kay,” and shuffling down to lay on his back as Jungkook sits on the edge of the mattress.

Taehyung reaches out for his hand, and Jungkook starts a little, until the man brings it to his hair, guiding it through the silky strands.

Jungkook continues to do it subconsciously, even when Taehyung lets go.

“Night night, Jungkookie,” he murmurs happily, and Jungkook’s chest feels light and airy as he whispers back, “Night, Taehyung.”

Something weird has happened with Jungkook tonight.

And somehow, as his brain melts into swirls of rush and emotion, as his heart just won’t calm down, as he realises that the alcohol is probably already leaving his system and he’s pretty much sobering .... somehow , he gets the idea that it wasn’t just drunken adrenaline.

Taehyung looks beautiful when he’s sleeping.

Jungkook leaves as soon as he can.

~

Jungkook makes the crucial mistake of offhandedly mentioning that he likes photography to Taehyung, and had actually taken all the pictures hung up in the corridor of his family home - because the man is way too excited about it.

“Take a picture of me!” He enthuses, bouncing on his heels slightly as Jungkook clutches his camera in both hands, glancing at him disparagingly.

But, of course, he gives in, taking off the lens cap and holding the camera up so he can peek through the viewfinder. Taehyung looks elated, shuffling back to lean up against the window, the orange of the sunset cascading down his skin, gleaming where the red of his robe falls off his shoulder. He tilts his head, hair falling across his gaze as his lips pout out just a little, and he leans one foot up against the glass.

Jungkook’s breath falters, but when the camera clicks, the photo comes out perfect, he’s sure.

Taehyung relaunches back into his lively self then, the look melting off his face as he kicks open his robe on one side entirely to reveal more of his golden skin, only wearing a pair of peach and white pyjama shorts that would probably looks ridiculous on anyone else.

“Get in my scar and tattoo. I’ll look super tough.”

Jungkook’s eyes drift to the scar near his stomach - well-healed by this point which continues to baffle him as ever - and the infamous daffodils inked on his thigh that the man kept alluding to. They’re just an outline, with a little bit of shading that makes it neat and minimalistic, but it covers such an expanse of his upper thigh - much more than Jungkook had expected. Some of it even continues to wander up underneath his shorts, and he wonders if it reaches his hip, too.

Tough. Jungkook snorts at that, raising his camera back up to his eye as he mutters, “You don’t look tough, you look-” gorgeous. Beautiful. Amazing. Phenomenal, unbelievable, celestial, perfectperfectperfect-

“Pretty.”

Wow, Jungkook.

Taehyung chuckles softly, eyes twinkling as he looks at him. Jungkook takes the shot.

After his model gets bored of thinking up of new poses and exhausting almost every decent location in the apartment, he demands to see the photos, looking over his shoulder as the younger boots up his gallery, fingers flicking across the screen to get to the most recent ones. Taehyung sets his chin on Jungkook’s shoulder as he modestly holds his robe closed, ooh-ing and ah-ing at all the other photos that he gets glimpses of.

But then, after a few photos of a particular person, Taehyung grabs his hand to get him to stop, curiously asking, “Who’s she?”

Jungkook swallows. This is why he didn’t want to do this.

“Ex-fiance,” he says quietly, and he can sense how Taehyung’s looking at him with those wide, soulful eyes. “We broke up because she fell for someone else- they’re. But I, uh… I didn’t wanna delete the pictures.”

Taehyung’s quiet for a moment, but then he gives a low hum that Jungkook feels reverberating in his skin.

“She’s pretty,” he observes with an even tone, “What’s her name?”

“Choi Ara - but I suppose she’ll be Hwang soon,” Jungkook says, thinking back to the invitation he’d received in the mail a few weeks ago. Nice of her to invite him.

“She’s engaged? To the person she fell for?”

“Yeah… he’s a nice guy, neither of them meant for it to happen, but…” he lets himself trail off. He doesn’t need to say it. No matter the circumstances, something like that’s bound to sting.

“So, that’s why you said you weren’t interested in dating?”

Jungkook blinks, camera lowering as he shifts to look at Taehyung, who steps back from his shoulder. He’d kind of forgotten about that altogether.

“I don’t have feelings for her anymore, but I guess the prospect of a relationship doesn’t sound that hopeful because of it.”

Taehyung frowns, hand gliding up to brush Jungkook’s arm, then, he smiles and softly tells him, “I hope you find someone that can change your mind.”

Jungkook clears his throat, unable to meet the man’s eye as something strange flickers in his chest.

“Yeah, that’d be nice,” he mutters.

~

One night, on their way back from investigating, Taehyung asks Jungkook if he could phone Jimin again, realising it’s been a few nights since he has. Jungkook accepts of course, and he does, telling Jungkook it’s cool if he parks down the street (just so he doesn’t hear him…)

The conversation goes well, it’s always nice to hear Jimin’s voice - and he even gets to talk to Yoongi for a little bit who, no matter how much they bicker, is still his favourite hyung of all time. Taehyung hangs up with a smile on his face.

Until that smiles clamped over by an unfamiliar hand, and suddenly he’s being pulled into the alley behind him, wriggling and screaming against the person’s grip until he hears a low,

“Experiment K-T-H. Found you again.”

Fucking hell it’s been a while since he’s heard that voice.

Taehyung stops struggling almost immediately, and his captor lets go of him. He doesn’t recognise either of androids with him, but he rarely does recognise the people chasing him. They all know him of course, all talk just like the bastard that started it all. The one that steps back from him now.

Pang Sunwoo - international asshole and founder of Acquiesce: Android Hellhole.

“Stop calling me that,” Taehyung spits at him, but the man doesn’t even pay him any attention.

“We would’ve been here sooner, but you got away from us the other day, didn’t you? If you hadn’t been on the phone that device would’ve worked.”

Taehyung can’t say the revelation surprises him.

“So that was you.”

Pang doesn’t give him the satisfaction of a reply, instead, he just gestures to the waiting androids, who immediately push Taehyung against the wall before he can even react, knocking his head of the brick like it’s nothing.

Taehyung’s pretty sure he sees double for a minute.

Pang approaches him then, with a curious sort of needle, filled with some sort of fluid and he catches Taehyung’s apprehension around it because he grins as he taps the end of it, saying, “Oh, don’t worry about this. This is just a little enhancement. I think you’ll like it, it’ll stop you feeling so much… rationality shall we say. Really make you let loose.”

Taehyung struggles for a bit as the man gets closer, and then, his adrenaline kicks in, power flooding through him again as he fights out of both of the androids’ grip, ducking under Pang’s reach for him too, as he rounds him.

Pang turns on his heels, amusement dawning on his face.

Oh , you’ve gotten some of your strength back? Guess you’re too strong for our little experiment.”

He pushes back his coat to reveal the rows and rows of identical needles, taunting, “I’ll up the dosage this time.”

The androids grab him again, and Taehyung struggles against their grip as he snaps, “What do you want from me?! Why can’t you just let me be free?”

Then, he feels heat, blooming on his cheek, and when his body loses balance, he realises that Pang can pack a fucking punch.

The man stands over him, victoriously, saying, “You would understand, Taehyung. If you knew the things about yourself that we do.”

Well, that’s ominous as fuck.

They pick him back up, and Taehyung tries his best to break free of them again, as Pang tears open his shirt with a pocket knife, lining up the needle somewhere in the middle of his exposed chest.

“Let’s try here, this time. Look this way, experiment.”

Pang snaps to a place over his shoulders, and, all of a sudden, one of the androids are shoving his jaw in that direction… and that’s when Taehyung sees it.

That… thing. The figure from across the street. He feels his entire body lock down again, eyes unable to look away.

Even the head of the needle is hurting like hell as Pang lines it up. Almost as if the material of it is resistant to him. It burns.

But then, there’s a sudden clanging of heels, and a shout of, “ Hey ! Taehyung, what the fuck - who… leave him the fuck alone!

Jungkook’s far away enough that he can’t hear their discussion as one of the androids curiously asks Pang, “Who is that?”

Pang sounds agitated beyond all belief as he hisses, “The human boy…”

As Jungkook gets closer to them, Pang sounds as if he’s contemplating the situation, until at last he decides, “It’s not time for this yet, let’s go,” and before Taehyung can even understand what’s happening, he’s falling to the ground, suddenly able to move again as the figure disappears from view.

His back collides hard with the ground, head smacking off the concrete as well, disorientating him enough that Pang sounds almost underwater for a moment when he tells him, “We’ll be seeing you and your human very soon, experiment K-T-H.”

Taehyung doesn’t even want to know what he means by that. By any of that.

Then, all of a sudden, Jungkook is hovering over him, already on his knees as he rushes, “Taehyung, Tae - are you alright?”

Taehyung, distantly, feels touched by the nickname. But mostly, he’s just struggling to regain proper consciousness.

“I feel… I’m…”

“What the fuck? Did they drug you?” Jungkook asks in disbelief, but Taehyung can’t think of a way to say ‘no, I think I’m just super vulnerable to their choice of metal in needle head’ without sounding like a fucking idiot, so he says nothing.

“Who the hell are these people?”

Taehyung just shakes his head.

Jungkook’s annoyed, clearly, but he doesn’t push him right now, saying, “Okay, fine .” And just like that, he’s being picked up into his arms for what feels like the millionth time, as the man warns him, “Don’t tell me now but as soon as we get back I want answers, Tae.”

~

Taehyung… isn’t looking at him. He can’t, really. He doesn’t know how to.

“Tae,” Jungkook calls to him, obviously trying to soften him up with the nickname, but Taehyung stays silent. “ Look , I just want to know what we’re dealing with here. I want to know that I can keep you safe.”

Something about the words makes Taehyung’s chest feel slightly fluttery, and he looks at Jungkook with amusement on his face, pointing out, “We?”

The man grins at him, now that he’s finally looking his way, and jokes, “You’re kind of my responsibility now. I did half-kidnap you.”

Well, he’s not wrong. Just like Taehyung’s been insisting all along.

“They’re… a research facility…” Taehyung admits, even though Jungkook’s probably forgotten he asked at this point, “I stole something from them, they want it back.”

Jungkook sounds taken aback by the revelation, as if he’s expected some sort of mafia instead. Some days, Taehyung thinks that would probably be easier. At least then they’d probably cut his fingers off and leave it at that.

“That much? What did you steal ?”

Taehyung doesn’t know how to answer him without giving too much detail, so he just says, “Something very important.”

Jungkook doesn’t seem satisfied with the answer, pressing on with, “ Taehyung… if they’re chasing you for it like this, shouldn’t you just give it up? Aren’t you more important?”

There’s a slight issue with that. One and the same...

So, Taehyung avoids that question too, just telling him, “It’s not theirs to keep. It’s not fair for them to have it.”

And Jungkook seems to get the idea that Taehyung isn’t going to say anything more about it, because he hesitantly says, “Okay…” suddenly sounding a lot more nagging with him when he repeats, “ Okay . But if it ever becomes a danger-,”

“I’ll give it up. I promise,” Taehyung says without thought and… he’s a little stunned that he does. He practically just admitted that he’d give himself up to protect Jungkook but… Jungkook hasn’t done anything wrong. It’s only fair.

“If I do anything to put you in danger because of it, I’ll give it up.”

Jungkook’s mouth curves down into a sorrowful frown, though he doesn’t even know the full weight of the words. He lightly taps Taehyung’s arm, muttering, “I want you to be safe too, idiot.”

Taehyung would like that too. But, he’s coming to realise that that might not be an option.

Drained from the events of earlier, and the heaviness of this conversation, Taehyung quietly tells him, “I think I’ll go to bed now,” not quite moving to get off the couch just yet, as he looks Jungkook deeply in the eye, voice swimming with… fondness when he tells him, “Thanks for saving me tonight, Jungkook. Again.”

Suddenly, it feels as if the room grows very quiet. Jungkook’s staring right back at him, a certain kind of passion in the pupils. Taehyung feels himself swallow for no reason.

“No problem, Tae,” he practically whispers, trying to accomodate for the room’s stillness. Then, before Taehyung even knows what’s happening, Jungkook’s lips are pressed to his - barely even there, they’re so light and soft - but enough that when he pulls away no more than a few seconds later, Taehyung can still feel the warmth of them.

“Goodnight,” he says sweetly and Taehyung loses it inside.

He’s gripping his knee so hard, he thinks it might bruise, his chest is pounding with such velocity he didn’t even know was, like, safe and he tries his damn hardest not to sound like a total loser when he mutters back, “ N-night…

His voice is an octave higher, at least, than usual. He does not sound cool.

When he gets into his bedroom, he leans up against the door, letting out a breath that has him sliding down the surface dramatically as he whispers, “Holy shit…

~

When Jungkook wakes up in the morning, he feels warm, recalling the events of last night.

And then… he feels like an idiot.

What the hell was he thinking, kissing him out of nowhere like that? He was tired and… confused… he wasn’t thinking.

He didn’t even know he felt that way, really. Sort of. He might’ve had a little bit of an idea.

It was probably just a momentarily blip. He was practically exhausted. It’s not like he’d do it again or anything.

Regardless, he hauls himself out of bed, shimmying on the pair of sweatpants draped over his bed and goes downstairs, with the aim of making some calming milky coffee to sort out his head.

As soon as he gets into his living room, he’s surprised to smell coffee already brewing, figuring Taehyung must be up.

But he jumps on the fucking spot as soon as he actually looks.

“Morning, Jungkook,” his brother greets him.

His brother. Seokjin. Here. In his apartment.

“Hyung…” Jungkook says, utterly dumbfounded, “what are you doing here?”

Seokjin’s pleasant smile wipes off of his face then, awkwardly. Jungkook hadn’t expected it to last long. It never does for either of them.

“I figured we should talk about this stranger you’re, what - living with?”

Temporarily ,” Jungkook corrects, a little defensive in how his fist clenches subconsciously while he insists, “and he’s not a stranger , hyung.”

Seokjin looks a little condescending as he says, “Right, I guess you really know him after a month, right?”

Jungkook’s frown deepens, and Seokjin’s expression eases off slightly as he confesses, “Look, Jungkook, I don’t care who you’re living with. I care who you’re living with, if you get what I’m saying. You don’t know this man. You don’t know anything about him, do you?”

Jungkook ignores his brother’s judgement, insisting, “I know enough,” but he doesn’t look at all convinced.

“You don’t know where he came from, I bet. Do you even know what happened to him?”

“He was attacked,” Jungkook replies almost instantly, arms crossing protectively over his chest. He’s no idea why his brother’s words are getting to him so badly, but he hates the way he’s talking about Taehyung as if he’s some criminal - despite the amount of times Jungkook’s thought the same himself.

“By who?

… He doesn’t know.

“I want you to be careful. And think about this before it’s too late. Just… don’t let your guard down, don’t get too close. You don’t know who you’re dealing with.”

Somehow, despite the words, he doesn’t sound all that affectionate. And, just as Jungkook could’ve guesses, Seokjin tells him, “I’m only saying all of this because of Daddy. You know what he’s like. He’ll do a full-scale investigation on the kid if I don’t tell him you’re being careful.”

Bitterly, Jungkook replies, “Like he cares about what happens to me. He only cares about his reputation.”

Seokjin doesn’t deny it, doesn’t confirm anything at all really when he tells him, “He wants you to be safe.”

“Tae is safe,” Jungkook argues back, and his brother’s eyebrow twitches in interest at this.

Then, he gives a quiet sigh, putting his mug down on the table near him and standing up.

“You always have thought with your heart before your head…” Seokjin mutters to himself, and, while most people would think it’s a compliment, somehow he makes it sound like a bad thing. But Jungkook remembers when his brother was the same. No matter how much he pretends he isn’t now.

“I’ll tell Daddy you’re fine. But don’t make me a liar,” he says warningly, and Jungkook feels defensive all over again, snapping back, “I won’t ,” like a stubborn child. Seokjin probably sees him as much.

He leaves without so much as a goodbye, as is their usual, and Jungkook shuts the door as quick as he can, mulling over the exchange that just happened with apprehension because why was he so defensive over Taehyung, anyway?

It’s not like he has feelings for him. He doesn’t even know him, does he?

Okay he knows him, but-

Shit, he already kissed him and he doesn’t even know what he feels . What if it was just a fleeting infatuation, or he was tired or scared for him? What if it was a pity thing, or-

Taehyung, in his line of vision. Jungkook turns his head to the side, mouth splitting into an ‘o.’

“Oh, hi, ” he says nervously, “Good... good morning.”

Taehyung isn’t an idiot, he doesn’t bother humouring Jungkook. He looks towards the door and says, “Your brother?”

Jungkook sighs.

“Yeah… look, I’m sorry-,”

“No, no. It’s okay,” Taehyung insists, shaking his head with a sad-ish smile as he admits, “He’s right, I’m a stranger.”

But Jungkook shakes his head too, reaching out to put his hand on his shoulder as he insists, “Not anymore, Tae. I trust you, now, alright?”

The man stares for a moment, before nodding, happily, and he sounds a lot more teasing of him as he asks, “Wow, is this the official end to our rivalry? Or was that what the kiss was for last night?”

Jungkook’s too stunned to reply, face flooding with heat as he feels his stomach twist in embarrassment.

“I’m craving some french toast this morning. Come on!” He announces, tugging on the man’s wrist like a child and pulling him in the direction of the kitchen, without another word on the topic.

Oh, and, for the record…

He definitely wants to kiss him again.

~

Taehyung doesn’t really know what’s happening at the minute in his life. Like, not with the whole investigation thing, or the recovering from an almost fatal attack thing (he’s pretty much over that) but, really, more the whole… Jungkook thing.

The Great Bun Infatuation of 2055, as Jimin had called it when he maybe let it slip to him on the phone yesterday.

He’s weak. He needs someone to talk to lament with.

See, the thing is, what Taehyung had previously seen Jungkook as was entirely light-hearted. The man is blindingly handsome, he was a bit (a lot) of an asshole. It was kind of alluring and there was so much tension between them that Taehyung was quite content with just dwindling in little fantasies every now and then and moving the fuck on.

But the thing is… Jungkook is not an asshole. And that’s making Taehyung’s life difficult. It had been for a while now, but he could deal with it. He never expected to feel anything more than a slight attachment to him.

Until Jungkook kissed him.

Since then, his brain has been haywire.

But, they don’t talk about the kiss. Taehyung isn’t sure if he’s grateful or not because on one hand he never wants to hear about it, but on the other, everytime he looks at him his brain is screaming ‘do it again, pussy!’

But, no. They don’t talk about it… but they do catch that android - and they’ll take whatever success they can get at this point because there is not a lot of time left until Jungkook’s father’s makeshift deadline, and Jungkook says he’s sitting in his chair in their shared office, always feeling as if he’s wasting time.

They have fifteen left and two weeks to get them. That’s almost one a day. It sounds practically impossible, and Taehyung keeps suggesting to him that he should go out by himself during the day to try and get them an advantage but Jungkook’s been fairly firm on a no way , I don’t want to have to perform actual surgery next time you get attacked by those maniacs.

Taehyung’s touched that he still thinks he’d save him the next time, too.

Hopefully there won’t be a next time, though.

But, today, while Jungkook is likely sitting in his office, Taehyung is sitting by himself in the apartment, contemplating his existence (not really, that goes too deep) and it’s around three PM when he starts to go a bit stir crazy. And at this point, walking around the building - no matter how grandiose - just will not sedate him any more.

He takes an easy file- one of an Android they might as well have GPS on, they’re so certain where they are, and he takes Jungkook’s spare handcuffs too, then leaves the building.

He’ll go do this now so they don’t have to waste more time later. Jungkook won’t even know until he’s done it. Besides, Taehyung’s practically gained his strength back now, he can handle a malfunctioning android. It’s not even a defect.

So, he skips down the stairs of the building, hops out the front door, and starts on his merry way to detain some rogue android’s butt.

Apparently the poor guy’s been hanging around street corners and stuff, scaring the shit out of people when they walk by. On purpose, probably - but Taehyung doesn’t scare easy.

He’s only walking for ten minutes or so at most when he catches a glimpse of those telling neon lights, and hears a slightly mechanical twinge. Taehyung slows to a tip-toe, edging along the wall of the apartment block until he gets a glimpse down the little alleyway running in between them. And there, just like predicted, he finds his target.

It’s not a difficult apprehension. Actually, Taehyung finds that the android is practically too far gone to even notice he’s there. It’s sad, of course. Taehyung gently nudges the guy into his handcuffs, and takes out the mobile that Jungkook had told him he could use only to call the force.

They pick up quickly, as usual, and Taehyung greets the person on the other end of the phone rather happily saying, “Hi, it’s Kim Taehyung - caught another one on Ninahelm, mind taking him off my hands?”

The woman seems pleased, telling him, “ Absolutely , Mr. Kim. We’ll be there right away.”

They do arrive rather quickly, and the woman he’d been conversing with on the phone greets him with a gentle wave of her hand, saying, “Afternoon, Mr. Kim.” She glances around, seeing just Taehyung and the android and asks, “On your own today?”

“Jungkook’s working so, yep, just me,” he answers cheerfully, the lady nodding in understanding when he does, moving on to tell him, “I see , let me tell the boss you’ve got another.”

Taehyung’s never met the man in charge of the rehabilitation unit, but Jungkook’s told him that only a few people actually have and from what he’s heard about him, he’s not the nicest guy. Taehyung and Jungkook are usually gone by the time they call him up - so he’s slightly eager to hear whether he sounds as scary as his reputation makes him out to be.

Most people related to the police don’t actually use mobiles, Taehyung’s come to realise. Actually, Jungkook’s one of the only people he knows that does.

The woman taps on her wrist watch, speaking into it when it connects to tell her boss, “Sir, Mr. Kim’s secured another. Number…” she looks at him expectantly, and he informs her, “Six four one.”

She nods thankfully, repeating, “Six four one, sir. Should we send him your way?”

Then, he hears the dreaded deep voice grumbling through the device, and is rather glad that he’s never met the speaker face to face...

“Yes, I’ve got a delivery to branch 109 leaving late this afternoon, get him to me as soon as possible. That bastard might finally get off my ass now. Tell that Kim kid that he and that other prodigy of his better not slack.”

“Will do, Sir,” she says, glancing at Taehyung with a look of vague exasperation. The call ends and she smiles gratefully at him, saying, “Thank you for your help, Mr. Kim. Hopefully, we’ll be seeing you soon.”

Hopefully .

Another job well done, good work Officer Kim.

Taehyung catches a glimpse of the stupid smug grin on his face in the nearest window and decides that, no… no he doesn’t think he’s really cop material, somehow.

Although, saying that, Jungkook pulls off the smugness well…

~

Jungkook is walking past the secretaries’ area, having been forced by Namjoon and Hoseok to ‘ go get lunch and stop grovelling like a fool’ (try and guess which said what) when one of them says something… a little odd to him.

“Oh, Mr. Jeon! You won’t be needing case file number six-four-one now, shall I clear it off your network for you?”

Jungkook halts in his tracks, iced-smoothie sloshing gently against his plastic cup as he looks over his shoulder at the woman staring up politely expectant of him.

He frowns.

“... Why won’t I be needing that? We haven’t finished that one yet. We’re going to apprehend the android tonight.”

She frowns, too.

“But, Sir,” she says a little fraily, as if she might be making some sort of mistake, “Mr. Kim contacted us earlier to say that he’d caught the android by himself and to not tell Mr. Jeo- oh. Oh, he meant you, sir. I thought he might’ve meant the boss.”

Jungkook’s grip on his smoothie makes the slush of it rise to the top.

Kim Taehyung, for fuck’s sake.

“That’s okay, Jeongja,” Jungkook suddenly says, smile forcing its way onto his face as he assures her, “I’ll speak to Taehyung later.”

Jeongja looks slightly concerned, then, gently asking, “Please don’t be mad at him, Sir.”

Jungkook waves it off easily, stretching his grin out a little more, insisting, “Oh, I won’t.  

~

Jungkook is mad at him.

Taehyung was just cleaning up some of their case files that he’d practically solved by himself today (he didn’t risk going to catch any again) when Jungkook was calling a stern, “Taehyung, ” down the corridor.

Now, he’s sitting on the table and his ass is totally going numb because Jungkook has been going off on him for, like, twenty minutes, about how dangerous it was of him to go by himself somewhere when there’s people actively chasing him and he’s not even fully recovered and christ, Tae, what do I have to do - lock you up?

Taehyung gives a long, drawn out sigh.

His heart’s fucking fluttering with all this bullshit, too. He’s tired and confused because he really shouldn’t feel this way for Jungkook at all, really. But the more he gets to know him the sweeter and softer and more precious he becomes and Taehyung is tired.

So he snaps.

“Barely over a month ago you didn’t care whether I lived or died, Jungkook. Why do you care so much now?”

Jungkook, honestly, looks lightly stunned, eyebrows skipping behind the shelter of his bangs, and it looks like he doesn’t really even know how to come up with a response.

Does Taehyung feel bad? N-

Yeah…

Curse this newfangled feeling.

But, then, Jungkook does actually formulate words, because he very earnestly tells him, “If I didn’t care, I wouldn’t have taken you in. My brother was furious with me, I was scared about what would happen if my father found out. I didn’t know who you were. I was just… scared,” he confesses, and Taehyung falls utterly lost for words, blinking at Jungkook in shock, even more so when the man’s usual confident stature depletes into a sort of gentle slouch.

He steps that much closer to Taehyung, so much that he can almost feel the warmth of him from where he’s sitting when he utters, “I’m sorry if I made you feel I didn’t care, Taehyung. I’m not a monster. Of course, I cared.”

Taehyung still doesn’t know what to say. His heart knows exactly what to say though, his heart is saying ‘Kiss him, pussy!’

But Taehyung’s heart is an idiot. And a nuisance. So, no, Taehyung does not pounce on Jeon Jungkook.

Not until he… understands at least…

Instead, Taehyung just smiles something surprisingly genuine for how far-gone his mind is right now, and says, “I believe you. Besides, it’s in the past now,” because, funnily enough, it feels forever ago since the two couldn’t look at each other without glaring.

Now it’s just occasionally.

Or… very rarely. (very.)

Then, Taehyung suddenly feels a little stupid that he even brought it up in the first place, dipping his head down to the floor as he sheepishly tells him, “I’m sorry for erupting on you like that.”

Then, he feels a touch on his chin, Jungkook’s fingers prompting him to look up again and when their eyes meet again, Jungkook’s are sparkling with something maybe even fond, if he’s lucky.

“It’s alright,” the man tells him, and while that may be true, one thing that is not alright is how bad Taehyung’s stomach is twisting.

The moment they exchange is too heavy for what it is, and Taehyung shifts almost impatiently on the table, under the man’s weighty gaze.

It’d be so easy to kiss him again.

But would either of them even want that?

In an instant, Taehyung backs away from Jungkook’s touch, shimmying off the table completely, and he dutily reminds the younger of all the androids they can catch tonight if they hurry.

Jungkook, for a second or two, is quiet and unmoving - but it lasts no longer than until Taehyung throws the files in his direction. Then they launch back into their partners-in-crime personas.

Their platonic… . partners-in-crime personas.

~

“No, absolutely not, ” Jungkook says for the fiftieth time that night. His friends frown at him accordingly, but he has his reasons.

“Come on, ” Hoseok whines, bumping the younger man’s arm sulkily, “It’s just a little club. Pretty much a bar. We don’t even have to get shitfaced!”

Jungkook stares at him disapprovingly.

“Hoseok, you know right well we’re gonna get shitfaced - when have we ever gone out and not?

Hoseok has to think long and hard about it, finger pressed to his lips before he clicks it against his thumb, recalling, “When we went to Rosendale last month! Perfectly sober.”

“It was a lunch meeting! In a fancy restaurant.”

Hoseok shrugs his shoulders.

“That’s never stopped me before.”

The thing is he’s right - and that just makes Jungkook even more reluctant.

“Why not ?” his friend whines, and Jungkook could think of like, a hundred reasons why not.

“Okay… one?” he starts, “We have work in the morning.”

“Call in sick,” Hoseok fires back. Jungkook doesn’t humour him on why that’s a bad idea, as well, just moving onto, “Two, I don’t feel like drinking.”

Hoseok looks as if he was expecting that one, suggesting, “Then have a cocktail!”

Jungkook doesn’t like cocktails.

“And three… ” Jungkook trails off, glancing across the room at a very excited Kim Taehyung, talking animatedly to Namjoon about how he’s totally never been to a club.

Another reason not to go, by the way..

Hoseok follows his line of vision, and realisation washes over his face as he mutters, “Oh… so there’s the real reason. ” And Jungkook wants to argue but…

He can’t really.

“Look, Jungkook. You can’t let your wittle baby crush stop you from de-stressing.”

“I’m not stressed-,”

“- Please, you cracked the glass you were holding the other day when your dad reminded you how much time you had left for your investigation.”

Okay, he did do that. Water spilling everywhere.

But he has such little time left, holy shit.

“Then, I should keep working on it!”

“Woah, no . You think you’ll do a good job if you’re that stressed? Plus… something good might happen between you and your little deputy if you loosen up a bit…”

Jungkook doesn’t like what Hoseok’s implying.

But he hates how his stomach flips with the implication even more.

And worst of all, he hates how his mouth immediately goes, “You know, maybe a drink or two wouldn’t be so bad…”

Hoseok slaps his shoulder, grinning from ear to ear as he mocks, “That’s my Jungkookie!”

Jungkook scowls.

He really needs better friends.

~

Two drinks in, Jungkook briefly considers that maybe this isn’t such a good idea.

Buuuuut, by the seventh he’s completely over that. Actually, by the seventh, he’s completely over anything that is not the way the voices around him are merging into one long drone and how he can feel the bass of each song in his throat. Wait, wait, maybe that’s just the shots throbbing. Did he count the shots? Is it seven drinks and shots? When did he even drink all of that? Where did his friends go, anyway? He could’ve sworn they were right there and-

Where’s Taehyung?

Normally, he’s pretty sure, any thought of Taehyung that makes his adrenaline spike like this would be shoved down. Way, way down but- wait, is his heart beating because of the alcohol? Jungkook stands up from his seat at the bar, doesn’t remember sitting down, and looks across the waves of people in the room, looking for the shimmer of silver hair underneath the changing hues of the club’s light.

He sees lots of people he doesn’t know, lots of people he might now. Lots of people he doesn’t want to know. But no Taehyung.

Jungkook starts to get a little impatient, feet carrying him to the dancing bodies collected in the centre of the room like he’s being pulled. He could be being pulled; his limbs are kind of going numb and everything has a sort of visual echo to it. A wave of nausea hits him for just a second, but then he’s weaving through people, too intent on his goal to really care about the possibility of puking.

He steps on someone’s foot at one point, and they bark a harsh “Ow, fuck you, man!” but Jungkook forgets to hear them, already on past.

Honestly, he begins to wonder if he’s already passed out somewhere and he’s dreaming right now because this crowd just does not end-

But then, he sees it.

He catches a glimpse of that silvery-gold, a glimpse of silver and gold, gold, gold and black and red in all the things Taehyung draped his glittering skin in. Not a lot of things, though. Shoulders, arms, half his chest, his stomach, some of his back - all on display. Jungkook vaguely remembers telling him earlier in the evening that he’d be freezing but he doesn’t look cold now, at all. No, no he looks hot. Very hot.

Jungkook’s mouth manages to run dry despite all that he’s just drank.

And maybe he shouldn’t have looked for him at all, because as Jungkook’s frozen in the ripples of dancing bodies, to some song he’s probably heard four times this night already, as Jungkook watches the way the man he was looking for is twisting and rolling his body, golds and reds looking royal on him and Jungkook definitely doesn’t remember any of that looking so good when they were his. As he watches the way the black velvet of the man’s jeans hug and show every curve and line of his legs, the way he moves back and forward rocking and rocking against some... guy… there’s some… guy just there, hands on Taehyung’s waist, feeling up and down, touching all over the exposed parts of his skin and down, down, down his jeans and Taehyung’s grinning something a little secretive at him, somehow, he can almost hear his laughter over the club’s noise when he pushes back hard and the man’s grip tightens but Jungkook doesn’t know what could possibly be so secretive and, and-

Fuck, what was he saying? He has no idea, he can’t even remember what he...

Who is that guy?

Jungkook feels a new kind of adrenaline wash over him, one that makes him feel a lot more nauseous than any of the things he’s drank tonight and he stands unbudging in amongst all the people just… watching this happen and he doesn’t know why his chest feels so tight, why everything suddenly feels like it hurts…

Taehyung catches his eye, and his entire facial expression changes from that cunning, heart-crushing grin to something excitable, lighting up his entire face as he beams at him, suddenly shoving the guy behind him away, and before Jungkook can even register what the man’s doing, he’s made his way to him, yanking his wrist so they’re in a small open space, and Taehyung is far too close to him for Jungkook’s drunken brain to get a hold of itself.

“Tae, what are yo-,”

But there’s a shove on his shoulder, and the guy from before is beside him all of a sudden, grumbling, “ Hey, asshole - we were already occupied.”

Jungkook isn’t usually that much of a confrontational man (okay, okay, not in this sort of situation, at least) but here, his shoulders immediately square up, face immediately melting into a frown, and, honestly, he’s ready to tell this guy to fuck off-

But Taehyung gets there first, surprisingly sweet as he’s telling him, “Sorry, honey, but I’ll catch you some other time, alright?” and there’s no slur or anything to his words, Jungkook notices as the guy gives some sort of disgruntled growling noise before skulking off, and he immediately asks him, “You haven’t drank much?”

Taehyung looks away from the retreating figure, back to Jungkook with a wide-eyed look, as if he isn’t really sure why he even asked. He shakes his head, telling him, “Like, a glass and a half - why, have you?”

Jungkook immediately replies with a firm, “No,” but something about the way he says it must cause Taehyung not to believe him, because he gives him a coy look, sing-songing, “Sounds like you might’ve .”

Jungkook shakes his head stupidly, completely losing track of the conversation when his mind fixates on something else entirely and his mouth is already asking, “Who was that guy?” before Taehyung can investigate him further.

The man looks confused at the sudden change in topic, looking around them both as he plainly asks, “Huh? I dunno... Just some guy. Why?”

Jungkook doesn’t say anything, doesn’t need to say anything because he figures his frown must say enough, since Taehyung decides to quirk an eyebrow at him, barely even visible under his hair as he reaches out to touch the open collar of the younger’s shirt, playfully asking, “Were you looking for me, Jungkookie?”

And maybe Taehyung doesn’t even expect him to say yes. Maybe he’s just teasing him again for the kick he gets out of it, because when Jungkook does tell him he’s right, the man’s face momentarily drops into one of shock.

But, then, he seems to shrug it off, smirking lips tainting the rest of his features again as he taunts, “ Oh ? What did you want?”

Somewhere in Jungkook’s drunken mind, he knows exactly what he wants  - and he doesn’t think that sober Jungkook knows it. It’s not the kind of thing that can be found under neon lights between drunken friends, not really. It’s not what he’s getting tonight, what he’s maybe already found somewhere else, so tonight he will just abide.

His hands smooth their way down Taehyung’s sides, thumbs pressing against the jut of his hip bones, just visible above his jeans. Taehyung shivers, eyes melding into a sort of darkness as he looks at him.

“This?” He asks lowly, stepping close enough that the words somehow feel almost deafening, “Did you maybe want me, baby?”

Baby . Jungkook malfunctions for a second.

Yeah ,” he says, dipping in close to press his mouth to his ear before he growls, “Want you, Tae.”

There’s something that flickers by on Taehyung’s face, then, when Jungkook pulls back - amongst the quick blinks of his eyes and parted lips - but the younger is far too drunk to figure it out, so he doesn’t, and instead, Taehyung suggests that they get a little something more to drink, first. Jungkook accepts, of course, because there’s one thing a drunk person will never turn down, it’s alcohol; and before either of them really know it, Taehyung is dragging him back onto the dance floor, golden skin tinged with a cherry blush over it to smooth in with his clothes.

Taehyung catches his stare and grins, almost predatorily, as he leans in close enough for the other man to feel the heat of his breath against his ear.

“You can touch, you know.”

The words still manage to send a shiver down Jungkook’s spine and he obeys, of course, hands suddenly gliding down all that warm, soft skin Taehyung’s showing off as he steps closer to him, chest-to chest before he gives one slight roll of his hips, grinding up against Jungkook’s thigh, who only shoves it further between Taehyung’s legs, one hand leaving his back to smooth over the curve of his ass and, honestly, he relishes in the way Taehyung’s cool demeanour falters for a second, a sound small and breathy leaking out past his lips even if Jungkook can barely hear it.

They barely even pay attention to the pulse of the song, thinking up their own rhythm with each other, Taehyung’s fingers digging into the younger’s shoulders as they move slow and fast intermittently with each other. Jungkook’s mouth suddenly finds its way to Taehyung’s skin, licking and nipping across his jaw, down, down his neck to his collarbone, letting his teeth sink in just enough to make the elder’s hands cling tighter, his hips stutter for a moment as he moans low into his ear.

“A-ah- I want you, too.”

Jungkook loses his mind right then, heat erupting uncontrollably in his stomach as he whines breathily against the elder’s neck.

But, even through his drunken haze, something else - something soft and quiet - yearns in his chest as he’s holding him.

~

Jungkook wakes up to light glaring at him through his big fuckin’ windows and curses the day he let Hoseok talk him into buying this place.

God, his head is throbbing.

That is the last time he’s letting Hoseok talk him into going out- shit, fuck he has work, too. He doesn’t even remember it. It’s all just visual white noise.

As soon as he manages to open his eyes long enough without feeling like they’re going to melt right out of the sockets, Jungkook hauls himself out of bed, the morning’s sunlight at least feeling pleasant on his skin, in total contrast to everything else in his body.

He stiffly makes his way over to the closet, bones creaking with every movement until he stretches, releasing at least some of that tension. Then, he gets dressed with practically the first presentable thing he finds, a plain shirt and slacks, forgetting about a tie because this is not a day to be choked with a stiff collar and tie when he feels he’s 0.3 seconds away from vomiting and he hasn’t even eaten yet.

His stomach churns at the simple thought.

It’s weird, Jungkook thinks as he’s making his way out of the bedroom and towards the kitchen (best if he consumes something , at least.) It’s weird because he can’t remember anything that happened besides maybe a drink or two, and a dishevelled conversation with Namjoon about… limits and whatnot - yet, he feels… not like he’s dreading something… but like he’s regretting something.

But how can he regret something when he doesn’t even know what he’s regretting?

Jungkook ponders this the whole time he stumbles about the kitchen, sloppily putting something together for the rough twenty minutes he has before he needs to be in office. He can sleep through a fucking hurricane when he’s hungover - he’s lucky he woke up at all.

And, at some point, the noise he’s making as he’s crashing about with bowls and cupboards and blenders because he’s fairly certain the only thing he can keep down right now is a smoothie must be slightly too loud, because he hears a faint yawn sound across the living room, and looks over his shoulder as he’s pouring his concoction into a glass, to see one Kim Taehyung, sleepily scratching his tummy so his t-shirt rides up, until he pulls away and it drops back down to mid-thigh again. Blearily, he wanders over to the kitchen, leaning against the counter with squinting eyes and matted, messy hair sticking up in all angles. The sun peaks in through the kitchen windows to kiss his skin in long stripes, falling over his cheek and the hand on his face so effortlessly and delicate. He mutters a “ G’mornin’ ...” and Jungkook momentarily forgets what breathing is.

And then… last night all comes rushing back to him, the drinks, the dancing, the touching - all that skin and skin and… and he completely loses his grip on the glass, dropping it against the counter with a loud clang, but Taehyung’s reactions are quick enough to pick it back up before it all completely spills. He drags it over to himself with a gentle glide against the countertop, and licks his smoothie-covered finger clean, all the while smiling something so… breathtakingly beautiful and perfect at him.

“Clumsy first thing in the morning,” he notes cheekily, holding the drink in both hands as he takes a sip. He hums approvingly, sweetly musing, “Strawberry… banana and…?”

Jungkook realises this is his turn to actually… form words and he awkwardly tells him, “Blueberry… it’s blueberry.”

Taehyung gives him another tiny look over the glass, drinking again before nodding in acknowledgement, murmuring, “ Ahh , yeah, that’s it…”

They hold each other’s stares for a few seconds longer, until it becomes practically unbearable to Jungkook because Taehyung… he’s… and looking at him like that is...

“So, Tae,” He’s saying out of nowhere, awkwardly rambling, “about last night-,”

But he’s quick to cut him off with an amused, “Nothing happened, Jeon - don’t worry…” laughing against the rim of his glass while the other man stands dumbfounded.

Because how… did he know…

“I could pinpoint the exact moment your mind went ‘fuck,’ ” he laughs, has the actual audacity to laugh at him and it’s so gorgeous and fucking enrapturing; Jungkook hopes he doesn’t notice that, too.

Taehyung takes a last drink, setting it back on the counter and, well, there goes his breakfast - but he totally just let him, and he looks up at him through his eyelashes, funny little grin on his lips as he tells him, “Trust me, I’ve a good memory, even when shitfaced, apparently. We went home and went to bed - separately. No hook-ups, no vomiting, no bar-fights. I promise , Officer,” he jokes, holding his hands up in front of him and after he gets over the stomach flip at the man’s teasing, Jungkook feels so much tension leak out of him, shoulders relaxing into a normal position again.

That is, until Taehyung recalls, “You did call Hoseok a whiny, loveless, unfeeling bitch, though… and spill a very sugary pink cocktail down Namjoon’s nice white shirt. Twice. And I-,” he pauses, as if he’s affirming this information is definitely right before he says it.

“I think you told Namjoon to give Hoseok a good dicking, he needs it , too.”

Well, he can’t have everything go okay, can he?

~

Like with everything Jungkook-related as of late, Taehyung forces himself not to read too much into that night they danced together. Nor, does he read too much into Jungkook’s shy demeanour around him recently, such a striking contrast to when they’d first crossed paths two months ago now.

Two months… it’s felt like years, somehow to Taehyung.

That night he’d first heard Jungkook’s voice, watching the storm brewing through the stained glass. So much has happened since then.

Two months of chasing down androids and growing closer and seeing sides of him he never would’ve dreamed the man had in those first few days… it’s felt like a lifetime, really.

And now, today, Jungkook asks him something very simple for the way it makes Taehyung’s stomach clench.

“There’s a company dinner tonight with a few of the higher ups of the force. So, I was wondering… would you wanna come with me?”

Taehyung gawks at him from where the two are slouching on the couch.

“You want me to come with you?”

Jungkook breaks out into a sheepish smile, tugging on the silver earring flashing in his lobe nervously as he rushes to explain, “Well, yeah, it’s... My father’ll be there. I want to tell him that we completed all the cases tonight, but I thought you should come too. You… don’t have to I just-,”

Taehyung’s hand reaches out to stall the other man, a silent ‘stop worrying’ in his smile before he tells him, “Of course, I’ll come.”

Jungkook looks nothing short of relieved, breathing back into his slouch again, muttering, “That’s cool. Either way was fine…”

Taehyung snorts at him.

~

“Tae!” Jungkook calls down the corridor, restlessly sneaking a glance at his wrist watch (old fashioned technology, but still sophisticated,) “We’re gonna be late!”

“Yeah, yeah! Keep your panties on, Kook, I’m coming!”

Jungkook gives a haughty roll of his eyes, but even he can’t deny the stupid fond smile tugging at his lips.

Then, there’s the sound of a door opening and Taehyung appears at last, heeled-shoes clipping down the hall as he’s tugging on the sleeves of his blazer with a frustrated mutter of, “So impatient, I swear to god, I said I was coming.” And then, he looks up, gold-silver hair falling neatly into place and out again when he tilts his head at him, a comically oblivious expression on his face as he redundantly asks, “How do I look? Presentable enough for your father?”

How does he look... ? Christ.

Jungkook is used to seeing Taehyung either drowning in baggy sweatshirts and loose pants, or the occasional ( so ocasional) times the man has put on something tighter, showing off more skin.

This, though… tonight…

The way his jacket fits perfectly to his slim frame, slacks pinching just where his waist dips in, so when he sticks a hand in his pocket the curve of his body is almost entrancing. As he glances at him it’s with a breath of amusement twirling in his eyes, and Jungkook feels something loud and attention-seeking twinging in his chest.

He looks phenomenal.

“I’ll take your silence as a yes,” he quips, unpocketing his hand again as he walks past the younger, giving his arm a gentle brush, having the audacity to tell him, “Let’s go. We’ll be late.”

He can’t say he’s so surprised. The man’s always been audacious.

Jungkook remains frozen to the spot for a few seconds more,  just staring into stunned space, until Taehyung comes up behind him, linking their arms together and giving him a yank so his feet are forced to move to his step, too.

It’s funny, though. He never noticed how much footsteps sound like heartbeats.

~

When they get into the restaurant, they’re immediately greeted by a set of staff that clearly recognise Jungkook without need of an introduction, as they point them both over to the direction of the VIP area in the back. Jungkook thanks them, following in the direction, and glances back over his shoulder to see a curious Taehyung, obviously rather impressed by the grandeur of the place.

“Daddy splashed out, huh?” He notes coyly, an edge of wonder to the words as he catches back up with the younger man. Jungkook barely holds back his scoff.

Sure, the place is nice. Dark setting, candlelit, strict dress code. Velvet and silks draping everything that wouldn’t be unhygienic or a nuisance to do so. Forcibly polite waiters in stuffy uniforms. It’s got pretty much everything that you’d see in some movie or drama but expensive expensive?

Jungkook doubts it.

“Trust me, Tae - this is the bare minimum.”

Taehyung doesn’t even bother to stop himself from reacting to that, slapping Jungkook’s arm lightly and gushing, “This is bare minimum?” He shakes his head in disbelief for a second, eyeing around the place one more time before they go in, until he says, “Maybe I’m getting with the wrong Jeon…”

Jungkook’s heart flinches at that, but he smooths it over with a gentle tut, muttering, “Who said you’re getting with this Jeon?”

Taehyung just grins at him as they push open the door of the VIP area, immediately greeted with an excessively long dining table and a plethora of men and women seated at it, all talking passionately with each other until they hear the door swing open, then they fall a little quiet.

Taehyung shifts uncomfortably beside him, Jungkook catching, even from the corner of his eye, the way his posture stiffens under the room’s gaze.

The younger gives a brief scan of the attendants, not yet spotting his father, and exhales with quiet relief.

“Everyone,” he starts, hand falling to the small of Taehyung’s back to reassure him with a gentle smile, “this is Taehyung. He’s been helping me with cases lately.”

Suddenly, the room erupts into chatter again, all greeting them and discussing with each other, and Taehyung’s eyes widen ever so slightly at the amount of people nodding and waving to him, saying things like ‘It’s great to meet you, we’ve heard good things’ and ‘You make a lovely pair’ and, god forbid, ‘finally someone to keep that brat under control’ thanks Hoseok.

Taehyung’s probably about to correct them all with a ‘Oh no, it’s not like that’ but Jungkook doesn’t give him the chance, just to indulge his stupid little heart a bit longer, nudging Taehyung to move forward, hand still pressed to his back as he gestures towards the two seats near the farthest end of the table. Jungkook’s gracious enough to let Taehyung sit beside Hoseok and not his father.

Even though they are equally as hard to stand.

They sit down, and Jungkook leans over Taehyung to get Hoseok’s attention, dutifully absorbed in a conversation about something with Namjoon, so he looks around with a certain bitterness on his expression.

“Hyung isn’t here?”

Hoseok’s feature soften ever so slightly at that, and he gives a sympathetic shake of his head, telling him, “You know he couldn’t care less about these things. Even your father can’t make him attend, I guess.”

Jungkook knows that his face is moving into a frown, but it’s fine, he assures Hoseok before he does something stupid like apologise, he just thought it would’ve been nice to share his achievement with his brother.

It’s fine. Seokjin’s busy.

He’s always busy.

Jungkook looks ahead of himself so he doesn’t have to deal with the pitiful looks either side of him.

Eventually, the room is graced with the host’s presence, who comes in like a storm cloud on a relatively nice day - that is, completely killing the mood. Everyone falls silent again, and not a curious sort of silence like they had when Jungkook and Taehyung had come in. This is more of a, ‘ ah, not this bastard’ sort of silence.

Jungkook gives Taehyung a small jab with his elbow to cue him as everybody gets up, standing by their chairs until the man sits himself down at the end of the table like some glorified monarch, and everyone else follows suit.

He doesn’t actually speak for a while, just observing as everyone uncomfortably delves into their conversations again.

Jungkook takes a quick glance at him out of the corner of his eye, to see that the man’s already looking back at him, and he swallows thickly before growing the fuck up, it’s just his father, and lowly telling him, “Dad, this is Taehyung,” before he rushes to look at Taehyung instead, redundantly saying, “Taehyung, this is my father.”

Jungkook’s father glances at Taehyung with something entirely unreadable in it. Then, he gives a strange sort of grin that, maybe, on anyone else could work - but Jungkook knows anything like that on his father is just bad news.

“So, you’re the one that’s been helping our little prodigy with his duties, hm?”

Jungkook cringes at the nickname and half expects Taehyung to cower down at his condescension like everyone else does. But he forgets this is Taehyung, so, no… of course he doesn’t do that.

Taehyung smiles widely, nodding with enthusiasm when he confirms, “I sure have! He’s been doing pretty much all the work, though. I just organise things.”

It’s a lie, they both know it. Hell, even his father probably knows it. But Jungkook still feels a certain amount of warmth spread in his chest when Taehyung looks back at him with a sly glint in his eyes.

Hey, maybe this dinner won’t go so badly, after all.

They order their food, and after their starters, Jungkook decides to get the announcement over with. The longer he leaves it, the less hungry he feels. There’s a weird mix of excitement and dread coiling in his stomach, and he doesn’t know which one is more justified.

So, he mutters his request to his father, who gives him a short nod, and then, Jungkook stands up, calling for everybody’s attention, who abide to him quickly, gazing at him with piqued interest.

“I’d just like to say that, over the past two months, I - with the help of Taehyung,” he gestures down to the man sitting by his side, who flashes a quick smile of acknowledgement to the room, before looking back up curiously at Jungkook, “have been working on a sort of a challenge from my father which was to locate and reprimand all the androids and defects referenced in the files he’d given me. I can now confirm that, after two months, we have successfully completed all fifty cases.”

There’s a murmur of approval that rushes across the room, before his colleagues and seniors put their hands together, giving them both a celebratory round of applause that Jungkook beams at. He looks over to his father, waiting for that flicker of anything to let him know he’s impressed, but, somehow, the smile on his father’s face instead makes his blood run slightly cold.

“Fifty cases?” he asks, a weird sort of smugness to the words that make the room quieten down again. Jungkook’s head tilts subconsciously at it. He takes a confused glance around the room, as if he’s missed something, but everyone stares back at him equally as dumbfounded.

“Yeah…” he says, glancing back towards his father, “The… the fifty you gave me, remember?”

Very, very slowly his father begins to laugh. It’s a light tinker at first, nothing more than a chuckle, but soon it becomes something loud and humiliating. Patronising. Jungkook feels heat prickle at his skin as his father wipes his eyes.

Then, he gazes at him with such intensity, he can barely stand to keep the stare. But he knows his father gets a stupid high when his intimidation works, so he doesn’t look away. Even when the manifestation of his smugness is out in the open.

“Didn’t you get the email concerning the rest of them?”

Not a single sound in the room is heard.

Jungkook stands, suddenly very awkward, in front of all these people, at a complete loss for words.

“What… what email?” he finally manages at last, trying to argue, “I… you… you didn’t tell me about the rest of them,” but the man doesn’t seem to want to hear it, giving him a sullen shake of his head and assuring him, “I didn’t give you a number at all.”

And he’s… right, but he also didn’t tell him there were more… why would he send more after?

“If you only did fifty,” the man tells him flatly, “then I can’t give you any more responsibility.”

Jungkook’s stomach drops.

He can’t just do that.

“But… that’s not my fault!” Jungkook snaps - probably unwisely, judging by the crease that forms in his father’s brow - “I didn’t get an email. And you never told me.”

“Then you at least should’ve had the incentive to check with me. I can’t chase after you all day.”

He didn’t know. How the fuck was he supposed to know?

“Why didn’t you send me them all at once?” Jungkook grits, tone increasingly getting more irritated as his father sits there so calm and fucking royally.

“Because more cropped up,” he says, as if it’s as simple as that. But Jungkook’s not an idiot.

“You’re not getting the job, Jungkook. Stop arguing.”

He did this on purpose. He was never letting him off patrol, was he?

Fuck. Hoseok was fucking right .

Jungkook doesn’t say anything for a moment, head dipping to the floor as he runs a frustrated hand through his air, bitterly muttering, “ God , I should’ve… I should’ve known you were never going to actually let me help. You always go back on your word.” He looks up at him, stare sharp enough to make anyone else flinch, but his father barely even seems to acknowledge it.

“You’re never honest,” he says, voice raising beyond his control as he tells him, “You’re… you’re so -,”

“Jungkook, please, we’re in public. Behave yourself,” his father has the fucking gall to say so sweetly. This… sad attempt at a parental smile on his face. Jungkook wants to be sick.

No wonder Seokjin never comes to these things. He can pretend he has no problem with their father all he likes - nobody can love this monster.

“Don’t embarrass me in front of all my employees.”

And that brings Jungkook back into reality, suddenly he remembers where he is - having half a breakdown in front of every important member of the force.

“I…” he manages, meeting each and every eye with the same look of discomfort and trepidation reflecting back at him. He glances at Taehyung, whose mouth is slanted open, staring up at him as if he can’t believe what just happened.

Jungkook shoves his chair back and stalks out of the room, letting the door smack shut behind him as he retreats down the corridor, heading back for the main restaurant. He gets about as far as the door until he hears a call of, “Jungkook!” followed by clipping shoes and another, “ Jungkook , wait up!”

He stops right in his tracks, of course he does. Comes right to a halt, muscles so tensed up he feels as if he’s about to burst but it’s all he can do to stop himself from erupting.

“I’m sorry, Tae,” he says before the man’s even facing him again, “I’m… shit, I wasted so much of our time.” Taehyung appears in his field of vision just as he says, “I really thought-,”

“Hey, listen…” he interrupts, holding onto his biceps, thumbs gently smoothing into them to soothe him as he mumbles, “it’s okay…” with such a quiet, fond smile that Jungkook instantly wants to believe him.

He’s feeling so damn much right now. Hatred and disgust and rage at his father and then… then Taehyung. What he feels for Taehyung...

“We still got all those androids help, right?” the man reminds him, voice sweet and reassuring and Jungkook wishes he could just wrap himself up in the feeling, “Your dad’s a fool if he doesn’t want to let us help.”

Jungkook shakes his head at that, teeth grinding together to stop himself from letting go too much.

“He’s a liar… and a bastard,” he tells him, no doubt or remorse in the words whatsoever, but, then, he picks his vision up from the floor to look back at Taehyung, assuring him, “but he’s not a fool. He knows exactly what he’s doing.”

And that’s the scary part.

“I just don’t know why he doesn’t want us to help…”

And there’s a few moments, between them, where they just look. They just look at each other, they don’t say anything. Jungkook tries to memorise every shade and glimmer in Taehyung’s eyes, because he just knows that he’ll get lost in them someday if he doesn’t know them perfectly, and Taehyung’s lips twitch up, affectionately when he might notice.

Then, the elder pulls him into a hug, arms wrapping around his waist and squeezing tight while Jungkook rushes to get his own around his neck, hugging him as if it’s the only solution right now. And, somehow, it feels like it is.

In his ear, Taehyung very delicately promises, “It doesn’t matter. We can help on our own, yeah?”

Jungkook nods into the man’s shoulder, smiling against the fabric there. Doesn’t bother pulling back to show him, he knows that he knows.

 

~

 

Taehyung’s leaning back in his preferred hair in the preferred study. It creaks with the slightest movement for whatever reason but it’s inhumanly comfy, so he makes do. Plus, it’s kind of fun to annoy Jungkook with it sometimes.

The apartment phone’s pressed to his ear, listening to Jungkook go about his route with one foot resting on the table since the man’s not here to tell him not to do so, as he asks him if he’s close, yet.

“Yeah, I’m just passing through Falcon Road now,” Jungkook replies, “but no sign of our guys, yet.”

Huh, that’s unfortunate. Jungkook isn’t very confident for their endeavour tonight - but Taehyung had a feeling , so he kept going anyway.

“How much time’s left of your shift?”

There’s a brief pause where he’s obviously checking before he replies, “Twenty minutes. I still don’t think we’re gonna find them tonight, Tae. You sure the files say Falcon ?”

Taehyung scans the file in front of him, humming over-exaggeratedly before he chirpily replies, “Yep, I can still read. Good.”

And while most would probably groan, Jungkook just chuckles, telling him, “We can try again tomorrow.”

And by ‘we’ he means he .

Taehyung gives a long, melodramatic sigh before saying, “I wish I could come with you.”

“Me too, partner-in-crime, but that’s still illegal.”

“Let me know when that’s been changed.”

The younger scoffs, saying, “Will do. But hey-” His voice trails off, and Taehyung feels something cold running through him all of a sudden. Has he found their targets?

“Jungkook?”

“Sorry,” he says a moment later, sounding a little confused himself. “Saw something down one of the side streets. It’s probably just a racoon or something, but if I don’t check it out dad’ll probably demote me to clean-up duties. Like, office clean-up.”

Taehyung snorts softly, not even thinking the man’s joking with how his father is.

“Okay, go check.”

“Checking,” Jungkook chimes back, and he can hear him close the car door, hear his feet crunch against the gravel.

“Find anything?” Taehyung asks after a moment, but Jungkook makes a noise of disagreement, telling him, “No… which is weird. I’m certain I-,” a loud crash cuts him off, followed by so much crackling, Taehyung has to take the phone away from his ear, wincing as he calls, “ Jungkook ?”

In this distance, between the static, Taehyung can make out a pained groan.

Then the line goes dead.

“What the fuck? What the fuck?

He needs to get there. Now.

Taehyung’s up out of his seat faster than he’s ever been in his life, and before he can even comprehend anything he’s doing farther than ‘ I need to find him’ he’s long out of the study, rushing down the corridor of the apartment and out the door. He skips the elevator, of course, because adrenaline, and ends up skipping half of them, even full-speed going down, tumbling to a messy halt when he remembers he has to open the door out of the building too, before he crashes into it.

They don’t have any sort of transportation besides Jungkook’s patrol car - which is obviously with him - so Taehyung takes off down the streets, hoping he’s even going the right way to Falcon Road. He’s gotten to know the city pretty well with all their investigations over the last two months, but, even then, he’s not one hundred percent sure. He remembers Jungkook mentioning some of the surrounding area and street names, though, so he just hopes he’s right.

He probably looks insane to some of the passers-by, pillowing down the sidewalk at a monstrous speed, not even bothering to look when he crosses any roads because he’s pretty sure he’s going fast enough to not get hit. The wind fights against his clothes, housing in his jacket and sticking back his hair but Taehyung forgets to have any sort of resistance towards it, in this state. His chest is heaving, but he knows it has nothing to do with how much energy he’s exerting.

This is pure fear.

Taehyung makes a right, cutting right across a row of traffic because, even on a Tuesday night, the streets are still fairly busy with people enjoying the last few hours of an approaching summer’s sunlight each evening, so horns and tires screech and cry at him when he does, but Taehyung can barely even hear them over the blood pumping in his veins.

The only thing going through his mind is please be okay, please be okay, please be okay, like he can’t even begin to think of anything else, and as he starts to approach the places Jungkook had mentioned earlier, he feels simultaneous panic and hope rise in his stomach two feelings so human and real that they should seem entirely foreign - but he doesn’t even blink anymore. His human syndrome has reached an all time high, incurable at this point, and it’s entirely down to one Jeon Jungkook.

So, you have to be okay, you hear me?

Taehyung rounds a corner, seeing the nearest wall tell him he’s finally on the road he’s looking for, and he suddenly feels at a loss of direction, having no idea what ‘side street’ Jungkook could possibly be on, if he’s still even there.

Until he hears it.

A stomach-churning growl of pain.

Taehyung takes off again, following the sound like a fucking beacon until he catches sight of the little break in the line of buildings, a lovely little deserted side street.

He almost crashes into the wall when he turns into it, steadying himself with his elbow smacking against the brick, but the pain blooming in it is nothing compared to what he sees.

Jungkook, writhing on the ground in pain, blood dripping from somewhere, skin flushed with beatings and grazed, surrounded by three, no,  four people… - wait… androids?

Defects.

Hey!” Taehyung practically explodes, thundering down the street towards them, with a volcanic rage, “You get the fuck away from him, now !”

The defects all look up at him, and somehow… none of them seem surprised to see him. As if he was right on time.

Taehyung dreads to think what that could mean, but he doesn’t even have time to now. He shoves the one closest to Jungkook right over, an unbelievable strength taking over him as the defect falls straight to the ground, skidding along the pavement even, as Taehyung charges at the next.

But this ones quicker, she throws her arm up to block when Taehyung swings for her, skipping back whilst another attempts to attack him from behind. But Taehyung swipes his foot out, kicking it between the other’s legs with enough force that they fall right over, then, he makes a kick for the girl from before too, catching her right in the stomach and she doubles over with a wheeze.

As for the last one, Taehyung turns around to see him standing entirely calmly, irritatingly so, as he stares him down.

“So, you’re the one they’ve been trying so hard to get back?” he asks him, a teasing edge of amusement to his voice that makes Taehyung’s blood boil. Anything could make Taehyung’s blood boil at this point but that especially.

“I can see why. You’re strong, agile… more in control of your emotions than us but- well, maybe there’s one thing to set you off, right?”

He looks down at the man laying still on the floor, chest heaving, eyelids fluttering. Taehyung’s heart both sinks and ignites.

Don’t drag him into this,” he growls, taking an involuntary step forward towards the defect, “I promise I’ll kill you if you hurt him again.”

But the android seems less intimidated, more intrigued, smiling to himself something sinister as he gauges Taehyung’s demeanour.

“This is interesting. They’re gonna love this. You feel so intensely for him, don’t you?” There’s a lull, Taehyung can feel the anger cease in his face for just a second, stomach twisting at the words and the defect laughs at him then, again, so mocking as he says, “Aw, you don’t even know… it’s written all over your face.”

“Shut the hell up, you don’t know what you’re talking about,” Taehyung insists, though, he doesn’t know really either, and the asshole can tell, giving him a playful little scrunch of his nose in something almost anticipative, before he’s telling him, “They’ll be so excited to exploit that. See what happens when something like you feel threatened, something so, so much more complex than me,” he chimes mockingly, obviously having heard it all before.

“Threatening me is boring,” he laments, dismissively telling him, “I can’t feel that. But threatening you… maybe they’ll finally get the energy they’re looking for. I saw a glimpse of it just now, didn’t I?”

Taehyung glares at him. He doesn’t want to give him an answer. He doesn’t know what he means.

“What energy?” he snaps, venomously enough for that spark of intrigue to flare up in the other’s eye again, “What do they need energy for?”

The defect just chuckles, completely ignoring Taehyung’s question as he muses, “But the real way to get a reaction isn’t by threatening to hurt you, is it? It’s even more complex than that.”

Taehyung scoffs. Petty asshole.

“Threaten you ?” he ponders, faking a pensiveness as he decides, “Defiance, maybe a spike in heart rate if we’re lucky… but…” Taehyung feels a chill run through him, already knowing what’s next before he even says it.

“Threaten him…

“You bastard, I’ll-,”

“Go ahead and kill me. It’s all recorded, anyway. They’ve heard every word we’ve said.” He gestures to the blinking red light on his arm and Taehyung curses under his breath. Of fucking course. Acquiesce and their goddamn tricks.

Then the defect says something else to piss Taehyung off, asking him, “If you kill me for just threatening to hurt him worse, what do you think they’ll do to see what you’d do if they really hurt him?”

Taehyung doesn’t reply, stare sharp and glowering. If he says too much Jungkook might put two and two together and he can’t have that. Besides, the defect’s right. The more of a scene Taehyung makes, the more they’ll push him - but it’s so hard to control. He’s never felt this sense of losing himself before. He never knew how badly attached he was.

“Fine,” Taehyung spits, backing away from the defect and turning instead to the man still heaving on the ground. He gets to his knees, quickly assessing the damage and nothing looks broken or punctured so Taehyung doesn’t hesitate to haul him into his arms, easily rising to his feet again with the strength pumping through his body. Jungkook hums some intelligible, but Taehyung quietly shushes him, all the while side-eyeing the defect to make sure he doesn’t go back on their unspoken agreement.

You let me leave, I let you live. But it’s so much more complicated than that. Taehyung isn’t an idiot, he knows the defect is benefiting twice over from this. He lets him live, but he’s also shown him his singular weakness. He lets the defect live but Taehyung’s risking himself for it.

Risking Jungkook.

“Tell your creators I’ll be ready for them.”

The defect laughs, coldly, enough to make Taehyung shiver any other time.

“You can’t be ready. We’ll always be one step ahead.”

Taehyung refuses to think that he’s right…

But, is he?

~

Jungkook properly comes to less than thirty minutes later, after Taehyung’s gotten him back into the apartment, settled in his bed. He sits on the edge of it, regarding the man with a twinge of guilt.

He’s dragged him so fucking deeply into this. Who knows what those assholes will try to do to him?

But Jungkook doesn’t look mad at him, or even that confused. Just quiet.

And he stays quiet, he doesn’t say anything for what feels like hours, but Taehyung knows it’s probably only been a couple of minutes.

“Those people,” he starts, and Taehyung finds himself holding his breath for what he’ll say about them, but what he does say is not at all what he was expecting.

“They murdered my mom.”

Taehyung suddenly feels another roll of hatred for them piling up, fists clenching the bed sheets bitterly, but Jungkook still doesn’t seem angry. Jungkook doesn’t seem anything right now. It’s so eerie to see him without any emotion, for someone so damn emotional.

“Jungkook, I-,”

“Let me… explain,” he says quietly and, immediately, the elder shuts up, listening attentively, no matter how long it takes him.

“She was investigating like we were,” he starts off softly, “Head of the emergency unit, yeah, but in her spare time she’d find malfunctioning androids and take them to safe centres to get fixed. That’s why I was so vehement about wanting to do the same,” he confesses, and Taehyung is vaguely surprised by that. He had no idea Jungkook’s mother felt that way when her husband so strongly didn’t.

“One day, she was tracking down a few that were known to be a little more than just defected or violent. They were dangerous,” he tells him, “ really dangerous. Her radio was broken so she couldn’t contact anyone for backup - she couldn’t even-,” he cuts himself off all of a sudden, letting out a slow breath as he obviously tries to push back his emotions before they get out of control.

“The people that investigated her death think she didn’t mean to run into them, she just did, because she didn’t tell anyone she was planning to actually capture them, just investigate.” His eyes wander away from Taehyung for a moment - perhaps in thought, perhaps as another attempt of restraining himself - before they flicker back, and he concludes, “Either way, she wasn’t prepared. They ambushed her. Beat her, hurt her so bad it was…” He takes a shaky breath and Taehyung’s hand reaches out to meet on top of his on its own. There’s a ghost of a smile on his lips for a second.

“It took them a while to figure out who it actually was. They…” his voice wavers slightly, trying to explain it and Taehyung’s chest aches at the man’s attempt. “They put two and two together. Missing officer, around that part of town, the files in her car… it…” he feels the Jungkook’s hand tense up into a fist underneath his own, before he mutters, “it was really hard on everyone involved.”

“Jungkook, I’m so sorry…” Taehyung says, utterly heartbroken to hear this coming from his mouth. Jungkook always seemed so… stoic and put together. Even as Taehyung’s seen his softer side over the last month or so, he’s seemed sure of himself. A little shy here and there but this…

God, this is a side he never knew he had.

The man gives a shake of his head, tears welling in his eyes but he doesn’t react to them, just stares off somewhere distant behind Taehyung, before continuing.

“Whenever they got me… I just thought this is it, you know? I thought I was gonna die, just like my mother. Exactly like my mother. I was so scared I couldn’t even fight back. Then I found out they were androids from the same company and I… I just couldn’t do anything.” He looks at Taehyung then, something grateful and overwhelmingly intense blooming amongst the wetness in his eyes.

“But you saved me.”

Taehyung almost feels like crying then, too. Some damn hero he is. Saving him for now, maybe. But what about later? Can they keep saving each other like this? Surely, their luck has to run out sometime.

Taehyung holds Jungkook’s hand tightly in his now, interlacing their fingers together. He brings the back of his hand up to his lips, pressing a soft kiss to it, before bringing it back down.

“No matter what, I’ll always save you, Kook.”

Jungkook manages to smile properly at him, somehow.

“I’ll always save you too, Tae.”

Taehyung reaches out to wipe away a single tear falling down Jungkook’s cheek and, really, he wants to kiss them away. Every last one. He can’t stand seeing the man like this, it’s eating at him. Guilt and guilt and guilt until he just knows he has to tell him.

“That organisation - Acquiesce -” he names, catching Jungkook’s attention immediately, eyebrow creasing in confusion, “they’re the ones that are after me, too. The reason they came after you is because of me.”

Jungkook stares. Taehyung can practically see the questions flooding through his mind. But he settles on, “Why would they come after me, because of you?”

Taehyung cringes internally.

It’s on the tip of his tongue why. Everybody else knows why. His own damn enemies can see it. But Taehyung’s mind won’t form the words. He shakes his head.

“They know you’re important to me. They want me to suffer.”

It’s a cop-out, but it’s enough to get the point across, because Jungkook asks something else now instead.

“Why are they after you? What was it you stole?”

For one crazy, fucking insane moment, Taehyung almost comes clean. His heart’s beating so hard he thinks it’ll stop any minute, but the words stick in his throat.

He can’t lose Jungkook like that, too. Taehyung has to make sure the man still trusts him to protect him.

“Software,” he answers instead, “Dangerous software.” That’s essentially what he is to them, isn’t it? Just an experiment that’s gone way farther than they wanted it to.

Jungkook doesn’t understand. Taehyung knows by the look in his eye, the flickering moment of ‘Why are you still keeping it when so much is at stake?’ but he shrugs it off, somehow. Somehow, Jungkook trusts him enough to not even question it out loud and that gets him.

The man gives an accepting nod, eyes still glistening and Taehyung moves towards him without any second thought.

When he hugs Jungkook this time, he never wants to let go ever again.

~

Things go relatively back to normal after that. As normal as they can with the threat of what the defect said looming over both of their heads. It was only fair that Taehyung told him what he said, since Jungkook was only half conscious for it, and the man was grateful for his honesty, since it meant neither of them had to worry alone.

Now, Taehyung’s trying his hardest to keep their own little morale up, bounding into the living room with a loud announcement of, “Food’s here! What movie did you pick?” where Jungkook’s still scrolling through the menu on the ungodly size of his TV screen. It’s times like this Taehyung’s glad for whoever invented hologram TVs because fuck, the man would need a whole cinema for that thing.

“I don’t know. What was that old animation company you said you liked? Studio Gu…”

“Ghibli! They’re super vintage. Like, 2000s, but I promise you their films are timeless.”

Jungkook trusts him on that, gesturing to the plates he’d already put out for the food while Taehyung had skipped downstairs to the front of the building to get their delivery.

Jungkook had almost fought to go with him, the sap.

Now, though, Taehyung’s probably the sap, because he is the one wriggling up to the younger man the further the movie goes on, and the closer it gets to the climax of the film. He’s never gotten through Grave of Fireflies without crying and he feels like he might not today either.

At some point, Jungkook takes both of their plates out of the way, throwing an arm around Taehyung to let him snuggle in closer and it’s weird how natural it feels.

Actually, lately, everything with Jungkook has felt natural. Taehyung hasn’t felt that awful twisting in his stomach for a while now, and he isn’t really sure why - but he’s hardly going to complain. It’s just strange how he never feels like he’s teetering a weird line with Jungkook now.

So, yes, he huddles in closer to him, head resting on his chest as the man plays absentmindedly with the other’s fingers, now free from any plates or cutlery and he can’t help but feel like that was his angle all along.

Taehyung does cry, of course, as expected - but it’s okay, because Jungkook does too and by the end of the credits they’re both blubbering together in half-darkness, the smell of fast food clogging up the room unpleasantly enough for Jungkook to suggest that, on the way for tissues, they clean up, too.

Taehyung doesn’t really want to move, to be entirely honest. He’s quite cosy like this, tucked up in the man’s side, but Jungkook promises him that if they clean up now, they can go right back to where they were after.

So, they get up, Jungkook carrying the plates into the kitchen, while Taehyung switches a few lights on lest they trip over something. He’s about to switch the light by the sofa on, but then he remembers that he broke it a few months ago, and curses them that they still haven’t gotten a new one.

Then, Taehyung takes in the rest of the packaging, hovering behind Jungkook as he scrapes their food into the garbage can, ready to throw the rest ou-

Wait. That’s a lot of food he is throwing out right there.

“Jungkook…” he says warily, and the man jumps right out of his skin, turning around with a plate half full, still, even though he’d scraped so much off.

“Did you not like it?” He asks, eyeing the lump of noodles and beef and garlic mushrooms piling in the trash can suspiciously, before he glances back at the man in question who scrunches his nose at him.

Scrunching of the nose… oh dear god.

“You don’t like mushrooms, do you?”

Jungkook looks honestly completely dazed that Taehyung even figured that out, but of course he did- it was obvious!

“Why did you let me order something with mushrooms in it if you don’t like mushrooms?” he asks exasperatedly, looking on with remorse at the wasted food, and its hungry and guilty owner.

Jungkook’s stature deflates a little, clearly embarrassed to admit it when he mutters, “You said it was your favourite. I wanted you to be happy.”

Taehyung’s heart soars.

That’s the most precious fucking thing he’s ever heard what the fuck.

“Jungkook, I’m-,”

“Please don’t tell me something cheesy like you’re always happy with me, regardless.”

He… totally wasn’t going to say that.

Okay, he was going to say that.

“Why not?!” he snaps, throwing his hands onto his hips in retaliation.

Because, ” the younger man snaps back, “it’s midnight! I can’t handle that.”

Taehyung sighs, lips puckering into a thoughtful pout before he muses, “Well, what are we going to do now? I can’t have you going hungry.”

But, seems like Jungkook is a hypocrite because he clutches his heart all of a sudden, melodramatically telling him, “My stomach is full just watching you eat, hyung.”

And Taehyung laughs, of course. Laughs because the man’s an idiot. More of a boy than a man, really, and he looks so wonderful right now as he throws his head back and giggles loudly, teeth fully on display, nose crinkling as he laughs in that melodious way Taehyung’s come to know so well.

But it’s when he stops, when the amusement is just simmering in his features and he looks back at Taehyung with that same intensity that’s been brewing between them lately, but Taehyung can’t bring himself to be wary of it anymore. It suits him so well, with his perfect fucking face that Taehyung’s become utterly captivated by.

It’s that moment of intensity that makes him stop. Makes his heart stop for that moment. He takes in a breath, kitchen lights gleaming perfectly down on him like some sort of star or angel. It’s that moment that Taehyung realises everything.

And he actually flinches. It’s funny. How that’s his reaction to all of this. Jungkook notices of course, amusement wiping off his face completely as he instantly looks nothing but concerned.

“Tae? Are you alright? What’s wrong?”

What’s wrong, what’s wrong, what’s wrong? Taehyung doesn’t need to ask himself that anymore, the words are already slipping off of his tongue like water or lava or anything at all really - it doesn’t matter. What matters is this.

“Jungkook, I…” Taehyung takes a moment to try and think how to even begin to say it. There’s so much he wants to say and yet none of the words come to mind now that he needs them. He’s utterly lost besides for a few - as if they’re the only ones left in his vocabulary.  In the end he decides there isn’t a better way to say it anyway.

“I think I’m in love with you.”

There’s a few seconds… where everything seems like it is crashing down.

Jungkook’s face is what can only be described as horrified, and the silence is excruciating, so Taehyung tries to play off what he just said as some… midnight mishap as if everyone confesses their love to their pals at 12 AM. Happens all the time.

“Shit, I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said that,” he says awkwardly, because Jungkook still hasn’t shown any other emotion besides utter disbelief, “Actually, forget I even did! Just forget I-,”

Taehyung finds out, around about here, that Jungkook does not want to forget it.

He knows this, because, all of a sudden, Jungkook’s lips are on his.

Is it weird that this feels natural too? Taehyung feels the warm, gentle touch of his lips against his, the way Jungkook’s hands go to hold his face, like he’s scared he’ll disappear if he lets go or opens his eyes. It feels natural - he smells natural, tastes natural. Sweet in every way he can be, pressing careful little kisses to Taehyung’s mouth until neither of them can stand the delicacy anymore.

Jungkook pulls back, but just for a second. Just long enough to get Taehyung looking at him. Just long enough to tell him, “I love you too, Tae,” before they’re colliding together.

Lips and hands and heat just… exploding.

This is not gentle or delicate, this is ‘look how much time we’ve wasted’ and ‘how much do we have left?’ This is a ‘I don’t know what’ll happen from here on out’ but a ‘I know I want to spend it with you.’

This is everything bottled up, set free in the way their lips glide and smooth over each other’s. The way Jungkook’s hands slide low, low, low to settle on Taehyung’s waist, pulling him closer but it’s still not enough. Taehyung pushes them both back until Jungkook’s hips hit the counter and he doesn’t even have to say it before Jungkook’s hopping up onto it, not even bothering to disconnect as he’s wrapping his legs around Taehyung’s waist now instead, letting him step into his space.

Taehyung runs his hands all the way down Jungkook’s hips to his thighs. He grips them, fingers kneading as they wander to the inner parts of his thighs and he grins against his mouth when he hears the man moan softly, a miniscule shiver taking over his body that makes him pull Taehyung that much closer.

Jungkook licks Taehyung’s bottom lip, letting his teeth run over it so carefully it’s barely even there, and Taehyung grants him permission, parting his lips so the man can lick into his mouth, fervently as his own hands start to climb upwards, wandering underneath the soft cotton of Jungkook’s t-shirt.

Jungkook holds Taehyung’s face again, but this time it’s less about making sure he doesn’t disappear and more about making sure he keeps still with the force they’re kissing with. Taehyung breaks off when they both need to breathe, already trailing his kisses down the man’s neck, whose hands fly to grip the material of the elder’s shirt, trying to keep himself quiet with each nip and lick and kiss to his skin as if it’s electric.

“T- Tae -,” Jungkook whines, but Taehyung doesn’t even need to ask him what he wants, mumbling, “I know, baby, I know,” against his neck before he’s doing what he wants, picking him right off the counter so his arms wrap around him too, and crossing the kitchen, to get to the biggest sofa of the three. He lays Jungkook down softly, and for a second, he takes his breath away, lying there like that with his lips swollen and pupils blown; how he looks up at him so expectantly and enticing. Taehyung climbs on top of him, not wasting another second before they’re kissing again.

He readjusts ever so slightly, moving Jungkook’s legs to either side of him who gives another subdued moan at the gesture. Taehyung decides that they can’t have that anymore and he presses his lips to his baby’s ear, and softly whispers, “I wanna hear you, Kookie. Don’t hold back.”

He doesn’t after that. Taehyung runs his fingers in a light figure of eight on the inside of the man’s thigh and he’s louder this time, shuddering at the contact as he grabs at air, obviously trying to find Taehyung with his eyes closed. But Taehyung knows what he wants, of course, and he crashes their lips together again, the younger’s hips weakly twitching at nothing from the contact.

He’s so sensitive, Taehyung wants to never stop touching him.

They’re both turned on at this point - no surprise - so, Taehyung’s free hand begins to trail up Jungkook’s thighs, tracing slow little circles until he reaches his crotch, palm already moving to press against the warmth brewing there. Jungkook lets out a whine so needy that Taehyung can’t help the way he chases it with his own moan, pouring deeply into the younger’s mouth whose hands feed into his hair, one settled on his neck to pull him down closer.

That is until… something very peculiar happens.

There’s a quiet rumbling between the wet sounds of their kisses and clothes rubbing against clothes. Taehyung breaks away from Jungkook with a small pop, sitting back on his knees to look down curiously at the man’s stomach, from which the noise had so rudely interrupted.

Jungkook huffs a little and Taehyung silently agrees, giving the man a playfully despondent glance as he tells him, “I told you you should’ve said you didn’t like mushrooms.”

Jungkook laughs brightly, sitting up a little on his elbows, looking somewhat ridiculous with the way his legs are spread like that, but Taehyung is thinking of one hunger and one hunger only right now and that is the literal food hunger of Jeon Jungkook.

The love of his life, you know.

“I don’t have condoms anyway,” Jungkook says belatedly. Taehyung gasps, pretending to feel cheated as he says, “And you were gonna tell me when?

Jungkook giggles, deviously, running a hand along Taehyung’s chest with fluttering, teasing fingers-

Until his stomach growls again. Then, he flops back onto the couch, grumbling that he’s hungry as if he wasn’t the one that brought that on himself by being cute .

“We should go get some,” Taehyung says, wriggling his eyebrows at him which Jungkook laughs at, covering his face sheepishly with his hands as the elder adds, “ And stop for pizza on the way.”

Taehyung leans over him, taking Jungkook’s hands away from his face and holding them gently in place against the cushions to kiss his cheek, then his nose, then his forehead, all the while the younger laughs grinning at him adoringly.

“No mushrooms this time.”

Taehyung promises to agree.

~

Things feel a lot easier from then on. It might sound cheesy (it totally is) but, now that they have each other - like, really have each other - they’re not as scared of what could happen anymore.

Jungkook gets used to using patrol as an excuse to clean up their investigations again, but Taehyung makes sure he knows where he is at all times, just in case. The younger assures him that he was just caught off guard that one time, that he won’t let it happen again and Taehyung certainly doesn’t doubt that he could beat off four defects on his own.

They just don’t know if it will be four defects. It could be ten defects. It could be armed defects. It could be no defects at all, just your average sneaky fuckers of Acquiesce: Android Development and Professional Bullshit Spouter.

But things go okay, actually. Jungkook stays safe, and Taehyung stays sane. They go through most of the Studio Ghibli collection in a few weeks, and never has there been another mushroom in their apartment since.

Oh, right, yes. Their apartment. It’s not an official thing but… Jungkook hasn’t asked him to move out ever since they ‘finished’ their investigations so he’s taking it as a good sign.

Taehyung talks to Jimin and Yoongi as much as he can over the phone, but with everything that’s going on lately, he can’t risk them being seen with him and Jungkook anymore. Not after the very reason he left Jimin’s apartment in the first place was to keep them safe.

Of course, Taehyung misses them both immensely (yes, even Yoongi) but he just hopes that once he has burned Acquiesce to the metaphorical ground and metaphorically ground its ashes underneath his metaphorical grinding heel, then he can go hang out with them again in peace.

Hopefully they’ll be gracious enough to spare the lecture.


Jungkook’s been tired lately after work, no surprise, so most nights all he wants to do when he comes home is eat and watch a movie, and if one of them ends up in the other’s lap and they lazily make out for a while then that’s a bonus, but it’s gotten to the point that all Taehyung wants to do is wrap Jungkook up in blankets and let him sleep for a week.

And, honestly, tonight, as Jungkook comes home, completely exhausted, barely even able to take off his shoes nevermind put down his bag, Taehyung’s had enough of seeing his baby like this. He takes his bag off his shoulder before Jungkook can even acknowledge he’s there and the man looks up, a tired sort of thankfulness in his eyes as he leans to press a kiss on his cheek, muttering, “Thank you, baby.”

Taehyung ruffles his hair, smile not quite meeting his eyes either before he tells him, “Go pick out a movie, Kookie, I’ll pack all your things away.”

Jungkook tries to refuse, already muttering, “You don’t have to do that-,”

“But I want to,” Taehyung insists, pressing a kiss to the tip of his nose, the other boy’s mouth twitching upwards at it.

“Fine, but if you need any help let me know.”

Taehyung shakes his head, but doesn’t argue with him because it’ll never end they’re both too sweet on each other and he takes Jungkook’s bag to one of the spare studies where he usually keeps all of his police things. He bumps the door open with his hip, setting the bag down on the table and starts unloading everything in it.

He rarely actually uses any of the things on patrol but still he insists on bringing them everyday and then keeping them safely stored again, just in case.

Taehyung pushes up the sleeves of his robe a little before takes out a collection of boxes, all of them containing things like tranquillisers, first aid and extra ammo if he ever needs to use any of his weapons and he sets them all on the table until the bag is void of the last boxes. Then, he sticks his hand back in, making sure there’s nothing le-

“Ow, fuck, ” he swears, immediately pulling his hand out again after there’s a sharp stab in one of his fingers. The tip of his index is oozing our blood and Taehyung let’s out a disbelieving chuckle, cursing his carelessness as he pops the bleeding appendage in his mouth, sucking on the blood while he carefully this time , reaches back into the bag to pull out whatever the hell pricked him.

When he removes his hand from the bag, he sees a weird looking vial sort of device, with a short needle at the end of it. In between them is a small digital screen, currently with a loading bar going up on it. He eyes the small drop of his blood that’s collected in the glass curiously, as if he’s watching some sort of chemistry demonstration.

Then, the device starts beeping. Loud. And that’s when he notices what’s on the screen.

Stinthine Chemical Detected.’

It’s a fucking android blood analyser.

Taehyung panics as the thing refuses to stop beeping. Jungkook’s practically right outside. He can’t see this, he’ll know - he’ll assume things, he fucking-

The vial slips out of his hand, crashing to the ground and the small take of his blood splatters across the floor, device still beeping at him like a goddamn death sentence.

He has to get rid of it before Jungkook finds out. He drops to his knees, sweeping up the glass into his hand as he fumbles with the device in his other one, trying to find a fucking snooze button.

His heart is hammering in his chest right now, all his limbs feel loose and floaty, he’s kicking into full scale panic because if Jungkook knows, then-

A knock on the door.

“Tae? Are you alright?”

He sounds so concerned that Taehyung almost sobs right then and there, throat feeling tight and eyes prickling with tears. He musters up his most convincing voice and replies, “Yeah! Yeah I’m fine, Jungkook...”

There’s a stretch of silence. Taehyung frantically looks for a way to turn the damn thing off, but it slips out of his hand again when he jumps at Jungkook’s voice.

“What’s that noise?”

He sounds as if he knows exactly what that noise is.

“D-Don’t come in, Kookie…” he says weakly, and the door handle creaks, as if the man’s already pulling it.

“Why not? Tae, are you hurt? Is someone in there with you?”

Christ, he sounds almost hopeful - like he knows it isn’t true.

No , but-,”

When the door opens, Taehyung does sob. One quiet, wet cry that still rings out in the dead silence of the apartment.

What a sight he must be, cowering on the floor, covered in broken glass, the floor beneath him dotted with his blood.

And that stupid fucking screen… beeping .

Jungkook’s face drops.

He doesn’t even say anything, just steps towards him with so much conflict... and dread in his demeanour that Taehyung almost wants to run away, but he’s stuck to the spot.

“What is that?”

He knows. He knows what it is. But still he leans over to pluck it from Taehyung’s weakening grasp. He has no energy to fight him.

Taehyung can only watch as outright horror creeps onto Jungkook’s face. And then-

Disgust.

He looks at Taehyung with this bone-curdling disgust, face far, far colder than he’s ever seen it towards him - even when they first met.

Jungkook looks terrifying. But Taehyung thinks a part of him also looks terrified.

He speaks slowly, evenly, but his voice is swimming with darkness and loathing that Taehyung thinks the sound will echo in his mind for the rest of his life.

“Explain. Now.

Taehyung can’t think of the words, he can’t think of anything right now. His brain is overrun with thoughts but they’re running into and over each other so quickly that it just sounds like screeching.

“I…”

“I want an explanation,” he says again, voice growing more and more bitter which each word. He turns the fucking thing off, somehow - seems to hesitate for a moment before he explodes, chucking the device against the floor. It smashes with a loud crack, and he yells, “ What the fuck are you, Taehyung?!”

What am I? He wishes he knew.

Moments pass in a swirling torrent of heightening tension until Taehyung finally argues “I’m not a defect,” but at this point it sounds so flat and fake , that he isn’t at all surprised when Jungkook erupts again.

“Then why the hell did you test positive for Stinthine ? Humans don’t have that in their blood, Taehyung. You’re not human.”

Taehyung doesn’t know how to explain himself. He doesn’t know what he is himself, for god’s sake. Even Jimin and Yoongi don’t really understand. Jungkook’s looking at him so… abhorrent, that he shuts down. He can’t think of anything at all to say, his head dips to the floor.

“You tricked me, didn’t you? You lied… you lied about how you feel for me just so, what, you can hide ?”

Taehyung lets out another sob, muffling it against his hand as he mutters, “I didn’t lie, Jungkookie-,”

“Don’t call me that,” he snaps, almost instinctively. He shakes his head, looking as if he wants to try and wake himself up from some kind of nightmare.

“Don’t… don’t call me anything, I…”

He lets out a defeated sigh. Taehyung can’t bear to look up at him anymore, but he knows he’s probably trying not to cry too with how shaky the breath is.

“I really loved you, Taehyung.”

The elder shudders with the whimper that pries out of him. The past tense.

“I love you, too, Jungkook.”

The younger man is silent for some agonising seconds, probably deciding how to express what he wants to say. Taehyung can hear him swallow, its so quiet.

“You can’t, Taehyung. You’re not real.”

That, that sparks a certain kind of fire in him. He looks up all of a sudden, rage simmering through him because he never thought Jungkook would be the one to say something like that. He clambers up onto his feet, spitting, “I am real . Don’t you dare tell me I’m not! Weren’t you the one talking about androids like that? That just because they’re not human, doesn’t mean they’re not real?”

“Don’t say ‘they’ like you aren’t the same,” Jungkook says almost scoldingly. “And that was before this. Before you…” He exhales sharply, voice starting to lack sentiment when he says, “pretended to love me for your own gain. What sort of real, sentient thing would do that? You’re a monster , Taehyung.”

A monster. A machine. Not real. He feels sick.

“I do love you,” Taehyung insists, practically pleading with him but Jungkook just scoffs, full of contempt, eyes running down the red silk adorning Taehyung’s body before he tells him, “You don’t even have the right to wear that. My mother was killed by things like you and here you are, wearing her robe.” He seems to come to some sort of conclusion, brow setting firmer on his face as he bitterly asks, “Was this Acquiesce’s grand plan? Use you to seduce me so I could be killed like they did to her? Because we were trying to get them help?

Taehyung almost wants to puke at the thought of being partners with them.

“I’m not with Acquiesce,” he insists, reminding him, “they’re after me, too! I’m not one of them!”

Although the words fall so heavily in the room, so loudly, they feel somehow weightless. Jungkook is glaring at him, a scalding intensity in it.

“Then what are you, Taehyung? You-,” the word gets stuck in his throat, and the older man witnesses how his eyes widen with realisation, wandering around the room as his lips parting subconsciously. He mumbles, “You…”

The man takes a breath, looking up to meet Taehyung’s eyes.

You’re the stolen software.”

Taehyung cringes how the words sound out loud, like that’s all he is. Inanimate and crafted. A product, even. And he damns himself for telling Jungkook so much, damns himself for working his way into his life at all because look where it’s gotten him? He’s broken the man he loves.

And is being broken by him, the same.

Jungkook’s bangs fall over his face when he looks down, hand coming up to wipe at his face until he sniffs hard, voice back to a quiet mutter when he speaks again.

“You know,” he tells him emotionlessly, “I suspected you were a defect when we met. That’s why I was so wary of you. Just because of how quickly you healed - I knew it didn’t take more than a month. I’m not an idiot.”

Taehyung swallows down another cry. He should’ve been more careful. He should’ve left when he could. He should’ve just taken the heat from Jimin.

“But then… you were so calm when I could’ve so easily seen your back. I figured I was just being paranoid. But I haven’t seen your back. I should’ve… should’ve checked when we…”

Taehyung knows what he was going to say. Made love. He can see it in the way his body curls in on itself further. The fact that he didn’t check, that he just believed him; somehow, Taehyung’s heart still manages to soar.

“You know what, Taehyung? I don’t know if I would’ve been so… destroyed if you’d just wanted a place to hide. But manipulating me? To make me fall in love with you? Was that just part of the fun? You’ve set me up to be slaughtered by your fucking organisation. I know what they do to people like me.” They both do. Everybody does. Acquiesce are the worst for it, maiming and torturing anyone that even slightly gets in the way of their plans. Apprehending over fifty of their AIs? It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what they’d want to do to Jungkook.

“That whole saving me from them act - where you pretended that they were using me as some sort of leverage on you. That was so fucking convincing. I don’t know why you didn’t just kill me at the time. Would that have been too boring? Do defects feel boredom so badly?”

Taehyung doesn’t know what to say because then Jungkook pauses, letting out another sigh.

“I wish you had. It might’ve hurt less.”

And then, Taehyung can’t control himself anymore.

“Please,” he cries, not quite daring to step any closer to Jungkook but his hands almost reach for him anyway. “I never meant to hurt you! I wasn’t setting you up for anything, Kook. I fell for you just as uncontrollably as you fell for me. I’m not with Acquiesce, they are using you for leverage. They want to see how far they can push me. I don’t even know why but I’m not a defect, Jungkook! I swear to god I’m not. I’m something else, but please believe me when I tell you that I’m in love with you. I don’t need to be human for that, I know what I feel!”

And he does, he does. There’s no way anyone could mistake the chemicals reacting in his heart. Human or not it’s the same.

Jungkook finally looks back up again once he finishes his outburst. His eyes flash with scorn.

“What else is there, Taehyung? Human, android, defect. You have to be one of them. And besides,” he says, voice unable to keep the calmness it’d held at first, wavering on almost every word as he asks him, “How do you know you’re not a defect? You’d have no idea unless you were told. How can you tell me you’re not when you tested positive? How can you even prove that?”

It’s fucking with his head. All the questions he’s tried so hard to avoid asking himself over the years, and here Jungkook of all people is asking them like he’s never going to believe his answer. It’s fucking with him, and there’s only one way left he can think of that might prove it.

Prove that he’s not a defect. He’s real, fuck he’s real….

“Because look… ” he says and suddenly he’s tugging the robe right off of his body, letting it drop to the floor until he turns around to face the wall, showing Jungkook his back. He tries to stay quiet, tries not to let himself cry in front of him any more lest the man think it’s some kind of… trick.

There’s another dreadful silence. He thinks he hears Jungkook take a few steps, but mostly, the minute or two that stretch on are suffocatingly quiet.

Then, out of nowhere, Taehyung feels his body being shoved around, and he barely even realises it’s Jungkook standing so close to him until his back is slamming into the wall, Jungkook’s hand tugging his hair to keep his head tilted up as he kisses him with more force than he’s ever felt.

It’s rough, and passionate, full of something Taehyung can’t figure out, but his brain is in a haze as Jungkook bites down hard on his bottom lip, hard enough to bleed without a doubt, and licks eagerly into his mouth at the first sign of his lips parting.

It’s almost funny. Jungkook has been nothing but gentle pecks and slow, loving kisses that always leave Taehyung dizzy in a different kind of way - a warmer kind - but now, he’s showing something raw and fervent that Taehyung alone had usually been the one to initiate between the two of them.

“Jungkook, I-,” he tries to say, but the man hushes him, pressing their hips together as if to appease him and, somewhere in his brain, it works.

And Taehyung lets himself hope. Lets himself hope that this is Jungkook saying he forgives him but he knows that that kiss would not be so rough.

This is… some sort of fucking test.

Taehyung angles his face away from him, lips slipping away and snapping, “Let me go,” and it feels so weirdly familiar. Like this whole thing has been one bad dream and he’s still there that night, basking in the dull moon with his blood seeping out of him as a strange man insists that he’d let him go as soon as he could.

Jungkook backs off of him immediately when he tells him to, and Taehyung barely has the strength to keep himself standing.

But when he hears what he says to him, right before he stalks out the door, he loses that strength completely.

“I should never have helped you that night.”

That… that breaks Taehyung.

Because it’s not ‘I don’t love you anymore’, it’s not ‘I hate you’, it’s not even a ‘I wish I hadn’t helped you.’

He knows he shouldn’t have. But he still doesn’t want it any differently.

He still loves him. Even after all that.

He hears the front door slam, but it’s another minute before Taehyung can even find the will to stand up again.

But he does stand, and he finds himself wandering along the apartment without much aim until he ends up in Jungkook’s bedroom.

At this point, it had practically become theirs. Taehyung’s found himself sleeping in it ever since they confessed to each other, and now it’s stained with them instead of just him. Their clothes are littered all over the place. Somehow Taehyung’s intrusion had made them both forget their cleaning habits.

He glances out at the city, so clearly on display to him, and it hurts to know that Jungkook’s out there by himself… but there’s something else out there that Taehyung wants too, he realises.

He picks up a shirt off of the floor (it’s not even his, Jungkook’s scent wafts around him and it’s sickeningly comforting) until he begins to walk back out of the room, out of the apartment before he knows it.

He walks down the stairs of the building, goes out the door into the fucking pouring rain, like the world just loves its goddamn mockery, and he doesn’t even know where he’s going. He just walks out into the middle of the street. A car might come, it might not. He doesn’t even think he cares at this point.

All he cares about are the things Jungkook said to him… and Jungkook himself.

But there’s only one of those things he can dwell on now, the other is long, long gone.

Taehyung stands in the middle of the street, the middle of the night, the middle of a storm and he yells until his throat is raw and voice hoarse.

Come out! ” he cries to the city, “Come out here, you bastards! Tell me what I am! Tell me where I came from!”

He just wants to know. Fuck, he wants to know he was telling Jungkook the truth. He wants to know he isn’t some sort of defect.

“I know you’re watching me! I know you know!”

And Taehyung shouldn’t be surprised. He shouldn’t be surprised at all when he hears the low rumble of an engine. Sees that stupid fucking black van pull up to wear he’s standing.

The door’s of it open, and nobody makes any sort of scene. Taehyung stares at the men inside the vehicle with an undeniable deadness in his eyes.

“I want to know what I am,” he says, doesn’t even know if they can hear him above the sound of the rain.

“I want to know that I’m not one of them.”

But they must, because one of them grins, offering his hand to him, to help him into the vehicle.

“We’ll tell you everything you want to know, K-T-H.”

~

Jungkook is shaking as he slows down. He doesn’t know where the fuck he thought he was heading, he just had to get away. He couldn’t look at Taehyung any longer and not feel that doubt. The longer he was left listening to him, the less he could believe the vial, but that was just what he was doing all along, wasn’t it? That’s how he tricked him at all.

He’s built for it. Being convincing and raw and genuine enough, being beautiful and alluring enough, kind and warm enough to just… ensnare.

Jungkook’s feet stop at the end of the street, and he sinks down against the nearest wall, rain water soaking into his clothes as he just… sits…

He closes his eyes for a few minutes, but it feels like half an eternity, until he hears it.

Yelling, screaming… crying. Taehyung, he hears Taehyung. He almost goes to put his hand over his ears, just so he doesn’t have to listen to him calling out for him but then… he isn’t.

He’s not calling for him. He’s calling for them.

Jungkook’s blood runs freezing as he hears him. And there’s a few seconds, honestly, where he tries to convince himself that this is just part of another act. This is just… some sort of show.

But the crack in his voice sounds so real as he wails. And not once does he deny what he could be.

In fact, he just barely hears it, over the engine suddenly coming to life, and the smack of the rain.

“I want to know that I’m not one of them.

Jungkook dares to look down the street.

He watches Taehyung, hunched over and defeated, climbing into some terrible-looking van.

And he realises how badly they’ve fucked this up.

There’s only a few people that Jungkook can turn to at this point. He needs someone rational. Someone he can tell the whole story to that won’t jump to conclusions or run to his father.

Jungkook digs out his phone, gathering rain on the screen instantly as he presses a number on his speed dial. He waits for it to go through.

“Hoseok-hyung… I think I need your help.”

~

The journey is long and silent. Nobody speaks to him, nobody even looks at him. It feels as if he’s the only one in the vehicle, even though he can see that’s not the case.

They don’t touch him when they come to a halt, they just open the door and climb out. The same one from earlier offers him his hand, but Taehyung defiantly ignores it, hopping out of the vehicle himself.

They walk him up to the building entrance, but don’t go inside with him. For whatever reason, they let Taehyung go in himself, and the building shuts again as soon as he goes in, a large metal shutter coming down over the entrance. Even if Taehyung had wanted to turn back, he guesses now he can’t.

So, he walks on.

The building is about the same as he distantly remembers it. Cold, pristine and feelingless. Everything is plain and dull, a desaturated colour scheme running through the entire place. Taehyung’s footsteps echo as if the entire building is deserted.

He doesn’t know where he’s expected to go, so he keeps on walking until he finds what looks to be some kind of large foyer. There, in the middle of it, sitting on one of the lounge seats as if waiting for him, is a man Taehyung has not seen in a long, long time.

Pang Sunwoo. The bastard ringleader of this godforsaken place.

He stands when he sees him, open his arms to him like he’s some kind of old friend as he greets him with, “There you are. My dearest, darling creation. My pride and joy. It’s been so long.”

Taehyung steps back from the man’s range, avoiding his embrace and his arms fall flatly to his side as he admits, “I expected as much. But don’t worry, I know you’ll come around. You came back to me after all, didn’t you?”

“I didn’t come back for you. I want answers.”

Pang smiles at him, lips so tight Taehyung wonders if it hurts the bastard to pretend to have a heart like that.

“I will answer anything, K-T-H. Or… do you prefer Taehyung now? Clever little name you came up with. Kim Taehyung. I must say, I laughed a lot when I heard it. It’s cute.”

Taehyung doesn’t bite. He knows the man’s just trying to get some sort of reaction from him, probably dying to see what kind of... energy or whatever he can harvest already. Fucking hell , they better not touch Jungkook. If he’s come to them compliantly like this they better not lay a fucking finger on him.

“I just want to know what I am, Pang. I want to know why you implanted me. How you implanted me.”

Pang’s smile warps into more of a grin then. Hungry and predatory, like he’s just been waiting to give him that answer. He runs a hand through his greying hair, skin fading and wrinkling as if he’s decaying from all the shit he’s done in his career, and nods.

“Of course, Taehyung. Come with me and I’ll show you.”

The place Pang ends up taking him to resembles some sort of medical room. There are cupboards, white and clean and locked tight, and a general smell of disinfectant flooding the air. There is one singular chair in the middle, reclinable by the looks of it - more like a dentist’s chair than anything else - and Pang gestures for him to sit down. Taehyung doesn’t hesitate. He doesn’t have the capacity for shit like that at this point.

When he’s seated, Pang presses a button on his wristband, pulling the air, until a screen appears from the ceiling. It’s no bigger than Jungkook’s in the apartment, the same sort of holographic material, and Taehyung feels a sting in his chest at the reminder that he’ll probably never even get to see it again.

If by some miracle he makes it out alive, he doubts Jungkook’ll want anything to do with him.

Pang presses another button, this once making the screen come to life, and he fiddles through the menu with the controller on his wrist until he finds what he’s looking for.

The video starts with a room that Taehyung doesn’t think he’s ever seen before. Yet, somehow, he feels like he has. There are a group of people, all in masks, scampering about the room with pens and clipboards. A few with strange tubes of things and tools he doesn’t know the purpose of. The camera is aimed at a lump on some sort of table - one that resembles an operating table and, briefly, Taehyung wonders if this is some sort of surgery clip.

He finds out very quickly that he is entirely wrong.

There is someone on the table. He sees skin, fingers, peeking out from underneath the cloth laid over them. Then, a voice begins to speak, and he sees Pang walk into frame.

“Video Diary…” he checks the document open on his clipboard screen, “Fifty eight. Number fifty eight. It’s currently three in the morning, but we think that we’ve finally got it.”

He sounds excited about whatever ‘it’ is, face looking more genuinely elated than Taehyung thinks he’s ever seen it.

“We’ve already got the program installed into its hard drive. It’s got all the memories we want him to have, but as soon as we let him go we’re sure the ones he makes himself will be far more valuable.”

Taehyung’s throat runs dry, scratchy. He gets the most nauseating feeling in his stomach, but doesn’t let himself dwell on it because he… he can’t jump to conclusions.

“Switch to camera four please.”

The camera snaps over immediately, now peering down at the body on the table, still almost entirely covered by cloth.

“We can’t wake him up yet. I want him to have the most convincing start that he can, so he’ll wake up in the room we’ve chosen for him. We’ve very carefully selected all the items in it. Even forged a few notes to himself, fake drawings from when he was a child. A picture of his non-existent parents, even. We’ve programmed it so when he wakes up, he’ll think that today is just another day of tests and experiments.”

Taehyung’s fingers start to shake. He grips onto the arms of the chair, hoping Pang doesn’t notice.

“He’s practically perfect. Exactly how we wanted him to be. We’re starting him off at… about the age of sixteen, but the most wonderful thing about our new design is that he’ll grow . He’ll still develop and change as he gets older, far more realistically than any model we’ve ever had. We think we’ll inject him with some further enhancers before we let him escape, just until he gets used to living. We’re not sure how long it’ll take for him to figure things out, even if he believes he’s been alive his whole life, he may still struggle at first.”

“Doctor Pang, are we ready to take the sheet off?”

Pang is ripped out of his monologue, it seems, and there’s quick footsteps sounding closer to the camera until he finally says, “Yes, yes. Reveal him. I haven’t seen the finished work yet.”

Taehyung thinks he’s going to be sick, watching the cloth slowly peel away from the creation’s face.

Golden-silver hair starts to show, until his entire face is being revealed.

Taehyung can’t control the shriek that tears out of him as he sees him, himself… lying on that table. All the things he said… the fake childhood… fake parents. The… attempts made at his creation….

His creation. He’s… he wasn’t… born.

“He’s perfect. He’s beautiful, ” Pang says in time with the video version of himself and Taehyung chokes on the disgusted sob squeezing its way out of him.

The video shuts off, Pang dismisses the screen again and Taehyung doesn’t even realise how hard he’s crying until the man reaches out and tilts his head upwards to look at him, using his other hand to wipe away the hot tears streaming down his face.

He can barely breathe, inhaling in sharp, jagged breaths as his chest fails to function normally, punching in and out with gasping heaves.

“Look at all that emotion, you’re showing… so realistic...” he whispers to him, sounding almost nurturing and the very thought makes Taehyung feel even sicker.

To think that Pang… is the one that created him. That Pang is essentially his father.

He feels like he’s going to pass out.

“I… I-I… I’m not real?

He didn’t mean to make it sound like a question but Pang would probably feel the need to correct him regardless.

“In a way, you are. You were created differently than me, for example. But still we were both created. You were just made by human hands, instead of by fate’s.”

It almost sounds like he’s trying to comfort him, but Taehyung knows that’s far from the truth, because then the man is telling him, “But you never grew up. No parents, no family. Nothing like that. If you want to think that doesn’t make you real, then I won’t try and convince you otherwise.”

Taehyung doesn’t know what else he has to say. He had so many questions to ask him earlier, but now none of them seem important.

So, he asks the only one that might still matter.

“Wh-what do you want from me?”

Pang hums, amused by the question. He takes his hands away from his face, letting Taehyung’s head drop again when he can’t find the will to keep it up.

“You’re the most powerful creation ever made, Taehyung… we want everything .”

The civility with which Pang’s welcomed him with doesn’t last longer than those words. Taehyung isn’t exactly shocked , he never remembered the man as being particularly civil. But he did think he would have at least had more decency than this.

He taps at his wristband, and suddenly, Taehyung’s arms and legs are bound to the chair by what looks to be some sort of industrial fucking strength metal.

“Even you shouldn’t be able to make it out of that.”

Taehyung tugs at the restraints, finding that it feels more as if his arm will give before the metal does, and realises that, actually, he’s probably right. But at this point, Taehyung doesn’t even know if he’d try. What’s the fucking point? Where would he go?

Back to Jimin’s apartment to put him in danger? To Jungkook, who he’d be lucky to have even look at him?

He has nowhere now. He just hopes Yoongi’s as comforting and loving and consoling as Jimin makes him out to be (even if Taehyung already knows for a fact he is.)

Pang wanders off across the room, bringing back with him some sort of cart, loaded with hundreds of things ranging from needles to scalpels to… drills and Taehyung begins to wonder if Pang used to be a former dentist or something. His set-up is strikingly similar.

“I’m so glad this has all went to plan, Taehyung,” he tells him once he stops his cart, “I just want to thank you for following along with it so smoothly. Five years I’ve waited for you to return…”

Right to his plan, huh? God, this bastard is smart, no matter how reluctant Taehyung is to admit it.

“How did you know Jungkook and I would fight like that?” He asks but, to his surprise, Pang looks at him with an element of confusion, before he realises what he’s even referring to.

“So, that’s what happened? He found out the truth?”

Taehyung doesn’t answer. His silence says enough.

“Well, we didn’t. No, that was just good timing on our part, I suppose. We were lucky enough to be hanging around. Actually , we were hoping we’d get your little Jungkookie on his way home from work, but then he took a different route and… well, it worked out for the better, didn’t it? Now we have you and…” Pang’s eyes flicker down to his wristband, checking the hour on it until he says, “Yes, I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before we have him, too.”

Taehyung’s stomach twists at that. There’s no way in fuck Jungkook would come here. He’s… he hates him, surely. He’d never come here.

“I wouldn’t be so sure of that, Taehyung,” Pang says, making him start a little because he hadn’t meant to say that out loud.

“After all… he’s foolish enough to fall in love with you… he’s foolish enough to make other mistakes like use the phone that we’ve had tapped for months or use the car we’ve had tracked for even longer.”

Taehyung clenches his jaw shut and just hope he’s somehow wrong.

“Would you tell him to stay away if you could? Even if he had a chance at saving you?”

Pang glances over his shoulder at him as he’s sorting out his tools with an oddly easy-going look to him. Taehyung stares at him, blankly.

“Of course you would. I can see it in your eyes. That foolish love that your - what is it you call him, baby? ” His cheeks flush hot as the man mocks him, but he still doesn’t satisfy him with an answer.

“Well, your baby and you have the same look. It’s shocking he didn’t believe you. I can practically feel it radiating off of you.”

Pang seems to end up getting bored with Taehyung’s lack of response, and seems to feel like indulging him properly in one of his questions from earlier.

“You wanted to know what I want from you, right?”

Slowly, Taehyung gives a single nod, and Pang seems sated enough with that for now.

“K-T-H, you are just the beginning of my plan. We need you. More so, we need your software…” he says, leaning over to him to tap Taehyung’s temple twice with the cold tip of his finger.

“You’ve made an exceptional program up here just by imitating a human life - one we can’t possibly replicate in the lab.”

“What’s the rest of the plan? How much longer do I have to be a part of it?”

Pang grins deviously at his wording, turning back to his cart as he calmly tells him, “Not much longer at all. Actually, I suspect, after tonight you’ll be completely done. As for what comes next, well-,”

At that moment, the door flies open, and both Taehyung and Pang look immediately to it, the former in utter shock whilst the latter just looks pleased.

“Right on time!” Pang praises, sliding his finger across his wristband so that the door closes tight immediately behind him. Jungkook looks out of breath, even more exhausted than when he’d last saw him, but as he makes eye contact with Taehyung, somehow, there’s a spark that ignites back in him.

He smiles at him, the fucking idiot.

But Taehyung’s heart still flutters. So who’s the real idiot?

“Jungkook ,” Taehyung says almost pleadingly, “what the hell are you doing here?”

This is the last goddamn thing he wanted - for Pang to be right. He can’t stand to see that bastard smug for any reason.

Jungkook steps towards him, enough that he can see the rain clinging to his hair as he very, very softly says, “I believe you.”

Taehyung’s heart lurches.

“You what ?”

“I believe you,” he says again, stronger this time as he earnestly tells him, “I know you’re not a defect, I know how you feel about me is real, Tae. I’m… fuck, I’m so sorry I let you get into this mess. We swore to protect each other and now-,”

“And now…” Pang interrupts, like the self-praising bastard he is, “you’ve both walked right into my hands.”

Jungkook and him send him identical daggers, he’s pretty sure.

“So nice of you to join us, Jeon Jungkook,” Pang greets, and Jungkook looks a little taken aback at that, uttering, “How do you-,”

“We know everything about you,” he cuts in again. And then… he says something that makes Taehyung feel even warier than he already is.

“Your father’s told us everything we need.”

Jungkook’s face crumples into confusion.

“Wh… why would my father ever tell you anything?”

But Pang dismisses him easily, insisting, “There’s no time to talk about that. I’m growing impatient, and you’ve interrupted our little check-up. So sit down and be a good boy until it’s your turn.”

Jungkook’s jaw sets in anger at being talked down to, but he’s smart enough not to say anything.

Pang takes out some kind of needle from his cart of fucking horrors , far too thick and blunt for Taehyung to ever imagine it not hurting like hell, and he tugs on the sleeve of Taehyung’s (Jungkook’s) shirt, rolling it up past his bicep where he aims the needle.

But then, maybe Jungkook really does think with his heart over his head like he’d overheard his brother claiming so long ago, because as if he can’t stop himself, he rushes towards him, hand prying Pang’s away as he growls, “Don’t you fucking dare-,”

There’s a loud, stinging smack and Jungkook falls backwards with the force of it against his cheek, not giving the man any reaction other than a burning glare because he must realise that that’s probably what he wants. All these theatrics… it’s just to get them both riled up. But that doesn’t stop Taehyung from lurching in anger.

Pang snaps his fingers, directing loosely to Jungkook as he says, “Hold the boy down, I gave him his chance,” and just like that, a pair of androids appear almost from nowhere, rushing to grab Jungkook’s arms and keep him still before he can make another attempt at anything. They dig painfully into his skin, Taehyung can see it the way it pales with pressure, but Jungkook does nothing more than grit his teeth, staring intensely at the older man as if he’s trying to find a way to save them both.

But he can’t, he’s beginning to realise. Not this time. And it kills Taehyung to admit it.

Pang resumes his dosage of whatever-the-fuck, lining up the needle just how he wants it, and Taehyung curses the fact that his pain tolerance is practically non-existent against whatever weird materials they use here, because as soon as the needle starts to pierce his skin, his head throws back in an involuntary cry of pain.

“Stop it!

Jungkook thrashes against the android’s hold, breathing heavily from anxiety as he watches Taehyung try and control his own reactions.

Pang takes notice of it, seemingly intrigued, and he removes the needle from Taehyung’s arm again, turning around to observe him properly.

“If that’s your reaction to your love receiving a little prick… I can’t even imagine what Taehyung’ll do when I get to you .”

Jungkook doesn’t bite this time, instead, he demands an explanation, seething, “Why do you want a reaction? What’s it for?”

Pang tilts his head, pondering, as he recalls, “Right, you interrupted my explanation earlier, didn’t you?” He puts the needle back onto the cart, folding his arms across his chest as he launches into explaining, “I created Taehyung with the intention of letting him carry software that would develop into something powerful and human. We’ve quite clearly achieved that, don’t you think? I mean, he fooled you.”

Jungkook’s mouth twitches in it’s frown, and Pang seems rather pleased with himself, as per usual.

“I want to see how strong I can make him. Now that he’s developed an emotional level I could never have even dreamed of creating myself, I want to exploit it. Use it as a power source, almost.”

Taehyung already knows where this is heading, and he hadn’t exactly cared until now, when he sees that overwhelming fear in Jungkook’s eyes. The selfless kind of one that hurts the most because he caused it, one way or another.

Why ? What will you do with it?”

Taehyung’s pretty sure Jungkook can already guess.

Then, I’m going to remove it, and replicate it, and make thousands of creations just like him. A… super-race of sorts,” Pang announces, voice teeming with a sick sense of excitement. God, he’s every fucking cliche in the book.

Jungkook’s concern only grows as he thinks about the impact that’ll likely have on the city - the world even. Taehyung can see him swallow in anticipation.

“What’ll happen to Taehyung?”

Pang just shrugs, shortly explaining, “Well, I can’t replicate it if it’s still in use. And he can’t function without it. Fill in the blanks yourself.”

Jungkook tenses in anger, jerking against the androids’ grip again as he spits, “You bastard! You fucking bastard. I’ll kill you before I let that happen!”

Pang seems amused, much more than threatened. He gestures to the androids to bring the man to his feet, and they do, hoisting him up off the ground easily. Jungkook wavers a bit on his feet, stepping back and forth a few times to balance himself as Pang gets closer to him.

“Believe me, little one,” he says lowly, face only a few inches away from Jungkook’s, “ I will not be the one dying tonight.”

And with that, he steps back again, turning to face Taehyung once more as he announces, “All right, I think it’s time to get this started. That injection should be active by now.” He taps his wristband, looking over to a monitor at the side of the room that comes to life at the same time. On it is a bunch of jargon about chemicals Taehyung doesn’t recognise and their supposed levels. In the corner is a heart rate counter too, and from that he understands what that injection might’ve been.

Neuro-electric bacteria. He remembers Yoongi telling him about how it was some sort of new technology developing in the biochemistry field, they were talking about it in class. Currently, Taehyung would expect that they are rushing through his blood to analyse everything they find in it.

Explains the size of the needle, at least.

Pang stands by him, running a hand through his hair once to push it off of his face, obviously wanting him to see the best he can.

“Now, now, my creation… lets see what you can do.”

Taehyung’s about to tell him that he’s not seeing shit, but then he sees one of the androids let go of Jungkook, and the other one moves to pin both of his arms back by itself as the first pulls back its fist.

And surely he’s not gonna-

There’s a crunch of bone when the android’s fist connects with Jungkook’s jaw, and the man groans deeply, trying to keep his mouth shut at the pain. Taehyung’s horrified when he sees blood pool between his lips until he has to open his mouth to spit, and a flash of red comes out with it.

Taehyung’s fingers curl into fists, but he tries to mimic Jungkook and keep his reaction to a minimum.

No matter what, they both have to hold out for as long as they can.

And they do , for a while. Taehyung watches Jungkook get hit, over and over and over again until his face is starting to bloom purple and red, blood running down his chin without mercy and he’s fallen over and gotten up more times than he can count.

Taehyung chokes on his breath when he hears Jungkook’s first whimper, and he looks up from the floor, steadying himself back onto his knees as he wheezes, “D-don’t let it get to you, Tae. Don’t let them use you-,” there’s a hollow crunch as the android’s heavy boot kicks Jungkook across the face. Taehyung has to shut his eyes in order to stop himself from going overboard, until Pang cleanly informs him that if he doesn’t watch, he will do far worse than necessary.

Neither of them break - that is, until Jungkook’s been hit and kicked so many times, he can’t get back up once he falls anymore, breathing desperately to himself on the ground. Taehyung’s lip is cut and swollen from biting down on it that hard, trying to silence himself, but upon seeing this, he cries out.

Pang takes interest then, immediately checking the monitor and his face lights the fuck up when he does, gushing, “ Yes! That’s it. That’s what we’re looking for. Okay, okay, pick him back up, it’s time to change our game.”

The androids do as he asks, both back to holding Jungkook, though, at this point, Taehyung doesn’t know if he could put up much of a fight (yet doesn’t doubt he wouldn’t still try) and Pang drags his god awful cart over to Jungkook instead, smiling maniacally at him when he meets the man’s fluttering stare.

Pang gives a harsh slap to his cheek, and Jungkook’s eyes stop fluttering so badly, the man telling him, “Ah, ah, ah, Jungkook. No conking out on us yet. We’re not quite finished.”

Jungkook stares in silence at him for a few seconds, face beaten to all hell, hair matting and tangled, looking utterly defeated to anyone’s eyes.

And he spits at him.

Taehyung somehow finds it in him to smile at the the younger’s courage, especially when he sees Pang’s disgust as he’s wiping the blood and saliva off his face.

What he doesn’t smile at, however, is the knife that Pang pulls out after the interaction.

It’s sharp beyond all belief - enough that even Pang handles it carefully, and as he presses it to Jungkook’s throat, blood starts to dot the edge of it, even without much pressure.

“I’ll make you regret that.”

Jungkook’s jaw shifts, and for a second Taehyung thinks he’s going to spit at him again - but he doesn’t.

Pang seems pleased with his silent submission.

“What I’m going to do, Taehyung,” he says, looking behind him to check that he’s still watching them, “The longer you hold back, the deeper I’ll dig into him. Sound fair?”

No.”

“Excellent, let’s begin!”

Taehyung scowls at him, watching as carefully as he can to the knife’s movements. Pang takes it off his throat, thank fuck, but he doesn’t take it away from his skin. He cuts his shirt open with it, pushing it off his shoulders, and begins to edge the knife right under his collarbone. When he sees no reaction from Taehyung, he digs it right in, as if he’s trying to get underneath the bone and Jungkook can’t hold back the scream that strangles in his throat, legs kicking out to try and fight Pang off of him until the androids move to hold him there too, one securing his arms and the other holding his feet.

Taehyung feels the first few tears slip down his face then, wrists subconsciously tugging at the restraints as he leans forward, as if somehow he’d be able to reach him.

Jungkook meets his eye and shakes his head slowly, a silent ‘don’t’ to ground him again but Taehyung’s already feeling that familiar fury coiling in his veins looking at his Jungkook - his fucking baby - writhing in pain like that.

“Oh, wonderful, look at that reaction!” Pang says, eyes trained on the monitor again. He removes the knife from Jungkook’s skin, and pulls back to just… look at him for a moment.

“Do you want to know something, Jungkook?”

A heavy silence settles on the room, only broken by the man’s ragged breathing.

“You sound just like your mother did.”

Jungkook’s face plummets, a spark of anger arising in him again as he spits, “How do you know what she sounded like? Sounded when?

Pang shakes his head, tsking quietly to himself as he taps Jungkook’s cheek patronisingly with the knife.

“I thought you would’ve had the idea by now…” he pushes his shirt away from his chest that much more, poking the point of the weapon right in the centre as he tells him, “I was the one that carved her up like that until she bled out. She had a lot of blood. It took quite some time, but her cries and grunts sounded so much like yours.”

Jungkook almost lurches in the androids’ hold, but he seems to remember the knife pointing at him and stops himself last minute.

“You murdered her. You… she didn’t do anything wrong, ” he cries, voice rising by the second, telling him, “You killed her for nothing!”

Pang takes a step back from him then, going back to his cart to exchange the knife for a smaller one, a little blunter, a little more compact. It fits better in his palm.

“I wasn’t the one who decided to kill her. I was asked to.”

“By who?” Jungkook growls, and Taehyung’s heart hurts for him when his own mind takes a guess at exactly who.

Pang holds the knife up to the light, checking how it gleams before bringing it back down to eye-level and nonchalantly telling him.

“Your father.”

Jungkook doesn’t shriek or scream or yell. He falls completely silent.

And then, an almost inaudible whisper of, “Why?

Pang sighs.

“Because she was interfering with his plans for android development. Just like you did. We were trying to test more like Taehyung, disguised as defects, but she just kept sending them back to us,” he half-chimes, punctuating each word of the last phrase almost childishly. “So, he wanted rid of her. And now, he’s told me I’m free to use you to further our development with Taehyung, as well! I wonder if he’ll give your brother up next?”

Jungkook lowers his head, not saying another word, so Taehyung takes over for him, mind and body burning with curiosity.

“Why did she send them back to you ? Why not ADIEU’s rehabilitation facility?”

Pang looks around, an edge of surprise dusting his features.

“One and the same, Taehyungie,” he tells him, and suddenly, Taehyung recalls the fucking phone call when he last sent an android in by himself. Branch 109… that’s the number of this fucking building. The man on the phone, the head of the ADIEU rehabilitation department… no wonder only a few people’ve ever met him. It’s Jeon.

Taehyung damns himself for not realising sooner, even after he’d heard Jungkook’s father speak in the flesh.

“Now, look, you’re getting all calm again. We can’t have that.” He turns to face the androids restraining Jungkook and says, “Hold him to the floor, instead. I have a fun idea.”

“You’re psychotic,” Taehyung spits venomously, and Pang has the audacity to actually laugh at him, turning to him with a glint in his eye as he tells him, “Anybody with a taste of power is, Taehyung. You’ll know yourself soon enough.”

“You won’t get me there. You’ll never make me like you.”

Pang’s mouth curves into a blood-freezing smile.

“We’ll see.”

He turns back to Jungkook, suddenly as the man’s being thrown to the floor and pinned to stay there. Pang crouches over him, practically moving to sit on him as he clenches the knife in hand. And he leans back for a moment, weirdly casual about the whole situation as he muses, “Right, I was talking about your mother, wasn’t I? What was her name again?”

Jungkook snarls.

Don’t say her name.”

But Pang miraculously remembers it anyway, stating, “Oh! Jakyung, that was it. Jeon Jakyung. Beautiful name. Beautiful lady…” he gets a horrendous smirk edging onto his face when he adds, “ Beautiful screams.

Pang takes the smaller knife to the farthest left of Jungkook’s chest, just lightly piercing into the skin there as he asks, “Are you going to scream just as beautifully for me?”

Jungkook shudders, not breathing for a moment until Taehyung realises why, seeing the tears wetting his face as he inhales, shakily.

And that breaks his heart.

Pang begins to dig into his chest with the knife, seemingly forgetting altogether about Taehyung while he carves. Line after line appears in Jungkook’s skin, all the while Pang mutters to him so quietly that Taehyung can’t even make him out half of the time over Jungkook’s cries. He doesn’t even know if they’re cries of pain or sadness but hearing the unending wails and screams as Pang digs deeper, slashes faster, blood spilling all the way down his skin, coating the floor and whatever’s left of his shirt…

Taehyung’s tipped over the edge.

The monitor starts beeping like crazy as his heart rate picks up, chemical levels going sporadic as Taehyung feels the heat of wrath shooting through his body, simmering in his blood like it’s burning him from inside out. He’s heaving, blood pumping in his ears, almost drowning out the younger’s cries, but not enough. He feels his body tighten, his fists clenching hard.

Pang only looks at him once he hears the unmistakable bend and snap of metal.

Taehyung breaks off the restraints of his feet, and then he’s free.

For a moment, Pang actually has the foolishness to look pleased.

But that changes very quickly as soon as Taehyung charges at him. He holds out the knife, trying to dig it into his skin in defense but Taehyung barely even feels a scrape, pulling it out of his gut and throwing it across the room without a care. Then, he grabs the man by his throat, squeezing hard enough that he starts to choke immediately, but Taehyung won’t kill him.

That would make him just the same as him.

He just squeezes enough for the man to stop clawing at his hands grasped on his neck, until he’s unconscious, but still alive.

But, Taehyung belatedly realises that the room must be watched, because as soon as he does that, alarms start going off, and there’s barely even time to blink before androids come rushing into the room, eyes locked on Taehyung like their sole mission is to wipe him out.

Taehyung launches into a haze as soon as the first one comes at him, backing it off with such force, it cracks as it hits the wall. He isn’t in control of his actions, hell, he isn’t even aware of them as he’s pummeling into the creations pooling into the room, tearing apart each one as he growls and yells - noises practically animalistic at this point.

The wave of AIs cease, but the alarm doesn’t stop and Taehyung knows that won’t be the last of them, so he goes back to the only thing on his mind:

Saving Jungkook.

The androids holding down him down didn’t even look up at Taehyung’s massacre. They’re nothing more than deadweights, he guesses. Likely one of the earliest models that had the strength he wanted but not the brain. Taehyung pries both of them away from Jungkook easily, almost finding satisfaction in the way they just fall over.

Until he sees what Pang did.

‘JUST LIKE MOMMY’ is engraved into his chest. A cruel, crude combination of letters, so brutish and fierce that Taehyung hopes to god it won’t scar, but he has a terrible feeling it will.

Fucking bastard.

Taehyung can’t stop the fury ripping through him, hands immediately reaching out again for Pang, ready to tear him to shreds because his anger is flying out of control, now. He can’t expect to be able to control himself, can he? All he is is chemicals and parts and- and… no humanity. Fuck, Pang was right and that just makes the anger set deeper as he grabs the collar of the asshole, just about to start beating the shit out of him when something tugs on his sleeve, weakly.

“Ta...e,” Jungkook croaks, breaths laboured and crackling, “This isn’t… you. You’re rea..l. You can feel.” His hand goes to the elder’s, pulling it down, away from Pang as he slowly interlocks their fingers. “You c-can feel… my love right?”

Taehyung’s brain feels overloaded with confliction - the uncontrollable fire of his brain clashing fiercely with the gentle warmth brewing in his heart.

He’s not real. He’s.. a creation.

But then, why does he feel so deeply for this man?

Jungkook must know he’s getting somewhere, then, because he continues with, “I know you can c...control this, Tae. Y-you can control… your… power.”

Jungkook’s eyes droop shut, hand falling from the elder’s grip and it shocks Taehyung back into reality, head screaming at him because what the fuck is happening?

He pushes back the remainder of his animalistic fury and drops to his knees, smoothing back Jungkook’s hair off his forehead and kissing the burning hot skin there because there’s only one thing important right now.

“Baby, are you still with me? Jungkookie, please tell me you can hear me.”

There’s a long stretch of silence, his face unflinching and swollen and beaten and Taehyung’s heart aches, but he only feels that bitter rage slipping out of him, now. He feels tears start to run down his face again, gripping onto the younger’s motionless hand as he presses kisses to the back of it, murmuring chants of, “please wake up, baby, please.

But then, slowly, Jungkook opens one eye, looking at him with that endearing doe-look, hazed over by the state he’s in.

Taehyung’s never felt such relief in his entire life.

He hugs him to his chest, careful as he thinks about the pain he must be in and hushes the younger’s sudden sobs when he remembers what just happened.

“You’re okay now, baby. I promise, you’re alright.”

The younger gives another choked sob, almost like a hiccup, before he quietens.

“I… I know you luh-love me, Tae,” he murmurs against his shoulder, and Taehyung almost breaks down on the spot.

But he can’t . He has to be strong to get them both out of here. Before the next androids pile in.

Even just moments ago, Taehyung doubted himself on whether his emotions and thoughts and existence was really real at all.

But now he realises, if they weren’t, he wouldn’t be able to feel this intensity- it’s overwhelming. He knows he would’ve just shut off to resist Pang’s stupid fucking game.

“I do , baby. I always will.”

And with that, Taehyung knows they have to go. Jungkook’s slipping in and out of consciousness, and he has no idea who knows they’re here. If he can’t trust ADIEU anymore, who the fuck knows if he can even trust the police?

He has to get them away.

Taehyung’s only driven a handful of times. He learns things quickly, so he’s only had to watch Jungkook and try himself to sort of get it.

Driving down winding roads of a city he’s still not totally familiar with, in a speeding vehicle he doesn’t really know how to use… makes it a hell of a lot harder.

They skid a few times on the slippery wetness of the road, and Taehyung has to spin the wheel drastically to get it back on course. But, all in all, he thinks they might make it back to the apartment before anything terrible goes down.

That is, until the car’s phone begins to ring.

Taehyung doesn’t know how to work it, but he hears Jungkook mumble a hazy ‘answer’ before Namjoon’s voice is flooding the vehicle.

“Jungkook? Is that you?”

The man makes a low hum of affirmation, clearly trying to waken himself up a bit as he sits up a little straighter in his seat, but he’s still so weak he can barely even manage that.

“Hoseok told me everything. We overheard them talking… your father wants you to turn in Taehyung but-,”

“We can’t trust them, we know,” Taehyung finishes for the man, and Namjoon sounds surprised to hear him instead of Jungkook when he replies, “Exactly… Listen, they’re looking for you. Don’t come your usual way home. Get as much stuff as you need and then go.

With that, the call drops again, and Taehyung looks over to the passenger seat to see Jungkook looking that little bit more awake. Taehyung’s heart soars at how incredible he is for trying after all of that.

“What’s our plan, Kook?” He asks, mostly out of panic because he has no fucking idea. Jungkook clears his throat, obviously trying to get it normal again as he croaks, “Waterfield Avenue. Next left.”

Taehyung does so, and he waits for the man to come up with the rest of the plan, but he doesn’t seem like he really has one.

Of course, Taehyung’s never really worked off of plans anyway, has he?

The car screeches to a halt, as close to the building as they can get, and Taehyung gets out first, running around to Jungkook’s side to help him out, and the man’s grateful, taking the arm he offers to help them get inside quicker.

The rain’s still pounding loudly even though they’re inside and at this point Taehyung can’t ever remember taking the elevator in this place and he doesn’t now, either, whisking Jungkook into his arms before the man can protest and bolting up the stairs, still high on the adrenaline of earlier. He doesn’t feel as if he’ll ever come off it at this point.

They burst into the apartment, and Jungkook’s practically wriggling to get out of his arms, landing on his feet rather smoothly as he weakly hobbles back and forth the place, using everything available for leverage and gathering as much leftover medicine from their last surgery, money, and other necessities as he can, while Taehyung rushes to the bedroom to compile a bunch of clothes, stuffing them into Jungkook’s suitcase as best as he can in his panic.

It doesn’t take long before Jungkook’s yelling at him that they have to go, now, and Taehyung joins him at the door, taking the bag from him and hoisting it over his shoulder, which the younger pouts at ever so slightly but doesn’t argue. He gives him one of his shirts to put on and cover the monstrosity ruining his chest, and he slips it on silently, both of them ready to go.

“Wait, one last thing,” Jungkook says urgently enough for Taehyung to stop right in his tracks. The younger steps towards him, throwing his arms around the elder’s neck and melting their lips together. The kiss is desperate and full of emotion, so different to the last time that they’d kissed that Taehyung feels almost overwhelmed, like he can see the stars, taste heaven in it.

Jungkook pulls back again after a few seconds, and he doesn’t need to say outloud what it was for.

Just in case we don’t make it .

They make it down the stairs again in record time, Taehyung constantly looking back at Jungkook to make sure he’s okay, but the man seems to be doing remarkably well, likely running on his own adrenaline - he knows he has no other choice. Taehyung assumes by the time they get in the car again, he’ll probably burn out. But that’s okay, he can afford to do that then.

They reach the front door and Taehyung tears it open, making it down only a few of the steps before he sees it.

He chokes on his gasp, immediately putting Jungkook behind him as the man peeks past him.

Flashing red and blue everywhere. More cops than Taehyung’s ever seen in one place gathered, like something out of a crime movie.

But it’s not even that that truly stops them both in their tracks - it’s the person standing in the middle of all of it.

Jungkook’s brother.

As the moment of shock and confusion passes over them, Jungkook looks to Seokjin, furiously, growling, “How can you still stand on his side?! He’s trying to kill your own brother!”

The rain beats down between them, only a few metres away but it feels like miles. Jungkook grips Taehyung’s waist to keep him upright, but moves to stand beside him.

Seokjin’s stare is formidable, lips curled downwards in hesitation. His jaw clenches slightly and he shakes his head, telling him, “You’ve never been able to understand, Jungkook. Daddy doesn’t want that. He wants us to be safe, he wants us to have power ,” but even the words on his end sound like he’s reading from script.

Taehyung may not know Jungkook’s brother very well at all, but anyone can tell he doesn’t believe those words himself.

“He doesn’t care about us, hyung,” Jungkook insists, obviously seeing his brother’s confliction, too. “He just wants power for himself.”

Seokjin shakes his head again, as if he’s trying to focus himself as he calmly says, “That’s not true, Jungkook-”

“It is. He wants us gone, hyung. Dead!”

“You’re wrong-”

“I’m right. Just admit it , ” Jungkook seethes, voice travelling louder and louder as his brother yells back, “He only wants what’s best for us!”

“Then why did he have mom killed?!” Jungkook practically roars, shoulders and chest rising and falling with the intensity of his breathing.

Seokjin’s face falls.

“He… didn’t,” he says, barely even audible above the rain.

And then… someone slowly, slowly begins to applaud.

Clap… clap… clap.

“Bravo,” a voice says, entirely unamused, and out from the thwarm of police steps Jeon himself.

“You finally did it, son. You finally figured it out… Or,” he pauses, a look of realisation flashing over him as he suggests, “No, let me guess. That fucking idiot Pang just told you, didn’t he?”

The man doesn’t wait for confirmation, just holding a hand to his head and sighing, “Well, he always was an idiot. I suppose there’s no need for us to have this whole… father-son talk, then. You know what happened, you’re trying to run, so you must know…” he says as if it’s that simple. His lack of sentiment sends a cold shiver through Taehyung’s body. He can’t even imagine how Jungkook feels.

“Look, I’ll make this easy on you,” Jeon says, as if this can be made easy. “Give up your android, and you can keep your job. I’ll even upgrade you from patrol. You can’t get in my way anymore like your mother did.”

For the silence that drags on, there’s this stupid moment where Taehyung actually thinks Jungkook will agree.

But he vehemently shakes his head, suddenly gripping onto Taehyung tighter as he snarls, “I’m not giving him up for anyone,” and the words fill Taehyung with so much love.

“Especially not you,” he bitterly continues, “or a shitty job I didn’t want in the first place.” Jungkook stands up a little straighter then, voice more controlled as he calmly tells him, “You’re a monster, you know that? I used to think you couldn’t possibly be so bad, but there’s no good in you. How could you do it?” He questions him, voice soft and… desperate to know. “How could you kill your own wife? For power of all things.”

Seokjin’s face runs through a hundred different emotions in a few seconds. He’d remained silent until now - clearly, he thought his brother was delusional at first, but when their father doesn’t deny it, he gapes at him, eyes wide and imploring.

“Is that… you did that, Daddy?”

Their father glances at Seokjin for no longer than a second, dismissing him with a harsh, “It doesn’t matter what I did, Seokjin. We have to reprimand that dangerous... thing up there. He can go rampant at any minute.”

Taehyung doesn’t bother defending himself. He doesn’t think the brother wants to believe a word he says anymore. Seokjin narrows his eyes at his father, stare almost abhorring now, as Jungkook reveals, “He killed her because she was investigating his androids. He’s practically leading Acquiesce. And he let someone try to kill me to drive Taehyung insane! You can’t side with him, hyung!”

Seokjin looks between his father, and his brother, and for a moment, Taehyung thinks they’ve won him over with the scowl he directs at Jeon.

But then, his hand reaches for his belt, and Taehyung’s stomach drops as he sees the man bring out a gun, turning to face them and not him and then he’s marching towards them both, weapon up and aimed at Jungkook, primarily, but well enough that he could absolutely hit Taehyung too, if he wanted.

Jungkook kicks into panic mode, starting to ramble at him as he approaches, how he’s telling the truth, their father’s a psycho and he’ll kill both of them if he needs to, all the while shoving Taehyung to stay behind him , now, no matter how injured he is because he guesses Seokjin’s more likely to shoot Taehyung than he is his own baby brother.

And it’s terrifying , watching him slowly approach them both, and then… they notice something a little peculiar about his appearance.

His eyes are red and bloodshot.

He’s crying.

“Move back,” he hisses at them both, and they’re frozen to the spot for a few moments more until he seethes, “ Go inside.

Taehyung wonders if it’s a test, but Jungkook doesn’t hesitate, grabbing his wrist and pulling him inside immediately with him, Seokjin barging in after them a few seconds later.

He puts down the gun, breathing heavily with panic as he looks from his brother to Taehyung and back again. Then, he rushes towards Jungkook and Taehyung lurches on instinct to defend him, until he realises Jungkook’s arms are open, and the two are pulling each other into an embrace.

He hears sniffing and muttered words far, far too familial and intimate for his ears, and Taehyung knows that this is probably the first time in a long while they’ve had to grieve their mother. Properly now, Taehyung realises, knowing the full story - no matter how gruesome - at last.

“All this time,” Seokjin says between cries, “All this time I blamed defects and androids and myself . And it was him. She… it was because of him.

Jungkook holds his brother tighter, murmuring ‘I know, I know’s in his ear, and Seokjin gives a wet laugh, saying, “What kind of hyung am I, huh? Here you are comforting me. . You’re so strong, Jungkookie.”

“It’s how us Jeons are, right? Strong.”

“Dad isn’t strong he’s… a monster.

About a minute passes, and they stop, Seokjin pulling away, but not before planting a small kiss on his brother’s forehead.

“You need to get away from him,” he says firmly, wiping his face with the back of his hand and standing with his shoulders back.

Strong , Taehyung thinks.

“Hyung, I can’t leave you. They’ll find us if we try to run, our car’s out there!” Jungkook says, pointing out to the front of the building, to the chaos. Seokjin nods solemnly, telling him, “I know. You’re right. But I’m not letting him take Taehyung from you. He’s taken too much from us.”

“I don’t want him to take you either.”

“He won’t ,” the man insists, gently touching his brother’s face as he promises, “Not for anything, Jungkook-ah.”

Jungkook nods, silently telling him he believes him.

“But then, what do we do? We can’t leave this place without some sort of bedlam.” Jungkook gives a short, disbelieving laugh as he says, “I can’t believe my own home’s become a prison and my own father’s the one convicting me.”

Seokjin hums, sadly, grip on his gun tightening as he looks out to the waiting force.

“We’re gonna go back out there-”

“-Hyung, we can’t-

“Hear me out, Kook-ah,” he says, and his brother falls silent, face swirling with turmoil. “We’re going to go out there, and we’ll make it look like you’ve surrendered. I’ll get you as close to your car as possible - then, I’ll pretend one of you hit me, lose my aim, and you get in and drive. You hear me? Do not look back. Don’t even look over your shoulder until you are as far away from this hellhole as you can be.”

It’s not foolproof. No one knows what’ll happen once they run, who might catch them before they get in, who might open fire. But it’s the best that they can do.

“But, hyung,” Jungkook says desperately, “what are you going to do?”

Seokjin smiles secretively.

“Hoseok and Namjoon are already on their way with actual police. But you need to get away before they do. Taehyung, you’re still illegal here, whether ADIEU are bastards are not.”

Taehyung nods, solemnly, already pulling at Jungkook’s hand to get them to go before it’s too late. Jungkook resists for a couple of seconds, staring remorsefully at his brother and he breaks away from Taehyung’s hold to hug him one last time.

“I love you, hyung. Thank you. For everything.”

Seokjin smooths down Jungkook’s hair, affectionately, chuckling, “We’re not dying, dummy. I’ll see you again soon,” and he waits a few seconds more before he adds, “I love you too.”

Then, the plan is put into action, and it half feels like a total blur to Taehyung. One minute the brothers are staring intensely at each other, and the next, Seokjin has them both in his hold, guns directed at their heads and he whispers for them to act defeated as he busts open the apartment block door, back onto the street.

Taehyung barely looks up past his hair draping across his face, but he can’t miss the shit-eating grin on Jeon’s face as he calls, “Excellent work, Seokjin. I knew you could do this. You’d never betray me, unlike your pathetic little brother.”

Seokjin tenses from behind them, but must act rather convincing in his face, because when he says, “Of course, father. I’d never betray you,” Jeon only hums contently.

They get down the steps, out the entry area of the apartment block (Taehyung, belatedly, realises its likely for the last time) and when they’re ushered past a few rows of the police, as if being taken to one of the cars, Seokjin suddenly hisses a firm, “Go! ” into their ears, and nudges them in the direction of their car, both of them taking off as fast as they can as Taehyung holds onto Jungkook to stop him from giving out with his exhaustion.

He hears Jeon give a cry, hears a commotion of the force around them, hears Seokjin pretend to yelp out in pain, but he ignores it, letting go of his boyfriend when they both need to get in the car, and slamming the doors as quickly as they can.

Head down, Tae,” Jungkook reminds him almost fiercely, as the elder fires up the ignition with his thumb print and slams his foot down on the accelerator, barely even remembering to take the handbrake off until the car gives a furious squeal. Then, they propel forwards, Taehyung gripping the wheel so tightly his knuckles turn white, and they screech through the street, police jumping out of the way as a few shots ring out into the air, a few bullets grazing their car.

“Thank fuck for patrol car glass,” Jungkook mutters, carefully checking behind them, despite what his brother said, and Taehyung manages a sort of laugh as the windows barely suffer a crack.

“Do you think we can drop in on Jimin and Yoongi before we leave?” Taehyung asks, half-meekly, because they’ve got dangerous people on their asses now, but Jungkook seems to understand, and he makes a vague noise, telling him, “By the time we get there, ADIEU should have their asses loaded with actual police. If we’re quick we might be okay.”

And that’s all the incentive Taehyung needs - even if Jungkook’s purposely being a little optimistic.

So, he steps on it, and he must say, his driving is getting a little better now that his best friend is in the mix. He hasn’t seen Jimin’s face in months, all he wants to do is pinch his little cheeks and ruffle Yoongi’s hair and they’ll both pretend to hate it but both of them will be biting back smiles as usual.

Would it kill them to just enjoy it one time?

They get there quicker than expected with Taehyung’s speeding, and the man wastes no time whatsoever hopping out of the car and making sure Jungkook’s okay getting out, too, before they’re both rushing to the flat and knocking on Jimin’s door with a ferverence.

Jimin opens it with the chain pulled across it (they can’t afford one of the unbreakable lazer-line ones) and he glares out through the gap, cautiously for all but two seconds until he sees Taehyung grinning at him. Then, he yelps, slamming the door shut to get rid of the chain before he pulls it back open again, wasting no time to envelope his best friend in a bruise-pressing hug.

“Ow, ow, watch it, Chim. Your tiny body is stronger than you think,” he jokes, hunching over to hug the smaller man, tightly, arms around his waist as Jimin grumbles at him about how that’s a horrific way to greet your best friend after months, Kim Taehyung, months.

And he’s just about to rip him a new one, just as Taehyung thought he would, when another face arrives in the door to see what the hell is going on with his boyfriend screeching.

Of course, Yoongi gets sucked into the hug as well. Like a black hole.

But a loving black hole.

The eldest laughs bashfully into both of them, muttering, “Hey, what’s the occasion, huh?” and Taehyung stops hugging so tight then, remembering about his boyfriend behind him and why they’re here.

He pulls away, stepping back to lock his fingers with Jungkook who greets Jimin with a casual wave of his hand and a, “Hey, hyung - how’s the diner going?”

“It’s going, Kook. Though, I miss your patronage…” he says pointedly, because Jungkook’s neglected visiting it for months too, lest he spill anything about Taehyung that Jimin shouldn’t know - such as all the dangerous life-threatening attacks on them.

Jimin takes a look at them both, an expression resembling a proud parent growing on his face as he tucks into Yoongi’s side and sighs softly, muttering, “Look, Yoongi - our baby’s grown up.”

Yoongi can’t even try hiding that proud little smile.

But, then, Jungkook squeezes Taehyung’s hand and he remembers why they’re there in the first place.

To say goodbye.

“Okay, Chim… this is hard to say, especially since we just got here but… Jungkookie and I have to go away, again. But this time…” he takes his gaze away from Jimin’s crestfallen expression, the look stabbing straight to his heart with guilt. But this is for them too. “This time, I dunno when we’ll be back. If we’ll be back, even. But I do know one thing: We’ll be safe, so you don’t need to worry about that anymore.”

After all, him and Jungkook are kind of kick ass at saving each other by now - he thinks they’ll be alright.

“Can… I ask why, Tae?”

Taehyung glances at Jungkook for confirmation, and the younger nods, clearly thinking they deserve to know this time.

“ADIEU’s a shitshow. Jungkook’s father runs Acquiesce. They… they want both of us dead-”

Taehyung, ” Jimin gasps, but the taller man shakes his head, meeting his best friend’s eye again as he shushes him with, “They won’t get it. But that’s why we need to go. You understand?”

Jimin’s face runs through a mess of confliction, looking up to Yoongi beside him who gives a soft smile to reassure him.

Jimin looks back at Taehyung, not without sadness - but he understands, it’s so clear to tell.

“Jungkook-ah,” Jimin calls out, obviously much more comfortable with the man now that he knows what sort of reputation his family really has. Besides, he can see how much he means to Taehyung. “You better take care of him, okay? Don’t let him do anything crazy - you and I both know what he’s like.”

Jungkook gives a chuckle, looking at Taehyung so lovingly, the elder’s heart skips several beats.

“I’ll look after him with everything I can,” he promises, looking deep into his boyfriend’s eyes before they press their lips together, gliding and smoothing together with nothing but sweetness.

Cue Jimin and Yoongi both making retching sounds, as if they aren’t the epitome of gross PDA couple.

They pull apart giggling, and Jungkook reminds him once again that they really have to go, so, Taehyung takes one last look at his best friends for a while, and pulls them into another hug, smooching both of their cheeks with wet kisses, which they both groan at despite the smiles tugging at their lips.

Just as expected.

“You better still call!” Jimin warns as the two are striding back towards the car, and Taehyung holds his hands up in defence, saying, “Promise! Don’t send a hitman after me if I’m a little late, though!”

Jimin drags his thumb across his neck in a threat, and Taehyung snorts thinking that is the last mental image he’ll have of Park Jimin for a while.

They drive again, a little calmer this time, but nonetheless in a hurry to get out. No words are exchanged between them for a long time, both just adjusting to what all has happened as they make their quiet escape.

Fifteen minutes out of the city, chasing the bordering of sunrise, Jungkook finally says, “I knew you were going to be trouble…” and no matter how the words should sound, Jungkook makes them sound so unbelievably fond that Taehyung finds himself smiling until his mouth aches.

“Like you’d have it any other way.”

Jungkook laughs too - melodious, twinkling - and Taehyung realises how desperately he missed the sound.

They might well be exhausted, ground to the bone with trauma and adrenaline running out. Hell, they’re running on fumes, by now.

But no matter what, Taehyung knows they’ll make it through the night. And the next one, and the next one…

Well, that is, of course, as long as he remembers to call Jimin and tell him where the hell they’ve disappeared to, then.

No amount of super-technological-rage-power could save him from Park Jimin’s wrath of extreme best-friend concern.

Taehyung glances over at Jungkook. And maybe it’s not totally safe while he’s driving, but he still touches his hand, intertwining their fingers as he brings it up to his mouth and kisses softly, each individual knuckle.

“Jungkook, you wanna know something?”

Jungkook looks at him, a wave of curiosity washing over his face as he asks, “What?”

Taehyung smiles, looking back to the road ahead as he keeps Jungkook’s hand securely in his.

“Mushrooms or no mushrooms - I really do love you, regardless.”

Jungkook snorts, loudly , thumping his thigh with their interlocked hands.

“I love you too, Tae.”

~

Fuck, we’re late- okay, don’t panic-”

“I’m not panicking, Kookie-”

“You’ll still do great, babe-”

“-I know, Jungkook, I’m not worried-”

“-You look amazing, they’ll love you.”

Baby,” Taehyung calls, clutching the sides of his lover’s face, staring intently at him to focus on him, not anything else. “ You’re more nervous than I am. All I’m doing is introducing the campaign, it’s a piece of cake.”

Jungkook pouts in his hold, hand reaching up to cover the elder’s as he mumbles, “Yeah, I know… but I’m just-- this is a big step, you know?”

“I know. And we’ll make it. We’ve taken bigger ones, before, haven’t we?”

Jungkook grins, shrugging off Taehyung’s grip to move in and kiss him soft and sweet. A good-luck, of sorts.

But then he pats his butt, cooing, “Go get em, baby.”

Taehyung scoffs.

“That’s your nickname, baby.

Jungkook just rolls his eyes, telling him to go already and Taehyung doesn’t delay it this time, skipping up through the hall where all the guests have gathered in dashing formal wear and hopping up the steps of the stage, being politely introduced by the host of the evening while he scans the crowd for- oh, there they are. Jungkook’s found Jimin and Yoongi, it seems -and along with it, Hoseok, Namjoon and Seokjin. Taehyung grins at them when they give unanimous thumbs ups.

Then, there’s a round of applause, and Taehyung steps up to the microphone.

He clears his throat, feeling so very ready for this.

“Evening, everyone. I, as Miss Kang just so politely introduced me, am Kim Taehyung - founder of Recrudescence, which, as I’m sure a lot of you know if you’re here, is an artificial intelligence development company - the first created and ran by a non-human.” He shifts slightly, feeling a slightly wave of nervousness settle in his gut, as he always does when he mentions that, but one look at Jungkook’s prideful smile, and it leaves him completely.

“I started this company with one thing in mind: to remake how we view androids and other AI types, and work towards making a safer, more realistic program that no one has to scorn or be afraid of anymore. With this in mind, tonight I announce the launch of our new campaign - a first major step in the unification of AI and humans: The Harmony Project.”

He takes a breath, letting the information sink in on the crowd as they discuss amongst themselves. Taehyung smiles at the seemingly approving reaction of most of the audience.

“Truthfully, I can’t tell you this is something I’ve always wanted. There was a time I was afraid of humans, a time I resented them. But, then I met one that took me in.” He looks towards Jimin who wiggles his eyebrows at him, and gives a light snort. “And I intruded on his boyfriend and him for far too long - until I found my own home.”

Then, he looks to Jungkook, and god does he never fail to take his breath away.

He’s smiling ever so gently at him, cheeks flushed as he keeps a steady gaze. Taehyung sighs, unashamedly dreamily.

“And he’s the best I could ever have asked for. Without him, I wouldn’t be standing here today, no doubt. But I’ll tell you that story in a minute...”

He’s serious. Taehyung’d be dismantled and copied into a super race by now if it wasn’t for him.

“With him, brought three new people that I can now wholeheartedly say are three of my closest friends and, as cheesy as it is, in these six humans, I’ve finally found a family.”

He’s pretty sure he sees Hoseok wipe his eyes.

Sap .

“So, with this campaign, I want to create more relationships like this everywhere. For everyone. I’m constantly working on new technology and new programs and new models but, with the Harmony Project, I want to take some time to focus on the ones already here. The ones like me, all those years ago.”

He gestures to the little spot of his friends in the crowd and says, “We hadn’t planned this, but I’d like to invite my fiance up now, so we can give you all a little insight on how we came to be the first soon-to-be married AI/human couple.”

Jungkook’s eyes widen, and he shakes his head for a moment until Hoseok’s giving him a big old shove out of his chair and he’s pushed to his feet, smoothing down the lapels of his jacket out of habit than anything else, before he quietly makes his way up to the stage, people applauding as he goes.

“You likely know Jeon Jungkook, already - though soon he won’t be a Jeon at all,” he reminds the man beside him, who flushes even more at the inference. “He’s the son of the old chief of ADIEU, back when Solelight’s police force was still a corrupted mess - before him and his brother, Seokjin, took over. They’ve done an amazing job restoring Solelight’s police force to its original intent: to protect all citizens; and with the eradication of the ADIEU, I believe they’ve truly kickstarted my company to be where it is today. So for that, I say thank you to you both.”

Seokjin jokingly shoots him little finger guns, but Taehyung can see the grateful sparkle in his eyes, and Jungkook? Well, Jungkook looks at him how he always does: like he’s seeing the entire world before him.

“But, without further ado, let me tell you exactly how The Harmony Project, and the love of my life and I-” Jungkook groans quietly as the audience laugh, yet he’s grinning from ear-to-ear, “came to be.”

Taehyung still doesn’t think he knows a whole lot about life. There’s so much more to learn and see and do. But living?

Yeah… all he has to do is look at the man beside him, and he knows exactly what he’s living for.

“So, it all started one rainy Friday night-”