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Way Out There

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Jungkook popped his neck, the release of tension in his muscles making him groan. He had been sitting at his desk for almost three hours now, nose buried in between his textbook and notes. Up until earlier that afternoon, he had had the company of two of his hyungs, but now, the words were starting to swim together in the silence hollowing out his apartment. Eyes heavy with fatigue, Jungkook shook his head a little and huffed. Studying normally wasn’t this hard, but he always did seem to have an easier time when his hyungs were there with him.

It was easiest for him to remember things when he had the chance to teach his notes to them, to bounce ideas off them and explain the concepts. Even if they wouldn’t remember what he was telling them or understand all of the medical jargon afterwards, it helped Jungkook to better understand the lecture material. And because his hyungs loved and adored him so much, they let him talk through his studying at them.

Unfortunately, his two hyungs – Jimin and Taehyung – that had been here earlier were called away for work. Jungkook had almost asked to tag along simply because he was so bored of studying, had missed them in the weeks he hadn’t been able to get out of the hospital during residency; but he held back in the end, knowing he would get turned down anyway.

Grunting, Jungkook pushed away from his desk and wandered into the kitchenette of his apartment, looking for something to drink. But of course, opening his fridge only revealed that Jungkook’s extended absence from his apartment meant his cupboards were bare; as usual. Heaving a sigh, Jungkook debated calling Seokjin or Hoseok, knowing that both of them would immediately drop whatever they were doing and tag along on a shopping trip if he asked. But then Jungkook remembered why he would not allow himself to do that.

Gathering up his wallet and keys, Jungkook knew that a full-blown shopping trip would have to wait until another night. For now, the corner store would do. He just couldn’t afford the time it would take away from his studying to get all the way to the store, shop, and then come back and put everything away. That, and calling his hyungs to help would just put him out of sorts.

Jungkook had promised them that he could live on his own for the duration of school – and that promise had included being able to take care of himself and foot the cost of his own bills. Sometimes though, Jungkook would hunt down his landlord to fork over the month’s rent only to find out that someone (Namjoon) had already done so – in cash. It wasn’t often, usually only during months where Jungkook’s combined schedules of residency and occasional night work with his hyungs were absolute hell on his life.

It was a sweet gesture, even if it went against Jungkook’s attempt at independence. It wasn’t like Jungkook could stop them, and it wasn’t like he had asked for them to help. He just had to hope that the lack of paper trail would prevent him and his hyungs from getting caught in anything messy.

Slipping on his shoes and tugging his hoodie on over his head at the door, Jungkook triple checked the lock on the front door behind him before heading out of the building. He didn’t live in the worst part of the city – hell, he didn’t even live outside the limits of his hyungs’ turf – but it was never a bad thing to be too careful. Jungkook wasn’t willing to run the risk. Those textbooks cost a fortune, and he valued the little space he had created for himself.

It was freezing outside, prompting Jungkook to tuck his hands firmly into the thin pockets of his hoodie, breath billowing past his lips as a cloud, wisps of fog dissipating quickly in the air. Autumn was giving way to winter quite abruptly, and it was hard for Jungkook to remember that sometimes, considering he spent the majority of his time buried beneath his medical textbooks and tucked away in clinicals. Out of all his hyungs, it was usually Jimin and Taehyung who barged into his apartment to drag him away from studying long enough to make sure he was taking care of himself. But he was usually right back at it as soon as they were distracted by calls from work.

As Jungkook wandered slowly down the sidewalk towards the corner store, he let his thoughts trail back towards his hyungs. Aside from Jimin and Taehyung who had been by earlier that day, he hadn’t seen the others in nearly three weeks. It came with the arrangement, being apart for so long, but that didn’t mean Jungkook was pleased with it. He knew that living apart from the others while he was in school was what he had suggested, an attempt at keeping his two lives separate and safe, but sometimes things overlapped, close calls were made, and hyungs were missed frequently.

Shoving open the door of the store with his hip, Jungkook shuddered at the abrupt change in temperature, the relief from the cold chasing away thoughts of his hyungs. Slipping carefully through the aisles of snacks, Jungkook went straight to the back of the store where the refrigerators stood embedded in the walls. This trip was more familiar than Jungkook liked to admit to himself – or to his hyungs – so he knew exactly which doors to open to get the drinks he wanted.

Second door from the left, grab two lemonades; middle door produced a diet iced tea, and the furthest door to the right gave four bottles of water. Turning and heading back to the front, Jungkook deposited his drinks on the counter, one hand already diving into his jean’s pocket for his wallet as he quietly greeted the cashier. Despite his familiarity with the store, he didn’t really know the workers all that well. They were always changing – always a young student that never stuck around more than a month or two. Jungkook didn’t really understand why this store could never hold onto their employees, but it wasn’t really Jungkook’s business. He just wanted his drinks.

It was as he was waiting for his change that it happened.

The front door of the store was flung open and the little bell above the threshold rang aggressively. The cashier and Jungkook both snapped their gazes around in unison, eyes wide with shock. Three figures stood there, dressed in all black with dark facemasks covering everything below their noses. Each wore a dark beanie pulled so low on their heads that it completely obscured their hair. Their eyes were cold and dark, and Jungkook would forever deny the spike of absolute terror that shot through his system at the atmosphere they brought inside with them.

Pushing through the shocking abruptness of the situation, Jungkook’s eyes started scanning frantically, searching for exposed skin on wrists, necks, ankles – anything that might carry the mark of what gang these three belonged to. This area of Seoul was always rampant with gang activity, so it was more instinct to search for markings than anything else. His taekwondo training would come in handy, perhaps allow him to defend himself enough to not die, but it was three against him – the quivering cashier would offer no help – and those odds were just not that favorable despite how skilled Jungkook was. If he could at least figure out which gang had been stupid enough to send cronies into rival territory, he could warn his hyungs to keep an eye out later.

Scanning quickly, knowing that things would likely escalate quickly, Jungkook was in the middle of peering as subtly as possible at the slope of tanned neck on the tallest figure when he suddenly made eye contact. Something gave way behind that dark façade, eyes sparking with recognition, and Jungkook nearly collapsed with shock.

It took everything in him not to start shouting at these three in front of the clueless cashier.

The figure in the middle, one of the shorter ones, took a decisive step forward, paying Jungkook no attention, and focused entirely on the poor cashier behind the counter.

“Where’s your boss?” His voice was gravelly and low, and Jungkook knew in a moment who it was. Despite that, he couldn’t help the slight shudder that traipsed down his spine, arms trembling momentarily with the force of the action, making the bottles in his bag clink delicately together.

“I-I don’t…” the poor cashier stuttered, face blanched and hands shaking violently. “H-He didn’t come to work today. Normally he’s in the back.”

The man leveled a bat with the cashier, pointing the blunt end in the kid’s direction, eyes narrowing into dangerous slits. The cashier shook harder.

“Where’s the back room?”

The student immediately pointed to a nondescript grey door standing at the end of a short hallway beside the bathroom. Jungkook remained frozen, knowing better than to garner attention. He watched quietly as the cashier started fumbling with the key ring on the counter. The keys jangled noisily as the ring was handed over the counter, the guy with the bat raising an eyebrow at the kid.

“Y-You’ll need these to unlock it. It’s the o-one with the green mark on it.”

Jungkook watched silently as the bat was lowered so the man could step forward and take the keys from the kid’s trembling fingers. He moved easily, actions calm and controlled. As he turned to head towards the back room, his dark eyes landed on Jungkook, still standing near the register quietly and frozen. A hungry gaze swept him up and down once, leaving Jungkook shuddering once more, before he moved around Jungkook and made his way to the door.

Everyone remained still; the only sound the soft jingling and jiggling of the door in the back being opened. A couple minutes went by as the four in the front of the store listened to the distant sounds of rummaging in the back office – nothing too violent, but clearly searching haphazardly. He returned after no more than three minutes, somehow looking even angrier than before.

“The money wasn’t there, I assume?” The taller of the two left with Jungkook and the cashier spoke, voice deep and serious. It was unnatural to Jungkook’s ears, but he said nothing.

The one with the bat shook his head with an annoyed huff, shouldering the weapon and glaring around the shop in silence. Jungkook’s legs were starting to ache from standing in place for so long. He wanted to leave, to say something to these guys, but he knew that doing so would likely not be appreciated, and there was still the cashier to think about.

“We need to leave Jiseung a message. This is the last time he messes around with our payments. We’ve given him plenty of warnings about this bullshit of his.”

“Did hyung say it was okay to do that? We don’t need a repeat of last month’s mess.” Jungkook tried to keep up with what they were saying, but his thoughts weren’t exactly lining up with what was being said at the moment. He had to physically restrain himself from huffing in annoyance.

“He said that we were to take whatever measures necessary to get the message across if Jiseung didn’t deliver. Let’s get to work boys.”

“What about these two?” the shorter of the two finally spoke, his voice softer than the others, and said so quietly that Jungkook could barely hear him – despite the otherwise silence in the store.

The one with the bat turned to look at the still trembling cashier and Jungkook, a heavy sigh leaving him as he shook his head. Jungkook’s heart rate kicked up at the gesture.

“Just get out of here, kids. You,” he pointed his bat at Jungkook, eyes dark as they swept over him once more. “Take your drinks and get home. And you,” he shifted to point the bat at the cashier, who paled further at being addressed. “Find a better job, one not associated with a gang, okay? We’ll close up shop for you.”

The cashier nodded frantically, moving clumsily around the counter to inch past the guy with the bat before stumbling out the door and taking off down the street. Jungkook wondered if the kid would call the police, and hoped that he would wait a little longer before doing so. He knew that he should leave too – he had been told to after all – but it was hard to force himself to walk away like this wasn’t happening.

Blinking as he turned his gaze away from where the cashier had fled from the store, Jungkook startled slightly to find the bat wielder standing less than a foot in front of him. Dark eyes stared up at Jungkook, slightly hooded and clearly waiting for something. Jungkook huffed slightly and that seemed to be it, because suddenly his wrist was seized in a firm grip and gruff orders were being given from behind the mask.

“You two get to work, I’ll make sure this kid gets the message.”

Suddenly being dragged towards the back office, Jungkook let himself be manhandled away from the front of the store and then dragged into the back alley through the third door he had been unable to see before from his original position near the register. His wrist was released, and Jungkook opened his mouth to say something before being cut off as he was shoved up against the cold brick of the alley wall. The man’s forearm was pressed across Jungkook’s chest, just below his clavicle, weight pressing into him and keeping Jungkook in place.

Breath leaving him in a quiet wheeze, Jungkook blinked through the daze, watching as the guy yanked his facemask down and surged forward. Slightly chapped lips pressed roughly against Jungkook’s mouth, and the familiarity with which the man nipped at Jungkook’s mouth had the younger’s knees feeling like jelly in seconds. Somehow managing to maintain the grip on his shopping back, Jungkook brought his free hand up and twisted his fingers into the soft material of the guy’s black hoodie.

They stayed like that for a few moments before the shorter broke away, not going far, just pressing their foreheads together, noses brushing as they quietly caught their breath in each other’s space. Jungkook shifted his fingers, adjusting his grip into something a little more comfortable, the movement seeming to snap the other out of his daze.

“God, I missed you,” he murmured, nose nudging Jungkook’s gently.

“I missed you too, Yoongi-hyung.”

Huffing, Yoongi pulled back and lifted his arm off of Jungkook’s chest, reaching instead to brush the younger’s wavy bangs back from where they had fallen forward on his forehead. Jungkook’s eyes fluttered for a moment with the gentleness of the action, humming softly as he leaned slightly into his hyung’s touch. He hadn’t seen Yoongi in nearly a month, so he soaked up every second he was getting right now.

“The heart attack I nearly had when we realized you were in the store…” Yoongi murmured. “I swear I almost blew our cover in there. This was not how I wanted to meet up with you again.”

“In fairness,” Jungkook breathed out softly as Yoongi continuously tugged his fingers through Jungkook’s hair. “None of you told me you were coming this way tonight. If I had known, I would have stayed away.”

Yoongi made a noise and gently tugged at Jungkook’s hair, pulling a little grunt from the younger. He opened his eyes again and pouted down at Yoongi, finding his hyung smirking up at his reaction with amusement.

“I suppose we should have let you know,” Yoongi sighed after a moment, face turning serious again. “This guy is nothing special, but he moved into our turf a few months back and we do things a little differently than the gang he used to work under and his adjustment has been anything but smooth.”

Glancing over his shoulder at the door they had just come out of, Jungkook was quiet only a moment before turning his attention back to his hyung still leaning his weight into Jungkook comfortably. This was dangerous; acting so casual in a place they could be easily spotted together.

It wasn’t that Jungkook was ashamed of his relationship with his hyungs, but he was living apart from them all for a reason. Being part of their gang was dangerous – as was being part of any gang – and Jungkook needed to maintain the image of a broke, overworked medical student who was in no way associated with the seamy underbelly of Seoul. Ever since he had graduated early from high school and applied for the medical track in university, Jungkook had proposed the plan to his hyungs, to live in his own little apartment and remove himself from the underworld for a little while just to make sure that his education wasn’t compromised, that he could actually focus and get through his clinicals and residency without being dragged back and forth between his duties as a member to their gang and his duties as a student.

They had all kicked up protests over the idea, but ultimately, Jungkook had been able to convince Namjoon that this was the only way medical school would work out, and he in turn had been able to rally the others. They hadn’t lived apart in years – not since this all first started – so Jungkook understood it was hard for them. It was hard for him, and it had been his idea.

Ultimately, the compensation had been that Jungkook let his hyungs pay for everything he would need for school, and he would handle living expenses. It was a bit of a risk, the funds being traceable and all that, but Jimin had reassured Jungkook that he would willingly let someone shoot him before he left Jungkook and their members digitally vulnerable.

Despite all this, Seokjin was still trying to convince Jungkook to bail on residency, claiming that he was dying of anxiety not being able to visit Jungkook whenever he wanted. He kept saying that Jungkook knew enough, that he didn’t need to finish his degree and garner that kind of attention. Unfortunately for his hyungs, Jungkook was stubborn, and wanted to complete his degree. His intention for going into medical school had been to be able to use the knowledge to protect his hyungs, to be able to save their lives should it ever be needed. There had been one too many close calls in the past from jobs gone awry, and navigating the health system to keep their true identities safe was always stressful.

Jungkook didn’t actually want anything to do with working in a hospital, but he needed to at least complete his degree to be able to happily say he could protect his hyungs. He was moving quickly through school, too, having finished two years worth of basic undergraduate courses in a year – attending classes through the semester breaks and taking some online. He had done something similar for all the related sciences, now ahead of the curve with the help of his professors, finishing all of the pre-clinical classes in half the average time. It was stressful and taxing, but Jungkook hated being apart from his hyungs for so long, seeing them only sparingly, and it was motivation enough to push himself to the max. It had been two years of constant classes, barely seeing his hyungs, and now he saw them even less because of his residency.

It was Yoongi’s gentle tug at his hair that pulled Jungkook back from his wandering thoughts, those narrow feline eyes full of poorly disguised concern as his shorter hyung cupped Jungkook’s cheeks in his large hands. Sighing through his nose, Jungkook leaned into Yoongi’s warm palms and allowed himself to be anything but subtle for a bit.

“You’re exhausted,” Yoongi murmured. “We keep telling you to slow down, Kookie. You don’t have to finish this degree, you know.”

Sighing softly at the familiar words, Jungkook opened his eyes and met his hyung’s worried look, expression apologetic. This was hard on all of them.

“I know, but the clinicals are important. I actually get to observe surgeries and procedures then. Plus, this semester is almost over, and they don’t let us rotate clinicals during the six-week winter session because the professors take off, so I’ll have a break then. Then it’s spring semester, which means I’ll be finishing my first year of residency. I’ll be done before you know it.”

The skin around Yoongi’s eyes pinched as his mouth tightened with concern, knuckles grazing Jungkook’s thin cheeks, thumbs stroking across his cheekbones in the same motion. It was clear that Jungkook had lost weight, was exhausted and working beyond his limits. He had moved past burning the candle at both ends; Jungkook was ripping the wick out and setting the whole damn thing ablaze.

But they had to trust him, so Yoongi merely moved his hands down to intertwine his fingers with Jungkook’s and squeezed carefully.

“Just know that if it ever gets too much, we’re more than ready to have you come home.”

“I know hyung,” Jungkook murmured, returning the gentle squeeze. “But I want to do this. I want to be able to help all of you in the future, to protect you.”

Something seemed to melt in Yoongi’s expression, the elder leaning in for another kiss, this one softer, a little less desperate, than the first one. Making a happy little noise in the back of his throat, Jungkook leaned a little more into the kiss, committing the feel of Yoongi’s lips against his own to memory. He already knew, but the reminder after so long of not being able to felt almost like a brand new memory being made.

Pulling away much sooner than Jungkook would have preferred, Yoongi indulgently brushed his fingers through the younger’s hair a few more times before giving Jungkook a nudge.

“You need to get home, baby,” and oh, the way Yoongi said it so casually made Jungkook miss his hyungs all the more. “You need to get some rest.”

“But hyung,” Jungkook whined slightly, feeling a little petulant that he couldn’t hang around the others a little longer. “I have finals for this round of clinicals soon and I still need to study. I can’t go to sleep yet.”

“Yah,” Yoongi sighed in exasperation. “You look dead on your feet, and Jiminie and Tae have told us that you’ve been studying for finals everyday for two weeks. If you study any longer you’re going to completely burn out. Just get home and get some sleep. If I find out you stayed up all night studying again…” Yoongi let his threat hang in the air unfinished, making Jungkook pout and huff a little childishly.

“Fine, hyung. You win.”

Smirking, Yoongi walked over to Jungkook and gave the younger’s cheek a quick peck before gently shoving him along on his way home. Jungkook was careful to scan around the alley’s entrance, looking for witnesses, cameras, anything. He only slid out of the opening once he was sure it was safe. This may be their turf, but it paid to be cautious anyway.

Heading down the sidewalk back towards his apartment, Jungkook started to feel the aching tiredness in his limbs, a yawn cracking at his jaw. He guessed Yoongi was right about looking exhausted, since it was now all hitting him at once.

Eventually shoving into his apartment, Jungkook locked the door behind him and stumbled into his kitchen. Putting the drinks away, his craving for one long forgotten, Jungkook made his was into his room and promptly collapsed on his bed. Completely ignoring his notes and textbooks still sprawled across his desk, normally he would have just defied Yoongi’s threat and kept studying, working to the wee hours of morning. But now he really just wanted to go to sleep. Jimin and Taehyung were the most likely out of all his hyungs to poke at Jungkook’s self care habits, telling him that he was pretty shit at taking care of himself for a medical student.

Jungkook usually just told them to fuck off.

Sighing heavily, he just barely remembered to make sure he had set his alarm before passing out.

He was beyond exhausted. It had been a week since Jungkook’s run in with his hyungs at the convenience store, and he had been stuck at the hospital since the morning following. It was their last week of rotations, and Jungkook had just dragged his weary limbs from the hospital and was headed home. They had the weekend and the first two days of next week for studying, and then it was nearly a full day for their final exam based off everything they had learned during rotations. And after that, a blessed six weeks of absolutely nothing while the professors took the winter session as a holiday.

Dragging himself into his building and up to his apartment, Jungkook felt palpable relief seeping into his bones from having managed to get home unscathed. He had been worried about being jumped or something in his distracted, sleepy state, but the walk back to his apartment had been uneventful.

Rounding the corner, Jungkook blinked, startled, at the sight of two people standing outside his door. Thinking that perhaps his luck had run out, Jungkook felt his anxiety spike and wondered if he would have enough time to slip out of sight and call on his hyungs for backup. But then one of the figures turned slightly and Jungkook nearly collapsed to the floor with relief.

“Hyungs,” Jungkook called softly, walking up to them as he steadied his breathing. Jimin and Taehyung turned to face him, beaming when they spotted him.

“Jungkookie!” Taehyung cried as he flung his arms around the younger’s shoulders and nuzzled his nose into Jungkook’s hair. Jungkook chuckled, leaning a little into Taehyung and taking comfort in the familiarity of his hyung’s embrace. He wasn’t always openly accepting of their physical affections, but secretly he reveled in the attention, and the time he had spent apart from them had essentially destroyed any reservations he may have had previously. Jungkook loved it when they coddled and spoiled him, despite his superficial complaints.

“Hi, hyung,” Jungkook said as he managed to wriggle himself free enough to be able to unlock his door.

“How were your clinicals, Kookie?” Jimin asked, following Jungkook and the koala Taehyung into the apartment.

Shrugging as he tried to gently get Taehyung off him so he could actually get his coat and shoes off, Jungkook sighed heavily. “They went well, but I’m ready to just sit down for an entire day and do nothing.”

Leaping off of Jungkook’s back, dropping his bag by the door with a soft thud, Taehyung beamed and reached up to ruffle the younger’s hair. “Movie marathon then? I’ll go get the blankets, you two order in some food!”

Jungkook felt some of the tension unwind from his shoulders at the suggestion, reassured by the idea of not having to move for the rest of the day. Smiling easily at his hyungs, Jungkook nodded in agreement to the idea, watching fondly as Taehyung cheered and bounded off into Jungkook’s apartment. Moving to head into the kitchenette to dig up his take out menus, Jungkook found himself stopped by Jimin’s hand on his elbow. Turning to his shorter hyung, Jungkook raised an eyebrow in question.

“Are you okay, Jungkook? Yoongi-hyung said you looked pretty worn out last week, and you don’t look any more energetic now.” Jimin’s voice was soft and concerned as he asked, eyes searching the younger’s face. It made Jungkook feel warm, safe, knowing that his hyungs were still worrying and trying to look after him despite the distance.

Nodding, albeit a bit hesitantly, Jungkook tried to reassure Jimin.

“It’s just been really busy, and the beds for residents at the hospital aren’t exactly the most comfortable things in the world.” Attempting a smirk, Jungkook leaned playfully into Jimin’s shoulder, forcing the elder to take on some of his weight. “It’s definitely a step down from the luxuries we’re used to. But don’t worry, hyung. I’m okay.”

Despite his reassurances, Jungkook couldn’t help but admit to himself that he was feeling shaky and way too worn down to be normal. He hadn’t told his hyungs about the handful of times over the past two years in which he was either sick from lack of sleep and self care, or the times he had ended up literally passing out in his apartment from overworking himself in an attempt to study and keep his grades up. He knew he should tell them – should have already told them – but in Jungkook’s mind, they had faced way worse than exhaustion in all their years working in the underworld of Seoul. To Jungkook, this didn’t feel like something they needed to know, as it would only worry them.

Jimin nodded after a quiet moment, not looking entirely convinced. He looked like he wanted to say something, and Jungkook stood there, waiting for him to find his words. But after a couple moments, Jimin just smiled and gave Jungkook’s arm a gentle squeeze before letting him go. Following Taehyung deeper into the apartment, Jungkook slipped into the kitchenette to find those menus, calling for Jimin to come place an order once he had.

Two hours later, Jungkook found himself tucked comfortably between Taehyung and Jimin, his takeout barely touched but still satisfied, and they were halfway through their second movie. Taehyung had taken it upon himself to properly bury a mildly shivering Jungkook under the blankets he had collected before tucking himself into the younger’s side firmly. Toasty and relaxed, Jungkook felt himself beginning to drift off, head bobbing slightly as it dipped towards Taehyung’s shoulder. He was aware enough to register that he was being cooed over, but at the moment he didn’t really care.

Then Jimin’s phone rang.

The noise was jarring, and it jolted Jungkook into full awareness, his eyelids feeling heavy and his movements sluggish as he looked around, blinking blearily. Taehyung’s arm wound around his waist and tugged him gently to lean more into his shoulder as Jimin fished his phone from his pocket. The oldest of the three spared the caller ID a glance, the furrow that developed between his brow telling.

“Hello?” Jimin answered, voice low as he glanced apologetically towards Jungkook and Taehyung. He listened quietly for a moment, the furrow only deepening the longer he listened. Eventually though, Jimin sighed heavily and ran a hand down his face, exhaustion mingling with exasperation.

“I understand, hyung,” Jimin started, voice taking on a whole different tone from before. “But can’t this wait until morning? I hardly think that—”

Jimin stopped, clearly having been cut off. He was silent for a moment before his eyes widened and he cursed under his breath.

“For fuck’s sake hyung, you should have started with that,” Jimin sounded pissed, already moving to push aside the fluffy blanket draped over his lap to get up. “I’ll be there soon.” He hung up as he shoved to his feet. Jungkook was still feeling a little sluggish, but he whined softly in protest as Jimin started to move away from the couch.

Jimin halted, turning back to Jungkook and his expression smoothed out into gentle fondness, a hint of wistfulness mingling there. The elder stooped to drop a kiss on Jungkook’s mussed hair and followed it up with a ruffle to muss it even more.

“I know, Kookie…but that was Namjoon-hyung. It can’t wait until tomorrow.” Jimin at least looked genuinely contrite over the fact. “I’m sorry, but I’ll try to drop by over the weekend and snuggle you properly, I promise.”

“You better,” Jungkook mumbled, burrowing further into Taehyung’s side for the warmth that Jimin had taken with him.

“You need me to come along? Or is it just your specialty?” Taehyung’s voice vibrated gently in his chest, comforting against Jungkook’s cheek where he was currently burrowed.

“Nah, stay here with Jungkookie,” Jimin reassured quietly. “It’s just something that got overlooked on one of our runs the other night and Jin-hyung apparently needs some help with the coding, so we can handle it. Besides, he and Joonie-hyung know where we are so they’re already going to get an earful from me about interrupting.”

Taehyung was chuckling, his chest vibrating again, and Jungkook peered sleepily from where he was curled into Taehyung at Jimin moving around, preparing to leave. He hated to see him go after such a short time together, but he knew that if Namjoon was calling Jimin back personally, it must be important.

Even still, the youngest huffed at the sound of the apartment door closing behind Jimin after he had said his goodbyes. Taehyung’s hand was in his hair almost immediately, a fond noise slipping from the elder as his long fingers carded through Jungkook’s fluffy locks.

“You okay there, baby?”

Jungkook preened under the attention and the pet name, nodding lazily against Taehyung’s chest and humming softly in affirmation. They were quiet after that, watching the movie still playing on the TV; Taehyung’s fingers a continuous comfort in Jungkook’s hair.

“Hyung?” Jungkook mumbled quietly after a few minutes.

Taehyung hummed in acknowledgement and Jungkook took a steadying breath before continuing. “You would tell me if we were in trouble, right?”

Taehyung pulled back a little so he could look down at Jungkook properly, hand stilling against the nape of the younger’s neck.

“What do you mean?”

“Just…” Jungkook shifted, sitting up a little despite the aching protest of his overtired muscles. “I know I’m technically on hiatus, but you all aren’t keeping me out of the loop on what’s happening, right? If we were in danger, or caught up in something big, you all would tell me and let me help, right? I don’t want to be treated like glass just because I’ve been at school for two years.”

In truth, he didn't really feel that out of the loop. Before his residency had started up, Jungkook’s hyungs would visit several times a week, updating him and sometimes taking him along on short night runs. It was good for his restless nature, for clearing his head when he had studied too much. But residency made that nearly impossible, and Jungkook was anxious over the thought of becoming an outcast in their tight knit group. He wouldn’t admit to anyone, but there had been many a night he spent lying awake, staring at the ceiling of his shitty apartment, worrying about becoming distanced from the only people he cared about in this world.

Pursing his lips, Taehyung’s eyebrows furrowed together as he cupped Jungkook’s cheeks in his large, warm hands. Slender fingers brushed carefully over Jungkook’s cheeks and he all but melted into the touch, eyelids fluttering with content.

“I knew this might happen eventually,” Taehyung murmured, more to himself than anything. “Gguk-ah, we still adore you just as much as when you were living with us. There is literally nothing you could do at this point that would make any of us stop being absolutely mushy over you. There are some things you’ve missed, purely because of timing and circumstance, but it hasn’t been anything life changing. I can promise you that if anything drastic did come up, we would come for you in a heartbeat.”

Squirming a little under Taehyung’s intense gaze, Jungkook could feel his cheeks heating slightly with blush. His youngest hyung always did have an uncanny ability to become entirely serious and genuine in the best, most flustering way possible at the turn of a hat. Jungkook absolutely loved that about him, even if it usually made him feel left under a microscope and completely vulnerable.

Gently tugging his face free of Taehyung’s hands, Jungkook dove back into his hyung’s side and pressed his face comfortably against Taehyung’s shoulder.

“Thank you, hyung.”

There was a soft chuckle above him as Taehyung’s hand found it’s way back into Jungkook’s hair.

“Of course, Kookie,” he murmured.

A few moments passed before Taehyung’s phone chirped noisily, drawing an irritated huff from the elder. Producing the device from among the blanket nest, Jungkook knew something was wrong when Taehyung’s arm around him tightened ever so slightly.

“What is it? What’s wrong?” Jungkook sat up, feeling more awake, even if his body hated him for it.

“Hobi-hyung is out doing rounds and said he found rival members snooping around the outskirts of our turf,” Taehyung relayed, fingers typing furiously over his keyboard as he responded. “They’re only a couple blocks from here so I’m going to meet up with him to handle it.”

Glancing to Taehyung’s bag sitting by the door, Jungkook knew his hyung’s rifle was stowed carefully away inside, disassembled, but still as dangerous as when Taehyung had it hoisted to his shoulder. They had timed him once, and Taehyung knew that gun like the back of his hand. It hadn’t even taken him thirty seconds to get it together. To Jungkook, Taehyung was just as dangerous as the rifle he wielded.

“Let me come too,” Jungkook said, turning back to Taehyung who was already putting his phone away and disentangling himself from their blanket nest. He paused, however, when Jungkook spoke, dark eyes turning soft as he looked over Jungkook’s disheveled appearance.

“Any other time, Gguk-ah, and I wouldn’t hesitate. But you’re exhausted, and I won’t take that risk.” Taehyung’s eyes darkened as his mind seemed to supply what might happen with an exhausted, worn down maknae in the line of fire.

“Not with you. You’re too precious to all of us.”

Shuddering slightly at the tone of Taehyung’s voice, Jungkook pouted a little and moved to protest, but one knowing look from Taehyung left his voice dying in his throat. Usually with all of the hyungs around, he and Taehyung were the childish ones, and sometimes Taehyung more so than Jungkook. But when it was just the two of them, Taehyung sometimes became the hyung he was, and used his knowing glances and expansive knowledge on how Jungkook’s head worked to get him to comply.

That one knowing look and accompanying gentle caress of knuckles against his cheek had Jungkook caving almost instantly.

“Fine,” Jungkook groused. He reached up and clung to Taehyung’s slender wrist, thumb pressing over his hyung’s pulse, a reassurance before his departure. “But you have to keep me updated, okay? I need to know you’re both safe at the end of the night.”

Taehyung’s lips turned up into his genuine, boxy smile, and something in Jungkook settled at the sight. His hyung leaned in to nuzzle his nose fondly against Jungkook’s temple and promised, so Jungkook released his wrist and walked him to the door.

Slinging his rifle bag over one shoulder – it being disguised to look more like a normal backpack – Taehyung turned to Jungkook and cupped his face in one large hand. Leaning into the touch, still worried despite the reassurances, Jungkook reluctantly watched his hyung leave, shaky hands locking the door behind him.

That night, Jungkook forced his drowsy mind to stay awake as he curled up in bed under the blankets they had been using on the sofa until he had responses from both Taehyung and Hoseok stating that they were safely at home. It didn’t convince his nerves entirely, but it was enough to get to sleep that night.

Attempting to study in the days that followed Jimin and Taehyung’s visit was absolute hell. His hyungs hadn’t contacted him much since that night, and he hadn’t had much time to reach out to them either. He was shaky and unfocused more often than not while attempting to study and he could barely process anything he was looking over. Jungkook was barely eating anything at all, completely absorbed in either his notes or the encroaching headache that just wouldn’t seem to leave. He was just lucky that he was better at learning by doing, most of the important information retained from his experience in clinicals by the time his exam day rolled around.

Jungkook managed to somehow wake up on time despite feeling like absolute shit when he managed to fall asleep the night before. He had a text from Yoongi, wishing him luck on his final from all the hyungs, and it seemed to be enough to get Jungkook to drag himself out of his apartment that morning.

By the time he pushed into his apartment at the end of the day, feeling thoroughly unwell but fairly certain he had managed to pass the final, Jungkook felt about on the verge of collapsing. Beyond ready for the six week break he was now free to enjoy, Jungkook already planned to sleep for the entirety of the next day before calling his hyungs about moving back home for break.

Dropping onto his couch, unable to make it to his bedroom, Jungkook grunted with the movement and heaved out a sigh at finally being able to lie down. It didn’t take long for him to slip into sleep exactly where he dropped.

He woke up two hours later to the sound of his front door banging open noisily and the belated realization that he hadn’t locked it behind him earlier.

Jolting upright, Jungkook blinked rapidly and looked around his apartment blearily. His body was already trying to move, his training from his old taekwondo classes and years of living and working in the underground kicking in. But he was unsteady, still too tired and running on empty. He tripped slightly over his own feet as he tried to stand up and before he could even find his balance again, there were hands on his arms, rough and bruising as they squeezed and yanked him around. Jungkook grunted, trying to pull away and fight back, but then Jungkook was being dragged off, arms twisted painfully behind his back and stumbling along. He struggled even harder when he realized they were trying to take him out of the apartment, making noise and tugging at the grip on his arms.

“Stop struggling, brat,” a rough voice growled viciously, right in Jungkook’s ear. Flinching away from the rancid breath that wafted over his skin, Jungkook couldn’t help the sharp, startled gasp that escaped him when he felt the cold barrel of a gun through his t-shirt at his lower back. Going stiff, he allowed the intruders to drag him out of his apartment and down towards the street. He was starting to panic a little, heart pounding in his ears and vision going in and out of focus – a mix of dizziness and his unchecked panic attack. He hadn’t panicked like this in years, usually prepared and better equipped for situations like this. But the helplessness Jungkook felt was beyond terrifying, and he was struggling to keep it somewhat in check, still aware that breaking down with the barrel of a gun at his back likely wouldn’t end well.

They got to the street, and Jungkook desperately wanted to break free, but he could see no way out of this without getting shot in the process. He was terrified he would never be seen again when he spotted the car the men were steering him towards. He would never get to finish his degree and help his hyungs, never get to see them again at all, never get to hold them and be held in return, never get to fall asleep against their shoulders and be wrapped in warmth. He would never get to live the life they had promised to achieve together.

Jungkook sobbed once before biting down on his lip hard in an effort to remain somewhat composed despite his spiraling panic.

The man behind him shoved Jungkook towards the car, and Jungkook choked on another sob as he stumbled into the side of the vehicle. He knew that this could be his chance to escape, but everything was still spinning somewhat, and his panic was making it hard to breathe; he could barely remain standing. Jungkook waited to be shoved again, to feel the barrel of the gun against his skin again, cowering against the cold metal of the car, breathing harshly and fogging up the window.

But none of that happened; instead there was muffled shouting and the sound of scuffling behind Jungkook. He flinched, curling against the car as his knees finally buckled and took him to the rough, cold pavement. He didn’t know what was going on, didn’t have the strength to look up, just hoped that he could eventually find the strength to get up and get away before he got shot or killed.

A hand touched Jungkook’s shoulder and he involuntarily cried out, pressing back into the cold car behind him. He hadn’t heard anyone approach, and his breathing quickened again. The hand retracted for a heartbeat before it was back, tugging carefully through his hair, the motion gentle and familiar. Trembling a little beneath the steady and calming touch, Jungkook managed to lift his head enough to let it drop back against the car door, using it for support as he tried to make sense of the spinning visions in front of him.

“Gguk?” the figure kneeling in front of him called softly. Everything about them screamed with familiarity, and Jungkook knew that it was one of his hyungs. He couldn’t tell which one through the ringing in his ears and the blurry vision, but he knew it was one of them.

“We gotta move,” a second figure crouched behind the first, also familiar. Their voice was strained, nervous, but still familiar to the point Jungkook knew both were his hyungs. “Can you get him to the car? We can focus on him better there.”

“He’s coming off a panic attack, hyung,” the first voice said, no longer directed at Jungkook. He wanted to call out to them, tell them not to worry, but he barely had the energy to keep his head upright against the car behind him, let alone call out in a coherent voice. “I don’t think I can move him on my own because he’s not going to be able to help much in this state.”

“Okay, take one side, I’ll take the other.”

Two sets of hands started to carefully tug at Jungkook’s arms, pulling him upright and making his head spin with even more violence than before. Nausea swooped in his stomach and he choked on his breath. Whining high in his throat with distress and discomfort, feet scrambling to find purchase against the ground, Jungkook felt his heart rate escalate again with the abruptness of the situation.

“Kookie, it’s okay. Calm down, you’re safe now,” one voice spoke gently to his right. Or was that his left? “Try to breathe for me, okay?”

Jungkook tried, he really did, but between the dizziness and the nausea, he was unconscious before they got him into the car.

Chapter Text

Waking up was disorienting, and not just because Jungkook couldn’t remember falling asleep in bed.

Wait…was this even a bed?

Rolling onto his side, there was a pillow under Jungkook’s head and a blanket tucked over his shoulder. Stretching out an arm proved to find an expanse of mattress before his hand slipped over the edge of soft cotton sheets, so he was definitely in bed. But it wasn’t his bed. He knew that much, despite the fact that he didn’t know where he was or how he got there. There were hazy memories slowly coming back to him, but the last thing he clearly remembered was dropping onto his sofa after dragging himself home from his finals. The rest were a mix of hazy images and vague feelings.

Groggily pushing up onto his elbows, Jungkook almost toppled over against the pillows from how violently the room started spinning. While he was trying to breathe through the onslaught of nausea, someone opened the door to his room. There was a noise of exclamation before the mattress next to Jungkook dipped slightly with the added weight of whoever sat beside him. A hand was on his shoulder, the other in Jungkook’s hair, combing through his mussed mop soothingly.

“Kookie? You with me?”

Jungkook forced his eyes to focus, looking up at the source of the voice with equal parts surprise and confusion.


The elder smiled, looking relieved as Jungkook focused on his face, taking in the familiar features and leaning subconsciously into the warmth of Hoseok’s palm against his head. There was a dark bruise nestled under the crevice of Hoseok’s left eye, and a faded mark across his right cheekbone. Remembering a week ago, when Taehyung had left to help Hoseok deal with rival members, Jungkook felt guilt pierce his chest, thinking about how he might have been able to help, to prevent those bruises.

“Hyung…’m sorry,” Jungkook mumbled through his drowsiness, shifting his gaze to the sheets pooled around his waist.

“What for, Gguk-ah?” Hoseok asked, voice laced with concern as he cupped the younger’s face, coaxing him to look up again. “Yoongi-hyung and I are the ones that should be apologizing. We almost didn’t get to you in time, and then you ended up passing out because we weren’t careful enough, and you were so pale when we got you back here last night and—” Hoseok paused to take a steadying breath, the skin around his eyes pinched with distress as he ran a careful thumb over Jungkook’s cheekbone.

“We nearly killed those guys for putting their hands on you. We promised to take care of each other, but we almost let you slip away.”

Hoseok’s hands trailed down Jungkook’s bare arms, the younger just now realizing he was in a different t-shirt – likely Namjoon’s by the look of it – than when he had gotten back to his apartment. His hyung’s hands lingered over dark, fresh bruises in the shape of fingers encircling his forearms. Jungkook didn’t usually bruise so easily, but then he remembered that he wasn’t exactly taking the best care of himself and found himself resigned instead of surprised. Looking up to his hyung’s face though, Jungkook felt a fresh wave of guilt at the dark look he found there, Hoseok’s eyes trained solely on the bruises marring Jungkook’s skin.

“Hyung…” Jungkook’s voice was soft, unsure, pulling Hoseok’s gaze up to the younger’s face almost immediately. “It’s not your fault.”

Something in Hoseok’s expression seemed to break for a brief second, something like a memory in brown eyes that darkened with self-deprecation before Hoseok was ducking into Jungkook’s space and holding the younger against him. One arm snaked around Jungkook’s slim waist, other hand finding its way to tangle gently in the hair at the nape of Jungkook’s neck. Hoseok held him like he was glass, like he would break if squeezed too firmly; but Jungkook felt sturdy and supported anyway, leaning into his hyung’s chest and tucking his nose into the juncture of Hoseok’s neck. He smelled familiar, like their favorite soap with a hint of musky sweat that told the younger Hoseok had likely been training earlier.

“We’re safe,” Jungkook eventually mumbled into the delicate skin near Hoseok’s clavicle, the elder shuddering slightly as Jungkook’s breath fanned over his skin. Hoseok’s hand moved to pet the short hairs at the back of the younger’s head and heaved a weary sigh.

“I know, Kookie. But we’ve had one too many close calls in the past week. I don’t know what any of us would have done if you…” Hoseok trailed off, choked up, but the implication left hanging was clear enough.

Jungkook moved his arms around Hoseok’s waist, giving his hyung a firm, reassuring squeeze. Reluctantly lifting his face from where he had hidden it, Jungkook looked around the room over Hoseok’s shoulder and realized with a start that this actually was his room - just not the one at his apartment. Giving a little wiggle, indicating he wanted to be released, he ignored the look of confusion on Hoseok’s face and instead tried to push through the fatigue nipping at his heels.

“Hyung, are we really home?”

Watching Hoseok positively melt with fondness over Jungkook’s eager question, Hoseok’s hands were back in the younger’s hair, petting and tugging gently, comforting.

“Sure are, little one. We weren’t about to leave you in that apartment after what happened. Besides, your finals are over, so you would have ended up here anyway in a day or two.”

Excited and nearly desperate at the prospect of seeing hyungs that he hadn’t interacted with in weeks, Jungkook started moving to get out of bed, forgetting his weakness and fatigue in his haste. Hoseok moved with a mild look of alarm, a warning on his lips, but Jungkook was already out of bed, feet on the ground, eager – and collapsed on the floor with a thud.

“Jungkook!” Hoseok exclaimed, dropping to the younger’s side and cupping his cheeks in frantic palms. The younger felt dizzier than ever, his breath hitching through the nausea and scrabbling weakly to cling to his hyung’s wrists, attempting to ground himself.

“I’ve got you, baby,” Hoseok murmured, seeming to understand that Jungkook needed a moment, hands steady against the younger’s cheeks, thumbs brushing soothingly over flushed cheekbones. Blinking away the dizziness after half a minute, breathing steadier and feeling ten times more exhausted than before, Jungkook looked sheepishly up at Hoseok, his hyung seemingly studying Jungkook intently.

“Kookie, baby, answer me honestly,” Hoseok said, voice soft yet firm. “When was the last time you ate something and properly took care of yourself?”

Jungkook went still, knowing that Hoseok would be disappointed in him no matter if he lied or told the truth. Heaving a sigh, Jungkook’s gaze flicked away, looking down at his hand as he fiddled with the hem of Hoseok’s shirt and mumbled softly, “I don’t remember.”

Truly he didn’t, because between studying and feeling physically like absolute shit, Jungkook had never managed to sit down and actually eat a proper meal since Jimin and Taehyung had come to visit him. He knew that was bad, and knew he would get an earful about it from every single one of his hyungs, but he hadn’t done it intentionally. He just forgot, and Jungkook knew that his hyungs only worried this much because they knew he could get like this to the point of making himself sick – which he now was.

Hoseok tipped Jungkook’s face up a little, coaxing the younger’s eyes up to his face again. His stare was unimpressed, but also soft and worried, as Hoseok seemed to search Jungkook’s expression for something. Jungkook felt small and vulnerable as Hoseok scrutinized him. It didn’t make him feel bad or insignificant, just more understood than he knew what to do with. It had been a long time since Jungkook had been on the receiving end of this stare, so his tolerance to it was basically nonexistent.

“What are we going to do with you, hmm? Jin-hyung’s going to throw a fit when he finds out you’ve made yourself this sick, baby.”

“I know,” Jungkook said softly, miserably. He hated to upset any of his hyungs, and he knew Hoseok was right. Jungkook liked to think he was completely independent; someone his hyungs could entirely rely on. But the truth was, he still relied on his hyungs for certain things, and Jungkook was still figuring out how to fully accept that it was a two way street – that they could all be independent and still rely on one another.

“I’m sorry, hyung. I didn’t mean to let things get this bad I just…I got distracted and anxious about studying and then…” Jungkook trailed off miserably, knowing his hyungs would be pissed with him and feeling almost scared to face them now. He shrunk away from Hoseok’s hold a little, worried that he had upset Hoseok now.

But as always, his hyung seemed to understand Jungkook’s thought process and Hoseok’s warm hands were still firmly in place at Jungkook’s cheeks, one hand lifting so Hoseok could brush his knuckles soothingly over the younger’s cheek. His eyes were softer, a little sad even, as he gently shushed Jungkook’s fretfulness.

“Breathe, Kookie,” Hoseok murmured. “We’re going to take care of you, yeah? We’re not mad, we’re just worried about you, baby.”

Nodding, Jungkook deflated a little into Hoseok’s hands and the elder smiled at him, reaching to brush the younger’s fringe back from his forehead and nuzzling their noses together briefly. Hoseok was one of the most patient members of their group, usually cheerful and always attempting to understand rather than get upset over the bare minimum. Jungkook was relieved he hadn’t made Hoseok upset, because when his hyung’s patience finally did wear out, it was never pretty.

“The others are still working, but most of them are home. While we wait for them, I’m taking you to get some food and water. The last thing we need right now is you passing out again in front of everyone.”

Jungkook had neither the energy nor the ground to stand on to argue with Hoseok; so he let himself be manhandled onto his feet, swaying slightly at the sudden change in position. Luckily, Hoseok’s arm was already wrapped securely around his narrow waist, keeping Jungkook upright and steady. They took their time getting to the kitchen, giving Jungkook the chance to steady himself as they made their way through the penthouse apartment that served as their home and base of operation. They had started out in a dingy, one room apartment in the dirtiest part of Seoul about five years ago, so the penthouse was something they didn’t take for granted, and were able to happily afford after putting their all into their work.

Thankfully Jungkook’s room was on the first floor, the challenge of the curved staircase leading to the second floor something he and Hoseok didn’t have to tackle. They merely waddled down a short hallway, through the spacious living area, and into the impressive kitchen. Plopping his charge down on a backed bar stool, Hoseok immediately set to work with rummaging through the refrigerator. He had only been searching for about half a minute before a new voice made both of them startle violently.

“Jung Hoseok, please tell me exactly what it is you think you’re doing in this kitchen.”

Hoseok whirled around, a sheepish smile on his face as he quickly shut he fridge door, trying to look as angelic as possible. Jungkook turned a little more slowly, surprised that he was so dizzy from a mere startle. He was starting to realize the extent of just how unwell he had become.

Turning revealed wide shoulders and a face so handsome Jungkook felt his breath catch a little in his throat, despite living with this sight for years. Those familiar, plush lips were slightly pink, dark hair swept just enough back from his forehead to make Jungkook’s stomach swoop dangerously, familiarly, and his eyes – oh god – those eyes he had missed so much were the loveliest shade of dark brown that Jungkook had ever seen, resembling dark chocolate and looking just as enticing. His oldest hyung wasn’t even looking at Jungkook and he already felt weak and overwhelmed.

Then he was looking at Jungkook.

“Hyung,” the word was a strangled breath, a longing plea of too much time spent apart.

Seokjin’s eyes were fixated solely on Jungkook, wide with surprise. Then he was crowding Jungkook’s space, pressing between his youngest dongsaeng’s legs so he could cup Jungkook’s cheeks in his large, warm hands. Those stunning eyes swept over the younger’s face, searching for signs of distress or injury, and finding nothing. Then he was being tugged carefully into a warm, familiar, encompassing embrace, and Jungkook slumped pliantly into Seokjin’s broad chest gratefully.

Normally, they were playfully at each other’s throats, Jungkook holding his strength over Seokjin’s head and teasing him happily. An outsider would never guess at the difference in age between them, but that was how they preferred it. There was still a certain respect Jungkook held towards his eldest hyung, but their comfortable familiarity was something Jungkook would never trade.

Now, however, he was more than willing to let Seokjin hold him, treat him preciously, treat him with their age gap in mind. Jungkook longed to be babied a little after everything that had happened this past week.

Too soon for Jungkook’s preference, Seokjin pulled back enough to run his hands through Jungkook’s hair and brush careful fingers over the bridge of the younger’s nose, across his cheekbones.

“I’m glad to see you’re awake, Kookie,” Seokjin said, voice soft. Jungkook could still hear the barely contained relief that could only be born of intense worry, and guilt pricked at him once more. He had never wanted to worry his hyungs this much. “You really gave us all quite the scare, baby.”

Jungkook pouted, pushing his face a little more into Seokjin’s cupped hands, causing his cheeks to squish slightly against his hyung’s long fingers. Seokjin couldn’t hide the fond smile that quirked at his lips as he looked down at the adorable sight.

“’M sorry, hyung,” Jungkook mumbled. “I know I messed up…but I didn't mean to. Hoseokie-hyung already lectured me about it.”

As if reminded about his original target upon entering the kitchen, Seokjin switched his gaze to Hoseok, who was still standing near the fridge, looking as innocent as possible. Seokjin didn’t seem to be questioning the comment about lecturing Jungkook – they all knew that Hoseok was not one to beat around the bush when it came to righting errant dongsaengs. But instead his cocked eyebrow seemed to prompt an answer for Seokjin’s original question.

“Hyung! Jungkookie needs to eat! I was only looking for something to give him, I swear!” Hoseok held his hands up in surrender, attempting to defend himself. He really wasn’t the worst among their group at cooking, but Hoseok would be the first to admit that eight times out of ten he really had no idea what to do when it came to cooking.

Seokjin scoffed, the action entirely fond, as he pat Jungkook’s cheek gently before moving around the center island towards the fridge. He left a gentle flick on Hoseok’s forehead in passing, not even pausing to do so, the action so natural and familiar that Jungkook couldn’t help but smirk. Hoseok, who had been lamenting his “injury”, caught Jungkook smirking and immediately called him out, devolving into the two of them playfully bickering as Seokjin went about his business cooking around them.

Not too long after that, Jungkook found himself sitting in front of a plate of home cooked food, nothing too heavy or hard to stomach. Seokjin must have taken one look at him and figured that Jungkook would need something light first before the eldest could attempt to stuff Jungkook full of hearty foods. It was a small gesture, but one Jungkook appreciated nonetheless. It had also been far too long since he had enjoyed something made by Seokjin, so even just the sight was enough to set Jungkook’s mouth watering.

Beginning to eat, Hoseok on one side and Seokjin on the other, Jungkook hadn’t felt this comfortable and secure in so long. While he had been okay at his apartment, it was nothing compared to being home and surrounded by his hyungs. Hoseok had one hand playing absently with Jungkook’s hair as he spoke with Seokjin about the finer details of a minor job they had completed the other night. Jungkook didn’t even care that he had no idea what they were discussing, being out of the loop from his study absence.

However, the topic did bring to mind a question that had been niggling at the back of his head since he had woken up.

“Hyung?” Jungkook asked, accidentally cutting off whatever stem of conversation the others had been having. He flushed with embarrassment, but Hoseok tugged gently at Jungkook’s fringe as a prompt to continue.

“Who tried to kidnap me?”

Seokjin, who had wrapped long fingers around Jungkook’s free wrist, thumbing gently over the younger’s pulse, froze at the question. Shifting a tentative look Seokjin’s way, Jungkook barely repressed a flinch at the dark look he found there. Perhaps he could have phrased the question a little more delicately, knowing that his hyungs were likely still frazzled and worked up about the situation. But he needed to know. This was potentially a huge breach of security, or just dumb luck.

Either way, it had been too close of a call.

“Sorry, I just—” Jungkook started to mumble into the heavy silence on both sides of him. Hoseok’s fingers had frozen in Jungkook’s hair, too, and he didn’t even want to see the dark look on his hyung’s face again.

“No, it’s—” Seokjin cut Jungkook off, before pausing and heaving a sigh. His thumb started brushing a little more firmly against Jungkook’s pulse point. “You deserve to know, we’re just all still a little shaken up from it, too. We’re used to others being kidnapped on jobs, not right out of your damn apartment that no one was supposed to know about.”

“So…was it coincidental? Or is this a bigger issue?” Jungkook hedged tentatively. Hoseok’s fingers started combing through his hair again, and Jungkook’s eyes fluttered a little at the feeling, but he stayed resolutely focused.

“Jiminie has been working on that, but from what we can tell so far, it’s not a data breach. You never electronically sent us your address, since we all knew where you were anyway, and any payments for the apartment were done in cash. No one could have electronically traced the address to us, so either they’ve been staking out, or it was pure coincidence.”

“But who were they?”

Seokjin pursed his lips and Hoseok spoke up from Jungkook’s other side. “Same gang that Tae-Tae and I chased out the other week. They’re not a major threat in terms of resources or man-power, but I would say they’re definitely getting overly ambitious.”

“If they’re not that big of a threat, it’s even more concerning that they targeted Jungkookie’s apartment,” Seokjin piped up. “There’s a chance it was a random attempt, but in this business, I highly doubt it. They’ve been staking us out, probably an attempted power grab or blackmail.”

Hoseok’s fingers coming to rest firmly against the nape of Jungkook’s neck felt possessive, and Jungkook shuddered a little as Seokjin simultaneously pressed against the younger’s pulse in his wrist.

“I’d say we should teach them a lesson about touching our baby boy, hmm?” Hoseok crooned, nose brushing against the underside of Jungkook’s jawline. Letting out a weak, shaky noise, Jungkook felt Hoseok smirk against the skin of his neck before his hyung was pulling away, leaving a gentle kiss against Jungkook’s temple.

“Yoongi-hyung and Tae-Tae are actually handling the warning shots now. We might have to later plan their demise as a group, though,” Hoseok said casually, like he hadn’t just been acting like that. “For now, our Jungkookie needs to rest up.”

Heaving a sigh, Seokjin released Jungkook’s wrist so he could brush his fingers through Jungkook’s messy fringe. The motion made Jungkook uncomfortably aware of how he was desperately in need of a shower.

“Jiminie needs to rest too,” Seokjin said, looking fond but worried. “He’s been working on figuring out what happened and reinforcing our fire walls since Yoongi-yah and Hobi brought you back last night. Probably some misplaced sense of guilt, but seeing you might help.”

Jungkook pouted at the thought of Jimin overworking himself for something that wasn’t his fault – Jungkook was a damn hypocrite and he knew it – and nodded in response to Seokjin’s suggestion. Carefully pushing himself to unsteady feet, he could feel both his hyungs’ careful eyes tracking his every movement. Once he had his feet under him, Jungkook glanced over his shoulder at them, gesturing vaguely down further into the apartment.

“I’m assuming Jiminie-hyung’s in the lab?”

At the affirmative nod from both hyungs, Jungkook left them with a sweet smile and carefully made his way out of the kitchen, through the living room, and down the short hallway to the door labeled “the lab”. This room was solely dedicated to Seokjin and Jimin’s tech for hacking, coding, and analyzing data. Yoongi had a room upstairs he had dubbed the “genius lab” for his pyro tech. Of course, after one incident, he was no longer allowed to test in the apartment, but he did a lot of his planning and designing upstairs.

Knocking once, Jungkook didn’t wait for an answer before he was slipping into the lab, blinking against the starkly different dimness inside. He could see Jimin hunched over a keyboard, the white light of the computer screen throwing harsh shadows against the back of his figure from where Jungkook stood. Namjoon was passed out on the sofa pressed against one wall, unnoticeable at first, until his soft snoring gave him away. There was a blanket tossed haphazardly over his legs, and to Jungkook it looked as if the leader had tried to coax Jimin into napping with him by cuddling. For Jimin to abandoned a free cuddle from Namjoon, he must be absolutely steeping in guilt.

Feeling his heart swell with fondness at the sight of their leader, Jungkook resisted the urge to fall on top of Namjoon and curl into his sturdy chest. He could do that later, for now, he was here for Jimin.

“I told you, Jin-hyung,” Jimin murmured suddenly from his hunched position. “I’ve got this covered. I’m almost finished, so don’t distract me.”

He moved closer to Jimin before he spoke, steps a little unsteady from being upright for a few minutes in his weak state. Reaching out to brush his fingers through Jimin’s carefully styled hair, Jungkook relished the feeling of being home once again.

“Oh, I’m sure you got it covered. But you should still take a break soon,” Jungkook said casually, keeping his voice low for Namjoon’s sake. He couldn’t help the grin that stretched across his lips when Jimin’s fingers froze on the keyboard and wide eyes whipped his way. Jimin seemed frozen for a moment, drinking in the sight of Jungkook standing above him, smiling fondly at his hyung.

“Jungkookie,” Jimin’s voice was strangled and he only hesitated for a heartbeat before he tugged Jungkook down into his lap, manhandling the younger until Jungkook was straddling Jimin’s thighs and they were wrapped in a clinging hug. Burying his nose in Jimin’s hair, Jungkook melted into the feeling of his hyung’s arms clinging to him, holding him firmly in place. He could feel Jimin’s shuddering breaths and didn’t try to pull away, knowing his hyung needed this close contact for a while. And honestly, so did he.

They stayed like that for a while with the only sounds being the gentle cadence of Namjoon’s snores across the room and the soft whirring of the computer engine underneath the desk. It was peaceful enough and Jungkook felt safe enough to start drifting off against Jimin’s shoulder, fingers loosening slightly where they were curled in his hyung’s shirt. Jimin, however, must have taken that as a cue, because he pulled back from the hug, pushing carefully at Jungkook so he could examine the younger’s face. Jungkook had to work hard to hide his pout at the loss of contact.

“I’m so glad to see you awake again,” Jimin murmured, eyes still scanning over Jungkook’s face, as if he were trying to memorize every possible detail he could in the dim lighting. “We were all so worried…I shouldn’t have left you alone last weekend. I should have hung around to make sure you were safe during finals.”

“Hyung,” Jungkook said quietly, stopping Jimin before he could spiral off and place all the blame on himself. “Even if you had, they still would have probably shown up. None of this is on you. I’m safe.”

Just to prove it, Jungkook reached out and buried his fingers in Jimin’s soft, styled hair, mussing it up as he combed his fingers through the dark locks. Jimin’s hair used to be stunning silver a couple months ago, and while Jungkook missed the color, he always appreciated it when his hyungs let their natural color take over. Their hair was always softer when it wasn’t dyed, and that was when Jungkook loved to play with it most.

Watching Jimin’s eyes flutter shut at the contact, Jungkook leaned in to press a quick, reassuring kiss to his hyung’s nose before pulling back to cup Jimin’s pink cheeks. He couldn't help but grin when Jimin giggled, the noise sweet and high pitched, his hyung’s eyes opening again to stare adoringly up at the maknae perched on his thighs.

“Finish up your coding, hyung,” Jungkook prompted softly. “Then come take a bath with me. I really need to wash my hair but I can’t stand up long enough for a shower without feeling shaky. And you need to unwind a little.”

While that point was true – he could feel the tension locked in Jimin’s shoulders and just knew his hyung’s back was probably suffering for it – Jungkook also just didn’t want to be alone right now. Any time spent without at least one hyung beside him right now would feel like wasted time. It would also likely leave him feeling vulnerable. It was better to just stay with company, even inside their own home.

Jimin – ever sweet and empathetic – seemed to understand and didn’t question the offer. He merely worked to shift Jungkook into a more comfortable position on his lap so he could actually reach the keyboard. Now perched sideways on Jimin, Jungkook sleepily watched his hyung finish up a few lines of code, double check everything, and then hit enter. Jungkook wouldn’t pretend to understand half of this stuff, but judging by the satisfied noise Jimin made, he could guess that it had gone well.

“Alright, c’mon baby,” Jimin whispered, pressing his nose into the hair behind Jungkook’s ear, breath warm against Jungkook’s neck. “I think Yoongi-hyung wouldn’t mind it if we used one of his bath bombs for you.”

“Hyung,” Jungkook admonished in a mocking tone. “I can’t believe you would use me to avoid the consequences of taking his bath bombs.”

Listening to Jimin giggling right in his ear, Jungkook relished in the feeling of absolute contentment and security that positively radiated throughout the room. He eventually wiggled his way off Jimin’s lap and the pair started for the door. A soft snore stopped him in his tracks though, Jungkook turning back to look over at a still dozing Namjoon. Smiling fondly, the maknae crept over to his hyung, tucking the blanket more securely around him and taking a brief moment to lovingly card Namjoon’s fringe away from his eyes. Turning back to Jimin, Jungkook flushed under the affectionate look he found waiting for him. Silently, Jimin extended a hand to the maknae, and lead him to the first floor bathroom.

Feeling the now telltale tremble to his knees, Jungkook let his hyung ease him into sitting on the closed toilet seat lid, Jimin carefully pushing the younger’s bangs off his forehead before moving to start filling up the tub with water.

Their bathroom was spacious without being overly obnoxious. The color palette was neutral, the walls and counters uncluttered, and the tall window perched on the wall behind the large bathtub let the midday sunlight spill cheerily into the space. Jungkook sleepily watched Jimin move around, the warm light catching prettily in his dark hair and accenting the seemingly ever-present pink tinge to his cheeks. The contrast was made even more noticeable when Jimin turned to Jungkook and beamed brightly, holding one of Yoongi’s bath bombs proudly between thumb and index finger. The sound of the faucet emptying water steadily into the tub was a pleasant white noise.

“Ready, Kookie?” Jimin asked as he turned to slip the chalky ball into the warm water. He stood over the tub watching it for a moment before pushing away to come back to Jungkook. Positioning himself between the younger’s knees, Jimin’s fingers picked lightly at the collar of Jungkook’s shirt.

“I see Jin-hyung raided everyone’s closets to dress you last night.”

Remembering that he was wearing Namjoon’s shirt, Jungkook felt his cheeks heat a little at the look he was being given and settled on wordlessly shrugging. To be fair, he had been unconscious and had no input on the matter. Despite that, he trusted his hyungs to have taken care of him in such a vulnerable state, and they hadn’t let him down.

“Let’s get you out of it and maybe scoop up one of Jinnie-hyung’s shirts after, hmm?” Jimin gently clucked the tip of Jungkook’s nose before grabbing the hem of the shirt and helping Jungkook tug it off over his head. Next, Jungkook stood on tired feet and used his hyung’s shoulders for balance while they worked together to get his pants and boxers off. Despite their height difference, Jimin was sturdy and stable, and Jungkook never felt like he might fall over.

Once he was sufficiently naked, Jungkook held onto Jimin’s hand – just in case – as he stepped over the lip of the tub and sank gratefully into the dyed, aromatic, warm water. A contented sigh slipped past his lips as Jimin turned the faucet off and went about getting undressed himself. Barely two minutes had passed before Jimin was carefully sliding into the tub behind Jungkook, nuzzling his nose into the base of the maknae’s neck and wrapping firm arms around Jungkook’s chest. Leaning back into Jimin’s hold, Jungkook felt his hyung tuck his chin on top of Jungkook’s head, easily encasing Jungkook as they relaxed into the warmth of the tub, the water sloshing lazily at their chests.

Jimin didn’t seem to be in any rush to get out of the tub, so Jungkook allowed his eyes to flutter shut, relishing in the calm atmosphere they had created inside their bathroom. He knew there were things to be attended to out in the city, whispers to keep track of between blaring sirens and fights to monitor. But for now, Jungkook allowed himself to push all thoughts aside and simply exist.

He must have actually dozed off at one point because sound came filtering in slowly with the quiet creak of the bathroom door opening. Fully content and still warm despite the vastly cooler bath water, Jungkook didn’t react violently like he usually might to an unknown person entering the room. Instead, he twisted a little in Jimin’s hold while his hyung mumbled unconsciously into Jungkook’s hair and adjusted his grip around the younger while Jungkook peered over at the newcomer.

There, leaning against the bath’s alcove wall and staring fondly down at the pair in the tub was Namjoon. His dirty blonde hair was sleep mussed and soft looking, the pillow creases pressed into his cheek only accentuating the fact that Namjoon had clearly just woken up.

“There you are,” Namjoon said quietly, his voice a deep and raspy rumble in his chest from sleep. Jungkook preened with the sound of it. “I woke up and Jimin was gone so I came looking for him. I didn’t know you were awake, baby.”

Jungkook hummed as Namjoon moved to perch carefully on the lip of the tub, his long fingers coming to tangle lightly in Jungkook’s fringe.

“You were asleep when I woke up. Jin-hyung sent me to force Jimin into taking a break.”

Namjoon’s answering chuckle made the warmth in Jungkook’s chest expand happily. The sound also seemed to finally rouse Jimin from his dozing as the arms around Jungkook’s chest tightened and the chest at the maknae’s back shifted and expanded with Jimin’s breathing. Sure enough, a moment later, Jimin’s raspy sleep voice mumbled a quiet, “hyung” into Jungkook’s ear.

The fond crinkle at the corners of their leader’s eyes was familiar, sweet, and Jungkook wished they could stay like this forever.

“I’m glad to see you relaxing finally, Jiminie,” Namjoon said casually. “Though I suppose having Jungkookie with you helped a lot.”

“Mm,” Jimin responded. “Sorry I abandoned your cuddling, hyung. I just couldn’t sleep earlier.”

“It’s okay Jimin-ah,” their hyung reassured easily, eyes flitting down to the lukewarm bathwater and frowning a little. “Like I said, Jungkookie was probably the key. Let’s get you both out of here before you get sick. I’ll join your nap session in Jungkookie’s bed.”

“Hyung, didn’t you just wake up?” Jimin pointed out, loosening his arms around Jungkook’s chest so they could start to sit up properly.

“Yeah, but I like laying with my dongsaengs. You guys are warm.”

While Jimin giggled in response, Jungkook blearily pushed himself fully upright and looked around for the shampoo bottle. He still needed to wash his hair before getting out, because the more his hyung’s played with his fringe, the more aware he became that it really was kind of disgusting.

“What are you looking for, baby?” Namjoon asked, also starting to glance around.

“Shampoo,” Jungkook mumbled, nowhere near fully awake.

“Oh, right,” Jimin winced apologetically as he stood to climb out of the tub, stepping carefully over the lip and searching for a towel. “Jungkookie said he wanted to wash his hair while we were in here. I just got so comfortable I forgot.”

“I’ve got it,” Namjoon said, standing to fetch the bottle from where it was stored in their shower. They had about four different kinds of shampoo, some of them sharing larger bottles and some using their own smaller bottle. It all depended on who wanted what and it wasn’t uncommon for them to jump between bottles depending on the day.

“Wan’ Tae-Tae’s,” Jungkook mumbled, his voice barely audible as he shifted to dunk his hair into the colored bathwater. Taehyung’s shampoo was lightly scented, but still carried a hearty musk to it and Jungkook absolutely loved it. Jungkook didn’t often use it, but he did very much appreciate the scent of it whenever he got the chance to cuddle up to his youngest hyung.

“Lean this way, Kookie,” Namjoon murmured, having reappeared at the side of the tub while Jungkook was wetting his hair. Complying with Namjoon’s instructions, Jungkook turned to lean his back against the side of the tub Namjoon was perched on, humming happily as those long, warm fingers started to massage the scented shampoo into his hair.

“It really has been too long since I saw you, baby,” Namjoon murmured as he worked diligently to soap up every inch of the maknae’s scalp. “You’re hair’s gotten so much longer.”

Jungkook hummed in agreement, eyes shut as he thoroughly enjoyed the treatment. “I can put it up now,” he mumbled absently, unaware of the interested glint in his hyung’s eyes at the news.

“Well,” Namjoon said, leaning down so that his lips brushed against Jungkook’s ear lobe, careful not to get any of the shampoo on himself (as it had happened before). “I think it makes you look really pretty, baby.”

Shifting restlessly as a warm, satisfied feeling spread from Jungkook’s chest outward, the maknae made a happy noise in the back of his throat, Namjoon chuckling at the reaction as he pulled back to continue working on Jungkook’s hair. The younger suspected that his hair was sufficiently soaped up by now, and that Namjoon was still working his fingers through Jungkook’s hair for both of their pleasure.

Eventually though, Namjoon slid his fingers free and dunked his hands in the scented water to rid them of soap. He pulled the plug on the tub and turned the faucet on, testing the water to make sure it was warm as the tub drained. Fetching the cup they kept by the tub for the very purpose of washing their hair, Namjoon coaxed Jungkook away from the edge so he could carefully start washing the soap out. With many things, Namjoon was unbelievably clumsy. But when it came to his members, to the people he cared about, he was incredibly gentle and careful. He was meticulous in making sure none of the runoff got in Jungkook’s eyes, that all the soap suds were free of his maknae’s hair, and that Jungkook didn’t tip too far one way when he started to doze off again.

After about two minutes of rinsing, Namjoon turned the faucet off and set the cup aside to dry. Standing to fetch a towel, he helped Jungkook climb free of the tub before wrapping the younger securely in the fluffy towel. A second, slightly smaller towel was tossed over Jungkook’s head before Namjoon sat the youth down on the lip of the tub and stood between Jungkook’s knees so he could towel dry Jungkook’s fluffy locks.

Every touch was careful but reassuring, Namjoon’s large hands vigilant in making sure Jungkook’s hair was as dry as could be so that he wouldn’t become even more sick before tossing the towel in their hamper and moving on to help Jungkook dry off his skin. Even then, Namjoon was still attentive and thorough, wrapping the youngest up in the towel when they were finished and slinging an arm around Jungkook’s shoulders to guide him back to his room.

Jimin was waiting there for them, cross-legged and practically swimming in a hoodie that was clearly Taehyung’s and a pair of sleep shorts. Waiting for Jungkook was also the promised t-shirt from Seokjin’s closet, large and soft and warm. Clumsily tugging the clothes on while Namjoon took the towel back to the bathroom, Jungkook all but collapsed into his bed beside Jimin. His hyung happily wrapped himself around the maknae, fiddling with Jungkook’s damp strands of hair and humming quietly in the younger’s ear.

Namjoon returned and slipped into bed behind Jungkook, pressing up close against his back and piano playing his fingers over Jungkook’s hip, the heel of Namjoon’s palm resting against the curve of Jungkook’s bottom. Already starting to doze off again, Jungkook hummed contentedly through his nose and missed the fond glance exchanged between the hyungs surrounding him.

“Thanks, hyungs,” he managed to murmur before completely dropping off into unconsciousness.


Taehyung’s shout only lifted Jungkook’s head from where he was sat at the kitchen table because he was prompted. They were all unaffected by shouting, used to fluctuating volumes within their home – and truthfully one had to be when living with six other over-active men.

Jungkook barely had a second to brace himself before Taehyung was throwing his arms around Jungkook’s shoulders and nuzzling happily into the younger’s fluffy and sleep mussed hair. Hoseok had fetched the napping trio from Jungkook’s room about ten minutes ago for dinner, so they were all in various states of consciousness, Jimin all but asleep sitting up beside Namjoon. They had been waiting to eat until Yoongi and Taehyung returned from their outing – except for Jungkook who had been given fruit to munch on and strictly told to finish as much as possible, if not all of it.

“You’re awake!” Taehyung’s voice drew the maknae’s attention from his sleepy thoughts. “Oh, I was so worried the whole time we were gone. Why didn’t one of you text me he was up?”

At Taehyung’s accusing glare, Hoseok smirked from where he was helping Seokjin pull down enough plates for everyone.

“You shouldn’t be on your phone during outings unless you’re contacting one of us for back up, Tae-Tae.”

Coming up behind Taehyung, Yoongi gently popped the back of the younger’s head. Whining dramatically, Taehyung released his hold on Jungkook and turned a betrayed pout on his hyung.

“You’re lucky you weren’t out there alone considering how distracted you were,” Yoongi reprimanded teasingly, despite the serious look in his eye. It was clear the elder was thinking about what could have happened had his dongsaeng actually been out there alone. Feeling the need to comfort Yoongi, Jungkook reached out his hand silently and curled his fingers around Yoongi’s wrist, prompting his hyung to look down at him.

Everything about Yoongi’s demeanor positively melted when he took in the freshly woken countenance of his maknae. Stepping around a still pouting Taehyung, Yoongi stooped to brush back Jungkook’s fluffy fringe and press his lips in a firm kiss against Jungkook’s brow.

“We’re all really glad to see you up and around again, baby,” Yoongi murmured against Jungkook’s brow, the younger leaning into the gesture. “The others have probably said this already but you really gave us a scare last night. I’m just glad Hobi and I got there in time. If they had gotten you in the state you were in…”

Jungkook didn’t need to see Yoongi’s expression to know that it had darkened significantly at the mere thought of such a situation. Still clinging to his hyung’s wrist, Jungkook gave Yoongi’s arm a gentle tug, a reminder he was okay.

Pulling away from Jungkook’s space, Yoongi looked down at the youth, clearly trying for a stern expression, but failing as the obvious relief and fondness seeped through the cracks in his expression. Despite this, he still held a firm tone when he spoke.

“I hope you know that we’re going to be enforcing a bed time on you for the next two weeks – and meal times. You aren’t on residency for now so there’s no need for you to keep driving yourself into the ground. And on that note, we’ve decided to keep a closer eye on you whenever we can after you do go back to the hospital. No more of these close calls, understand?”

“Yes, hyung,” Jungkook answered softly, cheeks burning with embarrassment as he looked away and studied the remaining pieces of fruit in front of him. He knew it was only because they cared about it, but Jungkook felt a bit like a little child being scolded. But the mucky feeling building in his chest dissipated easily when Yoongi tipped his chin up to meet his eye and gave Jungkook the softest look he had ever seen.

“This is only because we love you, baby,” Yoongi murmured, the other hyungs watching quietly from around the kitchen while also trying to act like they weren’t. “We still have faith in you, but we just want you to be healthy.”

“I know, hyung,” Jungkook whispered back, feel disgustingly content at the simple reminder that he was loved.

“Speaking of last night’s situation,” Seokjin piped up from where he and Hoseok were finishing up putting the steaming batch of stew into a serving bowl near the sink. “How did your outing go?”

“Hyung’s explosives were as amazing as always!” Taehyung piped up eagerly from where he had been tugged onto Namjoon’s lap. “The colors and the destructive range were incredible!”

Yoongi watched Taehyung prattle on as he sat down beside Jungkook, keeping a hand firmly on the maknae’s thigh. He was clearly going for a fond but indifferent expression, but Jungkook could clearly see the faintest blush on Yoongi’s cheeks from the praise he got for his explosives work.

“Where did you go?” Jungkook asked once Taehyung had finished waxing poetic about the way the flames had licked up the sides of a building following the detonation, still perched on Namjoon’s lap even as he started in on his dinner. Seokjin and Hoseok had brought the serving bowl and the dishes over to the table and were working on serving everyone – Hoseok also working on making sure Jimin was still conscious and not falling into the steaming dish in front of him. It was a strangely domestic scene despite the casual talk of explosives and Jungkook was reminded again how much he loved their strangely unique lifestyle.

“Just dropped by the outskirts of that gang that thought it was a good idea to try and take you away from us,” Yoongi said monotonously, offering Seokjin a grateful smile as he accepted a plate of stew from the eldest. Setting it down carefully in front of Jungkook, Yoongi acted as though nothing was out of the ordinary – like talk of pyrotechnics over dinner was a normal topic at the table.

“Tae-ah and I planted the explosives in a condemned warehouse in their turf so no one was hurt, but the message was pretty clear.”

Don’t mess with Bangtan.

Chapter Text

Watery winter sunlight filtered in through the curtains draped across the window, gently illuminating the bedroom as Jungkook sleepily blinked into consciousness. He watched the sunlight for a few quiet minutes, not bothering to check the time. Jungkook was content to just exist peacefully before actually getting up. His empty train of thought was only interrupted by a soft snuffle against the base of his skull and the warm weight of an arm across his hips tightening slightly.

Smirking, Jungkook convinced his sleep heavy limbs to turn around and face the hyung cuddled up behind him. His smile only grew with fondness when he came face to face with a half-asleep Namjoon, and the younger couldn’t help but to lean in to pepper tiny kisses to his hyung’s nose and cheeks with soft huffs of laughter woven between.

Namjoon grunted and chuckled lowly with drowsy amusement as he finally opened his eyes to stare lovingly at Jungkook’s beaming face. The soft pillow crease lines pressed into Jungkook’s cheek and their matching mussed bed hair only added to the easy atmosphere of their morning. Reaching up to try and smooth down some of the wild cowlicks of Jungkook’s hair, Namjoon used the gesture as an excuse to continue playing with the younger’s locks. He loved the way the maknae’s eyes would flutter with content and the satisfied hum that usually followed.

“Morning, baby,” Namjoon crooned, his voice low and raspy with disuse and he smirked when Jungkook shuddered slightly beneath his hand.

“Morning, hyung,” Jungkook whispered, voice a little less of a rumble compared to Namjoon’s.

“Everything all right? I think I remember you crawling in here earlier.” Namjoon wasn’t sure if Jungkook had originally gone to sleep in his own bed or with one of the others, but he did know that the youngest had slipped into Namjoon’s room around two or three in the morning.

“Yeah, I just…I missed you. You were working late again and I heard you come home so…” Jungkook trailed off, doe eyes flitting down to where the maknae was fiddling with the neck of Namjoon’s sleep shirt. A faint pink dusted across the high points of Jungkook’s cheeks and the leader honestly couldn’t help but wiggle closer to leave a gentle kiss there and watch the pink deepen.

“I missed you too, little one,” Namjoon chuckled as Jungkook whined a half-hearted complaint.

They laid together like that for a while longer, listening to the distant sounds of breakfast being made downstairs. Namjoon’s door was near the landing at the top of the stairs, so any noise in the living area below tended to carry easily to his room. Jungkook wasn’t sure if that had been an intentional choice as leader, or if it was coincidence, but Namjoon always knew what was happening in their home because of it.

After another minute like that together, Namjoon shifted with a yawn and started to sit up, clearly intending on getting ready and heading downstairs to scoop up some food before inevitably going about his day. Jungkook adored his hyung, but feeling him shift away left the younger pouting, and he reached out to snag the sleeve of Namjoon’s shirt before the leader could get too far. Being met with a partially curious and partially worried raised eyebrow, Jungkook looked away bashfully and tried not to sound like a petulant child when he spoke.

“Hyung…can I please go out today without everyone losing their minds?”

Something in Namjoon’s expression shuttered, and Jungkook could see him fighting against immediately turning down the request. It had only been a week since Jungkook’s eventful return to their home, and the others were still in over-protective mode. Really, Jungkook understood it, because he would react the same way too. But he was starting to go a little stir crazy.

Before Namjoon could open his mouth to protest or deny him, Jungkook pushed himself upright with only a little trouble and tried again.

“I don’t want to go far, I promise. It’s just…I’m getting restless. I only want to do some shopping, maybe take a walk and get lunch or something out in the city. And I know I’m still recovering from everything, so I’ll even take someone with me. Just…please?”

Pulling out the biggest, saddest doe eyes and cutest pout he could manage, Jungkook knew that even before he made that face he had won Namjoon over with his reasoning. Honestly, the pout was just insurance and because he had it on good authority that every single one of his hyungs was an absolute sucker for it.

“Of course you can, baby,” Namjoon sighed after a moment of staring at Jungkook’s face with open fondness. “We never wanted you to feel stifled or trapped here. We’re just—”

“You’re worried,” Jungkook finished, scooting closer to wrap himself around Namjoon reassuringly. “I get it, I really do, hyung. But you know I get restless easily. A guy can only beat Tae-Tae hyung at video games so many times before he starts to get bored.”

“Yah,” Namjoon laughed, wrapping his arms around Jungkook and tugging them both back down onto the mattress, the youngest falling on top of Namjoon with a yelp of surprise. “We can’t all be as talented as you. Cut him some slack.”

Jungkook giggled as Namjoon nuzzled his nose into the maknae’s soft, messy hair, relishing in the feeling of having Jungkook tucked safely against him. He was warm and reassuring, happy and safe and alive; and Namjoon wouldn’t trade this for anything in the world. But after a moment he levered them both upright again and pressed a firm kiss to Jungkook’s temple, running his fingers through the younger’s hair once more before giving the maknae a little nudge towards the edge of the bed.

“Head on down to breakfast. I’m going to use the bathroom and I’ll follow you down. Make sure the others save me some bacon, okay?”

“Sure thing, hyung,” Jungkook promised easily before eagerly slipping from the bedroom to find food. He had barely entered the kitchen after carefully taking the stairs down before Hoseok was sweeping Jungkook into his arms for a firm hug. Giggling with the sudden gesture, Jungkook leaned into Hoseok, playfully giving him almost all of his weight.

“Good morning to you too, hyung,” Jungkook grinned up at Hoseok.

Hoseok didn’t respond verbally, just beamed and pressed his cheek against Jungkook’s hair before guiding the maknae to sit at the table. There were already a few dishes spread across the tabletop and Seokjin was still working to bring another few over from the stove. Jungkook watched as Hoseok darted around their eldest hyung to scoop up a bowl before setting it down in front of Jungkook.

“Eat up, baby,” Hoseok cooed, slipping a spoon into Jungkook’s hand as he pressed a kiss to the maknae’s fluffy hair. “Jin-hyung made you some oatmeal since you said your stomach was still bothering you.”

Normally Jungkook would bemoan such a simple breakfast, even if he wasn’t feeling great, but his stomach really had been completely intolerant of certain heavier foods. Oatmeal seemed to be one of the few breakfast foods he could manage for right now, and it was better than nothing. Making sure to toss a quick word of gratitude to both Seokjin and Hoseok, he checked to make sure it was okay to start eating before actually digging in.

He was only a fourth of the way through his bowl when Namjoon made his appearance, dragging a basically asleep Jimin behind him. Depositing his charge in the chair beside Jungkook, Namjoon left the maknae to keep Jimin upright and bribe him awake with the steaming eggs piled in front of him. Jungkook watched Namjoon head for the coffee maker, catching his hyung’s eye and gesturing to the bacon he had saved. Namjoon made sure to brush a thankful kiss across Jungkook’s cheek when he returned to the table to scoop up his prize.

“Where’s Taehyung with Yoongi?” Seokjin asked the room, setting down the last breakfast plate on the table and looking around at them. “I sent him upstairs to fetch Yoongi-ah almost fifteen minutes ago.”

“Hyung, you should know by now that sending Tae-hyung to get Yoongi-hyung is pointless. He’s the most likely besides Jimin-hyung to just crawl into bed and go back to sleep.” Jungkook wanted to laugh at the exasperated look on Seokjin’s face after he delivered that dose of reality, but he wasn’t looking to have that spoon Seokjin was holding thrown at him, so he stayed quiet.

“I’ll have to go fetch them then,” Seokjin groused, despite the faint glint of fondness in his eyes.

However, as soon as he started to move to leave the kitchen, Yoongi appeared in the doorway, pulling a flustered and distinctly ruffled Taehyung by the hand behind him. At the raised eyebrows turned in their direction, Yoongi merely shrugged and muttered, “I was busy.”

Taehyung flushed when five knowing smirks were directed his way as Yoongi wandered off to make coffee. He shrugged unapologetically – his lips now clearly looking kiss swollen – before skipping over to plop down on Hoseok’s lap and start pulling together a breakfast plate.

Once they were all relatively settled and talking amicably over their food, Jungkook allowed himself to just sit back with his mostly finished oatmeal and watch his hyungs all interact. They were always interesting to him; they were an amalgamation of ever moving, fluid interactions in which no one was turned away. It had taken a lot of work and construction of trust to get to this point, but Jungkook thought it was beautiful. He and Namjoon had once waxed poetic to each other while drunk off their asses, and had likened their relationship to the slow, breath-taking birth of a star. They were a supernova in slow motion, becoming something that might just outlive them all.

If he looked back at where he had started – where they had all started – Jungkook never thought that waking up to something like this could have ever been possible for him. A room full of people he could call family, a promise of tomorrow he had never been given as a child, and a place he could confidently call home.

“That reminds me,” Namjoon’s voice tugged Jungkook back to the present conversation, his tone lifted to address the table as a whole. “Jungkookie wants to go out today, but I’ve got work to do so I can’t go with him. Are any of you free?”

“Out where? Are we sure it’s safe?” Seokjin fret, his lovely brown eyes flicking from Namjoon to Jungkook. “Plus, aren’t you still feeling sick, baby? Is this a good idea?”

Jungkook knew his hyungs were worried because of recent events, that they didn’t actually think he was so helpless and fragile. But it was still a struggle not to roll his eyes at their blatant over protective reactions.

“It’s okay, hyung,” Jungkook reassured, speaking to Seokjin but looking around at everyone. “I’m feeling better, and I just want to go out for lunch and do some shopping. I’m just feeling restless is all, and I figured this was a better choice than trying to convince Hobi-hyung I was okay enough for sparring practice.”

“Yeah, absolutely a no to sparring,” Hoseok cut in immediately. “You still get drained from walking around the apartment for too long. We’re not getting back into practice until you’re at full health.”

“I know, hyung,” Jungkook reassured, flashing Hoseok a quick smile. He missed sparring with Hoseok but even Jungkook wasn’t dumb enough to try and get back into their regular sessions before he was feeling a whole lot better. Besides, Hoseok obviously wouldn’t even entertain sparring with him to begin with.

“Jimin, Yoongi, and I can’t go with you, baby,” Seokjin said apologetically, bringing the conversation back. “We’re working on some new tech for a heist we’re planning a few months out from now. If we don’t get these plans settled, we likely won’t have the parts in time.”

“I’m out too,” Hoseok winced guiltily. “I’ve got a shift at the bar since I traded with Minhyuk the other night to do a patrol. I’m doing his late morning to dinner shift, so I’ve actually got to head out in about two hours.”

“Well, Kookie,” Taehyung chirped from where he was still perched on Hoseok’s lap. “Looks like today’s your lucky day! You get to spend the whole afternoon with your favorite hyung!”

“Really?” Jungkook perked up, thinking that everyone was going to have some kind of work bogging them down and he would be out of luck. “You’re not busy today?”

“Nope!” Taehyung beamed across the table at the maknae. “I went out with Yoongi-hyung last night so I’m off patrol today and I did my shooting drills yesterday. I’m all yours, angel.”

Before Jungkook could cheer and thank Taehyung for coming with him, Namjoon held up a hand and cut in, looking serious. It was enough to sober the cheerful mood at the table as the two youngest turned their attention Namjoon’s way.

“I trust you both, but make sure that you have your phones on you the whole time. If anything – and I mean anything – remotely suspicious or troublesome happens, you call for back up. Jungkook is in no state to be fighting and I don’t want you to have to fight and protect all on your own Tae-ah. Am I clear?”

“Crystal, hyungie~” Taehyung cooed sweetly while Jungkook nodded firmly in response. Namjoon softened after that and reached over to tweak Taehyung’s cheek playfully. The gesture earned him a quiet giggle and a softened atmosphere.

“Then have fun, babies. Make sure you buy something pretty for yourselves, okay? I’m taking you two and Jiminie on a date this weekend. I took the other three out last week so it’s your turn now.”

“Ah hyung,” Jimin spoke up, looking more awake now than when breakfast had started. “You’re too sweet to us.”

“I do it because you’re all so wonderful, you deserve nice things,” Namjoon said fondly, standing and moving to leave a sweet kiss on Jimin’s forehead as he took his plates to the sink. “I have to head out now, but I love you all. I’ll see you later tonight.”

A chorus of farewells followed Namjoon out after everyone pressed kisses to cheeks and noses – a reassurance and a promise. Jimin, Seokjin, and Yoongi moved out of the kitchen not long after, already talking shop and heading towards their labs to work on their project. Hoseok got to work on washing the dishes in the sink, Taehyung standing at his side and drying the dishes as Hoseok finished. Jungkook was tasked with packing up leftovers and bringing the dishes over to the sink.

Once they were finished, Hoseok kissed them both on the cheek in farewell and left to head out to the bar for work. Taehyung and Jungkook were still in their sleep clothes, so they went their separate ways to change into street clothes before heading out. Meeting back up in the living room, Taehyung eyed up Jungkook’s outfit with an appreciative stare before wrapping a firm arm around the maknae’s narrow waist.

“Let’s go, baby.”

“Hyung, I told you I could pay for it this time. I don’t want you to buy everything today,” Jungkook spoke quietly as they left the third shop that afternoon, arms ladened with bags. Originally, their intentions had been to only buy a few things, but Jungkook hadn’t been shopping in a long while because of school, and it felt good to replace a wardrobe he didn’t realize needed replacing. But Taehyung had insisted he pay at the first shop – where Jungkook had found a rather flattering loose silk shirt for date night. But then Taehyung had insisted again at the second shop, and now he had just swiped his card behind Jungkook’s back at the third stop.

“I know, baby,” Taehyung said casually, not even a hint of remorse coloring his tone. A familiar arm snuck easily around Jungkook’s waist as Taehyung tugged him a little closer to his side. It was a subtle move, possessive and protective all at once, and it never failed to succeed in making Jungkook soften completely.

“But it’s been ages since we were able to just spoil you rotten for a day, so let hyung do this, okay? The money belongs to all of us, anyway, so it’s coming from the same pockets regardless of who uses their card.”

Huffing in resignation, Jungkook leaned a little more comfortably into Taehyung’s hold and gave up the argument. He could feel the self-satisfied smirk his hyung pressed against his temple, and Jungkook retaliated by gently pinching at Taehyung’s wrist.

They kept walking for another two blocks, pausing to scan through the display of a shop that had apparently opened in the recent months Jungkook had been away at school. Taehyung was telling him about the simply lavish sweater Hoseok had gotten for Jimin from this place when Jungkook suddenly felt a little woozy. Blinking against the swoop in his stomach and the rushing sensation in his head, the maknae took an unsteady step sideways, one hand lifting to his head. The action did not go unnoticed by Taehyung, who immediately reached out and curled firm fingers around Jungkook’s bicep. Alarm was clear in his eyes as he wordlessly guided the younger to a nearby bench on the sidewalk.

“Kookie? Baby what is it?” Taehyung’s worried tone and imploring eyes drew Jungkook’s focus and he felt the dizziness recede a little now that he was sitting down. Giving a slight shake of his head, Jungkook pressed tentative fingers to his own temple, hoping the feeling didn’t return.

“Just a little dizzy, hyung,” he murmured. “I still get tired relatively easily.”

He could practically see Taehyung doing the math in his head, realizing that they had finished lunch almost two hours ago, had been walking ever since, and hadn’t even stopped to get water or a snack for Jungkook. Guilt was an abrupt coloration over Taehyung’s expression, and he was quick to gather up the bags in a neat array beside the younger before pressing a warm palm to Jungkook’s cheek.

“Let me get you a water from that machine over there, okay? We’ll sit here and you can drink it before we move on. Wait right here, I’ll only be a second.”

The drink machine was set up out front a convenience store at the next shop front, easily in sight of where Jungkook was sitting. He watched wearily as Taehyung quickly slipped a bill into the slot and pushed the button for, presumably, water. Jungkook was watching as Taehyung was just beginning to bend down and fetch the water from the slot when a hand clamped down over Jungkook’s mouth from behind.

The street hadn’t been busy, what with it being the middle of a workday in the middle of the week in a quieter part of town, so Jungkook hadn’t been actively searching for potentially hostile people. He had let his guard down too much, because now he was being hauled over the bench as he tried to fight back, his struggles not quiet as effective when he was still feeling nauseous and off kilter. Pressing his heels into the back of the bench, desperately hoping that it would give him a grounding point to utilize, Jungkook spotted Taehyung turning to find him.

Even from a distance, Jungkook could identify the moment they locked eyes, Taehyung’s widening before they darkened and he broke into a sprint. Hoseok made them all practice hand to hand – had insisted it could save their lives someday – but they were all at various levels of ability. Taehyung was getting pretty good at it, but Jungkook didn’t know yet how many people they were facing. What if they were hopelessly outnumbered?

Just as Jungkook’s now trembling legs gave way of his anchor on the bench, Taehyung hurtled past and Jungkook heard the distinctive shout that meant someone had just been punched. Managing to drive an elbow backward with enough force to earn a breathless wheeze, Jungkook tugged against the hands holding him and miraculously stumbled free. Whirling to take in the scene unfolding on the empty street, Jungkook cursed his luck and tried to fend off the shakiness and the dizziness.

There were four men outside the car that had pulled up unknowingly, and Jungkook spotted a fifth person behind the driver’s wheel, attempting to look unbothered but she was intently watching the scene unfold on the sidewalk. Taehyung was exchanging blows with one of the men; the glimpse Jungkook caught of his expression was dark and murderous. Before he could take stock of much else or even think to reach for his phone, another of the men was suddenly throwing a punch his way – his form was sloppy, the punch entirely see through; Hoseok would have laid into this guy relentlessly – and Jungkook was forced to duck aside. A second man came up right behind the first, throwing a punch that was much more solid and barely gave Jungkook time to block, let alone dodge.

Keeping his focus on this guy, Jungkook was unaware of the first guy coming up behind him (a rookie mistake not to watch his own six; Hoseok would have a field day chewing him out for this later). The hand that clamped over his mouth again was a different texture than before, smelled a little sweeter, a little more like chemicals.


Jungkook’s vision tinged with blurriness at the edges as he breathed in the fumes unwillingly. He thrashed despite his weakening movements and tried to call out for Taehyung through the haze and the panic. He must have made some noise loud enough in his fading awareness because Taehyung seemed to hear him.

It all happened so fast, but it felt so agonizingly slow as Jungkook’s drugged perception catalogued each detail for later. Taehyung knocking his opponent to the ground, Taehyung whirling to catch sight of Jungkook, the horrified widening of his eyes yet again. The desperate call of his name, the hand reaching for Jungkook futilely.

The distant, echoing sound of a pistol with a suppressor on, and Taehyung crumpling to the pavement as Jungkook’s vision went dark.

He startled awake, but for a disorienting moment, he wondered if he actually had woken up because everything was still pitch black. Jungkook took a shaky breath, another; tried to settle his racing pulse and take stock of what he could understand through his hazy, scattered senses. A twist of his wrists proved he was indeed tied up, the durable plastic of the zip tie biting into his joints uncomfortably. He also realized that the ache in his neck and arms was because someone had tied him unconscious and upright to a chair, arms bound behind the back of his chair.

A few more moments of breathing and forcing his body to fully wake up, Jungkook heard nothing besides his own gasping and finally registered the brush of his eyelashes against a blindfold. At least that explained the darkness.

Wriggling against his binds, Jungkook winced almost immediately, feeling an ache like dull fire spread rapidly throughout most of his limbs, his sense of direction spinning wildly with his lack of vision. Groaning softly, Jungkook knew he was screwed. He hadn’t been feeling all that great when the fight started, and now the chemicals left his nose aching and blocked, his cheeks feeling flushed and he was abruptly and uncomfortably aware of his bangs sticking to his forehead with the light sheen of sweat present there.


If he had the energy, Jungkook would level every one of these bastards.

A door creaked off to his left, Jungkook sightlessly turning his head that way on instinct.

“Oh, you’re awake. Finally,” a rough voice said monotonously. The distinctive click of approaching feet was all Jungkook heard for a moment, the noise coming to a stop in front of his chair, and Jungkook kept his face turned that direction. A heartbeat of intense silence passed and then the blindfold was ripped off his face, leaving Jungkook blinking against the sudden dim light, forcing his eyes to adjust as quickly as possible. The man in front of him was unimpressive – young and sloppy. He was clearly playing at being a big time thug, the loose pants and wife beater so stereotypical it almost made Jungkook cringe.

“Who are you? What do you want with me?” Jungkook asked, his voice rough from disuse and breathing in the chemicals.

“We don’t want much with you. All you need to do is sit there until your friends meet our demands and back off. Maybe if they’re difficult, you could scream a little to persuade them. We’ll have to see though, won’t we?”

“They’re not going to meet your demands, not even for me,” Jungkook said. It wasn’t a desperate ditch statement; it was too honest for that. His gaze was too level, too unnervingly steady for it to be anything but the truth.

The guy laughed, trying to play off that unsettled glint in his eyes. Jungkook wondered if he already knew he was playing a game way out of his league.

“Even if that is true, I'm sure once we get you screaming, they’ll do whatever we want them to—”

“No, you won’t,” Jungkook cut him off, leaning back in his chair and looking bored with the situation. He felt like absolute shit, but this was child’s play. He had been here before, because one didn’t exist in this type of underground life without preparing for or experiencing a hostage situation. He and his hyungs may be soft and sweet with one another, but they had faced the world and laughed in the face of the horrors it showed them. They had all faced worse demons on their own and survived, so together they were near unstoppable.

“It doesn’t matter what you try to do to me, how much you try to make me scream, or what you threaten them with. They’re not going to cater to your demands or back down like scrawny street dogs. You have no idea what you’re playing with, kid.”

The guy blinked for a second, clearly shocked by Jungkook’s careless demeanor and cold words. But then he was scowling and stepping into Jungkook’s space, grabbing a fistful of long hair in dirty fingers and yanking Jungkook’s head back so he could stare menacingly down at the bound maknae. The only thing that seemed to bother Jungkook was the rancid breath this guy had.

“First of all, kid,” he growled. “I’m older than you, so don’t patronize me. Second, I don’t care what bullshit you tell me. We’re going to get what we want from those cowardly, pompous friends of yours, and if that means cutting you up to get you screaming, then so be it.”

Jungkook laughed, and the guy clearly wasn’t expecting that by the way his fingers loosened their hold in his hair and the way his expression shuttered with confusion. Regardless, Jungkook kept laughing, the sound rough from the soreness in his throat, and shook his head with pitiful amusement.

“Man, how does it feel to be a petty criminal at your age when I’m younger than you and ten times more successful?”

Rage and indignation twisted the man’s expression and his fist hurtling towards Jungkook’s face was the last thing the youth remembered before blinding pain and then darkness.

In all honesty, Jungkook wasn’t sure how much time passed before things got interesting, but judging by the rumble in his stomach and the ache that had now persisted into a strange mix of pain and numbness, it had to be at least a full day. Truthfully, he wasn’t worried that much. His captors hadn’t come back since that first guy, and Jungkook had woken up with a long dried bloody nose and no blindfold.

The room he was held in was small, plain, unfurnished, and there were no windows or anything to indicate the passage of time, which Jungkook had to admit was a decent tactic when trying to break a hostage’s will. But as before, he had been through this song and dance so many times, it was nearly rehearsed. Jungkook kept himself occupied by singing quietly – familiar songs that he and his hyungs liked. It helped the time pass and made him feel a little safer. It wasn’t much, but it was something.

Eventually he had to stop though, his sore throat only getting worse, a cough beginning to persist despite Jungkook hoping it would go away if he stopped using his voice. His nose was also uncomfortably stuffed, the mix of dry blood and congestion absolute hell on his attempts at breathing. To make matters worse, in the last couple hours, a pulsing ache had begun to throb its way to life behind his eyes and in his temples, making focusing ten times more difficult. Jungkook was well and truly sick now, his weakened immune system and still recovering body unable to fend off what he was facing.

He was just beginning to wonder if he might be able to wiggle his arms free from behind his back despite his ankles being bound to the chair legs when noise finally breached his tiny room. Looking towards the door, going absolutely still, Jungkook strained to distinguish the sounds, trying to figure out what might be going on. The pounding ache in his head wasn’t making the task any easier, but he tried anyway.

Shouting, crashing, banging, and the distant but distinctive sound of gunshots eventually registered with Jungkook. Cursing under his breath, Jungkook began to seriously attempt to free himself, tugging and wriggling around with little heed to his aching wrists and shoulders. They had long gone numb and the dull pains were barely noticeable now. He hoped to take advantage of whatever chaos was occurring outside his room and maybe get himself free.

Before he could get very far with that plan, however, the door was suddenly flung open and the guy from before came tumbling inside. He scrambled to close the door behind him, pressing it firmly shut and breathing heavily. Whirling towards Jungkook, the guy’s eyes were wild as he locked onto Jungkook’s frozen form. Stalking forward, Jungkook watched him with an unimpressed look masking his confusion.

The wife beater was torn and dirtied, several scrapes and streaks of dirt marring his skin, clearly the result of some kind of scuffle. Jungkook watched him fumble with a pocketknife before the guy was haphazardly slicing the binds on Jungkook’s ankles and hauling the weak, ill youth to his feet with a hand around Jungkook’s throat. The knife was chucked aside carelessly and a gun tugged free from the guy’s waistband. Jungkook tried very hard not to roll his eyes at such a careless move.

The barrel of the gun – cold and unused – was pressed against Jungkook’s temple and a crazed smile revealed crooked teeth and still rancid breath.

“You said they didn’t care about you,” the guy whispered, a crazed edge to his tone. “I knew that had to be lie, but how did you tell them where you were, huh? How?” The last word was shouted in Jungkook’s face, spit flying unpleasantly and landing against Jungkook’s nose and cheeks.

He couldn’t help but smirk, speaking rough and quiet against the hand at his throat. “I never said they didn’t care about me. I said they wouldn’t meet your demands. And I was right, wasn’t I?”

Jungkook watched the craze flicker, confusion mingling with blatant annoyance. He chuckled lowly and continued, taking a sick pleasure in watching this messy situation play out.

“They didn’t meet your demands, and they were never going to. You can make all the requests you’d like, but Bangtan takes what they want and always comes back for what belongs to us. We don’t leave anyone behind. And now you’re going to pay for it, asshole.”

The guy’s expression crumbled with rage after a quiet moment of processing Jungkook’s words. He really hoped he wasn’t about to be knocked out again, because twice in less than as many days was really too much, and Jungkook was lucky he wasn’t already sporting a concussion. Thankfully – or not – the guy merely leaned a little closer and flashed an unstable smile in Jungkook’s face, the gesture all teeth. The muzzle of the pistol pressed more firmly against Jungkook’s skin.

“Maybe I am,” he laughed, entirely deranged. “But maybe I can take something of your precious Bangtan’s down with me.”

Before Jungkook could say anything else, the hand at his throat was gone and he was being shoved forward with the pistol at his back, the barrel level with his heart. Jungkook’s panic, which he had been keeping in check in the quiet of the situation, started to prick to life beneath his skin. This was far from an ideal situation, and despite knowing now that his hyungs were nearby, Jungkook couldn’t help but worry that things would not end well.

They wove through a few hallways, the gun at Jungkook’s back uncomfortable and cold, a heavy reminder that he was so beyond out of shape that nothing he did would prevent the fact that he would likely only end up getting shot.

Eventually they emerged from the hallway into an open area, the ceiling two stories tall and only serving to make the ringing echoes of gunshots and grunts bounce around wildly. The man behind Jungkook moved the gun from his back to press it against Jungkook’s temple as he pressed his other arm firmly around the maknae’s throat.

“Bangtan!” the guy shouted at Jungkook’s ear, making the younger flinch slightly from the volume. The arm at his throat was pressing ever tighter, the anxiety this man had clear through that gesture alone. The gun against Jungkook’s temple was shaking slightly, and he worried that this idiot might accidentally pull the trigger with his shaking.

“Make one more move and your dear boy gets a hole in his head.”

Pulling his attention away from how shitty he felt and the shaking gun a mere breath from his temple, Jungkook scanned the room full of dead bodies for his hyungs. Closest to him was Namjoon, expression dark and threatening to anyone that didn’t know him. Jungkook could pinpoint the strain in his countenance though, the pinch between his brows telling even from a distance. Behind him was Hoseok, his wrists wrapped methodically and chest heaving from the fight that had clearly ensued before Jungkook’s arrival. Hoseok’s normally exuberant face was set with careful neutrality, looking unnatural. Jungkook knew Hoseok hated fighting like this, despite being so incredible at it, and guilt was an unpleasant, sudden companion for making his hyung go through this.

Yoongi stood furthest; his pyro bag slung over one shoulder and the scorch marks on the far walls of the open room telling. From this far away, Jungkook couldn’t make out his expression clearly, but he assumed it was somewhere along the lines of what he could see on Hoseok and Namjoon’s faces. Seokjin and Jimin were nowhere to be seen, and that didn’t surprise Jungkook. They were first and foremost information broker and hacking of their team – respectively.

Taehyung, however, was a surprise absence. That is, until Jungkook was assaulted with the memory he had repressed of watching his hyung crumble to the sidewalk after being shot. The sudden tremor in Jungkook’s limbs wasn’t fear, but rage. He wished now more than ever that his hands were free so he could beat this man senseless for hurting someone Jungkook loved.

No one had said anything in the tense moments it took Jungkook’s hyungs to notice their presence, but now the man and Jungkook had their undivided attention.

“Toss your weapons down and maybe I’ll let your boy toy here live. I gave you demands, Bangtan, and you haven’t met them.”

“We’re not backing down,” Namjoon said almost immediately. He had eyes only for Jungkook, not even sparing the man a glance. Jungkook locked eyes with Namjoon and hoped his expression conveyed reassurance despite this mess. He wasn’t sure the haze of sickness hanging around Jungkook really helped convey that message, but a guy could try.

Jungkook was just beginning to wonder what the plan might be when he picked up on the distant, familiar sound of a suppressor clicking. It was distinctive and so achingly unique to a rifle Jungkook knew that he was moving before he even registered doing so. He was twisting to duck his head forward and out of the way, the reassuring melody of the sharp whiz of a bullet slicing through the air nearby before finding its mark singing above him as he did.

The guy holding Jungkook screamed in agony as a bullet was buried in his shoulder and he released the maknae. Jungkook stumbled forward with the loss of support, only to be scooped into Namjoon’s waiting embrace. All but melting against his leader, Jungkook sighed shakily and made a relieved noise when Namjoon reached around to cut his wrists free of the zip tie. Ignoring the pins and needles and mounting pain in his limbs, Jungkook used his new range of motion to wrap his arms around Namjoon’s chest and cling to his hyung’s shirt.

Namjoon kept one arm firmly wrapped around Jungkook’s narrow waist, the other holding a gun level with the groaning man across from him.

“Make one more move and I’ll put a bullet in your head before you can even begin to beg for your life.”

By the time Jungkook found the strength to look up from Namjoon’s shoulder, Hoseok was at his side and sparing a moment to look fretfully relieved before that neutral, dark expression was back in place. He approached the groaning man and pressed a firm foot just shy of the bullet wound.

“We thought our little warning the other night was enough, asshole,” Hoseok growled, voice low and menacing. “But clearly we were wrong. You’re awful bold for a small time gang with barely any territory to your name to be kidnapping one of ours and thinking you could get away with it. We have eyes everywhere. You have no idea who you’re messing with. Truthfully, we don’t even need you alive anymore since we know everything about you now.”

Jungkook listened to the man stumble and stutter over a mix of curses and insincere apologies for all of ten seconds before he grew tired of the rambling. Ducking his head to press his cheek against Namjoon’s shoulder, Jungkook mumbled into the skin of his leader’s neck.

“Just shoot him already, hyung."

Namjoon gave Jungkook’s waist a careful squeeze, quietly ordering Hoseok to move aside, before the kickback of the pistol firing reverberated through their bodies like a shockwave.

“Let’s go home.”

Chapter Text

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.

Chapter Text

Yoongi and Jimin welcomed Taehyung and Jungkook into the bedroom happily, Taehyung immediately steering Jungkook to sit on the edge of the bed so he could perch above the maknae and tie his hair back in a messy little bun. Hoseok emerged from the en suite bathroom a few moments later with a pile of facemasks to choose from in his hands, looking around at all of them with a smile. The elder’s smile grew brighter and infectious once he realized that the youngest two had arrived, and the general atmosphere of the room seemed to glow with content.

Jimin was quick to tug Jungkook down onto the bed, sandwiching the youngest snuggly between himself and Yoongi, ignoring Jungkook’s half-hearted protests of being squished. Yoongi eventually took mercy on Jungkook and shifted sideways enough that their maknae could lay a little more comfortably on the mattress while still being entirely trapped by Jimin’s embrace. By the time he was free, Hoseok had already set Taehyung up with a facemask, and was staring at them expectantly.

“What have you got, Hob-ah?” Yoongi prompted, sharing an amused look with Hoseok.

“I’ve got one that smells like bananas, one that smells like roses, a cucumber one, and a charcoal one.” Hoseok listed off the options as he climbed up onto the mattress and stepped over a sprawling Taehyung. Plopping down practically in Yoongi’s lap, Hoseok spread the remaining facemasks out around their little cluster and let them clamor.

Somehow, Jungkook managed to get his hands on the charcoal one before any of the others did. He had a sneaking suspicion that his hyungs were being a little slow in choosing just so Jungkook would absolutely get the one he wanted. It was a sweet gesture, and Jungkook felt that warm, content feeling in his chest only grow. Jimin scooped up the rose one, and Yoongi and Hoseok grabbed whichever was closest to them. The pair was known for their love of facemasks, so they often didn’t have a preference when every single one that came into their apartment was one they approved of.

Hoseok maneuvered himself over to Jimin and helped the younger put his facemask on properly. Yoongi did the same for Jungkook as the youth laid comfortably back against the mound of pillows against the head of the bed. He was more than content to let his eyes fall shut as Yoongi’s steady fingers smoothed the sheet mask against the contours of Jungkook’s face. It was a surprisingly soothing feeling, and Yoongi must have picked up on that, because his fingers were only gone long enough to put his own face mask on before they were back to tracing over the curves and slopes of Jungkook’s face. He kept his touch light, careful not to remove too much of the sickly sweet lotion coating the mask, but enough for Jungkook to feel the ministrations.

Yoongi’s fingertips traced down the bridge of his nose, along the curve of Jungkook’s jawline, over the slopes of the youth’s cheeks, and around the curve of his temple. It was a repetitive pattern, soothing and strange all at once. Jungkook let his eyes shut and was content to just listen to the stilted chatter around him. The voices eventually died down as everyone let their masks set, but he knew they were all still there, and Yoongi’s fingers on his face were reassurance enough that he hadn’t been left alone.

He must have dozed off for a few minutes, because when he became aware of the muted voices around him once more, it was accompanied by the cool sensation of fingers gently massaging the mask oils into his skin.

“Do you really think this is a good idea?” Hoseok’s quiet question was the first thing to fully register through Jungkook’s sleepy, content haze.

“Going out, you mean?” Jimin’s voice this time, a little further down the bed than he had been originally. “Namjoon-hyung and Jin-hyung seem to think we’ll be okay. They were hesitant enough at first, but I think the bottom line came to showing the other gangs that this didn’t rattle us. Plus, we’re going to one of the most famous and populated restaurants in downtown tonight. If anyone tries to pull anything, they’re going to be dealing with a lot of unaffiliated witnesses.”

“Okay, fine,” Hoseok seemed disgruntled still, and Jungkook wanted to open his eyes and crawl over to wrap his hyung in a hug. But Yoongi’s hands were so warm and gentle against his face, and he was so tired his body felt like lead weights were wrapped around his limbs.

“What about Jungkook?”

“What about him, Hobi-hyung?”

“What do you mean, ‘what about him’ Jimin? He was a hostage yesterday afternoon! And now we’re here acting like everything is fine, preparing to send him, you and Taehyung – who was shot a couple days ago I might add! – out on a date. This just seems…I don’t know.” The frustration in Hoseok’s tone was not lost on Jungkook, or on anyone in the room. It was enough to finally get Jungkook to blink open his eyes, exchanging a knowing, sleepy look with Yoongi who let him sit up a moment later.

“Hyung,” Hoseok’s eyes were already on Jungkook as the maknae spoke up. “I know you’re worried about me, about all of us, and about whatever is going on right now. But we’ve always gotten through rough spots like this by moving forward. If we let what happened hold us back and overthink it, we’ll get stuck in a hole of our own making and be more vulnerable to other gangs. I agree with Namjoon-hyung on this one. We have to go out and act like we weren’t rattled at all.”

The pained look on Hoseok’s face was enough for Jungkook to scoot closer to his hyung and let the elder wrap him up in a firm embrace. Even if Hoseok hadn’t been in need of comfort at the moment, Jungkook was never one to turn down a hug from Hoseok. Leaning happily into his hyung’s shoulder, Jungkook let Hoseok take his time and simply enjoyed the proximity.

“I just don’t want to lose you again,” Hoseok eventually confessed, voice soft and breaking over the last couple words.

“You won’t, hyung,” Jungkook murmured back. “I promise.”

Hoseok had a past more complicated than the rest of them, and the fact that he was so open with his emotions and feelings with them meant the world to each member. It hadn’t always been like this, and they felt blessed to see the progression of Hoseok’s trust in them. He had always been honest, but they eventually realized that did not equate to vulnerability. Things were very different now, and they were all careful not to misuse or mistreat the trust Hoseok placed in them.

After a few more minutes of just letting Hoseok hold him, the elder pulled back and placed a quick kiss on Jungkook’s nose. He then resumed Yoongi’s earlier task of completely massaging the mask oils into the maknae’s skin. Jungkook felt like he might be glowing a little with how soft and hydrated his skin felt by the end of this.

“Okay! Time to get ready!” Taehyung crowed when they were all finished, shoving to his feet with only a mild look of pain flashing across his face before he reached for Jungkook. “Let’s go, Kookie! I’m dressing you up tonight since I got to help pick out the outfit you’re wearing. You’re going to look absolutely stunning when I’m finished with you.”

Jungkook let himself be pulled happily along to the bedroom door. He chuckled alongside Yoongi and Hoseok when Taehyung paused at the door long enough to urge Jimin into action, claiming that he was always making them late for fussing over his appearance. Jungkook caught the beginnings of Jimin’s offended pout before he was tugged from the room and down the hall towards Taehyung’s.

They spent the next half hour primping and prepping, Taehyung batting Jungkook’s hands away from their shared makeup drawer and insisting that he get to doll the maknae up. It wasn’t for Jungkook’s lack of skill with makeup, but on Taehyung’s fretting over Jungkook’s injured wrists. And it was only because of that argument (and totally not at all because of Taehyung’s irresistible puppy eyes) that Jungkook conceded and let his hyung do his makeup for the evening.

As Taehyung was carefully brushing eye shadow onto Jungkook’s closed lids, the maknae finally spoke up.

“Hyung?” He waited for Taehyung to hum in acknowledgement before continuing. “Are you sure you’re okay to come out with us tonight?”

“Because of my injury?” Something in Taehyung’s voice seemed resigned, and since Jungkook couldn’t see his face, he would just have to go with what he could hear and hope he was interpreting correctly.

“Yeah…I just don’t want you to push yourself before you’re actually feeling good enough to do things like this. It might not seem like a big deal, but with a wound like that, sitting upright in one spot for a long time might aggravate it.”

The brush moved away from Jungkook’s eyelid, and a second later, Taehyung’s lips were pressing carefully against Jungkook’s hairline. The maknae’s hair was already styled neatly and handsomely, so Taehyung was cautious to not muss up his hard work, but the affection behind the gesture was unmistakable.

“I know you’re worried about me, baby,” Taehyung murmured. “And I appreciate it. Everyone else is really worried about you, and you’re such a sweetheart for fretting over me after everything you went through. But I promise you, like I promised hyungs – I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t think I could handle it. Plus, if it turns out I overestimated myself, I won’t hesitate to let you know. Deal?”


“Great, now keep those pretty eyes closed for me while I finish up. You still need to get dressed while I put the finishing touches on my own makeup.”

Nearly fifteen minutes later, once Taehyung was finished fussing over Jungkook’s appearance, he took a step back and admired his handiwork on both the makeup and the outfit he had put together. Clapping his hands together with glee, Taehyung gestured permission for Jungkook to turn and look in the mirror for himself.

Honestly? He looked pretty fucking hot.

Taehyung had done his makeup so that the sharp line of Jungkook’s jaw was stunningly prominent while the line and shade of his eye makeup softened the edges of his contours and gave him a youthful yet striking appearance. Jungkook had styled his own hair so that his longer hair fell in soft, curved waves, the shorter pieces near the front hanging neatly over his brow. And the outfit Taehyung had put together seemed to magically tie the whole ensemble together in such a classy way that Jungkook was actually in awe.

The silk shirt that Taehyung had picked out the other day during their shopping trip was a rich, soft silk dyed a deep royal blue that was positively salient against the shade of Jungkook’s skin tone. The neckline plunged just deeply enough down the front of his chest to be tantalizing without actually revealing anything that might be societally deemed inappropriate. Jungkook’s favorite part though were the sleeves, billowy and long enough to cover his bandage wrapped hands and wrists and not put any pressure on the wounds. Tying it all together were the black cigarette pants that Taehyung had insisted made his ass look phenomenal and would apparently have been a crime not to buy.

“You look fucking ravishing, Kook-ah,” Taehyung praised, coming up behind the maknae and staring at Jungkook’s reflection in the floor length mirror before them. “I did a fantastic job, holy shit.”

Jungkook chuckled as Taehyung started pressing lackadaisical kisses to the back of his neck and down Jungkook’s shoulder. His eyes were pinned on Jungkook’s reflection, intense despite the lazy pace of affection.

“Careful, hyung,” Jungkook drawled, leaning a little weight into Taehyung’s kisses. “Wouldn’t want to ruin all this hard work before we even get to dinner.”

“You’re right,” Taehyung smirked as he pulled back, spinning Jungkook around and smoothing out some wrinkles in Jungkook’s silk. “There’ll be plenty of time afterwards to take you and this ravishing look apart completely with Jiminie and Joonie-hyung.”

Jungkook couldn’t quite suppress his shudder of anticipation as he breathlessly asked, “Is that a promise?”

“Oh, absolutely,” Taehyung all but purred. He pressed a lingering kiss to Jungkook’s glossed up lips before breaking away and giving Jungkook a little shove towards the bedroom door.

“Go on out and show yourself off while I get dressed. I’ll be out in five minutes.”

Jungkook huffed a quiet laugh at Taehyung’s over the top wink that accompanied the dismissal, but he headed out to the main room of the apartment anyway. As he walked down the hall, the maknae picked up on Namjoon and Seokjin’s voices drifting towards him. He wasn’t surprised that Seokjin was there to see them off, considering how Jungkook was still shocked the eldest hyung was even letting any of them out after recent events. Giving his head a careful shake, reminding himself to stay positive, Jungkook continued out into the main room, head high.

Seokjin was dressed in casual clothes, a t-shirt and loose pants, but Namjoon's outfit made Jungkook's cheeks heat. It wasn't anything over the top or flashy, but it was so simple and fitted that it just screamed effortlessly attractive. His pants were dark and hugging his glorious legs, Jungkook having to work hard to tear his eyes away to take in the rest of the ensemble. His hyung had adorned a dark and wonderfully tailored, pleated coat like shirt. It tied in the front and fell prettily to Namjoon's shins, the long sleeves loose enough for comfort and the neck line steep and open to reveal the soft black shirt Namjoon had put on underneath. A silver necklace courtesy of Seokjin rested against Namjoon's collarbones and his hair was swept up off his forehead neatly. Jungkook tried hard not to drool down his shirtfront.

Seeing Namjoon’s reaction was well worth the time it had taken to get ready for the evening ahead. Jungkook hadn’t been trying to make an impressive entrance, but it seems as if his casual appearance – walking idly into the living room and taking in Namjoon's appearance after leaving Taehyung’s preparations, reaching up to carefully tuck a stray bit of his longer hair behind one ear – had been more than enough to make Namjoon notice him. In fact, their leader’s eyes went right to Jungkook, widening slightly as he cut off mid-sentence and raked a hungry, impressed gaze up and down the maknae’s figure.

It was extremely gratifying. Even Seokjin, standing at Namjoon’s shoulder, seemed a little thrown by Jungkook’s appearance.

Feeling his cheeks heat at the blatant attention, Jungkook joined his awestruck hyungs near the sofa and offered them a sweet smile, affecting innocence like he was completely oblivious to the affect he was currently having on them.

“Everything okay, hyungs? Are we still good to go?”

Namjoon took a silent step forward, hands reaching out as if to touch Jungkook before hesitating, moving up and down slightly like he wanted to grab somewhere else, before eventually settling on Jungkook’s waist and tugging the maknae a step closer, something dangerous and alluring sparking to life in Namjoon’s deep brown eyes. It made Jungkook shiver, unable to break eye contact.

He loved it.

“You look absolutely stunning, little one,” Namjoon whispered, his voice deep and unsteady. “I can’t wait to let you show yourself off.”

“With you behind me glaring daggers at anyone that looks, I’m sure,” Jungkook teased lightly, his voice quiet as he leaned into the sturdy hold of Namjoon’s hands.

“Not just him,” Jimin’s voice nipped at Jungkook’s ear lobe, his teeth a light graze quickly following. Jungkook startled slightly at Jimin’s sudden appearance behind him. He hadn’t heard his hyung approach, and was actually a little surprised that Jimin was ready before Taehyung. It was then that Jungkook realized how excited Jimin must be for this outing if he was actually on time instead of fussing over his appearance for endless minutes in a mirror.

“This is going to be a fun night,” Jimin said, smirk evident in his voice as he came around Jungkook’s side and pressed a kiss to the maknae’s cheek. “Any of our enemies out tonight are going to be stunned seeing you look like this. Oh, I hope those bastards cower. That would just make my night.”

As Jungkook got a good look at Jimin, he felt a little breathless. His hyung’s dark hair was styled back from his forehead, dangerous and attractive all at once. He had gone with a dark ensemble, the black silk button up and black fitted pants slimming and striking and Jungkook was having a hard time not gaping at Jimin. The dainty silver earrings dangling from his hyung’s earlobes caught the light in a pretty way and managed to tie everything together nicely.

“Easy, Jiminie,” Seokjin chuckled, a hint of worry pinching at the corners of the elder’s eyes despite his amusement. “No maiming tonight. You promised you’d behave.”

While they all knew that Jimin could never actually hurt anyone – much less maim them – Jimin played along, sighing over dramatically like Seokjin was ruining all his fun. Namjoon released Jungkook’s waist so he could draw Jimin into his side, drumming his fingers playfully up the hacker’s side to get him to giggle. Seokjin took Namjoon’s place beside Jungkook, a careful arm winding around the maknae’s waist.

“You know that if anything happens tonight,” Seokjin spoke softly, his voice lilting underneath Namjoon and Jimin’s easy chatter. “You’re allowed to bail out and come home. Everyone will understand.”

“I know, hyung,” Jungkook reassured quietly, leaning into Seokjin’s hold. And he really did, even without it being said out loud. It was nice to have that verbal reassurance, though – a reminder that they were thinking about him and would understand and accommodate no matter what.

“Have a good time, okay? You deserve this after everything that’s been going on recently.”

“Seems like I can’t catch a break, huh? Dinner will be nice, though. Joonie-hyung always did like to spoil us rotten.” Jungkook chuckled to himself as he leaned into Seokjin’s side, watching Namjoon and Jimin interact across from them.

“Whoa, Jiminie was ready before me? I must look absolutely stunning then, if that’s the case.”

Taehyung’s voice caused them all to turn and look over at said member as he announced himself. And truly, he did look absolutely incredible. His hair was buoyant and lush looking, falling in neat waves not as long as Jungkook’s but pretty all the same. His shirt was a rich crimson button up and his loose cut pants somehow made him seem taller than he already was. When Taehyung playfully and ostentatiously reached up to flip his hair back from his cheek, Jungkook caught sight of the rings glittering on his fingers and the red studs set in his ears.

“It’s probably the amount of accessories you’ve got there that held you up,” Jimin teased, voicing Jungkook’s thoughts. “But you do look amazing, Tae-Tae.”

Namjoon’s phone pinged a minute later, breaking up their compliment session as he pulled the device from his pocket.

“Our car is ready downstairs if you’re all ready to go.”

Seokjin got that hesitant look on his face again, but ultimately he gave them each a sweet kiss and let them leave. If Jungkook knew his hyung – and he did – he could safely assume that Seokjin would find his way into Yoongi and Hoseok’s room until they returned. Seokjin wasn’t good at keeping his worry company, so it wasn’t uncommon for him to seek out another person or two when something was eating at him.

For now though, Jungkook pushed aside his worries for Seokjin and focused on the weight of Namjoon’s guiding hand at his hip. The only exciting events Jungkook wanted to experience tonight were between himself and his three hyungs.

Twenty minutes later, climbing out of the car, Jungkook was happy to lean against Taehyung’s offered arm, feeling precious as he did. Ahead of them, Namjoon had a possessive arm slung casually around Jimin’s waist, the shorter mirroring Jungkook’s stance by leaning into their leader’s side, a show of trust in knowing that Namjoon would support his weight. The restaurant in front of them was part of a luxurious hotel set up, open to a select upper class public outside of the hotel’s clientele, and a regular date night location for their gang in particular. The staff at the doors recognized them almost immediately and welcomed them in quickly.

Once they were inside, a host led them to the second floor of the restaurant – a balcony set up that saw only a handful of other occupied tables. They had gotten here just before the usual dinner rush, so Jungkook had no doubts that as they sat, the place would fill up as it tended to. For now, they could enjoy some relative quiet and privacy. The table reserved for them was near the flower box ladened railing of the balcony, tall artificial heaters lining the edges and providing warmth in the otherwise chilly night. Namjoon paused before sitting to make sure that Jungkook was okay with the temperature – obviously thinking of the maknae’s still fragile health. Jungkook reassured his hyung that he was fine, and if that changed he would speak up, and they were promptly seated.

Jimin and Taehyung ordered a bottle of wine to share between them while Namjoon and Jungkook (still taking painkillers from his kit for his wrists) avoided alcohol altogether. They ordered their meals eventually, after debating the menu they were already familiar with, and settled into easy conversation while they waited, Taehyung and Jimin nursing their wine until the food arrived. Sure enough, the tables around them slowly began to fill up as time went on, and the background din of chatter grew steadily louder. It wasn’t enough to give Jungkook a headache, but it was enough to set him slightly more on edge. He gave the area a cursory scan every so often, still a little paranoid despite his reassurances to his hyungs.

It was as they were working steadily through their meals – Jungkook being sure to pace himself so as not to make himself sick off the rich food – when a voice called out to them.


Namjoon’s hand was quick to settle on Jungkook’s thigh, a protective gesture, as he turned to look over his shoulder at whoever had called out. The maknae was thankful for the grounding touch, because he was already tense and ready for a fight. But the reaction proved useless when they collectively caught sight of Jackson weaving through some nearby tables to get to them, smiling brightly.

Standing to meet his friend, Namjoon gave Jungkook’s leg a reassuring squeeze before doing so. Clasping Jackson’s outstretched hand, Namjoon tugged the other into a firm hug, grinning now.

Jackson worked as muscle in the inner ring of his own gang, GOT7 a long time ally to Bangtan after numerous occasions in which they saved each other’s asses. Jungkook admittedly didn’t know them as well as some of his other hyungs, but he trusted them to hold up their end of bargains and keep their word. They got the job done and did it well.

The pair stood by the table, chatting easily for a few minutes, leaving the maknae trio to their own devices for the time being. Taehyung and Jimin quickly picked up their own conversation as they continued to work at their meals. Jungkook stayed quiet, glancing around every now and then at the restaurant population. At some point, Taehyung’s hand snaked beneath the table and his large hand settled reassuringly on Jungkook’s thigh, just above his knee. Clearly Jungkook’s restlessness was easily readable, and Taehyung was attempting to get him to settle a little. The wordless gesture was appreciated, and Jungkook tried to keep getting through his meal.

Eventually, Jackson remembered that his members were downstairs, and that he was only supposed to be up here taking a quick smoke break. He bid Namjoon and the others farewell, apologizing for interrupting their meal and then he was gone. Namjoon slid into his seat again and sent the younger members an apologetic look for getting lost in conversation. His hand found its way to Jungkook’s other thigh, and the maknae found himself able to relax a little further under the sturdy, steady weight.

The conversation continued sporadically as they all finished off their food, the atmosphere easy and amicable.

“Tae baby,” Namjoon eventually spoke up, eyes fond as he watched said member cradle a wine glass delicately. “Do you have a shift at the café tomorrow? I want to make sure I get you home at a reasonable hour if you do.”

“I do,” Taehyung nodded, swirling the wine in his glass around with a practiced movement. “But it’s not until the afternoon, so you can keep us out as late as you want hyungie.”

Namjoon chuckled at the cooed pet name accompanied by a charming wink, shaking his head with a grin. Flicking his gaze to Jimin, the younger took the cue and shrugged poking at some remaining vegetables on his plate with his fork.

“My last assignment finished two days ago, and I haven’t gotten anything else just yet.”

“What about you, hyung?” Jungkook spoke up, voice soft. “Do you have to go into the shop tomorrow at all?”

They all had second jobs; things to keep them busy and keep them human. It was never anything too high profile or too high in demand when it came to shifts, and they were jobs that never really pressed for information past the identities and details Jimin crafted up for them. Taehyung worked later shifts at a dog café just outside the business district in downtown Seoul and Namjoon worked at a garage usually every other day. Jimin’s work was the only one that didn’t often take him out of the house, but his was also the only one that could be considered community service to a degree. He put his tech services out into the community for cheap or no cost for small businesses and helped them set up websites, enable Wi-Fi, or anything of the like. He worked just slightly under the table that way and didn’t mind if the owners couldn’t pay.

Jimin never confirmed it, but the rest of them suspected he targeted small businesses and didn’t mind going unpaid because his parents had been in a similar situation when he was younger. He told them that growing up the business often struggled through without proper tech because they couldn’t afford it.

Jungkook loved his hyungs for their subtle selflessness, and he hoped that once he had his doctorate, he could offer his services to low-income clinics or something of the like. It would be a little risky, because things like that tended to end up in the news because it made for a good heartstrings story, but Jungkook was nothing if not cautious.

“Not tomorrow,” Namjoon’s response tugged Jungkook back to the present conversation. “The day after however, I promised to work a double so it all evens out.”

“You mean we won’t see you much at all?” Taehyung pouted over the rim of his wine glass, batting his eyelashes at Namjoon beseechingly. “That’s a crime, hyung.”

“Don’t worry, Tae-ah,” Namjoon said casually, his large hand sliding further up Jungkook’s thigh as he did. “I’ll make sure to take good care of you all tonight so you’ll barely miss me then.”

Jungkook’s breath hitched, back straightening as Namjoon’s fingers drummed teasingly against his inner thigh. Taehyung and Jimin’s eyes immediately zeroed in on Jungkook’s reaction, eyes sparking with interest. Jimin, having picked up his wine glass, smirked and brought the glass to his lips, downing the rest of its contents in one easy swig.

“Hyung makes a good point,” Jimin crooned, setting his glass aside. “I say we call for the check and head on home, hm?

“Oh,” Taehyung hummed, watching Jungkook gasp again and squirm in his seat as Namjoon kept running his fingers against the inseam of Jungkook’s pants. “I think we’re all pretty fond of that idea, right bun?”

Jungkook shot Taehyung a look as his hyung sipped at the remaining dregs of his wine. He was trying for sulky and annoyed, but given the flash of arousal and amusement in Taehyung’s features, Jungkook could guess that wasn’t what his face ended up displaying.

Namjoon chuckled beside Jungkook, watching calmly as Jungkook opened his mouth to throw a retort Taehyung’s way. In that same moment, Namjoon applied just enough pressure in an oh-so-tantalizing way that Jungkook choked on his words with a strangled, soft, “oh.”

Jimin’s eyes flashed across the table and he immediately gestured for a waiter’s attention and asked for the check. Thankfully, the staff member didn’t seem to pick up on Jungkook’s current…predicament beneath their table and was quick to nod and head off. Namjoon smiled sweetly at Jungkook’s flushed, distressed glare and leaned in to plant a lingering kiss against the maknae’s lips. Jungkook couldn’t help the ever so subtle whine that left him when Namjoon pulled back enough to brush words against Jungkook’s cheek with those wonderfully shiny, soft lips.

“Don’t get too worked up just yet, little one,” he murmured. “You’ve got three hyungs here who can’t wait to let you know just how much we’ve been looking forward to this part of the evening. We wouldn’t want you tiring out too quickly, hm?”

Hyung,” Jungkook managed to groan just quietly enough that he didn’t draw the attention of any nearby tables.

Namjoon pulled back with a smirk and flicked a quick look to a notably restless Taehyung and Jimin across the table.

The check came quickly enough and Namjoon seemed to already have his card at the ready, handing it off to the waiter before the bill was even on the table. Once he had signed for their meal, they were quick to finish off beverages and head for the exit. Jungkook had enough presence of mind left to throw a few more cursory glances around the restaurant as they left, trying to make sure they weren’t being watched or followed out.

It was a bit difficult to focus once they made it downstairs however, because Jimin couldn’t seem to even wait long enough for them to get in the car idling by the curb for them. His plush lips were brushing over Jungkook’s earlobe, down his neck, before Namjoon even got the door open for them. Climbing inside, Jungkook found himself almost immediately tugged to straddle Jimin’s lap, those lips latching hungrily onto the maknae’s neck.

Oh yes, the rest of the evening looked rather promising.

Jungkook woke with a shout. His eyes were wide, darting around the dark room frantically, breath rapid and high in his throat. He was entirely disoriented, had no idea where he was, something entangled around his legs keeping him pinned and unable to get up and run away. The room was too hot, the sweat coating his skin cool as it was exposed to the air and made everything feel tight and itchy.

A hand on his arm and a voice muffled through his panic made Jungkook flinch away bodily, colliding with something solid and warm on his other side. Whining high in his throat around his sharp, painful gasps, Jungkook’s hands scrambled for purchase around him.

“Breathe, little one,” a deep voice broke through the haze of panic rather abruptly, and there was familiarity there that gave Jungkook pause. He tried to listen to the instruction, took a deeper breath – or as deep as he could manage.

“That’s it,” the voice praised gently. “Can I hold you?”

The idea of being held gave Jungkook pause, but he trusted this voice not to hurt him, and he kind of needed something to ground him. So after a moment’s pause, Jungkook nodded and braced himself for whatever contact would follow.

Sturdy arms, solid and warm against his sweaty skin, wrapped oh so gently around his torso and slowly pressed Jungkook back into a solid chest. He could feel a heartbeat – steady, strong – against his back and it gave Jungkook a rhythm to focus on as he struggled to right his breathing. One of the arms moved, large hand pressing against Jungkook’s bare sternum and rubbing carefully up and down, another pattern to focus on.

It took a couple minutes more of that gentle coaxing, but Jungkook eventually got his breathing into a steadier cadence. He dropped his head back against the shoulder behind him and pushed out a shaky exhale.

“Are you okay, little one?” Namjoon. He could now recognize the hands, the presence, and the deep voice, as his hyung. Gratefulness surged through Jungkook and he melted a little more into Namjoon’s hold.

“’M better now,” Jungkook promised with a sleepy mumble. “Thanks.”

“What happened?” Turning his head towards the second voice, suddenly remembering that there had been another body there with them, Jungkook found Taehyung watching with wide, worried eyes. His lips were pulled into a pouting frown, the skin around his eyes pinched with concern.

“Nightmare…I think. I don’t actually remember what it was about though,” Jungkook confessed, his voice slurred with exhaustion. He did remember coming home from their date, heated kisses and tangled limbs and breathless pleas. They had had a good night – the first in a while now – and Jungkook had interrupted their sleep, disturbed the peace, with this fiasco. “Sorry…”

“Hey, none of that,” Namjoon murmured into Jungkook’s ear, pressing a kiss to the maknae’s sweaty temple as Taehyung scooted across the bed closer to them. “There’s nothing for you to apologize for. We’re here, and we’re not going anywhere.”

Jungkook found himself unable to put his gratitude into words, so he just melted into their combined affection and let the tension seep from his muscles. Despite not remembering his nightmare, it felt good to be reassured and coddled until the lingering sense of terror faded away. But with that clarity came another realization.

“Hey, where’s Jiminie-hyung? He was here earlier?”

Taehyung pulled back from where he had been nuzzling little kisses against Jungkook’s neck to smile sweetly at him. It was a look that succeeded in making the maknae feel all soft and safe and reassured.

“I think he knew that Jinnie-hyung was still a little on edge about us going out, so once you fell asleep he went off to spend the night with him and the other hyungs.”

Nodding, satisfied that all of his hyungs were safe and accounted for, Jungkook relaxed into Namjoon’s chest. He felt a chuckle reverberate through his hyung’s chest and up the maknae’s back just before Namjoon adjusted them both so they were lying down again. Taehyung happily wormed his way into wrapping around Jungkook’s other side, tangling their legs together as Namjoon worked on straightening out the sheets over their bare limbs.

The bedroom positively radiated a sense of security once Namjoon was stretched out along Jungkook’s other side, his warm arm draped over Jungkook and Taehyung’s waists. It was almost too easy for Jungkook to settle against the warm mattress and drift back into contented unconsciousness.

Breakfast the next morning was a quiet, content affair following Taehyung tugging Jungkook into the shower to wash off the previous night’s events and an impromptu make out session. So sitting around the table with damp, towel ruffled hair and perched on Seokjin’s lap was possibly the best way Jungkook could imagine spending the morning. Namjoon had Hoseok curled into his side, their chairs essentially touching, while Yoongi, Jimin, and Taehyung kept to their own space and helped carry a quiet conversation over their food.

“So I know this isn’t exactly a breakfast topic,” Namjoon spoke up after a few minutes spent in content silence. “But we need to talk business.”

“New orders?” Yoongi prompted, running his thumb idly back and forth across the rim of his second cup of coffee.

“In a way,” Namjoon nodded, the arm he had slung over Hoseok’s shoulders squeezing a little tighter. “I got a heads up from Jackson this morning that they found some lower tier gang members snooping through their territory last night after dinner. He knows we experienced something similar recently and saw fit to give us a heads up in case they come our way.”

“They aren’t usually this bold,” Hoseok spoke up, still relaxed into Namjoon’s shoulder. “It doesn’t sit right with me. It feels like there’s something bigger going on that we don’t know about. We need to keep a sharper eye out on patrols from now on.”

“I’m inclined to agree,” Namjoon nodded, looking around at the rest of the members. His mouth was set in a firm line, eyes serious. It was a look he often wore when he was turning an issue over and over in his mind, looking for every possible angle and trying to find a solution. “I want everyone on high alert any time you’re outside of this apartment. The last thing I want is a repeat of the last few days.”

Jungkook pushed into Seokjin’s hold, his eldest hyung having wrapped both arms securely around the maknae to keep him safely situated on his lap. He knew that Namjoon meant what had happened with him, and the thought of something similar happening to any of his hyungs was downright fear inducing.

“Understood, hyung,” Jimin spoke up, looking around at the others as he did. “That includes going to second jobs, not just patrols. We don’t know what’s going on yet, which means we don’t know who is watching or when. I’ll try to keep tabs on everyone and the area around the building, but there’s only so much I can do. You’ll all need to keep an eye out for yourselves, too.”

“Exactly,” Namjoon gave Jimin a grateful nod. “I expect everyone home safe at the end of the night.”

There were nods of acknowledgement from around the breakfast table before conversation turned more towards lighter, amicable topics. But the thought of danger still lingered in Jungkook’s mind enough that he stayed out of those veins of conversation. He didn’t have a second job that would pull him from the safety of the apartment, and he still had some recovering to do before his hyungs would even think about letting him back on patrols and missions. But the idea of one or more of his hyungs coming home injured was entirely disconcerting, leaving him chewing anxiously at his lower lip.

“Don’t do that, baby,” Seokjin’s gentle murmur in Jungkook’s ear had the maknae startling in his hyung’s lap. His hyung’s thumb smoothed carefully over Jungkook’s lower lip, freeing it from between his teeth.

“I know you’re worried,” Seokjin’s voice was soft enough that their conversation was lost under the gentle din of the others’ conversations. “But we’ve all made it this far through much worse. We’re just being pragmatic and cautious. There’s probably nothing to worry about aside from the usual rowdiness and restlessness that the lower gangs go through every year because of their greed.”

“Yeah…yeah I just,” Jungkook sighed, leaning heavily into Seokjin’s shoulder. “I hate thinking of any of you getting hurt. I worry I might not be enough to help, or might not get to you in time, or might not have the right supplies, or—”

“You’ll make yourself sick off ‘what ifs’ baby,” Seokjin soothed, running a warm hand up Jungkook’s back beneath his sleep shirt. His long fingers pressed gently to the tense muscles of Jungkook’s back, a gentle soother. “I know you, and you’re smart and you almost always have a level head when we find ourselves in tight spots. I think I speak for everyone when I say we have full faith in your abilities. You wouldn’t have made it this far through your schooling if you didn’t have what it takes to be able to handle tense situations.”

He knew that Seokjin had a point, and Jungkook nodded to show he was listening and agreed to a point. He knew that some things were beyond his control, that he could only do and prepare for so much – that there would still be times he might fail or find himself unprepared. But hearing that Seokjin and the others had faith in him despite those uncertainties, it was enough to convince Jungkook that he just had to accept things as they were for now.

Looking around at the table full of people he loved so dearly, Jungkook knew without a doubt that he would fight for their safety no matter what. Even against impossible odds.

And absolutely nothing would stop him from trying everything in his power to protect each and every one of them.