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Reverie

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{chapter warnings: minor, non graphic sexual assault}
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It’s a vague name. People may catch a glimpse of it on their way to school or work but once it’s out of sight it’s out of mind.

KEYSTONE is spelled out in silver lettering with the sub head TECHNOLOGY INC slightly raised on the edge of the unimpressive double door entryway. It’s the only signage on the property and notably hard to read unless staring directly at it. It’s a bare, conspicuous building of an unimposing size, fenced in by perfectly trimmed bushes that block the view into the equally bare courtyard from anywhere on the street. No parking, no bodies. No one ever seems to come or go, but it’s not of concern. It’s just another business trying to survive in the industry.

Taemin lets the pages of the thin booklet fall closed on his lap. It reminds him of a college brochure, all pretty pictures of the campus taken on a nice sunny day and meager content preparing you for next to nothing. Keystone Tech was a robotics lab that was sued into bankruptcy some twenty years ago. It is now one of the many names the bureaucracy uses to hide things the public doesn’t need to be aware of, as the helpful, near-illegible disclaimer on the last page stated. Minho cheerfully informed him this little welcome package was just to make the organization seem more inviting. Taemin actually has to go there to learn anything substantial, including its real name.

He goes back to idly toying with the ID card that came with it, tilting it at different angles so the iridescent seal JIN stamped in the middle changes from visible to not.

He’s practically official. It has his name and job title and what he recognized as his passport picture all ready to go, like they knew he was going to accept. Which he did, without much thought. He was only a little suspicious of a man he’s never seen offering him a job with an organization he knew nothing about, still so even after learning it was by Minho’s recommendation.

His old roommate has been bragging about his job for almost two years now. Minho’s stories were frustrating to listen to because they were completely void of any detail due to the nature of his work. They left Taemin with so many questions Minho wasn’t allowed to answer, but Minho insisted on sharing them. Taemin was starting to think he didn’t have any friends there.

Maybe that’s why Minho threw Taemin’s name into the hat. And for whatever reason, they picked him to pursue. How desperate are they that they would choose a student with no training, or how brilliant of a pedestal did Minho put him on, he wonders.

It’s time to fasten their seatbelts for the plane’s descent and the closer they get to their destination the more his chest tightens. The initial boost of pride from getting to leave school before the rest of his class was short lived. The confidence he has in his abilities is dwindling. He has no idea what he’s getting himself into and he is sure as hell he is not prepared for it.

With a deep breath in a vain attempt to calm himself, his head falls back to the headrest. This was stupid. But he’s come this far already.

 

The terminal is packed to the brim with new arrivals and those about to depart, everyone in a big aggravating hurry to get to their place. It was like hitting twenty all over again; looking around and feeling like the only one who didn’t know what the fuck he should be doing.

Minho usually isn’t hard to spot in a crowd of normal sized humans, so Taemin assumes he hasn’t arrived yet. He taps in another text and watches it pop into the conversation under his last four. He stares until the screen dims, hoping he will finally see a reply. Taemin flicks his dark hair out of his eyes for another useless scan of the crowd and his attention drops to his phone again with a frown.

Arms quickly encircle him and Taemin is suddenly trapped against a hard chest. He staggers them both with a start accompanied by a curse in an unidentifiable language, but then he hears the very familiar snicker of triumph and relaxes with a huff.

“Miss me?” Minho coos and cranes his neck to try and look Taemin in the face, but he’s not having any of it and Minho lets him wriggle away. Taemin whips around ready to fight but he’s met with Minho’s big stupid cow eyes and big stupid smile and his arms raised as an invitation for a proper hug. It takes Taemin approximately four seconds to cave and walk right into it with his own arms wrapping around Minho’s broad torso. Feeling the other’s warm chuckle from deep in his chest makes Taemin almost answer with sincerity.

“Almost as much as that one instructor that was too handsy and always walked away with a caress.”

“He only did that to you and that one other kid.”

“Shut up.”

“But who can blame him—“ Minho whispers lowly, purposely making it as breathy as possible against Taemin’s cheek and he abruptly squirms out of the hug. Taemin leans down to grab his suitcase and passes Minho with a silent ‘I can’t take you anywhere’ glare, though any seriousness that may have been attached to it is lost with the smile Taemin fails to hold back. Yeah, he missed Minho.

-

“So how did you convince them to hire me?” Taemin asks, his gaze hopping from building to building as they rush towards what is now their shared apartment. Minho is elated to have Taemin as a roommate again and is really pressing the speed limit, one hand firm on the wheel while the other drums on his thigh to the radio. One would think someone in law enforcement would be a little more mindful.

“You don’t give yourself enough credit. I didn’t recommend you because you’re my friend, I did it because I know you’re what we need right now.” Taemin peers at Minho, and Minho’s eyes stay fixed on the road. There is suddenly a bit of tension lacing the air, uncharacteristically so, given who he’s with. The break in conversation nears an uncomfortable length and Taemin is already bracing himself.

“There’s this investigation that’s been ongoing for years now,” Minho begins a little lighter than Taemin anticipated. “You’ll learn more about it tomorrow, but in short, the trail went cold a year and a half ago and then last month we get this tip and suddenly it’s in full swing again. Unfortunately, we’re a little lacking in the area of field operatives right now and we can’t let just anyone in.” He glances at his passenger who stares back doubtfully.

“Okay, but how am I qualified? I didn’t technically finish school and you never mentioned any sort of academy or boot camp you have to go through for these people.” He’s set his expectations to low and is fully convinced they’re not going to like him. This little adventure will look nice on his resume even if he was only considered, he supposes.

“This is kind of a… sensitive case,” Minho treads with a small shrug. “It specifically calls for younger agents who don’t scream ‘cop’. And we kind of play by different rules, things they don’t teach in a classroom so those last few months wouldn’t have made much difference. The only way is learning on the job, and they were pretty much sold on you when I told them how hard you work outside of school. You pick things up quickly, it’ll be fine…This will make more sense when you’re briefed and they hand you the casefile.” He finishes quickly, turning a corner and pointing out their apartment complex. Taemin gapes at the massive building he had written off as a luxury hotel when he saw it almost 6 blocks back.

-

The inside is just as ridiculously sleek as the exterior; the kind of prestige that makes Taemin feel under dressed. ‘Apartment’ felt like too casual a word to describe what he’d be calling home, and he wasn’t quite sure why he was even surprised because he is well aware his unassuming college roomie is fucking loaded.

He was either in awe or was rolling his eyes during the tour. Minho didn’t even let him unzip his suitcase before he was hurrying Taemin back out of the apartment for sightseeing.

The main drag was a little too crowded and loud and had a really unappealing industrial/unwashed human stank about it, so they gave that venture up in favor of the tourist trap on the shoreline. The shops and bars opposite the ocean are well populated and the walk itself is busy with locals and tourists alike. Small crowds dot the way, gathered around the various performers that take advantage of whoever falls under their spell. Taemin and Minho pass an overabundance of themed outdoor restaurants and concession stands, and Minho is trying to get Taemin to decide where they should go for dinner.

It’s been a little under a year since they last saw each other, but they easily picked up exactly where they left off. The playful verbal and physical jabs at each other seem to be somewhat disruptive to the people around them, but they don’t pay much mind. Taemin didn’t realize how much he’d missed it, being so caught up in school and a shitty part-time job that he didn’t have any time to attempt a social life after Minho graduated. A lot can change in a few years in a new place, and Taemin was thankful Minho hadn’t let his super cool government job or prestigious man cave or the ridiculous amount of ass he probably gets go to his head.

“Oh—Uh, just a second,” Minho digs his phone out of his pocket and the screen lights up with an incoming call. “I’ve gotta take this. Pick a place, would ya?” He vaguely gestures at the restaurants in the immediate area as he walks towards a vacant bench where the noise would be a little more manageable.

Taemin scans the row of buildings a few times; the barbeque place they passed a moment ago is all that comes to mind. At least he thinks it wasn’t long ago. He takes a few steps away from the line of entrances to search down the street and goes on his tiptoes to see over people. What color was the sign, again? He glances over his shoulder at Minho; he doesn’t look close to wrapping up the call from what Taemin can tell. Already taking a few strides back down the way they came, he pulls out his phone to text Minho where he’s headed. Maybe he can have a table for them by the time he catches up.

He doesn’t get far before gradually slowing to a halt, his attention straying down a side street.

There is a small crowd gathered around a dancer that Taemin catches sight of just as he slides down on one knee. His hand is poised dramatically over his heart while the other delicately takes hold of a girl’s hand she shyly offered. Taemin can’t tell if the guy’s lips actually brush the back of her hand, but she yanks it back as if she were burned by the touch. The rest of the crowd whoops and the girl quickly hides her dumbly smiling face in her hands as the dancer seamlessly bounces back into his routine.

The dancer whips around and faces Taemin’s direction, most definitely looking directly at him. Their eyes lock and the dark, hooded gaze accompanied by a lethal crooked smirk and the absolutely unnecessary swipe of tongue over his lips meant to entice the mostly female audience makes Taemin’s stomach do a flip and fuck this, it’s time to go.

He will never admit it to avoid possible ridicule, but all the partying and drinking and questionable sex with the dude that sits in the third row in macroeconomics was not part of his college experience. Taemin wanted to be in an out with as little drama as possible. Unfortunately, due to his first meeting with Minho in their dorm, that didn’t happen.

It wasn’t his fault. Minho walked in and all he saw was shoulder-length bronze hair on a dainty frame and slender legs and it just slipped out. Loud enough for a few curious boys to come running. Taemin doesn’t remember how long it was before he could walk past another guy without hearing a snarky “excuse me, miss”.

You would think criminal justice majors would be good people; the type to stop harassment rather than fan the fire. You would think. Being surrounded by nothing but that particular brand of asshole meant Taemin kept mostly to himself. Minho was the only one he considered a friend and ally, even after he graduated and left. Everyone else just seemed to piss him off, but not Minho.

Another thing Taemin will never admit: he thought Minho was fine as hell. That never went anywhere, however, because after a few weeks of living together Minho basically adopted him. Against his will or otherwise, Taemin liked the feeling of having an older brother. People didn’t mess with him when Minho was there. He became too good a friend for Taemin to think of him as anything but, at least when sober. There are a few fuzzy memories where they were absolutely smashed, maybe made out a little, woke up in bed together… platonically. Taemin was already over his crush and Minho didn’t think anything of it. They didn’t make it weird. Legitimate or not, that was about as far as Taemin’s love life went on campus grounds.

No partying and feeling bitter resentment towards the general population meant there wasn’t a lot of ass to be had. So maybe Taemin is a little weak. Still, it was just a fucking look; he couldn’t believe he was so affected.

Well, maybe he could. The dancer’s torn jeans and black wife beater left little to the imagination, and even where Taemin stands he can see the sheen of sweat over tan skin and toned arms and good lord the boy has a beautiful neck and jaw line. Judging by the way he has his audience completely at his mercy, he is damn well aware of his assets.

It isn’t until the dancer spins to face the other half of the crowd that Taemin is able to force a step forward and almost breaks into a run to avoid getting trapped again. Alright, this he will admit; alley boy is hot and it’s been a while. He exhales, glad to feel the coiling in the pit of his stomach fade. He’s in a new city with a new job, both of which he is still very unfamiliar with and he does not need this right at this very moment.

The restaurant comes into view and he remembers he never actually sent that text to Minho.

-

Jupiter, as Minho addresses it, looks just as advertised: deserted. No trace of life, not even a cigarette butt carelessly discarded on the pavement. The doors and windows are tinted so dark there’s no telling if anything is happening beyond them. Taemin is wary of the empty courtyard and bleak atmosphere as he follows Minho to the entrance. There is a quick swipe of a card and a beep-and-click of approval, and Taemin walks into a lobby that is a bit more welcoming.

It’s all white walls and white tile, aside from the warm panel of finished mahogany with a large matching desk before it acting as a divider. It looks like there might be a narrow hall behind it to what he assumed was more building, since the only other thing in the room is a black and titanium spiral staircase leading both up and down. Minho leans over the unmanned desk and knocks a few times, glancing between both sides of the divider. Taemin just stands idle, unsure of what they are waiting for but he follows Minho’s line of sight wherever it goes.

A quiet minute passes. Footsteps echo distantly and Minho perks up.

“I thought Kibum was the welcoming committee today.” Minho says, a little disappointed. The man that emerged gives him an exaggerated frown and his shoulders slump when he stops beside the desk, feigning dejection. An ID card identical to Taemin’s hangs low on his torso by a blue lanyard and Taemin can just barely make out his name. Kim Jonghyun; whatever position he holds is printed too small. Betraying the immaculate lobby, Jonghyun seems a bit disheveled, like he’s been rushing around. The top few buttons on his shirt are undone and a few locks of dark hair are out of place.

“Nice to see you, too.” Jonghyun deadpans, but it quickly fades into a light smile. His soft eyes rest briefly on Taemin before he turns back around and beacons them to follow. The hallway behind the divider was like a different building entirely with its dim lighting and dark walls. “He still is, but right now he’s a bit… See, our other recruit bailed on us. He was here by Kibum’s reference and waltzed in here with such bravado you wouldn’t have recognized the guy that left.” Jonghyun shakes his head with a low chuckle.

That can’t be good. Taemin is suddenly reminded he has no idea what he’s walking into. He swallows hard and attempts to focus on mentally preparing himself because they’re almost at the end of the narrow hall. The heavy duty metal door with a high tech security pad and thick bar locking it shut suddenly looked more intimidating than cool. Hopefully the lighting would stay this bad so no one would see how this face had virtually no color.

“You’re kidding.” Minho snickers. It’s smug, like he knew it would happen. He gives Taemin a quick glance before he steps beside him and throws a reassuring arm around him. Taemin attempts a small, rather unconvincing smile along with him after he has a miniature meltdown because fuck, Minho knows.

“Nope. And Kibum is not happy. I don’t recommend messing with him. I mean it.” Jonghyun swipes a card in a slot over the key pad and quickly taps something in. His hand moves to rest on the handle of the door and he looks over his shoulder at Taemin, still struggling with his demeanor. “Kibum’s a nice guy, I promise.” He assures with one of the warmest smiles Taemin has ever seen, but somehow it doesn’t quite throw off the foreboding statement. Minho gives him a light squeeze of encouragement before his arm drops and he pushes his jacket back to fit both hands in his pockets. There is a low click from the door and Jonghyun shoves it open, allowing Minho to stroll through first with a bit of bounce in his step followed by Taemin, who may or may not have had to take a second and remind himself how to walk.

The space they entered, in Taemin’s mind, resembles a lecture hall; high ceiling and rows of desks on descending levels with the lowest and largest level having something of a stage and a podium, with stair cases on either side of the room and one cutting right down the middle. The light is dim presumably to cut down on eyestrain for those occupying the desks, tapping away at their keyboards or quietly discussing something over the phone. Most have two or three monitors, and there were a few with four all going at once. It’s an impressive display, though Taemin notes how half the desks are vacant and void of any personal items.

“This looks like something out of a movie…” Taemin utters while his eyes wander. Someone scoffs nearby.

There is one station directly to the left of the entrance and it takes Taemin a moment for his eyes to focus on the man in all black, swirling a cup of coffee in one hand with his feet propped up on his desk. There isn’t anything conventionally intimidating about the high cheek bones and delicate lips, but the severe way he seems to be sizing Taemin up is a little unnerving.

“Oh, this one looks promising. Good job, Minho.”

So this must be Kibum.

He discards the cup before begrudgingly getting to his feet. There is a half inch thick file sitting on the far corner of his desk that Kibum snatches on his way around. Taemin spots a similar, now coffee coated one in the small trash basket a little farther past Kibum’s work station.

“I heard your pick didn’t work out. That’s too bad.” Minho offers nonchalantly, walking to meet Kibum, which Taemin is thankful for because he somehow already feels like he’s walking on thin ice. “So, how does next Friday sound for collecting my prize?” Minho looks down at Kibum with a shit-eating grin and the latter narrows his eyes.

“You haven’t won yet. If he actually takes the job I’ll admit defeat.” Kibum throws Taemin a look lacking any confidence that will be the case. Taemin takes in the situation silently and, unsure of what make of it, he looks back at Jonghyun.

He has his arms crossed with his mouth in a thin line, patiently waiting for this exchange to conclude like it was something that happened regularly. Minho and Kibum’s stare down goes on for another uncomfortable moment before Jonghyun clears his throat. Kibum stares a beat longer before tearing his gaze away and focusing on Taemin. He pushes the file he grabbed into Taemin’s fumbling grasp on his way down the middle stairway, and Minho nods for Taemin to follow.

“That’s an overview of the case and information detailing your role here.” Kibum begins robotically, dropping whatever mood he was in on the spot. “Where we are now is our information center and the heart of this operation. Above is research, down below is mostly storage.” Taemin quickens his pace so he is almost beside Kibum as he doesn’t want to miss anything. He picks open the file but before he can flip through it they are near the bottom of the room, heading to a door off to the side.

“This room,” Kibum accentuates with a nod as he grips the handle, “is just a conference room. We’re gonna... give you a ‘lil test.” The door swings open effortlessly and Taemin halts, holding the file with both hands in front of him, eyes wide. Minho and Jonghyun pass him and take seats at the elongated table beyond the doorway. Taemin reluctantly follows, timidly peering around, expecting there to be more to the room. It’s just the table and a large flat screen taking up most of the far wall, and Kibum is struggling to work the remote. Minho drums his fingers on the table top and stares expectantly at Taemin until he quietly closes the door behind him and sinks into his chair, placing the file on the table as if it were made of glass.

“If you open it to the second tab you’ll see three of our known targets,” Kibum sighs. There is a no signal warning flashing on the display and he moves to do some kind of manual fix on the television itself.

Taemin follows the instruction and is met with a photo taken in the midst of a crowd with the focus on an adolescent male with mussed brown hair and soft features, turning away from the camera. In a patch of whitespace in the corner of the picture is a drawing of what looks like a star; four long points, each separated by three smaller points, with a hollow circle at the center. There are a few other paparazzi-style shots beneath it held on by a paper clip—one of which where the subject bears a tattoo that resembles the star doodle on his right forearm, on the soft inner flesh just before his elbow—and beneath that is a document listing personal information, dates, and locations.

“We refer to them by a code made up of the first letter of the city they were first spotted in, the order we found them, and the last digit of what year it was. So this,” Minho reaches over and taps on the picture, “is M-61. Sixth confirmed, first sighted in Malaysia in 2011. The other important bit is threat level. His is set at low or unknown because he is quick to flee at the first sign of danger and hasn’t displayed particularly violent behavior.”

Taemin scans the rest of the page. “Alright, but what did he do?”

“We’ll get to that.” Minho motions for him to turn the page. The same format of photos attached to a document, however this one has less information. It is another young man of smaller frame, youthful with round eyes behind a pair of glasses. He looks innocent enough.

“R-50. Fifth to be confirmed. Russia, 2010. Threat level: high. Engage with caution...” Taemin reads aloud carefully and looks between Minho and Jonghyun. “What does this—“

“Okay okay, here we go!” Kibum blurts triumphantly. Displaying on the TV is a paused frame of a vacant hall lined with doors and what looks like an empty gurney pushed off to the side; hospital security footage, most likely.

“This was an incident that occurred three years ago in North America starring M-61 there aaannd,” Kibum makes a circling gesture with his hand and Taemin flips the page to the next profile. Yet again, a normal looking young man about the same age as the others, towering over those around him. Brazil, 2008. Threat level: high, DO NOT ENGAGE is highlighted and underlined. “B-38. He almost shut us down.” Kibum steps aside and clicks play.

There is no sound. Nothing happens for a few seconds and then two men come barreling into the shot and scramble down the hall. They disappear around a corner and not a second later four others run after them. A lone female is in the lead followed closely by three men, the front two with guns drawn.

The video cuts to a different scene, the two attempting to escape swerve around another corner and stop just at the edge of the frame. The shorter of the two—M-61, Taemin guesses—is doubled over, one arm pressing against his abdomen and the other stiff at his side. His entire body is moving with harsh gasps. The taller one, B-38, crouches down and carefully rests his hand on M-61’s shoulder while the other quickly brushes his dark fringe out of his face before cupping his cheek and then sliding the hand to the side of his neck. B-38 is frantically trying to tell him something, maybe try and work out a plan, but then he stands and bolts back the way they just came, not even acknowledging M-61’s mute call of protest. B-38 disappears and M-61 slumps against the wall, too exhausted to follow. With the new angle, Taemin can clearly see blotches of blood on his shirt and the smear at the corner of his mouth.

The footage jumps again, this time to B-38 standing at a dead end with the camera angled from the opposite end of the hall. Two of the four agents come into view; the woman keeps looking over her shoulder, off screen. Guns raised, they progress slowly towards their target, who stands motionless save for his heaving chest. He slowly raises his hands in surrender. All four agents come into the shot, still advancing cautiously. The two in front keep their guns up and those behind them have their hands hovering at their sides ready to draw.

The woman is saying something to B-38. He is unresponsive. They all halt a few yards before him, and she tries to communicate again.

The angle is bad and the video quality is not the greatest, but Taemin can see B-38 shake his head. His arms begin to lower. The agents react instantly, all weapons pointed for the kill.

And then there was fire.

It’s so quick, Taemin doesn’t catch where it comes from, just that a massive wave of fire engulfs B-38 and rages down the hall. The female agent in front whips around and tackles the man behind her to the ground, the other two stumble backwards and the video goes black just before hell washes over them.

Taemin searches the screen, waiting for more to happen. They all look at him and Kibum shifts his weight from one leg to the other.

“Did you see it?” He points the remote at the TV. Taemin blinks.

“See… what? What happened?” His eyes dart between the three.

“Watch closely.” The footage is set back to the four agents cornering B-38, with the woman speaking to him for the second time. Kibum pauses it, and clicks forward frame by frame. Taemin folds his arms on the table and leans forward, still not seeing what he apparently should. Frame by frame, he watches B-38 lower his arms. Frame by frame, the agents bring up their guard. Frame by frame, the fire sparks into existence. Kibum stops. “This is what we’re dealing with.”

Taemin inclines his head, still not quite understanding. Kibum watches him, and continues tapping through the frames, slower than before. B-38’s palms are out, his arms dropped half way at his sides. The flecks of fire start around his arms and hands. The next frame, not half a real-time second later, shows those same sparks nearly five times the size they were before. New heated little specks appear farther away, in a trail following the extension of his arms, nothing but blurs curling in towards himself. Two more frames go by and the fire bursting forth from nowhere has taken the shape of wings about to open, burying B-38 nearly out of sight. Kibum plays the footage at half the regular speed and Taemin just barely catches how the resulting devastation is the backlash from the ‘wings’ blossoming open. The video goes dark again.

There is a sharp huff of air and everyone else stares as Taemin laughs nervously. His chair squeaks as he relaxes back in it.

“This is a joke, right? Something you do to newbies?” Taemin quickly flips through the file again. “Do these guys work here, too? Or is this all from a movie?”

Silence. Taemin’s face falls as he looks at each of them. Jonghyun wears the same soft smile Taemin first saw at the front desk. He motions with his index finger for Taemin to wait a moment. Jonghyun stands up and turns his back to them while untucking his shirt from his pants. The sight of Jonghyun’s blaze scarred lower back has Taemin swallowing whatever he was about to say.

“I was the one behind the man in front, Kyuhyun. He didn’t make it.” Jonghyun lowers his shirt and quickly gets to work righting it. “Sooyeon and Jinki were more fortunate, but this put them permanently out of commission. They had been on M-61’s trail for months, and this is when they found out what B-38 was capable of.”

“That hall was lined with patient rooms, most of which were occupied.” Minho adds gravely, leaning on the table with his fingers threaded together. “Two citizen casualties and nine injuries, in addition to our own loss. That’s why Jupiter was almost terminated; our ‘carelessness’. The only thing that saved our ass was that they can’t afford not to have us.”

“You’re serious.” Taemin says in doubtful awe. His eyes drop to the photo of B-38 before him. “…There’s no way.”

“We don’t know the how or why, just that it is.” Jonghyun gets comfortable in his seat again. “Jinki and Sooyeon got a hold of M-61 prior to this incident—actually it was the cause of it. B-38 came to his rescue. Anyway, they managed to get a few things out of him.” Taemin tears his gaze from the profile, his expression unreadable.

“We still aren’t sure how reliable the information they got from him is because he had been in a traffic accident and the hospital had him drugged up, but it’s the clearest picture we have regarding their motives. He said they were searching for something. He said it needed to be kept away from someone, and this thing is why they have power, or rather, why they were given power. We don’t know by whom, no idea who is calling the shots, just that there is an individual or an organization doing so. Whoever it is, there is something out there that they desire, and someone else wants to get their hands on it as well. We knew some of this already, but the mention of two different parties being involved was new. There was suddenly a great deal more to be concerned about, and to this day we still have zero information on the other group.” Jonghyun leaves it there, trying to determine if Taemin is keeping up.

It’s debatable. He still thinks this is a really elaborate joke and everyone will suddenly burst out laughing so he may not be feeling the weight of what Jonghyun is saying.

“Obviously, regardless of their motives, we can’t just let these people do as they please.” He continues carefully, searching Taemin’s eyes for some sort of agreement. He gets the hint, and nods once. Jonghyun concludes this is probably enough for the time being.

“Take the casefile home and think things over. If you’ve got questions, you’ve got Minho.”

-

So, apparently, there’s a small group of guys out there about Taemin and Minho’s age who can make earthquakes and fire and fuck knows what else at will, and this faceless organization dubbed the Jupiter Intelligence Network is in charge of getting them under control by any means necessary. Taemin spends most of the ride home in a bit of a daze, wondering if maybe he fell asleep watching anime again.

Minho assures him he is very much awake, and not to worry. Everyone thinks it’s a joke at first.

“How is there this little information if this has been going on for over ten years.” Taemin mumbles flatly. He’s lying on his stomach, sideways on Minho’s bed with his arms along with the file hanging over the edge. Minho is busy rummaging around in his closet.

“That’s just an overview. Also, they’re really good at avoiding us.” He returns, pulling out two hangers holding two identical jackets. “Well, not that good. I mean, we still aren’t even sure how many of them there are, but you saw them. They’re young, they mess up. We know they’re often driven by their own emotions, which leads us to believe they’re not professionals and probably not operating under much direction.”

“That just makes this more dangerous, doesn’t it?” Taemin closes the folder and strains to set it on the bedside table. He scoots back on the bed a bit and rests his chin on his folded arms. He regards Minho silently with a brow cocked. “…Are you going somewhere?”

“We,” He corrects, discarding both jackets. “We are going somewhere. I know that was a lot to take in, so I think it’d be good for you to clear your head. With alcohol.” Taemin shakes his head disapprovingly but can’t fight the grin pulling at his mouth or the quick exhale out his nose. He doesn’t really want to go out but maybe intoxication will make everything make sense.

“Don’t you have work in the morning?”

“Oh, another perk to this job.” Minho quickly sheds his current V-neck in favor of the exact same shirt, just in black. “Because we aren’t analysts like Kibum and Jonghyun, we can actually do a lot of the office crap from home. Honestly there aren’t a lot of situations where we would need to set foot in Jupiter; we do a lot of communicating by phone or radio, webcam if we’re in a stable location. Field agents, remember? It’s set up this way because we sometimes have to travel.”

He knows Minho may be speaking of field agents in general but Taemin is a little bothered by all the ‘we’s.

“I don’t have clubbing clothes.” Taemin weakly attempts. He has a lot to think about, plus Minho’s bed is super comfortable.

“That’s a dirty lie.” Minho narrows his eyes knowingly. He’s right. “Besides, you don’t need anything fancy for this place.” Minho turns to him and gestures up and down his own body at his simple outfit. “It barely passed its last health inspection, but that’s where the charm lies.” Taemin’s brows furrow. He probably isn’t going to get out of this.

“And it’s all dance floor. You still like to dance, don’t you?”

-

They arrive a bit late in the evening. Anyone who isn’t good at pacing themselves is already wasted. There is a lot of shameless grinding of bodies and couples disappearing into the bathrooms. Save for a few standing tables on either side of the enormous bar and DJ booth elevated directly to the left of it, it really is just a massive dancefloor, currently bathed in magenta from the overhead lights. Taemin slips off his long flannel shirt and ties it around his waist because all these bodies are creating a lot of warmth. The entire room smells like sex and vanilla body spray and there is no way he is going to be able to weave his way to the bar without getting drenched in someone else’s sweat. While playing emo honor student he may have forgotten what a nightclub was like and somewhat regretted the grey tank that hugged his body a little too well.

“Alcohol is the only way I’m making it through this.” Taemin says flatly, scanning the crowd with uncertainty.

“That’s the point.” Minho elbows him and suddenly throws an arm up to wave at someone across the room. “And you’re in luck. I think my friends over there just hooked us up.”

It’s not as bad as Taemin thought. One too many shots and a screwdriver later and he’s just another grinding body lost in the pulsing bass shaking the floor. He went in with one of Minho’s friends but has since changed partners, at least he’s assuming so; the strobe lights make it hard to tell who’s who and he only just met the guy. The space behind him is suddenly empty again and Taemin takes it as an opportunity to get another drink. He weaves his way to the edge of the room for a clearer path to the bar.

Someone grabs him roughly by the shoulder and practically throws his back to the wall, and suddenly Taemin is sandwiched under a large body. The guy wastes no time nuzzling into the crook of his neck all breath and tongue and completely ignores Taemin’s effort to twist away. The pelvis pressing into his and the solid hands on his hips keep him firmly in place. Taemin’s back arches when he feels nails dig unforgivingly into his skin under the hem of his shirt and he wraps his hands around the guy’s wrists to try to pry him off.

“That hurts— get the fuck off me—“ Taemin yells over the music and the next protest is lost in a yelp when the guy catches some soft skin between his teeth and bites down hard. Taemin attempts to bodily heave the man off but he’s a lot bigger than Taemin and doesn’t seem fazed by the attempt.

“Don’ act like you didn’t jus spend an entire song loving the way my dick feels on your ass.” He growls with his lips wet against Taemin’s ear and the slur in his voice is so thick Taemin fears the idea of talking his way out of this is off the table. It’s definitely not Minho’s friend but Taemin does remember the strong scent of the man’s cheap-ass cologne and oh, fuck, Taemin also recalls glancing over his shoulder and either biting or licking his lips a few times so maybe he’s not completely delusional.

“I don’t give a shit, I’m telling you to get off me now!” Taemin presses his hand to the side of the guy’s face and jams his thumb into his eye while pushing his head off to the side. The man cries out and his hands fly to his face as he stumbles off Taemin, who makes a point to kick in the back of one of his knees as soon as the shot is clear. The plan was to bolt and find Minho, but watching the asshole crumble under his own weight is too damn satisfying to miss. Taemin savors the sight with a proud smirk until the guy starts moving like he might get back up, and now it’s probably a good idea to flee. Taemin disappears into the crowd and after orienting himself he ducks into a nearby restroom.

He rounds the corner and spins to watch the entrance, body tense and guard up in case he was followed. Taemin curses under his breath when he realizes if the guy does come after, him he’s fucked. There is no other way out and he doubted anyone who staggered in would be of any help. Taemin is suddenly aware of how hard his heart is beating against his chest and he leans heavily against the row of sinks, hands tightly gripping the edge. His hair falls around his face as he hangs his head low and focuses on a deep breath, muttering another vulgarity because he doesn’t like how much he’s worked up. He came out the victor, it shouldn’t be this way.

“Um—” a voice comes from the entrance and Taemin scrambles to catch himself from going down from the surprise. He exhales loudly and leans back into the counter on his hip when he sees it isn’t who he’s avoiding.

“I uh—shit, I’m sorry, um,” The man—young man, barely looked old enough to be allowed in the club—had his hands nervously hovering at his chest with his fingers curling and uncurling, unsure of what to do. The club name is in bold lettering on the black shirt he wore and Taemin vaguely recalls seeing him behind the bar, bobbing along to the music as he filled orders.

“I saw what happened and security should be handling things,” He says quickly. Taemin feels like he might drown in the dark round eyes regarding him with so much concern. “Is there someone you want me to go find? Or ah…um,” He inclines his head and gestures around his own neck. “Should I grab a first aid kit?”

Taemin blinks and his brows furrow, and he lightly swipes his hand over were the man’s mouth was on his neck. It’s wet and Taemin looks at himself in the long mirror fixed over the sinks before he sees the blood on his fingers. Over the smear he just made there is a fresh trickle running down his neck and collecting in a dark red stain at his collar.

“That fucking prick…” Taemin acidly whispers and flicks the faucet on. He wets his hands and wipes away the blood, mostly just diluting it and tingeing his skin red. He tries to locate the paper dispenser and the bartender is there in a flash with a handful. Taemin nods in thanks and presses the toweling to his neck without meeting the other’s eyes. He can feel the warmth growing in his face because he’s embarrassed and a little pissed he feels like such a victim right now. He means well, but he bartender pitying him is making it worse. Taemin watches himself in the mirror and sees the thoughtful stare he is getting in the reflection. This isn't doing any favors for his heart rate and he tries to focus on anything but the mirror.

“I’m okay, it’s not deep.” Taemin says quietly and the edge of his mouth twitches because his voice just hopped an octave and what the fuck. His eyes drop to the sink and he switches off the water. The bartender pulls back a few steps with a hesitant nod, but he still hovered. There is an uncomfortable pause where neither of them move or say anything so Taemin finally turns to look at him and the other perks up, awaiting some kind of request.

“Really, it’s fine, you don’t…” Taemin trails off and he squints a bit. The other’s eyes widen and his gaze jumps around the room before falling back to Taemin and his head turns slightly, brows raising. Most likely the fault of the alcohol in his system, Taemin smiles faintly when it dawns on him.

“…Have you ever danced by the beach?”

Chapter Text

{chapter warnings: none}
- - - -

The horrendously lit alley reeked of garbage and stale cigarette smoke and it was still somehow more appealing than the inside of the club. They are seated on the small stairway leading to the back door, the only light coming from a shoddy fixture above it.

“A cop? Really?” He was caught between doubt and awe and looking at Taemin with that radiant smile. Seeing him up close is almost overwhelming. Now shoulder to shoulder he can see the strong masculine features and near flawless skin, and he could have passed for being a bit older than he is if it weren’t for the youthful brightness in his eyes. Taemin had a hard time looking away when shown his profile because praise the lord in heaven above for this kid’s jawline, fuck.

Taemin nods, taking a sip of the water he’d been offered. He isn’t exactly lying, just not revealing anything specific, like how Minho had to be these last two years. Judging by the way Jupiter won’t even put their name on the welcome package, they’re pretty serious about secrecy… but more than anything, Taemin isn’t about to try and explain some superpower bullshit.

“I haven’t officially accepted the job yet.” He passes the bottle back to its owner and it’s set on the step between their feet.

“What’s making you hesitate?”

Taemin faces forward, gaze distant, recalling everything that happened in that conference room. The comprehension isn’t there, even after watching it happen, seeing the scars, the fucking obituaries, there is still so much doubt. He feels as though the weight of it hasn’t really sunk in yet. There are so many questions he can’t even put into words, though the blaring one is what the fuck else could they hiding from the public? Aliens? Werewolves?

“…They showed me this video that they… show all applicants,” He begins after a pause, mentally going over his explanation before saying it aloud because he can still feel those shots. “It just… It made everything real. Like I knew I would be putting my life on the line someday, but… the footage was so…” He shakes his head. “Everything went to shit so fast, SO fast, and there was nothing they could do. They didn’t go into that …situation, knowing that one of them wouldn’t be coming back out. But… that’s part of the job, I guess. Being at peace with that. I mean, obviously you fight as hard as you can so that doesn’t happen, it’s just… it could.”

“They made you watch someone die?”

“No, no, not exactly. It ends just before it. They told me after who didn’t make it. But that wasn’t the intent. It was more like …hey so here’s the job on a bad day...”

The other nods grimly. “That’s pretty scary.”

There is a pause and Taemin looks at him strangely, expecting something more substantial.

“That’s all you have for me? Aren’t bartenders supposed to be good with life advice or some shit?” It started out serious but the other staring back at him like he suddenly had a quiz sprung on him had Taemin suppressing a drunk fit of laughter. This guy gives off such an innocent lost child vibe. He’s so out of place in a club environment and probably has to deal with a lot of unwanted advances and rude-ass drunks. Taemin’s tipsy conscience is telling him to take him home and hide him from the evil in the world. Or take him home and suck bruises along his collar bones and down his chest.

Blinking himself out of that fantasy, he focuses hard on the conversation at hand. It turns out to be really fucking hard when the bartender’s plush lips start moving again and Taemin’s eyes glaze over a little. He quickly rubs an eye and hopes the other is as dense as he is tasty—god dammit.

“Sorry. I haven’t been doing this very long and my knowledge of the world is pretty much limited to stories I’ve heard in there and dancing. And dogs. I don’t think any of that will help you, but, maybe think about why you wanted to do it in the first place? Like …is it worth it?” He offers, tilting his head back thoughtfully. Suddenly the socially awkward dancer/bartender seems to have more depth than Taemin gave him credit.

“I was kidding, but that’s… actually pretty good. Congrats on not sucking at your job.”

“Oh, no, I mess up a lot.” He laughs halfheartedly, his forearm obscuring Taemin’s view of his face while his hand scratches the back of his neck. That wimpy chuckle sounded like velvet. Taemin feels tingly.

“So the dancer-by-day, bartender-by-night thing what you want to do with your life?” Taemin draws one of his legs up and rests his cheek on his knee. The other leers at him knowingly, catching how Taemin seems to think it’s his turn to try and play counselor. There’s a rush of heat to Taemin’s cheeks.

If he’s been noticing Taemin’s newfound and very obvious thirst, he isn’t saying anything. “A job is a job. I don’t think much about the future. Just take things day by day. The dancing is mostly for fun. On a good day I make more than I do here in tips, and the attention isn’t too bad.” He adds with a smirk. He opens his mouth to continue but something redirects his attention and he shifts to dig into his back pocket. Taemin lifts his head when he sees the phone.

“Ah, I need to head back in. Break is just about over.” Break. Probably the only one he gets per shift, and he used it on Taemin.

He stands up with a grunt and swipes around his phone for a moment with his bottom lip disappearing under his teeth. He falters a bit but gradually extends his arm to offer Taemin his phone. Making no move to get up and brows slightly raised, Taemin slowly accepts it and brings it before him. It’s a new contact screen, awaiting fields to be filled. Taemin peers up at him a little too hopefully, but the other has his arms wrapped loosely around himself and his head turned purposely to avoid eye contact. It’s a nervous, childish display and cute as hell.

“…I’m really bad at this. There’s not a lot of people I can talk to and I just figured I probably wouldn’t see you here again after what happened, but if you don’t want to—“ The smooth edge of his phone lightly grazes his hand and he looks down to see Taemin mirroring him; hand extended and waiting for the phone to be accepted, neck straining not to look, arm wrapped around his abdomen. He snatches his phone with excessive attitude and quickly scans over the new contact info.

“…Taemin? Are you making fun of me?” He accuses, typing up a quick message.

“Yes.” Taemin grins adoringly at the sound of his name off the other’s lips. He extends his legs and pushes himself upright off the stairs. His eyes downcast when his own phone vibrates.

“I’m Jongin. I’m also bad at introductions.” Jongin steps up to the door and half turns with his hand on the knob, waiting for Taemin to follow. “…Are you coming?” Taemin has his phone out and glimpses at the bit of street visible at the mouth of the alley. Hanging around Jongin’s edge of the bar for the rest of the night is tempting, but that could also mean more drinking so Jongin doesn’t get in trouble for socializing on the job. He’s already had too many, and Taemin is well aware of how he gets when he’s wasted. That’s not a risk he’s willing to take. He doesn’t want to ruin this thing.

“…Nah, I think I’m done for the night. I’m gonna wait for my friend out front.” Jongin’s face falls and he nods, pushing open the door.

“I’ll uh—“ Taemin calls out just before Jongin disappears into the building and promptly leans back out. “I’ll… see you… later…?” he fumbles with the words and isn’t certain why they even came out. Jongin lights up (better than a sunrise Taemin wants to fucking cry) and he nods once enthusiastically before the door closes in his wake.

Taemin breathes a shaky exhale in a self-cringe because that was so unnecessarily awkward. He turns his attention to his phone; two texts from Minho in the last fifteen minutes and a brand new one from an unknown number. Presumably Jongin passing his information to him, he taps the last one open and snorts.

:3

-

“And where the fuck was Jae when this happened?” Minho has one hand on Taemin’s neck under the small raw wound and the other held the opposite side of the latter’s face, thumb on his chin to keep Taemin’s head to the side while Minho cranes his neck to examine it from every angle.

After parting with Jongin he texted Minho to meet him in the 24-hour diner across the street from the club (because it beat just standing around outside and he wasn’t positive he remembered the way home) when he was done. Taemin wasn’t expecting him to burst through the doors a moment later and shave twenty years off an innocent waiter’s life. Now they are standing in the center of the room with Minho all up in Taemin’s personal bubble, and the few patrons and staffs are all very interested. Taemin struggled with a quick explanation behind the blood stain and reddening marks on his neck, but Minho had apparently heard all he needed with ‘some guy’. Big brother mode is fully engaged.

“Minho, people are staring…” Taemin rests his hands over Minho’s and lightly tries to coax them off. When he gets like this it’s best to just ride it out, but the audience and Taemin’s daily tolerance for embarrassment calls for a little more urgency.

“No, seriously,” Thankfully, Minho takes a half step back, but his hands are still on Taemin, on his shoulders, sliding down his arms; making sure he was all there. “He promised me he wouldn’t leave you alone in there. God, I’m really sorry for dragging you out tonight. I knew you didn’t want to, but honestly you looked like you needed some fun but I chose the place with the highest concentration of jackasses and I know how the biggest creeps just gravitate to you—“

“Oh my god it’s fine, I’m fine, it’s not you or what’s-his-name’s fault, and I don’t need to be babysat for fucks sake.” Taemin reels, voice raising. He ducks his head and glances around when he realized he was just a notch below yelling, and he can very well feel the color he is turning. He sighs and Minho opens his mouth to argue but Taemin’s hands grip his shoulders and his mouth pulls into a fine line.

“Can we just go home? Please?” Taemin practically whines. He reduces the distance between their faces and strains to keep the volume down. “I’ll tell you on the way how I handled it just fine on my own since you didn’t let me finish, and,” his eyes wander to the ground and his arms fall back to his sides, “…I don’t regret coming out tonight.” Minho blinks and tries to speak again. This time Taemin jabs him in the chest with his index finger and then extends his arm to point sharply at the door. “Leaving. Now.”

Taemin scurries out first, mumbling timid apologies to the diners on his way out. Minho quickly follows and has to break into a jog to catch up to Taemin, who really pushed his strides to get away from the eyes he knows are still following him.

“How the hell are we going to work together if you get worked up over a scratch?” Taemin snaps, not meeting his gaze when Minho settles beside him.

“Okay, first of all, he fucking bit your neck.” Minho returns, hands out and enunciating each word. “Secondly, what?” Taemin is silent and their pace slows. He gives Minho a sidelong look that could only be described as defiance.

“I’m taking the job. Just like you wanted. Can I trust you to keep it together if I get hurt?” They both stop, and Taemin waits for his answer, stance firm and challenging. Minho catches his gaze, but visibly falters. He brings the heels of his hands to his eyes and exhales.

“Yes. Of course. I never would have recommended you if I knew I’d do nothing but worry about you.” His tone even, his hands fall to his hips and he forces himself to make eye contact. Again, he can’t maintain it, and when Taemin doesn’t waiver, Minho’s shoulders slump.

“I have complete confidence you can do this, really, I mean it. You’re more clever and driven than most of the people we have, and when we get out there, I know damn well you have my back.” He looks directly at Taemin when he says it, but it sounds more like affirmation for himself. Taemin feels the sincerity regardless, and his gaze softens almost to regret for having doubted him. Minho’s a hard guy to be mad at for any length of time.

“It’s just… god you know how bad I—“ Taemin knows instantly where that’s headed and he doesn’t want to hear it. He takes a step towards Minho who has his arms out again mid gesture, and Taemin walks into it. He wraps his arms loosely around Minho’s waist with his hands joining behind him, and Taemin gently rests his chin over the curve of Minho’s neck.

“I know.” He says quietly, leaning his head against Minho’s. Taemin feels the other’s chest press hard against him in a heavy breath and Minho’s arms fall to return the embrace, briefly squeezing Taemin tightly. They stand there in the street holding each other and after a while Taemin hears Minho take in another breath.

“…So, what thing saved your night? You said you didn’t regret coming out.” Without letting go, Taemin hums.

“Hot bartender came to see if I was okay, I ended up giving him my number.” Minho bursts out laughing and gives Taemin a few hardy pats on the back before pulling away. When Taemin sees his face it is, strangely, dead serious.

“Do not fuck on my couch.”

-

It’s not even midnight when they get home and they’re both feeling unsatisfied. Minho directs Taemin to his massive liquor cabinet, and they go find a drinking game relating to a movie. Taemin doesn’t question why Minho owns the entire Bring It On series.

Taemin barely remembers watching anything the next morning. If his throbbing headache and cottonmouth weren’t bad enough, he looks at his phone and is mortified to find he had an inebriated conversation with Jongin. Taemin is handsy and chatty, sometimes extremely bold when he’s drunk. There’s a 70% chance he asked Jongin for a dick pic or sent one himself.

Minho finds him completely buried in a blanket burrito with his phone lying on the bed. The mattress dips under Minho’s weight, and he pats what he’s assuming is Taemin’s back under the pile of comforter.

Taemin’s arm emerges from under the blanket and blindly gropes for his phone. After finding it, he waves it at Minho.

“How bad is it?”

Only after years of practice could Minho understand Taemin whining against his pillow. (that sounded naughty) Taemin can feel the bed shake. Minho is laughing and trying very hard to stay quiet. He struggles to free a leg and kicks in Minho’s general direction.

“Mean. And don’t worry. I think he picked up on how drunk you were and played along.” Minho slides Taemin’s phone under the comforter and gets up. “You’re fine.”

The light from his screen stings his eyes in the dim cocoon as he clutches it only inches from his face.

OOOHH THES E BITCHEZ IN TRUOBLE NOW

whos in trouble

HEY STOLE ANOET HR SQUADS ROUTINES ADN THEY JUS GO T ROASTED ON THERR OWN TURF A HHAHA

owo

Jongin uses emojis. Taemin thought that first text was just a joke. He stares a moment before scrolling on.

whats happening now

WE RE TEXTNG

Sigh.

lol no i mean with the cheerleader movie

Taemin either took nearly thirty minutes to study the movie and form his reply, or, more likely, forgot about the conversation entirely.

why cant eveyrone juts get along

are the cheerleaders being mean to each other

yes :(((((((

aw its ok =w= they become friends at the end

ddi u just spoil the moiv e for me

MAYBE LLOL

At which point Taemin sends Jongin a picture of the TV, along with the back of Minho’s head and shoulder.

this moive

yeah haha sorry no they don’t stay enemies. is that your roommate? why are you guys sitting on the ground

t couch is up to hihg i fell off

LMFAO

Taemin waits until well into the afternoon before even thinking about texting Jongin and begging him to forget everything. Minho is out… somewhere, and Taemin is alone in the apartment for the better half of the day. He’s still in school-mode and feels strangely empty without having homework or a project to work on, so he reads over the incomplete casefile until he’s sure he has memorized most of it.

They only gave him the information they have on three of six known individuals, and a few encounters documented by senior agents. It’s almost as if each story follows the same plot, with the only differences being setting and characters. Jupiter is proficient at finding and following, but when it comes to engagement they consistently fail. Taemin ends up wondering how many of these agents are still alive, and…

Sympathizing with such a dangerous enemy is the last thing he should do, but these guys are his age, and they’ve been running nearly half their lives now. They have pictures of some of them from when they were kids. Jupiter doesn’t know much about their operation, but from what Taemin heard in that conference room he doubts it was their idea to live this way. The common story was the parents noticed odd behavior years before their sons were ‘recruited’. They left, destroyed their tracks, and were never heard from again. Taemin suspects some kind of brainwashing or other influence. Peer pressure has made him do some things he wishes he could forget, and that’s all he can think about. Kids wouldn’t do this shit of their own will.

Taemin tucks the file away in his desk and moves to the living room to see what Netflix has to offer to help him stop thinking about the insanity he has chosen to throw himself into. Hopefully there’s something good, he doesn’t have to give his answer to Jonghyun until the following week and plans to use the entire grace period to binge watch at least three shows he had to miss because of a tight schedule.

Three shows with Jongin breaks, as it seems he likes to text photos of weird things he sees on his way to work. The conversation spurred by the man selling a cactus ‘and the cactus’ friend’ on the side of the road lasted 4 hours.

-

“So, Friday!” Minho claps his hands together. Kibum tears his eyes from the computer screen and stares at Minho blankly before leaning to look past him. Also leaning to peek past Minho’s broad frame is Taemin. He waves at Kibum with a bashful smile and Kibum mouth falls open.

“Fuck.” He pushes himself away from the desk and rubs both eyes. “Yeah, yeah, Friday. But, more importantly, there’s been a sighting.” Minho and Taemin simultaneously perk up and Kibum smirks. His hands go back to flying over keys, the light from the monitor accentuating the bags under his eyes.

“Last night we got an email from the police in the neighboring city. There was a robbery at a 7-eleven and while they were going over the security footage an officer recognized M-61. Um—“ Minho and Taemin are hovering behind him now and he twists to look at Taemin. “The three we have recent photos of are on a wanted list made up of special criminals that is sent out quarterly to any and all authorities, anyway.” A few clicks later, several windows pop up; most are photos of M-61 from multiple angles, but one is a looping clip from inside a convenience store of a young man making a purchase. Completely casual and not making any sort of attempt to hide his face, they watch him glance vaguely around the store and smile with a nod at the cashier.

“His hair is a lighter color, but that’s fucking him.” Kibum can barely contain himself and triumphantly slams both fists on either side of his keyboard. Minho is smiling and squeezes Kibum’s shoulder with praise. “But wait, there’s more.” Kibum opens another window, another clip in the same setting. The early morning sun is shining through the store, and there M-61 is again, different clothes, same purchase.

“I had them send me the last few weeks of video and I found this occurrence two days prior to the first shot. I asked our new best friend over there to show the cashiers his photo and he just got back to me saying two of them claim he’s in there at least every other day, flirting and buying the same energy drink. That tip we got last month was true, and there’s a decent possibility he’s living nearby. And, better yet, it seems he’s alone.” Kibum proudly concludes.

“What do we do now?” Taemin asks evenly, unable to decide if he’s excited or terrified this is happening.

“You,” All three peer over their shoulders; Jonghyun is standing nearby with arms akimbo. “Need to come with me, you’re not official yet, remember?” He gestures for Taemin to follow him back out into the lobby. Taemin looks hesitantly at Minho who urges him on with a nod.

He hurries to Jonghyun and they head out into the lobby and down a hall Taemin didn’t even know was there. The path splits off into two opposing halls that are exact mirrors of each other, and they round the corner down the left. There’s a single mahogany door pushed wide open, allowing free entry to the carpeted office. They walk in and Jonghyun makes his way around to sit at his desk, and Taemin takes one of the two leather seats situated before it. Half the walls are covered by shelving jammed with binders and books of varying size and color and Taemin is momentarily distracted by the view of the busy street (partially blocked by the hedges around the building) out the massive tinted window to their right.

“So.”

Taemin sits up straight when he sees what is uniformly laid out on the desk: a thick stack of paperwork in a binder, a rectangular leather wallet folded closed but the size suggested it would hold an ID and badge, a holstered gun with a matching leather harness wrapped neatly beside it, and a flash drive. Jonghyun slides the binder closer to him and Taemin gingerly picks it up.

“Before we go any further, I’m assuming, since you haven’t stated otherwise, you’re accepting the position?” Taemin picks open the binder and scans over the title page; the first he’s seen of Jupiter’s official logo. Taemin nods slowly without looking up.

“Alright. Let me tell you a bit more about what we are and how we operate. We’re one of 9 divisions created to take care of things that can’t be left in the control of a single country—initially the idea was to not have to worry about all the bullshit that comes with trying to conform to the various legal systems throughout the world in international cases because it was a nightmare. We’re headquartered in Rome—which is what we’ve unofficially come to call our superiors there—and it’s why each division is named after a Roman God. We’re Jupiter because we were the first established.” Taemin glances up and Jonghyun shrugs. No cool backstory. That’s a little underwhelming. “Our sister branches aren’t involved in this case, by the way. They have their own special problems. But we help each other when we can.”

“Now, it’s important you understand what kind of authority you have with that badge. You are not the police. Enforcing local law is not your concern. You are actually above the law. You should still conform to it to the best of your abilities, but they can’t touch you if you choose to break it. That said, this badge is not a get-out-of-jail-free card. It’s in that binder in greater detail, but abuse of this position will land you somewhere you really don’t want to be for a very long time. Understand?” Jonghyun inclines his head and there was that smile again; so out of place given the very serious context. Taemin nods, flipping to a table of contents where the fourth item catches his eye.

“…What’s the policy on secrecy?” He asks, noting the section is only a page long.

“Ah. Well, in short, keep it to yourself. All of it. Don’t discuss case details with anyone outside Jupiter. It’s unlikely you’ll encounter an agent from another branch, but even with them I wouldn’t say more than you need to. Under no circumstances do you say anything to civilians or non-federal authorities. If you have to lie, make it convincing, and we can back you up with whatever you need. Our badge looks generic for a reason, and for most, including the police, flashing something that looks official is enough. If they press, disclose us as government. Never say Jupiter, only ever refer to us as JIN or the J.I.N.; again, if it sounds official enough, most will just leave it at that. Don’t say anything about this building, either. We don’t need people getting curious.”

“This seems so… shady.” Taemin shifts in his seat with unease, closing the binder and placing it back on the desk. His hand hovers near his credentials and he looks to Jonghyun who grants him permission with a nod.

“Yeah, we are. We have to be. We’re a neutral party with a lot of power—too much, if you ask me—but there are certain forces out there that won’t tiptoe around laws and borders, so to bring them down, we need to be able to act when and how we need to. But quietly. The public doesn’t need to know there are people like us, and they REALLY don’t need to know there are people like them.” The reasoning sits a bit better with Taemin and he agrees with a small hum.

Holding the leather wallet and seeing his picture and name there, next to the badge of an agent is surreal. It is all getting numbingly overwhelming. Two weeks ago he was still a criminal justice student. The fear of failure is weighing heavily on him and only getting worse.

“Minho said… there’d be a lot of learning on the job?”

“School will never do for you what experience can. The only way we can function is if we have operatives tailored specifically to our needs, which only we can do. You have the foundation, Taemin, and really that’s all we need to work with. I do wish we had a bit more time to prepare you, but we’re a bit desperate. Because the case went inactive we sent our agents to other branches where they would be of more use. We’ve called for them to come back, but they can’t just drop the work they’re involved in now. Currently, you, Minho, Kibum, and myself are all we have for field work. However, Kibum is only called out if we’re really in need, and the incident with B-38 left me a little crippled. I guess we should be thankful it’s the least dangerous, least problematic one that showed up.” Taemin appreciates his attempt to leave it on a light note. It helped, admittedly. Taemin takes a deep breath and his eyes fix on the last item in the line.

“What’s on the flash drive?”

“Everything.” Jonghyun picks it up and holds it between his thumb and index finger. “Nothing left out; every bit of information we have regarding this case since it began. Only use it on devices we issue you. It’ll crash everything else.” He places it carefully back on the hard wood.

“So, if you don’t have any other questions…” Jonghyun pauses to allow Taemin a moment; his eyes wander the room, and he shakes his head. “…We can officially welcome you to the team. You just have to sign a few things and from here on out you’re an agent of Jupiter.”

-

“The convenience store is still closed due to damage from the robbery, but tomorrow it’ll be open to the public. Jonghyun wants us there and waiting, and we’ll sit as long as we have to.” Minho has the radio off as he drives them home, trying to read Taemin as subtly as the quick glimpses away from the road will allow.

He was stoic when Minho met him in the lobby, and is just as unresponsive now with any attempt to have a decent conversation failing. Taemin has his credentials, gun, the flash drive, and a brand new computer all in a grey laptop bag sitting on his lap, hands resting protectively on top of it. He isn’t sure how he is supposed to feel. He is sure that he has a firearm and a badge, but isn’t obligated to enforce or even follow the law. The proper conduct and dialogues that have been engraved into his mind mean so little all of a sudden.

“Could you drop me off at that café, the small one a few blocks from home? I wanna read through some things and I kind of want to burn my tongue on something to make sure I’m actually awake right now.” He taps his index finger on the bag, and Minho isn’t quite sure how to react to the offhanded comment. But now is not the time to pry.

“…Sure. I’ll text you if anything changes.”

“Wait, I’m allowed to do this, right? Look at the case contents in a public place?” Minho smiles softly at the worry and answers with a nod.

“Yeah. Just, you know, use your head. Sit with your back to a wall so no one can read your screen. No problem.”

-

The rich smell of coffee is calming, and better yet, the homey little café is deserted. Taemin settles at a table near the large front window, angling his chair so no one from outside could possibly read the small print on his laptop. He shifts the table back so he is practically leaning against the wall; he isn’t taking any chances. He futzes with how he should orient the bag hanging on the back of the chair, suddenly anxious about having a weapon in public and repeatedly reminding himself it is perfectly legal. The barista is starting to stare so he abandons the task and quickly situates himself to avoid any more attention. Inserting the flash drive with an Americano at his lips, the file manager pops up and Taemin clicks the first folder.

Seven subfolders are under the main titled KNOWN PERPETRATORS & SUSPECTS. M-61, R-50, B-38, and three more he has yet to read on. He already read everything they have on M-61 and isn’t sure at the moment how to prepare himself further for a possible encounter, so his curiosity drives him to the first unknown.

A PDF version of the same sort of document containing the information of the first three opens. There are a lot of fields, but very little information filled in. C-48; fourth confirmed in China, 2008. Threat level unknown. There is a disclaimer about the attached photos all being unconfirmed, and a note theorizing he may be the youngest of the bunch. This one is keen on avoiding conflict, but he’s marked ‘engage with caution’. Jupiter has no information about his parents or where he came from. Not very insightful. Taemin moves to the next one.

I-16. Indonesia in 2006. First ever confirmed, the use of the code system didn’t kick in until Jupiter found more of them so many of his records are marked by his initials. It seems his parents turned over everything they had on him, but ten year old photos are of little help. They have one picture to go off now, albeit a really bad one; distorted by motion, and you can just barely make out his profile as he’s turning away. Threat level high, engage with caution. Taemin’s interest is piqued and he leans in to read the most recent run-in they had with this one.

He Jia Hotel in Bejing, China; 12-02-2012; 23:00;
5 agents in pursuit of I-16, possibly C-48, and an unknown. The three suspects had reportedly been guests for six days, with four days of the stay remaining. I-16 spotted the agents in the lobby and fled presumably back to the hotel room to gather the other two. The three were cornered on the fifth floor. Agents report the walls and ceiling suddenly giving way when every water pipe on the fifth and sixth floors were simultaneously compromised. I-16’s doing. Severe damage to the building. Mild injuries. No casualties.

Taemin found assurance in how they don’t seem to be an overly violent bunch, despite being very capable. The damage could be so much more than what it is now if they had less morals or no desire to keep themselves hidden. He exits out of I-16’s file to move on to the next.

J-27. Japan, 2007. No pictures whatsoever and the only note about physical description is young male, just like the others. Threat level is unknown/high, and there are several fields just full of question marks; someone seemed a bit frustrated when filling this form in. Oddly, for the lack of information, this one had a long list of encounters. Stranger yet, it was just a page of locations, dates, and times, all attached to the same description.

BAITED. PURSUED. LOST.

Baited? Baited. Taemin scans the page again, looking for clarification. It takes him a moment before he scrolls down and finds an additional page with no title. Informal and following no guidelines, there are several statements taken directly from agents, unedited and uncensored.

This little shit shows up at the worst times. He knows we’re close to one of his buddies and he swoops in and fucks with us to get us off their ass. Changmin and I were this close – THIS CLOSE—to R-50. I realize now he was probably still close by, but mid pursuit R-50 suddenly disappears and J-27 is there, and I’ll admit I was still pissy about the last time I saw this kid. I fall for his little game and we lose both of them. You’d think with all the times I’ve encountered him I’d be able to at least supply a description, but he’s always got a hat or a hood up and it’s always in bad light. All I ever see is his punk ass smug—

Taemin scrambles to steady the table he jostled because a sudden knock on the window throws him into a near full-body spasm of surprise. His cheeks puff up and deflate with an exasperated exhale because what the fuck—

Shoulders shaking and face twisted in laughter with a hand hovering over his mouth, Jongin stands just outside the window. Taemin leans back in his seat and turns his face away, a smile pulling his mouth into a line. He sees Jongin out of the corner of his eye head towards the entrance of the café.

When he hears the little chime above the door, Taemin shuts the laptop and hunches over to plant an elbow on the table, hand on his cheek with the heel covering half his mouth. He watches Jongin hard in his timid approach, looking like he was bracing to be scolded but not at all regretful. Shoulders up and his hands in the front pocket pulling his hoodie taut, he is fighting to suppress his amusement with his teeth digging in his lip.

“If you keep doing this to me, pretty soon I’m gonna be psychologically conditioned to associate you with my heart racing. Like, in a bad way.” Taemin says flatly, voice slightly muffled against his hand.

“Doesn’t sound bad to me.” Jongin replies coyly, placing a hand on the backrest of the only other chair at the small table. Taemin contemplates silently until his eyes flick to the seat and then back to Jongin, who takes that as the O.K. to sit down. “Was that your attempt at flirting?”

“Was that yours?” Taemin throws back, jutting his thumb at the window. Jongin chokes back a giggle and sinks lower in his seat. He brings his hands in front of his chest, clapping his palms flat together.

“I promise not to do it again. Or, at least, I’ll try really hard not to.” Taemin tilts his chin up, regarding Jongin with mock disbelief. The other responds by inclining his head, eyes round with his bottom lip jutting out in a pout. The stare down lasts maybe three seconds before Taemin has to look away. Jongin takes it as a victory, sitting up and resting his arms on the table, one hand on the opposite forearm. When Taemin can’t immediately meet his gaze (presumably still recovering from the puppy face) Jongin reaches and taps on the laptop. “So, what are you doing?”

“Oh, uh,” Taemin looks down at the laptop bag dangling next to him. Jongin already knew he was going into law enforcement, so continuing that story was probably his best bet. It isn’t a total lie so just switching some details shouldn’t make it obvious. “Well… I… took the job,” Taemin begins, drawing it out while he quickly pieces things together. “I already got put on an assignment. Grunt work, honestly. I get to sit in a car all day watching a building. No telling how long it’ll go on, all depends on if the guy they’re looking for shows up… if he shows up at all.” Taemin’s eyes shut and he rubs his forehead, genuinely dreading being stuck in a vehicle for what could be days. He draws in a breath, looking at the laptop with contempt. “I was just re-reading the report.”

“That’s… great?” Jongin offers, retracting his hand when he leans back. “But hey, a stake out. You shouldn’t have to worry about much, right?” He tilts his head to try and meet Taemin’s eyes. Taemin’s jaw tightens and he remains fixated on the laptop, a hand coming up to absently rub his neck and feeling the small bite mark that has since scabbed over. Jongin frowns and his eyes go big again, this time concerned he may have said something wrong. He folds his arms close to himself and Taemin follows the movement before moving up to his face.

“Yeah, it’ll be fine. I was just… thinking too much, before.” He shakes his head and gestures dismissively with a wave. “So what were you doing before scaring the shit out of me?”

“Just taking a walk. I found out I have to fill in for someone at work later and now I’m kind of just wasting time until I have to go in. I was going to go see a friend today but we had to cancel and now I... there are those days where you have a plan and something unexpected falls in a shitty time slot and you can’t really get yourself to do anything before it, yah know?” While he speaks his eyes travel everywhere. Jongin goes silent and timidly glimpses between Taemin and the laptop. “….Uh, I’m not taking your time away from work, am I?”

“Oh, no, I’m basically just wasting time, too.” He laughs nervously and Jongin is visibly put at ease. The exchange is a bit awkward and Taemin is trying to think of a way to turn that around, seeing as it was kind of his fault for getting weird about work. His hand wraps around his nearly untouched cup of coffee and he pulls it in front of him. “Since you’re here, can I… do you want something? I’ll buy.”

“Eeehhh thanks, but I don’t really like coffee.” Jongin shakes his head, scrunching his nose. Taemin gawks.

“How do you survive.”

-

“How long?” Jongin is hunched over the table, propped up on his elbows with one hand toying with a few straws; there are sugar packets and small caplets of cream stacked around him in little towers. Taemin levels his hands a few inches under his shoulders.

“And it was like… copper, I think the box said. I usually had it back in this half pony tail thing.”

Jongin brings one of the straws to his lips and hums thoughtfully. “I’m gonna need pictures. For science.”

“I don’t think I have any.” Taemin answers simply, pretending to be very interested in swirling what was maybe half a sip of ice cold coffee around in his cup.

“I begh your roommeh does.” Jongin mumbles around the straw between his teeth, pointing it from side to side with his tongue. He suddenly drops it, face going blank. “You should introduce us.”

“I should not. Minho…” Has far too much dirt on him, he thinks. Taemin peers past Jongin and shakes his head. “…No.”

“Should we go out first?”

Caught off guard, Taemin stills. Ever since recognizing him at the club as that tempting dancer on the street, yeah, Taemin was hoping for this to happen. If the unholy roll of his hips was anything to go by, the Jongin he first saw was confident. The Jongin fumbling with innocent conversation? Not so much. Taemin concluded he would have to be the one to initiate anything.

“…We should.”

Jongin respires with his eyes downcast and he leans back in his seat, a hand coming up to ruffle his hair. Taemin stares at Jongin suspiciously with a brow cocked. “What was that for?”

“I uh… I was going to wait longer to ask. But you gave me a chance and I took it.” Jongin chuckles and adjusts himself in his seat. He lightly grazes a few fingers against his bottom lip. “I thought, well I was hoping…” He trails off, gazing mindfully out the window. His hand hovers just in front of his mouth, curled into a loose fist, with his index finger scratching his thumb. “Behind the club you seemed… It seems like you have a lot going on.” His eyes go back to Taemin’s, uncertain of the thought he was venturing and looking for some validation. Taemin obliges, nodding slowly.

“I do,” He speaks carefully and both hands retreat to his lap. “But I like this. I like talking to you. I don’t really want to think about work all the time, so…Yeah. Let’s do something, sometime.” The warmth building in his cheeks about triples when Jongin lights up.

“Great! Uh, I guess we can talk about what we wanna do while you’re trapped in a car.” Jongin chokes down a cackle, seeing Taemin’s comical grimace after being reminded of his day tomorrow. “I have to get going, else I’m gonna be late.” He pushes himself back and out of his chair and adjusts his clothes as he stands. Taemin searches the room for a clock.

“…Oh my god, I’m surprised they didn’t kick us out.”

“Right?” Jongin walks backwards towards the door. “And I’m not gonna forget about your freshman hair.”

Chapter Text

{chapter warnings: guns, I suppose}
- - - -

The first wave of the morning rush just died down and now the 7-eleven is basically deserted. The street is just as barren, save for the sporadic early risers with no urgency in their pace. They’ve been parked four buildings down for maybe 45 minutes. Taemin has the passenger seat reclined as far as it allows and he is twirling an uncooperative lock of bedhead between his fingers. He is drowning in a zip up hoodie and the too-big sleeves are bunched up around his elbows. Sneakers that look like they’ve been through hell are discarded on the floor under his legs propped up on the dash, all in favor of Taemin getting as comfortable as possible.

Minho sits next to him with his arm hanging out the window, following a similar I-have-class-at-8-a.m.-and-can’t-be-bothered-with-real-clothes dress code. He wore an equally large hoodie—baggy enough to conceal a gun—and his hair is frumpy and un-styled. Minho has one leg pulled to his chest with his chin resting on his knee, bare because the athletic shorts donning their college logo didn’t extend that far. He has been dead silent for the last 15 minutes and Taemin is starting to think he fell asleep behind the sunglasses.

Taemin shimmies his upper body closer to Minho without getting up or moving his legs in the laziest effort possible to poke him in the ribs. Minho acknowledges him with a low hum.

“What’s up.” His tone dull, he keeps jabbing until Minho turns his head slightly without leaving his knee. Taemin’s finger stays pressed against his side.

“Jonghyun wanted me to talk to you about something.”

“Uh-oh.”

“About whether or not you will shoot to kill.”

Taemin retracts his arm and both fold over his abdomen. It was something he didn’t take the time to worry himself with when he was reading the complete casefile. Ever since the incident in the hospital it was decided taking them alive was no longer a priority. They would like to have one in custody to get some answers, but the rest are disposable. Taemin can understand not wanting to give M-38 a second chance, and he is certain he won’t have much trouble denying him the opportunity, but this implied kill-on-sight order has him doubting the organization’s morality and his choice to be a part of it.

Minho keeps his eyes forward while Taemin stares vacantly at the bare ceiling. Several minutes pass before Taemin clears his throat.

“In self-defense, yeah, but…shooting someone in cold blood isn’t really… my thing.”

“It’s not cold blood if your life is in danger just by being in the same building as them.” Minho retorts coolly. There is another pause and they both remain motionless until Minho lifts his head. Taemin sees the movement in his peripheral, but doesn’t move.

“Taemin.”

“I’ve never had an issue with this before,” Taemin snaps and reaches for the lever at the side of his seat. He sits up first to let it fold back to its normal angle unhindered. He pulls his feet down off the dash and continues with a huff. “And yeah, I’ll do it to avoid being burned alive, but it… seems like they avoid causing damage if they can? These aren’t the criminals we talked about in school—“

“No, you’re right, they’re just actual monsters.”

Taemin’s head falls back on the headrest and he focuses on the building across the street. He can’t bring himself to argue with that, not with Minho so uncharacteristically dark.

“You aren’t being asked to gun them down the second you get a clear shot. Just, If it comes to it—Taemin, don’t trust them. It was a mistake for Jonghyun’s team to corner B-38. They knew what he was capable of, how absolutely ideal that enclosed area was for him to hurt them, and they knew he was emotional.” Taemin lolls his head to the side. He recalled the footage, how M-61 and B-38’s interaction was pretty intimate. Minho’s leg comes off the seat and he takes off his sunglasses.

“Right, so there are a few little things about the incident that were left out of any official documents. M-61 and B-38 are close. Jonghyun told me Kyuhyun found out they were a thing and B-38 seemed to be pretty protective. Jupiter made a grab for M-61 knowing the other would show up. They weren’t counting on him running into traffic and ending up in the hospital and ruining this ambush they had set up, but they were so close to finally getting these guys they decided to chance it… In a public place; where there were oblivious bystanders everywhere, and the backup had to wait outside because the plan was flipped on its ass and they were disorganized. They decided to wait for this pissed, unpredictable superhuman by themselves, thinking they could talk him into coming quietly.” Minho stops and breathes, realizing he was getting loud. “Just… tell me you won’t give them a chance to turn on you. That’s all.”

And there it is. Slumping low in the seat, Taemin tugs his sleeves down over his hands and folds his arms back over his stomach. He appreciates Minho’s ever present concern, he really does; but sometimes it feels like Minho thinks he is incompetent, or that he needs to be looked after. Obviously if Taemin feels like he’s in danger he’s not going to just sit still. It’s frustrating, but Taemin can never get himself to call Minho out. He’ll never be prepared for the look of pure hurt, or the horrible feeling of being the cause of it.

“I won’t. Don’t worry so much.” Taemin reaches over and rests a hand on Minho’s forearm. His jaw clentches but he nods, satisfied for now. They both focus on the 7-eleven, no livelier than the last time they looked. Taemin idly toys with his shoes on the floor with his feet, giving Minho a few sidelong glimpses over the next few minutes.

“…You said the case went cold like a year and a half ago,” Taemin begins hesitantly, and Minho turns to look at him blankly. “You’ve only been with Jupiter two years. So you… did you get to see them yourself? What they can do?”

“No. I haven’t.” He admits, eyes front again. There is a long pause before Taemin’s eyes boring in urge him on. “So… When I first started, I thought this was the coolest shit ever. I was so pumped to be a part of it, even after seeing the hospital footage.” Minho brightens, but the small smile fades almost instantly. “…But then I found out how many we’ve lost. And how they died. Kyuhyun wasn’t the only one burned alive. R-50 leveled a building in Changchun and four of ours suffocated—not crushed under debris, suffocated. And don’t even get me started on the civilians. It’s so….” Minho shakes his head. “We can’t let it keep happening.” Minho wasn’t watching Taemin as he sinks further into his seat, suddenly feeling a little guilty.

“Fuck, man.” Taemin combs his fingers through his hair and brings his feet back up to the dash. “I swear to god I understand how important this case is, but you need to lighten up. Right now. It’s too early for this.”

Morning dragged into afternoon with minimal conversation and even less activity. The outside world would pick up and settle down, over and over, but there was no sign of M-61. Taemin drew up his hood early on to better shield his face because time is moving at least three times slower than usual and he gave up the fight to stay awake.

Sleep didn’t come easy. There is a lot swimming around in his head these days between work, the move, and a certain bartender…dancer…guy. It almost worried him how often he thought of Jongin since they met. His only previous relationship wasn’t an actual relationship so much as it was a let’s-fuck-sometimes-but-stay-friends sort of arrangement. He never developed romantic feelings for Moonkyu, even though they were physical for almost three years. Maybe that’s why he feels like he’s got a high school lovey dovey draw hearts around his name crush on Jongin; he never really had one before. The universe has apparently decided he should have his first at 22 years old. Lame. Lame, lame, lame.

And now the way Jongin’s face scrunches up when he laughs is mixed in with flashes of that hospital. Part of Taemin still doesn’t believe it, and it’s a little terrifying to think that he might have to witness it in person to take it as seriously as he should.

By the time his phone vibrating on his lap wakes him up the sun is beginning to set and nearly the entire street is shaded. Drawing in a breath, he peeks at Minho and is baffled at the level of alertness he seems to have maintained throughout the day. The sunglasses are back on and his headphones are in, but he’s upright in relaxed determination, facing the convenience store. Taemin rubs his eyes with a quick swipe and keeps his hand resting on his thigh while checking his messages. Two texts from Jongin, not a minute apart:

LOOK AT WHAT I FOUND

Attached is a photo of a small white dog, extremely fluffy and looking at the camera with big eyes and tongue out. The angle suggests the photographer is either crouched down with his phone nearly resting in the grass, or he’s on his stomach at eye level with the dog. He smiles and shakes his head at the ridiculous and very likely image and replies.

Where are u

Taemin drops his phone on his lap and lets it dim, and right before is goes dark it brightens back to life with a new message.

DOG PARK

He has to press his hand to his mouth to stop his laughter. Another picture comes in; this time the dog is up on its hind legs with Jongin’s hand at the top of the image scratching its ears.

Look at her i think she wants to come home with me

Jongin no thats stealing

The reply is quick and Taemin can practically hear the whine.

BUT
SHES ALL ALON E
AND I LOVE HER :(

JONGIN

Taemin starts getting suspicious when Jongin doesn’t reply. Honestly, he wouldn’t do anything if Jongin suddenly had a new dog. Jongin with a puppy is probably cute as fuck.

:(((((((
so how is the stakeout mr police

Taemin glances around vaguely; he’s been asleep for a good three hours and quickly concludes he missed absolutely nothing.

we’ve been here since morning and theres no sign of our guy

When there isn’t an immediate reply, Taemin drops his phone on the seat next to his hip. He tilts his head back and faces Minho with a pout. It takes him a minute but Minho must have felt eyes on him because he tugs an earbud out and meets Taemin’s stare.

Minho hums. “…You should go get us food.”

Taemin snaps upright, hand already on the door. He secures his phone with this free hand while eagerly jamming his feet back into his sneakers.

He ungracefully stumbles out of the car and into the street, hopping a few times to work the stiffness out of his legs. At first there is a bit of bounce in his long strides, but halfway down the block he decides he’d rather savor the freedom and walks more leisurely. He brings his phone out just as his screen lights up with another photo from Jongin. This time he is standing up with the dog in one hand and pressing their faces together to fit in the frame. Jongin looks about as happy as that little dog does to be at a park. Taemin inclines his head fondly. The human puppy’s selfie game is pretty strong. Hopefully he’s taking more.

A text pops in under it.

Her owner found us right after and i got in trouble

Taemin keeps walking with his head down, pace slowing while he replies.

Why dont u just get ur own

He can’t help it. He goes back to the picture until the next notification.

My landlord says no pets n I cant move ;-;

Then why wer

Taemin’s phone almost flies out of his hands when his shoulder hits something solid and he stumbles.

“Shit, I’m sorry—“

They say at the same time. The guy doesn’t linger, probably didn’t even really look at Taemin before he was turned back around and on his way. It was only a glimpse, but Taemin is sure enough he keeps his eye on the other’s back as he jogs across the street. Taemin brings his phone to his ear without looking away.

“Did you get lost?” Minho teases.

“I think… M-61’s coming up behind you, opposite side of the street.”

Taemin turns halfway back around in the bout of silence. “…You’re right. It looks like him. I’ll let you know when he goes in and I need you to run back here.” There is an unfamiliar coldness to Minho’s voice, and even though Minho isn’t right there Taemin nods, anxiously shifting in place. In the meantime he sneaks a few quick glimpses over his shoulder; M-61 is quickly closing the distance to the 7-eleven.

He hears an irritated hiss from Minho. “…He walked right past it. I’m gonna let him get a little farther ahead and I’ll start following on foot. When I head out, come back and get in the driver’s side, and put in your ear piece, alright?”

“Got it.” The line is silent for a moment. There is some shuffling and the click of the car door.

“He turned a corner, we’re all clear.” Taemin spins on his heel, catching sight of Minho hurrying across the street and slowing to a brisk walk past the store. No sign of M-61. Taemin makes it to the car shortly after Minho disappears from sight. He twists the keys in the ignition and digs for the device, fitting it over his ear and tapping his phone to speaker before dropping it on the console. It takes a moment for the device to connect, during which Taemin frantically feels over his torso, making sure the harness and gun are still in place. He winces when Jonghyun’s voice comes through a little too loudly.

“Hear me alright? Start heading south and I’ll let you know when to turn. Kibum’s a ways away, but the local police are on our side and we’re in contact now.”

Taemin obeys, hoping he doesn’t look as flustered as he feels. This is really happening and he’s hyperaware of how unprepared he is. Traffic is beginning to pick up and his brain unhelpfully brings up the early morning conversation, too many things about it unsettling his stomach. He’s white-knuckling the steering wheel as he drives, and Minho’s voice from his phone nearly scares him into jerking out of his lane.

“I don’t know if he’s taking some kind of short cut somewhere, but he the route he’s taking is all backroad and there aren’t many people around. This is so good I’m almost suspicious.”

“Don’t say that...” Taemin mumbles, too low for his phone to pick up, though Jonghyun catches it just fine.

“Taemin, calm down.”

“I’m fine.” He says firmly, biting his lip. The doubt in the following silence is practically tangible.

“…Turn left after the next street, drive three blocks and pull over for now.”

The lack of activity on the new street is a little comforting. He passes the second block and hears Minho hum.

“He’s looked my way a few times. I’m across the street and half a block away, but I think he—fuck!” Taemin hits the breaks on the spot. “I spooked him, he’s running—“

“Taemin keep driving, watch for them.” The voice in his ear orders. The car rolls barely a meter and someone bolts across the street a few blocks down. Taemin nearly floors it, and Minho comes into view, waving at him to keep driving the way he’s headed.

“You’re entering an industrial district with a few vacant buildings, we know he’s going to try and lose us in one of them. We know this game. Good news is you won’t have to worry about civilians here.” Jonghyun says quickly, keyboard ticking in the background. Taemin passes the street and they are nowhere in sight. He’s starting to get disoriented and panic sure to follow.

“He’s got his phone out!” Barks Minho, voice uneven as he runs.

Taemin speeds past another three blocks and rounds a corner with a violent jerk, screeching to a halt in front of a long, sectioned factory; filthy windows shattered and surrounded by a rusted chain link fence broken in several places. He grabs his phone on his way out of the car and runs for a clear view of the road he’s hoping Minho is on. Taemin swears under his breath when he doesn’t see anyone, and he heads through a gaping hole in the fence and between two buildings to what should be the front of the condemned factory.

“Taemin that’s perfect, they’re headed right to you. Stay where you are.”

He stops just before the alley empties into open space, hidden from sight. He leans against the rough brick and unzips his hoodie to get at the holster. Drawing his gun, he holds it in both hands, gingerly switching off the safety with his thumb. It’s heavier than he remembered. Taemin lets his arms drop in front of him, desperately trying to collect himself with a few deep breaths. He prays today isn’t the day M-61 chooses to fight back. He almost laughs at himself—it would be unfortunate if he had to shoot someone on his first assignment. It wouldn’t suck at all for them, though. Nah.

“Taemin,” Now it’s Minho panting in his ear; he doesn’t sound like he’s running anymore and must have used the chance to switch devices. “He ran around the front of the really long building and when I caught up he was over the fence. He’s inside and probably headed your way.”

“Both of you get in there, you can corner him from each end. Two squad cars are on their way.” Jonghyun inserts eagerly. Taemin doesn’t want to waste time trying to find a door so he holsters his gun and heaves himself up over the sill of a shattered window. The dark and blaze damaged room he enters reeks of mildew. He shivers, B-38 immediately coming to mind. Taemin weaves through stacks of crates covered in dust, connected by long abandoned webs to the end of the small store room. The door is solid and he has to wrestle it open, eyes shutting tight when it won’t come quietly. There is a painful creak when it finally budges, and he draws his gun again before allowing it to open more than a sliver. Taemin stills, holding his breath, listening.

Hearing nothing, the exhale is steady. It’s comforting, getting this brief moment to sort himself; but he can’t linger. He nudges open the door with his foot and peeks out to a much larger room, more spacious but just as filthy. More crates and what could have been machinery covered by tarps are scattered about but the room is mostly empty. It’s clear M-61 has nowhere to hide here so Taemin soundlessly moves on to the next, poking the identical door open with the same caution as the first.

This room must span half the entire building, singed crates stacked stories high. There are rows of conveyer belts with unrecognizable material strewn on and around them, like the machinery was still alive when the factory was abandoned. The windows are set higher here, high enough that Taemin would have to jump to reach them. Shards of smoke-tinted glass still clung to their frames, casting sharp shadows over the clutter. Aside from distant traffic, Taemin isn’t picking up anything but the adrenalin won’t allow him to relax. M-61’s file stated he never went on the offensive, but the thought that he could has Taemin on edge.

“…Minho, anything on your end?” He asks, hushed as he hesitantly glances over the many possible hiding places. Taemin stops his advance when there is no reply.

“Minho?”

“He’s in here.” Minho hisses, nearly inaudible. “There’s a lot of shit to get around, but I saw him—“ There is a metallic crash in the background; Taemin tenses, grip on his gun tightening. “Fucking—Taemin! He blocked the door and there’s no other way through, I have to back track—“

The double doors at the end of the room fly open, kicking up a thick cloud of dust. M-61 stumbles to a halt, nearly tumbling to the ground. He coughes dryly into his elbow, twisting around to face the doors swinging shut. Taemin ducks behind a tarp-covered mass and crouches to the ground.

“H-hey… okay…” M-61 pants from the other side of the room, no indication he knows Taemin is there. He doesn’t dare risk being seen by taking a peek, but he can hear M-61 gasping and shuffling closer.

“No, do you?… ah, yeah.”

Taemin moves farther back, stepping around his cover to stay out of M-61’s peripheral as he passes by.

When he comes into view he has his phone at his ear, mouth hanging open as he listens to whoever is on the other end of the call. He looks vaguely about the room like he can figure out where he is by doing so. Taemin stays low as he inches out of his hiding spot. His palms are sweaty and he adjusts his grip, rocking forward eagerly, waiting for M-61 to get the right distance away. He has to coax himself into moving. Now is the time. Go.

Taemin quietly steps out, just far enough for a clear shot. He concentrates on his posture for a split second before ordering, loud and clear, “Drop the phone and show me your hands… Do not turn around.”

M-61 obediently stops the reflexive motion. The glimpse he caught of Taemin poised to blow a hole somewhere in his torso seems to be enough to earn his cooperation. He slowly turns back and his arms raise, his hand opening and letting his phone drop to the ground. Taemin doesn’t move.

“You have him?” Jonghyun speaks up for the first time in a while, hopeful. Taemin’s eyes and aim remain fixed on M-61’s back. The latter is anxious; breathing loud enough to hear, head dropping and raising restlessly, tilting slightly to try and sneak a look over his shoulder.

“Yeah.” Taemin is proud, not only of his catch but of how he is managing to keep his tone even and cold despite his heart threatening to bust through his ribs. He’s confident in the procedure from here; keep his distance, keep M-61 pinned, wait.

“I see our back up,” Taemin can hear Minho’s smile. “Where are you?”

“Look for the part of the building where the windows are high.”

M-61 angles his head to listen. Taemin takes a step forward, letting his feet drag, the skid clearly heard. It’s all the warning M-61 needs. He stays front. It can’t be this easy, Taemin thinks. Beginner’s luck. That’s it.

“…Who did you call?” Taemin asks suddenly. M-61 tenses, glancing at the phone on the ground. The dark screen is cracked from the impact.

“…My friend.” He replies, throat dry and strained from running.

“Which one.”

M-61 breaths a nervous laugh. “Does it matter?”

“Which. One.”

“I don’t think you know him.” The attitude almost pushes Taemin to act, but he got what he wanted. Anyone is preferable over the pyro. However, Taemin is assuming M-61 would jump on any leverage he could get on the situation, and his buddy is a damn good threat. Either he’s being a smartass or he was just in contact with someone Jupiter is not aware of.

“So tell me about him.”

M-61 tenses, breathing more evenly at this point. “Uh—”

It starts as a faint creak behind them and all at once the loud, echoing crunch of a stack of crates crumbling breaks his concentration, his form, and his control of the situation. Taemin spins to look on reflex, hands clutching his gun dropping hip-level and he whips back around just as M-61 makes a mad dash for cover. Without thinking Taemin raises his gun and fires.

The bullet ricochets off metal and within a second Taemin goes from panicked to relieved to frustrated. Completely ignoring Jonghyun’s concern in his ear, he rushes after M-61, rounding a heap of machinery just as M-61 does the same a ways ahead of him. Taemin holds his ear piece in as he slows his momentum to follow.

“I don’t have him! He’s running ba—eck” The collar of his undershirt is suddenly constricting his airway. Taemin is viciously jerked backward by someone gripping fistfuls of his clothing from behind.

He goes down hard on his back, his legs nearly throwing him into a backwards summersault. It slows his head bashing against the concrete but doesn’t keep the stars out of his vision. He loses track of his gun and which way is up. His arms tightly cradle his head as he rolls on to his side and curls in on himself. Taemin coughs and the new rawness on his neck stings against the air, but he forces himself onto his stomach and heaves himself up. He struggles to his feet still in a daze, and he realizes the device in his ear is gone. Minho yells something from outside but he can’t focus on that now; he can’t see his gun or M-61.

Or who the fuck snuck up on him.

The room is quiet again. M-61 is either hiding or used the chance to slip out. Either way, Taemin isn’t giving up. There’s no way it was M-61 that stopped him and he’s mentally kicking himself for somehow missing someone else coming in… unless they were already there. The idea this may have been premeditated pushes his alertness to paranoia. Something stirs behind him and he stumbles around to look. It takes a few seconds for his eyes to focus on a dissipating cloud of dark dust floating around in a dull ray of light but there’s no one there. Taemin thinks he feels eyes on him, suddenly the prey instead of the predator.

In his assessment of the room he catches M-61 on the far end, stepping off a stack of crates with one leg swung out a window. The eye contact is brief and shatters when Taemin bolts for him and M-61 all but falls out the window with a yelp. Taemin doesn’t even have time to spit a curse because he’s sure he just lost him for good, but it doesn’t matter because his hood is pulled over his eyes and yanked down and he’s almost dragged to the ground. Taemin stumbles forward but doesn’t go down. He makes an angry blind grab for whoever is fucking with him.

Nothing. Taemin aggressively flips his hood back, wildly looking around. He swats through another thick cloud of dust, and yet the cause is nowhere in sight. His gun, however, has been placed not five feet directly behind him and he knows damn well it was not there before.

Taemin collects it, all urgency gone, defeated. He knows he’s being toyed with and is firmly refusing to keep playing along; his gun miraculously showing up tells him the other guy is probably done, too. Several muffled voices and heavy thuds can be heard beyond the door M-61 had originally come through and Taemin doesn’t turn to face them when it bursts open.

“Taemin!” Minho comes through first, bounding up to Taemin, three officers hesitantly following and still kicking bits of debris out of the way. “What happened? Why weren’t you answering?” Taemin doesn’t immediately reply, busy looking over his weapon. The clip is gone and he shakes his head, slowly turning to Minho but not meeting his eyes.

“I had him. He got away.” Minho refrained from touching him, though Taemin could see his arms moving like he really wanted to. He probably looks like a wreck, hair disheveled and whatever shit on the ground dusting his clothes, likely some on his face. Taemin cups the back of his head as he’s reminded of the dull throb. “…I think someone else was here with us, but…” He closes his eyes and sighes. Minho nods with a small exhale and Taemin can’t tell if it’s of relief or disappointment.

“He’s okay. We lost M-61.” Minho’s voice lowers, speaking to Jonghyun. The officers he brought with him are assessing the scene, one near were Taemin’s bullet likely hit. He holsters his gun and crosses his arms, patiently waiting for whatever exchange Minho and Jonghyun are having to conclude.

“…Right.” He finishes with a small nod. “Taemin, Kibum’ll take care of the rest. We’re done here.”

-

Taemin reads over his statement after rewriting it for the third time. He’s seated on the floor, legs extended under the coffee table and crossed at the ankle. He lets his head fall back on the leather couch, staring with dissatisfaction at the laptop before him. Cupboards open and close and glass chimes across the room.

“Don’t think so hard. Just write what happened.” Minho calls from the kitchen. “Do you know how long you’ve been sitting there?”

Taemin draws in a breath and stretches his arms straight over his head before letting them drop dead to the floor on either side of him. “It still doesn’t make sense, but fuck it. I’m done.”

“Pick any encounter report we have and I guarantee that’s exactly how they felt writing it.” Minho is suddenly close, leaning over the backrest of the couch and offering Taemin a drink. It’s accepted, and Minho gets comfortable propped up on his free arm with the other bringing his drink to his lips. He squints a bit, humming against the glass.

“You think it was J-27?”

Taemin shrugs. “It’s the only explanation that I can think of. I never saw him, but the black smoke was there and I know now I was being distracted so M-61 could get away. He could have done worse but was mostly just being annoying as hell, just like in all his encounters… what?”

He half turns to look at Minho, staring down at him with a big stupid grin.

“Lookit you, all informed ‘n shit. I’m so proud.”

“Like you had anything to do with it.” Taemin scoffs, turning back around to set his drink on the table, promptly earning him protest from behind just as the glass connects with the wood.

“Use a coaster you savage. They’re right there.”

Taemin looks devilishly over his shoulder, but complies, reaching for the stack just beyond his laptop. “I see that silver spoon is still jammed firmly up your ass.” He makes a show of delicately putting everything in place, complete with a little ta-da gesture before his hands move back to the keyboard. “I’m getting the feeling you love your furniture more than you love me.”

“Well my furniture doesn’t leave water stains on the coffee table, for one.” He pushes off the couch and heads back into the kitchen, the muffled sound of his ringtone just now reaching Taemin.

Taemin smirks and shakes his head without a reply. Report sent, he moves to sit on the couch properly while mindlessly clicking on the tv and checking his phone. It only takes a second for him to discard it on the cushion next to him, a little dejected. He didn’t like leaving mid conversation, but now it’s some 6 hours later and Jongin isn’t getting back to him. Taemin tells himself Jongin is probably working and …maybe he’s just a little too eager. He hasn’t been able to gauge if he’s more into Jongin than Jongin is into him and Taemin is struggling over what’s too much too soon. Jongin seems innocent enough and Taemin doesn’t want to risk scaring him off, but the dancer in the street is a completely different story—the kind of story that involves fucking on Minho’s dining room table.

“…Don’t you dare.” Minho suddenly growls and Taemin peers over the couch. “H-Hey! Kibum!” Minho glowers at his phone before jamming it into his pocket. He faces Taemin, frowning.

“Did you mention M-61 didn’t get a good look at us.”

Taemin cowers a bit in his seat. “Uh, yeah? You were far away and he had his back to me, and the only time we really looked at each other he was across the room. Isn’t it a good thing?”

“Yeah.” Minho groans, head falling back. “They want us to dye our hair. Kibum just asked me how I feel about ‘dark cherry red’.” Taemin presses his fist to his mouth, but the amusement quickly fades to concern.

“Wha… did he say anything about me?”

-

“It looks fucking white what the hell.”

Unnecessarily hunched in front of the large mirror near the front door, Taemin picks at a few damp strands at a time, moving his head as if the slight change in angle and lighting will make any difference. Minho is at the table doing the same thing with the front facing camera on his phone and looking pretty pleased with himself.

“This isn’t discreet, you can see this from a mile away!”

Kibum rolls his eyes, shoving the remnants of product back into the bag he brought them in directly from the store. “It looks good, and we’re just going for different. Stop being a bitch.” Taemin looks away from his reflection and yanks the towel off from around his neck.

“It’s not bad.” Minho adds, though Taemin can’t discern if Minho’s referring to him or himself.

“Easy for you to say.” Taemin balls up the towel and throws it at him and it hits Minho right over the head while he’s too distracted to evade it. Minho owes Kibum his eternal gratitude for not showing up with the red. The chocolate brown was now somewhere between a light brown and dark ash blond that worked with his skin tone in a way that seemed to add an unexplainable glow to his being. Kibum is fucking elated with his choice and Taemin wonders if Kibum cards his fingers through everyone’s hair as he did so adoringly with Minho.

Minho lays the towel over the back of his chair and wipes off the moisture it left on him. “I bet your bar boy will like it. Text him a pic.”

“’Bar boy’?” Kibum pulls out the chair next to Minho and settles into it with his arms folded and legs crossing at the knee. “Since you’ve been here you’ve managed to get into an organization that doesn’t publicly exist, cope with the existence of super powers, almost apprehend one of our most wanted men, and you got yourself some on the side? I’m impressed. Also, chill the fuck out.” Supposedly a compliment, Kibum is lost on how disappointed Taemin seems to be in the floor. “…What?”

“He’s pissed M-61 got away, even though I told him,” Minho enunciates the words loudly, dragging his eyes from Kibum to look hard at Taemin. “he should be proud how far he got, how some of our senior agents haven’t even come close to doing what he did.” Kibum cocks a brow.

“It doesn’t matter how close I got if he’s still out there.” Taemin leans on the back of the couch, hands gripping on either side. Kibum studies him with lips quirked.

“Not true. You lost him, yeah, but we still have him cornered. We’ve been able to keep on their trail all this time because when we spook them they don’t stick around, and this is when they make the most mistakes. You probably scared the shit out of M-61 and he’s not risking being out in public, at the moment.”

“So you’re saying he’s still in the city.”

Kibum smiles with a nod. “Right. We’ve been at this a long time. He’ll be holed up somewhere until he thinks we’re losing hope and it’s safe to leave.”

“Which is an average of three days, maybe longer because cops are involved,” Minho supplies. He glances up at the ceiling, thinking hard. “Soooo chances are we’re gonna get orders tomorrow to start dredging apartment complexes and motels.”

“Probably. Also why we had to do your hair at two in the morning.” Kibum yawns and drags himself to his feet. “I really don’t feel like driving home, so.” He doesn’t look at either of them as he passes, already slipping off his outer layer of clothing half way down the hall. Still seated, Taemin bows far to watch with rapidly increasing curiosity as Kibum disappears through the second door on the left.

“He went to your room,” Taemin notes, straightening slowly, still fixated on the mouth of the hall. “Something you wanna tell me?” Minho pushes in his chair wordlessly, only offering Taemin a smirk before following Kibum.

“Don’t stay up too late.” He calls just before Taemin hears the door click shut, and he’s is left alone, attempting to piece together what he missed.

-

Despite an endless stream of assurances from Minho and Kibum, Taemin is extremely conscious of how bright his hair is in direct sunlight. He ends up buying a generic red and white baseball cap out of the first store he sees. Again, the uniform is casual, but he’s spared from baggy clothing and carries his gun and other necessities in a backpack slung on one shoulder. A godsend, really; it’s freakishly warm out today and he doesn’t get the luxury of Minho’s air-conditioned car.

They were each given a list of possible hideaways, and the same sorts of stories to tell with details tweaked depending on the situation.

“He probably didn’t mention I was coming. He kind of keeps to himself.”

“We’re going to be going to the university twenty minutes from here and the dorms are shit, so he invited me to stay with him.”

“Between you and me, he’s probably not using his real name. Last I heard he’s hiding from his crazy ex.”

“I lost the directions he gave me, but I think it was around here…?”

“You’re really cute. He probably talks to you all the time.”

It’s shifty as hell, and Taemin is both relieved and appalled at how indifferent they all seemed about revealing their tenants and neighbors information. Even with the cooperation and how easy the lies are falling out of his face, some seven scratched out buildings and three hours later, he’s still got nothing. Between this tourist attraction of a city and Jupiter’s HQ—and only going for those with high turnover rates and/or accept cash—there are hundreds of possibilities. He’s not sure how fast Minho and Kibum are working, but this far from efficient.

“We can get into the databases of the places that have them, but so many are outdated or don’t bother.” Jonghyun told them. Compared to skimming lease agreements, clicking through ID pictures, and watching hours of lobby footage as their office counterparts are probably busy doing, Taemin does admit being out and about is preferable.

He’s nearing list item number eight; this place is small, only two stories and no more than twenty apartments. It’s all one large building and the front doors all face the street, narrow concrete paths connecting to the public walkway for the ground level units and a covered stairway at either end allowing access for the second floor. The roof is weather damaged and the entire building is in dire need of a coat of paint, but overall not a complete shithole. From his viewpoint on the sidewalk he can’t spot any office or indication of how to get a hold of the owner, but he sees movement in a window on the second level and it’s as good a bet as any for information.

Taemin is almost over how nerve-wracking it is knocking on a stranger’s door (he tells himself his demeanor only makes his stories more believable) but doesn’t quite have a handle on the awkwardness of walking away afterwards. He tries hard not to peek in the window as he waits for someone to answer because what he’s doing feels fucking creepy as it is, and he instead opts to examine a nearby tree. The door squeaks open and the story he had ready falls apart and he’s left staring dumbly, unable to form a thought.

“Oh, uh...holy shit your hair.”

Jongin is mildly awestruck and the hand buried in a towel rubbing the side of his head stops and falls to his side, leaving the towel to hang over his shoulder. He looks like he just got out of the shower, hair still dripping and swept out of his face save for a few strands sticking to his forehead. Dark grey flecks dot his shirt where he didn’t dry himself all the way before dressing, and the bright orange boxer shorts not doing a good job of covering his very distracting thighs are patterned with red stars, very reminiscent of Dragon Ball Z.

Rapidly blinking himself back to the present and away from the sudden need to reach out and touch-- Taemin tugs his hat down by the bill as if it would hide the blush or blond. He tries and fails to form words and ends up laughing nervously at the ground while shifting in place.

“I uh… My friend did it. I’m still not sure why I let him…” Jongin hesitantly reaches and lightly places his hand over Taemin’s, tilting his hat and head back up and Taemin is completely powerless when met with Jongin inclining his head with big curious eyes and that fucking smile. Taemin retreats a step back with Jongin’s hand still on his, pulling Taemin’s hat off and he quickly runs his other hand through his hair to fluff it out of any weird shape from the cap.

Taemin feels a warm touch on his opposite forearm, Jongin’s hand softly grazing his skin on its way down to grip Taemin’s hand. Taemin lets himself be pulled back in and they both still for an instant and then slightly falter in a quiet mess of nervous smiles and choked breathy chuckles. He’s suddenly very aware they have no idea of each other’s boundaries, but Jongin still has his hand. They’re close enough Taemin can recognize the brand of shampoo he used and Taemin really doesn’t want it to stop.

“I like it. You look really good.” It was hushed and laced with confidence; a glimpse of the Jongin who can mesmerize a crowd. ‘Flutter’ is too delicate a word to describe the assault happening in Taemin’s chest right now. “How did you find me?”

Again, Jongin has left Taemin at a loss. His eyes go vacant and his lips part. Oh. Right. “I’m actually working, um…”

“Oh fuck what did I do?!”

“N-Nothing!” Taemin can barely contain the laugh, his hands drifting up in assurance. That seemed to do it because Jongin’s shoulders relax and he closes the distance he created when he hopped back in alarm. “I didn’t know you lived here! I’m ah… Oh, I guess it’s okay to tell you, you kind of already know…” Taemin ruffles his hair and fits the cap back on. He nibbles his lip, trying to sort his story out and remember what he already mentioned. Jongin glimpses over his shoulder and tosses his towel on to something Taemin can’t see. The door hisses closed and Jongin leans back on it.

“So that guy we were waiting for turned out to be involved in something bigger. We lost him yesterday but we have a few leads on where he’s been living. He doesn’t stay in one place for long and probably keeps to himself, about our age, a little shorter than me, light brown hair… anyone like that leaving here?”

Jongin’s eyes wander the ground and he slowly shakes his head. “I don’t think so. Me and my roommate are the youngest ones here, everyone else is older with kids.” Taemin nods, unsurprised, really. Of course he wants to find M-61 but he just doesn’t see it happening this way.

Jongin regards him with a smirk. “…So you just happened to pick the second floor, third apartment to the left, by pure coincidence, eh?”

“I swear to god I had no idea. Now that I think about it, this is fucking weird.”

“Riiight.” Jongin says through a smug grin, taking a step closer. Taemin pulls his hat down with both hands and hides his face because he told Jongin he’s a cop and cops can locate home addresses like normal people would go about finding muffin recipes.

He glances up shyly and is met with the lovely curve of Jongin’s neck and it’s so close and inviting, Taemin would just have to lean in a bit and he could be there; soft, shower-fresh skin on his lips and maybe his hands would start to wander…

No, wait, Taemin remembers he’s supposed to be working and they’re technically out in public and Jongin is in fucking anime undies.

“…I have to go, I’ve got a huge list of other places I need to check.” Taemin steps back and is stopped by Jongin’s hand in his again.

“Uh, have you ever tried Moroccan?”

“Huh?”

“Food.” Jongin’s hand falls away and goes to pulling absently at the hem of his shirt. “There’s this place that just opened a few blocks from the club and it’s awesome, and we still need to do a thing, so…?” Taemin has to think for a moment what he means.

“Oh, uh, no I haven’t so… sure, yeah. Let’s do that.” He smiles and Jongin bounces on his heels a bit in time with a few nods. Taemin’s association with Jongin and puppies gets a little stronger and he feels a bit weak in the knees.

“Okay, how’s Friday at six?” Friday. They’re at a critical point in the case, but a couple hours for food and downtime shouldn’t be a problem. Taemin has a feeling Minho has plans of his own and won’t want him anywhere near the apartment, anyway. He agrees and they part, and Taemin is half way to the sidewalk when he hears Jongin call for him.

“Hey! Just so you know my roommate broke my phone and I can’t get a new one until next week!”

Chapter Text

{chapter warnings: sexual content}
- - - -

Day two of the search and Minho lucks out on his first stop.

“Is it always like this?” Taemin calls, kneeling on the side of the bed while he wipes his finger over the top of the headboard. Nothing. Every surface is clean as the day they were made. Some 48 hours later and the room still smells faintly sterile.

“Pretty much. They clear out without warning and do a thorough job of not leaving a trace they were ever there. I bet you he even cleaned the dust off the top of the ceiling fan blades.” Minho replies, closing the door behind him with a few weak coughs into his elbow. “The bathtub is full of bleach and all the sheets and towels are in there.”

“How is it Jupiter can stay on their trail when they’re this excessive?”

“Same reason we were able to find this room. They can scrub their DNA off anything but there’s nothing they can do about people that see their faces. Jonghyun thinks the only reason we lost them for so long was because they were avoiding civilization altogether.” Minho leans against the dresser, face contorting in discomfort. “God I hate this smell.”

Taemin slips off the bare mattress and Kibum strolls in through the front door looking satisfied, flipping through a few pages of a small note pad.

“Three other long term guests and an employee recognized him and gave the same story. Nice kid, never caused trouble, not sure if he was out a lot or just didn’t make much noise… But get this,” He flips back a page, smiling as he spoke. “He lived alone, but the housekeeper working right down the hall says he had a frequent visitor. She mentioned his height and I showed her the pictures we have for B-38 and C-48. She seemed very sure he’s not either of them, so here’s what I’m thinking; who is about six feet tall, is in with our favorite band of misfits though we’ve got no substantial description of him, and was conveniently nearby when M-61 needed help the other day?”

“J-27,” Minho concludes and the three exchange looks of agreement. “Did she give you a description?”

“She said he was a babe.”

“Now we’ve got ‘em.”

“Even if it’s not him, protocol dictates I have to put those exact words on his file.”

“Anyway,” Taemin interjects, unamused. J-27 has been the bane of this investigation from the very beginning and the bullshit at the factory secured Taemin’s spot in his fanclub. “whoever he is, you think it’s a safe bet M-61 is staying with him until he tries to run?”

“I think so. We don’t know J-27’s personal habits, but assuming he’s like the others in that he’s probably living in a shitty apartment or a cheap motel like this one, we can probably keep going the way we have been. Except now we’re looking for two. Get a little more creative with the stories.”

-

Taemin falls back on the couch with his legs hanging over the arm. Two days later and they’ve hit every place on their list, and it seems their luck ended with that motel. It’s disheartening, but Taemin is thankful they get the night off while Jupiter works out their next move. He’s supposed to meet Jongin in forty minutes and Minho hopped in the shower before he could, and now he’s not sure if he can force himself back on his feet. The muffled sound of water hitting tile is too much like rain, too soothing. He lets his eyes close, head lolling to the side and his forearm flops over his eyes. He’s allowed to relax a bit. It’s just until the bathroom is free.

He can feel himself slipping away, and the memory of Jongin’s touch pulls him back. It was comfortable and felt so right, and far too brief. He wants more of that, wants those hands all over, to feel them under his clothes. How easy it would have been to just lean in like he wanted, fit their mouths together, the two of them stumbling back into his apartment. Jongin is soft, would probably be gentle with him and be up for anything… but maybe not. Dancer Jongin seems like he might like it rough. Plush lips red and bitten, nails digging in flesh, hands fisted in hair and bodies grinding hard against each other when they go down. What would it be like, Jongin on top of him, panting and looking ravenous and so far gone as his hands traveled low. What does he sound like when he—

Taemin starts with a loud intake of air through his nose and his eyes fly open to the sideways room.

“Did you know you still talk in your sleep?” Minho’s arms are folded on the back of the couch. Droplets falling from his poorly dried hair hit Taemin in the face.

“Wha… Bullshit. I do not.” Taemin swings his legs off the arm and hustles to the bathroom, avoiding looking Minho’s way in some lame attempt to hide how flushed he probably is. (also, Minho’s probably fucking naked) Taemin is quick to close the door on whatever remark Minho had ready and gets to work undressing because he’s got like 28 minutes.

Surprisingly, there isn’t anything he has to take care of so he’s in and out and dressed again with ample time to probably get lost on his way to finding this place. Taemin swipes a light hooded jacket from his closet and steps into the living room to see Minho grabbing his keys, ready to leave as well. They stop and eye each other blankly.

“Kibum’s.” Minho nods at the door without looking away.

“The uh, ‘bar boy’. We’re getting food.” He adds flatly, seeing a half smile pulling at Minho’s mouth. “I figured you wanted this place tonight…?”

“Oh, no. All the fun’s at his house. Do you want the car? It’s gonna start raining soon and might go all night.”

“Nah, thanks. I’m pretty sure he drives so he’ll give me a ride later.”

“ 'He’ll give you a ride later.' ” Minho chaffs. Taemin rolls his eyes, but ends up entertaining the thought. Oh, that would be something, wouldn’t it?

Minho strides over, bringing his hands up to rest on Taemin’s shoulders. “All this time and I’ve never actually witnessed you in a relationship. I feel like I’m sending my daughter off to prom.”

“What?”

“They grow up so fast.” His voice cracks in a mockery of a sob and he clutches his chest. He’s quick to compose himself and he straightens Taemin’s jacket before he heads for the door. Taemin is still lost when he peeks back in and salutes. “Have fun. My phone will be off.”

-

Minho wasn’t kidding. His jacket offered little protection from the rain and after running the last three blocks Taemin is now soaked and exhausted, already worn out from the last few days. He does manage to find the restaurant on his first try, so. There’s that.

He hovers around the entrance, trying to see if Jongin is inside already; a crowd of people waiting to be seated just beyond the doors obscures his view. There is outdoor seating shielded from the rain, but he didn’t want the staff to think he actually wanted to be out there so he just stands there, very obviously at a loss and getting looks from people coming and going. Keep waiting outside, or try and squeeze in and hope Jongin does the same? The wind picks up and makes his decision for him.

Taemin isn’t familiar with Moroccan-anything so he wasn’t sure what to expect. It’s busy, kind of loud, but it’s dry and sure as hell beats being outside. The interior is all warm colors and smells and the place seems pretty classy, it strikes Taemin as odd it’s considered casual dining. He peels off his jacket, awkwardly avoiding touching anyone in the enclosed entrance. His shirt is a little damp but it’s bearable. It looks like a few other patrons are in the same boat so he isn’t so self-conscious.

He can’t see Jongin anywhere and it’s just now six. If they don’t have a reservation or something at least Taemin could cut down their wait a bit, so he secures himself a spot in line. The crowd shifts a bit when a table frees up, but the ratio of diners exiting and entering is nearly dead even so it’s still pretty cramped. Someone’s shoulder bumps him high on his back and he stumbles into the person in front of him. A voice behind him apologizes the same time he does.

“Oh, sorry! I didn’t think I pushed that hard.” Taemin turns around and Jongin is there, face just inches from his. The incoming diners on either end have trapped them together. Being so close didn’t affect him as much as he thought it might, given his little fantasy earlier. It’s probably for the best. He’s not sure his eyes glazing over mid conversation as he imagines what Jongin’s dick feels like on his tongue is proper dining etiquette.

“It’s okay, you didn’t, really... I’m just tired from work, I think.” Taemin says, and he is. He just spent three disappointing days on his feet and saying it out loud made him really feel it. Jongin searches his face, tilting his head thoughtfully.

“Should we go somewhere else? Less crowded?”

Taemin smiles weakly and matches his soft tone. “Nah, it’s not bad. I really wanna see what the food is like here.” Jongin nods and the light concern turns perplexed, the way Taemin regards him. He studies Jongin briefly, noticing how his hoodie had put up even less of a fight than Taemin’s jacket against the weather. “…You’re all wet.”

“So are you. It’s raining.”

“You don’t… did you walk here?”

Jongin looks at him like started speaking a different language. “Uh-huh.”

Taemin blinks. “You live a city over. You walk to and from work, too?”

“Ye…Yeah…?”

“That’s gotta take up so much time,” Taemin says kind of in awe and Jongin nods, amused by how it seems such a foreign concept, this walking thing.

“Yeah, but I like walking. It’s relaxing. I used to have a motorcycle, but my friend totaled it over a year ago.” Jongin couldn’t keep a straight face and Taemin almost didn’t catch the full sentence through the laugh. Jongin on a motorcycle, though… no, wait, focus.

“And your roommate just broke your phone? Those are some quality people you have there.”

“Aw, yeah, I know.” Jongin sighs, glancing up fondly. “To be fair, I’m not much better. I’ve lost so much of everyone’s shit over the years...” He shakes his head regretfully, but there is still adoration in his voice. Before Taemin can comment Jongin is pushed against him by the carelessness of the party behind them and Jongin’s hands reflexively latch on to Taemin’s arms, steadying them both.

Jongin frowns and off-rhythm his hands start to rub up and down Taemin’s biceps, creating some friction. “You’re freezing!” Taemin ducks his head like he’s just been caught, but really it totally slipped his mind.

“…And you’re not.” He notes, his arms snaking between Jongin’s and reciprocating the gesture with less purpose. Even through the damp fabric he can tell. “What’s up with that?” Jongin retracts his arms with a nervous chuckle. Taemin guesses it’s because they both just acknowledge they are standing there in public practically chest to chest and rubbing each other’s arms.

“Dunno. I did run here after the rain started, though.” Something past Taemin catches Jongin’s eye and he nods to move forward. It seems to be their turn.

-

Jongin doesn’t mention his actual family, but lovingly refers to his friends as such. He likes to travel; he somehow managed to live nomadically for the last two years and never stayed in one place for more than a few days. He loves the freedom. Right now is an exception, though. He claims he’s taking a break. He doesn’t like living by society’s rules, but sometimes he does like having structure.

Taemin is a little jealous. His last few years have been nothing but schedules and work. Jongin invites him to drop off the face of the earth along with him the next time he feels like disappearing. Taemin isn’t sure how he managed to get Jongin to bless the restaurant with that smile so many times, but the room seemed to get a little hotter and the air a little thinner with every event.

By the time they finish it is long past the dinner rush and the traffic in the restaurant has died down to a crawl. Taemin and Jongin peer out the front door from the waiting area at the dark street with a simultaneous grimace. The rain is pouring down like it has got something to prove.

“This is gonna suck.” Jongin mumbles, pulling up his still-damp hood. Minho has the car and may not be back until morning. Jongin would probably get sick being out in this for the long trek home. Only one solution comes to mind and Taemin bites his lip.

“Well… it’s a ten minute walk to my place if we push it. We can hang out there until this lets up…? I-If you want. We have Netflix.” He offers, slowly looking at Jongin and hoping it came off as just a casual invitation, not too eager.

“Your roommate won’t mind?” He’s hopeful, understandably looking for any way out of braving the weather and Taemin is all for being that thing.

“He’s not home.”

-

They manage to do it in five minutes, practically running the entire way, and they still end up sopping wet. Taemin has to tow Jongin through the lobby to keep him going (mostly to avoid the door man’s wrath for trailing in so much water) the same awe striking him as it did Taemin when he first stepped into the building.

“Holy shit, maybe I should be a cop…” Jongin says once they’re in the elevator. He struggles out of his sweat shirt, heavy and sticking to him and pulling his hair into a weird shape once he gets it off. He vigorously shakes his head to get it back to semi-normal and combs his fingers through it a few times.

“It’s all my roommate. Minho’s got a trust fund big enough his grand kids would never have to work.”

“Damn. Why even bother with a job if you’re that loaded?”

Taemin shrugs. “He decided running down bad guys would be the admirable way to fight boredom.”

“If I ask nicely you think he’d adopt me?” Jongin is out before the elevator doors slide all the way open, curiously peering down the sparse hall before spinning back around to face Taemin. He lets Jongin enter the apartment first just to watch the reaction. As expected, Jongin breathes a wow, mouth hanging open and eyes wide and wandering. Taemin smirks, understanding why Minho always looked so entertained when showing Taemin a bit of the high life. Jongin doesn’t venture too far, and after the initial amazement passes he glances down at his clothes and then to Taemin.

“Oh, um…” Taemin drums his hands against his thighs. It might be a few hours before Jongin can leave and neither of them want to stay in wet clothes. “Wait here…” He scurries past Jongin down the hall to his room. It’s a good thing he kind of likes his loungewear big and baggy; Minho probably wouldn’t appreciate him loaning some of his clothes to a stranger.

Taemin digs through his drawers and wastes too much time overthinking what to get them both. Jongin will probably be happy with anything dry, and it’s just temporary… Taemin quickly changes, not wanting to make Jongin wait much longer, and walks out of his room in a fresh tee and a pair of black track pants he’s had for ages, holding a folded change of clothes. Jongin is right where Taemin left him, thumbs hooked in his pockets as he squints to scan Minho’s DVD collection across the room.

“See something you like?” Taemin asks, walking up to him and following his line of sight. He looks back to see Jongin giving him quick, obvious elevator eyes and smirking.

“Yeah.”

Wow. Okay. Taemin shoves the outfit against Jongin’s chest. “The bathroom is the first door on the left and there are towels in there you can use if you want. We’ll throw your clothes in the dryer,” He adds, Jongin accepting the bundle. He starts walking and spins on his heels at the mouth of the hall.

“Oh, oh, oh, can we watch Pacific Rim?” He asks, too enthusiastic and staring hopefully at Taemin with big fucking puppy eyes that would have made Taemin agree to anything, honestly. He nods, shooing Jongin to go change. Jongin beams and bounces to the bathroom, and Taemin stares at the line of remotes on the coffee table trying to remember which goes to what.

A few minutes later Jongin emerges in a pair of capri sweats and one of his oversized hoodies, fitting Jongin’s broader frame much better than it ever did Taemin. His clothes get started in the dryer, and they settle on the couch. Now is a good a time as any to test the water and he’s not going to ruin it by thinking too hard. Taemin shifts in his seat and nestles himself snugly against Jongin’s side. There’s a gleam of wonder in Jongin’s eyes and he hesitantly fits his arm around Taemin’s shoulders. He squeezes Taemin close after a beat, his face falling a little.

“You’re still really cold, why didn’t you put on something with sleeves?”

“That’s what you’re for.” Sometimes his mouth is faster than his brain and now is maybe the only time he’ll ever be proud of it.

“Really?” Jongin sounds almost innocent, but unless Taemin is reading him wrong, the look in his eye isn’t fooling him. Jongin is right there facing him, closing the distance wouldn’t take much.

He thinks of Jongin the street dancer and Jongin the timid club employee as two completely separate personalities. Taemin can’t help the faint tug at the corner of his mouth or the excitement in the pit of his stomach as he witnesses the transition right before his eyes. The way he’s looking at Taemin now is void of the playful brightness those eyes usually held.

Taemin doesn’t move right away. He leaves it to Jongin. The flash of confidence melts to uncertainty, and for an instant, for reasons Taemin cannot fathom, Jongin looks like he might turn away. Taemin watches his lips part, watches his bottom lip disappear under his teeth. A little crestfallen with hopes seemingly dashed, Taemin looks back up just as Jongin’s eyes slide closed and he sighs.

A phone is vibrating in his hoodie pocket.

“…Sorry.” Jongin mutters, looking away. Taemin leans forward to allow Jongin’s arm to slip past. Jongin digs the device—a disposable track phone, from the looks of it—out and answers without really looking at it. “This might be important, so I’m gonna…” he gestures vaguely at the front door while standing. Taemin shifts on the couch and nods, offering a small smile, hoping Jongin doesn’t think he’s unhappy with him. He hears Jongin whisper something to the phone before he’s out the door, opening and closing it behind him carefully.

They never started the movie. The TV isn’t even on. Taemin is sitting in silence, alone with his thoughts. He hasn’t known Jongin very long and his understanding of him is still pretty superficial. Was he asking too much? Have the rules changed since high school? He pulls his legs to his chest and rests his chin on his knee, staring at the black screen as he backtracks through their interactions for something he could have misread.

The door clicks, and Jongin wordlessly slips back in, phone still in hand as he looks at Taemin peering over the couch at him.

“Everything okay?” Taemin follows Jongin as he reclaims his spot, only a few inches length between them. He shifts his entire body to face Jongin, folding one leg beneath him.

“Yeah, my roommate’s kinda…” Jongin looks distant and his hands toy idly in his lap. “…He worries too much, honestly. He was calling to make sure I was okay.”

“Uh …Why you wouldn’t be?”

Jongin mulls over his response. “I get scolded a lot for being reckless.”

“Are you?”

“Hmmmmm yeah.” His head falls to the backrest and he smiles like he’s recalling a fond memory. The smile sticks with him when he looks in Taemin’s direction. “I suppose I am.”

There’s a glint in his eye that pulls Taemin back to that side street.

He isn’t sure what changed, but if that isn’t an invitation he doesn’t know what is. That’s not a look you carelessly toss around, not when you’re alone with a date. He almost asks out loud, just to be sure this is what Jongin wants, too, but Taemin’s thoughts cloud. They hold each other’s gaze and the intensity urges him to just go for it.

Taemin leans in, not all the way, just close enough for Jongin to comfortably close the gap himself. He doesn’t leave Taemin hanging but there is another flash of hesitation where their lips only brush, not enough to even call a kiss. For a beat longer nothing but their faint breath separates them. Eyes fall closed when they finally meet and Jongin’s lips are as soft as Taemin imagined.

They each tilt to better fit against the other and Taemin cannot believe Jongin still tastes like the dessert they shared. He slowly pulls back and Jongin follows until the kiss breaks and Jongin opens his eyes in a bit of a daze. It’s enough to convince Taemin they’re on the same page.

He grabs a loose fistful of Jongin’s hoodie and pulls them back together. Lips part and tongues mingle, and a hand slides up Taemin’s neck to thread in his damp hair. Something snaps in Taemin with the faintest little noise from Jongin.

It’s suddenly urgent, hungry. Taemin moves himself forward and arches his back so their chests are flush against each other. He leans into Jongin with all his weight and Jongin’s hand comes around to the small of Taemin’s back to hold them together when he falls.

Both of Jongin’s hands creep low on his waist and crawl up under his shirt. Taemin shivers, the touch like fire on his chilled skin. Their legs tangle and Jongin’s hand travels down to his ass. He gropes and Taemin grinds, Jongin groans low in his throat and it goes right to Taemin’s dick. He does it again, slow and deliberate. It’s only when Jongin parts their lips with a small gasp that Taemin realizes how hard they’re breathing.

He stills, looking down at Jongin’s kiss ravaged lips and licking his own. There’s that hint of uncertainty again, buried under the glassy gaze looking up at him. Taemin wants to say something but Jongin’s hips carefully move against him and Taemin feels the arousal. Taemin claims his lips again, kisses getting more sloppy and aggressive.

The thought that his little daydream could come true not a day after it formed pushes him further. Drowning himself in this intoxicating smell and taste and sensation isn’t enough. He wants more. Taemin tears away and shifts a little lower on Jongin, latching on to the column of his neck. Jongin threads his fingers in Taemin’s hair, grasping a handful and tightening his grip with every hard suck and light nip.

Taemin gets to his knees without his hot mouth ever leaving the sweet flesh of Jongin’s neck. Ass in the air he straddles Jongin’s hips and reaches down between them to experimentally palm Jongin through his pants. He hears Jongin’s breath hitch softly, his head falls back and his hips lift into the touch.

Taemin kisses a line up to the angle of his jaw and breathes against Jongin’s ear. “Can I…”

Jongin shifts up on to his elbows and Taemin lifts himself off to allow the movement, eyes traveling up and down Jongin in mild alarm. Jongin adjusts himself so he can lay his head on the armrest and a throw pillow and Taemin is quick to get the idea. The new position made it a little less awkward to reach and he takes full advantage of it by molding their mouths together while he slips a hand under Jongin’s waistband.

He swallows Jongin’s moan as his hand wraps around Jongin’s dick and gives it a few languid strokes. Taemin smirks against Jongin’s mouth, satisfied with how hot and hard he already is. Underneath it all, maybe Jongin wanted Taemin as badly as Taemin wanted him and Taemin doesn’t remember the last time he felt this good.

They part just so Taemin can relish in the sight of Jongin disheveled and panting, all by his doing. He can’t stop now.

His tongue drags over his upper lip before pressing back against Jongin; softer and drawn out, like the very first. He pulls away, and Jongin feverishly watches Taemin crawl backwards, the lewd gesture coupled with the way the latter bit his lip and maintained eye contact has Jongin shifting eagerly on to his elbows for a better view. He maintains that dreamy look in his eyes, like he’s not completely sure of what’s happening but more than happy to let it.

Taemin grabs the hem of Jongin’s sweats along with his boxers and jerks them down a little farther as he gets comfortable sitting back on his heels. Taemin wonders how far this could go—how far Jongin wants it to go—but for the time being he’s more than alright with hunching over Jongin’s pelvis and taking hold of his dick again.

He gathers some spit on his tongue before lowering himself back down to drop it over the head. It slides down Jongin’s shaft and disappears under Taemin’s hand as he starts up a rhythm. Taemin peers up to see Jongin’s head loll to his shoulder, dark eyes watching Taemin move to mouth down the side of his dick to where his hand stops at the base. Their gaze remains locked while he presses his tongue to it and drags up along the underside. Taemin leers at the deep groan it pulls from Jongin, and the sight of his jaw going slack and head rolling back when the hot wet cavern of Taemin’s mouth closes over his dick and it is so gratifying.

“Fuuuck,” Jongin hisses, hands grasping at the couch but the leather not allowing any grip. Taemin takes him in as far as he can, lips tight around it when he pulls back until he only has the head in his mouth. His tongue rolls over the slit and bitter precum before he goes back down. Jongin’s hips buck up to meet him and his dick goes unexpectedly far down Taemin’s throat. The edges of his eyes water but he fights the reflex. He recovers and eases into pace, hand covering what his mouth can’t reach and going off beat whenever Jongin lets out a breathy moan or an inaudible vulgarity among his panting just to savor the sound.

Amongst Jongin’s increasingly hoarse voice and the obscene slurping of Taemin’s mouth on his erection there is a very distinct, metallic clink from the adjacent side of the room. Taemin snaps upright, leaving Jongin’s dick with a sloppy pop.

“What…?” Jongin breaths, struggling to drag himself upright to follow Taemin’s line of sight over the back of the couch, at the front door. The rattle of keys and some muffled chatter can be heard over their shallow panting. They freeze.

“I didn’t think he’d be home tonight fuck fuck fuCK—“ The knob turns and Taemin throws himself down on Jongin, landing face to face flat on the couch. He doesn’t immediately cooperate but a hushed frantic warning from Taemin gets him to relax. Both tense with eyes blowing wide when the door flings open.

“—is bullshit.” Comes Kibum’s voice immediately followed by the door hitting something blunt and solid.

“You better not have just put a dent in my wall.” Minho growls and there is a very clear grunt and some shuffling followed by what sounds like a chair scrapping on hardwood flooring. Someone sighs, and the room falls silent. Taemin struggles to keep his breathing quiet and Jongin is having an even worse time with all of Taemin weighing down on his chest. At least he took care in straddling his hips because haphazardly being tackled like that could have turned out much worse for Jongin’s dick; but just lying there exposed isn’t exactly ideal.

Kibum’s voice goes soft. “Are you sure you don’t need to go to the hospital?”

“Nah, I’ll just stay off it for a day or two…”

Kibum hums, unconvinced. There is another bout of silence , broken when Minho calls in a different direction. “Taemin?”

Taemin mouths a ‘fuck’ and they hold their breath. Jongin keeps still, searching Taemin for what to do. The latter drops his head to the crook of Jongin’s neck and his chest heaves with a deep breath.

“Uh, yeah.” Taemin pushes off Jongin and steadies himself by hooking his arm over the back of the couch. He reluctantly looks Minho’s way, and he and Kibum stare quizzically back. Minho’s eyes narrow with a scheming smile spreading over his face.

“Who’s shoes are those?” His brow cocks towards the door without breaking eye contact. Taemin knows he’s referring to Jongin’s wet sneakers, too big to be Taemin’s and certainly not his. Minho has that knowing look, like he has it all figured out and he probably does. Taemin could never hide things from him when they shared a dorm. Minho always had an irritatingly meticulous eye for detail. Jongin rests his hand on Taemin’s thigh to get his attention, looking up at him for guidance because he’s probably getting the feeling he isn’t supposed to be there. Minho and Kibum are waiting patiently and deeply intrigued.

“Ah…” Taemin clears his throat, looking down at Jongin briefly and scooting off his hips. Jongin hesitantly sits up only far enough to peek over the couch. “Uh, so this is Jongin. Jongin—Minho… and Kibum.” Jongin waves nervously and offers a small smile before sinking back down out of their site, getting to work making himself decent. He has to lift his ass to tug the sweats back up and apparently the sound of him shuffling around on the leather is clear and way too obvious. Minho and Kibum seem to realize it at the same time, Kibum muffling a laugh behind his hand and Minho’s amusement disappearing completely.

“I swear to god Taemin—“

“Our clothes are still on so you can’t get mad.”

“Not the point.” Minho groans and both hands drag down his face dramatically. “I don’t want to be watching the game all relaxed ‘n shit and suddenly remember there is sweat and jizz burned into the leather.”

“I remember what you said, I was gonna be careful...” Taemin mumbles; a complete lie. He steps off the couch completely and Jongin follows, turning his back to everyone to further adjust himself in his pants.

“Anyway,” It’s Kibum that intervenes, hands clasping behind his back with an enunciating bounce on his heels. He’s still smiling and absolutely loving this. “Minho fell down some stairs. Looks like it’ll just be you and me tomorrow.” There is more to the statement, but Kibum stops himself, given they have a guest. Jupiter must have found something.

“Wh… How bad is it?” Taemin looks to Minho sitting stiffly in his seat. Jongin half turns out of curiosity and steps to hide partially behind Taemin because unlike Taemin, Jongin’s pants conceal nothing.

“I’m fine, I just can’t… bend my knee. No big deal.” Minho surveys his extended leg, probably contemplating getting up on his own by the way Kibum stares and shakes his head as a silent warning.

“…It was an entire flight and his knee bashed against the railing at the bottom.” Kibum supplies flatly and Taemin winces at the thought.

“There should have been a wet floor sign.” Minho says bitterly. Kibum mutters something Taemin doesn’t catch, but Minho sure does. “So why didn’t you stop me?”

“I figured you’d use your fucking eyes and see the giant puddle.”

Minho throws back a smug retort and this looks like it’s going to escalate into something Taemin really doesn’t want to be in the middle of. Jongin is standing by and looking thoroughly uncomfortable, probably by the situation in his pants more than anything.

“Let’s… go check on your clothes.” Taemin takes hold of Jongin’s hand and they slip past without Minho or Kibum taking notice, too busy bickering. Taemin and Jongin duck into what is basically a glorified closet as opposed to an actual room, longer than it is wide with the washer and dryer taking up most of the space. There is just barely enough room for someone to do the chore, but it’s more than enough space for the two of them.

Taemin doesn’t even get a word out. The door closes and Jongin has him pressed against it, his hips grinding hard and slow against Taemin’s in contrast to the urgent collision of their mouths. He’s trapped under Jongin, feels Jongin’s hands snake over his hips to roughly grope his ass. Jongin breaks the kiss and buries his face in Taemin’s neck, Taemin’s head tipping back and bumping against the door.

Taemin’s mouth hangs open with small, airy moans. He isn’t sure where this came from and can’t really be bothered to dwell on it with their hips rutting against each other, the friction accomplishing nothing but winding them up. The dryer humming and the enclosing walls only muffled so much, but Jongin didn’t seem interested in keeping quiet and Taemin was having a hard time giving a shit. Taemin’s arms found their way around Jongin’s back, clawing in but only catching fabric. He feels Jongin nip at tender flesh and Taemin fists a hand in his hair, pulling to angle Jongin’s head so Taemin’s cheek was at his temple and Taemin’s breath grazed his ear.

“J-Jongin,” Taemin’s voice cracks. His grip loosens and falls to smooth over Jongin’s back when Jongin comes up and presses his mouth to Taemin’s, reducing the rest of the statement to a groan between them. Jongin tilts so their foreheads are together and their lips part, their heated breathing seeming like the only sound in the room now. Jongin looks almost predatory and Taemin rocks his hips against Jongin’s in some effort to work on each other. They’re both dying for relief and halle-fucking-lujah Taemin feels Jongin hook his thumbs at the hem of his pants.

“I was thinking I ah, could return the favor.”

Eyes glazed over, Taemin watches Jongin sink to his knees. Taemin’s arms fall against the door and his hands search until they hit the door frame and he braces himself. Jongin doesn’t waste any more time and yanks down Taemin’s pants and underwear and they fall the rest of the way to pool around his ankles. He grabs hold of Taemin’s erection and looks up through his lashes just to watch; watch Taemin muffle a sob into the crook of his elbow because Jongin takes him in all at once, right down to the hilt. It’s wet and tight and fucking divine and then Jongin starts to move and Taemin knows he’s not going to last.

Minho and Kibum probably know what’s going on here. He just lets the door complain against his weight, lets his head and elbows bump against it when he moves, stops trying to restrain Jongin’s name coming off his lips. Taemin’s legs feel like they might buckle and grabs fistfuls of Jongin’s hair, not pushing or pulling, just along for the ride.

Taemin hangs his head, catching sight of Jongin’s hand working himself in time with his head bobbing around Taemin’s dick and that’s it, he’s done. He tries to warn him and pull Jongin off, but Jongin stays with most of Taemin’s length in his mouth, lips stretched around his dick as Taemin’s cum hits the back of his throat. He sees nothing but stars, and it’s over.

Taemin feels like jelly and the second Jongin slides off him he slumps against the door and goes down, his knees meeting his chest. Jongin sits back on his heels and Taemin inclines his head, taking in the sight like he’d been waiting for it his entire life. Jongin finished after he did and was still coming back from the high, slack jawed and a sleepy proud look in his eyes. Taemin made a mess of his hair and his mouth, and slowly reaches to wipe away the trickle at the edge of Jongin’s lips with his thumb.

The dryer loudly announces it’s finished and startles Jongin off balance. Taemin bursts out laughing and Jongin narrows his eyes and comically frowns. He pulls himself up using Taemin’s knees and leans in quickly, intent on claiming Taemin’s mouth while his still tastes like cum. Revenge is definitely not sweet. It’s bitter, some would be mortified, but a few seconds in and Taemin realizes he’s totally okay with it because Jongin.

-

It’s oddly quiet when they come out moments later all cleaned up and Jongin back in his own clothes. They glance at each other silently when Minho and Kibum don’t immediately notice them, immersed in some reality show. Minho’s long-ass arms rest on the back of the couch and Kibum is seated close by, but not touching.

Minho tears his gaze away from the TV and it darts between Taemin and Jongin a few times before resting on Taemin.

“So are you guys done for the night orrr?”

Well, that’s not technically giving them shit. Jongin leaves the answer to Taemin and turns on his heel towards the door to jam his feet in his damp shoes.

“…I’m gonna give Jongin a ride home. Where are your keys?”

“Oh, here,” Kibum pipes up, shifting and rummaging in his pockets. His toss is poorly aimed and Taemin fumbles to catch the ring of keys with both hands. “You’ll have to give me a ride home tomorrow after work.”

So he’s staying the night. It makes sense that he drove Minho’s car back here and it’s pretty late already, but what has Taemin a bit perplexed is the lingering stare Kibum gives him before turning back to face the TV. Whatever Jupiter has must be a doozy.

They leave the apartment without a word, and Jongin doesn’t speak up until they’re stepping out of the elevator and into the lobby. He walks close to Taemin, keeping his voice hushed.

“I wasn’t expecting… any of that.”

Taemin blushes deeply and draws up his shoulders. “Yeah… sorry. I mean, I’m not sorry about... us? I uh, didn’t know they would be coming home. That was really awkward.”

“Eh. That wasn’t too bad.” Jongin shrugs and their pace slows. It’s still raining out and they will have to make a mad dash for the parking complex across the street. “Two of my best friends have been together for a really long time. We all used to live together and I would get stuck in the middle of their fights, or just… hard situations in general. I’m pretty used to awkward.”

“Wow. And you guys managed to stay friends? It’s not weird?”

“It’s a little weird still, yeah, especially since we’ve all fucked around with each other at one point or another. Like this last fight was really bad because I…” He suddenly looks away, realization slapping him in the face before reluctantly looking at Taemin. They’re at the front door and Taemin already has his palm flat against it, ready to push open. They stall and he stares at Jongin as he looks regretfully out the glass door.

“It… doesn’t bother me who you’ve been with before.” Taemin offers carefully. Jongin still looks uncertain. He mumbles something about how they should go and pushes past the door first, Taemin trailing behind. Kibum managed to snag a spot on the first level, right at the entrance, and they are on the road immediately. The ride starts out silent.

“I uh... I’ll tell you this now because I feel like it would be way worse if I waited until we were serious… I mean, if that’s how it turns out, if you want it to, um…” Jongin rattles off nervously after almost ten minutes of nothing but the rain beating against the vehicle. Taemin glances his way a few times; he’s slumped in his seat, focused on his hands picking at the hem of his hoodie.

“So… the last few months have been hard. For my friends. It’s kind of been building from this thing that happened a while ago. Anyway, we’re all together when this last fight happens and one tells the other we should just… get back together. He didn’t mean it. I know he didn’t. But he said it. We were never actually a thing,” Jongin’s speech is getting rapid. He just keeps reeling, like he can’t stop now that it started.

“But, like I kind of said, we did mess around before they were together. And… He’s my roommate now. Just the two of us. Because even though he said we should just get back together he didn’t mean it, he said it because he’s an idiot and it hurt him more than it did anyone else. They kind of broke up, but not really, they always get back together—anyway, I got him to come live with me because we all know he doesn’t like being alone, not really. He hates it. I think he did it to get back at the other guy because he knew it would bother him because he’s always worried about him and wow this is super confusing without names fuck.”

“It’s okay, really, I get it. Kind of… You’re living with a friend you used to bone and you think it’ll bother me…?” He glances at Jongin for verification and Jongin has sunken even lower in his seat, apparently bracing himself for some kind of argument. He nods slowly, pushing himself back up to a semi-normal position.

“Yeah, It’s okay. Unless you’re planning on getting with us both at the same time—“

“I wouldn’t—“

“I know, I know. I’m playing. I’m okay with it. Seriously.” He adds. Jongin looks timid, like he’s still waiting for some wrath. Taemin drums his fingers on the wheel in the pause. Okay, it bothers him a little, but if Jongin has a good friend to fuck around with why would he want a relationship? It doesn’t make a lot of sense and Jongin doesn’t seem sleazy. “…If it makes you feel better, I had a thing for Minho when we first met. We kind of sort of may have messed around after a few drinks on several occasions, but I’m over it and I don’t think he even knew… So we both have roommates we’ve done stuff with that are both kinda? In relationships, no big deal, right?”

“…This went significantly better than I thought it would.”

Taemin smiles deeply. He was afraid of coming off a little strong but Jongin went right along with him. There was a layer or two peeled back tonight between dinner and that taste they got of each other, those personalities Taemin decidedly separated matching each other so well. A happy (ridiculously hot) medium that makes Taemin wonder if he’s been out of touch with people for too long. Jongin is far too good to be true. However, Minho and Kibum can see him, so he’s not a figment of Taemin’s imagination.

Taemin glimpses between Jongin and the road, the glances getting quicker as Jongin just sits there, eyeing him suspiciously with a skeptical little smirk.

“So you lived with him for years and just… never said anything?”

“I thought he was straight. I didn’t want to make it weird. He had a girlfriend when we met. But she dumped him like two months into the semester and we drank a ton, and we ended up in the same bed. He spooned me all night and the next morning he wakes up with an erection and just laughs about it, totally chill. I asked, and he says he dates whoever the hell he wants. I still didn’t tell him because… I dunno. He never made a move on me when we were sober so I figured he didn’t really want me.” Taemin shrugs.

He leaves out how hard he tried, how he finally admitted defeat when Minho didn’t even look twice at him in probably the most sinful article of clothing he owned; a black pair of skinny jeans shredded all to hell, barely keeping together enough to be called appropriate. Those pants once got him kicked out of a store, and consistently used to get him into college parties in high school; actual college? Nothing.

“I got over him. It don’t think it would have worked out, anyway. He’s some kind of weird cross between an older brother and my mom.”

Jongin laughs. “Yeah I kind of got that. So are you banned from the couch now or what?”

“Nah. You might be, though.”

 

The rain subsides by the time Taemin gets back home. Despite hinting at some news Minho and Kibum didn’t wait up for him, not that he’d want to stay up and chat, anyway. The exhaustion of the past few days hits Taemin again all at once as he’s toeing off his shoes. He shuffles down the hall towards his room, so ready to see his bed. The door to the laundry room is wide open as he pauses in front of it, the clothes he loaned Jongin the only garments waiting to be done. So it really did happen. They were going to watch Pacific Rim but ended up blowing each other. A few sluggish strides later and he collapses on his bed, his last entertaining thought the memory of Jongin pressed against him. Taemin’s bed feels a little too big and too empty.

Chapter Text

{chapter warnings: wound description, a bit of action/violence}

- - - -

 

“So, B-38 is in the city.”

Taemin is still half asleep, slumped over with his cheek against the smooth table top and unmoving until a coffee mug is set down near his head. His eyes aren’t ready for light but he does register Kibum standing next to him, and he drags himself vertical…ish.

“I’m starting to think you’re some kind of good luck charm. All this stuff starts happening as soon as you’re hired.” It’s Kibum again, and Taemin cracks open his eyes to see Kibum bent at the waist and looking at him sideways. “Hear me?”

“Yeah.” Taemin pulls the coffee in front of him and the aroma slowly begins to ease him out of his zombie state. “So what are… wait, we know where he is?”

“We have an idea.” Minho offers Taemin his phone. It’s an image attached to an urgent email from Jonghyun and clear as day, there’s B-38 among a crowd departing a familiar setting. “Like Kibum said, this is when they make mistakes. When we rile them up. We don’t understand how his picture wasn’t flagged right when it ran through their system, but dumbass here actually took a plane.” Minho smirks and goes back to swiping through his messages.

“So now they’re both here,” Taemin half sighs while trying to blink away the sleepiness. “…plus J-27.”

“Oh!” Minho suddenly beams at his phone. “We’re getting Amber and Victoria back! And Yunho and Changmin won’t be long.” Kibum perks up and Taemin stares between them vacantly.

“They’re some of ours that we loaned to our American and Japanese branches, Minerva and Venus.” Minho quickly explains, setting his phone off to the side and folding his arms on the table. “Amber and I were hired at the same time, and Victoria has been a senior field agent for five years. Yunho has been around since the beginning and Changmin wasn’t far behind.”

“Only had to mention J-27 for them to get their asses back here.” Kibum chuckles. The name Changmin sounded familiar. Taemin vaguely recalls from where; it must have been Yunho who wrote that bitter report.

“…So what are we doing now?”

“Working overtime. That airport pic is from eight last night. It was a careless move, he might be a little pissed,” Kibum adds gravely, looking at Taemin. B-38 probably doesn’t appreciate a Jupiter agent almost shooting his boyfriend. “Minho’s gonna be stuck at HQ because of his leg, and you and me will be out in a couple of cars.” Kibum sits up straight and brings his hands to the table top with his fingers knitted together. Taemin is a little weirded out by the smile that won’t leave Kibum’s face.

There is an uncomfortable pause and Minho rolls his eyes. “Tell us more, Kibum.”

“So 37 degrees Celsius is the body temperature of a healthy human,” Kibum fires off immediately and starts speaking in dramatic gestures. “Unsurprisingly, B-38 has an internal temperature so high it doesn’t register as a unit our tech can comprehend—so like, why don’t his clothes burn off? Anyway, it’s weird. We’ve picked up his heat signature on thermal imaging gear and it doesn’t make any sense. He shows up as just this large white glitchy mass, even when we bring down the threshold. He should change color but doesn’t, and his body heat doesn’t affect anything he comes in contact with. Junsu over in research almost drove himself insane trying to figure it out. No luck, because it’s impossible. But what he did come up with is a small thermal scope that mounts right on the dash and this scope's high-resolution digital thermal imaging uses a germanium lens and shows on a high-end OLED display with an adjustable digital reticle and he calibrated this motherfucker to only see B-38’s unique signature, and Junsu said he should even be visible through buildings.”

“I love it when you talk dirty.” Is all Minho says.

Taemin’s eyes had glazed over somewhere towards the end. “…So uh...”

“We’re gonna drive around with this scope lookin’thing until a white blob shows up on the screen.”

-

The windows are tinted so dark Taemin has to cup his hands around his eyes and press his face to the window to see inside. The passenger side of the interior has been stripped completely, replaced with the screen display Kibum mentioned with controls close enough Taemin could reach and still keep driving safely. The scope is mounted dead center on the dash on a swivel, currently aimed forward. It’s as thick as Taemin’s forearm and half the length with a tail of wires leading to the monitor and whatever is under it.

Just follow the route, make sure everything keeps working, and watch for the blob. That’s all. Any dramatic changes trigger a little alarm, so really Taemin just has to drive. It’s simple, but what has him constantly peering at the display and his palms sweaty against the wheel is the thought of actually finding something. It’s just him and Kibum, and some oblivious officers on standby. There’s not one, but likely three suspects. Jupiter is outnumbered until the others arrive. They’re outnumbered and outgunned in any case, considering what they’re up against.

Taemin can feel his thoughts going in a bad direction and the hum of the engine is not enough to distract him. There’s a radio already set to Jupiter’s open channel, but Taemin opts for his phone. He just wants conversation and not everyone needs to be in on it.

“…Yeah?” Kibum’s voice is drawn out with disinterest. “Something wrong?”

Taemin hesitates, fingers drumming on the wheel. “No, everything is fine. I’m just getting kind of bored, so uh…”

“Ugh, me too. But we’ve only got two of these so there’s not much we can do to speed things up.” At least he seems willing. But therein lies another problem. Taemin is shit at small talk and says the first thing he can think of.

“So how long have you and Minho…?”

He’s been dying to ask and only remembers when it’s inconvenient. In all the time Minho has been away from college he never mentioned seeing someone. Though, after pouting in secret about his best friend not confiding about a relationship, he remembers how Minho phrased it: all the fun is at Kibum’s house. It flung Taemin’s brain directly into the gutter. It’s not hard to imagine Kibum as the type to indulge in an array of kinks. He’s over Minho not saying anything and prays he never elaborates on his and Kibum’s quality alone time.

“Since about a week after he was hired. I was trying to be nice so I invited the newbie out for a drink. Had a few too many, we ended up at my place, pants came off and—“

“I get it.” Taemin says flatly. Kibum snickers.

“…While we’re on the subject,” Kibum ventures with a cheekiness Taemin finds suspicious. “You and Minho ever fuck?”

Taemin looks at his phone with narrowed eyes, as if studying the speaker icon on display would offer any insight in to what in the hell kind of question is that. He doesn’t know Kibum very well. If he finds out Taemin once—briefly—had thoughts about Minho, what would he do? His first impression was not the greatest, and Taemin still feels a little intimidated by his presence. He’s watchful, his movements fluid and confident, like a large predatory cat. Kibum isn’t really someone Taemin would want to cross.

Taemin’s eyes flick nervously between the road and his phone. “…N..Not really..? There were a few times when we were drunk but nothing really happened.”

“Oh. Soooooo ever had a sober thought about it?” Kibum asks, tone so casual you’d think he was talking about the weather. This feels dangerous.

Taemin’s lips are parted, moving and fumbling with forming actual words. “I… what are you getting at?”

Kibum contemplates with a hum. “…Okay, I’ll be forward with you. Minho and I like to spice things up here and there. Would you be interested in a threesome? Or, hey, invite your boy and we can make it a party.”

Well then.

Kibum apparently isn’t territorial like Taemin was beginning to suspect, and he likes Taemin enough he’d ask, so… there’s that. But Taemin is suddenly feeling a little possessive, almost offended. Never mind the invitation. No, he wouldn’t want to share Jongin.

“Ah… no offense, but I’ll pass. Besides, Minho would never go for it.”

Kibum sighs longingly in defeat. “It was worth a shot. He talked about you a lot, I figured there might—“ Kibum abruptly cuts off. The line is silent long enough Taemin wonders if the call was actually dropped.

“Kibum?”

“Fuck.” Kibum hisses before ending the call himself.

Taemin’s blood runs cold. He already knows what it is. What else could it possibly be? The car rolls to a stop and he sits in silence, waiting for the instructions he knows are coming. The radio crackles to life and Kibum’s voice comes through.

“Interference from B-38’s unique signature is coming from district 16, block 4.” Taemin brings up the map on the monitor at his side. It’s a heavily simplified satellite view of the city, the streets reduced to a grid and the buildings nothing but blank shapes. He and Kibum show up as little circular blips, labeled as their initials. Kibum is stopped in the district he mentioned, a short distance away from another icon that just showed up in the middle of a building.

“Are you fucking kidding me?” Minho’s voice rips through the channel. “You’re not seriously going to send them in there, are you?”

“Taemin, get to Kibum.” That’s… a woman’s voice. “It’s clearly a trap, but we can handle this.” She says calmly. She sounds young, but there’s a soft authority to her voice.

“Where’s Jonghyun?” Taemin asks when the channel goes quiet.

“I’m here, Taemin. Help arrived early. You’ll be answering to Miss Song for this operation as she’s got more experience with B-38.”

“For the eightieth time, Jonghyun, just Victoria is fine. Taemin, we’ll have to save formal introductions for later. Get to Kibum.”

-

Of course it had to be something ridiculously flammable. Of course.

When Taemin pulls up, Kibum is standing with his hands on his hips a pace away from his car, the driver’s side door left wide open. There are two squad cars sitting on opposite sides of the street the next block over, too far to see from any viewpoint inside the building. Taemin throws his car in park and rolls down his window to peek out at the structure looming over them. Taemin recognizes the company name printed in thick letters on the side. A furniture manufacturer. This place is full of fabric, cotton, varnish, insulation, wood… What the fuck is with these guys and factories?

“There is no way our luck is this shitty. He knows we can find him.” Kibum says, walking up to Taemin’s car and ducking to peer past him at his monitor. “…Same reading. Fuck.” Kibum backs away, restlessly carding his fingers through is hair. This is a first for Taemin, seeing Kibum flustered. He’s usually so collected and in control. This is not good. “What now, Victoria?”

“Fire department is on their way. I hate to do this to you, but you know we need visual confirmation.” She says grimly. Taemin looks between his radio and Kibum with wide eyes. “If you can’t see him from any window, you’ll have to go in.”

Kibum looks resigned. He’s a suit, not meant to be out here getting his hands dirty. Or scorched. He takes in a breath and exhales loudly. Gesturing with a nod for Taemin to come along, Kibum’s hand is already wrapped around the grip of his gun.

They each take a side; Kibum circles around the back, Taemin down an alley, and an officer down the other as the rest stay and cover the front. Taemin can’t help but feel bad for the locals. They have no idea what they’re walking into.

They went over how to cope with the stress of this sort of job in school. Maintaining mental health is important; get enough sleep, have a healthy diet, stay fit, be active with your friends and family, take up a hobby, do something that can get your mind away from work. It makes it easier to deal with witnessing the worst in people, high tension situations, or the death of a coworker. Funny how they never discussed how to help pre-trauma.

Taemin peers over the edge of another window. Blocked. Just like the rest. Well, there is another building not five feet away. Not much of a view; may as well arrange the biggest machinery on this wall of the room. Taemin rounds the corner to see Kibum pacing idly about, fingers on the piece in his ear, listening. Kibum catches sight of him and waves him over.

“Great news. We can’t see shit and I’m going in.” Kibum announces with a clap. Taemin stares at him bleakly, unsurprised given his own luck. “Victoria wants you to stand by out front. We told our friends in uniform there’s a gas leak, and the suspect inside is crazy enough to make a spark.”

“She doesn’t want us both in?” It’s not like he wanted to be the one to do it, but he doesn’t like the idea of Kibum going in alone. “Splitting up didn’t work with M-61, and B-38 has been known to …fight back.” And, you know, set people on fire, he almost adds. Kibum shrugs, eyeing the building.

“The plan isn’t to engage. I just need to make sure he’s in there and get out. We surround him, and wait. He can’t stay in there forever.”

Taemin doesn’t like it, but he doesn’t argue. He does as he’s told and walks back to their cars while Kibum slips in through a side door. He checks the monitor in his car—B-38 hasn’t moved, and Kibum’s little blip is getting closer. That’s good, but also bad. Kibum didn’t seem bothered and Taemin found that terrifying. This is a trap and they know it. Didn’t Minho say Jupiter’s last run-in with B-38 ended in disaster because they waltzed right into a situation prime for him to char their asses? Unexplainable control over fire or not, it wouldn’t take much to set the whole place up in flames. And then there’s the other two; what if all three are in there? Taemin leans back against the vehicle, watching the entrance. He loosely clasps his hands before him to control his anxious fidgeting. Kibum will be fine. He’ll be in and out. Everything will be—

Fire blows out the windows and sends glass hurling in every direction. Taemin’s arms shot up to shield him from the gale of heat, the very ground jarring with the blast nearly throwing him down. He cautiously lowers them just as the roar of the fire engine bellows from around the block. Black smoke rises out of the windows and gathers in a massive, ominous cloud staining the sky. Taemin gapes. Holy fuck. He’s cowering against the car with a lump in his throat and a weight against his chest. He looks from one side of the building to the other, praying Kibum had escaped before the blast and will stumble into view any second now.

Two of the officers run in his peripheral, guns drawn, heading for the back of the building. Still no Kibum. There’s a muffled voice coming from inside his car; the radio is lighting up and yelling at him to respond. Taemin numbly feels for the handle and yanks the door open and it takes so much effort, like it’s the last bit of strength he has left. Fuck. He sees himself trembling as he reaches for the remote.

“Sensors are showing B-38 and Kibum are both still inside, is that correct?” Victoria sounds like she’s struggling to keep it together, not out of fear, more like frustration. He silently faces the blazing structure; the flames have already begun eating through the roof. The officers have distanced themselves and their weapons are back in their holsters. Taemin can’t believe they gave up so easily.

“I d-don’t see either of them.” His small voice cracks. After years of preparing for something like this he’s crumbling after only a few minutes and he knows it and it’s making everything worse. Firefighters are organizing themselves and they aren’t moving nearly fast enough. His gaze drifts to the monitor at his side. Kibum is still showing up, unmoving, and M-38’s signature is now the size of the building. The shred of hope he has left is fading fast. “…Do I—“

“Don’t be a hero.” Victoria warns with such iciness, Taemin winces. “There isn’t anything you can do for him, don’t you dare try. Let the firefighters do their job. Just stay where you are and watch for B-38. We know his own fire doesn’t burn him. He’ll walk out of there—“

“—Wow, an—won’t? Tha—ks a lot—“

The static was thick, but that was Kibum’s voice breaking up the channel.

“Are you alright? What’s happening in there?”

There’s more static, like he’s breathing right against the microphone. “Dumbass …n’t think—would explode,” Harsh coughing, bumping around, more static. “…Ah, well—m stuck—oor I came thr—“ His voice and the background noise abruptly cut out.

Taemin is out of the car faster than Victoria’s voice can reach him. He hasn’t even had this job for a month and he’s not starting his career by letting someone die.

Kibum is trapped near where he entered, is what Taemin gathered. Someone yells at him when he barrels around the side of the dying building, nearly missing the side door as it’s the same color as the walls. Smoke is bellowing out a nearby window and Taemin grabs the handle. It’s not particularly warm. It doesn’t feel like a wall of fire will greet him upon entering. He takes his chances and throws all his weight against the door.

It’s heavy and only opens a few inches before hitting something solid. Thick black smoke hits Taemin in the face and the door falls closed, heavily barred by dead weight on the other side. He tries again, really digging his heels in and pushing with his back flat against the door. The pavement supplies a lot of traction and he inches the door and whatever is obscuring it far enough he can just barely slip through.

He stumbles in, falling against a wall when he trips over the very debris that wouldn’t let him enter. A portion of the ceiling caved in, bringing air ducts and structure down with it. He doesn’t linger beneath it, it looks like more could crumble away at any second. Nothing could have prepared Taemin for the hellish oven he just entered.

Everything is burning; the walls, the floor, metal, stone—everything. The smell is awful, burning plastic or chemicals that sting his eyes. He pulls his shirt up over half his face, his lungs already under assault and tears beginning to gather. He needs to find Kibum while he can still see.

“The fuck are you doing?!” Rasps a voice nearby, followed by a painful clipped cry. Taemin spins to see Kibum slumped on the ground with both legs extended, most of his face back in the crook of his elbow and his eyes wide in utter disbelief. He is tucked against a corner of crates that may have been protecting him but was now starting to break down from the other side. It isn’t until Taemin rushes to him and drops to his knees that he sees the damage.

A massive shard of wood buried deep in his thigh, likely propelled by the blast. The fabric of his pants is soaked dark around the wound and there a blotches on his torso where smaller shards have been pulled out. There is blood and soot smeared on Kibum’s hands and neck and face, and a large slit through his clothes exposing a horrible gash in his arm. Something blew apart and he was unlucky enough to be nearby, but luckier than he can appreciate at the moment for not being impaled somewhere fatal. Taemin only tears his gaze away when he bursts into a fit of coughing.

Kibum grabs a hand full of Taemin’s shirt to yank him closer but lets go almost instantly with a violent recoil. Both hands clutch his leg around the shard and he curls in on himself. “Are you fucking stupid?!” He chokes after the fit of pain passes, yelling at his lap. “Now they have to come in here and save both of us!”

Taemin’s hands hover and falter, he wants to help but he’s too afraid he’ll touch something tender. He blinks hard several times. It’s hot. The air is heavy and thick and burning his eyes and airway. He manages to glance back at the door; there’s shit in front of it but if the firefighters push from outside it’ll be no problem. They saw Taemin mindlessly run in here, if they have any sense that door should be the first place they try and get in. They just have to wait a minute. It’ll be fine.

“O-okay, Kibum, we need to get you up,” He says, panic staggering his voice, because yeah, running in here was fucking stupid and there are chips of roof falling from that gaping hole and Taemin doesn’t want to be sitting beneath it when it collapses. Taemin presses close and waits for Kibum to move first, or for some kind of instruction. The danger of the roof aside, the longer they stay idle in the middle of the blaze with oxygen getting scarce… What the fuck are they waiting for out there?

Kibum takes a few deep breaths with his head hanging low. He roughly throws his injured arm around Taemin’s shoulders while pulling his good leg to his chest, intent on tucking it beneath him to push himself up because chances are Taemin can’t lift his deadweight. Taemin gingerly moves to wrap an arm around Kibum’s back with only half a clue of how they’re going to manage this, and his free hand grips Kibum’s wrist hanging over his shoulder. Kibum frantically feels for some kind of brace on his other side against the crates, muttering self-assurances under his breath. Taemin adjusts himself on his feet for the leverage they’ll need.

“Alright, just, fuck this is gonna hurt,” Kibum hisses through clenched teeth. The arm Taemin has around Kibum’s back hugs him tighter. “Be quick about it. Stand up on the count of three. One, two—“

Kibum cries out and he almost drags them both down, but they recover, and they’re standing. The smoke is thicker at this height and just gets worse with every passing second. The flames inch closer, eating everything they touch. The sourness lacing the room stings Taemin’s nostrils and throat every time air passes through.

His chest rising and falling, rapid and steady aside from sporadic strangled coughs, Kibum leans heavily against Taemin. Kibum’s bloody hand gropes at his shirt and hikes it up over the bottom half of his face. Once relatively secure, he latches on to Taemin and pulls, trying to get him to start moving towards the door.

There’s a bang at the exit before it starts to open, finally—at nearly the same time, there’s a crash.

Taemin doesn’t see the source but an avalanche of debris falls before the door. A thick wave of smoke and heat and cinders fill the air and they almost stumble to the ground.

One of the firefighters jammed himself in the opening, propping it open enough they could still slip through. He’s straining to hold, Taemin can see him trembling from the weight crushing against him.

There’s no time—Kibum is going through first. Taemin guides him over and there’s another man waiting on the outside to help him through. He has to shimmy sideways and it’s a slow, agonizing motion, twisting his body so the spike in his leg remains untouched.

The door lurches just as Kibum passes through to safety and the firefighter narrowly escapes the door shattering his arm.

Taemin jumps back from the shift of debris, all raw and intensely flammable material completely cutting off his escape route. He spins to face the rest of the room, frantically looking for options. He knows the windows on the other side are low enough to climb through but there’s no safe way over, not with the flames fencing him off.

But there is another door, he recalls, towards the back of the building.

The exit before him complains, rammed form the outside, but doesn’t budge. Taemin doesn’t have time, and neither does the building. Bits of ceiling crumble and fall nearby and he turns on his heel to get the hell out of the way. He keeps his shirt up over his mouth and his face against his forearm and moves as urgently as he can with his eyes watering and distorting his vision.

The deeper he goes, the flames grow bigger, the smoke thicker, while the air gets thinner, his hope dwindles along with it.

Navigating around the fire and destruction is like going through a searing, suffocating maze, traveling paths getting harder and harder to see.

Another agonizing fit of coughing assaults him and he screws his eyes shut. Just let it pass, bare the pain of his throat burning and getting narrower with each contraction.

He can’t. He falls against… brick, a solid wall, hot to the touch, trying to catch his breath but there’s nothing there. It’s worse than drowning. It hurts.

The ground is jagged on his knees, painfully so on his hands. Gravel or glass. He hangs his head and finds no relief the closer to the floor he gets.

So much heat, so much fire. Despite the light from the raging flames, things start getting darker.

Taemin falls to his side when his limbs give out from under him.

-

Blue skies tainted with smoke transitions into a sterile ceiling with florescent lights. There’s something over his mouth and nose, voices surrounding him as everything seems to move. Taemin lolls his head to the side when he swears he hears his name followed by a wide array of colorful insults in what sounds a lot like Kibum reeling.

His eyes slide close, and the next time he opens them, he’s in a dim room. The glow from a single inadequate lamp dyes everything a weak amber, but there is a solid sliver of bright light escaping through the slightly ajar door leading out of the room.

The first thing he notices is the oxygen mask, the second is how unbelievably dry his throat is. He swallows and it’s the worst mistake of his life because his larynx is now apparently made of sandpaper. The contraction is so agonizing his eyes water. There’s still a disconnect between him and his limbs and it takes a little extra effort for him to feel up his chest to his neck, as if the touch would be comforting at all.

It’s not. His hand—lightly bandaged, he realizes—hits the oxygen mask and he tries to move it out of the way.

“—Woah woah, hey, don’t do that,” Taemin has no idea where she came from but she’s gently coaxing his hand away from his face. He tries to say something but pushing out sound seems to come under the threat of pain. She fumbles nervously. “Just uh… just relax, okay? They still don’t know what you inhaled in there.”

Taemin furrows his brow. He does recall the acidic tinge in the air, the memory not so bad now that he’s breathing something pure. He takes a few easy breaths and she paces towards the door, peeking through the crack before stepping out.

Minutes pass and Taemin’s eyes fall closed.

The comfortable sleep dissolves and he vague recognizes Minho hovering over him. It takes Taemin’s eyes a moment to adjust and the people around him to come into focus. Minho and Jonghyun, the girl from before and another woman he doesn’t recognize.

Minho sinks into a chair and Jonghyun gets a little closer. “The doctor says you shouldn’t talk, so we’ll keep it to yes or no questions, if you’re up for it? I know you just woke up but we urgently need a few blanks filled in.”

Taemin slowly nods. Jonghyun glances at the woman at the end of the bed and she pads over to Taemin’s other side.

He instantly recognizes the voice. “I’m Victoria Song. My, and also your associate, Amber Liu,” She glances back and Amber offers him a small smile. Victoria studies him silently for a moment. “…You were lucky. I’ll let it slide this time, but don’t make a habit of ignoring orders.”

Taemin nods, weakly insistent. She seems satisfied with leaving it at that. “First question, then. Do you remember how you got out of the building?”

The only thing he remembers is the heat and suffocation and the ground against his palms. He begins to shake his head and stills. Minho and Jonghyun exchange troubled glances with Victoria, and Amber responds on cue.

“We didn’t think you would. Gawkers started gathering and we’ve got two witnesses that saw someone drag you out the back, and possibly start giving you CPR? They alerted our first responders and they found you unconscious and alone. The only description the witnesses could give us was ‘male’.” She ends it somewhat grimly, as if it were bad news.

The thought of a stranger putting his mouth on his for aid isn’t so troubling. Taemin gets an eerie feeling he’s not quite grasping what the significance is as the pause after Amber’s statement drags on and on.

Victoria cuts through the silence with a small inhale. “Well… Now, this is based off of who we knew was at the scene, but we believe this man was one of them.”

His gaze lingers on her before drifting forward, facing the ceiling but not looking. His brows pull together and he blinks, staring hard at Victoria and willing her to repeat that because it sounded she just said the enemy saved his life and there’s no fucking way that’s what happened.

Minho seems to understand exactly what Taemin is thinking. “Yeah. They wait for Kibum to be inside before they try and bring the building down, but, what, have a change of heart and save you? We don’t get it either.”

“Again, just a guess.” Victoria shrugs. “We’re still assessing the situation. Don’t bother yourself too much until we have more information—“ Her phone vibrates and draws her attention. She quietly excuses herself with a nod and Amber followers her out of the room.

“I need to head out as well. Keep the mask on until you feel comfortable. You can move around but they want to keep you here for a few days. You may not feel so bad now but the damage from smoke inhalation can show up later. Take it easy, alright?” Jonghyun bids them goodnight and Minho shuffles his seat a little closer. He rests his hand on Taemin’s forearm, and Taemin just now takes notice of how distressed he is. Even in the poor light Taemin can see how glossy his eyes are, how the overwhelming worry has already taken its toll on his features.

“I don’t know if I should be angry or thankful you ran in there.”

Taemin attempts the most apologetic look he can muster. A small, sad smile makes its way across Minho’s lips and Taemin reaches to close his hand over the top of Minho’s.

“Kibum is still in surgery. That chuck of wood in his leg ripped him up pretty bad and all this time they have been working on getting the splinters out of him. There’s a high risk of infection or some kind of poisoning. The nurse I talked to said they were optimistic, but…”

In all the years he’s known Minho he’s never heard his voice crack. Taemin can safely say it hurts more than the life being choked out of him by smoke and flames, and he would gladly brave a burning building again in exchange for never hearing it again. Taemin squeezes his hand and Minho pulls himself together before it goes any farther.

Less than an hour later, Kibum comes out of a successful surgery and Minho reluctantly leaves Taemin to go to his side. They tried to get Taemin and Kibum in the same room but Taemin wasn’t going to be stuck in the hospital nearly as long. Minho knew Kibum would throw a fit if he had to share a room with a stranger after Taemin was discharged.

Lucky is right, as Taemin finds out when his doctor pays him a visit. From what they were able to discern, Taemin collapsed on a bed of rubble and broken glass but managed to avoid any serious damage. The essential tendons of his hands were spared when he broke his own fall. None of the lacerations on his body are more than a centimeter deep, though a few of the lengthier wounds needed a few stitches. One likely to scar on his shoulder, a few on the side of his thigh and hip, and even less on his flank.

Almost all point in the same direction, indicating they primarily occurred not on his fall, but when he was moved.

He gets rid of his oxygen supplement the next morning. Talking is a bit of a struggle, but it doesn’t hurt after a day of almost exclusively eating ice cream. They tell Taemin his risk of further complications is low and let him go after just under two days. He’s out within ten minutes of hearing the news. Minho urges him to go home and get some sleep in his own bed and Taemin doesn’t argue. Hospitals are unsettling places and he didn’t get much sleep during the stay.

He almost wants to stop by Jongin’s place on his way, but it’s a little late and he’s either asleep or at work. Taemin forgot to get the number for that track phone and there’s no way Jongin had his memorized. He promises himself to visit during the day.

-

Taemin’s eyes flutter open but are shut tight when all he’s met with is brightness. He drags a hand up to block out the moonlight sneaking its way past the blinds and… there’s a soft knocking coming from behind him accompanied by the creak of his bedroom door. Taemin sluggishly rolls on to his back to investigate and there is Jongin, bashfully peeking in from the dark of the hall and offering Taemin a meek wave.

Taemin props himself up on his elbows. “Jongin… what…” He slurs, and amidst his efforts to adjust to the dark the blurry red digits on his clock catch his attention. 2:44. “..what are you doing here?”

Jongin slips past the door and delicately closes it behind him. He steps lightly with his shoulders drawn up, peeking back over his shoulder as if someone will burst through the door at any moment. Taemin shifts on to his side to face Jongin when the latter crouches down and sits back on his heels at the side of Taemin’s bed.

“I’m so sorry, I didn’t want to wake you but I thought I should knock because it would be super creepy if you woke up and I was here?? I uh… I was passing by and I joined the crowd when that building was on fire, and I saw you go away in an ambulance. I had to get to work so I couldn’t try and get a hold of the hospital until yesterday but the lady that answered the phone wouldn’t tell me anything.” Taemin was barely catching what he was saying as he was so frantically explaining himself. “I tried again and got someone different, so I lied and said I was your brother and she said you weren’t taking calls but your friend was and that friend turned out to be Minho, and he said I just missed you but he would text you I was coming over. I didn’t really think it through. I was literally on my way to work when I called and I couldn’t skip out on my shift, but I managed to get out a couple hours early, um… Fuck I’m sorry, I didn’t see what time it was before I got here…”

The overwhelming speed of the story leaves Taemin at a loss. It’s a lot to ask of someone to understand at this hour, but he does hear something about a text. Taemin mumbles to wait a moment while he locates his phone. After being blinded by the screen, sure enough, there’s a message from Minho letting him know Jongin is worried and Minho is going to notify their doorman he’s allowed up.

It takes him another moment for the rest of Jongin’s story to sink in and Taemin suddenly feels a little guilty.

Jongin’s eyes wandered the folds of the bed spread, only meeting Taemin’s gaze after a pause. “This might be a stupid question since you’re home, but are you okay?” Jongin looks at him in the same sorrowful way you’d look at a kicked puppy and Taemin’s chest knots up. They were out of contact for two days; he should have called the club. He should have tried harder.

“Yeah,” Taemin nods unrhythmically, his voice a little haggard. “I just… I was inside too long and passed out from all the smoke. I have to see a doctor tomorrow and I don’t know if work will let me out in the field right away, but I’m alright.” Jongin looks a little relieved but overall remains unconvinced.

“Why were you in there?”

He doesn’t like lying, but even if he could tell Jongin the truth he wouldn’t want to and Taemin can’t maintain eye contact. “I can’t say. Police business, blah, blah…” He answers quietly after a moment. Jongin looks hopeful but when Taemin doesn’t offer anything else, he nods.

“…Did the doorman let you in?”

“I uh, no, you didn’t answer the door so I kind of let myself in.” Jongin sinks lower and his hands come up to grip the edge of the bed.

“Kind of? You broke in?”

“Just a little.”

“ 'Just a little',” Taemin echos with a weak chuckle. He stays on his side and his head falls back on his pillow, and the heels of his hands press against his eyes. It was important enough to verify Taemin’s condition Jongin forcibly entered a high end, high security apartment. His judgement may be hazy because he just woke up, but that’s kind of adorable. Or Jongin hiding behind the edge of his bed is adorable. There’s something wrong here Taemin opts to ignore because yeah, Jongin is pretty fucking adorable.

“You didn’t break anything, did you?”

Jongin rests his chin on the bed with a smile and Taemin melts a little. “Nah. I’m really good.”

He actually admitted to being adept at picking locks to an individual he believes is a cop. Taemin buries his amusement in his pillow. The warm smile fades and he turns just enough to peek at Jongin.

“Um, would you... do you want to stay?”

His judgment is definitely hazy. He can’t believe he actually said that out loud.

Jongin lifts his head, tossing a quick look over his shoulder. “Like, sleep here? With you?”

Taemin is beginning to wonder if he’s actually awake. Jongin didn’t shoot him down. This shouldn’t be crossing any lines, Taemin thinks, but Jongin looks almost alarmed and is hesitant to take action. Taemin scoots backward, offering space for Jongin to slip in and show him he means it. Jongin bounces on his heels as he contemplates, nibbling his lip, a faint smile pulling at one side of his mouth. He stands up, but instead of pulling back the comforter he undoes his jeans.

“Can’t sleep in demin…” He mutters, nearly losing his balance when he tries to step out of them. Taemin just watches, shuffling lower on the bed so when Jongin carefully gets in—pausing after each motion like he was afraid of the bed complaining too loudly under his weight—his eyes are about level with Jongin’s lips. He feels a little daring.

Jongin settles in, one arm folding under the pillow and the other lifting out of the way when Taemin shifts closer. He falters, looking between the uncertainty all over Jongin’s face and the space he means to fit himself into. Taemin bites his lip and Jongin huffs a nervous chuckle that deflates the bit of tension that had built in those few seconds. They’ve had each other’s dicks down their throats. They should be able to handle cuddling.

Their legs bump and Jongin fumbles with how to place his arm. Taemin’s heart is beating a little faster and if the light weren’t so bad he’s sure he would see red dusting Jongin’s cheeks. It’s awkward. It’s really fucking awkward. But Jongin wants to make it work, too, and after a little more struggling and willpower they both find themselves getting comfortable.

It’s still and quiet for a moment. Taemin suddenly feels Jongin’s forehead high against his.

“You’re really okay?”

Taemin tugs the covers a little tighter around them. “Yeah.”

“Promise?”

Taemin hums in response, all he can manage with the flip his stomach just pulled. He wants to tilt his head back and pull Jongin down for a kiss but the way they are now—Taemin can’t bring himself to move. Jongin is warm, all soft and relaxed under his touch. Taemin’s hand rests on Jongin’s waist and ventures over the slight curve of his hip, stopping over a sliver of skin where his shirt ends and his presumably anime-themed boxers begin. Jongin’s hand is resting high on Taemin’s neck ever so lightly; his thumb on the soft spot just behind his ear, with his fingers brushing the short hair at the back of Taemin’s neck.

Jongin can’t seem to be still. Sometimes his fingers toy with a lock of Taemin’s hair, or his thumb massages where it sits, up and down, gently. It feels nice, whatever the reason. Taemin is back asleep in minutes, despite the excitement pooling inside him.

-

When Taemin opens his eyes, the room is still dark.

He feels like he’s being crushed.

At some point Taemin rolled to his other side and Jongin must have pulled Taemin to his chest. Jongin’s face is buried between the pillow and the back of Taemin’s neck and his hands are knotted at the front of Taemin’s shirt. He’s hugging Taemin far too tight, uncomfortable pressure against his stomach and ribs.

“Jongin…” Taemin tries in a harsh whisper. Jongin is strong, and he has to wrap his hands around Jongin’s wrists to pry them off just enough to partially twist around. No longer muffled, Jongin’s breath is quietly shallow and frantic as though he isn’t getting enough air.

Taemin manages to roll all the way around and Jongin’s hands grasp at whatever they can get a grip on. Taemin lets Jongin latch back on to him by his shirt and Taemin can only watch his eyes flick wildly beneath his lids and the briefest flashes of discomfort pull at his face. Supposedly, you shouldn’t interfere, but the consequences for waking someone during a nightmare can’t be worse than just lying there and letting it happen.

Brushing a few stray locks off Jongin’s forehead, Taemin stops himself. The proximity and the context make it so intimate, the most he thinks he’s felt with Jongin since their relationship started. Warmth rushes to his face and his heart flutters when the backs of his fingers lightly caress his cheek. He so unsure of the gesture, but after a little more contact there’s a small change in Jongin’s breathing. Taemin rests his hand there, cups Jongin’s face and delicately traces over his features with his thumb.

He begins muttering little assurances, completely unconfident in his own words, as his thumb glides down and over Jongin’s soft bottom lip. Reacting to the dream or the touch, Taemin feels the slight quiver. He watches those full lips seemingly try and fail to form words. Taemin wonders if he’s trying to warn someone, the way he looks more concerned than scared. His breathing grows more even and the movement of his eyes is less erratic, but he’s not out of whatever is going on in his head. Taemin shifts closer so their hips are pressed against each other and their legs tangle beneath the covers, hoping the comfort of someone nearer will help.

He guides Jongin’s arm to his waist, his grip looser now that he seems to be calming down. Heart nearly racing now, Taemin inches the rest of himself closer, practically chest to chest with Jongin with the only remaining distance of their bodies in the shrinking area between their lips. His body seems to be acting of its own will, that even while unconscious Jongin pulls him in and all Taemin wants to do is quell those panicked breaths until they go away.

He doesn’t get the chance. Jongin’s eyes open and time seems to stop. Taemin’s breath catches in his throat from the sec a tear trickles over the bridge of Jongin’s nose and doesn’t start again until Jongin rubs it away with this hand. There is no frantic intake of his surroundings, no look of surprise or horror at the scare shattering. Jongin looks aware.

His hand stays pressed over his eyes, even as he sits up. Taemin follows shortly after. He wants to embrace Jongin, pull him in again and tell him it’s okay before the inevitable stream of apologies even begins. But Taemin reluctantly lets him be for a moment. Jongin is hunched over and his hands are balled into fists resting atop the comforter. His head hangs low and inclined away from Taemin, as if he’s too ashamed to be seen. Taemin silently watches Jongin’s back as he breaths deep and slow. It’s quiet, but Taemin can hear the lingering fear and see the faintest shudder of his shoulders. Jongin makes another quick swipe at his eyes and Taemin doesn’t want to keep his hands to himself any longer. It starts with caution, the way Taemin smooths his hand up Jongin’s back and slowly rubs in large circles. He’s never been the best at comfort and he’s painfully aware this skill hasn’t magically improved.

Jongin doesn’t speak, but he does lean closer. Taemin is close enough he could rest his chin on Jongin’s shoulder and is dangerously close to doing so, and Jongin finally begins to look his way after another moment. He doesn’t get eye contact, but he can see Jongin’s face well enough to know Jongin can see him, too.

“I uh, haven’t slept beside someone new in a really long time. I wasn’t thinking…” He’s still trembling and pauses to pick at the comforter draped over his lap. “Did I hurt you?”

“No, no. Not at all. I’m okay. Everything is okay.” He reassures, hopefully convincingly. “Are you?”

Jongin doesn’t reply. Instead, his eyes trail over Taemin’s lap and up to Taemin’s face so close to his. Taemin doesn’t know what to make of the way Jongin’s gaze falls to his lips, then farther to his neck and back up again. It may just be the lack of light, or that they both just woke up, but Jongin’s eyes are dark and something about them teeters between grim and lustful. The latter seems to be the better guess.

He half turns and catches Taemin’s lips. Had he been any more alert Taemin would have been startled, but the hell if he isn’t instantly reminded he wants this all day every day. His eyes slide closed and he allows himself to fall under the spell, a little surreal as things tend to be at this hour. Taemin feels that familiar hand on his back, his neck. Jongin tastes a little different, less like artificial sugar and more like how something Taemin once smoked in tenth grade made him feel.

He doesn’t know how it happened but they’re chest to chest again and leaning back and Jongin is being so, so careful, as if Taemin would break under his full weight. At some point Jongin swung a leg over Taemin’s lap and he stays propped on an elbow and his knees, never letting their mouths disconnect as they settle back on the bed. Taemin finds his waist, urging Jongin down because on the contrary, Taemin does want his larger frame bearing down on him.

It’s longing, the way they suck on each other’s lips and tongues without truly meaning to escalate, though Taemin can feel the warmth coiling inside himself all the same. He groans against Jongin’s mouth and Jongin parts their lips with a quiet gasp.

“I uh, just… making sure I’m awake…” he says, their lips brushing as he speaks. Taemin’s blush deepens. It sounds as if Jongin somehow knew what Taemin was doing as he slept.

Taemin pulls him in for deep, drawn out kiss, softer than the last and almost as a conclusion. “You are. We’re both awake. At least I think so. It’s been a weird day... night… week. Whatever.”

Jongin gives him a weak, sleepy-eyed smile. Taemin would love this picture—Jongin with his hair all mussed, barely awake and staring down at him fondly—if it weren’t for the lingering redness in his eyes. Taemin’s face falls, and Jongin suddenly looks a little regretful. He starts to move off Taemin, planting his hands on either side of Taemin’s shoulders and pushing himself up, still so conscious of making too much noise.

“I should probably—“

“Wait,” Taemin leans up and wraps his arms around Jongin’s neck to pull him back down. Either he didn’t bother to fight (Taemin doubts Jongin would struggle lifting him) or his limbs just aren’t awake yet but Jongin ungracefully collapses, half on the bed half on Taemin. Half of Jongin still covers a lot of Taemin and Taemin’s arms loosen as he stares dumbly at Jongin.

“Just… You didn’t do anything wrong. You don’t have to go.” Taemin fumbles and he can feel heat rising in his cheeks. He pulled Jongin back in without a thought, and if Jongin really wants to leave he’s not confident he can think of something else to get him to stay. He doesn’t want Jongin to think he’s bothersome, or that Taemin thinks less of him now.

Jongin studies his face for a moment and his body deflates with an exhale. He shifts so they’re side by side and snug against each other, Taemin on his back and Jongin flat on his stomach with an arm laying across Taemin’s chest. Jongin’s head rests right beside Taemin’s, partially buried in the pillow.

“Okay.” Jongin mumbles with a slow blink. That’s good, since Taemin can feel his eyes complaining and it’d be hard to argue in the process of falling asleep. Taemin feels a little victorious. He gets to wake up with Jongin in his bed.

His eyes close, his mouth pulls into a smile, and he chuckles deep in his chest.

“I can’t believe you broke in.”

Chapter Text

{chapter warnings: horrible cheesey lines, implied mental illness, graphic sex} + this one's about 10k oops. So sorry if you haven't seen Pacific Rim.

- - - -

 

It’s a little disorienting waking up with a head of dark brown hair directly in front of his face when he’s so used to waking up alone. His arm is hooked around Jongin’s torso and Taemin buries his face in Jongin’s neck and hair, his lips against the other’s nape. Jongin doesn’t stir. His breathing is quiet and slow, and Taemin shifts a bit closer just to feel Jongin’s back move against him with each soft inhale and exhale. On the verge of drifting back asleep, Taemin groans lowly against Jongin’s skin when he hears his phone vibrating against the wood of the bedside table. He chooses to ignore it and hugs Jongin a little more snugly, and Jongin wins again and again when it keeps growling for attention.

Taemin doesn’t have much of a sense of time with his brain still cloudy with sleep, but maybe it’s important, whatever it is. He reluctantly rolls onto his back and away from Jongin’s warmth, and struggles to reach his phone. Aggravated and cursing his short arms, he shifts on to his side and takes hold of the device after two failed attempts to navigate his hand to it. He holds it over his face and squints at the caller ID before answering with a groggy hum.

“Taemin? How did your appointment go?”

It takes him a few seconds to recognize Jonghyun’s voice, even though he just read his name. “Appointment…” Taemin repeats, voice strained. His throat and tongue feel thick and dry.

“…You didn’t go.” Jonghyun sighs. Taemin’s eyes screw shut in thought, and relax when realization washes over him like molasses.

“Oh, god, right. Ah…” He brings his phone before him again to check the time. “I’m only… two hours late…” It still hurts to swallow, as he finds out, regretting the reflex deeply while his face twists in discomfort.

“Well, get in to see someone when you can. It’s still a mess here, so you may as well stay home today and rest a bit more. We’ll keep you in the loop.”

Taemin places his phone back on the table and tucks himself snugly against Jongin. His arm returns to wrap around Jongin’s chest, and he feels a hand gently smooth up his forearm.

“Playing hooky?” Jongin mumbles.

“They’ll understand. If they need a better reason I’ll say I was the victim of a home invasion and I’m shaken.”

Jongin looks over his shoulder. The entire bed moves as he rolls around to lay face-to-face with Taemin. Jongin’s eyes are just barely open, slightly puffy and staring at Taemin in that adoring way that gets Taemin’s pulse going faster. His shirt allows a generous amount of neck and clavicle on display, and his bedhead is in full swing with his fringe obscuring his forehead and one of his eyes. Yeah, Taemin could get used to waking up to this.

“You let the burglar sleep in your bed. What does that say?”

“The burglar’s got game and I’m a terrible cop.”

There’s that confident, crooked smirk making an appearance. “So arrest me.” He says gruffly. Now Taemin is definitely awake.

He studies Jongin with parted lips. Taemin blames his lower tone on his burned throat. “Are you asking me to handcuff you.”

Hands find Taemin’s hips beneath the covers and Jongin gently urges him closer. Taemin looks down between their bodies, his lips quirking a little as he muses. His eyes slowly crawl up Jongin’s clothed torso. The shirt he has on now is baggy, but what Taemin first saw him in sure wasn’t. It might just be his imagination twisting the heated memory, but Taemin is pretty certain he felt soft dips and hard muscle back on Minho’s couch. Jongin let him take the lead; encouraged it, really. Taemin would just have to say the word and Jongin probably would let him handcuff him to a headboard. Taemin could suck bruises over his collar bones and down his chest and between his thighs and all Jongin could do is writhe and whine and god Taemin can feel his dick start to ache.

“…Tempting, but I think I’d rather have your hands free—“ Taemin feels a tickle and then a tug in his throat and he sputters a cough into the crook of his elbow. He muffles the rest of the fit there, each spasm growing more painful. The coughing fades and he blinks back the water in his eyes. Jongin retracts his hands and watches Taemin pitifully.

“You okay?” Jongin asks. Taemin nods with a small frown, having successfully killed the mood. He shoves his face in his pillow and his chest deflates heavily. It was probably for the best. Taemin figures he probably still smells like an ashtray and tastes like rancid morning breath, and he just realized he hasn’t showered since the other night. Gross. And, not that it’s obvious, Jongin came right from that nasty club.

…Still, ‘dirty sex with Jongin’ doesn’t sound bad to Taemin no matter how he tries to put it.

Jongin softly touches the side of Taemin’s neck and when Taemin shows his face again Jongin moves to brush the blond locks out of his eyes, only to have most fall back. “You should probably get to that doctor.”

“Yeah…” Taemin exhales. “And you should probably get home before your roommate has a heart attack.”

“Oh! That reminds me. My friends I told you about, the ones that were fighting? They made up.” Jongin smiles, his eyes turning into happy crescents like it’s the best news he’s ever delivered. “That night you drove me home I found them passed out on the couch. They went home together yesterday.”

So now Jongin is living alone. Taemin smiles back at him. “Glad to hear it. Where is home?”

Jongin’s lazy gaze shifts to the sheets between them. “Pretty far away… Well, it’s not just their home. We have this one place that we all kind of call home. We go there when we’re between cities or jobs or whatever. Ah,” He perks up, suddenly reminded. “I’m glad I could finally talk to you because I’m uh, gonna be gone for a few days...” He says timidly, voice getting smaller before trailing off completely.

“Is that bad? Did something happen?”

Jongin’s eyes go wide and he shakes his head. “No, no! We do this every year. It’s just, like… my new phone is gonna be waiting for me, so we’ll be able to text, hopefully. It’s way out in the mountains, sometimes service is shitty. And… Just… I dunno. My roommate can’t keep his mouth shut and he’s gonna tell everyone I’m seeing someone. N-Not that I’m trying to hide you. It’s just… he’s gonna make it weird.” He chuckles nervously. “I’ve never been with someone they don’t know. They’re gonna give me so much shit.”

“Aw. True friends.” Taemin jests and Jongin almost rolls his eyes. “When do you leave?”

“Tomorrow morning.”

They’re silent for a few beats and Taemin nibbles on his bottom lip as he muses. “And it’s just you at your apartment now?”

Jongin seems to be catching on, the knowing way he watches Taemin’s lips. “Yeah.”

“So then… Howabout I come over later and say goodbye?”

 

It’s almost noon by the time they drag themselves out of bed and Jongin can’t linger because he’s got some errands to run, seeing as he suddenly has plans for the night. Taemin isn’t sure how long he’ll be with the doctor, but he doesn’t rush the shower and hopes he’ll have time for a decent visit at the hospital. Minho never came home, and Taemin as yet to hear from him. He was probably up all night at Kibum’s side.

The wait for the appointment was longer than the appointment itself, and so far things are looking good. The minor lacerations are healing well and Taemin gets a simple over the counter remedy for his throat. They have him schedule a follow-up to this follow-up and send him on his way. Before heading to Kibum’s room he makes a very out of the way detour.

Kibum seems like a low fat soy vanilla latte hold the whip kinda guy, or so Taemin hopes. He gets Minho his usual and both coffees have cooled just below tongue-blistering by the time Taemin peeks in Kibum’s room. It’s dim, the blinds are drawn, and Kibum is lying in bed with his head titled away. It’s a fair guess he’s asleep. Minho is seated nearby between the bed and far wall, sunk low in the armchair with a laptop resting on his thighs. He’s laying back with his head on the backrest and Taemin can’t tell if he’s conscious.

“Knock, knock,” Taemin chimes, pushing the door open with his foot. Minho lifts his head and Taemin can instantly tell he hasn’t slept. Minho stares vacantly at the laptop screen for a moment before closing it and setting it off to the side.

“Hey,” Minho yawns, stretching his arms over his head. “How are you doing?”

“After spending like 13 hours in bed, great. You look horrible.” Taemin remarks on his way over, offering him the coffee. “You should ask for a day off.”

“Jonghyun already offered,” Minho says, pulling the cup close and blissfully taking in the smell before taking a sip. “I was just sitting here and Kibum is gonna be out for a while, so I’m doing what I can. We’ve got damage control to do and a lot of it is over social media.” He takes a loud swig before continuing. “It got out that the cops were not the ones calling the shots, people had their phones out and got you and Kibum going away in an ambulance, people are wondering who you are, why the factory exploded,” Minho lists wearily. “And, oh man, Jupiter’s talking about a leak or some shit because it seemed like B-38 knew we’d be looking for him specifically, with that tech. They either have a man on the inside, or can get in themselves. I don’t know what this means for us, since you and me—and Amber’s back, so the three of us are the newest additions. I dunno, it’s just me, but if there’s a rat I think they’d be looking at one of us.”

“Well, it’s not you or me, so.”

“Yeah, but this is still a big deal. We could be under investigation or something…” Minho trails off, his eyes briefly shutting tight. Taemin stares at him hard and then pans over to Kibum, still sleeping soundly.

“How is he?”

Minho places his coffee on the wide windowsill and leans forward in his seat, his elbows on his knees and his hands meeting in the middle.

“Not much has changed. They told us he should be able to get around fine, but he’ll probably be stuck behind a desk from now on. Not that he knows that,” Minho drags his gaze to the bed and just watches Kibum for a moment, the exhaustion in his eyes worsening. “He’s been in and out, but they’ve got him on so much shit he’s just barely there when he’s awake. He still knows who I am, so that’s probably good. And, oh,” Minho grins and looks back to Taemin. He’s glad to see the smile, even if it is the cheeky, amused grin Minho does when he’s up to no good. “He asked about you. I told him you’re okay and they discharged you. Then he wanted me to get you back here so he can kick your ass.”

Taemin snorts. “I think I can take him.”

“I told him I’d help.”

“Wow. So your loyalty can be bought with a few good fucks, huh. I see how it is.”

“More than a few.” Minho’s grin goes crooked and he hoods his eyes, regarding Taemin smugly. Taemin rolls his eyes as he sets the coffee he brought for Kibum next to Minho’s.

“Well, I’m gonna go. I’ll see if I can stop by later. Try and get a nap in or something, yeah?” Taemin looks between Minho and Kibum. It’s strange seeing Kibum quiet and stationary.

“Hot date?”

Taemin hums. “Maybe. Also, I took Pacific Rim.”

“Make sure you use a condom. You picked that kid up in a filthy restroom.”

“Correction. Your copy of Pacific Rim mysteriously vanished, never to be seen again.”

-

When Jongin doesn’t immediately answer, Taemin gives the door a once over. It’s probably not locked. He could just let himself in, like Jongin had.

It was a little over a twenty-minute ride from the hospital and Taemin let his thoughts wander a bit. It’s a little strange how someone as harmless as Jongin could have some kind of criminal past, but that’s all Taemin can reason out. Why else would he have been able to get in to the apartment so easily, and been so nonchalant about it? He’s never seemed nervous about Taemin’s profession, but to just outright admit it? Either Taemin’s been blind and Jongin is actually an idiot, or he’s really trusting of Taemin.

And then there’s the night terror. It was implied it was something that happened often and it wasn’t until later that Jongin’s words really hit him. Nothing about Jongin’s usual smiley, innocent front even hints at such torment. Whatever his history, all Taemin can think about is how unfair it is someone like Jongin ever feels that way. It makes him want to pry until he finds out the cause, and just how bad it is.

The door opens. Jongin flashes him a smile and mouths a hey while moving out of the way for Taemin to walk by. Jongin’s hair is a little mussed like it was towel dried and never brushed, and sure enough, Taemin gets a whiff of floral freshness as he passes. That track phone is at Jongin’s ear and it sounds like someone is rambling away on the other end.

Taemin is met with a poorly lit hall, illuminated only by the light from the bathroom at the far end. The entry to the living room and kitchen is directly at his left, and along the other side of the hall are two open doorways. The layout is really enclosing and cramp, and almost feels unwelcoming. It’s like Jongin just moved in to a meagerly furnished home and has yet to unpack. It has the basics, a few pieces of furniture and appliances here and there, but not a personal touch in site. There aren’t even pictures hanging on the walls or propped up in frames.

“Alright, I gotta go, I’ll see you tomorrow.” He hears Jongin utter behind him as he toes off his shoes.

“It looks like you’re moving out,” Taemin notes, leaning to look around the space.

“I don’t keep a lot of stuff. What I do have, I’m bringing with me.” Jongin shrugs, moving down the hall and pushing open the first door. There’s a very full, very worn hiking pack leaning against a neatly made bed, though the far wall is what catches Taemin’s eye. Jongin follows his gaze as he steps aside, leaving it open for Taemin to enter. “You can go look if you want, I have to clean something up in the bathroom so I’ll be a minute.”

Taemin nods and ventures into Jongin’s bedroom. His headboard is centered against the wall with one large window facing the street, the blinds casting ribbons of sunlight over much of the space. It’s basic like the rest of the apartment, aside from the hundreds of photos.

Almost all are landscapes; more wilderness than city with different plants and styles of architecture. There are a few obvious ones—the Sydney Opera House, the massive North American Redwoods, but Taemin can’t even manage a guess for most of the others. Polaroids are mixed in with glossy professionally made prints, some greyscale and some unimaginably vibrant. He’s no photography buff but judging by how pleasing they all are, Jongin sure is.

There’s a bare patch where some pictures have been taken down and set in a pile on the nightstand. The one on top is one of the few that has people in it; a dark silhouette of a cabin contrasting against a fantastic starry night sky. Someone is standing at the peak of the roof, hunched over and looking down the chimney. There’s another figure sitting cross-legged on the ground, looking up at the other.

“That’s where I’m going tomorrow,” Jongin walks in and lightly pushes the door behind him with his foot.

He pads next to Taemin and picks the picture up by the edge, holding it between them. “An owl got stuck in the chimney. That’s Minseok on the ground. He’s terrified of birds and wouldn’t go inside until it was gone, so Luhan came to his rescue.” He says, tapping on the one on the roof. “Minseok screamed really loud when the owl flew out and Luhan almost fell off the roof. It was so funny. This was three years ago, I think.” He reaches and picks up a few others off the pile and files them on top of the first. The one that ends up on top is another shot of the roof, only there’s six silhouettes instead of one. Two pairs are clinging to each other for dear life, one is sitting comfortably with his back to the camera, and the sixth is standing tall with his hands proudly on his hips.

“Yifan slipped and fell right after this picture was taken.” Jongin snickers, pointing at the only one standing up. He continues down the line, “That’s Minseok again holding on to Lu Han, Jongdae and Yixing, and Zitao judging everyone.” He shuffles the next to the top. The same sky framed by trees, like someone had laid on the ground and looked straight up. “Our photographer got bored of the nonsense on the roof.” Jongin sets them back in the pile and faces the wall. “I took some of these, but none of the really good ones…” He trails off, lowering himself to the bed and getting lost in the photos.

Jongin lights up when he talks about these friends of his. Admittedly, Taemin is a little jealous, but it’s really hard to feel even a little sour with the way Jongin looks now. Taemin tries not to stare at him as he seems to immerse himself in nostalgia so he turns back to the wall, admiring a few individual pieces until his eyes rest on the empty space.

“Why are you taking them down if you’re coming back?”

“Ah…” Jongin blinks a few times and starts slowly rubbing his forearm, mulling over his answer. “I’m not really a material person, but these stay with me. Always.” It’s nearly a whisper by the end. One would think he was speaking of a loved one with how much sincerity and adoration his voice conveyed, all for a bunch of pictures.

“So have you been to all these places?” Taemin asks, leaning in for a closer examination of what looks like the ruins of an old European castle.

“Yeah. I keep pictures so I make sure I remember.”

“I don’t know how you could forget some of these views, but I haven’t been a lot of cool places, so...”

“’Remember’ might be the wrong word…” Jongin says after a hum, but doesn’t elaborate. Taemin glances at him; Jongin is still and his gaze is distant. He suddenly looks at Taemin like he had forgotten where he was for a moment before his eyes down cast and wander the floor. Taemin turns and moves a little closer and it almost feels like Jongin is getting nervous in his attempt to get out the rest of what he started. He doesn’t want to push it, so Taemin carefully lowers himself down next to Jongin as he continues looking over the photos.

Jongin makes a small gesture with his hands like he’s urging himself forward. “So… Okay, uh, please don’t think I’m… crazy, or something,” he says with a half sigh while trying to look Taemin in the face but it ends up just a quick glimpse with his gaze resting on Taemin’s lap.

He gives Jongin a small nod even though the later may not see it. He still doesn’t continue right away and the air is getting a bit heavy. Taemin isn’t sure how he can assure Jongin aside from outright saying it and ends up staying silent under the fear of saying something wrong. They’re both getting uneasy. Taemin slowly half turns so he’s facing Jongin instead of just sitting side by side, folding a leg up on the bed and resting a hand on his calf.

Jongin still won’t look. “My dreams are really, really vivid. They feel like real life. And they aren’t weird like most people’s dreams are. I have regular conversations and do regular things with people I know. A lot of times I don’t remember falling asleep or getting up so I just… act normal if I can, just in case. There are times when I’m sure something actually happened, but sometimes I can’t remember what happened for real and what was just a dream. So having solid proof,” He stops and scans the wall, “that the memories I have actually happened just. Makes me feel better.”

He’s never heard of this. Taemin slowly nods. “Is it… the same if the dreams are good or bad? You can’t tell?”

Jongin goes tense. “Last night…” Jongin’s gaze is still so far away and he struggles with how to proceed. Taemin already regrets bringing it up, but if Jongin wants to talk, he wants to listen. “My nightmares are ridiculous, like dreams are supposed to be. But I’m so used to just going with it, that I still think it’s happening. So uh, yeah, sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat or crying because I just watched the world end and for a little while I think everyone is dead, except me. Or like last night,” Jongin won’t look at him and Taemin can’t believe what he’s hearing, that this is just something terrible that happens to him and he just deals with it. “everything was on fire.”

That hurt. That hurt a lot. He doesn’t know how it works but Jongin falling asleep with his face in Taemin’s smoke stained scent seems like a reasonable catalyst and Taemin suddenly feels horrible. He doesn’t know what to do, what to say to something Jongin clearly didn’t want him to know about.

“I didn’t even think about the possibility of it happening last night—“

“—It’s okay, I mean, it would have come up eventually, wouldn’t it?” Taemin stumbles with Jongin staring at him unreadably. He’s not sure what sort of reaction Jongin was anticipating or what would be considered the right reaction, only that he doesn’t want to hear anything akin to an apology. “Last night didn’t seem… it didn’t bother me, I guess? This isn’t a deal breaker or anything, I-I don’t feel any differently about you…?” He pauses, getting flustered. “Is there anything I can do?”

“Chill, maybe?”

As if it were all an act, Jongin chuckles at how frantic he was getting. Utterly baffled at Jongin’s reply, Taemin’s shoulders slump. A faint smile stays with Jongin in the moment of silence as his eyes wander between them.

“I appreciate you saying all that, really.” He lights up again when Taemin’s nervous blush deepens. He didn’t say anything wrong, so that’s good. Even better, Jongin is smiling directly at him and even after all this time it still gets Taemin’s heart racing.

“…It’s not like I’m going it alone.” Jongin adds, his eyes flicking to a few choice pictures on the wall. “We all have the same problem.” Taemin tries to follow his sight, failing to see what he sees beyond the stills. He gets the gist; Jongin and his friends all have this miserable thing in common. It’s still pretty horrible, he thinks, but at least he’s got a support group.

It’s a little relieving, but Taemin doesn’t want to feel helpless, especially since it seems Jongin is living alone now. “O-okay, but seriously, is there some way I can help?”

“Waking up to your face was pretty nice.” The tension thoroughly deflated, Taemin almost rolls his eyes. He has to applaud Jongin for being able to flirt in this situation… in which Taemin is starting to believe he’s the only one that thinks this isn’t something to joke about.

“…I might call at weird times. Just to…” Jongin quirks his lips a bit, searching for the right phrasing, “hear your voice. Hear you’re okay. That sort of thing… i-if that’s alright.”

“Of course,” Taemin says quickly. “Any time.”
Jongin smiles brightly and turns away almost shyly. “…Just like that, huh.”

“Just like what?”

“You just. You find out there’s something wrong with me and you’re just like… okay. Sure. Call me at midnight.”

Taemin huffs a quick laugh. “You had me worried when you said not to think you’re crazy. I don’t think that at all. You shouldn’t either.” He inclines his head. “Do you think you’re crazy?”

Jongin gazes upwards. “Hmmmonly sometimes.”

He’s not serious. Taemin can see that. He smiles wryly. “Well I’m glad that’s been established.”

Taemin shifts so he’s sitting with both legs hanging over the bed and shimmies close so he and Jongin are hip to hip, shoulder to shoulder. Jongin looks his way, the bitter turn this visit took now taking a hard left in the direction it was meant to as Jongin remembers why Taemin is in his bedroom in the first place. That was one hell of a detour, but Taemin is sort of glad it happened. He’s not glad to find out Jongin has such a problem, but he’s happy Jongin could confide with him.

Jongin may be less so, but he’s not letting it kill the mood. He’s go that look in his eye; the last time Taemin was on the receiving end of it he was getting mixed signals, but right now he’s confident he knows what Jongin is thinking.

That is until Jongin falters and shifts in nervous anticipation. Taemin thinks it’s cute until he remembers he’s pretty fucking nervous, too. More excited than nervous, he tells himself. He’s only had two or three dreams about this. Seven max.

Taemin faces the wall of photos again, innocently admiring them and in the corner of his eye he sees Jongin do the same. His hands are in his lap, thumbs twiddling and fingers loosely threaded.

A quiet moment passes before Jongin quietly clears his throat. “Have work tomorrow?”

“Not that I know of.”

“So we have the rest of the day, plus tonight to do whatever?”

Taemin nods after making a show of looking like he had to think about it. “Mmmm yep. I’m all yours.” He says, keeping his eyes on the wall. Jongin makes a small noise of acknowledgement and Taemin feels Jongin’s hand on him. He slowly rubs the top of Taemin’s lean thigh a few times before gripping it, and Taemin sneaks a peek down without moving his head. It’s old news that Jongin has nice hands (not that Taemin stares at them, no not ever) but he’s noticing now how much nicer they look when they’re on him. As if on cue his fingers press Taemin’s inner thigh with a soft squeeze, at which point he does slightly tilt his head to look.

Taemin turns his head and Jongin is already leaning in.

“I brought Pacific Rim,” Taemin announces when they’re just a breath away. Jongin stops and blinks.

“Oh. Uh, okay, we can…” Jongin narrows his eyes, a crooked grin spreading over his face identical to the more amused one Taemin wore. “…We can watch that later, there’s something else I’ve been dying to see for a while, if you don’t mind.”

“What?”

Jongin pulls away and pats the center of his bed. Taemin draws both legs up and scoots over as directed while Jongin stands up and takes hold of the drawstring for the blinds, snapping them shut with an easy tug. The room is dyed dark orange, if only for an hour more until the sun sets completely. Taemin sits back on his hands with his legs extended, waiting.

The bed dips under Jongin’s weight and Taemin pulls his legs halfway to his chest. Jongin settles in front of him, inclining his head thoughtfully.

“What?” Taemin repeats with a small laugh. Jongin shakes his head and parts Taemin’s knees with both hands, leaning forward between them. Their mouths mold together, soft and slow, and Jongin’s hands go to Taemin’s hips. They rest there briefly, then slide up the tops of his thighs. He gently pushes down until Taemin’s legs are almost fully extended, enough that he can get his own legs over. One at a time, as he follows Taemin’s lips when Taemin leans back. His hand glides up Jongin’s torso to his neck, cupping the back of it while the other grips a fist full of Jongin’s shirt. Without resistance Taemin pulls him down and Jongin settles over him as he had much earlier that morning; careful not to bare down with all his weight but just enough Taemin can feel Jongin all over.

Jongin gets a little more forceful, his tongue dragging against the roof of Taemin’s mouth when Jongin pulls back enough to speak. Taemin catches Jongin’s upper lip between his teeth before he can get away and a small, airy whine is cut short by a hitch in Jongin’s breath. Taemin lets go and Jongin is immediately back in, their tongues rolling unharmoniously.

“Let’s lose the shirt,” Jongin mumbles against Taemin’s lips, already gripping the hem. Taemin tries to turn to meet the kiss Jongin presses to the corner of his mouth, but Jongin sits back on Taemin’s thighs and his own heels so he can rid himself of his shirt without trouble. Taemin arches his back when Jongin starts pushing his shirt up and when they can’t get it farther Taemin curls up, quickly reaching back and over his head to pull it off the rest of the way. He gets his head and arms through and falls back flat on the bed, flinging his shirt out of the way.

Mid gesture, Taemin stills. Jongin is staring down at him deeply intrigued.

“Wow. I didn’t think there would be anything under there.”

Taemin glimpses down at himself and looks up at Jongin with a brow cocked. “…Have you ever seen a scrawny cop?”

He will admit he’s still pretty frail looking, but he knows he’s not weak. Taemin is all soft edges and light definition, but the definition is there, he supposes. He was fairly satisfied with his body but never thought it would be worth the dreamy, hungry look Jongin was giving him. Yet here they are; Jongin just licked his fucking lips and Taemin can feel himself going red.

“You’re just. Pretty from head to toe, huh.”

Now his cheeks are burning and Taemin is suddenly extremely self-conscious. His arms reflexively fold to his chest and his hair flops over his eyes when he turns his head away. “Shut up—“ Jongin moves a step forward on his knees and looms over Taemin, gently pulling his arms out of the way and pinning him to the bed by his wrists. Taemin can’t believe the way Jongin is staring down at him; he can feel Jongin’s eyes wander down his body, heavy with loving want and Taemin almost shudders with anticipation. Jongin isn’t keeping him there, Taemin could move his arms if he wanted to. He kind of likes it, and his hands ball into loose fists.

They have hours to waste, but Taemin wants something now. Jongin inched up far enough his ass is resting on Taemin’s pelvis and Taemin grinds up, just once.

Jongin responds with a downward roll of his hips, the movement so fluid and deliberate Taemin is reminded Jongin is a dancer. Taemin mouths a small gasp and Jongin smirks proudly on his way down.

“No, really,” Jongin breathes between kisses, “you’re beautiful.”

He swallows Taemin’s drawn out whine of protest as it fades to a low moan.

The last kiss is deep and slow and it leaves Taemin wanting more when Jongin’s hot mouth moves to his neck. Taemin’s arms stay where they are when Jongin lets him go, one hand going to Taemin’s bare waist, the other cupping his neck with the pad of his thumb over his pulse while Jongin sucks him tender on the other side. Taemin chuckles weakly. That hickey is going to be huge.

His hand drifts to knot in Jongin’s hair as Jongin trails down to his clavicle. “How’bout you, huh?” Taemin’s breath comes out a hiss, feeling teeth digging in. Jongin hums for clarification and Taemin tugs on the collar of his shirt. Jongin’s wet mouth expertly marking him up feels fucking amazing, but Taemin wants to feel more of that golden skin against him. And, god, he just wants to see.

Jongin obliges, his warmth leaving Taemin when he sits back and pulls his shirt over his head. He was quick about it, but he took his time balling it up and tossing it off the side of the bed.

Jongin is lean, not as lean as Taemin but lean in that special way so many slender dancers are; all soft skin pulled over tight muscle Taemin can see with every little move. Everything on him is shaped so perfectly, from the hollow between his collar bones and pecs down each dip and hill on his ribs and belly. His pants and the band of his underwear are riding low enough Taemin can see the clean v-lines under his hip bones leading down. As if sitting there on display with his ass against Taemin’s dick wasn’t enough, Jongin is bathed in the warm glow emanating from behind the blinds and this is just unbelievably unfair.

Taemin is staring. He knows he’s staring. Jongin knows a new level of arousal just hit Taemin, either by the way Taemin is staring or he somehow felt something between their two layers of denim.

“You’re making me blush.”

Taemin hears the cocky smile before he sees it. Jongin doesn’t need Taemin to tell him he’s hot as fuck, which is good because Taemin can’t think of something witty. He can’t think of anything, really. His head is a blurry, increasingly horny mess and his dick is starting to hurt against his zipper. This isn’t good. They’re still in the middle of foreplay.

Jongin is in no rush. He lowers himself back down, his lips and hot breath ghosting over Taemin’s chest on a clear route to a nipple. Taemin knows what’s coming and he braces himself, his teeth digging into his bottom lip. Goosebumps spread all over the instant Jongin’s tongue rolls against the bud and Taemin grabs fistfuls of the comforter. His whole body tenses when Jongin bites gently and holds. Taemin can’t stop his back arching but he chokes back the moan and his mouth is left hanging open soundlessly. Soundless, that is, until Jongin glances up at Taemin through his lashes and pulls.

The whine is high pitched and trapped in his throat by Taemin’s hand pressed hard over his mouth. Jongin lets go almost immediately, swirling his tongue around it in a completely remorseless apology. Taemin can feel him smiling against his skin on his way farther down.

He stops suddenly, his mouth coming off Taemin and his hand flinching away from where it was on Taemin’s side. Jongin felt one of the bandages and cautiously leans to examine it.

“It’s okay,” Taemin says quietly, smoothing over it to ensure it’s still firmly in place. It seems Jongin was so enthralled with a half-naked Taemin laying on display he had overlooked the small semi healed cuts and the patch work. “They don’t hurt or anyth—oh my god do not—“

Jongin presses his lips right next to the bandage he touched, smiling proudly when he sees Taemin’s face buried in his hands.

“You’re so embarrassing.”

He plants a quick peck in a different spot before hovering back over Taemin’s chest. “Shh. Kisses make everything better.”

How is Jongin even real. Taemin reaches for him, touching the side of his face and carding his fingers through Jongin’s hair when he leans down to continue leaving his own marks down Taemin’s torso. “My statement stands.” Taemin’s eyes slide closed for a few seconds. Jongin is right. Taemin doesn’t know why he complained. Jongin can put his mouth anywhere he wants.

Jongin starts crawling backwards slowly, his back bowed and his head down, and Taemin catches sight of something he never would have suspected.

“This is cool. What is it…?” He traces over the dark outline of a tilted triangle the size of his palm behind Jongin’s shoulder. It encloses the edges of a circle with more lines flowing to the center and another, hollow circle containing a dot the thickness of the lines. It almost looks like a stylized iris, but not quite. Jongin’s tongue dips into Taemin’s belly button and he shivers, retracting his hand.

Jongin lifts his head and inches himself back until he’s comfortably down on the bed between Taemin’s legs, his elbows on either side of Taemin’s hips. “It means I’m in absolute control of own being. That’s the non-biblical…” Jongin’s hand snakes over Taemin’s crotch and palms him hard and Taemin is so very, very aware of the size of his arousal verses the available space in his pants, “less known…” Jongin palms him again, “short version…” and again. Taemin writhes with his face in the crook of his elbow, his hips lifting as much as he could manage with Jongin holding him down.

“Absolute control, huh,” Taemin gasps quietly, his arm moving over his eyes. “didn’t seem that way when I had you squirming with just my tongue on your dick.”

“You mean like how you are now? With your pants still on and everything?” Jongin’s fingers hook under the hem of Taemin’s pants and he pulls for emphasis before moving to undo them. Taemin watches him feverishly though half lidded eyes, the arm thrown over his face now folded behind his head. The feeling shifts with Jongin suddenly pushing himself upright and Taemin slides down with the rough yank to get his pants out of the way. Taemin sits up and starts pushing them off; it’ll be faster if he does it himself. Jongin takes the opportunity to rid himself of the rest of his clothes, too. Taemin kicks his pants and underwear off quickly and while Jongin is still struggling he nods sharply at his bedside table.

Taemin gets the message, twisting to pull open the drawer. He digs for a moment, pushing aside more pictures and a few disposable cameras before finding what they need shoved all the way in back.

“Orange flavor, huh?” Taemin reads over the small tube before handing it off to Jongin along with a condom.

“Yeah, because who doesn’t want their cock or asshole smelling like citrus. Or there’s a cherry one in there. I didn’t know what you’d like—“ Taemin’s tongue fills his mouth and he claws into Jongin low on his hips, holding until they break the kiss. Taemin lets his mouth hang open and they stay connected by a thin string of spit, eyeing each other darkly until Taemin falls back hard with a bounce. Both arms land risen like when Jongin had him pinned.

“Maybe next time I’ll remember handcuffs.” He muses with a half-smile, for no other reason than to push Jongin further. Jongin cups his hand behind one of Taemin’s knees and lifts his leg over his shoulder, pulling him farther down on the bed. His ass is hanging just over Jongin’s lap, his other leg at Jongin’s opposite side. “..I’ve never done it this way before.”

“Well you kinda almost died in a fire a few days ago, I’m not gonna make you hold your own legs.” He rubs Taemin’s thigh resting against him. “Plus I kinda wanna watch. Everything.”

He’s not sure how his cheeks can get any hotter but Jongin seems to have that effect on him. His arms flop over his face again and he snickers. “Okay.“

Taemin grasps for something to ground him as he watches Jongin generously lube a few fingers. After he discards the bottle his free hand grips Taemin’s knee on his shoulder and he turns his head, pressing his cheek and lips to it with his eyes fixed on where his other hand is going. Taemin is so hard it’s almost starting to hurt and for a split second all he wants is Jongin’s slick hand to pump him raw. He forgets the thought completely when he feels the pad of Jongin’s finger graze over his entrance.

“I’ve thought about how you sounded when I was sucking you off,” Jongin says suddenly, almost a growl as he teases Taemin’s asshole, slow and deliberate. “you were so fucking hot.” He presses in, digit by digit until it was all the way in. It’s not too harsh an intrusion and Taemin only tenses a little. His eyes flutter closed and he mouths wordlessly when Jongin starts moving inside him curiously, feeling his inner walls and pulling out half way before pushing back in.

Taemin feels the tip of a second finger working its way in next to the first. He hasn’t been stretched in a while and it’s a tight fit, tight enough his breath catches and his eyes screw shut. Jongin twists and hooks and works him loose, all the while with his hot breath against Taemin’s inner thigh. It’s driving him crazy, causing little shocks that just seem to go straight to his dick. He struggles to arch off the bed when Jongin comes so close, so close to brushing that sweet spot. Jongin does it again, just barely hitting it this time and Taemin’s head falls back with a shallow moan. Jongin holds Taemin fast, his nails digging in but the slight pain isn’t anywhere near enough to distract him.

With the addition of a third finger comes much more discomfort. Taemin groans and his brows knit together. He squeezes around Jongin’s fingers and Jongin waits for him to relax some before carefully moving. He kisses just above Taemin’s knee, keeping his lips there while he watches his fingers disappear and reappear.

Taemin gives him a short whine when his fingers leave completely. He wasn’t used to it and it was still a little uncomfortable, but not having anything there at all was so much worse. Taemin realizes how hard he’s breathing when he looks down his body at Jongin shifting position. Taemin’s leg stays up over his shoulder as Jongin lowers himself almost flat on his stomach with the top of his hand against the bed as it slides back under Taemin’s ass. Taemin trembles with each finger, one, two, three, all back in and Jongin immediately starts thrusting them in and out, slow and firm, just to draw out harsh, breathy moans from Taemin that Taemin now sees is what he’s after.

Taemin has always been self-conscious because he’s well aware the sounds he makes are so filthy and needy, and they just get worse the longer it goes. He’s vocal, not especially loud, but it seems like that is all Jongin needs. With each constricted groan and whimper the look in Jongin’s eye just gets hazier, darker. He looks blissful, like he could cum just at the sound.

The wet heat of Jongin’s mouth surrounds Taemin’s dick in time with a hard push into his ass and Taemin all but cries out. It was all so fast, too fast, and too much, but so good. It’s purposely sloppy, the way Jongin bobs his head in time with his fingers. He goes off beat to really deep throat him and Taemin tangles both hands in Jongin’s hair, mouthing little prayers of Jongin’s name. Jongin lets go too soon and his hand stops knuckle deep.

His voice is low and guttural, “How do you want this,” Jongin presses his mouth to Taemin’s shaft, his breath and his lips move heavily against it when he speaks. “you want me to fuck you on your back like this, or something else?”

Taemin almost tells him to just keep talking like that. It could do it for him. Taemin gets one broken syllable out when Jongin curls his fingers inside him and the rest of the sentence comes apart in a loud gasp. Taemin can’t see Jongin’s mouth but he knows the fucking smirk is there. He did that on purpose.

“How about you get on your back and let me ride you—“ Taemin half growls, half breathes, cut short by another ragged gasp when Jongin drags his tongue up Taemin’s length. Jongin takes him in again with his lips tight around Taemin’s dick as he sucks him down a few times, letting go with a wet pop.

Jongin thrusts his fingers in one more time before pulling out and he quickly locates the condom and lube. Taemin’s legs fall wide open on the bed while Jongin crawls up his body and eagerly claims his lips, practically his entire mouth. Taemin wraps his arms around Jongin’s neck, holding tight when Jongin starts to move and they both roll him on to his back. Their chests are slick with sweat as they breathe loud and heavy against each other, their kisses all tongue and teeth and lips and Taemin is pretty sure he tastes blood and he’s not sure who or where it’s coming from.

He pushes himself up, straddling Jongin with his ass against Jongin’s thick erection and oh, what a sight. Jongin is panting hard, his plush, swollen lips parted and his tongue darts out to lick up the red coating his bottom lip. There’s something agonizingly beautiful about his abused mouth and his fluttering eyes with his hair an absolute mess against the pillow and Taemin just doesn’t have the mind to take this in as he’d like because Jongin rips open the foil around the condom with his teeth and hands it off to him.

Taemin’s hands are shaking, he notices, as he reaches around and grabs hold of Jongin’s dick. It doesn’t hinder Taemin from rolling it on in one try and he stands on his knees, allowing Jongin to reach between Taemin’s legs and slick it up himself. Jongin’s hands find Taemin’s hips and Taemin positions Jongin’s dick at his entrance. Part of him wants a bit of revenge, to tease Jongin so badly but the other part wants Taemin to fuck himself on Jongin’s dick until he can’t walk immediately.

Taemin sinks down slowly and he quickly realizes he could have done with more preparation. It hurts, it hurts a lot, but he doesn’t want to stop. He holds his breath and closes his eyes and he feels tears pricking at their edges, but Jongin’s hands are there on him and Taemin holds them as they rub comfortingly up and down his hips. He only exhales when he’s fully seated and for a moment they just sit there motionless. Taemin pries his eyes open—they’re wet and blurry and he looks down at Jongin, all slack jawed with his eyes glazed over, head tipped back in the pillow.

“Oh my god, Taemin—“

Taemin starts to move. He slides himself up as slowly as he had first taken Jongin in and there’s a strange feeling of relief as he’s emptied and the immediate desire for Jongin to ram back up into him. He goes down again and it’s easier, feels better, especially alongside Jongin’s dirty moan.

He gradually picks up speed, hunching over and planting his hands on the bed. Jongin starts bucking his hips in time with Taemin coming down and Jongin fills him up so well the angle is perfect nearly every other time. The bed creaks loudly and Taemin can hear the headboard knocking against the wood border of the window and the blinds caught in between, all amongst skin hitting skin, raspy gasps and moans, and the obscenely slick sound of Taemin getting drilled.

Because fuck just getting out of the hospital, he’s wanted this long enough and he’s going to enjoy every vicious thrust of it.

Taemin’s head hangs low enough his fringe grazes Jongin’s chest. His legs and arms start to burn after what he deems much too soon and he gives up any lead he had to Jongin just to make this last a little longer. Jongin switches gears and it feels like it gets so much rougher; his grip on Taemin’s hips get tighter and Jongin is fucking up into him so much more controlled and forceful now that they aren’t fumbling with trying to meet each other.

His thoughts are an incoherent mess and everything feels so tight and wet and amazing. Taemin can hear and feel himself getting painfully hoarse and Jongin has reduced his voice to loud gasps and low grunts with each buck of his hips. His pace waivers and Taemin starts pulling his weight again; he’s got almost nothing left in him but he’s so close, and Jongin can’t be far behind. Taemin feels one of Jongin’s hands touch his face, his thumb swiping high on his cheek. The water in his eyes spilled over or maybe just sweat, Taemin isn’t certain.

Taemin doubles over with his forehead resting against Jongin’s chest after a particularly deep, effective thrust that he feels all the way to his fingertips. The hand at Taemin’s cheek falls to his chest and slides down and down to wrap around his dick. It’s still slick with lube and Jongin starts pumping in time with Taemin bouncing in his lap and soon Taemin’s mind fizzles out with a shudder.

Taemin goes tense and his cum paints Jongin’s hand and stomach. He rides out his orgasm on Jongin’s dick and he feels Jongin fall into step right behind him. Jongin snaps up one more time and both hands grope at Taemin’s hips and thighs. The bed stops creaking and knocking around. There’s nothing but strangled, shallow breathing now.

They stay like that for a moment—Taemin no longer supporting any of his own weight, slumped over with Jongin’s dick still stuffed up into him, and Jongin just as limp beneath him. It’s only when Jongin weakly rubs his hands up and down Taemin’s thighs that he lifts himself off Jongin. Taemin lets himself fall flush against Jongin’s side with their legs tangling together, his arm tossed over Jongin’s chest. Jongin’s head lolls to face him, and he drags the rest of himself to lay on his side, his hand immediately finding Taemin’s hip.

Alright, so adorable sleepy-eyed bedhead Jongin is pretty great, but sweaty panting post-sex Jongin might be Taemin’s new favorite thing.

Taemin lightly touches Jongin’s bottom lip. “Did I bite you?”

“I think our teeth pinched me when we rolled over.” His hand slides up Taemin’s waist before going back to his hip and his thumbs rub soothing circles over where he likely left some developing bruises. “…Did it hurt a lot? Did we rush it?”

“It wasn’t that,” Taemin says quickly, “you’re really good. You know how it is, it always hurts a little at first.”

Jongin hums, looking dubious. Taemin’s lips go into a tight, thin line and he turns his head, mumbling into the pillow. “…I haven’t had sex in over a year.”

“What?” Jongin sputters and looks borderline alarmed. “How?”

“What do you mean how?”

“I thought that’s all college kids did! And, just,” Jongin gestures up and down Taemin’s body. “how?”

Taemin flushes. “I was kind of a shut-in. I went to a few parties my first year, but I wasn’t really feeling it. I told you before I’m a little boring.” He laughs nervously. They’re lying on top of all the covers and it’s getting a little chilly. Taemin pulls himself closer.

“A shut-in.” Jongin repeats in disbelief. “I guess that explains it. You would have to not look at anyone or talk to anyone ever to have no one fall for you.”

“You’re so…!” Taemin buries his entire face in the pillow. Jongin chuckles softly, running his hand over Taemin’s waist to his shoulder, stopping to cup his neck. Compliments are difficult for Taemin to handle. Compliments (even these embarrassing, gushy little comments) from Jongin are way, way too much, and he knows.

Now thoroughly flustered, Taemin peeks at Jongin. “And what about you, huh? When I saw you dancing you were basically sex on legs, and then we talked and you’re like… too precious and good to be anywhere near that club. I couldn’t believe you were the same person. You’re pretty much a living fantasy—“ Jongin bursts out in a short fit of laughter, “—and… I can’t believe anyone would ever let you go.”

The laugh fades to a light smile that almost disappears completely. “Well, technically, I never have been… let go, I guess? This—us—is exclusive, I promise,” He stumbles a bit. “You know how my friends and I are. We’ve had each other for a really long time. I’ve never been alone, but at the same time... I’ve tried before, a real relationship with one of them, but we didn’t want to ruin what we had by trying to force it…” Jongin shakes his head slightly.

“…Don’t take this the wrong way, but what’s your guys’ deal? You don’t fuck outside your little circle?”

“We’re married. All of us. Heh, no,” He shakes his head again, looking down at Taemin’s lips unfocused. “We just… we fuck around, yeah, but we’re family. Illegitimate brothers. Most of the time it feels really good, having people I love and trust with my life, and them trusting and loving me. But sometimes I wish we weren’t so …close. We sharing everything, keep nothing to ourselves, and… that’s kind of where there are problems.” His hand on Taemin’s neck inches up and feather light the pad of his thumb grazes his lips. “It’s been a while since I’ve had something all to myself. I didn’t know how bad I wanted… this, until I met you and we talked, and I haven’t liked someone like this in so long, and I…”

Now Jongin is the one getting flustered. Taemin reaches and grabs Jongin’s hand on his face, turning his head and bringing Jongin’s palm to his lips. “I’ll be yours if you’ll be mine.”

“I don’t know what chick flick you stole that from but aww.” Jongin pulls them together, his mouth even hotter compared to the slight chill creeping over them.

 

In no time at all Taemin is on his back with his legs crossed at the ankle around Jongin’s waist. Jongin rocks into him with his face buried in the curve of Taemin’s neck, sucking and nipping and panting. Taemin keeps him there by a fistful of his hair, his cheek at Jongin’s temple while he gasps and groans in his ear. Faster, slower, harder—yeah, like that, right there.

-

After a shower that did not need to take nearly an hour they made it to Jongin’s living room couch, finally watching Pacific Rim with the remnants of some takeout scattered over his coffee table. Taemin is slumped low in his seat, one arm thrown over the armrest. The prehistoric piece of furniture came with the apartment and offers about as much support as a bean bag chair. Not that it bothers Jongin, who is comfortably sprawled over the rest of the couch with his head on Taemin’s thigh.

The amazing CGI and lame dialogue had Taemin’s attention up until the peek into Mako’s past. A little girl crying for help in a ruined city and not a living thing in sight, save for the massive creature at fault. A thought skims Taemin’s mind: are Jongin’s dreams this vivid? Is he pulled in like she was and made to feel like it’s real? How often does it happen?

Taemin wants to ask, but he doesn’t. Jongin would tell him, he’s sure. The guy’s an open book; has been, at least. To say Jongin has a few demons is putting it mildly and there is probably a story there, buried in a deep dark place. To be trusted enough Jongin would let him in on things only he and his closest friends share is too good a feeling to sour with prying too far, too fast. What happened earlier was enough. But, still. He can’t ignore it now that it’s out there.

“…Stop that.”

Taemin blinks. He looks down to see Jongin staring up at him. “Stop what?”

“I’ve spent most of my life with people that try and hold bad things in. I know what it looks like.”

Taemin’s lips part and they stare at each other with a kaiju bellowing in the background. Is it possible to be that perceptive?

Jongin looks away. “Don’t… don’t worry about me, okay?”

“Holy shit. Was it that obvious?” He’s gorgeous and can read minds. Unbelievable.

“I… may have been watching for it.” Jongin struggles upright and pauses the movie, and Taemin adjusts himself to Jongin’s level. “I didn’t want you to know. I was going to keep it from you for as long as I could, but last night it didn’t even cross my mind. I’ve never even thought about how I would explain it… Well, I guess I’m glad it’s out of the way? I don’t want this to take up any more time tonight, so let me just say: medication and therapy did not work so I’m not doing either anymore, and my life doesn’t revolve around it. It happens and I get over it when I see nothing is wrong. It was a horrible coincidence it happened last night. Sometimes I go months without an episode. So, please don’t think about it a lot? I don’t.”

He sounds resolved. Taemin believes him. There’s no way he could be so Jongin if this affected him as much as Taemin worried it might. Taemin nods, and Jongin reaches for the remote, thinking it’s safe to resume the monster fight.

But Taemin crawls over him, almost moves like he’s going to settle in Jongin’s lap but instead he pushes with all his weight and they both topple over. Taemin lays ragdoll over him and Jongin struggles with how to place himself. He shimmies flat on his back and Taemin nuzzles into his chest.

“My ass really aches.”

Jongin’s chest moves with his low snicker and he loosely drapes his arms over Taemin.

“Aw, sorry. No chasing bad guys for you.” Jongin coos, rubbing his hands all over Taemin’s back. “At least you have your crippled roomie to keep you company while I’m gone.”

“Speaking of…” Taemin turns his head and rests his cheek on Jongin’s chest while he digs for his phone. He hasn’t checked for updates from Jonghyun or Minho since leaving the hospital. Jongin seems content carding his fingers through Taemin’s hair and tracing lines on his neck while he waits.

Nothing from Minho. Hopefully the crash after the coffee was enough to knock him out for a while. Jupiter is still working on tying up loose ends with the public but the situation seems to be contained. No new information about B-38 or the others; Taemin assumes no progress. He skims over the latest message, knits his brows together and whines.

“What?”

Taemin practically tosses his phone on the coffee table. “They want me to go in tomorrow.”

“Tell them your ass can’t take the drive.” Jongin sounds proud. Taemin strains his neck to look. Even at this angle with Jongin facing the ceiling, Taemin can see the side of Jongin’s mouth pulled into that cocky smirk he wears so well. Taemin pushes himself up so he’s leering down at Jongin.

“You want me to make the sore on your lip big enough it’s the first thing your buddies see?”

“Not much of a threat but sure, fuck me up.”

Chapter Text

{chapter warnings: masturbation, sex, rimming, slight bdsm, guns, mention of mental illness} This is another long one at 12k and no lie, there are parts of this fic I wrote when I was drunk. Enjoy.

- - - -

 

Going two consecutive rounds was a horrible idea. The ride home was uncomfortable, but just rolling out of bed the next morning wasn’t even comparable. Taemin checks his messages while stiffly pacing between the kitchen and living room to try and get at least a little used to it. Minho texted him to bring him some fresh clothes and warned him to leave soon because they have to stop at Kibum’s place on their way to what is now labeled an urgent meeting.

Taemin examines himself once more before heading out, hooking a finger and tugging along the high collar concealing most of his thoroughly bruised neck. It’s a lightweight, comfortable fit, but he already knows he’ll be picking at it all day to ensure it stays in place. And Minho once told him the amount of turtlenecks in his wardrobe was ridiculous.

 

He still finds it ridiculous by the way he rolls his eyes as soon as Taemin enters the room. Minho narrowly escapes his bag of clothes hitting him in the face—he’s surprisingly alert for someone who is running on about negative five hours of sleep over the last three days. Taemin stays at the foot of Kibum’s bed just in case he was serious about beating the shit out of him and might dare a swing at him. Kibum is looking a little pale and pitiful and there’s a dull, lifelessness to his eyes, but he’s awake and seemingly in his right mind. Thanks to the hydraulic hospital bed he’s sitting up, arms folded over his chest with his head inclined. Minho gets to work changing, and Kibum stares at Taemin with a smirk.

“I can see a hickey.”

Taemin grabs the collar of his sweater with both hands and nearly stretches it up and over his mouth. “No you fucking can’t.” He shoots Minho an accusatory glare. “Do you tell him everything?”

Minho shrugs innocently. “He asked how you were doing.”

“In which ‘how’ and ‘what’ mean the same thing. Don’t worry, I’m sure everyone will be mature about it.” Kibum jeers. Taemin glances away, flustered.

“Now, now, children—“ Minho grunts, nearly losing balance as he jams a leg into his pants. “It’s fine, he’s just giving you a hard time. And I dunno how much of a joking mood everyone will be in.”

Taemin readjusts his collar so it covers all the right places. “Why? What’s this meeting about?”

Kibum’s interest gradually decreases as he explains. “They want our personal phones and stuff, so it’s a security check. They can track where you’ve been, will look into who you’ve been with, what you ate for lunch three weeks ago… a severe invasion of privacy you can’t object to because it’s in your contract.”

-

No one mentioned being stuck in the building while they took copies of every hard drive and memory card. Everyone is allowed to leave after the initial once over, they were assured this is just for compliance purposes and it was clear no one was expecting to actually find anything.

“It’s more likely they’re in our system over someone inside leaking information,” Minho explains, face down on his folded arms. They’ve taken up residence at some vacant desks near the conference room where Taemin received his first taste of the situation. There were few others in the area; until the analysts are cleared Jupiter is at a bit of a standstill and people are essentially just loitering.

Taemin hums, amusing himself in the office chair significantly spinier than any other spiny chair he’s ever experienced. A pair of firm hands on the backrest jerks him to a halt mid rotation and Taemin starts like he’s been caught breaking the law.

“Hey noob. Or, well, noobs.”

He twists around, eyes trailing up a long torso to a smile aimed down at him.

“I’ve been here two years,” Minho mumbles. He doesn’t lift his head to look who it is. The man glances away in thought.

“Has it been two years? Jesus. Time flies when you’re dealing with normal, human criminals.” He’s still got his hands on the back of Taemin’s chair when he looks back down. “So you’re Taemin? I’m Changmin. I heard you two almost got M-61.”

Taemin blinks, vainly looking to Minho for some sort guidance. Changmin is one of the originals, but it doesn’t seem like there’s any special respect due or demanded. Taemin fumbles and just goes with it. “Uh, yeah, almost.”

“Your arch nemesis got in the way.” Minho yawns as he sits back.

Changmin snorts. “Hm, yeah, he does that. They should tell you going into this job to be prepared for a lot of failure. Anyway,” Taemin’s chair is released as Changmin takes a few steps back, arms open as if to welcome an embrace. “I’m gonna go have some fun on level three, care to join me?”

Minho is quick to shake his head with his eyes narrowing and brows furrowing in discomfort. “Any other time I would, but I don’t think I can tolerate the noise right now.”

Changmin looks dejected for a split second before focusing on Taemin, bright and eager for a response. Taemin is hesitant to decline. They just met, but Changmin and Minho seem a little alike in that they’re hard to say no to.

“What’s level three?”

 

Taemin shouldn’t be surprised by anything anymore, least of all by an activity that is normal for this line of work. Having an entire shooting range three stories underground, however, seems a bit much.

“Even for the suits it’s an effective way to relieve stress,” Changmin asserts as he takes aim. “or have fun—“ Three medium caliber rounds blow through three of the miss matched glass bottles he lined up on a narrow ledge at the very end of the room. It was rapid and precise, like he didn’t even have to think. Changmin takes a few steps back, examining the gun with something akin to dissatisfaction. “No one ever brought you down here?”

Taemin shakes his head, leaving the safety of the back wall to meet him. “Everything started happening the day they made me official, so I guess this didn’t seem important.” Changmin flips the gun backwards, offering Taemin the grip. He carefully accepts and Changmin nods for him to step up to the plate. He was never shy in front of instructors or classmates and there isn’t anything at stake, but under the scrutiny of a reputable senior agent he definitely feels the pressure. Changmin stands by, hands clasped behind his back.

He aims as he usually would and feels the recoil with the pull of the trigger. His stance waivers when he sees he narrowly misses his target. He tries again, this time succeeding in blowing the clear bottle apart.

“Not bad,” Changmin says before Taemin can line up for another go. “you seem stiff.”

He nervously tugs at his collar. “I uh… yeah.” Taemin says meekly. Whatever he woke up with feels amplified under the scrutiny of his senior.

If Changmin was judging him he wasn’t letting it show. “Ever play with anything bigger?”

“An M16, a few times.” Taemin hands the gun back and Changmin motions for him to follow. There’s a small armory in a back room, and Changmin quickly scans the inventory.

“—Ah. Here, let me introduce you to one of my favorites.” Off a rack he pulls a long rifle Taemin is unfamiliar with, but the scope makes its purpose clear. “Lightweight titanium frame, long-range accuracy, regular ammunition or incendiary,” He lists off adoringly.

Taemin is growing a little weary of his enthusiasm. “So you… like guns.”

“I come from a military family.” He locates and inserts a new magazine. “Grew up around guns, had a lot of connections, was scouted by Jupiter when it was formed and officially joined a few years later when I came of age.” Changmin says, though all his interest is with the rifle in his hands. They set up on the range itself, beyond the stations and safety barriers. Changmin insists Taemin fires first, seeing as he’s never done so with this category of rifle. The barrel is propped up on its bipod and Taemin is flat on his stomach, looking through the scope at beer bottle.

Changmin instructs him at his side, crouched down and keeping his voice low. Taemin briefly wonders if they’re allowed to be doing this. “Aim for the very top, where the cap would be. It shouldn’t be hard since you don’t have to deal with wind or it moving.”

Taemin is astonished at how easy of a shot it is. The small space isn’t nearly adequate to really test out the rifle’s range.

“Unfortunately, our boys are usually too careful for a sniper to be effective. Such a shame.” Changmin sighs dramatically.

“I take it this is where your skills lie.”

“I don’t mean to brag, but… Yes I do. I’m one of the highest ranked marksmen currently active. It’s why Yunho and I were called to Japan when things went stale here.”

Taemin pushes himself upright, the mention of Yunho jogging his memory. “Oh, uh, can I ask you something? About Yunho and J-27?”

Changmin hums knowingly. “Why he seems to hate him so much?” Taemin nods and follows Changmin when he stands. “I’m Yunho’s third partner. J-27 got the other two killed. One of them was Yunho’s brother.”

Taemin is taken back by the bluntness. “But it… doesn’t say anywhere on J-27’s file he has any kills?”

“Indirect. J-27’s power isn’t offensive, not like R-50 and B-38. Yunho’s brother, Yoonchun, made the mistake of grabbing him just as he disappeared. We had no idea what would happen in such a case, and neither did J-27, if his reaction was genuine.” Changmin pauses, face and tone grave. “He… J-27 took Yoonchun with him, but they didn’t go far. Jaejoong, another agent who was with them at the time, witnessed them appearing. Where they turned up, Yoonchun… was unlucky. Back half on one side of a wall, top on the other. Jaejoong said J-27 was more horrified than he was and he fled the scene as fast as he appeared.”

“Jesus. What happened to his second partner?”

“That would be the same Jaejoong who saw what happened to Yoonchun. He and Yunho were tailing whom they confirmed to be C-48, when J-27 intervened. To be honest, we don’t know what happened. Jaejoong fell 8 stories off a hotel balcony, but J-27 was confirmed at the scene and Yunho drew his own conclusions.”

Taemin feels a chill. He’s had two encounters so far. Kibum nearly died, and that was just his first time getting so close to one of them. Taemin wonders when his luck will run out.

“But third time’s the charm, right?” Changmin forces a chuckle and bends down to gather the rifle. All the warmth and color drains from Taemin’s face before he even touches it. “We’ve been partners for five years and I’m still alive.”

Taemin smiles nervously, offering Changmin a shaky “I hope it stays that way.”

He gives Taemin a thankful nod. “You don’t need me to tell you this, but seriously. Be careful out there.”

Third time’s the charm.

-

Taemin knows he lets the little things bother him. Little, illegitimate things he knows most people don’t worry about. They fester inside, getting blown out of proportion by his imagination. A buzz usually helps, but the alcohol is all the way in the kitchen and Taemin is curled up on his bed, trying to catch up on One Piece on his phone because, alas, the TV is also so far away.

Minho is always there for him, as he reminds Taemin on a weekly basis, but Minho is one of the most secure individuals Taemin as ever met. Taemin reasons he wouldn’t be able to help past offering reassurance (sometimes the cure, but not always) or he would make a big deal out of a small problem, leading Taemin to believe it is in fact a real concern. Jongin feels fear; real fear. Jongin would be helpful when Taemin feels like this. He’s shared so much of himself, felt so safe doing so with Taemin, and Taemin has thought about things he’d be comfortable telling Jongin. But this isn’t something Taemin would want to do over the phone; he’s not that desperate. He’ll manage as he always does.

It’s only been three days and Taemin misses Jongin pressed against him, hands cupping his neck or waist. They’ve texted here and there. Jongin seems busy with his friends and Taemin doesn’t want to intrude. No one has ever blown up his phone like Jongin and the silence feels a little strange.

Watching something lying down is always a bad idea. It’s barely nine, the episode just ended, and Taemin could easily close his eyes for the night. Minho is back at the hospital and it’s likely he’ll stay the night again, so Taemin is alone and there’s nothing but the lull of air in the vents filling his ears.

His phone, discarded on his pillow, lights up the room.

hey
feeling frisky?~

Taemin reads it several more times before replying, just to be sure he isn’t hallucinating. He’s not sure what he loves more; Jongin the human puppy, or Jongin, actual living breathing personified sex drive. Taemin doesn’t have it down to a science yet, and the shift is quick as a flash, but he thinks he’s starting to notice the little signals. Not that it does him any good with Jongin hundreds of miles away.

i wasn’t
but go on

Taemin hasn’t done a lot of phone sex or sexting, but he’s curious to see where Jongin is headed.

you show me somethin and i’ll show you somethin

Something tells Taemin Jongin is ready to go. Taemin is drowsy, but whatever Jongin might be doing is enough to urge him on and he’s suddenly inspired. Instead of a single photo he decides on a series, see what that gets him in return. He lies flat with his head tilted back and raises his phone above him, angled so only the bottom half of his face makes it in the frame. He opens his mouth and inserts his middle and ring finger, slicking them up. He snaps a picture of his mouth ajar, fingers mostly out and pressed against his tongue. He crops it down so it’s just his mouth, bare throat, and the loose collar of his shirt. The thin string of saliva connecting his fingers and the roof of his mouth is a bonus.

Satisfied, he moves on to the next. He hikes up his shirt and tugs down his boxes a little, and snaps a picture of his hand disappearing under his waistband. He’s not hard at all, but the dim light and dark fabric hide it well. Taemin examines his work and figures it’s enough for now. He sends the first, waits a few seconds, and sends the second.

your move

He drops his phone screen up on his chest and he stares at the bare ceiling until it illuminates the room a moment later.

oh my
nice, but I need a little more

The reply is swift as if on reflex.

make me

Taemin smirks. Maybe he does remember a bit of this game; though that was in high school, and it was notes passed between desks to see who could give who a boner first.

sassy
i promise what i have is worth it

Taemin quirks his lips. He sits up, pulls his shirt off and falls back down. He turns his head, exposing his neck and the mess Jongin made of it. Days later and the bruises are in full blossom. Again only the bottom half of his face makes it in the frame, full lips parted with his free hand delicately tracing over a collar bone. He’s pretty impressed with the shot.

you owe me already

His phone doesn’t even dim before the reply comes in.

okay wow
maybe just keep sending stuff like this

not until you pay the toll

pls

Taemin stares irritably at his phone.

dude do you wanna do stuff or not

There’s a long enough pause in the conversation Taemin slips his shirt back on because he’s getting chilly.

we hijacked jongins phone dont be mad omg ;;;

what the fuck? who is this

Taemin starts when his phone rings. It’s Jongin, but apparently also not Jongin. He lets it ring a few times, eyeing the contact photo suspiciously, answering just before it goes to voicemail. “…Hello?”

“I didn’t think you’d actually do it!” An unfamiliar voice strains to keep his laughter quiet.

“I set the first pic as Jongin’s lock screen background,” A different, more collected male adds. “Good stuff.”

Taemin flushes and stumbles over the response. “Wh… uh, where’s Jongin?”

“Socializing.”The second voice says. “He wouldn’t tell us anything useful about you so here we are.”

“It’s important we know who our Jonginnie is associating with,” the first supplies with mock parental firmness.

“And you think the best way to get to know someone is through dirty texting.” Taemin says dryly. Both chirp in agreement.

“It was all I could think of. We almost had to beat your name out of him and when he says it he fucking blushes. I’m disgusted. What have you done to him?”

That’s a good question. Jongin’s sleepy eye smile comes to mind from a few nights ago, when Taemin uttered the cheesiest thing he’s ever said with his lips against Jongin’s hand. It might be a little harsh to tell his friends he wants to see other people.

Taemin rolls to his side, curling up as he was before. “…So who are you two?”

“Jongdae,” yips the second voice.

“Baekhyun,” Taemin swears he hears Jongdae mumble a line from Team Rocket’s speech. “I already kind of knew about you but I wanted to let Jongin tell everyone.”

He thinks Jongdae came up somewhere before, but can’t quite place Baekhyun.

“I think Jongin mentioned you like to fuck on his bed.” Taemin recalls, picking something random from the long list of fun facts Jongin likes to drop in conversations. Jongdae snickers in the background.

“Hey now, that was only twice,” Baekhyun frets. “wait what else has Jongin told you?”

“Little things here and there. Was it one of you that totaled his motorcycle?”

“Haha, no, that was Ch—“ There’s an inhuman squeal, muffled arguing, and a bit of a struggle.

“—Hey! Just—god,” Jongin growls distantly. The phone hovers close but isn’t at his ear. “Taemin?”

“Hi.” Taemin chimes with a smile.

“What did they do.” Taemin imagines Jongin is glaring at Jongdae and Baekhyun as they speak. Baekhyun mumbles defensively nearby and Jongin sharply hushes him.

Taemin opts for mercy. “Nothing, we were just talking.”

“They were hiding in a closet.”

He tried, he really did. “…It started off as texts, go back and look.” Taemin says, a little slow and drawn out. He wasn’t aroused before but now Jongin is here, about to look at the pictures that were meant for him.

Jongin hesitates before ending the call. “Alright, hold on.”

Taemin immediately writes a text, holding off on sending it right away to allow Jongin to catch up. It’s been a full two minutes and there’s no word from Jongin, so Taemin sends the message.

im here if you wanna play

The anticipation of waiting is getting him along and he doesn’t even know if Jongin will be into it. Taemin’s isn’t sure why he’s into it, but with or without Jongin’s help he’s got a pretty good idea what he’ll be doing with the rest of his night.

fuc k
okay um
give me a minute

The shirt is about to come back off when Taemin remembers he doesn’t actually have a stash of lube or anything nearby. Minho isn’t home but Taemin creeps into his room like he is and finds what he needs in the obvious nightstand drawer. Taemin tells himself he’ll replace it later but chances are he’ll forget completely. He gets back to his room and sheds his clothes, and turns on a lamp for a little warm light. Taemin orients himself for another picture just as Jongin’s first comes in.

tbh ive never done it this way but lets give it a go

He’s sitting on the ground leaning against a bed, the shot angled from the side with the nearest leg bent at the knee. His head is titled back and resting on the top of the bed, bearing that magical jawline and giving his phone a sidelong stare. The waistband of Jongin’s underwear is in view with the hem of his jeans pulled low. His belt is undone and his zipper is down, freeing the clothed bulge he’s already got. Taemin bites his lip and uncaps the lube, and another picture comes in.

fyi im keeping that pic as my lock screen

Same position, only now he’s palming himself under the fabric, eyes blissfully closed and lips parted.

Taemin keeps the hand manning his phone far from the one now covered in lube. He rests it on the bed lengthwise, lining it up for the next shot. Taemin doesn’t watch himself pump his erection to life, but amongst the few unimpressed glimpses he decides he wants to be a little more creative. Continuing with the theme of overhead shots he raises his phone high enough to get his hips, torso, neck, stopping just short of the top half of his face. They aren’t as big and dark as the ones on his neck, but Jongin mapped out the route via little nips and bruises to his dick pretty well. No one has marked him up like this since high school and Taemin forgot how much he loved it.

Doing a thorough play by play is a bit of a drag. Each image should be standalone fuck worthy, in Taemin’s opinion, and hopefully Jongin agrees. In addition to his hand implicitly around his dick just out of frame, he parts his mouth with his tongue peeking out the corner for good measure.

show me something good

His head lolls to the side, feverishly watching his phone for the reply.

nICE

Taemin smirks proudly. In comes another text, and an image shortly thereafter.

i had an idea

The famous crooked grin is there, a little hidden by his teeth digging into his bottom lip. Jongin is on his knees and sitting back on his heels, his jeans and underwear halfway down his thighs. He set some sort of timer on his camera because both his hands are free. One hand grips the front of his pants over the zipper, pushing down and obscuring the view of his dick because he’s a fucking tease, the other is…

Jongin is in a tiled shower, hand on the water valve.

No one is home, but the noise Taemin is sure he just emitted out loud is embarrassing all the same.

HOW M I SUPPOS 2 TOP THIS

He manages it with one hand and quickly flips back to shower Jongin. So fucking shameless. There’s a ridiculous desire to have it printed and hanging over his bed until Taemin remembers the real thing is already his. Those gorgeous lips have been stretched around his dick and Taemin gives himself a tight, slow pull, reminiscing being down Jongin’s throat.

OHOHO
DUNNO BUT U BETTER FIGURE IT OUT
IM ALRDY WET :D

He’s got everything he needs already, but it wouldn’t be right to leave Jongin hanging. Unless the other day was a onetime thing (unlikely) Taemin knows Jongin likes to watch and listen to him squirm. He tries to get himself in the mindset and it’s really hard with his imagination only focusing on Jongin’s soaking wet bare torso, made even raunchier because Taemin’s brain brought their little handcuff discussion into play—

Hanging off his desk chair is his bag from work, and in the front pocket there are two brand new pairs. He knows he has a timer on his camera, and the pieces fall into place. He grabs a set and tosses them on the bed, and with unsteady hands he fumbles with getting his phone to stay up on some books on his bedside table, opposite to the source of light in the room. It takes him a minute, but he gets everything situated. He can easily slip his hands out of the cuffs, but it will look secure enough for the picture.

He lies down and raises his bound wrists over his head to the headboard. Taemin throws his head back and angles his face towards his phone, his hair in his eyes and his mouth hanging open. He arches his back and is immensely pleased with the light highlighting all the best lines of his body in the final shot.

It’s enough for Jongin, it seems, as he sends in a picture.

All clothing off and dripping wet with a hand wrapped around his dick, he’s still on his knees with his head cocked almost to his shoulder. That’s it. Jongin wins.

Brain thoroughly fired and out of ideas, Taemin calls Jongin and sets it to speaker. He drops his phone beside his head and makes no attempt to keep quiet as he shamelessly jerks off to that photo of Jongin tattooed in his memory.

When Jongin answers, his voice dry and breathy. “You drive me to do some dirty things, Lee Taemin.”

“I know how you like pictures.” Taemin’s breath hitches and he’s impressed with himself for thinking of that while coherent thoughts are in such short supply. Jongin’s rich chuckle stays in his throat and Taemin writhes at the sound; even over their panting he feels it clear as a bell.

They cum to with those images burned into their eyelids and each other’s harsh panting, nothing but their satisfied breathing filling the air afterwards, almost as if they were lying next to each other.

“So,” Taemin mumbles a few moments later, “your friends seem nice.”

-

The results are in, as Minho had put it, from the security check and as a formality they’re all to report for a follow up meeting. That’s what the email stated, so Taemin is a little alarmed when Jonghyun leads him to the conference room. Alone.

Changmin offers him an innocent smile from his seat at the head of the table. Victoria is adjacent, focused on the laptop before her. Jonghyun directs Taemin to the chair across from her and sits down next to him. The table is otherwise empty aside from an intercom telephone.

“When we looked at your activity, nothing was suspicious.” Victoria begins, cutting through the silence and calming Taemin’s nerves. She gives him quick glimpses as she reads off her screen. “When you’re working you’re exactly where you should be, doing what you should be doing. When you’re not working, you’re usually at home. Nothing out of the ordinary. This job is demanding and you’re new to the region so you don’t have many friends nearby,” She pauses, looking for agreement, and Taemin provides a small nod. “Your only deviations occur with a man by the name of Kim Jongin.”

Taemin looks between the three of them when no one speaks up. “Right… so…?”
+
“You met him the night of your first visit here, and you two are together now, correct?”

Taemin nods. This is a little more personal than he was expecting and he feels a bit uneasy, shifting in his seat.

“How did you meet?”

He hesitates. Kibum did mention they would look into associates. “Uh, well… Minho and I went to the club Jongin works at. While we were there, I… at some point I started dancing with this guy I didn’t know. There was some unwanted physical contact and I had to fight to get away from him. Jongin saw what happened and came to see if I was okay. We ended up talking for a while and I gave him my number.”

Victoria listened intently, expression unwavering. “What does Jongin do there?”

“He’s a bartender.”

“Are you certain?”

Taemin blinks, timidly looking between Jonghyun and Changmin. Neither had anything to offer beyond the same expectant stare Victoria is giving him. “Well, I saw him working behind the bar and he was wearing the uniform, so, yeah, I’m certain.” Taemin says with a defensive edge. “Why? What’s this about?”

Victoria lingers on him and then clicks around on the laptop for a few seconds. “We called the club and they have no record of a Kim Jongin working there, ever.” She spins her laptop to face Taemin before he can let those words sink in. On display is a map of the two cities with an erratic route mapped out. A point is highlighted; an address Taemin knows well. “We called the landlord of this complex, and he told us he has no tenant by that name.”

Lips part and brows furrow and he double, triple checks each address on the screen. “That’s…” Taemin shakes his head. “I’ve been in his apartment. He lives there. And at the club, I know I saw his coworkers talking to him! He’s not lying—“ Taemin feels Jonghyun rest his hand on his arm and Taemin goes silent, slumping back in his seat as he now realizes he was leaning forward.

“It’s more than that,” Jonghyun says carefully, his usual tone laced with grim. “we couldn’t find a record of him anywhere.”

Taemin struggles to keep calm and it comes out very small. “…What are you saying?”

“What we’re saying is it’s too much to call a coincidence.” Victoria turns her laptop back around and the levelness of her voice is somewhat infuriating. “There is a very small amount of people involved in this case. You’re the only new agent we’ve brought aboard recently, and the same day you are introduced, he approaches you. He’s got no paper trail at all, and you have to admit it is all very suspicious.” Taemin firmly clasps his hands together on his lap because he doesn’t trust himself not to act.

“He’s the right age,” Changmin adds, “Tell us, about how tall is he?”

Taemin doesn’t look at Changmin. He’s hyperaware of how hard his heart is beating, how wet his palms are. Taemin knows what they’re leading up to; there’s only one of the six Jupiter doesn’t have a solid description of. The lease on his apartment could have been in his roommate’s name, but that doesn’t account for everything else.

“This is more than a hunch, Taemin,” Jonghyun moves his hand up to Taemin’s shoulder and Taemin looks at him aversely. “If we’re right, they are in our system to some extent already. They pursued you because you’re the easiest target—“

“Jongin has never asked me about work except when he asks how my day was.” Taemin says sharply.

“Maybe not, but they could get what they want just by being invited into your home.”

“Just knowing where you live, really,” Changmin inserts, “J-27 can get in anywhere.”

He can’t speak, can’t form a concrete defense because what they’re saying—if it’s true—is rational, and he hates that it makes sense to him, too.

But Jongin wouldn’t do that. Jongin wouldn’t use someone.

But Jongin is the right height. And he has his close-knit group of friends that all travel a lot.

“The thing about J-27 is that he’s never in reach.” Changmin’s voice is really testing. It doesn’t have Jonghyun’s empathy or Victoria’s professionalism. It’s unconcerned and casual, but it’s how he looks so positive, like he’s having a great day, that is really pissing Taemin off. “If Jongin is J-27, the second he finds out we know, he’ll be gone. But we need to be absolutely sure before Jupiter takes action against him.”

“What… what kind of action?”

Changmin hums, thinking for a moment. “Well, we’ve got no way to contain him. So the order would be to kill him while he’s still oblivious. Probably with your help—“

“Nothing is certain, yet.” Victoria’s demeanor shakes for an instant, the firm statement an obvious shut the hell up, Changmin. Taemin’s heart skips a beat and a sharp pain stabs him in the chest. He’s not sure how much more of this he can take.

Changmin shrugs—he shrugs, and Taemin is more unnerved than anything by the small smile. “Right. Nothing is certain, yet.”

Victoria pulls her glare away from Changmin and it softens on Taemin. “So here’s what we’re going to do.” She pauses, waiting for Taemin to look at her and validate he’s actually paying attention. “We’re going to call him, and try and get him give us something that proves us wrong.” Her phrasing suggests she’s trying to comfort him, but her tone is robotic. He’s feeling a little numb at this point and she didn’t help much, but he nods. Taemin attempts to pull himself together with a few quiet deep breaths as she explains.

“We know you told him you’re police. It’s a cover we use often, so this will be easy. We have a few directions we can take, but it’s best if we keep it personal, like it’ll be just between you two so he doesn’t feel as though he’s being investigated. Is there anything he’s told you that we could try and find documentation of? Like if he is attending university, or if he’s ever been hospitalized. Nothing came up on our search, but if we have the name of an institution that we can look at, maybe something will turn up.”

There’s hope, and Taemin desperately latches on to it. He bites his lip, frantically running through the mental list of things he knows about Jongin. He’s not in school, Taemin isn’t sure where they could look for the license or the loan he probably needed for the motorcycle, he never mentioned an injury—

“Jongin used to be in therapy and he’s been on medication,” Taemin blurts out as soon as the thought crosses his mind. “that’s something, right?”

Victoria thoughtfully glances away and after a moment she nods. “If you can get a hospital or a doctor’s name out of him, we can work with that…” She starts typing rapidly and Taemin wills himself to calm down to a reasonable conversation level. Jonghyun pulls the phone in front of Taemin.

“It’ll be on speaker but you will be the only one talking. Try not to sound like this is serious,” Jonghyun coaches him and Taemin nods along. “I’m sure it’ll be okay.” He adds encouragingly while rubbing Taemin’s shoulder.

“…Okay. You went to school for this so I’m assuming you can make this convincing.” Victoria flips the laptop back around. There’s a few short statements written; a guide for the conversation. “Can you make it work?”

“Yes,” Taemin answers after only skimming, “Jongin knows I can’t tell him a lot about work. He won’t pry.” He says pointedly, a quick glance at Changmin.

“Better hope so. This is to save your boyfriend’s life. No pressure, though.” Changmin says. He seems almost entertained. The dark little smile stays with him even as Taemin clenches his jaw and hopes the look he’s giving Changmin isn’t as murderous as his current thoughts about his superior.

Pushing those thoughts aside, Taemin goes over his story once more before keying in Jongin’s number. Each ring sounds ridiculously loud in the room and Taemin has to remind himself to breathe regularly.

The line connects. There’s muffled chatter that soon grows faint. Jongin answers sounding like he just got over a fit of laughter. “Hello?”

Taemin is so relieved to hear his voice. “Hey, Jongin. It’s Taemin.”

“Oh! Hey. You showed up as an unknown number.”

“Uh, yeah. I’m calling from work. Listen, I had to report I’m seeing someone who’s had prior mental health care, because I let you come to my place, where Minho and I have our guns. I told them you’re fine, but my superiors asked me to get the name of the hospital you received care through and the name of a doctor, if you had one. They need verification you aren’t a risk. I’m really sorry,” he adds. It was a little shaky throughout and every second the line is silent thereafter Taemin’s heart beats harder against his chest.

“Ah… it’s okay, I understand. My therapist’s name was Nadia Joaquin. Really nice lady. I don’t know if she works for a hospital. I found her through a consultant firm called the Daniels Behavioral Health Network. I haven’t seen her in over four years, though, so I don’t know if she’s still there.”

The ease at which Jongin revealed it is so comforting. Taemin visibly relaxes and immediately feels sore after being tense for so long.

“It’s in New York City. And uh, I didn’t use my real name.” It just keeps getting better. Taemin wants to lay down for a while.

“Why not?”

“Sometimes it’s easier to get things in America when you don’t sound so foreign.”

He can’t argue with that, and neither will Jupiter. “So what’s the name?”

“Alexander Hong.” Victoria carefully taps on her keyboard and Changmin leans to watch her screen.

Taemin snorts. “’Alexander’?”

“Hey, I like the name! One time me and Sehun were looking for jobs and no one would give us a shot, but then we finally got hired as Alexander and Stephen.”

“Wow… that’s a little…”

“Yeah, I know, but we weren’t in any position to complain.”

Victoria suddenly gestures for Taemin’s attention. “…I gotta go. Thanks, Jongin. I’ll see you soon?”

“No problem. Jongdae says hi. And, yeah, see yah.”

The call ends and Taemin exhales. “Well?” He asks eagerly.

Victoria’s eyes keep skimming the screen, and Changmin inclines his head. “Ohoho. Alexander Hong was a stripper in Miami.”

Taemin’s mind goes blank for an instant. He cannot handle that right now. “…O-okay, but..?”

“…We’ve got a bit of work and travel history, and… yes. He saw this Dr. Joaquin for a little over a year.”

-

“…And after they finished the call with his therapist they said they were satisfied, for now. I feel like I lost ten years off my life, god.” Taemin whines, his head resting on Minho’s shoulder. Kibum banned him from the hospital for a least the night with the hope that Minho will get some sleep in the comfort of his own home. There’s some trashy reality show playing in the background while Taemin retells his ordeal, the two comfortably planted on the couch and not really taking in the couple fighting on the TV.

“Jesus. What are the chances…” Minho breaths, two parts awe, one part exhaustion. Taemin knows he’s going to lose his conversation partner at any moment now. “But why does he still use that name?”

“Jonghyun said something like maybe Jongin keeps using it because a lot of his history is attached to it. I‘m gonna see if I can find out for sure so Jupiter backs the fuck off. Fuck,” He snaps under his breath, “What’s Changmin’s problem?”

Minho shrugs. “He’s not one for compassion. He would have been the one they would give the order to, uh… Yeah. Jongin would have just been another target to him. Doesn’t matter who would be left behind to mourn. He’s been desensitized to this sort of thing for a while. You have to be, in his profession. Sometimes he forgets not everyone is like him.”

Taemin crosses his arms and slumps back against the couch. “Yeah, well, I don’t like him.”

Minho shifts forward and pats Taemin’s thigh a few times before standing up, presumably to crawl into the bed that probably has a fine layer of dust on it. “I know he talked about pretty much assassinating your boyfriend, but try not to take it personally. You still have to work with him.”

Taemin directs his look of disgust at the TV. Minho bids him a near inaudible goodnight through a yawn and disappears down the hall. But he’s right; for the sake of professionalism, Taemin has to put his feelings aside. Forget that Changmin seemed fine with the idea of putting a bullet in Jongin. Easy.

He can’t take it. Taemin stares at his phone for a few minutes, creating messages and deleting them. He ends up on Jongin with the dog at the park.

-

It’s nearly a week before Jongin tells him he’s on his way home. No one has asked about Jongin at work, and it should be reassuring, but Taemin remains on edge, chest so tight he ended up researching breathing exercises. He can’t shake the feeling from that conference room. Jongin’s plane should be arriving late in the afternoon, and Taemin asks him to come by when he can. He has what he wants to say carefully rehearsed and all he can do is hope Jongin remains oblivious.

There’s a knock at the door. It doesn’t get to click closed before Taemin wraps his arms tight around a lean waist and nuzzles into the inviting crook of Jongin’s neck.

“Wow, miss me?” Taemin can hear the grin. He finds safety in Jongin’s arms and breaths. Jongin smells like rain; rain and earthy forest air. Taemin grabs handfuls of Jongin’s hoodie and keeps him close when he tries to pull away. Whatever script he was about to recite leaves his memory completely. “…Hey.” Jongin coos softly, tilting his head against Taemin’s. “Tell me what’s wrong.”

Taemin shakes his head without leaving the comfort of Jongin’s warmth. “Just… been tough at work. That’s all.... and, yeah, I did miss you.” Taemin reluctantly wills himself to take a half step back so they can see each other. Jongin looks worn out with heavy eyes half-lidded and hanging on to focus by a thread, his hair just barely appropriate for public viewing. Taemin lightly traces the angle of his jaw, slowing over a patch of stubble.

“I thought you were in a cabin or something. Why does it look like you were roughing it in a tent.”

“We were in a cabin,” Jongin lights up and suddenly twists to reach behind. Taemin just now notices the bag slung over his shoulder. He pulls out a camera with a massive lens and Taemin almost knocks their foreheads together when he leans to look at the display, upside down where Jongin holds it between them. Taemin rests his hands over Jongin’s and tows him along as he takes a few steps backwards.

“Let’s get my laptop.”

For whatever reason, they end up on the floor, leaning back on Taemin’s bed with his laptop resting half on his leg, half on Jongin’s. He clicks through over a dozen photos of just scenery—massive pine trees, patches of snow staining the greenery, perfect sky untainted by city smog. The pictures Taemin saw of this cabin back at Jongin’s were at night and unclear. During the day, Taemin would have mistaken it for a small luxury ski lodge.

The interior is even more captivating. Jongin shows him a few shots of how immaculate and untouched it was when they first arrived. “And this yours? You guys don’t rent it?”

“Technically it’s Joonmyun’s. He inherited it from his uncle. His dad and his uncle weren’t on good terms and Joonmyun’s parents have no idea it exists. But, yeah, he lets us call it home.”

“Wow.” Taemin breathes. “Why would you ever want to leave?”

“We try to be self-sufficient. No one wants to live at home forever, yah know?” The next photo that comes up is a shot of the kitchen. Backs to the camera, two men busy themselves unpacking some bags on the counter, and there’s another with a visible profile that appears to be messing with some sort of appliance. “Minseok. Coffee runs through his veins.” Taemin’s head falls to Jongin’s shoulder as he explains a few other shots.

“Sounds like a good time,” Taemin says with a picture of the infamous Jongdae and Baekhyun on display. Jongdae came up behind Baekhyun and pulled the drawstrings of his hoodie tight, covering his eyes and most of his face.

“Always. It’s the only time all of us can get together, so we really—“ The next image is up only for an instant and Jongin promptly exits out of the photo manager. “—make the most of it. So, how was your week?” Jongin tires, looking at Taemin brightly.

Taemin doesn’t take the bait and narrows his eyes. “What was that?~”

Jongin seems to pretend he doesn’t hear and continues to wait patiently for the answer to his own question. His face falls and he clears his throat. “There was something inappropriate going on and I forgot I took pics.” He hopes Taemin will be satisfied but Taemin just inclines his head with a faint smirk. “…I mean, if you wanna see a dude casually giving another dude a handjob under a blanket in a room with five other dudes—“

“Why would you take pictures of that?”

“For ammunition, of course! I’m pretty sure at least one of them would be deeply appreciative I managed to capture that moment for them, and I could use it for future negotiations.” Jongin grins. “And what do you mean, why. Isn’t it your thing?” He purrs, nudging Taemin with his shoulder.

“That… I was bored. Your friends started it. I thought it was you.” He lists blandly. Jongin’s grin grows wider with each half-assed excuse. “What about you, huh?”

Jongin takes his time scanning over Taemin’s features before his eyes fall to the other’s neck. Taemin catches on and rests his head against the bed, allowing Jongin a better view. All but the darkest bruises have long since faded, and Jongin lightly brushes the pad of his finger over one faint patch high on Taemin’s throat. Taemin is already pulling the laptop out of the way as Jongin tilts his head and invites him in.

“How am I supposed to resist you like that.”

Taemin wants to go slow and savor the taste he wasn’t aware just how bad he was missing, but soon Jongin’s tongue is mapping out his mouth and Taemin wants as much of Jongin all over him as possible. He swings a leg over and settles in Jongin’s lap, the excitement rapidly building in the pit of his stomach as soon as he feels Jongin’s hands on his hips and under the hem of his shirt.

“Don’t act innocent.” Taemin breaths between kisses. “I couldn’t think straight after those pics of you in the shower.”

“I never said I was innocent.”

“No, you just bamboozled me with your nervous fidgeting and lost puppy eyes and the stupid adorable way you asked for my number.” Taemin wraps his arms around Jongin’s neck and Jongin chuckles bamboozled under his breath. Jongin at this proximity is intoxicating and Taemin is losing himself in the soft lips and tender touches.

“Aw, I’m sorry for tricking you. I’ll make it up to you.” Jongin traces a line up Taemin’s spine and he shivers.

“How.”

Jongin narrows his eyes, contemplating and watching Taemin wet his lips with a drag of his tongue. He pulls Taemin closer until they’re cheek to cheek and he turns his head, his lips grazing Taemin’s skin as he speaks.

“How’bout you bend me over that desk—“

Taemin lifts his head and they both stare curiously out his open door at the commotion coming from the living room. Plastic bags rustle and drop to the ground, and there’s a distinct rapid clicking against the hard wood.

“Dude. That sounds like doggie feet.” Jongin whispers in awe, his previous thought completely forgotten. Something suspiciously akin to tags on a collar jingle and Jongin gasps. “You got a dog.”

Taemin pouts, but gets to his feet and Jongin is on Taemin’s heels as they pad down the hall. Sure enough, not one, but two small poodles are dragging their leashes around as they take in their new surroundings, tails a happy blur. Minho rummages around in one of the bags and pulls out a couple of food and water dishes.

Jongin is already on his knees and beckoning the pups over. Taemin watches them prance closer and the darker one tangles its leash around Taemin’s feet. Minho notices them as he wrestles a rolled up dog bed out of a bag. “Hey.”

“Hey.” Taemin repeats, carefully stepping out of the ring of death. “So, uh…?” He gestures vaguely at the situation currently loving on Jongin.

“They’re Kibum’s. Jonghyun was watching them but his dog was kinda scared of them, so here they are. Kibum will be discharged soon but he’s gonna be staying with us until he can hobble around on his own. Meet Comme Des and Garcons…. Yes, like the brand.” Minho adds through an exhale and a roll of his eyes after Taemin looks at him strangely.

A smirk pulls at Taemin’s mouth. “I can’t believe he’s got you so whipped.”

Minho drops what he has in his hands. “I’m not whipped. These dogs are his children. They’re important to him so they’re important to me. That’s how relationships work.”

“Taemin,” Taemin jumps when Jongin suddenly grabs his leg and Taemin looks down at him to see both dogs in his lap. “You’re an uncle.” He doesn’t understand and Jongin’s smile just gets brighter the more visible Taemin’s confusion grows. He gives up—melts, really—and joins Jongin on the floor.

After a moment of severely judging two grown men sitting cross-legged and babytalking a couple of poodles, Minho pushes the bags out of the way with his foot and heads to the kitchen. “…You guys want a drink oorrrr…?” He calls with his head in the fridge.

 

Minho tells them to get a room after approximately nine and a half drinks between the three of them, when Taemin starts whispering very loudly about ‘butt stuff’ and they find out Jongin is a lightweight.

“I drink maybe four times a year, and it’s usually just one, or I don’t even finish them.”

Taemin rests his chin on Jongin’s shoulder and Jongin’s head lolls back. He’s slumped with his back to Taemin’s chest, an arm wrapped loose around Jongin’s waist. Minho ended up joining them on the floor at the mouth of the hall, but quickly retreated to the couch when Jongin and Taemin started getting a little too comfortable. Now they’re safely out of his line of sight.

“That’s so weird, though. Half the stories you’ve told me I figured everyone involved was wasted.” Taemin says against the shell of Jongin’s ear. He’s had four himself and Jongin is bordering on careless. He thinks he can fit himself against Taemin like this and expect him to keep his hands to himself?

“God no, we’re terrible sober. You bring alcohol into the mix and someone would probably end up dead.” Jongin’s lazy smile radiates warm fuzzy and Taemin has a feeling the presence of the dogs is the reason it is constant. It’s getting hard to handle, and so is Jongin looking back at him through his lashes, a dreamy look in his eyes from the alcohol.

It was sometime after the fourth or fifth careless glance that Taemin’s hand found the button of Jongin’s jeans, but it was Jongin’s hand over his that guided Taemin under his waistband. Taemin strokes him deliberately slow with his lips on Jongin’s neck, occasionally palming him hard enough to make his breath tremble. Jongin gropes for Taemin’s wrist and halts the motion.

“Wait, we can’t,” Jongin turns his head and mutters, “there are children in the room.” Taemin’s laugh escapes as a snort.

“Yeah, also me.” Minho doesn’t look away from the TV. “Take it to the bedroom and I’ll watch something loud, jesus.”

Taemin doesn’t pay him much mind, he knows Minho is just as shameless. Back in their college days Taemin can recall many occasions where the extracurricular activities taking place on Minho’s side of the room would keep him up at night. He would apologize the following morning for the noise, but not for the act.

“You heard ‘em.” Jongin tilts his head and parts his lips, and it takes Taemin roughly half a second to meet him.

They stagger to their feet and Jongin bids the pups goodnight. Taemin closes his door behind them just as some movie’s opening scene booms in the living room. Jongin falls back on the bed, arms over his head with his legs hanging off the edge.

“The first night you brought me here, when we made out for a bit and then you went straight for my dick,” Jongin lolls his head to the side when the bed moves under Taemin’s weight. Taemin leans over him, propped up on his arms on either side of Jongin’s head, his legs folded beneath him. “…Yeah, kinda like this. Anyway… I can’t remember where I was going with that.”

Taemin laughs and hangs his head. “I can’t believe you’re like this after one drink.”

“More like one point seven, and that’s more than I’ve had in the last six months combined. Leave me alone.”

Taemin just shakes his head. Jongin looks up at him out of the corner of his eye and slowly faces him. His eyes narrow, one even more on the deeper side of his smirk. Taemin has never met someone who seems to dare rather than invite, and it’s so irresistible it’s almost obnoxious.

Taemin leans down for a deep wanton kiss. The alcohol is fresh on their tongues and Taemin feels like he’s drowning in the taste and what’s left of the woodsy scent Jongin arrived with. His hand finds the hem of Jongin’s pants and he fumbles with the zipper. Jongin comes to his aid and Taemin works him over the fabric of his underwear in slow, almost lazy motions that match the slide of their lips and tongues.

“Now I remember,” Jongin parts their lips and mouths wordlessly when Taemin reaches under the elastic, “…what I said before, I was serious. You seemed kinda aggressive that night and I thought for sure you were gonna fuck me, and then at my place you just let me do what I wanted,” Jongin fists his hands in Taemin’s shirt and cants his hips up against Taemin’s hand on him as if to make a point. “And I’ve been wondering what it would be like.”

Taemin is left a little baffled until he thinks back and, oh, right, yeah. Now, on top of his arousal and the drinking, he flushes in embarrassment. He stops stroking, his smiling getting a little deeper with Jongin acting the way he is; not unbelievably out of character, just humorously off. “Is this why you don’t drink?”

“Nah, it’s Tuesday.”

“It’s… Thursday.”

“Oh uh, then it must be your fault.”

“Dunno why you’re always flirting, I mean, we’re here, you got me.”

“Yeah. I know. You’re touching my dick and everything. It’s so great.”

They share a giggle and Taemin retracts his hand, earning him a cute little pout from Jongin. “So you wanna know what it’s like, huh.” Taemin bites his lip and his eyes wander the room, though he already has an idea of what he wants.

 

Taemin leaves them loose enough, if Jongin really wanted to, he could twist free. Clothes were already shed to avoid the awkward, drunken struggle, but before that, Taemin scurried over to his personal sex supply outlet—aka Minho’s room. Jongin tests his newfound lack of freedom, tugging his wrists as far apart as he can with the small chain threaded through a gap in the bars of Taemin’s headboard.

The haul is laid out on the bed and Taemin settles between Jongin’s legs, bent and the knee and spread to accommodate him. The movie in the other room goes quiet and Jongin glances at the door.

“Uh, Minho doesn’t have a habit of walking in without knocking, does he?”

“Nah. He knows better.”

Jongin’s head falls back on the pillow and he stares at the ceiling. “Good. I know I was gonna let you give me a handjob right behind him, but the eleven ounces of alcohol is wearing off and I have a small amount of shame again.”

Taemin smiles and shifts himself on to all fours. Jongin may be sobering up fast but Taemin is nowhere near that point and sways a little even now. “Remind me to tell you about high school.” That gets Jongin’s attention. He lifts his head just as Taemin lowers his front half between Jongin’s legs with his ass end in the air.

“That’s a good look for you.” Jongin says with Taemin pressing his mouth to his soft inner thigh.

Taemin glances up at him with an appreciative smile and scheming look in his eye.

Jongin tenses under his touch when Taemin sucks a short line closer to his dick. Taemin reaches a sweet spot and it triggers the intent to leave his mark on Jongin as Jongin did for him. No one will see these, but Taemin will take pride in knowing they’re there. Jongin’s legs are like the rest of him; flawless skin and lean muscle. A blank canvas Taemin wants to leave bruises all over.

The chain links rustle and pull taut. Jongin is getting a little restless, it seems. Taemin is not quite done terrorizing the supple flesh of Jongin’s thigh, so while he mouths a little lower Taemin wraps his hand around Jongin’s thick erection. The pad of his thumb drags over the wet slit and he smears the precum down his shaft to ease the drag.

After a moment Taemin moves his mouth to Jongin’s dick and his hot breath ghosts up its length. Jongin practically whines, and Taemin presses his mouth to it and rolls his wet tongue against the underside. Jongin lifts his hips with another, lower, needy whine stuck in his throat. It’s a little funny, Taemin thinks, in comparison to how he sounded when they first fucked. Funnier yet, they’re in the same position as they were the night they first kissed—only Jongin hands are cuffed over his head and all Taemin wants to do is test their boundaries.

He ventures lower, mouthing over Jongin’s balls before sucking one in, his tongue laving against and around it before he gives the other the same treatment. Jongin’s dick never leaves the circle of his fist and under the sounds Taemin is making he can hear the satisfied little breaths, feel Jongin’s hips stir against his lips.

It’s quick and sloppy when Taemin redirects his attention, licking a heavy stripe to the crown and closing his mouth over the first couple of inches. He hooks his arms under Jongin’s legs and grips his hips, and Jongin’s dick is hot and heavy on his tongue as Taemin takes him in until he feels it hit the back of his throat. He can’t do it consistently but each time it gets in that tight, wet place, Jongin breaths just a little harder, moans a little more ragged. The cuffs knock together and the headboard creaks with the pull. Taemin sees him watching; straining to keep his head up with no support so he tilts it against his bicep, glossy, hooded eyes fixed on his dick disappearing in Taemin’s mouth.

Taemin’s lips drag over Jongin’s erection as he pulls away completely. Jongin’s head falls back with a disappointed grunt while Taemin wipes his own mouth with his loosely balled fist. “Don’t pull too hard. Those can hurt you.”

Jongin lifts his wrists and strains to examine them, and they soon slump back to the bed. “…Eh.”

Taemin crawls up his body to see for himself and lays himself on top of Jongin, purposely grinding his hips down. Jongin’s breath hitches and he almost looks pained. Taemin pretends he didn’t do anything and busies himself with making sure Jongin didn’t somehow close the cuffs tighter in his light struggling. There’s enough space Taemin can still fit a couple fingers between skin and metal and so far they’ve only left small indents.

Satisfied, Taemin drops his gaze to Jongin and has to take a moment to just appreciate the sight. It’s dangerously close to the fantasy; Jongin lying there willingly trapped and baring himself completely to whatever Taemin wants to do to him, which at this very moment is rut their hips just to watch Jongin’s eyes flutter and jaw go slack.

Taemin cups his face and kisses him almost roughly with no resistance until Jongin bites. He lets go when Taemin stares him down and he stares right back defiantly with that cocky smirk. Taemin goes back in harder and it becomes a bit of a fight for dominance that Jongin simply can’t believe he’ll win. Jongin pulls against his restraints and his legs squeeze around Taemin’s hips when he feels Taemin’s thumb rub a circle over his nipple before tweaking it.

Jongin practically squeaks and Taemin thinks it sounds like victory. “You’re playing dirty,” Jongin gasps between kisses.

“This is a pretty dirty game,” Taemin retorts and does it again, this time earning him a growl. Forced or not it was hot as fuck and the hand still cupping Jongin’s cheek slides to knot in his hair to hold Jongin still for a moment. “Turn over for me.”

He doesn’t let Jongin go then, Taemin waits for Jongin to try pulling away before Taemin reclaims his spot between Jongin’s legs, backing almost off the bed to allow the obedient motion. Jongin rolls to his stomach, and with his limitations he can only prop himself up on his elbows while his forearms stay flat. Hands come to rest on Jongin’s hips, urging him to his knees.

His hand smooths adoringly over the dip of Jongin’s spine, and as he’s admiring the soft caramel skin and the muscle under his touch, an idea blocks out every other thought swimming around in his mind. Taemin tilts his head, tracing a line down the curve of Jongin’s ass.

He wets his lips and presses a kiss to the small of Jongin’s back. “…How do you feel about a tongue in your ass.”

He shorts. "And I'm the one playing innocent? I’m pretty sure I was the one bamboozled.” Jongin throws a smile over his shoulder. “Go ahead.”

“Cool.” Taemin gropes the tight dancer ass he won’t admit he’s been dreaming of since day one. He vaguely wonders If Jongin ever took notice of how often he stared. “Be nice and loud for me so I know how it’s going.”

Jongin huffs a quick laugh. “We should have told Minho to watch Jurassic Park or something.”

Taemin turns his head to listen and he can only make out some muffled dialogue. Minho will try his damnedest to ignore them, but If that doesn’t go well Taemin will consider it payback for all the third-wheeling he’s about to go through when Kibum moves in.

Taemin spreads his ass cheeks with his thumbs and watches Jongin’s now exposed entrance pucker. Thoroughly wetting his tongue, he traces over the ring with just the tip, just for a reaction. Jongin hangs his head and he tenses a bit. His shoulders relax for an instant before he draws them up again when Taemin presses his tongue flat against his hole. With a quaking exhale he pushes back on Taemin and god, he can barely contain himself. He coats his tongue again and presses in, just barely, lingering a moment before going further.

Jongin drops his forehead to his forearms with an airy drawn out groan trapped behind his lips. Taemin latches on and dips his tongue in a little farther, pulls back and darts back in, dragging against those inner walls with each intrusion. Jongin’s back arches and his hips beg for Taemin to go deeper, all the while biting back sighs and whimpers. Taemin knows how it is; it’s slick and hot and feels amazing but the teasing lack of reach leaves you wound up and unsatisfied.

Taemin rolls his tongue heavily over Jongin’s entrance and Jongin chokes. “I can’t—“

Taemin doesn’t stop. He presses one of his thumbs against the rim and the first digit easily slides in under his tongue. Jongin throws his head back and tugs his wrists, he wants to pull his arms in but push his ass back and he can’t manage both.

Taemin sits upright and licks the excess off his lips. A couple of fingers replace his thumb and Taemin left Jongin’s asshole wet enough he could probably push in as is.

“Can’t what,” Taemin says, voice rough, a little lower than usual. His fingers stay at Jongin’s entrance without penetrating completely. They work around the ring of muscle as his free hand gets the lube in front of him.

“Are you gonna make me beg for it?” Jongin mumbles against his arm as he inches his knees apart a little more. His back bows and he wiggles his hips a little, jumping ahead of his own question. Taemin sarcastically contemplates with a soft hum, pushing in a digit with no problem. His other hand uncaps the lube and he keeps going until he’s knuckle deep.

He pulls out almost all the way and quickly coats his fingers, slowing going back in with two. “You’re pretty loose already,” he notes, hearing the slur in his own voice along with a loud hitch in Jongin’s breath. He reaches and wraps his hand around Jongin’s dick while his fingers keep working on his slick entrance. “You didn’t get with someone while you were away, did you?”

Of course Jongin knows he’s playing. His hips sway a bit uselessly with the conflict of bucking into Taemin’s hand or back against his fingers. “You would be proud if you saw what I had to resist—“ his groan is clipped with more intrusion. Jongin tries to continue the thought but all Taemin hears is a long, blissed out growl, muffled by Jongin biting his lip.

Taemin pumps Jongin’s dick off rhythm to his fingers fucking his ass. He admires the muscles pulling, the way his shoulder blades move with every restless shift. He lets go and grabs the condom with an eager, needy whine from Jongin, suddenly untouched.

There seems to be an exciting development in the movie if the sudden burst of the soundtrack is any indication. Taemin quickly rolls on the condom and lubes himself up with a few languid pumps, watching Jongin’s back move with each breath, zeroing in on the ink on his shoulder.

He grips Jongin’s hips, thumbs massaging in slow circles. “You ready?”

“Y-yeah, yeah,” Jongin’s voice is eager, a little wrecked and a lot of breath with the slightest edge of irritation and Taemin hears loud and clear how much Jongin just wants him to get on with it. Jongin drops his head back to his forearms and shifts his knees, planting them more firmly on the mattress. Finally with the fucking program, Taemin lines himself up with Jongin’s slick entrance and pushes in deliberately slow until his head tips back and his mouth hangs open and his breath comes out a hiss because the slide is so easy and Jongin is clenching around him all tight and wet and hot.

Taemin’s head lolls to his shoulder and he waits for Jongin to uncoil, all the while rubbing his hands in soothing motions along his hips. He hears an airy moan fade into an exhale and Jongin’s spine curves down in relaxation. At the same time, Taemin eases out, only to snap back in.

The headboard creaks and Jongin grabs hold of it, bracing himself.

Jongin may be the one in handcuffs, may be the one with his ass full of dick and his head down in his forearms, but that isn’t stopping him from telling Taemin what to do, letting him know exactly what he wants. Taemin is all too happy to comply, would be willing to do anything Jongin manages to breathe out between the pants and moans.

Taemin drapes himself over Jongin’s broader back, his touch leaving Jongin’s dick to wrap around the front of his stomach to thrust harder into him. It’s slick between them, a fine sheen of sweat covering all the exposed bare skin. Taemin breathes hard with this face nuzzling and mouthing between Jongin’s shoulder blades.

His embrace weakens and Taemin runs a hand over Jongin’s side, pushing him when Taemin pulls out with a slurred and breathy request to turn back over. It takes Jongin a few seconds to understand and he struggles to follow, rolling the wrong way and managing to twist the chain around the bar it’s holding him to. His arms are even more restricted and his hands ball into fists as he pulls against the restraints. Jongin arches off the bed, their heaving chests meeting when Taemin comes over him to crash their mouths together.

Jongin is ahead of him, his legs squeezing around Taemin and already bending for Taemin to grab hold of the backs of his knees. Taemin breaks the kiss only to orient himself, Jongin curling and the muscles of his abdomen tightening as Taemin holds his legs and pushes back in.

He’s a little drunk on the alcohol and very drunk on Jongin. The air is hot and heavy between them as Taemin can only focus on Jongin’s neck tensing and mouth moving around shallow sounds in reply to the rock of Taemin’s hips.

Jongin folds in on himself further when Taemin leans down for another sloppy lock of their lips, swallowing Jongin’s needy whine as he reaches between them and pumps Jongin’s dick faster than the thrusts against that place inside that makes him tremble.

Taemin’s head drops to the curve of Jongin’s neck, sucking and kissing forcefully as Jongin’s head tips back against the pillow. He can feel the vibration of every growl and groan with his lips, feel Jongin’s pulse racing beneath the soft skin. He feels Jongin’s heels against his back, his legs fumbling to wrap around and cross at the ankle, squeezing Taemin hard when Jongin tips over the edge and spills out all over his chest.

Taemin pulls back, moving down to mouth and nip over Jongin’s clavicle and traveling farther still until he tastes cum mingling with the saltiness of Jongin’s sweat and skin.

He throws what he has left into pounding into Jongin hard until his own orgasm hits him in shuddering waves, his eyes screwing shut and opening later to see Jongin watching him. Loud breaths pass through those kiss swollen lips, his blown pupils just barely managing to focus while Jongin is still falling back from the high.

Jongin’s legs come down to rest on the bed and Taemin pulls away soon after. He sits back on his heels only to sway and tip forward, and he has to plant both hands on either side of Jongin’s hips to stop himself from toppling over.

The chain stirs against his headboard with the slightest shift and he drags his gaze up Jongin’s body to his arms limp over his head. Jongin’s eyes are closed, his head lolled to the side while he seems to concentrate on bringing his breathing back to normal. If Taemin didn’t know better it would seem like Jongin had fallen asleep.

He’s been blessed with the sight of Jongin contently sprawled out and napping in weird positions a few times before and it always made Taemin think of a cat. Current context aside he will never get tired of seeing Jongin’s hair a mess against a pillow or limbs tossed every which way while in a deep sleep, he’s sure of that.

Jongin’s eyes open and he sluggishly looks Taemin’s way with minimal head movement, and the same time Jongin cracks a sleepy grin Taemin realizes he’s been smiling down at Jongin with those little thoughts floating around his head.

“Like what you see?” Jongin purrs.

Taemin hangs his head with a rather undignified snort of a laugh. He gets his own legs over Jongin’s and straddles him while he leans down for a lazy kiss. Again, he has to bring his hands to the bed to stop from falling over and when they part, Taemin stays there with his forehead against Jongin’s.

“So much.” He falls to nuzzle the side of Jongin’s neck with a satisfied hum. “This view is so much better than anything hanging on your wall.” Taemin could fall asleep right there, and nearly does until he peeks up at Jongin’s bound wrists. He reaches to softly massage under one of the cuffs, happy to feel Jongin hadn’t rubbed his wrists raw.

“Did you just compare some of the most wondrous corners of the world to me handcuffed and covered in cum.”

 

Jongin laughed at how he fumbled to fit the key in its slot, and he laughed again at the surprised little noise he squeezed out of Taemin when he wrapped his freed arms around Taemin’s waist and pulled him down to the bed. There’s a bit of a playful, lazy wrestling match that ends when Jongin won’t let go and Taemin doesn’t have the will or energy to try and get away.

He still doesn’t quite let Taemin go in the shower, concerned he might slip on the wet tile.

“I’m not that drunk,” he claims, his back to the wall with Jongin directly in front of him. Still his hands are there at Taemin’s sides, fingers tracing along the healed wounds. The one on his shoulder will definitely be leaving a scar. Taemin isn’t drunk enough to be wobbly in the shower and he’s not drunk enough to be oblivious to the way Jongin looks at it.

He was amusing himself with carding his fingers through Jongin’s hair and forming the thick wet locks into weird shapes. “…I can’t believe you let me handcuff you.” Taemin says with a little smile making its way across his lips. Even now he can’t believe this man—now leaning in to press a kiss to his cheek—is real. Jongin stays there, turning his head to whisper in Taemin’s ear over the loud stream of water.

“Anything you want. Just say the word.”

Those few words leave him at a bit of a loss, one of the clearer thoughts now swimming around in his head being how he kind of wants to drop to his knees. Instead he loosely wraps his arms around Jongin’s neck, tilting his head to speak against Jongin’s ear in return.

“You don’t know everything there is to know about me. What if I want something you won’t like?”

Jongin pulls away, just enough they can look at each other. “You wouldn’t do that to me. I trust you.”

 

Taemin loans Jongin the same capri sweats he wore last time as sleepwear and almost tells him to just keep them because it’s just plain unfair Jongin’s ass looks that good in sweats. He lingers in the doorway to watch Jongin struggle into the pants while just barely hanging on to consciousness and Taemin is thoroughly amused. The fond little smile stays with him from there to the bathroom.

As he pretty much expected, he returns to find Jongin already under the covers, curled on his side with his back to the door. Taemin crawls in behind him and when he doesn’t stir, Taemin carefully leans over him. Jongin’s phone vibrates on the mattress with a text that came a little too late; on the outside Jongin looks blissfully comatose. Taemin puts it on the nightstand and delicately lowers himself, doing his best not to disturb Jongin. His arm hooks loosely over the dip of Jongin’s waist and he’s just inches from nuzzling into the back of Jongin’s neck.

Taemin is drawn to the tattoo on his shoulder, completely unobscured by the racerback tank. Up this close, Taemin realizes the dark lines are not solid as he previously thought. It’s mesmerizing and resembles the maze of a fingerprint in both size and pattern. The space his skin comes through is fine as hair. Taemin doesn’t know much about tattoos and is astounded lines so small and perfect are possible.

His fingers brush along the outer circle, a small, discernable difference between ink and flesh.

Chapter Text

{chapter warnings: None} ---- > NOTE: Okay so something I noticed when I went back to read over the last chapter for typos and such is that my edits from the previous night had not saved. It's been re-edited now with a few addtional thoughts and different phrasing, but everything plot wise is still the same so you don't have to go back and reread the entire thing. There is one little conversation that has been added, right at the end after the cuffs come off. SORRY ABOUT THAT

also WHOOP HERE IT IS

- - - -

 

Minho is all for the idea of letting Jongin dogsit while he and Taemin are away for the day, and it gives Taemin an excuse not to kick Jongin out so early. He’s well aware Jongin is normally on third shift and he seemed exhausted when he arrived the night before, so waking him up at eight in the morning seemed a little cruel. He left Jongin a small explanation weighed down by his phone on the nightstand. Taemin can’t image Jongin would opt out of spending an afternoon with two dogs and Netflix for any reason.

There’s a lull in activity and it seemed like a good time to get Taemin familiar with the technical side of his job. At first he dreaded the idea. Minho wasn’t exactly enthusiastic in his description, but in his defense, there’s not much flare one can put to office work.

“Our system as a whole is called Janus. We have—or can easily acquire—access to any information on the web or any private server that has ever come in contact with the outside world. With it we can search for anyone and anything, using nearly any criteria. All doors open for us.” Kibum’s voice comes through with a bit of static. He’s still bedridden in the hospital on the other side of the city but insisted on walking Taemin through the software himself. “Our facial recognition program has been key in keeping this investigation going all these years. It filters in possible matches from camera footage, registered IDs, etcetera. Supplies us with starting points and we go looking for breadcrumbs.”

Taemin does as instructed, explores when allowed; it’s not difficult to work with once he understands what he’s looking at. Kibum teaches him a few processes and once he has them down, Taemin is free to go. Any Jupiter issued device has access to Janus so he can do the bit of practice work he’s been given from home.

Though his homework will have to wait because Jongin seems to have other plans.

IM BRINGN THE POOCHES TO THE BEACHBC THEY REQUIRE FRESH AIR
ALSO I WANT TO GO TO THE BEACH
can u make it later?

-

People are crowded into any bar with a TV so there’s some sporting event going on that is far more important that enjoying the ideal weather. The weak breeze is warm, the sun is on its way to descending so the sand isn’t scalding to the touch, and the backing tide has left a fresh new haul of shells and other little gems in its wake.

He finds Jongin resting a few feet from the waves lapping up the sand. The dogs are there with him, sprawled out contently and completely tuckered out. Taemin comes up behind them while Jongin is focused on his phone; swiping through some new pictures.

“Hey.” Taemin drops down next to him, taking care in shoving his socks all the way into his shoes and placing them nearby.

“Hey.” Jongin scoots himself closer and throws his arm around Taemin’s shoulders. He pulls Taemin in and immediately aligns his phone for a picture of them cheek to cheek. The little shutter snap sound effect goes off before Taemin can process what happened.

“A little warning would have been nice.” Taemin mumbles, trying to see the outcome. The screen is dim in this light and the attempt is in vain, but Jongin seems pleased.

“Sorry, but I suddenly really needed that face you make when you don’t know what’s going on.” He brings his phone almost to his lips and wiggles it. “Can I get another?” Taemin narrows his eyes and Jongin bumps their shoulders with a pout. He lets a few seconds pass before Taemin leans in of his own will for a picture in the same position, and this time he’s ready with a decent closed mouth smile.

“Yaaay~” Jongin says softly, tilting his head for the shot. He briefly studies the image on his phone before shoving the device in the joey pouch of his hoodie. Jongin leans back on his hands and faces the open water. “Do anything exciting today?”

“Oh yeah, sitting in front of a computer for six hours was a blast…” Taemin joins him in taking in the view and the smile fades to a frown. Before he left, Jonghyun asked if Jongin has an explanation for the fake name and lack of a solid trail. Taemin reluctantly took a look at what came up for Alexander Hong and, admittedly, it is suspicious. His work history is sporadic and there are gaps where he seemed to drop off the face of the earth for years at a time, only to pop up on a different continent. He hates knowing so much about Jongin without his consent.

“…Hey, so…” Taemin picks at the cuff of his sleeve. Jongin turns his head and Taemin keeps his eyes down. “The uh… the reason I had to call you to get your therapist’s name is because nothing came up when we searched for you… Your name, I mean. They couldn’t find anything… Why?”

Jongin is silent for a moment. “I was fourteen when I first tried to get help. I started using the fake name and I got really used to people calling me Alex. When I left I kind of forgot I didn’t have to use it anymore, but I was so used to filling out paperwork and signing it, I kept going. There are only a handful of people who know my name is Jongin.”

Taemin smiles faintly. “Well, aren’t I special.”

“Yeah. You are.”

Taemin draws his legs to his chest and rests his chin on a knee. He watches the waves lazily lap at their feet and nibbles on his lip, unsure of how to go forward. That answer won’t satisfy Jupiter.

“What?” Jongin is close, leaning to meet his gaze. Taemin can’t look at him like that—wide dark brown eyes full of undeserved concern, maybe a little guilt because Jongin is too fucking nice and too quick to assume maybe he did something wrong.

Taemin stares at his knees with his arms folded to his abdomen. What, Jongin asked; oh nothing, it’s just that this secret international security agency thinks you’re a wanted criminal with super powers and you’re a phone call away from being executed. That’s it.

It hits him hard when he realizes this conversation is about saving Jongin’s life.

Jongin trusts him so easily and Taemin is lying to his face.

He must not be good at hiding his distress because Jongin’s arm comes around his waist, and when he urges Taemin closer Taemin leans against him and rests his head on Jongin’s shoulder. He can’t think of a way around it; he’s got to be blunt.

“Jongin… They—at work—they think you’re hiding something. The fake name, all the moving around,” Taemin keeps his gaze averted and hugs himself a little tighter. “I… I need you to tell me something to prove them wrong, or… why isn’t there any trace of you?”

The hand at his waist moves up to his shoulder and squeezes. Jongin tilts his head against Taemin’s crown. An excruciating moment passes before Jongin takes in a breath and exhales slowly. Taemin braces himself.

“…From a really young age, I knew I was a little… off. I was afraid what my parents would think if I told them anything. I ran away from home when I was ten years old. I don’t want them to find me. Ever. That’s why there’s nothing.”

He didn’t know what he was expecting, but it certainly wasn’t that. Taemin knits his brows and shakes his head a little. “Why…?”

“…The nightmares didn’t start out as nightmares.” He begins after another long pause. “They were frequent, and they were like… I was looking through someone else’s eyes. Sometimes I would be in a house or town I didn’t recognize, or I’d be playing with friends or talking to parents that weren’t mine. Other times… I would get flashes of places. Roads. Trees. I would wake up, and feel like I didn’t belong in my own bed… Please—“ Taemin tries to sit up and Jongin almost frantically presses his hand to Taemin’s head and keeps him there at his shoulder. “Just… listen,”

Jongin sounds pained and Taemin feels his heart drop.

“After a while those little flashes turned into clips and… I felt like I needed to follow it. The places I was seeing all pieced together as kind of a map, and when I started… I knew exactly where I needed to go. They led me out in the middle of nowhere, to this run down shack no one had touched in years. The thing was just barely standing, and there wasn’t anything inside but junk…. I met Joonmyun there, after days of waiting. We took one look at each other and knew the same thing lead us there. And I cried, I fucking sobbed, because I found out I wasn’t the only freak on the planet.”

Time seems to stop. Nothing is left but a numb, hollow sensation. Jongin is still there, but Taemin can’t feel his warmth.

Taemin knows what he’s saying; there’s no other way he can interpret it. He wants Jongin to keep talking, wants that story to veer away from the conclusion Taemin has already drawn. But Jongin is silent, and Taemin can only hear the sound of his heart beating in his ears.

Taemin turns so it’s his forehead on Jongin’s shoulder. “God dammit, Jongin…”

“So you already kind of knew.” It’s quiet and far too lighthearted. Too many memories rush in. What was he blind to and what was irrelevant, Taemin can’t discern with certainty.

“And what about you?” Taemin asks bitterly. He sees Jongin’s hand ball into a fist on his lap.

“…Since that day you and Minho chased Baek into that factory.”

As if it weren’t damning enough already, Jongin finds a way to pound another nail in the coffin.

Now Taemin pulls away. He glances restlessly down the beach. A family of four, a young couple—far off enough they shouldn’t be able to hear.

Jongin knows. He has known, for a long time.

Taemin watches the water hard. “Why the fuck did you act like nothing was wrong.”

“Because,” Jongin sighs, petting one of the dogs relaxing beside him. He struggles with continuing, and Taemin hears a soft hitch in his breath. “Something being wrong has been my entire life. You don’t know what it’s like—“ The dog gets excited over the attention and tries to get in Jongin’s lap. He lets the pup in and scratches with a hand at each ear. “Joonmyun was gonna use his power to save lives. He made it to his fourth year of medical school before Jupiter made it so he could never finish. Baekhyun wanted to be a singer and do musicals, but he couldn’t set foot on a stage and have his name and face out there without being in danger. We don’t get comfortable and settle down anywhere because we know at any moment everything can shatter and we have to run for our lives,” Taemin can’t bring himself to look in Jongin’s direction but he sees the tears in the corner of his eye, glistening in the dying sunlight. Jongin hugs the dog to his chest and swallows hard.

“But I don’t have it as bad as the others, right? I can go wherever I want, whenever I want, no fear of Jupiter cornering me. But it’s not like that for them, it’s not fair that they have to live in fear—“

“So, what,” Taemin finally turns to him, his own eyes about to overflow. The venom to Taemin’s voice makes Jongin wince, but he does the same and reluctantly faces Taemin. It hurts, seeing Jongin like this, but what hurts more is that Jonghyun’s theory may have been right. Clenching his jaw doesn’t stop the quivering of his lips. “you kept us going to help them? You think I would turn on Jupiter to help you if you made it so I cared about you too much to say no?” His voice cracks and Jongin’s eyes go wide.

He frantically shakes his head. “No! T-that’s…I-I…” He reaches out and Taemin shrinks from his touch. His hand hangs in the air for a moment before he just goes for it, Jongin brings both hands and cups Taemin’s face and Taemin hates that he can’t pull away. He grips Jongin’s wrists but doesn’t put any strength into wrenching them away. He can’t hold Jongin’s pained gaze and looks with blurry vision to those lips, reddened by anxious biting, the same intimate shade Taemin has made them turn before.

“I didn’t leave you after I found out because… I just. I didn’t care. That night at the club—you remembered me. You saw me and you smiled and you wanted to talk to me. You have no idea how happy I was, I can’t even describe it. And then you learned about the nightmares, the therapy…. and you didn’t care,” His mouth pulls at the edges into a shaky smile and Taemin’s hands drop lifelessly. Jongin pulls back a little, hanging his head and taking a breath. “I know I won’t ever be normal, but, you… You make me feel like how things should be. That maybe me and the guys aren’t as trapped as we think we are. I look at them and see all the pain and pity and worry, and I know they’ve given up on getting out of this mess we’re in. I’ve been close to giving up so, so many times, but I always find something to keep the bit of hope I have alive. You turned out to be one of those things, and after I found out who you were it didn’t change how I felt. I felt wrong lying, but I didn’t feel wrong being with you. Not once.”

Jongin’s thumbs wipe away the tears, and Taemin finds the courage to actually make eye contact. Jongin holds it, only for an instant, before he closes his eyes in the clearest picture of anguish Taemin has ever seen.

“But I… I won’t lie. When I found out you were one of them, of course I thought that maybe, somewhere down the road, I could tell you, and maybe we could get Jupiter to reason with us.”

But.

Taemin hangs his head and pulls away. Jongin lets him go, and quickly wipes his face in his sleeve. He stays on the ground as Taemin gets to his feet.

“…I need to go.” Taemin murmurs. He stumbles a few feet before he remembers his shoes and the dogs, and he doesn’t look at Jongin as he gathers them.

He gets to the sidewalk and stops at a bench to fit his shoes on, daring a glimpse over his shoulder back at the shoreline.

Jongin is still there, right where Taemin left him.

 

Taemin is on auto pilot the entire way home. He’s emotionally exhausted, and when Minho asks what’s wrong, the only explanation Taemin can think to mumble is he and Jongin had a fight. Minho doesn’t press and leaves Taemin alone to his room where he sits on the floor with his back to his bed. His eyes are tender, and he doesn’t irritate them further when more tears slip out.

Jupiter was right. Jongin knew. Jongin knew and he kept going.

Baekhyun was so close, spoke so clearly. Taemin buries his face in his hands with an exasperated hiss. He should have recognized the voice from the factory as the one over the phone. Jupiter didn’t have his name, but Taemin was so sure that sound would have branded itself in his memory. It did, as he recalls that encounter, but the call was from Jongin’s phone.

It’s because it was Jongin. The alcohol delayed the realization of just how hard Taemin had fallen for the nervous boy that had come to his aid. He tries to remember exactly how Jongin reacted when the question stumbled off his lips, if he really was as happy as he tearfully muttered he was.

He claims he stayed because he sees Taemin as some kind of ray of hope. Him. A Jupiter agent. …No, he wasn’t anything at the time but a prospect. There’s no way Jongin could have known.

He mentioned getting security at the club to do anything is like pulling teeth. It should have been their job to check on Taemin, but the bartenders and wait staff had collectively agreed to take over that role. In the short time he had been at the club, Jongin mentioned several occasions he had to step away and see to a patron.

Jongin has nothing to gain from playing with him like this. Nothing but the satisfying feeling of revenge, maybe, but breaking the heart of one novice agent doesn’t affect Jupiter and certainly does nothing for his situation.

And it’s simply not in Jongin’s nature to do something so cruel, he thinks.

Taemin thought he knew Jongin. That’s one hell of a front he put up; all smiles and affection towards a member of the group tormenting his family.

The things he let slip out and so smoothly redirected any possible link to Jupiter’s targets seems practiced. But living the way he has, covering his ass must be second nature by now.

Jongin should have known better than to send Taemin pictures of himself.

But he did anyway. On his own, without request or protest.

Taemin wants to scream.

Jongin isn’t a bad person. He’s fairly sure of that. He doesn’t deserve what Jupiter wants to do to him, not the Jongin Taemin knows. It’s the last thing he wants to happen and he sure as hell doesn’t want to be the one to put it into motion.

This is so, so dangerous—for the both of them. Jongin, for obvious reasons, and Taemin…

He pulls his phone out and stares at his lock screen a moment. Jonghyun is on speed dial. A few taps on the screen and a few words and….

The screen dims and snaps to black before Taemin tosses it to the carpet beside him.

 

A couple hours into his internal crisis, Taemin hears the floor creak outside his door. Minho briefly contemplates switching on the light, but after a long look at Taemin a miserable heap on the floor, he just hesitates in the doorway before sitting down next to him.

“How bad was it?”

Literally the worst thing ever, Taemin wants to say. “…I panicked. I told him we looked into him. He got upset because, you know, that was none of my fucking business. He said some things, I said some things…” Taemin buries his face in his hands. “How long do you think I have before Jupiter decides to kill him?”

The words just fall off his lips and Taemin chokes. He can’t do it. Taemin wouldn’t even have to make the call. He’s pathetically, fucking physically incapable of just uttering a few condemning words to Minho. If Jongin has a shred of sense about him he’s already left the country and Taemin still cannot bring himself to expose him.

“Jesus christ, Tae. They’re not going to kill him if you can’t give them what they want.” Unhelpful, since Taemin knows putting Jongin in the ground is exactly what they want. For an instant he teeters close to telling Minho the truth, if only to save himself the struggle. Pass the decision on to an unbiased party, one who hasn’t been on the receiving end of Jongin’s loving gaze.

He keeps his mouth shut and can’t decide if he hates himself for doing so. He does know he’s distraught and he can’t be trusted with this decision. Not now.

Minho rubs circles on his back and Taemin focuses on a few deep breaths. “Let’s make a call.”

Minho puts Jonghyun on speaker when he answers. Taemin tries to stay silent in the background with a trembling hand balled in a fist and pressed to his mouth. It’s a long conversation of assurances that Taemin drifts in and out of. He appreciates the sentiment, appreciates how Minho and Jonghyun seem to be on his side and want to avoid casualties.

After Minho is satisfied, after he thinks Taemin calmed down, he ends the call. Taemin only numbly plays along and thanks him. He always knows what to do, but Taemin firmly refuses to drag him into this.

Taemin doesn’t get any sleep that night. He’s in a gloomy daze for the rest of the weekend from what Minho can see, and come Monday morning, he decides not to go in. He tells himself he needs to sort his shit because Kibum is coming later that night and Taemin isn’t sure he can deal with the extra energy in the apartment. The only upside is that he can use Kibum teaching him more about Janus as an excuse to stay far, far away from Jupiter. It’s a big, complicated system and Taemin figures it buys him at least a few days.

Jupiter is aware of the ‘fight’. Against all odds Jongin reportedly is not acting out of the ordinary. He goes to work all night and sleeps almost all day, and the leisure time he used to spend with Taemin is now spent at home.

They haven’t spoken or texted since that day on the beach.

-

Taemin sits cross-legged on Jongin’s doorstep a little after five the following Saturday morning. Jongin usually gets off work between four and five so he should be around soon. Taemin is done stressing over hypothetical scenarios of how this conversation will go and decided to just dive into it before he starts going gray, assuming it hasn’t already started and he just can’t tell with his hair bleached.

He nearly dozes off fifteen before six and the creak of the metal staircase up to the second floor alerts him wide awake. Jongin approaches him timidly and vaguely looks around on his way.

Taemin brushes himself off as he stiffly gets to his feet. “It’s just me. I wanna talk.” Jongin looks weary, and Taemin can’t tell if it’s exhaustion from work or distrust.

Jongin hesitates to close the distance between them. Taemin can tell he wants to reach out and desperately wishes he would, but Jongin simply nods and unlocks his door.

Maybe Jongin was going to run like he should have, but it looks he had second thoughts. His bedroom door is wide open and the far wall is completely bare.

“So you… didn’t tell Jupiter.” Hearing that word come out of his mouth almost makes Taemin break down all over again, as if the situation wasn’t real enough already. He shakes his head and leans on the backrest of that horrible couch. Jongin silently joins him in that cautious, soundless way he sometimes moves and Taemin now understands why he does it so well. “…Where do we start?”

“I have no idea, uh… what else are you willing to tell me?”

“I’ll tell you everything if that’s what you want.”

“Everything?” Taemin repeats, bewildered. “Just like that? You trust me that much?”

Jongin itches the back of his neck. “Well… it’s never been a matter of us wanting to keep it from Jupiter. The problem has always been whether or not you guys will believe us.”

“You guys have super powers.” Taemin says flatly with a slight tilt of his head. “What’s unbelievable at this point?”

It’s with a mix of hesitation and the smallest bit of fear that Jongin studies him. “Well uh… try and keep an open mind, okay?”

That answer has Taemin worried and Jongin winces a little from the reaction.

“…Aannnyyyway, I guess I’ll start with the dreams.” Jongin beacons him to follow him to his bedroom. They both settle cross-legged on the bed after Jongin retrieves a thick photo album from under his bed. He keeps it unopened on his lap, his arms draped over it protectively.

“They started a different time for each of us. I was six when I started noticing things getting weird. At the same time… the tattoo on my back isn’t a tattoo. We uh, call them glyphs, and it appeared on me. A different one on all of us. It was subtle at first, and by the time I was seventeen it was totally black—are you still with me?” Jongin asks anxiously. Taemin nods slowly. That’s not so bad. He can believe that, all things considered.

“The visions I saw where it felt like I was in someone else’s body were recent memories of the others. They saw them too. Sometimes it still happens. But it goes farther than that. When we’re close by, or when we just focus really hard, we can feel each other. Like… presence and emotions. And we rub off on each other, like when Baek was living here those first few days he was pretty upset about the fight he had with… Chanyeol.” It’s almost a whisper, Jongin seemingly forcing out the name as if he’s still in a state to protect it. “When I was here with him, I couldn’t help but feel that way, too. But when I left for work I was alright after I got a few blocks away from him. Anyway,” Jongin shakes his head dismissively, delving slightly too deep into that and off track from his train of thought.

“It was a different age for all of us when our dreams started pulling us to that place. Me and Joonmyun were the first... well, the only ones to follow them. When we met and found out we could feel each other, we went looking for the others—who those memories belonged to. We found Kyungsoo first. Joonmyun found Sehun, I found Chanyeol, and Chanyeol found Baekhyun. After we had each other, our dreams took a hard left. Me and Baekhyun saw them the clearest. Ah,” Jongin suddenly covers his face and sighs. He ruffles his hair, amping himself up to continue, and picks open the album. “This is where it starts getting… weird…er.”

“Oh uh, okay.” Taemin scoots to his side as he searches for a specific page. He smooths his hand over the photo when he finds it. It’s a group shot of twelve. Taemin instantly recognizes a few faces.

“So… Sehun,” Jongin points them out one by one. Taemin is ready to make the links; Sehun could pass for C-48. “Kyungsoo,” R-50, he and Jongin have their faces pressed together. “Joonmyun,” Very likely I-16. “Chanyeol, and Baekhyun.” B-38 with his arms caging M-61 to his chest. That’s it. He’s out of code names, so these last six remain completely unidentified by Jupiter. “Luhan, Minseok, Jongdae,” The last one he recognizes has his arms around the waists of the previous two, “Yifan, Yixing, and Zitao… And you guys have no idea who those last six are.”

“R..right. How did you know?”

Jongin speaks carefully. “Because they don’t exist here.”

“…You’ve lost me.”

“Yeah. So… let’s call them group one, and us, the ones Jupiter knows, group two. Okay?” Jongin looks desperate. Taemin tries to just go with it, roll with the logic presented to you like with the rules of certain anime universes for the sake of plot, despite it not making a fucking ounce of sense. That he can do, or at least fake until everything comes together.

“Okay…we, group two, stopped seeing each other’s memories, and started seeing theirs—group one’s. When we learned about them, we found out we could feel them, too. As if they were right there with us. But we could not find them no matter how hard we tried, and we tried for nearly a year. It all changed when Luhan,” He taps on the boy, “started talking to us.”

“In… your dreams.” Taemin deadpans.

“Right—see why we haven’t tried to tell you guys this before?” Jongin knows Taemin is beyond doubtful, he can hear it in Jongin’s voice. He nods, a little guilty it’s so obvious.

“Anyway, the whole time we were seeing them they were seeing us, too. Out of nowhere Luhan decided to try and communicate with us, and it worked. We found out they were in the same boat as us. They could feel us, but couldn’t find us. And it’s because, uh… you know the whole alternate universe thing? That there are a bunch of realities like ours but in one maybe you are actually a cop or the president is a giraffe—whatever, that thing? Yah. So. It’s almost true. There are only two, and the major difference is uh, us.” He slaps his hand over the photo. “Six of us are in this universe, the other six are in place of us in the other, and vice versa. You follow?”

“I…I think?”

“We call them our parallels. Luhan is my parallel, Jongdae is Kyungsoo’s—“

“Woah woah woah,” Taemin waves both hands vaguely. “I talked with Jongdae on the phone. He was with M…. Baekhyun.”

Jongin nods with a quiet exhale.

“That shack out in the middle of nowhere… beneath it is this…” He thinks hard for the right word. “…Cavern. And, carved in the floor, and all over the walls are glyphs, like the ones on our bodies. On the floor is like… Okay, so, it looks a little some cult ritual shit is about to take place, alright? Picture that. Symbols and circles, and there’s a hole in the ceiling that moonlight shines through to the center.” He explains rapidly, getting flustered over how he knows it sounds.

“Okay, what about it?” Taemin tries.

“I had no idea how fucking crazy this would sound all at once.”

“It’s… fine. Keep going.”

Jongin hangs his head, focusing on the album. “…One time I tried taking pictures of it. They came out black.” He presses the heels of his hands over his eyes. “I don’t like it. It feels like the walls are alive, but there’s also this out of place feeling of peace? It’s where we feel closest to each other, and,” he picks at the corner of the page to turn it. “to them.”

On the next page is a shot of the inside of a van, vacant aside from the photographer in the passenger seat, and the two in the farthest row. Luhan is slumped against the window and a headrest is blocking the face of whoever is passed out on his shoulder.

“Once a year, conditions are in our favor, and our worlds overlap. Sometimes it’s only for a week. One time we had each other for an entire month.”

Jongin reluctantly looks at Taemin, fully anticipating the blank stare.

“I can’t explain it.” He looks back down, turning the page. Jongin’s eyes soften on a photo of Sehun piggybacking… Zitao? He thoughtfully flips through a few more without purpose. “It’s… not something you can understand without being there and feeling it. There’s a lot about us that we just can’t prove, and that’s pretty much been the entire problem.”

Jongin sets the album aside and falls back on the bed. “Do you think I’m crazy yet?” He asks, eyes on the ceiling.

Taemin watches him curiously for a moment before Jongin pats the space beside him. Taemin lowers himself to his back, his hands resting on his stomach.

Once Jongin starts, he doesn’t miss a beat. “The twelve of us can feel each other because there’s a small part of each of us that was once its own entity. We think this thing was the start of all life and all worlds. Over the millions of years it was creating, it got really weak. It started dying. But if it died, everything it created would slowly start to die, too. It had to go dormant to save itself, but it couldn’t leave itself so defenseless. It ripped itself apart, and each piece found one of us. But before that, it created a mirror of this world. We think there’s something else out there that wanted to destroy it, or take its power. It hid some of itself in each world so that if whatever it was running from ever found it, only half would be lost. Our powers are side effects, not gifts or a means to protect ourselves. If this thing ever finds us, we’re dead. Everyone is dead. The world ends. But it’s okay, because there’s two. We’re expendable. That’s it. That’s why we’re like this. It was all in the visions.”

The fuck.

“And the dreams—they—“ The frustration in his voice was building as the story progressed and now he’s nearly yelling, unable to keep in whatever he was trying to hold back. “The nightmares feel like a warning, or fucking—I wish he’d never said it, god—they feel like premonitions, things that will happen. The fucking sky looking like a sea of blood or the ground breaking apart under our feet and the entire world up in flames all because we did something. We messed up, somehow, and we’re always the last to die in some horrific—“

Taemin grasps one of Jongin’s hands and halts the dramatic gestures. Jongin was getting away from himself, going to that dark place Taemin knows is there but has never seen. He watches Jongin relax but doesn’t quite do so himself.

He goes back to wordlessly staring at the ceiling and they lay in silence, both seemingly unsure of what to do and after a while, Jongin rolls to his side. Taemin watches the motion, watches his shoulder blades shift under the fabric of his shirt. It’s very still in the room and all Taemin can hear is the distant bustle of traffic.

How, exactly, does one reply or try to mend a situation that literally no one else has ever been faced with.

“You’re taking this pretty well.” Jongin mumbles dryly and Taemin exhales internally in relief. He shifts close until he’s spooning Jongin, the latter adjusting himself for a more comfortable fit as Taemin cautiously snakes his arm to hook around to the front of Jongin’s chest. Jongin doesn’t reject the contact in the slightest and Taemin tilts his head forward, purposely blocking out his vision in Jongin’s dark hair.

Taemin savors the smell and the soft skin of the nape of Jongin’s neck against his lips. More than once over the last week he wondered if he’d ever get to experience this again.

“…Let’s… Okay, so you’re like this because of an other-worldly entity. Let’s say I believe you. Anything is better than what I was told. Do you know what Jupiter thinks you guys are?” He quickly redirects the conversation to something the both of them can actually discuss; something logical that won’t make Taemin question his beliefs.

“Kind of. Baek said somethings and Jupiter made up the rest.”

“…So you guys are in our system.” Taemin says after a pause. Jongin moves with a small shrug.

“Chanyeol described it as ‘popping in’ once in a while. I’m not into the techy stuff so I don’t really know, but he said he can sneak in and grab things and be out before Jupiter notices. It’s usually random documents but he tries to aim for your current game plan.”

The presumed techy one is the same one that let himself be found by his passport photo. Jupiter’s suspicions are correct; he did know they would be looking for him specifically. Jongin turns his head when Taemin doesn’t say anything.

“Jongin,” Taemin asks gravely, pulling away enough to be clearly heard. “Did you know what he was gonna do at that factory—“ his eyes suddenly widen with realization, “were you the one who dragged me out?”

Jongin glances away in thought for a moment and sits up slowly, allowing them time to untangle themselves. Taemin eagerly waits for the answer, growing more impatient the longer Jongin stays silent.

“I was the one who saved you, yeah. Chanyeol…” Jongin uncomfortably glances about the room before he makes eye contact. “Please try and understand that anytime Baek has a close call, Chanyeol gets a bit… I don’t know if you know, but Jupiter has almost killed him like, eight or nine times. He has scars. It drives Chanyeol fucking insane. He went to that factory to draw your guys’ attention so I could help Baekhyun get out of the city without any problems. He didn’t mean to blow it up, but no, you’re right, I’m pretty sure he was gonna kill anyone that showed up.”

“So if it had been Minho instead of me, you would have just let it happen? You would have let him and Kibum die?”

Jongin studies him, stares like he doesn’t understand why they were even mentioned, why they matter. It’s not the wide-eyed flash of alarm Taemin was expecting. Jongin’s expression fades to something dull and lacking remorse and it’s enough of an answer.

Horror sets in and renders Taemin speechless. For the first time, for a split second, Taemin regards Jongin the way Jupiter insists he should.

“Are you fucking serious?”

Jongin just looks even more perplexed. “What? They’re Jupiter agents. You’re a Jupiter agent. If we didn’t know each other, I would have let you burn, too. Or if you didn’t, who knows, maybe I’d be staring down the wrong end of your gun one day. Why are you so surprised?”

“God, I don’t know, maybe because my best friend could be dead right now if he hadn’t hurt himself the night before? And you would have just let it happen? I didn’t know you could be so fucking merciless—“

“What?” Jongin swings his legs off the bed and spins to face Taemin once he’s up. “I’m merciless? Fucking—My friends do get hurt, they do almost die, and it’s all because you people won’t leave us alone.”

“I read that first report,” Taemin gets to his feet as well, “I-16 struck first—“

“He has a name, he’s a fucking human being, Taemin.” They’re little more than an arm’s length away and Jongin closes the distance with an intimidating step. “He was a kid, and some scary government fuckers backed him into a corner. What was he supposed to do?”

Jongin is bigger than him, but not by much. Taemin holds his ground. “Maybe not go straight to killing them?”

“He was scared and it was an accident. I don’t know if you were listening, but we weren’t born knowing how this shit works. And what the fuck was that? He struck first? You point a gun at a fifteen year old and you blame him for defending himself?”

“What were they supposed to think, Jongin? Foul play by some unknown party is a hell of a lot more reasonable a conclusion than your universe god thing.”

“It wouldn’t matter either way since Jupiter didn’t even bother to ask before they started ruining lives! They teach you that in school? Shoot first, ask questions later?”

Taemin huffs a single, exasperated laugh. “That is bullshit. There’s no way that’s how it happened.”

Taemin flinches when Jongin illustrates keeping his retaliation in with both hands balling into fists on either side of his face. Jongin takes a few steps back and his arms drop uselessly to his sides.

“Let me tell you about Kyungsoo since I was there with him when it happened.” Jongin says pointedly and Taemin glowers at him for it. “Soo was dealing with whatever the fuck we are pretty well on his own. He was happy he wasn’t alone, but he didn’t want anything to do with the dreams or that place. We respected that and didn’t pressure him. I would visit him often, check up on him. …I liked him, I liked him a lot.” Taemin glances away. He’s not sure if that was said out of spite.

“After about a year, he came around. He knew he had to go. And when we go, we disappear. Don’t leave pictures for our families behind or anything. He felt horrible leaving his parents, so—big fucking mistake number one—he told them. He showed them. And, god, they just,” Jongin hisses bitterly, folding his arms, “you ever seen someone shatter right in front of you, Taemin? I have. Kyungsoo’s parents looked at him like he was a fucking monster.”

“After that we took extra care in making it look like he was never there. Broke into his school, found the hospital where he was born, destroyed any record we could find. Me and Joonmyun had it down from doing it for ourselves. He’s all clear until—big fucking mistake number two—Kyungsoo can’t let go and decides to go home after a few months, and he finds out his parents were reported missing. We don’t know if they said something or it's just something Jupiter does. The first time Soo had ever seen an agent, they were waiting for him in his own house. The guns came out the second they saw us. There was no reasoning involved, just a ‘get the fuck on the ground or we’ll blow a hole in your face’.” Jongin pauses, waiting for some kind of retaliation that Taemin can’t form quick enough.

“You’ve seen pictures of him. Kyungsoo is just this tiny little thing. He never hurt anyone, never acted out. What did he do to deserve a fucking swat team in his living room?”

Sometimes Taemin’s mouth is faster than his brain. “Well he leveled a neighborhood, so.”

“He had a panic attack. Because of Jupiter.”

That rush of adrenaline along with whatever confidence Taemin had in his defense was fading fast. “…They were being cautious. They didn’t know what they were dealing with. And you’re telling me they didn’t just open fire, so they wanted to talk. Just after they felt safe.”

“What about us feeling safe?”

He starts to speak, but the look in Jongin’s eye tells him even if Taemin had a good answer it wouldn’t convince him.

“We defend ourselves and we run, that’s it.” Jongin comes closer and Taemin retreats a half step. He doubted Jupiter from the beginning and now he’s feeling that same sense of guilt. He timidly watches Jongin’s chest as he breaths. “Jupiter has no idea what the others are capable of—they aren’t even completely sure themselves… we didn’t want this, Taemin.” He adds when he sees the flash of confusion. “They’ve played around and honed the more useful skills, sure, but aside from Joonmyun, none of them have pushed themselves to the limit. They didn’t have to. They know they could do horrible things and they don’t. What Jupiter has made them do so far—“

“Okay, fine. I get it. Jupiter is bad and they’re what’s wrong with everything.” Taemin sits back on the bed and stares bitterly at the ground. He knew something wasn’t right, but like everyone else, he just went with it. Followed orders without protest. He plants an elbow on each leg and slumps forward with his face in his hands. “I don’t know what you want me to do.”

Jongin seems dubious Taemin shifted sides so quickly. He paces to Taemin’s other side and Taemin looks up at him, head still down as if he knows he’s being scolded and willing to take it.

“What you said on the beach, I… I don’t think I can do anything to help you. I don’t have any pull and even if I did,” He shakes his head and straightens up. Jongin stands by, watching with uncertainty.

Just as Taemin was fast to deflate, Jongin falls just as hard. Maybe harder, given the news he’s just been delivered.

“So you… just from that, you don’t think there’s any hope for us?”

Taemin sees the desperation in Jongin’s eyes and all he can do is stare back silently. Jongin’s face falls. He’s weary from working all night and this took a toll on both of them, but it doesn’t seem as if he was truly expecting good news. Having a negative outlook is a different feeling than hearing someone affirm your fears.

He shakes his head a focuses on the wall beyond Jongin. The nails that held the few framed photos are all that remain. “Even if they believed your story, I don’t think they would just overlook all the damage you’ve caused… the people that have died… fuck.” He hisses, his face back in his hands. “Jongin, Jupiter wants you dead.”

“Yeah. I know.” He says flatly.

Taemin stands urgently and Jongin watches him come close with dull confusion at yet another drastic change of heart. “No I mean they’re going to fucking shoot you on your way to work or something unless we convince them you’re not you.”

Jongin glances away, eyes widening with realization. “…Oh.”

“They weren’t totally convinced by your therapist. Do you have someone else who can vouch for you?” They’re well within reach of each other and Taemin wants to touch him, pull Jongin close and quell his own distress because now that the dust has settled and tempers are down, everything hits him. Jongin is right, and Taemin feels like shit for even thinking he could argue.

But fuck everything that just transpired, Jupiter is too close.

Jongin thinks for a moment, a little too calm for comfort. “…Yeah, I know a guy. He helped me find Nadia and I worked for him for a few years.” Taemin nods along, and keeps nodding for more. “…I …me and Sehun lived with him for a while?”

“Okay, accountability of your whereabouts is good… Uh, why were you living with your boss?”

“Fuck. Um.” He scratches at his neck. “…Will he get in trouble for anything?”

“Like what?” Taemin gets impatient; there are more pressing matters and Jongin doesn’t seem to be grasping them to the extent Taemin really needs him to.

Jongin walks to his bed and takes a seat. He keeps his legs extended with his hands between his knees and Taemin is effectively dumbfounded as to why he suddenly looks like a berated fucking child.

“What?”

“Uh… you saw my job history? You know about the whole. Stripper thing. Right?”

Still not an appropriate time to react to this knowledge. Taemin nods slowly.

“Well uh. I was underage. So was Sehun.” His hand goes back to absently itching the back of his head. “This guy, Heechul, he knew there was something up with us. He didn’t ask for specifics. He kinda had a soft spot for runaways and that’s what we looked like to him, so he helped us out. He’s a good guy, but nasty things happen in that club. Point is, he can get in a lot of trouble if the cops go anywhere near his place. Is he gonna go down if I give you his number?”

“No,” Taemin says quickly. “Jupiter couldn’t care less. I was told the law isn’t their concern, just you guys.”

“That explains a lot.” Jongin mutters acidly. “…But yeah. He’s known me for a long time. He’ll lie for me if I ask. He’s done it before.”

If that’s not enough Taemin swears he will claim them to be asking for an unreasonable amount of evidence. Taemin stumbles to sit beside him, sinking to the bed with a loud exhale. The weight crushing his heart and lungs for the last week is lifted and he breaths almost as if he hasn’t tasted air in just as long. It worries him, how his heart is working as if he’d just been badly startled, and he rests his hand flat on his chest just as he feels Jongin’s smooth up his back.

“I-I’m fine.” Taemin says when he sees Jongin begin to panic.

Jongin pulls him closer by his waist. Taemin doesn’t have the energy to resist and once he’s in the warm embrace with his face in Jongin’s neck he practically melts.

“Really? Because it looked like you were starting to hyperventilate.” Jongin says insistently. He starts to sway a little, rubbing large circles on Taemin’s back and shoulder.

Taemin draws in a few strictly controlled breaths. “…I left you on that beach thinking the next time I would see you you’d be a body bag.” He grabs a tight fist of Jongin’s shirt and hides his face.

Jongin stills briefly before returning to the soothing motions. “…So, what, this is happy hyperventilating? Is that a thing? Should I be concerned?”

“You’re an asshole.”

“You need to lighten up.”

Taemin shakes his head and it comes off as nuzzling. He lets go of Jongin’s shirt but now his eyes are closed and his breathing slow and Jongin is warm. The feeling returns him to the time before that conversation on the beach, when Jongin was his innocent, uninvolved escape from everything.

“…When was the last time you got any sleep?”

It’s been approximately two and a half days, Taemin doesn’t answer.

Jongin stops rocking. Taemin feels his mouth as he mumbles. “…I’m sorry I—“

“Don’t you dare.” Taemin pushes off Jongin’s chest to face him. His eyelids are heavy and dare to flutter closed and he looks down between them. “I can’t believe you would even… If anyone should be sorry it should be me—“

“No you shouldn’t. You’re not Jupiter. I said some things, but I know that.”

Jongin shushes him when he starts to protest. “You look like you’re about to pass out.” Taemin looks up far enough to see a small smile. “Do you wanna stay?”

So maybe things aren’t so different now. Really, as Taemin’s sleep deprived mind ventures, they could just go on as Jongin had been; pretending nothing is wrong.

Taemin sits back all the way so even their thighs aren’t touching. He stares vacantly at the wall as he shrugs off his jacket, and Jongin pulls his work shirt up and over his head in favor of a fresher one. Taemin zombies himself the rest of the way and he ends up with his head resting on Jongin’s chest, an arm hugging a slim waist with the covers pulled up to Taemin’s shoulders.

Chapter Text

{chapter warnings: sex, sexual assault, implicit mention of past attempted rape & somewhat graphic description of the aftermath of an assault, blood }
sorry for the delay, i worked a stupid long shift today and I've been staring at this fic for way too long & i couldn't decide where to end it lmao what a hot mess

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He wakes up with his face against the sheets and the blanket tugged down to his waist. The room is bathed in the warm glow of the light escaping through the blinds and Taemin is far too sluggish to try and locate the time. He hears the sound of rain, not against the roof but in a different room. The bed is half empty, so Jongin must be in the shower—

Taemin lifts his head, disoriented for a split second before he remembers he’s in Jongin’s apartment, in Jongin’s bedroom. He passed out wrapped around the body he loves and knows so well, his face in a scent that smells like home.

Now he knows everything, and there’s no going back. He’s a traitor. And Jongin—he doesn’t know what the fuck Jongin is.

Taemin gathers the blanket back over himself and stares at Jongin’s slightly ajar bedroom door before his tired gaze drifts beside it. That hiking pack is slumped against the wall, still bulging full. Jongin never unpacked it, or more likely, never unpacks period. Living out of a suitcase means your belongings are all together all the time. You can just grab it and go when you need to; no scrambling to gather it all and get out before Jupiter breaks down your front door.

He should have left. It would have been better for everyone, him most of all. He should be safe and being safe means being far away from Jupiter. Far from Jupiter, and far from Taemin.

He pulls the covers tightly around himself and closes his eyes. The dull ache in his chest is more selfish than anything. He doesn’t want Jongin far away.

 

The bed jostles so hard Taemin bounces. He glances over his shoulder in a daze and catches sight of Jongin lying on his side, one hand on his cheek propping up his head, the other in a fist poised at his hip. It’s too early for Taemin to comprehend how pleased he looks with himself.

“Wakey wakey.”

Taemin drops face down in a pillow with a small muffled groan. He shifts just enough to see Jongin, hair towel dried with a few damp strands developing personalities of their own and jutting off in random directions. “What time is it?”

“Almost five. You know you talk in your sleep?”

Taemin furrows his brows with a small pout. “Why do people keep saying that?”

“Because it’s true.”

His frown deepens before he suddenly lifts his head. “…Five pm?”

“Well. Yeah. We went to sleep a little before seven. You didn’t move when I woke up so I let you sleep. Is that bad?”

He shakes his head and yanks the covers back all the way to his face. He’s got nothing lined up for today. Of all the outcomes he imagined, Jongin willingly spilling everything and then the both of them proceeding to sleep in his bed was not among them.

He’s still not sure what to make of Jongin’s story. He’s far from believing it, but he can’t say with confidence he rejects it entirely. Taemin curls in as much as he can with Jongin weighing down the blanket.

The latter shifts so his head is down on the same pillow. He pets some of Taemin’s unruly bedhead back into place, delicate at first as if he wasn’t sure the contact would be welcome. “I uh… I know that was a lot, and it might be asking too much for you to believe me, but… thank you for staying.”

Taemin gives up his hold on the covers and they slip down a bit. Jongin hugs both arms to himself, eyes downcast in thought.

“When you found out I was with Jupiter,” Taemin asks without making eye contact even as Jongin focuses on him, whatever he was about to say completely abandoned. “it was before we were really together. We hadn’t even kissed yet. You barely knew me, when you think about it.”

Jongin seems to know what he’s getting at and nods along. He takes a moment to form his reply. “…I thought about it after—oh, yeah, if you didn’t already guess, that was my phone you made Baek drop in that factory. Thanks.”

Taemin draws up his shoulders with a small apology. “Why did he…”

“When I know I’m gonna be hopping around,” Jongin grins a little bashfully when Taemin pointedly inclines his head at the word. He ends up giggling and Taemin holds back his own amusement.

“’Hopping’?”

“When I teleport there’s a split second where I don’t feel the ground, and when I reappear it feels like I’m landing after a little jump. I called it hopping when I was younger. I didn’t even think of the word ‘teleporting’ until Joonmyun said it—shut up!” Jongin throws a light punch at Taemin’s shoulder when the latter nearly bursts out laughing. “I was cute as hell.”

“I’m sure.”

“Anyway, I can’t carry a smartphone unless I know I’m not going anywhere. International costs aside, I’m pretty sure my service provider would find it odd if I was sending texts from three different continents in the span of an hour. Can’t risk the suspicion.”

Taemin nods slowly. “So you… hop around that often? Do you ever get tired?”

“Oh yeah. But it kind of depends on the distance. The farther I go… like, running to the end of the block is much easier than running across town, yah know?... We’re off topic.”

Taemin is a bit crestfallen. The story may be shaky, but Jongin definitely has this ability and after reading the casefile there has been a small part of Taemin dying to know these things, now a hell of a lot bigger with Jongin right in front of him. But for now, Jongin’s tone gets serious and hushed and Taemin really, really wants to hear this.

“So uh… Baek called for help and I saw it was you, and I was pretty pissed. Like, fuck, I really liked you and of course you had to be a Jupiter agent. Then you had to go and almost shoot him and I was ready to kick your ass, but… I grabbed you and threw you down and I just… I felt bad. That I hurt you. And it was confusing as fuck because you’re a Jupiter agent and you seriously just tried to kill one of my best friends, someone I’ve known and cared about for years.”

Knowing what he knows now, he does feel terrible about taking a shot at Baekhyun. It seems to be all over his face because Jongin’s hand comes to rest at his waist.

“After Baek was safe I had to get away from him to think and I couldn’t have him wondering why I was so… I don’t even know how to describe it. I was really fucking upset it was you, and I didn’t understand why I was so worked up because, like you said, we just met. And yet, there I was, trying to figure out how I should break it off with you and thinking about how much I really didn’t want to. I was weighing pros and cons like… okay, pro, you’re fun to talk with and you made me feel like I could tell you anything, con, you’re a Jupiter agent. Pro, you’re really cute when you get flustered and stutter a little when you ramble, con, you’re a fucking Jupiter agent… Basically, I couldn’t make a decision and I decided to just… keep going. See how things went. See if you would do something to make the choice easier.” Jongin shakes his head, watching the movement of his hand smoothing down to Taemin’s hip and back up again. “You didn’t. You really didn’t.”

“Sorry I made your life hard.” Is all Taemin can think to say with Jongin just inches away, his soft hair a mess against the pillow and lighthearted smile pulling at his mouth. It was getting a little hot under the heavy comforter and he frees his upper body of it. “…Maybe not that sorry. This last week sucked and god—“ He brings both hands to his face. “I can’t believe I didn’t see it… did you stand in the rain a few minutes before coming inside on our first date?”

Jongin snickers. “Yeah. I was in the alley two buildings down.”

“Dumbass. Why didn’t you just bring an umbrella? I would have still believed you walking there. You didn’t have to get soaked.”

“Uh, I can teleport? Why would I own an umbrella??”

“I don’t know, why would you own a motorcycle?”

Jongin scoffs. “Motorcycles are cool. No further explanation needed.”

Taemin rolls his eyes and silence settles over them. Knowing Jongin it was one of the sporty looking varieties; the thing probably had some tacky decal on it and he wouldn’t put it past Jongin to have cute little stickers here and there.

“…So for now, we get Jupiter off my trail, and we just… keep going, yeah?” Jongin says casually, pulling Taemin away from his thoughts of the other dressed in leather.

“Keep going?”

Jongin says it so simply. “You and me.”

“Oh, Yeah. You and me. The celestial superpower bestowed bartender slash stripper and the international security agent assigned to the organization hell bent on hunting you down.”

Jongin groans, ragged and exaggerated. “Don’t talk about the stripper thing. I wasn’t gonna tell you about that.”

Taemin studies him with brows raised and Jongin turns to hide his face in the pillow. “Why not?”

“I was gonna save it for, I don’t know… Your birthday. Or if I made you mad.”

“What? You think you can lap dance your way out of trouble?”

Jongin peeks at him, grinning smugly. “Yes.” The visual of Jongin on a bike flips to him on a small stage. Taemin nibbles at his lip and Jongin gazes with a knowing little glint in his eye. “I bet you could, too.”

“Pfft—what?” Taemin gapes. “The hell makes you think that?”

Jongin hums with an innocent roll of his eyes. “I may or may not have had a conversation with Minho.”

“What the fuck? When—oh my god what did he tell you.”

“He’s got a pic of the both of you during your first year in college on his phone. By the way, damn. You should seriously consider revisiting that look.”

Taemin huffs. “Wh… What else did he tell you?”

“Let’s see… You were a theater nerd, and you danced, too. I can’t believe you never told me! The girls down by the beach are thirsty as fuck. The two of us could probably retire after an afternoon if we’re shameless enough.” Jongin wiggles his brows. He suddenly gasps and shifts a little closer with an eager smile. “Tell me about high school?”

Taemin blinks and stares blankly a few beats before he vaguely recalls what he meant that night, now finding it a little strange he even thought of it with his face between Jongin’s legs. “…Oh. Right. Well… no need to be too embarrassed of the stripper gig, from age fifteen until I left for college I uh, went through this. Phase. There was a lot of sex. Did all sorts of things with people I didn’t even know. Sometimes for money.”

It’s not something he broadcasts but he’s long over being ashamed. Taemin nods somberly when Jongin stares in both shock and interest, a significantly better reaction than the one his parents had the first time Taemin was brought home by police.

“It started off as a bet with my friend Moonkyu. We lost our virginity together and got really confident, and decided to see who could get laid the most before the school year ended. It was like a switch was flipped. I started and I couldn’t stop. I did win, though. He had to buy me a car and I was super popular with upper classmen. Got into all the best parties.”

“Wow. So you were doing the college kid thing in high school?”

“Pretty much.”

“But by the time you actually got to college, you were a shut in…?”

Taemin frowns and picks absently at the sheets. “Well… not exactly.”

He didn’t forget. He just wasn’t thinking. He’d tell Jongin about the drinking and the vandalism and any sexual thing he ever did for some cash, but he won’t tell him about that.

“…People weren’t nice. Minho was all I had. By my second year I was way more mature and focused on school. No more between class blowjobs in bathroom stalls, I only ever drank in my dorm room with Minho, I just… school. And my wardrobe became waaay more conservative. Like. Oversized hoodies and sweaters and straight up pajamas. All day every day.”

He smoothly avoids any further explanation and Jongin smiles warmly. “All cozy and fluffy on top and, what, skinny jeans? Please say yes. That’s my favorite.” Taemin nods against the fabric. Jongin lights up and Taemin lights up with him.

 

The lighthearted conversation continues over waffles at Jongin’s favorite diner a few blocks away. He’s a regular, and the cook is all too happy to oblige even if it is after six pm.

Taemin maintains the lingering feeling of an elephant in the room and doesn’t want to sour the mood by attempting to address it. He wants to know more. He wants to know what everyone can do. He wants to know how they’ve been managing all this time. He wants to know how Jongin has been living.

He leaves Jongin an hour before his shift at the club begins with a promise, but on the elevator ride up to his own apartment, Taemin concocts a different plan. He pops in long enough to change his outfit and tell Minho things are going to be okay.

 

Jongin spots him from his post behind the bar about a minute into a song Taemin knows well. He’s a little rusty, but once he begins to really feel the rhythm, lose himself in it like he used to in adolescence, it’s all so familiar. People always praised him for how fluid he moved. It’s Saturday night and the club is packed, but Taemin makes sure Jongin can see every teasing motion.

Taemin has watched him—rather, caused him to mess up his last three orders with more pride than guilt. He laughs every time that wanting gaze trapped behind the counter turns to panic as he over pours or a customer barks for attention. He’s not sure when Jongin snaps, Taemin only takes his eyes off him when he spins and when he looks back at the bar, Jongin is gone.

Taemin doesn’t see him again until he’s only a stride away. Jongin grabs Taemin’s hips and Taemin grinds right into him, throwing his arms around Jongin’s neck as Jongin claims his lips with a hunger he’s been holding in all night. Taemin fists his hand in Jongin’s hair and Jongin’s hands wander and grope under his shirt over his ass, everywhere. They stumble to feel more of each other, bumping into other dancers carelessly.

They part with a small gasp and fall into the beat of a new song, swaying while wrapped around each other.

“Who are you and what have you done with Taemin,” Jongin asks, trailing off with an adoring sigh, his eyes flicking down.

Taemin’s arms drop, hands smoothing down the front of Jongin’s chest, one dropping further to snake around and grope Jongin’s ass. He stares at Taemin a little incredulously and Taemin leans in again, only to bypass Jongin’s lips to get closer to his ear. “How much time do we have?”

Not much, it seems. Jongin urgently leads him past a staff only door to a narrow store room. Taemin was fully prepared to go at this dry, as horrible an idea it is, but he’s far from disappointed when Jongin pulls a fucking goodie bag full of everything they could possibly need out of a box on the lowest level of a shelf.

“There was a bachelorette party here last week.” Is all the explanation he supplies, handing it off to Taemin to rip open. Jongin practically lunges for the button of Taemin’s jeans and backs him to the far wall of the small room, quick and rough. Their mouths crash together and Taemin wants to forget the lube, the condom, he just wants to feel as soon as possible. The past week has been an exhausting roller coaster of numbness and breakdowns and keeping everything bottled up and out of sight. Even though Kibum and Minho meant well, Taemin just wanted to be left the hell alone.

But now everything will be okay, and Jongin fucking him in secret is the nice little cherry on top of what he considers a well-mended situation.

He’s getting a real thrill out of doing this in a public place, something he hasn’t done since his wild school days. Jongin seems to pull him back to that time in all the best ways; all the excitement and fun, carefree until the sirens started bellowing in the distance.

Taemin shoves his pants down to his thighs once the button and zipper are free and Jongin backs a half step away in uncertainty when Taemin rips himself from the kiss and turns around. Jongin is pressed back against him in an instant, reaching around and palming Taemin’s aching dick. He passes Jongin the uncapped bottle of lube and braces both forearms against the wall, right in front of his face.

They really don’t have time to do this as thoroughly as Jongin would like, but rushed is better than not at all. The bottle hits the floor and two fingers force their way through his tight entrance, and he buries his face in his arms. Taemin intends to be as loud as he damn well pleases—the pounding music could overpower a thunderstorm—but his body tenses to the point of not being able to push out sound.

Jongin trails kisses from the back of his neck to just behind his ear. “Should I—“

“No,” Taemin’s voice is almost gravel, “just do it.” He pushes his ass back against Jongin’s wavering hand and it fucking stings. He blinks back the pain and looks over his shoulder with a purposeful smirk. “Rip me apart.”

“Seriously, who the fuck are you.” His fingers drag out halfway and Taemin groans low in his throat, urging Jongin right back in.

No games, Jongin works him loose while pumping his dick and Taemin feels the burn from the pit of his stomach all the way down his thighs. He tosses his head back when Jongin adds another finger, his lustful cry clipped and breath going haggard.

Jongin buries his face in Taemin’s neck and shoulder and leaves his erection to feel up his torso. His hands feel like fire against Taemin’s already feverish body, a blissful heat that distracts him long enough the slick fingers in his ass leave him needing so much more.

“F-Fuck—Jongin, I’m okay just—just fuck me,” Taemin fumbles, nearly yelling to be heard over the music. Jongin is hesitant, scissoring his fingers against Taemin’s inner walls, purposely dragging against the tight ring of muscle on his way out just to assure himself he isn’t literally about to tear something.

His hands leave Taemin completely and a belt rustles. The dripping condom covered head of Jongin’s dick soon grazes his entrance and Taemin draws up his shoulders and claws against the wall. Get on with it he growls, too quiet and airy to be understood.

Jongin pushes in, pushes Taemin nearly flat on the wall. He wraps his arms around Taemin’s waist and chest, hugging him close until the vice grip Taemin has on his dick relaxes and he moves. Taemin’s voice breaks, strangled moans getting rougher as one song transitions into another. Jongin’s breath comes out as a hiss against Taemin’s neck, every hum and groan trapped behind his lips or stuck in his throat. He sucks or bites occasionally; Taemin doesn’t know why he’s trying so hard to stay quiet.

Jongin’s hand wraps around his dick again and Taemin leans against him, head falling back on his shoulder. Jongin is so tight inside him and expertly jacking him off and it’s a damn good thing Taemin has so much support around him. The heavy bass is shaking his very core, seeming to amplify the wave that crashes through him each time Jongin brushes against that spot in tempo.

Taemin reaches up and around and blindly gropes to knot his hand in Jongin’s hair. His voice is wrecked and he can barely form words through the panting, the breathy warning lost completely when the statement sticks in his throat and his thoughts dissipate like fireworks. He spills out all over the wall in spurts and Jongin milks him right through it without missing a beat. His grip around Taemin’s torso tightens and he presses forward, his lips right at the shell of Taemin’s ear when the first note of his own orgasm sounds. The rest his buried against the curve of Taemin’s neck, Jongin still holding fast as Taemin feels his legs weaken beneath him.

The music is so heavy it shakes the very foundation and the decent from his high isn’t so much a fall as it is a flutter. Taemin barely feels Jongin’s grip on him go a little limp and after a moment he slowly slides out, beginning to pull away an instant before scrambling to retake his hold as Taemin sways backwards.

They burst out in a fit of completely alcohol-free drunken giggles as Jongin stumbles with Taemin hugged to his chest. He ungracefully lowers them both to the ground, falling backwards at the last second.

Taemin rolls off him and Jongin immediately grips his arm and urges Taemin up along with him. “No no no oh my god this floor hasn’t been cleaned since the beginning of time—“ The laughing increases tenfold to the point of not getting enough air and they trip over themselves trying to get their clothes in order.

Taemin wipes the tears from his eyes and throws an exaggerated grimace at the mess on the wall. “Should we clean that up…” Jongin carelessly shakes his head and the laughing reignites.

Taemin falls back to the ground with both hands pressed over his mouth when Jongin slides a stack of boxes in front of it. He rearranges a few other things in the room so it doesn’t look so obvious and turns to Taemin with his index finger to his lips.

“That’s horrible—oh my fucking god—“

Jongin shushes him loudly and extends both hands to help heave Taemin to his feet. His legs still feel like jelly and Jongin holds both his hands on either side of them until he gets a handle on himself. Taemin soon feels coordinated enough to capture Jongin’s lips without killing the both of them and Jongin sees it coming, meets him halfway. It’s strangely chaste and drawn out, abruptly cut short by the door swinging open, the music flowing in unhindered.

The young woman in the doorway is stunned only momentarily before her expression falls to bland awareness. She gets one whiff of the room and cocks a brow.

“…Really, Alex.” She drawls. Taemin snorts and he has to turn away to hide the deep grin.

“I’m uh, still on break.” Jongin clasps his hands behind his back and bounces on his heels innocently.

She grabs the edge of a half empty box and pulls it off the shelf. “Yeah okay… Be sure to slip you liking boys into your next conversation with Wendy so I don’t have to watch her drool over your ass anymore.” The door creaks closed and Taemin’s smile brightens. Jongin glances off to the side with a look of realization; Taemin’s hand smoothing from his shoulder to the side of his neck brings him back from the thought.

“…You do kinda look like an Alex.” Taemin gently cards his fingers through Jongin’s hair to fix the mess he made of it. Jongin leans into his touch and Taemin swears the blush dusting his cheeks gets a little deeper. “But I like Jongin more.”

 

Taemin stays at Jongin’s end of the bar for the rest of his shift, mindlessly chatting with whoever initiates conversation. The bartender that caught them promised her silence in exchange for Taemin being the guinea pig for perfecting a few beverages of her own design. He quickly understands why she had to corner someone to the task. Jongin throws him a pitiful smile now and then.

The end of his shift rolls around and Jongin practically carries Taemin to the closer apartment. Kibum is wide awake on the couch when they arrive; he doesn’t have much of a schedule and between working from home and bingeing whatever Netflix has for him, he’s unpredictable. Jongin offers a shy greeting and explanation, to which Kibum replies approvingly around a mouth full of popcorn with a thumbs up.

Minho could sleep through an earthquake so it’s safe to shower away the storeroom sex and club funk without disturbing him, but Jongin opts for tossing Taemin on his bed over letting him try and stand on slippery tile.

“Is this okay?” Taemin slurs, falling back on his bed after getting the majority of his clothes off. It was a team effort. “You… here… with Minho and Kibum..?”

“Sure.” Jongin yanks the covers out from under him and Taemin finds nearly being flipped onto the floor hysterical. “I mean, I was a little nervous when I first met them… but they seem like okay guys. I’m not worried.” He climbs in and collapses beside Taemin, pulling the covers over the both of them.

“That’s good…” Taemin’s head lolls to face him, though his eyes are already shut.

“…Would you…” Jongin whispers after a moment. Taemin’s eyebrows draw up with a small hum. “You’d probably be nervous around my friends though, huh.”

“Ahhw I don’t know about that…” Taemin cracks an eye open. “They tricked me into sex…sexting… but you say you love them, so how can I not like them a ‘lil. We sexted.” He closes his eyes again and turns his entire body so he can reach up and touch Jongin’s face. He misses a few times and Jongin gently grabs his hand with a quiet chuckle. Taemin suddenly gets really loud. “I like your friends, okay?”

“Inside voice, Taemin, oh my god.” Jongin presses Taemin’s own index finger to his mouth and shushes him, and Taemin shushes him back aggressively, brows knitting together in determination. Jongin breaths another oh my god through a surpressed laugh.

“I like your friends.” Taemin pouts, a near inaudible mumble made with only slight lip movement.

“Okay, okay, I believe you. Go to sleep.”

“But we’re talking…”

“Good night, Taemin.”

“Good night Alex.”

 

 

Taemin walks in to Jupiter in a genuinely good mood for the first time since the day he signed the contract and took the badge. Jonghyun and Victoria are ready for him, the whole meeting delayed as Changmin went to collect Yunho from the airport. The latter insisted on being there for it, considering J-27 has a permanent place on his shit-list.

“He had to see their case in Japan through to the end, but he’s been kept up to date.” Jonghyun explains on their way to the conference room.

“I hope he won’t be too upset J-27 still is unknown.” Taemin says smugly. He and Jongin already had a chat with Heechul and Taemin is confident the story is solid. Jongin is safe, for the time being.

“See? I told you it would be fine.” Jonghyun pulls ahead to reach for the door and just as he touches it, Taemin turns at the sound of his name.

“Yunho wants to speak with you in his office.” Victoria calls from the top row, a phone at her shoulder. Taemin looks back at Jonghyun who only shrugs.

“He’s the senior operative here, now.” Is all Jonghyun says as he begins walking back the way they came. Taemin hesitantly follows. He’s well aware of how the chain of command works within Jupiter but he wasn’t anticipating having to go this alone. He gives Jonghyun a last pleading look before he follows the hall opposite Jonghyun’s office, towards what he’s assuming is just a mirrored version of the same room.

He’s wrong. It’s much larger, and less tidy. Boxes of case files, a few full of random electrical components. Most were covered and all were clean enough to have never seen a dank storage room.

Yunho, Taemin presumes, is crouched behind his desk, rummaging in a box or maybe the bottom drawer. He peeks over the top at the sound of his door clicking closed. Standing straight, he’s shorter than Changmin but taller than Minho, and doesn’t quite give off an aura like either. Taemin may just be judging strictly on his grudge with Jongin, but he’s not sure he believes the friendly smile Yunho is giving him as he approaches.

“I’ve heard good things about you, Taemin. I’m Jung Yunho.” He extends his hand. It’s a little strange accepting it. Everyone at Jupiter is so casual, introductions were no different. “Excuse the mess. I ended up bringing a lot back and I’m not sure where to put it all yet.” He grabs a tablet off his desk and navigates on the device for a moment. Apparently they’re standing. Taemin doesn’t mind, he’s just hyperaware of the placement of his arms and hands and he’s not sure what to do.

“…So what do you have for me that clears our suspect.” He says it dryly and uninterested, and Taemin isn’t sure how to feel about him not even referring to Jongin by name. Yunho is reading something off the tablet screen, not even sparing Taemin a glance. He wrote everything out in a report and this meeting was supposed to just be a follow up.

“Uh, well, Jongin is a runaway. This guy Heechul took him and his friend in. Jongin stayed with him for a long time and eventually worked for him. I’m pretty sure he would have noticed if there was something off about Jongin.” Taemin summarizes it as briefly as he could. Yunho just nods along.

“Right, right.” Yunho quirks his lips as if he’s thinking. “I read the details and we already checked it out. There was just one thing bothering me.” He turns the tablet around.

On display is the selfie Jongin took with the dog he found at the park, probably Taemin’s favorite PG photo of him. Taemin glances between the image and Yunho, growing wary of him the longer he stays silent. It’s a painfully long pause before he flips it back to his focus and sets it down on his desk.

Yunho clasps his hands in front of him. “I’m giving you a chance to admit anything you’ve withheld thus far.”

The warmth leaves Taemin’s face completely and with everything he has he fights to appear still and relaxed. His expression hasn’t changed but Yunho’s eyes are suddenly much darker.

“You read the report. You know everything I know.” Taemin says, simple and even. Yunho paces a quarter circle to Taemin’s side and halts so they’re shoulder to shoulder, Taemin facing one way and Yunho the opposite. Taemin tenses up and only turns his head a little to watch the action.

“Are you sure?” Yunho faces him and Taemin does not like the proximity. He twists to keep Yunho in front of him and takes a half step back. “You seem a little nervous.”

“Uh, yeah. Sorry. New people make me anxious and we’re in an enclosed room alone, so…” Taemin says meekly, trying a small smile. Yunho’s gaze is getting intense and Taemin shifts uncomfortably.

Yunho lightens up and Taemin is thoroughly unnerved. “Oh, right. I think Minho mentioned you’re a little antisocial. I’ll make this quick.” There is a flash of horror as Yunho unclasps his hands and takes a few leisurely steps forward. Taemin backs away just as much and his back hits the wall.

Yunho stops just short of Taemin feeling his breath as he speaks and it is way too damn close. “I don’t buy your story.”

“…Well, it’s not a story, so you should—“ Taemin tries to slide to the side and jumps with the loud thud of Yunho’s palms slamming flat on the wall above either of his shoulders, caging him in.

“Don’t fuck with me.”

Taemin is suddenly too petrified to speak. Yunho inclines his head and Taemin can feel his gaze crawl over his neck, eyeing the mark Jongin left on him he didn’t bother to hide.

Yunho drops one arm back to his side and Taemin steals the chance and slips away, nearly to the other side of the room. The thought of getting to the door doesn’t even finish forming before Yunho is stepping between Taemin and the only exit. He struggles with what to do with himself—everything that comes to mind is too incriminating.

But Yunho is doing this on purpose. “Listen,” Taemin backs himself to the desk. “when they first suspected Jongin I had my suspicions, too, but he gave up all this information without making a big deal of it. And if he was J-27, don’t you think he would have disappeared before we got this close?”

Yunho somehow hits the nail on the head and Taemin forgets how to breath.

“Not if there was something keeping him here.”

Taemin grips the edge of the desk. “Like what?”

Yunho closes in. “Like some cock slut he picked up in a trashy nightclub.”

“Cock slut.” Taemin echoes, glancing away with an internal huff. “Very professional.”

He looks back and a fist connects with his face. Taemin’s shoulder hits the desk when he goes down and he’s scrambling to catch himself as the pain begins to throb and there’s a strong metallic taste spreading over his tongue and did that just fucking happen? Did Yunho really just hit him? Taemin stares at the ground in a daze, shaky hands unsure of what to hold between his jaw and shoulder.

The oxygen rushes out of his lungs completely with one crushing blow to his diaphragm, the toe of Yunho’s shoe digging painfully deep into his abdomen. Taemin wraps and arm around himself with the other barely managing to keep him propped up as he struggles for air.

Taemin stumbles over his own feet as Yunho grabs him by the arms and wrestles him up to his desk, slamming Taemin face down over the top. He’s bent at the waist, pinned by Yunho’s pelvis against his ass and he fights to pull his arms away, thrashes best he can but Yunho is stronger and holds fast, even as he forces both of Taemin’s thin wrists to one hand. He sputters protests around his coughs, quickly running short of air again as panic really sets in because he’s trapped beneath this man with his legs spread.

He’s got Taemin’s arms folded behind his back, the bones of his wrists scraping painfully together in Yunho’s grip.

With his free hand Yunho grabs Taemin by the hair and yanks his head back.

“You know what I could do to you,” He growls against the shell of Taemin’s ear, wedging his foot beside Taemin’s and pushing the latter’s legs farther apart, “right here, right now?” Taemin tries frantically but Yunho is practically on top of him, bearing down with all his weight to keep Taemin in his control. He adjusts his hold on Taemin’s hair and gives it another painful jerk. “No one would hear you—“

“Let go! I-I don’t know what you—“ He finds some of his voice only to lose it in the same breath as he’s guided down until his cheek is flat on the desk so they can see each other.

“You seem like a smart kid, Taemin. Do yourself a favor and tell the truth.” Yunho leans down, his breath hot and ghosting over Taemin’s neck. He pulls against Yunho’s hand knotted in his hair, continues to struggle beneath him and he’s visibly wearing on Yunho’s patience.

“Are you protecting him?”

When he doesn’t hear an immediate answer Yunho pushes his weight against his hold on Taemin’s wrists, forcing them up his back at an angle. His cry is clipped by the pain in his shoulder and Yunho repeats himself, drawn out and agitated.

Taemin clenches his jaw and swallows hard. He doesn’t look at Yunho as he forces the word out between shallow breaths. “...N…no.”

Yunho lets go of his hair and all within the same second Taemin feels a bit of relief and then every inch of his body stiffens. The pad of Yunho’s thumb traces the outline of a hickey Taemin knows is there, on the side of his throat. Unmoving, Taemin looks at him out of the corner of his eye and Yunho holds his gaze as his hand travels lower. He holds his breath until he feels the slightest contact at his hip that turns into Yunho trying to force his hand to the front of Taemin’s pants and it throws Taemin into another fit of vain struggling.

The desk scraps against the floor and Yunho grabs hold of Taemin’s hair again to get him to stop, only speaking when Taemin falls silent, save for his labored breathing.

As if to enunciate, Yunho cants his hips, pushes hard against Taemin’s ass.

“One last chance—“

“I already told you everything!” Taemin’s voice cracks, “I’m not lying! I’m not! Stop!” Yunho moves down and Taemin writhes the instant he feels lips on him, practically sobbing “No no no oh god please—“

He slides off the desk to the ground, scrambling around and pressing his heaving back to the wood. Yunho has stepped away, hands raised as if in surrender.

Thoughts a terrified mess, Taemin rips his gun out of its holster.

“…Okay, I’ll admit it,” Yunho’s eyes trail up the muzzle and along Taemin’s trembling arms, to the venomously glare wet with tears that have yet to spill. “I went too far and I’m sorry. But I believe you.”

Not a bit of that was sincere. “What the fuck is wrong with you?!” He reluctantly lowers his arms but clutches the weapon tight, shoulders shuddering with harsh breaths.

“It was a fear tactic—“

“Fuck you!” Taemin heaves himself to his feet and rushes to the exit. The door slams in his wake and he ignores whoever speaks in the lobby on his way out.

He gets to his car parked in a lot a block away. It’s way in the back and well shaded by the surrounding buildings so he doesn’t worry about anyone seeing him hug himself with his head down, forehead against the steering wheel as he runs through everything that just transpired. With every contraction of his lungs he feels the dull pain under his ribcage and uses that to try and persuade himself to calm down faster.

Yunho was so heavy and overpowered him so easily. No one came running at the commotion. He really could have done it.

Taemin isn’t sure how long he sits, only that sometime later he absently adjusts the rearview mirror to assess the damage. His cheek is a little red and his teeth cut him on the inside. It’s tender and might swell later, but as long as no one looks at him too long he should be fine. He won’t worry about his shoulder or stomach. They hurt, but they aren’t visible.

Everything Yunho did was purposeful.

Taemin catches sight of his laptop bag in the reflection, in the back seat. He situates it on his lap and scours Janus for his own file. He finds it along with the background check Jupiter did on him. Just how extensive—

The initial harassment complaint he filed a month into his second semester. The complete log of texts; harmless anonymous flirting transitioning into graphic sexual fantasies, then to threats. They’re sorted by each new number Taemin went through.

The assault report from the party, when Taemin willingly let himself be lead into a bedroom by a classmate that revealed himself to be his admirer.

Photos of the aftermath the hospital staff were required to document. His fractured jaw and bloody mouth from the blows to his face. The rings of bruises encircling his neck and arms and wrists. The gashes on his back and shoulder when he was thrown on the ground into the remnants of the porcelain lamp he smashed over his attacker’s head. His discolored abdomen, trauma from being repeatedly kicked in the stomach and bleeding internally. Minho in the background of some of the images, holding his hand.

Taemin finds the police reports and hospital records, all here for any Jupiter agent to access. Even the reports from the campus counselor he saw because he had no one to turn to when the rumors spread. Half the student body was lead to believe he was the aggressor; that Taemin hadn’t taken rejection well and started the ‘scuffle’ that ended with him face down in the carpet, his attacker pinning him just as Yunho had.

Though Yunho didn’t get as far as his classmate.

A fear tactic, he had called it. The conduct of one of Jupiter’s best agents and behavior he seemed to see no fault in.

There’s no doubt in Taemin’s mind. Jongin wasn’t exaggerating his accounts of Jupiter at all.

But he does doubt Yunho. He’s willing to cross such a line, sink so low as to take advantage of trauma to try and force the answer he’s clearly desperate for. And after all of that, his weak apology was completely remorseless.

Jongin isn’t safe.

-

He answers his door barely awake and doesn’t even ask when all Taemin wants to do is crawl into bed with him. Jongin is back out as soon as his head hits the pillow. Taemin stays wide awake, occasionally toying with stray stands of hair. His eyes trace over Jongin’s features, memorizing each crease in his lips and the thickness of his lashes and the pattern of his breathing with a relentless ache in his chest because this may be the last time.

It’s not just breaking up, it’s you need to get the fuck out of town and never show your face again because Jupiter knows it too well. They know his face, his name, his fake name, and probably his dick because of those shower pictures.

Jongin is off for the next two days and Taemin gets him to go out with him. In public. Where there are witnesses. Places far from where a sniper could perch or too dangerous for someone to make a successful pass at him in a crowd. Taemin is losing his mind.

“Aw,” Jongin nudges him—well, purposely. They’re walking with their hands interlocked and Taemin has been close enough they’ve been bumping shoulders the entire day. They’re passing the side street where Jongin paralyzed Taemin with a dance routine that suddenly made more sense when Taemin imaged a pole. “Someone’s in my spot. Too bad. But we really should dance together sometime.”

Taemin swallows and nods with a smile. He hasn’t said anything and Jongin is slowly gathering something is a little off. Every time he gives Taemin a look asking what’s going on Taemin word vomits something random and irrelevant. Jongin is easy to get off track.

It’s over dinner at an outdoor bistro that Jongin finally asks and Taemin runs out of bullshit.

“They called Heechul without me and apparently he convinced them.” Taemin shuts himself up with his drink.

“Great. So we’re good?”

Taemin stares hard at his nearly untouched meal and shakes his head. “…No.” Fuck.

Jongin stops chewing. “Hm?”

Taemin shifts in his seat and leans in, carefully pushing his plate and folding his arms on the table. “I’m… I’m almost sure they’re still after you. You’re not safe here.”

Jongin glances at the couple at the table next to them and the lone diner over Taemin’s shoulder. He nods in the directing of the alley only a few paces from where they’re sitting.

“Do you, by chance,” Taemin says hesitantly once they’re out of sight. “remember any agents? Anyone you’ve been seeing for years?”

Jongin turns his back to the street and leans his shoulder on the brick. “Yeah. I know a few faces. Why?”

“One of my superiors has been with Jupiter since the beginning and has had the most encounters with you and your friends. He’s out to get you because he thinks you killed two of his partners and one of them was his bother.”

“Oh. Wow. Okay. Uh… fuck. I think I know who you’re talking about. His new partner is really tall?”

“Yeah and he’s a fucking asshole. He’s calling the shots now and he just,” Taemin feels a chill and touches his neck. “he thinks I’m protecting you.”

Jongin shifts and looks over his shoulder restlessly. “So what do we do about this?”

“You need to go.”

“Fuck that. If what you’re saying is true, me skipping town makes you look guilty.”

“I’ll deal with it—“

“I’m not just gonna leave, Taemin.”

“Jongin,” Taemin consciously lowers his voice. “you’re right about Jupiter. They’re fucking savage and they’re out to get you and you need to run.”

“We’ll figure something out.” He tries, reaching to rest a hand on Taemin’s hip. Taemin’s gaze drops to the ground and he steps closer, grabbing fistfuls of Jongin’s collar. Jongin closes the distance and hugs Taemin to his chest.

“You don’t understand… He’s not buying any of it. He pulled me into his office and told me to admit anything I was holding back. He knows.”

“But can he prove it?”

Taemin pulls away, still gripping Jongin’s shirt. “It doesn’t matter if he can prove it! He didn’t say it out loud but I’m sure he knows your face. He’s got authority and if he says you’re guilty they’ll just take his word for it because they don’t think of you guys as people, you don’t have rights to them, they’re sick of this cat and mouse game and just want you dead, Jongin!”

Jongin snorts. “This isn’t new—“

“Just go! Go hide out in that place you have in the mountains. Can’t you just do this for me? Please?”

“I am doing this for you! If I disappear there won’t be any doubt and everything will be on you!”

“The difference here is that I don’t end up dead in any scenario—“

 

 

“—hold them right there, don’t pull too hard—no, the one with the blue cap, not red—“

The carpet feels like sandpaper against his cheek. There’s dim light coming from somewhere out of his unfocused view.

“There’s so much—“

“It’s okay, he’s still okay,”

Taemin sees cabinets directly in front of him. His eyes travel up the woodgrain to the edge of a countertop, to a wide window that ends just before a door nearly out of his workable sight.

The air feels heavy. His arms feel like lead—no, he can’t get them in front of him.

“I need the one with the thinnest tip,”

He slowly pulls and twists his wrists. The rope is smooth but holds fast and the effort starts to sting a little. His hair obscures his vision as he turns to look, but that’s the rounded corner of a table above him. Taemin is anchored to one of its legs bolted to the floor.

“We’re almost there. There’s more gauze in the other kit.”

Someone rushes by, paying him no mind. Taemin slowly goes back to facing the floor as drawers jerk open and slam shut. Feigning unconsciousness is the only action he can take. Shoes thump back to the other end of the room.

“Okay, careful, careful, not too much pressure, just rinse it out,”

The voices are hushed, but they’re very close by. With his ear against the ground Taemin can hear movement.

“Hey, hey, look, see? The bleeding has almost stopped completely, so that means that little nick was the worst of it.”

The voice is little more than a soothing whisper. Everything is still and silent until Taemin hears a quaking breath.

“Keep it together just a little longer. Jongin still needs you.”

Jongin.

Taemin dares a glance.

The room is elongated and narrow, lined with storage cabinets and windows and furniture and this isn’t a room—they’re in an RV. His legs are still partially in the way of the only path up and down the space. Taemin is lying haphazardly off to the side, his upper body only moved to a point they could tether him. They had more pressing things to deal with.

Past the door is the cockpit and no one is there. In the other direction there’s a small sitting area and someone—two people, are crouched on the ground, hunched over. Over what, exactly, Taemin’s knees are blocking his view, but he has an idea and his chest knots up.

“He’s going to need and IV. Do you remember how I showed you?”

“I’ve got it,” a third person stands and carefully hurries past them and Taemin closes his eyes and nearly stops breathing. Water starts running. He peeks just long enough to see a tall male at the counter in front of him, broad back turned, rinsing his hands.

“We can get rid of these now,” The calm one on the ground instructs the other. The water stops and the tall one steps away. Taemin doesn’t risk the peek. It’s quiet for a few moments, save for a few small ticks and clinks of metal on metal.

Taemin hears an exhale.

“Sehun—yeah, just like that,” Movement, dull steps against the carpet, “I’ve got his legs, try and keep his head and shoulder in that position… Ready, one, two, three—“

They shuffle a few paces farther away. A bed creaks.

“He needs to stay level so it’s not so hard on his body to pump around the blood he has left,” The voice gets closer and the water starts again. It’s brief, and he’s back with the others in seconds. Whatever they’re mumbling about now is too low for Taemin to understand.

He tries his binds again while he thinks he's out of their thoughts. Taemin doesn’t know much about knots, but after a few moments of completely useless, careful struggling, it’s apparent whoever tied him up sure does. Three tight, distinguishable loops around each wrist, not loosening in the least, no matter what he does.

Taemin stills when urgent steps halt right in front of him. “…Maybe we can catch them while they’re still in town.” It’s the one who’s been doing most of the talking.

“What about him?”

Fuck. Taemin wants to know, too. He’s hyperaware of their presence, of their eyes looking down on him.

“We’ll figure that out later—“ Two sets of shoes walk onto a different surface. A door squeaks open and hisses closed with a soft click. It’s quiet enough Taemin can hear cars nearby. He opens his eyes.

Taemin pulls a leg in and tries to get himself upright. He can’t move his wrists at all from where they’re tied but he doesn’t need much leverage.

He tries to lift his head and the world is flung into a tailspin. His stomach churns and his throat tightens, and Taemin stills helplessly until it subsides.

It’s not as bad on the second attempt. It’s manageable. He’s not sure how long he’s been on the ground and partial blame lies with Yunho, but his shoulder is so stiff it’s painful to move. The journey vertical is slow.

The second he’s sitting up he spots the massive dark blotch. He’s seen the damage a dropped glass of wine creates, but this—it looks like someone dumped half a bottle right on the floor. A white towel stained beyond saving and soaking wet patches of gauze are scattered everywhere, a large first aid kit with its contents angrily emptied is off to the side where the two were kneeling. The sheer size of the mess…

There’s a half-drawn curtain at the end of the RV. He can’t lean any farther but he manages to see the bottom half of a bed and the partial form of someone under the covers. Taemin threatens to tear his shoulders out of their sockets

He yanks forward, up and down, get somewhere. He slumps back against the column; it didn’t feel like it wobbled in the slightest. What he gets is sharp pain in his shoulders, burns around his wrists, and a loss of breath because Jongin’s blood is all over him, too.

The last thing he remembers is the conversation. Taemin telling him to leave and Jongin not fucking listening. Jongin suddenly stumbling, the—oh.

It’s smeared over his neck and shoulder, probably some on his face. Small flecks everywhere from the spray. It was a shot from behind, and they aimed for the major artery buried behind his clavicle if the exit wound Taemin caught sight of before blacking out is any indication. Only they shot just above it; grazing it causes plenty of damage. He would still bleed out in minutes. Any lower and Taemin would have been hit due to the height difference. The accuracy of that shot is impossible.

Changmin. He followed Taemin, and Taemin practically gave him Jongin.

He draws his legs to his chest and hides his face in his knees.

There’s a commotion outside, more than the two voices he knew were out there. No use playing dead anymore. Taemin tries to wipe his eyes against his jeans, and his head snaps up—grave mistake, his vision is suddenly jarred—when the door flies open. One heavy step up the stairs and their eyes lock.

Taemin’s position on the ground could be at fault, but he’s much bigger in person.

Chanyeol doesn’t stare for long, heading to the back only to stop just short of the bloodied carpet. Taemin watches his adams apple bob with a hard swallow before carefully padding around it. Leaning forward as much as his sore shoulders and arms allow, Taemin sees the curtain pushed just a little farther back and Chanyeol disappears.

“You’re the punk from the factory!” A familiar face and voice, Baekhyun points at him from the top stair. Taemin didn’t even hear him enter. Sehun, and if Taemin remembers correctly, the shorter one with all the authority must be Joonmyun, are looking curiously past Baekhyun from outside, the door stuck wide open. His heart beating so hard they can probably see his pulse, Taemin draws up his shoulders and looks away under all the attention.

Baekhyun twists back around and faces the doorway. “Why is he here?”

Sehun leisurely continues lighting his cigarette, taking in a slow breath followed by an even slower exhale before answering. “Jongin brought him.”

Taemin finds a little solace in how casually he speaks of Jongin, like there’s nothing going on, like he didn’t almost die just a few moments ago. Baekhyun throws Taemin a look more baffled than the first. “Why?”

Joonmyun nudges his way past Baekhyun and crouches down, closer to Taemin’s level, elbows on his knees like he’s greeting a shy child. Taemin would have backed up if he could, instead he pulls his legs closer. Joonmyun studies him, eyes lingering much longer on the blood stains than Taemin himself. “Yeah. Why.”

Chapter Text

{chapter warnings: none}
- - - -

 

Taemin keeps his gaze lowered. The other’s pants are soaked where he kneeled next to Jongin. He can see remnants of red on the hem of Joonmyun’s sleeves rolled back on his forearms, and on the edges of his shoes where he stepped in the bloodied carpet. Taemin tries to keep his shaky breathing silent; increasingly difficult with all the eyes on him, looks boring into him with malice he knows is justified. The bed at the end of the RV complains under new weight.

“Do you know why you were both unconscious?” Joonmyun asks suddenly, angling his head to try and force Taemin’s eye contact. “When Jongin teleports, he basically breaks himself down and reassembles himself at the location of his choosing. When he’s hurt he risks making the injury worse. That’s just him. Bringing another living, breathing human with him,” Taemin reluctantly meets his gaze. It’s soft, too soft, and too unreadable. He can’t press himself any harder against the slim column. “it’s fifty-fifty they are still breathing when they appear. He’s the only one meant to do what he does, and his body takes the hit for him to spread his gift over someone else. It leaves Jongin exhausted when he’s in good condition, regardless if they survive. Now tell me why he risked tearing himself open, why he risked killing the both of you, to bring you here.”

Taemin’s vision gets wet and blurry. He grits his teeth, brows knitting together in a glare at the darkened floor. Blond hair falls around his eyes the lower he hangs his head.

“Are you crying?”

Taemin tilts his head just enough to look, his vision clear enough after the tears overflowed. Eyes as red as his probably are, narrow shoulders slumped… Taemin recognizes the one that can demolish buildings.

“Wait a fucking—“ Baekhyun reminds Taemin of his presence and Baekhyun’s gaze whips between Joonmyun and Sehun, now loitering in the doorway. He snatches something off the counter. “Are these his?”

In his hands is the black wallet containing Taemin’s badge and ID. Baekhyun flicks it open, only scanning its contents for a split second before gaping at Taemin.

“You? You’re the boyfriend!?”

Sehun is up the steps, peeking over Baekhyun’s shoulder. “He’s fucking what?”

“He’s fucking Jongin!”

Joonmyun straightens up and looks along with them. They should know Taemin’s name, Jongin had mentioned him. It seems to take Joonmyun and Sehun a moment to recall what they heard at the cabin.

“This is the guy Jongin met at the club me and Jongdae were texting,” All three focus on Taemin, who stares wide eyed back up at them. “He said you were a cop!”

“He knew!” Taemin spits, more tears spilling over. “He knew almost the entire time! We met days before I started working for Jupiter, and he found out that day in the factory! But he kept going anyway, acting like nothing was wrong, and I never connected anything, and that was fine. It should have stayed that way. But then, at work—Jupiter looked into me, and they found him and how he doesn’t fucking exist and they started digging, so I confronted him and he told me about you, about the dreams—“

“Woah woah woah,” Joonmyun rapidly waves both hands. “He what? What do you know?”

“A lot.” Taemin swallows hard, trying to get himself under control. “He told me about the tattoos, glyphs, whatever the hell they are. He told me the story, the universe thing. The nightmares. About your parallels, how their world overlaps with this one and you all meet at that cabin, that you can all feel each other…”

Joonmyun buries his face in his hands. “God dammit, Jongin...” He cards his fingers through his hair, throwing a look at the curtain. “Does Jupiter know?”

Taemin shakes his head. “I d-didn’t tell them any of it, but they know about Jongin.”

“How?”

He breathes deep, glancing at the curtain and then to Baekhyun who silently looks like he’s been accused of something. “…He told me that factory that blew up was a diversion to get you out of town. Jupiter thought it was suspicious, how you knew we would be looking for …Chanyeol. Specifically. They figured you’re either in our system, or there’s a rat. They took a hard look at everyone and who we’ve been with,” Joonmyun’s eyes slide closed. “They found Jongin suspicious and started asking questions. There was only so much we could explain. Jupiter got too close and Jongin needed to go and while we were talking…” Taemin sorrowfully looks at the mess on the carpet and no one speaks for a few beats.

“You didn’t shoot him?” The inquiry is doubtful.

“Are you joking?!” Taemin is in no position to get defensive but he raises his voice. “He was shot from behind! And he fell on top of me!” Joonmyun shakes his head dismissively and walks to the cockpit. Taemin must have missed some silent signal to disburse because Baekhyun leaves for the back and Sehun slips into the booth directly behind Taemin. “H-Hey!”

“There’s no point in talking until Jongin wakes up.”

Protesting won’t get him anywhere. Taemin supposes he should be thankful to even be alive, but the RV roars to life and dread sets in as they begin to move.

A keyboard ticks behind him. He turns his head and glimpses at Sehun squinting at a laptop.

Kyungsoo disappeared at some point, but Taemin can see Baekhyun sitting on the corner of the bed. He’s talking to someone out of sight so quietly Taemin can’t hear a thing.

He feels wet. His shirt is sticking to him and the smell is getting to him. He stares at his legs, the floor, occasionally movement at the end of the curtain catches his attention. Eventually Taemin’s head falls to rest on his knees, the back of his skull feeling like someone took a bat to it.

An uncertain amount of time passes and Taemin doesn’t look when someone approaches him. They’re still a moment before he’s nudged, and he reluctantly opens his eyes to see Baekhyun lowering himself to the floor in front of him, his back to the cabinets. Kyungsoo is at the sink, paying him no mind; the tap is flicked on and water starts to run. Taemin tenses a little, but mostly he just feels tired and heavy.

Baekhyun settles comfortably cross legged and thoughtfully focuses on picking at his pant leg as he speaks. “…So what did you think? When he told you? …Everything?”

He kept adding until Taemin seemed to understand. Taemin studies him, looking for some visible intent. Baekhyun looks cautious. Bracing himself a bit, maybe.

“…I don’t know.” Taemin stares at his knees wearily. “He didn’t seem like he was lying, but… it sounds so…”

“Do you think Jupiter—“

“Baek.” Kyungsoo sighs weakly. “Don’t.”

Baekhyun stares at him innocently. “What?”

“You know what.” They stare at each other for a long time. Kyungsoo steps away with a rag in hand. Baekhyun just watches, even as he leaves sight.

“…Jongin asked the same thing.” Taemin mutters. He lifts his gaze and sees Baekhyun hoping for more. Taemin feels a little bad, the exact same brand of guilt creeping up as he told Jongin. “I don’t think… I don’t think it would change anything. Jupiter is curious, but even if they do believe it there’s no way they would just overlook everything.” It’s nothing like letting Jongin down, but watching Baekhyun’s face fall and eyes downcast still hurt a little.

And it hurts just a bit more when Baekhyun’s eyes downcast and he nods weakly. “I don’t know what I was expecting.”

Taemin thinks he sees redness in his eyes when Baekhyun gets to his feet and walks back around the curtain. He’s left staring at the vacant space before him, feeling like he should be held responsible for everything that’s been done to them and hoping they don’t agree.

 

Taemin doesn’t remember closing his eyes but they drive over a rough patch of road and he’s shaken awake. The main light is off and most of the RV is dark, save for a small light behind the curtain and the white light from a cell phone. Chanyeol is seated on the small couch right at the mouth of the divider, reading something off his phone with one arm wrapped securely around Baekhyun’s waist. The latter fit himself against Chanyeol’s side with one leg folded beneath him, his back to Taemin and shoulder to the backrest. Both look like they’re just barely holding on to consciousness.

Chanyeol lifts his head to peek behind the curtain and Taemin quickly looks away, suddenly aware he was staring.

Streetlights blur by at a speed that suggests a highway. Joonmyun is slumped in the driver’s seat with one hand on the wheel. In his peripheral he sees Sehun hasn’t relocated. The laptop is nowhere to be seen, and he’s currently sitting with his back to the window and his legs drawn up on the seat. His face is lit up, probably by a phone.

Their eyes suddenly connect and Taemin drops his gaze and faces forward. He shifts nervously and stills when his shoulder painfully protests the movement. The ground is hard and his neck and back are stiff. The headache is now a dull throb and the nausea is still floating about. Taemin draws in a breath and goes back to hanging his head against his knees, nearly drifting back asleep.

Sehun stirs and Taemin is jumpstarted alert. A set of legs appears in his peripheral as Sehun awkwardly pushes himself out of the booth and walks to the passenger side of the cockpit, whispering something to Joonmyun before dropping in the seat.

They don’t discuss further and Taemin gets antsy. Chanyeol and Baekhyun haven’t moved. Several moments go by before they start to slow down and fear starts creeping up his spine.

Once they stop and the engine switches off, they leave the cockpit and join the rest behind the curtain, bypassing Taemin without acknowledgement. Jongin must be awake. At least he’s okay, Taemin thinks as he strains himself, desperate for a glimpse. He can’t see a damn thing, not with the curtain tugged closer to the wall and Chanyeol’s large frame standing in the way.

Their voices are low. He thinks he hears someone call Jongin a fuckwit.

Someone is doing all the talking and it isn’t Jongin.

Every time Chanyeol shifts in place or shadows move Taemin gets hopeful, only to grow more agitated when they don’t come his way. He gives up and his eyes bore into the cabinets.

The curtain suddenly rustles and Sehun comes his way. He walks to Taemin’s side and kneels, and Taemin cowers away from his reach.

“Chill. Your story checks out.” Sehun gets to work undoing his binds.

Taemin curses under his breath when he gets his wrists in front of him; top layer of skin shredded and raw in some places, red in others. He doesn’t remember struggling that hard. He grips the edge of the table top and hauls himself up.

“Oh uh, don’t stand up too fast—“

Too late. His vision goes dark and the room seems to spin. Taemin’s knees buckle and he barely catches himself on the table, only slowing his fall before he plants both hands on the ground. The contents of his stomach and all associated organs rebel on him at once and a small garbage bin is shoved in front of him with the first dry heave.

He keeps his face in the bin until the fit of coughing subsides and the acid bubbles down. Taemin slowly sits back on his heels, eyelevel with Sehun’s hand offering aid.

“Teleporting kind of messes people up. You should take that with you.”

Taemin tries again. Sehun carefully guides him up with one hand under his arm and the other in his hand. The room manages to stay right side up but Taemin doesn’t trust his legs at all. They aren’t staring with impatience or smugness suggesting they’re happy about his condition but Taemin is gets more flustered the longer it takes for him to get to everyone else.

He can almost manage on his own when he makes it to the queen sized bed. The covers are all bunched around Jongin laying off-center, closer to the side Taemin is on. His color is sickly and cold, eyes dull and lightless. His shirt is gone, cut away to dress the wound. Other than an arm exposed for the IV, he’s covered up to his chest. Kyungsoo is under the blanket with him not looking much better for an entirely different reason, if Taemin understands their relationship. There’s enough room Taemin can sit on the edge of the bed, and once he’s close enough Jongin’s focus shifts his way.

“Wow… you look like shit. Sorry.”

Taemin almost rolls his eyes. “You’re one to talk.” He sounds a little more sorrowful than he means to and examines the patch job over Jongin’s clavicle.

“If what you told us is true,” Joonmyun begins, standing at the foot of the bed with his thumbs hooked in his pockets. “Jupiter now knows Jongin, and they’ve also got a trail of his past...?”

“Some work history, his records in America…” Taemin lists and Sehun tilts his head back with a quiet sigh.

“Awesome. With a minimal amount of digging they’ll have me, too.”

Joonmyun murmurs an assurance to him and looks between Taemin and Jongin, calculating the next question and who could provide the answer.

Eventually he decides on Taemin and shifts so he’s looking at him square on. He may have had a lecture in mind but manages to cut it down to the point. “What were you two thinking?”

Taemin hangs his head and reluctantly looks to Jongin, his tired eyes staring back up at Taemin; a little pained, a little lost. The plan was to clear Jongin’s name and continue as if Taemin wasn’t traitorously seeing a wanted man. He would have inevitably been little more than a spy for Jongin, leading each side away from each other to keep him—and by extension, Minho and everyone else—out of harm’s way. He would have done it, done anything Jongin asked of him. Anything that would make it so they could keep sleeping with arms around waists or backs against chests. Anything to keep smelling the odd fruit cocktail-club musk he leaves work with, later replaced by the only scent of shampoo he likes. Anything Taemin would have to do to have Jongin’s face or the sound of his voice or the delicate way he touches more than a memory.

Of course, Taemin isn’t going say any of that out loud. Not here.

Jongin can’t move his head much, not without risk. It’s not Taemin or Joonmyun he looks to when he answers.

“I don’t want to live like this forever.”

Kyungsoo’s mouth pulls into a line and he shakes his head a little. “All this time I thought Baekhyun was going to be the first to crack.”

“What?!”

He smiles a little, and Jongin smiles with him. It seems so out of place and Taemin doesn’t understand the turn of the conversation, only that there’s some little private world between Jongin and Kyungsoo, deep in each other’s eyes.

The elevated mood is brief. Kyungsoo’s face falls, more to disapproval than sadness. “But you didn’t have to pick one of them. Seriously. This is the stupidest thing you’ve ever done.” He suddenly looks at Taemin and Taemin almost flinches. “He’s an idiot. What’s your excuse?”

Maybe they would believe him if he said he truly does care about Jongin, all things considered.

“…I’m pretty sure I’m an idiot, too.”

“Okay,” Joonmyun exhales and paces around to Taemin’s side of the bed, stopping just short of him. “never mind why. Doesn’t matter.” There’s that silent signal again. Chanyeol sits back down and pulls a laptop on to his lap and Sehun plops down next to him. Baekhyun settles on Chanyeol’s other side, but he remains attentive to what’s going on around the bed. Taemin watches them curiously as the screen lights up their faces.

“Bottom line is… it can’t continue.”

Taemin just barely catches it. He stares numbly as it just hangs there in the air. Taemin just wanted Jongin to leave, flee from the immediate danger. But with a target on Jongin’s back and Taemin being a suspected accomplice, inevitably…

“You know why,” Joonmyun continues, answering Jongin’s mute expression of protest. Kyungsoo has his hand flat on Jongin’s chest, keeping him down, just in case. “It’s dangerous for us and it’s extremely dangerous for him.”

Jongin opens his mouth but Joonmyun looks pointedly at Taemin. “What happens to you if Jupiter finds out you knew?”

Taemin thinks back to his contract. He swallows hard and doesn’t look at either of them, muttering the answer like the child Joonmyun is making him feel he is. “…Minimum prison sentence of ten years, if they’re lenient.” He didn’t think anything of it at the time. Committing treason wasn’t a career goal.

Joonmyun turns to Jongin, already subdued. “Do you want that?”

“Of course not.” Jongin says bitterly. “But… what do we do now? He’s here. They watched me take him.”

Joonmyun throws a look Chanyeol’s way and he tears his gaze away from the laptop. “…They reworked their security. I don’t know how long it’ll take me to get around it.”

Joonmyun nods slowly while mentally weighing their options. “…We’ll figure something out when we see what Jupiter is up to. Until then, no one is leaving.”

 

Taemin is an outsider. The talk he wanted to have with Jongin doesn’t happen, not with all of them so near. Sehun tossed his phone into traffic when he and Jongin appeared to avoid tracking. They’re back on the road, heading somewhere Taemin doesn’t care enough to ask and Joonmyun doesn’t care enough to know. They just need to get away.

Even if they had privacy, Jongin didn’t have the energy to stay awake. He’s not getting any worse, but he’s not looking any better. In a case of blood loss the ideal remedy is a transfusion, but they don’t have the means. The next best thing is a steady drip of fluids, and keeping Jongin warm enough so his body can naturally replace what he lost. Taemin is in no shape to be the one huddled under the covers with him, but he doesn’t really like that it’s Kyungsoo. It’s an aggravating mix of possessiveness and jealousy attached to a sad realization that he has something with Jongin that Taemin will never have.

But Kyungsoo will never have what Taemin and Jongin have either, and it keeps him silent. That, and Taemin feels like absolute shit.

There’s so much pressure in and around his skull. It comes in intervals of a little, a lot, and oh my fucking god everyone’s breathing is so loud. The nausea is there when the headache is not. He’s cold and sometimes his limbs don’t feel like they belong to him.

“It could be worse.” Baekhyun offers. Taemin struggles into a heavy sweatshirt they kindly borrowed him so he wouldn’t have to sit there covered in dried blood. Sehun told him he was getting depressing to look at. “We don’t teleport with Jongin anymore. I had really bad narcoleptic episodes for two months after last time.”

He goes on to say the price is far too great for Jongin to be their sure way out of danger, and how ironically powerless he feels.

Baekhyun talks to him like he’s been socially deprived. They must live really isolated lives for him to be so desperate for fresh interaction that anyone would do, including a Jupiter agent. Taemin watched him go on his tiptoes to reach a cupboard and his shirt rode up, exposing what Taemin can only assume is one of many marks Jupiter left on him. Both Jongin and Jupiter’s records state he’s had the most close calls, and yet he speaks with Taemin so easily, so carefree. Taemin gets a little nervous whenever Chanyeol looks their way.

Taemin simply cannot wrap his head around how they just… trust Jongin. Taemin is grateful they didn’t leave him tied up on the floor, but he can’t justify suddenly being treated so normally. He can’t shake the feeling of being behind enemy lines. Jupiter has everyone conditioned to believe they’re up against monsters. Yet, here he is; Baekhyun almost got Taemin to send him a dick pic and Baek-logic seems to dictate they’ve been friends ever since. Taemin was sexually assaulted by his superior right there in his office, in broad daylight. Nothing seems right.

He’s had no sense of time since waking up, but the sky gets a little lighter as the sun begins to rise. They pull off the road again, somewhere far from other cars.

“So far, they have no idea where you are. You’ve been reported missing, ‘feared dead’. That’s all I can find.” Chanyeol considers his work done, screwing his eyes shut from so much strain. He passes the laptop off to Sehun and falls sideways, face down on the small couch.

“Sounds to me like they don’t think you’re guilty.” Joonmyun says. Taemin doesn’t know what to think. Yunho claimed he believed him when Taemin said he wasn’t keeping anything from Jupiter, but there’s no way he’s putting faith into anything that man says.

“Hey, Soo…” Taemin turns his head at Jongin’s voice. He didn’t even realize Jongin was awake. “can you give me and Taemin a little time to talk? Well uh…” He gestures weakly about the area. “can you all? Just like… a little privacy?”

Taemin struggles to his feet just to sit back down on the edge of the bed beside Jongin. Kyungsoo moves carefully and tidies up the comforter before he leaves without a word. The others soon follow, Joonmyun the last to get out of ear shot. If they were apprehensive they didn’t argue. The curtain is partially drawn and Taemin isn’t sure how many of them exited the RV and how many loiter near the cockpit.

They’re silent for a long time. Jongin looks absolutely pitiful and Taemin, though nowhere near his death bed, probably looks just as bad. Jongin’s cheek is a little cold to the touch and Taemin leans down to him, burying his face in the crook of Jongin’s neck without applying any pressure even though it’s the uninjured side. Jongin gently pets from his hair to his neck and Taemin feels a prick at his eyes he fights to hold in.

His eyes water, but the tears don’t fall. He wants to collapse right on top of Jongin, wrap his arms around him and stay that way but he looks so fragile, like he’ll shatter with careless handling.

“…I… I want you to tell them you didn’t know. You had no idea until I brought you—I took you. I was using you to get at Jupiter and that’s all. You realized I’ve been playing you when you woke up here, tied up.”

Taemin pulls away, Jongin’s hand only slipping away from his neck when he can no longer reach.

“And it was empty when you woke up. You heard talking outside and you saw the blood but you didn’t see me—“

Taemin’s brows furrow further, eyes beginning to lose the fight to keep the tears in. “Jongin—“

“—You can still make it out of this and you’re going to. They can’t prove anything. Make us the bad guys Jupiter already thinks we are, it doesn’t matter. It’s not like you can hurt our reputation.” He chuckles weakly, groping for Taemin’s hold. Taemin closes both hands around Jongin’s and attempts to softly rub heat into them. The faint smile stays on his lips. “Hey. Everything will be okay—“

“How?” There’s a bite to the whisper. “Jupiter knows everything about you. You were fucking shot. How will everything be okay?”

“Channel your inner theater nerd. I think you’ll be able to convince them—“

“You, Jongin. How will everything be okay for you.”

Jongin squeezes his hand and coaxes Taemin back down. Cheek to cheek, fingers card through blond hair while Taemin remains motionless, too afraid to touch Jongin back. He cups Taemin’s cheek and guides him to his lips for a chaste kiss Taemin is reluctant to end.

“I’ll be okay. They’ll make it okay. This isn’t the worst thing that has ever happened to us and we’ll deal with it.”

He sounds so sure. Taemin can only take his word for it. He doesn’t want to fight. He nods once and pulls away, sitting with his hands in his lap and his eyes aimed at the ground as if he’s been scolded.

“Promise me you’re going to lie your ass off and save yourself.”

Taemin nods somberly. The blood all over is clothes, the rope burns around his wrists, and probably some tears will hopefully supply enough evidence Jupiter will leave him be. Jongin lightly taps on Taemin’s thigh to get his attention.

If possible, Jongin’s condition worsened since Taemin last looked at him and when he speaks Taemin can only hear the weakness in his voice. After a few more moments of whispered assurances and roughly stringing a story together, the others return and they solidify a plan.

Taemin and Jongin are both silent through most of it, Taemin offering an occasional nod to show he’s still there. They gathered back around the bed, Kyungsoo reclaiming his spot on Jongin’s other side. He remembers Jongin mentioning Kyungsoo isn’t as cold as his exterior conveys. Taemin isn’t so sure. He keeps nervously glancing at him out of the corner of his eye, feeling like Kyungsoo might be staring at him. He never is, and Taemin tenses when Kyungsoo catches him.

He can’t help being nervous. They’re talking about letting him go, but instead of relief all he feels is unease, like they’ll turn on him as soon as they’re out of Jongin’s presence.

They have driven quite a distance from where Jupiter could have pulled a location from Taemin’s phone before it was destroyed. They’re somewhere in Russia, far from any major cities or roads. Taemin knows Jupiter has an ally branch in the country, he just doesn’t remember where.

In the end it doesn’t matter. They’re going to drop him off a couple miles outside the next town they pass and he’s going to walk the rest of the way, if his legs cooperate. It’ll be more convincing if he falls a few times, get a little dirty so when he tells them the story his appearance will match.

It turned out to be a harder trek than he imagined. More than once he had to stop and rest because the world would spin and pull him to the ground. When he has his back turned, forearm supporting himself against a tree as he vomits what feels like everything he ate in the last week, an elderly woman pulls off the road and offers him help.

The hospital staff aren’t sure what to do for him and the language barrier makes everything difficult. He was back in his blood stained clothes and only after a doctor examined him (perplexed to find no wound) was he allowed to make a phone call. Between the vomiting and heartache and whatever teleporting did to him, how horrible Taemin sounds as he speaks with Jonghyun isn’t an act.

Taemin spends a few hours in a drug induced sleep until he’s awakened by a couple of agents from Jupiter’s Russian cousin, Juno. He doesn’t really remember their names or what they said, only that he’ll be on a flight back to Jupiter very soon. Taemin vaguely remembers falling asleep with his head against the cold window in the backseat of a car he’s never been in, and he remembers being on the plane.

He remembers the rushed goodbye and Jongin’s promise to see him again.

What Minho may have been going through after Jupiter announced Taemin was missing or dead hadn’t crossed Taemin’s mind until Minho embraced him in the airport terminal. He has to regurgitate the story to Yunho under Minho’s distressed gaze, a weight that gets heavier as the story progresses.

There isn’t much to tell, really; Taemin woke up on the floor of a pretty nice RV with the worst migraine he’s ever had and his hands bound behind his back. There was blood all over the floor and all over his clothes, but there was no sign of Jongin. He heard voices just outside the door and while they were away, Taemin managed to escape his binds and the RV, crawling out a window on the opposite side. He didn’t get a good look at the RV or anyone nearby as he was too disoriented by his condition to focus on anything but getting away. He stumbled through a patch of forest before hitting a road, and traveled along the side until someone found him.

What really sells it are the tears that begin rolling down Taemin’s cheeks at the mention of Jongin. He puts on a convincing show. His voice cracks on Jongin’s name and he has to take a moment, jaw clenched as he seems to realize right then and there he was used and betrayed. He hangs his head low when he bitterly mutters to Yunho he was right about Jongin and Yunho buys every bit of it. He even offers an apology Taemin knows is meant for what he did in his office, but this time he feels the sincerity and Taemin is sure he’s home free.

Taemin is quiet after that, only speaking up to beg Minho to take him home instead of to a hospital. There’s something very wrong with him but he could only tolerate so many fruitless tests. One would have to be deaf and blind to think Taemin was in any shape to be anywhere but a hospital bed, but both Baekhyun and Joonmyun informed him there isn’t much a doctor can do. He just has to wait it out.

Jongin looked like he was barely hanging on when Taemin left him. They can’t take him to a hospital, can’t give him what he desperately needed. He got shot, he bled, he felt pain and continued to feel it in the aftermath; he’s human. The warmth and brightness his eyes usually held was nearly snuffed out. He may have survived those few hours after the fact, but so many things can go wrong.

Everything can go wrong. But the thought that keeps Taemin shut away in his room with his face against the sheets, keeps him slumped against the shower tile until the water runs cold, keeps him on the brink of tears every time Jongin crosses his mind, is the possibility Jongin’s friends wouldn’t tell him if Jongin didn’t make it.

Why would they? They were civil with him by Jongin’s wish and nothing else. If he died, there is no doubt in Taemin’s mind they would blame him. They wouldn’t be wrong to. What would be worse, he wonders; them coming after him, or just leaving him ignorant. Leave him feeling shattered, with no hope of ever being pieced back together. Leave him suffering and alienated because he can never speak the truth. Jongin wouldn’t have wanted him to out his friends, not to mention the penalties Taemin would face at Jupiter’s hands.

He can’t look Minho in the eye. Not without feeling like the scum of the earth.

He has lied to and continues to lie to his best friend and the only one who still tries to help, who only grows more and more frustrated and miserable when he knows he can’t do anything for this kid he loves as a brother.

Minho stayed with him that first night, held him until the sobs tearing through his body faded along with his consciousness. He had to say goodbye to Jongin and the realization that it may have been an absolute, final farewell struck him like a blow to his gut.

To really seal the deal, between the fits of crying he tells Minho it’s so much worse that being stalked and almost raped. Jongin was the first real relationship Taemin had that meant something, and he finds out he’s being used. He never should have let someone get so close, get inside his head and his body like Jongin did.

He has to pretend to hate Jongin and he finds himself just keeping quiet for days at a time. Taemin is thankful Kibum is around. Someone has to be there for Minho and Taemin is an actual piece of shit human being who doesn’t deserve a friend that stays by his side and suffers right along with him.

He overhears them one night, like a mom and dad fretting about their troubled child. Fretting about the dark, anemic circles around his eyes and how he can’t seem to get warm and how he is definitely dropping weight he really cannot afford to lose.

Sometimes when he’s walking he’ll lose balance or his legs will give out completely at random. The headaches and nausea still hit him here and there, he’s even fainted. He’s tired. All. The. Time. Still feeling the side effects of teleportation, he assumes. The events seem to have leveled off and show no further signs of fading. It’s concerning, but it provides a solid excuse to sulk in bed all day. It’s less exhausting if they let him be, but he knows it’s awful for his deteriorating health.

Weeks later and he finally wills himself to try harder, if only for Minho’s sake. He gets a hopeful little gleam in his eye when Taemin shuffles to the couch or the kitchen in the morning and decides to spend most of the day away from his room. Admittedly, Taemin was starting to miss sunlight. The two poodles still residing in the apartment tend to brighten his day as well.

Kibum speaks to him like he’s soothing an injured puppy. He upgraded from being completely grounded to being somewhat mobile by way of crutches, but still spends a lot of time on the couch. Many times Taemin has found himself huddled close, his head on Kibum’s shoulder or even on the undamaged side of his lap, Kibum’s fingers in his hair or his arm around Taemin’s shoulders. He misses affection and Minho isn’t always around. And, of course, neither is Jongin.

It’s those sorts of thoughts that kill moments of relief.

“Hey, wait—“ Kibum tugs on his sleeve just as he’s about to stand and retreat to the comfort and seclusion of his room. They were enjoying a movie, Taemin pressed against Kibum’s side because Kibum is always the right amount of warm. But Jongin began clouding his thoughts and once it starts Taemin can’t stop it. He hasn’t reached the point of his tears drying up so when he feels his eyes water he gravitates to the back of the apartment, out of sight. He hates crying in front of Minho and absolutely refuses to do so in Kibum’s presence.

But today, Kibum isn’t having it. He moves to grip Taemin’s hand and gently coaxes him back. Taemin doesn’t have much fight in him these days and wordlessly slumps back into his spot. Kibum clicks off the TV and Taemin already doesn’t like where this is going.

“I know we aren’t that close, but would you try talking to me? I know Minho has tried, he’s trying really hard,” Taemin flinches internally at the mention. He sees the pain on Minho’s face, feels the anguish in his eyes when they watch Taemin leave the room. “but you can’t keep doing this. Leaving when you start feeling too much. You won’t get better. People are worried, Taemin. Jonghyun and Victoria call and ask about you, did you know that?”

Tears prick at his eyes. Taemin allows Kibum to pull their interlocked hands to his lap as Taemin turns away. No. He didn’t need to know that. People shouldn’t be bothering themselves over him.

“And…the other thing I’m sure you’ve been informed of…” Kibum brings his other hand over Taemin’s, his fingers lightly tracing his knuckles and the visible veins. “Jupiter is requiring a thorough physical and psych evaluation. Probably multiple meetings with a few doctors since you’re the only one they have that had the experience. Everyone is curious, especially since you’re still… a little off.”

Taemin wipes his eyes with his sleeve and hugs his legs to his chest. There was an email about it from Yunho. The only reason Taemin has been allowed this time to himself is because Jupiter is looking for the right physicians and they’ll have to be made aware of the unique circumstances. The intense screening process is taking longer than he thought. The lengthier the wait grows the more the anxiety builds. Taemin isn’t so sure he’ll be able to keep it all in if Jupiter pokes and prods for answers when he’s so weak and vulnerable.

”They’re going to make you talk about what you’re feeling, and they won’t leave you alone until they’re satisfied. So, what I’m getting at is that you should talk to someone who wants to listen. And I mean really listen. I can’t help but think Jupiter is going to make you their little science project. They aren’t going to try and help, they just want to know what this did to you.” He’s not going to cry. He is not going to cry. Kibum keeps his voice gentle but Taemin can see him get a little frantic and he carefully smooths his hand up Taemin’s back. “Please talk to someone. Get it all out with someone that cares. We want you to feel better but we can’t do anything for you if you won’t let us.”

Minho should really be the one, but Kibum is here and making a lot of sense and the arm around Taemin’s shoulders fits almost as well as Jongin’s had. The tears are hot on his cheeks and Taemin falls apart all over again. He pulls his hand out of Kibum’s grasp and wraps his arm snugly around his calves.

He hides his face in his knees, eyes screwed shut as he takes a few breaths and steadies his quivering. Minutes pass before he lifts his head in the slightest, just enough to see Kibum. Taemin falters under Kibum’s concern, the latter waiting very patiently and show no sign of giving up first. More guilt, another stab to his chest.

Bearing his heart entails spilling all the secrets, all the lying. No matter how much he may trust Minho or Kibum he can’t put them through the turmoil of choosing a side or let them share his traitorous position. But he can’t go on like this.

“…Even now, after everything, I still… I-I just,” Taemin manages, quiet and spoken over a dry whimper. “I still love him. And it hurts. It fucking hurts so much—“ he chokes on a small sob. “I don’t know how much more of this I can take and I don’t know what to do,” He can only sit and wait and hope Jongin will show up. If he doesn’t, if he really did die in that bed, how long before he’s able to come to terms with it and move on? He can’t imagine that grieving period or any future moment of his life being worse than what he feels right now. “We weren’t together that long, I-I don’t… I feel like I don’t even remember who I was before I met him…” He trails off, a sniveling shaking mess because he knows sounds like a pathetic heartbroken teenager. He buries his face in his arms and he feels Kibum’s delicate touch.

“Stop hanging on to him then—easier said than done, though, right?” Kibum brushes away a few strands of blond stuck by half dried tears near the edges of Taemin’s eyes. “I know the feeling of having something change you like that, and I’ve had to move on when it was suddenly taken away from me. Right now you’re disassociating yourself from everything. You feel like shit and you know it’s getting lonely, but you’re on the right track. Give yourself a little more time to calm down, let the pain subside. And, okay, this might sound a little silly, but hear me out. I highly recommend dyeing your hair, maybe getting a different cut. You should change yourself a little so when you look at yourself you don’t see what you looked like when you were with him. And you should start taking walks. Get out in the fresh air, go into a part of the city you haven’t been and you stay the hell away from that club. Pretend to be a functional human being long enough and you’ll fall into a routine you can rely on. You’ll meet someone along the way who will take care of you like Minho does and fill that emptiness you’re feeling. You’ve got some shit luck and you’re paying for it worse than anyone else I’ve ever seen, but you make it through this and everything after will seem a lot easier.”

Kibum dabs away the tears, careful of any tenderness around Taemin’s eyes. “It sounds hard, it probably will be hard for a while, but there’s no rush. This isn’t your typical heartache and you aren’t being dramatic. Baby steps.”

He doesn’t feel overwhelmed by the thought, so that must be a good sign. The mood is a little lighter, even as Taemin tilts his head with his eyes still glassy and red. “…Was that rehearsed.”

Kibum cracks a smile, a little sad given his brows are still pulled together in worry. “A little. Minho kept asking me what he should tell you so, yeah, I’ve been thinking about it for a while. How do you feel?”

Glad he can’t see himself in the TV screen, he should say. Eyes already puffy and heavy, staring at the dull blackness in thought just makes it worse. He sounds as though he’s nodding off mid-sentence. “…Tired, but okay. It helped, I think.”

“Yeah?” Kibum’s smile widens and he gives Taemin’s shoulder a small squeeze.

Taemin nods slightly, eyes falling closed for a long moment. “Yeah… really. Thank you.”

This spot on the couch is already warm and Kibum doesn’t seem to want to let him go. Taemin came out of his room earlier wrapped up in in a fleece blanket and one of the dogs settles behind his knees before he even finishes getting comfortable, all adding up to Taemin falling asleep right there with his head on Kibum’s thigh and his back to the TV.

There’s a point where he drifts awake, only for a few moments. He swears he hears Kibum and Minho’s distant voices whispering about him. Kibum saying he might have gotten through and Minho nearly breaking down in relief.

God, they really are his parents.

-

The days have been blurring together for a while. Somewhere in the ballpark of three (maybe seven) days later he’s called back to Jupiter for his first little appointment. Minho had been inviting him along for short little errands so it wasn’t his first taste of the outside world in the last two miserable months. No shock involved.

It’s as Kibum feared; helping him isn’t the priority. After Taemin realized it, he wasn’t much for conversation. Little progress was made in the three hour meeting, though he wasn’t the only one at fault. The shrink seemed more interested in ‘what they were like in person’ and the two doctors spent a lot of time bickering in language Taemin couldn’t place.

As usual, any sort of activity made him want to take up residence under his sheets for several days. Taemin knows it’s for science and not his personal benefit, but it would be phenomenal if those doctors could figure out what’s wrong with him. He shrugs off his day attire and piles on layers of sleep ware. The warmth situation has been getting a little better but Taemin still pretty much feels like a reptile, unable to produce his own body heat.

He flips back the covers and in the center of his mattress rests an envelope.

Taemin stares at it a moment, white on white. Contemplating just tossing it on his bedside table until after the eighteen hour nap, he gingerly brings it before him and finds nothing written on the outside. The bed creaks under his weight as he pulls out the stationary and unfolds it—

I’m so sorry it took so long.

Taemin’s heart lurches in his chest. His mouth falls open and he promptly clamps a hand over it to muffle any sound he may make. He’s seen Jongin’s handwriting before, but never so neatly printed.

Joonmyun wouldn’t let me go anywhere until he was sure I wouldn’t hurt myself. He gave me the OK a few days ago but I couldn’t figure out how to do this. I came to your room the other night and thought I could talk to you while the other two were asleep, but… you’re not okay, are you? I know it’s because of me. If I knew you were suffering so badly I would have gotten word to you sooner. I can’t say sorry enough. I can’t fix everything but I know how to help.

We should get a room booked at a hotel this weekend so we can talk. Tell them you’re reconnecting with an old hookup to get over me? Don’t worry about letting me know the specifics, I’ll find you. We’ll talk more when we meet but I want you to know

I’m still yours if you’re still mine

He chokes and sinks to the floor, burying his face his elbow as he grips the note.

Taemin folds it after rereading it many times over. Then he folds it again and again, until it’s small enough to close his hand around. The edges start to hurt his palm, but he keeps it close as he lowers himself into bed and buries himself in the softness.

If it’s still there when he wakes up, he’ll allow himself to believe it.

 

His room comes into focus when the sun is just peeking over the horizon, the square of stationary a little undone in front of his eyes. The writing is smudged on the creases, but it’s all there in Jongin’s hand writing. He didn’t imagine it.

I’m still yours if you’re still mine

 

“I think it’s great you’re going out and meeting a friend, really. But I don’t think this how you should go about… recovering.” Minho watches Taemin’s back with unease as the latter ties his shoes, crouched in front of the door.

He waits a beat too long to reply. “Why.” Taemin almost sighs as he stands and half turns to glance at Minho. “This sort of thing worked last time.”

Last time referring to the summer after the incident. He muddled through the first half of the year, shut away in his dorm where he wouldn’t feel the knowing eyes or hear the whispers. The second half he immersed himself in school to keep his mind busy. By the time summer rolled around and he went home for a few months, it was all coming back and he had no outlet. Taemin attempted to fall back into his old habits but found out the hard way he could no longer tolerate the party scene.

A friend got in touch with him; Taemin suspects his family had something to do with it. Instead of conventional moral support, he spent the rest of his vacation fucking someone he felt safe with. The idea was to desensitize himself, or make it so he could enjoy it again. Whichever came first.

“I… I know. But it just doesn’t seem healthy.” Minho’s gigantic worried cow eyes are bearing down on him and Taemin
focuses on the woodgrain in the floor.

“…Getting fucked until I can’t remember my own name isn’t really the plan, Minho. Don’t worry. Wonsik’s a smart guy and he’s been in a ton of relationships. He’ll probably be a bigger help to me than the guy Jupiter hired. Okay?”

More lying. Not completely, because he did in fact talk to Wonsik and everything about him is the truth, but Taemin is still hiding and now his old friend is an accessory. He convinced Wonsik to book a room at a hotel for a night under his name and using his credit card, and Wonsik complied under the one condition that Taemin won’t do something that’ll have cops coming after him.

Minho seems to relax, albeit reluctantly. “Okay. Just… okay. Call me if you want me to come get you.”

“I will, but just so you know,” A small smile manages to make its way on his face, maybe the third one since finding Jongin’s note. “he mentioned the hotel room came with fully stocked mini bar. If you don’t hear from me, assume I’m sleeping over.”

 

He forgets how to breathe when he spots the weak glow coming from under the door. The light is on. Someone is already in the room. The metal knob is chilly under his grip as he slips the card in the slot and waits for the click of acceptance.

Taemin pushes it open after a brief moment of hesitation. There’s a short hall, bathroom on one side and closet on the other, and he can see the foot of king size mattress. Venturing further, everything appears to be in its place, ready for the next occupant.

Nobody. The curtains are drawn and the standing lamp in the corner is on, but whoever did it doesn’t seem to be around. Taemin paces about restlessly, vainly searching for another note or something that could tell him what’s going on. After a few moments he toes off his shoes and draws his legs up onto the bed with the remote to the flat screen on the opposite wall in hand. Jongin implied he would find the room on his own, though Taemin has no idea how, unless Jongin is watching him—in which case, why the fuck isn’t he here now?

The local news drowns out the silence. Taemin turned off his phone as a precaution, so the coverage of a pile up on a nearby interstate is all he has to entertain himself… plus the mini bar. Maybe a drink or three isn’t a bad idea with how anxious he’s feeling.

Taemin didn’t request anything special but boy, Wonsik sure went all out. He huffs internally when he sees the champagne in the bucket of ice, along with two wine glasses and if Taemin is correct, this is a suite. All he told Wonsik was that he needed some time alone with someone he wasn’t supposed to be with and now Taemin vaguely wonders if the bathtub is surrounded by candles or full of rose petals.

The last time he drank champagne was at his brother’s wedding and it wasn’t an efficient way to blur the senses, but he shouldn’t let it go to waste. He gets through an entire glass and reaches to pour a second when he starts at a strange sound—quiet and muffled, as if he were hearing it underwater—and dusty black smoke dissipates in his peripheral. It takes him a moment to understand he’s no longer alone.

“H..Hey…” Jongin says timidly as he drops a plastic shopping bag beside his feet. Jongin looks almost fearful as he stares at Taemin, as if Taemin wasn’t supposed to be there.

Maybe it takes a while for Taemin to take in the sight of Jongin not on his death bed. He can see the warmth in his face from where he stands across the room along with the lively glint back in his eyes. The long sleeved shirt Jongin has on shows a generous amount of neck and clavicle, but most importantly, there’s no bandage. Maybe Taemin is a little overwhelmed at Jongin actually alive and here it takes a while for his feet to carry him over, practically sprinting at Jongin the last few paces before they crash together in an embrace.

“Hey.” Taemin squeaks against Jongin’s neck, hugging him tighter as Jongin does the same. It’s good to feel those hands on him again and Taemin smiles against tan skin.

“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. Please don’t cry anymore,” Jongin pleads rapidly, a strain to his voice that tells Taemin he could start at any moment.

It’s too late for Taemin, though. “If it makes you feel better these are tears of joy. And really good champagne.”

Jongin rumbles with a deep chuckle. “So you like champagne? I’ll keep that in mind. I hope you like tea, too,” Jongin pulls away, just enough to see each other. They’re still holding on as he glances down at the bag on the floor. “A long time ago we found sort of a remedy for uh, the side effects of me. It’ll help the headaches and gravity rebelling on you, and the…” The worry sinks in and Jongin cups Taemin’s cheek, his thumb lightly caressing the prominent bone.

Taemin ducks his head a little. He contemplated make up for his poor color, especially around his eyes, but ultimately it seemed like too much work and he didn’t want to offer an explanation to Minho or Kibum. (whom he’d probably need help from)

Jongin gently tips Taemin’s face back into view. He watches Jongin, his face falling the longer he stares down at Taemin like he’s reading all the stress and tears and anguish written over his features. They’re silent until Taemin tugs the wide collar of Jongin’s shirt almost to his shoulder. There’s a raised scar where the incision to make the lifesaving repair was made.

“The first few days sucked but after that first week it wasn’t bad. What about you?” Jongin tilts his head, still regarding Taemin with concern.

“They believed me. Channeled my inner theater nerd, like you said,” Taemin fixes Jongin’s shirt, his hand smoothing down Jongin’s chest until it drops to rest at his side. A hand on Taemin’s shoulder, Jongin guides them both to sit on the edge of the bed.

“Right now I’m...” He doesn’t want to say lab rat. It’s not quite right and anything in that direction will probably only make Jongin upset. “…They brought in a couple of doctors and a therapist for me. I don’t like seeing them. I don’t think the therapist actually knows what he’s talking about, he tried to tell me you might have made me develop a personality disorder. The doctors aren’t much better. The only thing anyone agrees on is that I’ve been emotionally compromised and can no longer work on your case.”

Jongin’s reaction is delayed and conflicted and he winds up just looking lost.

“…Yeah. Pretty much. I mean, I knew it was coming, but…” Taemin trails off wearily, shaking his head. The news hadn’t fazed him and he was too busying drowning in his own feelings and sleeping to really care about what comes next. “Kibum mentioned they might offer to relocate me to a different branch, if they think I’m still fit to work. I think I could still monitor your case from wherever they’d send me—“

“No. Absolutely not.” Jongin says firmly. “You don’t need them getting suspicious of you.”

“But I can—“

“No, Taemin,” Jongin wraps his arms around Taemin’s torso and pulls him in. Before Taemin can protest, they’re falling backwards. Taemin tries feebly to wriggle out of Jongin’s grip, and Jongin orients his arms a little more comfortably around Taemin’s waist. He plants both hands on either side of Jongin and attempts to push himself up only to fail after a few seconds.

“Jongin—“

The grip around his waist tightens and Jongin rolls them over, sliding down a bit on Taemin and carefully rooting his knees so he’s not bearing down will all his weight. Still trapped in his arms and now beneath him, Taemin lifts his head to see Jongin with his chin on Taemin’s chest, looking up at him innocently.

Taemin tries to push him off, “Would you stop? We need to talk about this—“

With a roll of his eyes and quicker than Taemin can understand, Jongin’s hands are under his shirt and tickling up his sides to his ribs.

“J-Jongin! Stop!” Taemin writhes and Jongin is relentless, even as Taemin manages to shift to his side and attempts to shimmy farther up the bed. He doesn’t get far before Jongin crawls after him and continues the merciless assault from behind. He tangles their legs together and nuzzles the curve of Taemin’s neck, smiling against his skin when the sounds of Taemin’s struggle transitions to giggling.

“I’m—I’m serious!” Taemin isn’t fast enough and Jongin’s wrists keep slipping out of his grip. He gets his legs free and kicks uselessly at the bed, at the same time curling in and resorting to hugging himself to shield his sensitive areas.

Jongin tries to tickle under his arms but gives up after a moment. He heaves himself over Taemin, caging him with his arms and straddling his hips. Taemin stays wrapped around himself in fear of another attack.

“Are you done?!” He snaps. Jongin bursts out laughing and if Taemin weren’t so angry he would have melted at Jongin’s face scrunching up. God he missed that.

“Only if you are.” He keeps grinning and Taemin sighs. Defeated, he stays down and tugs the hem of his shirt back where it belongs. Jongin lowers himself to the bed, laying on his side with his head mere inches from Taemin’s. He doesn’t look Jongin in the eye right away, instead he keeps his gaze aimed at the patterned (and now disheveled) comforter.

They’re silent for a while, the TV mumbling in the background. Taemin’s eyes fall closed and Jongin’s familiar touch traces from the slight curve of Taemin’s waist up to his shoulder. It stops there, maybe to toy with his clothes, before Jongin cups his neck. His palm is warm and Taemin ducks his head a little, leaning into the touch he hasn’t felt in what seems like forever. Taemin’s fingers brush over Jongin’s and rest on the back of his hand.

“…But it’s not fair. I could help.” Taemin murmurs.

“I know it’s not. But it’s okay—It’s okay,” Jongin repeats when Taemin begins to protest. “Please, please believe me when I tell you it’s going to be fine. I’m not lying to make you feel better. Honestly, nothing has really changed. Jupiter has my picture and everything but I’ve been living like they’ve known me all along because I knew this would happen, eventually. I didn’t think it would happen like this, but whatever.”

“Like this,” Taemin huffs. “you mean accidentally dating one of their agents?”

Jongin smiles brightly, a sight Taemin is thankful to be seeing outside his thoughts. “And I would like to keep dating this agent, if he doesn’t mind how hard it’s gonna be.”

“We can’t text or call, can’t be seen together… you can’t leave hickeys anywhere visible…” Taemin says, pausing to think, “...If I ask to be reassigned I could get my own place. We could have that, at least.”

It’s just the way his train of thought went, and he’s glad he said it. He falters for a split second because he basically just said he wants to live together, and that’s a big step in a relationship that has been known to either strengthen or end them. But Jongin’s eyes downcast with a soft fondness as he seems to imagine it, and Taemin does not know how this day could get any better.

“Okay, but for now,” Jongin takes hold of Taemin’s hand and guides it to his lips. He presses a kiss to the back of it while watching Taemin fight the urge to roll his eyes. “will you have dinner with me? Tell me what you want and I’ll get it. We can’t go out, but that’s okay because I think people might get weirded out if we were in public and they saw me intently watching you eat.”

“Well, it started out cute.”

“Yeah, well,” Jongin’s face falls a little and he won’t meet Taemin’s gaze. It’s not hard to figure out why; Jongin had his hands all over Taemin’s ribs and could probably feel every single one of them.

 

After twenty minutes Jongin comes back from Okinawa with twice as much as Taemin expected, plus dessert from a ‘homey little bakery’ in Chicago. He was nodding off when Jongin appeared and would have fallen off the bed had he been any closer to the edge and offhandedly wondered if tying a bell to Jongin would do anything.

Taemin had been feeling fine all day, but halfway through their meal he’s hit with a dizzy spell. It was manageable at first, but when he felt his stomach start to spin along with the room he had to lay down.

Jongin curls up with him on the bed, hugging him apologetically until it passes. The pounding in his head is easy to ignore when Taemin focuses on Jongin; the soft intake and exhale of air, his chest pressing a little harder against Taemin’s back with each breath. Whatever may have been on the agenda after dinner is forgotten when Jongin shifts on to his back and Taemin turns around to rest his head on his chest, his fingers combing through Taemin’s hair in a way that makes him think he’s eyeing the dark roots he hasn’t bothered to re-dye. The TV gets a whopping six channels and they end up stuck on a low budget high school drama about teen pregnancy.

Taemin couldn’t care less what was happening around him. Jongin is here and they still want each other. He loosely fists his hand in Jongin’s shirt, consciously holding on and completely content with never moving again.

“…So uh, do they know you’re here? With me?” Taemin mumbles like he’s half asleep.

“Yeah.”

“And they’re okay with it?”

Jongin hums. “I wouldn’t say okay, but they won’t stop me. I’m pretty sure Joonmyun and Kyungsoo are okay with you. Chanyeol and Sehun are still suspicious, but that’s only because out of all of us they hate Jupiter the most. It’s not your fault… And of course you know Baekhyun likes you.”

“Yeah, I’m not really complaining, but why? I almost shot him. What’s wrong with him?”

Jongin huffs a quick laugh. “We found Baek kind of late. He got to live normally the longest, and he’s had the hardest time adjusting. He’s had so many close calls because he’s still so trusting…and careless. So, yeah you almost shot him, but then he finds out you’re not gonna try and hurt him, and… I don’t know, you’re suddenly approachable and he likes to talk.” All movement stills for a beat, and then the hand in Taemin’s hair glides to the back of his neck. “Chanyeol would probably sleep better at night, but it’ll be sad if Baek stops being the way he is.” His tone gets a little sarcastic as he jests. “He’s like a ‘lil ray of sunshine in our dark and dreary world.”

Baekhyun’s face falling when Taemin dashes his hope of improving the situation with Jupiter comes to mind, something that stuck with him and would flutter through his thoughts and make him feel worse.

Taemin shifts, moving up so he can nuzzle against the side of Jongin’s neck. His hand glides up Jongin’s chest and traces over collar bone, and then the scar beneath the material of his shirt.

As Taemin whispers, his lips brush Jongin’s soft skin.

“Do you really think we can do it?”

 

- - - -
Next chapter will wrap up this story, but this isn't the last of this au you'll be seeing. Will talk more about it atfter this ends.

Thanks for reading this far and thanks for all the wonderful comments ;o; aND WOW THAT COMEBACK

Chapter Text

{chapter warnings: bit of sex}
- - - -

 

“Hey, Taemin,” Yukari nudges him with her elbow, a thick stack of files held close to her chest. It’s a deliberately loud whisper and Taemin narrows his eyes. “you know Jiro?”

“The intern over in intelligence?”

She smirks proudly, as if something was just verified. She nods for him to start walking, apparently so they can chat in private down the vacant hallway.

Due to their current case they’ve been getting well acquainted with Jiro’s department and the only notable thing about him Taemin remembers is the Star Wars hoodie he wore the one time they bumped into each other outside of work.

“He asked me if you are single.”

Taemin snorts. “The fuck he did.”

“No, seriously. He was really nervous about it. I told him I would set him up.”

He stops and gapes at her. She keeps walking, flicking her dark bangs out of the way to glance at where she left him after a few paces. He hurries back to her side and she presses the button to call the elevator.

“C’mon. He’s cute and he’s been crushing on you since he first saw you.”

He stares vacantly at his reflection in the doors, trying to recall any behavior even remotely similar to flirtation. She secures the stack of folders into one arm and throws the other around Taemin’s shoulders.

“I told him you really like that tempura place down the street.” The silver doors slide open and she all but pushes him through the threshold. He stumbles around to face her and at the same moment she shoves the stack against his chest. The loose papers begin to fall out and he scrambles to hold everything together.

“Even if you’re gonna tell him no, I still need you to get those to him.”

“Yuka—“ He curses when he’s unsuccessful and a sizable chunk of at least two files now fan out around his feet. Yukari suddenly exits and the elevator announces its departure with a pleasant chime. He steps back, careful not to leave footprints on whatever documents now line the floor. Taemin can only watch as the doors close and she smiles sweetly on the other side. He hisses another vulgarity and glances at the number she chose.

A short, two floor ride later and the doors open to the intelligence center. Taemin is still trying to gather the papers into some kind of order when someone rounds the corner and almost tramples all over the stragglers.

“Oh uh, here,”

Fuck.

Jiro kneels down, carefully placing his heel against the edge of the door so it doesn’t close. Taemin focuses on the papers far away from him to avoid an awkward brush-of-the-hands-while-reaching-for-the-same-thing cliché. Just as Jiro is about to hand the small stack he collected to Taemin, something in the text catches his eye.

“Yes. These are for you.” Taemin shuffles what he has back into the folder and hopes they’re at least near where they should be. “Yukari basically threw them at me so that’s why they’re a mess.”

Jiro tenses so fast he flinches and has to steady himself with a hand on the edge of the door. “Oh my god I didn’t think she was serious—“ He silences himself, staring at Taemin utterly mortified.

It’s like high school all over again, made worse by how Jiro can easily pass for sixteen. He’s tall and a little gangly, but other than height, nothing adds up to the twenty year old looking his age. If Taemin is being perfectly honest with himself he’s in the same boat at almost twenty-five with only the right hair style ever making him appear as such. However, the age gap isn’t the problem here.

After a moment they both stand and Jiro moves out of the way just enough for Taemin to step out of the elevator and allow the doors to close. He offers the mess of papers and folders and Jiro gingerly accepts. They’re both getting flustered, Jiro more than Taemin.

“Ahum did she… did she say anything?”

Double fuck.

Taemin isn’t sure how to answer and the bout of silence seems to be enough of an answer for Jiro. How Taemin is still standing in front of him and making no effort to leave apparently answers an additional question.

“So you… like Tempura Tenmatsu?”

Fuck times a million. The intern has a shy, hopeful smile pulling at his mouth and Taemin is beginning to understand why he had to go through Yukari to attempt this, the way he’s nervously shifting and clutching the files tight enough the folders are bending. It must have taken him weeks to gather the courage to even approach her. Taemin sighs internally and prays his own smile doesn’t look too forced.

“Yeah. It’s my favorite restaurant.”

-

The apartment is a little on the small side; an open layout with only the bathroom and a couple of closets sectioned off from the main area. The studio-type spaces had always appealed to him, but it was the amazing view of the city from sixteen stories above the streets that really sold him. An entire wall is nothing but floor to ceiling windows and it’s easily Taemin’s favorite part of the place. Sometimes the noise is bothersome, but it has been well over a year and a half and he still isn’t tired of downtown Tokyo all lit up at night.

All Venus operatives live in their choice of four different buildings, all within ten minutes of each other with headquarters smack dap in the middle. Taemin assumes the one he chose holds the fewest of his coworkers because most of them have families and need more space than this complex provides. The apartments in his building are made for one, two occupants max.

His neighbors aren’t very sociable and that’s fine by him. Yukari lives two floors down and is his only visitor. She was hired a few months before Taemin started at Jupiter and they were assigned to each other before Taemin even set foot in Japan. She’s a bit flighty and eccentric at times, but she’s easy to get along with and Minho was happy to know Taemin had at least one friend.

Said friend is a little too friendly, sometimes, as she occasionally just waltzes in to his apartment unannounced. He fastened a strip of bells to the handle after the last time she startled him, an incident with one casualty. All was forgiven with the pricy one cup cappuccino maker she bought him.

In addition to softening the blows to Taemin’s sanity, it only takes Jongin half a second to hear the bells and be out of sight. Taemin managed to convince her to delay flinging the door open so he has a chance to declare his decency, and it gives them the extra bit of time they need for the black dust to dissipate.

With no calling or texting, they’ve taken to leaving each other notes comprised of numbers. A date and time telling the other when they’ll be home. They format them to look like phone numbers in case anyone ever gets curious. They see each other almost every day but it’s a habit they’ve gotten themselves into because Taemin is on an inconsistent schedule.

Sometimes they get hours to waste together, sometimes the only interaction is when one stirs from his sleep as the other cozies up behind him. They take what they can get.

Thursday nights are dedicated exclusively to each other, no matter what. Friday and Saturday nights have to be left open because that’s when Yukari or other coworkers invite him out and he can’t appear to have other plans, ever. It could raise questions.

Choosing to stay single was beginning to raise a few. His supervisor is a harmless flirt and more than once Taemin has been asked why ‘a spry young thing’ such as himself was refraining from dating. The excuse of focusing on his career was good enough to buy silence, but Taemin knows the suspicion is still there.

“So maybe it’s a good thing that sonofabitCH—“ The tool hits the floor and Taemin hisses before bringing his burned hand to his lips.

“You’re supposed to lay the meat away from you so the oil doesn’t bite you when it hits the pan.” Jongin says from the safety zone that is the fridge. He’s leaning with his head tilted against it, arms folded because Taemin will swat his hands away when he tries to help. Jongin has made their date night dinner the last three weeks and Taemin refuses to allow him any part of this. It’s become a matter of pride ever since Jongin landed a job as a line cook. He’s exposed to fewer eyes when he’s shut away in a kitchen and Taemin worries a little less.

He thinks he’s some kind of expert now and Taemin knows Jongin is ripping his cooking technique apart in his head as he observes.

“I know that.” Taemin grumbles, examining the minor burn with a grimace.

“Then why’d you do it like that.”

“Have you ever been slapped with a raw slab of beef, Jongin?”

Taemin pointedly focuses on their food and after a moment Jongin comes up behind him and wraps his arms loosely around his waist, his fingers threading and his hands resting against Taemin’s belly. Taemin doesn’t react when Jongin rests his chin on his shoulder, or when Jongin presses a gentle kiss to his cheek.

“Aw. Don’t be like this, baby.”

Taemin narrows his eyes at Jongin in his peripheral. The use of the B-word is not a new development. It first slipped out during sex when Jongin feverishly instructed Taemin to ‘cum for me, baby’. He initially made fun of him for it, but Taemin honestly enjoyed it immensely. It’s a special word that is mostly spoken right before, during, and after clothes come off. Jongin almost has Taemin conditioned to start getting horny at the sound of it off his lips and Jongin fucking knows it.

“You’re gonna make me burn the food.”

Jongin pouts and slides his arms off Taemin. There’s a soft thud and a sigh when Jongin slumps back against the refrigerator.

“…Anyway, are you okay with it?”

“I have to be, don’t I?”

He stops and stares at Jongin, halting all food preparation to study him. It’s hard to tell if Jongin is actually bothered by his boyfriend fake dating someone else or if he’s being a brat and this is some kind of scheme he’s cooking up to use as an excuse to really go at it later. The way his lips quirk and how Jongin’s eyes are averted, tracing over the lines of the flooring as he thinks tells Taemin that isn’t the case.

Having to resort to this at some point for the sake of appearances had crossed his mind a few times but never manifested as something serious. They are each other’s secret and have adopted this ridiculous lifestyle to keep it that way. Taemin never thought to discuss what may be going too far.

“One date. That’s all.” Taemin says quietly, turning off the burners. Everything is just about done and the lingering heat of the pans will finish the job. “I already know what I’m going to tell him. I’m too old for him, we’re coworkers and it’s inappropriate,” He approaches Jongin, stopping just short of him. Jongin’s gaze drags up Taemin’s body to his face and Taemin instantly knows this isn’t as serious as he feared. “No superpowers. He’s not my type.”

Jongin regards him fondly with a soft smile, one that stays with him as the table is set and they sit down for a meal Jongin showers the chef with compliments over.

“…Speaking of your very limited selection of partners,” Jongin says the second Taemin jams his mouth full, rendering him helpless to object to whatever is about to follow. Jongin falters and his gaze drops to what is left on his plate. “Have you thought about… you know.”

You Know, or The Thing, as it has also been addressed as. The Thing he tried to get Taemin to do last year, The Thing that was rapidly approaching. You Know, The Thing that happens every year and will be happening again in three weeks. The Thing that has Taemin swallowing hard and setting his utensils down for good. The Thing Taemin simply cannot bring himself to say no to, not when it means so much to Jongin.

He managed to get out of it last year because he was far too involved in an undercover case. Jongin understood Taemin could not leave the country for any amount of time, or else all the effort Venus had invested up to that point would have been for nothing. A case that not even a week after Jongin returned had left Taemin with a scar of his own when things went south.

The three weeks Taemin was in the hospital were absolute torture; a slow, agonizing death according to Jongin if it had lasted a day longer. Jongin couldn’t visit him, not in a place with security cameras. He came home to find Jongin asleep with the life-sized emperor penguin plush he bought (stole) Taemin from a zoo because it was the only thing in the apartment ‘big enough to fill the void’.

It wasn’t mentioned until months later. A small thought, smoothly inserted into a casual conversation. When he was given a promise to think it over, Jongin left it alone. Now less than a month away, Taemin can’t run from it much longer.

“I would feel like such an intruder, Jongin. It’s not my place to be there. It would be really uncomfortable for everyone, I know it.”

They just put the finishing touches on the making the bed, a bit of a ritual. Make it all nice and pretty before they fuck it up. It’s a sofa sleeper Jongin suggested to better utilize the small living space. Initially Taemin was not very keen on sleeping on a pull out couch but it turned out to be the most comfortable bed he’s ever owned. Whether that’s due to the mattress or Jongin’s presence he has yet to figure out.

Taemin smooths out a nonexistent wrinkle in the comforter before sitting on the edge, his back to Jongin on the other side. The bed rocks as Jongin crawls over to his side and swings his legs over the edge to sit in the same position.

“There’s nothing to be afraid of.”

“I beg to differ.”

After they had settled into their routine and Taemin’s curiosity got the better of him, Jongin explained to him in great detail what everyone can do. It’s terrifying to think of what could happen if Jupiter pushes them over the line they’ve drawn, for themselves and everyone else’s sake. Worse yet, Taemin is sure Minho aspires to personally blow a few holes in Jongin’s face. He’s still Taemin’s closest friend, but the thought that Taemin may have to choose between him and Jongin someday is a very real fear.

Jongin’s friends are arguably the bigger fear.

“They won’t hurt you. They won’t even think about it. You’re too important to me.”

He trusts Jongin more than anyone, he truly does. That comforting touch smooths up Taemin’s back and neck and the side of Jongin’s hand rests at his nape, his fingers toying with the ends of the dark strands. It was getting long again, he mentioned a few weeks back as he passed the mirror they have near the front door. It’s long enough he can tuck it behind his ear as Jongin adoringly demonstrates while Taemin’s focus is elsewhere.

“It was their idea, Tae.” Jongin leans a bit to catch Taemin’s downcast gaze. “It’s been almost three years and they have no idea who you are. And you don’t really know them, either,” He adds; criticizes, really. He’s not wrong. Taemin will admit to having no desire to reach out to those Jongin regards as his family. In his defense, they did tie him up.

But, he thinks with an exhale, even the smallest ordeal Jupiter put them through isn’t comparable. Taemin slumps against him with a dramatic groan.

“But it would be so awkward.”

“I wouldn’t leave you alone.” Jongin half turns and brings both arms around him, his hands resting on Taemin’s shoulder with fingers interlocked. “Baekhyun is on your side and he’ll drag Chanyeol with him. Jongdae and Luhan really want to meet you and I’m sure they’ll like you. Joonmyun and Yifan are constantly working to keep the peace and they wouldn’t allow any shenanigans… Look at that. You have like, half of them already.”

The small whine is stuck in his throat as Taemin falls back on the bed, his hands over his head with his elbows level with his eyes. Jongin lowers himself down next to him, shifting to his side and resting his head on Taemin’s bicep.

“I love you. At the very least they’re going to pretend to like you for my sake.” When he gets no reaction, Jongin sits up and leans into Taemin’s view. “If it really is so awkward you can’t deal with it, it’s okay. You can go home. I just need you to try.”

All Jongin has to do is tilt his head a little with a delicate smile and those soft eyes overwhelm Taemin every. Single. Time. Three years, and he has no immunity to Jongin channeling all of his affection into one look. One god damn look, and Taemin can’t find it in himself to say no. He knows he has a similar power over Jongin but doesn’t have it mastered like Jongin does and it’s completely unfair.

He deflates and Jongin is already beaming before Taemin gives him any verbal agreement. It’s mixture of defeat and pure weakness he’s happy to submit to once he sees the reaction. Jongin swings a leg over Taemin’s lap and now he hovers over him on all fours. His knees cage in Taemin’s hips and his hands are rooted on either side of Taemin’s narrower shoulders.

“Do you mean it?”

“…Yes.”

“Really!?” Jongin bounces a bit, his voice a breathy, enthusiastic octave higher.

“I’ve only got a week of vacation days and if work calls me I have to leave, okay?”

Jongin’s mouth falls open. “You mean it.”

“And if any of them are weirded out by me being there you have to tell me, I don’t want to ruin anyone’s time.”

His smile is so wide Taemin wonders if it’s starting to hurt him. Jongin lowers his upper body down and embraces Taemin, his back arching off the bed when Jongin hugs him tight and nuzzles into his neck. “Oh my god you’re gonna meet everyone.” Jongin hisses against his skin, barely containing his excitement.

“Not if you kill me here, Jongin—“ He loosens his grip and Taemin exhales, air much more accessible without Jongin crushing his lungs. He breathes a quick apology and Jongin peppers soft little kisses from his neck all the way to the corner of his mouth, at which point Taemin turns his head in the slightest to meet him. It’s chaste and brief, and when they part, Jongin sneaks one more peck in before sliding off the bed.

 

Jongin can consciously avoid leaving marks on Taemin’s neck and chest and usually remembers to be gentle with his lips, but when they’re caught up in the moment, staying quiet is easier said than done.

Taemin’s sound system is strategically placed in the four corners surrounding the bed, which they make a point to pull a few inches away from the wall it is normally pushed against. They tried music to drown out the noise but received complaints from a neighbor due to their choice in genre and have found better success in movies. Marvel and sci-fi work the best. Taemin isn’t surprised when he comes out of the bathroom to see the DVD menu for Transformers on the screen. It’s easily the most common choice because Jongin thinks it’s funny to fuck with Optimus Prime’s voice in the background.

He’s down to one of Jongin’s long sleeved shirts and his boxers, and Jongin in still in jeans with his belt fastened. Taemin enjoys being the one to take them off; the metallic click of the buckle, the slide of the leather through the loops, and the bite of the zipper when he jams his hands down into the tight space of Jongin’s pants add something to the experience he can’t explain.

They haven’t actually watched a movie on a Thursday night in months. Tonight they manage to get through the opening credits before Jongin’s hand starts kneading Taemin’s thigh, his fingers exploring under the hem of his boxers. Between his legs quickly became Jongin’s favorite place; he can do as he pleases with everything from the chest down, but always gives the most attention to those soft inner thighs.

“You know,” Jongin tilts his head and whispers, politely keeping quiet as if there were other members of the audience. “we’re gonna be way out in the middle of nowhere for at least a week. We could fuck each other senseless for three days straight and there would still be enough time for the evidence to heal.”

Taemin lolls his head to face Jongin, now pretending to focus on the movie despite his hand still on Taemin’s thigh. It was meant to arouse but Taemin’s mind unintentionally drifted elsewhere.

“Hey, so,” He purposely matches Jongin’s tone. “when you guys are all together, all under one roof like at the cabin, like.. so if one of you gets horny…”

“Yes. We all feel it.” Jongin replies nonchalantly, no longer whispering. “It’s not a big deal. It’s like passing someone hot as hell on the street. There’s a moment of acknowledging you wanna hit that, but then you continue on your way. It was harder when we were younger, but now we’re all pretty good at ignoring when there is actual sex going on.”

“…Huh. Is there a lot of that?”

“Sex?” Jongin turns to him as Taemin does the same. Taemin stares at him curiously while Jongin doesn’t even look surprised at the course of this conversation. “Kind of? It’s pretty much a daily occurrence. More so at night. We can only be with each other this time of year so uh, yeah, while it lasts…we make the most of it.”

“By fucking each other senseless.” Taemin adds with a small smile.

Jongin mirrors him with a soft squeeze of his thigh. “Among other things.”

The smile slowly fades and Taemin falters before getting the words out. “Is… is there anyone who might get a little… jealous? That you won’t sleep with them anymore? Or that I’ll be there?” He didn’t mean to sound so worried but Taemin’s brows drew together and now he doesn’t want to look Jongin in the eye.

Jongin’s hand stalls, just resting there on Taemin’s leg as he tilts his head a little, trying to catch Taemin’s averted gaze. He smiles at Taemin softly when Taemin steals a glimpse at him and his hand slides off his leg. Jongin shifts, sitting up a little straighter but still laying back on the pillows. He lightly pats his own leg, asking Taemin to take a seat on his lap, easily Taemin’s favorite position. Jongin becomes the only other person in the world, the only thing Taemin can stare at as he straddles Jongin’s hips.

Taemin absently picks a small piece of odd colored lint off Jongin’s collar and Jongin just tilts his head, still trying to catch Taemin’s focus. His hand reclaims its spot high on Taemin’s thigh, resuming the light comforting massage.

“Lu will probably tease you, but he’s harmless, I promise. Yixing is the only other one that seemed a little down and there’s definitely nothing to worry about there. He’s really soft ‘n sweet.” Taemin can’t avoid the puppy eyes any longer and almost reluctantly looks his way.

Jongin smiles a little deeper. “But I will warn you about Jongdae and Baek.” For an instant Taemin’s eyes widen. Both of Jongin’s hands trail past his hips and Jongin firmly cups his ass with a little squeeze. “Your butt’s really small and cute and they will touch it. Try not to let it get to you. If they see you get flustered your booty will not be safe.”

He can’t help it. Jongin pulls a smile out of him. He always does.

Taemin’s fingers thread together at Jongin’s nape and he leans in. Because of their restrictions, on the outside their little make out sessions seem pretty vanilla. Taemin misses the little bites, how tender his lips and neck would feel after Jongin was through with him. He misses admiring the bruises the morning after, but he’s far from complaining about how things are now. It’s like slow dancing; wet hot slow dancing and Taemin is almost always leading.

They’re chest to chest and wrapped around each other by the time they part, lingering in each other’s air with lips and noses brushing as they speak.

“I think I can deal with butt touches. Anything else?”

Jongin hums before Taemin sucks on his bottom lip and he loses his train of thought for a long moment.

“…When Soo is cooking I would just avoid the kitchen completely. Joonmyun and Minseok are the only ones that can safely navigate his territory.”

They separate and a few of Jongin’s fingers replace his tongue in Taemin’s mouth. Taemin promptly gets them good and wet for what’s to come while Jongin just watches him work, almost entranced by the act.

“…Sehun and Tao don’t sleep well at the cabin. If you get up at like three a.m. don’t be surprised if you bump into one or both of them.”

Taemin’s boxers are a little too big on him so they come easily when Jongin tugs them down a bit. They make a little room between their hips, enough that Jongin can get his hand under the waistband.

“Baek sleep walks a little. He might end up in our bed.”

A blissful little sigh escapes him when Jongin starts stroking. His lips are at Taemin’s neck with only the softest and slowest of kisses.

“Luhan might, too. But he.. does it on purpose…”

Jongin trails off, mouth too occupied to continue. His breath comes out a little harsh against Taemin’s throat at which Taemin gently tips Jongin’s head up to recapture his mouth before he gets too ravenous and risks a hickey. His hands stay at either side of Jongin’s jaw, guiding him to tilt as he pleases and keeping him in place when Taemin pulls away with a small gasp.

Jongin had been holding him by the small of his back but has since ventured lower, smoothing down the curve of Taemin’s ass and bringing his boxers along with it. The pads of his fingers push and tease at his entrance without entering and Jongin pumps his dick a little faster, grips a little firmer just to hear the small trapped and airy noises Taemin knows he loves. All the while Jongin just watches Taemin’s lashes flutter and lips move around soundless moans. Jongin’s own lips are parted and he angles his head for the best view of Taemin slowly coming apart under his touch.

They lose hours with each other like this. After all this time they know every inch of each other, know exactly which buttons to press but they drag it out and wear each other down to nothing during this night they set aside.

It’s hard for Taemin to maintain a sense of time while Jongin has three fingers sliding in and out of him. He shudders with each calculated intrusion and struggles to stay in Jongin’s view. Taemin refrains from dropping his head to Jongin’s shoulder or otherwise curling in on himself as each new wave of pleasure pulls him to do so. He squirms in Jongin’s lap with Jongin watching him with a mix of feverish want and fascination. He watches the sheen of sweat spread over Taemin’s forehead and down his neck, admires every little detail from his eyes rolling back or fluttering closed to how high his voice becomes when the moans and sighs become clipped and shallow, appreciates it all as one would appreciate a beautifully intricate work of art.

Taemin likes to think the otherworldly origin of Jongin’s power is what makes this time feel more like fantasy than reality, or that Jongin himself has a an actual, physically intoxicating effect on him. By the time he’s down on all fours with Jongin buried balls deep inside him he’s so far gone keeping the noise down has slipped his mind, as it usually does. His own name would escape him if Jongin wasn’t reverently breathing it against the shell of his ear.

 

“Maybe we should buy curtains.”

The TV has long been shut off and Jongin’s voice is dry and low, back to his polite movie theater whisper. The bed is a disaster zone and which end is the foot has been forgotten with pillows indiscriminately dotting the mattress around the two bodies tangled on top of the comforter, sideways from the position they began in. This is how it usually ends up to better marvel at the view over the city. At some point it began raining, the colors of the lights bleeding into each other and down the window like wet paint.

“I thought you were kind of in to exhibitionism.” Taemin mumbles, only turning his head enough to be understood before nuzzling back into a pillow. Lying on his stomach, he was sleepily entertained by the show on the window but has since taken to tracing over the marks he left on Jongin’s chest. He’s a gorgeous disheveled mess at Taemin’s side, sprawled out contently with limbs all over.

Jongin lolls his head to look at Taemin with a slow blink and a lazy smile. “Pretty soon that new apartment building is going to start populating. While I’d still like to explore that kink sometime, I’d rather not do it in front of an elderly couple or a five year old, thanks.”

Taemin hums, his eyes trailing along the small gold chain around Jongin’s neck. “I guess you’re right.” He finds the charm and centers it just below the hollow between Jongin’s clavicles after toying with it a moment. Supposedly a good luck charm for gamblers, Taemin picked it up from a festival booth some time ago. It’s a circle enclosing a triangle; an invert of Jongin’s glyph and far too good to pass up.

“…On the topic of things to ponder,” Jongin waits for Taemin to look at him before his tongue peeks out of the corner of his mouth and drags over a raw wound in his lower lip. Jongin has to be gentle with Taemin, but Taemin has no such rule. “whenever I show up to work with something like this or a hickey, everyone begs me to bring you around and I’m running out of excuses.”

Taemin chuckles. “Are you telling me to be a little nicer.”

“No,” Jongin says with a lift of his brows and a smile. “I think you should borrow an outfit from Yukari. One that’s a little conservative up top because I told them you have nice tits and if you’re all covered we can stuff a bra with whatever and still have it look real. Thigh high stockings and a mini skirt or booty shorts would be great. And, oh, the black lace—“

“—panties. I fucking knew it.” There’s a triumphant bite to his words but Taemin is grinning wide. He lifts his head and lays it back down over his folded arms. “If the panties are such a big deal you could have just said so.”

It was supposed to be a one-time thing. Just another experiment. Jongin said he liked it, but failed to truthfully express just how much he enjoyed seeing Taemin in nothing but a soft pair of ladies underwear just barely managing to hold his junk.

Jongin’s jaw drops. “You think I made up Taeyeon just to get you into some lacey lingerie for the day I would have to produce my girlfriend for my coworkers?”

“Oh, it’s lingerie now?”

“…Well, I mean, if you’re game…”

Taemin huffs a quick laugh and rolls his eyes. His eyes twitch with a small wince, a sudden prick of pain shooting up his spine when he lifts himself up only to drop himself on top of Jongin. It’s quick to pass but didn’t go unnoticed, and Jongin’s hands rub therapeutically around Taemin’s hips as soon as he’s settled.

With a small hum of appreciation, Taemin presses a kiss right over the damage to Jongin’s lip. They’re slow to part, and Taemin quirks his lips a bit, eyes still focused on Jongin’s mouth as he thinks.

“…Since you’re cool with me fake dating Jiro, I could be your fake girlfriend for a little bit.”

Jongin gasps quietly and wraps his arms around Taemin, holding him fast as if he was about to wriggle away.

“I was totally kidding, but no take-backs. You gotta do this for me.”

He’s not even surprised. Taemin just closes his eyes and shakes his head before it drops to the warm curve of Jongin’s neck. He feels Jongin’s chuckle between their chests and after it fades, the rain is all that fills the room.

He’s not sure how much time passes but Taemin eventually tilts his head to murmur right at Jongin’s ear. “…Anything for you.”