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Hustlers

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Jungkook hadn't meant to get addicted.

Well, then again he hadn't meant to even step foot into a casino, let alone be encouraged to sit down for a round, which turned into two, which turned into more.

He always thought gambling was something he was too smart to spiral down into insanity for.

It started out just as fun and games, as it always did. Jungkook didn't like to be a cliché but here he was. Every poor addict had roughly the same fate, getting dragged down to their ears in debt, making worse and worse decisions to try make money to play and win it all back, and eventually dying a horrible gruesome death at the hands of some underground lord they owed money to.

Jungkook's situation had been a little different. But he still ended up like this.

When Jimin dragged him into BigHit excitedly, saying how Jungkook had to experience it once in his boring lifetime, and how no harm could come out of trying his hand once and it’ll be fun, come on!, Jungkook hadn't meant to lose nine million.

He certainly hadn't meant to lose his kidney.

And he hadn't meant to meet Kim Taehyung.

~

Jungkook always thought there was something a little off about a lot of his father’s deals and business partners, but he didn't care enough about his father or his business to really pry or look into it. His father, CEO of one of Korea’s largest and most influential technology enterprises, spoke to Jungkook around five times a year, twice of which would usually be clipped, terse conversations over the phone, and Jungkook only saw him in person when he’d have to bring Jungkook along to some important dinner party for formality and appearances’ sake, or when he’d peek in on those decidedly shady looking deals held in his father’s office.

The point was, Jungkook wasn’t close with his father. His father didn’t make an effort to be close, Jungkook didn’t make an effort to be close, everyone got along fine all these years. Of course, up until he was old enough to realise that by rights, he was the sole heir of his father’s wealth and business, yet he hadn’t been given any position or hold whatsoever in the company. He’d never even come close to catching a glimpse of business details, stocks and manufacturing processes, and he certainly wasn’t a shareholder. Sure, it didn’t really affect his financial status and personal bank account; he still had more money than he knew what to do with, but it led to questions, the inevitable why does my father hate me thoughts, and what do I need to do to secure my inheritance and future thoughts, and even if my father hates me I'm his only son, who else could he be planning on leaving his wealth for? Does he not recognise me as his son?

So, Jungkook had a few daddy issues.

Jungkook had tried everything out of the book, acting up and rebelling against society norms, trashing up whatever he felt like whenever he felt like, going out to clubs and coming home smashed and wreaking havoc in efforts to gain a little attention from his father - to settling down to study and work hard, getting top grades and barely ever setting foot outside aside from going to school to prove that he had the brains, drive and right to inherit the business. He'd even gotten into a highly regarded university, slaving away at desks everyday and completing assignments and papers as soon as he got them.

He got the usual cold shoulder for his efforts.

Maybe that's why, when Jimin, one of his only close friends, and the only person he ever really saw nowadays, suggested to go to a casino, Jungkook was swayed with ease, picking up bundles of cash and skipping out the door, as foolish and naive as they come.

Jimin taught him how to play cards out of the blue one day.

“Jungkookie!” Jimin sang as he waltzed into Jungkook’s room, plonking himself down on the bed in the centre, beckoning him over. Jungkook hadn't known he was coming, and he hadn't heard Jimin arrive at his house, but he shouldn't be surprised at this point. Jimin came over so often he was pretty much a resident of the mansion. Jungkook raised an eyebrow but joined him, climbing up on the soft blankets with a certain degree of apprehension at the gleam brightening Jimin’s eyes.

“You don't even knock anymore, do you?” Jungkook griped unnecessarily, as they both knew Jungkook didn't really care, but Jimin scoffed anyway, waving a hand dismissively.

“The maids see my face more often than yours. Is it that much of a surprise that they cut me a key?” Jimin asked dryly, smile tugging his lips to one side slightly.

“Fair enough.” Jungkook replied with a yawn, crossing his legs and gesturing at the plastic bag Jimin had dumped on the bed. “Care to tell me what that’s for?”

“Ah yes, this,” Jimin emptied the contents and whisked the plastic bag away with theatricality, revealing packs of newly bought playing cards. “This is your new best friend.”

“Cards.” Jungkook didn't really phrase it as a question, but Jimin answered anyway.

“Yes, cards. I'm going to teach you how to play, and you're going to learn how to play, and you're going to love it.” Jimin announced and Jungkook sent him a flat look, which Jimin artfully ignored as he opened a pack and caught the spilled cards in one hand.

“Says who?”

“Me, who else.” Jimin replied absently and ran his thumb over the short edge of the bundle of cards, flipping through them in one smooth motion, and Jungkook sighed but leaned forward a little, watching Jimin split the deck and shuffle it with evident hands of an expert. Funny, Jungkook didn't know Jimin knew much about cards. Then again, he didn't know much about Jimin in general. Just that they met in school and clicked the moment they groaned in unison when their old history teacher slammed down the first essay of the year. He didn't even know where Jimin lived, what his family was like, what he did in his spare time, who his other friends were.

“Okay, so, I'll teach you a version of poker I learnt back home. It's a little bit like Big Two.” Jimin declared as if addressing an excited crowd and Jungkook nodded sagely, looking on as Jimin set the deck down neatly and flipped over the top card to show a card that read 5, with five black clovers printed on it.

“So, some versions start with a specific card, so if all the cards have been distributed, the person with let's say, the four of hearts, puts that card down in the centre and starts off the game. But because I can't be bothered finding a specific card let’s just start with the five of clubs, so I can show you the rules. When you have cards in your hand, you put any card higher than the card on the top of the pile in the centre when it's your turn. If you have for example,” Jimin flipped another card over, which showed 8, with eight black shapes that looked like upside down hearts with triangles sticking out the ends. “Eight of spades, you can-”

“Wait, what does “spades” mean? What does “clubs” mean? And by higher, do you mean in number order? Do all cards have numbers?” Jungkook interrupted, flipping the deck over and looking through the cards, everything completely unknown and foreign to him. Of course he could recognise that these were poker cards, and he knew people played card games and gambled and placed bets playing card games, but he'd never seen a deck of cards before. It wasn't as if his father ever taught him how to play.

Jimin blinked. “You serious? I knew you were rookie but, really?”

“Really.” Jungkook nodded in assent, and Jimin whistled, flipping all of the cards over and spreading them out, shaking his head a little.

“Well, let's start from the basics then. I'll teach you little kiddie games for our little kiddie Jungkookie.” Jimin flashed him a blindingly bright, obnoxious grin and Jungkook shoved him, resisting the urge to huff and cross his arms, and live up to his little kiddie name. “I was going to teach you poker, but let's start with things like Go Fish and Speed and Last Card.”

“What are those?”

“...Oh my.”

~

At what point Jungkook began getting drawn in, falling for the trap and losing himself to the game, he wasn't sure.

Maybe it was the first time he saw the ace of spades, and felt it tug at him, call out for him to poise on his fingertips. Maybe it was when he won a round of Speed leaving Jimin with half his pile left. Maybe it was when he won Blackjack in the same amount of time it took Jimin to explain how to play. Maybe it was when he won Last Card nine times in a row, and Jimin begrudgingly admitted defeat and that Jungkook was making progress.

Well, he didn't really admit that, but Jungkook was sure what he said could be classified as it.

“Look at your beginner’s luck! You don't even know how lucky you are do you. You just keep getting good hands!”

“Maybe that's just because I've got skill. And because you suck and I'm awesome.”

“Just wait, Jungkook, just wait. Soon I'm going to shove your ass so far into the dirt you'll be able to tell me what getting a rim job from a penguin of Antarctica feels like.”

“That's fucking disgusting.”

“So’s your shitty plays.”

Turned out Jimin was extremely fired up and competitive over “little kiddie games”.

Poker was a little harder.

“Okay you've been getting it easy so far, but today is the day you realise how out of depth you are.” Jimin swung in with bravado, greeting him with five new packs to the face that Jungkook caught with ease. Jungkook grinned lazily, opening a pack and shuffling from one hand to the other. They'd played cards every day for around a week, and Jungkook was only getting better, and Jimin was only getting more sour. Maybe Jungkook just had the touch. Born with the hands to destroy Jimin at the “little kiddie games” Jimin taught.

“Oh yeah? Finally going to top my 193 to 14 wins of Go Fish?” Jungkook drawled, a smirk plastering itself onto his face as Jimin squinted at him, balling up the plastic bag and throwing it at Jungkook’s head.

“Go Fish is for amateurs. Baby stuff. We’re moving on to the big boys today, Jeon Jungkookie. I'm teaching you poker.” Jimin sniffed and Jungkook let what he knew was an irritating languid smile creep across his lips, lounging back and flipping through the cards.

“Are you sure it'll be you teaching me?” Jungkook deserved the punch, and he laughed, motioning for Jimin to sit down.

“Alright, Mr Hustler, prepare to lose so pitifully you'll take back everything you ever said about your skill at cards. We aren't betting real money, but let's use these cards with blue backs as stand ins for chips. It's more fun if more people play, but if you're playing for real, shit gets serious. You could lose big money.” Jimin’s voice dropped a little, a little waver in his tone, but Jungkook, being the stupid naive little boy that he was, just laughed it off.

“Of course. If you're dumb and get addicted. And if you keep playing even if you can't win.” Jungkook grinned brightly but Jimin didn't return it with much feeling. Jungkook raised an eyebrow but the shadow dissipated from Jimin’s sudden hooded gaze, and he laughed and slapped Jungkook’s shoulder, spreading the cards out.

“Yeah, of course, our Jungkook isn't that dumb, is he?” Jimin replied airily and Jungkook stuck his tongue out but gestured for Jimin to get started.

“But… What’s a hustler?”

~

No, Jungkook why would you put out a joker now?”

“What? You put out a two! What else was I supposed to put?”

“There are like, ten cards out. We have so much more to play, why would you use a trump card like that when we’ve barely started playing?”

“You left out a bunch of cards at the start so we wouldn't know which cards the other person had, we don't have that much to play with.”

“What if I have another two later on? When uh, I'll be winning because you're an idiot that puts all your good cards out at the start.”

“...Keep playing, Jimin.”

“It's your turn, loser.”

“Don't worry, I'm not one.”

“How did you win?!”

“What did I say?”

“How can you have both the jokers even when we took out so many cards?!”

“Hey, you were the one who shuffled.”

“I can't believe this.”

“Better believe it. Go on. Write a love letter to our history teacher and post it on the Internet. Sign it Jiminnie.”

“...I don't accept this. Again.”

“With penalties?”

“Of course with penalties, you fucker.”

~

Jungkook started playing cards at school. He wasn't the one who suggested playing with real money, but he earned himself a bit of a reputation before long, and being the slightly irritating winner he was, (okay, so more than slightly irritating) soon people were flocking to play him, to try and make him lose, to try and win money off him, to watch in interest and sometimes reverence. He learnt what it meant to be a hustler before long.

The first time he swapped cards without anyone noticing, under the watchful, peeled eyes of the tight crowd that had banded around their little card table, and won beautifully, it was an entirely different feeling to winning honestly. It gave a different thrill.

No matter how many times he did it, nobody noticed, and he got bolder, smarter and better.

He didn't always have to cheat or set up anyone to win, and he thanked his luck for that, but adding his crafted wins alongside his honest ones, his streak was unstoppable. It wasn't possible, everyone said.

Of course it wasn't, that's why Jungkook had to cheat every now and then. But he still had his conscience weighing him down, that was why he never raised much on those rounds. If those idiots went for an all-in, well, that was entirely their fault, wasn't it.

And it wasn't as if Jungkook was the only one conning people out of their money here. He’d played plenty of people that so obviously brought rigged sets, or swapped out bottom cards, but he’d reserve his cheats specially for those people, and he also rigged them, swapped cards as they did, but he was just better.

It wasn't as if he needed the money, but he soon won so much he needed to find excuses to spend it. Of course, he split his winnings with Jimin since Jimin provided the rigged sets and was the one who introduced him to all of this, but Jimin’s expression only grew more distant and drawn as the days passed, and Jungkook was blinded by the exhilaration, the thrill, the greed. Blinded so that the obvious warning sign, the alarm bell didn't even register as he began gambling outside of school. Nothing big, just with locals that thought they had nothing to fear from a stupid overconfident little boy.

They soon learnt.

Jimin still kept in touch, and they still played those benign, easygoing little card games every so often, but Jungkook wasn't sure whether it was he who was drawing away, or Jimin. And for what reason.

Jungkook still hadn't learnt how to play Go-Stop, the famous, extremely popular card game in Korea, and so more often than not, he'd be turned down from a game. But there were still those idiots that played poker with him.

Jungkook didn't want to learn, not just yet. He thought he should pace himself, at least a little. No rush right? It wasn't as if he was going to start gambling at casinos and gambling houses for real.

Either way, he now owned more pairs of Timberlands than he knew what to do with, and his grades were slipping, but it was a small sacrifice in his view. Wasn't as if his father would care either way. Jungkook was past the rebelling for attention stage, but if his father found out about his gambling hobby, it wasn't much of a big deal.

Then Jimin took him to BigHit. At that point Jungkook was still a little wary of the real deal, the big casinos and the millions of dollars placed as chips and bets, but Jimin was all smiles and sunshine, saying how he'd been there and nothing happened, it was all fun and thrilling, and surely Jungkook was getting a little bored and itching for higher stakes?

It'll be fun, come on!

And Jungkook met Kim Taehyung.

~

“Look at this place!” Jimin tugged on Jungkook’s arm incessantly, eyes painfully alight, gesturing excitedly, and maybe if Jungkook hadn't been in utter awe, feet dragging and mouth hanging open as he swept his eyes over the bright, bustling casino, maybe he'd have been able to detect the slight desperation and strange wildness to the shine in Jimin’s eyes.

But he didn't, because he was already hooked, and he hadn't even played a game yet.

BigHit was settled in the middle of a sprawling city of lights and neon, more modest and sophisticated looking than its surroundings but packed and popular beyond belief nonetheless. The inside was a different story. There were enough bright, blaring, colourful slot machines, betting tables, card tables and big screens displaying races people were crowded around and shouting and hooting over, tickets and money clutched in hand, to make Jungkook’s head spin, money quite literally being flung about the place. The walls were deep velvet, the dark carpet lined with strips of neon lights, the lights mini chandeliers - which were unnecessary, as any extra light in the huge casino was just not needed. There were just enough people that there wasn't a free spot in the gigantic floor, but not too much so that it was suffocating. Jungkook felt swept up in the excitement, the buzz and the craze as if it was his own. Jungkook could see deep red velvet curtains and corridors down the very distant back, obviously leading to some other rooms and sections. Perhaps VIP or private rooms. At least three sleek bars curved their ways around the area that fit in Jungkook’s vision, and what looked like neat, smartly dressed waiters (or they could be bartenders, basing on the uniform) weaved in and out of crowds with ease, as if performing a dance known only to them, carrying trays of drinks and chips. Even the workers here were sleek and luxurious looking.

“What is this place?” Jungkook spoke in a hushed tone of awe, aware that his face was painfully visibly stunned, eyes darting all over the place in an attempt to take in more of the almost overwhelming place at once.

“Only the best place you could've decided to come to, kid. You look itching to play. How about it? Let's sit you down for a round.” A person suddenly appeared beside Jungkook and Jimin, one of the workers with a bright, wide smile and twinkling eyes, twirling what looked like room keys in his fingers. Jungkook’s tongue refused to work for a couple of seconds, and he could imagine how flustered he looked, how new and inexperienced and wet behind the ears, and he hated it, if he was going to play at a casino, he was going to win so much he could own the casino. The worker just grinned, a sharp, infectious thing, and patted Jimin’s shoulder firmly, a familiar sort of gesture, turning his gaze to Jimin.

“Welcome back, Jiminnie. Who's your friend? Well, that's not important. What's important is whether he's a winner, or a loser.” The person winked at Jungkook, who gave a sharp grin of his own, feeling fire start to course through his veins, excitement and thrill taking over like instinct. The person was right, his fingers itched to play.

So much that he didn't really think much about how familiar the person’s greeting to Jimin had been, and all the implications and obvious conclusions he should've been able to draw from it. Such as, Jimin quite obviously wasn't just a one time customer, if he was on such close terms with the workers.

“This guy’s Jungkook. This here is Hoseok. He started me up with games and pools, I think you gotta take your winner arrogance down a notch, and listen to what he's got to say, because it's a good idea.” Jimin grinned at Jungkook, who scoffed but nodded to Hoseok, who laughed bright and loud, evidently amused at that statement.

“Arrogance?”

Jimin snorted. “Yeah, this guy’s a shitty winner. Thinks he's the shit just because he’s never lost a game back home. He's made full grown men cry.”

Hoseok whistled, and Jungkook would be lying if he said he didn't preen a little under the impressed gaze. It was one thing to be the object of interest and intrigue from his school mates, and the neighbourhood old men and gamblers because of his talent, it was another thing to feel recognised in the eyes of a much more experienced, worthy person, someone who worked in such a lavish, jaw-dropping casino. He must be a good player himself, just judging by the dexterity of his fingers, the assured way he played with the keys. Jungkook wanted to play against other customers here, but he wanted to play against the workers, the gamblers more than anything.

“How much did you win?”

“Enough to buy a floor of the apartment building next door.” Jungkook replied without missing a beat. Hoseok smiled, seeming impressed once again, but didn't even bat an eyelash. Instead of disappointing or offending Jungkook, it thrilled him, that obviously such a statement was the norm here, that there were many many bigger fish, bigger, grander prizes to be won here. A couple million was nothing.

“Impressive. You a better, or a player?” Hoseok asked, all brisk and business despite the sunny smile and Jungkook couldn’t suppress his grin if he tried.

“Player. Definitely.”

“Alright then, Mr Big Shot, I think you can skip all the trivialities here and come straight to the private rooms. What do you play?” Hoseok gestured politely for Jungkook to follow him, and he fell into step a little behind him, Jimin trailing after.

“Poker.” Jungkook dodged an angry, pot-bellied old man’s fist thrown up in rage and Hoseok nodded in acknowledgement, leading them through the crowds, towards the red velvet curtains.

“Texas Hold ‘Em?”

“Nah, Red Five.”

Hoseok whistled again, leading them down a corridor, with rooms and doors lining the sides like an expensive, fancy hotel, lighting still lining the floor. “Been a while since we got a Red Five. Luckily for you, our gamblers here know just about every game there is to know. They can even teach you, if they like your style.”

“I'll be playing against the gamblers that work here?” Jungkook quickly asked to confirm, the fire in his veins starting to dance and Hoseok sent him a quick, sharp look.

“Yep, the pros. Scared?”

“Excited.” Jungkook replied with a half smirk, and Hoseok laughed, stopping outside a room door and opening it.

“I like you. Well, all the best. I'll be popping in every now and then, tell me if you need anything. Of course, you'll need to pay.” Hoseok patted him on the shoulder and winked again, all genial mood and goodnatured smiles, and Jungkook couldn't believe his luck. He was about to step into the room when he remembered Jimin standing there. He glanced back at him, noticing for the first time that day, how reserved and distant Jimin was, how his eyes seemed to lose the shine as soon as Jungkook stopped looking.

“Jimin? You playing?” Jungkook prompted and Jimin smiled, face brightening as if nothing happened.

“Of course I'm playing, who do you take me for? Where's the thanks for getting you into a private room?”

“Thank you Jimin hyung!”

“That's like the first time you've called me hyung. Come on, let's go play.”

~

“And he takes the win again! Man, what tricky fingers you've got, kiddo.” One of the gamblers, Jungkook had long since forgotten his name, remarked as Jungkook swept the chips into his ever growing pile with a nonchalant smile. The professional players were worlds better than Jungkook could've hoped. He’d had to cheat his way through five rounds out of six, though, their eyes obviously weren't keen enough, as nobody had called him out on it.

“Oh, what's this? The kid’s wiping the floor with you lot! Looks like it's time to call in some real players.” Hoseok swung open the door to comment, laughing as one of the gamblers chucked an empty packet at him, and he beckoned the guy, who stood and waved at Jungkook.

“Nice playing with you, kid.” The gambler grinned and Jungkook smiled in return, inwardly grinding his teeth. He felt giddy, floating on his high, but they just kept calling him a kid and bringing him crashing back down. He obviously hadn't won enough, hadn't won impressively enough, to earn their respect let alone admiration.

“How many rounds do I have to win till I stop being “kid”?” Jungkook shot at Hoseok, who barked out a laugh, raising an eyebrow and tossing him a beer can.

“Oh I like you, I really do. You gotta earn the title of a real player here. The wins don't feel good when your opponents aren’t breaking out in cold sweat, do they?” Hoseok smiled knowingly, and left to presumably go get some “real players”.

He returned with a tall, handsome man with broad shoulders and a nice smile.

“Are you the new prodigy? I'm Seokjin. Nice to meet you.” The man, who looked around three to four years older than Jungkook greeted him politely and Jungkook smiled back, idly scratching his wrist and taking care to not let the cards hidden in his sleeve be visible as he ran a finger over the edges, counting them.

“Nice to meet you, I'm Jungkook.” Jungkook replied lightly, barely containing his excitement to play against this “real player.” The other gamblers all greeted him in a chorus of familiarity and Jungkook turned to Jimin, pausing a bit as he took in the ashen shade to Jimin’s face. At first Jungkook had thought it was because Jimin kept losing miserably, seeming to mindlessly throw in chips only to lose them to Jungkook, and he was worried about the money he was losing, but now that Jungkook thought about it, Jimin didn't seem very focused on the game at all. Before Jungkook could ask if everything was okay, Jimin stood, taking his jacket and smiling, a little forced, as he nodded to everyone in the room.

“I'm not feeling too well so I'm leaving now. Can't lose too much money to this kid, can I? Jungkook, play nice, alright? I'll be at the bar downstairs.” Jimin patted Jungkook’s head, who swatted at him but frowned slightly, peering a little at Jimin’s expression. Maybe he really wasn't feeling too well. Jimin quickly counted his chips and moved his bundles of cash over to Jungkook’s piles accordingly.

“Okay, I'll be down soon.” Jungkook replied brightly and Jimin nodded, exiting the room but not before sending a look, lightning fast, to Seokjin, who didn't seem to have noticed. Jungkook raised an eyebrow but didn't comment, offering to shuffle.

They played with two decks plus an extra two random cards. He kept his face slack and neutral but his eyes fixed on the cards as he shuffled them, then picking them up and shuffling them into one hand seemingly at random, lifting his gaze to be more credible, but feeling the order of them, and as he dealt, he kept his eyes trained on the gazes of the other players as he swapped out the bottom few cards, almost daring any one of them to pick it up. When no one did, Jungkook inwardly breathed a sigh of relief, but felt a little irrationally disappointed. Such an obvious cheat should be almost transparent to professional players. Maybe they were still looking down on Jungkook, still sending their low tier players. He caught Seokjin’s gaze, who smiled warmly, and picked up his cards and sorted through them in the time it took Jungkook to fit all of his in his hand, closing the fan into one pile and putting it face down, seeming to have memorised them all already. Jungkook blinked, more than a little impressed and more than a little intimidated, but he knew what cards he gave Seokjin, and he knew he wouldn't lose to him this round. He neglected to focus on the other players though, but it should be fine considering his hand. He quickly named all the players in his head. There were five of them, Seokjin, Gambler 1, Jungkook, Gambler 2 and Gambler 3, in counter-clockwise order.

“Should I start?” Seokjin asked nobody in particular as he put down his first card. An ace. Jungkook felt his poker face stutter, waver in shock but he quickly reined his expression back in, flicking his eyes up to study Seokjin’s. Seokjin didn't seem fazed, the picture of calm, and Jungkook narrowed his eyes a little, wondering if he was just bluffing because of his bleak chance at winning. Gambler 1 put down a two. And so it was Jungkook’s turn. He blinked, suddenly having to study his hand again. He'd had idiots who put out high cards from the start before, but the highest had only ever been a king. Because logically nobody would be brave or stupid enough to put out anything higher for the very first card. If they ran out of high cards at the beginning, how would they ever get rid of lower ones? Which was why Jungkook had given himself three aces. But now… Jungkook stared at the two of spades, quickly running through his options in his head, not meeting the other player’s gazes as he kept his expression casual. He did have the big joker, but how could he give in and be forced to use it so early on? He had no idea who had the five of hearts, and he wanted to curse. He looked up and smiled, close lipped, keeping everything on the surface as calm and controlled as he could, despite everything in his mind turning into a chaos of confusion just from the one card.

“...Pass.” How frustrating. The other players all passed, including Seokjin, and Gambler 1 put down three eights. Jungkook wanted to scream. Gambler 1 hadn't played like this in previous rounds. Had Seokjin instilled some sort of confidence in them? Jungkook chewed his lip but put down three queens. Gambler 2 and 3 passed, but Seokjin put out three kings. Gambler 1 passed. Jungkook’s eye twitched.

“Pass.”

Seokjin put down a pair of sevens, and finally Jungkook could breathe again. Gambler 1 passed, Jungkook put down a pair of eights. Gambler 2 put down two tens, and Gambler 3 passed. Jungkook looked up sharply as it came to Seokjin’s turn, trying to read his poker face, trying to read his thoughts and try and guess his move. Maybe that ace was just a spur of the moment thing? Something to throw Jungkook off his game. He was sure he'd given Seokjin crappy cards. Seokjin met his gaze evenly, face blank as it was pleasant and Jungkook had never met such a poker face before. He couldn't read it no matter how hard he tried, there were no telltale signs, no eye twitches, no changes in pupil size, no tiny quirk of the lips or furrow of the eyebrows. Not even the tightening of the jaw or anything.

Seokjin put down three pairs in succession. Jacks, queens, kings. Okay, so Jungkook had been sure he'd given Seokjin crappy cards. Jungkook fought to keep his expression from twisting, feeling the heat of the room a little stronger than before. Gambler 1 passed, and so did everyone else. Seokjin put down three aces and Jungkook counted to ten slowly in his mind. Seokjin put out five, six, seven, eight and nine in succession and Jungkook felt sweat beading on his forehead as he looked at the dwindling number of cards Seokjin held, and the impressive amount he himself held. The number of cards had barely changed. Whereas Seokjin was almost finished.

Jungkook had never tasted this feeling before. Fear of losing.

He stole a glance at the amount of chips he'd put in to play and felt a chill coil in his stomach. He couldn't play safe anymore.

Seokjin put out a three, and Gambler 1 put down a six. Jungkook put a seven, Gambler 2 put down a queen and Gambler 3 put down a two. Everyone passed and Gambler 3 put down three tens. Seokjin passed but he only had four cards left. Gambler 1 passed and Jungkook tugged the collar of his shirt a little, burning his gaze into Seokjin but coming up with absolutely nothing. For the first time, he wasn't sure he could win this. Actually, he was sure he was going to lose. And that was terrifying. For the first time his heart was beating fast and he had to try and conceal his thoughts, his panic. Jungkook downed half of his beer and threw down his three aces, daring anyone to follow. Nobody did, and he put out an eight. Gambler 2 put out a nine, Gambler 3 passed and Seokjin put out a ten. Jungkook almost swore out loud. He should've put down a king at least. Gambler 1 put down a jack, and Jungkook put down a two. When he glanced up at Seokjin he almost balked. Finally there was a look in his eyes, a look, a gleam that told Jungkook that he'd just fucked himself over.

Jungkook was sweating, his heartbeat was erratic, he was panicking and couldn't even think properly.

The look goaded him on, and so he put out a king. Gambler 2 and 3 passed, and Seokjin put down an ace. Jungkook was very, very close to screaming.

Three cards left.

Gambler 1 put down a two, and Jungkook bit his lip so hard it must have left an indent, before putting down his big joker. Jungkook’s eyes snapped up, pinning his stare on Seokjin, and felt something inside him shrivel up and die as Seokjin looked up and smiled, placing the five of hearts very carefully down on top of the pile. In contrast, he just threw out his last two cards carelessly on top. A pair of fours.

“Red Five, prodigy.”

Jungkook smiled.

~

Chapter Text

 

“You? You lost a hundred grand? In one round of Red Five that lasted like four minutes?”

“Go on, rub it in.”

“Wow. I've played Seokjin before, but I never got that wrecked.” Jimin seemed a lot more chipper sitting at the bar, drink in hand, colour having returned to his cheeks. Jungkook shrugged, ordering himself a drink.

“I think he was playing around with me. He knew, you know. He knew that I swapped out cards, and he knew that I'd swapped one wrong. He didn't say anything until I was leaving and he passed me in the corridor. But he didn't tell me how he did it. Get all those good cards, I mean.” Jungkook spoke absently, tapping his fingernails against the polished wood of the bar countertop.

Jimin raised an eyebrow. “Smart guy. Which card?”

“What do you think?”

“You fucked up on the five of hearts?” Jimin turned to him incredulously and Jungkook took his drink with a faint smile, narrowing his eyes as he thought back.

“Good playing, Jungkook.”

Jungkook paused in the middle of the corridor, turning to face Seokjin with a certain degree of apprehension. Seokjin was smiling again, but it didn't give off the dangerous air it did during the card game. Jungkook still kept his hackles up though, trying to pick out anything, even the slightest detail about Seokjin that could give him a clue about what just happened.

“Are you mocking me?” Jungkook asked lightly and Seokjin laughed, shaking his head.

“Not at all. You could try switching to your left hand. When you're swapping out the bottom cards I mean.” Seokjin advised pleasantly, as if he wasn't telling Jungkook that he caught him cheating, and as if he wasn't telling Jungkook how to cheat better. Jungkook’s fingers curled into a light fist.

“You saw?”

Seokjin shrugged vaguely. “Didn't have to. I heard it. You didn't mean to give me all those cards, did you? Especially not the five of hearts.”

“No… No I didn't. How did you do it?” Jungkook asked slowly, cautiously, and Seokjin just smiled again, a harmless, bright thing.

“The five of hearts was purely a mistake on your part. As for the rest… Keep playing, prodigy. It's a trade secret.”  

“Yes I did accidentally give him the five of hearts. But I didn't fuck up.” Jungkook replied evenly, measuring his words and taking a sip of his drink.

“…What.” Jimin spoke flatly and Jungkook felt a grin cut across his face. 

“I thought I did, but I didn't. I can't wait to play him again.”

~

Jungkook didn't end up playing against Seokjin for a while. He kept going back to the casino, every night, winning stacks and earning a name for himself. Each night got a little more daring, a little more dangerous, a little more illegal. He raised the stakes, he pushed his opponents, and Hoseok gradually lead him further and further down those corridors, until it got shadier and shadier, and more and more private. He played against the workers, he played against the gamblers, he played against other newcomers like himself. He eventually started playing against CEO’s and the like. Each night he tried something new, he tried a different way of swapping cards, of hiding cards, of setting up the cards from the start. He did lose a few rounds, and he lost big, but he won it back the next rounds anyway. There went his winning streak, but that had been broken by Seokjin already anyway.

The ridiculous thing was, he only ever played the one game. Red Five. Even after two months of playing at BigHit, he'd never learnt any other versions of poker. He was beginning to want to though.

At some point Jimin had stopped coming with him entirely. Maybe he'd stopped feeling it. The gambling urge, the addiction. Rare, but good for him. Jungkook probably would've stopped too, if he wasn't so good at it. If he wasn't a hustler.

He started hearing a nickname circulating around. Red Ace. How awfully tacky, but it was gratifying, so Jungkook didn't mind. At least he wasn't “kid” anymore. He wondered which of the aces that name referred to. It was true that he liked winning with aces, he liked having them as his last card, it was like a signature. But his favourite was still the ace of spades.

Then, the pace quickened.

Jungkook slung the sleek white violin case over his shoulder and sauntered over to the bar of the main, bright, open and busy room of the casino, leaving behind the smoke and dirty plays of private rooms for the day. A violin case? Why a violin case of all things? Well, he hadn't wanted to take the old guy’s body as collateral. Apparently the violin was top notch, one of the best brands in the world, unique and hand crafted. He could sell it, but maybe he'd just keep it as a souvenir. Certainly one of the more interesting things he'd won. Wasn't like he needed more money.

He sat himself down on the plush barstool and ordered an overly fancy, posh looking margarita, just because he could, even though it hardly fit his appearance and image. Then again nothing about the casino fit his appearance and image. He was a millionaire even not considering his father’s money, he could afford to wear and use the best, the finest pressed suits and expensive Rolex watches, but he just didn't feel like it. He was a nineteen year old, after all. A nineteen year old gambler bathing in millions, but a nineteen year old nonetheless. He still wore his over-sized black or white t-shirts, his skinny jeans and Timberlands and his beanies and earrings. They just cost a lot more now.

He was actually surprised he didn't need to show any form of ID to play at the casino. He doubted he'd have been let in if they knew he was nineteen. He guessed he looked around twenty, twenty one. He downed the rest of his drink and set the glass down, wondering whether he should order another glass. He was out of small cash. Would it be a dick move to pay with a hundred dollar note?

A credit card was flicked across the bar countertop, spinning a little, corner sliding under the base of Jungkook’s empty glass. Jungkook blinked, more than a little surprised, glancing up in the direction it came from and his eyes fell upon the most attractive guy he’d ever seen. The guy was sitting two seats away from Jungkook, bright, easy smile playing on his lips. He had shockingly bright orange hair and Jungkook just couldn't figure out how it was possible to pull it off so well and look so natural with it - look so hot with it too. A hint of eyeliner accentuated his pretty eyes and Jungkook had to use all his willpower and concentration to rip his stare away from his lips. He was dressed simply enough, more like Jungkook than anyone else occupying the casino, a simple white button down long sleeve over black jeans similar to the ones Jungkook wore, with a loose tie-like necklace looped around his collar. Two small black triangles adorned his earlobes. Asides from his hair, he was easily the most unassuming, modestly dressed person there compared to all the flashy overcoats, tailored red suits and hot pink stilettos. Yet the moment Jungkook laid eyes on him it was like he shone, and the rest of the casino had disappeared for all Jungkook knew.

“Do you play?” The guy spoke, smile still curving his lips and Jungkook almost passed out from sheer shock at his lovely, unexpectedly low voice. He felt it like a punch to the gut and he took a few moments to figure out how to make his tongue work again, mind horridly blank, mouth dry. Pretty boys with nice deep voices apparently had a much bigger effect on Jungkook than he'd have expected.

“Do I play… cards, you mean?” Jungkook eventually formed the words successfully, knowing he must look starstruck, and desperately tried to tug his poker face back up, which really should have been an easy, natural instinct for a person like him, but Jungkook was having trouble remembering his own name, as the person laughed, bright, loud, and completely ruining Jungkook in a heartbeat. His wide, bright smile was radiant as it was infectious.

“Everyone here plays cards. I meant that violin.” The guy gestured to the violin case Jungkook had quite completely forgotten about, and Jungkook blinked, coming back to himself a little.

“Not at all.” Jungkook replied simply and the guy laughed again, drawing an instinctive smile from Jungkook so quickly Jungkook barely registered it appearing on his face. The guy stood, taking a few steps over to Jungkook, who almost inhaled his tongue, quickly glancing away from the guy’s fine legs and coughing into his fist.

“Can I sit here?” The guy smiled down at Jungkook, motioning to the barstool beside him, and Jungkook nodded immediately, almost too enthusiastically, and he wanted to kick himself. He was a gambler . His survival depended on his ability to keep his cool and control his expression so that nobody could even catch a glimpse into his thoughts. What was even happening? The guy sat himself down beside Jungkook who tried to keep the staring to a minimum.

“I'm Taehyung. Kim Taehyung. What's your name?” The guy pronounced his name very carefully and clearly, like he wanted to make sure Jungkook remembered the way it sounded when he spoke it. As if the name hadn't been etched into Jungkook’s very being the moment it passed his lips.

“Jeon Jungkook.” Jungkook replied automatically, hardly able to stop his eyes from tracking Taehyung’s every movement, the stretch of his pretty smile as he tested Jungkook’s name on his own tongue. Horribly cliché as it was, Jungkook loved the way his name sounded when Taehyung said it with that smooth, low voice of his.

“Are you the infamous Red Ace?” Taehyung spoke after a moment of thought, and Jungkook felt a hopeless, delirious flash of pride at the name, that Taehyung knew about it, and what it meant here at the casino.

“You've heard of me?” Jungkook asked, hoping to pull off casual, nonchalant, careful not to sound too eager or gleeful, in other words - mature, which was unfortunately one of many things he wasn't. Taehyung raised an eyebrow, propped his elbow up on the countertop and resting the side of his face in his hand, staring in faint incredulity at Jungkook, amusement glinting in his eyes.

“You don't even know of your own fame? Or are you being modest? Every person here has heard of the new Red Ace, who’s won so much since he got here he could go into retirement immediately… despite looking so young and innocent. Looks like the rumours were right. You don't look like the Red Ace. And you look very, very young.” Taehyung commented lightly, airily, dragging his gaze slowly over Jungkook’s face, and Jungkook felt a tiny stab of apprehension, a flare, a sense of irrational danger, as he realised for a split second, he couldn't read Taehyung’s thoughts even though his expression hadn't changed. Then the moment passed and Jungkook detected the amusement and surprise in Taehyung’s eyes and smile like it had never wavered, and he sighed internally, telling himself to get a grip. He'd played too many games, he'd been haunted, spurred on daily by the thought of Seokjin’s poker face, he was now paranoid at the smallest of things. Even when he wasn't playing cards. Damn Seokjin. Maybe that was the fate of a gambler. Second guessing everything.

“Is that supposed to insult me?” Jungkook heard himself replying, easy, laidback tone making him want to pat himself on the back. Good, he could still hold a normal conversation even though his insides melted at the sound of Taehyung’s laughter. Cue insides melting, as Taehyung laughed a little, shaking his head slightly.

“Let me change my words. Youthful. You look very youthful and alive, which is a lot more than I can say for most of the people here.” Taehyung grinned, a conspiratorial gleam to his bright eyes and Jungkook couldn't help but laugh, and he realised he hadn't done so in a long time. Really laugh. Laugh because he found something funny, laugh because he wanted to, because he felt light hearted and not because he just won another half a million, and not because of the look on his opponents’ faces as he crushed them. It was a nice feeling, almost foreign now.

“Flattered.” Jungkook replied, feeling lighter than he thought was possible, lighter than he'd been in a long time. He remembered the card all of a sudden and he picked it up, holding it out to Taehyung.

“Your card, right?” Jungkook spoke almost like an offer, and he internally sighed at himself, but Taehyung just inclined his head, a sort of secretive small smile lifting his lips, not replying for a second as his thoughtful gaze studied Jungkook.

“You're more… clueless than I thought you'd be. For a gambler, I mean. Not a bad thing, just a little surprising.” Taehyung commented evenly, slowly, smile widening a little, and Jungkook blinked, taken aback at the statement. Clueless? Taehyung grinned and plucked the card out of Jungkook’s fingers between two of his own, but didn't take it back. “I was offering to pay for your next drink. Offer’s still up.”

“Ah,” Jungkook uttered, completely taken aback now. Was this… Was he… Jungkook had never experienced someone offering to pay for anything for him before. Obviously, he didn't need it, since he could afford absolutely anything at that bar, and back in the day when he'd frequented clubs and the like, he looked like the type to pay, not the type to accept. He’d dressed intimidating enough that no one tried. As it was, he was feeling around in the dark here, and he could only imagine how dumbfounded he looked, and Taehyung obviously took pity on him and smiled at the bartender, sliding his card across.

“Two margaritas, please.”

...

“So… You have margaritas often?” Jungkook spoke up after a little while of them sipping on their drinks in silence, breaking the ice as well as being purely curious, as Taehyung didn't really look like the margarita type. Well, neither did Jungkook.

“No, not really. What about you?” Taehyung replied without missing a beat.

“No… not really.” Jungkook answered a little slower and Taehyung smiled, as if he already knew. Jungkook eyed the way Taehyung’s lips closed around the rim of the glass and fished for something, anything in his buzzing mind to say and distract himself with. “Do you even like it?”

“Nope. You?” Taehyung slid him a look and Jungkook grinned, taking another sip.

“Not at all.” Taehyung smiled at Jungkook’s response, tilting his head a little as if to say “well, there we go”.

“Yet we’re both sitting here, drinking margaritas. The life.” Taehyung sighed dramatically, heavily, a wistful note colouring his tone and Jungkook snorted, tipping his head back to down the glass, not missing the way Taehyung’s eyes glued themselves to Jungkook’s throat, and barely managing to not choke. When he was in the clear, and glanced back at Taehyung, Taehyung smiled as if nothing happened and continued to take little sips. Jungkook didn't comment.

“You! You fucker!” Jungkook turned at the outraged yell directed their way, seeing a bulging hulk of a guy, smashed and red faced, advancing on them and pointing a thick, stubby finger at Taehyung, who hadn't even blinked, and didn't turn around. Jungkook raised his eyebrows, glancing back at the guy with mild interest. Usually, this type of thing was a normal occurrence and Jungkook couldn't care less about these post-game bitter confrontations. It'd happened to him before but not often, as he was prone to settling it quickly by offering to do a rematch, and making the person lose horribly all over again, and asking Hoseok to escort them out. But Taehyung’s reaction, or rather, lack of reaction was definitely new to this place.

“Son of a bitch, turn around, why don't you?! I'm talking to you, traffic light!” The man continued to rant and rage and Jungkook couldn't help but snicker at the unexpected nickname, turning to Taehyung who looked so impressively unfazed Jungkook wondered whether he himself, who usually settled face offs like this the most calmly, civilly and pleasantly out of everyone in the casino, should learn to calm down and take it down a notch.

“Hey, traffic light. I think he's talking to you.” Jungkook pointed out mildly and Taehyung laughed, nodding slightly.

“Of course he is.” Taehyung replied thoughtfully, as if just thinking of it, and Jungkook’s eyes widened in alarm as the guy chucked a beer bottle at Taehyung’s head. He was too late to grab it, or shout out a warning, but his input was unnecessary anyway, as Taehyung seemed to expect it and detect it, tilting his head to the side and letting it fly past his ear by a whisker’s breadth. Jungkook whistled before he could help himself, definitely adding fuel to the fire as he clapped a few times as the bottle smashed and shattered against the wall behind the bar. Taehyung turned to him and winked, before turning around fully in his seat to face the guy who loomed over him, easy, relaxed smile in place. Jungkook was too busy yanking his heart back down into his chest from where it threatened to jump out of his throat from the wink, to really feel anxious or nervous about the really huge, really angry man rounding on them.

“Hey… John, was it?” Taehyung greeted the guy pleasantly, casually and Jungkook was impressed that the vein ticking in the guy’s temple didn't burst.

“I'm George, fuckwit!” The guy exploded and Jungkook had to hide a laugh behind his hand. Why the foreign name?

George went on to scream and blather on about losing all his money to that shitty rigged round of H.O.R.S.E. and how “traffic light” was a bloody cheater and he was going to crush his head into the bar, etc etc. The neutral, casual expression on Taehyung’s face had an odd calming effect on Jungkook, so he just found this a little tedious rather than scary or irritating, and entertained himself by wondering. Taehyung must be a gambler too. Jungkook wondered whether he was a regular here, playing often enough to make enemies like this George, or whether he was new to gambling, and his sparkling debut was just that good that he was already getting confrontations. Jungkook suspected otherwise. Taehyung looked so at ease he seemed to be enjoying himself, as if this type of thing was entertainment to him. A regular then. Perhaps even more so than Jungkook. A burst of sharp desire to play him in a round flared inside of Jungkook, who drummed his fingers against the countertop, returning his attention back to the heated one sided argument. George was demanding a rematch now, a game of Red Five no less, and now that sounded interesting. Taehyung looked like he had no plans to participate in the game George was proposing (that was a polite, if inaccurate word to describe it), so Jungkook leant forward, tapping the guy’s shoulder to get his attention.

“I'll play you. I'll bet twice of what he won from you.” Jungkook offered politely, but the guy sneered and directed his squinty glare at Jungkook, condescence written all over his blotchy red face.

“And who are you? Traffic light’s bitch? I ain't playing nobody other than this fucker unless someone like that Red Ace came along!” The guy growled and Jungkook tried, he really did, but he couldn't keep his face from twisting from the sheer irony of it. Taehyung didn't even try. He burst out laughing, throwing his head back and Jungkook grinned, trying his best not to laugh, himself. Taehyung shot him a look, grinning impossibly wide, eyes twinkling and Jungkook felt a consequential overwhelming surge of confidence to conquer anything and everything. This small fry was about to be stamped so far underfoot he'd never be able to look their way again.

“I thought you'd never ask.” Jungkook smirked and the look of pure confusion on the guy’s face was a lot more vindictively amusing than it should've been, and Taehyung leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees and crossing his fingers together in a light hold.

“Funny you should mention it, John. He's the Red Ace.”

Jungkook couldn't help it. He started laughing, bold and outright, at the look on George’s face.

~

Six minutes later, they were sitting back at the bar, Jungkook was richer still, and Taehyung was practically crowing with laughter. The grand reveal of his identity had mellowed George out considerably, and he was quite docile now about his loss, quietly going into debt to the loaners of the casino.

“Thanks, black knight.” Taehyung calmed himself down enough to say, wiping tears from the corners of his eyes and smudging his eyeliner a little, but instead of looking messy it just somehow looked better and Jungkook was going to hyperventilate.

“Anytime.” Jungkook replied, a little smug, a little proud, at having shown off his skill to Taehyung so soon, and Taehyung grinned at him, eyes alight with something akin to excitement.

“So, you play, I'm guessing?” Jungkook remarked and Taehyung smiled, a small thing.

“Yes. I'm a gambler just like you, Ace. I appreciate the help, but in all honesty I didn't need it. I could've won that idiot easily, just not as trickily as you did.” Taehyung replied casually, airily, but shot Jungkook a look, a knowing gleam in his eyes and Jungkook felt his stomach drop down to his toes the same time excitement started coursing through his veins and his heart beat a little faster. A strange clash of shock and dread with exhilaration and admiration.

“You could tell?” Jungkook asked thinly, desperately holding on to his poker face, to not let any of his excitement escape. Taehyung stared at him for a second before replying.

“Not only could I tell you were cheating, I could also tell how. You're a hustler.” Taehyung stated mildly, and Jungkook’s stomach made an even steeper dive down, and his lips started twitching, threatening to break out into a crazed smile.

“Yes, I am. And so are you.” Jungkook breathed, excitement and giddiness leaking out into his tone and Taehyung raised an eyebrow, evidently bemused at his reaction.

“You seem really happy. Pleased, even.” Taehyung pointed out, a lilt to his tone lifting his statement like a question. Jungkook let himself smile, wide and honest in confirmation, and Taehyung returned it slowly, eyes curving and flashing with a little something that Jungkook didn't catch.

“The only other person that has ever caught me cheating is Seokjin. A gambler who works here. I lost bad and he won a hundred grand off me in one round. You have no idea how long I've been trying to find someone else good enough to see through me.” Jungkook let out in a rush, and Taehyung’s eyes widened, before he laughed brightly, shaking his head a little. Jungkook still couldn't get over how pretty he looked when he smiled.

“Well, here I am. And by Seokjin… Do you mean that Seokjin? The Blank Card?” Taehyung’s eyes lit up all of a sudden at the mention of Seokjin, something like awe and surprise in his tone, and Jungkook raised an eyebrow, a little confused.

“Blank Card?” Jungkook echoed, and Taehyung grinned, white teeth flashing before he replied.

“Don't you know? You're not the only big name here, Ace. There are seven big players here. You're one of them. The person you played against is most likely Kim Seokjin, who we call the Blank Card. I've never played against him before, but I heard the name stems from his blank, perfect poker face. He’s only ever lost to the other five. I heard he lost three times in a row to the Grand Dragon, Kim Namjoon. You can guess how the Grand Dragon got his name.” Taehyung explained excitedly, eyes lighting up and giving him the image of a child, and Jungkook blanched, eyes widening painfully, heart skidding. Grand Dragon?

“No way! He… he got a Grand Dragon in Big Two? A straight of thirteen cards all in the same suit?! That's like a 0.000000000629908% chance!” Jungkook whisper-shouted, as if saying it too loudly would make it untrue. Taehyung looked awfully smug, as if he knew something Jungkook didn't, and leant in close. The only thing staving off Jungkook’s body’s breakdown from the close proximity and Taehyung’s scent was the sheer shock and disbelief making Jungkook’s head whirl at the thought of a Grand Dragon.

“You've sure done your research. He got a Grand Dragon twice.” Taehyung murmured, eyes glinting as his tone was shadowed and Jungkook felt the air punched out his lungs. Twice…?

“I think I'm about to pass out.” Jungkook found himself saying numbly and Taehyung leant back, face brightening and he laughed at Jungkook’s expression, mirth dancing in his eyes.

“Don't worry, I almost did too, when I first heard about it. Well? Wanna listen to the rest of them?” Taehyung prompted Jungkook out of his daze and Jungkook nodded, feeling a little slow from the shock, head spinning and heart thudding. He didn't really have the heart to hear any more, but he felt he had to. To think that he'd played against someone who played against the Grand Dragon…

“So there's the Red Ace, the Blank Card and the Grand Dragon, that's three. The other four are the King of Suits, the Dealer, the Two-Faced Bluff and the Joker. The King of Suits always wins by a better suit, and he likes to win with kings. He's only lost to the Grand Dragon, and the Joker once before. I have no idea who he is. I don't actually know who any of them are. I don't know how the Two-Faced Bluff and the Joker play, but I know the Dealer is an ironic name. The Dealer apparently has never dealt in any of the games he's played before, but he still wins them all. Unless he's playing against the Blank Card. The Two-Faced Bluff has lost once to all of them before, but he hasn't lost since. The Joker has lost to all of them except you and the Grand Dragon. Nobody knows who the King of Suits, the Dealer, the Two-Faced Bluff and the Joker are, except for the other three. Oh, two, excluding you.” Taehyung concluded his speech with an exhalation and Jungkook blinked, head reeling as he took in all the information. Taehyung laughed a little at the face Jungkook pulled.

“You know so much about them.” Jungkook wrinkled his nose slightly and Taehyung shrugged offhandedly.

“What can I say? I'm sort of a fan.” Taehyung replied easily and Jungkook snorted, eyes still twitching a little thinking about the other six, fingers shaking in excitement and the urge to play against them. And of course, he was more than a little proud that his name was placed beside theirs.

“Are you my fan?”

“Wasn't sure, but I am after talking to you.” Taehyung winked and Jungkook choked on air, wrenching his gaze away and coughing into his hand, eyes darting about wildly, trying to find anything to rest his gaze on other than Taehyung’s pretty eyes. Wow, okay. Jungkook tried to pretend like his heart hadn't just burst out of his chest in a frenzy and frantically searched for something normal to say.

“U-uh, they’re all, all names to do with poker?” Jungkook hadn't meant to make it sound like a question, but Taehyung laughed, a bright bubble of laughter that seemed to escape him before he knew it.

“What else would they refer to? This is a casino.”

“Well, yeah, but isn't Go-Stop more popular in Korea? All of them just… prefer poker?” Jungkook spoke hesitantly and Taehyung laughed again, a full-blown burst of almost raucous laughter. Jungkook stared at him flatly, waiting for him to stop slapping his knee and explain why Jungkook was the butt end of an apparent joke.

“Oh, you're a gem. How did you even survive for this long as a gambler?” Taehyung exclaimed, voice going a higher pitch as he fanned his face, clear mirth and hilarity lifting his tone and Jungkook tried his utmost to not sulk or do anything equally childish.

“Hey, what does that mean?"

“You know, once you play for long enough, you're gonna make enemies. Not ones like good ol’ John-”

“George.” Jungkook muttered but Taehyung continued as if he didn't hear him.

“But real dangerous ones. People from gangs. The mafia. Sore losers with too many guns and people to back them up. Which is why gamblers are usually extremely observant and are constantly on the lookout for anything that could equal danger. But you’re just so… so innocent and pure. You didn't even realise you play at a poker exclusive gambling house?” Taehyung inquired with a delicate tone and Jungkook didn't have anything he could reply with to that. No, he hadn't realised.

“Uh… But this is a casino?” He replied with lack of anything better to say, and Taehyung sighed, shaking his head in a wistful, forlorn way, probably pitying Jungkook’s stupidity.

“Oh yes, this is. But the places you play at, all those private rooms back there? They lead to the gambling house. Where all the illegal rounds are. This casino is only a front. All the real business is back there. The rest of the big seven all play back there.” Taehyung stated matter of factly, and Jungkook wondered just how much Taehyung knew about this place, and how little he himself did.

“...Oh.” Jungkook responded dumbly, and Taehyung’s eyes curved at him as he smiled that gorgeous smile, and Jungkook guessed it was okay.

“Oh.” Taehyung repeated, and Jungkook scratched at the back of his neck, once again searching for something not stupid to say. He felt stupid enough already. He’d been playing for… how long? He'd won how much? And he didn't even know where he was playing. It was a miracle he hadn't been unwittingly looped into some gang war yet. For someone like Jungkook, cards were fun and games, but he wasn't dense enough to think it was the same case for others. He just hadn't progressed to the real dangerous parts of that winding corridor, he supposed. It was chilling to think about, but Jungkook wasn't terribly fussed about it. He wasn't like those desperate addicts - he had no reason to participate in games that could put his life in danger, and no reason to give any mobsters the chance to implicate him in any way.

“Okay, so, what's the ranking of the seven? Is there one?” Jungkook managed successfully and Taehyung cocked his head to the side, thinning his lips, eyes focused away in thought.

“I don't think there's a set ranking , just that the only people they lose to are the others of the seven. The Grand Dragon usually wins all of them except the Joker and the Dealer, and the Dealer wins all of them except the Blank Card. The Blank Card wins… the Dealer, the Two-Faced Bluff, the Joker and you, Red Ace. The Two-Faced Bluff varies on his wins and losses, he's lost against all of them once, and he's won against the Joker, the Grand Dragon and the Blank Card before, and then he hasn't played them since. The Joker wins against the Grand Dragon quite a lot, and once against the King of Suits and once against the Two-Faced Bluff. The King of Suits wins all except the Grand Dragon, and he's lost once to the Joker before. And the Red Ace has had one spectacular loss against the Blank Card.” Taehyung finished with a grin, and Jungkook sat back, exhaling as he propped his head up on his fist. Taehyung laughed, straightening, an air of purpose about him.

“Well, enough talk. Let's play a round, Ace.” Taehyung suggested suddenly and Jungkook blinked, a bit taken aback.

“Me and you? Right now?”

“Why not? I'm a gambler. I've got money to spare.” Taehyung shot back, all easy smiles and Jungkook closed his mouth, smiling a little and nodding.

“Fair enough. Let's play.” Jungkook acquiesced, standing from the barstool and stretching, almost forgetting about the violin case resting on his back until it tugged him backwards. Jungkook stumbled a little and Taehyung’s hand shot out to grab his wrist and steady him, warm touch disappearing as quickly as it came. Taehyung flashed him a quick grin turned towards the private rooms before he paused, turning back, a thoughtful gleam to his eyes that Jungkook didn't know what to make of.

“But, instead of playing Red Five, let's play something else.” Taehyung spoke lightly, a somewhat sly smile creeping across his face and Jungkook guessed it was common knowledge that the Red Ace only played one game. Jungkook’s eyes widened a little, but he quickly remembered his poker face, having already settled into game mode, and raised an eyebrow. Did Taehyung know that he didn't know how to play any other poker games?

“I think you should know that Red Five is my style, fanboy. Why would I want to play against you in something else just because you asked?” Jungkook asked loftily, omitting the “I'm the Red Ace, who are you?” but he was sure Taehyung still heard it. He wasn't really annoyed or anything, and wasn't really trying to show off or say that he was superior here, he was just a bit curious as to why Taehyung, a self-proclaimed fan, would ask for a game on his conditions, and ask it with such surety, as if the idea of Jungkook turning him down was laughable. Taehyung’s eyes glinted, a little playful, a little dangerous, and he smiled.

“You can't wait to play me. You couldn't wait as soon as you realised I was a gambler too. I can tell.” Taehyung replied simply and Jungkook had no more protests to offer, even if he wanted to, because it was the truth. He'd even learn a different game to play a round against Taehyung.

“You're very right. But you already knew that. Well, you're going to have to teach me. What are we playing?” Jungkook knew his excitement and enthusiasm was seeping into his voice, but it only seemed to please Taehyung, who gestured for him to follow him.

“Let's play Texas Hold ‘Em."


~

Chapter Text

As Jungkook had no idea how to play Texas Hold ‘Em, Taehyung sat him down in a private room and gave him a quick crash course as they waited for Hoseok to grab some other players. Turned out Taehyung was pretty familiar with Hoseok and the other workers too. Jungkook wondered how he'd never played him since starting here. Jungkook wondered how he'd never even seen him in the casino before.

“Alright, so the objective is to make the best hand of five out of everyone playing, or, make everyone believe you have the best hand. You're dealt two cards at the start, and nobody else sees them unless there’s what we call a showdown, at the end. After looking at them, you can check, bet or fold. You know about big blinds and small blinds?” Taehyung paused in his explanation to glance up at Jungkook to make sure he was following, and Jungkook gave a slight nod, as Taehyung picked up a pack of cards and shuffled them quickly, dealing two cards to both of them. Jungkook shook his head discreetly, to keep his attention from slipping and latching on to the assured, casual way Taehyung’s fingers flicked the cards. Jungkook picked his cards up, glancing at them quickly to see the four of spades and the eight of diamonds. Were they good cards in this game? He set them down, having remembered both and glanced back up at Taehyung, waiting for him to continue. Taehyung had a little, reserved smile on, and his eyes were a little dark under the shadow of his fringe but he grinned wide as Jungkook met his eyes, eyes curving cutely. Jungkook blinked, wondering if he'd done something wrong. That'd be a bit sad, nothing had even happened yet.

“So, let's say everyone’s checked, now the dealer lays cards out, face up, for everyone to see. Unless the game ends earlier, there will be five cards out in total. The players can use any or all of these five cards, with or without their own, to make the best hand they can. If they don't use either of their cards, and just use the five cards the dealer puts out, that's called playing the board. But that's stupid, because any other player who plays the board will have the same hand, and any other player who's not playing the board obviously has a better hand. But first, the dealer puts down three cards, after burning the top card of the remaining deck.” Taehyung did so, laying out the jack of spades, the four of hearts and the five of diamonds. Again, Jungkook had no idea whether these were good or not, and looked up to Taehyung for an explanation, who took a glance at his cards and swept across some chips and placed two out.

“Let's say I'll bet two chips after seeing these three cards. As in Red Five you can bet however much you want, but other players have to match it before the game can continue. So you have to either match it or raise it. Or you can fold. You can fold anytime you like. What'll you do?” Taehyung looked up at him expectantly and Jungkook stared back evenly, chewing his lip a little. So, he had no idea what were the best cards and best hands, but he knew pairs were generally good in any form of poker. He pushed forward three chips without breaking eye contact and Taehyung smiled for no apparent reason, and dropped another chip in his pile to match Jungkook.

“Good, so you're getting it so far, Ace. And let's just check for the next two rounds to make this quicker. But the dealer puts out one card after the three, there’s a betting round, then if more than one player is still playing, that is, they haven't folded, the last card is shown, and there's a last betting round. If there are two or more players still, there’s a showdown, and starting from the blind, or who's next in the order, the players show their cards. If you see someone has a better hand than you and you know you've lost, you can choose to fold even then, and nobody has to see your cards or your playing style. But, sucks if you're the blind.” Taehyung laid down the eight of hearts, and then the four of diamonds. Jungkook glanced at the two fours laid out and he gestured for Taehyung to show his hand, and Taehyung put down the five of clubs and the jack of hearts. Jungkook’s eyes flicked up to gauge the thoughts held within Taehyung’s deep brown orbs, trying to catch some sort of giveaway. If this was a good hand according to the rules, Jungkook wanted to be able to pick up on some sort of tell Taehyung might have.

“So. What does that mean?” Jungkook prompted, stare unwavering, and Taehyung clapped his hands together once with a loud smack, all purposeful as though he'd been waiting for the question. His eyes slid to meet Jungkook’s, and a small smile curled at the corner of his pretty lips.

“Why aren't you showing your cards? I've shown mine.” Taehyung asked, almost goading, a little mocking, and Jungkook grinned.

“Maybe after I know what wins in this game I'll realise that I'll lose and I won't show my cards so you don't figure out my play style.” Jungkook retorted, sticking out the tip of his tongue between his teeth and Taehyung paused for the slightest fraction of a second before laughing, reaching into his pocket and withdrawing a sleek, expensive looking phone. Way too sleek, way too expensive.

Jungkook blinked. “Hold up- what-”

“Hm? I'm searching up the rankings of hands in this game. Sit tight for one second, reception’s pretty shit back here.” Taehyung spared him a glance before tapping back at his phone and Jungkook was struggling to keep himself still.

“No- I mean, that's a- your phone!” Jungkook blurted a bit loudly, a bit unsuccessfully, and Taehyung paused, lifting his head to peer at Jungkook, eyebrow raised.

“It is my phone.” Taehyung replied slowly, eyebrow lifting ever higher, evidently weirded out by Jungkook’s rather explosive reaction to it, the clear “and?” hanging in the air, though unspoken. Jungkook took in a breath, composing himself. Yeah, Jungkook himself had had his fair share of Vertus. Such a thing as someone owning one didn’t faze him as such, only that it was Taehyung, who looked like he belonged on a magazine cover sure, but also looked like he came from a moderate background with a modest upbringing judging by his appearance.

“No I mean, that's a Vertu, isn't it? The new Signature Touch, with the Grape Lizard body cover. That costs from around 10000 dollars?” Jungkook pointed out a little calmer, a little more casually, and Taehyung broke out into an easy, if confused smile.

“It is indeed. You seem impressed. I've got another, wanna see? The Jet Calf.” Taehyung offered, voice dripping amusement, fishing out another phone, which was indeed the Vertu Signature Touch with the Jet Calf cover.

“Oh. You, you have two. Two Vertus.” Jungkook spoke, a little stilted and Taehyung squinted a little at him, as if he were witnessing something bizarre, lips still twitching upwards.

“And you, millionaire Red Ace, don't?” Taehyung quipped, bemusement etched into the curve of his lips and the furrow in his brow. Jungkook pondered a little. He in fact had three, and they all had better looking, more stylish covers in his opinion, but he wasn't going to start the whole ‘my horse is bigger than your horse’ here.

“Well, I do, it's just- you don't… look like…” Jungkook trailed off as he realised how awfully, horribly obnoxious that sounded and he mentally kicked his ass into next week. Taehyung’s eyebrow quirked up again and he glanced down at his phone, as if considering it, then grinned back up at Jungkook, all white teeth and a cute, square-ish smile.

“I don't look like the Vertu type? Or I don't look like I can afford it? To help soothe over the pricks in my pride and dignity, let's go with the former. I'm not, actually. I'm not the Vertu type. I'm not actually any flashy phone type. I just bought these two because their names are weird and it's kinda funny. I mean, ‘Grape Lizard’? How could I resist?” Taehyung smiled that bright, breathtaking, radiant smile at him, as if saying yes, of course, for what other reason could he possibly have bought the darned thing? Jungkook stared at him for a brief moment of silence, collecting his thoughts. So Kim Taehyung, who seemed around Jungkook’s age, alleged fan of the “big seven” here at a gambling house, bought two Vertus worth over 10000 dollars each, because he thought the names were funny.

Jungkook couldn't help it.

He laughed, bright, loud and wholeheartedly, eyes curving so much from mirth that his vision was cut off as he laughed, letting the kind of laugh that shook his entire body just flow out freely. He could feel his nose do that little wrinkling thing, and he knew his “bunny smile” as Jimin dubbed it, was full on show, but he didn't mind, as he controlled himself, subsiding to little giggles and gasps, shaking his head. Taehyung just watched him, a relaxed smile on his face, almost idle, but if Jungkook had been paying attention, he might've caught the almost spellbound look in Taehyung’s eyes.

“You know something, Kim Taehyung? I think I like you a lot.” Jungkook spoke simply once the giggles were gone, voice a little breathless and high pitched, and Taehyung, grinned, all sunshine and happiness that just drew Jungkook in so easily.

“Well, I have to say I don't get that a lot. Usually once I drop that bomb on them, people get pretty pissy, and call me a spoilt rich kid, or an arrogant douche. This is definitely pleasant.” Taehyung commented airily, lightly but Jungkook sensed that he was genuinely pleased, genuinely happy at Jungkook’s no doubt unexpected reaction. That made a tiny bit of warmth flare in Jungkook’s chest.

“And you know something, Jeon Jungkook?” Taehyung lifted his eyes up to meet his, brown orbs shining with mischief and playfulness that made him look so… so sunny and young and precious. But Jungkook’s heart stuttered in his chest anyway, ridiculous hope blooming. Was Taehyung about to say it back? Taehyung opened his mouth and paused dramatically, then he smirked, a devilish thing and continued. “I think I like myself a lot too. That makes two of us, congratulations to me.”

“Ah, shit, you.” Jungkook snorted and shoved him, but instead of feeling disappointed or anything, he just felt a light… hum of happiness and contentment, an easy pleasant feel of the atmosphere settling around him, and he smiled at Taehyung, who returned it with a warm, inviting one of his own.

“Ah, it loaded! Here we go, rookie.” Taehyung exclaimed suddenly, and Jungkook had honestly completely forgotten about the game, and quickly turned his attention to the screen, taking the phone and almost letting it slip through his grip as he accidentally brushed against Taehyung’s fingers. Of course his traitorous heart pounded, and of course Taehyung winked, rubbing the tip of his forefinger against his own thumb.

“Uh-uh, don't drop that now. It cost me 10000, remember?” Taehyung tsked and Jungkook stuck his tongue out at him before glancing back down at the screen. Nothing like cards to settle him back into play mode, game mode.

So, apparently the rankings were,

From lowest: high card, so five cards in which one of them or more were high. High in value, Jungkook guessed.

One pair, out of the five.

Two pair.

Three of a kind.

Straight, like in Red Five. Five cards in succession, such as four, five, six, seven, eight.

Flush, all five cards are of the same suit.

Full house, now that was interesting. Three of a kind, plus a pair. Jungkook’s eyes flickered to his own cards, and swept his gaze over the cards laid out. So he had a full house then. How lucky. Three fours and two eights.

Four of a kind.

Straight flush, five cards in succession, and all in the same suit.

Royal Flush. A ten, jack, queen, king and ace straight, all in the same suit. Jungkook loved it already.

Jungkook handed back the phone, and Taehyung raised his eyebrows, taking it back and stowing it in his pocket.

“Already done? What a remarkably fast learner you are. The card values go from two up to ace, by the way. No jokers.”

“Great. Let's play.” Jungkook stood to shuffle over a bit and make space for the two other players ushered in by Hoseok, and Taehyung swept up the cards and chips, dumping them in the middle for Hoseok to sort out.

“You only seem about excited as a five year old on Christmas Day.” Taehyung remarked and Jungkook bit down on his lower lip to stop himself from breaking out in a crazed smile. Fire danced through his nerves, his mind was sharp, clear, alert, and his fingers were trembling in excitement to play. The Red Ace was playing a different game, and he was going to own it.

“What can I say? I'm sold to the game.” Jungkook sent Taehyung a sharp grin, who returned it knowingly, as only a fellow gambler could, and sat himself down.

Taehyung shifted a little. “But, what were your cards?”

“You got a two pair, right?” Jungkook asked rather lazily, and Taehyung dipped his head a little, wide eyes fixed on Jungkook, evidently curious, and Jungkook couldn't help the grin that snuck across his lips. “I won. You'll never know with which cards, though.”

Taehyung raised an eyebrow slightly.

Jungkook was sitting to the left of Taehyung, and the game was played clockwise he was pretty sure, which meant if Jungkook started the order would be Jungkook, the two other players, Gambler 1 to his left and Gambler 2 beside Gambler 1, then Taehyung and then back to Jungkook.

“Anyone wanna deal?” Gambler 2 offered, fanning the cards out and shuffling impressively expertly, to which Jungkook masked a snort, at the obvious forced shuffle. It was okay though. As his first time playing the game, he wasn't going to be too stingy on cheating and winning. Gambler 1 shook his head, Jungkook likewise, and Taehyung’s eyes lingered on the cards before he smiled genially at Gambler 1.

“Nah, dealing isn't my thing. Go on, shuffle well.” Taehyung declined with a light, jovial tone and Jungkook felt a strange feeling nudge at the edge of his mind but it dissipated before he could focus on it. Gambler 2 continued to shuffle awfully, well, awfully obviously. Possibly not to the likes of Gambler 1, but definitely to Jungkook. Jungkook slid a glance to Taehyung, wondering if he'd noticed anything. He couldn't be sure, since Taehyung’s eyes were fixed unnaturally on the cards being “shuffled”, but he still had a relaxed, unassuming smile in place. Jungkook wasn't sure if he was in poker face mode, or whether he plain hadn't noticed anything. He guessed he'd ask afterwards.

“What should we set as the minimum amount to play?” Taehyung leaned forward to ask, tapping his pile of chips. He shot a look at Jungkook. “The usual?”

“The usual? As in bare minimum? Are you mocking me right now?” Jungkook cut in and Taehyung paused before laughing, a type of bright, unmasked laugh and shook his head, holding his hands up in surrender.

“Not at all, Red Ace. I forgot that big shots don't play casual games. Twice the minimum then?” Taehyung suggested, eyes flicking to the other two, who seemed to have perked up at the mention of “Red Ace”. Jungkook clicked his tongue and just suppressed a sigh. He knew he was a bit of an urban legend, but did nobody but people who lost against him know who he was? If he was famous but nobody recognised him, was he still famous?

Gambler 1 leaned forward. “You’re the-”

“Red Ace? That I am. Go on, play.” Jungkook confirmed with a hard tone of finality that was probably a little uncalled for, but either way, they were all going to lose miserably to him anyway, what did manners matter? Gambler 1 fell silent and Gambler 2 kept his eyes trained on Jungkook’s gaze, his expression, most likely to try and see if Jungkook had noticed the shuffle. Of course he had, Gambler 2 really should just shuffle normally at this point. Taehyung was the big blind for the round, and Jungkook was small blind, and so Taehyung pushed forward forty dollars and Jungkook put half, twenty. Jungkook had already figured out how he was going to play.

Gambler 2 dealt two cards to each of them, and Jungkook checked his all in his own time, and as expected, they weren't particularly good cards, a three and a four, different suits. Of course, he could always aim for a straight just on the slight chance that there'd be a two, five and six, or a five, six and seven among the cards that would be laid out in the centre. But if Gambler 2 had set the cards up, a straight that could win him was practically unthinkable. After all, if the five cards that were put out included five, six and seven and Jungkook could make a straight of three, four, five, six and seven, what were the chances that Gambler 2 had an eight and a nine in his hand? Then Gambler 2 would also have a straight, and a higher one. Jungkook had quickly realised that although high cards didn't always win the bigger hand, they were definitely an advantage, especially in a set up. And of course, last time Jungkook had gotten a full house on just a four and an eight, but what were the chances of that, when he'd seen that forced shuffle?

“Check.” Taehyung’s low voice cut into his thoughts smoothly, drawing him back to the game and Jungkook put his cards face down on the table, sliding them across to where the burn pile would be.

“I fold.” For now, as he was just a beginner, he didn't know how to escape from set ups in this game. He'd watch and learn, and maybe he'd pick up on some trend, some pattern from Gambler 2. The three other players all snapped up their gazes to stare at him, all wide eyes and raised eyebrows. Needless to say, they hadn't been expecting that. Probably didn't expect Jungkook, the Red Ace, to play so safe. Especially as the small blind.

“The Red Ace is folding on the first round? Before we've even seen the cards? What a… surprise. Us commoners have a chance it seems.” Gambler 2 spoke delicately, hardly masking his note of glee and if he thought Jungkook was scared by the game, by his shit cards or by the prospect of losing money by betting on them anyway, he was very, dangerously, cluelessly wrong, and he was going to see that. Taehyung seemed to measure Jungkook with his gaze, but didn't speak up. For now, Jungkook just twitched the corner of his lips up in a barely passable smile, and gestured for Gambler 1 to continue. Gambler 1 checked and so did Gambler 2. Jungkook almost snorted. Why bother? Gambler 2 should just raise. Wasn't as if Gambler 2 would lose, this round at least, and which gambler would back down from a betting fight? If he raised now, both Taehyung and Gambler 1 were certain to match, and judging by a quick glance at Gambler 1 drumming his fingers on the table, the quick, sharp glances he sent his opponents and the almost agitatedly excited air about him, he was going to bet big this round, so he might even raise on Gambler 2’s raise.

Gambler 2 put out a five of hearts, (Jungkook’s eye twitched a little, but that card hadn't much value in this game) an eight of diamonds and a ten of hearts. Jungkook wasn't at the point were he could gauge each of the players’ expressions to figure out what cards they had, no, he'd just started playing, but he felt a general… buzz. Good cards for all of them, then. They most likely had pretty similar cards, just that Gambler 2 might have a higher one. Playing safe, playing subtle for the first round. Or maybe he might've given Taehyung and Gambler 1 something similar, and given himself something completely different.

“I'll raise.” Taehyung swept across an impressive pile of chips that Jungkook couldn't be bothered counting, dark eyes flicking upwards to Gambler 1, who sniffed and rubbed his nose, evidently hiding a smile.

“Match that, and raise you by two hundred.” Gambler 1 all but announced, and Jungkook fought the urge to cough as cigarette smoke seeped into their room from the door that had been left slightly ajar. He spotted Hoseok passing, and called him in, asking for a beer. Gambler 2 had an almost ridiculous grin on as he raised and Taehyung and Gambler 1 matched, and Jungkook pretended he hadn't seen anything, and that he didn't know it was because Gambler 2 couldn't believe his luck, that the Red Ace wasn't even good enough or smart enough to pay attention to the game he was new to, and all the little tricks being pulled. Of course he noticed it all, it was called a poker face.

Gambler 2 burned a card and put out a queen of spades. Okay, Gambler 1 definitely had a pair of queens with that card, a quick look at his eyes told Jungkook. Maybe he even held two queens in his hand, making a three of a kind. Jungkook thought for a moment, but it made sense, for Gambler 2 to have given at least two of the players good enough cards that they'd be fooled to keep playing and keep betting… and not back out and fold right away like Jungkook. Taehyung raised, Gambler 1 matched and raised, Gambler 2 matched and raised and Taehyung and Gambler 1 matched. Jungkook studied Taehyung’s blank looking expression, and suddenly got a little chill, a tremor sneak down his spine as it was a little reminiscent of Seokjin. But then Taehyung glanced at the cards in his hand and drew his lower lip to bite at it, chewing a little idly, a little cutely and Jungkook found himself completely mesmerised by the movement, focusing on nothing else except his pretty, reddening lips, all other thoughts unceremoniously kicked out the window.

Gambler 2 burned a card and put out a two of hearts. There was no reason to be happy over that, Jungkook mused, as he stared at Gambler 2’s expression. He should know that Gambler 1 had a three of a kind. What won that? A straight? A full house? A four of a kind? If the cards laid out were five, eight, ten, queen and two, that ruled out the possibility of a straight. Which also ruled out straight flush, obviously. No Royals here, and four of a kind wasn't possible, since there weren't any pairs in the five. Full house wasn't possible either. If Gambler 2 had been happy to see a two, it could mean that he had a three of a kind, with twos. But that didn't make sense, because it was the lowest possible three he could have. The chances of someone having a higher three were quite high, even if he didn't set them up. As the betting round started, each person betting more than the last, Jungkook thought about it, studying the cards. And suddenly, he knew what Gambler 2 had. Surely Gambler 1 and Taehyung knew? Or were they thinking that Gambler 2 was bluffing entirely? Five of hearts, eight of diamonds, ten of hearts, queen of spades and two of hearts. It was obvious, wasn't it? Gambler 2 had a flush, with hearts.

It was time for the showdown (Jungkook rolled his eyes at the dramatic phrasing) and Taehyung showed his hand, two tens. So, he had a three of a kind, with tens. Jungkook winced a little, but not too visibly. He would bet a lot of money on that too. Reasonably high card, and three of them too. But Gambler 1 threw down his pair of queens with a flourish, as Jungkook expected, and Taehyung’s face didn't slip for even a second, didn't change in the slightest. Perhaps he'd seen through him too…? And Gambler 2 put down his cards, a six of hearts and a king of hearts. Of course.

“Flush.”

Jungkook tapped his fingers against the tabletop and looked on as Gambler 2 swept away his winnings. He exhaled, eyes flicking from Gambler 1 to Taehyung to try and sift through the layers plastered over their face, shrouding their emotions. He couldn't read Taehyung’s thoughts at all, but Gambler 1 seemed more than a little disgruntled, to say the least. Jungkook let his eyes wander, tracking down the bridge of Taehyung’s nose, his straight, sharp jaw, and let himself wonder.

Jungkook didn't play several rounds, sitting back and idly fiddling with his hair or rolling a chip around in his fingers, keeping up the pretense of being utterly bored, inattentive and disinterested, but he was watching. He was watching all three of them, how they played, their mannerisms and which cards each of them bet big on. And the wonderful, thrilling, enthralling thing was, he knew that Taehyung was aware of him watching.

Taehyung was lovely to look at, both because of his appearance and the fact that he played so neatly, so professionally. Not a whisper of thought or emotion slipped past his face which could have been cut from marble for all it showed. Jungkook couldn't tell what he was thinking at all, and he loved it. The only reason he caught on to the fact that Taehyung noticed him paying close attention (despite lounging back seemingly without a care in the world) was because Taehyung shot him a quick but measured look, definitely not on accident, his lips quirking up for a fraction of a second before his poker face took over again.

Jungkook only knew because Taehyung let Jungkook know - and there was nothing like it.

Jungkook glanced at his cards on the seventh round, a three and a four, different suits. Well, if this didn't seem a little familiar. Jungkook decided to play. Jungkook pretended once again that he hadn't seen through everyone else’s cards by now, even without any shared cards shown.

“Why don't you deal properly, sir?” Jungkook leaned forward abruptly to ask, steepling his fingers and looking straight at Gambler 2, letting a pleasant smile hang on his face. Gambler 2’s eyes shuttered, but he wiped his face clean of any suspicious emotion remarkably quickly. The temperature of the room took a nosedive down as all three of them snapped their gazes to Jungkook.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean,” Jungkook drew out the word, keeping it sing-song, keeping it peaceful, tapping a finger to the back of his cards. “I think you should shuffle properly from now on. At least try some different ways? Even if nobody could tell on the first try, doesn't mean they still won't on the second. Now, before anyone gets pissy or defensive here, let's say I know what everyone’s got. We could bet money on whether I know what I'm talking about, or whether I'm bluffing, since this round could be considered a dud anyway to anyone who’s stingy over things like forced shuffling. Like me. Or, we could keep playing, with the knowledge that the dealer has sticky fingers. But I'll still win either way.”

There was a long, drawn out moment of silence, and Jungkook glanced at Taehyung to see his reaction, albeit a little surprised when Taehyung met his gaze with a slight upturn of the lips that just barely passed for a smile. Well then again, he didn't know what reaction he'd been expecting. Jungkook didn't return it, poker face still immaculate, and Gambler 2 spoke.

“...Let's keep playing.”

“As you wish.” Jungkook replied briskly, straightening as if getting down to business, despite already knowing how this round was going to turn out. Judging by his observations of the players, Gambler 2’s dealing pattern and a bit of intuition, Taehyung most likely had a pair. A pair above ten. Gambler 1 had… a five. And something else, not too high, and not too low. A different suit, as well. Gambler 2 had a pair, assumedly higher than Taehyung’s. And Jungkook had a three and a four.

Well, it wouldn't do to play fair against someone using little tricks to win their rounds. He'd have to fight back in kind. An honest win from a set up was nothing short of a miracle, unless the person setting up fucked up, and Jungkook wasn't a miracle worker, he was just a little smarter and a little quicker. But why bother using brains for this? Jungkook quite literally, had an ace up his sleeve. Now he'd just have to rely on luck, or plan B if necessary.

Gambler 2 put out a three, a six and a jack. One pair, not bad. Jungkook suspected the three was more for Gambler 1’s benefit than his own, as he studied the players’ reactions, subtle or otherwise. So far he hadn't confirmed anything, so he quietly raised and matched modestly along with the other players, waiting for the next card. Gambler 2 put down a six. One pair out in the board, meaning at least Jungkook, Taehyung and Gambler 2 all had two pairs. Jungkook of course, had the lower pair. Gambler 1’s situation didn't seemed to have changed much. He now had one pair because of the two sixes, but Jungkook still wasn't quite sure what his other card was, other than five. Jungkook was just about to glance away when his eyes snapped back to Gambler 1 in a fraction of a second, seeing how Gambler 1’s stare lingered on the jack. Ah, so he had a five and a ten. Gambler 2 put down an ace as the last card after the round of betting, and Jungkook flicked his cards around in his hand, careful to keep them facing away from the other players while seeming careless, casual, everything he wasn't. He'd figured it out. Gambler 2 had two kings, and seeing as it was him, he probably gave Taehyung two queens. Well, unfortunately for everyone, Jungkook smoothly swapped the ace from his sleeve with his three, without anyone noticing.

Jungkook was the big blind this round, and so it was his turn to bet. He pushed half of his piles of chips forward at once, eyeing the rest of the players without a shred of emotion on his face. Gambler 2 was confused, Jungkook could tell. Well, he was about to be even more confused.

“Confident?” Taehyung’s voice immediately drew Jungkook’s eyes to him, and Jungkook offered a half smile, loving how Taehyung’s eyes formed tiny crinkles at the corners when he smiled.

“I told you I know what cards you all have, remember?” Jungkook replied lightly and Taehyung raised an eyebrow, placed his cards face down on the table, keeping a fingertip pressed on the backs of them.

Taehyung smiled a little faintly. “Is this you saying you're cheating?”

“This is me saying that he's cheating, and blatantly obviously as well, which makes it a lot easier for me to figure out your cards.” Jungkook shot back, smiling pleasantly at Gambler 2, whose face had been turning darker and darker with each word Jungkook spoke. It was fun, it really was. After some dithering the players all matched him and Jungkook kept his eyes fixed on Gambler 2 across from him, laying his cards down face up and enjoying the show, a whole album of emotions, confusion and disbelief being the most prominent of the lot, flickering across his face at top speed.

“Surprising, isn't it?” Jungkook murmured and Gambler 2 started to splutter and Jungkook leaned forward, ready to latch on.

“That's-”

“Not possible? How so? I have a two pair, sixes and aces. The cards in the hand you dealt were a four and an ace. They're not rare cards, there are four of each in any standard deck of cards, just like there are four of every card except jokers in any standard deck of cards. Unless you're saying… you thought I had different cards? Which means you, who dealt them, set me up with certain cards and now you're surprised because they're not what you thought they were?” Jungkook fired at him, and Gambler 2’s face was turning an attractive shade of purple. Jungkook supposed he was angry at Jungkook. Jungkook would be angry at himself if he was playing against himself. God, he was such an asshole. But he didn't care too much about that.

“Are you cheating?” Gambler 2 asked very thinly, voice strained and tight and Jungkook leant back a little.

“Am I?” Jungkook replied vaguely, letting a shadow of a smirk surface on his lips. Gambler 2 had no real way to prove Jungkook’s original hand wasn't a four and an ace, seeing as he was the one who dealt the hands, and knowing which hands he dealt to whom would most definitely be labelled as cheating.

“How do you know what our cards are? Isn't this your first time playing this game? I think you're bluffing.” Gambler 1 piped up all of a sudden, beady eyes trained on Jungkook, simmering with disdain and suspicion, and Jungkook was more than happy to oblige his death wish.

“Okay, well, I've won this round, so I get half of all of your chips. But let's play some more, let's add a bit of risk to my win. Put your cards down on the table and don't touch them, we don't want any sneaky changes here.” Jungkook spoke as if he was suggesting it, tone light and mild but anyone with eyes could tell he wasn't playing around. The players did so, all narrowing their eyes at Jungkook, including Taehyung but Jungkook detected a sliver of curiosity rather than bitterness or scorn flash in Taehyung’s gaze. Jungkook smiled and pushed forward the rest of his pile of chips. Cue the sharp inhales and widened eyes from the players, the incredulous expressions and taken aback, disbelieving stares. Jungkook hadn't played so annoyingly in a long time, it was really, really quite fun.

“All-in. Match me to see if I'm bluffing.” Jungkook didn't really want to end the game so soon. It was just something about the way Taehyung’s eyebrows furrowed a little, the way his stare didn't leave Jungkook for a second, evidently trying to figure out what he was thinking, well, it made Jungkook a little reckless. He was a little surprised that all of them put forward all their chips as well, but he didn't comment on it.

“Okay!” Jungkook rubbed his hands together, inducing a bit of talk show host excitement into his tone and placed a finger on Gambler 1’s face down cards. He stared directly at Gambler 1’s eyes as he spoke, before flipping them over.

“Five and a ten. Different suits.” And so they were. Jungkook moved on to Taehyung, offering a little smile before speaking.

“Pair of queens.” Jungkook had to mask any sign of relief as he flipped them over and they were indeed two queens. It wasn't a total guess, an educated guess, but a guess nonetheless. Now if he'd lost all his money because of cocky overconfidence, wouldn't that be lame. But he had his luck and intuition to thank. Taehyung stared at him blankly, blinking twice and Jungkook’s heart lurched at the unexpectedly endearing expression and quickly moved on. He presented an awfully wide, irritatingly sunny smile to Gambler 2 and delighted in the sight of veins making an appearance in his temples and neck.

“And you have a pair of kings.” Indeed he did.

~

Jungkook hefted the duffel bag bursting at the seams with money up and slung the strap on his shoulder, stumbling just a little from the weight, but, he wasn’t complaining. Gambler 1 and 2 slunk out of the room before Jungkook even noticed and Jungkook glanced up, catching a glimpse of Taehyung’s bright hair disappearing around the doorframe. He adjusted the bag and crossed the room in a few quick strides, almost tripping over himself in his haste to catch up to Taehyung. Taehyung was already quite far down the corridor and Jungkook didn’t have time to dither and weigh pros and cons before calling out to stop him, heartbeat erratic.

“Wait, Taehyung!” Jungkook blurted out a lot louder than necessary, dying inside at the desperate pitch of his tone. Yeah sure, he was a goner, but did his voice really have to spite him and let Taehyung know as well? Taehyung paused, turning and meeting Jungkook’s gaze evenly, not speaking but waiting for Jungkook to. Jungkook’s heart stuttered a little, suddenly unsure. Was Taehyung angry that he’d lost all that money to Jungkook? Most people in their right mind would be. Jungkook wouldn’t blame him but… Jungkook worried at his lower lip a little, aware of how openly uncertain his expression was, how his features displayed his thoughts for all the world to see and hating it, but he wasn’t playing a game of poker right now.

“...Will I- see you again?” Jungkook managed after a beat of silence, voice a little strangled, fidgeting awfully obviously. Oh yeah, amazing. Smooth. Jeon Jungkook, master of subtlety and finesse. Taehyung blinked at him and Jungkook felt his cheeks warm uncomfortably, half wanting to stay around to hear his answer, half wanting to dive into the carpet of the corridor and never resurface. As the silence dragged on longer, seeming to solidify the air around them, the carpet option was looking more and more appealing, and Jungkook wondered what it'd feel like to lie on the floor all day. Taehyung didn't speak, his gaze blank, regarding him with frighteningly little emotion, and for a moment Jungkook wondered whether Taehyung had even heard him at all.

Then Jungkook’s bag of money slipped off his shoulder on to the ground, his back was pressed against the cool wall of the corridor and Taehyung was there, warm fingers gripping Jungkook’s face, soft lips pressed almost punishingly hard against Jungkook’s before he even had time to take a breath. Jungkook’s mind completely shut down and he just stood there dumbly, hands half raised, eyes open wide and lips slack with surprise. Taehyung smelt so good and his lips felt so good Jungkook thought he might cry. Taehyung lifted his face away a fraction, breaking off the kiss but he didn't move away, big dark eyes centimetres away from Jungkook’s own, their noses just brushing. Taehyung’s grip loosened but his fingers remained where they were, warm air fanning over Jungkook’s lips as he spoke. Light as his touch was, it seared into Jungkook’s skin in the best way possible.

“Do you want to see me again?” Taehyung asked simply, voice just nudging over a whisper, low and quiet, eyes half lidded, gaze and tone soft and captivating and-

Jungkook felt like he was about to have a nosebleed.

Jungkook had never had much use for the word “alluring” before, he'd never met someone he'd associate the word with after all, and it certainly wasn't a word in the front lines of his general vocabulary. But now, staring wide eyed at Taehyung’s gorgeous face up close, so close, it was the only word echoing, resounding in Jungkook’s mind.

“Yes.” Seeing as Taehyung had successfully stolen all the breath from Jungkook’s lungs with the one brief kiss and reduced his mind to static, his voice came out small, hoarse and weak. Jungkook cleared his throat, willing some moisture to return to his sandpapery mouth, shaking his head a little to try and clear it of the soft, humming haze that draped over and hindered any coherent thought. He spoke again, clearer and stronger. “God, yes.”

“Then see me again you shall.” Taehyung sprung back with a bright grin like he hadn't just pressed Jungkook against the wall, like he hadn't just rendered Jungkook’s knees weak and unsteady from the sight of his shadowed eyes and parted lips. Jungkook swallowed with a ridiculous amount of difficulty, feeling around numbly at the wall to try and steady himself, unable to take his eyes off Taehyung even if he wanted to. Taehyung pulled out his phone and offered it to Jungkook, who took a couple of dull, slow moments to catch on and realise he wanted Jungkook to put in his number. Jungkook took the phone in horribly visible shaky fingers and typed it in, quickly handing the phone back to Taehyung before he did something stupid, like dropping it. God, he was going to be so embarrassed over this later.

Taehyung just smiled, bright and sweet and wonderful and Jungkook sighed, straightening and shaking himself a little, shaking the mortifying, unexpectedly shy self aside, firmly ignoring his frantic heartbeat and heated cheeks. It wasn't like this was his first kiss. It just took him by surprise. Get a grip. It wasn't any different from kissing a girl except… well, he'd never been pushed against a wall before. And a burst of heat hadn't ever flared quite so suddenly, spiked quite so steeply in his stomach before at the one gesture. It was new, but it wasn't bad, far from it.

He reached out and cupped the back of Taehyung’s neck to pull him in a little, kissing him softer, slower than before and taking the time to savour the taste of him on his lips properly this time. Taehyung let out a tiny exhale against his lips and Jungkook pulled away quickly before he got carried away and any potential… downstairs problems would start to pose a threat to him. His heart was threatening to burst out of his chest already, he didn't need any other issues to focus on.

“So, what was your name again?” Jungkook asked conversationally and Taehyung burst out laughing, shaking his head a little.

“Is that your way of reminding me that we only just met today?” Taehyung grinned, teeth flashing and Jungkook wondered how he could be so lucky.

“Yeah. You don't mind, do you?” Jungkook tilted his head a little, a small smile playing on his lips and Taehyung shook his head before he'd even finished speaking.

“If I minded, I wouldn't have kissed you. Sorry about that, I should've asked. You know, you're very different outside of the poker room. Very cute, very endearing. But you look so… intense and dangerous… sharp, when you're playing.” Taehyung commented lightly, smiling for no apparent reason and Jungkook turned this over in his head. Well, this was the first time he'd been told he was “very cute” other than the first time he picked up a girl at the bar, sometime back in high school. It was surprisingly less irritating than he thought it would be, Jungkook thought as he responded.

“That bother you?”

“Not gonna lie, it's kinda hot. You're kinda hot.” Taehyung answered without a trace of hesitation, like he was merely stating proven scientific fact and Jungkook couldn't help but break into a full smile at that, very recently slowed down heartbeat increasing just like that.

Jungkook raised an eyebrow. “Only kinda?”

“No. Dangerously so.” Taehyung replied without missing a beat, eyes shadowing a little, intensity flaring in his unwavering stare and Jungkook felt his mouth go dry again, a sharp tug yanking at him in his lower stomach, and his fingers itched to grab Taehyung and kiss him senseless. He wasn't sure why he didn’t. Maybe he was pacing himself a little, which was good, seeing as Jungkook was practically marrying the guy in his head after meeting him not too long ago that very day. He didn't even know anything about him other than his name.

“You'll find me somewhere around here basically every day after four. Just ask Hoseok, he should know where I am.” Taehyung informed him with a smile and promptly turned away, walking down the corridor. Jungkook’s eyes tracked his movements compulsively, watching with far more intense focus than necessary as Taehyung typed something into his phone, and Jungkook blindly felt for his own phone as it buzzed against his leg.

Unknown: Go on a date with me tomorrow ;*

Jungkook’s head snapped up and he stared at Taehyung, cheeks flushing bright red as Taehyung turned his head and winked, lips curling to one side and he faced away again, disappearing around the corner.

Jungkook saved his number as “Traffic Light”.

~

Chapter Text

 

Traffic Light: Are you so ecstatic you fainted with pure joy

Traffic Light: Or did you throw your phone into the Han River

Traffic Light: It's been two hours you're making me weep :’(

Traffic Light: Fight me Jungcrook

Hours after Jungkook arrived home and roughly thirty five deleted drafts later, Jungkook received four texts in quick succession and Jungkook dropped his phone on his face, swearing audibly. His fingers scrambled gracelessly to pick it up before it slid off, clutching it tight and staring at his phone screen with the intensity of a glare, burning each word into his memory probably for all eternity. His heart hadn't stopped its giddy fluttering since two hours ago, his head still carpeted in soft clouds and his vision pink and veiled in a dreamy haze.

In other words, Jungkook was fucked.

He hadn't stopped repeating every single little scene of earlier that evening in his head for a second, remembering one more small detail that ruined any hope of coherent thought each time he replayed, like how cute Taehyung’s squarish smile was, how white and straight his teeth were, how there were flashes, glimpses of a playful, cheeky and almost childlike persona in the curl of his lips and the gleam of his eyes, how his whole face would radiate sunshine when he laughed and-

Yes, Jungkook was fucked. He was about two seconds away from actually squealing out loud, and he quickly ripped his thoughts away from Taehyung’s heady stare, his low, breathy voice after he kissed Jungkook and-

Jungkook slapped his cheeks once, hard, and returned his attention back to his phone screen. The stinging helped him focus more on the task at hand, but even so, it took him another twenty minutes or so, three mental breakdowns and seven deleted drafts before he finally responded.

Me: don't butcher my name -.-

Jungkook wanted to scream. Whatever witty, charming line he'd meant to reply with, that definitely wasn't it. But whatever. Taehyung evidently wanted him, so playing it cool, acting nonchalant and offhanded was probably a legitimate option here. Wasn't like he'd be able to do it in person, what with his spectacular fumbling and spontaneous heart problems drawn out from literally any movement or expression from Taehyung. He used to think flirting was one of his strong points, but clearly, his strong points would have to be a lot stronger around gorgeous boys with bright orange hair and low voices. And so he calmed himself down, replying like he usually would, like he would to Jimin, or another friend. He hadn't seen Jimin in a while.

Me: and chill, i was

Jungkook paused.

Me: i just got home

Taehyung’s response wasn't too delayed, just a couple of minutes or so after Jungkook pressed send but Jungkook had managed, in that time, to lay out nine different scenarios in his head, spiraling from the brief period of lack of response down to various creative versions of his untimely death, each one gloomier than the last. Jungkook was a little melodramatic to say the least, but he figured he could cut himself some slack, seeing as the only romantic interest he'd ever had was a girl back in second grade that he'd completely forgotten the name of. Hookups and picking girls up at bars and clubs were entirely different to the simple texting Jungkook was currently agonising over, because hookups and picking girls up didn't make Jungkook want to schedule an appointment for emergency heart surgery at the nearest hospital just in case his heart gave out on him.

Jungkook almost fell over (he was lying down, oh the shame) in his haste to reply as his phone buzzed and the screen lit up with a text.

Traffic Light: ...clearly

Right, Jungkook wouldn’t believe himself either.

Me: truly

Me: no lie

Traffic Light: No of course not

Traffic Light: Not from Mr Hustler

Me: ... you got me there

Traffic Light: One-zero Taehyung =}

Me: what the fuck who does = } <that face

Traffic Light: I do, simpleminded heathen

Jungkook was at a bit of a loss for words.

Me: ...that's stupid

Traffic Light: So’s most of the world’s population, but you don't see me talking shit to passersby on the street

Traffic Light: I call it minding my own business, isn't it wonderful

Me: ...chill

Traffic Light: I have none

Me: evidently

Me: one can tell just by looking at your hair

Me: which i like a lot actually :)

Traffic Light: Why thank you my friends keep telling me to change it because I look like an overgrown carrot

Traffic Light: And that's exactly why I've kept it this way

Me: you jokester you

Me: i saved your number as ‘traffic light’ btw

Traffic Light: Honoured

Me: I wonder how George is doing

Traffic Light: HAHA I don't

Me: ruthless

Me: heartless

Traffic Light: You were the culprit, not me

Me: were you not the original perpetrator?

Traffic Light: ...guilty

Me: did you cheat him though?

Traffic Light: Of course I did

Traffic Light: He had every right to be angry at me = }

Me:

Though Jungkook replied with a mere “...”, he caught himself beaming ridiculously wide, silly grin stretching across his face and making a seemingly permanent residence there as he glanced up at his reflection in the darkened window panes. He'd almost let a laugh slip out, but snatched it back off his tongue just in time. God, he couldn't even compose himself and keep his cool while texting .

Traffic Light: More importantly, that date :>

Jungkook straightened immediately, spine stiff and muscles tensed, fingers spasming a little and accidentally sending random letters. Great. Way to show nervousness even behind the safety of screens and distance.

Me: sfhsd

Traffic Light: Do I read that as… yes…?

Jungkook could picture the bemused smile in his mind and everything became so much clearer in an instant.

Me: definitely

Me: when and where?

Traffic Light: I was thinking… maybe around four?

Traffic Light: What do you think of skydiving?

Me: what do i think of WHAT?

Traffic Light: Too soon? Damnit I really wanted to go but everyone's always busy as

Me: uh… you could just go by yourself?

Traffic Light: But I'm scared of heights?

Jungkook blinked and started laughing, loudly and freely, alone in his bedroom, chest lighter than air. He could fall in love with this boy, he really could.

~

In the end, they did not go skydiving (although now that the idea had been introduced, Jungkook couldn’t help but feel a bit of inclination towards it - he’d always liked bungee jumping and the like after all), but agreed to meet at a nondescript café. Jungkook couldn’t help but feel a little underwhelmed at the prospect at first, seeing as well, he was a millionaire. He hadn’t stepped foot into a café in a long time. Jungkook scrolled through his texts, reading them again for the nth time, still grinning all the while.

Me: a… café?

Traffic Light: Not good enough for you, Ace?

Traffic Light: I forgot, the filthy rich dine on platters made of gold

Me: shut up you’re rich too

Me: rich enough to buy vertus because you think their names are funny

Traffic Light: I have nothing to say in my defense

Traffic Light: Then what, would you like me to take you to Vegas? I mean gladly but I don’t know about you, that’s a little over for a first date don’t you think?

Me: no i would not like you to take me to vegas -.-

Me: and cafés are fine cafés are great

Me: i was just

Me: i mean i haven’t been to a café in ages

Traffic Light: Well we need to change that don’t we

Traffic Light: Let me reintroduce you to the wonders of simple cookies and too sweet coffee

Traffic Light: Dress casual, Ace

Traffic Light: Don’t intimidate the commonfolk with dazzling pressed suits and hundred dollar ties =}

Me: did you see me wear a suit -.-

Traffic Light: No but I want to

Traffic Light: Bet you’d look hot ;*

And that was around the point where Jungkook had to throw down his phone and fan his face.

And now here he was, Friday afternoon, reading through his texts with a stupid grin on his face instead of getting dressed for his first date in years. He’d done nothing all day except text Taehyung, and somehow they’d gone from talking about suits to what type of cereal they would fight someone for (Jungkook found out that Taehyung ate cereal at around three in the afternoon a lot more often that he’d expect, well, anyone to), to whether fish knew what they looked like (Taehyung argued that surely they would have never seen a reflection of themselves, since they lived underwater, and “ because they’re pretty dumb, I mean look at their stupid faces and open mouths, you can basically hear the ‘blub blub’ just by looking at them ”), to who tested “new and improved” dog food (dogs, Jungkook answered quite logically, but Taehyung said that dogs didn’t understand what “new and improved” even meant, and their opinions on taste were not to be accounted for seeing as they’d eat anything from newspaper to old shoes), to their favourite Kardashian (Khloe, no argument), to what you’d be feeling if you worked in a dildo factory (they didn’t come to a conclusion on this), to how many pairs of socks you’d have to wear at once until they felt as heavy as boots (Taehyung said quite firmly, six pairs. Why specifically six pairs Jungkook had no idea and he pointed out that different socks have different thicknesses and weights so that could be a completely generalised statement… and they didn’t come to a conclusion on this either). It was… a long, wild, strange and completely directionless, pointless conversation, but Jungkook loved every second of it. He hadn’t talked this much for so long to someone - he hadn’t enjoyed talking this much for so long to someone since before he could remember. And he could feel himself falling bit by bit, more and more for Taehyung’s humour, his wit and his unexpected, random flares of passion and enthusiasm about the mildest of subjects, like why tennis balls have that white indented line on them. He could feel himself falling more and more with each text, and he was loathe to set his phone down for even a second, which led to his current predicament of having to hurriedly focus on his date. Which meant picking an outfit to wear.

It was ridiculous, really. Jungkook’s “casual” was pretty typical, but here he was, pacing and tugging relentlessly at his hair in front of his wardrobe. His wardrobe was the size of an average household’s kitchen, stuffed full of clothes any self respecting teenage boy would secretly yearn for, yet he suddenly realised first hand why girls tended to say “I have nothing to wear” a lot. He contemplated calling Jimin as he just paced and paced, shirtless and tossing discarded items of clothing here and there. He couldn’t be too dressed up, for obvious reasons but especially since Taehyung expected him to “dress casual”. But he’d been dressing casual at the casino, and Taehyung had never seen him wear anything formal, right? Unless his casual was still super flashy and expensive looking to other people? Couldn’t be, right?

But he also couldn’t just throw on a hoodie and some random pair of jeans, he wanted to look good , and he also wanted to give a good impression.

And of course, right now absolutely nothing he owned looked good on him.

Jungkook gave a shout of frustration and raked his hands through his poor hair, picking up his phone and tapping Jimin’s number, slamming the phone against his ear like it was the sole reason he couldn’t even decide on what clothes to wear to a café. Jimin picked up on the fourth ring.

“Jungkook?”

“Jimin I need your help.” Jungkook bit out tersely, and there was a bit of a pause at the end of the line.

“…Woah Jungkook, are you alright? You asking me for help can only mean you’re lying in a ditch somewhere with two broken limbs and need to go to the hospital immediately.” Jimin’s voice was hushed, practically wafting mockery and gloating smugness and Jungkook just stopped a sigh from escaping.

“Shut up, hurry up and come over otherwise I really will need to go to the hospital soon.”

“Why…? Are you actually not okay?”

“Heart problems.” Jungkook hung up after that, crossing his arms and regarding his wardrobe with the air an average man might give to a mortal enemy. He briefly registered in his head that that was the first time he’d spoken to Jimin in months. And Jimin sounded… happier. For some reason. But Jungkook didn’t dwell on it, focusing on the problem at hand.

“Why are you standing there fuming at your clothes like they’ve shamed your family honour? Put on a shirt, Red Ape , aren’t you cold?” Jimin greeted him cheerily, sauntering in and plonking down on Jungkook’s bed.

“Nice one.” Jungkook muttered listlessly, not looking up and not moving from his position, dragging his eyes over his clothing choices. Jimin hummed and leaned forward in Jungkook’s peripheral vision.

“So? What help do you need? And why are you looking at your clothes like they’ve offended you?” Jimin prompted, calling out from the main area of the bedroom, and Jungkook exhaled slowly, deflating a bit and feeling little tremors of nerves surface and prick at his senses as he turned and walked slowly to his bed, dragging his feet and falling bodily face down on the covers, letting out a garbled noise of frustration. He heard Jimin laugh above him and felt a hand pat the back of his neck, rubbing a little in a genial, friendly gesture that Jungkook dimly registered that had been a foreign thought as of late.

“What happened?”

“I got a date.” Jungkook all but grumbled, voice muffled by the covers and he could practically hear Jimin’s surprise from up above him.

“And that’s… a bad thing? Are they that bad… already? Do you need me to bail you out?” Jimin asked slowly, amusement seeping in his tone with every word and Jungkook scowled, sitting up and shaking his hair. Jimin had an eyebrow raised, looking at him as if listening to a crudely fascinating yet piteous anecdote - and Jungkook guessed that’s what it was.

“He’s… I met him in the casino yesterday and he’s so… God, Jimin he’s so hot.” Jungkook groaned and let his head fall to rest on Jimin’s shoulder who shook a little from evidently holding back laughter and Jungkook’s pitiful state, but he patted Jungkook’s head anyway, obviously trying for being considerate.

“And that’s a problem? Let me guess, he’s a ten and all that’s on your mind right now is some sweet sex, but he’s a prude that needs all the fussy romance episodes before you’re going to get any? Or is his personality like a… three.” Jimin speculated in an awfully mild, innocent tone and Jungkook briefly wondered whether he was going to hell first, or Jimin. He lifted his head and shook it adamantly, running a hand over his face. The cool air on his bare skin was starting to sting a bit, and it reminded him that he needed to be on a date in… less time than he was comfortable with for preparation both appearance-wise and mentally.

“That’s the problem though, he doesn’t seem to care much for romantic foreplay and emotional constipation but I’m the one who wants to hold hands and shit. And his personality… at this point I’d give it an eleven.” Jungkook explained slowly, scowl still fixed on his face and Jimin sat back a little, regarding him a little warily.

“So. Where’s the catch?”

“I’m fucked, man. Everything I see is pink and I want to fucking break out in song every time I think about his smile. It took me around two hours to send a text the first time, and since like, nine last night we’ve texted so much I can’t even scroll back up to the top - my phone crashes , Jimin, and now I’m fucking agonising over what I’m going to wear. ” Jungkook concluded half flatly, half despairingly, and Jimin clearly took pity on him and opted not to laugh, even though Jungkook could see that he was visibly trembling from the effort of biting back laughter, face twisting a bit. Jungkook sighed. “You can laugh at me.”

Jimin burst into bright, raucous, almost crazed laughter, eyes squeezing shut and mouth open wide, wrapping his arms around his middle to steady himself, evidently. Jungkook continued to burn a hole into the wall with his glare.

“You- you have to understand how,” Jimin gasped between giggles, wiping a bit at his eyes, smile wide and genuine, and Jungkook couldn’t help but smile a little as well. “-how funny this is. Because it’s you.”

Jungkook feigned discontentment, folding his arms and drawing his brows in a frown. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Because you’ve had more one night stands that I can be bothered keeping count of, and you’ve broken so many fickle female hearts at bars because you’re all suave, charming Mr Cool Guy that’s loaded and isn’t into commitment, yet you’re like… like this , like a schoolgirl dealing with her first crush, over some guy you met last night.” Jimin explained matter of factly, grinning obnoxiously all the while and Jungkook didn’t even have anything to counter with, because it was true. Jimin straightened a bit, evidently having thought of something. “Wait, I thought you were straight?”

“...Me too.” Jungkook sighed wistfully, and Jimin just laughed again, obviously finding this whole ordeal hilarious. Well, if their positions had been swapped, he’d find it hilarious too.

“Congratulations, but well, why don’t you have a shirt on yet? Don’t you have a date?” Jimin grinned and Jungkook raised an eyebrow.

“I told you I’m agonising over what to wear-”

“No, I meant why don’t I have you in a shirt yet? What else did you call me over for other than an unforeseen outfit crisis?” Jimin replied knowingly and Jungkook couldn’t help but break into a grin as well, slapping him on the back and thanking the skies above for his wonderful friend.

“So, what’s the problem? Where are you going? What on earth are you going for that can’t even be found in this treasure chest you call a wardrobe?” Jimin asked, cocking his head to the side as he poked around Jungkook’s drawers of t-shirts and caps. Jungkook shrugged offhandedly, determined to keep his mortification at this rather unmanly side of him to himself.

“We’re just… just going to a café. I don’t need to wear anything fancy, obviously, it’s just that nothing looks good… right now…” Jungkook’s voice dwindled to a mumble towards the end, as his cheeks burned and he had to glance away from Jimin’s incredulous, amused stare.

“I will never let you live this down. Since when did you think that none of your clothes look good? You care a lot about appearance, sure, but that’s why it takes you like ten years just to buy one shirt, God knows how you have so many. There’s actually no chance anything you own doesn’t look good on you.” Jimin pointed out mildly, and Jungkook struggled to come up with an appropriate response to that.

“I- thanks.” Jungkook muttered curtly and Jimin turned to him, looking him up and down with an appraising eye.

Jimin hummed a little, thoughtfully. “You don't want to look like you dressed up, I'm guessing. But in all honesty, I don't know why you couldn't have figured this out yourself, you could just go in a hoodie and sweatpants and you'd probably still turn heads.”

“Okay, stop, this is getting weird.” Jungkook held up a hand but Jimin just raised his eyebrows, turning back to the rack of jackets and sweaters he was sorting through.

“It's true. You're pretty hot, you know? No matter what you wear. Don't worry, that guy will be head over heels the moment you step into the room. Oh yeah, what kind of guy is he? What's his name?” Jimin asked as he picked out a slim white sweatshirt with some sort of black design on the front that Jungkook honestly couldn't remember seeing before (disadvantages of having too many clothes… he forgot about many of them) and a pair of black skinny jeans with metallic grey strips down the sides. Where had Jimin even fished them out from? Jungkook didn't even know he owned them.

“Uh… He's pretty distinguishable, I guess.”

Jimin sent him a sharp grin. “Other than being smoking hot?”

Yes other than that. He has bright orange hair. He got nicknamed ‘traffic light’ by a sore loser at the casino. He's called-” Jungkook started in a huff but Jimin stilled and interrupted him, a curiously blank expression wiping his face clean of any sign of amusement. Jungkook wondered if he imagined the slight drop in temperature, a subtle chill drawing around Jimin.

“Bright orange hair?” Jimin echoed a little quietly and Jungkook nodded slowly, eyebrow raising a fraction. Was there something wrong with that? Sure, it sounded weird, but Jimin hadn't seen how good Taehyung looked with it.

“What?”

“...Oh, it's just… Orange hair, huh. The person… It must be h-” Jimin replied haltingly, hesitantly, eyes strangely shadowed, voice thin, but before Jungkook could think much more on Jimin’s questionable reaction, his phone buzzed and he all but leapt over to go check it, seeing a text from Taehyung.

Traffic Light: You know where it is, right? You don't need a ride or anything?

How nice of him. Jungkook was smiling inadvertently again and he had to physically concentrate to keep a straight face.

Me: nah i got it :)

Me: i’ll see you soon traffic light = ]

Traffic Light: You’re starting to appreciate the beauty of = }

Me: …no not quite

Traffic Light: One day I'll make something out of you yet

Me: i’m sure

Me: gotta go get ready to leave, i’ll think of overgrown carrots when i’m looking for you

Traffic Light: See you = } =} =}

Jungkook hastily went back over to Jimin, aware that his cheeks were an unattractive shade of red and accepting the offered items of clothing silently, refusing to look at Jimin’s knowing, amused gaze.

As he was about to leave, hair brushed down and presentable, earrings in, shoes on, phone and wallet in hand, Jimin called out from the doorway to his room.

“Is he a hustler too?”

Jungkook paused, frowning a little at the… strangeness of the question that he couldn't quite place his finger on, and turned his head a little to answer.

“Yeah.”

~

Chapter Text

 

The café Taehyung picked out was smack in the middle of a moderate sized town centre, not too small but not eye catching either. Jungkook walked a bit more briskly than he’d’ve liked, away from his car and away from the few idle, curious stares thrown his way. He'd taken his much cheaper, much more modest looking car today, but anyone with eyes could tell it was still at least double the cost of the cars parked beside it.

Throughout the entire car ride there had been a vague, subtle sense of foreboding, or unsettlement drifting around Jungkook’s thoughts like gauze. Something about Jimin’s question rang with the jarring edge of a warning, but Jungkook couldn't decide on exactly what about that interaction left him probing out from his mind, attempting to brush against the thin, fluctuating layer on unease, to try and locate the core, the root of it. And then he realised what it was. He and Jimin hadn't seen each other in a few months, and considering that, they got along easily, comfortably, just as they'd been before, as if there hadn't been a day when they'd been apart.

But they had been, and if Jungkook used to think there was a slight distance between them because he didn't know much about Jimin in all honesty, the period of silence over the few months had only served to widen that gap. Jungkook hadn't sensed it until he'd said Taehyung had bright orange hair. He couldn't read Jimin’s expression, whether he'd been annoyed, angry, worried, upset or whatever it was, but he knew Jimin hadn't been happy, and had been awfully subdued, that much he could tell. A very suspicious, strange reaction to hearing what Jungkook’s date’s hair was like. It was almost as if Jimin had realised something, and resigned himself because of it. But what had Taehyung’s hair got to do with Jimin?

If Jungkook thought about it, the entire interaction had been a bit strange. Something… something had been strange, off. It was almost as if Jimin was purposefully avoiding the subject of cards, of BigHit and anything to do with it. Like he didn't want anything to do with it, and wanted to pretend he wasn't talking to one of the seven biggest players of one of Seoul’s biggest gambling houses.

Jungkook didn't even realise he'd stepped inside the café before he felt knuckles rap against his forehead twice, sharply, as if knocking on a door. He recoiled, swearing and instinctively lifting a hand to shield himself from the unexpected attack.

“Ow what the fu- oh- oh, hey, Taehyung.” Jungkook’s scowl slipped off his face as he was met with Taehyung’s handsome, grinning face. He was even more stunning in daylight, with the little, plain café as his backdrop. If he'd seemed to have stolen the sunlight as his own last night, now it was like he shared his light with the sun, lighting up the entire room with his bright smile. Maybe because in daylight, inside a little café out on the streets, he seemed so much more real, not just another fantastical open secret belonging to dark rooms and seas of cash. The thought was oddly… warm to Jungkook, for though he frequented the casino as if he'd been born and raised there, he couldn't help but feel alienated from it all at times.

Jungkook reached out to brush a few strands of bright orange hair out of Taehyung’s pretty eyes and smiled back, small but genuine. Before Taehyung could speak, evidently following up on the uncalled for physical greeting, Jungkook held up a hand, grinning and beating him to it.

“Let me guess, ‘anyone home’?” Jungkook grinned and Taehyung’s lips curved sharply, gesturing for Jungkook to follow him to a little table for two nestled in the corner of the café, right beside the wall length window.

“Guesswork or a read?” Taehyung asked, amusement lightening his tone and Jungkook kept his content sigh at the sound of Taehyung’s voice inside. Jungkook grinned again, feeling wonderfully, amazingly warm, comfortable, like he was at home. But his house had never felt like home to him like this inconspicuous café did, at this little table sitting opposite Taehyung.

“Maybe I just know you so well our thoughts lie as one.” Jungkook offered lightly, smile widening as Taehyung blinked, eyes flying open almost as if he was startled, a smile gracing his face as if it took him by surprise. He folded his arms theatrically and nodded firmly, brows scrunched as though he was passing approval on an important subject. Cute, Jungkook couldn't help but think.

“I like that answer better. What a romantic line, I'm duly impressed and wooed, well done. Did you come up with that on the spot? But anyhow, so why were you looking so lost in thought? You wandered in here so aimlessly I was wondering whether you’d totally forgotten about today and came by on accident. Which would be a big offense, by the way. I like to think I'm unforgettable in every sense of the word. A charm of mine.” Taehyung declared almost… childishly, speaking a lot faster than he had at the casino, continuous stream of words making Jungkook wonder whether his mind ever paused for a rest. He'd certainly considered the idea as they'd been texting, what with texts, both short and long being fired at him nonstop, abrupt changes of topics leaving his head spinning, but now he wondered whether Taehyung maybe didn't need to breathe.

“Oh that's just…” What had Jungkook been thinking about? Couldn't have been relevant or significant in any way, not when Jungkook could focus on better, more important things. Like how fluffy and soft and cute Taehyung looked in that sweater. “Nothing much. But more importantly, do you have like… an alter persona? In the casino I mean.”

“Now what on earth do you mean by that?” Taehyung asked lightly, slight smile hinting on the corners of his lips, cupping his face in his propped up hand, soft looking sweater sleeve curling around his knuckles and hiding all but his fingertips. Jungkook tried to ignore the chanting of “ cute cute cute ” in his head and focus on the question. Taehyung tilted his head a little as he gazed at Jungkook patiently.

“Just… You were confident and seemed like… really sharply self assured and smooth, I mean not that you aren't now, but like…” Jungkook tripped over his words clumsily and Taehyung didn't speak, raising his eyebrows and smiling, amusement dancing in his gaze. Jungkook sighed audibly, internally hitting himself and trying again. “Well basically, I wanted to fuck the you I met yesterday in the casino, and I want to hold hands with the you right here and now. Because you have a really different… air and character from last night.” Yes, okay, that wasn't too bad.

Taehyung’s eyebrows shot up past his fringe line and he burst out laughing, leaning back a bit and lifting his hands partially upwards as if covering his mouth but deciding against it halfway. It was endearing and Jungkook was fucked. A few people turned to glance their way at the sudden burst of bright laughter and Taehyung didn't seem fazed in the slightest even as Jungkook reddened from reasons he couldn't fathom, avoiding meeting the curious stares. He wasn't embarrassed from what he said, no, that was the truth, it was just…

“What inappropriate words for a respectable café such as this one. In broad daylight! Straightforward, too. I like that.” Yes, exactly that. Taehyung’s grin cut across his face, wide and suggestive, a gleam brightening his eyes, amusement battling with interest. Jungkook shrugged, trying for nonchalance, and Taehyung arched his eyebrows, grin widening further.

A café worker came to their table and placed two coffees down, one in front of Taehyung and one in front of Jungkook. Jungkook raised an eyebrow, glancing down at it and blinked in surprise as he saw it was his usual.

“You ordered for me?” Jungkook asked rather pointlessly, but it was more reflexive than anything else. He still wasn't quite used to anyone buying him anything, and of course that included drinks. Of course he could afford this entire café, it was just… knowing that, but still paying for him… It was a very simple gesture from Taehyung but Jungkook found it nice anyway. Taehyung nodded very seriously, face blank and eyes wide, as if to say, of course I did, why wouldn't I ?

“You did tell me yesterday that you take your coffee black. No sugar, no milk, no cream, no flavour, no nothing. Bland. Boring.” Taehyung stuck out his tongue, squinting a little at Jungkook who snorted, also not quite used to anyone criticising his coffee choice. He used to drink long blacks back when he first discovered coffee because he thought it made him look tough and cool, now he just drank it because he liked it.

“And you drink… that shit.” Jungkook gestured dismissively at Taehyung’s coffee, a mocha by the looks of it. Almost overflowing with whipped cream and Jungkook could smell the… abundant amount of sugar from where he was. A quite. Childish drink. Jungkook supposed he was seeing a different side to Taehyung today. Or maybe this was the real Taehyung. It didn't matter either way, because he was only falling more and more.

Taehyung sniffed. “And what have you got against my coffee?”

“I feel like I'm going to get a heart attack just looking at it.” Jungkook replied smartly and Taehyung narrowed his eyes at him, something like challenge sparking in his stare and he took a stirring spoon and flicked some of the cream onto Jungkook’s face. Jungkook gasped (though he wouldn't like to admit it) and contorted his features into mock outrage, feeling the blob of cream slide down his cheek a little.

“You do not want to start a food war with me. Especially in public. I can pay for damages to this property but I'd prefer not to.” Jungkook warned very seriously but Taehyung just laughed, reaching out to wipe the cream off Jungkook’s cheek with a swipe of his thumb and all Jungkook’s thoughts were cut short. A very typical, cute and playful gesture but Jungkook had a feeling he wasn't going to get that easy end of the deal. Taehyung’s eyes suddenly darkened, gaze sharpening and dropping down to Jungkook’s lips as he placed his thumb on his lower lip, dragging it down a little and edging his thumb past Jungkook’s teeth into his mouth. Jungkook’s stomach dropped along with his stare, heart stuttering and eyes widening, feeling his cheeks grow warm as Taehyung kept his dark, burning stare fixed on Jungkook’s eyes, slipping his thumb in further to nudge Jungkook’s tongue, which almost instinctively curled up to lick the cream off, making Taehyung’s eyes glaze for a tiny fraction of a second. It suddenly felt very, very hot in that café. Taehyung’s thumb lingered, and Jungkook was reluctant to dislodge it, awkwardly swallowing and speaking carefully.

“It's- it's very… sweet. As expected.” Jungkook spoke haltingly, mind focusing on anything but the cream right then, swallowing again with difficulty. He tried to say something normal, as if Taehyung’s stare wasn't scorching through his entire body, as he just stared at him, saying nothing. “It's… pretty disgusting, I don't understand how you can drink it.”

“I've been told my come tastes sweeter. Tastes better, too.” Taehyung replied without missing a beat, with a completely straight face, without even a single twitch and Jungkook inhaled almost painfully sharply, just barely avoiding biting off Taehyung’s nail. Taehyung seemed to anticipate such a reaction and drew his hand back, breaking into a devilish grin, laughing at Jungkook’s expression.

“T-Taehyung.” Jungkook stuttered, heart threatening to leap out of his mouth, blood rushing down south at the unexpected, unnecessary statement, and Taehyung regarded him a little thoughtfully, grin not wavering for a second. Jungkook took an unsteady sip of coffee to try and anchor his thoughts to something other than wondering how sweet Taehyung’s come actually was, and Taehyung leaned forward a little, resting his elbows on the table.

“You sound really hot when you say my name. Bet you'd sound better moaning it.” Taehyung murmured softly, pleasantly, and Jungkook couldn't stop the small spray of coffee escaping his lips. He swallowed quickly, coughing explosively as his throat rebelled against the burn, heart racing and blood pressure skyrocketing. He held up a hand as Taehyung moved as if to help him somehow, and once he was satisfied that he'd donated all his organs to the café’s floor via his mouth, he straightened, cheeks burning and gaze flicking from one thing to another, unable to keep still. People were staring again and Jungkook blushed a darker red, hoping for the love of any God up there, and for the peace of this respectable little establishment, that nobody heard that. Taehyung was going to give him a heart attack.

“You- fuck, we’re in a café, you know?” Jungkook hissed as he hastily wiped the mess of his spat out coffee off the table top and Taehyung leaned back again, all smiles and sunshine and he sipped at his coffee.

“I'm aware. I invited you, you know.” Taehyung pointed out mildly and Jungkook half wanted to hit his head against the wall, half wanted to just get on his knees right then and there and suck dick. More specifically, Kim Taehyung’s dick. Now this was a very, very strange thought seeing as Jungkook had never done so before, he hadn't even entertained the thought before.

“What would you do if I gave you a blowjob right now?” Jungkook voiced his thoughts aloud because damn, if that was how they were going to play, Jungkook wasn't about to admit defeat just yet. Taehyung’s eyebrows shot up again and he drank half of his coffee in one go, flicking his tongue around to lick off cream around his lips and Jungkook wanted to groan at the sight.

“I would buy a lottery ticket and bet half a million on a random pair of cards that I have no clue of knowing the values of, because that's how lucky I’d feel.” Taehyung replied after a moment of contemplation, eyelashes lowering, lips stretching in a dangerous smile, and Jungkook scoffed. Lucky? As if Taehyung couldn't tell that Jungkook would probably beg at this point.

“Shameless.” Jungkook muttered and Taehyung just smiled as if it was a pleasing title to bear, and Jungkook despaired at how cute and small and soft Taehyung looked just before the coffees came. Fuck the coffees. Jungkook had issues to attend to. He sure hoped they weren't leaving anytime soon, one because he wanted to keep talking to Taehyung, even if it put him in mortal danger, two because well, he couldn't stand up right now. He didn't exactly have a jacket or bag he could cover his crotch with.

“So, when you said you were fine with doing the do yesterday, but not so much today,” Taehyung spoke conversationally, as though they were discussing their favourite seasons or something not quite so… R rated. “Have you changed your mind now?”

“You successfully directed all my thoughts towards sex and I'm horny as fuck. Congratulations, all I can think about is ripping your clothes off.” Jungkook used every ounce of his willpower to keep his tone even, measured, calm and unaffected, but even so it came out a little thin. Taehyung obviously thought so too, grinning in amusement and tilting his head a little.

“I did try, thank you. So do you want to get out of here and get down to it?” Taehyung suggested, all brisk and business and Jungkook couldn't help but think that he didn't want the sun to set just yet.

“Uh… Could we… stay here? For a bit more? Just… well, neither of us have finished our coffee… and this is… not bad…” Jungkook mumbled almost incomprehensibly, it was a miracle Taehyung understood him at all. Taehyung raised an eyebrow, peering a little dramatically at him.

“I'm sorry, are we a bit slow on the uptake? This isn't even about signals, the green light’s given the go since about eight sentences ago. Small talk and breaking the ice isn't exactly necessary after you just admitted to being horny as fuck.” Taehyung spoke slowly, mockingly but his light, easy smile took away any bite and Jungkook snorted, frowning a bit at him.

“Would you believe it if I said I like talking to you? Like this? I mean sure, I'd love talking to your dick up close too, but… I dunno, talking to you makes me feel… lighter I guess. Happy.” Jungkook trailed off towards the end, resigning himself to the reddened fate of his traitorous cheeks and instead focused on studying Taehyung’s reaction carefully.  Taehyung’s mouth opened just a little, like he hadn't given it permission to, and he closed it again, eyes wide and searching, as he obviously absorbed this and turned it over in his mind. His expression was blank and his gaze both soft and calculating, and after a brief moment of silence in which Jungkook kind of wanted to strangle himself, a small, soft smile appeared on Taehyung’s face, and Jungkook swore he could see a faint dusting of pink on his cheekbones. He counted it a grand victory and barely stopped himself from doing a fistpump. Taehyung reached out and rested his wrist on the tabletop, fingers lifted and outstretched and Jungkook stared dumbly for a second before realising and he quickly moved his hand up on the table as well and slotted his fingers between Taehyung’s slowly, carefully, heart hammering all the while. Taehyung didn't tighten his grip or really link their fingers, but kept Jungkook’s hand in that light hold and Jungkook thought he might never want to take his hand back again.

“Well that's- that’s the first time someone’s said that to me.” Jungkook didn't miss the way Taehyung stumbled a little over his words, tone wavering just a tiny bit, just a little bump, and wanted to serenade the entire world for everything that happened in his life that led up to this moment. Taehyung shook himself a little, eyes brightening and grin widening. “Getting a bit heavy on the emotions here, aren't we? Careful, you might fall in love with me at this rate and this is only the first date.”

Jungkook didn't have anything to say to that, but all he thought was yes, he just might. And as frightening an idea as that was, as ridiculous an idea as that was, considering he knew what Taehyung’s thoughts on belt loops were but he didn't even know his age or what he did, or anything about him really, it was equally thrilling and addictive. Taehyung was addictive, his smile and laugh was addictive, his voice and charm and the taste of his lips. And Jungkook was going to spend a long time getting to know Taehyung, but that was okay, because even though he'd met Taehyung only yesterday, he knew he wanted to be around Taehyung for an even longer time. Because nothing had ever made him smile like Taehyung’s laughter had.

And of course, at the time Jungkook didn't know the consequences of falling for him.

~

“So,” Jungkook spoke, swinging his hand that clasped Taehyung’s by their sides as they walked slowly down the streets drowned in golden as the sun set behind them, a pleasant, calm atmosphere blanketing the scene and an easy air surrounding them. It was after five, now, and the curved street lamps were begin to flicker with light, and their shadows began to stretch out longer across the footpath. A few people passing had given them looks ranging from curious to dirty, to horrified, because well, boys holding hands . Jungkook was certain he'd heard a lady mutter “you're going to hell” as she passed, but he couldn't bring himself to care, not when Taehyung didn't pull his hand back, expression blank and serene like the stares and words rolled off his back like water off a duck. He'd already been cursed to hell by almost a hundred different men and women at the casino, what difference would one more condemnation make? Taehyung turned his head to glance at him and Jungkook gestured vaguely down at their hands. “I'm straight, you know?”

“… Ouch .” Taehyung blinked and replied after a moment of silence, but he didn't draw his hand back and neither did Jungkook. Jungkook smiled, turning his head away from Taehyung’s thankfully curious eyes, gazing at the lampposts starting to flicker with light.

“Just… I've only ever been interested in girls.” Jungkook continued conversationally and Taehyung slowly, deliberately looked down at their hands, and back up again.

“Evidently.” Taehyung countered and Jungkook laughed, curling his fingers a little to get a better grip.

“Just thought you should probably know.” Jungkook shrugged and Taehyung grinned, turning his head to look forward as well, and Jungkook could see golden specks of light reflecting off his hair through the corner of his eye, the bright orange hair looking like a blaze of fire.

“Oh, don't worry, I could tell from the moment you looked at me. Let me perform a magic trick and read your mind at the time. ‘Oh Jesus, this boy is so attractive I don't know what to do with myself, but wait, hang on, this is a boy I don't think boys are attractive do I? But oh well I think this one is and I'm too far gone to think too much about fickle things like my sexuality’. Am I close?” Taehyung asked mildly and Jungkook snorted, giving a light laugh, chest warm, heart singing.

“Spot on. You must have experience.”

“That I do. All the confused, nervous little boys that come up to me all ready for some harmless experimenting , but of course with hurried explanations of ‘but I'm not gay!’ tend to see the light after one night with me. Men are much more straightforward, they just say hey and say I have a nice ass and would we like to fuck.” Taehyung spoke almost dreamily, blissfully and Jungkook couldn't help but burst out laughing, at the seriously reminiscent look in Taehyung’s eyes, at his ridiculous words. God, he was so far gone. Taehyung grinned, a sharp, smooth thing, and glanced at Jungkook.

“I've made many a straight boy gay. I could make you gay, too. It's fun, I promise.” Taehyung offered far too innocently and Jungkook leaned over to kiss his jaw quickly, softly, and grinned.

“I’d love to take you up on that offer.” Jungkook let his eyes drift downwards a bit before snapping back up to meet Taehyung’s gaze, who stopped abruptly, hand tugging at Jungkook who also paused, turning to him in confusion.

“But first, do you want to go out with me?” Taehyung asked suddenly, tone just verging on serious, blank but light, eyes steady. At Jungkook’s surprised expression he spoke again with a small smile. “As in, date me, be my boyfriend, kiss me under the moonlight etcetera.”

Jungkook processed this, eyes widening slowly, hardly believing his luck. For real? From his words Jungkook had thought Taehyung was an easy, fun charmer that played around with many boys and men alike, and he’d thought maybe Taehyung was just looking for a fun night, no strings attached, no hard feelings, just a simple fuck - like Jungkook was prone to look for back in his bar and clubbing days. Jungkook had been disappointed, needless to say, when he thought he'd come to that realisation, but…

“Ah, that surprised you. I had to offer, you know. Even this early into the game. Because you looked so crestfallen and genuinely disappointed when I told you about my sexcapades it tugged at my heartstrings. I could read your thoughts written across your face so clearly. No, you're not just another boy, not just the same as the rest of them, be at ease, Jeon Jungkook. I'm not about to let a fine specimen such as yourself slip through my fingers through miscommunication. So. Be my Prince Charming?” Taehyung asked quietly, softly, face neutral but a warm smile peeking through his eyes and Jungkook felt like maybe this was what falling in love was.

“Sure. I'd like that.” Jungkook answered simply, unable to stop a small smile spreading and Taehyung blinked, as if the swift, easy answer surprised him.

“Just like that? Really? Even though we met yesterday and you know nothing about me? And… You're straight? I thought most straight guys were a lot more conservative about these things. It's a ‘what happens in this room stays in this room’ situation, mostly. I was just… I just felt like I had to ask, but I didn't expect you to say yes.” Taehyung explained slowly, evenly, wide eyes staring owlishly straight at Jungkook, pleased surprise flitting through his warm brown irises. Jungkook stared at the sunset creating a golden glow, a halo around Taehyung’s head, merging with and streaking through his bright orange hair to give the impression that his very being faded off into the sun. He stared at Taehyung’s open, unfiltered and unhindered expression, something akin to wonder darting about his wide eyes and smiled, broad and wholehearted, reflecting the sunshine Taehyung directed his way.

“I discovered last night that I'm pretty flexible. Especially when it comes to pretty boys with beautiful smiles and bright orange hair.” Jungkook replied honestly and Taehyung broke into a breathtaking smile, leaning to press a kiss to Jungkook’s lips, breaking away no longer than a second later, but not moving back, hand dropping Jungkook’s to cup his face.

“You're so adorable, I can't even believe it.” Taehyung whispered and grinned wide, flashing rows of straight white teeth, eyes closed, face centimetres away, like he was a child sharing a secret.

~

“Why are you home ?” Jimin asked rather snidely as soon as Jungkook crossed the threshold, and Jungkook glanced up to see him leaning over the spiral staircase’s railing comfortably, forearms resting against them and calling down from above like this was his house and not Jungkook’s.

“Why are you here ?” Jungkook retorted and kicked his shoes off carelessly, taking the cool, white glass stairs two at a time. Jimin shrugged, turning around in a rolling motion, elbows still propped up against the railing, regarding him with a raised eyebrow.

“Never mind why I'm here, you shouldn't be. You should be somewhere in some fancy ass love motel or in some penthouse suite fucking the poor guy till he can't walk straight right now, what are you doing here? Do not tell me you got dumped after one date, sure you're incorrigible but you're annoyingly good looking and somehow charming enough that a little alcohol and smooth talking can always pave the way for you. Usually they're all over you, what happened today?” Jimin spoke practically all in one breath and Jungkook snorted, taking long, purposeful strides down the spacious corridors and rounding the corner into his bedroom, flopping face first down on the bed for the second time that day. Jimin trailed in behind him and Jungkook heard him sit himself down on the white leather couch a metre or so away.

“I didn't get dumped, don't worry. I've actually got a… a, a boyfriend, now.” Jungkook informed his covers, stumbling over the words and Jimin made an odd strangled noise.

“You what ? You? Have not only gotten into a relationship but with a guy? You've never even had an actual girlfriend before and you were straight up until around five hours ago. And this guy is supposedly so hot even Jeon Jungkook was getting a case of nerves, but you somehow? Didn't? Go home with him to spend a night?” Jimin’s voice oozed disbelief and incredulity and Jungkook had nothing to say in his defence. He paused before replying, turning his head slightly to the side but his eyes remained hidden behind his hair.

“Jimin… Is it possible… to be in love after knowing someone for a day?” Jungkook asked quietly, blankly and Jimin drew in an audible breath, shifting a little.

“With th- uh, well, with who?” Jimin asked a little haltingly and Jungkook wondered whether Jimin could sense the sincerity and trepidation circling about Jungkook’s words, for Jimin’s question was subdued, not disbelieving or ridiculing, but quiet. Jungkook rolled over onto his back, arms laid out at straight angles from his body across the bed as if making an attempt to expand his presence, directing his listless gaze up at the ceiling.

“He's called Kim Taehyung. A regular at BigHit. He has bright orange hair, and an even brighter smile. He's around my height, kept a golden retriever puppy as a kid but had to give it up for adoption because his family moved to Seoul, values food over sleep, raises his hands slightly like he doesn't know what to do with them when he laughs. He once won a pie from the local ahjummas’ baking festival when he was three because he ran into the stall tent and announced that he was hungry, he has a hobby of searching for music nobody else knows of, he looks up to his father as his idol and aspiration. He thinks there are rabbits on the moon and he bought two Vertus because he thought their names were funny. He bought a house on the beach for his parents, he realised he was gay when he was sixteen. He has a low voice and he looks pretty blank if his expression isn't particularly focused towards something. He’s a quick, sharp mind and a quicker and sharper tongue. He likes keeping a fringe and his favourite card is the two of hearts.”

Jimin didn't say anything for a few long moments. Jungkook heard the leather squeaking a little as Jimin shifted and sighed, just barely, just audibly.

“I sure didn't think it was. Possible to fall in love after a day I mean. But maybe… Well. I've never heard your voice like that before, when you're talking about anything. Taehyung… Well he's never told me his favourite card is the two of hearts. I always thought it was the king of spades… or the joker.” Jimin laughed a little, shortly, and Jungkook nodded thoughtfully, before stopping, frowning and lurching upright.

What ?” Jungkook asked incredulously, eyebrows drawn together and eyes wide, to which Jimin just laughed, something like resignation sunk into his tone, though his face stayed impeccably casual, as if daring Jungkook to think any more into it.

“Yes, I know Kim Taehyung, the boy you're going crazy over. In fact, he w- is, my best friend. So are you, but I've just known him a little longer. I haven't seen him much recently, so I… I didn't know he dyed his hair orange. Sounds like a Taehyung thing to do.” Jimin grinned and Jungkook let this sink in, staring at Jimin dumbly. Perhaps he would've noticed something conspicuously off about what Jimin just said, how he tripped a little but no, all he could focus on, as quickly becoming the norm, was Taehyung. He shook himself and lunged forward, clamping his hands on Jimin’s shoulders and shaking him back and forth with more force than probably necessary.

Jimin how come you never told me you had such a hot best friend why didn't you introduce me earlier?” Jungkook all but wailed, shaking Jimin’s with such vigour he barely missed smashing their heads together. Jimin scooted back evidently to avoid bodily damage and shrugged, fiddling with his hair idly.

“You never asked. Besides I didn't exactly take the fact that he's hot into account seeing as you’re straight. Were. Whatever, I can't keep up with all the drastic changes in your life.” Jimin sniffed and Jungkook groaned, irrationally, petulantly jealous over the fact that Jimin knew Taehyung long before Jungkook met him, and they probably had plenty of memories and moments together. Jimin would obviously also be a lot closer to Taehyung, and he'd know much much more about him.

Maybe if Jungkook was thinking straight he’d wonder how come he didn't even know that Jimin had another best friend - in fact he didn't know anything about any of Jimin’s other friends. He hardly knew anything about Jimin, really. It was as if the concept of Jimin having a life outside of the time he spent with Jungkook didn't occur to him, that Jungkook didn't have a clue who Jimin really was. But as it was Jungkook didn't stop to think about all this and focused instead on the unimportant things.

“Well, tell me about him! He's my- my… my boyfriend, now, after all, yes.” Jungkook stuttered, tongue curling in on itself and Jimin snorted before bursting out laughing and cooing in Jungkook’s face, pinching his cheek and making Jungkook hit him, cheeks warming uncomfortably. Jimin ruffled his hair rather violently, laughing all the while.

“This is fucking hilarious. You can't even say “my boyfriend” without stuttering. Did you flail and stammer and blush your way through the date?” Jimin teased, eyebrow arched and Jungkook shoved him, drawing his expression into a scowl.

“Fuck you. No I did not, actually I was very calm for the most part.” Jungkook retorted and Jimin’s eyebrow twitched.

“Most part?”

“…Yes.” Jungkook replied with a straight a face as he could manage, concentrating on not thinking about Taehyung’s totally unfair and totally uncalled for dirty talk in that café , and hoping Jimin would overlook his twisting, twitching expression. He quickly moved on from the topic. “Well? Tell me about Taehyung.”

Jimin crossed his arms loosely, pursing his lips in thought before speaking. “Hm, well he's two years older than you. He started as an art major in uni but dropped out late last year. He makes a living through… well, gambling, mostly. Like you and me. His favourite colours are-”

“Green, black and white.” Jungkook cut in before he could stop himself, feeling his cheeks redden more and gestured for Jimin to keep going, who gave him a look.

“He likes taking photos and he used to play-”

“The saxophone. Sorry. Continue.”

“Uh, his favourite number is-”

“Ten. He wouldn't say why though. Ah sorry, please carry on.”

“…Done? Um… he's a Capricorn? He was born on December 30th. I think his favourite animal is-”

“The lion.” Jungkook couldn't help but butt in again and Jimin hit his shoulder in annoyance, squinting at him.

“Yah Jungkook! This isn't some speed trivia quiz, let me finish my sentences! Besides it looks like you probably know him better than me at this point.” Jimin raised an eyebrow and Jungkook shifted a little, feeling a bit like an elementary school student getting told off.

“Hardly, I only met him yesterday.” Jungkook muttered and Jimin shrugged, hopping off the couch and stretching.

“Well, love at first sight isn’t impossible. Just didn't think it'd happen to you. Didn't think it'd be Taehyung either. He seems pretty into you by the sounds of it so I better congratulate him.” Jimin made his way out of Jungkook’s room like he owned the place, all lazy strides and relaxed posture and Jungkook frowned a little, falling into step beside him as they walked down the corridor.

“How do you know that?” Jungkook couldn't help but ask, even though it wasn't in his nature to be particularly self conscious or doubt himself. He felt he had to make sure, with Taehyung. Jimin snorted, turning his head to give him a lopsided smile.

“He took you to a café, right? Let's just say that'll probably be the first and last time he behaves nicely and takes you on a normal date. Taehyung’s more into club hopping and the back rooms of bars. The few people he’s actually taken out on dates before have never gotten your treatment. The guy he took to a Wild West themed drag show ran out screaming apparently. He was awfully disappointed; he said he wanted to “ride that bucking bronco from the wild west all the way to the Orient”. The guy was western but not so wild apparently. His words, not mine.” Jimin explained terribly lightly, casually, in such an innocent tone that Jungkook had to repeat the words in his head before they sunk in and he shook his head slowly.

“Oh my God.” Jungkook spoke lowly and Jimin snickered, sliding a glance at him with a devious glint in his eyes.

“Terrible, isn't he?” Jimin grinned and Jungkook let the bubble of air escape from his throat and burst out laughing, trying to imagine Taehyung saying that with a straight face and laughing even harder. How could Jungkook be so lucky, he would never know.

“Point is, if he still hasn't charmed his way into your pants through sometimes unconventional means such as talking so much that the other person gets so confused and fed up they just drop to their knees and get to work - well, I’d say you're pretty special to him.” Jimin continued cheerfully and Jungkook couldn't stop the small smile popping up on to his lips, feeling a little ridiculous at the warm, buzzing, happy feeling floating in his chest at a rather ridiculous statement like that. They stepped down from the staircase and Jimin glanced at his phone screen.

“It's eight. Are you having dinner?”

“Yeah, should be soon. We’re having steak.” Jungkook replied and Jimin smiled appreciatively, nodding his head.

“Sweet, I love steak.” Jimin strode purposefully towards the dining room. Jungkook snorted but followed him, used to Jimin inviting himself to their meals by now. Jungkook paused as a maid rushed past him in a flurry to the front door and opened it, bowing her head down as she did so. Jungkook turned around, a little confused. Who was here that garnered such a reception? And why wasn't he told? Jungkook’s eyes widened as he saw who it was, more than a little shocked and he quickly ran over to him, heart thudding a little.

“...Dad.” Jungkook greeted him a little hesitantly, staring at the harsh, stern lines of his father’s face, that didn't betray any sign of happiness to see him. Even now, after years of this treatment Jungkook still felt his heart sink a tiny bit. He'd last seen his father last Chuseok, around a year ago. His father looked no different than usual, impassive expression fixed in place, tailored, crisp suit on, no nonsense air about him. Maybe his hair was greying a little now. Jungkook couldn't be sure since he didn't see him often, so he couldn't really remember how much his hair had greyed since Chuseok. Despite himself, Jungkook found himself hoping his father wasn't wearing himself out, and took care of his body properly. To say his father was a workaholic would be an understatement.

“Jungkook. Good to see the house is still in one piece. Not much partying going on lately, I'm guessing. You bought a new car?” His father stepped into the house, letting his assistant carry his briefcase and coat. Jungkook felt himself halt for a second, eyes widening further and hurriedly catching up to his father's long strides, hardly daring to believe his father just spoke more than ten words to him. And he just asked Jungkook about his car? He was actually expressing interest in something that Jungkook did? Jungkook didn't even mind the barbs beneath his words.

“No, I haven't been partying since I started uni. And yeah- yes, I bought a new car.” Jungkook replied quickly, hastily, having to stop himself from asking if he liked it. He wasn't pushing his luck and hoping that his father would actually have an opinion on it. His father checked his watch like he hadn't heard a word of what Jungkook said but fixed his strong, stone hard stare on him as he looked back up. Jungkook always found himself thinking that his father’s stares seemed really grey, despite him having the dark brown eyes Jungkook inherited.

“It doesn't look too cheap. As far as I know your savings aren’t enough to buy cars as expensive as that one. Where did you get the money from?” His father spoke like he was phrasing a statement rather than a question, tone unyielding as ever but there was something like an edge to it and Jungkook did a double take, snapping his gaze over to his father’s expression, unreadable like always. Was he being… told off? Jungkook had never experienced being scolded before as his father seemed to not want to waste his breath talking to him. As it was, Jungkook was unsure how to respond. Was he supposed to tell the truth here? Would his father be… perhaps angry with him if he said he was a gambler? Jungkook laughed a little at himself internally. Wasn’t he ambitious today.

“I… I started gambling. Like, playing cards at a casino. I’m… sort of a millionaire?” Jungkook stated almost uncertainly and his father’s footsteps halted. Something flashed across his face as he turned to stare at Jungkook. Jungkook found himself holding his breath for some silly reason.

“You started gambling.” His father spoke, and it wasn’t a question. Jungkook kept his gaze as steady as he was able, using his trained poker face to hide how he frantically searched for signs of anger or disapproval on his father’s face. It was a bit strange to think about. Jungkook had to train his poker face… but his father seemed to have been born with it.

“Yes. I’m pretty good at it too.” Jungkook laughed shortly, a little breathlessly, trying his hardest to figure out what his father was thinking but coming up short. It was always so nerve wracking talking to his father, but especially so now that he dabbled in the frowned upon arts of gambling. Did his father care? Perhaps about his reputation, if news of CEO Jeon’s only son frequenting a casino got out.

“You must be, if you can buy cars like that. Ever heard of BigHit?” His father replied tonelessly and Jungkook could hardly believe his luck. Was his father actually continuing the conversation? Instead of getting angry or anything he was actually on the warmer side of an iceberg for once.

“Yes!” Jungkook coughed as he responded a bit too enthusiastically. “Yes, that’s where, well that’s the place I go to. Did you know I’m one of the seven best players there?”

“I didn’t.” His father asked and Jungkook swore he could see the tiniest shadow at the corner of his mouth, that just barely hinted that he could be smiling. Wow. The shadow disappeared as he spoke again. “Do you know the other players?”

“No, I’ve played against one of them but I don’t know the rest of them. I don’t think I’ll get the chance to until I get more recognised. I have to work to be a worthy opponent, you know?” Jungkook laughed a little easier this time and his father’s expression didn’t really change but somehow it seemed less severe than before. His father turned on his heel and walked towards the dining room and Jungkook trailed behind, not sure whether he should say any more. He should count himself lucky just to draw this many words out from his father in one go, he supposed. But, how did his father know Bighit?

Jungkook almost crashed into his father’s back as he stopped very suddenly, and he hastily stepped to the side, gaze falling on Jimin leaning on the back of a chair, having a quiet conversation with one of the maids, laughing a little at something she said. Oh yeah, his father didn’t know Jimin was here. Jimin was a stranger to him so his father would probably be confused as to why he was in his house. Jungkook opened his mouth to explain that Jimin was his friend that he invited here but his father beat him to it.

“What is he doing here?” His father spoke in a cutting tone, loud enough to shatter the quiet, calm atmosphere and though his words were assumedly directed at Jungkook, his unwavering grey stare was trained on Jimin, who whipped around and stared at Jungkook’s father with eyes wider than Jungkook had ever seen. He froze like a deer caught in headlights and Jungkook felt his expression twisting into a frown as he observed the barely noticeable wisps of panic and possibly dread in Jimin’s wide open eyes. What the fuck? He knew his father was pretty intimidating and Jimin was easily scared… but something in his expression was just too raw to make sense.

“He’s my friend, Jimin-” Jungkook started and his father cut him off.

“I know. I want to know what he’s doing in my house.” His father spoke with a tone of steel and Jungkook’s words died on his tongue, his own eyes starting to widen in shock at the sheer animosity in his voice. His eyes darted from his father to Jimin, at them locked in a staredown and bit his lip. What was going on? How did his father know who Jimin was? Had Jungkook ever mentioned it to him? Jimin slowly began to relax, in stiff, halting movements, like ice beginning to crack. His expression dulled down a little, tension bleeding out and he appeared to collect himself, giving a small, weak smile.

“Good evening… Mr Jeon, right? Jungkook invited me over for dinner, I didn’t know you were going to be home, sorry. I’ll go now.” Jimin apologised politely, reserved, and Jungkook was at a complete loss for words as his father turned without another word and stalked out of the room. The ensuing silence was thick and palpable and Jimin didn’t look at him, picking at his sleeve. Jungkook pulled himself together and glanced at Jimin, who looked pretty shaken, and hell, Jungkook would be too if he’d been on the receiving end of that. He’d never heard his father’s voice so dangerously hard before.

“Uh, sorry about that, he’s- well he’s not usually like that… I think.” Jungkook stuttered and Jimin blinked rapidly a few times, shaking his head and offering a stronger smile.

“I don’t think your dad likes me too much. Shame, I was looking forward to finally meeting your mysterious father. I thought he was in America though, why did he suddenly come back?” Jimin spoke airily, eyes glinting with curiosity that was just a touch too sincere and Jungkook stayed silent for a few seconds, just looking at him.

“Jimin, how did you know he was in America?” Jungkook asked quietly, eyes steadily fixed on Jimin’s face. His father had in fact been in America on a business trip. But why would Jimin know that? Jimin blinked, responding naturally but just a second too slow.

“Oh, I think you mentioned it once. Around a couple months ago?” Jimin replied neutrally, nonchalantly, completely normally and Jungkook narrowed his eyes just a fraction. Well… yes, it would’ve been around a couple of months ago. He couldn’t say for sure that he hadn’t told Jimin before. But he had this insistent feeling he couldn't shake off, that he hadn't mentioned it before, and Jimin shouldn't know his father’s whereabouts.

“…I see.” Jungkook said, feeling like he was conceding to something. Jimin grinned, way too carefree for it to be natural and he stuffed his phone in his pocket, making his way out of the dining room.

“I gotta go now anyway, thanks for the steak I didn’t have! Update me on the Taehyung situation.” Jimin called over his shoulder and Jungkook didn’t see him out.

~

Chapter Text

 

Me: hey

Traffic Light: Hey babe ;*

Jungkook blinked, pressing his lips together and feeling his cheeks warm a little. Strictly speaking, he wasn’t a pet name type of person. But he’d make an exception for Taehyung, as he had a feeling he’d do for a lot of things.

Me: get home alright?

Traffic Light: Gosh mother I’m all grown up now I’m not a baby anymore >:(

Traffic Light: And yourself?

Jungkook snorted, rolling his eyes though nobody was there to see.

Me: you’re so -.-

Me: sigh anyway yeah i’m home safe and sound

Traffic Light: Missin u </3

Me: stop

Traffic Light: Never

Me: do not go all clingy girlfriend on me you’ll never see me again

Traffic Light: Ooh assertive I like it ;)

Me: i cannot believe you

Traffic Light: I can’t either

Traffic Light: I mean look at me I’m such a gift

Traffic Light: I’m too good to be true

Me: …i’ll give you that

Traffic Light: You’re my boyfriend

Jungkook’s heart skipped ten thousand beats at the simple message and he smiled involuntarily but he felt a little confused at the abrupt statement.

Me: …yeah?

Me: …?

Traffic Light: Nothing, I just wanted to say that :)

Jungkook dropped his phone to cup his face in his hands, glaring down at his phone screen, as if the intensity of his glare would somehow transfer across cyberspace and get delivered to the awful person on the other side. He couldn’t push down his smile no matter how hard he tried and he gave up, sending a reply as his heart fluttered at the base of his throat.

Me: you’re so sappy

Me: so cheesy i could be in an american pizzeria right now

Traffic Light: But I’m cute and you like it

Jungkook paused. Well. He wasn’t wrong.

Me: sure

Me: anyway you know jimin right? he’s my best friend and he just told me today that he’s friends with you too

Me: isn’t that so weird

Taehyung’s response was significantly slower than usual, as if he was deciding on what he should say, or typing then deleting, then typing then deleting and Jungkook felt a flicker of unease.

Traffic Light: What???? No way!!

Traffic Light: Is that what you expected me to say :P

Traffic Light: It’s a small world sweet Jungkookie get used to it

Traffic Light: Jimin tells me about his “cute friend” sometimes, I’m guessing that’s you then

Me: …wtf jimin why

Me: he said he hasn’t seen you much recently

Me: he seemed a bit weirded out when i said you had bright orange hair

Traffic Light: Aw come on, he should expect it from me by now

There was a bit of a pause.

Traffic Light: And yeah I haven’t seen him much because he stopped going to the casino

Traffic Light: I don’t think his heart was really into it

Traffic Light: Pity but I got a new gambling buddy now = }

Me: you going to bighit tomorrow?

Traffic Light: Yep

Traffic Light: I basically live there

Me: i’ll see you tomorrow then :)

Me: my dad came home all of a sudden

Jungkook paused, wondering whether he should mention the storm clouds that had gathered in the dining room. By the look on Jimin’s face it was a seemingly delicate topic so maybe it wouldn't be appropriate for other people to know. He needed to get the bottom of it, he was itching with curiosity and a vague, fluttery sense of premonition and misgiving.

Me: he got a bit angry earlier i gotta go see what's up

Traffic Light: Your scary CEO dad that went to America like two months ago?? :o

Jungkook felt his heart trip, eyes slowly widening. Taehyung too? Somehow?

Me: ...how did you know he was in america

Traffic Light: ?? You told me about your dad at the café remember? You said he’d be in America for around six months for some business exchange trip

Jungkook blinked, feeling a dizzy rush circulate through his brain as he let himself breathe again. Of course. He was getting paranoid. What would Taehyung know about his father? He'd never even seen him or anything.

Me: right

Me: yes that one

Me: i mean

Traffic Light: LOL how many dads do you have

Me: askdkfjd shut up

Me: k later

Traffic Light: Sweet dreams

Jungkook could practically see the grin from the other side of the conversation and shook himself, setting his phone down determinedly so he wouldn't be tempted to go straight back to texting Taehyung all night.

~

Jimin checked the time on his phone. 8:23pm. Would Yoongi still be at the casino or back at the apartment? It was a Friday night so it was more likely he’d still be at work. He’d text Yoongi to ask him where he was but Yoongi would probably tell him not to come. Jimin smiled humorlessly. If he just went anyway, Yoongi couldn’t exactly tell him to piss off once he was already there. Jimin belonged to the casino as well. He’d taken a cab to get to Jungkook’s, and he could take one to get to BigHit now… but he didn’t particularly want to get there too quickly. He decided to delay the inevitable by walking slowly through the familiar scenery of the busy night of Seoul, the streets bright as day as they were drenched in the piercing glow of streetlights and towering, imposing buildings lit up without rest. The roar of never ending traffic served as nightlong background music, masking insignificant, meaningless sounds like a person’s weary footsteps or quiet sigh, and the crisp, cool air bit at aimless, wandering passersby like Jimin. He drew in a breath of the cold night air through the gaps of clenched teeth, tasting the hints of exhaust and tangy bitterness of leaves scatter across his tongue.

What if Yoongi got mad at him for fucking up? Or worse, what if he was disappointed in him? Would he be annoyed if he had to cover for him? Jimin shook his head. He had plenty time to think about that when he described the situation to Yoongi later. Now that his role wasn’t terribly important anymore with the introduction of a new phase, maybe it wouldn’t really affect anything.

More importantly, he had another thought to weigh on his mind. Why had Mr Jeon come back so soon? Wasn’t he supposed to be in America until the end of the year? Had something happened? What had he come back for? These were questions that had to be addressed, and as quickly as possible. Hopefully it meant nothing, and Mr Jeon just wrapped up his business in America four months earlier than expected. Jimin would have to look into it. The suspicious, utterly confused and wary look on Jungkook’s face flashed through Jimin’s mind and he winced, letting out a sigh. Sorry Jungkook , Jimin thought with wry smile. Your father’s a busy man.

Jimin unlocked his phone and went into his contacts list. He found Jungkook’s number and blocked it.

~

His father left for another business trip just a few days after he'd come back, and busy as he'd been, Jungkook hadn't had the chance to poke at the issue of Jimin. He hadn't spoken to Jimin about it either. Not for lack of trying, but Jimin’s phone had been off every time he'd called. Now if that didn't spell out that something was off here Jungkook was certain nothing would. He would have chased Jimin up on it, but he'd come to the somewhat alarming realisation that he had no idea where Jimin lived. His best friend had somehow turned into a complete enigma in the space of a few months.

Maybe Jungkook avoided the thought that his misgivings had started soon after Jimin had first introduced him to cards. Maybe.

Jungkook couldn't stop thinking about it even as he sat on the plush velvet couch off to the side of the room, a little out of the way of the bursting action of the casino, in the shadow of the… ‘resting area’, he supposed. Although card games were generally played sitting down at a table, it could get unbelievably physically tiring. Especially if you were an excited, fiery, jittery winner like that lady over there splitting his eardrums, Jungkook thought. She was going to lose to the guy sitting to the left of her, maybe in the next round, Jungkook wasn't sure. He bit and worried at his lower lip, running through every single one of his interactions with Jimin for the past few months in his mind, so lost in thought he didn't even see the person coming up to him until warm fingers came under his chin and tilted his head up, leading his vision to bright, curved eyes.

“Let me do that for you.” Taehyung murmured, leaning down to press a kiss to Jungkook’s lips, drawing a sharp intake of breath from Jungkook as he felt teeth bite at his lip gently and tug. All thoughts were wiped clean from his mind as his hands automatically rose to lace his fingers behind Taehyung’s neck, pulling down a little more, body craving more of his touch, his proximity, his scent and taste even as his mind hadn't caught up. The entire casino seemed to disappear as Taehyung bit down just a touch harder, and Jungkook exhaled shakily, feeling the action send a sharp spike of heat to his lower stomach. Taehyung released his lip and kissed him again, and Jungkook could feel him smiling a little. Taehyung gripped his jaw and tilted his head a little forcefully, taking advantage of Jungkook’s lips parting in surprise to slip his tongue past them, sliding his tongue wetly against Jungkook’s own, warm and soft. Jungkook just barely held down a groan and he tugged Taehyung down, practically hauling him onto his lap, fire starting to course through his veins and coil in his lower stomach. Taehyung stumbled a little but ended up straddling Jungkook, firm thighs pressed tight against him and Jungkook did groan this time, the noise swallowed by Taehyung’s invasive tongue, licking into every inch of Jungkook’s mouth, hot and relentless. Taehyung’s fingers crept through Jungkook’s hair, curling and holding on, his lips though insistent, were almost languid, as if he had all the time in the world to kiss Jungkook. He tasted so sweet, so addicting on Jungkook’s tongue and his lips were so incredibly soft Jungkook felt his self control unravelling. Jungkook was suddenly horribly aware of the enticing, inviting heat radiating from Taehyung’s inner thighs and quickly tried to clear away the soft haze that had settled over his mind, pressing a hand against Taehyung’s chest and pushing him back a little so their lips disconnected with a little ‘pop’. He was a little breathless, not only from the kiss but also from the sight of Taehyung’s reddened full lips glistening a little, his eyes shadowed and pupils blown, heady stare fixed on Jungkook with a fiery intensity that had Jungkook blushing slightly - and so it took him a second or two to form words.

“I'm not drunk enough to makeout with you on a couch in public and I'm not sober enough to properly control myself so. Please understand.” Jungkook spoke matter of factly, but an airiness softened his tone into the sound of a sigh, and Taehyung’s lips quirked upwards, fingertips rubbing tiny circles on his scalp before he straightened and stood up in a flash, sitting himself down beside Jungkook on the couch like absolutely nothing happened. Jungkook envied his laid back posture and blank expression. He himself had to do a bit of subtle rearranging and pull his composure together. He quickly swept his eyes over their surroundings but no, everyone was trapped in their crazed euphoria or indignant losses, nobody had been paying any attention their way.

Taehyung smiled at him, bright and innocent. “You had some drinks then?”

“A couple.” Jungkook replied and Taehyung clicked his tongue, hopping to his feet and flashing him a quick grin.

“You started the party without me? Come on, off we go. I'll aim to get you so drunk you'll forget the word “public”.” Taehyung tugged at Jungkook’s arm, who stood and followed obligingly as Taehyung led the way to the closest bar.

“You going to buy me a drink this time?” Taehyung smiled a little mischievously and Jungkook snorted, digging out his wallet from his back pocket as he sat down beside Taehyung.

“Sure thing. Still in a margarita mood?” Jungkook drawled and Taehyung laughed, short but bright, tapping his fingers against the polished black glass of the bar countertop.

“Let's get tequila.” Taehyung replied easily, and Jungkook ordered without another word. Although, really, he didn't need any more alcohol in his system. Taehyung’s very presence was intoxicating enough as it was, and the taste his lips left behind rendered Jungkook dizzy and breathless and feeling really quite drunk. But Taehyung didn't need to know that. Jungkook took a proper look at him as he waited for the drinks, almost wailing at the sharp eyeliner and slim cut blazer tracing the line of his torso, that curved in nicely at what looked like a thin waist, low neckline of the shirt beneath showing off obnoxious collarbones that Jungkook wanted to litter marks all over. He didn't realise he was staring a little compulsively at the protruding bone practically inviting him over to have a taste until Taehyung shifted, laughing a little and propped his chin up on his fist. Jungkook quickly snapped his eyes back up to level with Taehyung’s amused gaze, reddening just slightly at his roguish grin.

“I thought you might like this outfit.” Taehyung stated cheerfully, slowly reaching up to touch the neck of his shirt and tugging it downwards, just a little, with a fingertip. He laughed, a full, rich sound at Jungkook’s expression, and Jungkook couldn't properly focus on his words as his wide eyes were transfixed, glued to the extra centimetre or so of skin Taehyung revealed.

“Uh, yeah… what's that? How do you… mean, that?” Jungkook spoke distractedly, a little breathily, and Taehyung abruptly let go of his shirt and turned to face the bar counter as he took the drinks with a smile and thanks.

“Well, you might've mentioned around two a.m. last last night that you had a thing for collarbones. Totally understandable, by the way. Anyway, all three of the times I've seen you and approached you, you've had this frown stuck in place and eyes fixed elsewhere, looking so lost in thought I considered taking notes at the deep philosophy evidently at work. Is that a concept you're going for?” Taehyung grinned and Jungkook hated to admit it but he went a little pink at that, realising yes, when Taehyung had first come up to him at the bar he'd been focusing on something else, when Taehyung came up to him yesterday at the café he'd been absent minded and distracted and today yet again he'd been showcasing his furrowed eyebrows and an out of it expression. Two of the three times had been because he was thinking about Jimin, now that he thought about it. Jungkook bit at his lip, wondering if he should mention it to Taehyung. After all, Taehyung was his friend too. But maybe… maybe not now, when Taehyung’s expression was relaxed in a happy way, as if he was utterly content just staring at Jungkook.

“My only concept was ‘hot, young, rich and fun bachelor’ till you came along.” Jungkook sniffed and Taehyung broke into a broad, beautiful smile at that, and Jungkook couldn't help but return it, still thinking that it was a rather bizarre thought, that this guy he met two days ago was his boyfriend and he could touch if he wanted to. Taehyung tipped his drink back before answering.

“Your days of freedom and being single and wild are over, I'm afraid. So are mine. Huh, that's weird to think about.” Taehyung mused thoughtfully, resting his hand on Jungkook’s knee and running his thumb over it in circles. He shot Jungkook a quick look, with a subtle smile. “I have a feeling I won't be missing it, though.”

“Stop trying to flatter me, you barely even know me.” Jungkook mumbled, a little awkward and he took a shot to hide his smile. Taehyung hummed, tilting his head and regarding him with wide eyes.

“Maybe. But I want to, and you've given me the chance, so.” Taehyung replied a little softly, and Jungkook coughed, shoving him half heartedly and determinedly looking away, feeling heat rush to his cheeks.

“Oh my God, stop.” Jungkook practically whined, blinking rapidly a few times and ignoring Taehyung’s wide smile. He looked as if he was about to say more but Hoseok suddenly appeared beside them, resting his forearm on Taehyung’s shoulder, other hand on hip as he greeted them with a blindingly bright smile as usual.

“I didn't know you two were so buddy buddy. What's up with that Tae? I thought he beat you pretty bad a couple days ago.” Hoseok grinned and Taehyung laughed easily, shaking his head. Jungkook felt his eyebrows raising a little as he observed their evident familiarity. So, Taehyung wasn't just close with Jimin, but with Hoseok too?

“Aw, you know me, I don't hold grudges. I didn't hold it against him. I'd much rather hold myself against him.” Taehyung shot Jungkook a sharp stare, offering an almost salacious grin and Jungkook choked on air, whipping his head around to face the other way, bringing his fist up to cough uncontrollably, a burst of heat flaring up inside of him, a combination of interest and embarrassment. He knew his face must be traffic light red.

Oh . Ohhh. So that’s what’s happening here.” Hoseok spoke knowingly, amusement practically dripping off his words and Jungkook turned back to see his eyebrows lifted suggestively. It didn't help. “Damn Taehyung, you scored. Our Jungkookie’s pretty hot.”

“Thanks.” Jungkook replied stiffly, cheeks reddening ever more and Hoseok cracked up, his loud laughter doing absolutely nothing to help Jungkook’s blood pressure. He refused to look at Taehyung.

“Wow, you must've made quite an impression on him, Tae. I've never seen him embarrassed in the months he's been here, even when he's been hit on by other people.” Hoseok commented far too cheerfully and Taehyung laughed, leaning forward to kiss Jungkook softly, almost gently and ridiculously enough, it did wonders to calm Jungkook right down. It worked like a soothing, instant charm and Jungkook already knew it, but he was a goner. Maybe if Jungkook had been paying attention on anything but Taehyung’s warm, open eyes, he'd've seen the realisation dawning on Hoseok’s expression, almost like a warning.

“Why're you so tense? It's just Hoseok.” Taehyung grinned and leant back, and Jungkook ignored Hoseok’s cooing of “you two are adorable”.

“It's just me.” Hoseok echoed, smiling brightly. “Anyway, I didn't come over to bully you, I was just thinking that you've been playing in the private rooms ever since you came here, and quite a few people were asking after the famous Red Ace yesterday when you weren't here, so how about playing a few rounds out in the open here, and have people open their eyes a little? There's a different thrill to it when people are yelling and screaming in excitement all around you, and people are betting on you winning, and people betting on those bets.”

Jungkook found himself instinctively looking towards Taehyung for some reason, and Taehyung shrugged, eyebrows raised.

“Why not? It might be fun.” Taehyung said lightly, eyes wide and round with interest and maybe that had an effect on Jungkook agreeing and nodding immediately to Hoseok. Maybe.

“Okay! Why not?” Jungkook stood, sensing Taehyung following and Hoseok flashed him a smile, leading him over to a small round table, weaving through the hoards of people crowding around tables and littered about the place. The table was stacked with chips and scattered with decks of cards, a couple of wine glasses set out as well. There were a few people milling about and Hoseok tapped one on the shoulder politely, gesturing at Jungkook.

“Come, sit down! This is the Red Ace.” Hoseok announced with a flourish and the person sat down, eyeing Jungkook with a half raised eyebrow as Jungkook seated himself comfortably opposite him. Small, beady eyes, somewhat wispy, messy short hair and a perpetual scowl. Completely unmemorable. Why did Jungkook always get stuck with these guys?

“This kid?” The guy, Jungkook labelled him as Gambler 1 of the day, asked skeptically, tone dripping disdain and scorn and Jungkook clicked his tongue, leaning forward a bit to bore his eyes into the guy’s skull.

“Watch it, mate.” Jungkook warned lowly, smiling a little but keeping his stare devoid of humour. Gambler 1 bristled, scoffing and staring him down.

“‘Mate’? This kid’s looking for a beating.” Gambler 1 growled and Jungkook leant back a little, smiling involuntarily as he felt Taehyung’s warm fingers rest on his shoulder lightly.

“Watch it… sir .” Jungkook replied, affecting a much more polite tone and offering a sweet smile. As expected the guy looked about ready to burst and Jungkook grinned, sitting back and letting his little flare of excitement slowly grow into flames. People were starting to gather in curiosity, and Jungkook heard the name “Red Ace” tossed around in whispered comments and pointing fingers and felt his grin widen. Sure, he was smug and a little arrogant about it but it really did feel good to have a reputation to live up to. At least he wasn't all up in people’s faces about it. Seokjin wasn't either. Jungkook wondered what the others of the seven were like.

Rounds and rounds later, a huge crowd surrounded them, locking them in this thick wall of excited, rowdy people placing bets with every round and new card, yelling and screaming and rooting for Jungkook to win. Gambler 1 had admitted defeat, grovelling and enthusiastically taking back his earlier comments, Gambler 2 taking his place but not remaining in that seat for too long, Gambler 3 coming and going like a blur. Gambler 4 lasted a little longer and proved to serve much more entertainment for the greedy gazes of the spectators and variety in betting, and Jungkook was hyped, high off of the buzzing, impossibly vibrant atmosphere, raking in chips like dead leaves. He'd thought about putting a stop to the game a couple of times, because it was a sauna in that tight ring of people and he was admittedly getting pretty tired, but he glanced at Taehyung, who was just as hyped and excited and yelling and screaming along with the other people that… Jungkook thought playing a few more rounds was a breeze. He'd felt the fingers on his shoulder drift a little and occasionally creep up to brush the fingertips against his neck, softly but meaningfully, and Jungkook couldn't lie, he'd been low key aroused for a while now at the caressing touches. He wasn't sure how nobody had noticed Taehyung’s wandering fingers, but that was besides the point. The more he focused on them, the more distracted he got towards the game, and the more breathless he felt.

Jungkook shot a quick look up at Taehyung, feeling saliva pool in his mouth and sharp heat tug at his stomach as Taehyung met his stare with dark, fiery, almost hungry eyes. Was Taehyung turned on right now? Because that definitely was not a publicly appropriate expression. Bedroom eyes belonged in the bedroom.

Was he turned on by watching Jungkook play? Shit, that was weird. Weird but hot and Jungkook couldn't care less about anything else. Jungkook swallowed with a little difficulty, ripping his eyes away from Taehyung and he slammed his palm down on the table, feeling the sting clear the soft haze creeping in around his vision, watching the chips rattle, the piles teetering and felt the curious gazes all lock on him as he broke into a grin.

“Show’s over for today, everyone! Get back to your own games.” Jungkook declared, making dismissive shooing motions with his hand, still grinning at the resulting chorus of disappointed groans. He stood, grabbing the bag of his winnings for the day and hoisting the strap onto his shoulder as the crowd made way for him, unable to stop grinning, blood surging through his veins from the sheer excitement of it all, every game like a punch of adrenaline. He grabbed Taehyung’s wrist as he passed through the wall of people, eliciting a few interested, gleaming stares but not particularly caring, not when he could feel Taehyung’s racing heartbeat beneath his warm skin.

Once they resurfaced into the open, where there were less people and watchful eyes, Jungkook quickly pressed an open mouthed kiss to Taehyung’s lips, who groaned softly, eyes burning with want and evident resistance. It was music to Jungkook’s ears.

“Please tell me you’re finally in the mood for something less PG.” Taehyung murmured, low and silky and Jungkook felt a sharp burst of arousal driving his feet to start speed walking to the entrance, to get away from here, and take Taehyung somewhere a lot more private.

And so he did. Although he located his car and drove away far quicker than usual, everything seemed torturously slow, especially when he could see Taehyung fiddling with his lip in his peripheral vision. It was a miracle he didn’t crash. They’d hurriedly decided on going to Taehyung’s, as, well, Jungkook didn’t really want to have to walk past all the maids in his house while there could be potential clothes discarding along the way to the bedroom.

After what felt like an eternity and a bit more, Jungkook parked somewhat haphazardly outside the high rise apartment complex Taehyung directed him to. At a glance, it seemed really nice and expensive and flashy and all, but Jungkook could not concentrate on anything other than the sound of Taehyung breathing at that moment. House viewing and appreciation would have to come later.

~

The man Jungkook had dubbed as ‘Gambler 1’ rubbed the back of his neck, glancing from side to side, a little irritated. He’d waited till the shit ton of people that gathered had all moved away, but he still couldn’t spot that skinny kid, Hoseok, he was pretty sure, anywhere. He’d better get his compensation for losing all that money to that cocky dipshit, who disappeared somewhere with that orange haired kid. He had to kiss the bastard’s feet when he wanted to punch the smirk right off his pretty boy face. He couldn’t care less what he’d needed to play and lose against him for, but anger boiled in his gut as he thought about the game. He hadn’t even needed to pretend to lose. He lost honestly, because the son of a bitch was annoyingly good.

“Aw come on, don’t look too upset. The Red Ace’s only lost four times since he came here, and let me tell you, he comes here a lot. ” The kid, Hoseok, appeared out of nowhere with an annoyingly bright grin, and the man just scowled.

“Forget that. Where’s my money?”

“Right over this way, mister.” Hoseok continued to smile, unfazed, as he led the way down a corridor lined with too many doors to keep count of, and excited shouting and the sound of piles of chips pushed around resonated in the man’s ears, whose scowl deepened. The private gambling rooms, huh. Bunch of assholes with too much time on their hands.

“Pretty good, isn’t he? The Red Ace, I mean.” Hoseok suddenly spoke, conversational, and the man twisted his lips into a sneer.

“Bloody bastard was cheating.” The man growled in response and Hoseok laughed heartily, without a trace of inhibition.

“Of course he was. But you couldn’t tell how and when, right?” Hoseok grinned a little too knowingly and the man scoffed, not replying. Hoseok turned his head to face ahead as they rounded a corner, still smiling. “That’s why he’s so good. And that’s why we’re paying attention to him.”

They reached a set of double doors at the end of the corridor, and Hoseok pushed them open, striding across the open, empty room lit up by a single small chandelier in the centre, the light though harsh and white, failing to reach the dark corners of the room. Hoseok led him straight into the impossibly dark corner, somehow able to see in front of him to open another door, hidden from view. He let the man walk in first, holding open the door, and the man stepped somewhat cautiously into the dim, garage like room, high ceilinged and large enough to park multiple buses with ease. In the centre sat Kim Namjoon, shades on even in the dim lighting tinged with green, lounging against the leather couch in his tight suit and messy tie like the first time the man had seen him. The man caught sight of a few men standing around, spread out around the walls, a couple in suits and a couple in black leather, postures casual enough, but obviously keeping watch, standing guard. The man knew Kim Namjoon, the bastard, could afford the largest building in Seoul, but still used this abandoned warehouse like place with its grey, dusty walls, leaky pipes littered around and planks of wood lying about the place. The ground was stained all sorts of disgusting colours, and despite there being a lack of smell or any actual sense of uncleanliness, the place was very run down for one of the richest men in underground Seoul. Ambience, he guessed.

“Did you bring it?” Namjoon didn’t even twitch from his position, addressing him even though his head was tilted back, apparently not looking his way. But then again, who knew with those shades. The man controlled his expression, offering a somewhat polite smile, and walked over to the ring of couches, seating himself opposite Namjoon and setting his metal briefcase down on the sleek black coffee table, polished quite so meticulously that it looked like it didn’t belong in the room. The man pushed back the clips and lifted the cover up, turning the case around and pushing it forward.

“No damage, exterior or interior. It’s unused, practically new. It’s already loaded.” The man spoke more out of politeness than actual need to give any information. That had all been discussed before he’d imported the batch from China. Namjoon sat up straight, leaning forward and taking the gun out of the case, all in his own time. He turned the gun over in his hands as if he was examining every inch, testing the feel and grip. His lips lifted to one side in a smile and he sat back, handing the gun to Hoseok standing behind the couch with a flick of his wrist, like a child tossing a toy they’d gotten bored of, the man thought disdainfully. The sooner he got rid of this bastard the better. He kept a smile on the outside.

“A good gun. It’s got some weight to it. Hoseok.” Namjoon spoke almost dismissively, and Hoseok smiled, walking off and returning with a briefcase of the money owed to the man, both for the gun and the menial task earlier. The man accepted the case wordlessly, setting it down to open it and check its contents. As his fingers rested on the latches and were about to lift the cover, Namjoon spoke again, once again lounging comfortably back against the couch, arm slung over the back.

“I sent the money to your boss earlier. Full of bullet holes. He didn’t find it very funny, so he got angry at Seokjin and threatened to drop him in cement or something like that. Seokjin thankfully has not been dropped in cement - although your boss has. Most of him, anyway.” Namjoon’s casual, nonchalant words had the man freezing, blood running cold as he stared at him with wide eyes and a silent tongue. His… his boss was…? Did the bastard kill his boss…? A cold streak of fear battled with rising anger, but a thought struck him. If the money had been sent to his boss, what was in the briefcase?

He opened it with a certain degree of trepidation, only to scream and throw himself back, stomach churning, eyes popping wide open. He snapped his head up to stare fearfully at Namjoon, who smiled at him kindly, still sitting back comfortably. The man’s stare snapped over to Hoseok at the movement of him raising his arm, his heart lodged somewhere in his throat, stomach tight with fear.

Hoseok raised the gun and shot the man in the face.

“Yeesh. That’s gonna need some cleaning. Seokjin’s gonna be so mad.” Hoseok commented cheerfully, eyeing the splattered brains of the man against the leather with distaste. He grinned down at Namjoon. “Good gun, though.”

“Ah shit, Seokjin’s gonna throw a fit, isn’t he. Might as well throw out the couch and buy a new one, save him the trouble and headache. What do you think?” Namjoon glanced up at Hoseok who flashed him a bright grin, making a loose saluting gesture, handing the gun back to him, still smoking ever so slightly. He replied as he gazed at the bloody, mutilated fingers sitting in neat lines in the open briefcase, screws prised beneath the nails, and the two eyeballs sitting snugly on top.

“Right away, boss.”

~

Chapter Text

 

The moment Jungkook stepped into the apartment he was spun around and pressed bodily against the shut door and Taehyung was there, lips pressed onto his, hands roaming Jungkook’s body, the heat of it bleeding through Jungkook’s wholly unnecessary shirt and coaxing Jungkook’s skin to come alive. Taehyung’s knee was jammed between his legs, forcing them apart, his enticing, mouth-watering scent fucking everywhere, and Jungkook drank it in greedily, lightheaded from it but nowhere near sated. The doorknob was unfortunately rectangle and therefore it came with unreasonable edges that dug painfully into Jungkook’s back, but how could he possibly focus on that when Taehyung’s hot, wet tongue pushed past Jungkook’s lips, claiming his mouth with ease. Jungkook was more than a little dazed, head buzzing, scattered from arousal, the only thought filling his mind was the feeling of Taehyung’s body against his, the feeling of Taehyung’s smooth skin under his fingertips as he slipped his hands round to the exposed small of Taehyung’s back, the blazer having disappeared at some point or another.

Taehyung grabbed both his wrists and yanked them up, pinning them to the door, on either side of Jungkook’s head, and although his breath hitched, dick jumping in interest as blood rushed down south, Jungkook sobered enough from the slightly unexpected action to register the blatant assertion of dominance. Now, even though Jungkook was no stranger to sex, this - he hadn’t experienced before. He felt fire rise inside him, burning and insistent, his lips curving into a grin, taking it on as a challenge. Just what was Taehyung thinking? Jungkook wrenched his wrists free from Taehyung’s grasp, quickly gripping Taehyung’s narrow hips, pushing him off and shoving him against the wall, reversing their positions in one smooth, easy move. Not to be mean, but Jungkook did have a lot more muscle than Taehyung, he’d observed (and recently - felt). Taehyung’s body bounced a little off the wall from the impact, but even as Jungkook had him pinned there, Taehyung didn’t seem very fazed, sharp grin across his attractive face, eyes half lidded, but bright, piercingly so. He stared at Jungkook with that alluring stare, tilting his head up a little. Whether intentional or not, the action bared a bit more of Taehyung’s neck, and Jungkook got momentarily distracted by the movement of the tendons moving beneath the skin that practically called out for Jungkook to kiss and bite. Taehyung laughed a little, low and breathy. The sound went straight to Jungkook’s dick, as he could imagine every sound Taehyung made from here on out would.

“Hm?” Taehyung hummed with the tone of a question, eyes glinting in what seemed like condescence and amusement alongside the overwhelming pools of lust, casually yanking Jungkook’s shirt off as he pulled back a little. Taehyung’s eyes practically glazed over as they widened, taking in Jungkook’s body and Jungkook internally wept tears of joy, thanking his past self for hitting the gym, just for this moment. Taehyung’s wandering, explorative fingers found their back onto Jungkook’s chest, running over his skin like a compulsion, and Jungkook just took a moment to bask in pride at procuring such an expression from Taehyung’s handsome face, just by the sight of his bare chest.

Taehyung ripped his own shirt off without a trace of hesitation and his fingers snaked around to Jungkook’s back, tugging him forward and pressing their bodies flush against each other. Jungkook couldn't stop the groan tumbling out of his lips at the feeling of Taehyung’s skin against his. He grabbed Taehyung’s face and sunk his teeth into Taehyung’s soft lower lip, slipping his tongue inside the hot, wet, soft cavern of Taehyung’s mouth as Taehyung gasped, the tiny sound driving Jungkook insane. He pressed down against Taehyung’s body harder, a shiver snaking down his spine as Taehyung just barely audibly whimpered into his mouth. Holy shit.

Then Jungkook felt Taehyung smile against his lips as hands gripped his shoulders and turned him around, pressing him against the cool wall, swapping their positions again before Jungkook could brace himself. Taehyung exhaled, warm air fanning over Jungkook’s cheeks as he leaned in, flirty smile wide, dark eyes shining with amusement, somehow caging Jungkook in even though they were about the same height. Jungkook was pretty sure he was taller. Taehyung moved his hips in a sudden, sinful roll, erasing any coherent thought from Jungkook’s mind, making him throw his head back against the wall with a thunk, mouth dropping open as pleasure spiked through his body. Not that he hadn't noticed it yet, but Taehyung was rock hard, dick straining against his jeans and pressing against Jungkook, insistent and heavy.

“Just what were you trying to do?” Taehyung murmured lowly, huskily, centimetres away from Jungkook’s nose. A lovely smirk cut across his face and he kept impressively steady eye contact as he grinded down again, slow but hard , the force of it and the drag against Jungkook’s erection making him swear audibly, almost coming right then and there. “Were you trying to taking control?”

At Taehyung’s sweet, almost patronising tone Jungkook yanked himself back together, lips curving sharply in a grin as he grabbed the back of Taehyung’s neck and pulled him in for a bruising kiss. “Sure was.”

“Oh, you're so adorable, Jungkook.” Taehyung crooned, voice low and Jungkook’s eyebrow ticked, a tiny, tiny prick of annoyance behind it. Taehyung kissed him briefly, almost chastely, before murmuring “bedroom”.

God knows how Jungkook managed to stumble and trip his way over to the bedroom while shoving his tongue down Taehyung’s throat, cursing the unnecessarily long distance, and life threatening obstacles such as the sharp corners of coffee tables.

Jungkook ended up with his back against the wall again, frowning in mild irritation even as he wrapped his arms around Taehyung’s neck and kissed him before he could stop himself. Taehyung laughed and slid his hand down to Jungkook’s waist, trailing a line of fire, fingers splayed against his skin, other hand pressed against the wall beside Jungkook’s head, boxing him against the wall as he rolled his hips agonisingly, deliciously slow. Jungkook couldn't help but let low moans escape at the building pressure and raw want, sudden new perspective of their positions dawning on him as he struggled to keep his eyes open to gaze at Taehyung. Taehyung's face was intensely focused, eyes hooded but scorching, lips slightly parted, staring at Jungkook like he was drinking him in from his gaze alone, taking in Jungkook’s every expression change and facial movement as he grinded against him, the whole air about him emanating utter control.

Jungkook certainly hadn't expected to feel quite so affected, being on the receiving end. And it was flattering, having Taehyung train his stare solely on Jungkook with such visible arousal. It was getting steadily harder to think straight as his dick strained painfully against his confining jeans. Jungkook was getting impatient, body winding up tight, and he pushed Taehyung back, grabbing hold of his light body and tossing him down onto the bed easily, groaning aloud at the sight of Taehyung’s half naked body bouncing a little as he hit the mattress. Taehyung pushed himself up on his elbows, eyebrow arched, evidently unimpressed. Even that action was hot, God, his every move and expression was either unbearably hot or adorable, and Jungkook wanted to sob at his slightly messy, somehow still perfect looking bright hair. Jungkook climbed over him, dragging his hand up Taehyung’s body, pressing his fingertips hard against his firm thigh, tracing over the sharp hipbone peeking out from his jeans and wandering across his chest. If Jungkook had thought Taehyung’s skin was warm before, it felt practically feverish now as Taehyung arched up into his hand, lips parting and driving him wild. Jungkook pressed him down flat against the sheets and leant down to kiss his collarbone, something he'd been distracted over since what felt like forever. He curled his fingers between Taehyung’s and held his hand down as he sucked at the warm skin and tugged at it a little with careful teeth. Taehyung let out a low, breathless moan, pitch rising just a tiny bit into a slight whine as Jungkook trailed his tongue along the dip of bone. As Jungkook’s hand slipped between Taehyung’s legs, into the overwhelming heat, Taehyung grinned, eyes snapping open and he hooked a leg around Jungkook’s waist, flipping them over.

“Woah, woah.” Taehyung cautioned in a low, smooth tone, humour flickering in his dark eyes as he captured Jungkook’s lips in an almost punishingly hard kiss. Taehyung lowered himself down onto his elbows, nose brushing Jungkook’s, eyes locked on his, scent and heat flooding Jungkook’s senses. Jungkook raised his hips to seek much needed friction, whining slightly when Taehyung held them down, frustration and pent up arousal rushing through him.

“I'm going to come in my pants, hurry up and let me take off yours.” Jungkook muttered, tone rasping with the edge of a growl and Taehyung smirked, kissing him breathless again.

“Did you expect that I'd just roll over and spread my legs for you?” Taehyung murmured dangerously low, eyes sparking in challenge and defiance and Jungkook struggled to answer, considerably more torn on the idea now. Although the image had Jungkook gritting his teeth to stop from groaning, Jungkook had gotten a little… interested in the dominant side of Taehyung now. Taehyung smiled brightly, almost sweetly, springing back, sitting upright to straddle Jungkook’s legs comfortably.

“Because you're absolutely right, I will.” Taehyung declared cheerily and Jungkook blinked, fumbling through the thick haze gripping his brain before the words really clicked.

“What…?” Jungkook spoke, a little dazed, sitting up and Taehyung laughed, leaning forward, shoulders curved and movements slow, sensual even.

“I was being difficult. It's fun, you know.” Taehyung stated matter of factly, kissing Jungkook slow, trailing a hand down to unzip Jungkook’s jeans, which needed to be gone, digging the heel of his palm into Jungkook’s painfully stiff cock, making Jungkook’s hips buck into the contact. They tugged off their jeans with a little difficulty, Jungkook cursing how tight his were, and underwear flew off without a second thought. Then Taehyung slotted his body against Jungkook’s, warm, soft skin pressing down everywhere, cock rubbing against Jungkook’s own, the drag of skin against skin amazing and Jungkook had to use a massive amount of concentration to stop himself from coming just from that. It had been a long time since he last got laid, if he thought about it. Taehyung’s fingers dug into his thighs, dragging his palms over them, letting out a tiny little moan against Jungkook’s lips as he did.

“Shit. Do you even have any idea how good your thighs look? And feel. It’s driving me crazy.” Taehyung murmured, low and deep, voice dripping with strained arousal and Jungkook felt a wild dash of pride and flexed his thighs just because. Taehyung’s jawline sharpened as he gritted his teeth and he captured Jungkook’s lips in a kiss again.

“But, uh… wait-” Jungkook pulled away from the kiss to speak breathlessly, biting his lip hard to keep focusing even as he took in Taehyung panting slightly, eyebrow raised in confusion. Jungkook found himself blushing at this point for whatever reason, and let his eyes drift down to Taehyung’s heavy cock, swallowing hard and feeling the interest buzz through him. “I, uh, could you- I mean… I wouldn't mind… trying…”

“What?” Taehyung spoke flatly, blankly, and Jungkook reddened further, chewing his lip and tapping at Taehyung’s legs, rearranging their limbs a little awkwardly so his legs were on the outside instead, spreading open, knees raised to bracket Taehyung’s hips. His blush rushed down to his neck at the stupidly open feeling of the position, hoping that Taehyung would get the hint, because he was pretty sure no coherent words were forthcoming in his mortified state of mind.

“Oh.” Taehyung blinked, looking thoroughly taken aback, a little off kilter. He gazed at Jungkook blankly for a few moments like he wasn’t sure how he’d ended up in that position, before his lips stretched in a devilish grin, eyes gleaming. “I have to say, you look good like this.”

“No, shut up, don’t even start.” Jungkook covered his face with his hands, instinctively wanting to close his legs but persevering through ignoring the slight mental breakdown. This was his idea after all. Kinda.

“I thought… well. I thought you wouldn’t be caught alive in this position. I thought you’d fight me over topping. You look very “alpha male” after all.” Taehyung commented very matter of factly and Jungkook groaned, half in embarrassment, half in pleasure as Taehyung stroked his cock slowly, almost contemplatively. Jungkook had absolutely no idea how Taehyung could keep such a straight, innocent face while his fingers were wrapped around Jungkook’s dick.

“Stop assigning straight male stereotypes to me and hurry up and fuck me.” Jungkook muttered through gritted teeth and Taehyung’s eyes flared a little at that. “I’m just… well I haven’t done this before so-”

“Ah, my blushing virgin bride. Ass virgin anyway, I'm assuming. Don’t worry I’ll take good care of you. Real good care of you.” Taehyung let his voice drop down ridiculously low, raising his eyebrows and grinning salaciously, obnoxiously wide, humour dancing in his eyes and Jungkook hit him, pulling him down a little to bury his burning face in the warm crook of his neck, stomach alive with arousal, nerves, cringing and anticipation.

“You’re awful. Do not quote bad porno language at me in the middle of this. And hurry up, my dick feels like it’s gonna fall off.” Jungkook mumbled into his skin, unable to stop the smile creeping across his lips and Taehyung sighed in a world weary way, turning his head to kiss Jungkook’s hair.

“Yes, my delicate, foul mouthed princess.” Taehyung crooned and pushed himself up, flashing Jungkook a wink, torso arching and twisting to reach over to the bedside table drawer, presumably to find lube or whatever. It wasn't important when Jungkook burned holes through Taehyung’s slim waist and the dip of his lower back, clutching on to his sanity at the sight. Taehyung moved back, ripping open a packet with his teeth that Jungkook recognised as lube only because of various items in his search history, not because of experience. Thus, when Taehyung slid his coated, slippery fingers over Jungkook’s hipbone, Jungkook jumped and squirmed a little at the unexpected coldness, making an embarrassing squeaking sound.

“Cute.” Taehyung commented mildly and Jungkook was about to shoot him a look before he felt the fingers slide down the seam of his thigh and hip, feeling his retort melt into a moan at the fluttery, intrusive feeling as the fingers slid further down. He could feel Taehyung’s eyes burning into his skin as he let his shut and his mouth fall open as Taehyung’s finger ran lightly in a circle around his hole. A shiver ran up the length of his spine. Shit, that was an unfamiliar feeling.

“This may feel a little strange.” Taehyung spoke in a businesslike tone, the only warning Jungkook got before he felt the finger slip inside, pushing past the tight ring of muscle before Jungkook even took in a breath. He jerked back instinctively, expression twisting at the foreign, thoroughly strange feeling, mildly uncomfortable at the intrusive pressure.

“What the fuck?” Jungkook voiced his opinion and Taehyung laughed, low but sounding a little strained, eyes trained on where his finger disappeared. He immediately felt his face redden, suddenly aware of the way Taehyung stared so fixedly at his body, and of course, at the position. Presumably, being on the receiving end was meant to feel nice too, so Jungkook experimentally tilted his hips upwards a little, lips parting to form an ‘o’ when Taehyung’s finger slid in deeper, eyes fluttering at the feeling. Taehyung’s impossibly dark eyes snapped to meet his, eyebrow raised.

“Not taking a breather? Just going straight for it?” Taehyung gave him a half grin and Jungkook arched an eyebrow, lifting his hips up higher, bracing his legs a little wider, like an invitation. Taehyung visibly swallowed, bemused, incredulous smile crossing his face, hunger sparking in his eyes. He shrugged and pushed another finger in as he leant down to kiss Jungkook’s neck, soft and gentle as the added stretch made Jungkook wince, a twinge of pain flaring. He let his fingers slide over Taehyung’s upper back to distract himself with the feel of his soft skin as Taehyung slid his fingers in and out carefully, in little increments, adding more lube. Jungkook bit his lip at the initial feeling but frowned, poking Taehyung’s shoulder blade.

“I sure hope this isn’t your actual pace.” Jungkook spoke airily, raising an eyebrow to taunt him. Taehyung tsked, nipping at Jungkook’s lower lip, frowning in annoyance though his eyes were still alive with humour and hunger.

“Gosh, I’m trying to be considerate. But since someone’s got complaints,” Taehyung sighed loudly and heavily, and drove his fingers in as far as they could go in one quick, smooth motion, fingertip just barely grazing against something and Jungkook’s entire body jumped, his mouth falling open in shock. Before he could say anything Taehyung began sliding his fingers in and out without pause, just brushing that spot every time he scissored his fingers, stretching Jungkook open wide and Jungkook gripped Taehyung’s shoulders hard at the tiny, fleeting sparks of pleasure. He chased after the feeling, inching his hips down on Taehyung’s fingers as he added a third one, stretching him further, but Taehyung’s fingers did not oblige and only just went far enough to give the slightest touches, leaving Jungkook gasping and squirming for more, dick throbbing. He raised an irritated eyebrow at Taehyung, frowning as he spotted Taehyung’s lips twitching.

“Are you… are you teasing me?” Jungkook accused, breathless and Taehyung broke into a wide grin, pulling his fingers out and circling the rim languidly, causing Jungkook to throw his head back, eyes shutting briefly.

“Possibly.” Taehyung replied quietly, still grinning and he sat back, ripping open a condom packet and putting the condom on before Jungkook even lifted his head to glance at what he was doing, obviously quite accustomed to saving time in crucial moments like these.

“Okay! Now that you’re all loosened up and ready to go, time to move on to the main act.” Taehyung announced carelessly in an almost crude way and Jungkook squinted at his twinkling eyes but quickly forgot about everything else as Taehyung spread his thighs apart further and lined his cock up with Jungkook’s entrance. Jungkook swallowed as Taehyung stared down at him without moving for a split second, eyes sharp and focused. Taehyung slid in relatively easily, but even so Jungkook had to squeeze his eyes shut at the tight stretch, at the painful feeling of being speared open by Taehyung’s thick cock, forgetting to breathe for a moment at the pressure. Taehyung let out a low, quiet groan as he sunk in, voice slightly hoarse as he pressed a kiss to Jungkook’s temple and spoke. “Okay?”

It took Jungkook a few tries to form words. “Y-yeah, I’m okay.”

Taehyung kissed him, soft and slow, the moment strangely romantic despite Taehyung’s dick buried in his ass, and Jungkook felt his cheeks going pink. Taehyung exhaled against his lips, lifting his head to gaze down at him, eyes steady and patient, expression calm and so not appropriate for the circumstance. Jungkook blushed harder and hit him, unexplained embarrassment rising in his chest at being looked at so calmly when he could feel Taehyung’s dick pulsing faintly inside of him.

“I’m fine, you can move.” Jungkook muttered and Taehyung grinned, eyes lighting up and he did just that, moving his hips back and forth, cock sliding in and out, slowly at first but picking up speed until the initial pain had melted into pure pleasure and Jungkook was scrabbling for purchase on Taehyung’s back, moans tumbling out of his slack lips. His legs wrapped around Taehyung’s waist and urged him to go faster, deeper, words failing him as he moaned like Taehyung was paying him for it, entire body aflame with pleasure and building tension. Taehyung shifted a little and the change in angle caused Taehyung’s cock to slide in ever deeper and hit that spot inside of him square on. Jungkook let out an embarrassingly high pitched, breathy, almost distressed sounding moan, arching his back as a burst of overwhelming pleasure enveloped the base of his spine and snaked up to his aching cock bouncing off his stomach with every thrust.

“There it is.” Taehyung all but growled, voice impossibly low and husky, something like satisfaction resonating in his tone and Jungkook could only whine in response, moaning helplessly at Taehyung’s torturously sexy voice. He raked his nails up and down Taehyung’s upper back, throwing his head all the way back, neck fully bared as Taehyung thrust into him at a relentless pace, hitting that spot every time, over and over with impressive accuracy, rendering Jungkook’s mind a blank, white mess, his legs weak and shaking, entire body unbearably hot. Taehyung leant down and attached his lips to Jungkook’s neck, biting at the skin, and the little pinpricks of pain and the added heat of Taehyung’s mouth felt so good Jungkook wanted to start crying, eyes rolling back.

“T-Taehyung-” Jungkook gasped out, breathless and dizzy. Taehyung replied with a choked moan, humming in question, hips snapping forward without rest. Jungkook swallowed his moan and spoke again with difficulty, voice cracked and desperate. “Touch- touch me.”

Shit.” Taehyung breathed, fingers wrapping around Jungkook’s cock almost immediately, grip a little too tight and just perfect, stroking in time with his thrusts. Pleasure spiked ever higher and Jungkook couldn’t even think anymore and just held on tight as Taehyung dug his thumb into his slit. He came screaming Taehyung’s name, back lifting clear off the mattress as he arched upwards, splattering their chests in his come, body twisting as jolts of ecstasy shot through his veins. Taehyung rested his head heavily on Jungkook’s collarbones, breathing harshly as he thrusted a few more times before stilling as he came, a deep moan ripped out from the back of his throat.

Jungkook lay there for a few moments without moving, eyes shut, hair sticking to his forehead, chest heaving as he caught his breath, arms still wrapped around Taehyung. Shit. His entire body felt boneless, utterly spent, satiation and warmth sinking into his limbs. He could probably sleep for the next few years. Taehyung shifted a little, pulling out and Jungkook winced at the odd empty feeling, sleepily nosing Taehyung’s hair. Taehyung rolled off but snuggled right up against Jungkook’s side, flinging his arm over Jungkook’s torso and holding him close. Jungkook nudged him half heartedly.

“It’s hot.” Jungkook muttered, still breathless and hoarse, and Taehyung shushed him, holding him tighter, burying his head into the crook of Jungkook’s neck, warm and soft and Jungkook couldn’t find it in him to say anything further.

“I’m a very cuddly person. Especially after sex.” Taehyung declared and Jungkook found himself smiling, turning his head as best he could to kiss Taehyung’s hair. Taehyung shifted a little, voice sleepy and warm when he spoke again. “You okay? Not hurting too much?”

“Nah. I’m fine. I have a feeling I’ll be feeling this later on though.” Jungkook replied somewhat ruefully and Taehyung laughed, soft and sweet. He sat up, gazing down at Jungkook with a natural faint smile, eyes roaming up and down Jungkook’s body, but his stare wasn’t predatory like before, rather slow and appreciative.

“You’re gorgeous.” Taehyung murmured, lovely smile widening a little, messed up fringe falling into his curved eyes. Jungkook couldn’t help but smile back, warmth circling his chest, sitting up as well and running a hand through his hair.

“Yeah?” Jungkook replied quietly, unable to control his smile and Taehyung clicked his tongue, pinching his earlobe.

“Don’t go getting shy on me now. There is no way you don’t know that.” Taehyung admonished, eyebrow raised and Jungkook broke into a wider smile, glancing away a little, heart singing. Gosh, what was he supposed to say to that? He settled for leaning in and pressing a slow, chaste kiss to Taehyung’s lips, loving how he could feel Taehyung smiling against his lips.

Jungkook pulled back and stretched, eyes closing a little. “But… well, wow. That was amazing. Why didn’t we fuck earlier?”

“Because you wanted to talk.” Taehyung snorted, rolling his eyes and Jungkook shoved him, smiling anyway as Taehyung grinned, grabbing his shoulder seemingly reflexively. Taehyung blinked, twisting his head to glance down at his shoulders, craning his neck around to try and see his back. Jungkook raised an eyebrow, reaching out to push his shoulder lightly, taking a look at Taehyung’s back himself.

“Oh?” Taehyung’s grin sharpened as his fingers felt around at his own skin, and Jungkook bit his lip, slightly mortified. Taehyung’s originally smooth, uninterrupted skin was covered in long, red scratches, and several nail shaped indents. Quite obviously Jungkook’s handiwork. Taehyung burst out laughing, rolling off the bed and springing to his feet, striding across the room in all his unabashed, naked glory, to the floor length mirror hung on the wall, turning and twisting his head as far back as he could to see the damage. He laughed again, heartily and made his way back over to the bed, eyebrows raised ever so slightly, eyes alight with mirth.

“You’re a pretty wild one. Look at what you’ve done.” Taehyung shook his head, wide grin still in place, and Jungkook reddened a bit, glancing away resolutely as Taehyung laughed again and climbed back on to the bed, lying down on his front, head propped up on his folded arms. He’d experienced waking up to find scratch marks littered over his back many times before, but this had to be the first time he’d given them. Taehyung tilted his head and smiled up at him, eyes wide. “Kiss it better.”

Jungkook sighed theatrically, wrinkling his nose. “Your skin’s sweaty and gross.”

“So’s yours, but I don’t see you getting off my bed.” Taehyung sniffed and Jungkook couldn’t stop himself from smiling, running his fingers soothingly over the angry red marks like an apology, leaning down to press a kiss to a particularly long one.

The moment was so quiet and content and perfect, Jungkook wondered whether it was even real.

“So, are you gay now?” Taehyung asked brightly and Jungkook snorted. Oh yeah. It was definitely real.

~

Jimin exhaled slowly, carefully, rolling over onto his back, arm thrown out to the side. His mind felt curiously blank, calm and still, even though his ribs throbbed with a dull, aching pain. What time was it? Must be pretty late. The air of the room felt stale and just a touch too cold. Jimin couldn’t really think properly. Had Yoongi really just been here in this room with him? Jimin could still hear his voice ringing in his ears, bouncing off the walls, the jarring note of anger all too familiar. But he couldn’t feel his warmth anymore, and the room felt cold, empty, dead, like nobody had come here at all.

The moment was so detached, so empty and lifeless, Jimin wondered whether it was even real.

Then Jimin shifted and felt a flare of pain in his ribs. Oh yeah, it was definitely real.


~

Chapter Text

 “Your phone’s ringing.” Jungkook muttered, cracking one eye open. Taehyung hummed, lips vibrating against Jungkook’s shoulder, pushing himself up and running a hand through his bright, messy hair. They’d been lazing around on Taehyung’s bed for a good hour or so after Taehyung had unceremoniously dumped a tissue box on Jungkook’s stomach and cleaned them up without much care, before curling up beside him again. Jungkook hadn’t said anything, opting for breathing in Taehyung’s scent, his warmth and soft body making him drowsy. Taehyung disappeared from Jungkook’s line of vision and Jungkook closed his eye again, listening to Taehyung rummaging through the clothes flung about the place.

“Ah, shut up.” Taehyung spoke chirpily, good naturedly - at his phone, Jungkook was assuming - as he evidently did not locate his phone and the room continued to be filled with the incessant ringing. The sound disrupting the quiet, lulling atmosphere seemed to be really close to Jungkook so he leant over the side of the bed, feeling around at the ground. His fingers found the phone, the Jet Calf, just as the call ended. Jungkook lifted it off the ground and glanced at the screen reflexively, about to hand it to Taehyung before the messages caught his eye.

Unknown: Missed call (1)

J: V, my man! I saw you at the casino earlier, with the Red Ace. You seemed in a bit of a hurry so I didn’t say hi, but don’t forget to introduce me next time, yeah?

S: $140625.

S: Don’t forget.

“Ah, you found it.” Taehyung’s voice sounded right next to Jungkook who jumped slightly, wordlessly handing the phone over, eyes flicking up to stare at Taehyung, more than a little curious at the message. Who was that? Why did they want to meet him? Were they just another one of the casino’s frequenters, hoping for a game against the famous Red Ace? Taehyung tensed just for the tiniest fraction of a second as his eyes skimmed over the notifications, a shadow appearing at the corner of his lips, eyes darting to Jungkook, face blank, as if he was checking Jungkook’s reaction. Jungkook raised an eyebrow, reaching out and flicking Taehyung’s hair out of his eyes.

“Is that a fellow fan? And what’s ‘V’?” Jungkook prompted conversationally and Taehyung stared at him for a strange, still second, before breaking into an easy grin and sitting down cross legged, tapping at his screen.

“I guess you could say that. And well, ‘Traffic Light’ isn’t my only nickname at BigHit.” Taehyung explained vaguely, biting his lip absently as he stared at his screen, before tossing the phone down on the scrunched up sheets. He looked up at Jungkook and smiled, leaning over to kiss him quickly.

“Stay the night?” Taehyung asked, all soft smiles and gentle eyes, and how could Jungkook possibly refuse?

“I guess I could.” Jungkook spoke offhandedly, like it wasn’t a big deal either way, but he knew his smile was giving him away. Taehyung broke into this beautiful, wide smile in return, and Jungkook couldn’t even stare directly, as if Taehyung’s face was the sun itself.

“Do you wanna go wash up? The bathroom’s just that door over there, and you can use any of the towels. I’ll grab you something to change into.” Taehyung pointed at the closed door across the room and rolled off the bed, heading towards the huge walk in wardrobe Jungkook had only just noticed then. Looked around the size of Jungkook’s own absurdly large wardrobe. Well, Taehyung was apparently loaded, after all. Jungkook made his way over to the bathroom, whistling as he opened the door.

“Luxurious.” Jungkook commented as he glanced around, taking in the spacious, almost imposing bathroom, with its mosaic of black and white tiles, huge mirrors and unnecessarily wide bathtub in the centre, behind which stood the shower which could probably house an entire family. Taehyung stepped in and tossed an oversized white tee and shorts on to the shelf beside the shower.

“Mm.” Taehyung acknowledged almost carelessly, pausing as his eyes fell on the bathtub, lips curving wickedly. “Wanna fuck in there tomorrow morning?”

“Jesus. You need Jesus.” Jungkook replied firmly, ushering Taehyung out before Taehyung could see the interest sparking in his eyes at the suggestion. Taehyung laughed in a horribly flirty way, and called out behind him as Jungkook shut the door.

“Spare toothbrush is in the cabinet under the sink.”

Once Jungkook showered and dried himself off, he pulled on the tee and shorts, possibly, possibly taking a moment to breathe in Taehyung’s scent clinging to the fabric, and peered into the cabinet to find a toothbrush. He’d just started brushing his teeth when he heard Taehyung’s low voice carry into the room from outside, creeping in from under the door. He didn’t mean to eavesdrop, really, but his attention was inevitably caught at the words and low, serious tone.

“No. No, nothing’s changed. Just keep going. I’m keeping an eye on it. ...Say that again? I’ve got it under control, do you think this is my first day?” Taehyung’s voice was dangerously low, ringing with clear warning and Jungkook blinked, turning his gaze towards the shut door. Taehyung was obviously on the phone, but with who? Who was he talking to that drew out such a harsh, almost threatening tone? It was more than a little unsettling. “Anything else? Call Hoseok instead next time, I’m busy.”

Jungkook rinsed out his mouth as Taehyung fell silent, evidently having ended the call. What the fuck? He opened the door and stepped out, twitching a little at the bite of the cold air on his skin. Summer was really ending now, it was getting pretty cold every night now. He glanced cautiously at Taehyung standing over beside the floor length windows, skin illuminated by the moonlight passing through the dark window panes. His momentarily still form bathed in the weak silver glow was breathtaking, and Jungkook forgot how to speak for a second. Taehyung turned and smiled, bright and innocent, and walked over.

“You smell amazing and I do not, so shoo, make way.” Taehyung gestured for Jungkook to move to a side, and kissed his cheek as he passed him and entered the bathroom. Jungkook hadn’t even opened his mouth to ask if everything was alright before Taehyung had shut the door and turned on the water. His smile and relaxed posture was so natural and casual Jungkook wondered whether he’d been hearing things, and Taehyung hadn’t been calling anyone at all. Well. He was tired down to his bones, so it was probable. He climbed on to the bed, crawling under the inviting covers, folding his arms behind his head.

Jungkook roused from light sleep as Taehyung climbed in beside him, smiling as a pair of warm arms wrapped around him and pulled him into an even warmer body.

“Sleeping?” Taehyung whispered and Jungkook shook his head, breathing in slowly. He shifted, doing a little rearranging of limbs so he rested more comfortably against Taehyung’s chest.

“Nah. Were you calling someone earlier?” Jungkook yawned, skin tingling with warmth and comfort, and Taehyung shifted a tiny bit.

“Yeah. Just someone from the casino."

“Mm… You smell really nice.” Jungkook mumbled, eyes slipping shut and Taehyung laughed a little, the sound low and airy.

“I just took a shower, of course I do.” Taehyung replied quietly, pressing a kiss to Jungkook’s hair, fingers running through the slightly damp strands. Jungkook shook his head, turning to bury his face in Taehyung’s neck, exhaling against his warm skin and feeling it twitch reflexively.

“You always do.”

“You've only known me for a week, how do you know that?” Taehyung’s voice was warm, laced with amusement, and Jungkook clicked his tongue in mock annoyance.

“You better smell nice all the time. Or I’ll be majorly disappointed.” Jungkook griped and Taehyung laughed again, softly.

“We’ll see.” Taehyung murmured, scratching lightly at Jungkook scalp and oh, that was nice. Jungkook smiled without meaning to, taking a moment to savour the feeling.

Jungkook spoke after a second of silence. “How old are you?”

“Twenty one. You?” Taehyung replied without missing a beat, fingers rubbing light circles against Jungkook’s head.

“Nineteen.” Jungkook mumbled and Taehyung’s fingers paused, his body tensing. Jungkook lifted his head slightly, eyebrow raising.

“Shit. You're pretty young.” Taehyung breathed, sounding a little strained, and Jungkook snorted, rolling his eyes. Did it really matter when he was almost twenty? Full consent given from both parties and all that? He did not take Taehyung as someone who was uptight about this type of thing.

“Worried because you just fucked a minor? I'm turning twenty next week. It doesn't matter.” Jungkook spoke dismissively and Taehyung laughed briefly, fingers resuming the soft, gentle ministrations.

“It's illegal.” Taehyung pointed out mildly, though his tone suggested little care for the law, like Jungkook had expected.

“We do a whole lot more illegal shit back at the casino, you know.” Jungkook muttered and Taehyung laughed again easier this time, kissing Jungkook’s hair.

“That's true. And I wasn't too worried about that. I was just thinking that you're pretty young to have started gambling.” Jungkook wasn’t sure if he imagined it, but he thought he heard a tiny little tremor, a little shake in Taehyung’s tone as he spoke. Jungkook pushed himself up a little and raised his head to glance at Taehyung, who blinked rapidly, as if forcing himself to focus, and grinned, speaking again. “Financial problems already?”

“I gamble because I like winning. I have to win and have the last laugh. And I'm good at it so I do win.” Jungkook replied airily and Taehyung snorted at that, lips stretching in a lazy smile to one side. There was a little reserved and strangely calculating something lurking within his half closed eyes lit up by moonlight that Jungkook couldn't quite place.

“Would you do anything to win and have that last laugh?” Taehyung asked quietly, and Jungkook paused at the vague, chilling feeling coating that soft question, his eyes searching what he could see of Taehyung’s drawn, serious face in the pallid moonlight dusting the otherwise dark room. He settled back against Taehyung’s chest, surrounded by warmth again.

“Yes.” Jungkook replied after a few beats of silence and Taehyung hummed, fingertip stroking Jungkook’s shoulder lightly.

“Get some sleep.”

~

Jungkook felt himself coaxed out from the tendrils of sleep as a spark of pleasure rushed up his spine out of nowhere. The pressure down below grew stronger and Jungkook registered it as someone’s touch as his head turned from side to side at the grip growing steadily firmer. He hadn't even woken up fully when he heard himself let out a raspy, breathy sounding moan, saturated with sleep, as the touch and friction of the dragging motion sent waves of pleasure washing over his lower stomach and coiling tight in between his legs. His own unexpected noise startled him awake and his eyes flew open as the fingers stroking his stiff cock tightened around the length ever so slightly.

“Ah, you're awake.” Came a lovely, rich voice, that deep and husky sound of a guy who'd just woken up, somewhere down between his thighs. Jungkook replied with a choked, surprised moan as the fist twisted as it stroked upwards, his back arching up a little at the feeling. He pulled himself together and pushed himself up on his elbows, staring incredulously down at Taehyung lying between his legs, grinning face awfully close to Jungkook’s dick (that certainly had not been out in the open like that the last time he checked), casually waking him up with a handjob.

“What the fuck?” Jungkook struggled to form the words as for one thing, he had just woken up seconds ago, and for another thing, Taehyung did this thing , a flick of the wrist and Jungkook felt tingling heat shoot down to his toes, closing his eyes for a second.

“Well, I woke up and saw you had a little problem here,” Taehyung patted Jungkook’s dick almost affectionately, and Jungkook started to smile at Taehyung’s innocent expression as his mind began to catch up and function properly as the vestiges of sleep drained away. “And so I thought I'd help you take care of it. Plus I was bored and I wanted to wake you up.”

“Beats my usual morning alarms.” Jungkook grinned and Taehyung winked, tilting his head and propping it up on his fist as he regarded Jungkook’s morning wood with an expression akin to fascination. Taehyung flicked his eyes up to meet Jungkook’s gaze and smiled almost coyly, tongue darting out to give the tip of Jungkook’s dick a tiny kitten lick.

“Oh fuck. ” Jungkook managed to get out before Taehyung obviously got bored, skipped the pleasantries and went straight for it, opening his mouth and taking Jungkook’s entire length in, lips sliding down to the hilt, overwhelming wet heat engulfing him. Jungkook gasped out, hips bucking instinctively and bumping the back of Taehyung’s throat pretty hard, who to his credit, didn't pull off, though he gagged a little, fingernails digging into Jungkook’s thigh. He was quite obviously experienced in giving blowjobs, if his serene expression as he relaxed his throat was any indicator.

“You- fuck.” Jungkook stared down at Taehyung, groaning at the sight of him, bright, sexily messy bed hair falling over his eyes, full lips stretched wide over Jungkook’s cock, eyes flicking up again, fiery, dark gaze searing into Jungkook’s eyes. Jungkook was painfully, achingly hard already. Taehyung lifted his head slowly, bit by agonising bit, lips sliding wetly up his cock and Jungkook fell on to his back again, fingers blindly reaching for Taehyung’s head and tangling themselves in his soft orange hair. Taehyung dragged his lips enticingly, infuriatingly slow all the way back down again and Jungkook felt his back twist, fingers tightening and tugging just a little, arousal and need gripping his body tight. Taehyung moaned around his dick as Jungkook pulled his hair, sending vibrations running along the length of it and a burst of pleasure streaking through his body.

Holy.” Jungkook breathed as he let his head fall back at the feeling, lips parting and eyes shutting. He felt Taehyung lift off and his lips released Jungkook’s cock with a pop.

“There’s nothing holy about sucking dick.” Taehyung stated matter of factly, voice a little raspy and wonderful, before taking the head back between his soft wet lips again. Jungkook’s laugh at the abrupt comment was swallowed by a breathless moan as Taehyung picked up the speed, bobbing his head up and down over Jungkook’s aching cock, sucking hard against the head. Jungkook arched his back, neck stretched and head thrown all the way back at the feeling, heels digging into the sheets. Jungkook’s moans gradually increased in volume, pitch and obscenity as Taehyung hummed against his dick, fingertips running over the skin of his thighs and pressing hard against the muscle there, holding his hips down firmly as Jungkook writhed and arched.

The fact that it was Taehyung down there between Jungkook’s legs, lips wrapped around Jungkook’s cock, wet, smooth tongue flattening against his shaft and teeth grazing ever so slightly, teasingly, made Jungkook lose his mind and self control, and he came down Taehyung’s throat, letting out a choked, high pitched moan before he could give him a warning. Taehyung took it in his stride, pulling off a little to swallow it all, unfazed, although Jungkook’s jerky movements as he came down from his high managed to splatter a splash of thick, white come over Taehyung’s cheeks and lashes. He lay there panting for a few blissful, sated seconds, the tension having rushed out of his body, before Taehyung spoke up.

“Good morning.” Taehyung spoke brightly, though his tone was drenched in unabashed want and lust, voice low and intoxicating.

Jungkook pushed himself up to a sitting position, taking one look at Taehyung’s smiling, beautiful face covered in Jungkook’s come, a bit of it leaking past his lovely, wet and full lips and dripping down his chin and growled, “Come here.”

Taehyung crawled up Jungkook’s body and Jungkook grabbed his face and yanked him up for a bruising kiss, feeling his dick twitch in interest as Taehyung moaned against his lips, low and sultry.

“God, do you even have any idea how good you look like this?” Jungkook breathed and Taehyung laughed brightly, pulling back to tilt his head back, half closing his eyes and parting his lips to run his tongue over them, teasing Jungkook with that hooded stare and bared neck. Jungkook felt arousal burst into flame in his lower stomach, and Taehyung laughed again at his expression.

“You know, I always seem to be told how attractive I am when my face is covered in bodily fluids. Wonder why.” Taehyung remarked lightly, pleasantly, and Jungkook growled in response, ripping off Taehyung’s oversized bed shirt as it slipped teasingly off his shoulder, quickly losing patience as his dick had grown fully hard again in an impossibly short amount of time.

“Because you’re a beacon of sin. A damn hot one at that.” Jungkook muttered and tugged Taehyung forward by the waist, pulling him onto his lap. Taehyung didn't resist, falling forward and straddling Jungkook’s thighs, the bulge in his boxers pressing against Jungkook’s dick, drawing a groan from him. Taehyung pulled off Jungkook’s shirt and tugged his shorts down past his thighs, touch lingering.

“I have… my own problem now. As you can see. Take care of it for me?” Taehyung leaned forward and murmured in Jungkook’s ear, hips rolling in small, teasing movements. Jungkook leaned forward and bit his neck, eliciting a tiny yelp of surprise that was way too adorable for the situation. Taehyung leant back and touched his neck with a wounded expression and Jungkook couldn't help but laugh, kissing him sweetly, touching his bare chest and dragging his fingertips down slowly.

“Hurry up and ride me.” Jungkook whispered against Taehyung’s lips, letting his fingers slide down to Taehyung’s soft inner thigh, feeling the muscles jump beneath his touch. Taehyung drew in a sharp breath, pushing himself up to tug off his boxers and reach over to the bedside table to retrieve a condom and a packet of lube faster than Jungkook would’ve imagined possible, rolling the condom down over Jungkook’s cock before he even realised it was in his hand. Jungkook whistled and Taehyung sat back, angling his hips up, winking as he ripped open the lube packet.

“With pleasure.” Taehyung spread his legs wide and trailed his own fingers down past his dick and pausing at his puckered hole fully on display, and Jungkook felt his thighs clench, feeling a dizzy rush at the sight. He reached forward to touch before Taehyung slapped his hand away, shaking his finger.

“Uh-uh. Just watch.” Taehyung murmured, winking again and Jungkook swore, fisting his hands into the sheets to keep himself still. Taehyung finger circled his entrance and Jungkook was torn between fixing his eyes on the slow movement he wished he was doing instead, and the slack way Taehyung’s lips parted as he teased himself. Taehyung pushed two fingers inside of himself and bit his lip, expression tightening and groaning deep in his throat. Jungkook gritted his teeth as he stared at Taehyung’s fingers swallowed inside of him, using every ounce of self control to keep himself still as Taehyung began to move his fingers, sliding in and out past the tight ring of muscle. Watching Taehyung finger himself was maddening, and Jungkook swore breathlessly again as Taehyung drove his fingers in deeper and let out this sensual, airy gasp that drove Jungkook wild.

Fuck I'm going crazy.” Jungkook choked out as Taehyung stretched himself wide, tilting his head back and moaning in a way that made Jungkook suspect Taehyung was actively trying to drive him insane. Taehyung smirked before pushing a third finger in, mouth dropping open in a perfect ‘o’ and arching his back, body twisting, all that smooth skin and supple muscle seeming to gravitate towards Jungkook and Jungkook sort of wanted to cry. “Fuck you.

“Yes, yes, be patient, that's next on the agenda.” Taehyung admonished and slipped his fingers out abruptly, grinning obnoxiously at Jungkook’s expression and crawling back on top of him, fingers lacing behind his neck. Taehyung grabbed Jungkook’s dick and held it firmly as he lined himself up, and Jungkook wanted to sob at the point, he wanted to come so badly. Taehyung sunk down in one smooth movement and they moaned in unison, Jungkook’s hands automatically gripping Taehyung’s hips as the almost unbearable heat enveloped his cock.

“God,” Jungkook breathed, barely able to concentrate as Taehyung rocked his hips up and down, bouncing on Jungkook’s cock, gasping every time he drove himself down to the base, fingers digging into Jungkook’s skin. “How are you- so tight when- you seem very comfortable with taking it up the ass?”

“How the fuck am I even supposed to answer this - oh, ” Taehyung broke off to whimper, grinding down mercilessly on Jungkook’s cock, body twisting in pleasure, sweat beading on his forehead. “-this question?”

Jungkook had no idea either, and couldn’t afford to focus on that when Taehyung’s hoarse, desperate moans filled his ears and made him dizzy. Taehyung was so impossibly, deliciously hot and tight, and each slide rendered Jungkook utterly, utterly speechless with pleasure and the surge of need for release grew until he thought he might pass out. Taehyung tensed, tightening around Jungkook’s cock and pushing him over the edge as he came with Jungkook’s name on his lips, painting their chests white in his come. Jungkook groaned, the sound buried deep within his throat, a flash of white bursting behind his eyelids and came into the condom, body trembling from the force of it, fingers gripping Taehyung’s hips so hard there were definitely going to be marks later. Taehyung recovered first as they remained in that position, catching their breath, bodies boneless and spent. He lifted off Jungkook’s dick and rolled off to the side with a grunt, exhaling audibly as he flung his arms out wide, across the bed. Jungkook fell back and swore reflectively, breathless, heart racing, euphoria still rushing through his veins. They lay there in silence for a bit, before Taehyung spoke.

“Wanna go for round three in the bathtub?”

~

By the time they’d left Taehyung’s apartment Jungkook was sore all over, body sporting red and purple kiss marks, an unfamiliar sharp ache gripping his lower back and hips as he walked. Taehyung had driven them to a nearby restaurant for lunch as it was well past one in the afternoon, and Jungkook sighed for the nth time as he sat there in his seat by the window, wallowing in self pity as the ache that seizing his lower back continued to make its presence known.

“Come on, it can’t be that bad, I was gentle.” Taehyung looked like he was trying not to laugh, and Jungkook slit him a glare in response. “Gentle” was not almost bending Jungkook in half and fucking him until he barely knew his own name anymore. Although, Jungkook had been the one begging him to go faster and harder… Still. Taehyung smiled cutely, folding his hands beneath his chin and cocking his head to one side as he gazed at Jungkook. “What do you think of vibrators?”

“Dear God.” Jungkook buried his head in his hands and Taehyung laughed brightly, cutting a piece of his steak and chewing it thoughtfully, regarding Jungkook with a smaller, warmer smile.

“You’re so beautiful. Even when you’re annoyed at me.” Taehyung commented softly, almost speaking the words like a sigh, and Jungkook froze, blush spreading across his cheeks, heart thudding painfully in his chest. He peeked up at Taehyung through his fingers, suddenly irrationally, embarrassingly shy at the sudden soft words. God, this boy was not good for his heart. Taehyung’s eyes widened and he pulled out his phone and snapped a picture before Jungkook could even react. Jungkook’s blush darkened and he stared incredulously at Taehyung, heartbeat increasing ever more.

“What the hell? Why’d you take a photo of me? Give me your phone.” Jungkook reached for Taehyung’s phone, who lifted it out of reach, shaking his head and sticking out his tongue.

“No can do sweetcheeks, you’re going to delete it. You looked so adorable, I had to have a picture of it.” Taehyung replied matter of factly and Jungkook glowered at him, knowing his face was so red it probably shone.

“Fuck you.” Jungkook settled with muttering, and Taehyung’s mouth dropped open, evident mock surprise taking over his expression, eyes round and wide.

Again? I have to say, your stamina is impressive.” Taehyung breathed in wonder, and Jungkook let his head hit the table with a thunk, just giving up at that point. Taehyung burst out laughing and prodded his head back up, stealing a kiss.

“I’m joking.” Taehyung sang and Jungkook fanned his face, refusing to meet his gaze. Taehyung grinned and stretched, leaning back comfortably in his seat, handsome face relaxed and content, and Jungkook wasn’t really annoyed anymore. “Wanna go back to BigHit later?”

“Yeah. Definitely.” Jungkook replied and Taehyung smiled.

~

Jungkook sat at the curved, polished black glass bar, sipping his beer and watching Taehyung play.

Taehyung playing out in the open casino area, where cash and excited yells alike flew about the place, was a very different sight to what Jungkook had seen before. Taehyung hadn’t said a word back in that private room, face blank and unfathomable, playing, winning and losing quietly. But out here, playing what looked like Big Two, he was the complete opposite. He was animated, vibrant and captivating, drawing people in like moths to a bright, warm, golden flame. He laughed and joked around, setting everyone at ease and looking like he was genuinely having fun. Jungkook could barely keep his eyes off him. He looked as if he was actually playing a game, and not having a contest with everyone else at the table, like Jungkook, like the majority of the rest of the casino’s inhabitants.

“Gorgeous.” Jungkook breathed over the rim of his glass, and almost jumped out of his skin as a voice replied beside him.

“He is quite pretty, yeah.” A guy spoke from a seat away from Jungkook, voice bright and lilting, and Jungkook whipped his head around to stare at him, having not even noticed there was someone sitting beside him. The guy was dressed in a simple, unassuming suit, and looked around Jungkook’s age. He smiled, a really friendly yet somehow simultaneously naturally sardonic looking smile. “Do you know him?”

“Him? Oh, right, you mean Taehyung? Yeah, well,” Jungkook replied haltingly, a little taken aback at the sudden conversation struck up by the stranger, and glanced back at Taehyung laughing brightly at something the lady beside him said. “He's my boyfriend, so, yeah.”

“Boyfriend? Wow. You aren't afraid of telling people that?” The person laughed lightly, the feeling somehow ironic, and Jungkook didn't know how he knew, but he could tell this person wasn't being judgmental here, despite his slightly sarcastic smile. Jungkook thought maybe that was just how his expression was normally. But then again, he'd met the guy less than a minute ago, he had no idea how he knew.

“Only people that call my boyfriend pretty.” Jungkook spoke calmly, sipping at his beer and raising an eyebrow pointedly at the guy who rose his hands in surrender, shaking his head and laughing.

“Oh no, don't get me wrong, I don't have my eyes on your boyfriend. I'm just stating a fact because well, he is really pretty, anyone can tell that. Lucky you.” The guy explained nonchalantly and Jungkook broke into a somewhat bemused smile. What a strange, refreshingly honest guy.

Jungkook shifted a little, regarding him with a shadow of a smile. “What’s your name?”

“Jinwoo. Nice to meet you, Jungkook.” The guy, Jinwoo grinned and Jungkook’s eyebrows shot upwards, knowing his surprise was clear for all to see. But it was okay, he wasn't playing cards right now.

“And how the fuck do you know my name?” Jungkook asked pleasantly and Jinwoo laughed, gesturing at him vaguely.

“Everyone knows the Red Ace’s name. Hell, even my boss knows your name.” Jinwoo spoke airily and Jungkook relaxed some, nodding in acknowledgment and smiling out of politeness rather than anything else.

“Your boss?” Jungkook prompted absently, though he wasn't too interested. Jinwoo waved his hand dismissively.

“I work in IT. Just saying that you're famous. I guess I should say I'm pretty honoured to be talking to you now.” Jinwoo replied carelessly and Jungkook wondered whether he ever stopped smiling.

“You're making me blush.” Jungkook replied flatly and Jinwoo laughed, leaning back against the bar counter comfortably.

“Evidently. You seem like a guy fazed by very little. Admirable.” Jinwoo grinned, spinning a phone around in his fingers. Jungkook almost laughed at that. Yes he was fazed by very little. Except for every single expression and movement Kim Taehyung made. Fuck, he was plenty fazed just whenever Taehyung breathed in his direction.

“I like to think I am. Might I return the compliment?” Jungkook smiled and Jinwoo replied with his own, amusement dancing in his eyes.

“Why thank you.”

“How do you know Taehyung then?” Jungkook asked after a beat of silence, almost like a follow up, and Jinwoo shrugged, glancing over at Taehyung quickly.

“We met here a while ago. I played a game against him and he came up to me afterwards saying that I was a pretty good player. Shit, I wondered whether he was making fun of me. I lost completely to him. And we just became friends, I guess? I was just texting him asking him to introduce me to you because I saw you two were pretty close yesterday.” Jinwoo explained lightly and Jungkook suddenly remembered the text from “J” last night. Ah, so that must be him.

Jungkook suddenly had an image of another message on that screen flash through his mind.

S: Don't forget.

Don't forget what?

A warm hand rested on his shoulder and Jungkook glanced up at Taehyung, smiling, all other thoughts wiped away cleanly. Taehyung returned the smile sweetly, and grinned at Jinwoo, raising his hand in a half wave.

“Jinwoo, how's it going? I told you I was gonna introduce you, but it looks like you just couldn't wait. Understandable, our Jungkookie is pretty irresistible, I know the feeling.” Taehyung winked down at Jungkook who felt the need to bury his head in his hands again. Jinwoo burst out laughing, nodding his head slightly.

“Must you?” Jungkook muttered and Taehyung kissed the top of his head, effectively shutting him up. Jinwoo didn't make any comment, though he inclined his head at Taehyung in greeting.

“I thought you two looked pretty close, but boyfriends? Nicely done.” Jinwoo grinned up at Taehyung, sliding Jungkook a pointed look and Taehyung laughed easily as Jungkook coughed, scratching his neck. God, why did everyone like teaming up with Taehyung to embarrass him?

“Hey, hey, hey, eyes to yourself, buddy.” Taehyung clicked his tongue in mock annoyance and Jinwoo obediently covered his eyes with his hand, grin widening as Taehyung laughed. Jungkook felt like he needed to massage his temples. Jinwoo glanced at his watch before standing up.

“Great chatting to you two gentlemen, but duties await. See you around, Red Ace.” Jinwoo grinned at Jungkook, who waved in response, watching Jinwoo turn and leave. He turned to Taehyung, pulling him down for a kiss.

“Strange guy. I don't know why, but I feel like I can trust him?” Jungkook mused and glanced back, and so he didn't see the flicker of unease in Taehyung’s eyes.

“Yeah?”

“Weird, right?” Jungkook glanced back up at him and Taehyung grinned almost indulgently.

“More importantly, today’s a Friday. Don't you have school?” Taehyung raised an eyebrow and Jungkook scoffed, waving a hand dismissively.

“I sure do. But does my degree really matter when I'm pretty much going to live and die in this casino?” Jungkook laughed and Taehyung broke into a slow smile.

“Wow. No aspirations whatsoever. Your CEO dad would be heartbroken.” Taehyung sighed dramatically and Jungkook shoved him, getting to his feet and stretching.

“Let’s go. I'm not really in the mood for cards today. Probably because someone fucked my brains out. I don't know how you still have energy.” Jungkook slid Taehyung a look, who smiled innocently, tilting his head and blinking cutely. They were almost at the entrance when Jungkook paused, swearing under his breath.

“We took your car here, didn't we. I left my car back at yours.” Jungkook clicked his tongue and Taehyung blinked, a slow grin spreading across his face.

“You know what that means?” Taehyung asked lightly, a gleam lighting up his eyes and Jungkook sighed, though a smile was already forming on his lips. “You'll have to come back to my place.”

~

 

Chapter Text

 

Jimin stared dully into the mirror, taking in his haggard, empty, haunted appearance, the grey tinge circling his eyes and the ugly patch of purple and red beneath the skin of his cheek. The dim, senseless light ghosting through the room just barely gave Jimin the sight to stare at his reflection. He lifted a hand up to his face, eyes inevitably flicking to the dark ringed indents around his thin wrist. When had he gotten so thin? He touched the bruise lightly, contemplatively, and watched the muscles in his cheeks twitch in an instinctive wince of pain.

Yoongi had been in a bad mood since Jimin had first told him about what happened with Mr Jeon. Jimin let his hand drop, brushing the finger shaped bruises pressed into his hips, telling himself it was unavoidable. But this time it went on a bit longer than usual.

He thought about it. Since then… Jungkook and Taehyung would've been dating for two weeks now. He wondered if Jungkook was still head over heels like he'd been the last time Jimin saw him.

Come to think of it, it was Jungkook’s birthday today. Jimin thought about sending a short ‘happy birthday’ text, but discarded the idea with a humourless smile. Jungkook didn't want and didn't need to hear from him. If Jungkook just forgot about this best friend’s existence slowly, bit by bit, it'd be for the best.

He hoped Taehyung would do something nice for Jungkook for his twentieth birthday, to make up for Jimin’s absence if nothing else.

Jimin dressed slowly, at a rhythm-less, unhurried pace, buttoning his white dress shirt as he stood in front of the mirror, fastening a belt around the slim black slacks that threatened to slip off his narrow hips. Maybe he should start working out again. Maybe he should start eating properly again. He stared at himself in the dusty, slanted mirror, his appearance gradually made more presentable with each piece of clothing added to the mask of alertness and order, hiding away the blue and purple spots lacing down his body. He fastened the first button of his blazer and ran a careful hand through his hair, trying to make the wind swept look seem intentional, rather than the tousled result of being pressed against the mattress. He hesitated before picking up the small jar of concealer always placed within reach, and exhaled tiredly, giving in and dabbing some over his bruise to brush away any evidence.

Jimin crossed the room and pushed open the door, adding a brisk, purposeful stride to his gait as he exited the room, heading out towards the casino area.

~

“T-Taehyung,” Jungkook gasped out, struggling to connect two thoughts together as Taehyung hummed, lips vibrating against his shoulder blade, sharp hips snapping almost painfully against his ass.

“Yeah.” Taehyung murmured silkily, not really intoning it as a question. Jungkook felt his shaking arms give way and he pitched forward into the mattress, laboured breath escaping his lungs in a rush. He turned his face to the side to breathe, hands gripping the sheets as his back curved down into the mattress, barely having the strength to push himself back up again, moaning mindlessly as Taehyung growled, low and brief. Jungkook arched his back upwards instinctively into Taehyung’s touch as the hot, roaming fingers ran up the length of his spine, leaving behind a trail of fire. Jungkook whined in a gasping, pathetic way as Taehyung shifted his grip on his hips and tugged him backwards sharply, pulling him further down on his dick, impossibly deeper. Jungkook at this point had completely forgotten what he was going to say.

“I- you- ugh. ” Jungkook choked out as Taehyung leant down, smothering his shaking, weak body with his own, the overwhelming warmth enveloping him whole, filling his entire world with blinding heat and pleasure. “What are- you doing?”

“It's a bit late to ask that question, isn't it? But if you haven't quite realised yet - birthday sex. It's pretty much a requirement.” Taehyung explained slowly, smoothly, low voice melting over Jungkook’s ears as he whispered them into Jungkook’s neck, hot breath fanning over his skin. Jungkook whimpered and rubbed his aching cock against the mattress in little, shunting movements, feeling tears prick at his eyes at the heat coiling in his lower stomach and numbing his mind.

“No I mean- I woke up like five minutes - oh fuck - ago, on my hands and- and knees, and your tongue running over my ass. A little warning next time, maybe?” Jungkook managed to get out, rolling his head to the side and exposing more of his neck immediately, mouth falling open when Taehyung nipped at his skin, pressing slow, open mouthed kisses there, a complete contrast to the relentless thrusts down below. Jungkook had no idea how he did it, he himself could barely focus on just keeping his ass up in the air.

“You don't like it?” Taehyung dragged his lips up Jungkook’s neck and ended his husky question in an exhale that rushed through his hair and swirled around his ear. Jungkook could only moan in response, uncurling his fingers of one hand from the sheets and groping blindly upwards, feeling Taehyung grab his hand and tangling their fingers together. He gripped Taehyung’s fingers hard, as he felt himself nearing climax, aching need seizing his body from head to toe, wordlessly urging Taehyung to speed up and bring him to the peak of release. Taehyung obliged and bit down into the crook of Jungkook’s neck, mouth hot and wet, the prick of pain sending a burst of pleasure coursing throughout his tensed, trembling body and Jungkook came with a long, drawn out moan that echoed around the room, even though he barely had the air to do so. Taehyung stiffened against him and exhaled with a low grunt, hot, smooth body deflating a little and relaxing against Jungkook’s back. They lay there catching their breath for a few moments of silence, slowly unwinding from the high.

“Of course I like it, you asshole.” Jungkook finally replied breathlessly, smiling involuntarily as Taehyung pressed a kiss to his shoulder, running his fingers aimlessly up and down Jungkook’s side, touch soft and lulling.

“Well, that's good. My efforts haven't been wasted. You look so pretty on your knees. So fuckable.” Taehyung stated airily and rolled off of him, tossing the used condom with practiced ease into the bin a metre or so away. The first time Taehyung had come over to Jungkook’s place, he'd oohed and aahed and gushed over absolutely everything in the mansion, tugging Jungkook along on his excited, bubbly and fascinated expedition around the house, dragging Jungkook from one room to the another, such that even Jungkook discovered places he'd never been to before. In his own house. But when he'd watched Taehyung’s eyes lit up in unabashed, child-like curiosity and his infectious excited grin, Jungkook hadn't really minded escorting Taehyung on his journey. But from then till now, Taehyung had come over so many times he could probably lie on Jungkook’s bed with his eyes closed and point to anything in the room correctly.

“Thanks. Great to know I look fuckable, gee, seeing the way you lose your mind every time I bend over, I was starting to suspect otherwise.” Jungkook drawled sarcastically, turning over onto his back and wiping at the sticky mess on his stomach. Taehyung grabbed his wrist and lightly pushed his hand away, inching down the bed, closing his eyes slightly and licking Jungkook’s cooling come off his stomach in long, efficient strokes that had Jungkook twitching and squirming at the feeling. Fuck, why did his messy hair falling over his half closed eyes look so good as he lapped up every drop of Jungkook’s come as if it was the most natural thing to do?

“That's disgusting.” Jungkook sniffed and Taehyung lifted his head, gazing at Jungkook in that trademark sinful, provocative way, head tilted back so it exposed his sharp jaw and long neck, hunger burning beneath his lashes.

“Can't help it. You taste so good, you have no idea.” Taehyung moaned in an over exaggerated way, and Jesus, even though at this point Jungkook should be well and truly used to his porno antics, he still felt a stab of heat, a lurch in his stomach at the words spoken in such a velvet tone.

“What a slutty thing to say.” Jungkook replied lightly instead of admitting that he was affected, but groaned anyway when a drop of come leaked from the corner of Taehyung’s reddened, wet lips. Taehyung flicked his tongue out to catch it and smirked, slapping Jungkook’s thigh and wagging a finger.

“Don't slut shame. You like it.” Taehyung admonished before lowering his head and getting right back to it. Taehyung paused to swallow, flicking his eyes up at Jungkook, cheekiness outshining the dark pools of lust for a second as he dipped his tongue into Jungkook’s navel, winking when Jungkook drew in a shaky gasp at the intrusive, wet pressure pressing into a place that certainly did not ever get much attention at all. Heat rushed all the way back down to his cock again as shivers ran up the length of his body and he took a moment to admire his own impossibly short refractory period.

“You'll be the death of me.” Jungkook groaned out, already breathing with difficulty as Taehyung pressed a sweet kiss to the tip of his stiffening cock.

“I sure hope so. Well, come on then, liven up a little. We got round two, round three and many more to go. Happy birthday, Jungkookie!”

~

“Don't you ever get tired?” Jungkook griped as he tried to subtly rearrange his sore dick in his pants, ignoring the sharp ache that seized his lower back with the ease of practice and experience. Taehyung flung an arm around Jungkook’s shoulder, dragging him closer to nuzzle his forehead against Jungkook’s temple.

“Of your gorgeous, delightful body? Of course not. I am so glad I discovered another one of your sweet spots today. How do you have so many? God, just thinking about it is maddening.” Taehyung declared cheerfully, pressing a quick, light kiss right beneath his ear, and Jungkook swore as the light touch sent a shiver of pleasure racing down his spine. How could he still be turned on after so many rounds? Jesus, didn't he ever get tired?

“Why does it matter, my whole body feels like a sweet spot when I'm around you.” Jungkook muttered and Taehyung blinked, a huge, terribly gleeful grin spreading across his face.

“Well, I must say, that is possibly the greatest compliment I've ever received.” Taehyung sang, flashing his adorable wide, squarish smile and Jungkook couldn't help his own smile as he leaned in and kissed his stupid boyfriend.

“Let me just inflate your big head with even more compliments then. You're so attractive I can't take my eyes off you for a second. Your stupidly active tongue is capable of making me forget my own name and age. You sound so good in bed you could probably just sit there and moan and I'd probably come.” Jungkook grinned, shrugging off Taehyung’s arm to grab his hand in his own as they strolled down the bright, busy streets, slipping into the movement naturally now, wholly uncaring of the whispers and looks, all the meaningless background static. Taehyung blinked in surprise before he wiggled his eyebrows, lips stretching into a half smirk, fingers seeming to instinctively link and curl between Jungkook’s.

“Why thank you, but leave the dirty talk till later. We’ve got a flight to catch.” Taehyung stated abruptly and Jungkook whipped his head around to stare at him, confusion clearly written all over his face.

“What?” Jungkook asked dumbly, inviting an eyebrow raise and an innocently bemused expression from Taehyung’s pretty face.

“Where did you think we were walking to?”

A while later, as they boarded the tiny domestic flight, Jungkook turned to Taehyung again, having not yet caught up.

“Um, what are we doing on a plane?” Jungkook thought it was a reasonable question to ask, but Taehyung stared at him quizzically like he was purposefully being difficult.

“Uh, flying somewhere?” Taehyung answered with an arched eyebrow, ushering Jungkook into his seat before Jungkook even realised they’d moved down the aisle. Jungkook frowned at being dumped into his seat so carelessly and buckled his seatbelt with a certain degree of apprehension.

“Yes, I can see that, but why?” Jungkook replied patiently and Taehyung squinted at him, remaining standing, leaning over him with his elbows resting on the seat backs. Jungkook took a moment to appreciate the grey turtleneck sweater hugging Taehyung’s waist, clinging distractingly to his figure, the neck tugged up to end just below his lips. His leg casually crossed over the other, entire posture relaxed, nonchalant in this undeniably natural, attractive way. It’d been two weeks, but he was still trying to come to terms with the fact that this gorgeous, spontaneous, adorable, incorrigible ray of sunshine was his boyfriend. Even if two months passed, or two years, Jungkook would probably still have a hard time believing it.

“Well, you said you wanted to go to Jeju Island. And it’s your birthday, so we’re going. You’re rich, I’m rich, what’s the problem?” Taehyung explained simply, shrugging with one shoulder, tilting his head slightly. Jungkook found he didn’t have an answer to that. He couldn’t help but break into a smile, at his wonderful boyfriend and his wonderful, spontaneous, stupid ideas. What the hell. They were just up and going to Jeju Island without even discussing it for a second? They didn’t even have anything on them asides from wallets, passports (Jungkook had no idea where Taehyung had fished out his for him) and phones. Jungkook didn’t even know if Taehyung had booked a return ticket. It was so not properly organised. And he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“Sit your pretty ass down.” Jungkook said instead, grabbing Taehyung’s sleeve and tugging at him until he relented, plonking down in his seat and offering a charming smile and bright apology over his shoulder as he almost tripped someone passing in the aisle with his careless movements. Taehyung immediately sidled up to Jungkook as Jungkook buried his head in his hands at the annoyed look sent their way, breaking character and pressing his head into the crook of Jungkook’s neck, snuggling up to him in a grossly clingy, endearingly childish way.

“Aw, babe, are you mad that I didn’t ask you about it first?” Taehyung whined, wrapping his arms around Jungkook’s waist firmly, warm and heavy, and Jungkook couldn’t help smiling as he felt lips press a soft kiss beneath his jaw.

“You know I’m not. You even paid for my ticket and everything. What are we even going to do on Jeju Island?” Jungkook poked Taehyung’s cheek, who mimed biting at his finger.

“Everything. Nothing. Whatever you want to do. Mind you, the only tickets I could get on such short notice are only spaced like ten hours apart, so I’m afraid our ambitions as pioneers will have to be postponed to a later date. I heard the casinos there are worth having a look around, though.” Taehyung replied flippantly, easily, and Jungkook just laughed, shoving Taehyung away as the flight attendant neared, but not before stealing a quick kiss. Everything was so spur of the moment, sudden and unplanned, something only Taehyung would do, but that was precisely why warmth spread from Jungkook’s chest down to the tips of his fingers and toes as he gazed at the boy beside him, who waved cheerfully at the attendant as she passed.

“I can’t believe you.” Jungkook stated simply, to which Taehyung just sent him a sharp grin, resting his hand on Jungkook’s knee for a second, the warmth seeping into Jungkook’s skin before his fingers slid down between his thighs, shifting upwards a little to press against his crotch briefly. Jungkook inhaled and slapped Taehyung’s hand away sharply, quickly glancing up to see if anyone had been looking their way. God, this guy was insatiable. He frowned at Taehyung who just smiled pleasantly. “Bad.”

“When can you ever believe me?” Taehyung shrugged as if nothing had happened, and settled back comfortably for the flight. Jungkook shook his head, smiling.

~

“What do you think about coming back here sometime, when we have lots of time to actually go to all those holiday hotspots and properly experience the island? Instead of like… walking around. And taking really ugly selfies at really pretty scenic spots.” Jungkook broke the comfortable silence as they walked aimlessly through the sunlit forest, the panels of light between evenly spaced from the setting sun slanting across the undergrowth carpeted in dead leaves. He said that, but he'd really enjoyed the whole day nonetheless. Just walking around with Taehyung, chatting with him about everything and nothing, kissing him slow, basking in his presence, just spending every moment of the day with him had already pieced together a perfect, precious, unforgettable birthday for him.

“That sounds nice. We should totally do it. Ah, to be young!” Taehyung suddenly sang, throwing his arms out and spinning around the open space of the trodden path, sending a flurry of crackling leaves swirling about his feet. He shot Jungkook a conspiratorial smile as he skipped forward, beautiful face bathed in sunlight, breathtaking in its golden glow. “Isn’t it great? We have all the time in the world, to do whatever we want.”

“You’re such a child.” Jungkook couldn’t hide the smile threatening to take over his whole face, heart swelling with warmth as Taehyung laughed brightly, a tinkling little sound in the quiet of the forest.

“Isn’t that what I just said?” Taehyung called over his shoulder and Jungkook grinned, running to catch up with him.

Somehow, as the sun began to inch its way down the sky, inviting the streaks of dark blue and grey to creep across and take its place, Jungkook and Taehyung ended up at a casino, again, inevitably, even in a completely different part of the country.

“Pass me the beer, babe.” Jungkook smiled sweetly at Taehyung who rolled his eyes and slid the card closer to him in his hand across to cover the other, pressing them face down on the maroon felt playing table.

“Get it yourself.” Taehyung huffed but picked up the can and handed it to him anyway, and Jungkook just smiled sweeter as he used that split second of contact to swap the card hidden in the curve of Taehyung’s palm with his own, eyes flashing at Taehyung in triumph as they pulled it off without a hitch. He tipped the beer down his throat and set it down with a thunk, not immediately transferring his card over to his other hand, tapping his fingers against the table casually, seeing how far he could push himself, how much he’d need to practice on expression control as he tried not to seem like he was focusing on keep the card tucked away in the inconspicuous grip of his palm hidden from view. After raising purely based on trust that Taehyung would’ve given him the winning card, Jungkook finally allowed himself the exchange, reaching his hand up to scratch at his cheek before lowering it and seemingly holding the two cards in his right hand with both, quickly glancing at Taehyung’s card squeezed into place by his left palm. Ooh, straight flush, wasn’t that exciting. Jungkook glanced up, nonchalant, casual, swapping his cards right underneath every player’s nose. Except Taehyung, of course, who just sighed and tossed his cards down, folding as the player before him raised. Once they’d all raised and matched, Jungkook threw his cards out without much care, smirking and resisting the urge to high five Taehyung as the disgruntlement and disbelief set into the faces of everyone sitting around that table. Taehyung also contributed to the circle of shock, letting his jaw drop open in an exaggerated way, grinning at Jungkook who snorted, sweeping away his winnings.

This casino was certainly a lot smaller than BigHit, and the Gangnam houses Taehyung had taken him to in the past week, a lot cosier and friendly, every gambler gathered there on that beautiful island seeming to genuinely want to seek out an easy, fun night playing cards. It was refreshing. Still there were the excited screams and raucous laughter, but there was an absence of the urgency buzzing in a thin veil over various heated, tense tables like back in BigHit. Just pure fun.

“Oh man, we should definitely play here more often.” Jungkook exclaimed as they left the little ring of players at the table, manoeuvring through the other tables heaped together, stumbling and laughing and clutching onto each other. Nobody had yet commented on the intimacy of Jungkook and Taehyung’s touches and proximity throughout the night, to his great surprise. They hadn’t even been trying to hide it tonight. Something about Jeju Island lacked the uptight, hurried air of Seoul, and its beady eyed, closely observant gambler inhabitants. They broke free of the net of people and collapsed onto the couches lined up against the wall, out in the open space of the otherwise packed room.

“You say that like you never want to leave this island. I dunno about you, but I got work back in Seoul.” Taehyung laughed, falling forward and planting his head against Jungkook’s thighs, fingers curling over his knee, a little tipsy, overflowing with the infectiously excited, enthusiastic atmosphere. Jungkook let his head rest back against the couch, letting his dizzy mind settle for a second.

“Work? You work?” Jungkook snorted and Taehyung just laughed brightly, rolling over so he was lying on his back, grinning up at Jungkook, openly relaxed, exhilarated and captivating.

“Well, yeah, at BigHit, kind of. If Hoseok wants me to go fuck up some guy’s life, I go win a couple hundred grand off him, and I get paid extra by the company for it. Anyone can do it, you know, just go ask Hoseok. You don’t have to sign up for it or anything unless you’re serious about being an actual worker at BigHit. I actually used to do it like… full time, every day, till I met you. Now all I care about is playing these meaningless, fun games with you.” Taehyung lurched up and dragged Jungkook’s head down so their lips met in the middle, and he laughed into the kiss, breathless, eyes positively sparkling.

“Our flight’s in about an hour and a half, we should really get going now.” Jungkook pushed away Taehyung’s persistent, grabby hands long enough to say, and Taehyung groaned, pouting before springing up, tugging Jungkook up with him.

“Killjoy.” Taehyung stuck out his tongue and Jungkook was about to smile and reply before a flash of grey caught his eye. It couldn’t be…

“Enjoy the rest of your stay here, Mr Jeon.” Someone was bowing, to the grey figure who turned and left without another word, slipping through the exit before Jungkook had really even caught a proper glimpse of him. Was that just…

Jungkook pushed his way through the mass of people, chasing after the grey coat tails as he had been since the day he’d been born. But was it even his father? What would he be doing on Jeju Island? In a casino as well? By the time he’d reached the spot he’d seen him at, the grey figure was long since gone, but Jungkook bumped into someone else.

“Oh, Red Ace?” Jinwoo greeted him as his eyes lit up with recognition. “V, too?”

“Jinwoo?” Jungkook took a moment to remember the name, and Jinwoo dipped his head in acknowledgement, grinning at Taehyung who’d caught up to Jungkook, silent by his side.

“Fancy seeing you here. What are you two here for? Holiday?” Jinwoo asked, somehow managing the intone the simple question in a slightly dry, derisive way despite his smile, shifting his stance slightly so he seemed to stand subtly, directly in between Jungkook and the phantom image of his father.

“Yeah, what about you?” Taehyung answered for Jungkook, having sobered up remarkably quickly, a strange, blank seriousness resting on his features instead of the exuberance and the high of the buzzing atmosphere.

“Business trip. Well, obviously not at this exact moment, being here and all that, but my boss has a little interest in gambling houses and casinos and the like, so I suggested he come here for tonight, since we’re on a little break. He just left earlier, and we were about to go too. This is Haejin.” Jinwoo gestured at the man standing quietly beside him, who offered a smile, a serious, responsible and no-nonsense air about him. Jungkook dipped his head in greeting, a little apprehensive at the cool, collected persona, shooting a glance at Taehyung who gazed with mild interest at the man, who looked around a few years older than Jungkook.

“Are you guys off to somewhere?” Jinwoo looked from Jungkook to Taehyung in turn, eyebrow slightly lifted and Taehyung smiled, wrapping an arm around Jungkook’s waist, subtly tugging him closer. Jungkook stared up at him in surprise. What? He glanced back at Jinwoo and Haejin, jumping a little as he realised Haejin’s stare was fixed on him a little intently, contemplatively, almost like he was assessing him. Jungkook stared blankly back, trying not to make it obvious that he pressed himself closer into Taehyung instinctively.

“We gotta catch the next flight back to Seoul. Leaves in… just over an hour. You wouldn't happen to be able to give us a ride to the airport, would you?” Taehyung tilted his head, still smiling warmly, in a strange way that almost seemed… intimidating, and Jinwoo stared back, light smile still curling his lips naturally, taking a moment before replying.

“I would. You wanna get going now?” Jinwoo offered and Taehyung glanced at Jungkook quickly before nodding.

The ride in the small, sleek black car had been riddled with tension at first, tension that Jungkook didn't know what to make of, but he had a lingering suspicion, a formless feeling that it had something to do with him. Then Jinwoo asked him what the biggest sum he'd ever won was, and conversation flowed smoothly from there, light, unsubstantial, but appropriate for passing time. Taehyung hadn't spoken a word the entire time, and Jungkook was definitely going to ask him about that sometime. But for the time being, he just focused on the easy back and forth with Jinwoo, quickly feeling an odd, natural sense of camaraderie with the guy with his dry remarks and drawling tone.

When they arrived at the airport, Taehyung thanked Jinwoo for the kind gesture, all warm smiles and easy laughter, but Jungkook couldn't help but feel like Taehyung’s hand on the small of his back as he led him away from the car into the airport seemed a little forceful.

“What's up?” Jungkook asked as soon as they'd been seated in the plane, reaching out to grab ahold of Taehyung’s hand. Taehyung blinked, expression displaying confusion that was too innocent to be real.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, I didn't really want to bring it up in front of him, but you seem… pretty tense around Jinwoo? I thought you guys were friends? When you spoke to him… it was like you were… warning him to back off, or something.” Jungkook replied hesitantly and Taehyung gazed at him blankly for a split second before laughing, drawing up a slightly mortified smile, tightening his fingers around Jungkook’s.

“Oh, well… That's- I don't wanna be that boyfriend but I don't like it when guys get too friendly with you. Sorry, I'm just… well, I guess I got a little possessive. I'll strive to be more open minded in the future.” Taehyung answered with a slight flush to his cheeks, staring at Jungkook’s reaction almost carefully. When Jungkook raised his eyebrows at that response Taehyung grinned and leaned over to kiss him, lips soft and lingering. Jungkook wasn't sure what his reaction was supposed to be.

“Really? That's it?” Jungkook asked casually, offhandedly, but he watched Taehyung closely.

“Yeah. That and Jinwoo isn't all that he seems. Just want you to be careful.” Taehyung smiled, tone light and reassuring, and Jungkook stared at him, knowing there was something more. He decided to drop it.

“Well, possessiveness can be hot, but don't tell me you're not going to allow me to have friends anymore.” Jungkook spoke lightly, blinking as he thought of something. “Speaking of friends… have you seen Jimin recently?”

“Jimin? I… can’t say I have, no.” Taehyung replied slowly, eyes flicking sharply to Jungkook for elaboration at the sudden question. Jungkook chewed his lip, drawing his brows together in a frown.

“Oh it's just… well I haven't either. And every time I've tried calling him, it goes straight to voicemail. I'm sure he's just… busy.” Jungkook explained, tone faltering, words unsure. Taehyung didn't reply, regarding Jungkook with a curiously unreadable expression, eyes set behind the shadow falling from the bright tips of his fringe, observant and steady. Jungkook shook his head, shoving aside the clinging, flicking, impish shadows of unease, heart lifting as warm, dream-like memories of the day filtered through his mind. “Thank you for taking me here today. I loved every second of it, really.”

“Really? Even though we barely did anything?” Taehyung seemed genuinely surprised, expression open, taken aback but pleased, pretty eyes shining at the words.

“Yeah, really. I got to wander around a beautiful place with a beautiful person all day, how could I not love it?” Jungkook smiled softly, and Taehyung just stared at Jungkook like he was painting a replica of his face in his mind, drinking in every detail from the exact angle of the curve of his jaw down to the tips of his eyelashes.

Taehyung pushed down an arm rest and leant his elbow on it, propping his chin up on his fist as he gazed at Jungkook, smiling slightly like he was staring off into a distant, fantastical view. “You wanna come back here?”

“Of course.” Jungkook agreed readily, immediately, and Taehyung clapped his hands once, smartly, clicking his fingers and winking as he reached into his pocket and drew out his wallet.

“That's good then, because I got you something.” Taehyung announced with bravado, fishing out two tickets and a bundle of neatly folded papers with a flourish. Jungkook’s eyes widened as he took the tickets and turned them over in his hands, seeing that they were again tickets from Seoul to Jeju Island. But the papers and printed documents displayed a travel itinerary that showed Jeju Island as only the first of many, many destinations, and flight and accommodation booking validations and confirmations, for a month long vacation.

“Shit… Taehyung, is this for us?” Jungkook breathed, staring incredulously up at Taehyung’s lightly smiling face.

“No, it's for me and your father.” Taehyung rolled his eyes, smirking as Jungkook shoved him. “Of course it's for us, why?”

“This is a… confirmed travel plan? You're… you're taking me all over the country?” Jungkook pressed, awe ringing out clear in his tone as he had to make sure this was actually what was going on. Dumbfounded was the only real way to explain how he felt at that moment, stare flicking from the tickets to Taehyung’s curved eyes without pause.

“Oh yes. Why, you don't wanna go?” Taehyung smiled wider as Jungkook immediately nodded his head vigorously.

“Of course I want to go! I just… What is this? You just… suddenly bought me tickets to fly all over the country- just out of the blue? How much did this even cost?” Jungkook exclaimed disbelievingly, wonder and giddy excitement exuding from his voice that was just a touch too loud for the small plane cabin. Whatever, who cared about the rest of the people when his amazing, wonderful boyfriend had booked a month long trip around the country for the two of them?

“You and I don't ever need to discuss the cost of something. Perks of dabbling in illegal shit. And what do you mean, what is this? I couldn't very well celebrate your twentieth with you without giving you some sort of birthday present, could I?” Taehyung replied innocently, eyes round, stare bright, as if stating the glaringly obvious. Jungkook pushed the armrest back up and threw his arms around Taehyung, practically throwing himself into Taehyung’s lap while he was it. Taehyung laughed, wrapping his arms snugly around Jungkook’s waist, hugging him close, warm and welcoming, as always. Jungkook pulled back a little and grabbed Taehyung’s face in both hands, sealing their lips together in a firm kiss, the rest of the cabin be damned. Taehyung murmured “happy birthday” against Jungkook’s lips, smiling.


~

Chapter Text

 

It was maybe a week or so later - Jungkook couldn’t really keep track of the days spent by Taehyung’s side that flew past in a beautiful, frenzied blur - when Jungkook met the Grand Dragon.

“Hey boss!”

“Good evening sir!”

“How are you, sir?”

Jungkook pulled his lips away from Taehyung’s bared neck, letting his fingers slide over the smooth skin of the nape absently as he glanced over at the commotion. Well then again, the entire BigHit building was like one big commotion, generally the excitement was a given, so obviously Jungkook didn’t pay it any mind, but… “boss”? That was new. Taehyung shifted in his lap and let his head drop back down, staring in the direction Jungkook was watching.

“What’s up, babe?” Taehyung spoke airily, touching the spot of red blossoming beneath his skin where Jungkook’s lips had left their mark, and Jungkook stared at the man metres away, who was lounging back against a couch similar to the one they sat on, nodding in acknowledgement to the warm greetings thrown his way by various passing workers. He was clad in a simple but classy wine-red suit, his ash blond hair swept back casually, but in a way that had to be purposeful, and most notably, a pair of black sunglasses sitting atop the bridge of his nose. Inside. The man was coolly, casually handsome, hand in his pocket, one leg crossed over the other, radiating relaxed control and looking completely, unquestionably at home, surveying his surroundings like a king might his kingdom.

“Cool guy. Who’s he?” Jungkook commented, still staring at him, curiosity piqued as Hoseok walked over to the man, leaning over and cupping a hand to his ear to whisper something. Taehyung ran his fingers through Jungkook’s hair lightly, unhurriedly, kissing Jungkook’s temple before getting off his lap.

“Ah, him? You don't know? That's the top dog. Grand Dragon. The boss is playing at home today, so if you're lucky, you might be able to play a couple rounds against him!” Taehyung replied with a luxurious stretch and a smile. Jungkook tried not to focus on how Taehyung’s shirt lifted up enough to bare a tempting strip of skin, his jeans riding low on his hips. He couldn't help it though, he leaned forward, wrapping an arm around Taehyung’s hips and tugging him close, wanting a taste. He nipped sharply at the protruding hipbone, soothing the spot with an open mouthed kiss as Taehyung yelped and flinched at the bite. Jungkook grinned up at him as Taehyung smacked his head lightly, but tensed as he glanced back over at the man - Kim Namjoon, was it? - who seemed to be staring directly at them and their interaction with great interest, black lenses fixed their way. He wasn't smiling, not really, but Jungkook could somehow tell he was making direct eye contact across the room, despite the sunglass barrier. Jungkook felt trepidation creep across his upper back, and he frowned slightly, moving his hand up to Taehyung’s waist and pulling him closer instinctively, possessively, arching an eyebrow at Namjoon, almost like a challenge.

“Why is he looking at us?” Jungkook muttered without glancing away, locked in a staredown with Namjoon who didn’t seem fazed at all by the hostility Jungkook didn’t bother hiding. Was Namjoon staring at him, or Taehyung? If it was Taehyung, then they were going to have a problem here. Taehyung laughed, his hand dropping to cover Jungkook’s wrapped around his waist, warm fingers sliding between Jungkook’s own.

“Anyone would stare if they just looked up and saw this guy biting his employee’s hip. God, it sounds even weirder out loud.” Taehyung grinned and Jungkook couldn’t help but laugh as well, some tension draining away as he broke eye contact and tilted his head up to gaze at Taehyung instead. Taehyung raised his eyebrows as if to say, “well, don’t you think so?”

“Employee?” Jungkook replied curiously and Taehyung shrugged, pursing his lips a little.

“Somewhat, anyway. I did tell you I work here sometimes. I do know the boss- Namjoon, a little. My guess is that he’s probably heard of you raking in the dough on his turf while he’s been away. Probably staring because he knows who you are.” Taehyung mused, resting his hand comfortably, naturally against Jungkook’s back, rubbing small, light circles around his shoulder blades. The effect of the soft ministrations was instantaneous, and Jungkook immediately felt any remaining vestiges of tension melt beneath Taehyung’s touch, relaxing with alarming ease. He glanced back at Namjoon, who was saying something, still not glancing away from Jungkook as Hoseok bent to listen, leaning down so that his ear was level with Namjoon’s lips. Hoseok straightened and turned, heading straight their way. Jungkook narrowed his eyes slightly, the rest of the throbbing excitement of the casino blurring away into insignificance as he watched Namjoon carefully, closely, as Hoseok approached.

“Looks like you’ve found him already, but, that over there is the Grand Dragon. Our own residential hero. One of the top six- ah sorry, top seven, players here.” Hoseok greeted them briskly, without dawdling or stalling, smiling at Jungkook as he corrected himself. As usual, Jungkook felt a flare of pride at being the undeniable addition to the set of local legends inhabiting this establishment- no, this entire city’s gambling central.

“What business does he have with me?” Jungkook didn’t waste any time in asking either, and Hoseok laughed a little, brightly, rubbing a poker chip between two fingers. Taehyung glanced down at him briefly.

“Only the best sort of business. The boss is pretty interested in the talk of a new kid in town. He wants to invite you over to play a couple games, see if you live up to your reputation. How about it?” Hoseok asked warmly, kindly, but there was an almost undefinable, infinitesimal edge to his question, an underlying tone that suggested that this wasn’t an invitation, no, it was a “do as you’re told” situation. Nobody had assumed authority around Jungkook since he’d established his name as the Red Ace, not even Seokjin, who despite being quite clearly the better, more experienced player, did not actively behave in any superior manner. Huh. It pricked at Jungkook’s nerves but he went along with it, albeit a little curious despite his instinctive twinge of annoyance or getting ordered around. Of course, he wasn’t at the top of the food chain yet. But he’d get there. He’d rise to level with the Blank Card, the Grand Dragon, then he’d trample them underfoot. But for the time being, he knew his place.

“Of course.” Jungkook replied easily, standing and letting his hand slip off from Taehyung’s waist. He shot Taehyung a quick, questioning look, seeing if Taehyung was planning on coming with him, and he paused for a split second at the tiny, inscrutable something flickering from the shadows of Taehyung’s pretty, blankly emotionless eyes. Then Taehyung smiled, nodding slightly, eyes brightening with that captivating, beautiful shine, and Jungkook thought no more of it, following after Hoseok and sensing Taehyung keeping in step. Namjoon didn’t stand to meet them, waiting for Jungkook to reach him instead, everything controlled by his grip, proceeding at his pace.

“Red Ace… was it?” Namjoon spoke as Jungkook stood before him, tilting his head back just slightly to stare at Jungkook behind the black, impenetrable shields of his shades. Jungkook dipped his head in acknowledgement, feeling somehow like a fidgeting, wary student called up to the principal’s office. He shoved the feeling aside and drew himself together, letting all emotion and expression blend seamlessly into a perfect blank canvas stretched over his face. He wasn’t some fluking wannabe. If Namjoon thought he’d found a weak, easy, incompetent target who thought himself to be greater than he was, Jungkook was going to prove him wrong. But he tried to keep in mind the difference status and class that existed as invisible cordons about the occupants of the casino. He kept his tone polite.

“Yes. Jeon Jungkook. You’re the Grand Dragon, Kim Namjoon, right?” Jungkook asked to be polite, rather than confirming what he already knew. Namjoon inclined his head, smiling slightly. Jungkook affected a small, genial smile as he continued, so that his words might sound conversational instead of challenging or confrontational. “I heard people calling you ‘boss’, before. Do you come that often to this place? I’ve never seen you before, although of course I’ve heard of you.”

“Do I come to this place often? I own this place, actually. People call me boss because, well. I am the boss. Welcome.” Namjoon replied flippantly, smiling a little wider. Jungkook felt his game face almost slip a little, eyes threatening to widen or twitch in an amateurish giveaway of surprise, dipping his head down in an automatic gesture to authority, as well as hiding his face for a second to settle his composure. He thought Namjoon was just one of the top players here, but the boss of BigHit…? The difference of superiority was labelled with even greater distinction, and Jungkook felt it as the pressure against his lower back, the instinct to bow in the presence of someone sitting pretty at the top of the mountain everyone else did their best to claw their way up. It only served to strengthen Jungkook’s resolve to keep making his way up until the pressure disappeared, to be found in others when facing him instead.

“I didn't know that, sir.” Jungkook responded respectfully and Namjoon snorted, waving a hand dismissively.

“Until you work beneath me, the ‘sir’ won't be necessary. In fact, even then, it might not be. The winners take all, that's the rule of this place. Money, respect, status. And you aren't a loser, are you, Red Ace?” Namjoon smiled much warmer than before, leaning forward a little. Jungkook felt like he'd just passed some test. Jungkook paused, studying the friendly, goodnatured expression, annoyed by the shades hiding his eyes, because the eyes couldn’t lie, and was therefore, what Jungkook focused on every time he tried to read a person. He smiled and shook his head, dipping his head again.

“Let me call you Grand Dragon then.” Jungkook spoke lightly, smiling as Namjoon tilted his head in acknowledgment. Namjoon stood, nodding to Taehyung in greeting briefly.

“Let's play a round. Whatever you want. I heard you specialise in Texas Hold ‘Em?” Namjoon spoke over his shoulder, already walking away, leading the way to the private rooms before Jungkook had even straightened properly, forcing him to have to catch up. Probably done for that purpose.

“Yes. I used to specialise in Red Five. Probably where I got my name from.” Jungkook replied without missing a beat, walking in step with Namjoon, but slightly behind, just shy of walking shoulder to shoulder. Instinct, again. He reached out and grabbed ahold of Taehyung’s hand, smiling and linking their fingers as Taehyung sent him a questioning look. It felt a bit like Taehyung was his escort, a chauffeur of some sort, when Taehyung just remained quiet and patient, just following by his side. Jungkook squeezed his hand before turning to face ahead of him again.

“Is that right? If I remember correctly… the Two-Faced Bluff liked playing Red Five, didn't he? Think he switched over to Texas Hold ‘Em recently as well.” Namjoon commented thoughtfully, glancing at Hoseok for confirmation. Jungkook felt a thrill run up the length of his spine at the mention of yet another big name. That's right, being part of the elite meant you knew the other elite, rivalled the other elite.

“Yes he did. The Two-Faced Bluff learned how to play Red Five when he first started playing cards back home, apparently.” Hoseok answered cheerily and pushed open the door of a room quite far down those winding corridors, further back into the confines of lingering smoke and dirty cash. Jungkook felt himself frown ever so slightly, something about what Hoseok just said catching his attention, but he couldn't tell what it was. He felt like he was forgetting one small, important detail. Namjoon sat himself down at the round table, the bright green felt covering the surface clashing, yet somehow complementing with the purple velvet of the walls. Jungkook and Taehyung followed, and Hoseok also sat down after shutting the door. Jungkook turned to him in surprise.

“You're playing?” Jungkook couldn't help asking as Hoseok laid out two piles of cards and a set of poker chips. Hoseok glanced at him, blinking with wide eyes as if Jungkook had asked something strange.

“Yeah? I do play, you know. Of course, there’s nothing like waiting hand and foot on everyone here, but in the end, it doesn't pay the bills. Our boss here is pretty cruel. If you’re permanent staff, proper salary is a luxury. We have to work in games as well as in service to pay our taxes.” Hoseok replied brightly, cheerfully, sliding a meaningful look over to Namjoon, who snorted and accepted the jab wordlessly. Taehyung laughed, shortly, quietly, like he was overhearing a joke in a conversation that didn't directly involve him. Jungkook glanced at Taehyung leaning back in his chair, eyes casually directed Namjoon’s way, posture relaxed, casual as he bit the tip of a finger, hand raised and playing with his lip. Talk about distracting. Jungkook completely missed Hoseok setting up the chips and shuffling the cards as his tunnel vision locked on Taehyung’s long, thin, pretty fingers hovering around mouth, the nail of his index finger dragging over his full, pink lower lip.

“Alright, let's go!” Hoseok declared loudly, jolting Jungkook back to reality, returning his focus to the game at hand.

It was strange, playing with Namjoon. It wasn't the most exciting or even the most interesting game he'd ever played, nothing out of the ordinary happening, nothing really standing out or memorable about it, but somehow, Jungkook ended up losing every single round, usually to Namjoon, but a couple of times to Hoseok and once to Taehyung. He didn't lose big, and Namjoon never won flashily or in any way that Jungkook could actually pick out any hints on well… anything. The sunglasses did not help. Jungkook could not begin to guess at what Namjoon’s cards were till they were shown at the end. Even then, they didn't show any trend or pattern at all, all random, honest wins and Jungkook was left completely drawing a blank, not even having any bluffs to go on in terms of speculating or figuring out any particular playing style. It was like Namjoon was relying on pure luck, or playing without any overlying or set strategy whatsoever, round after round, and Jungkook still couldn't tell if that was a result of luck just happening to give Namjoon slightly better cards than the rest of them each time he won, or whether Namjoon was actually devising a new strategy each time he saw his new cards. In other words, playing honestly. Or maybe he was just cheating and rigged the deck somehow. But Jungkook had asked to shuffle himself a couple rounds ago, and used the precious seconds to subtly, meticulously check over the entire pack, finding absolutely no faults or suspicions whatsoever. He carefully watched each and every one of Namjoon’s movements as well, trying in vain to catch the slightest slip up.

Jungkook was completely thrown off the entire game, feeling like he wasn’t even playing properly, not able to tell when he was winning, and when he should fold, round after round passing while he still felt like he’d only just started playing against a new, formidable opponent for the first time. He could not figure out Namjoon’s playing style at all. Of course, the name “Grand Dragon” had created quite a big impression, and he’d imagined it’d be difficult to win against him, but not in this half-assed, frustratingly vague way. Namjoon… wasn’t even doing anything differently, wasn’t even playing tactically or with brash, bold yet controlled strategy like Seokjin had, yet Jungkook was still having to rack his brains at every single step, and coming up empty every time. It was wholly disconcerting. As Jungkook sat there, opposite Namjoon who played quietly, unhurriedly, cool and collected, he felt none of the usual fire swelling within him from the high of winning and the thrill of pulling off new cheats and tricks perfectly, beneath everyone’s noses, instead those flames were channelled in a distracting, itchy sort of frustration that he couldn’t direct towards anything.

The few times Hoseok won gave Jungkook more insight than the countless times Namjoon had, as Hoseok won with each time with a higher card than another player with the same hand. Kings three times, and an ace of spades. So generally, he was going to assume Hoseok only chased after the pot when the value of his cards were in his favour. But Namjoon was all over the place. He’d won once with four aces (Jungkook swore he saw blood at that moment), but he’d also won with three twos, a three and a six. Loser cards. But he still ended up winning. And although Namjoon’s poker face was impressive in that Jungkook could not tell what cards he had, or if they were even good cards, he wasn’t Seokjin, Jungkook could still tell that Namjoon himself wasn’t at all taken aback by his wins. Which meant, somehow, Namjoon was in control of his seemingly random wins. But how?

Taehyung, again, had settled into his disturbingly quiet, blank persona that only seemed to surface behind the closed doors of these private rooms. Taehyung hadn’t won much, but at least he was playing smarter than Jungkook. He hadn’t lost much either. Jungkook had stared at him a couple times throughout the game, testing, analysing the conspicuously controlled blank expression, the pretty eyes usually avid and bright with the life and excitement Jungkook loved seeing, pooled in shadow, the only light reflecting within his dark irises being the dwindling piles of cash.

This wouldn’t do. Jungkook had a reputation to uphold.

He played the next few rounds recklessly, boldly and in a way that he would highly advise against, swapping cards and swapping again between betting rounds, changing his aim the moment he landed himself something that seemed suitable, cards that when added to the board, looked like they could win. He lost miserably the first few times, but he began getting a hang of the bizarre, double negative way of playing, feeling like he was successively cheating himself out of his own cheats, feeling absolutely ridiculous, but somehow, he started getting a feel for when to keep swapping out till. He actually began winning, in a completely weird, incomprehensive way. After a few of those fiascos, and then a few of those baffling victories, some of which he ended up winning a solid couple hundred thousand from each person, Namjoon was full out grinning, seeming thoroughly amused. Jungkook didn’t know about Taehyung and Hoseok, but he could tell both Namjoon and himself knew Jungkook was currently flailing about and hoping for the best.

“You look like you have no idea what you’re doing.” Namjoon remarked cheerfully, his smirk somehow friendly, somehow taunting but still giving the impression that something like camaraderie had clicked between them.

“As long as it works, right?” Jungkook grinned, shrugging a little helplessly. Seemed like while Jungkook himself didn't know what he was doing, at least Namjoon didn't either. He was guessing that Namjoon knew he was definitely cheating somehow, had figured out that Jungkook had changed his playing style drastically, but couldn't tell exactly how. And he seemed amused by it, which was better than getting called out, Jungkook supposed.

“I guess so.” Namjoon laughed, loosening his tie a little and raising an eyebrow, smile wide and wholehearted. Jungkook hadn’t ever played such a confusing, listless and strangely draining game before, but at the same time it was… enjoyable, in the way that the urgent, intense and serious games he dominated weren’t. Calm. Friendly, now that Jungkook took a step back and just went with it. Taehyung was staring at him quizzically, bemused smiled lifting his lips.

“Babe, are you okay?” Taehyung asked laughingly, the shadows clearing away and revealing his usual innate effulgence, brightening his surroundings in a heartbeat. Jungkook could hardly look away as he smiled.

“What do you mean?”

“I have never heard you say something as half-assed as ‘as long as it works’. You’re like a perfectionist, so meticulous and all out all the time. You feeling alright?” Taehyung grinned, lips quirking to one side, amusement and curiosity gleaming in his curved eyes. Jungkook wanted to kiss him, just because he could, just because Taehyung was so beautiful no matter what he did. But he laughed instead, mindful of the company.

“Surprisingly, yeah.” Jungkook replied nonchalantly, shrugging when Taehyung arched an eyebrow.

“Should we end here today?” Namjoon suggested, still grinning, and Jungkook laughed again, not entirely sure why, but not chasing after the matter.

“Yeah. Let’s go.” Jungkook stood, beckoning at Taehyung, who shook his head slowly, getting up like he wasn’t really sure what just happened in the course of that game. The feeling was shared, then. Jungkook gathered his things, waited for Taehyung to do the same and grabbed Taehyung’s hand, tugging him out the door. He flashed a smile over his shoulder at Namjoon, not really giving a shit what Namjoon thought about them, but still feeling a pleasantly surprising satisfaction when he didn’t see any traces of judgment or surprise, but instead a casual sort of “oh… that’s what’s going on” realisation cross Namjoon’s face. He didn’t really know how he felt about Namjoon after this encounter, but he was going to stay neutral for now.

~

The door shut with a soft click, blanketing the room in quiet once more. Namjoon exhaled slowly, evenly.

“Well, that was weird. Why’d you play like that anyway, boss?” Hoseok spoke up chirpily, curiously, and Namjoon stretched in his seat, undoing his tie and tossing it over the back of the empty chair beside him, taking off his sunglasses.

“I wanted to see what he’d do. Interesting guy. Pretty good at what he does, too.” Namjoon commented dismissively, but both of them knew he was being serious as he said that. Hoseok snorted.

“You say that like you haven’t been watching him play ever since he first came here.” Hoseok replied dryly and Namjoon laughed, leaning back in his chair and running a hand through his hair.

“The way you said that makes me sound like a fucking creep.”

“What else does it make you? Cautious, then? Observant, maybe?” Hoseok teased jeeringly, all in good humour, and Namjoon scoffed, not answering to the mockery. Hoseok grinned and continued. “So, what’s the conclusion? Do you like him? I do.”

“…Yeah. I do, too. You can tell, right? He was looking at me like he was already envisioning what it’d be like to haul me off my throne and warm the seat himself.” Namjoon murmured, eyes flashing a little, smirking slightly, finger tapping against a poker chip.

“Indeed. That drive could be good, if put to good use. Otherwise… hm? Not feeling threatened at all? He could be dangerous, you know.” Hoseok pointed out airily, and Namjoon didn’t reply to that, smiling instead.

“So… what, they’re dating?” Namjoon asked lowly, eyes trained on the closed door, expression unchanging.

“Oh yes. Taehyung hasn’t said much about it, but I think he’s smitten. Jungkook, too. He can barely keep his hands off Taehyung except when they’re playing cards.” Hoseok answered offhandedly, but he shared a look with Namjoon, smile dulling a little. Namjoon didn’t say anything, as the obvious problem to be addressed was hanging like a visible force in the air between them, even unspoken. Hoseok grinned, a little exasperatedly.

“Worrying, isn’t it?”

~

Time flashed past, the weather chilled and greyed, and before Jungkook knew it, he and Taehyung were off on that trip. Every second by Taehyung’s side was spent in pure bliss, from waiting in line to check in their (“Light. It has to be light. I am not fucked to be stressing over heavy bags while we’re hiking all over the country, okay.” Taehyung spoke firmly, authoritatively, folding his arms over his chest, and Jungkook couldn’t help but laugh, agreeing without a fuss.) luggage, to taking a ridiculous amount of selfies as they waited to board the plane, to breathing in that first, fresh gulp of air in unison after landing in Jeju Island, to going on absolutely every tour they could book just because they could, to wandering around the beautiful island, discovering uninhabited, remote beaches.

It was on their fifth night there that Taehyung suddenly bundled Jungkook into the car they’d hired and drove off with him somewhere, sudden and unplanned, despite the hour.

“What’d you drag me out here for? It’s like past eleven already.” Jungkook griped and Taehyung just laughed, a clear, musical sound that floated in the air as he left Jungkook and broke into a run, dashing down the beautiful, deserted beach they’d come across the day before, towards presumably where the shore was. Jungkook rubbed his arms and hugged himself against the chilly, numbing temperature of night, but despite his grumbling and groaning he still smiled to himself as he heard Taehyung’s bright, excited laughter, as he watched little puffs of barely visible sand kicked up by his feet and listened to the splashes of water. He drew in lungfuls of cool, refreshing and sweet air, walking down after Taehyung, feeling his feet sink into the surprisingly pleasant cool, soft sand with every step, feeling his body lighten and relax as he could just about make out Taehyung’s form turning to wave at him, beckoning him over, stupid picnic blanket flapping about.

“Stop complaining and get over here.” Taehyung called, grin audible in his voice and Jungkook sighed but smiled anyway, running the rest of the way and reaching out to feel blindly around in the darkness, fingertips meeting warm, soft skin and holding on. He could feel his eyes slowly adjusting to the dark, beginning to be able to see Taehyung’s lovely, bright features smiling at him. It was no wonder, though. Even in almost pitch black, here by the beach where the stains of light pollution failed to reach, Taehyung’s own radiance and the sheer brilliance of his smile was enough to ensure Jungkook could see him even in the darkest of nights. Taehyung grabbed Jungkook’s face firmly between his palms and kissed him, lips finding his with surety, the warmth of it chasing away the cold air snaking up Jungkook’s limbs. Jungkook smiled like a compulsion, and clouds scattered across the sky dispersed just as they pulled away, letting the moon breathe and the mild, silvery light cascade over the quiet, empty beach. The dusting of light captured Taehyung’s smiling face, eyes alit with ecstatic excitement and pure happiness, shining brighter than the moon itself, and Jungkook felt his heart sing.

He took Taehyung’s hand and held it firmly, securely in his own, not letting his grip falter for a second as they walked along the shoreline, icy, glassy water washing over their feet. The night was calm and still, void of movement except the two’s ambling, the blanket of quiet refreshing and tranquil rather than oppressive, and Jungkook couldn’t stop the small smile on his face as he gazed at the shadows of trees lining where the grassy bank met the shore, and the silver arcs scattered across the surface of the sea, fragments of light glinting and gleaming up at him.

They walked aimlessly, in comfortable silence, both losing track of time as the ceaseless sigh of waves urged them on, and the listless, timeless sea breeze robbed them of woes and urgency. After an insurmountable amount of time, or perhaps it was just a fraction of a second, Taehyung stopped, turning to face Jungkook, beautiful face soft and glowing in the moonlight.

“I love you.” Taehyung spoke suddenly, abruptly, but though it was unexpected, Jungkook wasn’t surprised or taken aback in the slightest at the sudden declaration under the night sky. He smiled, turning to face Taehyung properly.

“Say that again.” Jungkook requested softly and Taehyung’s face broke into a wide grin, and Jungkook felt as though the sun had risen in the middle of the night in that moment.

“I love you. I love you, Jungkook.” Taehyung repeated with more volume, more surety and confidence, eyes twinkling brighter than any star as he turned towards the sea and cupped his hands around his mouth, yelling his confession out to the waves. “I am in love with Jeon Jungkook! I am in love with this person right here! I want to hold his hand and never let go! I want to do all sorts of disgustingly cheesy, adorable things with him, like going on a roadtrip to a beautiful, remote beach and falling asleep on a picnic blanket with him under the stars!”

Jungkook just couldn’t stop his uncontrollably wide smile, covering his face in his hands, almost overwhelmed by the surge of happiness and love rising in his chest, warming his entire body and rendering it light as air, his heart soaring. Taehyung turned to him, grinning again and grasping his wrists in both hands.

“And I want to say all sorts of disgustingly romantic things to him. Like this.” Taehyung leaned in close, tugging Jungkook’s hands away and gazing at Jungkook’s face like he’d never tire of seeing it. “Don’t be embarrassed. Let me see the beautiful face I love so much.”

“Oh.” Jungkook mumbled for lack of a better response, wholeheartedly glad it was still dark enough that Taehyung wouldn’t be able to see the blush darkening his cheeks as his heart spasmed and hammered against his ribcage.

“‘Oh’? That’s disappointing. Come on, say it back.” Taehyung whined and stamped his foot, definitely putting on airs, and Jungkook just laughed, kissing him lightly, briefly.

“Of course I love you too.” Jungkook replied loudly, clearly, stealing another kiss and watching Taehyung’s face brighten even more in happiness. He grinned. “But uh, we can check going on a roadtrip to a beautiful remote beach off the checklist, but what’s that about falling asleep on a picnic blanket under the stars?”

“What do you think I’ve had this thing on me for?” Taehyung grinned as he untied the cape-like picnic blanket and pulled it off his shoulders with a flourish, striding up the beach, several metres away from the waves and laying the picnic blanket down carefully on a flat, even patch of sand. Taehyung sat himself down and waved Jungkook over, tapping the spot beside him expectantly. Jungkook laughed a little in disbelief even as he followed.

“You really want to fall asleep out here? It’s so cold!” Jungkook called incredulously and Taehyung snorted, grabbing his arm as Jungkook neared and yanking him down so Jungkook lost his balance and fell directly into his warm, waiting arms. Jungkook gave him a half hearted glare but Taehyung just kissed his nose, grinning, shifting a little to accommodate space for Jungkook, arms wrapped firmly, tightly around him.

“You really think you’ll be cold with me around? I won’t let that happen to our sweet, fragile and delicate Jungkookie.” Taehyung crooned and Jungkook sighed, jabbing his elbow lightly into Taehyung’s ribs. Taehyung let out a quiet grunt of discomfort, laughing a little breathlessly.

“Fuck you.” Jungkook sighed and Taehyung drew in a sharp breath, eyes round and wide with curiosity and interest when Jungkook glanced at him.

“Well, sex on the beach has always been one of my unspoken fantasies. Just in theory, though. I can’t imagine having sand wedged in every nook and cranny of your body for days afterwards to be very comfortable. I mean, if you’re down for it though…” Taehyung spoke thoughtfully before grinning and raising his eyebrows meaningfully. Jungkook slapped a hand over his face and dragged his fingers over his closed eyes in hopes of finding the strength to deal with this boy.

“Sucking dick under the stars. How romantic.” Jungkook muttered tonelessly and Taehyung laughed, breath fanning over Jungkook’s skin as he kissed Jungkook’s neck.

“I’d love to but unfortunately I did not plan such exciting things for tonight. Let’s look at the stars, instead of subjecting them to the not so fine art of voyeurism.” Taehyung whispered, snuggling closer still, warm and soft, and Jungkook realised with startling clarity, all he ever wanted, really.

And as they lay there, gazing up at the countless flickering specks of light, a particularly bright streak, a cluster of shining silver seemed to reach down into the sea like a lingering afterimage, following the path of one big, imaginary shooting star falling down to earth, giving the illusion of starlight cascading down from the sky into the dark water. Taehyung was right, Jungkook wasn’t cold with him around. He didn’t mean to, but he ended up falling asleep with quiet breathing by his ear, the only witness being the night sky dappled in silver.
~

Chapter Text

“Last week we took out Lee’s group. That makes around forty two now. So far there’s been no movement. Not just from Jaeguk, but from any other big boys on this concrete playground. So, we’ve got to think-”

“-are they keeping themselves under the radar right now? Do they not know what we’re aiming to do, that we’re coming for them after all the rest have been cleaned up? Or are they afraid to retaliate? Or what else.” Yoongi finished for him. Yoongi was like that, he’d cut in if he thought the pace was slowing, or that they needed to just get to the point. Namjoon nodded, smiling a little. Yoongi hadn’t participated much in meetings recently. He hadn’t played much in the casino either, only at odd hours in the early morning, when the rhythm of the city tripped into a new step, a detached longing, a confined openness and a listless inconsistency. When the eyes of the night peeled back heavy eyelids to record your every movement, despite the actual people being unseeing, trapped in their own caskets of surrealism. It’d been months, actually. He doubted Yoongi even remembered the Red Ace’s existence. Even with the potential insurance, Yoongi would likely disregard him as anything of importance, and continue to focus on Jaeguk, so he guessed it wasn’t really necessary to mention him just yet.

The door opened quietly, and Seokjin came in.

“It’s not that they don’t know. Or that they’re afraid. They’re choosing not to do anything. We all know that. Mr J’s lot are quite a tough crowd to please.” Seokjin stated calmly, matter of factly, as he crossed the empty, open space of the dimly lit office, stopping beside the leather couch Namjoon and Hoseok were seated on. He didn't sit down with them, instead opting to remain standing, resting his hand lightly on Namjoon’s shoulder. Namjoon shifted a little.

“What, so we just wreak all the havoc we want? How degrading. Maybe if we put on a flashy show, our audience will wanna get in on the fun as well. Although, is that what we’re wanting, right now?” Hoseok mused aloud, crossing his arms lightly across his chest. Namjoon glanced from Hoseok to Yoongi to Seokjin, gauging their reactions to the question. When no answer was forthcoming, his eyes flickered to the figure sitting over in the corner doused in shadow, turned so he was facing slightly away from them. He could usually always count on at least some input from him, but… That’s right. He had to have a chat about that. Later. Seokjin’s hand tightened on his shoulder slightly.

“It’s not as if we ever started throwing our weight around for the sole purpose of provoking Jaeguk to attack us in some way. That wasn’t the intention, still isn’t, so I’d say until they do challenge us, there’s no reason for us to get upset over the fact that we’re being left alone to take over underground Seoul at our pace.” Namjoon shrugged as he spoke, keeping his posture casual, but making sure his steady, firm tone conveyed his unspoken order of “so don't do anything to them”. Yoongi’s eyes narrowed a little, but he didn't say anything. Hoseok nodded, easily accepting whatever decisions Namjoon made, as always.

“Namjoon.” Seokjin murmured, and Namjoon turned his head, tilting it upwards to stare at Seokjin, hand raising to lightly touch Seokjin’s fingers absently, the gesture vague and unexplained, like everything else. The skin of his knuckles were soft. Seokjin’s eyes flickered to Namjoon’s hand covering his own, face impeccably blank, as it always was when he wanted it to be, before he continued. “We have to consider that they might actually feel threatened, and are planning something behind the scenes, in enough secrecy that our intel doesn't reach that far.”

“That's why I have people keeping an eye on various members. Jinwoo, for example. So far, nothing’s been happening on that end.” Namjoon replied more for courtesy’s sake than anything else, staring up at Seokjin’s constantly unreadable expression, like it would eventually, inevitably reveal a tiny, tiny gap in defenses, a tiny sliver of enlightenment, if Namjoon just kept looking. Seokjin didn't say anything in response, unmoving for a few moments, before he withdrew his hand, stealing warmth from where he'd touched, pulling back a little from Namjoon.

“Yikes. The bedroom eyes are getting too much for me.” Hoseok exclaimed cheerfully and hopped off the couch, stretching and promptly turning to leave the room. Yoongi followed suit, although in a much more leisurely, Min Yoongi-esque “this is a waste of my energy” way.

“You both know that we’re only here to talk business. You can stay.” Namjoon snorted, although a slightly hollow, empty echo in his chest accompanied his flippant words. Seokjin didn't say anything.

“With all due respect, boss, I'd rather fuck myself on a cactus than watch you two tiptoe around each other for any longer than is completely necessary.” Yoongi drawled over his shoulder as he slipped his hands into his pockets, striding out the door alongside Hoseok. Namjoon snorted again but didn't rebuke him. Fair enough.

“In what language would that even be considered remotely respectful?” Hoseok asked Yoongi amusedly, voice fading as they shut the door behind them and moved away. Namjoon sighed as soon as their footsteps diminished, running a hand through his hair and leaning back against the couch. He didn't really expect him to, but Seokjin spoke up first.

“Namjoon.” Namjoon glanced at him, searchingly. Seokjin never called him boss like the others. Even Yoongi did but…

Seokjin still did everything he asked, and followed orders like any other subordinates, like Hoseok and them, still officially worked beneath him but…

Namjoon never really knew what to make of it. He'd never explicitly stated that only Seokjin had the privilege to call him by his name, but everyone, including himself, seemed to just automatically defer to this unspoken rule.

Seokjin lifted his gaze to stare briefly at the quiet, shadowed figure in the corner, before speaking again. “Taehyung and the Red Ace had been on a trip for a while, hadn't they? The Red Ace hasn't shown up for a solid month and a bit. But they're back now.”

“Apparently so, yeah.” Namjoon replied slowly, after also fixing his stare on the person sitting quietly a few metres away, who gave no sign of noticing the two pairs of eyes trained on his unresponsive, unreceptive form. Namjoon knew he was listening, though. “What do you think of him?”

“I’m not too sure. I’d like him, except… the circumstances being what they are. Well, I’ve only ever met him once. And that was months ago, now that I think about it. Late summer.” Seokjin moved forward as he spoke, and Namjoon didn’t reply, raising his hand in a silent proffer, turning to stare at him again. Seokjin paused, something flickering in his eyes, expression tightening just a tiny bit before he reached out and grasped it, slotting their fingers in a light hold, almost obligingly. The other person in the room rose, turning abruptly to stride across the room to leave, face still cast in shadow.

“Joker.” At Namjoon’s hard, commanding tone, the person stopped in their tracks, turning back slightly. Namjoon didn’t say anything, merely gazing at the person wordlessly from where he sat. Seokjin’s fingers were warm against his skin, the touch weightless and far from grounding.

“I know.” The shadow muttered in response after a few beats of silence, before swiftly, quietly exiting the room. Namjoon sighed, tightening his fingers slightly, not entirely sure what it was he felt as a bubble of air forming in his chest as Seokjin didn’t pull away.

“How serious do you think he is?” Seokjin murmured, and Namjoon shook his head slowly.

~

Jungkook stirred, feeling the mattress dip and a warm body press itself against him, a warm arm draped over his chest.

“Taehyung…? I thought you were at the casino…” Jungkook mumbled blearily, blinking his eyes open to darkness. It must be around midnight. He shifted a little and lifted the blanket up so Taehyung could snuggle in properly, waiting till Taehyung settled in comfortably before turning to kiss his hair, movements sleepy and uncoordinated. Taehyung hummed and rested his head against Jungkook’s shoulder, sighing a little.

“I was. Just came back.” Taehyung replied quietly, low voice smooth and liquid, body soft and warm and coaxing Jungkook to drift right back off into the lulling waves of sleep. He fought the urge and shifted, nudging Taehyung up a little to place an arm beneath Taehyung’s back, wrapping it around him and curling his fingers over his shoulder. His skin was slightly cold there, and now that Jungkook was slightly more awake he realised Taehyung’s fingers and toes were like ice. He must've walked over to Jungkook’s, seeing as Jungkook had dropped him off at BigHit without a car on the way back from the airport.

“How many times have I told you not to take those long ass walks by yourself at night? Especially when it's so cold. See, you're shivering. Take a cab or something.” Jungkook sighed but smiled exasperatedly when Taehyung just whined, tugging the blanket up further and burrowing closer against Jungkook.

“Wanted to.” Taehyung replied with the stubborn indignation of a child, and Jungkook tsked, tightening his fingers on Taehyung’s shoulder till he squirmed, making a displeased noise.

“Should've gone back to your place then. It's much closer. Why come all the way over here?”

“I wanted to cuddle.” Taehyung announced with firm finality, and Jungkook sighed again, poking and prodding at Taehyung’s cheek and jaw, heart fluttering, as always, when Taehyung laughed lightly, soft and sleepy. Taehyung raised a hand and pawed at Jungkook’s fingers, bringing them to his lips and kissing a fingertip.

“You've been cuddling and sleeping with me every single night for a whole month. We just got back from Busan today. Aren't you sick of me yet?” Jungkook spoke, pressing the pad of his finger against Taehyung’s lip and wrinkling his nose when Taehyung stuck out his tongue to lick it.

“Never.” Taehyung declared and planted a firm kiss on his chest, wrapping himself around Jungkook like a very warm, endearing, disproportionate tree vine. Jungkook grunted at the weight and twitched in discomfort at the freezing toes shoved between his calves and somewhere up near his hipbone, sighing at the ridiculous position Taehyung had contorted himself into. Even so, he couldn’t help but smile at his antics, and the conviction in his immediate response. Point having been made, Taehyung released him from the bear hug and once again settled against him comfortably, easily, his long, thin and warm fingers lightly resting against Jungkook’s stomach. He fell quiet for a while, breathing slowing and evening out, tension melting away from his body as he lay against Jungkook.

Jungkook took this time to just soak in his presence and warmth, smiling to himself as he recalled all the places they’d been, all the memories made and basking moments shared. It hadn’t felt like a month since they’d left Seoul, every busy, vibrant day filled with the excitement and activity of travelling, and the easy happiness and comfort Taehyung gave him. Living with Taehyung for a month certainly gave him some insight to what married life might supposedly be like, and he’d discovered Taehyung had an awful habit of stealing his socks, and having to be reminded at least three times to take the dishes out of the sink, not to mention dripping water everywhere after taking showers. Jungkook didn’t even know how he did it. He also didn’t seem to understand the concept of ‘sleep’. Or that blasting blues or jazz music at full volume at eleven at night while living in a nice, quiet little lodge with neighbours was not a good idea. But Jungkook didn’t regret a second of it.

A lot had happened, but the memory that stayed with him the most was that night on Jeju Island, falling asleep under the stars to the lullaby of the waves. He’d woken up in the morning tucked in back in bed, in the beach house they’d rented, to which Taehyung explained that although the notion was romantic, realistically they would’ve caught awful colds if they slept outside all night in that temperature, beside the sea as well. So he’d stayed awake and watched Jungkook fall asleep, before carefully carrying him to the car and driving them back. When Jungkook raised an eyebrow and asked what the point was then, Taehyung just shrugged and said it was the smile on Jungkook’s face as he fell asleep gazing at the stars.

Jungkook was wondering if Taehyung had fallen asleep already as he’d been quiet for so long while Jungkook lost himself in his thoughts, when Taehyung spoke again, abruptly, offsetting the drowsy, still and quiet atmosphere.

“Hoseok asked me where we’d been. Apparently some of the pros have been asking about you.” Taehyung informed him lightly, something tight drawn in his tone. Jungkook opened his eyes and blinked in the darkness pierced by a sliver, a thin claw of light from the gap in the curtains as the moon rose and introduced a new phase of the night.

“Have they? That's good. I've been looking forward to start playing seriously again.” Jungkook smiled, and Taehyung stiffened just a little, a tiny, almost indiscernible movement, but Jungkook felt it as clearly as if the warm body was his own. The silence as Taehyung paused seemed to darken the already pitch black, a slight degree of coldness descending over the room that suddenly seemed a little full.

“You ever thought about… doing anything else? Quitting gambling? Getting a degree, a job, and leaving dark rooms and dirty cash behind as just a memory?” Taehyung asked quietly, softly, like he was touching an abstract something best left alone, like he was whispering words of irredemption. Jungkook felt a chill wash over him, fingers tensing, body held rigidly.

“What do you mean? What do you mean quit gambling? What else would I do? I… what else can I do? Why all of a sudden?” Jungkook replied slowly, a little testily, and Taehyung suddenly moved, scrambling up so he leant over Jungkook, hands pushing himself up on either side of Jungkook’s shoulders, hair falling down to frame his face in a curtain as he stared at Jungkook intently.

“We could do it. I know we could. We’re millionaires. We could just disappear off somewhere. We have enough money to get by, and you're still in university, you could study properly from now on and get yourself a degree and a proper job. I know you could. We could- we could stop gambling.” Taehyung spoke urgently, in this hushed voice brimming with possibility and tinged with a strange sort of desperation. The claw of light sliced its silver beam across Taehyung’s face, the night sky brightening with the rise of the cold, strengthening moon, lighting up Taehyung’s neutral, if tired features, his slack, blank expression not really fitting with his voice, that had sounded like a muffled plea for help. His eyes swam with a sort of dry acceptance and veiled resignation, as if he himself knew he wasn't going to listen to his own words. Like they were a joke that wasn't very funny at all.

Jungkook felt his face set into a trepidated, uneasy frown, reaching up to touch Taehyung’s face, fingers pierced by the silver light. “Taehyung what’s- Are you okay? What's going on-?”

“People die from this, you know. Maybe not from a single game, maybe not even from a hundred games. But they always do, if they don't stop. And if you don't, you end up killing. Maybe not with the intention in mind, but every time you win a game, somebody else loses.” Taehyung whispered and turned his head to the side sharply, avoiding Jungkook’s touch, eyes cast in shadow, mouth set in a thin line, muscles in his arms tensed and stiff, like carved marble caught in the streak of moonlight. Jungkook didn't speak immediately, a mess of incomprehensible words sitting heavy on his tongue as he stared up at Taehyung in a sort of muted shock.

“What- are you- Do you really want to stop? Are you being serious? I didn't know you thought about… I- You want me to stop too?” Jungkook asked slowly, seriously, not being able to identify a single prominent emotion out of the uncomfortable, complicated knot coiled in his chest. He’d of course thought about that type of stuff before, just never in great detail. He never pursued trains of thoughts such as “what happens to losers” because… he wasn't one. And he didn't intend on becoming one. Taehyung flinched a little, like Jungkook stating the idea only solidified an unwelcome, unpleasant thought that shouldn't have been spoken aloud.

“No- I… I didn't mean… I don't… really want to stop, I- it was just a… a thought. Just thinking about… ‘what if’s, I guess.” Taehyung muttered, slowly deflating a little, the tiny spark of shadowed flame dissipating into the air. Jungkook didn't really know what to say, frown deepening, insides twisting a little and the uncertainty and self-doubt emanating from Taehyung’s slight form, shrinking as tension bled away. Then, like a lightning bolt of thought struck him and ignited his mind with conviction again, Taehyung tensed again, snapping his burning gaze up to meet Jungkook’s eyes, evidently deciding on speaking whatever he was holding back, overriding inner turmoil and conflict. “Actually- there's something I have to-”

Taehyung’s phone rang. It rung out jarringly, dissonant notes cracking their way through the room, filling it with an incessant, obnoxious buzz. Taehyung froze, words dying away, and the conviction vanished from his eyes in a second, his thoughts visibly curling in on themselves, shutters from the disturbance and distraction shutting his eyes though they remained open. Taehyung blinked, a million words left unsaid, escaping from his tongue and lips, and hopped off the bed, finding his phone and picking up the call.

“J- hello? What's up?” As Taehyung spoke quietly, Jungkook stared up at the ceiling, suddenly tired. What had Taehyung been about to say? Where had this conversation even sprung up from? Why did it feel like a wall, a white, impenetrable screen had been set between them? Or rather…

It felt like that wall had always been there. Jungkook just hadn't seen it before. Taehyung… he didn't seem like it, and Jungkook never really sensed it, but he didn't tell Jungkook many things, didn't explain instances that would arouse anyone’s suspicions, and usually Jungkook was fine with that, seeing as everyone had their own secrets, and Taehyung was no exception. But Jungkook couldn't help but feel like he was missing something important.

Whenever Jungkook was with Taehyung, his heart felt like it could burst with love and affection for the boy, and he never really paid those instances any mind. It was hard to even recall them, but they’d definitely happened before, whether it was a shadowed gaze or a slightly forced laugh. But Taehyung’s smile outshone everything, and Jungkook never really noticed anything else.

“Where?” Taehyung spoke even quieter after moments of silence, listening to whoever was on the other end of the line. His back was facing Jungkook, all tense lines and sharp edges, and Jungkook closed his eyes. He was suddenly, inexplicably, very tired. Taehyung shifted his weight from one foot to the other. “I'll be there soon.”

“What happened?” Jungkook asked, eyes still closed, and listened to the shuffling and rustling as Taehyung pulled on clothes.

“A friend’s in a bit of trouble. Mind if I take your car? I'll be back soon.” Taehyung replied vaguely, voice strangely distant, and Jungkook decided against asking him about it. He decided against pressing or chasing after anything of this matter.

“Keys are on the dresser.”

He listened with his eyes closed as Taehyung left the room and shut the door behind him.

~

Jungkook was in a bad mood.

Taehyung hadn't come back last night, having only sent one short text-

Traffic Light: Sorry I won’t be able to come back tonight :(

He didn’t even bring his car back. Jungkook had woken up to an empty, cold bed, read that text and ignored it. He had no idea where Taehyung was, what to make of that conversation last night, and what was going on. Was Taehyung still with that friend?

Jungkook had actually gone to school for once, his already sour, dark mood blackening ever more as he tried to catch up with all the work he’d missed. And all he could think of was Taehyung whispering the suggestion, the concept of normality, like going to uni, getting a degree, getting a job, softly, quietly, like a hushed, forbidden secret under the dark anonymity of night. He’d wandered about throughout the day, going to classes just because, catching up with classmates just because, going to a coffee shop with them in the afternoon just because. It’d been a completely, utterly normal day, with the absence of Taehyung. And Jungkook hated it. It was like a vulgar, perverse imitation of a time before Taehyung, before cards, and Jungkook had realised while laughing blandly over an unsubstantial joke and a cup of tasteless coffee, that he’d already begun to consider that time as a past life. Something that he couldn’t and didn’t want to return to.

Indeed, he’d asked Taehyung last night what else he could do, other than gamble. It was a serious question, one he hadn’t found the answer to yet.

And so, he’d spent the day irritated at everything and everyone, trying to find answers, trying to just hurry up and stop second guessing and just press the call button, instead of staring at Taehyung’s contact name until the screen faded and his phone locked. It was a strange, disconcerting feeling, waiting around for something, but not actively doing anything about it.

He’d come to the casino now, in the evening, in hopes to dispel some of the frustration and annoyance set into his joints and agitating his twitchy, jumpy nerves. But it appeared it was fruitless. Hoseok had immediately welcomed him back with fervour and grandeur, and sat him down for a game right away, saying he had a new pair of tricky hands to introduce him to.

Which was fine. Except that, for one thing, Jungkook could not stop thinking about his conversation with Taehyung, and he could not relax in the casino that he subconsciously stepped back from, observing it, regarding it in a new light, loathe as he was to.

For another thing, the owner of the new pair of tricky hands was a royal pain in the ass.

“Like I said, why the fuck am I babysitting right now, Hoseok?” The guy with pale, pastel pink hair growled, sleepy looking eyes drawn flat in a dangerous, sharp way, flashing at Hoseok as he spoke, entire body radiating pure, undiluted disdain for Jungkook. Jungkook was not in the mood for it. He leant back on one hand, posture slouched, unwilling, purposefully disinterested and disrespectful, flipping a poker chip around the fingers of his other hand. He grinded his teeth, almost exploding with the insistent pressure of irritation and impatience trying to burrow its way out of his skin. The room was different today, a little more traditional, a little cosier and more comfortable, in which players sat or knelt on the floor, the table replaced by a cleared, open space in the middle of the soft, springy carpet for the game, couches and coffee tables set against the walls. But Jungkook was neither feeling cosy nor comfortable as the man slit him a glare beneath his stupid pale pink fringe. That looked really nice, but that was besides the point.

“Careful o nanny of mine, control your tone or you’ll make the baby cry.” Jungkook muttered snidely, darkly, tossing the chip up in the air and catching it in his fist, snapping his eyes up to meet the guy’s glare. Min Yoongi, he was called. The other players in the room as well as Hoseok seemed quite uncomfortable at the open hostility and evident dislike exchanged in the sudden showdown between two strangers who’d just met, all shifting away just slightly, as if to distance themselves from the storm clouds gathering above the two.

“Well- I mean- ‘babysitting’ is a little harsh. He’s a little young, but not by much, and he knows how to play a good game. He is the Red Ace, after all.” Hoseok laughed a little nervously, and Yoongi scoffed, propping an arm up on one knee, throwing an utterly unimpressed look at Jungkook, eyebrow raised, accompanied with a completely unnecessarily expressed drop of the head.

“The famous Red Ace. I was told he was a damn good player, not a pissy, angry little brat that looks like he doesn’t know how to take anything seriously, and doesn’t know the meaning of winning and losing.” Yoongi drawled, tone scornful and ridiculously demeaning, and Jungkook laughed, leaning back on both hands, letting his bratty, pissy anger simmer in his chest, not even bothering to hide the fumes of it from his expression. Fuck having a poker face, he was about two seconds away from getting up and leaving.

“Give him a break, he didn’t say anything to you, did he? And he’s not a pissy little brat, I’m sure he’s just tired today because he just came back from a vacation.” Hoseok replied placatingly, and wow, Jungkook guessed his irritation that had carried over from reading Taehyung’s text this morning must have been really obvious and noticeable in his expression if Hoseok had to excuse it as him being “tired”. Hurray.

“Oh, just back from a vacation, huh? My apologies, I guess that would be tiring for a little kid, wouldn’t it? Must be nice.” Yoongi snorted derisively, and Jungkook could only laugh hollowly again, tilting his head back to stare at Yoongi down the bridge of his nose.

“Will you let me punch you once when the game is over, mister? Or we could just go outside right now.” Jungkook spoke softly, and Yoongi snorted again, glancing away, eyes flat, jaw set. He was very attractive, pretty even, smooth, pale skin, a natural coolness about him that just gave the impression of effortless handsomeness, and Jungkook had to say, what a shame. Attractive as he was, he wouldn’t fancy being this guy’s boyfriend. Or friend, even.

Hoseok left after exchanging a long look with Yoongi, and the game started under the heavy, burdensome tension stuffing the room full.

The game was quite reminiscent of Jungkook’s game with Namjoon a couple months ago. Jungkook wasn’t quite sure how, but Yoongi was definitely doing something that resulted in him winning every time, not flashily, and not by much. Jungkook determinedly avoided using the method he’d developed against Namjoon, refusing to change his style and make things difficult for himself, and refusing to admit that he had to think of Yoongi as an opponent on par with Namjoon. Which unfortunately, he was. But he had his pride on the line, as well as his reputation to prove to this asshole. He asked to deal for the next round, which was a little unfamiliar to him. Out of all the textbook cheats and ones he’d developed himself, dealing tricks were still foreign to him, in that he could tell when someone else was using them, but not how to do them himself so that others couldn’t call him out for cheating. Thus, he generally avoided dealing. It didn’t prove as any advantage to him whatsoever.

And so when he did, it was clumsy, a little slow and all over the place, at least, by BigHit’s standards. And of course, he earned himself some unnecessary barbed comments.

“Shuffle properly Ace, why don’t you? It’s not your first day.” Yoongi complained lazily and Jungkook set the cards down on the carpet with far more force than necessary, sliding them across to Yoongi in a sharp, hard movement, smiling pleasantly even though he knew everyone could see the vein ticking in his neck.

“Do you want to deal, mister? You should’ve just said so.” Jungkook offered sweetly, baring his teeth a little too strongly for his smile to be considered nice, and Yoongi glowered a little, reaching out for the cards before withdrawing his hand with a huff, as if remembering himself and deciding against it.

“Sorry kid. Dealing isn’t my thing. Hurry up.” Yoongi sighed as if greatly put upon, and Jungkook dragged the cards back with a sharp glare. Jungkook muttered “as if I give a shit” under his breath and continued dealing.

After a few more rounds of inexplicable losses, Jungkook finally managed to win with a straight, and his irritation peaked, erupting when Yoongi couldn’t keep his mouth shut.

“Finally. Well done.” Yoongi clapped his hands twice slowly, blatant, insulting mockery alight in his eyes, and Jungkook sprung to his feet, throwing his cards down on the ground.

“I’m not fucking doing this anymore.” Jungkook growled at the room at large and walked out of the room, slamming the door behind him. He was trembling from pure anger from all the unwarranted disdain he’d just had to endure, added to the already blackened mess of ugly emotions that existed as residue from the frighteningly normal, empty day. He took a few stalking steps away from the door, shaking and trying to contain everything and just breathe. He had never met a guy that got on his nerves so badly. And he was a fucking gambler. He’d come across all types of bastards there were to meet.

A soft touch stopped him in his tracks, long, thin fingers brushing his sides and sliding down past his waist, curling around to the front of his torso, resting on his lower stomach. Jungkook closed his eyes and let a shaky sigh slip out as palms flattened against his skin and pulled him back into a warm body, touch strengthening and pressing them flush against each other. Jungkook didn’t move away as he felt a chin rest on his shoulder, keeping his eyes closed as he bathed in the familiar warmth and scent surrounding him, already feeling all that irritation and anger wash away.

“How was your day?” Taehyung murmured into his neck, warm lips brushing his skin, voice smooth and soothing, and Jungkook smiled a little, resignedly.

“Absolutely awful.”

~

Chapter Text

 

Jimin stood motionless in the shadow of the corridor, watching Jungkook laugh quietly at something Taehyung murmured against his neck, trying, and failing, to not feel bothered by the adorable, perfect romantic picture the two painted. Jungkook turned in Taehyung’s arms, replying to whatever it was that had been said, as Taehyung just gazed at him with a soft smile on his face. Jimin curled his fingers into tight fists inside his pant pockets, holding himself completely, utterly still and silent, observing the scene from the sidelines. An ugly contortion of blackened negativity swirled within him, and envy lay bitter in his veins.

Why couldn't he have that? Why couldn't Yoongi touch him that gently, why couldn't Yoongi hold him the way Taehyung held Jungkook, why couldn't Yoongi look at him the way Jungkook stared at Taehyung? Why couldn't Jimin even hold Yoongi’s hand unless he was absolutely, utterly, doubtlessly certain that Yoongi was in an alright mood, and he was allowed to touch?

Why did he have to be allowed to touch?

Yoongi was still in that room Jungkook had burst out of. Jimin had a feeling Jungkook and Yoongi wouldn't get along very well. Especially since Yoongi had a tendency to go out of his way to be an asshole when meeting someone for the first time. Jimin felt his expression darken ever more as Jungkook wrapped his arms around Taehyung’s neck and kissed him, firm and unhurried, everything so comfortable, so natural and easy looking… and Jimin couldn't have that. He directed his stare away from the two, feeling a slight pressure build in his throat and across the bridge of his nose. God, if he ever just randomly grabbed Yoongi and kissed him…

Jimin felt the darkened rings around the pale skin of his wrists throb a little.

Taehyung grabbed ahold of Jungkook’s hand and led them away, down the corridor out towards the main casino area. Jimin let out a long, controlled breath, and finally stepped out from the shadows, walking over to the closed door purposefully, not too slow or fast, the heels of his dress shoes clicking against the wooden floorboards, echoing down the empty walkways. Only yesterday he’d broken down crying, his bruised and battered body screaming out for help as he tasted blood on his tongue, his heart twisting and shutting itself away, and he'd considered that it wasn't worth it. But here he was, back again for more like nothing had happened, and when he saw Yoongi again he'd act like he wasn't limping ever so slightly, and Yoongi would act like he couldn't see it. He opened the door and entered the room, shutting it behind him.

“-because if that's considered as the top in this hellhole, we might have to go through a fucking screening process and kick out about half those rich, useless fuckers out there. What do they come here for? To lose?” Yoongi was talking to one of the other players, snorting in disdain, arm propped up on one knee as he sat comfortably on the carpet, flicking his hair out of his eyes. Everyone’s eyes flicked to Jimin as he stepped into the room, but Jimin couldn't care less about the others, unabashedly, unapologetically focusing on only Yoongi’s gaze sliding over to meet his, the slight narrowing of his pretty eyes and the set of his jaw. Yoongi didn't make any gesture of invitation, but also didn't turn away or display open unwelcome, so Jimin silently made his way over and sat down by his side.

“I met your best friend just now.” Yoongi started with a deceptively light tone, like he was brushing off the subject, but Jimin sensed the storm brewing, the tiny, barely noticeable quivers in the air surrounding them and braced himself.

“Jungkook? What do you think?” Jimin asked quietly, patiently, blankly gazing at Yoongi’s handsome face drawn still, dangerously calm, serene even. Yoongi blinked once, tilting his head a little. He reached out lazily, unmoving besides his arm, brushing his knuckles over Jimin’s cheek, the whisper of a touch trailing down his face before his cold fingers cupped his jaw, still light and painless. Jimin knew what was coming but despite that, easily suppressed the instinctive urge to flinch, leaning into Yoongi’s hand, clinging to his touch like it intoxicated him.

“What do I think?” Yoongi echoed, scarily calm, the tense air crackling and clawing over Jimin’s skin as Yoongi regarded him for a few silent moments, thumb brushing beneath his jaw lightly. Then Yoongi’s hand moved down to grip his chin, hard, fingers digging cruelly into Jimin’s skin and bone, yanking Jimin towards him sharply, iron-hold painful and unyielding. Jimin barely batted an eye as he all but fell forward, swallowing, tasting the all too familiar burn of resigned humiliation as he tried not to glance at the other people in the room wordlessly getting up and leaving. Practically everyone at BigHit was plenty used to seeing Jimin and Yoongi like this by now. Yoongi leaned forward a little, bright, unbridled anger flashing in his eyes as his expression twisted into a distasteful scowl and he whispered, “I think you have a horrible taste in friends.”

Jimin swallowed again, harder, at the usual anger sparking behind those dark, proud, unforgiving brown irises, and winced only a tiny bit, when Yoongi’s rough fingers tightened slightly more as he didn't reply. Yoongi stared at him flatly for a few moments more, before closing the distance and pressing a tight, close-mouthed kiss to his lips. Jimin felt his eyes flutter shut even though Yoongi pulled away a mere second later, his touch withdrawing as well as he released Jimin’s face roughly, causing his head to fall sharply to the side, thrown aside by forceful fingers.

“Wait for me upstairs.” Yoongi growled and waved Jimin away dismissively, irritation rolling off his tense form in palpable, stormy waves. Jimin got to his feet without another word, sensing the black mood Yoongi had settled in and knowing it wasn't wise to speak much right now. The grey, blue and purple marks scattered over and pressed into his body knew, at least.

Jimin left the room before lifting his hand to touch his chin lightly, gently stroking the skin with one fingertip, where Yoongi’s forefinger had pressed.

~

“Where were you all day?” Jungkook asked Taehyung as they waded through the rivers of cash and weaved past the knots of people of the casino, with the ease of practice. Taehyung reached out for his hand, linking their fingers together and tugged him along, shrugging casually, facing away from Jungkook as he replied.

“My friend was thinking about breaking up with his boyfriend and needed a shoulder to cry on. He was pretty shaken, so I couldn’t leave him like that by himself and I ended up staying with him till like… lunch.” Taehyung explained, not looking at Jungkook as he spoke, leading them through the mess of people to the open space where they could breathe. Sometimes Jungkook felt like this place was more like a club than a casino.

“So… you stayed with your friend for like… twelve hours? And you stayed the night, over at his, I’m guessing?” Jungkook surmised, a slight edge to his forced flippant tone, that he knew Taehyung would pick up immediately.

“Oh? Jealous?” Taehyung turned his head back to grin, eyes gleaming with wicked amusement. Jungkook coughed, huffing and glancing away, light embarrassment nudging at his cheeks and merging with the possessiveness flaring up in his chest. Yes, he was, a little bit. That was the truth, but it also served to distract himself from asking questions he knew he should ask, but wouldn’t get a proper answer to. Like, even if you were busy with your friend, lunch was eight hours ago. What did you do during those eight hours, that you couldn’t send me a single text, just letting me know where you were, after having disappeared off somewhere in the middle of the night? But he’d missed Taehyung, having not heard from him since midnight. He decided to just appreciate Taehyung’s warm hand grasping his now, and worry about all that later.

“Depends. Is your friend hot?” Jungkook sniffed and Taehyung laughed as he led Jungkook over to the edge of the room, away from all the people.

“Yes.”

“Then fuck yes, I'm jealous.” Jungkook replied firmly, shoving Taehyung backward so he stumbled a little and fell back against the wall, before stepping in close, caging him in, staring directly into those awfully flirtatious, playful eyes. Jungkook grinned and gripped Taehyung’s hip in one hand and his neck in the other, pressing his warm, pliable body into the wall as he kissed him, a little stronger, a tiny bit rougher than was necessary. Taehyung just smiled against his lips and wound his arms around Jungkook’s neck, hips pinned in place by Jungkook’s grip, but still arching his back and pressing their chests together, the ease of the smooth movement drawing a low, appreciative moan from the back of Jungkook’s throat. Jungkook tilted his head, kissing Taehyung deeper, sliding his lips apart to feel the wet heat of Taehyung’s mouth against his lips and tongue. Taehyung just let him do whatever he wanted, body slack, barely even moving his lips, letting Jungkook set the slow, almost relaxed pace.

Usually Taehyung was extremely active, to say the least, whenever they touched or kissed, usually taking at least some control, so this slack, docile compliance and the way he just smiled slightly and let Jungkook have his way, was refreshing, and Jungkook realised, a major turn on. He hooked his fingers beneath Taehyung’s jeans, dragging roaming fingertips over the bare skin of his hipbones, as Taehyung gasped and his hips snapped forwards instinctively, a whine escaping his lips. Jungkook trailed his fingers up Taehyung’s lower back, scratching ever so lightly at the smooth skin and coaxing a tiny, breathless moan, inching his shirt up slightly. He bit Taehyung’s soft, slick lower lip, loving how Taehyung pressed himself hard against Jungkook’s body, whimpering ever so softly, subtly, and so, so different from usual, his needy, desperate little gasps as Jungkook released his lips to suck along the long line of his neck almost convincing Jungkook to just start stripping right then and there.

“Gosh, I don't even know whether to call this PDA or porn anymore.” Hoseok’s dryly amused comment yanked Jungkook back to reality and the realisation that they were still in a very public place and yes, it would be very inappropriate to strip, and yes, making out with Taehyung in public when he had zero self control whenever it came to his boyfriend was not a very good idea. He twitched back a little, snapping his head over to stare at Hoseok with slight mortification, but Taehyung just kept his arms wrapped around Jungkook’s neck, no sense of shame whatsoever evident in his bright smile even with Jungkook’s hand up his shirt.

“You like it?” Taehyung spoke lowly, sensually, sliding his hands down Jungkook’s back and winking at Hoseok, laughing when Jungkook’s fingers tightened on his skin, ignoring Jungkook’s low “excuse me” in his ear. Hoseok raised his eyebrows, pursed his lips and tilted his head away comically, his lips twitching and expression saying it all, that he was at a loss as to how he should answer. Taehyung laughed again, a bright tinkling sound, and he leaned forward, placing his face close to Jungkook’s, sliding his hands back up over his shoulders and down to rest against his chest, touch warm and teasing. Taehyung pressed a slow, lingering kiss to Jungkook’s lips, expression over exaggeratedly sexual and suggestive as he spoke again, still staring at Hoseok, “You can join us anytime, if you like.”

“Oi.” Jungkook growled dangerously, shooting Taehyung a glare and tugging him close into his body by the hips sharply, possessively, feeling his blood boil in his veins despite knowing Taehyung was joking. He pressed his forehead to Taehyung’s and burned his gaze into those pretty eyes bright and alive with amusement, before sliding his eyes over to Hoseok and staring him down in warning, letting his glare speak for him: try it if you dare. Hoseok backed away and raised his hands in surrender, grinning as Jungkook continued, “Take that offer back. I’m not sharing you with anyone.”

“Ooh, possessive, how exciting.” Taehyung purred and giggled when Jungkook growled again, silencing him with a hard, demanding kiss, knowing Taehyung was being a little shit on purpose but still feeling the need to assert that Taehyung was his. Fuck, he didn't like being that guy but he was going to have to have a little talk with Taehyung later. Even the joking suggestion was enough to keep Jungkook’s grip on Taehyung’s hips a bit too tight, a little punishingly hard.

“Guys, seriously, this is a casino, not some strip club, why can't you keep your hands off each other?” Hoseok complained loudly, exasperatedly, and Taehyung pulled away with a little difficulty as Jungkook continued to chase after his lips, laughing and batting at Jungkook’s face.

“Why can't I keep- I mean. Have you seen this?” Taehyung spoke like the answer was blatantly obvious, expression innocent as he slid his hand down to slap Jungkook’s ass, smiling sweetly up at Jungkook when he squinted in annoyance at him, kissing him placatingly.

“I- this is an impossible question.” Hoseok replied flatly and Taehyung shrugged, before slitting Hoseok a playful glare, narrowing his eyes as he clutched onto Jungkook tightly.

“If your answer’s yes, I'm gonna be very upset.” Taehyung warned dramatically and Jungkook wondered for the nth time why his boyfriend was like this. Evidently Hoseok felt the same, as he sighed wearily and shook his head, running his hand over his face.

“Why do I even- anyway. Got a little sidetracked. I was talking to the boss just now and I mentioned how Yoongi was being a bitch and the boss knows how he can be, so he wants to apologise on his behalf. Don't get too upset, Yoongi takes about two million years to open up to someone, so it's not personal.” Hoseok offered an apologetic smile and Jungkook sighed, letting his hands drop and running his fingers through his hair, feeling irritation seep back into his body at the unpleasant mention.

“Could've fooled me.” Jungkook muttered and Taehyung blinked, glancing from Jungkook to Hoseok and back again.

“What's this?” Taehyung asked curiously and Jungkook shook his head, trying not to grimace.

“Uh, just before, I played a game against this guy that really pissed me off. One of the reasons I was in a bad mood when you found me. Lost as well.” Jungkook explained carelessly, trying to stop his lip from curling in anger and Taehyung raised his eyebrows, eyes widening, most likely at Jungkook’s last comment. The concept of “losing” hadn't ever been applicable, or even relevant to the two of them, more so on Jungkook’s end.

“Oh, I gotta go see what the boss wants, see you lovebirds later!” Hoseok grinned and disappeared into the throng of people in the blink of an eye, and Jungkook sighed once more. He turned to Taehyung and kissed him again, grabbing his jaw as he sucked Taehyung’s smooth, hot tongue into his mouth to rid himself of the bad taste that had accumulated at the thought of Yoongi, focusing on something nicer. Taehyung made a small noise of surprise but went with it, wrapped his warm arms around Jungkook’s waist, tugging him closer and tilting his head to the side to deepen the kiss. Jungkook exhaled and pulled back slightly, pressing a soft kiss to the tip of Taehyung’s nose, dismissing Yoongi from his mind as Taehyung stared at him curiously with those wide, round eyes.

“Can you like, not flirt with other people?” Jungkook muttered against Taehyung’s lips, whispering the words into his mouth, and Taehyung rolled his eyes, throwing on a careless smirk as his hands ran slowly, languidly over Jungkook’s back.

“You call that flirting? Barely. But why, did it hurt your feelings?” Taehyung drawled and Jungkook nipped at his lower lip sharply, narrowing his eyes.

“Flirting, offering- you know what I mean. I get that you're joking but just the thought,” Jungkook breathed deceptively softly, pressing a light kiss to Taehyung’s lips, “Of anyone else touching you,” Taehyung was smiling slightly, as Jungkook slid his hand up to grip his neck, kissing him again, harder, “Or seeing you come undone like I do,” Jungkook murmured, tone rasping with a slight growl, yanking Taehyung forward, pressing him tightly against his body with a possessive hand digging into his lower back, angling his head to the side to whisper in Taehyung’s ear, “Makes me want to beat someone up.”

Taehyung let out a shaky gasp, entire body wracked by a shiver that made Jungkook grin, and a low, breathless moan tumbled out of his lips at Jungkook’s words. Jungkook could feel nails digging into his shoulders as he licked the shell of Taehyung’s ear, loving the tiny, almost inaudible whimper caught in the back of Taehyung’s throat, and his heart thudding erratically against his skin. Taehyung pushed him away slightly to stare wide eyed, with an expression akin to awe flashing beneath the thick layer of open, blatant arousal stretched over his surprised features.

“Holy shit that's hot.” Taehyung breathed, thick tone dripping with hunger, pretty eyes burning black with want, and he wetted his lips quickly, almost nervously, before visibly swallowing, gaze fixed on Jungkook’s eyes with scorching intensity. His lips stretched into a wicked grin as he rolled his hips once, teasingly. “I think you just made me come in my pants.”

“Not yet I haven’t, apparently.” Jungkook replied without missing a beat, smirking as he slipped his hand between them and pressed the heel of his hand into Taehyung’s stiff dick through the fabric of his jeans. Taehyung jumped, biting down on his lip hard, to hold back the moan that looked like it wanted to slip out, and slapped Jungkook’s hand away.

“We’re in public, you shameless whore.” Taehyung reprimanded sternly, although who was the shameless one really, when he turned and walked over to the couch with a definitely purposeful sway to his hips, sitting himself down comfortably, nonchalantly despite the very visible boner sitting proudly between his legs. Jungkook snorted and followed suit, adjusting a little and tugging his shirt down a little, past his crotch.

“Ah, shit. That’s never worried you before.” Jungkook griped and Taehyung laughed, surveying his surroundings calmly, completely relaxed and unfazed as he swept his gaze over the packed casino, hands casually folded in his lap.

“That's because it's fun getting you all hot and bothered when we’re in the presence of other people. But I guess you mean you want me to tone it down a little then?” Taehyung asked innocently, not shifting position in the slightest as he stared steadily at Jungkook. He seemed to be a perfect picture of decency but Jungkook did not miss the way Taehyung’s pretty fingers lightly, discreetly grabbed his own erection, biting his lip, his eyes fluttering half closed as he did so.

“If you're not down with fucking right here and now, cut that shit out.” Jungkook spoke in a tight, strained voice, determinedly keeping his stare focused on Taehyung’s eyes, rather than anything happening downstairs, forcibly ignoring the heat rushing through his body. Taehyung just laughed, tugging his shirt down over the tent like Jungkook, leaning back into the couch and slinging an arm over the back.

“Frustrated? Sorry, you'll have to be patient. But if it's any consolation, I am definitely letting you top more often from now on, you dominant beast, you.” Taehyung purred, his tone delving into what Jungkook had dubbed as his porn star voice, that he really used way too much, and as awful and over the top as it might be, got him every single time. Jungkook cringed at the choice of words and made a face.

“Don’t call me that.” Jungkook wrinkled his nose and Taehyung shrugged, shifting his arm so that his hand rested behind Jungkook’s head, fingers playing with his hair. They sat there in silence for a while, wordlessly watching the casino’s excitement and the eruptions of cash, Jungkook closing his eyes for a bit to let the light ministrations of Taehyung’s fingertips against the base of his skull soothe him and drive his thoughts away from his dick. After a few more moments of sitting there quietly, Taehyung shifted a little, curled fingers straightening to cradle his head.

“Are you really mad though? I wasn’t serious… you know. It’s just Hoseok, and we’re just friends, but if you’re actually hurt at me joking around like that then…” Taehyung spoke haltingly, uncertainly, gaze flickering over to Jungkook. Jungkook held his unreadable stare for a moment before sighing, shaking his head slightly.

“Don’t worry about it, of course I knew you were joking. I’m not mad. Just… like I said, just the thought of someone touching you is…” Jungkook muttered, and Taehyung exhaled, glancing down at his own hand curled on his thigh, a small smile forming on his lips.

“Well… You know, you really don't need to worry about that. I… I love you so much. At this point, I can't even imagine being with anyone else. I never want to hurt you, but if I do, tell me. So I can do everything I can to make it up to you.” Taehyung murmured, a tiny, almost undetectable tremor wavering his tone, his voice thick with emotion, and before Jungkook could say anything, Taehyung leaned over and pressed a soft kiss to his cheek quickly, before getting up.

Jungkook’s eyes widened as he went to speak. “Taehyung-”

“I’m going to the bathroom.” Taehyung spoke quickly, quietly, blinking rapidly as he turned and left without another word. Jungkook stared after him, an indescribable feeling settling in his chest. He lifted his hand to touch his cheek with a fingertip, lingering before letting his hand drop back in his lap, thinking about the tiny strain in Taehyung’s voice.

“Jungkook!” Jinwoo suddenly appeared beside Jungkook with a wave and a trademark dry smile. Jungkook grinned, the welcoming the arrival of a distraction from the sudden heavy atmosphere.

“Hey, Jinwoo, how’ve you been?” Jungkook gestured for Jinwoo to sit down but Jinwoo shook his hand in a polite refusal, smiling still.

“Pretty good. I haven’t seen you in a while. Nor Taehyung, actually. I thought the Red Ace had gotten sick of the spotlight, but looks like fame and glory is hard to escape from.” Jinwoo replied with an easy grin, tone taunting but in a way Jungkook didn’t find himself to be very annoyed at.

“I haven’t been here in ages but my days on the red carpet will continue for a while yet. We were just on holiday. A month-long vacation. But well… even then we were still gambling in all the places we visited.” Jungkook sighed delicately, shrugging in a ‘what can you do’ way. Jinwoo laughed, nodding knowingly.

“Hopeless, we gamblers are. We’re all a bunch of rich fuckers with too much time on our hands, and an incurable greed for dirty, dirty cash that makes us have as little self control as a bunch of petulant, snot-nosed kids, we’re worse than crack addicts, really. Where’s Taehyung?” Jinwoo stated matter of factly, all in one breath, glancing around calmly, and Jungkook couldn’t help but burst out laughing at his abrupt yet casual tone. Jinwoo just smiled indulgently and gave Jungkook a second to compose himself.

“He just went to ah… he went to the bathroom apparently. That’s what he said, at least. Although… I didn’t see him go near the bathroom…” Jungkook sobered as he trailed off into a hesitant mutter, biting his lip.

Jinwoo raised an eyebrow. “Oh? So he went off somewhere and left you here waiting?”

“He- he looked like he needed a moment…” Jungkook spoke absently, uncertainly, worrying at his lip as he swept his gaze over the casino again, not seeing that distinguishable flash of bright orange anywhere. Yes, Taehyung looked like he needed a moment to himself, to steady a sudden onslaught of emotions. Why, Jungkook had no clue. Maybe he should go find him and see what’s up…

“Hm? Trouble in paradise?” Jinwoo drawled, still smiling slightly, and Jungkook laughed again, shaking his head a little. Who knows. It wasn’t really… ‘trouble in paradise’ when Taehyung had said right before leaving, that he was so in love with Jungkook he couldn’t imagine being with anyone else. Jungkook could tell he’d genuinely meant that, and it was heartwarming but it was just… Jungkook didn’t know why he looked so lost when he said that.

“Maybe. Can I have your number?” Jungkook asked with a small smile, and Jinwoo’s eyes widened considerably, expression turning a little frantic.

“Uh, you seem really lovely and all, but just- just letting you know, I’m not too keen on relationship troubles and drama, and even less on being the third party of an unresolved mess, so-” Jinwoo spoke quickly and Jungkook shook his head before Jinwoo had even finished, cheeks warming a little as he caught up.

“Oh, no, God no, I’m not hitting on you- I have a boyfriend as you know. I just think you’re a cool guy and I wanna buy you a drink or something sometime to thank you for driving us to the airport that one time.” Jungkook explained hastily and Jinwoo visibly relaxed, breaking into a smile again.

“Oh, yeah sure. That sounds neat.” Jinwoo grinned and held out his hand for Jungkook’s phone, taking it and sending a text to his own number. Jungkook saved the number as ‘J’, as Taehyung had.

“Oh, you weren’t here recently because you were away on holiday right? So you don’t know.” Jinwoo suddenly spoke up brightly and Jungkook raised an eyebrow, shaking his head.

“Know what?”

“Two weeks ago, the police came to investigate this place. Although, maybe ‘raid’ is the more accurate, if crude, way to put it. It got pretty hectic, they closed this place down for two whole days, and in the end, left empty-handed. Nobody knows what they were looking for, but apparently the boss was rumoured to have some pretty shady deals going on in the back. All of the big seven, including you, were suspects of some huge underground criminal organisation, sort of like the mafia, and those who were there were all questioned. They haven’t been arrested though, so they must’ve been proven innocent. Aren’t you super lucky you weren’t there at that time, Mr. Suspect Seven? But unfortunate too. Missed out on all that excitement.” Jinwoo recounted far too cheerfully for an event as serious as a police investigation, and Jungkook’s eyes widened as he let it sink in. This place had been subject to a police raid? Barely anything looked out of place. Well, it had been two weeks, after all, and BigHit sure as hell didn’t lack funds needed for cleanup. But… to think that he’d been a suspect in something he had absolutely no knowledge of, and had only just heard about now… Namjoon and Seokjin would’ve been questioned, then, and so would he have, if he hadn’t been on that trip with Taehyung.

“I… wow. That’s some intense shit I missed. What convenient timing. I wonder if Taehyung knows about this.” Jungkook wondered aloud and Jinwoo shrugged.

“He might not. Everyone here knows it happened, but it’s not like anyone’s talking about it. Most people don’t care, they just come here to gamble. Nobody knows how, but somehow the big boss and them anticipated the police’s arrival and got rid of any trace of the gambling house’s existence, leaving only the legal casino front for them to search. Impressive, really. It’s like they’re prepared at a moment’s notice to hide evidence of crimes.” Jinwoo mused, and Jungkook pondered over those words, thinking them through. He knew if no attempt had been made at covering up the casino’s true illegal gambling house form, this place would have been shut down for good, its workers kicked out and its boss and higher ups arrested.

“Jinwoo!” A gruff call came from a few metres away, and both Jinwoo and Jungkook looked up to see the guy from last time on Jeju Island… Haejin, Jungkook was pretty sure his name was.

“Ah, I gotta go now, my boss has a meeting to go to. See you around, Ace.” Jinwoo waved lazily and grinned, walking over to Haejin and another man standing beside him, facing away from Jungkook. Jungkook wondered if he’d seen that back from somewhere before. Jungkook waved as well, returning the grin before Jinwoo turned away, and jumped when Taehyung’s voice sounded beside him.

“What’s got you in such a good mood?” Taehyung spoke, smiling lightly, placing a hand on his shoulder. Jungkook smiled up at him, trying not to make it obvious that he was studying Taehyung’s expression.

“Oh, I was just- Jinwoo was here just now. He said hey, and asked where you were, but left like a second before you got back.” Jungkook gestured in the direction of Jinwoo’s retreating back and stiffened in surprise when he glanced back up at Taehyung to see that his smile had faded, stealing the light from the very air surrounding them with the downturn of his lips.

“Oh.” Taehyung replied quietly, expression carefully blank, eyes dangerously calm. Jungkook felt his features drawn taut in a frown as he tried to read Taehyung’s unfathomable gaze.

“Taehyung, are you okay?”

“Yes. What did he want?” Taehyung asked shortly, almost tersely, and Jungkook’s frown deepened, as did the tendrils of misgiving and confusion.

“Nothing, he just- Taehyung. What’s up with you and Jinwoo? You’re close, aren’t you? You have his number and everything. You two seemed pretty friendly the first time I met him but last time on Jeju Island, and this time too, you’re acting really weirdly. Aren’t you friends?” Jungkook asked slowly, carefully analysing any hint or flicker of emotion on Taehyung’s face, trying to gauge his reaction. A shadow appeared at the corner of Taehyung’s mouth, his entire demeanour frosty and closed off, unwelcoming and completely, totally unfamiliar and just not like the Taehyung Jungkook knew and was used to.

“Yeah, sure.” Taehyung replied carelessly, dismissively, and he leant down to capture Jungkook’s lips in a kiss, and the matter was dropped just like that.

~

Namjoon tapped the surface of the dark wooden desk rhythmically with a fingertip, idly flicking through the stack of papers Hoseok had handed to him. They were expecting a visitor, though exactly when that visitor would come, neither of them knew as no message had been sent beforehand, and no appointment had been made. He knew though, that he would definitely come. After the whole fiasco two weeks ago, there was no doubt he would eventually pay a visit.

Sure enough, the door to Namjoon’s office opened, creaking slightly, and a man stepped in, followed by two others standing close by. His subordinates, most likely. Even though the man remained standing shrouded in the valley of shadow cloaking most of the spacious room, the only light currently on being the one just above Namjoon’s desk, leaving even Hoseok standing behind him in the dark, Namjoon could tell who the dark figure was by one glance.

“Excuse the cliche line, but we’ve been expecting you. So? What brings you here today, Mr Jeon?” Namjoon smiled slightly, feeling his muscles stiffen and tense, setting the papers down on his desk.
~

Chapter Text

 

It was a week or so later, that Jungkook actually got around to treating Jinwoo to a drink or two at a bar close to BigHit.

It was around six in the evening, and Jungkook was texting Jinwoo as he stroked Taehyung’s hair. Taehyung had been busy recently, going off somewhere in the morning and not returning until quite late at night, and he always seemed tired down to his very bones, and either subdued or uncharacteristically cranky when he got back home. Jungkook had asked him about where he’d been off to the first night, but Taehyung didn’t reply and dragged Jungkook to bed to bury his head in his chest and melt against his body, all the obvious tension of a long, tiring day draining away from him. Jungkook didn’t say anything and let him sleep. The next night Taehyung shook his head dismissively and muttered “work” before lying down and resting his head in Jungkook’s lap, letting him stroke his hair like he was doing right now. And so the week passed like that, with Jungkook forgetting about it in the morning when he woke up to soft, sleepy kisses, and not pressing it at night, when Taehyung returned with an exhausted sway as he walked. Yesterday Jungkook asked about it again and Taehyung whispered that it was hell week at work before his eyes slipped shut and he dozed off curled in Jungkook’s lap.

Jungkook had long since suspected that Taehyung actually did have a permanent job, or at least was doing something that led to him being a millionaire, and having the luxury of time and money to play games at the casino, and paying for a month long trip for two on a whim. He didn’t play as many games as Jungkook, and usually didn’t actively try to win very much, so Jungkook had thought it was strange he had the money to splurge on spoiling Jungkook. But he’d never really pried into it, as Taehyung hadn’t ever said much about it, and it wasn’t that important to him anyway. If Taehyung wanted to tell him about it, he would.

So he guessed the honeymoon period was over, and Taehyung, being a more functioning, respectable member of society than Jungkook, had work to go to, and couldn’t just play games all day everyday and take Jungkook on trips all the time. Jungkook was okay with that, but he couldn’t help but worry, when shadows started to form in rings beneath Taehyung’s eyes, and they hadn’t talked properly in a week. He hoped Taehyung was taking proper care of himself, and he was worried about whatever job was stressing Taehyung out this much, but he didn’t want to nag, as Taehyung always seemed too tired to carry a full conversation at night, and in the morning, he regained his bright, cheery self, and Jungkook didn’t want to dampen his spirits and spoil the precious mood by bringing it up. He’d decided to ask Taehyung about this properly after “hell week at work” was over. Today Taehyung got back around an hour ago, and all he’d done was lie with his head in Jungkook’s lap, sleeping quietly.

J: 630 work for you?

Me: yeah sure

Me: i’ll be there soon

J: Sweet

“Babe?” Jungkook smoothed Taehyung’s hair down and glanced down at him as Taehyung opened one eye, gaze liquid and relaxed.

“Mm?”

“I’m going out for a bit. Go lie in bed, it’s cold here.” Jungkook nudged at Taehyung who lifted his head so Jungkook could get up from the couch. Taehyung hummed his assent, curling in on himself and not making any move to get off and go to bed. Jungkook sighed, crouching down to kiss his temple, frowning as Taehyung continued to lie there with his eyes shut, seeming determined to just fall back asleep right then and there.

Jungkook tried again. “I’m serious, you’ll catch a cold.”

“You should be the one worrying about that. It’s November now. Well into winter. Make sure you wear something warm before you leave.” Taehyung murmured lazily, syllables slurring together with drowsiness and Jungkook smiled, pressing a lingering kiss to his forehead and getting up to go.

~

“Man I,” Jinwoo paused to hiccup, setting his fifth glass down on the bar counter with a firm thud. “I don’t know about you, but I’m tipsy as hell. I need to go for a walk or some shit- clear my head so I don’t pass out.”

“That sounds amazing.” Jungkook groaned, rubbing his temple with the heel of his hand and getting up from the barstool, staggering a little. They made their way out of the bar, walking in silence for a few minutes, taking in gulps of fresh, crisply cool night air to sweep away the alcohol’s haze. Jungkook had more than a few regrets regarding the amount of drinks they’d downed between them, and he was definitely feeling this shit tomorrow morning, but he wasn’t in the state of mind to really be bothered worrying about that. They’d been drinking for a good couple hours now, and he wasn’t really sure what time it was.

“So, like I said, I feel like I can’t even-” Jungkook spoke up, breaking the silence abruptly, sluggish brain clicking into place suddenly, allowing thought to process again.

“Wait, is this continuing from-?”

“Huh? Oh, I was-”

“What we were talking about at the bar?”

“W- yeah.”

“Okay, carry on.”

Jungkook let a giggle slip out at the sudden crash of an attempt at conversation, and tried again. “Yeah, so, as I was saying, I feel like I can’t even ask him about it. Like, I’m scared that if I mention ‘work’, he’ll be in a bad mood and we’ll end up in that awkward stalemate until he crawls back in bed to cuddle. And like? I’m so not used to that? I’m not used to having to worry about putting him in a bad mood? I’ve never really seen him in a bad mood- well, before this week. I feel like I have to tiptoe around him? Like, I just need to keep my mouth shut and keep my fingers busy playing with his hair until he falls asleep, and that’s my role, and the night ends like that. Which is fine, but-”

“But it’s not fine, is it?” Jinwoo sang, loud voice ringing out in the street, slipping through the trees lining the footpath. Jinwoo shot him a look and a knowing, wry grin, and Jungkook groaned in a heartfelt way, letting his head drop forward and drag his body into a slump, limbs heavy and uncoordinated.

“No, it’s not fucking fine, ugh. ” Jungkook complained with an exasperated edge to his irritated tone, breaking into a helpless, resigned grin as Jinwoo snorted and burst out laughing, stumbling a little. “What am I, his massage therapist? I mean, of course I don’t mind stroking his hair, I love it actually, but come on, with the amount of startlingly enlightening communication that goes on it’s like he thinks of me as a portable heater rather than a boyfriend at night. I care about him, and I know he’s tired and shit, but if this keeps up I’m gonna go crazy.”

“Ah fuck, this is why I don’t like relationships. Sorry mate, I got nothing to help with.” Jinwoo drawled, still grinning carelessly and Jungkook sighed, shrugging a little.

“Just needed to get it out. Sorry for the drama. Shit, I think Taehyung’s all I’ve been talking about for the past half an hour or so.” Jungkook groaned in frustration, running a hand through his hair and shaking it out a little. Maybe he was drunk. He couldn’t really tell, but the pavement looked a little curly to his vision slipping and sliding out of focus. Yeah, maybe.

“Nah, you talked about cards, and how a friend taught you a game he learnt back home, Red Five I think it was, and Taehyung taught you Texas Hold ‘Em, and you talked about how Taehyung was the one who told you that BigHit was actually an illegal gambling house, and how Taehyung told you all about the rest of the big seven, and how Taehyung suggested to go skydiving on your first date, and how you and Taehyung argue over morning or night showers and how Taehyung- oh wait. Yeah, all you talked about was Taehyung.” Jinwoo spoke thoughtfully and Jungkook groaned again, rubbing his face with the palm of his hand. Why was he like this?

“I am so sorry.” Jungkook muttered and Jinwoo gave an easy laugh, shaking his head.

“No, no, it’s pretty interesting hearing about the inner workings and everything, actually. It’s nice hearing about him, because he doesn’t really talk to me anymore. If it’s any consolation, you only started talking about him after like, your fourth shot.” Jinwoo shrugged, eyes flashing slightly and Jungkook stiffened at the mention, sobering up a little.

“Oh yeah, I noticed that. I thought you were friends? He gets really weird about it when I mention you. What happened?” Jungkook asked curiously, and Jinwoo sighed, shoulders rolling forward a little, scratching at the back of his neck.

“I have no idea. He stopped talking to me like… well, months ago, really. Around the time I first found out you two were dating. I feel like he doesn’t really want you to talk to me, or associate much with me.” Jinwoo shot Jungkook a questioning look, eyebrow arched as he spoke, a dryly amused smile resting on his lips, and Jungkook frowned at his words, tugging his coat closer around him and shoving his hands in his pockets as a chilled wind swept through the dark streets, rushing down his spine and streaming through his hair. Shit, it really was getting colder and colder nowadays.

“What the fuck? Why?”

“No clue. Maybe he thinks I’m one of those problematic bad boys that’ll corrupt his precious lover.” Jinwoo grinned jeeringly and Jungkook snorted. “But if your boyfriend doesn’t want you to talk to me, are you sure it’s okay to be out with me like this?”

“That’s fucking stupid. He’s just being stupid, don’t worry about him.” Jungkook replied firmly and Jinwoo laughed, shrugging lightly.

“If you say so. Tell him I said hi, when you go home.”

~

Jungkook opened his bedroom door to see Taehyung sitting upright in bed, the room doused in blue-grey shadow, the only light being the small but harsh white glow of Taehyung’s phone screen. Taehyung locked his phone with a soft click, and glanced up at him as Jungkook made his way over, the only light to see by being the soft, misty moonlight creeping into the room through the windowpanes where the curtains hadn’t quite covered.

“You reek of alcohol. You must be pretty drunk. Where did you go?” Taehyung asked quietly, pushing back the covers and getting up, padding softly across the room towards him, cupping Jungkook’s cold, stinging cheeks in his warm hands and kissing him lightly, briefly. Jungkook caught Taehyung’s wrist in his hand to hold it lightly in place before it could drop away, and stared at Taehyung’s beautiful, emotionless face ever so faintly touched by the scarce moonlight drifting about the room. Jungkook couldn't read his eyes, shining like expressionless, smooth glass.

“…I just went drinking with a friend.” Jungkook replied slowly, evenly, deciding against telling him that the friend was Jinwoo. Taehyung stared at him for a second more, before kissing him again, longer and sweeter, sliding his warm palms over Jungkook’s jaw to his throat, still cold from the outside chill, resting his hands on his neck and letting his warmth bleed into his skin. Jungkook sighed against his lips, relaxing into Taehyung’s warm fingers and thought to himself that not speaking about Jinwoo was the right choice, so that Taehyung would touch and kiss him like this, without any of the undeniable strain that seemed to appear at the mention of Jinwoo.

But it was chilling to think about. At what point had Jungkook begun to need to hide things from Taehyung? And why? Had they changed?

Taehyung turned, climbing back into bed and curling up comfortably as Jungkook undid his coat and stripped, too tired to care about showering or brushing his teeth to rid himself of the clinging remnants of alcohol.

“What time is it? It must be pretty late, and you're still awake. Sorry, did you wait up?” Jungkook murmured, peeling his shirt off and joining Taehyung on the warm, welcoming bed, waiting for him to shift over and make space before settling down.

“Not particularly. I got a message from work, so I woke up and checked it.” Taehyung replied absently, picking up his phone, checking his lock screen and reaching over to place it on the bedside table, face down. Jungkook felt his features draw tight in a worried frown, and he hesitantly touched Taehyung’s arm.

“Work… again?” Jungkook spoke carefully, wondering what kind of work would send Taehyung a message this late at night. Taehyung lay down beside him and Jungkook curled an arm around him, tugging his warm body close instinctively, even as unease and concern stilled his fingers and tightened his lips. “Taehyung, about your work-”

“Not now.” Taehyung murmured quietly, but there was an edge to his voice that staved off Jungkook’s yet to be spoken words, extinguishing his desire to speak, to ask, in less than a second. Jungkook swallowed uncomfortably, but didn't say anything, staying still as Taehyung pressed himself against his body, breathing evening out in no time.

~

Jungkook opened his eyes  drowsily, wincing as his cramped arm muscles immediately made their presence known to his slowly wakening conscious. Fuck, his head was throbbing slightly from last night. He'd shifted onto his back at some point, and Taehyung’s head rested beside his, slow, steady breaths brushing over his ear. His warm body was pressed up against Jungkook’s side, curled fingers resting on his chest. Jungkook turned his head, pressing his nose into Taehyung’s soft hair and closing his eyes, breathing him in for a few still, calm moments, feeling the weak, wintry sunlight creep over his skin, before pushing himself up, extracting his arm from beneath Taehyung’s sleeping form. He watched Taehyung’s gorgeous sleeping face for a few moments, feeling the ache at the base of his skull subside as he gazed at his beautiful boyfriend. He reached out and brushed the hair that had fallen over his closed eyes back. He let his touch linger, let his knuckles brush ever so gently over his forehead, over his shut eyelids and watching them flutter reflexively, over his cheek and resting against his soft lips.

Taehyung looked so tired. The corners of his lips seemed to be tugged downwards, a slight set to his mouth suggesting tension even as he slept, and shadows pooled beneath his eyes. And he still looked like an angel.

“You’re so beautiful even when you’re tired and stressed out. What are you doing, Taehyung? You’re working so much you’re losing weight. I don’t want you to tire yourself out.” Jungkook spoke softly to Taehyung’s unresponsive form, running gentle fingers through his hair, lightly massaging his head. He smiled to himself as Taehyung breathed out slowly, the tiny crease between his eyebrows relaxing as Jungkook rubbed his fingertips in small circles against his scalp. He was so… breathtaking. Lovely. Jungkook’s chest tightened as he spoke again, whispering the soft words as if they were a secret shared just between the two of them. “You mean so much to me. Please… take proper care of yourself.”

Jungkook sighed, stroking his cheek with a light thumb, leaning down to kiss the corner of his lips, twitching in surprise when Taehyung turned his head so their lips met. Jungkook pulled back, gazing down at Taehyung who had opened those bright, pretty eyes, a small, reserved smile dancing on his lips. Jungkook didn't know if Taehyung had heard what he said, the smile secretive and personal.

“When did you wake up?” Jungkook murmured, letting Taehyung grasp his hand and entwine their fingers. Taehyung blinked slowly, sleepily, pressing soft kisses to Jungkook’s fingertips.

“Just now.” Taehyung yawned, letting go of Jungkook’s hand to stretch, his husky voice cracking a little from sleep as he let out a satisfied groan. Jungkook watched his body twisting, his shirt riding up to show smooth skin stretching taut over lean muscle, and couldn't help but reach out to touch. He ran his fingertips down Taehyung’s side and brushing them over the softer skin of his lower stomach, watching the muscles jump and flutter beneath his touch. Taehyung lifted his head to glance at him, eyebrow raised, lips stretched to one side in a lazy smirk, before sitting up, lightly, softly grabbing his wandering hand and holding it in place, hooded gaze flirty and teasing. Jungkook sat back and grinned appreciatively as Taehyung ran a hand through his own hair, tipping his head back and baring his long neck in that overly sensual way that both of them knew drove Jungkook crazy, before crawling over to Jungkook on his hands and knees. Jungkook swore reflectively, watching Taehyung tilt his head to the side, suggestive, subtle smile curving his lips and darkening his eyes before he stopped, sliding his warm palms up over Jungkook’s chest to rest on his shoulders, bringing his body in close, leaning forward as if to kiss him and Jungkook closed his eyes, drunk and entranced by Taehyung’s every movement.

Then he felt the hands tighten on his shoulders and shove him backwards forcefully, so that he fell straight off the bed, dragging half the blanket down with him in an ungainly mess. He surfaced from the cage of blanket to scowl at Taehyung who was snickering at his demise, flashing him a charming smile before flinging his arms out and flopping down on the bed, spread-eagled.

“Ah yes, all this space to myself. I can finally sleep comfortably.” Taehyung declared happily, letting out a blissful sigh, body sinking into the bed, lips curling in a content smile. Jungkook rolled his eyes and got up as Taehyung curled into himself, pressing his face into the pillow, and regarded his relaxed, lazy smile for a few seconds. He snorted and climbed back onto the bed, grabbing Taehyung’s shoulder and flipping him over on to his back forcefully. Taehyung raised an eyebrow, lips pursing a little at the disturbance, and Jungkook swooped down for a kiss, pressing Taehyung into the mattress, caging him in with his body in one smooth movement, pinning his wrists down on either side of his head.

“As if I’ll let you do that.” Jungkook whispered against Taehyung’s lips, trailing feather light kisses down his cheek and jaw and sucking wetly at his neck until a dull red mark appeared beneath the warm skin. Taehyung clicked his tongue in annoyance as he obviously felt the hickey forming, but Jungkook grinned as he didn’t miss how his breath hitched, and how he tipped his head back slightly.

“Seriously? If you leave a hickey that far up my neck it’ll be impossible to cover it.” Taehyung’s voice started off as a grumble but melted into a low, sultry moan as Jungkook rolled his body against his, grinding his hips down, slow and teasing.

“Wear a turtleneck or a scarf or something. You look so-” Jungkook paused to slide his tongue past those soft, parted lips, swallowing Taehyung’s deliciously low, throaty moans as he grinded down harder. He gave a low groan himself as Taehyung arched his back to press his chest against Jungkook’s, the dizzying heat of his body making his mouth water, his nerves set aflame as always. “-so hot, in turtlenecks.”

“I look hot in- ah- in everything.” Taehyung gasped, letting out a breathless whimper as Jungkook bit down on his soft, wet lip and tugged, expression twisting into a frown that was ineffectual considering his half closed, glazed over eyes. He wriggled his wrists free and shoved Jungkook off, rolling off the bed impressively quickly, despite the darkened, desperately hungry look in his eyes as he gazed back at Jungkook lying there. It made Jungkook smirk.

“What’s wrong, babe? Come back to bed.” Jungkook murmured silkily, letting his voice take on an over exaggeratedly velvety, smooth tone as he lifted up the blankets invitingly, trying his hardest not to laugh as Taehyung swore.

“Why are you so horny first thing in the morning?” Taehyung griped and Jungkook glanced over at the clock on the bedside table.

“It’s already eleven and we haven’t fucked yet. Actually, we haven’t for a whole week and a bit, you know. I’m getting a little frustrated here.” Jungkook replied innocently, matter of factly, and Taehyung swore passionately again, throwing Jungkook a flat, unimpressed stare as if his dick wasn’t straining against his boxers, in plain view.

“Well yeah, but didn’t you drink heaps last night? Get up and go puke or something, or at least brush your teeth before you touch me again.” Taehyung sniffed and strode off to the bathroom, and Jungkook couldn’t help but laugh at his imperious tone, knowing Taehyung didn’t give a shit, but was just being difficult because he wanted to be. He ran a hand through his hair, lazily pushing himself off the bed, following at a more lax pace.

“Picky.” Jungkook muttered, just loud enough for Taehyung to hear, practically hearing the rolling eyes. He grinned at Taehyung through the mirror as he walked over to the sink beside him, brushing his teeth obediently like Taehyung told him to. But as domestic as the scene was of them, having just woken up, brushing their teeth side by side with messy hair and wrinkled bed clothes, it was no fun, and so Jungkook inched closer to Taehyung, slipping his hand down the front of his boxers and rubbing his palm over Taehyung’s stiff cock. Taehyung almost choked on his toothbrush, toothpaste foaming a bit at the corners of his mouth, and he slit Jungkook a glare. Jungkook shrugged, responding by gripping it tight and dragging his fist up and down the length, keeping his eyes ahead of him, blankly gazing at his own reflection in the mirror as he twisted his fingers, watching Taehyung suffer through his peripheral vision, sniggering inside. He now knew why Taehyung always liked to torture him by doing stupid shit like this. Usually in public. Taehyung fell forward and gripped the edge of the sink hard, veins streaking up his tensed arm, eyes screwed shut, as Jungkook trailed his nails over the sensitive skin, and boy, was he thoroughly enjoying himself at seeing Taehyung trying to hold himself together. He pressed his thumb into the slit, feeling precome stick to his fingers and Taehyung did choke on his toothbrush this time, coughing explosively and spitting out the toothpaste in his mouth. Jungkook withdrew his hand before he got smacked, and tried not to laugh too hard, rinsing his mouth out as Taehyung struggled to steady his breathing beside him.

“I swear to God, you-” Taehyung cut himself off as he stared, dark eyes wide as Jungkook licked the clear substance off his fingers, groaning softly.

“Take a shower with me?” Jungkook asked lightly, watching the fire dance in Taehyung’s eyes as he sighed as if greatly put upon by Jungkook’s words and turned to rinse his mouth. He yanked off his shirt, tugging his boxers down and kicking them away over the cold tiled floor. Jungkook took a much needed moment to appreciate the sight of Taehyung’s naked body, never tiring of letting his eyes roam over every inch of his smooth, perfect skin, tracing the shadows falling just right over subtle dips and curves of muscle, as if he hadn’t already burnt the image to memory.

“Stop staring at my body like you haven’t seen it before and get in here.” Taehyung drawled over his shoulder, stepping into the shower and turning on the water.

Jungkook tried, in all honesty, to focus just on washing himself and showering properly, but all seemly, proper thoughts were swirling down the drain along with the soap suds when he turned and watched the water running down Taehyung’s body, streams of it racing down his skin, the heat giving it an ever so slightly pink tinge. The sight was needless to say, arousing as fuck, but when Taehyung turned to face him, wet hair falling over his half closed eyes, water dripping down over his lips and off his chin, Jungkook felt the excitement boiling in his lower stomach morph into a slower, aching, burning throb, and the entire atmosphere seemed to have changed as Taehyung let Jungkook back him into the tiled wall, flinching only a little bit at his back hitting the cold surface, gazing up at Jungkook beneath wet lashes. Jungkook ran his hands down Taehyung’s sides, revelling in the feel of his warm, slippery skin against his, and rolled his hips slow. Taehyung’s eyes fluttered, but didn’t shut completely even as his mouth fell open, heady, focused stare fixed on Jungkook’s eyes inches away from his. Jungkook didn’t understand why, but he kept his movements agonisingly slow, not breaking eye contact for a second. Taehyung didn’t take any of his usual initiative, letting Jungkook set the pace, hands resting on his upper arms, expression unreadable asides from the obvious pleasure. A breathless, cracked moan that sounded like music to Jungkook’s ears escaped his lips as Jungkook slipped his hand between his thighs and stroked the soft skin, and his knees shook a little. Taehyung slipped against the wall and almost slid down, before Jungkook caught him and held him steady, only loosening his grip when he was sure Taehyung regained his balance.

“Careful.” Jungkook murmured quietly, the worry and concern that had flared up in immediate response to the thought that Taehyung might slip and hurt himself, draining away as Taehyung stared at him wordlessly.

It seemed almost unreal, how beautiful he looked like that, water running in rivulets from his soft hair, lashes heavy from the clinging droplets, lips slack but eyes focused, gazing so fixedly at Jungkook that his heart ached a little. He leant forward, sealing his lips against Taehyung’s, eyes slipping shut as he kissed him slowly, each movement unhurried and precise, not sure if the hot water cascading down his back or the heat from Taehyung’s body was warmer. He tasted mint and the sweetness of Taehyung’s mouth on his tongue… as well as a tiny hint of salt.

Taehyung’s lips were trembling a little, and he broke off the kiss to rest his head against Jungkook’s shoulder, pressing his face into Jungkook’s skin as Jungkook reached down between their bodies and wrapped a hand around both of their dicks, stroking them slowly, turning his head to pepper light kisses down Taehyung’s neck. He closed his eyes, hearing the tiny moans and gasps strengthen in volume and obscenity, listening to the desperate, keening edge of Taehyung’s voice gradually grow until Taehyung’s arms were wrapping tight around him, nails digging into his back, body shaking ever so slightly. Jungkook breathed in his warm, familiar smell, identifiable even under the scents of shampoo and body wash, and quickened the pace of his hand, jerking them off to completion, tension rushing out of his body all at once as his come landed on Taehyung’s chest and mingled with the water sliding down. Taehyung came a few pumps of his fist later, an airy, high pitched moan tumbling out of his lips, body pressed as close as it could be to Jungkook.

Taehyung seemed reluctant to let go, heavy, rapid breathing fanning over Jungkook’s skin, and Jungkook closed his eyes, his racing heartbeat dulling back down to its normal speed, trying his best to support both his and Taehyung’s spent bodies, against the slippery tiles.

That had been so tiring, and Jungkook had no idea why. Not in the physical sense, no, he’d barely broken a sweat, but…

Taehyung’s body was still pressed tightly against his even as he pulled away to kiss Jungkook’s nose, his cheek and closed eyelids, touch light and fleeting, far from substantial. Jungkook washed the come off both their bodies, Taehyung seeming all of a sudden too drained to do anything other than stand there and stare unfathomably at him.

As they dried themselves off, Jungkook glanced at Taehyung and saw with a sharp spike of shock, that Taehyung’s pretty eyes were rimmed with red.

“Taehyung? Taehyung.” Jungkook gasped, reaching out to grab his chin, tilting his head towards himself. Taehyung blinked, eyebrows lifting a little, reddened eyes widening slightly. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah? Why… why wouldn’t I be?” Taehyung replied, tilting his head to the side a little, eyebrows furrowing in confusion, and Jungkook faltered a bit, at the seemingly genuine incomprehension painted over his features.

“Your eyes are kinda red. You look like you’ve been crying.” Jungkook spoke lightly, hesitantly, searching the depths of Taehyung’s eyes that widened further, and he looked a little frozen before he broke into an easy smile, the light returning to his gaze.

“Really? Well, my eyes were stinging before. Must have been… water or something. Water or shampoo might’ve gotten in my eyes.” Taehyung replied brightly, pressing a quick kiss to Jungkook’s cheek and smiling a little wider. “I’m fine.”

Jungkook watched him towel off his hair and exit the bathroom, motionless as Taehyung got dressed, every movement so natural and relaxed, but Jungkook’s chest felt blocked, suffocating with a burning ache. He knew Taehyung had been crying in the shower just then, against his shoulder no less. But he didn’t want to tell Jungkook that it happened, let alone why. Jungkook just didn’t know how to go about broaching this subject, confused and taken aback as he was, as he watched Taehyung walk over to the bedside table and check his phone. But they’d have to have this conversation some time.

“Jungkook? I gotta go to work now. Just got called in.” Taehyung spoke from across the room and Jungkook smiled, waving at him.

“Don’t come back too late.”

~

Chapter Text

 

Me: hey
Me: are you busy?

J: Nope, just got off work for the day
J: What’s up?

Me: taehyung’s working and an unemployed deadbeat like myself is bored and doesn’t have anything to do
Me: wanna go get food or something?

J: Sure thing! I am always up for food fuck yeah
J: Your treat? :)

Me: yeah sure

~

“We’re piss-drunk, and it’s only two in the afternoon.” Jungkook stated a little unnecessarily, as, yes, they were drunk, and yes, it was two in the afternoon, that much was obvious. They'd ended up at a bar instead of getting food like originally planned, although Jungkook wasn't surprised at all.

“Yes, we are.” Jinwoo nodded sagely, regarding the vodka nestled in his hand thoughtfully, taking a small sip. Jungkook felt his head spin, downing a glass of water to try and settle it.

“God, why is my life like this?” Jungkook muttered, pressing his fingers against his temple and rubbing it in slow circles. Jinwoo laughed empathetically, raising his glass to Jungkook in a mockery of a toast and finishing his drink in one go, making a face and sighing, body sinking back against the bar counter like all the air had rushed out of him at once.

“Here we are, in the prime of our youth, nursing alcohol just a little past noon. The life. You're like- what, twenty, twenty one? The mid-life crisis has sure set in pretty quick.” Jinwoo remarked with a half grin and Jungkook snorted, running a hand through his hair and massaging his scalp with light fingers. He got up and Jinwoo followed suit, wordlessly agreeing on leaving the bar to go take a walk around, clear their heads a little.

“Forgive my mid-life crisis. Drinking in the day isn't kind on me. Brings out the inner melodrama.” Jungkook replied dryly, grinning as Jinwoo laughed, smiling knowingly as they stepped out onto the chilly streets.

“Oh I think I know what it is that's really bringing out the melodrama and those depressing words. A certain friend of ours, by any chance?” Jinwoo drawled, snickering as Jungkook groaned heartily and slapped a hand over his face, feeling irritation and frustration flicker in his chest.

“Shit. I don't wanna think about him.” Jungkook mumbled into his hand and Jinwoo tilted his head towards Jungkook, arching an eyebrow.

“But he's clearly been on your mind this whole time. Go on, let it out. What happened this time?” Jinwoo prompted, still smiling slightly and Jungkook sort of regretted leaving the bar already. He drew in a deep breath in preparation for his brief rant and ignored Jinwoo’s amused grin.

“He just- fuck I don't even know anymore. He was fine and joking around and shit and then- ugh, I just don't know. I feel like he's mad at me sometimes and I have no idea why and I want to be angry at him because I haven't done anything wrong and this isn't really fair but… When he looked at me like that, without saying anything I felt- I felt like I'd done something to him, and I had to apologise and make amends somehow. Am I getting fucking guilt-tripped by his face? He didn't even- he didn't even say anything! But I still feel like I really am in the wrong and I gotta make it up to him.” Jungkook practically spoke in one breath and Jinwoo lifted his hands in surrender, looking a little dizzy.

“Man, I think I'll stay single my whole life. I don't really get it but… make it up to him, huh? Give him a handjob.” Jinwoo suggested brightly and Jungkook winced as he remembered how that went down earlier that morning.

“I did.” Jungkook groaned, frustration and incomprehension seeping into his tone and Jinwoo uttered a small, flat “ah”.

“You're fucked, man.” Jinwoo replied simply and Jungkook deflated a little as he sighed, shaking his head and shoving his hands into his pockets, not sure if the churning in his stomach was a result of alcohol or the anxiousness from the Taehyung situation. Probably both.

As they walked further, aimlessly walking through the city in any which way, the wind cut sharper against their skin, and Jungkook zipped up his jacket after a few unsuccessful tries due to fingers uncooperative from both the cold and the drunken haze carpeting his brain. Jinwoo didn't seem to be very affected by the cold, which Jungkook was quite impressed at, seeing as he wasn't wearing very thick clothing at all, no, just the standard business suit as usual. Thinking back on it, every time Jungkook had seen Jinwoo, he'd been wearing an expensive looking, yet simple, inconspicuous suit.

“So, do you just walk around in a suit all day everyday? Not feeling this year’s winter fashion?” Jungkook asked, glancing over at Jinwoo who blinked in surprise at the question, gazing down at himself briefly, reflexively, seeming to ponder the question for a second.

“Well both- well, my line of work requires me to plonk around in smart suits all the time and I don't have much life outside work, so, yeah, I guess so.” Jinwoo shrugged easily and Jungkook hummed in acknowledgement.

“Wait, so what's your job again? IT, you said? You said you go to that bar often so… Is your work somewhere around here?” Jungkook asked, clicking his tongue in irritation as his words slurred over one another ever so slightly. Taehyung kept telling him to stop drinking so much, and he knew he should, but… yeah. No self control. Taehyung was going to be mad when he got home today.

“Huh? Uh, yeah, I’d say so. I mean, it’s right there.” Jinwoo promptly raised his arm and pointed to the massive, imposing building to the right of them as they neared. Jungkook blanched, feeling the usual inevitable surge of uneasiness and intimidation as he recognised the ridiculously expansive stretch of glass.

“What? For real?” Jungkook winced and Jinwoo’s eyebrows shot up as he nodded slowly, fishing out a business card from the inside pocket of his blazer.

“Uh, yeah… Is it that unbelievable?” Jinwoo asked slowly, angling the card at Jungkook a little warily as Jungkook regarded it with another wince, seeing the familiar company name.

“It’s just… well, no. I just didn’t know you work at my dad’s place. Do you see him often?” Jungkook tried for a smile, and Jinwoo stared at him blankly for a few seconds before realisation visibly clicked. Something flashed in his momentarily sharp, thoughtful eyes, and it disappeared so quickly Jungkook wondered if he'd imagined it.

“Oh. You’re Mr Jeon’s son? The one that came here like… late last year, for that joint-company party thing? Oh, now that I think about it, yeah, I did always feel like I’d seen you from somewhere before. Wow, what a small world, huh? Yeah, I see him every day. I work directly under him, so. I’m like a glorified secretary, except nobody including me, really knows what my official position is called.” Jinwoo explained with a light grin, and Jungkook just stared at him for a few moments, slack jawed, letting it sink in. Wow. What were the odds.

“Well… you see my dad about a hundred times more often than I do, then.” Jungkook replied wryly with a rueful smile, and Jinwoo looked a little taken aback at that.

“Not on good terms with your old man? Although… yeah, Mr Jeon isn’t really the warm fuzzy type. Personally never been able to visualise him with a kid.”

“More like… not on any terms, really.” Jungkook muttered, wincing yet again at the unintentionally depressing tone he’d let slip out. He wasn’t particularly fazed by it as he’d lived twenty years without the presence of his father, and he certainly didn’t mean to express otherwise, but Jinwoo didn’t seem all too bothered by it, sending him a sharp grin.

“Ah, damn. Here I was thinking you could put in a few nice words about me to your father every now and then. My shining career and climb to the top of the company would be a breeze.” Jinwoo sighed theatrically, shaking his head in resignation, and Jungkook snorted, shoving him lightly.

“Sorry, no free promotions available here. Keep up the good work, Mr Secretary.” Jungkook grinned, stumbling a little as he almost tripped over the uneven pavement. Shit, his vision was still slightly blurry. Which meant he was still a little drunk. There was only one thing to do. “Fuck it. I’m still drunk. Let’s go play cards.”

“Thought you’d never ask.” Jinwoo replied with a small amused smile playing at the corner of his lips.

~

Taehyung wasn't with him today.

“Who's he?” Yoongi stared across the packed room at Jungkook’s companion at the playing table, narrowing his eyes a little. “He's been here a few times, right? What was his name again?”

“I'm pretty sure he's that Jinwoo.” Jimin replied, following Yoongi’s line of vision to gaze at Jungkook and Jinwoo laughing and scraping away chips and money alike. As usual, the table Jungkook was at was the most lively and popular out of the entire throbbing mass of the casino, this wasn't anything new. What was out of place was that Taehyung wasn't there with him today. Yoongi was casually leaning against the wall, hidden away in the shadow cast behind by the bright lights of the casino and the reflection of coins, surveying the scene unnoticed, as he was wont to do, and Jimin was standing beside him quietly. Jimin watched Jungkook high five Jinwoo, exhilaration and pure excitement evident in his gleeful face even from so far away. They were drunk, Jimin was pretty sure. In the time he'd been watching, Jungkook had turned countless times to Jinwoo before faltering for a split second, smile dimming just a little, and Jimin knew in the midst of the drunken, ecstatic thrilling atmosphere, Jungkook had expected to see Taehyung sitting beside him. Jimin wondered if something had happened with them.

“Shit.” Yoongi muttered lowly, shoving his hand in his pocket as Jimin glanced at him in confusion, at his eyes flattening into a glare at Jungkook casually shuffling the deck from one hand to the other, not even looking at the stack of cards as he fanned them out and swept them back in, like he was just giving his hand something to do, playing with them with the ease of someone flicking a pen around their fingers. “He’s actually pretty good.”

“Yeah.” Jimin replied absently, still watching. Jungkook was chatting with Jinwoo, seemingly not even paying attention to the cards, but Jimin spotted the tiny, tiny edge of one of the cards sticking out just a fraction from the stack as he gathered them back into a stack. Impressive. His expression hadn’t changed in the slightest, his movements certainly hadn’t given anything away, in fact, if not for the fact that Jimin had taught him and watched his style through the early stages of Jungkook’s poker career, as he developed all those tricks and cheats, Jimin would never have noticed, he simply knew when and where to look, and even then, he had to keep his eyes peeled. He doubted Yoongi, or even Taehyung would be able to notice. He wouldn’t say, though. Yoongi glanced at him, reaching out to wrap an arm around his waist, pulling him close. Jimin stared up at him in surprise, body instinctively tensing at his touch, searching Yoongi’s considerably mild, calm eyes for signs of danger as he held his breath. Yoongi just gazed at him contemplatively, touch firm but not in a bad way. It was… nice. Really nice. Anchoring. Jimin was rarely ever allowed to appreciate Yoongi’s warmth like this, with their sides pressed together, Yoongi’s eyes free of malice or flickers of anger, his fingers resting lightly against Jimin’s waist. Jimin had no idea what to make of it, and just stared dumbly for a few silent moments before Yoongi blinked a few times, glancing away and back over to Jungkook’s direction, but he didn't take his arm away, like Jimin would've expected him to.

“Didn't you teach him how to play cards? How come he's better than you now?” Yoongi spoke with a flat expression, but Jimin’s eyes flew wide open as he could detect the tiniest, tiniest hint of warmth in his low tone, a base, driest level of amusement, and it was almost like he was- was teasing. Yoongi hadn't spoken to him in any semblance of a personal tone of voice in so long Jimin wasn't even sure if he was hearing right, and he just stared dumbfoundedly until Yoongi raised an eyebrow at the lack of response, turning his head to gaze at Jimin again. He was smiling slightly. Jimin felt the whole world stop around him in a second, freezing a little in shock, before all tension melted away from his body and he broke into an uncontrollably wide smile. He allowed himself to lean into Yoongi’s body, ducking his head down but unable to hide his smile.

“He's only a little good because he had a good teacher. But yeah, my pupil’s grown and surpassed me.” Jimin replied laughingly, smile widening further as Yoongi leant over and kissed his forehead, soft and light. He felt like he could burst with pure, undiluted happiness, revelling in Yoongi’s warmth and gentle touch, a luxury that had been granted to him so randomly.

“Why do you look so happy at that? I'm saying you suck.” Yoongi snorted but Jimin just pressed himself closer against Yoongi’s body, smiling without replying, knowing Yoongi knew perfectly well what Jimin was happy about.

~

Jungkook stumbled into bed late that night, a hundred thousand richer, not staying up for Taehyung, firmly ignoring the burning desire to send Taehyung a quick text, or a call. Too many times that night, while he'd been drinking himself into this crazed, disoriented stupor, gambling and hustling the night away with a fun, easygoing and certainly less prickly companion of Jinwoo, he'd wished for Taehyung’s bright, infectious smile beside him instead.

He woke to cold blankets and an empty bed. He reasoned with himself that Taehyung had his own house, his own bed to go back to sleep in, it wasn't as if Taehyung lived with him or anything, he wasn't obligated to come back home to Jungkook - they were only boyfriends and he had his own life. He told himself the gnawing, hollow feeling in his chest was merely childish, petty disappointment, and the chill embracing his skin was simply a natural effect from the steady approach of winter and snow, rather than the glaringly obvious absence of Taehyung’s warm body against his.

Taehyung did come back home each night after that, a little earlier as well, but something had shifted a little. November passed like that, days and nights blurring together in an aimless, directionless mere passing of time, the bite of wintry air chilling Jungkook down to skin and bone, but still not as cold as his boyfriend’s frosty, tense demeanour, and it was like he slept every night with a stranger. Jungkook wondered whether Taehyung simply didn't like him anymore, or whether he was only seeing Taehyung’s true character now after these incredible, beautifully wild, perfect months together.

He didn't give up on them, on this, though, for he came home one night to hear Taehyung talking in his sleep.

“Don't look at me like that…” Taehyung’s soft murmur broke the silence of the darkened room, and Jungkook paused with the blanket half drawn up, turning to stare quizzically at the shadow lying beside him.

“Taehyung?”

“I’ll tell you what's going on… one day. Not now. So… don't ask.” Taehyung mumbled quietly, raspily, punctuated by slow, tired pauses, evidently still deeply entrenched in sleep. Jungkook let out a long, drawn out breath and sat up, reaching over to flick the switch of the bedside lamp on, biting his lip as he looked back at Taehyung to see him grasping the sheets in the space where Jungkook’s body had been with tightly curled fingers. His chest tightened as he gazed at the visible tension racking Taehyung’s body even as he slept, shadows setting into the faint lines beneath his tightly shut eyes, at the corners of his mouth. He turned the light back off and went to sleep with his fingers curled between Taehyung’s.

It was like stress relief to hang out with Jinwoo, who always made time for Jungkook, all easy smiles and laid back aura, and soon enough Jungkook was spending time with him everyday, usually till quite late at night. The first few times Taehyung asked him where he'd been, or where he was going so early in the morning, Jungkook replied that he was going out with Jinwoo and quickly discovered that to be a big mistake as Taehyung’s responses were less than happy. And so he stopped mentioning Jinwoo’s name, to keep it peaceful, but things started getting a little terse, replies a little shorter and snappier each time Jungkook staggered back into his room drunk, blindly feeling around in the dark until he collapsed onto his bed next to a stiff, wooden board of a boyfriend. Taehyung wouldn't let him touch him, the nights he came back drunk.

The tension built steadily as Taehyung’s work showed no signs of letting up, and Jungkook didn't make as much effort to placate and compromise anymore, knowing Taehyung didn't like him being with Jinwoo but caring less and less.

It was a couple days into December, when things finally came to a head. Jungkook was sitting in the café Taehyung had taken him to the first week they'd met, and he ordered the heart attack of a drink Taehyung had had. He sipped it slowly as he chatted with Jinwoo about everything and nothing, thinking back to when Taehyung had been as sweet as this coffee. Jungkook and Jinwoo were talking about his father.

“He’s not very nice to his subordinates, me included, but I guess the higher ups like me or Haejin - you remember Haejin, yeah? Well, he cuts us some slack, relatively. The warm fuzzies are dished out pretty sparingly. If any of his employees don’t reach his standards, or fuck up or something, they're cut, no sentimental crap. It's a tough, competitive workplace but hey, the pay’s worth every bit of it. Besides, everyone may fear big ol’ grizzly Mr Jeon, but we do respect and admire him, because damn, he can get shit done.” Jinwoo spoke contemplatively, stirring his latte absently, shrugging at the last bit. Jungkook bit at his lower lip, digesting this information. He hadn't expected anything else of his father, but he guessed at the very least, he was glad the ice cube approach was one his father took with everyone, not just his son.

“Sounds like him. He's probably allergic to warm fuzzies. Good to know I'm not the only one to get the colder side of the iceberg treatment.” Jungkook muttered, grimacing at the overwhelming sweetness of the coffee as he took another sip, but he didn't know why, because Taehyung’s lips were so much sweeter. Maybe it was because he wasn't used to it anymore, having not kissed Taehyung in about half a month. He paused, fingers tightening against the cup, a chilled, hollow feeling forming in his chest at the thought, causing any warmth from the hot coffee to dissipate into nothingness.

“I would ask how he is at home, but I guess he never goes home, does he? I'm usually with him all the time, on business trips or whatever. How does Mrs Jeon feel about that?” Jinwoo asked, eyes flicking up to meet Jungkook’s, and it was an innocent question, but Jungkook dropped his gaze, worrying at his lip a little harder.

“My mother? She's not here anymore. Pretty cliché right? Rich, lonely heir with a successful, stern and constantly busy dad, and a dead mother leaving a rift between father and son. She died when I was one, and it's not like my dad’s ever talked about her, so I don't remember her, but… well. Yeah.” Jungkook replied quietly, glancing away to the side, gazing out the window at the greying, emptying streets, not really sure how he felt about it. To him, it wasn't really an important or significant aspect of his life, seeing as he honestly had no recollection or any real substantial attachment to his mother, but he sometimes wondered if it'd be different, if his mother was still here. Did his father love her? Would he have raised Jungkook differently, treated him differently? Would he come home every night to his wife and son?

“My condolences.” Jinwoo spoke lowly, an unfamiliar, rare seriousness dulling his tone, and Jungkook shook his head, offering a halfway there smile. He was still looking away, and so missed the slightly calculating, thoughtful gleam to Jinwoo’s eyes.

“Happened a long time ago. Anyway, so are you number two at the company? Will my dad leave the company to you when he retires?” Jungkook spoke curiously, and Jinwoo raised an eyebrow, surprise flitting over his features.

“He didn't tell you? Oh- ah… Yeah, I guess he wouldn't have, huh.” Jinwoo spoke dryly and Jungkook gave a resigned grin as Jinwoo smiled wryly and continued. “He's leaving the company to you. You're still his son and heir, you know.”

“What? But- I'm not even- I don't even have any part in the company whatsoever! I don't even have any portion of a share!” Jungkook cried incredulously, shock flaring in his chest, and Jinwoo shrugged, raising his hands as if to say “well, what can you do”.

“I know. No knowledge of the company or market, or even the profession either, I'm guessing. Total rookie. I mean, you're my mate and all and no offence, but I wouldn't choose you to take over. A boss that's totally wet behind the ears? Guess who has to spoon feed him, teach him the ropes.” Jinwoo grinned brightly, a meaningful glint to his eyes and Jungkook gave out a short laugh, leaning back in his chair and letting out a slow breath, taking this revelation in.

“You?” Jungkook replied wryly and Jinwoo’s grin widened, amusement flashing in his gaze and he clicked his fingers, leaning back as well.

“Bingo.”

“Well… Man, I'm sorry in advance.” Jungkook laughed and shook his head slowly, not quite comprehending this news. He had been certain he was to find his own way in life and settle his career path himself, which he was fine with, but apparently not. His father sure was ambitious, leaving the company in the hands of, as Jinwoo put it, a total rookie. Jungkook didn't know how to feel about it in all honesty. He'd given up hopes on inheriting the business, and had pretty much subconsciously planned on just relying on gambling for a living. Of course, he wasn't about to turn down the CEO position to a highly advanced, influential and successful company but-

His phone buzzed in his pocket and he fished it out to see “Traffic Light”.

“Ah… Taehyung’s calling me, hang on.” Jungkook muttered, precautionary unease already stirring in his stomach and Jinwoo flashed him a thumbs up, mouthing “good luck”. Jungkook grinned at him and took the call. “Hey.”

“Hey, I just got off work.” Taehyung replied, voice a little crackly and tired sounding over the phone, but then again, what was new. Jungkook raised his eyebrows in surprise.

“Wow, already?”

“Yeah, I have the rest of the day off.” There was a slight pause, as if Taehyung was considering whether or not to say something, and Jungkook chewed the inside of his cheek, stomach curdling at the unfamiliar awkwardness that had arisen at some point between them. He clicked his tongue and searched for something to fill the silence with.

“That's great! Get home quickly and take a rest. Don't go out again, okay? I know your work sometimes calls you in late at night.” Jungkook tried for a bright tone but it fell flat somehow, and there was a longer, weighted pause this time, the silence over the line oppressive and palpable. Shit, what did he say wrong this time?

“Where are you?” Taehyung asked quietly, and Jungkook felt a prick of annoyance at the question, wondering why that had anything to do with him, why he felt the need to speak in such a disappointed, disapproving tone. Was Jungkook not allowed to go out? Did Taehyung just expect him to be sitting around at home waiting for him?

“I'm out with a friend. Why?” Jungkook bit out a little more sharply than he'd meant to, although he supposed that was the case every time he spoke to Taehyung nowadays, the tension and irritation built up over the month carrying over with each response. Jinwoo was regarding him with a carefully neutral expression, and Jungkook rolled his eyes and mouthed “I'm in trouble” to which Jinwoo cracked a sharp grin.

“Of course you are. Aren't you always.” Taehyung replied scornfully, with a defeated, exasperated tone and Jungkook just barely reined in the sudden explosion that threatened to burst forth, anger erupting in his chest. What the actual fuck?

“What is your problem?” Jungkook hissed into the phone, covering his mouth with his hand so to not disturb the peace of the cosy little café, and Jinwoo mimed eating popcorn across from him.

“What problem? No problem. Why, have you got a problem?” Taehyung answered tersely and Jungkook almost crushed the coffee cup in his hand, hastily setting it down, drawing in a deep, sharp breath of air to settle his emotions that had been unstable and easily provoked for over a month now.

“You know what, I'm just- I’m going to hang up, I don't feel like dealing with this right now. I'll be home soon.” Jungkook breathed, suppressing the itches of irritation and calming himself down long enough to maintain a civil, if strained tone of voice.

“Right.” Taehyung replied shortly and Jungkook ended the call, breathing in slowly, deeply, before exhaling, expelling all the negativity and anger from his system, closing his eyes as if in prayer as he put his phone back in his pocket. He might really start praying soon because of Taehyung.

“Let me guess, that didn't go as well as you hoped, and worse than you expected.” Jinwoo remarked as Jungkook took a calming, steadying sip of saccharine sweet coffee, amusement practically dripping off his words. Jungkook couldn't help his resigned smile at the dry comment.

“How did you guess?”


Jungkook didn't mean to stay out till half past four in the morning, but Jinwoo introduced him to a new casino halfway across town. He lost track of time, wrapped up in the craze and addicting, ensnaring excitement of new territory. He was partially drunk, his emotional state fluctuating every two seconds, and he was spiralling down into a right sour mood as he got home and hauled himself up the unnecessarily long staircase. Taehyung was gonna be pissed at him. Jungkook didn't have the patience or stability to counter any comments peacefully. He was emanating so much negativity he was almost positive if one looked closely enough, they'd be able to see actual visible storm clouds packed in the air surrounding his head. He opened his bedroom door to see Taehyung sitting cross legged on the bed, still fully clothed, obviously having been waiting for Jungkook instead of getting ready for bed despite the hour. Jungkook took one look at the stony expression hardening Taehyung’s features and sighed audibly, shutting the door behind him with a little more force than necessary.

“Where were you?” Taehyung asked, but it wasn't really a question. Jungkook shut his eyes and drew in a steadying breath through his nose, his lips pressed into a thin line. Irritation scratched at him beneath his skin, and he reminded himself not to lose his composure.

“I told you, I was out with a friend.” Jungkook replied tightly, not bothering to hold back the slight edge to his voice, and didn't look at Taehyung as he strode over to his wardrobe and tossed his coat inside carelessly. He was not in the mood for this conversation.

“It's four in the morning. You stayed out this late, and you can only tell me some half assed response like that? You keep doing this recently.” Taehyung spoke dangerously low, anger creeping in on his tone. Jungkook spun around, resting his hand against the doorframe and the other on his hip, eyebrow arched, jaw set.

“So do you. I've given up on asking you where you go till three or four almost every night. What, you're allowed to and I'm not?” Jungkook retorted, unable to keep the irritation from flooding into his words. Taehyung visibly grinded his teeth, anger flashing from his flat, hardened eyes.

“What? So you’re saying you're pulling this shit purely to spite me? You want me to see how it feels or something like that?” Taehyung drawled with a sort of dry incredulity, pushing himself up off the bed and taking a few steps towards Jungkook, shoving his hands in his pockets.

“No. Not everything I do is because of you, believe it or not.” Jungkook muttered, throwing his gaze to the side sharply, annoyance and a petty desire to lash out and hurt adding a bite to his tone. Taehyung didn't reply for a few long, silent moments, and Jungkook could feel his hard, piercing stare searing into his face.

“You were with Jinwoo again, weren't you.” Taehyung guessed with a deceptively soft voice, like he was merely making a harmless observation. Which it would be, if Taehyung wasn't being such an ass about it. Jungkook rolled his eyes, throwing Taehyung a flat look.

“Yes.”

“Why couldn't you just tell me that?” Taehyung asked tersely, a tiny note of hurt shadowing his tone and Jungkook hated it, he hated how unreasonable it was, and how his heart gave a sharp, aching tug at the sound of it, instinctively wanting to just back down as usual and apologise and soothe the wounds between them with kisses until Taehyung wasn't hurt anymore. He held firm though, being almost at his limit of tolerance. Taehyung didn't have much right to feel hurt over this when the answer was obvious.

“Because you get so worked up every time I mention him. You act like- like this. And there's no reason for it, I don't understand why you’re being so difficult over me spending time with my friend, and I'm sorry if I can't be bothered dealing with your shit for once.” Jungkook snapped, before hastily reeling in his haywire emotions to suppress the flare of anger at the base of his throat. Taehyung flinched, narrowing his flint-like eyes.

“Is that what you th- never mind. I’m being difficult?” Taehyung spoke derisively, arching an eyebrow, and Jungkook laughed humorlessly, stepping up right in front of him, burning his hard stare into those fiery eyes.

“Are you trying to say you’re not?” Jungkook whispered, leaning forward, lip curling slightly as Taehyung snorted, clicking his tongue.

“Every time you said you were out with a friend, you were with Jinwoo, weren’t you? Every time I asked you where you’d been or where you were going, you lied and said you were just going to the gym, or that you were at BigHit, or taking a fucking walk in the park.” Taehyung growled accusatively, distaste colouring his tone when he spoke Jinwoo’s name. Jungkook folded his arms, the muscles coiled tight in anger, cocking his head to the side.

“And what if I was?” Jungkook replied testily, daring Taehyung to keep going with that train of thought. Taehyung glowered, expression twisting before speaking.

“I don't want you spending time with him. Don't hang around him.” Taehyung growled, clear warning striking his tone and Jungkook’s eyes widened, disbelief and anger slamming into him. Taehyung actually said it.

“Excuse me? He's my friend, I'll spend time with him if I fucking want to!” Jungkook shoved Taehyung backwards roughly, but Taehyung held his ground and leaned right back in, glaring up in Jungkook’s face.

“Find yourself another friend or some shit! Although with how much time you spend with your friends it'd probably have to be another one of those casino fuckers who have nothing better to do and can spend every minute of every day doting on you.” Taehyung spoke jeeringly, disdainfully, voice verging on a shout, and Jungkook scoffed incredulously, the anger boiling in his stomach just building up more and more with every ridiculous word.

“Are you fucking jealous? Is this what this is? You’re jealous that I spend my time with someone other than you? Whose fucking fault is that?” Jungkook snapped sharply and Taehyung’s eyes flashed, the dangerous gleam hinting at hurt.

“It's not my choice! I have work, I thought you understood that! I've been trying to get all this shit done before the end of the year, that way I can rework my schedule so I can actually breathe a little after this. I thought you would understand and support me through this.” Taehyung hissed and Jungkook flinched back, a spike of guilt rearing its ugly head as he once again took in the faint lines beneath Taehyung’s shadowed, hollow looking eyes and his slightly sunken cheeks. But the feeling didn't last, because, come on, was he seriously guilt tripping him?

“I thought I could too! But I'm sorry if I look for a life outside of just accommodating to your work schedule. I feel like I'm required to wait on you hand and foot, and I'm not even allowed to ask you about anything. And then, what now, I'm also not allowed to do anything other than wait around at home till you get back and need looking after? Look, I know you're stressed and worn out, and I want to help you but I can't because you won't tell me anything. But why do you always get upset when I hang out with Jinwoo?” Jungkook threw his hands up exasperatedly, raised voice ringing out cold and harsh to his own ears, and something snapped in Taehyung’s eyes.

“I don't want you anywhere fucking near him!” Taehyung yelled, eyes blazing, expression a storm, evidently having completely lost his patience. “I don't like him, I don't like you being with him, and he's bad news, Jungkook, you have to listen to me on this, stop meeting him.”

“You don't get to fucking tell me who I can and can't be friends with! You don't have the right to tell me what I can and can't do! What the fuck, Taehyung? I never thought you'd be so- so possessive to this point! I never thought you'd try to control me on anything, let alone something as stupid as me having a friend! Tell me, what exactly is it about Jinwoo that pisses you off so much? How is he that bad, go on, tell me!” Jungkook shouted in Taehyung’s face, blood boiling white-hot through his body, baring his teeth a little, overwhelmed by the unfairness of it all, every bit of the tension that had built up over the month bursting out at once. Taehyung opened his mouth, eye twitching a little as he snapped it shut again, thinning his lips into one flat line for a tense second of silence before he threw his gaze away angrily, a vein ticking in his neck and temple.

“I- I can't tell you that. Not yet. But just- just trust me, alright?” Taehyung replied urgently, words trembling a little, and Jungkook closed his eyes and took a step back, crossing his arms and letting his stance and distance close himself off from Taehyung, blood rushing in his ears.

“You know what? I don't think I can, not anymore. I mean, I haven't even held a proper conversation with you since we got back from that trip without something going wrong. You won't tell me about what's going on with you, you just won't talk to me, and over this month it's like you've become a completely different person that I don't even know. It's so tiring being around you, because I have to second guess everything, and I- Unless you- you sort yourself out, I don't know if I can do this anymore.” Jungkook breathed, voice tight and strained, tiredness bleeding into his tone and posture, glancing away. Taehyung flinched back, eyes widening as shock settled into his features and the fire died away from his stare. He just stared wordlessly at Jungkook for a few seconds, pain flickering across his disbelieving face, looking like Jungkook had just struck him.

“Are you… are you breaking up with me?” Taehyung murmured quietly, shrinking back a little, and Jungkook winced as he realised that that's what it sounded like, and he hadn't really meant that, it was just- in the heat of the moment- He hastily scrambled to backtrack, tripping and fumbling over his words and reaching out to Taehyung.

“No I'm just, no I mean- well- I'm just saying that unless you keep…”

“…Wow. I- I don't know what to say. Looks like we both misjudged each other’s characters. I didn't think you were someone to give up so easily on anything let alone- well, this, us.” Taehyung laughed forcedly, twitching away, avoiding Jungkook’s touch as his expression twisted into a pained, humourless smile. “Well, I guess this speaks volumes. I love you so much that- that breaking up is the last thing on my mind, I haven't even considered the thought, and- and I thought you felt the same, but… I guess I overestimated.”

“Taehyung no I-” Jungkook tried to reach out again and grab ahold of Taehyung’s wrist as Taehyung twisted out of the way and headed towards the door, body locked stiff with tension, expression shuttering away, ice cold and bristly. Jungkook stood there helplessly, a total mess of shaky, overpowering emotions scrabbling over one another to take over in his overstressed mind, not even sure what he was feeling anymore after hearing Taehyung’s words, but registering a sharp, stinging shard of pain in his chest at watching Taehyung walk away from him.

“I think… I think I'm gonna go.” Taehyung muttered lowly, glancing back at Jungkook once before promptly opening the door and walking out of the room.

“Taehyung!” Jungkook called after him, raised voice echoing down the dark corridors, biting his lip, hard, as there was no response. Fuck he- he didn't even know anymore. He was still angry goddammit, and he wasn't done with Taehyung’s stupid ass comments and unbelievable attitude but he didn't mean for- for this and- he didn't want to fight anymore but he just wanted Taehyung to come back so he could yell at him and give him a proper piece of his mind but-

Jungkook growled and slammed the door shut, adrenaline and jerky bursts of simultaneous anger, disbelief, hurt, guilt and confusion coursing through his unstable system and he punched the wall so hard it left a tiny cracked dent behind in the plaster. His heart thudded painfully against his ribcage and he felt it up in his throat and pressing against his ears and skull as well, ceaseless and relentless, not allowing space for thought. He realised now if he thought about it, that when Taehyung had said that he had the day off work, that was an invitation for the two of them to do something together on this now rare opportunity, and Taehyung thought Jungkook would've understood that and purposefully brushed him off by telling him to go home alone and rest. And to top it off, saying that he was with a friend, rather than choosing to spend precious time with his constantly busy boyfriend.

Well, fuck.

~

Chapter Text


“Why're you always drunk recently, man? It's like five in the morning.” Jinwoo was greeted by a drawl of a remark as he stumbled his way into the room, collapsing against the couch and exhaling slowly, letting his body sink into the leather. He loosened his tie and flung his arm over the back of the couch, squinting up at the single harsh light hanging down from the centre of the ceiling, casting the corners of the room in deep rivulets of shadow.

“Lay off me Haejin, my head’s killing me. Man he can drink.” Jinwoo groaned defeatedly, body deflating as he sighed and Haejin rolled his eyes at his dismal, disoriented and dishevelled state.

“Who, that Jungkook?”

“Who else.” Jinwoo muttered, waving Haejin away dismissively as his phone started buzzing in his pocket. Haejin snorted and pushed himself up from the couch, flipping him off as he sauntered out of the room, merging and disappearing within the shadows. It'd been about an hour and a half since he and Jungkook had gone their separate ways, and it was also five in the morning, so he wasn't sure why Jungkook was calling him now, but he shrugged, picking up the call.

“Hey, what's up?”

“I… I think I made Taehyung really mad.” Jungkook’s voice was quiet, subdued and shaken and Jinwoo grimaced, pausing slightly before replying. He slapped his head to clear it a little in order to form an appropriately supportive response to this type of conversation starter. He wasn't sober enough for this.

“That's new.” Jinwoo drawled and broke into a grin as Jungkook groaned, imagining the face Jungkook would've pulled.

“No I mean like… He walked out on me. Like… half an hour ago. We got into a fight and he left.” Jungkook replied dejectedly, crushing tiredness weighing his tone down, and Jinwoo genuinely felt bad for the guy despite the joyful news. He smirked but smothered the urge to laugh and tried to pull his expression down into a frown to lend credibility to his tone and words, stifling the vindictive satisfaction lightening his chest.

“Oh, what, really? What happened? What did you fight about?” Jinwoo affected a note of concern and shock into his tone, smiling slightly all the while.

Jungkook bought it, sighing. “Believe it or not, you.”

“…The fuck?” Jinwoo asked because, the fuck? Sure, after that one conversation he'd had with Taehyung a couple days ago, he had so much love for the guy he’d probably laugh on the sidelines if he got hit by a car or mobbed or something, but he hadn't ever actively tried to somehow sabotage his relationship with Jungkook. Knowing how much Taehyung would suffer if he fell out with Jungkook, this news came as a pleasant surprise to Jinwoo, but he hadn't had any part in it, so he was innocent here.

“Just… he really hates me being friends with you. I'm still not too sure why but I mean… That sort of started it and you know how things have been recently… And yeah things got a little out of hand and I accidentally implied that I wanted to break up, and he took it the wrong way I guess…” Jungkook explained slowly, hints of pain not quite hidden beneath his tone, and Jinwoo bit the inside of his cheek, again feeling genuinely upset for his friend who was hurt and didn't deserve this, but not suppressing the simultaneous glee at unwittingly being the cause for Taehyung’s stress and heartbreak.

“Is there any right way to take it? Look, Jungkook, from what you've told me, Taehyung’s been a little… well, unfair to you, and I honestly think he's the one at fault here. I mean, I certainly never meant to come in between you guys, but if he's not giving you the freedom of choice of who you wanna hang out with because he personally doesn't like me, that's a bit excessively controlling, don't you think? But I don't know the full picture and I don't know what's going on with him and what exactly you said to him. I think you should give him some space for now, let it blow over a little. Let both of you take a step back and think things through a bit, then figure it out slowly, yeah?” Jinwoo suggested kindly, even as his smirk widened. Wow, him giving relationship advice? For a relationship that he wouldn't give a shit about other than the fact that he was invested in Jungkook’s wellbeing? Who would've thought he had it in him.

“You're right. Man, sorry for calling you at ass o’clock in the morning just to complain about Taehyung - as usual.” Jungkook muttered and Jinwoo smiled this time, shaking his head a little.

“It's fine, it's cool. What I'm here for.” Jinwoo replied brightly, assuringly, and it was fine, even if he didn't give a flying fuck about Taehyung anymore, and didn't really wanna hear about him all the time. Jungkook was like a little brother to him, and Jinwoo prioritised his friends over his rivals’ doom and gloom. The door opened with a soft click, and Jinwoo instinctively stood, straightening and bowing his head down, flicking his eyes up to see that it was indeed a superior. “I gotta go now, get some sleep and figure things out in the morning, yeah?”

“It is morning.” Jungkook spoke with a weak trace of humour and Jinwoo laughed, shaking his head a little but mindful to keep the conversation short, for the propriety of greeting the person that had come in.

“Got me there. Talk later.” Jinwoo hung up and tossed his phone down on the couch, bowing again at a forty five degree angle, feeling his smile stiffen and tense a little. “Junseo, sir.”

“Good to see you're remembering manners now. Which unfortunate fucker were you just talking to?” Junseo spoke conversationally as he strode over to the couch and sat himself down comfortably. He got a new suit today, evident by how he was adjusting the sleeves and rolling the shoulders subtly, and the biggest giveaway, his Cheshire Cat smile. Custom made and tailored, Jinwoo was guessing. Daddy must've taken him shopping today. What a brat.

“Jungkook.” Jinwoo replied shortly as he turned to face him and Junseo raised an eyebrow, a thoughtful look settling over his features. Shit, he was looking more and more like Jungkook with each passing day. Which was a pity, seeing as Jinwoo personally found Jungkook pretty attractive. The Jeon family genes had unfortunately also passed down to this shitbag in front of him too.

“Jungkook? My older brother dearest, huh. Do you have a picture of him?” Junseo asked airily, picking up Jinwoo’s phone beside him and unlocking it, tapping at the screen evidently to look through his photos. Jinwoo thinned his lips, holding himself still as Junseo went through his phone.

“How do you know my password?” Jinwoo asked quietly and Junseo spared him a glance before returning his gaze to the phone screen, raising a hand and beckoning Jinwoo over lazily.

“You really thought that I wouldn't know?” Junseo replied dryly and Jinwoo stepped over to him, just barely holding back his scowl as Junseo grabbed his tie and yanked him down so their faces were level. Junseo regarded him with a mockery of a soft expression, stroking his face with cold fingers and kissing him briefly, in a gentle way that made Jinwoo’s skin crawl. “You're surprisingly pretty naive about some things.”

“I don't really want to hear that from someone who's three years younger than me.” Jinwoo replied with a flat smile and Junseo gave a short laugh before kissing him again, harder with the clear intention of warning.

“Why can't your words be as sweet as your lips?” Junseo whispered and Jinwoo suppressed the urge to gag, smiling slightly wider. Junseo let go of his face, returning his attention to Jinwoo’s phone. He tapped on a photo and stared expressionlessly at it for a beat of silence, before showing the screen to Jinwoo. “Is this him?”

“Yes.” Jinwoo answered as he saw the picture he'd taken of Jungkook around two weeks back. They'd been fucking around with selfie filters and Jungkook hadn't wanted to take a nice photo together after those ugly disasters so Jinwoo just snapped a picture as he called Jungkook’s name and he looked up. It was slightly infuriating, how even caught off guard, Jungkook’s photo still managed to look poster worthy, eyebrow slightly raised, eyeing the camera sharply, and Junseo seemed to think so too, by his dry smile.

“He's hot. We look pretty similar, don't we? Even though we’re only half siblings.” Junseo commented, regarding the photo slightly imperiously, and Jinwoo dipped his head.

“Yes, unfortunately.” Jinwoo muttered and Junseo snorted at that, placing the phone down and getting to his feet, stretching luxuriously before snaking his arms around Jinwoo’s waist, idly untucking his dress shirt from the back. Jinwoo flinched towards Junseo despite himself, an instinctive reflex away from the cold fingers trailing over the small of his back, and he didn't bother to hide his scowl this time.

“Unfortunately? What, do you have a thing for my brother?” Junseo raised an eyebrow, an amused smile stretching his lips and Jinwoo winced as he felt fingertips dig into his skin, wanting to wriggle out of Junseo’s grasp but holding himself still.

“No. He's got a boyfriend.” Jinwoo replied emotionlessly and Junseo laughed brightly, trailing his hand up Jinwoo’s chest and resting cold fingers against his neck, stroking the skin there with a contemplative expression.

“A faggot just like me. Oh, if only my poor father knew. Both his sons, wanted and unwanted are gay as fuck. Wouldn't that bruise his reputation.” Junseo spoke scathingly, almost seeming disgusted at himself as he eyed Jinwoo for a moment, but leaning in and kissing him all the same, cupping his jaw and forcing his mouth open. Jinwoo was tempted to bite the invasive, probing tongue off, but controlled the urge and allowed himself to be backed into the wall, stomach churning all the while.

Junseo released Jinwoo’s lips with a sigh, smirking as Jinwoo glared mutinously at him, raising his hand to stroke Jinwoo’s hair softly, almost placatingly, and Jinwoo just bore it as usual. “Anyway, you agree that I look like my brother? So you admit that I'm hot.”

“Yes, sir.” Jinwoo drawled sarcastically and winced as Junseo’s fingers tightened painfully in his hair, forcing himself to smile through the pain. Junseo flicked Jinwoo’s tie to the side and ripped his shirt open, popping the buttons right off in one quick move. Jinwoo closed his eyes as he focused on listening to the scattering buttons bouncing noisily against the wooden floor, instead of Junseo’s wandering hands pushing his shirt off his shoulder, sliding up and down his sides, dragging rough fingers over the exposed skin of his stomach.

“Why thank you. You're pretty easy on the eyes yourself.” Junseo murmured against Jinwoo’s skin, brushing his nose over his neck and Jinwoo just leant limply against the wall, letting Junseo do whatever he wanted.

“Evidently.” Jinwoo replied dryly, still not opening his eyes as Junseo bit his neck sharply, ignoring the sting of pain. A hand on his shoulder shoved him down onto his knees and he swallowed the familiar burn of humiliation and hate, flicking his stony gaze up at Junseo, not caring if the defiance written in his eyes was clear as day. Junseo unzipped his pants and Jinwoo eyed the impressive boner flatly, addressing it as he spoke.

“Hard already? Shit, I'm hot stuff. I should just go be a stripper.” Jinwoo remarked in a monotone and Junseo laughed humorlessly, gripping Jinwoo’s face tight and forcing it up so Jinwoo had to meet Junseo’s smouldering eyes.

“Just looking at you makes me horny. Hurry up.” Junseo growled, leering hungrily down at Jinwoo who rolled his eyes, obediently positioning his mouth.

“Glad to hear it.” Jinwoo muttered before opening his mouth and taking the head of the heavy cock past his lips, intending on giving himself a moment before continuing. But Junseo was obviously quite impatient today, gripping the back of his head and shoving it forward, forcing his cock all the way into Jinwoo’s mouth, the tip hitting the back of his throat, hard. Jinwoo choked despite his best efforts, knowing Junseo’s antics and temperament, eyes stinging and tearing up as he tried to adjust, lips stretched painfully wide. Junseo groaned appreciatively as Jinwoo swallowed around his dick reflexively, trying to soothe his stinging, convulsing throat muscles. Jinwoo shot him a murderous, watery glare, wanting to hiss and spit as Junseo reached down and wiped gently at his eyes, thoroughly amused and entertained smirk cutting across his face.

“Make sure you swallow it all, now. If you let any come get onto my pants and ruin my new suit, I'll get my father to chop you up into quarters and dump your dismembered body in the Han River.” Junseo reminded lightly, pleasantly, and Jinwoo hated the shiver of fear rushing down his spine because he knew Junseo wasn't kidding. He would frame Jinwoo for some crime he didn't commit against the organisation, or most likely say that Jinwoo had been the one who forced himself onto Junseo. And seeing as Mr Jeon doted on Junseo like nothing else, Jinwoo would be dead before sunrise. Junseo smiled at Jinwoo’s expression as Jinwoo raised an eyebrow, gesturing at his own ruined shirt. “Don't look at me like that. Remember that you're one phone call away from taking a swim in this freezing winter without arms or legs.”

~

Jungkook didn't hear from Taehyung for a full week. He spent the time obsessing over every little detail of everything said and done leading up to the fight, then everything during. He'd been quite firmly certain that Taehyung was being ridiculous but… after he'd exploded he didn't feel as sure of his right to be angry anymore. There was clearly something going on with Taehyung and his work was quite obviously not your average nine to five office job. Why had he clung to Jungkook at night, seemingly lulled to sleep simply by the comfort of his presence, as if he was savouring it, like the chance to do so might be snatched away from him soon? Why had he cried? Why wasn't he telling Jungkook anything? Jungkook should've tried harder to find out, maybe he should've pushed to get answers and then he might be able to help Taehyung somehow, or at least lessen the burden of carrying whatever it was alone. But then maybe Taehyung would've gotten mad. He seemed pretty adamant about keeping things to himself, and Jungkook wasn't one to pry if Taehyung wasn't comfortable telling him. But he shouldn't have stopped caring about it, even for a bit, and left Taehyung to himself while he went off drinking and playing with Jinwoo. He hadn't heard from Jinwoo either, and he hadn't gone to the casino or attempted to contact him over the week.

Jungkook checked his phone for the nth time, feeling more and more hopeless and despairing with each passing second as his screen remained empty of messages, and he put the phone down on his bedside table. He let out a frustrated yell and ran a rough hand through his hair. He'd go to the casino to take his mind off things but everything about the casino screamed Taehyung’s name at him, and he would not be able to concentrate at all. He'd go out for a walk but it was raining pretty hard outside. He was cooped up inside, brooding and hurting, wondering where he stood with Taehyung, fretting and worrying over what Taehyung was doing, what he was feeling, and how he felt about it all. Maybe he should just call him. But what if Jinwoo was right, and he should just give Taehyung space for now?

At times like these, Jungkook really wished he was still friends with Jimin. He missed his old best friend, who arguably knew him the best, much more than Jinwoo did now. He wondered what Jimin would tell him to do, if he was here. He wondered what even happened to Jimin, and whether his calls would be able to go through now. It'd been months. He glanced back at his phone, mind buzzing with indecision and uncertainty, and decided against it, getting up and leaving his room.

He wasn't really sure what to do, not having the casino as a getaway, or being able to curl up in a warm swathe of blankets next to Taehyung, passing the wet, rainy afternoon by watching bad parodies of popular TV shows on Jungkook’s laptop, or drowsing against Taehyung’s shoulder as he searched up those jazz or blues songs that nobody else knew. He had to find something to do after this week of deadened inactivity or he might go mad waiting around for a phone call that seemed like it might never come.

Jungkook wandered through the winding corridors of his house in the dark, closing his eyes as he let his fingers trail along the wall. The sun suddenly bathed the rooms in a warm drizzle of golden glow in his mind’s eye, and he thought back to a time when he ran through these hallways, dodging obstacles of impossibly tall adult legs, laughing off the stern, disapproving calls of “young master!”. He had dashed down this very corridor, getting underfoot every maid, his four year old self laughing brighter than he could ever imagine now, spinning around in a wild, crazed glee of childish joy and exhilaration, waving over the little boy that stumbled after him, crying for Jungkook to wait for him-

Jungkook stopped in his tracks, fingers catching on the edge of a doorframe, opening his eyes and letting shadows swoop down the sides of the house and engulf everything in darkness once again. He'd dismissed the maids today, and most of them had gone home or were lounging around down in their quarters, and the yawning emptiness and silence of the huge, overbearing house threatened to crush Jungkook beneath its weight. He stared at the raindrops splattering against the windowpanes dotting the carpet in tiny shadows, wondering how it could be so dark in late afternoon, the light reaching inside only just barely allowing vision to move around in.

What had he just been thinking about?

Jungkook glanced at the door he'd stopped beside, seeing it to be his father’s study. He entered the room and sat himself down at the imposing, dark and expansive wooden desk before he realised it. He shifted slightly in the leather recliner to get comfortable, wondering if he closed his eyes and focused hard enough, if he could sense his father sitting in this very spot. He switched the desk lamp on, wincing at the harsh light flooding his vision. He blinked a couple of times and saw that the papers neatly piled on the desk were all recent reports of the company’s stocks. He flicked through the sheets of paper, actually finding it all a little fascinating, having never taken any subjects like business or accounting at school, and suddenly remembered that according to Jinwoo, he was to take over the company when his father retired. He searched around the room, and sure enough, he uncovered stacks and stacks of records do to with activity, growth and deals conducted within the company dating all the way back till before Jungkook was born. He hefted the binders and folders up onto the desk, setting himself the mission to pore through all of these and learn everything he could about the business he would inherit sooner or later. It was a strange thought to have, but it gave a childish sort of excitement and thrill, and Jungkook lost track of time familiarising himself with everything. What the company actually was and its effect and influence on the market, how the business was generally run, all its branches and partners, company ideals and ethics, laws and etiquettes, the net worth and the averages of annual sales, and of course, products.

It was intriguing and interesting, and Jungkook had completely immersed himself in the hoards of information and researching public opinions and reviews on his father’s desktop (the password had been easy to guess and sort of touching - his mother’s name). By the time he finally stood from the chair, stretching out all the cricks and kinks in his stiff, cramped up body, it was nearing nighttime, around eight or nine. He carefully placed everything back, knowing his father would not be pleased at having his stuff moved around carelessly, and wandered back to his room, jumping as his phone vibrated noisily against the surface of the bedside table. He was a little embarrassed to admit that he sprinted over to it, tripping over the corner of the bed on the way (fuck it hurt) but his heart leapt in his throat as - yes, it was Taehyung’s messages.

Traffic Light: Can we talk?
Traffic Light: Jungkook, please
Traffic Light: Missed call (2)

That had been at half past five. Then at seven he had messaged again:

Traffic Light: You didn't think ignoring my texts would shake me off that easily did you
Traffic Light: You should know me better
Traffic Light: I looked all over the city for you
Traffic Light: Please, I know you're mad at me just…

A few minutes ago:

Traffic Light: I know you're home right now, open the door

Jungkook swore so loud his voice echoed through the open door of his room and swept through the upper level of the house. He threw his phone down and flew out the room and down the corridors, practically jumping down the flight of stairs and stopping with a painful crash at the front doors. He paused just for a second to rub his smarting arm before wrenching the doors open.

Taehyung stood there in the pouring rain like every awful cliché, completely drenched and soaked to the bone, swaying slightly. He flinched at the sudden pool of brightness falling like a spotlight around him as the automatic porch light switched on. Jungkook swore again, almost tripping over himself as he hastily stepped out into the rain and reached out to drag Taehyung inside.

“Oh shit, I- fuck, I’m so sorry, I wasn't ignoring you I just- I was holed up in the study for the past like, five hours and- and I didn't have my phone and I can't really hear the doorbell from-” Jungkook explained a little frantically, the guilt he felt at having left Taehyung out here in the wet and cold for around two hours making him want to punch himself in the face. Taehyung cut him off decisively, suddenly stepping in close and gripping his face, hard, in both slippery, chilled hands, yanking him forward and sealing their lips together in a bruising kiss. Taehyung was freezing cold and shaking against Jungkook’s lips, and Jungkook too was now soaked in the rain, but Jungkook didn't care, gasping a little at the strength of Taehyung’s kiss and utterly losing himself in the spell that was the taste of Taehyung’s lips in the span of a second. He wrapped his arms tightly around him, holding Taehyung’s shivering, slippery wet body against his like he was reluctant to ever let go again. The rational part of his mind was telling him that he should quickly get them both inside or Taehyung might get sick, but the way Taehyung whimpered against his lips and clutched onto Jungkook like he was his lifeline made Jungkook lose his mind and self control, and he kissed him harder, deeper. There was a drop of blood on his tongue, not sure if it was his or Taehyung’s, only focusing on the way Taehyung shook in his arms and the tears he could taste staining their slick lips. Taehyung broke off the kiss and pressed his face into the crook of Jungkook’s neck, sliding against his wet skin as he whispered something, drowned out by the relentless rain and cutting wind. Jungkook shook himself, coming to his senses, and quickly ushered Taehyung inside, shutting the door, flicking the light on and taking a look at him.

Jungkook swallowed at the sight of water streaming down Taehyung’s trembling form, plastering his bright hair to his forehead and in his captivating, reddened eyes. His thin clothes clinging to his thin figure made his body seem small, weak and fragile, the shadows gripping his shaking form haunting and alluring all at once. He was so beautiful it took Jungkook’s breath away.

“Jungkook- I-” Taehyung started, sniffling a little as his voice cracked, causing Jungkook’s heart to crack along with it.

“Taehyung, God, you're shaking so much you can barely stand. Come here, let's go get changed into something warm first, okay?” Jungkook asked imploringly, tugging at Taehyung’s wrist who didn't budge, shaking his head adamantly, spraying tiny water droplets in little arcs.

“No I need to- fuck, just, let me apologise, please. I’m so sorry, I don't- I- fuck, I wish I hadn't walked out on you, I- this week’s been fucking- torture because I couldn't stop thinking about- about everything and how much of an asshole I've been, and how you deserve better, and I wanted to run back and apologise so many times and- fall asleep in your arms again but- but I had to wrap up things with work and I've only just finished everything and been given a break now and I'm just so sorry about everything and-” Taehyung rambled on, voice catching on a sob at the end as he took in a sharp breath, twisted expression utterly miserable and wretched. Jungkook felt a fierce urge seize him, to never let that look ever fall upon Taehyung’s lovely face again. He quickly held a finger up to Taehyung’s mouth, replacing it with his lips and kissed Taehyung gently, soothingly even as his heart threatened to burst out of his chest. He wiped the water from Taehyung’s face, carefully running his fingertips over Taehyung’s closed eyelids, coaxing the tears from beneath his eyelashes and wiping them away.

“Shh, just… I know. I know how busy and stressed out you've been, and it wasn't fair for me to expect you to cope with everything and still be like, all nice and flowers and sunshine to me. I should've tried helping with whatever way I could, even if that meant just being there for you. I love you so much, and I'm so, so sorry I made you think I was breaking up with you, no, that wasn't my intention and it won't ever be. I was just tired and venting and I shouldn't have said those things.” Jungkook murmured against Taehyung’s lips, feeling pain lodge itself as a knife in his chest and twist as Taehyung’s expression tightened and contorted. Fresh tears seeped out from underneath his closed lids, rolling down his cheeks. Taehyung was shaking his head slowly as he spoke, ducking his head down as if to hide away into himself.

“Why are you so good to me?” Taehyung whispered shakily and Jungkook sighed, cupping Taehyung’s cold cheek and tilting his heads upwards to kiss him again, lingering and soft.

“I love you. Now, let's stop chatting and freezing our asses off in the entrance hall and get upstairs to go change. Let's talk properly after, yeah?” Jungkook tried again and Taehyung nodded mutely, trailing along obediently after Jungkook as he led him towards the staircase. Taehyung’s knees buckled just as they started up the stairs, falling bodily against Jungkook’s back with an unsteady exhale from evident exertion, and Jungkook whipped around in surprise, catching Taehyung’s body before he slid to the floor. Shit, he was so cold. That's right, anyone would be pretty out of it and wobbly on their legs after spending a good two hours in the rain. Not to mention his tired, tired boyfriend who hadn't gotten a good night’s sleep in over a month. Jungkook didn't hesitate before scooping him up in his arms and carrying him up the stairs. Taehyung started in surprise and confusion but instinctively wound his arms around Jungkook’s neck, cheeks flushing a pale, pretty pink.

“I- what-” Taehyung mumbled and Jungkook shushed him with a kiss to the temple.

“Come on, you waited and kissed me in the pouring rain, let me squeeze in some romantic gestures too. Shut up and let me fuss over your shivering, freezing ass.” Jungkook replied with the first genuine smile he'd made in a long time. Taehyung returned it weakly, even laughing a little, albeit shortly, and relaxed some, leaning into Jungkook’s body without another word.

Jungkook sat Taehyung down on his bed and ran to get an over large towel, bringing over to his shivering boyfriend and wrapping it around him like a white, fluffy mummy. Taehyung made a noise of displeasure as he poked his nose out and Jungkook stifled a laugh, leaning down to kiss the tip of his protruding pink nose.

“Hang on.” Jungkook tucked the towel around Taehyung a little tighter and Taehyung just nodded wordlessly, lips trembling and a little blue. Jungkook fished the aircon remote out from beneath the couch and turned the temperature up, turning back to glance at Taehyung shivering and turning it up slightly more. He got a smaller towel and ran it under warm, almost hot water, carefully ringing out the excess water and keeping the warmth of the now damp towel. He ran back over to Taehyung, coaxing his curled up body out from underneath the blanket of a towel and sitting down beside him. He carefully wiped Taehyung’s cold face and neck dry with the warm towel, pressing it against his skin a little longer when Taehyung closed his eyes and his lips curled upwards in content. Jungkook pushed him up the bed a little and Taehyung didn't resist or offer any help, like a cold little rag doll, letting Jungkook move him how he wanted.

“Taehyung? Shit, no, don't fall asleep, I need to get these wet clothes off you.” Jungkook patted Taehyung’s cheek and poked at his face to keep him alert and Taehyung sighed and peeled his shirt off, immediately flinching at the cold, curling up and wrapping his arms around him, squinting a little.

“Shit, I'm dripping water everywhere. Sorry, you'll have to wash your sheets…” Taehyung mumbled and Jungkook tugged off his own shirt, roughly drying himself off before tugging Taehyung forward so he fell against his chest, holding him close despite his cold, wet skin.

“I usually end up doing that anyway, after you've been in bed with me.” Jungkook muttered, feeling his heart flutter and he fell in love all over again as Taehyung giggled slightly at that, pressing himself snugly against Jungkook’s body and burrowing into the warmth. Jungkook dried the water from Taehyung’s back, running the towel gently over his skin and unable to stop his smile as Taehyung sighed, body relaxing and melting against his.

Jungkook stared intently at Taehyung’s body as he rubbed the towel slowly over every inch of pale skin after he stripped off the wet, clinging pants with a little difficulty. Taehyung just sat back and gazed at his face without glancing away for a second, wordless and expressionless as Jungkook took his hand and lifted it up to brush his lips over cold fingers. He trailed his lips up the pale, dewy skin of his arm and ended in a soft kiss at his jaw, heart aching at the unhealthy sharpness of it. Taehyung needed to start looking after himself better. Jungkook took in every fine detail of his mesmerising body, feeling pain clutch at him as he ran his eyes over the ridges of bone that hadn't been apparent before, studying the slim waist that hadn't been quite so small before. Jungkook lightly grabbed ahold of a thin ankle and lifted Taehyung’s long, skinny leg up a little to run the towel over the length of it, biting his lip as he felt the taut skin, his thigh that was usually soft in just the right way not giving a millimetre. Jungkook couldn't resist scooting forward between Taehyung’s legs and leaning down to kiss up the soft, smooth skin of Taehyung’s inner thigh, slow and chaste. Taehyung held himself completely still at first, the shaking and trembling from cold having stopped a while ago, but he shivered, muscles twitching and jumping beneath Jungkook’s lips as he kissed further. Jungkook’s flicked his eyes up to see Taehyung’s slightly furrowed brows, the unreadable burn of his half closed eyes and the way he bit at his reddening lip. He pushed Taehyung’s legs open a little wider, kissing further up and lingering on the seam of his thigh and hip, breathing slowly, blowing warm air over his sensitive skin and watching Taehyung’s body jerk, his thin frame tensing, muscles tightening as he stared down at Jungkook. The emotions swirling within his shadowed, darkening eyes were a mess, and though the beginnings of arousal were flickering through, the way he stared at Jungkook seemed almost a little vulnerable. Jungkook sighed, the air rushing from his lips and chasing up Taehyung’s skin, making Taehyung’s breath hitch in a maddening way and a tiny, irresistible whimper escaped his throat.

Jungkook crawled forward a little, ghosting up Taehyung’s body and captured his soft, sweet lips with his own, intending on keeping the kiss simple and slow even as Taehyung’s lips fell open seemingly instinctively beneath his. But Taehyung wound his fingers through Jungkook’s hair, tugging him closer and sliding his wet tongue past Jungkook’s lips, hot, almost unbearably so, in contrast to his still cold skin. He licked at the inside of Jungkook’s mouth with a slow intensity that lacked the sense of urgency, but rather a simmering, drawn out need. He kissed Jungkook like he would never get enough of Jungkook’s taste, and Jungkook knew the feeling, so he opened his mouth a little wider, letting Taehyung take. He ran his hands over Taehyung’s back, frowning at the impossibly tense, tight muscles bunched beneath the skin and broke off the kiss with a gentle push. Taehyung didn't open his eyes immediately, like he was savouring and committing the kiss to memory, and he lifted heavy eyelids, gazing at Jungkook beneath his lashes.

“Your muscles are so cramped up, doesn't it hurt?” Jungkook asked softly, rubbing his fingers in light circles over the nape of Taehyung’s neck. Taehyung closed his eyes and let his head drop down a little so more of the back of his neck was exposed to Jungkook’s fingers.

“It does.” Taehyung murmured and Jungkook leaned forward to press a kiss to the side of his neck.

“Want me to massage your back?” Jungkook offered and Taehyung lifted his head, a mild sort of hopefulness brightening his eyes.

“You would? That sounds lovely.” Taehyung replied with a light grin and Jungkook stared at his soft, sweet smile and he could almost forget that the fight and the past prickly month had ever happened. He kissed the corner of Taehyung’s lips briefly, smiling slightly, before lightly pushing him back to lie against the sheets and turning him over onto his front.

“Sorry I don't have fancy oils and all that.” Jungkook spoke absently as he pressed his fingers into the junction of Taehyung’s neck and back, wincing a bit at the tension beneath his touch.

“Use your spit.” Taehyung replied dryly and Jungkook snorted, kissing his cheek as he turned his head to the side. He rubbed light circles against Taehyung’s skin with his thumbs, gradually adding more pressure and working carefully, slowly and meticulously on the muscles until he could feel them loosen and relax. Taehyung let out a soft groan of appreciation and his eyes slowly fell shut, a slight crease appearing between his eyebrows. Jungkook worked his way down Taehyung’s back, pressing occasional kisses here and there, massaging and stretching the scarily tight kinks from the tense muscles for far longer than he'd expected, pain pricking at him thinking about how hard Taehyung must have been working for his body to be like this. Jungkook murmured soft apologies over and over like a mantra every time Taehyung winced or made a tiny noise of pain, soothing the spot with gentle kisses, biting his lip as he imagined how bad the aches that seized Taehyung’s back must be.

Before too long though, Taehyung had fully relaxed into the mattress, slowly driving Jungkook insane as he all but moaned, voice deep, smooth and liquid, making it really hard to focus on just massaging his muscles. Jungkook leant down and kissed along Taehyung’s shoulder blade, letting his hands drift over Taehyung’s lower back with teasing, light touches, feeling the muscles jump beneath smooth skin. Taehyung squirmed a little, moaning for real as Jungkook dragged his lips upwards and sucked at the crook of his neck, worrying at the skin with careful teeth. Jungkook smiled and pressed his nose to the centre of Taehyung’s back, trailing down the groove of his spine, breathing in the smell of rainwater and Taehyung’s familiar, warm scent. He exhaled in a contented sigh. Beautiful. Taehyung gave a choked gasp at Jungkook’s breath rushing over his skin and he whined, muscles tensing slightly again. Jungkook smiled and ran his fingers in light circles over his skin, tsking.

Relax. You're undoing all my hard work.” Jungkook murmured with a mock tone of disapproval and Taehyung opened a flat eye, pushing himself up slightly and craning his head back to squint at Jungkook, who just laughed.

“Uh, I don't know if you know, but I've been turned on for a while now. As if I can relax when you're-” Taehyung started to gripe but Jungkook cut him off, leaning down to kiss him slow, running his tongue over the seam of Taehyung’s lips and smiling when they fell open without any hesitation, welcoming him in. It was a pretty bad angle though, so Jungkook just grinned and pulled back, laughing again at Taehyung’s disgruntled, frustrated expression.

“Sorry. But I mean, look at you, you're just so irresistible.” Jungkook grinned and Taehyung laughed, eyes crinkling a little in happiness at Jungkook’s words and allowed himself to be pushed back down. “Now shush, I'm not done yet.”

“Oh, you and your silver tongue.” Taehyung sighed and fell silent as Jungkook worked the remaining tension from Taehyung’s back, massaging his upper arms as well. After lying there quietly for a while, Taehyung’s breathing had slowed and evened out quite a bit, and Jungkook thought he'd fallen asleep except he made a drowsy noise of content, and Jungkook smiled.

“Feel good?”

“Feels amazing. Now fuck me in the ass because I can't handle you touching me for so long and not doing anything about it.” Taehyung murmured, voice way too calm and contented for his words and Jungkook snorted, turning him over onto his back.

“Still horny?” Jungkook asked a bit unnecessarily, as Taehyung’s dick answered the question for him, and Taehyung winked, eyes drifting down to Jungkook’s own erection meaningfully.

“You know me. I'm an uncontrollable beast. But, as we both know, you're the same.” Taehyung spoke lazily, words slurring slightly with sleepiness and Jungkook snorted and reached over to the bedside table to grab a bottle of lube and a condom.

“Look at how tired you are. Is it possible to be turned on and wanting to fuck while falling asleep? You are insatiable.” Jungkook raised an eyebrow and Taehyung just smiled sweetly, eyes half closed as he spread his legs without further delay, lying there patiently, waiting for Jungkook to make a move.

“I haven't come in a month, give me a break. Sorry, but I am tired as hell, so I won't be able to participate much.” Taehyung mumbled and tilted his hips up invitingly, all easy smiles and relaxed demeanour and Jungkook smiled even as he sighed, getting to it. It wasn't like usual, none of the urgency and overwhelming heat and need. But it was nice, the way Taehyung gave low, airy gasps and soft moans, spreading his legs wide and tilting his head back as Jungkook worked him open slowly, watching every twitch and shift of Taehyung’s body. Jungkook watched Taehyung’s mouth fall open, lips slack as Jungkook pushed his way in relatively easily, considering how thorough his preparations had been. He took a moment to just appreciate the sight of his boyfriend lying beneath him so openly. Jungkook leant down and thrusted slowly, watching unmasked, contented pleasure settle over Taehyung’s pretty face before pressing his nose into Taehyung’s neck and whispering against his skin.

“You're beautiful.” Jungkook murmured softly, lifting his head to gaze at Taehyung, whose eyes fluttered open beneath his soft, still slightly damp hair. He stared at Jungkook for a moment, the genuine happiness, love and adoration brightening his eyes speaking his thoughts for him, loud and clear. He smiled and wrapped his arms loosely around Jungkook’s neck.

“You're pretty dashing yourself, I'd say. Aren't we just the hottest couple.” Taehyung grinned, tone low with drowsiness and Jungkook snorted, kissing him breathless.

Jungkook whispered silly sweet nothings in Taehyung’s ear, adding a few choice shitty pick up lines here and there as he rolled his hips forward slowly, undemanding. Taehyung’s soft, sleepy giggles and moans alike serenaded the air, lingering as they came at about the same time, the only bit of urgency and a momentary spike of unbearable heat.

Taehyung’s hands dropped away from Jungkook’s back, lying there panting lightly, struggling to keep his eyes open, completely spent. Jungkook wiped away the sticky mess on Taehyung’s stomach and cleaned them up, moving Taehyung’s soft, pliable body underneath the sheets. He lay down with Taehyung’s warm back pressed into his chest and held him close, thoroughly, contentedly happy beyond words to have him back in his arms. Taehyung exhaled lightly and curled his fingers around Jungkook’s hand.

“I'm sorry.”

~

Chapter Text

 

Jungkook woke first, immediately wincing as the cramp in his arm made itself known. He tried tugging it out from beneath Taehyung but it was firmly trapped between the mattress and Taehyung’s shoulder and, not wanting to wake him up, Jungkook gave up on it. At some point in the night Taehyung had turned to face him in his sleep, hand resting on the pillow between them, fingers curled beside his face. Jungkook blinked the clinging remnants of sleep away, reaching up to carefully slip his fingers between Taehyung’s in a light hold. There was no reaction, though Jungkook hadn't been expecting one, as Taehyung seemed fast asleep, blissful and unaware. Jungkook didn't move for a long while of contented peacefulness, gazing at the soft curl of Taehyung’s bright fringe falling over his tightly closed eyes, and the way his shoulder curved downwards, his body curled into himself. He looked like he was a little cold but Jungkook didn't scoot closer or move much other than to carefully, slowly tug the blanket up higher, up to their faces. He didn't want to jostle Taehyung awake, not when he hadn't seen such a relaxed, serene expression rest on those tired features since over a month ago.

Jungkook was happy to just keep staring at his beautiful boyfriend’s sleeping face, content with the fact that he was here, back beside him. But after a vague, unhurried period of time, it could have been a few moments or it could have been hours and Jungkook wouldn't have noticed, Taehyung stirred a little, flexing his fingers slightly. His expression tightened a fraction before he blinked open drowsy eyes, blankness settling over his face for a beat before alertness dawned slowly in his disoriented, glazed over irises. He gave a sleepy smile as his eyes focused on Jungkook.

“Hi.” Taehyung spoke quietly, gaze soft and warm and Jungkook returned his smile, tightening his grip ever so slightly.

“Hey. Good morning.” Jungkook murmured in response and Taehyung made a tiny noise of displeasure, eyes sliding half closed. His cheeks were a little flushed and he looked a little dazed as he breathed a bit noisier than normal.

“I'm not yet awake enough to comment on the quality of the morning.” Taehyung mumbled, voice cracking a little from sleep, low and raspier than the usual husky morning tone. Jungkook snorted and leaned over to kiss his forehead, flinching back as his lips touched Taehyung’s boiling skin.

“Holy shit, you have a fever.” Jungkook exclaimed, pushing himself up and pressing his palm to Taehyung’s forehead to make sure, and yep, that temperature was definitely unhealthy. Taehyung blinked up at him, uncomprehending gaze bleary and confused - in other words absolutely endearing as always.

“Shit, do I? That must be… Ah yeah, no shit, of course I do. Someone kept me outside in the rain for like ten years yesterday after all. No biggie.” Taehyung drawled, words slurring together, voice a little thin and hoarse. Jungkook squinted at him in displeasure as Taehyung offered a lazy grin.

“If you have the energy to be salty you should be fine. Bye.” Jungkook sniffed and went to get up but Taehyung lurched forward and flung his arms around Jungkook’s waist, pressing his face into his chest and clinging to him, as Jungkook knew he would. Heat was rolling off Taehyung’s body in waves, burning against Jungkook’s skin uncomfortably, but he didn't pull back.

“Don't go.” Taehyung mumbled with a slight whine on the edge of his voice. Although Jungkook knew he was probably just putting on his usual childish airs, something vulnerable, something slightly raw hinted at in his tone made Jungkook’s heart break just a little. He sighed and grabbed ahold of Taehyung’s limp, strengthless body, gently shifting him upwards a little and holding him close. Taehyung muttered something incomprehensible and let his full weight fall against Jungkook, as if he lost the strength to support himself.

“I won’t.” Jungkook replied quietly, a little unnecessarily, but Taehyung made a soft, contented sound all the same. He frowned as a shiver wracked through Taehyung’s body despite his burning skin, worry spiking in his chest. Jungkook gently pushed Taehyung upright, lightly holding his arms to support him as he swayed slightly, gazing up at Jungkook with blank, half closed eyes and slightly chapped parted lips. Jungkook couldn’t resist leaning in to kiss his gorgeous boyfriend, lightly cupping his face to hold him in place for a lingering moment more as Taehyung made a little whining noise and tried to squirm away. Taehyung successfully batted Jungkook away and frowned, holding his hand over his mouth.

“Don’t kiss me, I’m sick!” Taehyung reprimanded and made a shooing motion with his hand, leaning away from Jungkook.

“So?” Jungkook shrugged, tugging Taehyung back in close to press a quick kiss to the tip of his reddened nose. Taehyung tried pushing Jungkook away weakly, giving a reluctant smile as Jungkook laughed at his futile attempts and peppered feather light kisses over his cheeks.

“Jungko-o-ok.” Taehyung whined as he turned his head from side to side to avoid Jungkook’s lips, pouting a little. “Stop it.”

“Why?” Jungkook grinned and pulling Taehyung closer to wrap his arms around him, loving how Taehyung’s body automatically relaxed against his, soft, warm and perfect.

“What if you catch my cold?” Taehyung pulled back a little to say, wide eyes impossibly bright with genuine worry and concern that tugged at Jungkook’s heartstrings. Jungkook kissed his forehead and stroked his hair.

“What are you saying? You're the one that's sick and here you are worrying about me.” Jungkook sighed and Taehyung shrugged slightly, smiling.

“Someone’s got to.” Taehyung replied nonchalantly and Jungkook lightly hit his arm, getting out of bed and somewhat forcibly tucking Taehyung in snugly under the covers. He pressed Taehyung back down again as he protested and tried to sit up.

“Rest. You're sick and need medicine and a shit ton of sleep. Don't even think about leaving this room until your fever’s gone.” Jungkook spoke sternly and Taehyung wriggled around a little, squinting up at Jungkook, obviously displeased.

“But I need to-”

“If this is your work again, I swear to God-” Jungkook started hotly before cutting himself off, pausing to take a breath and compose himself. Come to think of it, he still hadn't asked about that. That being the cause of the whole fiasco that went down a week ago. “Don't argue with me on this. Please?”

“I'm not a child, a cold isn't the end of the world.” Taehyung grumbled even as his eyelids grew visibly heavier as each second passed, his breathing shallow and blocked and painful to listen to. Jungkook gazed down at Taehyung’s flushed face and spiritless eyes and bit his lip.

“It hurts me to see you like this. Especially since… well it's my fault and everything. I want you to get better quickly.” Jungkook murmured, feeling a twinge of guilt and Taehyung’s gaze softened.

“You’re overreacting. Okay mum, I'll do as told.” Taehyung sighed and Jungkook grinned as he acquiesced.

Despite his initial reluctance to let Jungkook fuss over him, insisting that he was fine and didn’t need rest, Taehyung fell asleep within ten minutes. Jungkook took care of him at his own pace, taking his time in getting Taehyung some water, taking his temperature, placing a damp hand towel over his forehead and so on as he didn't have much else to do. A slow, easy day passed like that, with Jungkook pausing and losing focus whenever he gazed at Taehyung’s slightly pained expression and stiff, locked posture, feeling all the more fiercely protective and possessive. He had his amazing, wonderful boyfriend back at his side and he was going to make sure to keep it that way.

Jungkook sat beside Taehyung, reading a book for most of the day, and tried to stop himself from fretting whenever he checked Taehyung’s temperature and found that it wasn't dropping. In between changing the towel and rousing Taehyung awake to feed him small, light meals, while he stared at Taehyung’s tiny instinctive smile when he stroked his hair, Jungkook couldn't help feeling a little unsettled. He felt like he knew how to take care of a sick person despite never having the experience. He barely needed to properly take care of himself as he’d hardly ever gotten any serious colds before. Just the odd sore throat or blocked nose once in a while, but otherwise the only colds he'd had, when he'd gotten fevers, were back when he was a kid. And he was pretty sure even then he didn't really take care of himself, just opting for tucking himself in and sleeping it off. He was sure nobody had ever taken care of him when he was sick, what with his father halfway across the world and his mother no longer around, but…

Jungkook suddenly had a feeling that that wasn't true. No memories surfaced, but he just had this shadow of a feeling clinging to the edge of his conscious, that perhaps he had experienced being taken care of in this manner. By who? His mother? But his father told him she'd died when he was one. Surely he wouldn't remember anything from when he was one.

Taehyung stirred a little, making a little distressed sound and all other thoughts promptly evaporated from Jungkook’s mind. He leant over, frown drawing his expression tight, immediately grasping Taehyung’s hand as it poked out from under the covers and blindly reached upwards.

“Taehyung?” Jungkook bit his lip, worry simmering in his chest as Taehyung’s fingers curled over Jungkook’s slightly, his eyes still tightly shut, sweat beading on his temple as he turned his head from side to side.

“I- I can't… I can't do it, I… I don't want to anymore-” Taehyung muttered breathlessly, voice slightly high pitched and shaky, words tripping and tumbling out of slack lips. Jungkook’s frown deepened at his words. Taehyung was obviously still asleep, and it was possible he was just babbling nonsense in his feverish, delirious state, but if not…

“He's- it's different, this time, I can't-” Taehyung’s mumble strengthened in volume and clarity as his expression twisted, his fingers tightening around Jungkook’s hand. Jungkook felt pronounced worry and concern at a certain morbidity of the dread lacing Taehyung’s tone grow, holding Taehyung’s hand tighter.

“Taehyung? Taehyung, are you okay?” Jungkook shook Taehyung lightly, stroking his hair and trying to coax him awake. Taehyung woke with a gasp, eyes flying wide open. His shaken stare focused on Jungkook and he pushed himself up immediately, an unreadable, frantic emotion brightening his already fever-bright eyes. Taehyung threw his arms around Jungkook and pressed himself into Jungkook’s body, face buried in the crook of Jungkook’s neck. The urgency of Taehyung’s jerky, sudden movements was staggering and Jungkook immediately wrapped his arms around Taehyung’s trembling form, feeling shallow, hurried breaths hit his skin erratically.

“Babe, what's wrong? What's going o-” Jungkook began worriedly, confusion sharpening his voice a little and Taehyung’s arms tightened around his back.

“Jungkook… Jungkook…” Taehyung breathed into his skin like a compulsion, the slight desperation in his whisper causing a prick of pain to appear in Jungkook’s chest. Jungkook shifted and pulled Taehyung closer, cradling his body protectively, securely.

“I'm here. I'm right here.” Jungkook murmured, stroking Taehyung’s back soothingly, hoping to be reassuring. He had no clue what was going on, but he could tell Taehyung needed a moment to hold on to Jungkook and calm down from whatever it was. Taehyung let out a shaky sigh at the words and slowly let himself relax against Jungkook’s body bit by bit, both his breathing and heart rate gradually slowing down against Jungkook’s skin. Jungkook rubbed light circles over Taehyung’s back and kissed his shoulder, waiting patiently, closing his eyes and focusing on Taehyung’s warmth and familiar smell, knowing that Taehyung would be doing the same for comfort. He loosened his hold only when Taehyung nudged at him and pulled away. The urgent, bright look that seized Taehyung’s stared had dulled, and though he looked considerably less frantic and unsettled, he looked far from happy.

“Don't go to the casino anymore, Jungkook.” Taehyung murmured, words slurring over each other, fever induced delirium still evident in his slightly unfocused, dazed expression and uncoordinated tongue. But there was a moment of undeniable sobriety and awareness, when simultaneous resolution and desperation sparked in his wide eyes. Jungkook’s breath hitched at the sudden soft request, which did absolutely nothing to disperse Jungkook’s worries.

“Why? What's going on?” Jungkook pressed and gripped Taehyung’s arms, confusion buzzing in his mind. Taehyung swayed slightly, eyes rolling back a little and he promptly fell back asleep, body slumping against Jungkook’s chest. Jungkook didn't move for a second, staring down at Taehyung’s back, thinking for a while. He threaded his fingers through Taehyung’s hair, rubbing small circles against his scalp absently. This was the second time Taehyung had told him to stop gambling. Even if the last time could be brushed off as Taehyung considering the “what if’s” as he'd put it, and this time as Taehyung being sick and out of it, Jungkook couldn't help but think that there was a reason for Taehyung bringing it up again, even when semi-awake. Had something specific happened at the casino? Jungkook kissed Taehyung’s cheek and laid him back down, tugging the covers up over his shoulders and sat back, thinking.

When Taehyung woke up again later that night, apart from asking for water and complaining that his throat hurt and his head was killing him, he was all easy smiles and casual demeanour. He seemed to have no memory of waking up earlier so Jungkook didn't bring it up, but he filed it away into the back of his mind. As Jungkook obliged to feed a whiny Taehyung medicine and soup with a sigh covering up his unbidden smile, they talked a little about the fight and everything that happened, figuring things out with sheepish laughter and soft apologies, putting it behind them. But still Taehyung shied away from answering Jungkook’s careful prompts about exactly what his work was and why he seemed to hate Jinwoo that much, so even though he really wanted to know, Jungkook didn’t push it. It was eating away at him, though. One day he'd find out.

~

Jungkook woke to the sound of his phone buzzing, jolting awake in his seat. He didn't know when he'd fallen asleep sitting upright, but the weak light outside signalled early morning now. He rubbed his eyes and stretched the kinks out of his muscles from sleeping in that one position all night, before digging his phone out of his pocket. Jungkook’s eyes widened as he saw that the caller was his father.

“…Dad? Hello?” Jungkook answered the call uncertainly, wincing as his voice cracked from sleep. He wondered whether his father had called him on accident. It'd only been a few months since they last spoke after all. What could have made his father think of calling him at- six thirty, a quick look at his screen told Jungkook, in the morning?

“Jungkook. Did I wake you?” His father’s tone was brittle and emotionless as always, and Jungkook was a little unsure as to whether that was a serious question. His father sure as hell wouldn't care whatever Jungkook’s answer was, but he guessed it was the little bit of small talk he was going to get, before the reason for calling was delved into. Jungkook glanced at Taehyung still sleeping away peacefully, the sweat gone from his face, cheeks still tinged a little red.

“Uh- yes. But don't worry, um, did you… want to talk to me about something?” Jungkook asked hesitantly as he reached down and pressed his palm against Taehyung's forehead, roughly gauging the temperature. Thankfully it had gone down considerably compared to yesterday, but it was still a little hot to the touch. Taehyung would probably be okay after a day or so. Jungkook heaved a sigh of relief before realising, catching himself and quickly returning his attention back to the phone.

“What do you think about taking over the company when I retire?” His father asked bluntly, shortly, more of a statement to let Jungkook know, than a question actually asking for Jungkook’s decision in the matter.

“I- what? O-oh, yeah, um… Sure?” Jungkook stuttered, rubbing his temple and shaking himself to try and wake himself up. It was way too early in the morning for life changing decisions and he wasn't entirely sure what he was being asked as his mind was merely trudging along, but, when had he ever refused the rare things his father told him to do? Should be fine. Post-coffee Jungkook could deal with whatever he'd just agreed to.

“Come to the company’s main building’s reception in thirty minutes. My subordinate will be waiting for you there. He says he knows you.” And with that, his father hung up. Short, succinct and no-nonsense as usual.

“Huh…?” Jungkook addressed the line as it went dead, a little dazed. Trust his father to spring this on him out of nowhere. It would take at least twenty minutes just to drive to the place, and Jungkook had barely woken up. He groaned and pushed his hair back, giving his brain a second to start functioning. His father’s subordinate knew Jungkook? In other words…

Jungkook called a different number. “Jinwoo?”

“Good morning, my favourite rich brat. Daddy’s put you under my care as of today. That’s why you called, right?” Jinwoo greeted Jungkook brightly, cheerily and Jungkook couldn’t help but laugh, rolling his eyes.

“Ah, so it is you. Thought so. Well, I woke up like two minutes ago when my dad called so I don’t really know what’s going on, but I guess I start training today?” Jungkook grinned wryly and Jinwoo hummed in affirmation.

“You got it. You don’t need to bring anything with you except a working brain and a can-do attitude, newbie. Oh, and wear a suit. We care about appearances in this oh-so-formal line of business for some reason, don’t ask me.” Jinwoo spoke offhandedly and Jungkook snorted as he could practically see his shrug. Despite having not spoken for around a week randomly, it was like that hadn't happened, the easy to and fro natural and relaxed like usual.

Jungkook yawned around his reply. “Sweet. See you soon.”

“I greatly anticipate your arrival.” Jinwoo drawled and hung up. Jungkook got to his feet and stretched, twisting his body this way and that to return some feeling to his numbed limbs, feeling excitement start to wake him up a little more. He hadn’t felt like he really needed to go anywhere to achieve anything since his first few months of university, so this was refreshing.

“Jungkook…? Are you going somewhere?” Taehyung stirred and spoke softly, sleepily, drowsy eyes blinking open halfway. Jungkook smiled and leant down to kiss his forehead, stroking his cheek briefly.

“Yeah, just going out for a bit. Got work.”

“You work?” Taehyung mumbled, eyes widening in confusion and Jungkook wanted to coo at his adorable, dazed and sleepy expression scrunching up a little. Jungkook kissed the tip of his nose and straightened again, tucking the blanket a little closer around Taehyung.

“Yeah. My dad suddenly wanted me to take over the business in the future, so yeah, I guess I’ve got work from now on.” Jungkook replied lightly but he paused, thinking about the foreign idea. Work, huh…

“Proud of you. Go get ‘em babe…” Taehyung smiled lazily and Jungkook snorted as he turned to go get ready.

“I’ll put some more pills and water here before I go. Sleep lots, okay?” Jungkook reminded, letting his tone take on a stern edge and Taehyung waved him away dismissively.

“Get lost already.” Taehyung sighed and Jungkook just grinned, heading to his wardrobe to find a suit.

~

Junseo leant against the wall beside the door leading to the first set of office cubicles, keeping a casual eye on the huge sliding door entrance across the unnecessarily expansive reception lobby. His father had a bit of a flair for size and grandeur that Junseo didn’t like to admit he took after. This was an IT company, yet the building looked like a contemporary, high-class hotel. He hadn’t been here many times before, as it didn’t really have much to do with him. This particular playground was reserved for his brother, after all.

Jungkook was the reason Junseo was waiting here, curious to take a look at his nuisance of an older brother. His father had told Junseo that he’d called Jungkook here today to start training him to inherit the CEO position that would eventually be his. Junseo snorted and wanted to spit. Jungkook didn’t even remember Junseo, didn’t even know he existed, yet because of him and his stupid dead mother Junseo had been shut away and brought up in the darkness of the flipside of respectable society. His father didn’t even want his oldest son, he never had, and Junseo was sure Jungkook himself knew that, but the company had to go to him because Junseo was an illegitimate child none of his father’s respectable acquaintances knew about. What bullshit. Once his old man kicked the bucket Junseo was going to take what he knew was meant to belong to him. Might need to get rid of his brother as a means to that end. Junseo entertained that thought as he stared somewhat absently at Jinwoo standing by the reception desk, chatting with the receptionist. As he wasn’t really trying to hide his direct stare at all, Jinwoo seemed to feel a pair of eyes watching him, and he turned, glancing around before his gaze fell on Junseo. Jinwoo’s pretty face twisted into a scowl and Junseo smirked, blowing him a kiss. Jinwoo stalked over to him stiffly, expression tight.

“What are you doing here?” Jinwoo wasted no time asking, and Junseo merely lifted an eyebrow, not moving from his relaxed position. Jinwoo’s already shadowed eyes darkened further and his jaw ticked as his gaze flicked downwards and he continued shortly, “Sir.”

“Not stalking you, calm down. Although it’s always pleasant to see you. My father said Jungkook would be coming here today. Thought I’d come see him.” Junseo replied with a genial smile and Jinwoo’s eyes flashed. He didn’t seem too happy that Junseo had shown up here, as if Junseo had invaded a place he thought to be safe, and it made Junseo want to laugh.

“Mr Jeon doesn’t want Jungkook to know about you.” Jinwoo said that as if Junseo had forgotten, and he scoffed, waving his hand dismissively.

“Relax. I’m not gonna talk to him or anything. I just want a look at the headache I’ll have to do something about sooner or later.” Junseo explained lightly, enjoying the muted shock and dread flitting across Jinwoo’s expression.

“You’re going to kill him?” Jinwoo asked quietly and Junseo’s smile widened as he reached up to stroke the back of Jinwoo’s neck softly. His smile morphed into a smirk as Jinwoo automatically flinched away but held himself still with what looked like sheer willpower.

“There he is, get going.” Junseo let his hand drop as he spotted Jungkook stride past the glass doors as they slid closed behind him, crossing the reception floor briskly. Jinwoo swore as Jungkook glanced over at them, quickly walking over to him. Jungkook’s eyebrow was slightly raised as he stared directly at Junseo for a few moments of stillness. Junseo lifted his chin slightly, expression blank as he stared back. Did Jungkook possibly recognise him? Jungkook glanced away first and turned his attention to Jinwoo, serious looking face breaking into a smile as he greeted him. Guess not. Well, it had been well over ten years, after all. Shit, Junseo really did look like his older brother, didn’t he. It was slightly irritating, though he wasn’t sure why. Junseo watched Jungkook and Jinwoo head over to the elevators, keeping his eyes trained on Jungkook’s every move. Well, he didn’t seem to give off the air of a loser or a pushover that lacked confidence or thought himself to be in any way inferior to the average person like Junseo had thought perhaps he might, having been all but abandoned since birth by his father and left to grow up pretty much alone. In fact, something about his posture radiated surety and power, and Junseo wondered where he’d gotten it from. He heard from his father that Jungkook liked to gamble. Was it because of that? In any case, he’d gotten slightly more interesting.

Right before they entered the elevator, Jinwoo glanced back at Junseo, sending a sharp, quick look over his shoulder, grimacing a little. Junseo pushed himself off the wall, grinning as Jinwoo stepped inside and the elevator doors slid shut. One of the reasons why he wanted to take the position as boss of this company was because that meant he would have Jinwoo beneath him in yet another circumstance.

~

Jungkook groaned as he pushed open the front door, stumbling into his house and letting it shut behind him. He hadn't expected a day at an IT place to be physically taxing but Jinwoo had dragged him everywhere from top to bottom, going through every part of every floor like a mission, then going right back through any places Jungkook couldn't quite remember or forgot the way to. Needless to say, there were a lot of those places in the huge building, and Jungkook was starting to seriously question Jinwoo’s training methods. It was like he wanted Jungkook to have the entire place physically mapped out in the course of a day. Which, thanks to the relentless back and forth, was successful. Jungkook didn't know what to think of the fact that he now knew exactly where the closest coffee machine from the third floor’s second data processing room was, down to the nearest metre.

But other than the physical aspect of it, Jungkook had thoroughly enjoyed the entire day. Jinwoo had given a thorough explanation of the basics of what the company did, and how things got done with common procedures and the like, as well as staff hierarchy and the inner workings of the company employees. Added to what Jungkook had learnt from the files and papers back home, he now had a solid understand of the company as a whole, and really, only lacked experience now. He was told he was going to start off by managing one of the helpline departments, then slowly work his way up from there, to gain experience and get a feel for everything. Jungkook couldn't wait. He knew he’d been given a lucky break, having zero work experience or credentials but landing a pretty much guaranteed CEO position as long as he worked hard towards it. Because he was the current CEO’s son. Unfair advantage, yes, but that only made Jungkook strive to work harder than anyone else to make sure at the end of the day, he deserved the position.

As Jungkook reached the top of the stairs he bit his lip, an image flashing in his mind. When he’d first arrived and looked around the reception lobby for Jinwoo, he’d seen Jinwoo standing beside this person leaning in an arrogantly casual way against the wall. The person had been quite far away, but he stared directly back at Jungkook almost like a challenge when Jungkook let his gaze linger for a few curious seconds. Jungkook couldn't help but think the guy, who seemed around couple years younger than him, looked an awful lot like himself. There had been something chilling about the way he’d stared at Jungkook, like he was profiling him or something. Jungkook wondered what his deal was.

Jungkook paused outside his bedroom door as he heard Taehyung’s voice inside.

“At this point I don't think we can touch them at all, really. They function like a society in its own right with unshakable foundations. Yes… Yes. I’m on it, Chief. Um… maybe not soon, but eventually. I'll keep looking for chances. Goodnight, sir.” Taehyung’s voice, even muffled through the shut door, was conspicuously respectful and brisk. “Chief”…? Jungkook frowned, hand resting on the doorknob and he held his breath, waiting to see if Taehyung was done speaking on the phone with whoever it was. When he heard an infinitesimal sigh, he pushed open the door and walked in. Taehyung was sitting upright in the middle of the bed, the blankets bunched up around him, staring at the phone in his hand.

“O-Oh, Jungkook! When'd you get back?” Taehyung’s stare snapped up as the door opened and he greeted Jungkook a little jerkily, plastering on a smile that was just a touch too bright to be real. Jungkook didn't smile back, walking over and sitting down beside Taehyung slowly, gazing blankly at Taehyung’s somewhat nervous expression. He glanced away from the flickers of slight panic Taehyung couldn't quite conceal, down at the phone clutched in his hand.

“Work again?” Jungkook asked quietly and Taehyung tensed, nodding silently.  Jungkook stared at the phone for a beat longer, suspicion, foreboding and an ache to know more gnawing at him but he smiled and looked back up at Taehyung as if it didn't matter. He pushed the phone away and lightly grabbed Taehyung’s hands, staring directly into Taehyung’s eyes, serious but not demanding.

“You still won't tell me what it is?” Jungkook prompted softly and Taehyung bit his lip, unfathomable stare fixed on Jungkook for a few static beats, before he shook his head slowly.

“I'm sorry.” Taehyung replied simply and Jungkook sighed, but he hadn't really expected a different answer. He leaned in to kiss Taehyung gently, wordlessly assuring him that he wasn't going to press it. Taehyung relaxed a little, loosely wrapping his arms around Jungkook’s neck and pulling him closer.

“How was your day?” Jungkook pulled away slightly to whisper, smiling slightly as Taehyung sighed and pouted, blinking up at him pitifully. Taehyung looked much better, his eyes shining with life and his usual captivating brilliance, and his voice still sounded marginally scratchy but no longer hoarse or brittle.

“Fucking terrible. The most exciting thing that happened all day was bumping into a maid when I went downstairs for water. She asked me who I was and I told her I’m your sex slave. She bought it.” Taehyung shrugged and Jungkook closed his eyes and took in a deep breath, running a hand slowly over his face and through his hair to keep himself calm. It would not do to punch a sick person.

“…Anyway.” Jungkook breathed, ignoring Taehyung’s obnoxious sniggering. He pressed his palm to Taehyung’s forehead and smiled automatically when he felt the healthy temperature. “Your fever’s gone.”

“Well it better be. All I’ve done for two days is sleep, drink water and get up to go piss once in a while. I’ve been a model patient.” Taehyung griped snarkily and Jungkook shoved him lightly, snorting.

“Well, guess what you’ll be doing till tomorrow morning?” Jungkook asked cheerfully and Taehyung groaned in displeasure, squinting at Jungkook in annoyance.

“Seriously? I’m bored out of my mind here.” Taehyung complained and Jungkook just grinned, kicking off his shoes and shrugging off his blazer. He climbed into the bed and hauled Taehyung into his arms, ignoring Taehyung’s weak protests that Jungkook was freezing cold. He shut him up with a long, lingering kiss, smiling as Taehyung reluctantly melted into it, running his warm hands over Jungkook’s neck and ears, rubbing at his cold skin. Jungkook sighed in content as he basked in Taehyung’s warmth and he let his head drop down to press his face into the crook of Taehyung’s neck. He breathed in Taehyung’s lovely warm scent as Taehyung wrapped his arms around Jungkook’s back and held him close.

Despite his complaints Taehyung soon fell asleep against Jungkook’s chest as he shifted them into a better position. Jungkook carded his fingers through Taehyung’s hair, thinking of nothing except the comfortable weight lying against him and the sound of Taehyung’s breathing, ever so slightly laboured because of his cold.

Taehyung’s phone was buzzing without pause somewhere down near Jungkook’s leg, where Taehyung had left it in between the covers. Jungkook hesitated for a while before fishing the phone out, glancing down to see whether Taehyung had woken up. Taehyung was still happily sleeping away and Jungkook didn’t really want to intrude on his privacy but the phone would not stop buzzing, incessant texts being fired one after the other so Jungkook took a look at the screen.

TFB: taehyung

TFB: taehyung please i cant

TFB: i know i said i wouldnt let him keep throwing me around anymore but

TFB: taehyung please reply please help me

TFB: i dont know what to do i cant remember whats normal and whats abuse anymore i dont even know who i am anymore

TFB: i think he broke my wrist i cant feel it

TFB: Missed call (2)

Jungkook’s eyes widened painfully as he read through the texts, shock settling over him and rendering his body slightly stiff. What the fuck? Who was this? Whoever it was, they obviously needed help, and fast. The person called once again and Jungkook answered for Taehyung, a little apologetic about it but he considered whatever the situation whoever this person was in to be more important for now. He was about to speak but the person on the other end of the line started talking immediately, words punctured with deep, heaving gasps and ragged sobs.

“Taehyung- Taehyung oh God, help me, I- I can’t breathe-” The person spoke breathlessly, haltingly, voice thick with tears and dripping with desperation and pain. Jungkook gripped the phone tighter in his hand, concern only strengthening as he heard the note of despair ring through the person’s broken tone. The person continued, loud, airless sobs weighing down each word. “He- It’s Yoongi again he- he broke my wrist this time- I- God, e-everything hurts-”

Yoongi?

Jungkook froze at the unfortunately familiar name. What…?

“T-Taehyung- say something- it hurts- so bad-” Jungkook felt all the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end, feeling like a bucket of ice just got dumped down his back as he realised he recognised that voice. He gripped the phone even tighter, spine stiffer than a wooden board, a paralysing chill having washed through his body.

“…Jimin?”


~

Chapter Text


The other end of the line was silent for a good minute or so, save for the deep, ragged and unsteady breathing. The sobs had died away almost immediately, though the breathing still hitched on tremulous ripples every now and then. Jungkook didn't even twitch, waiting in dead silence for Jimin to answer.

“This is… Jungkook, isn't it?” Jimin eventually spoke, voice thick and almost unrecognisable, quiet in a defeated way.

Jungkook replied shortly, voice a little terser than he'd meant for it to be. “Yes.”

“Well. How have you been?” Jimin’s voice was filled with reluctance and the resignation in his tone pricked at Jungkook’s nerves. He quite obviously did not want to talk to Jungkook.

“Better than you, by the sounds of it.” Jungkook replied flatly without missing a beat and Jimin gave a dry laugh.

“That's not hard to achieve. Where's Taehyung?”

“He's asleep. If you've broken your wrist you should go to the hospital, why bother Taehyung?” Jungkook asked a little frostily, fingers tightening around Taehyung’s arm. Jimin didn't reply immediately, breathing gradually steadying bit by bit. Jungkook thought perhaps he shouldn't speak so coldly to his former best friend who was currently obviously dealing with some pretty serious issues, but the whole suddenly losing all contact for months without an explanation thing put a bit of a damper on his reconciliatory mood.

“I… I just wanted to talk to someone. Conversations are grounding, you know.” Jimin replied quietly and Jungkook leaned back against the headboard of the bed, eyebrow raising a little. He still knew Jimin well enough to hear the unspoken “let me talk to Taehyung” loud and clear through his tone, but he wasn't going to oblige. He wanted answers, after all.

“Talk to me. Taehyung needs a lot of rest right now, but I'm wide awake. I've got all night.” Jungkook stated airily, a lot lighter than he felt, and Jimin’s silence blared out what he thought about that. But at least he didn't end the call. Perhaps he needed a prompt. “You said it was Yoongi, “again”? He broke your wrist? How do you even know that dickhead?”

“Don't call him that.” Jimin’s tone took a sudden steep dive down into threatening seriousness, and Jungkook twitched, a little taken aback at the stone-hard imperative. Looked like there was a bit of a story to tell.

“Why? What is he to you?” Jungkook asked a little sharply, a little provocatively, and Jimin clicked his tongue, drawing an audible breath in through his nose and exhaling slowly.

“He's my… boyfriend.”

“Yikes. That asshole actually has a boyfriend? Not to mention well, you. How did you get yourself into an abusive relationship, Jimin? What have… you been up to? Why did you suddenly disappear from my life? That was back around when I first met Taehyung. Was it because of him? Or was it something that I did?” Jungkook couldn't stop the questions once they'd started, needing to bite the inside of his cheek to pause. He couldn't pinpoint any exact emotion within the swirling mess in his head, and wasn't sure how he was meant to feel, or how he should react towards his previously close friend’s predicament, when he had no idea where he stood with said friend.

“Don't start labelling my relationship with him when you don't even know shit about it. I stopped picking up your calls and replying to your texts because I didn't need to stick around anymore. You met Taehyung who could babysit you instead.” Jimin replied coldly, harshly, voice taking on a wholly unfamiliar scathing edge that shocked Jungkook. He grinded his teeth, fingernails digging into Taehyung’s skin as anger began to simmer in his chest and burn at his throat.

“…What the fuck?” Jungkook spoke lowly, quickly releasing Taehyung’s arm as he squirmed and made a small distressed sound. He hastily stroked his arm apologetically, running light fingers over the small indents in his skin and kissing the top of his head.

“I knew Yoongi wouldn't like you so I stopped hanging around you. I was right. He was so pissed after he met you.” Jimin’s voice snagged on a note of bitter resentment and a sort of hollow satisfaction at being right, Jungkook assumed.

“So he took it out on you.” Jungkook replied tonelessly and Jimin snorted.

“You guessed it.”

“So that's it? You went from being my best friend to blocking my number just because your boyfriend doesn't like me? That was ages before I even met him.” Jungkook spoke flatly and Jimin laughed without any real humour.

“Nobody takes precedence over Yoongi. If he doesn't like you then you can go to hell as far as I'm concerned.” Jimin replied completely seriously and Jungkook swore, laughing a little himself. Shit, this was worse than he’d’ve expected.

“I guess we’re done talking then. Did you want to talk to Taehyung?” Jungkook offered lightly even though the distant, awkward words soured the corners of his mouth. He didn't know who to direct the ugly black anger coiled in his chest at. Yoongi for emotionally manipulating Jimin to this extent? Or Jimin? He didn't know exactly what he'd done to deserve this treatment but he was guessing he wasn't about to find out.

“No. Let him sleep. How are you two, anyway? Do you love him?” Jimin’s sudden question rendered Jungkook’s mind blank for a split second but the words sprung off his tongue easily.

“More than anything else.”

“Are you treating him well?” Jimin asked and Jungkook paused at that, not wanting to continue this conversation, not when this abrupt Q&A session left a bad taste in his mouth. Now that Jimin had quite clearly expressed his feelings regarding Jungkook, there wasn't much left to say between them.

“None of your business.” Jungkook replied tersely and ended the call. He let out a long breath, closing his eyes and letting the tension drain away from his stiff body. Perhaps if he was like Jimin, he would've just pushed Jinwoo away and he wouldn't have caused strain between him and Taehyung. But as much as he loved Taehyung, he didn't think he could do the same as Jimin. It put things into perspective a little, and Jungkook wondered what that said about him. Taehyung shifted against his chest and tilted his head upwards to blink sleepy eyes up at him, evidently having just woken up.

“Who were you talking to?” Taehyung mumbled and Jungkook paused, staring at Taehyung’s soft, slightly disoriented gaze for a beat of silence before he smiled, kissing his forehead.

“No one.” Jungkook replied easily and waited for Taehyung to settle back against him, watching his eyes slip shut again before clearing the call from the phone’s call history.

~

December flashed by in a blur, the short days shortened further by Jungkook’s work, the cold nights warmed up by Taehyung’s soft laughter and sweet kisses. They fell into a pretty domestic, “married life” routine, which was strange considering how they’d fucked around in the past, sleeping during the day and sweeping their opponents’ pockets clean of every last coin in the casino during the night. Nowadays they’d wake up in the early morning, leave for their respective workplaces after exchanging a brief kiss, then Jungkook would come back home after work first and wait for Taehyung, whose hours ranged from nine to fourteen. Depending on whether he came back early enough or not, they’d still go fuck around at BigHit, but otherwise they would just lie around and talk about everything and nothing all night. Jungkook fell more and more in love with each passing day, with each bright and beautiful smile, bit by bit, like the tiny snowflakes falling endlessly past the window panes.

Jungkook had played against Namjoon, Seokjin, Hoseok and unfortunately, Yoongi again, but he hadn’t ever come across Jimin. He’d thought to maybe ask Yoongi about him, but Jungkook and Yoongi’s relationship was progressing as smoothly as gravel so at that point he’d rather lick every poker chip in the casino than speak to Yoongi more than absolutely necessary. He’d bullied Seokjin into thirteen consecutive rounds one night before he finally managed to scrape a win, purely because of luck as all the peeled eyes fixed their way didn’t allow for any tricks or cheats. Namjoon was a little easier, even if he still had no idea how he was winning, but he didn’t question it anymore. Now that he’d climbed his way to the top, the only people that actually made Jungkook feel tension and uncertainty of the result of a game, and made him have to wrack his brains and adapt and push himself to invent new tricks on the spot (usually in vain, to his simultaneous frustration and excitement), were those four. Jungkook was still curious about the Dealer, the King of Suits, the Joker and the Two-Faced Bluff, but seeing as nobody knew who they were and whether they even played that many games at the casino, Jungkook was beginning to wonder whether they even existed. He’d asked Namjoon about it, who laughed and told him that the Joker and Two-Faced Bluff would find him if they wanted a game, and the other two constantly floated around the casino so chances were that he’d already played against them, he just hadn’t realised. Jungkook supposed he, Namjoon and Seokjin were the only ones out of the seven that were really considered actually famous in the casino. From the sounds of it the other four just did what they wanted, playing around like normal gamblers, disregarding, or perhaps even going so far as to hide their casino aliases.

At first Jungkook’s fame as the Red Ace went to his head a little, and he revelled in taking on all daring opponents, amusing himself by coming up with new, more complicated ways to crush them beneath his cards. But by now, the only real entertainment he got was out of games with Namjoon, Seokjin, Hoseok or Yoongi. The rest of the regular gamblers at the casino had started a sort of round-robin tournament like system, in which the victors would face off against one of the three known big names. It amused the three, so they just went along with it. Taehyung had entered one of the tournament rounds once “for shits and giggles” and ended up facing off against Namjoon. To the surprise of everyone, Jungkook included, Taehyung won without breaking a sweat, and he flashed that charming smile and swept away the cash like nothing had even happened. Namjoon didn’t seem fazed either, just smiling a little resignedly as if he’d expected it. When Jungkook fought through the circle of awestruck onlookers and asked Taehyung about it, Taehyung just shrugged and said he'd never lost to Namjoon before. Jungkook was not above admitting that that had bothered him so much he forced Taehyung to play round after round with him until his bruised pride had been soothed with a score of tally marks under his name. Taehyung had laughed at him the entire time but played along without any complaint.

~

Jungkook had never really paid much attention to Christmas before, but as he helped with the company’s Christmas deal promotions and watched Taehyung’s eyes shine with childlike joy as he babbled on about it, by the time the day rolled around he'd become inexplicably excited.

Taehyung had hauled him away from work on the day of Christmas Eve, grabbing his hand tightly as if he would never let go throughout the entire day. He seemed to have had the day planned out, but seeing as it was Taehyung, that quickly fell apart into “oh I haven't been there in ages!”, “Jungkook, that place looks so cool, let’s go there next!”, “Babe, come take a quick look with me!” and similar statements as Taehyung dragged him around the whole city. Jungkook had expected this level of spontaneity bordering on completely unprepared at the very least though, so he'd brought a spare scarf with him. As he'd expected, Taehyung had forgotten his, and Jungkook just sighed and wrapped his extra scarf around his stupid boyfriend’s neck, tugging him close and kissing him firmly. Taehyung had giggled and pressed the freezing tip of his nose into Jungkook’s cheek, rubbing it against Jungkook’s face in a sickeningly adorable, publicly inappropriately intimate way that would have Jungkook punching him in the gut on any other day. But as the snowflakes dusted Taehyung’s hair and melted against his cheeks and the hum of the street strewn with fairy lights surrounded them in a buzz of excitement and pure winter joy, he thought he'd overlook it.

It was around midnight and Taehyung was leading Jungkook somewhere with his hand pressed over Jungkook’s eyes.

“Your fingers are fucking freezing. Where are you taking me?” Jungkook complained as he stumbled over the snow-slick pavement, taking uncertain steps forward. They seemed to still be in the giant square on the east side of town, judging by the continuous hum of excited friends, family and couples milling around on the beautiful, soft night.

“Oh shut up. Nowhere really.” Taehyung replied brightly and Jungkook swore as he tripped over the uneven concrete.

“Then why won't you let me see where I'm going-” Jungkook grumbled and Taehyung hit his arm.

“No. No looking till I say so.” Taehyung declared sternly and Jungkook sighed but smiled anyway as he heard the slight excitement brightening Taehyung’s tone. He allowed himself to be led by gentle nudges and light touches without further complaint, focusing on the sound of Taehyung’s voice as he excitedly went on about nothing of importance. They stopped soon enough and Jungkook could detect a sliver of nervousness in the way Taehyung shifted from one foot to the other beside him.

“Okay, now you can look.” Taehyung let his hand drop and Jungkook instinctively looked to him first, blinking and adjusting his eyes to the sudden exposure to light, focusing on Taehyung’s bright, gorgeous smile, lit up by the glow of all the Christmas lights. He glanced forward and felt his mouth drop open a little, taking in the huge, beautiful Christmas tree he stood directly in front of. It was easily as tall as the surrounding buildings, and was covered in silver, shining decorations as if someone had gathered stardust and sprinkled it over the dark tree, letting the starlight cascade down in rivulets. As far as Jungkook could see no two intricately designed decorations were the same, reflecting the light scattering of snowflakes drifting unhurriedly down from the impossibly dark expanse of sky. Most of the tree was silver, but bright, beautiful red lights and baubles streamed down in thin lines circling it. Jungkook could only stare in awe, a soft, indescribable feeling enclosing his body in warmth when he finally dragged his reluctant eyes away to gaze at Taehyung. Taehyung was unabashedly staring at Jungkook in the same way Jungkook had been captivated by the beautiful, giant Christmas tree. He stared at Jungkook like he was completely mesmerised and entranced, as if he couldn't quite believe his eyes, giving Jungkook the feeling that if he looked down at himself and saw his skin glowing with starlight, he wouldn't be surprised.

“You're so beautiful. I am the luckiest man alive.” Taehyung whispered, eyes shining with boundless love and rapture, and Jungkook felt like he could burst with the unparalleled love and warmth spreading from his chest as he stared at Taehyung’s slightly dazed expression, into his beautiful eyes. He couldn't bring words to his tongue for a few seconds, because no words were enough to express how he felt in that moment. Taehyung gave a small, somewhat shy smile, glancing up at the Christmas tree and reaching out to curl his pinky around Jungkook’s own.

“I had a lot of money just sitting around gathering dust. Perks of being a gambler, as you know. So I donated this tree to the council, and I just wanted to show you, I guess. I thought about making it super colourful and Christmassy but… the silver’s nice, isn't it?” Taehyung grinned as he stared proudly up at the tree and Jungkook’s eyes widened in surprise.

“Wait, this is your…?” Jungkook gestured helplessly at the tree as he trailed off, and Taehyung broke into a wide, breathtaking smile.

“Hell yeah it is. You like it? You know… I was just going to keep it all silver but… I put so much red on it because red’s your favourite colour.” Taehyung spoke softly, almost shyly, and Jungkook couldn't explain exactly why he felt the bridge of his nose burn, but he had to reach out and tug Taehyung close, burying his face in the crook of his neck and holding on for a while. He didn't say anything but Taehyung seemed to understand, wrapping his arms around Jungkook tightly. Jungkook wished time would forever stop in that moment as he heard the smile in Taehyung’s voice.

“Merry Christmas.”

~

Before he knew it, it was already February. Jungkook had gotten Taehyung a husky puppy for his birthday five days after Christmas, and Taehyung had bawled for about a day straight, alternating between hugging the puppy and hugging Jungkook to death. They named him Haru. They usually spent all of their time at home at Jungkook’s house, but Taehyung begged to keep him at his apartment with wide eyes swimming with tears and Jungkook had to remind him with an exasperated laugh that the puppy was his, of course he could keep it at his own place. And so nowadays they spent all their spare time at Taehyung’s apartment instead and Jungkook had never seen Taehyung happier, which, really, was all he wanted. He and Taehyung alternated taking days off to look after Haru and Taehyung joked that they really were like a married couple now, having become new parents with their own little baby to take care of. Jungkook didn't admit it, but the thought brought an unbidden smile to his lips whenever it popped up in his mind.

Jungkook’s father sent him a happy new year text, and Jungkook didn't hear from him again after that. According to Jinwoo though, his father was quite pleased and even impressed at his aptitude for and progress at work and put him in a position that was about equal to Jinwoo after only two months of work. Jinwoo’s extensive training had increased in intensity recently though, and there were rumours flitting about the company that Mr Jeon had disappeared. Jungkook didn't know what to think of those rumours, as to him, his father was in a constant state of “disappeared”. But Jinwoo, although maintaining his usual relaxed demeanour, seemed to almost be preparing him for something.

Because of work and taking on more and more duties and managing roles, Jungkook hardly had time to go to the casino anymore, if he still wanted to see Taehyung and play with Haru. He hadn't been paying attention to much happening on the news or on social media either, the only aspect of the general public he focused on being the South Korean IT market situation.

Tonight Taehyung had firmly announced that Jungkook was in dire need of a break from work and made him pause everything and go to BigHit to unwind a little. Jungkook had protested at first but ended up giving in to Taehyung as usual, but now he'd certainly gotten some insight on Taehyung’s work issues a couple months ago. Now that he was here at BigHit though, the familiar atmosphere and excitement drew him in almost immediately, and he was determined to forget everything for a while and enjoy himself for the night.

Namjoon, Hoseok and Seokjin had invited Jungkook and Taehyung to play a few rounds against them and a couple of others in one of the VIP private rooms and this was definitely new. Jungkook hadn't played against all three of them before, so this should prove to be interesting at the very least.

“Finally a game that’ll actually be challenging. I haven’t been so fired up since the last time I played against the Grand Dragon.” Jungkook grinned uncontrollably wide, cracking his knuckles as he walked up to the door to the furthest room he’d ever been to, deep within the inner maze of the huge building. Hoseok said to keep walking until he got to the very end of the corridors, and here they were, faced by a set of imposing black double doors. Jungkook’s blood started to surge in anticipation and sheer excitement, and he could barely keep himself still. He turned back to glance at Taehyung, smile dropping just a little as he took in Taehyung’s subdued, almost withdrawn expression. Taehyung’s gaze was fixed on Jungkook’s sleeve, but he didn’t seem like he could really see it. His eyes were blank, serious in the shadow of his fringe and downturned head, like he was focusing on something else, as if his mind wasn’t really here. Jungkook frowned, a spark of worry shooting through him at seeing Taehyung so unexpectedly… down. What was wrong? He felt worry grow into anxiousness gnawing at his chest at the downcast expression he hadn't seen since their fight, so out of place on his boyfriend’s handsome face usually filled with sunshine and vigour. He stepped forward, reaching out to touch his jaw, tilting his head up a little. Taehyung blinked and his eyes snapped up to meet Jungkook’s, hand seemingly instinctively raising to cover Jungkook’s own, holding it in place.

“Everything alright?” Jungkook asked quietly and Taehyung smiled easily, closing his eyes a little and leaning in to Jungkook’s touch, like he was savouring the feeling and committing it to memory.

“Yeah. Just nerves, I guess. I mean, it’s not every day we play against both the Blank Card and the Grand Dragon, right?” Taehyung smiled but Jungkook caught it faltering for just a fraction of a second and frowned, leaning forward to kiss Taehyung softly, slowly. Taehyung exhaled against his lips, wrapping his arms around the back of Jungkook’s neck almost possessively, like he was making sure to assert that Jungkook was his. When Jungkook pulled away, Taehyung’s eyes remained closed for a second, like he was still holding on to the feeling before he opened them and smiled, a lot easier and brighter than before.

“Are you worried about losing big? It’s okay, I beat both of them before, and I’ll be extra careful. I’ll watch them the entire game to make sure I don’t miss any tricks. I’ll treat you to wine in Vegas once I’ve won.” Jungkook smiled hopefully reassuringly, and Taehyung laughed at that.

“Confident? Well I wouldn’t expect anything less. I’ll hold you to that.” Taehyung replied lightly and Jungkook grinned, turning back to the doors.

“Red Ace! Have a seat, have a seat.” Namjoon waved Jungkook in as he pushed the doors open wide to enter the room. Jungkook waved in greeting, nodding to the rest of the players in the room. All people he’d played before, Seokjin, Yoongi, Hoseok, Namjoon and…

“Jimin?” Jungkook stopped dead in his tracks, eyes widening as he saw Jimin sitting comfortably beside Yoongi. Jimin gave him a bright, welcoming smile, relaxed and friendly as if he hadn’t gone MIA since that one night he’d met Jungkook’s father. The last time he'd talked to him was that one accidental phone call before Christmas. How many months had it been since Jungkook had last seen him? Jimin didn’t look any different, like nothing had changed since then, but it had, of course it had, otherwise why would Jimin be sitting here now? Jungkook thought he’d quit gambling.

“Jungkook! How’ve you been?” Jimin greeted effortlessly naturally, and Jungkook narrowed his eyes, not moving an inch, nor replying, and he saw Taehyung step forward in his peripheral vision.

“...Jimin? Where’ve you been? I haven’t heard from you in so long, what happened?” Taehyung spoke up almost distantly, little tremors fluctuating in his voice, and Yoongi stared at him strangely.

“Come on sit down guys, I’ll explain everything and tell you what I’ve been up to after this game.” Jimin grinned brightly, tone dismissive and Jungkook didn’t budge, expression stone cold as he stared at Jimin. His eyebrows lowered a little as he noticed a faint spot of purple peeking above the neckline of Jimin’s shirt, and a bluish tinge to his cheek. Looks like Yoongi hadn't let up on the violence since Jungkook had found out about it. It procured a twinge of pain in Jungkook’s chest, seeing the evidence with his own eyes and knowing his former best friend, the person he used to care about the most was being abused by his own boyfriend.

Yoongi frowned, pinning Jungkook with a distasteful stare, although Jungkook was plenty used to that. Jungkook decided it wasn’t worth having Yoongi start a fight with him before they’d even started playing, and quietly took a seat, flicking his gaze away from Jimin and taking in his surroundings instead. The room was spacious, bigger than Jungkook would’ve expected. The round table was centred in the middle, and directly beneath a small chandelier, the only light source in the room. The corners of the room were drawn in shadow, and the sofas and pictures lining the walls were difficult to make out. The furthest corners was completely dark and Jungkook had a strange, chilling feeling of being watched. Added to the heavy velvet curtains hanging here and there, the room gave off a somewhat macabre, eerie vibe. Jungkook wasn’t too bothered by it. He was here to play cards.

“Uh… Alright, let's get started! Any beers or anything? No? Good because I can't be bothered going all the way back up to the bars to fetch some.” Hoseok grinned and Jungkook felt himself relaxing some, avoiding looking at Jimin altogether. He'd ask him about everything later. For now, his senses were tuned into the game. “Alright, so since we got quite a few big shots here, we were just talking about some additions to the rules before you guys came. Wanna explain, Grand Dragon?”

“We’ll play Texas Hold ‘Em but we’ll add some rules to do with how much money you can win with different cards. Times the amount of money each person’s betted by two if you win with a nine of clubs in your hand. Times by four if you have all of the suits in your hand. Times by two if you win with a two in your hand. Times by two if you win with an ace of spades in your hand. Times by three if you have a flush of spades. All good?” Namjoon fired off and Jungkook quickly ran over the additions in his mind, memorising them and nodding.

Jimin piped up. “What if you have more than one two?”

“If you have one two, times by two. Two twos, times by four, three twos, times by six, four twos, times by eight.” Seokjin spoke and Jungkook quickly redid the maths in his mind, trying to figure out the best hand. Now with these new rules he'd have to reconsider what cards to swap out. Of course, the ranking hadn't changed, if he had a three of a kind and his hand had all four suits, his winnings would be multiplied by four, but it wouldn't matter, it'd be useless if someone else had something like a flush and beat him.

“Okay let's play!” Hoseok declared and the game started.

Yoongi won the first round, with a flush of hearts. Jungkook, Seokjin and Hoseok had folded early, so didn't lose any money. But everything was mild to start off with anyway, well, for millionaires like themselves. Jungkook hadn't known Jimin was one, until he saw the shit ton of money he'd brought. The tacky sofas were put to good use as they held the piles and piles of cash everyone had brought with them.

Jungkook lost the next five rounds, losing roughly 300,000 dollars worth in chips, quickly getting reacquainted with the insanely good hands and impeccable poker faces of the other players of the room. They were the only people that Jungkook couldn't see through, the only people good enough that Jungkook actually had to play fairly with, or there was a high chance of getting called out on a cheat, and losing big money because of it. Though his eyes moved non stop, flicking from one person to the next, gauging their reactions when they picked up cards, studying their expressions through the betting rounds, taking note of what cards each person won from, he could not pick up on the slightest hint of well, anything. It was sharply thrilling, but also quite worrying. There came a certain point when such a thing would no longer be a challenge, but could become dangerous, especially with what seemed like a serious game.

Seokjin was the worst. He certainly lived up to his name. Staring at him was like staring at a brick wall. No, bricks had far more variety and colour than Seokjin’s expression. His face was a white canvas. It was infuriating, but Jungkook had to begrudgingly admire it, like he had since he first lost against him. Even when Seokjin won the third round, his face didn't break character for one millisecond, even as he was sweeping away the chips he'd won.

Yoongi just looked pissed like always, but remained remarkably one shade of pissed. Even displaying such colourful emotion in a room of blank, masked expressions and controlled faces, it was still impossible to find a chip anywhere and peek into his thoughts.

Hoseok was similar, although he wasn't angry. He laughed and smiled and cracked a few jokes that Jungkook had to admit made him laugh, setting a more pleasant, easygoing feeling to the otherwise tense atmosphere. But still, Jungkook couldn't tell what he was thinking at all. Even when he made jokes his eyes that were lit up in mirth betrayed nothing towards the cards in his hand.

Namjoon, Jimin and Taehyung were all about the same, Namjoon’s expression on the more serious side, Taehyung’s expression on the more blank side, Jimin’s expression somewhere in between. Whatever it was, they were all impenetrable, and Jungkook had to say, it was quite frustrating.

Taehyung had been extremely quiet since the game had started, occasionally chewing at his lip or fiddling with his hair. He hadn't looked Jungkook’s way once and though his expression was blank as usual, there was a certain… distant look to his somewhat glassy eyes. Jungkook shrugged internally. Taehyung always went really quiet during poker.

“Raise you by 10,000.”

“Match that and raise by 30,000.”

“Match.”

“Full house.”

“Flush.”

“Straight.”

“Two pair.”

“Three of a kind.”

“I fold.”

“Fold.”

Jungkook chewed his lip, affecting an idle, laid back air but he was nervous. Rounds and rounds had passed and he hadn't won a single one. Taehyung wasn't much better off. He was nervous and he hated it, hated how his eyes started to dart around faster, less steady and his breathing less settled, entire body wound up tight, nerves tingling. He couldn't be sure any of the players were cheating, hell, he'd been watching every one of them so closely his eyes were starting to hurt, but he hadn't seen anything. Luck was just not on his side today. Usually he wouldn't have to worry about little things like luck, but he'd already lost plenty, it wasn't safe to risk being caught cheating. The shadows gripping the room seemed a lot more intimidating now, like dark claws curled towards the table in the centre of the room. Now that Jungkook thought about it the room seemed abnormally cold, but he was still sweating, beads of it lining his neck and tracing the hairline at his temple. Nervousness was building up in his stomach, his chest tight and he wondered whether the others could see the tension wafting off of him. Maybe he'd sit out a few rounds, get himself back together.

Jungkook was the big blind the next round though, so he gritted his teeth and decided to play one more. Seokjin dealt the cards, and Jungkook picked up his to see a king and jack of spades. What was it again? Flush of spades… times by three wasn't it. Jungkook felt his heartbeat quicken. There was a chance to win back all that money. He kept his expression impossibly neutral even as his thoughts were frantic and ceaseless, tumbling around his chaotic mind. He hadn't won since the game started, if he raised by a huge amount would that set off alarm bells for the other players? Maybe they'd fold right away and Jungkook would lose this opportunity. But if he didn't raise too much he'd also lose this opportunity to win back all his losses at once. Who was currently winning? Jungkook swept his gaze over the piles of chips. Namjoon. That was bad. Maybe he should just risk it if he got a flush.

“Red Ace? You playing?” Hoseok interrupted his thoughts and Jungkook offered a humourless smile, pushing forward double the minimum amount to play. Jimin shot him a look. All the other players matched and Seokjin laid out three cards. Six of diamonds, queen of spades and ten of spades. Jungkook blinked and pushed forward 50,000 without missing a beat. He leant back and scratched his hair, the picture of calm, casual. Inside was an entirely different matter. Seriously? He now had a ten, jack, queen and king. All he needed now was an ace to get a straight of royals. Even if he got a nine or something lower, as long as it was spades, he'd get a flush of spades. But… If he got an ace of spades… Wouldn't he have gotten a… a…

“Fold.” Seokjin spoke, bringing Jungkook back to the present, and Jungkook snuck a glance at the others. He'd already lost one potential pocket of money. As usual, Jungkook couldn't fucking tell what was going on with their cards, but at least no one else seemed to be folding, at least not at this point. Nobody spoke, and Jungkook glanced at Taehyung. He still seemed lost in thought, running a fingertip over the edge of one of his cards. Jungkook frowned. Maybe he'd ask to take a break after this round and see what's up.

Seokjin put out an eight of clubs as the next card after everyone matched, and Jungkook continued to raise, feeling excitement start to thrum through his veins. Maybe the next card. Maybe. Taehyung, Jimin and Hoseok folded. So just Yoongi, Namjoon and Jungkook left. Jungkook could barely sit still, antsy with anticipation. Surely, this time…

An ace of spades.

Jungkook was sure his poker face failed him in that moment, as his disbelieving eyes took in the lovely sight of his favourite card. Jungkook quickly reined his expression back in, checking over the cards to make sure. He had a ten, jack, queen, king and ace - all of spades. A Royal Flush. Of spades. Jungkook felt his heart stop for a solid second or two. Jungkook hadn't thought it would ever happen to him, at least not without him cheating a little. Jungkook raised with trembling fingers, and quickly drew them back, hoping no one had noticed. He was now betting 120,000 dollars. Namjoon raised by 30,000 and Yoongi and Jungkook matched. Jungkook was almost bursting with excitement at this point, breaths coming in short spurts. His skin itched with anticipation and his pupils were almost shaking.

“Well, Red Ace? Show us what you've got.” Hoseok smiled genially, as if he didn't really expect Jungkook to win. Jungkook savoured the moment before he showed his cards, taking in the looks on everyone’s faces before he turned over his king and jack of spades. It took a moment, but finally, finally everyone’s poker faces cracked. Even Seokjin’s eyes widened. Jungkook swallowed.

“Royal Flush.”

Hoseok let out a low whistle.

“Shit. Haven't seen one of those in a long time.” Yoongi laughed a little flatly, just missing the note of humour, and Jungkook felt the rush of glee, of crazed triumph surge through him. Ah yes, here it was. The feeling Jungkook had been chasing after, the high of hearing the bitter acceptance in his opponents’ voices, of seeing their eyes widen in incredulity and feeling the weight of the chips he'd won in his palms. Taehyung’s wide eyes seemed to monitor Jungkook’s expression, before he glanced seemingly randomly at the other players. Jungkook wondered what he was thinking. Was he relieved that he'd folded? Wasn't necessary, Jungkook wouldn't take money from Taehyung. He'd just give it back to him after, wasn't it obvious?

“A Royal Flush with spades. Damn. Well we better all pay up. 150,000 times by three… 450,000, then times by two because of the ace… 900,000 each. Holy shit.” Namjoon exclaimed lowly, and Jungkook could feel the confidence, the thrill rushing back all at once as he took their chips. 1,800,000 at once. This was what he lived for.

A few rounds later, Jungkook and Seokjin were in the lead, and Taehyung had won the past three so he came in a close third. Jungkook had no idea why he looked less happy than before. It was almost as if he was counting down to something, waiting for something inevitable. Jungkook studied Taehyung’s downcast eyes, finding nothing within the usual bright, warm brown orbs. There was definitely something wrong. Screeches and shouting erupted from the next room down and Taehyung’s eyes snapped up, as Hoseok sighed and stood, making his way over to the doors left ajar.

“So noisy. Let's shut these, shall we? Hoseok announced to nobody in particular and everyone else took that as a break in the tense game, stretching and shifting from their positions, Jimin murmuring something to Yoongi. Jungkook still kept an eye on them, just to see whether their faces would give anything away now.

“Jungkook.” Taehyung’s low voice cut through Jungkook’s thoughts and he turned to face Taehyung, eyebrow raised. Taehyung tilted his head towards him and smiled, a little tiredly. “I love you.”

Jungkook blinked in surprise, breath hitching, heart fluttering a little in his chest at the unexpected, soft statement. Why now? It didn't make Jungkook feel any less warm inside, and Jungkook felt like his face was dangerously close to breaking into a smile, but he was a little confused at the timing. He stared at Taehyung’s half closed but steady eyes, the small curve of his lips and was about to reply, but the moment passed, Hoseok sat back down and everyone’s attention was back on the game. Jungkook glanced at Taehyung again, whose eyes were now fixed forward, a new, purposeful air about him. His spine was straight, and his gaze strong. Jungkook had no clue what was going on.

Namjoon was dealing, and he put out a two of spades, a four of clubs and an ace of hearts. Jungkook’s cards were an ace of clubs and a nine of hearts. He wasn't sure at this point what he could get, but at least he had a pair of aces. Jimin and Hoseok had folded at the beginning, and Jungkook checked along with everyone else, not confident to start raising yet.

The next card was a two of diamonds. Jungkook now had a two pair. Jungkook flicked his gaze around habitually, and he almost blanched in shock at actually seeing a tiny, tiny, almost imperceptible sliver of emotion on the players’ faces. Was this because of how thrown off they'd been from the Royal Flush? Or had Jungkook managed to draw himself back together, and the hints had been there all along, he'd just been too anxious and jittery to spot them? So far things were looking good for Seokjin, Yoongi, Taehyung and Jungkook. The other three… They were going to fold, weren't they? Jungkook felt a thrill snake down his spine, at finally being able to predict something. Surely enough, once Seokjin raised and Yoongi matched, Jimin and Hoseok folded. Jungkook raised a little, Taehyung matched, and Namjoon folded. Seokjin and Yoongi matched and Jungkook bore his gaze as subtly as he could into their eyes. He still couldn't tell what cards they had or what sort of hand they were after, damnit.

Jungkook held his breath, making his entire body go still in anticipation as he waited for the last card. Namjoon put out the ace of spades. Jungkook felt his heart jump, and he quickly checked over his cards. A pair of twos out on the board and a pair of aces… plus Jungkook’s ace made a full house. Not bad at all. Jungkook raised and Taehyung matched then raised, choosing a really oddly specific total amount of 140,625 dollars worth in chips. Seokjin and Yoongi folded and suddenly it was a showdown between Jungkook and Taehyung. Nobody had been speaking before, but the room seemed to quiet down even further, a blanket of tense, analysing silence shrouded over them, as the very room seemed to hold its breath. Jungkook lifted his gaze up to Taehyung, arching an eyebrow and trying to pick apart Taehyung’s expression that he could normally read so well. Taehyung didn't seem too nervous or tense, but his expression was utterly, utterly blank, eyes steady and unflinching and Jungkook found that he couldn't relax for some reason, even though this was Taehyung. Even if Taehyung beat him, what did it matter? Taehyung wouldn't actually take his money. Jungkook took a breath, hushing suddenly chattery nerves and turned his cards over, showing his full house.

“Oh, full house.” Hoseok commented, and Jungkook offered a grin at Taehyung, wondering if Taehyung was going to show his cards or not. Had Jungkook won?

Then Jungkook’s blood froze, as Taehyung gave him the coldest, most frighteningly distant smile Jungkook had ever seen directed his way.

Taehyung flipped over his cards, a two of clubs and a two of hearts.

“Four of a kind.” Taehyung announced softly, tonelessly, and Jungkook blinked, repeating that in his mind. Okay, so, Taehyung had four twos and an ace, so yes, a four of a kind. He'd beat Jungkook and won 140,625 off him. But… wait… Jungkook eyes slowly widened in horror until his eyes felt like they were going to pop out, the chilled air stinging the whites of his eyes, his pupils reduced to slits as he realised what a horrible mistake he'd made. It was like a slap to the face, as Taehyung began speaking.

“I have an ace of spades, so 140,625 times two is 281,250 dollars. I have all four suits so 281,250 times four is 1,125,000. And since I have four twos… That's 1,125,000 times eight. You owe me nine million dollars exactly, Jeon Jungkook.” Taehyung explained flatly, briskly, professionally, his words clipped and terse, tone brittle and unfeeling, nothing like the warm, low voice Jungkook loved to listen to. He steepled his fingers and rested his chin against his fingertips, like he was in the middle of a business transaction, nothing like the fun, laid back, spontaneous boy Jungkook had fallen in love with. His eyes were depthless shards of ice, nothing like the warm, bright gaze Jungkook could lose himself in for hours on end. And it hurt, as Jungkook began to realise, that he'd made a very, very big horrible mistake.

“You're serious.” Jungkook asked softly, needing to make sure, needing to fucking make sure Taehyung, his lovely, wonderful, precious Taehyung was asking- no, demanding Jungkook to pay him nine million dollars. Of course, by that point, Jungkook had already realised, deep down, below the layers of sheer disbelief and baseless, desperate and ugly remnants, fragments of hope, that Taehyung had been demanding the money of him since the very first night they'd met. But desperate as Jungkook was, he clung onto that hope, that it wasn't like that, somehow.

“Dead serious.” Taehyung replied steadily, tone stone hard and unyielding, handsome features drawn in a serious, emotionless expression, the face that Jungkook had fallen in love with morphing into something almost grotesquely foreign, like Jungkook was staring at a stranger. Jungkook could feel his breathing start to stop and start irregularly. His vision was shaking, just a little along the sides. His thoughts started to stretch and crash and merge into each other, creating an incomprehensible tangled mess. He felt his fingers trembling a little. His tongue was lead in his mouth.

“The first time I saw you, I thought you'd be easy. Looks like I wasn't wrong.” Taehyung remarked, voice dismissive, abnormally loud, oppressing in the silence of the shadows of the room. There was a cruel neutrality to the way he said it, like he was observing something small and unimportant, commentating on a documentary. Jungkook said nothing because he didn't trust his voice, not when Taehyung’s words were like a knife slicing into the base of his throat.

“Have you realised that there are seven of us here?” Taehyung asked quietly and Jungkook began shaking his head slowly, denying the truth, the blaringly, painfully obvious reality that had been parading in front of his unseeing eyes this whole time. Taehyung, as well as Jimin, Yoongi and Hoseok were part of the seven big players of BigHit. Taehyung worked here. He worked together with the other five excluding Jungkook to set people up. His job was to cheat people out of their money.

Jungkook was just a task number.

Jungkook felt his lips twitching upwards in a phantom smile, still shaking his head almost compulsively. Taehyung’s warm, gentle gaze when he first told Jungkook that he loved him swam through Jungkook’s mind carpeted in a dazed layer of incomprehension. Taehyung’s lovely small, seemingly instinctive smile as Jungkook would lace their fingers together flashed behind Jungkook’s eyes, like it was mocking him. The sincerity circling Taehyung’s low voice when he'd told Jungkook that he was the best thing that had ever happened to him rang out in his ears, seeming to laugh at him.

“What does that mean?” Jungkook breathed, but he understood what it meant. He just didn't want to.

“I think you know.” Taehyung murmured after a moment’s hesitation, gazing Jungkook in an unreadable way, the tiniest dash of emotion slipping into his tone, a little tremor and Jungkook felt like he was going to be sick. Icy claws gripped at his insides, piercing deep through him, carving out their marks and numbing his body, freezing it so he could barely move properly. His mind was starting to spin, his vision going in and out of focus, and the shadows of the room seemed to lengthen and lunge towards him as he half rose from his chair and stumbled backwards, only to feel two faceless men appear out of nowhere and grab hold of his arms and force them behind his back. One of them grabbed a fistful of his hair and shoved his head down against the table with an audible, painful thunk that Jungkook barely registered. It was nothing compared to the mind numbing, agonising pain of watching Taehyung regarding Jungkook in a cold, unfathomable way from above. The disbelief, pain and betrayal stayed Jungkook's tongue, allowing him only to stare helplessly, wide eyed up at him. He could only focus on Taehyung. The rest of the world around him moved sluggishly, images distorting as if he was underwater, sensations plastic and unreal.

“Taehyung, you…” Jungkook murmured, not knowing how the sentence was going to end, how it was supposed to end. Taehyung said nothing, and the simple pause of silence was enough to make pain burst and erupt in flames in his chest. Jungkook felt like he was swaying with the force of it, dizzy and disoriented even though he was quite firmly being held in place.

Namjoon was saying something. Something about his debt, and how the money was to go to BigHit, and not to Taehyung directly, as Taehyung was a worker. Something about BigHit being an underground mob gang. Namjoon was leader apparently. Jungkook couldn't hear anything properly, wasn't paying attention at all to whatever insignificant shit Namjoon was spewing out right now, all he could see, all he could focus on and torture himself over was the sight of Taehyung glancing away from him as if it was that easy, then getting up from his seat.

“Taehyung.” Jungkook whispered as Taehyung pushed back his chair.

“Taehyung.” Jungkook called out louder this time as Taehyung turned without a second glance, walking towards the doors. An ugly black and red swirl of emotion rose to the surface, rearing up as violent blotches over his swimming vision. Jungkook snapped, attempting to lunge forward, to reach Taehyung and force him to stop and look at him. He was stopped by the heavy hands holding him down as he stared at Taehyung’s retreating back.

Taehyung! Are you for fucking real? Are you fucking kidding me? You've been stringing me along to set me up in one shitty round of cards for half a fucking year? You've been playing me for half a fucking year?! None of it was real? You were lying to me the entire fucking time? You told me you loved me to get money off me? Give me a fucking answer Taehyung. Taehyung!” Jungkook shouted at the top of his lungs, anger blazing through his entire body, unbelievable pain at the betrayal completely overtaken by the rage. He gritted his teeth until the pain in his jaw rivalled the tight knot of pain in his chest, before spitting and yelling out again. “Answer me!

Taehyung responded by shutting the doors behind him. Taehyung’s bright, wide, beautiful smile flashed in his mind’s eye and Jungkook tried to lash out and struggle to his feet again but one of the men landed a heavy punch to the centre of his back. Jungkook felt the air in his lungs shoot out all at once, feeling pain crack across his torso and crying out, drawing in a sharp, raw breath.

He kept his eyes fixed on the closed doors, clenching his teeth and ignoring the searing pain over his right shoulder blade.

Was it right that Jungkook felt as though the pain of Taehyung’s cold gaze resting on him hurt more than the thought of losing nine million dollars?

~

“Have you watched the news recently?” Namjoon was speaking, but Jungkook couldn't really hear his words. After they'd deemed him calm enough to be treated civilly, he'd been dumped in his vacated chair, the two lackeys standing on either side of him. For what, Jungkook had no idea. Did they think Jungkook was going to make a run for it? Did they really think he had the strength and energy for that?

Taehyung had closed his eyes and held Jungkook tight, like he didn't want to let go, right before they'd entered the room. Was he pretending even up till then? What was he thinking right now? Was he relieved that he finally didn't have to put up an act? A damn good, realistic one. He had Jungkook fooled from day one. Was Jungkook like a weight on his shoulders that he could finally shrug off today? Jungkook knew he must look wretched, not even trying to conceal or alter his hollow, desolate expression. His stomach had squeezed itself tight, mouth dry and his head throbbed with jabs of pain every now and then. He could barely feel it. The pain that had spread from his chest and encroached on the rest of his body, down to the very last nerve ending had numbed, somewhat, and Jungkook’s mind couldn't focus even if he tried. He did try to listen to Namjoon, he really did. After all, nine million was no small sum. He was royally fucked.

Luckily, Yoongi helped him out with that.

Yoongi got up from his seat and punched Jungkook in the face, not holding back whatsoever, knuckles cutting into Jungkook’s cheekbone. Jungkook’s face snapped to the side, feeling the bone give just a little, just shy of fracturing, and heat explode in his mouth as his teeth dug into the soft skin of his cheek. Jungkook clenched his teeth, eyes closed against the pain, expression contorted, giving himself a moment before he pushed around the blood gathering in his mouth, spitting it out on to the table and lifting his head, eyes boring into Yoongi murderously, though he said nothing. His face burned and throbbed, the inside of his cheek stung and the punch had driven a sharp shard of pain directly into his head and if nothing else, at least now Jungkook could concentrate. His mind hadn't… cleared as such, but all thoughts of Taehyung had been shoved to one side from the force of the blow.

Although the chandelier lit up the entire table, Jungkook felt like he was placed under a spotlight in the otherwise dark, broody room, with the five pairs of keen, hostile eyes fixed on him. With the current scene, Jungkook thought it was rather like an action movie set. The main character got caught by the gang of “ bad guy” antagonists and was about to be interrogated, threatened, or killed in the dark lighting, and had to find a way to escape so he could live another day to get rid of the gang and put an end to their evil ways - It was funny in a way, Jungkook thought. Now that he was experiencing it himself, the situation was nowhere near as exciting and bad-ass and dramatic as the action comics and movies he watched as a kid. Especially since he, the main character, wasn't trying to find a way to escape. He felt hollowed out, distant, disconnected, as if the pain in his cheek was his imagination, as if the pain in his chest was someone else’s. He felt like he was watching the scene outside of his body.

“So what's the deal, Grand Dragon? Why am I suddenly a captive? You gonna try rip the money off of my body? Sorry but I'm not wearing anything expensive today. There's the 1.8 million I won and the money I brought but that's about it.” Jungkook heard his voice saying those words but it was like they came out on their own. Yoongi punched him again and Jungkook felt hot, burning pain burst in his jaw and streak across his face, gritting his teeth again and swearing audibly, head spinning. The simmering anger was back, and Jungkook slit Yoongi a glare. His face was going to be black and blue for much longer than he'd like.

“When we’re not playing cards you don't call him Grand Dragon. Refer to him as ‘boss’ from now on, you asshole.” Yoongi growled and Jungkook bared his teeth up at him, feeling anger starting to course through him. He was going to just accept the shitty hand he'd been dealt but he wasn't passive, he wasn't a pushover, it wasn't in his nature. Now that the tone of superiority and disdain had sparked the fire of anger inside of him, Jungkook wasn't going to take this defeat and humiliation quietly.

“We’re talking cards because those five cards are the reason I'm still here, and I'm gonna keep calling Mr Mafia over there Grand Dragon. He’s not my fucking boss, and why the fuck does it matter to you what I say to him?” Jungkook spat and Yoongi punched him again, right over the newly forming bruise, and Jungkook snapped and sprung to his feet, throwing a punch of his own, fist just narrowly missing Yoongi’s nose as the two nameless men quickly grabbed ahold of him, yanking him backwards and Jungkook yelled out in frustration, fingers itching to make brutal contact. He lashed out with his leg instead, planting his foot in the centre of Yoongi’s chest and kicking him a good metre or two away, putting all the force of his swirling anger behind it. Yoongi staggered backwards, face twisting in pain, eyes screwed tightly shut and he coughed once, violently, clutching a hand to his chest. It brought Jungkook sharp sense of vindictive satisfaction.

“Stop fucking punching me! Do you punch a person every time they say something you don't like? You must be good at shutting people up! You look so used to it as well, I’ll bet you get plenty of practice using your boyfriend’s body as a punching bag, right?” Jungkook snarled viciously, any sense of tact crushed beneath the black wave of rage, and Jimin blanched, his entire face going shockingly white as it drained of colour, eyes flying wide open. It looked like Jungkook had hit right where it hurt, if Yoongi’s expression was anything to go by.

“…Oh? You can't own up to it? Jimin, if I didn’t want to tell you to go fuck yourself, I’d suggest you find yourself a nicer person.” Jungkook felt his expression twist and contort, his lips stretching into a sharp, sardonic smile, and perhaps if he was in the right state of mind he’d have been concerned at himself. But it was like some switch had been broken inside of him, broken then stamped on, flattened out, cut into pieces and flung out the window to shatter against the pavement. Jimin flinched visibly even from where Jungkook was standing, turning his head away, jaw locked tight, entire form rigid and frozen in place. He looked like he was going to be sick. Good, that made two of them.

Yoongi lunged at him like he was going to beat the living daylights out of him, and Jungkook gave him an obnoxious jeering grin, goading him to do just that. His head was killing him anyway. Passing out was an appealing option right now.

“Stop.” Namjoon’s voice cut across, firm and brittle, and Jungkook kept his eyes fixed on Yoongi, lips still stretched in a dangerous lopsided smile, mouth hanging open a little to draw in air, his chest heaving and arms straining against the fuckers holding him back. Yoongi halted, visibly grinding his teeth together, eyes blazing, but he turned on his heel and left the room, slamming the door shut behind him. Jungkook shrugged the hands off of him none too gently, shooting them both glares before plonking himself back down in his seat. His blood was boiling, racing through him and his fists were trembling with the urge to fight, but he settled for fuming and directing his murderous stare at Namjoon instead. Who, considering everything, was very calm and collected. As if absolutely nothing had happened. Seokjin and Hoseok were staring surreptitiously at Jimin, and Jungkook guessed the nature of Jimin and Yoongi’s relationship had been an unpleasant revelation for all of them. Perhaps not Taehyung.

Taehyung.

Jungkook dug his nails into his thigh, using the stinging pain and sheer willpower to drive his thoughts away from Taehyung.

“Anyway, you haven't seen the news, have you?” Namjoon continued almost conversationally and Jungkook responded by gathering the blood that had pooled in his mouth again on his tongue and spitting it out.

“What if I haven't?” Jungkook growled and Namjoon made a gesture with his hand and a guy seemed to materialise from the shadows of on the corners of the room, handing Namjoon a newspaper. Yesterday’s issue, a quick glance told Jungkook. Ha. So he was right, he was being watched from the darkest part of the shadows.

“Take a look. It's front page news, exciting stuff.” Hoseok made a jerking motion of his head, angling his chin to point towards the newspaper Namjoon slid across the table to Jungkook. Jungkook cracked his neck, taking his time, before picking it up and smoothing it out, stretching it flat.

He almost dropped the newspaper.

“My father’s in prison?”

~

Chapter Text

 

Taehyung shut the door behind him and fell back against the wall beside it, weak, trembling legs unable to support himself. He closed his eyes and took in a slow, measured breath through his nose, exhaling slowly and trying to ignore the dizzying pulse of his heart crashing over his ears and threatening to burst from his ribcage. He clutched his chest and dug his fingers into his skin, breath hitching on a tiny note of despair, an ugly whisper giving voice to the unbearable pain coursing through his body and numbing his limbs. He knew it would hurt. He’d known since several months ago. Maybe it was from when he saw the moonlight dipping over Jungkook’s face and washing it silver, and the words “I love you” had tumbled out of his lips so easily and naturally it'd scared him. Maybe it was even from when he first saw Jungkook smile.

But he hadn't expected it to hurt this much.

Taehyung swallowed grittily and clutched his chest harder, trying desperately to calm himself down, think of something that deviated from the pain and sheer panic starting to surface. His heart rate was speeding up until he was drawing in quick, heaving breaths that did nothing to elevate the iron-like pressure weighing down on his chest and constricting his lungs. It was too much, everything that had happened in the last couple of months was too much. His nerves were shot, he’d constantly been on edge and on the verge of snapping and breaking down for far too long, and he could barely suppress the scream that was battling its way out. The pain beating at him now only served as a catalyst to push him further towards tipping over that edge. Despite his best efforts his mind flickered back to the first time he'd seen and approached Jungkook all those months ago.

“Taehyung, you got new prey.”

“Can you not word it like that, boss?” Taehyung drawled but grinned, feeling excitement flaring up at the prospect of another task. A task of deception and lies sweet as honey, luring in some other poor, poor unsuspecting gambler, with hooded, flirty eyes full of promises and sinful words to ensnare their mind solely on him and his body. Tricking some other poor bastard, playing with them and making sure they kept coming to the casino until they were too immersed in this world and could no longer leave. Then Namjoon would set the ball rolling, destroying their life with debt, before introducing the horrors of a powerful, heartless mob. Taehyung guessed he could call what he did - seducing. What Taehyung was best at, and quite enjoyed, being the dick he was becoming. It was a little sad sometimes, when he could tell the beginnings of true feelings starting to emerge in his victims. That or if they'd completely fallen for him, which had happened a couple of times before. He'd just flashed a charming smile and reminded them gently that he was only in it for sex, but for some reason that didn't always crush their hopes and they remained utterly, utterly trapped between Taehyung’s fingers.

It was fun. And Taehyung scared himself sometimes, thinking about it. He hadn't expected, in fact he’d subconsciously dreaded turning out like this when he'd first…

“Who is the unlucky bastard this time? Praying for the poor soul. As long as they're not married, as soon as Taehyung gets to them, it's game over. They're not ever leaving.” Jimin spoke with a light, relaxed smile and shot Taehyung a look to which Taehyung just winked in response. He guessed he had a bit of a bad reputation, but nobody ever believed that when they first started talking to him. Perks of having a bright, seemingly easygoing and fun nature, he supposed.

“It's the guy we’ve been focusing on. Jeon Jungkook.” Seokjin answered mildly and Taehyung paused, mixed feelings turning over in his mind. He glanced at Jimin to see that he'd dropped his gaze and his jaw was clenched, sudden tension gathered around him at the mention of his best friend. Taehyung bit his lip, knowing that Jimin didn't want to set his friend up, and hadn't even wanted to bring this Jungkook to the casino or introduce him to cards in the first place - but orders were orders.

“It might be a bit hard for Jimin to get information from Jungkook about Mr Jeon, but Taehyung should be able to. And you'll be keeping him coming back here, where we can keep an eye on him.” Namjoon flicked his gaze up to Taehyung from where he sat on the couch, legs propped up on the coffee table. Taehyung gave him a lazy salute, breaking into a grin again.

“Of course. Don't worry boss, I remember the objective. I guess even big, scary ol’ Mr Jeon has his weaknesses to exploit. I wonder what his son’s like. The Red Ace, huh?” Taehyung mused, pushing himself off the wall and running a hand through his hair, turning to saunter through the door and go fuck up someone’s life once again. But who knows? Depending on what Namjoon wanted to do with Jungkook, they could afford to use a tricky pair of hands like he owned. He might even be coaxed (or coerced) into joining them. That'd be a trump card against Mr Jeon, so to speak.

“Don't fool around too much.” Namjoon’s tone was brittle and stony, and Taehyung stopped, sighing and turning his head back to slide his stare over to his boss. He grinned.

“Why so serious?”

Taehyung slipped out into the casino, making sure to stay hidden within the shadow of heavy velvet curtains, surveying and scanning the place with keen eyes. He felt a presence beside him and turned to see Yoongi, who had his hands in his pockets and a scowl on his face as usual.

“Hey sugar, what's up?” Taehyung greeted brightly and Yoongi slapped the back of his head in response. Taehyung winced but laughed, expecting that.

“Don't call me that.”

“Aw, but I put your number as “S” in my contacts in reference to how sugar-sweet you are.” Taehyung pouted and Yoongi closed his eyes, taking in a breath in an obvious attempt to keep himself calm, and he didn't bother replying to that.

“The boss decided that if we ever do set the Red Ace up in a game, we’re going to make him lose nine million.” Yoongi informed him stiffly and Taehyung couldn't help but let his eyes widen.

“Nine million? Jesus. Isn't that a bit overkill, even for us? He's a big catch, isn't he.” Taehyung exclaimed a little in awe. The most they'd ever set someone up for was four million. And even that had Taehyung shaking with pure thrill. This Jungkook guy was worth nine million?

“He's a millionaire, or so I've heard. And must be a good player, if he's already made a name for himself. The boss will explain the details later, but for now, remember that you're going to bet $140,625. Exactly. I'll text it to you later so you don't forget.” Yoongi replied and Taehyung filed that number away, nodding and thinking. A bet of $140,625. How would that multiply up to nine million? His boss loved to keep people guessing, even Taehyung, an executive.

“Which game?”

Yoongi shrugged. “He didn't say. Choose whatever. I heard the Red Ace likes to play Red Five.”

“Hmm… Red Five’s more Jimin’s specialty. He learnt back home when he first started out with cards and everything, so I guess that's why he taught Jungkook that? Hm… No. I'll go with Texas Hold ‘Em.” Taehyung decided thoughtfully and Yoongi shot him a sidelong glance.

“Why Texas Hold ‘Em? Don't you usually play Big Two?”

“Well… I wanna have fun this time. Give myself a bit of a challenge. I'll pass on Red Five too, because in Texas Hold ‘Em, there are no jokers.” Taehyung replied with a bright grin and Yoongi just sighed and shrugged, patting him on the shoulder before turning and leaving. Taehyung smirked. He could practically hear the unspoken ‘why do you make things difficult for yourself’ but he didn't care.

“What's got you in such a good mood?” Hoseok appeared to ask brightly and Taehyung just smiled wider, sweeping his eyes over the casino inhabitants.

“I’m gonna charm my way into another sucker’s pants and heart, that's all. Which one’s Jungkook?” Taehyung murmured, wondering how old he was, and if he was cute. He shouldn't be too much older, and he'd have to be above twenty to be gambling so… hopefully around Taehyung’s age.

“Jeon Jungkook? Ah, he's… that guy over there.” Hoseok pointed at a boy who looked in his early twenties, sitting at the bar with a white violin case on his back. Taehyung felt something in him shift, slightly, as he took in the sight of him and he swallowed, suddenly feeling a little irrational trepidation creep in. He shook himself and let the excitement take over again, letting a smirk curl his lips.

“Shit. Sweet Jesus, he's so hot. Fuck, I wanna drop to my knees right now. I'm gonna have fun with this one.” Taehyung purred and Hoseok groaned in distaste, shooing him off. Taehyung laughed and ran a hand through his hair again, stepping out of the shadows and making his way over to the bar. He felt fire slowly start to intensify and grow in his stomach as he neared and he could barely believe his luck. He'd landed just about the most attractive guy he could ever imagine as his next target. He hoped he was good in bed.

Taehyung sat himself down a couple seats away and just looked him over for a few seconds, wanting to groan aloud just at the sight of him. His toned body was slim in just the right places, and stupidly thick in others, like his impossibly muscled thighs that stretched the jeans he wore in a way that had Taehyung wanting to drool. Taehyung wanted to reach out and trace the veins snaking up across his forearm, and trail his lips along the sharp cut of his jaw. Taehyung swallowed the hunger he knew would be lurking around his eyes down as best he could and took his card out of his wallet, flicking it over the bar counter and watching it skim across to pause beside Jungkook’s glass. Jungkook glanced up in surprise and the expression slackened on his ridiculously attractive face as he took Taehyung in. Taehyung could barely stop from smirking. Jeon Jungkook was caught. Taehyung knew he looked good, but it was an unbelievable self esteem boost to have that reaction from the hot guy before him. He spoke with a smile.

“Do you play?”

“Stop fucking punching me! Do you punch a person every time they say something you don't like? You must be good at shutting people up! You look so used to it as well, I’ll bet you get plenty of practice using your boyfriend’s body as a punching bag, right?” Taehyung jumped as he heard the sudden shouting and flinched at the completely foreign and unfamiliar note of unbridled bitter rage roughening Jungkook’s lovely voice. He stiffened, eyes wide at the harsh, almost unrecognisable tone of utter hatred and felt his heart splinter and the shards of pain lodge throughout his chest. He'd been the one to drive Jungkook this far. A dazed few moments later, the door was flung open and slammed shut again, and Taehyung closed his mouth, wiping his expression blank as was appropriate, shutting himself off in a fraction of a second. It was getting easier, lately. He barely batted an eye at a heavily breathing, completely and utterly pissed off Yoongi, watching the veins straining in his neck with little interest. There was a turmoil of emotions flashing in Yoongi’s blazing eyes, and one of them, surprisingly, was guilt, or maybe doubt, at least.

“How did Jungkook find out about your relationship with Jimin?” Taehyung asked emotionlessly and Yoongi snapped his head up, shooting Taehyung a deadly look.

“Shouldn't I be the one asking you that?” Yoongi growled in a tone screaming danger, coloured in resentment, and a lesser man would probably have started running. As it was, Taehyung just glanced away, unable to compete with the crazed fire alight in Yoongi’s eyes, but not stepping down either.

“I didn't tell Jungkook anything about you or Jimin. I didn't ever mention your name.” Taehyung replied calmly and Yoongi laughed, pinning Taehyung with a stare that hadn't softened in the slightest.

“I guess the proper question should've been… How did you find out about Jimin and I?” Yoongi asked quietly, still smiling ever so slightly, almost malevolently. Taehyung edged away slightly, seeing as Yoongi’s fingers were twitching a bit and he'd rather not end the day with broken bones.

“Jimin told me. I've been fixing him and cleaning up your mess every time you've left him broken and bleeding.” Taehyung replied coldly and Yoongi slit him a glare, likely not very used to Taehyung’s abrupt, outright manner of hostility. It was foreign even to Taehyung. Even when he’d killed or tortured people in the name of the mob, he'd always joked around with them, smiled and spoke pleasantly, politely, as he watched their blood drain in the basement. But he couldn't muster up a smile right now.

“What’s with the tone? Are you pissed over the shitty tragic end to your romance and taking it out on me?” Yoongi goaded and Taehyung had to laugh at that. Out of everyone, Taehyung was the one person Yoongi didn't usually speak to like this.

“Yes. But so are you, aren't you?” Taehyung pointed out dryly, humorlessly, and Yoongi just snorted, expression a storm as he stalked off.

“Touché.”

Taehyung closed his eyes, letting his head fall back against the wall and taking in a deep, steadying breath. So Yoongi hadn't known Taehyung was the one comforting his pitiful, abused boyfriend and putting him back together to be broken, time and time again? Of course, Jungkook hadn't known either. That one night after he and Jungkook had gotten back from the trip around the country, he'd been about to tell Jungkook everything. Jungkook didn't even know the main reason Taehyung had taken him on that trip in the first place, though Taehyung did genuinely want to take him anyway. But it was mainly because he knew, before Namjoon or anyone else, that the police were coming to search BigHit, and he had to take Jungkook away from the casino during that time, to make sure he didn't catch on to anything.

But in any case, that night after they'd gotten back, there was a moment where he'd seriously considered coming clean with everything - not just about being a mobster. But then he'd gotten a call from Jimin and the distraction had killed his resolve. Jungkook hadn't known where he was going and didn't say much, but Taehyung could hear the hurt and resentment in his voice sometimes, although he knew Jungkook was trying to hide it. That time too, he'd been with Jimin, and then after that… Jinwoo.

“Last week we took out Lee’s group. That makes around forty two now. So far there’s been no movement. Not just from Jaeguk, but from any other big boys on this concrete playground. So, we’ve got to think-”

“-are they keeping themselves under the radar right now? Do they not know what we’re aiming to do, that we’re coming for them after all the rest have been cleaned up? Or are they afraid to retaliate? Or what else.” Yoongi cut in and finished Namjoon’s words. Taehyung wasn't really listening, nothing really sinking in. He sat across the room from everyone else, hiding himself away in the shadows to escape the necessity of responding. He could tell Namjoon was watching him, and analysing him. He probably wanted to get to the bottom of why Taehyung was so uncharacteristically subdued and close-lipped during the discussion. Taehyung was just… out of it. He didn't want to think about any of this for a little while longer. But Namjoon’s order had been explicit - as soon as he got back from the trip, he was to report back and catch up on anything that might have been changed or decided on in his absence. That horrid, gnawing feeling of despair swallowing him whole, and a sick guilt curdling in his stomach only intensified now, after spending that wild, beautiful month with Jungkook, out on beaches and in the sunlit forests.

The door opened quietly, and Seokjin came in.


“It’s not that they don’t know. Or that they’re afraid. They’re choosing not to do anything. We all know that. Mr J’s lot are quite a tough crowd to please.” Seokjin stated calmly, matter of factly, as he crossed the empty, open space of the dimly lit office, stopping beside the leather couch Namjoon and Hoseok were seated on. He didn't sit down with them, instead opting to remain standing, resting his hand lightly on Namjoon’s shoulder. Taehyung didn't look up or acknowledge him as he would've in the past.

“What, so we just wreak all the havoc we want? How degrading. Maybe if we put on a flashy show, our audience will wanna get in on the fun as well. Although, is that what we’re wanting, right now?” Hoseok spoke thoughtfully and Taehyung didn't know the answer, even if he wanted to reply. He studied the gradient of light to shadow crossing the wall and curving over the backs of couches, spilling over the leather seats in harsh lines, and let his mind wander to Jungkook’s beautifully exuberant expression when Taehyung had told him he loved him.

“It’s not as if we ever started throwing our weight around for the sole purpose of provoking Jaeguk to attack us in some way. That wasn’t the intention, still isn’t, so I’d say until they do challenge us, there’s no reason for us to get upset over the fact that we’re being left alone to take over underground Seoul at our pace.” Namjoon shrugged as he spoke, keeping his posture casual, but the steady, firm tone conveying his unspoken order of “so don't do anything to them” was heard loud and clear to everyone in the room.

Seokjin was speaking. “Namjoon. We have to consider that they might actually feel threatened, and are planning something behind the scenes, in enough secrecy that our intel doesn't reach that far.”

“That's why I have people keeping an eye on various members. Jinwoo, for example. So far, nothing’s been happening on that end.” Namjoon replied softly and Taehyung twitched at the mention of Jinwoo. Taehyung didn't have to look at Namjoon and Seokjin to know they were having their little moment, which was happening more frequently as of late. For a moment, Taehyung really hated them. They were allowed to be with one another, without any deception, without any lies and inevitable oncoming betrayal, there was nothing keeping them apart, yet they chose to play around with each other like this. Whereas Taehyung knew his days with Jungkook were dwindling.

“Yikes. The bedroom eyes are getting too much for me.” Hoseok exclaimed cheerfully and hopped off the couch, stretching and promptly turning to leave the room. Yoongi followed suit, although in a much more leisurely, Min Yoongi-esque “this is a waste of my energy” way.

“You both know that we’re only here to talk business. You can stay.” Namjoon snorted, voice flippant but echoing with a sort of emptiness that Taehyung couldn't help but feel sympathy for, for at least a moment. Seokjin didn't say anything.

“With all due respect, boss, I'd rather fuck myself on a cactus than watch you two tiptoe around each other for any longer than is completely necessary.” Yoongi drawled over his shoulder as he slipped his hands into his pockets, striding out the door alongside Hoseok. Namjoon snorted again but didn't rebuke him. Taehyung almost smiled. Typical Yoongi.

“In what language would that even be considered remotely respectful?” Hoseok asked Yoongi amusedly, voice fading as they shut the door behind them and moved away.

“Namjoon.” Seokjin spoke quietly, and Taehyung felt that calculating, analysing stare fix itself on him, and so knew the next comment was said for his benefit. “Taehyung and the Red Ace had been on a trip for a while, hadn't they? The Red Ace hasn't shown up for a solid month and a bit. But they're back now.”

“Apparently so, yeah.” Namjoon replied slowly, also watching Taehyung. Taehyung didn't give them any reaction, or showed any signs that he'd heard them. “What do you think of him?”

“I’m not too sure. I’d like him, except… the circumstances being what they are. Well, I’ve only ever met him once. And that was months ago, now that I think about it. Late summer.” Seokjin moved forward as he spoke, and Namjoon didn’t reply, raising his hand in a silent proffer, turning to stare at him again. Seokjin paused, something flickering in his eyes, expression tightening just a tiny bit before he reached out and grasped it, slotting their fingers in a light hold, almost obligingly. Taehyung stood stiffly and turned to leave, knowing his input or presence wasn't necessary right now.

“Joker.” At Namjoon’s hard, commanding tone, Taehyung stopped in his tracks, turning back slightly. Namjoon’s didn't say anything, and Taehyung could feel his eyes on his back. He shoved down the ugly black emotions swirling in his chest and gritted his teeth.

“I know.” Taehyung muttered in response after a few beats of silence, before swiftly, quietly exiting the room.

~

Taehyung closed the door behind him quietly, glancing over to the bed to see if Jungkook was awake. He seemed to be fast asleep so Taehyung made all his movements careful and quiet as he got changed and got ready for bed. He paused beside Jungkook before getting in bed, watching him sleep for a moment, gorgeous face caught in the slight glow of a sliver of moonlight. When Jungkook slept, he lost the usual edge of fire and power that he naturally held about him, and Taehyung could lose track of time for hours just watching the beautiful innocence resting in his slack features. He flattened his lips, swallowing with difficulty and trying to convince himself it was worth it. Worth destroying what he had right now. Taehyung took in a deep breath, pain and gloomy despair weighing his chest down like chains fastened to his body. He lifted the blanket slightly and lay down beside Jungkook, pressing himself against Jungkook’s warm body and draping his arm over Jungkook’s arm. He closed his eyes and breathed in Jungkook’s familiar smell, feeling Jungkook stir and shift.

“Taehyung…? I thought you were at the casino…” Jungkook mumbled blearily, voice airy and soft, and he lifted the blanket up invitingly. Taehyung smiled and shifted to get comfortable, pressing himself closer into Jungkook’s warmth. He hummed and rested his head against Jungkook’s shoulder, sighing a little.

“I was. Just came back.” Taehyung replied quietly, smiling wider involuntarily as Jungkook shifted and nudged him up a little to place an arm beneath his back, wrapping it around him and curling warm fingers over his shoulder. He felt a kiss on the top of his head.

“How many times have I told you not to take those long ass walks by yourself at night? Especially when it's so cold. See, you're shivering. Take a cab or something.” Jungkook sighed, tone stern and scolding but Taehyung just grinned, heart fluttering as always, whenever Jungkook fussed and nagged over little things like this and let Taehyung know he cared. Taehyung whined, tugging the blanket up further and burrowing closer against Jungkook.

“Wanted to.” Taehyung replied indignantly, and Jungkook tsked, tightening his fingers on Taehyung’s shoulder until Taehyung squirmed in discomfort, laughing silently.

“Should've gone back to your place then. It's much closer. Why come all the way over here?” Jungkook muttered exasperatedly and Taehyung snorted, knowing he didn't mind.

“I wanted to cuddle.” Taehyung announced with firm finality, and Jungkook sighed again, poking and prodding at Taehyung’s cheek and jaw, and Taehyung giggled. Taehyung raised a hand and pawed blindly at Jungkook’s fingers, bringing them to his lips and kissing a fingertip.

“You've been cuddling and sleeping with me every single night for a whole month. We just got back from Busan today. Aren't you sick of me yet?” Jungkook spoke, pressing the pad of his finger against Taehyung’s lip and Taehyung stuck out his tongue to lick it, grinning. He would never, ever be sick of Jungkook.

“Never.” Taehyung declared and planted a firm kiss on Jungkook’s chest, wrapping himself around Jungkook as tightly and bodily as he could. Jungkook grunted at his weight and twitched in discomfort as Taehyung shoved one cold foot between Jungkook’s calves and pressed the other somewhere up near his hipbone. Taehyung only grinned wider as Jungkook sighed, loving how he could sense the smile even in the darkness. Point having been made, Taehyung released him from the bear hug and once again settled against him comfortably, resting his fingers against Jungkook’s taut stomach. He fell quiet for a while, breathing slowing and evening out, tension melting away from his body as he lay against Jungkook.

Taehyung couldn’t stay relaxed for very long though, the sharp taste of guilt probing at his tongue and pushing it to speak. He could tell Jungkook was still awake, and he wondered what he was thinking about. Even as he tried his best to just forget everything and just fall asleep curled by Jungkook’s side and soak in his warmth, images of dark, deep folds of shadow flashed behind his closed lids. A sick feeling churned in the back of his throat as he lay beside a completely oblivious Jungkook, who was terrifyingly unknowing of the schemes he’d been caught up in. Namjoon’s harsh reminder, when he called Taehyung by his casino name, resonated in his mind, ringing in his ears incessantly despite his best efforts to shut the sound out and just stop thinking about it. He knew Namjoon was starting to suspect Taehyung had thoughts of betraying the mob for Jungkook, and he let Taehyung know to remind him of his place, of his duty and what he had to do.

Don’t get too invested.

That’s what Seokjin had advised Taehyung the first time he’d baited in someone like this. He’d laughed it off, thinking it to be an unnecessary, ridiculous statement. Of course he wouldn’t get invested in someone he was setting up. He wasn’t an idiot. But now…

He really was an idiot, wasn’t he. Never mind Namjoon, even Taehyung was starting to suspect himself, and where his loyalties truly lay. With Namjoon, with Jungkook, or with…

Taehyung spoke up abruptly, offsetting the drowsy, still and quiet atmosphere, his fierce inner turmoil slipping past his self control as a breath of air.

“Hoseok asked me where we’d been. Apparently some of the pros have been asking about you.” Taehyung murmured, and felt Jungkook shift slightly. He knew he shouldn’t say anything and stir Jungkook’s suspicions. He should just swallow the black, poisonous coil of conflict back down and sleep, but he was getting so, so tired recently. He couldn’t stay with Jungkook like this all the time, he had to get back to work, both his day and night occupations and everything weighing down on him and looming up ever closer was… getting to him a little. He hadn’t ever expected the possibility that he couldn’t handle it.

“Have they? That's good. I've been looking forward to start playing seriously again.” Jungkook replied with innocent excitement and Taehyung tensed, feel despair suddenly surge up in a suffocating tidal wave crashing down over him. The words tripped out of his lips before he could stop them.

“You ever thought about… doing anything else? Quitting gambling? Getting a degree, a job, and leaving dark rooms and dirty cash behind as just a memory?” Taehyung asked quietly, softly, feeling as if he was touching an abstract something best left alone, like he was whispering words of irredemption. He hadn’t ever considered the thought. But the words had just slipped out, perhaps from the very roots of his subconscious. What if he just… came clean with everything? What if he stopped everything? Did he really need the money? Did being part of the mob, did belonging to the casino bring him anything but dread and a tired, reluctant resignation anymore? Not to mention a constant fear suspended over him, fear of being caught, fear of what Namjoon might do to him as punishment if he ever committed a wrong against the mob, fear of becoming the pursued instead of the pursuer, fear of retribution and fear of losing. And now with Jungkook… Taehyung felt Jungkook stiffen, fingers tensing against Taehyung’s skin at his words.

“What do you mean? What do you mean quit gambling? What else would I do? I… what else can I do? Why all of a sudden?” Jungkook spoke slowly, a little testily, and something tiny snapped inside Taehyung at the bewildered, slightly defensive response. Taehyung scrambled up so he leant over Jungkook, hands pushing himself up on either side of Jungkook’s shoulders, staring down at Jungkook intently, at his tight, concerned expression.

“We could do it. I know we could. We’re millionaires. We could just disappear off somewhere. We have enough money to get by, and you're still in university, you could study properly from now on and get yourself a degree and a proper job. I know you could. We could- we could stop gambling.” Taehyung spoke urgently, a little desperately. The moon slipping through a gap in the curtains dashed a claw of light across Taehyung’s face and he watched Jungkook’s eyes widen slightly, glittering with confusion and tense worry. Part of Taehyung wanted to sigh and lie back down. He himself knew he wasn't going to listen to his own words. They were like a joke that wasn't very funny at all. Run away? As if he, as if either of them could. The corners of his eyes were stinging slightly.

Jungkook’s face set into a trepidated, uneasy frown as he reached up to touch Taehyung’s face, fingers pierced by the silver light. “Taehyung what’s- Are you okay? What's going on-?”

“People die from this, you know. Maybe not from a single game, maybe not even from a hundred games. But they always do, if they don't stop. And if you don't, you end up killing. Maybe not with the intention in mind, but every time you win a game, somebody else loses.” Taehyung whispered and turned his head to the side sharply, avoiding Jungkook’s touch, unable to maintain eye contact with his unsuspecting, innocent boyfriend. He knew Jungkook knew all that already, but the words just wouldn’t stop coming, serving as a warning to them both as they hung with a disproportionately heavy weight in the still air between them. Gambling was dangerous business. Everyone knew that. But not all heeded to that knowledge. Like Jungkook. Jungkook didn't speak immediately as he stared up at Taehyung with a sort of muted shock flickering in his wide, beautiful eyes.

“What- are you- Do you really want to stop? Are you being serious? I didn't know you thought about… I- You want me to stop too?” Jungkook asked slowly, seriously, as the faces of all the people Taehyung had cheated, crushed, lied to, tortured and murdered, flashed in his mind’s eye, and it was like a slap to the face, as Taehyung realised that no, he wasn’t being serious. Taehyung flinched a little, like Jungkook stating the idea only solidified an unwelcome, unpleasant thought that shouldn't have been spoken aloud.

“No- I… I didn't mean… I don't… really want to stop, I- it was just a… a thought. Just thinking about… ‘what if’s, I guess.” Taehyung muttered, slowly deflating a little, uncertainty and hesitation staying his tongue and whispering at him to reconsider. It was too late for him to turn over a new leaf at this point. He’d never leave the underground mob scene, he knew that now as he heard Jungkook’s words and realised that he truly didn’t want to stop. He was too immersed in bloodlust. At some point along the way, the blood staining his fingertips no longer disgusted but instead thrilled him. In that case, he would continue to carry out his role, and keep his mouth shut and curved in a bright, easy smile. But… he couldn’t do this to Jungkook, after all. The thought was like a lightning bolt striking him, igniting his mind with conviction again, and Taehyung tensed, snapping his gaze up to meet Jungkook’s eyes. He was going to tell him everything, and figure out the rest later. “Actually- there's something I have to-”

Taehyung’s phone rang. It rung out jarringly, dissonant notes cracking their way through the room, filling it with an incessant, obnoxious buzz. Taehyung froze, words dying on the tip of his tongue, and the conviction and resolve vanished in a second, his thoughts curling in on themselves, shutters from the disturbance and distraction sapping him of strength to continue. It was like the sudden noise brought the world crashing back down around him, and Jungkook’s confused expression only served to push him down further. He blinked, a million words left unsaid, escaping from his tongue and lips, and he tore his stare away from Jungkook’s magnetic gaze before he lost himself in those warm eyes. He hopped off the bed, finding his phone and picking up the call. It was Jimin. He took in a deep breath, closing his eyes and steeling himself, slightly dizzy.

“J- hello? What's up?” Taehyung answered quietly, pressing a hand to his chest and gritting his teeth as he felt his pulse racing beneath his skin. He had to pull himself together to help Jimin. It was most definitely about Yoongi again.

“T-Taehyung, I’m sorry- did, did I wake you? I… Please come help me… It was Yoongi again… It- it hurts-” Jimin was breathless, voice barely above a whisper, and Taehyung understood even before he’d spoken, really, so just kept it brief.

“Where?” Taehyung asked simply, feeling pain tug at him listening to Jimin’s harsh breathing, catching on the usual tiny sobs here and there. At least his pain couldn’t be compared to Jimin’s, pain caused by the very hands of the person he loved so much. At Jimin’s mutter of “casino”, Taehyung replied, “I'll be there soon.”

“What happened?” Jungkook asked quietly as Taehyung ended the call and got changed. Taehyung paused, biting his lip at the hollowness in Jungkook’s dry tone. He’d… he’d come back and fix this once he was done helping Jimin, and… and when he felt he could take looking Jungkook in the eyes again.

“A friend’s in a bit of trouble. Mind if I take your car? I'll be back soon.” Taehyung replied simply and Jungkook didn’t press the issue, answering easily.

“Keys are on the dresser.”

~


“Are you okay now?” Taehyung murmured as he stood from the bed. Jimin crossed his legs beneath him and nodded absently.

“Yeah. Thank you for staying with me, as always. Hurry and get back to Jungkook. It’s already morning, he’ll be worried.” Jimin whispered and Taehyung stared at him for a beat of silence, wondering whether Jimin ever envied him. He turned and made his way over to the door of the dark little room, opening it when Jimin spoke again.

“Is it worth it?”

Taehyung paused, turning back to meet Jimin’s haunted gaze. He asked himself the same question.

“I don’t know.”

Taehyung smiled humorlessly, pausing his trip down memory lane right there. He kept his eyes closed as involuntary images flashed through his mind, of the complete and utter shock, betrayal and overwhelming hurt settling into Jungkook’s slack, openly heartbroken expression. The beginnings of hollow anger had begun flickering through the dazed disbelief in his wide eyes as he stared up at Taehyung from where he’d been held down by the lackeys.

Taehyung didn't know how he was going to live with himself. But he had to. His job was not done yet. Mr Jeon had been put behind bars, but there was plenty left to do. Jungkook was… Jungkook had just been a small, irrelevant part of the package in carrying out his duty as a mob executive working at BigHit.

~

Jimin first met Yoongi at BigHit.

He'd just been a regular innocent boy who’d moved into a big city all by himself for college, heard about the style and grandeur of one of the biggest casinos in town, BigHit, and decided to go try his luck once. He'd been a pretty good card player, nothing like Jungkook when he'd first started out, but still enough to slowly, steadily gain recognition, letting his head surface above the rolling waves of cash. But he'd only discovered his aptitude as a gambler when he met Yoongi.

The moment he saw Yoongi, something had changed. He knew it in that moment, that his life was never going to be the same. He never knew just what it'd become, but even so, he didn't regret a thing, not if it meant being able to be by Yoongi’s side.

Yoongi had approached him first, not attempting to hide the danger simmering in his smile, not attempting to be someone he wasn't, and Jimin fell for him, hard. He knew there were going to be costs, but he’d figured those would be small prices to pay.

“You have a really innocent face.” Yoongi commented flippantly, smiling slightly as he gazed at Jimin, who grinned and raised an eyebrow, scooting forward and resting his chin on Yoongi’s shoulder.

“Hm, well is it cute though?”

“I guess you could say that.” Yoongi replied with slight amusement hinted at in his tone, and he nudged Jimin’s cheek lightly with the knuckle of his forefinger. Jimin couldn’t stop his smile widening uncontrollably if he tried, entire body light and floaty as he basked in Yoongi’s attention.

Yoongi smirked a little. “You could try bluffing in games, you know. You’d probably pull it off pretty well with this face. I could teach you.”

And so Jimin started learning how to bluff his way through any and all games, going off the basics Yoongi had taught him and using his “innocent” face to pave the way for him. He began developing his own playing style and honing the skill to perfection, learning exactly how and when to bait opponents in, sending all the right, subtle visual cues as if he had total control of the game and scaring them off with unshown loser cards. Yoongi had introduced him to a big name in the casino, the Blank Card Seokjin, and he’d taught Jimin how to read players, how to know which tactic to use to approach opponents ranging from utterly oblivious to paranoid and suspicious of every little thing. He was winning all of his games, subtly, bit by bit, purposefully forgettably, to make sure nobody ever caught on and figured him out. It wasn’t long before he’d earnt himself a place among the big names, alongside Seokjin and the boss, Kim Namjoon, with the title of the Two-Faced Bluff. The name had bothered him a little at first, but he took it in his stride once Yoongi had praised his skill. He kept everything on the down low and remained an obscure, vague and hidden entity within the casino, someone everyone knew by name but not by face, as Yoongi advised him to do. Otherwise, if he was known to all, his opponents would start off games with eyes peeled, and remain on high alert the entire time, expecting him to pull bluffs, making his job a lot harder. Yoongi was right about that, as he was about everything.

Bruises started to blemish his skin with greater frequency the longer Jimin stayed beside Yoongi, and he’d thought nothing of it at first, turning a blind eye to the momentary flashes of darkness crossing Yoongi’s face sometimes, pretending he couldn’t hear the sometimes menacing tone. But when Jimin had gotten curious, once, as to where it was Yoongi always disappeared off to behind the casino, he’d followed him and seen something he shouldn’t have, and Yoongi never treated him the same again.

“Y-Yoongi.” Jimin gasped shakily, taking trembling steps backwards, hand rising slowly to cover his mouth in pure shock. Yoongi’s head snapped up and his terrifying, wild, fiery stare locked with Jimin’s in a moment of suffocating silence. Jimin’s stomach churned, and his vision shook a little. Yoongi’s pale fingers were coated in thick, dark blood, beads of it rolling down the sharp, gleaming knife and dripping rhythmically, forming a tiny, dark puddle that grew across the dirty, cracked concrete infinitesimally. There were tiny specks of red dashed on the tips of his fringe, giving the illusion of bleeding into his eyes that glinted from the shadow of his face. The body crumpled on the floor twitched once, before falling still. For a moment more, Yoongi just stared at Jimin, standing over the body, as eerily unmoving as the corpse was. Then he spoke, in the most dangerous, threateningly low voice Jimin had ever heard.

“Are you going to run?”

After that, Jimin had merely shook his head mutely, too shocked and terrified to really comprehend what he’d witnessed, and so later, when Yoongi had dragged him back into the casino, he’d explained everything in a huge room hidden away in the back that looked like an abandoned warehouse. How Yoongi was a mobster, how he killed people for a living, how he’d already forgotten the name and face of the person he’d just murdered, how being one of the big names at the casino meant he was an executive. Yoongi told Jimin everything about BigHit, about the boss Namjoon, about the inner workings of the casino, even about how he’d originally approached Jimin because he’d looked like he could be useful in the future.

Jimin didn’t know what had made him accept joining, even after Yoongi said he could choose to ignore everything he’d seen and heard that night. He met Namjoon, was sworn to secrecy, went through all the proper procedures and trials including committing his first cold-blooded murder - all of which flashed past in a blur, and thus, he became the Two-Faced Bluff Jimin, a mob executive. He’d risen to a position of power in no time at all, after having proved his worth in both cards and completing the nauseating, dirty deeds of the underground world without flinching, due to his lack of hesitation and uncertainty in doing anything Yoongi told him to do. He’d met the other executives, Hoseok and Taehyung. Hoseok and Taehyung were even more terrifying than Yoongi or Namjoon. They killed people with bright, radiant, exhilarated smiles on their faces.

Jimin quickly became close friends with Taehyung despite this. Taehyung became the one he’d always turn to after bearing through one of Yoongi’s fits of rage. Taehyung never complained, and never suggested he thought badly of Jimin and Yoongi’s relationship, despite all its obvious problems. If Jimin had opened up to say, Jungkook instead, his other best friend he’d met in college, during his past life spent soaking in the sun’s warmth up on the surface, he was sure Jungkook wouldn’t have understood why Jimin refused to leave Yoongi’s side. He would definitely try to persuade Jimin to leave, for his own good, Jimin knew, but nevertheless… He didn’t want to hear it.

No matter how many times he killed, cheated and lied, or partook in the cold watching of various gruesome executions carried out usually by Hoseok, Taehyung or Yoongi, he could never get used to it. He never truly wanted to be a part of it all. He wanted to run, now. But he couldn’t bring himself to choose freedom over Yoongi. Yoongi had laughed, reminding Jimin of his hypocrisy.

“You don’t want to do this anymore? You hate cheating people?”

“…Yeah.”

“Don’t be fucking ridiculous. What have you been doing all along? What do you think wearing the mask of a bluffer means?”

When Jimin was delegated the task of introducing Jungkook to cards and bringing him to the casino, ultimately to destroy his life in the long run no matter what the outcome was, that was the first time he’d paused to question something Yoongi had asked him to do. Namjoon wasn’t too thrilled when Jimin had showed signs of doubt and unwillingness, but after a few harsh words from Yoongi, Jimin had just swallowed down his reluctance and got to work.

When Namjoon had shifted the role of double-crosser to Taehyung, Jimin had heaved a sigh of relief. Not just because he didn’t want to lie to Jungkook anymore and it was getting harder and harder to keep up a smile around him, but because he wanted to distance himself. He could tell after watching Jungkook play game after game, that Yoongi would most definitely hate him. Once Yoongi met Jungkook, he would get angry at Jimin for being friends with him. So he’d considered breaking off his relationship with Jungkook for a while, and then he’d accidentally bumped into Mr Jeon at Jungkook’s house. For a moment there, Jimin thought he was about to be shot in the head. He had not expected to meet Mr Jeon in a place without the protection of the mob surrounding him. Mr Jeon had recognised him, for sure. Jungkook had been confused to no end, and suspicion had flared in his eyes when Jimin had accidentally let it slip that he thought Mr Jeon was supposed to still be in America. He wasn’t supposed to have known, and though he covered it up, the suspicion in Jungkook’s stare hadn’t lessened in the slightest, which Jimin couldn’t blame him for. After that, it just settled it for Jimin. He could not and no longer wanted to stay around Jungkook. So he blocked Jungkook’s number and made sure to never make contact with him, avoiding crossing paths with him at all costs whenever he was at the casino.

Yoongi’s temperament had only worsened as time passed, and Jimin hadn’t meant to call Taehyung so frequently, but he couldn’t help it. Then a few months ago, he’d called Taehyung at night, only to have Jungkook pick it up for him. He hadn’t expected Jungkook to be with him, seeing as at the time, Taehyung had stayed cooped up in the casino for a whole week, eyes red from tears and expression tight with tension. When Jimin had accidentally informed him of the nature of his relationship with Yoongi over the phone, Jungkook had, as Jimin expected, badmouthed Yoongi and spoke derisively of the relationship. It had hit a little too close to home, when Jungkook had just casually slapped down the word “abusive”. Having never heard it said aloud to him, what with Taehyung being so quietly accepting all the time, it was like a rude wake-up call that Jimin didn’t want to hear. It drove him to saying things he didn’t truly mean, and effectively drove Jungkook away from him for good. He’d told himself it didn’t matter about anyone else, as long as he had Yoongi.

And now, as Jungkook spat scathingly at them from across the card table, just barely restrained by the lackeys holding him back, something having snapped inside of him and releasing a terrifying inferno of rage on par with Yoongi on his bad days, Jimin could barely look anyone in the eye, least of all Yoongi. Upon hearing Jungkook’s harsh, real words accurately depicting his and Yoongi’s relationship flung out in the open like that, Jimin felt like he was going to pass out from the blow. He couldn’t really focus on the rest of the conversation anymore, after Yoongi had stormed out.

Jungkook was staring wide-eyed, shell-shocked up at Namjoon, as he found out that his father had been arrested.


~

Chapter Text

 

Fuck.

That was about the only word that made up Jungkook’s vocabulary recently.

Fuck. The air cut into the skin at the back of his throat as he drew in quick, desperate, burning breaths. Fuck. White-hot pain burst in his lower leg as he tripped over a bundle of thin steel pipes jutting out from the rusty pile of timber to the side of the dingy street. Fuck. Footsteps thundered behind him ceaselessly and his vision was starting to blur both from sharp wind whipping past drawing unshed tears, and the numbing waves of despair dragging his feet. He wasn't going to be let off so easy this time, he knew.

It'd been roughly three months of this shit.

Jungkook wasn't too sure, as time has blurred and pitch black days merged with endless nights of constant running, running and more running. Three months since that night at BigHit. Three months on the run.

The reason Jungkook was half wanting to just stop running and let his pursuers catch him, let them do whatever they wanted and just give up on surviving through this, was because his debt had increased into an overwhelmingly impossible black hole of money. As if the nine million wasn't enough to fuck him over, he discovered that his father, his good old imprisoned father, had racked up an even greater debt. A debt Jungkook was required to pay.

“I have to what?”

“Pay for your father’s debt. He’d signed your name here on the contract we’d set up years ago, that you were responsible in covering the remaining money in the event he was unable to keep paying. Unfortunately Mr Jeon is officially behind bars as of today, so that puts you in a rather terrible position. But don't worry, Mr Jeon has been obediently paying up for twenty years now, he only has sixteen million left that you'll need to produce for us.” Namjoon smiled in a way Jungkook could only imagine was a mockery of encouragement. Jungkook’s head was spinning again. His lips had parted and he could feel them moving slightly, but no words came. He couldn't quite tell if he was breathing.

“He… He ‘only’ has six… sixteen million left? He's been… paying a debt for… twenty years? My… my father?” Jungkook could hear his slow, stammering response as if it was spoken by someone else, the buzzing in his mind enveloping his body and shrouding clear thought. The air felt like ice encased around his skin.

“Yes, even the rich, successful Mr Jeon couldn't quite handle the admittedly enormous amounts of interest his original debt had generated. We’ve been very civil towards him over the years, but unfortunately that resulted in this contract dragging out for about as long as you've been alive.” Namjoon explained in a regretful tone of voice that had Jungkook wanting to throw up, each word twisting the knife deeper into his gut.

Jungkook had difficulty taking in a breath to speak. “The debt… What was it even for…?”

“Is that what's most important right now, Jungkookie?” Hoseok piped up chirpily and Jungkook slit him a scathing glare at the fake familiarity. Hoseok merely smiled benignly.

“We’ve assumed that you wouldn't want your portion of debt to drag out the way your father’s did, so we’re willing to cut the interest for you.” Seokjin spoke quietly, emotionlessly and Jungkook slowly slid his eyes over to rest on that stupidly blank face, his body all but paralysed, frozen stiff from the horror of the situation.

“Oh yeah? At what cost?” Jungkook was impressed at the steadiness of his own slightly derisive voice. Seokjin smiled at that, sliding a thin pile of papers across the table towards him. A contract, Jungkook assumed.

“You need to pay us everything you have right now. Your savings, assets, possessions, everything you can access. We can stagger the repayments after that but for now, we’ll be having a few men accompany you to the bank and your house tonight.” Seokjin replied pleasantly and Jungkook closed his eyes for a moment, feeling his body sway in his seat as dizziness threatened to consume him whole.

“Nine plus sixteen… Twenty-five million. Should be no problem for you, Jungkookie. Mind telling us how much a rich heir like you is worth?” Jimin murmured, voice thin and just above a whisper. Jungkook dragged his stare over to Jimin, who sat back in his chair, head tilted down, chin tucked into himself, shadowed eyes lifted and boring into Jungkook with so little life Jungkook had to physically suppress a flinch. He recovered what was left of his composure and forcibly dragged the corners of his lips back in a snarl that could only just barely pass for some sort of a smile as bitter, bitter anger coursed through him once more.

“Blow me.” Jungkook bit out and Jimin snorted, averting his hollow, soulless eyes. The jab at him and Yoongi earlier really seemed to have hit hard. Good. He glanced back at Namjoon. “By the way, if my name had already been signed to pay my father’s debt, what was the purpose of making me lose that further nine million?”

“Who said it was on purpose? Maybe you just lost fair and square.” Hoseok offered brightly and Jungkook smiled but had to pause and swallow before he could continue.

“Bullshit. You guys swapped the cards while Hoseok went to shut the doors and Taehyung caught my attention by telling me he loved me, right?” Jungkook replied tiredly, hating the tiny tremor in his tone as he spoke Taehyung’s name, but too worn out to care about showcasing his weakness in front of others anymore. The Bangtan members exchanged glances in a moment of tight silence. Jungkook sighed. Surely they didn't expect he wouldn't realise and figure it out.

“You're too smart to be wasted away by debt. Such a shame. If you make it out alive, we’d love to have someone like you on board.” Namjoon grinned and Jungkook was half a second away from flipping him off but refrained, because his finger would likely be chopped off. Mob style and all that. Namjoon tapped the papers with one finger. “Sign here.”

The days that followed had been a blur Jungkook barely remembered a second of. His world had quite thoroughly been flipped upside down from that very day. His father had signed the mansion away as collateral for his debt so that was the first thing to go. Jungkook still didn't know what the debt even originated from, or why his father had been arrested, but he had other things to worry about. Like living out on the streets with nothing to his name other than the clothes on his back, a pack of cards in his pocket and his phone which they'd allowed him to keep for contacting purposes.

That night Jungkook handed over roughly eighteen million, made up from the mansion, his assets and belongings, his savings and his father’s. The remaining seven million was to be paid over a six month period. That meant 1.16 million per month. Needless to say, Jungkook had been completely, utterly unable to make a over a million dollars in one month. He'd come close to half of that though, thanks to his gambling skills and experience which couldn't be taken away even in this impossible situation.

Having been banned from setting foot in BigHit other than to bring that month’s money, he had to search for other casinos through the city. Sounded simple in theory, but the reality was much harsher. It had been no simple feat finding a place that was safe enough to gamble in that gave him some sort of guarantee of being able to walk away with his winnings, that also housed players willing to bet thousands at a time. And once he played in one place, the menacing scowls of the less than friendly owners and gang ringleaders eyeing his money drove him away to find a different place. Winning games was the easiest part of it.

During every day that passed after the due date of that month’s repayment, he'd been chased down by Namjoon’s men. The mob Namjoon led was called Bangtan. “Bulletproof”. Jungkook really wanted to test that out, perhaps on Namjoon, or Yoongi. The mob, Jungkook had learnt, was not only the biggest, most powerful underground organisation ruling over the city, but also ruthless and relentless. He'd been beaten up so many times there were more bruises and cuts and scrapes than normal, unblemished skin covering his body at this point. He'd gotten his assailants to back off once vowing to pay the rest of the money at a set time, giving him a window of three days, in which he went and found a gambling den. He’d desperately played game after game like a man possessed, narrowly escaping with his life after inevitably angering just about every gangster in there from his no doubt annoying, unacceptable winning streak. He couldn't remember, and wasn't too keen on remembering how he'd managed to make it out in one piece, let alone with all the money. Flashes of the metal of knives and walls of muscled bodies gearing up to fight him, blocking out the meagre lights of the room stuffed to the ceiling full of smoke remained in the residue of his fragmented memories. He always shook them away as soon as they threatened to materialise in his mind.

Jungkook had never been without wealth, so surviving on the streets at night was something that was definitely not doable. He'd decided from the second day that he needed a place to sleep each night or early morning at least. It wasn't a method Jungkook would ever have even considered acceptable instead of detestable in the past, let alone his favourite option, but it was the only one he could afford. He found a different girl each night, keeping his standards strictly to “willing to let me stay over and use her shower”, and went home with her for some mindless, filthy sex in exchange for a bed for the night. He was always gone before the sun rose. He felt like a prostitute, he guessed.

Jungkook hated that he'd been reduced to this. Hate wasn't a strong enough word for it. Pitch black swallowed his vision every time he had time to stop and breathe and think about it briefly.

The next month had roughly followed the same pattern, and that brought him to now. He found himself crushing whatever was in his hand subconsciously at times, and he'd caught himself laughing deliriously occasionally. He was going mad, he could feel it.

He hadn't seen Taehyung since that night.

Every time he thought about Taehyung, it'd ended up with split skin over his knuckles as he'd inevitably punch whatever was next to him, usually a brick wall. He was angry at Taehyung, of course…

But he was mainly angry - infuriated, at himself.

Taehyung was the reason he could feel every one of his ribs against his skin with each breath he took, Taehyung was the reason he even had to deal with any of this shit in the first place, yet…

Jungkook missed him. He couldn't just suddenly stop loving Taehyung just like that, in fact he wasn't sure he'd ever be able to truly stop loving him, no matter what he did. He hated Taehyung for what he did to him, that was a fact. He hated him down to his very core, but the hate, palpable and poisonous as it was, was unable to overrule his pathetic longing.

He longed for Taehyung’s touch and scent, his smile and his lips. His warm laughter and his sleepy greetings in the morning, the purposefully ugly faces he'd pull while listening to music, the mischievous, cheeky glint in his eyes when he told an awful joke (usually at Jungkook’s expense) that he knew would have Jungkook laughing anyway.

Jungkook tried his best not to, but every time he touched another girl, he imagined it was Taehyung’s body beneath him instead, Taehyung’s hands gripping at his shoulders and scratching down his back. He found himself closing his eyes so he wouldn't have to look at the poor girls, playing the musical sounds of Taehyung’s gasps and whimpers in his mind to block out the unfamiliar moans that jarred his ears. Quite rude, he knew, but he couldn't help it. The sweetness of a girl’s lip gloss could never come close to the sweetness of Taehyung’s tongue. The softness of a girl’s skin could never beat the softness of Taehyung’s eyes when he pried them open to stare up at Jungkook.

As if to pummel the reality into him, a kick that landed squarely in the centre of his back brought him back to the present. Jungkook went flying forward, falling against the rough ground with a choked cry of pain. He'd been caught.

Jungkook didn't remember much of what happened next. After his head had been thrown against the alley wall he couldn't really hear properly anymore. After his ribs cracked he was pretty much in a daze and could no longer keep up with what was happening. All he registered was that he was getting the beating of his life, and that pain was becoming the only thing his body knew. He didn't know how long it went on for. He didn't know how many people there were. He didn't know if they said anything to him, whether it be demanding the money now or threatening a worse beating than the one he was receiving now later if he still didn't pay up by then. His mind was blissfully, wondrously blank, to counter every inch of his body screeching and hissing at him in pain.

When he stopped responding, not even crying out anymore, the men dropped him roughly against the side of the road and watched him roll down into the ditch, and he guessed they were done with him for the night. Jungkook just stared at them looming over him without saying a word or lifting a finger, burning the image of each of their faces into his mind. It was spring already but the nights were still cold.

When they disappeared from his line of sight Jungkook exhaled, chest deflating, breath rattling in his burning lungs. His hand which had been subconsciously reaching upwards dropped to his side none too gently, energy draining out of him in a sudden rush, knuckles stinging with a prick of pain at the contact with the rough asphalt. The gravel was jagged and cutting on his bruised skin. His head lolled to the side a bit as he tried to catch his breath with minimal chest pain, vision slipping in and out of focus, mind fogged and uncooperative, chapped lips stung by the cold, biting night air.

He thought he might throw up, his stomach churning and throat tight, feeling restricted and suffocated caged inside his own body. That wasn't good, he dimly registered, as he didn't have the energy to even lift his arm back up, let alone push himself up to throw up and ensure he didn't drown in his own vomit. Good to know his survival instinct was still intact and functioning, the rest of his mind was shutting down bit by bit, head spinning with more and more intensity. His vision was swimming and the pain laced across his cracked ribs and the huge, big, fat shards of scorching pain lodged in his lower leg were lessening. Jungkook’s thoughts were still just barely clear enough to realise that the pain diminishing was definitely not a good thing, as his leg was definitely still twisted in the opposite direction, and the pain lessening could only mean he was losing his grip on consciousness. Not good. He already couldn't feel his broken elbow, the searing burn that enveloped his entire arm from shoulder to fingertip having dulled down to a vague insistent buzz. His whole face felt like a bruise. Had he lost a tooth? Maybe. He couldn't really tell.

Jungkook gazed practically sightlessly up at the dark of the sky, eyes resting on the tiny, weak specks of light dotted here and there, so, so far away from him, taunting in their apparent freedom. The cold seeped into the rips in his clothes, bleeding into his skin and sinking down to his bones, broken or otherwise.

A thought occurred to him as he lay there, on the side of the road, drawing in air painfully, but aimlessly. Say he just let himself slip into unconsciousness now. Would he go into a coma? Although Jungkook was no expert in the medical field he was fairly certain he had a concussion, and that was dangerous, wasn't it? As much as he wanted to just lie there and let his eyes shut, body pleasantly warm and numb, unable to feel the pain he knew still was wracking his body - well, he still wanted to stay alive. Just to rip those bastards apart if nothing else.

And maybe… maybe to see Taehyung again. One more time.

It was the floaty, warm image of Taehyung’s soft smile appearing in his mind’s eye like an embrace, that lent strength to his tired fingers and he lifted his unbroken arm to feel around slowly, sluggishly at the cold, rough gravel to his side. He could feel his breathing slowing a little, numbness creeping in like waves over a shore. He located his phone - thankfully it hadn't been flung out of reach- and lifted it up to his face, squinting as the harsh light of the screen pierced his eyes. He scrolled through his contacts with unsteady, weak fingers, struggling to focus his vision and pressing what he was pretty sure was Jimin’s number. He held the phone up to his ear, chest rising and falling ever slower, mind blank save for the memory of Taehyung’s smile. If he was still able to move, he'd limp to the hospital himself rather than crawl to Jimin for help but… he had to curb his pride. Otherwise it’d be a really stupid way to die. He probably wouldn't die, but. No harm in going to a hospital in case. He was fairly certain he was bleeding from the back of his head. The line connected with a click.

“Hey Jimin?” Jungkook greeted before Jimin could speak, with a dim flash of alarm at how much air he had to draw in to form the words, how much energy drained out of him just from the two words. Jungkook smiled, just a tiny twitch of his lips and continued.

“You remember… that one time you said the… the only time I'd call you for help would be… if I was lying in a ditch somewhere with two broken limbs and needed… to go… to a hospital?” Jungkook spoke horrifically slowly, each breath deep, arduous and audible, words slurred, tone transparent and breathy. There was silence on the other end of the line. Jungkook did consider that Jimin wouldn't come to his rescue, but… Though Jungkook hated the lying motherfucker and what he did to him… they'd still been close friends. Jungkook found it a little funny how he was still willing to trust in Jimin’s character, and trusted that Jimin would come. Maybe this was why he'd lost nine million, and sank into a further sixteen million in debt because of his worthless crook of a father. Jungkook swallowed a little rather than clearing his throat, for the action would probably be too painful for his scratched up, dry throat to bear.

“I'm… Well. I am, now. Lying… in a ditch, I mean. I don't… think… two broken limbs is all that I've got… to- to worry about… My head kills too.” Jungkook continued with a smile, trying to offer a weak laugh and ending up coughing explosively, throat convulsing and somehow still having the energy to make him cough hard enough to spit out another thick mouthful of blood. His throat felt like the skin had been torn right off, like it'd been set ablaze, chest constricted, spikes of pain shooting straight up to his head. He drew in ragged, scratchy breaths like a man drowning, chest heaving and squeezing his eyes shut against the pain, head feeling more like a whirlpool. His cracked ribs were demanding their presence be known, labouring his already painful breathing, his chest feeling blocked and caved in on itself and the searing, bursting pain. Once he'd recovered enough to prise his eyes open again, his vision was so blurred it was practically unseeing, scarily so, and Jungkook wondered whether it was possible to go blind from coughing. He would have to be a rare case, he'd imagine. The dry skin of his lips tore a little as he smiled, feeling beads of blood forming. Still the other end of the line remained silent, except for quiet, even breathing. Jungkook found it comforting for whatever reason, next to the sound of his own breathing, each breath obviously, audibly ragged, wet with blood and painfully dragged into protesting lungs.

“I'm… on the east side of town. You know where the huge square is…? I'm at the side… of the road where there's… a, a tattoo parlour we went to… for fun… two years ago… when we were busing all… over Seoul. There's a primary school nearby. A… few streets down. Ha. Bastards dropped me this close to a… a school? There's that huge shopping centre here too… You know where it is, right? I must be pretty far from the main road though… everything’s so dark.” Jungkook blearily mumbled, hardly even understanding his own directions. Jimin should know. Jungkook felt the sting of warm tears pricking at the corners of his half closed eyes, rolling down his cheeks as he smiled a little softer.

“Did you know that Taehyung took me here once… on Christmas Eve? He took me to the middle of the square at midnight… And showed me… the huge, beautiful Christmas tree… he'd donated to the council. Did you… go see it? With Yoongi? He said… he'd put so much red on it… because it was my favourite colour… I don't know if he was just saying that but…” Jungkook recounted softly, as gentle as his voice was able, all the pain seizing his body momentarily vanishing as he recalled the memory. He remembered the soft, scattered white snow spread across the ground and the impossibly dark night sky, dusted with listless, indecisively drifting snowflakes. He remembered Taehyung’s radiant, excited smile as he took his fingers, tinged pink with cold, away from Jungkook’s eyes, letting Jungkook have a look at the tree only when he stood directly in front of it, in the very centre of the square. He remembered the warm, impossibly warm bubble floating in his chest at the time when he broke into a smile, staring up at the breathtaking, towering Christmas tree, illuminated mostly silver but streaked with bright, subtly soft red strings of lights and decorations, and how he turned his head to see Taehyung staring at him with an utterly, openly captivated, starstruck expression, not even seeming to attempt to hide it. He'd thought… he'd thought the love and adoration he'd seen within Taehyung’s eyes had been real. His throat began to sting once more.

“Please come… get me.” Jungkook whispered into the phone, feeling the last bit of his strength and consciousness ebb away. He lowered the phone, hand falling to his side. He blinked lethargically and turned his head so his gaze was directed down at it, not for any particular reason, mind slowing almost to a stop.

His vision cleared just enough for him to see that the number he'd called was “Traffic Light”, before the call ended and the screen faded black along with Jungkook’s consciousness.

~

Namjoon tapped the surface of the dark wooden desk rhythmically with a fingertip, idly flicking through the stack of papers Hoseok had handed to him. They were expecting a visitor, though exactly when that visitor would come, neither of them knew as no message had been sent beforehand, and no appointment had been made. He knew though, that he would definitely come. After the whole fiasco two weeks ago, there was no doubt he would eventually pay a visit.

Sure enough, the door to Namjoon’s office opened, creaking slightly, and a man stepped in, followed by two others standing close by. His subordinates, most likely. Even though the man remained standing shrouded in the valley of shadow cloaking most of the spacious room, the only light currently on being the one just above Namjoon’s desk, leaving even Hoseok standing behind him in the dark, Namjoon could tell who the dark figure was by one glance.

“Excuse the cliche line, but we’ve been expecting you. So? What brings you here today, Mr Jeon?” Namjoon smiled slightly, feeling his muscles stiffen and tense, setting the papers down on his desk. Mr Jeon didn't reply, merely gesturing at the man to his left. The guy bowed his head and walked forward, placing a metal briefcase atop Namjoon’s desk and opening it, turning it around so Namjoon could check its contents. He barely glanced at it, waving Hoseok over to take it away and properly count the bundles of cash. Hoseok stepped forward silently and took the briefcase as Namjoon stared down the man moving back beneath the shadows of the room. He recognised the crisp, serious looking man as one of Mr Jeon’s men, but not by name. He wasn’t Jinwoo, the one Taehyung had approached months ago. Namjoon’s eyes flicked to the other man standing beside Mr Jeon. Jinwoo, assumedly.

“Hoseok, lights.” Namjoon called quietly and waited with a pleasant smile as Hoseok made his way across the room and hit the switch. The two subordinates twitched at the sudden flood of light but Mr Jeon barely batted an eyelash, still as a slab of stone. “Prompt with your repayments as usual, Mr Jeon. We greatly appreciate it. But you usually send one of your men for a task as mundane as this. I doubt bringing money is what you came here in person for, Mr Jeon.”

“No, it is not.” Jinwoo stepped forward to speak quietly, respectfully. Namjoon directed his blandly polite smile at him instead, already expecting Mr Jeon to speak through his subordinates like he had the few times they'd personally come across each other in the past. To his knowledge, Jinwoo, though a relatively new addition to Mr Jeon’s subordinates, was something like a right hand man. It was a shame Taehyung had fallen out with him, from what Namjoon had gathered. It would have been a hefty advantage in any potential situations that may arise in the future to have someone keeping close tabs on Mr Jeon’s second in command.

“Elaborate, if you would.” Hoseok spoke up from where he stood behind and slightly off the side from Namjoon’s leather recliner.

“There are two reasons for the visit today. Firstly, after hearing about the police sniffing around here two weeks ago, we were naturally very worried about the wellbeing of our long-standing benefactor. Mr Jeon wanted to personally check in on the situation and see if there wasn't anything we could possibly do. But of course, you have it all under control.” Jinwoo smiled and Namjoon took a moment to decipher his tone. He'd heard enough bland sweet words and flattery to last him a lifetime but this was the first time he'd heard a tone with such blatant disrespect yet with simultaneous undeniable natural politeness, that he couldn't figure out whether Jinwoo was actually sincere or not. Mr Jeon’s lot were always very interesting. Namjoon smiled.

“And the second reason?”

“I will not be paying for the next four months.” Mr Jeon finally spoke, clipped and firm, and Namjoon blinked, leaning forward slowly and linking his fingers together atop the desk.

“Will not be? Or will not be able to?” Namjoon asked quietly, dangerously, and held back a smirk as Mr Jeon’s expression tightened ever so slightly. “Oh, my apologies, that was rude of me.”

“Not at all. I will put my house as collateral for insurance.” Mr Jeon replied with a sense of finality, as if he didn't need Namjoon’s input on the decision which lay with Bangtan as they saw fit. It was irritating, but it was Mr Jeon, so it was to be expected. Furthermore, it wasn't a bad deal. From what Namjoon knew, Mr Jeon’s mansion was well worth investing in. If nothing happened, Mr Jeon was a man that kept his word, and would pay the money owed after four months on the dot, so Bangtan wasn't losing anything here. The contract seemed to be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, after twenty long years. Namjoon wasn't going to get stingy on the details now. He'd only taken over the responsibilities of Bangtan including that which involved Mr Jeon’s debt a year ago.

“Sounds reasonable. Hoseok, the contract papers.” Namjoon turned to Hoseok to smile in absence of spoken words of “if you would”. Hoseok just grinned easily as usual and left the room, off to retrieve the papers without a fuss. Namjoon turned back to Mr Jeon, humming lightly. “Does your son know about this?”

Mr Jeon’s eyebrows lifted ever so slightly. “You mean Jungkook, I'm guessing. He did say he often gambles here. Does he know about what?”

“Any of this. The debt in general. Who you are. The existence of Bangtan, even.” Namjoon replied casually, conversationally, and Mr Jeon’s expression did not change.

“He does not. Are you going to tell him?” Mr Jeon spoke slightly derisively, and it was a pleasant surprise, to get some sort of emotion from the grey statue of a man.

“Would you care?” Namjoon fired back and Mr Jeon smiled ever so faintly.

“Not one bit. Jungkook doesn't have much to do with me, and I don't have much to do with him.” Mr Jeon replied completely and utterly seriously, and Namjoon almost wanted to wince on Jungkook’s behalf. Ouch. The complete lack of interest, let alone love, in his tone as he spoke about his own son, managed to hurt Namjoon. He couldn't imagine how Jungkook felt. Well, it wasn't like he particularly gave a shit though.

“Heartless father, you are. Here I was wondering if I should keep the possibility of Jungkook being sent here by you to spy on us in mind.” Namjoon remarked mildly and Mr Jeon’s rare, scarily out of place smile widened just a fraction.

“You need to stop making jokes if you want people to take you seriously as a mob boss. Jungkook isn't smart or capable enough to be useful to me, he hasn't ever been and he won't be now.” Mr Jeon commented neutrally, casually, as if he wasn't undermining his own son’s entire existence with a few words. Namjoon did wince this time, laughing a little in response. Jeez. Poor kid.

Mr Jeon and his two subordinates left after Mr Jeon signed the papers after the added condition. Namjoon sighed and leant back in his recliner, tilting his head up and closing his eyes for a while. Mr Jeon had been Bangtan’s biggest pocket of money every month these past years, and Namjoon would have to calculate the dent the sudden absence of these monthly payments would put in Bangtan and BigHit’s budget. Hoseok had taken the papers away again, and Namjoon expected the footsteps crossing the room to be Hoseok returning but he felt the person stop behind him, cold fingers trailing up his neck in a ghost of a touch.

“Were you listening the whole time, Seokjin?” Namjoon murmured without opening his eyes and felt a soft kiss pressed against his forehead. Such a sudden affectionate mood was rare, so Namjoon opened his eyes and smiled up at Seokjin, who rubbed his thumbs in light circles beneath the corners of Namjoon’s jaw.

“I was. Poor Jungkook.” Seokjin murmured, and Namjoon sighed, turning the seat around and grabbing Seokjin’s waist lightly, tugging him forward a little and resting the side of his face against Seokjin’s lean stomach, feeling inviting warmth seep through the thin material of his dress shirt.

“You've never commented something like that about any of our previous targets. Don't tell me you have a soft spot for him?” Namjoon breathed in Seokjin’s scent with his eyes closed and Seokjin laced gentle fingers through his hair.

“I might. It won't get in the way of anything, I promise you that. I just find him a little cute.” Seokjin replied quietly and Namjoon raised an eyebrow, fingers tightening slightly on his waist. Seokjin sighed. “Not in that way. Although… You could take it that way. If you're going to do something about it.”

Namjoon twitched at the rare flirty tone and felt a smile stretch across his face, lifting his head and grinning up at Seokjin, who smiled slightly. Fuck, he was so gorgeous when he smiled. Namjoon untucked Seokjin’s shirt at the sides and brushed his thumbs over warm bare skin, unable to control his grin in the slightest.

“I might just.”

~

Chapter Text


Jungkook remembered very little of what happened after that. He briefly roused awake for a few seconds, disoriented and uncomprehending, to feel his body being lifted up off the ground, aching, throbbing head cradled into a warm chest and familiar smell. The next time he clawed himself up to the surface of consciousness, there were stitches in his arm, a neck brace fixing his head in place, and he lay on cold, sterile bedsheets, a thick, heavy cast encasing his leg.

The third time Jungkook awoke, it was like his mind was a little passenger-less boat floating aimlessly, wandering and directionless down a stream, the gentle ripple of the water pushing it to bump into the grassy bank, and jolt into consciousness by chance. His eyelids were heavy, vision hazy, his head blanketed with the relentless weighted force of tiredness and disorientation. His mind was a mile off from being clear enough to produce a coherent thought, but he sensed first, before seeing a figure close by. The hospital room was dim, the only brightness to see by was the light pooling weakly into the room through the tiny window centred on the door. Jungkook could barely remember his own name in that sluggish moment shrouded with a dream-like quality, of ambiguity and fantasy. In that dark room, he saw the person’s shadow stand above him, staring down at him and obscuring the light but Jungkook didn’t feel ill at ease. In fact, it only strengthened a nonsensical, nurturing sense of safety as the person leaned down towards him and he dimly registered warm fingers stroking his head, running through his hair gently, almost tenderly, soothing beyond description. Jungkook didn’t know if the person could see, but he smiled anyway, almost instinctively. He pried his eyes open with immense effort, just in time to see the person lean down all the way and press their lips softly against his, chaste but lingering. Jungkook’s eyes slipped shut again and he sighed ever so slightly, entire body tingling with warmth as he tilted his head up just a fraction, body not cooperating with him to move any further to chase after the person’s lips. He felt the person freeze, and pull back. Jungkook frowned, opening his eyes drowsily again, lifting his head as much as he could - which was not much at all - trying to search for that familiar warmth and soft, caressing touch again. The dark figure held themselves impeccably, unnaturally, eerily still, as though they were afraid a single movement from them would shatter some thin balance. The person stared at him, as Jungkook did them, though he couldn’t make out their features.

“Jungkook.” The person spoke hoarsely, quiet as a whisper, but still ringing out sharp, almost shrill in that silent room, though the tone had been soft. Their voice cracked just a tiny bit. Jungkook tried to nod, or make some sort of affirming response, but energy and lucidity were suddenly trickling out of his body, enabling the cloud of sleep to envelop him again. He struggled to form a word, successfully managing it just as he slipped back into unconsciousness.

“…Taehyung.”

~

Jungkook felt himself dragged out of sleep, slowly, but surely. The sharp, strong smell of antiseptics and medicinal chemicals assaulted his nostrils and he registered that his tongue felt dry as paper, mouth stale. He opened his eyes and winced as he adjusted to the unwelcome intrusion of harsh white light. Collecting his scattered, fragmented mind to really awaken felt like emerging through layers of cobweb, peeling and discarding the sticky, intricately interwoven strands, bit by bit.

Once his vision settled and focused, mind sharpening to a shadow of its usual clear self, he realised he wasn't alone in the room. He pushed himself up into a sitting position slowly, weak arm awkwardly supporting him, shaking and unsteady. It felt like energy had been directly sucked out of his limb, leaving it an empty husk. He tried a couple times before his voice actually worked and produced substantial sound.

“Jimin?” Jungkook spoke, voice weak, thin and airy, killing his throat. He coughed and tried to clear his throat despite it feeling utterly devoid of moisture. His head hurt. Jimin jolted a little from where he leant against the wall, arms folded. He lifted his head and stared at Jungkook, eyes shadowed with tiredness.

“Looks like you're awake.” Jimin offered a weak, barely there smile and Jungkook hesitated before returning it.

“Why… Why are you here?” Jungkook asked quietly, voice terribly meek and subdued, but he couldn't help it. He was still peeling back the curtains of sleep from his thoughts, his voice barely worked as it was. Jimin stared at him dead on, boring his eyes into Jungkook like he was anchoring himself, somehow.

“I brought you here, thought I might as well stick around and see that my act of kindness didn't go to waste. It's been five days.” Jimin explained lightly, keeping unnaturally steady eye contact, such that it probably would have felt less shifty and suspicious if he'd moved his eyes from side to side. Jungkook opened his mouth to thank him when he frowned, confusion and question arising in his mind.

You brought me here…?” Jungkook echoed uncertainly, frown deepening as he tried to kickstart his brain into gear. His memories past the first punch the bastard landed on his cheek were a blur, foggy and almost impossible to sift through. But an image had burnt itself into his mind’s eye, of the name “Traffic Light” on his phone screen as the call ended. He'd meant to call Jimin, but he thought he'd ended up calling… calling Taehyung.

“Who else? You called me and told me you were lying in a ditch with two broken limbs.” Jimin replied a little tartly and Jungkook bit his lip a little, hesitancy and uncertainty practically wafting off of him. Well… It had been right before he passed out. He remembered he couldn't see too well either. Perhaps his subconscious just conjured up the hallucination, as a way to comfort his unspoken wish, to communicate, interact somehow, with Taehyung.

“Did… did I. I… don't remember too clearly.” Jungkook spoke haltingly and he drew his expression into a frown again as a hazy, stretched out, distorted and blurry dream-like memory swam lawlessly through his mind. “Did anyone… come here? Other than you? To visit maybe?”

“The doctors said I'm the only registered visitor. Don't get too upset.” Jimin replied airily, not moving away from the wall but shoving his hands in his pockets. Jungkook blinked, feeling the memory dissipate at the words. Could he… could he really have made it up in his mind? He first imagined that Taehyung’s warm arms held him when he was lifted off the ground, and then he imagined Taehyung had visited him once late at night, stroked his hair and kissed him?

“Where is… Taehyung?” Jungkook asked almost reluctantly, waiting with a bated breath as Jimin raised an eyebrow, glancing up at him.

“Taehyung? He's not in Seoul right now. Jeju Island, I think.” Jimin responded shortly and Jungkook blinked, gripping the sheets tightly in both hands and dropping his head, needing to take a moment to close his eyes and breathe. Why had Taehyung gone to Jeju Island? Where all those innocently beautiful memories had been left behind? Or was it because of that? Jungkook bit his lip hard and shoved away the throbbing, hollow pain, focusing on nothing other than replying.

“Thanks. For helping me. I'm in more debt now, aren't I?” Jungkook tried to keep his voice offhand, words casual, as if it wasn't a big deal that he'd now have to pay off hospital fees along with the rest of the shit pile. Even so, his tone came out brittle. Jimin thinned his lips, glancing to the side for a few silent moments, a static image against the impossibly uninterrupted white of the hospital room wall.

“It's been paid and taken care of. Just hurry up and get better so you can pay back the rest of the money. The boss can be a patient man but you probably shouldn't push it or this,” Jimin gestured vaguely at Jungkook, strapped to an IV, tight, suffocating bandages wrapped around his chest, stitches littered over his skin and with two casts binding his arm and leg down. “Is gonna happen again.”

“Thanks… for the concern.” Jungkook replied quietly, only half sarcastic. His fees had been paid? By who, Jimin? Was this because he felt guilty for everything? Either way, it scuffed his pride away under the carpet but Jungkook had to admit it'd helped him a great deal. Never before had he ever had the thought “every cent counts” so deeply ingrained within his mind before. He guessed he'd never even considered he'd ever not be rich. The weight of the looming abyss of money he had left to pay back was crushing, unbearably so, and Jungkook guessed he had whatever he was drugged up on to thank for not being lucid enough to really be able to sense the weight at that moment.

“You have around three million left, right?” Jimin spoke quietly, seriously, and Jungkook avoided his eyes, for his skin threatened to crawl. Talking to Jimin so… so distantly, discussing only money, left a bad taste in his mouth, especially since he now had to deal with the fact that he was indebted on a personal level to the asshole. Not to mention the simmering anger that had never really left him, which he felt he was entitled to, considering every coin and note he scraped together were lining the pockets of the six of BigHit, which included Jimin.

“…Four and a half.” Jungkook corrected reluctantly, eyes flat, lips drawn tight. Jimin inhaled audibly, pushing off the wall and regarding Jungkook straight on, expression solemn, contemplative. Jungkook wondered if he was inwardly laughing at the sorry state Jungkook had tripped and crashed down into, strapped down on the miserable throne of the hospital bed. He closed his eyes, biting at the inside of his cheek and trying not to wince at the sharp flash of pain streaking across his face, keeping the tiny flickers of anger and pinpricks of humiliation behind closed lids. It wouldn't do to be rude to Jimin. He'd dragged Jungkook all the way to the hospital and paid for everything after all… apparently.

“I won't tell the boss or Yoongi where you are. Nobody will come after you until you've been discharged for at least a week. You're allowed to stay here till you're well enough to walk again.” Jimin informed him briskly, professionally clipped and Jungkook let his lips stretch to the side in a dry smile, as he tilted his head slightly to slide his gaze over to Jimin.

“Says who?”

“I'll make sure of it.” Jimin replied without missing a beat, eyes narrowing and lips twisting a little as if he expected the question but still resented it. Jungkook found it a little funny. Jimin stared at Jungkook for a second longer, before turning and leaving the room, sliding the door shut. Jungkook exhaled slowly, controlling the air to slip past his lips incrementally, smoothly. The sound bled into the air and disappeared seamlessly, and Jungkook turned his head, neck stiff and unwilling, to gaze out the window. He guessed this would be the last time he had any visitors.

It was nighttime, the darkness of the night outside masked by his own reflection, bright by the strong hospital lights. It wasn't a pretty sight. Shadows caused by the lights overhead paired with the vague, unclear reflection marring the surface of the windowpane accentuated his lack of proper sleep for a good month or two now, evident by large, dark triangles extended down from his shadowed eyes and shadow landed in his slightly hollowed cheeks. A plaster sat importantly in the centre of his forehead, stitches in his split lip and Jungkook couldn't tell what ungodly colours his bruised face had become from the darkened image. The rest of him looked pretty good too, thin, brittle arms and caved in stomach clad in the frail, wraith like hospital gown. He couldn't see majority of the bandages hidden behind the flimsy shield of the clothes he'd been shoved into, but he could certainly see the massive, conspicuous cast wrapping his leg in the thick plaster, reaching all the way up to his thigh. His arm had been put in a cast too, but the bandages and plaster light, the sling thin and unsubstantial, suggesting the damage in his elbow probably wasn't too bad, the cast was probably simply there as a precaution. From what he could see of both of his arms, he'd lost quite a bit of weight. He’d lost all trace of muscle, what he could see of his two unbroken limbs were as lifeless and fragile looking as they felt. What good would a week’s respite out of the hospital do him? If he didn’t pay up enough soon again, he’d be chased like this once more, and have the shit beaten out of him. And this time the vulnerable, weak and easily breakable state his body had been reduced to would probably ensure his body just collapse under the pressure. Jungkook smiled to himself humorlessly. Jimin might have given him that week out of good will but it appeared that he shouldn’t have bothered.

It was lot easier to sink into these despairing, morbid and cynical thoughts when immobilised in a hospital bed, meds keeping the pain at bay, Jungkook realised. It was like he’d given up, heart weighing as heavy in his chest as the cast on his leg. No, he couldn’t give up, not when he had to pay back those bastards ten times over. Not when he had to see Taehyung again, and ask him directly whether he’d visited him in the days he’d been unconscious. He didn’t know what good getting an answer would do him, but he had to know.

In a way, Jungkook was thankful he’d been left in the hospital to recover. It at least ensured he had a safe place to rest and sleep in, and he wouldn’t have to worry about setting money aside for meagre meals once a day. Now that he’d been given a lease of around six to eight weeks, or however long it took his leg to heal, he could finally breathe, push the crushing thoughts of money to the side briefly, and take the luxury of time to give thought to something else.

Jungkook wished he could move just so he could walk over to the window and open it so he could gaze up at the sky. Taehyung was in Jeju Island, was it? He wondered what for. How long would he be there for? When was he coming back to Seoul? Would he… would he come to see Jungkook? Would he want to? What was he doing right now? Jungkook shook his head at himself, a tiny, bitter smile creeping over his lips as he realised he was worrying over whether Taehyung was eating properly and taking care of himself properly when Jungkook was the one who’d been living on one or half a meal a day for the past couple of months, and was currently stuck in hospital, injured and tired to the core. Jungkook wasn’t strong enough to keep smiling as he thought of the last time he’d seen Taehyung, the dismissive way Taehyung had glanced away from him and left the room, not even sticking around while the rest of the six set up the contract with him.

He wanted to see him. His chest ached in an awful, blocked and suppressed way, agonisingly tight. He wanted to see Taehyung once more so bad he felt the physical pain obstruct his breathing, and he had to close his eyes and clench his fist with what little strength he had, forcing himself to open his lungs and inhale properly. His head spun a little, and he guessed the swaying, unsteady feeling overtaking his unresponsive body was his cue to go back to sleep and recover.

~

Jungkook woke up to the soft clink of metal hospital equipment against a trolley, opening first one eye, then the other, shutting them almost immediately as sunlight flooded his vision. He guessed… maybe three or four days had passed since he'd last woken up properly, not just stirring for a few lucid seconds, peeking out over the gates of sleep.

“Awake?” A voice spoke close by, around a metre away, and Jungkook felt a chill rush down to grip his stomach tight. He forced his eyes back open and pushed himself up with far more difficulty than he'd admit with his one working arm, blinking rapidly to get rid of sleep residue as he focused on the person by his bed. Shock slammed into him like a punch as he recognised Seokjin after a split second of blankness. He jerked back violently, instinct driving him backwards, away from the danger compressed into the smiling man in front of him. The sudden, sharp, burst of energy and movement caused pain to streak across his body, stiffening up and screwing his eyes shut as his chest felt like it'd been spontaneously flattened into a thin sheet. He coughed, a flare of pain erupting in the base of his throat, dragging in a breath and opening his eyes again, hand clutching the bedsheets behind him, broken arm curled over his chest as best he could, as if to instinctively protect himself. His breathing was shallow, too fast for comfort as he glared daggers at Seokjin, feeling wholly like a cornered animal as he inched back.

“Did that hurt?” Seokjin asked pleasantly, and Jungkook just narrowed his eyes, not replying. “It's supposed to, you have three cracked ribs. That’s your body telling you to stop pulling that shit and stay still so you can heal. There's a bit of Health 101 for you early in the day. Good morning.”

“Why the fuck are you here?” Jungkook growled and Seokjin blinked, pulling a long, thin strip of bandage from a roll and snipping it off all at his own time. Jungkook fucking hated himself for it but he felt a twinge of fear at the small, sharp scissors held in Seokjin’s hand, instinctively shying away from anything that could be a potential weapon.

“That's no way to talk to the doctor looking after you. Needless to say, I could get away with doing a lot of things to you that would cause you pain and bodily harm.” Seokjin remarked with that stupidly blank face of his, and Jungkook gave up trying to figure out what he was thinking. For now, he'd assume Seokjin was completely serious. Didn't mean Jungkook would attempt to be polite or show that he was fearful because of it. At the end of the day, if Seokjin tortured him or cut off an arm or a leg, or even ended up killing him, BigHit would be the one losing, as where would they get their money from?

“You're a doctor? Or did you somehow sneak in here through your mafia connections?” Jungkook spoke scathingly, eyes flat and eyebrow raised. Seokjin smiled, shaking his head like Jungkook had said something mildly amusing.

“Oh, I'm a doctor all right. Got my Master’s degree in medicine around a year ago, honest and genuine. This is my workplace. Well, my legal workplace, anyway. Not everyone survives solely off money snatched through gambling.” Seokjin explained in a kindly tone, and Jungkook wanted to punch him in the face. He refrained, as in the state he was as of current, he'd probably hurt himself more than he'd hurt Seokjin.

“You must be insanely busy day and night. A foot in each world.” Jungkook commented flatly, and Seokjin shrugged, a bare, minimal movement of one shoulder.

“Quite. I don't get much sleep, you know. Not the best example to set for my patients but…” Seokjin looked momentarily abashed, before all traces of concern were wiped clean, careless and dismissive expression taking over. He moved to stand directly beside Jungkook, who flinched despite himself, as Seokjin reached for his shirt collar. Seokjin blinked, gesturing wordlessly at the bandage roll and Jungkook caught up, realising it was time to change the vice clamped around his torso. He couldn't help but feel Seokjin was being really lax and uncaring of proper procedures and manner that he'd expect of a doctor caring for a patient as Seokjin carelessly undid the buttons of his shirt and flicked the fabric aside, checking the bandages beneath with an almost bored gaze. Well, Jungkook hadn't expected premium treatment from a mobster that was part of the reason he'd landed in hospital in the first place. He hadn't expected treatment at all. What on earth was Seokjin doing?

“I'm a heart surgeon, you know. Open heart surgery’s something like my passion. That and taking photos, and eating. Oh, and those three things are not related. You won't need a surgery unfortunately, but when I saw “Jeon” on the list of new patients, I poked around and found out it was you, and asked to take over your care.” Seokjin informed him conversationally as he tugged Jungkook’s shirt off, snagging it on Jungkook’s injured elbow, who clenched his teeth to prevent himself from showing too much of the burst of pain flaring in his arm from the jostling. Jungkook regarded Seokjin flatly, just accepting whatever the fuck was going on right now, but still deciding to ask out of curiosity.

“And why did you do that? Why are you personally taking care of me? Do I look like I can make a run for it right now?” Jungkook smiled humorlessly and Seokjin responded by wrapping the bandage unnecessarily tight around his ribcage. Jungkook gritted his teeth, stopping his breathing for a moment as he bore the flash of pain. Right. Don't be a smartass with the mafioso doctor.

“Believe it or not, I would like you to get better quickly. And well, I won't ask Jimin why he's keeping your whereabouts hidden from Namjoon, Yoongi and Hoseok, as I don't particularly want to tell them either. I don't think they understand that people don't really work well under the physical pressure of broken bones. Well, they do if the work needed is spilling information, but to magic up four million dollars while bedridden and broke is no easy feat. I'm making sure you get back on your feet, get out there and make money for us.” Seokjin explained briskly and Jungkook narrowed his eyes.

“And do you do that for all of your hospitalised victims?” Jungkook asked flatly and Seokjin paused, straightening and regarding Jungkook for a second.

“No. No I don't.” Seokjin replied slowly, as if only realising it now himself, and Jungkook snorted, raising his eyebrows.

“What makes me special?”

“I like you better than the others. Problem?” Seokjin spoke bluntly and Jungkook just gave him a look, a little taken aback at the statement but not really caring to delve deeper. Yay. Congratulations to him.

“Careful, you're making my heart flutter.” Jungkook replied tonelessly and Seokjin laughed, shaking his head a little.

“That attitude’s gonna get you killed in this world.” Seokjin remarked and Jungkook snorted again, glancing away.

“Good.”

Seokjin didn’t say anything to that.

~

It had been around four months since Bangtan had started the contract with Jungkook. Hoseok heard from Seokjin that Jungkook was currently in hospital, presumably being looked after by him, and smartly kept his mouth shut. He was not ready to be caught in the crossfire of the inevitable Cold War that would erupt between Namjoon and Seokjin if Namjoon heard about this. The rest of Bangtan dealt with enough weird tension - sexual or otherwise - from the two anyway.

Hoseok sat down on Namjoon’s office chair and opened his laptop, logging in on his separate account. He needed to monitor the ratio of costs and income of this month, which had changed yet again. Recently BigHit’s budget was getting tighter, and though Hoseok felt a little bad, that was the reason they'd forced Jungkook to pay his debt over a mere six months. Gaining ownership of around twenty million dollars worth of Jungkook’s and Mr Jeon’s assets so far had set their minds at ease temporarily. But they had yet to decide on a permanent, solid solution for the undoubtedly huge loss the end of the contract would be for Bangtan financially. Especially considering that the situation with Jaeguk was worsening by the day, so greater amounts of weapons were being ordered and imported, and shipments came in daily.

Hoseok couldn't help but grin as he thought about it. There was really no reason for this impending mob war between Bangtan and Jaeguk. Both sides were far more on edge than they should be. Both sides thought the other was far more of a threat than they actually were.

And it was Hoseok’s fault.

Hoseok’s head snapped up as the door opened and he watched Jimin walk slowly over to the couch and sink down on the stiff leather. He was looking worse and worse recently. Hoseok gave him a surreptitious once over, and saw no sign of the usual hints of bruises peeking out from sleeves or collars. That was one good thing, he supposed, but…

If anything Jimin looked worse off now. He'd lost a fair bit of weight from his already unhealthily slim body, and the grey-purple shadows set into the skin beneath his eyes seemed permanent now, looking like replacements of the bruises that had faded. Hoseok bit his lip and got up, walking over to him and sitting beside him quietly.

“You and Yoongi still aren't talking?” Hoseok asked gently and Jimin acted like he didn't even notice him, staring blankly ahead as he leant back into the couch, fingers twitching a little. Hoseok sat back as well, letting Jimin choose whether he wanted to talk about it. He knew Jimin wasn't the type to keep things locked up inside, and took comfort just from the presence of other people, so he sat there in silence patiently, for however long Jimin needed him to be there. His thoughts regarding mob business aside, he still cared about his friends very much. Maybe that was hypocritical, seeing as his actions would inevitably lead to his friends being hurt. It was okay. He was just there to have a good time.

And stirring up shit behind the scenes was the best way to have a good time.

Hoseok didn't know how much time had passed, but he had just about reached his limit of being able to stay still and quiet when Jimin spoke, suddenly breaking the silence.

“I haven't seen him around recently. Where has he been?” Jimin murmured listlessly, and Hoseok glanced at his hollow, lifeless stare and winced. Yoongi and Jimin hadn't talked since the night of the game with Jungkook, months ago. Yoongi had stormed out after almost getting into a fight with Jungkook, who had accused (accurately, Hoseok later discovered) Yoongi of abusing Jimin. Although Hoseok always had queries about the subtle splashes of blue and purple he'd sometimes catch sight of pressed into Jimin’s skin, and the definitely questionable behaviour between the two of them sometimes… He'd never expected it to be a full out abusive relationship. It wasn't that he hadn't expected it of Yoongi - it was that he hadn't expected it of Jimin. Anyone could tell Yoongi had a bit of a sadistic streak in him, and anyone could tell he was more than capable of violence and letting anger rule his head. But Jimin, though innocent, sweet and scared the first time he'd met all of them, was no pushover. He was just as ruthless and capable of murder and torture as any of them, and wouldn't allow others to disrespect him. Except Yoongi, it seemed.

Hoseok hadn't understood why Jimin had allowed Yoongi to abuse him, and for so long as well, from what he'd heard. Jimin hadn't even wanted to hear a single bad word about Yoongi, fiercely defending him the moment Hoseok hesitantly suggested that Yoongi was the problem here. But he thought maybe he understood, now. He understood, but could never approve of it. Jimin needed Yoongi like he needed air, he loved him with a crazed obsession and he just couldn't live without him. So he'd rather take the pain with the pleasure, than nothing at all.

That much was evident by the empty, soulless shadow Jimin had withered away into, after Yoongi refused to speak to him since that night. Hoseok didn't know why, but Jimin didn't seem to want to talk to Yoongi either. Maybe Jungkook’s accusation had been a much bigger blow than Hoseok could've imagined. At first, every time the two were in the same room the temperature would seem to drop. Every time they passed each other Yoongi would stare right ahead of him as if he couldn't see Jimin standing there, while Jimin would immediately drop his gaze and duck his head. It hurt Hoseok just to look at; he couldn't imagine how the two felt. Then Yoongi stopped coming around BigHit recently and even Hoseok hadn't seen him for a while. Apparently Yoongi had asked Namjoon about it and Namjoon sent him off on jobs around the city, not requiring him back at base just so he wouldn't bump into Jimin. Hoseok had no idea what either side were feeling about the situation, and whether this signalled a breakup or not, so needed to tread carefully here.

“Yoongi? The boss put him on a lot of jobs all over the city. I haven't seen him either.” Hoseok replied quietly and Jimin snorted humorlessly.

“To avoid me, I'm guessing.” Jimin remarked flatly and Hoseok bit his lip, turning towards him.

“Do you know why?”

“Not exactly. I'm guessing… maybe he's feeling a little… guilty? Regretful? If I'm lucky. But he was fine with everything he was doing before, and I never protested, so what's changed now?” Jimin laughed emptily, tone taking on an unfamiliar jeering, almost scornful note, something Hoseok would never ever have heard when Jimin would talk about Yoongi before. Looked like he'd reflected on a lot, thought about a lot over these months.

“This… this might be a dangerous thing to say, because I don't know much about your relationship, and I don't know what he's thinking. But maybe he's… he's staring to care a little. Maybe he's starting to realise he genuinely cares about you and of course, he knows hurting someone you care about isn't good.” Hoseok replied slowly, hesitantly, carefully gauging Jimin’s reaction. Jimin didn't so much as twitch, not even blinking or giving any sign he'd heard Hoseok.

“That's all I could've hoped for, a while ago. Knowing he cares about me would’ve set everything else right, no matter how hurt I got in the process. But… I don't know. I don't want to go back to him. I don't want to keep pretending that it doesn't bother me. I want to be able to keep breathing freely.” Jimin stated strongly, almost fiercely, a moment of life flashing as anger and resolution in his eyes as he spoke, and Hoseok just listened quietly, knowing that wasn't all of it. Jimin balled his fingers into fists on his thighs and looked down a little.

“I don't want to go back to him to find nothing’s different, that he’ll keep taking and I'll keep giving and neither of us will have changed. But I don't want to go back to him to hear him apologise. I can't… I can't hear him apologise. I'm being stupid, aren't I?” Jimin offered a weak, humorless smile, and Hoseok shook his head, only smiling gently and listening wordlessly, letting him have his moment and speak his mind. God knew Yoongi never let him. Jimin dropped his head, inhaling deeply and closing his eyes, still as a statue for a couple of motionless beats of silence.

“I miss him.” Jimin whispered, expression twisting in pain. Hoseok took in a deep breath, letting his sigh mask the tiny sniff as Jimin screwed his eyes shut tighter. He placed an arm around Jimin’s shoulders, rubbing his arm soothingly. He knew it.

“I miss him so much- it- it hurts more than any of his punches. Why can't I… why am I not strong enough to let go of this?” Jimin breathed, thin voice cracking with desolate pain. Hoseok didn't reply, continuing to stroke his arm reassuringly. Jimin drew in a sharp breath through his nose, blinking away tears rapidly, voice wavering a little as he continued. “I… I know I should leave him, I… I’m not blind, I know this isn't right and I shouldn't… let him… hit me and yell at me but…”

Jimin tilted his head up and stared up at the ceiling with wide eyes as if trying to dry his teary eyes with nothing but the air and willpower. “I keep making excuses to myself, that it's not his fault or something, or he didn't mean to and it's just… It's a habit now. I can't let anyone else state the obvious even if it's for my own good. I can't hear you or Jungkook saying anything bad about him. Because hearing it makes it true and I can't… I can't let it be true. I'm too weak to deal with it.”

“It's good you've realised, though. It might be more painful this way, but you've got to realise and acknowledge the issues, rather than ignoring them. So you can make a decision whether to accept them, or to solve them. You don't want to go back to him… but you can't leave, can you?” Hoseok asked quietly, keeping his tone light and undemanding, hoping Jimin wouldn't think he was mocking or accusing him. Jimin sniffed again, dropping his head down and shaking it slightly.

“I can't. I need him- I miss him so much I'm going crazy. I don't want to go back to him but I can't stay away- I- if I don't see him soon I don't know what I'll do.” Jimin murmured, tone broken and heavy, misery and despair weighing each word down. Hoseok wrapped both arms around him and pulled him in for a hug, staying quiet for a few moments as Jimin buried his face into his chest, not commenting on the slight stains of tears he could feel seeping into his shirt. Poor boy.

“I can ask the boss to bring Yoongi back for a bit. I think you two should talk about this. But even if you just wanna catch a glimpse of him… I can see what I can do.” Hoseok offered lightly and Jimin stiffened a little, pulling back and raising his head, reddened eyes wide and wretchedly hopeful.

“You would?”

“Yeah. Of course.” Hoseok smiled and Jimin returned it weakly, sighing as he shook his head and wiped away his tears, visibly regaining his composure.

“God, I… Thank you so much. I mean, not just for that, but honestly… We don't give you enough credit. You're just always supporting Bangtan and BigHit and each and every one of us and you like staying more in the background whether it's in the casino or within the mob but… Bangtan wouldn't function the way it does now if it wasn't for you, and you just always have our best interests at heart… I don't think we acknowledge that enough, honestly.” Jimin spoke suddenly, sincere, warm and grateful words surprising Hoseok. Where'd this come from? He struggled to keep a steady face, concentrating hard on presenting a natural smile that didn't twinge at the irony. Oh… Oh dear. If only he knew. This was so sad.

He laughed brightly, patting Jimin on the back and pretending like he was genuinely happy at the statements. He didn't have to pretend being amused, though. “What's this? Why the sudden thank you speech?”

“I don't know. All this relationship drama’s got me emotional all the time recently.” Jimin sighed but he was smiling a little, and Hoseok grinned, giving an exaggerated shrug.

“Am I the only one around here without relationship drama? You and Yoongi aren't talking, Taehyung and Jungkook are quite obviously a fucking mess, and Seokjin’s giving the boss the cold shoulder again. I don't know what for this time.” Hoseok sighed theatrically and Jimin seemed to laugh despite himself, looking a lot brighter and more alert than before, though tiredness was still etched in every feature. Hoseok grinned, making sure his smile was overflowing with sunshine. He knew he had an effect that cheered people up, and it was because of that that people seemed to trust him very, very easily. Naive, oh so naive, every one of them. Oh well. Easier for him.

Jimin’s smile dimmed a little. “Have you seen Taehyung recently?”

“I have. He's hasn't been around much, but you know me, I'm constantly here. He's popped in a couple times after getting back from Jeju Island, and let me tell you, he almost looks worse than you and you look frightful.” Hoseok kept his tone light and cheerful and grinned when Jimin just dipped his head and sighed in acknowledgement at his teasing.

“Does he miss Jungkook that much?”

“I don't think he loves Jungkook any less than you love Yoongi. I haven't seen him smiling once since February. His eyes are red more often than not and he's barely said anything to me in months. He hardly ever responds to the boss with words. It's pretty bad, he doesn’t look like he can focus on anything anymore.” Hoseok chewed his lip as he spoke, smile fading as he thought of Taehyung’s downcast eyes and tightly set lips the last time he saw him. Taehyung was just like Jimin, he'd lost a lot of weight and his tired eyes were constantly lined in pools of grey-purple shadow. His cheekbones and jaw jutted out from his skin and his cheeks had hollowed a bit, and sometimes Hoseok had caught his fingers trembling when he gripped a gun, due to the weight of it grasped in his considerably weaker, unsteady thin fingers. But at least Jimin was normal enough with everyone else other than Yoongi. Taehyung seemed to hate having to spend any time longer than absolutely necessary in the presence of the other members of Bangtan. Maybe he resented them because of what they did to Jungkook. But he'd done that, too.

“Jesus… I told him he should've just talked to Jungkook and said it was him not me…” Jimin muttered, rubbing the back of his neck agitatedly. Hoseok raised his eyebrows in confusion looking to Jimin for elaboration. Jimin sighed and clicked his tongue. “The idiot found Jungkook lying on the side of the road half dead like a month ago. He took him to the hospital - the one Seokjin works at - and paid for all his fees in advance. But apparently Jungkook had accidentally called him, thinking he'd actually called me, and Taehyung asked me to lie for him and tell Jungkook that it was me that picked up the call and took him to the hospital and all that. He even told me what Jungkook said and everything. I told him he was being an idiot but he wouldn't budge so I had to do it for him. Then he went off to Jeju and I don't even know what's going on.”

“You guys are all so tragic. Get out of here, let me spend some time with my own tragedies.” Hoseok waved towards the stacks of papers and filing needing to be done behind him with a dismissive grin and Jimin laughed shortly, smile slightly more substantial than before, as he stood up and left the room without another word.

Hoseok didn't move from his position for a while after Jimin left, thinking.

He started laughing. It was just a low chuckle, but he couldn't stop. Oh, the irony.

“Bangtan wouldn't function the way it does now if it wasn't for you”... was it?

Well, Jimin was right. Bangtan wouldn't function like it did right now if not for Hoseok. Hoseok assumed Jimin meant that in a nice way. Well, Jimin wasn't wrong, but the intended meaning was a bit different to the reality.

Bangtan shouldn't be functioning like this right now. Bangtan should be a lot more stable, a lot steadier and a lot more powerful. It should've been… but Hoseok hadn't let it be.

Bangtan constantly lost a lot of its ordinary members in “scuffles” with other gangs or mobs on a regular basis. Those scuffles weren't spontaneous fights, oh no. Hoseok would give locations and information to people of other organisations, just a little nudge here and there, and the ambition or revenge driven ambushes played themselves out beautifully.

Bangtan had lost a lot of its weaponry and other supplies while they were being transported down trading routes, due to surprise attacks and looting, or because of the smugglers or suppliers suddenly changing their minds about making deals with Bangtan, and turning right around and going back home. Namjoon had never figured out exactly why this kept happening, and had just pinned it on the scant loyalty and wavering resolves of shady businessmen in their world. But there was no way this would keep happening while Bangtan was as feared and powerful as it was. That is, unless someone from the inside meddled every now and then.

The relationships between members and their boss, as well as the other executives, were not as strong as they could be. They weren't as stable as they should be, when the mob, though primarily based on a hierarchical system ruled by power and fear, still relied greatly on loyalty, respect and above all, mutual trust, to be successful. Again, the reason Namjoon found himself constantly cutting down numbers and getting rid of originally competent, loyal and useful members and plenty of integral subordinates, was because of Hoseok. Hoseok had been with Namjoon since the beginning of Namjoon’s reign, almost two years ago. Namjoon trusted him unconditionally, so he'd been unofficially appointed as his right hand man. Thus, whenever Namjoon wanted anything done, nine times out of ten it would go through Hoseok. Therefore Hoseok always had plenty of chances to “accidentally” miss out some crucial information when relaying messages, or simply giving the wrong information and orders. Miscommunication was a powerful, dangerous thing in their world. It had led to many amusing, lovely, entertaining misunderstandings resulting in immediate suspicions and complete losses of trust, when tasks were done wrong, or led to dangerous, harmful outcomes.

Hoseok just sat back and watched the poor boys suffer. He usually left saving the day and the cleaning up of messes the “incompetent” or “traitorous” subordinates created, to people more suited to the spotlight, like Taehyung or Yoongi. He had never once come under suspicion of being the instigator of a single incident before. Not from Namjoon, not from the other executives, not even from the poor bastards he'd tricked and lied to. What could he say? He was a professional. He found it funny that Jimin’s casino name was the Two-Faced Bluff. Surely that name suited Hoseok better? A flashy name like the King of Suits didn't belong to someone like Hoseok. Someone who stirred the pot with a long ladle.

No, to say he'd never been under suspicion before wasn't true. There had been this one guy that had realised Hoseok’s true self before. It was just another newbie desperate to prove his worth, desperate to please the boss and make a name for himself to create stable footing within the mob. When he'd fucked up grandly on one simple task he'd been put in charge of, that ended up with the blowing up of one of Bangtan’s most important storage warehouses, (again, indirectly the fruit of Hoseok’s labour) Namjoon’s anger had erupted. Hoseok had hardly ever seen him that angry before. It had taken Seokjin two whole days of staying calmly by his side without leaving for a second for Namjoon to simmer down. That was the first time Hoseok had felt scared. If somehow, Namjoon found out it was Hoseok who’d brought together the unfortunate circumstances, death would be the easiest route from there. But Namjoon hadn't suspected him, instead delegating him the task of shooting that poor innocent subordinate. Of course, Hoseok never ever disobeyed Namjoon’s orders to him directly. He always carried them out to the dot without fail.

So he’d taken that subordinate over to the warehouse, or what was left of it, letting him kneel in the centre of the crater as he raised his gun. Just before he pulled the trigger though, the guy had lifted his head to look up at him with the most hateful, baleful glare Hoseok had ever seen.

“I know it was you. You told me the boss wanted all evidence of this warehouse gone. You said he wanted everything in here to disappear. You said he ordered me to blow it up. But that's not what he really said, is it? He ordered me to keep an eye on it, right?”

“Oh my. It's a shame we have to get rid of you. Very well done. But how did you find out that wasn't the original order? As far as I know you never saw the boss again after this place blew up, so you couldn't have figured out what you'd done wrong as no one explained to you.”

“I guessed. I knew what I heard. I knew exactly what you told me. I followed orders exactly. And then when I was suddenly being sentenced to death out of nowhere I worked it out.”

“Why didn't you plead innocent?”

“You obviously do this shit a lot. Would anyone have believed my words over yours?”

“You are smart, goodness. It really is such a shame.”

“You won. But before you kill me, can I ask you something?”

“Go ahead.”

“Why’d you do it? Why do you do this? What do you get out of betraying the boss like this? Aren't you a part of Bangtan too? Or are you a double agent for a different mob?”

“Oh no, I'm nothing like a double agent. My loyalties don't lie with a different organisation. My loyalties lie with no one. I just love seeing plays, and watching the different acts unfold. And Bangtan is a big, beautiful stage. I stir things up, change up the programme a little - because I feel like it. It's fun. I'm just here to have a good time.”

“You're despicable.”

Maybe he was. Hoseok smiled to himself as he reminisced for a few seconds about that guy, whom he'd forgotten the name of months and months ago.

He shook his head, clearing that memory from his mind. He took his phone out of his pocket and dialled a number.

“Hello, I'm your hope! Your hope in bringing down Bangtan, anyway. Hey Junseo, how's it going?” Hoseok greeted brightly, and he heard Junseo snort on the other end of the line. Hoseok greeted him the same way every time. He'd never given his real name or casino name, just in case.

“Hey, J-Hope. How’s my brother doing? Is he dead yet?”

“Jungkook? He's in hospital right now. Got something like four million left to pay. I wouldn't advise killing him just yet, not while he's in there, as tempting as it might sound. An executive - Seokjin - is personally keeping an eye on him. It'd be difficult to even get near him.” Hoseok cautioned brightly and Junseo laughed shortly, dryly.

“Believe it or not, killing him isn't the only thing that's on my mind all the time. I was just wondering if it was even possible for him to survive this debt. Well? Have you got any information about Bangtan for me?” Junseo asked briskly, clipped and sounding for a second, exactly like his father. Hoseok grinned.

“Of course I have.”

~

It'd been a week after Jungkook had had his cast removed and been discharged from the hospital. Thankfully his injuries, though all seeming pretty bad at first, had no serious effect and healed in no time. Jungkook couldn't count the number of times he'd been yelled at and reprimanded by a stern, bordering on scandalised Seokjin over that two month period. He was stubborn, so no matter how many times he was told “no working out until your bones are attached again you fucking idiot”, at any given chance when none of the doctors or nurses were there, he'd train his body to slowly gain back the muscle he'd lost. Push-ups with a broken leg had been… a struggle, and waiting till his cracked ribs had sorted themselves out and starting on sit-ups and crunches had been a whole new level of torture. Thankfully his body had always been pretty strong, so although he wasn’t back to the shape he used to be yet, he was definitely getting there.

Seokjin, though initially cold and rough when treating him, had mellowed out considerably over the course of the two months. Jungkook hated to say it, but he'd actually gotten a little close with the mobster doctor. Apparently Seokjin had taken time away from Bangtan to spend more time at the hospital, and Namjoon was not happy with that. Seokjin was usually off performing surgeries but he'd come back to Jungkook’s room every day. At first it was purely for check ups, but seeing as he was the only person Jungkook really ever saw, the frost in their conversations inevitably melted away, and Jungkook could almost forget that Seokjin was one of six reasons why he was in that hospital in the first place.

He'd learnt quite a few interesting things about Bangtan, including the fact that there was apparently a something between Namjoon and Seokjin. Nobody knew exactly what it was, including both of them, but from what Jungkook gathered, Seokjin was either extremely cautious and wary, or liked to play hard to get, and Namjoon was just plain whipped.

If Jungkook focused hard enough, he could shove thoughts of his debt and what he knew of the members of Bangtan aside, and enjoy listening to Seokjin’s stories and recounts as if he didn't want to kill every person in them. By the end of his stay, Seokjin seemed to have grown… fond, if anything, of him, and muttered a quick “stay safe” right as he was leaving. Jungkook hadn't known what to make of it, and still didn't.

In any case, he was now well enough to run if need be, and that was all that mattered right now. He hadn't wasted a second of the week free of pursuit Jimin had given him, frantically playing game after game, wherever and whenever he could. It was a good thing he was well rested during the time at the hospital, because he practically didn't sleep that week. Somehow, somehow, he’d managed to scrape together close to a million dollars, which he'd taken to Seokjin at the hospital to give to Namjoon. Jungkook had a feeling if he went near BigHit at this point, he'd be getting very well reacquainted with a hospital bed far sooner than he'd like.

Jungkook was still far below the amount that was due, but it would have to do for now. He instinctively glanced around, sweeping his gaze over the well lit streets for any signs of danger. He was still pretty close to the hospital, right in the middle of the city, so it didn't make sense that he was so on edge and jumpy even in the midst of crowds of people. But it was late at night, and the people were gradually dispersing in number. He had no idea where to go tonight. He’d been sleeping in Internet cafés close by the various gambling dens he'd visited this past week, but there didn't seem to be any around this area as he wandered around and the streets emptied and the shadows grew. Should he go with his method before…? But where would he find a girl right now? And did he really… want to go back to that horrid, hollow, filthy feeling of lying naked beside a stranger again?

He was swearing under his breath, considering just curling up like some stray cat under some of the tarpaulin sheets strewn across the deserted alley-like streets he passed. There wasn't a person in sight now, the orange glow of scarce streetlights heightening the dips and valleys of shadow between buildings and obscuring patches of paths - and Jungkook was shaken to discover he preferred it this way. He kept his footsteps quiet, all senses tuned in to his surroundings at any given moment, and slunk through the shadows with alarming ease that would not have been possible months ago. He'd grown accustomed to the night, he'd grown to like it, before he'd realised. Fuck.

As it was, his ears picked up a tiny noise metres and metres away. Footsteps, maybe? The person had a light tread, quiet, slowly but surely making their way towards him. Jungkook froze, not sure if he should turn around and make a run for it, or whether he should overcome his paranoia and keep going. Surely Bangtan members hadn't followed him all the way here.

His heart stopped for a full beat as the person came into view.

The person hadn't noticed him yet, typing something on his phone, which was a rather dangerous choice for this part of the city and this time of night, because he needed to keep alert and aware of his surroundings or he might get attacked. By someone like Jungkook. Jungkook's body acted before his mind had caught up. He strode up to him in two quick steps, drawing his fist back and punching the guy square in the face.

~

Chapter Text

Taehyung dropped his phone as his head snapped back and he staggered backwards a couple of steps from the force. He'd raised and cocked a gun up to Jungkook’s face before his phone had even stopped skittering across the concrete, before Jungkook had time to blink. Jungkook didn't even flinch as he stared down the barrel, chest heaving as crazed, blood-red anger pulsed through his body, every single nerve set aflame, every muscle tensed.

“You fucker.” Jungkook spat, almost scaring himself with the animalistic, grating, downright murderous tone of his voice. In the second before Jungkook had spoken, Taehyung clicked his tongue and grimaced in pain as he gripped his face, before his entire body visibly froze at the sound of Jungkook’s voice. Taehyung’s hand dropped to his side.

His eyes, bloodshot and framed with faint lines of stress, snapped all the way open, scarily wide and leaving an uninterrupted ring of pinkish white around his irises. What little colour Jungkook had noticed his face to hold had drained away in an instant, and his lips, parted in shock, were starkly red against the ashen, almost grey pallor of his cheeks. His entire being had lost colour, from his skin to his hair, which was a little shorter, and had been dyed a soft blond. Jungkook didn't know how to feel about it, but of course he looked amazing as always, despite everything.

Taehyung stared at Jungkook with the most terrifyingly open, explosively emotional expression Jungkook had ever seen. He looked… pretty bad. Jungkook was surprised he hadn't cut his knuckles on Taehyung’s sharp cheekbones, almost knife-like due to the drastic, scary loss of weight. He wasn't sure if the crazed, haunted, desperate shine in Taehyung’s eyes was due to horror at seeing Jungkook, or an effect of the dark, dark purple shadows seeming to press themselves into the skin beneath his twitching eyes.

He looked awful. He looked like a mess. Jungkook wasn't sure if Taehyung had slept at all recently, not with those eye bags. He wasn't sure if Taehyung had eaten anything, not with those hollowed out cheeks and that thin, brittle looking neck that seemed longer than usual due to the unnatural slimness.

Jungkook felt bitter rage explode inside his chest and surge through his limbs again as he realised even now, even as Taehyung looked like he had been staring into the eyes of death for a good several months, all it took was one look. One second, one instant, for Jungkook’s breath to be taken away once more at how beautiful he was. How fucking pathetic.

He snapped himself out of it, the cursed, wretched, hateful, inevitable moment of captivation, as he focused back on the raw fear and pain clashing and battling within Taehyung’s impossibly wide eyes. He slapped the gun out of Taehyung’s hand, meeting no resistance whatsoever from Taehyung’s shaking fingers. He'd moved in for another hard, heavy punch before the gun had even hit the ground, but Taehyung also seemed to snap himself out of a trance somewhat, quickly dodging to the side. He brought up his arms, thinner than Jungkook remembered, to block the sudden barrage of blows Jungkook couldn't hold back as anger flowed freely from where it had begun to crush his skull all the way to the very tips of his fingers and toes.

“I’m. Gonna. Fucking. Kill you.” Jungkook growled the words out in between punches that Taehyung backed away from a little sluggishly, a little clumsily, just barely managing to avoid each blow by a hair’s breadth. He seemed dazed, staring at Jungkook as if he was about to go into shock just from the sight of his face. Was he even breathing? Jungkook didn't stop to dwell on it, throwing a punch in the centre of Taehyung’s chest. Taehyung caught his fist in a cold, shaking hand. Jungkook struggled for a second before lashing out and gripping Taehyung’s neck in his other hand, using Taehyung’s initial moment of shock and pain to shove him back. Taehyung stumbled back before tripping on a risen part of the pavement, hands flying up to grab Jungkook’s fingers wrapped around his neck as he fell backwards. Jungkook fell with him, bruising grip cruel and unrelenting. Jungkook’s knees hit the cracked concrete hard but he barely noticed the pain, tightening his grip on Taehyung’s neck and slowly crushing his windpipe as he pinned him to the ground with his body. Taehyung’s fingers clawed and ripped at Jungkook’s hand, eyes and mouth wide open as he struggled to draw in air.

“J-Jung-kook-” Taehyung barely managed to utter, airless voice desperate and terrified. Jungkook just snarled down at him, a thick layer of pulsing red darkening everything in sight.

Jungkook was going to kill him. It didn't matter how unfathomably gorgeous he looked even when writhing in pain and fear. It didn't matter that his eyes, though frantic and pleading, were somehow… soft, in some way, with a look too familiar to Jungkook, something that made him think home. He was going to kill him.

He pressed Taehyung’s neck further down into the concrete, watching his eyes slide half closed, expression contorted with agony as he struggled to keep his eyes focused on Jungkook. He tried fruitlessly a few times to form words, strength ebbing away from his already weakened fingers as his eyes began to roll back a little, but he managed just one. “P-Please.”

At the one whispered, soft beg for mercy, the fight drained out of Jungkook’s body in a disorienting rush, the word, quiet as it was, crashing over his ears and paralysing his limbs. It was like a bucket of icy water had been splashed over Jungkook as he froze, slowly loosening his grip before releasing Taehyung’s neck entirely. He sat back a little, watching Taehyung gasp and gulp in huge, desperate lungfuls of air, chest heaving as he wheezed, choked coughs racking his whole body. Tendons stuck out from his neck, which was already beginning to show the signs of heavy colouring of trauma, blotches of red and purple appearing faintly. Jungkook’s hands were trembling, he realised, as he fisted them into Taehyung’s shirt slowly. Taehyung swallowed quickly before his lips dropped open again to frantically suck in air, red and glistening and tempting.

Jungkook couldn't help himself, two shades of red soaring up to consume his body whole, the red of his rage and hatred and the red of his crazed want, his need. He leant down and kissed Taehyung unnecessarily violently, smashing their lips together with so much force it hurt. Taehyung choked again, a desperate, distressed, keening whine sounding from the back of his scratchy sounding throat swallowed by Jungkook’s lips. Jungkook didn't care, blood boiling through his veins and threatening to sear through his skin, mind a fiery mess as he shoved his tongue down Taehyung’s throat, drinking him in and greedily stealing his enslaving taste. Taehyung cried out in pain and discomfort, sound muffled by Jungkook’s lips which refused to let go of their prize even as Taehyung pushed at Jungkook’s cheeks and jaw, struggling to try and move away and break off the kiss. Jungkook grasped Taehyung’s neck again, less to subdue him, more to serve as a warning as his thumb rested beneath his jaw and tilted his head up. Taehyung fell still at the gesture, but his chest was heaving faster and faster as the burn for oxygen sharpened, and when Jungkook felt a tear that rolled down Taehyung’s cheek land against his finger, he finally acquiesced, lifting his head and disconnecting their lips. Taehyung’s head fell back against the concrete with a thud, eyes rolling into the back of his head for a few moments as he drew in breath after deep, ragged breath.

Jungkook breathed in time, adrenaline sparking through his veins in shaky bursts of agitated energy desperate to be expelled somehow. He closed his eyes, swallowing hard as he bent his head over Taehyung’s long neck, collar of newly formed bruises exposed for all the world to see. Patches of deep red flashed behind his closed eyes and his head spun with a vengeance as there wasn't enough space in his skull and chest to hold all his haywire, colliding emotions.

Jungkook found himself crying. He found himself weak and swaying, needing to drop his head down to rest his forehead against Taehyung’s heaving chest, subconsciously trying to draw strength from the very being causing his weakness. It was too much, everything that had happened these past months was too much and he couldn't handle it anymore. He was shaking as he cried, fists curled in Taehyung’s shirt as he cried tears of frustration, of sadness and pain, and bitter loneliness.

“Why?” Jungkook breathed, both a question to Taehyung and to himself. Why was he unable to deal the finishing blow? He was so close. A few centimetres tighter, and Taehyung’s neck could've snapped. Why was one word all it took to shatter his resolve? Why couldn't he bear the sight of Taehyung’s single teardrop, squeezed out from the pain of Jungkook’s own fingers? Why couldn't he pull away? Why was he breathing in Taehyung’s scent like a madman, even as his hatred screamed at him to be repulsed from his very proximity?

Why did Jungkook still love him?

“I fucking hate you. I fucking hate you. You- you did this to me.” Jungkook spoke shakily through gritted teeth, low tone rasping on a jarring, broken edge. His skin itched, his body burning with uncontrollable anger and the scary, wild desire to hurt, to let Taehyung’s body taste the pain he’d suffered. But he couldn't. Not right then, as Taehyung shifted weakly beneath him, breathing gradually slowing, heart thudding erratically against the skin pressed to Jungkook’s forehead. Not right then… when Taehyung’s familiar smell numbed Jungkook’s fingertips and ensnared his brain, dizzying and hopelessly addicting.

It'd been months. Months alone, desperately craving Taehyung’s scent, his taste, the feel of his soft skin against his fingers and the feel of his body against his. And now that all that was once more in his grasp, it was overwhelming him.

“Twenty-five…” Jungkook whispered weakly, shuddering as a silent sob racked his body, taking in a breath that turned into a shaky gasp as he squeezed his eyes shut tighter. “Million.”

“You…” Taehyung rasped, voice painfully brittle and breathless, swallowing as he coughed again. “You have… three and a half left… right? And… three weeks left to pay it all.”

“Thanks for putting it out there.” Jungkook muttered flatly, feeling despair streak up his body and threaten to engulf his mind. Three and a half million dollars to pay in three weeks. He didn't even have the money for food right now. Taehyung drew in a breath for a second, as if deciding whether he should say something.

“I… I could help you pay it.”

Jungkook tensed, opening his stinging eyes. “In return for?”

“N-Nothing.” Taehyung’s voice was quiet and meek, almost fearful as if he anticipated Jungkook’s response. Jungkook’s stiffened, muscles locking with tension, eliciting a tiny noise of pain as his knuckles dug into Taehyung’s chest. His body was shaking again, but with disbelief and rage this time.

“Are you fucking with me? Fuck off. I’m not accepting any help from you. I don't want your pity.” Jungkook growled as he lifted his head and narrowed his eyes dangerously down at Taehyung, who flinched and bit his lip, though his downcast eyes seemed to have known Jungkook’s answer before hearing it.

“You’ll…” Taehyung started softly, swallowing as he stared up at Jungkook with those wide, wide eyes that never failed to weaken Jungkook’s limbs and turn his brain into a useless ball of static. Even now as they were sunken in great pools of purple, red from exhaustion and evident continuous crying. Taehyung continued even softer, voice barely above a whisper. “You'll die. They'll kill you if you don't pay everything back on time.”

“Oh, “they”? Don't fucking say that like it doesn't have anything to do with you. And I’d rather die than bear the insult of you paying for the debt you made me have to pay in the first place.” Jungkook hissed, to which Taehyung flinched again, but he didn't seem surprised at Jungkook’s scornful, adamant refusal. He bit his lip again, head rolling to the side as his gaze darted away passively, seeming unable to withstand the heat of Jungkook’s glare.

“I… I thought you'd say that. But… I had to offer, anyway. Forget I said that.” Taehyung muttered, blinking rapidly as he spoke. Jungkook stopped for a moment to analyse Taehyung’s submissive, fearful demeanour. He'd considered the possibility that Taehyung hadn't cared for him once throughout everything, but that didn't seem to be the case. Taehyung seemed… scared, but mostly guilt-ridden and perhaps regretful. Jungkook hated that he'd noticed it immediately, but Taehyung’s watery eyes burned with an overwhelming, shockingly intense, almost crazed pain and longing. Taehyung still wanted- or needed Jungkook.

He too was still in love, wasn't he? It seemed Taehyung’s feelings were even worse though - something was dangerously obsessive in his hungry, haunted stare. It seemed Taehyung’s feelings for him had only burned brighter, elevated, sharpened and amplified to a breaking point since they parted ways. No doubt the reason Taehyung’s body and from what Jungkook could tell, his mind and soul, were visibly breaking down and crumbling away, was because of the long absence of Jungkook’s presence over the months. Jungkook felt numb from head to toe, trying to absorb what he saw before him, trying to wrap his head around the dizzying, scorching need simmering in Taehyung’s red rimmed eyes. It was unhealthy, anyone could see that.

“But you… need a place to stay at, right? At least… at least let me help you with that. Come stay with me until you figure something out.” Taehyung spoke quietly, turning his head and flicking uncertain, wary eyes up to meet Jungkook’s stare. Jungkook felt his mind go blank at the suggestion. Stay with him?

“I just tried to kill you. I would've, but- I- anyway. Are you sure you want to be near me right now, while I'm still considering it?” Jungkook asked tonelessly, flatly, and Taehyung blinked, chewing his lip and Jungkook really wished he would stop doing that because he needed to focus. Something raw and vulnerable flashed through his eyes as he glanced away again, like he was scared to see Jungkook’s reaction.

“I- I miss you.” Taehyung whispered, voice barely audible, weak, timid words snatched away by the drafts of wind beginning to pick up around the area. Jungkook blinked slowly, suddenly unable to breathe for a moment. The silence that had settled around their motionless forms was thick and suffocating. Taehyung peeked up at him cautiously, clearly afraid of saying or doing any more, but he lifted his trembling hand up to Jungkook’s face, to touch his cheek. Jungkook caught his wrist and held his hand a centimetre away in one quick, sharp movement. Taehyung twitched but didn't seem surprised or hurt by Jungkook stopping him from touching.

Jungkook stared searchingly into Taehyung’s eyes for a moment, wondering what Taehyung saw. He pressed Taehyung’s wrist down against the concrete, leaning down to kiss him again, considerably slower and more controlled. Taehyung’s soft lips fell open beneath his, inviting him to take. Jungkook’s head throbbed and his chest ached as he pulled away a little before he lost himself in Taehyung’s taste and lost control. He opened his eyes halfway, gazing down at Taehyung’s closed lids, and spoke, feeding the words past Taehyung’s lips.

“Can we go back to yours?”

~

Jungkook waited all of two seconds as Taehyung shut the door behind them before spinning him around to face him and yanking his body in close. He connected their lips with a desperate fervour that scared himself, hand gripping Taehyung’s narrow waist. Taehyung made a tiny noise of surprise but wrapped his arms around Jungkook's neck tightly, pressing their bodies together so hard it was as if he would never get enough, never be close enough unless he crawled right into Jungkook’s skin. Perfect, no gentle tip toeing bullshit. Jungkook gripped the back of Taehyung’s neck, digging his fingers into the base of his skull as he forced Taehyung’s lips open, sliding his tongue into that sweet mouth, indulging in the taste of simultaneous bliss and a sharp hunger than bled with need. He ached for more, he craved it like Taehyung was his drug - and he hadn't had his fix in months. Taehyung let out a string of distracting, delicious gasps and whimpers as Jungkook licked and bit harshly at his soft lips, drawing a prick of blood that he all but inhaled as he sucked Taehyung’s hot, wet, smooth tongue into his own mouth. He was drunk already from Taehyung’s mere presence, but it was nowhere near enough. More. Closer.

Jungkook backed Taehyung down the corridor as he tugged Taehyung’s shirt open, impatient fingers scratching at warm skin as he struggled with the buttons. Taehyung moaned breathlessly into Jungkook’s mouth as Jungkook ripped the shirt off his body. He ran greedy, possessive hands over that perfect body, grabbing his slim waist, dragging nails up the length of his back and digging them into his shoulder, the feel of Taehyung’s bare skin beneath his fingertips making his head spin.

He found Taehyung’s room easily even with his eyes closed, his body remembering the way as he focused on picking up Taehyung’s light body in his arms, hands gripping Taehyung’s thighs and hips as he felt those long legs wrap around his waist. He shoved Taehyung’s back against the wall, touch far too forceful than was necessary what with Taehyung moaning mindlessly at his every move, easily going along with every rough, bordering on violent gesture almost euphorically. There was really no need for it but Jungkook kept his grip tight, painfully tight, pressing bruises against brittle bone as if he was warning Taehyung not to run away. He practically crushed Taehyung’s body into the wall as he rolled his hips punishingly hard, swallowing all of Taehyung’s choked, desperate moans with his predatory, demanding kiss. Jungkook pulled back for air, hungrily watching Taehyung pry his glazed over eyes open as he fought for breath, lips swollen and blood-red, shining with saliva.

It was nowhere near enough, heat was raging through his body and his blood itched at his veins. Jungkook turned and threw Taehyung down on the bed, not giving him a chance to catch his bearings before crawling up his body, recapturing his lips possessively. He dragged a harsh hand down Taehyung’s body, growling as he felt Taehyung arch into it, hearing him whine helplessly as if the bruising, painful touch still wasn't enough. Jungkook released Taehyung’s lips and drew in a breath before kissing his neck instead, sucking and biting at the soft skin almost obsessively. Taehyung gasped and writhed enticingly, distractingly beneath him, fingers scrabbling at his back. Jungkook’s lips made their way down Taehyung’s throat and left no inch of skin unmarked and unblemished, possessed by the need to claim every bit as his own. Taehyung cried out in pain, entire body jerking as Jungkook bit down into the crook of his neck almost hard enough to break skin, and all but sobbed in pleasure when Jungkook replaced his teeth with his tongue.

Jesus, Taehyung was this wound up and on the verge of tears and they'd barely started. Jungkook wasn't complaining though, the rush of Taehyung falling apart so easily beneath his fingertips seizing his mind with an overwhelming addictive force. He unzipped Taehyung’s jeans and yanked them off impatiently, a little easier than he was used to, what with Taehyung’s already slim legs being skinnier than he'd remembered. In fact, his whole body was noticeably so, his collarbones cutting out of his skin, the ridges of ribs creating grooves of shadow, hipbones prominent and sharp. Jungkook didn't stop to think about it, tugging Taehyung’s boxer briefs down and stripping him bare. He barely paused to appreciate the sight like he used to before grinding down on Taehyung’s naked body mercilessly, drawing out mindlessly loud, breathless curses and moans alike as Taehyung tugged and yanked at Jungkook’s shirt.

That reminded him that he was still fully clothed, and though he itched to feel that skin on skin, something in the desperation and deprived hunger sparking in Taehyung’s eyes made him pause and decide to keep it all on for a bit longer. He gripped Taehyung’s wrist tightly to hold it in place, eyes flashing in a silent warning for him to follow Jungkook’s pace and obey. He wasn't tolerating anything less than Taehyung’s complete and utter compliance right now. Taehyung flinched, eyes widening in surprise at the unfamiliar assertion, and the unexpected denial, before pure arousal reclaimed his fiery gaze, strengthening ever more. Well. He seemed to like being put in his place, it appeared. Jungkook was more than happy to oblige.

“Lube?” Jungkook murmured as he pressed his lips back against Taehyung’s abused neck, wrapping a painfully tight hand around Taehyung’s stiff cock which was already leaking pearly beads of precome. Taehyung groaned deep and low as he arched his back, shaking his head once violently as if to clear his mind enough to answer.

“F-First drawer. Bed- uhnng- bedside table.” Taehyung breathed, voice hiccuping on a whimper as Jungkook twisted his fist slightly, coaxing more delicious, intoxicating little sounds he so desperately needed to hear fall from Taehyung’s lips. Jungkook reached over to retrieve it, pausing as he caught sight of the mountain of ripped open, empty sachets thrown into the bin beside the bedside table.

He slowly picked up a couple unused ones from the drawer along with a condom, turning back to Taehyung with a dangerous, murderous look simmering in his eyes even he himself could sense. Taehyung flinched, confusion and fear flitting over his face as Jungkook stared at him silently for a second, keeping his face blank even as he could feel his veins ticking in his temple and neck. Taehyung opened his mouth uncertainly to speak when Jungkook swooped down and grabbed Taehyung’s jaw, forcing his chin up and digging cruel fingers into his neck. Jungkook bared his teeth in Taehyung’s face as a toxic rage and a poisonous, maddening possessiveness burned through his body.

“Who did you let touch you other than me?” Jungkook whispered dangerously, knowing he was being a terrible, awful hypocrite, but in his defence, he'd only slept with those girls in order to survive. And he didn't care about anything else, Taehyung’s body belonged to him, and he was going to teach him that. Taehyung’s eyes snapped wide open, fear and confusion intensifying along with a spark of pain at Jungkook’s tight grip.

“No one.” Taehyung replied shakily, utter bewilderment ringing out from his small voice and Jungkook hissed in irritation, gesturing sharply to the bin with a flick of his head.

“Then what the fuck is that pile of used lube packets?” Jungkook growled and tightened his grip further. Taehyung hurriedly shook his head, eyes ever wide, staring pleadingly up at him as he choked, struggling to breathe.

“N-No, I- I… think about you all the time. And… I just… I miss your touch so much and it gets too much so I just…” Taehyung trailed off, cheeks flushing ever so faintly as his eyes darted away. Jungkook took a moment to process that, letting his grip slacken, pausing.

“You finger yourself while thinking of me?” Jungkook raised an eyebrow as he asked emotionlessly. Taehyung twitched in embarrassment, cheeks darkening more. Jungkook wasn't sure what he should be feeling. It was… it was hot, he guessed, if these circumstances were normal. But they weren't. Jungkook released Taehyung’s neck slowly, feeling his anger recede just a little, stroking the skin almost contemplatively, before getting back right into it. He ripped open a packet and gathered the spilt lube on his fingers, pressing one inside Taehyung’s entrance without any warning. Taehyung jumped, body tightening against the intrusion, and Jungkook eyes almost rolled back at the numbing tightness of all that heat pressing down on his finger. Taehyung had his eyes screwed shut, eyebrows knitted together in pain, lips caught between his teeth as he evidently tried to relax, hands reaching up to grip Jungkook’s shoulders. Jungkook felt his mouth water at the unbearable heat, sliding his finger in deeper slowly, slower than he'd like. Taehyung whimpered in pain as his body twisted, rejecting the pressure. Jungkook felt his breathing quicken in effort of keeping himself still, expression contorting into a strained frown.

“You're… you're so tight.” Jungkook breathed, heart racing, head spinning. Taehyung said nothing, tipping his head back and seeming to force himself into relaxing incrementally, and Jungkook slid his finger in and out experimentally. He was going crazy with the wait, adding a second finger agonising slowly, stopping to let Taehyung’s body adjust. Taehyung used to be able to take it so well, but now he cried out before covering his mouth with his hand and stifling the noise, body trembling a little. Maybe it was to be expected. It felt slow to Jungkook, but he used to prepare him a lot slower, careful to make sure he was comfortable, and perhaps Taehyung’s body had forgotten Jungkook’s touch at this point, classifying it as foreign and unwelcome. His frown deepened. He pushed his fingers in further, curling them slightly over the spot that would drive Taehyung wild. Taehyung jolted, a loud, choked moan tumbling out of his throat. Finally.

Jungkook slid his fingers in and out of that tight heat, gradually picking up speed as Taehyung’s moans elevated in both pleasure and need, the fingers scratching at his back silently urging him for more and so Jungkook added a third finger, working him open with far more lube than he was used to. His own cock, stiff and neglected, was aching and straining against his jeans, but he willed himself to be a little more patient, or he'd rush things and have to stop halfway and he was not having any of that.

Thankfully Taehyung was already so wound up and desperately needy from before, that it took no time for him to become a moaning, writhing mess once that third finger had been added, and Jungkook was pretty sure if he kept going, Taehyung could probably come just like that. Again, he was having none of that. He curled his fingers over Taehyung’s prostate once more, clamping his other hand around the base of his dick to cut off the orgasm he could see coming as Taehyung’s back arched off the mattress entirely. He slipped his fingers out as Taehyung gasped and gaped at Jungkook in betrayal, chest heaving as he struggled to adjust to the sudden denial and loss of stimulation, body trembling. Jungkook slit him a look as he sat back and tugged his shirt off, warning him to stay still. Taehyung had pushed himself up a little but froze at Jungkook’s look, biting down on his lips and whimpering softly as his desperate eyes drank in as much as Jungkook’s body as they could, as if it was the first time he'd seen it. Jungkook kicked off his jeans and underwear without wasting a second, feeling Taehyung’s eyes burn into his skin as he rolled the condom on and slicked himself up carelessly.

He climbed back over Taehyung’s body, only giving Taehyung a second before lining his cock up with his twitching hole and pushing all the way in, gasping at the dizzying tightness. Taehyung keened, wrapping his arms around Jungkook’s back and tugging him down, groaning softly at the feeling of their skin pressed together, bare bodies aligned. Jungkook pressed his face into the crook of Taehyung’s neck, needing a moment to breathe and adjust, him, never mind Taehyung, from the delicious, bordering on painful tightness, even after all that preparation.

“Shit, you- How often do you finger yourself if you're this tight?” Jungkook breathed, running his fingers up Taehyung’s side to distract himself and stop himself from ramming into him for all he was worth. He may have discovered he had an unhealthy… interest, in seeing Taehyung in pain, but he wasn't that cruel.

“I… Every… Almost every day.” Taehyung forced out a strained whisper, and Jungkook twitched in surprise, lifting himself up and staring at the tension slowly drain away from Taehyung’s tense form as he finally got used to the pressure.

“Every day? Bullshit.” Jungkook managed to say as he slowly pulled out, almost collapsing at the irresistible, numbing drag of skin against skin. Taehyung gasped, throwing his head back and relaxing a little easier around his aching cock as visible pleasure exploded over his slack, gorgeous features. “I feel like I'm fucking a virgin.”

“I… It's never- never enough.” Taehyung struggled to say through his whimpers and breathless moans as Jungkook started thrusting slowly, pausing to check Taehyung’s reaction. Taehyung groaned throatily and held on tighter, rocking his hips up. “Don’t- don't stop.”

“Careful. If you tell me what to do again I might just leave right now.” Jungkook murmured quietly, threateningly before slamming in all the way, driving both his point and dick home. Taehyung flinched but didn't voice any complaint, only replying with a helpless moan. Jungkook built up a quick, relentless pace, patience worn out as the sheer need of more everything, more of Taehyung’s scent, more of his taste and the feel of his body beneath his hands rushed back all at once. As did his clashing, conflicting emotions, anger and hatred towering above all. His lip curled as he watched Taehyung’s parted lips mouth his name over and over like a prayer, the sweat beading down his face and neck. Sharp pain flashed across his otherwise mindlessly pleasured features when Jungkook’s touch roughened almost viciously to remind him of his anger. Jungkook leant down to whisper in Taehyung’s ear, not pausing the sharp back and forth of his hips for a moment.

“I hate what you did to me. I hate you.” Jungkook breathed softly, quietly even as his bruising grip tightened ever more and his punishing thrusts pounded against Taehyung’s prostate without fail, not letting Taehyung catch his breath and rendering him speechless and unable to reply. Taehyung’s arms only tightened around his back, a different type of pain adding to the mess of his expression. Jungkook leant down further as bitterness coursed through his body, going in for the kill, so to speak.

“I wish I'd never met you.” Jungkook whispered poisonously, cruelly, and again, Taehyung said nothing asides from the moans tripping out from his slack lips, but one of his hands let go of Jungkook’s shoulder and he pressed his arm over his eyes. Jungkook didn't say anything, didn't slow down or pause even as Taehyung bit his lip hard enough to make it bleed, body shaking beneath his. Though Taehyung continued to groan and whimper in pleasure, Jungkook could tell he was doing his best to bite back tears.

It only took a couple of strokes over Taehyung’s dick for him to come with a beautifully choked cry, back lifting off the mattress as his body pressed against Jungkook’s chest. Jungkook followed suit a few seconds later, breathing heavily, panting as he dropped his sweaty forehead down on Taehyung’s chest and tried to catch his bearings, waiting for the world to stop spinning around him as the aftershocks of pleasure shot through his body.

He hated this feeling. It left a bad taste in his mouth. He felt as if now was when he should pull out carefully and clean them up, paying attention to being extra careful with handling Taehyung’s spent, sensitive body. Then they would either fall asleep in each other’s arms straight away, or go take a shower together, sleepy and giggling. Jungkook would make sure to gently rub every inch of Taehyung’s body and make sure nothing hurt too bad, perhaps apologise for any bruises left in the heat of the moment and Taehyung would press soft, affectionate kisses all over his face.

But that wasn't happening. He pulled out, tugging off the condom and tossing it into the bin. He pushed himself up off the bed and wordlessly walked over to the bathroom for a shower, leaving Taehyung lying on the bed alone.

Once he’d washed away all the grime and sweat and sticky come, he remained standing beneath the steady stream of hot water for a while, still and thinking. He hadn't been expecting to see Taehyung tonight just out of nowhere. Well obviously, but even so, it scared him how easily he'd lost control because of the shock and dangerous, pent up yearning, how badly he'd wanted to hurt and break Taehyung’s body, how desperate he was for more. His murderous rage at the thought of Taehyung having slept with anyone else terrified him, his need to control, own and possess was downright alarming. This wasn't anything close to what he'd felt with Taehyung in the past. It'd always been an equal, mutual love and affection, and he hadn't wanted it any other way. He hadn't ever wanted to dominate Taehyung in any sense other than bedroom antics. Taehyung felt safe, he felt like home and he felt like Jungkook could never be more content with anything else.

Now, Jungkook was scared of letting Taehyung out of his sight. He was enslaved with the urge to assert total, absolute control and beat into Taehyung’s body the message that it belonged to him. Holy fuck. He rested his head against the cool tiles, shaking a little as he tried to rein everything in. No, this wasn't good. This was horrible, this was terrifying and Jungkook couldn't let himself unravel into madness in this way. But he didn't know what to do. He simultaneously hated Taehyung down to his bones, craved his touch and submission, and wanted to see his bright, beautiful smile, all at the same time.

It had to be because of the stress, that he couldn't think straight. Because of the months on the run, because of his unstable mental and physical state. Until he got some sense of security, some secure footing back in his life, after the debt was over and done with, he decided to not talk to Taehyung more than necessary. He was too weak to maintain his resolve if he heard too much of Taehyung’s soft voice, or God forbid, see his smile. He wasn't ready to stop hating him, so the only other option was to fly into a rage upon realising his inevitable, pathetic longing would no doubt amplify with every one of Taehyung’s sweet, gentle gestures. And then what? Would he keep threatening to strangle him until he eventually did?

Jungkook dropped down into a crouch, legs too weak to keep supporting him.

When he turned off the water and stepped out to dry himself off, he spotted a pile of clean clothes sitting by the sink. Taehyung must’ve come in at some point and put them there for him. He forced himself to think nothing of it as he dressed himself slowly.

When he exited the bathroom Taehyung was sitting on the end of the bed, staring off to the side of the room absently. He'd evidently showered as well in one of the other bathrooms, hair damp and fluffy looking, skin flushed slightly pink. His overly large t-shirt slipped off one bony shoulder, exposing the rather horrific expanse of dark red and purple colouring his entire neck and the skin down to his collarbones. Taehyung jumped as the bathroom door shut and his gaze snapped up to glance at Jungkook, who didn't move for a second, staring at what he'd done to Taehyung’s neck. Taehyung got up quickly, hugging the pillow in his arms into himself as he stared warily at Jungkook, seeming to need to pluck up the courage to speak. Jungkook hated it.

“I um, I didn't really think about it when I asked you to stay with me. I know I don't have much right so I didn't expect you to agree. But u-um, I guess you can sleep here and I'll go sleep on the couch. I have to leave pretty early in the morning but there should still be food and everything in the fridge and cupboards. And uh- well, I mean, I- I guess I don't need to tell you much else. You… know where everything is and all.” Taehyung spoke quietly, stuttering a little, voice wavering and uncertain. He stared up at Jungkook beneath his soft fringe and Jungkook closed his eyes for a second, pretending he could sense neither Taehyung’s nor his own pain at the implication of his words.

“You’re letting me stay at your place. I couldn't very well kick you out of your own bed.” Jungkook muttered and Taehyung tensed, staring at him wordlessly in confusion. Jungkook sighed, pulling back the covers and getting in bed, making sure to stay on the very edge. “Sleep here. Just don't touch me.”

“I… O-Oh. Okay.” Taehyung looked thoroughly thrown off in surprise, and he just stood there for a few moments more, clutching the pillow tighter. Jungkook arched an eyebrow.

“Why are you staring at me like that?” Jungkook asked exasperatedly, tiredness seeping through his skin and dragging his mind under. He just wanted to sleep, and not think for a while. Taehyung bit his lip, eyes shining a little before he blinked away evident tears rapidly.

“I'm just… I'm just happy… you're here. That I can see you in front of me. And I'm- I’m relieved that you're doing okay. I- I was so scared you wouldn't be able to get back on your feet after I left you in the hospital. You were pretty beat up.” Taehyung murmured softly, voice trembling and Jungkook didn't respond for a few tense moments of silence.

“I knew it. So it was you, not Jimin, who took me to the hospital.” Jungkook replied quietly, and Taehyung flinched, ducking his head down and avoiding his gaze.

“I… Yeah. Sorry for getting Jimin to lie to you.” Taehyung whispered and Jungkook thought back to the comforting warmth of Taehyung’s soft touch and kiss that one hazy night trapped in the hospital over two months ago. He sighed.

“Hurry up and get in bed. I wanna sleep.” Jungkook muttered before turning over onto his side, facing away from Taehyung. Taehyung did as he said without another word, climbing in and lying down on the opposite end.

~

Chapter Text

Jungkook woke to the sound of Taehyung crying softly.

It was still pitch black, but Jungkook could sense Taehyung had sat up and pushed back the covers. Perhaps it was around five in the morning. Time for Taehyung to get ready to go to work.

Jungkook lay there listening to Taehyung’s quiet, subtle sniffs and shaky breaths with his eyes closed, not moving. He wondered what Taehyung was crying about. He wondered what he was thinking. He was sitting right beside Jungkook on that bed, close enough that Jungkook could sense his body heat ever so faintly, but far enough that he felt like he was worlds away, both in body and soul. Taehyung inhaled deeply, steadily, before breathing out slowly, as if he was anchoring himself.

“I know you're awake. Your breathing changed.” Taehyung murmured quietly, something resigned and defeated in his despondent tone, and Jungkook tensed, but didn't acknowledge him. Of course Taehyung could tell. Taehyung sighed, taking in a breath and holding it, as if he was deciding if he should say something. When he spoke, it was a tight mutter. “I… Sorry for waking you. I'm going to work now. You know where everything is.”

Jungkook didn't open his eyes or turn towards him as he heard Taehyung shift and stand from the bed quietly.

~

Jungkook dumped the day’s winnings down on the kitchen table with a groan. 300,000. Not bad. He staggered into Taehyung’s room, swinging the door shut behind him and stumbling over to the bed. It was some time after midnight now… probably. He clutched his side as he collapsed onto the bed, gritting his teeth against the throbbing, pulsing pain. Fuck. At least the other guy was worse off. The problem of shady cheaters and sore losers at low profile casinos and gambling dens was a big one. He was tired of fighting his way out of the doors every time. But he couldn't go to any of the “respectable” establishments as he had Bangtan on his tail, and they would expect him to show up at those places. It’d be suicide. Bunch of fuckers with too much time on their hands. Jungkook swore, jumping as he only just noticed Taehyung in the room sitting on the bed. Taehyung started in surprise at seeing Jungkook’s state and quickly crawled down the huge bed over to him seemingly instinctively. He reached out but froze just before he touched Jungkook, as if remembering himself.

“What happened?” Taehyung exclaimed worriedly, hands twitching as they hovered over Jungkook’s shoulders, and conflict flashed in his wide eyes as he bit his lip. Jungkook spared him a glance, before turning his body away, unwelcoming. Taehyung twitched but didn't move away. Taehyung’s alarm and severe urge to touch Jungkook and make sure he was alright was painfully obvious, etched into every inch of his worried face and blaring out obnoxiously at Jungkook, who had to look away.

“Won some games. Pissed some people off.” Jungkook replied shortly and Taehyung’s eyes only widened as he reached out to where Jungkook gripped his stomach. Jungkook hissed and straightened, glaring at him in warning.

“Don't touch me.”

“Y-You’re clearly hurt. Let me have a look.” Taehyung pleaded softly and Jungkook cursed under his breath, irritation creeping beneath his skin. He still couldn't say no to those wide, imploring eyes, even now. He clicked his tongue in annoyance and sat up straighter, lifting his shirt to show the myriad of bruises that nameless fucker had punched all over his stomach. Taehyung’s breath hitched and pain flickered in his horrified eyes as he froze for a second. Jungkook clicked his tongue again, glancing away, impatient as Taehyung’s warm fingers grabbed ahold of his wrist lightly to hold it in place. This was nothing. He'd gotten beaten up a lot worse before landing in hospital. He could deal with this type of ache all too easily now. There was no reason for Taehyung’s white-faced reaction. There was no reason but… Jungkook couldn't make himself say so, when Taehyung stared at his bruised skin so intently.

“That’s… that’s terrible.” Taehyung breathed and Jungkook snorted, gesturing carelessly at Taehyung’s neck.

“Have you seen yourself? I'm fine.” Jungkook replied flatly and Taehyung flinched, hand flying up to rest indecisively against the rather horrible spectacle of his neck. It'd been a day but it was still virtually completely painted in darkening shades of red, brown and purple. Taehyung’s eyes shuttered a little, and though he didn't look resentful, the air got a tiny bit chillier.

“Forget about that. These are playground casualties. I've been through a lot worse, thanks to you.” Jungkook muttered irritably and Taehyung just dipped his head down, not replying. “More importantly, we need to have a talk. I've got questions for you.”

“Yes… But I don't think I'll be able to tell you anything you'd want to hear.” Taehyung murmured quietly and Jungkook snorted, giving him a ice cold, scornful look.

“Oh yeah, I know that already.” Jungkook replied derisively and Taehyung sat back on his heels, balling his hands into fists on top of his thighs.

“Ask away.” Taehyung whispered, head still bowed and tucked in towards himself and Jungkook didn't speak immediately. He didn't know where to start. In the end, everything had led to this reality, would knowing why change anything? Was there even a why? Jungkook drew in a breath, dropping his head down and closing his eyes for a moment to steady himself.

“Why?” Jungkook wasn't proud that his voice came out as a whisper. He swallowed, keeping his eyes closed as each fearful, painful day of the past months flashed through his mind. He strengthened his voice a little, thinking of all the times he ran for his life. All the money. All the blood he’d coughed out. All the times he'd broken out into a cold sweat upon hiding from his pursuers as they drew closer. All the tears that had stung at the corners of his eyes, threatening to spill over despite his best efforts to hold them back. Taehyung hadn’t replied so Jungkook asked again. “Why did you do that to me?”

“Because Namjoon- the boss told me to.” Taehyung answered quietly, monotonously, and Jungkook felt a sharp spike of anger pierce through his constricted chest. His head snapped up as he narrowed his eyes and curled his lip.

“Are you Namjoon’s puppet? Bangtan’s puppet? You set me up with nine million dollars to rub salt into my father’s sixteen million dollar wound… Just because Namjoon told you to?” Jungkook taunted disdainfully, as if he wasn't desperately trying to hide his pain at the thought of his words being true. Jungkook must've meant less to Taehyung than he'd thought. Taehyung twitched but a flare of defiance passed over his gaze, gone in a flash.

“I'm a mob executive of Bangtan, actually. I am not a puppet, but the boss’s wish is my command, as a subordinate. You weren't… you weren't special. I did this to countless other hapless boys before you.” Taehyung started off tersely - perhaps Jungkook had offended him, but then his voice wavered, quieting a bit as if he himself was uncertain as to the level of truth behind that statement of Jungkook not being special. Jungkook narrowed his eyes further, feeling irritation drag blunt claws over his skin. Taehyung was trying to put up a strong front.

“Where are they now?” Jungkook asked more to provoke him than to hear the answer, because he knew what it was likely to be.

“Dead. Every one of them.” Taehyung replied flatly, seemingly remorselessly but Jungkook knew Taehyung better than that. He could see the smallest sliver of vulnerability in his otherwise impeccable mask, letting Jungkook catch a glimpse of the haunted look in his eyes.

Jungkook raised an eyebrow, as if the thought of sharing the fate of Taehyung’s past victims didn't faze him. “Killed?”

“By my hand, mostly.” Taehyung spoke flippantly, like he didn't even care. Jungkook had obviously realised it already, and had thought about it before, but hearing Taehyung confirm it so carelessly just drove it home. The beautiful boy before him, who smiled with the purest radiance and innocence, the person Jungkook had fallen in love with for his brilliant warmth and sense of bright wonder, had killed before. In cold blood. In fact, it was part of his job description. He was a criminal, who cheated, lied to, and murdered people. How could he bear to smile like that with blood on his hands? This face now… the one Jungkook stared at now, though unfamiliar, was much more fitting. There wasn't a trace of that bewitching sunshine, his hollow, bloodshot eyes, sunken cheeks and tightly set mouth speaking only of dark nights darkened ever more by bloodstains and lifeless bodies.

“So… you. You really are… a mobster. You play with people’s lives and speak with guns instead of words. You're a murderer.” Jungkook spoke softly, airily, feeling as if his words were being spoken by someone else, feeling detached from his body from the numbing chill of Taehyung’s haunted eyes.

“Yes… I'm a mobster, of one of two biggest criminal organisations of this part of the country. I've… killed… more people than I can count.” Taehyung replied slightly breathlessly, gaze darting away, eyes growing senselessly wide, fixed on the bedsheets but seeming as if unable to see them. His eyes widened more even as his expression remained dazed, eerily blank, shadows lurking in the twitch of his muscles in his cheeks. He shifted and brought his knees up to his chest, hugging them tightly into his body with arms that were trembling ever so slightly. Jungkook frowned. Taehyung’s pupils were shaking. Taehyung rested his chin on his knees, eyes darting down to his hand as he lifted it, as if surprising himself with the movement. Fuck, he looked like he was going mad. He continued with a soft whisper. “No matter how many times I wash my hands, the blood doesn't come off. Even if I scrub my skin raw, until there's nothing left, and nobody else can see anything, I can. It's dried and cracking under my fingernails. It's imprinted in the lines on my palms. It drives me insane.”

“You're fucked up.” Jungkook spoke flatly, frankly, and Taehyung flinched, nostrils flaring a little as he stared at his trembling hand with eyes that threatened to pop out of his skull, as if he actually could see blood dripping off his fingers. It was… extremely disconcerting to watch, to say the least. Then Taehyung dropped his hand to his side, letting his legs straighten and lifting his head a little, suddenly relaxing again with alarming speed. Shit, he really was fucked up, wasn't he? Didn't look like his mental state was very stable.

“I am. Happens when the faces of all the corpses lying at your feet start blurring together.” Taehyung commented calmly, dismissively, suddenly back in control of his nerves and emotions, it appeared. What the fuck… Taehyung’s lips twitched upwards in a tired, resigned smile. He spoke with an empty pride. “I do let guns do the speaking, as a principle. But I also do try speaking with words, usually. I talk to my victims while I kill them, and it freaks them out. I play the part of the Joker well.”

Jungkook stiffened at the confession, and narrowed his eyes, feeling the anger that had dissipated temporarily from being thrown off at Taehyung’s twitchy behaviour creep back. “So you are the Joker. I knew it. Tell me if I'm right about the rest of them, too.”

“Go on.” Taehyung murmured, lips curling upwards in a mockery of an amused smile. He gazed patiently up at Jungkook from behind the shadow of his fringe, head tipped down. Jungkook stared at him for a second of silence, before sighing, glancing away to explain what he'd figured out.

“Seokjin’s the Blank Card, Namjoon’s the Grand Dragon, I'm the Red Ace. That leaves the Dealer, the King of Suits, the Two-Faced Bluff and the Joker. On the first day we met, you told me that the Two-Faced Bluff had lost to all of the rest of them once. That includes me, doesn't it? At that time, the only one of you six who had lost to me before was Jimin.” Jungkook spoke quietly, hazy, warm memories of the brightly lit casino and Taehyung’s brighter smile swam through his mind. A simpler time. Taehyung merely dipped his head in assent, smiling a little more. Jungkook sighed again and carried on.

“There were other hints as well, although back then I didn't notice them and didn't realise or make the link. Such as… the first time I met Namjoon, and told him I'd specialised in Red Five before, he said that the Two-Faced Bluff had, too. And Hoseok said he'd learnt Red Five when he first started playing cards back home. That's what Jimin told me about himself when he first started teaching me how to play Red Five. And then… his contact name in your phone. I didn't pay much attention to it then because I was just a little distracted by him crying his eyes out over Yoongi, but… “TFB”. That stands for Two-Faced Bluff, doesn't it?” Jungkook slid his stare back over to Taehyung, who just gazed back at him in a sort of dry, resigned acceptance.

“You're so smart. Makes me wonder how we ever caught you.” Taehyung murmured quietly, not looking away for a second, tired gaze steady as it was heavy. Jungkook balled his fingers into a fist but kept himself from exploding, feeling his pulse accelerate. You know why. It was because Jungkook had been so distracted and blinded by Taehyung’s radiance, he'd happily ignored all the obvious clues and warning signs laid out in the open for him.

“At first, I thought when you said the Two-Faced Bluff had lost to all of them before, that excluded me, a rookie who’d only knowingly played against the Blank Card once. But then for the Joker, you said he'd lost against everyone except the Grand Dragon… and me. So I was included. So the Two-Faced Bluff had to have been Jimin.” Jungkook spoke tightly, making every effort to keep his anger in check, at least for now. He still had questions. He watched Taehyung’s eyes flicker to the vein he knew was ticking in his neck.

“How did you realise the Joker was me?” Taehyung asked lightly and Jungkook forced himself to uncurl his fingers, slumping a little.

“I didn't, really. It was more of a feeling. Let me guess, you usually win games with joker's, don't you? But you never did in front of me once. Because you chose to teach me Texas Hold ‘Em, a game without joker's. To throw me off, maybe? Or to challenge yourself?” Jungkook muttered, raising an eyebrow. Taehyung tilted his head.

“The latter.”

“I almost thought you were the Dealer, once. You told me the Dealer never dealt, and that same day you said dealing wasn't your thing. But that was just to fuck with me, right?” Jungkook laughed shortly, humorlessly once, and Taehyung just blinked at him, emotionless smile unchanging, and Jungkook knew he was right. “And also… you said the Joker had never lost to the Grand Dragon before. When you played against Namjoon that one time after the tournament system started up in BigHit, you won so easily, and everyone was surprised except you two. You've never lost to him before, have you?”

“He’s easy to read. To me, anyway.” Taehyung remarked casually, a split second of something flickering across his face. Something that Jungkook couldn't exactly say for sure, but seemed to be disdain. He filed that away, but didn't comment on it.

“And the two left are the Dealer and the King of Suits. Easy. When I told Yoongi he could deal if he had a problem with my dealing, he, like you, also said dealing wasn't his thing. But that was the actual giveaway, wasn't it? That the real Dealer was Yoongi. At the time I was so pissed off I barely even remembered him saying it, but I remember it well now. And when we played against Namjoon and Hoseok, I was trying so hard to figure out Namjoon’s playing style that I forgot to pay attention to Hoseok’s which was clear as day. Better suits, higher values. He favoured kings especially.” Jungkook finished tiredly, unenthusiastically, not gaining any sense of accomplishment or achievement whatsoever at being right. If only he'd figured this out earlier. Taehyung seemed to force his smile to widen momentarily before it dropped completely, shadows painting his eyes black as he ducked his head down and hid them behind his hair.

“I always loved that sharp mind of yours. One of the many things that drew me to you, regardless of my task.” Taehyung whispered, fidgeting with his fingers in his lap. Jungkook froze for a second but forced himself to ignore him, pretending both to Taehyung and to himself, that he hadn't heard anything. Jungkook bit the inside of his cheek, thinking back to the first night he'd gone home with Taehyung. If he thought about it now, he could remember the texts that had lit up Taehyung’s phone screen all too clearly. One text from Jinwoo, two from “S”. Jungkook had no idea who “S” was, but he was assuming it was one of the other executives.

$140625. Don't forget.

Jesus. They'd even planned the exact amount of money Taehyung and Jungkook were to bet in that final round of that final game, all those months ago. How meticulous. And then Jinwoo’s greeting of “V”…

“What about “V”? Does that mean anything?” Jungkook spoke up suddenly and Taehyung twitched at the mention, blinking in surprise. He exhaled slowly and glanced away in thought.

“Oh, that… well. I might as well tell you the whole story while I'm at it. Wanna hear it?” Taehyung asked blankly, as if it was of little to no importance, but Jungkook had been planning on hearing the whole story either way, so he nodded shortly. Taehyung crossed his legs and rested his hands on his ankles, starting with a tired sigh.

“I joined Bangtan six months before I met you. At the start, like any other newbie, I was stuck at the very bottom rung of a long, long ladder, and stuck with either clean up jobs, or indiscriminate murder of mob enemies. To prove mettle and loyalty, I guess. If you want to survive in a mob, you have to climb up that ladder. The further up, the better, the safer. Keep your eyes on the very top, and you'll have something to live for, to keep you sane. Not everyone aims for the very top, but instead, the next one down, which is the most realistic, optimum goal. The executives. The ones that answer to no one except the boss. Naturally, I was no different.” Taehyung spoke distantly, softly, like he was reciting a poem, and Jungkook said nothing, feeling nothing as a paralysing numbness had slowly begun to sweep over him in earnest. He couldn't really believe what he was hearing. That he was talking to a… a mobster. He couldn't really believe anything that had happened since February, in all honesty. But he was sort of accepting it all now, welcoming the numbness as a cold relief.

“And so, I had to do something to stand out. Thankfully, I already had a talent for poker, which was essential to Bangtan, because of BigHit being their major line of business. So I started playing all the games I could, winning all the games I could, and the boss finally noticed me and learnt my name. But that in itself wasn't enough to keep his attention, so I went out and took on all the tasks I could, killed more people than I ever thought was possible in that short frame of time, and gave the bodies my signature. It was just on a whim, but it worked out, because people started recognising the victims as ones that had been my kills. The boss, as well. I marked the corpses with a V. Two strokes of a small, sharp knife.” Taehyung gave a little smile as he spoke, mimicking the movement with a little gesture of his finger. It was a small, subtle, but terrifyingly cold smile. He looked satisfied, a little proud even. Jungkook couldn't look away, hating that he had to raise his hand to cover his mouth, but otherwise he might throw up.

“Not only did it serve as a warning to the enemies of Bangtan, it got me noticed by Hoseok, the unofficial leader of the three executives at the time. Before long the boss gave me a name, the Joker. And I became an executive, one of the most powerful men in underground Seoul. It hadn't been easy. All the other executives had had some sort of personal connection. I worked my way up to the top. I'd achieved the goal of all lower tier mob members, and all I had to do was live out my life in this luxury but then… you.” Taehyung’s tone hardened towards the end, a sudden, shockingly intense resentment colouring his bitter voice as he slit Jungkook a glare. Jungkook said nothing, only flattening his stare, not backing down and looking away for a second as Taehyung started breathing heavier, fingers digging into his thin ankles as his jaw ticked.

“You came along and- and you fucked up everything. You made me question things. You made me hesitate to kill. You made me cry over the thought of lying to you. You made me start to hear all the screams again, feel the dried blood on my hands, and doubt myself and everything that I'd done to get to this point. You made me regret, and that's not something I can afford to do at this point.” Taehyung hissed, voice quavering as much as his body shook. With anger? With shame? With fear? With sadness and pain? Jungkook couldn't tell. Perhaps all. But it served him right. If Jungkook had caused him even a single moment of regret and second guessing, that was good. Taehyung’s eyes had widened again, that wild, crazed and unstable shine from earlier recapturing those otherwise deadened irises. Shit, was he freaking out again?

“What did you even join for? Money? Power? That's not like you, Taehyung. Can't you tell me the real reason now?” Jungkook growled provocatively, not amused at all by Taehyung having the nerve to be resentful of Jungkook. Something snapped in Taehyung’s wide, tight stare, like a thin, taut string being cut. He bared his teeth in a snarl, eyes flashing with uncontrollable flames.

“How do you know that's not like me?! What did you know about me anyway? What do you know about me?” Taehyung shouted viciously, furiously, splitting the otherwise silent air of the apartment, chest and shoulders heaving as his fiery eyes twitched and shook. Jungkook’s lips parted in shock at Taehyung’s sudden crazed outburst but he didn't feel offence or anger at his words. He could tell Taehyung didn't mean them. He wished he could tell because of something sentimental, like his undying love, trust and belief or some shit, but no, it was just because Jungkook was watching him carefully. Taehyung’s painfully wide eyes were practically unseeing, mouth wide open like a gaping wound as he breathed heavily and harshly, veins straining in his neck. Sheer panic rolled off his shaking body in tangible, oppressive waves. He was freaking out alright. He was desperately trying to convince himself of his words, rather than Jungkook. As if yelling it loud enough would override his inner turmoil, settle his frazzled thoughts and solidify the words into a reality that he could cling to for stability.

“It was… it was all a farce… I- I approached you for the sole purpose of seducing and luring you in for money… and you could never tell. How do you know you ever even met the real me?” Taehyung muttered unsteadily, shaking his head compulsively as his voice stuttered and stumbled. Jungkook hated that even now, all he wanted to do was reach out and hold Taehyung close until he calmed down. He resisted the urge. He waited a little, staring calmly back at Taehyung until some of the fire had died away from Taehyung’s eyes, until he was able to hear Jungkook’s words, before speaking.

“I don't believe that. I don't believe everything was a farce. I don't believe I never saw the real you. I don't believe you taking your coffee with three packets of sugar was an act. I don't believe your love for jazzy, unheard of songs was an act. I don't believe your thoughts about outer space at three in the morning was an act. I don't believe that night on the beach was a lie.” Jungkook spoke quietly, firmly, ignoring Taehyung’s whimper of pain, watching him vehemently shake his head. Tears were gathering in those beautiful, haunted eyes. Jungkook pushed on, hardening his tone and expression. “But don't get me wrong. I do believe that you approached me and gained my trust for the purpose of robbing my money and fucking up my life from the very beginning.”

“I- I… That's right. That's what we do. That's what I do. And I'm the best at it. I'm the best. That's my job in Bangtan. To deceive and blind. I caught so many boys in my grasp with one look. Nobody could escape, everyone was wrapped around my little finger and dancing to my tune. You didn't escape either. You were no different. You- you were nothing… nothing more than another job number.” Taehyung breathed, lips twitching as a tear escaped from the corner of his eye and fell down to his jaw. Jungkook bit the inside of his cheek, hard, to distract himself from the acidic pain gnawing at his chest. The words hurt, they scorched and seared his skin with an unbearable intensity, even if Jungkook could tell they were lies. It took a few moments of struggling, to be able to ask his next question.

“Did you love me at all?” Jungkook asked quietly, deathly afraid to hear the answer, but fiercely needing to. Even if Taehyung lied… He had to hear Taehyung’s response, what he chose to reply with. Taehyung flinched and froze, another tear rolling down his cheek and sliding to rest on his quivering lip. He swallowed, sniffing once before he leant back, all his energy seeming to drain away in an instant, bowing his head in defeat.

“With… with all my heart.” Taehyung murmured quietly, almost inaudibly. Jungkook couldn't breathe for a second. He just stared at Taehyung wordlessly, helplessly. Taehyung didn't seem to be lying, not when his entire defeated posture seemed to ache and cry out with the painful truth of it, but… how could it be true? Taehyung lifted his gaze to meet Jungkook’s eyes and gave a shadow of a resigned smile. “You don't believe that.”

“No I don't. If you loved me then why did you betray me?” Jungkook whispered, hating how small and weak his voice was, hating that the pain eating away at his body could be heard by the whole world in his quiet question. Taehyung squeezed his eyes shut, turning his face away sharply.

“I didn't betray you, I set you up. I never betrayed you because I was never on your side in the first place. I'd only be betraying anyone if I'd helped you.” Taehyung breathed, clenching his hands into tight fists again and Jungkook was hit by a sudden wave of exhaustion. Taehyung was right. He hadn't ever been on Jungkook’s side. Jungkook swayed a little, letting out a long sigh that expelled all the air from his lungs. He was horribly, horribly exhausted.

“Would you do it again? Would you deceive me and drive me on the path to ruin?” Jungkook muttered and Taehyung flinched but didn't open his eyes.

“I…”

“Do you feel sorry at all? Do you even regret any of it?” Jungkook continued with a resigned sigh, not caring about his answer anymore, but still wanting to hear it.

“I do regret it. I don't regret setting you up, no, that's my job, that's what I set out to do. But I regret that it had to be you. I regret ever meeting you. I regret asking you to be my boyfriend, I regret letting myself fall in love with you, I- You’re the best and worst thing that's ever happened to me, and now I can't live without you. I know I don't have any right to be around you anymore, but I've lost all my pride when it comes to you. I'll get on my knees and beg you not to leave if it comes to that.” Taehyung spoke quietly, seriously, and Jungkook tried to act like every one of Taehyung’s words hadn't just stabbed him repeatedly. He hadn't thought it was possible to be more hurt than he already was. He glanced away, pretending to himself that there wasn't a throbbing pressure in his chest and neck and a stinging sensation at the corners of his eyes.

“Don't do that. It'll hurt both of us and drive this wedge deeper between us.” Jungkook replied quietly, and Taehyung dipped his head in agreement, biting his lip. He fidgeted for a moment before lifting his head and leaning forward ever so slightly, urgency flickering in his gaze.

“Jungkook, I really did love you. I do love you. I don't care if you don't or can't love me anymore, I just need you here. I don't care if you hit me or abuse me, as long as you don't leave me. Please stay.” Taehyung pleaded softly, desperation shining in his wide eyes, another tear racing down his cheek to merge with the drying stains on his skin. Jungkook flinched, staring back at him in a sort of muted horror. He bit his lip, hard, turning away and trying to stop his body from trembling. It hurt. It hurt so bad he could barely breathe. Taehyung was right, he'd lost his pride. And Jungkook hated hearing these desperate words, hated seeing him like this, as if without Jungkook, his world would crumble. And so he'd given Jungkook the green light to abuse his body even when both of them knew it wasn't right, and wasn't what either of them wanted.

“Obviously not enough.” Jungkook whispered, to which Taehyung made a noise of confusion.

“What…?”

“You obviously didn't love me enough. Or you never would've went through with your original plan.” Jungkook elaborated stronger, louder, spitting the words out, and Taehyung looked like he'd been struck. Taehyung shrunk back after a frozen moment and crossed his arms over his chest, gripping his upper arms in both hands, curling in on himself protectively.

“Maybe. And this is my karma.” Taehyung smiled humorlessly, and Jungkook swallowed, closing his eyes for a second. He felt dizzy. He'd heard Taehyung’s answer. He should give his.

“I can't love you like I used to. No, I don't want to love you like I used to. You're quite right, you don't have any right to be around me. I gave you my heart, my trust, my everything, hell, I was planning on giving my life to you to hold close. I can't ever forgive you for this. I won't ever stop hating you for this. But… I know I'm weak. I'm weak whenever it comes to you, and I know I'll eventually end up loving you again, more than I hate you now.” Jungkook spoke tiredly, more tired than he'd ever felt in his life, and he could only laugh emptily at himself, at his pathetic words. He slid his gaze over to Taehyung who sat there utterly motionless, hanging intently on to his every word. He gave a cold, senseless smirk as he gestured at the bruises pressed into Taehyung’s neck and hips. “But it won't be the same again, ever. You can tell just by the bruises on your body, can't you?”

Taehyung flinched, grip visibly tightening on his arms but otherwise he didn't move, as if he was afraid to. Jungkook sighed deeply. “I don't think I'll ever be able to trust you again. But I seem to enjoy pain as much as you look like you do, because I know I can't stay away from you. I crave your touch as much as you need mine.”

You’re the best and worst thing that's ever happened to me, and now I can't live without you… was it?

It was the same for Jungkook.

He rubbed the back of his neck as he continued.

“I have more questions, because I know you haven't told me everything, but to be honest… I'm tired. I don't want to care anymore. If you lie to me again, or keep holding things from me, go ahead. But just know that you'll be the one to suffer for it. That I promise you.” Jungkook finished grimly, sombrely, both stating a fact and a threat, and he hoped Taehyung would take it seriously. Taehyung swallowed and licked his lips nervously, nodding silently, eyes wide. Jungkook sighed, feeling tiredness settle into his bones and numb his body. He tugged off his shirt, standing from the bed and stretching, not knowing what he'd gained from this conversation, not knowing what he'd lost. He kicked off his shoes and jeans before climbing into bed, pausing for a second before choosing to stay sitting upright. Taehyung got up slowly, turning to slip out of his shirt and place it over the back of a chair, bending a little awkwardly to take off his pants. That's right. Jungkook hadn't been gentle last night. His body probably ached. Jungkook stared at the finger shaped bruises pressed into his slim waist and sharp, protruding hipbones in silence. When Taehyung turned back around, he hesitated, staying still on the spot for a moment.

“Thank you. For staying.” Taehyung murmured meekly, all signs of the fire from before having completely vanished. Jungkook clicked his tongue, tilting his head a little.

“This isn't for you. It’s for me.” Jungkook replied coldly, frankly, but Taehyung shook his head, smiling a little.

“The reason doesn't matter to me.” Taehyung spoke softly and Jungkook suddenly found that he couldn't sleep right now. He was so, so tired, but… he couldn't fall asleep on cold sheets, not tonight. He lifted the covers, gesturing at Taehyung to come over.

“Come here.” Jungkook invited quietly and Taehyung stiffened, eyebrows drawing together in a tight, confused frown. He stared at Jungkook like he was trying to determine if he'd heard him wrong and Jungkook didn't have the patience for this. He hardened his stare and growled. “Now.”

Taehyung jumped and quickly made his way over, stopping beside Jungkook warily. Jungkook sighed for the nth time that night and grabbed Taehyung’s arm, hauling him down on to the bed, spinning him around so he sat snugly between Jungkook’s legs, back pressed up against Jungkook’s chest. Taehyung was stiff as a slab of rock, evidently shell shocked at Jungkook’s move. Jungkook thought that he could allow himself this, just for tonight. He wrapped his arms around Taehyung’s front, leaning back to rest his back against the headboard and pulling Taehyung’s body with him. He rested his chin against Taehyung’s shoulder, chest aching at the familiar soft warmth pressed up against his body.

“J-Jungkook…” Taehyung spoke helplessly, voice breaking with pain and Jungkook pressed his face into Taehyung’s neck, breathing him in, refusing to think about it right now.

“Just for tonight.” Jungkook whispered into Taehyung’s skin, feeling Taehyung tense even more, before slowly, gradually relaxing against his body, bit by bit. Jungkook stroked his thumb over Taehyung’s skinny waist, opening his eyes slightly. “Tell me what's happened over these months. How did you lose so much weight? Why haven't you been sleeping?”

“I… Isn't it obvious? Because I can't stop thinking about you. I have no appetite, and I ate an actual proper meal today for the first time in two weeks. I can't sleep both because the bed's so cold without you… And because I can't stop hearing the screams in my head. They won't let me sleep.” Taehyung murmured softly and Jungkook hummed quietly, kissing Taehyung’s shoulder and hearing his breath hitch. Jungkook ran his hand lightly over Taehyung’s shoulder, down the bony line of his arms to pause at his thin wrists before trailing his fingers up his side, pausing at each rib that jutted out from his skin, memorising his body beneath fingertips that remembered a different, healthier figure of the past. Taehyung shivered and leant his head back on Jungkook’s shoulder, letting a tiny sigh slip out.

“Eat. Your body’s so thin I feel like I could snap your spine just by leaning on your back. If you need an incentive, I'm not touching you again after this unless it's to fuck you, and I'm not fucking you until you don't feel like a corpse anymore.” Jungkook spoke a little coldly, a little harshly, and Taehyung twitched in his arms but didn't voice any complaint. Jungkook lifted his head slightly to gaze at Taehyung’s closed eyes.

“O-Okay.” Taehyung whispered, slowly, tentatively leaning back into Jungkook’s body a little more, perhaps to savour the feeling while he could. Jungkook glanced away from Taehyung’s bittersweet expression, chest tight.

His wandering eyes spotted a dog toy lying in the corner of the room. Come to think of it, he hadn't seen Haru around anywhere. He hadn't seen his dog in over five months. Although, was Haru still Jungkook’s dog? Technically, Jungkook had bought him for Taehyung. That meant he belonged to Taehyung, but at the time Jungkook hadn't ever considered that he wouldn't also have ownership, seeing as he and Taehyung didn't seem like they'd ever break up. Haru, just like everything else that Taehyung owned, belonged to Jungkook, just as everything he owned belonged to Taehyung. That's what… it was supposed to be like. They'd never verbally agreed on it, but that was just how it worked. He'd… never considered a time when that wouldn't be the case anymore… like now. But… had they even broken up? Mentally, perhaps. Neither of them had actually said anything before Taehyung disappeared and Jungkook was on the run. So Jungkook just assumed so. But here Jungkook was, holding Taehyung in his arms again. What the fuck was even going on with their mess of a relationship? Jungkook swallowed, shoving down the urge to tighten his arms and scream.

“Where’s Haru?” Jungkook managed to speak normally, and Taehyung’s eyes slid open. He looked a little dazed, as if he'd just about been lulled off to sleep from Jungkook’s warmth.

“At BigHit. Hoseok’s looking after him right now because I can barely take care of myself let alone a dog. Besides… he reminded me too much of you.” Taehyung replied quietly, sleepily, soft words slurring together ever so slightly. He shifted slightly and turned his head towards Jungkook, face centimetres away. Jungkook stared with a lump in his throat, at Taehyung’s drowsy, pretty features, soft even with the sharp edges of bone and shadow. He was too close. His mesmerising eyes, half hidden beneath his long lashes, were fixed on Jungkook so steadily, so calmly, and Jungkook couldn't breathe. His slow, light breaths fanned over Jungkook’s lips, and Jungkook ached to close the distance. But he resisted. He turned his head away sharply before he lost his control, taking in a quick breath.

“Looks like I won't be seeing him again, then.” Jungkook muttered more to distract himself than to provide a proper response. Taehyung shifted again, sliding down a little and edging away slightly to rest his cheek on Jungkook’s shoulder, blinking slowly.

“The casino’s different without you. It's… lacking energy. It doesn't have the same buzz, and the atmosphere feels a bit dull. It's subtle, but the change is definitely there. Your presence made it come alive.” Taehyung murmured airily, wistfully, and Jungkook found that his tongue had hardened into lead at Taehyung’s words, at that achingly soft tone. He couldn't answer even if he wanted to. Taehyung breathed in slowly, turning his body to the side, in towards Jungkook’s chest and lifting a hand to rest his fingers lightly against Jungkook’s stomach. He looked like he could fall asleep at any second. He exhaled and continued even softer, if it was possible. “So many people have asked me where you went. The boss doesn't let me reveal my identity as the Joker, so many people don't know me by name, but they know me as your- the Red Ace’s companion. His partner. They ask me whether I'm still in touch with you, whether you're coming back to play.”

Jungkook tried his hardest, but words just wouldn't come. He stared, knowing pain was written all over his face as Taehyung’s eyes flicked up to meet his, a single tear falling from the corner of his eye. The tear rolled down his cheek and landed on Jungkook’s shoulder. Taehyung said nothing else, curling his fingers slightly against Jungkook’s skin. Jungkook watched in silence as Taehyung’s eyes fluttered closed and his breathing evened out.

~

Two weeks went by in a flash. Jungkook had only managed to scrape together one and a half million dollars, which meant he still had two million left, and a week to go. It was hopeless. Jungkook was twitchy and irrationally panicked at everything more often than not, and jumped at the slightest of sounds. He’d been chased all over the city almost every day, whether it be by low tier members of Bangtan or by people he pissed off after winning games. Naturally, it'd taken a toll on him both physically and mentally. In physical terms, now that he lived with Taehyung, food was never an issue, so at least he had energy this time round to run from relentless pursuers. The exercise was doing wonders for recovering his lost muscle, at least.

Mentally though… His mood… fluctuated a lot. Perhaps his mind was deteriorating from the pressure. His attitude and treatment towards Taehyung was never consistent. At times, he stumbled around the apartment in a daze and lashed out at Taehyung whenever he tried to come near - and at other times he'd sit in the corner of the room and drag Taehyung down onto his lap, holding him tightly without saying a word and not letting him get up for hours. Sometimes he was okay with talking a little, other times he returned with a bag of money and counted the notes in silence for the whole night, not replying to Taehyung or even looking at him, completely refusing to acknowledge his presence. Sometimes he jumped out of his skin at Taehyung’s light, concerned touch, other times he shoved Taehyung down on the bed and held him down roughly as he fucked him till he couldn't walk straight anymore.

He felt… bad, towards Taehyung, he guessed. If he calmed down long enough to think about it. But he was just too stressed, pressed close to a breaking point because of the looming, impossible due date of the end of his contract. What would happen to him if he couldn't pay everything on time? He didn't like to think about it, so took it out on Taehyung.

The only thing that remained consistent between them was Taehyung’s submissiveness to Jungkook’s every will. Jungkook wondered whether he so desperately asserted control over Taehyung to make up for the lack of control over his own mind and emotions. It felt gratifying to be able to hold the reins for something, because he’d already lost his grip long ago when it came to his own mentality. Whatever it was, he was grateful that Taehyung went along with it so compliantly. He didn't like to think about what he'd do in his unstable state if he couldn't get his way regarding this at least.

It was the first day of the last week of six long, long months, and Jungkook was so close. So close both to snapping, and to seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. But the tunnel had just grown longer, the light shrinking, as he'd been unable to walk away with his winnings tonight. Not only had he had the pool snatched away from him during the last game of the night, he'd been held at gunpoint and forced to hand over everything else he'd won earlier in the day too. A day wasted. Several hundred thousand dollars gone.

The first thing he'd done when he got back to Taehyung’s apartment was shutting the door shut behind him and screaming. He gripped his head and screamed, shaking as he slid down the wall to the floor. The second thing he'd done as he'd gotten up slowly when Taehyung came over to him, shocked and worried, was grabbing Taehyung by the hair and slamming him against the wall, kissing him aggressively, replacing the taste of bitter, bitter loss with Taehyung’s tongue.

After the initial burn was sated by Taehyung’s lips, bleeding from where Jungkook had bit a tiny slit into the skin, Jungkook slowed down the pace considerably, that erratic mental switch of his suddenly flipped. He took his time slipping the clothes off Taehyung’s body, appreciating the progress that was already beginning to show from Taehyung’s full, proper meals, before pressing him down on the sheets and teasing him breathless. He distracted himself from all the frustration and despair by driving Taehyung wild and filling his ears and mind with those musical, desperate gasps and mewls he dragged out from Taehyung’s lips without pause.

He had Taehyung on his hands and knees now, having finally entered him properly after reducing him to tears from fucking around and the seemingly never ending slow, teasing preparation. He hadn't rimmed Taehyung in a while, but as always, it had Taehyung weak, shuddering and praying by the very first swipe of his tongue. He didn't know why he didn't do it more often.

“You know… I am,” Jungkook breathed as he snapped his hips all the way forward before pulling back slowly, agonisingly slow. Taehyung dropped his head down, letting out endless whimpers and soft gasps at Jungkook’s purposefully off putting speed and rhythm, fisting his hands into the sheets. “In a really bad mood right now. You better hold still.”

“I- y-yeah. I will.” Taehyung stuttered softly and Jungkook thrusted forward almost languidly, welcoming the burn racing through his veins at the torture he placed on himself, denying himself the speed and friction he craved. He made it worse for Taehyung, teasing him maddeningly slow, taking some time to just barely brush over that bundle of nerves with the tip of his dick with each slow, controlled roll of the hips, before thrusting all the way in and hitting it square on without warning, only to withdraw again as soon as Taehyung cried out in pleasure. It barely took any time at all for Taehyung to be reduced to a squirming, shaking, sobbing mess, rocking backwards mindlessly in search of more, begging and pleading for Jungkook to give it to him with beautifully hoarse, cracked moans. It was worth the agony of controlling himself and ignoring all that delicious, unbearable heat wrapped so tightly around his throbbing cock, to see Taehyung lose his mind.

Jungkook had always thought Taehyung looked absolutely, mind blowingly irresistible on his hands and knees, but this sight was something else. Taehyung’s knuckles were white from gripping the sheets so tight and veins streaked up his trembling forearms as he gasped and whined in desperation. His long back was arched down so prettily, in a perfect, sinful curve and Jungkook could barely stop himself from running his tongue down the valley of his shoulderblades. There was a sheen of sweat shining over every inch of his skin, and he spread those long, slim legs ever wider, shaking and practically sniffling with pained need. Gorgeous.

Jungkook hummed appreciatively and slammed all the way in roughly, trailing wandering fingers down Taehyung’s taut stomach and pausing to rub teasingly at the seam of his thigh and hip. Taehyung’s arms and thighs, shaking with the effort of holding himself up, gave way beneath him as he fell forward onto the sheets with a soundless choked cry. His hair was a sticky mess against his forehead as he turned his head to the side to breathe, eyes screwed tightly shut, and Jungkook growled dangerously above him. He didn't give Taehyung any time to catch his breath as he reached down and curled tight fingers in his soft hair, yanking his head to pull his body back up and tugging it all the way back so his neck curved backwards in a beautiful, painful looking arch. The movement pushed Taehyung’s hips back and his ass pressed back against Jungkook’s dick, involuntarily letting it sink deeper into Taehyung’s body. Taehyung’s red, kiss bruised lips dropped open at the feeling but he seemed to lack air to produce any sound as Jungkook pulled his head back further, cursing lowly at the feeling of Taehyung’s walls tightening down on him ever more. Fuck, he wasn't going to be able to control himself anymore. He leant forward, bearing down against Taehyung’s back and breathing harshly over his ear.

“What did I say about holding still?” Jungkook growled menacingly, stilling his hips and Taehyung moaned breathlessly, distressed and desperate as he shook his head, tugging at Jungkook’s grip in his hair. Jungkook sucked at the corner of his jaw, biting roughly at it and trailing his tongue up the sharp line. He pulled back to see Taehyung struggling to breathe, prying open his eyes slightly, long eyelashes wet both from tears and sweat. His body shook so much Jungkook suspected he was so weak the only thing keeping his body up was Jungkook’s hand in his hair.

“I- I need- Jungkook please, I- I'm going insane please I need more, give me, give me more-” Taehyung begged wretchedly, tears flowing down his cheeks as he tried pushing his hips back to seek friction and Jungkook just wasn't feeling nice that day.

“Don't. Tell me what to do.” Jungkook hissed, voice dangerously low and commanding, and Taehyung only squirmed more, seeming to have completely lost his senses. He was usually so good at listening and following Jungkook’s every order. But not today it seemed, as he blatantly ignored Jungkook’s instruction of holding the fuck still.

“Jungkook-”

“Well. I warned you but you didn't listen.” Jungkook whispered, letting go of Taehyung’s hair and leaning back, sliding all the way out. Taehyung gasped at the sudden emptiness and loss of contact and made as if to move, to which Jungkook slapped Taehyung’s ass sharply in warning. A startled, pained moan tripped out of Taehyung’s throat at the sudden sting, and Jungkook had not bothered to be gentle about it, watching redness start to spread across his skin already. Jungkook growled. “Talking back to me as well.”

“I- what- no, Jungkook please-” Taehyung stammered, panic and desperation lending an edge to his gasped words as he started to turn around and Jungkook hissed, slapping Taehyung’s ass again roughly, drawing a cry purely of pain this time.

“Do not move.” Jungkook ordered with a tone of ice, and thankfully Taehyung finally did as told, freezing in place. Jungkook growled again, feeling irritation flare in bursts throughout his body and he ripped the condom off, tossing it to the side and gripping his own dick in a tight fist. Taehyung craned his neck around to see what Jungkook was doing and his eyes widened as he saw Jungkook jerking himself off right there, inches away from his twitching hole, that clenched around nothing but air.

“N-No Jungkook please…” Taehyung whimpered, obviously catching on to the fact that Jungkook planned on leaving him high and dry like this. Jungkook just stared archly back at Taehyung, roaming his eyes over Taehyung’s straining, tensed muscles as he visibly struggled to stay still, and the tears dripping off his chin as his hungry, desperate stare locked in on Jungkook’s cock. Jungkook tightened his grip just a little more, feeling heat build up in his body before exploding as he came with a guttural groan, forcing himself to keep his eyes open. He made sure to aim well and splatter his come all over Taehyung’s ass, hearing Taehyung give a choked, shocked moan and watching his body jerk and squirm at the liquid dripping down his skin.

Well, shit. He'd intended it to just be a little punishment for Taehyung, which seemed to have been successful as Taehyung’s cheeks burned bright red. Embarrassment and a visible filthy, uncomfortable sort of pleasurable sensation was painted over his face as he gasped and squirmed some more when a few drops of Jungkook’s come slipped into his hole. But Jungkook had not counted on himself being so affected he could barely remember how to breathe at the sight before him. The way Taehyung shook and shuddered as Jungkook’s come slowly dripped and slid down his quivering thighs was nothing short of obscene. Fuck, the entire picture before him was nothing short of obscene. Jungkook could only stare in a daze for a second, feeling his mouth water despite already coming a minute ago, and quickly snapped himself out of it as Taehyung whimpered and Jungkook remembered he was still waiting.

He quickly hopped off the bed and went over to the bedside table, yanking open all the drawers till he found the one that he hadn't visited in quite some time. It wasn't that Taehyung wasn't on board with sex toys, oh no, he was plenty on board the few times they'd experimented, but Jungkook had never felt much necessity to use them. He fished out a vibrator and located the remote with a bit of difficulty, clicking his tongue in annoyance before making his way back over to Taehyung, who was really being amazingly patient considering everything. Considering his ass was in the air covered in come, and his dick was flushed pink and rock hard, leaking precome like no tomorrow. Jungkook just really wasn't feeling nice today.

He wasted no time in pushing the vibrator into Taehyung’s hole, cursing at the lewd sound of it sliding past all the come and lube. Taehyung groaned lowly at the pressure and stretch, pleasure flitting over his features, but he still whined and shot Jungkook a look. The vibrator was rather small as far as vibrators went, it wasn't as long and thick as Jungkook’s cock, which was why Taehyung was staring at him through a screen of tears looking so utterly betrayed and bereft, Jungkook guessed. Too bad. Not today.

“That's all you're getting. Touch yourself.” Jungkook commanded and Taehyung jumped to obey, shifting his weight onto one hand and wrapping the other around his dick. His eyes slid shut as he groaned quietly, and Jungkook pressed the switch on the remote. As lazy, low vibrations buzzed in his hole and spread through his body Taehyung gasped and gripped his dick tighter, letting his head drop down again as he dragged his fist up and down a little clumsily as if his brain and body weren't cooperating very well. Jungkook swore breathlessly at the sight and turned the settings up higher, coaxing a series of mixed, warbled moans and curses to roll off Taehyung’s tongue as he moved his hand up and down faster, lips slack with pleasure.

“Be good and I'll turn it up to the max and let you come.” Jungkook spoke softly and Taehyung couldn't manage any words, only nodding vigorously, eyes squeezed tightly shut. Jungkook couldn't let this moment slip away. He quickly retrieved his phone from where it'd fallen to the floor and climbed back onto the bed, turning the settings up more. Taehyung shouted, voice cracking as his arm bent and he fell forward, burying his head into the crook of his elbow, sobbing, whining, gasping and moaning without pause as he stroked himself faster, entire body tensed and trembling. Jungkook quickly found a good angle and snapped a picture on his phone, making sure to catch Taehyung’s tear stained, wrecked face in it.

Shit. The sight was quite something. Taehyung’s back, glistening with sweat, was curved down into the sheets, ass raised high, puckered hole clenching tightly around the vibrator. The splashes and trails of come made the milky skin of Taehyung’s ass and thighs seem golden and glowing, and made the flushed head of his cock, held tightly by his long, thin, pretty fingers, seem redder than usual. The fading bruises pressed into his hips and thighs seemed to come to life, starkly purple and blue against the white of Jungkook’s come. The debauched expression on his face that was turned to the side for air exuded mindless, decadent and wanton pleasure and filthy desire, and Jungkook could almost feel the heat of his reddened cheeks through the screen.

“Holy fuck. I could jack off to this for days. Look at you.” Jungkook murmured raspily, stroking the back of Taehyung’s thigh almost absently as he reached down and placed the phone beside Taehyung’s face, nudging at him to take a look. Taehyung forced his wet eyelashes apart and his eyes flew all the way wide open as he caught sight of himself captured on Jungkook’s screen. He choked and his blush deepened so drastically Jungkook was almost concerned for a second at the alarming shade that spread down to his neck.

“O-Oh my God.” Taehyung whispered weakly and Jungkook just smirked, taking his phone away and turning the settings of the vibrator up as high as it could go. Taehyung seemed to quickly forget all about the picture as he all but screamed, almost coming immediately, in shaky, jerky spurts. Jungkook just sat back and enjoyed the view, slipping the vibrator out once Taehyung had relaxed and collapsed against the sheets, utterly spent. Jungkook shifted up the bed so he sat beside Taehyung, feeling inexplicably lighter than before. Perhaps he'd just fucked his stress out (or well, jerked his stress out), or perhaps he was just that in awe of the sheer level of mesmerising sin captured in his phone. His irritation had faded, and he even felt okay with speaking to Taehyung normally, just for a while as Taehyung lay there panting and dizzy.

“You ever thought about being a porn star? I'd jack off to your videos.” Jungkook remarked and Taehyung made a garbled noise of embarrassment, but he relaxed soon after, even laughing a little as he evidently basked in the drowsy, warm afterglow.

“Oh, I know you would.” Taehyung replied, voice low and raspy, and Jungkook just snorted, casually saving the picture as his home screen. So what if he'd never be able to get anything done on his phone ever again. Taehyung turned his head to the side and blinked sleepily up at Jungkook, whose breath hitched, all of a sudden feeling attacked by the softness of Taehyung’s slightly smiling, slightly blushing face. “You… you won't let me delete that photo, will you.”

“Absolutely not.” Jungkook replied flatly, perhaps flatter than he'd meant to speak, quickly whipping his gaze away from Taehyung’s dangerously soft smile. Fuck. Taehyung may be the one willingly submitting himself to Jungkook’s every command, but… in reality Jungkook was the one that could be brought to his knees just by one sweet, soft look, and had his mind chained and controlled by the slightest gesture from Taehyung. He gritted his teeth. Fuck. He hoped Taehyung hadn't realised. He swallowed. “Go take a shower.”

“I'm waiting for it to dry a bit. Or I'll drip come all over the carpet.” Taehyung grimaced a little and smiled wryly. Jungkook smirked at his handiwork and reached out to swipe some of the come off Taehyung’s thigh onto his fingers, holding them out in front of Taehyung’s face.

“Want it?” Jungkook offered, smirk widening as Taehyung’s eyes flashed with hunger and his smile brightened and broadened considerably.

“Yes please.” Taehyung all but purred sweetly, and Jungkook swore softly as he slipped his fingers past Taehyung’s open lips. He had to swallow several times as he watched Taehyung’s eyes flutter as he sucked lightly, wetly, curling his tongue over Jungkook’s fingers and licking every drop clean with a pleased noise.

“You make it impossible for me to ever think of anything innocent and holy.” Jungkook spoke, a little strained, and Taehyung laughed softly, releasing his fingers with a wet pop. Taehyung raised his hand and grabbed Jungkook’s wrist lightly, holding his hand there before he could move it back. Jungkook bit the inside of his cheek as Taehyung blinked drowsily up at him. He looked like sleepiness had just hit him with full force as he'd come down from his high, slackening his expression and drawing his eyelids together.

“I’ll take that as a compliment.” Taehyung mumbled and tightened his grip ever so slightly before his eyes slipped shut.

“Jesus… don't fall asleep when you're covered in sweat and come.” Jungkook muttered as he sighed, gazing at Taehyung’s fingers wrapped around his wrist and holding his hand close.

He hesitated for a second before hauling Taehyung’s body into his arms, picking him up and carrying him into the bathroom to clean him up. He didn't want Taehyung catching a cold.

~

Chapter Text

300,000 dollars.

That's how much he had left. But he'd run out of time. That final week had passed all too quickly and his deadline had been three hours ago. Earlier that day, right before he left the apartment to try and scrape together the last bit of his debt, he'd been overwhelmed with a sense of premonition. He was caught by a sharp, chilling gut feeling, that as he left now, by the time he returned, or if he was able to survive to make it back in one piece, everything would have changed.

And so he pulled Taehyung into his body and held him close as he closed his eyes and breathed him in. He kept his touch softer than it had been in months. Somehow, he knew that this would be the last time in a while, at least, that he'd be able to hold Taehyung in his arms like this. Able physically, or mentally, he didn't quite know. Taehyung obviously also knew it was the last day and the deadline was looming up immediately ahead, and he held on tighter than usual as he buried his face into Jungkook’s neck, seeming reluctant to ever let go.

“Please come back.”

Taehyung had whispered to him as Jungkook nudged him to move aside. He didn't reply. He couldn't promise anything. He heard Taehyung start to cry as he stepped out of the apartment and closed the door behind him. They both knew very well that Jungkook could very possibly die tonight. Jungkook had had a lot of things he wanted to say, too many, and they all contradicted with themselves and with himself, so he didn't end up saying anything.

It had almost been eighteen hours since Jungkook left. It was now three in the morning, and his deadline had been at midnight. He'd only managed to win a third of what he owed. But like some sort of preset alarm, at twelve o’clock on the dot, a few of Bangtan’s members had shown up at the doors of the gambling den he was at, and he'd had to start a rioting brawl inside the den with all the other players involved to get the lackeys swept up in it and be able to slip through the chaos and flee. He'd been running for three whole hours. There was just no end to the Bangtan members they'd set loose after him. Jungkook wasn't sure what they were going to do to him if he was caught. Shoot him right there? Beat him to death? Somehow exploit him in some other way and make him disposable, usable property of Bangtan on the grounds that he'd been unable to hold up his end of the contract? Bring him to Namjoon, execute him at BigHit?

He tuned back into reality as he ran down a wide, deserted alleyway and hid himself away in the gap between buildings. He didn't know what he was going to do. He knew he couldn't keep running forever. There was no solution to this.

Shouts came from his left.

Jungkook pressed himself against the rough, concrete wall and cursed himself for running into a dead end between two rickety buildings. His only escape route was forward and to the right, down the wide, horribly open alleyway in the opposite direction to his pursuers.

He held his breath, barely able to concentrate over the sound of his pounding heartbeat billowing in his ears. He hoped they wouldn’t come down this way. He hoped he wouldn’t be found here. He strained his ears to try and pinpoint the movements of his pursuers, hoping beyond hope that they would pass by the entrance to this alleyway, and he’d run once the coast was clear. For a split second silence drew the dark streets taut with tension, before Jungkook heard one of them speak, distant, but still far too close for comfort.

“I know he’s around here somewhere.”

Jungkook swallowed, taking indecisive steps backwards, further into the shadow of the rundown, skeletal buildings. He tripped over his own trembling feet and down he went, crashing down on to the corrugated iron sheets scattered about the place. His heart leapt in his throat as the painfully loud sound split the still night air like a clap of thunder, echoing through the dark. The ensuing shouts at the discovery of his position and careless heavy footfalls thundered down the alleyway towards him. He bolted out of that dead end and ran down the alleyway encased in shadow, just narrowly missing diving headfirst into piles of trash that would dissipate into clouds of dust at the slightest touch. The garbage and unsightly scraps cast aside and dumped on the dirty pavement, eaten away by the tunnel of biting wind reminded Jungkook of himself. He hurtled past the swinging fragments of plaster dangling from the maze of broken scaffolding, claws of pallid moonlight reaching down to pierce his skin. Shouts elevated in volume behind him and he gritted his teeth, pushing his legs to move faster. He’d been seen, and now the chase was really on.

How had it come to this? Jungkook had no way of escaping certain capture leading to probable death. How had he been driven to this point? When had all this started? Maybe it was when Jungkook had first been introduced to cards. Maybe it was when he’d won his first game at the casino. Maybe it was when he first realised how dangerous addiction proved itself to be, how indiscriminate it was in choosing victims to sink its numbing teeth into, and how none of those victims even noticed its presence until it was far too late. Nobody started out consciously thinking they’d become addicted to gambling to the point where debt piled on debt and they waded through a sea crawling up to their ears of the suffocating pressure and filthy money. Jungkook, naturally, was the same. He had not thought he’d become like this, when he first started.

It was tragic, really, if he thought about it. He'd been brought to this point because he was betrayed by the two people he thought he could trust his life with. Both of whom, he didn't ever really know. Even Taehyung. Though he knew everything on the surface as well as Taehyung from within, as the person he'd fallen irrevocably in love with, he never knew the most important part - the danger. He’d never properly focused on it, or cared to probe deeper. He'd started dating the guy practically on the same day they met. If that didn't say anything, perhaps nothing would.

In the end, his dangerous naivety and willingness to trust others, trust strangers and trust that the clearly powerful, dangerous criminals he surrounded himself with would for some reason not harm him, was all due to his own weakness and long suffering isolation. His need for someone’s presence and love, their attention as validation, perhaps. He'd been discarded, dismissed as unimportant by his father from the day he was born. He'd been left behind by his mother who'd passed away before he could even remember anything. He'd grown up alone, and none of his friends had ever felt more than a pasted smile on a blank sheet of paper.

Once he was in college, he'd made a lot of friends. A large, easy circle of friends that spread throughout the campus. But those friends never brought him any sense of security or comfort, despite being nice towards him. He never knew more than names, of people he'd partied with and slept with. Then he met Jimin, and thought he'd finally found his one true, close friend. The fact that he barely knew a thing about him didn't even faze him as they quickly became inseparable.

Then he met Taehyung, and he thought he'd found the one. He thought that this was exactly what was meant to be. And it was. Until Taehyung stabbed him in the back and splintered along with him at the touch of the blade.

Jungkook shook off the despairing, distracting thoughts as he felt his tired legs slowing.

Playtime was over. A solid weight slammed into Jungkook’s back, bowling him over and shoving his face into the rough concrete of the dirty ground. He choked, breath punched out of his lungs in a rush of air, but adrenaline and instinct spurred him into motion despite the black spots teasing the edge of his vision. He drove his elbow back hard into the person’s chest and scrambled to his feet in the brief second the person lurched back in pain. His moment’s respite was in vain as another person, a brick wall of a man latched thick, powerful fingers around Jungkook’s neck and slammed him bodily against the flimsy garage door to the side. Fear and desperation lent strength to his numb fingers as he yanked and ripped at the man’s unflinching hand, drawing blood beneath his nails. Some mess between terror and dread curdled in his lower stomach as pain seized his throat and chest in a relentless, blinding red wave. He couldn’t breathe with the man’s hand practically crushing his windpipe, surprisingly enough. He felt a punch land squarely on his face, white-hot pain exploding in his skull, teeth cutting into his cheek and drawing forth a gush of blood. Jesus, these people were really determined to rearrange his facial features. Yoongi, the lackeys from last time, these big, ugly, burly men… Maybe he should just do it himself next time. Save them the trouble.

Someone’s knee drove into his stomach, feeling more like a sledgehammer, and Jungkook coughed out a spray of dark red droplets across one of his assailants. He could barely see, eyes rolling back as he momentarily lost his grip on consciousness, the pain submerging his mind under.

Next thing he knew, he’d been bundled unceremoniously into the back of a van, the courteous jostling and general lack of care for his comfort and wellbeing dragging his sluggish mind back up to the merciless present. His sight blurred, images merging and distorting into swirling colours. He wondered if he was underwater for a moment.

Jungkook lurched forward as the van door began to slide closed, vision tipping and twisting. He wasn’t even sure if he was breathing anymore as he wrenched the heavy hands off of himself to grip the side of the door, blindly reaching outside. Jungkook’s ears were barely functioning but he still heard his own bloodcurdling scream as the door was slammed down on his knuckles. He ripped his hand back, definitely dislodging a bone or two, fingers feeling like they’d been blown off. He could just about make out the horrific crushed indent across the back of his hand with hazy eyes as pain engulfed it in flames and streaked up the length of his arm. A fist raised to knock him out. There was a simple gold band around the fourth finger, slightly scratched along the top. Jungkook wondered whether the man’s wife was waiting for him to come home, knowing her husband was out late at night beating up a boy half his age. Then the fist landed home on his forehead and blackness took over.

Jungkook was screaming even before he woke up. His eyes flew open, stinging at the sudden light streaming in and scorching its imprint onto his retinas. The cool, smooth metal surface of the counter he was lying on felt like a thousand rusty spikes against his relatively unharmed back. He writhed away from the irrational pain and landed on the cold, unforgiving concrete, hard. Crippling pain gripped his chest and stomach area, burning as if his skin had been eroded by flames. Black and white starbursts exploded behind his closed lids and he drew heaving, gasping breaths into bruised, battered lungs.

Jungkook craned his neck forward, prising his eyes open to try and locate the source of pain. He swore audibly as he saw the large, ugly gashes cut from the skin of his stomach, having not yet ceased its bleeding, haphazardly sewn together almost like a joke. Something was definitely missing from his body.

“You took a long time waking up. It's almost morning. Nice of you to finally join us. We took your kidney, in case you were wondering.” The voice came from somewhere above Jungkook. The ensuing sudden realisation of the proximity of danger was like a splash of icy water over his body. He struggled to push himself up before a leather boot-clad foot slammed down on his hand, already mutilated from the van door, smashing it into the ground. Jungkook’s back lifted clear off the floor from the shock and sheer force of agony erupting from his now thoroughly destroyed hand. The pain shot up his arm and ripped and tore its way through his body. He wasn’t sure if he screamed as he blacked out for a solid half a minute or so.

When he came to, tears were rolling freely down his cheeks, stinging at the corners of his eyes. He couldn’t feel his hand anymore, and for a terrifying moment he thought perhaps it just wasn’t attached anymore. When he weakly lifted up his heavy, shaking arm to see the damage, he almost threw up in his mouth as he saw the violently red and purple skin of his hand was sagging a little, the snapped bones inside dangling down lifelessly. The shape of his fingers were all but gone.

They seemed to be in a warehouse, of sorts. He couldn't see much, his eyes unable to focus on anything further than a metre away, and all of his senses had dulled down alarmingly. He couldn't tell how big the room was. He couldn't tell if there was the presence of other people. It was like he was wrapped from head to toe in cobwebs, immobile and trapped inside his own unresponsive body.

Jungkook flicked his watery, hazy eyes up to see Yoongi crouching down beside him. He would've instinctively lunged up to attack him somehow, use his teeth if necessary, but paralysing numbness like he'd never felt before rushed through his body and froze it in place. He could barely twitch a finger, and keeping his eyes open was a feat. At least one good thing was that the fuzzy, uncomfortably warm sort of numbness shrouded over the pain he knew must be tearing through his body. His head spun violently as he swallowed and sucked in a deep, rattling breath to speak.

“Your face is… one of the most… u...unpleasant things I've ever woken up… to see.” Jungkook forced the words out, fighting against himself. He let his lips twitch up a little in a jeering, open mouthed smile, and Yoongi snarled and slammed his hand down over Jungkook’s neck just as Jungkook heard a door open behind them. He choked and coughed explosively as dull pain, masked by the numbness, seared at his throat and chest. His ears were split with a loud, sharp cry of anger and fear, from what seemed to be the direction of the doorway, as he fought for breath and struggled to edge away even the slightest bit to no avail.

“Get the fuck off him!” Jungkook heard a terrifying, downright murderous shout and Yoongi’s fingers were ripped away from his neck as whoever had just arrived evidently threw Yoongi aside, away from Jungkook. Wow, “whoever”? He should really stop kidding himself. Who else could it be? He coughed again weakly as he drew in air, feeling spittle stained with blood foam a little at the corners of his mouth.

“What the fuck?” Yoongi spoke lowly, aggressively, and Jungkook wanted to second that.

“Taehyung. What are you doing?” Namjoon’s voice was contrastingly calm, from somewhere across the room, but the danger simmering in his tone was even more fervent than that in Yoongi’s voice.

“Don't… don't touch him. Don't hurt him anymore.” Taehyung’s voice was almost shrill and so shaky, his breathing so heavy and harsh that it almost sounded like he was the one lying paralysed on the dirty concrete, with a broken hand and something cut from his stomach. His next whispered word came out sounding close to a sob. “Please.”

“Taehyung, we’ve talked about this, he's no different from those other guys. You knew we were always going to kill him in the end, no matter how much he paid back. You've been looking a lot more… present, and active recently, so I thought you'd finally come to terms with it and accepted it.” Seokjin’s voice was calming and placating, but Jungkook wanted to hurl, rage burning through him like slow moving acid as he stared blankly up at the blurry high ceiling. They… they were always going to kill him anyway? What… what even was the point of paying all that money? None of it had mattered, had it. Wow. What had he so desperately scraped together every last coin and note for?

“Don't be ridiculous hm, Seokjin? Don't tell me you haven't figured out why Taehyungie’s seemed much more alive than a walking corpse lately.” Hoseok sounded amused. Jungkook wanted to rip his tongue out for addressing Taehyung so casually, so closely. Fuck. He couldn't believe he was still giving a shit about Taehyung. Fucking hell.

“You’ve been sheltering Jungkook for a while at your place, haven't you? He's been living with you.” Namjoon spoke bluntly, though he sounded less accusatory and more as if he was merely making an observation and stating a fact. Wow. Jungkook closed his eyes and wanted to laugh.

“You… you guys knew. Why didn't you do or say anything?” Taehyung breathed weakly after a long, tense moment of silence. Jungkook rolled his head slightly to the side, trying to keep himself awake. He wanted to know, too. Surely sheltering and protecting the mob’s target was considered treason, or disloyalty at least? And if they knew where Taehyung lived then they would know where to find Jungkook, when chasing after his money during the past three weeks. Why had neither Taehyung nor Jungkook been hunted down?

“I pretended I didn't realise. When I sent people out to look for Jungkook, I never told them where he was staying. This was for you. I don't exactly know how it happened, but you're fucked up, aren't you? I could tell by looking at you the past half a year, that you’d die without him, wouldn't you? If being with him was keeping you alive then I wasn't about to cut that lifeline. So I don't want him to die either, not necessarily.” Namjoon replied with a long, drawn out sigh, and Jungkook could practically hear Taehyung stiffening in response. He didn't blame him. What the hell?

Someone drew in a sharp breath. “Boss…”

“Not now, Yoongi. I know how you feel about it. But I’ve been thinking about this for some time. Taehyung, I was a little harsh about you needing to prioritise Bangtan over Jungkook in the past, but I didn't realise back then just how serious your feelings for him were. And besides, Seokjin wasn't entirely right, before. He is different to the guys that came before him. Of course, primarily because he's someone one of our executives loves dearly, but also because of how he's coped, and his ability and resilience. He's too useful for me to want to get rid of, but we can't let him walk away, you understand that, Taehyung?” Namjoon’s tone was calm, reasonable and almost kind, like he actually cared and Jungkook wanted to throw up. Maybe he should. That way he could choke on his own vomit and die so he wouldn't have to hear any more of this bullshit.

“Yes… I know. I know we can't ever let him go, he knows too much and hates too much. But I can't let you guys kill him. I just can't.” Taehyung whispered, voice quavering as he spoke. Yikes. Jungkook wanted to kiss him, and feel his lips tremble beneath his. But he also wanted to break his spine and knock his teeth out of his skull. It was a strange simultaneous urge, but Jungkook was well used to dealing with it by now.

“So what do you want to do?” Namjoon asked patiently, and Taehyung barely wasted a second before replying.

“I want to let him join Bangtan, and make him an executive.”

...

What?

“Are you out of your fucking mind?” For once, Jungkook agreed with Yoongi’s outburst one hundred percent. What…? Him? Join Bangtan? Where the fuck had Taehyung come up with this idea? Exactly why the fuck would Jungkook join their mob? He wasn't sure if his head was reeling from sheer shock or the mere dizziness that had continuously spun his head in circles since he'd been caught, without pause.

“You know I always try and listen to your opinions and grant favours you ask of me, because you're my wonderful executive and you're important to me, but… You realise the weight of what you're asking, right? You're treading a line here. Even if I can make an exception for Jungkook’s life because he's someone you care about, I can't give him a free ride to the top of our organisation just because you asked.” Namjoon spoke slowly, quietly, and Jungkook wanted to scream. The executive position? Who the fuck cared about that, that wasn't the issue here.

“No, listen to me, please, boss. Of course I want him alive mainly because I need him, but I don't think it's a bad idea for us, because he's useful. Think about it, having him join the mob would be advantageous, wouldn't it? Most of the boys who'd been in this position cracked under the pressure three months in. Certainly none of them had even come close to almost paying off their debts like Jungkook has, and their debts were all less than a fifth of what he had to pay! You can't deny his poker skills, and his gambling ability. Even if he paid us eighteen million up front, he still managed to make close to seven million dollars by himself in six months with nothing to go by except a pack of cards. He'd been in hospital for two of those months as well. That's almost impossible, even for us, if we’d been in the same position.” Taehyung spoke earnestly, just shy of being frantic and urgent, and Jungkook hated that he was unable to push himself up and shake some sense into Taehyung.

“That is true.” Namjoon replied quietly and Taehyung pushed on.

“And he's not helpless or new to fights or anything. We wouldn't have to baby him, he'd be able to hold his own. He's managed to survive against all those trigger-happy gamblers in underground dens by himself all these months, even without a gun himself, and weak from running all day everyday without much food.” Taehyung pressed, and Jungkook wanted to scream.

“Alright. That all makes sense. But why would he agree?” Seokjin asked calmly and Jungkook would've nodded vigorously if he had the strength. As it was, he clenched his uninjured hand into a fist and gritted his teeth, shifting agitatedly on the ground as much as he could. The very idea of joining them made his skin crawl.

“He doesn't seem too warm to the idea. And why would he be?” Hoseok commented nonchalantly, the person most at ease in the room stuffed to the ceiling full with smoky, hazy tension. Or perhaps it just seemed like that to Jungkook’s disoriented mind. It took him a second to register that Hoseok was talking about him, and must be looking at his reaction right now. His subtle moving around only sapped what little strength he had remaining and he almost blacked out, missing a few words exchanged between the mobsters.

“Let me talk to him, please.” Jungkook heard Taehyung’s soft voice and struggled to tighten his grip on his consciousness, fighting the numbing black wave.

“We can't have someone who hates us that much- who we've given reasons to hate us that much be beside us. Are you fucking crazy? He's going to kill us all at the first chance he gets. And we’re trusting him with the position of executive?” Yoongi growled dangerously low, sour tone dripping nothing but pure derision and Jungkook would’ve rolled his eyes if his head wasn’t spinning enough already. Well. Yoongi was right, in any case.

“Don't bring your personal feelings into this, Yoongi. We all know you hate him.” Taehyung hissed sharply, tone hard and unyielding all of a sudden, and Jungkook could pick out resentment in his voice. On Jungkook’s behalf? What a joke.

“Isn't what you're doing right now bringing your personal feelings into this?” Yoongi spat mockingly, scornfully and Jungkook stopped trying to lift his heavy eyelids for a second to sigh inwardly. God. He just wanted to beat the shit out of Yoongi. The air seemed to tighten even more for a second, and perhaps Taehyung had flinched back as Yoongi rounded on him - Jungkook could visualise it pretty easily even with his eyes shut.

“Yoongi.” Jimin suddenly spoke up, voice low and quiet but unexpectedly demanding, drawing the entire room into a hush. Yoongi fell silent immediately, and Jungkook wondered what the fuck was happening with them. Jimin continued, tone a little softer than steel. “But he has a point, Taehyung. How can we trust him after what we did to him? How can you make him suddenly not want to kill us? And how are you going to persuade him to join?”

“He’ll… he’ll listen to me. He doesn't have much other choice, does he?” Taehyung suddenly sounded uncertain and pleading again, and Jungkook rolled his head to the side, facing away as much as his uncooperative body could allow, as if he could block out the sound. Listen to Taehyung? He couldn't think of anything less pleasing. Fuck, his stomach hurt…

“I'm not opposed to the idea of having someone with his skills. It'd be a huge asset, actually. But trust is the main thing.” Namjoon spoke calmly, and Jungkook almost wanted to congratulate himself ironically. Yay. Got the recognition and stamp of approval for his gambling skills from the big boss. Go him.

“Please… please let me try convince him. Boss- no, Namjoon, please.” Taehyung voice was barely above a whisper, insistent and imploring, the sincerity and conviction in his tone doubling as he spoke Namjoon’s name. Jungkook didn't want to be convinced. Why was Taehyung going to all this trouble? He was most definitely going to kill whoever he got his hands on first… once both his hands were functioning as hands again. But even if it meant dying and getting his body parts extracted (not necessarily in that order, he guessed) he'd be damned if he was going to join Bangtan. Ridiculous… Taehyung was being ridiculous. Jungkook could feel the world slipping and sliding about him. The ground felt like it was rolling in waves. Fuck, he couldn't stay conscious.

“I like him. I don't want him dead either. He's suffered a lot already, hasn't he? And he's lasted so much longer than the ones before. Don't you think he has potential?” Jungkook dimly heard Seokjin’s calm, placating and reasonable voice, and his lips twitched upwards ever so slightly in amusement. Wow. Looked like he'd really made himself a place in Seokjin’s heart during his time stuck in hospital. Nobody said anything for a few long, drawn out moments of silence, and Jungkook entertained himself by painting the scene above him in his head. Namjoon was probably staring at Seokjin wordlessly and weighing his words carefully, since he most likely took Seokjin’s opinion very seriously, what with him apparently being special and important over the other members. Yoongi was probably either glaring off at the corner or stabbing holes into Jungkook’s chest with his eyes. Jimin was probably leaning against the wall with his arms crossed, shutting himself away from everyone else in a starkly unwelcoming manner, and Hoseok was probably standing close by, but his posture would likely be more open and relaxed. And Taehyung… Taehyung was probably stiff and unmoving, waiting anxiously for Namjoon’s answer and permission. Again, why he was trying this hard was a mystery. Jungkook was getting restless. His mind was spinning too hard for proper thought to form, and he wanted to throw up but there was nothing in his stomach. He wanted to push himself up but he had no strength. Pain incarcerated his entire body, and he wanted to scream but he had no voice. And this decision regarding him, was taking place right beside him without his participation. How dare they.

“…Go ahead.” Namjoon eventually cut through the thick silence. Jungkook heard Taehyung’s shaky sigh of relief and his immediate quick footsteps over to where Jungkook lay on the cold, dirty ground, still bleeding and twitching. He felt impossibly, achingly warm hands carefully lift his torso and felt his throbbing head cradled into the familiar warmth of Taehyung’s chest. He shifted, trying to shake himself back to his senses, tugging himself back up to the surface of reality as best he could.

“Jungkook… Jungkook, look at me, baby please, look at me. Come on, stay awake.” Taehyung’s quiet, soft voice was subtly desperate as he urged Jungkook to open his eyes, one warm hand cupping Jungkook’s cheek as the other arm wrapped around his shoulders, under his back to support his body. He was too close, Jungkook could barely concentrate as it was, and the unexpected soft, tender endearment spoken so close to his ear was too much.

“Don't… call me that.” Jungkook managed to speak raspily, grittily, forcing his eyes open a fraction and seeing the image of Taehyung’s detestable yet always undeniably beautiful face swim into focus and block out the greenish glow of the overhead fluorescent lights. He was too close. He was practically kissing the tip of Jungkook’s nose. Something like delight and intense, overwhelming relief flooded Taehyung’s worried eyes as they met with Jungkook’s own tired, unfocused ones.

“You're awake.” Taehyung murmured with a tone of raw, intimately pure happiness as his grip tightened just a bit. Jungkook wished he'd stop looking so happy just at seeing Jungkook awake. Jungkook wished he’d stop looking like he cared so much. Taehyung rested his forehead down against Jungkook’s and closed his eyes. Jungkook let his eyes slide shut too, feeling a lump build in his throat as Taehyung didn't move for a second, as if he was afraid to let go. He was so close. His warmth was bleeding into Jungkook’s skin. Jungkook didn't want this right now. He didn't know if he wanted it at all. But he was too weak to push him away, both mentally and physically. At least in that moment, as they breathed in the same air, and Jungkook felt Taehyung’s tear fall onto his cheek. Taehyung whispered just barely audibly, almost pressing the words against Jungkook’s lips, so that no one else could hear. “Thank God.”

Taehyung drew in a slow breath and lifted his head, straightening a little and turning to the others in the room, who watched on in silence.

“Can you guys just… can you fuck off for a second?” Taehyung spoke in a completely, scarily different tone to how he just spoke to Jungkook, voice turning frighteningly, impressively icy and harsh in the blink of an eye. There was a second of silence, before Jungkook could hear the sounds of the five executives shifting and their heels clicking against the concrete as they left the room without a word. As the door clicked shut, it jerked Jungkook back to the present, the issue at hand, and he shifted as if stirring from sleep. He pried open his eyes and turned his face away from Taehyung, letting his lip curl in empty disdain.

“Don't waste your breath trying to convince me. I heard… it all. Are you… fucking stupid? There's… not a chance in hell.” Jungkook drawled quietly, slowly, words a little slurred. He wouldn't look back at Taehyung, trying to gather all his remaining strength to push himself up and out of Taehyung’s grasp. It was a struggle to even lift himself but he gritted his teeth and bore through the pain and lethargy, using sheer willpower to attempt to tear himself away from the dangerous soft, numbing comfort of Taehyung’s hold. He almost blacked out and screamed, airless and soundless, as pain burst through his arm like a shock of lightning as he accidentally put pressure on his broken hand.

“Jungkook, Jungkook listen-” Taehyung spoke urgently, voice raising a little as he reached forward, stopping Jungkook from getting up. He wrapped both arms around Jungkook’s back, hauling him into his body, holding him fast and not letting him escape. Fuck. Jungkook was so weak he couldn't even budge. He dropped his head down onto Taehyung’s shoulder, indescribably tired.

“Jungkook, listen to me, please… you have to do it. You have to agree and listen to Namjoon.” Taehyung pleaded, voice achingly soft and ever so slightly desperate. Jungkook snorted. Wow. Was Taehyung actually for real? He lifted his head and leant back a little to send him a scathing look.

“And join… Bangtan? You guys literally just took my kidney and crushed my hand and tried to strangle me. Do I even… do I even need to explain why the fuck I wouldn't agree?” Jungkook spat derisively and Taehyung thinned his lips and hardened his soft, imploring expression, lifting his hands to grip Jungkook’s shoulders and shaking him once.

“Jungkook. I know what we've done to you, I know how much you want to kill all of us, I know, but you have to back down on this. If you don't agree and join and swear loyalty, they're going to take everything they can from your body right now then kill you if you're still alive by the end of it.” Taehyung spoke quietly, seriously, voice wavering just a tiny bit at the end even as his stare remained strong and resolute. Jungkook didn't reply for a second as he stared back. Taehyung’s eyes were still a little red.

“Let them. It's better than letting myself cosy up to Kim Namjoon and join the fucking mob that’s been trying to kill me for like a year.” Jungkook laughed humorlessly, jeeringly, at both Taehyung and himself, feeling his scratchy throat scream in protest. Taehyung’s grip tightened, holding him steady as a fresh wave of nausea and tiredness washed over him again, making his eyes roll back and his body sway. He was so, so tired.

“No. Jungkook, you can't die, you can't let them kill you like this when you still have a chance, I've- I've made you a chance, Jungkook. Drop your pride. Your life is more important than anything, it's more important than your hate and resentment, it's more important than how you've suffered and how much more you might suffer.” Taehyung spoke with elevating urgency, boring his eyes into Jungkook’s skull and drilling the words into his sluggish, uncooperative mind. It perhaps would've had a greater effect if the desperation and badly suppressed fear wasn't flickering in those beautiful, entrancing eyes. Both his features and voice turned soft as he continued, something dry like acceptance or resignation creeping over his expression. “You have to stay alive first, it's only when you're alive that any of those things still even matter, right? Stay alive, and kill me if you want to, once I know you're strong enough to keep going.”

“Don't say that so easily. You think I won't?” Jungkook growled, a spike of the usual rage and hate piercing through the cloudy layers coating his mind, the intensity of it making him dizzy. But he held himself firm, even though he felt like he was about to keel over any second. Taehyung didn't even bat an eye, staring back steadily.

“I’m being serious.” Taehyung replied without missing a beat, words heavy and measured. Jungkook didn't respond immediately, taking in and analysing Taehyung’s resolute, unflinching expression and the emotions that had settled in his steadfast eyes for a moment of complete lack of uncertainty and hesitation. Taehyung wasn't taking Jungkook’s threat lightly. Jungkook breathed in slowly and let the air out of his lungs, lowering his head a fraction.

“What makes you think letting me join is a good idea? How do you know I won't stab you all in the back the moment you let your guards down?” Jungkook muttered, having seriously thought about it, but as the words were spoken aloud, he realised their meaning and had a sudden thought.

“I don't fucking care about that. I can't let you die. Nothing you might do to us later on will make me regret stopping you from dying.” Taehyung replied fiercely, utterly doubtlessly, and Jungkook laughed a little, feeling a tiny shred of inexplicable pity, at yet another confirmation that Taehyung was so wholly, painfully, desperately in love with him. Why was he pitying Taehyung for that? Wasn't like he wasn't involved. And he should be pitying himself. Ridiculous. But he was only half listening, having started to think.

At first, he'd thought nothing could be worse than being a subordinate to Namjoon, and having to serve Bangtan. But… Taehyung was right. Maybe not in the sense he'd meant, but Taehyung had made him a chance. Not a chance just to escape death and survive no matter what the cost, like a pitiable little street rat, but a chance for revenge. Jungkook smiled faintly, feeling his bruised facial muscles groan and ache against the pressure. He leant forward slowly and let himself fall against Taehyung’s warm body, turning his head inwards so his lips were brushing Taehyung’s neck.

“Try… try and remember those words.” Jungkook whispered into Taehyung’s skin, smile widening a little as he felt Taehyung shift a little in confusion at his sudden change in mood. He didn't care. He'd decided now, and it'd given his empty, ripped apart life a fragile sense of purpose now. A sense of purpose he'd nurture, to give his despairingly murky path a direction to follow. He let the blackness swallow him whole as he felt Taehyung’s arms wrap around him and hold him close, as he heard the door open and the executives come back in.

~

“Yoongi.” Jimin spoke before he could change his mind, before he missed his chance. Don't run away again… please. Yoongi tensed, pausing as Namjoon, Seokjin and Hoseok walked back into the room to see how far Taehyung had gotten with Jungkook. The five of them had stood here in the corridor mostly in silence, each wrapped up in their own thoughts. Namjoon and Seokjin had discussed the situation quietly, but Jimin hadn't been able to listen and focus.

From what it sounded like, Namjoon was going to give it a shot. Letting Jungkook join as an executive. It brought a sinking, despairing feel to Jimin’s stomach, but he'd expected it. Everyone had a soft spot for Taehyung. Even Yoongi and Namjoon… If Taehyung was the one to beg for this favour, it was highly unlikely Namjoon would refuse. Especially since Jungkook was useful, all things considered, and not to mention he had Seokjin on his side, which was his biggest asset in gaining Namjoon’s mercy and reconsideration. Well, that was none of Jimin’s business. If the boss had decided, he wasn't about to argue. He wasn't Yoongi. He let his gaze flick up to Yoongi, who hadn't moved, waiting for Jimin to continue, the tensed, sharp edges of his back facing him.

“Why are you being like this to Taehyung? He's usually the only person you talk to- well… nicely.” Jimin asked quietly, contemplatively as Yoongi finally turned to face him. He and Yoongi hadn't spoken in months. More precisely, exactly half a year. And Jimin was still, still unable to shake off his crazed, desperately hungry longing to hear Yoongi speak to him again. Even if his voice was only filled with the usual anger. Yoongi was staring at him as if in a daze, something unfocused in his usual sharp stare. Perhaps it left him a little off kilter, hearing Jimin’s voice for the first time after six months. Jimin had barely spoken to anyone back before Yoongi had disappeared off on jobs around the city to avoid him. And he certainly hadn't ever spoken a word whenever Yoongi had been in the same room. It brought equal frenzied, unbearable parts of relief and pain, to see him now. He hadn't seen him in so long. He hadn't seen Yoongi properly looking at him in even longer.

“Because he's making us make exceptions for Jungkook just because he cares about him. He doesn't seem to give a shit about the consequences we all know would happen. He's just insistently, blindly protecting and defending Jungkook, and he knows it.” Yoongi replied eventually, a little of the usual fire creeping back into his scornful tone and Jimin laughed a little, staying silent for a second to let his eyes roam over Yoongi’s usually pale skin now practically ashen, and the slight… uncertain tension he hadn't ever sensed before in Yoongi’s usual confident, arrogant demeanour.

“And you don't get it?” Jimin asked softly and Yoongi’s eyebrows lowered, eyes narrowing a bit. He… his frown didn't seem hostile. It seemed more confused. Jimin didn't know what to feel at seeing something other than anger directed at him from Yoongi’s sharp eyes and set mouth.

“No, I don't, because he knows letting Jungkook live is gonna kill us all. He's choosing his boyfriend over the mob, his life over our lives, and we don't need someone who isn't loyal.” Yoongi answered slowly, as if not understanding why he needed to state the obvious, and not knowing what he was missing. Jimin smiled a little, hollowly, wrapping his arms around himself and pressing his back against the wall.

“You don't get it because you wouldn't do that for me, would you?” Jimin whispered, needing to drop his gaze despite himself. He didn't look at Yoongi, he couldn't, but he could sense him stiffening. He sighed, tightening his fingers against his own arms and strengthening his voice just a little. “If… if it was me in Jungkook’s place. You wouldn't protect me like Taehyung’s protecting Jungkook, would you?”

“Jimin…” Yoongi spoke quietly, in a tone so soft and lost Jimin’s head snapped up at the sound of it, staring at Yoongi’s parted lips, devoid of scathing words, and his wide, haunted eyes. He looked… he almost looked… torn. He looked like… he looked like he was hurting, too. Wow. Jimin wanted to laugh. Imagine that.

“I haven't heard you say my name in so long.” Jimin replied in a listless murmur, smiling a little senselessly as he just stared at the face he loved so much. He snapped himself out of it, taking a few steps forward as he spoke seriously. “What's important to you, Yoongi? The mob? Really? Do you care that much about it?”

“You're saying you want to go along with Taehyung and let Jungkook become one of us?” Yoongi asked lowly, not quite dangerously but getting there as he analysed Jimin’s face with intent, piercing eyes. Jimin felt a habitual shiver snake down his spine but he straightened it, steeling himself and stepping right up into Yoongi’s face, hardening his expression. Fuck. This was so different than usual. Yoongi looked so completely, utterly taken aback by Jimin’s unfamiliar bold, assertive movements, and Jimin shared that feeling.

“Yes. Even though I know how much you hate him. Go on, get mad at me. Yell at me. Hit me.” Jimin whispered, lifting his chin provokingly, daring him to strike his face like he always did when Jimin did or said something he didn't like. Yoongi thinned his lips and didn't move, something that looked like pain flashing in his shadowed eyes.

“What are you trying to do?” Yoongi asked slowly, quietly, and Jimin was hit by a sudden wave of resentment, both at Yoongi and at himself. He gripped Yoongi’s shirt in his fists, trying not to show how much he was trembling, feeling hot, stinging tears well up in his eyes. Why was Yoongi looking so shaken? It wasn't as if he was the victim here. Why was he looking at Jimin with so much pain? Did he finally realise how he treated Jimin like shit? Why did Jimin instinctively want to apologise just seeing Yoongi look at him like that, when he hadn't even done anything wrong?

“Why won't you get angry? Why don't you hit me like you always do, huh?” Jimin raised his voice, something he'd never done around Yoongi before, and tightened his fists in his shirt to shake him weakly. Yoongi’s body swayed without resistance. Jimin hated that he was crying. He hated that his blood burned beneath his skin and a sharp ache ate away at his chest, and he hated the openly haunted, shaken expression on Yoongi’s face. He'd never expected to see so much unmasked, unfiltered pain written over his features before. Jimin gritted his teeth and felt tears spill down his cheeks, hating how his every irrational, erratic and frenzied thought and emotion was laid out starkly before them, stripped bare for Yoongi to see what a mess he was. Yoongi still wasn't moving.

“Say something, goddamnit. Punch me, beat me, bruise my skin and break my bones again!” Jimin shouted viciously and shoved Yoongi back, stumbling a little and blinking rapidly to clear his eyes of the blinding screen of tears. He swiped his hand roughly over his eyes and cried out in sharp, despairing frustration as Yoongi just stared at him wordlessly. “Scream at me and tell me I'm being ridicul-”

Yoongi suddenly moved forward, like some restraint had been snapped and allowed him to move again, and he cut Jimin off as he stepped in close and wrapped tight arms around him. Jimin froze at the sudden touch and fierce tight hold, and let out a wretched sob, initially struggling to get away but weakening and melting into Yoongi’s body as always. Yoongi held Jimin firmly in place as he cried and cried and pressed his face into Yoongi’s shoulder, feeling his shirt soak up never ending tear stains. He was shaking so much. He was crying so much. He couldn't move away, needing to grip Yoongi’s shirt tightly and press himself hard against his chest as he cried over everything and nothing, both missing and despising what he'd had.

Yoongi didn't move or say anything until Jimin’s sobs died down to sniffs and shaky breaths, and even then, his hands only tightened slightly against Jimin’s waist. Jimin let himself lean most of his weight against him, too tired to keep himself upright, too weak to keep himself away.

“I'm sorry.” Yoongi whispered almost inaudibly, so quietly Jimin wasn't sure if he'd actually spoken aloud. Jimin froze and got himself together enough to shove Yoongi away this time, meeting a little resistance at first but then Yoongi let his weak hands push him back easily.

“Don't. Don't say it. I can't… I can't hear you apologise to me. What does that make everything I've dealt with and accepted till now? It all amounts to something you regret? Don't you dare regret it. You can't do that to me. You can't belittle me like that.” Jimin breathed deeply, shakily, and wiped at his tears with the backs of his hands. Yoongi didn't say anything, again. Jimin couldn't look at him. He knew he was going to go back to him, if he'd have him, sooner or later. He knew it, and hated it. He dried his tears as best he could and drew in a sharp breath, looking up sharply and fanning at his face carelessly. Fuck this. Fuck it all.

He wondered if he should calm himself down a little before going back inside the room to where Namjoon must be discussing Jungkook’s initiation. He decided he couldn't be bothered. He couldn't be bothered pretending he was fine anymore.

He turned and opened the door without another word, entering the room and shutting it behind him, leaving Yoongi standing in the corridor alone.

He looked up to see Taehyung kneeling on the floor, having not moved from his position since Jimin had left the room, hugging Jungkook’s limp body into his own protectively as he spoke quietly with Namjoon.

~

Chapter Text


Yoongi had grown up without learning how to smile.

He knew the technicalities behind smiling, he knew the reason for it and everything, but he'd never learnt when he was meant to smile, because those moments never existed.

His story was a little cliché and a little tragic, but he'd long since stopped giving a shit about it. Until now. Until Jimin spoke his mind to him and stood up to him for the first time since they'd met. It’d been after six months of static silence. Yoongi stood in the corridor beside the warehouse now, alone with his thoughts as the door swung shut behind Jimin and the shadows settled across the tiled floor again.

To put it simply, Yoongi had grown up in a bad neighbourhood. It was the type of place in which fists spoke where words were lost on ears deafened by screeching tires and rowdy shouts. The number of street fights won was the local currency. The scars left on opponents was a person’s worth in numbers. Yoongi had been introduced to the brawls and violence of life on the streets younger than anyone else. It wasn't anyone else’s choice but his. He chose to go out on the streets and immerse himself in the fist fights and familiarise himself with hitting, getting hit, beating, getting beaten, killing, and, well, not getting killed. All from a very young age. He did it to escape from his house for as long as he could every day. He chose the lesser evil.

He'd been watching his father hit his mother since he was three. He'd been taking punches and kicks in silence since he was six. He covered the bruises with more bruises, and he collected them like trophies from fights both won and lost. Soon his skin started hardening. His pain tolerance started toughening. His movements became sharper, his punches landed harder.

Violence was all that he knew, violence was all that was dealt to him and all that he dealt in turn, and unsurprisingly, it became the only way he knew how to deal with anything. And so he fought… and he killed. He killed so many times without the intention of murder because he got carried away, then after a while it was no longer on accident. It neither thrilled nor disgusted him. He didn't really enjoy killing people, not so much the endgame as the chase. He'd been hooked on the high of the hunt since he was young, after all. Even after it was no longer necessary to fight for his survival, he didn't discard his ingrained habits.

He wasn't using that as an excuse, though. He wasn't an idiot. He knew it was a shitty lifestyle. He knew he had a short temper with an even shorter fuse, and he knew his anger issues went way beyond the normal level of brash and hotheaded. He knew he was a shitty person doing shitty things, he just couldn't be fucked caring enough about it to change. He'd stopped caring about being a decent, respectable human being since the day his father kicked his mother’s stomach so hard she coughed out blood, and Yoongi lost his unborn little brother.

He committed his first murder when he was fifteen. He vowed to get out of there, out of his house and out of that tiny, dirty, barbaric town when he was seventeen, when he snapped out of his rage-induced daze to see his fingers wrapped around his father’s neck.

He left the day he graduated high school, and arrived in Seoul with nothing but the clothes on his back and loose change in his pocket. His parents had been asleep when he left without saying goodbye, but his mother must've known what he'd been thinking, for she packed a small lunch, technically more of a snack as that was all they could afford, and left it on the kitchen table for him. He'd finished the small bundle of food on the train, and he wished he'd saved some as he stepped off the train and took in the sights of the big, sprawling city for the first time.

He became a member of a gang that very night, both purposefully and because of coincidence, after bumping into a guy he'd met on the streets back home, and after settling their usual spontaneous fistfight in lieu of a greeting, he'd been invited to join. The gangs and laws of the street weren't that different in Seoul. Everything was just a lot bigger scale. There was a lot more at stake. And there were a lot more opponents.

Years slipped by with Yoongi fighting mindlessly, riding out the defeats and destruction of gang after gang he’d joined, making sure to come out on top every time and be the one remaining to see the dawn over the tops of skyscrapers. That was all he was good at, after all. Fighting. The guys he'd called his ‘mates’ or his ‘friends’ or ‘buddies’ or ‘comrades’ came and went, either dying on him or leaving the underground scene before him or turning on him. He got used to it.

He finally plucked up the courage to call his mother but it was his father that answered. He hung up, but not before hearing something different in his father’s voice. Something broken.

He found out that his mother had passed away a month before he called. He didn't hear what the cause was, and he didn't want to know.

He lost track of time after that, making a name for himself underground and picking fights indiscriminately, here, there and everywhere, just because he was bored or because he was a little irritated at something that day, or to alleviate stress. He started gambling to make more money seeing as he'd started to turn gangs he'd joined against each other in unnecessary wars and skirmishes, and the places he could belong were slimming down. Also because he just wanted more money. Not necessarily for comfort, he could get by, but he just couldn't be bothered having to think about expenses anymore. He picked up cards and poker, and started teaching himself how to play some tricky hands in casinos scattered about the city.

Then he met Kim Namjoon by chance one night.

Yoongi had finally knocked the guy he was fighting with unconscious, and had staggered back tired and swaying only to find himself surrounded by some members of some gang or another he'd pissed off in the past. His arms had been grabbed and he'd been unable to struggle free, overwhelmed by exhaustion and numbers, and he'd thought that this was the end of the line for him. He hadn't been too sad or fearful all things considered, but he had been a little irritated that in the end he'd been taken out in this lame manner. Or so he thought, before a shower of bullets shot precisely through each of his opponents’ heads.

Namjoon introduced himself pleasantly, naturally and normally as he stepped over the corpses as if he hadn't just shot six people in the span of four seconds. Yoongi took an immediate liking to him. He had a hard time believing Namjoon was the heir to the notorious, all-powerful mob Bangtan, that nobody, even reckless, trigger-happy people like Yoongi picked fights with. Namjoon took him to the flashiest, fanciest casino in the city where he was welcomed like royalty, and he asked Yoongi to join Bangtan and be his subordinate. Yoongi had been sceptical at first, but when he suffered a complete, utter, crushing defeat in a single hand of poker, he'd decided to devote his loyalty to Namjoon and Bangtan, and called him “boss” from that day on, even before he'd assumed the boss position.

Yoongi became an executive, one of the first of the superior, elite circle surrounding Namjoon, after Hoseok, who'd joined not too long before he had. He didn't even know how his casino name had come about. The Dealer. He understood the irony, but not how something so forgettable and insignificant as never dealing had become part of his identity. Jimin used to tease him about it.

He'd met Jimin quite a long time after he'd joined and settled in completely. Gone were the days of wandering the streets aimlessly with fists itching to draw blood. Everything was orderly and controlled now. He still fought, of course, that was his main role, but it was under Namjoon’s orders. Seokjin joined not long after him, becoming an executive solely due to his perfect poker playing ability.

Around three months before Taehyung became the Joker, Yoongi first spotted Jimin in the casino. There had been something about him that drew Yoongi’s attention immediately, and to this day he still didn't know what it was. Recruiting members was part of his job too, so he'd approached Jimin with that thought in mind. But he'd had second thoughts, after just one conversation. Jimin was so amazingly, refreshingly sweet and innocent, so unlike everything Yoongi knew that was coloured over in black and stained with deep red. His bright smile lit up Yoongi’s entire world in a split second, and Yoongi smiled naturally, properly for the first time in his life when he first heard Jimin’s laughter. Yoongi had wanted to ask what such a lovely, sunny boy was doing at a casino, but then he watched Jimin play a game, and destroy a table playing Red Five, with nothing but a sweet smile and a tiny, almost inscrutable shadow of satisfaction flickering in his eyes that vanished in the next second. He'd been drawn in ever more.

Yoongi had had flings before, and the odd boys and girls he kept around casually, but he hadn't ever been in a proper relationship before, because he saw no point in it. He didn't know what drove him to ask Jimin to be his boyfriend a mere month after they'd met. Maybe it was the curve of his eyes when he excitedly told Yoongi about the new trick he'd pulled off that day, or the way he jumped when their hands accidentally brushed. But he thought to himself, that for once life had dealt him a good, wonderful, perfect hand, when Jimin blushed and smiled shyly as Yoongi asked him out.

“Took you long enough.”

He'd mumbled, and tentatively reached out to curl his fingers around Yoongi’s hand. Yoongi hadn't been able to believe he was being allowed this. He, who’d resented and spat on everything life had to offer him, for those offers had been scraped out from the linings of trash bins.

But then he realised life wasn't quite done with him yet.

He really did try his best to treat Jimin gently at first, but it was so hard to separate love from the ceaseless anger in his mind. That was what he grew up with, after all. His father supposedly loved him and his mother, but he hit them when they said the wrong things. His friends supposedly loved him like a brother, as a mate, but greetings were replaced by a punch on the shoulder, “see you later” was a rough shove, and arguments were won when the other was knocked out.

He wasn't an idiot, he knew his father had been abusive. He knew he was following right in his father’s footsteps, when he first started noticing flashes of unease and sometimes pricks of fear in Jimin’s eyes, and started losing count of the bruises on his skin. He knew that the way he treated him wasn't entirely right, but Jimin had never said a word about it, and he always stayed with that lovely bright smile, so Yoongi hadn't thought to make too much effort to change his actions.

He fell right back into his violent habits and tendencies, and Jimin’s smile started dimming but his need for Yoongi’s presence, touch and attention visibly grew, morphing from the pure, innocent love of the past to something sick and desperate.

Jimin caught him quite literally red handed one night, blood dripping from his fingers as he stood over the guy he'd just killed, and the horror in his wide, terrified eyes was a sight Yoongi was likely never going to be able to forget. That night Jimin joined Bangtan, and Yoongi hadn't properly smiled at him since. Once Jimin had become part of Yoongi’s blackened world, he lost that bright innocence that had first drawn him so, and Yoongi was bitter at life for taking this from him. He was bitter, and so took it out on Jimin, pushing Jimin further and further away from his original radiance by his own hand. Then it just became a habit.

Namjoon minded his own business and everyone else was too afraid to say anything about it. Jimin had never once berated him, even when he was screaming and sobbing in pain and begging Yoongi to let him go for the night. So that night when the executives set Jungkook up in that game to lose nine million, when Jungkook had accused Yoongi of using Jimin’s body as a punching bag, that was the first time anyone had ever spoken aloud about him abusing Jimin. He didn't know what that had done to him, but as he saw Jimin’s face go white as a sheet through his peripheral vision, something chipped in his chest.

He'd put on a scowl and his usual mocking sneer as he spoke to Taehyung out in the corridor, but as he left, he realised his fingers were shaking.

He didn't speak to Jimin for six months after that. Every time he walked past Jimin he noticed the tiny, barely visible, instinctive flinch, and his heart broke a little more. He'd done that to Jimin. He'd been the one that stole Jimin’s light away from him. He couldn't take it, he acted like he was superior and in control all the time, but that was nothing but a front. He was weak, and he couldn't take it. He asked Namjoon to send him out doing jobs for Bangtan around the city, so he could avoid being near Jimin as much as possible. He couldn't take seeing his face, and seeing his bright smile pop up in his mind, before it was blurred over by bruises pressed into his jaw and the corners of his lips.

And now, he'd been called back by Namjoon because it was the end of Jungkook’s contract. It pissed Yoongi off to no end. As much as Namjoon stressed that Jungkook was the same as any of the boys they'd done this shit to so far despite the relation with Mr Jeon, as much as Namjoon reminded Taehyung, anyone could tell Jungkook was a special case. Seokjin liked him, Namjoon was impressed by him, Hoseok… well, Hoseok was impartial, but in any case, Jimin had been best friends with him, Taehyung was in love with him… and Yoongi hated him. Something about him just grinded his gears like nothing else. Perhaps the fact that he was someone close to Jimin had a little bit of influence on his attitude towards him. Maybe.

Jungkook and the kidney removal aside, it had been the first time Yoongi had seen Jimin in months. He looked terrible. He barely glanced at Yoongi the entire time they were in that room, and averted his eyes completely when Yoongi stepped on Jungkook’s hand. It hurt, and Yoongi knew he didn't have much right, but he wanted Jimin to look at him, maybe just once.

Jimin hadn't spoken the entire time, but suddenly called his name when he mocked Taehyung scathingly, bringing all his thoughts to a screeching halt with the one word. His voice was low but strong, stronger than Yoongi had ever heard before. Yoongi had stared at him in shock but Jimin hadn't even been looking at him, addressing Taehyung instead.

Then after they’d gone outside into the corridor to let Taehyung talk to Jungkook, Namjoon, Seokjin and Hoseok had gone back inside, but Jimin had stopped him.

“You don't get it because you wouldn't do that for me, would you?”

The words hurt.

They resounded in Yoongi’s mind now, echoing down the empty corridor and bouncing off the walls. The tears that had soaked through his shirt as he held Jimin’s body tightly scalded his skin.

But what hurt most, as he stood there alone and reflecting, was that he realised that this couldn't be changed. His anger issues weren't a problem that could be fixed overnight. They probably couldn't ever be fixed. It was what made him up as a person. Anger was the fuel that kept him going. It always had been, and it always would be. Even if Jimin returned to his side, he knew the bruises could only lessen, not completely disappear.

He didn't want Jimin to come back. He didn't want to hurt him anymore.

He lifted his hand up to his face, realising with a jolt that he was crying.

~

It'd been over three months since Jungkook joined Bangtan. He'd been allowed to rest and recover in the hospital Seokjin worked at for the first month, where his stomach was sewed back up properly and his hand was somehow somewhat put back together and held tightly in place by thick, stiff bandages. He'd gotten back on his feet the moment he'd been given the okay from the doctors, and he asked Namjoon about what he had to do to prove his worth and loyalty. Namjoon had seemed surprised at his sudden initiative and motivation, but said nothing of it and asked him to do something simple. Interrogate a rival mobster they were holding captive for information regarding the location of their base.

Yoongi had been the one to grudgingly show him to the room acting as a holding cell hidden away in the depths of the huge building, draped in shadow and stinking of sweat, blood and fear. Yoongi had handed him a gun and told him to be as creative and ruthless as he wanted. Yoongi looked reluctant as he handed over the gun, as if he'd much rather hold onto the gun himself and shoot Jungkook a couple times through the temple. It was a little funny. Jungkook’s hand was still fucked up and it didn't seem to be getting back to normal anytime soon, so he had to use his clumsy left hand to shoot a gun, something he'd never done before. But they'd told him to be as ruthless as he wanted to be with the captive, so he shot the guy in the leg and stuck his finger into the bullet wound, digging around into the torn flesh with his nail. He only had to ask his questions once.

He hadn't felt anything, which was probably a bad sign. When he emerged from the room less than five minutes after he'd entered, with blood dripping down his fingers and smoke drifting from the barrel of the gun, all the executives had seemed pretty taken aback. Namjoon recovered first, seeming quite proud and impressed, and Taehyung had only stared at him with nothing but dread and horror swimming in his shadowed eyes. It was his first time interrogating someone.

Jungkook lived at the casino building, in one of the many rooms upstairs. He got pretty well acquainted with the other members of Bangtan soon enough, and it was a little amusing, walking past those that had chased and beaten him before, to see fear sparking in their eyes as they ducked their heads and scurried past in hopes that he wouldn't notice or remember them. But he did.

Living at BigHit meant unfortunately, he had to see and spend time around the other executives far more often than he'd like. But seeing as his hand was fucked and he couldn't play cards, he had no way of making money and so this was the only option available to him. Unless he wanted to go live with Taehyung again, which was a joke of an idea.

He hadn't spoken much to Taehyung over the three months he'd been there. That wasn't to say they hadn't seen each other much, no. Namjoon, the sick bastard, chose Taehyung to take Jungkook out doing tasks and to let him observe and familiarise himself with the ways of the mob. He was always with him. And because Jungkook needed to be taught things as well as needing the experience of shooting and the like, Taehyung was always hovering around him, and needing to hold his unsteady left hand still when he practised with a gun. Jungkook would always turn his head to gaze at Taehyung wordlessly, blankly, whenever he stood close beside him, and Taehyung would freeze up and tense until Jungkook either looked away dismissively and immediately refocused on the task at hand, or leant in to kiss his neck before turning away and acting as if nothing happened. Taehyung always fumbled a bit with either his words or movements, whenever Jungkook would kiss him without showing much purpose for it. He'd done it a couple of times in front of other members of Bangtan, whose eyes had all but popped out of their heads. He'd done it in front of Hoseok and Seokjin, which had invited bewildered, curious stares and exchanged glances that Jungkook knew said something along the lines of “I thought he hated him?” or “what's going on with them, are they together again?”.

He didn't know the answer to those questions, himself. He didn't know the answer to anything in the first two months. He didn't feel anything. Not when he watched people being tortured and killed, not when he went home with blood staining his clothes, not when Taehyung spoke to him and touched him tentatively, usually to press a gun into his fingers.

Then it got a little better. After letting his mind wander around in a daze for two months, he had a nice little chat with Yoongi, which was probably the trigger that brought back his hate and resentment with full force, and he started seeing in colour once more. The blood started feeling hot and sticky on his fingers. Taehyung’s soft voice started making his chest ache again, and his sweet smell when he stood close made Jungkook want to drop everything and press Taehyung’s body down on the floor. He still didn't speak much to him, though. Even after he’d mostly recovered save for his hand, and started going back to Taehyung’s apartment with him at night, or going upstairs in the casino building if they couldn't wait that long. Sex was a little difficult with one functioning hand though, so Jungkook usually sat Taehyung down on his lap, prepped him, tied a blindfold over his eyes and made him do all the work. The blindfold was a bit of self indulgence on Jungkook’s part. He hated not being in control, but that was inevitable with his injury, so he controlled what he could and took away Taehyung’s sight in those moments.

His hand started healing slowly, bit by bit, and by the end of the third month he was allowed to take off the bandages. Even though the bones had reattached and his nerves had returned some feeling into his fingers, the ugly, crushed gash of a scar was still pressed into the back of his hand, and it didn't look like one that would ever fade away. The skin had grown dead and leathery, and Jungkook vowed to kill Min Yoongi one day. There were still the ghosting aches and sharp pains that shot through his hand every now and then, and his fingers shook when he had to apply pressure with them, but they were slowly, gradually getting back to normal.

He learnt about the underground scene of Seoul as of current, and he learnt about the existence of Jaeguk, an infamous powerful, fearsome mob second only to Bangtan, and not by much. Needless to say, Jaeguk was Bangtan’s biggest opposing force and greatest enemy. Bangtan was naturally uneasy with the presence of Jaeguk existing alongside them, and inevitable war threatened to break out between the two mobs in the near foreseeable future. Jaeguk’s boss had disappeared for some time now, and the current acting boss was the deputy, who was as young as the executives of Bangtan.

It was Taehyung who told him who that deputy was.

“I was a little distracted by stepping through puddles of blood when Namjoon was talking about this, so I forgot to ask.” Jungkook spoke suddenly as he pressed open mouthed kisses up Taehyung’s neck, biting sharply at his jaw. Taehyung flinched and whined, lifting his head upwards to try and chase Jungkook’s lips as he brushed them over the smooth, warm skin lightly, teasingly. Jungkook gripped his neck and pressed him back down without batting an eye, holding him still as he raised an eyebrow and waited for Taehyung to answer him. Taehyung choked and swallowed convulsively, tears beading at the corners of his eyes.

“W-What?”

“The deputy of Jaeguk. The current acting boss. Who is he?” Jungkook released Taehyung’s neck and pressed his lips back against the faintly reddened skin. Taehyung swallowed again and hesitated before replying in a small, wary voice.

“…Jinwoo.” Taehyung whispered and Jungkook froze, pushing himself up and staring down at Taehyung in complete shock and disbelief. Jinwoo? As in… his friend Jinwoo? When he didn't say anything for a few seconds, mind blank and tongue dry as he processed this, trying to wrap his head around the thought and revelation, Taehyung smiled resignedly. “You see now why I didn't like you being with him back then, right? I was afraid of the possibility that he'd get you to join Jaeguk, and you'd end up being my enemy.”

It had taken Jungkook two days to process that properly. But he started thinking, once he'd come to terms with it. He thought about it for a week, before deciding to meet with Jinwoo.

~

Jungkook pushed himself up slowly, swinging his legs off the side of the bed and closing his eyes, sitting there in silence for a bit to catch his breath. He heard the sounds of Taehyung shifting and turning in the soft crinkle and rustle of the bedsheets, and he glanced back at him. Taehyung had curled up on his side, long, smooth expanse of the skin of his back facing Jungkook. Jungkook gazed at the shadows dipping and sliding over the curve of his shoulderblades and the groove of his spine, as his shoulder rose up and down from his quickened, worn out breathing.

“You're crying.” Jungkook muttered, watching how Taehyung’s muscles stiffened, and how his body locked in place in a split second of tension at Jungkook’s words. Then he let out a breath, visible to Jungkook’s eye as his muscles fanned out again and even while lying down, he seemed to have slumped down somehow.

“You can tell?” Taehyung replied quietly, and Jungkook didn't answer immediately, impressed at the solidity of Taehyung’s steady voice, but not missing the faintly visible tremors running along the length of his spine.

“Why do you always cry after we fuck?” Jungkook asked simply and Taehyung tensed again, obviously having not realised Jungkook had noticed. But of course he had.

“I… Well, because it hurts.” Taehyung breathed, laughing a little airily, humorlessly, voice hitching just a little. Jungkook continued to watch him in silence for a few moments, watching him curl tighter into himself, fingers gripping the sheets and pulling them into his body. Jungkook’s head was blank, mostly, his tired, unresponsive mind detached and drifting behind a clouded screen. He was dimly aware of a numbing, gnawing pain growing in his chest the longer he stared at Taehyung’s weak, trembling form, and the more he thought about him crying, though he couldn't see or hear it.

“It hurts? Your body? My bad, I'm always too rough, aren't I?” Jungkook murmured softly, turning around and shifting so he sat closer, reaching out and pressing a finger against one of the knobs of Taehyung’s spine. He trailed his fingertip down the length of his back lightly, gently. A tiny shiver followed where his finger had touched, but instead of shying away Taehyung leant back a little, pressing against the tiny, fleeting touch. Jungkook let his finger trail up Taehyung’s warm skin to his sharp hipbone, pausing before digging his nail into the newly formed bruise there in a moment of cruelty, because he felt like it. Taehyung flinched but did not complain, sighing a little shakily as Jungkook softened his touch again and ran his finger over the bone in small circles.

“It's… It's not my body that hurts. Well, that too, but I can handle that much. I can handle anything you give me, as long as you give me something.” Taehyung replied softly, his painfully sincere tone seeming to caress the air itself. Jungkook’s stagnant mind had slowed almost to a stop, focusing on nothing but the dangerous, dangerous infatuation dripping from Taehyung’s every word. There was a clogged, burning feeling pressing down at the base of his throat, but he didn't know why. Those words made his chest tighten until it was painful to inhale, but he wasn't sure of the reason. It hurt, it really did.

“Not your body?” Jungkook whispered, flattening his palm against Taehyung’s skin and running his hand down over the curve of his slim waist, travelling up his impossibly warm chest and stopping on the left side, feeling the steady beats beneath the surface accelerate. He tightened his fingers and gripped Taehyung’s chest hard enough to leave another set of bruises to decorate the perfect, beautiful skin with Jungkook’s mark. Taehyung winced and gasped quietly but held still. Jungkook moved closer and lay down so that he was pressed up against Taehyung’s warm back, pressing his nose into the crook of his neck. He breathed in that sweet, intoxicating smell slowly, closing his eyes to taste the air before exhaling. Taehyung reflexively squirmed away just a fraction as the air rushed over his skin and down his neck and chest, but Jungkook chased after him and pressed his face closer into Taehyung’s neck, speaking his words against his soft skin. “Then… is it your heart?”

“I… I-” Taehyung uttered breathlessly, twitching in discomfort but tilting his head up instinctively anyway, giving Jungkook better access as he mouthed against Taehyung’s jawline, soft and slow but insistent. Jungkook let his grip loosen as Taehyung let out a barely audible sigh, and rubbed light circles over the fresh spots of blossoming blue and purple. He needed some self control. Or every inch of Taehyung’s lovely skin would soon be painted over in the colour of Jungkook’s desire. Jungkook trailed his nose up over Taehyung’s jaw and travelled up the soft skin of his face, letting his lips pause right over his ear.

“Tell me, Taehyung.” Jungkook breathed the words into Taehyung’s ear, eyes slitting open a fraction when Taehyung’s breath hitched as Jungkook spoke his name. He let his hand drift upwards, brushing his fingers slowly over Taehyung’s throat, his chin, pausing for a moment against his lips, before moving up to lightly wipe at the trickles of tears dampening his cheeks. Taehyung didn't so much as twitch as Jungkook lightly touched the seam of his closed eyelids, brushing away the gathered tears with a careful swipe of his thumb. “Tell me why you're crying. Tell me what's hurting.”

“I… It's… It's the feeling afterwards. A-After… you’re… done, done with my body for the night and… when you lie next to me and I could suffocate in the hollow silence and- and I feel claustrophobic at the huge distance. Or- or if you leave immediately. Sometimes that's better, but… other times I crave being able to sense your warmth beside me, even… even if you stay a full metre away and never turn towards me once.” Taehyung spoke softly, voice weak and wrapped in pitiful shakes and tremors. The thinness and tightness of it spoke of his pain even if his words didn't. The raw, unfiltered emotion colouring his tone had Jungkook pausing and taking a moment to hastily, firmly suppress and seal away the jolts of pain surging in his own chest, pretending to himself that he didn't care.

“So, you want me to touch you? You want me to hold you, to kiss you and cuddle you like we’re some… loving couple?” Jungkook whispered, unable to keep the mockery out of his voice, unable to keep his lip from curling at the last two words. Taehyung flinched, entire body jerking against Jungkook’s, but to his credit, he recovered not a second later and laughed it off lightly, or as lightly as he could.

“I… I think that would be worse. Even as you're touching me like this…” Taehyung lifted his hand to lightly touch Jungkook’s own, which softly stroked Taehyung’s cheek in a mimicry of pure affection. Taehyung breathed out slowly. “I get no sense of security. Your touch is colder than your voice.”

“Well, I’d better make sure you don't freeze.” Jungkook replied simply, kissing Taehyung’s neck once before withdrawing completely, pushing himself up and off the bed, picking his clothes up off the floor and dressing himself without another word. Taehyung slowly turned over on his back and pushed himself up on his hands, watching Jungkook in silence. As Jungkook adjusted his blazer, he turned back to Taehyung, who stared at him, beautiful, reddened eyes glittering with something unreadable. Jungkook paused and regarded him for a moment.

“If the empty, suffocating and distant feeling hurts you so much that you cry no matter how many times it's been, why do you even allow it to happen? You don't have to say yes whenever I say I wanna fuck you. You don't have to let me throw you around. Do you even enjoy it? Even though we are as we are, I wouldn't force myself onto you if you said no.” Jungkook spoke quietly, seriously. Taehyung just stared at him for a few seconds, seeming frozen, lips dropping open slightly, before his gaze dropped down passively and his shoulders seemed to instinctively curl inwards, body protecting itself.

“I… I do enjoy it. I think. It hurts but I would never say no. I… I can't live without your touch, however cold it might be. I'll take anything you give me. Pain… pleasure… anything. I- I crave your touch and presence more than anything. Crying afterwards is a small price that I'm willing to pay. I just want- no, I need your hands on my body and your taste on my lips.” Taehyung spoke softly at first, his voice strengthening into something fierce towards the end, filled with resolution and a slight hint of desperation as he stared Jungkook in the eye.

It hurt, it really did.

Jungkook gazed at him for a moment more, drinking in the familiar sight of him that never ceased to take Jungkook’s breath away, letting his eyes roam over the unparalleled beauty in front of him.

Too much was happening inside Jungkook’s body, outside of the muted glass walls erected around his brain. Bitterness clashed with coursing anger, which coincided with a pathetic, agonising longing, which somehow fit together with the usual soft awe he functioned under in Taehyung’s presence.

He made his way over to Taehyung, lightly grabbing the back of his neck and leaning down to kiss him properly on the lips, keeping it soft. Taehyung relaxed into it immediately, tilting his head slightly and matching Jungkook’s slow, undemanding pace with overwhelming, mind blowing familiarity and ease. Taehyung lifted uncertain, trembling fingers up to Jungkook’s jaw, who just dipped his head slightly and let him cup his face. Taehyung exhaled, perhaps in relief, and reached up with his other hand, bolder, grasping Jungkook’s face in a light hold as his soft lips moved to the time of Jungkook’s own.

Jungkook disconnected their lips with a soft pop, not moving back immediately as Taehyung stared at him from beneath his long lashes. Then both of their hands dropped and Jungkook turned, picking up his phone and wallet and leaving the room.

~

Jungkook wandered around the city for a while after that, turning an idea over in his mind that he'd been considering since he first learnt about the existence of Jaeguk, and Jinwoo’s position in it.

He walked through the streets for a bit longer, keeping his senses alert and attentive, both out of habit and necessity. He didn't doubt that Namjoon still had people tailing him sometimes, and he couldn't have any Bangtan members discovering what he was up to. Once he was certain he wasn't being followed, he slunk into an alleyway and navigated the maze of back streets until he'd put some good distance between himself and the nearest passersby.

Jungkook stared blankly at his phone screen for a few seconds, motionless and thinking. He hadn't spoken with Jinwoo since the night he lost all that money. He realised now, that Jinwoo would've been keeping tabs on him, like he had with the other executives of Bangtan, what with being the deputy of Jaeguk and everything. He'd purposefully lost contact upon knowing Jungkook had fallen into debt. Jungkook had briefly wondered whether that just meant Jinwoo was an unreliable friend that hightailed it out of there once the going got tough, or whether Jinwoo no longer wanted to associate with him now that he was on the enemy’s side. But somehow, he just knew that wasn't the case. Jinwoo was waiting for Jungkook to come to him. Jungkook pressed his number and the line connected after several long rings.

“Jinwoo speaking.”

“You asshole. You deleted my number?” Jungkook spoke quietly, the beginnings of a smile forming as a shadow at the corners of his lips, and he heard an amused chuckle on the other end of the line.

“Of course not. How’s it going, Jungkook?” Jinwoo’s voice was light but edged with the intonation of knowing. Jungkook sighed and leant back against the cool surface of the wall, closing his eyes.

“Terrible. Absolutely terrible.” Jungkook murmured and his tired smile widened slightly as Jinwoo laughed again, a dry sound bereft of both mockery and true amusement. He wasn't pitying him, at least.

“I heard the boys at Bangtan got you pretty bad. Had you on the run for months. Then somehow you came back from the dead and had the rest of your debt written off, hm? Is that why you're a big, mighty executive now?” Jinwoo asked cheerfully, brightly, but Jungkook wasn't fooled and sensed the simmering hostility. He should pick his words very carefully here. At this point at least, Jinwoo considered Jungkook an enemy of his, guilty until proven innocent, so Jungkook should tread cautiously. But what the hell, if he'd proceeded with any sort of caution back then in the first place, he wouldn't have landed in this position today.

“That doesn't sit well with you does it, deputy of Jaeguk?” Jungkook replied calmly and there was a pause before Jinwoo chuckled again, slowly.

“Ah, so you know. Well, it was only a matter of time. I guessed Bangtan had me under surveillance when I realised the Joker had ulterior motives in approaching me. Nothing’s kept secret in the underground, and certainly not the important names of members of big shot organisations such as my own. You're right. It doesn't sit well with me. Give me one reason why I shouldn't hang up right now.” Jinwoo spoke softly, silkily, the danger blaring out so sharply from his tone Jungkook could almost feel it as a tangible presence beside him. Jungkook smiled, shaking his head slightly. He hadn't known it then, like he hadn't known anything, that Jinwoo was a dangerous person. Anyone in this world was, but now as he endured the icy chills snaking down his back just at the sound of Jinwoo’s voice, he realised he really hadn't known anything at all, had he. Jungkook was as Jinwoo put it, a big, mighty executive of Bangtan, yet Jinwoo was still a stair above him. Which meant danger.

“One reason? That's pretty tough; I have several. But my main one is that I want to do something that's in our mutual interests. I want to destroy Bangtan.” Jungkook replied simply, and the pause was longer this time, thick with tension and wrought with silence filling the gap of speech taken over by thought. Jungkook wasn't nervous, per se, but he was a little worried Jinwoo wouldn't hear him out. Actually, he was more worried at the fact that he wasn't nervous. He couldn't help but feel like this was the calm before his storm, that the current dazed, emotionless, hollow neutrality he functioned under did not bode well. Jinwoo was silent for a second longer, before responding shortly.

“So?”

“So I want to meet with you and ask for your help in person.” Jungkook wasn't deterred by Jinwoo’s less than enthusiastic response. He'd expected it. He himself would be the same, wary and suspicious of an enemy mobster’s every word, even if said mobster had originally been his friend.

“How do I know I'm not going to be lured into some sort of trap or ambush? I’d imagine getting rid of me isn't at the top of Bangtan’s list of priorities, but it's definitely on there. This could be something like your first task from the big boss, to prove your worth etcetera.” Jinwoo drawled, and regardless of the circumstances, and the change in rhythm, mood and time. Jungkook was… happy, he supposed, to be talking with a familiar voice like this. He hadn't heard Jinwoo’s devil-may-care drawl in so long, hearing it now finally gave Jungkook a sense of being anchored, as if his life in the past had really been a reality, and it had truly belonged to him. Not much belonged to him nowadays. Jungkook smiled and shrugged, although Jinwoo wouldn't be able to see it.

“You'll have to take a leap of faith that I'm being honest, I guess.” Jungkook spoke airily, definitely not very reassuring, but he didn't know what else to say.

Jinwoo hummed in thought, still casual and offhand. “What if I don't trust that you want to betray Bangtan? You joined them after all. Can't imagine there aren't pretty pretty perks of being part of such a rich, powerful mob after being stripped down to your skin and teeth for months on end.”

“I don't want to betray Bangtan. I want to destroy them. I want to rip them apart. I want to claw every piece of this house of cards to shreds. The good news is they're not as stable as everyone might think. It'll take time, but I joined them for the very reason of taking them down from the inside. Which I'll do no matter what your answer is, but I would greatly appreciate and prefer it if you could help me.” Jungkook spoke lowly, dangerously, a sudden flare of unexpected emotion surfacing as bitter, black rage and hatred, something that should be familiar by now but still caught him by surprise at the sheer force of it gripping his body. This was good. Feeling something was good. Jinwoo must have heard the ice and poison in his tone, for he laughed outright, bright and slightly impressed.

“Now you're talking.”

~

Jungkook didn't sense any bloodlust but even so, when he heard a sound, a tiny, subtle movement, he immediately turned, gun raised and held steady before him. Jinwoo didn't look scared, but maybe a little startled, narrowing his eyes as he calmly reached up and placed two fingers against the barrel, pushing it away from his face lightly.

“You're not exactly setting me at ease here.” Jinwoo remarked lightly but his eyes were shadowed with warning, and Jungkook took a moment to look at him properly, taking in how different he was once the mask of carefree nonchalance had been discarded. His posture was still relaxed enough, but there was an undeniable alertness to the way he held himself, calm, cold power settled in the genial smile on his face. He was what Jungkook hoped to become. Jungkook stared at him for a tense beat longer, before smiling good naturedly, the action foreign on his tight features, and he clicked the safety back on and stowed the gun away in his pocket.

“Please excuse me. Looks like I've been on my toes for way too long. It's instinctive, don't take it personal.” Jungkook explained lightly and Jinwoo smiled in return, a lazy yet predatory type of expression. He stepped closer, footsteps echoing along the concrete of the alleyway. Jungkook had chosen a spot that left himself plenty of directions in which he could run if necessary, but it was still secluded, dark, and out of the way so this conversation could take place at their pace. Jungkook had to be grateful, in a sense, to his months spent on the run. Thanks to that, he now knew the city and all its unexplored streets and paths hidden away like the back of his hand. Even Bangtan didn't know this area.

“Well, you called me out here and everything. Tell me how you plan to destroy Bangtan, and why you need my help.” Jinwoo spoke kindly, patiently, but Jungkook recognised the command for what it was. He took a step back and bowed down at a ninety degree angle, keeping his head down and his neck bared. In cases such as these, exposing himself in a physically and mentally vulnerable position was necessary. Jungkook hoped this would be the last time, as his spine instinctively itched to straighten back up and his instinct screamed at him to stay on guard and in control. But he couldn't, if he wanted Jinwoo to see he was sincere. He heard Jinwoo take in a short, surprised breath.

“Please let me join Jaeguk. I'm an executive of Bangtan - unwillingly, if that needs clarification - and I have access to a lot of information. My influence in all decisions is quite substantial. I could help Jaeguk take down Bangtan. I can't do this alone, and I know Jaeguk have been planning on starting war with Bangtan anyway, so this is the shortest way available to me right now. So… please let me join.” Jungkook started off strongly, voice firm, clear and honest, but he trailed off into an involuntary whisper at the end. He could sense Jinwoo’s eyes boring into the back of his head for a few long, drawn out moments of dead silence, before he laughed shortly.

“Idiot. How long are you gonna keep bowing to me for?” Jinwoo sighed and Jungkook heard the frost melting away from his voice. He stiffened, not sure how to react, not expecting Jinwoo’s tone to become friendly and amiable again so quickly. He straightened slowly, a tad uncertain as to whether that was agreement or not, unsure whether this was a trap.

“Do I take that as…” Jungkook started quietly and Jinwoo grimaced and shuddered, like he was ridding himself of something unpleasant. He smiled that trademark lazy smile and rested a hand on Jungkook’s shoulder, patting it firmly.

“Drop the formalities already, will you? It's so weird seeing as we’re mates and all. Or did I hurt your achy breaky heart and you took it upon yourself to put distance between us?” Jinwoo cooed, pouting over exaggeratedly and Jungkook shoved him, breaking into a semblance of a real smile. He took a moment to make sure, but relaxed after a beat. Studying Jinwoo’s expression down to the smallest, minute millimetre of detail assured Jungkook that Jinwoo was not his enemy, at least, not anymore after Jungkook’s proposition.

“Can you blame me for being cautious? I've been to hell and back these past months. I’ve had a lot of cramming and catching up to do, but I’ve properly learnt the ways of this world now - trust nobody, not even your own reflection.” Jungkook heaved a deep sigh, letting his stiff posture sag and tension wash away in drifts. But survival instinct ensured he kept his wits about him, and he wasn't able to truly relax even if he wanted to, which he was pleased at. Jinwoo snorted, fishing out a packet of cigarettes from his pocket.

“Especially not your own reflection. You gotta see what other people see in it, and distinguish where lies speak honestly and the truth hides it all. Want one?” Jinwoo offered and Jungkook shook his head wordlessly, smiling in response. Jinwoo shrugged and leant against the concrete wall, letting out a breath that ever so slightly misted over in the air before him. “I don't smoke either. You should keep these things around, too, just to smooth awkward intros over. Most people you'll deal with in the underground can be sweet talked a little easier with the help of one of these sticks of death, you see.”

“I'll keep that in mind. Is this one-off advice, or are you going to mentor me until my baby wings are fully grown?” Jungkook joked as he raised an eyebrow, and Jinwoo snorted, sliding him a pointed look.

“Oh, definitely not. Can't have you being in a position inferior to me, not at this point. Bowing was inappropriate enough, doubly so because… Well, let's just say I was hoping you'd ask to join Jaeguk.” Jinwoo straightened slowly as he spoke, eyes glinting with an unreadable something that had Jungkook tensing. He couldn’t identify the atmosphere that had descended over the two of them as dangerous, but… it was serious, for sure. Jinwoo smiled, tilting his head to the side and offering a charming smile, but the gleam in his eyes didn’t fade as he continued. “Because you belong in Jaeguk. You're the rightful heir to this neat little mob of ours.”

Jungkook’s eyes widened slightly and his surroundings took on an eerie hush. He didn’t say anything for a few seconds. He didn’t feel anything either, except dimly registering his heart rate accelerating and beating against the thin skin of his neck. He wasn’t quite sure what he should be feeling at Jinwoo’s words; not quite comprehending their meaning. “What are you saying right now?”

“Jungkook… Your father is the boss of Jaeguk. Which makes you the next in line, and my superior.” Jinwoo spoke softly, taking a step back and lifting his hand up to his chest, bowing his head down. The hush surged up and buckled Jungkook’s body down in paralysing chains he couldn’t feel. He felt his lips part slightly and his eyes widened further. He didn’t say anything for a while, staring at what he could see of Jinwoo’s serious, respectful face caught in shadow. He could feel his pulse coursing through the scar cut into the back of his hand, which had begun to give its telltale little twitches.

“My father? A mob boss?” Jungkook finally formed words that grated over his dry, stiff tongue. His vision was starting to shake a little, and he’d long since learnt that meant he was starting to panic again, even if he had yet to sense any sort of emotion surfacing through his cloudy mind. Was he shocked right now? The corners of his lips twitched upwards ever so slightly, and his eyes were stinging a little, as he wasn’t allowing himself to blink while he stared fixedly at Jinwoo, trying to determine the presence of a lie. Jinwoo lifted his head and gazed back calmly, not a hint of the usual smile apparent on his face. Jungkook took in a deep breath and closed his eyes, tipping his head back. “You're serious.”

“Dead serious.” Jinwoo replied without missing a beat, and Jungkook flinched despite himself, lips stretching into a wide, senseless smile.

“You’re serious.”

“Dead serious.”

Déjà vu.

He staggered back a few steps, swaying on his feet. The numb, shaking fingers of his right hand found the wall and he leant back against it, what little strength he preserved inside him dissipating as easily as a warm breath of air in the night. He was laughing, he realised, as he slid down the wall slowly, letting his head drop down.

“Fuck. Fuck.” Jungkook murmured through his short, airy bursts of laughter, not caring how defeated and broken he looked, collapsed against the dirty wall of an alleyway once more. Just how much more was his father going to fuck him up with? His father… the very reason he’d gone through all this shit in the first place… This was all because he was the mob boss of Jaeguk, a king in the underground world? Jungkook would never have been dragged into any of this if not for his father. He wouldn't have been dragged into this world so Bangtan could keep an eye on him and use him to pay off his father's debt if necessary. He would’ve remained in school, perhaps be on his way to getting a degree right now, and lived a normal, undisturbed life up on the surface. He never would’ve met Taehyung, and he would’ve remained friends with Jimin. He wouldn’t smell the tang of blood every time he breathed in, and he would be able to walk down the street without scanning his surroundings through his peripheral vision as if his life depended on it. And it had, in many cases. The scar carved into his stomach itched. A hollow blankness swept through him, chilling his body down to his very bones as he sat there with his eyes closed, imagining what could’ve been. His laughter grew louder and louder until it was ringing down the empty streets, bounding through the forest of teetering buildings and ricocheting off cracked walls, resonating with an empty, despairing amusement.

He lifted his head slowly, letting his laughter die away, leaving behind silence punctuated only by his slow, periodic intakes of breath. He opened his eyes and looked up at Jinwoo, who stood there motionlessly and patiently. A small, pleased smile curved his lips as his eyes glittered with equal parts of amusement and approval. Jungkook smiled back, lips stretching into what must be a sinister, grotesque smirk that would frighten himself if he could see it. He spoke. “Perfect.”

“Isn’t it just?” Jinwoo replied softly, walking over to him and extending a hand down to him, offering to help him up wordlessly. Jungkook smiled up at the glint in Jinwoo’s shadowed eyes and hit the hand away, getting to his feet by himself. He stumbled a little and had to clutch at the wall for support, but Jinwoo withdrew his hand, only watching this time, as he should. Jinwoo smiled and spoke out of courtesy than anything else, Jungkook guessed. “Are you alright?”

“I’m fine. In fact, I’ve never been better. Yes… this is perfect.” Jungkook murmured, unable to suppress the crazed smile, feeling the weight of what he now knew crushing down on his chest and constricting his already strained lungs. He welcomed the burn. He closed his eyes and breathed in deeply, the bitter, polluted air of the dark, dirty parts of the city smelling sweeter than anything he’d ever come across before. Jungkook snorted derisively as he thought of his father now, cooped up in prison while Jungkook was free to roam the nights his father used to rule. “Now that my father’s out of the way, I can take Jaeguk from him, can’t I? I’ll take his throne away from him. Just like his company. I’ll steal everything he’s ever built and created.”

“Yes… that’s what I hoped you’d say. You haven’t disappointed me. Yes, it has to be this way.” Jinwoo murmured, tone taking on a patronising, purring quality, eyes flashing with satisfaction. Jungkook snorted again, shooting him a dangerous look. He let the unspoken threat go for now, focusing on the matter at hand. The matter that had changed from joining a mob, to leading it.

“So, how does this work? Where do I go from now? From what you said before, it sounds like the inheritance system is based on blood relations, isn't it? Like a mockery of a kingdom, this bullshit is. But I can’t imagine I’ll just be allowed to waltz up to the Jaeguk base, wielding my name as the boss’s son as my weapon, and everyone will happily let me take over. I’m an outsider they have no reason to trust.” Jungkook mused aloud, looking to Jinwoo for some guidance, and Jinwoo dipped his head, smiling dryly.

“Well… yes, you’re right. It’s not as simple as that. Obviously if Mr Jeon had brought you up around Jaeguk, and everyone knew you as one of us, then when the time came for you to take over, there would be no complaints, because yes, that’s how the system works. You’d need to do something to prove to everyone that you’re worthy, I guess. Bloodthirsty, tough, capable, able to lead, and above all else, trustworthy. You’d need to show us where your loyalties lie, and that you have what it takes to lead us before we’ll accept you first as one of our own, then as our boss. But you already planned on doing that, didn’t you?” Jinwoo asked sharply, and Jungkook simply nodded his head once. He had been. Even if Jinwoo hadn’t explained it as something he was expected to do, based on his own principles, Jungkook would’ve first fought to win the trust and acceptance of everyone in the mob. If even a single one of them looked at him with anything other than respect and reverence, he’d refuse the position until that had been achieved. It was his standard of doing things. No use leading a mob that didn’t trust in him one hundred percent.

“Well… even with all that aside… it’s again, not as simple as that. Since Mr Jeon’s out of action, there’s… there’s currently another candidate for the boss position everyone’s been expecting to take over eventually. But I trust that you’ll beat him. I know you’re more fit to lead than he is, and I trust that you’ll be able to show everyone else.” Jinwoo spoke seriously, solemnly, gaze steady and unwavering, and Jungkook didn’t reply immediately, turning his words over in his mind.

“Who is this person? I won’t let him take what’s mine.” Jungkook replied quietly, icily, and Jinwoo laughed resignedly, shrugging.

“I bet he’d say the same about you. Well, why don’t you come to the base with me? I’ll show you around, and introduce that person - your rival - to you. This is a very special invitation, you know. Not many have this privilege.” Jinwoo winked and Jungkook snorted and rolled his eyes, following after Jinwoo as he laughed and turned away. But he knew it was. There was no turning back after this. But Jungkook no longer looked back.

~

Chapter Text

Taehyung stroked Haru’s fur absentmindedly, smiling slightly when Haru nuzzled his head into his chest. Taehyung sighed and wrapped his arms around him, curling up on the cold, stiff leather couch. He'd come to BigHit after Jungkook had left his apartment earlier that night, not sure how long he'd just been sitting there on the bed in a blank daze before he couldn't bear the silence anymore.

Jungkook hadn't yet seen and spent time with Haru during the three months he'd been living at BigHit. But Taehyung didn't blame him for not keeping that at the front of his mind. It'd been painfully obvious that Jungkook hadn't been able to focus on anything after he'd left the hospital. Not the gun trembling in his weak grip, not Taehyung’s words as he instructed him to carry out tasks, not the blood that splattered across Seokjin’s old dress shirts he'd borrowed. Then two months later Taehyung had caught the end of a heated conversation suffocating with poisonous barbs between Jungkook and Yoongi after Namjoon had dismissed them from his office, and that seemed to have triggered a bit of life and fire back into Jungkook. Taehyung was unspeakably glad, even if Jungkook still looked at everything around him as if he could visualise flames eating up the walls and charring skin and flesh. Even if Taehyung had to start holding back tears every time Jungkook touched him again. Even if Taehyung’s body suffered as a result.

The shadows beneath Taehyung’s eyes had finally begun fading the longer he was around Jungkook and was able to see with his own eyes that Jungkook was okay everyday. His head didn't ache day in and day out anymore. Even so, he hadn't felt properly happy even once since February. Jungkook had lost an integral bit of his soul, that much was painstakingly visible to Taehyung. He was almost like a stranger. He spoke to Taehyung like he would rather be anywhere else, doing anything else, yet his eyes burned with the slow fire of his obvious need for Taehyung’s presence. He looked at Taehyung as if Taehyung was a bewitching piece of art locked in a glass display with Jungkook’s name written at the base. It made Taehyung feel irreplaceable and important, like he truly mattered to Jungkook, yet somehow simultaneously made him also feel like the lowest of disposable trash, less of his own person and more of Jungkook’s property.

He'd done this to Jungkook. That irrefutable fact was what he was reminded of, every time Jungkook stared into his eyes. How Taehyung wished he would stop needing Jungkook like he needed air, how he wished he could stop loving him, and how he wished he'd stop stumbling around in an aimless state of muted, suppressed panic whenever he went for longer than a day without seeing or hearing from him.

Haru interrupted his thoughts by licking his face, perhaps sensing his distress. Taehyung exhaled and smiled down at his precious dog that loved him only in the most innocent, simplest manner. Taehyung was thankful Jungkook had left Haru with him, over the months. It'd hurt to see him, because he could only think of Jungkook, but hugging his dog had helped calm him down whenever he had the occasional stress-induced freak out. Taehyung scratched behind Haru’s ears affectionately. Haru was getting bigger and bigger. But of course, it'd been almost a year since Jungkook bought the puppy as a birthday present for him. An entire year. The months had slipped through Taehyung’s fingers like fast flowing grains of sand, and yet it scared him to think back on them, and remember how he'd endured and survived each unbearably long, miserable day without Jungkook’s smile.

Taehyung had some self reflection to do as well. It'd been two years since he joined Bangtan. And what was he doing now? He’d forgotten what he originally meant to do, never mind achieving his goal. But… this was just his life now. Shitty as it was, painful as it was, he couldn't turn back anymore.

Taehyung glanced at his phone absentmindedly. It was just after nine. Jungkook hadn't come back to BigHit, so he must have gone out for personal business. Taehyung had caught Jungkook staring blankly at the contacts list in his phone earlier today, thumb hovering over Jinwoo’s name in thought