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the world never stops turning

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Taehyung was immortal.

No one knew that, of course, with the exception of his two equally immortal best friends. The last person he had voluntarily told besides them had been a lover back in…1821 maybe? He recollected that it was in Paris, at least, and that the man’s name had been Sebastien, and that Sebastien had been so extraordinarily talented with his tongue that Tae purposefully missed his scheduled train to Amsterdam to hang around a few more weeks. In a drunken haze, he had admitted his secret. Sebastien, to his recollection, demanded proof. Taehyung unmasked his eyes, let the violet pupils shine through his usual brown, the only sign he carried of his faerie heritage in his human form.

It hadn’t gone well.

Sebastien had come at him with a knife, terrified. Taehyung was forced to disarm him but carried a vicious scar on his right forearm as a souvenir. That, and the memory of the curses shouted after him as he ran away into the night.

It was a failed experiment, Taehyung knew that. It was better for him to continue his gypsy lifestyle, moving on to a new place every few years just as people started to take note of the fact that he never aged. He knew, on a molecular level, that the concept of immortality wasn’t something the typical mortal could grasp outside of fiction novels. So he never again attempted to explain.

“What are you?”

Taehyung blinked at the sudden question.

The handcuffs on his wrist rattled hollowly in the tiny interrogation room as he leaned forward to peer at the pile of photographs scattered on the table. He saw himself in every single one, the same narrow-boned face, defined cheekbones, lean figure, closed-off expression.

The only difference between all the Taehyungs in the photos were the hair colors. In one, he wore thin-rimmed eyeglasses and his hair was a vivid red, his expression pensive as he peered up at a painting in the Louvre. In a black and white photo, his hair seemed grey but he was pretty sure it had been brown at that time, for he stood shirtless with a pair of boxing gloves on, staring down an opponent haughtily, and remembered the boxing phase of his long life pretty vividly. In yet another photo his hair was a bright blonde bordering on white, reflecting the sunlight shining out of the sky, glinting off his teeth as he threw his head back in a joyous laugh, surrounded by what looked like fellow college students sitting around a picnic table with textbooks in their laps.

There must have been dozens of photos, ranging from recent high-priced glossy quality to older sepia and black and white tones on frayed paper.

Taehyung’s gaze snagged on one in particular. The Taehyung in that photo had brown hair falling over his forehead and into his eyes, but the fringe wasn’t thick enough to hide the black eye or the laceration on his cheekbone. He stood leaning against a barbed-wire fence, thin fingers clenched over the metal, other people of Japanese heritage crowded in around him. They all wore the same tan shirts and pants. On the other side of the fence stood a row of American soldiers with rifles trained on them.

“Funny how the government thought all Asians looked alike,” commented Taehyung idly, plucking the photo from the others to study it more closely. “I couldn’t tell you how many fellow Koreans or Chinese or Taiwanese people were in those camps. Sure, World War II was a scary situation all around. But mistakes were made.”

“Sad,” remarked his interrogator. “It’s not the first time a government overreached itself. But there’s no doubting that the man in the photograph is you, though.”

“I mean, I could definitely raise some doubts.” Taehyung reclined in the chair, got as comfortable as he could. He raised an insolent eyebrow. “Koreans all look quite similar to an untrained eye, don’t you think?”

“Logical argument,” came the thoughtful reply. “A couple of faults, though.”

“By all means, enlighten me.”

“I do not have an untrained eye. And there’s no way anyone could mistake those cheekbones. Especially me.”

Suspicious, Tae narrowed his eyes. “Was that supposed to be a compliment?”

“A compliment would be unprofessional.”

“That wasn’t an answer.”

“You never answered my question, either, so we’re square.”

“And what question would that be, Detective?”

“What are you?”

Taehyung dropped his eyes, studying his hands in his laps. There was a string coming loose from the hem of his silk collared shirt. He picked and fiddled with it, lost in thought. Abruptly, he looked up. “Am I under arrest, Detective? I’ve been here in this fine establishment for forty-eight hours now, and that’s the maximum amount of time you can hold me without a formal charge.”

“You aren't under arrest,” came the response, what felt like an eternity later. “No, it looks like you were at the wrong place at the wrong time, Kim Taehyung. My partner caught the man responsible. In the future I’d advise you from wandering by convenience stores alone at four in the morning while a robbery is going down.”

“Noted,” Tae drawled, bored. Nightmares had kept him awake that night, and there were only so many things he could do in his apartment at all hours of the night before he went stir crazy. “Can I go now?”

“Sure. Your lawyer is waiting for you in the lobby.”

Tae winced a little. That would be a fun conversation. He hadn’t requested his lawyer be present, too intrigued by the photos.

He got up, held up his wrists as the detective came around the table with a key. The cop unlatched the cuffs, removed them systematically, all while looking Taehyung straight in the eye. Tae held his gaze, curious, rubbing his wrists once freed.

Tae allowed himself to belatedly realize that the detective was an attractive man, even with some stubble on his cheeks and shadows under his eyes. His hair was black as night and unkempt, his jawline sharp enough to cut glass. He had three black rings in the cartilage of his right ear, which intrigued Taehyung, and he wore black slacks and a black t-shirt as opposed to a cop uniform. His shiny silver badge hung from a chain around his neck.

The detective seemed to realize he was staring, and insolently raised a brow. “Something interesting you?”

Trick question?

Tae cocked his head. “That’s it? No good cop, bad cop? No roughing me up, demanding answers? A nice shove against the wall, maybe?”

A smirk. That was the first expression Taehyung saw on the detective’s face in two days’ worth of questioning. Too bad it was so damn attractive.

“Pushing you up against the wall sounds appealing, I’ll admit,” the detective murmured as he escorted Taehyung out into the bull pen. “But it wouldn’t be for an interrogation.”

Tae hummed under his breath. He caught sight of Jin pacing the waiting area, dressed impeccably as always in a pressed navy suit with a pink collared shirt. He held his designer briefcase in one hand and furiously typed into his cell phone with the other. Tae was relieved to see the leaves and twigs that normally decorated his friend’s brunette hair and the bark of his skin was nowhere to be seen. Jin could be forgetful of his mortal visage when upset.

Dryads. So emotional, what could you do?

The lawyer looked up at their approach, relief crossing his face. “Tae,” he called, striding forward to hug him hard before gripping his shoulders and looking over every inch of him. “Are you all right?”

“Fine, hyung, don’t worry.” Tae cast a glance at the detective. “I was in good hands. Apparently.”

“Jeon Jungkook,” said the detective, and offered a hand. “You must be Kim Seokjin.”

“Detective Jeon.” Jin cast him a gimlet stare but accepted the handshake. “Are you formally charging my client?”

“No, he’s free to go. He was a very,” and the smirk showed up again, “compliant suspect. My partner caught the actual perpetrator.” He gestured lazily across the bull pen where a surprisingly short man with incomprehensibly ocean blue hair shoved a handcuffed man down on a bench. “I appreciate your cooperation, Taehyung.”

The detective offered a hand, and Tae glanced at it warily. Was it a trap? But Jin hyung cleared his throat in that way where he wanted to tell Tae what to do but didn’t want to embarrass either of them by speaking it aloud, and Tae harrumphed and quickly grabbed the detective’s hand. Warmth rippled up his skin, brought goosebumps to his skin. He felt his eyes flicker and hastily tugged his hand free, wiping his palm on his shirt while averting his eyes in case they betrayed him.

After a moment he glanced back at the detective, who looked as impassive as ever. He gave the pair of them an ironic salute and turned on a heel to stride towards his partner.

A warm hand came up to Tae’s shoulder and squeezed, making Tae sigh as Jin steered him towards the door. “Are you all right?”

Tae didn’t answer. He paused on the front stoop of the police station, stared up at the night sky, stars obscured by the smog and light pollution of Seoul. The streets were thick with pedestrians and car traffic despite the late hour, neon lights blinking at every corner. Tae felt a pang of homesickness.

But where was home?

“Come on,” said Jin gently, watching him close. “Jimin left for that work trip yesterday, you’re coming home with me.”

Tae simply nodded and allowed the dryad to tug him into a cab.

-

Jungkook returned from the waiting area in time to see the suspect kick out a foot and his partner casually dodge and smack him on the back of his head for the effort. The handcuffed man winced and subsided, muttering dire threats under his breath. Jungkook’s partner looked supremely unconcerned.

“Everything under control?” drawled Jungkook.

“He’s a little peeved that I found an eyewitness who picked him out of a lineup,” commented Yoongi, sliding behind his desk to begin typing at his computer. “Idiot took off his ski mask too soon after the heist. Rookie mistake.”

“Giving the criminals tips these days, hyung?” Jungkook likewise sat behind his own desk, catty corner to Yoongi’s. He stared down at the file on top of the scatter of paperwork, at the neat pile of photographs.

“Not my fault they’re getting dumber by the minute.”

“I really don’t think you should criticize them for making our job easier. If it was hard it would cut into your nap time.”

“Fuck you,” responded Yoongi without heat. “Is your curiosity satisfied with that other person of interest? We’d cleared him pretty early on, you didn’t need to hold him so long.”

Jungkook hummed noncommittally, eyes fixed on a picture of a dark-haired Taehyung sprawled on what looks like the bank of a river, suspenders hanging loose around his waist, his loose white shirt slipping aside to bare a sun-kissed shoulder. His eyes had a lively twinkle and his lips were drawn up in a friendly smile. Jungkook burned to know who held the camera, who was gifted with such an expression.

Kim Taehyung. The name resonated in his mind. Who was he, and how had he been alive so long? Running his prints after the initial arrest had garnered dozens of hits. Notes from other law enforcement personnel over the decades had been thick with interest at the beginning, preliminary investigations started, but almost immediately halted in their tracks.

The question was why?

Jungkook considered himself an open-minded man. He had to be, with his job. He hadn’t made detective within five years of graduating the police academy without hard work, patience and a firm opinion on right versus wrong. He had seen many things he would never have believed humans to be capable of.

But a man who hasn’t aged in what appears like hundreds of years? His mind turned the puzzle over and over in his head, stayed with him like an itch he couldn’t scratch as he and Yoongi completed their paperwork.

“Jeon!” bellowed a voice across the bull pen, pausing the chaos for a moment as every cop swiveled their head to peer at Jungkook, who grimaced and put his pen down.

“Damn it, kid,” Yoongi muttered, and sighed. He reclined in his chair, hands behind his head as if preparing for entertainment.

Their captain strode through the maze of desks, slapped a piece of paper on his desk. “Care to explain?”

The paper detailed a complaint, Jungkook idly realized, lodged against him for harassment. For detaining a man named Kim Taehyung for a full two days without a charge. It was written by a lawyer named Kim Seokjin.

That was quick.

“I was well within my rights to hold a person of interest,” commented Jungkook.

Captain Kim Namjoon slapped his hands on his desk with an unimpressed scowl. “It was harassment and we both know it.”

The dimples that usually decorated the captain’s cheeks were nowhere to be seen as he scowled. His silver hair was swept up from his forehead, the white collared uniform shirt spotless and perfectly creased, though there were drops of coffee on his trousers. The captain was a clumsy man and the whole precinct knew it. But his face was smooth and unlined. In the five years Jungkook had been assigned to this precinct he had never seen lines of stress or worry on the man’s face, and the detective could never fathom how.

“Harassment is a harsh way to put it—”

“You can’t talk your way out of this one, maknae,” interrupted Namjoon, making Jungkook grumble at the nickname. He’d earned it during his time at the academy and hadn’t shaken it since. “Kim Seokjin is one of the most respected attorneys in this city and your record can’t take another hit.”

“So I’ve gone in hot on a few interrogations, I also have the most closed cases in this precinct.”

“Which is why I’m not benching your ass for insubordination and harassing a suspect,” retorted Namjoon, unimpressed. “But you will formally apologize to Mr. Kim and his client or it’ll be a knock on your service record, am I clear?”

Jungkook hated apologizing. It’s not like he knocked the guy around, he just asked some questions, questions that Taehyung never reacted to, only watched him with that twinkle in his eye as if he was supremely entertained by being detained in an interrogation room for two days with a patient detective.

Jungkook couldn’t help but wonder about him.

But apologize? Hell no.

Namjoon saw his distaste, straightening to his full impressive height. “Apologize. Or I’ll suspend your ass.” He retraced his steps back to his office, pointed a finger at Yoongi. “Make sure he does or you’ll earn yourself a suspension as well, Min.”

Yoongi saluted lazily. “Sir, yes, sir.”

Namjoon snorted but continued on his way.

A ball of paper hit Jungkook on the forehead and he scowled at his partner. “Hyung.”

“I wouldn’t press the captain on this one,” drawled Yoongi.

“Yeah, yeah.” He got up, swept his jacket on and idly tucked the file of photos in the inner pocket. “Let’s go, you’re buying me a drink.”

Yoongi likewise shut down his computer. “Why is it always my turn?”

“Because you’re the hyung.”

“There’s only so many times that comeback will work.”

“Let me know when it doesn’t.”

Chapter Text

“You’re a difficult man to find.”

Taehyung didn’t bother to look up from his sketchpad, continued shading in the detail of the footbridge over the little creek. Somehow he knew he’d see the detective again.

Something about the cop screamed persistence.

“Yet, you found me,” observed Taehyung, eyes fixed on the paper in his lap. He felt more than saw a body settle in at the opposite end of the park bench. “Come to interrogate me again, Detective?”

“No.” Jungkook sprawled his legs out, tucked his hands in the pockets of his hoodie with a quiet sigh. He had just come off a full thirty-six hour shift, tracking a man guilty of beating his wife to within an inch of her life. He was tired, legs aching from sprinting nearly a dozen blocks during the final chase, his cheek sore where the asshole had landed a lucky punch. His legs gave a relieved twinge as he straightened them.

Worth it.

“I’m actually here to apologize for detaining you,” continued Jungkook.

Tae finally looked up from his work. The vivid bruise on the detective’s cheek and lazily vindictive glint in his dark eyes only made him more attractive.

“Fascinating. An apology can’t have been your idea.” He went back to sketching.

“It wasn’t. I’m still curious as to what you are. I think a few questions was well within my purview.”

“Naturally. Still hung up on this immortality theory, I see.”

“A man needs a hobby.” Jungkook yawned idly.

“Or a nap,” commented Tae, and left it at that. His focus returned to stenciling in the delicate pattern of the curtain of willow leaves cascading beside the bridge, ends delicately trailing through the water.

“Am I forgiven then?”

Distracted again, Tae looked over, raised an eyebrow. “I’m sorry, I wasn’t aware you had apologized.”

“The words were fleeting but they were sincere.” Jungkook stared at him expectedly. But Taehyung only quirked his lips and returned to his sketch. The cop blew a noisy breath out through his nose and bounced his foot a little. “Fine. I apologize for last week. FOr both detaining you, then hitting on you afterwards. I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable.”

He barked a laugh, quick and loud, foxlike. “Don’t flatter yourself. You’re about as scary as a bunny, Detective.” Jungkook frowned. “I didn’t need an apology but thank you nonetheless.”

“Your lawyer deemed it necessary.”

“Ah, hyung. Yes, he can be overprotective at times. I won’t apologize for it.”

“Nor should you. Are we square, then?”

“Sure.” Taehyung resettled the book in his lap, painstakingly adding the last details of the buds on the willow branches on the verge of blooming.

“Then may I buy you a cup of coffee?” The smirk Jungkook threw his way made Tae cock his head, intrigued. “Now that the pleasantries are out of the way.”

“You’re pretty transparent in your attempt to interrogate me further, Detective.”

“Not an interrogation, I swear.” Jungkook even crossed his heart, made his eyes wide with feigned insult. “But you intrigue me. And you’re pretty. I’d like to get to know you better, if you’re willing.”

Tae eyed him mistrustfully, but he liked the little twitch of something like interest stirring low in his gut. The man was just so damn pretty.

Too bad he was a cop.

“I don’t drink coffee,” responded Taehyung, interested to see just how hard the other man would work.

“Tea, then. Or we could find a bar.”

“It’s hardly three in the afternoon.”

“Is it?” Jungkook glanced at his watch, miffed.

“When was the last time you slept?”

Jungkook waved that aside. “Or we could skip the pretense of a drink altogether and just go back to my place.”

“Very direct, Detective,” murmured Taehyung, enjoying the quick lick of heat up his spine as Jungkook reached out to idly fiddle with the leather bracelets on his wrist. The tips of his fingers were warm and deliciously rough with calluses.

“I could give you prettier words. Something about how the sunlight dancing off the creek is making that silvery hair of yours all but glow. Or how your eyes are so watchful and focused that I can’t help wondering what I could do to make them blur a little, go a little hazy. Or that your skin is so flawless I can’t help but wonder how prettily it would wear any marks I choose to give you. And I think that deep voice of yours would sound even more beautiful strung out and hoarse after crying for hours.”

His voice was a low murmur that washed over Tae like a warm tide. Swallowing, Taehyung let the tip of his tongue slip between his lips to dampen them, his near-finished sketch forgotten. He watched Jungkook trace the move with his eyes. “You have a way with words,” he all but purred.

“Only when I’m speaking the truth.” Jungkook kept playing with his bracelets, the rings on his fingers, each stroke of his hand a deliberate move.

Too practiced. Too deliberate. Taehyung wondered just how many of his suspects fell for such a ploy.

Or how many bedmates he had seduced in such a manner.

But the compliments were very pretty. And hot as fuck. It had been such a long time since Taehyung had allowed himself the indulgence of a lover. So what if it was a handsome detective with canny eyes and a cocky grin? Taehyung could think of worse ways to occupy his endless time.

Taehyung deliberately closed his sketchbook, tucked it carefully in his satchel along with his charcoals. He stood, slung the bag on a shoulder, then looked down at the detective, still casually sprawled on the bench and looking ten seconds away from passing out with exhaustion.

“Tempting, Detective,” he drawled, reaching down to tug him to his feet. “But I somehow have the feeling you wouldn’t be able to get it up at the moment.”

Jungkook straightened slowly, slowly enough that Tae could have easily stepped back and dodged the move. But he didn’t. He allowed Jungkook’s body to brush his as the cop stood, chests rubbing together, enough for Tae to feel the firmness of muscle. He enjoyed the way the cop’s shoulders were deliciously broader than his, the couple added inches of height that made Tae look up a little to see his glinting eyes.

“Care to test that theory?” Jungkook reached up to brush the fringe out of Taehyung’s eyes.

Tae shivered and allowed him the familiarity, enjoying the dance. “Another time, maybe. For now, I’ll stick with tea, Detective.”

“Sounds good to me.”

Smoothly, Jungkook pivoted, held out an arm. Tae slid his hand into the proffered elbow and the detective put his hands back in the pockets of his hoodie, pressing Tae’s hand warmly between his elbow and trim waist.

“Jungkook,” the cop added as they made their way down the path and out of the small park.

Taehyung raised an eyebrow again. “Pardon?”

“Call me Jungkook,” he repeated, then leaned in close. His lips brushed the curve of Taehyung’s ear as he murmured, “But feel free to call me Detective in bed.”

Taehyung nearly purred again.

-

It was interesting, sitting across from the detective in a coffee shop. Jungkook. Was Taehyung on a date with the man, or a cop? With someone who saw him as a potential bedmate, or saw him as a suspicious person, a puzzle to solve?

And if it was both, how could Taehyung balance the two?

At least he wasn’t bored.

“Only neanderthals drink their coffee black,” commented Taehyung, blowing on his frothy green tea and enjoying the scented steam.

“Just call me caveman,” came the comfortable response. Again Jungkook sat reclined in the booth, head lolled back against the top of the seat, legs stretched out beneath the table. His feet casually trapped Taehyung’s between his.

It amused Taehyung just how relaxed the cop could be. But his eyes were still sharp, Tae noted, and realized that if he asked Jungkook to close his eyes and still describe every patron in that café, he could do it perfectly. It was the eyes. Always sharp, always searching. Even half-lidded with exhaustion.

“Did you really think I was capable of robbing that convenience store at gunpoint?” asked Tae suddenly, wondering if the detective was relaxed enough to answer.

Jungkook tilted his head, still resting against the back of the seat. “Not after two minutes in your company. Why use a gun when that face is more lethal?”

“Again with the backwards compliments.”

“Well, you haven’t agreed to sleep with me yet,” said Jungkook.

Tae ignored that. “So you kept me locked in that little room for two days because you think I, what, have actually lived forever?” He deliberately kept his voice light and teasing.

“The earliest photo evidence I found was from 1917, so, no. Maybe a hundred or so years, that’s it.”

“Of course, of course.”

“I also liked looking at your face,” added Jungkook.

Tae snorted. Jungkook had no idea that this wasn’t the only face he wore.

“Is something funny?”

“Nope.” Tae popped his lips on the last consonant, had the pleasure of seeing Jungkook’s eyes drop unerringly to stare at his mouth. “Correct me if I’m wrong, Detective, but you seem determined to have me…despite your conviction that I’m, what was it, immortal?”

“Either that or remarkably long-lived.”

“Tea tree oil in my face masks,” commented Tae blithely. “I actually turned five hundred last week.” Give or take a few decades. “Don’t tell anyone, I hate making a fuss about my birthdays.”

“You don’t look a day over two hundred if it makes you feel any better.”

Oh, if he only knew.

Jungkook drained his mug then got up, walked towards the counter. Tae watched him go, admiring the rear view of a fine ass in a tight pair of jeans, then cast a broad wink at the pair of older women nearby who were eying him with poorly feigned disgust. He was debating taking off his shoes in public to show the ladies his toenails, currently sporting vivid rainbow stripes of polish, but Jungkook returned before he could entertain the thought too seriously.

A chocolate cupcake was plunked on the table in front of him. In swirly decorative writing, it proclaimed, Happy 100th! He stared at it, then glanced up at Jungkook’s quirked lips as the detective settled into his seat again.

Taehyung roared with laughter.

Clutching his belly, Tae managed to say between chuckles, “Well played, Detective.” He had no idea just how accurate it was.

Jungkook watched as Tae begin nibbling on it. “I couldn’t resist.”

“This isn’t a bribe, right?”

“Are you going to second-guess every little thing I do for you from now on?”

“Possibly.”

“Sounds like a monstrous waste of energy. But it means you’re thinking about me, so I like it.”

Tae pouted a little. “Don’t patronize me, Detective. It makes me cranky.”

“Well we can’t have that. I thought I told you to call me Jungkook.”

“Maybe I like that glint in your eye whenever I call you Detective.”

“Fair enough.” Jungkook’s eyes kindled as he leaned forward, broke off a piece of the chocolate and deliberately letting his fingers brush Tae’s. “You’ll have to take responsibility for the consequences, though.”

“I’m not one for consequences. I like to wave at them as they pass by.”

Jungkook pointed at him again. “Pirates of the Caribbean reference.”

Taehyung chuckled again, knocking the cop’s searching hand aside and polishing off the cupcake. “Nothing gets past you.”

“I’d be a poor cop otherwise.”

“Fair enough,” Tae parroted back to him. His phone dinged in his pocket and he withdrew it to see half a dozen texts from Jimin. He winced.

“Everything okay?”

Observant son of a bitch. “Just a friend who’s about to kick my ass for being detained by the cops for two days and not telling him about it,” said Tae balefully, eying Jungkook.

“That was over a week ago.”

“He’s been doing some work over in India, he just got back.” Tae mentally shook himself. What the hell would he care?

“Well, tell him I say hi,” came the blithe reply.

“You’re a piece of work—”

“Thank you.”

“Wasn’t a compliment,” Tae pointed out. He stood, drained the last of the tea. “Well, it’s been fun, Detective. Thanks for the cake. Go get some sleep, you look like shit.”

Total lie.

Jungkook knew it, since he unfolded himself fast enough to catch Taehyung by the hand before Tae could leave. His fingers drew senseless designs on Tae’s palm. “I’d like your number, before you go.”

Smart boy. He didn’t even make it a question.

Tae couldn’t help but smile a little. “There’s probably something in the cop bylaws that forbid dating a suspect.”

“Probably. But you were cleared, you aren't a suspect anymore.” Not officially, at least. Jungkook raised an eyebrow, proffered his unlocked phone. “So?”

Chuckling, Taehyung accepted it and plugged in the digits. “Color me intrigued, Detective.” He finished, hit save, and started walking away.

His phone buzzed before he reached the door.

 

From: unknown number
what did I tell you about that nickname

 

To: jeon jungkook
first tip about me
I tend not to listen to authority

 

Taehyung blew a kiss over his shoulder, enjoyed the way Jungkook was shaking his head at his back, and disappeared out into the Seoul evening.

Alone now, Jungkook pocketed his phone, staring at the pair of empty mugs on the tabletop. For a few moments, he wavered, torn between professional curiosity he couldn’t shake and his morals. Then he sighed and decisively reached inside his hoodie, withdrew an evidence bag and snapped it open, hooking Tae’s mug with the end of his hoodie and sliding it in before sealing the bag shut. He flashed his badge at the busboy currently staring him down, making the young boy blush and bow apologetically, and stashed the bagged mug inside his hoodie before making his way out of the shop.

-

“Jungkookie,” crowed an enthusiastic voice as Jungkook strode through the double doors of the city morgue an hour later.

Jung Hoseok, Chief Medical Examiner, stood at an autopsy table wrist-deep in the chest cavity of a young woman who had been shot clean in the forehead by the look of the bullet hole in her skull. Sad, thought Jungkook, and left it at that. He had seen too many senseless homicides in his career. Let one in, feel the tragedy fully, and he could kiss his mental health goodbye.

Some may deem him heartless. But he was just doing what it took to survive.

Hair unapologetically bright and fiery orange, Hoseok peered at him behind the oversized specs obscuring his eyes as he withdrew the girl’s heart from her body and placed it gently in a scale. “What brings you to my humble abode at this time of night?”

“Hyung,” he greeted, withdrawing the bagged mug without preamble. “I need a favor.”

“God forbid you ever come here just to say hello,” grumbled Hoseok, stripping off his protective gear to expose sky blue scrubs. He went over to a clean sink, washing up before heading to the lab area. His head bobbed to the beat and his fingers typed manically in a computer, hips swaying, toes tapping. That was Hoseok, always moving, never still. “You and Yoongi, you’re the worst sort of detectives out there, constantly banging on my door and never giving me a moment’s rest. I have better things to do than cater to your every whim, you know.”

“Says the man doing an autopsy near eight at night on a Sunday.”

Hoseok cast him a baleful glance then began jotting a few notes in a file as thick as an encyclopedia, the detective waiting patiently until he finished, absently tapping fingers on his jeans to the tune of the hip hop station Hoseok had blasting through his lab.

“So what can I do for you, oh great and wonderful Detective?” he asked when the paperwork was complete.

Jungkook eyed him balefully, then dangled the evidence bag in front of his eyes. “I just need you to test some DNA.”

“You’re kidding, right? Any college-aged lab tech stoned out of his mind could test for DNA, Jungkookie, you don’t need me and my three PhD’s.”

“But you don’t brag,” added Jungkook in a dry tone. “Hyung, those jokes in the crime lab screw up my samples seven times out of ten. This case is sensitive, I need an expert touch.”

The scientist preened, leaning back against his work counter and crossing his arms. “Now that’s more like it.”

“Plus I know you’ll keep it out of the system.”

Immediately Hoseok lost all smugness. “Oh, Jungkook, not again. Don’t tell me you’re working another case off the books.”

“Okay, fine, I won’t tell you.” A baleful stare. “Trust me, okay, I know what I’m doing. I just need this sample tested, I need to figure out who this guy is.”

“Is this for the same suspect that Namjoon came down on you about for overreaching?”

“How did you—” Jungkook closed his eyes. Sometimes he forgot that his captain was dating the medical examiner. “There are no secrets in this city.”

“Nope,” said Hoseok cheerfully. “You forget that Seoul thrives on gossip, my muscly friend.”

“You and your boyfriend thrive on gossip, Hobi,” he corrected.

“True. Joons always has the best stories. I especially love the stories of how often you get in trouble.” The medical examiner sighed as if reminiscing good times.

Jungkook ignored him. “Look, that complaint wasn’t my fault.”

“It never is, Jungkookie. Somehow it never is.” Hoseok rubbed at his forehead. “Jungkook—”

“I know, hyung, okay? I get it, sometimes I overstep.” Jungkook came closer, brandished the mug again, fervor in his eyes, on his tongue. “But this case, this guy I’m trying to figure out, he…”

“He what?”

“There’s something…” Captivating. Enthralling. Fascinating. “Different, about this one. That’s all.”

“What did the guy do?”

Jungkook shifted his weight, poked moodily at the collection of maneki neko cat figurines lining the desk.

“He didn’t do anything,” guessed Hoseok shrewdly. He knew the detective too well, had been working closely with him for years. He knew that Jungkook relied on his gut to a near manic degree instead of police procedure. “You realize it’s illegal to run the DNA of a man not suspected of a crime. And if he was already in your interrogation room, you already have his prints, his information. I don’t understand what else his DNA will tell you.”

“I wonder whether the prints match the man. Just consider him a person of interest. You and I both know you can keep this search off the grid, Hoseok. Do me a solid, I’ll pay you back.”

“If I cashed in all the favors you owed me, kid, I’d be a very rich man.” Hoseok sighed, again, then swiped the evidence bag and collapsed into his desk chair, rolling it across the lab to a different workstation. “Go get me a coffee. Extra large frappucino with whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles. And an apple tart.”

Jungkook rolled his eyes but obeyed.

-

“Kim Taehyung,” announced Hoseok long after he had demolished his coffee and dessert, swiveling in his chair to face a bored Jungkook perched on the nearby counter. “Born 1995 in Daegu. Up to date driver’s license, swanky uptown address, lives with a Park Jimin. No criminal record, no pops in the system. Model citizen. An artist, a really good one, apparently.”

Jungkook stared at him, then the monitor. “That’s it?”

Hoseok stared back. “What were you expecting?”

A list of priors extending back to the 1800’s, maybe. For the name Kim Taehyung to be an alias, a lie, anything to explain the enigma that Jungkook had spent forty-eight hours trying to unravel.

Jungkook knew the immortality theory wasn’t reasonable. It was insane, actually. He knew that Taehyung had a string of ancestors that all looked eerily alike as young adults. He realized that was the logical explanation.

But the eyes. That face. The air of secret, the mischief, the attitude like life was just one big game and Taehyung was just playing it until the time ran out.

What are you?

“Thanks for the assist, Hoseok,” said Jungkook slowly, bagging the recently dusted mug again and tucking it in his hoodie. “I appreciate the time.”

“Everything okay?”

“Just some things I need to think through.” Jungkook cast him a wan smile. “Next round of drinks is on me.”

“You and I both know you’ll invite Yoongi along and sucker him into paying for all three of us.”

“Why mess with a perfect system?”

Hoseok’s chuckle followed him out.

Chapter Text

Jung Hoseok was a smart man. Not many people knew it, not many people could see beneath the jovial demeanor to the quick brain ticking busily away.

After all, a man didn’t survive 300 plus years as a vampire without a certain amount of cunning.

He called Namjoon first.

“Your detective is quite the naughty one,” Hobi drawled into his phone as he let himself out of the morgue into the damp Seoul night, locking the doors behind him.

A hefty sigh came through the earpiece. “What did Jeon do now?”

“You know, it makes me all warm and fuzzy inside when you read my mind like that,” purred Hoseok.

“Oh, yeah? You should probably come home, then, let me make sure you’re okay.”

Hoseok whined, “Namjoonie, that was just awful. How the hell are you so bad at dirty talk even after two hundred years with me?”

“It’s a talent of mine,” said Namjoon dryly. “Jeon came to see you?”

“Yes, he wanted me to run the DNA of that faerie he collared last week.”

A vicious curse. “Damn stubborn idiot. He never lets anything go.”

“You should have kicked the fae to the curb the second you realized he was in Jungkook’s interrogation room.”

“I couldn’t interfere in a routine arrest and interrogation, it would have been even more suspicious,” argued Namjoon tiredly. They’d already been over this countless times. “I assume you covered for the fae?”

“Oh yeah. Don’t let the sparkling personality fool you, I take my job seriously.” The supernatural community in Seoul would have been exposed decades ago if not for their infiltration of most public services. Hoseok was merely a link in the chain that looked after their secret existence.

“I know, Hobi. I’m torn whether to let this Kim Taehyung know just how much Jungkook will dig into this. I confiscated the photos he gathered but knowing Jeon he’s got copies stashed somewhere. He’s like a dog with a bone when it comes to puzzles he can’t solve.”

“This Kim Taehyung is fae,” Hoseok reminded him, pulling the collar of his jacket up and ducking his head as a brisk wind rolled through. “I’ve known plenty of faeries over the years, they’re a sly, cunning sort. I have no doubt that this kid knows exactly what the detective’s game is.”

“I hope so,” said Namjoon, still sounding troubled. He took his responsibilities seriously. Sometimes Hoseok missed the days when Namjoon lived as an author and professor, spending his days quietly reading and writing, less strain on his shoulders and their relationship. But when the couple was approached by the Magistrate of the Eastern Lands almost eight years ago now and extended them an offer, they had stepped up. Incidents of exposure of the supernatural community, particularly in Seoul, had dropped by seventy percent in their time as Guardians.

“Maybe you could reach out to his lawyer, he’s a dryad,” suggested Namjoon. “I would, but I can’t go behind my detective’s back.”

“So you send me to do the dirty work, I see how it is.” Hoseok paused. “Wait, did you say a dryad?” Dryads were rare, and known to be living amongst mountains and forests, not deep in a city cesspool like Seoul. He felt a twinge of foreboding.

“Yeah, I could smell it on him from a hundred feet back. His name is Kim Seokjin.”

Hoseok dropped his phone.

“Hobi? Hobi, you there?” rang thinly from the speaker.

Trembling all over, Hoseok reached down, picked it shakily back up. “Sorry, honey, one more time? What was the name?”

“Kim Seokjin. Dryad.”

“Oh.” Hoseok’s mouth dried up.

“Everything okay? Do you know him or something?”

“Something like that,” Hoseok managed to say, as past and present merged into one vicious ache in his chest. “Well enough to contact him. I’ll reach out, see if I can go through him to give this fae kid a heads up.”

Clearly over the oddity of his reaction, Namjoon chuckled a little. “Why do you keep calling him kid? He may be older than you.”

Hoseok snorted. “Possibly, but only an idiot of a faerie allows himself to be roped into an interrogation that could potentially expose him, and by extension, us.”

“It couldn’t hurt. Just be careful, yeah? And come home soon, I miss you.” Namjoon’s voice dropped slightly. “I want you.”

Hoseok shivered, quickened his pace. “Be home in ten, babe,” he promised. “Be ready for me.”

“Always.”

-

When Jin’s phone rang, he had just stepped out of a sinfully long shower. The screen displayed an unknown number, not entirely uncommon in his current line of work as a criminal defense attorney, but he still frowned before picking up, idly wrapping a plush towel around his waist.

“Kim,” he said into the receiver.

“Wow. Your voice hasn’t changed a bit.”

Every muscle in Jin’s body locked. “Jung Hoseok,” he said, voice cracking in the middle. He cleared his throat. “Been a long time since New York.”

“A few decades, give or take,” came the cheerful response. Jin was swept into a vivid memory of steel skyscrapers, Ford Thunderbirds and Long Island iced teas. “You know, I still think of you when I lie on silk sheets.”

Jin shivered. “I suppose your boyfriend appreciates that.”

“Oh, Namjoonie and I weren’t together at the time.”

“I remember that. I remember you telling me that just before you left me.”

Hoseok made a sound that sounded like a petulant whine. “You must know how immortal relationships work, after a while you just take breaks out of boredom.”

He knew nothing of the sort.

Jin sat on the side of his bed, rubbed his face briefly. “Sure,” he said slowly, not wanting to discuss it further. “What can I do for you, Hoseok?”

“You’re gonna hurt my feelings, not calling me Hobi,” he responded. Jin could all but hear the pout.

“Like I said, it’s been a long time,” said Jin. His heart ached. He had missed the chirpy bastard something horrendous, but Hoseok had walked away from their tryst without a moment’s thought. “So, the question remains, what can I do for you, Hoseok?”

Hoseok sighed, grumbled something inaudible. “I understand you’re a lawyer now.”

“Why, have you broken the law?”

“Not since New York,” he chuckled.

“Well, you talked your way out of that public indecency charge quite successfully, if I remember right. Why would you need me?”

“It’s not your services I require,” said Hoseok, voice trembling with the effort of holding back the joke on the tip of his tongue. “I’m actually looking to pass along a word of warning to someone I suspect is a client of yours.”

“I’m listening,” said Jin, straightening up. What did he expect, that Hoseok had reached out to finally catch up after all these years? To ask how Jin had been doing after leaving him heartbroken and alone in a club in New York, the same club where they met, moments after announcing he was returning to the boyfriend he had been taking a break from? As if Jin was no more than a moment’s amusement.

While Hoseok had meant the world to Jin. Not that Jin had ever told him so.

“Kim Taehyung,” said Hoseok, startling Jin from his reverie.

Jin’s eyes narrowed. “What about him?”

“Ah, so you are a friend of his. Should have known. Dryads have always been friends of the fae.”

“What about him, Hoseok?”

“It seems he’s caught the interest of one of my boyfriend’s detectives.”

“Your boyfriend?”

“Kim Namjoon, captain out of the 5th precinct.”

Jin just closed his eyes. Of course, he muttered under his breath. Of course Hoseok is dating a police captain. Of course that police captain is the boss of the detective who detained his dongsaeng.

Of course.

“Still there hyung?”

Jin flinched violently, nearly dropped his phone. It took every ounce of control he had not to scream, to shout at Hoseok because he didn’t have the right to call Jin his hyung, not anymore.

“Still here,” he managed to say with admirable calm. “How do you know?”

“I’m Chief Medical Examiner of this here lovely city. My detective wanted me to run DNA on your boy, got it off a coffee mug.”

Taehyung hadn’t been served coffee while being detained, only bottled water. Damn it, Taehyung. What the hell are you getting yourself into?

“I see,” said Jin slowly, buying himself time to think. If the detective knew Hoseok, did that mean the detective knew of them all?

“Does this detective know of you and your boyfriend?” he asked.

“That we’re vampires, or that we’re dating?”

“Hoseok.”

“Kidding. He knows we’re dating and is cool with it. It’d be awkward if he wasn’t, seeing as he himself is bisexual.”

“Hoseok.”

“Again, kidding. Damn, Jin, you’ve lost some of your humor these past decades.”

I wonder what was the catalyst, thought Jin bitterly.

“To answer your initial question, no, Jungkookie doesn’t know about us. Or about vampires, or the supernatural community at all. But something about your faerie boy is tickling his instincts and he may be catching on. I’d like to talk to this Kim Taehyung.”

“I’d be happy to pass along the words of caution myself.”

“And deny me the chance to make a new fae friend?” Hoseok’s voice remained light, teasing. It infuriated Jin that he was so unaffected by the interaction while Jin was close to breaking down. “Deny me the chance to see you again?”

“That was your fault.” Jin sank into the bed, leaned his forehead against the post of his four-poster bed. “You cut ties, Hoseok.”

“Yeah, well.” For the first time a hint of vulnerability crept into the vampire’s tone. “There are few things in my long life that I regret, hyung. Treating you so horribly is one of them.”

“Hoseok—”

“And yeah, it’s shitty for me to hit you with this out of nowhere but fuck it, Jin, I’m taking this opportunity while I have it. Look, Jungkookie is a good kid, an awesome detective. Something about this Taehyung has captured his interest, and it’s not solely professional, I can tell. He’s acting stranger and I can’t say I dislike the change. I’d like to meet Taehyung and have a conversation with him.”

“To warn him to keep his distance, or encourage him to get closer?” guessed Jin shrewdly.
“If this Taehyung is your friend, if he’s anything like you, I doubt anything I say could sway him.” His tone became brighter again. “So what do you say, hyung? Can we do this?”

Jin had known from the moment he heard Hoseok’s voice again that the hurt would return. But he didn’t expect the fire in his chest, didn’t expect it to flare so sharply or burn so fiercely.

He rubbed a hand over his heart and managed to say in a somewhat even tone, “Meet me in the morning, eight o’clock. I’ll text you the address.”

He hung up without waiting for an answer, shot off the text to Hoseok. Leaning forward, he allowed his face to sink into his hands, feeling the twigs and leaves strewn in his hair as emotions pulled at his control. He allowed himself the comfort of rocking back and forth slightly on his plush bed as he prepared himself to face the man—the vampire—who had broken his heart seventy years ago.

He kept rubbing his chest as he called his dongsaengs.

-

Taehyung stepped out of the private elevator into the top-floor penthouse, the tension from the run-in with Jungkook finally seeping out of his bones as the warmth of his home swamped him. No matter the century or decade, the soothing tones of the home he shared with his best friend never changed. This incarnation sported lots of low leather furniture, with thick rugs in gorgeous shades of teals and blues. Bookshelves lined the walls, packed with priceless first editions stacked carelessly beside dime-store paperbacks. Enormous copper pots overflowing with ferns and flowers were everywhere. The air smelled faintly of turpentine, emanating from the room down the hall that served as his studio, and aloe, from the work station in the corner topped by simmering cauldrons and piles of dried herbs.

As Tae toed off his boots, two small creatures that could be mistaken for lizards by untrained mortal eyes rounded the corner at a sprint, jumping at him with enthusiasm.

“Little loves,” exclaimed Tea, collapsing to the rug under the weight, giggled as the gremlins furiously cuddled and scented him.

“Smells of a stranger,” whined Hemera, scales bristling and tickling the skin of Tae’s cheek.

“Don’t like it,” agreed Nyx, burrowing into Tae’s ribs.

“Missed you,” the two said together.

“I missed you as well, little loves,” Taehyung greeted them. “Did you have fun on your trip?” The pair had joined Jimin on his work trip to India, gathering rare herbs. The three of them had just returned that day. They both nodded emphatically.

“Hemera, Nyx, take it easy,” called a voice in reprimand. Moments later Park Jimin walked into the living room, holding a mug of tea and wearing an amused expression as he stared down at the pile of bodies on the floor. His angelic blonde hair was mussed and he wore only a flowered silk robe loosely tied around his hips, the knot threatening to slip loose as he cocked a hip and arched a brow at his best friend and roommate. “On second thought, this asshole got arrested and didn’t tell me about it. Sic him, kids.”

“You were in India,” protested Taehyung as Hemera and Nyx attacked him gleefully, snuggling with renewed vigor. He couldn’t help but chuckle as he tussled with them for a moment, then gently pushed them aside.

The little creatures appeared reptilian, sporting scales of a deep jade green in Hemera’s case and darkest sapphire for Nyx. They were tiny, the size of kittens, with sinuous lanky bodies, small spikes along their spines and long spiked tails. Two sets of pure black eyes blinked in their skulls, no pupils distinguishable, and each of their paws sported long wickedly sharp talons.

Hemera sported a partially amputated tail courtesy of a run-in with human hunters. Nyx was missing one of his four eyes, and there was a large nick in his right ear. He had run afoul of a necromancer. They had both found sanctuary with Taehyung and Jimin, whose fae bloodline gifted him the power of healing.

Hemera hissed at him when Tae accidently put his hand on her stubby tail while attempting to stand, and Tae had to hurry to put out the small flame that lit the hem of his jeans.

Gremlins they may be, but they retained some characteristics of their long-extinct dragon cousins.

“Hemera!” Jimin marched over, wagged a scolding finger. “What have we discussed about lighting people up?”

The gremlin sat on her haunches, scales bristling, her very countenance radiating discontent as she grumbled at the floor, “Only if they deserve it.”

“Good girl.”

“We are horrendously spoiling them,” announced Taehyung, as if the other three beings in that room weren’t perfectly aware of that fact. Nyx busily climbed Tae’s non-scorched leg, sniffing furiously at his shoulder bag.

Jimin shook his head as Tae pulled out two pieces of raw salmon and tossed them across the room for the gremlins to race after and gobble. “You’re one to talk. Just made tea, want some?”

“Love some.”

They settled in the living room with fresh mugs, Tae unbothered by his friend’s near-nakedness as they sprawled in opposite corners of the leather couch. Now forgiven, Hemera clambered over to lie at Tae’s side, nipping at his fingers with her mouth full of sharpened teeth until he acquiesced to stroke her behind the ears where she liked. Nyx curled up in a tiny ball on the back of the sofa, smoke unfurling from his nostrils as he slept.

“I can’t believe you got arrested,” began Jimin with an amused snort. “That hasn’t happened to you since, what, the twenties?”

“How was I supposed to know that speakeasy was run by the mob? So not my fault. Besides, I wasn’t charged. Then or now.”

“I’m assuming you fooled the cops with your pretty pretty face. Again.” Jimin waggled his eyebrows suggestively.

Uncomfortable with the insinuation that Tae had used his wiles to escape authority before—which was a perfectly truthful statement—Tae shrugged the thought away. “Didn’t bother. It was entertaining, watching the detective grasp at straws.”

“Oh no.” Jimin groaned at the look on his face. “No, don’t tell me.”

“What?” asked Tae, blinking his eyes innocently.

“Don’t tell me you’re crushing on the cop, Taehyung, come on.”

“I’m not,” he protested, but the words were weak. “He was just fun to banter with, that’s all. He kept up with me.”

“I know you haven’t had that in a while but Taehyung, seriously, a cop? There couldn’t be a worse choice.”

Tae watched Jimin gnawing on his lip, hating himself for worrying his friend. It had been Tae, Jin and Jimin, the three of them, together, for hundreds of years now. Other immortal acquaintances had come and gone—Tae vividly remembered a particular werewolf who latched onto Jimin and stuck around for fifty years or so until Jimin grew tired of the dog hair and kicked him out—but Jin hyung and Jimin were his family. Tae refused to do anything to jeopardize their lives.

Things were different in this century. Science and technology were progressing at a rate that was far too dangerous. It threatened their existence on a near daily basis, them and any other creatures that did their best every day to blend into human civilization. Between phones and computers and the Internet and science experiments it seemed that no secret was safe from humans.

Their safety hinged on anonymity. Other faeries and seelies and vampires and such had ventured into the limelight before, lived in harmony with humans successfully and for many years, but it always, inevitably, seemed to end in tragedy. Tae recalled hearing of the seelie who lived among the people of a small coastal village in Italy for nigh on two centuries until a group of the original settler’s descendants grew wary of him. And slaughtered him in the night.

With a shudder, Tae refocused his thoughts. “Really, Jimin, you don’t have to worry about this, it wasn’t a big deal. I’ll probably never see him again.”

“But smell like stranger,” piped up Hemera innocently. Tae glared into her four eyes. The brat didn’t even look recalcitrant.

“Smell like stranger,” agreed Nyx. His eyes were slitted with amusement.

Jimin frowned. “Taehyung…”

“All right, yes, he found me at the park today and we had tea. He apologized for detaining me, but that’s it, I swear,” insisted Tae.

“Then why do you keep checking your phone?”

Tae tucked it away guiltily. “I’m not.”

“You liar,” said Jimin, but his voice was fond. He sighed, curled his knees to his chest in a move that would make him look innocent if not for the silk robe that bared his legs. “I just don’t want you to get hurt, Taehyung. You’re my brother and I love you.”

Taehyung squirmed guiltily. He just couldn’t help but form attachments. He loved mortals, enjoyed them for their faults and capriciousness and personalities, couldn’t help but get drawn into their lives. Even after 487 years Taehyung didn’t know how to control that part of himself, the part that cared too much and too deeply. He had felt the pain of a broken heart and the grief of loss countless times, until sometimes he felt like his heart was simply a worn out husk in his chest.

With the detective, he felt it beating again. For the first time in decades it felt like it wanted to thrum out of his very chest. Taehyung was scared that he wouldn’t be able to walk away.

“I love you, too,” echoed Taehyung, reaching out to intertwine their fingers and give them a squeeze, making Jimin smile again. “I’m being careful, Chim Chim. I promise. We only came back to Seoul five years ago, I’m not about to make us leave again so soon.”

It was a pact they had made, back in the very beginning. Tae and Jimin went nowhere without one another. It helped keep their loneliness at bay. Jin hyung wandered occasionally, parted from them for years before popping up again at odd times. He’d arrived in Seoul only two years past.

Speak of the devil, thought Taehyung as his phone rang and Jin’s name popped up. He answered and put it on speaker.

“Hyung,” he greeted, winking at Jimin. “I was just thinking of you, handsome.”

“Not now, Tae,” came Jin’s unusually annoyed response.

Taehyung frowned, glanced at a confused Jimin. Even the gremlins stirred uneasily, Nyx’s eyes popping open.

“Everything okay, hyung?”

“Where are you?” said Jin instead.

“I’m at home, why—”

“Good, stay put for the night. I’ll be over in the morning.”

“Is everything o—” The line went dead.

Taehyung set his phone aside. “Well,” he chuckled, but he wasn’t amused. “Maybe I spoke too soon.”

Jimin looked at him reproachfully before rolling to his feet and heading for the liquor cabinet. “This calls for booze.”

“Make mine a double.”

Chapter Text

He looked the same.

That was Jin’s first thought, as the lawyer paused in the dawn light a few feet away from where Hoseok stood looking down at his phone.

Obviously Hoseok had, quite literally, not aged a day. His hair was a vivid orange instead of black and he wore medical scrubs, of all things, compared to the trousers and suspenders he had sported in the fifties, but he still rocked back and forth on the balls of his feet as he stood at the corner awaiting Jin’s arrival. Hoseok had never coped well with standing or sitting still.

That had been part of the draw of Hoseok, from the very night they met in that club in downtown New York. Hoseok had danced like the world was his stage, and for a quiet man like Jin, who perched on a lonely barstool sipping a whiskey neat and mourning the loss of his eighteenth dog, it had been more than a fresh of breath air, it had been…salvation.

Now it was just painful.

It didn’t help when Hoseok spotted him and aimed that achingly familiar mile-wide grin his way, adding a whistle as he walked to meet him. “Damn, hyung, look at you! Still hot as ever.”

Seokjin may have taken more time than usual with his appearance that morning. His charcoal suit was designer, the cuff links antique and laced with gemstones, the pale blue collared shirt soft as the clouds, the leather loafers shined to glint even in the weak sunlight. Jin held himself with his broad shoulders straight and proud. Hoseok had walked out on him fifty years ago. Jin would never give him the satisfaction of knowing how broken it had left him.

Jin purposely extended his hand, the tips of his fingers meeting Hoseok’s firm chest as the medical examiner moved in for a hug.

“Hi, Hoseok,” he greeted, cordial enough, but even a stranger could read the distance in his eyes, in his voice.

Hoseok pouted but acquiesced to the handshake, giving it a firm squeeze between both of his. “It’s really, really good to see you, Jin, I’ve missed you—”

“So Taehyung is at his place uptown,” Jin broke in, scared he would lose it entirely. His body felt ready to disintegrate at the edges. “He’s expecting us.”

Hoseok closed his open mouth, eyes sad but understanding. That was Hoseok, emotions always on his sleeve. It made it worse for Jin, remembering the devastation in the man’s eyes when he had quietly announced that he had to return to his other half, this Namjoon.

The other vampire.

Would it have been easier to bear if Hoseok simply stopped liking Jin, rather than continuing to like him but missing the love of his life too much?

Jin didn’t know. But it was just as painful as he’d expected.

“It’s twenty minutes by train,” said Jin, gesturing towards the station. “Shall we?”

Hoseok merely nodded, expression still somber. It was a quiet trek, and an even quieter train ride. Neither of them knew what to say to break the silence that had set in, a silence built of fifty years of pain and loss. Jin knew Hoseok was sorry, and Hoseok knew he had hurt Jin. Maybe not the degree of it, but he could see the hurt. It was like they were starting over, five feet from the finish line.

Where did they go from here?

It was with massive relief that Jin finally led them into the lobby of the building, nodding cordially to the doorman who swiped them into the private elevator.

“Nice place,” commented Hoseok, glancing around with appreciation at the colored mosaic floor and mirrored walls of the elevator. Jin trained his eyes on the floor and didn’t respond. One Hoseok was painful enough without dealing with countless reflections.

So steadfast in his stare that he didn’t notice the yearning in Hoseok’s eyes as the vampire stared at him in the mirror.

-

Jin hyung strode into the apartment like he owned it. Taehyung and Jimin straightened up from their posts leaning against the kitchen counters as they both stared at the thinly veiled hurt and discomfort on their hyung’s face.

In perfect sync, their eyes shot to Hoseok and they glared.

Hoseok paused a healthy distance away, as Jin moved to the coffeepot and helped himself to a cup.

“Jimin, Tae, this is Jung Hoseok. One of the current Guardians of Seoul,” introduced Jin with little fanfare.

“Hoseok? As in…” Jimin’s voice trailed off. He exchanged a look heavy with meaning with his roommate, and again both faeries glared at the Guardian.

Hoseok cleared his throat. Well, that answers the question of whether Jin has ever spoken of me, he thought humorlessly.

“I’m also Chief Medical Examiner for the city of Seoul. A detective friend of mine came by the lab last night, asked me to run a DNA sample. Care to guess whose?”

Taehyung sighed. He could have deflected, but he wasn’t in the mood for games.

Jin looked too strung out for games.

“I figured he would.” He shrugged when both Jimin and Jin glared at him. “I had coffee with the detective, I left before he did. Only a stupid man wouldn’t take advantage of my mug just sitting there. Jungkook doesn’t strike me as a stupid man. Cocky and way too sure of himself, yes, but not stupid.”

“So you just let him do it?” demanded Jimin indignantly.

“Better he lose his curiosity fast. Come on, Jiminie, Jin hyung gives us foolproof identifications each time we move. There was no issue on that front, right, mister Medical Examiner?”

Hoseok’s lips twitched at the lazy, arrogant drawl. “No, it was excellent.” He locked eyes with Jin as he strolled closer with his coffee. They all noticed the obvious lack of an offer to fetch Hoseok something. “Your hyung did a wonderful job giving you a back story. The only pity was that two Guardians are currently overseeing the police force and its’ affiliates. I’ve come to warn you.”

Tae’s eyes went to slits, and the pupils began glowing a brilliant violet. “Come again?” he rumbled.

“You’ve caught Jungkook’s interest—”

“And he’s caught mine.”

“I would be neglecting my duty if I didn’t warn you against this.”

“Ah, yes, Guardians and their duties.” Tae waved that away, leaned casually against the counter again. “Consider me warned. This isn’t the first time I’ve…handled a curious mortal, Guardian. Everything will be fine, once I bust the detective’s balls for running me, of course.”

“Feel free to tattle on me.” Hoseok winked when Taehyung stared disbelieving at him. “Tell him for me that it makes us square for all the favors he owes me.”

“You’d rather he know you ratted him out, than let him settle up?”

“Trust me, getting under that cocky kid’s skin is worth it.”

“Huh.” Tae shrugged a shoulder, pictured dropping that bomb on the detective and felt a fissure of pleasure in his gut. “Okay then. Thanks for the info. I appreciate you coming down from on high to speak to the common folk,” he added sarcastically.

Hoseok merely bowed his head to him. “Any time.” Tae blinked at his audacity as the man pivoted to face Jin. “Thank you, Seokjin, for the hospitality.” It seemed Taehyung wasn’t the only one well-versed in sarcasm.

“It really was a pleasure to see you again,” Hoseok added in a sincere tone, looking softly at Jin.

Then, with a simple bow at the waist, the Guardian disappeared into thin air.

“He always had a flair for the dramatic,” said Jin with an eye roll.

“You—” blustered Jimin, pointing from Jin to Taehyung and back again as if unsure who to scold first. “You and Hoseok…Guardian…Tae and the detective!”

“It’ll be okay, Jiminie,” said Taehyung with amusement, patting his struggling friend’s back. “I promise.”

-

Taehyung didn’t consider it going back on his promise to invite Jungkook out for a drink. He’d given it a few days of serious thought. Jungkook had become dangerously persistent, yes, but Taehyung had practically dared him to test his DNA by leaving the café first.

He knew Jungkook would take the bait.

They hadn’t exchanged many texts. The occasional greeting, Jungkook intermittently bitching about paperwork, Taehyung commiserating by sharing his frustrations over a commissioned portrait for a finicky client. Nothing that delved deeper into the obvious want they shared.

Tonight Taehyung found himself wandering into his favorite bar, a hole-in-the-wall off the beaten path, far from the sparkling neon lights of downtown Seoul. Here the jukebox cranked out decades-old hits, the wooden tables scarred by cigarette burns and condensation rings, the air dim and smoky. Patrons huddled over their drinks and avoided one another’s gaze as if hard thoughts were contagious.

It hadn’t changed much since the last time he had traveled through Seoul. Sixty years ago.

Taehyung settled into his favorite corner booth after procuring a whiskey and coke from the grizzled bartender. He took a large swallow and sighed, relaxing into his seat. What felt like moments later, he sensed eyes on him, and glanced up to see Jungkook had entered the room, his quick gaze finding Tae in seconds. Their eyes locked, heavy with indecipherable meaning. Then Jungkook broke the contact to go to the bar, ordering his own drink before heading for the corner.

“Taehyung,” he greeted, sliding in across from him with a bottle of beer. He sprawled as carelessly in his seat as he had in the café, feet again trapping Taehyung’s between his, though this time no bruise decorated his cheek, and he wore a black hoodie rather than the bomber jacket.

Tae found himself missing the leather jacket, but he cast an appreciative eye over the wide portion of collarbones and strong neck bared by the loose collar. “Detective,” he purred back, pleased when Jungkook’s lip quirked up. “No bruises tonight, I see.”

“There may be. I’d have to bare more skin for you to find out.”

“Tempting.” At least Tae could be sure that the heat currently tingling up his spine was reciprocated. They both seemed to be on the same page.

It was a fire between them. The only question was how hot it would burn.

And for how long.

“Guess we’ll have to see how the alcohol goes down,” continued Taehyung, sipping from his glass. He pointed at Jungkook as the detective opened his mouth. “Make one comment about how you could go down better and I’m out of here.”

Jungkook pouted and was transformed to a petulant child. “Stop giving me prime opportunities, then, come on. You know I’m bad at resisting temptation.”

“Is that why you ran the DNA from my mug?” asked Taehyung casually, darkly pleased when Jungkook froze with his beer halfway to his lips.

After a moment the detective finished taking a sip then placed the bottle carefully on the tabletop. “How—”

“Hoseok said to tell you that the pair of you are even.”

Jungkook rolled his eyes. “That traitor. What’d he do, track you down out of kindheartedness?”

“I think he used giving me a heads up as a way to get back in touch with my hyung.” Taehyung grinned a little. “They had a thing, way back when.” His grin spread. “Way, way back.”

“Before Namjoon? Thought those two had been together forever.”

Poor detective. He still had no idea. “Apparently. I make it a point to avoid sticking my nose in my family’s personal business. Unless it’s warranted.”

“Fair policy. You don’t seem surprised about what I did.”

“I figured you wouldn’t leave off until your curiosity was assuaged. Have you finally dropped the immortality notion?”

“It’s not my fault your name popped on over a hundred investigations in the past few decades,” argued Jungkook lazily, tracing a finger around the rim of his half-empty bottle. “Those pictures all but dropped in my lap. I’d be a poor detective if I ran away from a puzzle.”

“Sure, sure. You’ve got to earn that shiny badge somehow,” drawled Taehyung, wickedly delighted when Jungkook’s eyes narrowed in warning. “It’s okay,” he added, and deliberately patted the other man’s hand in a patronizing manner. “You’re doing your best, detective. I applaud your dedication.”

After a couple of minutes of contemplative silence, during which their eyes never deviated once from each other, Jungkook said slowly, “You don’t seem angry with me.”

“About running me? No, I guess not,” mused Taehyung. “It was simply…predictable,” he decided.

“Predictable.”

“Yes. I practically gift-wrapped you a DNA sample. You’re a detective. If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck…”

Jungkook drained the last of his beer. “I’m not sure I like being compared to a duck,” he decided.

“Well, bully for you—”

Jungkook suddenly stood, leaned over the tabletop to capture the nape of Tae’s neck in a strong hand. He used the grip to guide Tae’s face up, drawing the fascinating, frustrating man to the edge of his seat so Jungkook could lean in and kiss him.

Taehyung stiffened in surprise, then just as quickly melted, hands coming up to fist in Jungkook’s hair as he deepened the kiss. A purr rose in his throat when Jungkook nipped lightly at his bottom lip, dancing his tongue inside when Taehyung gasped. With a shiver, Taehyung fell into the warmth, mind going hazy. His heart kicked up a notch, and butterflies swarmed his stomach.

He felt so alive.

Jungkook nipped his bottom lip one more time then eased back, remained leaning in to keep their faces close. He watched Taehyung’s eyes lazily flutter open, blinking as they suddenly gleamed a pure purple. But surely he must have imagined it, for in the next second they were back to the same luminous brown, reflecting the weak yellow glow of the small lamp hanging on the wall nearby.

Taehyung wet his lips, smirking as Jungkook traced the move with his eyes. “Shit, you’re good at that.”

“I try.” Jungkook leaned in and quickly kissed him again before easing all the way back, releasing him so that they both somewhat sagged back into their seats.

“Take that gay pride shit somewhere else,” jeered a man from the opposite end of the bar.

Neither Taehyung nor Jungkook paid the drunk any mind, too busy staring at each other. “Want to—”

“Get out of here?” finished Taehyung, who neatly threw back the last few swallows of his drink. “Yes. Fuck yes.”

When Tae stood, shocked to find his knees a little shaky, Jungkook was already up with a hand stretched out to take his. Tae thought his hand fit just a little too perfectly in the detective’s, but as Jungkook pinned him with a heated stare, he decided to worry about it later.

-

Jungkook’s apartment appeared nearly barren. The front door opened onto a combination kitchen and living room, as Tae could see out-of-date countertops and an ancient fridge with an equally ancient stove to the left. A ragged couch sat in front of a pricey television, gaming systems scattered on the rug. The rest of the space behind the couch was floored in black spongy matting that reminded Taehyung of a gym.

What the room lacked in décor made up for in the full set of gleaming fitness equipment. Leg press machine, pull-up bar, bench press, lat pulldown machine, they all courted a long rack of free weights and resistance bands. An old-fashioned beat-up stereo sat on the floor. In the corner, a heavy punching bag of tan canvas hung suspended by a silver chain from the ceiling.

Taehyung deliberately padded away from him as Jungkook took his coat and hung it up, trailing a delicate finger over a stack of free weights. “Someone takes personal fitness quite seriously, I see.”

“There are perks to the lifestyle,” murmured Jungkook, who stood in front of the entrance to the hallway. He stretched a hand out to him again. “Care for a demonstration?”

Taehyung stayed away a minute longer, enjoying the delicious unfurling of heat in his gut as the detective continued to stare at him with focused intensity, as if planning just how to take him apart. When Tae finally padded closer, Jungkook gripped his waist and hauled him into his arms with little fanfare, kissing him deeply.

Tae hummed and sank into it as they circled into the bedroom. With a gentle shove, Jungkook sent him sprawling back on the mattress, Tae reclining back on his elbows and licking his lips as he watched the detective remove his boots then hesitate with his hands on the collar of his t-shirt.

“Don’t go shy on me now,” murmured Taehyung, stripping off his shirt first.

Jungkook’s eyes darkened. “Just want to prepare you,” he said back in a low tone. “My chest isn’t too pretty.”

Tae sat up, concerned now. “Jungkook—”

The shirt came up and off, and Taehyung made a sound deep in his chest as he stared. It wasn’t the muscles that gave him pause, though something deep inside him shivered at the sight, but the vicious scar that raked across the detective’s left pectoral and forked down his abdomen like the branches of a tree. The scar was obviously old, a worn, puckered red pattern, but Taehyung flinched as if the wound were fresh and spurting blood.

“Jungkook,” he murmured, reaching out and making grabby hands at him until he cautiously came closer. Taehyung let his warm palms coast up the detective’s chest, making him shiver and bite his lip, until his fingertips rested gently on the scar. “What happened?”

“It was a knife. I tangled with this junkie back in my rookie patrol days,” Jungkook told him quietly, his chest moving beneath Tae’s hands as he breathed slow. “He had just cut this poor woman after stealing her purse. I chased him down, tried to disarm him without pulling my gun, but…well, he was faster than I gave him credit for.”

Taehyung pictured him bleeding out in an alley somewhere and his chest ached. As if Jungkook stood in imminent danger of such a scenario, Taehyung reeled him in, hugged him hard around the waist as he danced kisses across his chest, lips brushing gently over the scar.

“A hero. You’re a hero,” whispered Taehyung, content to lavish attention over the scar that Jungkook obviously found ugly. Tae just thought it brave.

Jungkook seemed to gasp, stiffening in his arms. But within moments he melted, dropping his own face to press hot, open-mouthed kisses to the side of Taehyung’s neck, adding a quick nip that made Taehyung shiver.

Sliding a hand into his hair, fisting it there and using it to tug Tae’s head to the side, Jungkook peered down and studied him. “How do you like it?”

Taehyung knew what he meant. “Want you to take me apart,” murmured Tae, hands clenching on the detective’s waist as his eyes darkened in response. “Want you to take control. Want you to fuck me.”

For a moment, Jungkook only breathed. Then he leaned down and pressed a kiss that was, against all expectation, soft and warm and gentle against Tae’s lips. Tae melted, falling flat to the bed as Jungkook pressed closer and sprawled over top of him.

“I can do that,” whispered Jungkook, and then suddenly his hands were everywhere, cruising up Taehyung’s chest to palm his nipples as he directed his mouth again to Tae’s neck, sucking and nibbling.

Tae skated his hands down that firm chest, down, down, down until he could shove the detective's jeans and briefs off, scratching at the narrow V leading to his cock as Jungkook bit out a curse and kicked his clothes off his ankles. Taehyung murmured something in a low voice and gripped the shaft lightly, almost experimentally in his hands. Jungkook hissed a breath and his hips twitched as Tae began to stroke him, slowly and teasingly, fingers kneading and playing with the head, nail scratching at the sensitive spot just beneath.

“Taehyung,” said Jungkook warningly, nipping at his neck hard before kissing and licking his way down, backing his hips out of reach of Tae’s enthusiastic grip. He sucked a hickey into the skin just above Tae’s right nipple and grinned when the boy moaned out loud for the first time.

Jungkook drew Tae's pants down, slowly, teasing, lightly scratching his nails as he went so that heat swarmed Taehyung at a dangerous rate. It was terrifying, exhilarating, the way he spiraled so high, so hot, so fast. He felt out of control, body writhing as Jungkook played his body expertly.

“Shh, you’re okay,” murmured Jungkook after he bit down lightly on Tae’s nipple and Tae shuddered hard enough to nearly dislodge him. Jungkook took his hands from where Tae fisted and tore at his own hair and gripped them hard in his, kept them trapped at Tae’s side as he plied his mouth to the opposite nipple.

“Jungkook,” choked Tae, tugging fruitlessly, aching to touch.

He liked the sensation of being pinned down, liked the feeling of being at his lover’s mercy. The feeling of his pleasure being the sole result of what his lover would deign to do to him, it only made his body burn hotter. Not submissive, per se…

But a brat.

How did the detective know?

“If there’s something you don’t like, pinch me,” murmured Jungkook as he danced lower to kiss and nip at Tae’s soft belly, still keeping the boy’s hands trapped.

The faint laugh Tae let slip out sounded vaguely hysterical. “Fat chance of that.”

“Still.” Jungkook nipped him, hard, on the junction between thigh and hip, scolding. “Pinch me. Understand?”

Tae stayed stubbornly silent, tempted to see just how far he could take it.

Not far. Jungkook suddenly sank his mouth down on Tae’s throbbing cock, taking it easily and smoothly down to the hilt, surrounded Tae in suffocating, wet heat. Tae gasped and jerked, all but howling a curse, so turned on he thought he may come on the spot. Then the heat was gone and Tae was sobbing at the loss before he was flipped over on his hands and knees, insistent hands on his hips raising his ass up.

A kiss, gentle as air and just as sweet, fell against the middle of his spine, offsetting the manhandling, making him smile a little even as he trembled in anticipation.

“I like your moves, Detective,” he purred over a shoulder as he braced his head on his crossed forearms to watch Jungkook rummage through the nightstand nearby.

“I’m glad,” he murmured back, and within seconds there was a deliciously light pressure teasing at his hole. “Because we’re just getting started, baby.”

One finger slid in, slick with lube, Tae moaning at the intrusion as he dropped his head to the bed and shivered. Jungkook was a tease, plunging deeper then retreating to play with the rim. Not until Taehyung let out a choked, “More,” did Jungkook add a second then quickly a third. There was a delicious brush of pressure at his prostate that made Taehyung cry out but then all fingers were retracted and Taehyung was flipped onto his back again.

He panted, staring up into Jungkook’s wide eyes. The detective seemed to blink at him in surprise, still kneeling between his outstretched legs. Mentally cursing, Tae shut his eyes, dimmed his powers, could feel the betraying tickle that meant his purple pupils were shining through. He breathed out, controlled it, timidly opened to look up at him again, hoping beyond hope Jungkook would attribute it to a trick of the light.

It seemed to work. Jungkook fell forward into the cradle of his arms, kissed him hungrily, sloppily, tongues and lips not moving fast enough to assuage the hunger in them both.

Tae broke away, panted up at him, “Please, p-please, Jungkook—”

Jungkook shushed him, even as he lined himself up and slid forward in one smooth thrust.

Taehyung choked at the stretch, scrabbled for something to hold, to keep his sanity but Jungkook was there, gripping his hands hard and burying his face in Tae’s neck as he drew his hips back and plunged forward, again. Again, again, again, until Taehyung was choking on moans and he felt he couldn’t breathe through the heat they generated.

Jungkook was a tease, again, building up his pace bit by bit only to suddenly slow down, remaining deep in him and circling his hips so Taehyung felt the barest touch at his prostate and jolted, only for Jungkook to retreat again.

Desperate, Taehyung suddenly lifted his hips, nearly dislodging the detective, writhing as he snarled, “God damn it, Jungkook, come on, fuck me.”

Jungkook leaned back, braced his weight on his hands and stared down at him, a smirk on his lips. “What was that?” He thrusted, hard, stealing Tae’s breath as he opened his mouth to respond.

“Yes, yes, yes,” babbled Taehyung as pleasure lanced him. “Like that, baby, come on.”

Instead, Jungkook drew out completely, leaving Tae whining wordlessly at the loss. Jungkook manhandled him onto his side, landed an absentminded kiss on his temple as Jungkook lay behind him and lined up again, thrusting forward as he held one of Tae’s legs up in the air.

Tae choked and scrambled at the bedding for a handhold, feeling both deliciously exposed but safely curled into Jungkook’s embrace at this angle. He felt helpless, entirely at Jungkook’s mercy, as the detective seemed to take pity on him and began a pace of rapid, harsh thrusts. The room filled with the healthy repetitive slap of flesh against flesh, Tae’s moans competing with Jungkook’s rough pants, completing their own soundtrack.

Jungkook rested his head on Tae’s shoulder and groaned as the other boy tightened around him. “Right there,” cried Taehyung, voice hoarse from his cries. “Oh my god, please, there, baby, there.”

“Fuck yeah, Tae, fuck,” Jungkook bit out, angling his hips to strike his prostate at every thrust. “I got you. Come on, baby, take it, take me.”

Taehyung moaned helpless agreement, pleasure swamping him as his thrusts picked up the pace. He snuck a hand down to his weeping cock only for Jungkook to snarl and knock it aside, making Tae shiver as he gripped it himself, pumping his length in tune with his thrusts.

“Shit, shit, shit.” Taehyung turned his face into the comforter and bit down on the pillow, feeling a scream build in his throat as the pleasure flew too high, too fast. “Holy shit, baby, I’m gonna come—”

Jungkook thrusted harder at the words, fisted his cock tight in one hand, and Taehyung came with a scream muffled by the pillow, come spurting onto the sheets. Tae released a sound like a sob as the tension in his body released.

“Fuck,” groaned Jungkook. It was the hottest thing he had ever seen, Taehyung lying there limp and blissed out and still taking him to the hilt on every thrust with no complaints.

“Come on,” murmured Tae dazedly, stirring enough to crane his neck and peer at him out of lust-hazed eyes. “Come on, baby, take me.”

On a loud groan Jungkook rolled them, lay astride Taehyung as the other boy fell onto his stomach, Jungkook’s chest pressed to Tae’s back as he gripped the other boy’s shoulders and all but jack-rabbited his hips, craving his own finish. Taehyung choked on sobs, lying there helplessly as Jungkook took his pleasure.

Dancing kisses over the backs of his shoulders and neck, Jungkook murmured delirious praises to him, what a good boy and so fucking good for me, Tae, fuck and love fucking you, so tight, what the fuck until Jungkook felt the heat coil low in his belly and on one loud sob from Taehyung he was coming, groaning in pleasure as he filled Taehyung to the brim with his release.

Both of them collapsed fully, Jungkook quickly rolling aside so as to not crush Tae, checking him quickly, concerned he had been too rough, but Taehyung had a blissed-out expression on his face and breathed harshly but contentedly, hickeys littering his neck, shoulders and chest. Jungkook let his head sink to the pillow and threw an arm around Tae to keep him close as they breathed.

“What the fuck,” whispered Taehyung, voice husky from use.

Jungkook couldn’t help it, he chuckled a little at the sheer surprise in his words. “Was it okay? Was I too rough—”

“Best lay in decades,” mumbled Tae.

Jungkook blinked. “What?”

“Days,” said Taehyung again, swiveling to peer at him. “What?”

Jungkook dismissed it, attributed it to the buzzing still persisting in his ears. He leaned forward and kissed Tae, softly, slowly, mapping his mouth again as Taehyung let his lips fall open with a tired, pleased hum and let the detective take his fill.

Jungkook finished kissing him with a kiss pressed to his temple that made Taehyung want to squeal and roll around on the bed from the butterflies in his stomach. He stifled the urge only barely as Jungkook got out of bed, easily naked, and walked into the adjoining bathroom. Tae took a minute to make sure his eyes were masked, since pleasure often stole his control, and rolled creakily onto his back as Jungkook returned with a cloth.

Jungkook cleaned him up gently, carefully, then reached below him to pull away the damp top sheet, settling Taehyung onto the fresh sheets. Then Jungkook sprawled out beside him, an arm around his waist and face pressed to his pretty hair.

Taehyung allowed himself the indulgence. He was already picturing the long walk home, facing Jimin with an explanation. Jimin would indeed be expecting him, sitting on the couch with a mug of tea and a teasingly curious expression, ready for details.

Because neither Jimin nor Taehyung ever spent the night with a mortal. It simply wasn’t done, letting their guards down like that. Too often nightmares chased them, made them babble in incomprehensible languages, and sleep tore down their guards so that sometimes their eyes glowed when they awoke. Sometimes Tae awoke in one of his animal visages if the memories that lanced his dreams at night were particularly rough.

Since Taehyung was a shapeshifter.

So no, it simply wasn’t done. He couldn't do it. Jiminie was waiting for him.

Regretfully, Tae pulled himself away from Jungkook, who had fallen asleep with a peaceful expression, the lines on his face smoothed out for now.

But a hand grabbed him as he sat up.

“Stay,” murmured Jungkook, tugging until Taehyung relented and fell back into bed.

Maybe just this once. Maybe just this once, in hundreds of years, he would break their rules. And everything would be okay.

“I didn’t think you’d want me to,” whispered Taehyung, lips brushing his chest as he curled in.

Jungkook slid an arm around his waist, squeezed him tighter, closer against him. “I’m not sure what this is,” he whispered back, voice slow. Contemplative. “But I like it. And I like you.”

Taehyung sighed. He felt so warm, lying there. So welcome. “Okay.”

Jungkook slitted open his eyes, stared at him.

Tae chuckled a little, and summoned the energy to lean up and kiss him deeply. “Like you, too.”

“Night, Tae.”

“G’night, Kook.”

Chapter Text

Enough is enough, Jimin thought, as he woke up the next morning to find Taehyung’s bed cold and abandoned. His phone was still dead when Jimin rang it. Concern for him overrode all of his usual—albeit minimal—caution. Hemera and Nyx, perched on his bed with heads tilted at him, watched as he scurried around the room dressing in jeans and a comfy pink hooded sweater, tugging calf boots on.

“Upset,” noted Hemera.

“Much upset,” agreed Nyx.

“Am not,” argued Jimin, well aware how petulant he sounded. “Who is this Jungkook kid anyway? Some hotshot detective, good for him. Doesn’t mean he’s good enough for our Taetae.”

“Jealous,” decided Hemera.

“Much jealous,” echoed Nyx.

“Am not,” repeated Jimin, then rolled his eyes. “I’m not getting into this with you. I’m just going to tell this detective to lay off of my friend, that’s all. Even you gremlins can see they aren’t good for one another.”

Hemera and Nyx blinked at one another. “See?”

“No see.”

“Tae happy.”

“Much happy.”

“Sure, until the detective figures out our secret and throws him in some government lab. I’d rather Taehyung be pissed at me for sticking my nose in rather than sitting back and doing nothing while he may be in danger.”

Jimin pulled a shoulder bag on, the end dangling at his hip. Occupied with checking his phone to see still no answer from Taehyung, he didn’t notice the gremlins bunching their muscles on the bed until they were both launching themselves into a smooth jump and landing in the open sack.

“Oh, no. Hell no, get out of there, both of you.”

“Going with,” said Hemera, wiggling until she lay curled in a neat ball beside the other gremlin.

“With Jiminie.”

“I can’t bring you guys into a human police station,” said Jimin exasperatedly. He tried to up-end the bag over the bed but the gremlins dug in with their sharp claws, protesting with loud cries.

Jimin knew the gremlins looked like lizards to ignorant mortals, but he didn’t want to tempt fate.

“Come on, little loves, please stay here,” pleaded Jimin. The gremlins peered up at him with seven narrowed eyes, Nyx’s nocked ear twitching. Jimin sighed gustily and threw up his hands. “Fine! Fucking fine. You get this stubbornness from Taehyung, I swear to god.”

Still grumbling, Jimin let himself out of the apartment.

Outside, Seoul lay rainy and cold. Jimin shivered, made sure his bag was zippered shut so the little loves wouldn’t get wet before putting his own hood up over his blonde hair. He kept muttering to himself the entire bus ride to the precinct, practicing dire warnings for the detective under his breath, knowing full well that it was Taehyung who could easily pull off the stone-faced intimidating look but knew his own talents lay more on the warm and fuzzy side.

Fuck it. He could be threatening if he wanted to.

At least he believed so, until he walked into the precinct to see four plain-clothed officers wrestling two suspects to the ground, the reprobates snarling curses and spitting defiance as the cops attempted to tame them. Startled, Jimin danced aside, only to brush up against a scantily dressed lady on her way out. His powers sensed hard chemicals and bone-deep exhaustion, the combination making him flinch. She smirked at what she mistook for weakness.

“Oh, well aren’t you a darling,” she mused in a silky voice, reaching out a hand towards his face.

Frozen, and a little nauseous as he battled for control of his power, Jimin was saved by a hand reaching out and snagging the lady’s before she could touch.

The newcomer had hair as brilliant a blue as the ocean, dressed in slacks and a white collared shirt. He was scarcely taller than Jimin and had a more willowy build, but the fierceness in his eyes made him appear ten feet tall. He carried authority like he was born to.

Momentarily awed, Jimin stared as the man clucked his tongue at the woman. “Now, Irene, what have I told you about harassing people? You’re going to give the poor kid a heart attack.”

“Oh, now come on.” She pouted, retracted her hand. “I was just playing.”

“Run along, Irene, you’re beginning to bore me.”

She pouted harder, but acquiesced, stepping back. She threw a last wink at Jimin. “See you later, handsome.”

“Irene.”

“I’m going, I’m going.”

When she had disappeared through the front doors, the stranger turned to Jimin. “Sorry about that,” he said in a low gruff voice. He seemed to look Jimin up and down. “You lost, kid?”

Jimin bristled. He had just turned 435, thank you very much. Who the hell did this guy think he was?

“I’m not a kid,” he said shortly, absentmindedly patting the bag at his hip when he felt the gremlins stir at his annoyed tone. The man caught the action and frowned. “I’m looking for a detective. Jeon Jungkook.”

“I’m sensing it’s not for a pleasant conversation.”

“Maybe,” responded Jimin curtly, annoyed again. “Is he here?”

Studying him for a moment, the guy abruptly shook his head. “Sorry, he called out today. It seems he,” a ghost of a smirk, “wasn’t feeling well this morning.”

Jimin blushed a fiery scarlet, catching the insinuation perfectly. Seriously, Tae? Have you no shame?

“Want me to get a message to him?” the man continued, crossing his arms lazily.

“Tell him Park Jimin thinks he’s an asshole,” said Jimin, then turned on a heel and strode out.

Outside, Jimin drew his hood up again and patted the gremlins through the bag as they stirred again. He walked quickly down the sidewalk, irritated by the entire interaction, but he wasn’t sure why.

A hand gripped his shoulder from behind and he whirled, catching the offender’s wrist in a grip that froze like ice. The blue-haired cop from earlier studying him with his head cocked. Even after Jimin released him, he merely rubbed at his frozen wrist.

“Neat trick,” he commented, writing it off. “You ran off pretty fast.”

“Yeah, well, I thought it was a good closing line. Stop following me.”

The guy raised an eyebrow. “You dropped this.” He held out Jimin’s phone.

Jimin blinked at it, then glared down at his bag, which rustled slightly and emanated a noise like a giggle. He cleared his throat loudly to distract the observant stranger and snatched his phone back.

“Thanks,” he grumbled. “Mister…”

“Min Yoongi. Detective,” the stranger said, offering a hand. Jimin shook but the cop merely held it, smirking again. “Jungkook’s partner.”

Jimin’s heart sank. He scowled and yanked his hand back. “Fantastic.” He turned around and kept walking, sensing Yoongi keeping pace out of the corner of his eye.

“Something tells me you don’t like my partner very much,” drawled Yoongi, longer legs easily keeping up.

“You don’t say.”

“Care to tell me how he made you so angry, Park Jimin?”

“Will you leave me alone?” Jimin turned down a side street, not paying attention to the direction. He just wanted to get away from the nosy cop. “It’s none of your business.”

“You obviously haven’t met a lot of cops. You showed up ready to storm my precinct to yell at my partner. I’d be remiss to not figure out why.”

“Look.” Jimin stopped at the mouth of an alley to pin Yoongi with an angry glare. “Just tell Jungkook to keep his hands to himself and everything will be fine.”

“Hands,” murmured Yoongi. He rolled his eyes to the sky. “You must know Taehyung. What are you, his boyfriend? He stepping out on you with my partner?”

“B-boyfriend?” spluttered Jimin. The thought instantly disgusted him. But how could he explain a friendship spanning four hundred years?

“Roommates,” he spat, eyes narrowed. “Taehyung’s basically my brother. And I don’t like the idea of him messing around with some cop who just imprisoned him for two days.”

“It was an interrogation, not an arrest,” countered Yoongi as if on reflex, then suddenly scrubbed his face with his hands. “Why the hell am I arguing with you? I agree with you, damn it.”

Derailed, Jimin stared. “What?”

“We have rules against consorting with suspects for a reason.”

“Suspect?” repeated Jimin furiously, about to take a step forward and give the detective a piece of his mind. This judgmental son of a bitch—

Hands again grabbed Jimin from behind, more than one pair, hauling him back and off his feet with a surprised squeak. He was slammed back against the brick wall just steps from a smelly dumpster, his breath leaving him in a surprised huff.

He blinked, looked up to see two hooded figures gripping his arms.

Sprites.

Damn it.

Faeries like Jimin were capable of immense powers tailored to their individual bloodlines, like Jimin’s healing and Taehyung’s shapeshifting. Sprites were capable of, well. Nothing. They were tricksters, thieves and liars to a fault, often working as peddlers of illegal supernatural trinkets for lack of anything better to do.

“What’s in the bag, faerie?” crooned one of them. They resembled mortals but slightly bent and misshapen, protruding eyes and crooked teeth and scarred skin with greasy hair and ripped clothes.

Little loves, thought Jimin with dawning horror. He clenched his arms around the bag, felt the flurry of panicked movements. Gremlins were worth a fortune on the black market, their very scales and bones forged from pure magic.

“Hand it over,” snarled the other.

“You boys are pretty stupid to pull this stunt in front of a cop,” drawled a voice from nearby.

Forgotten until now, Jimin and both of the thugs looked over to see Yoongi glaring nearby, gun drawn and aimed steadily, badge held up in his other hand. Gunshots wouldn’t keep a sprite down, though, no, it would take more than metal shrapnel to down them. Mortals often wrote it off as drugs when a bullet didn’t take down a supernatural suspect.

“Unhand him and step aside, put your hands in the air, now,” barked Yoongi, stepping closer.

One of the sprites giggled. It ripped the bag from Jimin’s grasp, who panicked and cried out, struggling forward but the other sprite punched him in the gut, stealing his breath. Jimin doubled over, coughing, tears springing to his eyes at the blistering pain. His healing didn’t work on his own body.

The sprite danced back, bag in hand, as the other darted towards Yoongi quicker than a human could, knife drawn. Jimin heard a quick curse of pain before the gun went off, and the sprite fell to the pavement with a howl. The other sprinted off, or would have, if Jimin hadn’t risen from his kneeling position like a runner off his mark and taken him down in a vicious tackle. The bag went flying, skittering across the dirty ground, as Jimin gripped the nasty hair and thumped the sprite’s head against the ground. It groaned and lay still.

Jimin crawled to the bag, ripped it open to see the gremlins trembling and crying inside. With his own cry he reached in, cuddled both of them to his chest as relief swamped him.

He never should have taken them out of their home.

Vaguely he heard Yoongi cuffing both of the sprites, then placing a call on his phone before slowly approaching Jimin.

“Jimin-ssi?” he asked tentatively. “Everything okay?”

“They’re okay,” breathed Jimin, nuzzling the little loves as they both all but burrowed into his chest.

Yoongi peered over his shoulder. And blanched. “W-what…what the…”

“They’re my lizards,” Jimin quickly said, getting up to face Yoongi as Hemera and Nyx crept up to curl on each of his shoulders, faces pressed to his neck.

“Lizards.” Yoongi still looked pale, gaping at him with wide eyes. “Since when do reptiles have four eyes and spiked tails?”

Jimin gasped, retreated a step. “W-what?” It was his turn to stutter.

No mortal could see through the gremlins’ glamor.

“What are you?” whispered Jimin with dawning horror.

Hemera and Nyx peered out at the detective. They seemed stumped themselves, until Hemera delicately balanced on her hind legs on Jimin’s shoulder, forelegs balanced on Jimin’s head as she stretched out to sniff at Yoongi. She rumbled a contented sound.

“Sight,” she chirped.

Nyx cocked his head, also raised his snout to sniff. “Has Sight,” he agreed.

It was Jimin’s turn to gape. Mortals with the Sight were incredibly rare. Gifted with the ability to both sense and see the supernatural, Jimin had only come across two in his incredibly long life.

“A detective with the Sight?” squeaked Jimin, blinking rapidly.

“They can talk,” said Yoongi as if he didn’t hear, still looking dazed as he stared at Hemera and Nyx. “They just spoke.”

“Yes, of course they speak, they’re gremlins,” said Jimin impatiently. “Why didn’t you tell me you have the Sight? Here I am prattling on like a fool and you’ve known Taehyung and I were faeries this whole time, what the fuck—”

“Faeries?” parroted Yoongi, who looked lost as ever. He blinked rapidly. “What the hell are you talking about?”

“You can see my gold pupils, stop playing dumb.”

“They’re more amber,” murmured Yoongi, who then appeared to shake himself, absently kicking the sprite that he had shot when the cretin began crawling away despite the handcuffs. It subsided, groaning.

“My eyes are brown.” Jimin hesitated, cupping his hands together anxiously. Had he just blown everything? “They’re brown. To mortals, at least.”

Sirens blared in the distance as they stared at one another. Suddenly Jimin’s gaze locked on Yoongi’s shoulder, where blood blossomed through his white shirt. Dread overcame him, and without even thinking, Jimin shot forward to grip his shoulder in both of his hands. Yoongi jolted and tensed. But he didn’t back away.

His dark eyes remained hot and heavy on Jimin’s, as the faerie bent his head and drew in a deep breath. “Relax,” he whispered, and Yoongi could swear the bewitching gold of his eyes gleamed brighter.

There was a flare of heat that Yoongi could feel deep in his bones. And then the dull throb of pain that he had barely even noticed completely disappeared. Panting lightly, Yoongi reached over as Jimin let his hands drop, and shifted aside the fabric of his shirt.

Pure unblemished skin. Just a smear of blood that Jimin gently wiped away with his own bare hand.

Yoongi could only gape at the boy in front of him.

Patrol cars braked hard at the mouth of the alley, sirens blaring, shocking them out of their moment. Yoongi startled, and suddenly pressed a hand to Jimin’s lower back. The touch tingled. He shoved Jimin gently towards the opposite end of the alley, “Get out of here, go on.”

Jimin trotted a couple steps, turned and stared, lost. What had just happened?

“Yoongi-ssi…”

“Just go,” he urged, as uniformed patrolmen filed out of the cars. “I got this, you don’t need the hassle.” Nodding, Jimin turned to flee, Hemera and Nyx gripping his sweater with their claws to stay put. “And Jimin.” The faerie paused again, looked back. “We need to finish this.”

Jimin took a deep breath, let it out. Then rattled off his address.

“Tonight,” promised Yoongi, a glint in his eyes.

“Tonight,” agreed Jimin softly, and fled.

-

Taehyung slept until late in the afternoon, blinking his eyes open to find himself alone in Jungkook’s bed, cozily tucked in. He could smell meat frying in the kitchen through the open door and he sniffed appreciatively, rolling himself up to sit. His head swam a bit and he chuckled, rubbing his temple as the marks on his neck and shoulders began to sting, as the ache deep in his lower back made itself known.

Worth it, seeing as how he and Jungkook had woken each other up three times to go at it again.

No wonder he slept so late.

Jungkook padded into the doorway just as Tae debated standing up, smiling at him as he dried his hands on a dishcloth. He wore only a pair of baggy sweatpants, chest bare but for the vivid red scar. “Hey,” he said softly. “You’re up.”

“Hi,” said Tae just as quietly. Why were they both suddenly so nervous? “You made food?”

“Lunch slash dinner, seeing as we slept so late,” said Jungkook, still in the doorway.

Tired of sitting there alone, perched on the side of a bed naked, Tae pouted a little and reached out his hands. Jungkook slung the towel over a shoulder and stepped forward as if summoned, stepped into his reach, where Taehyung reeled him in and nuzzled into his bare chest. He pressed an absent kiss to the scar and felt Jungkook’s answering shiver as the detective ran soothing hands up his back.

“You feeling okay?” His voice rumbled under Tae’s ears.

“Hmm.” Taehyung felt perfectly content. “Little sore. I’m fine.”

“How about a bath?” he offered. “The food won’t be ready for a few, you could take a long soak.”

“Sounds wonderful.” Tae leaned back, leaned up to kiss him softly. “Are you joining me?”

His eyes kindled then banked, fire simmering. “As much as I’d love to,” he murmured, cupping Tae’s face in his hands. “The food will burn. And I refuse to serve you takeout.” He kissed him again, deeply. “You’re worth more than that.”

“Careful, Detective. One would think I matter,” Tae attempted to tease, breathless.

“You do,” came the response, with another long kiss. “Bathroom is through there, I’ll leave some clothes out for you.”

Jungkook turned and headed for the kitchen, leaving a speechless Taehyung behind.

-

Jungkook’s bathroom was small but tidy and clean, a basic white porcelain tub against the far wall. Taehyung turned the water on hot and let it fill as he gazed at himself in the mirror. A few small hickeys decorated his lower neck and shoulders, a couple big ones on his chest. His eyes were tired despite the sleep but content. He thought of Jungkook, again, and watched his pupils shine violet once more. He blinked and shook himself.

Gotta be careful with that, he told himself.

He turned and slowed the faucet to a trickle of hot water, leaning down to run a hand through the water. He loved water, loved it with a passion.

So much so, in fact…

He cast a discrete glance towards the closed bathroom door, and shapeshifted.

As a small brown bat, he perched on the side of the tub, long ears tuned towards the distant kitchen. He heard a clatter of a frying pan, a whisper of music from the stereo and Jungkook singing along with a beautiful voice. Of course he sings well, too, thought Tae with a mental snort.

Comforted by Jungkook’s preoccupation, he shapeshifted once more, into an otter, and slid with a quiet happy chirp into the water.

He swam in tiny, enthusiastic circles, letting the small bit of exercise ease his muscles and refresh him. Such freedom. He always felt less restricted in animal forms, and the release he felt upon taking these shapes was unparalleled, telling him it had been far too long since he allowed himself to shapeshift. It was as if his powers built up over time, like wine corked in a glass bottle, threatening to explode less he transform and allow some pressure to escape.

Eventually he tired enough to bob to the surface and float on his back, running webbed paws over the fur and whiskers on his face, yawning contentedly.

There were sudden footsteps in the hallway.

Taehyung let out a chirp in panic and submerged, transforming back to human just as there was a knock on the bathroom door before the door creaked open. Underwater, he saw a watery vision of Jungkook bending over him with his head cocked.

Taehyung sat up, head breaking the surface of the water, and he shook out his hair like a dog. “Hi,” he greeted cheerfully, watching as Jungkook placed a bundle of clothes on the sink.

“You okay? Thought I heard something.”

“No, yeah, I’m good. Was just a little sore stepping into the tub,” he said, a bit fast.

“Ah.” Jungkook smirked a little. “I can give you a massage after we eat, if you like.”

Tae hummed, leaned his head against the wall. “Sounds good to me.”

“Okay.” Jungkook leaned down, kissed him again. “Take your time, babe.”

The door closed quietly after him and Taehyung let out a breathless squeal before sinking beneath the water again.

Fuck. He wanted to tell Jungkook the truth.

Chapter Text

Jimin settled the gremlins once they arrived back home, fetching and warming the goat’s milk they preferred and giving them cuddles until they calmed. They were full of excitement after their adventure, none the worse for wear after the run-in with the sprites. They babbled at one another repeatedly, laying on either side of Jimin on the couch as the faerie tried over and over again to call Taehyung. Still no answer.

He bit his lip, torn. He was dying to speak to someone, but he didn’t want to haul Jin into this mess. He knew the dryad was dealing with his own demons, with Hoseok popping up like a ghost from his past. It didn’t matter how many bouquets of flowers Hoseok sent him. Hurt was hurt.

Though Jimin thought there was something telling about the clusters of flowers on the mantel, the bookshelves, the coffee table, the kitchen counters…

He sat there in panicked indecisiveness for hours, not noticing the passing of time, even after Hemera and Nyx fell into light naps and the cloudy, watery sunlight outside faded into twilight.

There was a knock at the door. Jimin jolted upright, Hemera and Nyx startling awake.

Suddenly panicked, Jimin raced over to the door and threw it open. Yoongi stood there, wearing clean clothes all in black like a wraith. A red beanie obscured his blue hair. He looked at Jimin with surprise as the faerie reached out, gripped his wrist to pull him inside.

“P-please,” said Jimin rapidly, suddenly overcome with desperation. “You can’t tell anyone what happened in that alley, how I messed up and told you things, I could get in so much trouble, the G-Guardians won’t like it—”

Granted, Yoongi had the Sight, so he was a de facto member of the supernatural community and the Guardians wouldn’t object to anything Jimin had accidentally confessed. It was remarkable Yoongi had gone so long without someone taking him under a wing and tutoring him about all things magical. But Jimin hadn't known he was still naive to it all when he began babbling back in that alley. The laws regarding exposure of the magical races to mundanes were as ancient as magic itself, and often as cruel. Seokjin was part of a larger group of citizens currently battling the Magistrate for more lenience, for fair trials before sentencing. Progress was slow.

But regardless of the logic, that Yoongi was exempt from the laws surrounding mundanes, Jimin was a gentle soul who spent his days healing those who needed help. Trouble wasn’t in his nature. He couldn’t find his calm.

“Jimin-ssi,” interrupted Yoongi, hands flying up to grip his arms when Jimin began to tremble. “Jimin,” he said more firmly, stroking his upper arms in a soothing way. “You have to calm down, you’re going to hyperventilate.”

“But t-today—”

“Was a mess, sure, but everything’s okay, you’re not in trouble,” he interrupted again. Gently he steered them to the couch, Hemera and Nyx scurrying out of the way as Yoongi settled him down in the cushions then knelt on the floor in front of him.

“Look,” he said firmly, still gripping Jimin’s hands, eyes on his terrified ones. “Those…sprites, was it? They were sent out of the city, I suspect some of your people had something to do with that. I told my colleagues that the man they accosted ran away in the chaos, that I didn’t get a good look. You won’t get in trouble for this.” Despite himself he glanced at the gremlins, seemed to swallow at the sight of multiple uncannily intelligent eyes. “Are your…are they okay?”

“He’s kind,” murmured Hemera, head tilted as she stared at him.

“Very kind,” agreed Nyx.

“Handsome.”

“Much handsome.”

“And soft.”

“Big soft.”

“All right, you two.” Jimin found his voice, though to his dismay, it sounded more like an embarrassed squeak. He ignored Yoongi’s somehow familiar smirk and pinned the gremlins with a considering stare. “Isn’t it bedtime for the little loves?”

Immediately they crawled into his lap, sprawled on their backs to paw at him, legs waving as they cried in sync, “No, no bedtime, can’t sleep, where’s Taetae?”

A lump rose to Jimin’s throat. He tried to swallow and failed. “Taetae is at a friend’s house,” he said unevenly. “He’ll be home soon. Come on, little loves, off to bed.”

They grumbled but obeyed, leaning up to touch their noses to Jimin’s in their own version of a goodnight kiss. To Jimin’s immense surprise, Hemera and Nyx then took turns stretching out to head-butt Yoongi’s cheek.

“Thanks for save us,” whispered Hemera.

“Thanks for save us,” agreed Nyx.

The faerie couldn’t help but giggle at the open-mouthed shock on the detective’s face as the gremlins scurried off to Jimin’s bedroom, preferring to nest in his bed.

“They’re fine, as you can see,” murmured Jimin, taking his hands from Yoongi’s grasp to rub at his eyes, suddenly fiercely exhausted. He let his hands drop, and looked at the other man with gratitude clear on his face. “Thank you, for what you did in that alley. Gremlins are often trafficked for one nefarious purpose or another. They have a lot of magical properties for those who cater to darker forces. Hemera and Nyx have been my family for a long time, so thank you.”

“Just doing my job.” But Yoongi took his hands again, squeezed them. “I wasn’t about to let them get hurt, though. Or you.”

“You don’t even know me,” breathed Jimin unevenly.

“But it doesn’t feel that way. Does it?”

Jimin could only shake his head. Because he looked into Yoongi’s eyes and felt a sensation similar to walking through his own front door, a familiar comfort and warmth, intertwined with a blatant and curiosity and dormant hunger. Strange, but welcome. Giving in, Jimin sighed and bowed forward, resting his forehead against Yoongi’s and allowing his eyes to slip closed.

They remained there, Jimin on the edge of the couch and Yoongi kneeling before him like a willing supplicant, eyes closed and drinking one another in, until the sun finished its descent into the sea and night settled in across Seoul. Jimin blinked once to see darkness had overtaken the room. He cleared his throat quietly, suddenly feeling very unsteady as he eased back, reaching over to flick on the nearby lamp.

As if unwilling to let them completely part, Yoongi reached up and cupped his jaw in one hand. Jimin nuzzled into his palm, wanting to purr like the gremlins did when they felt soothed.

“You told me I have something called the Sight,” said Yoongi quietly. “What is that?”

Jimin tugged at him until he got off the ground and settled beside him on the cushion, Jimin turning to face him with one leg bent underneath his butt, leaning lazily against the back of the couch.

“What do you see in my eyes?” countered Jimin softly, blushing a little when Yoongi arched a brow. “I realize that sounded stupid.”

“Jimin—”

“What color are they?”

Yoongi cupped his cheek again. “Amber. A pretty shade of gold. I’ve never seen it’s like.”

Jimin swallowed nervously, blinked, and allowed his powers to shine through. “What color are they now?”

“The same. Still pretty.” Yoongi brushed a thumb over his cheek then let his hand fall. “Why? Am I supposed to see something different?”

“Did you ever actually meet Taehyung?” countered Jimin without answering.

“No. No, I wasn't there at the original arrest. I was interrogating the actual perpetrator while he was with Jungkook. I only know what Jungkook has told me.”

“And Jin hyung? Tae’s lawyer, did you meet him?”

Yoongi shook his head.

“I’m betting you’ve always seen the world a little differently,” said Jimin unsteadily. “People moving too fast to be explained by mere athleticism. Horns, hooves, tails. Teeth too sharp and too long. And those thugs in the alley, I bet they looked distorted, moved too fast to be normal.”

It was Yoongi’s turn to swallow. He blew out a long breath. “My parents just thought I had a wicked imagination,” he whispered. “And now my job is hard and exhausting, it’s easy to write it off as bad lighting and bad eyesight. Sometimes I wonder if I'm insane.”

“It’s not your eyes. You aren't crazy. You have the Sight, Yoongi-ssi,” said Jimin gently.

“Hyung. Call me hyung.”

Jimin blushed. “Yoongi hyung.” It felt too right on his tongue. “You’re what we call a mortal. A normal, mundane human. But you have a gift. Having the Sight grants you the ability to see the supernatural in their true forms.”

“Supernatural.” He sounded dazed.

“Witches, vampires, werewolves, sprites, seelies, pixies, sirens, dryads, tons more. There’s hundreds of us.” He glanced away finally, down at his nervously twisting hands. “I’m a faerie. As is Taehyung. Faeries aren’t like your cartoons. Faeries are immortal and we each have unique, individual powers that we are born with, though our strengths vary.”

“You healed me.” Yoongi looked at his shoulder as if expecting to see a wound blossom at any moment. “That…that sprite stabbed me, and you healed it.”

“I can heal,” agreed Jimin softly. “Taehyung can shapeshift. Other faeries we’ve met can fly, control water, talk to spirits, anything really.”

Yoongi made a humming noise, looking anywhere but at Jimin. The faerie felt his gaze like a pressure on his shoulders when the detective finally looked his way. “You said immortal.”

Jimin winced. “Yes.”

“Actually immortal? As in you’ll never die.”

Jimin swallowed the lump in his throat. “We’re born of the elements on either a spring or fall equinox, fully grown in our adult forms.”

“How old are you, then?”

“Are you sure you want to know?”

“Jimin. I’m not going to freak out on you,” he said calmly.

And indeed he looked calm. The wild-eyed shock from the alley was nowhere to be seen.

“I recently turned 435,” said Jimin quietly. “Tae is a little older.”

“You were born in 1583,” said Yoongi, and the faerie couldn’t detect the emotion behind the statement. “Ever meet Shakespeare?”

Jimin blinked. Then blinked again. “Actually, yes. He was kind of a nut, though.”

“Did you watch the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots?”

“Hell no. I hated executions, far too grisly. They gave me nightmares.”

“Did you meet Galileo?”

“I didn’t, no. Taehyung did, though, Galileo was hot for him at the time.” Jimin burst out laughing as Yoongi’s eyes threatened to pop out of his skull. “No, Yoongi hyung, we never met Galileo. We may be centuries old but we’ve lived normal lives.”

“Normal lives,” echoed Yoongi faintly. He sank forward, rested his head in his hands. “This is all real, isn’t it?”

“Yes. I’m sorry.”

“God, no, don’t apologize. I would have been out of commission for months with a stab injury like that.” Yoongi suddenly relaxed, as if coming to a decision. “I don’t think I’ve said thank you yet.”

“No,” murmured Jimin thickly, watching closely as Yoongi shifted closer, close enough that Jimin could have pulled away if he wanted, but he didn’t. He watched as the detective leaned closer, until Jimin could count each individual eyelash obscuring his dark eyes.

“Thank you,” Yoongi whispered, and kissed him.

As if by some unspoken agreement, they both kept the kiss light and undemanding. But even so, Jimin trembled at what it unlocked. He felt weak but strong at the same time, like he may float to the very ceiling without Yoongi’s grip on his hands.

Someone unlocked the front door and strolled inside, whistling lazily. Neither Jimin nor Yoongi heard or even noticed until a voice drawled, “Wow. Disappear for a day and suddenly Armageddon arrives.”

Jimin and Yoongi broke apart and looked up to see Taehyung, standing there looking deadly amused with his arms crossed.

-

“Taehyung.” Jimin rocketed up, ran towards his roommate. “Where the hell have you been? I’ve been calling you all day, I’ve been so worried—”

“Obviously,” Tae cut in, and his face wore that harsh, emotionless expression when he was trying to control his own emotions.

“Y-yoongi hyung and I—”

“Hyung, is it? You’re calling him hyung after knowing him for, what, a couple hours?”

“It’s not like that, look, a lot has happened today—”

“Clearly.” Tae snorted. “Please, don’t allow me to interrupt.”

“Stop it, Taehyung, this isn’t about me,” snapped Jimin, on edge and frustrated with his friend. “This isn’t like you, disappearing for hours, spending time with a mortal. What have you told him about us?”

Tae snorted, gestured to where the gremlins had snuck from the back bedroom, obviously awakened by the shouting. They had curled up, naturally as breathing, in a silent Yoongi’s lap, the detective stroking them easily to soothe their shaking frames.

“I should be asking you the same question.”

“He has the Sight,” announced Jimin, silencing Tae. “He has the Sight and I had to heal him today, he had questions—”

“Questions you had to answer with kisses?”

Jimin blushed. “That just happened.” He seemed to shake himself. “And that’s not the point, Tae, Yoongi hyung and I are not the issue here.”

“Then what is? Enlighten me, brother.”

“It’s you and that detective, Tae, he already fucking arrested you and ran your DNA, he’s only interested in you to figure out your secret. Our secret.”

Direct hit.

Stung, Tae recoiled. “You don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said hoarsely. “Knock it off, Jiminie.”

“You’re being reckless,” continued Jimin relentlessly, half-shouting the words, worry all but seeping out of his pores. His eyes watered. Jimin never could seem to get angry without his tear ducts acting up. “What if Jungkook is just dating you to figure out your secret, what then? You’ll be devastated, damn it, Taehyung, I don’t want that to happen. I don’t want you to get your heart broken.”

“It’s not like that. It’s not, Jiminie, Jungkook likes me, I know he does.” But Jimin’s words had all the familiar doubts creeping back in.

Jimin was on too much of a roll to see the hurt in his brother’s eyes. “And it’s not just me, Jin hyung thinks so, too—”

Hurting again, Tae lashed out, “Well that’s just fucking great, Jiminie, I love knowing that you two have been talking shit about me for weeks.”

“It’s not like that,” protested Jimin, freely crying now. “Tae, please, I’m just so scared for you, I’m worried what this Jungkook is capable of, he’s a detective—”

“You hypocrite.” He pointed savagely at the couch. “What the fuck did I just walk in on, Jiminie, but you cuddled up with your own little detective?”

“Easy, Taehyung-ssi.” Yoongi spoke for the first time, voice calm.

“Stay out of this,” snarled Taehyung in response.

“He s-saved me from sprites today and because he has the Sight, he saw things, I was answering his q-questions,” Jimin stammered, but the protest was weak.

“Answering his questions with your lips? You’ve never been easy, Jiminie, but here you are spreading your legs for some random guy with a badge—”

Jimin slapped him.

Taehyung’s head snapped to the side. For a moment, resounding silence settled over the apartment. Reaching up to cup his cheek, Tae slowly looked back at his best friend, eyes wide and watery with unshed tears.

Jimin was no better, freely crying now. “Taehyung—”

“I shouldn’t have said that,” whispered Tae brokenly. “But how dare you make me feel like shit for liking Jungkook, for having the happiest twenty-four hours I can remember having in fucking decades, when you’re doing the same?”

“Taehyung—”

“I’m done.”

Taehyung turned and strode out of the apartment. The door shut quietly behind him, a tone of ominous finality to it.

Jimin crumpled to the carpet, sobbing brokenly into his hands, undone and exhausted by the entire day. He felt a warm body crouch beside him. He leaned into Yoongi’s warm embrace. And felt better for crying there.

-

Taehyung roamed the streets in cat form.

A cat was his favorite out of the myriad of animal shapes he could assume. Too often his appearance as a dog had gotten him collared by a good Samaritan, and no one liked the sight of a rat, not even in the dingier parts of Seoul. Being a bat was rough on his ears and birds weren’t nocturnal. His larger forms—wolf, horse, panther, bear, to name a few—weren’t exactly city-friendly either.

Cat it is.

In this form his fur was a short silvery grey, with a white patch on his chest in the shape of a perfect diamond, his birthmark that he carried on all his visages. His limbs were longer than the average cat’s and his eyes glowed purple, alerting humans and members of the supernatural community that this was no ordinary cat.

Restless and hurt and confused, stomach roiling, Taehyung turned his steps towards the precinct on autopilot. The streets were quiet at this late hour but Tae kept his wits about him, hiding whenever someone caught a glimpse. He knew from experience that glowing purple eyes could cause a stir.

He ached with the knowledge that he was upsetting his best friends, that they thought him careless with their secrets, their safety. Fighting with Jimin was the last thing he ever wanted.

He slunk into the shadows of the stoop outside the precinct, knowing Jungkook had gone into work for a late shift to cover for the day shift he had missed by having Taehyung over. A brisk wind fluffed his hair the wrong way as he hunkered down against the cold sidewalk. He didn’t know what he was waiting for, what he was doing here. Simply the thought of Jungkook eased the turmoil in his head. He wanted the safety and warmth he had felt in his company hours earlier.

He knew it was dangerous. Maybe he was simply too weak to deny what he wanted.

He sat there for hours, patient, mind a mess. He got up to walk away at least half a dozen times, paced in circles only to settle again. An unmarked cop car cruising to a silent stop in front of the building disrupted the most recent attempt to convince himself he was insane and needed to leave, now.

As if the fates were on the side of self destruction, it was Jungkook who emerged out of the car and into the night. The detective was wearing dark jeans again, with a white t-shirt covered by that black leather jacket. The same piercings decorated his ear and his badge hung around his neck. Taehyung had seen him only hours before, but it looked like it had been years. Jungkook’s dark hair lay in a messy tangle and there were shadows under his eyes.

Another man stood at his side, one with spiky, smoky grey hair. The taller man wore a white uniform with emblems on the breast pocket. So this must be Namjoon, Jungkook’s captain and Hoseok’s boyfriend. The other Guardian.

What a mess.

Namjoon dug in a coat pocket and withdrew a cigarette, lit it up in his cupped palms. His exhale carried the bitter tang to Tae’s nostrils, making him sneeze.

Tae thought Jungkook glanced in his direction, where he lay hidden in the shadows of the column, but the captain’s voice quickly distracted him.

“Tonight sucked,” the man remarked succinctly.

Jungkook waved the smoke away from his face. “You know I just quit, you bastard,” he remarked without heat.

“Denying temptation is good for the soul, young grasshopper.”

“Fuck you, Captain,” he muttered almost in reflex, the words bored and harmless.

For a moment the pair stood in easy company. Taehyung watched the way Namjoon eyed his young detective as he continued to smoke, eyes twitching in his direction, as if he were watching the younger without wanting him to know.

Even Taehyung could have told him that nothing escaped Jungkook’s attention.

“You don’t have to worry about me, you know,” murmured Jungkook.

Namjoon shrugged a shoulder. “Part of the job description. You know if our roles were reversed you’d be watching me too.”

“Fair enough. Look, tonight was rough, okay? I’m not denying that. But it happened and it’s over. I’m fine, I’ve accepted it, I’m all right.”

“You’re not all right,” denied Namjoon. He gestured towards Jungkook’s clenched fists. “You’ve been on edge since the shooting.”

Shooting? Tae couldn’t help but crane his neck, perk his ears higher.

“It was a clean shoot. Internal Affairs already cleared me, Captain, I don’t need any more psyche eval bullshit.” He sounded so tired, to Tae’s ears.

“It wouldn’t kill you to talk to someone, you know. There’s no shame in it.” From the way Jungkook tensed, Namjoon’s words were spot on. “What about Yoongi?”

“I saw him clocking out just as I came on shift, said he had to go see someone.” There was a hint of a smile on Jungkook’s lips. “That’s why you agreed to patrol with me tonight, remember, Captain? Besides, Yoongi looked preoccupied, but happy. Someone’s gotten under his skin, I think. I’m not about to call and spring my shitty news on him.”

Taehyung thought of his best friend with a pang.

“Good for Yoongi,” said Namjoon quietly, then sighed. “Still, Jungkook-ah, I’ve been where you are, I’ve had to kill in the line of duty and it can tear you down. I don’t want that to happen to you.”

“I’ll be okay,” said Jungkook again. He sounded so exhausted. “That asshole was hurting her, Captain. He would have done worse if I hadn’t stopped him. That girl is safe at the hospital right now because of us.”

“She is,” agreed Namjoon quietly, after another long drag. “She’s safe. You did good work, Kook, no one denies that. I just don’t want it to haunt you. Bottling up this kind of shit in your head…it ain’t good, kid.”

“I know. Look, I’m just going to go home and get some sleep, okay?” He sounded calm but his voice shook at the edges.

Tae leaned forward. It took him a moment to realize why he was shaking, why the fur along the back of his neck had bristled.

He didn’t like seeing Jungkook upset.

“That’s fine. The paperwork can wait until morning.” But Namjoon seemed unwilling to leave it at that, casting his detective another look. “Come back to our place for dinner. Hoseok will cook.”

Another semblance of a smile. “He’s a shit cook, Captain.”

“Yeah, well, the effort is cute.”

“You have to think so, you’re his boyfriend. I appreciate the offer, Captain, but I’d rather get on home, I’m beat. I just want to crash.”

Namjoon dropped the spent cigarette to the pavement, snuffed it out with a boot. “You sure?” he asked.

“I’ll see you in the morning, okay? My bed is calling my name.”

“Okay, Kook-ah,” he said slowly.

Tae kneaded anxiously at the ground. Don’t let him just walk off alone. Don’t.

Namjoon offered a hand, hauled Jungkook into a one-armed hug when the young detective acquiesced. They swayed on the spot for a moment, the captain murmuring something inaudibly in his detective’s ear. Whatever he said, it made Jungkook’s eyes go soft yet brittle at the same time. They separated and Namjoon headed inside the precinct while Jungkook turned down the sidewalk.

Taehyung followed Jungkook. It wasn’t even a conscious decision.

Jungkook walked at a steady pace, neither fast nor slow, head tucked low against the wind with hands deep in his jacket pockets. He edged through intersections without touching a single soul. Taehyung followed a few feet back, staying in the shadows, fur brushing along the walls of the buildings. He wrinkled his nose at the traffic belching exhaust that clung like slime to his fur and whiskers.

Their route was a circuitous one. Jungkook eventually disappeared into an alley between a convenience store and a grimy ramen joint. Tae recognized the building, had been in Jungkook’s home that very day. Pausing behind a smelly dumpster, Tae peeked around and blinked with surprise to see Jungkook jump over a foot in the air to grab the ladder of the fire escape. His body weight dragged it down to ground level, the muscles of his back and shoulders tensing. Tae nearly purred at the visual. He snapped back to attention in time to watch Jungkook ascend three stories then unlock a window with a key unearthed from his pocket, easily lifting it and clambering inside. Lights flicked on moments later, casting a warm yellow glow into the Seoul night sky.

Huh. Tae remained sitting, tail twitching. What, too cool to use the front door, Detective?

Moments later his sensitive ears pricked up, catching the far-off pulsing beats of an angry rap song. Then a rhythmic thud-thudding, one-two, one-two, one-two, that had Tae concerned all over again.

What on earth?

Taehyung went over to the ladder, sniffed gingerly at the peeling metal, the iron tang sharp and bitter, laying heavy on his tongue. He stared up, miffed, at the straight vertical ladder, then shook his head and padded over to the dumpster. Crouching low to the ground, he wiggled his butt a little, psyching himself up, then leapt. Light and easy, his dainty paws found traction on the rim of the bin. He padded to the corner then leapt again, landing safely on the first story of the fire escape. From there it was an easy trek up the stairs until he reached the third floor, his pace cautious and slow as a cool rain began to fall from the clouds, making the metal flooring slippery and treacherous.

The music grew louder as he slunk towards the still-open window, what felt like hours later. He sniffed, and could smell Jungkook—something like gunpowder and rain-soaked grass and leather, all at once—along with a faint tang of sweat. The bass from the music vibrated the metal beneath his paws. He reached the corner of the window and slowly peered in.

Jungkook circled the punching bag suspended in one corner of the living room, light on his feet. Worn white tape covered his knuckles. The tight jeans had been replaced with loose sweats. His shirt was gone, Tae blinking at the sight of his bare chest, already sluiced with sweat. His scar was a vivid red line marring the perfection but Tae liked him better for it.

Jungkook threw jabs and hooks at the bag in rapid fashion, fists thudding against it in the cadenced one-two, one-two, one-two pattern that Tae had heard from the street, somehow in tune with the driving beat of the angry music. The detective looked furious and miserable all at once, lips pinched in a frown, eyes set in an angry glare beneath wrinkled brows. His pace never stopped, feet continually moving, almost like he was dancing.

So lost in the emotion of the scene, Taehyung didn’t realize just how fiercely the storm had begun to kick until rain overflowed the gutter on the roof above and released a deluge as powerful as a waterfall, dousing him completely in cold water. He screeched in surprise, instantly frozen to the bone.

He wasn’t vain enough to think Jungkook had mysteriously sensed or heard him beneath the overwhelming roar of the music. But the detective did notice the wave of water that cascaded onto his floor, making him curse and stop his routine. He slapped at the stereo, silencing the music and allowing the full fervor of the storm to overtake the room. Thunder rumbled as if in response to his footsteps as he stomped into a nearby room and emerged with a stack of towels, tossing them carelessly down on the spilled water.

He approached the large window, braced his arms overhead as if to close the glass then paused, leaning into the rain. Tae huddled against the sill, hoping the storm obscured his figure, looking up at the detective and studying the sudden exhaustion on his face. He looked decades older than his twenty-odd years. Taehyung would know.

He knew it wasn’t a matter of time that added weight to the mind, but strain.

Jungkook looked tormented.

Perhaps Taehyung should wander back down to the street, come up in his human form to knock on the door. He wanted to help, wanted to ease the turmoil on Jungkook’s face.

But then a vicious flash of lightning lit up the sky, made Taehyung jump. He loved storms, but not as a cat. His hearing and other senses were far too sensitive, the thunder made his head ache. Jungkook whipped his head towards him and seemed to blink in surprise.

“The hell are you doing out there?” murmured Jungkook gruffly. He finally seemed to snap out of his exhaustion-induced daze, stepping back from the window and gesturing impatiently. “Come on, then.”

Taehyung hesitated. He was just so cold. So despite his mind screaming that it was an awful idea, he slinked inside, into the warmth.

Jungkook slid the window shut, dampening the fury of the weather. The towels were kicked into place haphazardly as Taehyung jumped down to the floor, immediately shaking himself and feeling water spray off of his waterlogged coat like a fountain.

Moments later a heavy towel was dropped over him and he yowled in surprise, instantly flattened beneath the weight.

A chuckle from over his head soothed him into relaxing. “Relax, little man,” said a low voice. “Don’t freak out, okay. Can I dry you off?” A moment later, hands were dipping beneath Tae’s belly and gently, slowly, beginning to lift him up.

Taehyung tensed for a minute. He loathed being manhandled in animal forms, hated it with a fury unlike him. It was insulting and overbearing to handle living creatures without their permission. The moment he tensed, Jungkook relaxed his grip, half Tae’s weight on the ground and half in his grasp. Surprised, Taehyung fell limp again, and the detective lifted him up and cradled him against his chest with surprising gentleness.

Taehyung blinked, and found himself easily settled in Jungkook’s lap as the detective sat on the couch, wrapped in the warm towel. Jungkook gently tousled the cloth over his fur, drying him slowly and thoroughly until his silvery fur gleamed bright again.

It felt nice. Too nice. Taehyung felt the purr rising in his throat. And easily let it go.
The rumble calmed his own heart rate, relaxed his breathing. He felt the tension in Jungkook’s body relaxing beneath him as well.

“Shitty night to be outside,” commented Jungkook, voice low and soothing in the quiet apartment. It felt cozy, to be curled against him in the warm apartment with the storm raging outside.

If only he hadn’t followed in cat form. He yearned to be human, to curl up with Jungkook just like they had that day. What the hell was it about this man that drew him in so fiercely?

“You’re not lost, are you?” Jungkook continued to murmur to him, like he was lost in thought. He gently gripped under Tae’s forelegs to raise him up, check his neck for a collar. He got a good look at the cat’s glowing purple eyes as he did so, and swallowed hard. “Okay. No collar. No one’s pet, I’m guessing.”

Taehyung stared at him, unamused. It seemed to entertain him.

For long minutes they merely sat there. After a while, Jungkook began absentmindedly stroking his back, long slow strokes from neck to tail, carefully avoiding his ears and face as if he could easily read Taehyung’s aversion to it.

“You picked the wrong apartment to take shelter in, ghost,” whispered Jungkook after a while, his voice near startling in the silence. “I’m no good for anyone, human or animal.”

Taehyung head-butted his hand. Bullshit, Detective.

Half of Jungkook’s mouth twitched up into a sad smile.

“I killed someone today.”

Taehyung froze.

Jungkook's voice was hoarse and broken as he continued, “I-I didn’t want t-to though.”

His breath started coming faster and faster.

Taehyung stood in his lap, padding over his legs to brace his front paws on the man’s chest. He stretched up, nosed at Jungkook’s suddenly wet cheeks. The detective’s legs curled up towards his chest, cradling Tae in the confines of his body, his fists coming in to press at both of his temples as if to keep the turmoil inside.

“It was a d-domestic disturbance,” he continued in that broken whisper. “Guy beating on his girlfriend. S-she was bleeding from the head when we showed up. Namjoon kicked the door down, I-I went in first, gun drawn. Asshole grabbed the girl and put a knife to her throat.” Jungkook swallowed. “He was going to kill her, ghost. R-right in front of me. I couldn’t let that happen.” His eyes went dark as storm clouds. “I shot him. I killed him.”

Heartsick, Taehyung began kneading at the boy’s neck. He had never wanted to comfort anyone as badly as he did that moment. He felt as if his very heart would break if he did nothing.

With a wet chuckle, Jungkook let his head roll back against the couch, staring down at Taehyung with exhausted eyes. “I don’t deserve your sympathy, ghost.”

You took a cat in out of the storm, Tae wanted to argue, desperately. You put yourself in danger to save lives. Awed, Taehyung blinked. He’s a hero. It was far from the first time he’d had that thought.

Maybe that’s why Taehyung couldn’t walk away.

He ached so fiercely to transform, to talk to Jungkook, to confess to everything right then and there. His bones throbbed with the need to bare all his secrets, to tell Jungkook that he had lived a long time, had seen a lot of horrors. He understood all.

But how could he suddenly drop his secret like that? With Sebastien it had gone so poorly. And he hadn’t even known Jungkook as long.

Torn, he curled into a ball, right there in the Detective’s lap, warm and cozy and safe. He kept purring, embraced the feeling of one of Jungkook’s hands continuing to stroke his back. They lay there long enough for each of them to slip into a half-doze.

So lulled by the warmth and safety of that apartment, Taehyung hadn’t paid attention to the date that day.

Another huge flash of lightning forked across the skies. Taehyung’s head whipped to the window as he felt a strange crackle along his skin, and his sharp eyes caught sight of the full moon that had previously been hidden amongst clouds. He had a moment to think, No, wait, no, full moon and lightning together means…

No control for the supernatural.

Suddenly, Tae was perching in Jungkook’s lap. Human.

For a moment, the two stared at each other in blatant surprise, faces so close they were sharing the same breath.

Then Jungkook gave a shout and pushed him, hard. Taehyung yelped and went flying backwards off the couch, his temple connecting sharply with the edge of the coffee table. He collapsed to the floor, groaning in pain. At least he was dressed. He always reverted back to the last outfit he wore when he returned to human, this case being sweats and a t-shirt. Jungkook’s clothes.

When he blinked his eyes open, Jungkook stood over him. With his gun drawn and trained directly on Tae’s face.

Taehyung’s throat went dry as a desert and through the blinding pain in his head, he felt a rush of terror that caused his bones to seize up.

“J-Jungkook, don’t,” he stammered.

“What the fuck?” shouted Jungkook, eyes wild. “What in the actual fuck?”

“Jungkook, it’s me, it’s Taehyung, please.”

“What. are. you.” It wasn’t a question.

Tae whimpered again, hands outstretched in front of him, mind racing. Jungkook wouldn’t actually shoot him, right?

“Kim Taehyung. Son of faerie.” Taehyung attempted a small smile. “Nice to meet you formally, Detective.”

“Bullshit.” The curse was so loud Taehyung winced, head throbbing.

A heavy echoing silence fell over them both. A rumble of thunder, flash of lightning.

“Jungkook,” whispered Taehyung brokenly, staring up at the gun. “Please.”

Jungkook blinked. He looked as if he were waking from a trance. His eyes flitted from Taehyung to the gun in his hand and he flinched so badly the gun fell to the floor with a clatter. He himself collapsed to the floor and backpedaled furiously, not stopping until his back was pressed to the couch.

“What are you,” whimpered Jungkook again, tears in his eyes as he fisted hands in his hair. “What’s happening to me…”

“I can shapeshift, okay,” whispered Tae brokenly. “I’m a faerie, and a shapeshifter, that was me in cat form, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry—”

“Shut up,” shouted Jungkook, wild with terror.

Moments later the front door to the apartment was kicked in. Yoongi swept in, gun drawn. He seemed to analyze the situation in a split second. For an instant, Taehyung felt relief. Now there would be a chance for Tae to explain himself, to apologize properly. But then Yoongi came and crouched at Jungkook’s side, bracing a hand on his shoulder. And he glared at Taehyung.

It was the first time in his very, very long life that Taehyung felt completely and utterly helpless.

It was terrifying.

His terror matched the terror in Jungkook’s eyes.

“What’s going on, Kook-ah?” Yoongi sounded so calm. “Did he break in?”

Jungkook’s face was a wild study in torment and fear and confusion, eyes wide like a doe’s. “H-he was a c-cat…”

“What?” Yoongi blinked. Then his expression dawned with awareness. “Jungkook—”

“I’m not crazy,” screamed Jungkook, petrified past reason. “He was a cat, the cat was there—”

Taehyung winced. He had never been the subject of such fury. It terrified him.

Two new bodies rushed through the apartment door. Hoseok and Namjoon. They both carried boxes and bags of food and beer, as if arriving to spend time with Jungkook after his rough shift. They looked at Tae, then at the terror on Jungkook’s face, and both glared with narrow eyes at the faerie sprawled on the carpet, bleeding from his temple.

More importantly, a blue spiraling tattoo materialized on the right sides of their necks, tattoos that were visible only to the supernatural. Guardians. With the tattoos activated it meant they were there in a supernatural capacity, to be the peacekeepers and law enforcers. Not friends.

The first tears dripped down Taehyung’s cheeks as he reached for the Guardians with shaking hands, pleading, “P-please, I didn’t mean to—”

“Silence,” barked Namjoon. He glanced at his detectives. “Tell me what happened here.”

Jungkook glared furiously but didn’t turn his head to his captain so the full force of his fury lashed Taehyung like a whip. “Captain—”

“That’s an order,” snapped the man.

Jungkook didn’t obey.

“What happened? Yoongi?” asked Hoseok. His expression looked concerned but grave as he stared down at Taehyung, at the glowing purple eyes that Tae didn’t realize were showing.

“This is the man Jungkook collared a couple weeks ago,” said Yoongi rapidly. “When you called me, Namjoon, and told me what went down tonight, I came by tonight to check on my partner and heard shouting through the door. I entered the premises to see them like this, Jungkook’s weapon on the floor.”

Namjoon bent down and swiped it up. “How did this happen?” demanded the captain.

Jungkook, no, please. Taehyung tried to plead with his eyes but he wasn’t sure the detective was even seeing him anymore. Jungkook trembled fiercely.

Taehyung could all but see the moment that Jungkook broke. The strain of today was too high, too much, to go from killing a suspect to witnessing Tae shapeshift…even as Taehyung panicked, he felt an inkling of empathy. He had done this. He had caused Jungkook to break.

“T-there was a cat,” whispered Jungkook. “Took him in out of the rain but then…lightning and…h-he appeared.”

The matching grim expressions on the Guardian’s faces made terror race up Taehyung’s spine.

“I didn’t realize it was a full moon,” Tae babbled fast, cowering on the floor as the Guardians approached. He had exposed the supernatural to a mundane.

There were consequences.

“How old are you, Taehyung?” asked Hoseok gently.

“I d-don’t—”

“Don’t lie to me, Kim Taehyung,” the Guardian said, pity in his eyes but tone harsh. “Answer the question.”

“487,” whispered Taehyung.

All four of the men in that room blinked.

Hoseok recovered first, bowing his head and blowing a hefty sigh. “That’s long enough to know the pattern of lightning and the full moon and what it may uncover,” he said slowly. “I’m sorry, son of faerie.”

Hoseok and Namjoon together raised their hands to shoulder height, palms outstretched. Then clenched their fists. A shock wave seemed to rebound around the room, rattling the free weights in their stand, making the detectives lose their balance a moment. When stillness returned, two new forms stood just inside the door, having appeared out of nowhere. They were both near eight feet tall with figures obscured by hooded cloaks of a red so dark it appeared black.

The Guardians looked at them silently. Hoseok gestured towards Taehyung, still on the floor by Jungkook. “To the Vault,” he said. “Three months.”

“No,” cried Taehyung, backpedaling so fiercely that Jungkook jolted in surprise. Tae ignored the pain in his head, his bleeding temple, and crawled away, hiccupping short breaths, tears soaking his cheeks.

Not the Vault. Anything but there. It served as a prison for supernatural creatures who had defied their laws. It lay underground beneath a deserted mountain range far to the frigid north. Tae had never been. But he had heard stories of the freezing cold, the damp. The solitude.

“What—” Jungkook began to say, head whipping from his captain, to Taehyung, to the two silent strangers. “Wh—”

“Silence, Detective,” interrupted his captain in a low voice. “This concerns you no longer.”

“Sentinels, if you would.” Hoseok gestured to Taehyung and they bowed their heads in answer, disappearing between one blink and the next.

The next thing Taehyung knew, he was airborne, his upper arms in the grips of the two Sentinels to either side of him, ice emanating from their clothed hands.

“No, no, no, please, no,” panted Taehyung.

"What is this?" Jungkook sounded even more terrified now, if such a thing were possible. He was on his feet now, a hand outstretched towards Taehyung, but Namjoon held him back. "Taehyung--"

“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry," Tae cried through his sobs. "I’m sorry I forgot the moon—”

“I know,” said Hoseok, voice gentler now. “I know, son of faerie. That’s why your sentence will be only months, not years. Have hope. It’ll be over soon.”

But Taehyung thrived on sunlight, on people, on living things. He was a faerie, he couldn’t survive underground, he couldn’t survive in the dark. Faeries didn’t adapt to the Vault. The Vault had the power to break them.

Permanently.

“Jiminie.” Tae gasped for air, tensed as he felt a strange pull in his center. The Sentinels were preparing to depart. “P-please, I want Jimin—”

The three beings evaporated.

-

Taehyung blinked his eyes open.

He lay on his back in a small room built of rough stone. Water trickled down one wall in a never-ending whispery flow. One wall was constructed of thick, closely wrought iron bars, the openings not big enough to stick a hand through. Far overhead, a crack in the ceiling showed ominous clouds. Even as Tae craned his neck to see, rain began to fall, seeping in through the small opening to dampen the floor.

His whimpering breath emerged in white clouds. Tae crawled into a corner sheltered by a meager overhang, and curled into a ball in an effort to warm his freezing fingers and toes. His hair was wet, his sweats and shirt already soaked through. He was immortal. He couldn’t die of hypothermia, or a head wound.

But he could feel the pain.

Chapter Text

“What…” Jungkook licked his lips and tried again. “What just happened?”

Hoseok swiped the bottle of whiskey sitting on the counter, took three long, desperate gulps. He wiped his chin after and looked, exhausted, at the detective.

“Namjoon and I are Guardians,” he announced calmly. “We look after and police the supernatural community of Seoul. Kim Taehyung is a faerie. He exposed the supernatural race tonight by shapeshifting in front of you. There are consequences.”

Jungkook kept staring at the spot where the Sentinels and Taehyung had been standing just a moment prior. “Where did he go?”

“Now you care?” Yoongi stood stiffly, arms wrapped around his chest. “You didn’t seem to a couple minutes ago, when you were a second away from shooting him.”

“What the fuck do you care? You were right there with me,” Jungkook spat back, stung at the accusation.

“This is going to destroy Jimin,” Yoongi shouted back, calm demeanor destroyed. “I understand tonight was a shock but you overreacted—”

“Who the fuck is Jimin?” Jungkook threw his hands up, knotting them in his own hair in frustration. “I don’t get any of this—”

“My friend,” interrupted Yoongi. “Also known as Taehyung’s best friend, his brother, his family. And a faerie himself.”

Jungkook blinked. Yoongi knew one of them?

“We’re vampires,” said Hoseok, in a tone as casual as announcing his favorite ice cream flavor. He wiggled a hand towards Namjoon, who sighed, kept his eyes on his youngest detective as both of them opened their mouths. Long, wickedly sharp canine teeth dropped into position like a snake. “Currently serving as the Guardians of Seoul. Any questions?”

Jungkook just gaped at them.

“Okay then.” Hoseok suddenly glanced at Yoongi. “You don’t seem surprised by any of this.”

“Apparently I have the Sight,” he said quietly, drawing a blink from Hoseok. “I was just with Jimin, he told me everything.” Yoongi’s eyes narrowed. “You can’t punish him.”

Hoseok waved that away impatiently. “If you have the Sight, you’re one of us. Jimin broke no laws.”

“I-I…” Jungkook had all but collapsed to the couch. He couldn’t stop staring at the ground where a terrified Taehyung had crawled away. “Why are you telling me all this?”

“Because you deserve to know,” said Namjoon calmly. “I need a team in my precinct who knows of me, of us. Hoseok and I can’t always handle everything on our own. We’ve watched you both, observed you. We were going to wait a couple more years to bring you in, but, well. When you seemed so fascinated by Taehyung, and with Yoongi having met Jimin and apparently having the Sight, it's all seemingly coming together.”

Yoongi turned his back, and started heading for the door.

“Where are you going?” asked Jungkook robotically.

Yoongi paused with a hand on the knob, looking back over his shoulder at his partner with an expression full of fierce regret and impotent anger. “To tell Jimin what transpired here.”

“I’ll come with you.” Hoseok’s expression was void of anything but exhaustion. “Their hyung will be there, too. He’ll have questions that need answered.”

“We’re all going,” announced Namjoon. He walked over and grabbed Jungkook by the scruff of his neck, hauling him up to his feet like a puppy. “You’re in this now, Jungkook.” His voice was, for the first time, thick with remorse and sympathy. “And there’s no turning back.”

-

Jimin was pacing furious circles around the living room of his apartment, calling Taehyung again and again and again but every time it went straight to voicemail. Something was wrong and he knew it. They should never have fought. Taehyung was right, Jimin was a hypocrite, to warn him so furiously against seeing Jungkook, only for Jimin to turn around and become interested in a mundane himself.

He yearned for Yoongi, wanted to be held in the arms that made him feel safe and at home. For the first time he thought he understood just how Taehyung had felt in the beginning, back when he first met Jungkook. It was terrifying, to crave another person so deeply. But Yoongi had received a call from Namjoon and whatever news the Captain had shared had sounded grim. Yoongi had kissed him again before rushing out the door.

Desperate, he had called Jin hyung, told him about the fight between him and Taehyung, begged him to come over, to find Tae.

Jin now sat on the couch, legs bent in the lotus position, hands resting palms up on his knees. His eyes were closed, expression relaxed. All of the plants in Jimin’s apartment had turned to face him. His skin had the roughened appearance of aged bark, and leaves and twigs danced in his hair. Jimin knew he searched for Taehyung, knew that the dryad’s energy was currently coursing through Seoul amongst all life forms, human and animal and plant and supernatural, seeking Tae’s unique energy signature.

“I can’t find him,” announced Jin grimly after over an hour of meditation.

Jimin’s heart sank. “That’s impossible.”

Hemera and Nyx huddled close together on the kitchen counter, the gremlins silent and staring. They were scared, both of them, and they missed Taehyung with a desperate fervor that matched Jimin’s.

A series of knocks resounded on the front door. Jimin hastened to open it, threw the door wide with a hasty, “Taehyung,” but the crowd on his doorstep did not expunge his brother.

“What are you doing here?” Jimin asked, but he wasn’t sure who he directed it to, Yoongi or the Guardians or the asshole responsible for the worst fight between the brothers in hundreds of years.

“Kim Namjoon,” said the one Guardian who Jimin had never met before, offering a hand. Jimin shook, distrustful. His hand was cold. “You must be Park Jimin. Can we come in?”

“What’s going on? What are you all doing here?”

“Jimin,” called Jin from behind him. “Let them in.”

“Hyung—”

“They have answers. I sense it.”

Trusting the dryad’s words, Jimin unwillingly stepped back, allowed the crowd to enter. The other Guardian, Hoseok, kept a hand on the nape of Jungkook’s neck as if his grip was the only thing holding the detective anchored. The man looked shaken, something akin to grief in his eyes.

Jimin didn’t offer tea or refreshments. Not now, not to them. It was with the barest modicum of respect that he turned to the pair of Guardians and said, “You know of the whereabouts of my brother.” It wasn’t a question.

“Kim Taehyung shapeshifted in front of a human tonight,” said Namjoon quietly, without fuss. “He shifted in front of Jungkook.” The detective startled at the sound of his name.

Jimin’s heart sank. “No. No, he would never do that, not without explaining himself, not without preparing him and considering it. That damn detective means too much to him for that. You’re wrong.”

“It wasn’t intentional,” added Hoseok. He hadn’t looked away from Jin, from the dryad’s skin and hair. “He was in one of his animal visages. There was a full moon. And lightning.”

“Then it was an accident.” Jimin looked to the front door as if Taehyung was moments from walking through it. “You’re right, it wasn’t intentional, there are no grounds for a Guardian to punish him—”

“Intentional or not, it happened,” Namjoon cut in. “As a dryad and fellow fae, you both know the consequences for exposing the supernatural races.”

It took them a moment. Then Jimin staggered, clutching his chest. “No. No,” he cried out.

“You didn’t.” Jin’s voice was quiet but ripe with vicious fury as he approached, as he curled a supportive arm around a distraught Jimin. He glared at Hoseok. The plants in the room stirred, seemed to grow an extra foot, vines reaching for the Guardian. “Tell me you didn’t sentence my family to the Vault.”

Hoseok opened his mouth. No words came out.

“It wasn’t enough that you broke me,” whispered Jin viciously. “It wasn’t enough that you tore my life apart, that you broke my heart into a million pieces. You had to sentence my little brother to hell.”

Hoseok made a sound like he was choking.

Namjoon stepped forward. “Everyone calm down, all right?” he said gently, kindly, but with authority.

He shoved Jungkook into a seat on the sofa, pushed Yoongi down next to him. His next push landed Jin and Jimin in the armchair while Hoseok collapsed to perch on the coffee table. In the next moment he disappeared, his vampiric speed making it to the kitchen and back with a bottle of soju and six glasses in his hands in the blink of an eye. He poured and passed them out, none taking a sip except for Hoseok, who downed his immediately.

“We had no choice,” started Namjoon grimly. He locked eyes with Jin, seemed to blink as if taken aback, before continuing, “The Magistrate had his eyes on Hoseok and I through the whole thing.” The current Magistrate was a telepath. “We had to follow the law, to the letter. Otherwise the Magistrate could have us removed. Any other Guardian would have sentenced Taehyung to decades in the Vault, you both know it.”

“How long did you give him?” asked Jin, eyes locked on Namjoon. The man that Hoseok had abandoned him to return to.

Damn the captain for being so fucking confident. So fucking beautiful.

“Three months.”

Jimin gasped brokenly. He buried his face in his hands, moaning, “No, no.”

Jin leveled a furious, damp glare at Hoseok and Namjoon. “This will destroy him,” he hissed. “Tae can’t survive belowground. He can’t live without the sun.”

The gremlins crept out from beneath the couch, startling Jungkook badly. They ignored the humans and slunk to Jimin’s side, crawled up the arm of the chair to reach his lap.

“Taetae gone?” whispered Hemera, sounding lost.

“Can’t be gone,” cried Nyx, curling beneath Jimin’s arm. “Can’t be gone.”

Jungkook stared, wide-eyed, at the creatures he had taken to be lizards before they started speaking, before he took a second look, their glamor broken when they spoke. He saw the four eyes, scaly skin, the talons, the spikes along their spines and tails.

The fire that simmered in their mouths when they hissed warningly at his stare.

“Gremlins,” murmured Yoongi in his ear. The older detective remained pressed against Jungkook’s side, shoulder to hip, as if he knew just how close Jungkook was to losing his mind. “They’re not pets, but supernatural creatures in their own right. They live here with Jimin and Taehyung, they had bad experiences in the wild.”

“With the eyes of the Magistrate no longer on you, surely you can reverse Taehyung’s sentence,” said Jimin desperately. “It wasn’t intentional—”

“The Sentinels will not release a prisoner until the sentence is complete,” said Namjoon.

“Does he not get a trial?” ventured Yoongi, voice quiet, aware of his outsider status.

“The current Magistrate did away with trials two hundred years ago,” Jin told him, desolate. “He and the Council decided the intention behind exposing us did not matter. The damage was done regardless.”

Yoongi looked outraged, and opened his mouth again, but a simple gesture from Namjoon had him closing it.

“Stop staring at me,” Jin suddenly hissed out of nowhere, glaring at Hoseok, who flinched back as if struck.

“Jin—”

“You don’t get to stare at me while sitting there next to your boyfriend,” snarled Jin, face unrecognizable, wild with hurt and fury. Jimin had never seen his hyung so distraught. “All the flowers in the world won’t erase how you hurt me. How you keep hurting me, and keep hurting my family.”

“I never wanted any of this,” whispered Hoseok.

Namjoon’s voice was gentle when he said, “There’s nothing we can do.”

For a moment, there was resounding silence in that room.

Then Jimin launched himself at Jungkook, so quickly that none of the supernatural beings in that room were able to react. The gremlins were knocked aside, screeching in surprise, as Jimin barreled into Jungkook with the wrath of the gods, both men falling to the carpet with Jimin on top.

For an instant, Jungkook considered fighting back.

He didn’t.

He took the fist to the face, felt his jaw scream at the impact, head snapping to the side. A strike from the opposite direction snapped his head the opposite direction.

Then Yoongi was grabbing Jimin from behind, hauling the faerie up and away from his partner, towards the kitchen. Jungkook lay there dazed, absorbing the pain in his jaw.

Deserving it.

-

Jimin broke out of Yoongi’s grasp once they reached the kitchen, rounded on him so fiercely that Yoongi expected another punch. But Jimin reigned himself in. Barely.

“What do you want?” he snarled at him.

“Jimin, please.” Yoongi watched him with hollow eyes. “Stop. I know you’re angry—”

“Angry?” Jimin laughed, voice cracking in the middle. “Sure, let’s go with angry. Goddamnit, Yoongi, nothing good has happened since Taehyung got wrapped up with your partner and now he’s in the fucking Vault.”

“I wouldn’t say that.”

“Are you deaf, my brother has been sentenced to three fucking months—”

“I wouldn’t say nothing good has happened,” interrupted Yoongi quietly. “We would never have met, after all.”

Jimin all but crumpled. “Can’t you see? The issues between your partner and my brother has sent him to prison, Yoongi, and it’s nothing like prison as you know it. Nothing like three meals a day and exercise and visitations, no, it’s Taehyung sitting in a stone hole in the ground with no conversation, no food, no water but what he can scrounge from the floors, for three fucking months.”

Yoongi shivered. “Don’t ask me to let you go. You can’t ask me that, this feels too real, it's the most real I've ever felt-”

“You didn’t help him.”

“Jimin—”

“You were there,” he cried. “Weren’t you? All three of you were at Jungkook’s to look after him, to support him after whatever happened during his shift tonight. You were there when Taehyung made a mistake. He made that mistake because he cares about Jungkook and not a single one of you appreciated that.” Jimin barely held in the sob. “He must have been so scared. And alone.”

“I’m sorry.” Yoongi’s voice throbbed with regret. “I’m so sorry. I saw my partner breaking, I had to have his back.”

“Sure." Jimin sniffled, covering his hands with his sleeves and wiping his face. “I don’t know why I thought it would play out any different. Taehyung is my family. And you just met me, why would you give a damn about my family?”

“But I do, Jimin, I do care, about you and them—”

“I can’t do this, Yoongi,” he interrupted, voice soft and desperate. He allowed himself a moment, just a moment, and went into Yoongi’s arms, rising on his toes to kiss him. Yoongi hugged him against his chest with desperation, sensing this was the last moment they would have for a while.

Perhaps forever.

Jimin recoiled suddenly, backed away with tears in his eyes. He didn’t say goodbye. Neither did Yoongi. The detective simply watched him leave the kitchen, and let his head sink into his hands once he was alone.

-

The others watched the two disappear into the kitchen, leaving a shocked silence in their wake. Namjoon reached down and hauled his detective up, placing him gently back on the couch. He put fingers under Jungkook’s chin to tilt his face to the light, studying the rampant bruising already starting to appear.

“You’ll be okay,” he commented quietly, and squeezed Jungkook’s shoulder in reassurance before turning around. He saw Jin and Hoseok’s gaze startle away from one another.

Again.

Namjoon wasn’t worried about losing his boyfriend. He and Hoseok had gone their separate ways multiple times over the centuries, given in to boredom and a need for distraction. Namjoon knew their most recent separation had been different the moment Hoseok showed up at his doorstep with tears in his eyes. He had collapsed into Namjoon’s arms, sobbing, confessed that he had fallen in love with another man. But he still loved Namjoon.

Namjoon had accepted it. How could he not? He loved Hoseok with everything he had. It had been him and Hoseok, together against the world, for what felt like eons some days. They both dabbled with others during their separations, sometimes welcomed others into their bed even while they were together. But this was the first time another man had remained there, like a ghost, even when they came back together.

But now the three of them had somehow been thrown together. And Namjoon was just trying to navigate the waters.

“Seokjin, may I have a word?” he abruptly asked, both the man in question and Hoseok’s gaze darting to him. “If you don’t mind.”

Hoseok stood up. “Namjoon—”

“Look after Jungkook for me, babe,” he requested, then gestured Jin towards the short hallway leading to the bedrooms.

They stopped in the hallway, Namjoon leaning against one wall to study Jin as the dryad leaned against the other. The man was otherworldly beautiful, Namjoon noted distantly. Even with skin that resembled bark, twigs in his hair, he was gorgeous. As tall as Namjoon, with shoulders that may be, impossibly, wider.

Namjoon realized he was staring and mentally shook himself.

“You wanted a closer look at the man who slept with your lover, I’m guessing,” drawled Jin slowly. “The one he keeps staring at.”

“Bluntly stated.”

“I prefer to get to the point.”

“A straightforward lawyer. Fascinating. I don’t blame him for staring, you know. You’re stunning.”

“I’m surprised. No jealousy, no fury? I’m evidence he cheated on you, after all.”

“We weren’t together,” said Namjoon evenly, knowing the dryad wanted to provoke him. “I don’t blame Hoseok for any of it. Especially now that I’ve seen you for myself.”

“You don’t know anything about me.”

“Perhaps not,” admitted Namjoon, slow and considering.

“Anything I can do to address your curiosity, captain? References, affirmations of character. A demonstration of my skills?” The smirk he wore only grew as the captain’s eyes narrowed.

But Jin’s eyes were unbelievably cold.

“You’re remarkably blasé considering your previous lover and his current boyfriend are responsible for sentencing a member of your family to the Vault,” said Namjoon evenly, trying to take his gauge.

Jin froze. The smirk slid off his lips like water. “Wow. And you thought I was direct.”

“Seokjin—”

“For a moment, just a moment, I considered giving you both the benefit of the doubt,” whispered Jin, control hanging on by a thread. “I’m a lawyer, I keep my ears to the ground, I know the supernatural community of Seoul has been safer than ever since the pair of you took over.” The laugh was mean and self-deprecating. “Being Guardian must be a thankless job.”

“It is. Seokjin, I didn’t want to do that.” For the first time, emotion crept into the vampire’s steely eyes. Jin couldn’t quite decipher it. Empathy wrapped in regret? “It’s the first time sentencing someone to the Vault has left a pit in my stomach that I can’t shake.”

Jin looked away. The clock on the wall nearby ticked inexorably on, counting down the seconds, always moving, never stopping. Time never stopped.

Not for the supernatural.

“I’m a dryad,” said Jin slowly. “I live my life attuned to other living beings, sensitive to their emotions, their well-being. I can sense your emotions, you know. You've got a lot of anger and frustration building up in you. And maybe you regret it, maybe you wish you hadn’t done it, but you’re cornering me just moments after condemning one of the most loved people in my life to prison. A faerie, who is claustrophobic and terrified of the dark, who can’t stand the cold, who cannot sleep without a stuffed animal or Jimin or the little loves or myself to cuddle and hug.”

His voice broke on the last word. He breathed brokenly, but there were no tears. “I can’t give you absolution, Namjoon.” For the first time, he used the vampire’s name.

Namjoon merely nodded, eyes unreadable.

Jin turned on a heel and returned to the living room.

-

Jimin and Jin entered the room at the same time and didn’t stop walking until Jimin was bundled in Jin’s arms.

“He’s alone,” fretted Jimin, clutching his hyung with all his strength. “He’s alone and cold and he’s in the dark and he won’t make it, Jin, he won’t make it three days, let alone three months—”

Sudden whispers in the corner. The group looked around to see Hemera and Nyx curled together, heads bent towards one another as if in summit. Their small heads popped up at the same time and they raced over to Jin and Jimin.

“Jinnie, Jinnie,” called Hemera, going up on her hind legs to paw at him.

“Jiminie, Jiminie,” called Nyx, head-butting the faerie’s ankle.

They knelt down, helpless in the face of the little ones’ desperation, lifted the little gremlins into their arms.

“What is it, little love?” murmured Jimin, stroking Nyx’s back.

“Send us there,” whispered Hemera.

“Send us to our Taetae,” whispered Nyx.

Jimin and Jin both paled, turning to stare at one another. They turned back to the gremlins in a heartbeat.

“No,” said Jin emphatically. “No, I won’t hear of it. It’s the Vault, little loves, its no place for you.”

“But Taetae is there,” said Hemera.

“Taetae is there,” echoed Nyx.

“So we should go.”

“We should go.”

“Send us there.”

“Send us to Taetae.”

Jimin and Jin didn’t answer their pleas. They were too busy staring at each other.

“I can do that,” murmured Hoseok in the sudden quiet.

Everyone’s eyes bulleted to the Guardian, standing there with his fists clenched at his sides. “They are gremlins,” he continued. “They’re out of the Sentinels’ purview. We can get them in.” He looked at Hemera and Nyx, made sure he had their full attention before adding, “But they will not be able to leave until Taehyung does.”

“Send us to Taetae,” whispered Hemera.

“Send us to Taetae,” whispered Nyx.

“Little loves, it’ll be cold, and dark. You will have no blankets, no food, no water,” murmured Jin.

“Neither does Taetae.”

“Neither does he.”

“Send us there.”

“Send us to Taetae.”

Jin sighed. “Jimin,” he murmured. “If they wish it, we can’t stop them.”

Heartbroken, Jimin reached out, pulled both gremlins into his arms for a long cuddle. They had been his and Taehyung’s constant companions for over a century. Jimin couldn’t picture being without them.

But he pictured Taehyung, alone, locked in a cold stone cell.

And knew what he had to do.

“I love you both so much,” he whispered, kissing both of their heads again and again. “You need to be brave, little loves. It’ll be a life far different from what you are accustomed to.”

“Had life before Jiminie and Taetae and Jinnie,” said Hemera.

“Had long life, very long life,” agreed Nyx.

“Will be okay,” both gremlins said at once.

Jimin and Jin cuddled them for several long minutes, holding them in a tight hug, dancing kisses across their ears and heads. Then they eased back. “Okay,” whispered Jin. He turned towards Hoseok. “Okay.”

Hoseok came forward. The gremlins hopped down to the floor, sat and peered up at the Guardian with matching tilts of their heads.

“Remember, you will not be able to get out until the Sentinels arrive to release Taehyung,” he said carefully. “Once I send you in, you cannot come back. You need to be sure.”

“We’re sure,” said Hemera.

“We’re sure,” agreed Nyx.

“Kiss Tae for me,” said Jin, still curled around Jimin. “Tell him we love him.”

“That we love him so much,” agreed Jimin. “And we’re here waiting for him. Give him a huge hug for me.” Jimin knelt down again, kissed them both one more time. “We love you, little loves. Thank you.”

“Love you too.”

“Love you too.”

Hoseok reached out, placed a gentle palm on each of the gremlins’ heads. He closed his eyes, began to croon a strange tune under his breath. The gremlins perked their ears, and the gathering watched as the edges of their bodies began to blur.

Jungkook suddenly lurched forward. “Tell him I’m sorry,” he gasped out. “I’m so sorry.”

The gremlins pinned him with matching wide-eyed stares. Then they bowed their heads, and vanished.

Jimin let out a small wounded cry, huddled in on himself on the floor.

“Thank you for that, Hoseok. But I think it best you all leave now,” said Jin unevenly.

“Jin—”

“Now, Hoseok,” he interrupted, leaves falling from his hair.

They obeyed.

Jungkook turned at the last minute. “I am sorry,” he blurted out, and suddenly he was crying, water coursing over the bruises on his jaw. “I’m so sorry, I never wanted to hurt him.”

“It’s too late,” said Jin. His voice broke. “It’s too late. Leave us. Now.”

When the pair was alone, they sank to the carpet in the darkening, quiet apartment, clutching each other tight. Refusing to let go.

Chapter Text

Taehyung lay there on the cold stone, curled into a ball, staring apathetically at the iron bars of his cell. For the first few hours, he had combed every inch of his new home, examined every nook and cranny as if a blanket were hiding somewhere, or a crumb of food. He went through a period of time where he screamed and cried and beat his fists against the walls until they bled. Then he attempted to shapeshift, thinking his bear or snow leopard forms would be more attuned to the freezing dampness, but he’d forgotten the tales of the Vault and how ancient spells woven into the stone suppressed all forms of magic.

Now he just lay there, watching as the sliver of sky overhead grew light grey, then dark grey, then black, shrouding him in complete darkness. He heard occasional screams and cries emanating from further down the corridor, and shook with the terror of knowing there were other prisoners nearby. The Vault was home to the most foul of supernatural beings. Typically the deeper below ground, the more serious the offender. Taehyung assumed he was near the surface courtesy of the glimpse of the sky but who was to say that wasn’t some illusion or a spell?

So he lay there in terrified, numb silence, whimpering and crying by turns, trying to control his fear. But some fears simply ran too deep.

He couldn’t help but think of Jungkook. Even here in this dark stone hell, he wasn’t sure he blamed the detective. Not when he remembered the terror in his eyes and the fact that Taehyung was the one responsible for scaring him so badly.

He couldn’t forget the sight of the gun trained on him, though. Nothing could make him forget that.

Loneliness started to creep in again. He wanted Jiminie. He wanted to hug him hard and for both of them to cry and forgive one another for the hateful words they said. He wanted Jin hyung. He wanted his colorful bedroom and the big comfy bed heaped with his duvet and pillows and stuffed animals. He wanted to curl up with Hemera and Nyx and Jimin on the couch in the living room and have one of their legendary Studio Ghibli marathons that Jin hyung would eventually interrupt in order to force feed them something healthy.

He even thought of having another cup of tea with Jungkook. And maybe even Yoongi, to figure out just how the other detective had captured his friend’s heart so fast.

He simply wanted.

Yearning, alone in the darkness, he wept. The only question now was when would his body run out of tears?

Abruptly, two small figures fell from the ceiling and landed on him with mirrored surprised squeals. Taehyung shouted in surprise and scurried away, putting his back to the wall, a hand on his furiously pounding heart. His eyes were so wide they threatened to pop out of his skull, pupils dilated as far as possible, but the darkness was impenetrable.

What new evil was this?

“Stone. Stone and wet and moss,” whispered a female voice in the darkness. She sounded familiar.

“Stone,” agreed the other. “Much wet, very cold.” So familiar.

“Very cold.”

“Much cold.”

“Hemera? Nyx?” breathed Taehyung, afraid to hope, afraid to move. Was this a test? Another illusion, a trap?

“Taetae,” cried two voices in unison, and they must have immediately launched themselves across the stone to him for he soon found himself with armfuls of warm, softly scaled bodies.

He hugged them to his chest desperately, nuzzled into them as they furiously licked and nudged at his face, his neck, his hands. For a while they were too caught up in each other for Taehyung to grasp the significance.

“Little loves, what are you doing here?” he demanded, laughing wetly as they continued to kiss him repeatedly. He panicked as it sank in just where they were. “Did you get in trouble—”

“Here for you,” said Hemera.

“Here for Taetae,” said Nyx.

“Not in trouble.”

“Not in trouble.”

Taehyung gaped. “No. No, no, no, little loves, go home, go back to Jiminie, you shouldn’t be here—”

Hemera gripped his damp dirty shirt in her sharp little teeth, ripped the sleeve clean off and growled playfully until it slipped off his hand. Nyx seized it and scurried away to a small natural scoop in the floor, digging busily until shards of granite scattered aside, then dropped the cloth in.

Light blossomed in the gloom as Tae heard his little loves hiss a low beat. Fire bloomed in the depths of their throats then streamed out. The cloth immediately alighted, Taehyung’s vision full of spots as his eyes were caught in the light, in the sudden flare of warmth.

Hemera busily scraped her claws along the walls, clawing at the soaked moss lining the cave walls. Once a decent amount had fallen to the floor she pushed and shoved at it with her paws, Nyx joining her until the damp moss lay in an even ring around the cloth.

Nyx came back, gripped his wrist gently in his teeth and tugged him forward until Taehyung was kneeling beside the fire, reaching out his blue-tinged fingers and near cringing when the sudden warmth made them cramp. Hemera busily sniffed through the moss. When a small tangle of it had dried enough she added it to the tiny flame, the fire growing to a decent size.

Mission accomplished, Hemera and Nyx padded over, curled up in Taehyung’s lap, uncaring when his tears fell to dampen their soft scales.

“I’m so happy to see you but I wish you weren’t here,” he whispered. He stroked them desperately, until he was reassured he wasn’t hallucinating.

Hemera stretched up, nuzzled his nose then licked it gently. “That’s from Jiminie.”

Nyx crawled up his arm, his shoulder, wrapped his body around Tae’s neck and gently squeezed. “And that’s from Jinnie.”

Taehyung sniffled, hugged them both gratefully.

“He’s sorry,” whispered Hemera.

“Very sorry,” added Nyx.

“He was crying.”

“Much crying. Very sad.”

“Didn’t look good.”

“Not good.”

“Very sorry.”

“Very sorry.”

Taehyung blinked. “Who—”

“Kookie,” they said together.

“Kookie, what…” Taehyung trailed off. Then he blinked. Jungkook? Jungkook had met his little loves, his family, had been there when Hemera and Nyx had been sent here…wait.

“Little loves, how did you get here?”

“Hoseok,” they both said.

“Dated Jinnie.”

“Yes, dated much time ago.”

“A long time ago,” Tae automatically corrected. He straightened up, crossed his legs to study the gremlins.

“Long ago,” they both said.

“Now Guardians see each other.”

“Love each other.”

“Always loved each other.”

“Forever love.”

“And Jin love Hoseok and Hoseok love Jin,” said Hemera, almost sounding sly.

“Love each other, much love,” agreed Nyx, spitting a few small flames as he chortled a little.

“Wait, wait, wait.” Taehyung almost forgot how cold and damp he was, huddled in a ball with his family beside the little fire. Fascinated and bemused, he shook his head at the little ones. “Okay, so Hoseok and Namjoon are together. Have been together for a long time.”

Two nods. “Vampires,” they said in unison.

Tae rolled his eyes. “Of course they are,” he muttered, picturing the perfect skin and absolute stillness. “So the two vampires are together in love, and currently serving as Guardians.” Two nods. “But a while ago, they weren’t together and Hoseok and Jin fell in love.” Nods. “Obviously Hoseok went back to Namjoon but now they’re all thrown together and everything is a mess.”

“Much mess but lots of love.”

“Much mess,” agreed Nyx succinctly.

“You guys have better gossip than the tabloids,” decided Taehyung, wiggling a little to get more comfortable on the stone. “So Hoseok was the Guardian to send you here, to me.”

“To Taetae.”

“To be with Taetae.”

He kissed each of their heads. “Love you both so much.” He leaned back, blew out a sigh. “So you met Jungkook, then.”

“Kookie,” they both agreed.

“Very sorry,” added Hemera.

“He is much sorry.”

“It’s not his fault.” Tae blinked. “I’m the one who terrified him.”

“He very sorry.”

“Very sorry.”

“Huh. Well how about that?”

Taehyung laid down, used his own arm bent under his head for a pillow, chest to the flames and ignoring the cold at his back. Hemera and Nyx curled into tight balls at his chest and neck, Taehyung resting his other arm across them to share body heat.

His last thought before he succumbed to exhausted sleep was that he loved his family.

-

The Vault was terrifying without the gremlins.

With them, he had light and warmth and company.

They amused themselves with silly games, Taehyung teaching them new turns of phrase. Hemera and Nyx played tag and hide and seek with one another, their claws and limbs nimble enough to skitter up and down the moss littering the walls, Tae watching them fondly. Nyx was able to fashion some of the moss into forming a funnel, so that the annoying trickle of water no longer cascaded unevenly down the walls to dampen the entire floor but collected neatly into another natural scoop, giving them a constant supply of freshwater. They took turns collecting moss and allowing it dry beside the fire, replenishing the flames each time they shrunk.

Taehyung may have been starving, so much so that his dizzy spells got worse and worse, and he spent longer periods of time sleeping, and his clothes were disgusting and he smelled and he felt unrelenting cold and damp despite the little fire, but his mind was at peace.

Thanks to the little loves.

-

One day, a day like any other, Sentinels simply appeared outside the iron bars of his cell. Taehyung looked up, blinked, and the Sentinels were suddenly inside, hands gripping his arms again. Hemera and Nyx had the wits to jump on each of Taehyung’s shoulders before the group winked out of existence.

They landed in Jungkook’s living room.

Sentinels were creatures of pattern. They returned prisoners only to where they had been caught. They released him, Taehyung instantly crashing to the carpet on his knees, hands drooping between his legs, head bowed. The Sentinels disappeared again within seconds.

The apartment sat deathly quiet. The gremlins cautiously crept down from his shoulders, noses in the air as they scented.

“Smells of that man,” whispered Hemera, trembling a bit.

“Smells of Kookie,” agreed Nyx. He licked at her ear. “Reach out to Jinnie,” he whispered back.

“Reach out to Jinnie,” she echoed, and both gremlins crouched against the floor, rocking against each other as they closed all of their eyes and focused, hard.

Taehyung felt moments away from unconsciousness. The edges of his mind felt hazy and worn. He kept trying to assemble thoughts but they danced and scattered like raindrops. He comprehended that he knelt on a hardwood floor, that the air was blessedly warm and the room seemed vaguely familiar.

Footsteps rushed in.

“Taehyung,” blurted an achingly familiar voice, and the footsteps hurried closer.

Hemera and Nyx arched their backs and hissed furiously, fire racing out to scorch the legs of the newcomer. A yelp of surprise, muffled thumps like hands putting out flames.

“Stay back,” hissed Hemera.

“Yes, stay back,” echoed Nyx warningly. Both gremlins held their position in front of Taehyung.

“Not until Taetae ready.”

“Not until Taetae want you,” hissed Nyx.

“Please,” whispered the new voice, and it throbbed with desperation. “Please, he’s cold, let me give him a blanket—”

Hemera and Nyx seemed to confer mentally. They turned back to the man with matching wary expressions.

“Fine,” allowed Hemera. “We watching you. Blanket only.”

“Watching you,” muttered Nyx, tail lashing.

Moments later a thick blanket was rested across Taehyung’s shoulders. He comprehended the weight but not the meaning. A shaky hand touched his bowed forehead with the lightest of pressures, sweeping his fringe out of his eyes.

The gremlins rushed forward, snarling, and the touch retracted hastily, the footsteps backing away.

Taehyung sensed the human hovering, still in the same room, but Tae couldn’t connect the dots. He sensed a panicked murmur of words, the beep of a phone. Then he lost all track and awareness of time.

Next thing he knew, there was a chorus of voices nearby, and Hemera and Nyx were crying out in grateful welcome, and suddenly Taehyung was in the arms of someone who smelled like aloe and thyme, cedar and warmth and home

Moments later he gasped as warmth radiated through him like sunlight, as the soreness in his body eased, as the various bruises and cuts to his body vanished without a trace. His mind shot awake and he realized he knelt in Jungkook’s home, that he was healing from being in Jimin’s arms

On a shaky sob he threw himself forward, curled into Jimin’s chest and hid his face against the warm sweater as his mind bowed beneath the weight of it all. Tears cascaded from his eyes and his body shook, entirely soundless, fearing what would come out if he opened his mouth. Another body crouched behind him, sandwiched him further, and Tae nearly panicked but then recognized Jin hyung’s voice crooning in his ear.

“You’re home, Tae,” murmured Jin, hugging his friend hard. “We’ve got you.”

“We’ve got you,” whispered Jimin, his own tears wetting Tae’s already damp hair. “Missed you, Taetae.”

Taehyung whimpered, pushed his forehead hard against Jimin’s chest, aching to turn off his thoughts, the memories, of that cell and the cold and the trickling water.

“Turn it off,” cried Taehyung, ripping at his own hair. “Turn it off, turn it off, turn it off—

“Taehyung,” whispered Jimin brokenly.

“P-please.” Taehyung gripped fistfuls of his sweater. “Please, turn it off, turn it off, Jiminie, I can’t do this—”

Gentle fingertips came to his temple, pressed with the lightest of pressure. Moments later a blessed darkness overtook his vision, and Taehyung was aware of nothing but warmth and his family as he fell unconscious.

Jin pulled Taehyung into his arms, cradled easily against his broad chest. They stood, and turned a little only to see Jungkook had been joined by Yoongi, Hoseok and Namjoon. Jungkook seemed shaken, eyes wide and his hands trembling as he stared at the faerie sleeping soundly in Jin’s arms. Hoseok and Namjoon stood back at a careful distance, heads bowed in respect. Apology shone out of Hoseok’s eyes when he glanced their way. Yoongi stared at Jimin desperately.

“Jiminie,” he croaked, taking a single step forward and raising a hand. “Jimin, I—”

“Not now.” Jimin remained with his family, heartbroken. “Yoongi hyung, I can’t. Not now.”

Yoongi bowed his head, accepting. But both of them hurt.

Hemera and Nyx, cowering against the sofa, sprinted forward and climbed each of Jimin’s legs to perch on his shoulders, burrowing their faces against his neck with desperate cries. Jimin reached up and stroked them both with obvious relief.

“Let’s go home,” said Jimin, and he and Jin started for the door.

“Wait,” cried a voice behind them. Jimin whipped around to see Jungkook stumbling out of Yoongi’s restraining grasp. “Please. Is he all right, is he going to be okay—”

“What do you care?” growled Jimin.

“I’m sorry. I never wanted any of this, please,” pleaded Jungkook, eyes on Taehyung’s unconscious form.

A moment later, Jungkook froze, lungs seizing in his chest. It felt like someone had grabbed him around the throat, robbing him of oxygen, but he stood alone in the center of the room. Then he saw Jimin’s hand outstretched and his knees nearly gave out in terror.

It seemed healing wasn’t the only power Jimin’s fae side was capable of. The blonde’s eyes glowed a brilliant gold as he stared at Jungkook.

Jin murmured something to Jimin, startling him. He dropped his hand and stepped back, and instantly Jungkook collapsed to the carpet, gagging and gasping for air. He stared up at Jimin with wide, watery eyes.

“I’m sorry,” the detective whispered, his apology useless and not enough. It would never be enough. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry…”

His apologies followed the three out of the room.

-

Taehyung woke the instant they reached the penthouse. Jin had stoically ignored the strange looks they’d garnered on the train, not giving a damn that people stared for carrying his sleeping dongsaeng home. Jimin had sheltered the gremlins in his loose hoodie, stroking them constantly through the fabric, crooning to them beneath his breath.

They stepped through the front door and Tae’s eyes shot open like a switch had flipped. He flailed, Jin dropping him with a yelp of surprise.

Taehyung didn’t hit the floor human.

He touched down on four dainty black-furred paws, shook out a coat of gleaming silver, tiny ears twitching as he streaked towards his bedroom. As a small agile arctic fox, he raced away from the brothers who cried out after him, raced through the open doorway and kicked out with his hind legs to slam the door shut.

His room was the same. The same duvet and piles of pillows in soothing tones of blues and greens, the walls covered in priceless pieces of art, stormy landscapes mainly. The window seat built into the wall between stacks of bookcases. The corner of the room floored in hardwood instead of the white carpet, with the easel and long counter covered in the detritus of an artist; paints and charcoals and pencils and jars of brushes and palette knives. Familiar scents of turpentine and freesia hung peacefully in the air.

No rocks. No trickling water. No rough floors, no iron bars, no tiny crack to let the clouds through.

Foxes couldn’t cry. But Taehyung’s mind raced with terror, with leftover adrenaline, as he sprinted to his bed and jumped, landing amongst the bedding. He burrowed beneath them, into the clean sheets and blankets that smelled comfortingly of his favorite laundry detergent, curled into a tight ball, bushy tail tucked over his face.

And shook like a leaf.

-

Taehyung wasn’t sure how much time had passed when he heard his door crack open. Long enough for the trembling to ease, for him to lay curled there in exhausted apathy, still in fox form. He could smell Jimin, could tell that his friend paused a healthy distance from the bed and would back away the moment Taehyung signaled him to step off.

But Taehyung had missed him something fierce.

Gentle hands reached in and lifted the blankets, allowing a warm body to slide into the nest Taehyung had made. Tae huffed and unrolled enough to hide his face against Jimin’s chest, who crooned to him under his breath and began humming the lullaby an old wise-woman had once sang to them night after night during their first years on earth. After a while, Taehyung released a long, drawn out exhale, then closed his eyes and shapeshifted.

He conjured clothes as he did so, so that within an instant, he lay curled beside Jimin in soft sweatpants and a baggy sweatshirt. He sniffed a little as all the tears that he had successfully repressed by shapeshifting returned to the surface, and pressed his forehead against Jimin’s chest as he began to cry.

All this is no coincidence…just, just, by my feeling…the whole world is different from yesterday…just, just, with your joy…” Jimin continued to sing under his breath, hands stroking Tae’s back, petting his hair.

“Never stops being pretty,” whispered Taehyung when the tears had slowed enough for him to draw a clear breath.

Jimin simply squeezed him tighter. “I’m so sorry about that fight, Taetae.” His own eyes were damp. “I’m so sorry. I’m sorry for what I said, I was wrong, so wrong. I was just scared and confused and I never should have treated you that way.”

“I forgive you,” murmured Taehyung brokenly. “I’m sorry too. For what I said about you and Yoongi.”

Jimin wiped his tears away, rested his forehead against his. His best friend, his brother in all but name. “I forgive you. I missed you, Taetae.”

“How long was I gone?” Tae managed to ask. He had never counted, didn’t want to count, occupied himself with playing with the little loves and allowing their cuddles to banish the darkness.

“A little over two months.”

Tae blinked, leaned back a little to peer at Jimin. “What…how?”

Jimin carefully avoided his gaze, staring pensively up at the ceiling.

Taehyung thought about it, considered it with every last vestige of mental strength he possessed. The Guardians had sentenced him to three months. Sentinels are wired to obey their every command, no one else’s. So for his sentence to be revoked…

“Why did they change their minds?” whispered Tae, the incredulity thick on his tongue, tasted like defeat. There was no way. He had broken the most revered law of the supernatural world. Even now he tensed, as if the Guardians were moments from coming back, from sending him back.

Jimin sensed his breath coming faster. “Stop,” pleaded Jimin, clasping his cheeks and forcing him to look into Jimin’s glowing gold eyes. “Stop it. You served the sentence as mandated by the Guardians, by law they cannot sentence you twice for the same crime. You did it, Tae, it’s done, never again.”

It will never be done. The memories would take eons to fade.

“Then how?” he whimpered, desperate to understand.

Lips suddenly thin, as if holding back words that would sting, Jimin rasped, “It was Jungkook.”

He flinched at the name. “N-no…”

“He pleaded with Namjoon and Hoseok until they agreed to get him an audience with the Magistrate himself,” continued Jimin grimly.

Taehyung sat up so suddenly his head swam, emaciated muscles shaking. “Y-you’re lying.”

“I wouldn’t do that to you.” Jimin sat up, entwined his arms around Tae’s waist and hugged his back to help him stay upright. “None of them will tell what was said. All I know is that Namjoon and Hoseok took Jungkook to the Magistrate, and a week later you were released.”

“Jiminie, you sound…” Tae hesitated. He couldn’t place it, but there was something, something strange in Jimin’s tone. Was that gratitude? Disbelief?

An exhausted sigh. “Taehyung, that detective hasn’t left our doorstep. Jin finally caved enough to cook and force him to eat, the guy just sat out there next to the elevator, for weeks. Every time Namjoon or Hoseok appeared he would beg and plead and argue and yell the most intense things. Until they eventually caved and took him to the Magistrate.”

“B-but…”

“You realize what the Magistrate does to mortals, right?” continued Jimin, voice gentle, so fucking gentle, as if he knew how broken Taehyung was. “He doesn’t trust their word so he cracks open their mind. He digs and searches and looks, Tae, looks at every last thought and desire and motivation. It’s driven humans mad, before. Namjoon and Hoseok warned him but he still braved that for you, since it was his fault you were sent away.”

“N-no…I…I scared him.”

Suddenly Jimin rolled his eyes. “Of fucking course you’re both going to take the blame. Match made in fucking heaven.”

Despite it all, despite the weight on his chest and pressure behind his eyes and throbbing in his head and nausea in his gut, Taehyung managed a shaky grin. “Language, Jiminie.”

Jimin sniffled, squeezed him in a harder hug. “Missed you so fucking much, Taetae. You’re never allowed to go anywhere I can’t follow. Not ever again. Fucking promise me.”

“I promise,” vowed Taehyung. He would never leave his brother behind. Not again.

He didn’t think he’d survive it.

Chapter Text

Just as Taehyung nearly succumbed to exhaustion and passed out in his bed, Jin snuck inside to cuddle him almost aggressively, hugging him until he squeaked. Then he fetched a monstrous bowl of his homemade chicken noodle soup and a cool glass of sparkling water, laid it all out on a pretty tray and spread it across Tae’s lap, Jin and Jimin perching opposite him, keeping him company and chatting about useless idle things as if they sensed just how turbulent his thoughts were. Taehyung’s stomach rebelled against the food, so used to being empty that it felt strange to be full once more. He managed only a few bites before he felt too nauseous to continue.

It was Jimin who suggested a shower, watching Tae itch at his skin again, despite the fact his body returned to a naturally clean state every time he shapeshifted. Tae couldn’t deny the heaviness in his body, sluicing his skin, as if he was still trapped under the mountain surrounded by trickling, dripping water.

Jimin went ahead to start the shower. Jin turned on Taehyung’s favorite classical music playlist, piped it into the bathroom speakers. They fetched their plushest towels, rummaged Tae’s drawers for the cleanest, comfiest pajama pants and shirt. Hemera and Nyx ran in delirious circles around his feet as Tae staggered weakly to the bathroom with Jin as his support, craving the hot water as much as Taehyung.

Tae took a single step into the bathroom, looked into the glass-encased stall already slick with steam, the waterfall cascading from the overhead fixture to the pretty decorative stone floor.

Trickling water, coursing down icy cold, wet rock, falling onto his forehead, into his eyes, dampening and freezing his hair, seeping down the back of his neck like icy fingers…

His lungs seized up. Black dots swam sickeningly into his vision. Bile rose in his throat and he collapsed to his knees, just barely crawling to the toilet in time before he was viciously, viciously ill. It felt like knives stabbing into his gut, his head, and he choked and cried for them to “Turn it off, turn it off, please, turn the fucking water off, MAKE IT STOP—

Jimin instantly obeyed, shaking with his own fear as Jin supported Tae with hands on his lower back and forehead. Hemera and Nyx rubbed along Tae’s calves, running back and forth from him to Jiminie to Jin and chittering in panic.

Sobbing, Taehyung relinquished his hold on the toilet and crawled out of the bathroom, dragging himself with the little strength he had left, eventually collapsing in the hallway, lying on his stomach with his throbbing forehead pressed hard against the cool wood floor.

He simply lay there and cried. One distant part of himself acknowledged his brothers’ fear for him, another part acknowledged the fact that he had just had a panic attack for the first time in hundreds of years, but the rest of him…

The rest of him just didn’t care.

No one rushed him. They simply sat at his side, not touching him until Taehyung stretched out open, seeking hands and they gripped palms hard, squeezing as if they could transfer their own strength to him.

The worst part about the whole thing was that when Taehyung finally came to, finally surfaced from the mental turmoil, he felt more gross than ever.

“Perhaps a bath?” murmured Jin hesitantly, afraid to trigger him again.

“Do you want to try?” ventured Jimin at a voice hardly above a whisper.

Taehyung hated being so weak. He was an immortal son of fae, he had lived for hundreds of years, he had survived wars and famines and plagues, he didn’t do this, he didn’t get sick, he didn’t succumb to fear—

“Run a bath. Please,” he requested hoarsely, voice broken. “Headphones.”

Jin knew what he meant, fetched a pair of large comfortable headphones in the next second, feeding classical music into them so that Taehyung’s world became muffled behind soothing melodies of gentle harps and strings. In his periphery he was aware of Jimin moving quietly in the bathroom but he couldn’t hear the running water.

He kept his eyes closed when it was ready, though he abhorred his weakness. He allowed Jin and Jimin to lead him in and strip him gently, like a baby, then guide him into the tub of warm water with his eyes still clenched closed and music in his ears. He sank to his chin with a shiver despite the heat.

And was okay.

He couldn’t open his eyes, couldn’t face the sight of the water, the occasional drip falling from the faucet with a plop. He used to love water. Used to shift into his otter or turtle or stingray forms and play and play and play in the tub, for hours.

Now he couldn’t even stand the sight of it.

Something in his chest broke.

Jimin helped bathe him, scrub his hair around the strap of the headphones, gently scrub and rinse his body. The heat loosened his muscles and eased the discomfort that Taehyung hadn’t even felt after weeks of lying on stone floors.

He needed both Jimin and Jin’s help to get him out of the tub, his body entirely sapped. They dried him off and bundled him into his pajamas, put his music on the speakers in his room, tucked him in like a toddler. Jimin turned on the pale strings of lights decorating one wall, bathing the room in a gentle glow.

Taehyung let his head rest on his pillow and, within moments, fell into an exhausted sleep.

-

Time was a strange concept, to an immortal. Taehyung didn’t really note the passing of time. He didn’t count the days or note the months or watch the clocks. Time was simply a given, for fae like him. Always there, always constant, never changing.

He thought that being imprisoned would make him more aware of passing time. But even as he lay in bed, half-aware of the night fading to dawn fading into day then dusk then night, again and again and again, he didn’t truly comprehend it.

Taehyung didn’t realize he had spent months holed up in his bedroom until he blinked his eyes open one day to see Seoul blanketed in snow outside his window.

It shocked him so deeply that Taehyung stood up before telling himself to do so, staggering over to the window seat and bracing his hand on the sill, gaping at the fluffy flakes drifting out of the sky. Traffic had slowed to a crawl. The neon lights and yellow windows of the skyscrapers in the distance seemed dulled, the entire city hushed as if holding its breath.

He had been sent to the Vault in late June, when the flowers were booming and days heating and lengthening and children were playing in the parks with newfound freedom, and returned home in late August, when the leaves on the trees above the children’s heads were just barely beginning to tint with oranges and reds, shaking in the brisk winds.

And now, snow.

Jimin gently pushed open the door, as he had countless times a day for months, bearing food and clean sheets and making Taehyung stumble to the bathroom and bathing him and singing to him, everything he could do.

Anything.

Nothing seemed good enough. Taehyung hadn’t spoken a word, had barely looked at them, since before that panic attack. Sometimes Jimin heard him murmuring to the gremlins in a low voice late at night but Hemera and Nyx never confessed to the content of their conversations. Other nights, Jimin—and Jin, who had been staying in their guest room since Tae’s return—would be startled awake by screams and shouts of terror, racing into the room to see Tae writhing in the sheets. He would startle awake the moment Jimin or Jin grabbed him or shouted his name, collapsing into desperately relieved sobs, clutching his pillows and blankets.

But this time Jimin opened the door and the bed was empty. For an instant he panicked, dropped the clean sheets in his hands as he shot forward. Then he saw Taehyung, his thin figure illuminated by the streetlights outside as he leaned against the window, forehead pressed to the glass.

“You’re up,” whispered Jimin. “Oh my god, Tae—”

“What day is it?” His voice sounded hoarse.

“December 2.”

“Wow,” said Taehyung slowly. He turned away from the window. He blinked. “Your hair is pink.”

Jimin broke. He flew across the room and smothered Taehyung in a desperate hug. “Yes,” he said brokenly, then pushed out of his arms to punch his chest repeatedly. “Yeah, it’s pink, you son of a bitch, it’s been pink for weeks.”

Tae winced at the hits, caught his brother’s fists and pulled him into another hug. He buried his face in Jimin’s sweet-smelling pink hair. “Sorry, Jiminie,” he murmured.

The answering sigh shook their bodies. “Shut up. I hate you.” Another sigh then Jimin returned the hug. “Also love you. Kind of. Asshole.” He pulled back to cup Taehyung’s face. “Are you okay? You seriously scared me. Asshole.”

“Okay, look—”

“Asshole.”

“Jiminie.” Tae pinned him with a stare.

He went off again, pacing around the room. “You’ve been catatonic for months. You ignored me, you ignored Jin.”

“I know. I’m sorry.” Tae jerked a shoulder. “I couldn’t do it, Jiminie. I couldn’t face it.”

Jimin hugged him again, drew back to look up into his eyes. “What do you need?”

Taehyung’s purple eyes instantly flared wide, and he trembled. Jimin stroked his arms. “Sorry, sorry. Is that too much? How about this, pick one thing. Pick one thing on your mind, let me help soothe it.”

There was one thing. One thing that had been fluttering at the edges of Taehyung’s mind, popping up in his more lucid moments, calming him between nightmares. He just wasn’t sure why.

“Jungkook.” The name didn’t feel rusty, didn’t feel heavy on his tongue. It rolled off his lips like it had always meant to be there. “I want to talk to Jungkook.”

-

Jungkook sat at his desk in the station, supposedly working on reports but his eyes kept getting sidetracked by Yoongi’s hair, now bleached blonde in solidarity with Jimin’s switch to pink. His partner and the faerie had grown closer in the months since Taehyung’s return, whatever understanding they had reached in Taehyung's absence only cementing their unity. Jungkook didn't know the exact definition of their relationship, and weren't sure they even knew themselves. All Jungkook knew was that his partner was happy. Yoongi had lost his perpetual scowl.

So Yoongi was welcome in that penthouse, had served as the bridge between the Guardians and the supernatural beings who lived there. Namjoon and Hoseok had visited a few times, under the umbrella of business. It appeared Namjoon was interested in furthering Jin’s work gaining fair trials for those under suspicion of drawing attention to the supernatural. On Jungkook’s more cynical days, he believed it all to be an excuse for Namjoon to get under the gorgeous dryad’s skin. He wasn't sure what was going on between the two Guardians and the dryad but it wasn't his place to judge.

Jungkook had knocked on their penthouse door once. Jimin had opened it and scowled at him, then smartly shut it in his face.

Jungkook simply sat down, eventually shifting around to rest his back against the wall beside the door. And realized that sitting there wasn’t an awful place to be. At least he knew Taehyung rested comfortably on the other side of the impenetrable door.

So he stayed.

He worked twelve hour shifts at the precinct, running tours with Yoongi, following Namjoon’s orders, making arrests, interrogating suspects, conducting raids, filling out paperwork. Then he went home, showered, ate enough to keep his empty system moving, then went to the penthouse and sat on the floor outside. For hours. Every day.

Sometimes the door would crack open. Jin would stare, then shove food at him. Jimin would just glare. Occasionally the gremlins stepped out into the hallway to watch him even closer, heads cocked and eyes narrowed, mirror images of each other. Sometimes Yoongi would be there, Jungkook listening to the rumble of his voice through the wall. And sometimes Yoongi would step out and keep him company for a while.

Some days it seemed that the only thing keeping Jungkook’s head above water was the knowledge that Taehyung no longer sat in a prison cell. He didn’t care if the faerie never spoke to him again. All that mattered was that Taehyung was home and safe.

A ball of paper hit his temple and Jungkook blinked. He looked over at his hyung. “What?”

“Check your phone,” Yoongi told him.

“What? Why?”

“Just do it, kid.”

Jungkook dug in his pocket. He wasn’t even sure why he carried it anymore. The only messages he received were from Yoongi and Namjoon, occasionally from Hobi. Twice he had received texts from Seokjin giving him an update on Taehyung, that he was sleeping and resting comfortably.

Otherwise the thing lay silent, testing his self-control every day to reach out to Taehyung via Seokjin.

He abstained, sure that the…the faerie hated him.

Taehyung must hate him.

An unread message blinked on his phone, from an unfamiliar number.

 

From: unknown
jeon jungkook
this is park jimin

 

Jungkook stared down at the phone, jaw tense. No. No, no, no. His fingers flew across the keys before he thought it through.

 

To: park jimin
is taehyung okay???
is he okay did something happen??

 

From: park jimin
whoa
chill out detective
taehyung is fine

 

Jungkook’s heart beat again in his chest. He rubbed his chest, breath releasing in one huge whoosh.

 

From: park jimin
he actually got out of bed today
and he wants to speak to you

 

A new sort of terror seized Jungkook.

 

To: park jimin
to me?

 

From: park jimin
…yes? that’s what I just said
you know, for a detective, your detective skills need a little work

 

To: park jimin
well ouch

 

From: park jimin
suck it up
look, taehyung wants to talk to you
and I don’t think it’s the best idea

 

To: park jimin
I know you hate me, jimin-ssi
I never meant to hurt him
I never meant any of that to happen

 

From: park jimin
I know
and I know you were terrified that night
yoongi hyung told me
so I’m going to let you come over and speak to him
but jin hyung and myself are going to stay here and I don’t care if you don’t like it

 

To: park jimin
that’s okay, jimin-ssi
that is more than okay
when?

 

From: park jimin
you’re worse than a puppy
tonight, 8 o’clock

 

To: park jimin
I’ll see you then

 

From: park jimin
yes you will

 

-

Taehyung was sitting on the couch when Jimin allowed Jungkook to enter the apartment. The detective took two steps forward and paused. Suddenly he couldn’t breathe.

Taehyung looked pale. That sun-kissed golden skin that Jungkook had once worshipped with his lips, his hands, it had lost that familiar glow. His silvery hair lay dank and limp over his forehead and his eyes bore heavy lines at his temples that matched the lines etched around his unsmiling mouth. He sat cross-legged in a corner of the couch, back supported by the thick cushions, in a thin white sweater and loose black sweats that hung on his frame. Taehyung had always been lean, but strong and tough at the same time.

Now he bordered on emaciated.

He clutched a book in his thin hands, but looked up and over at the sound of footsteps. Jungkook stared into his eyes, at the huge purple bags shadowing them, but more importantly, the glowing violet hue of the pupils.

Moments later the violet dimmed then faded to that bewitching deep brown that had caught Jungkook from the first glimpse across the interrogation room table.

“No,” whispered Jungkook, who lurched across the room like a drunkard until he knelt down at Taehyung’s feet. Without thought, he reached up and cupped the boy’s face, stared into his eyes. “Please don’t do that.”

For a moment Tae’s brows drew tight. Then his entire face softened. And that brilliant violet shade shone bright in his eyes again.

“I’m sorry,” whispered Jungkook, and his eyes began to water. “I’m so, so sorry. Are you okay?”

“You brought me back,” murmured Taehyung.

Jungkook managed to nod, attempted to control himself with deep breaths but it was a losing battle. Achingly slowly, Tae moved to rest his forehead against Jungkook’s, and deliberately breathed him in.

Neither one of them knew how long they stayed there. Vaguely they were aware of Jin and Jimin’s low voices emanating from the kitchen.

“Was it awful?” murmured Taehyung. “Facing the Magistrate. I’ve heard stories—”

“It was fine.”

He lied.

Jungkook had been ushered into a temple perched on a high peak of a deserted mountain range, face to face with a man with a terrifying blank, smooth face. The power emanating from him made the figure seem ancient but he had the build of a young boy. He hadn’t said a word, merely outstretched a hand.

Jungkook had taken it without hesitation.

Agony.

Pain unlike anything he had ever felt before, even when that junkie’s knife had torn him open stem to stern. All the memories of his life had flipped through his mind’s eye as if the ancient Magistrate rifled through them for his own viewing pleasure. He felt his mind would tear at the seams at the chaos. Finally he reached the night that Taehyung had shapeshifted during the storm, and something in the Magistrate’s eyes softened when he felt Jungkook’s terror through the memory.

Jungkook had been released, staggering back from the man as if running from a demon. Namjoon and Hobi caught him, supported him, as the Magistrate pressed his hands together as if in prayer and inclined his head. Then he vanished, as if he never existed.

Later, Namjoon told Jungkook that the Magistrate had spoken to the Guardians mentally, the only way he was able to communicate. And that Taehyung had been granted release from his sentence.

Jungkook returned to his apartment to wait.

And Taehyung had appeared.

Tae’s attempt at a smile was broken. “You’re lying.”

At Tae’s silent urging, Jungkook got up, shed his jacket and sat on the couch beside him. Tae didn’t stop fussing until the detective lay sprawled back against the cushions and Taehyung curled up at his side.

“That’s my story and I’m sticking to it,” Jungkook murmured in his ear, holding him close. “I missed you, Taehyung. I’ll never stop being sorry.” He shook at the memory of holding his gun, training it on Tae like he were a suspect.

“Stop,” pleaded Taehyung, gripping his hands as if knowing exactly which memory plagued him. “Jungkook, stop. You were scared, and did what you were trained to do. I can’t promise that I’ll easily forget the look of that gun trained on me but I forgive you.”

He swallowed when Jungkook gripped both of his hands and pressed them against his lips in a hard kiss, blinking profusely as if overwhelmed.

“I’m sorry, too,” continued Taehyung. “I never meant to scare you. I forgot it was the full moon.”

“Namjoon and Hobi have told me everything,” Jungkook told him, making him blink. “Yoongi, too. I know that they are vampires and that Yoongi has the Sight, that he thought he was sometimes going crazy when he saw things he couldn’t explain. I know that Hoseok and Namjoon are the current Guardians, that they serve as police for the supernatural and the voices of the Magistrate. I know that Jimin is a faerie and immortal, and that he can heal. And you.” Jungkook’s eyes were soft as he cupped Tae’s face. He swept a thumb under a purple eye to swipe away a tear. “I know that you’re a faerie, that you’re immortal, and that you can shapeshift. I know that being with you, that seeing you, makes me the happiest I’ve been in a long time. And I want you to know that I’m so fucking sorry, for everything. And that I’ll be here for as long as you’ll let me.”

“I was doing such a good job at not crying,” whispered Taehyung, burrowing his face into Jungkook’s chest and sniffing hard. “Damn it, Jungkook. I missed you.”

Jungkook kissed his temple. “Missed you so much. You have no idea.”

Warm and secure, Taehyung cuddled in and clung. There, feeling safe for the first time since he arrived home, he quickly fell asleep.

-

As always, Tae’s dreams were a dark and twisted mess, full of stone and water and cold, such cold his bones ached.

He startled awake, viciously disoriented.

On one level he felt the warmth and familiarity of the arms around him, the cushions beneath him, and felt safe and comforted and at home. But then he blinked his eyes open to see the snow had turned to hail and rain, lashing against the windows.

He heard the pinging of raindrops battering glass.

Taehyung whimpered.

Jungkook gripped him tighter, pulled him fully into his lap to allow Taehyung to press his face against his chest. Tae curled into a ball, shivering hard, palms clasped over his ears.

Moments later Jungkook was fitting a pair of headphones over his ears. Music began to play, a gentle lo-fi song with throbbing beats and soothing synth. Tae couldn’t hear running water anymore. And as a heavy duvet was settled around his shoulders, swaddling both him and Jungkook in warmth, he wasn’t cold anymore. And rather than darkness, he kept his eyes open and fixed on the deep blue of Jungkook’s t-shirt, the sinews of his neck and curve of his jaw.

It helped. Jungkook didn’t resort to talking, to whispering the sweet nothings that people tended to resort to in times of trauma. He simply stayed there, not moving an inch, allowing a shaking, whimpering Taehyung to cling to him for as long as he wanted. As long as he needed.

They stayed there a long time, long enough for dawn to seep into the sky. As the darkness alleviated, so did the storm, the hail alleviating to hard rain which eventually fell off into silence and cloudy skies.

“Better?” whispered Jungkook.

Taehyung felt exhausted again. Beyond exhausted, as if weights were attached to his eyelashes. He could scarcely open his mouth to reply, simply nodded in a drowsy fashion. Moments later he was being lifted into strong arms, carried into his room and set onto his bed, blankets settled around him as if Jungkook knew how bundled up he wanted to be, needed to be.

There was a hint of pressure against the top of his head, like lips pressed to his hair. It was the last thing Taehyung knew before he fell asleep once more.

-

He woke sometime later in the day, towards evening by the look of the dusky light outside the window. One of his sketchbooks was open on his nightstand, a note scrawled across the top of a blank page.

 

Thank you for letting me hold you. I’m so damn glad you’re back. If you need anything please let me know.
I missed you. More than you know.
- Jungkook

 

Taehyung released a long, shaky sigh, and hugged the book to his chest.

“Damn it,” he whispered.

 

 

-

Chapter Text

Jungkook’s phone rang in the middle of the night and his feet hit the floor before his brain fully engaged, in a habit long ingrained by years of practice.

“Jeon,” he said into the receiver.

“Jungkook, it’s Jimin. Is Taehyung with you?” Jimin spoke fast, sounded breathless and half out of his mind with worry.

Jungkook flew into the living room and hit the lights, swept his eyes around as if expecting a human Taehyung to be curled on his couch or a silver cat to be perched on the kitchen counter. “No, he’s not, I haven’t seen him since we fell asleep on the couch this afternoon. What’s going on?”

“He isn’t here,” said Jimin, rushed and upset. “He left the apartment, I woke up and he wasn’t here. He hasn’t been outside in months and now he’s taken off in the middle of the night and I don’t know what to do, Jin hyung is trying to locate him but Tae’s energy beacon is all over the place when he’s distraught, it’s difficult—”

“Take a breath,” interrupted Jungkook, kindly but firmly. He had already pulled jeans and a t-shirt over the briefs he had worn to bed and slid into boots and a warm jacket before striding out of his apartment. “I’m heading out now, I’ll find him.”

Half-hysterical laughter. “He’s a shapeshifting faerie and over four hundred years old, Detective, what makes you think you can find him?”

“This is what I do, trust me.” Jungkook trotted down the stairs and emerged onto the street, breath immediately puffing out in white clouds. Damn, it was cold tonight. “Can you tell if he took a jacket with him?”

“Um.” Some rustling, as Jungkook headed down the sidewalk at a brisk pace. “Maybe? His favorite black leather jacket is missing. And the black hoodie you put on him before tucking him in.”

Leather jacket and a hoodie? Not enough for midwinter in Seoul, not nearly enough.

“I’m going to call Yoongi to help. We’ll find him, Jimin,” repeated Jungkook as he heard the faerie begin to sob breathlessly. “You and Jin stay at the apartment in case he comes back, okay? And keep in touch.”

“Okay. Okay,” said Jimin, distraught, and disconnected the line without a goodbye.

Jungkook immediately dialed Yoongi. Only one ring, then his partner’s gruff voice said, “Min.”

“Jimin just called me, Taehyung is missing,” rattled off Jungkook without preamble, jogging towards the park where Tae once sketched a willow tree overlooking the creek.

“Can’t Jin meditate, find him by his energy?”

Jungkook blinked. Yoongi had adapted to this new world far quicker than Jungkook would have thought. “No, Jimin said that if the target is distraught or has a lot of emotion the beacon is disrupted, or something. We’ve got to do this the old-fashioned way, partner.”

“Where are you?”

“Just reached the park.”

A slam of a car door, the rapid fire of an engine echoed over the line. “On my way to you. We’ll find him.”

Jungkook muttered, “Thanks, hyung,” and hung up, sliding his phone back into his pocket, and jogged into the park. The bench where he had once seen Taehyung sketching sat empty and deserted.

It took hours. Together the detectives checked all of Taehyung’s stomping grounds, every last spot in the city that Jimin texted to him and all the places Jungkook could remember Tae even casually mentioning, despite most of them being closed this time of night. The park, the cafe, his favorite art supply store, the three galleries that showcased his paintings and sketches, the dive bar where they had once met for a drink.

He could sense Yoongi’s eyes on him throughout the drive, assessing him. Jungkook didn’t give a fuck if he was being judged for his knowledge about Taehyung. He was sure that Yoongi could do the same for Jimin even if they hadn’t known each other as long.

Both of the faeries had made an irrevocable impact on them.

But then where the hell was he?

Their radio crackled. “All units, reports of a 10-10 at the corner of 9th and Main. 119 caller reports a Good Samaritan in a leather jacket interfering with a 10-16.”

And Jungkook knew.

It took the barest glance at Yoongi for him to hit the lights and stomp on the gas as Jungkook barked into the radio, “Unit 134 responding. 2 minutes out.”

“More like 5,” added Jungkook under his breath, stashing the radio away.

Yoongi’s grin was quick and cocky as he took a sharp turn with a harsh squeal of rubber against asphalt. “You doubting me, maknae?”

“Challenging you.” Jungkook’s answering smile was fierce as Yoongi rose to the bait and accelerated hard.

They pulled up at the corner three minutes later, braking hard enough to send them both jolting against their seatbelts. Immediately both doors opened and they bailed, weapons drawn.

A woman stood nearby, shivering in jeans and a tank top, face soaked with tears as she hysterically screamed and wept, “Stop it! You’re going to kill him!” at the two male figures grappling against the wall of the convenience store.

Even as the detectives sprinted up, one man, thick and brawny with a bloated gut and reddened face, slammed a fist into the gut of the thinner man he held pinned against the wall.

The victim choked and wheezed a breath against the pain, then grinned, showcasing teeth painted red from a split lip. “That all you got?”

Then Jungkook and Yoongi were there, weapons holstered again, tearing the bigger man away, sending him sprawling facedown on the pavement with Yoongi efficiently cuffing him as he rattled off his rights. The man snarled and spat curses, eyes dilated. High off something, Yoongi assumed. Once secured, flopping on the sidewalk like a fish on dry land, Yoongi went to the woman’s side and attempted to hush her.

Jungkook never moved away from Taehyung.

The faerie leaned against the wall, panting hard, trembling all over. His eyes glowed purple and Jungkook quickly put himself between him and the witnesses, guarding him instinctively. Tae’s eyes were half-lidded, tired, but his smirk was familiar as ever.

“Detective,” he drawled, wincing and clutching his ribs as he tried to straighten up. “What brings you here?”

“Jimin called, said you took off,” said Jungkook grimly, cupping his face and sweeping the hair from his eyes to assess the bruising ringing his right eye and the blood seeping from a cut in the top lip. The injuries infuriated Jungkook, his hands near shaking with his anger. “What the hell happened?”

Tae winced as the detective used his sleeve to blot his lip. “Couldn’t sleep. Went for a walk.”

“And decided a fight was more conducive than some hot tea in bed?”

“I was nearby. He was hurting her.” Tae glanced at the woman being comforted by Yoongi, the finger-shaped bruising on her arms and neck. “Couldn’t just do nothing.”

Jungkook thought of the night he himself had shared the same sentiment. They were more alike than he ever would have thought.

“We have to take a statement, then I’m getting you to a hospital.”

“No.”

“Tae, your ribs—”

“I’ll be fine,” he insisted, despite the tension in his body and the stress lines at the corners of his purple eyes. “I just need sleep.”

“Because fights cure insomnia,” said Jungkook, voice thick with sarcasm.

Tae gave it a moment. “I know you’re worried,” he said, tone softer than it was. He reached up and squeezed Jungkook’s wrists, then drew them away from his face. Jungkook ached to keep touching him.

“But I’m fine,” added Taehyung. He winced again as he straightened, added a self-deprecating chuckle. “Just sore.”

Jungkook sighed as patrol cars rolled up, uniformed beat cops taking over the scene. “Let’s get your statement done and get you out of here. Watch your eyes, they’re purple.”

Taehyung cast him a sharp look but blinked, eyes returning to his usual slumberous brown.

An hour later, Jungkook was driving Yoongi’s unmarked car away from the intersection, Taehyung in the passenger seat. Jimin had pulled up in a snazzy little sports car minutes prior and hugged Taehyung hard before ranting at him in a squeaky upset voice. It took ages to calm him, Taehyung simply holding him with a strange little smile. Jimin had given Jungkook an unwilling thank you prior to releasing his best friend and backing away, tugging Tae towards his car. But Taehyung had hesitated, looking at Jungkook with an unreadable expression, and Jungkook merely tilted his head towards Yoongi’s car.

A miffed Jimin had simply shrugged and offered a ride to Yoongi.

Now Taehyung sat beside Jungkook, quiet and pensive as he stared out the passenger side window. His black hood was up, half drawn over his hair, the leather of his jacket scored with blood from his split lip. The black eye had come on strong, his eye swollen nearly shut, intermittently lit up by the streetlights flashing by.

“No,” said Taehyung softly as Jungkook went to turn onto the highway that would take them uptown to the penthouse.

“Taehyung?”

“Could I come hang at your place?” he murmured, still looking out the window. “I’m not in the mood for Jin and Jimin to fuss over me.”

Without a word Jungkook directed the car downtown towards his own apartment.

“Sorry to put you out.”

“Taehyung.” Jungkook barked a weak laugh, resting his left elbow on the window to scrape a hand roughly through his hair. “You could literally ask me for anything on this planet and I would do it. After everything that happened...letting you rest quietly at my place is the least I can do.”

“I don’t want to be there if you don’t want me there, though.”

“Tae. I always want you around. Don’t even worry about that. Just text Jimin and let him know, all right? He has enough reason to hate me, I don’t want him thinking I kidnapped you.”

That surprised a chuckle from Tae, who drew Jungkook’s phone from the cup holder and complied, firing off a quick text. It rang with a response almost immediately.

“Jimin says if I disappear for two more months he will personally find you and kill you, very slowly, with a very dull instrument.”

Jungkook shivered, pulled up to park along a deserted stretch of sidewalk outside his building. “Tell him if he ever wants to come down to the precinct and teach my rookies a seminar on interrogation techniques, he is more than welcome.”

Tae complied, a small smile on his face that relieved Jungkook. “He says he will take that under advisement.”

Jungkook ran inside and picked up several orders of ramen from the takeout joint prior to leading Taehyung up to his third floor apartment. Tae took a single step inside and bent to take off his shoes but immediately hissed out a sharp breath.

Jungkook grabbed his arm, stabilized him. “Easy. Easy, I got you. Where does it hurt?”

“Ribs,” admitted Taehyung, straightening back up slowly. “Head.”

“Do you heal any faster than I do?”

“Jimin wanted to fix me up.” His mouth was a harsh line. “Didn’t let him. And don’t look at me like that, I realize I’m not in the healthiest of mind states right now, okay? But feeling some bruises is better than feeling nothing.”

Jungkook had to count to ten, slowly, to avoid saying something that he was sure wouldn’t help the situation. He then jogged into the kitchen, returned quick with a bottle of water and a couple pills. “Here. Ibuprofen.” He ran a clinical eye over the faerie as Tae complied. “Want a shower?” he offered, seeing the blood on him.

But the faerie immediately shuddered hard, hard enough to send his hair dancing across his forehead. He shook his head adamantly, despite the grimace of pain it invoked. “No. No running water.”

Jungkook’s expression didn’t shift an iota. “Okay. Bath?”

“Maybe.”

“Let’s try.”

Jungkook’s tone was matter of fact. No pity, no regret. It gave Taehyung the strength to hobble with him to the bathroom. Jungkook didn’t judge him when he scrunched his eyes closed despite his throbbing head and clamped his palms over his ears as Jungkook twisted the faucet on. He merely walked over and curled around Tae, brought the faerie against his chest to hide his face, ran calm fingers through his hair. He started humming something under his breath, something Tae couldn’t make out with his palms over his ears, but he could feel the vibrations of his chest beneath his forehead.

When Jungkook eased back, turned off the water, Taehyung released a shaky sigh.

“Pathetic, isn’t it,” he whispered. He dropped his hands, stared at the full bath. “I can’t sleep. Can’t shower. Eating hurts, my stomach isn’t used to it, it hurts so bad. I used to not like the dark but now I can’t stand it. I freeze up. I panic.” His desolate eyes met Jungkook’s. “I never used to panic.”

Swallowing back the guilt, Jungkook hesitantly reaches for him, allowing it to be his choice whether they touched. Tae took his hand.

Taehyung didn’t need the burden of Jungkook’s guilt and agony and despair he felt over being responsible for imprisoning him in the first place. He tried desperately to shove it down deep in his chest, keep it hidden.

But even after so long apart, it seemed Taehyung could still read him. Far too well.

“It’s not your fault,” said Tae sadly. He took Jungkook’s hand but still stared unseeingly at the water. “You were scared. I was scared. I’m still scared.”

“However I can help, Tae,” he whispered brokenly. “Whatever I can do, just tell me.”

Taehyung's smile was gentle but equally broken. “You got me out.”

The bath felt heavenly. Taehyung was past the point of self-consciousness, he clung greedily to Jungkook’s hand even as he stripped and stepped into the hot water. Jungkook talked to him through the whole thing. Silly stories about work, cases, perps he had collared. Lighthearted foolish things that made Tae smile a little.

But nothing Jungkook could say erased the wide-eyed panic.

When Taehyung felt clean enough, he allowed Jungkook to help him out, standing there listlessly on the mat as Jungkook gently toweled him off before bundling him into a pair of Jungkook’s faded sweats and an oversized hoodie. Then the detective bullied him to the kitchen, urged him to eat some broth and noodles after reheating them on the ancient stove, the faerie only managing a few mouthfuls before nearly falling asleep at the table.

Jungkook took the dishes away, turned to rinse them out in the sink. “You’re welcome to my bed,” he said softly, eyes on the soapy dishes rather than look at Taehyung and risk seeing the hesitance or outright refusal. “I can sleep on the couch. You need to get some rest, those ribs will only hurt worse in the morning—” He turned around and Taehyung had gone.

Immediately Jungkook rushed to the entryway, checked for Tae’s jacket and boots, unable to breathe at the thought of the faerie disappearing into the night again. But his things were still there. The living room was empty. Jungkook padded hesitantly into his room, and everything about him loosened and softened at the sight of Taehyung already buried under his covers, curled into a tiny ball.

Jungkook went over, hit the switch on the string of fairy lights he had strung along one wall in the months that Taehyung had been imprisoned. They had comforted him, late at night, when the thought of Taehyung crying alone in a cell had threatened to drive him mad.

At the dim glow, Tae drowsily blinked his eyes. He smiled a little at the lights, letting his head fall back onto the pillow. He didn’t speak. Nor did Jungkook. Something about the atmosphere felt reverent, hushed, the very air laced with a hidden meaning that neither Jungkook nor Taehyung risked giving voice to for fear the delicate balance would fail.

Jungkook stepped towards the bed at the exact moment Taehyung outstretched a hand.

He stepped out of his jeans, pulled off his shirt, accepted Tae’s hand and crawled under the covers in his briefs. There he bundled Taehyung to him, the faerie’s back pressed to his chest, legs intertwined. Jungkook skimmed his hand along Tae’s belly and pressed a kiss to the nape of his neck, content at the smell of his own shampoo in the other boy’s hair. Tae slid his fingers into his and squeezed gently.

“Thank you for getting me out,” he said softly, sleepy and content.

“Thank you for being here,” said Jungkook just as quietly. Taehyung merely kissed their entwined hands and snuggled further against Jungkook’s bicep.

There was so much to talk about. They needed to discuss what went wrong, just how badly that night had gone. Taehyung’s imprisonment and Jungkook’s crash course on the supernatural.

But not now.

Not then.

Not while they had each other.

-

Jungkook woke alone. There was a piece of paper on his nightstand. He lunged for it, knocked over a stack of books in the process.

Thank you for holding me. I’m so damn happy to be back. To be with you again.
I missed you. More than you know.
- Taehyung

Jungkook clutched the paper to his chest and fell flat again. He felt. He felt more than the apathy that had overtaken him the past few months.

He felt alive.

-

Taehyung slid into the penthouse in the early hours of the morning, when restlessness had woken him from the uneasy slumber in Jungkook’s bed. He didn’t sleep well, not since he had returned. Being in Jungkook’s arms soothed most of the panic in his head but it still roiled there, just beneath the surface. Caving to the restlessness, he left that warm bed to return home to face the firing squad.

Surprisingly, Jiminie and Jin hyung weren’t yet awake and waiting to ambush him for answers. Relieved, Taehyung was able to pad into his room and scratch the sleepy gremlins under the chin before turning to his easel and the untouched canvas. Caving to the turmoil, he picked up his brushes and paints, kept in perfect condition by Jimin, and, ignoring the pain in his ribs, set brush to canvas.

He’s not sure how long he painted. Long enough for the sun to fully rise, for Jimin and Jin to stumble in half-dressed and yawning to sprawl on his bed with Hemera and Nyx and make idle commentary of the dark stone background Taehyung was currently bringing to life. They all fastidiously ignored the subject of the painting for what it was.

He painted. For three straight days, he painted. He was aware of the comings and goings of the other beings habituating the apartment. Sometimes he heard other voices in the living room. Yoongi’s low rumble of a voice became familiar, as did the unique giggly laugh that Jimin often gave him in response. Tae could even swear he heard Namjoon and Hoseok a time or two, but his attention never deviated from the painting long enough check and find out. Once he could have sworn he heard Jungkook. It was the only voice that threatened to break his concentration. But as if that voice knew the power it held, it never came close enough to be a distraction.

When he surfaced from the near trance he had entered, another note sat on his nightstand. This one simply said, You’re beautiful when you paint. Eat & drink this. A glass of water and a blueberry scone sat on a tidy plate nearby.

Taehyung scarfed the offerings, warmth returning to his insides and soothing the terrifying blankness within him, and collapsed into bed, falling straight asleep despite the recreation of his prison cell that covered the canvas nearby.

-

When he awoke, Taehyung felt more like himself than ever. He assumed it was sometime during the morning, based on the dull sunlight outside the window, but didn’t bother to truly check. Instead he hastened into the bathroom and cleaned himself up, ignoring the black eye still darkening his face. He swiped haphazardly at the paint streaks on his skin, then dressed in a warm sweater, jeans and boots, topped with his favorite long coat. Jimin and Jin were in the kitchen when he emerged, looking up at him with matching surprised expressions.

“Taehyung. What—”

Tae reached into Jimin’s pocket and seized his phone, his own being long dead and abandoned, cutting off his friend’s question. He unlocked it and sent a quick text, then returned the phone, hugged Jimin, hard, and kissed his cheek. Then he went to Jin and did the same. Then he bent to the gremlins perched on a kitchen chair and kissed and nuzzled them both.

Then he let himself out of the penthouse with a quiet, reassuring grin sent over his shoulder.

“He…he left,” exclaimed Jimin with astonishment. “He just left the apartment.”

Jin chuckled wetly, rubbed his eyes. “Why am I not even fucking surprised? That kid was always stronger than the pair of us combined.”

 

-

Chapter Text

-

 

Taehyung walked into his favorite café by the borders of the park, unraveling the scarf from around his neck. He grinned a little at the sight of Jungkook sitting in the same bench where they once met for coffee and tea, the detective standing instantly as Taehyung approached, catching him when Tae threw himself forward and hugged him hard.

“Sorry," whispered Tae, apologizing for his desperation.

Jungkook just chuckled in a relieved sort of way, and held him close. “Don’t even. Damn, I missed you.”

“Missed you too.” Tae drew back. He gestured to the booth before shyly averting his eyes. “I was kind of hoping we could talk. About that day.”

Jungkook blinked, and visibly swallowed. He seemed to take a deep, fortifying breath, then nodded, frowning seriously.

They slid into their seats, and Jungkook slid a mug in front of him. “Got you your tea.”

Tae just shook his head, slipped out of his jacket and breathed in the steam. “Bless you.”

When Taehyung simply sat there, cupped his hands around the mug and stared into space, Jungkook ventured to say, “It’s okay, Taehyung. You don’t have to—”

“I want to,” he interrupted. His lips quirked a little. “And I miss you calling me Tae. Just so you know.”

“I missed it too, Tae.”

“You may not want to hear all this, you know. It’ll be too much—”

“Tae. Let me decide what is too much. It’s okay,” he said gently. “I always thought there was something different about you, anyway,” he added casually.

Tae gaped. “What? What do you mean?”

“Thought your eyes flickered a couple times. Convinced myself it was a trick of the light, but, well. The night you and Jimin allowed me to come over, then the other night after that fight, it pretty much cemented it. Stop gaping at me,” he added with a smirk. “I am a detective, you know. I tend to observe people for a living.”

Tae sulked. “I’m almost five hundred years old yet a mortal still caught on to me.”

Jungkook seemed taken aback a moment, then blew out a long breath and scrubbed a hand through his hair.

“Told you it’ll be a lot. Still want to talk?”

“Tae. I’m not going anywhere.”

Taehyung took one last deep breath, then nodded decisively.

“That day, before everything happened, Jimin and I had a huge fight,” he started. He stared into his mug as if it held the answers. “About you. About me wanting to see you. It wasn’t the first time we argued over you but it was awful, we were tired and I was so terrified about what I felt for you that I just couldn’t handle it. And I didn’t know about it at the time but Jimin had just met Yoongi and was basically falling at first sight and he was all torn up inside with guilt over it. It made him lash out harder. We both said things we instantly regretted. I was upset, and I ran out, threw my phone away. And suddenly the only thing I wanted was you.”

“Me?” Jungkook dared to ask.

Tae’s eyes were wide and vulnerable as he stared across the table. “Yes,” he confessed. “I was upset. I wanted to see you. But I didn’t think you’d want to see me so soon, we had just spent an entire twenty four hours together for god’s sake, I thought it’d be too much. I thought I was too much, I’m always too much. So I came in my cat form.”

It took every ounce of courage Jungkook had to reach out, to gently cover Taehyung’s hand with his own. “I always wanted to see you, Taehyung. I always do want to see you,” he corrected quickly. “And you’re not too much. Never doubt that.”

“Maybe things wouldn’t have gone so wrong if I just had the courage to come as myself,” said Tae dully, watching the way the detective’s hand neatly cupped his. “My fae bloodline allows me to shapeshift. It usually takes me a few decades to get the hang of a new form, but I can assume the visage of dozens of animals. Cat, dog, mouse, bat, songbird, wolf, bear, panther…I know hundreds. I’m most comfortable in my cat form.”

Tae eyed him carefully, watching for panic. But Jungkook simply watched him evenly, eyes clear and attentive. Relieved, Tae continued, “I went to the precinct, sat there for a while wondering just what in the hell I was doing. I kept trying to convince myself to leave but then you and Namjoon pulled up. I listened to your conversation.” He was past hiding his sins. “I learned how awful your shift was, what you were forced to do. How sad and lost you sounded. When you separated, I just…I remember thinking I didn’t want you to be alone. So I followed you.”

Jungkook looked haunted again. “You were worried about me?”

Tae blinked at him. “Of course I was. I know that killing that man was justified, I knew you did it to protect that young girl, but it didn’t mean you were okay with it. No one need be alone after something like that.” He shrugged a little, eyes dropping to the table again. “I went to your window. I heard the storm come in, I remember acknowledging the lightning, but…you welcomed me in. You welcomed me in and dried and warmed me. And you told me what happened.”

Jungkook retracted his hand a little, cleared his throat quietly. “I thought I was just talking to myself. Or to—”

“A cat.” Tae nodded, understanding. “I know. I’m so sorry for betraying your trust like that. I wanted to tell you the truth about me but I didn’t know how. I’ve only ever told one person I cared about, and it…it didn’t go well.”

“One person? In almost five hundred years?” Shaken, Jungkook scrubbed a hand through his hair. “Taehyung.”

“I told you that you wouldn’t want to hear it,” said Tae in a soft voice. He hesitated, then asked, “Is it too much?”

Jungkook stared at him. For the first time since they sat face to face in that interrogation room, Taehyung couldn’t read his expression.

He turned his focus to his drink, sipping at the cooling tea for lack of something better to do. The café was slowly empting, the streetlights kicking on outside with a soft buzz and a flare of gentle yellow light. A fountain illuminated with blue lights in the park nearby, despite the water not running due to the freezing temperatures. Despite the cold, two figures curled together on the concrete bench beside it, heads close.

Taehyung’s gaze returned to the detective. Was he really doing the man any favors, caring about him this way? Maybe things would be easier if he simply left him alone. Chalked this up to another disastrous interaction that Tae would spend the next hundred years trying to forget.

He knew he never would.

But perhaps it would give Jungkook some peace.

The longer they sat there, the more sure Taehyung became that Jungkook wished to get out of this, remove himself from the mess that Taehyung had created, but the detective didn’t know how.

So thinking, he finished his tea, heart aching, and stood up. Jungkook looked up at him, startled out of his reverie.

“I’m really sorry,” said Tae. “For everything. I never wanted to lie to you.” He tried to smile, knew it came out as a grimace. “It’s been fun, Detective.”

He turned and strolled out, walked into the park with his head up and eyes forward, terrified he would cry if he stared down at the ground. He headed for the still, lifeless fountain, despite how easily he could imagine it filling with water. As if he wanted to torture himself further.

A hand gripped his arm, whirled him around just steps from the bench. Tae gasped, put his hands out in reflex, only for them to land on a warm chest.

“Where the hell are you going?” demanded Jungkook. He looked pissed, eyes in furious slits as he stared at Tae.

“I-I’m…” At a loss for words, Tae just shook his head, over and over again. What did Jungkook want from him?

“You can’t leave me,” shouted Jungkook, and reeled him in hard.

“Wha—”

Taehyung’s voice was cut off when Jungkook kissed him.

This kiss was gentle. More devastating in that it wasn’t the harried passion they had shared in the past. Their lips met and time simply spun out, as if it never existed in the first place. Their lips remained closed, moved and retreated in waves against each other. Warm and welcoming and slow and soft.

Taehyung released a breath like a sob, pulling back to meet Jungkook’s dazed eyes.

“You think you can just apologize and run off, disappear just like that?” asked Jungkook hoarsely.

Why did he sound so panicked?

“I’m sorry,” Taehyung managed to whisper, nonplussed.

“Stop apologizing,” said Jungkook.“You have nothing to apologize for.”

“What? What the hell are you talking about, I lied—”

“So you didn’t tell me the whole truth of who you are, so what,” said Jungkook impatiently. “You would have come clean eventually right? You weren’t planning on keeping me in the dark forever?”

“No. N-no, I was trying to figure out how to when the full moon messed everything up.”

“So don’t apologize. Stop saying you’re sorry.” Jungkook finally released him, heaved a long breath as if in pain. “I’m the one who needs to apologize, damn it.”

“Jungkook—”

“It’s all my fault,” he interrupted. “I pointed my gun at you, I put you in that goddamned prison, I’m the reason you can’t sleep, that you’re now terrified of water.”

Taehyung flinched again. He didn’t need to be reminded of just how badly the Vault had scarred him.

“I’m sorry.” Jungkook reached out, waited to see if Taehyung would back away. He didn’t. Tae stood there and allowed Jungkook to reach up and cup his face, palms warm. He wanted Jungkook’s hands on him. “Taehyung, I am so sorry for doing that to you. I never should have raised my weapon. I never should have allowed Namjoon and Hoseok to send you away. I’m sorry I was such a coward.”

Amazed, Taehyung could only stare. How was this the same man who so easily skirted an apology for holding him in that interrogation room? The same man who time and time again declared that he was never wrong.

“I got scared,” admitted Jungkook. “And I’ll never stop feeling sorry for what I did, not for the rest of my life. Please don’t go. Please don’t leave me.”

“You…I…” Taehyung blinked rapidly, heartsick and confused. “What?”

Jungkook’s lips quirked a little. “Please forgive me. Please don’t go.”

“B-but…I’m fae,” said Taehyung slowly. “Aren’t you disgusted?”

Jungkook hauled him close again, kissed him hotly, finishing with a nip to his lower lip that made Taehyung shiver. “Does that feel like I’m disgusted?” panted Jungkook.

Blushing, Taehyung lowered his eyes. “No.”

“Will you forgive me? It’s okay if you can’t, I just…I’ll never stop trying to earn your forgiveness, Tae. I’ll never stop wanting you. You can take as long as you want, but I am all in. I’m in. You’ve had me since day fucking one.”

Taehyung leaned forward. And sank into his embrace, let his lips press gently to Jungkook’s, just as slow and soothing as before. This time Jungkook held back, let it all be Taehyung’s decision, Tae’s movements dictating where they went next.

Tae only pulled back again when he needed air, leaning in to bury his face against Jungkook’s neck, breathing him in, breathing it all in. “Anything I say back to that will sound so stupid,” he murmured as the detective continued to hold him.

“You could never be stupid.”

Tae snorted. He leaned back, stared into familiar eyes. “Want to come home with me? I want cuddles and a movie in bed.”

They both panicked when water suddenly swam into Jungkook’s eyes.

They hugged again, Taehyung burrowing against him, crooning to him in a low voice until Jungkook managed to get himself under control.

“Yes,” he finally said, voice hoarse again. “I’d love to.”

-

Two hours later, at the end of a simple animated film while Jungkook was standing to cue the next one, Taehyung said, “Oh yeah, I forgive you.”

Jungkook dropped the case he held and stared.

“Sorry, did I not mention that earlier?”

They both erupted in laughter as Jungkook threw himself back on the bed to kiss him.

-

Taehyung wasn’t magically fixed in a day, just because he reconciled with Jungkook. Nor did he expect to be. Jungkook’s presence helped, staved off the worst of the panic and anxiety, but Taehyung still woke nightly, screaming.

Most nights, Jungkook was already awake to soothe him.

They tiptoed around their respective traumas. Jungkook divulged no further information about just how horribly the Magistrate had ripped his mind apart. Taehyung never talked about his time in the Vault.

They simply kept one another company, in those middle hours of the night when most of Seoul slept. Often they found themselves in the kitchen of the penthouse, the scent of Jimin’s herbs a soothing mix upon the air as they sipped hot cups of tea at the homey kitchen table.

Nyx had grown attached to Jungkook, following the detective everywhere he went, whenever Jungkook was at the penthouse. Which was often. Taehyung didn’t feel comfortable leaving Jin and Jimin, even for just an evening or night, and the very moment he expressed that reluctance, Jungkook offered to spend time in his home. There was nothing for him in his apartment, he had explained, with warm eyes on Taehyung. Without Taehyung there, it was just an apartment. Not a home.

Taehyung had kissed him, and they had fallen into Tae’s bed, where they made love as slowly as they ever had, Jungkook building him up with sure lips and firm fingers and low murmured words that had Taehyung climbing high, then kept him cradled in his arms when he fell.

But they didn’t talk about the nightmares that kept them awake.

-

One snowy Saturday evening, well into January, Jimin stood in front of the stove, stirring a small copper cauldron that smelt of lavender and chamomile, his latest attempt at a sleeping drought. Something to help Taehyung and Jungkook get a full night’s rest. All of his attempts thus far had failed, their respective traumas too strong for mere herbs to suppress. Taehyung currently napped fretfully on the couch, curled around Hemera and Nyx, while Jungkook had gone on a run for groceries.

Yoongi stood nearby, watching Jimin with a curious expression as the concoction simmered away. No matter how many times he watched Jimin work it never failed to catch his interest.

“You’ve seen me prepare herbs before,” said Jimin in a low, teasing tone, careful not to disturb Taehyung. The bags under his roommate’s eyes were so dark it looked like he had two more black eyes despite the previous one having long since faded.

“Never gets old, though,” Yoongi whispered back.

The archives that Namjoon had directed Yoongi towards, during the long days when Taehyung had been imprisoned and Jungkook had been driving himself crazy with worry, had educated Yoongi of a term for the faint click in the back of his mind that had occurred when he saw Jimin for the first time in the lobby of the precinct.

Fas.

Fate, destiny, future. A term that encompassed the complete serenity he felt in Jimin’s presence, as if he’d be perfectly content to sit in that kitchen and watch Jimin putter around for the rest of his life.

According to the ancient texts that had made Yoongi sneeze from the dust, humans with the Sight had more than a touch of psychic inclinations. Yoongi had always trusted his gut while on the job. He had grown a reputation over the years for knowing, just knowing, when a call would go south. He called it instinct, attributed it to people skills and being able to read and react to a situation instantly. But even then, it was his Sight, just like the glimpses of fur and tails and strange eyes and teeth that he had garnered and dismissed with mundane explanations.

It settled him, a little, knowing that there had been humans long before him who lived with the same talent to see the supernatural for what they were. That there were other humans with the Sight who perhaps looked upon someone and felt the same click, the same spark, the same complete settling of the mind that Yoongi experienced with Jimin.

He could no sooner give it up than give up breathing oxygen.

Besides, he didn’t want to.

“Stop thinking so hard,” commented Jimin. Yoongi blinked and the pink-headed faerie suddenly stood in front of him, reaching out to swipe a thumb gently over his jaw. Yoongi leaned into the touch and breathed. “I can practically see your headache.”

Yoongi grinned humorlessly, nipped playfully at his thumb. “Telling a detective to stop thinking is like telling Hemera not to nibble at your basil stores. Not going to happen.”

Jimin scowled at the reminder. “She’s been doing it for sixty years,” he grumbled, turning back to the stove. “Thinks she can get away with it by blaming Nyx. As if she doesn’t do it right in front of me.”

Both of them knew that Jimin would no sooner scold Hemera than cut off his own wrist.

Nearby, Taehyung whimpered in his sleep, sobering them.

“Is Jungkook on his way back?” asked Jimin, forehead wrinkled into a frown.

Jimin had done a one-eighty with his partner in the weeks since Taehyung’s return, as if the way Jungkook’s presence soothed Taehyung and helped him rest was enough to acquit him of the part he played in imprisoning Tae in the first place. It was a tenuous peace but held for now.

“Yeah, he’ll be back any minute,” reassured Yoongi, and as if in answer to his words, the front door rattled and Jungkook let himself in with the key Tae had given him without fanfare, shaking snow from his hair in the entryway, brandishing a few bags.

He came into the kitchen, eyed Jimin meekly as he placed the bags down. “I got everything on your list,” he said quietly. “I just couldn’t find any tarragon? The market was out, their shipments were delayed due to the storm. I could make another run, though—”

“Are you going to grovel to me for the rest of your life?” interrupted Jimin with exasperation, peering at the purchased goods with approval.

Jungkook’s lips twitched. “Probably.”

“Irritating, but okay.”

A muffled scream interrupted them. Jungkook disappeared faster than Jimin and Yoongi could look around, darting to Tae’s side, where the faerie writhed against the cushions, hands in impotent fists as he screamed into the pillow. Hemera crawled into the circle of the boy’s arms despite the flailing, crooning something, while Nyx shot up Jungkook’s arm when the detective knelt nearby to curl up on his shoulder.

Jungkook reached out, gripped Taehyung’s shoulder. He dodged the strike when it came, face grim and not offended. “Tae. Tae, wake up, you’re dreaming.”

Taehyung shot awake on a muffled gasp, jerking upright so fast his head swam. His eyes immediately gained clarity, and he sank against Jungkook, resting his head on his chest with a tired sigh.

“What was it this time?” asked Jungkook gently, kissing his hair, not really expecting an answer.

“Cold. Freezing. And water,” said Tae dully.

Over in the kitchen, Yoongi pocketed the cell phone he had retrieved, blowing out a breath before looking at Jimin, who stared at the couple on the couch with an inscrutable expression.

“You aren’t going to like what I just did,” said Yoongi.

Jimin immediately whirled to him, pink hair flying. “What? What do you mean?”

“The nightmares are only getting worse. For the both of them.” Both Jungkook and Taehyung hadn’t slept for more than three hours at a time since the faerie was released. “I called for help.”

“Help,” repeated Jimin incredulously. “Yoongi, this isn’t something any regular mortal off the street could begin to understand, let alone help heal—”

“It isn’t anyone random,” interrupted Yoongi, just as a gentle knock sounded on the front door. The cop winced a little. “Just don’t hate me. I think they can help.”

Jimin narrowed his eyes. He knew who it would be before he opened the door.

Hoseok and Namjoon stood there, faces sober. They both wore loose trackies and hoodies beneath their jackets, obviously just as off-duty as the detectives on that Saturday night.

Neither of them wielded the blue tattoo on their necks that signified their status.

“You’ve got to be kidding,” drawled Jimin, crossing his arms and not moving from the doorway. “What do you want?”

“They want to help,” came a new voice, and Jin hyung stepped into sight, likewise dressed in sweats, his eyes calm but tired. He wore his dryad visage, skin roughened like bark and leaves in his dark hair. “It’s okay, Jimin.”

Jimin looked between them all. “Were you all together just now?” he asked blankly.

“No comment,” offered Jin, who then let himself into the apartment.

“Jin hyung,” whined Jimin, closing the door behind the three as they began peeling off jackets and shoes in the entryway. “Enough with all the cryptic proclamations, hyung, come on.”

“Fine. The Guardians are both trained in relieving trauma, both mental and physical. I think they can help Taetae and his detective. Unless you’re too unwilling to let go of the past.”

Jimin winced, stung. “That’s not fair.”

“It’s also not fair to hate them for doing their job,” said Jin gently, sliding an arm around his pouting brother’s shoulder. “Did you forget how they sent Hemera and Nyx to Tae? How they got Jungkook to the Magistrate—”

“How they imprisoned Tae in the first place.”

“Yes. To three months instead of twenty years.”

Jimin sighed and disentangled himself to pad to Yoongi’s side, but not before squeezing Jin’s hand. Not perhaps in acquiescence, but something close.

Jungkook was now perched on the couch, Taehyung leaning up against his side resting his head on the detective’s shoulder. One of Jungkook’s hands idly pet Tae’s hair.

The purple-eyed faerie looked up at the triad’s arrival, blinked lazily. “Jin hyung. Guardians. What brings you to our humble abode?” He sounded awful, words slurring into one another, eyes staying closed for a few seconds every time he blinked.

Hoseok cautiously slid onto the coffee table, as if ready to back away the moment any of the beings in that apartment looked at him askance. It made Jungkook’s heart hurt, to see his usually outgoing hyung reduced to such diffidence. But this wasn’t about them.

“I can help,” said Hoseok quietly, careful not to lean in, to make Taehyung feel trapped.

“Faerie blood is toxic to vampires, hyung.” Tae was too tired to note the honorific.

Everyone else did, though, and watched with wide eyes.

“It is,” agreed Hoseok, after clearing his throat quite loudly. “But I didn’t mean my vampire side. As Guardians, we’re granted a few…useful skills—”

Taehyung sat bolt upright. “You could take my memories away.” He sounded fierce and determined and nothing like the defeated exhausted faerie from a few moments before.

He ignored Jungkook’s searching gaze.

It was something that had occurred to Taehyung, over the course of long nights when the memories felt like a weight on his chest, crushing his heart, his lungs, until he could scarcely breathe. If the memories were gone, then the nightmares would stop. And he could breathe again. Jimin kept saying that with time, the memories would fade, but when would that be? Was he doomed to suffer in the meantime?

“No,” said Hoseok softly. He hadn’t startled in reaction to the question like the others had. Neither had Jungkook. Perhaps they understood the crushing weight of memory. “No, Taehyung, I can’t remove memories. Only demons can do that, foul gits. But I believe I can lessen the intensity, if you’ll allow me.”

Hoseok extended a hand. Taehyung probably should have pondered, but the momentary surge of energy had faded, leaving familiar exhaustion in its wake, so Tae placed his hand in Hoseok’s almost apathetically. Not caring what happened next.

Taehyung had spent a length of time wandering the Scottish moors, sometime in the early 1900’s. The decades tended to blend together, but regardless, he could remember wading through the never-ending fields of purple heather and wild mint that dotted the hills. Waist-high they sometimes stretched, as if the tough little plants knew their lives were dictated by the warmth of the sun shining leagues above. Taehyung spent days simply walking through the plants, letting their warmth cradle him, letting his violet eyes shine and match, content in the solitude.

Whatever Hoseok was doing to him, it felt like that. Like being cradled by that sea of heather again, the warmth and comfort and sunlight making him feel comfortingly drowsy. Not like he was drowning, not like the oppressive weight of his memories, but like floating. Like he could finally tread water. And breathe.

He’s not sure how long he and Hoseok remained crouched there, tilting forward as if in a trance until their foreheads rested against one another, Tae’s left hand cradled in both of Hoseok’s. Long enough for surfacing from the exchange felt like Taehyung was finally waking from a long, restful sleep, blinking his eyes open sleepily and feeling, for the first time in months, that he was well rested. The memories, for once, slumbered deep inside him.

Jungkook remained sitting close beside him, scratching Nyx under the chin, the gremlin curled contentedly in his lap. The detective’s attention was directed towards Jimin and Yoongi, who curled together in the armchair nearby, as well as Namjoon, who sprawled on the floor leaning contentedly back on his hands. Jin, to Taehyung’s massive surprise, leaned his weight against one of Namjoon’s arms, gesticulating as he laughed with Jimin about something.

Tae blinked, wondered just what had changed in the time it took him to have his brain rewired. Then his eyes caught on the three rapidly emptying bottles of soju on the coffee table.

Ah. That’ll do it.

Hoseok eased back from him with a deep sigh, the blue tattoo that had glowed so vibrantly while he worked now fading back to pure unblemished skin. He stretched, back cracking audibly enough to make Taehyung wince, then the Guardian sagged with a relieved sigh.

“That’s why I keep correcting your posture,” drawled Namjoon, who looked at his boyfriend with fond eyes but didn’t move from Jin’s side.

Hoseok looked at him equally affectionately, eyes flitting from Jin to Namjoon and back until they crinkled with his smile. He slid from the coffee table only to sprawl dramatically across the pair’s laps, sitting in Jin’s lap and clinging to the dryad’s shoulders as his feet lay across Namjoon’s.

Tae exchanged a glance with Jimin. Jungkook exchanged a glance with Yoongi.

What the fuck? All four of them mouthed at once, then broke into a chorus of laughter.

Jin sighed, a sound of long suffering, and cast a baleful eye at his dongsaengs. “There will be no judgment from the peanut gallery. Especially since you’re both clinging to your mortal boy toys.”

Tae whined, “Not fair, hyung,” as Jimin buried his face in Yoongi’s shoulder, embarrassed.

“Well.” Jungkook stood up, rounded the couch to the supplies he had bought at the market, unearthing additional bottles of soju. “This night calls for more drinking.”

A chorus of cheers met his pronouncement.

-

Yoongi jerked awake suddenly. He still lay entwined with Jimin in the armchair, the pink-haired faerie’s gentle exhales warming his neck. For a moment he allowed himself to wonder how he got so lucky.

Then he blinked, glanced around the living room at the shadowy figures in the living room, wondering what woke him up. Jin, Hoseok and Namjoon were sprawled in a drunken cuddling mass on the carpet like a pile of puppies. Namjoon’s snores ripped through the room but they were all too drunk to care. Jungkook lay on the couch, arm outstretched as if someone else had been lying beside him just moments before.

Taehyung wasn’t there.

More alert, Yoongi allowed himself to slowly disentangle, and straightened up. There was a strange twinge in his chest, one he often felt while on the job, responding to calls that wouldn’t end well. Namjoon told him it was the Sight. Regardless of the cause, the feeling was bad, making goosebumps trail up his arm and making him shiver despite the warm room. He got up and padded silently to each of the bedrooms but they were empty, as was the kitchen. Creeping to the balcony, he slowly and quietly slid the door open and padded out to peer over the rail.

A thin figure in a black hoodie, head bowed, was walking down the sidewalk away from the building. Yoongi would know that silvery hair anywhere.

Not wanting to disturb the others, all of them in desperate need of rest, Yoongi slid shoes and a jacket on and crept out of the penthouse, leaving a spare shoe in the doorway to prevent the door from closing and locking him out. He then jogged lightly down the stairs and out into the freezing air, turning in the direction Tae had taken.

He just didn’t want the faerie to be alone, insomnia be damned.

Looking back, he’s not sure why he didn’t immediately wake the others. Maybe he was annoyed that his partner had lost so much sleep to worrying about Taehyung and wanted Jungkook to continue to rest. Maybe his Sight dragged him along before he could put much thought to it.

In any case, it was Yoongi alone on the street at three in the morning, jogging after the errant faerie and cursing the lack of forethought in bringing a hat or scarf as a harsh icy wind blew from the north, ruffling his blue hair. After a few blocks, he worried that he had lost Taehyung’s trail, until he nearly skidded past an alley where he caught a glimpse of the lean figure at the far blind end.

Yoongi blew out a breath and walked forward, about to call out to Tae in an irritated tone, but moments later he halted dead in his tracks and gaped as another figure seemingly materialized out of the shadows like a wraith.

The stranger was tall, taller even than Taehyung, towering over the faerie. His frame was thin and gaunt, and the snow-white skin of his face cracked like a mirror when he grinned, showcasing razor-sharp teeth crusted in dried blood. Bugs crawled in and out of his torn black clothing.

Yoongi gasped a silent breath and could have fainted at the scent of rot and mold that emanated from the creature.

Demon. Brokers of the hell realm.

“You called?” the creature hissed, slinking closer until he stood an arm’s length from Taehyung.

Yoongi could only see the faerie’s back from his position behind a dumpster. He could see the tension in his arms and shoulders, though, and the way Tae had fisted his hands at his side.

“You know what I’m after,” said Taehyung quietly, no trace of fear in his steady voice.

The creature hissed another sound that could have been a laugh. It made Yoongi’s teeth ache. “Then you know the cost of doing business with me.”

Taehyung lifted one of his fists, opened it to showcase the small glass vial filled with a vibrant purple liquid, stoppered with wax.

“My blood,” said Taehyung, and his voice wavered for the first time.

“No. No, no, no,” whispered Yoongi, terrified for him. The archives had been useful to Yoongi. He had read everything about faeries that he could, hungry for understanding Jimin, the way he lived, the things he was capable of.

He knew that a creature who obtained a sample of faerie blood were in complete control of that faerie.

Taehyung may continue to live his life but his free will would always be forfeit to his new master’s wishes. He may live weeks, years, without a tug on the awful bond before being summoned as some creature’s plaything, to follow orders, mindlessly. And with Taehyung’s power to shapeshift…

Yoongi shuddered at what would become of him.

“Have I met your price?” Taehyung asked coldly, still brandishing his blood and staring the creature down.

Another one of those hissed laughs. “You have, indeed. All you have to do is take my hand.” A skeletal hand extended from the tattered clothing. “Speak your request, and it will be yours.”

Taehyung hesitated for a few infinite seconds. “Take away the nightmares,” he finally said, and for the first time, his voice shook.

Then Taehyung extended his blood to the creature.

“No,” shouted Yoongi, jumping out of the shadows and racing forward. He hit Taehyung’s hand hard, ignoring the faerie’s startled cry, hard enough to knock the vial from his grasp. It shattered against the pavement, the purple blood seeping across the ground.

The demon screeched in fury, the sound scraping at their eardrums. Yoongi shoved Taehyung backwards, shouting, “Go, you fool!” just moments before Yoongi’s wrist was gripping by freezing bone.

Yoongi whirled and threw a punch, aiming for the demon’s cheek, but the creature merely laughed and dodged, then bit into Yoongi’s forearm. The detective howled in pain, collapsed to his knees as what felt like pure venom raced up his bloodstream.

“Thank you for the offering,” the demon hissed, leaning to meet Yoongi’s gaze with cold, dead black eyes. Yoongi's blood dripped from sharp teeth. “Not enough to make you a blood slave, lucky thing. But tasty all the same. I am a slave to my own contract. Your wish will be granted.”

A panther lunged over Yoongi’s kneeling form, the detective collapsing to the ground, screaming in pain. He was distantly aware of the enormous cat’s screams and yowls of fury, drawing an answering screech that tore at the boundaries of their world. Moments later, the sounds cut off.

Yoongi wondered if he was dead.

But then a panther loomed over him, eyes glowing purple. Yoongi blinked painfully and then it was Taehyung crouched and panting, reaching for the detective’s wounded arm.

“You idiot,” murmured Taehyung, over and over and over again. “You complete fucking idiot, what the hell were you thinking?”

“C-couldn’t let you be a slave.” Yoongi choked, liquid rising in his throat. He painfully turned and spat it out, Tae supporting his shoulders. Oh. Blood.

That wasn’t good.

Taehyung was openly crying, tears streaking down his cheeks. “This was my mistake to make. You shouldn’t have interfered. What the hell sort of wish could it have granted for you? You didn't speak it so he must have pulled something from your mind, oh god, Yoongi hyung, what did you do," he babbled, stricken with grief.

Yoongi had an inkling. But he was more worried about his imminent death.

Taehyung ripped the detective’s shirt and bound his wound, blood instantly seeping through the cloth. “It should heal,” he said frantically, applying pressure. Blood coated the faerie’s hands. “If there was a bargain made, it will heal…”

Moments later, a vicious heat tore up Yoongi’s spine. Spine arching off the ground, he screamed again, agony swamping him. He lost all sense of time or reality, writhing there on the freezing and dirty pavement, Taehyung gripping his shoulders and murmuring senseless things.

And then the pain stopped.

Yoongi sobbed in relief, opened his eyes to see the tops of the neighboring buildings and the cloudy night sky. His sight seemed clearer, somehow, able to pick up the distant blinking red lights of a plane far overhead with ease. He panted, breath coming out in harsh white clouds.

Then he sat up, staring at Taehyung, who had collapsed back on his ass, gaping at Yoongi with wide purple eyes.

“What?” growled Yoongi, looking at his arm and tearing off the makeshift bandage. The bite was now a scar, a mess of vicious raised red lines. He poked at it experimentally. No pain.

Yoongi glanced at Tae again, the faerie still staring. “What?” he barked again.

“Y-your eyes…” Tae whispered. “They’re blue. God, they’re just like your old hair.”

Yoongi froze.

“Yoongi, you’re a faerie.”

 

 

-

Chapter Text

-

 

 

The pair of faeries, one new, one old, tottered up to the front door of the penthouse, Yoongi’s arm around Tae’s shoulders, Tae’s arm around his waist. Taehyung bit his lip, worried beyond reason at how weak Yoongi seemed, as though he were a hallowed out shell of the man he used to be. The flood of energy that had healed him in the alley seemed to have given out, and despite the demon’s proclamation that the bite hadn’t been enough to enslave him, Tae constantly looked over his shoulder as if the creature were moments from reappearing.

Tae noted the door had been propped open and kicked it wide without ceremony, desperate to get Yoongi somewhere safe. The pair tripped over the shoes scattered on the ground and fell to the carpet of the living room, Tae cushioning Yoongi’s fall.

The others awoke with startled cries. Jimin stirred, blinked once, then rocketed up so fast that Tae would have thought him the vampire had he not known better.

“Yoongi,” cried Jimin, throwing himself atop the detective and cupped his cheeks. “Oh my god. What the hell happened?”

Taehyung backpedaled away.

Jimin would hate him, Tae knew it, if their positions were reversed he doubt he would ever speak to Jimin again. Taehyung had already let his brother down far too many times, how could he confess to his latest betrayal?

Sometimes Tae wondered if they would all be better off without him.

But then his back met Jungkook’s legs. Jungkook crouched, basically engulfing the shaking faerie in the warmth of his body, cradled Tae back against his chest. “It’s okay,” he murmured against Tae’s temple as Tae hugged one of his arms with an iron grip. “It’s okay, you’re safe. You’re safe, Tae.”

Tae heaved a dry sob, shaking like a leaf. Jungkook didn’t demand to know what happened, didn’t fuss, didn’t make Tae feel small for being scared. He was simply there.

Like he always was.

“Yoongi hyung, open your eyes, please. What happened?” cried Jimin again.

Namjoon crouched at Yoongi’s head, placed a hand on his forehead. The Guardian’s eyebrows shot nearly to his hairline. “Son of fae,” he whispered in astonishment.

“What? No, Yoongi is human, Yoongi is mortal and has the Sight and isn’t cursed to eternity like us—” babbled Jimin, lost.

But then Yoongi’s eyes shot open, as if in reflex to Jimin’s distress. And his eyes were a brilliant, shimmering blue, the same shade as his hair, so brilliant they were almost silver. He stared up at Jimin in dazed wonder.

“Jiminie,” he whispered, voice rough. “Feel funny.”

“Holy shit. Holy shit, Yoongi hyung.” Jimin whipped his head around. “Hoseok, please, I need the tincture at my work station, the green one in the sphere vial.”

Hoseok was already moving, was at the work table and back before anyone could blink, vampiric speed on overdrive. Jimin ripped the cork out with his teeth and bent to press the opening to Yoongi’s lips as Namjoon supported his head, Jimin crooning to Yoongi as the new faerie drank a few meager sips.

They all watched as Yoongi’s shaking body calmed, and heard the audible groan of relief, Yoongi sagging fully against the floor before blowing out a relieved breath.

“Shit, that’s better,” he whispered, blinking almost experimentally. “My head’s not on fire anymore.”

“It’ll take time to get used to it.” Jimin’s voice was gentle, gentle, gentle. “That same pain will return when your power manifests. Whatever it is.”

“I think we already have the answer to that, Jimin-ah,” observed Jin softly, nodding his head towards Yoongi’s hands when everyone looked around at him.

Yoongi’s long, nimble fingers were coated in hoarfrost, skin shimmering like dew over grass. Frost spread from the tips of his fingers, coating the carpet in icy crystals. Yoongi lifted his hands towards his face and turned them every which way, eyes wide with wonder. He suddenly clenched his fists and snow began dancing down from the ceiling.

“All right then, Elsa, do your thing,” drawled Jin sardonically, brushing snow from his shoulders.

Sheepishly, Yoongi relaxed his hands and unclenched his fists. The snow stopped. He spread his fingers wide and the snow and ice began to evaporate. Within moments, the warm living room was restored, as if the ice had never been there. But frost still danced along Yoongi’s hands, his face, glittering in his eyelashes and hair like crystals.

“Quite the natural for a newborn.” Namjoon clapped his detective on the shoulder as if it were another day at the precinct and Yoongi had just collared a high-profile suspect. Respect and approval and pride. “Already got the hang of it.”

“All right, all right,” said Yoongi gruffly. “Get me up, damn it.”

Namjoon and Hoseok eased him up to sit, Yoongi rolling his head on his shoulders with an audible crack in his neck. He groaned softly in relief, then shook his body out like a dog. Crystals cascaded from his hair and hands to vanish in the air. Then he held out glittering hands to a silently sobbing Jimin.

“It’s okay, Jiminie. Please don't cry.” Yoongi deliberately pouted, and opened and closed his hands like a child making grabby hands.

The sight of the stoic detective doing aegyo made them all laugh a little, Jimin giggling in desperate relief despite the tears, and he threw himself forward against Yoongi’s chest. His exuberance nearly knocked them both flat to the carpet but Yoongi merely grunted and held them steady, dancing kiss after kiss against Jimin’s pink hair, down to his temples, his nose, his puffy cheeks and finally his lips.

When they broke apart, Jimin gasped for air, foreheads pressed together.

“I never would have asked this of you,” whispered Jimin brokenly, clutching at his shoulders. “You were supposed to stay mortal, we talked about it.”

“Not that our plan for you to stay by my side for a few decades while I grew decrepit and old wasn’t appealing,” began Yoongi, tone dry, “I can’t help but think this may be the better alternative. Unless you don’t want to be stuck with me forever.”

“Of course I do, you idiot, I love you.” Jimin kissed him, hard, reprimanding him for even having that thought. “God, how did this even happen? What the hell did you do?”

Yoongi shifted uneasily.

“It was my fault,” whispered Taehyung. And the whole room fell into silence as they stared at him.

Jimin’s eyes had already begun to narrow when Taehyung continued, “Yoongi hyung stopped me from making a terrible mistake. I just wanted the nightmares to stop, I wanted my memories gone, I thought I was going to go insane—”

Jungkook’s arms tightened around him, refused to let go as Tae fought for freedom, fought to run from the brewing anger in Jimin’s eyes.

“What did you do, Taehyung?”

Jimin using his full name nearly broke him.

“I summoned a demon,” whispered Taehyung, and winced when Jimin flinched in surprise.

“Taehyung. Tell me you didn’t. Tell me this is a joke.”

Taehyung didn’t answer his best friend.

“I think we can safely assume he tells the truth,” said Jin mildly, nodding towards the new faerie.

“A demon? What does that mean?” Jungkook ventured to wonder, not wanting to break the tension between Tae and Jimin. But he didn’t mind breaking their staring contest. He couldn’t care less that Jimin turned the venomous stare on him.

“They’re brokers,” said Hoseok evenly. He and Namjoon had settled, side by side, on the coffee table, though one of Hoseok’s hands was clasped tight with Jin’s. “They make bargains. They can offer a supernatural creature anything they desire, so long as they pay the price.”

“The price.”

“Blood.” Jin’s voice was grim, despite the softness in his eyes when he looked down at Jimin and Yoongi, still curled together on the carpet though Jimin kept glaring at Tae, the pair of best friends seemingly communicating silently. “Not from the vein, a vial or small bottle’s worth. The demon passes it along to the denizens of hell that are in the market for such things. With blood, control can be wrought. A wish granted for freedom surrendered. That is the cost of such dealings.”

“Taehyung…” murmured Jungkook, horror clear in his tone as he pictured Taehyung a slave, pictured him and his animal forms at the control of some monster out of legend.

But Tae flinched as if struck. He rolled to his feet and started to run, towards his bedroom maybe, but Jimin got to his feet and grabbed him by the wrist.

“Taehyung—”

“I’m sorry,” blurted Tae, tears streaming down his cheeks as he sobbed. “I just couldn’t do it anymore, I feel like I can’t breathe, I just want to sleep and all I see when I close my eyes is that damn fucking cell. I fear I’ve gone mad, I just wanted it to stop, I needed it to STOP—

Taehyung disappeared. In his place crouched a wolf pup, silver fur near brushed with starlight, paws and ears too big, fluffy coat scattered every which way. He cowered there, belly against the carpet, paws pinned flat to his head. He whined, low and long, and turned to sprint towards his bedroom.

“Let him go,” said Jin, and his voice was uncharacteristically stern. Hard as iron, as was his expression when he stared Jimin down.

“Hyung—”

“I understand you’re confused, and hurt. But Taehyung doesn’t need you and your emotions right now. He has his own to deal with.”

Jimin wrapped his arms around himself, trembling a bit. “B-but…”

Yoongi got up from the ground, Jungkook hastening forward when he nearly fell to grab his hyung by the arm. Yoongi patted him but moved towards Jimin, face impatient.

“Come here,” he ordered gruffly, yanking Jimin into his arms and resting his chin atop Jimin’s head when the pink-haired boy hid his wet face against his chest. “This is no one’s fault, Jiminie. Tae was doing what he thought he had to. I got a weird feeling and followed him. When I saw what was about to happen, I…I couldn’t let him do it,” he confessed, voice thick. “I jumped in, shoved him back. The demon bit me.”

“Yoongi,” mewled Jimin, scrabbling for his arm to stare at the scarred bite.

“Not enough for a sample, not enough to bargain away my freedom. But it…it read my mind, it knew what I wanted.”

“You wanted to be fae?” Jimin whispered the words, voice aching with disbelief. “You wanted to be immortal.”

For a moment, Yoongi didn’t move. Then he audibly swallowed, before blowing out a long breath. “Jiminie.” His voice was achingly fond. “I didn’t wish to be immortal. I just wanted to be with you. And this.” He gestured to himself, crystals dancing from his fingertips. “This was just the form it took.”

At that, Jimin broke, collapsed against him with sobs wrenching out of his chest. Yoongi slid his arms around his waist and urged him back, the couple disappearing into Jimin’s bedroom, the door shutting firmly behind them.

“Jungkook—” called Namjoon.

But Jungkook had already disappeared into Taehyung’s room.

-

The dim strings of lights on the walls were lit. A pile of unfinished canvases scattered haphazardly against one wall. The easel sat empty. The paintbrushes were tossed aside unevenly, half of them with dried paint stuck to the bristles, the sight so incongruous it made Jungkook feel ill. Taehyung was always immaculate in his care for his work.

A tiny ball shivered beneath the pile of blankets. Jungkook didn’t disturb the nest. He sat at the far side of the bed, rested his back against the wall.

“I’m here, Tae,” was all he said. He let his eyes close, hurting for the boy he...the boy he loved. “I’m always here.”

-

Jungkook couldn’t be sure how long they sat there. The curtains had been drawn when he came in, he couldn’t tell night from day. A fan in the corner stirred the warm air with a gentle, mindless hum, filling the air with a comforting white noise. Jungkook had brought the appliance by weeks ago, after he had found Taehyung one night lying awake with his palms pressed to his ears as if he could still hear the trickling water.

Maybe it helped. Jungkook hoped it helped.

Suddenly the ball beneath the blankets stirred, as if the creature beneath stretched. Then the blankets shifted, the ball rolling towards the head of the bed, towards Jungkook. Moments later a small wolf puppy’s head poked out from beneath the fabric, draping around his ears. His tongue lolled out of his mouth as he panted, wide purple eyes staring up at Jungkook.

“Hey,” the detective said softly. He blinked, and snorted to himself when he added, “Shit, I almost called you baby. That would be so wrong under the circumstances.”

The puppy shook its head emphatically, adding a yip that almost sounded like a laugh. Moments later the little thing dove into Jungkook’s lap, gripping his shirt in sharp little teeth and tugging playfully.

“Ah, no, Tae, come on, I love this shirt,” protested Jungkook, trying to disentangle himself, not caring that it was one of a dozen similar white t-shirts he owned. The pup continued to growl and play.

Tempted as he was to join in and wrestle, to let Tae forget everything that had happened, Jungkook rolled the puppy onto his back and held him there with one broad hand gently holding him still.

“Come on, Tae. Come back. Please?”

The puppy growled and wriggled.

“Please?” Jungkook tried to swallow past the knot in his throat. “I want to see you. Just you. Please.”

The puppy ceased his struggles, staring up at Jungkook with an expression uncannily intelligent, even though the detective knew it was Tae. It made him shiver, a bit unnerved.

Moments later Taehyung lay sprawled beside him, Jungkook’s hand now resting on his warm—and distractingly bare—chest. It seemed Tae had summoned only sweats but no shirt. Immediately the faerie rolled to bury his face in Jungkook’s chest, as the detective’s arm went around him.

“I’m here if you want to talk,” was all that Jungkook murmured, when they had lain in silence for untold minutes. It was enough, he thought, to be there. He didn’t want to listen to words he had to force or demand from Taehyung anyway.

-

Taehyung sniffled a little, lost in his head. Everyone would hate him. He knew it. All he wanted was some peace, some blessed rest. His body felt so heavy it was as if sandbags hung from his frame, his eyelids weighted like anvils that he had to physically battle in order to hold open. All because his mind couldn’t escape from that damned cell.

And it wasn’t just the memories, it was the thrice-damned guilt he felt. How dare he be tortured by his experiences when he spent all of, what, twelve hours alone in that cell before Hemera and Nyx were sent to him? Jungkook’s mind had been ravaged by the Magistrate. Hoseok looked like he had lost weight, stress had eaten lines into his face from the guilt of sentencing Tae while caring so deeply for Jin at the same time. Namjoon had lost his objectivity more than once. And Jimin and Jin hyung…they had suffered in his absence, only to celebrate upon his return then immediately watch him spiral and succumb to a catatonic depression, for months.

No, Taehyung was extraordinarily selfish, so beyond weak, to suffer so greatly for so tiny a punishment. And now, to be responsible for Yoongi becoming one of them…

However fine the detective seemed to be, it was not his choice. Taehyung had robbed him of that. His selfishness knew no bounds.

“Taehyung,” murmured a low voice, and he blinked to feel Jungkook dancing kisses down his cheeks, kissing away the errant tears. “Please. Don’t cry, it makes my chest hurt.”

“I can’t stop,” confessed Tae shakily. He almost felt panicked over how weak he felt. “Jungkook, I can’t stop crying. Make it stop. Please.”

Jungkook blinked back his own tears, pressing kiss after kiss to his temples, cheeks, eyes, petting his hair and stroking his back.

“Taehyung!” shouted a voice from the living room.

Jimin. And he sounded furious.

Taehyung’s heart sank. He had seen it coming. There was nothing left to do, really, but face Jimin, and let his brother realize just how badly Taehyung had let him down. Again. Taehyung stood creakily, drew on an old sweater that bagged around his waist and walked towards the door.

Jungkook lost his stupor quite suddenly. “Tae, no, stop, let me go,” he insisted, jumping out of bed and racing in front of Tae, stopping him with a hand outstretched. “I’ll go, I’ll calm Jimin down and check on my partner and it’ll all be fine, it’ll be okay—”

Taehyung suddenly cupped his cheeks, and the small smile on his lips was achingly, sweetly fond. “God, I love you,” whispered Tae with a marveling tone. “So fucking much. But I must face my brother’s hatred for myself.”

Tae leaned up and kissed him, let the sweet comfort of being in Jungkook’s arms bolster his flagging strength. It was like floating among the heather once more.

Then he went out to face the music.

-

Jimin stood squarely in the middle of the living room, arms crossed, glaring down at the coffee table as if it had done him a personal affront. Yoongi sat ensconced on the sofa, wrapped in a thick blanket and a pair of Jimin’s sweats and hoodie as if Jimin wanted him to feel as safe and comforted as possible. Yoongi’s eyes still glowed a vibrant blue that matched his hair, and crystals shimmered at his fingertips, and probably would for the foreseeable future. It took decades to learn the tricks of mortal visages.

Namjoon, Hoseok and Jin were still there, the Guardians perched on stools at the nearby counter that divided the living room and kitchen, Jin hyung standing between them with each of the Guardians’ arms wrapped around his waist, the dryad’s arms around each of their shoulders.

Taehyung stepped into the room. He kept his head ducked, caving to his terror, but strode to his brother’s side.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered to the carpet, trembling. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, it was supposed to be me, it was all supposed to be me…I know you hate me, I know, and I’ll leave, I’ll go right now…”

For a heartbeat, there was no sound but Tae’s unsteady gasps.

Then Jimin hauled Taehyung into his arms, and hugged him hard.

“You fool,” murmured Jimin, an arm around Tae’s waist, the other cupping the back of his neck. “You’re my brother, Taehyung. I love you. Stop talking nonsense.”

“B-but…” Tae drew away, rubbed at his eyes with his fists. He looked at Jimin with despair.

“Why did you not tell me how bad the nightmares were?” continued Jimin, gripping his hand hard. “Why did you let them get so bad as to be tempted by slavery to overcome them, without talking to me?”

“Because I had no right to,” cried Taehyung, wrenching his arm free and stepping back. He threw out his arms in a gesture that encompassed the silently watchful Yoongi to the triad by the kitchen to Jungkook now silently leaning against the back of the couch. “Look at how much you all have suffered because of me, because of my idiocy, because I’m an imbecile who could not remember so simple a concept as what the combination of a full moon and lightning does to our kind, even after nearly five centuries alive. And I didn’t even suffer! I spent a mere twelve hours in that hellhole by myself before subjecting the little loves to the same fate—”

“Did not,” came a strong voice.

“Did not,” agreed another.

“Went on our own,” said the pair in unison.

The little loves emerged from beneath the coffee table, stretching their forelegs and bowing their spines like cats awaking from a long nap. They both sat and cocked their heads up at Jimin and Taehyung, mirror images of each other, Hemera’s green scales shining in the early dawn light cascading through the window, while Nyx’s dark blue seemed to absorb the rays.

“We went for Tae,” said Hemera.

“For Taetae.”

“Our choice.”

“Only ours.”

“Not your fault.”

“Not your fault.”

“What they said.” Jimin casually nodded towards them, shrugging a shoulder.

Taehyung paced away, fisting his hands in his hair, tempted to yank it all out. He was full of so much frustration he felt he may burst. “You’re missing the point—”

“No, you’re missing the point,” interrupted Jimin coolly. “You think there’s some comparison, some competition among us to see who’s suffered worse. It doesn’t matter if you were in the Vault for ten seconds or ten years, Taehyung, trauma is trauma. No one here begrudges you for the time you took to recuperate, except yourself.”

Guilt roiled in his belly. “Jiminie—”

“I’m not done,” continued Jimin.

“But—”

Jimin glared.

Taehyung meekly shut his mouth.

“As I was saying,” said Jimin, with great dignity. “Keeping your nightmares to yourself to spare us was just plain dumb. I know my attentions have been torn lately, as have your own, but we’re still brothers.” For the first time, the faerie’s voice shook. “You could have told me. You were pinned in a corner, drowning on dry land, and thought your only option was summoning a fucking demon and signing your freedom away. I don’t blame you for any of it, I just wish you’d have told me.”

Taehyung hugged himself. “I didn’t want to worry you.”

Jimin’s laugh sounded wet. “Because waking up to my brother having disappeared for all eternity to be some slave to some demon overlord would have been the better alternative.”

“It was my mess.” Taehyung knew he sounded stubborn, even to his own ears. “I fucked up, I had to fix it. I’m sorry Yoongi suffered for it.”

“It was my wish that landed me here,” said Yoongi, cutting Jimin off. “For ages, I’ve had the thought that I wanted to be with Jimin, for however long he would have me. The demon gave me this.”

“And there was no price.” Jimin’s voice was fierce, as if daring the gods to come collect. “A demon cannot lie. He said no slave price was borne of the trade. You gave him blood, the debt was paid.” It sounded like Jimin and Yoongi had already discussed all aspects of what happened.

Still. Taehyung couldn’t forget the memory of Yoongi writhing in agony on that cold pavement. “I never wanted—”

“I’d do it again,” said Yoongi quietly, drawing all eyes to him.

“You’re only saying that because it’s a happy ending,” said Tae desperately. “What if you had died saving me, what if you had been the one enslaved instead—”

“I still would do it again.”

“Hyung.” Jungkook’s voice was quiet and wondering. A tiny gesture from Yoongi had him holding his tongue.

“You’re lying.” Taehyung stared at him in blank astonishment. “You don’t know me, you just jumped in because—”

“You’re family.”

Yoongi left no room for doubt. He said it as if stating fact, as true as his own hair being blue. He got up, shedding blankets, stretched as easily as the gremlins had. He bent to pat both Hemera and Nyx on their heads before padding towards the kitchen in his fuzzy pink socks. Everyone stared at him in blatant surprise as he reemerged with four bottles of soju clutched between his fingers, watching as he plunked them on the coffee table.

“He’s the love of my life.” Yoongi directed this to Taehyung, who blinked to be addressed, but jerked his thumb towards Jimin. “You’re his oldest, closest friend. His brother, his family. As is that one.” Yoongi waved carelessly at Jin.

Jin hyung looked mock-affronted. “Moi?” He put a hand to his chest. “The audacity. That one, indeed. I am bemused and offended at your tone, sir—”

“Down, boy,” ordered Hoseok, patting his head, making Jungkook snort. The idea of the childlike Hoseok being the sensible one in that relationship amused him to no end.

“Point is, I could no longer see you at the mercy of that creature than I could watch Jungkook or Namjoon or Hoseok be subjected to it,” continued Yoongi, voice deliberately careless. Again, like he was stating accepted fact. “So yeah, I’d do it again. So knock it off with the pity party and let Jungkook fuck you until you pass out and get some sleep, already.”

A beat of silence, then the room erupted.

Taehyung groaned and let his head fall into his palms, blushing scarlet. He peeked between his fingers to see Jungkook whacking his partner upside the head with a pillow as Jimin collapsed on Yoongi with a delighted peal of laughter. Hoseok and Namjoon both erupted with laughter, Hoseok slipping off his stool to roll around on his back like a stranded turtle. Jin let his head fall onto Namjoon’s shoulder, his endearingly goofy and squeaky laugh shaking his broad frame.

Jimin slid over to hug Taehyung again. “No more apologies,” he said fiercely into his ear. Tae’s heart swelled. “I understand why you did what you did.” Jimin backed off and thumped him solidly on the chest. “Do it again and I’ll sic Hemera and Nyx on you as your constant chaperones for the next millennia.”

Cowed, Taehyung nodded weakly. But he couldn’t help it, he couldn’t release the tension in his frame. “Jiminie, I’ve hurt you so much—”

“We’ve hurt each other. Past is past, Tae. Let’s move forward, yeah?” Jimin gestured to the crowd now gathered around the sofa. “I myself think there’s a good future here. If we let ourselves have it.”

Tae blinked. Jimin must have taken that for acquiescence, for he whooped and rushed back into the fray, jumping onto Yoongi’s back and sending the pair tumbling to the couch, Jungkook neatly rolling to the carpet to avoid the tangle.

Is this what I’m in for? For the next ten, twenty, hundred years? Tae had the thought, then his eyes landed on Jungkook, whacking both Jimin and Yoongi now with a pillow, with a wide delighted smile on his face that wrinkled his nose like a bunny.

Taehyung blinked. And realized what had been staring him in the face this entire time.

Jungkook was mortal. The six of them would go on, they could be this family for however long the earth decided to turn.

Jungkook wouldn’t.

Tae’s breath left him with a pang. Just when he thought his mind had emerged from one source of agony, another struck with the force of Thor’s hammer.

But tonight, for the first time in what felt like eons, it wasn’t about agony, past or future. It was simply in the here and now, bundled in this cozy living room at the dawning of a bright new day, together with six people who somehow, against all odds, understood him for who he was.

It was more than he thought he would ever have.

 

 

-

Chapter Text

-

 

Six Months Later

 

Taehyung awoke to a very loud, very shrill scream originating from a floor below.

“Yoongi,” the voice bellowed furiously. “How many damn times have I told you, not around my plants—”

“It’s not his fault,” shouted another shrill voice. “We’re testing out his control under extreme emotional circumstances, hyung—”

“Having him summon snow while fucking you does not qualify as a valid scientific experiment,” shrieked the first voice.

Taehyung rolled over and buried his face against the warm chest beside him, wrapping a pillow around his head for good measure. “It’s too early for this shit,” he mumbled sleepily.

“Way too early,” seconded a voice.

An absent brush of lips over the top of his head made Taehyung grin sleepily. Jungkook’s touch never failed to make him tingle, even after all these months. He hoped the feeling never went away. Tae lifted his face, rolled slightly to cross his arms atop Jungkook’s chest and rest his chin atop them, pouting down at his boyfriend.

“No, stop, put those away.” Jungkook put his hand over Tae’s mouth.

Tae merely nipped at his fingers playfully, contentedness rising within him. “You don’t have to go to work today, you know.”

A gusty sigh was his answer. “Taehyung.”

“I mean, I’m just saying. It’s raining outside, the drive into the city is going to be miserable.”

“Taehyung.”

“And it sounds like Yoongi is making it snow inside again and killing Jin’s plants so someone has to referee that.”

“Taehyung.”

“And you know it can’t be me, because I’m a delicate flower and bruise easily.”

“Okay, you had me until the delicate flower bullshit.”

“Really?”

“No.”

Taehyung pouted again, and Jungkook chuckled a little and reached out to caress his soft cheek. Tae nuzzled into the touch, sighing softly.

It had been six months since Yoongi had been turned into a faerie and Taehyung had come to grips with what he had suffered. Nightmares still plagued them, almost all of them. It was the nightmares, Tae thought, that had them all leaping at the deliberately casual suggestion from Jin that they all move in to the same house, somewhere quiet and safe while Yoongi struggled with his burgeoning powers, despite the claim that it was all for Yoongi’s benefit and education. Yoongi merely shrugged, perfectly aware that he was the scapegoat for everyone wanting to stick together, and allowed it. Taehyung had come to realize that Yoongi would do just about anything for the six of them.

And had long since proved it.

The generous manse nestled in a valley beside a river outside of Seoul proper had served their needs well. Originally, it was just Jin, Taehyung, Jimin and Yoongi living in the six-bedroom manse. But Hoseok, who had stepped down as Chief Medical Examiner, and Namjoon, who had likewise stepped down as Captain, had quickly made the house their base of sorts, along with Jin, who had sold his law practice. The triad had elected to turn away from their careers in order to begin tirelessly researching and compiling the data needed to challenge the Magistrate’s law of incarceration without fair trial, turning their entire focus and attention to the cause. Supernatural beings could often be found passing through the house which had quickly become known as a haven of sorts for people like Taehyung, who had served sentences for similar mistakes.

Jimin in particular fretted about having strangers so close by. It took all of one murmured request from Yoongi for the vampire duo to put their super strength and speed to good use and construct a second house of equal grandeur further down the valley, within eye sight of the triad’s new abode but far enough away for privacy. It had taken only a few weeks for the vampires to build it from top to bottom with input from all of them, and for the first time in centuries, Jimin and Taehyung felt truly at home when they walked through the front door for the first time.

And Jungkook, well…

Taehyung leaned up and straddled his waist as Jungkook made to dislodge him.

“Taehyung,” laughed Jungkook, tickling his waist. “Come on, baby, you know I have to.”

“Nuh uh,” countered Tae, swooping down to pull him into a heady kiss. “Play hooky with me. It’s a rainy day, tailor made for cuddles and movies in bed.”

Jungkook sighed. “You’re a menace, you know that?”

“Thank you.”

“Wasn’t a compliment.”

“I don’t think so.”

“You’re doing that thing where you continue to distract me until I forget I have to go to work.”

“That doesn’t sound like me,” disagreed Taehyung, who leaned down and kissed him again. He meant it to be light, teasing, but ended up sinking in like he did most every time, the taste of Jungkook too damn appealing to just sample. He wanted to dive in, like always.

Jungkook sat up beneath him, hands easy on his waist, Tae humming approvingly as he sank his hands into that scruffy midnight hair and gripped to tilt Jungkook’s face up for a better angle.

“You know,” murmured Jungkook between kisses. “I’d be more tempted…” A longer, harder kiss. “If…” And he reached down and danced gentle fingers over the cleft of Taehyung’s ass.

Instantly Tae winced and Jungkook kissed him apologetically.

“So I’m a little sore, so what,” grumbled Taehyung, not appeased even when the other boy danced kisses over his closed eyes. “Being fucked against the wall was worth it.”

Jungkook’s eyes fell half-lidded, lazy with satisfaction. “I still don’t like that you’re hurting, though.”

“I’ll have Jiminie fix me up. And then.” Tae wriggled despite the discomfort. “Round two?”

A muffled snort against his neck, then a playful nip. “How about a massage, then I go to work while you take it easy today, and round two tonight, if you’re feeling better.”

Tae rolled his eyes as if it were a lackluster offer, then giggled when Jungkook scowled at him. Tae swooped in and kissed him again then happily plopped down on the bed, face down and sprawled out. Jungkook’s warm chuckle was the only sound in the room as Tae felt his boyfriend straddle his hips and begin gently digging his thumbs into the muscles of his back.

By the time Jungkook finished, Taehyung’s body melted into the mattress like hot wax, loose and limber and blissed out.

A warm kiss pressed to Tae’s exposed cheek, and he hummed gratefully as Jungkook whispered, “Go back to sleep. I’ll see you later.”

“Stay again tonight,” whispered Taehyung drowsily. There was something incredibly peaceful and intimate about lying there in the bed they had just shared in the gloomy rainy morning, while Jungkook moved silently about the room getting dressed.

“Sure you aren’t getting sick of me?”

“I love you,” murmured Tae, half-asleep and drifting. “I always want you here.”

He was mostly asleep, but he felt Jungkook kissing his cheek again and stroking his hair, adding in a soft whisper, “I love you too.”

Jungkook let himself out of the bedroom, skirted the confrontation in the living room that involved a furious Jin brandishing a half-dead fern and Yoongi cowering by the fireplace as Jimin stomped his foot like a three-year-old, and let himself out the front door.

-

Jungkook settled behind his desk and devoted the last two hours of his shift to catching up on paperwork, having spent the entire day out on patrol. As a detective, his job was equal parts boredom, adrenaline and terror, and he knew it. It had never bothered him before. So why, in the months since Namjoon, Hoseok and Yoongi had moved on to different careers, different lives, did all he feel was boredom?

It just wasn’t the same. Yoongi wasn’t able to return to work, not with the way he still made snow and hail fall indoors at intermittent times that corresponded to his emotions, or how his eyes still glowed that icy blue. Jungkook knew his partner missed it, knew Yoongi felt guilty for leaving him behind. But Jungkook didn’t blame him. He didn’t blame anyone, for the changes wrought in his world in the past year. It was hard to spin blame when he didn’t feel the need to blame. He was too happy.

Except when he was sitting behind this desk surrounded by strangers and under the command of some new captain who kept assigning him cases with rookie detectives that didn’t know him, didn’t know his moves. Just the other day he’d caught a superficial knife wound to the wrist courtesy of a hyped-up thief with a switchblade who Jungkook’s partner at the time hadn’t properly secured and searched. Taehyung had clung to him for hours that night, even after Jimin had healed the wound, but the faerie never spoke a word of complaint.

“Penny for your thoughts, Jeon?”

Jungkook blinked, looked up to see Hyeri had walked over and perched on the corner of his desk. She was one of the new detectives Jungkook had been working with, the only one that he didn’t mind mentoring. She was sharp and fully capable.

“It’s been a long day.”

“I hear that.” Hyeri chuckled, offered the tiny bag of candy in her hand. When he shook his head she began decorously picking her way through it, nibbling on a few pieces. “How’s the wrist? Everyone heard about how Mark failed to search his suspect, he got ripped a new one by the captain.”

“Good.” Jungkook tapped the bandage covering his wrist, the one that Jimin had applied to avoid people questioning how he had healed near instantly from an injury that should have required twelve stitches. “But I’m fine. Doesn’t even hurt.”

“Okay, tough guy.”

“Something else I can do for you?” probed Jungkook, when the other detective merely continued to sit there, munching away.

She sighed, set the snack aside. “Remember that guy Min Yoongi collared for robbing that convenience store at gunpoint?”

The night that Jungkook had brought Taehyung in for questioning. The night his entire life had been turned upside down.

“Of course. Judge only served him three years for armed robbery, took his background into account I believe.” Jungkook still scowled to remember it. Torn families and low income neighborhoods were no place for children, true, but there was no excuse for threatening a convenience store clerk with a gun when the man was old enough to know better.

“Well, he’s out.”

Jungkook froze, then turned his head slowly to face her. “Excuse me?”

“Only served one year. He got out for good behavior. He’s back in Seoul.”

“How do you know?” asked Jungkook woodenly.

“I’ve taken over a lot of Detective Min’s case files, I received the alert. The warden called me up this morning. Apparently the guy talked a lot of shit about Min, Jungkook. Blaming him, talking about revenge.”

“Then how the hell was he granted early release?” Jungkook got to his feet, anger giving his body a nervous energy.

“I couldn’t say. Where are you going?”

Jungkook swept on his jacket, grabbed his keys from the drawer. “I’m out of here. I need to go check on Yoongi.”

“Anything I can help you with?”

Jungkook offered a fist, waited for Hyeri to knock it with hers. “I’m good, Detective, but thank you. I appreciate you passing this along.”

“Any time. If you need backup just give a shout, Jeon.”

-

Jungkook drove fast, the thirty minute trek cut down to fifteen as he abused his privileges and lit up the police lights installed in the dash of his sports car. He couldn’t shake the bad feeling in his gut. It was just another perp spouting nonsensical threats against the cop who had put him away. It happened in their line of work all the time.

Something about this one felt different. He didn’t have the Sight like Yoongi had as a mortal, but still something churned in his stomach.

It didn’t help that none of his six friends were answering their phones. He rang them again and again, swearing every time he reached their voicemails.

“Tae, call me, please,” he barked urgently into the receiver. “Lock the doors and stay put, I’m on my way home.”

He took the turn into the driveway so fast his left-hand tires momentarily left the ground. He accelerated up to the front door and braked, hard, slamming himself against the seatbelt. Moments later he was sprinting inside.

“Taehyung!” he shouted. “Jimin, Yoongi!”

Hemera and Nyx came skidding around the corner of the living room, eyes wide.

"Kookie upset."

"Much upset."

"What wrong?"

"What wrong?"

"Where are they, little loves, where is everyone?"

They both blinked, scales bristling at the tone of Jungkook's worry. "Not here," whispered Hemera. "Went for walk."

"Went for walk."

"Damn it," cursed Jungkook, racing out on the porch again, only to blink as Namjoon and Hoseok seemed to materialize directly in front of him, blue tattoos flared to life.

“We heard you shouting from our place, what’s the problem?” asked Namjoon, voice even, though his eyes were wide with concern.

“A perp that Yoongi collared was just paroled, he’s been making threats. Where the fuck is everyone?”

“Haven’t seen them.” Hoseok lifted his face to the sky, his pupils glowing red and canine teeth lengthening as he breathed deep the twilight air. Namjoon mirrored him.

Moments later they gripped Jungkook’s upper arms.

And suddenly Jungkook was flying.

It felt like it, at any rate. His feet lifted from the ground and air blew cool and strong against his face, making him screw his eyes up in defense as his body accelerated forward without his consent. Moments later all movement stopped and he blinked his eyes open to see a clearing in the forest behind the house.

A short, oily-looking man with a wild look on his face stood aiming a gun at Taehyung, who held an arm out protectively in front of Jin. Jimin was down, on the ground at their feet, blood pouring from his shoulder. Yoongi crouched over him, muttering, “No, no, no,” as he pressed his bare hands to the wound, trying to staunch the blood.

“No,” shouted Jungkook, drawing all eyes to him.

Namjoon and Hoseok disappeared again, vampiric speed on overdrive as they bulleted towards the criminal.

But time slowed down.

And at least they were all together, when the world stopped turning.

-

Taehyung watched the man pull the trigger, a sharp retort echoing in the air and smoke billowing from the mouth of the gun. Tae closed his eyes and prepared for the pain. It came from a direction he didn’t expect.

Something tackled him from the side with the force of a battering ram, stealing the breath from his lungs. He hit the ground hard, beneath a warm body that felt achingly familiar. For a moment Taehyung lay stunned, ears ringing. Then wetness dripped onto his cheek, his hands, and he rocketed up, terrified.

Jungkook lay beside him, eyes wide and staring. A bullet hole in his chest, straight through the middle of his old scar. Over his heart.

“No,” whispered Taehyung brokenly, hands hovering uselessly. In the next moment he had torn the shirt from his back, used it to press hard against the wound despite Jungkook’s cry of agony. “No, baby, no, stay with me. Kook, stay with me, baby, please.”

Jungkook’s eyes were slipping closed. His hand rose, achingly slow, to brush at Tae’s bangs, his pale lips quirking a little. “So beautiful,” he murmured, eyes falling shut.

“No, no,” shouted Taehyung, pleading brokenly. He huddled close, holding pressure on the already blood-soaked cloth. “No, you can’t leave me, baby, please. Jungkook. Kook, please.” He whipped his head around. “Jiminie! Jimin, please, please, h-help him!”

But Jimin still sprawled on the grass, chest moving with his unsteady breaths, eyes open but face so grey he appeared lifeless. Expression heartbroken, he could only shake his head sadly, crying as Taehyung cried out in despair.

Jimin had nothing left to give.

Taehyung cried out in a broken voice, turned back to his detective to bury his face against his chest. “No, no, d-don’t leave me.”

There was a limp hand in his hair again, and Taehyung sobbed harder.

“No tears,” whispered Jungkook. “Love you, Tae.”

Taehyung sobbed brokenly, moved to kiss Jungkook with everything he had. Lips pressed together, he felt the boy’s broken inhale. And lack of an exhale.

“No,” cried Taehyung, cupping his face in bloodied hands. “No, no, no!

He instantly broke, covering Jungkook’s face in kisses, heart breaking in his chest with an audible crack that left him gasping and unable to breathe. Inconsolable, he only vaguely realized Jin hyung kneeling opposite him and placing a hand on the detective’s neck.

Tae reared back, stared as Jin’s body started emanating a faint pink light, like warmth and the freshness of spring, of new life. Suddenly his eyes flared open, the pupils flaring bright pink. That pink shadow spread to Jungkook’s body, seemed to sink into him like a stone into water.

For a heartbeat, all was still.

A flare of warmth through the body beneath him. The blood slowly ceased flowing from the wound. Then, a stutter of a heartbeat in the chest beneath Tae’s cheek. And the chest moved up and down in a sudden, painful-sounding gasp.

Jungkook’s eyes shot open.

His pupils were a vivid pink.

And before Taehyung’s astonished eyes, strawberry hues crept through the strands of the detective’s black hair, until his entire head of hair was a stunning shade that brought raspberries to mind. His skin flickered to a shade of brown reminiscent of trees beneath starlight, then shifted back to normal. A tangle of leaves and flowers unfurled in his hair as if it were a garden.

As if he were a dryad.

And Jungkook, breathing in desperate gasps, shifted his head to look up at Taehyung.
“Tae?” he breathed.

Taehyung knelt there frozen for another precious second. Then he lunged forward and sprawled out over Jungkook’s body, clutching him hard as he released the first broken sob. Jungkook swiveled a bit on the grass and caught him in one arm, curled him in hard and close, held him as both of their bodies shook in desperate relief. Jungkook pressed frantic kisses to Tae’s neck and shoulder, anywhere he could reach, murmuring his name again and again in panicked relief.

“I love you,” murmured Jungkook.

“I love you too,” whispered Taehyung, tears cascading down his cheeks as his sobs quieted. “Love you so fucking much.”

“So much,” agreed Jungkook, and then their lips were meeting. It was off-kilter and uneven and too much teeth and desperate and beautiful and perfect and them.

“Jin hyung,” shouted a desperate voice overhead.

Jungkook and Taehyung whipped their heads around in time to see Jin, still kneeling with his head bowed, hands outstretched as if still cupping Jungkook’s face, collapse to the ground. Or he would have, had Namjoon and Hoseok not shot to his side and caught him before he could. The vampires’ hands were bloody, the gunman’s body torn apart on the ground behind them.

“I’m all right,” panted Jin, weak as a newborn, but he had the strength to curl his hands around Namjoon and Hoseok as if he would never let go. Twigs and leaves still danced in his dark hair, and his skin still appeared like bark.

Taehyung and Jungkook summoned the strength to crawl over to the triad, Jungkook clutching at the phantom pain in his chest as Tae supported him. Jimin collapsed to his knees beside them, Yoongi crouching at his side.

“I don’t understand,” whispered Namjoon breathlessly, forehead resting on Jin’s. “What did you do?”

“Shared my life energy.” Jin blinked drowsily at the chorus of gasps. “We dryads may not be as flashy as vampires or faeries but we have a few tricks up our sleeves.” He rolled his head weakly to peer over at an astonished Jungkook. “Welcome to the club, kid. I just sired your ass. Get shot again and I’ll kill you myself.”

“Deal,” said Jungkook meekly.

“Good.” Jin let his eyes sink, fell into Namjoon and Hoseok’s supportive grips. “Let’s go home. I want a beer and a nap.”

“You’ve got it, babe,” said Namjoon and Hoseok in sync.

“They’re worse than Hemera and Nyx,” observed Yoongi, still holding Jimin tight.

“Okay, I’m seriously glad everyone is all right,” said Jimin rapidly, voice squeaky and half-hysterical. “But no one else is allowed to turn into anything else because my head is spinning and it hurts and I can’t keep track of this shit anymore.”

To a one, they all laughed.

 

 

 

And lived happily ever after.

 

 

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