Actions

Work Header

Black Rabbit

Chapter Text

 

 

Jimin doesn’t feel much as he watches the casket containing his father’s body lower into the ground. The rain pattering on his umbrella sounds like static. Like he’s watching the scene through a fuzzy television set, and it isn’t actually happening to him. The sudden, rapid decline of his father’s health and the subsequent cardiac arrest that killed him don’t feel real. They haven’t caught up to him emotionally yet. Jimin thought they’d have more time.

But fate is capricious.

His father’s passing hasn’t attracted a large turnout. A few close friends that he only remembers from card nights, and their mates. His father’s boss and a few employees from the company. Jimin’s aunt talked about flying from Texas with her alpha and two kids, but he never heard back from her and they haven’t shown up. But that suits Jimin fine. He can only accept so many condolences and nod so much. In all honesty, he stopped processing anything after getting the call from the hospital.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Park, but I’m afraid your father has passed away.”

With his mother in her own state of deterioration, all of the funeral arrangements were left to him. Jimin needed a minute, needed a minute just to breathe, but dead bodies could only wait so long. He slogged his way through the mess of things that realistically should’ve been taken care of before his father’s death on his own. Buying a plot in the cemetery, buying a casket, buying a headstone, arranging a funeral and memorial service. Now that Jimin is finally here, finally checked all of the boxes to get his father into the ground, he feels like the emotions should release in a torrent.

But they don’t. He doesn’t feel anything.

Jimin isn’t really paying attention when the minister closes his bible. No one in his family is particularly religious, but there was something comforting in the idea of leaving the memorial service in the hands of people who regarded the concept of death with reverence. They didn’t ask for a list of sins, and Jimin kept quiet about them. For once, he allowed his father the luxury of being treated like normal, respectable citizen.

When the funeral is over, he leaves. He feels a little like he should stay and help the men starting to shovel dirt back onto the coffin, because it seems horribly selfish to leave all the work to them, but he remembers that he’s supposed to be in mourning and they probably won’t let him. He’s going to leave, but a pair of men stop him. He recognizes them as the two who arrived late; he hadn’t thought much of it, at the time. He can’t catch their scents in the rain, and their faces aren’t familiar. But they’re perfectly coiffed, wearing crisp black suits, and that’s all Jimin really needs to know.

“Park Jimin?” the one wearing a pair of black-framed glasses asks, extending a hand. When he smiles, a pair of dimples sink into his cheeks like craters. Jimin finds it disarming and, although hesitant, shakes his hand.

“Yes, that’s me. What can I do for you?”

“My name is Kim Namjoon. I’m with Black Rabbit Casino.”

The bottom falls out of Jimin’s stomach. He wheezes like he’s been kicked in the gut, grinding the heel of his hand against his eyes. “You guys are quick,” he says. “Bastard isn’t even buried yet.”

“We’ve been in contact with your father for some time now about his debt,” Kim Namjoon says, like this isn’t the first time he’s had to do this. That pretty smile masks a machine. “As you are his sole beneficiary—”

What Jimin barks out isn’t exactly a laugh, but it’s close enough. “What benefits?”

Namjoon remains unfazed. “I understand your mother is… institutionalized.”

“Keep my mother out of your fucking mouth,” Jimin snarls, hackles raising. “You can say whatever the hell you want about my father, but don’t you dare mention her. This is between you and me, and you fucking know it.”

The man accompanying Namjoon pulls a pack of cigarettes out of his trouser pocket and lights one, adding a puff of smoke to the already gritty atmosphere. It isn’t fair to say that one is prettier than the other, but this man has an air of something about him. Jimin suspects he’s an alpha. “Your old man accumulated some debt,” he says matter-of-factly. “Like, a lot of fucking debt. And unfortunately, it’s yours now.”

He says this as if Jimin hasn’t been acutely aware of this for the majority of his life. That he’s got no idea everything his family could’ve had was torn to shreds by his father’s gambling addiction. Even though his father stayed late at the office, no more money came in. His mother’s frequent hospitalization drained finances until they couldn’t afford it. She tried her best to survive off of medication—Jimin knew she had. He doesn’t blame her for anything that happened. It’s his father’s fault. Now the fucker is dead, and the heavy black cloud of debt that’s been hanging over their household for years is descending on Jimin in a squall.

These men from the casino are nothing more than sadists with calculators and Armani suits.

“So, is this part where you beat me and take all my shit?” Jimin asks. “I hate to break it to you, but I’m a university student. I don’t have shit to take.”

The smoking alpha snorts. “I’m not into beating omegas.”

Namjoon produces a business card from the inside of his jacket and passes it to Jimin. A raindrop splatters on it, but rolls easily off its shiny surface. “In the interest of avoiding having to take legal action against you, I suggest you call at your earliest convenience so that we can meet to set up a payment plan.”

Jimin promises that he’ll call, because he isn’t his father. Even though this shouldn’t be his responsibility, he won’t run from it. He parts ways with Namjoon and his partner and makes his way back to his car—Seokjin’s car, which he’s borrowed for the day. He pitches his soggy umbrella onto the passenger seat and gets in, slotting the keys into the ignition. But that’s as far as he gets before the emotions wash over him. Anger, sorrow, bitterness.

He drops his forehead against the steering wheel and sobs.


 It takes Jimin two weeks to gather the strength to call Kim Namjoon. He carries the card with him everywhere until he can’t stand the hole it’s burning into his pocket any longer. An appointment is set for Thursday evening, leaving Jimin with three days to sweat over his fate. He lived at home while attending school to save on living expenses, but never talked about finances with his father. All Jimin knew was that the bills continued to pile up. He took a job in the university bookstore, and a second job at Seokjin’s family restaurant. It keeps the electric company from cutting their power and their landlord from kicking them out, but Jimin has no clue what kind of monster is lurking within the walls of the Black Rabbit Casino.

Dressed in his Sunday best, Jimin does what he can to waltz into the casino lobby like he isn’t preparing to be served a death sentence. It’s far more grandiose and elegant than Jimin expected it to be—mottled marble flooring and a fucking fountain in the center. No wonder this place was his father’s favorite. You could feel like a rich man just walking through the front door. A statue of a rabbit in a suit jacket carrying a timepiece is in the middle of the water feature; most likely a reference to the white rabbit in Alice in Wonderland . The alpha Jimin met after the funeral is there, waiting.

It’s easier to tell he’s an alpha, now. The silver flowers on his black velvet jacket catch the light as he steps away from the fountain. His gold top dips low enough to expose thick collarbones and a hint of his chest, while elaborate earrings drip from underneath his blonde halo of hair. He’s a vision, and Jimin finds himself enthralled.

“I’m surprised you showed up,” he quips. “I thought for sure you’d skip town. Maybe change your name and leave the country.”

Jimin quirks a brow at him. He knows alphas. Knows they can smell fear just like they can smell arousal. Thinks they get them mixed up more often than not. “Because you think that’s what my father would’ve done?”

“Cos it’s what I’d fucking do. Let’s get going, chicky. Best not to keep the bossman waiting.”

Jimin follows him to an elevator. An elevator with a security code that he quickly punches in. The doors slide open, and Jimin is ushered inside. The walls are so clean, he feels like he could dip his fingers into the mirrored surface and touch himself on the otherside.

“You must have some important people coming here if you’ve got a private elevator,” Jimin comments, tucking himself into the corner.

The alpha shrugs, pulling out a cigarette. “That, or we just like to have a place to get frisky without being crammed in an elevator with ten other hotel guests.”

“If you try anything, it’s your teeth.”

“Wouldn’t dream of it, chicky.”

As he says it, his eyes run up and down Jimin’s figure. Jimin wants to pluck the cigarette from his fingers and burn a hole through his pretty jacket with it, but he restrains himself. A few tense moments later, the elevator doors slide open again and they’re dumped into a hallway on the top floor.

“Regular hotel guests can’t access this block,” the alpha says, leading him down the corridor. “So, consider yourself lucky to get a glimpse at Black Rabbit HQ.”

It’s a fancy hotel, and Jimin is impressed, but he’d never let that slip. “How much are you willing to pay to get me to care?”

The alpha throws back his head and laughs. It’s a pretty sound—deep and rich. “You’re funny, I’ll give you that. If you’re lucky, it’ll get you somewhere.”

They finally arrive at their destination; a door near the end of the hall. The alpha knocks twice, then opens it, stepping out of the way to let Jimin in first. Much to his surprise, it’s an office. Spacious, with white carpet and a dark wooden desk. There are bookshelves and filing cabinets and a strange picture of a fish, and a leather couch against the wall. Namjoon is on the far side of the desk, sifting through papers. He’s just as handsome as the last time Jimin saw him, but the thing that really catches his attention is lounging on the couch.

“Ah, thank you, Taehyung,” Namjoon says, addressing the alpha who Jimin came in with. “Mr. Park, I appreciate your being able to meet on such short notice. I’ve drawn up several different options, but we will, of course, discuss your financial situation before deciding on anything.”

Jimin nods absently, unable to rip his attention from the alpha on the couch. It’s been a long time since he’s been in the presence of one so openly on display . The only things covering his fit body are a white silk blouse and a pair of fishnets. He tucks his legs up to allow Taehyung a seat on the other end of the couch, thigh muscles bulging and stretching the strings out of shape. A thick, glittering choker is around his neck, and his hands are adorned in more rings than Jimin could afford with both of his paychecks combined. His nails are black and lacquered, pointed like claws.

A heartbreaker , is Jimin’s immediate thought.

Their eyes meet for a moment, and Jimin scurries to take a seat at Namjoon’s desk.

“So, based on your gross annual income, here are a few different payment plans…”

It doesn’t take more than one payment option for Jimin to realize exactly how utterly inundated his father was in debt. Perhaps Taehyung was right about leaving the country. He’ll need two lifetimes and three extra kidneys to sell in order to pay this off. Heat prickles behind his eyes. He can’t cry in this office. No matter what, he can’t cry. This fuckface with an degree in accounting and a taste for ruining innocent people’s lives isn’t going to get the satisfaction of seeing him shed tears.

He neatly stacks the papers and sets them on the desk, forcing himself to make eye-contact with Namjoon. Jimin is pretty sure he’s a beta, but he’d be more confident in his ability to intimidate the guy if there weren’t two alphas in the room with them. “Are you fucking kidding me?” he says, doing his damndest to restrain his temper. “You realize I’m literally going to have to have a kid just so there will be somebody to pick up the rest of this, because there’s no way in hell I’m gonna be able to pay all of this off before I die. I might as well start buying lottery tickets.”

Namjoon is undeterred. He really is a machine, reaching across the table to wiggle a sheet out from the middle of the stack. “That’s why I really think something like this third plan is a good idea, because a tri-annual payment will allow for changes in financial situations—”

“With all due respect, Mr. Kim, I’m fucking broke ,” Jimin interrupts. “I’m a college student, and I’m going to be a college student for another year, and if, by some miracle, I manage to land a job in my field of choice, it’s gonna be a long time before I’m able to stop working two jobs just to support myself, let alone pay this shit off. This isn’t even my fault— do you know how fucking hard I tried to keep him from coming here?” Moisture clouds Jimin’s vision. “Maybe they’re just numbers to you, but this is my life. It’s my future . And all of it’s gone, just cos my dad thought he’d hit it big gambling one day, cos that’s what you pieces of shit tell him is gonna happen. But the house always wins in the end, doesn’t it? You ruined him, you ruined my mom, and you ruined me. Does that make you happy , Mr. Kim?”

Finally , Namjoon deflates a little bit. He glances between Jimin and his paper, raking a hand through his hair. “Maybe… Maybe we can adjust this plan a little bit—”

Jimin slams his hand down on the desk, rattling a cup full of pens. “Does that make you happy, Mr. Kim?”

Namjoon sighs. Sets the paper down. “No,” he replies. “No, it doesn’t.”

It’s the alpha with the nails and the fishnets who interrupts. He takes a seat on the edge of the desk, close enough that Jimin could pluck up the hem of his shirt to check if he was wearing underwear. He takes a drag off a freshly lit cigarette and sighs it out again. His peachy hair looks like it had been hairsprayed at one point, but he’d gone to sleep with it. Or fucked somebody. “I don’t envy you,” he says boredly.

“I don’t see why you would,” Jimin snaps.

“If it was your father in this office, things would be different. Daddy would be talking with him, and it would be about money. But it’s not. It’s you,” he continues. “Why should the son carry the sins of the father?”

Jimin narrows his eyes, both interested and suspicious. “Who are you?”

“Jeon Jeongguk.”

“Owner’s son,” Taehyung clafies from his spot on the couch. “That’s the cock you wanna be sucking, chicky.”

Jeongguk grinds the end of his cigarette into Namjoon’s stack of papers, eating a hole into the documents. “I’ll forgive your debt,” he announces, and then stops there. Jimin waits for him to elaborate, but he never does.

“...If?”

“If I told you, where’s the risk?” Jeongguk asks. “You can either let daddy squeeze you for every penny you earn for the rest of your life, or you can take your chances with me.”

In the back of his mind, Jimin knows that Jeongguk is expecting sex. He’s soaked in virility; no one refuses him. Jimin suspects that if he did lift the hem of his shirt to peek at his cock, Jeongguk wouldn’t mind at all. Sex, Jimin knows he can handle.

It’s Jeongguk himself he isn’t certain about.

Before Jimin can make a decision, Jeongguk’s nostrils flare. He crinkles his nose cutely and glances over at Taehyung. “Do you smell that?”

“Smell what?” Taehyung asks dumbly.

“That scent.” Parting his lips, Jeongguk tastes the air for a few moments before his gaze returns to Jimin again. “It’s you, isn’t it?”

Of course—the universe can’t let him escape complete and utter humiliation without dragging his scent into it. “It’s—Most people complain that it’s bitter,” Jimin replies quietly.

“Smells like cyanide,” Jeongguk remarks. “Well?”

“Well, what?”

“What will it be?”

Jimin blinks in surprise. Normally, the alphas who can smell him are so turned off by his scent that they back off immediately, no matter what it is that they’ve offered. And Jeongguk just… doesn’t care? “You—You’re… You don’t mind it?”

“Mind what?” Jeongguk asks impatiently.

“My—My scent.”

Jeongguk inclines his chin and arches an eyebrow. “You aren’t the only poison I fuck with.”

Jimin has a hard time swallowing the lump in his throat. This is risky, but he’s fucked either way, isn’t he? Either he spends the rest of his life forking his own hard-earned money over to the Black Rabbit, or he grasps the line Jeongguk has thrown out to him. But there are so many red flags. Jeongguk is an alpha. An alpha with money, status, and influence—the son of a businessman who didn’t get where he is by being easy to fool. This isn’t a rich kid just looking to get his rocks off with an omega. This is tactics. And the house has the advantage.

“Do you have a deck of cards?” Jimin asks into his lap.

Namjoon does, on the shelf. Jeongguk motions for Taehyung to retrieve it. Once the deck is in Jimin’s hands, he shuffles it expertly on the desk.

“If you draw the higher card, I accept your offer,” Jimin says. “If I draw the higher card, you forgive my father’s debt on my terms.”

The new challenge, as expected, piques Jeongguk’s interest. He sits up a little straighter and crosses one leg over the other. The motion flashes his very exposed cock for a split second. “This is a legally binding card draw,” he says. “Both of us are obligated to honor the results, no matter what.”

“You say that like I’m not already living in a panopticon. You’ve probably got your own personal thugs on speed dial,” Jimin grouses, settling the cards in a neat stack. “You draw first.”

Jeongguk slides the top card off the stack with the pad of his middle finger, catching the edge of it to flip over.

Ten of clubs.

It doesn’t leave the odds in Jimin’s favor. There are only four cards higher than a ten. Versus four suits containing cards two through nine. The probability of him winning here is low.

He draws a card, not looking at it right away. Regardless of its status, his entire future resides within this card.

Every last scrap of hope in him shrivels up and dies when he glances at it.

Two of diamonds.

“Well,” he croaks. “Looks like the house wins again.”

The grin that spreads across Jeongguk’s face rivals the Cheshire Cat. Perhaps that’s his role within the Black Rabbit Casino. Jeongguk is the Cheshire Cat, and Jimin is poor, hapless Alice. Wandered into Wonderland with the Queen of Hearts after his head for a crime he didn’t commit. Jeongguk puts his ten back into the deck, but stops Jimin from replacing his two. “Keep it,” he says. “Consider it our official documentation.”

Namjoon sputters for a moment, reaching for the cards. “Th-That’s my deck—”

“Swipe a new one from downstairs,” Jeongguk says. He hops off the desk and pads across the carpet to the door. “Mr. Park, if you would like to come with me, we can discuss the details of our arrangement in private.”

Jimin hesitantly rises from his chair, shooting Namjoon a glance across the table. The accountant is flustered, but still offers him an apologetic smile, as if he hadn’t been sitting there trying to convince Jimin into tying his soul to the casino. Slipping the two of diamonds into his jacket pocket, Jimin follows Jeongguk back out into the hallway. They continue deeper into the block, rounding the corner. Jeongguk opens the last door on the left, motioning for Jimin to enter first.

It’s a full suite, nothing like Jimin has ever seen before. Massive floor-to-ceiling windows wrapping around from the back to the right wall expose them to the city. There’s a kitchenette immediately to the right of the entryway, separated from the main living area by an island counter. To the left, the entryway to the bedroom is wide open, able to be closed off by a pair of pocket doors.

“Have a seat,” Jeongguk says as he ducks into the kitchenette.

Jimin wanders, starry-eyed, into the living area and gingerly takes a seat on the cream, L-shaped leather couch. He feels too poor to be breathing the air in this room, let alone sitting on the furniture. When Jeongguk returns, he hands Jimin a glass of something fizzy. Jimin discretely pulls it to his nose to scent. Champagne .

Jeongguk gracelessly throws himself onto the other half of the couch, quaffing half his own drink before deciding to speak. “So, Mr. Park—”

“Jimin,” he finds himself interjecting. “Mr. Park was my father, and, like you said—this is between you and I now.”

The response elicits a quick quirk of lips. Jeongguk stretches his free arm across the back of the couch. “So, Jimin ,” he starts again. “I’ll pay your debt. However .”

Jimin sucks in a breath and holds it.

“You have to win the funds from me.”

“...You want me to gamble my way out of my father’s gambling debt,” Jimin says flatly. Of course. What else would the heir to one of the most lucrative casinos in New Jersey want him to do?

“If it makes you feel any better, you won’t be able to accumulate any more debt. Unless you go downstairs and fuck around at the roulette wheel—although you could do that if you wanted. If we play poker for a few thousand, I’ll pay it if you win. If you lose, you’ll have the option of doing something else for me in exchange. Or you can just wait to play me again.”

The implications of that something else aren’t easy to miss. “I can have sex with you for it,” Jimin says.

“You don’t have to. But you can.”

“You’ve got an entire building of people to pick from to sleep with for free, and you’re really going to just pay me for it?” Jimin asks, arching an eyebrow.

“It isn’t just about sex,” Jeongguk says. “I like games, that’s all.”

“You’ve missed the mark on my interests. I don’t know jack shit about your games.”

“Then it’s a perfect opportunity to learn, isn’t it?” Draining the remainder of his glass and setting it on the table, Jeongguk moves over to Jimin’s side of the couch and takes a seat beside him. He folds one leg, resting his knee on Jimin’s thigh. Reaching out, he brushes his knuckles along Jimin’s jawline. “Look, you can either play with me or you can go back into Namjoon’s office and crunch numbers until your teeth fall out. It’s not a tough decision, in my opinion.”

Even though he knows he could push Jeongguk away, because what he’s doing would be considered highly impolite in most social circles, Jimin tilts his head and allows Jeongguk to scent him. The alpha’s own scent is saturated in alcohol, and Jimin is starting to think that Jeongguk isn’t particularly sober. His eyelids flutter when Jeongguk’s nose nuzzles into his scent gland.

“Do you always get everything you want?” Jimin mumbles.

Jeongguk presses a hand flat against Jimin’s chest, ring finger just shy of the nipple. “I know how to get the things I want,” he replies. “There’s a difference.”

The intense attention to his neck quickly becomes too much. Quivering, Jimin pushes Jeongguk away. He only scents regularly with Yoongi, and the other omega can’t even smell him. Jeongguk can , and he’s still trying to bury his nose into Jimin’s neck.

Jeongguk must be really, really drunk.

“If you say so,” he says, dropping his gaze to his lap. Jeongguk’s knee is still there, taunting him with how easy it would be to just give in , fall for the temptation.

“So? Do we have a deal, Park Jimin?”  

Chapter Text

 

jeon jeongguk:

 When can I see you?

10:06 PM

 

you:

 When my work schedule allows.

10:10 PM

 

jeon jeongguk:

 When will that be?

10:10 PM

 

you:

 I’m not sure yet.

10:17 PM

 

jeon jeongguk:

 :(

10:18 PM

 

You aren’t going to disappear on me, are you? I have ways of finding people.

10:19 PM

 

you:

 Look, even if I wanted to change my name and flee to Cuba, I couldn’t. You are currently in possession of all of my funds.

10:30 PM

 

I work two jobs and attend school full-time. There aren’t enough hours in my day for casual meetings and card games..

10:31 PM

 

jeon jeongguk:

 If it’s that difficult, maybe you should’ve just gone with one of Namjoon’s payment plans.

10:32 PM

 

you:

 Come see me on a lunch break

10:32 PM

 

jeon jeongguk:

 You’re coming to see me, not the other way around.

10:33 PM

 

you:

 Can’t you fucking read? I don’t have time to be making trips across town to your shitty hotel.

10:34 PM

 

jeon jeongguk:

 You know what an overdraft fee is, right?

10: 36 PM

 

you:

 Yes you fucking degenerate I know what an overdraft fee is

10:36 PM

 

jeon jeongguk:

 I think banks usually charge around $7 per day your account is overdrawn.

10:36 PM

 

So I’m gonna charge you $7 per day every day you don’t come see me.

10:37 PM

 

you:

 You know

10:41 PM

 

I’ve gotten more than my fair share of shit flung at me by alphas

10:41 PM

 

but I’ve never met one as disgustingly sadistic as you

10:42 PM

 

jeon jeongguk:

 Text me when you’ve cleared your schedule.

10:45 PM

 

you:

 fuck you

10:46 PM


 Jimin raps twice on the doorframe of Seokjin’s office before inviting himself in and having a seat on the faded patchwork armchair. Since taking over management of the restaurant from his parents just a little over a year ago, Seokjin has made considerable updates to the dining room’s decor, but the office fixtures have yet to be replaced. The armchair smells quite musty, but, Jimin supposes, it lends toward an authentic 1970s experience. True vintage. He plucks the pack of cigarettes off the desk that isn’t actually a desk, but rather a splintering folding table.

“You got a light?” he asks, popping the end of the cigarette between his lips.

Seokjin pats around amongst the papers covering the desk, eventually locating a lighter buried under a pile of receipts. Just as he’s about to drop it into Jimin’s outstretched palm, he pauses, narrowing his eyes. “Hey, are you stealing that?”

“It’s not stealing,” Jimin says, wrestling the lighter out of Seokjin’s grip. “It’s a donation to a friend in need.”

“Seems like I’m donating an awful lot of cigarettes to this friend.”

The snip snip of the lighter bridges the silence. Jimin inhales a lungful of smoke, closes his eyes, and exhales the weight of the day back out. “If it makes you feel any better, I have no intention of paying you back,” he mumbles.

“See, only a real friend would openly admit to their lack of remorse over petty theft,” Seokjin says, jabbing in Jimin’s direction with the end of his pen. “So, I could lie and tell you it’s alright that you’ve stolen from me, but the more genuine thing to do would be to just steal something from you when the need arises. Expect revenge, Park Jimin.”

The corner of Jimin’s lip twitches in a ghost of a smirk. “Haven’t got much to steal, but go for it.”

Tucking his pen behind his ear, Seokjin leans an elbow on the table and turns to face Jimin fully. “As much as I’d like to believe you’ve just come to soak in my awesome presence, I’m assuming there’s something you wanted to talk about.”

Jimin buys himself a few moments with another drag. It’s unfair, he thinks, for Seokjin to be so handsome. So visibly sure of himself. Betas aren’t anything special. They’re regular. But Seokjin is the kind of man you see entering a room. He walks in and commands attention with an aura he shouldn’t biologically have. Psychologically, perhaps, Seokjin has an alphaness about him. He has a sensing .

“I need a day off,” Jimin says, watching Seokjin’s eyebrows ascend toward his hairline.

You? You need a day off?”

“Yes. This week, preferably.”

Shaking his head in disbelief, Seokjin grabs the clipboard with the schedule on it off the far corner of the table. “This has got to be some kind of sign of the apocalypse or something,” he chuckles dryly. “I should tell Yoongi we ought to stock up on canned food. What’s the rush? Did something come up?”

Jimin shifts on the chair. It’s not a particularly comfortable chair anymore. If he ever manages to scrape together extra money— as if —he’ll buy Seokjin a new one. “Yeah.”

When he doesn’t elaborate, Seokjin digs a little more. “...You met with those guys from the casino yesterday, didn’t you? Does this have anything to do with your father’s debt?”

“Good guess, Watson,” Jimin responds. “Yeah, I’ve gotta make a date to… discuss things with somebody. I’m at the mercy of Jeon’s shitty kid until further notice.”

Seokjin whistles lowly. “Didn’t know there was a kid. Alpha?”

And Jimin can’t help rolling his eyes as he ashes his cigarette into an empty glass on the desk. “The hell do you think? Jeon probably drowned babies until his mate popped one out.”

“How old is he?”

“Dunno. Looks my age, or a little younger,” Jimin says. “I wouldn’t be surprised to learn he’s younger. Doesn’t stop him from being a piss stain on some silk sheets.”

“So, how come it’s him? Is Jeon letting the kid get his feet wet in the business before he’s gotta take over?”

Jimin shrugs. He’d gotten the impression that his particular case had been deferred to Namjoon, and Jeongguk was never supposed to get involved, but perhaps there was more to it than that. “I mean, it’s possible. It isn’t like my father was a gangster or anyone with social or political ties. He was just a paper-pusher with a gambling problem. Jeon probably thought it wouldn’t take much to intimidate me into agreeing to some sort of payment plan.”

“Is that what you’ve gotta talk with the kid about?” Seokjin asks. “A payment plan?”

“Yeah. And I’m gonna make sure we get everything crystal clear and seal it with blood, so no one decides that they can just make stuff up when they feel it suits them.”

Seokjin blinks a few times, opens his mouth to say something, then closes it again and shakes his head. “I’m not gonna ask,” he says, turning his attention back to the schedule. “Let’s see… I’ll switch shifts with you to give you Friday evening off. Um… Actually, there’s a new guy starting this week. Jung Hoseok. If you can work a double on Thursday, you’d be doing me a huge favor helping train him. You can just hang back and make him do most of the work during your second shift.”

For a double shift, that doesn’t sound too bad. Especially if he and Jung Hoseok get along. “Is he cute?”

“Of course you’d ask that. I guess he’s cute,” Seokjin says, however reluctantly. “He’s an alpha, but he seems like a nice guy. Listens well, wants to do things correctly. You shouldn’t have any issues with him. And if you do, I know you’ll just chop his dick off.”

“He’d better behave,” Jimin says. “My dick collection is getting pretty big.”

Seokjin laughs, tossing the clipboard aside. “I don’t anticipate you having problems, so you just keep quiet about your sadistic tendencies unless absolutely necessary. If he actually does end up in the ER, then I’ll know I made a very heinous error in judgement of character.”

“I’m sure he’ll be fine. I’m saving my knife for Jeon Jeongguk, anyway.”


Jung Hoseok turns out to be the most amicable alpha Jimin has ever met. Orange isn’t the color Jimin expected his hair to be dyed, but Hoseok wears it flawlessly. It matches the brillance of his smile. He’s tall and lean and wears the white dress shirt of his uniform with the top two buttons undone. Jimin has to curb the urge to lick a stripe up from his collarbone to his neck right there in the middle of the restaurant.

He thinks Jimin is a beta when they meet. Jimin’s heart sinks as soon as he realizes Hoseok can’t smell him. He’s had better luck with alphas who can’t smell him, but those relationships always leave him unfulfilled. His partner forgets to scent him, doesn’t realize when he’s going into heat, can’t read how he’s feeling. As much as he feels the connection with Hoseok as they’re laughing over Jimin’s indecipherable scrawl on his notepad while he’s demonstrating order shorthand, the realistic part of him aches because he knows they’re doomed to fail.

Jimin leaves work feeling far more depressed and frustrated than when he got there. He wants nothing more than to curl up in bed and sleep through his entire day off tomorrow, but he can’t. He’s got to sacrifice his evening to Jeon Jeongguk.

Friday finds him getting ready ten minutes before he has to catch the bus, because there’s no fucking way he’s dressing up tonight, casino or not. He throws on a cream-colored sweatshirt over the pajama shirt he’s been wearing all day and a pair of worn jeans, then heads out. His bus makes several stops on its journey across town, and Jimin debates getting off and finding his way back home, but stubbornly keeps his ass glued in his seat. He isn’t a coward. He isn’t his father.

A little voice in the back of his head whispers that he’s technically amassing his own debt with these late fees , but it’s Jeongguk who decided to impose those in order to manipulate him. Whatever it is that Jeongguk wants from him, Jimin has little chance of fighting against him at the moment.

The bus reaches the casino at seven pm, and Jimin joins the flock of people spilling onto the sidewalk. A few incredulous looks are tossed his way as he follows the crowd into the massive building, but he ignores them. He breaks off from the group in the lobby and heads toward the private elevator which Jeongguk so graciously gave him the code for. It’s uncomfortable to do this alone—in a convoluted sort of way, he wishes Taehyung was there to escort him. Then he wouldn’t feel like he’s trespassing on private property.

When the elevator doors finally slide open, the bubble of anxiety pops when he finds the car empty. He ducks inside, hits the button for the top floor, and settles into the corner to wait.

Once the elevator releases him into the hallway, Jimin double-checks Jeongguk’s text to make sure he’s going to the correct room number, then hastens down the corridor. As he rounds the corner, he nearly crashes into a maid pushing her cleaning cart, but she doesn’t stop him and demand what he’s doing on this floor, even though he knows he looks like he just wandered in off the street. She simply excuses herself and continues along. Jimin’s heart doesn’t stop its incessant hammering even as he knocks on room 1015.

Taehyung answers the door. He’s got on a oversized wine-colored blouse and a pair of wide-legged pants, but even in casual attire, he’s stunning. Big, broad, beautiful. Recognition sparks in his eyes and he pulls open the door a little wider to invite Jimin in. “Didn’t know you were coming,” he says.

“It was a last minute thing,” Jimin lies. He’d only decided to text Jeongguk a few hours ago. Because Jeongguk didn’t deserve the luxury of notice. “Getting time off to come here is kind of a bitch.”

If Taehyung cares even a little bit about Jimin’s plight, he doesn’t show it. He smiles breezily and presses a hand against the small of Jimin’s back to usher him further into the suite. “He’ll be happy to see you.”

“I’m fucking sure,” Jimin mutters under his breath.

Jeongguk is reclining on the couch, waiting. It looks like he and Taehyung were in the middle of a game of cards, and Jeongguk was remiss to inform him that he was expecting company. His hair is a little darker pink than the last time Jimin saw him, and he still isn’t wearing pants. Just a black silk shirt with sheer sleeves and sheer stockings. They’re distracting, because every ripple of Jeongguk’s thigh muscles is caught by the light as he gets up off the couch. Jimin only manages to tear his eyes away once Jeongguk is right in front of him.

“You’re late,” is what Jeongguk decides to greet him with.

“I took the bus,” Jimin counters defensively. “Sorry I have no control over the speed of public transportation.”

A grin spreads across Jeongguk’s face like he hasn’t felt the bite in Jimin’s voice at all. He grabs the front of Jimin’s sweatshirt, tugging him closer. “You should work a little harder to be on time,” he purrs, nosing along Jimin’s jaw. “Don’t you think?”

Jimin shivers. He can’t decide whether to submit to the scenting or not, so he remains locked in place, even as Jeongguk nuzzles a little more aggressively into the hollow beneath his jaw. “If you want something that comes when it’s called, buy a dog.”

Jeongguk pulls back. When he tilts his head to the side, it’s impsih. Almost cute. But the gesture is ruined by what comes out of his mouth. “But I have bought a dog,” he says, tapping Jimin’s lips. “I just need to train it.”

Jimin feels like a dog as he peels his lips back to bare his teeth. Fuck cutting Jeongguk’s dick off, he’ll bite it off. Rip and tear through each useless bit of flesh while Jeongguk screams in agony. “Call me that again, and I’ll show you what kind of bitch you’ve bought, kiddo.”

Unrestrained arousal floods Jeongguk’s expression, darkening his eyes and thickening his scent. The wet leaves pick up notes of that sweet smell that occasionally accompanies rainfall. It’s distracting, because Jimin didn’t expect him to go from nondescript to mouthwatering. Especially not over Jimin’s threats. Perhaps Jeongguk thinks it’s amusing that a little omega thinks he can stand up to an alpha.

The tension is burst by Taehyung clearing his throat. Jimin takes the opportunity to jerk back from Jeongguk, putting some much-needed air between them.

“I’m heading downstairs,” Taehyung drawls. “Call me if one of you needs a body bag.”

“Thank you, Tae,” Jeongguk replies, dripping sarcasm. Taehyung lifts a hand over his head in salute as he exits the suite. All at once, Jeongguk’s demeanor shifts. The alluring scent dissipates, and he regards Jimin with something akin to boredom. “Have you ever heard of Liar’s Dice?”

“I don’t play your kinds of games,” Jimin replies tersely.

“I didn’t ask if you’d fucking played it, I just asked if you’d heard of it.” Jeongguk points at a small wooden table beside the window, with a chair on either side. “Sit.”

Jimin’s body moves of its own accord, driven by the ice in Jeongguk’s tone. He takes a seat one one side of the table, peering cautiously out the massive window beside him. It feels like sitting on the edge of the universe. Over the tops of buildings, the sun is beginning to dip towards the horizon. The view must be spectacular in the dark.

Jeongguk joins him, placing two plastic cups on the table. Jimin peers into them, surprised to find that they contain dice instead of a liquid.

“Each of us have five dice,” Jeongguk explains, pushing one of the cups towards Jimin. “And what we’ll do is shake them up inside the cups, then place the cups on the table upside down. You’re allowed to check your own dice, but you don’t get to see the other player’s.”

Jeongguk places his palm over the open end of his cup and shakes it, dice rattling inside the plastic. Jimin hesitantly follows suit. They both set their cups upside down on the surface of the table.

“Read me your dice,” Jeongguk demands.

Jimin stares at him for a moment, the peeks underneath his cup. “Uh… One four, two fives, one six, and one two.”

“In order to play, you’re going to bet a certain number of dice based on your own rolls that you think both of us have, combined. For instance, you might start with three twos, since you have one two, and it’s possible that I might have rolled two twos.”

Jimin’s eyes narrow as he starts to understand. “So, it’s a game of theoretical probability.”

“Precisely. If you bet three twos, I have to either match the bet with a different set of dice that total the same amount, such as two threes, or I have to raise it to four twos.”

“How do you win?”

“Let’s say you’ve bet three twos. I raised it to two threes. You raise it to three threes. I go four threes, you go five threes, and I go six threes—but you haven’t rolled any threes, so it’s impossible for there to be six threes on the table if we each only have five dice,” Jeongguk replies. “You would call my bluff, and I would lose a die. Normally, we’d play until one of us doesn’t have any dice left.”

“Normally,” Jimin echoes, meeting Jeongguk’s eyes across the table. “I assume we aren’t going to play normally .”

A wolfish grin spreads across Jeongguk’s face. “Since this week was a little bit difficult for you, I’ll offer you a deal,” he says. “We can play normally for ten thousand. Or…”

Jimin bites his tongue and holds his breath.

“...we remove clothes instead of dice for twenty-five thousand.”

Of course. With this alpha, there’s always going to be some kind of catch. “If you’re in a hurry to get your dick wet, just fucking say so,” Jimin grouses.

Jeongguk shrugs a shoulder, tracing his nails over the bottom of his cup. “I’m not. I’d love to get you naked, but if you end up winning every single round, I won’t complain. If you decide to play for ten grand, I won’t complain. I’m just giving you options.”

“And what happens if you win?” Jimin asks.

“Whatever I decide,” Jeongguk says. He presses his thumb on the side of the cup, opposite his index and middle fingers, running them up and down the length of the plastic. The implications of the motion aren’t lost on Jimin. “Whatever I think is worth the money.”

Jimin sucks his bottom lip into his mouth, weighing the options. As much as he wants to believe that he has a chance of winning, the odds are, needless to say, incredibly slim. Unless he gets lucky, but considering everything he’s inherited from his father so far, that isn’t particularly likely, either. The smarter choice would be to take the ten grand and run, but Jimin finds himself enticed by the higher offer. The faster he gets out of debt, the sooner he can get on with his life and never have to deal with Jeon Jeongguk or the Black Rabbit casino ever again.

“We can play for clothes, but,” he quickly holds up a hand, “you’ve gotta at least play a practice round with me so that we can at least pretend it's fair.”

“I’ve got all night, baby,” Jeongguk purrs contentedly. “We can go as many rounds as you want.”


 “Six fours is bullshit. There’s no fucking way.”

Jimin is proud of his own resolve for not wavering in the slightest at the sight of Jeongguk’s cheshire grin. “Are you sure about that?”

“Positive,” Jimin replies.

Jeongguk lifts his cup.

Four disgusting little fours wink up at him like they’ve got no idea they’ve just lost him his socks. They’ve agreed to only remove five articles of clothing each to match the number of dice they have, but Jimin isn’t wearing much. Now missing his shoes and socks, he’s down to his pants, sweatshirt, t-shirt, and underwear.

“You were doing well during practice,” Jeongguk says, and it’s no consolation at all.

“Of course I was,” Jimin huffs. “That’s because it was practice and the universe hates me.”

“There’s no reason you couldn’t have raised it another four. Or change the bet to four sixes.”

Jimin rakes a hand through his hair in distress. “If I’d said seven fours, you would’ve called me a liar. And neither of us have any sixes, so that would’ve been a worthless move anyway.”

“So you took a risk,” Jeongguk says airily. “It just didn’t pay off.”

“It probably wasn’t going to pay off no matter what I did,” Jimin grumbles, gazing out the window. The sun is down, now. It’s even more breathtaking than he thought it would be, seeing the city below dotted in lights. Like he’s managed to climb above the stars. “You’ll have to tell Taehyung to just go home, at this rate.”

“Don’t worry about him. He lives here.”

Jimin’s attention snaps back over Jeongguk. “Lives here? Like, in the hotel?”

Jeongguk nods. “I do, too. This is my suite.”

“Oh.” Jimin takes a quick glance around the room, drinking it in. The high-end fixtures, the built-in maid service, the view. “Lucky you. Does that mean Taehyung is, like… your personal thug, or something?”

Leaning forward to rest his elbows on the table, Jeongguk folds his hands underneath his chin and fixes his eyes on Jimin intently. “I think there’s something you’re misunderstanding about me,” he says. “Do you view my father as powerful, Jimin?”

“I—Guess so?” Jimin tries, unsure what exactly the right answer is supposed to be. Not with Jeongguk staring at him like he’s a sirloin steak on a plate. “He isn’t a weak businessman by any stretch of the imagination. The Black Rabbit is one of the most lucrative casinos on this side of the country.”

“But that’s just it, isn’t it. My father is a businessman,” Jeongguk says. “He wields numbers. Namjoon wields numbers. They’re cut from the same kind of cloth where they can get their rocks off to spreadsheets and profit margins.”

Jimin snorts humorlessly, the image of Namjoon jizzing all over his pile of papers an unwelcome sight in his mind’s eye. “And you?”

“As much as my father would love it if I crawled around in his shadow forever, he fucked up, and let me feel the power of beating someone half to death with a lead pipe first. Spreadsheets don’t exactly feel the same against my cock.”

The thought never occurred to Jimin that Jeongguk might actually be dangerous. Manipulative and sadistic, yes, but not… dangerous . Discomfort stirs in Jimin’s gut. He doesn’t really know how to respond.

Jeongguk chuckles softly. “Don’t worry, darling. My plans for you don’t involve lead pipes.”

Wordlessly, Jimin collects his dice and deposits them back into his cup. He shakes them up before turning the cup over onto the table.

Although Jimin does manage to win one round—and the underwhelming removal of Jeongguk’s rings—he eventually loses the game. His t-shirt and underwear are the only things protecting his dignity. Flipping his cup rightside up, Jeongguk leans back in his chair and waits for Jimin to decide what he’ll remove.

“I’ve already lost,” Jimin complains. “Can’t we just spare me the humiliation and move on to whatever the hell it is you want me to do?”

“Who’s in a hurry now?” Scooting back a little bit in his chair, Jeongguk pats his lap. “C’mere.”

Jimin reluctantly stands up, feeling far too exposed without his pants, but it helps a little bit that Jeongguk was never wearing pants to begin with. The stockings are far more obscene than Jimin’s bare legs. As soon as he’s close enough, Jeongguk manhandles him to straddle his lap. It’s… Jeongguk’s thighs are a lot thicker than Yoongi’s or Seokjin’s. Jimin feels like he’s doing the splits.

It turns him on a little bit more than he’d like to admit.

Hands squeeze his ass, and Jeongguk pushes his face into Jimin’s chest. “I’m allowed to touch you wherever I want because I’ve won you, okay?”

It’s sort of a question—not exactly, but Jimin still realizes this is Jeongguk’s way of making sure he has consent. Jimin nods stiffly, fisting a hand in the sheer back of Jeongguk’s shirt. “For twenty-five grand, you’d better make sure it’s good for me, too.”

Jeongguk chuckles into Jimin’s collarbone. “I’ve got pride, too, you know.”

Hooking a thumb underneath the hem of Jimin’s shirt, Jeongguk hikes the fabric up to his armpits. Jimin isn’t ready for lips to attach themselves to his right nipple, a whimper clogging up the back of his throat. Jeongguk sucks and licks and swirls his tongue around the bud, catches it between his teeth and tugs . If Jimin is arching into the contact, it isn’t his fault. It’s been a while since someone has been this interested in his tits.

Jeongguk shifts his attention to the other nipple, giving it the same treatment. A whine escapes when Jeongguk bites down on the meat of his chest like he’s going to take a chunk out of it. Jimin is limp in his arms as Jeongguk works his way up, nuzzling into his neck.

There are several deep inhales and exhales against his skin, near his scent gland, and the terror of rejection bubbles up inside Jimin’s stomach. Realistically, it doesn’t matter if Jeongguk rejects him because Jimin doesn’t like Jeongguk, but it will still hurt, like every other fucking time it happens. The deep groan Jeongguk releases isn’t what he expects.

Fingers push down the back of his underwear, soft pads slipping between his cheeks to dip into the slick beginning to pool at his hole. Sudden panic washes over Jimin and he grips Jeongguk’s arm. “I don’t care how much money you’re offering me, you aren’t fingering me with acrylics on. I want to leave with my ass intact.”

Jeongguk removes his hand, holding it up for Jimin to see. The nails on the thumb, pinky, and ring finger are long and pointed, but his index and middle finger are cut close to the nailbeds. Heat floods Jimin’s cheeks as he realizes there’s only one practical reason for his nails to be like that.

“I actually think I might hate you,” Jimin grumbles.

“Might?”

Jeongguk smirks, hiking Jimin’s hips closer to his. The motion forces Jimin to brace his elbows on the table behind him, but that seems to be what Jeongguk wants, because he slips his hand into Jimin’s underwear from the front, between his legs. A finger sinks into his heat, and Jimin shudders.

“So wet,” Jeongguk coos, rubbing his finger up against Jimin’s walls as he thrusts it in and out. “So wet for me already. Doesn’t that make you the needy one?”

It feels good. Even just one finger feels good because it’s been so long since anyone else really touched him like this. He wants to tighten around Jeongguk’s finger so that it will press into him just right , but he doesn’t. He lets Jeongguk feel him out on his own, whimpering softly when the edge of his prostate is brushed.

A second finger is added and it’s almost too much. Jimin feels so stretched even though it’s nothing , but he hasn’t had the energy to touch himself outside of a quick jerk-off in the shower for months. The sweetened scent of Jeongguk’s arousal hits him, and he’s just… overwhelmed. He collapses flat on the table, gripping the edge of the wood with one hand so that he doesn’t slide around too much. Jeongguk hikes one of his legs up a little bit, offering himself deeper access to Jimin’s hole. The only thing louder than Jimin’s harsh pants is the smacking squelch of slick between his legs as Jeongguk’s fingers piston in and out of him.

Jimin doesn’t bother holding back his moan when Jeongguk rubs over his prostate. His muscles flutter, desperately clenching around the fingers so that he can grind them deeper inside of him, even though he has no leverage to do so himself. Fuck, now he wants more. Now he wants to sit on Jeongguk’s cock and bounce on it until he crumbles to pieces.

Jeongguk’s thumb presses into his perineum, sending a rush of shockwaves up Jimin’s spine. It’s hard to even catch his breath, he’s so close to peaking. His cock strains, untouched in his underwear. He’ll cum just like this. He knows Jeongguk will be able to make him cum like this.

His entire body shakes as Jeongguk pauses in thrusting to massage his prostate, manipulating the sensitive spot from both the inside and the outside. Jimin cries out, overstimulated and not close enough . He’s gonna cum, but he isn’t, but he is , but it’s… He needs more, just a little bit more—

He isn’t even aware of how much he’s squirming in Jeongguk’s lap until one of his legs his grabbed to keep him still. Then he’s pounded, hard and fast—forced to just take what Jeongguk gives him. Climax swells inside of him like a balloon, but it feels… it just feels—he isn’t sure.

And then he cums. Ejaculating in his underwear, and in a sudden torrent of slick, all over Jeongguk’s hand and his legs.

Post-orgasm afterglow is blown away with the strength of an industrial fan. Jimin’s back aches from being bent over the table. His scent—his scent , bitter and heady—hangs heavy in the air around them. As soon as Jeongguk’s fingers slip from inside of him, Jimin props himself up to apologize for cumming literally everywhere , but stops short. He gapes in utter disbelief as Jeongguk licks his slick off of his hand. Jeongguk’s eyelids fall closed as he sucks off the two fingers he had up Jimin’s ass, then trails his tongue over his palm, down his wrist, and between his other fingers.

Jimin’s voice catches in his throat. “D-Doesn’t that taste bad?”

Jeongguk’s eyes flicker open. He shakes his head slowly, sucking the juncture between his thumb and forefinger. “I’ll throw in an extra ten grand if you let me eat you out right now.”

Thirty-five thousand. Jeongguk will let him walk away tonight with thirty-five thousand if he just turns over on this table and lets him eat his ass.

Jimin entertains the idea of actually doing it for a brief moment. His ears ring.

“You’re so starved for attention, you’ll do anything, won’t you? Pathetic slut. Why don’t you clean my cock off so you can see how disgusting you taste? Then I won’t have to get any of it on my hands and risk smelling you later.”

“No,” Jimin says, bolting upright a little too quickly. He swallows back his tears as he swings off Jeongguk’s lap, fighting to keep his composure. “I’m—I’m gonna clean up.”

Jeongguk motions towards the open doorway to the bedroom. “Bathroom’s through there.”

Acutely aware of the wetness soaking his underwear and coating his thighs, Jimin self-consciously collects his clothes and hastens toward the bathroom. As soon as the door is closed behind him, he leans against it and takes a few moments to breathe. Jeongguk didn’t yell at him, didn’t insult him—he’s fine . He can wipe himself off, get dressed, and go back home. His father’s debt is lessened by twenty-five thousand. Barely a drop in the bucket of several million, but it’s a start. And as soon as Jimin gets better at Jeongguk’s games, he can start raising the stakes himself.

As he’s peeling off his underwear and dropping them into the sink to rinse off, he notices that the bathroom, of all places, feels the most lived-in. Makeup, skincare products, perfumes, and countless other odds and ends Jimin wouldn’t know how to identify litter the counter. Fishnets are draped across the back of the toilet and a red silk robe hangs off the back of the door. There’s a large wooden box on the far end of the counter, and curiosity gets the better of Jimin. He sneaks a quick peek under the lid, sucking in a sharp breath at the gobs of jewelry glittering up at him. This box and its contents could probably pay his rent for an entire year.

He slams the lid shut and finishes cleaning himself up.

When he returns to the living room fully dressed, save for his damp underwear balled up in his sweatshirt pocket, Taehyung is with Jeongguk on the couch. Jimin’s first instinct is to duck back into the bedroom to eavesdrop. If they’re talking about him—But Jeongguk notices his entry and waves him over.

“It’s late,” he says, motioning to the dark sky through the windows. “Taehyung will drive you home.”

“I don’t need a ride,” Jimin replies. “I’m usually walking home from work later than this, anyway.”

“Not from here, though. The monsters start crawling out from the woodwork this time of night. You don’t want to get caught by any of them.”

Insinuating that Jeongguk, himself, isn’t one of those monsters? Jimin shakes his head, stepping toward the door. “I can take care of myself.”

Jeongguk rises from the couch and stalks over to Jimin like a predator locked onto its prey. Jimin stumbles back, but Jeongguk catches him around the waist and pulls their bodies flush. Jeongguk is unbelievably solid underneath the silk. Jimin hates it.

“I’m not offering it to demean you,” he says, tilting Jimin’s chin up. When he rubs his thumb over Jimin’s lips, a whiff of almonds hits Jimin’s nose. Jeongguk hasn’t even bothered to wash his hands. “I know I’ve inconvenienced you. So take the fucking ride, darling.”

Jimin can’t fully curb the urge to snarl. He thumps both palms against Jeongguk’s chest in protest. “I’m not your darling,” he snaps. “I’m not your fucking anything . I’ll take your shitty ride.”

Jeongguk releases him, and Jimin storms out the door. A moment later, the door opens again behind him and it’s Taehyung, hot on his heels.

They don’t speak on their way to the parking garage. If Taehyung has any urgent, pressing matters on his mind, he makes no indication of them, leaving Jimin to stew in his own thoughts. They make their way to a sleek black Mercedes, and Jimin wonders how close he could be to buying one with twenty-five grand. If, once his debt is paid off, Jeongguk will continue playing games with him so that he can afford a car like this. But that’s a dangerous train of thought to follow, so Jimin shuts it down as quickly as it came.

Inside, the seats are like butter. Tempting as anything.

The engine purrs to life. Taehyung fixes his seatbelt and switches on the headlights, then just… sits. For a moment. He finally asks, “What did you win?”

“I didn’t,” Jimin replies. “Jeongguk won.”

“But you still got money for it. How much?”

“Twenty-five.”

“Grand?” Taehyung shifts the car into gear and backs out of the parking space. “That’s fucking pocket change. And he knows it.”

Jimin picks at his cuticles, humiliation tugging at his tear ducts. “We—We played Liar’s Dice. He offered me ten thousand if we played normally, twenty-five if we stripped.”

Taehyung clicks his tongue and shakes his head. “That’s bullshit.”

“How was I supposed to know?” Jimin asks in a small voice.

“Cos I’m telling you right now, it’s bullshit. You rub your pretty ass right on his cock and tell him you’ll never play him anything for less than fifty grand if he even wants to think about fucking you,” Taehyung says. The miserable, winding drive down to the bottom of the parking garage is over quickly, and they’re vomited out into the nighttime traffic. “Otherwise, he’ll start pulling shit on you, like… I don’t fucking know, doing menial things for a hundred, two hundred bucks. You’re trapped under millions, chicky. You wanna get out as quick as you can.”

The quiet whir of the engine fills the car until they slow to a stop at a red light. “I’m not sure fucking me is worth that much,” Jimin says into the silence.

“You can’t go into this with that kind of attitude, chicky,” Taehyung says. “Whatever… uhm, whatever you did tonight, that really got him going. You’ve got his attention, and Jeongguk is terrible at pretending he cares when he doesn’t. Take advantage of your desirability.”

“I’ve never… I’m not desirable,” Jimin says, tugging at a growing hole in the knee of his jeans. He’s been meaning to visit a resale shop to find a new pair, but… “You can’t smell me, can you?”

Taehyung doesn’t reply right away. “Well—not… really, no.”

“It’s okay if you can’t. A lot of people can’t. Neither of my best friends can. We got this new alpha employee at work, and he—he can’t, either. To most people, I read just like a beta. But s-some people… like Jeongguk… They can smell me. And I don’t smell… good.” Jimin hates saying that out loud. He’s an omega. Omegas are supposed to be desirable. They’re supposed to smell sweet and ripe and delicious for the alphas who work so hard to impress them. Jimin is nothing more than a cute disappointment, trapped within his own isolation. “It doesn’t… I don’t understand what Jeongguk wants from me. Why he’s treating me…”

Normal.

“Jeongguk likes unconventional things,” Taehyung says after a few moments of seemingly intense thought. “Scents like smoke and blood and whiskey and gunpowder are comfortable and familiar to him. Soft and sweet don’t appeal to him. You probably make him feel right at home.”

It only takes a fraction of the time to get from the casino to Jimin’s apartment via car. As bitter as Jimin wants to be over it, he’s just grateful to be home.

“Hey," Jimin says, hesitating in the midst of reaching for the door handle. "I didn't mean what I said back there—calling you a shitty ride."

Confusion flitters across Taehyung's face, and then he laughs, clear and amused. He's so different from Jeongguk. "Don't worry about it, chicky. Jeongguk has an exceptional knack for pissing people off."

"No kidding. Thank you for taking me home, Taehyung."

"My pleasure, Jimin."

And with that, Jimin exits the vehicle and watches the Mercedes circle back through the parking lot and disappear into the night traffic. He sluggishly hauls himself upstairs to his apartment—the apartment he once shared with his mother and father, then just his father… now, just himself. He enters the bathroom, stripping himself of the clothes that still cling to Jeongguk’s scent and dropping them in the hamper, and turns on the shower. Once the water has heated up, he steps under the spray. He wonders if he should get a cat.

He’s twenty-five thousand dollars less in debt than he was a few hours ago.

Squeezing his eyes shut, he rests his forehead against the chilly tiles and cries.

Chapter Text

 

Jimin’s phone rings as he’s getting ready to leave his apartment. It’s his landlord, and he briefly considers letting it go to voicemail, but makes a split-second decision to pick up as he grabs his keys off the counter. “Hello?”

“Hello, Mr. Park. This is Bill Caldwell.”

“Good evening, Mr. Caldwell,” Jimin says politely, awkwardly attempting to jam his key into the door lock with one hand while the door is still open. The door swings away, forcing him to give up and yank it shut. The key slides home easily. “Did you get my rent check? I left it with Ms. Schneider—”

“Yes, yes, I did. I’ve just been going through some paperwork and wanted to let you know that your lease is up at the end of the month,” the landlord says. “I spoke with your father before he passed and he’d planned on renewing it, however, you would be the one signing the lease agreement should you choose to renew. I apologize for springing this on you with such short notice, but I felt that it would be appropriate to get in contact with you as soon as possible so that you can make whatever arrangements you need to.”

Jimin pauses, fiddling with his key in the lock.

The apartment lease. Fuck.

Yet another thing left for him to deal with. Warning would’ve been nice, but this news might be good. This means that he doesn’t have to continue paying rent on an entire two bedroom apartment when he only uses a fraction of that space. A studio apartment would be nice. Or, perhaps he can find someone looking for a housemate. The only difficulty will be finding a place before the end of the month. Yoongi and Seokjin will offer to put him up if he can’t find anything immediately regardless, but Jimin doesn’t want to take advantage of their generosity unless absolutely necessary. They’ve got their own lives to live.

He twists the key and engages the lock. “Thanks for letting me know,” he says. “Give me a few days to think about it, and I’ll call you back.”

“No problem. Take care, Mr. Park.”

On his way to the bus station, Jimin opens his chat with Seokjin and Yoongi, and explains the situation.

 

seokjin

I’ll put some feelers out @ restaurant

7:23 pm

 

someone might know somebody looking for a roommate

7:23 pm

 

yoongi

 guest room is always open

7:25 pm

 

you

thanks <333

7:25 pm

 

I really hope I can find something cheaper cos not having to pay so much rent would be a huge load off my fucking mind

7:26 pm

 

yoongi

ask ur fuckboi for a cash advance

7:27 pm

 

you

???

7:27 pm

 

yoongi

the jeon kid

7:28 pm

 

tell him u need $$$ for downpayment on an apt

7:29 pm

 

you

the fuck am I supposed to give him for collateral

7:30 pm

 

a kidney? my spleen? my leg?

7:30 pm

 

yoongi

give him the good succ

7:31 pm

 

you

I’m not a prostitute

7:33 pm

 

yoongi

yet

7:33 pm

 

seokjin

park jimin do not listen to him

7:33 pm

 

i’ll send an email out that you’re looking for an apartment. we’ll handle this. ok?

7:35 pm

 

you

thanks. I really appreciate it.

7:37 pm

 

Jimin does his best to keep his mind from wandering, but the bus ride downtown is long and boring. The elderly woman across the aisle is knitting with peachy-coral yarn, which evokes images of Jeongguk’s pale pink hair. He thinks back to what Taehyung told him on their drive home, about how Jeongguk might start asking him to do things for a few hundred bucks if he thought he could get away with it, and wonders if that will work in reverse. If he really could ask Jeongguk for rent money in exchange for a blowjob.

But his rent is so low in comparison to the twenty-five grand he allowed Jeongguk to finger him for last week. He can’t maintain his so-called desirability if he accepts such a small handful of money for a whole entire blowjob. No, he’ll have to handle his living situation on his own.

Jimin ponders.

The bus finally reaches his destination and he stiffly rises from his seat, surprised to see the old woman beside him getting up, too. He follows her off the bus and onto the sidewalk, lingering near the road while he watches her tottle through the grand entryway of the Black Rabbit.

Maybe she likes slots. Old ladies like playing the slot machines sometimes, don’t they? His grandmother bought lottery tickets every week. His father’s mother. Gambling runs in their family. He always said he’d be the one to break the cycle, yet here he is. Following that little old lady off to fritter away her social security check into the Black Rabbit.

Jimin enters the casino and heads, for the first time, towards the public elevators. He’s never been in the hotel proper, but Jeongguk texted him earlier to meet him in room 239 instead of his personal suite. No explanation provided, and Jimin knew better than to ask. He files onto the elevator along with a handful of hotel guests, pausing at the number panel to hit the button for the second floor before tucking himself up against the back wall. A woman in a sleek black dress moves to stand beside him as the elevator begins its ascent. Jimin ignores the woman until she pauses in the midst of rifling through her purse, sniffing loudly. Out of his peripheral, Jimin sees her shoot him a disgruntled glance.

The elevator eases to a halt, doors sliding open, and Jimin bolts for the hallway. If he knocks into the woman on his way out, it certainly isn’t intentional.

He pads down the corridor, glancing at the numbers as he passes door after door. The red carpet underneath his shoes feels like it has more cushion than his own mattress. Perhaps if he stops and jumps, he’ll have enough bounce to touch the ceiling. Finally, he reaches room 239 and knocks on the door. Unlike his previous visit, it’s Jeongguk who answers.

He’s wearing pants.

“There’s my pretty darling,” Jeongguk coos, gathering Jimin into his arms before he can protest.

Jimin unhappily sags in Jeongguk’s grip while he’s scented. “Not yours,” he reminds.

“Not mine.” Pressing into the edge of Jimin’s hairline, Jeongguk rubs his nose back and forth behind his ear. Leaving his own scent, soaking up Jimin’s. “Haven’t gotten you on my cock yet.”

“Let me guess,” Jimin drawls, even though his body would rather he press into Jeongguk’s ministrations and bare his throat, because his body is stupid and depraved. “You’re going to fuck me so good, I won’t remember my own name. Your glorious cock is going to change my life. I’m gonna experience Jesus through your jizz.”

Jeongguk stills, and then pitches forward and snorts loudly into Jimin’s neck. “What kind of alphas have you been fucking?”

“He was a youth pastor or some shit,” Jimin replies, letting his head loll back against the door. “Got super fucking smashed at my cousin’s mating ceremony and thought I needed to have a ‘spiritual awakening.’ Turns out, suppressed virgin alphas are even more unbearable than their egotistical counterparts.”

When Jeongguk laughs, a little bit of the tension knotted in Jimin’s chest loosens. This is the most genuine moment they’ve shared. He wants to cherish it, because this won’t last. Jeongguk isn’t his friend.

“I guess I’ll just have to work extra hard to impress you,” Jeongguk murmurs into his ear before letting him go.

Jimin remains at the door as Jeongguk makes himself comfortable on the bed. He’s dressed tonight—actually dressed . A blazer, dress shirt, and pants. His blazer is glittery, and has shed little sparkles onto Jimin’s sweatshirt, and his pants are leather, but it’s more clothing than what Jimin is used to from him. He wants to ask what the occasion is, but he doesn’t want Jeongguk to think he’s been paying attention to his attire. Even though it’s impossible not to notice.

“What are we doing in this room?” Jimin asks instead.

Jeongguk rolls onto his stomach so that he can reach the pack of cigarettes sitting on the nightstand. “Waiting,” he replies, lighting a stick and taking a drag.

“Waiting for…?”

“Something to happen.”

“Could you please act a little bit more like I’m going to get fucking murdered tonight?” Jimin asks dryly. Unease creeps up his spine as he glances into the bathroom just off the entrance. If he moves deeper into the room, someone could easily sneak up behind him and stab him to death. “I’m not sure I’m getting the full effect.”

Jeongguk chuckles, rolling up onto his side. “Are you always this dramatic?”

“I’m not the one summoning people to strange locations and refusing to explain why,” Jimin says. “If anyone is being dramatic, it’s you.”

“Well, how about you come here and I’ll tell you?”

“How about you tell me and then I’ll go over there?”

Amusement floods Jeongguk’s expression, and suddenly Jimin feels like he’s unwittingly stumbled into a game of cat-and-mouse. Of course Jeongguk wants to play with him. Just like a cat who bats around the mouse its caught for a while until the thing finally croaks and the cat loses interest. He’s just entertainment.

“I’ll make it worth your while, baby,” Jeongguk purrs, patting the empty space beside him.

Money is the first thought that comes, but sex is the bizarre second. Jimin is supposed to be offering Jeongguk the sexual favors, not the other way around. There’s nothing to be gained by sex on Jimin’s end. He can’t pay for groceries with it, it won’t help him find a new apartment, it won’t cause his external circumstances to change, and yet Jimin hasn’t been able to stop thinking about it since his last visit. The way Jeongguk so easily pulled his body apart haunts him. The idea of touching himself creeps up on him at night as he’s trying to sleep, but he knows he won’t be able to replicate what Jeongguk did to him. He’ll fuck himself to an unsatisfactory orgasm and feel even more inadequate than he already does.

Jeongguk picks up a file folder off the bedside table and holds it up. “We have paperwork to go over.”

It isn’t exactly the answer he’s looking for, but it’s enough to convince Jimin to cross the room and take a seat on the edge of the bed. “I thought you didn’t like paperwork,” he says.

“I don’t, but the world runs on it, unfortunately,” Jeongguk replies. He takes a long drag from his cigarette, blowing out a cloud of smoke. “Have you seen the movie Brazil?”

“No, I haven’t.”

“It’s an eighties’ dystopian science fiction film about bureaucracy,” Jeongguk says. “Super fucking weird, but there’s a scene in it where part of a building explodes and all of these papers end up sticking to this guy until he’s covered with them, and he just… disappears.”

Jimin cocks an eyebrow. “Is that some kind of social commentary?”

“Well, the movie starts out with a man getting erroneously murdered by the government due to a typo on his last name because a fly got caught in the typewriter, so I’ll let you be the judge of that.”

“You know, I had originally chalked your dislike of business up to getting involved with gang activity or something based on what you said about that pipe, not dystopian sci-fi films.”

Jeongguk grins, shaking his head. “I’ve never been in a gang. I’m a homegrown sort of violence, I suppose. Horror movies get me harder than porn does.”

“That’s quite the selling feature. I’m going out on a limb to assume that you haven’t had very many long-term relationships,” Jimin says dryly, to which Jeongguk laughs.

“None. But that doesn’t hinder me from keeping my dick wet,” he says. “I had sex this morning. Last night’s catch. He was a little prettier while I was wasted, but I couldn’t very well turn him down when I woke up with his mouth on my cock.”

“Is that supposed to make me jealous?”

“Does it make you jealous?”

Jimin isn’t about to admit that it does, because it’s a stupid feeling to have. He isn’t jealous of an omega Jeongguk plucked from the casino and fucked last night, only to toss back like a fish once he was finished. Even though he’s been craving sex, that isn’t what he wants . It’s small things. Stupid things, like the way Jeongguk has religiously scented him upon meeting and parting, or just looking him in the fucking eye when they talk. What he doesn’t want is to be a casual fuck that Jeongguk brags about, and calls less pretty when he’s sober.

“You only said it because you wanted to see if I would get jealous,” Jimin says. “But that would be pretty pathetic of me to get jealous of an omega you probably don’t even remember the name of.”

Jeongguk licks his lips, eyes flooding with the intensity Jimin is growing accustomed to from him. “So you want more.”

It’s too much to continue maintaining eye-contact. Jimin stares down at his lap. “Don’t we all?” he asks softly.

A few moments of silence stretch between them. Then Jeongguk stubs out his cigarette in the ashtray on the nightstand and sits up. “Bureaucracy aside, I wanted to make sure you received some kind of documentation with regards to your debt,” he says, pulling a paper out of the folder and holding it out. “So I asked Namjoon to print you a statement from the casino.”

Jimin snorts, taking the paper. As Jeongguk promised, twenty-five thousand dollars have been paid off. The impact on the outstanding debt is small, but it’s better than nothing. Or figuring out how to scrape together twenty-five grand himself. “Too lazy to work the printer yourself?”

“I’ve essentially taken on the debt by paying it directly to the casino on your behalf,” Jeongguk explains. “We could do it where I pay you and then you pay the casino, but then you’re in debt to me, which isn’t a position you want to be in. Either way, we’re stuck dealing with Namjoon.”

Jimin stares down at the paper in his hands, trying to figure out what it is about what Jeongguk is saying that doesn’t add up in his mind. “You… But you’re… You’re part of the casino, aren’t you?”

“I don’t have any involvement in the Black Rabbit’s operation,” Jeongguk replies. “My business is lending money, no relation to the casino. This just happens to be where I’ve decided to conduct that business.”

“So… who runs the casino?” Jimin asks stupidly.

“Jeon Haneul. My father.”

“Was I just not important enough for him to meet with me personally?”

“I’m sure he would’ve loved to meet with you,” Jeongguk says. A eerie coldness envelopes his tone. “But he’s been doing all of his business remotely for the past year. Namjoon handles a lot of cases like yours that require physical interaction.”

Discomfort creeps up Jimin’s spine. He’d suspected his circumstances were unusual the moment Namjoon began floundering at Jeongguk’s initial interjection during their meeting, but he had no information to back that up. Just an odd feeling in his gut. “Any specific reason? Is he out of the country or something?”

“No, he’s in the city. He could come here if he wants,” Jeongguk says. “He just doesn’t want to.”

“...Why?”

“Because I’m here.”

“And the two of you…” Jimin says slowly, “...don’t like each other.”

Jeongguk scoots closer, warmth pressing up against Jimin’s back as he wraps his arms around his waist. Hot air ghosts over the shell of Jimin’s ear as Jeongguk speaks. “I’m perfectly willing to cohabitate, but daddy isn’t. He’s just the one who ended up getting chased out.”

“So, you’ve occupied the casino like some kind of invading force,” Jimin manages to squeeze out while Jeongguk’s hands slide up his chest.

“Mm, I like that description.” Jeongguk’s fingers find Jimin’s nipples and flick over them. His nails have been redone. They’re shorter now, painted a metallic blood red. “But that’s also why I can’t leave. I’ve got the advantage as long as I stay in the casino. If I leave and Haneul finds out, he’ll do whatever it takes to keep me out. So I make sure all of my business stays private and only leave when absolutely necessary."

Jimin doesn’t want to fall prey to Jeongguk’s attention, but he can’t help it. His nipples harden underneath his shirt, and arousal begins to pool in his gut. “What kind of business makes you leave?”

“People who owe me money don’t always show up here again,” he replies. “Sometimes I’ve gotta go hunt them down.”

A pinch to his left nipple makes Jimin’s body jerk. For a moment, he can’t breathe, and the lack of oxygen to his brain makes him forget what they were talking about. His head falls back on Jeongguk’s shoulder, leaving him arched and exposed for further ministrations. Jeongguk digs into his neck, lips and tongue staking their claim on his skin. His own pliance startles him when Jeongguk easily flips their positions, pressing him flat on the bed.

There’s a sledgehammer leaning innocently against the wall in the corner of the room.

“What’s that for?” he mumbles into the bedspread.

Jeongguk seems to know what he’s talking about despite not having looked up. His face is still buried in Jimin’s neck, body draped heavily over him. “That’s Jack.”

“You’re so fucking weird,” Jimin groans. “Why does the sledgehammer have a name?”

“Because I wanted him to have one. Do you want to see him?”

Even if Jimin thought about declining, Jeongguk is already getting up and striding across the room to retrieve the tool. He sits back down on the bed in front of Jimin, cradling the hammer lovingly across his lap.

“I have more,” he says, stroking the worn wooden handle, “but this one is my favorite. I picked him up at an antique sale. He isn’t the prettiest, but he’s much heavier than the others. They don’t make tools like they used to, you know? So much less effort to use.”

Jimin slides up onto his elbows, subconsciously positioning himself to bolt if necessary. “What… What are you gonna use that for?”

“I had originally planned to take you to dinner,” Jeongguk says, setting the sledgehammer—Jack—aside. “But something came up. Jack and I need to have a little chat with the alpha staying in the room next door, so I thought I’d invite you down to discuss our business and kill some time."

Jimin glances nervously between the hammer and Jeongguk. “I-Is, um… Is this someone who owes you money?”

“Yes, darling. But you can stay here the whole time, alright?” Jeongguk reaches out, stroking a gentle hand through Jimin’s hair. “You can just close your eyes and pretend it’s a dream.”

“That… doesn’t sound like a pleasant dream, Jeongguk.”

“Some dreams aren’t.” Jeongguk crawls back over Jimin, settling across the backs of his thighs. “I’ve been dying to taste you all week.”

“No, you haven’t. I don’t taste that good.”

“That’s subjective, isn’t it? I like the way you taste, so it’s good to me.”

“I’m starting to think you’re lying about being able to smell me at all,” Jimin says. “I’ve only ever been with one alpha who could, and he said I tasted like shit.”

Jeongguk’s hands still on the small of his back, palms radiating warmth against his skin. “Other alphas can’t smell you?”

“Most alphas can’t. Other omegas can’t, either. I read just like a beta to them,” Jimin replies. “Except I’m not. I’m not a beta.”

“It burns.”

Jimin twists back to look up at Jeongguk. “What?”

“Your scent. It burns the back of your throat a little bit,” Jeongguk replies, leaning down to push his nose back into Jimin’s neck. “It isn’t what an alpha expects when they smell you. There’s a certain… aggressiveness about it. Alphas don’t respond well to aggression. It makes them think you need to be put in your place.”

Jimin can feel the length of Jeongguk’s cock pressing against his ass, and he just… doesn’t understand. “What does it make you feel?”

“I think it’s exciting,” he says. “I like to play rough.”

“No shit,” Jimin mutters.

“Whatever you want me to pay you for it, I will, but you’re going to let me eat you out tonight. I’m fucking dying.”

Jimin has been rimmed a handful of times in his life, but it isn’t enough to prepare him for Jeongguk. He lifts his hips a little bit to allow his sweatpants to be tugged down, exposing his briefs. He isn’t wet yet, but the way Jeongguk kneads his ass makes him feel like he might begin to leak before his underwear is off.

“Fuck,” Jeongguk breathes, grabbing an asscheek in each palm, tugging them apart, letting them spring back together. “Wanna get my cock in you so fucking bad.”

Heat spasms in Jimin’s gut. He wants Jeongguk’s cock. Wants it because Jeongguk wants him. But that’s his body talking. He has to remain in control of himself. “I thought you were gonna eat me out.”

“I am.” Jeongguk hooks his fingers around the waistband of Jimin’s underwear and pulls them down to the tops of his thighs. He spreads Jimin’s cheeks, whining at the sight of his exposed hole. “God, even if you smelled like dead fish, I’d still eat your ass. You’re so fucking pretty.”

Jimin bites back his own noises as the pad of Jeongguk’s thumb rubs over his hole. “You’re such a piece of work.”

Kisses pepper the swell of his ass. “I’m just hungry, darling.”

A whimper squeezes out of Jimin’s chest at the first swipe of Jeongguk’s tongue across his hole. He buries his face in his arms as Jeongguk’s tongue goes over again and again until he presses his lips right over Jimin’s hole and sucks . On reflex, his hips jerk, wanting to fuck back on Jeongguk. Firm hands grip his hips and still him, while Jeongguk sucks and laves over Jimin’s hole like he wants something from it.

Like he’s trying to coax Jimin’s slick out of hiding.

A low groan suddenly breaks from Jeongguk, signifying the first sign of wetness. He shifts his grip on Jimin, tugging his hips up a little more and pulling one of his asscheeks aside. It stretches Jimin’s tight hole out just enough for Jeongguk to finally dip his tongue past the sensitive rim.

Jimin moans into his elbow, body crackling with heat. Jeongguk’s tongue thrusts into his hole, aided by the tip of his thumb tugging his rim open. It’s the bare minimum of stimulation, but Jeongguk is voracious. Every drop of slick that oozes from his hole gets sucked from his rim, licked up as it drools down to his balls. Jeongguk is barely giving himself room to breathe, and just the idea that Jeongguk is starving for him makes Jimin’s cock twitch. He gets his knees underneath him, tilting his own hips up to allow Jeongguk deeper access.

“I can’t wait until you’ve been stretched out on my knot,” Jeongguk pants, slipping his thumb into Jimin’s hole, all the way to the knuckle. “I wanna eat you while you’re loose and sloppy and full of cum.”

Jimin bites his sleeve so he doesn’t do something monumentally stupid like beg Jeongguk to knot him. He isn’t even remotely ready to be knotted. His body might think that he is, but he most definitely is not.

Jeongguk’s thumb idly thrusts in and out of him, but his mouth doesn’t return. Jimin desperately tries to clear the fog in his head to ask what’s wrong, but the thumb leaves him, too, and he whines at the loss.

“Our neighbor has returned,” Jeongguk says suddenly, reaching to retrieve the sledgehammer. “I need to pay him a quick visit, alright, darling? Then we can finish this.”

Anxiety spikes through the haze of lust. Jimin tugs his sweatpants back on as Jeongguk approaches the door that connects the two hotel rooms. It isn’t until Jeongguk is reeling back with the sledgehammer that the gravity of what is about to occur hits him, and he feels a little bit sick.

BANG!

Jimin jumps, caught between growing fear and lingering arousal.

The entire door trembles on its hinges as the sledgehammer smashes a hole into the wood, above the knob. It breaks through the little sliding bar that keeps the door locked, allowing Jeongguk easy entrance into the other room.

“Heeeere’s Johnny,” Jeongguk singsongs as he steps through the doorway.

As much as Jimin would like to do as Jeongguk suggested and stuff his head underneath a pillow to pretended that none of this is happening, morbid curiosity drives him to get up and peek through the open doorway. On the bed in the other room, a half-naked someone—perhaps around Jimin’s age—has an older man in a chokehold. The man looks startled and terrified, as one generally would upon somebody breaking into your hotel room with a sledgehammer.

Jeongguk rests the head of the hammer on the floor, leaning on the handle. “You’re a hard man to track down, Mr. Andersen,” he drawls. “You thought perhaps you would be safe if I didn’t know you were coming, didn’t you?”

The man on the bed struggles, trying to break free of the grip around his throat. “H-How did you—”

“Dishonest men have dishonest friends, Mr. Andersen. It’s much more profitable for them to sell you out and save their own skin. That’s why I’ve learned never to trust anyone.”

“I’ll get you the money,” Andersen says desperately. “I promise I’ll get you the money, I just need more time—”

“Extenuating circumstances, Mr. Andersen?”

“I-I’ve got a family, Mr. Jeon. I’ve got two daughters, I’ve got a mate, I’ve got a mortgage—”

“Oh, of course, the mortgage!” Jeongguk says. He smacks his own forehead, as if he’s just had an epiphany. “What self-respecting family man doesn’t have a mortgage? Is it a nice house?”

“Y-Yes, Mr. Jeon.”

“Lots of room for the children?”

“Y...Yes, Mr. Jeon.”

“Room for another, if you wanted?”

Cold-blooded fear slowly drains the color from Andersen’s face. Even the guy holding him is beginning to look uncomfortable. “I… I s’pose, Mr. Jeon.”

Jeongguk straightens up, shouldering the hammer. “Then downsizing is the perfect solution to your mortgage problem,” he says brightly before all of the humor evaporates from his tone. “You won’t have to worry about expanding your family any more, Mr. Andersen.”

As Jeongguk rounds the bed, Andersen begins to struggle. The guy holding him digs his nails into Andersen’s throat, effectively stilling him. Jimin’s heart threatens to pound its way out of his chest and run back into the other room to hide.

“Now, now,” Jeongguk chides. “Be good and stay still. You wouldn’t want me to miss and crack your hip, would you?”

Jeongguk reels the hammer back, and Jimin squeezes his eyes shut.

There’s a heavy thump, followed by a blood-curdling shriek of agony.

“All better now, Mr. Andersen,” Jeongguk cooes over the screams. “There are some nice apartments on the other end of town you may want to look into renting. Not having a mortgage to worry about will be a fantastic step towards alleviating your debt. If there’s anything else I can help you with, please let me know. Dental bills are practically nonexistent when you don’t have any teeth.”

Jimin releases the breath he’d been holding when Jeongguk calls to him.

“Grab your paperwork, darling. We’re finished in here.”

He doesn’t realize how badly he’s trembling until he struggles to get his shaking fingers to grip the file folder left on the bed. The floor swims underneath his feet as he walks back to the open doorway.

Jeongguk just bludgeoned a man’s cock with a sledgehammer.

When he returns to the room, Andersen is curled up on the bed, wheezing in pain, and Jeongguk is accepting a wad of money from the guy who'd been holding him. They kiss, and Jimin suddenly wonders if this isn’t the omega Jeongguk spent the previous night with.

Jeongguk cheekily bids the guy goodnight before glancing back at Jimin and beckoning him over. Pure heat fills his eyes. Heat and lust. Jimin crosses the room, doing his best to ignore Andersen’s balled up body. Jeongguk is scorching as he approaches, scent like a lightning storm. Jimin clutches the file folder tightly to his chest, as if the stupid little spreadsheet contained inside can protect him from getting devoured. He follows Jeongguk into the hall, tugging the door firmly closed behind him.

He won’t be returning to room 237 anytime soon.

It’s difficult for Jimin to keep up with Jeongguk’s brisk pace towards the elevator. He’s tense as they enter the car, and it’s only as Jeongguk tugs him close when he leans over to push the button for the lobby that Jimin feels how unbelievably hard he is in his pants. There are other guests in the elevator, so Jeongguk just presses his face into the crook of Jimin’s neck and remains silent on their way down. Jimin is then dragged across the lobby and thrown into the private elevator. Jeongguk pins him against the wall without preamble and hits the button for the top floor.

“Fuck, ‘m so hard,” he whines, grinding against Jimin’s thigh. His leather pants make the slide against Jimin’s sweatpants too easy. Not enough friction to truly get himself off. “‘m gonna knot, ‘m gonna knot, Jimin. Fuck, I’m gonna cum so fucking hard.”

Jimin’s throat goes dry. “Wh-What do you… What do you want me to do?”

“Touch me, touch me. Please .”

Jeongguk doesn’t seem willing to quit humping his leg, so Jimin sneaks his hand in along the side of his crotch. It’s one thing to feel Jeongguk’s length against his ass or his thigh, but it’s an entirely different ball game to get his fingers on it. His fingers bring context. Even just brushing the edge of it, he’s startled by its size. He doesn’t know if he’ll be able to wrap his entire hand around it. No, he knows he won’t be able to. It will be too thick.

The elevator doors slide open.

They hurry down the hallway to Jeongguk’s suite. Once inside, Jeongguk unceremoniously throws himself onto the couch and struggles to tug his cock out of his pants. All of the air gets knocked out of his lungs at the sight of Jeongguk’s fucking cock . It’s big, yes, but the base has already begun to swell with his knot, and Jimin has never seen an alpha knot outside of intercouse. He’s only ever seen a knot in porn. And even beyond the distraction of the knot, there’s the two little metal balls peeking through the head of Jeongguk’s cock. Because it’s pierced. Jeongguk, at some point in time, decided it would be a good idea to pierce his fucking dick.

Jimin wants to die.

“Come here,” Jeongguk begs, oblivious to Jimin’s emotional crisis. He strokes his cock briskly, only pausing to smear the precum welling up at his slit over the little ball just millimeters away. “Jimin—”

His body lurches into action, settling awkwardly between Jeongguk’s legs. “What do you—”

“Hands,” he gasps out, reaching for Jimin with his own free hand. “On my knot.”

Jeongguk’s knot is warm underneath Jimin’s palms. It takes both hands to circle it. The skin is soft, just like the skin of a cock, but it’s stretched even tighter, taut over the pulsing swelling.

Jeongguk shakes underneath him, working his hand quicker over his cock. “Squeeze it.”

Jimin does as he’s requested, adding more and more pressure to his grip. He feels like he’s squeezing a tennis ball, but Jeongguk keeps asking him to squeeze harder. It dawns on him that he’s trying to get Jimin’s hands to simulate the crush of an omega’s walls. Jimin kneads his fingers a little bit, distantly hoping to create a more realistic experience.

“Fuck, that’s perfect—just like that, baby, yes…” Jeongguk strokes himself fervently, barely able to suck in enough air to speak audibly. Normally, when an alpha knots inside of an omega, they’re rendered immobile. The intense pressure on their knot causes them to orgasm. Outside of an omega, Jeongguk looks like he’s reaching nirvana while he’s able to freely stimulate himself during a knot. Suddenly, his back bows like his chest is caught with a fishhook, and cum streams onto his nice white shirt.

Jeongguk pauses in his stroking to roll his thumb over the piercing at the tip of his cock, trembling as another wave of orgasm hits him. If Jimin feels like he’s going to die, Jeongguk looks like it.

He whines, working over his cock with his slippery hand, teeth sinking hard enough into his bottom lip to leave marks. “Wanna cum again,” he pleads.

Jimin finally finds it in himself to speak. “Cum, then,” he says softly, massaging Jeongguk’s knot with a little more intention. It’s still hard and pulsing in his hands. “Keep cumming all over yourself like some kind of slut.”

“Wanted to be in you,” Jeongguk says, voice catching as another spurt of fluid spills over his hand. “Wanted to fill you up.”

“But you didn’t, did you? You knotted in your pants like a horny teenager who can’t control himself.”

Jeongguk manages to crack open an eye and peeks down at him, biting his bottom lip. “Y-You’re gonna beg me to stop once I finally get ahold of you,” he croaks. “I’m gonna find the fucking piece of string that makes you unravel even if I’ve gotta use scissors and cut it myself.”

“Are you always so unnecessarily violent?” Jimin asks. Semen drools from Jeongguk’s cock, tempting him to lean down and lick it clean. A better idea sparks in his mind when he sees the sledgehammer resting against the coffee table. Jeongguk fusses when his knot is released, but Jimin ignores him in favor of dragging the hammer closer. It’s heavy enough that Jimin has to adjust his grip on it just to hoist it up. Jeongguk’s brows twitch together in confusion as Jimin settles the head of the hammer on his stomach.

“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,” Jimin says, slowly stroking Jeongguk’s cock. When he thumbs over the piercing, Jeongguk’s eyes roll back.

Climax washes over him again, thick gobs of cum splattering onto the head of the hammer. The sight is obscene. Jeongguk, cock swollen and cumming on the tool he’d just used to smash another alpha’s dick. Andersen is gonna have a rough rut with a squished cock.

As Jeongguk begins to come down from his high, Jimin’s mind kicks into gear. He certainly doesn’t want to end up like Andersen, but he can’t help wondering what exactly the repercussions would be if he asked Jeongguk for a loan. Just a small one. Like for downpayment on a new apartment. Would it get absorbed into his current debt, or would it count separately? Or should he be looking at the bigger picture?

Jeongguk exhales a shuddering breath, reaching down to join Jimin in lazily stroking himself. His knot is beginning to soften, becoming easier to massage with one hand. Deep satisfaction bleeds into his scent, and Jimin feels… good.

Fuzzy. Heady. Elated. Like perhaps the events in room 237 weren’t even real, and Mr. Andersen was just a nightmare specter. Mr. Andersen deserved what he got, anyway. The most important part is that Jimin took care of his alpha, and his alpha is happy.

Jimin blinks a few times, not really processing his own train of thought.

“I think it’s never a dull day for Jack, darling,” Jeongguk murmurs contentedly.

Without hesitation, Jimin leans down to suck Jeongguk’s messy cock clean.

Chapter Text

 

The residence of Jeon Haneul, Jeon Seoyoon, and their kids is not referred to by anyone as the Jeon home—it’s the Maybell House, as it sits nestled in a cul-de-sac at the end of Maybell road. It’s a neat little craftsman: three bedrooms, two and a half baths, nearly four-thousand square feet. So, perhaps not little, but it’s on the small side for a family home in this particular area. Namjoon knows; he was the one who sold Haneul the house eighteen months ago.

Namjoon always thought himself to be above concern over luxuries. The engine light on his 2002 Corolla was a permanent fixture on his dashboard and the passenger-side window wouldn’t roll all the way down, but it got him through all four years of college. He showed up to his interview at the real estate agency in a suit he picked up for a few bucks at a thrift store. As long as he learned to do his job well, the quality of his material possessions shouldn’t matter.

Then he met Jeon Haneul.

A valued client.

Still getting his feet wet in the business, he was tasked with showing Jeon the Maybell House. The majority of the pressure came from his seniors in the agency. He had no idea who Jeon actually was, just that he bought and sold a lot of properties. It wasn’t until Jeon rolled up in a sparkling white BMW that Namjoon’s stomach began to boil over with dread. His poor Corolla was clearly on its last legs and his suit pants were an inch too short. He looked like an absolute stooge.

Despite Namjoon’s trembling hands, the showing went well. He had answers to most of Jeon’s questions, but a few made him stumble and sent him fumbling through his notes to figure out how long ago the electrical had been replaced and what the hell the bathroom vanities were made out of. Jeon, thankfully, was patient with him. Far more patient than a man of his caliber reasonably should have been with a realtor’s apprentice driving a shitty Corolla.

“Well, it looks like it’s in decent shape,” Jeon said as they re-entered the kitchen. “None of the floorboards are missing, which is always a plus. Although, you never know exactly what you’re going to get until you poke holes in the walls and see what sorts of monsters are lurking inside.”

Namjoon’s paperwork provided him no assistance in responding. “I—As far as the owners have said, everything is—”

“I’m not concerned. Just thinking out loud.” Jeon folded his arms on the edge of the ugly green plastic counter, leveling Namjoon with an uncomfortably intense gaze. He was a small person, especially for an alpha. Pretty, though. Naturally so—not in the way that aging alphas had a tendency to cling to their youth. Void of makeup, wearing a dress shirt that looked like one of the patterned carpets in The Shining. “Your agency is good at selling houses, you know. I wouldn’t be surprised to happen upon a dead body during a showing and still end up getting convinced to put in an offer.”

Namjoon choked, unsure if he should laugh or not. It wasn’t so much that the joke was funny as it was that fact that he was so fucking nervous. “I-I’m not sure how I would feel showing a house with… with something like that in it, sir.”

“No, that would have to wait until the moral parts of your soul get killed off,” Jeon replied, lips twitching up into a smirk.

That certainly wasn’t mentioned in the property’s paperwork. It wasn’t even mentioned in the job interview. “Um, I…”

“Is this what you want to do with your life, Mr. Kim?”

Blinking, Namjoon tried to swallow the lump in his throat so that he could speak. “I-I’m sorry, sir?”

Jeon waved a hand around the kitchen. “Showing elegant properties to pretentious fucks like me,” he said. “Not that I would call this one elegant, but I specifically asked for cheap and shitty. But I’m the least pretentious fuck you’ll ever have to deal with in this business, and I’m still very, very pretentious.”

“I-I do like real estate, sir,” Namjoon responded. “I… I thought about going into interior design, but I just don’t have that kind of artistic eye—”

“So this is a passion.”

“I suppose you could call it that, sir.”

Jeon shook his head, straightening up from the counter. “You won’t make it, then. This is business, Mr. Kim. This is a machine. You can only succeed if you allow yourself to get pounded into a cog.”

It wasn’t like Namjoon hadn’t noticed the soullessness of his agency. Everything was about money; selling as many properties as possible, raking in their commissions. At first, Namjoon looked forward to touring the expensive properties the agency tended to handle, but the more million-dollar mansions he set foot in while shadowing his seniors, the smaller he felt.

“I just like houses,” Namjoon finally said. “That’s all.”

“There’s no shame in that. I like houses, too.” Jeon patted the counter twice, rings clacking against the plastic. “And I like this one, even if the kitchen is fucking hideous. Nothing a sledgehammer can’t fix, though, I suppose.”

Namjoon followed Jeon back out of the house, wincing at the sudden bite of the chilly January air. His Corolla looked sad squashed between the BMW and a snowbank. Just like the house, allowed to age pitifully in this gorgeous, established neighborhood. Just like him, trying to mesh in an agency that requires him to sacrifice pieces of himself in order to become successful.

Jeon bought the house. But he also ended up buying Namjoon, offering him a position as a private realtor. He could use his real estate license and keep his Corolla, and help work on the houses that Jeon rehabbed. Unfortunately, the Corolla finally gave up on him two months after accepting Jeon’s offer, but its replacement was a brand new, silver Audi, and Namjoon realized what it was that hooked people into luxury.

Things were as good as they could get.

Then Jeongguk sunk his teeth into the Black Rabbit casino and refused to let go, which plunged Haneul into a state of panic. Namjoon didn’t even know Haneul owned a casino until hearing the story of how his ‘bastard son’ had simply inserted himself into its business and refused to leave, threatening to kill Haneul if he tried to force him out. All of Namjoon’s experiences with Haneul up until that point had been fairly positive, so he didn’t think much of his request to do some work for him in the casino. Haneul bought him a fucking car , it only made sense for Namjoon to do something in return.

What he quickly came to realize, however, was that the situation was not nearly as black and white as it initially seemed. The reason he was chosen over anyone else Haneul might’ve hired to assume a managerial position in the casino was because he liked Haneul. They had a good rapport with each other, and Haneul needed someone on his side. The guy he already had working for him also happened to be Jeongguk’s childhood friend and ‘couldn’t be trusted completely.’

Things were far, far more complicated between Haneul and Jeongguk than Namjoon ever could have anticipated.

“You tryna farm wrinkles over there?”

Namjoon breaks from his reverie and glances over at Taehyung. He’s got the passenger window cracked, blowing smoke outside. Seoyoon doesn’t allow cigarettes in the house. “Just thinking about how much I like this car,” Namjoon replies.

Taehyung arches an eyebrow, glancing around the interior of the car. Namjoon cleans it regularly, services it often. It’s already a year old, but the only thing keeping it from being mistaken for new is that factory-fresh smell. “Yeah, it’s a nice car,” Taehyung agrees. “The beast is flashier, but I ain’t driving that thing again until Jeongguk agrees to put a damn muffler on it.”

The beast is Jeongguk’s restored 1969 Mustang. The actual name that Jeongguk gave it is Valkyrie, but Taehyung has a rather complicated relationship with the machine. It’s black, because all good protagonist cars are black, like the Dodge Charger in Fast & Furious, or Mad Max’s Ford Falcon. And unlike the gentle purr of the Audi, the beast is audible from quite some distance.

“So, never,” Namjoon says.

“Ain’t that big of a deal. If I cared enough, I could find one myself and put a muffler on it just to flex on him, but I get it. That thing is his baby, and he wants it how he wants it. Just like you keep this number spotless when you could easily just ask Haneul for a new one.”

Namjoon sighs a big sigh. “I’m trying not to let it lose its value to me. You bought a new car just because the beast gave you headaches, but I couldn’t afford a new one even after my Corolla had to be hauled away to the junkyard. I want to take care of the things that I’ve got, just because I have no idea what’s going to happen in the future.”

“You make it sound like you’re waiting for the apocalypse,” Taehyung says, snorting.

“I might be. This… stalemate between Jeongguk and Haneul can’t go on indefinitely.”

“Yeah, guess you got a point there, brother.” Popping open his door, Taehyung drops the remainder of his cigarette onto the driveway and grinds it with his heel. “Let’s go before Haneul pops an artery.”

Seoyoon greets them at the door. The first time Namjoon met her, he was surprised that such a sullen omega could be mated to someone like Haneul, but quickly came to realize that she was an ideal counterbalance to Haneul’s rather manic personality.

“He’s in the office,” she says tonelessly, stepping aside to let them in. “Tell him dinner is at five, otherwise it’s up to him to figure out how to work the microwave.”

Taehyung tosses her a salute. “Will do, chief.”

Seoyoon salutes back and leaves them to make her way back to the kitchen. Namjoon follows Taehyung deeper into the house where Haneul has set up his office space. Occasionally, Haneul is actually sitting at the desk, doing work, when they arrive. But today, he’s asleep on the couch. A copy of John Gardner’s Grendel rests on his stomach and a fuzzy white ball is curled up underneath his chin.

The kitten squeaks in protest when Taehyung plucks it off of Haneul and passes it to Namjoon. It’s soft and fluffy and feels so unbelievably tiny in Namjoon’s hands; he delicately cradles it against his chest while Taehyung roughly rouses Haneul. He picks up the book, glancing briefly at the cover before tossing it onto the floor.

“You tryna figure out ways to storm the castle?” Taehyung asks, hauling Haneul to a sitting position.

Haneul’s head lolls back, but his eyes flicker open for a brief moment. “Mm?”

“Grendel dies at the end, you know.”

“Mmmknow.”

Taehyung hooks an arm underneath Haneul’s legs and carries him bridal-style to the chair behind the desk. Haneul blearily rubs at his eyes once he’s seated, clearly struggling to wake up. He zeroes in on Namjoon for several long moments before making a grabby hand at him. It takes Namjoon a few more seconds to realize he wants the kitten.

“The way it ends depends on whether you’re reading Grendel or Beowulf,” Haneul says, words slurring together heavily enough that Namjoon has to strain to understand him. “Either way, Grendel dies, but in one version, he dies as the protagonist, and in the other, he dies as the antagonist. Your perception of his role makes all the difference, whether he’s a hero slain by the villain, or a villain slain by the hero.”

Taehyung lingers at his side for a moment, rubbing his knuckles over Hanuel’s scent gland. “Who do you see yourself as?”

“Beowulf. Duh. Grendel knows he’s Grendel,” Haneul replies, avoiding saying Jeongguk’s name. “Knew he was the monster the moment he bared his teeth.”

The kitten wanders the mahogany desk, finding a small scrap of paper to occupy itself with. Haneul drums his fingers on the desk, catching the kitten’s attention. It crouches down, wiggling its little bottom, then lunges for Haneul’s fingers. A faint smile tugs at his lips when it tries to get its little maw around his french-tipped nail.

“That’s how you create ‘em, you know,” Taehyung mutters. “Sticking your fingers into their mouths while they’re small. It’s fun ‘n all, until they get big enough to make you bleed.”

Haneul’s smile turns into a sneer. “Fuck off, Taehyung.”

Once Taehyung is finally seated, Namjoon hands over the file of papers and the flash drive. Haneul nudges the kitten away, opening the folder and immediately beginning to scan its contents. “Anything important I should know about?”

“There’s a door busted between rooms 237 and 239,” Taehyung replies. “But that’s Jeongguk’s fault.”

Haneul kisses his teeth. “Can't he go at least one day without destroying my shit?"

“Go ask him.”

“I’d rather fucking not.”

Taehyung shrugs. “Guess we’ll never know.”

The conversation finally veers into the comfortable territory of business after that. Namjoon is good with numbers, good at giving Haneul reports that the casino is doing well despite his absence. It’s going so well that he completely forgets Park Jimin’s statement is in with those files, because it had to be, until Haneul suddenly yanks it out of the folder.

“What is this?” he demands. “What is Jeongguk paying this off for?”

“I-I’m sorry, he just—I had a meeting with Park at the casino, and Jeongguk just sort of… interrupted.”

Foggy irritation fills Haneul’s eyes. “I don’t want him involved with any of Black Rabbit’s business, Namjoon.”

“I-I know that, but I don’t… don’t know what else I’m supposed to do.”

“Park is an omega,” Taehyung explains. “Jeongguk wasn’t interested in him until he saw him. Just wants to get his cock in him.”

Haneul narrows his eyes, staring at Taehyung for several pregnant moments. As far as Namjoon is aware, his and Taehyung’s relationship used to be relatively positive, as well. But nowadays, Haneul is running on xanax and paranoia, and their relationship has deteriorated. Namjoon doesn’t know how Taehyung does it, stubbornly remaining in the gap between Haneul and Jeongguk. He confronted Taehyung about it once, to which his reply was that if he chose a side, the situation would come totally undone.

“I don’t want Jeongguk having him,” Haneul finally says. “I want to speak with him. Give me his phone number.”

As Taehyung is reluctantly motioning for Namjoon to hand over his phone, he suddenly winces, pressing fingers to his temple. Concern flashes across Haneul’s face.

“Are you alright?”

“Yeah, just fucking headaches,” Taehyung grunts through his teeth. “Driving me fucking nuts. I’m gonna have to go see a doctor soon if they get any worse.”

“Hold on, I’ll get you something for it,” Haneul says, getting up from the desk. As soon as he’s gone, Namjoon turns to Taehyung, who’s still massaging his skull.

“Should we warn Jimin?”

Taehyung shakes his head. “I’ll step in if I’ve gotta, but if Jimin can handle Jeongguk, he can handle Haneul,” he replies. “I’ve got a feeling he’s gonna stay with Jeongguk anyway, regardless of what Haneul has to say to him.”

The conversation ends there, and a few moments later Haneul returns and hands Taehyung a white bottle. Namjoon can’t see the label, but whatever it is makes Taehyung glance quizzically up at Haneul.

“They work better than ibuprofen,” he says, retaking his seat.

Taehyung stares at the bottle for a few seconds, then seems to make up his mind and pockets it. “Careful with Park,” he says. “Careful that you don’t say anything to drive him further into Jeongguk’s arms.”

“You say that like it’s going to be difficult to make myself look better than a psychopath.”

“I wouldn’t call it a done deal just yet,” Taehyung muses darkly. “Psychopaths can be some of the most charming people in the world.”


“So he writes me a fucking check for three grand cos I had to witness him crushing another alpha’s nuts out of existence and then get his horny ass off afterwards. Have you ever seen an alpha knot in his pants? Cos I sure fucking haven’t.”

“You’ve never seen a knot, period.”

“I’ve been knotted once!”

“Okay, you’ve been knotted once . And you complained that it was the worst experience in your entire life.”

“That’s because he’d barely prepped me before deciding I was good to fuck. And then he pops a knot and tries to tear my asshole in half.”

Yoongi’s snort echoes throughout the bathroom, followed by the flush of the toilet. “That’s why I gave up on having real sex.”

“At least you can have it,” Jimin grouses, scrubbing at a particularly scummy bit of grout in the shower. Caldwell will hire a cleaning service to bleach the apartment from top to bottom before renting it out again, but Jimin can’t stand living in borderline squalor any longer. Thankfully, Yoongi was willing to come over for a few hours and help him do a deep-clean of the bathroom. “I’m stuck with whatever assholes want to fuck a wet beta.”

“And your boy toy.”

“Would you quit calling him that?”

“What else do you want me to call him?” Yoongi asks, taking a distressingly thick coat of dust off the top of the toilet with a wet wipe.

“Just use his fucking name,” Jimin snaps.

“Alright, so Jeongguk drops you a casual three thousand dollars totally independent of your debt as potential trauma compensation and you’re emotionally conflicted about it.”

Jimin sets his scrubber down and sits up. “It’s not about the money,” he says. “It’s not even about how ridiculously turned on by violence Jeongguk is.”

Flipping the toilet seat down, Yoongi sits as well. “Then what is it?”

“It’s…” Jimin tugs the edges of the scrubber. “After I went home and the events really sank in, I just… started feeling like that guy deserved it, y’know? He didn’t give two shits about his family until he had to save his own skin. Suddenly, they’re a bargaining chip, and Jeongguk knows that. If he…” His throat closes for a moment, forcing him to take several deep breaths before speaking again. “I-If Jeongguk goes after the family, I-I don’t blame him. I’d rather the house go up in flames with his family in it than see that man die and escape punishment.”

The scrubber trembles in his hands.

“Does thinking that make me a bad person, Yoongi?”

Yoongi sucks in a slow breath, toilet lid creaking underneath his weight as he shifts. “I think you’re angry, Jimin,” he replies. “I think you’ve been angry for a long time.”

Jimin wets his lips. They’ve gotten terribly dry. He needs to find his lip balm. Or start drinking more water. “I hope he breaks Mr. Andersen’s fingers next time.”

“You sure Jeongguk is the sadist?”

“Jeongguk is a sadist,” Jimin says. “I just might be one, too.”

When they’re finished, the bathroom isn’t even recognizable. The porcelain is white , the rust stains have been scrubbed clean from the sink, mold no longer decorates the shower tiles. Jimin can breathe without feeling like he’s going to contract some sort of respiratory disease. Twenty of Jeongguk’s three thousand dollars went to a pair of new bathroom rugs, because the old ones were so disgusting, Jimin had taken to just throwing towels down instead.

“What are you gonna do with the rest of that money?” Yoongi asks while they’re carting the cleaning supplies to the kitchen.

“Save it,” Jimin replies, tossing his scrubber into the sink. It’s black with mold and a job well done. He squirts a generous amount of soap into his hands to wash them clean of the bleach. “I’ve still gotta find a place to rent, as much as I’d like to indulge in a few fancy meals and some new shoes.”

“I think Seokjin found a few possible leads for you—”

Before Yoongi can finish his thought, Jimin’s phone rings. Hastily patting his hands dry, Jimin yanks his phone out of his pocket. It isn’t a number he recognizes, but he picks up anyway.

“Hello?”

“Hello, Park Jimin?”

“Yes, speaking.”

“My name is Jeon Haneul.”

The panic flooding Jimin’s body must show on his face because Yoongi furiously hisses, “Who is it?” Jimin just waves him over, turning the volume on the phone as high as it will go and tilting the speaker so Yoongi can listen in.

“Mr. Jeon,” Jimin says stiffly, a beat too late. “How can I help you?”

“It’s come to my attention that you’ve engaged in dealings with my son, and I feel somewhat obligated to inform you that this is… ill-advised.”

“...How do you mean?”

“I’m not sure what he’s told you, but he isn’t involved in my business. He’s a loan shark. Frankly, the only piece of official documentation both of our names are on is his birth certificate.”

“I’m aware,” Jimin replies. He decides against mentioning that Jeongguk neglected to tell him that bit of information until two days ago.

“Then you’re aware that your debt is simply being transferred over to him, Mr. Park?”

“We’ve—” His voice makes the unfortunate decision to catch in his throat. “—got an agreement.”

“Is that what he told you?”

Jimin’s mind goes blank. But silence is probably better than stumbling over his words, trying to recollect his nerves. “...It is.”

“It’s nothing personal, Mr. Park. I’ve been dealing with Jeongguk far longer than you have, and I am rather reluctant to continue dealing with him. Whatever kind of agreement it is you’ve got with him, I’m sure you and I can come up with something comparable.”

Jimin tries his best not to audibly choke and exchanges a bewildered glance with Yoongi. He doesn’t exactly know how to explain his deal with Jeongguk without needing to resort to I’m fucking your kid . “I… can’t say I would be entirely open to that, Mr. Jeon.”

There’s a pause, and then, “I see.”

And it seemed Haneul Jeon saw a little bit too well. “Pardon my naivety, sir,” Jimin says, “but it’s my understanding that you aren’t directly involved with the casino’s management anymore, so it doesn’t seem like dealing with Jeongguk will be that much of an issue, since everything has to go through Mr. Kim. Is that not the case, Mr. Jeon?”

“...That is the case.” A slow exhale crackles through the receiver. “But if you’re determined to keep him involved, don’t say no one ever tried to warn you. I don’t know what sorts of delusions you’re entertaining, but there’s nothing Jeongguk does out of the goodness of his heart. Everything is a means to an end. Even you. I just hope you figure out what that end is before it’s too late.”

“Thank you, Mr. Jeon,” Jimin says robotically. “I’ll keep that in mind. Have a good afternoon.”

“...You too, Mr. Park.”

As soon as Jimin ends the call, Yoongi whistles. “So that’s Papa Jeon. Seems like there’s a little bit of bad blood.”

“Just a bit,” Jimin replies. He tangles his hands in his hair with a groan. “I know Jeongguk isn’t the best person, but… I just don’t know, Yoongi.”

Yoongi hops up on the counter, crossing his legs. Jimin doesn’t even bother chiding him for his bare feet, because he’s almost always microwaving frozen dinners and it just doesn’t matter. “Well, what do we know so far?”

“I know that Haneul is afraid of his son,” Jimin replies, thinking back to his brief conversation on the subject with Jeongguk at the hotel. “And Haneul clearly doesn’t want to do business with him.”

“What reason might Haneul have to be frightened of Jeongguk?”

“Like, maybe the fact that Jeongguk is willing to enact bodily harm on people?” Jimin suggests. “I’d be pretty fucking keen on staying the hell away from him if he came after me with a sledgehammer, and that hasn’t even been ruled out of my own future possibilities.”

“So,” Yoongi says, propping his chin on his hands. “Why would Jeongguk go after his own father?”

Jimin furrows his brow and shakes his head. “I’m… not sure.”

“Then that sounds like the first piece of the puzzle you have to solve.”


 It’s closing in on 11 PM and Jimin has an opening shift at the restaurant tomorrow morning, but he can’t get his mind to shut the fuck up long enough for his exhausted body to fall asleep. Every time he closes his eyes, the same handful of conversations he’s had with Taehyung, Jeongguk, and the one that afternoon with Haneul keep replaying, as if overthinking will somehow allow him to pick up discrepancies. The problem, as Yoongi expressed earlier, is that he's working on limited information. Until Jimin is able to ask more questions, he just don’t have enough other info to weigh it against in order to figure out which Jeon is to be trusted.

Perhaps, Jimin thinks sardonically, neither of them are.

He rolls over and snatches his phone off the nightstand, absently unlocking it without any real conscious intention. A video to distract himself might be in order. Or he could see if Yoongi is still awake and willing to continue putting up with his distressed rambling.

Or… Or.

He scrolls through his contacts, finger hovering over Jeongguk’s name. He’ll be up, no doubt. Jeongguk seems like the type to be a night owl. But Jimin doesn’t want to bother him if he’s… busy. Then again, it isn’t as if Jeongguk has been particularly keen on adhering to Jimin’s schedule.

Almost out of spite, Jimin taps Jeongguk’s name to call him.

Jeongguk picks up on the fourth ring, right as Jimin is starting to think he’ll get sent to fucking voicemail. “Darling,” he greets. He sounds… normal. Like he’s sitting. Not… breathless. Jimin isn’t sure why he cares. “To what do I owe this extraordinary pleasure?”

“I can hang up just as easily as I called, you know.”

Jeongguk laughs. “This is why I’m surprised you called me at all,” he says. “Is something wrong?”

As much as Jimin wants to tell him about his father’s call, he suddenly can’t get the words out. The silence stretches on. Somewhere in the background, he hears Jeongguk shift.

“Darling, what is it?”

“E-Everything is okay, right?” he finds himself asking. “What we’re doing is okay? You’re… You aren’t… Fuck, you aren’t gonna turn around and do what you did to Mr. Andersen to me, are you?”

“Is that what you’re worried about?”

“Don’t you think it’s reasonable for me to be worried?”

“I’m sorry if it frightened you. But you don’t owe me money like Andersen does, alright? We’re just playing games. Games and sex. That’s alright, isn’t it? Better than daddy siphoning every last drop of your income.”

“H-He, um… He called me. Haneul did.”

This time, it’s Jeongguk’s turn to fall silent. “When?”

“Earlier today,” Jimin replies. “He wanted me to break my agreement with you and deal directly with him. He, uh… doesn’t… seem very fond of you.”

“Of course he doesn’t. He spends my whole life taking things from me and pitches a fit once I do the same thing to him, as if it’s some kind of horrible injustice that he doesn’t deserve. I took the casino from him because he decided that it was only big enough for one of us. He wants you to back out of our deal because he sees you as a thing that’s supposed to belong to him, but is currently in my possession. Don’t worry about him, darling. He barks loudly, but you’ve got more bite than he does.”

“What is it that you want from me?” Jimin asks. “I mean… you’re doing this for me because you want something.”

“Is it impossible to believe that I want to fuck you that badly?”

Jimin doesn’t even bother hiding his snort. “Yes. No one wants to fuck me that badly.”

“But I do want to fuck you,” Jeongguk purrs. “Badly, badly, darling.”

“We might as well end this conversation here if you aren’t going to tell me.”

“Hey, are you still taking the bus here?” Jeongguk suddenly asks.

Furrowing his brows, Jimin replies, “Yeah, why?”

“I doubt this shit with Andersen is going to end here, and, unfortunately, he knows your face. You should start driving here on your own rather than relying on public transportation. And before you say you can take care of yourself—I know you can. But it’s my fault you’re even potentially in danger, so I should at least take the necessary precautions to keep you safe.”

“I appreciate the sentiment,” Jimin says slowly, “but I don’t have a car. I don’t even have one that I can borrow. The only person I know who’s got one is my boss. And he’s, like, gotta use it.”

“Can you drive a stick?”

“My dad taught me on a ratty old VW, which I would have inherited if he hadn’t had to fucking sell it.”

Jeongguk moans into the receiver. “God, you’re so perfect, it’s making me wet. I’ve got something you can borrow for a while, as long as you promise to be very, very careful with it.”

Repercussions of getting even a scratch on a car borrowed from Jeongguk aside, Jimin’s interest is piqued. It isn’t as if he thinks he’s somehow above bus travel, but sometimes he ends up next to stinky old alphas that leer at him and it makes him want to vomit. Avoiding potentially getting mugged is a also a plus. Not that he has anything worth taking, but no one ever finds that out until after.

“...What is it?”

Chapter Text

 

The actual casino portion of the Black Rabbit is approximately as Jimin suspected it would be. Bright, loud, and far too crowded for nine PM. The myriad of scents is borderline assault. A portion of them are cheap and chemical—the kinds belonging to perfumes used by betas in order to make them more attractive to alphas or omegas. They sting the back of his nose, and Jimin wonders if that’s what his own scent is like, based on Jeongguk’s description of it. If he really smells chemical , he wouldn’t be interested in himself either.

Bypassing the cacophony of slot machines, tables that have drawn too thick of crowds to observe the games being played, and the bar, Jimin threads through the crowd towards the back of the building. It feels a bit like swimming upstream. Just as he’s beginning to think he somehow took a wrong turn back at a craps table or the entire building is some kind of never-ending optical illusion, he spots several black-lacquered doors interrupting the flow of neon and gold.

Taehyung is there, leaning up against the wall, and Jimin makes a beeline for him.

“Hey, chicky,” Taehyung greets, flashing him a crooked grin. “The boy is waiting for you.”

What Jimin returns with is more like a sneer. “I’m only here because I’ve been promised a car.”

Taehyung’s eyebrows go up. “Oh. So you’re that kind of easy.”

“I almost had a shitty little VW,” Jimin says. “Like the one in The Love Bug . Except it was red and the paint on the bumpers was peeling, so it looked more like an actual ladybug. Some car buff bought it and probably replaced the battery and rubberbands it was running on with a real engine.”

Tossing his head back, Taehyung barks out a throaty laugh. “The idea of you driving a souped-up bug with, like, a V8 engine is my new favorite thing.”

Jimin huffs like he’s irritated, except he isn’t, because banter with Taehyung feels natural. It doesn’t have the high-tension, sexual undertone that volleying with Jeongguk does. “Jeongguk promised me something classy.”

“Oh, it’s classy alright. Just make sure you wear some fuckin’ earplugs.” Taehyung reaches for the handle to the door he’s been guarding and opens it for Jimin to enter. “Your chariot awaits you.”

“We’ll see what I’ve gotta do to get it,” Jimin mutters as he slips into the room.

The private room, despite having a single occupant, feels just as busy as the casino proper. A low, mirrored ceiling reflects the dim ambiance back down onto the room, gold-patterned wallpaper casting a soft glow. In stark contrast, the carpet is royal blue with colorful little designs. Shaded lamps hang from the ceiling, low enough that Jimin could easily smack his face into them. Jeongguk is leaning up against a roulette table, sipping wine.

The color has faded from his hair, leaving him a peachy blonde. Today’s ensemble is a silky plum robe, poorly held together by a corset belt. Jimin does a bad job trying not to sneak a peek at Jeongguk’s cock, half-concealed by the robe, cuddled under fishnets. A black choker is tied around his neck, accented by a drizzle of silver necklaces.

“Darling,” Jeongguk greets, setting his glass down on the roulette table.

Jimin gives him a look. “Is that you trying to pose for me, or some shit?”

Jeongguk snorts, shaking his head as he pushes off the table. “No, I was trying to finish my wine so I don’t look like a fucking drunk.”

Despite the denial of his state, Jimin picks up a sharp tang in his scent as he approaches. That clearly isn’t his first glass. “I think it’s a little late for that,” he replies.

As Jeongguk gathers him up and presses into the crook of his neck, the knot of tension in Jimin’s chest suddenly loosens. Anxiety he didn’t realize had been building up over the course of the day melts out of him as Jeongguk nuzzles into his scent gland. Eyes fluttering shut, he gulps down as much of Jeongguk’s earthy scent as he can without drawing attention to himself.

“You’re really impolite,” Jimin mumbles. When he doesn’t get a response, he pats Jeongguk’s chest. “Do you hear me? You’re rude.”

“Mmm…?”

“In polite society,” Jimin recites, as his mother recited to him from her Catholic school upbringing, “it is an omega’s prerogative to select and scent first the alpha of their choosing. Only then may the alpha engage in the exchange of scents.”

Jeongguk pulls back just enough so that their noses brush together. A spike of panic shoots through Jimin’s heart when he thinks Jeongguk might actually kiss him, because he doesn’t know what he’ll do if Jeongguk kisses him. But the kiss doesn’t come.

“I see where some of our problem stems from,” Jeongguk says. “I wasn’t raised in polite society.”

Jimin tsks and tilts his face away a little bit so that he can stare somewhere other than parts of Jeongguk’s face. Like his lips. He fixes his gaze on an oddly nautical-looking blue and white striped chair. “Doesn’t that suggest more of a poor reflection on your mother?”

“My mother is dead.”

Jimin’s attention snaps back to Jeongguk’s face, seeking out his eyes and finding them to be gravely serious. Fuck , he really fucked that up. “I-I-I’m sorry,” he whispers. “I didn’t… I didn’t know.”

“It’s alright, darling,” Jeongguk says, even though Jimin should be the one comforting him. “Of course you didn’t know. Daddy has done an excellent job pretending that I don’t exist.”

“I’m sorry,” Jimin repeats. He has no idea what else to say.

Jeongguk just shakes his head, pressing a light kiss to the tip of Jimin’s nose before stepping away. “She was a mistress, anyway. Daddy says I’m just like her. Can’t keep my fucking legs closed.”

“Is that why you keep calling him daddy even though you don’t like him?” Jimin asks, following him over to the roulette table.

“He’s got his mate and his national average two-point-five kids,” Jeongguk says, “whether he likes to be reminded of that or not.”

“I—I’m sorry.”

Jeongguk offers him a smile, rounding the table. “If I’d known all it would take to soften you up is a sob story, I would’ve told you one sooner.”

“Oh, fuck off,” Jimin snaps instinctively, squeezing a laugh out of him.

“There’s my little Acid Annie.” Jeongguk retrieves several stacks of chips from near the roulette wheel and slides them across the table towards Jimin. “Do you know how to play roulette?”

“I’ve got no fucking idea.”

“Well, if you ever find yourself with an inkling to try your luck in the real casino, avoid roulette. It’s complete bullshit,” Jeongguk says. “The chips I’ve just given you are what you’re going to use to bet with, and you’ll place them on the numbers you think will win.”

Jimin stares at the board. Aside from the thirty-six numbers in three neat little columns, there are other spaces that read things like 1st 12, 2nd twelve, Even, Odd , and Jimin doesn’t quite understand what they all mean. “Can’t I theoretically just place a chip on every number?”

“You could , but the losing bets are wiped off the board every single round. So even if you win on a single number, you’re losing thirty-five other chips every single round.”

“Oh,” Jimin says. “What are these other boxes for?”

Jeongguk points to them in succession. “These are for what are called outside bets . If you place chips on the numbers themselves, those are inside bets . Outside bets cover more of the board at once, but you won’t win as much money. If you put chips on 1-18 , and a number anywhere in that field comes up, the winnings are one-to-one. You win the same amount as you bet. So, if you put down two chips, you win two chips.”

“So, I’m guessing Odd and Even are if you want to bet on all of the odd or even numbers on the board,” Jimin says. “And the same idea for Red and Black.”

“All of those bets are one-to-one,” Jeongguk says. “The 1st dozen, 2nd dozen, 3rd dozen, and column bets are all two-to-one, so the payout is twice what you bet. Inside bets pay a little more, and you can bet straight up or on a pocket of numbers.” He reaches to snatch up one of the chips from Jimin’s stack and places it on the line between two numbers. “This is called a split. If you bet the row of all three numbers, it’s called a street. You can also bet four adjourning numbers, or two entire rows. Six numbers is five-to-one, four is eight-to-one, three is eleven-to-one, and two is seventeen-to-one.”

Jimin’s eyebrows pushed further up towards his hairline as the odds Jeongguk rattled off sounded better and better. “How much is one number?”

“Thirty-five-to-one.”

“Fuck,” Jimin breathes. “That’s a lot.”

“That’s what makes it tempting. If you bet a hundred and that number comes up, you’ve suddenly got thirty-six hundred.”

“But you’d have to get really fucking lucky,” Jimin says. “When there’s only a one in thirty-six chance—”

“Thirty-eight, actually. 0 and 00 are on the roulette wheel as well, and won’t count for any of the outside bets. That’s called the house edge ,” Jeongguk explains, “and is why roulette is bullshit. Besides the other obvious reasons.”

Jimin narrows his eyes. “If I’m at such a disadvantage, why are we playing it?”

“Because I’m still a little bit selfish and wanted to let fate decide whether you got my car or not,” Jeongguk admits, surprisingly sheepish. He plucks a key from behind the remaining stacks of chips and tosses it at Jimin.

With no little amount of reverence, Jimin picks the key up and turns it over in his hands. There’s a running horse engraved in the top of the metal, and it’s on a ring with a leather Mustang keychain. “So, I’ve gotta bet this somewhere to win it?”

Jeongguk nods. “It can only be a straight bet, though. Otherwise it would be too easy.”

“And we wouldn’t want that, would we?” Jimin mutters, setting the key with his chips.

“But wait! There’s more!”

Jimin pins Jeongguk with a decidedly unamused glare. “What.”

“You’ll lose a lot more money than you’ll win and this will be totally useless if we play it with normal rules,” Jeongguk says. “So to make it more fair, for this game, I’ll only clear half your bets off the table each round.”

“...And that’s it?”

Jeongguk cocks an eyebrow. Jimin wants to slug him. “Disappointed?”

“You’re a lot more boring when you’re drunk,” Jimin says.

“Well, if you insist on making it more interesting…” Jeongguk tugs something out of the depths of his robe—where there was room, Jimin is unsure. He dangles the purple object from a loop on the end. “I won’t clear the inside bets at all if you use this.”

Despite the fact that he’s been exposed to more sex toys than he imagined ever existing due to one Min Yoongi, it takes Jimin an embarrassingly long time to realize it’s a bullet vibrator.

A whine slips from Jimin’s throat, unbidden. “Fuck,” he whispers. How long has it been since he used a toy like that? His last heat? Sex toys have always been a personal thing. An inanimate object to fuck himself with until he could find a real cock. He’s never… “Are you actually trying to kill me?”

Jeongguk rounds the table, slinking up behind Jimin to press their bodies together. “Do you wanna put it in, or should I?” he asks into Jimin’s ear.

The logical part of Jimin acknowledges that this will be torture. Jeongguk just wants to watch him fall apart. And that idea arouses him way too much. “Put it in,” he hisses.

“Have I mentioned how badly I wanna fuck you?” Jeongguk asks heatedly, undoing Jimin’s jeans and pushing them off his hips. “Like, fuck, your ass is so pretty. I wanna be in it.”

“Why aren’t you?” Jimin asks. He shivers at the feeling of cold air on his bare ass when his underwear is pulled down.

Jeongguk presses the pad of a finger against Jimin’s hole and rubs. “...You aren’t ready.”

“It’s not that hard to get me ready,” Jimin mumbles, forcing himself to remain still and not tilt his hips to fucking present himself. “I’m an omega, I’ll stretch.”

“That’s not what I mean.” Jeongguk’s hand grabs the meat of his ass, pulling it aside like he wants to get a good look at Jimin’s hole despite his lack of participation. “You don’t want to have sex.”

“I’m willing to have sex with you—”

“But that’s not wanting it,” Jeongguk says. “I like pleasuring you. I know our initial agreement was pretty vague, but don’t have sex with me because you feel obligated. I haven’t done shit to deserve that. When you’re horny and want to fuck, then we’ll fuck.”

Jimin bites his bottom lip before he can say something stupid like no one makes me as horny as you do and leans his forearms on the table. “Yeah, well, I’m pretty fucking empty right now,” he says. “Could really use something to fill me up so I can at least feel good while I lose copious amounts of money.”

“Maybe you’ll get lucky tonight, darling.”

The vibrator is pushed in, burning just a little upon entry, but Jimin swallows down the pain and keeps still for a few moments to allow his body to get comfortable. He straightens, tugging up his jeans. Jeongguk pats his ass twice and returns to his side of the table. Jimin shifts subconsciously, trying to get used to having a foreign object just sitting inside of him.

Then it begins to vibrate, and he pitches forward. Fuck, it’s… fuck. It’s so close to his prostate and he wishes he could shimmy it up a little further, but that would be an awful mistake. Gulping down deep breaths, Jimin steadies himself on the edge of the table. The pleasure will build more slowly this way. Jeongguk knew what he was doing.

“Place your bets,” Jeongguk drawls, lighting up a cigarette.

Jimin stares down at the stacks of chips. “H-How much are the chips worth?”

“One thousand.”

“Each?”

Jeongguk nods, puffing smoke. “That’s my loan to you. Whatever you win, I’ll put towards your debt.”

“Th-Theoretically, I could just m-make outside bets over and over,” Jimin says.

“You could, theoretically, but I might get bored and ban you from outside bets. And if you want my car, it’s gotta be an inside bet.”

Jimin snatches up the keys and tosses them onto the table at random. They drop onto the red and white 23 .

“I feel like I should make you buy back the car if you don’t win it after a few rounds,” Jeongguk says while Jimin places a few small stacks on the even and odd spaces, just to test the waters.

“Maybe what you should have done is not offered me something you’re so clearly attached to,” Jimin replies. He places clumps of four chips on a selection of random numbers, choosing a split between 7 and 8 , as well as the entire bottom row, then decides that’s enough. He’s only guaranteed a win on one of the outside spaces—actually, not even that. If he lands on 0 or 00 , he’ll win nothing at all.

Roulette really is bullshit.

“If it stays on the board for more than five rounds, I might take it back,” Jeongguk says. “Are you done?”

Jimin nods, and Jeongguk spins the wheel. His nails are different again, Jimin notices as he tosses the ball in the opposite direction. Long, with pointed tips—the index, middle, and pinky are milky white with rhinestones glued to the base, while the thumb and ring finger are sparkling silver with holographic glitter. They make Jeongguk’s fingers look long and elegant. And lethal.

The ball lands in the number 14 slot, which isn’t a total loss, but it only gains him two more chips on his even bet. He realizes his mistake; he should be betting more on the outside because his chances of winning are higher and the payout is lower. The vibrator, he’s almost gotten used to the vibrator, to where it isn’t bothering him.

And then it kicks up a notch.

“Oh fuck,” he gasps, shooting a glare at Jeongguk holding the little purple remote. He grinds his teeth as the stimulation gets a little sweeter, making him wish he had something to rock back on. His cock stirs with interest, and Jimin wants to tell it that it’s futile, it won’t be getting anything any time soon.

Jeongguk removes the chips off the odd space and motions for him to continue. “You’ll have to take risks if you want to do more than break even.”

Jimin bites the inside of his cheek and mutters, “Y-Yeah, figured that one out.”

The wheel spins twice more. He wins on the split he bet, and the sixty-eight chips Jeongguk slides over to him is absolutely nothing to shake a stick at. The roulette wheel is merciless, however, and punishes Jimin’s growing confidence by pulling up a 00 . Jeongguk clears the outside bets, leaving Jimin with a few stacks remaining inside, as well as the keys on 23 .

“One more turn before you’ll have to buy the keys back,” Jeongguk taunts. “Are you sure you don’t want to move them?”

The vibrator is getting to be more of a nuisance. His cock is thickened up in his jeans, but he’s still not getting stimulated where he really wants it. It’s tempting to reach down into his pants and push the thing in further. But then Jeongguk would notice his focus is slipping—if he hasn’t already. He’s fairly certain he’s remaking the same bets as he made last round. “Doesn’t make any difference if I move it or leave it,” he says, “so it stays.”

“As you wish,” Jeongguk croons ominously, as if he has some sort of control over what number the ball will hit.

He spins the wheel. Jimin bites his lip, squeezing his eyes shut as he clenches around the vibrator, looking for more friction. Maybe if he throws some chips at Jeongguk, he’ll come play with the vibrator.

“Too bad, darling. But you aren’t doing too poorly for yourself. Maybe I’ll ask for half your winnings to buy it back.”

Jimin forces himself to open his eyes again and holds Jeongguk’s gaze for a few moments. He thinks I’m scared , he realizes.

And, in truth, Jimin is scared. Of what Jeongguk is capable of doing. Of the things that other alphas before him have done.

Of rejection.

Of humiliation.

Of abuse.

But. He knows Jeongguk is a slut.

“I’m gonna blow you,” Jimin finds himself saying without really thinking. “And you’re gonna let me keep the keys.”

Jeongguk’s eyes light up, and it’s really that easy. “You’d better make it good for me, then.”

“Don’t worry, darling.” Hauling himself up onto the roulette table, Jimin sits facing away from Jeongguk so that he can lie backwards and dangle his head off the edge of the table. Inches away is Jeongguk’s not-so-concealed dick. “I’ve been told my lips were made to suck cock.”

“I’m not gonna lie and say I’ve never thought about it,” Jeongguk murmurs, swiping his thumb over Jimin’s bottom lip.

Jimin darts his tongue out, licking the pad of Jeongguk’s thumb, chasing it with a kiss. He reaches out and hooks his fingers into Jeongguk’s fishnets. “Feed your bitch.”

Jeongguk tugs the fishnets off his cock with a hurried frenzy. He’s already half-hard, most likely from watching Jimin struggle against the vibrator for the past half-hour. When Jimin is presented with the tip, he readily parts his lips, because he remembers how easily Jeongguk fell apart last time, just with a few sucks to clean him off. Jimin takes in the tip, feeling one of the ends of the ball piercing rub against the roof of his mouth. He flicks his tongue over it, pressing into the slit for a moment before swirling around the head. Above him, Jeongguk gasps, and a hand flies to grip the front of Jimin’s sweatshirt.

“Shit,” he hisses, other hand stroking the length of his cock. “Wanna fuck your mouth.”

Jimin hums in affirmation, craning his neck so that he can take in a little more of Jeongguk’s cock. Knuckles bump up against his lips.

“I don’t— fuck . I don’t wanna choke you. Here…” Jeongguk grabs one of Jimin’s hands and guides it to replace his own on his cock. “I’ll follow you.”

Jimin settles his grip on Jeongguk’s cock, slowly determining a rhythm for himself. He strokes, and sucks insistently on the head, encouraging Jeongguk to move. In this position, if he arches his back just a little, the vibrator pushes deeper, and fuck . He wants to grind on it so fucking badly, but he’s putting enough strain on his body as it is. The car, he reminds himself. This is just to keep the car keys.

It doesn’t take much to get Jeongguk to start rutting gently into his mouth. His cock thickens to fullness, stretching Jimin’s lips wide. It’s so much to take, not really allowing him much room to swallow. He feels a bit like he’s at the dentist, except the part where his dentist doesn’t shove a cock in his mouth because that would be highly unprofessional. Fuck, if Jeongguk was his dentist, he’d be worried about having one of those metal picks stabbed into his gums. Jeongguk would be a really hot dentist, though. Like one in a horror movie.

Jimin shifts to get a better angle for his neck, accidentally jostling the vibrator. It rubs deliciously up against his prostate, sending a shockwave of pleasure up his spine. His whole body jerks, right into Jeongguk’s cock, making him sputter and choke until the offending article is yanked out and Jimin can breathe again.

Sort of.

He coughs globs of spit into his nose by accident.

Twisting onto his side, Jimin hastily wipes his face off with his sleeve. He’s vaguely aware of Jeongguk’s arm slipping around him, and being asked if he’s alright. “U-Uh huh,” he rasps. “‘m good. Just the fucking vibrator.”

“We can stop—”

Jimin shakes his head, tugging on Jeongguk’s sleeve. “I just need air. Get up here.”

As soon as Jeongguk is on the table, Jimin doesn’t waste time shoving him onto his back. Jeongguk whines that there are chips underneath him, but Jimin can’t really find it in himself to care when the vibrator grazes his prostate every time he moves, turning his legs into jelly as he situates himself between Jeongguk’s thighs and swallows his cock back down. Fingers bury themselves in Jimin’s hair. The little metal ball glides over his tongue now. When it reaches the back of his throat, it tickles.

He hooks one arm underneath Jeongguk’s thigh to pull it up, giving him just enough freedom to rock his hips. Jeongguk enthusiastically takes that liberty, thrusting into the wet warmth of Jimin’s mouth.

“Fuck, baby,” he whines, sounding a little broken. “Y-You take it so well. Look so pretty when you do. Fuck , you’re so pretty.”

Jimin’s eyes flicker up at him as he pops off Jeongguk’s cock, running his lips down the underside to lave his tongue at the base. Jeongguk is the pretty one. Jeongguk is the beautiful, proud alpha who has omegas tripping over themselves to get a taste of his cock that he keeps so shamelessly on display. Jimin doesn’t want to look at other alphas, because this one is his taste .

Perhaps that is where he and his father are similar.

They both have a taste for luxuries they can’t afford.

For him, it was the casino. For Jimin, it’s Jeongguk.

“Gonna be prettier when you’re in me,” he purres, kissing back up to the head. He rolls his tongue back and forth over the piercing, watching in rapt fascination as Jeongguk’s entire body trembles. “Like that?”

Jeongguk’s response is to moan and nod, arching off the table when Jimin does it again. He jerks his hips uselessly, because his cock isn’t back in Jimin’s mouth yet. “When I get my cock in you, you’re gonna be beautiful,” he groans. “I’m g-gonna fuck you so full, I’ll make you so wet, baby.”

“Yeah?” Jimin bobs on his cock a few times, stroking what he can’t reach with his hand. “‘m not wet yet.”

Nostrils flaring, Jeongguk’s chest heaves as he takes a few deep breaths. “You are though. You’re so wet, I can smell it, I can—”

“Not from you.”

They make eye-contact while Jimin suckles the tip of his dick, hooking his teeth against the underside of the piercing and applying the tiniest bit of pressure. Jeongguk’s eyes roll back.

“Cum,” Jimin says, stroking him with more intention. His own insides feel like they’re melting, but he strokes Jeongguk as if that will find him relief. “Let me have you.”

It only takes a few more bobs of his head for Jeongguk to hit climax and orgasm hot and hard into his mouth. Jimin tries not to gag, because even without a knot, Jeongguk cums a lot. Jimin doesn’t bother with the gooey white mess he leaves on Jeongguk’s cock as he crawls up his body to straddle his waist. It’s so much tinier than his thighs.

Jimin spits Jeongguk’s cum into his face.

Jeongguk blinks up at him owlishly, stunned, even though his tongue darts out to collect what landed near his mouth.

“Marking my bitch,” Jimin says, rubbing himself through his pants. God, he’s so hard, he could cum right then. He loves it. He gets it.

He’s never felt this powerful in his entire fucking life.

Unbuttoning his pants, Jimin tugs his own dick out and smears the precum that’s collected on the head for a little bit of lubrication. His own touch is like fire, and Jeongguk makes no moves to interrupt, just watching hungrily. Biting the inside of his cheek, Jimin decides to roll his hips back against Jeongguk’s abs and fuck , that does it. That gets the vibrator right against his prostate. He whines happily, stroking himself until he’s cumming—adding his own to the mess dripping off Jeongguk’s face.

He shudders through the aftershocks, clumsily stuffing a hand down the back of his underwear to hook a finger through the loop of the vibrator and yank it out before it can drive him too far into oversensitivity. He flings it across the room, the buzzing dull on the carpet.

Jeongguk still hasn’t spoken, hasn’t moved, until Jimin leans down to lick a tacky glob of white off his cheek. It tastes fucking disgusting, but the whimper it elicits is worth it. Jeongguk’s hands squeeze his waist, holding him steady. Jimin cleans everything he can comfortably reach—cheeks, nose, lips, eyebrows, forehead, chin. When he’s done, he sits up.

It takes seconds for Jeongguk to blink the haze away and lunge at him, flipping their positions and pinning him down. He doesn’t even have time to regather the air in his chest before Jeongguk is in his neck, lips and teeth hell bent on leaving a mark. Jimin acquiesces bonelessly, letting his head roll to the side.

“Marking my bitch,” Jeongguk growls into his ear.

It’s a deep, rumbling sound from his chest, and swirls with faded arousal.

Then, Jeongguk kisses him.

Jimin’s lips are swollen and sensitive from having been stretched around Jeongguk’s cock for so long, and he knows it doesn’t taste good. But Jeongguk doesn’t pull back or make any indication that he cares. He dives into Jimin’s mouth, kissing him deep and hungrily. Jimin fists his hands in Jeongguk’s robe, tilting his chin up to kiss back, because this is the sweetest anyone has ever kissed him. He wants to capture it and put it in a box and hold onto it forever.

As Jeongguk draws away, they tease each other in a secondary-sort of scenting. Rubbing each others noses, little butterfly kisses that don’t amount to anything. Jimin inhales as much of the fresh rainwater as he can, before its delicious purity is ruined by his own filth.

The rumbling starts up again, and as Jeongguk settles partially on top of him, Jimin realizes he’s purring. Jeongguk is purring for him. The gentle vibrations against him are soothing, wrapping him in a warm blanket of contentment. He tucks his face underneath Jeongguk’s chin.

Alphas usually only purr to comfort their mates. That’s what it’s for. It’s a settling technique, especially for an omega going into heat. Jimin knows he isn’t anywhere near going into heat—Jeongguk just wants him to feel… safe? All he knows is that he doesn’t want to move.

“Can I tell you something kind of fucked up?”

Jeongguk’s voice is thick and drowsy, and a bit buzzy from purring. Jimin hums in affirmation.

“After my mother died, Haneul hired a nanny full-time to take care of me, while my half-brother was taken care of by his mom,” he says. “Our family circumstances didn’t make sense to me growing up, because even though I was older, Jaehyun was treated like he was special. Haneul loved him and praised him, and I thought that if I worked hard enough to please him, he would eventually notice me. But it didn’t matter how hard I practiced drawing or what kinds of grades I got in school or the books I read—nothing ever got Haneul’s attention. Nothing seemed to be able to tear him away from Jaehyun.”

Jimin wishes that he could purr too, wishes that he had some other way of comforting Jeongguk aside from his vile scent. He nuzzles into Jeongguk’s throat. “I’m sorry.”

“I haven’t gotten to the fucked up part. I was… ten, I think. So, Jaehyun was only maybe four. We were playing in the pool—Jaehyun, Taehyung, and I. Taehyung was my nanny’s son. Seoyoon left for a few minutes and told us to watch Jaehyun, and I… I don’t know what I was thinking.” Jeongguk falls totally silent for a few moments. “...No. I know what I was thinking. I thought… if Jaehyun were out of the picture, Haneul would have no choice but to accept me. So… I just… J-Jaehyun couldn’t swim, y’know? He was too young. He still… had to use those little floaty things. While he was standing near the deep end of the pool, I… pushed him in.”

Jimin doesn’t dare to breathe.

“Taehyung fished him out,” Jeongguk continues. “We all kind of laughed it off, like I’d just been roughhousing with him, but… I wasn’t. I wanted him to die.”

Propping himself up on an elbow, Jimin stares down at Jeongguk for a few long moments. His eyes are stripped bare. Vulnerable. Honest.

“I don’t like how easy it is to kill people, Jimin,” he whispers. “Jaehyun could’ve lost his life that day, and all I’d done is give him a little bump to make him lose his balance. I wouldn’t have felt anything. I could’ve even convinced myself that it was an accident, even though I meant to do it. That’s a terrifying power to have. That’s why I pick difficult ways to kill.”

“That’s fucked up,” Jimin whispers back hoarsely. He runs a gentle hand through Jeongguk’s hair. “You were young. I’m sorry you were so young.”

Jeongguk hauls himself up, tugging Jimin into his lap. The chips on the table are in disarray, but the stacks Jimin kept on the side are still, miraculously, together. “I don’t want you to feel burdened by it, darling,” Jeongguk says.

“But you’d also really like to convince me not to go suck Haneul’s dick, just because he said a few nasty things about you,” Jimin murmurs.

“I’d really like you not to go suck Haneul’s dick. I’ll give you my car right now as long as you promise you’ll go nowhere near his dick.”

“Wasn’t planning on it,” Jimin says, plucking the keys up from the table, “but I’ll still take your car.”

Jeongguk hums musically, kissing Jimin’s shoulder. “I like you a lot.”

“Was that a confession?” Jimin asks cheekily.

“Maybe it is.”

Jimin just shakes his head. “There’s nothing about me to like.”

“You spat my cum in my face and called me your bitch,” Jeongguk says. “I liked that. A lot.”

“Cos you’re a whore.”

“I think you overestimate the number of people I’d find appealing if they tried to do that. But you’re aggressive. You’re dangerous. And that turns me on so fucking bad.” He wraps his arms around Jimin’s waist, holding him close. “I like you. I’m your bitch, and I like you.”

Jimin sighs heavily, leaning back against him.

“You purred.”

“Mhm. Did you like it?”

“Yeah,” Jimin says softly. “Felt really nice. You… You make me feel like an omega. You’re the only one who’s ever made being… this way feel good.”

“Want you to feel good,” Jeongguk murmurs. “We’ve really fucked up the table, darling. Wanna try your luck one more time?”

Jimin laughs, letting Jeongguk up so that he can reach the wheel to spin it. “Why the hell not?”

Jeongguk spins the wheel, tossing the white ball in. It rolls and rolls and rolls until it settles in number 23 .

“That would’ve been more serendipitous if you hadn’t already promised me the car,” Jimin says as he glances around the board. He can’t see 23, so he must be sitting on it. Lifting his ass, he spots number 24, but not…

Oh. It must be the one with the stack of chips smeared over it.

Jeongguk leans over and collects the chips. Five chips, with a thirty-five-to-one payout. “Perhaps it’s serendipitous after all, darling.”


 When Jeongguk exits the bathroom after his shower, Taehyung is in the exact same position on the bed, staring vacantly at the television. Jeongguk crawls onto the bed with him, making himself comfortable in the curvature of Taehyung’s body. Once he’s settled, he purrs for attention, and is a little miffed at the lack of response.

“Are you high?” he asks.

Taehyung grunts. Then, “No. ‘s just painkillers.”

“That’s still high.” He wiggles closer, sucking up any last bits of space between them. “I’m more interesting than the TV.”

It is with much effort that Taehyung slides an arm around Jeongguk’s waist and nuzzles into his scent gland. “You smell fucked,” he mumbles. “D’you get laid?”

“Didn’t get my cock in him, but, fuck , Taehyung.” Jeongguk groans, remembering the black, swirling lust in Jimin’s eyes right before spitting spunk into his face. “He’s perfect. I swear to god, I’ve never met anyone more perfect.”

“Jimin?”

Jeongguk allows his head to fall back. “Mmhm. I’m gonna make him mine.”

Taehyung tenses just a little bit, lips stilling on Jeongguk’s skin. "Yours yours? Like mates?”

“I didn’t say mates. I just said mine,” Jeongguk replies. “That can mean lots of things. It doesn’t have to mean mating. Do you not want me to mate?”

“It’s,” Taehyung says a little too quickly, “just a little soon for that, don’t you think?”

Making Park Jimin his will be a long, slow process. He needs to sink his claws in deep, through layers of oil and fire and stone, until his hooks are so embedded that it will cause Jimin too much damage to pull away. It starts with the subconscious. A touch. A scent. Imprinting himself on Jimin in a way that will last. Just like he's been taught. “I’ve got lots of time to think about that,” Jeongguk says, tugging his robe open. “Your mark is fading.”

Taehyung makes a noise. “So?”

“I want a new one.”

“Maybe I shouldn’t be marking you if you’re trying to get yourself a boyfriend,” Taehyung says sourly, trying to pull away.

But Jeongguk doesn’t want that.

He tugs Taehyung back, propping himself up on one elbow so that he can hang his lips over his ear. “I would drop anything for you, Taehyung,” he says. “Anything, you know that? If you really wanted to give up all of this and take the beast across the country to Vegas and build our own fortune over there, I would. And as much as I want Jimin, I don’t want him at the cost of you.”

Taehyung doesn’t respond. Jeongguk presses his lips to his temple, tugging the collar of Taehyung’s shirt to expose the faded pink mark on his clavicle.

“I can fill some physical and financial holes for Jimin, but it isn’t about that for you, is it? You love me, don’t you?”

“Should you be debasing the guy you’re trying to seduce like that?” Taehyung mutters.

“He’s using me and I’m using him. Even he would admit to that,” Jeongguk replies. “I’m an easy way out of his debt because he knows I’m a filthy cockslut.”

“And what is he to you?”

Jeongguk sinks his teeth into Taehyung’s neck—not hard enough to break the skin, but enough to make him groan in pain. “You told Haneul about him.”

"Fuck, Jeongguk, that hurts—”

“You fucking told that piece of shit about my deal with Jimin.”

“It was in the paperwork Namjoon gave him,” Taehyung whines. “We had to tell him something. What the hell was I supposed to do?”

“Tell him if he wants to poke his nose into my business, he can fucking call me.”

“You know he isn’t gonna do that—”

“Tell him, the next time you see him, that Jimin is mine,” Jeongguk growls, closing his hand around Taehyung’s throat. “I don’t want to hear that he’s contacted Jimin again. Ever.”

Taehyung holds his gaze for a long moment. His eyes are dull, but it’s the drugs. It’s the drugs now, but Taehyung’s eyes will be dull tomorrow, too, when the high wears off. The heat, the captivating spark that used to be there, is gone.

It’s enough to make Jeongguk want to throw everything down and run, because it hurts to see Taehyung like this.

It hurts to be the one making it worse.

“I’ll tell him to call you,” Taehyung wheezes, and Jeongguk lets go.

He taps the spot on his chest, just under the pinkish mark. Taehyung likes leaving it there, over his heart. “Please?”

Jeongguk obediently lies back when Taehyung nudges him, happily running a hand through his hair. Taehyung kisses his chest, nips, then sucks, and Jeongguk adores it, the dragon in his belly finally beginning to settle. As soon as his mark is back on Taehyung, then he’ll be happy.

For years and years, Taehyung was all he had.

The only thing he could ever call his own.

Then they ventured a little bit too close, explored a little too far, and in those brief moments where things weren’t right between them, Haneul inserted himself into Taehyung’s sphere, being far more lenient and understanding than fifteen-year-old Jeongguk had been. But Jeongguk isn’t going to lose anyone else to the black, unyielding vortex that is his father. He’ll grow as big and ugly as he needs to in order to preserve himself, and drag Taehyung from its evil clutches.

“I’ll always love you,” Jeongguk coos. “No matter what you do, Taehyung, I’ll always love you.”


 For the first time in four years, Jimin drives into the parking lot of his apartment complex, all on his own. It’s nearing midnight, because he and Jeongguk had fooled around a little bit longer than intended—Jimin repeatedly refusing Jeongguk’s impish prodding to bet a little more on the roulette wheel. He walked away tonight with over two hundred thousand to put towards his debt, a fucking vehicle, and a warm, gooey feeling in the pit of his stomach.

He tingles.

The roulette table got uncomfortable after a while, so they moved to one of the leather armchairs tucked in the shadowy recesses of the room, where Jeongguk cuddled up to him and purred and purred until Jimin sank into a soupy haze. It would be a lie to say it wasn’t everything Jimin had ever wanted.

Jimin maneuvers the car into the carport parking space that’s been vacant since the loss of the VW, cutting the engine. The silence rushes in like a high tide; Taehyung was right. The mustang is incredibly loud. But, like many things with Jeongguk, he gets it. Valkyrie is as boastful of its power as its owner.

This is a nice car. Not what he was expecting. But he likes it.

Jeongguk’s story about his half-brother sits heavy in the back of Jimin’s throat. It was only a brief summary of a single incident that would shock anyone. The same could be said if Jimin tried to describe the events that caused him to call 911 on his own mother. His lack of ill-will towards her wouldn’t make sense to someone who didn’t have the full picture, and Jeongguk’s story feels very much the same. It’s unsettling, certainly—especially knowing that Jeongguk has grown up to be violent in a bloodthirsty sort of way, and that he has some kind of vendetta against his father. The brutality isn’t justified, but Jimin… can understand it. Getting molded into something you never wanted to be by forces outside of your control.

Haneul was the adult. He was supposed to be the father figure, and he abused his position to make Jeongguk feel less.

There is, of course, also the possibility that Jeongguk isn’t telling the truth. His story about Jaehyun could be a complete lie, or vital context could be missing. Jeongguk could be emotionally manipulating him, and Jimin could be falling for it by believing that Haneul purposefully ostracized his own son, and that’s why Jeongguk is so bitter and sadistic.

As much as he wants to believe Jeongguk, because Jimin— fuck it— likes him, he isn’t about to allow himself to become the rope in a game of tug of war that could potentially cost him his life. And now that he has his own personal method of transportation, information gathering will be a lot easier. But that will mean needling Taehyung, and figuring out a way to set up a meeting with Haneul without Jeongguk finding out.

If Haneul wants his business badly enough, Jimin supposes, he can find a way to make it work in his favor.

Pulling his phone out of his pocket, Jimin realizes he hasn’t checked it at all since departing for the Black Rabbit. He has several missed texts from Hoseok.

 

jung hoseok:

 

Hey! Sorry if this is weird, but Seokjin told me you were looking for an apartment?

9:32 PM

 

I’ve been renting a two bedroom place with a friend for the past few months, but he recently got an internship offer with a company out of state. Long story short, I’ve got a spare room and have been looking for somebody to room with. Would you be interested?

9:34 PM

 

If you don’t mind living with an alpha

9:35 PM

 

Shit that sounded really rude. It’s fine if you aren’t comfortable with it, but I still thought I’d offer.

9:36 PM

 

you:

 

Sorry to text you back so late

12:11 AM

 

but that sounds fucking fantastic, let’s make a date so I can come over & we can talk logistics

12:11 AM

 

you’re literally out there, saving my ass from having to live in a cardboard box

12:12 AM

 

As Jimin re-pockets his phone and gets out of the car, it does cross his mind that Jeongguk would happily offer him one of those top-floor, private suites with free maid service if he wasn’t able to find a place by the time his lease expires. It’s certainly more luxurious than anything Jimin could ever afford, and certainly more luxurious than anything Hoseok has to offer him.

Jimin locks the car and tamps down that thought.

The Black Rabbit isn’t elysium. It’s the glittering pit of tartarus, soaked in empty promises of wealth and fulfillment. And Jimin isn’t going to let himself forget that anytime soon.

Chapter Text

 

you:

 wanna help me move lol

12: 02 AM

 

jeon jeongguk:

 You’re moving? Where are you moving?

 Why are you moving?

12:10 AM

 

you:

 chill, my lease is up

 I managed to work something out with one of my coworkers so I’ve got a place to stay for a while

 there’s so much shit, though

 I haven’t gone through anything since the funeral cos I just haven’t

 felt like it, I guess

 like what the fuck am I supposed to do with all his shit. clothes can get donated, but like just his fucking stuff? my mom’s stuff? furniture? plates? does Hoseok need plates? will he want to eat off of used plates?

 sorry, I’m a fucking mess

 ignore me

12:15 AM

 

jeon jeongguk

 I’ll come help you.

 When do you need to be out?

12: 16 AM

 

you:

 the 30th but like

 you don’t actually have to help me. I was mostly kidding. I know you’ve got your own shit to deal with.

12:18 AM

 

jeon jeongguk:

 Someone else can deal with it for a little while.

12:19 AM

 

you:

 uh huh, how much do you charge for your services

12: 19 AM

 

jeon jeongguk:

 I won’t.

 Just let me come see you.

12:20 AM

 

you:

 seriously? I’ve been telling you to come see me since we met

 you just want to make sure I haven’t destroyed your car

12:25 AM

 

jeon jeongguk:

 I need to see my baby.

12: 25 AM

 

you:

 your baby is still intact

 if you wanna come, I won’t stop you. I’ve got tuesday off, so I was planning on packing as much shit as I can

12: 26 AM

 

jeon jeongguk:

 I’ll be over, darling <3

12: 27 AM


 

Even though Jeongguk texted him forty minutes ago that he’d be leaving the casino soon, Jimin still jumps at a sudden knock on the door. He sets the half-wrapped plate on the counter and approaches the door, dubious as to who might be on the other side. It might just be his landlord or his neighbor—her cat has a tendency to sneak out.

But, when he pulls the door open, there’s Jeongguk in the flesh. The color has washed out of his hair, leaving him pale blonde. What’s more of a shock is to see him in a pair of shredded black jeans and a yellow sweatshirt. Even though the sleeves of the sweatshirt are held together by crisscrossing laces, it’s the most normal Jimin has seen him. He looks like a regular alpha. A pretty boy he might see on the streets or at school.

“I didn’t think you’d actually show up,” Jimin says, stepping back to let him in.

“Why not? I’ve kept my word to you so far, haven’t I?”

As Jeongguk brushes past him, Jimin sees it—the back of his shirt. Or lack thereof. It’s just more strings, loose across his back. The sight is comforting, in a way. Knowing that, no matter where he is, Jeongguk won’t pretend to be anything he isn’t. “Yeah, I guess you have.”

“How long have you lived here?” Jeongguk asks, surveying the apartment in a detached sort of fashion. It makes Jimin suddenly self-conscious. The apartment is old. Old and lived in—the fixtures were updated in the early 2000s. Laminate countertops, white square cupboards, and plain, yellowing curtains. Matte grayish paint. It’s a low-end contemporary nightmare.

“We moved here when I was… eleven, I think,” he replies. “We had a real house before that, but my mom had to stop working because of her health. So, we downsized to this, and now I’m downsizing again.”

Jeongguk hums, turning around to face him again. “Stop me if I’m being insensitive, but where is your mom? You’ve mentioned her a few times, but…”

“My mom is…” Jimin tries to wet his lips, but his whole mouth has gone dry and it’s just no good. The words won’t come. They’re trapped, lodged in his throat. “She’s…”

“Baby, it’s okay.” Jeongguk closes the distance between them and cups his cheeks. “You don’t have to tell me anything.”

Jimin shakes his head, held steady by warm palms. “Her health is bad, that’s all.”

That isn’t anywhere near close to all , but it’s the best he can do. Jeongguk doesn’t prod him any further, running a gentle hand through his hair before stepping back. “So,” he prompts, “what can I help you with?”

“Um…” Jimin blinks a few times, struggling to get his bearings back. What was he doing? “Oh. Right. Dishware. Hoseok has enough plates and shit, so I want to pack all of it into boxes so that it can be donated along with the clothes.”

So, they pack. Jeongguk is quick to catch on to how Jimin wants the items wrapped up in the newspaper and placed into the boxes. The conversation isn’t exactly stilted, but Jimin doesn’t know how to have casual conversation with Jeongguk. They awkwardly talk about the plates (“Where’d you get these?” “Might’ve been a mating ceremony gift. They’re old as fuck.”), what the cabinets are made out of (“Maple, maybe? Why?” “Daddy is in real estate. It’s just the kind of shit you end up thinking about, whether you want to or not.”), what Jimin is going to use for dishes once they’re all packed away (“I bought some paper plates and plasticware at the dollar store. Don’t worry, I won’t starve. Although, that would be the most economical decision.”), but Jimin can’t help feeling on edge. The lack of tension is so unfamiliar, it’s almost uncomfortable.

Eventually, the topic shifts to dating.

“Have you dated?” Jeongguk asks as he wraps a glass.

“Yeah.”

“A lot?”

“As much as anyone else I guess,” Jimin replies, shrugging. “There was a beta I was with for a while in high school. Sophomore year, I think? But stuff happened at home, and I just couldn’t keep up with a relationship, so we drifted apart. I dated two different alphas senior year, but neither of those really worked out. My only really serious relationship was freshman year of college.”

Jeongguk glances up from where he’s crouched in front of the box. “Oh?”

It’s been nearly two years, and Jimin should be over it, but it’s like a scab that still hasn’t healed. Every once in a while, he picks at it, just to see if it’ll still bleed.

It always does.

“Yeah, he…” Jimin sucks in a deep breath and then lets it out. “I’ve told you not everyone can smell me, right?”

“Uh huh.”

“My previous boyfriends couldn’t. But this one could. The first time I saw him, it was like… god , he was so beautiful. I didn’t even have classes with him, I just saw him in the hallway a few times, but we ended up getting introduced through some convoluted friend-of-a-friend bullshit, and somehow we hit it off. He was funny and charismatic—He had this draw to him. You ever meet people like that? People with, like, magnetic personalities?”

Jeongguk nods. “I went to high school. Haneul is like that, too, though. He collects. Things, places, people. Once you’re able to blink away the haze and you realize how those people really are, it makes you wonder what anyone sees in them, except you’ll never be able to call anyone else out on it, because you fell for it, too.”

“Yeah, well, I was a fucking idiot,” Jimin says, slumping against the counter. “He was so sweet to me when we first became friends. Introducing me to his circle of people, always complimenting me, spending time with me alone. Like, I was so starry-eyed, cos here’s this alpha who could literally reach out and pick up gobs of omegas, but he’s choosing to dote on me.”

Jeongguk’s lips peel back from his teeth in a sneer. "I'm sure he made you feel so fucking special."

“He was… I mean, he could smell me, and he didn’t like the way I smelled, so he asked me to wear scent blockers,” Jimin replies. “He fucking told me straight to my face that I should wear scent blockers, and I did it because I was desperate. He’s got all these omegas who smell way better than me hanging off of him, so if I didn’t do it, I risked him dropping me for someone else. And I should never have done that, because that made him realize how easily he could manipulate me. I did literally everything he told me to because I was terrified of him leaving me.”

“That doesn’t sound at all like you,” Jeongguk murmurs softly.

Jimin fiddles with the cuffs of his sleeves. “It was a bad time in my life. Eventually, it… I spent my heat with him. There’s nothing I can do about my scent while I’m in heat, and he just…” His throat locks again, hot tears prickling at the corners of his eyes. It’s stupid, he thinks. It’s stupid to be this upset over it, but he can’t help it. It hurt . “The whole time, while I’m completely helpless, he just… he lays it all out to me. How disgusting I am, how awful I smell, how much he hates being there with me, and it’s—I can’t s-stop, y’know? I’m in heat and I can’t stop it. He’s humiliating me, and I can’t stop wanting his cock cos I’m in heat and desperate and it’s… it’s—fuck.”

Jeongguk is on his feet when Jimin chokes, pulling him into a tight embrace. Jimin doesn’t bother trying to fight it, just tucks his face into Jeongguk’s neck while he squashes the urge to cry. He lets himself be tugged down to the floor, curling up in Jeongguk’s lap because it just feels safe . A rumble starts up in Jeongguk’s chest, and soon he’s purring with an intensity to rival the Mustang’s engine. The vibrations soak deep into Jimin’s bones, softening the brittle tension tying up his body. He still wants to cry, but he doesn’t feel like he’s going to die. Jeongguk’s scent is soft and woodsy and comforting.

As soon as he can breathe, Jimin finishes his story. The result is obvious, but he needs to vocalize it. Otherwise, it’ll keep itching underneath his skin.

“I ended things,” he whispers. “As soon as my heat broke, I told him I didn’t want to see him again. He took it… It seemed like he took it fine. Like, he said okay and left. Next thing I know, he’s blocked me on everything, blocked my number, and none of his friends will talk to me. I finally managed to get one of them to tell me what was going on, and she told me he wouldn’t shut up about how I’d broken up with him after I got what I wanted, and how omegas think alphas are only good for their knots. Fucker didn’t even knot me. You know what the dumbest part was?”

“No, baby. What?”

“He made this big stink about how I’d done everything for attention, but he’s the one whining to his friends about being the fucking victim cos he knows they’ll be on his side no matter what. Even if he told them the things he said to me, they’d probably just agree that I deserved it. He victimized himself, and I’m the one suffering,” Jimin says. “He won, Jeongguk. He fucked me up.”

Silence settles for a while. Jeongguk purrs, running a gentle hand through Jimin’s hair. Every once in a while, one of his nails scrapes against Jimin’s scalp, but he doesn’t mind. It’s just a subtle reminder that Jeongguk is there and real.

“You’re still in the game, you know,” Jeongguk says softly. “As long as you’re alive, you’re still playing. No one beats you ‘til you’re dead.”

Jimin sniffles against his collar. “I feel like dying. Every day is just like… going through the motions. I keep myself busy so that I don’t think about it as much, but sometimes I just get… tired. I’ve sat down at work and it’s seemed so impossible to stand up again. I want to go to sleep and wake up in a different life. Or just not at all.”

“Kill him back, darling. If your past self is dead, build a new one.  Make yourself into something pretty and dangerous. Something he’s been lucky to fuck.”

As much as Jimin wants to write Jeongguk off as an alpha like the rest , he can’t. Even while his true motivations are still unclear, Jimin knows Jeongguk isn’t fucking with him about his scent. For some incomprehensible reason, Jeongguk likes it. Gets off on it. Gets off on Jimin.

And that’s…

Jimin wants that.

“Fuck me,” he begs. “Please, I don’t want to wait any longer.”

Jeongguk doesn’t hesitate. For once, Jimin is thankful he’s so keen on sex. His purr deepens into a growl, reverberating throughout Jimin’s core. Teeth kiss against his ear. “Yeah? You want to be fucked full, darling? Should I knot you and show you what it’s like being with a real alpha?”

A whimper slips out at the suggestion of being knotted. Oh, does he want that. He’s played with a knotted toy before, but it can’t be the same. His body doesn’t acknowledge it as a knot . “Show me,” he pleads.

Suddenly, Jeongguk is getting up and making Jimin get up, too. It briefly crosses his mind that the couch would be alright to fuck on, but he leads Jeongguk to his bedroom instead. Jimin never had many possessions to begin with, and it’s especially bare now because he’s packed away books and nicknacks that he doesn’t need, but this is still his space . Jimin sits on the edge of the bed, feeling small and vulnerable.

Jeongguk remains standing, leaning up against the closet doors. The distance between them is only a few feet, but it could easily be an ocean. Jimin is cold without him.

Biting his bottom lip, Jeongguk roves his eyes over Jimin’s body before pinning him with a hungry stare. Jimin takes the hint as one to remove his clothing, and tugs his t-shirt over his head. His hands tremble as he unbuttons his pants, but he manages to shimmy out of them without tumbling to the floor. The nerves spike when his underwear is all that’s left between his body and Jeongguk. For all that Jeongguk has gotten him off, he’s allowed Jimin to keep some semblance of privacy. Being totally bare is… frightening.

He finally slips the underwear off and tosses them aside.

“Pretty,” Jeongguk breathes, resting an arm behind his head. The position makes his sweatshirt pull up, exposing a bit of his taut stomach. His free hand goes to his crotch, giving himself a squeeze before rubbing two fingers just underneath the zipper. Jimin watches, subconsciously captivated, and licks his lips. “Pretty just for me. Right, darling?”

Jimin slowly nods, not trusting himself to speak.

“Let me see. Show me, baby. Show me what I get.”

Fuck . Jeongguk wants him to present himself. Jimin obeys, but he’s stiff in turning around. He tucks his legs underneath himself, spreading his knees just a little bit so he can comfortably lean forward and expose his ass. It’s easier, now that he’s facing away, to reach behind himself to rub at his hole. He grabs the meat of one asscheek, pulling it aside to show himself.

A few moments later, extra hands join Jimin’s. The pad of what feels like Jeongguk’s thumb traces his rim, teasing the tense muscle. “Look how tight and pretty,” he murmurs. “You’ll be so nice and sloppy when I’m finished. So wet and full. You want that, baby?”

“Mmhmm,” Jimin replies.

Jeongguk’s hands leave him, and Jimin hears the rustle of clothing. He glances over his shoulder, watching Jeongguk tug his sweatshirt over his head. Jimin drinks in the sight of his body, realizing he’s never seen Jeongguk naked. His waist is so tiny, it makes him look small and breakable. Like a doll, with abs chiseled into his stomach. His chest and shoulders and arms are packed with muscle, and it makes Jimin’s mouth water. The things this alpha could do to him stir in his gut.

As Jeongguk unzips his jeans, Jimin realize he is, once again, not wearing any underwear.

“Do you even own underwear?” he finds himself asking.

Jeongguk glances at him in the middle of pulling off his pants. “I own some.” No further expansion on the subject.

Fully naked, Jeongguk crawls onto the bed with him. Jimin expects to be manhandled or pushed down, but it’s Jeongguk who flops down in front of him, arching a little bit to expose the clean expanse of his neck.

Scent me, his body language begs.

It’s been years since Jimin scented with someone else who could smell him. The instinct has all but left him; he barely remembers what he’s supposed to do. But he dives for Jeongguk’s neck anyway, nuzzling into the crook of his shoulder, rubbing his nose over his soft skin in search of the source of his scent. It isn’t at the base, so Jimin works his way up, gulping down thick lungfuls of blooming earth as he goes. The intensity concentrates just below Jeongguk’s ear, in the soft pocket of skin behind his jaw, and Jimin digs in.

He rubs his nose over the gland, warmth spreading through his body as the scent grows more potent with the stimulation. His tongue darts out to swipe over the skin, and he groans at the realization that he can almost taste it. The fresh, heady rainwater smell. It floods his body with need, craving the drops on his tongue. Jimin licks and sucks, teeth nipping at the skin like he wants to pop Jeongguk’s neck and drink him down.

Through the haze, he becomes aware of a deep growling.

It takes him a moment to realize it’s him.

At some point, he moved to straddle Jeongguk’s waist. His hips are moving on their own, rubbing his hardening cock against Jeongguk’s abs. Jeongguk’s hands are tight on his waist, encouraging him to keep going.

Jimin sits up, pulling himself out of the fog of Jeongguk’s scent. The air above is cold and empty; he needs to bury himself again. Underneath him, Jeongguk looks as dazed as Jimin feels. His pupils are blown and his chest is heaving—it takes him several moments to collect himself before he can speak.

“Come up here,” he says. “Wanna eat you out.”

It takes Jimin’s addled brain an extra couple of seconds to process the request. With difficulty, he swings around and situates himself over Jeongguk’s chest, facing the other direction. Now, he has a perfect view of Jeongguk’s cock, thick and heavy between his legs. He could definitely reach down and stroke it if he wanted, but, even now, skepticism creeps up on him. No matter what, Jeongguk’s cock won’t lie to him. If it stays interested while Jeongguk’s face is drenched in his slick, then it’s real. Jeongguk wants him, scent and all.

He backs his ass over Jeongguk’s face, teasingly out of reach, until firm hands grip his waist and he’s slowly guided downwards. His ass cheeks are spread apart, and he reflexively jolts at the feeling of Jeongguk’s tongue swiping over his hole.

“Shh,” Jeongguk hushes him. “Just enjoy yourself, darling. I know I’m going to.”

Jimin whimpers at the first sucks. Once hasn’t gotten him used to this at all; the way Jeongguk’s tongue is so soft and wet against him. Only one of the betas he used to date had any practice in rimming—the alpha ex definitely had no interest in it.

Well. He had interest.

Just not with Jimin.

God, if he starts fucking crying while Jeongguk is eating his ass, he’s going to throw himself out the window.

Jeongguk’s mouth is amazing. He has no inhibitions, kneading at the meat of Jimin’s ass while he dips his tongue into the tight ring of muscle. He seems like he’s having a wonderful time, suffocating himself. It’s a difficult position to hold, squatted over Jeongguk’s face like this. Jimin can rest some of his weight on Jeongguk’s hands, but his thighs are already starting to burn. What would Jeongguk think if he actually sat on him?

Judging by his weepy cock, Jimin doesn’t think he’d mind.

“Look at you, dripping all over the place like a disgusting slut. You can’t wait to get fucked cos you aren’t worth anything to anyone unless they’ll fuck you. But I’ve taken pity on you, so you should be more grateful. Can’t you smell a bit better for me, Jiminie? Smell like you like it?”

Jimin’s throat locks.

“Jeongguk?”

“Mm?”

“I, um…” Jimin swallows thickly. He isn’t sure where his air has suddenly gone. “C-Can we stop for a second?”

Jeongguk’s hands immediately shift from gripping him to gently pushing him up. Jimin drops onto the mattress off to the side, feeling… guilty, of all things. But he can’t help it. Not when Jeongguk deserves someone more appreciative of his oral skills.

Sitting up, Jeongguk scoots over to tangle up with him. He rests his head on Jimin’s stomach, staring up at him with big doe eyes. His lips are shiny because Jimin did get a little bit slicky.

“Are you okay?”

It’s not a question that has an easy answer. Jimin cards a hand through Jeongguk’s hair, just admiring him for a moment. Soaking in the fact that Jeongguk has taken the time to step away from the casino just to come help him pack up shit in his apartment. Jimin thought perhaps there would be some kind of catch, but he’s the one who ended up asking for sex.

“No,” he finally replies.

“Do you want to stop?”

Jimin opens his mouth, but closes it again a moment later when he can’t decide between yes and no . “I don’t… want to want to stop,” he says slowly. “I just get, like… tied up. My mind starts wandering and I get anxious—too anxious to really enjoy it.”

“We don’t have to fuck,” Jeongguk says. “I know I act like I expect it, but I don’t. Contrary to popular belief, I always keep my expectations low so that I’m never disappointed.”

The admission makes Jimin crack a smile. “And how does that work for you?”

“I came over with the expectation of manual labor, and I’ve got you naked in bed, so I’d say that it’s working pretty well.”

“Oh, fuck off,” Jimin huffs, but there’s no bite to it. “It’s your cock that’s persuasive, not you.”

“Yeah, talk dirty to me.”

Jimin hits Jeongguk’s shoulder. “Every time I see you, you get a little bit more obnoxious. Eventually even your cock won’t be enough to save you.”

“I’ve got a little bit of time before my ego gets that big,” Jeongguk says, sliding up his body so that he can sling a leg over Jimin’s thigh and grind down on it. “Maybe by then, you’ll be loose enough to take it.”

The feeling of Jeongguk’s thick cock rubbing against his hip sends a thrill up Jimin’s spine. He knows he wants to be fucked, but he feels better when it’s like this. Being able to look up into Jeongguk’s eyes and know who he’s with.

“Talk to me,” he whispers. “Keep me here.”

Jeongguk grins, and it’s one of those moments where Jimin realizes god , he’s with an alpha. A real, honest-to-god alpha who can smell him and wants to put a knot in him. Jimin can’t think of anything more visceral than when Jeongguk grabs his hair to yank his head back, exposing his throat. This is a new kind of vulnerable—one that doesn’t make him feel inadequate.

“Like I’d let anyone else cross your fucking mind.”

Jeongguk lays into his neck with hot, open-mouthed kisses at the same time as he presses a finger into Jimin’s hole. It burns a little bit, because he isn’t quite wet enough yet, but he will be.

“So tight, darling,” he murmurs against Jimin’s skin, working his finger in and out. “It’s criminal that you aren’t getting fucked like you deserve.”

“Who else am I supposed to fuck?” Jimin grumbles, spreading his legs a little wider to grant Jeongguk easier access. The finger presses against his walls, stretching him wider to accommodate a second. “I haven’t exactly got alphas lined up, waiting for a taste.”

Jeongguk pulls his finger out and pops it into his mouth without so much as flinching. Then he does the same with his middle finger, and returns to Jimin’s hole with two. “You haven’t found the right alphas,” he says.

“You mean the crazy ones?”

“Are you calling me crazy?”

“You’re a little bit crazy,” Jimin says. A particularly good thrust of Jeongguk’s fingers leaves him gasping for a moment. “B-But… mm … maybe that’s why I feel so at home.”

Jeongguk’s teeth smile against his throat. “Are you crazy, too, darling?”

“A little bit.”

Jimin does his best to relax himself so that Jeongguk doesn’t have to spend the remainder of the afternoon opening him up. It feels good—so much better than when he tries to do it himself. Jeongguk’s fingers are longer, can reach deeper inside of him. A third finger is added, and Jimin really feels the stretch. His hand finds Jeongguk’s hair, tightly fisting the strands.

“Too much, baby?”

Jimin makes an aborted shake of his head, throwing a gasp when Jeongguk rubs over his sweet spot. “N-No,” he replies. “No, not too much.”

When Jeongguk thrusts his fingers in again, he goes purposefully slow, dragging over Jimin’s prostate hard enough to make him shake. Jimin’s body convulses like its trying to twist his limbs into a pretzel. It hurts and he can’t breathe, but then suddenly the pressure is gone, leaving him empty and twitching. Warmth floods into the void, pooling in his gut. A whine tears from his throat when Jeongguk gives him a single finger again because it isn’t nearly enough. It doesn’t fill him up; he barely feels like he can squeeze around it properly.

“I can do this shit myself,” Jimin grouses, clinging to Jeongguk’s shoulders. “You… You said you were gonna show me what an alpha is like.”

“A real alpha,” Jeongguk corrects. “Anyone can be alpha if they try hard enough, but it’s not just about having a knot and strutting around with it like a fucking peacock.”

Jimin snorts quietly. “Isn’t that exactly what you do?”

“It’s certainly not for your benefit, darling. Although, I suppose you get to reap a little bit of it,” Jeongguk says, rolling his hips enough to rub against Jimin’s cock and send thrills up his spine. “But real alphas take care of their omegas, you know? They make sure their partners are pleased before anything else.”

Jimin bites the inside of his cheek, wondering how his ex would feel about being called a fake alpha. He would probably take it very personally, despite claiming not to care, and call Jimin a fake omega for having a bad scent—or something to that effect. “I’ll be more pleased if you fuck me,” he mumbles.

Kissing his way up to Jimin’s ear, Jeongguk whispers, “Your wish is my command,” before situating himself fully in between Jimin’s legs. Grasping his cock, Jeongguk rubs it teasingly against Jimin’s wet hole. “Is this what you want?”

“No,” Jimin squeaks, “just…”

“Just what, darling?”

“Fucking—put it in.”

“Mm? Put what in?” Jeongguk asks, sounding horribly amused. If Jimin weren’t so horny, he would hit him. “What is it you want, darling? Be specific.”

A sudden flare of real anger blossoms in Jimin’s chest. He doesn’t want to be specific. If Jeongguk is such a fucking genius alpha, he should know. It shouldn’t be up to Jimin to spell it out to him. Before he can even thinking about stopping himself, Jimin lashes out with one hand and wraps it tight around the front of Jeongguk’s throat. If he really wanted to choke him, Jimin would have to use both hands, but this gets his point across. Jeongguk jerks back a bit, eyes blown wide. Jimin can feel him swallow underneath his palm.

“How about you tell me why your dick is so great, I should be begging for it,” he sneers. “Or, better yet, why don’t you prove it? If it really is that great, you won’t even have to ask.”

Jeongguk grins so stupidly, tongue hanging out like a thirsty dog. “Then I won’t ask, darling.”

And Jeongguk doesn’t. The head of his cock presses against Jimin’s hole, pushing past the ring of muscle, and Jimin can’t keep anything up anymore. It’s wider than the fingers. So much wider, so much hotter, so much harder. He’s got to be full up, but it’s only the tip. Jimin digs his fingers into his own thighs, forcing himself to relax and breathe.

Jeongguk tucks under Jimin’s chin, nuzzling into the soft skin of his throat. “That’s good, baby, you’re doing good,” he coos. “Gonna make you full, just like you wanted.”

If he recalls correctly, Jeongguk is the one who suggested making him full, but even if Jimin wanted to argue, he couldn’t find the air. Jeongguk’s cock is squeezing it out of him. The compression will make him pop like a balloon.

“—stop or keep going?”

Oh, fuck. Jeongguk was talking. Jimin blinks a few times, trying to keep himself in the present. “K-Keep going,” he says.

“It’s okay if you have to stop for a minute. I don’t want to hurt you.”

“I-It’s not—It doesn’t hurt-hurt,” Jimin tries to explain. “It’s just… a lot. You’re fucking big.”

Jeongguk hums against his throat. “Maybe I’m normal-sized and you’re just small.”

“That’s not—That’s not how assholes work.” He wiggles a little bit, trying to tilt his hips in such a way that will make penetration easier. Even if it hurts, curling up on himself will make it hurt more. “Just get your monster cock in me and then we’ll stop for a minute.”

Jeongguk pushes into him until their hips are flush and he’s fully seated. Jimin throws his arms around Jeongguk, fists clenching and unclenching. It hurts so fucking bad, but he knows it will pass. He just has to give it a few moments. 

Propping himself up on his elbows, Jeongguk gazes down at him. Runs a gentle hand through Jimin’s tacky hair—he’s sweating more than he realized. Jeongguk isn’t as much, but he’s been under considerably less physical duress.

“You good?”

Jimin nods. “I’m good.”

When Jeongguk leans down to kiss him, it’s surprisingly gentle. Their lips mush together, languid and relaxed, and Jimin thinks about how long it’s been since anyone kissed him during sex. Since anyone kissed him at all. It hasn’t even occurred to him to miss it. He’s kissed boys who’ve kissed him like Jeongguk is, mouthing softly at his plush lower lip, sucking on it like a candy, but no one he’s kissed has been like Jeongguk.

How am I supposed to not get attached to you? he wonders as Jeongguk pulls away.

Maybe he can just stay in debt forever. Distracting Jeongguk with sex and never asking for enough money. They could work something out, and Jimin could move into the hotel with him. As long as he doesn’t have to pay rent, he could quit working and focus on school. Or just… not worry about it anymore. Become a pretty pet for Jeongguk to play with when he’s bored and close his eyes to the rest of his troubles.

Give up autonomy for comfort.

Is that it, though? Is that living?

“You look like you’re thinking really hard,” Jeongguk murmurs. “What’s up?”

“We talked about me dating, but not you. What about you? Have you dated?”

Jeongguk shrugs a bit, trailing his fingers down Jimin’s throat, over his collarbone. “I wouldn’t call it dating , exactly…”

“What would you call it?”

“Nothing interesting.”

“Try me,” Jimin says, wiggling his hips again to get more comfortable. The stretch feels better now. He’s less… overfilled.

Jeongguk huffs out a sigh. “Fine. I had a sort-of-thing with Taehyung when I was, like, fifteen. It was one of those decisions where you both have feelings for each other, but once you try to put them into action, you realize your feelings weren’t the same.”

That isn’t what Jimin expects to hear. It isn’t exactly usual for alphas to date, but it’s mostly unusual for a failed dating attempt to recover its friendship. And Jeongguk and Taehyung still seem pretty close, unless Jimin is missing something. “What was the difference?”

“I’m a physical person. He’s an emotional person,” Jeongguk replies, a little shortly. “We tried it my way, we tried it his way, but he didn’t like having sex and I didn’t like not having sex. I know relationships are supposed to be about, like, compromise, but… it just wasn’t going to work.”

“I’m sorry,” Jimin says quietly, because it sounds like Jeongguk genuinely cared. Still does care. Still carries damage from however the ordeal ended. “I think people make compromising and shit out to be a lot easier than it is. Maybe it’s easy with the right person, but it’s impossible with the wrong one.”

Jeongguk nods. “I met this other guy, like… shortly after, I guess. I was just looking to fuck around, y’know? But the first time I met him, it was just like oh fuck . When I tell you he was fucking everything, I’m not kidding. All he had to do was walk in a room and I was ready to cream my pants.”

Jimin does a bad job stifling his snort, mostly because he can’t get his hand fast enough from around Jeongguk’s waist to cover his mouth. “So, fifteen-year-old Jeongguk has an embarrassingly huge crush. Got it.”

“Shh,” Jeongguk hisses, smacking his thigh. The hit makes Jimin tense a little on reflex—enough to squeeze Jeongguk’s cock. A low groan rolls from Jeongguk’s throat, but they both manage to recover. It’s clear, though, this little cockwarming session isn’t going to be able to last indefinitely. “He was the first person I met who didn’t think I was insane for being, like, really into, like… violence. The first time we fucked, there was cocaine and a gun involved—like, I’d literally never been that high before.”

There’s something almost endearing about the way Jeongguk gets hung up in his explanation, as if Jimin was unaware of his fucked up kinks. “So, you met somebody who shared your sexual appetite. What happened to him?”

“He and this omega had been dancing around—well, the omega was dancing. But he and someone he’d been close to for a long time finally mated, so… that was that.”

Jimin hums softly, wiggling his hips again. “I guess you’ve just been a different kind of unlucky.”

“I wouldn’t call it unlucky. Whether something is lucky or not depends on how much you care,” Jeongguk replies. He grinds his hips back without really pulling out, then kicks back a little bit for a shallow thrust. “I don’t really care about finding the perfect mate and falling in love. It was always idol worship with him. I kissed the ground he walked on just cos he was the type of person who made you kneel and pray.”

Jimin’s eyes flutter closed, soaking in Jeongguk’s steady rocking. He can feel every inch of his cock—including, fuck , including the piercing gliding against his walls. “You wanted to be like him.”

“Wanting to have that kind of power over people is seductive,” Jeongguk replies, gripping Jimin’s hip to angle for deeper thrusts. “But you inevitably lose bits of yourself, y’know?”

The new stimulation makes Jimin’s toes curl. Jeongguk’s cock rubs him in all the right places at a tortuously slow pace, fucking him open. If Jeongguk pulled out right now and gave him a finger again, Jimin wouldn’t be able to tighten up enough to even feel it. The feeling bubbles in his chest—his body can be pushed to this kind of limit. Jeongguk’s slide feels so wet and easy.

“Fuck,” he moans, hooking his arms underneath Jeongguk’s so that he can grip his shoulders. He desperately wants to be fucked harder, but just the thought overstimulates him.

Jeongguk drags him in for a heated kiss, all lips and tongue and heat. “God, I could fucking eat you, you’re so fucking good,” he says into Jimin’s mouth. One hand slides down to Jimin’s ass, gripping the meat of it and squeezing.

“More,” Jimin whines, “please, more.”

Jeongguk shakes his head. “I wanna feel every bit of you dripping on my cock.”

The way his words make Jimin twitch is embarrassing, but not as much as the wet squelch of slick that squeezes from his hole. He is. He is dripping all over Jeongguk’s cock. It’s driving him insane. “‘m so wet,” comes out nearly a sob.

“I love it,” Jeongguk says. His voice has dropped into a sexy rasp, deep enough to grate against Jimin’s bones. Jeongguk reaches down to trace Jimin’s rim with his fingertips and pulls them to his face, sucking the slick digits into his mouth. “Next time, I’m gonna make you squirt right on my face like a fucking pornstar.”

Jimin shivers. Next time clings to him, like Jeongguk is already thinking about fucking him again before he’s even finished with the first time. Maybe Jeongguk has been thinking about it since the first time they fooled around, and he made Jimin squirt on his fingers.

Jeongguk manhandles him a little bit again, giving him a quick few pistoning thrusts that knock Jimin’s lungs dry. Then he slows back down, and Jimin groans. The more he tries to roll his hips to increase the friction, the harder Jeongguk holds his hips. Jimin is gonna have bruises from not getting fucked.

“Jeongguk, please,” he begs.

“Please what?”

“I need it harder, god, I need it so much fucking harder.”

Jimin’s heart skips a beat when Jeongguk’s cock slips out of him. The panic that swells up quickly turns to confusion when Jeongguk flops down beside him, insistently tugging at Jimin to make him move. His other hand wraps around his cock; it’s so wet, slick is dripping down over his balls. “Show me how hard you need it.”

Stiffly hauling himself up, Jimin swings a leg over Jeongguk’s waist. As he scoots back, he bumps into Jeongguk’s dick, and his hole flutters in anticipation of getting stuffed full again. But curiosity gets the better of him, and he reaches behind himself to press a finger inside. He’s so warm and wet and comfortably loose; he can’t squeeze his finger. It doesn’t feel like anything to have it in there, except for the tactile sensations on his hand. Dipping in a second one is barely anything.

Jeongguk watches with rapt attention.

Jimin removes his fingers, about to wipe them clean on the bed sheet, but pauses. Very hesitantly, he offers his hand to Jeongguk.

And Jeongguk takes it. Sucking his fingers all the way down to the knuckles, gripping Jimin’s wrist while he swirls his tongue around them, licking up every last dribble of slick he can get. When he finally pops them out of his mouth, Jimin becomes acutely aware of how hot he is. His skin is on fire and tacky with sweat. Jeongguk isn’t really any better off.

Steadying Jeongguk’s cock behind him, Jimin sinks down and tosses his head back in sweet relief. His own body weight forces Jeongguk in so much deeper. If he pushes hard enough, perhaps Jimin might feel the head of his cock up in his guts. He lifts himself up and drops back down, keening happily at the increased stimulation.

Jimin fucks himself like that, as hard as his thighs will allow him. Jeongguk lets him struggle for a while, wrapping a hand around Jimin’s cock to stroke him when his movements begin to labor. Jimin desperately rolls his hips, needing more friction that his body can’t get him. He doesn’t have the strength for it. He’s so close, so close to cracking that pleasure threshold to peaking, but he can’t get there. His body will give out on him first.

Thighs quivering from overexertion, Jimin drops forward onto Jeongguk’s chest. Even though he’s exhausted himself, he doesn’t stop grinding back on Jeongguk’s cock, because maybe he’ll luck out and hit his peak by accident. “Want it so bad,” he whines. He tries to stop so he can catch his breath, but he can’t. He can’t stay still. “Please, Jeongguk. Please, I’m so close, I’m so close, I n-need more, please—”

“A knot, baby? You wanna be knotted?”

Jimin lets out a strangled cry— yes, he wants to be knotted. Just the thought of Jeongguk’s knot swelling and stretching him out more than he already is— “Yes, yes please, knot me.”

The time it takes for Jeongguk to pull out and push him face down into the mattress isn’t long enough for Jimin to feel empty. When Jeongguk fucks back into him, it isn’t gentle. It’s hard, and that piercing Jimin has been playing with, rubbing inside himself, skates across his sweet spot and stars explode behind his eyes.

“O-Oh fuck,” he wheezes, unable to do anything but ragdoll while Jeongguk pounds into him. “God, yes, yes, a-ah—Jeongguk, fuck, that’s so fucking good.”

Jeongguk worms an arm under underneath Jimin’s chest, fingers snaking up his neck, over his jaw, and finally to his lips. Jimin opens up for them, happily taking two into his mouth. He rubs his tongue against them, loving having his mouth full along with his ass.

“Gonna knot,” Jeongguk grunts into his ear. “Gonna fill you up so much, baby.”

And maybe being stuffed with Jeongguk’s fingers isn’t such a bad thing, because he’d die if he had to listen to himself beg and plead any longer. As it is, he can barely contain his excitement when he feels the base of Jeongguk’s cock start to thicken. He’s going to be knotted. After twenty whole years, living knotless, he’s finally going to be knotted.

The swelling starts out small, and Jeongguk can still actively fuck him through it—stimulating himself to make sure his knot gets big and full. Jimin is able to take more of a stretch than he anticipated before it begins to pinch and burn, which Jeongguk picks up immediately out of his soft whimper. Even though he’s had to live without a knot, Jimin is distantly glad he isn’t doing it with an inexperienced alpha. The ways that this could go horribly wrong are only now just occurring to him.

Jeongguk pushes in and doesn’t pull back out, grinding his hips in little circles while his knot fills and fills and Jimin really does think he’s going to die this time. Internal organs are going to collapse because Jeongguk has him so full. He spits out Jeongguk’s fingers so he can sob into the pillow.

“Sh-shh, baby,” Jeongguk says, voice trembling like he’s about to fall apart any second. “You’re gonna cum so hard, it’s gonna feel so good.”

“I’m g-gonna die.”

Jimin accidentally bites the inside of his cheek trying to reign in his scream when Jeongguk jerks his hips, fucking right against his prostate, and he’s just gone. Climax hits him harder than it ever has in his life, cum spurting into the only pair of sheets he hasn’t thrown in a box yet. His whole body twitches, flexing around Jeongguk’s cock. He feels strange and sloshy, but doesn’t have time to dwell on it. Jeongguk’s teeth find Jimin’s shoulder, biting down while he ruts his hips as much as their bodies allow. Jimin feels his cock twitch and knows he’s cumming.

Jeongguk sucks in a deep, shuddering breath and lets it out against Jimin’s neck. “Good, baby? You’re good?”

“‘m so full,” Jimin slurs.

It’s an afterglow unlike any he’s experienced before, like Jeongguk’s knot is keeping him from dropping immediately. Orgasm usually means getting everything out of him before he crosses over into oversensitivity, but he wants to keep the knot in him longer. Which, perhaps, is a clever design, seeing as the knot cannot currently be removed.

With much effort, Jeongguk manages to roll both of them on their sides without tugging Jimin’s ass apart. Jimin still feels strangely cumbersome and only realizes what it is when Jeongguk’s hand smooths over his stomach.

“Full and pretty, darling,” Jeongguk murmurs, rubbing his bloated belly.

It doesn’t hurt, but it isn’t exactly comfortable, either. “‘s that normal…?”

“It’s fine,” Jeongguk replies. He sounds sleepy and unconcerned. “Maybe a little bigger than usual.”

“I totally fucking squirted while you had me plugged up.”

Jeongguk snorts into Jimin’s hair, tracing little patterns with his fingernails just below Jimin’s belly button. “That would do it.”

“How long does your knot last?” Jimin asks.

“Mm… twenty, thirty minutes.”

Jimin wiggles. “Is this safe? Like, I’ve probably got slick and jizz in my large intestine.”

“You’ll be fine, darling,” Jeongguk replies, sounding amused. “Just clean yourself out afterwards. Okay?”

Jimin nods, settling his hand over Jeongguk’s on his stomach. Everything is still buzzing. “Is it always like this?”

“Like what?”

“I feel… I dunno, really good. Like, it should be over, right? Cos I came, and I don’t exactly feel like cumming again, but I’m just…” Jimin struggles to put words to the sensation. “I want to stay like this. Filled up.”

“...Depends on the omega, I guess. Is this an unusual feeling?”

“I—I don’t know. I’ve never been knotted before.”

There’s a long pause. Jeongguk’s body language doesn’t change, but he almost sounds ashamed when he asks, “Really? Never?”

“No,” Jimin replies quietly. “You’ve gotta have certain… chemistry, I guess. Or be with someone who knots easily, but I never was. I’ve played with knotted toys and stuff, but it doesn’t feel the same at all. As soon as I cum, I want it out.”

“If it’s your first time, it isn’t gonna feel good when I pull out,” Jeongguk says slowly. “I know omegas who always cry no matter how many times they’ve been knotted, but it’s the worst after your first time. So don’t be surprised if the drop feels like hell on wheels. But I’ll be right here, okay? I’ll help you through it.”

Of course. He supposes he should count himself lucky his ex wasn’t the one to knot him, if the aftershocks are as bad as Jeongguk says they are. It was humiliating enough to cry over his cock during heat.

“M’kay,” Jimin replies. He drifts for a few moments, then recalls their earlier conversation. “Whatever happened to him?”

“Hmm? Who?”

“That guy. The one you were with after Taehyung.”

“We’ve stayed close. Actually, we’re probably closer now than we were when we were fucking. Thinking back on it, the intimacy was just a distraction,” Jeongguk says. “Everything I have, I have because of him. Like, if I want something, I tell him, and he helps me figure out how to get it. Like an advisor or something.”

“...Have I come up in these discussions of yours?”

“You’re something I want, aren’t you?”

“You’ve been rather relentless in your pursuit,” Jimin mumbles. “But it doesn’t seem like it would take genius to figure out how to manipulate me. I’m the first to admit that I’m in a horrible spot, no matter which way you look at it. But I don’t really believe you’re pretending to like me, even if I’m finding it difficult to wrap my head around.”

Jeongguk laughs softly, chest vibrating against his back. “I do like you. I like you a lot. I liked you the minute you walked into Namjoon’s office,” he says.

“Was it important for you to like me?”

“No. Not really. You’re just everything I’ve ever wanted, wrapped up in a perfect little package. I can’t help it.”

“You barely know anything about me,” Jimin says. “I think I know more about you. And that’s saying a lot.”

Jeongguk kisses the nape of his neck. “I know enough, darling.


 

taehyung:

 Where’s Jeongguk?

10:20 PM

 

you:

 Out

10:20 PM

 

taehyung

 Out where?

10:21 PM

 

you:

 Not at the hotel.

 He’ll be back tomorrow.

10: 21 PM

 

taehyung:

 He isn’t answering his phone

10:24 PM

 

you:

 Do you need him?

10: 24 PM

 

taehyung:

 He didn’t tell me he left. I just wanted to know where he is.

10: 25 PM

 

you:

 He’s not at the hotel.

 He’ll be back tomorrow.

 Are you feeling alright?

10: 26 PM

 

taehyung:

 I’m fine.

10: 27 PM

 

you:

It's been a while since I've seen you.

10: 27 PM

  

taehyung:

I’m on new medication.

Makes me sleepy

10: 30

 

you:

 For what?

10: 30 PM

 

taehyung:

 Headaches

10: 31 PM

 

you:

 Must be killer headaches.

 Is there anything else you’d like to tell me?

10: 33 PM

 

taehyung:

 I had nothing to tell you in the first place.

 And you’ve got nothing to tell me.

10:40 PM

 

you:

 Are you seeing someone?

10: 42 PM

 

taehyung:

 Why would you think that?

10:42 PM

 

you:

 I just wondered.

10: 42 PM

 

taehyung:

 Sure, I’m seeing someone.

10:44 PM

 

you:

 That’s interesting, Taehyung.

 I’d like to meet them sometime.

10:45 PM

 

taehyung:

 He doesn’t come to the casino.

10:48 PM

 

you:

 No?

10:48 PM

 

taehyung:

 No.

10:48 PM

 

you:

 That’s interesting, Taehyung.

 It’s late.

 Get some sleep.

10:50 PM

 

taehyung:

 Yeah

 Goodnight

10:55 PM

 

you:

 Goodnight, Taehyung.

10:56 PM

Chapter Text

“God, these fucking people,” Jeongguk grouses irritably. “What in fucking Christ do they expect this realtor to do? Pull a three-hundred thousand dollar mansion out of his ass and plonk it in the middle of Charlottesville?”

Jimin cranes his neck, trying to use his chin to tug down the puff of the duvet cover blocking his view of the television. Jeongguk immediately picks up his struggle and flattens the duvet down so that Jimin can see. On screen, a couple are touring a rather cosy-looking restored Victorian home, currently complaining about a lack of yard. The realtor is in the middle of explaining that finding a home in town will limit the amount of backyard space they will realistically be able to have.

“It’s like people don’t realize that extra amenities cost fucking money. You want more square footage? You have to pay for it. You want to be closer to downtown? The houses are more expensive. You want a pool? Okay—Wait. I remember going to an open house at one of Haneul’s properties, and there was this family talking about how it was so perfect , except it didn’t have a pool. A fucking pool. A mated couple with three little demonspawn, and they’re gonna pass up a house just because it doesn’t have a pool that they’re gonna use three times a year before they drain it or let it turn to chlorinated swamp water when the realize how much fucking upkeep they’ve gotta do on it. Not that I care about Haneul losing a sale, but Jesus fucking Christ. The hell they must’ve put that realtor through.”

“Didn’t know you had such a strong prejudice against home buyers,” Jimin mumbles. He would laugh, because hearing Jeongguk get worked up over something so ordinary is amusing, but his body has been sapped of energy. It’s all he can do to even keep his eyes open.

“I learned from an early age that all people are shitty, not just the ones around me.”

Jimin hums, eyelids drooping shut. “I could’ve told you that.”

Yesterday was hell.

The sex was mindblowing. Jimin has never been so utterly saturated in pleasure, pushed so far to his natural limits. To have Jeongguk’s knot in him, thick and throbbing, was the greatest physical experience of his entire life. But if being knotted was the peak of the mountain, the drop was a sheer plummet all the way down the mountainside. As soon as Jeongguk’s cock began to soften, panic pulled up in his gut. Intellectually, he understood that he’d lived his entire life without Jeongguk’s cock, so it was unlikely that he would suddenly die now, but the feeling was too overwhelmingly powerful to combat. The dam burst the moment his hole was empty, body wracked by uncontrollable, heaving sobs.

He was empty.

The emptiness crawled underneath his skin and itched, like maggots. It coiled up in his belly and made him sick, squeezed his muscles until he shook so badly he couldn’t stand. As much as he tried to scrape at his skin to get it out , he couldn’t. He couldn’t reach it.

Much of the afternoon was a blur. Jimin can’t remember specific instances, save for little blips of clarity here and there. He knows he threw up until he was gagging on nothing more than stomach acid. Bruises circle his wrists from where Jeongguk had been forced to hold his arms down to keep him from digging his nails into his skin in search for the worms that were eating him from the inside out. His throat is raw, his nose is stuffed up, his skull is throbbing. Everything, right down to his bones, ache.

Sometime after dark, the terror subsided. Jeongguk was able to help him to the shower and wash him out, scrub him clean. The warm water felt good, and Jeongguk’s hands felt better. They dried off, not really bothering to separate all that much, and curled back up in bed. Jimin was in the midst of a thought about how they should probably change the sheets when a loud sniffle against his shoulder interrupted him.

“Fuck,” Jeongguk hissed, burrowing his face deeper into the pillow to hide his own tears. “I-I’m fine, sorry. God , dammit.”

In that moment, Jimin realized to a tangible degree just how much his physical and psychological suffering had affected Jeongguk. It was his knot that caused this. Jimin never mentioned his lack of knotting before, not thinking that it was important. For the past several hours, Jeongguk had been nothing more than a helpless bystander while Jimin’s body tried to twist itself inside out, unable to comfort him, unable to make the pain stop.

It wasn’t just Jimin’s pain overwhelming him that was striking. It was that the alpha who fucked in blood and guts and fapped to violence had cried for him.

Jimin thinks about that, even now, curled up on the nest they made out of extra duvets and pillows on the couch. That Jeongguk didn’t find his suffering pleasurable.

“Why watch these shows?” Jimin asks.

“Guess it’s sort of like something I can’t let go of,” Jeongguk replies. He leans down, nuzzling softly into Jimin’s neck. “How are you feeling, baby?”

“Shitty,” Jimin says. “My throat feels like I gargled gravel, and I think my brain is gonna burst out my ears.”

Jeongguk kisses his jaw all the way to his temple. “Can I get you anything? You aren’t on suppressants, are you?”

“Mm. No. Can’t afford ‘em. So I just go without.”

“I know they do more than just inhibit your hormones during heat. Your reaction to being knotted probably wouldn’t have been as extreme.”

Jimin shrugs as much as his sore body will allow. “Heats are worse cos they last longer, but you just get used to them, I guess. You get lonely and achy and hump the bed for a few days straight every couple months, then it’s over. Would it… Would it have been really bad if I got knotted during heat?”

“Well, you might’ve gotten pregnant if you weren’t on birth control or something.”

“I used to be,” Jimin says, biting the inside of his cheek. It’s sore from where his teeth scraped some of the meat off last night. “I forewent a few meals just because I knew I was gonna spend heat with… with that guy.”

It isn’t like Jimin doesn’t remember his name anymore. He remembers it too well. He avoids anyone and everyone who has the same name, won’t let himself speak it. It doesn’t deserve a place on his tongue.

“I even lied to Seokjin about needing money for lunch or bus fare so that I could afford scent blockers. I couldn’t just… buy that stuff. Like, I didn’t even fucking steal any of it because I had this weird thought process about how I wanted to treat our relationship like it was legitimate or some bullshit.” Kissing his teeth, Jimin rolls over into Jeongguk and buries his face into his chest. “Wish I would’ve just convinced myself it was a lie instead of the other way around.”

A loud knocking on the door interrupts them. Jimin tries to think who the hell it might be and groans when he remembered that Yoongi and Hoseok were planning to come over this morning before he had to leave for his shift at the campus bookstore to take some of the stuff he needed to donate. Fuck.

“Are you expecting someone?” Jeongguk asks as Jimin attempts to extricate himself from their pile. He nearly loses his balance when he puts his arm on a part of the duvet unsupported by the couch.

“My friend and my new roommate came to take some shit,” Jimin says, “cos Hoseok has, like, a bigger car.”

As soon as he’s standing, his knees threaten to give out on him. He wobbles for a solid ten seconds, vision swimming, floor swaying, but it eventually passes. The knocking starts up again, louder this time. Yoongi probably thinks he’s asleep.

“Just a fucking minute,” he shouts, the volume of his own voice making his ears ring. He shoots Jeongguk a plaintiff glance. “Could you put a shirt on and answer the door while I try to pull my shit together?”

Jeongguk nods and darts off toward the bedroom. He’s wearing a pair of Jimin’s sweatpants. They’re a little too tight for him around the thighs, but it isn’t as if Jimin is complaining. Jeongguk’s body is a work of art he won’t get tired of appreciating. When he reemerges from the bedroom, he’s wearing one of Jimin’s sweatshirts, not his own. It’s weird to see alphas wearing omega’s clothes—or maybe it’s just weird to see Jeongguk wearing his clothes.

Jimin turns to the face their blanket nest and hesitates. He doesn’t really want to tear it down, because it’s—Well, it’s his nest . Of course he doesn’t want to move it. It’s saturated nicely in his and Jeongguk’s scents and it’s warm and perfect, but they’re about to have company. Reluctantly, he gathers the blankets into his arms and waddles into his bedroom to deposit them on the bed.

It’s weird and uncomfortable, because now it doesn’t register as nest anymore. It’s just… blankets that smell strongly of mingling pheromones. They’re his and Jeongguk’s , but not theirs . And Jimin doesn’t really know what to make of it. He’s never nested with another person before. He always nests by himself. But, this time, he nested with Jeongguk. Actually, it was Jeongguk who carried him out to the couch and brought him items from his room until he was satisfied. He didn’t think twice about inviting Jeongguk in with him, still craving him to stay as close as possible so that he could soak up his presence.

But now it’s just… gone.

The sound of voices carry from the living room, pulling him back to his task. He exits the bedroom to see his friends engaged in greeting.

Friends? Jimin wonders.

Is Jeongguk his friend?

Yoongi is stepping away from a polite scenting, rubbing at his neck with his wrist, trying to re-scent himself. Jeongguk turns to Hoseok, and the alphas eye each other for a moment. Jimin pauses at the edge of the kitchen, watching them. Nothing in Hoseok’s scent is confrontational, but a spark of annoyance flashes in his eyes when Jeongguk inclines his chin in a “step up, bitch” sort of fashion. So, Hoseok does, and tucks his nose into Jeongguk’s neck, close enough to get a solid whiff.

But Jeongguk moves quicker, lashing out like a wild animal and sinking his teeth into Hoseok’s neck. Panic spikes in the room, in Jimin’s gut, and his delayed realization is that it’s coming from Yoongi . Jimin darts to his side, gathering him up with urgency to protect him. Not that he knows what he’ll do. Snarling deep in the bowels of his chest, Jeongguk forces Hoseok to the floor and pins him there. Hoseok struggles like he wants to escape, rather than wanting to fight. It isn’t long before his limbs fall limp and his normally cinnamon scent, for lack of a better word, flatlines.

Jeongguk releases Hoseok’s neck, rocking back on his haunches. He rolls something around in his mouth, then spits viscous, reddish fluid into Hoseok’s face. Licking his lips, Jeongguk fists Hoseok’s vibrant orange hair and yanks it back. Buds of arousal bloom in Jeongguk’s scent as he leans down to clean Hoseok’s face off with his tongue.

It’s the most bizarre, visceral display of dominance Jimin has ever seen in his life.

Jeongguk says something into Hoseok’s ear that sounds suspiciously like, “Are you going to be good for me?” to which Hoseok only whimpers in reply.

As soon as Jeongguk allows Hoseok to skitter out from underneath him, the tension in the room snaps. Jimin noses at Yoongi to make sure that he’s okay, and he is; just shaken up. Then he fixes a heated stare on Jeongguk.

“Jesus fucking Christ,” he snaps. “What the hell is wrong with you?”

Jeongguk hauls himself up, rolling his shoulders back—as if he could possibly make himself seem any more intimidating. Jimin makes a split second decision and drags him back to the little pocket of a corridor leading to the bedrooms. Numb to Jimin’s mounting fury, Jeongguk is quite chuffed with himself.

“Are you out of your fucking mind?” Jimin hisses, shoving Jeongguk against the wall. A grin tugs at his lips, boiling Jimin’s blood.

Jeongguk grabs his waist, pulling their hips flush. His cock is half hard in his sweatpants. In Jimin’s sweatpants. “Don’t be mad, baby. He wanted to know his place, and I showed it to him. That’s all. Alphas play like that.”

“Didn’t look like playing to me,” Jimin responds. “That’s my fucking roommate , and now he’s gonna kick me out before I’ve even moved in because he’ll be terrified I’m gonna be bringing around a fucking psychopath.”

Electricity crackles in Jeongguk’s scent, and he focuses his eyes intently on Jimin’s. “That alpha is your new roommate?”

“Yes, unless he changes his mind cos you tried to tear his fucking throat out!”

Faster than Jimin can even blink, their positions are flipped and Jeongguk has him up against the wall. One leg is hiked over Jeongguk’s hip, then the other, and Jimin is helplessly squashed.

“You’re not rooming with another alpha,” Jeongguk growls into his ear.

“It’s not your choice,” Jimin snarls right back.

“But you’re mine.”

Jeon Jeongguk isn’t the first alpha Jimin has ever been in a physical altercation with, and he won’t be the last. He closes a hand around Jeongguk’s throat, digging his thumb into the soft space beside his windpipe, just below the chin, right at the jugular. Jeongguk’s pulse pounds hard underneath the pad of his thumb.

“I’m not fucking yours. If you wanted a dumb little bitch to roll over for you, you picked the wrong omega.”

Neither of them move. Jimin feels an odd tug in his gut, because this alpha is his. This alpha knotted him and took care of him and nested with him, so he should be listening to him, but he isn’t. His instincts are luring him in the wrong direction. Jeongguk is wrong.

Jimin sucks in a shaky breath, loosens his hand from Jeongguk’s throat and moves it to the back of his head, curling into his hair. “I think you’re the one who’s confused,” he says softly, “about what we are. We aren’t anything, Jeongguk. I owe money to the Black Rabbit, and you agreed to help me pay it off. I literally can’t afford to forget that. If you’re gonna cause me extra stress like this, then I might as well go back to Haneul.”

Jeongguk clenches his jaw hard enough to make the vein jump. His grip slips from Jimin’s thighs, letting him slide to the ground. When he replaces his hands on Jimin’s sides, the touch is gentle. Holding, rather than restraining. Something like a film glosses over Jeongguk’s eyes, and Jimin can’t read his expression anymore. His scent evens out to neutral.

“I’ll leave, then.”

“Jeongguk—”

But Jeongguk steps away, disappearing into the bedroom and slamming the door shut. Jimin sags against the wall, anxiously biting his thumbnail. Fuck, fuck, he messed up. He should’ve just let Jeongguk—no, he shouldn’t have. God dammit.

A few moments later, Jeongguk emerges. He’s put his own clothes back on, and Jimin’s heart sinks at the sight.

“You don’t have to leave.”

Jeongguk pauses in the doorway. “I think we both know I do,” he says. “This is your world, not mine. I don’t belong here.”

“It’s not like you can’t fucking be here,” Jimin says, taking a step towards him. “There’s just rules. Like don’t attack my friends.”

“I don’t know how to follow those rules.”

Jeongguk slips past him and strides into the living room, Jimin hot on his heels. Yoongi and Hoseok are huddled near the sink, a few bloody paper towels littering the counter from trying to clean up Hoseok’s neck. They both tense as Jeongguk passes, but he doesn’t acknowledge either of them. The front door swings open, then slams shut, and Jeongguk is gone.

Jimin grips the edge of the counter, exhaling heavy. “Hoseok, I’m so fucking sorry, he—”

“Yoongi explained,” Hoseok says quietly. “Sort of. He’s… some kind of gangster? That your father owed money?”

“It’s a little more complicated than that, but…” Leaning his elbows on the counter, he rubs at his aching temples. Anxiety had caused him to ignore his symptoms for a little while, but now they’re back in full force and he feels even shitter than he did before. “Yeah, we’re, like, intimate, but that doesn’t give him a free pass to pull insane shit.”

“It’s fine, Jimin. I mean—scared the piss out of me, and I’m not sure I’m gonna wanna initiate scenting anytime soon, but I’m fine. Alphas are always weird about first scenting, because the omega is supposed to step forward, and nobody wants to, y’know, ‘be the omega.’ Even though that shit doesn’t matter. But I guess he, uh, takes it pretty seriously.”

“He’s got some shit going on, I think,” Yoongi says slowly. “Like, deep shit. You don’t do something like that unless you’re scared.”

Jimin lifts his head, meeting eyes with Yoongi across the kitchen. “You think he’s scared?”

Yoongi glances quickly between Hoseok’s neck and the front door. “Yeah. Yeah, I do.”


 

jeongguk:

I fucked up

I really fucked up, he’s not gonna want to see me again

 

you:

What did you do?

 

jeongguk:

We knotted yesterday. He’s so fucking perfect.

but his friends came over this morning to help him finish moving and one of them is an alpha and it fucking set me off

I didn’t want him to think he could get anywhere near Jimin or get his scent anywhere on him

And of course that’s Jimin’s new roommate

So I had to leave because Jimin said we didn’t mean anything and I was interfering with his life

It hurt

I’m so fucked

What the hell do I do

 

you:

Are you starting to change your mind?

 

jeongguk:

No

 

you:

You know what the result will be if you go through with it.

You’ve planned out all of the details specifically for this result.

If you can’t sacrifice him for it, then you’ve got to let him go now.

 

jeongguk:

Nothing is changing.

I’m not gonna wait around for someone else.

 

you:

What is it about him that’s gotten you so attached?

 

jeongguk:

You aren’t going to sit there and tell me why?

 

you:

I want to hear what you think.

 

jeongguk:

He’s angry

At the world, at himself

He gets it. What it’s like to carry so much hatred that it becomes a burden.

 

you:

He’ll hate you for this.

 

jeongguk:

I know

 

you:

He’ll never forgive you.

 

jeongguk:

I wouldn’t let him suffer with it.

 

you:

Will that make you feel less guilty?

 

jeongguk:

I’m not gonna be guilty. This needs to be done.

Why are you trying to talk me out of it?

 

you:

Because the reason your plan fails will be because of you.

You know what will happen if I have to step in and clean up your mess.

This is like any kind of mechanism. The more moving parts, the more room for error. You’ve created this Rube Goldberg type of monstrosity that wholly depends on everything going exactly right. You haven’t taken into account what will happen if something goes wrong. There’s no flexibility to it. That’s why you’re panicking right now.

 

jeongguk:

I’m not panicking.

I know what I’m gonna do.

 

you:

And what is that?

 

jeongguk:

Wait. He’ll come back.

He has to. He needs me.

 

you:

Money exists outside of what you can give him.

 

jeongguk:

He needs ME

No other alpha is giving him what I’ve been giving him

 

you:

So I’ve gotten the impression.

But you’re making another mistake in thinking that Jimin is weak because of these insecurities you’re trying to manipulate.

As soon as he realizes what you’ve been doing, you’ve lost your pawn. You might even be the one to lose your life. That’s the sort of game you’re playing with him.

 

jeongguk:

Are you threatening me?

 

you:

I’m just telling you that you’re the weak link.

 

jeongguk:

What am I supposed to do?

 

you:

Adjust.

By the way, I’d keep Taehyung out of as much business as you can without it being suspicious.

I found heat suppressants in his room.

 

jeongguk:

Why the hell does he have those?

 

you:

He said he was seeing someone.

 

jeongguk:

That’s bullshit. He’s gotta be taking them for some reason.

Fuck he’s taking them for his headaches.

Where the fuck is he getting them? You can only get them through a prescription.

 

you:

He hasn’t taken Kalkaska’s.

Jimin?

 

jeongguk:

Doesn’t take them

 

you:

If I don’t know, and you don’t know, then we need to be careful.

It'd be so much easier if you’d just let me get rid of him.

 

jeongguk:

If you touch a single fucking hair, I’ll kill you.

 

you:

At least we’d be making progress in some areas.

Are you coming back to the hotel?

 

jeongguk:

Yeah

 

you:

I’m heading out then.

Dogs are on surveillance.

 

jeongguk:

Where are you going?

 

you:

I’ve got some things to follow up on. Try not to get yourself in any more trouble.


 

“So… You got knotted.”

Jimin bites down on his bottom lip, eyes glued to the road. He pushes in the clutch and downshifts as they approach a red light. “Yup,” he replies, popping the P .

“...Like knotted?”

“What other kind of knotting is there, Yoongi?”

“I dunno.”

There’s a long silence, aggravated by the stoplight. Jimin likes when they’re moving because he’s got something to occupy himself with, but while they’re stopped, Yoongi knows he won’t look at him.

“Was it good?”

“Sure,” Jimin says tersely. “The most amazing experience of my life, ten out of ten, would recommend to a friend.”

The light turns green again and Jimin guns the engine. The mustang leaps into the intersection with a throaty roar.

“Your first knot didn’t sound like it was that great,” Yoongi says apathetically. “I just wondered if this one was any better.”

“My first—What? This was my—” And Jimin freezes, realizing that wasn’t what he told Yoongi. That isn’t what he’s been telling anyone for the past three years. “Oh.”

Yoongi hums, a soft noise smothering the rumble of the engine. “So you lied.”

“I lied to everyone,” Jimin says, gripping the steering wheel. “Not just to you.”

“Does this have to do with your ex?” Yoongi asks.

“Not… totally specifically. I just got sick of people telling me about what a magical fucking experience getting knotted was. So I made something up,” Jimin says. “And I didn’t, like, know you at the time, so it wasn’t like I was gonna spill all my darkest secrets to you right away.”

“It’s not like I don’t get it. I told my parents that Seokjin was my boyfriend for two years until I was finally able to come clean about what happened and why they aren’t gonna be getting any grandkids from me.”

Jimin anxiously bites his cheek. The cheek that’s still sore. “I’m sorry he got like that,” he whispers. “It was fucking terrifying for me, but, god —I’m sorry, Yoongi.”

“It just startled me,” Yoongi replies. “It was like… he just wanted Hoseok to know he had the bigger cock. Cos he knotted you, and that… does things to alphas. Makes ‘em weird.”

“Yeah. Made me feel weird, too,” Jimin mutters grumpily. “Like, he just—He just took such fucking good care of me. I was practically throwing up internal organs and sobbing blood, and he stayed with me the entire time. Then we fell asleep for a while, woke up, packed up the rest of my dad’s shit at fucking midnight, then we nested together on the couch ‘til this morning.”

Pursing his lips, Yoongi nods. “He’s attentive to you.”

“Yoongi, his dick is pierced. His dick is fucking pierced. Do you know what it’s like to have one of those little shits rubbing all up in your ass?”

“Can’t say that I do?”

“Pierce one of your dildos. I swear to god, you’ll ruin yourself. I don’t know how I’m gonna feel good on anyone else’s cock if it isn’t trying to split me in half with a little metal ball on the tip.”

Yoongi doesn’t say anything for a few seconds. It isn’t a long pause, but it’s enough to interrupt the flow of their conversation. “You keep talking about him like that,” he says. “Like you’re gonna have to find somebody else after him. It’s making me sad.”

Jimin hasn’t been doing it consciously, but he realizes that Yoongi is right. Jeongguk is a manifestation of a lot of the traits he’s been aching for in an alpha. One who will scent him, one who enjoys his scent, one that’s funny, one who will take care of him on the rainy days. He can feel the beginnings of a bond tugging at him. He misses Jeongguk when they’re apart, misses Jeongguk’s hands on him, misses the sound of his voice—even though he has a knack for pissing Jimin off. If only, if only it wasn’t Jeongguk. If only it was someone else.

But if it isn’t Jeongguk, will it be the same? Or will he spend the rest of his life regretting passing up the alpha who could’ve been his soulmate?

“Sorry,” Jimin says. “I guess it makes me sad, too.”


 

After dropping Yoongi off, Jimin drives to campus for his shift at the bookstore. He still feels like shit, and realistically should’ve called in, but after what happened with Jeongguk, he isn’t sure he can afford to be sacrificing hours. So, he drags his headache and sore ass out of the mustang and hikes up to the student center. It’s twelve-thirty, so campus traffic is heavy. Most students have planned themselves a lunch break. The bookstore is crowded as well, and Jimin doesn’t look forward to having to deal with idiots trying to return things without receipts.

Thankfully, it looks like most kids in line are just there to buy some packaged noodles or a candy bar.

He hurries to the back, clocks in, and heads back out. Their assistant manager, Dutch, is in the middle of ringing up a female alpha and her ramen. Aside from Yoongi, Dutch is the only omega Jimin can say he’s even somewhat close to. There’s a girl at Seokjin’s restaurant who keeps trying to act like she’s his friend, but all she does is run her mouth about the current alpha she’s dating. They’re all awful, too, and Jimin doesn’t understand why she keeps dating people she barely likes.

Jimin normally doesn’t like interacting with mated omegas because they have a tendency to get absorbed into their alpha’s personality, but he doesn’t mind Dutch. It took him a little while to warm up, but Dutch is sweet and difficult to dislike. Especially when he hasn’t breathed a peep about how great being pregnant is. Jimin doesn’t even know the mate’s name.

Except it looks like Jimin may be meeting The Mate today. As Jimin slips behind the counter, he hesitates at the sight of someone sitting at Dutch’s feet. He’s pretty, is the first thing Jimin thinks. If this is The Mate, Dutch did well for himself. Nice face, dark hair, looks content leaning against a plywood partition on the backside of the counter with his cheek pressed against Dutch’s leg.

“Thank God,” Dutch mutters as Ramen Girl walks away and Jimin is fishing a bookstore lanyard out of the drawer. “I’ve gotta pee so fucking bad.”

Jimin snorts, logging into his register. “Hurry up and go, then.”

The next few students in line go quickly, and Jimin almost forgets about the suspected alpha behind the counter while Dutch is in the bathroom. But after Dutch returns and the lunch rush finally settles down, they’re finally introduced.

With a herculean sort of effort, Dutch manages to sit himself down in between the alpha’s legs and lean back against his chest. “My feet hurt,” he whimpers.

“All you’ve done is complain since I got here,” his mate says, flattening his palms against Dutch’s belly. “Your feet hurt, your back hurts, you’re hungry, you’re tired, you want to go home…”

“‘s cos I fucking do.”

“You’re also the one who has opted to continue working, even though I told you not to. So, now you’re tired and sore instead of resting in a nice nest at home.”

“I’d lose my mind doing nothing all day,” Dutch says. “Jimin, this is Zodiac.”

Jimin gives Zodiac a polite nod. “Nice to meet you.”

Zodiac finally looks up at him, as if noticing Jimin for the first time. His eyes aren’t the same color. The left is brown and the right is bright blue. “I’ve heard a lot about you,” he says, gently smoothing his hands over Dutch’s stomach. “You’re a student here, too?”

“Uh huh. I’ve got class after my shift ends.”

“What are you studying?”

“Biochemistry.”

“Biochem, that’s interesting,” Zodiac says, resting his cheek on Dutch’s shoulder. “You want to be a scientist?”

Jimin leans against the counter, drumming his fingers on the edge. “Yeah. I want to get into, like, scents and stuff. What kinds of things affect them. If they can be altered.”

“Planning to run the perfume industry out of business?” Dutch asks jokingly.

“Who knows? Maybe I can partner with Dior, become a millionaire, and retire before I’m thirty,” Jimin says. “That’d certainly be welcome twist of fate.”

Zodiac gently pushes a hand against Dutch’s back to make him lean forward a bit, struggling to get his phone out of his back pocket. He checks it over his mate’s stomach, eyebrows twitching together a little bit. Dutch presses his index finger against the screen, idly scrolling up and down what appears to be a long series of text messages from someone.

Reaching the bottom of the messages, Dutch scoffs. “And this one is your favorite?”

“You’re my favorite,” Zodiac says, dialing a number and holding the phone up to his ear. He rubs Dutch’s belly with his free hand, until Dutch stops him and laces their fingers together. It would be a cute gesture if Dutch didn’t seem almost… desperate. “Kalkaska,” Zodiac says into the phone, “go next door and make sure the kid doesn’t get loose and run into traffic. He’s being obnoxious.” A pause. “You’ve got a body—distract him. I’ll be back later.”

As Zodiac awkwardly re-pockets his phone, Jimin hears Dutch ask, “Are you gonna come home?” in a small voice.

“Do you want me to come home?”

“Yeah,” Dutch says quietly. “It just gets… hard after a while.”

Zodiac nods, pressing a few kisses to Dutch’s cheek. “Tonight?”

“Uh-huh.”

“I’ll come home,” he murmurs.

Jimin doesn’t ask about it, but he wonders about Zodiac’s absence for the rest of his shift. What kind of alpha leaves his pregnant mate alone? What kind of alpha leaves his pregnant mate, period? From what Jimin understands, alphas’ protectiveness is the most basic of instincts. Even Jeongguk exhibited it, and they weren’t anywhere near mated. It’s puzzling, to say the least, to hear Dutch ask if his mate is going to come home.

Then again, perhaps Jimin doesn’t understand alpha and omega dynamics as much as he thinks he does. He’ll be the first to admit he has a rather jaded opinion.

Zodiac leaves before their shift ends, and Jimin helps Dutch close up the bookstore at six PM. As soon as they’ve locked up, Jimin hauls ass across campus to the building where his organic chemistry class is located. On a normal day, it’s tough to force himself to stay awake, but Jimin is exhausted, right down to his bones. He wants to skip, but he’s got an exam next week and can’t afford to miss the review. By nine, he wants to die, but he can’t help being relieved as he remembers he doesn’t have to wait for the bus.

A thick blanket of clouds has rolled across the sky since Jimin was last outside, muffling the already-darkening sky. It isn’t long after Jimin gets in the mustang that raindrops begin to spatter on the windshield. He checks his phone—he’s got a text from Seokjin asking about what happened to Hoseok, but he doesn’t feel like answering it at the moment. Nothing from Jeongguk.

Not that Jimin cares.

He sets the phone down in the cupholder and starts the car.

The closer he gets to his apartment, the heavier the rain starts to fall. Jimin is still getting accustomed to driving again, and the weather poses a new challenge. He feels stupid, sitting at an intersection with his wipers at considerably higher speed than the car beside him, but he wants to fucking see and it’s hard. As it gets darker and the blacktop gets wetter, the lines on the road become more difficult to see. Plus, the car behind him has been right up his ass for the past mile, and Jimin has to tilt his rearview mirror just so he isn’t blinded by this idiot’s headlights.

As he pulls up to a red light, his phone rings. He doesn’t recognize the number, but a nagging little voice in the back of his mind tells him he should answer it. Against his better judgement, he picks up. “Hello?”

“Park Jimin,” the voice on the other end says. It sounds achingly familiar. “Would you like to know something interesting?”

Jimin’s blood runs cold. “Wh-Who is this?”

“The camry behind you followed you from campus. Are you expecting company?”

Twisting in his seat, Jimin desperately tries to pick out who at the intersection is watching him. “Who the hell are you?” he demands. “Why are you following me?”

“Alpha, middle-aged. Dark brown hair, brown eyes. A Mr. Allan Andersen. I’ve been following him. It just happens to be that you and I and he all converged at the same place, and he also happens to be following you.”

“Andersen?” Panic constricts Jimin’s chest. Andersen is the alpha Jeongguk threatened that night a few weeks ago. “Why the hell is he following me? I didn’t fucking do anything to him!”

“But Jeongguk did, and you were there, and that was a mistake. So here I am, cleaning up mistakes. Anything you want to keep safe, you keep it well hidden away.”

Jimin opens his mouth, but nothing comes out. He can see the light turning yellow for cross traffic.

“When that light turns green, you’d better move, kitty.”

“Where?” he babbles. “Where am I supposed to—”

“Don’t go home. Go to the casino.”

The light turns green and Jimin slams down on the accelerator, pitching the phone onto the passenger seat so he can fly through gear changes while crossing the intersection, and prays he doesn’t stall the car. The mustang’s tires skid a little on the wet pavement, but then it’s off , peeling through the intersection. Just as he’s nearly touched down on the other side, a dark truck that looked like it’d been parked on the curb lurches forward as he passes, and Jimin glances up into the rearview mirror just in time to see it collide with the camry behind him.

He hasn’t taken a breath by the time he brakes to throw the mustang into a right turn at the next light. His hands are trembling, but he forces himself to suck in a breath and drive the speed limit, because no one outside of himself, Andersen, and the person on the phone with him know that he was being followed, and he doesn’t want to look suspicious.

So, this is what it’s come down to. Andersen can’t get at Jeongguk, so he’s going to try and get Jimin instead. He missed his chance, though, because Jeongguk was at his apartment earlier. Andersen must not know where he lives, which makes the decision against going back home, where he’ll be alone , a lot easier. He doesn’t really want to see Jeongguk again today, but he can always just check into a room for the night. Not that he can afford it, but perhaps Namjoon will let him put it on his tab.

He takes a circuitous route. By the time he’s pulling into the Black Rabbit’s parking garage, it’s pitch black outside. His phone vibrates on the seat, startling him into accidentally slamming on the brakes and nearly getting rear-ended by the Honda creeping through the garage behind him. He fumbles to answer it, holding the phone to his ear as he slowly winds his way up towards the top of the parking structure.

“There’s a gate to access the top level,” the same voice from earlier says. “The code is three-two-five-eight. I’ll meet you there.”

The line goes dead.

Jimin drives up to the top floor, trying not to think too hard about who the hell he’s going to be meeting. He waits for a gold Lexus to back out of its space, and they politely skirt around each other. There is, in fact, a black metal gate blocking the way to the top floor. He stops beside the little gray box housing the keypad and cranks his window down. A maroon pickup truck with a smashed front end pulls up behind him.

3258 .

Jimin punches the code into the box and waits for the gate to roll open agonizingly slowly. This part of the parking structure is considerably more empty; Jimin isn’t sure who uses it. Employees, possibly? Or high-paying guests? Either way, Jeongguk seems to be utilizing it for his own purposes.

He parks the mustang in the nearest available space, and the pickup pulls into the one beside him. Both engines cut, bathing the garage into eerie echoing ambience. Jimin pockets the key and clutches his phone to his chest as he gets out. From the other side of the truck, he hears the driver door open and close, and cautiously wanders around to the back of the vehicle.

Who he meets there is not who he expects to see.

“You’re—”

Zodiac hushes him with a finger against his own lips. “The walls have ears around here,” he says. He beckons Jimin to follow, and leads him to the elevator.

“So you… work for Jeongguk?” Jimin asks slowly once they’re inside. Zodiac’s demeanor is a lot different here than it had been at the bookstore. There, with Dutch, he seemed more like a person. Here, he just feels cold. Jimin sucks in a breath, trying to catch his scent, but all he can smell is metal.

“You could say that,” Zodiac drawls, leveling Jimin across the elevator car with an unblinking stare. “Or you could say that Jeongguk works for me. Both are inaccurate in some way.”

Jimin shifts uncomfortably underneath the intense scrutiny. “What is your relationship with him, then?”

“I talk. He listens. Sometimes.” Zodiac rolls his head to the side, eyes not leaving Jimin’s. “Sometimes he doesn’t.”

“You’re his ex,” Jimin guesses. “The one he met in high school.”

“Is that how he describes me? A past?”

Jimin shrugs, shrinking a little against the wall. “You mated—” Maybe he shouldn’t say Dutch’s name out loud. “You’re mated. But you were with him before.”

“Alphas have omegas, and alphas have alphas. Most of them don’t beg for their alpha’s cock, but Jeongguk was always a bit of a special case,” Zodiac says. The elevator doors slide open, allowing them onto the fifth floor. The doors to the breezeway to the hotel are just beside the elevator. “We have a similar taste in sex.”

“What does Andersen have to do with any of this?” Jimin asks tersely, changing the topic. It isn’t as if he’s jealous. Zodiac has a mate, and he and Jeongguk aren’t fucking anymore. But this tie runs deeper than sex. Jeongguk said they were closer now. “What does he want from me?”

Zodiac leads him through the breezeway and into the hotel. Once they enter the softly lit hallway, sounds inside become more muted and the pounding in Jimin’s skull is amplified instead.

“Andersen hasn’t got the kind of money Jeongguk wants from him,” Zodiac says, “so he’s looking for alternative ways of getting it. If you’re valuable enough to Jeongguk, kidnapping you might be one of them.”

“I’m not, though,” Jimin says.

“But you were there, that night. You’re the only lead he’s got.”

“It doesn’t change the fact that I can’t help him. What the fuck am I supposed to do?”

Zodiac glances back at him over his shoulder. “Are you asking me?”

“If you’ve got an answer, then sure,” Jimin huffs.

“Kill him.”

Jimin stops walking. Zodiac stops walking too, and turns around to face him. Further down the hall, a pair of guests emerge from their room. They look nice. Ready to go spend money they don’t have down in the casino. Blissfully unaware that murder is being discussed twenty yards away.

“If Andersen is going to be a nuisance, kill him.”

“I-I—” Jimin shakes his head, taking a step back. Maybe, maybe Andersen deserves to die. What he’s doing will ruin his family, if it hasn’t already ruined it. Would dying do his family a favor, though? Or would Jeongguk squeeze his family dry, just like Haneul? “I c-couldn’t. I can’t.”

Zodiac stalks towards him. Even though he’s moving slowly, he reaches Jimin all too soon. He cups Jimin’s jaw with both hands, tilting his face up, preventing him from looking away. Something about Zodiac’s eyes are consuming. The blue one draws his attention more, so pale it could be translucent. Like a marble stuck in an eye-socket.

It’s not an alpha feeling.

It’s almost inhuman.

Jimin’s breathing picks up as fear settles in his stomach, and he inhales a sharp, metallic odor that tastes at the back of his mouth. Like iron.

Zodiac smells like blood.

“Just try it,” he murmurs like he’s being friendly, as if he’s talking about a piece of candy, not someone's life. “I promise you’ll like it.”

Chapter Text

It doesn’t take Jimin long to decide that sitting in one of the Black Rabbit’s lavish suites twiddling his thumbs isn’t how he’s going to be able to spend the rest of his night. A part of him doesn’t want to leave the comfortable safety of the hotel room, but it should be alright to go down to the casino for a while. Maybe he can turn the five dollars in his pocket into something more substantial to buy himself a drink.

Or maybe he should just stay away from the roulette wheel tonight.

The casino is exactly as it was the last time he visited—too bright, too loud, too crowded. It’s an eerie comfort that no matter what sorts of violent changes Jimin’s life experiences, the Black Rabbit will remain the same. A ceaseless, sleepless snake eating its own tail.

Jimin roams the casino aimlessly, and he finds it much easier to blend in. At school, it’s always a game of chicken to avoid eye-contact with the oncoming person in the hallways. It’s much easier to navigate traffic without being noticed when casino patrons are much more focused on themselves and their games.

He spies an open spot at a table nearby and cautiously steps up to spectate. As soon as he realizes he isn’t the only one watching, he relaxes. A few people appear to be engaged in some kind of dice game. One of them rolls a pair of dice onto the table, but seems disappointed by his roll. The dealer, a woman in a glittery gold vest over a white dress shirt, uses a stick to collect a few stacks of chips from the board. Jimin tries to puzzle out the rules, but it’s a lot more complicated than roulette.

He’s so utterly focused on the game, he isn’t paying any attention to the other patrons at the table until a hand presses against the small of his back. At the first quick glance Jimin makes to his left, all he catches is dark hair and a powerful build. But it isn’t—It isn’t Zodiac. It’s someone else.

Before Jimin can excuse himself or ask what the guy wants, the hand slides up his back, and then the whole arm hooks around his neck, tugging him closer to the strange alpha. He is alpha, his scent gives off as much. But it’s odd and muddled, and Jimin can’t tell what exactly he smells like.

“Zoey told me to keep an eye on you,” the guy stage-whispers far too loudly into Jimin’s ear.

“Zoey,” Jimin says slowly. “You mean Zodiac.” The arm around his neck tightens enough to choke him when the guy bursts into giggles.

“So you’ve met him?”

Jimin tries to nod, but the chokehold won’t allow him to. “Tonight.”

“Even if you’ve met him, you haven’t really met him,” the guy whispers. “I think the only people who’ve met him are fucking dead.”

As much as Jimin would like to skirt around this tidbit of information, the implications are clear as an unmuddied sky.

Zodiac has killed people.

“And you work for him?” Jimin asks, astounded by the steadiness of his own voice.

The alpha snickers again, still too close to Jimin’s ear. “What a smart little cookie you are,” he coos. “Should I give you a treat for being such a good boy?”

A low growl builds in Jimin’s throat. He’s had just about enough of this guy. “Get your fucking hands off me before I cause a scene.”

While he isn’t released, the alpha does slide his arm down to Jimin’s waist, as opposed to keeping him in a headlock. He pushes his nose into Jimin’s neck, inhaling a few times. “You should come get a drink with me, kitty,” he says. “So I can keep an eye on you easier.”

Jimin freezes, not knowing how to respond. This alpha isn’t an enemy, per se—he works for Zodiac, so he knows Jeongguk—but Jimin can’t ignore the alarm bells ringing in his head. His instincts warn him to be cautious. This isn’t a man at the restaurant making a poorly attempted pass at him. This most likely isn’t a pass at him at all; just a display because they’re in public.

“Is Jeongguk here?” Jimin asks, dodging the question.

“He’s playing cards,” the alpha replies. “He’s pretty good, y’know? Like, coulda built a fortune on hustling kinda good.”

Interesting to learn, but effectively dashes Jimin’s future hopes of ever winning card games against him. “Do you know where he is?”

“I do. But I thought you didn’t want to see him.”

Jimin opens his mouth, then closes it again. “Seems like news travels fast around here.”

“Oh, I know lots about you, kitty.”

“I want to see him,” Jimin blurts, suddenly antsy. “I want to see Jeongguk, so take me to him.”

“Fine, fine. If that’s what you want , kitty.”

The alpha pulls him away from the table and guides him through the casino, taking him all the way back to the private rooms. They slip quietly through a pair of double doors, where a game of poker is taking place. Even though the room is relatively full for a card game, Jimin thinks, and the atmosphere is heavy with tension. There are five players at the table, including Jeongguk.

Jimin recognizes the omega sitting on his lap. It’s the one from that night, the one who held Andersen while Jeongguk smashed his cock. The one Jeongguk kissed before letting leave.

There’s no questioning it’s the same omega. He doesn’t know too many male omegas with waist-length, platinum blonde hair. He’s pretty, Jimin thinks bitterly. Probably looks stunning, spread out on a dark bedspread, getting fucked into oblivion.

That’s probably why Jeongguk has kept him around. Unless he’s got some sort of deal going on with this omega, too.

Jimin doesn’t even realize he’s subconsciously leaning into the alpha still holding him while he scrutinizes the familiarity in the way that Jeongguk is sitting with the omega. He’s got both of his arms around the omega; one holding the cards, the other stroking up and down his belly. The omega looks comfortable too, leaning back, head tilted to rest against Jeongguk’s while he eyes the hand of cards.

Before Jimin’s mounting anger can prompt him to leave the room, the omega glances up. His eyes dart around the room for a few moments before settling on Jimin. He remains expressionless, but Jimin sees the spark of recognition in his eyes.

Jimin tears away from the alpha and stalks out of the room, stumbling back into the casino without any real direction. Tears prickle behind his eyes, and he hates it. He hates how much he feels for a stupid alpha who fucks other omegas without care, who might be using him, who expects Jimin to submit just because he’s been nice . Whatever it is that Jeongguk is doing, it’s fucking working.

A hand grabs his arm, and Jimin thinks it’s the alpha from before. He turns, ready to tell him to fuck off , but realizes that it’s Taehyung. “O-Oh,” he says. “It’s you.”

“I was gonna come rescue you from Dragunov,” Taehyung replies, “but I guess you escaped on your own. You okay, chicky?”

Jimin inhales a deep, shaky breath. Tears blur his vision. “Not really.”

Taehyung rubs his shoulder comfortingly. “Let’s go sit down.”

Sitting down actualizes into taking a seat in the small lounge area just inside the entrance of the alpha bathroom. Taehyung grabs a box of tissues off a decorative side table and hands them to Jimin. Jimin accepts them gratefully, tugging a tissue free to dab at his eyes.

“What are you doing here?” Taehyung finally asks. “I didn’t know Jeongguk invited you out.”

Jimin sniffles, already feeling his nose start to clog. “He didn’t. I just—That guy, Zodiac, told me to stay here for the night. Somebody is trying to stalk me.”

“Fucking peachy,” Taehyung grumbles, raking a hand through his hair.

“Do you know Zodiac very well?” Jimin tentatively asks.

“As much as anybody can,” he says. It’s clear from his tone that Taehyung doesn’t have a glowing review up his sleeve. “I didn’t like him when we met, but I thought maybe I was just, y’know, being petty. Like, suddenly he and Jeongguk were best friends, and I was out of the picture. But after the kind of shit I’ve seen him do, I feel pretty fucking vindicated for disliking him.”

“How did he and Jeongguk meet?”

Taehyung shrugs, shaking his head. “Fuck if I know. Jeongguk and I had a falling out, so he just came home with Zodiac one day. I think they met at a party. But Zodiac was a rich kid with real access to his parents’ money, so it’s not surprising that Jeongguk latched onto him.”

Jimin idly tears a tissue in half, furrowing his brows as he tries to put Jeongguk’s background together. “So… Haneul really cut Jeongguk off.”

“Completely,” Taehyung replies. “Sent him to expensive private schools all his life, but refused to pay for anything else. But Haneul always gave me an allowance, so I usually split that with Jeongguk.”

“Pay for stuff, like…?”

“Anything you could think of. School supplies, lunches, clothes—Jeongguk was completely on his own,” Taehyung says. “Always. Every year, he saved Christmas and birthday money just so that he could afford necessities. Second grade, this kid is fucking excited because he gets to eat hot lunches for a few weeks and buy a proper graphing notebook.”

It isn’t just that Jimin feels bad; he knows what it’s like, scrambling from week to week, not knowing how you’re going to afford to live. “That’s sadistic,” Jimin says quietly. “Throwing him into an environment saturated in money and refusing to give him any.”

“I would’ve been happy to give him everything Haneul gave me, but Jeongguk would never accept all of it. He rarely even asked. Even though he was essentially ostracized as a poor kid, he didn’t want the same thing to happen to me.”

“You must be really special to him,” Jimin says.

Taehyung meets his eyes, then quickly glances away. “That’s what he tells me,” he says, knotting his fingers together. “Eventually, he got old enough to use his body to get money instead of doing odd jobs for neighbors. He never cared about having a reputation as a whore. I think, y’know, being able to place some kind of monetary value on his body gave him a sense of worth. And then along came Zodiac.”

“So, Zodiac had money,” Jimin says. “And wanted to be friends.”

“Zodiac wasn’t somebody anyone really knew a whole lot about. There was this omega, Dutch, he hung around with all the time, and the two mostly kept to themselves,” Taehyung responds. “But nobody knew anything about him cos Zodiac was heavy into drugs. Like, nonfunctional without cocaine kind of addicted. He got Jeongguk into them, too.”

“Doing cocaine?”

“Selling it,” Taehyung corrects. “Jeongguk fucked around with it, but he dealt it for a long time. And why wouldn’t he? It pulled in a lot of money, and he was basically untouchable with Zodiac backing him up, cos you don’t get in a fight with him unless you want to fucking die.”

“Something happened, though,” Jimin says. “Otherwise he’d still be dealing.”

Taehyung nods, visibly biting the inside of his cheek. “Zodiac overdosed. Like, really fucking bad. I was there and it even scared me. Dutch—I guess he and Zodiac were still dating through all that. Maybe the three of them had something going on, I don’t know. But Dutch gave some sort of ultimatum that Zodiac had to stop using or he’d leave for good, and Zodiac quit. But Zodiac quitting also meant Jeongguk needed to find a new way to make money. That’s when he started turning his attention to the Black Rabbit.”

“How old was he at the time?” Jimin asks.

“This was… senior year of high school?” Taehyung says tentatively. “Zodiac OD’d not long after graduating. He’s my age, a year older than Jeongguk. So, there was this weird period of time where no one was really sure what they were gonna do. I tried talking Jeongguk into applying to college, but he and Zodiac managed to cook up this insane plan to occupy the casino.”

“I’m not questioning that the two of them are probably pretty intimidating together, but they must’ve had some kind of help. Right?”

“That guy you just met, Dragunov, and Kalkaska. Kalkaska is an ex-cop who came close to busting them for drug running, but they got him instead.” Taehyung falls silent for a few moments, staring at the floor. “I met him, that night. They had this abandoned house where they’d set up base, and tied him up in the basement. I remember thinking, whatever it was Zodiac had in mind, there was no way he was gonna break somebody like Kalkaska. The guy was ice cold. Like, he was a fucking cop. I don’t know what kind of psychological torture Zodiac put him through, but I went back a few weeks later, and Kalkaska was in fucking pieces.”

Jimin tears another tissue. He remembers Zodiac addressing a Kalkaska on the phone at the bookstore. “Did… Jeongguk have any part in that.”

“No,” Taehyung says. “Well—I’m sure he watched. But since that worked so well with Kalkaska, Zodiac got ahold of Dragunov and did the same to him.”

“What does Zodiac get out of doing that to people?”

“Power? Unconditional loyalty? Kalkaska and Dragunov are both fucking crazy, but they’ll die for Zodiac if they have to. I guess you could say they’re experiments, too,” Taehyung muses. “There were some things about Jeongguk that Zodiac wanted to see if he could breed into a person. Like his response to violence. I’m sure you’ve figured out by now that Jeongguk gets aroused by it.”

“Yeah, I’ve, uh—” Jimin awkwardly clears his throat. “—noticed.”

“Dragunov is chatty. He told me Zodiac would get him high, tie him up and force him to watch really graphic films while Zodiac got him off, like some kind of psychopathic, reverse Clockwork Orange bullshit. But it worked. Dragunov is a burnt-out mess, but he definitely pops a boner at the sight of blood.”

Jimin exhales slowly, digging his fingers into his temples. “Why? What’s the point?”

“Extra muscle? I mean, they sure as hell outmaneuvered Haneul real fucking quick,” Taehyung says. “The guy’s been in business all his life. He’s probably never even seen a gun, let alone been threatened with one.”

“What does Jeongguk want from Haneul, anyway?” Jimin asks. “The casino?”

“Haneul is convinced that Jeongguk wants to kill him. Like, to the point where he actually hired a hit on Jeongguk, but got sent back pieces of the guy in a fucking box.” Even as he speaks, Taehyung sounds strained. Like he was there the day Haneul received that particular package. “So, needless to say, Haneul is a bit freaked out.”

“Does Jeongguk want him dead?”

“I don’t… know?” When Taehyung finally glances at Jimin again, he looks genuinely conflicted. “He’s essentially surrounded himself with murderers, so I would assume that’s his goal, but he hasn’t made any moves in that direction. We’ve been in this stalemate for so long, I’ve almost gotten used to it.”

Jimin shrugs, not able to understand it, either. If Jeongguk clearly has the resources, why not kill Haneul? Not that Jimin is condoning murder, but that seems like the most logical progression of events. “Maybe he just wants Haneul to feel helpless,” he suggests. “It sounds like Haneul made him feel that way for a long time.”

“Maybe,” Taehyung says. “So—You were upset earlier. What happened?”

“...Oh. Yeah.” It feels so long ago now, after such a heavy conversation. Jimin isn’t really angry anymore, he’s just… tired. “Now that we’ve been through all of this, it’s gonna sound stupid, but I was pissed off at Jeongguk. He wants to act like he’s some sort of fixture in my life because we—y’know, we’re intimate, but it’s not fair for him to say I can’t have an alpha as my new roommate while he’s fucking around with other omegas all the time.”

Taehyung doesn’t bother holding back his snort. “Y’know, for as much as he hates Haneul, Jeongguk is exactly fucking like him.”

Their conversation ends abruptly as the bathroom door swings open and none other than Jeongguk himself saunters in. As Jimin has come to anticipate, he isn’t wearing pants—just dark pantyhoes. His white silk dress shirt is long enough to cover his crotch and the tops of his thighs. Over that, he’s wearing a hunter green velvet blazer and a matching choker.

“Kas said he saw you,” Jeongguk drawls, pulling a pack of cigarettes out of his jacket pocket, continuing to talk as he lights one. “But I didn’t believe him. Yet here you are.”

Jimin wants to melt into the bench cushion. He’d been hoping to avoid Jeongguk for the remainder of the night and sneak out undetected in the morning, but evidently Kalkaska is just as much of a tattletale as Dragunov. Taehyung stands up, stepping in front of Jeongguk.

“Can’t you just leave him alone for the night?” he asks quietly.

“How about you leave me alone and get the fuck out?”

The two engage in a short standoff, which Jeongguk eventually wins. Taehyung tosses an apologetic glance back at Jimin as he skitters from the bathroom, but Jimin doesn’t hold it against him. He wouldn’t want to get into a fight with Jeongguk on a normal day, but something about him tonight is off.

Jeongguk stalks over to him, puffing languidly on his cigarette. “So. Why are you here?”

“Not to see you, that’s for fucking sure,” Jimin grumbles, folding his arms tightly across his chest.

“But that’s sort of an inevitability, isn’t it?” Jeongguk asks. “You’re here, and I wanna know why.”

“And I don’t have to tell you jack shit.”

In the few beats of silence while Jeongguk is trying to get a read on him, Jimin makes the split-second decision to bolt for the door. He doesn’t get very far, doesn’t realistically expect to, before Jeongguk catches him by the shirt and yanks him backwards. The air is knocked from Jimin’s lungs when his back hits the wall and Jeongguk pins him there.

“You don’t have to tell me anything,” Jeongguk growls against his neck, “but maybe I want you to.”

The heat boiling in Jimin’s gut rapidly begins to bubble over. “Just like you keep running your mouth about all of those omegas you fuck?” he spits, unable to stop himself. “You’re so delightfully open about your sexual prowess, but has it fucking occurred to you that maybe I don’t want to know?”

Jeongguk grinds against Jimin’s hip; his cock has already begun to thicken, and Jimin isn’t surprised. “Maybe I want you to know, even though you don’t,” he says. “Maybe I want you to suffer with it.”

“At least you’re willing to admit you’re fucking cruel.”

As much as Jimin struggles, he can’t escape Jeongguk’s grip as he’s dragged to one of the bathroom stalls. He’s thrown against the cinderblock stall divider, and Jeongguk snaps the door locked. Jimin feels like a wild animal as he whips and jerks his body, desperately trying to get away, but Jeongguk is stronger. Stronger and knows how to fight. Suddenly, Jimin’s air supply is cut off by a hand around his throat. A second hand joins in, squeezing far too tight against his windpipe for it to be just a threat. Fear floods Jimin’s body as he realizes that Jeongguk isn’t playing around. He could actually kill him.

Jimin tugs helplessly on Jeongguk’s wrists. “Stop,” he begs, voice barely a whisper. Tears spill from his eyes without him even noticing he was on the verge. “Please, please stop…”

And then, miraculously, Jeongguk lets go.

Even as Jimin is still trying to gulp down oxygen, Jeongguk crushes their lips together. It isn’t a kiss. Jimin doesn’t know what it is, sucking in hiccuping gasps of breath every chance he gets while Jeongguk threatens to swallow him whole. Dark spots swim in his vision, forcing him to fist his hands in the lapels of Jeongguk’s blazer for support. Salvation, damnation—there’s no difference anymore.

If there’s one thing that’s been made clear to him during his conversation with Taehyung, it’s that Jeongguk is a scavenger to the core of his being. The filthy, mangled, outcasted beast that digs through trash and clings to anything it can sink its grubby claws into. He found protection in the form of Zodiac, but the hyena hasn’t changed its instincts. Jeongguk grabs things, fills up his bag, and runs, and Jimin has unwittingly put himself in the position of being a thing. Trying to ignore the increasingly dramatic shifts in their relationship is putting him in danger, physically and emotionally. Because Jeongguk wants, and Jeongguk will take.

So, Jimin makes a decision.

Perhaps it isn’t the most reasonable decision to make after nearly getting choked to death, but he’s tired. Tired of fighting against this. Tired of going to sleep at night, pretending he’s going to find an alpha like Jeongguk out in the paperwork world. Tired of silently aching for the perfect paperwork mate. This is the alpha he wants, so this is the alpha he’s going to take. Even if it means giving up morals and ideals.

Sliding one hand up into the back of Jeongguk’s hair, Jimin returns his fervor. It’s too much teeth and tongue and aggression until Jeongguk slowly comes down, and Jimin follows him, matching the hot sucks and wet bites with his own blossoming need. They finally settle into a kiss, greedy and hungry, but tempered.

“I can’t stop thinking about you,” Jeongguk whispers into his mouth, cutting himself off by diving in again. He tugs Jimin’s plaid button-up free from where it’s tucked into the front of his pants, sliding his hands underneath the fabric to roam Jimin’s skin. “God, I can’t stop fucking thinking about you,” he says. “It’s driving me insane. I wanted you to want me, but now I’m the one who can’t get you out of my fucking head.”

Jimin soaks up the attention, arching into Jeongguk’s hands as they feel over his chest. “That omega you were with playing cards—did you fuck him?”

“Yeah,” Jeongguk says, strained. “It wasn’t even good, and I like fucking him. You—you’re better.”

“I’ve seen him before,” Jimin replies. “He helped you that night with Andersen. Who is he?”

“Kalkaska.”

Oh. That’s Kalkaska. The ex-cop who Zodiac fucked up. Jimin knows he should pity him a little more, since he distantly recalls Zodiac telling him on the phone to go keep someone company, and that someone was most likely Jeongguk, and Kalkaska was just obeying an order. But he doesn’t feel bad enough to think that maybe he should tell Kalkaska personally to keep his muddy paws to himself.

“He works with me,” Jeongguk explains. “I just fuck him sometimes.”

“Uh huh.” Jimin slips his hands between them to unbuckle his own belt and unbutton his pants. “So, your cock has gotten dirty,” he says. Turning around in the tight space between Jeongguk and the cinderblock wall, Jimin pushes his pants and underwear down off his hips, and pulls his asscheeks apart to expose his hole. Knotting has left him comfortably loose, allowing him to easily press two fingers inside of himself. His walls are already wet. “You should clean it.”

A low growl builds deep in Jeongguk’s chest. He jerks Jimin’s ass flush with his hips, rubbing his hardened cock against Jimin’s waiting hole. “But you aren’t my omega,” he hisses into Jimin’s ear. “That’s what you said, isn’t it? You aren’t my bitch.”

“That’s cos you’re mine,” Jimin responds, pulling his fingers free so that he can feel Jeongguk’s thick length instead. It’s still trapped underneath layers of fabric, but it’s so much more enticing than his own hand. “My pretty bitch.”

Jeongguk’s growl turns into a rough whine, teeth worrying down Jimin’s neck, and Jimin just tilts his head back to let himself get marked up. Jeongguk ruts against his plush ass in earnest, gripping Jimin’s hips with enough strength to leave bruises. Adrenaline rushes through Jimin’s veins, making him forget that they’re still in a public bathroom and both of their ragged pants are echoing off the tile. All he can think of is Jeongguk and Jeongguk’s cock and getting Jeongguk’s cock into him faster.

“Come on,” he demands, catching his own dick in his hand and palming it to take the edge off. Then, he releases it, because he isn’t ready to chase his own orgasm yet. He wants Jeongguk to work for it. “Show me where you want your cock.”

Jeongguk hastily frees himself from the constraints of his stockings and teases the head of his cock against Jimin’s rim. Pleasure zips through Jimin’s core as the ball piercing rubs against his hole, and his muscles contract eagerly with a wet squelch of slick. He tries to contain himself as Jeongguk presses into him, each hard inch stretching him wide and filling him up, but a needy moan slips out because it’s good. Even as Jeongguk bottoms out, he grips Jimin’s waist and grinds in place, making Jimin shake from the stimulation.

It’s enough that Jimin has to squeeze the base of his own cock to prevent himself from cumming. “Alpha,” he groans, breath hitching as Jeongguk’s hips suddenly kick. “Alpha, take care of your omega.”

With a noise like a wounded animal, Jeongguk reels back and pounds into him. It’s hard and fast fucking, wet and furious; Jimin can’t breathe any better than while Jeongguk was choking him. When Jeongguk suddenly slows to a grinding crawl, cock heavy and throbbing, Jimin’s knees turn to jello. He does his best to stay upright, clenching tight around Jeongguk’s swelling knot.

“Baby, don’t knot me,” Jimin forces himself to say. “Just—Just cum for me.”

Jeongguk looses a string of expletives into the back of Jimin’s hair while he pulls out and circles his knot with his hand so that he can jackhammer back into Jimin until he cums, emptying himself into Jimin’s hole. No sooner than his first wave of orgasm finishes, Jeongguk is dropping to his knees and diving in between Jimin’s cheeks. His tongue digs into Jimin’s hole, collecting globs of slick and cum to suck into his mouth, eating Jimin out with a ravenous hunger.

“Taste so good,” he gasps when he comes up for air, licking a wet stripe from Jimin’s balls to his hole. “Taste so fucking good, baby—this is what you should taste like all the time.”

Jimin could cum just from this. This feasting that Jeongguk is doing. But he shifts off the wall and turns back around, staring down at Jeongguk on his knees between his thighs. Face flushed, covered in a mess of slick and his own spunk, cock still swollen and drooling all over itself and dripping onto the tile. Jimin fists a hand in Jeongguk’s hair, tilting his head back to look at him.

Jeongguk is dazed and hazy and fucked out and more beautiful than any other alpha Jimin has ever seen.

Gripping his own cock, Jimin gives himself slow and measured strokes. Jeongguk’s eyes dart to his hand, licking his lips in anticipating, but Jimin doesn’t have any intention of giving it to him.

“I know why you’ve got your dick out all the time,” Jimin murmurs, hypnotized by the way Jeongguk can’t seem to control his breathing. His chest heaves underneath his silk shirt, in and out, in and out. Precum beads at the tip of Jimin’s cock, and he uses his thumb to smear it around the head. Jeongguk lurches underneath his grip, but doesn’t break free. “It’s because you want every other alpha to know that you aren’t intimidated by them. You want them to refuse to look at you, because otherwise they’ll get an eyefull of your cock and you love that.”

Jeongguk squirms, squeezing his thighs together. Cum smears on his pantyhoes. “I’m sorry,” he whimpers, “about what I did to Hoseok. I wasn’t thinking.”

“I know I said you were interfering,” Jimin says, “but I need you. Financially, physically… emotionally. I need you. We started on your terms, but now we’re going to continue on mine. Understand?”

Jeongguk nods hastily. “Y-Yeah.”

“We’re exclusive.” Jimin tugs Jeongguk a little bit closer, allowing the tip of his cock to graze the alphas lips. Jeongguk opens his mouth, begging pathetically, lolling his tongue out like a dog, and Jimin responds by smacking the head against his cheek instead. “Think you can manage that?”

“Yes, yes, please, yes—I’ll be so good for you, I promise, anything you want, just—”

Jimin jerks on Jeongguk’s hair hard enough to burn his scalp. “That means you aren’t going to fool around with anyone else. Even if they work for you. You’re mine now, got it? Your cock belongs to me.”

“A-All yours, I’m yours, please…”

“And, if you’re good, then this—” Jimin tauntingly rubs the length of his cock along Jeongguk’s jaw. “—belongs to you. Do we have an agreement?”

A high keen tears from Jeongguk’s throat as he nods frantically. “Yes, pleasepleaseplease!”

Jimin’s eyes roll back in his head when he finally allows Jeongguk to swallow him down. Even when he chokes himself, Jeongguk doesn’t slow his pace. He continues bobbing his head, sliding his lips up and down Jimin’s cock in a wet mess of drool and leftover slick. Vibrations from his pitiful, needy moans buzz against Jimin’s nerves, making his cock throb in overstimulation. Jimin’s back bows off the wall as he peaks, catapulted up into space by the searing white-hit pleasure, and a moment later, he spills into Jeongguk’s parched throat. Jeongguk slows to milk him dry, lapping up every last bit of cum Jimin can offer him. Satisfied and licking his lips, Jeongguk tucks Jimin back into his pants and unsteadily gets to his feet.

Once standing, Jeongguk is alpha again. He’s big and broad and powerful and makes Jimin want to cower behind the toilet because fuck he just had this kid nearly sobbing on his knees for a taste of dick, but Jeongguk just buries into his neck and sighs.

“That was hot,” he mumbles.

Jimin loops his arms around Jeongguk’s waist and rests his head on his shoulder. His velvet jacket is soft; far softer than the cheap, thrift store ones he’s looked at. “Listen, um.” Jimin’s voice catches, forcing himself to stop and clear his throat. “I know that was almost, like, kink negotiation or whatever, but I’m… This is hard for me.”

“I… I know. I’m sorry.”

“I keep… telling myself things that I should start looking for in alphas a-after you,” Jimin says. “But I don’t want another alpha. Is that stupid?”

“No. I never thought I’d meet an omega who could hold my attention, but here you are. You’re the first thing that’s distracted me from… the casino and my father in a long time. I daydream about you. Think about sharing things with you. Divulging things to you. Letting you see parts of me that I don’t let other people see, cos I think you’d understand.”

Jimin shivers a little bit, wondering what lies underneath Jeongguk’s thick film of superficial charm. It’s a place he knows that if he dips his ears or his eyes, they’ll be stained black forever. He’ll never be able to unknow Jeongguk’s secrets. But, in a way, it’s comforting. Because Jimin doesn’t feel so alone with him, with this bug crawling underneath his skin. This thing in the back of his mind, telling him that he’s sound and sane, even though he has thoughts that he knows he shouldn’t.

“Just—slowly,” Jimin says. “Okay?”

Jeongguk pulls back to look at him, and something—something is different. It’s his eyes, the way they smoulder like coals. It isn’t anger or lust, but rather the steady breaths of a sleeping dragon. He cards a hand through Jimin’s hair, pushing his bangs away from his face.

“Don’t worry about the pace of things. Drowning only takes a minute, darling. You won’t feel a thing.”

Chapter Text

The room looked more like a high-end bedroom than a hotel room. Plush carpeting that Jimin could feel underneath his shoes, a large flat-screen television sitting on top of a chic dresser, several antique-looking paintings hanging on the walls. Despite the late hour, the room still felt bright and airy.

“Could I make a suggestion to you?”

Jimin spun around to face Zodiac again, instinctive fascination with the luxurious hotel suite evaporating instantly. He narrowed his eyes, studying Zodiac’s face, but the alpha was unreadable. “What is it?”

Zodiac approached him slowly, pressing a hand against Jimin’s side to move him in front of the mirror hanging near the entryway. He draped his arms around Jimin’s shoulders as if they were suddenly familiar with each other, and had not just met that day. “You’re about to get dragged underneath the wheels of an ugly machine,” he said. “I don’t need to be here. My mate is pregnant and I should be at home, nesting with him, but instead, I’m watching Jeongguk drive a behemoth off the side of a cliff. Maybe it’s just my fascination with destruction.”

“What’s your suggestion?”

“That you take control of the machine. Otherwise, you’re going to fall off the cliff with it.”


 

Jimin pauses, catching sight of himself in the entryway mirror as he passes it. He’s more disheveled than he was the last time he met with himself. His hair is in disarray and pink marks litter his neck, but, more than that, he looks hollow. As if he’s been scraped empty like an ice cream carton.

Jeongguk shrugs his blazer off, tossing it onto the cream-colored chaise near the window. He lingers there for a few moments, taking a peek behind the curtains. The room is only on the third floor, so the view isn’t like the one from Jeongguk’s private suite.

“You never told me why you’re here,” he finally says, releasing the curtain and turning his attention back to Jimin. “Checking into a hotel room here isn’t exactly something someone does on a whim.”

“It wasn’t. Zodiac told me to come here.” Jimin watches Jeongguk’s expression carefully as it shifts into uneasy confusion. “He said I was being stalked.”

“How did you happen to meet him?”

“Dutch is an assistant manager at one of my jobs,” Jimin replies. “Zodiac was just… there today. But he called while I was going home and said Allan Andersen—that guy, one of the guys who owed you money—was stalking me, and told me not to go home.”

Jeongguk’s brows knit together, and he tilts his head to the side. “I don’t know anything about that,” he says slowly. “You’re being stalked?”

Jimin opens his mouth, then closes it again. Is he being stalked? He hasn’t noticed anything out of the unusual. He isn’t even sure how Andersen would manage to find out what University attended. “I… don’t know,” he admits. “I mean, he fucking t-boned the car behind me at an intersection, so I just… I just assumed…”

Breathing out a heavy sigh, Jeongguk approaches the bed and takes a seat on the edge of it. He stares down at his hands, folded on his lap, for several long moments while deciding how to respond. “I don’t blame you for believing him,” he says. “Especially when he pulls something like that. You’d think he wouldn’t purposefully put someone else’s life in danger if he wasn’t serious, but he doesn’t care. Anything is fine for him as long as he gets the result he wants.”

“Taehyung told me a little bit,” Jimin admits. “About him. About how you met.”

Jeongguk forces out a dry chuckle. “I wouldn’t say he’s Zodiac’s biggest fan.”

“I gathered as much. I don’t think he gets why you are,” Jimin says, moving to take a seat beside him on the bed. “Honestly, I don’t get it either.”

Shrugging a shoulder, Jeongguk toys with the cuffs of his sleeves. His knee bounces like he’s agitated, while the rest of his demeanor is relatively calm. It’s an odd combination. “I was angry when we met,” he replies. “Taehyung and I had fallen out, and he went to Haneul, and I—I didn’t have anybody. I was a wreck the night I met Zodiac. Like, wasted out of my fucking mind, but he listened. And he kept listening. Drove me places, invited me out, fucked me… He made me feel safe and understood, even when I told him the fucked up shitty parts of me, because he’s fucked up too.”

“Which is weird to me, because I’ve known Dutch for a few months now,” Jimin remarks, “and he’s always seemed really normal.”

Jeongguk kisses his teeth and looks away. “He’s just a different kind of fucked up. He’s, like, obsessed with Zodiac.”

“More than you?”

“Alphas and omegas… There’s something in our biology that makes us congeal,” Jeongguk says. “The chemistry in an omega’s body sparks something in an alpha’s. Everyone likes to romanticize this bond, like it’s the best thing in the world. Like it’s the only thing that matters. And then once you find it, you get some kind of fairytale ending. But I think that can be like a shackle, too. Yeah, Dutch and Zodiac have that thing, but I can’t help wondering if it hurts more to be that way.”

Jimin nods slowly, understanding a little bit of what Jeongguk is getting at. “Zodiac doesn’t spend the time with him, and that’s… that affects them negatively.”

“I know Dutch hates me. And I’m not gonna say I never hated him, or I’ve never felt like trying to get him out of the picture, but this is Zodiac’s fault, too. And whatever crazy he’s got going on is bleeding over that link.”

“Is he… Is he, like, a psychopath?” Jimin asks.

“Probably,” Jeongguk replies.

“Has he killed people?”

Jeongguk visibly bites the inside of his cheek. Then he nods. “I guess you could call it a vice,” he whispers. “Being so numb the only thing that gets you high is taking lives. Cocaine used to be enough until it stopped being enough. Dutch tried being enough, but he wasn’t, either.”

Serial killer wasn’t exactly Jimin’s guess as to what was wrong with Zodiac. It’s terrifying, because he’d been alone with the guy an hour earlier and could easily have died. “Wh-What’s his stance on the situation with your father, then?” Jimin asks.

“He’s not interested in it because he cares. It’s just entertainment,” Jeongguk says emotionlessly. “He’s starting to get bored, too, because I haven’t—things haven’t changed. If I get really stuck, he’ll just kill me. Put me out of my misery.”

Before Jimin can even process his words, Jeongguk lurches forward and buries his face in his hands with a choked sob. He doesn’t know what to do, because Jimin has never been good with emotions. When he needs to cry, he does it alone in his bathroom where no one can see him. But he scoots closer to Jeongguk anway and presses up against his side. He can’t think of the right thing to say, and he can’t purr, but he hopes the warmth is enough.

“I-I’m scared,” Jeongguk admits in a tight, watery whimper. “I’m s-so fucking scared of dying.”

Jimin turns his face into Jeongguk’s shoulder, hooking his arm through his elbow. “It’s okay to be scared.”

It takes Jeongguk a few minutes to pull himself back together. When he does, he gets up and goes to retrieve something out of his blazer. He returns with a few things: a pack of cards, a dollar bill, and a vial of white powder. The cards get tossed on the bed while Jeongguk hovers in front of Jimin.

“I know I’ve been a peach tonight,” he says, “but I’ll be less fun if I don’t do a few more lines.”

Ah, so that’s what it is.

Cocaine.

Jimin shrugs passively, because it’s ultimately Jeongguk’s decision. “What do you want me to do?”

Jeongguk licks his lips while his eyes rove over Jimin’s body. “Lie down,” he says. “Pull up your shirt.”

Doing as he’s asked, Jimin lies down flat on the bed and hikes his shirt up to his chest. Jeongguk crawls onto the mattress beside him, smoothing a hand over Jimin’s belly almost reverently. Then, he starts tapping out a line of cocaine onto the skin just below his belly button, and Jimin turns his attention to the ceiling. He feels Jeongguk’s finger on him again, straightening the powder. Or something. The dollar bill is rolled up and Jeongguk leans over Jimin’s stomach and Jimin hears him snort the lines. When he sits up again, he throws his head back. Eyes closed, sniffling. He exhales a long, weighted fuck.

“What’s it like?” Jimin decides to ask.

Jeongguk rubs at his nose. “Burns,” he grunts. “But it’s fucking exhilarating. You wanna try it?”

“Not... really, no. I was just curious. Have you ever gotten addicted?”

“I think once you start doing something like cocaine, you’re always a little addicted,” Jeongguk says, tossing the vial aside. He picks up the pack of cards, unboxing the deck. “I don’t do it a lot. Mostly just during sex. Makes it a little more intense.”

Jimin tugs his shirt down and rolls onto his stomach, watching Jeongguk shuffle the cards. It isn’t a deck like any other he’s seen before. The cards are matte black with glittery gold and red designs. He wonders where Jeongguk got it. “Do you want to have sex again?”

“Only if you’re up for it. I’ll fuck you until you can’t take anymore, if that’s what you want,” Jeongguk says. “But I also kinda wanna teach you to play Blackjack.”

“Mm. Maybe we can figure out how to incorporate both.”

“That’s my darling.” A crooked grin cracks across Jeongguk’s face. “Doing lines off you is interesting, y’know?”

Jimin tilts his head to the side, getting a little bit lost in Jeongguk’s hands. His thumb nail is broken. He wonders how that happened. Maybe while they were packing—Jeongguk never said anything. “How so?”

“Smells just like snorting cyanide,” Jeongguk says. Setting the cards aside, he leans down to catch Jimin’s lips in a saccharine kiss. “My pretty poisonous little thing.”

Jimin groans deep in his chest as Jeongguk works open his mouth and lures his tongue out just to suck on it. It’s filthy sweet, the way Jeongguk can’t help getting off on him. “One day, I’ll be able to kill you, and you’ll never suspect a thing,” he murmurs, not sure where his head is. Why it’s so hot to think about. “Poor, poor, cyanide bitch.”


 

jeongguk:

why did you tell Jimin that Andersen was stalking him?

 

you:

Did that bother you?

 

jeongguk:

I just don’t understand what there is to gain by scaring him like that

 

you:

Haneul is moving quicker than you are. You can’t afford not to have Jimin as an ally. I was just giving you the opportunity to resolve your differences.

 

jeongguk:

What do you mean

What have you found out

 

you:

I’m suspicious of something.

You need Jimin, Jeongguk. He’s the most important asset you’ve got right now.

 

jeongguk:

Yesterday you were telling me I should get rid of him

what the hell has changed

 

you:

You never really know what kind of person you’re dealing with until you get a chance to look them in the eyes.

Jimin is going to be able to do what you need to do, but you have to keep your hands out of it.

Just wind him up and watch him go.

 

jeongguk:

What the fuck is that supposed to mean?

 

jeongguk:

you can’t say that and not text me back

 

jeongguk:

for fuck’s sake

 

you:

[video sent]

xoxo

 

jeongguk:

thanks, I’ll file that away with other shit I didn’t want to see

 

you:

ur alpha’s so gross

sucking on his mates tits

needy bitch

 

jeongguk:

bye Dutch


 

It’s a graceless move, but, finally, all traces of Jimin’s family have been wiped from the old apartment. There was never very much time to pick through things carefully. Jimin gritted his teeth and tossed everything previously belonging to his father into boxes and donated it to second-hand stores. He tried to be less frugal with his mother’s things, but she never had much to begin with. Photos, which Jimin wasn’t particularly interested in keeping, but knew he would come to regret later if he pitched them. So, with boxes haphazardly stacked in his new bedroom, and a few in the living room, Jimin makes it into Hoseok’s apartment with some time to spare before his lease is up.

Hoseok’s place smells pleasantly of cinnamon. Jimin hates to ruin it with his own scent, but at least it won’t matter for his friends. The only one they can smell is Hoseok.

“I should see what I can have sent to my mom,” Jimin says, searching for the box he’d shoved his clothes into so he can hang them up in the closet. “She might like seeing the albums. Or, maybe they’ll send her into another psychotic break—I don’t fucking know. Either way, it’d be better than keeping them here.”

“Have you been to see your mother recently?” Seokjin asks. He lifts up a box of books so that Jimin can slide the one containing his clothes out from underneath it.

Jimin shakes his head. “Not since the funeral. I’ve thought about it, I just haven’t… y’know, had time.”

“She’d probably like to see you,” Seokjin says gently.

“Yeah, I’m sure she would.”

“Really, Jimin. I know going there makes you uncomfortable, but she has to live there. Your father never visited her, and now he’s gone. Even a very fragile bond can still feel that kind of loss.”

Following a lot of court proceedings, during which his mother was ruled legally insane, the rest of the family liked to act as if they never saw it coming. Like there had never been anything wrong with her growing up—it was all somehow Jimin’s father’s fault. He was this interloper who came in and made her crazy, rather than simply exacerbated her symptoms. Jimin even had an opportunity to go live with one of his aunts in upstate New York. He could’ve finished out high school at a private academy and applied to an Ivy League school, but when he found out that his aunt wasn’t willing to help pay for her younger sister’s medical expenses, Jimin decided to stay at home in New Jersey. Even if it meant working his fingers to the bone and ceasing to receive holiday party invitations, Jimin refused to be the next one to totally abandon her.

In a backwards, twisted sort of way, she was the only one who’d ever truly wanted him to be happy. Even if she’d gone about it in a highly unorthodox—and dangerous—manner.

“I know,” Jimin says. “As soon as things settle down a little, I’ll go see her. Maybe I’ll fucking ask Jeongguk to go with me.”

Seokjin falls silent for a few moments, and Jimin doesn’t realize it’s because he’s thinking until he speaks again. “About Jeongguk…”

“He’s apologized to me about Hoseok. It was just a lapse in judgement.”

“Jimin, listen.” Seokjin sighs heavily and takes a seat on the bed. “I know we all sort of joked about you fooling around with this rich kid, but things are getting… serious. He’s a loan shark who isn’t afraid of enacting bodily harm on people who owe him money, and you’re wandering that very thin line with him. What happens when you don’t do what he wants? He takes one of your fingers?”

“We negotiate,” Jimin replies shortly. “He’s always been open to that.”

“What happens when he decides he doesn’t want to negotiate anymore?”

Jimin yanks an olive green sweatshirt that’s seen better days out of the box and struggles to force the hanger through the neck opening. “I come home with nine fingers. What the hell does it matter?”

“Yoongi and I are just concerned for you, that’s all.”

“Tell me what I’m supposed do then,” Jimin snaps, roughly hanging the sweatshirt up. “You aren’t several million dollars in debt for something you didn’t have anything to do with, and you’re gonna sit there and talk to me like you’ve got an easy answer to get out of this?”

“I’m just saying, from what Yoongi’s told me, it sounds like there’s a lot more going on than just you and this debt. Whatever you’re caught in the crossfire of, I’m worried that it could get you killed.” Seokjin’s voice hitches a little on the last word, and he pauses to clear his throat. “You’re still my friend, Jimin. I care about you. That’s all.”

Jimin sags against the closet door, exhaling slowly.

Getting killed is certainly becoming a more urgently pressing concern. But, oddly, Jimin isn’t thinking about himself. If he dies, he dies. Perhaps it won’t be pleasant, but he doesn’t have anything to lose. Seokjin and Yoongi will be upset, but they’ll eventually figure out how to move on. It’s a strange thing, lurking in the recesses of his mind, that he’s more concerned for Jeongguk. A lot more is at stake for him.

Maybe this is stupid, this feeling of wanting to save Jeongguk from himself.

“I’ll figure it out, Seokjin,” he says. “One way or another. Just… try not to worry too much.”

“That’s like telling weeds to stop growing in people’s flowerbeds,” Seokjin says, cracking a wan smile. “Oh—before I forget, Yoongi and I were thinking inviting you and Hoseok for a dinner at the restaurant. Just… I dunno, to spend a bit of time together to celebrate your move. Are you up for that?”

Yoongi and Seokjin are really too good to him, Jimin thinks. Even though he’s forced them to be careful at times, to walk on pins and needles with regards to certain subjects, they’ve stayed with him longer than anyone else. He hasn’t really appreciated them in that aspect recently.

“Yeah,” he says, nodding. “I think I’d like that.”


 

Taehyung is doing his best to keep his composure, but the floor underneath him is swimming. The hotel manager is saying something to Namjoon, something about replacing linens for the summer season, but Taehyung can’t hear it. He can’t seem to suck enough air into his lungs to keep himself upright, and his stomach rolls. Namjoon speaks, Taehyung vacantly registers his lips moving, but the pounding inside his skull muffles the sound. The world is too hot, too colorful, to loud, moving too fucking much—Taehyung stumbles in place, gripping Namjoon’s arm for support.

“—yung? Taehyung, Taehyung, are you okay?”

His tongue feels too thick for his mouth when he tries to speak, making his words slur together. “No,” he says. “Gonna… G-Gonna—bathroom.”

Navigating out of the office to the staff bathroom distantly reminds Taehyung of that nauseating maze screensaver from old Windows computers. Heavily saturated, pixelated textures, jerky movements—he remembers there was an option to overlay the map, but that made things even worse because the entire map would spin as opposed to just the cursor. It was impossible to tell where the end of the maze was which, he supposed, was the point of a maze, but the computer was the one solving it. It was supposed to be a visual experience, but it was just one of those things you did with your friends in elementary on school computers to get dizzy.

Taehyung makes it to the toilet in time to vomit.

He felt fine when he woke up. Better than he has in a while. Namjoon wanted to start doing inventory to get ready for the summer season and Taehyung agreed to help, because he felt fine, but this wave of nausea suddenly overtook him. He doesn’t know what’s wrong with him.

Maybe he’s dying.

As soon as his stomach has decided it’s empty enough, Taehyung flushes the toilet and staggers to his feet. He yanks a paper towel out of the dispenser to dab at his mouth and freezes as he catches sight of himself in the mirror.

His own face is barely recognizable, his skin is so pale. He’s lost a bit of weight recently, just because he hasn’t been particularly hungry, and it makes him feel like he’s looking at a corpse. It’s bad. He looks bad. Not at all like himself. Whoever the hell himself is supposed to be. It’s definitely not this.

Even though the nausea has abated for the moment, the headache lingers. With difficulty, Taehyung forces himself to leave the bathroom and walk back out to the lobby. He’d hoped to survive a day without taking anything, that he was finally starting to get better, but since that doesn’t appear to be the case, he reluctantly traipses back up to his suite. He pauses at his door, glancing back across the hallway at Jeongguk’s.

Jeongguk has been a little bit distant lately. He doesn’t know why—if it has to do with something Zodiac told him, or with Jimin. Either way, he feels it slipping underneath his skin like a needle.

It hurts, because a single mistake was what got them here. Turning down Jeongguk’s advances fucked them all over. More than anything, Taehyung wishes he could go back to that day and bite his tongue. Tell himself that he could survive Jeongguk’s insatiable libido if it would mean they could be together. That Jeongguk would trust him.

Instead, Taehyung did the one thing he absolutely should not have done, and ran to Haneul. But he was scared and didn’t understand his own body, and why there was such a bizarre disconnect between it and his brain. Haneul let him be miserable for a little while, but explained that some people experience physical intimacy different than others—that Taehyung wasn’t wrong for feeling put-off by sex. And he wasn’t wrong for turning a relationship with Jeongguk down for that reason, even though it killed him to do so. In hindsight, that nurturing comfort had worked out well in Haneul’s favor.

While Taehyung came out of it feeling better about himself, ready to approach Jeongguk differently about their friendship, his best friend—the love of his fucking life —had already moved on.

For years, he felt slighted. That Jeongguk was so shallow, he could get over a fucking heartfelt confession in a matter of weeks and find a new dick he wanted to suck. Zodiac lorded it over him. Everywhere he went, Jeongguk clung to Zodiac like a parasite. Taehyung tried to avoid them, but the more he started hearing about Zodiac, the more irresponsible he felt leaving Jeongguk alone with him. It was only once Jeongguk made his move on the casino that Taehyung realized the entire relationship had less to do with him and more to do with Haneul. The fact that Taehyung had gone to him, even though it seemed like a rational thing to do at the time. For Jeongguk, that was a betrayal. One that Taehyung has never been fully able to recover from—to the point where he’s given up trying.

It’s depressing now, though, because he thought things were getting better. Jeongguk was spending more time with him, asking him to go meet clients with him… but now that Jimin has come into the picture, that’s changing. Now, Jimin is all he talks about. Mostly, it’s about this grand scheme to make Jimin his, but Taehyung can tell there’s an undercurrent of personal infatuation hidden beneath it. Jeongguk enjoys spending time with Jimin.

Jimin is like him. Cut off from society, no real ties to anyone. They’re perfect for each other, in that way. Two lost souls, united.

It’s disgusting to think about.

Taehyung shuffles into his bathroom, picking up the unmarked bottle of heat suppressants. Heats must be a bitch, he thinks, popping open the bottle and shaking out one of the little blue pills into his palm. He knocks it back dry. The initial release of medication always hits him hard, and he can’t imagine what the suppressants are up against in the body of an omega for them to need to be that strong.

Exiting the bathroom, Taehyung throws himself down on the couch to rest for a little while. Just until the suppressants kick in, and the tiny marching band of elephants inside his head is escorted out by security. He should text Namjoon to let him know.

On that thought, the world slips away.


 

When Taehyung regains consciousness, things are not as they were when he closed his eyes. It only feels like a few seconds have passed, but it was barely noon when he’d sat down and now the lights in the room have been turned on. There’s garbled noise in the background; it takes Taehyung several moments to realize it’s coming from the television. It looks like an old Western. A pair of monochrome cowboys ride across the screen.

Groggily, he props himself up on his elbows and blinks a few times at Zodiac on the other end of the couch. “The hell are you watching?” he croaks.

Zodiac is in the middle of a substantial hit off a blunt. “Dunno,” he replies through a breath of smoke. “‘m baked as fuck, not paying attention.”

“What time is it?”

“Quarter after eight.”

“The fuck.” Taehyung can’t believe it. He’s been out for nine hours? “Why didn’t anyone wake me up?”

A soft giggle escapes Zodiac’s lips. “You think we didn’t try? Namjoon was pretty sure you’d slipped into a coma and we’d have to call an ambulance.”

Taehyung forces himself to sit up and wrestles his phone out of his pocket. He’s got a pile of notifications, mostly from Namjoon. Where is he, how is he, is he okay. A handful from Jeongguk, as well. “Jesus Christ,” he mumbles. “At what point where you thinking about calling nine-one-one? When I stopped breathing?”

“I’m not a medical practitioner, but I was fairly certain you would recover,” Zodiac drawls, “based on… circumstantial evidence.”

“What kind of circumstantial evidence?”

“You’re taking heat suppressants, aren’t you?”

Taehyung grits his teeth. He hates this about Zodiac. Hates it. The way he finds the open wounds and giddily digs his fingers in. “I’m not taking anything.”

“But you are,” he says. “Headaches, remember?”

“I’m taking meds for them, that’s fucking all,” Taehyung snaps, unsteadily clambering to his feet. He desperately needs water before talking twists his throat inside out. “Why the hell does it matter?”

“I know you think you’re getting somewhere by refusing to admit it out loud, but you should really be a lot more careful,” Zodiac says. “Alphas aren’t supposed to take heat suppressants for a reason. They fuck with your whole body chemistry. Once you get on them, it’s really hard to get off them. It can even be dangerous for omegas to quit taking them.”

Taehyung forces himself to carefully remove the glass from the cupboard without pausing. He turns on the tap and fills the glass. “They’re prescription,” he says shortly. “Omega only. I don’t know where you think I’d get something like that.”

“I can come up with a few creative ideas.”

After gulping down the water, Taehyung sets the glass on the counter with a clatter. “Where’s Jeongguk?”

“Meeting a client. He wanted me to go instead, but I promised him I’d stay until you woke up.”

“How fucking responsible,” Taehyung says, unable to help the way his lips peel back in a sneer. “Well, I’m up now, you can go.”

Zodiac groans and shakes his head. “‘m not moving. Just finish this movie with me.”

Against his better judgement, Taehyung stalks back to the couch and throws himself onto the seat. On the television, a cowboy in black—the villain, most likely—appears to have kidnapped a woman. Perhaps the lead cowboy’s love interest.

“The other night, when Jeongguk was gone—he went to see Jimin, didn’t he?”

“Point out to me where in your brain you think you deserve an answer.”

Taehyung kisses his teeth and looks away from the TV. “I can just ask him, you know.”

“Fine.” Zodiac takes a solid hit from his blunt, eyes drifting shut. “He was out putting a knot in his omega. Is that what you wanted to hear?”

“Yes. Thank you.”

They fall into an uncomfortable silence. At least, it’s uncomfortable for Taehyung. It’s beyond having watched his best friend get blown while they hotboxed in a car in high school. Beyond the memory of shotgunning with Zodiac afterwards, being so high that Taehyung wasn’t thinking about the cum still wetting his mouth. It’s the culmination of those things and still being willing to sit next to Zodiac now, because if he flees, he looks weak. His only defense against Zodiac is to continue pretending he’s fine. The closer they are, the less he has to wonder what goes on in Zodiac’s head.

“Does it bother you?”

The question pops out of him like an oil bubble on a skillet, but Taehyung decides not to take it back and instead continues.

“Jimin, does he bother you?”

“No,” Zodiac replies. “He doesn’t bother me at all. Feel what you want about him, but he could be our ticket out of this mess.”


 

jeongguk:

Are you sure they’re suppressants?

 

you:

Kalkaska took one and he hasn’t died or gone into unexpected heat.

 

jeongguk:

alphas aren’t supposed to take them

he’s not gonna die is he?

 

you:

They’re highly addictive in the way that an opiate is addictive. But you’ve dealt with me long enough to know why having him on drugs is a problem at all.

Especially if he’s getting them from Haneul.

You and I know how it goes between junkies and suppliers.

 

jeongguk:

is this just carelessness?

 

you:

You know him better than I do.

 

jeongguk:

Fuck I fucking hate when he does shit at random

It makes no fucking sense until the last second and by then it’s too late

 

jeongguk:

I know what you want to say

And you’re right.

I’ve gone to the house twice in the past month but I just can’t fucking do it. I’m too fucking scared.

 

you:

Relax, Jeongguk.

The most valuable aspect of a plan is flexibility, and if you can get your mind to do half of what your body can, you’ll still manage to get what you want.


 

“I appreciate the impromptu breakfast as much as the next person,” Dutch says, cutting into his stack of pancakes, “but I’m a little confused about what it is you think we have to talk about.”

Something happened at the Black Rabbit yesterday, and Jimin isn’t exactly sure what. He’d texted Dutch yesterday morning, asking if they could have breakfast today, and Dutch initially refused. Then, later, he got several texts from Jeongguk, asking if he was absolutely positive that he wasn’t taking heat suppressants, to which Jimin repeated himself as patiently as he could that he was not. Then Jeongguk asked if he’d ever known anyone who’d died from taking them, and then quit responding after that. And then, sometime in the late evening, Dutch changed his mind and agreed to breakfast.

Whether the two things correlate is just one of Jimin’s questions.

He tries to keep his tone light and conversational, even though he’s a little bit rattled. “I thought it would be a good idea to catch up, since it turns out that we’re both involved with the same people.”

Dutch scoffs, stabbing a bit of pancake and shoving it into his mouth. “You mean you want to compare notes?”

“I mean, I can’t exactly say I’m comfortable being blind in this situation,” Jimin says. “I feel like everyone involved has a different motivation. You’re the only person I know who might have a more… objective view.”

“I can tell you right now that my opinion is as subjective as the next person’s. You’re better off talking with Zodiac if you want a more pragmatic look at the situation.”

Jimin shifts uncomfortably in his seat. “I don’t… That’s more of a last resort.”

“Then you’re going to just have to settle for whatever shitty opinion I have,” Dutch says sourly.

This is not the bookstore assistant manager he’s worked with for the past few months. This is a strange, unfamiliar version of Dutch, but one that Jimin suspects is more honest. It doesn’t surprise him as much as it feels like it should, since Zodiac seemed perfectly amicable when they met, only to find out that he’s something akin to a serial killer.

“I just… I wanna know more about what Jeongguk’s problem with Haneul is,” Jimin says. “You knew him in high school, right?”

Dutch shoves more pancake into his mouth and nods.

“What was he like?”

“A narcissistic piece of shit,” Dutch replies with his mouth full. “But he had to be. Otherwise his fragile little ego would’ve gotten stomped to bits.”

A little spark of anger ignites in Jimin’s gut. “That’s not his fault, though. It’s not like he grew up in a nurturing environment.”

“Am I telling the story, or are you?”

“I get that you don’t like him, but—” I do doesn’t make it out of his mouth. Jimin cuts himself off, taking a sip of his coffee. “I just want facts. Does Jeongguk want Haneul dead?”

Dutch sucks in a deep breath and sighs. “I don’t think I should be the one telling you this.”

“Sorry I fucking invited you out,” Jimin mutters, sagging in his seat. He honestly doesn’t feel like eating anymore. Maybe Hoseok will appreciate soggy leftover pancakes.

Or, y’know. Not.

“Zodiac asked me to meet you,” Dutch says finally. “He wants me to encourage you to set up a meeting with Haneul, if you haven’t already thought about doing that yet.”

Jimin raises his eyebrows in surprise. “I’ve considered it, yeah…”

“As far as Haneul is concerned, you’re still an available game piece, so whether or not you’ve completely sold yourself to Jeongguk is information you should keep to yourself,” Dutch advises, leaning his elbows on the table. “Safety is neutrality. Both sides will go out of their way to protect you as long as they see you as valuable. Plus, you’re an omega.”

Jimin laughs dryly. As if being an omega has ever handed him any sort of advantage. “So?”

“So, it’s not my place to say, but it seems like Jeongguk inherited his insatiable urge to wet his dick from somewhere,” Dutch says pointedly. “Do with that what you will.”

Chapter Text

On the fourth morning of his official residence in Hoseok’s apartment, Jimin wakes up wet.

Wet and empty.

He rolls onto his stomach with a plaintiff whimper, not understanding why he isn’t being filled right now, why he’s alone. Reaching down the back of his underwear, he slips two fingers inside of his slick, quivering hole and greedily fucks into himself. It’s not enough; he needs more. He needs his alpha. He needs his alpha’s cock to fill him up. Where is he?

The closer Jimin tips towards orgasm, the more upset he gets. He needs to be knotted so badly—why won’t his alpha knot him? The only scent he can pick up his his own sad arousal. No alpha. No alpha? But he needs one.

There’s one in the apartment somewhere—but that’s not his alpha. Not that one.

Jimin tilts his hips, desperate to get his fingers in deeper. If he doesn’t have an alpha, they’re all he’s got. He’s gotta be his own alpha, just like he always is. He’s got toys… in a box somewhere…

No, no, no, he knows he has an alpha. Alpha knotted him, alpha was getting him ready.

Ready? Ready for what?

To breed, of course. To fill up until he’s full and ready to burst. He was so ready… So ready to take alpha…

He still is. Pulling his fingers from his hole, he spreads himself, tugging at the edges of his rim. He’s so loose, he can take alpha. If only alpha would come to him.

Jimin plunges three fingers back into his hole and works them inandoutandinandout until the stimulation heaves him over the edge. He cums with a choked cry into his pillow, distantly remembering that he needs to stay quiet for some reason, and collapses into a trembling, soggy heap.

Fuck.

Fuck.

What the hell was that?

He hastily wipes his soaking fingers off with the inside of the sheet and fumbles for his phone in the dark. The screen informs him that it’s barely quarter to six, but he dials Yoongi’s number anyway. Even as he’s waiting for Yoongi to pick up, or leave a voicemail or whatever, the urge to touch himself again wells up. What the hell is happening to him?

“H’llo…?”

“H-Hi,” he croaks, squeezing his thighs together. It’s wet and uncomfortable and doesn’t do anything to absolve the pressure rapidly ballooning inside of him. “It’s Jimin.”

“Mm. Jimin. Time ‘s it…?”

“Early. L-Look, I’m sorry for… but I’m—Fuck, this is fucking humiliating but I just woke up fucking soaked and my heat isn’t supposed to start for another, like, month. Is this, like, normal? Does this happen to omegas?”

There’s some rustling on Yoongi’s end of the line. “Sounds like you’re going into yours early,” he mumbles. “You’re jus’ starting pre-heat.”

Jimin blinks a few times, trying to process that. “That can happen?”

“Sure. ‘S just a hormonal cycle… You took your first knot recently, so your body is probably like… Woo, alpha cock.”

“Shit,” Jimin groans, flopping back onto his pillow. “I didn’t plan for this. What the hell am I supposed to do?”

“Well… Hate t’ say it, but… you could go hop on Jeongguk’s dick. I wouldn’t trust you going into heat while you’re at Hoseok’s apartment, even if he can’t smell you. Jeongguk is familiar ‘n you’ve knotted safely, so…”

“I… Yeah, but—”

“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that he’s getting possessive of you. He’ll get you through your heat, Jimin. It won’t be anything like your first experience.”

“I’m not worried about that,” Jimin says, even if it was something lingering in the back of his mind. He knows spending a heat with Jeongguk won’t be like last time. Jeongguk is so hungry for sex; he’ll go right into rut and Jimin won’t have to worry about anything. But the negative experience is still staining his mind. “You’re not… You’re not gonna think badly of me if I go to him?”

“I’d rather you go to him than know you’re struggling at home. Or—god forbid—have to come help you. I’ve gotta film shit. Unless you wanna guest star.”

Jimin laughs dryly. “No, I think I’ll leave the porn in your capable hands.”

“Mmkay. Suit yourself.” Yoongi breaks off with a noisy yawn. “Was that all? Can we go back to sleep?”

“Yeah. You can. I think I’m gonna try to dig out one of my plugs, otherwise I’m gonna be so fucking uncomfortable,” Jimin says, kicking off the blankets. Now that he’s gathered his wits, his body isn’t quite so restless, but he’s still made a disgusting mess of both his underwear and the sheets. “Sorry for calling so early, I just, like, panicked.”

“S’okay. Happens to the best of us. I’ll talk to you later, ‘kay?”

“Yeah. Sure. Thanks, Yoongi.”

“No problem, Jiminie. G’night.”

After hanging up, Jimin tosses his phone back onto the nightstand, knots his fingers into his hair and groans. Early heat.

Great. Just great.


 It takes Jimin seventeen minutes to convince himself to leave the safety of the mustang and enter the pharmacy, and that’s only because he’ll be late to his bio lecture if he dawdles any longer. He even drove an extra ten minutes just to get to this damn pharmacy because he couldn’t bring himself to visit the one from last time, even though it’s closer to Hoseok’s apartment. Cap tugged low over his face, Jimin shuffles through the sliding doors and ducks into a random aisle before an employee can see him. Not that it realistically matters, because he knows an employee won’t give two shits who he is or what he’s there to buy, but the quicker he can get in and out, the happier he’ll be.

As he loops around the back of the store, he spots a standee with an advert for a common brand of heat suppressants, and thinks back to Jeongguk’s odd, still unexplained texts. He’s never taken heat suppressants, and isn’t sure he would want to even if he had the money for it. Heat cycles are torture, but they’re the like his shitty Omega Card. Without them, he would be just like a beta. And in some ways, that life is tempting, because being an unacknowledged omega is its own silent killer.

Jimin turns into the aisle underneath the birth control sign only to immediately scramble back out because there with some girl is his fucking ex.

They’ve attended the same university for the past three years, so this isn’t the first time Jimin has seen him since they broke up, but the lightning strike of terror never ceases to throw him into a borderline anxiety attack.

He spins around to book it out of the building because fuck birth control, he can buy that shit later, and slams straight into somebody behind him. And, because the universe seems to hate him today, in the middle of apologizing, he realizes that it’s Kalkaska.

“What—What the hell are you doing here?” he whispers incredulously.

Up close, it’s painfully easy to tell why Jeongguk and Zodiac had been interested in him. Kalkaska is pretty in a conventionally feminine sort of way; elegant, refined features. His scent… He smells like a bread bakery. Like a warm, sweet bun. Not sugary, but something doughy that even Jimin wouldn’t mind sinking his teeth into. The only thing Jimin would knock a few points off for are the dark circles under his eyes.

“Keeping an eye on you,” Kalkaska replies. He’s got a blue sucker that looks like it’s been worked on for a while, having stained his tongue and lips. He pulls it from his mouth with a wet pop! “By request.”

Jimin narrows his eyes in suspicion. “By whose request?”

Kalkaska just shakes his head, rolling the head of the sucker between his lips.

The options are limited: Zodiac or Jeongguk. But after learning that Zodiac’s claims of Andersen stalking him might’ve been a hoax, Kalkaska’s presence gets confusing. If Jeongguk asked Kalkaska to keep an eye on him, specifically because of that situation, that would make sense. But doesn’t Kalkaska’s loyalty ultimately lie with Zodiac?

“Whatever,” Jimin huffs. “I’ve gotta fucking go.”

“You haven’t bought anything—”

“My fucking ex-boyfriend and his new squeeze are here, I’m not sticking around for them to give me shit.”

“What are you here to buy?” Kalkaska asks.

“Just—N-None of your business?”

“You already know I’m here, we can just go together.”

“No, you don’t get it. He’s gonna smell me and—”

Kalkaska cuts him off by yanking his sweatshirt over his head, thrusting it out to Jimin. “Here. Wear that and we’ll go.”

Well. It’ll save him a trip.

Jimin stuffs his cap between his knees, pulls on the sweatshirt, then stuffs his hat back over his hair. He’s immediately enveloped by Kalkaska’s scent. It’s not like snuggling up in Yoongi’s vaguely minty scent, and definitely nothing like Jeongguk’s, but in a strange way, he’s still touched by the sentiment. Kalkaska is left in just a thin black long-sleeved shirt, and Jimin is a little thrown by how built he is. The definition of his chest, arms, and shoulders are easily visible underneath his shirt. Jimin distantly recalls that Taehyung said Kalkaska is ex-law enforcement.

“If I get recognized, I’m punching a bitch and booking it,” Jimin mutters, stepping back into the aisle. His ex and the girl are still there, looking at shampoo on the shelves opposite where Jimin needs to go. He’ll have to pass them in order to get down there.

Fuckkkk his life.

Jimin’s heart is in his mouth as he forces himself to stride by at a casual gait. Having Kalkaska on his heels makes stopping at the birth control even more awkward, because of the implications. Especially because they’ve slept with the same person. Aren’t they, like, Dutch Cousins, or whatever that expression is?

But he’s gotta make a decision whether to go with the 3-day or the 5-day stuff. His heat has never lasted him more than three days in the past, but this is an unusual situation.

“Hey,” he says quietly to Kalkaska, “do you, like, know anything about early heats? Are they different than regular heats?”

Kalkaska hums. “Shorter. If your body is rushing into a heat, it isn’t preparing fully. You might not even need that, but I’d take it anyway. Just to be safe.”

Jimin grabs a box of 3-day birth control off the shelf. “I’ve been meaning to ask somebody, but I haven’t had time—how did Dutch get pregnant? Was that on purpose?”

“No,” Kalkaska replies. “He just didn’t start taking that soon enough.”

“Is he gonna keep the baby?”

“A beta family has been arranged to take it.”

“Oh,” Jimin says. That’s… sad to hear, but he understands. “I guess I wouldn’t want to raise a baby around all… this, either.”

Kalkaska shrugs a shoulder. “He knows he wouldn’t prioritize a baby. There isn’t room in his mind for anyone else.”

They slip out of the aisle and make their way toward the checkout. Jimin feels like he should buy something else just to make himself look less like a newly-matured high-schooler, but he doesn’t want to waste time, wandering around the store.

“Do you know Dutch very well?” he asks while the cashier rings up the item.

Kalkaska slurps his sucker. “Define well.”

“I dunno, you’re the only two omegas in Jeongguk’s circle,” Jimin says, digging his wallet out of his pocket. “Have you ever spent any length of time together?”

“No. I wouldn’t want to.”

Thanking the cashier, Jimin takes his bag from her and leads the way out of the pharmacy. “Do you not like him?”

“I didn’t tell you this,” Kalkaska says, “but there was another omega. Between me and Dragunov. At first things were okay, but then he got weird. Possessive over Zodiac, threatening Dutch and I. It was living hell for almost a month until Dutch ran out of patience.”

“What… What did he do?”

“Stabbed him. In the throat.” Kalkaska tilts his head to the side, running a finger down his jugular. “Right here. Zodiac gave him a knife for emergencies, and I guess nearly having his face shoved into an electric stove burner counted as an emergency.”

Jimin nearly drops his bag. Dutch? It wasn’t as if Jimin had never heard him utter a snide comment towards somebody under his breath, but stabbing someone? In the fucking throat? Jimin rubs his own neck nervously. “I-Is that a normal occurrence?”

“No,” Kalkaska says, “but I’m not gonna put my head on a cutting board and wait.”

“Jesus Christ…”

The pharmacy doors slide open, and out walks Jimin’s ex with his girl. Jimin edges a little closer to Kalkaska, peeking at them out of the corner of his eye. A snippet of conversation hits Jimin as they blow past; the girl—she smells like an omega—is meeting some of her friends for lunch, and The Ex visibly rolls his eyes. He makes a snide remark about a Lauren, and how she openly expresses her distaste for him.

“You’re really gonna waste an hour with some bitch who doesn’t have anything better to do than shittalk me every time she sees you?”

“We’ve been friends since grade school; she’s just protective. You know I always defend you.”

“It’s still a waste of fucking time. Just cancel with them and eat with Natalia and I.”

“And listen to you shittalk for an hour?”

“But we’re just joking around. We don’t actually mean anything by it. You don’t need to get offended—”

Jimin feels bad for her. It’s painfully obvious that The Ex is attempting to isolate her from a friend group who might’ve heard something bad about him. This Lauren probably doesn’t want her friend to get heartbroken, but it sounds like her friend is buying into The Ex’s bullshit—hook, line, and sinker.

“He probably tells her how good she smells when they fuck,” Jimin says quietly, watching them approach The Ex’s truck. “How he used to date this guy that smelled fucking awful, and she’s so much better.”

In a strange, almost welcome, twist of fate, Kalkaska doesn’t disagree or try to reassure him. He just nods and says, “Yeah, probably.”

Jimin feels almost vindicated. “Maybe I should start carrying around a knife, too.”


 Jimin can’t reel in his nerves while he waits for Jeongguk to answer the door. A loud voice in the back of his mind is screaming alpha, alpha, alpha , and it scares him that Jeongguk will be able to hear it through his scent. This his neediness will be exposed before he as an opportunity to come forth about it himself. He made a last minute decision to text Jeongguk and ask if he could drop by after his classes ended, but hadn’t specified why.

The door swings open, revealing Jeongguk—wearing a deep scarlet silk robe that barely reaches the tops of his thighs. An outsider might assume this means he’s planning to stay in for the night, but Jimin knows him well enough to know that if Jeongguk needed to leave for any reason, he would just throw on some fishnets and jewelry.

“Jimin,” he says, almost cautiously. Jeongguk’s eyes search his face for an explanation, leery as he finds none.

A soft whine slips from Jimin’s throat, and that breaks both of them. Jimin dives for Jeongguk’s arms just as Jeongguk is reaching out to him. In an instant, he’s bodily pinned to the wall with Jeongguk in his neck, inhaling and exhaling noisily. The low growl that starts up in Jeongguk’s chest makes Jimin shiver; his alpha is displeased.

“Where the hell have you been?” Jeongguk demands, teeth kissing his skin. “You smell fucking disgusting.”

“I-I—”

Jeongguk bites into his scent gland—the soft, sensitive place for a mating mark. It’s not enough to draw blood and mate, but it shoots a firework of emotions into Jimin’s core. Lust, fear, submission, need. Jeongguk soothes his bite with a wet rasp of his tongue, only to sink his teeth in again further down Jimin’s neck, closer to his shoulder. He’s crushing Jimin so hard against the wall, it’s hurting his back.

“What do you need, baby? Tell me what you fucking need.”

“Alpha,” Jimin whimpers, boneless in Jeongguk’s grip. “Alpha, please.”

Before Jimin can protest—or try to help—Jeongguk yanks his shirt up over his head and tosses it to the floor, leaving him just his jeans. But Jeongguk’s hands go to those next, hastily undoing the buttons and pushing them off his hips.

Jeongguk kneels to pull his pants all the way down, kissing Jimin’s bellybutton hotly. “You wanna be clean?” he asks, helping Jimin to step out of his pants. “You want alpha to take care of you?”

Jimin nods frantically, digging his nails into Jeongguk’s shoulders as his crotch is nosed at through his underwear. “Please—Please, I need you so bad—”

“Shh…” Jeongguk shushes him gently, standing back up again. He gets his hands underneath Jimin’s thighs and hikes him up, lifting him with ease. “Alpha will take care of you, baby.”

Jimin tightens his legs around Jeongguk’s waist and allows himself to be carried through the bedroom into the bathroom. Not that he really has a say in it—if he wanted to escape, it would be a painful tumble to the floor. If Jeongguk even let him go. Once they’re in the bathroom, Jeongguk sets him down on the edge of the bathtub. Jimin feels cold and bare, and wiggles in discomfort when Jeongguk lets go.

“Stay,” Jeongguk commands, and Jimin goes still instantly. He watches Jeongguk mill around the bathroom—turning on the shower, pulling extra towels out of the cupboard, checking the water temperature. Jimin sits up a little straighter when Jeongguk’s gaze lands on him. But Jeongguk looks away and Jimin deflates. Alpha doesn’t need him yet.

Jeongguk approaches the vanity, running a hand through his hair as he checks himself out in the mirror. Undoing the silk tie around his waist, he lets the robe fall from his shoulders and flutter to the floor. Jimin’s eyes rove over Jeongguk’s body, hungrily drinking him in. As he turns, Jimin eyes the swell of his pectoral muscles, the broadness of his shoulders, the thickness of his arms, from his bulging biceps all the way down to his wrists.

He’s like a doll, Jimin thinks again. Perfectly impossible proportions.

“Undress,” Jeongguk says shortly. “Come on.”

Jimin hastily shimmies out of his underwear and is ushered into the shower. The spray of water feels good on his skin; he’s been uncomfortably tacky and grimy all day, feeling as if every particle of dirt he’s come in contact with has clung to him. Jeongguk presses up against his back, crowding him until his chest is forced against the chilly tile.

The tip of Jeongguk’s nose brushes his hairline. He blows out a noisy exhale.

“Where have you been today, darling? Where have you been that’s gotten you so filthy?”

“I—School,” Jimin replies. “Everywhere. There’s scents… e-everywhere, but I don’t want any of them. Just alpha’s.”

Jeongguk’s cock kicks against Jimin’s ass. He rolls his hips in a slow grind, stirring up the sludgy pool of arousal that’s been rotting in Jimin’s core all day. Moving instinctively, Jimin pulls his own asscheeks apart in the hopes that Jeongguk’s cock will find its way there.

“That’s right, baby,” Jeongguk groans into his ear, “it should be just alpha’s scent on you.”

Jimin’s soft pants echo off the shower tiles as Jeongguk ruts against him in earnest. Fuck, this is exactly what he wants. To be used by his alpha, to be marked. Alpha is going to mark his territory.

The head of Jeongguk’s cock catches on his rim, making him twitch and squeal, desperate to get it fully inside of him. He needs Jeongguk inside of him, filling him up, stretching him out. But, instead of doing that, Jeongguk steps away. The loss of his body heat makes the shower suddenly freezing, and Jimin tosses an affronted glance over his shoulder. Alpha is really just going to leave him like this?

Jeongguk is popping open a bottle of soap, squirting some into his palm. Jimin huffs in disappointment, twisting to rest his back against the wall. Pulling one leg up to get better access to his hole, he presses a finger inside to tide himself over. He eyes Jeongguk’s cock, hanging thick and heavy between his legs, licking his lips. His hole twitches in anticipation.

When Jeongguk finally returns to him, it’s with soapy hands and a condescending expression. “Did I say you could touch yourself?”

“You were taking too long.”

Jeongguk yanks on his wrist, and Jimin whines unhappily, wishing he’d worn his plug. Then he’d be able to wait better while Jeongguk smears soap over his chest, his shoulders, his neck, and back down again. Jimin arches into the stimulation when Jeongguk thumbs over his nipples. The soap makes them slick and easy to roll, and Jimin squirms against the wall. Jeongguk forces one of his massive thighs between Jimin’s legs for his trouble. It’s enough to grind on, rubbing his balls and the base of his cock against the hard muscle, until Jeongguk shifts his hip up and Jimin’s feet leave the tile. A moan tears from his throat, and his hands fly to Jeongguk’s biceps to steady himself. They ripple and flex underneath Jimin’s fingertips while Jeongguk continues to scrub his chest and tease him. He’s so totally helpless, hiked up against the wall by Jeongguk’s sheer body mass.

“Alpha,” Jimin moans. “Need you. Fuck me, please , fuck me…”

He tries to reach down and take Jeongguk’s dick in his hand, but he’s thwarted by suddenly being manhandled off the wall so that Jeongguk can retrieve the bottle of soap. When he raises too much fuss, Jeongguk grabs his chin and forces him to make eye-contact. Jimin squirms in his grip, eyes darting everywhere they can, but always flying back to Jeongguk’s smouldering gaze.

Wet, he’s an entirely different creature. Droplets run along his skin, along the powerful curves of his body. His hair is soaked, pushed back out of his face, exposing his forehead. Something about being able to see his eyebrows crinkling together just slightly adds intensity to his expression.

Jeongguk ducks his head a little bit to press his nose against Jimin’s, and softly rub up and down the side of it.

Warmth gurgles in Jimin’s gut, because his alpha is checking with him. Making sure that he’s alright, that he’s comfortable—that his boundaries haven’t been overstepped. Jimin eagerly nuzzles back; alpha is doing perfectly.

As soon as he’s reassured, Jeongguk grips Jimin’s jaw and kisses him with a bruising force. It’s teeth and tongue and heat, and Jimin scrabbles for purchase on Jeongguk’s slick skin.

“Gonna get you nice and clean, baby,” Jeongguk breathes between kisses, taking and taking, delving his tongue in with an imitation of what Jimin would like him to be doing with his cock. “Fuck, yeah. Then you want alpha’s knot?”

Jimin keens high in the back of his throat, nodding around Jeongguk’s tongue. “Kn-Knot, alpha…”

A hand fists in the back of his hair, yanking his head back at an uncomfortable angle, exposing his throat to Jeongguk’s bared teeth. Jeongguk licks a stripe up the front of his windpipe and stops at his jaw. So, so easily, he could bite down and cause severe damage. He’s completely at his alpha’s mercy, restrained in his iron grip. Jimin’s body goes pliant in his arms, liquid in submission.

“Alpha,” he whispers. “Knot.”

Jeongguk shushes him with a soft growl, releasing him slowly, encouraging Jimin to hold himself up. He squirts more soap into his hands and rubs it into Jimin’s tummy until it begins to lather. At first, it’s frustrating, because Jimin still wants to be filled up, not fussed over like this, but he eventually relaxes into the ministrations. Jeongguk’s hands are big and soft, and they slide over his body sensually, like he wants to map out every inch of Jimin’s skin and commit it to memory. He gets down on his knees to wash Jimin’s thighs and ass, squeezing and gripping the meat of them. One sudsy hand gives Jimin’s cock a few pumps, frothing soap over the length of it before sliding down to do the same to his balls. Jimin squirms a bit, the sudden stimulation both too much and not enough. But Jeongguk doesn’t stop there—he continues all the way down Jimin’s calf, to his ankle, and encourages him to lift his foot so that he can wash that as well.

It feels so fucking good when Jeongguk digs his knuckles into the pad of his foot, working the muscle. No one has ever done anything like this for him. Maybe it’s his fault. Always brushing other people off, pushing them away, assuring them he’s fine, that he doesn’t need anything. But right now, he can’t control his need. It’s seeping out through his skin.

And Jeongguk is listening.

Once he’s cleaned and massaged both Jimin’s feet, leaving his soles warm and tingling, Jeongguk gets up again. Gripping Jimin’s bicep, Jeongguk jerks him forward and points one manicured nail at the floor.

“Down.”

There isn’t enough room in the shower for Jimin to avoid the shower spray completely. Once he’s on his knees, his nose and eyes are assaulted by a fine mist. He’s jostled by a harsh shove against his shoulder.

“All the way.”

Jimin shoots an uncertain glance up at Jeongguk. His eyes fall to alpha’s cock for a moment, tip still ruddy and bulbous and begging for his lips, but he forces himself to focus. Jeongguk extends a hand to him, which Jimin accepts. His heart leaps when Jeongguk gives his hand a little shake and squeezes his palm in reassurance. Then he points at the floor again with his index finger.

The tile is damp and chilly where the water isn’t directly hitting, but Jimin does his best to flatten himself in the cramped space. He can press his chest against the floor at the sacrifice of his lower legs, which he needs to kept crooked up in the air. The shower pounds against his lower back, doing an inadequate job of warming him up.

He feels Jeongguk get down behind him, and hands smooth over the swell of his ass, up his back, and down again. Something nudges between Jimin’s asscheeks and it takes him a moment to register the foreign object to be Jeongguk’s cock. He tries to tilt his hips up and present himself, but a firm hand keeps him down.

“How are you going to take my cock if you still smell like you’ve been rolling around in somebody else’s piss?”

Jeongguk’s tone is lazy—conversational, almost. There’s a bit of a pinch to it; like maybe he’s playing with himself.

Jimin wants to whimper at the thought. Alpha jerking himself off at the sight of his prone omega.

The hand on his back slides down to his ass, pulling one cheek to the side. “So fucking pretty,” he groans. “So fucking wet. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about how bad I wanna stuff you full again, baby. It’s all I fucking think about anymore. You, you, you— a-ah, fuck—”

Jimin tenses as Jeongguk’s voice pitches, and the pleasure in his scent spikes like a sudden earthquake registering on a seismograph. Alpha is cumming. Not in him. On him, maybe. This thought is confirmed by the feeling of Jeongguk’s head rubbing over his asscheek, like he’s smearing something towards Jimin’s hole. The tease of Jeongguk’s tip pressing against his rim is maddening.

“Now you’re all mine,” Jeongguk purrs, bleeding satisfaction into the air. “All alpha’s.”

As Jimin soaks in the changes in Jeongguk’s scent, a tightness inside of him loosens. The fog of distress begins to clear. His alpha has marked him and he’s fine.

God, he just let Jeongguk cum on him in the shower.

The moment he makes moves to get up, Jeongguk shifts back to let him. His chest feels like an icicle and his dick hurts from being hard and squashed against the tile, but, he supposes, that wasn’t nearly as humiliating as it could’ve been. At least Jeongguk didn’t knot him and leave them both stranded in the shower to get soaked and cold.

“Sorry,” is the first truly coherent thing to come out of his mouth. “I’m—It’s… I’m sorry.”

Jeongguk just shakes his head and helps him to his feet. “Darling, you don’t have to be sorry. What are you sorry for?”

“I came here without explaining anything,” Jimin says shamefully, biting the inside of his cheek. “That could be considered taking advantage of you.”

A heavy beat of silence falls between them before Jeongguk barks out a laugh. “You taking advantage of me?”

“It’s possible!” Jimin huffs. “You could’ve been influenced by my pheromones or what ever…”

“Right, because you didn’t ask to be exclusive and then leave me on read for almost a week.”

“I was busy. Moving out of my old apartment, trying to feel like I actually live in the new place, y’know? Not just like a houseguest,” Jimin says. “I still don’t know Hoseok all that well yet.”

Jeongguk makes a tsk noise and drags Jimin closer. “You don’t need to get to know him.”

“He’s my roommate, Jeongguk.”

“And I’m your alpha.”

Jimin wiggles a little bit in Jeongguk’s grip. “That’s… another thing,” he says stiltedly. “There’s, um… There’s a lot going on. Between you and your father.”

“...Yeah. There is.”

“Getting involved with you like this sort of inevitably drags me into it, but it’s… it’s not a situation I get escape from easily,” Jimin continues. “Because even if I cut ties with you, I’m still stuck dealing with Haneul. This isn’t… This isn’t how I wanted to live my life. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a fucking vet and help animals, but now I can barely help myself.”

Jeongguk loops his arms around Jimin’s waist and rests his head on his shoulder. “I’m sorry, you know? I’m not sorry I met you, because you’re the best thing that’s ever fucking happened to me and I don’t want to let you go, but in that same breath, I am sorry. I’m sorry I’m so selfish.”

“I’m selfish too, though. I’m so fucking sick and tired of being unwanted,” Jimin says through his teeth, knocking his forehead against Jeongguk’s collarbone. “All my life, I only ever wanted to fit in. Whatever it fucking took, I’d do it. But now it just… Why am I chasing after the people who humiliated me? So they can jack off over how obsessed I am with impressing them?”

A sudden bolt of clarity rocks Jimin down to his core.

“I should…”

The thought alone scares him. Somehow, this thing eating away at him had consumed his life. Without it, everything feels… empty. Strange. His purpose, although dispassionate as he is about it, would be gone.

“M-Maybe I should think about… about changing my major,” Jimin says quietly. “I’m nearly three years into a biochem degree because I wanted to do something to change my scent, but… b-but what if I don’t want to change it anymore?”

Jeongguk sighs and pulls him a little closer. “Baby…”

“W-Would that upset you?”

“What, darling?”

“If I changed my scent,” Jimin asks. Jeongguk is reluctant to let him go, but Jimin struggles to get a little more free so they can look each other in the eye. “Would that upset you?”

“Jimin… Don’t base your decision on what I think,” Jeongguk replies. “That isn’t any different from what you were doing before. I love your scent the way it is, but if you felt a need to try and change it, I’m not going to stop you. This is your body, and you’re the one who’s gonna have to live with whatever you decide to do or don’t do to it.”

Jimin chews on his lip, letting his gaze wander while he thinks. He never had any desire to go into science before a biology class in sophomore year of high school, while reading about cells and the molecular compounds that combined to create each individual scent. But he doesn’t think about cell production or genetic mutations aside from when his nose is stuffed into a textbook. Most of the time it’s finances. His schedule. How much he hates this coworker or that customer or how much he wishes he break the noses of the stupid couple sitting across from him on the bus who won’t stop flirting with each other.

His eyes land on an odd patch of skin on Jeongguk’s shoulder, high up by the top of the muscle. He hadn’t noticed it before, but he hasn’t been naked with Jeongguk like this for so long removed from the fog of arousal. It’s a scar, like a droplet of paint.

“How did you get this?” Jimin asks, rubbing his finger over the smooth skin.

“A bullet,” Jeongguk replies. “Gang fight.”

Jimin is ready to accept this answer without question, because he remembers that Taehyung mentioned Jeongguk ran drugs with Zodiac for a while in high school, but there’s hesitation in his expression.

“I—No, that’s not true. Haneul shot me.”

The bottom drops out of Jimin’s stomach. “Wh-What?”

Jeongguk reaches for a slow, measured breath, seeming almost spooked. His eyes flicker back and forth between Jimin’s, like he can’t believe he’s saying this. “Zodiac is the only one who knows this. I… I’d just had enough, y’know? I’d had enough, and I was gonna end it,” he says quietly. “I was seventeen. I-I grabbed a kitchen knife from downstairs, and I went up to his room… I was so fucking ready to just be rid of him, but I—I didn’t know he was sleeping with a gun. He woke up and he shot me. Once in the shoulder. And twice—” Jeongguk steps back to show the inside of his thigh, where two more scars are splattered. “—in the leg. I haven’t tried again since.”

“You could be dead,” Jimin whispers shakily. “He could’ve killed you.”

“Sometimes I wonder why he didn’t, but it’s just a game. I’m just a game to him. He’ll go out of his way to scare me into submission, but he’d never have killed me that night. Not when the murder could so easily be traced back to him. That was just a warning,” Jeongguk says. “Not to push my luck. Cos even when I think I’ve got the upper hand, he’s always one step ahead. I’ve got an entire one of his assets right here at my fingertips, and I’m still the one who’s scared.”

“Why is he like this?” Jimin asks. “Why does he hate you so much?”

Jeongguk swallows thickly. “Because I know something I shouldn’t.”

“...What is it?”

“He killed my mother. I saw him do it.”

Jeongguk seems to withdraw into himself after that, preventing Jimin from feeling like he can press any further. He doesn’t make eye-contact while they rinse themselves off and step out of the shower to dry. Jimin utters a quiet thank you when he’s handed a towel, but no more words are spoken. Jeongguk was young when his mother died, right? He seems to recall Jeongguk being only ten years old in the story he shared about pushing his half-brother in the pool. To be that young and witness the murder of your own mother…

Unbothered by his nudity, Jeongguk exits the bathroom without putting his robe back on. Jimin, after a moment of deliberation, decides to retrieve the robe himself and slip it on. He catches sight of himself in the mirror and does a double-take. The rich, deep red fabric pops against his skin—he’s never seen himself in this color. He feels expensive and luxurious in it; if he went down to the casino like this, he would undoubtedly turn heads.

That must be the kind of power Jeongguk finds in clothes like this.

Or maybe it’s solace.

Running a hand through his damp hair, Jimin gives himself one more once-over before wandering out into the bedroom. He finds Jeongguk there, sprawled on the bed, on top of the covers. Jimin crawls onto the bed and tucks himself into the curvature of Jeongguk’s body.

“I’ve never told anyone this, ever,” Jeongguk whispers. “Not even Taehyung.”

“Why not?” Jimin asks.

“Because I thought I’d misunderstood. I was only six years old at the time,” Jeongguk replies. “Haneul and my mother were living together. It had been just my mother and I before, but a few months prior to the incident, we suddenly packed up and went to live with Haneul. I’d never even met him before—and he was really kind to me at first. Like a real dad might be. Then one night, they had an argument. They’d been arguing a lot lately, but this one was… loud. So I snuck out of my room because I was… I dunno, afraid? We scream at people in horror movies for going towards the loud noises instead of running away, but maybe it really just is some sort of dysfunctional instinct. Anyway… I saw them arguing near the top of the stairs. My mother turned to go down them, but Haneul grabbed her and pushed her. She—The fall must’ve broken her neck. I just… I remember seeing her lying there at the foot of the stairs; she didn’t… look real anymore. Her limbs weren’t bent right, her head was at an odd angle. I can—I can still… The image in my head is still so clear. All I could think was get up, get up , but… she never did. I waited for s-so fucking long, but she never… That was it. She was gone.”

Somewhere in the middle of his story, liquid began welling up in Jeongguk’s eyes. He soldiered on bravely, but by the end, the first tear makes its escape, rolling down his face. Jimin is there to catch it, wiping the moisture away with his thumb.

He doesn’t know what to think; he just aches.

Jeongguk never had a chance.

“He left her there,” Jeongguk croaks through sniffles, “‘til morning. Told police he found her dead. She—She was dressed to go out, so there was no reason for them to question him. He was so… s-so convincing that I thought… I thought it was an accident, too. That I’d somehow misunderstood what happened. Even that I’d made up him pushing her. It didn’t make any sense to me how someone could do that to another person until I did it to Jaehyun. At the pool. Then I realized how easy it is to make that kind of a decision and pretend it was an accident.”

Jimin gathers Jeongguk close, stroking his hair, doing his best to be a comfort, even though anything he does feels useless. How can he help this? How can he make this better?

He can’t. He can just lie here and listen to Jeongguk cry.

“We’ve never spoken about it, but I know he knows that I saw. My mom’s older sister came to the funeral, and there was some talk about me going to live with her, but…” Jeongguk shakes his head. “One day, I just stopped hearing about it. I never heard from her at all. I thought—I don’t know what I thought. But I had Kalkaska help me look into it about two years ago, and there’s no trace of her anymore. She’s gone. Just like my mother.”

“You think Haneul had her killed,” Jimin says slowly.

Jeongguk swallows audibly, squeezing him just a little tighter. “What else am I supposed to think?”

“And now… you’re scared Haneul is going to try and kill you.”

Jeongguk nods.

“After you found out he might’ve had your aunt murdered, is that when you tried to kill him?” Jimin asks. “The night he shot you?”

“Yeah,” he replies. “I left the house that night and didn’t go back. I stayed with Zodiac until we took the casino. Taehyung continued living at the house until Haneul sold it and moved into one of his other properties. Now he’s—Tae’s here.”

“I know you had a falling-out, but what was stopping you from telling Taehyung about this before?”

“It’s… complicated. I love Taehyung; I loved him to bits. He was my only means of support for a long time. But even before we fell out, there was always a little bit of a gap between us,” Jeongguk says. “Haneul always treated him better. Gave him things when he gave me nothing. Taehyung always told me he was just trying to stay on his good side to make sure I got something, but I know it’s more than that. Zodiac says he’s got abandonment issues ‘cos his own daddy left. Why should he give up Haneul’s generosity when I can’t offer him anything in return?”

Jimin thinks back to his conversation with Taehyung in the casino restroom—how, even though he’d described the psychological torture Haneul had put Jeongguk through, he seemed more sympathetic towards Haneul’s case. Jimin lay awake that night, long after Jeongguk had passed out, trying to figure out what sort of paranoid state a person had to get themselves into in order to hire a hit on your son unprovoked. But, if Jimin is correctly putting together the timeline of events, Haneul’s attempted hit may have been in response to Jeongguk’s attempted murder—both of which failed, and left the two in their current stalemate. However, Taehyung may not ever have been aware that Haneul shot Jeongguk. That would’ve made Haneul’s assassination attempt seem incredibly bizarre and out of left field; yet Taehyung focused on this paranoia, acting like it was more horrific to get the assassin back in little pieces.

This is an incredible headache.

As much as he hates to admit it, Dutch is right. His current neutrality is valuable. Taehyung can say he isn’t taking sides, but the truth is that Jeongguk doesn’t trust him, and that automatically pushes him into Haneul’s camp— especially if Haneul is using him as a confidant. Namjoon, although seeming to be fairly amicable with Jeongguk, is under the employee of Haneul. Zodiac would’ve been Jeongguk’s closest ally, but there seems to be a little more going on there than meets the eye. No one else has Jimin’s mobility, or his excuse to get involved with either party. Haneul has already tried to plant some seeds of doubt in him about Jeongguk; there’s no reason he can’t pay Haneul a visit under the guise of being unsure of Jeongguk’s motivations towards him.

God, this is doing the exact opposite of what Seokjin and Yoongi wanted. Instead of distancing himself, he’s seriously thinking about leaping into the fray, guns blazing.

“Jeongguk,” Jimin whispers, combing his hair away from his forehead so that he can kiss the space between his eyebrows. “Do you trust me?”

“I don’t have anyone else to trust, Jimine. You’re the only one.”

“Since you’re willing to trust me, there’s something I want to trust you with, too,” Jimin murmurs. “I’m going into early heat.”

A wan smile flickers across Jeongguk’s face. “So that suspicious tingling in my balls wasn’t wrong.”

Jimin snorts, accidentally knocking their foreheads together when his body decides to curl in on itself. “Those are some excellent instincts you’ve got. I’m gonna be in pre-heat for maybe a week, and then I’ll go into full heat and be a horny mess for a couple days,” he says. “Was… kind of hoping you’d spend it with me.”

“...Are you sure? If it’s a matter of wanting to be out of your apartment for a few days, I can always—”

Jimin cuts him off with a kiss. Jeongguk is easy to lure into it; a creature so heavily saturated in sensuality. “I trust you,” he breathes. “I trust my alpha to take care of me.”

Chapter Text

 

Pre-heat, in some regards, is more aggravating than full heat.

Jimin is still mostly operational, allowing him to attend classes and work shifts, but his mind wanders. Ordinarily, it’s just general distraction, but this time around, Jeongguk becomes his fixation. He has an organic chemistry test he needs to be studying for and the only thought running through his head is needing to make a nest. In Jeongguk’s suite, obviously. But where? The bed? The bathroom? The closet? He needs to go back to the hotel after his class ends in order to scope out potential nesting spots. Or maybe just fuck Jeongguk again.

His mind feels eerily blank as he walks back out to the mustang after school, like there’s just nothing to think about until he’s back with his alpha.

It isn’t until Jeongguk is balls-deep in him, fucking him up against the suite door, that Jimin clocks back in. They didn’t even make it past the entrance. Jimin’s pants and underwear are off, while Jeongguk wasn’t wearing enough clothing to have to worry about it in the first place. It’s so fucking good, back pressed flat against the door and legs around Jeongguk’s waist.

“I still haven’t emailed my professors about missing class,” he moans into Jeongguk’s mouth, breath hitching in response to a particularly hard thrust. “F-Fuck, I haven’t even gotten my shifts covered…”

Jeongguk adjust his grip on the meat of Jimin’s thighs. “The hell have you been doing?”

“I-I don’t fucking know. I know I went to the apartment this m-morning but I c-can’t— mm, shit, right there… fuck, a-ah, yes— can’t remember… what I went for.”

The way Jeongguk is thrusting into him is just so fucking right. It’s so easy to forget they’ve only known each other for a handful of weeks, they’ve only had knot-sex once. It’s so, so painfully easy to fall putty onto Jeongguk’s cock because he uses it so well. One satisfying thrust, and Jeongguk pauses, buried deep. Jimin arches off the door, wiggling his hips just a little bit and squeezing around the thick length filling him up.

“Oh, fuck, that’s perfect,” he groans, and it is. He knots his fingers tightly in the back of Jeongguk’s hair and kisses him, pouring every ounce of need in his body into Jeongguk’s mouth. Alpha doesn’t disappoint. He’s kissed back just as feverishly, and Jimin shakes in pleasure as Jeongguk’s cock drags slowly over his prostate. “N-N—Lemme just... fucking… be full.”

Jeongguk hums like he knows what Jimin is asking for, even if Jimin, himself, doesn’t fully understand. Suddenly, he’s empty, and an embarrassingly distressed cry breaks from his throat. It’s a struggle for Jeongguk to untangle them because Jimin doesn’t want to let go, but his feet eventually hit the floor. Jeongguk drags him to the couch and throws himself down, cock still soaked and hard between his legs. He uses one hand to stroke it, patting his thigh with the other.

“Make yourself comfortable, darling,” he says.

This should be humiliating. Instead, Jimin eagerly climbs onto Jeongguk’s lap, straddling him, facing away. He uses both hands to pull his asscheeks apart, quivering in excitement at the feeling of Jeongguk’s cock rubbing against his rim. As soon as the head is caught, he sinks down, filling himself up in one smooth motion. He almost changes his mind about wanting to sit—the stimulation is too much. But Jimin takes a moment, steadying himself on Jeongguk’s thighs, waiting for the heat in his gut to simmer. Then he leans back against Jeongguk’s chest, full and content. Jeongguk wraps his arms around Jimin’s waist, making him feel warm. Safe. Protected.

“I’m trying my best to respect your space,” Jeongguk mumbles into his neck, “but I’m not sure I’m gonna be able to let you leave tonight. I think you’re gonna have to stay and let me take care of you until I know you’re satisfied.”

Jimin huffs out a tired laugh. Now that he’s comfortable, the day is catching up to him. “It’s gonna be a long night, then.”

“You don’t think I’m good enough?”

“I think my body is greedy,” Jimin replies. “I think it wants everything you’re willing to give it.”

Jeongguk slips his hands underneath Jimin’s shirt, sliding up his stomach to his chest and smoothing over his nipplies. He does that a few times, swiping over Jimin’s chest with his palms in broad strokes, working him up until Jimin is gently rocking on Jeongguk’s cock with the motion. Then Jeongguk catches his hardened nipples between his thumbs and forefingers, pinching and rolling them, and Jimin breathlessly arches up into the sudden stimulation. Heat flares in his core and he knows he’s dripping, if the obscene squelch around Jeongguk’s cock is any indication to go by.

“I’ve got lots to offer, darling,” Jeongguk purrs into his ear, continuing to tease his chest. “The question is, will you be able to take it?”

Jimin trembles, aching to reach down and touch himself, but refuses. He wants to stay like this, in this inferno, for as long as he can. “Wanna take it,” he gurgles. “Wanna know what you’ve got.”

“You won’t want for anything, trust me.”

Suddenly, Jeongguk’s phone buzzes on the coffee table. Jimin politely bends forward so that he can retrieve it, averting his eyes from peeking at the caller ID. It vibrates in Jeongguk’s hand for a moment before he finally decides to answer it.

“Hey,” he says, a little bit lackluster. “It’s… not a great time right now.”

Jimin settles back against Jeongguk’s chest.

“Kind of. What do you want?” A pause. Jeongguk listens. “Oh. Well, I’m in for the night. Jimin is here.”

So it’s someone who knows. The most obvious suspect is Zodiac.

“Yeah, whatever. We’ll talk later. Goodnight.”

And then he hangs up.

When he doesn’t speak immediately, Jimin tentatively asks, “Is… everything okay?”

“Everything is fucked to an incomprehensible degree,” Jeongguk replies sourly. “But things with Zodiac are… We had a disagreement. Over something—I guess it doesn’t fucking matter if I tell you, since I have literally no one else to talk to about it. It’s Taehyung.”

“Not… to sound biased or anything,” Jimin says, “but it seems like Taehyung is less of a neutral party and more of, like, the biggest liability in this entire situation.”

“That’s how Zodiac feels. And it’s not like I don’t agree with him,” Jeongguk replies. “Taehyung is a problem.”

Jimin nods slowly. “But he’s still your best friend.”

“He’s the best friend I’ve ever had. He’s the only friend I’ve ever had. Like, I might idolize Zodiac a lot, but I’m not stupid enough to think he cares. I’m just like any other human being to him. The only person he has any real attachment to is Dutch, and I’ve just accepted that. But even though Taehyung could’ve easily left—gone off to college and abandoned me here, he never has. I can’t just… push him away.”

“What does Zodiac think you should do?” Jimin asks.

“Get rid of him,” Jeongguk says, then, “Kill him.”

The lack of shock and horror Jimin feels can most likely be chalked up to how on-brand that suggestion seems to be for Zodiac. “That’s… certainly one solution.”

Jeongguk makes a pained noise into the crook of his neck. “I can’t, though. I couldn’t. I won’t. I just want him to give up on Haneul and come be with me.”

“What’s stopping him, do you think?”

“I know Haneul paints me as a villain every chance he gets. There’s no way he hasn’t spun things in Taehyung’s mind to make me look like a fucking lunatic,” Jeongguk says. “Taehyung probably can’t even see what Haneul is doing.”

“I’m not saying this is your fault, but you never told him the details about your mother’s death. So he’s missing some arguably important context.”

“I don’t know what telling him now would do. It might make me seem crazier, hanging onto something for that long. Like, he won’t have to wonder whether I’m really bloodthirsty or not. He’ll know it’s in my fucking DNA.”

“But doesn’t killing his mistress look pretty bad for Haneul, too?” Jimin asks.

“I know you’ve never talked with Haneul about it, but he’s so fucking convinced it was an accident,” Jeongguk replies. “I don’t think he’s even pretending anymore. He genuinely believes he didn’t do it. And I have no proof. Just my own personal observation, which isn’t worth much coming from a six-year-old. I don’t even know what him and my mom were fighting about.”

Jimin huffs out a heavy sigh. He’s almost forgotten about Jeongguk’s cock by now, still snugged deep inside of him. Even now, Jeongguk could be lying. Without anyone else to corroborate his story, he really is entirely without proof. Just his child-self’s witnessing of the events. If Jimin goes to ask Haneul what happened to Jeongguk’s mother, he’s positive that he’ll be fed the story about an accidental death. Taehyung’s story will be identical. So will the police report. Conveniently, only Jeongguk’s version is different.

And it is convenient, because there are plenty of other reasons Jeongguk could hate Haneul for that don’t justify wanting him to die. No matter how angry Jeongguk is over being treated like a second-class citizen all his life, he’s nineteen years old with a successful loan sharking business. He has no reason to continue fixating on Haneul like he is unless there’s something seriously wrong, or Jeongguk is just fucking insane. And that’s easy to believe, if one were to take Zodiac’s influence into consideration, and the things that he’s done to people.

Kalkaska, however, might be a potential way to start validating Jeongguk’s claims, because he was the one who attempted to track down Jeongguk’s aunt—without knowledge of Haneul’s murder. That hopefully won’t be a difficult conversation to squeeze out of him, now that they’ve been properly introduced.

“I think Taehyung would understand,” Jimin says. “Maybe not right away, but I think he would understand. For you. He loves you.”

“I love him. God, I love him so fucking much.” Jeongguk hugs tight around Jimin’s waist, resting his forehead against the back of Jimin’s neck. “I wanted him, Jimin. You don’t know how badly I did, but now I barely feel like I know him anymore. I’m just… hurting him. But I can’t stop.”

What exactly it is that changes is imperceptible. Something in Jeongguk’s voice, in his scent. Something is different. It makes Jimin shiver.

“I want him to hurt,” Jeongguk murmurs. “I don’t think about killing him, but, fuck, I think about hurting him. Tying him to a chair and stripping his fingernails off. Breaking his hands. Cutting his tongue out so he can’t rat me out to daddy anymore. Maybe I’d send Haneul his tongue as a gift. Cos I’m not a fucking bitch who has to pass of things like that as accidents.”  A growl builds up in Jeongguk’s throat as he nuzzles deeper into Jimin’s neck. “We could sit Taehyung in the corner to watch us fuck, since he wouldn’t be good for anything else. He can watch me fill you up over and over and cry about it, dumb and useless. Can’t even get himself off cos his hands are in all sorts of little pieces underneath his skin. Poor, poor Taehyung.”

Jimin doesn’t even register that Jeongguk is ready to fuck him silly until he’s been thrown facedown on the couch. His shoulders are pinned, but Jeongguk doesn’t jackhammer into him like Jimin expects. He draws out, languidly fucking back into Jimin like they have all the time in the world. In some sense, they do. Once Jimin goes into full heat, Jeongguk will be instinctively induced into rut. Omegas and alphas are built to complement each other. Heats, his early biology classes taught him, are where the compatibility of mates are truly tested. He and Jeongguk will be stripped raw, unable to hide behind the masks they’ve been wearing.

The prospect is both thrilling and utterly terrifying.

“I’m gonna fuck you so good, baby,” he whispers into Jimin’s ear, mouthing at the shell. He tugs the lobe into his mouth, toying with the single silver ring, all while driving into Jimin deep. His thrusts are solid, thorough. Jimin feels them all the way down into his toes. “You’re so pretty n’ wet for me, fuck. No one else deserves to be on my cock, y’know that? You’re the only one. ‘m gonna fuck you just like you need me to—I can hear you, darling. I know how much you’re aching to be taken care of right and I’m gonna do it just for you, baby.”

Jimin claws at the couch cushions, struggling for purchase to tilt his hips for a better angle, but Jeongguk does it for him, one hand sliding underneath his thigh to hike him up. He moans into the leather, thrumming with pleasure. “‘s good… Like that, yes…”

Jeongguk nuzzles into the back of Jimin’s neck, swiping his tongue over the nape. It’s easy for him to access Jimin’s scent gland, pinning him down like this, and Jeongguk makes his way there accordingly. His tongue laves over the gland, wetting it, before his lips seal against the skin to suck, and Jimin shakes from the sudden stimulation. His cock twitches, undoubtedly smearing precum on Jeongguk’s nice leather couch. Not that precum is the biggest concern, when Jimin can feel the slick dripping from his hole as Jeongguk continues to fuck him.

“You want alpha’s knot, baby? You want alpha to fill you up?”

The best Jimin can do is whine and nod, instinctively squeezing around Jeongguk’s cock. He’s been craving a knot ever since he entered pre-heat—if he’s being honest with himself, since the first time Jeongguk knotted him. That warm, gooey pleasure. That… connectedness.

And the drop shouldn’t be so bad, this time.

Jeongguk’s groan vibrates against his back. The way he’s draped over Jimin, weight keeping him down, makes him feel bigger. It isn’t so much that Jeongguk is big because of his size. Jeongguk is big because he can overpower Jimin in an instant. Even when Jimin is playing at an illusion of dominance, it’s because Jeongguk allows it. He enjoys playing the role of hungry cockslut.

Sex is what Jeongguk is good at.

He’s weaponized it.

Jimin realizes this as Jeongguk’s knot begins to swell inside of him, thickening up, forcing his walls to stretch around him.

An arm slides underneath Jimin’s chest and tugs him up to throw him over the arm of the couch. This angle is better, more leverage for Jeongguk to piston his cock into Jimin to stimulate his knot into fullness.

It’s abundantly clear Jeongguk is trying to get him with sex.

Jimin is falling for it.

And why wouldn’t he? This is exactly what he wants—an alpha who will treat him like an omega. One who likes to scent him, one who likes to fuck him, one he can talk to without feeling inferior. Jeongguk has opened up to him in ways that Jimin never expected him to; it makes Jimin want to open up, too. Talk about his own father, his own mother, the kinds of ugly thoughts he has. The things he keeps buried so deep, he can pretend they’re things he knows about another person, not himself.

Jeongguk’s knot knocks his breath away. Jimin hangs over the arm of the couch, desperately rocking his hips, squeezing around the thickness, teetering on the edge of orgasm, but not there yet because his alpha hasn’t cum yet. Jeongguk is too big to pull back out, but that doesn’t stop him from slipping a hand between Jimin’s legs to rub at his rim.

“Look at you, taking me so well,” he purrs, smearing the slick that oozes from Jimin’s hole every time he flexes. “My omega. My pretty omega.”

It could be praise, because Jimin is taking him well. He’s taking his alpha’s knot so well. Or it could be yet another little needle slipped underneath his skin without him knowing. Jimin doesn’t know. Doesn’t have any way of telling.

“Wanna cum,” Jimin whines, squeezing, squeezing , because there’s nothing else he can do right now. Jeongguk thobs inside him, so fat and heavy. “Alpha, cum.”

With a broken whine of his own, Jeongguk ruts his hips a few times, jostling the head of his cock against Jimin’s prostate in the process, and cums, pumping him full. Jimin feels it, in a way he’s never felt anything. Heat bursts in his core, flooding his body with sizzling, tingling euphoria. Yet his own cock is still hanging hard between his legs, drooling precum.

That was Jeongguk’s orgasm.

Jimin felt it.

He doesn’t have time to dwell on it, because the sensations trigger his own climax, ropes of cum splattering onto the couch. If the couch wasn’t ruined before, it might be unsalvageable now. Jimin collapses weakly against the couch arm, breathing hard, while Jeongguk trembles behind him. Little orgasmic aftershocks vibrate through Jimin’s body.

Jeongguk pants harshly into his neck. “Fuck, baby. Oh, fuck, you feel so good.”

“Alpha feels good,” Jimin slurs.

With the minor interruption of Jeongguk having to cum again, and throwing Jimin into a gasping dry orgasm, they manage to settle back onto the couch—Jimin in Jeongguk’s lap, still plugged up. He throws his head back on Jeongguk’s shoulder, exhausted and satisfied.

They’re bonding. On a fundamental level, their bodies are deciding that they belong to each other. This isn’t just because of Jimin’s impending heat anymore; feeling the orgasm of a partner is a sign of a deep connection. It’s that bleeding link Jeongguk mentioned in reference to Zodiac and Dutch.

Jimin wonders how deep that crevice is. He could be standing at the edge of the Mariana Trench without realizing, ready to get sucked down into the crush of the murky, unforgiving darkness.

It takes a long time for Jeongguk’s knot to soften. They don’t converse much, save for to make sure the other is alright. Jimin feels sore and empty as soon as Jeongguk pulls out, unhappy with the way cum leaks freely from his hole, but the distress is easily assuaged by staying in the arms of his alpha. There’s a little bead of reassurance in the back of his mind that his alpha hasn’t abandoned him.

They shower, sharing languid kisses and lingering touches, before tucking up into bed. Jeongguk falls asleep almost instantly, breathing slowing and deepening as soon as his head hits the pillow. Jimin, on the other hand, is too antsy for sleep. He waits for a little while, then wiggles free from Jeongguk’s grip and sneaks back out into the living room to retrieve his phone. He scrolls through his call history until he gets to a particular unknown number he’d never saved, but kept fresh in his memory in case he needed it.

“I didn’t expect to be hearing from you tonight,” Zodiac says as soon as he picks up.

“There’s something I wanted to ask you about,” Jimin says. “Do you have time?”

“I have a little while. Two doors to your right.”

And then he hangs up.

Jimin slips out of Jeongguk’s room, wearing nothing but a borrowed shirt and his underwear, and hurries down the hallway to the room. He knocks, but eventually lets himself in even without getting an answer. Although the layout is nearly the same as Jeongguk’s the atmosphere in this suite is different. There’s something… colder. Impersonal.

Zodiac is on the couch, reading. Frighteningly ordinary in every way.

Jimin approaches with caution, but when Zodiac glances up, his expression is friendly. As if he’s been lonely and is pleased to be visited. He closes his book and sets it on the coffee table. Jimin can’t help but glance at the cover when A Clockwork Orange catches his eye. He’s never read the novel; doesn’t know anything about it. Just remembers Taehyung mentioning it during their conversation about Zodiac and Jeongguk’s history.

“Is that a good book?” Jimin finds himself asking.

“That depends on your definition of good,” Zodiac replies. “From a technical standpoint, it could be considered literary genius. Conversely, from a moral standpoint, it’s reprehensible. Good and bad live on a spectrum of perception. Something that is perceived as good to you can be perceived as bad to someone else. If you mean to ask whether or not I like the book, that answer is easy. Yes; it’s one of my favorites.”

Jimin blinks, suddenly feeling small. For as strange and chilly as the hotel suite feels, Zodiac’s presence is imposing. “What is it about?”

“Violence. Jeongguk likes it too, but he prefers the film version. He’s got a thing for Kubrick, which I suppose is fitting, since the two make everything far more complicated than it need to be. But,” Zodiac continues, “the book is about violence. Violence from the point of view of a person who just sees it as a game. Honestly, it’s shits and giggles to me.”

“Why do you say that?” Jimin asks.

“The author has obviously never wanted to kill someone,” Zodiac replies, “but he wants to know what it’s like to want to kill someone, and it’s entertaining to watch another person explore that urge in literature. A safe, padded cell where no one gets hurt.”

“You say this,” Jimin says slowly, “because you’ve killed people.”

“I like killing people.” And it’s that easy. Just… a few words, and Zodiac’s admission lies out in the open. He says it like one would talk about a hobby. “Not in the way that I’ve taught Dragunov to like killing, or in the way that Jeongguk enjoys torture. You can create a positive response to whatever you want if you use the right kinds of stimuli over a long enough period of time. Linking sex with violence creates a fetish. For me, killing is that stimulus.”

“So… in the way that sex is arousing…”

“Murder is arousing for murder’s sake,” Zodiac says. “But there are some kills that I know will be more satisfying than others. Like how you edge during sex. The longer I wait, the more satisfying it is. Anticipation builds up when you watch and wait and watch and wait until the perfect opportunity to strike presents itself. I’ve waited months before, stalking people. Making sure they would be the right one.”

“...What defines those categories?”

The corner of Zodiac’s mouth twitches up into a smirk. “Lots of things. There’s someone I’m waiting on right now. I’ve been waiting on him for years, but I don’t think I’ll get what I want. At least not with you in the picture.”

“Sorry,” Jimin snips. “Am I killblocking you?”

“You’re a force to be reckoned with, you know,” Zodiac says, not at all bitter. “I wasn’t expecting you to interrupt Jeongguk’s focus the way that you have. The orgasm is ruined now, but I don’t mind being blue-balled this time. I think you’re much, much more interesting than Jeongguk is, anyway. But you came here with a question, didn’t you?”

Fuck, after all that, Jimin almost forgot. He shifts on the couch, clearing his throat. “Uh, yeah. I wanna know more about mating bonds.”


 

They’re a sight to behold, exiting Taehyung’s mercedes in the restaurant parking lot. Taehyung is dressed in his usual art-deco fashion, wearing a silver button up patterned with blocks of red, white, and beige, and a pair of slacks that hug his ass a little too well. Jeongguk did not understand what evening casual meant, and is stepping out in an extra-long black blouse, cinched tight around the waist by a Chanel belt. He’s got enough ice on his hands and around his neck for someone to mistake him for a celebrity. Even Jimin isn’t sure what to do with himself; he didn’t have a chance to go home before dinner, otherwise he would have driven to the restaurant with Hoseok. The shirt he’s borrowed from Jeongguk is purposefully oversized, but the black jeans are simply too big on him. He doesn’t have Jeongguk’s insane muscle mass to fill them out. But he smells like Jeongguk now, so he supposes that makes up for it.

Not that Jeongguk has let go of his hand since they left the casino.

Even though he could go into heat at any time now, Jimin was adamant that their friendship dinner occur before his heat. That meant, however, bringing Jeongguk along, and bringing Jeongguk meant bringing Taehyung, because under no circumstances was Jimin going to allow Zodiac to come.

And so, here they are.

Jimin manages to tell the hostess they’re with Kim Seokjin without stumbling over his words as Jeongguk presses up against his back. They’re directed to a booth tucked in the back of the room, where Seokjin, Yoongi, and Hoseok are already waiting for them. Yoongi is the first to notice, and his eyes bug out a little bit at the sight of not only Jeongguk, but another strange alpha, and an apology is on the tip of his tongue. But Seokjin beats him to it. He leaps out of the booth and immediately squares up to Jeongguk.

“Jeon Jeongguk,” he booms, straightening himself to his full height—which is just a little taller than Jeongguk. “I hereby challenge you to a duel. Name your time and place—we battle to the death.”

He—What?

Jimin blinks at Seokjin in befuddlement while Yoongi looks like he wants to crawl underneath the table. Jeongguk, on the other hand, looks highly amused.

“A duel?” Jeongguk says. “My interest is piqued.”

“Then you accept?”

“That depends. Is it over Jimin?”

“It is,” Seokjin motions wildly to the booth behind him, “over the heinous physical and emotional damage you have caused my dear favorite employee.”

Hoseok’s smile is more of a grimace. “I-I’m seriously over it—”

“Wait,” Jimin interrupts. “I thought I was your favorite employee. Are you cheating on me with my roommate?”

Seokjin’s frown deepens. “You lost your spot on the Employee of the Month wall after you let your boyfriend maul one of your coworkers.”

“Then Hoseok should be filing an HR report!”

“He did—that’s why I’m gonna duel Jeongguk.”

Jimin fixes his scowl on Hoseok. “We’ve been living together for almost two weeks and you couldn’t even tell me you were still upset about this?”

“I’m not! I complained to Seokjin like once.”

“And it’s my duty as your manager to keep employee morale high,” Seokjin says. “Ergo, duel.”

“Since when have you ever come to any of our defense, ever?” Jimin asks. “I literally got water thrown on me by an old man because his fucking seolleongtang was too salty and you just laughed at me and asked if we were having a wet t-shirt contest.”

Jeongguk grabs him a little tighter and growls into his ear. “I’ll find him and kill him for you.”

“See? A mad dog,” Seokjin declares, jabbing a finger at Jeongguk. “We have to put him down.”

“You literally challenged him to a fight to the death.”

“In a duel. Duel rules are different, Jimin. It’s called chivalry.”

“Can we,” Taehyung interrupts a little bit forcefully, “maybe arrange the duel after dinner? Armies walk on their stomachs and all that shit?”

The seating arrangement is shuffled to keep Jeongguk and Seokjin as far away from each other as possible. Jeongguk winds up shoved into the corner on one side of the booth, with Jimin in the middle and Taehyung on the end. On the other side, Hoseok sits across from Jeongguk, then Seokjin—for protection—with Yoongi on the outside.

“I think it’s romantic,” Yoongi says idly, “that Jeongguk would murder a man who offended Jimin. Most alphas would just buy flowers, and then you’ve got this guy—risking jail time. Quality boyfriend material.”

Taehyung fails to catch himself before a snort sneaks out, quickly covering his mouth with the back of his hand and coughing. The corners of Yoongi’s mouth tilt up into the ghost of a smirk.

“And I’m not even his boyfriend,” Jeongguk announces happily.

Hoseok’s eyebrows shoot towards his hairline as he plucks a menu off the table. “You aren’t? I totally thought you two were dating.”

“It’s… complicated,” is the best Jimin can come up with before their waiter arrives.

Ordering drinks goes miraculously smoothly, all things considered, and a heavy, awkward silence descends upon them as soon as they’re alone again. Seokjin’s half of the table has drinks while Jimin’s half does not, and the tension could be cut with a knife. Minutes tick by and no one seems willing to break the silence, like some sort of duel , and Jimin sighs in relief at the sight of their waiter crossing the room with a tray full of drinks—

A sharp vibration suddenly shoots up his spine, and Jimin catapults forward, instinctively faking a sneeze to cover himself. The vibrations don’t stop even as he pretends to recover, wiping his nose.

“Are you alright, darling?” Jeongguk asks, feigning concern. “You aren’t catching a cold, are you?”

Jimin shifts on the bench, praying the styrofoam in the cushion will be enough to dull the vibrator so that Taehyung won’t be able to feel it. “Y-Yeah. Just peachy.”

“That’s good. I wouldn’t want my baby to be anything other than nice and comfortable,” Jeongguk purrs, crowding Jimin’s space a little bit so that he can nuzzle into his neck.

Hoseok narrows his eyes at them across the table. “Are you sure you two aren’t dating?”

“They’ve got an arrangement,” Yoongi says, echoing what Jimin has been referring to his relationship with Jeongguk as since the start of it.

“That’s an interesting way to put it,” Taehyung mumbles.

The waiter hands out their drinks. Taehyung ordered an unsweetened iced tea, Jimin asked for a ginger ale in the event that his nerves got bad enough to upset his stomach, and Jeongguk ordered an entire bottle of moscato. Jimin takes a sip of his ginger ale, but thinks that perhaps Jeongguk had the better idea.

Yoongi finishes looking through his menu first, and seems to decide that everyone else is also done because he slams his down onto the table with a loud bang! “Well, since we’re all friends now,” he says, abruptly turning his attention to Taehyung, “who are you?”

“A-Ah.” Taehyung lowers his menu, glancing a little nervously around the table. He’s been groggy ever since they retrieved him from his suite at the hotel and he only seems partially shaken out of it. Or perhaps Jimin is too hyper-alert—having a vibrator buzzing near ones prostate can do that to a person. “I’m a friend of Jeongguk’s. I work… with him. Sometimes.”

“So you wheel and you deal?” Yoongi asks.

A bashful smile flashes across Taehyung’s face as he awkwardly rubs the back of his head. “Not—Not exactly. I actually do more in property development.”

“Things for my father,” Jeongguk says, a bit dismissively.

“For now,” Taehyung acquiesces. “I’d honestly like to get out of the business aspect of it, though. Sales and management aren’t really my forte.”

“What would you rather be doing?” asks Yoongi.

Taehyung looks bewildered to be asked. And that’s fair, Jimin thinks, because it isn’t as if he ever asked. They’ve all turned into machine parts, just like Zodiac said. Cogs and gears don’t dream.

“I’d… Well, I’d like to get into interior design,” Taehyung says hesitantly. “I’ve done some work on a few of Haneul’s properties and clients have been really happy with it, so…”

Yoongi hums into his coke, sipping delicately as he eyes Taehyung across the table. It’s so rare for Yoongi to take interest in anyone, especially an alpha. But Taehyung is nothing if not adorably endearing. “I thought you looked like an artsy son of a bitch,” Yoongi says. “You wanna do it as a business? Or just keep working for Papa Jeon?”

Jeongguk chokes gracefully on his moscato. Taehyung ignores him.

“I’d like to be independent,” he says.

“Independent means managing your own business,” Yoongi points out. “Unless you hire somebody to keep your ducks in order.”

“Are you looking for a new job?” Seokjin asks.

Yoongi shrugs. “Just keeping my options open.”

“What are you doing now?” Taehyung asks. His iced tea has been long since forgotten, attention focused solely on Yoongi.

Sometimes Yoongi vaguely alludes to a film career, but tonight, he goes straight for the jugular. “I do cam shows.” At Taehyung’s confused expression, he elaborates. “I livestream myself masturbating for money.”

A healthy flush colors Taehyung’s cheeks, and he doesn’t seem to know where to look. “O-Oh.”

“It’s lucrative enough,” Yoongi says. “The first few times bring about your quarter-life crisis, but then you start having more than zero dollars in your bank account and amass a wide variety of sex toys and suddenly begging for daddy’s cock alone in a bedroom with a camera pointed at you doesn’t seem so humiliating anymore.”

“I wouldn’t do it,” Seokjin announces, slapping his palm on the table, “but I admire your proactive approach to monetizing sex.”

Jimin floats in and out of the conversation, crossing one leg over the other and leaning into Jeongguk a little bit to keep his ass from pressing entirely on the seat. The vibrations haven’t gotten to the point of being bothersome yet, but Jeongguk is the one with the remote, and holds the power to break Jimin with one diamond-covered hand.

Jeongguk acts like nothing is wrong, slipping an arm around Jimin’s waist like he’s just being affectionate. He squeezes Jimin’s hip, teasing his fingers up and down his side, the heat from his hand bleeding through the thin fabric of Jimin’s shirt. More than anything, Jimin wants to slide into Jeongguk’s lap and ride him into oblivion, but they’re in the middle of a restaurant.

Sometime later, their food arrives. The vibrator has managed to work him up a little bit now, and Jimin is afraid of moving and accidentally jostling it deeper. But he can’t eat squashed up against Jeongguk without raising questions, so he sits up. As both seat bones settle flat on the cushion, the urge to rut his hips is overwhelming enough to make him grit his teeth.

The food. These noodles. Mmm, pesto. Delicious.

It’s gonna be a long dinner.

Conversation stalls while they eat. Jeongguk is still doing more work on his wine than his food, and Jimin can’t say that his appetite is very strong, either. He’s sorely tempted to wrestle a glass from Jeongguk and down it just to get himself through the evening. He manages to shove a few slow bites of pasta into his mouth before his night, somehow, becomes astronomically worse.

Kitty-cornered to their booth, the hostess is seating none other than Jimin’s fucking Ex and that omega girl he saw at the pharmacy a few days ago. Jimin digs his nails into Jeongguk’s bare thigh, already starting to shake. He’s going to throw up, he’s going to throw up his noodles right back onto the goddamn plate. Such beautiful work that chef did, all for nothing.

Thankfully, Jeongguk picks up right away that something is desperately wrong and pulls Jimin in close to speak into his ear. “What is it, baby?”

“My ex,” Jimin hisses. “He just got seated across from us and I wanna fucking die.”

Jeongguk takes a moment to look, size up the alpha Jimin used to date, without drawing attention to himself. He kisses Jimin’s scent gland almost reverently. “Don’t worry about him,” he says softly. “You’re with me now. That’s all that matters, darling.”

The vibrator kicks up a few notches.

Jimin can’t help his squeak, curling into Jeongguk on reflex. Fuck, he’s wet. He can feel it starting to soak into his underwear. If it goes through to the seat cushion, he’s fucking done.

“Jimin, are you okay?”

Hoseok’s genuine concern cuts through the fog of terror and arousal, and Jimin jerks his head up to meet his eyes across the table. “Y-Yeah, I’m fine,” he says, belatedly realizing he’s clinging to Jeongguk’s arm. He straightens up, doing his best to ignore the way his cock is starting to thicken up in his pants. “Just—My stomach. Pre-heat always makes it… weird.”

“Oh,” Hoseok says. He straightens abruptly, awkwardly combing his hand through his hair. “I forgot about that. Like, I didn’t forget- forget, but it’s just… I can’t—y’know. It’s hard to tell just looking at you.”

Jimin tries to adjust his position in his seat, but nothing makes it better. “That’s—That’s okay. It’s not like I’ve never met anyone who couldn’t tell.”

“No—I’ll make more of an effort to be conscious of those things.”

It’s… touching. Honestly. Jimin feels a little bubble of warmth as he flashes Hoseok a smile, independent of his growing arousal. He’s clearly been talking with Seokjin about how to navigate Jimin’s… idiosyncrasies. “Thanks,” Jimin says. “That means a lot to me.”

Much to Jimin’s surprise, Jeongguk doesn’t have a negative reaction to this conversation. His scent doesn’t spike even though he’s still attentive, he just… listens. Jimin shoots him a curious glance, to which Jeongguk responds by ducking his head and rubbing his nose against Jimin’s cheek. Something in Jimin’s heart lurches.

Taehyung and Yoongi are still talking—something about art or an artist or an art show, he doesn’t quite know—and Seokjin chimes in occasionally. Contented with a successful interaction with Jimin with Jeongguk present, Hoseok tunes back into the other part of the table’s conversation. It is at that point that Jimin makes the mistake of peeking at his ex’s table.

They lock eyes.

It isn’t as if they haven’t before since the breakup, but Jimin can’t run here. He can’t fall apart in public while his ex is watching, so he does the only thing he can, and taps Taehyung on the shoulder, saying he has to visit the restroom. Taehyung graciously allows him up, blissfully unaware that anything is wrong, and Jimin stumbles from the booth and strides away from their table. The wetness in his underwear is painfully obvious now, squishing in between his asscheeks as he walks, but he beelines for the doorway on the back wall underneath the restroom sign.

He ducks into the omega bathroom and locks the door behind him, sagging against the wood.

He’s such a fucking coward.

Being surrounded by friends should’ve made him feel protected, but the one thing no one can save him from are his own thoughts. The feelings inside of him that his ex unearths. The way his own omeganess terrifies him. Filth crawls underneath his skin, oozes from his pores. He’s defective—his scent is the way it is in order to warn people away from him. God keeping his sheep safe from the devil.

The vibrator suddenly clicks off, and Jimin whimpers softly in relief. That means Jeongguk is on the other side of the door, waiting for him to decide to come back out. And he should. He should go back out to his alpha, because alpha will protect him. Alpha doesn’t mind his scent because he’s a sinner, too.

Jimin still can’t bring himself to leave right away.

Minutes tick by until he finally feels like he isn’t on the verge of tears anymore. He soulessly tries to sop up some of the wet from his ass and his underwear, and it’s almost more uncomfortable when he pulls his pants back up. Now it’s cold and damp instead of warm and wet. He scrubs his hands off twice, using too much soap. When he exits the bathroom, he isn’t surprised to see Jeongguk waiting, but he’s horrified to see him talking with his Ex.

Jeongguk’s attention snaps to him immediately and, before Jimin has a change to book it for the dining room, extends his arms in invitation. But the hardness of his eyes is anything but inviting. It’s a clear-cut demand—one that Jimin isn’t about to disobey. Jimin allows himself to be wrapped up into safety. Jeongguk gently presses his lips to his temple.

“Have you been bad, Jimin?”

Jimin vehemently shakes his head.

“But he’s saying that you have.”

“Why would you listen to him?”

The Ex’s sharp laugh interrupts their hushed conversation. “Because I know you, Jimin. You’re a fucking liar. You want sympathy from everyone because I said a few mean things to you, while conveniently leaving out the shit you pulled. I’ll bet your new friends don’t even know about it.”

“It isn’t their business,” Jimin tries, but is quickly rebuked.

“But it’s his, isn’t it? Considering you beat the shit out of the omega I started dating after you.”

Jimin is going to have a panic attack.

Jeongguk says something, but he can’t hear. His ears are ringing. Black spots fog up his vision and the floor swims, like his soul is trying to eject itself from his body before it unceremoniously shuts down. He can’t breathe—there isn’t enough air for him to breathe. His lungs won’t expand enough. He’s going to pass out, he’s going to pass out, he’s going to—

He’s suddenly being tugged, pulled, made to move. The lights in the dining room are too bright, it’s too loud but he can’t hear anything, the scent of food immediately makes him sick. Jimin’s knees wobble, but strong arms keep him upright. Eventually, he realizes they’re going through doors. They’re going outside.

Jeongguk guides him to sit on one of the benches outside the entrance.

Jimin stares vacantly as he kneels between his legs.

“—aby, you’re alright. Stay with me, okay? Can you hear me?”

Very hesitantly, Jimin nods.

Jeongguk takes his hands, but even as Jimin glances down to watch him do it, it feels like he’s being touched through padded gloves.

“Can you squeeze my hands, baby?”

Jimin tries his best, flexing his fingers. Jeongguk’s hands might be there, but they might not be. He can see them, though.

“Do you see all my rings?” Jeongguk asks. “Can you count them for me, darling?”

Jimin does see Jeongguk’s rings. Silver and glittery and beautiful. There’s too many—too many to count, he doesn’t know where to start.

“Just start with one. Start with this one.” Jeongguk wiggles the pinky finger on his right hand.

So, Jimin does. He brushes his index finger over the thin silver band, then moves onto the next one.

“Count out loud, please.”

Jimin starts over. “O-One… two… three…”

By the time he finishes, and it really sinks in that Jeongguk is wearing nine rings, Jimin can feel his hands again. He realizes that Jeongguk is bare-kneed on the concrete because he’d chosen to wear boots that lace up the front, leaving much of his legs exposed, and it must hurt like a bitch, but all of Jeongguk’s attention is focused on Jimin and making sure that he’s alright.

Jimin cards a shaky hand through Jeongguk’s hair. “Sorry,” he whispered.

“There’s nothing to be sorry for,” Jeongguk says, carefully getting up to sit on the bench beside him.

“I just…” Jimin swallows a few times, trying to convince his throat to open back up so he can keep talking. “...buried it. Pretended it it never happened. That I never did it. Because I never wanted to think of myself as a person who could… d-do that kind of thing. Hurt another person like that.”

Jeongguk rubs his back comfortingly. “But you did.”

Sniffling, Jimin nods.

“You don’t have to tell me—”

“No, I’ll tell you. If there’s anyone who deserves to know, it’s you,” Jimin says. “He… was an omega in that friend group. He was one of those omegas that I knew had a thing for—f-for my ex. They were, like, best friends. Always flirting and getting touchy with each other, even though they denied having feelings. Everyone thought it was bullshit. I thought it was bullshit, and even though I was dating the guy, it was like their relationship was still more important. I’d be sitting next to him, but all of his attention would be on this other omega. After we broke up, and they immediately got together. It couldn’t have been more than two weeks. There was some story about how that omega had been there for him and they realized their feelings, and everyone was acting like it was a fucking happily ever after. I’d been totally erased from the picture, except when my ex wanted to paint me as some kind of jealous, psychopathic bitch.”

Jimin has to pause for a moment, biting back tears. It doesn’t really matter if he cries, but he’s pretty sure that if he does start, he won’t be able to stop.

“Except I guess that’s what I turned out to be. Thinking about it… it doesn’t even seem real. Like, I’ve forced myself to forget. Maybe I saw it in a movie, or had a nightmare. But I still had a literature class with that omega, and he was the type of person who wanted to argue everyone else’s points just for the sake of trying to be right all the time, and that really pissed me off. I was never one to speak up in that class, but he was just.. railing on some girl over how her interpretation of a book was wrong and I just couldn’t take it any longer. I told him to shut the fuck up, that not everyone had to share his stupid opinions to be right—I think I said it a little nicer than that, cos I didn’t get into trouble, but it was enough for him to catch me after class and tell me to stay the hell out of his life.

“I never had any intention of retaliation. Grievances and frustrations aren’t unique to me. But I saw him later that night while I was waiting for the bus and he was walking out to the parking lot. It was dark, he was alone, and something just… came over me. I wanted someone else to blame for my ex not liking me, so I blamed him. I followed him out to his car a-and… and I did it. I beat the fucking shit out of him.”

Heat.

That was it, that was all Jimin could feel. Every single drop of pent up rage and anguish, boiling inside his veins, making his organs sweat. He was shaking, completely unable to control himself. Even the way Faye’s skull bounced off the side of the car wasn’t enough settle him. It only made the fire burn hotter, the need to see Faye scattered in little pieces across the asphalt a singular, driving focus in his mind.

“How much more are you going to fucking take from me?” he snarled, whipping Faye’s body onto the ground and delivering a solid kick to his stomach to keep him there. “You already have everything—you should be the one staying the fuck out of my life before I fucking take yours.”

Jimin wipes at his blurry eyes. “I regretted it. Like, I heard the bus driving up to the curb and just fucking booked it. The whole ride home, I was in shock. I didn’t even notice there was blood on my knuckles until I was in the shower,” he says shakily. “My ex texted me, saying if I ever did anything like that again, they’d find a way to get me expelled. I’ve avoided them and everyone I knew associated with them ever since. Quit going to that literature class and ended up with a C. I met Yoongi after that, hanging out in the library during my new break between classes. He knows… a little bit. He knows enough to know I’ve never told him the whole story, just that I had a really shitty ex that fucked me over while I was vulnerable. A-And he’s right, y’know? It’s a good story. Gains a lot of sympathy. Got me Yoongi, got me Seokjin… got me you. I’m sorry. I was… bad. I didn’t tell you the entire truth.”

Jeongguk hasn’t said a word to interrupt Jimin’s story, and he lets the silence settle as soon as he’s finished. Even though Jimin can feel him staring, he can’t bring himself to meet his eyes. Finally, Jeongguk slides his arm around Jimin’s shoulders and tugs him close, letting their heads rest together.

“Oh, my love…”

When Jeongguk offers his hand, palm up, Jimin takes it, lacing their fingers together. If he listens hard enough, he thinks he can hear Jeongguk’s heartbeat underneath his skin.

“You’re proper bezoomy, my love,” Jeongguk says, and Jimin has no idea what the hell that means, just that he sounds pleased as he says it. “Real, real horrorshow.”

Chapter Text

jeon jeongguk:

where are you?

9:12 PM

 

you:

my room

packing shit

9:13 PM

 

jeon jeongguk:

what are you bringing?

9:13 PM

 

you:

I’ve got a couple sweatshirts

do you want me to bring underwear

9:14 PM

 

jeon jeongguk:

you’ll be here for 3 days, I think YOU’LL want underwear

unless you plan on going commando

to which I would not stop you

9:15 PM

 

baby

9:17 PM

 

Jimin?

9:20 PM

 

you:

calm your tits I was in the bathroom

9:21 PM

 

jeon jeongguk:

when are you coming over?

9:21 PM

 

you:

as soon as I’m ready to leave

9:23 PM

 

jeon jeongguk:

do you have an estimated trajectory

9:23 PM

 

you:

I’d be able to leave sooner if you quit fucking texting me

9:26 PM

 

jeon jeongguk:

sorry

9:26 PM

 

Jimin

9:30 PM

 

are you mad at me?

9:34 PM

 

you:

why would I be mad at you?

9:35 PM

 

jeon jeongguk:

I don’t know

9:35 PM

 

I’m sorry

I’m still texting you

9:37 PM

 

you:

I’ll be there soon, alright? I just needed to find a bag big enough to fit this stupid blanket in.

I promise I’m a million times more frustrated than you are rn

9:40 PM

 

jeon jeongguk:

just wanna see you

9:40 PM

 

you:

I wanna see you too

9:41 PM

 

alright i’ve bid hoseok farewell & i’m leaving

9:45 PM

 

jeon jeongguk:

fucking finally

9:45 PM


 Even though he tries to keep his mind clear on the drive over to the casino, Jimin falls prey to the claws of anxiety.

At any moment, he could go into heat.

Heat never used to be an issue. It was just something he dealt with. In high school, he actually looked forward to it. Before his cycles began, his father constantly questioned his status, all because he couldn’t pick up Jimin’s scent, even though his birth certificate very clearly said omega. But all the bloodwork and DNA testing in the world wouldn’t change the fact that his father still couldn’t scent him. Even though Jimin did his best to hang onto what his mother and medical professionals told him about his subgender, the seeds of doubt were already planted.

In elementary, he used to keep a journal, and in that journal, he created a list of everyone who could smell him and every one who couldn’t. The list was split fairly evenly, with no real inclination towards one subgender or another. The reactions of people who could smell him varied; some just wrinkled their noses, but others wanted him completely out of their space. His teacher in third grade made him sit in the back of the classroom and stand at the end of lines because she didn’t want to deal with his odor. That was the year he started picking up real bullies, because if their teacher could ostracize him, then he had to be fair game for the kids. One alpha girl cut open the top of her Capri Sun and dumped it on him during lunch to help him smell better. He went home early that day, soaked and embarrassed.

There’s something wrong with me, he sobbed to his mother that night.

She did her best to reassure him, that he was just perfect, there was nothing wrong with him at all, but she was crying too, and as much as Jimin wanted to believe her, he just couldn’t.

Finally, at fourteen, his heat cycle began and it was a relief. If he wasn’t a real omega, he wouldn’t be in heat. He wouldn’t be miserable and horny with slick running down his thighs if he wasn’t a real omega. That was sort of like a private solace. A safe space that the outside world couldn’t touch. Locked in his room, caught in the throes of heat, no one could mistake him for a beta or treat him as an inferior omega. It was just him and his body.

Then he made the mistake of asking to spend heat with his ex.

It was important to him at the time. Like, somehow, he could prove that he was better than Faye if he spread his legs a little wider, let himself be used a little more. If he shared his omeganess, then he could win his ex’s approval. Perhaps if Jimin had other friends at the time, or if his mother was around, someone would’ve pointed out the obvious—that he was just being used. Nothing he did would ever make his ex care. But desperation was Jimin’s only companion, so the fatal decision was made.

His ex didn’t even go into rut. He refused everything scented that Jimin brought him, wouldn’t let him nest anywhere but the bed, and covered it with his own scented items in an attempt to mute some of Jimin’s stink. Jimin was already humiliated, and actually did debate just going home, but went into heat before he could make up his mind.

He was so wet the first few hours, his ex actually dragged him to the shower and left him there until he was done squirting like a disgusting whore.

Everything comforting about heats was ripped away from him in just a handful of days.

As soon as he was physically able to leave, he did.

He swore to himself that day that he would never open himself to another alpha ever again.

And yet, here he is.

The signs of Jeongguk’s impending rut are very observable. Jimin comforts himself with them, reminding himself over and over that this will not be a repeat performance. Between what Zodiac told him about mating bonds and his own corroborative research, it’s impossible to fake a bond. It’s psychological, chemical—occurring outside the bounds of will and consciousness. One way or another, they’re beginning to plant roots in each other.

Some people like to call them soulmates.

Jimin can end it now. If he and Jeongguk quit seeing each other, the bond will dissolve on its own. This is, in fact, the only time, Zodiac told him, because once a bond starts, it continues to deepen. If Jimin keeps spending time with Jeongguk, he will eventually feel the urge to mate. A mating bond cannot be undone. It can be stretched thin, but never broken.

So if Jimin wants to get out, he has to get out now.

He finally reaches the casino’s parking garage, driving up to the gate blocking off the top floor and punching in the code. As soon as the gate rolls open far enough, he pulls the mustang through and finds an open parking spot near the elevator. He turns the car off and then just… sits. Ambient noise echoes throughout the garage. He reaches for his phone and dials Yoongi’s number.

“...Jimin?”

“Hi.” It’s pitiful how weak his voice comes out, and Yoongi immediately notices.

“Is everything okay?” Yoongi asks. “Have you left for the casino yet?”

“I’m in the parking garage,” Jimin replies. Sinking lower in his seat, he pulls his knees up and rests them on the steering wheel. “...Yoongi, am I making a mistake?”

Yoongi doesn’t answer right away. He sucks in a deep breath and exhales it slowly. “I don’t know. I don’t know if there’s a mistake to make—there’s just decisions. You can either stay there or you can go back to your apartment; I don’t know what the right answer is. But I guess… there’s just this part of me that feels like you need this. I didn’t think you were gonna be able to come back into the restaurant after seeing your ex, but you fucking did, and I know that was cos of Jeongguk. He makes you feel safe in a way that I’ve never been able to, and you need that.”

“It all seemed so much simpler when I thought he was just a pretentious rich kid,” Jimin says dryly. “Then he turned into a pretentious rich kid with daddy issues. And then he turned into a self-made millionaire with daddy issues. And I was so fucking annoyed with the fact that he even existed until I realized that I was treating him like everyone else treats him. Defining him by what he has or doesn’t have, his circumstances, his fucked up interests. Not really empathizing with him as a person. But… I like him. I want to be able to trust him, and I want him to be able to trust me.”

“Then it doesn’t sound like you’re making a mistake, Jimin.”

Jimin forces his finger into the fraying hole at the knee of his jeans. “What if… What if I’m doing the right thing for the wrong reasons?”

It takes Yoongi longer to respond. He’s never been one to blindly reassure Jimin of anything, but he also hasn’t shied away from the things Jimin has admitted to him. He appreciates that. “That might just be something you have to come to terms with.”

“I wanna protect him,” Jimin finds himself saying, “but I need to know the truth about what he wants me for.”

“...I think if you give him time, he’ll tell you.”

“I don’t know if I have time, Yoongi,” Jimin says. “I’m not going to bleed myself dry for the sake of a father who wouldn’t even acknowledge me as a fucking son.”

“I’m not saying you should—”

“Jeongguk needs to stay alive. I might be a game piece to him, but he’s just as much of one to me. If he can get me out of this debt, I’ll do whatever he wants.”

“You don’t know what he wants you to do.”

Jimin bites the inside of his cheek. “I have an idea.”

“There’s only so much I can do to help you, Jimin. I can give you advice and tell you what I think, but I’ll respect whatever decision you make. Seokjin might think differently, but I get it, Jimin. There’s always been this part of me that felt like you’ve been reaching for something you’ll never be able to obtain. Money, a happy family, a normal life. In the three years I’ve known you, you’ve always had this attitude of ‘as soon as I get to this point, then I’ll be satisfied.’ But I don’t think that’s true.”

“It isn’t,” Jimin whispers. “Sometimes I feel like I’ll never be happy. That I’ll have a mental breakdown and finish what my mom tried to start.”

“I don’t want that end for you. Get your life back. Find some purpose for yourself.”

It’s then that Jimin catches a flicker of movement in the rear view mirror. He grips his phone a little bit tighter, breath catching in his throat. Jeongguk passes by the driver’s side window like a ghost, sliding onto the hood of the mustang. Tonight, he’s dressed in black. A black belted blazer is cinched around his waist, the lacey hem of a blouse hanging down from underneath it. The collar comes up high around his neck like a frilly choker, and a decadent red and gold necklace rests in the open space against the V of his chest. No pants, just fishnets and boots. He stares down at Jimin through the windshield, eyes roving hungrily over his body.

“...Jimin? Are you still there?”

“Y-Yeah.” His voice comes out strained, and he sits up a little straighter. “I’ve… I’ve gotta go. I’ll call you… a-after.”

“...Okay. Be safe, Jiminie.”

“I’ll try,” Jimin says, then hangs up. Tossing his phone into the cupholder, he pops open the car door and cautiously gets out. Jeongguk’s eyes track his every move. “I was… just… getting some last-minute reassurance,” he explains even though Jeongguk didn’t ask.

Jeongguk shifts to face him, thighs spread invitingly. “Are you nervous?”

“Of course I’m fucking nervous,” Jimin snarks. “I think I have a right to be nervous.”

“I’m not suggesting you don’t,” Jeongguk replies patiently. “If you’re nervous, then I should exercise some restraint.”

“Something tells me you’ve been following a lot of shoulds,” Jimin says. “How you should greet me, how you should talk to me, how you should fuck me.”

Jeongguk bites his bottom lip. “That might be true.”

“Rut’s gonna take those away from you, y’know. Maybe you should get used to telling me what you want instead of what you think I want to hear.”

It takes Jeongguk a few moments to decide how to reply, during which he hooks his fingers into the holes in his fishnets and agitatedly tugs at them. “I’ve been counting the seconds since you left,” he finally says. “I was scared you weren’t coming back.”

“Why wouldn’t I have come back?”

“Because that skanky bastard treated you like shit during your last heat. I’m not gonna do that to you, but I know what that’s like. Having trauma. I smashed a guy’s skull in once. Got hair and blood and brains all over a sledgehammer and it felt like fucking Christmas but gunshots scare the piss out of me. I’ve got a pistol with a silencer, but I’ve never been able to make myself shoot anyone with it,” Jeongguk says almost in monotone, barely blinking. He’s lost somewhere in thought, not looking at Jimin anymore. “I’m sure that’s a reasonable feeling for most people, but it’s a fucking Achilles’ Heel to me. So if you’re apprehensive right now, I get it.”

Jimin steps closer, in between Jeongguk’s thighs. He runs a hand through Jeongguk’s stylishly messy hair—his alpha made himself so pretty just to come out into a dirty parking garage to meet him. “I want this,” he murmurs. “I’m not gonna let what someone else did to me ruin my life.”

Jeongguk’s eyes flutter closed. “You’re so… powerful. No matter what happens, you keep getting back up. I wish I could be like you.”

“You’re doing fine,” Jimin says softly, kissing the tip of his nose. “Let’s go up—it’s chilly in here.”

Jimin retrieves the bag he’d stuffed full of scented things, which Jeongguk snatches from him almost immediately. It loosens a little ball of tension still knotted in his chest. Jeongguk looks like he wants to open the bag right there, but he motions for Jimin to follow him to the elevator.

All of the doubts that clouded Jimin’s mind during the drive over to the casino dissipate like a fine mist in the sunlight. Jeongguk isn’t just an alpha. Jeongguk is his alpha.

As long as they’re together, everything will be fine.


 The nest, though. The nest needs to be perfect. Jeongguk is allowing him to nest, so that means Jimin needs to make sure that it’s the best fucking nest he’s ever made. Closets are his favorite location—the closed quarters make him feel safe, cut off from the rest of the world, smothered by his own scent. Jeongguk’s closet is much, much more spacious than the one in his family’s apartment, and it smells pleasantly of his alpha. Jimin wastes no time in laying out his things over top of the duvet he pulled off Jeongguk’s bed.

“You want some dirty laundry to throw in there?”

The sound of his ex’s words, snide and dripping sarcasm, seep into his mind, and Jimin shakes his head to get rid of them. It’s a normal thing to do; wear scented clothes. But somehow, that single comment managed to twist Jimin’s whole perception of the concept. One where aching to wear something of Jeongguk’s means he’s weak.

Pathetic.

A whore.

Growling deep in the back of his throat, Jimin yanks his t-shirt over his head and tosses into the nest. His jeans quickly follow. He scans the closet, eyeing the colors and fabrics and patterns, looking for something that grabs his attention. A few moments later, his gaze lands on something red and silky. Pulling it off the hanger, Jimin holds up the red silk blouse. It’s plain in comparison to some of the other things he’s seen Jeongguk wear, but the simplicity of it is attractive to Jimin. He slips the blouse on, buttoning it up as he crosses the bedroom to the bathroom. The sliding doors to the bedroom are closed so that he could build his nest in private.

Just as with the robe he tried on, he barely looks like himself. Clothes shouldn’t do this much, but a much more sophisticated Jimin stares back at him. If he were to use some of the makeup littered on the vanity counter, he might turn unrecognizable. There’s a part of him that wants it. To wear the makeup, to wear the jewelry, to wear Jeongguk’s expensive, revealing clothing.

To make people acknowledge him.

A tightening in the pit of his stomach drags his attention away from the mirror. He’ll think about this later.

He walks back into the bedroom, tugging open one of the doors just a little bit to let Jeongguk know he’s ready, and returns to the nest. There, he lies down and curls up on his side to wait.

Jeongguk doesn’t make him wait long.

A quiver runs through his body at the sound of the bedroom door rolling open. Jeongguk pads across the carpet, slowly approaching the closet. He freezes in the doorway, eyes darting as he tries to take in everything at once. Eventually, they settle on Jimin, darkening. He sinks to his knees at the edge of the nest, tense, like a panther ready to spring. Jimin watches him for a few moments. A few deep inhales, and he’s sucking down Jeongguk’s heady scent of arousal.

“Alpha,” he whispers, just to test it out. Jeongguk returns it with a low growl. He knows he isn’t allowed to enter the nest without permission, but Jimin can practically taste his self-control deteriorating. Alpha wants him.

Jeongguk shuffles forward a few inches, startling Jimin into sitting up. He’s still waiting for the invitation, but it’s a clear indication to hurry up. Jimin could punish him for being pushy, but that’s infringing on dangerous territory. He wants alpha to come reassure him.

Very hesitantly, he pats the blankets.

Rather than lunging at him like Jimin anticipated, Jeongguk cautiously crawls into the nest. His eyes don’t leave Jimin’s even for a moment—as he gets closer, Jimin can see the pure, unadulterated hunger dripping from them. He stops inches away, then tilts his head to invite scenting.

Now he’s finally allowing Jimin to scent first, like he’s supposed to.

Jimin scoots himself into Jeongguk’s space, hands resting on his thighs as he presses his nose into Jeongguk’s neck. A broken moan slips from his throat because alpha smells so wet. Sweet and earthy and soaked. Jimin flattens his tongue against Jeongguk’s skin and licks a stripe up to his jaw, tasting it on his tongue. He needs alpha to mark him, now.

And Jeongguk doesn’t disappoint. As soon as Jimin exposes his neck, Jeongguk is in it, hiking him onto his hips and pressing him down flat in the nest. Jimin trembles and whimpers while Jeongguk aggressively nuzzles at his scent gland, and he knows he’s dripping. Jeongguk ruts against him a few times, rubbing his hard, clothed cock over Jimin’s. Everything about alpha is a little bigger, a little thicker—Jimin wants to be opened up on his cock and stuffed full until he’s ready to burst.

“Mine,” Jeongguk breathes, lips attaching to the base of his neck to suck a hickey. One of his hands cups underneath the back of Jimin’s head, cradling it lovingly while he stakes his claim. “No one else’s, just mine. My baby. My Jiminie.”

Jimin wraps his arms around Jeongguk, fisting his hands in the back of his shirt. “Yours,” he agrees.

Jeongguk pulls off his neck to kiss him, slow and intense. Their tongues meet, tangling gently with one another. It lacks pretense; they’re just touching each other on equal footing, without the push for dominance or submission. There’s no argument, even though Jimin is going into heat and Jeongguk is in rut. Jeongguk’s hardness is pressing tantalizingly against Jimin’s hip, rubbing every time either of them move, but there’s no urgency to fuck. Not that Jimin doesn’t want Jeongguk opening him up—he does.

But this attention is satisfying in its own way.

When Jeongguk pulls back, he licks his wet lips and stares down at Jimin. There’s something in his gaze… Something deep and emotional, something that feels slippery in the back of his mind. Like he’s searching for a word he can’t remember.

Reaching up, he gently cards a hand through Jeongguk’s hair. He hasn’t redyed it in a while; his roots are showing. The blonde is nice, the peach was nice, but Jimin thinks he’d look pretty dark. “What?” he asks softly. “What is it?”

Jeongguk opens his mouth, then shuts it again. Several moments of silence pass before he speaks again. “I don’t know. I feel… I don’t know how to explain it.”

“Good feeling? Bad feeling?”

“Good,” he says. “So good, but I can’t… There aren’t words.”

Jimin nods, understanding. He understands because he can feel it, too. Jeongguk’s honesty is clear as day in his mind. There’s a feeling he can’t grasp because Jeongguk can’t grasp it. But it’s strong enough to bleed into Jimin.

Alpha feels good.

“Drown in it with me,” Jimin says, pulling him back into his lips.


 Jimin wakes up in heat.

Real, full heat—he cums to, slick squirting from his hole, down his thighs. The sudden orgasm leaves him shaking, disoriented. He slips his fingers into himself, whining at how wet he is, how warm, how sensitive. Climax didn’t do much to take the edge off; it’s like blowing once on a hot cup of coffee. It takes more than one little puff to cool it down enough not to burn your tongue. That’s what Jimin feels like right now. Like he’s boiling, too hot to touch. He needs release and release and release before he can be sated.

A foreign finger presses against his rim, startling Jimin enough to make him jerk away. It’s dark in the nest, but Jeongguk’s familiar rainy scent catches up to him, and Jimin relaxes. If alpha is here, alpha can take care of him. With that thought, Jimin rolls onto his stomach and pulls his knees underneath him, lying chest down, ass up. The thought of Jeongguk rejecting his presentation doesn’t even cross his mind, and Jeongguk doesn’t disappoint. He crawls closer, slotting himself between Jimin’s spread legs, and hugs his thighs. Jimin gasps, fisting his hands in the blankets, as Jeongguk’s tongue presses against his balls, licking a fat line all the way up to his hole. The noise is obscene, especially when Jeongguk lingers to suck at his rim. Slick makes his lips slide messily, and Jimin can’t help that he’s still dripping with it. Every time his hole contracts around nothing in a desperate cry to be filled, a fresh wave of slick oozes out.

Jeongguk presses his tongue in and Jimin falls to pieces.

Cum drizzles from his aching cock, hanging uselessly between his legs. Jeongguk wraps a hand around it, stroking languidly while he works his tongue in and out of Jimin’s hole. As he pulls his tongue out, he catches his lips on Jimin’s rim, noisily sucking up slick before diving back in. Jimin moans pathetically because the stimulation is too much. Jeongguk flicks his tongue at the same time as he rolls his fingers over the head of Jimin’s cock, and if it weren’t for Jeongguk’s grip around his thigh, he would’ve collapsed.

He’s calling out something by the time he orgasms again, squirting and shaking—it feels suspiciously like Jeongguk’s name. All of his limbs feel like jelly, but Jeongguk hauls his limp body up and into his lap. Jimin smacks into his wet chest. Squirt coats his face and neck, wets his hair—even his eyelashes are damp. Darting his tongue out, Jimin apologetically licks at his collarbone.

“Sorry,” he whispers. “‘m wet.”

Jeongguk shakes his head, rubbing his nose along Jimin’s cheek. “I love it.”

“Mhmm?”

“Mmhmm.” Jeongguk lays him down on the blankets again, on his back. Jimin hums excitedly when he feels the head of Jeongguk’s cock press against his rim. Slowly, slowly, slowly, Jeongguk pushes in, opening Jimin up inch by inch until he’s fully seated inside, hips flush with the backs of Jimin’s thighs. He groans into Jimin’s neck, hands tightening around his hips. “Fuck, so good for me, baby.”

Jeongguk pulls out to the tip, taking Jimin’s breath with him, then pushes back in with a solid thrust. Jimin arches up, scrabbling for purchase on Jeongguk’s bare shoulders. “Hard,” he begs, even though this is hard enough. This is already going to melt his brain and rock his world. “Harder, God , harder.”

Suddenly, Jeongguk slams into him, shoving him further up the nest. Jimin barely has the air to moan, not with the way Jeongguk keeps pounding into him. Just the sound of how soaked they both are is enough to drive him crazy, but Jeongguk zeros in on his prostate, and the assault is relentless. Jimin lets out a choked cry, squirming in place, unable to escape the intense stimulation.

“‘m g-gonna cu-um,” he manages to get out, and Jeongguk abruptly halts his thrusts, grinding deep inside of him. “Nonono, please—”

“Just like this, baby,” Jeongguk whispers against his lips. The kiss is graceless, uncoordinated. Jimin doesn’t have control over his mouth, allowing Jeongguk to take whatever he wants. “Cum for me just like this. You can do that, can’t you, Jiminie? You’re so good—so fucking good. So fucking perfect.”

Jimin whines softly.

He isn’t perfect.

He isn’t good.

But he can cum for Jeongguk like this—so he does. Crying into Jeongguk’s mouth, body seizing up, climaxing hard on alpha’s cock so thick and full inside of him. Jeongguk murmurs mindless praise, kissing all over Jimin’s face, any part he can reach.

It only serves to make the heat burn hotter, flare brighter, dig the craving deeper. Jimin feels himself slipping, wanting a taste of what Jeongguk is willing to do for him.


 Heat continues.

As soon as the initial rush wears off, Jimin finds himself less concerned with his own pleasure and more consumed with Jeongguk’s. He wants alpha to cum—to cum lots. In him, on him. It doesn’t matter if Jimin climaxes because he isn’t going to be satisfied until Jeongguk is, anyway. It could be a base reproductive urge, but he’s never thought about wanting to be bloated with alpha’s cum like this before. Perhaps it isn’t Jimin at all, but Jeongguk. Alpha can’t curb his needs.

Jimin’s hole clenches around nothing as Jeongguk pulls his cock out. He crawls up Jimin’s body to straddle his chest, wrapping a hand around his wet length and stroking feverishly. Sweat slicks up his skin, matting his hair, dripping down his neck. Jimin feels hot enough that a pinprick could cause him to explode, and distantly wonders if Jeongguk feels the same. The sweltering heat should be more uncomfortable than it is. Jimin slides his hands over Jeongguk’s powerful thighs, gripping the meat of them in his hands. They make his palms feel tiny, fingers feel short. He digs his blunt nails into the muscle, feeling them shake from the strain of keeping Jeongguk’s weight off his chest.

Jeongguk jerks suddenly, pitching forward a little bit until he catches himself with his free hand above Jimin’s head. Jimin eagerly opens his mouth, tongue lolling out, ready and waiting. Thick ropes of cum paint his face, landing all over his lips and tongue and chin. Jeongguk languidly milks himself dry, Jimin licks his lips.

Already, he’s aching for more.

As soon as Jeongguk lets him up, they’re kissing. Jeongguk sucks on his lips, licking over his face to clean up the cum, and Jimin basks in the attention. It doesn’t take long for Jeongguk to decide to push him down again—alpha likes keeping him pinned. Jimin likes being pinned. Having alpha’s solid weight on top of him makes him feel safe and protected. But he’s feeling playful, and rolls them over.

Alpha’s cock is so pretty, Jimin thinks, as he presses the tip of his index finger into the slit. The whole length kicks—tries to, but the head is caught by the rest of Jimin’s fingers. Precum bubbles eagerly, and Jimin smears it. Rubs his finger around and around, widening the circle until he bumps into the piercing. Very delicately, he presses against it. Jeongguk’s whole body trembles.

What an enticing power to have; to be able to make his alpha so weak with just a touch.

“Alpha,” he drawls, rolling his finger over the little metal ball. Jeongguk whimpers in protest. “I want to see alpha’s knot.”

Jeongguk gropes for his hand, sliding it to the base of his cock. The skin there is a lot thicker, better able to handle the intense stretch of the swelling. “Here,” he says. “Touch here.”

Jimin slides down his body, leveling his face with Jeongguk’s cock and giving the tip a quick kiss. It’s been good to him. It’s been very good to him, filling him up over and over—as many times as Jimin wants. He runs his lips down to the base, kissing the soft padding of skin. Using one hand to hold Jeongguk’s length upright, Jimin drops wet kisses around its girth. He lets his lips get sloppy, tongue laving against the skin, leaving a thick coat of saliva behind. Jeongguk’s fingers curl into his hair. A strangled cry rips from his throat when Jimin nips at the knot skin.

“Fuck,” Jeongguk gasps, groaning hoarsely when Jimin does it again. “Mm— fuck, baby…”

Pulling up a bit, Jimin takes the head of his cock between his lips and sinks down on it. The thickness forces his jaws wide, but Jimin eagerly takes it, eagerly swallows it down, even as the piercing tickles the back of his throat and threatens to make him choke. He bobs his head, sucking obscenely, drool starting to dribble over his knuckles holding Jeongguk’s cock steady. As he continues to knead his fingers, the knot skin finally begins to swell. Jimin lets alpha’s cock slip from his mouth and watches the knot in rapt fascination.

It’s sort of like a balloon, inflating uniformly around the length. Jimin licks it, sucks at it, cradles it in his hands as it continues to grow. Alpha’s cock is already big to start with—the fact that Jimin fits his knot so easily is just…

Jimin works him to fullness. Once the knot skin is stretched taut around the hard swelling, Jimin lets his cock go and sits up. He hasn’t been paying much attention to the rest of Jeongguk, and he’s more debauched than ever. His chest heaves as he struggles to wrangle air, head thrown back against the pillows behind him, jaws parted wide. Jimin rubs his hand up and down Jeongguk’s cock, watching him squirm and writhe, hands fisting in the blankets, threatening to tear the nest up.

“Pretty,” Jimin murmurs, running his finger along the prominent vein down the underside of Jeongguk’s length. “So, so pretty, Jeonggukie. Are you pretty?”

Biting his lip, Jeongguk nods fervently. His eyes are screwed shut, teeth gritting against the overstimulation.

“So big. Are you this big for me? So you can fill your omega up?”

Jeongguk doesn’t answer right away, so Jimin delivers a quick, decisive swat to his knot. The response is instantaneous.

“O-Oh, fuck, yes—yes, I-I’m gonna… gonna fill you up. G-Gonna make you feel so good and full, shit…”

Jimin gently rubs over his knot apologetically. “You know what I think, Jeonggukie?”

“Mm… mm-mm.”

“I think you’re addicted,” he purrs, “to this.” Leaning down, he takes the head of Jeongguk’s cock back between his lips and suckles on the tip. “Are you addicted, Jeonggukie? To pleasure?”

It takes an impressive amount of willpower for Jeongguk not to thrust his hip upwards. “Yes,” he whines helplessly.

Jimin hums around his dick. “Is that what you are? A pretty cockslut?”

“Y-Yes—!”

Letting go of Jeongguk again, Jimin shifts up to straddle him and sinks down on his cock. He sits as deep as the knot will allow him to go, slowly rolling his hips. “You can’t even fit anymore,” he moans, bouncing a few times. The shallow thrusts are like a tease of stimulation. “Knot’s so fucking fat—”

Jeongguk snarls. He lunges up like a wild animal, knocking Jimin off his lap and pinning him down again. It’s a threatening pin this time, with Jeongguk’s teeth at his throat, growling. He fucks back into Jimin with considerable force, knot punching almost painfully against his rim. A few thrusts in, he begins to whine. Then he laughs. A maniacal cackle against Jimin’s shoulder.

“‘m gonna knot you anyway,” he says, “just like this. Gonna fill you up now just so I can fill you up again. God— fuck. Need you so bad, baby. I can’t help it.”

Jimin rolls into Jeongguk’s thrusts, bent on getting him to cum. He digs his nails into Jeongguk’s shoulders, dragging them down his chest and leaving angry red lines in their wake. His fingers find Jeongguk’s nipples, pinching the hardened nubs, rolling them, making Jeongguk keen. “That’s good,” he says. “You’re good to me, Gukie.”

Alpha is getting closer to cumming. Jimin can feel the heat coiling in his core.

“I didn’t come here for you to be good to me, though. I want alpha to be bad.”

Jeongguk stills.

The urge to knot is overwhelmingly strong in Jimin’s mind. Even though Jeongguk’s knot is swollen and his cock is wrapped up in omega’s warm wetness, it isn’t exactly how it should be. Jeongguk slips two fingers in alongside his cock, stretching out Jimin’s slick rim.

Even without the subtle mental warning, it’s abundantly clear what Jeongguk is about to do.

Jimin bites the inside of his cheek and forces himself to stay relaxed while Jeongguk grips him tightly and pushes in, knot sliding past his rim. The pain is sharp and agonizing for a few moments while the peak of the knot slips into him, opening him up wider than he’s ever been before. As soon as Jeongguk settles inside of him, hugged tight and comfortable, Jimin finds that he can breathe again.

“Now you’re all knotted up,” Jeongguk purrs, licking over his scent gland. “Just like you should be.”

Yes, yes, this is how it should be. Jimin squeezes around Jeongguk’s cock, shivering at the way it throbs inside of him. A moment later, Jeongguk’s teeth sink harshly into his shoulder, hips rutting uselessly as he cums, knot pulsing, head of his cock rubbing insistently against Jimin’s sweet spot. The stimulation throws Jimin into yet another orgasm as well. His rim gasps and squelches around Jeongguk’s knot, squirt and cum leaking out onto the nest.

Jimin hooks his legs around Jeongguk’s hips, knowing his belly is going to be bloated with fluid by the time this is over. “S’perfect.”

After Jeongguk’s knot finally deflates, Jimin is full and heavy and much too sloshy to feel comfortable moving. Jeongguk slips his cock free, shuffling down to suck at the mess dribbling from his hole. Jimin remains prone while alpha searches around the nest for something. His shoulders are torn up with bitemarks—Jeongguk couldn’t seem to keep his teeth to himself while trapped in the throes of orgasm. But Jimin likes it. He likes being marked up by alpha. They aren’t the marks he’s after, but they’ll do.

For now.

Something cold and hard presses against his sore rim, slipping inside of him, and it takes Jimin a few moments to realize that it’s a plug he’d brought.

“Stay,” Jeongguk orders, pressing a hand on Jimin’s side. As if he were capable of going anywhere.

Jimin hums in acknowledgement, watching Jeongguk leave the closet out of the corner of his eye. A chill comes over him as soon as Jeongguk is out of sight, but he tells himself that alpha will come back. No matter what, Jeongguk will come back.

And he’s stupidly happy when Jeongguk does. Alpha crawls back into the nest, tossing a water bottle down by the edge, and greets him with a deep, lingering kiss. Jeongguk smooths a hand over Jimin’s belly, smiling against his lips.

“I’ll always come back for you, darling,” Jeongguk reassures him gently. “You don’t have to worry.”


 The bright blue numbers on the microwave glow 7:42. Outside, the sun is setting, and it basks the skyline in a warm golden glow. Jimin wanders into the kitchen, pulling open the refrigerator to scan its contents. He’s starving and wants something now; the containers of yogurt catch his attention most quickly. Snatching one off the shelf, he eagerly tears open the container and rifles through the kitchen drawers for a spoon. As soon as he finds one, he digs in.

Fuck, he’s so hungry.

Slick dribbles down the back of his thigh.

Setting the yogurt on the counter, Jimin eats with one hand while he occupies his other with his hole. He groans happily at the press of his fingers—it isn’t alpha’s cock, but it’s good enough for now. Bracing his elbow on the counter, he does his best to eat and finger himself at the same time, but the two urges are in direct conflict with each other. It’s difficult to concentrate on getting the spoon to his mouth when he’s massaging his fingers over his prostate. He forces himself to pause so that he can stuff a bite of yogurt into his mouth, moaning around the spoon as he picks up thrusting again. Suddenly, the pleasure spikes, making his thighs quiver in anticipation. The spoon clatters onto the counter and his nails uselessly scrape against the granite as he peaks; he hammers his fingers in and out of his hole as hard as his wrist will allow. Orgasm hits, a fresh wave of slick squirting from his hole—he can hear it splattering onto the tile underneath him.

He whimpers, squeezing around his fingers as he rides out the aftershocks. He briefly considers keeping his fingers tucked up inside himself and going for another round, but he wants to finish his snack. Pulling his hand free, he licks his fingers clean, still able to taste Jeongguk in him. Jeongguk makes him taste better.

Speaking of alpha.

A flicker of motion near the bedroom door catches Jimin’s attention. He glances over to see Jeongguk peering at him from around the doorframe. Jimin wasn’t supposed to leave the nest, but eating was a necessity. As Jeongguk creeps into view, Jimin slowly puts down his spoon. He can see Jeongguk’s nostrils flare as he picks up the scent of Jimin’s slick. His cock hangs hard and heavy between his legs, and Jimin can’t help the thrill of excitement that shoots up his spine.

Alpha is going to come fuck him.

If he can catch him.

Jimin cautiously edges toward the other end of the island while Jeongguk continues to approach him. Much too soon, he runs out of counter and he hesitates there for a moment. Then he bolts into the living room, skirting the couch, not really sure where he’s going. The suite is filled with dead ends. Not that Jimin has any real desire to get away. Adrenaline makes alpha fuck him best.

Jeongguk cuts him off on the other side of the couch, and as Jimin wheels around to run back the other way, he’s grabbed around the waist by one arm. Jimin thrashes and kicks until he manages to free himself for a split second, but it isn’t long enough to buy him escape. A hand circles his arm, yanking him backwards and pitching him to the floor. Jimin rolls over and digs his fingers into the carpet, bent on dragging himself away, but Jeongguk quickly pins him.

“You’re fucking mine,” Jeongguk growls against his ear. He shifts backwards to straddle Jimin’s thighs, pushing his cock into his warm, wet, waiting hole. Jimin keens, eager to be filled up again. He tries to arch, to give himself more stimulation, but Jeongguk knots his hand in Jimin’s hair and forces his head down. “My omega. My bitch.”

Despite Jeongguk’s effort to restrain him, Jimin still desperately tries to wiggle on his cock. “Fuck me,” he begs, cheek smashed into the carpet. “Fuck me, alpha, fuck me.”

And Jeongguk does just that. He slides his cock out to the tip and slams home, drawing a strained cry from Jimin’s throat. Jeongguk pounds into him hard and fast, bent over him, keeping one hand in Jimin’s hair and the other tightly around his wrist. Every time Jimin whines for more, harder, Jeongguk growls a little louder. His teeth are kissing Jimin’s jaw, drool dripping a wet mess all over his neck. One wrong move, and Jeongguk could sink his teeth into Jimin’s throat.

He wants it.

He wants it so fucking bad.

“Gonna fucking wreck you,” Jeongguk hisses against his skin. As his thrusts grow progressively more stilted and erratic, Jimin feels his knot beginning to swell. He squirms in excitement. “You’re gonna be so full, baby, you won’t be able to fucking move—gonna make you too fat to run.”

It takes longer for Jeongguk’s knot to get big enough to lock inside of him; Jimin is so loose and sloppy. But Jeongguk likes it, forcing it past Jimin’s rim as many times as he can, until Jimin is crying out in pain and need for him to sit still and knot him.

This time is no different, tears tracking down Jimin’s face by the time Jeongguk finally settles inside of him, knot pushing his walls to their limit. Jeongguk loosens his fingers from their vice grip on Jimin’s hair to gently stroke it instead, pressing sloppy kisses along Jimin’s jaw. “You take me so well, baby,” he coos. “You’re just right for my cock. Feels so good inside you—mm, fuck.”

Jeongguk shudders through a powerful orgasm, adding another spurt of cum to the mess in Jimin’s insides. But Jimin needs it. He needs everything that Jeongguk will give him. He wants to be fucked until his belly is bloated with cum. Wants to be fucked until there’s no separating them anymore.

“Want you,” Jimin croaks weakly, working Jeongguk’s cock as much as he can, muscles contracting hard until he feels another wave of cum emptying into him. “Want more.”

A wet stripe is licked up the column of his neck. “Not gonna stop ‘til you’re begging me to.”

“I don’t want you to stop.”

Jeongguk hikes Jimin’s hips up just a little bit so that he can slide a hand underneath to press against his belly, feeling it as it swells a little bit with each consecutive wave of orgasm.

“I could never share you,” he murmurs at one point. “Even with a pup.”

And Jimin agrees with that sentiment. Even in the midst of heat, he’s never felt any sort of inclination towards wanting a pup. Whatever hell they’re living through, it belongs between the two of them.

Plus, he doesn’t think he could share Jeongguk, either.

“I don’t want a pup,” Jimin grumbles. “Just want you.”

Jeongguk bites down hard on Jimin’s shoulder, hands sliding down his body to grab the meat of his ass. “I’ll take care of you,” he says, licking over the wound to soothe the sting. “I’ll burn the whole fucking world before I let anybody else hurt you.”

As much as it is the alpha’s job to protect, and there’s no questioning that Jeongguk is capable, Jimin feels exactly the same. If harm were ever to come to Jeongguk, Jimin doesn’t know what he would do. It makes him angry just to think about. He grinds his teeth, staring unblinkingly at the bottom of the couch a few feet in front of him.

Enemies of Jeongguk are his enemies.

And Jimin won’t let himself rest until every last one of them is dead and his alpha is safe.


 Jimin has escaped the nest again. Silly omega, gone to wander. Jeongguk pokes his head out of the closet and scans the dark bedroom, but picks up no signs of life. He opens his mouth to taste the air, searching for Jimin’s scent, but the proximity of the nest makes it difficult. It smells like Jimin is right behind him, but he’s not. The nest is empty.

Jeongguk crosses the bedroom and looks out into the sitting room. A chilly wash of light comes in through the windows; the suite hangs somewhere in limbo between the starlight of heaven and earth. Jeongguk tastes the air again, but it doesn’t seem like Jimin is out here. It was obvious last time because Jimin was sitting on the counter. But there’s no Jimin this time, no lingering trail of his scent. Jeongguk retreats back into the bedroom and heads for the bathroom.

The door is closed, which Jeongguk doesn’t remember doing. He cracks it open, immediately catching a heavy whiff of almond, sweet and bitter in his throat all at once. But there’s something wrong.

He pads across the tile, spotting a dark lump in the corner of the shower. The closer he gets, the stronger the distress choking Jimin’s scent becomes. Jeongguk pulls open the glass door and enters the cubicle, dropping to his knees beside his omega. Jimin doesn’t move, doesn’t exhibit a flicker of acknowledgement, as if he’s somewhere else. They’re faint, but Jeongguk can make out lines of tear tracks on his face.

His heart constricts in his chest.

Omega is hurting.

It’s a deep kind of hurt, Jeongguk can tell that much. Something that left the kind of damage Jimin can’t heal on his own. Jeongguk doesn’t know anything about fixing people—he’s been broken his whole life. But if he can do something, anything, to help Jimin, he’ll do it.

This wasn’t how this was supposed to go.

Jeongguk leans down, nosing at Jimin’s arm, pushing his face underneath it so that he can lie against his chest. He purrs, hoping it helps. Eventually, Jimin’s hand shifts to flatten against his back, slowly rubbing up and down.

This wasn’t at all how this was supposed to go. Jeongguk had it all planned out in his head—exactly how he was going to break Park Jimin. In some regards, it’s working even better than anticipated. Jimin isn’t falling in love. He’s not the type. They’re bonding on some sort of deeply emotional level. Jeongguk feels like he could ask Jimin anything and his omega would do everything within his power to comply.

But it’s that same bond preventing Jeongguk from asking.

Preserving Jimin is more desirable to him than getting rid of Haneul.

This wasn’t how it was supposed to go, and Jeongguk doesn’t know if it’s better or worse.

“You’re so good to me,” Jimin murmurs. “You’re so, so good to me, and I’m still crying over someone who wasn’t. I feel ungrateful.”

Oh. The Ex. For some reason, Jimin isn’t comfortable sharing his name. Their brief encounter at the restaurant left a foul taste in Jeongguk’s mouth. Based on Jimin’s story, it sounded a lot like that alpha just wanted to use Jimin to make the omega he liked jealous without the risk of catching feelings. To use and dispose of. It makes Jeongguk angry to think about, but mostly angry at himself.

He doesn’t deserve Jimin. Not even in the slightest.

But he’s selfish.

“It doesn’t matter,” Jeongguk says. He props himself up on an elbow so that he can run a hand through Jimin’s grimy hair, leaning down to kiss his temple. “I have you and you have me, and that’s all that matters anymore. Alright?”

Jimin peeks up at him through gummy lashes. Even like this, ruined and exhausted, he looks beautiful. Jeongguk has never seen a prettier omega. Not one like this, with such plush lips and regal features and gorgeous eyes. And his adorable hands—tiny hands that look so good around his cock, feel so good around his throat.

“Alright,” he says, and Jeongguk has already forgotten what they were talking about.


 Mate, mate, mate.

It’s a mantra Jeongguk can feel deep within the marrow in his bones. The urgency behind it is so powerful, it makes him want to crawl out of his skin. Touching Jimin is no longer enough. Kissing him, bathing in his scent, being locked deep inside of him—none of it is enough anymore. He needs to be closer, but there’s no way to physically achieve it. The intense craving is driving him out of his mind.

But if he’s bad, Jimin is far, far worse. Nothing Jeongguk does will settle him. It scares him a little bit, the way Jimin won’t respond to his attempts at comfort. Scenting quickly turns into kisses which turn into teeth and tongue and Jimin’s nails biting into his skin, leaving bloody tracks down his back and all over his arms. Sex doesn’t help in the way it should. It agitates Jimin more, but Jeongguk can’t keep him off his cock. Jimin screams and claws and thrashes like his soul is trying to escape his body, but he milks Jeongguk for every last drop of cum.

So Jeongguk empties into him again and again, just to see that brief flash of satiation on Jimin’s face. They way he bites his bottom lip and works his muscles around Jeongguk’s cock, hazy pleasure fogging his eyes. It doesn’t seem to matter if he finds release, even though Jeongguk would like him to—Jimin seems much more intent on making sure that Jeongguk cums and cums and cums. Every time Jeongguk pulls out, fluid dribbles excessively from his hole. More than once, Jeongguk has pinned him down to lick him clean. From there, it’s easier to pull a few orgasms out of him. He loves working his tongue and his fingers until Jimin is shaking and sobbing and squirting from the pleasure.

But it isn’t enough.

It’s like drinking gallons of water and still being thirsty. His cock aches and there’s no comfortable position to lie down without pressing into an open wound, but Jimin’s scent is addicting.

Jimin is addicting.

Trying to figure out how to handle him, how to please him. If Jeongguk isn’t fucking him hard enough, nails rip into his skin and his hair is yanked until his scalp burns, and he’s forced to retaliate with harder thrusts, leaving deep purple bruises on the underside of Jimin’s thighs.

But it isn’t like Jeongguk is the only one suffering the pain of marks. Jimin’s skin is splattered with black and purple, all from being grabbed and thrown and held down to be fucked stupid. Deep hickies cover his neck, chest, and shoulders. There is only a handful of bitemarks, but those are Jeongguk’s favorite.

Fuck.

The worst ache is in his teeth.

Sex just isn’t enough anymore.

It isn’t enough for Jimin, either.

As Jeongguk’s knot swells for the umpteenth time, Jimin squirms and squeezes around him. Jeongguk grips his bruised hips and grinds into him, feeling oddly dissociated from the pleasure. He’s knotting, swollen and thick and heavy, but he feels numb. He wants to cum, he wants to satisfy Jimin, but he needs more. Jimin needs more.

Jimin arches, back bowing, jaws parting as he gasps for breath; Jeongguk doesn’t even realize he’s the one cumming, not Jimin. “A-Alpha,” he whimpers, voice raw and hoarse. “A-Alpha…”

It’s been an eternity since Jimin has spoken, and he’s crying out for alpha. He throws his head back, exposing the messy expanse of his neck.

Jeongguk can’t take his eyes off it.

He’s so hungry. Fucking starving.

Matematematematemate.

He needs this omega. Needs him. Won’t survive without him.

He’s never felt like this before.

Like he’s going to die if they leave this heat unmated.

Jimin is crying for it, begging for it—begging to be taken, to be mated. Jeongguk wants it, too. Wants so badly to belong to Jimin. Wants other people to look at him and know that he’s owned. That an omega has his heart and soul and everything in between. He wants to give all of that to Jimin. Everything that he has. And he wants everything of Jimin in return.

He doesn’t realize what he’s doing as he noses along Jimin’s neck, searching for that sweet spot where he can sink his teeth in. He snaps back to himself when he locates it, near the base of the neck, near the jugular. The scent there is strong enough to make Jeongguk’s mouth water. When he licks his lips, he feels the tips of his canines scrape against his tongue.

He’s ready; his body is ready.

Jimin is eerily still.

Jeongguk draws back to meet his eyes. There’s no fear in Jimin’s expression, no hesitation, no confusion. Just desire. He cranes his neck a little more, silently asking.

That’s all it takes to prompt Jeongguk to dive for his neck. He sinks his elongated teeth into Jimin’s skin, the metallic tang of blood hitting his tongue. Jimin moans deep in his chest, trembling so hard it makes his voice shake. Flames lick through Jeongguk’s veins, spreading out from his core and going all the way to his toes and fingertips. Orgasm rocks him, forcing him to pull his teeth from Jimin’s skin before he tears his neck while he ruts his hips to ride out the pleasure. He swipes his tongue over the twin marks, licking up the blood, sealing his end of the bond.

Jimin is utterly blissed out. A healthy flush colors his cheeks and a string of cum coats his stomach. If Jeongguk wasn’t locked inside of him, he would clean it up. As soon as some of the fog clears, Jimin wiggles like he’s trying to escape, but that clearly isn’t what he’s trying to do. Jeongguk gets a good grip on his thighs and rolls them over so that Jimin is seated on his cock.

If Jimin doesn’t want this, he doesn’t have to reciprocate. The bond will nullify on its own as soon as the wound heals. But Jimin doesn’t so much as hesitate before ducking down to seek out his mating gland. It doesn’t take long, and heat floods Jeongguk’s body with the feel of teeth puncturing his skin.

Mates.

For a brief moment, he isn’t even in his own body anymore. He’s upright and filled to the brim, teeth sunk deep in his own neck. Jimin squeezes around his cock, rolling his hips as much as the knot will allow, and Jeongguk gasps noisily at the feeling of his own piercing rubbing against his prostate. As Jimin’s teeth slip from his skin, Jeongguk also slips back into his own head, still quivering from the sensations. Jimin messily licks over the bite wounds, sending little mating aftershocks through Jeongguk’s body.

Mates.

They’re mates.

Jimin is his and he’s Jimin’s.

His whole life, he’s been unwanted, ostracized. Always someone else’s second choice. A warm body. An alpha replacement for an omega. A charity case.

Even Zodiac wasn’t as interested in him as he was in Taehyung, because Taehyung was a challenge. Jeongguk was just the weapon. Once Taehyung was dead, Zodiac would dispose of him as easily as he did anyone else. And then he would move on.

Zodiac doesn’t care about Jeongguk’s problems with Haneul. He’s kept Jeongguk safe out of personal interest, because it would be disappointing if Haneul managed to kill him first.

And the worst part about it is that Jeongguk is upset by that. The fact that he isn’t even worth enough for Zodiac to crave killing him.

Jimin was just supposed to be easy. He was supposed to be a weapon. Something that Jeongguk could use and throw away once he’d gotten what he wanted, so he could leave this life behind without any remorse. But things changed. Jimin isn’t like other omegas. He isn’t like other alphas. He isn’t like other people at all; he’s more. More than Jeongguk could’ve ever asked for.

And his eyes are only for Jeongguk.

Jeongguk rolls them onto their sides, catching Jimin’s sore lips in a delicate kiss. Jimin eagerly opens up, moaning happily when Jeongguk decides to suck on his tongue. He tastes faintly of blood.

For the first time in hours and hours— days, more likely—Jimin is content. And because Jimin is content, so is Jeongguk. When his knot softens enough to finally pull out, there’s no driving urge to get hard again. The exhaustion quickly sets in, and Jeongguk falls asleep against Jimin’s shoulder, happy.

 

Chapter Text

Yoongi does his best not to be nervous.

He hasn’t been on a date in years. The only people he ever goes out with are Seokjin and Jimin, and he’s only met Taehyung once, but he couldn’t really come up with an excuse to turn this down without sounding like he flat-out didn’t want to go. And he didn’t want to give Taehyung that impression. He’s nice, for an alpha. Interesting to talk to. Cute. For an alpha.

Yoongi paces in front of the restaurant door, trying to work up the nerve to go inside. He’d texted Taehyung when Seokjin dropped him off at the boardwalk, but that was fifteen minutes ago. He didn’t want Taehyung to think he’d been stood up, but he just…

It’ll be fine. He’ll be fine. He can do this.

Sucking in a deep breath and steeling his nerves, Yoongi pulls the door open and crosses the threshold. No turning back now.

It doesn’t take long to spot Taehyung. He’s so unbelievably handsome, even at a distance. Fluffy golden blonde hair, big eyes, pouty lips. Yoongi feels plain in comparison, like he isn’t pretty enough to be seen with an alpha like Taehyung. But Taehyung didn’t ask another omega, he asked Yoongi.

He lifts his head as Yoongi approaches, something like relief washing over his face. Yoongi immediately feels guilty for making him wait. The other two Taehyung is sitting with shift their attention to him as well, and Yoongi has to wonder if either of them are people Jimin might have mentioned to him before. He feels like he recognizes the reddish-blonde omega from somewhere, but can’t place him.

Taehyung gets up and politely pulls out Yoongi’s chair for him to sit down—an odd gesture he can’t help being touched by. He didn’t think gentlemanly alphas existed anymore; they were just an archaic thing lost to time. Yoongi takes his seat, vaguely wishing he could melt into the floor.

“Sorry I’m late,” he mutters. “Been a while since I’ve been to the boardwalk.”

Taehyung just nods, sliding him a menu. “It’s alright.”

“You’re Jimin’s friend, aren’t you?” the omega asks. “I think I’ve seen you a few times at the bookstore.”

The light clicks in Yoongi’s head. This is one of Jimin’s coworkers. He already knew someone in connection with Jeongguk? That was… interesting. “Yeah, we’re friends. You… I can’t quite remember your name.”

“Dutch,” the omega replies. “I’d probably be filed under ‘The Pregnant Assistant Manager.’”

Ah, yes, that was it. Dutch. The one who was mated to—

“This is Zodiac, my mate,” Dutch continues, motioning to the alpha beside him.

Yoongi level’s Zodiac with his gaze, warily taking him in. He’s extraordinarily pretty, despite not wearing any makeup. Both Dutch and Zodiac are, but while Dutch has a certain cuteness about him, Zodiac is fine and regal. His septum is pierced, as are his ears—possibly relics from a time when he put more thought into his appearance. But, Yoongi supposes, the most striking features about him are his eyes. One is a warm brown, and the other is a chilly blue.

“Nice to meet you,” Yoongi says conversationally. “I’ve heard a little bit about you from Jimin.”

“Good things, I hope,” Dutch says. Usually people say that with a laugh, like they’re joking, but Dutch doesn’t sound like he’s joking.

Zodiac slips an arm around his mate and hugs him close, pressing a kiss against his temple. “Who would say anything bad about you?”

Dutch just shrugs.

Taehyung awkwardly clears his throat. “Um,” he says to Yoongi, “thanks for, y’know, coming.”

“No problem,” Yoongi replies. Accepting invitations from mostly-strange alphas for double dates without explanations isn’t something he does on the regular, or plans to make a habit out of, but Taehyung sounded a little desperate.

“I’ll be honest, I’m surprised,” Zodiac interjects, sounding neither of those things in particular. “I was sure we’d hear something about a last minute emergency, but here you are. You actually exist.”

Yoongi shoots a quick glance over at Taehyung, which the alpha is reluctant to return. He’s starting to get a better picture about why exactly he was asked out. How very generous of Zodiac to subtly clue him in.

“I don’t know if that’s an insult to me or to him,” Yoongi replies. He picks up his menu, scanning the lunch options. Lots of sandwiches. He isn’t much of a sandwich person, but he can make due.

“It’s a pleasant surprise,” Zodiac says.  “How long have you two been seeing each other?”

He could get a reuben sandwich, but that’s what he always gets when he doesn’t know what the fuck to eat. Alternatively, he could get soup, and avoid the potential risk of smearing thousand island dressing and sauerkraut on his chin. “Just a few weeks. Whirlwind romance and all that shit.”

“That’s really interesting.” And it could very well have been interesting to Zodiac, but Yoongi was more inclined to believe that he was about to poke a hole in this watertight bullshit. “I didn’t realize you’d changed your tune about sex, Taehyung.”

Yoongi swallows down his own surprise so as not to raise suspicion. Sex wasn’t a conversation topic he shied away from, but it hadn’t come up at all during dinner. They’d talked about Taehyung’s desire to go to school for interior design and Yoongi’s unused as of yet degree in library science until Jimin’s sudden meltdown, but never strayed back to the subject of Yoongi’s profession. He doesn’t know anything about Taehyung’s preferences, but apparently he’s accidentally stumbled upon the one alpha in the entire state who potentially might not be interested in sex.

Go figure.

Taehyung lifts his head from his menu and looks Zodiac dead in the eyes. Something about him in that moment reminds Yoongi of a medieval knight. Beaten and broken, but still hauling himself back up to face his adversary, over and over. As many times as it took to finally defeat him.

“I like to watch,” Taehyung says quietly.

Light flickers in Zodiac’s eyes. A sick kind of light, a dim wash of yellow at the end of a narrow hallway from a room you’re too scared to look into. “That’s very interesting, Taehyung.”

They order. Yoongi tears open a pair of sugar packets to dump into his water because the waitress put a lemon in the glass and now it’s too sour. Zodiac asks Dutch if he’s comfortable, repeats the question when Dutch says he is, tugs him closer to scent him. Some omegas get coy in public, but not Dutch. He leans into the attention, groping for Zodiac’s hand. The way he grips it, so tightly, like Zodiac is hanging off a cliff and Dutch is the only thing keeping him from plummeting into the black water below—a pang of sadness hits Yoongi in the chest, hard enough that he needs to look away.

Sometimes Yoongi feels like that about Jimin. That he’s standing on the shore, watching Jimin scale the cliff. It’s a slow, dangerous journey. One wrong move will cause Jimin to fall. But, unlike Dutch, Yoongi doesn’t have his hand. He can’t do anything but look on in fascinated horror. Only now, Jimin has found Jeongguk on the cliff as well.

Jeongguk is afraid of heights, though, and he can’t climb any higher.

Yoongi wonders where Taehyung is. Perhaps he’s at the bottom, like Yoongi; sand in his toes, tide rolling in to lick at his ankles. Or perhaps he’s at the top, looking down. Waiting to grab Jeongguk’s hand and pull him up.

Maybe what they need to do is quit scaling the cliff and build some damn stairs.

Through some form of witchcraft, the four of them manage to hold a conversation. The weather has been getting delightfully pleasant as they inch closer to summer. Yes, Yoongi has been to the boardwalk, but not in a few years. Dutch hates the crowds, and Yoongi agrees, but it’s good to get out and exercise. How far along is Dutch, anyway? Seven months—he really can’t wait until the baby is born.

So, maybe it’s more like Yoongi and Dutch manage to hold a conversation while Zodiac gazes sickeningly fondly at his mate and Taehyung tries to pretend he’s somewhere else.

Their food finally comes, saving them all from the encroaching awkwardness. All things considered, it isn’t the worst lunch in the world. Everyone is civil to each other.

After they finish eating and Zodiac graciously foots the bill, they file out of the restaurant. Dutch says that he wants to go look in some shops, and no one is about to argue with him. He waddles with some intent towards a nearby souvenir shop. While Zodiac hovers over his mate as he explores the shop, Yoongi hangs back near the front of the store with Taehyung.

“Thank you,” he says, feigning interest in examining some nicknacks. “I didn’t explain very well, but he’s been, like, on my ass about something and I told him I’d been seeing somebody to try and get him off my back, but of course he’s not gonna fucking let go of it.”

Yoongi just shrugs. “Been there, done that. I told my parents I was dating my best friend for a long time cos he’s a beta and they were really on me about grandkids.”

“My mom is like that, too,” Taehyung says. “Her alpha passed away when I was really young, so she’s kinda gunning for me to settle down and raise a family. Without, y’know, fucking dying.”

“I’m sorry,” Yoongi responds. “‘s hard growing up missing a parent.”

“I didn’t have it as bad as some kids. My mom nannied for Jeongguk, so we grew up together. Haneul—Jeongguk’s father—kind of… He stepped up for me.”

It’s odd to hear, as Yoongi recalls the phone call from Haneul that Jimin had allowed him to listen in on, and his evident disdain for Jeongguk. He wasn’t exactly sure where Taehyung fit into the picture with regards to Haneul and why exactly the two worked together, but it made sense if the guy had been Taehyung’s surrogate father. Except for the part where it didn’t make any sense that Haneul would treat him better than his own son.

Having nothing to lose, Yoongi decides to voice this. “But he didn’t for Jeongguk.”

Taehyung is silent. He stares at the items on the shelf in front of him without really seeing them until he finally turns away to move further into the store. “No. He didn’t.”

“I’m not trying to make you feel guilty,” Yoongi says, following him. “Just… if that’s the way it is, that’s the way it is.”

“Yeah, that’s the way it fucking is.”

Taehyung decides that he needs some air. They head back out onto the boardwalk, stopping at the railing. It’s quiet—mid afternoon on a Thursday, free of family traffic. Taehyung pulls a pack of cigarettes out of his pocket and offers Yoongi one, which he declines, before lighting one up for himself. He takes a long drag, puffing smoke out at the ocean.

“Does Jimin really like Jeongguk?”

Yoongi nods. “Yeah. He’s… sorta like a caged animal, y’know? Jeongguk is the first one to show him the kind of attention he’s been craving.”

“What if Jeongguk is faking it?” Taehyung asks.

Of course this is something Yoongi has considered, but if Jimin is going to do what Yoongi suspects he’s going to do, they’re going to find out the answer to that question sooner rather than later. “Then Jimin will make sure he regrets it,” he says.

Taehyung takes another drag from his cigarette and nods. “I guess that’s… reasonable. I wouldn’t want someone to fuck me over like that.”

They fall into a vaguely uncomfortable silence while Yoongi works up the nerve to ask the question that’s been nagging him since lunch.

“Pardon me if this is, I dunno, intrusive,” he says, “but what did Zodiac mean about… the sex thing?”

Taehyung barks out a dull, dry laugh, dropping his head. “It’s nothing super fun and amazing. I don’t like sex. I’m, like, asexual, or whatever the hell it’s called.”

OH-oh. “That’s fine,” Yoongi blurts. “I don’t like sex, either.”

“But you do porn?” Taehyung asks, not accusingly, but just… curious. About how that worked.

“Alone,” Yoongi gently corrects. “I do my cam shows alone. Just me and a vibrator or a dildo or whatever the fuck I’m feeling that night. I like getting off. Makes me… I dunno, feel like I’ve got control of the situation.”

He’s rambling now, but he doesn’t think it matters, because Taehyung is listening to him attentively. There’s something comforting about the fact that Taehyung is a stranger. They aren’t trying to be anything; Yoongi doesn’t have to hide anything, if he doesn’t want to. He can tell Taehyung what’s wrong with him because there’s no expectations.

Taehyung won’t be disappointed to learn they won’t be able to sleep together.

“I was—” The word sticks on his tongue. He can’t say it. In the silence of his room, alone, when Seokjin is asleep, he’s able to whisper it, but out loud, here in public—it’s too much. “I used to be normal. Like, be able to have sex n’ shit. But somebody… Somebody ruined that for me. I just can’t, anymore. I get… scared.”

It takes Taehyung a few moments to reply, whether he’s figuring out what Yoongi was trying to say or figuring out what to say in return. But eventually he says, “I’m sorry. No one… No one should have to go through that.”

“I’ve talked to people who’ve been through it, and a lot of them managed to get manipulated into thinking they deserved it. Like, if they were prettier or if they were more obedient, it wouldn’t have happened, cos that’s what the alpha tells them. But it wasn’t really like that for me,” Yoongi says. “He treated me great when someone else was watching. All the time, we’d hear shit about how cute we looked together and how kind he was. He was, like, on his way to law school or some shit and you’d think somebody who wanted to go into law would be a little more aware of the fact that fucking domestic violence is illegal, but everything is legal as long as you can get away with it, right? But it was the perfect storm, y’know. Cos he could force me into shit and no one would ever believe me if I told them. My parents were dead set on him being their grandbabies’ father. But I couldn’t—How could I?”

Taehyung shakes his head. He finishes off his cigarette and flicks it onto the beach below. Yoongi doesn’t think that’s legal, either, but what-fucking-ever. “But you got out of it.”

“I did,” Yoongi replies. “I tried really hard to hide it from everyone cos I didn’t wanna bring a witch hunt down on myself. Like, my best friend didn’t even know. But then I met Jimin and I hadn’t let anyone else that close in a long time, and he just… made this comment about how I didn’t seem right when I was with Gale. He said I got really quiet and never smiled and did shit for him like I had a gun to my head. Then he asked if something was wrong, and that was it. Jimin told me that if I needed to get out of that relationship, it didn’t matter if it made sense to anyone else or not. So I ended it.”

“Did it end badly?” Taehyung asks. “Like… I dunno, I’ve heard some pretty horrific stories.”

“...Yes and no. I blocked his number, moved in with Seokjin, and holed myself up in my room for, like, two months. My parents fell out with Gale’s parents, there was a whole fuckton of drama that I just avoided. I did run into Gale once while I was out, but Jimin was with me, and you’ve probably never seen him when he’s really fucking pissed, but I had to physically hold him back from smashing the guy’s skull in with a can of soup.”

“He must really care about you.”

“Jimin? Yeah. Guess so. I mean, he’s kinda the unconditional loyalty type. Once he decides he’ll die for you, you start seeing all sorts of crazy shit from him.”

“Huh.” Taehyung gazes out over the beach, over the ocean, into the horizon. It’s impossible to tell what he’s thinking, but he looks tired. “People come in all types, I guess.”

“Is Jeongguk like that?”

“Like what?”

“The die-for-you type.”

Taehyung licks his lips, chewing on the bottom one for a few moments. “He says so,” he replies, “but I think it’d be different if his life were in danger. He’s the type to save his own skin. Always has been, always will be.”

“Maybe he just hasn’t found something worth dying for yet.”

That seems to be the wrong thing to say, because Taehyung immediately shuts down. “Yeah, maybe,” he says stiffly, straightening up. He steps away from the railing, scanning the shops behind them before pulling out his phone. “Let’s go find Zodiac and Dutch before they end up halfway across town.”

Guilt twinges in the pit of Yoongi’s stomach, because if Taehyung wants to go find Zodiac, that means he must’ve said something really wrong. But he can’t do anything about it now, because they’re already heading over to a jewelry shop a little ways down the boardwalk. Inside, Dutch is busy holding up various necklaces to Zodiac’s neck, trying to decide which he likes best on his alpha. Zodiac notices their entry, notices the dark look on Taehyung’s face, and arches an eyebrow at Yoongi, silently asking what had happened.

Do you want someone to die for you, Taehyung?

But Yoongi never asks.


 “Ain’t religious fuckers s’posed to be, like, morally upstanding or some shit?” Dragunov mumbles under his breath. This is the longest Kalkaska’s ever seen him sit still, but he can tell the adrenaline is reaching its boiling point, as Dragunov’s leg has begun to bounce.

“Sure,” he replies, “but anybody can say they’re religious. The moral code religion presents is a good mask for people with ill intentions. It’s like corruption in the police force. The police are supposed to enforce the law, not break it. Or serial killers who end up in the medical practice. You don’t suspect those people of doing bad things, because why would they? But they do, cos it’s easier to get away with it.”

Dragunov hums a little bit louder than he should. They snuck into this church service—although, it’s a public service, sneak might not be the right word—about ten minutes after it started, slipping into a pew at the very back. Their only company is an elderly lady knitting across the aisle. The family in front of them has been busy trying to keep their kids from destroying the hymnals. In all honesty, Kalkaska is as bored as Dragunov is. But there’s someone they need to have a chat with, so, here they are. Kalkaska has kept his eyes trained on the back of the man’s balding head, four rows up.

“Kids’ church is, like, real big, isn’t it?” Dragunov asks. He slides his arm around Kalkaska’s shoulders, leaning into his space. “Fuckin’ weird, right? Indoctrinating them when they’re little.”

This isn’t something Kalkaska ever thought about prior to meeting Zodiac. The world was a lot more black and white back then, without the complex shades of gray and random splashes of color. In some ways, it’s beautiful. In other ways, it’s horribly grotesque.

“Everyone is just looking for the right way to live. If you think you’ve found it, of course you’d want to raise your kids to believe what you do,” he says. “These people staunchly believe you’re gonna go to Hell if you don’t worship God. By that logic, you’d be a bad parent to not raise your kid to do that.”

“Uh huh. What do you believe, then?”

“I think evil exists. If evil exists, then good exists, too, but I just…” Kalkaska lets out a deep sigh. “I’m tired. I don’t care about an afterlife, I just want things to be over.”

Dragunov snorts. “Die, then.”

“Kill me.”

“Nah. I’d miss you,” he says, kissing Kalkaska’s neck. “You’ll take yourself out real kamikaze in a car wreck, anyway. I’ll cry at your funeral.”

“I’d better do it soon,” Kalkaska says. “I think things are gonna start changing really quickly.”

“What do you mean?”

“This business with Jimin. Jeongguk asked me to follow him, cos he’s paranoid Zodiac might have an eye on him,” he replies. “That isn’t something we’ve considered—those two not getting along anymore. But you and I are gonna be like the kids in a divorce. Which parent gets custody?”

A simple answer to that question looms over Kalkaska’s head like an ugly black cloud. Both he and Dragunov underwent their own sort of indoctrination, but Zodiac implemented different methods on each of them. For Kalkaska, it was fear. For Dragunov, it was pleasure. So, given the choice, Kalkaska would never willingly choose to follow Zodiac at the expense of leaving Jeongguk. Jeongguk is safe.

But Dragunov’s experience with Zodiac has been very, very different.

“I don’t wanna leave you,” he says quietly.

Kalkaska glances over at him. “What if Zodiac tells you to?”

Dragunov doesn’t answer him. They sit in silence until the end of the service, when the congregation begins to rise from their seats and file down the aisle to leave the church. As their target passes by, Dragunov all but leaps over Kalkaska to catch him, slinging an arm around the man’s neck like they’ve known each other for years.

“Hey man,” he drawls cheerfully, ignoring the sudden pallor of the man’s face. “Long time no see, huh?”

They slip out the side door of the church with relative ease—it’s nearly nine PM and everyone else is concentrated on getting back home. Dragunov drags the man into the alley behind the building, tossing him gracelessly to the asphalt. The man loses his balance as he falls, landing heavily on one hand when his foot skids out from underneath him on a bit of gravel.

Why do they always look so scared? Kalkaska wonders, drawing his gun.

They have a lot of good relationships with clients. Jeongguk built his own reputation by being good at cards, and most of the people who borrow money from him are also good at cards. They’re able to pay him back, plus interest. It’s the stupid ones like this man who blow their borrowed money on roulette or hookers or drugs that will suddenly quit showing up at the casino as soon as their payment due date rolls around. This man, in particular, has been a slippery fish. They’ve had a lot of difficulty tracking him down until someone dropped them a tip that he religiously attended a certain church service.

And so, here they are.

It isn’t like you could run forever, Kalkaska thinks. You’re too stupid for that.

“You’re a hard man to pin down, ain’tcha?” Dragunov muses, sauntering up to the guy. Robert Barker is his name. Dragunov slams the heel of his shoe into Barker’s groin, eliciting a painted groan that just makes him grin. “Betcha thought you were pretty slick, evading us. Spent a lotta money on motels n’ shit, yeah? You pay your bills, or did you skip in the middle of the night?”

Barker wheezes out a few breaths before he can get the air to speak. “I-I don’t… I don’t have the money yet.”

Dragunov throws his head back and cackles. “You think I’m that stupid?” he crows. “I know you fucking don’t. Otherwise you’d ‘ve paid it, right? Cos you’re such a nice, morally upstanding citizen.” He jerks his thumb at Kalkaska. “He was tellin’ me about how you folks like doin’ good so God won’t send you to Hell.”

“Just give me a little more time, I swear, I’ll get it to you, I just—Just have to—”

The man’s blubbering is cut off by Dragunov blowing raspberry at him and digging his heel in a little harder. “You gotta lead with the dick-sucking, man. I don’t do that begging shit. And right now, I’m your god, so you better do a little more to please me, m’kay?”

“Anything,” Barker whimpers. “I-I’ll do anything.”

“Don’t have sex with Dragunov,” Jeongguk said one night, post-fuck.

Kalkaska knew the two didn’t particularly like each other, but this still seemed like a strangely possessive imposition to place on him. “Why not?”

“Because he’ll start seeing you as an object,” Jeongguk replied. “He looks up to you a little bit. Thinks you’re cool, or some shit. But if you let him fuck you, I think that will change. Plus, it’ll be a huge distraction, and we don’t want that.”

It made sense. Dragunov already begged for Zodiac’s touch like a dog after table scraps. As long as he was good, he would get rewarded, so he made sure that he was very, very good. The reward system Zodiac had set up would be totally ruined if he could fuck Kalkaska whenever he wanted.

“I won’t,” Kalkaska promised, because he, too, desired to be good.

As soon as Dragunov’s arousal kicks up into high gear, Kalkaska takes his leave, sneaking out of the alley. The parking lot has emptied relatively quickly, making it easy to find the Durango. He gets into the car and waits.

For a little while, he thinks.

About Dragunov. About Zodiac. About Jeongguk and Jimin. About his future.

A thick fog has suddenly rolled in from all sides, giving everyone an opportunity to move in within its obscurity. When it finally clears, Kalkaska suspects that no one will be where they started.

Some of them might even be dead.

That’s a lot to think about, though.

He pulls out his phone and checks it. Nothing from Jeongguk, unsurprisingly. Jimin will most likely be in heat for another day and a half. Nothing from Zodiac, either. Dragunov told him that he was taking Dutch out on a date today, and usually they would receive that information in tandem, but Zodiac has been cold-shouldering him a little bit lately. Like he just knows Kalkaska’s loyalty is wavering. Or else he just isn’t taking his chances.

Either way, Kalkaska is acutely aware of the timer over his head, steadily counting down. His only real desire is that he can find a better way to make use of himself before that expiration date.

There’s only one text, and it’s from Kim Namjoon. They aren’t exactly anything. Not friends, not… anything. But Kalkaska enjoys spending time with him, regardless, because Namjoon is, for lack of a better word, normal. He’s good in a way that no one else is. He does his job managing the hotel and goes home.

Namjoon would like to know if he wants to meet for dinner tomorrow night.

Kalkaska can’t get himself to make a decision quite yet.

Eventually, Dragunov comes back. Night descended quickly, and Kalkaska can’t see him clearly until he’s nearly at the vehicle. Dragunov yanks open the door and collapses into the passenger seat, exhaling a loud groan. One hand sinks between his legs, rubbing at his crotch.

“Did you have fun?” Kalkaska asks dully.

“Nothin’ like gettin’ a man on his knees for you at church,” Dragunov purrs. “Alphas ain’t shit at blowjobs until they don’t wanna give ‘em, y’know? Suddenly they’re made for suckin’ cock.”

Kalkaska starts the car. “Maybe consensual sex just bores you.”

“I like consensual sex. There’s just somethin’ cute about an alpha cryin’ cos he’s got a dick in his mouth.”

“This is all very sacreligious,” Kalkaska comments, pulling out of the parking space.

The opening to the alley is very inviting. Definitely a big enough space for a car to fit through—even an SUV like the Durango. Kalkaska doesn’t think very hard about the whys as he crawls across the parking lot and turns down it, stopping the car in the entryway. He flicks his headlights on.

Barker is still there, coughing and gagging and trying to regain his bearings. He stumbles against the light, trying to shield his eyes against the blinding brightness.

What is this man’s life, anyway?

This… simpering, disgusting, pathetic excuse of an alpha. He’s ugly. He’s weak. He’s selfish. His face is too long and his eyes are set too far apart, reminding Kalkaska of a goldfish. A lanky goldfish who can’t do anything other than swim around and around and around until it dies and gets flushed down a toilet.

Kalkaska keeps his foot planted on the brake, revving the engine. Barker is a ghost in the wash of light, but it’s obvious he’s realized what’s going to happen. Staggering to his feet, he turns tail and flees.

Good, evil. It’s really just two sides of the same coin. One cannot exist without the other, because without evil, there would be no reason for people to try to be good. Evil is the ultimate driving force.

He’s never thought of himself as evil, because Zodiac has always been evil. But perhaps he is evil, in his own way. Perhaps he’s someone else’s evil, in the way that Zodiac is his. Perhaps he’s Dragunov’s evil, or Dutch’s evil.

Perhaps he’s Namjoon’s evil.

Kalkaska slips his foot off the brake.

The car bolts forward, rapidly eating up the alley. Barker’s body makes a very solid thud as it hits the front grill, and Kalkaska catches a brief glimpse of his gaping maw as he bounces off the hood and vanishes underneath the vehicle. The impact might kill him, but it might not. He may lay there in the alley for an indefinite amount of time, broken and in agony. Kalkaska slams on the brakes, throws the car into reverse, and backs up.

The tires on the left side roll over a lump.

As Kalkaska backs out of the alley and turns around to exit the parking lot, he thinks that perhaps he’ll take Namjoon up on that dinner offer after all.

“Why do people flush their fish down toilets?”

Dragunov flashes him a puzzled look. “I don’t fucking know. I’ve never had a fish.”


 Haneul doesn’t see the figure sitting on the front step until it’s too late. As the person stands up, they trigger the motion sensor on the porch light, and Haneul recognizes this as one of Jeongguk’s friends.

The one he really, really doesn’t like.

“What are you doing here?” Haneul asks as sternly as he can muster, even though he’s two seconds from bolting back to his car. Fuck saving face—he’s saving his skin, first and foremost.

Zodiac steps down onto the walkway, forcing Haneul to back up in order to keep the distance between them. Usually murderers don’t show up on your doorstep like this, but from what little he knows about this kid, usually doesn’t mean much.

“In all the years we’ve known each other, I don’t think you and I have ever had a proper conversation,” Zodiac says. He sounds amicable, but it’s absolutely a trap. “I thought it was about time that changed.”

“I think you should go back to wherever the hell you came from,” Haneul says, “and let me into my house.”

Zodiac cocks an eyebrow. “I’m not stopping you.”

Of course he fucking knows Haneul is terrified. If he weren’t scared shitless, it wouldn’t be an issue to walk right by Zodiac and lock his front door behind him, but that requires going past Zodiac, and Haneul doesn’t want to get that close. But perhaps now is not the time for weakness. Jeongguk might’ve taken his casino, but this is his home , dammit.

Steeling himself, Haneul strides up the path. He gets one foot onto the porch before his worst fears are realized and Zodiac whips around to grab him. Haneul can barely struggle as he’s wrestled onto the concrete, effectively pinned by Zodiac straddling his waist and one hand around his throat.

Nothing in Zodiac’s expression has changed. It’s like they haven’t moved, like he isn’t a squeeze away from taking Haneul’s life. They stay that way—motionless in silence—for so long that the porch light clicks back out.

“I don’t fuck around like you do,” Zodiac finally says. “I want something, and it aligns with something you want, so I think we can come up with an arrangement that will be mutually beneficial to us both.”

Haneul can’t see him in the dark. If he struggles, the light sensor might catch his movement, but he doesn’t dare. Not when Zodiac can so easily snap his neck. There’s really only one option he has right now, and that’s to play dead like a good little mouse until the cat loses interest and lets him go. “What… kind of arrangement?”

Chapter Text

“Zodiac filmed himself killing someone,” Jeongguk says conversationally. On screen, the medical staff are using some kind of godawful metal contraption to force Alex’s eyes open wide and prevent him from blinking. He’s strapped to a theater seat; helpless, unable to move. Unable to escape whatever hell he’s about to be put through. “Tied the guy down and hacked into him with a hatchet. Busted through his chest cavity and tore out his heart.”

Images of war appear on the theater screen in front of Alex. Guns, tanks, explosions—things that might pique his thirst for violence, but something is wrong. Alex begins to complain that he feels sick. Whatever injection the nurse gave him is beginning to kick in.

“Never in my life have I heard anyone scream like that. It was fucking chilling.”

It’s clear what the medical team’s intentions are. They want to fix Alex with Pavlovian-style conditioning. Making him sick and forcing him to witness violence until the sight of violence makes him sick. A most unfortunate side-effect, however, is the fact that the background music to the war films happens to be Alex’s own precious Ludwig Van Beethoven.

“I like film violence. I like watching bodies explode or get sawed in half or ground into pulp, but there’s this detachment to it. I know it isn’t real,” Jeongguk continues. “Zodiac trained Dragunov on film violence, and that worked well enough, but he took the extra step to film himself butchering somebody for real. I think Dragunov fell in love with him a little bit after that.”

“What about you?” Jimin asks idly.

Jeongguk takes a few moments to reply. Alex is extremely upset over the music. “The only people who truly know Zodiac are dead,” he says, echoing something Jimin remembers Dragunov telling him, too. “Dutch knows him best, because he has access to Zodiac in ways that the rest of us don’t. The person you’ve met has probably been very quiet and controlled, but that’s just the mask he wears. That’s who he’s trained himself to be. He’s a different person when he’s on drugs. Less able to contain himself.”

“That doesn’t answer my question.”

“I think…”

Weeks fast forward in Alex’s world, until a medical conference is held in order to show off the team’s success in ‘curing’ him of his lust for violence.

“...I think that was when I realized he really could kill me,” Jeongguk whispers. “I saw him as a best friend, a confidant, a leader, but his entire existence is just an addiction. He’s like a black hole; anything that comes near him gets destroyed, without exception.”

An exhibition of Alex’s newfound goodness is in order. A naked woman graces the stage, slowly making her way to Alex, who, on a good day, would have pounced. But he can’t. The moment he reaches for her breasts, the sickness grips him, rendering him incapable of defiling her. A man then takes the woman’s place, and he goads Alex, jeering at him, trying to coerce him into fighting back, but Alex can’t. The abuse makes him ill, and he’s forced to obey when the man tells him to lick his shoe.

Despite the test’s apparent success, someone in the audience brings up the question of morality. Ethics. Free will. Does Alex’s physical aversion to bad truly make him good? Has it truly changed him as a person?

Jimin is starting to realize what it is about A Clockwork Orange that Zodiac likes so much. It isn’t about the violence, like Zodiac said it was. All things considered, the film isn’t particularly violent. Alex did bludgeon a lady to death by accident with a giant penis earlier in the movie—which was what led to his arrest and subsequent imprisonment for murder—but it wasn’t graphic. The truly sinister aspect is Alex’s character itself, because he’s so utterly convinced that he’s a victim. Jimin has to constantly remind himself not to feel bad for Alex, that this is happening to him, because the reality is that Alex is an awful person. He’s done awful things, and will continue to do awful things if left unchecked. He isn’t someone to be pitied.

“I don’t think you have to die to meet him,” Jimin says softly. “I think you just have to step outside of your own world and into his. Understand things the way that he understands them. My—My mother was like that.”

The movie falls away into the background. Jeongguk gazes steadily at him, but inside, he’s holding his breath. Desperately curious. Jimin can feel him now, like an extra set of teeth or a new limb or a third eye. An additional extremity, yet one that may as well have always belonged on his body.

“She was so guilty about my scent. She blamed herself for it—carried that burden even though she didn’t have to. On the days I came home crying, she cried harder,” Jimin says. “She was miserable. And when our financial situation got so bad that my father forced her to give up her medication, things got worse. Hallucinations and shit—she barely slept. But even through all that, she loved me so fucking much.”

Tears prickle at the corners of Jimin’s eyes, and he sits up to grab a tissue off the nightstand before they can escape. Jeongguk moves with him, just like a shadow.

“She was the best mom,” he says shakily. “All we had was each other. I told her everything, and she always listened. She—E-Even when we didn’t have money, she did something for my birthday every single year. I got fucking blackout drunk the night after my first boyfriend broke up with me and she was in the bathroom with me while I puked my guts out and called me in sick that next day ‘cos I was so hungover. The nights she’d wake up screaming and thrashing like a fucking demon had crawled inside her, I held her until she calmed down. We always took care of each other—so I didn’t understand at all the night she tried to kill me.”

Jeongguk wordlessly gathers him up, letting Jimin sniffle grossly against his bare shoulder.

“I-I didn’t know what to do—I panicked. I called the police ‘cos I had no idea what to fucking do. She tried to smother me in my sleep, but I woke up and I—What else was I supposed to do?” Jimin swallows down the sobs as best he can, but it’s hard. It’s difficult to recall that night and think about all the ways it could’ve gone differently. “B-But I called nine-one-one and they arrested her. In the moment, I thought she’d finally snapped. The demons had gotten to her or something, but I realized later that she only did that because she thought… She was trying to help. She thought I might be able to find some kind of peace in the afterlife, cos I was so fucking miserable. And she blamed herself for that, even though I never once thought of it as her fault.

“My father wanted to press charges, but I refused to send her to prison, so we compromised and had her admitted into a mental institution,” he says dully. “She’s been there almost five years now, and not a day goes by that I don’t regret it. Like, I know that just letting her kill me would’ve been a bad idea, because she’d be in prison for the rest of her life. But I regret not being able to help her, somehow. I haven’t gone to visit in months just because I’m so guilty that I can never do anything for her. I meant to go see her after my father passed away but… I just… haven’t had time. I’ve told myself I haven’t had time.”

Jeongguk rubs gently up and down his back. “We can go visit her,” he murmurs. “I mean—I’ll come with you, if you want me to.”

“You’re obligated to meet her now,” Jimin says, lifting his head so that he can look Jeongguk in the eyes. His gaze drifts down Jeongguk’s bruised neck, over the twin puncture wounds. They’re healing up nicely. Pretty and pinkish. The mating is bond is settling the way it should.

It probably helps that they’ve both had a little bit of champagne and haven’t done anything but cuddle. It takes somewhere between twenty-five to thirty hours for a mating bond to solidify, and a lot can happen during that time. Jimin’s heat ended very abruptly once they mated, as if the shock was too much for his system. Jeongguk was confused and horny for a little while afterwards, but shook off the rut as soon as he realized Jimin no longer needed his knot. They managed to clean up a little bit, got themselves tipsy, and settled on the bed with the only unsullied duvet left in the suite to watch Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, per Jimin’s request.

Jimin wants to talk about it—he really does. There are things they need to speak about now, lest they remain unaddressed forever. Zodiac explained to him that once mating bites are exchanged, that bonding period acts like a recording. Every thought, every emotion, every word, every action—it’s all etched into their bond. If they get angry with each other and fight, all of those feelings will cling to them after the bond has settled. If they separate, the bond will form incomplete.

He remembers learning about that in the one psych class he took freshman year. Incomplete bonds. Mating bonds formed incorrectly, for one reason or another. It affects mates psychologically on the long term, but it also manifests physically in the festering of the bite marks. Depending on the situation, they can get infected and take a long time to heal over. Healthy bites will scar to a whitish, reflective quality, but a poor bond will result in yellowish—or in some cases, even blackish—marks.

So far, Jeongguk’s marks look good. But Jimin needs to work up the courage to address the whole we’re mates now thing before they run out of time.

Jeongguk stares at him now with such pure reverence. He runs a hand through Jimin’s hair, gently combing it away from his face. “Anyone who loves you that much is worth meeting,” he says.

And that’s just too much for Jimin. He breaks down into tears, pressing his face into the duvet to muffle his sobs. It’s strange, because he refuses to cry in front of other people. He even forces himself to put on a brave face in front of Yoongi. But crying like this in front of Jeongguk has always felt safe and cathartic. He roughly dabs at his eyes with the duvet and peeks over at Jeongguk.

“I promise,” he whispers tightly. “I promise, after all this is over—I’m gonna find a way to fall in love with you. I promise, Jeongguk. I promise.”

Jeongguk hushes him with soft kisses against his temple. “You don’t have to rush anything. We’ve got all the time in the world.”

“There’s something I need to know first,” Jimin says. He shifts into his side, blindly groping for Jeongguk’s hand. Once he finds it, he grips it tightly. “I need to know what you were planning on using me for.”

Heavy guilt floods Jeongguk. He lowers his eyes and looks away. “You must already have some idea.”

“I do. But I wanna hear it from you. What was your plan?”

“To get you just infatuated enough that I could ask you to murder Haneul in exchange for clearing the rest of your debt,” Jeongguk murmurs. “Then my father would be dead and you would be free to live as you wanted. We’d never have to see each other again.”

There’s more. Jimin knows there’s more—he can’t feel what it is, exactly. Just that this is the part Jeongguk is guilty about. “But?”

“I never planned to pay your debt. I was going to let you get arrested for his murder and walk away. If I felt really bad about it, I’d kill you.” Jeongguk’s eyes flicker up to meet Jimin’s, stormy. “But I fucked up exactly the way Zodiac told me I would.”

Jimin nods slowly.

He would know if Jeongguk was lying to him, so this has to be it. This has to be the truth. And it’s what Jimin suspected it might be. That Jeongguk wanted him involved in killing Haneul.

Jeongguk lifts their linked hands, reaching up to run his fingers along Jimin’s neck, stopping over the bite marks.

Jimin feels it when the realization hits him.

“This is insurance,” Jeongguk says. “You wanted me to mate you so that I wouldn’t be able to kill you.”

“I needed to know if you were telling me the truth—if your feelings were real.”

“So you gambled it on permanently bonding with me?”

“Risks must run in my blood,” Jimin replies. “But it’s paid off. We’re bonded, you’re in love with me, and we can’t kill each other.”

Jeongguk narrows his eyes. He regards Jimin for several long moments before speaking again. “You’re planning something.”

“I’m gonna help you, Jeongguk. And in return, you’re gonna help me.”


 Taehyung nearly mistakes Jimin for Jeongguk when they run into each other in the hallway. On sight, it’s Jimin, but on scent, it’s Jeongguk. Despite the fact that Jimin’s heat would have made his scent achingly strong, Taehyung is unable to detect it. All he can smell is Jeongguk.

It isn’t as if Taehyung has never smelled Jeongguk on anyone else. Helping omegas through heat was one of those things Jeongguk managed to monetize while they were still in high school. Thinking back on it, such consistent rutting so soon after reaching maturity must have been a contributing factor to his current libido. Taehyung certainly didn’t like the fact that Jeongguk fucked for money, but it never bothered him as much as perhaps it should have. It was a business, just like selling drugs or money lending. The alphas and omegas he slept with weren’t potential partners—they were clients.

Initially, Jimin was a client, too. He was a name in a file somewhere with financial documents, and Taehyung was comfortable with that. But at some point, that changed, and Taehyung isn’t really sure when. He just knows that he doesn’t like it.

Honestly, he doesn’t mean to hate Park Jimin. But he can’t help the fact that his eyes drop to Jimin’s wounded neck, searching, searching—

And there they are.

Two neat little puncture wounds, beginning to heal over all prettily.

Taehyung’s heart drops straight through his stomach and lands in a tangled mess amongst his intestines. Jimin presses his palm over the marks, but it’s too late. Taehyung has seen them.

It’s just too late. For everything.

“We, um…” Jimin rubs at his neck. A little awkwardly, perhaps a little shamefully.

Taehyung swallows, tries not to swallow his tongue. If he did that, it would get lodged in his throat and he wouldn’t be able to talk at all. “You mated.”

“...Yeah.”

He looks worn out. Not even just from several consecutive days of marathon sex; his eyes are wrung dry. Like Taehyung could stab someone to death right there in the hallway and it wouldn’t make him flinch. Shouldn’t he be happier?

“I-I didn’t know you were planning to mate,” Taehyung manages to say. “Jeongguk… didn’t… say anything to me.”

Jeongguk would’ve told him, right? Even though things have been difficult, they’re still best friends, aren’t they? Best friends tell each other things. Like when they’re in love, and when they’re gonna mate. Last Taehyung heard, they weren’t even boyfriends. And now they’re mates?

Jimin looks nervous. Like he’s hiding something. “It wasn’t planned. It was just… heat of the moment.”

“That’s pretty fucking stupid of you both,” comes out of Taehyung’s mouth before he can stop it. But he realizes that’s it, that’s what he is— angry. “This isn’t even on the same level as knocking you up—he didn’t, did he?”

“No—” Jimin straightens a little, shifting the weight of the duffle bag slung over his shoulder. Like he’s getting ready to square up to Taehyung. To an alpha who can easily smash his face in. “You think I haven’t realized it’s stupid?”

“You should’ve realized it was stupid before you did it.”

“Because you’re in a position to be so high and mighty?” Jimin suddenly spits. He steps up to get in Taehyung’s face. “If you hate the situation you’re in so much, why don’t you fucking leave?”

Taehyung grits his teeth. “It’s not that simple—”

“Yeah, it fucking is. You pack up your shit, walk out the front door, and don’t come back.”

“I’m not walking away from somebody I’ve been with since I was a kid,” Taehyung snaps back. “But maybe you don’t know about those kinds of relationships ‘cos no one’s fucking wanted you.”

It’s a low blow, and Taehyung knows it. He’s just angry enough not to care. Distantly, Yoongi’s words return to him. The ones about Jimin pulling crazy shit. A sick light flickers in Jimin’s eyes; the kind Taehyung has come to associate with Zodiac.

Jimin tilts his head, running his tongue along the bottoms of his teeth. “Nobody wants me, huh? That’s funny, cos I think that person you’re so desperately hanging onto is in love with me. Roll again, Taehyung.”

The words hit him hard.

Who is Park Jimin to be telling him this, anyway? Before Jimin showed up, Jeongguk still loved him. Still came to bed with him, still marked him, still trusted him. Jimin stole Jeongguk from him.

Growling, Taehyung grabs the front of Jimin’s shirt and spins him, pinning him against the wall. The duffle bag falls to the floor. Jimin at least has the decency to look a little shocked.

“You think you’re so fucking special because you spread your legs for him a few times?” Taehyung says, punching the words so hard, he’s spitting in Jimin’s face. But it doesn’t matter. Jimin deserves it. “You barely even know him—he’s probably fucked me more than he’s fucked you.”

Jimin’s lips peel back from his teeth. “If you wanted his cock so bad, you should’ve told him instead of running off with your tail between your legs.”

“Shut the fuck up. You don’t know anything about that—”

“You betrayed him,” Jimin sneers. “You’ve always betrayed him, and you’re pissed off at me for cutting in?”

Rage billows in Taehyung’s veins, and he can’t control himself. He roughly slams Jimin’s shoulders into the wall, wanting nothing more than to smash his pretty face into the plaster over and over until his teeth fall out. “He never fucking loved you—how hard is it to get through your thick skull? He’s just fucking using you. I thought you’d be smart enough to figure that out, but it looks like you’re just as dumb of a whore as the rest of them.”

The noise Jimin makes as he lunges is almost inhuman. By no means is Jimin stronger, but the sudden attack catches Taehyung off guard. They grapple for a few moments, Jimin throwing a rain of surprisingly well-aimed punches while Taehyung wrestles to catch his flailing arms. Jimin manages to get a solid hit across his jaw before Taehyung hooks his toe around Jimin’s ankle and sends them both crashing to the floor. Despite his fury, Jimin started this fight exhausted. Even with his struggles, it’s easy for Taehyung to keep him pinned. Reeling back an arm, Taehyung is so, so ready to lace into him—and then Jimin screams. It’s a horrible sound, shrill and bloodcurdling, at the tops of his lungs.

Taehyung freezes mid-swing.

A door flies open. Footsteps pound down the hall.

“What the fuck are you doing?”

Jeongguk’s voice—Jeongguk’s enraged voice makes Taehyung scramble backwards. Jimin crawls pitifully away, crying—he hadn’t been crying a second ago. But Jeongguk doesn’t know that. He scoops Jimin’s pathetic frame into his arms and turns on Taehyung with a snarl. They’ve been best friends since they were kids. Taehyung is sure that he’s seen every aspect of Jeongguk, but this one… This one he barely recognizes. This one is a wild animal, turned on him with teeth and vitriol.

“If you even think about touching him again,” Jeongguk says, “I’ll fucking tear your fingernails off one by one. Then I’ll hack your fingers off and use them to gouge your eyeballs out. If I smell you on him, I’m coming after you, Kim Taehyung. You aren’t taking him from me.”

The inside of Taehyung’s mouth tastes like chalk. Him, taking Jimin from Jeongguk? Taehyung had Jeongguk first. This isn’t fair—this isn’t fair. None of this is fair.

Taehyung unsteadily hauls himself up. Jimin is cradled tightly in Jeongguk’s arms, whimpering softly into his neck. A simpering, whiny bitch.

“Don’t fucking worry,” he croaks. “I won’t touch your slut.”

And then he stumbles off.

There’s no plan in Taehyung’s mind about where he’s going or what he’s going to do. He goes down to the parking garage and leaves the casino—just like Jimin told him to.

Maybe Jimin is right.

While there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with being right, Jimin being right is infuriating. Leaving might mean letting Jimin win, but hasn’t he already won? He’s got Jeongguk in a way that Taehyung will never be able to. At least with Zodiac, there was always a chance. Always a chance that Jeongguk would realize how fucking insane Zodiac was and step away. Plus, Zodiac was already mated. They would never truly belong to one another. Not the way Zodiac and Dutch did. Or the way Jeongguk and Jimin do now.

Taehyung lets his head fall back against the headrest as he idles at a stoplight.

This is all so fucked.

He isn’t really thinking about where he’s driving, but it isn’t long before his hands steer him along an old, familiar route. It was such an ordinary day, thirteen years ago. Taehyung remembers running off the bus to meet his mom at the curb. She wrapped him up in a hug, just like she always did, and they strolled down the sidewalk back to the house. Her questions about his day were always quiet, always gentle—she did such a good job masking the sadness. But the loss of her mate was difficult. Death at the time was too big for Taehyung to really comprehend. He knew mama had been sick; for a while, she was getting better. Then she wasn’t. Then mommy pulled him to sit down on the couch one day and told him that mama wasn’t coming back home. She was gone, forever.

Taehyung didn’t understand it. Why mama—such a bright, wonderful light in his life—had to be taken away from him like that. He cried and cried, knew mommy cried, but still… couldn’t let go of the feeling of why. The loss ate at him.

But he remembers that day, very clearly. When his mom sat him down on the couch a second time, but had different news. She told him that she’d accepted a job as a nanny for a boy who’d lost his omega parent. Taehyung didn’t quite understand what that meant, just that they would be leaving their house and moving in with someone else.

Upon first meeting, he didn’t like Jeon Jeongguk.

Jeongguk was abrasive and didn’t want to share anything, and it frustrated Taehyung, because the adults kept telling him to make friends, but Jeongguk didn’t want to be friends. Taehyung’s loss was two years old, but Jeongguk’s was fresh. The investigation his mother’s death had only just been completed, but Taehyung wasn’t aware of that at the time. A tragedy, for certain. But Jeongguk didn’t have to be so mean to him about it.

Haneul, however, was kind. Taehyung supposed some kids wouldn’t want a stranger to insert themselves into a position of a person who previously held a special place in their heart, but for him, blood gushed freely out of that hole. Like that elevator scene in The Shining. Haneul managed to plug it back up. It wasn’t so much that he did anything spectacular. He never made any grandiose gestures to try and win Taehyung’s affection, which, perhaps, was what made him more welcoming. Haneul didn’t try to replace mama. He made himself into a new type of fixture. One Taehyung could go to whether he skinned his knee or needed help with a math problem or someone bullied him at school.

So, even though they lived under the same roof for the majority of their lives, Taehyung’s experience with Haneul and Jeongguk’s experience with his father were drastically different.

He was aware that Haneul was manipulative, and that he treated Jeongguk poorly, but there was a certain amount of detachment from that knowledge, because Haneul always treated Taehyung well. They weren’t best friends, like he and Jeongguk eventually grew into, but there was mutual respect between them. Taehyung watched everything unfold as if he were sitting on the other side of a glass wall. Jeongguk turned into a monster—violent, bloodthirsty, after his own father’s head. Haneul scrambled to defend himself.

And Taehyung just watched.

He pulls the car over to the curb, putting it in park, and stares across the street, up at the imposing wrought-iron gates. The house isn’t visible from the road, and Taehyung isn’t about to get arrested for trespassing, but just the sight of those gates brings back memories. Awe, the first time he watched them slowly swing open on their inaugural visit to the house. Haneul greeting them at the door, bright and welcoming, and showing them around the expansive property. There was even a pool in the back.

Taehyung had always wanted a pool.

It was oddly idyllic, that house. Even though the people in it were crumbling, the house remained pristine. Many days, especially in their last few years within its walls, were nightmarish. Prior to meeting Zodiac, Taehyung would never have defined Jeongguk as violent. Aggressive, but not the hellspawn that reared its head after they became friends. Jeongguk turned his fantasies into reality. Taehyung can remember one night in particular, after too many lines of cocaine, Jeongguk took a sawzall to his younger brother’s door. It was only the grace of God that the saw blade got stuck, giving Taehyung the chance to disarm and subdue him before he could break completely through. He doesn’t know what would’ve happened if Jeongguk had gotten into the room—Jaehyun might be missing fingers, or worse.

“You act like it’s my fault he does those things,” Zodiac said to him at one point, following another such incident. “He’s been thinking about that shit for a long time, Taehyung.”

But turning thinking into doing was a big step. Zodiac had everything to do with that. He encouraged those violent thoughts. Nurtured them like precious fucking children until they blossomed into a predator.

Taehyung doesn’t take Jeongguk’s threats against him lightly. If he touches Jimin again, it is extremely likely that he’ll find himself on the other end of that sawzall.

Restarting his car, Taehyung shifts into gear and continues on down the road. Paradise lost is swallowed up behind him.

He hasn’t spent much time at the Maybell House, as Haneul moved into it after Jeongguk decided seize the Black Rabbit, but Taehyung still manages to associate it with home, regardless of the fact that he’s never lived there. The people he sees as his surrogate family live there, ergo, it’s home.

Seoyoon’s car is in the driveway, but Haneul’s is not. Taehyung decides to stop by anyway. The house smells pleasantly of cooking meat and spices when he enters. Seoyoon is in the kitchen, methodically chopping carrots on the cutting board. Taehyung raps his knuckles on the doorframe to get her attention, and she hastily tosses a glance over her shoulder.

“Oh. Hello, Taehyung,” she greets without smiling. Seoyoon is usually referred to as sullen, but Taehyung would never describe her that way. She simply keeps her emotions to herself. “Haneul isn’t here. He took Jaehyun and Minsoo to play mini golf.”

Taehyung can’t help his snort. “He fucking hates mini golf.”

“Minsoo can be very persuasive when she wants to be.” Just like her father. “If it’s urgent, I can call him—”

“No,” Taehyung says quickly. “No, I was just… in the neighborhood and thought I’d stop by. But I guess I probably should’ve called first anyway.”

Seoyoon shakes her head a little and lifts the cutting board to brush the carrot bits into a glass bowl. “You’re always welcome here. You know that, Taehyung.”

“...Yeah. Thanks.”

“Have you talked to your mother recently?”

“No… I haven’t.”

“You should visit her soon.”

“I will,” Taehyung replies, just like he does every time Seoyoon brings his mother up. “I just haven’t had time.”

“Charles isn’t a bad man, you know,” Seoyoon says suddenly. “He’s very good to your mother. You’d learn to like him if you would just spend time with him.”

The mention of him makes Taehyung’s stomach turn. “I’ll call her,” he mutters, stepping back from the doorway. “Tell her I’ll call. See you, Seoyoon.”

“...Goodbye, Taehyung.”

Taehyung returns to his car, sagging in the driver’s seat.

Perhaps Jimin was wrong. Taehyung can’t leave, because he doesn’t have anywhere else to go. As much as he sees Haneul as his primary parental figure, they aren’t blood related. Jaehyun and Minsoo will always be first priority. His own mother abandoned him for some rich fuck who could take care of her forever. Jeongguk fell in love.

Taehyung’s throat is so tight, he can barely breathe.


 “So, like… does this mean you’re gonna move out?”

Being around Hoseok is… strange. It feels like a century has passed since Jimin last set foot in the apartment, even though it’s only been a few days. Everything is exactly the same as it was when he left, like someone paused time while he was gone. The only change is Hoseok’s scent. Except that isn’t Hoseok’s fault. Jimin is sure that it’s him, that being mated is causing him to smell Hoseok differently. That tantalizing zing in his cinnamon bun scent has gone stale.

“I’d like to stay for now,” Jimin says, picking at a loose string in the couch. “If that’s alright with you.”

Whether this surprises Hoseok or not doesn’t reflect on his face. He just nods and says, “However it works best for you.” A few beats of silence pass, and then, “Are you alright?”

Jimin thinks about the mosaic of bruises covering his body, mostly hidden underneath his baggy clothing, but he isn’t certain that’s what Hoseok is asking. “I’m fine.”

“Mates don’t… They don’t…” Hoseok soundlessly gestures with his hands for a few moments before he finally decides what to say. “It’s unusual for them to decide to stay apart. Especially, like, right after mating. Is that okay for you to do?”

“The bond is complete, so we should be fine,” Jimin replies. “Living separately shouldn’t cause any issues. Besides, it won’t be indefinite. Just for a little while.”

The possibility of Jeongguk wanting him to murder Haneul is something that Jimin has been entertaining for a while—ever since that night in the bathroom, when Taehyung explained to him Jeongguk’s strange obsession with seeming to want Haneul dead, but never actually doing anything about it. As far as Jimin is aware, the only one who knows about Jeongguk’s plot to contract him for the crime is Zodiac—and, most likely by extension, Dutch.

Jeongguk is still willing to pay off his entire debt in exchange for Haneul’s life. While it’s certainly a tantalizing offer, and easy to entertain because he’s never actually met Haneul, the problem is that Jimin isn’t sure he can kill anyone. The thought of actually putting a gun to someone’s head and pulling the trigger—having to watch blood explode from their skull, being responsible for that—is terrifying. It makes him want to throw up. Jeongguk has forced himself to take that responsibility; he stubbornly wears the label of killer. Jimin, however, prefers to keep his sins locked away where no one can ever see them. So, when it comes to taking the life of another human being, Jimin knows it will have to be something he can bury later. Not a blade or a bullet.

The obvious solution is living inside his skin, coiled up like a snake.

He has to move carefully now. No one suspects anything of him yet, except perhaps Zodiac, who will be the most difficult to shake. But Jimin has an idea. Not a particularly good one, but not all ideas need to be brilliant in order to work.

For now, however, the next step is fairly simple.

“As long as you’re gonna be okay,” Hoseok says slowly. “And Jeongguk isn’t gonna come tear my intestines out.”

Jimin laughs. It’s a valid concern, isn’t it? “He understands the situation, don’t worry. Don’t worry about anything, alright? Oh—by the way, do you think I could get the name of the salon you go to?”

Hoseok cocks an eyebrow. “You gonna get your hair dyed or something?”

“Something,” Jimin replies. “Haven’t decided yet. But I need to make sure Jeongguk’s daddy gets a good impression of his new future son-in-law.”


 Night has fallen by the time Taehyung returns to the casino. The lobby seems busier than usual. Perhaps there’s an event tonight—Taehyung should know. He should know, because he’s supposed to be helping Namjoon run the fucking place, but he hasn’t been able to get himself to do anything lately. Now he’s too drunk to be of any use, so he stumbles back to his suite.

Pathetic.

So fucking pathetic.

He’s in the middle of pouring himself a shot of his own whiskey, because at least if he’s going to give himself alcohol poisoning, he can do it within the comforts of his own space, when the door opens. It isn’t anyone he wants to see.

“Have you come to laugh at me?” Taehyung asks, knocking back the shot.

Zodiac wanders into the kitchen, hands deep in the pockets of his sweatpants. He used to be the fashionable one in their friend group. Now Taehyung hardly ever sees him outside of baggy sweats. “No,” Zodiac says quietly. “Why would I be laughing?”

“Because that’s what you fucking do.” Taehyung pours himself another shot and downs it in the same motion. He might as well just drink from the bottle. “Laugh at other people’s misfortune. Mine, specifically. That’s why you keep hanging around, isn’t it? ‘Cos it fucking amuses you that I’m a pathetic son of a bitch.”

Zodiac leans against the counter and fishes a pack of cigarettes out of his pocket. He snatches Taehyung’s lighter where it was left on the countertop and rolls his thumb over the wheel until the flame catches. He holds it to the end of the cigarette until the paper begins to burn, inhaling a lungful of smoke.

Taehyung doesn’t realize how intently he’s watching until Zodiac glances over at him, prompting him to look away.

“We’ve known each other for a long time. Almost five years—that’s the longest I’ve been friends with anyone, aside from Dutch.”

“We’re not friends,” Taehyung says.

“Aren’t we?”

“Calling what we have friendship is an insult to everyone else who considers themselves friends,” Taehyung grumbles. He doesn’t even feel like drinking anymore. Abandoning the whiskey on the counter, he shuffles across the suite to his bedroom. His hair feels tacky when he runs his fingers through it, but he’s too drained to think about showering. He just wants to lie down.

Predictably, Zodiac follows him. Taehyung slumps on the edge of the bed, scrubbing at his aching eyes. A moment later, his hands are swatted away and Zodiac forces his chin up.

“We might not be friends,” he says, “but you can let alpha take care of you.”

Taehyung sags reluctantly while Zodiac stubs his cigarette out in the ashtray on the nightstand. Regardless of how Taehyung decides to label them in his mind, a pack bond exists between himself, Jeongguk, Dutch, and Zodiac. It was something that formed during high school while the four of them were inseparable, despite the fact that Taehyung acted like he didn’t want to be there.

He wanted.

He wanted to belong.

Pack bonds are strong. Unlike a mating bond, it’s purely emotional, but packmates feel compelled to protect each other. They form underneath a single leader, usually an alpha. For them, it was Zodiac. So even though Taehyung knows what Zodiac is capable of, a part of him still looks to him for that reassurance.

It makes Taehyung sick to think about, but—

This is what he has right now.

This horrible, twisted bond with a person he hates.

Zodiac straddles his lap, and Taehyung clings tightly to his waist, burying his face in Zodiac’s collarbone. It doesn’t hit him how long it’s been since he scented anyone until he’s inhaling lungfuls of Zodiac’s sharp, metallic scent like he’s been suffocating. Taehyung nuzzles up to his neck, rubbing his nose over Zodiac’s scent gland to stimulate it, asking for more. There’s no real attractive quality about his scent, but Taehyung would be lying if he said there wasn’t any comfort in its familiarity.

It progresses. Before Taehyung knows it, they’re both shirtless and tangled up on the bed. Zodiac has him pinned down and is working him over with the deep kind of scenting that makes his whole body tingle. When Zodiac finally pulls away, Taehyung feels as though he’s breaking the surface after being forced underwater. It’s difficult to catch his breath, and he doesn’t even realize how hard he’s shaking until Zodiac strokes his face and shushes him.

“Did you know?” Taehyung asks in a wobbly voice. “Did you know they were going to mate?”

“Jeongguk wanted him, sweetheart.”

He’s really, really too drunk for this. “He wanted me. H-He should’ve mated me.”

“He wanted your cock,” Zodiac says back. His face is close enough that Taehyung can feel each breath against his skin. “If you had just given him that, maybe he would’ve stayed. But you couldn’t, could you? You couldn’t keep up with him, so he moved on.”

A whine breaks from Taehyung’s throat. “It’s not my fault—I can’t help it, it isn’t my fault. If he really cared, h-he… he should’ve understood that, right?”

In the darkness of the bedroom, Zodiac’s features are difficult to make out. The lack of light makes his blue eye eerily bright. Or perhaps it makes the brown one look eerily dark. “I know what he sees when he looks at you,” he whispers, running his fingers lightly over Taehyung’s face. It’s unnerving, because as gentle as Zodiac is being, Taehyung has seen so much blood coating those same hands. Blood that could easily be his. “Your beautiful face—You’re so fucking beautiful, Taehyung. Big eyes and pretty lips. Gorgeous. And it’s a tragedy that you don’t want to be fucked.”

Just the thought makes Taehyung’s skin crawl. He hates it— hates it. He doesn’t care how good he looks—his body—he can’t. He won’t. “I don’t want it.”

“Jimin does.”

The words hit him like a splash of cold water. Taehyung can’t help flinching.

“Jimin wants it,” Zodiac purrs, running his nose along Taehyung’s jaw. “Because Jeongguk fucking him makes him feel like he’s worth something. He’s only valuable on someone’s cock.”

Taehyung swallows thickly. Shadows on the ceiling seem to swirl, even though, realistically, he knows nothing is there, because the demon in the room is right on top of him.

“And Jeongguk is such a slut for that, you know? They’re perfect for each other, if you think about it.”

“Don’t wanna think about it,” Taehyung mumbles. “Want ‘em to fucking go the fuck away.”

“No one does anything you want unless you make them, sweetheart. Every day, you’ll have to see those marks on Jeongguk’s neck that say he belongs to Park Jimin unless you do something about it.”

“What… What am I supposed to do about it?”

Zodiac kisses him. Kisses, Taehyung doesn’t mind. Kisses can be calm and serene and comforting. He likes kissing, and of course Zodiac knows that. Because even though Zodiac is someone he hates with every fiber of his being, there’s this desperate need to keep him close, and closer still. It’s pure self-preservation, like playing dead and letting the lion lick your face. Maybe the beast won’t attack. Taehyung has always let Zodiac do as he pleased, whatever that entailed, as long as it kept him alive and breathing.

Sometimes staying alive is more painful than dying.

“I think,” Zodiac breathes into his mouth, “that if there’s something you want to do about it…”

One hand travels down from Taehyung’s chest to his stomach to his hip; Zodiac slots his own body against Taehyung’s thigh like a glove. It’d be easy enough for Zodiac to grind down on it and get himself off. That might be what he’s planning to do. Taehyung doesn’t know, doesn’t want to know. But Zodiac still kisses him gently, lips soft and inviting, coaxing Taehyung into responding.

“...I’ll be more than happy to help you.”

Chapter Text

The leaves matting the ground are slippery as Jeongguk hikes through the trees. Even with his flashlight, it’s nearly impossible to see through the combination of pitch blackness and pouring rain. Zodiac’s directions were vague at best—the lake. Jeongguk knows the route they usually take to get there like the back of his hand; something etched into his subconscious.

It’s as he’s beginning to think he’s gotten lost that he sees it—a light in the distance. He makes a beeline towards it, distantly aware that Zodiac may not be the only thing in the woods tonight. But, from the way he sounded on the phone, Jeongguk isn’t sure if running into something else would necessarily be worse.

“Hello?” he calls out as he approaches, hating the nervous pitch of his voice. “Zodiac, is that you?”

He doesn’t get a response. As soon as he gets close enough, the white glow turns into an electric camping lantern, bathing a small break in the trees in a pale, ghostly light. There’s Zodiac, soaked head to toe, digging.

When he looks up to meet Jeongguk’s eyes, he’s absolutely wild.

Zodiac skirts the hole he’s dug, and Jeongguk can see that he’s shaking hard enough that his teeth are chattering. “H-Here,” he says, thrusting the shovel he’s holding at Jeongguk’s chest. “Help me dig.”

Jeongguk doesn’t ask questions. He follows Zodiac to the hole, absently taking note of something large wrapped in some kind of material. A bedsheet? A plastic tablecloth? A tarp?

It’s big, and they’re digging a hole. Presumably to put that thing into.

Fuck.

Fuckfuckfuck.

But Jeongguk can’t bring himself to ask. He tells himself to just do as Zodiac says and dig. They silently heave shovel after shovel of wet earth out of the ground until Jeongguk’s whole body is aching from strain and the hole is large enough to lie down in. The thing—the thing over there will undoubtedly fit, now. A wave of nausea washes over Jeongguk as he unsteadily steps back from the edge of the hole.

Zodiac tosses his shovel aside and goes over to the covered thing. “Help me with this,” he barks, and Jeongguk is at his side again, being ordered to grab the other end. It is a tablecloth. Together, they drag it to the edge of the hole, and Zodiac yanks the hem of the tablecloth up to expose its contents.

A body.

Or, what’s left of it.

It was a man, at one point. Jeongguk thinks it was. Devoid of clothes, it should be easy to tell, but the genitals are gone. Just a bloody mess between the legs. The torso is all hacked to pieces, so is the face, but the chest has been chopped so thoroughly it’s like ground meat. As the body is shifted and catches the like, Jeongguk thinks he sees rib or breastbone.

Even though he’s staring right at it, can smell the overpowering scent of blood now that the cloth is open, it doesn’t seem real. Like he’s dissociated, like he’s seeing this through someone else’s eyes. Like the memory of his mother crumpled at the bottom of the stairway through the bars of the upstairs railing.

Jeongguk is very far away right now—tucked away in some pleasant recess of his mind. Safe from looking at this, seeing this horror.

They dump the body into the hole. Zodiac folds the tablecloth up and sets it aside, and then they methodically begin tossing dirt on top of the corpse. Even though he’s protected underneath the warmth of his raincoat, Jeongguk is totally numb. By the time they’re finished, Jeongguk can’t feel his fingers. He can’t feel anything.

They pack the ground down as much as they can, spreading it so there isn’t such a conspicuous lump. Jeongguk helps throw leaves back over the spot until it’s difficult to tell they were there at all. Zodiac gathers his materials—the tarp, the shovels, the lantern, a backpack. Jeongguk hadn’t noticed the backpack before. He doesn’t know what’s inside and he doesn’t really want to know, either.

Neither of them speak during the trek back to the house. They go with their lights out, because now it isn’t just a kid going into the woods in the middle of the night. Even though they’re the only ones who could possibly be out here, it’s unspoken. Jeongguk is supposed to forget that this ever happened.

Zodiac is very, very quiet.

As much as Jeongguk wants to leave, take the Mustang and go, he follows Zodiac to the back door of the house. It’s abandoned—was abandoned long before they found the place. Perfect for hiding the drugs they used to sell, but now Jeongguk has to wonder if the greater purpose of its isolated location was always something like this. That Zodiac had seen a different kind of future here.

The backpack comes in with them. Jeongguk still doesn’t know what’s inside it, but it doesn’t smell good, and he isn’t sure he wants to know. Fortunately, however, Zodiac leaves the bag near the entryway. Jeongguk follows him up to one of the bedrooms; they’ve thrown an old mattress down in here. Usually it’s for getting high and fucking, but that won’t be the case tonight. Jeongguk feels this strange itch to nest—to build himself a safe, comfortable place and hide there.

Zodiac throws himself down on the mattress, wet clothes and all, and is still. Jeongguk hesitates for a few moments before shucking off his raincoat and joining him. He sits on the edge of the bed, knees tucked up to his chest. Rain beats against the window.

They stay like that for a long time.

Eventually, Zodiac quits shaking. Either he’s warmed up or he’s gone numb. Jeongguk glances down at him, and he’s just… serene. That peaceful, sunny field of flowers that Jeongguk is desperately searching for—Zodiac is there. Staring up at the ceiling, gone. Totally gone.

Eventually he says, “I’m so fucking high.”

Jeongguk just looks at him.

“God, I feel so good,” he moans softly, eyes fluttering shut. He heaves out a heavy sigh, like the kind he makes when Jeongguk goes down on him. “I’m so fucked.”

“You k—” Jeongguk chokes on the word. “You… Y-You—”

“I killed him. I killed him, Ggukie.”

And he is. They both are. They all are, now.

They’re well and truly fucked.


 Jimin anxiously runs a hand through his hair. The texture feels different underneath his fingertips now that it’s been bleached. It’s the first time in his life he’s had anything other than his natural color—he likes it, he thinks. Blonde is… it’s different. Not bad, just different. He hopes Jeongguk will like it.

But that isn’t the reason he’s back at the Black Rabbit tonight. They’ve been apart for a few days now. Jeongguk has texted him a lot, missing him, and Jimin misses him too, but coursework is piling on as he reaches the end of his school semester, so he’s taken some time the past few days to complete outstanding assignments and study for his upcoming finals in between shifts at the restaurant and the bookstore. Dutch has officially gone on maternity leave—Jimin hasn’t spoken to him on whether or not he’ll return to work after the baby is born.

Jimin’s salon experience today, however, was eye-opening.

The appointment he made was for a haircut and color, but it was apparently a slow morning for the nail technicians, and one of them came over to coo over how good his freshly bleached hair looked and asked if he wanted a manicure. It was on Jeongguk’s dime, so he hesitantly agreed. The technician was a lot more chatty than the hairdresser, and she asked him if there was a special occasion, and Jimin said there wasn’t, he just wanted to look nice for his new mate. She congratulated him, and added that his omega will be drooling over him and Jimin was thrown into a stunned silence.

They thought he was an alpha.

You don’t smell like an omega is something he’s used to hearing. It isn’t unheard of for an omega to dye their hair, but it isn’t common. Omegas are meant to be plain and ordinary, with their scents as the main attraction. Alphas peacock. Jimin was prepared to be judged, at least a little bit, for making such a drastic change to his appearance, because he’s an omega, but these alphas—for whatever reason—assumed he was one of their own.

He didn’t know what to do. His automatic reflex was to correct her, but how would that color the rest of their interaction? If he told her that he was an omega, her kindness might evaporate. So, he bit his tongue and feigned at bashfully thanking her for the compliment, and left the salon in a daze.

This revelation felt like it should make him happier. Strangers who smell him on the bus and crinkle their noses probably think he’s a grubby little alpha, not an omega. If he puts on jewelry and wears flashier colors, the snide looks might stop altogether.

But he’s an omega.

At the end of every day, he’s an omega. He always will be. No matter how he chooses to present himself—whether as an omega or an alpha or a beta—the different pieces of his identity don’t line up.

He spent the remainder of the afternoon feeling vaguely disgruntled over the situation, but his mood tanked considerably over the course of the evening. After mouthing off to the head chef one too many times over slow orders, Seokjin lost patience with him and sent him home early. As he left the restaurant in an angry huff, he tried to reason out why he was so completely pissed off, but came up dry. The salon staff thinking he was an alpha hadn’t bothered him that much. Not enough to make him feel like throwing a tantrum and slamming his bedroom door shut like a little kid.

It finally occurred to him as he was pulling the Mustang out of the parking lot that these might not be his feelings at all. They might belong to Jeongguk. So, Jimin made an executive decision to forgo studying tonight and pay his mate a visit.

Because they are. They are mates. Even though Jimin wants to keep a certain amount of distance between them—just as a precaution—they still need to spend time together. Plus, Jeongguk’s emotional state hasn’t been… the best. He doesn’t have anyone over at the casino besides Zodiac, and Jimin would rather wean Jeongguk off that particular dependency.

The hallway is quiet. It’s usually quiet, but this sort of quiet feels thick in Jimin’s mouth. Like there’s a sourness permeating the walls that he can almost taste. Something in the air is changing.

Knocking twice on Jeongguk’s door, Jimin invites himself in. The door isn’t locked, but, much to his surprise, the suite is dark. He would assume Jeongguk was out except his scent is too strong—Jimin can feel him there. His feet take him over towards the couch, where he finds Jeongguk curled up, staring blankly out the window.

A gun is sitting on the coffee table.

Jimin takes a seat on the couch in the crook of Jeongguk’s hip, leaning down to press a kiss against his cheek. “Hey,” he whispers, cautious of disturbing the silence too much.

There’s no immediate response. Jimin settles down and gently strokes his hair, rubbing his knuckles over the scent gland behind his jaw. Eventually, the ministrations stir some life into him, and he tilts his head to peek up at Jimin. His eyes are glassy and reddish and unfocused.

“Oh,” he rasps. “It’s you.”

Jimin gives him a smile. There’s nothing really to smile about, because Jeongguk looks terrible and he’s clearly distraught about something, but smiling isn’t necessarily personal. Jimin doesn’t need to smile for himself, but perhaps Jeongguk would like to see one. “It’s me,” he replies. “I came to see you… You seemed… off.”

“‘m drunk.” And that much is obvious. Jeongguk’s eyes flutter shut, and he mumbles, “You were upset earlier.”

Even though Jeongguk can’t see him, Jimin shakes his head. “I wasn’t upset, exactly. I just… realized something.”

“What’d you realize?”

“That other people might not be perceiving me the way that I thought they were,” he says vaguely, not wanting to get into the details. His conflict can take a backseat for the moment. “I’m just not sure how that makes me feel.”

Jeongguk makes a sharp noise of dissent. “You don’t need to live at the mercy of other people’s opinions,” he slurs. “If you don’t like the way people perceive you, do something to change it. That’s… what Zodiac told me.”

Jimin’s hand stills on Jeongguk’s neck for a moment. “...I suppose he would know, wouldn’t he?”

“You’re perfect, Jiminie. From the day I met you, I always thought you were perfect.” When he opens his eyes again, he stares at Jimin for several long moments. A ripple of confusion crosses his expression. “Did you dye your hair?”

Laughing, Jimin nods. “Do you like it? Does it suit me?”

“Yeah,” Jeongguk says. “Yeah, it does. You look—You look beautiful.”

It’s fortunate that the suite is dark and Jeongguk can’t see him blush. Jimin swats his shoulder, but there isn’t any effort in it. Jeongguk snatches his wrist to examine his hand, holding Jimin’s freshly painted nails up to his face like he’s trying to discern the color. They’re red—a deep crimson. The color attracted him when faced with the wall of nail polish selections because it reminded him of the pieces of Jeongguk’s clothing he tried on.

“Does it—Y-You don’t think it makes me look too much like an alpha,” Jimin asks stiltedly, “d-do you?”

Jeongguk laces their fingers together. “They’re pretty. If they make you feel good about yourself, you should wear them. Do you like them?”

“I-I dunno yet,” Jimin admits. “They feel weird and they’re sort of distracting. But I don’t hate them. You really think the suit me?”

“They’re pretty ‘n they look pretty on you. That’s what I think,” Jeongguk says with finality.

Jimin runs his free hand through Jeongguk’s hair, feeling him relax under the touch. The gun is just barely in his peripheral, and he doesn’t want to glance at it while Jeongguk is still looking at him, because if he doesn’t want to talk about it, then he doesn’t have to—

“‘m sick of being scared of it.”

He didn’t—He didn’t say that out loud, did he? “I—”

“That’s what you wanted to know, isn’t it?” Jeongguk asks dully. “Why the gun is on the table?”

“I just wanna know if everything is alright,” Jimin replies.

Jeongguk shifts his gaze to the gun, breathes in, and lets out a sigh. “He was, like… random. When it came to abuse,” he says without identifying the subject, but it’s obvious he must be referring to Haneul. “Ignoring me for weeks at a time, then suddenly punishing me for every little thing. If I got in his way, he’d knock me down. Like, can you imagine being a little kid and every time your dad comes up behind you, he knees you in the back so hard you eat shit on the tile? I chipped a fucking tooth when I was seven but I just had to live like that cos it was a baby tooth and it was gonna fall out anyway.”

Parting his jaws, Jeongguk runs his tongue over one of his front teeth—presumably where the chip used to be. Feeling its phantom presence. Jimin just grips his hand a little tighter.

“I learned to dive out of the way if I saw him coming. I’m bigger than him now, but I was smaller than him for a really long time,” he says. “Long enough that it’s, like, instinct. I’m not frightened of much cos I’ll always be more frightened of him than anything else. Nothing else comes close to the paralyzing fear of not knowing what he’s gonna do to me at any given moment. He trained me to flinch at him, no matter what.”

The living room he’s running into is massive. White tile floors, like marble or ceramic, with a bearskin rug and a heavy wooden coffee table. There’s someone seated in a leather armchair, and it looks like Jeongguk, but not quite—Jimin isn’t sure who it is. He’s got a notebook in his lap and there are papers scattered all over the table, except Jimin can’t turn his head to get a better look at them. For whatever reason, he runs up to Not Jeongguk and comes to a halt.

Jimin feels strangely small. He’s eye-level with the arm of the chair. This is bizarre.

“Daddy, mama says dinner’s—”

Even though the voice rumbles in Jimin’s chest, they aren’t his words and it isn’t his voice. It’s the voice of a child.

But he doesn’t get to finish speaking, because Daddy’s gaze snaps up to him, and before there’s any time to react, Jimin is being backhanded across the face with the notebook. The metal spiral whips across his cheek, stinging when it bites his skin. It hurts. The child cries out, cradling his cheek and looks at Daddy with watering eyes.

Before he can get away, Daddy grabs the front of his shirt and yanks him closer.

Jimin is scared .

“She’s not your fucking mother, you delusional piece of shit,” Daddy growls with an ugly sneer. “Call her that one more time, and I’ll knock your teeth out on the edge of this fucking table. Capische?”

Jimin is crying by now. Not heaving, gasping sobs, but this soft weeping. His whole body is trembling and even though he wants to free himself from Daddy’s grip and run away, he can’t. He can’t. He can’t move. He’s frozen—paralyzed.

“—imin? Jimin, are you okay?”

Jimin blinks a few times and the white living room is gone. Daddy is gone. He’s his own self again, sitting on the couch in the hotel suite, staring down at Jeongguk, who is staring up at him worriedly. He’s here, he’s sure that this is reality, but for some reason, it still seems strangely far away.

“Did… you have a white living room?” he asks, tongue like a sack of rice weighing down his mouth. “Like… with a tile floor? And a bear rug?”

Jeongguk’s eyebrows draw together suspiciously. “How do you know that?”

“I… saw. Something. Like, I was just… I was there for a couple seconds,” Jimin whispers, not really believing it himself. “I ran up to somebody sitting in a chair. I called him daddy and started saying something about dinner and he hit me with a notebook. Is that… a memory of yours?”

The spooked expression on Jeongguk’s face is enough confirmation. “He said… not to call Seoyoon mother anymore, even though she told me it was alright,” he says in a small voice.

Jimin scoots closer so that he can gather Jeongguk up in his arms before the dam breaks. As soon as Jimin has him cradled against his chest, Jeongguk dissolves into tears. He rests his cheek against the top of Jeongguk’s head, rubbing a gentle hand up and down his back in an attempt to comfort.

This Jeongguk is such a far cry from the one Jimin met his first night at the Black Rabbit. This Jeongguk is scared and alone, surrounded by people who want to use him to their own ends. Jimin can’t help wondering if he would’ve sympathized with him more quickly if he’d known about Jeongguk’s situation from the get-go, instead of assuming he was an entitled brat, touting the casino owner’s son facade.

But if that had been the case, Jimin might have pitied him and it’s clear that Jeongguk didn’t want to be pitied. He didn’t want anyone to look at him and question whether he was capable, whether he was weak, whether he had any feelings. And Jimin understands, because he doesn’t want to be pitied, either.

Eventually, Jeongguk manages to pull himself together just a little bit. Jimin gets up to find tissues for him. While Jeongguk is blowing his nose, Jimin decides to pick up the gun.

He’s never handled a firearm before. It’s… odd. He’s seen enough action films to know that it’s dangerous, that he could pull the trigger and easily end someone’s life, but it’s so innocuous in his hand.

“It’s heavy,” he comments.

“It’s loaded,” Jeongguk mumbles, which startles Jimin.

“You’re playing around with this thing while it’s loaded?” he squeaks. “What were you planning to do, shoot holes in the couch?”

Jeongguk just shrugs and rescinds the weapon from him. Skillfully, like he’s practiced—maybe it was the only thing he could get himself to do with it—he unloads the gun and sets the clip on the table. “Don’t think I’d manage to even do that,” he says morosely.

Some of the makeup around Jeongguk’s eyes is smudged. Without giving much thought to it, Jimin licks his thumb and tries to rub it away. “You should be more careful. Especially if you’ve been drinking.”

“‘m not that drunk.”

“Uh huh. Then how drunk are you?”

Jeongguk regards him with hooded eyes, biting his bottom lip for a moment. “I’m not too drunk to fuck you.”

And there’s something… The thin, wispy tendrils of an idea sprouting in Jimin’s mind. He hesitantly reaches for the gun, but doesn’t take it from Jeongguk. Instead, he wraps his hand around the barrel. Jeongguk notices.

“No?” Jimin quips lightly, tilting his head. Very slowly, he slides his hand to the muzzle of the gun, and then back up again until his knuckles bump into the trigger guard. “Is that what you wanna do? Fuck me?”

Jeongguk swallows visibly. This must be unexplored territory, even for him. “Y-Yeah,” he whispers.

“Can I have it?”

He releases the gun.

Jimin flips it around in his hand, gripping it properly. Now that the gun is no longer in Jeongguk’s possession, alpha is nervous. Jimin can feel the anxiety singing along their bond.

“We’re going to play a game,” he says softly. “No losers, no punishments. Just a game and prizes, alright? You like games, don’t you, Jeongguk?”

Jeongguk nods stiffly, eyes fixed on the gun in Jimin’s hand. “Y-Yeah. I do.”

“And you know how this one works, don’t you? You’ve seen it. You’ve seen Zodiac do it.”

“Yeah,” Jeongguk breathes. He’s nervous, he’s so fucking nervous, but Jimin can pick up the barest hints of arousal beginning to swell.

“Show me,” Jimin says. “Show me how he does it.”


 This time, Jimin knows it’s one of Jeongguk’s memories when he’s suddenly no longer in the hotel suite. He’s in an unfamiliar bedroom. The paint is peeling and the hardwood is worn, and an odd, musty smell permeates the air, but the bed looks new. Dragunov is on it already, lying on his stomach, and Zodiac is going through a backpack in the corner. Jimin is walking in with his hand on the back of an omega he doesn’t recognize, but all he can think of to call him is Rocky.

Zodiac is excited about something. He removes a laptop from the backpack and all but bounces over to Dragunov, tossing the computer onto the duvet and leaping the footboard to get on the bed. Jimin follows Rocky to the opposite side, unable to help noticing his appearance. He’s an omega, Jimin knows that, but his hair is neon green. The leather jacket he’s wearing looks high-end, not oversized and bulky like the one Jimin bought a couple years ago.

“I have a surprise,” Zodiac announces gleefully as he opens the laptop.

The word surprise makes Dragunov perk up. “What kind of surprise?”

“A wait-and-see kind of surprise. If I told you, that would ruin it.”

Jimin settles at the head of the bed, Rocky in his lap. Despite the fact that they’re sitting with each other, neither of them are paying attention to the other. Everyone is fixated on Zodiac and whatever this surprise is.

Zodiac glances up, and their eyes meet.

This isn’t the Zodiac that Jimin knows. This one is a little younger, a little brighter-eyed, a little less sinister. Jimin could be fooled into thinking the surprise was cake. If Jimin had to label him, he would call him Social Zodiac, because this seems like a charming, public-friendly version of him. That black aura isn’t clinging to him, lurking, threatening to reach out and suffocate everything around it.

“You wanna prepare him?”

Jimin’s body— Jeongguk’s body— moves, hands going to unbutton the front of Rocky’s pants. It’s strange, because Jimin knows he can feel what Jeongguk is feeling, but there’s just… nothing. He doesn’t feel anything at all as he’s undressing this omega in his lap. No interest, no arousal, no response. And Rocky seems just as disinterested. When he’s back in Jimin’s lap, pantsless and legs spread, and the pads of Jimin’s fingers rub over his hole, he isn’t wet at all. But Jeongguk knows to wait, apparently, because he doesn’t push any further.

Zodiac finally locates whatever he was looking for on the laptop and sets it on the end of the bed, facing mostly Dragunov. It’s a video.

“I filmed this especially for you, Kasey,” Zodiac says to Dragunov, reaching out to run a hand through his hair. “Excited?”

Dragunov nods vigorously, hauling himself to a sitting position.

Zodiac hits play on the video. It takes a moment to focus, but there’s someone lying flat on what looks like a plastic sheet. His arms are pinned underneath him and his feet are tied, and there’s a cloth gag around his mouth. A second person walks into frame, and when they kneel down to straddle the man’s thighs, Jimin recognizes him as Zodiac.

The realization of what this film is hits Jimin like a bolt of lightning, but the shock is distant, because it isn’t in Jeongguk’s memory. Jeongguk is still relatively neutral, but Jimin can feel a little bit of dread beginning to well up in his stomach, like he’s suspicious.

There’s a hatchet in Zodiac’s hand.

Oh God, Jimin finds himself thinking. Or maybe it’s Jeongguk’s thought, and they’re thinking the same thing. I’m gonna have to watch this.

The man on the ground is desperately making noise, trying to tell Zodiac no no stop don’t do this but he can’t because of the gag. He struggles, but his hands must be tied underneath his back, because squirming proves fruitless. Jimin watches, watches as Zodiac raises the hatchet, reels it back, then brings it down hard, burying the metal blade straight into the man’s chest. No grandiose villain talk, no teasing or taunting his victim—just one clean slice with the hatchet. The thump! it makes is drowned out by the blood curdling shriek the man lets out.

It isn’t like in the movies. Blood doesn’t spray everywhere and the man doesn’t die immediately. He keeps screaming and screaming, the cloth only able to contain so much noise, and Zodiac wiggles the hatchet where it’s sunk into his skin.

He’s asking something. “Does that hurt?”

Zodiac yanks the blade out to take another swing.

Over.

And over.

And over.

And over.

Jimin feels sick to his stomach but he physically can’t look away unless Jeongguk does, and Jeongguk is frozen. Slick red begins to coat the blade of the hatchet, and Zodiac’s shirt, because he’s choppin up the man’s chest so much that the blood is beginning to pool and splash up. As Zodiac reels his arm back again, Jimin watches a spray of blood droplets rain down on the plastic sheet. The man is still wailing, but they’re horrible low noises now, like wretched, inhuman groans of agony. Jimin can’t believe the man is still alive, still having to suffer this torture.

Zodiac pauses for a moment, and over the man’s gurgling suffering, Jimin can hear how hard he’s breathing. His chest rises and falls with deep, heaving breaths, but he’s trembling. With no little amount of horror, Jimin watches as he sticks a hand into the mess he’s made of the man’s chest and closes his hand around—blood and skin and meat. When he lifts his hand, bits slip from his fingers like cottage cheese.

He just… shakes it off his hand as if it were no different than a bit of mud.

A few moments later, the man’s noises stop.

Zodiac returns full-force with the hatchet, and the sounds are even more horrible now that they’re the only ones in the recording. The blade is connecting with bone now; Zodiac has dug so deep, he’s met the man’s breastbone. He doesn’t stop, though, seeming bent on breaking through, however he can.

Dragunov whines.

Suddenly, Jimin clocks back into his surroundings. Dragunov is totally enraptured, scent of his arousal thick and heavy in the air. Rocky is getting worked up, too, but that may because he’s doing what Zodiac asked by himself, thrusting two fingers leisurely in and out of his hole. Jimin has no idea if he’s paying any attention to the video.

Dragunov makes another needy noise, squeezing and rubbing over the impressive bulge in his pants. “Fuck, Zoey, fuck,” he whimpers. “Please, I need to cum so bad, like fuuuuck.”

It takes Zodiac a moment to decide, but he gestures at Rocky, who crawls off Jimin’s lap and obediently presents himself to Dragunov. Dragunov pounces, struggling to wrestle his cock free from his pants so that he can shove it into Rocky’s waiting hole. It’s graceless fucking, like dogs. Dragunov just wanting to get off, still partially distracted by the video.

Jimin can’t stay any longer.

Jeongguk evidently can’t either, because he’s getting up and hurrying out of the room. Nauseous heat rapidly billows in his stomach and he barely makes it out the back door before he’s vomiting into the bushes along the side of the house. His head is spinning, the world a blur, but he’s still so incredibly numb. Sick and ice cold.

The back door swings open, and Jimin looks up at Zodiac again, and he’s scared. So fucking scared that his body has shut down, filled with lead, won’t allow him to get up and run away even though his life could be in danger. All he can do is sit there in the dirt and wait for the guillotine blade to fall.

Zodiac descends the back steps and crouches down beside him, taking Jimin’s face in his hands, looking him dead in the eye.

He’s going to kill you he’s going to kill you he’s going to kill you he’s going to—

“What are you thinking, Jeongguk?”

His voice is soft. Gentle. Comforting. Jimin feels a sense of recognition, like, ‘yes, this is my Zodiac.’ The one who won’t hurt him; the one who protects him.

“I-I don’t know,” Jeongguk whispers. “I just… I got… I-I got… scared.”

Zodiac hums, thumbs rubbing over his cheeks. “That’s silly, isn’t it? Why would you get scared?”

Jimin swallows and swallows and swallows, but the lump in his throat won’t leave. It is silly for him to get scared, because he’s seen Zodiac beat people bloody. He’s even done it himself. It’s a rush. There’s no reason for him to get scared. Cartoon violence is fun. It excites him.

But that wasn’t cartoon violence.

Zodiac is killing people. Because he wants to. Because he can.

Something about that reminds him too much of watching Haneul push his mother down the stairs, just because he could.

“...I don’t know.”

Zodiac strokes a hand through his hair. “Let’s say… there’s a monster,” he murmurs soothingly. “Big and ugly with teeth and claws. Can you imagine something like that for me?”

Jimin nods and does, picturing in his mind something big and hairy… Like one of the monsters from Where The Wild Things Are.

“That monster has a friend. Something… docile. Like a rabbit. But there’s lots of bigger things out there that want to eat the rabbit, and in order for the monster to protect him, it gives all of its fear and insecurities to the rabbit. The rabbit runs away to hide while the monster fights, and that’s how they survive. But they need to stay separate, otherwise the fear will come over the monster and they’ll both get slaughtered,” Zodiac says. “You need to step into that monster’s skin, Jeongguk, and let the rabbit take those fears. Make different places for them in your mind. Do it to protect yourself, cos I can promise you that if you continue down the path that you’re on, this fear, the shit that makes you hesitate, is going to be what gets you killed.”


 Jimin bursts back into himself like breaching the surface after a long dive underwater. When he pitches forward, Jeongguk catches him, startled, hands strong on his shoulders. God, it feels like an entire lifetime has passed.

“H-How long was I out?” he asks.

“Out? Couple seconds, maybe?” Jeongguk sounds perplexed. “You like… You were staring off into space. What happened?”

Sharp pain throbs underneath Jimin’s skull. Fuck. Poking around in Jeongguk’s memories was one hell of a strain. “I saw…”

The image of Zodiac mercilessly hacking away at another human being, blood splattering everywhere, immediately surfaces in his mind, and Jimin’s stomach rolls. Pretend it was fake, he tells himself. Pretend it was fake, it was just colored water.

“...I saw some shit,” he rasps. “You’ve seen some shit.”

Jeongguk furrows his brow a little more deeply. “What…?”

“I dunno if it’s cos you’re drunk, or you’re thinking too hard, but your memories… I can see them,” Jimin replies. “I can experience them. Through our bond.”

“What? I haven’t been able to do that, though,” Jeongguk says, pouting.

“I didn’t even know that was a thing until tonight. This is the first time it’s happened since we mated.”

Jeongguk gnaws on his bottom lip. “There’s some things I don’t want you to see, though.”

And oh boy, can Jimin sympathize with that. “I’m not doing it on purpose,” he says. “It’s like one second I’m here, talking to you, and then I’m just gone.”

“What…” Jeongguk clears his throat. “What did you see?”

“The video. The one you told me about.”

Jeongguk’s expression hardens. The wash of pure hatred Jimin feels from him catches him off guard. The recipient of that feeling, however, remains unknown. “Just the video?”

“N-No,” Jimin replies. “You were… at some sort of house. Zodiac said he had a surprise for Dragunov and played that, and you ran outside afterward. Zodiac followed you out and… said some stuff. About rabbits and monsters.”

Scoffing, Jeongguk angles his body away a little bit and stares out the window. “You’d think shit like that wouldn’t scare me, cos—well, you know. I like that adrenaline rush,” he says. “I fucking get off on it. But there was something about… not knowing why. Like, with that client you saw, I understood the situation, I had control over it. That man had done something wrong and he deserved punishment, but seeing Zodiac just… emotionlessly chop that guy to pieces put me right back at the top of those stairs, looking down at my mother, and not knowing why. It scared me.”

“You’ve been carrying that trauma for a long time,” Jimin says quietly. “And you haven’t told anyone else?”

“No. Never.”

Jimin reaches over to rub his thigh. “Don’t blame yourself for being afraid. That’s a massive burden to live under, all alone.”

For a long moment, Jeongguk doesn’t say anything. He wrings his hands, tugging on the hem of his robe, twisting it around his fingers. “Do you… believe me? Like, that it happened?”

“I do,” Jimin says.

“Even without having seen it yourself?”

“I do, Jeongguk. I believe you.”

Jeongguk nods, like he’s trying to reassure himself. Finally, he fixes his gaze back on Jimin. “Can we go somewhere?”


 Jimin drives because Jeongguk is still too drunk. They leave the city, taking the Mustang almost forty minutes away, past the suburbian outskirts and into the spit of countryside before they reach the next city. Jeongguk directs Jimin onto dirt roads until they come to an impressively run-down brick house tucked behind the trees. Even in the dark, Jimin can tell that the lot is horribly overgrown, like nature is attempting to reclaim the whole house. Jimin parks on what’s left of the driveway, cutting the engine.

After living in the city his entire life, being this deep into the countryside is bizarre. It’s so, so utterly silent.

“This is the house,” Jeongguk says. “We used it like as a base for years. This is where Zodiac showed Dragunov that video.”

Jimin takes another look at the house. He supposes if he had to pick a place for a drug running operation, this one is certainly out of the way.

“There’s a swamp back there,” Jeongguk says, “with an old boathouse that’s kinda half-sunk under the water. That’s… Zodiac filmed that video there.”

Jimin exhales slowly. “Oh. That’s really close.”

“He buries the bodies out here. In these woods.”

OH oh. “How… How many people has he killed?” Jimin forces himself to ask.

“It’s difficult to say,” Jeongguk replies. “One, for sure. The one he filmed. I helped him bury a body before he showed that video, and it might’ve been the same guy. The damage… The damage looked comparable. His chest was totally torn to pieces. Don’t know who he was, don’t know where the hatchet or any of the other stuff he used is. Everything the video was on has gone missing. If you ask him about it, he’ll act like it never happened.”

“Does Dutch know?” Jimin asks.

“I’m sure Dutch knows more than any of us,” Jeongguk says. “He probably knows the exact body count, but he won’t say anything, either.”

“Is Rocky buried out here, too?”

Jeongguk throws Jimin a surprised glance. “How do you know about him?”

“I saw him in your memory, but Kalkaska mentioned there was another omega first. But he said not to tell you that he was the one who told me, so pretend I didn’t say anything,” Jimin responds.

“Yeah, Rocky’s out there,” Jeongguk says with a heavy sigh. “He was always like… disposable. Zodiac mostly picked him up cos he was willing to do things most people weren’t. Kalkaska is good, but he’s cautious. Rocky was like kamikaze.”

“Did you like him?”

“Not particularly. None of us did. He fuckin’ looooved Zodiac, though, and that was always a major point of contention between him and Dutch,” Jeongguk recounts. “It tore Dutch up, too, cos Zodiac really made it seem like he preferred Rocky. Like, it’d be just me and Dutch some nights and we’d fuck and he’d cry. And I’d been like Dutch’s rival for our entire friendship, but it just… y’know, it really started to make me think about how much Zodiac meant to him. Whatever fucked up thing they had, it was absolutely everything to him, and I couldn’t just take that from him. That would be cruel.”

“So, what made Dutch and Rocky fight?” Jimin asks.

“I suggested to Dutch that he and Zodiac mate,” Jeongguk says. “And he waffled on it for a long time, but there was an argument while we were here one night. I can’t even remember what it was over—might’ve been on how to cook something, it was that inconsequential. But Rocky just started ripping into Dutch, saying shit like Zodiac was just using him, that he was gonna mate Rocky, and Dutch… couldn’t take it anymore. He bit Zodiac right there in front of all of us, and told him to pick one of them. I think… I think Rocky must’ve had some sort of inkling that Zodiac would choose Dutch though, cos he totally flipped his shit. He grabbed Dutch and tried to shove him into the little camper stove we were using, and Dutch just whipped around and stabbed him in the throat.”

Hearing the whole story brings a lot more emotional context. Jimin was never really able to imagine some sort of fairytale, romantic mating between Dutch and Zodiac, and the fact that Dutch had initiated it out of panic makes a lot of sense. “So, I guess Zodiac completed the mating?”

Jeongguk nods. “In front of Rocky, while he was bleeding out. Cos you don’t die immediately when someone stabs you in the throat, y’know? You’ve gotta suffocate on your own blood, first. So Rocky’s last moments were watching Zodiac biting Dutch, completing the mating. And I won’t lie and say I didn’t feel a little bit of vindication on Dutch’s behalf, cos Rocky fucking deserved that.”

“Jesus Christ,” Jimin breathes. “Has anything remotely normal ever happened between you guys?”

“We used to go to this ice cream shop after school on Thursdays. Me, Taehyung, Zodiac, and Dutch. We brought Kalkaska a few times, but he was like… I dunno, you could tell he didn’t really wanna be there. So we stopped.”

Jimin fishes around in his pockets for his pack of cigarettes. He needs to buy more soon—or just quit smoking altogether. “Do you like Kalkaska?”

“...I trust him,” Jeongguk replies. “More than the others, if I’m being honest. Taehyung’s loyalty lies with Haneul, Dutch and Dragunov’s lie with Zodiac, but Kalkaska… belongs to himself. He’s independent. I think he could turn on any of us at any moment if he felt a need to, and that’s almost reassuring at this point.”

“I wanted to hate him because you were sleeping with him,” Jimin admits. “Then I met him, and he was so pretty and he smelled so good, and it was like well, fuck, no wonder. But the more I hear about him, he’s… just not like you guys. Like, I don’t get why he sticks around.”

Jeongguk shrugs. “Some combination of fear and responsibility, I guess. He loves Dragunov. Like, they spend practically all their time together. So, if Kalkaska has a reason to stay, it’s probably for Kasey.”

“Are they, like, a thing?” Jimin asks.

“No. I told Kalkaska not to fuck him,” Jeongguk replies. “Cos the way Zodiac did it… Sex is a reward. He doesn’t get anything if he hasn’t done anything to earn it, so there’s more incentive for him to keep doing what we ask. If they start having sex, we’ve basically lost both of them. I think Kalkaska hangs out with Namjoon from time to time, if you remember him. Namjoon is like an outsider, though. I dunno if Zodiac would see that as defection or not. ‘s hard to tell with him. So we just toe the line and keep our heads down so they don’t get blown off.”

Jimin hums softly. The degree to which Zodiac has manipulated all of them is… staggering. While Jimin is certainly guilty of lying and twisting situations for his own benefit, it’s nothing compared to the ways Zodiac has them all strung. And he isn’t about to believe for a moment that just because he and Jeongguk have mated, that Zodiac is magically tapping out. If he’s decided Jeongguk isn’t usable anymore, because Jimin will know, then that just means he’s moved on to someone else. Like a parasite looking for a new host.

It’ll be a race to cut the strings before Zodiac gets a bead on him and fires.

Jimin drops his gaze to the gun, tossed carelessly in the cupholder. Still unloaded, but Jeongguk brought it with them, like a child who doesn’t want to leave his favorite toy behind.

“I can’t promise I’ll be as effective as Zodiac,” Jimin says quietly, “but if you want me to help desensitize you to the gun, I will.”

Jeongguk looks over at him, a little bit of mischief bleeding into his eyes. “Guns aren’t meant to be toys, you know.”

Picking up the gun, Jimin holds it the way he’s seen actors do in action movies and points it at the windshield. It must look comical, because he doesn’t know what he’s doing, but Jeongguk’s heartbeat ramps up a little bit. There’s a lot of fear, but there’s a little bit of interest. The trigger won’t do anything when he presses his finger against it, and he belatedly realizes that the safety is still on. He uses his thumb to pull the hammer back, and then depresses the trigger.

The gun makes a tick! and the safety snaps back into place.

Jeongguk’s spike of anxiety slowly comes down. He’s alright, he didn’t get hurt.

“It’s just a thing,” Jimin says, inwardly relieved himself that the gun did not, in fact, randomly go off, even though he watched Jeongguk unload it. “It’s like a hammer or a knife. You’ll be more confident using it if you aren’t so afraid of it, right? Less chance of you getting hurt.”

Very hesitantly, Jeongguk nods.

Jimin passes the gun to Jeongguk. “Point it at me like you’re gonna shoot me,” he says. “And hold it like that.”

Jeongguk does as he’s told, and Jimin feels a little thrill go down his spine, being on the other end of a gun. It would be terrifying under other circumstances, but the weapon is unloaded and it’s Jeongguk on the other end of it. Jeongguk, who can’t hurt him, unless he wants to hurt, too.

“What are you gonna do?”

Shushing him with a soft noise, Jimin unbuttons his jeans and awkwardly shimmies out of them in the narrow space of the driver’s seat. “Just watch me,” he says, slipping his hand into his underwear.

Chapter Text

 

A knock on the door is what finally tugs Namjoon’s attention away from the financial records he’s been going through for the past… Jesus, has it really been two hours already? Rubbing his aching eyes, he calls for his visitor to enter and stretches his arms over his head. Pleasant surprise flutters around Namjoon’s stomach when Mikhail Kalkaska slips into the office, quietly shutting the door behind him.

“Are you busy?”

“Not doing anything important,” Namjoon says quickly, shuffling his papers aside. He’s been at this for hours; he deserves a break. “You aren’t interrupting.”

Kalkaska approaches the desk and leans up against the side of it, folding his arms across his chest. He looks like he’s just returned from the gym—hair pulled up into a messy ponytail with sweat still damp on his temples. “I think I am interrupting. You’re just happy to be interrupted.”

Namjoon can’t help laughing. He raises his hands in defeat and says, “You caught me.”

They’ve developed an odd sort of camaraderie over the past year. Even if Namjoon hadn’t been working for Haneul, his natural inclination would be to stay away from people like Jeongguk and Zodiac. Those two are violent and unpredictable, and Namjoon thinks that he could’ve lived well without either of them knowing his face. That feeling extends to Kasey Dragunov as well, because of whom Namjoon has needed to replace an entire private room of carpeting and fixtures. And although he and Taehyung are technically supposed to be on the same side, per se, Taehyung has his own issues. Namjoon is just trying to do a job and not lose his toes.

As it turned out, Kalkaska was very much trying to do the same.

Their relationship wasn’t really anything because it couldn’t be. Whatever was going on behind the scenes between Jeongguk and Haneul—it was too risky to get involved with someone who was essentially an enemy. Namjoon only knows a tiny fraction of the details, but that was how Taehyung put it when he asked if there was anything going on between him and Kalkaska. That Jeongguk would be upset one of his dogs was ‘fraternizing with the enemy.’

For a long time, they kept it to casual chats in Namjoon’s office or a drink at the bar downstairs, but lately, Kalkaska has seemed on edge. Ever since Jeongguk began dealing with Park Jimin, it’s been like the breath that everyone is holding has gotten bigger and bigger. When the tension releases, it’ll snap like a whip.

And right now in particular, Kalkaska seems troubled.

“You look pensive,” Namjoon says. “Is something wrong?”

They met for dinner not too long ago—Kalkaska waffled on accepting initially, but eventually did, and they had a nice evening. Casual, nothing too serious. He seemed a little off that night, too, but he hadn’t offered any explanation for it and Namjoon didn’t ask.

Kalkaska doesn’t respond immediately. He just stares for a long couple of moments, expressionless. Even while tipsy, Namjoon has never seen him smile. It took a long time to squeeze the smallest bit of humor out of him. “Things are changing,” he eventually says. “Things are changing really quickly.”

Namjoon furrows his brow. “What do you mean?”

“It used to be my side versus your side. But now it’s more like we’re all scrambling to protect who we want to protect before the fucking apocalypse hits,” Kalkaska replies dully.

“Who is it that you want to protect?” Namjoon asks.

“I don’t know. I wanna protect everyone, but I can’t,” he says. “This isn’t the kind of situation where you can just diffuse everything peacefully. At some point, we’re all gonna have to make choices. Who we wanna save.”

The notion that real, actual lives hang in the balance wasn’t something that Namjoon intially considered, but Kalkaska is so startlingly plain about it. Taehyung occasionally refers to Jeongguk’s dislike of Haneul, but Namjoon has always seen that as some kind of given. The estranged son doesn’t like the father.

An early conversation with Kalkaska quickly put that dislike into perspective.

“Jeongguk wants to kill him. And Haneul knows it.”

Namjoon had difficulty sleeping that night.

“Are you worried you’ll make a mistake?” he asks.

Kalkaska takes another few moments to think. It’s unlikely that he doesn’t have answers to these questions already. More that he’s trying to decide on how to phrase them so as not to reveal too much information. Or, perhaps, he just doesn’t want Namjoon to worry. “I know I’ll make a mistake. It’s just something I’ll have to live with.”

In some parallel universe, Namjoon hopes that his and Kalkaska’s paths cross in a more mundane fashion. That they meet in a grocery store and hit it off, so that Namjoon is able to properly ask him out for coffee. That Namjoon isn’t Kim Namjoon, Jeon Haneul’s assistant, and that Kalkaska isn’t Mikhail Kalkaska, Jeon Jeongguk’s dog. That they can just be Namjoon and Mikhail. Whatever that relationship culminates into.

He doesn’t know where Kalkaska came from or how he got shanghaied into this situation; he’s always been the one piece that didn’t fit in. “I think,” Namjoon says slowly, carefully considering his words, “things can feel like mistakes in the moment. You wonder why you’re here, what the point is, but one single thing can be all it takes to change someone’s life. Our role in something might be very small, but the littlest spark can be what starts the wildfire or the pebble that starts the avalanche. Even if it seems trivial, you might be in this situation for a reason.”

Most of the time, when Kalkaska looks at him, it’s more like being looked through— like Kalkaska is somewhere else. This time, however, Kalkaska makes eye contact and really looks. Namjoon suddenly feels small under his gaze. Maybe his impromptu speech was too much, maybe it sounded too disingenuous, like something he was echoing from some sort of self-help book—

But Kalkaska just nods and looks away. “...I really hope you’re right.”


 Jeongguk concentrates hard on Jimin’s hand, watching it slide up and down his cock, but it’s like his body has been wrapped in foam. The arousal is distant. There, but not. In his head, he acknowledges that it’s hot, that Jimin is an extra layer of sultry tonight because of his blonde hair and red nails—a real omega fatale —but those feelings aren’t quite sinking in.

The gun he’s gripping a little too tightly in his hands is a solid steel barrier between them.

He didn’t used to be afraid of guns. Sexual gunplay was very familiar to him. They made for fun toys. He and Zodiac have made up all sorts of games with them, from silly Cops and Robbers to heartpounting hostage situations.

They even played a mock game of Russian Roulette. At least, it was supposed to be mock.

Zodiac repeatedly told him that the gun wasn’t loaded; Jeongguk wasn’t sure why he asked so many times, because normally that was a given, but the sick feeling in his gut wouldn’t go away. They were drunk or high or both—and even though Jeongguk wasn’t feeling good about it, he still allowed the game to be played because that was a time when he still trusted Zodiac. Because the thrills were still fun
That was what brought them together. Laughing at things they thought were funny, because they both had the same sense of humor. Like J.D. in Heathers, when he kills one of the Heathers with drain cleaner under the guise of a prank. Zodiac would do something like that. And Jeongguk would laugh, because it was funny. Cosmic justice, or some shit.

It stopped being as funny when he realized he, too, could become one of Zodiac’s jokes.

Zodiac spun the cylinder first, pressed the barrel to his temple, cocked the gun, and pulled the trigger. Perhaps it was the lack of hesitation in his movements that gave Jeongguk confidence. Zodiac wouldn’t be so calm if he knew the gun was loaded, would he?

So, Jeongguk took the gun from him, spun the cylinder, pressed the cold barrel against his own temple, and…

Nothing. The safety clicked back into place.

When Zodiac took the gun back, he didn’t spin the cylinder. He didn’t put the gun to his head—he pointed it at the window and pulled the trigger.

Glass exploded in all directions as the bullet sheared through it. Jeongguk’s substance-addled brain fumbled to put together what had happened in the wake of the shock from the noise, because the gun wasn’t supposed to be loaded, according to Zodiac, but the gun wouldn’t fire without a bullet.

“Y-You said… You said i-it was unloaded.”

Jeongguk hates the way he sounds in his memory. Small. Scared. Betrayed.

The look Zodiac gave him wasn’t like something out of a comic book, where the villain is gloating over successfully bamboozling the hero. It was oddly steady and contemplative, like yes, I did say that, didn’t I? He carelessly tossed the gun aside, and Jeongguk startled, because if it had one bullet, it could have more and accidentally discharge.

“I lied,” was the only explanation Zodiac offered.

No one died that night, and Jeongguk was shaken up by it, but he let it go, because it was always a possibility that Zodiac could’ve taken that bullet as well. He placed himself into just as much danger as he did Jeongguk. And that was typical for Zodiac, because he was the type to run red lights or convince you to do an extra line of coke with him or take on a guy twice his size. No care for others, and just as little care for himself.

Because it was fun.

Frightening as that night had been, that wasn’t it. That wasn’t the moment where guns became impossible for him to use. Because Jeongguk knows if Zodiac wants him dead, he’ll be dead.

It wasn’t until Haneul—who he didn’t know even owned a gun—whipped one out on him and fired three rounds into him that the fear reared its ugly head. Jeongguk genuinely, genuinely , thought he was going to die that night. He isn’t sure how he made it to Zodiac’s without bleeding out. Everything about that event is a delirious blur—save for the moment he was staring down the barrel of a pistol in the hands of his own father. This monster that was supposed to love him, supposed to protect him. Like he did his other kids. Like he did Taehyung.

Instead, he wanted Jeongguk to die.

Just like he’d killed his mother.

For eleven years, Jeongguk had doubted what he had seen that night. He had no reason to hate Haneul at the time, but the treatment changed immediately following his mother’s death, so Jeongguk had to wonder that he’d somehow twisted it in his mind that Haneul purposefully pushed her down the stairs. She could have slipped, like Haneul said she must have. But Haneul also said that he didn’t see her slip, when Jeongguk distinctly remembers him being at the top of the stairs with her, because if they hadn’t been arguing so loudly, he never would’ve woken up and crawled out of bed to check what was going on. Nothing added up. Jeongguk intellectually knew that Haneul was trying to gaslight him, but he was incredibly convincing.

Haneul played the victim well. Once Jeongguk got big enough to throw his weight around, Haneul refashioned himself into a weakling; a pathetic coward getting harassed by his brute of a son, as if the years and years of abuse Jeongguk had endured at his hands suddenly no longer existed. That there was just no way he could defend himself.

Getting shot was more than just getting shot.

Haneul pulling a gun on him was all the proof Jeongguk needed to solidify his belief that his father was capable of murder. Because if he could hate his own child enough to pull a gun on him, he could certainly give his mistress a little push down the stairs and send her tumbling to her death if he felt like she was getting in the way of something else he wanted.

Jeongguk doesn’t doubt it anymore. He doesn’t look back on that memory and think, am I sure that’s what I saw? He knows what he saw.

The gun is more than just a gun now. It’s become this representation of Haneul in his mind. Like some kind of ultimate evil. He’s gotten away with not using one because Kalkaska always carries one, and tools are more his style, anyway. They give him that rush of adrenaline—make him feel powerful, make him feel strong.

Pointing a gun at his mate, at Jimin, unearths a lot of conflicting feelings.

“Don’t think of the past, Jeongguk,” Jimin says softly. “I know you’ve been through a lot, and a lot of things have happened to you, but don’t think about any of that. Think about me. Think about what you want.”

Jeongguk adjusts his grip on the gun, doing his best to force his mind blank. Concentrate on Jimin. He does, he does, watching Jimin’s hand slide hypnotically up and down his cock. The sharp scent of his arousal is kicking up.

“What do you want, Jeongguk?”

“You,” he replies. Honestly. “I just want… you.”

Jimin isn’t like Haneul or Taehyung or Zodiac. Jimin isn’t lies and manipulation and empty promises. He might have blurred the lines when it came to mating, but it wasn’t as if Jeongguk didn’t want it. Jeongguk was ready to mate him. It was, perhaps, Jimin who wasn’t ready, and pushed himself to do it, but he’s assessing Jeongguk’s situation in a more pragmatic way than anyone else is. Jeongguk is overwhelmed and Zodiac is looking to meddle and Taehyung was always a little more on Haneul’s side because he never knew the full story. But Jimin… just wants to live normally.

Jeongguk might want to live normally, too, he thinks. With Jimin.

A strange time to have that realization, sitting in the lot of an abandoned house, pointing a gun at his mate while watching him jack off.

Is it possible for them to make a place for themselves in the paperwork world after all of this is over?

Something about that thought settles Jeongguk’s nerves. The idea of over. It makes it easier to hold the gun without wanting to tremble, easier to look at Jimin. Jimin is going to help him. Jimin, his mate, his Jimin.

He scoots closer, to the edge of his seat, and lashes out to grab the waistband of Jimin’s underwear and yank it down, exposing the full length of his weeping cock. Jeongguk licks his lips, because he knows what Jimin tastes like and the sooner he can get his mouth back on him, the better. But this is a game.

And Jeongguk takes games very seriously.

“If you betray me,” he starts to say, but his voice comes out tiny and frail, like a whiny child threatening the school bully. He knows from first-hand experience that bullies don’t care if they make you cry. So he steadies himself, steadies the gun, and begins again. “If you betray me, Jimin, I’ll kill you.”

Jimin’s throat bobs as he swallows, but his hand doesn’t slow on his cock.

“I’ll kill you,” Jeongguk repeats, because he will. He’ll have to. Jimin is his mate, his bonded partner; if Jimin turns around and stabs him in the back, it’ll be just the same as getting his heart ripped straight out of his chest. “I’ll put a bullet right between your fucking eyes.”

Jimin sucks his plush bottom lip between his teeth, then slowly tugs it free and it tauntingly springs loose, unfazed by the threat. “Will you really? You won’t just cry about it and let me get away with it like you do for everybody else?”

The remark digs into Jeongguk’s gut like a knife.

He bites the inside of his cheek, fixing his eyes on Jimin’s. Jimin’s—that are hooded and sultry because he’s still stroking himself, still pleasuring himself, still waiting on Jeongguk. There’s always something holding him back, isn’t there? He cries and gets angry and lets the idea of revenge consume him, but what does he do?

He sinks his greedy, grubbly little claws into things and thinks, if I just wait a little longer, maybe one of them will love me.

Zodiac, who doesn’t have the ability to love.

Taehyung, who sees him as inferior.

Haneul, who uses him as a personal cross, bearer of every sin he’s ever committed, because as long as Haneul is black, Jeongguk will always be blacker, and Haneul can sleep peacefully.

If I just wait a little longer, one of them will change their mind and love me.

That’s the thought that stays his hand. Jeongguk wants his leader, he wants his best friend. And, as much as it destroys him inside to even think about it, he wants his father. He wants his father to look at him and be proud of him and love him, but they’re so far past that now. Even if Jeongguk were willing to forgive, Haneul isn’t.

Haneul wants him dead.

Dead, like is mother.

Occasionally, Jeongguk wonders if his death was supposed to happen before now. If there was supposed to be a pool drowning or a poisoning or a car accident, and fate intervened to keep him alive. That perhaps there’s some greater destiny waiting for him on the other side of these seemingly impassable mountains standing before him. It could be sunshine and green pastures, but Jeongguk will never know unless he leaves the wasteland he’s currently in.

Haneul isn’t going to love him.

Jeongguk regards Jimin and thinks, his father never loved him either. His father is six feet under and left him with an insurmountable amount of debt and a sick mother, but Jimin isn’t allowing those things to break him. Jimin has his chains in his hands and is using whatever he can find to try and break them instead—and it’s like Jeongguk is just standing there with a pair of bolt cutters, watching him. Waiting to see what he’ll do.

It isn’t the gun, Jeongguk tells himself, climbing over the center console onto Jimin’s seat. It’s difficult because they both don’t quite fit, and Jeongguk is partially sitting against the gear shift, but they’re closer now and he’s inhaling the scent of Jimin’s climbing pleasure with every breath he takes. It isn’t the gun that’s he’s afraid of.

“I should be out now, three strikes and all that shit,” Jeongguk says, “but maybe we’re playing tee-ball and the coach just feels bad for me.” He presses the muzzle of the gun to Jimin’s forehead, in the space between his eyebrows. A little thrill zips through him. “If you fuck me over, I’m going to kill you. That’s what I’ve decided your punishment is.”

Rewards and punishments.

Jimin grins, tongue lolling out like a dog for a moment until he pulls it back in his mouth to speak. “That’s gonna hurt you so bad, Jeonggukie. Killing your own mate is like killing yourself.”

“My darling… My darling Jimin.” Jeongguk slips his hand into Jimin’s underwear, reaching between his legs to rub the pads of his fingers over his sweet, aching hole. It takes two fingers easily, squeezing a high, trembling cry from Jimin’s lips. “Your betrayal would kill me first.”

Being filled does more to get him off because Jimin’s hand falls away from his cock, and he rolls his hips in a effort to get Jeongguk’s fingers in deeper. “Fuck me,” he moans, throwing his head back. “Please, please fuck me.”

Jeongguk drags the gun’s muzzle down to Jimin’s parted mouth, tracing the bottom lip with cold steel. “Show me you’re worth it,” he says. “Show me it’s gonna be worth it to fuck you.”

Jimin makes eye-contact with him again, kissing the rounded metal edge of the muzzle. The gun has been cleaned and cleaned and cleaned again, because Jeongguk hasn’t been able to bring himself to fire it for years, but it’s still dirty. It’s still a thing. And Jimin just opens his mouth, opens it wide, and takes it in.

The hand that doesn’t have the Mustang’s door in a white-knuckled grip comes to rest on Jeongguk’s wrist, gently helping to hold his arm steady while he goes down on the gun. The trigger guard doesn’t allow Jimin to get the barrel as deep as he seems to want, and Jeongguk wiggles his fingers in his hole just to tease him. Jimin groans in frustration, running his tongue up the underside and sucking on the tip like he does to Jeongguk’s cock. It’s a sloppy, graceless blowjob—too much spit and no finesse, but Jimin is so fucking eager. Jeongguk can smell the heat and the pleasure building up in him, can feel it over their bond. His own cock has woken up and joined the party, a boiling ache between his legs, but it isn’t time yet.

Jeongguk pulls the gun free, and Jimin whines, reluctant to let it go. He also removes his fingers from Jimin’s wet hole, just to hold the gun while he searches for the lever to move the seat back. Once they have more room, further from the steering wheel, and Jimin is reclined back as far as he can go, Jeongguk barks at him to get rid of his underwear. Wet and naked, Jimin sits straddled across Jeongguk’s thighs, legs spread, open and ready.

“Pretty,” he murmurs, tracing the gun down Jimin’s straining cock, and he means it. All of Jimin. All of Jimin is pretty. More beautiful than any other omega or alpha he’s ever seen. Jeongguk rucks up the hem of Jimin’s shirt, pressing it against his lips until he takes it between his teeth. Satisfied, Jeongguk roves his eyes over Jimin’s body. Soft and strong and precious.

And his. All his, all for him.

“Your mouth works alright, but how about this?” Jeongguk asks, tapping the gun against Jimin’s rim. It squeezes, oozing out more slick. Jimin’s scent is going to be soaked into the upholstery after this, and even though Valkyrie is his baby, Jeongguk just can’t bring himself to care. “Will my cock fit in here, darling?”

Jimin nods, unable to speak without releasing the fabric in his mouth.

Jeongguk just tsks at him, rubbing him with the gun and making him squirm. “Let me see, darling. Spread yourself.”

Reaching behind himself with both hands, Jimin grabs his asscheeks and pulls them apart. His little hole stretches, gaping, leaking slick, and Jeongguk wants to drool, but they’re still playing. He nuzzles the tip of the gun against his rim, threatening to breach it.

“Take it, darling. It’s all yours.”

Jimin bites his lip as he blindly takes a hold of the gun with one hand and keeps himself open with the other, easing the tip of it into himself, gasping at the hard stretch. Jeongguk knows what he’s feeling because he feels it, but also because he’s felt it. Getting split open by something cold and foreign—like a cock, but not. Chilly, deadly.

“Feel alright?” he asks, rubbing Jimin’s thigh comfortingly.

Jimin gives him a stilted nod. “Mmhm.”

“It’s good? It feels good?”

Jimin nods again, moaning softly when Jeongguk presses the gun further in.

“Is this what you want, darling? To get fucked like this?”

“Mmyes…”

“That’s funny,” Jeongguk says, slipping the gun out to the tip before thrusting it back in hard enough to make Jimin’s back bow up. “I thought you said you wanted me to fuck you. Is this what you meant? Did you not want my cock after all?”

Squirming in place, Jimin vehemently shakes his head. “‘ant ‘our ‘ock,” he mumbles through his shirt. “‘leeeeease.”

“How about this, my love? How about you wait to cum until I give you my cock? Can you do that for me?”

Jimin nods, and Jeongguk knows he’s a little too lust-addled to really think about what he’s agreeing to.

“If you cum too soon, I’ll have to punish you, darling.”

That catches Jimin’s attention a little more. He flexes around the gun, urging Jeongguk to keep moving it, keep pleasuring him, but they make eye-contact and an understanding is reached. Jeongguk has decided what he’s going to do, and Jimin knows what that is.

Jimin knows that Jeongguk is going to force this punishment.

He has to.

No matter how they’re using it, the gun is still a weapon.

Jeongguk thrusts the barrel in and out and in and out, smacking the trigger guard against Jimin’s perineum, enjoying the wet sounds it makes, as every press of the gun squeezes a new wave of slick past his rim. His cries get louder and needier as he climbs closer to climax—he knows he isn’t supposed to cum, but Jeongguk isn’t going to let up, either. He slows his thrusts for a few moments, leaning down to lick a stripe across Jimin’s chest and latch onto one of his exposed nipples. He sucks, grinding the gun in Jimin’s hole, making him shake.

“So fucking hot,” he breathes, moving to the other nipple. “God, I’m never gonna be able to get enough of you. I’m always gonna look at you and want more.”

The sensation of peaking hits Jeongguk all of a sudden, and he knows this is it, Jimin can’t can’t hold it any longer, so he sits up to watch. He pistons the gun for that extra stimulation, extra push Jimin is looking for, and warmth spreads through his body as Jimin convulses, ropes of cum splattering across his tummy. Jeongguk yanks the gun from his hole and presses the muzzle back against Jimin’s forehead.

Slick dribbles off the steel onto his pretty, flushed face.

Jimin’s chest heaves as he tries to catch his breath, but his eyes find Jeongguk’s, and he waits. Jeongguk stuffs two fingers back into Jimin’s twitching hole, rubbing at his prostate just to distract himself, because he has to. Punishment, punishment. Jimin didn’t obey him, so he needs to be punished. This is part of the game.

If Jimin betrays him, Jeongguk needs to kill him.

If Jimin… His mate, his beautiful omega, can’t love him, then it’s all meaningless. Life would turn to ash in his mouth. Colors would fade from his world. His whole existence would crumble into fine dust and blow away in the wind.

But Jimin isn’t going to betray him.

So he doesn’t have to worry about this particular ultimatum.

“Don’t—” Jimin whispers tightly, still wrapped up in pleasure, like he’s gonna cum again any second, “Don’t forgive me.”

Don’t forgive him.

Jeongguk pulls the hammer back and fires.


 EIGHT MONTHS AGO

Dutch’s voice was so hoarse, his scream came out like a whisper as Zodiac sank his teeth into the bloody mess on the nape of his neck. The pain screamed louder, like his head was getting sawed off. Zodiac pistoned his hips once, twice, three times, and then quit, forcing his swollen knot to settle into Dutch’s heat while he came with a low, reverberating grown into his heavily wounded skin. Even though it hurt more than anything he’d experienced before, orgasm shattered through Dutch’s body as well, high on Zodiac’s full cock emptying inside of him.

They breathed together, not exactly coming down, but riding that high while it lasted. Dutch lie limp underneath Zodiac, too exhausted to even think about moving. His body was in a sorry state.

Heats were always like this.

Bloody, violent, painful.

Zodiac lost all the sense he liked to pretend he had during rut. Dutch’s body became his craving, and he would satisfy that no matter what it took. Even though Dutch never put up much of a fuss, their nest always ended up torn apart, and so did he. He was just a delicious little candy for Zodiac to chew up, suck dry of juices, and spit back out.

As soon as Zodiac’s knot allowed him to slip his cock free, Dutch stiffly turned to clean it off for him, licking up every last bit of slick and cum he could find. It was enough to keep him hard, keep his knot from going down completely, and Dutch sucked him into a fresh climax, swallowing seed that his aching, empty hole wanted. But he was too tired. He was too tired to drag himself up so that he could sink back down onto Zodiac’s cock and fill himself up again. When his little suckles ceased to produce any more cum for his tongue, Dutch collapsed onto the bed and stayed there.

Zodiac let him rest. Finally.

“What day ‘s it?” Dutch asked a few hours later, when it began to feel like the fog of heat was finally lifting. His voice was totally shot.

Zodiac rolled over to check his phone—still on the nightstand, attached to its charger, where he’d left it. “Thursday.”

“Fuck.” Trying to rub some of the sleep from his eyes did absolutely nothing, he was so wholly wiped out. He needed another five days of rest just to recover. “Long ‘n I thought it would be.”

“It was long,” Zodiac agreed, snuggling back up with him again. He slung an arm across Dutch’s stomach, dragging him close.

It was long. Dutch didn’t expect it to last that long. His heats were usually short and intense—following Zodiac’s ruts, because he’d never gone into heat with any other alpha. But this prolonged heat pushed them both past the limits of their stamina. They slept soundly through the night until late the next morning, when Jeongguk called to make sure they were still alive.

The remainder of the week went by slowly as Dutch attempted to recover. Despite constantly sipping on herbal tea with honey, his voice didn’t return for nearly a week. Every cut and bruise was carefully treated to prevent scarring, otherwise Dutch would be totally covered in them. The ones that he couldn’t reach—the especially painful ones on his back and neck—were taken care of by Zodiac, even though he liked to pick at the torn skin a little more than he should.

“You look like shit,” Rocky commented one particular evening, ten days after Dutch’s heat ended. It was them, Jeongguk, and Misha seated in the living room of Zodiac’s suite at the Black Rabbit. Zodiac and Kasey hadn’t returned yet from wherever the hell they’d gone. The original plan was to meet at the Lake Street house, but Dutch had been strangely nauseous all day, so Zodiac changed their meeting place.

At first Dutch was thankful for the consideration, but now he was starting to think it might’ve been better if they had met somewhere else because dealing with Rocky wasn’t on the list of things he wanted to be doing. “Fuck you, too,” he muttered under his breath, taking another sip of his tea.

“I’m serious though,” Rocky said, as if he was ever at any point disingenuous with his insults. “You been sleeping?”

“I’m fine,” Dutch replied shortly. “Heat sucked, that’s all.”

And the reason for that, he suspected, was Rocky.

It wasn’t like Zodiac had never been with another omega. He slept around so frequently that Dutch couldn’t even call it cheating—it was just what Zodiac did. But those omegas weren’t around very long. Most of the time, Dutch never bothered learning their names or their faces because they would be gone the next day or next week and it didn’t matter. But Rocky was different because Dutch had spent the past month and a half trapped in close quarters with this stupid, pasty green-haired gremlin and it was a fucking nightmare. Misha was fine; Misha was on suppressants, he and Zodiac never slept together. They maintained a respectable distance and Dutch didn’t mind having him around. But Rocky was not on suppressants, and Dutch could just tell he was close to going into season, and his own reproductive system said hell fucking no to that, and launched into its cycle just to beat Rocky to the punch.

So Dutch went into early heat and now Rocky was laughing at him about it. Whoop-dee-fucking-doo.

Rocky rolled his eyes and clicked his tongue. “He took the time to take care of your needy ass and you’re gonna sit there and say it sucked?”

“That’s not what I fucking meant. It was hard on both of us,” Dutch said.

“Uh-huh. If it was so hard on him, how come he’s already back in bed with me while you’re still sipping your honey and ginseng and complaining about your sore throat like a little bitch? A fucking whore can take more than you can.”

As he said whore, Rocky waved a hand in Jeongguk’s general direction, who challengingly cocked an eyebrow, but otherwise remained silent.

“At least it’s not sore from having a dick jammed down my throat to make me shut up.”

That must’ve hit a nerve, because anger flooded Rocky’s scent. His lips peeled back past his nasty, yellowing teeth, cos he wasn’t some pretty boy Zodiac picked up at an expensive nightclub like Kasey. Rocky was just a lucky rat scooped up out of the sewer. Eventually, that luck would run out.

“You really think you’re so special cos Zodiac picked you or some shit?” Rocky sneered. “Newsflash, Princess—a sloppy omega hole is a sloppy omega hole. Doesn’t matter how fucking Yves Saint Laurent your precious little cockbucket smells. He wants somebody who can keep up with him, not a bitchy little snowflake he’s always gotta make allowances for.”

Jeongguk suddenly stood up from the couch and stalked into the kitchen to pour himself another drink. If Dutch weren’t nauseous, he would’ve asked for a shot to add to his tea. “I have an idea,” Jeongguk said. “Let’s stop acting like getting fucked by Zodiac is an accomplishment.”

“Right, I forgot one of us in here is an alpha slut,” Rocky said, dripping acid as he spoke.

“Yup,” Jeongguk replied, popping the p! He knocked back half of his drink before returning to the couch, but instead of reclaiming his previous seat, he sat down beside Dutch and threw an arm around his shoulder. “If you’ve never had Zodiac bouncing on your cock, begging for more, you shouldn’t bother running your mouth about how great your sexual prowess is. I’ve fucked you, too, y’know. Both of you. All fucking three of you, and your sloppy omega hole could stand for a little YSL.”

Rocky pulled the ugliest, most indignant face Dutch had ever seen on another person, and it looked like he was gearing up to rip into Jeongguk over how much of a gross alpha slut he was, because that seemed to be something he thought was actually offensive to Jeongguk, but the suite door opened, and Zodiac finally decided it was appropriate to grace them with his presence. Kasey bounded in behind him. Their hair was messy and Dutch caught a taste of the distinct odor of sex—they’d probably fucked in the car before coming up.

It really wasn’t an accomplishment to have sex with Zodiac. Which is why Dutch never placed a whole lot of value on who Zodiac fucked. When they were together, they were together, and that was it. Rocky was just an obnoxious piece of shit who thought he had some kind of point to prove.

Zodiac, who had never been very good at reading rooms, tossed his car keys on the kitchen counter and immediately wandered over to Dutch to drape his arms around his neck over the back of the couch. “How are you feeling?” he asked, pressing a kiss to Dutch’s cheek.

“I’m alright,” Dutch replied. He shot Rocky a sharp glance—the other omega was seething. “Better than I was earlier.”

Zodiac hummed out a little laugh, nuzzling him. “That’s good, sweetheart.”

Following their meeting—something about finances and clients that eventually devolved into a drunk game of poker—only Zodiac, Dutch, and Jeongguk remained in the suite. Ordinarily, Dutch could decompress when it was just the three of them, but he was still strangely tense, still stuck on the argument earlier with Rocky.

“‘s matter?” Jeongguk asked him, lighting up a cigarette while they lie in bed to wait for Zodiac to finish showering. He was very, very drunk—half-naked, hickies sucked into his skin by Zodiac already splattered across his neck.

Dutch wrinkled his nose at the scent. Cigarette smoke didn’t bother him either, ordinarily, but he just felt so sick today, it was like everything was bothering him. “Dunno,” he replied. “Just feel… shitty.”

“Cos of Rocky?”

Dutch shrugged.

Jeongguk took a long drag off his cigarette, blowing smoke towards the ceiling, like he’d noticed Dutch’s sudden revulsion to the smell. “He’s a bitch. Zodiac’s not gonna keep him ‘round long, babe.”

“You don’t…” Dutch anxiously wrang the bedsheets between his hands. “You don’t think he’s gonna go into heat with him, d-do you?”

“I think he’d rather fuck himself with a cactus,” Jeongguk snorted. “Rocky’s, like, expendable as they come. He’ll give im to Dragunov when he goes into heat, ‘n if he survives, then he’ll toss him back into the water.”

“You sure that’s not what you’re telling yourself cos you’re afraid he’ll replace you, too?”

Jeongguk laughed, lashing out to grab Dutch by the hair, preventing him from turning away when he blew a hot breath of smoke into his face. “I’ll make sure to moan his name extra loud while he’s balls deep in me tonight, babe.”

And Jeongguk wasn’t afraid to do exactly that. Dutch lay on the opposite side of the bed, watching the two of them go at it, not really thinking anything, not really feeling. It wasn’t impossible to get off on watching; Dutch was usually hot and soaked by the time one of them came, ready for whichever one of them hadn’t cum yet to fuck him over the edge. But tonight wasn’t one of those nights. Dutch felt dry and wrung-out, and just wanted them to finish up so he could sleep.

Dutch still hadn’t managed to drift off by the time he heard Zodiac quietly telling Jeongguk to leave. The mattress shuddered as Jeongguk sluggishly dragged himself off, and Dutch’s body trilled happily as Zodiac’s pleasant weight curled against his back.

“...I have a question,” he said after a few beats of silence.

Zodiac hummed, letting him know he was listening.

“If I didn’t… If I didn’t want you to sleep with anyone else, would you do it?”

Impositions weren’t something he liked pushing on Zodiac. There was some kind of fucked up rule of equality when it came to Zodiac and limitations, because if he wasn’t allowed to do one thing, he needed to find something of equal entertainment value to replace it with. So, most of the time, Dutch didn’t exercise his authority over Zodiac’s impulse control because it tended to have disastrous results.

The replacement for the high cocaine gave him was something Dutch struggled with every day.

Zodiac’s life versus someone else’s.

“Is that what you want?” Zodiac asked, kissing the soft gland underneath Dutch’s ear.

“I…”

What will the consequences be?

Will they be worth a couple bruised feelings?

“...don’t want you to sleep with Rocky anymore.”

“He’s just talking shit. You don’t need to listen to him.”

“But I want you to listen to me,” Dutch said firmly. “And I’d rather you not fuck him anymore.”

“Sweetheart—”

Dutch abruptly twisted to face Zodiac, glaring up at him, anger flaring in his belly. “Are you seriously gonna argue with me over a fucking homeless skank you literally met under a fucking overpass? Is his sloppy omega hole seriously that good? Cos if that’s the case, maybe I should drop you and start fucking him instead.”

Shock flashed in Zodiac’s eyes, like somebody had set off a firecracker in front of his face. He ducked down to rub their noses together, like jesus christ are you alright? and pressed his palm against Dutch’s tummy. For some reason, that was the most comforting thing. “I was just gonna say that I’m almost finished with Dragunov so we won’t need to keep Rocky around that much longer anyway,” he said. “But if he upsets you too much, I can use someone else. Kalkaska—”

“No—No.” Not Misha. He didn’t deserve to get turned into Kasey’s fucktoy just because Dutch was jealous. “Just… finish what you’re doing.”

“And don’t fuck him anymore.”

Dutch bit the inside of his cheek. The worst part was not knowing the price tag. What is this going to cost? “Please don’t fuck him anymore.”

“I won’t fuck him anymore,” Zodiac said. He lifted his hand from Dutch’s stomach, and the loss felt cold, but Zodiac just offered his pinky instead.

There were no official contracts or blood pacts between them on anything—this was it. Nothing more than a simple pinky promise. They’d been making agreements like this ever since elementary school when Zodiac promised he wouldn’t yank on Abigail Thornton’s pigtails anymore. The trade-off, because of course there was one, was getting his own hair pulled instead, but Zodiac never touched Abby’s hair again.

It might’ve been a juvenile thing at this point, but the agreement itself was sacred, because neither of them had broken it.

When Zodiac finally woke up after a severe cocaine overdose, one they were so fucking sure he wasn’t going to survive, Dutch made him promise to quit using. He couldn’t—He couldn’t go through that again. Zodiac promised him there in the hospital that he would get clean and they shook on it.

That was almost a year ago, and he still hadn’t broken it yet, even if that energy had gone towards other, sinister activities.

Dutch was just at a loss as to how to corral him.

“You haven’t seemed normal lately,” Zodiac commented. “Is something wrong?”

“...Just a little tired, that’s all. Might be getting sick,” Dutch replied.

Zodiac wuffed disapprovingly and tucked himself into Dutch’s side. “You need to take care of yourself, sweetheart. You’re too precious to be getting sick.”

He did his best. A cold or flu never manifested, so Dutch assumed it was just taking longer to recover from heat because of the emotional strain he was under, but Zodiac stayed true to his word and stopped sleeping with Rocky. That pissed Rocky off to absolutely no end, but Dutch couldn’t really find it in himself to care, especially when he woke up a few mornings running into the bathroom to throw up. Whatever this bug was, it was determined to keep him out of commission for a little longer.

“Not to be, like, weird or anything,” Jeongguk said, pulling Dutch aside while they were waiting for a client in one of the private game rooms in the casino. “But you smell different.”

Dutch furrowed his brow. He hadn’t noticed anything—Zodiac hadn’t said anything either. “What do you mean?”

“Like, I can’t… pinpoint exactly what it is, but you smell…” Jeongguk gulped down a big lungful of Dutch’s scent and exhaled sharply. “Off.”

“Bad off?”

“No, nono, like… like, it’s a good off, and I don’t get that. Except…”

“Except what?” Dutch snapped, impatient.

“Your heat lasted longer than normal, didn’t it?”

“...Yeah. So?”

“You don’t…” Jeongguk bit the inside of his cheek. “You don’t think you’re pregnant, do you?”

The suggestion stunned Dutch into silence. It was like all of the scattered, confusing occurrences over the past few weeks morphed together right in front of his eyes to create a complete picture. His unexplained illness, his aversion to sex, his urgent need for Zodiac to not be having sex with another omega.

In a universe where Dutch was pregnant, all of those things made sense.

But a universe where Dutch was pregnant might be this universe, and suddenly all of the air in the room was gone.

“—abe, babe, breathe. Calm down, you’ve gotta breathe.”

Dutch fisted his hands tightly into the front of Jeongguk’s silk shirt just to keep himself upright. The floor was swimming, like it might open up and swallow him whole. He wished it would. “Oh my God. Ohmygod, what if I’m pregnant. I can’t be pregnant, Jeongguk, I can’t be—”

“You can’t lose your shit here either,” Jeongguk hissed, ushering him towards the door. “Go back upstairs, calm the fuck down. I’ll be up as soon as I’m done and we’ll talk about this. We’ll figure this shit out, Dutch, I promise.”

Dutch did as he was told, blindly stumbling through the casino towards the lobby. All of the lights and sounds and smells overwhelmed him and he felt sick. Sick- sick. Like might die before I wake sick. But he didn’t let himself fall apart until he was safely in the confines of Jeongguk’s suite. There, he slumped against the front door, collapsed to the floor, and cried.

 

Chapter Text

It’s become a ritual.

Wake up, make some coffee, take a pill, start his day.

Every day, Taehyung tells himself the headaches are probably gone by now, I can quit taking these, but there’s this craving that gets to him. What if the medication is giving him a false sense of security, and he really hasn’t recovered yet? If he feels better taking them, then something must still be wrong with him. Tomorrow, if he wakes up feeling like roses and daisies, he can stop.

Tomorrow never comes.

His supply, however, is finite, because—as he had not been willing to admit to Zodiac for obvious reasons—they were heat suppressants, and he isn’t an omega. The only omega he knows that takes them is Kalkaska, and he would stick Taehyung like a roasted pig if he tried to take any, so his only option is to return to Haneul. Which is why he’s been helping on a project at one of Haneul’s houses the past few days.

It’s been a pleasant break from the suffocating atmosphere at the casino. But he hasn’t quite worked up the nerve to ask for more suppressants.

Today will have to be the day, though, Taehyung tells himself as he brushes his teeth, casting a glance at the unmarked bottle on the counter. All his pussyfooting around has left him with a measly four pills.

Four days.

Maybe… Maybe he can wean himself off by then.

Taehyung drops his toothbrush back in its holder and gets ready to leave the hotel.

Suffocating is really the most accurate word he can think of to describe how it feels as he exits his suite and strides down the hallway towards the elevator. It’s like someone closed all the doors and windows in a house and left it empty for two weeks during the summer—stale and hot. When Jeongguk isn’t dealing with clients, which he’s been leaving to Kalkaska and Dragunov more often than not anyway, he’s holed up in his room. Taehyung has only seen Zodiac once or twice, very briefly; Dutch must be getting close to having the baby by now and they’re spending time at their condo. He hasn’t seen Jimin at all.

Why bother mating if you’re gonna avoid each other?

Perhaps they finally realized the mistake they made. Taehyung twirls his keys around his index finger as he strolls across the parking garage towards his car. Why else would Jeongguk be so reclusive if he wasn’t upset about something?

Unless he’s building a bomb to try and blow up Haneul’s house, or something ridiculous. Anything seems possible at this point.

His phone chimes just as he’s getting into his car. When he checks it, a stupid smile spreads across his face because Yoongi responded to his good morning! text.

 

Yoongi:

too fcking early

 

you:

Working today :P

 

Yoongi:

yeah? doing what

 

you:

been helping Haneul with a house

he let me choose all the materials for the kitchen & I’m p proud of how it’s turning out

 

Yoongi:

congrats

send me pictures when it’s done

 

you:

:)

you got any big plans?

 

Yoongi:

a livestream tonight

u should watch

 

Taehyung bites the inside of his cheek and hesitates on his response. Yoongi hasn’t been very subtle about hinting he wants Taehyung to watch one of his steams. Insistent, even, despite the fact that he’s mentioned multiple times that he isn’t really interested in sex.

It’s just something that’s important to me, I guess, is what Yoongi told him when Taehyung asked why he kept asking. It might not seem that special cos a couple hundred other people are watching, but it’s still something important to me. Like, you’d be watching cos I asked you to, not cos you’re there to get off to me cumming on a silicone dick.

He’s tried to understand the mentality behind it, and thinks it boils down to giving versus taking. Yoongi hasn’t been able to say it in exact words, but Taehyung is aware that he’s been a victim of sexual assault in the past. Just the idea that some alpha felt a need to force himself on somebody like Yoongi just to make himself feel superior makes Taehyung livid. No one deserves that—but especially not Yoongi. Yoongi is sweet and funny and a wonderful listener; Taehyung has never felt as comfortable with somebody as quickly as he has with him.

Some nights, he has to curb the urge to spill everything, because he doesn’t want to unload on Yoongi like that. So they text and banter and flirt a little bit, and Yoongi asks if Taehyung will watch his livestreams and Taehyung always tells him when I have time.

 

you:

idk when I’m gonna be home tonight

 

Yoongi:

i’ve never met an alpha so difficult to convince to look at my ass

 

you:

it’s nothing against your ass

I’m sure your ass is great

 

Yoongi:

that is correct

my ass IS great

if u watch, maybe i’ll throw in a surprise for u

 

you:

enticing

I gotta go

duty calls

 

Yoongi:

fine, abandon me

for real though

just if you have time

you don’t have to watch the whole thing

 

you:

I’ll try :)


“Hello?”

“Hi. It’s been a while since we spoke, so you might not remember me. My name is Park Jimin. My father owes your casino some money.”

“Park Jimin, it’s good to hear from you,” Haneul responds cheerfully before driving straight to the point. “Namjoon sent me financial reports over the weekend, and I can’t help but notice your debt payments have stalled over the past couple weeks. Are things not working out with Jeongguk as well as you had hoped?”

“That’s… what I wanted to talk with you about.”

Jimin purposefully falls silent, long enough to make Haneul prompt him into continuing. “...Is everything alright?”

“I’m sure there are ways it could be worse,” Jimin says with a dry laugh. “Things have just gotten really… complicated. I’d honestly rather talk with you about it in person.”

“I’ll be in my office for a few hours on Wednesday, if you’d like to stop by—”

“Do you think we could meet for dinner instead?”

“...Alright. If that’s what you’d rather do, that would be fine. Did you have anywhere specific?”

“Would The Gallery be alright?”

Jimin asks Haneul the question, but makes eye-contact with Jeongguk as he says it. He hooks a leg over Jeongguk’s hip and slots their bodies together, sliding his hand up Jeongguk’s bare chest to toy with one of his nipples, flicking at the metal bar pierced through it. Jeongguk bites his bottom lip—Jimin can feel him already starting to harden.

“The Gallery?” Haneul echoes after a moment too long. “At Black Rabbit?”

“Yes, that Gallery.” Slowly tracing his finger down the hard outline of Jeongguk’s abs, by the time Jimin reaches his cock, it’s hard and ready for him. Jimin loosely wraps his hand around the length, stroking without much intention, teasing him. “I’ll pay—you can count it towards my debt.”

Haneul laughs tightly on the other end of the line. “Happy as I’d be to do that, I’m not quite sure how Jeongguk would feel about that.”

Jimin thumbs the head of Jeongguk’s cock, over the piercing, smirking when it makes him shake. “It’s your casino, isn’t it? Why should it matter how he feels about it?”

In the space of silence while Haneul sighs and mulls it over, Jimin lets Jeongguk roll on top of him, lets him rut against his stomach in a desperate need for friction. Jimin knots his fingers into the back of Jeongguk’s hair, forcing his face into the pillow to muffle his harsh breaths.

“...Is Wednesday at seven PM alright?”

“Perfect,” Jimin purrs, trailing his hand down Jeongguk’s back, feeling his muscles ripple. “I look forward to seeing you, Mr. Jeon.”

“You as well, Mr. Park.”

As soon as they hang up, Jimin tosses his phone aside and wraps his legs around Jeongguk’s waist. “In me, in me,” he begs. “Cum inside me.”

Jeongguk manages to drag himself out of his delirium long enough to grab his cock and stuff it into Jimin’s waiting hole, fucking into him with a pinched growl. Jimin squeezes around him, quickly hurtling towards his own climax, driven by Jeongguk’s own heightening pleasure. Their lips meet in a hasty mess, Jeongguk presses his tongue in and Jimin sucks on it, making his hips stutter. It isn’t long before Jeongguk’s thrusts become fast and erratic and he buries himself deep in Jimin’s heat, cumming hot and hard with a low groan. Jimin whimpers at the loss of his cock, because he still hasn’t cum yet, but Jeongguk shifts to get down between his legs and swipes his tongue over Jimin’s rim.

“Oh—Oh fuck,” Jimin whimpers when Jeongguk forces his tongue into his sensitive hole, sucking hard enough to make him squeal. He reaches down to stroke himself and whines unhappily when Jeongguk swats his hand away. Then Jeongguk is climbing back up him, roughly gripping his jaw until he gets the clue to part his lips and stick out his tongue.

Jeongguk spits a sloppy glob of slick and cum into his mouth. The initial hit is disgusting, because Jimin hates the way his own slick tastes—like an oddly bitter bite of almond cake—but Jeongguk is mixed in there, too, and fuck he tastes sweet. He’s never met an alpha who tasted sweet as Jeongguk. Not in all the cocks he’s sucked.

Before Jimin can swallow it down, Jeongguk dives back into his mouth, kissing him greedily, threatening to make him choke. He presses fingers back into Jimin’s hole, fervently rubbing over his prostate until Jimin can’t take it any longer. He peaks, spasming around Jeongguk’s fingers, and cums, squirting a flood of slick all over their thighs and the bedsheets. Jimin gags around the excess of fluid in his mouth, turning his head to the side to cough, a little bit dribbling from the corner of his mouth. Jeongguk massages him through the aftershocks, milking him for every last bit of slick his body is willing to give.

It takes Jimin a few minutes to come down from his buzz. Jeongguk stays comfortably between his legs, ignoring the cooling mess of wet coating their bodies. He nuzzles at Jimin’s jaw, kissing and scenting him. Jimin strokes his hair.

“I need you to promise me that you won’t let what anyone says get to you,” Jimin murmurs. “No matter what I tell anyone else, you’re my mate. I chose you.”

Jeongguk props himself up on his elbows to look down at Jimin. His hair is disheveled and dark bags hang underneath his eyes from lack of sleep, but he’s still beautiful. A beautiful tortured soul. “We don’t… have to do this,” he says quietly. “We can just… leave. Pack some shit and drive out west.”

The idea of flight is more than tempting. Even before Jimin met Jeongguk, that was something he often thought about. Just picking up and running. But there was always something holding him back, like a shackle. What Jimin is slowly coming to realize is that perhaps those things aren’t shackles, but responsibilities.

They just scare him.

“I can’t leave my mother, Jeongguk,” he replies. “I can’t abandon her like the rest of our family did; I have to stay.”

Jeongguk hesitates for a moment, then he nods, dipping his face to rub his nose against Jimin’s. “It’s alright. I get it.”

“I want… I want us to be a family,” Jimin says, throat locking up on him so his voice comes out a little pinched. “You and me and her. She’ll love you so fucking much, I know she will—”

“Shh, shh…” Jeongguk hushes him, kissing him gently. “Baby, it’s okay.”

Jimin slides his hand down to Jeongguk’s neck, just behind his ear, and rubs over his scent gland. As he massages it, Jeongguk relaxes, eyes falling shut and huffing out a deep sigh. A moment later, very softly, he starts to purr.

There’s something…

...something devastatingly beautiful about Jeongguk’s horror.

Jimin wishes that he didn’t have to feel guilt. That he could accept his own insufficiencies and curb his tongue, control his hands. But it’s different now, isn’t it? He has Jeongguk, who loves the thing that makes him an outsider.

Killing Jeongguk’s father isn’t the right decision. Jimin knows that. He knows that if he does it, commits himself to cold-blooded murder, it will haunt him for the rest of his life. Just like he can never truly escape beating Faye into the pavement or filling a syringe with morphine and coming so, so close to pushing that needle underneath his mother’s skin. He’s danced there, on that edge, the edge of considering.

Considering shifting his thirst for revenge from conceptual into reality.

Faye was the only time he truly lost control, and it was terrifying, how much he didn’t feel. How much he still doesn’t feel, because, in the very back of his mind, he still believes that Faye deserved it. It’s a paradoxical emotion, to be most guilty about a lack of remorse. He would never apologize for doing it, but he knows it’s wrong, and doing the wrong things drives him crazy.

Has Haneul done enough to deserve to die?

Jimin swallows hard.

Who am I to make that judgement?

They’re outsiders—all of them. Not men, not monsters; just Other. Functioning outside of what was normal and good in society, providing society with a standard for what is normal and good.

“I adore you,” Jeongguk murmurs to him quietly. “So fucking much, Park Jimin. Regardless of whether Haneul lives or dies, the day you walked into Namjoon’s office, he already lost. I can’t… I can’t give up the person you are to me for someone who won’t ever love me back.”

The words are waiting. Those three words that will transfer ownership of his heart over to Jeongguk are sticky. As much as Jimin wants to say them, wants to let himself freefall into bliss, he swallows them back down.

Jimin wants to say I love you when he knows that they’ll be able to wake up together the next morning and everything will be fine.

“It’s alright,” Jeongguk says. “I can be patient a little longer.”

“Good,” Jimin replies, forcing some of the tension to leave his body. He cranes his neck to peck Jeongguk’s nose. “We need to pretend we secretly hate each other a little longer.”


 While Taehyung has enjoyed being allowed to take the lead on some of the projects in the Windsor street house, he can’t shake the sensation that something about Haneul is… off. Whether it’s the passive attitude he’s taken towards Taehyung’s design choices or the way Haneul won’t quite look him in the eye, it’s obvious his mind has been elsewhere. And that’s incredibly frustrating, because as much as Taehyung wants to ask him what’s been bothering him, Haneul just has this way of making his problems the biggest in the room. Meanwhile, Taehyung still needs to ask him about the suppressants. But if he asks now, he might get pushed to the side, and something about that just pisses him off.

Everyone gets it, Haneul, Taehyung thinks bitterly, watching the alpha who has essentially become his surrogate father examine a brushed nickel faucet on the shelf at the hardware store. Your life sucks because you think Jeongguk wants to kill you. If you’re so worried about it, why don’t you just fucking kill him first?

The outside world abruptly dims as Taehyung’s thoughts really sink in.

He doesn’t really mean that.

Right?

Angry as he is at Jeongguk over the whole Mating Jimin situation—which they still haven’t spoken about—Taehyung doesn’t have any ill-will towards him. No matter what happens, upset as Haneul might be, taking lives won’t solve anything. Even though trying to tell that to either Haneul or Jeongguk is like screaming at a brick wall.

“—hyung? Are you listening?”

“Huh?” Taehyung snaps back to attention, belatedly realizing he was standing there, staring at a facet with his mouth hanging open. “Sorry, what?”

“Do you like this faucet for the bathroom vanity? Or were you thinking about something else?”

“I… was thinking about something else,” Taehyung blurts, “but not faucets. Uh—Yeah, that one is fine.”

Haneul furrows his brow in concern. “You’ve seemed kind of distracted today. Are you alright?”

“Me? I could ask you the same question.”

Contrary to Taehyung’s initial assumption, Haneul doesn’t launch into a long-winded rant about how he knows he and Jeongguk are best friends, but this situation just isn’t getting any easier and he’s gonna drink himself to death one of these days. Instead, he just looks confused and says, “I’m fine, though? I’m not sure what you’re talking about.”

Taehyung blinks a few times, scrubbing at one eye with the heel of his hand. When he looks up, Haneul is looking back at him, and Taehyung isn’t sure anymore. Maybe he imagined the distance. Maybe he’s projecting. Maybe this whole suppressant thing is getting to him.

“Sorry,” he mutters. “I don’t… know what I was thinking.”

“You know, if something is going on, you can always talk to me,” Haneul says gently, like he’s always done every single time Taehyung has been upset about something.

Taehyung chuckles dryly. “No more than usual, I guess.”

“If that isn’t the fucking truth. Really though, Taehyung, if you need anything, just ask,” Haneul says. “I shouldn’t make any promises, but you know I’ll do what I can, as long as it’s you.”

As he follows Haneul out of the aisle and back towards the bathroom vanities, those words don’t sit with him quite right. It could’ve been a passing comment, but Haneul has never laid it on quite so thick. There’s clearly some intention behind it—like he’s baiting Taehyung to ask for something.

When he gets back to the hotel, there will still only be four more pills in the bottle.

Four more pills, four more days.

Yeah, actually, there is something I need sits on the tip of his tongue for the remainder of the day, but Taehyung never manages to let it slip out.


 Haneul is forced to take the seat meant for clients when Zodiac perches on top of his desk, crossing one leg over the other and leaning back on his hands. He pulls the chair back a respectable distance, however, just so that he isn’t sitting with his face in the kid’s crotch. A smirk tugs at Zodiac’s lips like he knows, and it’s likely that he probably does. This isn’t someone unfamiliar with power.

They’re two different types, him and Zodiac.

This is the thing that whispers in Jeongguk’s ear, the thing that makes him powerful. Without Zodiac’s influence, Haneul knows Jeongguk never would’ve gotten brave. He would’ve kept his head down and learned to stay in line, but Zodiac awoke something in him—riled it up, gave it weapons. Short of killing him, Haneul can’t think of an easy way to permanently remove Zodiac from the equation.

And Haneul isn’t a murderer.

“I’ve had a long day,” he says carefully, searching Zodiac’s expression for any telltale hints that this might be his last night on earth. “So, if you wouldn’t mind keeping this short, I would appreciate it.”

Zodiac raises an eyebrow and scoffs. “You’re telling me to hurry up?”

“If I’m allowed to be honest with you, I’d rather not be in the same room with you longer than necessary.”

“Well, then, don’t mind if I take the scenic route getting to my point,” Zodiac says. He examines his nails on one hand, evidently finding something unsatisfactory and brings his pinky nail to his mouth to bite. “You don’t like Jeongguk.”

Haneul can’t help snorting. “I didn’t realize I was dealing with a genius.”

“I don’t really get it, you know,” Zodiac continues, as if Haneul hadn’t spoken. “Liking people, disliking people. The way your behavior changes depending on whether or not you like a person. The way other people’s behavior affects how you feel about them. I understand that you and Jeongguk have done things to each other that have negatively impacted your relationship, but the motivation never made any sense to me. Where was the catalyst? Jeongguk was only six or seven when he came to live with you—what could he possibly have done that posed such a magnificent threat to you?”

“Jeongguk is a fantastic storyteller, isn’t he?” Haneul says. “He likes to make it out as if I suddenly started treating him poorly out of nowhere, but he was always inclined towards acting out after his mother passed away. He required more discipline.”

Zodiac looks down at him. “No sympathy spared for a son grieving the death of his mother?”

“I gave him time.”

“You sound so sure of yourself,” Zodiac says. “That’s how Jeongguk always described you, you know. Confident. Like you’ve convinced yourself that you’re always right, no matter how ridiculous it sounds.”

Haneul grits his teeth, because of course Jeongguk would say that. “Are you trying to tell me that you find the rationale of a child to be more sound than that of an adult?”

“Children are impressionable. Like wet clay. Things that negatively impact them can damage their psyche forever. Jeongguk has grown up into whatever damage you’ve done to him,” Zodiac responds. “It isn’t so much what he claims happened—it’s ingrained in his being. He’s just a reflection of the way you raised him.”

“I’m not the only thing that ever influenced him. Everything was fine until he met you.”

Zodiac grins. A cheshire cat kind of grin, like he knows something that Haneul doesn’t. Perhaps he does. Or perhaps he’s bluffing. “Did I ruin him for you?” he asks. “Did you have some other plans for him, Haneul? Were you trying to make a submissive little bitch out of him? Did you want him to kneel and lick your shoes every time you stepped into a room?”

The grin pulls impossibly wider.

“He submits to me so incredibly,” and it’s obvious what Zodiac means by that. “He might call you daddy, but he calls me master.”

“Shut up,” Haneul finally spits, feeling his temper snap deep in his gut. “Shut the fuck up.”

Zodiac leans back again, quite satisfied with himself. Haneul wants nothing more than to slap the pleased expression off his face. “I used to be in therapy, you know. Dumbest thing my parents did for me, because that’s when I became aware of the ways the rest of the world defined right and wrong. I started keeping track of behaviors—writing them down so that I could emulate them properly. I’m familiar with the behaviors associated with disliking another person. And you don’t like Jeongguk,” he repeats, “to the point of making attempts on his life. You shot him, point-blank in your bedroom. But you didn’t kill him. Why didn’t you kill him?”

“I don’t want him dead,” Haneul says. “I want him to give me back my casino and leave me alone.”

“But that incident is why he took the casino. I know why he hasn’t killed you. But you?” Zodiac gazes at him for a long moment, running his tongue over the inside of his teeth. “I can’t imagine you have the same silly emotional hangups as he does.”

“I didn’t want to have to explain the blood on my carpet.”

“Didn’t you have to anyway? You still shot him.”

“I’m not a murderer,” Haneul says out loud.

The smile returns. “I’m not, either.”

“As much as I dislike him, I’m not going to be responsible for my son’s death. He can find his own way to get himself killed. Perhaps he purposefully omitted the part where he came after me with a knife that night and I was only trying to defend myself.”

“You could have killed him that night, Haneul. I know you wanted to. You shot him three fucking times,” Zodiac says, tone picking up an icy, serious edge. “But the point is that you didn’t kill him. Why didn’t you?”

“I already told you—”

“It doesn’t benefit me to see things from my perspective particularly often, but the only reason that I would choose maiming over murder is if I wanted to keep someone alive.”

It’s Haneul’s turn to cock an eyebrow and flash some indignance. “I thought you weren’t a murderer.”

“I’m not,” Zodiac repeats dismissively. “You have some ulterior motive for keeping Jeongguk alive.”

“I don’t need a reason for not wanting blood on my hands.”

“I might believe that, except for the fact that you contracted somebody to kill him for you,” Zodiac replies, “and do you know what I found out before Dragunov chopped his body into little bits?”

Haneul tightens his grip on the arms of his chair.

“He was just a petty little street gang member you promised a bit of meth and a stack of cash to if he killed your son. He was so… insignificant, I didn’t even bother telling Jeongguk about the attempt until two weeks later. I know the kinds of numbers the Black Rabbit alone is pulling in—you have the money to hire someone who knows what the fuck they’re doing. But you didn’t. You picked the most incompetent piece of shit you could find; someone gauranteed to fail. It was such a weak effort, I’m not even sure why you bothered.”

“It was just supposed to scare him,” Haneul says. “I just don’t want him killing me.”

Zodiac barks out a dry laugh. “Because making two consecutive attempts on his life was supposed to somehow convince him that you don’t want him dead? Maybe I’m the stupid one, because you’ll have to point out to me where exactly in the master plan that makes any sort of sense.”

“There isn’t any master plan. He’s reckless and dangerous and someone needs to keep him in check before he hurts himself.”

“If you’re so worried, call the police. You know about his money laundering, his prostitution, his drug dealing. All the evidence to get him locked up for the rest of his life is conveniently at your fingertips, and yet you’ve done absolutely nothing about it.”

Haneul stays quiet.

Sometimes it’s better not to talk.

That’s why you have a right to remain silent.

But Zodiac talks. And keeps talking. And it’s like nails scraping a chalkboard.

“Would you like to know what I think, Haneul?”

No, not really.

“You want to keep Jeongguk. You want him to sit at your feet like a quiet, obedient dog, and despite his attempts to escape, he can’t quite shake you. You’ve got your teeth in him just a little bit too deep, because there’s always this little voice in the back of his head, craving your approval. If I stepped back, do you know what I think would happen?”

No.

“He would come crawling back to you. Who else does he have besides you, Haneul? You’re his whole world. Everything he does, he does because of you. And that’s exactly what you want. But why, Haneul? I’ve met your other children. I’ve met your mate. Even Taehyung’s review of you isn’t that bad. You treated Taehyung’s mother well, when she worked for you. Kim Namjoon says you’re a fair employer, although a little erratic as of late. But you treat Jeongguk as if he’s a stain on your very existence. And the only conclusion I can come to is that he is. He is a stain. But why is that? Is it to do with Jeongguk himself? Or is there another reason?”

Zodiac leans forward, resting his elbow on his knee.

“Is Jeongguk really your son?”

“Of course he is,” Haneul replies automatically.

“That’s sort of indisputable, isn’t it? He looks exactly like you. Even without a birth certificate or DNA testing, no one would ever think to question whether or not you two are related,” Zodiac rambles. “Is it to do with his mother, Haneul?”

Haneul doesn’t reply.

“She was a mistress, wasn’t she? Jeongguk doesn’t speak about her much, except when he’s insinuated that she was a whore you mistakenly knocked up.”

“I wasn’t interested in having children then.”

“But you suddenly changed your mind when you met Seoyoon? You chose to raise her children, yet you brought Jeongguk into your and pushed him off onto a nanny. If you didn’t want him, why not send him to live with someone else?”

“There wasn’t anyone else,” Haneul says.

Zodiac looks pleased with himself, and it makes Haneul irrationally angry. If their positions were swapped, he could reach inside the top desk draw for the letter opener, but he can’t. Unless he tries to get up and leave the room—which he’s positive Zodiac won’t allow him to do—he’s trapped here, listening to whatever filth this creature decides to spew out of his vile lips.

“No one? No one at all?” Zodiac chirps. “You have a sister, don’t you? A little sister—Jeon Haeun, right?”

Haneul bites down hard enough on the inside of his cheek to draw blood.

“I know she has a restraining order against you, but I’m sure the courts would’ve allowed you to pass off Jeongguk.” Zodiac pauses, eyes widening a little bit as if he’s something has just occurred to him. “Why does she have a restraining order against you, anyway?”

“I don’t know. Why don’t you tell me, since you seem to know everything,” Haneul says through his teeth.

“I really can’t take credit—I’ve got a clever dog. Jeongguk was suspicious about the disappearance of his aunt—on his deceased mother’s side—and asked our little bloodhound to look into it. He couldn’t find any traces of her, but it isn’t in his nature to give up when he loses the first scent trail. Not only did he dig up your sister's restraining order, but your whole family has a bit of history with domestic violence, don’t they?”

“That’s my business,” Haneul replies. “Not yours.”

Zodiac shrugs impishly, like it doesn’t matter to him whether they get into the subject or not, and it’s unyieldingly frustrating. Not being able to figure out where the lynchpin in their discussion is so that he can yank it out and collapse whatever theory Zodiac is trying to build. Like every new morsel of information is simultaneously a red herring and a crucial element of his case. “I’m appointing myself as Jeongguk’s official representative,” he says, “since he’d be useless in this conversation, anyway. You’ve isolated him so thoroughly, he doesn’t even know you have a sister. But I think if he did, he would run straight to her. Don’t you agree?”

No. No, no. No no no nononononononono.

And Zodiac sees it.

He is exactly where Zodiac planned to corner him.

“What do you want?” he spits without bothering to hide his venom. “You said you wanted something—tell me what the fuck it is and leave.”

“You gave Taehyung a bottle of suppressants a while back. Really sinister of you, you know? Any day now, he’s going to ask you for more, but I don’t want you to give them to him,” Zodiac says. His eyes take on a hazy, sickly shine, unlike anything Haneul has ever seen before. This thing—it isn’t human. It can’t be. “You tell them that if he wants more suppressants, then he needs to do something for you first.”


 The clock is pushing nine PM by the time Taehyung returns to his suite at the casino. This is the third day in a row he’s spent a full day with Haneul, and it’s wiped him out. What he plans to do is turn in early and take a day off tomorrow, but as he’s boiling some water for a quick cup of instant noodles before bed, he remembers.

Yoongi’s livestream.

It’s early enough. He could still catch it, if he wanted to. Yoongi would probably be happy if he did. As he waits for his noodles to hydrate, Taehyung absently wonders if Jimin has watched Yoongi’s streams. If it’s normal for Yoongi to ask his friends to watch him masturbate for strangers online. Although—as far as Taehyung knows, Yoongi doesn’t have friends outside of Jimin and Kim Seokjin. And if he remembers correctly, Seokjin is a beta.

Maybe he’s making this weirder than it needs to be.

Taehyung takes his noodles to the bedroom and sets them on his nightstand, then goes to fetch his laptop. Just to… browse. He promised Haneul that he would look for a nice daybed for the guest room at the Windsor house, so he should do that. Since he has time.

Time drags its heels.

Eventually, the clock reaches nine-thirty. Yoongi should be starting his livestream anytime now. Taehyung scrolls through their messages until he finds the website address Yoongi sent him… in case. In case Taehyung ever felt an inclination. To watch.

Taehyung swallows.

Even before his begins to type the address into the bar, his hands are shaking. Sweat makes his palms moist, and the heat under his shirt stifling, like a sudden fever has come over him. It isn’t as if he’s never witnessed a sexual situation.

He’s even…

But that’s always felt like it needed to be kept secret. Like there was no place for him in that in between. Watching wasn’t a sexuality. Either you had sex, or you didn’t. And Taehyung has felt so much better without—and without the expectancy. Because he knows he can’t fulfill that. He enjoys intimacy, but not everyone seems to understand his desire for a PG-13 kind of intimacy.

And he doesn’t think that Yoongi is trying to seduce him.

In fact, it might be more of a test. Is he really as disinterested in sex as he says he is?

Setting his jaw, Taehyung logs into the account he made a week or two ago, during his last attempt to pluck up enough courage to watch, and fumbles through the site until he finally locates Yoongi’s channel. A little red dot is next to his name, indicated that he is, in fact, live.

Before he clicks on it, however, Taehyung snatches up his phone and types out a hasty text.

 

you:

i’m watching

 

It’s a view of a bed.

There isn’t a whole lot of fanfare to it. The wall behind it is a pale cream and the bedsheets are black. That’s all there is, and perhaps that’s all there really needs to be, because Yoongi is on the bed, too.

He’s got a black facemask covering his mouth and nose—like the ones they wear in Korea and Japan—as well as a piece of sheer cloth tied around his eyes like a blindfold. Taehyung wonders for a moment whether Yoongi can really see or not, but the opacity must not be as strong as it appears from a distance.

Yoongi is also very, very naked.

Seeing him is… it makes Taehyung feel invasive, but he reminds himself that this is what Yoongi wants. If Yoongi weren’t comfortable showing off his body like this, he wouldn’t be doing it. He isn’t… He isn’t bad to look at.

He’s nice to look at.

Not muscular, but fit enough that Taehyung is drawn to the size of his upper arms and the definition of his chest and thickness of his thighs. The first thing that comes to Taehyung’s mind is that he must be comfortable to cuddle. A nice broad chest to rest his head on.

His hands are also big. Big enough that Taehyung feels like they should make his dick look smaller, but they don’t, so he must have a pretty substantial cock, too. Yoongi is just lounging right now, stroking himself. But Taehyung doesn’t focus on that—rather the slow, even rise and fall of his chest, and the way he’s resting on his other arm, hand curled around like a crane to toy with his own hair.

Taehyung wouldn’t mind doing that part for him. Petting him while he gets himself off.

“Is there anything in particular you want to see today?” Yoongi asks, addressing the chat. Taehyung takes a quick glance at it, blanching a little as a sudden influx of suggestions fill the chat box a few seconds later.

‘choke urself omega slut’

‘wanna see u get fucked til u cry’

‘if i was there right now i’d shove my cock in ur tiny mouth n fuck it til ur throat bleeds’

The comments make him feel sick.

What is it about sex that makes people act so vile?

Taehyung chooses to close the chat box, because the only person he’s watching this stream for is Yoongi. And if Yoongi is at all put off by his viewers' disgusting fantasies, he doesn’t show it. He leans closer to whatever device he’s filming on… a laptop, possibly? and appears to scroll through them, silently reading the suggestions he asked for.

A few moments later. “As usual—you guys have shitty ideas. Looks like it’s up to me again. But you like that, don’t you?” Yoongi’s tone turns a little more flirtatious. “You like that I’m disobedient.”

Oh.

It’s a game.

Taehyung supposes that he would know if he watched more of the livestreams, but this must be part of the show. Asking for requests when he’s already decided what to do for the night.

Yoongi shifts back again, resuming his original position, but he pulls one leg up to his chest, exposing his balls and a little hint of his hole. The very tops of his thighs are slightly shiny. “Will you be upset if I tell you I cheated?” He laughs softly, reaching between his legs to grab for something at his hole. A blue loop. “Sorry. I was impatient earlier. I was just so fucking horny, I couldn’t wait. But it’s off now—unless you think I should turn it back on.”

Taehyung’s breath catches. Some kind of toy—a vibrator? Is that what he means?

“This is a fun one, because there’s an app—I’m not sponsored, by the way—and you can play with the settings on it from there.” Yoongi drops his leg and sits up a little bit, presumably to find his phone. He keeps talking as he unlocks it. “The intensity is a lot more unpredictable—oh. Oh.”

Yoongi has his phone in his hand, and he stares at it for a moment, then glances up at the camera. Almost shyly, he lifts one hand up and waves.

Taehyung’s heart thumps in his chest, and before he can catch himself, he waves back.

Then he grabs his phone.

 

you:

i fuckign waved back

u cant see me

 

A moment later, Yoongi’s phone dings, and he snorts when he checks the messages. He must not want to create too much of a disturbance in his stream, because he quickly refocuses his attention on the vibrator app.

“Mm, like I was saying… it’s got more than like low-medium-high-prostate demolition settings, so you can have a more unique experience—I don’t know why I’m plugging this app, they really aren’t paying me.” Yoongi turns the vibrator on and releases a low groan. “So I won’t tell you the name of it. None of that ‘for exposure’ bullshit.”

Yoongi rolls onto his stomach, tugging a pillow underneath his hips and rutting down on it experimentally. It must feel good, because he props himself up on his elbows and lets his head hang between his arms while he continues to grind down. Taehyung stares, hypnotized by the fluid rolling motion of his body—it’s almost artistic, the way that he moves to seek out his pleasure. It’s almost… relaxing.

Not at all like the raw, aggressive sex he’s been subjected to in the past.

Yoongi’s soft sighs are just barely audible, sometimes pitching a little when he changes the setting on the vibrator. When the intensity hits him just right, his body stutters and pulls tight, like it wants him to thrust harder, but he never does. He never succumbs to the urge to just get off. He’s there to draw out the pleasure—tease, make it last.

“Mmm, fuck,” he eventually whispers. “‘m getting so wet. I can feel it dripping. C-Can you? Can you see it?”

Taehyung can’t—not that he’s been looking very hard—but it seems the question was supposed to be rhetorical. Yoongi turns off the vibrator app and shoves his phone away, then rolls onto his side so that his back is facing the camera. The little blue loop sticks out from between his asscheeks like a tiny tail. Yoongi hooks one slender finger through the loop and slowly tugs the vibrator free, a mess of slick clinging to its silicone body. The way Yoongi holds it up, over his face, reminds Taehyung of those Roman paintings of people with grapes. Except Yoongi sticks out his tongue and lowers the vibrator onto it before sucking it into his mouth. Taehyung watches in morbid fascination as Yoongi swallows the thing whole, then tugs it back out with a noisy pop!

“That’s enough of that,” Yoongi says, flinging the vibrator offscreen.

This isn’t anything like peeking into Jeongguk’s bedroom just a little bit too long while Zodiac is rearranging his guts. There’s something a little bit thrilling and terrifying at the same time watching those two—the way whatever emotional exists between them gets hashed out so viscerally physical. But Yoongi is a performer. This is a performance.

Yoongi grabs the meat of his ass and tugs it aside to reveal his messy asshole. “I see all you alphas in my chat, telling me the dimensions of your cocks like it’s supposed to mean something to me,” he says. Two fingers sink easily into his hole, thrusting in and coming out soaked. “What’s the point of a thick cock when a little bullet vibrator pleasures me better? If I can cum on that little thing, why do I need a cock? What are you seriously gonna do that I can’t do for myself?”

If Taehyung were to open the chat again, he suspects that he would see alphas tripping over themselves in their haste to defend their sexual prowess and make a case for why they have the Golden Penis that can make Yoongi cum.

Just the thought makes him want to roll his eyes.

“Besides—I have something fatter than all of your cocks anyway.”

Taehyung chokes.

“But I’m not gonna use it tonight,” Yoongi continues. “I’ll take some pity on you and use something you can realistically imagine as your dick.”

As he goes to fetch a new toy, Taehyung idly mulls over his attitude. It’s part of the act, certainly. Taunting an audience who already can’t have him, working them up into a frenzy. But he can’t help but wonder if it isn’t satisfactory in another way. Like some kind of middle finger to the ex who abused him.

Reclaiming sexuality that was ripped away from him, on his own terms.

In that way, Taehyung aches. Aches to tell him that it’s alright to not want to experience sex the way everyone else does. It squeezes at his throat as he watches Yoongi produce a pink silicone dildo—one Taehyung knows is considerably smaller than even his own alpha cock, and knows it’s just yet another dig at his audience. It’s part of the game, and they know it, but Taehyung wishes… can’t help but hope that Yoongi is happy. That someone will be able to make him happy.

The first intrusive thought leaks in as Yoongi teases the head of the dildo against his rim.

Does he go into heat?

It might interfere with his schedule. Then again, he might use it to his advantage. Would that be possible, though? How out of touch with reality do omegas get while they’re in heat? Taehyung has only ever encountered Zodiac in rut with Dutch, and that isn’t an experience he ever wants to repeat.

Is he on suppressants? is the next inevitable question that comes. Yoongi presses the dildo into his hole, slowly eating it up until the base is snugly against his rim. His breaths come a little faster now, and he tilts his head back. If he weren’t wearing the mask, Taehyung imagines his mouth open and eyes shut.

Suppressants are supposed to fuck with an omega’s sex drive. That was why Dutch never took them, even though he could have. That’s why Kalkaska does take them, because turning into a sitting duck for a week at the beginning of each season while he’s surrounded by alphas isn’t his idea of a good time.

But—whether or not Yoongi is on suppressants shouldn’t matter. It isn’t like Taehyung wants to see him in heat.

Of course it isn’t, a little voice in the back of his head that sounds suspiciously like Zodiac sneers. There’s only one reason you want to know if Yoongi is on suppressants.

No, no. No. He doesn’t—He won’t. He can’t. That just isn’t an option.

What if Haneul won’t give them to you? What if you never ask? Yoongi might have them Yoongi might give them to you should ask him before you run out of time don’t you hate being sick wouldn’t you rather be numb numb numb numb

Taehyung shoves his laptop aside and scrambles off the bed, accidentally catching his ankle on the bedsheet in the process. He bolts for the bathroom, pitching himself in front of the toilet, and vomiting up his anxiety. It tastes like acid and tuna salad.

As soon as his stomach quiets, he shakily hauls himself to his feet and rinses his mouth out, but even water can’t quite remove the bitter taste that’s settled in. He wanders out of the bathroom, through the living room, to the front door, then stops.

Zodiac is at the condo with Dutch.

Haneul is home.

Jeongguk… probably doesn’t want to see him.

Turning to press his back against the door, Taehyung slides down to sit on the floor, burying his head in his knees.

“I don’t want to do this,” he whispers into the darkness. His voice is choked and feeble. Wholly unconvincing. “Please don’t make me do this.”

But there’s no one else there.

Only him.

Chapter Text

“I wanna know more about mating bonds.”

“Mating bonds?” Zodiac echoes. 

Jimin squeezes his thighs together—he can still feel the ghost of Jeongguk’s knot inside of him. Every fiber of his being is screaming at him to return to his alpha, but he valiantly wrestles for control against his instincts in order to keep his ass planted on Zodiac’s couch. This is a conversation he needs to have. “The bonding process, specifically. Like, do you need a bond beforehand to mate?”

Running a hand through his hair, Zodiac chuckles dryly. “If I’m being perfectly honest, I may not be the best person to ask.”

“You’re mated, aren’t you?”

“I am,” Zodiac says, “but having an antisocial disorder affects the way I bond with people. I don’t, basically. The extended explanation is a little more complex.”

Jimin shrugs. “I have time.”

“Well, my understanding is that bonding is a sign of compatibility. If a bond forms between you and your partner, that’s generally the potential mate litmus test.”

“That’s basically what I remember from psych,” Jimin replies.

“It’s the accepted modern interpretation.”

Narrowing his eyes, Jimin regards him carefully. “...I assume you have an alternate theory.”

“Bonding and mating are independent variables,” Zodiac says. “You can mate without bonding and bond without mating. A mating bite will create a corporeal link, which is what physically ties a pair together. I know where Dutch is, I know his physical state of being, and I’ll know if he dies. A bond is an empathetic link. That’s what allows you to share thoughts and emotions. And while a bite is permanent, a bond alone can fade over time.”

“So, you know Dutch’s physical condition,” Jimin responds, “but not his mental state.”

“No, I have complete access to him. But my end of the bond basically acts like a mirror and reflects his own emotions back onto him. That sort of amplification has produced some… unfavorable circumstances, so I’ve learned how to block him out,” Zodiac says. “Unfortunately, that leaves me a little bit like a walking corpse to him.”

Jimin furrows his brow. He’s never heard of anything like that. Although, by the time he took that psych class, he was so dead set on biochem, there was no desire to pursue the subject further. “What do you mean?”

“I can cut him off from the link. The first time I did it, it scared him, because even though I was sitting right next to him, he said it felt like I’d died. But as uncomfortable for him as it is, it’s easier for him to handle our time apart that way. Otherwise, it’s just this endless feed of his own anxiety.”

“Oh,” Jimin says softly, thinking back on how detached Dutch seemed with regards to his mate. Zodiac was rarely mentioned, and when he was, it was never by name. “So you don’t… feel anything for him.”

“I would advise you,” Zodiac says slowly, carefully. Threateningly. “...not to dig any deeper about our relationship. Dutch is mine; he belongs to me.”

It’s telling in its own way, Jimin supposes, that he doesn’t want to discuss Dutch anymore. Even so, he’s already explained a lot. More than Jimin anticipated getting out of him. “He isn’t who I’m here to talk about.”

Zodiac sighs, regarding him with a certain amount of disinterest. “You’re going into heat soon, aren’t you? I can smell it on you. Well—” He makes a big show of inhaling, tasting the air with his tongue. “I can smell Jeongguk’s rut on you. He’s always been a bit of a needy bitch.”

“He’s mine now,” Jimin snaps without thinking. “Not yours.”

A coy, crooked grin spreads across Zodiac’s face. “...I suppose he is. The point I was getting to earlier is that mating bonds are a social construct. Over the course of history, mating bites were a sign of possession. This omega is the property of that alpha. But as ethics entered the picture, and it no longer became socially acceptable to abuse the binding of mating bites, this new hybridized version of mating was invented—the kind where your ‘soulmate’ is indicated by whether or not you develop that empathetic link.”

“I know… I know developing an empathetic link means that you can share thoughts,” Jimin says. “Is it possible to influence someone that way?”

“You can’t brainwash someone,” Zodiac replies, “but it would certainly be easier to persuade someone towards your way of thinking. I think psychologists call it the Frequency Theory, when a mated pair’s thought processes become so in-tune, a hive-mind situation develops. They mentally exist as a single entity. It’s supposed to be the ideal, but I’ve always wondered about it. Whether or not a dominant party exists, how much autonomy that leaves you.”

“Does a dominant party usually exist?”

Zodiac shrugs half-heartedly. “Someone needs to make decisions.”

“Is it… Is it usually the alpha?”

A soft smile spreads across Zodiac’s face. He’s handsome, Jimin thinks. Handsome, easygoing, charming. An alpha someone would die to have.

An alpha someone will die to have.

In another universe, Jimin can see himself becoming enthralled with him—mated or not. He would let Zodiac string him along to the ends of the earth and drop him off the edge. Even during the long plummet into the abyss, Jimin is sure that he wouldn’t blame Zodiac for it, either. Because Zodiac isn’t like his ex. Jimin would’ve known going into it that Zodiac’s intent would always have been to ruin him.

“A knot doesn’t make anyone superior,” Zodiac says. “If you want control, take it.”

...Take it.

He can do that.

Exhaling slowly, Jimin nods and stands up from the couch. “...Thank you. You’ve been… more than helpful, honestly.”

“Can I ask you something?”

It’s only fair. “Of course.”

“You have a conscience, right?” Zodiac asks. “That little thing that regulates your behavior?”

“Well—Yeah.”

Zodiac leans his cheek against the back of the couch and flutters his lashes and generally looks the picture of innocence. “What is it telling you?”

Jimin opens his mouth, but there aren’t words to feed his tongue. It’s obvious enough that Zodiac has an inkling that they’re having this conversation because Jimin is gathering information about a decision he needs to make. He’s going into heat—he’ll be at his most vulnerable, but so will Jeongguk. If there’s ever going to be an opportunity to take advantage of the situation to gain some sort of leverage, this is it. The idea of using their budding empathetic link to coerce him into mating doesn’t make him feel great, but it’s a means to an end. And Jeongguk isn’t unfamiliar with actions borne out of necessity rather than desire. He’ll understand.

“Nothing,” Jimin finally replies. “It isn’t telling me anything. I don’t want it to.”

This seems to confuse Zodiac. “What do you mean?”

“Jeongguk and I… we aren’t so different. I’ve spent my whole life fighting, whether it was in my head or with my fists, and I’m not proud of it. I’m not proud of how much I’ve come to hate everyone around me,” Jimin says quietly. “So, I put all those feelings in a box, and just… don’t think about it. It happened to someone else. I saw it in a movie. Cos if I thought about it all, I wouldn’t be able to sleep. It would eat me alive.”

“Has Jeongguk seen what’s in the box?”

Jimin mutely shakes his head.

“You should show him,” Zodiac says. “I’m sure he has some things to show you, as well.”

“I’m sure,” Jimin mutters, starting to turn away. Then he stops. “...Do you?”

“Do I, what?”

“Have a conscience.”

Zodiac rises from the couch and approaches Jimin. Not in a threatening way, because Jimin may have had the presence of mind to put some distance between them, but he does flinch a little when Zodiac’s hands slide up his chest and curl around his neck. His body is still sensitive, still hyperaware that this is not who he belongs with. 

This isn’t who he wants.

“I do,” Zodiac murmurs, rubbing his thumbs over Jimin’s cheeks, “but he’s at home being pregnant. Dutch is so good, you know? He’s so fucking good. So fucking perfect in every way. Wants me so badly that he’ll do anything to keep me. He loves me so much. It’s only fair if I’m good for him sometimes, too.”

“But out of sight, out of mind?” 

“...Something like that.”

Zodiac kisses him.

It isn’t the chaste, curious kind of kiss one might share with a stranger. The way Zodiac dives into him is raw and wet, like a dirty, uncensored image. Jimin opens up for him—doesn’t think about refusing because of the grip on his throat—and that strange metallic tang hits his tongue. They kiss, and it should be thrilling. It should be curling in Jimin’s gut and making him hungry, but it isn’t. 

Zodiac isn’t for him.

Jimin distantly wonders if this is how his ex felt when they kissed. Able to go through the motions, but so utterly detached. Jimin thinks they could have sex and he wouldn’t feel it. 

But he isn’t curious enough to want to test that. So, he places a hand against Zodiac’s chest and gently pushes. Zodiac releases him, and that’s it. As if nothing ever happened.

“Jeongguk belongs to me now,” Jimin says.

Zodiac nods, licking his lips, like Jimin’s taste is still there. Lingering. “Because you’re going to take him.”

“I am,” Jimin whispers.

“In that case, as you’re Jeonggukie’s new owner, I’ll make sure to file any complaints I have with management,” Zodiac says, and there’s a mischievous little twinkle in his eye, but Jimin can’t help being curious. What is it? What complaints could he possibly have? 

They step apart and the soft, hypnotic spell is broken. Zodiac blinks back to blankness and Jimin… doesn’t know exactly how to feel. What this means. But, he supposes, that’s for another day’s worries.


 

Kalkaska doesn’t smoke very often. Especially not in the Durango, because the smell clings to the leather and yellows the windows, but desperate times come for desperate measures. He keeps the driver’s side window all the way down, taking a drag off his cigarette, blowing the smoke out into the cool evening air. Dragunov is slouched in the passenger seat, occupied with some kind of mobile game.

“Has Zodiac told you anything?”

It takes Dragunov a few moments to even register the question. “‘bout what?”

“About…” Kalkaska trails off as he realizes that perhaps he isn’t sure what he means, either. “...anything. Has he talked to you?”

“Not any more than usual. Why? Has he said stuff to you?”

“Nothing.”

Literally, nothing. Again, it was Dragunov who approached him with tonight’s instructions. Kalkaska checked his phone several times, paranoid that he’d somehow missed a text, but there were no new messages from Zodiac. No missed calls, no emails— nothing. Zero communication.

But Zodiac still expects him to follow orders.

It doesn’t sit right with him at all. Dragunov is supposed to be his subordinate. Kalkaska certainly doesn’t place him at a lesser value because of that, but the hierarchy among them exists for a reason. Zodiac is purposefully—without saying it outright—pushing Kalkaska to the bottom of the pecking order. 

How much does it really matter, though? Orders are orders, whether they’re coming from Dragunov or not. Zodiac tells them what to do, and they do it.

“Huh.” Dragunov’s focus from his game starts to slip a little. “Nothing -nothing?”

Kalkaska nods, blowing more smoke.

“You two have a fight or somethin’?”

“Not that I know of,” Kalkaska replies. “He hasn’t even been around to fight with.”

Dragunov finally drops his phone into the cup holder with a groan. “No one’s fuckin’ been around and it’s so fuckin’ boring. We’ve been doin’ clean-up for Jeongguk for weeks while he wins money at poker and sulks in his room. Zodiac is home playin’ alpha, and now we get stuck with this shitty job? Like, if everyone is just gonna be doin’ their own thing, we might as well fuckin’ leave, right? I know some kids who do drug running for a couple high-profile gangs. You wanna work your way up in underworld corporate?”

“You say that like it’s an option.”

“Ain’t it?”

“We could try,” Kalkaska says. “But I think Zodiac would kill us before we got very far.”

Sighing noisily, Dragunov shifts to lean against the passenger window. “You’ve been a real fuckin’ peach, too, y’know.”

“...Sorry. I’ve had a lot on my mind.”

“I know… I know I’m a kid to you.” 

He is. They met because he’d used a fake ID to get into a club. All of them had fakes—including Kalkaska, but not because of his age. 

“I’m not good at guessing what people are thinking,” Dragunov continues, “but I know you think I’m crazy. And I know. I know I am. I know I’m fucked up, Misha.”

Kalkaska swallows thickly. They don’t call each other by their first names. It’s that distance thing.

“But we’re still… sorta like friends, right? We’re partners. That means we can tell each other shit, right?”

“...Yeah,” Kalkaska whispers.

“S-So… if you’ve got shit on your mind, you can tell me. Right?” Dragunov asks. “Cos we’re partners.”

They are.

They’re partners.

Everywhere they go, they go together. In the two years that Kalkaska has been working for Zodiac, he hasn’t gone a single day without speaking to Dragunov. Despite having polar opposite personalities, they fit seamlessly. There are no secrets between them.

Save for one thing.

“I’ll tell you, Kasey.”

It’s frightening to feel.

“I promise I will.”

A few moments later, the dark blue Chevy they’ve been waiting for rolls by and turns into a driveway a few houses down from where they’re parked. Kalkaska flicks the remains of his cigarette out the window, onto the pavement, and pops the door open.

“I’ll be right back,” he says, stepping out of the SUV.

“You sure you don’t want me to come?” Dragunov asks tiredly.

Kalkaska closes the door behind him and checks for oncoming traffic. “I’ve met him before. I’ll be fine. Be good and stay put.”

“No promises on the good part.”

Darting across the street, Kalkaska manages to reach the house just as the target is retrieving his briefcase from the back seat of his car. 

Allan Andersen—paper pusher at an office somewhere.

“Hey,” he calls, immediately catching Andersen’s attention. The man startles, accidentally bumping his head on the edge of the door in his haste to turn around. He must’ve been waiting for Jeongguk to come hunt him down. 

Andersen’s eyes widen a little bit when he recognizes the omega he’d recklessly attempted a one-night stand with at the casino. “You—Y-You, you can’t be here,” he says hastily. “I don’t know how you found me, but you can’t be here. You need to get out of here.”

“The weather is very pleasant tonight, thank you for asking.”

“I’m serious,” Andersen hisses, stepping a little bit closer. “My kids, my mate—”

“Don’t know anything,” Kalkaska interjects. “So why alert them by acting suspicious?”

Andersen huffs a very disgruntled huff and runs a hand through his thinning hair. “Look, I don’t know why you’re here—”

“Perfect time to ask then, isn’t it?” Dipping into his jacket pocket, Kalkaska pulls out a folded piece of paper and holds it out. Andersen very hesitantly takes it and unfolds it, and his eyes widen as he realizes what it is, and the amount written on it. This isn’t the kind of task Zodiac would have ever given Dragunov in the past, so it doesn’t make sense why he would start now, unless he doesn’t want Kalkaska asking any questions. 

“What— Who—?”

Kalkaska hands him another slip of paper, this one with Zodiac’s phone number written on it. “Call, and you will be informed of a meeting place if you wish to pursue this further. Otherwise, destroy the check.”

It’s a death sentence.

Despite essentially being a two-man operation, Zodiac and Jeongguk are terrifyingly efficient. Sometimes clients get their shit together and manage to pay up, even if it takes a while, but sometimes they just plain can’t—much like Jimin. And that’s when Zodiac steps in.

It comes in the form of an unsigned check. A lot of people are so desperate that they’ll do anything to get the money, but a handful are rightfully skeptical. It’s too good to be true. 

But, either way, it doesn’t matter.

Those are the people Zodiac kills. Clears their debts in exchange for their lives. It’s been their arrangement ever since Jeongguk began lending money. 

It got him a reputation. People who don’t pay him back disappear.

Unfortunately, now it seems to be Andersen’s turn.

Everything about this procedure is standard, except for one detail—Kalkaska hasn’t heard anything from Jeongguk about this. Despite Zodiac’s radio silence, Jeongguk has kept in relatively regular contact, and Andersen hasn’t come up in any of their conversations. It could be that Jeongguk is unaware of this particular deal.

And… that doesn’t sit well. At all.

Kalkaska bids Andersen goodnight and hikes back down the street to the Durango. Dragunov doesn’t say anything as he gets back into the car, just glances at him for a brief moment before staring back out the window. Slotting the keys into the ignition, Kalkaska starts the car, and then… sits.

“Let’s… Let’s go somewhere.”


 

“I, um… I’m still not… My headaches—”

Taehyung can’t even put a coherent sentence together. His desperation is tearing him from the inside out. All he can think about is the single pill lying at the bottom of the bottle in his bathroom and how, come tomorrow morning, that pill will be gone. Everything will come back. The headaches, the nausea, the misery. He’ll lose the blissful numbness he’s grown comfortably accustomed to. 

“Whatever…” He clears his stuck throat, forcing himself to spit out the words. “Whatever you gave me… Could I—I need…”

You want it.

You want it.

You want it.

“...more of it. If you don’t—” Taehyung says stiltedly. “C-Could you tell me what it is? So I can get… more of it? It really—helps.”

Even over the phone, Haneul must be able to see how pathetic he is. Reduced to a stuttering mess, crawling on his knees to his surrogate father for a few more pills. But he’s ashamed of himself, because he’s never suffered this kind of dependency before. Addiction was always Zodiac’s problem. For years, Taehyung observed his vicious battle with cocaine from the sidelines—a battle Zodiac nearly lost. 

That’ll never be me, Taehyung thought during a hospital visit while they were still waiting for him to either die or regain consciousness. 

It wouldn’t, because the idea that Zodiac was some sort of titan was just that—an idea. An illusion, propagated by Zodiac himself. Taehyung never quite drank the kool aid, and he wasn’t surprised when an overdose tried to take him out.

Taehyung wasn’t a dangerous, wealthy criminal mastermind. He couldn’t offer Jeongguk the world in his bloodstained palm, or even continue to offer his body. He had nothing, he was nothing—but at least he wasn’t a drug addict. 

That’ll never be me.

Funny how that’s turned out.

Taehyung clutches his phone a little harder, holding his breath while he waits for Haneul’s reply. 

“As much as I’d like to, those are prescription-only. I can’t just get them whenever I please. I can’t even get them. Seoyoon would need to do it, and think she would have a few questions if I sent her out to get a refill a suppressant prescription she isn’t using.”

A burst of temper flares up in Taehyung’s gut. “You’re the one who fucking gave them to me in the first place,” he barks. “If you knew you weren’t gonna be able to come up with any more, you should’ve fucking told me that in the beginning.”

“Don’t talk to me like that,” Haneul replies, an icy edge in his voice. “You knew exactly what they were when I gave them to you.”

“I didn’t—”

“Is that how it’s going to be with you? I’m the one who ruined your relationship with Jeongguk when you’re the one who couldn’t satisfy him?”

Taehyung chokes, blood running cold. “Don’t fucking—Don’t fucking talk to me about that.”

“But that’s what you tell everyone, isn’t it? The fact that he and I hate each other is just a convenient excuse. You’re addicted to suppressants because I gave them to you? You should have thought about the consequences before you put them in your mouth—even your shitty dealer friend could’ve told you that. What’s next, Taehyung? Are you going to blame a murder on me because I just so happened to give you a knife?”

Taehyung’s tongue sits so heavy in his mouth, he couldn’t reply even if he wanted to.

“...I’ll tell you what, Taehyung. If you want them so badly, why don’t you do it?”

Please. Please, God, no.

“Why don’t you kill Jeongguk for me?”

Taehyung tears the phone away from his ear and ends the call, palms sweaty, breathing labored. The pure insanity of it all. Kill Jeongguk?

Kill his best friend for a few pills?

Jeongguk’s face suddenly surfaces in his mind, eyes wild and unfamiliar as he clutches a strange omega—his mate— to his chest, threatening Taehyung’s life if he ever even thought about touching Jimin again.

Perhaps they’ve both found cheap replacements for each other.

Trembling, Taehyung dials another number and holds the phone to his ear. It rings a few times before Zodiac picks up, leaving him with a little bit of silence before prompting him with, “What is it?”

“I’m gonna lose my fucking mind,” he wheezes, grinding the heel of his hand into his eyes, as if that will plug the tears. “I can’t… I d-don’t know what to do, and I—I don’t w-wanna be alone right now.”

“Alright,” and Zodiac’s calm affirmative response oozes into Taehyung’s bones like honey. Someone, someone, is willing to listen to him. “I’ll come out.”


 

Jeongguk, it turns out, is the spitting image of his father.

It’s a little jarring, to be honest, because of Jeongguk were a little older and a little shorter, he could be Haneul. Large eyes, round nose, pouty lips—the only notable difference is a birthmark on Haneul’s left cheekbone. Schooling his poker face, Jimin approaches the table like he belongs in a five-star restaurant like The Gallery, and hasn’t just gotten off a shift at Seokjin’s family-owned Korean grill. It isn’t as if he doesn’t look the part—Jeongguk made sure that he would. He sent Jimin out yesterday with directions to a boutique with prices that would’ve made his eyeballs melt out of his skull if he didn’t also give Jimin his credit card. That didn’t stop him from having an emotional crisis in the fitting room and calling Jeongguk three times about what color blazer to buy. He eventually allowed the salesgirl to talk him into a vibrant indigo jacket textured with some kind of baroque pattern and rhinestones edging the black silk lapels. 

Just thinking about the price tag on it makes him sick, and the thought of buying it specifically for a dinner where he could easily spill something on it only makes it worse, so Jimin forces those thoughts out of his head and extends a hand towards Haneul, instead.

Haneul politely scents Jimin’s wrist, and—he sees it. That slight crinkle of the brow, the way Haneul’s eyes flicker up, but don’t quite make it to his face. 

What are you?

Jimin returns the scenting before words are exchanged. Haneul’s scent is fairly nondescript. Earthen, probably something Jimin has smelled in a candle shop.

They sit. Haneul, despite his confusion, allows Jimin to take his seat first before settling across from him. Unlike the rest of the patrons in the dining room, however, neither of them pick up their menus.

“So,” Haneul begins. “You’ve finally gotten tired of him.”

It’s interesting that this is the angle he’s approaching this from. Jimin takes his time to respond carefully. “Getting tired is irrelevant,” he says. “We mated.”

This is evidently news to Haneul because his eyes pop open wide. So, Taehyung hasn’t told him anything yet. That seems… odd. If Taehyung were to run crying to anyone, Jimin assumed it would be Haneul. 

“You mated,” Haneul repeats, like he isn’t sure he heard correctly. “You mated Jeongguk.”

Jimin nods slowly, and he tugs the collar of his shirt aside just enough to show off the marks.

“What in God’s name possessed you to do that?”

“I thought it would fix things,” Jimin replies. “If we mated, my debt would become his debt, and he would have to pay it off instead of teasing me with little chunks of money here and there.”

Haneul folds his arms across the table and leans forward, clearly interested in this story. “You planned on forcing his hand. What went wrong?”

“The debt is still completely under my name until we go to court and get a mating certificate, and, of course, he refuses to sign it,” Jimin says. “There’s something… he wants me to do for him first, but I won’t do it, so we’re just… at an impasse.”

“What is it that he wants you to do?” Haneul asks.

“I’d… rather not say.”

Jimin wonders if Haneul has an inkling even as he shrugs and seems to dismiss it. “But either way, you’re back at square one with regards to your debt,” Haneul says. 

“Yes.” Jimin pushes out a terse smile. “I suppose that’s what I get for trying to take shortcuts.”

“Pushing your luck a little too hard seems to run in your blood,” Haneul comments. Even though it seems like it could be an insult, he doesn’t say it with a snide tone. More like he feels sorry for Jimin. Which is almost worse. “I would never have guessed that you two mated. You haven’t picked up his scent at all.”

“I can come back to the casino when I change my mind,” Jimin says tartly, as if he’s quoting something that Jeongguk told him. 

It must sound enough like him because Haneul laughs and shakes his head. “I suppose that puts you and I in the same boat, doesn’t it?”

“Is it a boat worth sailing in, though?” Jimin asks coyly.

Haneul picks on his tone, and it’s so disgustingly easy the way that he returns the gaze. “You’ll just have to find out, won’t you?”

The waitress comes to take their order, and the subject of conversation shifts to more casual things. What Jimin was doing before getting into this mess, a little about his family. Just out of curiosity, Jimin tests the waters a little bit with regards to what Haneul will tell him about Jeongguk’s mother.

“You’re mated,” Jimin says, and Haneul nods. “But Jeongguk says that’s his stepmom.”

“She is. His birth mother passed away when he was only six or seven,” Haneul replies.

“Oh. I didn’t know. What happened?”

Haneul slumps back in his chair and lets out this heavy sigh, like it’s something he needs to muster the strength to talk about. “I was only eighteen when she got pregnant, and I guess we thought we could make it work, but it just… didn’t,” he replies. “So, she left to raise Jeongguk on her own, and a couple years later, I met Seoyoon. We got serious, but Jeongguk’s mother ran into some financial issues, and I suppose I felt obligated to help her out. So, I let them stay with me for a while, but she was…”

“What?” Jimin prompts curiously when Haneul doesn’t continue right away.

“I don’t mean to speak poorly of her—” And perhaps that’s the truth, and perhaps it isn’t. “—but she got into the habit of putting Jeongguk to bed, leaving, and coming back in the wee hours of the morning. It wasn’t really any of my business—whether she was partying or seeing somebody—but it happened one night that while she was coming or going, she slipped, fell down the stairs, and broke her neck.”

Jimin sucks in a sharp breath. “And she just—she died?”

Haneul nods morosely. “Found her body the next morning, called the police, all that business. Tragic, honestly,” he says. “One minute she was there, next minute she wasn’t.”

“That must’ve been hard for Jeongguk, losing his mom so young.”

“It was,” Haneul replies, “but I don’t think she did much mothering, if I’m being honest. Part of the reason things never worked out between us is that she never wanted kids. She was more focused on what she wanted, when she wanted, with whoever she wanted. I didn’t think that was any kind of environment to raise a child in, but I also wasn’t going to be saddled with that entire responsibility myself, either. I just wasn’t ready.”

“Seems like perhaps you weren’t ready for him at all,” Jimin comments. 

“He does an excellent job painting me as the villain. I’m sure he’s told you plenty of horror stories in order to keep you away,” Haneul says. “But it was a difficult adjustment for him. The omega who raised him is suddenly gone, and she’s been replaced by a nearly perfect stranger and his new mate. At that point, it was easy for him to grow up bitter. So he did.”

“Wasn’t there anyone else who could’ve taken him? Another family member? Jeongguk mentioned that he had an aunt.”

Something Jimin can only describe as panic flashes in Haneul’s eyes. It’s only there for a split second, but Jimin still manages to catch it. Guilt? “An aunt?” he repeats. “Jeongguk doesn’t have an aunt.”

“I thought he said his mother had a sister.”

“His moth—Oh. Oh.” Haneul bites his tongue and nods slowly. Pulling himself together. Sorting himself out. “That’s right, there was a sister. I think she offered to take him when she came for the funeral, but I never heard from her after that. I’m not sure what happened to her; I haven’t been able to get in contact.”

Jimin furrows his brow. “That’s… weird, isn’t it? That she would offer to take him and then drop off the map.”

“It was odd, but I wasn’t involved with their family,” Haneul replies. “I’d never even met her before the funeral.”

“And you don’t have any family that he could’ve gone with?”

“It was me or nothing.”

The urge to blurt why did you kill her, then? is on the tip of his tongue, because Haneul’s story makes complete sense. If Jeongguk’s mother accidentally fell to her death and there was no other family to push Jeongguk off on, Haneul raising him was the most logical outcome. It’s painfully easy to get convinced by this, even when Jimin knows for a fact that it isn’t true.

Only… does he?

Even though he can read Jeongguk’s emotions now, they haven’t discussed his mother’s death since they mated. Jimin doesn’t know if he’s telling the truth.

Haneul could be telling the truth.

Jimin narrows his eyes, cutting into his steak. One of them has to be lying. Or both of them are. 

Either way, there’s a crucial piece of information missing: motive.

Why would Haneul kill Jeongguk’s mother?

Only one person has the answer to that, and making him talk is very likely impossible.

As they finish dinner, the tension creeps back onto the table in place of the food. Jimin doesn’t know if he’s done a good job convincing Haneul that Jeongguk has fucked him over, because he didn’t question the story very much. Granted, Jimin didn’t question Haneul’s story very much, either. While they’ve both cautiously emerged from the safety of their sides to meet, they’re still feeling each other out. This is an incredibly delicate balancing act—one slip up on either end, and the whole charade will shatter into pieces.

“With regards to your debt,” Haneul finally says. “There are a number of ways we could work towards settling this, but I assume you haven’t come to this meeting without some idea of what you want.”

Jimin takes his napkin off his lap, neatly folds it, and places it on the table. “It’s a busy night. I’m sure the waitstaff will be thankful if we take this conversation somewhere more private, wouldn’t you agree?”


 

They end up at a hotel. Not Black Rabbit—not even a nice hotel. Just a cheap one, where the beta woman behind the counter gives them a dirty look for booking a room at 9 PM without any luggage. Dragunov doesn’t ask any questions as they squish into an elevator alongside a little girl and her mother, and Kalkaska gently shunts him into the corner, twirling the keycard between his fingers, anxiety bubbling in his gut. The girl and her mom exit on the fifth floor, and then stops again at the seventh, doors sliding open. Grabbing Dragunov’s sleeve, Kalkaska drags him into the hall before he can change his mind.

This is a mistake, he tells himself over and over. This is a mistake, I shouldn’t be doing this.

When he reaches room 717, he hesitates. 

This is a mistake.

He’s making a mistake, doing this.

Is it, though? Is it a mistake? It’s only a mistake because Jeongguk told him not to do it.

But what if he wants to?

Swiping the keycard, Kalkaska unlocks the door and steps into the room. The lights don’t matter, because Dragunov might be fucked up, but he isn’t an idiot. He knows exactly what Kalkaska meant by coming here, and doesn’t waste a second slamming him up against the back of the door, crushing the lips together.

It’s rough. There was never any expectation that it would be anything else, but it’s rough. Dragunov is rough with him, tearing at his mouth, his clothes, his body, and Kalkaska wouldn’t have it any other way. They won’t be able to work together after this—not like they used to. Crossing this distance will destroy the hierarchy they’ve so carefully maintained for the past two years.

“I swear to fuck, I dream about you all the fuckin’ time,” Dragunov growls, sqeezing Kalkaska’s thigh between his legs, humping it desperately. “Stuffin’ you so full of cock you fuckin’ cry. You gonna cry for me t’night, Misha?”

Kalkaska nips at Dragunov’s bottom lip. “You fuck me good enough, I might.”

They make it over to the bed. Some clothes are lost along the way, but the rest are stripped there, and then they’re tangled back together. Dragunov is eager, cock thick and straining, fingers hastily seeking out Kalkaska’s hole, but he isn’t the only one. Kalkaska is already wet when Dragunov’s fingers press into him, and it feels so good to be stretched and pleasured like he wants to be. Patience quickly wearing thin, Dragunov hastily yanks his fingers back out and slicks up his cock before fitting the head against Kalkaska’s rim. It burns when he pushes in, forcing Kalkaska to open up for him. When he finally bottoms out, hips snugly fit against Kalkaska’s, Dragunov pauses. They both pause, panting in each other’s air, resting a moment at the top of the ride before they take the plunge.

“Sleepin’ next to you is fuckin’ torture,” Dragunov whispers, rubbing his fingers over Kalkaska’s wet rim. “Woulda tried to put it in you anyway if I weren’t scared you’d wake up ‘n fuckin’ stab me.”

“I would’ve stabbed you if you did that.”

“Mighta been worth it. Shit, you’re so fuckin’ tight, so fuckin’ good around my cock.”

Kalkaska whines when Dragunov pulls out most of the way, then slams home hard enough to knock his breath away. Every violent thrust forces him further up the bed until he’s run into the headboard, and Dragunov gracelessly hauls him sideways. Teeth graze Kalkaska’s neck, and he groans a moment later when they sink in, drizzling little pinpricks of pain into the pleasure. Dragunov chases his release like a man possessed, hips stuttering as he abruptly peaks, emptying himself into Kalkaska’s hole. When he pulls out, he doesn’t waste time diving between Kalkaska’s legs to eat him out, pushing him over the edge into a shuddering orgasm.

Of course, it doesn’t end. Dragunov cleans him up, licking the cum splattered across his abdomen, kissing and scenting until they’re both ready to go again. 

And again.

And again.

And again.

Until Kalkaska is too bodily exhausted to do anything to push Dragunov away. Sweat slicks their skin, mats their hair, drips into their eyes. Kalkaska can taste its salty tang on Dragunov’s lips every time they kiss. He can barely feel the sex anymore—his hole is so loose and sloppy and numb. It’s too much to even get hard again. In the end, Dragunov resorts to jerking himself off one last time, cum dribbling onto Kalkaska’s messy hole.

And then they collapse.

“Wanna fuck you more,” Dragunov mumbles. “Never wanna stop.”

Ignoring the tackiness of their skin and the way the heat still burns, Kalkaska holds him close. “We need to stop.”

Dragunov nods weakly, nuzzling at Kalkaska’s chest. “Yeah.”

“...Kasey?”

“Mm?”

“Kasey.”

“Mmwhat.”

Kalkaska runs his fingers through Dragunov’s sticky hair. “Kasey, I—” His voice catches badly in his throat, like his body knows he shouldn’t say it. But he can’t stop himself. “...I love you.”

It takes his words a few moments to really sink in. With a herculean amount of effort, Dragunov props himself up on his elbow to look down at Kalkaska, searching his expression. “Do you?”

“Yeah,” Kalkaska whispers. 

Dragunov sucks in a breath and sighs it out, dipping his nose to bury in Kalkaska’s hair. “It’s different, isn’t it? From what I feel for you.”

“Does it matter?”

“I wanna mate you, Misha. I wanna make you fuckin’ mine and breed you full of pups. But I know that’s not it for you.”

It isn’t it for Dragunov, either. It can’t be. A mate and pups? There’s no way he’s been having any kind of domestic fantasies—not him. It’s the sex, the possession, not the nurturing and child-rearing. 

“It’s not it for either of us,” Kalkaska says. “You’re my best friend, and I want you to know I love you.”

Dragunov kisses his neck, kisses right at his scent gland, making Kalkaska shiver. “I love you, too. So fuckin’ much.”

We’re just machines.

That was what he always thought. Humans that Zodiac had pounded into machines and set on rails, given directives, or I’ll just kill you. Some part of him must still fear death, because he feels the tip of the knife pressing against his back every time he even thinks about stepping out of line.

But can a machine fear death?

If he can still feel, that must mean he’s got some humanity left in him, buried deep beneath the gears and wires. There’s still time for him to take control of this shell of himself and make his own decisions. Winners don’t exist on Zodiac’s battlefield—just players and losers. And Kalkaska does not intend to be a loser.


 

As soon as Zodiac steps into the room, dread rolls through Taehyung’s stomach. This isn’t the person he should’ve called. But he can’t deal with this on his own and he doesn’t have anyone else. There’s no one else. He’s alone and miserable.

Zodiac doesn’t say anything to him as he climbs onto the bed and crawls into the pile of blankets Taehyung has created in the center of the mattress. They tangle with each other, getting comfortable enough for Taehyung to tuck his face into the dark crook of Zodiac’s shoulder and hopefully stay there until the seductive embrace of eternal sleep takes him. 

“I wanna die,” he mumbles.

Zodiac’s laugh rumbles in his chest. “Do you?”

“Yes,” he says. “...No. I don’t know.”

“I can’t help you if you don’t know.”

Taehyung tightens his jaw, breath hitching. “I don’t need your fucking help.”

“Then what am I here for, Taehyung? Why did you call me?” Zodiac asks. He cards a hand through Taehyung’s hair, nuzzling his nose into it. “You need something, so why don’t you just tell me what it is?”

Ask him. 

Ask him, ASK HIM.

Taehyung bites his tongue. 

“I, um… that omega,” he blurts, needing to fill the silence. “Yoongi. You remember him?”

“Uh huh.”

“H-He does… like, cam shows. Like porn. And he asked me to watch one of his shows,” Taehyung says, “s-so I did.”

“And?”

“I liked it,” he admits. “Not… Not like I wanted to fuck him, but I liked watching him enjoy himself. It seemed… cathartic for him, almost. I wish—” His voice catches in his throat, forcing him to clear it. “I wish I could find that. Catharsis.”

Zodiac’s hand in his hair lulls him. Makes him fuzzy and unfocused and drift. “Don’t you have something?” Taehyung hears him ask.

“Once it’s gone, wh-what am I gonna do? What do you do when it’s gone?”

As much as Taehyung wants to cry, he manages to reel himself back in. Steady himself—breathe in, breathe out. Breathe in, breathe out. Zodiac has been through this before. Zodiac will be able to tell him what to do; how to survive it.

It isn’t like he doesn’t know what Taehyung is talking about. That much is clear when he whispers, “You get more. Whatever you need, you just get more of, sweetheart.”

“What if I can’t?” Taehyung whines. 

“Can’t starts to disappear once you want something badly enough. Humans can’t fly, yet we wanted to travel to space, so we worked until we were finally able to leave footprints on the moon,” Zodiac says. “It all depends on how important what you want is, and how important the things that hold you back are. Sometimes, if you think about it… the things you thought were important don’t hold as much meaning as they used to. What brings you the most satisfaction, Taehyung?”

He doesn’t have an answer.

“I don’t know.”

Zodiac kisses his forehead, ever so patient, ever so understanding. “When you know, tell me. We’ll get whatever it is that you need, alright?”


 

Once again, they’re seated across from each other, but this time it’s within the deep teal walls of one of Black Rabbit’s private rooms. Haneul requested champagne, while Jimin has opted to continue with his wine. It strikes Jimin then that this was how it was supposed to be originally; an arrangement between himself and Jeon Haneul. They’ve taken the circuitous route, but perhaps this meeting was an inevitability. Fate.  

But the delay… in hindsight, Jimin is grateful for it. Instead of being overwhelmed by his father’s sudden passing, an easy victim to take advantage of, he sits across from Haneul knowing the type of person that the casino’s owner truly is. Acknowledging the type of person that he, himself, truly is, as well. Those things alone give him an edge. This is a game, and Jimin is here to win.

“I know Jeongguk was paying your debt off in chunks,” Haneul begins. “The sums were different every time, so I can only assume payment was based on some kind of performance.”

“We played games. Liar’s Dice, roulette, Blackjack… There were extra stipulations, of course,” Jimin says, doing his best to look ashamed, and it turns out not to be all that difficult. “Sexual favors would earn me more money.”

Haneul raises one perfectly shaped eyebrow. “So, he wanted you to gamble with him.”

“It’s stupid, isn’t it?” Jimin rasps out a laugh, rubbing his arm. “Gambling my way out of a gambling debt.”

“And I suppose you would have continued to do that until your entire debt was paid off?”

“I would’ve been willing to. It might’ve been a slow process, but not as slow as trying to pay it off myself,” Jimin says. “I wasn’t ever holding out on becoming an overnight millionaire; not even with the career I wanted to pursue. That… Honestly, that would’ve been a long process as well. Thinking about it now, I’m not sure it would’ve been worth it.”

Haneul gingerly sips his champagne. It’s clear the glass is just for show—he has no intention of getting drunk. “But?”

“Paying my debt was just a front. You were right. He never does anything out of the kindness of his heart.”

The words you were right bring the ghost of a smile to Haneul’s lips. He tries to hide it behind his champagne flute, but Jimin catches it anyway. If Haneul’s ego were his dick, Jimin has his tongue on the tip, digging into the slit, tasting salty precum.

“He’d always planned to use me from the very beginning,” Jimin says, reaching up to brush his fingers over the mating bite. Jeongguk is there, like he always is. Waiting, listening. But Jimin doesn’t need him yet. “And now I can’t escape.”

“Tell me honestly, Jimin.”

Jimin feels like he should cross his fingers, but that would be too obvious, so he casually crosses one leg over the other.

“Is playing for pocket change against a seasoned opponent the way you want to pay off your debt?” Haneul asks. “Or are you willing to do something in exchange for the whole sum?”

“I’m willing to do anything at this point,” Jimin replies with a nervous laugh. “Well—almost anything. What Jeongguk asked… He lied to me.”

Haneul downs the remainder of his champagne and sets the glass on the side table. “And I suppose you aren’t very fond of liars.”

“Not particularly, Mr. Jeon.”

“Call me Haneul.” 

Jimin distantly wonders if he should start calling Haneul daddy, like Jeongguk does, but gets a little ill at the thought when he thinks about the way they’ve been almost-flirting all night. “Haneul,” he repeats. “I don’t like liars. So whatever you ask me had better be legit.”

“Well then, please allow me to explain the situation to you,” Haneul says. “You know by now that Jeongguk is unaffiliated with the casino. He plays cards and runs a loan sharking business, but those are only the surface details. Even though Jeongguk is lending money to people like your father—people who can’t possibly pay him back—it always struck me odd that he continues to make a profit. I’m sure you’re aware that he has this… business partner.”

He can only be referring to Zodiac. Jimin nods. “I’ve met him once or twice.”

“I’m not exactly sure how they’ve arranged it, but he’s the reason that Jeongguk doesn’t lose profit. When Jeongguk’s clients can’t pay up, they’re contacted by his partner with a money offer. After that… they disappear,” Haneul says. “I know because I sent someone to borrow money from him. stopped hearing from him after he went to meet with Zodiac.”

Jimin’s blood runs cold. He hadn’t given much thought to Jeongguk’s income because his wealth was so obvious. But when Jeongguk said everything I have, I have because of him, that was it. That was Jimin’s clue. Jeongguk wanted money, and Zodiac wanted to kill people.

So they came up with an arrangement that satisfied both of them.

“...What is it you want from me, Haneul?” Jimin asks cautiously.

Haneul folds his hands neatly in his lap. He’s a small person. Smaller than Jimin; very unassuming. It must work in his favor a lot. Helpless little alpha.

“I want you to get rid of him for me,” he says. “If you really think about it, this works in your favor, too, because I don’t believe that you’re stupid, Park Jimin. I think you know very well the kind of power Zodiac has over Jeongguk. If anything were to happen to your mate, because of him, think how terribly that would affect you. So, it’s really to your benefit to be rid of him.”

Kill Zodiac.

A couple million dollars seems like a toddler’s puzzle in comparison.

Jimin tries to wet his lips, but his whole mouth has gone dry. “And how do you suggest… getting rid of him?”

“I’m comfortable leaving it in the hands of your creativity,” Haneul replies. “I know it’s a lot to ask of you, but I promise to make it worth your while. Take some time. Think about it. I can erase your debt for you, but if there’s something above and beyond that you want… It’s only fair, you know?”

He knew Haneul would ask him something outlandish, but killing Zodiac, of all people, was not what he expected. As far as he knew, there was no relationship between the two of them. Unless there was a piece he was missing. But he’d fully anticipated being asked to kill Jeongguk. Haneul might have changed his mind after learning that he and Jimin were mated, and killing a mate is like suicide, but there’s something… there’s something mixed up in all this. Some piece he’s missing. 

“I’ll think about it,” Jimin replies.

Haneul smiles at him. Smiles, sending a shiver down Jimin’s spine. This man… 

“I look forward to doing business with you.”

...This man is evil.

Chapter Text

Seokjin only scans the paper for a second before gently setting it aside on the desk. He folds his hands neatly in his lap and stares up at Jimin, caught somewhere between confusion and disappointment. The air in the office is bitter cold, and Jimin bites the inside of his cheek to keep his teeth from chattering. 

“What is this?”

“My letter of resignation,” Jimin replies. “I put in my two weeks at the bookstore, too.”

“Have you found employment elsewhere?” Seokjin asks slowly. It’s obvious that there’s another question sitting on the tip of his tongue.

Jimin hesitates, then opts for honesty and shakes his head. “No. I haven’t. I decided… I’m not finishing my degree, either.”

Seokjin’s eyebrows skyrocket. “You’re what?”

“I can’t do it, Seokjin, I can’t—” Breaking off, Jimin agitatedly runs a hand through his hair and fixes his gaze elsewhere in the room. There’s an old photograph of Seokjin’s parents together in front of the restaurant when it first opened hanging on the wall near the door. They’re glowing, excited smiles stretched across their faces. Proud of turning their dream into a reality. “I can’t do it.”

“Jimin… If you’re worried you’ll fail—”

“It isn’t about that.”

“Then what is it about?” Seokjin demands. “I’ve watched you work yourself to the bone for the past two years—you’ve come in for your shifts so fucking exhausted you could barely stand and now you’re just going to quit? If this is about that alpha, I swear to fucking God—”

A hot burst of anger roils in Jimin’s gut. “That alpha is my mate. So what if it has to do with him? So fucking what?”

“Because I’m not going to watch you throw everything away just for some alpha who waved a few stacks of cash in front of your face! I know you’re in a difficult situation, but I never thought you’d stoop so low as to sell yourself off to the highest bidder.”

“Then maybe you don’t know me as well as you think you do,” Jimin says through his teeth. He snatches his resignation letter off the desk and crumples it, shredding the paper, tossing the pieces in Seokjin’s direction. “I won’t bother coming in on my next shift, since whores don’t work in nice establishments like yours.”

It takes every scrap of willpower Jimin possesses not to cry as he storms out of the office. Seokjin calls after him, but Jimin ignores him, striding across the dining room and exiting the restaurant. As he steps out onto the sidewalk, his phone vibrates in his back pocket. Assume it’s Seokjin, Jimin ignores it while he crosses the parking lot to get to the Mustang. When pulls his phone out to check, however, the missed call is from Yoongi. Even though he will undoubtedly be the first person Seokjin runs his mouth to about Jimin quitting, there’s no way that’s what this call can be about. So, Jimin takes a deep breath, steels himself, and calls Yoongi back.

“Hey,” he says when Yoongi answers, doing his best to maintain his composure. “Sorry, I was in the bathroom. What’s up?”

“So… A friend of Taehyung’s called me this morning asking for a favor.”

Jimin can’t help furrowing his brows, because—as far as he’s aware—Taehyung doesn’t exactly have friends. “Oh?”

“That omega you work with. The one at the bookstore, Dutch,” Yoongi says. “Says his mate’s gonna be away on business and he’s nervous about bein’ alone this close to his due date. So he asked if I knew anyone he could stay with, and like—I dunno, I kinda got the impression that he was asking if he could stay with me. So I told him he could.”

“Wait… Wait, how do you two know each other?” Jimin asks. He can only remember a handful of occasions when they might’ve come into contact with one another.

“Oh. I might’ve gone on a date with Taehyung while you were in heat. We met up with Dutch and his mate for lunch, but Taehyung and I, we’ve… kinda been keeping in contact. He watched one of my shows. He’s… cool, I guess.”

Jimin is at a loss for how to respond. On one hand, he’s happy that Yoongi is making friends, but on the other hand, Taehyung might have some kind of vendetta against himself or Jeongguk. And that places Yoongi directly in the crossfire. But the biggest detail that catches Jimin’s attention is the fact that Dutch said his mate was going to be away on business.

What the hell does that mean?

“You guess?” Jimin teases, keeping his tone light.

“It’s… It’s okay, isn’t it? That he and I are talking?”

“Of course. Why wouldn’t it be?”

Yoongi sighs noisily into the receiver. “I dunno. Things are just complicated for him, aren’t they? The people he’s caught between.”

“Yeah, but… It might be good for him, y’know?” Jimin says. “To have someone to talk to that isn’t involved. You can be more of an objective perspective.”

“...Yeah. I guess so. Ah—hold on, Seokjin is calling me.”

“Okay, I’m heading out to the casino,” Jimin says quickly, eager to evacuate the conversation. “Talk to you later.”

“Mmkay. Bye, Jimin.”

Halfway to the Black Rabbit, his phone rings again, but he isn’t about to answer and get chewed out a second time, so he lets it go to voicemail and turns the shitty pop song on the radio up. He understands why Seokjin is upset. For the past three years, this degree has meant everything to him. Even though quitting school would’ve given him a more flexible work schedule, it was something he just couldn’t let go of. Biochemistry was more than just a future career. If he could figure out how to chemically alter his scent, then he would be normal. Society would accept him.

Someone might love him.

But someone does love him.

So it doesn’t matter that much anymore.

Jeongguk is still asleep when Jimin arrives. The scent of alcohol is pungent within the suite. There’s been little communication between them since Jimin’s meeting with Haneul last night; as far as he knows, Jeongguk very likely got wasted and passed out to alleviate his anxiety, and Jimin doesn’t blame him for that. He finds his mate on the bed, haphazardly tangled in the sheets. Crawling up beside him, Jimin kisses his temple and strokes his hair, hoping to gently coax him into consciousness. Eventually, Jeongguk does stir and his eyes flutter open.

“‘minie?” he mumbles, nuzzling a little closer. “Time ‘s it?”

“A little after ten. How are you feeling?” Jimin asks. “Is your stomach upset? Do you need me to get anything?”

Jeongguk groans softly, clutching blindly at the front of Jimin’s shirt. “Jus’ stay here.”

Silence settles after that, long enough that Jimin thinks Jeongguk has fallen back asleep. He toys with a piece of hair hanging over Jeongguk’s forehead, winding it around his finger. The roots are really starting to show.

“You met Haneul last night,” Jeongguk suddenly says, sounding a little bit more awake.

“Mmhmm. I did. But I think you’re gonna wanna be a little more awake while we talk about it.”

It’s a struggle, but Jeongguk is determined. Jimin helps him drag himself out to the kitchen to make coffee. There are a few empty bottles littered around the suite, which Jimin silently collects and tosses into the garbage while Jeongguk pulls his shit together. Once they’re seated on the couch, and Jimin ignores Jeongguk’s whines for him to sit on his lap, they’re ready to talk.

“So?” Jeongguk prompts, sipping his coffee. “What happened?”

“I told him that our arrangement isn’t working anymore—like with the mating certificate and whatnot.” 

The Mating Certificate Story was what they had both settled on being the most viable explanation for them having a disagreement; that both of them had tried to force the other’s hand, but Jeongguk ultimately had won. It doesn’t make either of them out to be completely innocent, which adds a few threads of legitimacy. The reality of it is that, at one point in time, both of them were out to fuck the other over, but now it just happens to be that uniting forces will ultimately be the most beneficial. And they aren’t so stupidly attached that they can’t fake an argument. The very foundation of their relationship was built on distrust; everyone knows that. They can use it to their advantage.

“He offered me a deal,” Jimin says. “I can do something for him, and he’ll erase my debt. The whole sum, gone.”

Jeongguk nods slowly, gripping his mug a little tighter. “I figured he would take that route. What did he want you to do?”

“Get rid of Zodiac.”

Confusion flashes onto Jeongguk’s expression, and Jimin still feels similarly. The request still rings funny to him as he says it out loud. Jeongguk sets his mug down on the coffee table. “Zodiac?” he asks. “What the hell does Haneul want him gone for? That’s—They barely know each other. I don’t think they’ve ever even spoken.”

“I’m honestly really confused by it, too,” Jimin admits. “It wasn’t… what I was expecting.”

Jeongguk scoffs humorlessly. “No fucking shit. I thought he’d ask you to kill me.”

“I thought that, too, but… we’re mated, remember? It’s hard enough when a mate dies of natural causes or in an accident—I can’t imagine the psychological damage it would do to kill your own mate,” Jimin says. “Maybe Haneul decided not to chance my refusal.”

“But that doesn’t—” Cutting himself off, Jeongguk slumps against the back of the couch with an exasperated sigh. He squeezes his eyes shut and pinches the bridge of his nose. “As far as he knows, I lied to you our whole relationship and kicked you out cos you aren’t doing what I want. Even if it would hurt you, it’s… based on those circumstances, killing me isn’t that unreasonable. Not for what he’s offering. Several million dollars to get rid of a shitty mate? If it were me, I’d take that in a heartbeat. Who fucking cares if I need a few years of therapy afterwards? At least I would be able to afford it.”

“So you think he’s got some kind of ulterior motive?”

“I’d consider asking Zodiac if he’s done anything to piss Haneul off, except we haven’t really been talking the past couple weeks,” Jeongguk replies sourly. 

Jimin bites the inside of his cheek, anxiously twisting his fingers while he tries to figure out the best way to word his question. He has to ask, though. He has to. Not sharing information is going to get one of them killed. “Haneul… told me something. About your relationship with Zodiac.”

Jeongguk cocks an eyebrow. “Oh?”

“...About how you two do business together.”

“Oh.”

His tone is considerably colder, like he knows immediately what Jimin must be referring to. “I’m just trying to understand the situation, Jeongguk—”

“I know.” Jeongguk sucks in a measured breath. “What did he tell you?”

“That you loan money to clients you know won’t be able to pay you back. He said he hired someone to get a loan from you and miss the payment deadlines, and the guy got contacted with an offer from Zodiac. Then Haneul never heard from him again.” When Jeongguk doesn’t reply right away, and Jimin can’t readily discern his mood, he fumbles to fill in the silence. “I’m not—I’m not accusing you of anything, I’m just… This is what he told me, and if it isn’t the truth then—”

“He’s dead.”

Jimin bites down hard enough on his bottom lip to draw blood.

“They’re all dead,” Jeongguk says tonelessly. “We killed them.”

“Both… of you?”

Jeongguk smiles, but the movement of his face is stiff. The smile doesn’t reach his eyes. “I suppose I might as well tell you now, in the event that you accidentally do another one of your memory deep-dives and see something unsavory,” he replies. “It’s easy enough to absolve myself from the blame. Zodiac is the evil one, right? He kills cos he’s addicted to it—cos it gets him high. Those things are bad, right? It’s different if you have a reason. I can think better of myself for it. But… I’m not. I’m not any better, Jimin.”

“You don’t have to tell me right now,” Jimin says, but Jeongguk shakes his head.

“It’s better if you just know,” he replies. “I singled out alphas like Allan Andersen. Alphas with mates and kids—ones who come here to blow all of their hard-earned money and leave their mates to figure out how they’re going to put food on the table. I went after them and did whatever I had to do to convince them to get a loan that I knew they’d never be able to pay back. Then, once they were really panicked, Zodiac would contact them with an offer to pay it all off. We’d all meet somewhere, and…” Jeongguk stares out the window, out across the skyline. He idly runs a hand through his hair. There’s something… wistful about him, in that moment. “We’d kill them.”

Jeongguk is a lot of things, Jimin reflects. A lot of things that, when Jimin thinks about them, don’t necessarily add up to paint a coherent picture. During their time together, Jeongguk has admitted to a lot of psychological trauma. How convenient of him to always have some kind of sob story in order to keep Jimin in his pocket. And even though Jimin has no doubt that a lot of it is real, that doesn’t mean Jeongguk isn’t subtly using it to manipulate him.

Zodiac and Jeongguk used to run drugs, so they had to be affiliated with gangs and dealers. It would’ve been easy enough for them to build their own monopoly, but they didn’t. An empire isn’t what Jeongguk is after.

“You’re a serial killer,” Jimin says softly.

A cacophony of emotions gust through Jeongguk. Guilt, shame, bitterness. But he keeps his chin held high like he always does and leans forward to retrieve his coffee. “I guess so.”

Jimin doesn’t know what to say.

“I’m too scared to kill Haneul,” Jeongguk says, “so I take it out on people who are too weak to fight back.”

“Does anyone else know?”

“Kalkaska and Dragunov know about the way our business works,” Jeongguk replies. “I think a number of people, not just Haneul, have suspicions. But Zodiac is the only one who knows how… involved I am.”

Silence falls while Jimin struggles to collect his thoughts. The idea of Jeongguk committing murder isn’t news; he’s mentioned it in passing more than once. Jimin just didn’t think it would be this… calculated. That he and Zodiac have some kind of system for it. It’s startling a startling revelation, to say the least.

Jimin remembers what Zodiac said to him, the night they met:

“You’re about to get dragged underneath the wheels of an ugly machine. I don’t need to be here. My mate is pregnant and I should be at home, nesting with him, but instead, I’m watching Jeongguk drive a behemoth off the side of a cliff. Maybe it’s just my fascination with destruction.”

What exactly that behemoth is steadily begins to grow clearer. It has its roots in Haneul, but it’s so much bigger and more complex than Jimin ever imagined it would be. Zodiac is right—the wheels will crush him if he isn’t careful.

“We can… We can discuss it later. If Haneul doesn’t know about it, it isn’t relevant right now,” Jimin forces himself to say. 

Mutely, Jeongguk nods.

“There’s something I’ve been kind of… wondering about. You don’t have to go into any kind of detail if you don’t want, but… it’s been bothering me since last night,” Jimin says. “Haneul, has he… touched you? Ever?”

Jeongguk pushes his tongue against the inside of his cheek. “Did he say something to make you think he might’ve?”

“It wasn’t anything he said, exactly. It’s difficult to describe,” Jimin responds. “Like, we were flirting all night. Dutch even insinuated that I should use my body to get through to him.”

“And that’s the leap you’ve decided to make?”

“I’m just trying to put together what happened,” Jimin says tersely. “If you don’t want to tell me, then… whatever. It’s your business, not mine.”

There’s a pack of cigarettes sitting on the table, and Jeongguk leans forward to snatch it, as well as the lighter lying next to it. Jimin still can’t quite discern his mood, but it seems like a nerve has been hit. Jeongguk lights a cigarette and puffs out a long breath of smoke.

“He’s never touched me,” Jeongguk replies, “but sometimes I get the impression that he wants to.”

“Has it always been like that?”

Jeongguk shakes his head. “Only since I’ve gotten older. And he isn’t like that with his other kids. Just with me.”

“What makes you feel like he’s singling you out?” Jimin asks.

“I’ve been whoring myself out since I was fifteen. I think I know how to recognize when someone wants me,” Jeongguk says dryly. “He’s never said anything outright, but he looks a little too long. Zodiac was actually the one who pointed it out—that it was weird how much Haneul looked at me. We haven’t seen each other in months, though, so I haven’t thought about it in a while.”

“Do you think… if he weren’t so scared if you, he’d try something?”

“I’ve got no fucking idea and I’m not interested in finding out.”

“I just feel like there’s something I’m missing,” Jimin finally says with a heavy sigh. “I don’t believe you’re lying, Jeongguk, but it’s like…”

“I’m missing information, too,” Jeongguk finishes.

“...Yeah. It isn’t your fault, either. I mean—if you hadn’t seen Haneul push your mom down the stairs, this would be even more fucking complicated. And I don’t doubt what you saw, but it still leaves the question of why he did it? Why did he kill her?”

Jeongguk doesn’t respond immediately. He puffs on his cigarette for a while, seeming far away. “I wish I knew,” he whispers.

“As long as we’re missing a motive, it’s gonna be really difficult to decipher what exactly the correlation her death and his treatment of you have to do with each other,” Jimin says. “I happened to ask about your aunt—the one you saw at the funeral—and at first he denied you having one at all, then he changed his story and said he was never able to get in contact with her.”

“Either it’s a fluke that she disappeared, or Haneul had a hand in getting rid of her.”

“But that’s weird, isn’t it?”

“What is?”

“He kills your mother,” Jimin says, “and then he kills the aunt that could potentially take you away.”

Jeongguk shrugs a shoulder. “I always assumed it was because she knew something about her sister’s death.”

“But how could she? You were the only witness, and no one has ever had any reason to doubt Haneul’s story. Even the one he told me last night was convincing enough.” Jimin agitatedly rakes a hand through his hair. “And now he wants to get rid of Zodiac. He’s trying to isolate you.”

“Am I some sort of genetic experiment or something?” Jeongguk snarks. “What the fuck does that get him?”

“I’ve got no idea.”

“What are you gonna do about Zodiac, anyway? There’s no way you’ll be able to kill him,” Jeongguk says. “In fact, he might be more inclined to kill you just because you’re my mate.”

That isn’t particularly surprising, and something Jimin has considered. Honestly, he only entertained the idea of actually killing Zodiac for a handful of seconds after their meeting ended. Realistically, it’ll be too difficult. Jimin’s gotten into his fair share of scuffles, but exchanging a few punches with a jock alpha is worlds away from murdering a seasoned killer. 

“Maybe he’s feeling amicable.”

“He’s always amicable,” Jeongguk snorts. “That’s his schtick.”

Jimin glances away and shrugs. “Maybe he wants something.”

A pin could be heard dropping in the silence. Jimin feels the anger broiling in Jeongguk’s chest even before he sees it in his eyes. 

“You aren’t making deals with him,” Jeongguk says icily. “No fucking way, Jimin.”

“Jeongguk—”

“No. If you need something done about him in order to get your debt cleared with Haneul, I’ll take care of him myself.”

The mere suggestion is enough to make Jimin panic. He lurches forward, gripping Jeongguk’s arm. “That’s fucking suicide,” he hisses. “Don’t you fucking dare.”

“Then it looks like you’d better come up with something else to offer Haneul,” Jeongguk replies, shaking Jimin off and standing up. “Or just kill him. Then I’ll pay off your debt.”

Jimin sighs a noisy sigh and scrubs his eyes with the heels of his hands. “I know what I want, though. And I need Haneul alive a little longer for it.”

“...What do you want?”

“I want this casino.”

Jeongguk whips his head around to stare at Jimin incredulously. “What the hell do you want the casino for?”

Last night, Jimin barely got any sleep, thinking about how to proceed. Even if he manages to kill Zodiac like Haneul wants, where will that leave him? His debt will be cleared, but Jeongguk will be a sitting duck for whatever it is that Haneul wants him for, because—whether Jeongguk wants to acknowledge it or not—Zodiac is protecting him. If Jimin figures out something else to offer up in exchange, it still doesn’t erase the very real potential of Haneul continuing to pursue Jeongguk. And then, even if Jimin’s debt is cleared… he’s left with nothing. Back to exactly how things were before his father died. Working to the bone to pay expenses and chasing a dream in order to escape himself.

No, he wants something. 

He wants the Black Rabbit.

“I want a future,” Jimin says. “I put in my two weeks at the bookstore and I told Seokjin I was quitting at the restaurant. I’m not going back to university in the fall.” Worrying his bottom lip, Jimin twists the hem of his shirt between his fingers. He’s had this t-shirt since tenth grade; he got it for a couple bucks at a thrift shop. “Maybe it’s selfish, but I just feel like… after all the shit I’ve been through, I deserve something. And after all this is over… we can run it together. We can both have a future.”

The tension in Jeongguk’s body evaporates, and he wanders back over to the couch. He stubs his cigarette out in the ashtray and kneels down at Jimin’s feet, folding his arms over Jimin’s thighs. “I’m sorry,” he murmurs. “I’m so used to fending for myself that I forget I’m not trying to survive alone anymore. Mm… You know what’s funny?”

“No. What?” Jimin asks, petting Jeongguk’s hair.

“Zodiac told me early on that I should just step back and leave things to you. That you’ll figure a way out of this situation, and take the rest of us with you. And I’m honestly starting to think he’s right. You really are our only hope.”

Jimin isn’t really sure what part of that is funny, but it probably doesn’t matter very much. He curls his fingers around behind Jeongguk’s ear, gently rubbing over his scent gland until his chest rumbles in a quiet purr. A smile tugs at Jimin’s lips. A little bit of attention goes a long way with this alpha. 

“No pressure, right?” he jokes.

Jeongguk laughs softly like they aren’t discussing whether or not to commit a murder. “None at all.”


 

Yoongi still hasn’t managed to get ahold of Jimin by the time a knock sounds on the apartment door. Upset as Seokjin is over Jimin quitting at the restaurant, Yoongi is sure he has his reasons. But those can be discussed later. What he never got a chance to ask while they were on the phone was if it was a good idea to let Dutch stay with them. And since Jimin is ignoring him, Yoongi has to make that decision on his own.

Zodiac greets him with a pleasant smile, if a little apologetic. 

“Hey,” Yoongi says, stepping back to let him in. “Sorry things are a little messy, I obviously wasn’t expecting company.”

“No—I should be the one apologizing. I didn’t mean to spring this on you,” Zodiac says. “I’m just really worried about leaving Dutch alone for too long. Him going into labor while I’m away and having to call nine-one-one himself fucking scares me.”

Yoongi is pretty sure that Jimin and Zodiac know each other, but Jimin’s never said anything about him. But he was so doting and considerate to Dutch during their date that he can’t help but think Zodiac is being earnest. “I get it, man,” he says. “Are you sure you’re alright with him staying here, though? We’ve only met once.”

“Taehyung speaks really highly of you. It isn’t like there’s no one else he could stay with, but they’re, like…” Zodiac purses his lips and rolls his eyes while he thinks. “Honestly, they’d be totally useless with a pregnant omega.”

“I’m not sure how much more useful I’ll be… I don’t even go through my heats. I don’t know jack shit about pregnancies.”

Zodiac dismissively waves a hand. “You just need to make sure he eats, that’s all. He bitches at me about his weight, but I think he’ll be more cooperative with you.”

Yoongi shows him around the three-bedroom apartment. It was an unspoken agreement when they rented the place that the third bedroom would be kept as a guest room instead of finding another flatmate. Jimin had come to stay with them a few times, but Yoongi got the impression that living with them was difficult. Seokjin was his manager and Yoongi pulled in a fair amount of cash doing porn—Jimin was working two minimum wage jobs and felt… inferior, he supposes. Helping him wasn’t a big deal to them, but Jimin never liked being anyone’s charity case. That’s probably why he’s so hell-bent on doing whatever he has to in exchange for his father’s debt to be paid. He wants to feel like he earned it.

Zodiac seems pleased enough with the accommodations. He’s a strange alpha, Yoongi thinks. Perhaps he’s just jaded, but Yoongi has gotten so used to unwanted attention that Zodiac’s complete lack of interest in him throws him off. Especially when Zodiac knows he does cam shows for a living. Alphas are always up in his business about that—mated or not. Zodiac just… isn’t. Doesn’t ask him any weird questions, doesn’t ask to see his room, doesn’t make any indications that he wants to be scented. He’s really there just to see the apartment and get back to his mate. Yoongi sits on the arm of the couch with a huff after Zodiac excuses himself to use the bathroom.

Perhaps college boyfriends really aren’t shit.

“You’re really alright if he stays here?” Zodiac asks when he returns. “I’ll compensate you for your time—”

Yoongi waves him off. “Don’t worry about it. If I need anything, I’ll just cash it in as a favor. Yeah?”

“That’s totally fine with me,” Zodiac replies breezily.

“This… business, though. Will we still be able to get in contact with you?”

“I’ll be in town,” he says, “I just can’t promise I’ll answer my phone all the time. My father is the CEO of one of those big, important corporations and he’s got this week-long conference shit he needs me to attend if I’m ever gonna take his spot on the board once he retires. Like, it’s fucking stupid, but I don’t really have an excuse not to be there when all I’m doing is sitting at home with my mate waiting for the baby to pop out.”

Ah… a corporate brat. At least he’s polite. “So, if I call you six times in a row, I’m not being annoying, it’s probably because Dutch has gone into labor and I just want you to get your attention,” Yoongi says, only partially joking.

“Oh God, please don’t feel like you’re bothering me if he’s gone into labor,” Zodiac says with a laugh. “I’ll drop whatever I’m doing as soon as I can.”

Yoongi nods, fiddling with the cuffs of his sleeves. Nice as Zodiac is, the alpha’s scent is starting to get to him a little bit. It’s subtle, but overwhelming nevertheless. “Feel free to bring him by whenever.”

“Is tonight too soon?”

“No, I mean…” Yoongi makes a vague gesture in the direction of the room. “He’ll probably want to spend some time with you in there, getting settled. I’ll let my roommate know.”

“You’re sure you don’t mind?” Zodiac asks for what has to be the eighth time.

“Yes, I’m sure I’m sure. Jimin has stayed with us off-and-on; that’s why we have a guest bedroom. For guests,” Yoongi replies. 

Zodiac smiles sheepishly and extends a hand, which Yoongi gingerly takes. “Sorry… I’m a little stressed.”

When Yoongi leans down to run his nose over Zodiac’s wrist, he’s startled by the sharpness of his scent. It’s tangy and metallic—not exactly unpleasant, but not something he finds attractive. He opts to decline being scented back and releases Zodiac’s hand, which doesn’t seem to offend him at all. “Don’t worry about it,” Yoongi says. “You’ve got a lot going on.”

“I really owe you,” Zodiac responds. “Thank you so much, Yoongi.”

And that’s the end of it.


 

Kalkaska flips the bathroom lock and crawls into the bathtub, shoving himself as far into the corner as he can, before seeking out Zodiac’s name in his phone. It rings a couple of times, and Kalkaska bites his tongue, praying that he doesn’t end up getting sent to voicemail. God seems to take pity on him today, however, and the ringing cuts off. Zodiac doesn’t say anything, but Kalkaska knows he’s listening.

“I gave Andersen the check,” he starts. “He should contact you soon. Got the feeling he’d rather avoid me showing up at his house again.”

“Thank you, Kalkaska.”

“You…”

“...I, what?”

“You’ve been ignoring me,” Kalkaska says. 

“I’m sorry, did you need something?”

“I just want to know what the fuck is going on. Jeongguk has only texted me about a couple clients, and you haven’t contacted me at all. Does Jeongguk even know you’re making an offer to Andersen?”

“My darling Misha… I seem to recall giving that particular task to Kasey, not you. So how come you ended up doing it?”

“Because I’m the one who always does it,” he replies. “Of course Dragunov passed it off to me.”

“Mm… I suppose I understand what he was trying to do, but it still wasn’t what I asked,” Zodiac says dismissively. “It’s been a while since I’ve had to punish him for anything. Guess the big dogs still piss on the carnet every now and then. Are you at the hotel?”

Kalkaska bites the inside of his cheek. It would be nice if the bathtub would swallow him up right about now. “...No.”

“I’m assuming the two of you are together, unless Jeongguk is having you do something for him. But it’s—what, noon? Where the hell are you?”

“We’re… not at the hotel,” Kalkaska replies lamely, which only serves to piss Zodiac off.

“Misha.”

Kalkaska’s heart is hammering so hard, he’s sure the noise can he heard through the receiver. If someone had told him two years ago that an eighteen-year-old kid would be the one to put the fear of God in him, he would’ve laughed. But here he is, hiding in a hotel where Zodiac can’t find him, and it isn’t funny. It isn’t funny, the things he knows Zodiac will do to him if he disobeys. He has no protection; only himself. 

“...Are you tired of it?”

He is.

So, so incredibly tired. 

“If you want to get out, now’s the time. But I like to think we know each other fairly well, and I think you’re just as interested in seeing the fireworks as I am,” Zodiac purrs. “So, why don’t you stay quiet and keep your head down just a little longer?”

“I’m gonna kill you someday,” Kalkaska blurts, unsure what’s come over him, but he keeps going, because it feels good to say. “I’m gonna kill you, Zodiac.”

Zodiac chuckles, soft and amused. “I’ll hold you to that.”


 

Taehyung floats through his day in an eerie kind of calm. He doesn’t physically feel anything, since the suppressant blocks the majority of it out, but it’s like the moon is about to crash into earth. He’s standing there, watching it as it grows larger and larger, shaking the ground with the intensity of its descent, but he’s so totally helpless to stop it that he’s shocked out of his own panic. There’s nothing he can do, so why bother? Why think about it?

He goes to sleep that night and wakes up the next day.

The moon hits.

Nausea keeps him in bed all morning. Every time he even thinks about moving, a wave of dizziness washes over him; he isn’t sure how it’s even possible to feel dizzy lying down. But he is. The whole world is swimming on rocky seas and he can’t do fuck all to stop it. He manages to drag himself out of bed for a glass of water, but two sips is two sips too much. His phone makes noise, trying to get his attention, until he can’t stand its whining any longer and he silences it. 

By mid afternoon, the sickness has only gotten more intense.

This is it, he thinks, staring at his ceiling. This is how I die.


 

Min Yoongi

 

You:

did you move my suppressants?

 

Seokjin:

 

no

are they not in the medicine cabinet?

 

You:

 

that’s where i thought but i can’t find them

 

Seokjin:

ok… you check the kitchen?

 

You:

that’s what I’m doing rn

Dutch is helping me look but we aren’t finding them

 

Seokjin:

did they get thrown away somehow?

 

You:

idk y they would’ve

 

Seokjin:

i did throw out a few bottles of expired things while i was cleaning last week but i was sure i set your suppressants aside 

 

You:

fuck

well

idk if i filled my pill box before or after u did that

but i swear i saw the bottle yesterday

 

Seokjin:

are you sure no one took them on accident?

 

You:

who would take them

 

Seokjin:

you said Dutch is helping you look?

 

You:

WHY would Dutch have taken my suppressants

it’s a little late for that don’t u think

 

Seokjin:

i’m not saying he did anything

i’m just saying the last time you saw them was before he got here

and now they’re missing

 

You:

sounds an awful lot like you’re accusing him of something

 

Seokjin:

i’m not accusing him of anything

it might’ve been an accident

 

You:

i know you’re upset about what’s going on with Jimin

 

Seokjin:

Jimin can go fuck himself for all i care

find your suppressants

i’ll be home later

 

You:

okay

w/e


 

Min Yoongi

 

You:

i’ve lost my suppressants

 

Jimin:

what??? 

 

You:

yeah

idk,

i don’t really know what to do

 

Jimin:

go to the pharmacy???

 

You:

i can’t get a refill on it until my current one expires

they’ve got that shit locked down tighter than area 51

drug laws & that shit

 

Jimin:

then i’ll get one filled out?? jeongguk will pay for it i’m sure

 

You:

tbh it’s not worth it

by the time the request goes through i’ll already be in heat

it’s gonna suck but

it’s just really gonna suck

 

Jimin:

Yoongi…

 

You:

they’ll get me sorted once i’m in the hospital

maybe i can just get back off suppressants

 

Jimin:

you haven’t gone into heat since you were a teenager

it’s been YEARS

 

You:

i’m aware, Jimin

 

Jimin:

i don’t want you to have to go through this

 

You:

you’ve got your own shit to worry about, okay?

when i start feeling bad, i’ll have Seokjin take me to the hospital

i’ll be fine, Jimin

 

Jimin:

how is Dutch? is he doing alright?

 

You:

he’s fine

he’s nested with some of my clothes

idk if that’s a pregnancy thing

 

Jimin:

him & Zodiac are kind of distant

 

You:

really?

i didn’t get that impression at all

 

Jimin:

i’m sure they don’t act that way in public

if you need me to babysit him, just let me know

 

You:

Seokjin is pretty pissed at you

 

Jimin:

yeah well

it’s my life

 

You:

i know, Jimin

i just want you to be happy, that’s all. i know Seokjin wants that for you, too. he’s just not seeing how it will work right now.

 

Jimin:

i’m still figuring that part out

but i’m not going down without a fucking fight


 

Jeon Jeongguk

 

Jimin:

hey, my friend Yoongi is missing his suppressants

 

You:

???

that sucks, what do you want me to do about it?

 

Jimin:

well. nothing, i guess. he doesn’t want me to do anything.

but Dutch went to stay with him and his roommate yesterday

 

You:

Dutch? Zodiac’s Dutch?

 

Jimin:

that Dutch

Yoongi call yesterday morning & said Zodiac contacted him & asked if Dutch could stay with him for a while

he’s got “business”

 

You:

fuck

oh fuck fuck fuck why didn’t you tell me yesterday

 

Jimin:

i’m sorry, it slipped my mind

we had so much other shit to talk about

 

Jimin:

jeongguk?

 

You:

i’ll call u later baby


 

“Kim fucking Taehyung!”

Jeongguk’s bellow echoes through the suite, abruptly jerking Taehyung out of whatever daze he’d slipped into. Before his mind can even begin to scramble together potential reasons Jeongguk could be screaming at him—they haven’t spoken since that day—hands are roughly grabbing the front of his shirt and he’s being hauled out of bed. The world spins, around and around, and Taehyung fumbles for any kind of purchase to keep himself upright, but his knees give out on him, body slumping like a ragdoll. Jeongguk pays this no mind—pays no mind to the fact that Taehyung is currently doing his best to keep from vomiting up his insides all over Jeongguk’s… whatever disaster he’s wearing today.

“You son of a fucking bitch,” Jeongguk spits. “Son of a fucking bitch, what the fuck is wrong with you?”

Taehyung struggles to get his feet underneath him so that he can stand and face Jeongguk, not helplessly flail around his crotch, but it’s difficult. He feels top-heavy and stumbles to one side, dragging Jeongguk along with him. “Stop fucking yelling,” he wheezes. 

“You really are fucking sick, aren’t you?”

Yes, yes, he is, and if Jeongguk could just stop shaking him around—

“A disgusting, selfish bastard.”

“The fuck are you talking about?” Taehyung demands, irritation building as the confusion truly sets in. He’s been in bed all day—what in God’s name is Jeongguk on about?

Jeongguk sneers at him, threateningly baring his teeth. “You really are taking suppressants, aren’t you? For those stupid headaches you claimed to have?”

“I’m not taking anything,” Taehyung says. Which is true; he hasn’t taken a single thing today, and he feels like absolute shit. Worse than he felt when he had pneumonia in tenth grade. “Fuck off.”

“Sure you’re not. Then why did Zodiac tell me that he found suppressants in your room a couple weeks ago?”

“Zodiac’s a fucking liar.”

“He might be, but sometimes the truth can be far more useful than a lie. You, taking suppressants? Where the hell might you have gotten them, I wonder?” Jeongguk gives him another vigorous shake. “Maybe Daddy gave them to you after you whined to him about how much of a headache I was. Is that it, Taehyung? Haneul gave you something to ease the pain of your pathetic existence?”

It’s not true. It isn’t, it isn’t, it isn’t. “H-He didn’t give me anything,” Taehyung slurs. “Fuck off, Jeongguk, I’m not taking shit.”

“You must’ve run out by now—that’s why you’ve been holed up in here, isn’t it?”

“I jus’ don’t feel good—”

“Yeah, I’m sure you feel like shit,” Jeongguk spits. “You think I don’t know what withdrawals are like? You think I haven’t seen Zodiac go through them? You really think I’m stupid enough to believe you?”

Taehyung grits his teeth. Who is Jeongguk to get pissed off at him, anyway? Even though Zodiac was forced into getting clean, Jeongguk never did. He still does cocaine regularly. He drinks until he’s blackout drunk and does lines and fucks whoever is desperate enough to want a taste of his cock. If Jeongguk is still using, what right does he have to get angry at Taehyung? 

“You don’t get to fucking talk to me like that,” Taehyung says, “like you’re so much fucking better than me. You terrorize us all and then turn around and blame us for your problems, and I’m fucking sick of it.”

“I haven’t done jack shit, Taehyung. You’re the one who accepted shit from Haneul. And now that you’ve run out, you’re just gonna take it from someone else?”

Taehyung’s jaw works silently. But… he hasn’t? He really hasn’t—he doesn’t have any more. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

Jeongguk looks ready to smash his skull in. “That’s bullshit, and you know it. You’ve been kissing Min Yoongi’s ass for the past couple weeks, and for what? So you could get close to him and take his suppressants?”

Yoongi?

His Yoongi…?

He didn’t—Taehyung is sure that he didn’t. He didn’t take them. 

The moon explodes.

“I-I didn’t,” he stammers. “I didn’t, Jeongguk, you’ve gotta fucking believe me—I would never—”

The ice in Jeongguk’s gaze doesn’t melt. His eyes are diamond hard and unforgiving. “Maybe you didn’t, but Zodiac did, didn’t he?”

No, nonono, nononono. No, Zodiac wouldn’t have done that, Zodiac wouldn’t have—

“Why not, Taehyung? I know he’s been here. I’m part of the pack bond, too. I’ve seen him leaving your room. Are you trying to cosy up to him now that you know we’ve been fighting? Are you trying to fucking steal my best friend?”

“I thought Park Jimin was your new best friend,” Taehyung sneers. “Or does having a mate not matter if you still wanna get your dick wet?”

“Keep. Jimin. Out. Of. Your. Mouth.”

Taehyung is too weak to wrestle out of Jeongguk’s grip as he’s dragged out of the bedroom and across the living area of the suite. Jeongguk abruptly deposits him in the entryway, and Taehyung groans as his body slams down on the hardwood. If he had anything at all left in his stomach, he would definitely be throwing it up. 

“If you’re so sick of me, why don’t you just pack your shit and leave, Taehyung? I’m sure Zodiac will be more than happy to take you in, since the two of you are sooo fucking close.”

Taehyung stares up at Jeongguk, and Jeongguk stares down at him. They stare until the light flooding in from the windows is too painful to withstand any longer, and Taehyung is forced to wrench his eyes shut against the throbbing underneath his skull. His brain is going to explode and dribble out his ears. It’s hard to breathe.

Jeongguk hates him.

Maybe Jeongguk has always hated him—ever since the day Taehyung set foot into his home and gained the coveted favor from Haneul that he so desperately craved. Their entire friendship has been a farce, and Taehyung never even had a chance. Jeongguk was just stringing him along, just like Haneul.

Just like Haneul. Jeongguk is just like Haneul. Two sides of the same coin.

Jeongguk steps over his prone body and exits the suite, slamming the door behind him. The loud noise makes Taehyung flinch, and it takes him several minutes of manual breathing for him to get the spike of pain to come back down. When he can finally bear to crack his eyes open, he crawls back to his bedroom in search of his phone. A pile of notifications are on his screen, but he ignores them, clearing them all and opening his call history to find Zodiac’s name. 

While he’s waiting for Zodiac or his voicemail to pick up, Taehyung feels something trickle down his face. He presses his fingers against his skin and pulls them back, light glistening on the moisture that coats them. One more shuddering breath is all it takes for the dam to break loose. Zodiac gets a delightful earful of wet sniffle upon answering the phone.

“Taehyung?” Zodiac’s voice is laced with concern, and it doesn’t matter if it’s real or not. It isn’t a question of whether or not Zodiac’s feelings are legitimate, because Taehyung knows they aren’t. Zodiac doesn’t feel anything. But at the very least, Zodiac is pretending to care. Zodiac is willing to help make him feel better, and that’s real. 

Taehyung can barely get the words out through his choked sobs. “J-Jeongguk… Jeong-gguk, h-he… he k-kicked me o-out.”

“Oh, sweetheart… I’ll come get you, alright? I’ll be there soon.”

True to his word, Zodiac is with him twenty minutes later, wrapping him up in a warm, solid embrace, pressing soft kisses against Taehyung’s aching skull. He doesn’t realize how badly he’s shaking until he’s against Zodiac, but he can’t make himself stop. He isn’t cold—he doesn’t think he’s cold—but his body is out of his control. 

“I w-want it to stop,” Taehyung whispers hoarsely. “Please, m-make it stop… P-Please…”

The moon is too much. It’s too heavy, bearing down on him, crushing his surface, digging a hole in him. He desperately needs it to stop. He needs it to stop, to go back up into the sky where it belongs. But he can’t save himself. He’s too weak. The moon is going to kill him.

He’s going to die.

Zodiac holds him tighter, unbothered by the gross, wet sobs or the uncontrollable shaking. “You really want it to stop, sweetheart?”

“God, please, please…”

“Okay,” Zodiac says simply. “I’ll make it stop for you.”


 

It’s late. Nearing midnight, and Taehyung has finally settled into a turbulent sleep, so when Zodiac’s phone lights up with an incoming call, he snatches it off the nightstand and runs downstairs, answering as he slips out into the hallway. 

“Hello?”

“Are you… Mr. Bosch?”

“I am,” Zodiac responds, leaning against the apartment door. “Is this Allan Andersen?”

Andersen huffs out a sigh and clears his throat on the other end of the line. Zodiac drums his fingers on the wall while he waits for Andersen to get his shit together. “Are you an associate of Jeon Jeongguk?”

“We have some affiliation. I can only assume that you’re calling me because you’ve decided to take my offer.”

“If I’m going to be completely honest, Mr. Bosch… it seems a little too good to be true.”

“Does it?” Zodiac asks with a laugh. “I can tell you how it works, if you’d like. There’s something Jeongguk does for me in exchange for the loan payment. You’re just the middle man. All you need to do is show up.”

“...What’s the catch?”

“I’ve told you everything that will be required of you, Mr. Andersen.”

Andersen is silent for a few moments. “I’m not sure how I feel about it.”

“I think perhaps you should be asking yourself whether or not you can afford to feel anything about it,” Zodiac says. “Can you? I have the Black Rabbit’s surveillance footage, if your mate would be interested in seeing your late-night casino escapades.”

“You fucking—You’re full of shit. You don’t have anything.”

A slow grin spreads across Zodiac’s face. The familiar tingle of excitement bubbles in his gut. “And you’re willing to run that risk? Because if you asked me, I’d say your luck isn’t particularly good.”

“Fuck you—”

“But who knows, Mr. Andersen? This could be the one gamble that finally pays off. I’ll contact you soon with a time and meeting place. Bring your little check, and I’ll get you squared away with Jeon.”

Andersen begrudgingly agrees, and they hang up. Zodiac reenters the apartment and heads back upstairs to the loft, where Taehyung is still sound asleep. Dutch’s potent scent still permeates the room, but it’s not him wrapped up in the sheets. Poor Taehyung, honestly. So stuffed full of himself, he can’t even see his own feet to check where he’s walking. Maybe someone else will save him, maybe no one will. Zodiac doesn’t know. No matter how carefully he sets things up, a single piece could get knocked out of place and send everything flying, but he doesn’t care. It isn’t about getting to an end result. 

Games are supposed to be fun, and there’s nothing Zodiac enjoys more than fun.

Even if it means burning the board.

Chapter Text

Dragunov made them come back to the Black Rabbit. If he’s at all concerned about his disobedience, he doesn’t show it, and Kalkaska genuinely doesn’t expect him to. He most likely doesn’t even consider what he’s done to be disobediences. But Zodiac is a detail kind of person. In reality, the most common reason either one of them gets punished is because Zodiac specifically created a scenario where they would inevitably fail. Sort of like an extremely sadistic college professor.

Kalkaska is exhausted and sore, because—of course—Dragunov wanted to fuck again last night, since no one was there to monitor them. And then drowsily demanded morning sex. He keeps going on about how he wanted Kalkaska from the moment he laid eyes on him, and Kalkaska wishes that he would stop talking. This relationship is unsustainable. As much as he loves Kasey, there’s little hope for them. 

So it’s a relief when he gets a text from Jeongguk asking him to meet in his suite; it finally gives Kalkaska an excuse to untangle from the pile of limbs and blankets they’ve made on the bed. The surveillance equipment set up in their suite has been long since forgotten, their monitors displaying images from downstairs in the casino to no one who cares. Kalkaska changes his clothes, despite knowing it’s useless. Jeongguk will see the marks on his neck and know immediately who did it, and, for some reason, that’s the most disappointing thing of all. That he broke the only rule Jeongguk ever gave him.

He shuffles down the hallway to Jeongguk’s suite, knocks twice on the door, then lets himself in. Jeongguk is barely dressed—only wearing an oversized t-shirt. No makeup, nothing else. He looks tired. As tired as Kalkaska feels. As expected, Jeongguk’s eyes zero in on the hickies.

“I see you’ve been busy,” he comments, raising an eyebrow.

Kalkaska declines to respond, taking a seat on the other end of the couch and folding his hands in his lap. “What did you need me for?”

Jeongguk narrows his eyes, but ultimately decides not to pursue whatever line of questioning he’d been considering, and Kalkaska is grateful. “I’ve been thinking about some things,” he says. “Do you remember when I asked you to look into the disappearance of a woman named Lee Jiyeon?”

It takes a few moments to place the name, but Kalkaska eventually connects it to Jeongguk’s suspected missing aunt. “Yes, I remember.”

“Do you remember any details of your investigation?”

“They’re a little fuzzy,” Kalkaska admits. “A lot has happened since then.”

“...Does Zodiac know about it?”

“Yes.” And he hates the way Jeongguk’s expression drops. “I couldn’t—There was nothing I could do, Jeongguk. If he wanted to know, then I had to tell him—”

Jeongguk hastily shakes his head, waving him off. “I know. It isn’t your fault.” Heaving a heavy sigh, he slumps down in his seat. “I’m sure you know things are very rapidly going to shit.”

Kalkaska just nods.

“I wouldn’t think poorly of you if you left,” Jeongguk says. “Honestly, I’ve about had it, too. But Jimin isn’t ready to back out yet, so I’m kind of stuck. You aren’t, though, so if you wanna go… just pack your shit and go.”

As always, the idea of escape raises conflict.

When he was first captured, escape was the only thing he thought about. Getting out of that musty basement, getting away, getting back home. It consumed him. 

And then one night, Zodiac asked him, “Why do you want to leave so badly?”

To which Kalkaska had simply stared at him incredulously, as if he had just imagined the tortured he’d experienced at the hands of this kid.

“Is it really that much of a stupid question? What’s out there for you, Misha?”

“I want to go home,” Kalkaska replied.

“Home is a concept. This is where you live now, so isn’t this considered your home?”

“It isn’t a home I chose.”

“But we take care of you here, don’t we? You get free food. You don’t have to pay rent.”

“This basement fucking leaks.”

Normally, Zodiac would’ve struck him across the face for swearing, but he didn’t that time, just grinned a little wider. “Like I said, it’s free.”

“There’s no point in taunting me,” Kalkaska said. “I have no way to call for help, and even if I did, you’d just kill me. I get the feeling if I escaped, you’d track me down. There’s just no point to any of it.”

“I wouldn’t say that. If it’s a choice you’re looking for, then you can either continue living miserably in this basement, or we can upgrade your accommodations. But it’s on the condition that you behave. Otherwise, you end up back here, and you wouldn’t want that, would you?”

It took Kalkaska a few days to decide, but eventually he took Zodiac’s offer and never returned to the basement at the Lake Street house. As he gradually earned himself more freedoms, the desire to escape lessened, because, in some sense, Zodiac was right. He got free food, he didn’t have to pay rent, he was technically employed. It isn’t exactly what he chose, but he’s been given the illusion of choice. Here’s this shitty option and here’s this way better option, which one do you want?

And now Jeongguk is giving him yet another one of those choices.

Leave, and build a new life for himself, or stay.

“I always thought… At some point, I’d win the game,” he says at length. “Zodiac would tired of making up new achievements for me and just… let me go. I’ve been trying so fucking hard to be good according to his standards, and now that I’m here, I… I’m not who I was before. I’m not… good.”

“None of us are, Misha,” Jeongguk murmurs.

Kalkaska swallows thickly. “I’m selfish. I’m the most selfish person in the world. I’ve lied and stolen and committed murder because I wanted to be good so that I could win a fucking game,” he forces out through his teeth, voice wavering. “And all this time, I’ve told myself that it’s good, I’m doing good—if Zodiac is pleased with me, then I must be doing good. But I’m not good. I’ve never been good. If I stayed in the basement, I would be demeaning myself, but I’ve demeaned myself either way.”

As much as he’s maintained the assertion that Jeongguk cared about him, if only to keep himself from losing his mind, Kalkaska always acknowledged deep down that he was still one of his captors. As much as Zodiac owns him, and perhaps even more, Jeongguk owns him, too. Bought him with kindness and reassurance and care that Zodiac did not provide. 

So when real, genuine guilt flashes onto Jeongguk’s face, Kalkaska’s heart lodges in his throat.

“...I’m sorry, Misha.”

Jeongguk turns to stare out the window, like the city skyline contains the words he’s looking for.

“I’ve been doing a lot of thinking recently,” he says quietly. “It’s easy for me to blame a lot of things on Zodiac. You and Kasey and Rocky would never have gotten involved in this if it weren’t for him, and we can say shit like, ‘oh, if it wasn’t us, it would’ve just been someone else.’ But it was us. It is us. We’re responsible for not only everything we’ve done, but everything we’ve allowed to happen. I could’ve insisted that Zodiac dumped you on the side of the road somewhere when he caught you, but I didn’t. I would’ve done anything for him because his approval meant more to me than anything else. He was… In some ways, he was just some kind of fucked-up replacement for a father figure. I’m sorry, Misha. I’m sorry you got dragged into this and have suffered because of it.”

Kalkaska gets up and moves to Jeongguk’s side of the couch, sitting down beside him, close enough that their thighs are pressed together. They used to sleep together, before Jimin came into the picture, and it’s honestly neither here nor there that they aren’t doing it any more. Jimin is someone who fits into Jeongguk like a missing puzzle piece. Maybe Jeongguk is that puzzle piece for Jimin, too, and that’s why they’re suddenly so willing to die for each other. 

Kill for each other.

“I don’t hate you,” he says softly. “You’ve done a lot of bad stuff—you’ve made me do a lot of bad stuff—but I’ve never hated you, Jeongguk.”

Their conversation is interrupted by the sound of a door opening, and Kalkaska’s heart drops into his stomach when he turns to see Zodiac entering the suite. They lock eyes for a moment and Kalkaska feels it—that sick chill running down his spine. In all his years of dealing with people, dealing with criminals, none of them could hold a candle to the way Zodiac unnerves him. It’s his eyes, the lack of depth in one, the endless abyss in the other. He’s near impossible to read, always hiding behind a screen of indifference. Nothing ever seems to genuinely upset him.

Even now, when Kalkaska knows this visit to the Black Rabbit is more than likely to punish Dragunov, he’s as serene as ever. 

Jeongguk, on the other hand.

Jeongguk is not pleased to see him.


 

Yoongi doesn’t feel great. Missing a single day of suppressants won’t throw him into a heat, but he’s already partway into day two and the anxiety is continuing to build. It probably isn’t fair to call it a heat, either, because those are reproductive cycles. He’s supposed to get extra horny and leak slick for a few days, and then be over it and move on with his life. This won’t be like that at all, and that’s why he’s so fucking terrified.  

“Yoongi, I really think if you’re starting to feel uncomfortable, you should just check into the hospital now,” Dutch says, as he’s been saying all morning, and it’s starting to grate on his nerves, even though Dutch is probably right.

But Yoongi stubbornly shakes his head. “I’m fine.”

“You haven’t eaten all day.”

“I’m just not that hungry.” Which is true, because he isn’t. Whether or not that has to do with anxiety or the sudden influx of hormones is moot. 

Dutch points at his lap, where Yoongi has his fingers knotted together. “Your hands are shaking.”

“They aren’t.”

“I asked you for a glass of water, and you nearly dumped it all over the kitchen floor. You looked like you were in an earthquake.”

“I’m fine,” Yoongi snaps, a little more strongly than he meant to. His temper is a slippery fish, and he wishes he could wrestle it under control, because no matter how pissy he gets, he has no doubt that Dutch is extremely capable of kicking his ass. Whether that is despite being pregnant or because he’s pregnant. “I’ve seen the kind of bullshit runaround hospitals give omegas. If I’m not dying from hormone exhaustion, they’re just gonna tell me to go home.”

Dutch gives him a look from the other side of the couch. As per Zodiac’s instruction, Yoongi has been making sure that he eats, but every once in a while, catches him pinching the excess fat in his cheeks or his arms. Yoongi wants to reassure him that he’s still gorgeous this way, that he can worry about shedding the weight after the baby is out, but they don’t know each other well enough. Dutch is just some friend of Taehyung’s, or the mate of a friend of Taehyung’s, and Yoongi has gotten the impression that he’s a pretty closed-off person. 

But he possesses some kind of hellfire that Yoongi has only ever witnessed in Jimin. Dutch jabs a finger at him threateningly. “If they send you back home, I will stab you, and then they can cry about it when you go into heat while they’re trying to suture you back together.”

Yoongi blinks owlishly at him. “Can’t… Can’t you get arrested for assault?”

“Only if you press charges. I’m trying to help, Yoongi,” Dutch replies exasperatedly. “Like, not—not by stabbing you, but if you know you’re going to need treatment, then you should at least go to a doctor.”

“If I’m not here, who’s gonna keep an eye on you?” Yoongi asks.

“I’ll call Jeongguk,” Dutch says. “Or Jimin. Yoongi, just… please. This isn’t like a regular drug withdrawal, and those are bad enough. I don’t want you to hurt yourself.”

Yoongi has done his research. The late-night WebMD google search of what happens when you go off suppressants? and the results didn’t give him very much peace of mind. Suppressants don’t just eliminate heats—they contain chemicals that alter or neutralize production of certain hormones that cause heats, and when an omega suddenly quits taking them, their body very rapidly produces these hormones in an attempt to make up the deficit. Depending on the length of time an omega has been on suppressants, the reactions can be relatively mild, but severe cases have resulted in shock, psychosis, and even death. 

Needless to say, Dutch has every right to be concerned.

“Tomorrow,” Yoongi finally relents. “If I’m feeling worse tomorrow, I’ll go. Okay?”

Dutch huffs unhappily, but seems to be tired of arguing. He pouts a little and lets his head fall back against the arm of the couch, shifting his attention back towards the television. They’re watching some dumb reality show that neither of them really know anything about, but other people’s drama is always more entertaining. “Fine.”


 

Ian Walsh is exactly the type of alpha that Jeongguk despises. A taste for things far too expensive, a need to feel superior because of it, and old enough to know better. A middle-aged adolescent brat who wants flashy cars and beautiful omegas, despite the fact that he’s supposedly happily mated with a daughter. Foppish, egocentric Ian, who thought he owned the world. Jeongguk played into it for a while, heavily feigning interest in Ian’s supposed wealth, and at first, Ian was understandably put off. Alphas don’t tend to respond well to advances from other alphas. But Jeongguk has always possessed a certain knack for hooking them and drawing them in, and Ian Walsh was no exception. Eventually, Jeongguk had Ian in bed, and it was then that he caught a glimpse of the man behind the mask of perfection.

Like most people, Ian wanted to be rich and live a lavish lifestyle, but he was lazy. Hard work was a four-letter word to him, and he’d fallen into one of those get-rich-quick schemes. Work from home! Be your own boss! Make neurosurgeon money with caveman education! Jeongguk has seen been pitched his fair share of pyramid scheme-esque ‘business opportunities,’ but even as desperate as he was for money, he’d never taken the bait. Ian Walsh, on the other hand, had; hook, line, and sinker. So while Ian played at living the life of luxury, he was neck-deep in credit card debt with no easy way out. He bought expensive drinks at the Black Rabbit, meanwhile his house was teetering on the edge of bank foreclosure. The mate was none the wiser.

Jeongguk heard of Ian’s involvement in the company from chatter around the casino and although his performance was fairly convincing, Jeongguk knew that particular company was a total scam. He suspected Ian’s supposed wealth was a front and pursued him relentlessly in order to find out the truth. When Ian revealed to him that he wasn’t sure how he was going to pay for the hotel room, Jeongguk offered to loan him some money. Ian was overjoyed.

...And promptly sunk it all into his ‘business.’ 

Now Ian is up the creek without a paddle, and back at Jeongguk’s door, trying to get an extension on his payment deadline.

When Jeongguk sees who it is standing in the hallway, he subtly motions behind him at Zodiac. They’ve literally just been playing Uno, but Jeongguk is dressed in an elegant ivory satin robe, and Zodiac is nursing a stab wound on his thigh, thus has opted out of wearing pants this particular evening. It shouldn’t take much to convince Ian that he’s interrupted something.

“Can I speak with you?” Ian asks by way of greeting. He isn’t the type to show outward signs of nervousness, but Jeongguk can pick up the subtle notes of anxiety in his scent.

“About what?” Jeongguk counters. “I’m busy.”

“Too busy for a client?”

God, this man truly has his head shoved insufferably far up his own ass. “You aren’t my only client, Ian.”

It’s at this time that Zodiac limps up behind Jeongguk, arms sliding tightly around his waist. Irritation flitters across Ian’s face as Zodiac rests his chin on Jeongguk’s shoulder, undoubtedly peering at their visitor with curiosity. 

“I respect that,” Ian says through his teeth, “but this is important.”

Jeongguk sighs and pretends to mull it over, idly reaching up to muss Zodiac’s hair with one hand. Finally he says, “Make it quick.”

The file into the suite. Jeongguk offers Ian a seat in the armchair, as well as a drink, which he politely declines. Jeongguk takes a seat on the couch, while Zodiac lingers in the kitchen.

“What is it that you needed to discuss with me so badly?” Jeongguk asks. 

Ian’s eyes flicker over to Zodiac, which makes Jeongguk kiss his teeth and shaking his head.

“I promise you, he doesn’t give two shits about your financial situation. Either he hears it, or he can go masturbate in the other room with the doors open. What do you want, Mr. Walsh?”

“It’s about the loan,” Ian starts.

Jeongguk accepts the wine glass from Zodiac as he returns to the couch and climbs partially into his lap. Zodiac hasn’t gotten any for himself—in an effort to keep him sober, he’s been banned from most substances. “Of course it is,” Jeongguk replies. He sips his wine and wraps an arm around Zodiac’s waist. “What about your loan?”

“I need an extension.”

Jeongguk’s lips quirk around the edge of his glass. “Of course you do.”

“My business is just finally starting to pick up,” Ian feels a need to insist. “They’ve made me a regional supervisor. I turned a profit this month, but I need to reinvest in stock for next month, so I—”

“—need an extension on the loan, right,” Jeongguk finishes boredly. 

“I’m getting a bonus check for my promotion, but I need to use that for my gas and electric.” In a rare show of agitation, Ian runs a hand through his hair and grits his teeth. “I think Christian is starting to get suspicious about the bills, especially for the house, and I can’t afford to lose him now. My business is finally taking off, and I—I need more time. You need to give me more time.”

While Ian is running his mouth, Zodiac nuzzles into Jeongguk, pressing a hand against his chest. There’s something hiding under his palm—flat and rectangular. Zodiac slides his hand down, dipping well underneath the robe to tuck the object underneath the waistband of his fishnets. Jeongguk swats his hand away, feigning disinterest in the attention, while he struggles to identify the object. He straightens the front of his robe, brushing his fingers over the object as he does so, and realizes what it is.

A switchblade.

“Regional supervisor, hm?” Jeongguk muses. “You’re really moving up in the world, aren’t you?”

“Next, they’ll make me an associate and—”

“You do realize that’s just a placeholder title, right? A real regional supervisor wouldn’t be swimming in credit card debt unless he was really, really stupid.”

The insinuation that Ian’s ‘business’ might not be as legitimate as he makes it out to be, as usual, sets him off. “I am a regional supervisor. I’ve got almost three hundred consultants under me—”

“And what makes you so different? Aren’t you doing the same hustle as everyone else?” Jeongguk asks. “Or have you collected enough downlines that you think you can sit on your laurels and collect your percentage of commission from everyone underneath you? Considering the amount of money you currently owe, I think you should be working a little bit harder.”

The suggestion does nothing to quell Ian’s temper. He grips the arms of the chair, fingers digging into the leather, knuckles turning white. For the first time, Jeongguk wonders if perhaps Ian might get violent, and that’s why Zodiac slipped him the knife. One never knows what to expect from alphas when they’re backed into a corner.

“I am working,” Ian hisses. “I’m working my fucking ass off.”

“Perhaps you don’t see our loan agreement the way you see other bills. You’re scared of them shutting off your lights if you don’t pay your electric bill, you’re scared of the bank foreclosing on your house if you can’t make mortgage payments—are you not taking me seriously because I haven’t threatened to take things away from you yet?”

If looks could kill, Ian would be leaping off the armchair to strangle him. “Don’t you fucking dare.”

“Why not?” Jeongguk asks, gently trailing his fingers up and down Zodiac’s spine. Even with the handicap of his injury, Zodiac is an incredibly formidable opponent, and Ian is just a man in a nice suit. A businessman. A sad, failed businessman who doesn’t have the balls to be honest with his mate. He’s a liar. A snake. And he’s going to try to intimidate Jeongguk into giving him an extension because Ian doesn’t know there’s a switchblade tucked in right beside his cock. “You owe me money.”

“And I don’t have it yet, so you’re just going to have to fucking wait.”

“Why should I? We had a contract—you signed it.”

“The contract doesn’t mean shit—”

“Unfortunately,” Jeongguk says, “it does. Your signature is on it, and you promised you’d pay me back. You might not have money, but you do have assets. That suit is pretty nice. What is it? Gucci? Saint Laurant? I’m sure he’d—” Jeongguk tilts his head towards Zodiac. “—look better in it than you.”

Ian does stand up this time. Possibly due to the fact that Jeongguk made it sound like he might rip the suit off right then and there. “I don’t have time for this,” he huffs, straightening his jacket, tugging at the cuffs of his sleeves. 

“Because you should be on Facebook right now, messaging anyone in left in your friends list who you haven’t peddled your shitty vitamin water to yet?” Jeongguk drawls lazily. “Need I remind you that you were the one who crawled out of your gutter to come see me, and I was gracious enough to not slam the door in your face?”

Ian seethes. Anger drips off of him, and Jeongguk isn’t anything other than quietly amused. “I’m sorry, did I interrupt you while you were whoring out for some quick cash?” Ian sneers.

Jeongguk cocks an eyebrow. “Even if I am, my side hustle pays off.”

“Fuck you. You probably leech off your daddy. You’ve probably never had to pay for anything in your fucking life.”

It takes every fiber of self-control in Jeongguk’s body to keep himself from laughing out loud. If only he knew. But he’s an idiot, just like the rest of them. 

But Ian Walsh is not finished.

“Does he not love you, Jeongguk? Is that why you spread your legs for alphas twice your age? Is your side-hustle trying to fill some kind of fucked up fantasy?”

The words strike their mark. Jeongguk feels them like bile in his throat, clogging up his nose and lungs, ready to spill out of his mouth in a flood of acid. 

Daddy doesn’t love him. Of course daddy doesn’t love him.

Ian Walsh doesn’t love him either, but he isn’t half the villain Jeongguk’s father is. He’s nothing more than a pathetic placeholder. Like the photograph taped up for Jeongguk to throw darts at while he perfects his aim, hoping to get a bullseye. Ian Walsh is a disgusting alpha. Ruining his family’s life without them even knowing, fucking other omegas without his mate’s knowledge, stripping his daughter of ever having a future where she doesn’t have to work her fingers to the bone just to make ends meet. He might not be Jeongguk’s villain, but he’s going to become somebody else’s. Should he really be allowed to get away with that?

Jeongguk rises from the couch and approaches Ian. He flattens his hands on Ian’s chest, sliding his palms up and down, tucking his fingers under the edges of the lapels on his jacket. “How kind of you to show concern for my relationship with my father,” he says lightly. “But what about your daughter, Ian? Does her father love her?”

“You keep my daughter out of this, you disgusting piece of shit.”

“That’s not what you called me when I had you between my legs,” Jeongguk purrs, tightening his grip just a little bit on Ian’s jacket. “What would your precious little girl think of her father if she knew he broke his omega’s heart?”

Real, tangible anger swirls in Ian’s gaze. “You keep your mouth shut. You don’t know shit about my life—stay the fuck away from my family.”

Giddiness bubbles up in Jeongguk’s gut as he watches Ian’s composure crumble underneath his fingertips. He can’t help the grin or the giggle or the way Ian’s lips part in an ugly sneer just makes him even more amused. “What a good alpha,” Jeongguk oozes. “So protective of what belongs to him.”

“Fuck off—”

“Your prized little possessions. It certainly would be a shame if anything happened to them.”

Ian lunges for him.

Lunges, but Jeongguk is quicker. Was always going to be quicker, was always going to be more prepared, and the switchblade is buried in Ian’s stomach before the assault can get any further than a hand around Jeongguk’s throat. It sinks in like stabbing a chunk of steak. Ian’s body tenses up, eyes fogging over in confusion while he tries to figure out what has happened, why he stopped, where the pain is coming from. 

“Too bad I don’t give two shits about your family,” Jeongguk murmurs, yanking the blade out.

Ian’s knees wobble for a moment before deciding they just can’t hold him up any longer, and he collapses to the floor, clutching his stomach. “What the fuck,” he wheezes. “What the fuck, you fucking psychopath—”

Jeongguk clicks his tongue. “You don’t need to resort to name-calling.”

The look Ian gives him is an impressive amount of incredulous. “Y-You just fucking stabbed me.”

“Antisocial disorders are very serious,” Zodiac chimes in unhelpfully from the couch. “Regardless of whether you’ve been stabbed or not.”

“You’re n-not gonna g-get away with this,” Ian pants. “‘m gonna… gonna ruin your f-fucking life. But a-an alpha l-like you would p-probably enjoy g-getting raped in pr-prison.”

Jeongguk reels back and kicks him in the gut. The agonized cry Ian releases sends an excited shiver down his spine. It doesn’t matter how much shit he tries to spew; Jeongguk can draw those pretty pained noises out of him instead. He gets down and forces Ian onto his back, straddling his hips—a position he’s been in before, riding Ian’s dick and begging to cum. 

Did you really think that had any significance?

He digs his fingers into the bloody spot on Ian’s worthless designer jacket, eliciting another groan, and the sound makes heat begin to pool in Jeongguk’s core. Yes, yes, yes—Ian needs to die. He needs to die like this, with Jeongguk seated comfortably over his cock, humiliated by this whore alpha he wants to blame for his problems. But Jeongguk isn’t responsible for ruining Ian’s life; he did that all on his own. He built himself a castle with rotten wood and rusty nails and just doesn’t understand why the walls are collapsing. Jeongguk could stick his fingers in further, go to Christian, tell him where his mate has actually been going on these ‘business trips,’ strip Ian of everything he holds dear, and watch him circle the drain in complete and utter desolation, but…

Jeongguk wants to kill him down.

Wants to watch him wriggle and writhe and squeal like a stuck pig.

So, that’s exactly what he does.

He swings the knife down again, this time driving it into Ian’s chest. Blood doesn’t explode in a shower of red like the movies, and the blade hits a part of Ian’s chest bone, so Jeongguk rips it back out and stabs him again. Ian is screaming bloody murder, as he should, because that’s exactly what’s happening to him. The knife slips through Ian’s chest cavity a little easier this time, allowing the edge of Jeongguk’s hand to thump solidly against the breast pocket of his suit. It’s so beautifully satisfying, the way that deep scarlet is beginning to soak through onto his crisp white dress shirt, blossoming like a spring flower. Jeongguk reels back to stab him again.

And again.

And again.

And again.

And again, until Jeongguk has lost count, Ian’s screams have dulled to a low, pained gurgle, blood is coating the sleeve of Jeongguk’s white robe, the suit is in sheds, there’s droptlets splattered on Ian’s face, it’s dripping from the corner of his slack mouth, his eyes are glassy, and Jeongguk is hot, he’s hot, he’s so hot, fuck, he can’t stop, he can’t stop, the knife comes down again and again and again and again—

“Jeongguk, Jeongguk, baby—”

Zodiac snatches his wrist, grabs him around the waist, drags Jeongguk off what is now a corpse. He goes limp in Zodiac’s hold, knife slipping from his fingers as he gropes for something more solid. His body is still so hot, the pressure is still curling tighter in his gut, in his core; he’s so high, he’s so fucking close—

A palm presses against his crotch through the front of his fishnets and the heat kicks up. Fuck, he’s so hard. He’s so hard, he needs to cum, he needs to get there, he needs it. Zodiac knows he needs it, can feel it throbbing underneath his hand. Jeongguk slumps to the floor, boneless, when Zodiac releases him and crawls between his legs. There’s no teasing, no edging, just Zodiac tugging the waistband of Jeongguk’s stockings down to gain access to his cock and sinking down on it, swallowing Jeongguk down into tight, wet heat. Both Jeongguk’s hands fly into Zodiac’s hair, knotting in the dark strands, following his head as it bobs up and down up and down up and down, pushing him higher, higher, closer, hotter, until he reaches his peak. With a strangled cry, he releases into Zodiac’s mouth, cumming hard enough to knock himself to the edge of consciousness, black spots crackling across his vision, breath spread thin. Zodiac doesn’t flinch, doesn’t miss a beat to pop his lips off Jeongguk’s cock for a second to swallow, then sucks him right back down to milk him through the remainder of his orgasm. 

Jeongguk floats into a gritty, wet haze.

There’s blood smeared on Zodiac’s face. But not from anything Zodiac did. It’s from Jeongguk’s hand. Several feet away, lies the body of Ian Walsh. 

Stabbed to death.

Zodiac crawls up, cuddling against him, cradling Jeongguk’s head against his chest, but Jeongguk can’t rip his eyes away from the body. From Ian. From what he did.

It should horrify him. He should be trembling and hysterical and vomiting like he was after watching Zodiac tear a man apart in that video, but he isn’t. He doesn’t quite feel lucid, like his mind and his body are in two different places, but he’s calm. Ian Walsh is dead because he deserves to be dead and Jeongguk wanted to kill him. Jeongguk wanted to kill him, and now he’s dead.

He can do it.

He can kill people like this, too.

“I’m singin’ in the rain, just singin’ in the rain… what a glorious feeling, I’m happy again,” Zodiac sings softly, and Jeongguk squeezes his eyes shut with a sigh. This song. Of course. 

“I’m laughing at clouds so dark up above, the sun’s in my heart and I’m ready for love.”

It was supposed to be a joke. Supposed to be funny. Something they could giggle at together because they were both sick and twisted, and shared a sick and twisted sense of humor.

“Let the stormy clouds chase everyone from the place, come on with the rain, I’ve a smile on my face.”

Now…

“I walk down the lane with a happy refrain…”

Now someone really is dead.

“...Just singin’, singin’ in the rain.”


 

“You smell like Taehyung,” is the first thing that Jeongguk says to Zodiac after Kalkaska shuffles out of the suite. The way Zodiac leers at Kalkaska like he’s trying to decide what will be the best way to skin him makes Jeongguk wonder if they’ve had some kind of disagreement, but he can’t dig into it right now. They’ve never particularly enjoyed each other’s company, so it could be that one just looked at the other wrong. 

The more pressing issue is that Zodiac does smell like Taehyung. Disconcertingly so. 

“Do I?” Zodiac asks, brushing his wrist across his neck to rescent himself. 

Jeongguk nods, stepping a little closer, perhaps too close, perhaps coming across a little needy, but as angry as he is about everything that’s going on, Zodiac is still his island rock in the storm. Not a home, providing him no shelter or sustenance, but simply keeping him from drowning. “You should smell like me.”

Zodiac’s grin soaks into his voice. “Should I?”

Jeongguk drags him to bed, wrapping him up in the sheets and his body until Taehyung’s scent is buried under his own. He rests his head on Zodiac’s stomach, slotted comfortably between his legs. Zodiac combs his fingers through Jeongguk’s hair, gentle. 

This time they have together, they should use it to talk.

But now that he’s here, now that he’s dipped into the haze of his alpha’s scent, discussion doesn’t feel that important anymore. The longer Zodiac pets him, the deeper Jeongguk slips, until he feels as though he could simply float away. What will Zodiac tell him, anyway? He’ll never admit to stealing Yoongi’s suppressants, even though circumstantial evidence is stacked against him. Zodiac is good at covering his tracks. Even if Jeongguk witnesses him doing something, it’s his word against Zodiac’s. Only one piece of physical evidence of his crimes exists, but Jeongguk can’t keep relying on that as leverage forever.

His mind drifts to what Jimin told him, about getting rid of Zodiac. Jeongguk could do it. He’s got Zodiac right here. 

Propping himself up, Jeongguk crawls up to hang over Zodiac’s face and stares down at him. He traces his fingers along Zodiac’s jaw, up to his ear, running over all the jewelry, lingering on one ring in particular through his cartilage. Jeongguk gave him that one with a sewing needle when they were still in high school. It bled a lot. 

They’ve done damn near everything together.

Four years ago, it was just cutting biology with the hopes of finding him in the third floor bathroom to get high and fool around. Jeongguk remembers being totally starstruck, because Zodiac oozed the kind of untouchable authority that he wanted to have for himself so fucking badly. After months of crawling around in his shadow, clinging to him like a starving parasite, Zodiac finally seemed to realize that Jeongguk wanted more; that he wasn’t just looking for a quick high or a handjob between classes. When Zodiac fucked him for the first time, out of his mind on cocaine with a gun shoved down Jeongguk’s throat, the fear only made a relationship with him more enticing. Jeongguk wanted to know how to wield that kind of terror. 

Four years ago, Jeongguk never imagined they would be on each other’s hit lists.

“Are we still friends?”

The question makes him feel like an absolute child. Like when he and Taehyung would fight, and then Taehyung would slip a note under his door with the question Do you still like me? written on it, and Jeongguk would reply No just because he was pissed off. He and Zodiac haven’t technically fought. Nothing is really wrong. But Zodiac feels distant, and the distance makes Jeongguk uncomfortable.

“Why wouldn’t we be?” Zodiac asks, furrowing his brow.

Jeongguk has had lengthy discussions with Dutch about what Zodiac does and doesn’t understand. Zodiac knows a lot, in theory, but doesn’t have first-hand experience. Facial expressions are hard for him to read. Pain and pleasure are impossible for him to differentiate. Fear is a mystical thing. Based on Dutch’s instructions, he knows how to proceed when another person is afraid, but he’ll ask over and over, Why are you scared? Why are you scared? And it isn’t because he’s trying to invalidate the fear, he’s trying to build his archive of things that scare people.  

So Jeongguk is certain that Zodiac isn’t trying to manipulate him here since, all things considered, there’s no reason they still wouldn’t be friends. 

“Any day now, Dutch is going to have your baby,” Jeongguk murmurs, changing the subject. “You should be with him. He fucking needs his mate, and you’re still running around causing trouble.”

Zodiac shrugs half-heartedly. “We aren’t keeping the baby, so why does it matter if I’m there or not? They’ll rip him open and pull it out, and I’ll go see him when they sew him back together.”

“He would appreciate it if you were there.”

“Because my feelings have been so carefully taken into consideration throughout this whole ordeal,” Zodiac snips. “If he doesn’t want me having anything to do with the baby, I shouldn’t even be allowed to lay eyes on it. Otherwise, I’ll know what it smells like and be able to track it down. I haven’t invited to doctor’s appointments, I don’t know the names of the couple who’s going to take the baby. Misha knows everything, and there’s no way in fucking hell I’d be able to beat him hard enough to make him talk.”

Jeongguk ducks his head to nuzzle Zodiac’s temple. There are very few things that irritate Zodiac to the point of making him lose his temper, and all of them have to do with not getting what he wants. “You’d get bored of a baby. They just sleep and shit and cry.”

“But I didn’t even get a choice to say no. Dutch just decided on his own that we weren’t keeping it cos he doesn’t want me involved. So I’m not getting involved.”

“You’re just taking advantage of that to use him as a game piece on this fucked-up chess board,” Jeongguk says.

“He’s punishing me, so I’m punishing him back,” Zodiac replies. “Fair is fair.”

Shaking his head, Jeongguk kisses his forehead. Sending Dutch to Yoongi’s apartment in order to steal the suppressants most likely to give to Taehyung… Haneul requesting Jimin to get rid of Zodiac… A piece is going to break eventually. Jeongguk suspects that it will be a spectacular collapse. After his conversation with Jimin yesterday, there’s no doubt in his mind that Zodiac is trying to blackmail Haneul somehow. It just doesn’t make sense for Haneul to stick out his neck like this when he knows exactly what Zodiac is capable of doing to people. 

Zodiac must know something incredibly important—something that Haneul is willing to kill to keep quiet.

And Jeongguk is very interested in finding out what that something is.

He seeks out Zodiac’s lips, kissing him soundly, but without any real intention to start anything. Like Jimin said, it’s important to maintain their distance at the moment. Zodiac already knows he’s pathetically infatuated, but Jeongguk would rather keep up the I would still fuck you attitude than have Zodiac get any ideas about cutting in. He’s already snagged his hooks into Taehyung, and even just a month ago, Jeongguk would’ve called that impossible. The only one truly immune to Zodiac’s powers of persuasion, it seems, is Kalkaska. 

“God’s gonna get you one day, Zoey,” Jeongguk murmurs, pausing to press his tongue into Zodiac’s waiting mouth. It feels cruel to be kissing him like this, because deep down, Jeongguk still adores him, still worships him, but there’s a new kind of ache. An ache to watch him fly up and up, until the sun sets fire to his wings and burns them to a crisp. When he crashes back to earth, broken and humiliated, Jeongguk will be there, ready to grind him into the dirt. “And I’m going to laugh. It’ll be real horrorshow, Zoey. Real horrorshow.”


 

Taehyung’s skin stings in the wake of the bloody tracks his nails have left on his arms and in his palms. In his desperate attempts to hold himself together, he’s only managed to tear himself further apart. At some point, he got up off the bed, but now he doesn’t know where he is. Curled up on the floor against the wall, shivering in agony. Time is obsolete. It stretches on endlessly, and Taehyung can’t feel anything but pain, like knives pushing into his body over and over and never letting him die.

Maybe it’s minutes, maybe it’s hours, maybe it’s days. Finally, someone is picking his body up off the floor and moving him back to the bed. The movement makes his stomach roll violently and he gags, but it’s been an eternity since he’s been able to throw anything up. A cool hand presses against his sizzling skin and it’s the only relief he’s felt in ages, but the feeling quickly evaporates as their body heat equalizes. 

A voice is saying something. Taehyung can’t make out the words. His brain has been leaking out his ears in a steady drip, and he can’t hear anything anymore.

“...otta… ay with m… Tae… aehyun…”

He groans, trying to indicate that he’s currently unavailable, but the voice is persistent. Hands force his body into an upright position, leaning him back against a solid surface, and something is pressed against his lips. His head is tilted back and liquid floods his mouth, sudden and freezing. Taehyung chokes at first, spraying water everywhere, down his chin and on his shirt, but the rest makes it down his throat. As soon as the glass is pulled away, a horribly bitter taste hits his mouth, making him want to vomit again.

“Keep it down, baby, keep it down,” the voice says. Taehyung thinks it might belong to Zodiac. “You’ll feel better soon, just hold on a little longer.”

Easy for you to say, Taehyung wants to snap, but he doesn’t have anywhere near enough energy. Instead, he slumps back into the pillows and focuses on not puking.

For a while, nothing changes. Taehyung is still sweating, still barely hanging onto consciousness but in far too much pain to fall into sleep’s sweet embrace. But, eventually, it gets easier to breathe. The barbed wire in his chest loosens. He still hurts, he’s still in agony, but the acuteness begins to lessen. He can breathe. He can see. He can hear. His senses finally return to him.

Zodiac is curled up against him, like a big dog, trying to offer him comfort. 

“Wha’d…” His voice comes out like a rusty wheel. “Wha’d you gimme?”

“Part of a suppressant. I crushed it up and put it in the water.”

His heart jumps in excitement at just the word suppressant. “Y-You—What?”

“That’s what you needed, isn’t it?” Zodiac asks, pressing little butterfly kisses against Taehyung’s sweaty neck. “That’s what you needed to make the pain stop?”

Taehyung whimpers pitifully— God, yes, it’s exactly what he needed. Still needs. The pain isn’t completely gone yet, so he needs a little more. Just… Just a little more. Zodiac will give that to him, right? If he asks nicely? “It… still hurts,” he croaks. 

“Does it, baby? Where does it still hurt?”

“E-Everywhere,” Taehyung replies, unfurling from the fetal position so that he can roll over and press into Zodiac. He smells. “H-Hurts so bad.”

Humming softly, Zodiac strokes Taehyung’s face. His hands are cool and soothing, but not what he wants. They aren’t the thing his body is crying out for. “What can I do to make it better?”

“I… I need…”

His throat locks. A whisper from the deep recesses of his mind urges him not to do it, not to speak the words.

But Zodiac’s voice is louder. “You need what, Taehyung? What do you need? You have to say it, otherwise I don’t know. I’m not a mind-reader.”

“More,” Taehyung breathes. “M-More, I need more, I c-can’t—It hurts, I need more to make it stop, please…”

Zodiac titters softly. “There, what a good boy. That wasn’t so difficult, was it?”

Panic begins to well up in Taehyung’s chest, because Zodiac never does anything for free, does he? Just asking won’t be enough. If asking were enough, Taehyung would’ve been able to have them by now. In a trembling frenzy, he wraps his fingers around the front of Zodiac’s pants. “P-Please, whatever you want, I’ll do it, just—just make it stop,” he begs, clumsily palming over Zodiac’s cock through the fabric of his sweats. “My—My mouth, or… or whatever, whatever you want, y-you can use me how-however you want, just—”

Taehyung’s heart drops with a heavy thump into the pit of his stomach when Zodiac gently pries his hands away. He’s being rejected? Zodiac doesn’t want the sex? Zodiac always wants sex—why isn’t he good enough? What does he need to do in order to be good enough—?

“Taehyung,” Zodiac says softly, but stern enough to cut through Taehyung’s anxious mental chaos. “I wouldn’t make you do something you’re uncomfortable with. Sex is bad for you, isn’t it?”

So… Zodiac doesn’t want sex… because Taehyung doesn’t like it…? “Since… when do you care?”

“We’re friends, aren’t we?”

Are we?

“Friends do things for each other. There’s something that you need, and there’s something that I need, so we can help each other, right? Because that’s what friends do.”

Taehyung furrows his brow and glances up at Zodiac, seeking out anything to indicate insincerity, but there’s nothing. Zodiac’s expression is calm and serene, his eyes are warm. If he really wanted to humiliate Taehyung, he would be asking for sex. “...What do you need?” he tentatively asks.

“I just need you to come to a meeting with me,” Zodiac replies. “Once you do that, you can have the whole bottle of suppressants.”

Excitement tingles in Taehyung’s veins. A whole bottle. He knots his hands in Zodiac’s shirt and throws caution into the wind, nodding eagerly. Attending a meeting in exchange for suppressants. He can do that. He’ll even suck Zodiac’s dick under the table if he wants—anything to make it worth his while.

“I’ll do it.”


 

“So you really think Zodiac is blackmailing him?”

“Honestly, that’s the only thing I can think of. It’s like you said—Haneul had some kind of motive for killing my mom and my aunt. If Zodiac has somehow figured out what that is and is trying to use it against him, it’s a no-brainer for Haneul to want him gone.”

“But what does Zodiac want from Haneul? If there’s blackmail involved, that means there was something Zodiac wanted.”

“Yeah… my guess is that it may have had something to do with Taehyung. I—He and I had… well, kind of a fight. I kicked him out of the casino. Zodiac came and got him.”

“What? Why did you kick him out?”

“He needs to pick a fucking side. When he’s ready to talk, we can talk. But now he’s crawled out of Haneul’s ass and into Zodiac’s, and I’m fucking sick of it. We’ve only been pretending to be friends ever since our shitty excuse of a relationship.”

“...If Zodiac is trying to manipulate Taehyung for some reason—”

“Hold on, baby, I’ve got another call. We can talk later.”

“Mmkay.”

Jeongguk ends the call with Jimin and picks up the other. “Well,” he drawls. “I haven’t heard from you in a while, Mr. Andersen. How have you been?”

Andersen’s voice is tight and rigid, tickling Jeongguk a little bit. “I have your money.”

“Oh. How serendipitous.” Jeongguk absently wonders what exactly Andersen had to sell to get it. A kidney? His car? His child? “Would you like to meet here?”

Andersen declines, and rattles off another address. “My mate put a tracker in my phone because she suspects me of cheating,” he explains, “so I’d rather avoid somewhere conspicuous, if possible. This place is on my way home from work.”

In all honesty, Jeongguk doesn’t give two shits about Andersen’s love life, but he puts on an understanding facade. “Whatever works best for you, my dear Allan. I’ve got some other things going on, so I’d rather meet sooner than later, if that isn’t too much trouble. Will tomorrow evening be alright?”

Andersen agrees, and they hang up. Jeongguk thinks about calling Jimin back, but ends up just staring at the ceiling instead. 

Staring,

And staring,

And staring,

until eventually, he falls asleep.

Chapter Text

 

The amber liquid sloshes while Allan lifts his glass to his lips with a trembling hand. He couldn’t sleep last night. Today, he’s running on half a bagel and three cups of coffee. His boss chewed him out twice. When he finally gets home, his mate is undoubtedly going to lace into him over being out late, again. The bit he told Jeon about a tracker in his phone was a lie, but Denise is still beginning to get suspicious. 

All he needs to do is hand Jeon the check and fucking leave.

It weighs heavy in his pocket, finally signed. Twenty minutes ago, the anxiety reached its peak when he and this Zodiac character finally met. Allan—Well, Allan wasn’t sure what he expected, but a kid in sweats wasn’t it. Probably some rich brat friend of Jeon’s. They didn’t talk much, which suited Allan fine, because something about the kid’s smile unnerved him. Zodiac scribbled his signature on the check and wandered away—out of the restaurant, or something. Allan hasn’t seen him.

Now he’s just waiting for Jeon. Waiting and nursing a bourbon and waiting and getting a concerned look from the bartender so he must look ready to pass out and waiting and continuing to wait and can he just hand this check to someone else and leave or pop it in the mail or—

A hand slides over Allan’s back, making him jump. Bourbon sloshes. 

“Mr. Andersen,” Jeon’s unmistakable voice purrs. “I hope you weren’t waiting long.”

Allan stiffly turns to look up at him. As usual, Jeon spares no expense in his appearance. A white lace shirt underneath a white silk jacket, high cut shorts with his muscular legs shown off. Even though his hair is a little longer and messier than the last time Allan saw him, he’s still beautifully made up—sultry and smokey-eyed. 

Jeon Jeongguk is entirely too pretty for his own good.

“Not at all,” Allan replies. “I was just finishing—” Most of the bourbon is gone, now. Down his throat or on the bar counter. “I… guess I’m about finished.”

Jeon smiles and bats his eyes, and he’s a lot more convincing than Zodiac was, which only manages to unnerve Allan more. “Then we can go?”

“...Go?”

“I’m here to pick you up, aren’t I?” Jeon asks innocently and it’s then that Allan realizes this is an act. Of course they aren’t going to do a money transfer in the middle of the bar at a crowded restaurant. 

“Y-Yeah. Yeah, of course,” Allan replies hastily. He clumsily reaches into his pants to find his wallet to throw a few bills down on the counter before half-falling off the bar stool. He follows Jeon out of the restaurant and around the side of the building.

The sun has finally sank below the horizon, and the world is quickly darkening. Jeon is a bright spot, but the surroundings are getting that weird kind of blurry they do around dusk. A thick coating of moisture hangs in the air; it must be going to rain soon. Allan hopes this exchange will be quick so he can go home.

Allan follows Jeongguk deeper into the alley, growing more and more nervous as they go. It doesn’t look like Jeongguk is carrying any weapons—certainly not that sledgehammer—but it’s impossible to tell. He could have a knife. Oh god, this is a trap, isn’t it—

“So. You’ve got money?”

“I—Y-Yeah.” Allan hastily pats down his clothes. Which pocket did he put it in—?

Relief washes over him when his fingers finally close around the paper, and he pulls the check out of his back pocket and presents it to Jeon. He’ll be free, now. Free from Jeon showing up in the middle of the night and breaking his door down to set his house on fire. 

Jeon delicately takes the check from him, opening it up. He must not be able to read it very well in the dark, because his brow furrows. Allan opens his mouth to explain that it is the full amount, when Jeon glances up and catches sight of something over his shoulder. When Allan checks behind him, his blood runs cold, because someone is coming towards them down the alley, and he’s got something in his hand.

Several things happen at once.

Evidently, this is not part of Jeon’s plan, because he tries to run, but someone has crept up behind him and catches him around the waist. Jeon struggles, but his assailant presses a cloth over his face. In the meantime, the person behind Allan reaches him and grabs his shoulder. Allan is tossed to the ground like a ragdoll, pinned to the ground by a foot on his chest, and finds himself staring up at none other than Zodiac Bosch—brandishing a fucking sawzall. Jeon goes limp in his attacker’s arms.

“Kasey, baby,” Zodiac says, “when you’re done there, will you come hold him, pretty please?”

Allan stares up at Zodiac in shock and confusion, heart sinking deeper and deeper into his chest. “Y-You said… You… Why? Wh-Why are you doing this?”

Kasey lays Jeon’s unconscious body on the asphalt and saunters over to kneel over Allan’s head. One hand fists tightly in his hair, the other across his mouth and nose so tightly that he can’t breathe. Zodiac grins and depresses the sawzall’s trigger, blade rapidly pistoning in and out for a few seconds before he lets go again.

“To be completely honest, there was no reason to involve you in my plan at all. You serve no greater purpose aside from being a fresh sack of meat for me to sink my teeth into,” Zodiac replies. He speaks very conversationally. Like they’re still at the bar, and Zodiac decided to stick around and order a drink, ask him how his day went. “Please accept my sincerest apologies, Mr. Andersen. I’m sooooo excited for tonight’s festivities that I just can’t help myself.”

Zodiac leans down, pressing the edge of the sawzall’s blade against the side of Allan’s neck. The metal teeth prick his skin. After weeks and weeks of icing his crotch, Allan thought, nothing can be worse than this.  

But this.

This is so much worse.

“Now, Mr. Andersen, be good and stay very still for me.”

Zodiac pulls the trigger.

Allan screams.


 

Misha:

 

Did you ask Jimin about that house?

7:59 PM



Namjoon stares at the text for the third time over the course of the past hour. He hasn’t been able to make any sense of it. The Jimin that Misha is referring to is most likely Park Jimin, but Namjoon can’t remember discussing any of their conversations with him. In fact, the last conversation Namjoon had with Park Jimin was the original payment meeting that Jeongguk interrupted. There hasn’t been any more communication between the two of them, and certainly not about houses. The only thing that Namjoon can think of is that Misha texted the wrong number.

 

You:

 

What house?

8:05 PM

 

It’s been over and hour, and Namjoon still hasn’t heard back. Not that they text frequently, but such late responses have never been typical with Misha. He’s always got his phone on him. 

Namjoon tells himself not to panic and make this situation into something that it isn’t, but he can’t shake the ugly feeling in his gut that something is terribly wrong. The floor has been terribly quiet this evening. Not only are Misha and Dragunov gone, but Jeongguk seems to be gone too. Namjoon hasn’t seen Zodiac around for a couple weeks, and Taehyung hasn’t been answering calls for the past two days. 

Not knowing what else to do, Namjoon searches through his contacts for Jimin’s number and sends him a text. Then he sets his phone down and prays for the best.


 

Jimin leaps out of the Mustang just as Seokjin emerges through the front door of his apartment building, gently ushering an agonized-looking Dutch onto the sidewalk. He sprints across the parking lot towards them. Seokjin’s face crumples in relief at the sight of him.

“We couldn’t wait any longer, so I was gonna tell you to meet us at the hospital,” he hurriedly explains.

“Y-You should’ve called an ambulance,” Dutch says weakly. “‘m gonna leak water all over your fucking car.”

Jimin tucks himself against Dutch’s side, wrapping an arm solidly around him for support. Bitter scent or not, Jimin is still an omega, and he knows he’ll be a better comfort than Seokjin will. This leaves Seokjin free to pat himself down in search of his car keys.

“Let’s not worry about that right now,” Jimin murmurs.

“Yeah, you can just ask your baby daddy to buy me a new car.”

Dutch pauses to throw him a glance. “D’you want one?”

“I—Well, I wasn’t going to say anything, but if you’re offering—”

“Not the time, Seokjin!” Jimin barks, dragging Dutch in the direction of Seokjin’s vehicle. Dutch has one hand fisted in the back of Jimin’s shirt so hard, it’s making the collar choke him, and Jimin can smell the agony rolling off of him in waves. He desperately wishes that he could do something to help ease the pain, but he and Seokjin aren’t the ones who should be doing this. Zodiac should be here, helping his mate. 

But he isn’t.

So, Jimin grits his teeth and helps settle Dutch into the passenger seat of the car, nuzzling over his scent gland for a brief moment before he pulls away. Their eyes meet, and Jimin’s heart leaps into his throat at the hurt in swirling in Dutch’s gaze. The pain is beyond contractions. Loneliness, guilt, regret. Pregnancy has effectively cut him off from Zodiac—it’s prevented him from doing anything to help.  

Jimin offers Dutch a soft smile and squeezes his shoulder. I don’t blame you, he wants to say, but there isn’t time. Seokjin is sliding into the driver’s seat and shoving the key into the ignition, prompting Jimin to close the passenger door and get into the back. He reaches for Dutch’s hand through the center console and they grip each other tightly.

The engine roars to life, and Seokjin hastily backs out of his parking space and peels out of the lot.

“Thank you,” Dutch says quietly, almost inaudibly. “You—either of you—didn’t have to do this.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t read into it too much. Helping pregnant people has to earn a lot of good karma,” Seokjin responds.

Jimin tries not to roll his eyes while Dutch snorts at the joke. He and Seokjin still haven’t talked their shit out, but with Yoongi gone to the hospital, there was no one else to help with Dutch, and Jimin wasn’t about to leave Seokjin to do it on his own. 

A buzz in Jimin’s back pocket gets his attention, and he shifts around to awkwardly wiggle his phone out. He texted Jeongguk before leaving his apartment, but hadn’t heard back yet. However, much to his surprise, there’s no text from Jeongguk. Instead, there’s a notification from Kim Namjoon.

 

Kim Namjoon:

 

Sorry for texting you out of the blue, but I got a confusing text from Mikhail Kalkaska. He wanted to know if I’d asked you about a house. Does that mean anything to you?

9:16 PM

 

Jimin furrows his brow. “The fuck?” he mumbles. A house? Why would he ever have talked about a house to Namjoon? 

“What is it?” Dutch asks, twisting a little to try and look back at him.

“Nothing, just got a weird text from Kim Namjoon,” he replies.

“...Who?”

“He’s managing the Black Rabbit for Haneul. He texted me saying Kalkaska had asked him if we’d talked about a house, but I haven’t talked to Namjoon since just after my father’s funeral,” Jimin says. “There’s certainly been nothing about houses.”

Dutch is silent for a few long moments before nodding. “Yeah, that is weird.”

 

You:

 

No, it doesn’t. Was there a house you were supposed to tell me about?

9:17 PM

 

Kim Namjoon:

 

Not that I know about. Even if there was, I’m not sure why he would know about it. He isn’t involved in Mr. Jeon’s business.

9:18 PM

 

I texted him for some kind of clarification, but he hasn’t replied.

9:19 PM

 

“Namjoon says he hasn’t been able to get ahold of Kalkaska after that text,” Jimin reports. “Is that unusual.”

“Do you have— ah, fuck. Jesus Christ.” Dutch exhales a shaky breath. “Do you have his number?”

“No. I only have Jeongguk and Zodiac’s. But I haven’t heard from Jeongguk, either…” Jimin trails off, a new weight of unease settling in his stomach. The feeling must hit Dutch, too, because he grips Jimin’s hand a little tighter. “Should I text Zodiac?”

Dutch is silent for a few moments, and Jimin thinks that perhaps it’s cruel to put this kind of decision on him right now, but he certainly don’t know what to make of the situation. 

“I called him before we left,” Seokjin chimes in, “but I had to leave a message.”

Jimin hasn’t heard back from Jeongguk. Zodiac isn’t answering his phone. Kalkaska left a cryptic message for Namjoon regarding Jimin and has gone AWOL as well. 

This can’t be good.

“Seokjin,” Dutch says suddenly, tone deathly serious. “Go back.”

“What? No—”

“You need to take Jimin back. He has to go— fuck. Fuck, th-the house. He has to go to the house.”

Seokjin pins Dutch with the kind of glare that says he isn’t going to be swayed so easily. “If Jimin needs to go somewhere, he can fucking walk—”

Dutch lunges for the steering wheel.

The car weaves wildly on the road as Dutch wrenches the wheel to one side, using it to haul himself partway across the center console. Jimin throws out an arm to catch himself on the window just in time to faceplant against the back of the passenger seat as the car abruptly skids to a halt. A loud horn sounds behind them, lights flying by as a car narrowly avoids rear-ending them. Jimin’s heart is in his throat, and he shakily peels himself off of Dutch’s seat.

Dutch is splayed across the cupholders with one arm tight around Seokjin’s throat. “Either we go back together or you go back with us in the fucking trunk,” he hisses. 

The noise Seokjin makes is incredibly distressed. “Th-The hospital i-is ten minutes away, c-can’t we just—”

“I’m not arguing about this. Go back to the apartment.”

Several very tense moments later, Seokjin reluctantly agrees and Dutch slides back into his seat. Seokjin gets back onto the road properly and pulls into the drive of a nearby fast food restaurant to turn around. Jimin scoots forward to lean over the console. Dutch looks miserable.

“Are you gonna be okay?” he asks gently.

It doesn’t look like he is. The first tear gets loose, leaving the door open for all its friends to join. Dutch scrubs at his eyes with the back of his hand but it doesn’t do any good. Wordlessly, he hands Jimin some kind of pocket tool. It’s two metal handles on a hinge, held together by a latch on the other end. He flips the latch off and one handle swings free, revealing a blade hidden inside.

“If I knew what he was planning, I would tell you,” Dutch replies through his teeth, “but I’d rather send you on a wild goose chase than ignore something that might be important.”

Jimin fits the latch back over the knife’s handles. “You’re important, too.”

Through his tears, Dutch barks out a laugh. He reaches back, seeking out Jimin’s hand again to lace their fingers together. “Don’t pity me too much. I’m just the Eve who fell in love with the serpent. Suffering is part of my punishment.”

“Why don’t you just leave him?” Jimin asks.

“I can’t. I don’t know, Jimin, I just can’t,” Dutch says morosely. “Whenever we aren’t together, I’m always worried about him. Where he is, who he’s with, what he’s doing. Whether the next time I see him will be through the front door or identifying his body at the police station. Jeongguk found a way to occupy him while I’ve been pregnant, but it’s… I hate it. I hate that I’m so selfish. I want to protect him because I’m in love with him, but protecting him inevitably hurts other people.”

“How long have you known each other?”

“Since we were kids. We’ve always been together. Life without him doesn’t exist for me.” With a heavy, dejected sigh, Dutch gives Jimin’s palm a squeeze. “Don’t think of me when you go, Jimin. Whatever it is that you need to do, don’t hesitate. Protect the things that you hold dear.”

It’s you, Jimin wants to say. It’s all of you.  

Seokjin pulls into the parking lot of his apartment complex and stops to let Jimin out. Giving the back of Dutch’s wrist a quick rub with his nose, Jimin hastily exits the vehicle. 

“You know the house, right?” Dutch calls after him. “You know where you’re going?”

Jimin nods. “Lake street, right?”

“...Yeah. Be safe, Jimin.”

“You too,” Jimin says, and that’s all he gets to say, because Seokjin decides to pull the car away so that he can turn it around in the parking lot and exit back out onto the main road. It really isn’t fair to Seokjin, Jimin thinks as he jogs towards the Mustang. He must feel totally helpless right now, with both of his closest friends getting sucked into a whirlwind of chaos. It might be a small blessing that Yoongi checked into the hospital this morning, because at least he’s with medical professionals out of any more harm’s way. Jimin, on the other hand, is running to dive headfirst into danger, butterfly knife tucked safely in his pocket.

Overhead, the sky lights up in the distance. Thunder roars as Jimin unlocks the Mustang and hops into the driver’s seat.

A storm is coming.


 

The first thing that Jeongguk becomes aware of is the cold. His whole body is frozen to the bone, stiff and aching. A loud rumbling shakes the ground beneath him, jolting him awake. The noise is fierce enough to be the sound of an oncoming train, but it quickly peters out, and Jeongguk realizes that it’s thunder. The ground underneath him is slick and wet.

Rain.

It’s raining.

He’s outside somewhere, and it’s raining.

Despite not being able to see anything, Jeongguk unsteadily hauls himself to his feet. The last thing he can remember… Going to the restaurant? Meeting Allan Andersen? 

The ground sways underneath him and his knees go out, making him stumble into the trunk of a nearby tree. As the world slowly comes further into focus, more trees pop into his vision. He’s in the woods somewhere. But where? The restaurant was surrounded by buildings, there were no woods to drag him into—

And then he remembers Zodiac. It had to be him—it was his name on the check. Because that was their little game, wasn’t it? Catch them and kill them.

Only now it looks like Jeongguk is the one who’s been caught.

Quickly, he takes stock of himself. His head feels fuzzy, but it doesn’t appear that he’s sustained any injuries. His shoes are gone, leaving him barefoot in the leaves and mud, as are his pants, oddly enough. There’s definitely something, though, he can feel it every time he moves—

Slipping his finger between his asscheeks, Jeongguk hisses in annoyance when he runs over the bedazzled head of a plug. Such a stupid Zodiac move. Or it would be, if Jeongguk had any inclination at all to think this was some kind of sex game. Leaning against a tree for support, he grips the plug and slides it out. The silicone is slippery—someone at least had the decency to stretch him out a little, but they didn’t do a very good job. If it wasn’t Zodiac, then it was definitely Kasey. Jeongguk can’t imagine Misha would have been so lax—it he was compliant in this at all. 

As soon as the burn subsides, Jeongguk focuses his attention on the plug. He can’t see it very well in the dark, but underneath the mess of lubricant, it feels like there’s some kind of seam on the surface. Using the edge of his jacket, he does his best to wipe the plug off, and digs his nail into the seam. It definitely feels like, rather than existing for pleasure, the plug comes apart. Jeongguk grips both ends of the plug and twists, and after a few moments of struggling, his hunch is proven correct. The plug comes apart in two pieces, with a hollow chamber in the larger end. Jeongguk peeks into it, not seeing anything at first, then turns it upside down over his palm.

A single white pill drops out.

It doesn’t look like anything that he, personally, would take, so the only logical conclusion that Jeongguk can make is that this pill is not for him. Conveniently, however, there is a particular someone who comes to mind with regards to pills.

Kim Taehyung.

Who, also conveniently, disappeared with Zodiac two nights ago.

Jeongguk drops the pill into the chamber and screws the plug back together. He hesitates for a moment, then decides, perhaps against better judgement, to shove the thing back up inside him. Cleaned of lube, it hurts even worse going in than it did coming out, but if Zodiac put it there, there must be a good reason for it. Because, despite his chaotic tendencies, Zodiac seeks equilibrium. If Jeongguk has the pill that Taehyung wants, then Taehyung must have something as well. That’s the way Zodiac plays games. Tit for tat.

That also must mean Taehyung is somewhere in the woods, too.

Jeongguk pats himself down one more time, wishing that he had his phone, and makes the spit-second decision to shrug his jacket off and smear it around in the dirt. It kills him to do it, but the thing is ruined anyway, and white is such a noticeable color, even in the dark. He’ll be an easy target for Taehyung, especially if he has a light. Jeongguk slips the muddy jacket back on, checks his immediate surroundings for any sign of life before trudging forward, unsure of his direction. 

If he’s lucky, he might manage to wander out onto the road and make a break for it. 

Luck, he thinks sardonically. Yeah, not feeling a whole lot of that tonight.


 

With the almighty aid of GPS, Jimin manages to locate Lake Street, and crawls the Mustang down it in search of the house. The only thing he can recall from his visit with Jeongguk is that it was on the left. Thankfully, there aren’t many other driveways along the road. There’s one on the right towards the start of the road, leading to a dilapidated-looking cattle farm, another on the left leading to an empty corn field, and the third appears to be what he’s looking for. Through the trees, he recognizes the collapsed porch, and turns onto the gravel drive. Parked on the grass towards the back of the house is a black SUV. 

So, Dutch’s inclination was correct. Coming to the house was the right choice.

Jimin throws open the Mustang’s door and steps out into the rain. Unsure what to expect, he cautiously approaches the SUV. It’s difficult to see in the dark, but Jimin can make out a pair of figures leaning against the vehicle as he rounds the side. Kalkaska and Dragunov.

It’s Dragunov who steps forward, and Jimin’s heart leaps into his throat as he’s met with the barrel of a shotgun. Kalkaska remains where he is, but he’s armed as well, assault rifle resting against his shoulder. There’s a wide, toothy grin on Dragunov’s face, but Jimin can’t help noticing that there appears to be some dark splotches like bruises on his skin.

“Hey there, Kitty,” Dragunov drawls, as though he hasn’t got a double-barreled shotgun pointed at Jimin’s chest. “What a surprise to see you here. Did your owner call?”

Even though he’s been on the other end of a gun before, thanks to Jeongguk, Dragunov’s is definitely loaded, and based on what Jimin has been told, he’ll have no qualms about pulling the trigger. “...What’s going on?”

“Kitty, Kitty. Papa didn’t tell you anything?”

Jimin narrows his eyes, unsure who Dragunov means by papa. “No one told me anything,” he replies. “I’m looking for Jeongguk. Is he here?”

Dragunov titters giddily. “Maybe, maybe not.”

“Don’t fuck with me,” Jimin growls, prompting Dragunov to cock the gun and take a threatening step closer.

“You wanna play with the big dogs,” he says, “you’d better get on your fuckin’ knees first, Kittycat.”

Jimin’s gut instinct is to run, but he can’t. Not with a gun pointed at him. Dragunov will undoubtedly put a bullet in him, and Jimin can’t imagine what getting shot is like. It was bad enough to scare Jeongguk out of ever wanting to deal with firearms again. Granted, a shotgun will most likely kill him at close range, but he could always end up surviving—like that store owner Ken Rex Mcelroy shot in the neck. And, to be completely honest, surviving that kind of trauma sounds a lot worse than getting killed by it.

Kalkaska finally speaks up. “He’s in the woods.”

Jimin glances at him, narrowing his eyes, keeping Dragunov in his peripheral. It’s difficult to see Kalkaska’s face because he’s wearing a rain jacket with the hood up, but he isn’t looking at Jimin. He’s just staring at the ground. “What’s going on in the woods?”

“A hunt.”

“A… hunt?” Jimin repeats slowly. “What kind of a hunt?”

“How many different kinds of hunts are there?”

Jimin doesn’t know how to answer. The gun is still pointed at him; Dragunov looks like he’s interested in participating in his own kind of hunt. “When will he be back?”

Kalkaska shrugs a shoulder. “Dunno. If he will.”

If he will? “Who is being hunted?” Jimin asks.

Dragunov suddenly tosses his head back with a wild cackle. “Poor Kitty. Everyone really talked about you like you were somethin’ special, y’know that? But I guess you’re just a dumb bitch like the rest of us.”

“If you want to go look for him, you can,” Kalkaska says. “But I can’t promise you’ll find anything.”

A bolt of confusion flickers across Dragunov’s face, and the gun sags in his grip when he twists to throw a glance back at Kalkaska. Apparently, protocol for this particular scenario had not been discussed beforehand, but Jimin takes advantage of his distraction to sprint towards the treeline. 

“Let him go,” Kalkaska’s voice booms out behind him. “If he wants to die, he can fucking die.”

Jimin’s heart hammers in his chest as he breaks through the undergrowth. The tip of his toe catches on a fallen branch, and he manages to catch his balance before he wipes out in the mud. Overhead, rain patters on the umbrella of leaves, leaking down into the spaces between. The ground is soaked—the scent is familiar. Jeongguk smells like this. It feels like he’s everywhere at once, even though the little compass needle in the back of Jimin’s head says that they aren’t close to each other at all. 

It’s damp, it’s dark, it’s dangerous, but he isn’t about to let those things stop him. If Kalkaska and Dragunov are back by the house, that means the only real hunter is Zodiac. And if something happens to Jeongguk, even Zodiac’s blood won’t be enough to sate Jimin’s fury.

So, let the hunt begin.


 

Jeongguk feels Taehyung before he sees him. Their bond has weakened with the fading of their marks, but it hasn’t fizzled out completely yet. But if he can feel Taehyung, that means Taehyung must be aware of his presence as well. Crouching in the cover of a pair of bushes, Jeongguk scans the trees until he spies movement. He’s nothing more than a shadow, passing from one point to another, but Jeongguk knows it’s Taehyung. They’ve been together for far too long for Jeongguk to mistake him.

It feels as though things have fallen apart so quickly. Taehyung was his best friend. Even up to the point of meeting Jimin, Jeongguk still considered him that. Zodiac was a best friend, too, but the two were fundamentally different; they provided him with different kinds of comfort. 

But it’s this idea of having. Jeongguk’s entire life has been saturated with possession. What you had, what you did not. Who you had. Even though Haneul blatantly exercised his favoritism towards Taehyung, Jeongguk refused to cut him out, because that meant Haneul would win. It twisted them both, because Taehyung wanted to have his cake and eat it too. He soaked up Haneul’s attention like a sponge, accepting his love and money and gifts. If he was feeling generous, he would try and share them with Jeongguk, but Jeongguk didn’t want anything unless it came directly from his father. As Taehyung took Jeongguk’s place as Haneul’s eldest son, it created a fissure in their relationship. 

And then Jeongguk got this bright idea to ask Taehyung out with the hopes that sex would be enough to wiggle him out of Haneul’s hold, but Taehyung just had to be the one alpha on planet earth that wasn’t interested in sex. They fought and fell out, Taehyung ran to cry in Haneul’s arms, and Jeongguk thought all was well and truly lost. The wedge had been driven too deeply, and this was it for them. Jeongguk was seriously considering packing what little shit he had and running away when he met Zodiac. 

Zodiac was, in simple terms, perfect. Jeongguk had seen him in the hallways a handful of times at school, but knew absolutely nothing about him, other than the fact that he and this omega, Dutch, always hung out together. When Jeongguk landed an invite to a party, he saw it as a convenient opportunity to pick up some quick cash; he didn’t anticipate ending up giving a strange alpha a lap dance only to drunkenly vomit up his problems to him an hour later on a marble bathroom floor after a sloppy blowjob. Zodiac never told him he was gross for crying, that if he was having issues, he should just go see a therapist. He sat and listened and handed him tissues. Jeongguk was hooked on the first hit.

When Taehyung finally decided that they could be friends again, Jeongguk played it up that he’d met this guy at a party and they were hanging out, even though he didn’t even know Zodiac’s last name. As expected, Taehyung got jealous and moody, which pushed Jeongguk to seek Zodiac out for real and attempt to befriend him. As long as Taehyung was jealous, his attention was on Jeongguk and not on Haneul. 

And so Jeongguk won that way for a while.

But it’s damaged them. We don’t like each other, Jeongguk thinks, staring at Taehyung slinking through the trees. It’s nothing more than a show they’ve been putting on since they were kids—since Haneul handed Taehyung a big box wrapped in shiny silver paper their first Christmas together and gave Jeongguk nothing. 

Jeongguk thinks he might even hate Taehyung.

A strange sort of relief rolls through his body. Why should Jeongguk like him? Taehyung has hurt him. They’ve hurt each other. They don’t like each other. So it’s time to stop pretending and fucking deal with it.

Bracing himself, Jeongguk steps out of the shrubs. Taehyung freezes in place, head whipping towards him, hands raising along with the motion. A pistol is clutched in his unsteady grip. Everything about Taehyung is off—he’s trembling, his scent is flooded with anxiety. He must be suffering withdrawals from the suppressants. Not that he’d ever fucking admit it. Because as much as Taehyung likes to pretend he’s a better person, he’s just as much of a liar as the rest of them.

“You look like shit,” Jeongguk says, doing his best to control his breathing and look at Taehyung rather than the gun. It’s nearly too dark to see; he can just pretend it isn’t there.

And it’s true. Taehyung does. His eyes are hollow with dark circles hanging underneath them, he’s lost weight—he hasn’t been taking care of himself. Like Zodiac during the height of his addiction, when even Jeongguk thought he should slow down a little. 

“So do you,” Taehyung replies. 

Jeongguk flicks his hair as if he hasn’t noticed. “Is this the part where you shove the gun down my throat and pull the trigger?” he asks. “Zoey must’ve promised you a really nice reward.” 

“Shut the fuck up.”

“You like nice things, don’t you, Taehyung?”

Taehyung lurches forward, pulling the hammer on the gun back. “Shut the fuck up,” he growls.

Jeongguk’s heart sits in his throat. But he doesn’t move a muscle.

“I know you have it,” Taehyung hisses urgently. “Zodiac said you do, so just fucking give it to me.”

“I don’t know what you mean.”

Anger billows in Taehyung’s scent. Jeongguk can feel it rolling off him in waves as he approaches, lashing out with one hand to fist in the front of Jeongguk’s lace shirt. Taehyung presses the gun to the underside of his jaw, leaning into Jeongguk’s space and baring his teeth.

“Don’t fuck with me, you stupid piece of shit. You know exactly what I mean.”

“You’ve been claiming nothing is wrong for weeks now,” Jeongguk forces himself to say, proud of the fact that his voice doesn’t wobble like a drunk. “How am I supposed to know when you’re fine?”

Taehyung’s grip tightens. The thin lace fabric tears between his fingers. “Like everybody doesn’t fuckin’ know you kept using after Zodiac overdosed. You don’t give two shits about anyone other than yourself, like just cos you haven’t been on the ground twitching and foaming at the mouth makes you so much better than the rest of us. Like you don’t spend every night drinking yourself into a stupor cos your life is just so goddamn hard to deal with. Maybe if you looked around for one fucking second, you’d have a little bit of pity for how much more miserable you’ve made everyone else around you.”

“Kim Taehyung, are you blaming me for your suppressant addiction?” Jeongguk says though a saccharine smile. 

The gun is forgotten. It falls to the ground when Taehyung reels back to punch Jeongguk across the face. The blow hurts, knocking Jeongguk off balance. His bare feet slip on the leaves, leaving him struggling to catch himself before Taehyung’s knee connects with his gut. But he didn’t cut his teeth fighting gangsters and dealers just to be taken down by Taehyung in a bitch-slapping contest. Jeongguk hunches over from the blow to his stomach, twisting enough to get an elbow in front of his body, then brings it up. There’s a satisfying crack! when it connects with Taehyung’s jaw. Pain shoots down Jeongguk’s arm, but he ignores it in favor of landing a high-kick across Taehyung’s face. The blow sends him stumbling into the dirt.

Blood from Taehyung’s mouth dribbles down his chin. The side of Jeongguk’s face feels puffy and sore—he probably has a black eye. The adrenaline coursing through his veins won’t let him slow down. He steps over Taehyung’s body and straddles his hips, pulling him up by the front of his shirt.

“You wanna fuckin’ fight, you picked the wrong bitch,” Jeongguk snarles.

Taehyung spits in his face.

There’s a certain catharsis about this—giving into this carnal, violent urge to tear each other to pieces. Jeongguk headbutts Taehyung, and they continue to wrestle. While Jeongguk is indisputably stronger, he’s been lying passed out in the cold rain for God knows how long and his body feels weak. Taehyung is fueled by rage and desperation. So it isn’t incredibly surprising that Jeongguk’s grip slips and he loses his advantage, back hitting the ground with a hard thud as he’s flung to the dirt.

“You want everybody to cry for you just cos your daddy doesn’t love you,” Taehyung says to him, managing to land another solid punch that makes Jeongguk’s vision swim. “When are you gonna grow up and realize nobody owes you jack shit?”

Jeongguk’s hand flies to his throat, squeezing like he could pop Taehyung’s head off like a Barbie doll. “Like you haven’t spent years sucking my daddy’s dick. Is that where all your sex drive went, Taehyungie? You got sick of swallowing all of daddy’s cum?”

“God, if only a world existed outside of sex! If only you were good for anything else besides being a hole for alphas to dump their loads into! If only I would’ve fallen for it, right? Cos that’s how you get ‘em—you probably cried real big crocodile tears when I broke up with you cos you’ve got no other way of communicating outside of your stupid bedazzled cock!”

“You could’ve walked away, but you didn’t, did you?” Jeongguk sneers. “I might be a selfish piece of shit, but so are you, Kim Taehyung. You sucked up to daddy for his attention, you sucked up to Zodiac cos you felt threatened by him. If you’re not with me, who are you, Kim Taehyung? You’re fucking nobody. You’re nothing without me. I pay attention to Park Jimin for a week, and suddenly you’re on drugs from the stress of it all.”

Taehyung lunges for him, teeth snapping and closing around Jeongguk’s neck, very close to where Jimin’s mating mark is. His body sizzles in pain, a wretched scream wrenching from his throat. Another alpha’s teeth don’t belong anywhere near is mark. That’s for his omega only— Taehyung can keep his filthy maw away from it. 

There’s blood smeared all over Taehyung’s lips as Jeongguk violently knocks him away. 

“That should be mine,” Taehyung says. He barely sounds human, voice dropped low, like it’s been dragged up from the bowels of Hell. “You should’ve been fucking mine.”

For a split second, Jeongguk is fifteen again. He’s pulling Taehyung into his bedroom after dinner and sitting him down on the bed, and Taehyung looks nervous because Jeongguk told him they needed to talk, and that’s usually a bad sign. He’s watching Taehyung’s expression morph from worry to confusion to barely-curbed excitement as Jeongguk confesses his feelings. Taehyung is buzzing with happiness when Jeongguk asks him out, he’s glowing when Jeongguk calls him his boyfriend. They’re touchy and cuddly and Taehyung looks at him like he hung the moon and the stars in the sky, and Jeongguk can’t say that he’s unhappy. They’re pleasant memories to think back on, always bringing warmth to bubble in Jeongguk’s gut. 

He loved being Taehyung’s star. 

But Taehyung couldn’t meet his physical needs. Sex created a new type of fissure. Jeongguk wanted it, Taehyung couldn’t give it to him, so they needed to break up. The warm fuzzies and cuddles and sweet nothings weren’t enough. It was a pragmatic solution, because Jeongguk genuinely didn’t want to continue in a relationship where one of them had to be unhappy. 

It broke Taehyung’s heart. And here he is, four years later, still heartbroken.

It isn’t love anymore. It’s bitterness. Obsession. Vengeance.

“I couldn’t be yours, Taehyung,” Jeongguk says coldly. “You knew that then. What the fuck does it matter now?”

Taehyung doesn’t seem to be listening anymore. He pats himself like he’s searching for something, and Jeongguk realizes it’s the gun—the one lying on the ground somewhere, probably buried in the leaves. Jeongguk slowly pulls himself up, scanning the area as discreetly as he can. Their scuffle has churned up a lot of earth, but it’s somewhere in there. 

“If I can’t have you, Jeon Jeongguk, no one will.”

Jeongguk makes an educated guess as to the pistol’s location and lunges forward. Taehyung, thinking he’s spotted the weapon, begins to dart in that direction too, but Jeongguk is prepared for him and slams his shoulder into him like a bull. While Taehyung is recovering, Jeongguk scrabbles around in the leaves, searching for the gun. It has to be here somewhere, it has to—

Taehyung’s weight barrels into him, knocking him to the ground. They scrabble, biting and hitting and kicking and scratching—anything that will do damage. Taehyung drives an elbow into Jeongguk’s face, making blistering pain explode in his nose. Jeongguk shakes his head and coughs and gags around a thick glob of blood, and Taehyung takes the opportunity to grind his face into the mud. 

That’s when Jeongguk sees it. The gun, lying a few feet away, near the base of a tree.

He needs to get it. Even if he doesn’t—It can’t be in Taehyung’s hands. He needs to get to it first.

Going lax underneath Taehyung, Jeongguk feigns still not being able to breathe, and waits until he feels Taehyung loosen his grip. Then, summoning the last reserves of his strength, Jeongguk makes a herculean effort to throw Taehyung off and dives for the gun. His fingers wrap around the cold, wet metal, finger settling against the trigger, and not a single thought passes through his mind as he spins around and fires.


 

A loud crack! echoes through the dense quiet of the woods. Jimin stops moving long enough to pinpoint the direction of the sound, then begins to run, narrowly dodging trees and logs and rocks in his path as he navigates the forest in the dark. It’s impossible to hear anything over the sound of the rain and his own heavy breathing and his footsteps rustling up his leaves, but he manages to catch the buzzing roar just in time to avoid a blade swinging out from behind a tree.

Jimin did not anticipate Zodiac having a chainsaw.

It feels like some kind of cheap horror film, watching Zodiac step out of the shadows, threateningly revving the engine of a steel woodcutting machine. 

“Park Jimin,” he greets amicably, because even after nearly slicing Jimin’s head clean off, he’s always fucking amicable. “Nice of you to join the party. Funny, I don’t remember sending you an invite. Perhaps a little birdy figured out how to get your attention.”

Jimin doesn’t bother responding. He backs slowly away, moving carefully so as not to lose his footing. Amicable or not, he knows that Zodiac will have zero qualms eviscerating him on the spot.

“Since you’re here, you might as well play, right?” Zodiac grins, tongue darting out to lick his lips. This must be fun to him. “You’ll play with me, won’t you, Jimin?”

Jimin turns and runs.

He doesn’t know whether or not Zodiac is chasing him, or how quickly, but he doesn’t stop to look. It was a good play, because now Jimin is going in the opposite direction of the gunshot. Both Kalkaska and Dragunov had guns—he hates to think who one of them might’ve been shooting at.

The only solace he has is the bond link. It’s difficult to sort the feelings, what’s his own anxiety and what might belong to Jeongguk, but the link itself still exists. If Jeongguk was on the other end of that shot, Jimin is positive that he would be able to feel it. He might’ve stopped and begged Zodiac to run him through with the chainsaw.

But he keeps running, the air around him growing a musty kind of moist. As the ground gets muckier and more difficult to navigate, Jimin recalls Jeongguk saying that there was some kind of a lake tucked back in the woods. The trees grow more sparse and he finds himself swimming through a sea of waist-high grasses. Without as much cover overhead, the rain comes down harder. Jimin forces his way through the grass, coming face-to-face with a massive black blob that he realizes at the very last second is the lake, and narrowly avoids going for a real swim. He keeps against the shore, wetness seeping into his tennis shoes and soaking his socks.

A large structure looms in the distance that isn’t like the trees. Some kind of building. Possibly the boathouse that Jeongguk mentioned. 

The site of the Film Murder.

While Jimin struggled through the weeds along the lakeshore, Zodiac cut through the woods, and they wind up arriving at the boathouse at the same time. Jimin doesn’t have too many options—jumping into the lake is certainly one of them. He doesn’t particularly fancy going for a swim in the dark, but wet underwear in exchange for his life is a relatively inoffensive tradeoff. He opts to save that as a last resort, however, and makes a break for the boathouse. There might be something useful inside. 

Such as: doors. Anything to put between himself and this cocky Jason wannabe.

He bolts for the boathouse, mud sucking threateningly at his feet, and nearly trips onto the warped wooden walkway leading up to the building. The surface is slick and covered in moss, and Jimin can only hope that Zodiac slips and impales himself on his chainsaw. As soon as Jimin gets through the doorway, he realizes his mistake. The boathouse is pitch black and the floor is sloped towards the lake, like the entire building is sinking. He can feel how crooked the door is when he slams it shut. There’s a lock in the knob, but it’s old and rusty, and Jimin doesn’t know how long it will hold. 

He backs away, but there’s nowhere to go. His shoes splash in something—water. The platform is flooded.

Perhaps he will be going for a swim regardless of whether he wants to or not.

The idling of the chainsaw hovers on the other side of the door. Then it revs, and Jimin’s heart jackhammers in his chest as the blade is shoved into the door, slicing through the wood like tinfoil. It’s all for show—Zodiac could probably kick the door down if he wanted to—but it’s working. Jimin has nowhere to go.

It doesn’t take long for Zodiac to have the door in tatters. He pushes it in, and it just collapses, hinges no longer willing to hold it up to entire any more abuse. The wood pieces slide towards the water.

Jimin expects Zodiac to pull some stupid one-liner before lobbing his head off, but that doesn’t happen. Instead, he lingers in the doorway and cuts the chainsaw’s engine. A wonderfully fake white flag, but Jimin can at least breathe again without the menacing noise in the background.

“What are you doing this for?” Jimin asks into the eerie silence. “What’s the point of all this?”

“The point?”

“What are you trying to accomplish by orchestrating—whatever the hell this is?”

“Ah.” Zodiac steps into the boathouse. The floor creaks under his weight. “That would be convenient for you if there was some kind of ulterior motivation, wouldn’t it? That way if I fail, you can sit there and criticize how well my plan was constructed. Am I a genius? Or am I an idiot? As long as there’s achievement involved, I can be judged. But I don’t do anything to be judged. I do things to do them.”

Jimin bares his teeth, even though Zodiac can’t see him, anger bubbling in his gut. “These are people’s lives you’re fucking with. You can’t just do shit because you feel like it.”

“The problem is that I can, Jimin. You and everyone else lives their lives on a spectrum. Things are either black or white or somewhere in between. You’re good or you’re evil. If you make a decision, it needs to adhere to the rules of logic and reason. Every duck has its place in line. Behavior is labeled irrational if it doesn’t reflect a person’s standard of existence. Books are bad if they don’t follow a cohesive, linear plot with everything wrapped up at the end in a neat little bow. Your lives are boring. Living like you is boring,” Zodiac says. “So I don’t live like you. I do what I want, when I want to, however I want. Perhaps that makes you see me as a bad person, but that’s your perception—not mine.

“If your life was a novel, you might be the protagonist and I might be the villain. That all depends on how you’ve decided my actions align with your morals. As long as you’re the protagonist, people will cling to you as a hero. A Clockwork Orange is like that. Reprehensible as Alex is, he still makes a play for your sympathy because he’s your only window into his universe, so you’re forced to view things the same way that he does. You’re forced into the headspace of a psychopath. And that’s what my life is like, you know? I’m Alex. I’m my own hero, just like you. In the book of Jeongguk’s life, he’s the hero, fighting for whatever it is that he’s defined as justice for himself. We aren’t an artfully constructed masterpiece—we’re a writhing mass of flesh, rotting and sloughing off the bone. Outsiders will look at us and call us vile and disgusting, senseless, sightless, meaningless, and perhaps they’re right. But in the end, ourselves are all we have. You’re the one you ultimately need to please. I’m pleasing myself, Jimin. Are you pleasing yourself? Or are you chasing after other people, looking to whore yourself out for some cheap approval?”

Jimin can’t see Zodiac in their dark, can’t meet his eyes, but they’re meeting here. Zodiac with blood on his hands, Jimin with blood in his mind. The free and the captive. 

Are you reading this?

Are you the Almighty with your hammer of justice, aiming to pass judgement here?

The behemoth continues to crawl towards the cliff and you have no hope of stopping it. All you can do is watch. And that’s so terribly frustrating, isn’t it?

Jimin takes a slow step towards the back wall, hoping to make his way back in the direction of the door and somehow slip back past Zodiac. Jeongguk is still out there, and Jimin needs to get to him. Doesn’t he? Or was the point always to come here? Is there a point?

Are they unknowingly following the voice of a narrator? Is there a Story Adventure Line that they’ve been walking along, and Zodiac crashing through a wall to lead them in a different direction is a scripted event? Or are there hundreds of millions of different outcomes that could result from any individual encounter? If Jimin were to retell this story in ten years, he’s sure some decisions and details will be unsavory, even to him, but the narrative is what it is. There is one thing that Zodiac is correct about, however—Jimin is the only one he ultimately needs to please. How it ends is his choice.

“You’ve been busy the past couple weeks,” he says. “Building your own machine. Are you trying to play Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots with Jeongguk?”

Zodiac laughs. “Jeongguk is a fun opponent. He likes to play the way that I like to play.”

Jimin hesitates, fingers brushing against the wall for balance. The wood is slimy. “How do you like to play?”

“Ooh, I like it rough, baby. Why wouldn’t I like it rough?”

“What if I offered to play with you instead?” Jimin asks. “Would you let Jeongguk go?”

Zodiac doesn’t respond right away. It’s too dark to see his expression, but what would it give away? “That’s a steep request,” he replies. “And I’m not sure you know exactly how steep it is.”

“...I know enough.”

The floor creaks as Zodiac shifts his weight. Jimin doesn’t think he’s moved, just changed position. It would be incredible if Zodiac would put the chainsaw down. 

“Is that your way of telling me that you know too much?”

Jimin having knowledge of Zodiac’s arrangement with Jeongguk must piss him off more than he anticipates, because he suddenly lunges forward. However, the dance is not only between them, but the pitch black and the slick floor of the boathouse, because when Zodiac collides with him, they both lose their balance and slip towards the water. Zodiac is the first to go, while Jimin manages to find purchase on a wooden post. The floor disappears underneath Jimin’s legs—the drop-off into the lake where the boat should be sitting. Water splashes next to him where Zodiac has fallen totally in. Jimin can hear him scrabbling to get a grip on the edge of the sunken platform. There’s no way he can still be hanging onto the chainsaw.

As much as Jimin would love to just let Zodiac drown, he can’t do that before they talk, because there’s a high probability that he has information about Haneul. Hauling him out of the water probably won’t give him any advantage in negotiation, but Jimin reaches out anyway. He finds Zodiac’s flailing arm, and there’s no hesitation when Zodiac grips him in return. Like drowning animals, they claw their way to safety against the post. It creaks under their weight, but remains upright.

Jimin snatches the butterfly knife from his pocket and barely manages to get the blade free before Zodiac seems to realize what he’s doing. But it’s too late for him to do anything to stop it, and Jimin drives the blade down hard into him. Into his abdomen, hopefully. Enough to get his point across without killing him. 

Zodiac makes a pained noise—not a scream of agony like someone might do in a movie. It makes his own action—he just stabbed someone— a lot easier to take, and it occurs to Jimin that Zodiac has most likely suffered this kind of injury before, whether at the hands of the druggies he used to deal with or his own mate. 

“I don’t know what you did, but Haneul wants you dead,” Jimin hisses urgently. “He contracted me to get rid of you. My whole debt can be wiped clean if I just fucking gut you right now.”

The laugh Zodiac rasps out is very dry in comparison to the wet that surrounds them. “How very interesting.”

Jimin leans harder on the knife, and Zodiac groans. His hand is beginning to shake. “Haneul isn’t the kind of person to put himself in a high-risk situation where he can lose. You and I are standing in between him and Jeongguk, but you know something. And I wanna know what you know.”

“A-Are you gonna make me tell you?”

“I’ll toss you in the lake to die if you don’t.”

“I’ll tell you some things,” Zodiac wheezes, “because I enjoy you, Park Jimin. But there are things that I want, too.”

Zodiac, Jimin thinks, is inevitable. A seductive parasite that has invaded their universe and permanently changed their ecosyste