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Way Out There

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The gang that had kidnapped Jungkook apparently operated on a narrow stretch of territory that reached a portion of docks on the Han River, and stereotypically, they had taken him to one of the shipping warehouses lining the banks. The air reeked of petrol and industrial waste, but all Jungkook could smell was the familiar tang of the explosive chemical powder clinging to Yoongi’s shirt. It was by no means a comforting or pleasant scent, but it grounded Jungkook in the reality of his freedom. He and Yoongi were perched on the edge of the open trunk of their SUV, waiting for Namjoon and Hoseok to emerge from the warehouse. Jungkook wasn’t entirely sure what they were doing, but he could assume they were staging the scene to make it look like the massacre was caused by internal conflict.

Yoongi’s warm fingers pulling through Jungkook’s tangled, dirty hair acted as a sudden grounding point, and the maknae hummed at the subtle cue.

“How are you holding up, baby?” Yoongi whispered the words against Jungkook’s forehead, a gentle caress of chapped lips against dirty skin.

Letting the silence stretch for a moment as Jungkook took stock of his bumps, bruises, and soreness, the maknae eventually sighed and shifted a little closer to Yoongi before answering in his roughed up voice.

“Mostly just sore,” Jungkook mumbled, exhaustion weighing heavier with each passing minute. “Hungry and thirsty, mostly. Think Jin-hyung will make whatever I want?”

Yoongi’s chuckle was easy, but the concern emanating from every line of his posture seemed to belie the attempted balm on the situation. Jungkook was still hurt, was still nursing the beginnings of sickness that they had been working so hard at chasing away, and there was a warehouse full of dead bodies less than a hundred feet away from them. They could act nonchalant all they wanted, but Namjoon preached humility and humanity despite their line of work. He said that the moment killing became easy was the moment they were lost. This life was one they had all been forced into, and Namjoon wanted to make sure they didn’t take pride in that fact, so every body – every life they took – was a weight on their conscience and red in their ledger. It was why they trained so hard to be the best shot, to understand the non-fatal points on a body you could strike, so they didn’t make a mistake and take more lives than necessary.

It was why Jungkook asking Namjoon to shoot that gang leader was an outlier of their normalcy.

It was also why Namjoon made them all take on secondary jobs. They all understood the reality of their situation – that they could never escape this life after everything they had done. Bangtan would never be allowed to live in peace even if they cut all ties with the underworld of Seoul. This would always be their primary occupation, but a secondary “normal” job kept them grounded in the mundane world of their city and provided a reprieve. Never a job too permanent in case they had to cut and run, never something that required a degree, never a job that dug too deeply past the fake names and data Jimin conjured up for them.

Namjoon and Hoseok emerging from the warehouse tugged Jungkook free of his wandering thoughts, and the figure propped up between their shoulders provided a jarring slap of adrenaline. Stumbling to his feet to the sound of Yoongi’s startled protest of Jungkook’s name, the maknae tripped over himself to slam into the body between his hyungs. Namjoon and Hoseok on either side of an exhausted Taehyung were the only reason he and Jungkook didn’t go toppling over with the sudden momentum.

“H-Hyung,” Jungkook stuttered out through a relieved sob, his fingers weakly scrabbling for purchase against Taehyung’s jacket as he pressed his face into the soft material of his hyung’s black turtleneck. He could feel one of Taehyung’s arms come around to wrap tightly around Jungkook. His hyung’s wince at the action however was not lost on Jungkook, and he pulled back as a result, concerned.

Taehyung still had one arm draped across Namjoon’s shoulder as he held Jungkook close with the other, his face drawn but the relief clear as day.

“Are you okay?” Jungkook asked breathlessly, his fingers and wrists aching where he clung to Taehyung, but refusing to let go regardless.

Taehyung’s answering huff was amused as he drank in Jungkook’s expression. “Shouldn’t I be asking you that? You were the one who was kidnapped for a day and a half after all.”

“Yeah but you were shot,” Jungkook countered stubbornly. Taehyung’s answering grimace was telling, and Jungkook’s brow pulled further with heightened concern. It must have made him look more distressed, because Taehyung released Jungkook’s waist just to cup one of the maknae’s cheeks in a large hand with a fond smile.

“It only grazed my side, baby. It didn’t even go through me; it just hurt like a motherfucker. Jin-hyung helped patch me up, too.” Taehyung’s reassurances were lost on Jungkook, because the fact still stood that his hyung had been hit in some way by a bullet because of Jungkook. He knew it was stupid to try and shift the blame for something like this onto himself, but Jungkook couldn’t help but dwell on the idea that if he had taken better care of himself to begin with, none of this would have happened in the first place.

Namjoon – ever perceptive – seemed to realize that Jungkook was spiraling, and he was quick to reach out and brush his knuckles gently across their maknae’s cheek, pulling him back to the present moment. Warm eyes soft with understanding, the leader gestured to the car and adjusted his grip on Taehyung.

“Let’s head home, okay baby? You need food, medicine, and rest – in that order. Plus, Jin-hyung and Jiminie are anxious to see you. We let them know we got to you, but I imagine they’ll be a mess until they actually lay eyes on you.” Namjoon’s words were soothing but firm, giving Jungkook a directive to focus on instead of his misplaced guilt.

Namjoon helped Taehyung limp his way into the SUV, clearly not as unaffected by the pain of the bullet graze as he had lead Jungkook to believe (and apparently the hyungs too, by the gentle scolding Yoongi gave their resident sniper as Taehyung disassembled his rifle in the backseat with slightly shaking hands). Hoseok steadied Jungkook as the maknae slumped into the car, falling into his hyung’s side once they were settled beside each other. Yoongi slid into the driver’s seat once he was done with Taehyung and Namjoon took passenger. Driving away from the warehouse and towards home seemed to release a tension in Jungkook that he hadn’t realized he was harboring until every muscle in his body seemed to unwind at once and he dropped abruptly off to sleep against Hoseok’s shoulder.

When he woke again, it was to Hoseok’s hand gently carding through his hair and his voice sweetly coaxing Jungkook into consciousness once more. Grunting sleepily, he looked up and blinked against the heaviness weighing on his eyelids. The very brief nap hadn’t helped with Jungkook’s exhaustion and aches at all; in fact waking to them seemed to make them even worse. He was acutely aware of how his wrists were rubbed raw from the bindings, how his shoulders were stiff from limited movement, how his new smattering of bruises throbbed with every breath. Groaning in the face of all his pain, Jungkook forced his eyes open and looked around at a concerned Hoseok and Namjoon. Yoongi and Taehyung were nowhere to be seen, so Jungkook assumed they were already heading to the apartment.

“What hurts, baby?” Namjoon murmured, eyes scanning the maknae up and down for signs of injury they may have missed before.

“Honestly?” Jungkook murmured groggily, his voice still rough. “Everything. Sitting in one position for so long got my muscles all stiff. But my wrists hurt the most from tugging against the zip tie.”

Namjoon’s expression turned sympathetic, but there was a very defined flame of anger sparking behind that too, aimed at the now dead man. Jungkook hated to make Namjoon feel that way, but he knew that his hyung would be furious about this situation regardless of who had been taken. They cared for each other so deeply – so strongly – that Jungkook sometimes feared it might become a weakness in the future. Now, it made them stronger, fiercer. But if someone were to try and use that love against them like they had today…Jungkook didn’t even want to think about the lengths they might go to in order to protect one another.

“Come on, little one,” Namjoon’s warm voice tugged Jungkook free of his musings, the maknae blinking up at his hyung with confusion. Namjoon turned and gestured to his back, a fondly amused look tugging at the corners of his mouth. “I’ll carry you up before Jin-hyung inevitably sweeps you away for some TLC before dinner.”

Managing a tired grin, Jungkook – with Hoseok’s help – eagerly loaded himself on Namjoon’s broad back and wrapped his sore arms and legs around his hyung. Tucking his face comfortably against Namjoon’s shoulder, Jungkook was content to let his eyes flutter shut once more as he breathed in the familiar, reassuring scent of home. It was there in the traces of Namjoon’s body wash and deodorant, the faint linger of their laundry detergent clinging to the fabric of his shirt, and the subtlest tang of blood and metal. The latter scent would wash out (thankfully) but for now, Jungkook didn’t mind it too much.

The sound of Hoseok shutting and locking the doors of the SUV seemed to be the harbinger of movement, Namjoon bumping Jungkook a little higher on his back before the gentle bounce of even steps carried them closer to home.

He must have dozed off again before they reached the elevator, because the next thing Jungkook knew, he heard the telltale click of their front door lock being undone, a few moments of distant chatter further inside, and then Seokjin’s voice carried their way, laced with panic and relief all at once.

“Kookie! Is he okay? Let me see him, Namjoon. You’re both okay, too, right?”

Blinking open his eyes yet again and looking up from Namjoon’s shoulder, he caught the last few seconds of Seokjin fretfully patting down Hoseok for injuries (the latter looking smitten and amused) before wide brown eyes locked on Jungkook’s weary face.

Baby,” the word left Seokjin in a breathless rush, his eldest hyung closing the distance between them in a few quick strides, long fingers threading through Jungkook’s messy hair. Tilting his head into the touch, Jungkook sighed wearily and felt everything in him unwind with the content fact that he was finally home. With that release came the full force of bone aching weariness, and Jungkook was pliant as Namjoon shifted him off of his back and into Seokjin’s sturdy arms. He was by no means light – constant training for survival giving him a decent build – but the lack of training over the semester and his poor health habits had definitely cost Jungkook some weight. It wasn’t as shocking as it should have been that Seokjin had no apparent trouble carrying Jungkook off into the apartment once he was absolutely sure that Namjoon and Hoseok were unharmed.

Pressing his face tiredly into Seokjin’s shoulder, breathing in the scent of their detergent and the clinging scent of whatever his hyung had been cooking in the kitchen, Jungkook let himself feel small and protected. He felt like absolute shit and didn’t have the energy or willpower to act as tough as he normally did.

“I’ve got you, baby,” Seokjin murmured from above him, the elder slipping into their first floor bathroom and depositing Jungkook easily on the counter, steady hands keeping the younger’s boneless form upright.

“Let’s take a look at you before I get you in the tub, okay?” Seokjin murmured, eyes scanning over Jungkook and darkening significantly when he caught sight of the younger’s bruised, red wrists. A glance over Seokjin’s shoulder showed Jungkook that the bath was already drawn, his arrival clearly anticipated and prepared for.

Seokjin’s warm fingers brushing feather light over his damaged wrists pulled Jungkook’s gaze back, blinking lethargically at him as Seokjin examined the youth’s injuries. Jungkook couldn’t help but marvel at how handsome Seokjin was – even worried as he was. The furrow between his brow was telling, but the line of his nose and the curve of his turned down lips were soft, attractive, and Jungkook wanted to just trace the slopes and junctures of Seokjin’s face for hours.

“Since these aren’t open wounds, I’ll wait until after your bath to treat them. That way, the bandages don’t get wet.” Seokjin looked up as he spoke, catching Jungkook staring and going soft with unadulterated adoration. Warm, large hands traveled up to cradle Jungkook’s shallow cheeks with an unafforded gentleness. Leaning in, Seokjin tipped Jungkook’s head forward a little so he could press plush pillow lips gently against the younger’s brow, lingering for a long moment before pulling away.

“Let’s get you undressed, hmm?”

A few gentle minutes later found Seokjin helping Jungkook stay steady as he stepped into the bath, sinking gratefully into the warm water and tipped his head back against the rim as he let the heat soak him through. Jungkook could hear his hyung moving around, grabbing shampoo and soap presumably, before Seokjin’s fingers were weaving carefully through Jungkook’s long hair.

They passed the duration of Jungkook’s bath in comfortable silence, Seokjin’s hands gentle and guiding as he cleaned the maknae’s hair and then helped him soap up his back with body wash before letting Jungkook take over the rest. By the time he was stepping out of the draining tub and being wrapped in a large, fluffy towel that smelled freshly of their dryer sheets, Jungkook was feeling a little more awake and a lot more like himself. He wasn’t sure when Seokjin had stepped out to fetch Jungkook’s sleep clothes, but they had appeared on the countertop at some point, and he gratefully changed into them once he was dried off. Seokjin sat him down on the closed toilet seat and carefully towel dried Jungkook’s hair into fluffy dampness before reaching for the first aid kit beneath the sink.

The kit was courtesy of Jungkook’s training, the maknae picking up things here and there as he went through school and eventually assembling a fairly decent sized medical supply for their own personal use. In the past, Jungkook had shown Seokjin how to do most of the basics in case Jungkook might not be able to get to them should they find themselves injured, so he trustingly extended his wrists towards his hyung as the disinfectant and gauze were brought out.

“I’m glad to have you back – again,” Seokjin murmured as he began carefully smearing disinfectant over the reddened skin. “If another one of these close calls happens anytime soon, I'm going to go grey early.”

“You would still look handsome, hyung,” Jungkook teased lightly. “And I’m sure Jiminie-hyung would go silver again to support you.”

“You’re all a bunch of brats,” Seokjin chuckled with no real bite to his tone, fondness exuding from every line of his posture.

“True, but you raised us, so we’re your brats, hyung. It’s your fault we’re like this.”

Seokjin laughed – genuinely laughed – and Jungkook felt his heart soar in his chest at the sound. It had been too long and he absolutely reveled in the uniqueness of Seokjin’s joy.

“Well, I wouldn’t have a single one of you any other way,” Seokjin countered playfully as he started carefully wrapping bandages around the gauze he had set over the disinfected areas of skin. “So I’m the real winner here.”

Jungkook watched, impressed that Seokjin had remembered the effective wrapping techniques he had taught his hyung a while back before the bandages were secured in place. Curling and uncurling his fingers, testing the flexion and extension of his bandaged wrists carefully as Seokjin put away the first aid kit, Jungkook counted his blessings not for the first time. The way he had grown up, the hand he had been dealt, things could have turned out a lot worse in his life. And yet, they hadn’t. He was surrounded by six of the best people in the world (at least in his opinion) and reminded of how much they loved and cared for him almost everyday.

“Thank you, hyung,” Jungkook whispered, staring down at his bandaged wrists and feeling everything at once.

Seokjin paused in his peripheral, and then warm fingers coaxed Jungkook’s eyes up a heartbeat before soft lips pressed chaste and comforting against the maknae’s. It lasted only a moment, but it was more than enough. The look in Seokjin’s eyes when he pulled back enough to stare at Jungkook was intense and toe curling.

“We would do absolutely anything for you, Gguk-ah. Don’t ever forget that.”

Choked by his emotions, Jungkook nodded with misty eyes and watched Seokjin’s expression go soft as fondness tugged the corners of his mouth upward. He clucked the maknae gently under the chin and nodded towards the door.

“Go lay down in your room for a little while, baby,” Seokjin said. “I need to finish getting the food together before we can eat and you look like you need a power nap. I’ll make sure someone fetches you when the food is ready.”

Jungkook nodded, standing and feeling steadier than before, and made his way out of the bathroom. Seokjin stayed behind for a moment to organize the bathroom again as Jungkook trudged towards his room. Pushing open his door, Jungkook blinked in surprise when he found one of his hyungs sitting on the other side.

Namjoon was waiting for him, sitting up against the pillows at the head of Jungkook’s bed, the duvet draped across his legs and glasses perched carefully on the bridge of his nose as he read the book open on his lap. His hair was tousled, looking finger worried and soft and making something in Jungkook’s chest melt with fondness as he watched Namjoon read quietly for a peaceful minute.

Eventually, Namjoon seemed to sense Jungkook’s presence in the doorway and looked up, expression softening into a smile as the leader took in the younger’s freshly washed countenance. Setting his book aside, Namjoon gestured Jungkook over to the bed and waited with open arms as the maknae crawled over to his side and settled beneath the duvet, tucked under Namjoon’s arm. He sunk warm and content and safe, against his hyung’s chest and sighed drowsily into Namjoon’s sleep shirt. Long fingers found their way into Jungkook’s hair and gently worked through the damp strands.

The pair was quiet for a long few minutes, content to bask in one another’s reassuring presence as they had the morning of Jungkook’s kidnapping. It was a comparison being actively avoided.

“You know we have to talk about it,” Namjoon eventually murmured against Jungkook’s hairline where he had begun to brush gentle kisses to the damp hair.

“Why did you ask me to shoot that man?”

“Why did you listen to me?” Jungkook answered, voice resigned and quiet. He wasn’t trying to pin the blame on Namjoon – would never dream of it – but this was how they worked through things. Whenever one of them pulled something dangerous, something that pushed them further from the edge of humanity, they played a game of morality and usually came out of it feeling not better, but with a firmer grip on their sanity.

“I asked you,” Jungkook continued, not giving Namjoon a chance to respond – knowing he wouldn’t, because Namjoon had asked first – and keeping his voice low. “Because I was angry. I was frustrated at the situation, that my weaknesses and my stubbornness made me sick in the first place and led to the events of Taehyung getting shot. I hated him for taking me away from everyone, for hurting the people I loved. I hated hearing him beg like he had done nothing wrong.”

Namjoon’s arm tightened around Jungkook protectively, and the tension radiating off of his hyung was enough to make Jungkook want to cower. But he remained fixed to Namjoon’s chest and wound a shaking arm around his hyung and pulled impossibly closer.

“First of all,” Namjoon murmured, tone rough and firm. “Taehyung being shot is in no way your fault. You didn’t ask for him to be shot, you were not the one to pull the trigger. We’ve talked about this before, baby. This circumstantial guilt is misplaced, Kookie.”

“I know, hyung,” Jungkook mumbled into Namjoon’s sleep shirt. He really did know that it wasn’t his fault, but sometimes his guilt complex just needed to hear that reassurance before he could actually believe it.

“Second,” Namjoon heaved out on a weary breath. “I suppose I’m also at fault for reacting on my emotions. We were all so tense, so worried and angry that someone had dared to take you from us, had dared to hurt Taehyung; that this happened under our noses, on our territory where you’re supposed to be safe. It was unchecked anger and frustration, and hearing you ask sort of felt like being given permission to be as ruthless as I wanted to be. That doesn’t make it right, and it doesn’t make it your fault, but as long as we know and don’t let it happen again, I think we’ll be okay.”

Jungkook didn’t know what to say in response to such heavy, wise words, so he settled for staying silent and burying his face completely in Namjoon’s soft shirt. Drifting down the hall and muffled by the door was the quiet chatter and clanking of kitchenware, a reassurance that everyone else was home – was safe. It was exactly what he needed right now, even if it somehow felt like more than he deserved.

Namjoon stayed quiet, his chest rising and falling evenly under Jungkook’s cheek, and the younger was glad his hyung seemed to take the cue that the conversation was over. Jungkook felt overwhelmed by everything, not in a bad way, but not necessarily in a good way either. It just was.

A soft knock at the bedroom door had Jungkook twitching slightly, Namjoon’s hand moving from his shoulder to bury careful fingers in the youth’s hair a settling reassurance. His deep voice called out quiet permission to enter and the distinct pad of a quiet foot and the gentle creak of the door opening and closing behind a body had Jungkook finally adjusting his head so he could look over at whoever had come to them.

“Hey there, sleepyhead,” Hoseok’s warm smile greeted Jungkook’s bleary gaze and his hyung was quick to slip into bed behind Jungkook and wrap warm arms around Jungkook’s torso. Planting nuzzling little kisses to the back of the maknae’s head and neck, Jungkook couldn’t help but squirm and giggle with the ticklish sensation, pressing back into Hoseok’s chest in an attempt to squish him into stopping.

Hoseok laughed brightly at Jungkook’s giggles, ceasing his attack and using Jungkook’s momentum to pull the younger even closer to him, lithe arms firm and warm across the maknae’s torso. A glance at Namjoon revealed a dimpled, fond smile as he relinquished his hold on Jungkook.

“Jin-hyung sent me to tell you that dinner’s ready. He said that if Kookie isn’t up for it, he could bring your food in here – so long as you don’t make a mess.”

They both looked to Jungkook, leaving the choice up to him, and the youth squirmed a little under their gentle concern. They all really were too good for him.

“I can join you guys, I’m okay,” Jungkook reassured them softly. He ached, he was overwhelmed, but he also knew that seeing all of his hyungs in one place would probably help more than any medicinal balm they could get their hands on.

Thankfully, Namjoon and Hoseok seemed to accept that easily, both of them helping to extract Jungkook from the warmth of his bed so they could head down to the kitchen. Hoseok fussed over Jungkook’s bare feet before they could leave the bedroom, however, and sat the maknae down on the bed again so he could slip warm, fluffy socks on Jungkook’s feet, his frown more of an adorable pout as he concentrated on the task. Jungkook and Namjoon exchanged amused looks over Hoseok’s head before he stood and tugged Jungkook back to his now sock-clad feet.

Wandering into the kitchen found Seokjin putting the finishing touches on the food at the stove, Yoongi alongside him as an assistant. Hoseok left a quick kiss on both Jungkook and Namjoon’s cheeks before slipping away to help them. Taehyung was at the kitchen table, a tall glass of juice in front of him and Jimin draped carefully over his shoulders from where he stood behind the younger’s chair. It only took a heartbeat after they entered the kitchen for Jimin to look up and spot Jungkook.

His whole stance shifted, peeling himself off Taehyung’s back and letting out a strangled noise, eyes wide and plush lips parting with surprise. It was only then Jungkook realized that Jimin was the only one he hadn’t seen yet since coming home and guilt was a hot flash in his chest.

Before he could even think of moving closer, though, Jimin was around the table and in Jungkook’s space, soft hands cupping the maknae’s cheeks as Jimin examined Jungkook. Melting into his hyung’s gentleness, Jungkook was only dimly aware of Namjoon leaving his side to join Taehyung at the table.

“You’ve got to stop scaring us like this, baby,” Jimin whispered. “My heart can’t take much more of this.”

“Jin-hyung said something similar,” Jungkook mused sleepily. Jimin’s sweet chuckle made something warm curl to life in the maknae’s chest and he smiled in response. A fond kiss found its way from Jimin to Jungkook’s forehead before Seokjin called them to the table for dinner. Sitting surrounded by his hyungs once again with warm, home-cooked food piled on his plate, Jungkook had a brief realization that he could probably melt with content on the spot before he was digging in and pushing aside thoughts of everything but his present moment.


“Hold still, hyung,” Jungkook fussed, bent over Taehyung’s bandages and slowly working them free from his skin. “You should have changed them before bed last night so they wouldn’t get stuck like this with the blood.”

“I sort of just collapsed after dinner, so it’s not my fault,” Taehyung whined back at him, wincing as Jungkook carefully tugged another section free.

“It kind of is,” Jungkook shot back in playful monotone.

“Ya!” Taehyung flinched as another piece of the bandages was tugged free. “Show some respect, you little shit!”

Raising a teasing eyebrow at Taehyung, Jungkook sat back, leaving some of the bandages dangling messily from his hyung’s skin as he did so. The surgical grade first aid kit open at Jungkook’s side was partially rifled through but still well organized as Jungkook gestured to it pointedly.

“I don’t think you’re in a position to be yelling so rudely at me, hyung, don’t you think?” Jungkook’s tone was teasing and light, large brown eyes sparkling with mirth as he regarded his youngest hyung’s mockingly offended expression from where Taehyung was perched on the toilet lid. Jungkook had talked to Seokjin earlier and his hyung had said that Taehyung didn’t need stitches, but the bullet graze was still significant enough that they needed to keep an eye on it so it didn’t get infected. Jungkook had insisted that despite the fact he had been a hostage yesterday, he could handle a simple re-bandaging. The work made his wrapped wrists ache, but Jungkook had practice with hiding his pain.

“Please don’t leave me like this, Kookie,” Taehyung pouted down at the younger. “I’ll do anything you ask.”

“Dangerous promises, hyung,” Jungkook said, cocking one eyebrow as he got back to work. Really he wouldn’t ever leave Taehyung like this, nor would he extract promises like that. It was his fault Taehyung was shot anyway, and the guilt was eating him alive enough already. Despite Namjoon’s reassurances, Jungkook couldn’t shake this lingering misplaced guilt as easily as he had with other situations.

Finally tugging all the bandages free, Jungkook got his first good look at Taehyung’s wound and found himself frozen. It wasn’t that big, just a long, fresh gash from a bullet flying too close to vulnerable skin. The skin around the gash was purplish with bruising and in some places the gash was oozing small trickles of fresh blood from the bandages being removed after being stuck for so long. It was far from the worst wound Jungkook had ever seen – he had done a two week long stint of rounds in the emergency department at the hospital this semester so there was a lot to contend with – but somehow, knowing this was his fault made it a million times worse.

“Hey, Gguk-ah?” Taehyung’s quiet voice and warm hands on his cheeks finally snapped Jungkook free of his horrified daze, frantic doe eyes flicking abruptly up to lock onto his hyung’s worried expression. Something in his chest seemed to break.

Hyung,” Jungkook choked out, sounding more like a desperate whine than anything. It only served to strengthen the concern radiating from Taehyung’s posture, his youngest hyung scooting a little closer to the edge of the toilet seat to get closer to the maknae.

“I’m sorry,” Jungkook choked out, his eyes wet. “I’m so sorry.”

“For what, baby?” Taehyung whispered, an edge of something pained and confused in his tone. His eyes were searching Jungkook’s expression fretfully, frantically. He was trying to put the pieces together.

“For me being shot? For making it bleed a little? Whatever it is, Kookie, none of it is your fault. You don’t need to apologize to me, I promise. I never blamed you for anything, okay?”

“But hyung,” Jungkook tried to protest, his voice nasally with his now stuffed nose from crying. He needed Taehyung to know that because Jungkook wasn’t strong enough, Taehyung had been hurt, and he was so sorry and he would never let it happen again.

“No,” Taehyung cut Jungkook off immediately, something in his eyes hardening. “Joonie-hyung warned me this morning that you might still be feeling guilty for this mess, but no one in this house thinks any of this is your fault except for you, baby. I know it’s not going to be as easy as telling you to stop feeling guilty, but I’ll tell you as many times as I need to until you understand, okay?”

It didn’t immediately fix things, but Jungkook nodded anyway, settling down with the help of Taehyung’s grounding stare and his hands cupping Jungkook’s cheeks. He still thought this was partially his fault, but Jungkook believed it a little less than before.

“Are you okay to finish patching me up or do you want me to call Jin-hyung in here? You don’t have to do it if you aren’t ready,” Taehyung murmured after a few silent, steady moments. His thumbs traced idle lines across the crest of Jungkook’s cheekbones, soothing and grounding.

“I can do it,” Jungkook whispered, looking Taehyung in the eye when he did.

It took another few heartbeats of them just leaning into one another’s space and finding their feet again before Jungkook gently pulled back enough that Taehyung dropped his hands and let the maknae gather up his things to finish treating the wound.

He worked quietly and steadily, cleaning up the new already dried blood and smearing a new coat of disinfectant onto the gash. This time, Jungkook left the bandages alone and instead carefully covered the length of the wound with gauze and taped it down with steady fingers.

“We should probably let it breathe for a while tomorrow, just so it can start to scab over and really heal up,” Jungkook said quietly as he started packing the first aid kit back up. He felt steadier than before, his guilt not as pronounced as Taehyung tugged his t-shirt back on in Jungkook’s peripheral.

“Ah, you just want to see me walking around the house shirtless for a while,” Taehyung teased easily. “You should just ask, baby.”

“Hyung,” Jungkook whined playfully, cheeks warming as the skin turned pink with embarrassment. “Shut up, that’s not what I meant. I can see you shirtless anytime I want, I live with you.”

Taehyung laughed heartily, leaning over carefully to plant a sweet kiss on Jungkook’s pink cheek before standing from the toilet seat and stretching with his wound in mind.

“I’ll be sure to let it air out after our date tonight, instead.”

“Date?” Jungkook asked, looking up from where he was shoving the kit back underneath the sink, confusion coloring his expression.

“Yeah,” Taehyung said cheerfully. “Joonie-hyung is taking us and Jiminie out tonight, remember? We bought you that pretty silk shirt while we were out just for the occasion.”

“Oh,” Jungkook remembered now, had never really forgot. “I thought he would post-pone it after the whole…y’know. And the fact that I only barely fought off that fever last night. Besides that, I think Jin-hyung would have an aneurism if I tried to leave the apartment so soon.”

“I asked hyungs about it earlier, and Namjoonie-hyung thinks it’ll be a good way to ease tensions and all that. Plus, you’ll have three of us with you. I’d like to see the fools that try to cross us after what happened when Joonie-hyung is with us.”

He had a fair point, Jungkook had to admit. He was more surprised that both Namjoon and Seokjin had agreed to let them still go out. Jungkook would have for sure thought at least one of them would be against it. Regardless, despite the ping of anxiety in his gut, it was still exciting enough to make Jungkook feel giddy about going out with three of his hyungs. They tried to go on some kind of date at least once a month, but for one reason or another, it was often rescheduled or not all seven of them at once. Even just the four of them still being able to go out like this was a gift, and Jungkook wasn’t going to protest it.

“C’mon,” Taehyung laughed, tugging Jungkook to his feet once the kit was safely stored away. “Yoongi-hyung promised to help us with face-masks before we leave. I think Jiminie is already with him.”

Smiling at the thought, Jungkook went easily along and held fast to the security he felt building rapidly in his chest, hoping to never lose it again.